What you need to know
The obligatory Authority tag team main event did double duty as our obligatory Smackdown tag team main event.
Mark Henry interrupted Roman Reigns to make sure we all got the message that he thinks Roman's new catchphrase is swell. The World's Strongest Man and The Big Dog shake on Reigns' future as our new WWE World Heavyweight Champion when Mr. Money in the Bank and his posse hit the stage. Fresh off of securing the building against his WrestleMania opponent, Randy Orton, and that meddling vigilante Sting, Kane books Seth Rollins and himself in a match against a duo I'm just going to call "Make Roman look the World's Strongest".
Divas were given less than half the chance on Thursday that they got on Monday, but Piage did get a win back for her 'Mania squad. With her partner and the Divas champ on commentary, the Anti-Diva beat Brie Bella with a roll-up. All beings got a chance in the six person mixed species tag, and Natalya got to look strong-ish with a pin on El Torito. The Masters of the WWE Universe proved they can clap better than The New Day and bullfight better than Los Matadores...now all they need is a title defense for Santa Clara.
It was light night in Kansas City, but the production crew got ready for next Thursday's all recap edition by showing clips from the big Sting/Viper team-up and John Cena's contract signing for a U.S. title match against Rusev.
The seven men booked for the Intercontinental ladder match for Sunday got their work in during a gauntlet match. Dean Ambrose started, and made fairly quick work of Stardust and the man who has spent more time at the announce desk than in the ring during this angle, R-Truth. With those two gone, it was time to get down some serious wrestling. Luke Harper jumped in to rekindle some Wyatt vs. Shield animosity, and dumped the Lunatic Fringe after a brawl. Daniel Bryan came in for continued payback for being forced to wear coveralls, worked the knee and made Harper tap. Then we were treated to a showdown a lot of folks wanted to see on the Grandest Stage of Them All, and Dolph Ziggler made himself the leader in the clubhouse for the IC strap with a Zig-Zag to The Beard.
Unfortunately for Dolph, the current champ stole the show after the match with a couple of Bull Hammers to he and DB.
When main event time rolled around, Mark Henry wasn't there, but lots of J & J Security employees were. The big Texan had been laid out in the back, forcing Roman to do his one versus all thing. It worked well, as always, with Kane taking a Spear and a pin. With his mission accomplished, Reigns rolled out, which set up Orton to roll-in. Security couldn't keep the Apex Predator out of the arena, but Joey Mercury and Jaime Noble were able to take RKOs to leave Seth untouched. Rollins escaped while Randy celebrated with the crowd, and the voices in his head.
What to look out for
Last stop on the road to WrestleMania takes the WWE Universe to the City of Angels. Being in Los Angeles means we're close to Hollywood, so look forward to guest stars Snoop Dogg and Bill Simmons, doing their best to live up to the legacy of Hugh Jackman and Jon Stewart while working with Curtis Axel and JBL.
Like it or not, WM's roots in the Rock 'n' Wrestling phenomenon of the 80s set a precedent for this kind of stuff a long time ago. But while the D-O-double G and The Sports Guy try to earn a spot in the celebrity wing of the Hall of Fame, the Champ will try to top his amazing video interview from last Monday night in his second face-to-face with the Royal Rumble winner. Nothing short of a four star match in Levi's Stadium will probably get anyone to change their mind at this point, but a Lesnar pull apart brawl never hurt anything - except whoever he's brawling.
Triple H is promising to respond to Sting's run-in from last week with a promo that will probably sap all the energy said run-in added to their feud. No sign of an appearance from THE VIGILANTE. His next WWE appearance will likely be for his first official match in a WWE ring. Maybe Haitch interacts with an old friend of Sting, and rumored final Hall of Fame inductee, Kevin Nash, tonight, though.
And we should all keep our eyes on who stands tall tonight. There may not be much to that old adage, but just in case...will Randy Orton continue to get the upperhand on The Future? Are all the Bullhammers to his competitors just Bad News for the Intercontinental champ?
Of course, John Cena is the exception to every rule, so he can keep punking Rusev and still walk out of 'Mania with a red, white and blue belt.
What they should do
One of the things I love about Cageside Seats is how the writing of other staff members and the community will trigger me to think about something I wouldn't normally dig into, or dig deeper into something than I would on my own. Sometimes it pisses me off, too, when it turns out someone has thought of or expressed something better than I would have. But I digress.
A FanPost from the weekend by ShanShockwave, himself inspired by a couple of others by Sandow's Superior and BlueandOrange4life, reminded me how upset I still am about the scrapping of the Goldust vs. Stardust angle. And, really, WWE's recent reticence to really go through with a family-based feuds - or at least to see them through to fruition.
If Cody and Dustin had really been given a chance to sell their program to the fans and most of us were unmoved by it, than fine, don't do it. But those guys got a couple of weeks to lead to a poorly conceived Fastlane match. Even with that, a lot of people really responded to Goldy pre-match promos and Stardust's post-match segment. But instead of building on that...poof...it was gone.
The Bellas rivalry was never my cup of tea - too much overacting and Jerry Springer - but it connected with some fans and should have lead to a big match where the heel got her comeuppance. Instead, Brie decides bullying is the way to go, and any heat generated by over-the-top lines like "I wish you'd died in the womb" just withered away.
And then there's The Shield break-up. A story that connected emotionally to all kinds of fans. Reigns began to lose many of us when he walked away a path of revenge against Rollins and The Authority. And Dean is only now regaining momentum from his decision to leave Seth alone and chase Bray through the swamps.
I don't even have a whole lot of faith that Damien Mizdow will get the upperhand on Miz, or that Natalya will ever teach her husband a lesson in respect. If you're going to be a soap opera, or a melodrama, go for it. Don't start to tug at those ties that bind and then walk away from them.
They could bring back all of those stories relatively quickly. ShanShockwave's fantasy booking rekindles the quest for justice from Reigns and Ambrose against their betrayal tonight. There's a lot of suspense as to the outcomes of this year's 'Mania matches. But there's not a lot of emotion in them.
What we're afraid they will do
In the few minutes we don't spend with Simmons and Snoop at Staples, Hall of Fame inductee Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team from Hollywood hired by Paul Heyman to intimidate Roman Reigns. We fade to black with the Big Dog pointing at the WrestleMania play button after spearing Terry Crews, Jason Statham AND Chuck Norris through various ringside structures.
Maybe WWE's reluctance to do intra-family feuds any more at least means we won't have to sit through a McMahon family power struggle any time soon?
Who cares...it's WrestleMania time! That's what WWE is counting on us haters saying, anyway. Love and hate tonight's show along with the rest of the best pro wrestling community online, right here tonight at 8PM Eastern!