Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Nashville! We were in the fast lane to WrestleMania, but now WWE has thrown up a surprise Roadblock. That’s what they’re calling this likely inconsequential WWE Network-only event taking place on March 12. I remain excited for the Spike Strip, Oil Slick, and Banana Peel PPVs.
At the moment, the event only has three matches on the card: Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose, and an NXT tag match that I’m not too psyched for since I haven’t been following NXT closely. Enzo and Big Cass are involved, so at the very least the entrances will be fun. Other than that, it’ll have to be a great match to get my attention.
Will: I don’t know how long this show was planned or when it was first announced or whatever, but the name sure seems silly. Isn’t the value of Fastlane necessarily lessened when it’s followed by a Roadblock? Has there always been this much traffic on the Road to WrestleMania? If it were in L.A. this year I would understand, but I can’t imagine that Arlington deals with that much congestion. I suppose I’m getting beyond the point.
Derek: Brock Lesnar is facing Bray Wyatt in the match we thought we were getting at WrestleMania. I’m having trouble envisioning anything other than a Brock victory. He’s higher up on the ‘Mania card, so he’s the one who’s going to end up looking good. But at least Bray gets to do … whatever it is he’s going to do for the next month.
Will: Bray has been so brutally neutered (breutered?) at this point that a competitive one-on-one match is out of the question. I only see a couple possibilities. One is Brock destroying Bray like he did Kofi at the Beast in the East Network special. Maybe Bray gets a little bit of offense going first, but then Brock hits a buttload of suplexes and finishes the whole thing in 10 minutes.
The other scenario is some sort of schmozz wherein the whole Wyatt Family gangs up on Brock like they did at the Royal Rumble. The problem is that they already did that. At the Royal Rumble. And it went exactly nowhere. Assuming Lesnar vs. Ambrose is still on for Mania, there’s no sense in revisiting Brock vs. Bray. Unless, that is, Ambrose has a legit shot at winning the title at Roadblock and/or getting into the main event at Mania. Hmmm…
Derek: Like Brock, Triple H is higher on the card so he’s getting the glory. Dean is, unfortunately, more than familiar with taking the pin in a big match. This may be WWE’s effort to try and remind us Trips is supposed to be a heel, but that won’t matter when Roman gets back in the ring. But hey, kudos to Vince for giving us the WrestleMania main event we really wanted a month early. What a guy.
Will: The fear is, well, what you said: That Ambrose is taking Roman Reigns’ place to gin up some heat for Trips and maybe get Roman a nice comeback pop whenever he returns. Reigns apparently underwent a real surgery, hence his not being on Raw this week. Ambrose stepped up to the plate for a tête-à-tête with Triple H, and did damn well doing so. Dean is more natural with Hunter than Roman is. Their conversations are actually conversational instead of robotic. It makes sense that Ambrose would get under Triple H’s skin, especially when the latter is playing up the whole “BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE AUTHORITY” thing.
I hold out a smidgen of hope, if only because the pressure is on to make WrestleMania into a major show. I think we’ll see a big surprise or two before the end of March. This may not be the storyline for one — it really does feel like Roman is going to be in that title match — but I get the sense we’re in for something. The Road to WrestleMania can’t be completely smooth, can it?
Derek: As for Raw, there wasn’t much to report this week. Shane’s return had the masses up in arms last week, but he was nowhere to be found this week. Same with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The night was mostly carried by Ambrose deciding to challenge Triple H, Stephanie McMahon cutting a very Stephanie McMahon promo, and the Undertaker walking in and out of the ring. His contribution went as follows:
He also took a minute to tell Vince to prepare to take the blame for whatever happens to Shane. He can say whatever he wants, but all I can think is CORPORATE MINISTRY REUNION.
Will: The Undertaker’s brief appearance received mixed reviews since it was so damn brief, and rightly so. That said, I didn’t hate it. He showed up, took issue with Vince referring to him as his “weapon,” made it sound like he was going to break Shane into a hundred pieces, said the blood would be on Vince’s hands, and bailed.
Okay, now that I type that out, it was pretty lame. I was duped into thinking it was better than it was because it was the Undertaker, and because his entrance alone makes for appointment viewing. Not much happened. We still don’t know what Shane has on Vince. We received no clarification as to why Taker would agree to this match — does he just fall in line with the boss’ orders like Zack Ryder would? We’ve gotten no Shane-Taker interaction. I understand that they’re stringing this thing along slowly, but come on guys. A little somethin’.
Derek: Finally, Sasha Banks faced Becky Lynch for the right to face Charlotte at WrestleMania. The potential triple threat match stayed alive, as as Becky and Sasha somehow managed to pin each other.
And I will say that, despite the cop-out finish, I really enjoyed the match. I’ve gotta say, there’s a huge drop-off on the ‘Mania card after Dean-Brock, Shane-Taker, and the Divas match. This has not been a good year for fantasy booking.
Remember last year? “Dallas is going to be the biggest ‘Mania ever! Rock vs. Triple H! Shield triple threat match! Stone Cold vs. Brock! Undertaker vs. Sting! NXT Divas! Other shenanigans with John Cena, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and A.J. Styles!” How foolish we were. We’re getting NXT Divas and that’s it. I loved the Shane return and I’m looking forward to Dean-Brock, but I expected so much more. This might not be the worst ‘Mania of all time, but it’s shaping up to be the most disappointing.
Will: I retain some hope that business will pick up. If there’s one thing in this world powerful enough to force WWE to make some exciting decisions, it’s Vince McMahon’s ego. Selling out Jerryworld has been his mission ever since the place was built. Let’s see if he can put together a show worthy of doing so.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three/four days later) from Brooklyn/Brooklyn/Brooklyn! Boy oh boy, where to begin? The tables?
Oh … oh my.
I’m starting with Sting, because that reveal gave me a raging mark-on. There were rumors that Sting was in Brooklyn during the three day run of shows, but I assumed if he got involved at all it would be in the Undertaker-Brock match to set up the long sought-after Undertaker-Sting match at WrestleMania 32. The Brock-Taker segments came and went with no sign of him. Then, with mere moments remaining on Raw, it was revealed that Seth Rollins’ covered statue had been Sting all along. I’m glad to see him back for more against Trips and his ilk. I didn’t like how Sting handled losing at WrestleMania. He should be out for revenge.
Sting attacked Rollins and Triple H ran away almost immediately. Then Trips revealed after the show that Sting would face Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship next month at Night of Champions. There’s a swerve I didn’t see coming.
Does Sting have any chance of winning next month? How do you see this playing out?
Will: Monday was the first time in months that I watched Raw live. I don’t have cable and thus don’t have USA, and the weekly shows are among the rare few not broadcast live on the WWE Network. The events of SummerSlam apparently got my juices flowing enough to find a (completely legal) means of watching Monday, and my god was it worth it.
I knew something was going to happen with Rollins’ statue unveiling, but Sting was definitely not what I had in mind. Interference from John Cena was the smart choice, but he was escorted out of the Barclays Center by security and, perhaps for the first time in wrestling history, the dismissed did not return to raise hell. Sting stood in place of the statue for a good long chunk of segment, enough for him to sweat through some of his face paint before attacking Rollins.
As to what they’re going to do with this, I’m glad to say that I have no idea. Rollins has two titles for the moment, and one would think that he’s going to lose at least one of them before long. I came across one theory that had Sting winning the title from Rollins, Undertaker taking it from Sting, and then having the belt on the line for the Brock-Taker rubber match. I don’t love the idea of putting the strap on a 50-plus-year-old, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t watch every moment.
Derek: Let’s move on to some of the weird booking in the two biggest matches at SummerSlam. First, Cena lost the US title to Rollins after interference from Jon Stewart. Stewart haters the world over celebrated as they learned that Stewart hates sick children. Stewart explained his actions on Raw, saying he didn’t want Cena to tie Ric Flair’s record for most world championships. Cena said he understood, and proved it by … well, giving Stewart an Attitude Adjustment.
I suppose it would have made sense had Cena’s opponent not been Seth Rollins. Stewart got into his WWE run because of a feud with Rollins. Yet, Rollins was the biggest beneficiary of Stewart’s actions. On Monday night, Stewart admitted he “didn’t think it through.” Oh, okay then.
Then there’s the ending of the Brock-Taker match, which could charitably be referred to as “confusing” and “unsatisfying.” So let’s walk through what went down. Brock had Taker in a kimura lock, and Taker supposedly submitted, but the referee didn’t see it.
Then, for some reason, the timekeeper decided to ring the bell. Like pretty much any sport, the timekeeper isn’t supposed to do anything unless the referee tells him to. But we had a rebel timekeeper on Sunday, and he didn’t need no high and mighty referee telling him what to do. So the referee took some time to yell at the timekeeper, during which Undertaker took some time to hit Brock in the nuts again. Perhaps it’s time for Brock to buy a cup.
The referee restarted the match, and Undertaker capitalized on Lesnar’s swollen grapefruits and put Brock in Hell’s Gate. The match was stopped once Lesnar passed out, but not before he gave Taker a quick farewell.
It just seemed like the whole thing turned into a bit of a farce. Taker didn’t show up on Raw, so the feud is on hold for now. There will undoubtedly be a rubber match at some point, but no one can say when that will be. Until then, we’ll just have to get by with fond memories.
Will: The smarky Brooklyn crowd poo-pooed the screwy endings — and rightly so in my eyes. The fact that the matches didn’t end clean was fine, especially with Brock-Taker III penciled in for WrestleMania, but the execution was wanting. The same timekeeper who sat idly as Stewart gave Cena a chair to the ribs suddenly had eagle eyes on Taker’s meek tap-out? I know we’re in kayfabe here, but how about some kaysistency? It was just a bummer, especially after the slobberknocker main event.
I was slightly more on board with the Stewart angle, though his sudden dedication to preserving Ric Flair’s legacy was out of left field, as was ending such a big match with such a part-time player. We wondered last week how much of Stewart we’d be seeing in WWE, and this suggests that he could be around at least a little longer. (And kudos to him for taking an AA.)
Derek: There’s so much more to get to, and so little time. Let’s break the rest of the action down in quick hits.
The Dudley Boyz
Derek: Hey, they’re back! I had given up hope. Bubba Ray made an appearance back at the Royal Rumble, but that was seven months ago. Seeing Bubba and D-Von pulling tables out from under the ring gave me yet another raging mark-on. I don’t know that we’ll get the classic Dudleys due to their age and the PG era, but I’d much rather watch them feud with New Day than Los Matadores.
Will: They set their sights on New Day right away, and those squads could make some beautiful music together. The Dudleys return is not a ringing endorsement of the Prime Time Players, and I wonder how much of Titus and Darren we’re going to be seeing over the next couple months. The dreamer in me would like to see multiple feuds going in the tag division, but WWE has been steadfast in maximizing its teams per match ratio. In the meantime, sign me up for a good table spot every week.
Derek: It was no surprise that his team won. But he was actually pretty good! Sure, his move set pretty much consisted of a hip toss, an enziguri, and absorbing an ass whippin’, but getting your ass convincingly kicked is a skill in this line of work. He did it well.
I’ve also got to say that, as someone who used to watch Arrow, I was a little surprised that he didn’t look nearly as jacked as he looks on the show. What is CW doing to him?!
Will: The wonders of television! I LOVE IT MAGGLE. But seriously, well done by Amell. His initial springboard entrance into the ring was strong, his dive off the top rope to the outside was legit, and he ate up a good bit of time to set up the hot tag to Neville. Come back anytime, Steve.
That New Guy in The Wyatt Family
Derek: Who the hell was that guy?
Well, I’m glad I asked! His name is either Braun Strowman or Braun Stowman, depending on what website you read, and he’s only been in dark matches so far. He’s also a former strongman competitor and is from the great state of North Carolina. Do you think he’ll add anything interesting to the Wyatts’ feud with Ambrose and Reigns?
Will: Strowman/Stowman is well on his way to setting a record for most different name spellings. I’m in; the reunited Wyatts have been fun, but I want the family to grow into a larger, more bizarre stable that can better terrorize the WWE. Strowman didn’t show much in the ring beyond his bearhug/chokehold and some intense no-selling, but that might be all he needs to run through some jobbers and inspire an appropriate amount of fear.
And my god, is he one ugly son of a bitch.
Derek: This might be heresy but, when taking the entire show into account, I didn’t love it. The final two matches (Bayley vs. Sasha Banks for the Women’s Championship, Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor for the NXT Championship) were awesome, but I was mostly uninterested in the other matches. Balor retained and Owens pinned Cesaro the next night at SummerSlam, so we may have seen the last of Owens on NXT.
Similarly, Banks lost her belt, so she may be moving up to the big leagues as well. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, but we’ll cover that next.
Will: There was so much damn wrasslin’ over the course of 72 hours that I’m struggling to remember it all, and much of the NXT show falls into that category. The main events were terrific. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the leadup. This was my first real glimpse of Samoa Joe in action (against Baron Corbin). Apollo Crews’ debut was solid despite his awful name. The Vaudevillains were fun, though I absolutely cannot imagine them taking that gimmick to the main show.
Also, I will need a lengthy explanation before I can support someone who simply goes by the name “Blue Pants.”
Derek: It really doesn’t matter if you take the awesome women out of NXT, throw them on Raw and crow about the Divas Revolution every week when they get thrown in crappy storylines. Those three shows highlighted exactly why the NXT women are popular and the WWE Divas draw the ire of the crowd, like they did on Monday night.
Take the NXT match between Banks and Bayley. It was an incredible, one-on-one grudge match for the championship. And even though Banks lost, they were both elevated because it was a great match.
Compare that with the SummerSlam match. Nine Divas competed. None of them really had a chance to shine. The title wasn’t on the line. The most heated contest was the race for the dumbest team name. In a month’s time they couldn’t make any aspect of it interesting. It was like their only plan to sell the match was to have Stephanie McMahon say “Divas Revolution” so many times that people would believe it was true regardless of whether it was actually happening.
I feel really bad for the Divas. Especially the NXT call-ups who are there to wrestle, not be reality TV stars. But it doesn’t matter how good the talent is if the booking is bad. Sasha Banks had arguably the best match of the weekend on Saturday night. She had one of the most forgettable on Sunday night. I don’t think she forgot how to wrestle in 24 hours.
I guess the best way to sum it up: at NXT Takeover, two women got an 18-minute match with a title on the line. Meanwhile, at SummerSlam, nine Divas got a 15-minute match for no championships while Stephanie McMahon and the announcers repeatedly yelled “Divas Revolution!!!!” into a megaphone.
Will: Perhaps the worst part of the weekend was seeing the NXT and WWE matches juxtaposed against each other. Sasha and Bayley had one of the finest matches of the weekend, and not 48 hours later on Raw fans were doing the wave and generally defecating all over yet another bloated tag match.
I get that WWE is going for with the team approach, but the best wrestling storylines come in 1-on-1 feuds. We have seen some singles matches over the past few weeks, but none have truly contributed to the narrative nor moved it forward. We need a better sense of these women as individuals in order to embrace them as a collective. Sasha Banks is a real character, and what do you know, hers was the name being chanted Monday night when she wasn’t even in the ring.
There will come a time when the alliances fracture and new rivalries emerge, and I’m hopeful that that will coincide with more worthwhile stakes for all parties involved. It isn’t hard to get excited about, say, Charlotte turning on Paige. The so-called revolution is trumpeted night after night, but that doesn’t make it mean anything. Don’t tell us that these women want to dethrone the Bellas and change the game. Show us why. Better yet, let them show us. They were doing just fine in NXT.