With less than a week until WrestleMania 34, I’m shaking the review up a bit. And by “shake up,” I mean that I’m highlighting more feuds than I normally do. Quite honestly, these feuds and this brand deserve it.
The words above were uttered by Paul Heyman to describe Angle’s ineptitude, but by no means do they describe the Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar segment.
No, this was precisely what the doctor ordered.
I think it’s no secret that I’m not 100% sold on Reigns. He hits and he misses with me – and it’s always the portrayal of his character that rubs me the wrong way.
But with that said, I’ve never been as firmly in Reign’s corner as I was for this show. And that’s because WWE took the time to truly set Lesnar up as a despicable, selfish human being.
Heyman was deliciously deplorable. He brought up how Lesnar defeated the Undertaker and gloated about it. He degraded the Raw roster and reminded us of all the matches that we’ve never gotten to see because of Lesnar’s cushy schedule – of all the matches we wish he would have lost. Heyman mocked us for caring and reinforced the image that Lesnar cares about nothing but himself.
And the irony was that Angle had sent out a bunch of full-time wrestlers to protect the duo who was insulting them. Reigns came out and reminded them of it.
Reigns came off as a true leader. As a brother. As someone worth relating to.
“Really? All y’all full-time talent are gonna stand out here and protect that part time bastard?” He asked. “Think about it, boys.”
The “boys” let him through and Lesnar cowered away from a fair confrontation. With a chair in hand to tip the tides, he slipped back into the ring only to eat 5 Superman Punches. And the crowd in near unison chanted for Reigns!
Lesnar would hit an F-5 when Reigns got distracted and left him lying, but for the first time in this feud Lesnar really comes off as a villain. As someone worth stopping.
I’ve always said that I was looking forward to the after of this feud. Now, I’m looking forward to the match.
“We’ll Polish and Shine Her Up”
The show started with a press conference-y question and answer segment for Ronda Rousey, Kurt Angle, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H.
Johnathan Coachman moderated the meeting – which considering his history with ESPN and the massive sports figure in this match, I guess it makes sense – and it allowed for McMahon and Triple H to dominate the majority of the discussion.
Depending on how you feel about this feud, I think there was plenty to hate or love. The questions were bland, but Rousey’s expressions were great. Stealing the pose for photos from professional fighting was marvelous and played to Rousey’s strengths, but how is she to develop McMahon and Triple H are just going to yap away? I thought the segment was brilliant, personally, but there’s one thing that stuck out to me that has me worried.
Are they really going to act like Stephanie McMahon can wrestle? That she could pose even a modicum of a threat to Ronda Rousey?
McMahon is brilliant in a lot of ways. She can sell feuds and do a lot of things that many wrestlers struggle with. Triple H insulted Angle’s intelligence during the segment; I initially thought it was ironic considering how outmatched McMahon will be against Rousey.
But then they ended the segment with McMahon putting Rousey through a table.
Bluntly, McMahon should even land a scratch on Rousey without cheating. She got the jump on Rousey on this show by taking advantage of a distraction. But there was something about the framing of this segment that has be a bit concerned that we’ll see Rousey working underneath for McMahon at WrestleMania and wouldn’t that just be the worst thing?
All in all, this was a really good segment. Nothing major happened, but any segment that’s shining a favorable light on Rousey is a good segment in my book.
We’re Out of Time
Well. Here we are again.
John Cena has thrown this same pitch for four weeks straight, desperately trying to claw together one final shot at glory. I think it’s awfully clever that he’s doing the same thing every week, too. He’s out of ideas.
I loved that Cena explained the reason he won’t enter the Battle Royal or other matches as well. In his mind, he’s lost in 5 opportunities to get on the show. His pride won’t allow him to take a spot from a full-time wrestler in this way.
(I mean, he’s still taking a spot by attempting to create this Undertaker match, but I digress.)
Cena did something so amazingly sweet here, too. He put others over. He said he’s excited to see Rollins and Balor tear the house down, to witness Daniel Bryan’s return to the ring, to watch as AJ Styles finally gets his WrestleMania moment in the sun. Cena complimented Rusev, Elias, the entire women’s roster…
He also apologized and admitted defeat. Cena said that he tried everything he could think of before realizing that they hadn’t given it a shot in Atlanta.
The crowd chanted and cheered and screamed wildly. No bells. No gongs. No spooky lights or smoky floors.
The crowd booed the Undertaker and Cena walked away.
And I loved it.
This sets up something new. I hope that WWE cuts throughout the show to Cena in the crowd at WrestleMania. Show his reaction for the Cruiserweight match, for Braun Strowman’s partner reveal, for Charlotte and Asuka tearing the house down.
And I want to see the joy on his face when Undertaker’s bike revs as he leaps the barricade.
The Fly Gets Squished in 6 Days
I feel like this feud should have gotten more time in the past weeks, but I’m not sure how they could have done it. So here’s what I’ll say: Jax’s story is so compelling and real. I think most people can relate to what she’s dealing with. And her interview with Renee Young was fantastic for what it was.
She got to curse, too! That’s not a thing most female feuds get to do! And it was awesome! The Despicable Duo of Mickie James and Alexa Bliss said some awful things in one of those phone promos backstage before competing in a tag team match against Asuka and Dana Brooke.
Brooke was in peril for the majority of the match and they teased Asuka losing her streak. It was never in any jeopardy, of course, as Asuka tapped out James, but the two Mean Girls ambushed their opponents after the match.
And guess who made the save?
The cheers Jax received when she got her hands on Bliss for the most fleeting of moments was spectacular. I am so excited for Jax to prevail and I hope this match is like a lesson from Thomas Hobbes: brutal and short.
This Match was Nuts
A couple of wrinkles got added to the Intercontinental Championship feud on this show. For starters, the Miz was on commentary during the Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor match, ranting and raving about his new baby daughter. You might have caught her name: Monroe Sky Mizanin. After all, the Miz only said it forty times or so.
But the surprising thing was that the Miz acted as if he’s turned a new page with the birth of his daughter. He complimented Balor and Rollins, didn’t insult anyone on commentary – hell, he was positively angelic.
Something to keep an eye on at WrestleMania; I’m not buying it.
Secondly, Balor has the cheesiest, fakest grin in all of wrestling. Twice during the early portions of this match, Rollins and Balor rose to their feet in a stalemate and Balor grinned at his opponent. It comes off sarcastic and disrespectful to me and judging from Rollins’ expression, it does to him as well.
Third, Rollins got all the high spots during this match. He was the first man to take it to the outside, the one to hit a top rope spot, the one to make a dive to the outside. I find that extremely interesting and hopefully an indicator that he’s the man WWE wants you cheering going into WrestleMania.
And finally, this match was nuts. WWE gave them a lot of time to wrestle and Rollins and Balor crushed it. Rollins finally got a clean victory on Balor and we might have just gotten justification for Demon Balor at WrestleMania.
Best of the Rest
Bayley def. Sonya Deville – What mattered here was what happened after the match. Bayley was assaulted by Absolution and Sasha Banks came down to help run them off…but at a price. She demanded that Bayley raise her hand for her services. Instead, Bayley punched her in the mouth.
As the two fought, Absolution recovered to leave them laying. This was a nice little wrinkle to add before the Battle Royal; is there any chance they might now work together?
Brrrrrains - Hey Bar? When you say you don’t care…you totally care. And your argument about being “a real team” is flawed as well. Who needs a team when you’re 400lbs of pure talent? Ah well. They met Braun Strowman’s brother Brains who was kind enough to allow them to catch these hands.
Can I also take a second to plead to WWE? Please let this man with the titles on his own. It’s new, it’s different, and would allow a heel tag team to look incredible by cheating to beat him.
Woken Hardy def. Goldust – I have a bit of an issue with WWE just throwing Matt Hardy against all the “weird” characters as if that makes a compelling dynamic. It doesn’t. Still, this was just a match to promote the Battle Royal, so I can’t get too upset.
Elias def. Heath Slater – Elias is still getting booed and jeered with these clever quips and it’s the greatest thing.
Curt Hawkins catches a break – I laughed waaaaaay harder than I should have when Strowman sent Hawkins through a wall. Poor Hawkins, man.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for a WrestleMania. WrestleMania 30, perhaps? This show did nothing to mitigate my excitement, and for that I think this grade is completely justified.
I really hope WWE can keep this form up after WrestleMania, but that’s a discussion for another time.
LET’S DO THIS!