“Notes In Observance” features random thoughts and analysis on recent television shows. Quick results can be found at the bottom of the post.
Brawl’s Well That Ends Well
– The opening video highlighted (would you guess) Brock Lesnar’s 13 suplexes on WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins in under 5 minutes and how Undertaker stole the moment and low-blowed the challenger upon his arrival, complete with angry faces. Taker was portrayed with a more antagonistic edge in the video, which fed right into the opening segment. There was a fair amount of Taker-Lesnar hype and that was more than fine.
* Graphic by Emmanuel Gonzalez *
With Elimination Chamber all said and done in the record books, it’ll go down in WWE history as a show not remembered by its namesake, but rather one match.
Yes – NXT Champion Kevin Owens cleanly pinning WWE United States Champion John Cena after 20 minutes of grueling back-and-forth action that shattered already-high expectations for Owens’ in-ring main roster debut.
That’s what we’ll walk away from this night with carrying the most relevancy.
Let’s get through the rest of the card now, why don’t we?
Give WWE credit where it’s due.
Coming out of the gates of Payback with another “Network-exclusive” PPV just two weeks later was a risk of talent overexposure, but quite frankly, WWE shelled out a card even better than its predecessor.
NXT Champion Kevin Owens marched into the main roster by laying out John Cena, stepping on his prestigious United States Championship in the process. Add that with his mic work that gets better by the segment and stand off with Samoa Joe, he’s damn near broken the Internet. If that didn’t, the announcement of him against Cena on this show probably did. The entire community will hold their collective breaths on this one, but it’s arguably the real seller of the card.
As for the rest of it, it’s what we’d consider above-average on paper, though nothing mind-blowing, and we’ll get to that slightly below.
“Notes In Observance” features random thoughts and analysis on recent television shows. Quick results can be found at the bottom of the post.
Plan B 2.0
– As far as the opening segment, it made sense for Dean Ambrose to come out and rave about outsmarting The Authority once again. He also mentioned Roman Reigns being his only friend and brother, which could be a seed planted for a later feud. Also a bit risky to draw attention to Seth Rollins’ online mishaps, but it was handled okay in the context of the feud itself. Ambrose’s words were solid hype but it made us think maybe a segment of him in the jail cell on Raw would’ve helped his imagery.
Sign The Dotted Line
– The opening video showed how Dean Ambrose found his way into the Payback main event, with the bigger story being the mini-feud between Kane and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins. Also highlighted was the Raw main event which was left with Ambrose standing on top.
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
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