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  1. This has been an ongoing feud for 15+ years now? And to be honest, its a feud that never clicked for me as most of their matches always relied heavily on big head drops, finisher spamming and extensive 2.99 false finish kickouts. This however felt different. This felt more like an actual grudge match than a dream rematch and they brought more intensity to this than other matches. KO hurt his arm and did a pretty neat of selling it and even avoiding using in their strike exchanges. Also, the strikes they were throwing here looked much more impactful than the thigh slap heavy strikes they would throw before as Sami got his mouth busted open. They also dropped the extensive 2.99 false finish kickouts and only had one count out tease and only one big head drop with KO taking a half-and-half suplex. Plus the finish was clean without them going into overboard. I would say this is possibly the best match I've seen them have together.
  2. Hate to ruin the fun but this didn't do much for me. Still felt very much like a generic WWE four way just with a better workrate and the overreliance on cheap props to produce drama isn't really my thing in 2016. I liked the finish with Miz getting the pin out of nowhere but when you have stuff like Zayn rolling on the floor asking the ref if it was two instead of going for the pin himself after just breaking up someone else's finisher>pin, Cesaro just staring at Owens while he climbed on the rope and so on it's not the type of stuff I'm going to love. I've seen Cesaro drag Miz into the ring when she tried to save him before, I've seen the tower of doom spots, I've seen the triple suplexes, one guy running at every corner to hit his move three times and so on. Initially I don't even buy them as nearfalls but after a while having someone break up the pin or pull someone out of the ring just becomes tedious and repetitive. **1/2
  3. Thought this was really good and more proof that Rollins is having probably the best year of his career since maybe 2013 with the initial Shield run. Fast paced, exciting wrestling, mixed with some really good grounded storytelling. Owens attacks the arm early and uses it to transition himself back into the advantage at multiple points in the match. Not just that but Rollins sells it consistently throughout as well as introducing some really creative spots. Having to change the way he performs an Irish whip because of the damage to the arm? Come on, that's just awesome right there. Toronto crowd got way behind Owens by the end which only added a lot of fuel to the fire these two were working with. ****1/4
  4. This was a really damn great 4-5 minute match. Perfectly laid out w/ Owens getting some offense in by cheapshotting Brock while he is taking his shirt off - Owens came in with a game plan, but that game plan backfired on him because he was facing THE BEAST. Really fun match - legitimately the best one Owens has had in a long time. ***3/4
  5. UNREAL ovation for Bryan; very emotional seeing him walk down that ramp w/ his wrestling gear on once again. The match quality is very much boosted by the story behind his comeback - it's fairly simple in structure w/ KO & Zayn attacking Bryan before the bell rings, leaving him laying for quite a while, which means Shane had to fight alone while Bryan recovered. I thought Shane's FIP segment was really good - both KO & Zayn, especially Zayn, were really good working the heat on him & mocking him all the way while doing it. Shane's selling of his injury was pretty damn good. Maybe it's that magic of Bryan's comeback & it being WrestleMania and all, but I thought Shane's performance was ON POINT. This is the first time since his return in 2016 that he hasn't annoyed me much, because he didn't do that faux-MMA stuff of his; he felt like an untrained street fighting GM just busting out wild strikes to try & fight. And holy shit when Bryan came out to break that pin & finally Shane got to tag him to the ring - fireworks. Absolute fireworks. Him running through all of his signature moves was lovely & Zayn was absolutely wonderful bumping & selling his ass off for him. For one moment, right now, everything is right & beautiful in the world; the greatest wrestler in the world is back. And he is back with a bang. ****
  6. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like this nearly as much as other folks but I ended up kind of hating it. First off I actually want to bring up some stuff I thought was good. You often see criticisms of WWE matches in supposed blood feuds starting with a headlock or heels doing face spots etc. Not the case here. As soon as the match starts they went after one another and Zayn was doing the ten punches in the corner as a face should. I just. Don't care about this type of match. I get why people like it but personally, I am kinda done with matches like this. I hated the puro no sell spots. Served no purpose and looked stupid. Hated Owens doing a flip bump for Zayn's Clothesline. I don't remember whether or not Nakamura vs Zayn had a flip bump off Zayn's Lariat but Nakamura is at least more lean and does those bumps all the time, the visual of this fat guy doing a flip bump for the skinny underdog (not necessarily in this match but in general) was just weird. Then there's my absolute least favourite moment of the match-after Zayn hit Owens with a Michinoku Driver and a Blue Thunder Driver/Fireball Bomb (Kikuchi did it before Akiyama but no one seems to talk about that) Owens just gets up and hits him with a Wrist Clutch Fisherman Neckbreaker On The Knee. Literally just stood up and hit his big move after two big nearfalls. And the visual of Owens getting Zayn in the Wrist Clutch made it impossible for them to sell it as a desperation comeback that caught Zayn off guard due to the time it took to set up the move. Then they did like, a move on the apron and whatnot but I mentally checked out already and was just waiting for this to end. I di like Zayn's early Tope Con Giro and him wrecking the announce table. It was a great opening. I just wish a great match followed it. I could buy them doing a hateful Dragon Lee-Kamaitachi spotfest like they did in ROH and PWG or a hate filled brawl like they did in NXT but a hybrid just didn't work for me.
  7. The 2nd half was absolutely wonderful w/ the focus being on AJ's injured leg; AJ played a wonderful face in peril while KO did some quality work over him. What prevents me from going ****+ on this is that the first half was an absolute bore w/ them doing your usual 50/50 boring movez action. ***3/4
  8. https://youtu.be/ak1LX4XE2S4 Really hot interactions between all 6-men involved, a fantastic Steen FIP segment, a terrific KENTA hot tag, great psychology w/ Generico's knee + an awesome finishing stretch. Great match. ****1/4
  9. This was fantastic - another absolutely perfect performance by Nigel McGuinness during his all-time great ROH World Title reign - he absolutely MADE this match. His heel shtick in front of Steen's home crowd was tremendous, and his work over Steen's back & work on top in general was really great. The match quality actually dropped a bit when Steen made his big comeback, it wasn't bad, but I thought he didn't bring enough fire & energy to match Nigel's amazing work over him - if he had been on Nigel's level, or anywhere near it, this could've been one of the best matches in ROH history. BUT even with that being said, this still was a classic, cannot say enough good things about Nigel's performance. ****1/2
  10. RECOMMENDATION: READ THIS VIA MOBILE APP OR MOBILE SITE DUE TO NUMEROUS LINKED YOUTUBE VIDEOS. The Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33559-the-road-to-wrestlemania-31-the-good-shit/ The Road to Takeover: Dallas & WrestleMania 32: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33560-the-road-to-takeover-dallas-wrestlemania-32-the-good-shit/ NXT Takeover: Dallas – April 1, 2016 Live from Dallas, TX NXT Tag Titles Match The Revival vs. American Alpha The excellent, obvious choice for the opener since a title change was very apparent. Rather than modify their game plan, the champs intensified their underhanded tactics in an attempt to overcome the mat wrestling and suplex arsenal of the challengers. That ultimately proved to be the end of their title reign. Whether it was mind games, attempts to cut the ring in half, manipulating the ref with false illegal tag attempts to get a cheap shot, the champs were never able to get a lengthy, momentous advantage on either Chad Gable or Jason Jordan. While the ring was cut in half at times, it was never for very long. In particular, Gable drilling Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder simultaneously with DDTs told the story of the match; no matter what, the Revival couldn’t crush the focus and heart of American Alpha. Not with slaps to the face. Not by cutting off a hot tag by climbing under the ring. Not even bailing each other out from certain punishment. This night belonged to many names, and among them were American Alpha. They were not to be denied. The best part was the finishing stretch as Dawson and Gable exchanged near-falls that got the crowd rocking. At this point the match beautifully had the Dallas crowd guessing, even with the booking and match placement making the end result crystal-clear. Once the near-falls got out of the way, the challengers double-teamed Dawson, leaving him prone to the Grand Amplitude and title change, with Wilder being a non-factor as Jordan cut him off. A tremendous opener as expected. **** KOTA FUCKING IBUSHI, one half of the reigning Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year Award, is sitting at ringside. Per Corey Graves on commentary, there will be a “global cruiserweight tournament” coming as well. OH FUCK YES~! The WWE Debut Match of Austin Aries Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries Not the most ideal debut for Aries as this got quite tedious when Corbin was in control, although I could still appreciate the story being attempted. Simply put, the storyline of the match was that Aries did his homework, while Corbin didn’t. It was absolutely foolish for the former NFL player not to hit the film room and respect that Aries had been successful against much larger men throughout his career. There’s of course one of his career-defining moments in dethroning peak Samoa Joe at ROH’s Final Battle 2004, but also his participation in Generation Next thwarting off the monstrous Abyss and the rest of the Embassy, humbling Bubba Dudley in TNA, and taking Takeshi Morishima to the limit. This cockiness and disrespect was all the advantage Aries needed to embarrass Corbin. That wasn’t the only thing that hurt Corbin in his failure to study Aries. While he got an advantage in targeting the right shoulder of Aries, it still allowed the southpaw Aries to make a successful comeback with his left hand. Knowing something as simple as which dominant hand Aries possesses could’ve helped Corbin’s youth and size become too overwhelming for the mileage and experience of Aries, who perfectly scouted an End of Days attempt to get a roll-up victory. Roman Reigns would never get this embarrassed, as his frequent counters of big moves prove that unlike his fellow former gridiron colleague, he actually hits the film room. Stepping away from the actual fictional storyline, it was another brilliant piece of booking for Aries to win his LONG, LONG, LONG overdue debut. Dream Match and Shinsuke Nakamura’s WWE Debut Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura Prior to April 1, 2016, I had seen one match involving Nakamura, and it was before his breakout persona that ultimately led to his Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame induction as well as his departure from NJPW to WWE. It was an absolutely FANTASTIC ****1/2 level tag match on March 1, 2009 in NOAH, with Nakamura & Milano Collection AT being total cunts in a brutal collision against Go Shiozaki & Takashi Sugiura. While I am absolutely aware of his legendary status and current star power, I know damn well just from that one match during his “so-so” period as a personality that he is an elite performer. Without question, Nakamura has already stood out from the majority of other outsider debuts for WWE, displaying perfect charisma and personality just during his entrance, completely in tune with WWE's style of production. Amazing how that happens when WWE caters to the talent’s natural habits instead of forcing a playbook on that talent. The pre-match and early off-the-charts atmosphere that I recall experiencing in person translate masterfully to the broadcast version, displaying what a truly historic match this is. The bell hasn’t been rung yet and this is already the 2010s decade version of the Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi epic. Nakamura's mind games are immediately on display, showcasing just fantastic psychology and even more personality, but Zayn has done his homework, evading Nakamura's deadly stomps and kicks. Nakamura looks like he may not have done as much studying as he should have, getting placed in arm twists and arm drags while Zayn returned the taunting from minutes earlier. The Hall of Famer seems to know he did himself a disservice, getting vicious with surprise knees to Zayn's gut and then targeting the left arm. He cuts off Zayn's comeback attempt with an Enziguri-style knee to the face, then cuts off the former NXT Champ with a spinning heel kick. Zayn finally cuts Nakamura off via a snap suplex, then unleashes standard offense to wear down the company's newest top free agent signing. They exchange forearm strikes in the corner, causing Nakamura to topple to the outside. Rather than get aggressive, Zayn lets Nakamura get on the apron, leaving him prone to a kick to the face and follow-up knees to the skull. This gets a wonderful reaction as the action gets back into the ring, triggering dueling chants in the process. Zayn's attempted counters to the swaggering Nakamura's corner knees are for naught, as he gets placed on the top rope and eats one anyway. Moments later, Zayn outsmarts the overzealous Nakamura, causing him to dive to the outside. This time, Zayn wastes no time with a Pescado on the outside, and then a crossbody inside the ring for a near-fall. Nakamura blocks a suplex attempt with a knee to the skull, then follows that up with some more as well. He runs the ropes which is a mistake, as it allows Zayn to block him and hit a deadly Michinoku Driver. They then have a mid-ring forearm exchange that has Dallas rocking, and Nakamura's nose is now bleeding. Both are running on fumes at this point as the crowd gives the continued exchange a standing ovation. Zayn tries bouncing off the ropes for balance and momentum, leaving him prone to Nakamura forearms, knees, stomps, and kicks. Nakamura seems to get cocky when he runs the ropes, for Zayn hits a lariat and then a clothesline; a second clotheslines attempt puts Zayn in position to get locked into a cross armbar submission, but Zayn clasps his hands to block it, so Nakamura goes for a Triangle Choke. Zayn twists a bit so that he can stomp on Nakamura's head and get the hold broken. Zayn returns the favor from earlier with stomps to the head, then scouts Nakamura's forearms with a counter into the Reverse STO and follow-up Koji Clutch. Nakamura turns his positioning for a near-fall, then cuts off Zayn with another Enziguri to daze Zayn. At this point the crowd breaks into a "Fight Forever!" chant, a true display of respect and admiration from the audience. Zayn blocks an Inverted Exploder attempt, only to eat more knees. Nakamura goes into the corner for my favorite moment of the match, proving that indeed, he did his homework by blocking Zayn's Yakuza kick. With Zayn's leg stuck on the top turnbuckle, Nakamura takes advantage with a successful Inverted Exploder, but Zayn shows he did his homework by avoiding the Bomaye, then hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for an off-the-charts near-fall, bringing the crowd to a frenzy. Considering I can't think of one time that move has actually finished a match for Zayn, it's a testament to these two that they had us biting. Nakamura lands a high kick counter when Zayn goes for his through-the-ropes Tornado DDT in yet another highlight. Both are highly fatigued and Nakamura can't hit whatever he has in mind off the top rope, so Zayn goes for what I assume is a Top Rope Brainbuster, but Nakamura blocks it. Zayn tries to hit a Corner Exploder on a running Nakamura, but that's blocked with elbows to the head, then gets followed with a knee to the back of the head, then it finally ends with the Bomaye Knee, bringing this work of art to its masterful conclusion, and not just for this match, but for Zayn's NXT tenure. Post-match, both show the obvious respect that only grew even more after this all-time classic as the crowd thanks Zayn, knowing this is his NXT swan song. Zayn is left alone to get the standing ovation he earned, marking the end of an era. In one night, Nakamura proved he was ready to do whatever WWE needed him to do, be it the face of a brand, a solid hand on the undercard, a workhorse groomer for other future main-eventers, or maybe even a tippy-top star. Everything he did was on point from the moment he stepped through the curtain both before and after the match. His entrance, his mannerisms, his offense, his psychology, all of it was just flawless. For Zayn, this match was critical in showing he still had elite workrate capabilities in him, which seemed to possibly no longer be the case since his return from shoulder surgery a few months earlier. For one man, it was the perfect beginning, for the other, the perfect finale. The only way to have made this even better would’ve been to have this close the event, and Zayn’s post-match goodbye to be interrupted by Kevin Owens. It’d had fit everyone’s characters and only further given last-minute extra heat to their ladder match coming less than 48 hours later at WrestleMania 32. This is simply the best match I saw all weekend this past April in Dallas, better than any of the spectacular and genuinely great shit involving the likes of Owens, the Revival, Chris Hero, Will Ospreay, Fred Yehi, Ricochet, AJ Styles, Marty Scurll, Zack Sabre, Jr. and others to come later on this same card. This truly felt like a historic match in person, and on the broadcast I felt that I was watching an all-time important mega match on par with The Rock vs. Triple H at SummerSlam 1998, Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21, and Edge vs. John Cena at TLC 2006. The electricity in the building was absolutely undeniable and added to what would've already been a fantastic match just based on the ring work of both performers. Even further, this surpasses the Undertaker vs. Triple H "End of an Era" Hell in a Cell masterpiece from WrestleMania XXVIII as the second-greatest match I've ever witnessed in person. So with that in mind, I will add this quote from my review of the only match I have ranked above it on this list, that being Bryan Danielson vs. Roderick Strong from ROH's Vendetta: This is a match stockpiled with moments that I'll remember for the rest of my life, and serves as a reminder that despite current financial difficulties, if I can find the money to end up being in Orlando this spring and override my recent cancellation of it (a certain Phenomenal main event would be enough to convince me), then I'll be there. I will cherish this match forever, a match that surpasses Sasha Banks vs. Bayley from Takeover: Brooklyn as the greatest match in NXT history. Last but not least: if this does not end up being The Road to Takeover: Orlando & WrestleMania 33 Match of the Year, then holy motherfucking shit are we in for an historic year of workrate from WWE. ***** NXT Women’s Title Match Bayley vs. Asuka An early submission exchange gets broken when Asuka strikes Bayley's face, which is a nice message to send. This isn't gonna be a monster heel or arrogant opponent trying to keep Bayley down; Asuka will just come right for the fucking throat. This is further proven when Asuka lands kicks, but Bayley tries to show she can strike to, although Asuka has the ultimate advantage early. Bayley scouts a running butt-butt after having just experienced one seconds earlier, allowing hereto get the advantage. After various attacks, a clotheslines attempt is turned into an arm submission by Asuka. Bayley quickly regains the heat by ducking corner roundhouse kicks. She puts Asuka in the Tree of Woe, allowing for an elbow drop. Asuka ends up on a turnbuckle and eats a Hurricanrana, then gets placed in the guillotine choke. Unlike Nia Jax, Asuka doesn't fall to this, instead positioning it into an ankle lock submission. Bayley throws her out of the ring, but the left ankle damage is done. Despite the damage, Bayley hits a head-scissors on the outside before bringing Asuka back in the ring. Asuka gets fighting spirit from Bayley's strikes and uses that to regain the heat with various attacks, including numerous kicks. Bayley finally scouts the kicks by blocking one and hitting a forearm, only to eat a knee strike to the head and then a Shining Wizard for a near-fall. Bayley scouts another butt-butt and turns it into a backdrop suplex after Asuka attempts to block it. After ducking an Enziguri, Bayley eats an immediate follow-up kick to the face, and both go down sour and fatigued. After a brief stalemate, they have a strike exchange which would seem to favor Asuka, only for Bayley to catch a kick and turn it into an ankle lock submission of her own, then drives Asuka's right knee onto the mat. She then targets Asuka's left leg, which is perfect to fuck up the base and kicking abilities. That's for naught, as Asuka catches Bayley's arm for a cross arm bar submission. Asuka even gets into position for a hyperextension, but Bayley escapes for a couple near-fall pin attempts. Asuka goes for the Asuka Lock, but Bayley has that scouted. She follows up with more signature attacks, then hyper-extended Asuka's shoulders in a submission that won her the Iron Man match against Sasha Banks. That's turned into a pin attempt, so the champ goes for the belly-to-belly suplex, which is blocked of course. Asuka ducks a clothesline, hits a roundhouse kick, a snap suplex, and then locks in the cross arm bar submission again. Asuka's attempt at the Asuka Lock again is almost broken by a rope grab, but the challenger drags her down on the mat in the middle of the ring. The champ won't give up, but Asuka gets her back down on the mat, and there's no escape, as Bayley passes out for this historic title change. This was definitely a great match with a terrific story of Bayley being resilient but outmatched, while obviously hurt by following Zayn vs. Nakamura, further evidence that the match placement on this card was flawed. The finish was perfect, as it makes Asuka even more of a juggernaut while making Bayley even more deserving of an inevitable rematch. This could've possibly been a MOTYC had it not followed Nakamura's epic debut. **** NXT Title Match Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe Former TNA Champion BOBBY FUCKING ROODE is sitting front row. OH FUCK YES~! Balor uses a Texas Chainsaw Massacre gimmick as part of his entrance; such a novelty would be the entrance of the evening on a normal night. Joe came into this one seemingly with the dominant strategy that would indicate a title change in storyline. However the early bleeding on his face early was enough to keep this even and allow Balor to avoid any sustained disadvantage. Even with Joe scouting some of Balor’s signature moves, the blood loss clearly affected Joe’s ability to relentlessly deliver his standard punishment from his prime a decade or so earlier. The crowd of course got fucking irritated with the match being paused at points to fix Joe’s bleeding face, breaking out in chants of “Let Joe bleed!” and “Fuck PG!” Wrestling fans really are as low on the intellectual totem pole as stereotyped; if were truly creative and zesty with displaying our sense of entitlement, we’d have screamed shit such as “Let him gush blood!” and “Fuck these doctors!” and “Fuck your sponsors!” and “Fuck his safety!” Joe did himself no favors in storyline with the WWE clichéd shocked facial expression after Balor kicked out of the musclebuster. This was time wasted in which Joe could’ve delivered additional punishment on the NXT brand’s absolute best competitor, and it allowed Balor to make an easy comeback and win the match with by countering the Coquina Clutch with the same finish Bret Hart used at WrestleMania VIII and Survivor Series 1996. At least the finishing moments were red-hot, a sign that this match had the potential to be a MOTYC even after a far hotter, more newsworthy piece of history earlier on the card. Even had Joe not been busted open early, it was a clear mistake to close with this match. Here’s why: as soon as the bookers got cold feet on a title change, then the crystal-clear peak of the show was going to be Nakamura’s live debut, along with the fact that everyone with common sense knew this was Zayn’s final night on the brand. Having Zayn vs. Nakamura close the evening allows for the anticipation of that historic dream match to continue building just a bit longer, and having Owens ruin the Zayn’s post-match swan song ceremony closes out the event with more buzz for WrestleMania 32, which is supposed to be the grandest event EVER in company history due to Jerry World’s attendance size. By doing this, the crowd also isn’t quite as drained for Bayley vs. Asuka, and that title change is therefore more impactful for those in attendance. As is, this is a very good match that wasn’t just handicapped by Joe’s blood loss, but by flawed match order on the card. ***3/4 Easily the North American show of the year that I’d sentimentally put on par with Punk: The Final Chapter. Like that show, the reasons are obvious here. This was worth every penny spent on the vacation I took in Texas…easily. NXT @ WrestleMania 32 Axxess – April 2, 2016 Taped from Dallas, TX The following aired on April 13, 2016: NXT Champion Finn Balor knows that Shinsuke Nakamura’s ultimate goal in NXT is the obvious, which will be to become NXT Champion. This would seem to indicate that either Nakamura will be gunning for it VERY, VERY soon, or he’s gonna be exclusive to NXT for a lengthy period of time. Earlier in the day, NXT Tag Champions American Alpha bask in an empty Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore arrive to congratulate and make the challenge for the NXT dream tag match, even if it’s non-title. Bayley vows to reclaim the NXT Women’s Title in the future, and that the defeat to Asuka will not break her. American Alpha vs. Cassady & Amore is next week in a non-title match, as is Samoa Joe vs. Apollo Crews in a first time ever matchup. The following aired on April 20, 2016: American Alpha vs. Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore – *** No Way Jose makes his debut after a few weeks of hype videos. Seems fun and energetic, and upon first impression doesn’t give off a big money vibe, more of a curtain-jerker to make the crowd feel welcome on the card. Who knows, maybe he’ll be more than that, after all, Colt Cabana went on to headline the greatest ROH show ever in a violent feud-ender against Homicide. Samoa Joe vs. Apollo Crews – *** The following aired on April 27, 2016: NXT Women’s Champion Asuka has a stare down with Nia Jax, which would seem to indicate the next Takeover direction for that division. This follows up on the tease at Takeover: London, and Asuka vs. Bayley II makes far more sense for Takeover: Brooklyn II. The Revival mince no words in stating they’re aiming to reclaim the NXT Tag Titles.
  11. Slingblade is like saying Roaring Elbow. It's Sliding Blade. Don't be a fucking weaboo Michael Cole. God this match sucked. Two terrible quasi cool heels whose acting looks like they're cosplaying Wile E. Coyote and whose trash talk wouldn't impress kindergatners. Rollins' pentaly kick was one of the most cringeworthy things I've seen in a wrestling. "I hate you so much I'm gonna do a.....Corkscrew Neckbreaker! Yeah! Take that!" They even did a no sell sequence! They must have loved this match on reddit. Between Owens' looking how to set up a table for two minutes and "accidentally" spraying the ref with a fire extinguisher this is coming off like a self conscious trainwreck. Maybe if Jericho came in earlier he could've carried this to a three star match. I'm seeing people chained and Powerbombed through two tables and thinking there's no way they'll win. Where did it all go wrong? The Overdrive was a finisher when I started watching it wasn't THAT long ago Jesus. How many Superkicks and Powerbombs do they need to hit before they end this? Rollins fighting back against both Jericho and Owens was less believable than anything Cena's ever done during his ace run. What a mess. *
  12. Things I liked: Cesaro's Suplex counter to Rusev's Camel Clutch and that whole sequence between them (tho I find it laughable someone could go crazy over 2016 Cesaro and shit on everything in New Japan when stuff like the no-sell Lariat Cesaro busted out here is such an obvious rip from that style), Balor inexplicably targeting Rusev's balls and Owen's bigger moves (Fireman's Carry Neckbreaker and his Air Raid Crash variation both looked great). Things I didn't like: The brawling (Rusev's and Cesaro's punches in particular are lackluster, Rusev's strikes look good any time he's doing wacky forearm smashes and he should stick to them), everyone having to get all of their shit in and the obligatory tower of doom spot, Rusev not breaking up Owens' pin, awkward feeding (Owens' rolling out of the ring after being Dropkicked by Balor in the middle of the ring and Cesaro staring at an idiot at Rusev as he is about to eat a Superkick), kicks obviously not connecting (Rusev's spinning heel and Balor's Pele) and telegraphing the finish even more by having Balor sell the Powerbomb for as long as he did. All in all a pretty average and formulaic take on this type of match in the WWE style. **1/2
  13. Hey! I liked this a lot! It started out like your regular TV match but actually ended up being quite good, like a PWG match condensed into TV match time without it seeming like they were just trying to get all of their shit in. Pretty insane you get stuff like a Shooting Star Plancha on a throwaway TV match. I liked Neville's prolonged kick combo and his German Suplex bump was insane, usually when you have guys flip all the way it looks more like them doing a standing moonsault over the other guy than an actual German Suplex, here it looks like Neville was centimeters away from breaking his neck but it is ultimately a safe bump which is completely insane and something only a freak athlete like him could do. I do not care much for Owen's, he is pretty much a poor man's Chris Jericho, his trash talk is not as good and he doesn't have a scarf or a cool jacket, he did serve as a good base for Neville here and can definitely keep up with him in spot-fu. ***
  14. I wonder if Miz could've carried Steenerico to a great tag match like The Briscoes and Super Dragon did if this were a normal tag and not parejas increibles. I loved the way Miz cheapshoted Zayn off a Maryse distraction and him and Cesaro were way interesting at playing feuding partners than Zayn and Owens. Nice to see a novel concept executed well on Raw. Do wish Cesaro interrupted Miz's Giant Swing attempt a few moments later so we'd have gotten to see him fail but oh well, what can you do. **3/4
  15. I don't have a reddit so Owens' trash talk doesn't do much for me. Ryder is really good at organically setting up and building to spots by teasing them and countering his opponents' moves which is something I care about and is even more impressive when he's relegated to 2 minute squashes and manages to do that stuff in such a short amount of time.
  16. Miz at ringside instantly makes me care more about this one. Fun match that was basically just them going through a bunch of cool spots. Non-finish was fitting and probably added more to the storyline than a clean finish would've. Cesaro ripping Okada's Dropkick spots is cool but I don't really see why would he start using chops. **3/4
  17. Good match, they did some bigger spots and bumps but laid the match out nicely so their effect was maximized. The bumps AJ took on the barricade and on the missed Springboard Forearm were nuts and I liked how he tried to counter Owens' Headlock by grabbing his face. Generic screwy Raw finish with the face looking stupid but what can you do. ***
  18. Not sure exactly why I watched this but. Here we are. I don't know whether or not random crowd member was laughing at the early chop exchanges or something one of his lads said but the chop exchanges were indeed worthy of LOLing, luckily they don't build huge portions of the match around them. Ambrose busting out the Low Ki top elbows was cool. Owens has a good back elbow. Ambrose might have the worst Suicide Dive out of anyone who doesn't completely botch it. It just looks like crap. Holy shit Owens' Frog Splash is now a regular spot and looks amazing. IDK how else to talk about this kind of match where they just DO STUFF until the finish where they DO MORE STUFF and also faster. Match also includes the most hilarious Rebound Lariat ever. Average match of its kind.
  19. Kevin Owens is a good comedy wrestler but his hilarious trash talk and him posing to the hard cam and saying who's the man isn't stuff that is ever actually going to get real heat. Still his character feels very modern and there is the fact that he has to play to a big part of an audience that just isn't going to boo guys like him. Maybe they would if the workers TRIED, but Vince has obviously given up on classic face/heel dynamics so might as well enjoy the product for what it is. I really loved Cesaro in 2013 but I just haven't been impressed with his work lately. He's been tamed and everything that initially made him special isn't there anymore. Boring match. Why should I care about the limbwork when Cesaro's doing top rope gutwrench suplexes with a bad arm anyway? Boo/yay punch exchanges in a throwaway TV match are about as interesting as Hirooki Goto elbow exchanges. Unexpectedly sloppy at times too. Miz managed to outwork them both by making faces watching this backstage. Owens' fat man Frog Splash was awesome, I would like him more as a Super Porky tribute act. Finish was basically a modern New Japan finisher counter wank-fest so anyone who complains about that should be consistent in applying it.
  20. These kind of matches are often insane exhibitons of cool spots and athleticism that range from incredible to terrible. Sometimes they're just guys doing stuff and tower of doom spots and that's what this was. Owens' selling being thrown into the barricade by screaming the way he did is the kind of self conscious sell that reddit boys will look at and say "yeah! that ruled". It can never get real heat. The Miz would never do it. Jericho screaming "stay down you stupid man" is also too hilarious and stupid to get real heat in 2016. Owens' Package Powerbomb doesn't really look good or make sense, it got a good pop the first time but still it is very much "hey guys remember I used to do the Package Piledriver the cool move they don't let me do anymore *wink wink*". If there was one thing I liked about this it's that pins were broken up with head stomps, it's the kind of cool thing Choshu used to do. Outside of that this was very much a generic WWE fatal four way and not as good as the Miz match from the same show.
  21. The Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33559-the-road-to-wrestlemania-31-the-good-shit/ NXT at WrestleMania 31 Axxess – March 26, 2015 These matches aired on the April 8, 2015 broadcast Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal Neville vs. Hideo Itami Staredown triggers a “THIS IS AWESOME~!” chant, and it should for this is a dream match. Eight years ago, this could be manipulated into being ROH vs. PWG. Five years ago, NOAH vs. DG. Easily the best match of the tournament as this would be the only chance for these two to collide while in NXT based on plans in the very near future. While this of course didn’t reach greatness, they showed that such a match of that magnitude is capable in the future. Everything about this match was just so professional, from the mat wrestling (including a battle to gain leverage on hammerlock trades), Neville refusing to be the answer to the Go to Sleep trivia question, and Neville’s cut-offs when Itami took over in the middle and in the closing sequences. In particular, my favorite spot was a teased running corner dropkick from Itami, only to eat a perfectly timed superkick from Neville for a hot nearfall. Of course, the tease became reality since these two are so polished and experienced. This should’ve been the tournament final, and as someone who finds fan conventions totally useless, advertising a match like this ahead of time in the future would make me consider attending the session. ***1/2 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze Couldn’t come close to breaking ***, let alone the semifinal that this followed. This was paced as a fine TV or house show style match, nothing memorable whatsoever, but just enough for Balor to get his shit in and pop the crowd and lead to the rematch with Itami in the final. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Final Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami Nothing close to their first dream match in NXT’s prior tournament several weeks earlier and for understandable reasons, as both men are in their third matches of the evening, plus have matches booked the next night at San Jose State University. There really are no complaints to make here, as the match was good but nothing special, which is exactly where it needed to land to leave the crowd happy. Itami pulls off the major upset though, which shouldn’t have been with so much Japanese media in town due to Tatsumi Fujinami’s HOF induction. *** Crazy food for thought: I never, ever prior to 2014 would’ve thought I’d see KENTA on the same WrestleMania card as Sting. WrestleMania 31 Tag Titles Match Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston The SF native Usos are of course decked in 49ers colors, and it’s an obvious shame that Jey had the busted shoulder and could only come out to soak in the moment without getting to do anything physical whatsoever. Gut-wrenching, as them winning the straps in a standard tag from the champs to open the PPV broadcast would’ve been something special. The champs and hometown boys are of course the most over, while the New Day are still like a wet fart, looking hopeless to ever catch on. Now as for this match, I hated it on broadcast viewing. Sure it was a fun spotfest live, but the broadcast version exposed this as nothing more than a TNA “go out there and do a video game” match. That’s probably not a coincidence with Rudy Charles as the assigned referee, and this was the first WWE match I think I’ve ever seen in which a referee failed to keep track of who was legal. The match wasn’t THAT crazy to justify such sloppy officiating. Others will love this more than me, but I have no use for this in ROH, PWG, or TNA, let alone WWE, especially on the industry’s grandest card of the entire year. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Decent battle royale that didn’t quite live up to the original’s finishing stretch. The segments to mention were of course Show eliminating Itami like a complete, utter jabroni, thus making his appearance useless, as him getting to the final four would’ve done quite a bit to build the NXT brand. Cesaro got his moment to shine by scoop-slamming Kane out of the ring, only for Show to get his win back over him from the prior year. Then of course Damien Sandow (Mizdow) got fed up with the Miz’s bullshit, eliminating him to have a fun final with Show. Show won for what would be obvious reasons at the conclusion of the event, although I sensed live during this match, and now believe even more so with the narrative forced by the commentary when Show won, that Sandow should’ve gone over here. The reason isn’t even about Sandow being the hot hand at the time, although that plays a part (Miz could destroy the trophy leading to their singles match at the next PPV, and maybe it actually would’ve caught on as a singles program for a few months.) Instead, I believe with how limited Show has been in terms of being the slightest bit of an interesting character in 2015, having him choke in this match for a second straight year could’ve made for a compelling undercard narrative going into WrestleMania 32 – would the third time be the charm for Show? Show him preparing for what he feels is his rightful prize in training videos, cutting promos/interviews explaining what it’d mean to him due to the Andre comparisons, etc. Then he is an actual force in that match at AT&T Stadium, perhaps the last highlight of a long and successful career, even though it never reached quite the level of Andre’s. IC Title – Ladder Match Wade Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Daniel Bryan Fun gimmick match to open the PPV portion although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a memorable ladder match. There were stunts in this match, although nothing was timed and delivered to be on par with the memorable spots of prior ladder matches such as the Shawn Michaels splash, Edge leaping spear, etc. Having three of the most organically popular babyfaces (Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry) thrown in a match with four geeks obviously didn’t help either. If any moments were standout, they’d have to be the dumbest one and the finish. Ambrose got pushed off by Harper and fell off of a ladder in the ring, onto a ladder platform outside the ring. Now with this being the biggest show of the year, this is the time to do a stupid stunt like that, but I’d have reservations had I been in his shoes, as this spot on the card was clearly beneath him and the other two legitimate stars shoehorned into this match. Those other two provided the other standout moment as Ziggler and D-Bry exchanged headbutts on the ladder, with D-Bry of course winning thanks to experience against Nigel McGuinness, and claiming the IC Title. Quite the lazy way to pacify those upset with D-Bry’s booking since returning a few months earlier, but if anyone could make that belt mean something again, he’s the very best choice. ***1/2 Since WWE was adamant about having a ladder match on this show, here was one of the million ideas I had in fantasy booking: Seth Rollins is forced (thanks to Sting somehow getting leverage on the Authority) into putting the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line against the five guys (minus Roman Reigns) he and his buddies had violated the most since his betrayal of the Shield. That would be Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry, Ryback, and Randy Orton. That provides a loaded ladder match, that also manages to put two of the company favorites and the three fanbase favorites as mentioned all in a marquee match for the event, as well as providing quite the compelling story for a match since Rollins would see everything he had gained potentially blow up in his face. Now speaking of the two company favorites I was referring to… Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton Rollins is of course accompanied by J&J Security. My favorite match of the night in person, and maybe still even with something else later on objectively edging this out quite a bit. What I love so much about this match is that it not only overcame the shitty booking since Orton’s return several weeks earlier, but this felt the most like a sporting competition compared to everything else on the card. Sure, J&J Security got involved a little bit and were quickly dispatched by Orton, but that was as minimal as possible. This looked like a match in which both men went to the film room and put in their proper time studying one another. There were great counters and blocks all over this match, plus excellent teases. Whether it was Rollins dodging an early Ace Crusher attempt, or blocking a powerslam only to eat one seconds later, this was a purist’s dream for me. In person, this was an excellent match, but on broadcast with polished production, this held up many months later, and the finish of Rollins going for the SR curb stomp, only for his momentum to backfire and see himself lifted to helplessly fall into a perfectly timed Ace Crusher, is gonna be played in highlight reels and talked about for years to come, no matter how uncomfortable WWE is about the stomp. This lived up to my expectations after the classic they had months earlier in Buffalo. **** Dream Match and Sting’s WWE Debut Match Sting vs. Triple H It sure seemed strange to have two of the most promoted matches taking place so early on the card, but I’ll explain why it was actually quite brilliant in my overall assessment of this event at the end of this review. Charles Robinson is the assigned referee, and I shudder to think had it been someone else not familiar with Sting. This may not have been as much fun live if it wasn’t for him. Unlike HHH’s prior WrestleMania match, I’m not going to provide the detailed move by move analysis. This match wasn’t about putting on a technical masterpiece to pay off an angle several months in the making. Instead, this was about providing a dream match for lapsed fans that yearn for the business to feel like the days of the Monday Night War. Now with that said, the first thing I’m going to address is the storyline going into this match. This was a blood feud based on vigilantism vs. corruption and oppression, so this match based on that storyline shouldn’t have relied on the retro faction warfare smoke and mirrors it got. This match certainly needed to have its smoke and mirrors, as NEITHER man looked to be in the best shape from an appearance or conditioning standpoint, but structured more like a brawl. While color was also obviously being saved for later on the card, I believe it was absolutely essential to have here both for the storyline and hide the shortcomings of both performers, and that it wouldn’t take away from the color in another match later. The decision to have the original New World Order and D-Generation X, while providing for a fun, unforgettable segment, was extremely out of place for the storyline developed between Sting and HHH. Don’t get me wrong – it was something to see the two hottest factions of the Monday Night War finally collide, and I never thought the day would come in which SHAWN MICHAELS GIVES STING THE SUPERKICK. That was definitely a surreal moment. I’m going to analyze that decision and its effect on this match even more. I had been critical that Sting’s perspective shouldn’t have been so limited going into this show, and that it should’ve been hammered down the audience’s throat that the Authority reminded him of the nWo being such a destructive cancer and leading cause in WCW’s death (his mission would be to save WWE from a similar fate.) While that dynamic was mentioned in one great video, it was so brief while the Authority hogged so much mic and screen time that even a detailed viewer like me practically blinked and missed it at the time. So DX comes to help out HHH, and then the nWo comes out minutes later. Some may question that based on Sting’s history with the nWo. Why would they come out to help? The reasons are layered – it’s an opportunity for Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to appear on the biggest show of the year, so of course they’ll take it. Also, let’s remember (as much as none of you want to) that when the nWo splintered into separate factions, Sting joined the Wolfpac version. Also while in TNA, Sting has shown he no longer held a grudge against any of those three, teaming with and aiding them on multiple occasions. WWE would never mention these details of course, but they exist. In addition, the original nWo are all backstage at Levi’s Stadium, see someone they went to war with and against getting manhandled by D-Generation X. Why wouldn’t they wanna come help out someone they respect, while also feeling a sense of competitive pride dating back to the Monday Night War to prove who the alpha faction of that time truly is? With that part of the analysis out of the way, I move on to this. The way this match was structured, including DX and nWo involvement/brawling, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and HBK attacking Sting to benefit HHH, this didn’t belong in 2015 at all, not even thinking about the vigilante vs. authority angle. This entire segment should’ve taken place at WrestleMania X8 or WrestleMania XIX, with it leading to the Sting vs. Shawn Michaels dream match at the following year’s WrestleMania. The timing would have been far more appropriate with the War wounds far fresher, it’d lead to a hot match nobody could’ve even thought would become reality, and it’s a shame that couldn’t happen as WWE’s insistence on pussy-footing around with established WCW talent rubbed Sting the wrong way after WCW’s death. With all of this said – this was a hell of a spectacle, even with Sting and HHH appearing to both get gassed or out of sync at points. And I’ve no problem with the handshake afterwards – HHH was the one that offered it, both men having earned each other’s respect and moving on despite what lead to their dream showdown. I’d have had Sting win of course for the obvious reasons, but this definitely contributed to me getting my money’s worth live. For the next half hour or so, the show is all filler. A mini concert. A meaningless divas match pitting the Bella Twins against Paige & AJ Lee (I’m sure Divas champ Nikki tapping clean to Lee’s Octopus hold will lead to something, I just know it will), and then the HOF recognition segment. While many hate filler and I’d usually argue against this as I strongly prefer cards to be structured in order of match importance, it worked for me here for two reasons, one which I’ll list here. This half hour or so of pure filler gave me time to walk around Levi’s Stadium while still in daylight and take in the surrounding Santa Clara beauty. HIGHLY suggested for everyone to do the same when at this venue. US Title Match Rusev vs. John Cena By far the hottest, most sensible angle coming into this show, it’s just a shame that this didn’t quite live up to its buildup or even their first match several weeks earlier. This was of course a good match, but it’s not a compliment when stating the best moment was Rusev’s tank entrance (the night’s best gimmick entrance by far), no matter how spectacular that particular piece of production was. Before I explain why this didn’t quite live up to the hype, especially for this being Rusev’s year-in-the-making first loss, the match had its bright spots. Everything was clean and crisp, nothing sloppy like Sting vs. HHH, and I appreciated Cena’s overall no-nonsense demeanor throughout the match. That sold his perception of Rusev as a threat and also his patriotic anger. Rusev also got his fair moments of dominance and had to really work to lock in the Camel Clutch, but of course it finally wouldn’t work out for him. As for why I found this disappointing, which my star rating won’t reflect, is mostly because this didn’t have a super-hot finishing competitive stretch of epic proportions as it deserved. For Rusev’s historic loss, a year in the making, on the year’s grandest stage, more effort should’ve been placed in showing just how difficult that task would’ve been for Cena, similar to how opponents of the Seahawks have felt for the past four years. A distraction sports-entertainment finish thanks to Lana, while obviously leading to a breakup between her and Rusev that those behind the scenes would want, didn’t add to the primary story. Rusev wouldn’t have been hurt by losing without the sports-entertainment booking; but his stock certainly hurt by being down for the count after just one Death Valley Driver, rather than a series of nail-biting nearfalls that would’ve had us all in attendance jumping up and down with emotion. Like the IC Title with D-Bry earlier in the evening, if the plan is for the US Title to have its prestige raised after a solid Rusev reign, Cena certainly is the best pick possible. ***1/4 In the next segment, the Authority gloat over the supposed attendance record and that they drew the box office, rubbing in HHH’s victory over Sting. To be clear, that wasn’t disrespect from HHH towards Sting, but towards the audience for relying on Sting to get the job done and thinking he could take the Authority down and serve them the same humble pie as the Shield and D-Bry did in 2014. Speaking of pie, out came the Rock, predictably so after the Authority threw in a “millions” remark, What followed is one of the greatest segments I’ve ever experienced live and has been discussed to death in what looked to be leading to a huge crossover match the next year at AT&T Stadium. Rock got the cheap pop talking about his very early days in the Bay Area and got slapped by Stephanie McMahon, then convinced Ronda Rousey to come into the ring and help him knock the Authority down a peg. Not quite on par for me personally with the Championship Ascension Ceremony in Seattle, but definitely an all-time WrestleMania moment that blew Rock, Hogan, and Steve Austin’s segment a year earlier out of the water. Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker Live, this match looked like a sloppy mess to me. That’s explainable as Wyatt reportedly rolled his ankle earlier in the day during warmups or walk-throughs, and he’s not elite enough to overcome that. On broadcast, this match was still nothing special and arguably felt like a waste of time, but Taker still looked a bit lethargic and broken down, albeit still significantly healthier than a year earlier when he was concussed. Of course, Taker gets the win to show he’s still got it, and leaving Wyatt, one of the most pushed acts on the roster without any clear storyline direction. Whatever, the crowd popped for it. WWE Title Match Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns Now of course, was this the right main event? I still say no, even with how shockingly great this turned out to be, as the “right main event” I’m referring to has the potential on paper to be a true all-time classic for the industry should it ever actually occur. Now with that said, I went into Levi’s Stadium, despite how disappointing the Reigns push was, hoping these two would give me my money’s worth and prove everybody wrong that was concerned about the predicted lack of chemistry these two would have. And I’m happy to say that I was totally wrong in that regard. Start to finish, this entire presentation was top-notch art. In a match perfectly structured for each other’s strengths, they went out and smashed it for the top prize in the industry. From Lesnar getting the early domination segment (in a manner far more captivating than Kane or Big Show struggled to reach against Reigns in the months leading up to this), to Reigns smiling to show he could absorb the pain that the Beast Incarnate unleashed upon him, to Lesnar juicing after being slammed head-first into a ring post to transition to Reigns shining, I could not have asked for a better match from these two. It wasn’t just the structure of this match, or even the off-the-charts, unforgettable finish that made this a special match between two bad-ass heavyweights. The crowd provided an AMAZING big fight atmosphere that translated exceptionally well to the broadcast, and I can say that live it was a pleasure to be a part of. Lesnar was the hottest babyface on the roster, and Reigns through no fault of his own was the biggest heel to a significant portion of those in the Bay Area that weekend. Now as for the finish, nobody could’ve really seen it coming after the booking of the prior several weeks and Lesnar signing a contract extension just days earlier. But to see Seth Rollins, the former Tyler Black, sprint to the ring once Reigns had knocked down Lesnar (but still struggling himself to take advantage thanks to the former UFC World Heavyweight Champion’s brutality), and successfully cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase, was a rewarding live experience I’ll remember forever, reminding me of why I remain a fan of such an often-disappointing niche industry after 18 years. He had worked his ass off to achieve the Shawn Michaels spot I foresaw for him a year earlier, and it was the right call to make to give the company a chance to (hopefully) re-evaluate the path for Reigns to reach his inevitable coronation. Plus, Reigns seeing a bit of humility doesn’t hurt him, and Lesnar is still protected since he didn’t do the job. This also adds a layer to the choice Rollins made to sell out and destroy the Shield, in what I hope one day will pay off in that particular threeway dream match so many of us yearn for. ****1/2 Coming out of this show, many who attended it, including Dave Meltzer himself, said this may have been the greatest WrestleMania of all-time. That was a bit hyperbolic, but as someone who has attended every WrestleMania since the 25th edition at the now-named NRG Stadium, this is right behind WrestleMania XXVI in Phoenix as the best one I’ve attended as an overall event and experience. I had mentioned earlier that this show used an unusual but very satisfying format. With many months to have slept on it, it was actually BRILLIANT to split the card into pretty much two halves, with the first half closing with the Sting vs. HHH co-main event prior to going on what was in reality a halftime/intermission show before getting to Rusev vs. Cena to kick off the second half. This allowed those in attendance to get snacks and use the restroom without missing anything important, and for me personally I used the time to admire the geographic and new money beauty surrounding Levi’s Stadium. This was a WrestleMania with two great matches, one of them a MOTYC, plus THREE absolutely unforgettable WrestleMania moments, including a historic first-ever MITB cash-in on the grandest stage (poetically a decade after the concept’s birth), Sting’s first ever WWE match, and what appeared to hopefully be signs of the company re-evaluating some of its storytelling mentalities, both with the one that seems destined to be its next face, as well as two midcard titles that were now placed on true champions. This review isn't quite done yet though. I must throw in my two cents regarding two special documentaries highlighting the WrestleMania 31 journeys of Hideo Itami and Roman Reigns, the former airing on NXT's April 8, 2015 broadcast, the other being a WWE 24 episode. As has been said over and over again, I don't care how much time and money these types of pieces cost, they should be happening more frequently. How anyone could watch these documentaries and not feel some kind of connection to Itami and Reigns, who obviously came from VERY different backgrounds and would both leave Levi's Stadium empty-handed in storyline, would be truly baffling. Not only do these documentaries do a great job of highlighting its particular superstars, but the engulfing experience that is WrestleMania weekend and why everyone should enjoy it first-hand at least once.
  22. I really loved the heel stalling from Owens that kicked this match off. This was very similar to the Cena-Rusev match as far as layout, at least before Sami's head bump, although Zayn is much easier to get behind at this point and shows great aggression. He really should be at worst one of the top three or four guys on the main roster. Owens was good here, but I think Zayn's selling, offense and commitment to his character was top notch. It was a great performance from him. I like how Owens can use his highspots in a way that doesn't take away from him as a heel. I thought this was really great booking and losing the title without losing the match was a great way to get both guys over stronger than they were coming in. Best match of the month for me at this point. ****1/2
  23. The Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ WrestleMania XXX HUGE kudos to the production crew. Fantastic stage setting and appropriate lighting for a venue that is generally an eyesore for those watching on TV. Tag Titles - Elimination Match The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Real Americans vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel Fun match with all kinds of crowd-popping spots, including El Torito getting his shit in. Cesaro was of course the star of the match, continuing his momentum that had been ongoing since CM Punk's abrupt vanishing from WWE. Every time he got on offense, the crowd became hotter. Any time someone cut him off or got offense on him, extremely audible jeers. What matters most obviously is that Cesaro lost the final fall to the Usos, which live at the time seemed puzzling since he was clearly ascending to a substantial position on the roster, while Jack Swagger was an established mid-carder after multiple attempts at various pushes. But the Real Americans had come into this match with tension, an angle I had failed to mention as I reviewed the journey to this event. Swagger therefore shit on Cesaro much to Zeb Coulter's dismay for the loss, then placed the ankle lock on the former King of Wrestling. After Coulter convinced Swagger to stop and shake hands to apologize, Cesaro finally gave into the crowd's demand, delivering the anticipated giant swing to the former NCAA All-American as the audience popped huge. This had been building for several weeks and was perfectly timed and positioned on the card, as this was part of the free pre-show as a final way to entice anyone on the fence about ordering. *** The Three Icons of the WrestleMania Era The actual PPV portion of the event kicks off with the greatest, most charismatic talking segment in WrestleMania history, as host Hulk Hogan comes out to fire the crowd up and twice mistakenly refers to the evening's venue as the Silverdome, then catches himself when the crowd gives him a hard time over it. Minutes into this, his promo is interrupted by Steve Austin, and they have a staredown, making all long-time and lapsed fans sad we never got that dream match. Austin cuts his own great promo to fire up the crowd, giving Hogan a hard time for the Silverdome flub. He also puts Hogan over huge, showing a side that had significantly mellowed out since his big-leaguing of the fellow HOFer a dozen years earlier. But we're not done here, as the Rock interrupted to further electrify the crowd. Rock went through his routine that always works because he knows what the fuck he's doing when he grabs a microphone. He then says we have two icons in the ring that truly paved the way for two of the biggest babyfaces for tonight's event. Before John Cena was telling kids to live and die by hustle, loyalty, and respect, there was Hogan telling the previous generation's kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers. Before Daniel Bryan faced his oppression at the hands of corrupt power figures, there was Austin raising hell every week on Vince McMahon and company. They close out the segment putting each other over, each doing their promo-closing routine one at a time. This is a segment I will never forget experiencing live, one truly deserving of being placed on the grandest stage. WWE Title Shot Match Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan The PPV matches kick off with the primary match of the evening, obviously to make sure the winner would have time to rest for his earned spot in the main event. Stephanie McMahon introduces her husband, who has an awesomely OTT entrance, sitting on a throne and dressing like Shao Khan, just completely saying through this sequence that he thumbed his nose at his scheduled opponent for the evening. In contrast, D-Bry came out with the long hippy hair, bushy beard, and just regular gear, truly setting the story for anyone not familiar with the events that led to this dream match. D-Bry's left shoulder is heavily taped due to the damage inflicted upon it the past couple months. Before the opening bell, the Authority have an intimate kiss, completely rubbing it in that they're happy and successful, then HHH looks at the former WWE Champion ever so smugly. The Game offers a handshake, which D-Bry obviously rejects by kicking the hand and trying to get this matchup over early with a schoolboy pin. D-Bry goes on a fury, but HHH takes a quick powder to ensure no momentum is built. HHH looks to cut off D-Bry's superior technical wrestling and striking, but D-Bry cuts him off to regain momentum, making HHH's cut off merely a hope spot and then gets a headlock takedown. He easily gets out of HHH's head-scissors as fans of the indy scene during the 2000s had the pleasure of seeing him do on a nightly basis. HHH during a headlock gets D-Bry in a corner and goes after the left arm, but D-Bry doesn't allow that to go on long at all, unleashing more furious kicks to the crowd's delight. But HHH catches the left leg and drops it STO style, showing off why he has such a cerebral reputation. However, even that doesn't really go anywhere for the time being, as D-Bry prevents HHH from dragging him into a corner for more limb work. He charges at the first-ballot HOFer multiple times, including doing a front flip off the top rope which looked to be a bad landing for someone with a well-documented injury history. As D-Bry continues owning HHH, Steph attempts to verbally troll him, knowing damn well her husband is getting his ass kicked so far. HHH crotches D-Bry as he goes for another top-rope move, finally gaining some significant heat over the former multi-promotional champion. He follows that up with a charge to knock D-Bry down to the floor in front of the commentary tables. He attempts a Pedigree on one of those tables, but D-Bry blocks it and fights back, only for HHH to grab the severely pained left arm and slam it onto the table! At this point the commentary team, which has often been justifiably criticized, did a phenomenal job in selling HHH's craftiness. JBL in particular really put over the brilliant bluffing HHH pulled on D-Bry, going after the left leg early to make it seem like he wouldn't target the left arm. This was critical in showing that while the stakes were incredibly high and the emotions going into this even higher, this was also a matchup of two of the most gifted in-ring psychologists in the history of the business. HHH of course became merciless on D-Bry's left arm, slamming it down with various moves and locking submissions aplenty, including a modified London Dungeon. But even THAT is short, as it looks like D-Bry is about to regain momentum when he throws off HHH to the outside and goes for a tope suicida, only to get cut off by the Game before flying through the ropes. HHH gives him a Hammerlock Backdrop Suplex on the apron, and D-Bry's audible screams of pain are sensational just like his classic against Randy Orton in Dallas a few months earlier. Stephanie chimes in with "you mess with the bull, you get the horns," then kisses her gloating husband. Awesome. D-Bry of course follows up his sensational screams of pain with sensational selling outside the ring, struggling to get up and break the ten count. In yet another highlight of the match, one that shows what an excellent student of the game HHH is, D-Bry finds himself in one of his own established finishers, that being the Crossface Chickenwing. Fantastic poetry while also causing further pain to the damaged left arm and shoulder. As D-Bry is losing consciousness, the crowd rallies behind him, hoping to not see him pass out. HHH then further shows off his experience and studying habits, locking on the Crippler Crossface, reminding all technical wrestling fans of an even sexier dream match we sadly never got to witness. D-Bry reaches the ropes, only for seconds later to get that left arm slammed down with an arm twist on the mat. The Game goes to work with punches in the corner, and D-Bry attempts to fight back to no avail as the audience is trying to give him adrenaline. They exchange more punches, with a crowd reaction reminding me of Rock vs. Hogan and Austin Aries vs. CM Punk, and this time D-Bry is able to regain the heat with a running forearm straight to the face. That though is also short-lived, with us bearing witness to yet another display of brilliance from HHH. When D-Bry goes for his turnbuckle backflip spot, HHH stays in the center of the ring, not allowing D-Bry to get behind him. I can't recall any of D-Bry's most reputable opponents on the indies ever scouting this out, nor any of his prior opponents in WWE either. That moment of brilliance doesn't get much though, as D-Bry blocks a German Suplex and unleashes a couple of his own. HHH blocks a third and goes for the Crossface Chickenwing, but D-Bry intelligently sees it coming this time and blocks it, only to get dumped on his head and shoulders via a release Butterfly Suplex. Hey, if you're gonna do head drops and other risky shit, THIS is the show to do it on. D-Bry blocks a Superplex attempt to the crowd's delight, landing a Sunset Flip Powerbomb for a great crowd pop and slowing down the Game's momentum. HHH goes to recover in a corner, so D-Bry goes for this routine three running heel kicks, but the third, much like Cena, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, and Nigel McGuinness had done in the past, countered that with a beautiful lariat. When they both get up, HHH goes for another Pedigree, but D-Bry blocks that and goes for a jackknife pin for two, then follows that up with a kick to the head. At this point the crowd is starting to get incredibly excited, sensing that their chosen face of the company was gonna finally humble the Authority. But a diving headbutt is blocked with a knee to the face, and HHH then locks on the Crippler Crossface again. It should be obvious at this point that this match was a partial tribute to a man that had a significant impact on both men's careers, one by working with him, the other being inspired and heavily influenced by him. This second Crippler Crossface was a sight to behold, as HHH made sure to block D-Bry's eyesight during a portion of the submission. D-Bry rolls back but HHH keeps it locked on, remembering the same thing had happened to him a decade earlier and learning from it should he ever be in the opposite position. D-Bry rolls back again though and goes for a pin attempt false finish, then gets the Lebell Lock on, a moment we had been waiting to see for many, many months! As a receipt, D-Bry makes sure to block HHH's vision, and Stephanie has to audibly coach HHH to make him aware of how close he is to the ropes. With HHH on the outside getting nursed by Steph, D-Bry hits two tope suicidas, then follows that up with a missile shotgun dropkick in the ring. He kips up to another great crowd pop, and then sucks up whatever pain he's feeling to land furious kicks to the chest and a final kick to the head as the crowd pops yet again. More than 20 minutes into this classic, both men are exhausted and the crowd expresses their happiness watching this unfold. D-Bry goes for the Busaiku knee, but this is the Cerebral Assassin he's facing. In a match in which HHH likely brought forth the most brilliant game plan of his career, there was no greater display of his scouting techniques than taking D-Bry's momentum and turning it into a spinebuster that certainly had Arn Anderson popping backstage. HHH goes for the Pedigree and the thrid attempt's the charm, but that's nothing more than a phenomenal false finish as the crowd is going apeshit. D-Bry pulls out the small package, but that's another false finish unlike his ROH days. HHH shows his frustration, almost getting DQ'ed for not breaking his punches in the corner. He then goes for another Pedigree, but D-Bry flips him overhead and keeps the butterfly position for another great false finish pin. HHH rolls D-Bry over with the arms still butterflied, but D-Bry dead-weights him, so HHH knees D-Bry in the face a few times for good measure and to display his frustration. Another Pedigree attempt though is countered as D-Bry gets out of it and lands a roundhouse kick, but a second roundhouse kick is ducked. HHH looks to go for an Atomic Drop or backdrop suplex, but D-Bry flips back to land on his feet, then finishes off the Game finally with a Busaiku knee!!! Steph's facial expression is priceless, the facade she and her husband running for months becoming exposed on the grandest stage. The crowd is of course ecstatic and D-Bry is exhausted as he celebrates. Steph walks over to slap him, leaving him to be attacked from behind by HHH. The Game slams the damaged left shoulder on the ring post, then smacks it with a steel chair, completely embarrassed as the Authority try to mask it with smugness and their underhanded corruption. D-Bry goes into the main event with the odds only stacked against him even more. For many years, the thought of Triple H vs. Bryan Danielson had always intrigued me, dating back to the latter's days on the indy scene as he showed why he was clearly the best in-ring wrestler this side of the Pacific. I had always imagined they would have at least very good chemistry, as both are master storytellers and HHH has proven to be more than capable of working a great technical wrestling match when the time calls for it. And when the fantastic SummerSlam 2013 ended, I was excited to know this match would be taking place on this night. That this match almost didn't happen despite the lack of an emotionally satisfying conclusion as 2013 ended, only for a series of game-changing events to take place in order for it to do so, makes me feel like it was truly fate that this dream match was destined to take place at such an important landmark event. But did this match live up to the expectations I had? To be brutally honest - it shattered them. Due to the storyline, I went into the Superdome expecting this to be more of a sports-entertainment style that favored HHH's routine. That element was obviously utilized to its fullest potential, but these men also managed to add in the sizzling technical wrestling that I always saw them pulling off together should they ever face off. In addition, the commentary for this match deserves an ovation of its own, as JBL, Michael Cole, & Jerry Lawler did a great job in putting over the emotions, work, and story being told in the ring. Stephanie was a delightful wrinkle as well, adding further heat with her presence, trolling, and mannerisms as she rooted for the love of her life. This was a jaw-dropping roller-coaster that more than lived up to its storyline as well as its position as the most pushed match going into this show. This was a back-and-forth nailbiter with amazing counters, outstanding submission wrestling, and incredible storytelling. I also loved this significantly more than The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber 2014. The only nitpick complaint that keeps this from being a flawless masterpiece is that they had to hold back just a teeny bit for obvious reasons. But make no mistake: I look forward to the eventual rematch at some point, as I know they have a perfect match in them; and this is a work of art, easily in the top three matches I've ever seen live, right behind the pieces of perfection pitting D-Bry against Roderick Strong at Vendetta and HHH against Undertaker inside the Cell at Sunlife Stadium. ****3/4 The Shield vs. Kane & New Age Outlaws An almost complete obliteration to showcase the Shield. It's a shame we look to never get a classic Shield match at WrestleMania, but at least they were booked to be pure bad-asses with all three stars getting their shit in on the old geezers before putting them down in a matter of minutes. We got a wacky backstage segment with a bunch of legends, ending with Ron Simmons doing his "Damn" routine. First Ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Clusterfuck at first as these matches usually are due to too many bodies in the ring, but it improved as it they thinned out the complete, utter jabronis. An early highlight was Fandango teasing an elimination and then the crowd Fandango-ing in appreciation as he gyrated on the apron. Another major highlight was Kofi Kingston looking to be eliminated, but it turns out both of his feet landed on the steel steps. Phenomenal spot. The match got significantly better once it got to the stars of substance such as Big Show, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Rey Mysterio, and Alberto Del Rio. The crowd appreciated seeing another giant swing from Cesaro as he unleashed it on Kingston, only to get pissed off when Show chokeslammed him. They popped for Ziggler's offense, but he was still in his burial stage so he got immediately eliminated by Del Rio as soon as his heat segment started. Del Rio put a cross armbreaker on Sheamus, but was lifted up while the submission was still locked in. Sheamus attempted to break the hold over the ropes so that Del Rio would drop and be eliminated, but Del Rio held on and it became a mutual elimination, leaving Show and Cesaro as the final two. The crowd became antsy at this point, as this was definitely an interesting matchup, the respected veteran giant against an ascending mid-carder. Cesaro breaks a chokeslam and tries to clothesline Show over the ropes. Cesaro goes for a top rope move but Show just slaps his chest. Cesaro manages to slide off of Show's shoulder before getting dumped, then gives the giant a European Uppercut. Cesaro then follows that up with a scoop slam to eliminate Big Show and win the trophy as the crowd popped in approval! Not a match that'll get a special rating, but a special moment that brilliantly offset Cesaro's loss earlier in the evening. Oh what WWE had on their hands with this guy... John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt This one turns out to not hold up. The video package was phenomenal stuff, reminding me that other than Cena channeling Hogan from October 1998, this was a truly excellent program to elevate a fresh talent and give a potential wrinkle to Cena's character. The use of Eminem's "Legacy" certainly didn't hurt either. But the match itself, it really just never picked up. The story was a fine idea on paper, that Wyatt would try to be Heath Ledger's Joker, a tortured soul that left Cena opportunities to display that he would finally be corrupted. And like the Joker, Wyatt would utilize Cena's ethics against him to gain an advantage when he felt like it, as well as making sure that Luke Harper & Erick Rowan intervened behind the ref's back. I appreciate that the goal was for Wyatt to be an unpredictable heel. With that said, Wyatt showed once again that he fails to be emotionally engaging when he has the heat, as he does nothing to fire the crowd up, to make them hate him and wanna see the babyface make a comeback. That is the ultimate failure of this highly anticipated showdown. Once Wyatt figures out how to engage the audience, perhaps he won't feel so overpushed at the expense of others who do a significantly better job of connecting with the paying customers. I don't even care at this point that Cena won the match. Sure, Wyatt, much like Cesaro, was an ascending star, and even had the bragging rights of pinning Roman Reigns twice as well as the only clean singles victory over D-Bry in the past year. But as I just detailed, would the Wyatt character have any additional value had he won this match when the guy portraying the gimmick has such obvious holes in his game still? Howard Finkle introduces the 2014 WWE HOF class to the audience. Little did we know that we were seeing the last of a man that is a staple in WrestleMania lore. Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker Like the match prior, fantastic video package with Paul Heyman putting over the significance of what Lesnar was aiming to do just so strongly. This match was even sadder to watch almost a year later. Not even just because of the match itself, which was handicapped by Taker getting a concussion when he was thrown into a barricade (that's how it appeared to this viewer at least), but also WWE's failure to truly maximize the historic result of this match. But the aftermath is a topic I'll be detailing later on in this reviewing project. I understand many people being upset about a part-timer being the one to break The Streak, even though someone rational like me could see the benefit of it. I was only upset that such an iconic moment took place in such a tedious, plodding match. Not only was Taker clearly woozy, but the story of the match itself, which was pushed only even more by the commentary, was "wow, Taker is old." Not exactly a captivating narrative. Those who say that Lesnar is an overrated performer will certainly be using this match as a primary example to back up their argument. But just because he couldn't carry a concussed, broken down 49 year old heavyweight doesn't mean he wasn't "deserving" of this moment, nor does it mean he's terrible at what WWE pays him millions to do a few times per year. Only a select few in the world could've gotten anything resembling a fun match in these circumstances, and it's not a slight on Lesnar that he's not one of those few. I really can't be bothered to give this the same kind of detailed treatment as HHH vs. D-Bry. One moment, no matter how iconic and historic, doesn't justify that for me. But this match was opposite of that, as I can't imagine any nails being bitten by the fellow 70,000+ fellow fans that were in attendance unless it was done out of habit or boredom. The crowd reaction was certainly something, but would've been much hotter had this match not been such a chore to sit through. Lesnar and Heyman are booed out of the building before they leave the stage, although I'm not sure if that's good or bad heat. Taker gets a well-deserved standing ovation for the legacy he built as he walks the aisle for what many wondered at the time would be his final ringside walk ever. I for one am glad he's gonna try to make sure he goes out with a better match that this one, as this was a sad sight to watch, much like Peyton Manning's injury-riddled performance when his former Colts eliminated his Broncos in decisive fashion. WrestleMania 31 - March 29, 2015 in the Bay Area~! AJ Lee wins a match against a bunch of other divas to keep the Divas Title in the obvious death spot of the night. The crowd doesn't give a shit as they had the air sucked out of them by what they just witnessed minutes earlier. The only note I'll make is we got a preview of obviously the most enthralling program of the year when Brie Bella and Nikki Bella went at it. WWE Title Match - No DQ, No Countout Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan Crowd finally recovers in this one for D-Bry, although they never truly recovered from having the air sucked out of them. The Authority come out to try to spoil it all for D-Bry, attacking him and bringing back the supposedly fired ref Scott Armstrong, who is clearly taking orders from them and revealing he had been in cahoots with HHH at Night of Champions 2013. D-Bry takes them all out and gets them to fuck off so he can focus on regaining the prize that he had continuously been getting screwed out of for months. The match itself wasn't super special, as it was about the moment. Unlike Taker vs. Lesnar though, this was still incredibly fun with a great story. Orton & Batista went after the injured D-Bry early to take him out, both to prey on him for being weakened, and also knowing he was on a white-hot roll that had been ongoing for almost a year. They took him out with a powerbomb neckbreaker combo on the commentary tables at ringside, with Orton taking a bad bump and hurting himself in doing so. Before that spot, Orton and Batista had a good fight as D-Bry was knocked out, with Batista getting backdropped on steel steps when attempting a powerbomb. With Batista down, Orton saw D-Bry regaining consciousness, so Orton attacked him to keep him down before the big double-team spot I detailed in the prior paragraph. Amazing that Batista could still go after that steel steps bump. The crowd though didn't care for obvious reasons when the heels went at it, so when D-Bry finally came back into the action, they truly woke up with excitement. Nothing would keep him down, not even doctors trying to take him away from ringside on a stretcher. They had a nice finishing sequence for the last few minutes, with Orton being knocked out of the ring. In the meantime, D-Bry got Batista in the Lebell Lock, leaving the Rumble winner with no choice but to tap out. I'd have liked a couple false finishes with that before the tapout, but I'll take it. For anyone not to see this finish coming, that's a clear indication of their lack of instinct as this was telegraphed at the end of Elimination Chamber 2014. This match was very fun with everyone working hard, ending with a moment on par with the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII for me. For fans of independent wrestling during the 2000s decade, the only more rewarding moment that could've taken place on this night would've been Punk vs. D-Bry in the main event, unifying the titles. Seeing Bryan Danielson holding both title belts to close out a landmark WrestleMania inside such a historic venue was rewarding, vindicating, and a defining reason on why I love pro wrestling despite all of its bullshit and disappointment. ***1/2 Greatest WrestleMania ever as some wondered when leaving the Superdome? Sorry - this doesn't measure up to WrestleMania X-Seven and WrestleMania XIX. Overall, it's not quite as great as I had remembered that night. But this is one to watch and remember, with a legacy that nobody could've seen coming as the show closed that night. The booking was newsworthy, some of it phenomenal, some of it head-scratching (and even maddening for those irrational) at the time, almost entirely across the board. We got a talking segment involving the Mt. Rushmore of the past quarter century, one that will never be topped. We got a tag team split we had been aching to see, complete with the ascending star getting the nod in a match paying tribute to a HOF giant. In addition, we got the Shield being displayed as unfuckable bad-asses, a critical piece of storytelling in the wake of them almost breaking up, setting the stage for a shocking, game-changing moment to come. Most importantly, we got two stars standing head-and-shoulders above everyone else for what they accomplished. Daniel Bryan, after months of oppression, and years of connecting with every audience he ever performed in front of, reached what will certainly be his career defining moment, even if he defeats the other shining star of this night at another WrestleMania. He won two main event matches to gain the top prize in the business, one of them an all-time classic in company history that more than lived up to its hype. For him personally, it doesn't get any better than the entire family being present for a moment like that, a dynamic he'll sadly never to get experience again. The other star as I just alluded to was of course Brock Lesnar, shattering a mythical element and looking to have possibly ended the Undertaker's career in addition to The Streak. It's a moment that will obviously always stand the test of time, and even though the match was lousy for understandable reasons, that moment itself makes the match must-see at least once for all fans of pro wrestling. It is this decade's version of Mick Foley being thrown off the top of the Cell. There's also an element of sadness to this show, as not only would Danielson lose a family member present at ringside shortly afterwards, as well as his well-known fan Connor the Crusher, but this would be the farewell weekend of the Ultimate Warrior. As would be said later in the week, it seemed to be fate that his final moments would be burying the hatchet and becoming more involved in celebrating his role in the legacy of WWE. These tragedies only further put forth an additional value on the show that cannot ever be properly measured in words; they remind us on such a night of pageantry and anticipation of what truly matters most, that life, love, and family are precious and not to be taken for granted. With that said, this was a hell of a way to kick off The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit, and we're gonna keep on rolling with a night of celebration in the Big Easy on the next post.
  24. Talk about it here.