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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... better than the KENTA vs. Davey Richards rematch, "End of an Era" Hell in a Cell match, John Cena and Umaga's Last Man Standing match, Danielson vs. Triple H, or either of the Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker WrestleMania classics.
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.

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WrestleMania 32 – April 3, 2016

Live from Dallas, TX

IC Champion Kevin Owens once again declares this to be KO-Mania, and buries all 6 challengers in tonight’s ladder match

Paul Heyman joins the Social Media Lounge for a Q&A, reiterating that Brock Lesnar with his bare hands will beat Dean Ambrose down in tonight’s hardcore match, thanks largely to a visit or two to Suplex City. He laughs at the thought of the Lunatic Fringe conquering the Beast Incarnate. He gets incredibly condescending, deflecting the question as a fictional hypothesis and putting Lesnar over.

US Title Match

Kalisto vs. Ryback

Significantly superior to much more important matches later on the show, and Ryback has improved tremendously as well. The story was that Ryback took his size advantage for granted, even with him constantly cutting off Kalisto’s comeback attempts. Ryback played a tremendous base and I was surprised by the chemistry between these two, similar to Kalisto’s series with Alberto Del Rio.

Ryback didn’t get the hint that he was being too cocky even after a delayed superplex was countered into a crossbody near-fall, perhaps because he quickly cut Kalisto off there. After a different’s corner middle turnbuckle pad got removed, Ryback failed to mind his surroundings. The Big Guy got overzealous charging at Kalisto in that corner, leaving the former IC Champion prone to a drop toe hold into the exposed steel buckle, then eating a Springboard Shiranui for the win. Had the entryway into AT&T Stadium not been such a delayed clusterfuck, I could’ve gotten to see this pleasant little surprise live in its entirety, which is something that pisses me off now. ***

Brie Bella, Natalya, Paige, Alicia Fox, & Eva Marie vs. Emma, Lana, Tamina, Naomi, & Summer Rae

Decent surprise here that never once became an embarrassing clusterfuck as feared. Brie gets the one after a decent dozen minutes or so with the LeBell Lock, paying tribute in her obvious swan song to her husband Bryan Danielson. The standout to me during the match’s content wouldn’t be any particular move or heat segment; it was simply Lana mocking the Yes Chant, reminding me that Rusev vs. Daniel Bryan will forever be one of the lost dream matches that could’ve possibly happened on this show.

What truly matters is obviously the post-match, as neck brace-clad Nikki Bella comes out to celebrate with Brie’s team, and Mrs. Danielson gets put on her team’s shoulders to send her off on a high note. For whatever reason the stream/broadcast immediately cuts away from that emotional moment that the live audience got to bask in, so I assume that wasn’t planned. Awful production decision.

WWE Hall of Famer and former Women’s Champion Lita reveals the new Women’s Championship, which will replace the Divas Title tonight and continue its lineage. Tonight’s No DQ, No Count Out match between champion Charlotte and challengers Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks will be for the new Women’s Title. In addition, the female roster members will no longer be referred to as divas, but as superstars just like their male colleagues. Long, long, long, LONG overdue, especially for a company that targets much of its product and creative direction towards children.

The Usos vs. Dudleyz

Nothing of note here at all. Bubba was a great cunt showing what a wasted opportunity his return has been. Usos win in minutes after the Dudleyz pretty much dominated. Dudleyz go for the tables in the post-match only for it to backfire; this serves as another reminder that the bookers made a MAJOR fuck-up not throwing these 2 tandems in a TLC match against the New Day and Lucha Dragons for the Tag Titles.

IC Title – Ladder Match

Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Stardust vs. The Miz vs. Sami Zayn vs. Sin Cara #2

Stardust has polka dots on his one-piece to pay tribute to his father Dusty Rhodes.

It is fucking awesome to see the Kevin Steen vs. El Generico never-ending feud come to AT&T Stadium for a match on the Granddaddy of 'Em All, even with other participants involved.

This isn't an all-time classic ladder match, although it was certainly an incredibly well-paced one. Like the Money in the Bank contract match at Money in the Bank 2014 involving Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, the most heated segments were Owens and Zayn going at it. Stardust also got a great pop when he pulled out a polkadot ladder for another Dustry tribute.

Zayn provided 1 of the 2 highlights. After hitting a Tope Con Hilo through a ladder placed inside the ring, he then immediately followed that up with his through-the-ropes Tornado DDT on Owens. The other highlight would be Sin Cara #2 dumped from the middle of the ring to the outside, hitting an unintentional senton on a ladder platform.

The finish came down to Owens vs. Zayn, which was the obvious correct call to make. Zayn took out Owens with a head-drop-style suplex on a ladder, only to be taken out by Miz, who was then taken out by Zack Ryder, allowing the Long Island native to achieve his boyhood dream and capture the IC Title!

While Owens vs. Zayn in singles would've been far more appropriate for the gravitas of this event, there are no complaints about this match, especially when seeing Ryder celebrate in the ring with his father. After a decade or so in the company, it was rewarding to see someone who had endured significant career sabotage get a cherished moment, and that is the defining quality of WrestleMania to me. ****

Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

A scenario I had envisioned for over a decade: Y2J vs. The Phenomenal One at the Showcase of the Immortals. What was lacking by this happening so late in Jericho's career, was somewhat made up for by its AT&T Stadium location to give this an extra epic boost.

This simply couldn't measure up to their great match at Fast Lane 2016. For whatever reason, they didn't click as well here as on that night. With hindsight, it may have been better storytelling, although not appropriate timing yet with Styles still in the fledgling stage of his WWE tenure, for Jericho to be the old babyface veteran, targeted by the younger Styles that wants to use the proven WrestleMania headliner to cement his name in the company immediately. This would be karma for Jericho 13 years in the making after he tried doing the same to Shawn Michaels.

This never reached the fever pitch that I would've hoped for, and I know that Jericho at his age is still capable as proven in his excellent match the year before against Finn Balor in Tokyo. Perhaps Jericho is now too set in the heavyweight style to properly acclimate to the sudden movement Styles utilizes.

There were definite peaks in this match though. I loved Jericho's Boston Crab being turned into a Calf Crusher for Styles, and Jericho was once again fantastic in selling the pain of that submission. They came close to botching the springboard moonsault reverse DDT of Styles, but managed to make it work; that'd have been a disaster to botch it on this stage.

They had each other scouted from their prior matches and due to keeping tabs on one another's careers. Jericho would evade the springboard forearm, while Styles kneed Jericho in the gut on a Quebrada attempt. The scouting came in handy for Jericho at the finish, as he forced Styles to hesitate hitting the springboard forearm for the finish by grabbing the referee; by the time Styles had propelled forward, Jericho took advantage with the Codebreaker.

That was the wrong finish to do. This show draws casual fans and therefore it was imperative for one of the new blood names, and not just the handpicked batch in the company's eyes, to be put over by a recognized star from the prior generation. That is how the current roster is made to be perceived as important for the elusive casual fan; otherwise, why should they even bother becoming full-time customers of the product again? Of course, this was a sign of things to come throughout the rest of the evening. ***3/4

New IC champ Zack Ryder could retire tomorrow and he’d be satisfied. What a crazy concept to make this seem important.

The New Day vs. Rusev, Sheamus, & Alberto Del Rio

New Day come out in a giant cereal box and wearing Dragon Ball Z attire. The League of Nations are accompanied by Wade Barrett.

Total nothing match here, although at least the crowd cared in bits and pieces, more than I can say about another match later on the card. Inexcusable for the League of Nations to win; the faction was simply put never over enough to be groomed for future plans that this result seems to indicate.

The result of this match, and that it pales in comparison to my four-way TLC match idea, ain't the only thing that infuriates me about this. Oh no, we've got the post-match.

Barrett's post-match promo is interrupted first by Shawn Michaels (who admittedly looks tremendous), then by Mick Foley and then Steve Austin; the latter 2 carry themselves as 2 old geezers that have long seen their peaks evaporate. This certainly goes in the “Dave Meltzer is Right” folder, as he said this faction battle was booked because there were big plans at the end or after the match.

Without a doubt, the moment of these 3 Hall of Famers appearing is awesome in a vacuum. However, this segment epitomizes more than any other the short-sighted, casual-aiming direction taken up and down this card.

The 3 HOFers along with New Day take out the LON, and it pisses me off especially to see Sheamus, who was WWE Champion just a few months ago and had a fucking brutal TLC match against Roman Reigns, have to eat Foley's arsenal. This beat down on LON totally negates that they won this match too.

We're not done here, as Xavier Woods is eats a Stunner from Austin after what appears to be a friendly beer beverage toast. So now the faces and champs of the tag division, the #1 merch sellers of this weekend, and one of the most over full-time acts on the entire roster, get fucking fed in front of 97,000 fans and certainly millions watching online to these 3 old geezers. Why would casual viewers bother tuning in tomorrow night, let alone throughout the rest of the year?

Having the 3 legends is obvious move to make on this show. There were significantly better ways to do it that would've enhanced the stock of the current roster, rather than devalue it just to once again remind us all that today's wrestling just can't measure up to the War. At some point in a different column, I will share the details of how they could've been utilized on this show in productive fashion.

Hardcore Match

Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar

Lesnar winning this one isn't the problem. In this case, it's that it was very much a poor man's version of Lesnar vs. CM Punk. Ambrose never got a highly dramatic extended advantage on Lesnar, even after a low blow, using a fire extinguisher, and countering an F5 with a DDT on steel chairs. Ambrose just got suplexed repeatedly and after about a dozen minutes, missed a baseball bat swing, ate another German Suplex, then an F5 on the chairs for a very flat finish, making this match's goal a failure, which was to raise Ambrose's stock.

While we now know that Lesnar turned down many ideas, and we're not sure which ones, there are some smoke-and-mirrors that could've been pulled out here without him putting what now looks to have already been a planned return fight at UFC 200 at risk.

Instead of a barbed-wire baseball bat and fire extinguisher, I'd have booked Ambrose to light a wooden object on fire and chase Lesnar around with it, causing Heyman to distract the former indy sensation. Lesnar is humanized to a degree by his natural instinct of running away from a burning piece of wood, and Heyman's distraction allows him to get the underhanded advantage to make Ambrose look good.

I realize that using fire is a tremendous risk to involve for these human beings, and perhaps it's actually foolish to even suggest it. This is the stage though to implement such risks, especially for those in attendance who paid gouged prices on Ticketmaster since WWE knew the novelty draw of this venue for WrestleMania.

I'd have booked the finish to also be Ambrose getting a major sustained advantage, looking like he could possibly pull off the upset like Danielson had done to Takeshi Morishima at Final Battle 2008. Whereas in that classic the finish came down to weapons-assisted submissions, I'd have Ambrose deliver repetitive blows such as chair shots and shotgun dropkicks to the legs and torso to take away Lesnar's base and equilibrium. Have a table set up nearby and Ambrose goes for the double underhook DDT, but Lesnar sniffs it out thanks to Heyman screaming at him.

Lesnar would then use the positioning to fight out of the double underhook DDT, and then after winning that struggle, hoist Ambrose up and surprise him with a dramatic F5 through the nearby table. This keeps Lesnar strong while showcasing the intelligence and resiliency of Ambrose in this environment, thus elevating his stock as was planned.

Instead, we got a cheap plunder match that never reached a fever pitch, one belonging on some fucking low-level indy card, not at fucking WrestleMania inside the home of America's Team.

Women’s Title – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks

Snoop Dogg contributes to the live performance for his cousin Bank's theme song, and this show is now actually starting to feel larger-than-life again. Meanwhile, Charlotte is wearing her take on the vaunted Flair robe, and is accompanied by her father Ric as always. Poor Lynch not getting an OTT entrance, but she got a good reaction coming out anyway.

Finally another good match takes place on this card. The action was all good with one exception, which is when Banks jumped forward too much for a sunset flip attempt. The women rebounded very well from that though, and the Charlotte vs. Lynch portion was very good to pick up where they had left off earlier in the year while Banks was taken out of the picture for awhile.

Lynch was clearly the glue that kept this match as smooth as possible, as she had far more smoothness and precision in her submission attempts. She was absolutely deadest on winning this historic match via her seated Fujiwara arm bar finisher, and perhaps that backfired on her, not having a backup plan or ability to improvise.

Lynch was thankfully protected, although the booking was once again off here. Banks had Lynch finished via a Lungblower and follow-up Banks Statement, only for Charlotte to take Banks out and accept the victory. This finish was deflating, as Charlotte's time as champion was at the right time to conclude, while Banks was in the moment to ascend to the throne on this night. Even more than that, now that Lynch has been beaten a few times, I can't think of one program I wanna see for Charlotte's reign coming out of this except Banks, but that singles match would best be saved for SummerSlam 2016, so that means the next few months would likely be a waste of time for those hoping this division would be a weekly highlight of WWE's programming. It doesn’t help that Banks is the common denominator for the 3 greatest women’s match in WWE history, with Charlotte involved in none of them. ***3/4

Contrived Stipulations That Nobody Takes Seriously – Hell in a Cell

Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon

Shane's entrance admittedly feels like a very big deal here, both in person and part of the broadcast. There's an intimacy to it that very few can compare to, and his children participating on stage add to that. Why can't the full-time roster be presented to this degree of importance?

The highlights of this match first: Shane's coast to coast shotgun missile dropkick; Taker falling back on Shane through a commentary table to brake a sleeper, and Shane's unforgettable elbow drop from the top of the Cell.

A few cool spots, especially for a match that literally spanned for half an hour, does not make for a great match. I hated this match because it was very lethargic while also being very difficult to take seriously as a competitive battle. Perhaps if Shane had used weapons aplenty, rather than just a toolbox in the last 3rd of the match to set up the big elbow drop, that'd be believable.

Fifteen years earlier, Shane was able to have acclaimed matches against his father Vince and the bad ass Kurt Angle for damn good reasons. The former was against his own father, so that's a much older man in a smoke-and-mirrors spectacle. The latter had already competed twice earlier on the night Shane faced him in that unforgettable hardcore match, so with Angle not at full strength, that gave Shane a fighting chance. Neither of those dynamics applied here. Perhaps had Shane occasionally competed in MMA during his 7-year absence from WWE, his submission work wouldn't be so laughable against a company cornerstone.

Trading triangle style submissions, including the Hell's Gate, for false finishes was ridiculous to watch. Even worse, seeing Shane counter the Hell's Gate into the Scorpion Death Lock felt like a kick in the nuts, serving as a further reminder that Sting would never got to properly place the Phenom in that submission on the Grandest Stage of 'Em All.

This was a lethargic stunt show that went long for the sake of going long, rather than tell a more condensed, fiery story between the two that could've check marked the same shit while being far more dramatic and less time-consuming. It looked like Shane may have suffered a concussion when his head hit a commentary table too, and yet the match continued. If he really did suffer a concussion, it's fucking deplorable that this continued, and not just because of how plodding this was.

The final minutes were flat as both just laid down when Shane missed the big elbow drop. Taker simply carried him into the ring and finished him off with one Tombstone Piledriver, perfectly capping off what a waste of time this experience was for me.

Objectively speaking, some of the mentioned highlights during the "This is awesome!" chants, and the big elbow drop will eternally be a part of WrestleMania video packages for decades to come. For whatever reason, these 2 personalities had enough stock with the audience to compensate for this charade of a match, and to that I give them credit. At least this match also didn't harm any full-time roster member's stock, although this opportunity Shane had could've been used to elevate a full-timer, even in a losing effort like had been the plan for Ambrose against Lesnar.

With that said, I will never watch this farce again. Period.

4th Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale

This has 2 surprise entrants in former WCW Champion DDP and Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. DDP’s inclusion is questionable considering he had to retire due to a neck injury (TNA booking him doesn’t change that fact based on TNA's history in not taking roster safety seriously). Shaq is interesting as he finally gets to battle against Big Show after their phenomenal confrontation 7 years earlier on Raw.

Everyone else gets made a non-factor, spilling out of the ring while Shaq and Big Show have a stare down. Fandango and Damien Sandow attempt to ruin the moment, only to both get easily eliminated.

WWE deserves major credit for finding the last remaining arc, that being the long-delayed Shaq collision, to making Big Show interesting. They reached a choke stalemate, allowing everyone else to take advantage and eliminate the 2 giants. I certainly wouldn't complain about Shaq having the official singles showdown against Show when WrestleMania returns to the city that saw the birth of Shaq's professional hardwood career.

The returning Tatanka is in this match and too along with DDP, gets some nostalgic shine. The Social Outcasts gets some shine too, which is cut off by Kane and NXT star Baron Corbin, who is making his main roster graduation in this match.

Texas native and former World Champion Mark Henry gets a moment to shine, in what would expect to be his final WrestleMania ever based on his contract expiring soon and stating he won't re-sign. He would have been a fantastic winner here as a going-away gift, but Corbin eliminates Kane at the end to graduate in as good of a fashion, considering the former NFL player's limitations. Damn good pop at the end since it's a bit of a cool moment admittedly. Someone new on the scene always gets the novelty pop at the beginning.

Lillian Garcia introduces the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad, and they turn out to be the introduction for the Rock. I believe AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" was used for the live broadcast, but is dubbed over with pleasant but generic music on the WWE Network on-demand stream. Absolutely ingenious to use the Cowboys cheerleaders for the Rock, as it feels like a hand in a custom-made glove, A-list individual being introduced by A-list entertainment act. Rock pulls out a flamethrower to put this OTT and symbolize the heat that's about to generate in this already-historic venue. He then uses the flames to set a ROCK entrance setup on fire. Awesomely major league, and the cheerleaders are a fantastic touch lined up on the entrance ramp as he comes towards the ring.

Rock puts over the crowd as usual, and it becomes obvious he'll announce that we set an attendance record. The announced number is a bit inflated, but not too much, and the real number is impressive (approximately 97.000), breaking both the worked and legit number set at the Pontiac Silverdome when it hosted WrestleMania III, while also shattering the company's legit attendance record at Wembley Stadium for SummerSlam 1992.

With that out of the way, Rock says it's about to get good, only for the Wyatt Family to interrupt him. I certainly didn't foresee this dynamic coming into AT&T Stadium, but I'm open-minded.

Bray Wyatt for once takes his terrific promo cadence and weaves into a compelling, coherent piece of dialogue, saying he chose to interrupt Rock because of both his Hollywood success and for being a "lie." Wyatt says this moment doesn't belong to the Rock or the people, but to himself, then threatens to inflict harm on the Hall of Famer in front of us 97.000+ strong in attendance. The motive is actually clear and logical, so I'm on board so far in this segment.

Rock retorts by voicing his disappointment that instead of Wyatt being celebratory about the history made tonight, he's in essence just being a hater. Rock then accuses Wyatt of "hitting the bong for about 8 days straight." That's actually amusing, but Rock admits this isn't gonna end well.

Rock lays the kind of zingers that only he and probably Kevin Owens could get away with, saying Erick Rowan's parents are related, and Braun Strowman has been breastfed far beyond the typical age. Rock then puts Wyatt over for his tremendous charisma and ability to connect with the people, and for his natural leadership as well as his unique look. Rock is disappointed that Wyatt chooses to be a hater, warning that won't end well for Wyatt.

Wyatt says he's not here to knock on doors, but to kick one down. Why can't every Wyatt direction be this simple? Rock takes his shirt off and lays down the challenge for any member of the Wyatt Family to face him in an official impromptu match, in a moment that certainly had his Hollywood insurance carriers shitting their pants.

Rock then reveals his trucks, boots, and kneepads, and finishes Rowan off in less than 10 seconds via a Rock Bottom. Hilarious, fantastic, highly entertaining moment so far for all kinds of layered reasons.

The faction is none too pleased and is about to mug the Hollywood star, only for fellow Hall of Famer John Cena to return from injury and help his former rival! He's certainly been missed.

Rock and Cena win the battle against the Wyatt Family. What makes this work is that the 2 HOFers, unlike Foley, Austin, and HBK, are presented still as current threats, one of them currently the face of WWE still. It's not the most ideal, but it's something I can swallow; perhaps even a fully focused Shield wouldn't be enough to overcome a united Rock and Cena.

What also makes this segment work compared to the New Day segment earlier is that Rock put Wyatt over verbally before getting the eventual upper hand, pinpointing Wyatt's strengths. Perhaps this humbling for the Wyatt Family on such a grand stage, after completely failing in their quest to sabotage Lesnar in the weeks leading up to this, will be enough for Wyatt to reevaluate himself and take heed to Rock's compliments. Will Wyatt have a change of heart stemming from this, one that leads to his stock rising?

WWE Title Match

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns

Stephanie McMahon presents a superiority speech as part of HHH's routine. A total fucking failure considering a very small portion of the audience wants to see Reigns as a conquering hero. This wouldn't been a nice additional touch two years against Daniel Bryan of course, or even against Sting a year later.

Bell to bell, this match’s execution was perfectly fine, and even told a solid, methodical story. In many ways, this could be compared to HHH’s dream match against Lesnar at SummerSlam 2012. Like that match, it had one very simple problem, but in this case far more magnified due to this evening’s goal: nobody wanted to see an Arn Anderson style match from these two.

Of course even worse, nobody wanted to see HHH vs. Reigns on this night. Period. With that said, I know that these two and those who coordinate the matches behind-the-scenes could’ve produced something much more emotionally impactful than this approximately 45-minute waste of time (entire segment) for the viewers, time that they’re never getting back, in addition to the gouged prices for this event.

There are a number of angles to analyze this from. I’ll start with the fact that the company pulled the trigger on this matchup way too late. In the summer of 2014, HHH and Reigns had an electrifying stare down, fresh off the heel turn of Seth Rollins as he had just become Mr. Money in the Bank as well. As the Cerebral Assassin locked eyes with the company’s next chosen franchise face, the crowd fucking blew up with “This is awesome!” chants. The fact that the company didn’t move Reigns’s singles match against Randy Orton that summer to Battleground 2014, as a stepping stone to Reigns facing HHH the next month at SummerSlam 2014, is absolutely mind-boggling even more in hindsight than it was at the time. There’s no excuse for why the match didn’t happen at the time the people were salivating for it; that it wasn’t even announced for Night of Champions 2014, when day one WWE Network subscriptions were in their renewal period and thus the Lesnar vs. Cena rematch got thrown on there, is even more disappointing to think about from a business perspective. There’s zero excuse to not have presented HHH vs. Reigns deep into 2014, as the plan all along was Lesnar vs. Reigns at WrestleMania 31 no matter what.

Now fast-forward a year and a half later for the company finally coming around to the HHH vs. Reigns direction, and not only is the timing completely off, not only does the feud come across so obviously shoehorned due to the unprecedented injury bug, but the storytelling can’t even come close to being on the pulse of the audience’s desires. Nobody cared about Reigns having an overcoming-the-odds chase journey. If anything, he’d have been far more effective just bulldozing his way back to the throne that the Reigns character knew fucking belonged to him. I don’t need to recap the abysmal crowd reactions this program got in the early months of 2016.

From another angle, despite how cold this direction was and how frustrated the audience was getting, I still believed that these two could find a creative way to deliver an acceptable main event, rather than the tedious chore that was presented when HHH faced Orton in the main event of WrestleMania XXV. I needed TWO all-time classics at the Grandest Stage of ‘Em All from HHH for me to forgive him for that dog shit excuse for a mega match, which he went to do against Taker and Danielson. I’m now gonna need two more from him again, because his performance here was unacceptable. He’s been in this business too long, built up so much clout, and been in this position too many times for me to cut him any slack, especially with being in the important position of giving Reigns the ultimate coronation and start a new era that had been delayed for a year. This is the third time that HHH has failed to draw in the audience in the most important match of the year, and that’s something that should eat at him. I guarantee both of the Patriots’ Super Bowl defeats to the Giants ate at Tom Brady for many, many years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it still does to this day despite his night of redemption at Super Bowl XLIX.

Some will wanna give Reigns some slack for this match. I’m not part of that crew. Although only 6 years in the business up to this point, he’s delivered too many quality matches and has too much clout as the next chosen face of the company to allow something like this to happen. This was his moment and he failed to improvise to make this as special as possible for himself. He should’ve been vetoing ideas for this match left and right. “You guys want me to replace Cena? Well shut the fuck up, listen to me, and let’s make this shit happen!” Joe Lanza is correct that nobody else in this position would present such an ennui-inducing, off-the-mark performance like Reigns did on this night. Not Cena, not Rock, not Austin, not HBK, not Taker, not Styles, not Owens, not Rollins. Okay, maybe HHH or even Orton.

As stated, the work in this match was fine. I can appreciate HHH targeting the left arm and shoulder of Reigns as the challenger did a great job of selling it. I gushed and gushed and gushed over the same story told when Reigns faced Cesaro several months prior to this in their lone singles encounter to date. The fact is that the people wanted to see that story told in Cesaro vs. Reigns, and that match was on Raw, not in the most marquee slot of the entire fucking year for the industry. While HHH has been able to tell such stories like this before and it got over, specifically against the likes of Danielson and Chris Benoit, Reigns lacked the magical sympathy and timely character booking for it to click here (the only exceptional foil being Lesnar of course, but he’s a brawling-type beatdown monster heel instead of a methodical game planner.) HHH’s character wasn’t much better either, as he was ice-cold at this time, so nobody gave a shit enough to voice any type of visceral disapproval for his antics or dominance in this match.

I must mention too that at no point in the stadium were we ever in an extended rocking period like we were the year before for Lesnar vs. Reigns, or 2 years earlier for HHH vs. Danielson. Any pops were just brief acknowledgements in their own little vacuums from the audience. “Okay, that one little part there is cool, but we still don’t give a shit.” No matter what the circumstances, that simply is a failure on both as well as whoever pitched in on putting this match together.

That this match didn’t have the stipulation of the Authority’s power being up for grabs is also astounding to me. Reigns NEEDED every single little piece of extra assistance to get the crowd behind him. What better way than advertising in advance that if this guy wins, the oppressive motherfuckers that have spent the past 3 years boring you with monologues and sabotaging crowd favorites would finally fuck off? There was no reason for that dynamic to be wasted on Taker vs. Shane, not with the #1 priority of establishing Reigns as Cena’s heir to the throne still in jeopardy.

I provided a booking dynamic going into this match that could’ve helped it connect more, now here’s an idea for the actual match itself. Rather than HHH trying to embody Arn Anderson or Harley Race like he did against Lesnar at SummerSlam 2012, I tell him it’s time for him to prove that he really does care about the company’s future. “Signing all the big names of the underground and international scenes? Cool, Paul. Now we need all hands on deck with this Reigns project. So I’m gonna have you do what Cena did for us just a couple years back. Reigns is gonna destroy you in 10 minutes or less, to coronate him the best way we can and send the Authority era out on a decisive note. Period.”

At some point, the Lesnar vs. Reigns match will inevitably happen, likely with Reigns getting his delayed bragging rights clean victory over the Beast Incarnate that nobody else has gotten. What better way to market that historic rematch than not just “there will be a winner, we WILL find out who the alpha male of WWE is,” but also “in one corner, it’s the man that destroyed John Cena, and in the other corner, it’s the man that destroyed Triple H”?

Although as I’m about to reveal in the show’s overall assessment, here’s a what if idea, a true alternative to have closed out what was supposed to be the grandest WrestleMania of all-time:

What if Roman Reigns had just come into this show as the defending WWE Champion, and his challenger would be none other than the man who on his first night in WWE, won the Royal Rumble match, that being AJ Styles? I can’t think of anyone else still active that I’d have trusted more to carry on the company’s goal for Reigns. I also can’t think of a booking decision that would’ve sent bigger shockwaves coming out of Royal Rumble 2016, while also sending this message to the rest of the wrestling world: if you come to WWE, this is our proof that we will give you a fair opportunity to enhance your brand and career.

Nonetheless, this match is a huge blemish and black eye for both men’s resume. I won’t hold it fully against Reigns since he had a classic the year before against Lesnar and is still relatively young in the business; as for HHH, I’m gonna need 2 more WrestleMania classics out of him before he’s fully forgiven by me. Loading the roster up with more terrific performers from other companies isn’t gonna be enough.

As I left AT&T Stadium on this night, I was told the perfect word to describe this event: vanilla. This entire card up and down was conservative bullshit aimed lazily at the casual fan’s perception, rather than using this event and the already established legends as a springboard to hook the casual viewer onto the full-time roster. Several months later, this event does not age well at all. There were no off-the-charts classic matches to point to, although there were 4 quality matches for sure, and more importantly, there were no organically presented special moments to define this historic event. Up and down the card, the full-time roster found itself catering to what was previously established instead of being presented as at least on par with the likes of Taker, Austin, HBK, and Lesnar. The match selections were also very poor, cramming way too many matches onto a 7-hour event when including the pre-show.

The complaints about this show’s lengths are misplaced. While I have yet to jump on the ongoing NJPW bandwagon of the past several years, I am aware that company’s annual Granddaddy of ‘Em All tends to go on for several hours, and there are no complaints about that. Simply put, this particular WrestleMania failed to provide the special matches and moments that had defined both itself and Wrestle Kingdom in recent years. This show’s problem was both the booking and its pacing.

I have zero sympathy for Vince McMahon and those around him failing to overcome the adversity stemming from the injury bug. At some point I will share all the details going into this alternate card as well as its game-changing results. For now, here’s the card that should’ve been using the same roster while throughout 2015 carefully orchestrating a deep backbone that would’ve managed to overcome the numerous absences.

Pre-show portion:

Total Divas tag match as is

4th Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Since this entire show was offered for free, it doesn’t matter if Shaq appears on the pre-show or PPV portion. Having him on the pre-show possibly entices a few more casual viewers at the last minute to order the WWE Network too.)

PPV portion:

US Title – Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

TLC Match for Tag Titles – Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. The Usos vs. Dudleyz vs. Lucha Dragons

Women’s Title as is – Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks

IC Title – Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

Rusev vs. Undertaker

Hardcore Match w/ Career vs. Authority stipulations – Dean Ambrose vs. Triple H (this is where Austin and HBK make surprise appearances on the card. Foley can appear too if he must, or maybe even be cast as the referee.)

The Rock’s segment with John Cena and the Wyatt Family as is

WWE Title – Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

The epitome of less is more, with only 7 matches on the PPV portion that gets everyone important on the card in logical creative directions and matchups that people actually wanna see. No League of Nations whatsoever. No full-timers being showcased at the expense of important full-time talents.

Instead, what we got is a show that marginalized this event’s importance for the rest of the year; that can be reversed by saying this show made the rest of the year feel irrelevant. We got questionable matchups that reeked of cynicism. We got potential defining moments passed on in favor of just further showcasing the company’s chosen favorites. We got a triple main event that failed to deliver anything organically memorable, with only 1 moment of note coming out of them, and it was just a stunt designed to get a synthetic pop.

Most of all, we got a presentation that has a number of customers vowing that coming up this spring in Orlando, they’ll attend everything else, but under no circumstances will they attend WrestleMania 33 due to the shitty pacing and booking of this event that failed to live up to the hype (that is despite the poor weeks of television leading into this of course.) If that isn’t a defining example of “bad for business,” since those are potential ticket sales not coming to fruition, then what is?

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Raw – April 4, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Dallas, TX
While definitely not ideal to undo the Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon stipulations just 24 hours after the calendar's annual equivalent to the Super Bowl, it honestly does make sense as to why it happened. If Vince McMahon was gonna go soft in the slightest degree on anyone he does business with, it would be with his own children. Despite the ups and downs that the McMahon family has had on WWE TV and certainly off-screen since the Attitude Era, they are ultimately family. This is Vince's own flesh and blood, and nothing will permanently break that unless someone in that family turns into Chris Benoit. An even greater example would be the up-and-down relationship between Breaking Bad's Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
Considering how weak the roster is, I actually cannot think of a more optimal way to transition the Wyatt Family into babyface roles; it's an ingenious way in hindsight of squeezing the one remaining purpose out of the League of Nations, while also being an indictment of how the booking has marginalized the rest of the roster.
Vince has left the American Airlines Center, as he doesn't wanna witness the ship going down in person. He says Shane's time as GM is only temporary, but doesn't specify beyond that.
This is perhaps the most questionable NXT graduation to date. Like his opponent Tyler Breeze on this night, there's still plenty of storytelling juice and necessary development for Apollo Crews. Whereas Baron Corbin had no more interesting arcs and was very unlikely to develop anymore substantial seasoning (which is why I'm ultimately fine with him being promoted), this is way, way, way too premature for Crews to be on the main roster. Perhaps splitting time between NXT and the main roster would do well in expediting his development, while also serving the purpose of adding some main roster name value to him to help NXT as a touring brand. Crews and Breeze had huge potential to complete delayed arcs of satisfactory climax in NXT, and this comes across as a major lack in long-term vision for both.
WWE Champion Roman Reigns smugly gloats about dethroning Triple H the night before, and lays down the fighting champion claim that nobody with this title was willing and/or able to be in many years. He's first interrupted by Chris Jericho, who fails to deter the usual crowd hijacking when we break out a "We are stupid!' chant. He gloats about beating AJ Styles the night before, of course neglecting to mention that he broke rules that I'm surprised wouldn't result in an automatic DQ. Styles comes out, then does Kevin Owens, then does Sami Zayn, and Reigns is fantastic in just being smug towards them. Zayn and Owens take each other out while Jericho gets the upper hand on Styles, only to eat a spear from the champion. Any of these four as the next challenger will be a substantial, significant upgrade when considering that the most recent 3 completed programs for this title (excluding the tournament) were Triple H vs. Reigns, Sheamus vs. Reigns, and Seth Rollins vs. Kane.
Back from commercial break, Shane informs Reigns that the four who answered his challenge will compete in tonight's main event for a WWE Title shot. That should be very good at the very least, and is a fresh direction at the top after some of the most tedious segments in that spot ever since Rollins shred his knee.
Dolph Ziggler's stock will continue to fail rising, or perhaps just outright drop even more, as he's now in a program against Corbin. Zzzzzzz...
Sami Zayn's promo for tonight's main event is interrupted by Kevin Owens assaulting him, as the former IC Champ then finishes it with a powerbomb through a table. This would seem to eliminate Zayn from tonight's main event entirely.
Now this is an NXT graduation that's on the pulse, as Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore have done everything possible from a storyline and gimmick-building perspective. The ship has also sailed to crown them as NXT Tag Champs, as the company missed the boat by instead crowning the Vaudevillains at Takeover: Brooklyn. In addition, these 2 were actually left off the Takeover: Dallas card! That's inexcusable, and perhaps they could've bowed out by teaming with the debuting Austin Aries against Baron Corbin and 2 other heels in a trios match that night. Nonetheless, this was perfect timing for a graduation; the tag division had gotten so thin thanks to such horrific booking that the main roster NEEDS these two, and not the other way around.
Zayn is officially ruled out for tonight's main event, which is next.
WWE Title Shot - No DQ, No Count Out Match
Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro vs. AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens
For the first time EVER, Zayn's replacement, that being the returning Cesaro, finally, finally, FINALLY collides with AJ Styles!!! Before this night, they have NEVER battled in any fashion, not in singles, tags, multi-mans, not in ROH, not in PWG, not in IWA-MS, nowhere. It is the epitome of a dream match for all purists and fans of independent wrestling's golden age; at some point this will hopefully be presented for worldwide viewing in singles before one of them calls it a career.
Cesaro sports sunglasses and a detachable business suit for his return, bringing back more reminders of Nigel McGuinness.
After tossing out Jericho and Owens, the Cesaro vs. Styles dream showdown is good stuff. These two have some tremendous potential to do business with each other as the match goes to an early commercial break. The extra spring that Styles puts into so much of his arsenal looks like it'll play right into Cesaro's catching-base counter style when that day comes.
Whatever we saw so far including the commercial break action must've been good, as we break out a "Better than Mania!" chant. This match really is clicking, as there's a multi-man corner spot that logically makes sense for once. Jericho and Owens are about to double-superplex Styles, so Cesaro gets underneath them and uses that position to powerbomb those two as they suplexed Styles. It looked perfect and played into Cesaro's strength gimmick.
Styles looks awesome taking Cesaro's press-up aerial uppercut, which is no surprise. They got knocked to the outside, allowing Jericho and Owens to have some good stuff, but Jericho's Quebrada is countered with knees to the gut. This leaves Jericho prone to a springboard 450 splash from Styles, but Cesaro breaks up the pin.
Cesaro goes to town on everyone with running corner uppercuts, and the Dallas crowd is behind him every step of the way. He delays a big one to amp us up more, allowing Jericho to hit a big boot, only for the former WWE Champion to eat a giant swing. That giant swing then leaves Cesaro prone to an Owens superkick. Owens then blocks a springboard move by Styles and drops him with a pop-up powerbomb, but that pin is broken by Jericho.
Jericho evades a pop-up powerbomb and drops Owens with a Codebreaker, only for that pin to be broken by Cesaro. Jericho and Cesaro show tremendous chemistry, making me sad that Vince declined their program 3 years earlier. They exchange a Boston Crab and Scorpion Death Lock as Dallas goes crazy. Cesaro's form on the latter submission is tremendous, but leaves him prone to a springboard forearm from Styles.
Owens and Styles have an exchange with Styles knocking Owens out of the ring, then kicks out at 2 after Jericho hits a successful Codebreaker on him. At this point we're breaking out "This is awesome!" chants. Jericho talks shit which is unwise as it allows Styles to make a comeback and get a bit of sweet vengeance for the prior night, pinning Jericho via a Styles Clash and winning the title shot!
This was a tremendous main event with all kinds of fresh matchups, including one for the first time ever. A returning star, a fresh direction on top, and it all leading to a Reigns vs. Styles dream match that I've been wanting to see since the moment the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion made his main roster debut at Royal Rumble 2016. ****
The decision to insert Styles into the main event was significant for me. Thanks to a lousy overall direction going into Dallas, and then the actual event's presentation doing nothing to compensate for that, I was going to cease keeping up on real-time WWE programming throughout the spring and summer. That cease would finally come after SummerSlam 2016; it was delayed for one reason only - after 13 years of WWE failing to make AJ Styles an offer worthy of his talent, not only had he been brought in, but he was now a main-eventer in the company. That is an example of a good business decision; I haven't even factored in how much this will benefit Reigns to help him improve his workrate even more.
While not perfect and in many ways an event that trivialized WrestleMania 32, this was a fantastic close to the weekend and got me stoked with one creative decision for Payback 2016. The main event scene is a HUGE improvement compared to what it was coming out of San Jose a year ago.
With this being Wade Barrett's final night on WWE TV, it's a shame that he never came close to his heights of 2010 again. While some of the injuries cannot be blamed on anyone, he was the victim of one thanks to incompetent booking of a battle royal in February 2012, a fucking dog shit match in every single way imaginable (entertainment value, cohesion, wrestler safety, structure, etc.) and my easy pick for Worst Match of 2012... anywhere. The injury he sustained in that match surely had to be a factor in injuries suffered later in his career, often cutting hard-earned momentum short for him. As someone with tremendous confidence, terrific promo cadence, and a solid in-ring ability, and haven already proven himself as a talker in the top scene, he was someone I had always hoped would find himself in a substantial position again. Hopefully the next chapter of Stu Bennett's life and career can bring him the success that was teased so frequently for him during his time in WWE.
Main Event – April 5, 2016
Taped from Houston, TX
Emma vs. Paige – ***1/4
SmackDown – April 7, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Houston, TX
The Vaudevillains make their NXT graduation in a match against the Lucha Dragons. They’re seasoned enough and have no more storytelling juice in NXT, so this is fine to have them as JTTS, or maybe they’ll surprise me at some point and tap into something special and unforeseen.
IC Title Match
The Miz vs. Zack Ryder – ***1/2
Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro & AJ Styles – ***
The results of Ambrose vs. Lesnar and Jericho vs. Styles IV become much clearer now.
Lesnar has to go over Ambrose. This means Ambrose needs something in the aftermath to keep him from losing too much stock. Therefore, he will be programmed against Jericho; this necessitates Jericho getting the victory over Styles at the grandest stage. This will be pacified by Styles pinning Jericho the next night to win a WWE Title shot.
The ultimate end game though: Roman Reigns. Lesnar must be protected so that Reigns gets the eventual bragging rights, and now that Styles has proven himself in the eyes of Vince McMahon and his closest crew, Reigns vs. Styles is booked both to give Reigns a hot hand to work with, and also see how Styles will perform in a top spot.
Once again, just to be clear: the result of Ambrose vs. Lesnar and Jericho vs. Styles IV, and where each of those four head into afterwards, is all ultimately for the goal of getting Roman Reigns over.
Raw – April 11, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Los Angeles, CA
Shane McMahon is in control again "due to overwhelming social media support." I'd actually much prefer the explanation that the Authority have not responded to comments about fighting for control, in a clear indication of being humbled by Roman Reigns at AT&T Stadium. Do everything in your power to paint Reigns as a knight in shining armor since nothing else has worked.
My quote from their PWG encounter 11 years ago in this city also involving Kevin Owens and Christopher Daniels:


With this being I believe the only time Styles and Generico collided, I'd have liked to see more than the former giving the latter his standard signature moves. (Fuck it, Styles should sign a WWE developmental contract so we can get the singles match all these years later!)
Proof that 2016 has been an insane year for professional wrestling, as numerous pipe dreams have come true (other than TNA's death of course.)
IC Title Shot Match
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens
Cesaro has his left shoulder taped up for whatever reason. After getting the early advantage, that bandaged limb is all Owens needs to get the heat and dominate. Cesaro is able to cut this off awhile since he's superior at sudden movements; this is what makes Owens susceptible to being cut off.
Even despite getting rammed into a ring post and then locked in the Crippler Crossface, both targeting the left arm, Cesaro is able to overcome the arsenal. A Scorpion Death Lock counter brings back natural memories of Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit. Owens looks to have the ultimate advantage since Cesaro's can't get many rotations on the giant swing, but that isn't enough, as Cesaro counters a pop-up powerbomb with a hurricanrana. Cesaro never allows Owens to gain his equilibrium, forcing him to eat a cradle facebuster for the finish. ***1/2
Owens bitches at Shane about being screwed repeatedly, refusing to calm down despite Shane's request to do so. Owens implies that he'll screw Sami Zayn again, so Shane throws him out of the STAPLES Center. Anyone who claims this is equal to Stephanie McMahon talking down to talents, fuck off for not grasping the clear difference here.
Go ahead and cream your pants about a Bullet Club invasion. I’m too busy getting rigid with anticipation over the **3/4 special possibilities for these two. Maybe I’ll genuinely give a shit if Karl Anderson gets to have the ***1/2+ singles matches he’s proven to be capable of.
Dream Match – Sami Zayn’s WWE Title Shot Opportunity
Sami Zayn vs. AJ Styles
Zayn has tape on his left elbow, selling the table powerbomb of Owens the week before. They have some stalemates early with arm twists and headlock takedown exchanges, neither able to get an extensive advantage. The competitive fire remains even as Styles gives a clean break in the corner, and moments later Zayn doesn’t give one, instead chopping the Phenomenal One. Nothing dirty, but just showing that he means business and wants his fucking chance at the WWE Title. Styles delivers a receipt with an awesomely timed dropkick, saying “Got you Sami!” right before doing so. It remains testy at this point as Styles elbows Zayn for a cut off, then knees his face on the outside. But moments later, Zayn baits Styles to be dumped outside, then hits a somersault plancha as the broadcast enters a commercial break.
Zayn attempts a comeback from a headlock, so Styles cuts that off with his spinning backfist combo, a clothesline, forearm, Stinger Splash, and Pump Handle Gutbuster, then follows up with an Ushigoroshi. A Styles Clash is countered with a small package near-fall, keeping this from becoming a boring squash. Zayn comes back by blocking Styles in a corner and hitting a crossbody, then moments later hits a tornado DDT for a solid near-fall. Styles keeps Zayn’s momentum short with a Pele kick, allowing him to prepare for a springboard attack, only to eat a Blue Thunder Bomb for another near-fall. He takes too long on a corner suplex, so Styles takes advantage with a Calf Crusher submission. Zayn was tremendous here selling the pain before reaching the ropes, although not quite on par with Chris Jericho a couple months earlier in Cleveland.
Zayn blocks a Super Sunset Flip, hitting a dropkick, but the Yakuza kick is blocked and the springboard forearm finishes Zayn off, ensuring the obvious Reigns vs. Styles and thus, Zayn vs. Owens matches coming up in Chicago. Another good match for the evening, in a nice appetizer of what these two could do should they ever be programmed against each other. I find it fitting that this dream match took place in PWG’s hometown. ***1/2
When the broadcast returns, Shane puts both Zayn and Styles over as they exchange respect.
Roman Reigns & Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio
Pretty fun main event, with Wyatt being the showcased performer, getting to shine while Reigns played the FIP. While nowhere near a blow away match, everyone did their jobs perfectly, including Rusev on the outside near the end interfering to trigger Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan’s equalizing arrival to take him out. The finish had a nice touch as Wyatt pinned Alberto and Reigns speared Shane, with the cult leader pointing towards Sheamus as Reigns came to his aid.
The post-match seemed to tease what Dave Meltzer had reported a couple months earlier, which was that the company had “big plans” for Wyatt throughout 2016. He and Reigns simply have a stare down which gets honestly a lukewarm reaction at best. I’ll chalk that up to the company not quite realizing that their feud was still fresh in the audience’s minds, especially with this taking place at the very venue where their 2015 program had ended. Wyatt definitely seems to be heeding the Rock’s words. ***
Main Event – April 12, 2016
Taped from San Diego, CA
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens – ***3/4
WWE Live – April 13, 2016
Live from Milan, Italy
The injury bug returns, although not as depressingly as the past year has been. Bray Wyatt suffers a calf injury in his WWE Title match against Roman Reigns, causing the match to abruptly end after a couple minutes. He looks to be out about 4-6 weeks. While he had just been cleared after a back injury, I wasn’t keen on him being groomed to refuel his feud against Reigns quite yet, so this is the opportunity to more organically build up steam while Reigns benefits from being programmed against AJ Styles.
SmackDown – April 14, 2016
Taped from San Diego, CA
Kevin Owens smugly telegraphs that he plans to intervene in tonight’s dream match main event pitting Chris Jericho against Sami Zayn.
Dream Match
AJ Styles vs. Alberto Del Rio
It’s the match that ROH couldn’t book a year earlier due to politics!
After some back-and-forth early, Alberto gets the advantage by attacking the abdomen of Styles, but that turns around when Styles avoids a corner charge, causing Alberto’s shoulder to hit a ring post. That is short lived when Alberto hits an Enziguri as Styles is on the apron and he hits a tope dropkick as the broadcast goes to a commercial break. Alberto is in control when the broadcast returns but Styles scouts the Enziguri to regain control.
After being the victim of numerous Styles signature moves, Alberto scouts the Pump Handle Gutbuster, turning it into a Lungblower, only to eat a Pele kick moments later. A scary moment comes when Styles is stuck in a Tree of Woe; Alberto gives him a Reverse Superplex and Styles looks to land on his head and/or shoulder. Perhaps that’s just terrific bumping between two professionals considering Styles missed no time due to this.
Styles scouts the Tree of Woe foot stomp, then Alberto scouts the springboard forearm, only for the cross armbreaker to be turned into an Oklahoma Roll pin for a Styles victory. Another good dream match for Styles this week in SoCal. Whereas I wanna see him in a program against Zayn, this match showed I’d have liked to have seen more of a rivalry against Alberto, since I’m not sure Alberto can ever reach the storyline peaks in WWE that he’s reached away from it. ***1/2
Dream Match
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn
This didn’t come anywhere close to dream match expectations, although it still should’ve taken place the month before at Roadblock 2016 in Toronto. I don’t wanna use location excuses considering the history that these two have in SoCal; this is the building where Jericho became the “Undisputed” WWE Champion, while Zayn’s history up north on i-5 in Reseda is rich and zesty.
The two did show some potential, and this can't technically be considered a good match had the match not been thrown out to due to interference from Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens, but that wouldn’t have served the purpose of this match, which was to be storyline advancement for 2 mid-card programs. Ambrose and Owens on commentary were the true highlights of this segment, proving that when the time comes that their feud is rekindled, it could be some tremendous business.
Superstars – April 15, 2016
Taped from Los Angeles, CA
Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze – ***1/4
Raw – April 18, 2016
Taped from London, England
Shane McMahon is still in charge of this weekly program, and confirms the obvious matches for Payback 2016 of Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens - ***1/4
Main Event – April 19, 2016
Taped from London, England
Apollo Crews vs. Curtis Axel - ***
Kane & Big Show vs. Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan - ***
SmackDown – April 21, 2016
Taped from London, England
The Miz vs. AJ Styles - ***1/2
NXT Live – April 21, 2016
Taped from Boston, MA
Once the entire match is available, it’ll be reviewed. As for the booking, don’t tell me that this would’ve helped house show tickets. Months later, ticket sales have been down for this brand, so this title change would indicate that it meant nothing. It was totally foolish not to have the title change in Dallas, as then Balor vs. Joe that night being the closing match over Sami Zayn’s swan song against the debuting Shinsuke Nakamura would’ve made logical sense. Just because the brand’s other titles changed hands that night doesn’t mean this title change couldn’t have been on the same card too; doing so would’ve easily solidified Takeover: Dallas as hands down, up and down the card when also considering the in-ring debut of Austin Aries, as the most historic event in NXT history, one that would NEVER be matched.
Superstars – April 22, 2016
Taped from London, England
Kalisto vs. Tyler Breeze - ***
OH FUCK YES~! The roster has REALLY missed him because outside of Kevin Owens, there’s been a severe lack in talkers that have the ability to polish the turds that creative passes off as acceptable television programming dialogue. This is especially true with Chris Jericho’s weak, disappointing efforts on the mic in the past several weeks.

WWE Live – April 22, 2016
Live from Paris, France


Dean Ambrose & Sami Zayn vs. Triple H & Kevin Owens - ***1/4


WWE Live – April 23, 2016

Live from Malaga, Spain


Dean Ambrose & Sami Zayn vs. Triple H & Kevin Owens - ***

Raw – April 25, 2016
Live from Hartford, CT
Shane McMahon is in charge yet again, but Stephanie returns and informs him that their father Vince will decide who runs Raw going forward this weekend at Payback 2016. While tolerable, I see the argument that this makes the actual competitors on the roster come across as secondary puppets.
Dream Match
Sheamus vs. AJ Styles
A good yet disappointing match, as this didn’t come close to the potential these two would show if this was for the IWGP Heavyweight Title or part of the annual G-1 Climax tournament. Sheamus pretty much dominated this with Styles having continuous hope spots. I’d much have preferred just a mean streak slug-fest that both of these men excel at, instead of having Styles play the intelligent underdog that won by targeting the legs of the bigger Sheamus. At least Styles went over to continue his hot streak. ***1/4
Roman Reigns agrees to have his cousins the Usos aid him in their common, yet complicated issue against Luke Gallows, AJ Styles, and Karl Anderson.
A fantastic vignette featuring clips of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens perspectives airs on their personal and professional history. Owens simply claims that he’s the victim since Zayn’s surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble match a few months earlier, while of course his choice to betray Zayn the year before in NXT was purely business. This match should be fucking fantastic.
SmackDown – April 28, 2016
Taped from Manchester, NH
Roman Reigns vs. The Miz - ***
Superstars – April 29, 2016
Taped from Hartford, CT
Kalisto vs. Tyler Breeze - ***1/4
So let’s compare to a year ago. There were 2 weekly highlights in the aftermath of WrestleMania 31; one being the New Day’s breakthrough heel turn, the other being John Cena’s incredibly fun first month as US Champion with his open challenge gimmick.
Both of those have been matched this year; Zayn vs. Owens is on par with New Day’s overnight sensation direction change, albeit both stories being very much different flavors. Miz’s ascension as IC Champion, when factoring in how much he’s been enhanced by the returning Maryse, is right on par with and also a tremendous contrast to Cena a year ago.
Ambrose vs. Jericho would be my pick as the parallel to last year’s Big Show vs. Roman Reigns. A tedious storyline that has questionable chances of being any good once the PPV match happens.
So what’s the difference-maker then?
Simply put, the main event scene. The Reigns vs. Styles direction makes me wish it had been the main event of WrestleMania 32, as it has completely, utterly smoked Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton a year ago. Everything involving the Usos, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson shits all over Kane and J&J Security.
What made this buildup for Payback 2016 so impressive in hindsight is that this was done without Cena, Rollins, Orton, Triple H, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, etc. This roster was fucking depleted; that’s very likely the biggest reason that Styles ended up getting this opportunity to help kick off what should end up being a defining WWE Title run for Reigns.
This was a huge upgrade over last year, and had the 2 months leading into WrestleMania 32 been just half as exciting as this was, maybe people would actually be more optimistic with this company’s decisions more often.

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Payback 2016 – May 1, 2016: The Good Shit

Live from Chicago, IL

In the social media lounge, Sami Zayn says “never say never” about trusting Kevin Owens again. There are certainly plenty of dream matchups for the former Kevin Steen & El Generico in WWE, including the New Day, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, DIY, the Revival, American Alpha, the Usos, it could go on and on too considering the talents that have signed since this event and are on the verge of doing so.

US Title – Ryback’s Last WWE Match

Kalisto vs. Ryback

Ryback is clearly pissed as his belt reads “Pre-Show Stopper.” He should be pissed as his workrate his improved in 2016 and the roster is thinner due to the injury bug, Daniel Bryan’s retirement, no part-time workers being on this card, and he can’t get slotted on the PPV broadcast.

Chicago amuses me with the “You can’t wrestle” chants directed at Ryback, as he’s bumping for Kalisto like Batista would do for Rey Mysterio. Then most impressively, Kalisto almost fucks himself up with a corkscrew to the outside, but Ryback saves him. Sure, it was a bit business-exposing to the trained eye; I’ll take business exposing over Kalisto suffering a fate similar to Hayabusa and Tyson Kidd. Although I can easily counter that with the claim that Ryback got in position to catch Kalisto with the intention of countering the aerial attack, so maybe it’s not business-exposing after all.

This wasn’t the total Ryback show on his last night in the company though. Kalisto was equally awesome playing the Spider-Man to Ryback’s Juggernaut, moving around so smoothly and bumping incredibly to sell The Big Guy’s bombs. I loved his selling of pain, enhancing Ryback’s cocky demeanor, only to use his smaller frame to his advantage with a DDT counter. I also loved Kalisto hitting a DDT to Ryback on the apron; this should marginalize the Shell-Shocked.

Kalisto was able to evade Ryback’s powerful strikes for the most part. While Ryback was able to cut off a Kalisto barrage with a spinebuster, he made the mistake of going up to the top rope just to get kicked in the face. While he hit the champion with a Super Military Press Slam, his decision to go for a top rope splash was a poor one. Kalisto easily scouted it and took advantage with a Sitdown Shiranui.

If Ryback had found this workrate during his star power peak of a few years earlier, perhaps he wouldn’t broken through to the heights that the company had planned for Sheamus. It’s a shame that he became a good hand once it was too late for him, but as already seen with Alberto Del Rio, a return one day wouldn’t be too surprising. ***1/4

The Tag Titles Shot Tournament Final between the Vaudevillains and Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore is abruptly ended when Amore suffers a scary concussion, having to be escorted away from ringside on a stretcher.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

Tremendous match as expected, with Zayn getting the early emotional heat dominance, but Owens would weather that storm. Owens was on fire with his shit-talking in this one, bringing the mean streak to give this a sense of legitimacy that very feuds seem to carry nowadays. In addition, the timing of major spots in this was top-notch.

A great example of timing in this one would be Zayn hitting a Michinoku Driver on an overzealous Owens for a near-fall, then moments later hitting a Blue Thunder Powerbomb that the crowd bought as false finishes. Much later on, I was also certain that Owens would block Zayn’s through-the-ropes tornado DDT on the outside, but it was actually delivered surprisingly.

Byron Saxton had a terrific example of why he should be reassigned away from the commentary booth, or whoever produces him should be relieved of their duties. When Owens talked shit to Michael Cole, Saxton said he should focus on Zayn. JBL then inserted the fact they were in Chicago, the city that saw Michael Jordan trash-talk his way into 6 NBA Titles. This was a missed opportunity for Saxton to point out that yes, MJ was a trash-talker to his OPPONENTS, not Marv Albert or Bob Costas. Had MJ focused any of his energy on the commentators, he never would’ve overcome the Pistons and led the Bulls to that iconic dynasty.

I loved Zayn’s body language and hope spots in this one, showing the kind of fire that will one day culminate in a career-defining top title victory, maybe even in the main event of WrestleMania. His bumping also went above and beyond to make Owens look like a million bucks, including a gut-first suplex on the top rope in which he flipped over onto the canvas.

The finishing sequence was also terrific. While they’d take advantage of the opportunities to throw bombs on each other, they’d also sell them, showing how successful there were in their desperation. I also loved Zayn’s tightrope DDT being countered with a backbreaker, softening the ginger’s back for the pop-up powerbomb of Owens.

Owens taking a backdrop bump on the ring apron wasn’t enough to keep him down in this one. After all, this was the man that had gone to war against John Cena a year earlier and came out the victor, clean as a sheet. So this was ultimately a mismatch. Once Owens blocked Zayn’s Yakuza kick with a superkick, that left his former best friend prone for the pop-up powerbomb, securing the victory clean as a sheet.

Owens continues to be abusive after the match, throwing Zayn out of the ring in what was surely a moral victory for what happened in the Royal Rumble match a few months earlier. He then demands Byron Saxton get in the ring, puts himself over, and declares that he’s coming for the IC Title again. With the IC Title match scheduled next, Owens also says he’ll be providing commentary. Awesome. ****

IC Title Match

The Miz vs. Cesaro

Owens was on fire at the commentary booth as expected. The zingers he laid on Saxton and Michael Cole were just sensational; meanwhile there was a quality match happening in the ring.

Miz targeted Cesaro’s taped left shoulder, which Owens put over as an intelligent game plan. This was a mismatch though before that, as Maryse had to hold her husband’s feet down to prevent Cesaro’s aprox superplex. I’d have liked to see Miz incite the crowd a bit more, since Chicago is DEFINITELY a Cesaro market. But he was damn good selling Cesaro’s offense, allowing the former US Champion to be displayed as the superior technician.

The top takeaway of the match happened in the closing moments, as Zayn returned to brawl with Owens. They then eventually got on the apron so Cesaro knocked them both off, allowing Miz to take advantage with a schoolboy pin while holding his tights. The match then became a four-way brawl that had Owens as the last man standing. Awesome way to open up a number of different matchups and possibly even an actual four-way match probably for Extreme Rules 2016. ***1/2

In a segment that was way too long and I don’t care to recap, Vince McMahon tells his children Shane and Stephanie that they will be co-GMs of Raw. Whatever.

WWE Title – Dream Match

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles

Styles targets the left hamstring of Reigns early, the obvious take away his powerlifting counters and occasional aerial attacks. He shows a willingness to play mind games and bend the rules a bit, but nothing incredibly unethical. Reigns got some heat with clubbing blows, but nothing substantial until a clothesline that Styles sold tremendously.

I like the powerbomb work early for Reigns, focusing on the back injury that had plagued Styles as he entered WWE. Reigns got too comfortable after showing his power though, thinking he’d be get to finish Styles an early Superman punch, but the Styles countered with a desperate Enziguri to regain control. Despite his sore back, he was able to deliver an Ushigiroshi on the champ to further cement control. That continued when Reigns tried to elbow out of waist lock, and Styles rolled him over for a Calf Killer attempt.

The next part of the match was a highlight, with Styles hitting a springboard foreman to Reigns on the outside, causing both to crash through a commentary table. This got Styles a count out victory which would be overturned by Shane McMahon, who said to continue under no count out rules. Whatever, I’m too busy being pleased with Reigns selling for Styles to such a heavy degree.

Reigns has a chinbreaker hope spot, only to eat a spinning backfist combo and Pele kick. Styles goes for the 450 Splash but his abdomen eats the knees of Reigns for a near-fall. In the process, Reigns has reaggravated the soreness in his left leg from the earlier work of Styles. Fantastic. Whatever Styles had in mind with a corner move backfires when Reigns actually hits his groin, causing a DQ. That gets overturned by Stephanie McMahon, ordering the match to now continue under no DQ rules.

Reigns seems rejuvenated, weathering a fury from Styles, grabbing him, and striking him hard enough to fall off the corner to the outside. He continues the attack, but his left leg still hinders him. How could anyone not appreciate Reigns as a performer seeing how much respect he’s showing for Styles here by selling so tremendously? They go into the crowd, but Styles drives Reigns into a barricade and then follows that up with a jumping clothesline, then a knee drop to drives the face of Reigns onto another commentary table. There are dueling chants at this point, and they’re well-deserved.

Styles attempts a springboard forearm, only to get countered with the Superman Punch for a near-fall. Both looked awesome being simultaneously in mid-air, something that could be used a company highlight reel. Moments later, Styles eats another Superman Punch and prepares for a spear, only for Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to yank Styles out and double-team Reigns. Styles takes a while to hit a successful springboard forearm, which Reigns overcomes with a foot on the bottom rope.

The Usos arrive to even the numbers game; this is somewhat reminding me of John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in this very building 2 years earlier at that year’s Payback. Styles looks to go for a springboard 450 splash, but Reigns pushes him to the outside on the human pile and goes back down in pain due to his left leg. Reigns struggles to get up, but once he does he hits a crossbody to the outside, but then Styles jumps off the nearby barricade with a forearm.

Back in the ring, Styles hits the springboard 450 splash for a great near-fall. Sensing the end is here, he goes for the Styles Clash and gets tossed over onto the apron. Styles counters the Superman Punch by driving the throat of Reigns on the top rope. Reigns then avoids the springboard forearm and finishes off the challenger with a spear.

In the back, Vince McMahon confirms with Shane and Stephanie that Reigns vs. Styles was a great main event, and due to both that and the interference, there will be a hardcore rematch at Extreme Rules 2016. Zero complaints whatsoever here.

While the interference was necessary for the overall arc of this program, it dragged this down from being on par with Cesaro vs. Reigns several months earlier. That wasn’t enough to taint this match though, as Reigns made Styles look like a million bucks with his selling. Styles undoubtedly belongs as a top priority on the WWE roster food chain going forward, while Reigns certainly learned even more by working with one of the best performers of the 21st Century. ****1/4

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Raw – May 2, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from St. Louis, MO


Kevin Owens tries politicking for an IC Title match, and both Shane and Stephanie McMahon say he’s got a great point about being contractually entitled to one. But Cesaro interrupts and is pissed about what happened last night, so now they’ll have another IC Title shot match.


IC Title Shot Match
Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens - ***




Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson tell AJ Styles that he was phenomenal last night, but he keeps his ego in check, pointing out that Roman Reigns defeated him. But coming so close makes him even hungrier when their rematch comes at Extreme Rules 2016. Reigns shows up and gives Styles respect, but not Gallows & Anderson; he says their interference indicates they don’t believe Styles can beat him on his own. He then asks the trio if they can beat him and the Usos. Styles vows he’ll dethrone Reigns all by himself, and tonight will be a taste in a trios match. That should be a hot TV main event after a few weeks of mechanically good but rather cold ones.


In what could very likely turn out to be their career highlight work, the Vaudevillains are incredibly callous cunts about Enzo Amore’s concussion.




It would seem that Emma is being groomed as a clear #2 heel under Charlotte. However, around this time, perhaps something else is brewing. In recent months, there has been AJ Styles coming into the fold. Finn Balor should be getting promoted to the main roster at some point, with Samoa Joe not too far behind. John Cena, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, and Randy Orton will be returning over the next few months as well based on their recovery timetables. Cesaro and Sami Zayn have already returned, and we now know for sure that WWE is interested in Bobby Roode. When putting all these pieces together, I remember at this time saying that this would be the most loaded roster since 2002, which was so congested with star power that it had to required a brand split. Could that be on the horizon, and thus Emma is being groomed as a top heel female for one of the hypothetical brands?





NXT – May 4, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Orlando, FL


I’ve always viewed Eric Young as TNA’s Zack Ryder, a goofy undercard guy that has no place in the top, but can peak in the right mid-card scheme. If he can provide ***+ TV matches like Ryder, then whatever, even if I prefer more notorious workhorses from the underground and international scenes. Not the most buzzworthy presentation of a debut for a brand that prides itself on them, but understandable since Young isn’t under contract, so why make him a huge deal?


After taking care of Tye Dillinger, Austin Aries is complimentary of him in a backstage interview, but can tell he’s fallen under the radar by making reference to Shinsuke Nakamura when mentioning all the buzz for the greatest signing in NXT history. Aries isn’t bitter as that has been his MO in prior companies, but believes he’ll have to take more initiative to break through in WWE. Taking initiative as part of Generation Next paid dividends for him a dozen years earlier in ROH, so he’s got the correct idea.


Eric Young’s WWE Debut Match
Samoa Joe vs. Eric Young - ***1/4


Raw – May 9, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Omaha, NE


AJ Styles says “The Club” of himself, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson is back together tonight, ending his backstage interview with the trio doing the nWo’s “too sweet” gesture.


Shane & Stephanie McMahon reveal to IC Champion The Miz, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens that they’ll have a three-way at Extreme Rules 2016. Miz complains as expected, and then Sami Zayn shows up just to ask for an opportunity to be inserted, which will be in a singles match against Miz tonight. The heels are obviously displeased while Cesaro isn’t bothered by it.


Sami Zayn’s IC Title Shot Opportunity
The Miz vs. Sami Zayn - ***1/2





Zack Ryder asks Shane McMahon for a chance to be in the IC Title match at Extreme Rules 2016, and gets interrupted by Kevin Owens who predictably tries to pitch that Ryder doesn’t deserve it. Shane books them in a singles match and should Ryder win, Owens is replaced by him in the IC Title match. Owens was just awesome here.






Survivor Series Style Elimination Match
The Bloodline vs. Luke Gallows, AJ Styles, & Karl Anderson - ***1/4










NXT – May 11, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Orlando, FL


Bayley’s backstage interview is interrupted by Nia Jax, and the latter dismisses the result of their match 5 months ago in London. Bayley vows the same thing would happen again.






SmackDown – May 12, 2016: The Good Shit

Taped from Des Moines, IA


The Miz & Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro & Sami Zayn - ***1/4


NXT Seattle Shockwave – May 12, 2016
Live from Seattle, WA


NXT Tag Titles Match
American Alpha vs. The Revival - ****+


NXT Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor - ***1/2


NXT Live – May 14, 2016
Live from Portland, OR


NXT Tag Titles Match
American Alpha vs. The Revival - ***1/2+


NXT Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor - ***+




Raw – May 16, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Greensboro, NC




The tag match pitting IC Champion The Miz & Cesaro against Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens is good storytelling to build for the upcoming four-way match; it also serves as a reminder of what looks unlikely to ever come, in which when faced against a reunited Zayn & Owens, I’d much rather see Cesaro paired with someone a bit less… Miz-erable if you will, instead being partnered against the iconic underground tandem with someone a bit more familiar, a fellow King among men,, someone more… Heroic.


The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson - ***3/4










AWFUL timing with her and Dana Brooke obviously getting groomed for something, especially if there will be a major move done, which I see as a possibility, with the star power congestion that’s on horizon with so many returning from injury themselves very soon.






NXT – May 18, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Orlando, FL


American Alpha vs. The Revival for the NXT Tag Titles is confirmed for the next Takeover on June 8. They’re having excellent matches all over the nation, so zero complaints whatsoever.




SmackDown – May 19, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Greenville, SC


Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens - ***




Rusev has another fun heel promo, proclaiming to be the greatest US Champion ever and that he’ll finish off “that Mexican churro” Kalisto at Extreme Rules 2016.








I would be pissed off too if I was Cody Runnels. After he and his brother Goldust dethroned the Shield, the company did nothing substantial to follow up on their momentum. It resulted in their stock dropping, as well as the Tag Titles becoming meaningless once again, especially repeat non-title matches they’d have against Real Americans rather than making it an actual program with a clear, beginning, middle, and climactic conclusion. Even after he became Stardust and reclaimed the belts with Goldust, it ultimately led to nothing substantial; nobody was begging to see the Rhodes brothers split and feud. There could be reasons beyond WWE’s control for this, but imagine how frustrating it was to have the program with Stephen Amell that fired on all cylinders, tease a singles match in early 2016 at a comic convention in the very city that was hosting WrestleMania 32, and then the match never taking place… even though Amell was in attendance at that very event. He made the right choice by branching out to elevate his stock and leverage.


As for the Extreme Rules 2016 build, the WWE Title program between Reigns and Styles is easily the hottest, most engrossing in 2 years; even though there had been occasional good directions around that title since such as John Cena against Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins, none of them could come close to Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania XXX. Reigns vs. Styles isn’t quite as magical as that one; it’s still the best one since then.


The Miz looks to quietly already having a resurgence in 2016 as IC Champion and his wife Maryse returning as his valet; it started even before his IC Title reign just in his TV singles matches against Styles, showing he could hang with elite performers still. He’s not quite ready to be a major priority character, but he could be on his way. Feuding with the likes of Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens has done nothing but help his stock. And of course, the Zayn vs. Owens programs keeps brewing without blowing through too many singles matches. Most importantly, the IC Title feels relevant again for the first time in 7 years, back when Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio were feuding over it.


Meanwhile on NXT, it has yet to recapture the magic of a year ago when Zayn, Owens, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks were tearing it up. With that said, the Takeover line-up looks promising so far with Samoa Joe and Finn Balor finally wrapping up their feud in a historic cage match and a rematch between American Alpha and the Revival.


For the month of May, I’ll give the edge to 2016 over 2015. Main roster improvement is more important than NXT hotness decreasing, and it always should be.

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Extreme Rules 2016 – May 22, 2016: The Good Shit

Live from Newark, NJ


IC Champion the Miz modifies a reenactment of the 2004 film Miracle to gloat about why he’ll win tonight, and Maryse is hilarious having him do a second take.


In the social media lounge, Rusev & Lane are fantastic diet versions of Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman. His post-League of Nations rehabilitation has been another plus these last few weeks; this kind of booking a year (after losing the feud to John Cena) would’ve made him a perfect candidate to face Undertaker at AT&T Stadium instead of having to get desperate and overpay Shane McMahon for it.


Texas Tornado Rules

The Usos vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson


Just a straight-up brawl from start to finish. The Usos got their high-action moments to shine, but this match was all about finally elevating Gallows & Anderson. There was never a dull moment even when most were down after a series of trading finishers. I also loved the finish of an Uso falling on a ring bell and having a combo of too much pain and lack of breather to stop the former Bullet Club duo from hitting their modified raised neckbreaker finish. The NYC metro area crowd was totally behind Gallows & Anderson too, although it’s likely because of how supportive the Usos have been of Roman Reigns lately. ***1/2


US Title Match
Kalisto vs. Rusev


This started as a total squash in Rusev’s favor, and had the entire match been that way it would’ve worked perfectly. But after experience against Ryback and Alberto Del Rio, Kalisto knew how to manage to escape submission and hit some hope spot bombs, including a tope hurricanrana into steel steps.


This was the Rusev Show overall though; once he tossed Kalisto off the top rope and onto the apron, causing the US Champ to land back-first, that was the damage needed to reaggravate the attack from 6 days earlier and cause an immediate submission in the Camel Clutch. I’m glad to see that the ship hasn’t sailed to correct Rusev’s booking, although I’m disappointed Kalisto never got over to the level of War era cruiserweights such as Dean Malenko, Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, and Eddie Guerrero. ***1/4




IC Title – No DQ, No Count Out Match

The Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens


Possibly the best match that Miz will ever have on his resume, and while his isn’t the most stacked, it’s still quite impressive considering some of the greatness that can be found on it. What I really love about this match and makes it stand above the majority of other four-ways is just how intelligently it was worked and timed; there wasn’t a single spot wasted or that came across as just getting their shit in.


The match couldn’t have started any better with Zayn immediately surprising Owens with a Yakuza kick, and then a smug Miz eating a running uppercut from Cesaro. JBL was correct on commentary that the babyfaces should’ve have wasted any time while the heels were both out of the equation. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t crank up the urgency on each other, which I would’ve liked to have seen. That allowed the heels to get reinserted after a few minutes of selling the blows at the beginning.


Everyone shined equally in this one and did so fluidly. The action in this had me bring back memories of Christopher Daniels vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles at Unbreakable 11 years earlier. But while that one had more high-risk aerial attacks in it, this was rooted more in throwing bombs. Everything in this just fired on all cylinders, the drama ascending with each passing minute. Whether it was Cesaro going to town with uppercuts or Owens doing the same with cannonballs, or the numerous counters tha dazzled and made absolute sense, this really had it all and shattered the highest expectations one could’ve had for this.


Specific highlights for me would be Owens shining on Zayn and talking trash; Maryse distracting the ref so he didn’t see Miz tap out to Cesaro’s Scorpion Death Lock; and the numerous false finishes that genuinely seemed like they would’ve ended the match, including Miz’s Skull Crushing Finale on Cesaro. In addition, I loved that Cesaro’s left shoulder became a problem at the end of the match, having been thrown into a ring post by Owens early. Oh yes, who could ever forget Zayn hitting his front end modified Yoshi Tonic on Cesaro, a favorite spot of theirs for the better part of a decade in their encounters?


This match most importantly elevated the IC Title and advanced the Zayn vs. Owens storyline. The finish couldn’t have been scripted any better, with Cesaro eating Zayn’s Yakuza kick, Owens yanking Zayn out of the ring to spark a brief brawl, and a dazed Miz taking advantage to seal the victory for himself. Such a fantastic cap to one of the best matches of the year, and Cesaro even sold his left shoulder when the final Yakuza kick struck him!


This is easily on par with the Last Man Standing match Owens had against Dean Ambrose 4 months earlier at Royal Rumble 2016 when discussing the best IC Title match of the 2016 calendar year. For standard four-way matches in WWE history, the only one that pops to mind would be the one Zayn had 2 years earlier against Neville, Tyson Kidd, and Tyler Breeze at Takeover: Fatal 4-Way, which was one of the best WWE matches in 2014.


This belongs in the conversation as one of the greatest IC Title matches of all-time, with classic such as Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith, and Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley, just to name a few. As the years pass, this will truly stand the test of time, and maybe not just the best match of Miz’s career, but arguably for the other three participants on their WWE resume as well. ****1/2



The Cruiserweight Classic premiers on July 13. Michael Cole explains that 32 cruiserweights across the globe had to qualify to be in the tournament; “the top cruiserweight in the entire world” will be crowned. OH FUCK YES~!


WWE Title – Hardcore Match
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles


This match certainly sealed the deal for Styles to be permanently become a top priority in the company. The NYC metro area crowd was enough to put this over the top as an important match, which speaks volumes as to how hot this arc had gotten on TV. This match could’ve easily avoided certain spots in it and still have turned out to be a great match. However, just like the IC Title classic earlier on the card, this went above and beyond; that turned out to be an all-time IC Title classic, while this surpassed it as an all-time WWE Title classic, making it the match of the night.


My personal highlight in this match was midway through in the ring when Reigns went for a spear and Styles scouted it by hitting a spear of his own on the champion’s left leg. It was a brilliant counter to get the challenger back in this after taking a backdrop bump through a commentary table, one that had me wondering if I was watching 1996 Shawn Michaels in high definition. While in recent years Seth Rollins had drawn the HBK comparisons in light of Daniel Bryan’s body breaking down, Styles now took that torch and cemented the void that had been left voided for 6 years.


Reigns was equally phenomenal in this match to Styles. While the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion would grab the attention with his spectacular bumps and amazing counters, Reigns once again displayed top-notch selling to sell the attacks of Styles like a million bucks. While he would still be able to use his base to bust out various bombs after getting his left leg drilled by Styles, he couldn’t really follow through on any of those bombs because of it. Case in point would be when he swung Styles around like Samoa Joe did at Turning Point 2005 (and to CM Punk as well at Joe vs. Punk II), and then threw him to take a powerbomb onto another commentary table. While Styles got the attention for his jaw-dropping bump, there was Reigns leaning onto the barricade, struggling to regain his energy.


By no means will this just be a one-sided Reigns advocacy; Styles was very obviously nothing short of sensational in this contest to cement a top spot for himself on the roster. Whether it was taking unforgettable bumps to make Reigns look like such a powerful force, busting out perfectly timed counters to cut off the champion’s momentum, or pulling out the mean streak, he brought out a career highlight performance that fans of his had been privileged to consume since the War ended 15 years earlier.


I loved that Styles peeled off some padding on a barricade and smashed the face of Reigns on it, then removed some from the floor to attempt a Styles Clash on the concrete. Reigns was sniffing it out and then immediately punching him was really good stuff, and with Styles down it allowed Reigns an opportunity to regain some stamina. Later on, they paid off the story told in the weeks leading up to this when Styles went for the same finish again on a chair, only for the champion to backdrop him on it.


After the Usos and Gallows/Anderson interfered, Styles went for the Styles Clash again on the chair, this time successfully. In a brilliant move, an Usos yanked Styles out immediately afterwards; this was enough seconds later for Reigns to kick out as a false finish. I loved this because the alternative would’ve been just Reigns kicking out on his own, which would’ve only been more ridiculous for those who haven’t come around on him yet as Cena’s heir to the throne.


The finish was sensational of course, with Styles putting everything into his springboard elbow, only for Reigns to spear him. Styles had nothing left to kick out, resulting in the champion retaining. The way Styles bumped for it made it look like it was all or nothing, giving everything he did into his elbow attack, only for it backfire to knock him unconscious.


If the match itself wasn’t enough to send these people home happy, regardless of who won, here’s the return of Rollins to ensure there’s no celebration for Reigns, leaving him on the mat via a Pedigree and then holding the championship. The crowd was fucking ecstatic; while he’s very clearly not a babyface with this move, the crowd’s reaction would indicate it may be wise to have him transition into that role in the coming months. It made complete sense for obvious reasons for Rollins to target the WWE Title, but even more poetic: this was 6 months to the very date that Rollins was supposed to defind it against Reigns at Survivor Series 2015.


This could very possibly end up being the greatest match in the career of Reigns. Time will tell on that one, but no matter what it’s gonna be remembered as one of his very best. As for Styles, this match elevated his stock as mentioned as he went out of his way to put Reigns over as a tremendous bad-ass. As for his resume is concerned, I’ve yet to get around to any of his acclaimed NJPW tenure (although I badly hope to make the time to do so at some point soon.) I also haven’t seen any of his IWA-MS catalog; I’ve seen more than my fair share of his best stuff though, including his entire tenure in ROH during Gabe Sapolsky’s time as booker, and the first 4.5 years of TNA’s existence.


This might be the best match in the career of Styles. It wouldn’t get my vote, as that distinction goes to his singles encounter against Paul London at Night of the Grudgies. With that said, this match belongs in the conversation, along with the entire ROH trilogy against Bryan Danielson, the ROH rematch against Low Ki, the first 30 Minute Iron Man match against Christopher Daniels at Against All Odds 2005, the Unbreakable spectacular against Daniels and Samoa Joe, and the mentioned barn-burner against Joe at Turning Point 2005. That’s some elite company for Reigns vs. Styles II to be a part of, and deservedly so.


In the past, this may have ended up being the WWE MOTY. The year 2016 wasn’t normal though, and besides, I don’t use a traditional calendar year: I start with WrestleMania weekend, and finish with the go-home week of the following year’s WrestleMania weekend. Bottom line either way, this doesn’t get my vote for the MOTY, not in the same year as Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. But if it wasn’t for that match, or if perhaps Reigns and Styles had just added a calf killer submission false finish to follow up on the left leg selling of Reigns, this very could’ve been. Instead, it’ll just have to settle for all the praise I’ve given it, which is that this is one of the greatest WWE Title matches of all-time. ****3/4


Strongest recommendation possible for 2 fun undercard matches of different flavors and a rare 1-2 MOTYC punch on top of it. For perspective, the only shows in WWE”s history to have a consensus 1-2 MOTYC punch have been WrestleMania X, Fully Loaded 2000, WrestleMania X-Seven, No Mercy 2002, Backlash 2004, WrestleMania 21, No Mercy 2008, Extreme Rules 2012, and SummerSlam 2013. That’s all for a company that has aired PPV events for over 3 decades. So let that sink in.


I’m not quite done yet though, for this was the historic return of Seth Rollins. So time to dig into his WWE 24 documentary titled Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim.


More than anything, this humanized Colby Lopez (Rollins). It showed a glimpse of just how much effort one puts in just to return to the ring, without even showing the actual rigors of being on the road full-time. This documentary also displayed the passion that this man has for the professional wrestling business; all those years he spent killing it on the indies were learning experiences as he paid his dues to reach his dream of being in WWE, the only big game left in town.


The respect of his peers on display was astounding, with all of it genuine, from John Cena to Cesaro to Sami Zayn to AJ Styles to Kevin Owens to Austin Aries. If there’s one flaw in this documentary, I’d say it was to include nothing from Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns; in the latter’s case, it would also help humanize him and maybe soften the audience’s overall vitriol towards him ever since the Shield split.


What’s crystal-clear is that when adding this humanizing look into Rollins to the fact that the crowd had been chanting for him days earlier and then erupted upon his return at Extreme Rules 2016, the WWE had a ready-made babyface redemption story handed on a silver platter. For those who despise fantasy booking, you can move on from here. I will give a quick outline of what I’d have in mind for Rollins in his story of redemption to go with his redesigning, rebuilding, and reclaiming.


· Say he’s not 100% proud of all the decision he had made in the past 2 years, and it sucked not being part of the biggest WrestleMania of all-time, but perhaps it was his karma. With that said, “I did what I had to do, and I wouldn’t take any of it back.”

· Be humbled by and appreciative of the “surprising” support he got from the fans during his 6 months away, considering how much his heart had darkened since joining the Authority

· Lose clean in his WWE Title match against Reigns

· Have Triple H return after Battleground 2016 and shockingly betray Rollins. HHH goes on to explain that Rollins failed him by getting hurt. “I should’ve never had to become WWE Champion again in the first place, I was counting on you to keep Roman Reigns from getting to the top of the mountain.” HHH is also displeased that Rollins failed yet again upon his return to dethrone Reigns.

· Rollins vs. HHH in the dream match at SummerSlam 2016, with HHH getting an extremely dirty win to show his cerebral superiority

· Rollins finally slays HHH at Hell in a Cell 2016 and then moves on

· In the months that follow, Rollins is far more apologetic of his actions. The newer blood on the roster such as Zayn, Styles, and Finn Balor (assuming he’s promoted by then) are fine with him, but others on the WWE main roster in recent years not so much.

· Rollins eventually is forgiven by the locker room, with Ambrose & Reigns as the last ones, but that doesn’t mean they consider him a friend or brother anymore. This forgiveness opens the door for a future Shield reunion.

· Rollins wins the 2017 Royal Rumble match. The WWE Champion he must challenger in the main event of WrestleMania 33: Brock Lesnar

· Lesnar: “You think I forgot about our singles match a couple years back, when Undertaker showed up and screwed me and then you took the chickenshit way out? I beat your ass that night, and it’s gonna happen again at WrestleMania. This fairytale forgiveness redemption bullshit, I don’t have time for that. Shove that shit up your ass; I’m beating the shit out of you when we get to Orlando and ending this little charade of yours. That whole locker room can forgive you for all the shit you’ve done to them; I don’t.”

· Rollins clean as a sheet gives everything he has to dethrone Lesnar at WrestleMania 33 and this time cement himself as a true WWE Champion, now much more willing to take on all comers


We shall see if Rollins in 2016 can come close to what I just proposed.

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Raw – May 23, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Baltimore, MD


In his return promo, Seth Rollins makes it very clear that his knee injury did nothing to humble him or even soften his heart, bitter about his criticisms in 2015. This isn’t the most ideal obviously, because John Cena returning next week only makes for one legitimate tippy-top babyface. I’m willing to be patient though, as idiotic as this move is to keep Rollins heel. Maybe once Triple H inevitably betrays him, Rollins will see the error of his ways to begin his journey at redemption.


Shane McMahon confirms that the Money in the Bank 2016 main event will be Rollins challenging Roman Reigns for the WWE Title. That should be good at worst, but Reigns being babyface and Rollins being heel could kill that match dead since it’s not the dynamic the crowd wants at all.




Money in the Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens – ***1/2



Shocking clean win for Owens here, and now that Styles has lost the program against Roman Reigns, isn’t in the Money in the Bank ladder match, and no longer has Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson on his side, one has to wonder what his next direction would be. There’s no way he’s going back to the midcard that he started at 4 months ago, no way after helping Reigns shine so significantly.





About fucking time in regards to SmackDown; as for the draft, not too surprised considering how stacked the roster is getting with the returning stars and NXT graduations on the horizon. This confirms my suspicious that Emma was being groomed for a top women’s spot and that AJ Styles will continue to be in a top position. Now I wonder who’s gonna actually take advantage of the extra screen time every week.


Most importantly, because this is ultimately a year-long journey to WrestleMania 33 weekend: the first ever Showcase of the Immortals of the original draft era was a rousing aesthetic success at Safeco Field. But back then, there was no third brand; the product didn’t blatantly rely on part-timers as heavily as today. Look back at that WrestleMania XIX card – including the pre-show, a total of 10 matches, with 6 of them as straight singles. How the fuck is this current WWE roster, the most stacked since the War ended, going to get everyone of substance on the Granddaddy of ‘Em All come April 2 at Camping World Stadium?



NXT – May 25, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Orlando, FL


TM61’s WWE Debut Match

DIY vs. TM61 – ***1/4



A nice video package highlighting Samoa Joe’s perspective airs to hype up his feud-ending cage match against Finn Balor at the next Takeover.



OH FUCK YES~! One of the biggest dream matches since both signed, one that ROH and RPW just couldn’t get around to ever booking.


A nice video package highlighting Finn Balor’s perspective airs to hype up his feud-ending cage match against Samoa Joe at the next Takeover.


SmackDown – May 26, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Norfolk, VA


Money in the Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
Zack Ryder vs. Alberto Del Rio – ***


US Title Match
Rusev vs. Kalisto – ***


AJ Styles isn’t sure what’ll be next for him, but that his WWE tenure has been an uphill battle so far. “I’ll guess have to think of something.”


IC Title Match
The Miz vs. Cesaro – ***1/4


Raw – May 30, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Green Bay, WI


John Cena’s return turns out to be a challenger for the second-best Raw segment of the 2016 calendar year; for MY calendar, it may be very well be the absolute best. That’s to be determined as this year-long journey continues.


Cena somehow weaves in a respectful promo about the military and Memorial Day into the freedom he has to be a WWE superstar still. He says that the new blood which has arrived in his absence will still have to answer to him, as his days are far from over.


AJ Styles then arrives; I’m honestly disappointed by the cold reaction this got both from the crowd and the commentary team. This should’ve been treated by the crowd as a diet version of the Rock interrupting Hulk Hogan in February 2002. Like many puro classics though, the drama slowly built as Cena and Styles were in the same ring for the first time ever, with the crowd organically breaking into lengthy dueling chants for both legends.


Styles puts Cena over for his work ethic and they have a handshake. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson arrive to shit on them for being ass-kissers and it looks like Cena and Styles will team up against the former IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champs, only for Styles to turn heel and blindside Cena!!! The 3 former Bullet Club members prove their interaction last week was all a ruse as they gang up on Cena.


Styles attacks Cena 3 more times, wanting to truly stand out to the biggest wrestling star of the 21st Century to date. The trash-talk from the Club comes across as incredibly visceral, with Styles yelling out that he’s now done the world a favor.


OH FUCK YES~! OH FUCK YES~! OH FUCK YES~! This dream program finally occurring is a little earlier than I expected, but damn, we’ve got some hot shit to carry the summer here to go along with the upcoming brand split. It’s gonna be an epic night in Vegas at Money in the Bank 2016.


IC Champion The Miz announces through Facebook that he’ll be gone temporarily to film The Marine 5: Battleground. Fantastically smug promo and Maryse’s introduction only made it even smugger.


Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, and Alberto Del Rio have an amusing backstage segment before tonight’s trios main event. Owens is surprised when Jericho says he’s doesn’t like him, for once the former NXT Champion actually not having a problem with someone else on the roster.


Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, & Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, & Alberto Del Rio – ***1/2


Main Event – May 31, 2016
Taped from Rockford, IL


Summer Rae vs. Sasha Banks – ***



NXT – June 1, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Orlando, FL


The Revival cut their usual fantastic smug promo about being top guys and vowing to dethrone American Alpha next week, only to get interrupted by DIY. This engaging exchange leads to a tag match tonight. I foresee the Revival having huge potential on the main roster since they can actually talk and carry themselves with genuine swagger.


Corey Graves has a sit down interview with Finn Balor and NXT Champion Samoa Joe. As Balor talks about their untelevised title change match, Joe is tremendous showing complete boredom. Joe responds by saying the title victory was deserving, and continues blaming Balor for making the journey difficult. Joe’s still pissed that they teamed up last year only for Balor to not pull strings to make their match happen. Joe implies he got Balor an opportunity in Japan. Joe’s attitude is somewhat understandable; after all, looks how Kevin Owens quickly came in and got to the top. Speaking of Owens, Balor brings up that he came out on top in their ladder match despite the experience disadvantage when asked about his lack of history in cage matches compared to Joe. Balor says the NXT Title is the most important goal of his career, not his main roster aspirations, even with Graves saying he may headline WrestleMania one day. Joe admits to stabling Balor in the back since Balor ran away from him last year, and says he’ll be happy to stab Balor in the heart. Damn, this was tremendous.


DIY vs. The Revival


After some competitive stuff at the beginning, the Revival get predictably dirty when Scott Dawson tosses Tomasso Ciampa to the outside, trolls Johnny Gargano, and Wilder attacks Ciampa behind the ref’s back. Back from commercial break, Dawson is working on CIampa’s left leg; this allowed a hot tag to build, which was fine once it happened but nothing extraordinary. Gargano is a good house of fire like usual, but he and/or Dawson expose the business a tiny bit when Gargano ducks his head too early for a DDT. Dawson eventually suplexes Gargano, who pulls off the upset by beating Dawson with a cradle pin. The Revival are none too pleased by this upset, standing tall at the end after a post-match beat down on Ciampa. NXT Tag Champs American Alpha arrive to put this to an end, leaving with the last laugh. ***




SmackDown – June 2, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Rockford, IL




I loved Kofi Kingston in this segment involving his crew and the Club, as it exemplified the confidence that every wrestler should have when getting mindlessly buried. It also made championships seem important. What an insane concept.


Kevin Owens is awesomely narcissistic when he and Alberto Del Rio interrupt Dean Ambrose and Sami Zayn’s backstage interview.


Dean Ambrose & Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens & Alberto Del Rio – ***1/4


Kofi Kingston vs. AJ Styles – ***


Raw – June 6, 2016: The Good Shit

Live from Oklahoma City, OK


I enjoy the dialogue exchange in the opening segment to hype up the Money in the Bank ladder match between Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Alberto Del Rio. As expected, Jericho and Owens were the kings of this segment, with Jericho bragging about creating the concept and then getting grilled by Zayn since he never won one despite being its creator. Teddy Long also returns and seems written to come across as incompetent, as Stephanie McMahon comes out to announce singles matches for tonight.


Instead of having these men cutting promos while standing on ladders, I’d have preffered the segment to be another edition of The Highlight Reel or Ambrose Asylum. Since Miz is out, that means no MizTV, but my ultimate preference would’ve been The Cutting Edge, as Edge is the first ever Mr. MITB, a ladder match legend, and would really get the pot stirring among all 6 combatants.


Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro – ***1/2


Those who bitch about Jericho, who else with his resume has put Cesaro over clean in the past year?


For the first time on TV, it’s the announcement made online the week before: John Cena vs. AJ Styles at Money in the Bank 2016. Better late than never for this top dream match.




Great piece that begs this question – WWE is determined for Seth Rollins to be the heel here. So what’s the battle plan? Showing significant footage from his emotional documentary, of course.


John Cena is complimentary of his first ever interaction with AJ Styles, saying the magical crowd reaction they pulled last week was similar to when he went face-to-face with the Rock 5 years earlier. Of course, he still wonders why Styles turned heel and now relies on Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson again.


When the Club comes up, the dialogue between Cena and Styles is engrossing, albeit not completely rational since they’ve got bad blood. Cena is wrong that Styles has been a bust and that he was “gifted” a shot at the WWE Title; Styles legitimately earned it by getting the last laugh on Jericho. Styles is wrong that Cena buries underground stars – all of the contemporaries that Styles traveled the road with and have competed against Cena, even the major dickhead heels, would all say that they became bigger stars after facing the face of WWE, including CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Neville, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens. Cena is correct for pointing out that Styles is unoriginal in his criticism about Cena’s lack of technical and acrobatic skills, while Styles is correct that he isn’t in WWE out of desperation and that he could sell out any venue if he returned to Japan. The New Day come help out Cena when the Club are about to mug him. I don’t mind Cena being a dick with irrational trash-talk, as it sells that Styles is getting under his skin and he’s trying to gain the psychological leverage.




Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens – ***1/4



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NXT Takeover: The End – June 8, 2016
Live from Orlando, FL


The WWE Debut Match of Andrade Almas
Tye Dillinger vs. Andrade Almas


This is my first look at the former La Sombra. Enjoyable opener even though it won’t get a special star rating. The pre-match outfit of Almas is alarming, as it comes across both generic and sleazy. Mechanically he was fantastic with his timing, acrobats, and cockiness, but this surprisingly managed to actually raise Dillinger’s stock instead. There will certainly need to be some major tweaking to Almas as a character, as he can obviously work and displayed plenty of personality in this match to impress me.


NXT Tag Titles Match
American Alpha vs. The Revival


This was about the same level of Portland, below Dallas and Seattle. The Revival were their usual tremendous selves cutting the ring in half on Chad Gable at times and cutting off hot tags. In particular, Scott Dawson turning a hot tag attempt into a spinebuster, and then cutting off another one later with a knee clipping, were just phenomenal. There was almost a business-exposing moment just like last week, as Gable tucked his head early for a DDT; this can be covered up though by him immediately shoving off Dawson, which would indicate Gable fooled Dawson.


The Revival were also tremendous working on Gable’s left arm, as well as showing ass early for the champs, and of course selling for Jason Jordan’s house of fire once Gable got the hot tag. I found Gable’s shoulder never displaying weakness to be slightly disappointing, but nothing too big. The highlight for me was when Gable countered a Doomsday Device into a belly-to-belly suplex for a near-fall on Dawson, and the second highlight would be at the end when Gable got shoved out, marginalizing a Grand Amplitude attempt and Jordan getting finished off with the Shatter Machine. ***3/4


In the post-match, two generic heavyweights arrive both donned in all-black and decimate the former champs, and then Paul Ellering arrives as their obvious manager. American Alpha’s booking tonight screams that they’re getting drafted to the main roster next month.



Bayley wishes NXT Women’s Champion Asuka good luck tonight.


Dream Match
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries


Match of the night here. These men had each other scouted and picked up on one another’s habits, showcasing their top-notch experience. Nakamura at different times evaded the Last Chancery and 450 Splash of Aries, while Aries would avoid roundhouse kicks. Nakamura also targeted the ribs of Aries, which were taped for unknown reasons. Whether it was kicks or avoiding moves to allowing more damaging opportunities to that body part, Nakamura didn’t take this dream match lightly.


Aries would gain an advantage early by targeting Nakamura’s left leg, but the real focus would be the neck, perfect to set up for signature moves such as the Last Chancery, brainbuster, and Crucifix Bomb. The submission work got a bit of a dry reaction from the crowd, but it was very smart, and I’d expect if there’s a rematch between these two the body part work will be more centered on throwing bombs instead of submissions.


Nakamura was fantastic teasing his comebacks, but Aries seemingly had an answer for quite the lengthy period of the match; this defeat to Nakamura did more for Aries than did defeating Baron Corbin two months earlier. Once Nakamura managed to make a comeback, it was wholly engrossing as he went back to work on the ribs of Aries, showcasing no mercy.


What put Nakamura in a vulnerable position early would be going for a third choke in the corner. Likewise for Aries, after hitting a successful suicide dive in the middle of the match, he made the mistake of going for it again. Nakamura ducked, causing Aries to hit a barricade. That would leave the former TNA and ROH Champion prone to a Kinsasha to the back of the head, reverse exploder, and Bomaye knee in a spectacular finish.


This turned out to be a great match, and no doubt a rematch would have MOTYC expectations should it ever happen. The personality work and psychology were crisp, with intelligent submissions and strikes and bombs aimed at weakening vulnerable body parts. The scouting in this was cream of the crop too, showing they had studied one another and had the focus to pick up on certain tendencies throughout the contest. This victory for Nakamura no doubt puts him in line for an NXT Title shot, and I just wonder where that leaves Aries. ****


NXT Women’s Title Match
Asuka vs. Nia Jax


Good showcase for Jax’s strength, forcing Asuka to have to improvise and capitalize on any brief opportunities for strikes and submissions. It was refreshing to see Asuka’s ability get marginalized at times due to the size difference, but once she got the seated Fujiwara arm bar locked on, leaving the challenger prone to numerous strikes, that was it. Jax just doesn’t have the stamina of other heavyweight peers such as Samoa Joe to keep up with quicker opponents. ***


William Regal’s backstage interview earlier in the day is interrupted when Bobby Roode walks into Regal’s office.


NXT Title – Cage Match
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor


Good cage match but ultimately disappointing to close out this feud. At no point did this ever have the hatred and intensity of an epic finale. Instead, this came across as Balor’s greatest hits, with him going for the same strikes and bombs as always. While effective for him, I’d have appreciated Joe having such predictable offense scouted; that he failed to do so is really glaring considering this took place less than an hour after Nakamura vs. Aries.


The finish is a nice touch, with Joe finishing Balor off the same way he did to Homicide 13 years earlier at Do or Die – he hit a Super Musclebuster. The post-match selling of both is good stuff too, showing that the bombs they laid on each other were quite devastating. This isn’t a heavy compliment, but at least this had more energy than Joe’s cage match against Bryan Danielson, although not on par as the one against Kurt Angle. ***1/2



While the main event is disappointing, it’s still good and there are 2 other matches worth seeing, including an underrated dream match classic that I believe will be more beloved with fresh eyes in the future. This is definitely worth a viewing.

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SmackDown – June 9, 2016

Taped from Wichita, KS


Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho – ***


Raw – June 13, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from New Orleans, LA


Big E, Kofi Kingston, Colin Cassady, & Enzo Amore vs. Vaudevillains, Luke Gallows, & Karl Anderson – ***



Fun segment that only makes me more confident for of a prediction I had coming out of Royal Rumble 2016 – Dean Ambrose will become Mr. Money in the Bank in his new hometown of Las Vegas.


Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn – ***


John Cena and AJ Styles have yet another engaging talking segment, this time a contract signing. Cena proposes to either sign for a legitimate singles match, or an alternate contract admitting Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson would be present and interfere. Styles says had he been around after the War, there’s no way Cena would’ve reached such successful heights. Cena then says he’s another entitled indy star; well, Styles has actually been entitled to these opportunities since at least 2003. (This dynamic would really work best if CM Punk ever returns, as he can accurately pinpoint the foolishness of WWE being so dismissive of the indies during the 2000s decade and how grueling it was for him to break the first major barrier.) Styles tells Cena that he’s not like other indy dudes, signs the legitimate singles match contract, and vows that “your time is up, my time is now.” It must be mentioned that Cena went above and beyond to treat this match as a highlight of his career.


Kevin Owens on commentary is the star of the Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho main event. Zayn being on commentary, Cesaro as ring announcer, and Alberto Del Rio as timekeeper causes the obvious go-home brawl.




NXT – June 15, 2016: The Good Shit

Taped from Orlando, FL


Paul Ellering’s heavyweight tag team name is revealed as the Authors of Pain during their squash match intro.





SmackDown – June 16, 2016: The Good Shit
Taped from Biloxi, MS


Xavier Woods vs. AJ Styles – ***1/4


Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, & Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, & Alberto Del Rio – ***1/4


Tremendous hype for Money in the Bank 2016 as there should be for every supercard. There’s not a chance in Hell it’ll come close to dethroning 2011 as the greatest in that annual event’s history though.

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Money in the Bank 2016 - June 19, 2016: The Good Shit
Live from Las Vegas, NV





Much-needed for Natalya, and certainly a direction taken due to Emma’s back injury.


Dream Match
John Cena vs. AJ Styles


Nowhere near the expected epic that everyone wants and knows these two can put together. The biggest reason for that would have to be Cena just getting back from China shortly before this. Although it may have been intelligently weaved into the match’s story by explaining that Styles had a skillset to match up well over him, Cena looked legitimately fatigued. Even at the beginning when the camera focuses on his face, the poor guy looks sleep-deprived like CM Punk during his wrestling career.


I still love the shit out of this match. The dueling chants at the beginning were amazing, neither laying a hand on each other yet. The best recent comparison would be the Shield vs. the Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber 2014; everyone in the building knew this was a special battle that would unfold in their presence. Styles truly shined as mentioned, which only further elevated his stock, from scouting the Release Death Valley Driver early to cutting off numerous Cena hope spots.


Styles probably could’ve finished Cena off by himself had he remained focus instead of getting cocky and gloating like Kevin Owens. His failure to do so throughout the match allowed the Hall of Famer to make comebacks. But as mentioned, almost every time Cena attempted a comeback, it’d turn out to just be a hope spot for the fresher Styles to quickly marginalize.


Cena brought his scouting to the ring too, evading a springboard forearm and kneeing Styles in the gut during a springboard 450 splash attempt deep into the match. But Cena allowed himself to fall victim to the same shit in his dream match against the Rock; he took his sweet time going for a Five Knuckle Shuffle. Now in this case, it didn’t cost him the match, but it gave Styles enough time to recover and hit a kip-up head-scissors.


My favorite part of this contest would be Styles seamlessly using his positioning on Cena’s shoulders for a Release Death Valley Driver to be turned into a Calf Crusher submission. This was a brilliant response to earlier in the match when Cena countered a lower angle elbow smash into a successful STF. The drama during this Calf Crusher was sensational, and then it enhanced the story as Cena was stifled by his left leg soreness.


Even with Cena clearly exhausted, this could’ve been a great match, but the time wasn’t right just yet. Instead we got a ref bump before Cena finally hit a successful Release Death Valley Driver. Out come Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to give him the Magic Killer, and I wasn’t a fan of that being the finish for Styles to get the pin fall, but it enhances the story of Styles not getting the job done on his own. The obvious rematch at SummerSlam 2016 should be off-the-charts, as there was damn good chemistry on display here. ***1/2


Money in the Bank Ladder Match

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Alberto Del Rio


Hell of a spectacle here, with the only obvious lowlight being when Alberto set up a ladder bridge as there’s no way to explain what the purpose of it was to benefit himself, and the commentary questioned the decision too. Nonetheless, this was an overall very well-timed match with everyone getting time to properly shine. Most importantly, the Zayn vs. Owens issue continued with the highlight of their encounters in this match coming when Owens took a Michinoku Driver on a ladder’s legs. These two seemed destined for early retirement just like Edge & Christian.


The biggest takeaway would be my prediction 5 months in advance coming true, that being Ambrose becoming Mr. MITB. Who knows if he can recover from the disappointing programs against Jericho and Brock Lesnar, but this roster needs to have as many fresh top stars as possible with the draft next month. This is a risk worth taking. ***3/4



WWE Title Match

Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins


This one took a while to get hot, never coming anywhere close to Cena vs. Styles for crowd energy. I enjoyed Reigns trash-talking Rollins as he dominated the first several minutes; I stand by my stance that had all the different matches involving the former Shield against each other over the past 2 years been booked this way for the characters, actually showcasing anger, bitterness, and treachery to sell their split, there would’ve been a much higher aching for the elusive Triple Shield match. By no means do I perceive Reigns as a heel here as he toyed with Rollins. This had been a long time coming for Rollins.


Which only makes it even more ironic that Rollins would win this relatively clean. After a good middle and third act, the easy highlight was Rollins jumping up during a spear and hitting a modified Pedigree on Reigns for a near-fall. Moments later, Rollins hit another standard Pedigree to pull off the shocking upset. I’d have gone with the first Pedigree as the finish to maximize the moment and crowd heat. Reigns showing vulnerability could be the best thing for him to be the true face of the company; from a kayfabe standpoint, perhaps had Reigns compartmentalized his emotions when he dominated early, this would’ve never happened.


Moments later as Rollins celebrated, Ambrose came out and smacked him with the MITB briefcase, successfully cashing in. This capped off the emotions Reigns unleashed on Rollins, but this time Ambrose came out as the smarter one among the two babyface former Shield members in humiliating Rollins. At the same time, Rollins winning clean now gives both him and Reigns valid arguments for title matches against Ambrose. Perhaps the Triple Shield as mentioned finally on the horizon? ***3/4



Strongest recommendation to cherry-pick the Good Shit for this show just like I did.

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