April 6, 2014

Triple H . . . shows the world that he actually does know how to put someone over, and make them look good in the process.

The Shield . . . destroys the remaining relics of the Attitude Era.

Brock Lesnar . . . becomes the “one” in the record of 21-1.


If this was the Usos defending against the Real Americans, then this would probably have been a good match. The only things that Los Matadores brings are the comedy with El Torito, and the dive onto the group on the floor. Ryback and Axel aren’t really all that impressive either, other than the fact that Ryback can actually get up for Cesaro’s spot of tossing him up and hitting the uppercut on the way down. The Real Americans are pretty much put over as much as possible, they’re smart enough to stay out of things for most of the first half, and let the others wear themselves down. Both Axel/Ryback and Los Matadores are eliminated by them, Swagger with the Ankle lock to Diego and Cesaro with the neutralizer to Ryback. And, it takes a miscue by Cesaro and Swagger, and both of the Usos doing a simultaneous splash, to finally pin Cesaro.

The match picks up when it’s down to the final two, with the Real Americans somewhat playing babyface, due to all the crowd support for Cesaro (and Swagger by association). Everyone has something to add to the mix, even if it’s just using their familiar spots, the really nice moment was Swagger’s Ankle lock counter to the corner charge. The only weak moment was Jimmy’s no-sell of Cesaro’s uppercut, Cesaro planted him as he was getting in the ring, and he put it over great, but then just jumped back up and started wailing on Cesaro, which wouldn’t be a big deal if the uppercut wasn’t such a lethal strike. The fans are more than a bit deflated by Cesaro’s loss, but the aftermath makes up for it, with the dissension finally boiling over between Cesaro and Swagger, and ends with Cesaro giving him the giant swing.


It’d be easy to give Bryan all the credit for this match, having a great match with a not-so-great opponent is expected when you’re one of the (if not *the*) best in the world. But, HHH deserves credit as well, because he does put in a nice performance. When he’s in control, he’s exactly what he needs to be, the jerk that’s been undermining Bryan’s success. HHH’s best stuff involves him working over Bryan’s taped up shoulder, especially him busting out a release Tiger suplex. His submissions look like crap, especially the crossface, but they didn’t need to be pristine. Bryan is already hurt, so HHH didn’t need RINGS level holds to make his point. Yet, when Bryan is in control, HHH finds just the right amount of selling for whatever Bryan hits him with, so he’s not overdoing it, and not blowing anything off. People might take issue with how long he lingers in the Yes lock, but, Bryan barely had the hold applied (thanks to his arm being worn down) so it made sense that HHH survived for so long.

As surprising as it is to see HHH putting on a good show, it should be no surprise that Bryan does. He adds plenty of smart touches, particularly with his blocks and counters to the Pedigree. He takes advantage of the openings he gets, but doesn’t over overboard with trying to get in as much as he can, so it matters when he scores something big, like the sunset flip powerbomb. The two German suplexes might have been a bit much, but, they came as a result of a standing switch, and that’s what led to HHH’s Tiger suplex. As a whole, the match flows nicely, without any real downtime to it, even HHH’s mediocre submissions have a clear purpose. The only thing from Bryan that seems out of place is the Pedigree kick out, but, even that isn’t a big deal. HHH had laid him out with it several times before, so it’s plausible to think that Bryan braced himself for it, and, this is Bryan’s night to finally get revenge on HHH, so it’s not like he’s about to let anything keep him down. Overall, this is probably HHH’s most giving performance in at least ten years. They could have easily used a flash cradle, or copped out with a disqualification finish, but, after kicking out the Pedigree, Bryan goes on to beat HHH cleanly with his running knee, without any shenanigans. HHH got a spinebuster counter the first time Bryan went for it, thanks to Bryan telegraphing it, but Bryan doesn’t make the same mistake twice. This doesn’t make up for all those years of HHH putting on those yawn-fests with the likes of Michaels, Steiner, Nash, Orton, and others, but it’s nice to see nonetheless. It shows that HHH clearly knows how to convincingly put others over, so I wonder why he waited so long to start. ***1/2


The Shield is here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and they’re all out of bubble gum. The heels get a few token spots in, Kane attempts the chokeslam on Ambrose and Billy tries the Fame-Asser on Reigns, but this is all Shield, specifically Reigns, all the time. Superman punches and spears for everyone. The triple powerbomb to both of the Outlaws was ugly, but the fact that they could pull it off is impressive.


There is far too much dead weight, and people involved, for this to be much good. It really shows how shallow the WWE roster has gotten since they abandoned the brand split. There are quite a few people that you either won’t recognize, and when you do, you forget that they’re still around. Most of the eliminations are the standard fare, with a few comedy ones, like Miz getting eliminated with the Cobra and Fandango’s Flair flop off the apron, and the big guys chucking the little guys. Once they whittle this down from thirty to about seven, it starts picking up, with everyone getting their own chance to shine. Kofi gets a nice run after he gets thrown out, but the feet don’t hit the floor, before Sheamus eliminates him for good. Cesaro works in his uppercut and the giant swing (although, sadly, nobody got giant swung over the top, despite Dolph Ziggler being right there), and when it’s down to just Cesaro and Big Show, it seems like Big Show has it in the bag, but, Cesaro wins it thanks to his freaky Swiss strength, single-handedly eliminating the obvious favorite, and getting redemption for his failure in the tag title match.


Cena and Bray create some nice moments, but this had no business going for as long as it did. The match is basically Cena and Bray doing stuff to each other, without much in the way of engrossing work from either of them. The storyline of Wyatt wanting Cena to embrace the hate leads to some good stuff, the best of which is Cena’s reaction when Bray bridges up while Cena is dancing before the first drop, and, when Cena gets another chance, he skips the theatrics and goes right to the first drop. It’s nice to see Cena cut loose a few times and show some real intensity, like the spear to Harper through the guardrail and the plancha onto Harper and Rowan on the floor. But, by and large, this is typical Superman Cena, beating the odds and winning with the AA, nothing that hasn’t already been seen a hundred times.


There’s nothing wrong with Brock breaking the streak. UT is at the point that he’s only capable of working a few times per year. Brock is younger, bigger, stronger, and in much better physical shape. Even in Brock’s early days, UT had trouble with him. But, how this plays out is less than satisfying. The first half of this is pretty much a waste, they unload tons of punches, none of which mean a thing, and show next to nothing in the way of storytelling. All the talk about UT’s striking ability is pretty much exposed, when we see him tee off on Brock the way he does, and he’s no closer to winning the match. WWE knows how to get over a simple strike as a finish, just look at Big Show, Sheamus, and Bryan for easy examples of that. Early on, Brock takes a shoulder bump into the post and UT works the arm, and when UT misses a running boot and hangs himself in the corner, Brock works the leg. But, they never work back to those limbs once in the second half, or use them to explain why a big move might not have been as effective as normal.

The one nice touch they try to add is UT trapping Brock in Hell’s Gate, and Brock’s escape, but they get too cute and ruin the moment. UT gets the hold by surprising Brock, while he’s standing over UT gloating. That would have been fine, if Brock hadn’t just gotten a near fall with the F-5. Brock is more than capable of doing pretty much whatever he wants to UT, so using the F-5 just to get to this point is a waste of the move. UT gets his hold, but if anyone will know how to get out of it, it’s Brock, and he does. How do they follow up? By having Brock drag UT back to the center of the ring and repeating the sequence, and making Brock look like an idiot for getting caught twice in a row. Right after that, they switch roles with Brock surprising UT with his keylock, and this time it’s UT with the reversal to trap Brock in the hold and tease the submission. UT has never been a submission specialist, and Brock had been using the keylock as a primary weapon, including making HHH submit, so there’s no reason for UT to counter it at all, let alone such as easy looking counter that puts the shoe on the other foot.

Brock eventually finishes UT with the F-5, but it gets next to no reaction, because of how they’d treated it before the finish. Brock gets the first one early, which leads to the Hell’s Gate sequence. He gets a second one a bit later as a counter to UT’s rope walk. The final one comes after the following sequence: Brock gives UT the corner punches and UT attempts the Last Ride, but isn’t able to get it all the way. Rather than attempt the pin that he knows won’t work, he picks up Brock and does the Tombstone for a near fall. When that doesn’t work, UT picks him up for a second one, which Brock shifts his weight on, and counters into the F-5 for the pin. There’s nothing all that happens to suggest that UT is now spent enough to be put away. The stunned reaction to UT losing is expected, but the lack of heat for Brock’s final pin certainly wasn’t. With how Brock’s mean streak had been played up since his latest return, him losing his mind and trying to beat UT within an inch of his life, a la Austin/Rock at ‘Mania 17 would have worked, and the crowd would have probably bought the F-5 as a finisher after seeing that. The shots of the stunned crowd are hilarious, and Heyman’s reaction is priceless, but the finish (and really, the match as a whole) isn’t worthy of the huge moment that is the end of the streak.


Since Brock won, it’s a good time to go and grab a Brock Lesnar “Eat, Sleep, Break the Streak” shirt. Most fans could care less about the Diva’s Title, or Diva’s matches anyway, and ridiculous concepts like this, where all fourteen of them have less than seven minutes to work with, are the reason why. The only real storytelling element at work is Tamina existing solely to watch AJ’s back, which is hardly a fresh idea. Tamina pulls a few of them to the floor to take them out, but Natalya knocks Tamina loopy with a discus lariat. AJ surprises Natalya with a dropkick, and then quickly finishes off Naomi with the Black Widow. There are some pretty spots, but nothing is of any real consequence in a match like this. There are the usual spots, like the diving sequence, and the superplex and powerbomb spot, and the obligatory sequence where everyone hits a big move to take out someone else. Instead of trotting out everyone to accomplish nothing, why not use Vickie’s disdain for AJ to do something useful on the biggest show of the year? AJ defending against Cameron (who’d beaten AJ at Elimination Chamber by disqualification), or really any one of them, with Tamina being barred from the ring, would have been better.

RANDY ORTON © vs. BATISTA vs. DANIEL BRYAN (WWE World Heavyweight Title)

As great of a WrestleMania moment it was to see Daniel Bryan finally get the win, this is another case where the match itself doesn’t match the outcome. Bryan puts on a fine performance, but he’s hampered with the usual structural and logical issues that always happen in these sorts of matches. The one nice touch is how Bryan’s banged up shoulder is used. It’s the perfect excuse to keep him out of the match for periods of time, and Bryan’s selling goes a long way toward making it seem plausible, and both Orton and Batista come up with some nasty ideas. Bryan being taken out of the match sucks for a few reasons though, the crowd simply doesn’t care about Orton vs. Batista (that’s why Bryan/HHH got the stipulation in the first place), and their exchanges with each other don’t remedy that.

Bryan’s shoulder is the only storytelling element to be found. Beyond that, this is pretty much your usual three-way match, with the usual spots and sequences. Sometimes they’re amusing, like Bryan alternating between Orton and Batista when doing the dropkicks in the corner. Sometimes, they’re just predictable, like Bryan hitting Orton with the knee, only for Batista to try to steal the pin. And there’s only so many times that Orton and Batista can be doing something, only for Bryan to fly into the picture with the dropkick, or later the headbutt, before everyone starts waiting for him to suddenly appear. The HHH run-in is another case of him going the extra mile to give Bryan some rub. His attempt to have Scott Armstrong fast-count Bryan backfires, and then Bryan takes him out with the tope. That would have been enough itself, but HHH brings in the sledgehammer, and Bryan steals it and lays him out.

The match, understandably, slows down after the RKO/Batista bomb through the announcers’ table, both to do the stretcher spot and to give Orton a chance to recover since he landed on the monitor. It’d normally be a bad thing to have Bryan return so quickly, but with how lackluster the Orton/Batista exchanges had been, it’s just as well. This finish is similar to that of Bryan/HHH with Bryan learning from his prior mistake, and correcting it. He’d gotten Batista in the Yes lock, only for Orton to break it. He’d gotten Orton in the Yes lock, only for HHH to interfere. Well, HHH is gone, and he waits until after Batista plants Orton with the Batista bomb to stun Batista with the running knee and then does the Yes lock and gets the submission. For a three-way, it’s a good match, mostly thanks to Bryan, but that praise only goes so far when the match is flawed by design. ***

Conclusion: The big reasons to get this are the two Bryan matches: the very good match with HHH, and finally winning the big one. There are other fun things, like the battle royal and Shield squash. It’s not a perfect show by any means, but it’s far from a bad one.