Previously at “Fastlane“…nothing important happened!
RAW (2/22/2016)– This show kind of sucked…KIDDING! It’s amazing/annoying how every time WWE starts to lose my interest, they will suddenly strike back with vengeance. Shane McMahon’s triumphant return caught me off guard and his subsequent verbal beatdown of Vince and Stephanie was gratifying, although I have to wonder how they plan on making ‘Undertaker Vs Shane‘ at Wrestlemania work…Who are we supposed to root for? But the stakes are high and that’s what makes the first Chapter of this story compelling. The matches and segments were all entertaining, but I question the logic of ‘Brock Lesnar Vs Ambrose‘, considering how Brock has crushed Ambrose almost every time. The finale, where Roman Reigns has to fight the League of Nations, was pretty intense and the subsequent beatdown by Triple H was brutal. Unfortunately, the fans chose the side of the villain, making it somewhat awkward to behold. So while I have my concerns, this was an entertaining RAW.
SMACKDOWN (2/25/2016)– This was a good- perhaps even great?- episode of Smackdown, boasting greater star power (Triple H), solid promos and entertaining matches. But as dangerous as Triple H sounded, the New Day had the best moment with their ‘bathing’ line. It seems like every bout was a spectacle of some sort, either involving interference or being a 6-man tag team match that made the most of the numbers. While perhaps overdone, it did add an aura of importance to the show. The Main Event (Jericho, Styles, Mark Henry Vs New Day) actually had some interesting character dynamics and drama, although the most exciting bout was ‘League of Nations Vs Neville, Ziggler and the Lucha Dragons‘. Fun Stuff.
RAW (2/28/2016)– This show was…OK, I guess. There were a lot of important plot developments, such as the detour feud between Ambrose and Triple H. Y2AJ (Jericho and Styles) are getting a title shot against the New Day, Undertaker agrees to the Wrestlemania match without compromising his wildcard babyface status, the #1 contender match between Becky and Sasha ended up ripping off a current NXT angle (too soon?), Big Show gets his revenge for what occurred on Smackdown and the League of Nations continue to be the enforcers of the Authority. But as relevant as all of this seems, I thought the execution of these angles were a little disappointing. Not bad and maybe my own expectations deserve to do the job, but the only parts which stood out as exceptional were when Triple H and Ambrose clashed near the end and Stephanie’s vindictive promo. Side Note: I thought the opening banter between Triple H and Ambrose was more cheesy than amusing and made Ambrose seem insecure. As I said before, I thought the show was OK, but it was nowhere near as awesome as what we got last week.
SMACKDOWN (3/3/2016)– This was a great show, with a strong combination of good matches, important story developments and higher level star power (Ric Flair on Smackdown?). I liked pretty much everything here, although oddly, my favorite moment was when Renee reveals to a smug Charlotte that Wrestlemania will be a Triple Threat between Charlotte, Becky and Sasha. The only part I didn’t care for was the continuous teasing of the Golden Truth, although I can forgive it if it leads to anywhere interesting.
RAW (3/7/2016)– I have to apologize, because I usually do these writings immediately after I’ve finished the episode, but forgot to do so with this RAW and…I’ve forgotten most of what happened. I remember Shane fighting security guards and throwing the worst punches imaginable. I remember an excellent Tag Team Championship match that ended in a vicious heel turn for Y2J. I remember Sami Zayn rescuing Neville from Kevin Owens. I think Ambrose finally got the upper hand on Triple H, but…dammit, I don’t even remember what I felt about the entire show! Must’ve been pretty forgettable.
SMACKDOWN (3/10/2016)– This was a solid episode, with consistently good matches and a very important Chris Jericho segment. I liked the overall pacing and was satisfied by the quality. Happy Birthday to me.
This is another network special, so the majority of the matches aren’t built up through ongoing feuds and sometimes the booking was a little confusing. Natalya rarely wins and yet I’m supposed to believe she stands a chance against Charlotte? Luke Harper is doing damage to Brock Lesnar? Where is the rest of the Wyatt family to make this more credible? If you want Toronto to boo (Canadian) Jericho, then why place him against the all American Jack Swagger? Nevertheless, the matches themselves were good and I really liked the NXT Championship bout between The Revival (Dash, Dawson- Stupid name) and Enzo/Cass, which was their best clash yet BY FAR. The Main Event- Triple H Vs Ambrose- was very good as well, although by then I was too exhausted to really appreciate it. The biggest problem with this show was that it went on for too long. These specials should not be as long as normal PPV’s, especially when the drama isn’t going to be as pronounced. There is real good stuff here and nothing was bad or even necessarily mediocre (although ‘Sami Zayn Vs Stardust’ came close), but I found “Roadblock” to be too plodding as a whole to be enjoyable. Score: 5/10
RAW (3/14/2016)– I was surprised that the New Day/Sheamus program started things off, which was a refreshing change of pace, as well as seeing Triple H have an actual match (with Dolph Ziggler) on RAW. Unfortunately, the return of Roman Reigns didn’t really work, as it was obvious that they were trying to capture the same magic that got him over with the crowds at “TLC (2015)“, but does WWE realize that they don’t like seeing him steal the spotlight from the darkhorses? Ziggler is no longer hot with audiences anyway, but those who like him won’t want to see him lose so badly, only for Roman to come out and succeed where he failed. It would’ve been smarter if Triple H was brutalizing Ziggler after the match, only for Roman to rescue him. Shane McMahon really stumbled in his closing promo, although Vince McMahon shined and Undertaker played his part well. This RAW benefited from a lot of star power and consistently entertained me, even if the episode was pretty clumsy in execution.
RAW (3/21/2016)– This was a very uneven, sometimes outright bizarre episode of RAW, as someone thought it was a good idea to book Ambrose against Strowman on the Main Event so shortly before Wrestlemania. Strowman isn’t ready to main event anything, much less such an important show and the bout was predictably boring and the crowd verbally rejected it. There was also a lot of unintentional hilarity, such as seeing Terry Funk endorse Ambrose by giving him a Chainsaw in a public restaurant, which the nearby customers fail to notice (until he turns it on). Funks’ rambling was strange, although Ambrose had some priceless reactions. I also laughed when Roman Reigns attacked Triple H, as the visual of him waiting behind the opening garage ready to fight was more funny than bad-ass. Vince McMahon declares that if Shane defeats Taker at Wrestlemania, than Undertaker will be forced to retire, which makes no sense as Shane would have the authority…right? Does anyone think these stipulations through? Also, Stardust, Ryder and Sin Cara have somehow found themselves into the Intercontinental Title scene, even though the whole point of their presence was to show that they were NOT worthy opponents- which is why Owens chose them. I actually really liked the set-up for this, but if this is going to be a clusterfuck of a defense, why can’t more credible opponents like Big Show, Kane or Bray Wyatt take their places- (oh yeah, Andre the Giant Battle Royale…)-? I hate this kind of padding, although ‘Owens vs Styles‘ was very good and Zigglers’ promos have fire once more. While the New Days’ comedic segment did nothing for me, I ended up enjoying their battle with the League of Nations. Finally, I liked Stephanie trolling the crowd, and Romans’ counter-promo highlighted his strengths. I liked this show in parts, but it seemed poorly planned out and the Main Event should NOT have been the main event.
RAW (3/28/2016)– This episode had some good stuff- such as the ‘Shane/Undertaker’ segment (although did Cole just call Shane a ‘young man’?), Ambrose interrupting Heyman just to silently collect weapons (a little unpredictable) and the 6-Man Tag Team match involving the Intercontinental Championship competitors (why did the crowd reject it?). But the pacing of this show was not very good and I got so bored at times that I ended up turning the program off to resume later on. Triple H’s promo went on for far too long and the transparent attempts to make the crowd cheer for Reigns got old. One of the problems with the Authority is their tendency to recycle the same promo over and over again and what they say here is no different from what they always say. Eventually it occurred to me that they weren’t promoting a main event, because Triple H and Stephanie had to COME OUT AGAIN and continue to repeat what they always say. Is monotony the WWE’s strategy in getting the crowds to boo Triple H and potentially root for Roman Reigns? Because that’s just dumb. When the League of Nations and the Dudleyz came out to help Triple H, it made sense. When the remainder of the heels in the locker room arrived, it made less sense but I could buy it as the Authority might’ve ordered them to do so if Roman attacked. When all of the babyfaces showed up to assist Roman Reigns as well, it made absolutely no sense because what investment do they have in this feud? I respect the attempts to make the ‘main event’ epic, but I would like a little bit of logic. So this weeks RAW was only entertaining in parts, while slow and underwhelming as a whole.
1) Kalisto Vs Ryback- Kalisto
2) Team Total Diva’s Vs Team BAD- Who cares? But considering BAD is a jobber team, I’d presume its ‘Team Marketing a shitty TV Show’.
3) The Usos Vs Dudleyz- The Usos.
4) Ambrose Vs Lesnar- Lesnar
5) Shane McMahon Vs Undertaker- Shane: I suspect Undertaker will get sick of Vince and actually let Shane win. Somehow.
6) Charlotte Vs Becky Vs Sasha- Sasha, although I think Charlotte should win and Sasha should beat her 1 on 1.
7) Kevin Owens Vs Everyone- Owens.
8) AJ Vs Chris Jericho- AJ Styles
9) Andre the Giant Battle Royale- Either Bray or Braun.
10) The New Day Vs League of Nations- League of Nations.
11) Triple H Vs Roman Reigns- Reigns.
(Kick-off Match) UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP: Kalisto Vs Ryback– Ugh, the United States Championship is being defended on the pre-show again and what buries the belt even further is that the stadium looks very empty- presumably because this is a 2 hour kick-off event and the crowd didn’t want to show up THAT early. This was a program I was mostly indifferent towards, because I wasn’t sure if this was a good time to turn Ryback heel and it wasn’t like they put any effort in rebuilding him. They’re trying to portray Ryback as aloof and it just makes him look bored. But this match actually was technically well done, being very storydriven as Kalisto must overcome the odds against the Big Guy. Kalisto was a convincing underdog and Ryback was a convincing monster. Ryback used his strength in some creative ways, like walking up the steps with a military pressed Kalisto and his attacks looked vicious. The problem is that either not enough time was spent on this feud or hulu cut most of this out, because I struggled making an emotional connection to it. If you found their feud to be compelling, you’ll probably like this bout a lot more than I did, but next time WWE…please make sure your champions are fighting amidst an actual crowd.
(Kick-off Match) Team Bad & Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Summer, Emma, Lana Vs Team Total Divas (Brie, Paige, Fox, Natalya AND EVA-MARIE?!)– The only part of this feud that hulu bothered acknowledging was the tensions between Brie and Lana, which was mostly horseshit! But is Eva-Marie supposed to be a babyface? Even though she’s one of the most despised performers on NXT? AND THEY GET TO PERFORM IN FRONT OF A MUCH FULLER CROWD THAN WHAT THE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP GOT?! ARGH. The point of this was to set up tensions amongst the cast of Total Divas, so Eva-Marie snidely ignores her teammates who want to be tagged in before roughly tagging Natalya, who seems to be spacing out and looks pissed that she was tagged in…and these are the babyfaces…In terms of the action, this wasn’t awful and they kept a steady pace, while delivering decent spots. Eva-Marie actually performed some fancy moves, although her time in the ring was minimal and she was pandering to the crowd a bit much. Lana never really had the chance to do anything, which is probably for the best. There were some noticeable botches and Brie’s ‘Yes Lock’ looked bad, negating the admittedly cool reversal which lead to it. The real problem is that this match told a story that didn’t go anywhere, as the ‘Brie/Lana’ feud wasn’t resolved and the heel teasing from Eva-Marie was dropped. The only goal is to promote “Total Divas“, so who cares?
(Kick-off Match) The Usos Vs Dudley Boyz– I actually kind of liked this storyline, primarily because it was funny seeing the Dudleyz trolling their own audience by renouncing tables (and going back on their word when it was convenient). I like it when heels discard what made them cool in the first place, giving the audience another reason to hate them. The flaw of this program is that the Dudleyz seemed more interested in harassing Roman Reigns than their actual opponents, making the Usos seem like an afterthought, even though this should be designed to rebuild the Usos. Unfortunately, this match wasn’t very good. Their styles didn’t seem to mesh very well together and there were some awkward spots, with the pacing never really picking up any momentum. Bizarrely, the Dudleyz start pandering like babyfaces by encouraging the audience to chant for tables, only for the Usos to disrupt them- annoying the crowd. And did the Usos win with a SUPER KICK?! The post-match table spot was more satisfying, but it lost a lot of its impact because the crowd was now booing the Usos. The match was mediocre at best, but I have to criticize it for putting the heat on the wrong team.
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Kevin Owens Vs Dolph Ziggler Vs Miz Vs Sami Zayn Vs Stardust Vs Sin Cara Vs Zack Ryder– I’ve ranted and raved about the horrendous booking of this match, as half of the participants are jobbers who only found their way into this Ladder Match because Kevin Owens was looking for those who weren’t credible opponents, but that shit pales in comparison to the stupidity of putting the belt on Zack f@cking Ryder- who only a week ago was squashed by Chris Jericho. Wow…just…Wow. The match itself focused primarily on the tensions between Owens and Zayn, which makes sense, but then ceases making sense when ZACK F@CKING RYDER WINS THE F@CKING LADDER MATCH! I have nothing against the guy, but booking has not been kind to him and he didn’t even have many moments to stand out. If one of the underdogs had to win, why not Sin Cara? He’s the one who took the most risks with his crazy spots. Sometimes I thought these performers were playing too dangerously and I found myself wondering if this was reckless considering all of the injuries occurring within the company, while other times I thought they were playing it too safe (Stardust wielding a ladder would’ve looked epic if it didn’t seem like everyone was gently running into it). Speaking of whom- Stardust paying tribute to his Father would be touching if Stardust wasn’t a heel whose characterization surrounds his attempts to distance himself from the Rhodes legacy. The match itself was fast paced and brought with it the spectacle we’ve come to expect from Ladder Matches, but the ending upstaged all of the quality action and left a bad taste in my mouth.
Chris Jericho Vs AJ Styles- This probably had the sturdiest storyline going into it, relying on Jericho’s vicious promos, but Styles has been ruined in the process. Every time Jericho decides to troll Styles during one of his matches, Styles becomes distracted and loses. But whenever Styles tries to return the favor, Jericho doesn’t bite and it makes Styles look stupid. But this would’ve been acceptable if AJ Styles came out on top, proving that he doesn’t need to rely on dirty tri- oh wait, he lost. Considering that the story was built around Jericho proving Styles was a mere flash in the pan, this means that he was RIGHT?! Ugh…I should’ve seen this coming, as AJ isn’t one of Vince’s creations…Ugh…The match itself was pretty good, even if those Code Breakers looked sloppy and this didn’t even come close to rivaling their previous bout at “Fastlane“.
TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: The New Day Vs League of Nations– The New Day immediately won my heart by coming out dressed as Saiyans (“Dragonball Z“; and speaking of which- I noticed Lanipator of Team Four Star in the Audience!), so naturally must lose. ‘Heel Vs Heel’ programs can work, but it never really seemed like this feud ever caught fire. At one point, Big E took a nasty looking spill outside and might’ve been legitimately knocked out, as Kofi was suddenly the legal man and if there was a tag…I missed it! Otherwise, the match was fine, but underwhelming. A lackluster way to end a major Championship reign and then the new Champs, the guys who dethroned the New Day, are promptly destroyed by a nostalgia trip. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty cool seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels come out to kick ass for absolutely no reason, but it’s like WWE wants to devalue its championships. UPDATE: I chose not to re-write this, but I eventually found out that the titles were not on the line, which somehow makes this even more awful. Did they even clarify that the belts weren’t being defended?
Brock Lesnar Vs Ambrose– Brock Lesnar, the man who crushed John Cena, ended the streak of the Undertaker, dominated Roman Reigns and held the WWE Championship for an abnormally long amount of time, does battle with Ambrose…who spent the last year losing every time he had a shot at that Same Championship and briefly carried the Intercontinental belt that is now held by Zack Ryder…and that is supposed to be inspired booking! To be fair, I actually enjoyed a lot of the build-up and found myself even excited to see what WWE had planned for us. Unfortunately, this was pretty predictable. Not bad, just what I expected. Lesnar dominated Ambrose, until Ambrose scored a low blow and evened up the odds. The Two weapons that were hyped up the most- The Chainsaw and Barbed Wired Bat- were brought out but never used (not that I can really blame them for that). But there were a lot of chairs and kendo sticks, which we see Ambrose use often in street fights. Apparently he is incapable of winning his specialty matches either. Oi…
WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Charlotte Vs Becky Lynch Vs Sasha Banks– There is a Snickers commercial where we learn that Charlotte has been Zack Ryder all along…Also, apparently the Diva’s Championship is being scrapped and replaced by a Women’s Championship, which I fully support. The storyline had its own snafus, as it really felt like Charlotte was being given babyface odds, but I thought the match itself was good. It arguably boasted the fastest pace of all these matches, while allowing all three women to stand out in various ways. It often convinced me that someone else was about to win and the victor even surprised me, without pissing me off.
Shane McMahon Vs The Undertaker– This was a feud that had one hell of an opening chapter, which distracted us from how there was no way these two would match the hype at their age. It was also forcing the WWE universe to choose between two sides we did not want to see collide. Shane in particular looks his age, so I had difficulty accepting him as a threat to Taker. At first, I thought this was a clumsy, awkward, slow paced affair…and then the spots began. Both Taker and Shane put 220% effort into making this work, with crazy bump following crazy bump. By the time Shane got on top of the cage to do an Elbow Drop to Hell, I willed myself to be invested. Quite frankly, I just was praying that both would be able to walk away from this match. From that perspective, this was spectacular. I liked how Taker and Shane interacted, with Taker looking genuinely stunned when Shane risked everything to put him down. But…I found myself wishing they did not need to go this far. Both are simply too old to be putting their lives on the line like this, while also making the younger talent look like pussies (lol). The post-match applause was deserved and this could’ve functioned as a main event. But there’s still like an hour left…oi…
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale– Diamond Dallas Page, Tatanka, Baron Corbin and Shaq (!!!) make surprise appearances. I groaned when Damian Sandow was thrown out with minimal fanfare (by Shaq; because that’s a great way to get the crowd on his side). I was surprised how dominant the Social Outcasts were portrayed and I thought Baron Corbin emerging victorious was a daring move. But in terms of the action, this was a standard Battle Royale that ended a little bit anti-climactically. Corbin just sneaks up behind Kane and tosses him out, so the finish lacked the drama of Sandow breaking away from the Miz and bravely facing Big Show or the incredible sight of Cesaro hoisting up Big Show, walking across the ring and dumping the giant out.
THE ROCK HAS COME BACK TO WRESTLEMANIA– Following a brief segment dedicated to the Dallas Cheerleaders, the Rock comes out with a…flamethrower…How else are you going to light your name on fire? He talks for a bit and the Wyatt Family appears. After a verbal sparring session, the Rock challenges one of them to a match, so naturally Bray- in his big moment, on the grandest stage of them all- selects Rowan…who probably hasn’t won a match since 2014…and just when you think you can’t take this clan any less seriously, the Rock squashes ‘Big Red’ in 6 seconds…The Wyatts attempt to get vengeance, but Cena saves the day. This segment wasn’t bad, but it represents something I’ve really grown to despise about WWE: Its tendency to feed the present to the past. The Rock is at least more convincing than Stone Cold and Mick Foley, who no longer look like they can do much in the ring, but who did the Wyatts piss off in the back to call for the raping of their image? At this point, they’re about as threatening as the Social Outcasts. Just turn them into the dancing clowns they were destined to become, or end the gimmick completely. Yikes.
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP: Triple H Vs Roman Reigns– Triple H continues his tradition of bizarre entrances, opening with Stephanie cutting a scathing promo while dressed like…the 80’s…and dozens Clive Barker-esque monstrosities in suits and holding their own Championships lurk in the stands. I can’t decide right now if that was cheesy or awesome, but the intent is obviously to put some last minute heat on Triple H in a desperate attempt to get fans to cheer Reigns. It doesn’t work. This might’ve been good, if the audience had gotten behind Roman Reigns, but their hostility mixed in with the slow burn pacing just made it awkward and dull. Not horrible, but they probably should’ve meant this a more exciting, shorter affair because they should’ve seen the negative reaction coming.
Overall: “Wrestlemania (2016)” should not have been five hours long, which actually is closer to 7 when you count the kick-off show, because there reaches a point when overexposure kicks in and you get burned out. Add a mostly uninspired match card, sloppy pacing, lame booking and unexceptional- if passable- match quality and you get a very plodding, frustrating show. I got bored before the half way point was even crossed and began drifting to slumberland, so cancelled Wrestlemania time and resumed my viewing experience the next day…in which I got bored once again and the process repeated. I don’t like how WWE constantly belittles its own product by having the stars of the past CRUSH the ones of the present, making me wonder why we’re supposed to be interested in the future of wrestling considering our current superstars are apparently weaklings. I don’t like it when Titles are not defended for random reasons, or when they’re shuffled onto the pre-show in a mostly empty auditorium, because it makes the matches and belts seem weirdly unimportant. And I REALLY don’t like it when the new Intercontinental Champion is someone who had just been squashed not even a week prior! Even the newly minted Women’s Championship is undermined because the first winner only came out on top because SHE WAS HELPED BY A MAN! This was just so frustrating and dull at the same time and I think the only reason I didn’t feel the intense hatred I directed at “Survivor Series (2015)” is because sleep kept deflating my anger.