Before I get to the review, we need to talk about the length of this pay-per-view (PPV). The pre-show started at 6pm Eastern and the show didn’t end until 11:15. That’s after NXT TakeOver: Chicago on Saturday.
Folks, is it just me or is that too much wrestling? I’m willing to do that for WrestleMania, but on a monthly basis? It makes for a hell of a time reviewing a show, I’ll tell you that.
The Next Universal Champion
Braun Strowman is wildly popular and performs stunts we’ve never seen before on a nearly weekly basis. It’s awesome. Got that? Good; I need to make that clear before my next statement.
...If you’re telling me that he can defeat seven men who are all actively trying to murder him to win a match, what are we even doing here? He did this on Raw with three men and I figured that a half dozen men would be too much for him. Welp; this is getting ridiculous.
And it’s not necessarily bad ridiculous, I guess. He just needs to defeat Brock Lesnar in a freaking squash as soon as possible and end this embarrassing Universal Championship situation.
This match was an excellent main event. I found myself rooting for Kofi Kingston – how cool would it be to see him fight for a main title? Kevin Owens died for his own sins, Finn Balor broke his ankles stomping on Bobby Roode, and The Miz slinked around the outskirts trying to steal a victory.
And in the end, none of that stuff mattered. Strowman is essentially unconquerable and undefeatable. He can’t be injured, he can’t be slowed, and he can’t be stopped for more than two seconds at a time.
That’s never been my thing. That sort of stuff gets old fast for me, but I’m be the first to admit that it can make a compelling of a story when done properly. That’s precisely what they were going for with Lesnar’s title reign and they butchered it to high heavens.
So I’m reiterating my point from earlier: Strowman needs to obliterate Lesnar at the earliest date possible and reset this monster with the belt thing with a new character. Otherwise, what are we even doing here?
Bliss in the Bank
Well this was spectacular.
I said that the men’s match was excellent, but I think the women’s match had better pacing and more cool spots. Pretty much everyone got a chance to shine. Sasha Banks nearly died at the beginning and hit some cool spots, Ember Moon was flying around all match long, and WWE did a lot to pay off the Becky Lynch/Charlotte Flair rivalry.
There were moments to nitpick, though. The women were slow to spots at times.
Lynch was slow getting to the ladder once and Naomi had to stand there with the lock unhooked and not take it off. Bliss was slow getting to Lynch in the end as well.
Still, it’s incredible how quickly we have gone from giving women the proper time and big match stipulations to them absolutely killing it. It didn’t take long at all.
When Bliss won the briefcase, I was very skeptical. It felt like a bad decision. She’s been at the top of the card for so long that I’d argue that it was time for someone else.
But of course, the night wasn’t over.
Rousey is the Real Deal
Say what you want about her promos, her questionable commentary, and her general greenness when it comes to a lot of the intangible things that come with being a professional wrestler. Ronda Rousey is electrifying, she’s entertaining, and she’s certainly got it.
I was willing to suspend my disbelief for this one because Rousey never had the best chin in UFC; the story was centered around Jax being able to use a lot of offense that Rousey had never seen, so I was willing to give it a shot.
They did that story perfectly. Jax was brutal with her headbutts and power moves and I enjoyed how she was willing to get a bit dirty to keep Rousey grounded.
I never thought that it was too early for Rousey to become champion, but WWE clearly wanted to be careful with her. And she can do much worse than chase Bliss for the title. I’m still not sure how I feel about this whole thing, but I feel more willing to give it a shot than I did after the women’s ladder match.
Styles Still Standing
This match was absolutely worth the price of admission it if only for the facial expressions of Shinsuke Nakamura. They were incredible.
But luckily we’re talking about Nakamura and AJ Styles here; there was plenty more to love. It can be a challenge to put on a compelling Last Man Standing simply because they naturally work at a slower pace but I think these two pulled it off very well. The duo got more violent as the match went on and there were plenty of cool moments. Styles dodging the low blow and Nakamura’s look of trembling fear comes to mind.
By the end, these guys were nuts. A friend mentioned to me that both of these guys are idiots for not wearing a cup by this point, but I guess it can’t be helped. Nakamura and Styles were both able to stand after suffering a finisher or two on the outside, but then Styles channeled his inner Jake Elliot and punted a couple of balls to Philadelphia.
A springboard Phenomenal Forearm through a table finished it once and for all with Styles standing tall. I’d imagine this is the end of the feud – at least for now – and I confess I’m at a loss of where Nakamura goes from here.
Corey Graves and Jonathan Coachmen sound like a marriage that’s careening towards divorce. And speaking of divorces, Chicago won’t even give Reigns the time of day.
For example, here’s a rundown of their dumb chants in chronological order:
“You both suck!”
“This is boring!”
“This is awful!”
“Let’s go Cena! Cena sucks!”
They kept going, of course. Perhaps you’ll notice that I haven’t said a word about the match itself so far. You know why? Because a crowd fully has the capacity to ruin a match or show and Chicago did their best to ruin this one.
That’s stupid, Chicago. There have been times when I could understand it, but Reigns was fighting on the mid card in the cool down spot after the women’s match. Grow the hell up.
So let’s talk about the match for a second – it was perfectly fine. Nothing to get out of your seat for, but that was never the role of this feud, was it? It told a solid story and Reigns overcame in the end. The Superman Punch to send Singh crashing into his wheelchair was hilarious. Hopefully this is the conclusion of this feud and we can move on to something better for Reigns.
The Rest of the Card
Heart Defeats Height – This was a good match that was helped by a very clear story. For the entire build, Cass bragged about being made for this and that Bryan was too small. In this match, Bryan showcased every single tactic and strategy that smaller guys have used through the years.
He ducked and dodged Cass’ attacks to start the match and immediately went to work with kicks to Cass’ hamstrings. Cass isn’t exactly the most athletic guy out there, but he hobbled a lot throughout the match which was a great touch to show that Bryan’s game plan was effective.
Bryan flew around the ring, leaping to the outside several times. He started targeting Cass’ knee in earnest after a while and finally capped the night off with his Heel Hook. It’s time for Bryan to find himself at the top of the SmackDown Live card.
Lashley Obliterates Zayn - A short match that actually worked out better than I expected. The Chicago crowd was firmly in Zayn’s corner, but Lashley’s power game was able to ooh and ahh a bit – which is impressive considering the bar for that stuff now that Strowman’s pulling down scaffolding and stuff.
I think that this ought to be the end of this feud, though.
Ellsworth is Back - You know that feeling of shame and annoyance you feel when someone jumps out to scare you? That’s how I feel after being surprised by James Ellsworth’s return to the WWE.
I try not to read too many spoilers and rumors – and I’m sure this was probably rumored – but I knew that Carmella had no chance of beating Asuka without interference. Well she had some interference, alright.
This match itself was fine, I guess, but I found my attention waning as it was placed in the doldrums of a long week of wrestling. I perked up as soon as I saw someone in Asuka’s masked entrance garb. And the longer the figure stood there, the more I was sure it was Ellsworth.
They’ll have questions to answer, of course. Didn’t Carmella beat Ellsworth up to end his initial run with WWE? Why was Asuka so shocked that someone was wearing her stuff?
I’d imagine we’re in for a bit of a run with Carmella as champion, now that Ellsworth’s back.
Rollins Finds a Way - I was a little disappointed in this match. Don’t get me wrong – the match was solid and there’s nothing to really complain about here. It’s just…Rollins has been on such a roll for six months now and I think this was a little under the bar that he’s set for himself.
The match was slow-paced and didn’t really get firing until near the end. The story was centered around Rollins’ mounting injuries: A neck injury from several weeks ago and tweaking his surgically-repaired knee in this match. It struck me as smart, at the time. If this were actual sports, we’d call Rollins injury prone after that knee injury, right? If we’re living in kayfabe, this is a guy with an injury history being forced to the limit night after night.
He’s going to crumble eventually. In this match, we had to steal a victory to survive. I’m sure we’ll be seeing this feud continue.
Bludgeon Brothers def. The Club - This was a very good match for the pre-show that featured the Bludgeons bludgeoning and the Club firing up for the finish only to fall short in the end. I stand by what I said in my preview for this match, though; it’s just hard to get up for it when the teams don’t get time to build a story. They did all the build on Twitter and that’s such a shame. And after that electric tag match on TakeOver, I find myself wanting more time for quality tag teams on the main roster.
This show was too long. This review is too long. There was a lot of good, but the middle of the show lagged pretty badly and I can create a long list of things to gripe about. I wasn’t happy with either ladder match winner, Chicago was an embarrassment through the Reigns match, tag team wrestling is dead, Ellsworth being back isn’t great…
And if this review wasn’t long enough for you, don’t worry! I’ll see you all here again for Monday Night RAW!
What did you think of the show, Cagesiders?