April 3, 2016
Dean Ambrose . . . puts his toughness, as well as his foolishness, on full display against the Beast.
Charlotte . . . puts in an over-the-top performance that’s worthy of the Flair legacy.
Triple H . . . works his butt off so that he can pass the torch to Roman Reigns.
KALISTO © vs. RYBACK (WWE United States Title)
Seth Rollins was challenging for the U.S. Title, while he was still WWE Champion six months ago, and, now the title isn’t even worthy of the WrestleMania main card. The layout isn’t anything surprising, the big guy bumps the little guy six ways from Sunday, but, makes sure to not overdo things, so it doesn’t look completely hopeless. Kalisto gets a nice superplex counter, and takes advantage of the opening to rattle off a few of his own spots, to show that he’s capable of taking the fight to Ryback. The finish, with Kalisto hitting the SDS after Ryback got his bell rung, isn’t very satisfying. The storyline was that Ryback didn’t think a little guy like Kalisto could possibly beat him, and, the business with the turnbuckle pad coming off (however inadvertent) proves Ryback’s point. It’d have made more sense to have Kalisto pull off another counter, like the superplex one, to the Shellshock, and win by being a better wrestler.
BRIE BELLA/PAIGE/NATALYA/ALICIA FOX/EVA MARIE vs. NAOMI/TAMINA/LANA/EMMA/SUMMER RAE
Hey, it didn’t take me longer the list all the participants than the actual length of the match! Considering who all is involved, this is probably a lot better than it should be, although it helps that the better workers, namely Emma and Paige, do the heavy lifting. Everyone has something to contribute, and, after Paige gets the hot tag to Brie, it breaks down with a nice sequence with each of them getting a chance to hit their big move. It’s been done much better by others, but the effort was still nice, although I wish Eva Marie would have eaten a Tamina superkick when she was posing. Brie and Naomi go the finish right after that with a couple of sequences, followed by a nice transition into the Yes lock. All things considered, this could have been a lot harder on the eyes than it was.
BUBBA RAY DUDLEY/D-VON DUDLEY vs. JIMMY USO/JEY USO
Thank God that JBL wasn’t doing commentary on the pre show, otherwise I’d have had to listen to him try to be clever and make superkick party comments about the Usos. But, that’s pretty much all that the Usos have to show here. The Dudleys attack them early on, and they make a small comeback after a superkick, but then D-Von gets up knees on the splash to give them the advantage again. The Dudleys try to finish with 3D, but, it gets broken up with a superkick and D-Von gets pinned. The Dudleys attack afterwards and go for the tables, but, the Usos turn things around and put the Dudleys through them. Guess what move the Usos use to stop them?
KEVIN OWENS © vs. THE MIZ vs. SAMI ZAYN vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. STARDUST vs. SIN CARA vs. ZACK RYDER (WWE Intercontinental Title - Ladder Match)
Is there a point to this, other than getting as many people on the show as possible? Miz, Stardust, Sin Cara, and Ryder hadn’t been pushed as title contenders at all. It seems like Owens and Ziggler have already had about a hundred matches with each other this year, and the big feud is Owens and Sami (and history has shown that a feud with them usually yields good results). The match is pretty much what to expect from a WWE ladder match, the spots are impressive, but it’s all spots and no story. There are some occasional innovative moments, like Sin Cara turning the negative into the positive with the big dive as Miz pushed him off the ladder, and Sami’s big dive through the opened ladder onto five of them, and then planting Owens with his diving DDT. The beginning with all six challengers rolling to the floor to get ladders, and Owens finding himself alone in the ring and soaking up the crowd was also funny. I’d have preferred to see Owens or Sami win, so the title can be involved in their feud, but, more power to them, if the writers don’t think they even need the title involved. It’s nice to see Zack finally get another big win, even if it only lasted for one night.
CHRIS JERICHO vs. AJ STYLES
Why does Jericho, who is pretty much bulletproof at this point in his career, need to go over Styles? They have a few nice sequences, like the AJ countering the Walls of Jericho into the Calf Crusher, and a decent finish with Jericho countering the diving forearm into the Codebreaker for the pin, but, other than those few nice moments this is lacking pretty much everywhere else. There’s no sense of story, or idea that either of them is trying to build up to something. It was nice to see AJ finally pull off the Styles Clash, but, it was just another near fall, so he’d have been just as well to let Jericho escape or counter it. And, considering that the angle that led to this was Jericho attacking him, there’s not even a real sense of anger or hate from either of them. It looked like AJ went into the match expecting to follow Jericho’s lead, and Jericho decided that AJ should take the lead, and this was the result.
SHEAMUS/ALBERTO DEL RIO/RUSEV vs. XAVIER WOODS/KOFI KINGSTON/BIG E. LANGSTON
Aside from a few impressive spots from Rusev, namely the somersault senton, and the jumping kick to Kofi while he was on the apron, this is pretty much skippable. It’s structured the way one would expect, with Xavier in peril to set up a hot tag, but, the heels are far from interesting, so, the tag isn’t very hot. The idea of Kofi and Biggie being taken out, leaving Xavier on his own isn’t bad in theory, but, Xavier shouldn’t have even been tagged back in, since he’d taken the bulk of the punishment (and done a surprisingly good job of selling), and both his partners were much more energized. And, there’s nothing in the finish run that gives the idea that Xavier could pull off the upset, he gets a total of one near fall, with the O’Connor roll, which only served to set up the Bull Hammer and Brogue kick. Barrett misfiring on the Bull Hammer and hitting Sheamus would have made for a much better near fall, and could have furthered the storyline of Barrett as the weak link of the group. The group of stale heels shouldn’t be going over one of the most over babyface acts in the company, especially while they are the tag team champions, but, there were better ways that they could have gone about it.
BROCK LESNAR vs. DEAN AMBROSE (Street Fight)
Why does the Ryback match on the kickoff show have a better booked finish than this? The buildup to this features Ambrose being in way over his head against Brock, and, the only thing that gave him any fighting chance was weapons. So, how does this play out? The exact same way! Brock sends Ambrose to suplex city, and the only momentum that Ambrose can get going for himself is when he goes after Brock with kendo sticks and chairs, and they aren’t much more than stall tactics to fend off the inevitable. Ambrose gets one near fall on Brock, when he counters the F-5 into the DDT (at least, he was smart enough to use a regular DDT, and not Dirty Deeds). Other than that, this is all Brock all the time. The ideal outcome would be Ambrose taking the beating, but not staying down and eventually winning, or, Ambrose coming within an inch of winning, but not being able to pull it off. Instead, it’s just Ambrose getting squashed.
CHARLOTTE vs. BECKY LYNCH vs. SASHA BANKS (Decision Match for the WWE Women’s Title)
It’s not much of a surprise, at least to me, that this has easily been the best match of the show. But, that’s less of a compliment to this, and more of an indication of how underwhelming the rest of the undercard has been. It’s obvious that they have some good ideas, but, when the match itself is flawed by design, there’s only so far that they can go. It also doesn’t help that their early work isn’t very tight, especially the sequence with all the cradles, and the sunset flip/German suplex spot. Charlotte’s method of getting Sasha out of the way is clever, although using the apron rather than the ropes would have been better, given how KO’s powerbomb to the apron has always been treated. It also helps that Becky’s attack on Charlotte’s arm impacts virtually the entire match, with there always being doubt as whether or not Charlotte can do the Figure-Eight, and it’s not until the very end that she’s able to pull it off.
But, this is still the same three-way match that’s been structured the same way since they became commonplace. Spots like Sasha’s homage to Eddie Guerrero with the frog splash to break the Figure-Four are nice, but, aren’t anything new. Ric holding Sasha back to stop her from breaking up the Figure-Eight makes for a nice revenge spot for Sasha making Ric take the brunt of the dive, and, the Charlotte/Becky figure four spot shows that Charlotte has obviously been learning from her father. Between the intensity and the smart work, this is certainly a standout match on this show, but, it still isn’t much more than just good. ***
THE UNDERTAKER vs. SHANE McMAHON (Hell in A Cell)
Shane hasn’t wrestled in close to ten years, and, UT hasn’t worked a full schedule in close to ten years, so, this obviously wasn’t going to be anything great. UT isn’t exactly in bumping shape, and it’s not like Shane is going to believably throw him around the way that Lesnar can, so, Shane takes most of the actual bumps, and that mostly leaves him strikes, weapons, and holds to work with. To his credit, UT does a damn fine job as putting over what Shane throws at him, his reactions to the strikes are just about perfect, and he’s great at making Shane’s triangle choke and Sharpshooter seem like they’re fading him quickly. Shane’s counter of the Hell’s Gate to the Sharpshooter seems odd, but, this is one of the few times the announcers help out, by explaining that Shane had been doing MMA training, so it’s plausible that he’d know how to hold out from the pain, and come up with an escape. Shane shows that his toughness, and braveness, hasn’t worn off at all with ten years out the ring, with the ways that he dares UT to keep going, and with the elbow off the top of the cell. As a wrestling match, it’s watchable and not much more, but, considering the two people involved, this is realistically as good as possible.
ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL
I suppose there were worse ways to move Baron Corbin up from NXT, but aside from the fact that he won, he didn’t do much to stand out. Of course, neither did anyone else, aside from Mark Henry’s minute or so that he was able to look good, and also the Social Outcasts and their antics.
This business between The Rock and the Wyatts tehnically leads to a match between Rocky and Erick Rowan, but, it’s only six seconds, so it’s not like anything happens. All the bullshit that led up to it, and all the bullshit afterwards only served to waste a lot of time on a show that didn’t need to be stretched out any longer.
TRIPLE H © vs. ROMAN REIGNS (WWE World Heavyweight Title)
I’m not sure which is scarier, the fact that this lasts for twenty-seven minutes, or how little that Roman actually shows in those twenty-seven minutes. Triple H’s performance is right up there with the Daniel Bryan match from two years before, but, Roman isn’t nearly as good (nor over) as Bryan. HHH does everything humanly possible to create sympathy for Roman. He takes the cheap shots to the face and nose, there’s the low kick to regain control, he ramps up his spots a bit, like the neckbreaker on the floor, and, when Reigns appears to hurt his arm doing the big spear on the floor, HHH goes after the arm, and his holds here are much better than they were in the Bryan match. But, the only times anyone seems to care a lick about Roman are the spear spot to Stephanie, and the finish. Even the spear through the barricade doesn’t get much of a reaction. It’s bad enough that the fans are mostly indifferent to him, but, Roman’s performance hardly helps his case. HHH can sell and stooge for him, but, he can’t do Roman’s spots for him too. There isn’t anything from Roman that hasn’t been seen before, it’s mostly just Superman punches and spears, which work fine for quickie TV squashes and Shield trios matches, but, even with HHH doing the heavy lifting, Roman needed to show more. His reaction to HHH countering the Superman punch into the armbar is awful, his face looks like he just ate a really spicy pepper. The finishing stretch is tailor-made to showcase the heroic babyface overcoming the odds and winning, but, Roman’s lackluster performance makes it a wasted effort.
Conclusion: A show that went on entirely too long, with mostly underwhelming matches, and featuring booking that was pretty much awful on all accounts.