Newark, New Jersey was the site of WWE’s first co-branded PPV and this show needed more of the Kingslayer.
God of Wrestling
Perhaps I’ve been playing too much God of War lately, but the comparison seems so apt to me. Ever since the start of Rollins’ most recent singles run, he’s been absolutely spectacular. He may as well be taking his Kingslaying talents to go and curb stomp the likes of Thor and Odin.
And let’s be fair here – Rollins has gotten to work with the best of the best. His Gauntlet Match effort would not have been the same if he hadn’t defeated John Cena and Roman Reigns and his run would have stopped there if not for Finn Balor and The Miz.
But my god, man! Can you even have a bad match anymore?
The ovations that Rollins is getting right now are so damn ridiculous and he and Miz used that energy to deliver another burner. The story really began once Rollins injured his knee by slamming it into a ring post; Miz was quick to capitalize with a Figure Four Leglock. Rollins had wormed his way out of a multiple Skull Crushing Finale attempts, but after the knee injury he finally got hit. Twice.
He kicked out both times. That was an awesome decision, by the way. I think we all expected the outcome here, but that second finisher had me convinced that Rollins was going to lose.
The ending had some similarities to many of Rollins’ recent bouts: A barrage of counters and roll up attempts that eventually led to a Blackout. Clutching his knee in agony, Rollins was still able to make the cover attempt and pick up the win.
We may hate all gods, boy, but that Rollins one is pretty great.
A Whimpering Puppy of a Main Event
Samoa Joe called Roman Reigns a “whimpering puppy” in a backstage interview early in the night. He also claimed that Reigns would “lament on his failures.”
This interbrand match main evented the show. Reigns was booed again, which I doubt I even need to point out at this point. Joe backed up his talk early on by being super aggressive and throwing Reigns through and over tables left and right.
And then, the aggressiveness puttered out. And this has always been my issue with Samoa Joe: he talks such amazing game that his matches almost never match the intensity of his words. His rest holds left a lot to be desired as the crowd chanted numerous less-than-attentive chants.
Joe locked in several Coquina Clutches, but of course, none of it mattered. Reigns overcame the odds in the end.
And I wish I could say good things. I really wish I could. I think both men are talented as hell. But how does WWE think Reigns will look good from the way they’ve booked him? Lesnar’s punked him twice now, Joe’s crushed him on the microphone for weeks, and then he suddenly overcomes the odds in a plodding match?
The crowd trashed it and deservedly so. They need to get creative here and change things up. Fast.
Black and Blue Balls
The crowd chanted “Main event!” at the start of this match, and my immediate feeling was to agree. How the hell is a major championship match not closing the show? Especially when it involves AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura?!
Let’s start at the beginning; I really appreciated how Styles wore his Wrestle Kingdom colorway for this one. It made it feel as if something monumental was about to happen. And it should have, right? Especially after the bitter ending we got at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
Nakamura was delightfully evil and in control of this one for the majority of the match. He took time to disrespect Styles and pepper him with dirty shots. I really enjoyed the moment where he brushed off his chest after Styles hit him with a chop and followed it up with a kick to the face.
It was a good portion of time before a weapon was introduced in the form of a steel chair. There was a spot where Nakamura went for a Kinshasa and Styles threw the chair at his knee; the chair rebounded and cut Styles’ face open.
In the end, the match ended with a double crotch kick. Call it an unhappy ending, if you will.
Best of the Rest
Ruby Riott def. Bayley – After a tense argument with Sasha Banks backstage, Bayley too came up short against the Riott Squad. This was a fun match, but it feels like this storyline has become stagnant. Nothing that happened at Backlash furthered their story. Grade B-
Nia Jax def. Alexa Bliss – These two had a tough time keeping the momentum going after the fantastic opening match, but it had its moments. Jax catching Bliss on a Twisted Bliss attempt was stellar and I enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude at Bliss’ expense when she couldn’t lift Jax into the ring. Unfortunately, the story just wasn’t too great for this one – bluntly, the story was finished at WrestleMania.
Jax got some boos in her post-match interview, so that’s not great. I can’t blame the crowd either; preaching from a soapbox always feels a bit slimy. I mean, come on! She actually said “Be a star!”
Jeff Hardy def. Randy Orton – “This is America! Don’t catch you slippin’ up…”
(Anyone else had that song stuck in their head?)
Anyway, this match bored me to tears. Hardy tried his best to pick up the pace, but it’s amazing to see the discrepancy in match quality between the United States Championship and the Intercontinental Championship.
Everyone Trolls Elias – The best part of these co-branded PPVs will clearly be these interbrand segments. I don’t know what was better – Big E’s drum straps not fitting his traps, Rusev calling the New Day the “Booty Boys,” or Fandango’s spastic dancing as the caboose of No Way Jose’s conga line.
The man who trolled last was Bobby Roode with a Glorious DDT to the Bob Dylan-wannabe. This segment was something you would have seen on an ordinary episode of Raw, but it was still really fun.
Daniel Bryan def. Big Cass – I get Jason Jordan vibes when I watch Cass. He’s a miserable little runt, isn’t he? He’s got the dumbest gear, the dumbest music, and thinks his size is a golden ticket to superstardom.
For all his bluster, Cass tapped immediately to Bryan. This match was much better than it had any business being. I worry what sort of sustainability Cass has once he moves away from Bryan, but he got a lot of heat during this one.
Carmella def. Charlotte Flair – I wanted to make this match a featured segment of the review, but there wasn’t enough to it to really comment. Carmella shouted and screamed a lot, but it didn’t translate to a good match.
Strowman/Lashley def. Owens/Zayn – Literally no one cares about Bobby Lashley. I had more fun hearing Michael Cole make fun of Jonathan Coachman’s Periscope show than watching Lashley play babyface-in-peril.
Anyway, this match sucked other than Strowman running over Owens once again. Yikes.
There were some surprises on this show. I was pleasantly surprised by Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass and the Elias segment. However, this show needed the top of the card to knock it out of the park to ever be a good show.
They didn’t. That main event was absolutely putrid, too.
More Rollins, man. Give us more Rollins. What say you, Cageside?