By Nicholas Jason Lopez
With the Mae Young Classic Tournament here, it’s evidently the effect that women’s wrestling has now had on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in recent years.
At one point endlessly endeavored as the “Bathroom Break Segment” where fans would evacuate their seats in drones for the concession stands, female talent (branded “Divas”) in the billion dollar company were more accentuated for their looks than wrestling abilities. That known, matches would last about four minutes to the most.
Even though some female pioneers like Trish Stratus and Lita served as an athletic alternative to the rampant eye candy, WWE still treated the majority of women as an undercard attraction, if at all. Valets in bras and panties. Nothing more.
Just before the “Women’s Revolution” graced us with its presence on NXT with the likes of Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley, we had Paige, Kaitlyn and AJ Lee. Somewhere between the “PG Era” (shorter matches and irrelevant hosting gigs) and the “Revolution,” Paige/Kaitlyn/Lee also came up through developmental and scratched and clawed to steal the show.
By Anthony Zevoteck
The end of 2015 is upon us and that means one thing: the Slammy Awards have arrived.
A nearly 20 year tradition, WWE’s show of celebrating “the best of the best” has always been my favorite just out of seeing if who I like get a “golden grappler,” also making Raw more fun simultaneously.
This piece explores my hopes for 2015 Slammy winners.
– Another week of Raw, another rough night for Byron Saxton. Interesting, considering all the “heat” he had from Vince McMahon last week, that he was right out there with JBL and Booker T again. He was starting to settle in on Smackdown as the heel color commentator, but being thrust so quickly as the “makeshift new voice of Raw” is a tough role and you can see it through his work. The awkward pauses of dead air in the introduction had everyone rolling their eyes yet again.
– WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins had a downright great night. He had some mega heat, which helped the first segment along, as we started the show with him, J & J Security, The Big Show and Kane. Shocking, we know. Rollins’ comment about Kane “being at WrestleMania” drew some laughs – emphasizing that Kane’s role as a team player in The Authority was minimal at best. Here came Randy Orton to basically say the same thing. Oh no, Kane is so angry. He just booked himself in a match against Orton. Oy.
– WWE needs to be thankful they even have Show and Kane the way that they do. Without them, who on earth would be the main event heels? They’ve been in the spotlight for much too long, but given the circumstances, they’re making the most of what they’re being given. That said, the Orton-Kane match was below average action, just as it sounded on paper. Kane’s blatant DQ whimpered the crowd down, understandably. This was probably to sell his “anger.” Either that or they’re trying to build Kane as a possible contender for the World Title down the road. Dear God – don’t go there, WWE.
– The broadcast team bringing up AJ Lee’s retirement with a snapshot of her farewell tweet and picture of her famous Chuck Taylor boots was at least nice, but it wouldn’t had hurt to produce a video package of her career highlights. Would’ve been both cool and appropriate.
– Seeing Rollins and Kane argue backstage was interesting – as Kane argued Rollins’ success was owed directly to him, while Rollins felt Kane should step down as Director of Operations. It was a solid “clash” and what led to the next match – selling the viewer on a hook to see just who Rollins would face thanks to Kane.
– Good idea to recap Brock Lesnar’s chaotic rampage last week. Keeps things fresh to new viewers. Interesting to also see the WWE Network advertised for free for April. Is this going to be an every couple of months thing?
– Seeing Neville as the one who would face Rollins was a cool moment in the idea that viewers most likely said, “Oh, snap! There’s one of the top NXT guys and he’s taking on the World Champion! I have to see this!” and Neville’s entrance was very Chris Jericho-esque, but a bit more sharp and fancy. Anyways, Rollins sold the moment excellently, even getting on the mic to try to get out of the match. Neville did more than hold his own – flashing his crowd-pleasing aerial maneuvers, but this felt like a death mission for him the moment he came out. Creative pretty much relied on his NXT accolades to get him over in the match, but to casual WWE viewers, they just seen a guy who lost in his second match. Sometimes, a slow, protected build can do more wonders for a guy rather than a memorable performance in one particular match. Why send him out to a loss in his second Raw match? This was an instance a run-in, DQ or countout would’ve helped.
– John Cena’s promo was another instance of him making the United States Championship sound important and giving opportunities for other guys to come take the belt. Stardust answering the call wasn’t the biggest reaction-causing moment, but the match was very solid. At the least, there’s been some effort of just presenting quality wrestling on Raw, and that’s good. A couple of believable near-falls towards the end, although the result was never really in question, especially with the Cena-Rusev rematch announced for Extreme Rules. It’s a good gimmick though for a weekly show.
– The Bella Twins-Paige/Naomi match left a lot to be desired, especially on Naomi’s performance despite her latest push. Her ring work was so sloppy here, downright cringe-worthy stuff. Charlotte & Co. can’t come soon enough.
– So, the Prime Time Players are back… cutting horrendous campy “comedy” promos ripping on other teams like The New Day and The Ascension. We like the PTP, they just need to find some new material. Maybe Rufus “Pancake” Patterson should make his long-awaited return.
– The Ryback-Luke Harper match was okay, not much to rave over. Ryback got the win to look good for the triple threat main event later and Harper continues to be overlooked.
– The New Day promo talked about the negative crowd reactions – Big E particularly stole the moment here, but the cemented heel turn didn’t happen here, as they just mockingly started the clap again, which got the chant going again.
– The Lucha Dragons-Xavier Woods/Big E match pushed on the continued (almost encouraged) negative reaction for the New Day while Lucha Dragons continued their momentum. Short and sweet, fun match. Also good to see Tyson Kidd/Cesaro/Natalya keeping an eye on a backstage monitor, making it feel important.
– The Roman Reigns-Show match was pretty much what you’d expect – with Show dominating for Reigns to come out on top again. With the triple threat contenders all winning their matches, this was not the least bit shocking. That’s a problem for a three-hour wrestling show. Almost a nap-inducer.
– Nothing says “Give Divas A Chance” like a Battle Royale match next week with all six of the Divas, right?
– Reigns’ promo was on the short side and hyped the main event. They’ve kept him mostly silent to the company’s biggest audience. You have to wonder the logic in that.
– Sheamus’ promo was more of his recent obsession of picking on the underdogs, which brought out Mark Henry – someone his “size.” Their match was likely more of a glorified squash for Sheamus – who looked good in the push of his new attitude. He’s been the heel that’s provided the breath of fresh air WWE desperately needed on the “heel scene.”
– The Bray Wyatt fog promo was just needless rambling about nature and fear. He’s back in a holding pattern again.
– Ryback’s promo also hyped the match and he put over the other competitors. Pretty textbook stuff. It was like we could see they were obviously going to have all three competitors cut promos before the match.
– The Damien Mizdow-Miz match was okay, though it felt rushed with little to no hype. This was something you could’ve saved for Extreme Rules, as this is a PPV-worthy match. That said, Miz winning by grabbing the tights likely leads us down the road to an Extreme Rules match.
– Orton’s promo also hyped up the main event well and said he’d get to Rollins and beat him for the Title. He was arguably the favorite heading in, considering the competitors.
– The Reigns-Orton-Ryback triple threat main event match was ultimately lackluster as The Authority made their way down and got into the match, allowing Reigns to dive on to all of them and get knocked out, while Orton RKO’d Ryback for the pinfall. The finish was the only cool thing about the match. Rollins’ immediate Curb Stomp on Orton was cool to see. Rollins finished the episode like he started it – out on top. He’s sort of carrying the show at this point, a good thing for everybody.
– Randy Orton def. Kane via DQ
– Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) def. Neville via pinfall
– United States Championship – Open Challenge – John Cena (Champion) def. Stardust via pinfall to retain
– Paige/Naomi def. The Bella Twins via pinfall
– Ryback def. Luke Harper via pinfall
– The Lucha Dragons def. Xavier Woods/Big E (w/Kofi Kingston) via pinfall
– Roman Reigns def. The Big Show via pinfall
– Sheamus def. Mark Henry via pinfall
– The Miz def. Damien Mizdow via pinfall
– Winner Gets WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match at Extreme Rules – Triple Threat – Randy Orton def. Roman Reigns, Ryback
By Richie Serini
As you’ve all heard, WWE Diva and three-time Divas Champion AJ Lee (April Jeanette Mendez-Brooks) has retired from in-ring action.
The news did drop out of the sky – anyone with the WWE App was probably in complete shock upon seeing the update that stated her official retirement, essentially a big loss for the Divas division.
Or was it really?
It could be a big chance for the other Divas like Naomi, Natalya and Paige to show they can carry the division at the top.
It’s also a big welcome mat for the leading NXT Divas like Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley to get their long-awaited call-up and grab that oh-so-famous “brass ring” Vince McMahon loves to talk about and not just grab it, but keep a firm grip on it.
Particularly, “The Boss” Banks has potential to become the next AJ. At the age of 23, she has the most time to improve and if Creative books her properly, she can easily surpass Lee’s 295-day reign.
After all, this is where “Give Divas A Chance” comes in, right?
However, AJ leaving isn’t all good things for the company. AJ was a top draw – one of the top main roster talents, actually bringing some life to the Division right before WrestleMania, giving Paige that needed push to take on the Bella Twins. Not to say that losing her will lead to huge rating drops and massive loss of ticket sales, but it could have an effect.
Nevertheless, fans will have to deal with the loss as it is, mainly because wrestlers are performers – and they have real lives outside of the ring and goals to fulfill.
AJ is a regular human being like you. She enjoys video games and comic books. She is a nerd but she is also a big fan of independent wrestling too – just like her husband, Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks.
For her time in WWE, she has made the most of it. Let’s remember her amazing 295-day reign as Divas Champion, winning Diva of the Year Slammys in both 2012 and 2014, being Raw general manager at one point, and her “on-screen relationships” with Daniel Bryan, Punk, Kane, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler.
Her departure will sting just a little bit. Nobody could capture charisma on the mic like her and it will take some time for someone else to come up and steal the show, but rest assured, all eyes will be fixed on the Divas, and maybe that’s what AJ wanted this whole time.
– The first segment with Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman and Stephanie McMahon was a perfect open to the show. Lesnar was understandably angry and him coming out with Heyman in his fighting gear sold that he meant business. Heyman was on fire on the mic and knew exactly what to say to get the crowd fired up, demanding a WWE World Heavyweight Championship rematch right then and there. He had them in the palm of his hands. Who knew “Suplex City, Bitch!” would catch on the way it has? The chant even had Lesnar cracking a smile. McMahon coming out arguing for Seth Rollins’ case, saying he’d probably be up for the challenge was a good hook into the much-chaotic second hour.
– The Intercontinental Championship match between Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler was their best effort to date. Both guys turned it up a notch in front of a hot post-Mania crowd and they loved every second of it. Bryan was more over, but both guys were cheered heavily. Utter all-out war. Only criticism with this was that they never clarified why exactly the match was happening and what Ziggler did to earn yet another shot at the Title. They could’ve had this later in the show with a segment explaining the reason for the match, but this happening out of the blue after a killer first segment was an obvious way to please the diehard fans. Bad News Barrett being out on commentary bringing up his rematch clause was good stuff and he looked solid in his postmatch attack on both men. It was also a nice set-up for Sheamus’ return, who teased making the save for Bryan/Ziggler, only to brutally attack them instead. He came roaring down the ramp with a new aggressive, bad-ass look that the crowd ripped on with their “You Look Stupid!” chant, but as a heel, it works for him. He was the same boring face character for about five years. We can welcome this change and their tag match hyped for Smackdown should be a good follow-up to what went down here.
– WWE carried the momentum on with the much successful debut of The Lucha Dragons as they participated in an eight-man tag match, teaming with Kofi Kingston/Big E to take on The Ascension/Tyson Kidd/Cesaro. The presence of NXT rained all over this match and with good reason. The NXT-bred luchadors shined all over the match – Calisto’s sequence on Cesaro particularly, which got the crowd on its feet, was memorable. The New Day continue to get negative reactions and it should be telling, but Creative is stubbornly sticking with their lame “Three positive Black men” gimmick that borders on stereotypical racism. Something needs to happen with them and soon. Woods kept tapping the mat, starting the “New… Day-Sucks!” chant from the crowd, which only grew louder as the match progressed. For that matter though, it was all Lucha Dragons and it was the right decision to have them pick up the pinfall.
– The Neville hype video was short, but summed it up perfectly with a slow-motion of him in mid-air, delivering his Red Arrow finisher. Clever placing right after the previous match.
– The first hour rolled right along with a hot show and little did we know just what would happen at the top of the second hour. They teased a rematch between Lesnar and Rollins, until Rollins expectedly backed out of it and tried to run away, causing Lesnar to get his hands on him and beat him down, but still failing to deliver a satisfying F5. This caused Lesnar to get so angry he utterly annihilated the ringside area in ways not seen since the Nexus debut- let’s see: he flipped the announce table onto JBL and Booker T, Irish-whipped J & J Security onto the adjacent announce table, took Michael Cole into the ring and F5’d him, then put his hands on the cameraman, which caused McMahon to come out pleading for sanity. Lesnar’s actions escalated with every minute, creating utter chaos and unpredictability. Once he F5’d the cameraman, it made sense for Steph to take disciplinary action – indefinitely suspending him. This will likely keep him off TV until the rematch, but they can pick this up at Extreme Rules or even hold out until SummerSlam and they got everything they needed here. It was utter WTF chaos, but completely awesome to watch go down and that’s the way you send Lesnar out.
– McMahon’s comments made sense from her character’s perspective, defending the company in a corporate role. Her comments about Lesnar re-signing with WWE and that she “owned that son of a bitch” was for shock value, but worked.
– Byron Saxton out as a makeshift replacement commentator sold the moment of ringside chaos as well. For a little while, there was no commentary and just graphics and segments. The Stardust-Damien Mizdow match was about Mizdow getting his moment and we expected Miz to beat him down after. That was solid, though the crowd wasn’t nearly as hot for it as past segments. Keep in mind they were coming down from all that chaos.
– Curtis Axel was over with these fans, but they forgot all about him once Neville came out and their match was a quick squash for Neville. All eyes were on him as he performed the Red Arrow, his beautiful finisher. So, essentially he dropped the Adrian and he gained a cape, a unique addition to his look.
– John Cena’s United States Championship open challenge segment had him deal with the hostile crowd and Dean Ambrose was a pleasant surprise challenger. Their match was good and competitive – almost a test for Ambrose, but it’s like we were waiting for Rusev to come out the whole time and couldn’t truly enjoy the match. Despite that, it was a good effort.
– The backstage segment with Rollins, Big Show, Kane and Big Show was decent in letting Rollins cut a promo saying Lesnar got what he deserved and put himself over as a genius for his cash-in and Orton brought up his logical case for a World Title shot. Hyping the sudden tag match main event was on the lame side. Are we supposed to think Orton has no friends? That main event was treated like, “Oh yeah, we need one for the show! Oops.”
– The AJ Lee/Paige/Naomi-The Bella Twins/Natalya match provided just the right amount of good stuff with lengthy time (nearly 15 minutes) to deliver for the Divas, a welcome change. The finish left a little to be desired, but that can be overlooked for the effort to raise efforts in these matches.
– Oh, look at Orton backstage. He has no friends. Oh, wait… here comes Ryback. Oh, he hates the Authority too and wants to fight them? What a shocker.
– Rusev picked himself back up again by squashing Goldust, though the crowd obviously wanted more of Lana. Either way, they do a solid job of making him a threat without her present, maybe even more so, as she is his voice of reason. The placing of this on the show was bad though, as things went from hot to mild.
– What a dud of a man event, huh? That’s what you give the hot post-Mania crowd? Of course they were going to hate Roman Reigns as the third guy. How lame could it get? Granted, you could argue that Reigns earned his main event status in the Mania main event, but why send him out in front of a hostile crowd that hated everything about him? Not to mention, he didn’t even look like he sold the beating from Lesnar all too much. Creative must be scared that the crowd rooted more for Ryback than anyone in the match.
– Intercontinental Championhip – Daniel Bryan def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall to retain
– Eight-Man Tag Match – The Lucha Dragons/Big E/Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods) def. Tyson Kidd/Cesaro/The Ascension via pinfall
– Neville def. Curtis Axel via pinfall
– United States Championship – Open Challenge – John Cena def. Dean Ambrose via pinfall to retain
– AJ Lee/Paige/Naomi def. The Bella Twins/Natalya via pinfall
– Rusev def. Goldust via submission
– Roman Reigns/Ryback/Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security)/The Big Show/Kane via pinfall
Say what you want, but after the end of WrestleMania, the internet always seems to break and this year, we got yet another reason why.
Seth Rollins has pretty much had the best year anyone can have so far and now he’s topped it off big time.
Doesn’t get bigger than the main event of WrestleMania for a successful Money In The Bank briefcase cash-in.
This opens up so many possibilities. We’ll get into all of them below, but anybody can agree that this show – while lackluster in build and mild on paper except for the obvious marquee matches – delivered in almost every aspect of entertainment.
– The fatal four-way Tag Team Championship match with The Usos (w/Naomi), Los Matadores (w/El Torito), Big E and Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods), and Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (w/Natalya) was predictable in the sense that Kidd/Cesaro were way over, New Day were way not, everyone appreciated The Usos when they weren’t in offense towards Kidd/Cesaro and Los Matadores were just there. The constant switch between control and utter chaos provided a nice pace to the match and set up the finish nicely as Cesaro tagged Uso as he was about to dive off the top and “stole” his pin. They retained and had their moment to shine.
– The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale was the utter expected chaos. Hideo Itami had his brief moment of glory by eliminating Bo Dallas (who just seemed way too happy about being there) but then was boringly KO’d out of the ring by Big Show. Lameness galore. Mizdow finally turning on Miz was excellently done and done in a way that can easily be followed up on post-Mania Raw, but with Show standing around while it all happened, it made you question the logic. Show getting the best of Mizdow was super lame on the big stage, but it gave him bragging rights for future segments if anything, because he needed more? Granted, that shot of him doing Andre’s pose next to the trophy was one to remember.
– The Intercontinental Championship Ladder match between Daniel Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, Dean Ambrose and R-Truth started the show off on a nice note. It was cool to see the nod of acknowledgment on Bryan’s entrance that this year’s Mania started how last year’s ended, with the Yes Movement. That’s one of those little things that people will notice if they ever watch WrestleMania in consecutive marathons. The action wasn’t too extreme, but a few cool spots involving the ladders (powerbomb out of the ring) were enough to get the crowd on their feet. Bryan was the obvious choice from the get-go and can bring the IC Title to new heights, no pun intended.
– The Randy Orton-Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) match was a solid, though predictable match that brought just the right amount of intensity. That finish with the “possum” RKO was hot and well-executed. Most beautiful RKO ever. The near-falls down the stretch were believable too. Ultimately, Orton got his revenge and taking the end of the night into account, he technically pinned the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Does that put him in line for a Title shot? Raw could be interesting.
– The Sting-Triple H match was preceded by the anticipated elaborate entrances – Triple H’s Terminator-inspired particularly went over well. This match fully lived up to the hype – bringing in an aspect to the match never even considered in the hype, but cool nonetheless in the nostalgia factor with D-Generation X and nWo all coming to blows, which the crowd was hot for. It was a unique sight, especially with memories of the Monday Night Wars in the rearview mirror. Just like WWE beat WCW, Triple H beat Sting, perhaps another metaphorical representation of the war, even though the WWE was led by heels here. Regardless, the “time warp” made this quite entertaining for everybody young and old. The embrace after between Triple H and Sting in the form of a handshake was also great.
– Having Daniel Bryan be congratulated backstage by legends and former IC Title holders like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper and Bret Hart was an excellent rub and showed that he had the backing of everyone – fans and legends. Step one to Operation: Bring-Prestige-To-IC-Title is complete.
– The Paige/AJ Lee-Bellas Divas tag match was short and sweet, making the most of its rather short time. It had the Bellas dominate only to build up to Lee/Paige to grab the momentum and came out with the win. Not much to rave over, but nothing bad either, creatively speaking.
– The John Cena-Rusev match for The United States Championship really went all out with the entrances, especially for Rusev. The match was entertaining for the time it lasted, though it felt just a step behind their FastLane effort. The guys showed their urgency by pulling new moves out – Rusev going to the top rope for the first time and Cena doing a springboard stunner, which appeared better on instant replay – and it spoke to how bad both men wanted it. There were some strange moments – Lana throwing her shoes in the ring comes to mind – but Cena winning the belt was predictable. Lana getting knocked off the apron appeared to have been done for shock value as Cena pinned Rusev immediately after. Rusev not showing concern for Lana while she stumbled up the ramp with officials was an interesting hook for post-Mania Raw. Is there a problem on the Russian Front of the WWE Squared Circle?
– The Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Rock and Ronda Rousey segment delivered in terms of entertainment and did just enough to get everyone talking. Rock appearing on another WrestleMania was no shock and it closed the door on his Rumble appearance and what questions that had left unanswered. Though Triple H was great in his gloating of beating Sting and Rock did his schtick well, much kudos has to go to Stephanie here. She stole this segment with her toughness and facial expressions. She truly owned her words here and the eventual physical confrontation was a nice little payoff, but it makes us wonder just what the consequences will be, if any.
– The Bray Wyatt-Undertaker match lived up to all the hype and got better as it went on. The big moments came in the emphasizing of similarities in both characters with Taker sitting up as Wyatt was in mid-crawl and the trade of finishers was great. Taker winning by the Tombstone Piledriver was a fitting end for what could be his last two-step at the Mania dance.
– The Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman)-Seth Rollins match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was everything built up to be and more. Just when we thought we knew what would happen – WWE changes the rules completely. Rollins cashing in with the most eyes on the product on the biggest stage in the biggest match of the year and coming out the winner was perfect. With the crowd’s pro-Lesnar reaction, Reigns could definitely not win this. Even the story of Reigns-Lesnar in the ring was well done, with an inhumane total of F5’s, Spears and Superman Punches as it looked like another Lesnar domination for much of the match. Reigns took a beating and a half and yet at the end was the one pinned and even then, it didn’t feel like he lost too much, besides obviously getting “robbed.” People could argue this moment will lead to a Rollins face turn, but his very actions were quite heelish and you can see it on his smirk with the photo of him, the belt and J & J Security going around online. This does however, set the road for a proper face turn with Lesnar/Heyman, as it also created perfect anticipation for the fallout, as Lesnar would probably be angry and can contest he was never pinned while Reigns had his match and lost.
– Tag Team Championships – Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (Champions) (w/Natalya) def. Kofi Kingston/Big E (w/Xavier Woods), Los Matadores (w/El Torito) and The Usos (w/Naomi) via pinfall to retain
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale – The Big Show eliminates Damien Mizdow to win
– Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match – Daniel Bryan def. Bad News Barrett (Champion), Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust to become new Champion
– Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) via pinfall
– Triple H def. Sting via pinfall
– Paige/AJ Lee def. Nikki/Brie Bella via pinfall
– United States Championship – John Cena def. Rusev (Champion) (w/Lana) via pinfall to become new Champion
– The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt via pinfall
– WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Seth Rollins def. Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar to become new Champion via Money in the Bank Briefcase Cash-In
So, here we are: it’s arguably professional wrestling’s biggest hurrah.
How we got here is a testament of just how WWE has been this year and how creatively stubborn they can be.
Headlining the show is WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar – who has stirred some publicity talk by choosing to stick with WWE – and young up-and-comer 2015 Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns.
The story of the buildup has been surrounded by criticisms that Reigns “can’t” win the big one – and they’re fair to think that. We’ll get more into things further down.
Also on the show are expectedly marquee matches like John Cena-Rusev for the United States Championship, Sting-Triple H, among others.
Below is the list of matches, previews and predictions.
– Pre-Show –
– Tag Team Championships – Fatal Four-Way – Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (Champions) vs. Los Matadores (w/El Torito) vs. The New Day vs. The Usos: Kidd and Cesaro have been a unit since winning the belts, taking on all comers. Well, almost. We seemed to be going in the direction of a match between Kidd/Cesaro and The Usos for the belts, until Jey Uso injured his shoulder in the ring. WWE has been hush about his injury status since bringing it up and that coincided with the sudden emergence of The New Day on to the scene and re-emergence of Los Matadores. Let’s see: The New Day act sucks and will continue to do so until Creative gives them more of an “edge.” We’re sorry – clapping won’t do it. Nope. Los Matadores are just barely tolerable as a team and besides some flashy maneuvers, don’t add much variety to the division. Getting Jey Uso back into the ring appeared to be WWE’s biggest concern and what better way to do it than in a match than where he likely won’t have to do much work? With The Usos in the match, it’s hard to ignore them, but Kidd/Cesaro can really solidify their status at the top with an impressive showing and win here. We’ll go with them.
Prediction: Tyson Kidd/Cesaro
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale: When the idea of the match was first announced last year, it was met with mixed reviews besides the obvious tribute to WWE’s first big name Giant. It did however, realize its full potential as a way to give an up-and-comer an accolade and Cesaro was that guy last year. What looked to be his biggest career accomplishment went to the wayside as Creative lost focus on a supposed push and shuffled him all over the card. This year’s battle royale boasts talent the likes of The Miz, Curtis Axel, Damien Mizdow, Ryback, The Prime Time Players, Jack Swagger, Sin Cara, Erick Rowan, Goldust, Heath Slater, Fandango, Adam Rose, Zack Ryder, The Ascension and now Hideo Itami. Basically – the sum of the mid-card here. The importance of the match has even been lowered by moving it to the pre-show. While the moment of Mizdow turning on Miz would be golden and well-awaited moment here, the winner only gets a trophy, and we think that turn might be better fitted for the next night on Raw. This would be a perfect time to give somebody like Itami a rub with the award and we’re going to go out on a limb and say he wins it here.
Prediction: Hideo Itami
– Pay-Per-View –
– Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match – Bad News Barrett (Champion) vs. R-Truth vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust: There’s so much to say about this match hype, where do we even begin? The beginning would be a good place. So, we have a seemingly “tabloid” Champion in Barrett, who seems to be incapable of winning a wrestling match. His win-loss record is especially atrocious. You need one hand to count his number of wins this year so far. Add on top of that – he couldn’t even hold on to his very own championship belt – getting it stolen and tossed around week to week by the other competitors. This aspect of the match makes us shake our heads, but then something happened: Barrett got his belt back and it suddenly became about the prize and the match itself. Not to mention, take a look at the competitors. Every guy in this match could do good things as IC Champion. Harper has been greatly underutilized since The Wyatt Family split and could really use it. Ziggler could use a rub from it. So on and so forth. Will Barrett surprise everyone with a win? Not likely – and that’s because the match’s most popular guy – Daniel Bryan – will likely come out with the win in a probable show-stealer. Seemingly shunned out of this year’s World Title spotlight, he needs a pick-me-up and that coincides with WWE wanting to put prestige back into the belt. Bryan, Ziggler and Barrett are rumored to feud for the belt coming out of the match and that’s no shocker. A lengthy title reign by Bryan can do wonders in gaining fan interest in the belt again and offer some potential match-of-the-year contenders. WWE has sidelined Bryan’s biggest Mania plans, but can still do him a solid by giving him this match.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan
– Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins: Since The Authority has reformed, Rollins has been the poster boy for success. He’s gotten a huge rub from it. That’s no doubt. He had mega heel heat even before then, taking out Orton indefinitely with his infamous Curb Stomp. Building up the momentum for Orton’s return was going to happen sooner or later and that’s what we got. The feud hasn’t been bad per se, but Creative took unnecessary twists and turns with it. We were at that moment of satisfaction seeing Orton get his hands on Authority members at FastLane, with Rollins just escaping before an RKO could be delivered. For some odd reason, we had to see Orton rejoin The Authority and turn on Rollins yet again, beating him senselessly around the arena. A few weeks removed from that, the story again has been Orton wanting to get his hands on Rollins, with Rollins escaping every time. Doesn’t this story feel a little bit backwards? We can’t deny that Orton will get his moment of true revenge here, but what exactly does he gain from something like this? We’ve seen him dominate Rollins already. This match will probably have a rematch at Extreme Rules with a more brutal stipulation, but we’ll predict the feel-good Mania moment here and go with Orton.
Prediction: Randy Orton
– United States Championship – Rusev (Champion) vs. John Cena: When this feud was first announced coming out of the Rumble, it induced a few groans. However, both guys have brought it up a notch intensity-wise and put on entertaining matches. The “Do It For America” approach has motivated Cena and that’s been expected. On the other hand, Rusev continues to be built very strong and even without Lana, he comes across as a serious threat. The build for Rusev has been fantastic, and for that reason – we believe he has been groomed well to take his first decisive loss to Mr. America 2015, Cena. This has “Mania feel-good moment” written all over it and while we’re not quite sure how far Cena can take a belt like the US Title at this point of his career, but we’ll ultimately find out.
Prediction: John Cena
– Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker: While it’s somewhat noble that WWE has kept Taker away from the ring in the time between two consecutive WrestleManias, we can’t help but think that that has actually hurt this build from being all it could be. Granted, it should make the standoff of Wyatt-Taker in the ring a surefire Kodak moment, but this whole feud has literally been fog machine promos and lightning machines. Wyatt brought his best promo work with him on the go-home Raw and has teased the idea that Taker just doesn’t have it like he used to, but that makes it all the more obvious that Taker will go over. Wyatt with direction is one of the most unique, cool characters WWE has to offer and we’re glad to see his character revitalized and he should bounce back from this pretty well. The question is who will he take on next?
Prediction: The Undertaker
– AJ Lee/Paige vs. Nikki/Brie Bella: This match has been billed as the “Battle of the Divas” and while how we got there has been okay, we can’t help but shake our heads at the thought that the Divas Championship will be the only belt not defended on the big stage and that says a lot about the state of the Division. Nevertheless, we have the clash of personalities here: AJ Lee and Paige are crazy and the Bellas are conceited. Interest in the Divas has gone up a bit thankfully to AJ’s return, but she can only take things so far. With the emphasis on Pai-J being a solid unit and the Bellas out to defend their spot at the top, we can see something along the lines of the Bellas winning to restart a feud between Paige/AJ, as that’s what appears to be in store. Nikki Bella will still be Champion after the match anyway, so who really cares what happens?
Prediction: Nikki/Brie Bella
– Sting vs. Triple H: This is arguably WrestleMania’s biggest sell thus far and one of the earliest matches booked on the card. This will be a moment to remember: seeing Sting fight in his first WWE match against the “big cheese” of The Reality Era in Triple H. This has been one of the better booked feuds, as Sting has been kept silent for most of the build, finally culminating in an enthusiastic promo/confrontation with Stephanie McMahon by the go-home Raw. Nothing else is really on the line as far as the stipulation, but this should be an entertaining match where Sting will likely get the win, despite attempts by The Authority to help their captain out. What happens after here is a question mark, but hopefully Creative has something interesting planned for Sting post-Mania, if at all.
– WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Roman Reigns: It’s fitting that for a card with mostly lackluster build, this tops it. WWE fans let Creative know from the get-go that Reigns wasn’t wanted as their guy and yet Vince McMahon has boldly stuck with the fiery Samoan, protecting him more than he has past guys. From pre-taped promos to segments planned out to make him look strong (Spearing Big Show on the ramp, diving over the top rope onto The Authority, Spearing Mark Henry through the barricade, etc.), there’s no denying it. McMahon even used Daniel Bryan to help get him over, carrying Reigns to his best singles match to date. This is all well and good and while Reigns has improved on the mic and in the ring, comparing him to Lesnar is a huge mistake. The question mark of Lesnar leaving for MMA hung over this match and made this match all the more likely in Reigns’ favor, but with that rumor squashed, it makes the result very interesting. Rumors have gone around of a Lesnar face turn and that can be accomplished by having Heyman turn on him and embrace Reigns as his new client, also having Reigns win the belt, delivering the same result in a likely hostile environment. Kudos has to go to Heyman in this build as well – almost single-handedly hyping this match on his own great promo after great promo. Heyman continues to reinvent himself and in the midst of a “shakeup” that normally happens post-Mania, we believe he can do Reigns wonders as his new mouthpiece. Lesnar is popular and relentless enough to get over on his own. So, we believe Reigns will come out victorious – but it won’t be how you think. Don’t also count out a potential Rollins cash-in to spoil the moment, but we see it more fitted for the night after.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
WrestleMania Season Finale
– The fatal four-way between Jimmy Uso (w/Naomi), Fernando (w/Diego, El Torito), Cesaro (w/Tyson Kidd, Natalya) and Big E (w/Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods) was obvious hype for the Tag Team Championship match at Mania, with just a piece of the action teased to the viewing audience. It was no throwaway though. Some spots like the the four-man German double Suplex spot were cool. Cesaro put on a good performance, dominating with the Swing at one point, knocking his opponents down like bowling pins, but Jimmy Uso getting the nod was telling. Perhaps Kidd/Cesaro retain?
– Good to see WWE use the publicity nod to address Brock Lesnar choosing to retire from MMA and resign with WWE. Even better to use it as further hype to the main event match, which might reel in some casual fans just to see what will happen.
– The Intercontinental Championship hype video was essential in putting over the significance of the IC Title matches as show-stealers at Mania and ladder matches at Mania itself. No focusing on the belt stealing, just on the prize and the match. If only the booking had followed that format the whole time.
– The AJ Lee-Paige-Bellas in-ring segment gave that feud the last needed shot in the arm. All the talk of labels and stereotypes wasn’t necessary, but Pai-J are a unit now, and that’s what counts headed in. The “shots” between both teams was also a nice, believable exchange.
– The John Cena/Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan/Mark Henry-Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security)/The Big Show/Kane/Bray Wyatt match was your general entertaining main event that saw Reigns look strong (shocked?) and Bryan pick himself back up with the pinfall for his team. That’s how we finish the WrestleMania hype and fair to say, it was straight-forward. To be fair, you could’ve missed this show and nothing would’ve changed, but nothing on the show was bad.
– Fatal Four-Way – Jimmy Uso (w/Naomi, Jey Uso) def. Cesaro (w/Tyson Kidd, Natalya), Big E (w/Xavier Woods, and Fernando (w/Diego, El Torito) via pinfall
– Eight-Man Tag Match – John Cena/Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan/Mark Henry def. Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security)/The Big Show/Kane/Bray Wyatt via pinfall
– You don’t have to hype Sting opening Raw as “history in the making,” but it was cool to see. Smart to bring up WWE’s acquisition of WCW dating back exactly 14 years on the date. For the record – Sting’s theme music sounds like a creepy, slowed-down version of The Rock’s. This was a great time for a Sting promo, providing final hype to the match. Him stating his reason for wanting Triple H was to take him down was great. Stephanie McMahon coming out to steal the spotlight and her interactions with Sting were also solidly entertaining and logically explained Triple H’s reason to come out to defend his wife. Triple H cowering out once Sting pulled out the bat, even with a sledgehammer in his hand, was a perfect way to tease action ultimately to lead to WrestleMania.
– Why would WWE keep teasing the idea of a Randy Orton-Seth Rollins match again so close to Mania – having him as one of the choices for Orton’s opponents later on in the show, and obviously the one fans will pick – because Big Show and Kane are oh so popular.
– The Stardust/Luke Harper-Dean Ambrose/R-Truth tag match was fair hype for the Intercontinental Championship ladder match, with Bad News Barrett also on commentary. The in-ring action was good, and the energy was high from all four men. Everyone staring down Barrett on commentary was also good.
– The Miz/Damien Mizdow-Kevin Hart/Will Ferrell “interview” segment was a cool way to show Miz being jealous of Mizdow and trying to downplay his popularity, all for Ferrell and Hart to say Mizdow “had the look.” Funny.
– The Mizdow/Miz/Adam Rose/The Ascension-Ryback/Prime Time Players/Erick Rowan/Zack Ryder match was a 5-on-5 tag to hype the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale with the most interesting aspect being Miz and Mizdow while Bill Simmons and JBL went back and forth on commentary. Simmons talked about the old days and WrestleMania. Kind of surprising to hear him tell JBL his son liked him because “he put Cena over.” You’d think celebrities would stray away from “insider talk.” The face team going over wasn’t big news, but at least Ryback got the pinfall there.
– The Randy Orton-Rollins/J & J Security match was good in terms of Mania hype, as it kept the physicality between Orton and Rollins minimal and was mainly about Orton wanting to get his hands on Rollins, using J & J Security as battering rams somewhat, even though Orton clobbered Rollins quite recently.
– The sit-down John Cena interview segment had him dish more of the “Rah Rah America” talk. We’ve heard it before.
– The AJ Lee-Paige backstage segment was exactly what AJ was describing, teasing some dissension between Pai-J, with Paige calling AJ crazy, which she seemed to think about.
– Despite the ho-hum storyline headed in, the Divas Championship match between Paige (w/AJ Lee) and Nikki Bella (w/Brie Bella) turned out to be one of the best recent Divas matches, getting plenty of time. The finish was an excellent way to get AJ and Paige fighting, with Lee punching Paige thinking it was Brie Bella. Can’t help but think the match order should have been reversed.
– It was only a matter of time before AxelMania and HulkaMania would collide and if the Snoop Dogg segment did anything, it set it up nicely. Curtis Axel was essentially the joke here and this set up the feel-good celebrity moment, though it didn’t really hype WrestleMania in any form.
– They really needed to have an encore of the six-being Interspecies match between Tyson Kidd/Cesaro/Natalya and Los Matadores/El Torito? Is WWE that lazy that they need to recycle Smackdown matches?That said, having The Usos and Naomi on commentary was a good way to keep them on TV despite Jey’s shoulder injury. The action wasn’t much to brag about and this had El Torito pin Natalya this time.
– The Kane-Barrett backstage segment made Barrett look like a fool. Um, doesn’t he know he has to eventually give up the Title so it could be hung above the ring? Like a ladder match usually works?
– The Rusev-Jack Swagger match was a great way to make Rusev look strong headed into Mania by beating an “American” symbol in Jack Swagger, who was a bit more amped up. Rusev refusing to let go of The Accolade was a great way for Cena to come make the save and Rusev getting the better of their exchange, utterly dominating Cena probably means Cena goes over at Mania. However, who knows? Rusev going back for more and putting the Accolade on Cena on the table with Cena out cold was excellent hype.
– The Bray Wyatt in-ring promo was probably his most passionate of Undertaker-related promos, but if you were going to have Taker and Wyatt face-off, that would’ve been the perfect moment. Lost opportunity? We think so.
– Kevin Nash as the new WWE HOF inductee was only a matter of time. The video package was well-done and appropriate for the moment, crediting him for being a big name to spark the Monday Night Wars.
– The Tyson Kidd/Natalya live-action Burger King commercial was incredibly random, but kind of entertaining? Confusing? Definitely confusing. What was that again? Not to mention it bordered on pushing the envelope with its sexual themes. Natalya slowly eating a stick-shaped food and enjoying it? Yeah. That.
– The Daniel Bryan-Dolph Ziggler match with Ambrose voted in as Special Guest Referee wasn’t quite as slick as their Smackdown exchange but this was a solid crowd-pleaser. The bigger picture was the IC Title ladder match and Ambrose being there and the belt above the ring were good reminders of that. Ambrose dropping Ziggler after the match and grabbing the ladder, with Barrett and all the other competitors coming out was classic hype. Predictable, but necessary.
– The face-to-face in-ring segment between Lesnar/Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns was kept short and minimal as Heyman once again gave a great promo saying all the things he has said before (acknowledging it too) and Reigns didn’t say a word and only took the Title when Lesnar showed it off to him, amongst a clearly pro-Lesnar crowd. We were hoping this segment would be a true face-to-face with both guys talking, but that didn’t happen here and while leaving us wanting more, we didn’t quite get what we thought we would.
– Dean Ambrose/R-Truth def. Stardust/Luke Harper via pinfall
– 5-on-5 Tag Match – Ryback/The Prime Time Players/Zack Ryder/Erick Rowan def. The Miz/Damien Mizdow/The Ascension/Adam Rose via pinfall
– Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins/J & J Security via pinfall
– Divas Championship – Nikki Bella (w/Brie Bella) def. Paige (w/AJ Lee) via pinfall to retain
– Six-Being Interspecies Rematch – Los Matadores/El Torito def. Tyson Kidd/Cesaro/Natalya via pinfall
– Rusev def. Jack Swagger via submission
– Dean Ambrose as Special Guest Referee – Dolph Ziggler def. Daniel Bryan via pinfall