Pre-show: Miz defeats Cody Rhodes via submission – I love the pre-show panel (and post-show then also) that they introduced at WrestleMania. Glad they kept with this. Miz keeps up his great winning streak in pre-show matches and his great streak of applying terrible figure-four leglocks as he defeats Cody Rhodes. I really wish they had something better for Rhodes.
Chris Jericho defeats Fandango via pin – We’ll always have the RAW after WrestleMania to remember how over Fandango was. Six weeks of build to this rematch were not kind, highlighted by a “dance off” – which only served to be one of those embarrassing wrestling moments you have to explain to your spouse. The one bright spot – Summer Rae being officially aligned to Fandango (and actually called by her name). The gimmick absolutely needs a heel female to accompany to him to the ring. That said, she’s nothing but eye candy here as Fandango eats a Codebreaker as he comes off the turnbuckle. Awesome spot (the slow motion replay is great) in a well-wrestled opener. Fandango seemed a little winded at times but had a lot of offense and looked good. The “You can’t wrestle” chants were sparse too thankfully. I don’t know why Jericho had to go over. Where does Fandango go from here? Hopefully not forever wrestling Brodus and Sweet T on Main Event every week for the foreseeable future.
Dean Ambrose defeats Kofi Kingston via pin to win the United States Championship – I question why Kofi couldn’t have secured the IC title to give Ambrose the opportunity to really raise the viability of that belt. We live in a world where the US and IC titles are arguably the same in stature. Kofi, of course, was a complete jobber until a few weeks ago when he wrestled a great match with Cesaro to win the belt. Very even match with Kofi able to look strong but Dean continues to wrestle smart, avoiding finishers and taking advantage of a missed Trouble in Paradise to hit his bulldog DDT for his first title. Right finish as the gold rush for the Shield begins. I would not be opposed to see these two wrestle again.
Sheamus defeats Mark Henry by touching all four corners – Is this the first strap match since Punk/Umaga from ’09? The stipulation is very fresh and they actually used the strap in the buildup to great effect. Of course Sheamus has came off like the heel for the entire build, highlighted by Henry getting a big face spot by showing how strong he is in pulling the two tractor-trailers. They installed lights (green for Sheamus, red for Henry; heel = RED) at each turnbuckle so the live crowd could keep track of what was going on. I actually liked this. So Henry went over Ryback at WrestleMania …for no reason as Henry doesn’t really even any close finishes here as Sheamus wins going away after a Brogue kick with three corners already touched. Not a bad match by any means, although
Alberto Del Rio defeats Jack Swagger when Swagger quits – Zeb gives us a long promo, including a unique bit on the Caribbean (St. Louis) Cardinals and their foreign players taking the money and leaving the country. Since Del Rio originally won the rights to pick the stipulation, I don’t understand why they didn’t just stick with the ladder match. We’ve seen these guys trade submissions for months at this point. Mike Chioda asks both guys if they want to quit after what seems like EACH MOVE – thus ruining the stipulation and match from the onset. I’m talking running a guy into the ring steps and then him asking the wrestler if he wants to quit. Del Rio’s exaggerated “NOOOOOOOOOO”s are terrible too. Each manager has a white towel also and in a great spot, Zeb grabs Ricardo’s and throws it in with Chioda missing it and awarding the match to Swagger. BUT WAIT!!! Of course they selectively decide to use replay here after another ref comes out. Chioda reviews a monitor and sees Zeb clearly threw it so the match restarts, leading to a pretty quick tap out by Swagger to the armbar. Horrible precedent with replay (JBL said this too) that they’ll never follow up on. Swagger’s run at the top seems finished here and he probably solidified that when he gave Dolph a concussion anyway.
The Shield defeat Hell No via pin to win the Tag Team Championships – TORNADO TAG rules, and they even call it this so that’s cool. I love this format given these two teams have had numerous encounters already. It’s a natural evolution given the chaos Shield matches have. This match does not disappoint with a terrific near-fall after a Reigns spear on Kane. Rollins hits Black Out off the top rope on Bryan as Reigns has him up in a rack to claim the gold. Perfect finish and a very clean win for the Shield. Kane and Daniel Bryan did the belts a great service in holding them as long as they did (facing the Primetime Players for months in a row withstanding).
Randy Orton defeats Big Show via pin – Orton has been rudderless for what seems like forever but gets a huge hometown face pop. Remember when the Big Show went over Sheamus three PPVs in a row? This match is Extreme Rules so they use a bazillion kendo sticks and even bring out a ladder. Sadly, the tub of Gatorade, which is always hiding under the ring, goes untouched. Show kicks out of the RKO in a great nearfall and crawls away after another on a chair before Orton breaks out THE PUNT and kills Show to get the win. Sure there was added juice because of the hometown crowd but that finish was super over. Perhaps the rudder is now fixed for Orton and he moves on to better things while Show gets some well-deserved time off.
John Cena and Ryback went to a no contest – The smark in me wonders if they’ll draw up another Last Man Standing finish where one guy is tied or pinned under something and can’t get up. We’ve had way too many of these for this to feel fresh, even with Cena’s bum Achilles as a subplot. That said, Ryback’s promos and the build here have been decent with Ryback calling back to previous matches and laying out his sound motivation. Continuity, what a thing. Cena casually ignores the built up Achilles injury but takes a decent beating before spearing Ryback through the barricade, which is nearly as common as a ref bump nowadays. Cena climbs into the crowd for a three foot elbow drop onto a table before both guys brawl to the entrance area where Ryback spears Cena through a screen of lights affixed to the Titantron. Both guys are KO’d of course as a draw was the only booking that worked here since Cena had just won the title and Ryback would look like a complete puss in losing. To give the WWE credit, when they get a camera behind the stage it looks like a colossal wipeout with Cena landing on some scaffolding. Cena does the stretcher job after to set up another match at Payback, which absolutely makes sense.
Brock Lesnar defeats Triple H via pin – After an underwhelming Mania match, at least they’re blowing this off now instead of at Summerslam. Lesnar does a A+ job selling a knee injury here, including hobbling through one F-5 and then collapsing during another. His dialogue with Heyman about it is great too. Triple H works the figure-four as Lesnar pleads and then climbs to find a silver colored sledge hammer on top of the cage. That seems like using one’s position in the company to gain influence. Lesnar and Heyman both take Pedigrees but Brock gets the big kickout, eventually hitting Triple H with the sledge and getting the pinfall rather than any kind of fluke escape win. Brock’s selling was the story here, making him feel more vulnerable given his supposed edge in the caged environment. This was definitely the best match in their series. So in total, Triple H gets his Mania win, while Brock wins the feud and hopefully moves on to something involving a title chase.
Overall: Yes, the RAWs put you to sleep for six weeks after Mania, but the card was surprisingly deep and the show delivered. The undercard had the memorable coronation of the Shield, and both main events were very good. Top to bottom, one of the better shows put on in the last year. This one exceeded my expectations going in and is worth seeking out.