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.
An All-Champions Affair
– Starting the show off with John Cena again? Are we watching a Raw repeat? Do we even want a repeat of Raw? His promo did its job as it explained the rules of the Russian chain match (much-needed) and addressed the energy of the crowd. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro came out for some cheap heat, cutting down the people and Cena, all for Daniel Bryan to come out and the place to go bonkers. Read the rest of this entry
The New Toy Destroyer Of Fear
– The first segment with Daniel Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, The Big Show and Roman Reigns solidly hyped up the eventual main event, which tacked on Show and Reigns from what was originally advertised. Bryan led off the segment well – putting over the Intercontinental Championship and willing to take on all comers, inching a little too close to John Cena’s current gimmick, but still the best example of a “fighting Champion” as you can get. Barrett and Sheamus are a good heel duo – almost shades of their fantasy United Kingdom stable a la WWE ’12 coming to fruition. Ziggler was understandably all business and Show entered the equation as a good sidekick to the heels, which called for Reigns to finish things out, going straight for Show as the faces cleared the heels from the ring.
– The Tyson Kidd/Cesaro-Kofi Kingston/Big E match continued the momentum for the Tag Champs while further cementing New Day’s slow-burn heel turn. Big E’s promo was good stuff, as he condescending told the crowd they needed to love him, carrying most of the group’s vocal load. The New Day’s gimmick sucks but their maneuvers are all crowd-pleasers and as the turn becomes more evident, they need to alter it a little bit for easy heat. The “heel vs. soon-to-be heel” dynamic made it hard to root for Cesaro/Kidd per se, but the action was good while it lasted. The finish also made the Champs look good, albeit using cheap tactics, but lost nothing against fellow heels.
– The Neville-Curtis Axel match was preceded by an Axel promo that hyped the match in his own wannabe Hogan way. Neville continues to impress in the ring – resorting to more of his aerial tactics. Quick crowd-enlightening squash that followed the script of his Raw debut to a tee.
– The Natalya/Cameron/Alicia Fox promo had the female heels go at it in a condescending way. Either that or we got a glimpse of Bad Girls Club: WWE Edition. Not exactly carrying the division with class.
– The Natalya-Fox match carried over from the previous segment as Cameron was Special Guest Referee. This didn’t really do much to entice the crowd for Raw’s #1 Contender’s Divas Battle Royale, as it almost seems the WWE’s answer to missing AJ Lee is to amp up everybody else’s personalities where they almost become intolerable. Natalya won by submission using the Sharpshooter, which was the only bright spot out of this. Could’ve also seen Cameron’s attacks from a mile away. We did like the top rope “mirror pose” though.
– The Erick Rowan hype video pretty much summed up everything about him, but didn’t really push anything new about him and that’s the problem. At the least, he’d be Bray Wyatt’s opponent, resorting to past history for storyline purpose. This match really came out of nowhere.
– The Rowan-Wyatt match followed a solid Wyatt promo that talked about Rowan’s lack of acceptance by society. This felt like it could either be a way of writing Rowan’s lukewarm character off or to build Wyatt as the new “Face of Fear.” It actually felt like both were accomplished here. The Wyatt win was expected. The cradling of Rowan in Wyatt’s lap added a nice touch, but where does it lead?
– The MizTV segment with Miz, Damien Mizdow and Summer Rae came off as a feeble attempt to hype the straight-to-Blu-Ray release while having Mizdow turn on Miz yet again. Have to award Miz for his mic work here as he did a good job of setting up the moment where Mizdow delivered and promptly planted one on Rae. The crowd was more hot for this than Raw, which was a positive, but will Miz’s words about us forgetting who Mizdow is in three months ring true? It almost feels like this feud is being booked on the fly. Sure, they knew how to set up the turn well, but not much of that thought process has related to the aftermath. Slowly get Mizdow back to his former character.
– The Barrett/Sheamus/Show-Bryan/Ziggler/Reigns match continued the string of crowd-pleasing Smackdown main events. Nothing all too newsworthy though. Reigns getting the pinfall was okay, but where exactly does he fit into the equation? Will him and Show have a match at Extreme Rules? We can expect all six men to be involved with each other at the PPV in some way, but we still have yet to see any planning in that regard. On that note, with exception of Show, it was nice to have a night free of The Authority in the arena.
– Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (w/Natalya) def. Big E/Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods) via pinfall
– Neville def. Curtis Axel via pinfall
– Cameron As Special Guest Referee – Natalya def. Alicia Fox via submission
– Bray Wyatt def. Erick Rowan via pinfall
– Six-Man Tag – Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan/Dolph Ziggler def. Sheamus/Bad News Barrett/The Big Show via pinfall
– 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
You’re A Runt, Fella
– The opening video did a good job of recapping the chaos that went down on Raw when Brock Lesnar didn’t get his immediate rematch against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins and kindly destroyed ringside equipment, announcers and cameramen, setting up his indefinite suspension via Stephanie McMahon.
– The in-ring segment with Rollins, Kane, J & J Security, Big Show and Randy Orton gave us the awaited bragging promo from the new Champ, which was good. Rollins does a great job of making himself sound like a mastermind while also manipulating those around him into doing what he wants, making excuses behind his intentions. Of course, this set up Orton’s part of the segment, where he reminded us why he was due a Title shot and for some reason, really targeted Kane for having no “WrestleMania presence.” What’s that, Kane? You’re going to book an awesome match?! Nah. Just Orton-Show for right now. That’ll surely steal the show. Sigh.
– The Orton-Show was just a set-up for The Authority to do their Authority thang. Shocker. Orton had his brief moment by playing possum before getting Chokeslammed by Kane. Nice moment for Ryback to make the save, who seems more over every time he comes out. We can smell a future Rollins/Kane-Orton/Ryback tag match from a country away.
– They did a great job all night of emphasizing the magnitude of Sheamus’ return, heel turn and brutal attacks on fan favorites Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler. They even altered the Smackdown card to have Ziggler fully sell his injuries. Makes sense, and we can expect the original match to probably occur on Raw.
– With AJ Lee’s sudden retirement and the fact that Paige has already feuded with the Bella Twins, we need another new top face of the Divas Division. Apparently, that lady is Naomi. Now, she’s not a bad performer and she makes a good sidekick to the Usos. Only problem is this: her finisher. She knocks people out with her ass. How is that even remotely convincing? Let’s hope this push comes with a slightly revamped maneuver repertoire. For God’s sake, even if you change the finisher, that would make half the difference. Her boxed promo came off grotesquely rehearsed and almost like that one obnoxious cheerleader who tries too hard. With some more promo work, she could rise to a passable level, but at the moment, at least the idea of a singles push is encouraging for her character, as she seemingly has no character outside of being tattooed to the Usos by way of marriage to Jimmy.
– The Bella Twins have the advantage of being good-to-great talkers and have immensely improved their act in the past couple years. They made some good jabs at Naomi, that she had no identity and made perfect people to prove wrong as she took down Natalya rather quickly. A Nikki Bella-Naomi Divas Championship feud appears to be the new direction.
– So, Kane learned to finally throw his weight around and appear to want to make an Orton-Rollins Title match at Extreme Rules a reality. At the same time, Rollins was great in trying to get out of it while sounding confident. Dean Ambrose coming into the scene as that guy who uses the executive bathroom without permission fit his “unpredictable” character, but on top of his convincing Mania performance, did we need to saddle him with toilet humor? At the same time, he should use it more often if it sets up matches like him and Luke Harper. It’s obvious they’re using the ladder powerbomb spot to light a spark between the two in the form of a feud.
– Of course it’s Smackdown, so we need another Roman Reigns pre-taped interview. He approached what happened with Mania with one message he kept repeating: I took the brutal beating and came closer than ever to beating the beast. Word selection was kind of key here, working against him at moments. How exactly do you “come out swinging” by taking a beating? How does that work? His attempts at humor were grin-worthy (Let us know Suplex City condo prices while you’re at it, huh?) but this made it clear his new focus was Rollins and gunning for him made sense. If he’ll go full force as Extreme Rules gets closer, than this “quiet rage” is a good start.
– The Miz-R-Truth match saw the old Awesome Truth tag mates face-off. With all the Mizdow talk, it was obvious Truth went back to enhancement talent status just to make Miz look strong. No complaints about that. At the same time, Damien Mizdow got his revenge from Raw as he came out, hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Miz and put his sunglasses on to a big reaction. Solid.
– The segment with John Cena, Rusev and Lana was a good way to emphasize Cena’s desire to be a literal fighting United States Champion – taking on all comers, particularly “underdogs and B-plus players.” With Cena set to the future, this was a good time to have Rusev come out with Lana and be the one to challenge this time. The patriotic exchange was expected at this point. The thing with the American flag was cutesy, but bordered on slight ridiculousness.
– Good placement of the Neville hype video for Smackdown, making it appear that Raw will be his current stomping grounds for now. Between that and Cena’s weekly open challenges, they’re really hyping Raw as the place to be to see big developments.
– The Ambrose-Harper match was a nice little bout with some harsh kicks and hits, topped off with Harper powerbombing Ambrose through the announce table, their match going to a DQ in Ambrose’s favor. A feud between the two appears to be on the rise. No complaints, but what will the winner get?
– The Prime Time Players promo ripping New Day was a pleasant throwback to their old parody segments, and it appeared they were playing the pandering faces here. Good thing Creative finally capitalized on The New Day’s lack of popularity. This likely leads to a match and with Big E’s recent “heel” tweets, the lines for fanfare should be clearly drawn.
– They’ve really amped up Sheamus, huh? His new music will take some getting used to, but it fits his “tough Irish asskicker” gimmick. He arrived on the WWE scene as a heel, one who grinned particularly, beat Cena for the WWE Championship and even had a match against Triple H at Mania at one point. He did big things. Being a fan-pandering bland face for the last four years did call for a shakeup, but this was more on the extreme side. You can’t help but feel he tries too hard at times to be hated, but at the same time, they’ve given him the ball and he’s making the most of it. His promo was good stuff – basically saying he picks on underdogs “because he can” and “wants to crush hopes and dreams.” That’s as mean as it gets, no? The main event match with him and Bryan was good – he looked tough and Bryan provided the appropriate comeback spirit. Bad News Barrett out on commentary was a good way to use him in the meantime, practically breathing down Bryan’s neck, vying for his rematch clause, likely to come at Extreme Rules. Him getting involved towards the finish, hitting Bryan with the Bull Hammer Elbow, busting him open and allowing Sheamus to take advantage for a countout victory was a good start.
– Randy Orton def. The Big Show (w/Seth Rollins, J & J Security, Kane) via DQ
– Naomi def. Natalya via pinfall
– The Miz def. R-Truth via pinfall
– Dean Ambrose def. Luke Harper via DQ
– Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan via countout
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
– 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