Three weeks from Wrestlemania, WWE has decided that what they really need is another pay-per-view. They’ve essentially hit the pause button on building Triple H/Roman Reigns and Lesnar/Ambrose for the last couple weeks in order to built up a Triple H/Dean Ambrose match for this show. And in the process, I think they’ve just reminded most of their fan-base that they wish Ambrose was the one in the main event of Wrestlemania instead of Reigns.
I’m actually quite excited for most of this card. HHH/Ambrose is fresh and exciting, Brock/Bray should be interesting, and I’m pumped to see Enzo & Cass in front of a main roster audience. But like so much of what WWE does these days, I’m just not entirely sure what their goal is.
World Tag Team Championship: The New Day (c) vs. The League of Nations
When is the last time we had a heel vs. heel match on a pay-per-view? This feels like the Attitude Era. No doubt to me who the crowd is going to get behind here. I think it’s a bit soon to turn New Day face, but it’s getting tougher and tougher for the crowd not to cheer them.
I can’t ever remember these guys not delivering on the mic. It’s not even that the material is all great, they just always manage to make the absolute most of it.
I’ve wanted Sheamus and Barrett as a team for years. Probably the best use of both of them at this point.
Was really interested in seeing New Day work as faces, and it came together just as well as you’d expect. Kofi is perfect selling and getting bounced around the ring, and Big E is ready for some mighty spicy hot tags. I see Big E as a huge future star. A few years ago I thought they were going to pull the trigger on his push and it didn’t happen. I think he’s grown a ton since then.
I thoroughly enjoyed this match. Really, my only complaint is it doesn’t make sense that Alberto and Rusev weren’t backing up their stablemates, but they may have been working a different show this night.
Rating: **½. Solid opening match. Pretty bullish on New Day as faces at this point.
That was a hell of a backstage promo from Heyman. He hasn’t quite been at 100 lately, but he was cooking there.
Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger
Chris Jericho is so much better as a heel. The only time he ever did it for me as a face was 2000-2001. This heel persona actually has me wanting him to stick around after Wrestlemania.
I honestly feel like I haven’t seen Swagger wrestle since he lost to Rusev at Summerslam 2014. I’m sure that’s not true, that’s just what it feels like.
Well, this one went to shit quickly. Swagger hasn’t done anything in forever, so giving him a pay-per-view match of some length was a pretty bizarre decision. Also sending an American patriot out to defend Canada’s honor.
And JBL accidentally said Jericho was from Toronto. He’s from Winnipeg, you idiot.
Rating: ½*. That did absolutely nothing for me.
NXT Tag Team Championship: The Revival (c) vs. Enzo & Cass
I’m excited that this is happening on this show. I’d love to see more NXT matches on Raw, Smackdown, and the pay-per-views. See just how far this brand can go.
Ezno & Cass were pretty over. Good chunk of the crowd knew their intro routine. That’s an interesting test for how much penetration NXT has. These guys are 100% ready for the main roster. I suspect we’re going to see them get the call after Wrestlemania.
Not a ton to say about this because I was pretty engrossed by it. These NXT matches just seem to mean more. Because they’ve been kept apart, because there have been months of build. I was really hanging on every two count here. And when Dash & Dawson retained, it was a bit of a stomach punch. Right call, but still hurts to see Enzo & Cass lose again.
Rating: ***. Really enjoyed that. NXT is so, so much better than the main roster.
Diva’s Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
God, Charlotte is way better as a heel. She was so wooden and awkward as a face, but totally confident and comfortable as a heel. And having Ric around makes it even better. Especially if they’d actually let him talk.
Good, simple hook here with Natalya in her home country and dedicating the match to Bret Hart.
I don’t know what I like less: Non-title matches or people getting title shots they haven’t earned.
I love the way the women on the roster work. They use holds, they sell, their matches have psychology. I really think the men on the roster could take some notes from this style.
Natalya’s never really developed as a wrestler, but this is the right role for her. She works well as the veteran babyface gatekeeper. Just have her put people over.
This match really exceeded my expectations. Maybe Natalya’s best match ever, at least the best since that match with Charlotte at TakeOver. Crowd was absolutely rocking when Nattie locked in the Sharpshooter. And then Charlotte with the Flair Pin for the win. This was fantastic.
Rating: ***1/4. That was so, so much better than I expected.
Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper vs. Brock Lesnar
No complaints that this isn’t happening at Wrestlemania. They’ve so thoroughly neutered The Wyatt Family at this point that pretending like they’re a threat to Brock would be a joke. It just makes me sad thinking about where Bray was two years ago compared to where he is now. This guy was the hottest up-and-comer in the company at Wrestlemania 30 two years ago, now he’s just a guy. Total waste, and it’s entirely on creative.
Wait, they turned this into a handicap match? They think they’re helping Bray by not having him get pinned, but he just looks like a bigger chump for losing a handicap match.
Rating: ½*. I love watching Lesnar kill people, but that didn’t do much for me.
Sami Zayn vs. Stardust
Always happy to see Sami. Always depressed to see Stardust.
JBL just said that Zayn got hurt in the match against Cena when they’re clearing running with the story that Owens hurt him. I give JBL’s commentary zero stars.
And then JBL mentions that the first Royal Rumble was in…Hamilton. Brought it around to the fact that it was up against Bunkhouse Stampede. Which was booked and headlined by Dusty Rhodes.
Oh, and then Cole accidentally referenced Hulk Hogan. Whispered his name like Voldemort.
I think Stardust got into too much offense here. This should have been a borderline squash, instead we got a lot of boring Stardust offense.
And then people start running through the crowd with “Trump/McMahon” signs. This got weird in a hurry.
Rating: ¾*. That never really got going.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Just want to point out that Triple H gets booed when he beats up Ambrose. Because the crowd actually likes Ambrose, unlike Reigns. I feel 90% of thefan-base would probably prefer Ambrose be the one in the Wrestlemania main event this year, so I’m not sure reminding them of that is a great idea.
There were some fun wrinkles to this match, with Ambrose out-wrestling Triple H, working over his nose (easy target) and then targeting the leg.
The fakeout pin was a little dodgy because I don’t like that it made Ambrose look dumb. Should have been Triple H getting his foot under the rope instead of Ambrose screwing up.
Wouldn’t have had Ambrose get pinned here. The top guys shouldn’t be losing this close to Wrestlemania.
Rating: ***1/2. That was absolutely cooking for the last five minutes.
Overall: Hard to rate because it wasn’t really a pay-per-view or a house show. There were a few good matches. There was some weirdness. There were a couple filler matches. Would have been a stronger show if they cut Zayn/Stardust and Jericho/Swagger to make it a two hour show. I didn’t really come out of this show more excited for Wrestlemania, so it was a failure on that front.