March 21, 2016
From the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA
Your hosts are Byron Saxton, JBL, and Michael Cole
We are shown highlights of Roman Reigns attacking HHH last week.
The live show starts with Stephanie McMahon strutting down the aisle. She is all smiles inside of the ring before telling us the bad news, which is HHH will not be here tonight. She tells us after making a lame joke about refunds that HHH is not here due to “corporate responsibilities,” not due to the beating Roman Reigns gave him. Stephanie then tells the crowd how Reigns is like them and unable to be responsible as she is now getting the “what” treatment from the crowd. Reigns’ music hits and he gets booed, even after interrupting Stephanie, as he comes down the aisle. Stephanie berates Reigns for cutting her off but he places his hand over the mic and takes it away. Reigns says that the real reason HHH is not in Philly is because he would have gotten his ass kicked again. Stephanie tries to slap him but it gets blocked as Reigns tells us that he is the “authority.” He then drops the mic before leaving.
I thought Reigns’ cadence and delivery was pretty damn good here. And the segment was to the point and did not drag at all. However, the crowd still did not respond favorable to Reigns as with WrestleMania 13 days away, I do not know how they are going to pull of a Reigns’ title win with a favorable response unless they completely blow everyone away with a match of the century-type deal. And he could easily have a great match here but the damage is beyond repair and the silent ass-kicker role should have been stressed to build to his 2015 Royal Rumble win, not less than two weeks before WrestleMania 32.
Up next will be Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
Before the match, we are shown clips from this past Thursday on Smackdown where Owens beat AJ after Chris Jericho came out to provide a distraction. Match starts with Owens grabbing a side headlock as the crowd starts a dueling chant. AJ catches Owens with a dropkick then lands on his feet attempting a moonsault from the apron. AJ charges but Owens launches him into the barricade as we head to break. The match returns with Owens working another headlock on the mat. AJ comes back with a headscissors and an enziguri as both men are down. AJ is up first and hits a clothesline. He hits a corner clothesline before getting a nearfall with a facebuster. Owens dodges a Pele Kick then turns AJ inside out with a clothesline. Owens hits a TKO for a nearfall but after that misses a cannonball. AJ hits a neckbreaker for two then lands some shots in the corner. He replaces Owens up top but his hurricarana attempt is blocked as Owens comes off with a frog splash for two. Owens tries for the Pop-up powerbomb but AJ grabs the ropes and that leads to a brawl. Owens lands a super kick as AJ comes back with the Pele Kick as both men are down as we head to another commercial break. We return with Owens placing AJ up top. He hits some chops but AJ fights back. Owens tries a superplex but AJ slips off. AJ picks up Owens for a torture rack then hits a spinout powerbomb for two. AJ is back up top and they fight up top until AJ hits a sunset powerbomb for two. AJ is about to head up top but Jericho is walking down the ramp with a mic chanting for AJ, who stops and looks. AJ is caught trying to springboard in then tries for the Calf Crusher but breaks to chase Jericho off of the apron and that allows Owens to roll him up for the win (19:19) ****. After the match, AJ chases Jericho to the back.
Thoughts: Awesome match. AJ just might be the best in-ring performer in the WWE. These guys went all out and really delivered. The finish didnt bother me as it was used to set up potential matches for WrestleMania. This is something worth going out of your way to see.
After AJ chased Jericho to the back, Owens has the mic and holds up his Intercontinental Title, yelling about this is the Kevin Owens show. He then talks about who will be facing him at “KO Mania” when Dolph Ziggler interrupts. Ziggler cuts a terrible promo about whatever Owens wants to call WrestleMania, no one can steal the show like he can. The Miz now interrupts to remind Ziggler that he lost to HHH last week and unlike himself, he has actually main-evented a WrestleMania. This leads to Ziggler and Miz going back-and-forth until Sami Zayn comes out, pissing off Owens in the process. Zayn is met with some “Ole” chants as he talks about waiting a long time for the chance to put his hands on Owens and there is no better place than WrestleMania. Miz then refers to Sami as “skinny Seth Rogen” before Owens leaves and talks about how none of them deserve the chance to face him. However, since he is a fighting champion, he will go to the Authority and see about making putting them in a triple threat match for a shot at the title. This was fine as Owens tries to pit all of the people he has pissed off against each other as they compete for a chance at his title.
Dean Ambrose is shown talking to someone off camera in a bar. This was from “earlier today.” Ambrose is saying how he does not think Brock Lesnar is willing to go far enough to beat him at WrestleMania. Terry Funk then appears and talks him up for being crazy and tough. He even tells Ambrose if he had a son, he would want him to be just like Ambrose. Funk then has a gift and gives Ambrose a chainsaw, which he wants him to use at WrestleMania. Ambrose has a crazy look on his face then proceeds to saw a table in half. After that, he laughs as the segment ends. I thought this was a lot of fun. Funk still has the goods on the mic and having all sorts of legends giving Ambrose pep talks is a cool way to endorse him.
Back from break, Owens is backstage with Stephanie. He tells her with WrestleMania being just two weeks away and how he has climbed the ladder of success quickly, he deserves a high-profile match on the show. Stephanie wants him to cut to the chase as he talks about making a triple-threat match tonight, with the winner facing him for the IC Title at WrestleMania and she agrees. Owens tells Stephanie to tell HHH that he says hi before walking away as Stephanie stares and ponders.
We get a video package on Shane McMahon and the events leading to his match against the Undertaker at WrestleMania. This also includes comments from stars of the past and present talking about the dangers of facing the Undertaker inside of the Hell in a Cell structure. They are really going all out to hype up Shane for this match. Guess we will find out in thirteen days whether it will work or not.
The New Day are walking backstage as they make random guys dance.
Back from commercial, the League of Nations are in the ring. They tell us last week, they gave the New Day a taste of what will happen at WrestleMania. We are shown a clip of the League of Nations beating down the New Day on RAW last week. After that, Del Rio leads us in a “New Day sucks” chant until the New Day themselves interrupt. Big E tells us that the New Day does not suck and in fact, they never have sucked. Xavier uses flash cards to tell the League of Nations that they are trash as he puts the cards inside of a plastic trash bag. Kofi then talks about Rusev’s nasty feet scaring the kids and how he is glad Rusev now wears boots. He then makes fun of Del Rio for being stuck in the League of Nations after having his own car and ring announcer. He then tells Wade Barrett he is a poor excuse of a king before Xavier does an awful impression of British royalty before making fun of Sheamus for having the word “shame” in his name. The New Day then do their bit about Booty O’s before they all brawl. The New Day clear the ring as it finally settles down to the scheduled Big E vs. Rusev match.
The crowd liked the New Day. However, not all of the comedy here worked. Some of it was actually awful but its an over act, regardless.
Big E vs. Rusev
Big E is in control to start. He hits a splash on the apron as we head to break. The action returns with Rusev working a side headlock on the mat as we see a clip that took place during the break as Rusev sent Big E into the steps as the rest of the League of Nations laid out Xavier & Kofi. Rusev hits a dropkick then puts the boots to Big E. JBL informs us that Terry Funk is trending on Twitter as Big E hits three belly-to-belly suplexes. Rusev gets his knees up on a splash attempt then gets a nearfall with a spinning heel kick. Rusev hits an avalanche in the corner but misses a kick. Big E tries for the Big Ending as Rusev slips out but catches him with an uranage for two. Big E tries for the apron spear but Rusev gets his knee up. Sheamus gives Rusev a pep talk but misses a move as Big E comes back with a splash. Big E pumps up the crowd but gets distracted by the LoN and walks into a super kick. Woods comes back to take out Del Rio and Barrett as Sheamus distracts the referee. Rusev applies the Accolade but Big E powers out and lifts Rusev up for an electric chair drop and gets two. Sheamus distracts the referee again but Big E spears him and falls out of the ring, nearly breaking his neck in the process. Kofi catches Rusev with a kick then Big E runs back in and hits Rusev with the Big Ending for the win (11:07) **1/2.
Thoughts: Solid match. The crowd was not always into it but both guys worked hard. Big E might want to retire the spear through the ropes spot as he might seriously injure himself using that in the near future. Even though the New Day got beaten down last week, they always beat the League of Nations. And since they are the face act, who really havent officially turned face, in a program who constantly beat the heels, its tough to get all excited about this feud at all.
Bray Wyatt cuts a promo about rebirth being a chance to become born again. Harper said you cannot have a new beginning without sacrificing another as Rowan tells us that paradise awaits on the other side. Strowman tells us that he will sacrifice Dean Ambrose tonight on behalf of his family while Bray says he will ascend to his eternal throne when after sunrise.
Who knows where the Wyatt Family will be positioned after this buy until I see change, I’ll chalk this segment up as more jibberish.
After break, which included a Snickers commercial featuring Chrisley and a few WWE divas, the camera shows us the trophy for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Big Show comes out and stands next to it while mimicking the same pose. Show talks about coming to Philadelphia for over 20 years and thanks them for saying what they feel. He then talks about how Andre the Giant is the greatest of All-Time and no matter what giant comes along, Andre will still be the greatest. He then talks about wanting to win the Battle Royal again this year when the Social Outcasts interrupt. They tell Show he will be in trouble as all of them will join up to toss him out. Show calls them “trolls” as he chokes out Slater. The rest of the Outcasts beat him down until Kane makes the save. Show and Kane hug as Show calls him the man. However, Kane chokeslams him off of the top rope as he celebrated.
Your token segment to build up the WrestleMania Battle Royal and how its every man for himself. Big Show came off well here. He is a natural on the mic and doesnt get enough credit for that, IMO.
We learn that “Fifth Harmony” will perform “America the Beautiful” at WrestleMania.
Michael Cole alerts us that Stan Hansen will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as JBL puts over his accomplishments like beating Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki.
Fandango vs. Chris Jericho
Cole notes how Fandango’s upset of Jericho at WrestleMania 29 is one of the biggest upsets of all-time. Jericho immediately attacks Fandango to start the match. He then yells how Fandango never beat him at WrestleMania before calling him a “stupid man.” Fandango fights back and hits a spinning heel kick. Fandango snaps Jericho’s neck off of the top rope but misses a top rope leg drop. Jericho tries for the Walls of Jericho as AJ Styles comes down the aisle holding a mic chanting “Y2 Jackass.” Jericho is distracted as Fandango rolls him up for a two count. Jericho then comes back with the Codebreaker for the win (2:35) 1/2*. After the match, AJ challenges Jericho to a match at WrestleMania so he can show him and the rest of the world why the crowd chants his name.
Thoughts: The match was nothing. And having Jericho not fall victim to the distraction, along with the camera shot of AJ’s disappointed facial expression on the ramp when Jericho win, kind of made AJ seem like an idiot. Jericho has been good as an aggressive heel lately but this did not win over the crowd. And the feud itself has been booked all over the place. However, at the very least, these two should be able to have a good match.
We get another video package on Shane McMahon with comments from HBK, Booker T, John Cena, and Shane’s coach Renzo Gracie among others. We see clips of Shane’s training as everyone at the gym puts him over.
They really stressed Shane’s training here as it was the second video package tonight dedicated to putting him over as having a chance against the Undertaker.
Byron lets us know that Vince McMahon will be here to let us know about the Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania. After that, we see Owens giving the referees instructions on something regarding the triple-threat #1 contender’s match.
Kevin Owens is in the ring as he tells Lillian Garcia that he will do the introductions for the next match. He then introduces contestants. The first person he introduces is Stardust. After that, he brings out Sin Cara and Zack Ryder as Cole is confused as to why this is not involving Ziggler, Miz, or Zayn.
Intercontinental Title #1 Contender Match: Stardust vs. Sin Cara vs. Zack Ryder
The match starts as Owens is on commentary, ragging on Cole for being a terrible commentator. Owens says he put this match in place because Ziggler, Miz, and Zayn act like they are owed something so he gave these three guys a chance. The match goes on as no one cares while Sami Zayn comes out to confront Owens. Ziggler and Miz also come out as they all yell at Owens while the match continues in the ring. Stardust gets dumped as Ryder follows out as Owens tosses him at the Miz for the DQ (3:42) DUD. Owens then goes inside after the others attack him and uses Sin Cara as a shield before escaping as the others stare him down.
Thoughts: First off, no one at all cared about this match. The poor guys working tried but it was terrible and barely even focused on by the commentators or the camera crew for that matter. And the finish was a mess too. The only highlights were Owens on commentary dissing Cole.
Stephanie is on the phone, presumably speaking with HHH, as Owens barges in complaining about how he got attacked. Stephanie reminds Owens it is not “KO Mania” but rather WrestleMania and how he will be defending his IC Title against all six guys in a ladder match. Owens tells Stephanie that her husband thinks very highly of him as Stephanie wants Owens to turn off the lights on the way out.
They seem to be teasing a potential Owens/HHH alignment but predictably, they went with a multi-person ladder match at Mania for the IC Title. I dont understand why Stardust, Sin Cara, or Ryder needed to be added to this though, as they have been positioned as losers for a long time. It also gives them time before going all-out with a Zayn/Owens feud. And they also seem to be teasing a future Miz/Ziggler feud here too.
Back from break, HHH picks up Stephanie in a car. The garage door opens as Reigns appears then yanks HHH out of the car while Stephanie screams. Reigns throws him into the car and lands some punches before HHH hops in the car as it speeds away. The camera cuts to Reigns staring down the car as the crowd can be heard booing.
Not the greatest segment, as it made no sense for the driver to not pull away when seeing Reigns, or even locking the doors. But at least it painted Reigns as an ass-kicker on a mission, which is still the right path for his character. The crowd is going to boo anyway but this is him at his best.
Natalya vs. Charlotte w/ Ric Flair
Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch are on commentary. Nattie blocks a few attacks then works a surfboard as Sasha and Becky go at each other on commentary. Nattie runs into a big boot as Charlotte is now in control. She stomps away in the corner but Nattie comes back with a powerbomb for two as both women are down. Nattie locks on the Sharpshooter but Charlotte is able to make it to the ropes. She tries it again but Charlotte breaks out then hits the Natural Selection for the win (4:48) *1/2.
Thoughts: The match was fine for what it was. On commentary, Becky was fantastic I thought as her delivery was top notch. Sasha, on the other hand, got totally overshadowed by Becky and came off very timid, which does not fit in well at all with her “Boss” character. I think they have done a good job building up the Divas Title match at WrestleMania though and am looking forward to that match.
A replay of Terry Funk giving Dean Ambrose a pep talk. Still to come is Dean Ambrose vs. Braun Strowman.
Bubba Ray Dudley w/ D-Von Dudley vs. R-Truth
Bubba talks trash to Truth then hammers away after D-Von provided a distraction. Bubba asks Truth about Goldust as he continues to beat on Truth. The fans chant for tables as Truth makes a comeback. He knocks D-Von off of the apron but runs into a big boot as that gets the win (2:07) 1/4*. After the match, the Dudley Boyz attack Truth as Goldust runs out for the save. There was no crowd reaction for that. The Dudleys put him down then the Usos run out and take out the Dudleys. The Usos then get the tables and place D-Von on top but Bubba makes the save. Bubba yells at the Usos about how they will never beat them.
Thoughts: The crowd was dead for this for the most part. And Goldust running out for the save got zero reaction, even before the Dudley Boyz took him out as weeks of their segments resulted in this payoff. The Usos vs. Dudley Boyz WrestleMania match is one of the least spectacular in recent memory.
Vince McMahon comes out to the ring. He talks about his “former” son Shane facing the Undertaker at Hell in a Cell. And, if by a chance Shane actually won, he will takeover RAW, meaning the end of Stephanie, HHH, and likely himself. The crowd goes nuts with “Yes” Chants as Vince asks them how they would feel about that. We are shown a replay of last week where Shane referred to the Undertaker as “Vince’s bitch.” Vince said he agrees with Shane on that point then gets serious as he talks about the Undertaker and if he loses against his son, this WrestleMania will be his last. Vince then heads up the ramp as his music hits while Dean Ambrose then comes out for his match as Vince stares at him.
I thought this added stipulation came off as completely forced and just a desperate way to add more intrigue. Plus, if Shane won, how would Vince get to enforce that stipulation? That is a bad plot hole.
Dean Ambrose vs. Braun Strowman w/ The Wyatt Family
Paul Heyman is on commentary. The match starts with Ambrose using his speed to elude Strowman. He lands a few shots but Strowman sends him down with a shoulder block. Ambrose slaps Strowman then pulls the ropes down on him as he charged. Ambrose sends Strowman into the barricade with a tope but gets hit with a forearm on a second attempt. Strowman was way out of position for that as Ambrose had to wait for him to come up and throw a forearm. Strowman roughs up Ambrose then works a nerve hold. Ambrose tries a sleeper but Strowman breaks it up and applies another nerve hold. Ambrose come back with a dropkick then fires away. Strowman picks up Ambrose, who lands on his feet, but misses a charge. Ambrose then whacks Strowman with a chair for the DQ (6:05) -1/2*. Ambrose chases off the rest of the Wyatt Family with a chair but Strowman knocks him down. Ambrose then comes back with a rebound clothesline before hitting Strowman with a Dirty Deeds on the chair. Ambrose then lays on the announcers table and stares at Heyman before he is shown standing with the WrestleMania sign in the background.
Thoughts: Oh, this match was terrible. The crowd even started up “this is boring” chants during the match. Ambrose, who had been getting good reactions, got stuck with an opponent who in no way should be wrestling on WWE TV and in turn got met with silence. A really poor ending for a show that fell apart in the final hour.
Final Thoughts: The first two hours were fine. It was not as bad as the crowd would have led you to believe. However, the third hour was abysmal. The top matches all came off cold here as Reigns is dead as a babyface and the Shane/Undertaker match is coming off more desperate each week. And the end of this show did Ambrose zero favors. The IC Title ladder match felt unnecessary with the edition of three guys who rarely ever win on TV. And how about the roles of legends like the Rock and Steve Austin? What will they be doing on the show?
The product is just ice cold right now. Bad storylines and uninteresting characters are making for a poor product. And more McMahon family drama has not proven to be the remedy the WWE needs. This show did have some good but the final hour here was truly pitiful and the main event scene is a mess.
With just one more show until WrestleMania 32, the WWE is going to have to go all-out next week to provide Mania some momentum heading into the show. Because right now, its not there.