I was not a fan at all of the Roman Reigns vs. Goldberg contract signing that ended this show, and I think I can explain why pretty simply. But to do that, Cageside, I need you to humor me for a moment. And it starts with this: What do we know about Roman Reigns?
He was the silent powerhouse of the Shield. He then went into a singles run early in his career where that power was basically unstoppable; from Brock Lesnar all the way to Undertaker, big names fell to this guy.
Sound familiar? He and Goldberg had a lot of early similarities, right down to the Spear they both employ. One massive difference is that Goldberg was adored...and Reigns was a victim of that weird divide that seems to exist everywhere these days. Part of the crowd loved him, and part of the crowd reviled him. And you could argue booking or whatever, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
Reigns’ background as a character is much richer as well. He suffered from Leukemia in real life, and has had some emotional dynamics with other people on the shows like his feuds with Rollins/Ambrose. Goldberg never really had that softer emotional connection.
So, if we throw these things on a wall and start thinking about what these big, badass dudes might say to each other to throw each other off their game, what would they say? If I were Reigns, for example, I’d looove to point out how Goldberg is showing signs of his age. They almost got there with the headbutt quip, but if I were Roman, I’d say that Goldberg’s a one-trick pony who doesn’t realize he’s washed. Reigns brought up all the legends he’s beaten - I’d even say “you know what Goldberg? You don’t even belong with the likes of Cena/Taker/Lesnar at this point.”
As for Goldberg, I’d try to needle Reigns with self-doubt. Sure, you beat all those folks...before your bout with cancer. Let’s look at who you’ve beaten recently. Corbin? It’s been two years since Reigns was the guy he’s trying to be. Hell, Reigns couldn’t even win the Rumble - he’s lucky Goldberg even accepted his challenge.
With this sort of dialogue, both characters have something to prove with the match. Ideally, they go have an awesome match at WrestleMania, prove themselves as worthy of the stage they’ve been given, and end the night with a 1980s style freeze frame high five.
Instead...we got a tweet and a college football reference, as well as a nonsensical staredown that looks odd as hell without a crowd. There’s just not any meat to this story, which sucks; that’s what I look for in wrestling. As it is...you know. Whatever. It’s a match that’ll happen. I’m not hyped for it, but that’s fine.
The SmackDown tag team division is one of my favorite parts of the show at this point if only for the way they’re committed to telling a story. And on this episode, the Miz and John Morrison went a step further by getting creative with the empty crowd and doing a bit where they were asking the empty crowd who they should fight at WrestleMania.
And in the crowd were...themselves! Dressed up as overly-passionate fans of the New Day, Heavy Machinery, and the Usos, they went (plus) ultra campy by defending those teams. Morrison was dressed as an inflated unicorn for the New Day, and the Miz had a t-shirt and unicorn headband on as they hit all the New Day chants and argued that their team should fight the champs at WrestleMania.
For the Usos, they basically wore the usual Uso garb and went as over-the-top as they could with the gestures. And for Heavy Machinery, they wore bacon costumes and talked in the most Southern/Midwestern twang they could possibly generate.
You know what? I’m from Tennessee and I respect it. Sounded very Mississippian to me, fellas.
On top of that, we got a really fun match with Heavy Machinery from this where - without a crowd - all of Otis’ grunts and grumblings are fully audible. Dolph Ziggler showed up on commentary too to further his storyline of rubbing his relationship with Mandy Rose in his face. Otis was furious, and took it out on Miz and Morrison by getting disqualified. It potentially cost his team a WrestleMania match, and the best part of this might have been Tucker’s immediate disappointment, followed up by hugging his friend and telling him that it’s alright and that he loves him.
Like...I can totally understand a lot of criticisms with the story they’re telling, but that Otis/Tucker moment was pure as hell.
Rob Gronkowski is not for me - The show opened with Mojo Rawley and Rob Gronkowskit and that’s just too much...whatever they are for me. Not interested, sorry.
To add to that, Baron Corbin showed up to do his king bit and WWE, you’re not going to sell me on Gronk with Baron Corbin. I feel like Baron Corbin should just be in italics at this point: Baron Corbin.
Elias got involved too, and Gronk advocated that Elias and Corbin should fight at WrestleMania. Not really interested in that either, thanks.
Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak def. The Artists - On the other hand, Bryan and Gulak are right up my alley. Give me all your Brylak stock, please. From their social media antics to their match here, it’s all fantastic. It’s what I look for in a wrestling show.
Not much to add here other than the fact that you should probably catch the YouTube video of the match. Sami Zayn was delightful in his idiocy on commentary as well. Basically, all these guys rock and the fact that this was fun should be completely unsurprising.
Paige reveals the SmackDown Women’s Championship match for WrestleMania - Ah, some intrigue!
Paige video called into the show and was quickly interrupted by Bayley and Sasha Banks, and the gist of this was that that duo is way too arrogant and the other women in the division deserve credit for even putting up with their mess. So, Paige got permission to announce the match for WrestleMania: A six-pack challenge that includes Naomi, Lacey Evans, Tamina, Dana Brooke...and Sasha Banks.
It’s always felt like Sahsa vs. Bayley was inevitable, and this could be the start. This is actually the first time I’ve perked up about this division in quite a while.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt WrestleMania 30 rewatch - See, I think WWE should actually employ this more often - even when we’re not trying to combat a pandemic. What better way to tell a story than to properly tell the entire thing?
You could argue that it’s odd that it took the Fiend five years to manifest - fine. Whatever. The point is that they said this was relevant and then followed up with showing the match so you could see why it’s relevant. Good use of time considering the circumstances.
This show also set up Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss next week. I was pleasantly surprised by most of this show; the “middle” was pretty fun. The bookends? Yikes.