It’s been 34 days since the last WWE pay-per-view, but it feels like a year. Reflect on all that’s happened since Money in the Bank:
- The Roman Reigns suspension.
- The announcement of Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton for Summerslam.
- UFC 200 and Lesnar’s victory over Mark Hunt.
- The announcement of Lesnar’s failed drug test.
- The reveal of Daniel Bryan and Mick Foley as general managers of Raw and Smackdown.
- The draft.
Got all that? It’s been a busy month. And now we have what is sort of a lame duck pay-per-view where it’s clear most of the rivalries are being wrapped up because guys are being split up by the draft. We’ll see how it goes…
Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and ????
Hot damn, that’s a lot better than Nikki Bella (who I thought it would be). And listen to the pop. These NXT wrestlers are over. They all get pops when they show up.
They smartly structure this match with Sasha taking an ass kicking and the crowd begging for Bayley to get in the ring. And I like having Bayley get cut off and worked over because she’s a great seller and gets so much sympathy.
And we get a rare triple heat as Sasha tags in and gets cut off. Sasha makes her comeback and taps Charlotte out with the Banks Statement.
Rating: **. About as good as possible under the time constraints. Bayley gets a strong debut, Sasha goes over Charlotte to set-up her title shot next month at Summerslam.
The Wyatt Family vs. The New Day
This has been one of the best programs on the roster this month. It’s sort of rare in current WWE to have a program where everyone involved is over. I’m also intrigued by Xavier being vulnerable to Bray’s charisma. Too bad this storyline is getting cut off tonight.
This is all built around Xavier and Bray. Everything they do in the match leads up to the moment where they go face-to-face in the ring. And then Xavier summons the strength to attack Bray and kicks the shit out of him. And suddenly you see a Daniel Bryan-like fire from Xavier.
But dreams don’t always come true, and Bray crushes Xavier for the pin. Does it make sense to put the Wyatts over New Day when the Wyatts are breaking up? I’m not sure.
Rating: **. Decent match. Highlight was definitely Xavier’s fire. Really showed me something there.
United States Championship: Rusev (c) vs. Zack Ryder
- Ryder’s new theme is ass.
- He looked like an idiot in that entrance gear.
The fact that Ryder is getting pushed in 2016 is such typical modern WWE booking. He was hot in 2012, so they jobbed him out for four years. And after that, they decided it’s the perfect time to get behind him.
I feel like WWE has a bad habit of making every match competitive. Rusev should probably just win here in two minutes, but it’s like a rule that Ryder has to almost win the match. Sometimes the better wrestler should just roll. This was one of those times.
Rating: *. Not bad, but I’d have preferred a squash here. Just make Rusev look like a beast.
We get Mojo Rawley’s debut after the match, demonstrating that not everyone from NXT is automatically over.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
It felt like this was going to be the grand finale of this feud, but then they both got drafted to Raw. Seemed like a perfect time to split them off on different shows, but we’ll see what they have planned here.
These two hate each other and I love how it shows in their matches. It feels like more than the usual is on the line when they’re in the ring. It’s like they really want to hurt each other. Each move and strike has a little extra on it.
Love Owens breaking out the Crippler Crossface to target Zayn’s bad shoulder. Smart wrestling. Zayn drops Owen on the ring apron with a Suplex. Moves on the apron always look painful. Everyone says it’s the hardest part of the ring. It probably is, it would be the place where you’d put a beam to solidify the ring.
Gorgeous Superkick by Owens to block the Tornado DDT. This match is catching fire after a slow start.
Very Japanese-style sequence with the Owens slaps and Zayn begging for more. The crowd is just crazy now. Helluva Kick…and then a second to make the point. Owens is done. Hell of a match.
Rating: ****¼. Show stealer, one of the best WWE matches of the year. Zayn looks so great coming out of this. And Owens will be fine. He’s the type who can come back from a big loss. I don’t know if WWE does match of the night bonuses, but if not they should invent it for this match. It was that good.
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
I swear I’ve watched every Raw since Money in the Bank all the way through and I can’t remember any of the build for this match.
Really tough to have to follow that last match. Perfectly fine match here from a technical perspective, just not a whole lot of fire behind it. Crowd wasn’t really into it at all. They did a nice reversal sequence with the Disarmer/Sharpshooter transitions.
Not really sure what Nattie got the win here. We’ll see what they have planned for the women on Smackdown.
Rating: *½. Not bad, but a flat match.
I loved this backstage segment with Bryan and Shane firing up Ambrose. Bryan is proving to be stunningly good as a commentator and authority figure. I feel like he’s more charismatic in this role than he was as a wrestler.
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) vs. Darren Young
Putting Young in this match feels like bad booking. Either he loses and he’s cut off at the knees at the very beginning of his run or he wins the IC Title, which he’s not nearly ready for. With 60+ guys on the roster I’m not sure what the rush was to give him a title shot.
This might be wrong, but this feels like the first singles match D-Young has ever had on pay-per-view. And probably the longest singles match of his career. And he didn’t really show himself to be ready for this big stage. Pretty dull match. The crowd couldn’t have given less of a shit. And a non-finish to boot. I don’t think this accomplished anything at all.
Rating: ½*. Nothing good came out of that.
John Cena, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass vs. The Club
I love putting Enzo & Cass with Cena. Elevated them big time. A little disappointing that they’re getting split up. Feel the same way about The Club, I think they have a lot left in them. We’ll see how AJ does as a heel on his own on Smackdown.
This got good when things started breaking down and everyone was fighting around ringside. That Flying DDT from Enzo was absolutely beautiful. Killer Big Boot by Cass. I mark for Cena’s Super AA every time he does it.
Rating: ***. Good, but I was expecting more. Felt like that ended right as it was about to kick into the high gear.
The Jericho/Orton segment was painful to watch. Forced, awful, unnatural banter. I don’t know why Orton is suddenly a smiley, joking face. Doesn’t suit him at all.
WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
Having all the authority figures at ringside strongly foreshadows a controversial finish.
The heat for Reigns is huge. They’ve got to finally turn him heel.
I don’t get this trend of the pay-per-view running over. The last few shows have all had plenty of fluff that could been cut out. No reason this show had to go over three hours. This match really suffers from a sense of fatigue setting in after close to four hours of action.
If I ever get tired of that Rollins Superplex/Falcon Arrow combo I’ll have given up on wrestling.
Did they really have to set this up for Reigns to take the table bump and be the conquering hero coming back? This match would have worked better if that was Dean going through the table.
Surprised and happy they let Ambrose go over clean. He deserves it, and if they want him to be a big drawing champion he needs to hold the title for more than a month.
Rating: ***. It was a good match, it didn’t live up to its potential and a classic. It’s tough to do a great triple threat, but it’s been done.
And they give him the Bret Hart Wrestlemania X celebration with all the guys from the locker room coming out. Great touch.
Overall: Very good show. It’s another WWE pay-per-view where it you trimmed the fat you would have had a great show, but this is the Overlong Era. A couple excellent matches, nothing that offended me too much.