Posts Tagged ‘Brock Lesnar’

NXT TakeOver Dallas & WrestleMania 32 Review

April 18, 2016

A few weeks ago, NXT TakeOver Dallas and WrestleMania 32 happened. I’ll summarize my thoughts of both shows in this post and I’m going to rank the matches from best to worst. This is combined for both shows, so it will help to demonstrate the overall quality of each brand.

  1. Sami Zayn v. Shinsuke Nakamura

This was easily the top match of the weekend. Hell, it was the best match in a WWE ring since Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25. I’m not a follower of a lot of professional wrestling outside of the WWE umbrella these days other than finding an acclaimed match from ROH, NJPW, or the like here and there. This match delivered so much that it could have main evented WrestleMania. The anticipation for Nakamura was completely insane. Added to that was the feeling that this was Zayn’s last NXT match and even though you knew he was losing, you wanted to see what he was going to do.

The crowd was amped from the time Zayn’s music hit until the time he walked back through the curtain. Watch the first post-TakeOver NXT show during the backstage interview with Austin Aries and listen to how deafening the crowd is. You can barely hear Aries. This match was incredibly smooth, yet also stiff at times. I thought Nakamura was overrated coming in, but he definitely has ‘it’. It’s the small things. The cocky attitude in the beginning, firing up when he tasted his own blood, the mannerisms. The guy is legit. Zayn was classic in the underdog role. He was the guy defending his home turf and not wanting the new guy to make his name at Zayn’s expense.

The forearm sequence was incredible. The entire sequence with the missed Helluva Kick into the suplex, to the dodged Boma Ye, to the Blue Thunder Bomb was insane. The kick to Zayn’s face as he dove for the DDT was insane. No botches and everything was practically perfectly executed.

NXT can hardly be referred to as developmental anymore. This was far above anything else I saw all weekend. Roman Reigns, you are not ‘The Guy’. Nakamura is ‘The Guy’. The only downside is that there is just no way anything in the future can live up to this match.

  1. Bayley v. Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship)

This was an unexpected result for me. I thought for sure that Asuka would come up short on her first try (akin to Zayn, Bayley, Balor, etc.). This was a really good match and very physical at times. Bayley took a few brutal-looking shots. This was also another one of those matches where the crowd is split. Asuka is popular and respected, but Bayley is Bayley. You have to be a sociopath to not like Bayley.

In the end, Bayley passes out to the Asuka Lock. The crowd was stunned in a way that says, “Asuka is cool, but we’re really sad that Bayley lost.” Bayley sold the dejection really well. Just a really good, dramatic match. Wikipedia says this went over 15 minutes, but it felt much shorter.

  1. Finn Balor v. Samoa Joe (NXT Championship)

This match would have been #2 if not for the multiple stoppages to clean up Joe’s face. I respect WWE’s efforts to improve wrestler safety and health, but sometimes things need to be allowed to play out. Joe’s blood was everywhere and there was a cut on his eye. Short of stopping the match immediately and hauling him to medical, the risk for an infection or something of that nature isn’t going to change. The blood definitely added to the drama (No blading, but a legitimate accidental head butt), but the stoppages just killed the flow and momentum early on. This match really picked up in the second half and these guys beat the hell out of each other. The finish was a throwback to the old Bret Hart finish – at least I recall him using it twice: against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 8 and Steve Austin at Survivor Series 1996.

Balor added some blue into his attire and paint, which is brilliant. This guy has unlimited potential for merchandise if he stays healthy and stays over. As the Demon, he’s still undefeated. Who’s going to be the guy to beat him as that character? Without the stoppages, this match is easily the second best match of the weekend. That’s no knock because the Zayn/Nakamura match won’t be topped for years to come. Another surprising finish since I thought Balor’s main roster debut was imminent.

  1. Charlotte v. Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch (WWE Women’s Championship)

This was arguably the best match on the WrestleMania card. The build-up and videos were major. The entrances were major. The new Women’s Championship was major. The match was excellent with just a few sloppy spots (Sasha overshot a sunset flip off the second rope). Overall, there was some good drama. Charlotte’s moonsault to the floor was perfect. They all busted their asses and were given a good deal of time to have a great match. I would have preferred Sasha winning the title, but at least Charlotte retained/won in heel fashion.

Who would have ever thought in a million years that the women would have the best match on a WrestleMania card in 2016?

  1. American Alpha v. The Revival (NXT Tag Team Championship)

The crowd was hot for the opening match at TakeOver. Jordan and Gable are the best tag team the WWE has seen in a decade. Gable is like a mini-Kurt Angle in my opinion. Olympic amateur wrestler, deceptively strong, sells like crazy, lots of charisma. Jordan is perfect in the role of the big powerhouse waiting on the hot tag.

This match illustrated how tag team wrestling psychology is supposed to work. The Revival made a point to never allow Gable or Jordan to their half of the ring when they had them in trouble. They teased the tag a few times before Jordan finally got it. I might have moved this up a spot or 2 had there not been a really badly blown spot by the Revival.

The crowd was red hot for the finish and it was really cool seeing Jordan pretty much crying after the win. Really cool and well deserved.

  1. Ladder Match – Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn v. Ziggler v. Miz v. Ryder v. Stardust v. Sin Cara (WWE Intercontinental Championship)

Let me start out with the good: Everything that Owens and Zayn did against one another. Zayn’s diving flip through the ladder to the floor and DDT through the ropes was incredible. Also, the half-nelson suplex that saw Owens go headfirst onto the ladder was just brutal.

The rest of the match was pretty standard ladder match fare. There was the ladder airplane spin spot that never looks as good as a wobbly legged Terry Funk doing it. There was the obligatory ladder broken in half spot. The finish was surprising. Zack Ryder won the title only to drop it to the Miz the next night and lose the rematch on SmackDown. So, the entire match was used to get Miz over and re-introduce Maryse the next night. Luckily, the Owens/Zayn feud seems to be continuing. Unfortunately, I feel like the payoff will come at Payback or some B-level PPV.

Either way, I’m not a big fan of multi-person ladder matches. The novelty has worn off and no one sells. Just a big spot fest usually.

  1. Chris Jericho v. AJ Styles

This was another good match between the two. We’d already seen them wrestle several times leading up to this, so there wasn’t much new. AJ obviously lost nothing from losing since he’s facing Reigns for the title at the next PPV, but it was a confusing finish taking the clean loss to Jericho. Solid match overall.

  1. Undertaker v. Shane McMahon

This match wasn’t really very good and it was way too long. It earns the #8 spot solely for Shane’s jump off the cage. Yes, there was an airbag under the table, but he still hit very hard. Again, the veteran Undertaker knows how to make a match good without using a move. His facial expression after Shane almost killed him told the entire story: “This guy was actually going to kill me to win.”

My gripe is that the match didn’t really matter since Shane McMahon went on to run RAW anyways for 2 weeks running. Also, these matches just don’t have the same effect without some blood. There are situations where blood is needed and it should be really rare. This is one of them. A bloody and lifeless Shane McMahon being brought back into the ring for the final tombstone would have been a more striking visual.

  1. Brock Lesnar v. Dean Ambrose

On the WrestleMania card, I would say this match was the biggest disappointment. WWE teased barbed wire bats, chainsaws, stairs, and other weapons. We know Ambrose’s history in CZW. Would there be glass? Tacks? How crazy would it get? In the end, there was a kendo stick and some chairs. I’m sorry guys, but this is a Street Fight with Brock Lesnar. Ambrose should have tried everything. He should have been being thrown through tables and onto tacks. There needed to be blood. The audience should have been saying, “Oh my God, this guy is bleeding, covered in tacks, and hurt really bad and he keeps getting up.” In the end, a suplex and F5 on the chairs ended it after only 13 minutes. There was next to no drama or excitement in this match.

  1. Baron Corbin v. Austin Aries

Tough first match for Aries. He was somewhat limited to what he could do against a bigger guy like Corbin. Still, there were a few really good sequences. Corbin losing via roll up was OK as it protected him for his main roster debut (more on that later) by making it seem like a fluke. Aries seems like a better heel though. I think he will go that direction soon enough.

  1. Triple H v. Roman Reigns (WWE Championship)

This match was what people expected. The crowd despises Reigns more than any heel other than Eva Marie in NXT. Instead of using WrestleMania as an opportunity for a swerve or heel turn for Reigns, WWE went ahead and gave him the clean babyface win. He even was able to spear a woman. I suppose he got his WrestleMania title moment so his family wouldn’t start killing members of the audience in protest.

No really, though. This match was 27 excruciating minutes long. And the show was running way over time as well. At least we didn’t have to listen to Flo Rida perform. Don’t work, WrestleMania 33 is in Florida, so you just know he’ll be back. This match had no business being the main event, but then again, what else was there? Shit, the women arguably could have main evented WrestleMania. Anyway, a very anti-climactic finish and ending.

  1. Andre the Giant Battle Royal

The good: Baron Corbin won. The bad: Where to start? Shaquille O’Neal showed up unannounced. I assume that was to build toward the inevitable ‘Embarrass the Big Show at WrestleMania’ match next year. Shaq against Big Show is a match that exactly no one is clamoring to see. A few people got entrances. Baron Corbin didn’t. Tatanka was randomly in there and not acknowledged for quite a while.

It was a standard boring battle royal. I’m just glad Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry, or someone else generic didn’t win.

  1. League of Nations v. New Day

This earned a spot this high solely for the New Day entrance and the appearance of Austin, HBK, and Foley. Inexplicably, the New Day loses the match. It wasn’t for the tag titles, though – that was never made clear at any point.

Could the post-match not have been accomplished even if New Day won? League of Nations could have beat them down post match and cut the same promo. Again, just a totally weird finish.

  1. Rock v. Erick Rowan

This was a 6 second squash and I still ranked it above 3 matches. This was fine. It may have been more effective to have just had the Wyatts get the upper hand on the Rock and beat him down only for John Cena to make the save.

  1. Kalisto v. Ryback (US Championship)

This was just awful. Ryback is the worst professional wrestler on the roster and that includes talents in NXT who haven’t wrestled a televised match in their career.

  1. Usos v. Dudleys

This match got 5 minutes. It was even more awful than Kalisto and Ryback. The Usos are a tired act. They’ve made no changes at all to their characters since the beginning. The crowd is slowly turning on them either from being featuring in Total Divas or by association with Reigns. Or because they’re generic and boring. And I can’t believe the Dudleys are in this position.

Finally, the worst match of the weekend goes to….

  1. Team Total Divas v. Team BAD and Blonde

This spectacle is everything that was wrong with the ‘Diva’s’ division. I’m not sure how Emma got roped into this since she had sort of reinvented her character in NXT. Hey Emma, here’s your second shot on the main roster and we’ll stick you with this 10-Diva tag team clusterfuck. The big story here was supposed to be Lana wrestling. Of course, since NXT is on the Network, we all know she doesn’t wrestle. She could be the only Diva with less ability than Eva Marie. How about Eva Marie being on the babyface team, by the way? Classic.

Anyway, Lana sucked as we expected. What irritated me the most is that most of the Divas were in the ring the next night on RAW as the new Women’s division was christened. Look, 80% of those women are not wrestlers. Paige, Natalya, and Emma can wrestle. The rest? I’d have future endeavored them that night.


WrestleMania XXXI, Part Deux

February 24, 2015

I’ve already discussed Roman Reigns to the point of nausea, so I won’t spend any more considerable time on him unless something drastically changes in the next few weeks.

Let’s move on to the rest of the card. The second main event will be Sting vs. Triple H. We all know Triple H can still perform at a high level. Anyone who doesn’t understand that either has some kind of bias from listening to ‘wrestling reporters’ who get a majority of their scoops from disgruntled former talents or perceived slights or someone who doesn’t watch the product. They say he ‘buries’ talent, which is silly. Almost every long term top star engages in politicking to stay on top. People ‘bury’ each other at your workplace. Let’s not act shocked that Triple H may have done the same a decade ago. His work with NXT shows that he clearly understands the business far better than you or me. Given the same control over WWE’s main roster, I assume the quality of the show would improve significantly.

Anyway, we know Triple H can go. The question is: Can Sting? What is a reasonable expectation for this match? Sting is 55 years old. He was sucking wind at Fast Lane after his exchange with Triple H. I never watched Sting in TNA/Impact/whatever-they-call-it-now, so I don’t know how his work has been the last year. If I had to guess, this match will be less like the Triple H / Daniel Bryan match last year and more physical with a focus on brawling. Will there be a stipulation? A consequence? I don’t know. Maybe if Sting wins, Triple H is out of power again?

I think the goal of the match will be a feel good story. Sting gets his WrestleMania moment in a main event role and overcomes the heel Authority. If you don’t go into it expecting a 5-star match (what is that anyway?), I think it’ll be a satisfying ordeal. At least, I think Sting wins. It would make no sense for him not to come out on top.

The third main event will be Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker. I’m a little torn about this. It reminds me of CM Punk in 2013. Punk lost the title to Rock and basically had nothing to do, so he went against Undertaker at WrestleMania. It seemed like a pointless deal. At least Undertaker was still undefeated at that point. Now, Undertaker is coming off a loss. There is no more Streak. Since Undertaker shaved his head, he really shows his age. His match quality has gone downhill since about WrestleMania 27 (End of an Era Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 28 masked that weakness). I’m sure a vocal minority of fans will whine when Wyatt loses, but there’s no other way this ends.

I’m just not sure what WWE is trying to accomplish. Wyatt lost to John Cena last year. I question that to this day. Cena loses nothing with a loss, but Wyatt would have gained more credibility. Is Undertaker retiring after WrestleMania 32? If that’s his farewell, I understand his return this year in order to build to next year. That’s a big ‘what if’. As far as Wyatt, what’s the plan? Where is he going? He hit a reset of sorts after splitting from Harper and Rowan and now he’s likely going to take another WrestleMania loss. Then what?

Maybe he will beat Undertaker, but I seriously doubt it. Again, not looking for a spot fest here. These guys will have to rely on some good psychology and figure out a way to tell a compelling story. We’ll see how it plays out leading up to the match. If anything, maybe we’ll see a more old-school Undertaker against Wyatt in terms of the character. That would be interesting.

I’ll move along to the 2nd annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Since Miz has announced his intention to enter it, that takes a Miz against Mizdow singles match off the table. On one hand, I’m disappointed. On the other hand, they still have a great opportunity. Common sense says that Mizdow also enters the match and the final 2 competitors are, you guessed it, Miz and Mizdow. Miz tells Mizdow to jump over the top rope and eliminate himself and we get Mizdow selling a tough choice. The crowd grows louder and louder until Mizdow finally snaps on the Miz and wins. Guaranteed massive crowd pop. I’d open WrestleMania with this match and scenario.

The rest of the card will be me speculating as no other matches have been officially announced. The rest of the card should look like this and I’ll address them if or when they are official:

  • Usos and Naomi vs. Cesaro, Kidd, and Natalya
  • Intercontinental Championship: Wade Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose
  • United States Championship: Rusev vs. John Cena
  • Stardust vs. Goldust
  • Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton
  • Diva’s Championship: Nikki Bella vs. AJ Lee or Paige or ?
  • Daniel Bryan vs. ?

Hold on, we are 33 days away from WrestleMania and Daniel Bryan, the most over wrestler on the roster, has no storyline?!

WrestleMania (XXXI) – Reigns vs. Lesnar

February 23, 2015
Featured image

Image Credit: Levi’s Stadium / WWE

The WrestleMania XXXI main event is seemingly set in stone. As a side note, WWE is apparently not interested in counting WrestleMania numbers anymore, but I am (notice that it is yet to be referred to as ‘WrestleMania 31’, just as ‘WrestleMania’ with an animated play icon). Seems like a bad decision, but that’s par for the course in many cases with WWE recently. No, really – counting is fun. It immediately lets you know how long this has been going on. I can hear Vince now: “We aren’t sports, pal. We’re sports ENTERTAINMENT and you don’t see the Academy Awards LXI, pal! Har har har, poop jokes!”

Whatever. I respect Vince McMahon a lot. I mean, who wouldn’t? He took a small regional territory and turned it into a global, billion-dollar enterprise. He was a visionary, took risks, and worked enough for 3 lifetimes. Now that I’ve said that, Vince McMahon, currently, is simply left behind. He has no incentive to change and I think he’s too stubborn to acknowledge it anyway. On more than one occasion, Mark Madden has stated (paraphrasing here) that less people watch wrestling today than did during the late 90s. Hell, less people watch WWE today than watched WWE alone in the late 90s. That’s not an accident – it’s a downward trend.

Back to the WWE World Championship match. Roman Reigns will challenge Brock Lesnar. The Memphis crowd was dead for Reigns at Fast Lane. To be fair, the Memphis crowd was dead all night, which is a shame. The WrestleMania crowd won’t be dead. That leaves WWE with 3 options, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let me talk about the apparent rejection of Roman Reigns.

Let’s look at Roman Reigns, the singles competitor. I’ll start with the break-up of the Shield. Reigns was in the Money in the Bank ladder match for Daniel Bryan’s vacated championship. He didn’t win and was largely an after-thought. He then lost a 4-way for the World title at the Battleground PPV which, again, featured nothing remarkable. Reigns then beat Randy Orton at SummerSlam is an arguable dud of a match. Reigns was then injured and out until he returned for a run-in on the John Cena / Seth Rollins match at the December TLC PPV (And to receive his inexplicable 2014 Superstar of the Year Award). In addition, during his absence, we were treated to the most awkward via satellite promos possibly ever from Reigns. They were painful to watch. We were then treated to a series of matches against the Big Show that Reigns won by DQ or count out. Reigns then won the Royal Rumble with assistance from the Rock. Reigns then defeats Daniel Bryan at Fast Lane to get to the title match.

So, what happened? Reigns was popular and generally well-liked after the initial Shield break-up. Even though Rollins and Ambrose were the initial two stand-outs to feud with each other, Roman just hung around. At SummerSlam, I recall the crowd response to his match against Orton being poor. There were a few factors at work in that event. First, the match was very slow and plodding up until the finishing sequence. Second, Reigns had the aura of inevitability around him – he was the guy. He wasn’t immediately rejected because Daniel Bryan’s return status was up in the air, so who else was there?

Following Reigns’ legit hernia injury, WWE had him record short promos to keep him relevant in the minds of the fans. This did 2 things. First, it made it obvious that Reigns was going to WrestleMania to go for the title. Daniel Bryan wasn’t live via satellite every other week. Second, it exposed Reigns’ biggest weakness – his lack of charisma and inability to connect with the crowd. Then Reigns returns to a tepid reaction at TLC. He starts cutting promos that McMahon himself wrote that are more corny than anything Cena has ever said. After the promos and some uninspiring and downright awful matches with Big Show, it seemed clear that it wasn’t Roman’s time. Is it ever anyone’s time? I don’t know.

Unfortunately for Reigns, Daniel Bryan announced his return for the Royal Rumble. In order to temper the impact, WWE had Bryan return to the ring on a Smackdown taping and even take a clean loss to Bray Wyatt on TV. The hope was that it would lower expectations for Bryan in the Rumble as WWE had to anticipate a 2014 repeat. Bryan came out in the first half of the Rumble and was tossed over 10 minutes later in very anti-climactic fashion. On my Twitter, I said they just lost the crowd. Indeed they did. Everyone who entered after that point was resoundingly booed. Reigns made his entrance and was booed. At this point, the crowd became ‘anyone-but-Reigns’. As Ziggler, Ambrose, and Wyatt were dumped over the top rope like garbage by Big Show and Kane, the crowd realized that Reigns was inevitable. WWE planned ahead and out came the Rock to save Reigns from Big Show and Kane and … they booed. Rusev came back into the ring and was dumped over without a fight. Booing. The look on the Rock’s face tells the whole story.

At this point, we have Reigns defeating Daniel Bryan clean at Fast Lane. The goal was to have Daniel Bryan take Reigns to a great match (he did) and try to make Reigns look like gold. Unfortunately, the rejection of Reigns is nothing personal. He’s going to be great one day. The problem is that Daniel Bryan is the most over baby-face in WWE. He is organically popular despite WWE’s best attempts otherwise. Vince likes to say that Daniel Bryan isn’t over, just the ‘Yes’ chant is over. Sure Vince, and the Rock’s catchphrases were over and not the Rock himself. Reigns just hasn’t done anything to ‘earn’ it in the eyes of some fans. I have no idea what merchandise sales look like, but I’d be shocked if Reigns was in the Top 5.

Now we come back to WrestleMania 31. WWE has 2 options with this match. If Lesnar re-signs with WWE, they have a 3rd option that is essentially the only option.

  1. Reigns beats Lesnar and Rollins cashes in to win the title.
  2. Reigns wins after Heyman turns on Lesnar and aligns with Reigns.
  3. If Brock re-signs, he beats Reigns.

Option 1 will send the crowd home happy. Yes, a heel unfairly beating the supposed baby-face newly crowned champion would turn the sea of boos into a celebration. WWE writing and announcing is to thank for that. Option 2 will accept the sea of boos and use Heyman and Reigns turning heel to play into it. Option 3 is a no-brainer. Lesnar crushed the Streak. He eviscerated Cena. He destroyed Cena and Rollins at once. He should crush Reigns and hold the belt until WrestleMania 32.

Bottom line, if Lesnar doesn’t re-sign, he has to lose. You either have to play into the crowd reaction or swerve them with Rollins. I guess you could put the match on in the middle of the show and close with Triple H / Sting and Undertaker / Wyatt and have Reigns go over clean. What’s left for Daniel Bryan? Nothing of any substance, unfortunately. He doesn’t care, though. He’s making damn good money and just likes to wrestle.

I’ll write another post soon on the rest of the card.

WWE WrestleMania XXX Update

March 12, 2014

It would appear that I spoke too soon. In theory, WWE has saved WrestleMania XXX. I use the phrase ‘in theory’ because buy rates will be largely irrelevant in the new age of the WWE Network live streaming the events, so a poorly received event won’t be as evident when a lot of people won’t be asking themselves if it’s worth $70 this year. I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect this. I was 99.5% sure that WWE would stick to Orton/Batista and just position that match conveniently after Bryan/HHH or Undertaker/Lesnar, with the other one being used at the actual main event.

Several things could still happen at WrestleMania. WWE is beyond capable when it comes to completely screwing something up (Brock Lesnar’s 2012 return, Big Show’s entire career, the Invasion angle, AJ Lee’s rise in 2012, ECW’s relaunch, etc.). Daniel Bryan almost definitely is going to get the win over Triple H. Of course, he could still be ‘screwed’ out of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. That’s my one fear at this point. Batista was brought back for a reason (To win the title and display it during his promotion of the Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy movie). He was also brought back at great expense as well. Vince is going to want the return on that investment.

I’m pretty certain that Bryan wins out and has his WrestleMania moment, though, but I was also pretty certain that he wasn’t going to even be in the match.

Aside from the ‘Big 4’ matches that are official, how is the rest of the card coming along? The answer is that I don’t know. The inclusion of a largely meaningless 30-man battle royal seems to indicate that there won’t be a whole lot of time invested into much else. I realize that the battle royal is symbolic and the winner will receive the Andre trophy, but how about offering a legitimate reward? A mid-card title shot or maybe the final two get a tag team title shot following the match. Regardless, this is going to make sure everyone on the roster gets on the show, which makes me wonder how WWE will handle PPV payouts in the era of the Network and decreasing PPV revenue.

I’m in the dark about the direction WWE is going with the Shield. Since Bryan is going to make the main event a Triple Threat, a Shield implosion/Triple Threat seems unlikely. It’s never a good idea to have two of the same kinds of gimmick matches on the same card. Maybe that’s why the Shield is seemingly together again since those plans changed. What will they end up doing? I have no clue.

The only other real feud that seems to be building for WrestleMania is Cesaro and Jack Swagger. Again, I could see a Triple Threat with those two against Big E for the Intercontinental Championship, but as I said previously, the Triple Threat gimmick would be overkill if used in more than 1 match.

I would assume that leaves room for a Women’s Championship match. I’m still leaning toward AJ against Tamina (Sort of like HBK vs. Diesel/Kevin Nash back in 1994-5), but WWE has yet to tease any tension between the two and the clock is ticking. Maybe the Usos and Outlaws will have their blow-off match at WrestleMania at this rate as well. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

One final thing, do you think Undertaker regrets the decision to shave his head? I’m not a fan of the shaved head. Or wrestler’s who don’t wear boots or shoes, but that’s a topic for another day.

That’s how it’s shaping up. I’m cautiously optimistic at this stage.

WWE WrestleMania XXX Thoughts

March 6, 2014

Photo Credit: WWE

WrestleMania XXX is just around the corner. Theoretically, the 30th WrestleMania should be the biggest one ever. Not so much in terms of attendance (The Super Dome can’t hold over 93,000) and not in terms of Pay-Per-View buy rates (Due to the WWE Network, PPV buy rates won’t touch the ~1 million they’ve been averaging for the last decade). Rather, it should be the biggest WrestleMania in history simply due to the milestone. The 30th WrestleMania should be ridiculously loaded from start to finish. A new era should be ready to begin. Hulk Hogan dominated from WrestleMania I through WrestleMania IX. The New Generation/Attitude Era went from roughly WrestleMania X until WrestleMania XVII. The Invasion/Brock Lesnar Era lasted From WrestleMania XVIII to XX. The John Cena Era has endured since WrestleMania XXI.

By most accounts, the pieces are (were) there for the change to happen. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, AJ Lee, Paige, and other NXT talents should be the present and the future. Those names are just off the top of my head. Heading into WrestleMania XXX, I am slowly starting to realize that the actual event, as grand in scale as it may be, is going to be awful.

I am going to explore some of the main event-level matches and explain how I would do things differently and how the audience will likely respond to WWE’s version- starting with the WWE Championship.

1.  WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs. Dave Batista

This is the main event of the biggest (In terms of milestones) WrestleMania, ever. The first WrestleMania with the newly recognized WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE gives the audience THIS pile of BS. Before I get to the Batista debacle (and that is putting it nicely), let me discuss Randy Orton’s storylines and booking heading into the event. Last summer, Orton was booked to continue getting screwy wins over Daniel Bryan. In the short-term, people were furious. In the long-term, what kind of payoff would it be if Bryan triumphantly overcame it all when it mattered? Am I right? It would be tremendous.


WrestleMania 29 Thoughts/Review

April 8, 2013
Photo Courtesy of WWE

Photo Property of WWE

$69.95. That was the cost of WrestleMania XXIX’s HD broadcast through DirecTV. Remember when PPV events were $29.99? This is why I only order 1 event per year, 2 if SummerSlam is a strong card (Unless someone wants to pay me to review them!). Of course, older WrestleMania events didn’t have multi-million dollar stages and massive fireworks displays, either. The spectacle that is WrestleMania nowadays seems far removed from the product that’s presented the other 51 weeks of the year. I attended WrestleMania XXVII at the Georgia Dome, which has the distinction of having possibly the worst main event in history and the worst crowd. Anyways… let me move on to my review of the show along with my commentary about the state of the product.


I’ll start with the pre-show. I watched it on the WWE App on my phone. I was going to watch it on YouTube via the PS3, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t have any buffering or streaming issues. My one complaint is that when you stream a show on a phone and they want you to text, tweet, or tout, you have to shut the feed down and do that. That’s annoying. I did really enjoy the way the pre-show was presented, though. It was an NFL-style panel discussing the card. It was well done and really made the event seem that much more important. Dusty Rhodes is so good at selling matches and it’s always a plus to hear Jim Ross.

Match #1: Wade Barrett (Champion) vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship.

This was a short match. One thing I noticed is that Barrett has been given so little build-up in the ring on RAW (I only watch RAW, then read Smackdown spoilers) that I didn’t know that he was hitting his finisher on Miz. Miz picks up the win and the IC title with his second attempt at submitting Barrett with the Figure-Four. It was a pretty decent match. It probably got less time than it would have on RAW.

I guess this is fine. WWE seems to have little regard for these mid-card titles, which is too bad. Winning the US or IC title seems to make you a prime candidate to job to the main event guys week in and week out. This is well documented by the IWC, which is a minority. The overall money-paying audience doesn’t seem to care, so the trend will continue. If it were up to me, I would unify the titles (maybe at WrestleMania XXX?) and do away with the US title.

Final Pre-Show thoughts: It was well executed. In the future, I’d like to see it on my TV. I just paid $70 for the event; I don’t want to watch the pre-show on my computer or phone. I understand that they want people to use their social media services, but come on – put this on TV. Hell, it might even sell a few more PPVs if someone is flipping through the channels and sees the arena and presentation.  I can’t express how much I liked the NFL-style panel set-up and I hope they use that from here on out – maybe even on every PPV or at least the big 4.


There was an opening video from Chris Christie (who never lets a good tragedy go to waste) about Hurricane Sandy and WrestleMania. Top notch video editing by WWE, like always. In between, there were some National Guard folks waving flags that weren’t even close to being in sync. The show then opened right into Sheamus making his entrance after the opening WrestleMania video. No National Anthem/America the Beautiful? No massive fireworks introduction? No fighter jets doing a fly-over? I was surprised by this.

Match #2: Sheamus, Randy Orton, and Big Show vs. The Shield.

This was a good pick to open the show. The Shield seemed more over with the crowd than the babyfaces. Or at least it came across that way on TV. I was surprised that Big Show was the guy who got stuck in the ring with a prolonged beat down during the match. Once the match broke down, Big Show hit a triple spear on The Shield as they had Sheamus up for the triple power bomb. That was a pretty awesome spot. In the end, Orton tagged himself in when Big Show was reaching for a hot tag from Sheamus. Orton caught Rollins off the top rope for a nice RKO, but then ate a spear from Reigns and Ambrose picked up the win as Show watched from the ring apron all pissed off. Big Show ended up knocking out Sheamus and Orton after the match. I’m really surprised Big Show ended up staying a heel. I thought that was just too obvious and that Orton might turn heel. Especially when Orton hot tagged himself.

Regardless, this was a good opener. The Shield needs to start evolving, though. They’ve beaten the absolute best that the WWE has to offer (Cena, Ryback, Sheamus, Orton, and Big Show) and there really isn’t much more that they can do in 6-man tag matches.

Off topic, I really thought that Ambrose and Rollins should have been the ones challenging Team Hell No for the titles and winning, which would have led to Kane and Bryan breaking up post-match. Reigns should have been one-on-one against Sheamus. Ziggler should have been on the card cashing in the MITB. Ok, back to the show.

Match #3: Ryback vs. Mark Henry.

This was a typical big man match – which is funny because Ryback isn’t an especially ‘big man’ at 281 lbs (by WWE standards). After a slow, plodding match, Ryback lifted Henry for the Shellshock (Don’t lie – you thought ‘Holy Shit’ when he picked him up). Henry used the ropes and kind of fell on Ryback. I guess – it looked sloppy on TV. Even more shocking that it was good for the pin. I was blown away by this result. Ryback hit the Shellshock post-match on Henry for his big moment, but it’s another big loss for Ryback.

Since his undefeated streak ended against Punk last year, I’m pretty sure Ryback has lost every single PPV match since then. Maybe the people making decisions think the character just has a low ceiling and know what they’re doing. I’m inclined to agree. Then again, Goldberg wasn’t much different than this character. Both had almost no mic skills and depended solely on power moves. Goldberg’s momentum died with his streak and so did Ryback’s. Remember that pop that Ryback got when he finally got his hands on CM Punk in 2012? I think WWE dropped the ball and lost out on a lot of mileage with Ryback.

Match #4: Team Hell No (Champions) vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston for the Tag Team Championship.

I thought this was a great match. I really thought Ziggler and Langston would get the belts here. There was a great spot at the beginning where they teased an 18-second loss like what happened to Bryan last year. I don’t have much else to say about this match. I was kind of expecting Kane and Bryan to break up, but that didn’t happen. Then I thought that maybe Langston would attack them post-match and Ziggler would use his briefcase to cash in for an immediate rematch and win the belts that way. None of that happened.

Match#5: Chris Jericho vs. Fandango.

Jericho had the first really awesome entrance of the night. This was a solid match, but when’s the last time Jericho had a bad match? I’m surprised someone kicked out of Fandango’s finisher in his first match (More on that later). I couldn’t tell if the ending was botched or not, so props to Jericho for not making it obvious if it was. I actually thought Jericho might get the win here since the other relative n00bs (Langston, Ryback, Barrett) all lost. I was a little underwhelmed by the match overall, but it was solid and enjoyable.

Match#6: Alberto Del Rio (Champion) vs. Jack Swagger for the World Heavyweight Championship.

This is where I first had a hint that there might be a time problem. When WWE returned from the promo video, Swagger was already in the ring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WrestleMania where a wrestler entrance was not televised (and I’ve seen them all). I was already pissed off for having to listen to Diddy (more on that later, too). Then the challenger for the WHC gets the jobber treatment?

This was another solid match. Notice I’m saying these were solid matches. There was nothing really great to me at this point. Del Rio picked up the win by submitting Swagger with the arm bar. At this point, I was 100% sure that Swagger would give Del Rio a beat down and Ziggler would cash in. In the end, nothing.

Match #7: CM Punk vs. Undertaker.

This was the best match on the card for me. Even still, I thought it was underwhelming. I enjoyed Living Colour playing CM Punk to the ring. Undertaker’s entrance was pretty awesome as well. That said, these guys still delivered a strong match. It didn’t have the drama that HBK and Triple H had over the last 4 years, but it wasn’t fair to expect that. I expected Punk to focus on trying to get Undertaker counted out or DQ’d, but that was relatively minor as well. Some other spots I liked included CM Punk hitting Old School on Undertaker and Undertaker sitting up while in the Anaconda Vice. That’s what makes these guys main event stars. Psychology, facial expressions, and telling a story in the ring are grossly underrated. I’ll take that kind of match over a ‘5-star’ wrestling match any day of the week. And Paul Heyman? Brilliant.

On a side note, can we please go back to using old fashioned tables or at least make sure the announcer’s table is gimmicked properly so that it actually breaks? After watching Shawn Michaels almost kill himself against Ric Flair and now CM Punk somehow not breaking his leg last night, they have got to stop using those tables.

Undertaker had to win this match for Paul Bearer. I’m not upset about the result, but I never once thought the Streak was in danger. There was never that moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, Punk might pull this off.” For those who say they never have those thoughts, bullshit. When Triple H hit Pedigree #3, then 10 chair shots, then hit a Tombstone at WM27, there was no chill up your spine? Or at WM28 when HBK hit Taker with Sweet Chin Music right into a Pedigree, you didn’t gasp and think that was it? No matter how obvious the result, they always created doubt during the match. I never thought Punk was going to pull it off at any point in this match and, in that aspect, they failed. Like I’ll mention later, WrestleMania 28’s Hell in a Cell will never be topped.

Match #8: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar.

This match was No Holds Barred. Why wasn’t HBK just in the ring with Triple H and the two of them could have just beat Lesnar down? We can assume it was a pride thing, like Triple H wanted to do it himself, but it wasn’t ever made vocal. Anyways, I had bloated expectations for this as well. As a fan back when wrestlers bled a lot, I expected this to be a bloodbath. Yes, I know Lesnar smacking his head on the post wasn’t an intentional blade job, but did the blood not make that exchange on RAW seem awesome? If you want to sell brutality, you almost need to have some blood. The exception was last year at WrestleMania when the Undertaker and Triple H devastated each other with chairs.

Regardless, Lesnar came off as a monster for most of the match. Screaming and bleeding from his mouth – I don’t care if the man is 1-2 since his return, he’s a monster. He was absolutely ripped aside from maybe the skinniest legs in the world. It was a brutal match and I enjoyed it more than the SummerSlam match. It was just really physical and stiff. If there are any doubts, watch the elbow that HBK took in the nose from Lesnar. Again, Triple H had to win. He’d been completely humiliated and dominated twice. HBK had been beaten down. His wife was repeatedly insulted. To have the heel beat him and retire him would be kind of sadistic. Once again – Paul Heyman was brilliant in his role.

Just on a side note here, I personally think that Triple H and Undertaker should have retired at WrestleMania 28. It was billed as ‘End of an Era’. Undertaker should have said he was finished and was ready to Rest in Peace or whatever – they could have come up with something. Triple H should have put his career on the line for one more shot. The show should have ended with 3 of the greatest wrestlers in the last 2 decades embracing on stage. Think about it. Neither Triple H nor Undertaker will ever have a moment or a match like that again.

Match #9: The Rock (Champion) vs. John Cena.

This one was tough. I’m going to try to articulate my opinion on this. I’ll start by saying Cena had to win. That’s just business. The Rock only won the belt to put Cena over and to draw attention to the WWE. The Rock is not a full-time wrestler. He’s a movie star and he’s worth God knows how much. No matter how much the IWC hates John Cena, this had to happen. Let me also say that John Cena is a fine wrestler. He’s had matches with HBK, CM Punk, Lesnar, and others and they’ve been outstanding. Sure, you can say so-and-so carried him, but it takes two. That being said, John Cena and The Rock do not have good chemistry in the ring. It’s a simple as that.

Back to this match, didn’t the entrances seem rushed? Nothing special happened. Nothing elaborate happened. This was despite the fact that there were over 50 minutes left in the show. This match, above all, needed some glitz to save what would likely be a mediocre match.

The Rock of 2013 is also very out of place. It’s not his fault. The Rock is a product of the Attitude Era. The matches were more or less just brawls, fighting through the crowd, run-ins, and other chaos. Promos were laced with profanity and sexual innuendo. The Rock was cocky and arrogant and would go do commentary while his opponent was down. The audience was different. 2013 Rock is relying solely on one-on-one in-ring wrestling, which was never his strong point. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. The Rock sells. Sure, most of the fans don’t even know who the Rock is outside of movies and that he used to wrestle. It doesn’t matter because he draws money.

Back to my point – this match wasn’t good. It started off slow and then the false finishes started. I will admit, when Rock caught Cena with the 3rd Rock Bottom, I thought that might be the finish. So, props to them there. Cena won clean, of course. The crowd seemed to shit all over it so Cena wisely left the ring to allow the Rock to get a proper send-off. I guess that means Rock isn’t coming back for WrestleMania 30? Rock joined Cena at the top of the ramp to pose and the crowd didn’t seem that entirely happy still.


I’ll start with the obvious: Who completely screwed up the planning of the show? The introduction was cut short. An advertised match just casually never happened and was never mentioned. The challenger to the World Heavyweight Championship has an untelevised entrance. There were exactly ZERO backstage vignettes or interviews. The main event entrances were tossed out in favor of quickly getting them to the ring – even though the show went off the air with 10 minutes still left!

I will quickly explain why this happened in 4 words: Commercials, Promo Videos, Diddy. Let me be clear with this: I don’t pay DirecTV for WWE RAW specifically. If they want to air movie previews and commercials for toys and events, go right ahead. If I just paid $70 for an event, do not waste my money showing me advertisements. You want to show a preview for WrestleMania 30 and the next PPV, fine. There’s precedent for that and it’s a whopping 45 seconds total.

Second, the promo videos are overwhelming. For the last 7 weeks, RAW bombarded us with promo videos and recaps. We are now watching the event and have spent the money; we don’t need you to sell the event to us! If you combine all of the Rock/Cena videos and all the feud recap videos, I bet you find another 25-30 minutes. What do you think the pre-show was for? What are the announcers for?

Lastly, the Diddy debacle. My God, why? Every single time they hire a performer to perform a little show, the crowd and the fans absolutely shit on it. You know what works? Bands playing a wrestler to the ring. I bet you could count on two hands the amount of people that were excited that Diddy was going to perform.

Add all that junk together and I bet there is a minimum of 45 extra minutes on the show. Including the 10 minutes early the show ended. That’s 55 minutes to get the 8-person mixed tag match on the show, get some backstage promos and action, to have big time ring entrances for Rock and Cena.

What about the predictability? I don’t think it really was predictable. The Big 3 matches had to end the way they did. But the undercard wasn’t exactly predictable as you’ll notice by reading my thoughts through the first half of the event.

I do think a big opportunity was missed by WWE with Ziggler, though. He had a chance to wrestle for the WHC at WrestleMania and didn’t do it. I’m sure he can explain it away, but he’ll still look dumb. Maybe it was actually supposed to happen, but the time mismanagement caused them to throw it away?

My last issue is with false finishes or whatever you want to call it. Basically, when a wrestler kicks out of a finishing move or escapes their submission move when there usually isn’t precedent for it. The first WrestleMania false finish I can think of was when Warrior kicked out of 5 Savage elbow drops at WM7. Warrior/Hogan doesn’t count since their gimmicks involved kicking out of finishers.

It happens a lot now, maybe too much. These kinds of finishes are common for the Streak match, so I let them slide. It’s part of the gimmick that the Undertaker is unbeatable at WrestleMania. I mean, my God, Triple H hit him with 3 pedigrees, 10 chair shots, and a Tombstone at WM27 and couldn’t get the job done. Last night, though, it started getting absurd.

Not including the Streak match: First, Miz kicked out of Barrett’s finisher. Then Jericho kicked out of Fandango’s finisher. Triple H kicked out of the F5 and escaped 3 of Lesnar’s arm locks. Lesnar kicked out of a pedigree and escaped 3 arm locks. Then Cena kicked out of something like 3 Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow. Rock kicked out of at least 1 AA that I can recall. Even going back to RAW, Cena and Punk were kicking out of finishers. It gets to the point where you’re almost sure the first 2 times aren’t going to work. Only once the finisher is hit for a 3rd or 4th time will there finally be a winner. I just feel like it’s getting to be overkill.

My overall opinion is that it was a good, solid show that was marred by gross time management issues that are not common to WWE productions.

WWE RAW 1000

July 10, 2012

WWE has been putting on the worst weekly show humanly possible for quite some time now. That being said, RAW 1000 is coming up very soon and I have a pretty fantastic ticket that I could probably flip for 5-6x what I paid, but I won’t. That being said, the entire show is being built on past stars and part-timers. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar are all official right now. You can almost be certain that Undertaker will make an appearance (I mean, he was on RAW #1). Ticketmaster still has tickets, but the best left available is 12 rows up in the upper deck. StubHub’s inventory is also rapidly decreasing, which means this show might be a legit sell-out by July 23rd.

The arena capacity is 19,150, but I don’t know how many more seats a WWE event adds. That being said, the reason most people are going is a bad sign for WWE. People like me are going to see the older stars because there is no way in hell I’d pay to see the regular garbage they air every week. One day, that proverbial well will dry up. Triple H appears enough that his appearance isn’t that special. Shawn Michaels has less and less to do with WWE every year. Undertaker will soon retire – probably very, very soon. Lesnar doesn’t care about wrestling and he’ll make his money and be gone again after WrestleMania. The Rock is the #4 highest paid actor in Hollywood and if you think he’s going to ever really make a full-time return to WWE, you’re insane. Kane is reaching the end of his career. The same goes for Jericho and Big Show. Cena has the Bieber Effect in that all his fans are children and once they reach a certain age, they aren’t fans anymore. Punk and Bryan continue to have their Championship feud overshadowed by AJ, Kane, Cena, MITB, take your pick. WWE is in big, big trouble.