Posts Tagged ‘Roman Reigns’

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.