Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Commentators: Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler and John “Bradshaw” Layfield
This was a somewhat surprising choice for the opener, though the match itself was solid. The crowd was warmed up by everything having a good energy to it, and those two both have enough of a connection with the crowd for people to care to some degree, Unfortunately, this pairing is so played out on national television with only minimum innovation throughout, that I personally find myself glazing over.
With Orton picking up the victory last month, it was a pretty safe bet that things would be tied up here. However, I was surprised to see Sheamus get such a clean, uncontroversial victory. I would assume that this is an indication that he’ll get a successful cash-in soon, possibly as early as tonight’s Raw. Overall, the match served its purpose as an opener, but it wasn’t anything too special.
Winner: Sheamus via pinfall (Brogue Kick)
Well, this existed and it was frantic and relatively fun. I’m just not quite “there” with today’s tag team division. Don’t get me wrong, we’re light years ahead of the undeniable dark ages of the mid-to-late-00’s. We have some fun teams now. New Day are three of the best characters on the roster, and the crowd at least reacts to the more high octane moments in the division. However, that’s part of the problem. This rejuvinated era pretty much just relies on multi-man cluster-fudges. There’s literally no attempt to create a reason for these matches other than “we beat you, then they beat them, then those guys beat someone else.” It just feels empty and cluttered.
With all that said, this match was shallow fun. It quickly degenerated into a mildly sloppy mess with people flying everywhere. The crowd reacted to the bigger stuff (like the “tower of doom” spot) and New Day continued to excel as characters as they sneaked into a second title reign. Hell, Kingston’s celebration was awesome in many ways. The enthusiasm that everyone put forward was enough to make this worth watching, but I just wish there was more narrative depth to sink my teeth into.
Winner: New Day and NEW WWE Tag Team Champions via pinfall (Kingston pin-stealing)
Verdict: Above Average
This is one of those times where I can’t really fault the performers involved too much. Everyone seems to be trying their best with a fairly lukewarm idea. The work was solid, if a little pedestrian. The best way I can think to put it, is this felt like a RAW match designed to move along to something bigger. Also, the chemistry of everyone involved just seems to be “off”. That’s really a shame, because Lana was red hot when initially separating from Rusev, but mostly stilted acting has led to only occasional reactions during the extended build-up.
Then there was the ending. A double count-out is one of the most flat ways to end a PPV match. This show has come under fire for dodgy endings (which I’ll discuss later) but really this was the worst of the bunch. This does nothing to help either man and completely deflated what little enthusiasm the crowd had for the proceedings. It says it all when the biggest reaction this whole match garnered was a mild pop for a post-match Lana/Summer cat-fight. This wasted time just to seemingly set up a mixed tag at Night of Champions.
Result: Draw (Double Count-out)
Verdict: Below Average
Now here’s a midcard match with a solid story behind it. I’ve liked the unique “comic book” vibe they’ve gone for in the build for this, especially since they somehow managed to keep it grounded enough where it didn’t feel ridiculous. I feel like Stardust in particular has really found his feet again with this. I’m not saying he’ll burst into the upper-midcard tomorrow, but he at least felt relevant and focused again.
Of course, the big question here was Stephen Amell. He’s a well-known wrestling fan, so that’s always a plus, but he could still very easily stink up the joint. With that in-mind, there are two ways you can go with a celebrity, non-wrestler match. You either keep their involvement to a bare minimum, or you keep things simple so that they look like they can keep up. WWE went with the second option here, and Amell put in a real eye-opening performance. He obviously got his moments to shine (including a very well done dive to the outside) but he also sold a beating.
For their parts, Stardust and Barrett were just generic heels. In some cases, that works just fine and this ticked over pretty adequately. Neville did the “heavy lifting” for the good guys and of course picked up the victory with the Red Arrow. Stardust may have taken the losing fall, but I still think this feud gave the character a shot of adrenaline.
Overall, this was a fun piece of midcard business that ended up being much better than the sum of its misfit parts. I’m ready to get flamed in the comments section, but I would call Stephen Amell’s performance the best (in-ring wise) since Floyd Mayweather.
Winner: Stephen Amell & Neville
Verdict: Above Average
This match was kind of just there. I will say though that everything was kept brisk and the story was logical. Miz did all he could to sneak the victory, while Big Show just dominated with his power. The match wasn’t particularly long, which I think helped in the long run. Everyone was just out to score the winning blow from the outset. Of course, Ryback was able to persevere and took advantage of a WMD to Miz, clearing out Big Show and scoring the victory to retain his championship. I expect The Big Guy to at least have a couple more months reign, even if it hasn’t set the world on fire.
So, everything I’m saying would lead you to think I’d just label this as average or forgettable and move on. And you’d be right. If Big Show didn’t do a senton dive off of the turnbuckle! Yes, he looked like a drunk grizzly bear falling out of a tree, but it still was an impressive sight to behold. When a match can get the basic storytelling down and give me a cool little moment that I’ll remember for years to come, I’ll always nudge it up a notch.
Winner: Ryback and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion via pinfall (triple threat opportunism)
Verdict: Above Average
This is a classic example of a match being somewhat dragged down by its middle portion. We’re all of course well aware of what these men are capable of, going back to their Shield and Wyatt Family days. And this match really started out as reminiscent of those now near-legendary brawls. The pacing was frenetic, and it looked like we could be heading for a memorable arena-wide battle. Unfortunately, the match then decided to settle down into a more traditional tag match with the wearing down of Ambrose. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as something usually becomes a formula for a very good reason. However, I do feel that they squandered the opportunity to create something more unique here.
I found it interesting that Roman Reigns was noticeably booed last night. Yes, we were in a known “smart” area of the country, but I honestly thought that the man had converted most of his critics in the last 6 months, especially with him undeniably working hard and settling into more of a midcard role. On that subject, I think that if he isn’t moving substantially up the card by November, then the Roman Reigns experiment may be temporarily derailed.
For all my critique, I do think this was the best match on the card thus far, especially with such a heated home stretch. Roman Reigns got the win for his team, but I think we could see one more tag match with a gimmick that encourages chaos. I definitely hope so, as then we may well get the memorable barnburner that this flirted with being.
Winner: Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose via pinfall on Bray Wyatt (Spear)
This was an awesome match. Truly, it was. Unlike some, I don’t see Seth Rollins as a weak champion. I understand how people become fixated on the use of cheap finishes in his matches, but I believe that his peerless in-ring work helps to overcome the vast majority of these potential pitfalls. You see, Seth Rollins proves that he can hang with every single opponent he faces. It’s made adamantly clear that he could win with pure talent 90% of the time if he chose too, but his character instead wants to the travel the path of least resistance, while still claiming all the glory. That makes him a talented, smug pr**k, and I love it.
Tonight’s match was a perfect example of that. Rollins survived every single thing that the face of the company could throw at him. He even somehow managed to add yet more offensive manoeuvres to his arsenal. He looked great and told a great story of a man who’s brimming with arrogance, yet will take the win however he can get it. For his part, Cena showed this same fire and intensity that he has since his post-Mania career rejuvenation. Yes, there were botches, but none of them were big enough were they really distracted me. In fact, sometimes I think things can seem too choreographed and smooth. That’s just one man’s opinion though.
Then we get the finish. Oh boy. In truth, I don’t feel like it ruined what was an awesome match, but I can easily accept the flaws with it. The fact is, that as big a reaction as it got from the live crowd, Jon Stewart’s “heel turn” made little sense. I’ve read some fan theories that Stewart was protecting the sanctity of Ric Flair’s World title record, all stemming from his anger at Lesnar earlier in the night for killing the streak at WrestleMania 30. The problem is, that this wasn’t really communicated as such. As “cool” as it was, it came across as just trying to shock the audience. If Stewart appears on Raw and explains such a motive as this theory, then I’ll be more accepting. As it is, we have a great, even borderline epic match with a goofy finish.
Winner: Seth Rollins via pinfall and STILL WWE World Heavyweight Champion and NEW WWE United States Champion (steel chair Pedigree w/ Jon Stewart assist)
Verdict: Very Good
For those who’ve read my NXT Takeover: Brooklyn review, you’ll know that I was a huge fan of the Women’s Championship match on Saturday. I also said that I’m still positive when it comes to the main roster “revolution” taking place in the division. I still am and there were definite positives to take from this. However, there’s no denying that this fell short of the mark when it needed to make a statement. There’s no denying the effort, but like the Tag Team Championship contest, there’s no reason to care about all these women. They may have upped the intensity and started using actual wrestling moves, but if no-one truly stands out, it really means very little.
I’m not someone calling for a Bella cull though. For better or worse, the twins have name recognition and are the brand leaders for Total Divas. As bad as that show is, it widens the potential audience, making the Bellas still valuable. What I really want to see, is character development beyond “we all want change!”. Until then, we’re likely to only see limited improvement for women’s wrestling outside of NXT.
This was servicable, but sloppy and poorly paced. I have to go completely middle-of-the-road with this one.
Winners: PCB via pinfall (Becky Lynch pinned Brie Bella)
Boy, do I feel bad for these guys. The fact is, they put together a really intense, hard-hitting war of attrition. If this was the opener with a more awake crowd, I think it would be being considered right now as a show stealer. Unfortunately, they were placed after both the dual championship match and the aforementioned soulless divas bout. The crowd was drained and struggling to pull itself back up.
Like I said, that’s a real shame because these two put together a strong story of two rising stars hitting both their best stuff and some new surprises in order to prove who was the best. Sure, it isn’t complex or nuanced, but with two outstanding athletes like these, all you need is something coherent to frame the action. This felt like it was designed to be a statement of arrival for Cesaro and had almost a main event style structure to it. Unfortunately, with the crowd only mildly involved it ended up just feeling like a solid show of technical prowess. That’s almost soul-crushing considering they were given the responsibility of semi-main eventing.
Winner: Kevin Owens via pinfall (Pop-Up Powerbomb)
And here we are at the main event. It’s fair to say that this was a match that didn’t need to happen. Going by the split opinion, some will say that it still shouldn’t have. Some will label the end of this epic as one of the worst ever. That’s why I have to say – I liked it.
Put the pitchforks down. I’m not insane. Or at least not for this reason. You’ll probably have noticed by now that I put a decent amount of weight behind the story with my pro wrestling. Well, I found the tone of this match and the actions of the characters within it to be near-perfect. You see, Undertaker is very old. He cannot expect to beat a beast of a man in a brawl. But, as a wily, veteran with nearly 25 years of experience, he can scratch and claw and force an occasional opening. This is exactly what happened. This is a man who just wants to prove that this is still his yard and has decided to forego any previous moral code in order to do that. Before, the Undertaker was fighting to preserve the aura of a mythical streak. Now, with that aura gone, he’s just a man scrambling to restore his pride.
And boy, did this match feel like an alley fight. Lesnar bled (seemingly the hard way) and the Undertaker looked to exploit any momentary weakness he could find. Lesnar still looked strong though and Taker’s extra intensity made it feel like a man going beyond his normal boundaries in order to just stay in the fight. The joint sit-up moment was a glorious example of just how legitimately intense this whole think felt. I unashamedly got goosebumps!
Then, we get to the finish. I still like it. I understand the reasoning of people when they say they wanted a decisive ending. However, this is an obvious trilogy waiting to happen. And if you’re going to do a trilogy, you need an intriguing hook that won’t diminish marketability. So, going by the story told, we now have a veteran who abandoned any morals in order to regain his pride, while showing true weakness for the first time in his career. As far as perception goes, Undertaker gave up, while his opponent defiantly refused to. So, we now have every reason for a final confrontation at WrestleMania 32. Undertaker will likely be goaded into putting his career on the line in order to prove himself, while Brock will be determined to end what he started 14 months ago. It’s classic storytelling.
With that said, they did blunder in making it clear with what happened. Better camera angles would’ve solved most of those problems. I’ll also accept that this came off worse due to it being the second screwy finish out of the two biggest matches on the card. However, I don’t think the masterful work of Brock and Taker should be discounted for these issues. At the very least, I believe it deserves to be remembered as a minor classic.
Winner: Undertaker via “submission” (Triangle Choke)
Verdict: Very Good
This was definitely a flawed card. Some were ready to dismiss this show as an abject failiure, whereas others expected something truly special. What we got was somewhere in between. We had a struggling yet passable undercard and what I would class as a strong crescendo. Of course, if anything that doesn’t end definitively bothers you, your mileage will vary.
I’d recommend the dual title match and Brock/Taker if you’re pushed for time, with Cesaro/Owens and the Ambrose/ Reigns vs Wyatt/Harper tag match get a mild thumbs up. The rest is personal taste, though there’s nothing truly offensive.
Of course, this is just my opinion. What did you think of the show? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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