What you need to know
Appealing to history, and Hall of Famers like Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Mr. Perfect, Daniel Bryan gave the Intercontinental title a rub and put himself in the ladder match to crown the IC king at WrestleMania.
Current champ Bad News Barrett didn't like that. Dolph Ziggler didn't like that he didn't like it. Luke Harper, still savoring every moment of his screen time, wanted in on the action. Dean Ambrose wouldn't let anyone fight without him, and Stardust said some stuff that I didn't catch because I was busy wondering how great his feud with Goldust could have been. R-Truth talked to the belt like it's name was Jimmy, a brawl ensued and...blah blah blah playa ratta-tah-tah.
Keeping the Smackdown, and the unofficial 'Mania 31 of "we forgot to book individual stories for people, so have a bunch of multi-wrestler affairs", vibe going, Los Matadores sought to build on their big win from last Monday as part of a four-man team with tag champs Tyson Kidd & Cesaro. Demonstrating their newfound heelishness, Diego & Fernando took a page from the Bellas book and used some twin magic to get a win over The Usos & The New Day. Pre-show here they come!
Staying with the twin, and unofficial "can't have a singles match on the undercard in Santa Clara", theme, the Divas champ and her sister watched Paige & AJ Lee get a victory against Summer Rae & Cameron. Afterwards, the ladies stared each other down, so you know it's serious. You know that issues between Miz and Damien Mizdow are getting serious, because the ex-stunt double used Big E's television to watch the Awesome One be dismantled by Ryback. The multi-talented Superstar did try to warn him about their Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal opponent...
Not acknowledging that almost everyone has spent the last six weeks talking about how wonderful he is, Roman Reigns grabbed a microphone to tell the crowd he's tired of people telling him he can't beat WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. In a move later revealed to be a set-up for him to join the club of people talking about how wonderful Reigns is, Mark Henry interrupted the promo and ended up Speared through a barricade for his trouble. The World's Strongest Man now believes.
Turns out Randy Orton's triumphant return to Thursday nights was actually pre-taped somewhere else. Still, The Viper explained his recent hot-and-cold approach to getting revenge against Seth Rollins and The Authority. Then, he promised to follow up on his assault from last Monday night by challenging Mr. Money in the Bank face-to-face at Raw.
Main event tag match ends with a win for the good guys, and Harper taking Dolph and - following a bling tag - Bryan's finishers. Sowing the seeds of dissention among the babyfaces after that tag, The Lunatic Fringe called The Beard poopy, and The Show-Off agreed.
What to look out for
Just West down I-80 from Seth Rollins' hometown, WWE sets up shop in Des Moines, Iowa tonight. Hopefully the Architect will have a better Monday this week than last. At least this time, he'll see Orton coming, since the Apex Predator is no longer pretending to be his friend and has stated he's coming to set up a match on the Grandest Stage of Them All. We'll find out tonight for Rollins will agree to that, or still try to slither away from The Viper.
United States champ Rusev was none too pleased that his social ambassador gave in to Jon Cena's demands for a WrestleMania rematch last week. Lana hasn't been seen on WWE programming since. The Bulgarian Brute wouldn't comment when asked by Tom Phillips...we'll see if learn any more tonight, and if her absence will be a liability for the hero of the Russian Federation.
Look for a little more meat to be put on the bones of the tag title program, and for Paul Heyman to pontificate further on Reigns' legitimacy in the wake of Henry's test and subsequent endoresement. In addition, a considerable amount of attention will most likely be paid to the big 'Mania angles that were just covered in replays on Smackdown - Undertaker's supernatural response to Bray Wyatt's challenges and Sting's autotuned one to Triple H.
What they should do
If there were poster children for Creative's deficiencies...even more than the Divas, it would probably be the tag division.
I've railed about the sorry treatment the pairs get (at all levels of WWE) in discussing tag teams and the mid-card in general. Because fixing the division would go along way to dealing with a lot of the company's other problems - specifically making the whole show feel like it matters, and having credible enhancement talent for use in building new main eventers.
The 4way title dance that is all but official for March 29th is a prime example of Vince's disdain for tag wrestling. The champs and The Usos are over on the basis of being able to put on an entertaining match, and beyond that have only been given the barest semblance of good and evil characters. Los Matadores and The New Day don't even have characters, and have only been put in this spot because even the powers-that-be know they can't run Kidd & Cesaro vs. Jimmy & Jey ad infinitum - and the only other pairs are either currently feuding or just got their beef squashed because someone didn't "get it" (seriously, the blowing off of The Dust Brothers' program makes me angrier than anything the 'E has pulled in a long time).
This probably Kick-Off contest is also home to a whole lot of the main roster's minority talent. Taking a few minutes to given them personalities would not only increase the odds of the audience actually being invested in your first match in Levi's Stadium, but also give critics - like this writer - who point out WWE's lazy-to-offensive treatment of any non-white characters on their programs.
It wouldn't have to be much. Diego & Fernando are mad because Kidd's cats get more attention than their bull does, and they don't even wrestle! Noted geeks Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods are mad because Cesaro ditched the eye patch that made him look like Sagat. Jimmy & Jey are tired of all that foolishness and think it's distracting from their goal, the tag championship.
Not every wrestling feud has to be super-serious, or personal. Many of the men in the tag scene are capable of being really entertaining in skits and backstage segments. Take some time off from talking about performers who aren't there or replaying stuff from last week, and see what you can accomplish with these eight-to-ten sports entertainers.
What we're afraid they will do
Bray, Hunter and Heyman talking. I put the over/under on those segments at 45 minutes.
Will WWE give the tag teams some time to show why they're on the WrestleMania card, or on the roster in general?
My magic eight ball says "Outlook not so good". But it told me that the place to watch, react and discuss all things WWE is "Without a doubt" Cageside Seats, so hang in there with us either way!