January 18, 2016
From the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH
Your hosts are Byron Saxton, JBL, and Michael Cole
Before the show begins, we are shown a video package set to Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech.
The live show begins with Roman Reigns coming out to the ring. We are shown a replay of Reigns facing Kevin Owens in last week’s “One vs. All” stipulation that ended with Brock Lesnar coming out and suplexing several guys before hitting Roman Reigns with the F-5. Reigns tells us that this Sunday, he will retain his title in a true “one vs. all” match. However, tonight he only cares about Lesnar and wants to finish what he started right now. Chris Jericho’s music hits as he comes out wearing a suit coat without a shirt. Reigns tells Jericho that he is glad to see him back but that he is not Lesnar, the person who he wants. Jericho says since Lesnar will be on the “Highlight Reel” that Reigns can join so the “three top contenders” for the Royal Rumble match will be in the same ring. Reigns says as long as Lesnar is there, so will he, and we can best “believe that.” The League of Nations interrupts as Sheamus wants to know when did the Rumble match become about Reigns vs. Lesnar because there are 28 other competitors in the match, like the entire League of Nations. He then says they will take back what belongs to them before telling a joke about Jericho eating his shirt for dinner. That was a horrible joke that absolutely bombed. Jericho then jokes about Sheamus saying the word “stupid” and tries to get the crowd to chant that, which they were earlier, but they were quiet. Jericho also used his share of bad jokes. Jericho tells us that Alberto Del Rio is “Spanish for jackass” as one-by-one Jericho tells the League of Nations how they are not worthy of an appearance and after some more really bad commentary, Reigns and Jericho reminded Rusev that he was eliminated by Reigns at the Rumble last year as Jericho got them to have a match next, then named himself the special guest referee. What an awful segment this was. The material was barely enough to stretch out five minutes, let alone fifteen. And the worst part is that Reigns, the guy the company wants to elevate as the #1 star, just comes off as a regular wrestler. He does not stand out at all in these segments. If anything, he is being further exposed as being subpar on the mic. I thought the only person who came off looking okay here was Rusev. He can rise above bad material. Unfortunately, Reigns cannot but overall, this segment was lazy and got the show off to a bad start.
Roman Reigns vs. Rusev w/ League of Nations with Special Guest Referee Chris Jericho
Jericho is now wearing a referee shirt as we are shown him taking Mike Chioda’s during the break. Match starts with neither guy able to gain an advantage. Reigns gets dumped then attacked from behind as the League of Nations provide a distraction. Back inside, Rusev uses a chinlock. Reigns rolls away from a falling headbutt then fires away. Barrett hoped up on the apron and distracts Reigns as Rusev knocks him down. Rusev is in control as we head to break. We return with Rusev working a side headlock on the mat. Reigns fights out and hits some clotheslines but runs into an elbow. Reigns boots Rusev down and hits ten clotheslines in the corner before an uppercut. Rusev escapes from a Samoan Drop attempt and hits a super kick for two as Jericho counted very slowly on that and Rusev is not happy. Rusev lifts Reigns on his shoulders and heads up top but Reigns escapes and takes him off with a sitout powerbomb for a nearfall. Barrett then distracted Jericho as Sheamus yanked down Reigns and tossed him into the barricade. Jericho then tossed Sheamus and eventually Barrett and Del Rio. Back to the action as Reigns hits the Superman Punch then finishes Rusev off with a spear (13:54) **.
Thoughts: The match itself was underwhelming and that spot where Jericho threw out each guy from LoN lasted forever as the two guys in the ring just sat there waiting for it to end. Plus, the special referee stipulation was done so in a non-sensical manner. The crowd was not into this, which is bad considering the match featured the champion.
Backstage, Jericho is smiling then runs into Stephanie McMahon. She makes fun of him for his “original material” as he was listing off a bunch of adjectives then got pissed for him making changes to the originally scheduled “Highlight Reel” segment. She then threatened Jericho if he ever did something like this again.
Brie Bella w/ Alicia Fox vs. Natalya w/ Paige
Cole tells us that Natalya and Paige are a key part of “Total Divas.” We see clips of Paige telling her boyfriend that she is pissed at Alicia. Natalya hits Brie with a full nelson slam but Brie comes back and hits a running kick. Brie takes control as the announcers continue to talk about “Total Divas.”Brie yells at Paige then walks around as Natalya takes her down and makes her submit to the Sharpshooter (1:30) 1/4*.
Thoughts: This was just a plug for “Total Divas” and the storylines from that show.
Later tonight, the Dudleys & Ryback vs. Wyatt Family. Plus, we will find out who will be the #1 entrant in the Royal Rumble match.
Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper & Erick Rowan w/ Braun Strowman vs. Dudley Boyz & Ryback
They played all of the history between these men before the match, which was joined in progress after the break. Bubba is laying Harper but ends up getting booted in the face. Rowan tags and misses a splash as D-Von tags and hits a pair of shoulder tackles and a neckbreaker. Rowan then tosses D-Von in the corner as the Wyatt Family takes control of the match. Bubba starts chanting for D-Von and that draws a feint chant from the crowd. Cole mentions the passing of Iron Mike Sharpe as the announcer briefly discuss his career. Rowan and Harper take turns putting D-Von in a headlock. Bray tags and collides with D-Von as both men are down. He finally makes the tag to Ryback, who runs wild on Harper. The match breaks down and Bray prevents Ryback from hitting the Shellshock. In the ring, the Dudleys almost put Harper away but Rowan breaks up the 3-D and takes out D-Von as Harper boots Bubba before putting him away with a discus clothesline (6:38) 3/4*.
Thoughts: Yikes. Its been about two months of the Wyatt Family beating the Dudley Boyz & friends and this crowd had enough of their matches. And the match itself was poor, with a lot of restholds. And the D-Von/Rowan segment was very poorly worked. They are really killing the Dudley Boyz with all of these losses.
They plug the “Highlight Reel” segment again.
The Social Outcasts come out as Heath Slater promises one of them will win the Royal Rumble. Curtis Axel brings up how he was never eliminated from last year’s match as Slater promises to eliminate is opponent, the Big Show.
Big Show vs. Heath Slater w/ Social Outcasts
Slater ducks beneath the ropes a few times as he wants no part of Show but ends up getting hit with the Knockout Punch as Show wins the match (0:57). After the match, Show takes care of Axel and Rose then decks Bo Dallas as he was performing a victory lap.
Thoughts: They gave the Outcasts two weeks of momentum before the Big Show destroyed them all. They always make Show look strong before the Rumble.
Backstage, the League of Nations are pissed about Chris Jericho when Stephanie conveniently walks up to them. She puts them over individually before asking why are they scared of Jericho. Sheamus said they were not scared and Stephanie asked them to prove it to her.
After the break, Vince and Stephanie McMahon walk out to draw the #1 entrant for the Royal Rumble match. They go on about how tough it is to win the match as Stephanie puts over her father for winning the Rumble match in 1999. Vince pulls out the first name but has trouble opening the ball. He then gives it to Stephanie to announce and it is Roman Reigns. They draw it again, to ensure us all that this is all legit and pull out Reigns again, as Vince joked with Stephanie about putting Reigns name in again. They then pull out another ball and once again it is Reigns. Vince then tells us that Reigns might be #1 in the Rumble but will not be afterwards and we can “believe that.” The less said about this segment is for the best. It bombed in front of the live crowd and was really was so poorly conceived it never should have even made it to air. Why not just say they are making Reigns the #1 entrant to close the show?
Tamina w/ Naomi vs. Becky Lynch
Charlotte and Ric Flair are at ringside. Sasha Banks is apparently absent. Tamina works the leg then applies a chinlock. She gets two with a slam then goes back to a chinlock as the camera shows the Flair’s watching the match. Becky blocks a suplex with a small package as that starts her comeback. She hits a pair of leg drops then climbs up top and takes Tamina down with the Disarmer for the win (4:05) *. After the match, Becky grabs the mic and tells us nothing would mean more to her than winning the Divas Title match at the Royal Rumble as Charlotte and Ric laugh. Charlotte cannot believe Becky thinks she will hand her a title match because fans are cheering. Charlotte tells her to get in the back of the line as she lost her chance. Becky then goes off and mocks Flair’s catchphrases as she calls them both out for cheating to win. Becky clearly struck a nerve with Flair, who tells Becky that she will get another title shot at the Rumble as Charlotte does not look pleased.
Thoughts: The match was forgettable but Tamina looked better than she usually does so that is at least progress. However, the main thing here was the Becky/Charlotte feud and Becky really cut a good promo here and the fans were interested to see them fight at the Rumble. Job well done for Becky.
Thursday on Smackdown will feature Miz TV with guests Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose. Also, Roman Reigns will face off against the League of Nations.
Dean Ambrose & Kalisto vs. Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio w/ Wade Barrett
Kevin Owens is on commentary as Cole plugs his Last Man Standing match at the Rumble against Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title. We also learn that Del Rio will be defending the U.S. Title at the Rumble against Kalisto. Match starts with Ambrose and Sheamus slugging it out. Ambrose wins that and tags Kalisto then backdrops him to the floor as he takes out Del Rio and Sheamus as we head to break. We return with Del Rio and Kalisto battling on the top rope. Kalisto knocks Del Rio off but gets hit with a dropkick in midair then get footage of the LoN attacking Kalisto during the break. Sheamus applies a chinlock as Owens is on commentary promising to win the IC Title at the Royal Rumble. Kalisto finally tags out as Ambrose runs wild on Del Rio. He flies out and hits a tope but gets outnumbered as Sheamus an Del Rio ambush him. Back inside, Sheamus hits the Irish Curse for a nearfall then applies a chinlock. The crowd rallies behind Ambrose then Del Rio mocks Kalisto, who is pissed. Del Rio hits a lungblower for two He puts Ambrose in the tree-of-woe but misses the stomp. Sheamus tags in as Ambrose hits the rebound clothesline and tags Kalisto, who runs wild on Sheamus. Kalisto rolls underneath a Brogue Kick attempt and hits an inverted DDT then the Salida Del Sol. Del Rio breaks up the pin then takes Ambrose outside and hits a step-up enziguiri. Back inside, Kalisto tries another Salida Del Sol but Sheamus shoves him off then hits a Brogue Kick for the win (13:15) **1/2. After the match, Owens leaves the booth and stares at Ambrose, who is down on the mat.
Thoughts: The match was fine but they are sure making it seem like Kalisto’s win last week was nothing more than a fluke. Owens was fine on commentary and I’m looking forward to his match against Ambrose at the Rumble. There feud has bee good enough to elevate both guys when it ends.
The announcers plug how you can get a free month of the WWE Network and watch the Royal Rumble.
We get a replay of Reigns calling out Lesnar at the beginning of the show leading to another plug of the highlight reel.
After the break, we are shown Big E giving a eulogy for “Francesca the Trombone” as Xavier has a breakdown before Big E says the word “bitch” as he was quoting “99 Problems” by Jay-Z. Xavier then said that Francesca would want him to “eat a lot of Chipotle and defecate all over Chris Jericho’s locker room.” They then vow to get revenge, targeting the Usos first. This was more corny than funny but it also seemed like they are putting the trombone gimmick to rest.
A video package featuring all sorts of Royal Rumble stats.
After the break, the New Day come out to the ring.
Jey Uso w/ Jimmy Uso vs. Big E w/ Xavier Woods & Kofi
Neither guy can gain an advantage to start. Jey sends Big E to the floor with a kick and follows out, only to get caught with a backdrop. The rest of the New Day scream at him as we head to break. The action returns with Jimmy trying to run off the rest of the New Day as they keep interfering. Big E misses a splash on the apron then Jey sends him into the post. Back inside, Jey hits a crossbody then a Samoan Drop. He misses a thump in the corner but connects with a super kick that gets two. Jey lands on the apron after a backdrop then pulls the ropes down as Big E flies outside. Jey hits a plancha then back in the ring hits a super kick. Jey fights off Kofi then heads up top as Xavier distracts him and Big E hits a clothesline to set up the Big Ending for the win (9:33) **1/4. Cole played up the fact that Jey tweaked his knee.
Thoughts: The match was fine but the main problem is that the Usos have not been over all that much since they got healthy and the tag division is so depleted that its pretty much the only feud they can go with at the moment. The New Day needs a face team to feud with that fans are connecting with better than they are the Usos. An NXT team needs to be called up ASAP to help out this division.
Backstage, R-Truth, Mark Henry, and Titus O’Neill are talking about “keeping the dream alive.” They put their hands in the middle and as they are about to break, a white hand is on top as we see Neville. The others pause then R-Truth says that Neville also has a dream and the others are all cool with that as they break. WWE was promoting unity with this piece.
The League of Nations are talking backstage but we cannot hear what they are saying. Cole thinks it might be about their match against Reigns on Smackdown this coming Thursday.
Mark Henry & Titus O’Neill & R-Truth & Neville vs. Tyler Breeze & Stardust & The Ascension
Titus and Konnor start off the match going back-and-forth. Viktor tags but Titus catches him for a fallaway slam. Neville tags and gets trapped in the opposing corner. Henry tags himself in after Stardust kept celebrating and hits an avalanche. R-Truth tags but shortly afterwards gets caught with a disaster kick. Konnor is back in and gets a nearfall. R-Truth gets out of a chinlock and tags as Neville runs wild on Breeze then the match breaks down. Titus catches Breeze off of the top and his a fallaway slam that Henry was supposed to catch but he failed as Titus threw Breeze over his head. Henry then picks Breeze up and hits the Worlds Strongest Slam before tagging Neville, who hits the Red Arrow for the win (6:12) *.
Thoughts: This match had zero heat and was very basic. Poor Breeze, he ate the pin and got tossed recklessly by Titus to boot. Neville was the only person to stand out here. He is so smooth and crisp in the ring you cant help but notice.
Highlight Reel with host Chris Jericho. Paul Heyman cuts off Jericho, who tells him to shut up and bring out Lesnar. Heyman promises that an F-5 will be touching down in Columbus, Ohio. Jericho then puts Heyman down for failing his client out of the Rumble match and straight to WrestleMania then questions the reasons behind trying to get Lesnar out of the Rumble match. Heyman said that Lesnar was the champion at WrestleMania last year and never got pinned and will turn the Rumble into Suplex City. A mild “Suplex City” chant breaks out then Jericho wants to know if the Rumble match comes down to Lesnar and himself and he wins. Lesnar’s music hits and he circles the ring before entering. After that, Reigns music hits and they stare each other down until Reigns hits a spear. The League of Nations run in for the beatdown as they target Reigns then Lesnar, who fights them off until Reigns hits a spear. After that, the Wyatt Family comes out to take care of both Reigns and Lesnar as the show ends. The past two weeks they built the show around Lesnar and Reigns and at the end, they are laid out as the Wyatt Family stand tall. The same four guys that couldnt get past Kane and the Undertaker even with a two man advantage just a couple of months ago. Lesnar truly appeared as just another guy here and Reigns continues to struggle looking credible as the champ. This segment also bombed with the crowd and the lengthy setup for the brawl was to blame.
Final Thoughts: For a show designed to sell the show that starts the “Road to WrestleMania,” this was terrible. There was a good tag match and Becky’s promo was also really good but besides that, there were too many lengthy talking segments filled with bad jokes and just awful dialogue in general. The crowd was dead but the entire first hour of the show was bad and who can blame them after that.
The depth issues are glaring but when you have spent over the past ten years beating it into the fans heads that the undercard workers do not matter, no one will react to them in their segments. A lot of that happened tonight as well.
The Rumble match itself is still intriguing as it is for the belt and we will have to wait for the challenger to be named in the coming weeks, which hopefully gives us some good TV. Plus, Becky/Charlotte and Owens/Ambrose are good feuds while Del Rio/Kalisto should at least be a good match. The PPV should be fine but its the build for the WrestleMania card that has me worried.