I'll breeze through the Kickoff Show here. First, there was the 12 man tag rematch from Smackdown. It was mostly a carbon copy except that the Usos stole the pin from American Alpha and teased a heel turn. Fun little match that went 14:29. . Next up, Sami Zayn and Neville teamed up to defeat the Dudleys in 7:55. Zayn and Neville were fun as a team but it's a terrible place for Sami coming off of his incredible Battleground performance. To end the Kickoff Show, Sheamus bested Cesaro to start their Best of Seven Series with a Brogue Kick at 14:09. It was good old fashioned, hard hitting match that would have fit right in the G1 Climax earlier this month.
Enzo and Cass starting the show was the right call. They were incredibly over in New York and had the crowd singing within minutes. The match itself was mostly formulaic but what made this work was the men involved. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens just nailed every antic, while Enzo and Cass are always fun. Enzo took a beating until Big Cass got to get the tag and do his thing. It ended up leading to Enzo back as the legal man, where he took a popup Codebreaker combo from the heels that ended it. A lot of people weren’t happy with the result but I predicted that to possibly set a rematch or multi-team match at Clash of the Champions. Good match that got a boost from the personalities involved.
Their match on Raw last month got four stars from me, as did two of their NXT matches. Something about this one never quite got going. I think one thing that hurt it was Charlotte dropping Sasha on her head from the top rope in the first few minutes. After that, it seemed like Sasha was shaken up and things were a bit awkward. Charlotte wasn’t done botching there, however, the second half of this match picked things up. These two hit each other hard and went for broke on some big spots. I have to commend them for righting the ship following the horrible starting stretch. Sasha went for the Bank Statement in the end, but Charlotte rolled over and got the pin. At first glance, putting the title on Charlotte is horrible. Her 309 day reign was unbelievably boring. However, reports came in that Sasha has a bad lower back and is hurt. There are no babyfaces on Raw so I assume Bayley gets the call up to save us from Charlotte. Good match that had a slow start to keep it from great.
Right off the bat, it was clear that the crowd just didn’t care about this. Add in that two super popular babyfaces lost in the opening matches and they were killed early. It was a decent midcard match but lacked a ton. It didn’t help that the build to this was almost non-existent. Crews did fine in the ring but still needs more from a character standpoint outside of smiling bald guy. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale to win after Crews missed a stinger splash. This was there. Maryse’s outfit was easily the highlight.
The match between these two at Money in the Bank was great and bordered on the next level until the Club got involved and it took away from it. There was none of that here. This was two of the best wrestlers of the past decade just having a match and it delivered. They built a match about pure determination to be the best and it just worked. It did follow the typical Cena formula of big near falls and finisher kick outs at points but not too much to the point where it distracted me. They countered each other and nailed tons of huge moves. When Cena hit the super AA, I legitimately thought it was over. Styles kicked out and Cena sold the disbelief perfectly. It was as if he knew, right there, that Styles was the better man. A Styles Clash and Phenomenal Forearm later and Styles joined a short list of men who pinned Cena cleanly. The right decision to end a tremendous match. The score may go up after a second watch but even without that, I loved almost everything about this.
Big E was out so it was Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston here. Jon Stewart did the intro for New Day and it was all pretty awkward. I was excited for this match originally, but they underwhelmed in a big way here. The match wasn’t too bad but there was nothing really to it. I also wasn’t a big fan of the comedy. The build-up has been funny but the Club bringing out the jars for the testicles was too much. It felt like they were more interested in that than actually winning the titles. The match dragged along until the challengers tried to crotch Stewart only for Big E to run and make the save, leading to the DQ. I love New Day and know they’re about to hit a year with the titles, but I think now was the time to make the switch. Disappointing match for sure.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan sat at ringside and kept these two apart before the bell. I question the placement of this match also. Ambrose, despite being way more popular, played the heel for the most part. He mocked Ziggler’s superkick and poses, while basically toying with him at times. It felt like Dean’s character believed Dolph was beneath him, which has been stated during the build, but Dolph never did anything throughout to step up to his level. The story seemed to call for Dolph to make a big rally and fall just short. Instead, it all felt flat. Add in the quiet crowd and it all just never clicked the way it needed to. I honestly think they may have reached a point where the fans just don’t buy Dolph as a threat anymore. This never felt like an important title match.
With the recent Eva Marie suspension, the heel team was left without a partner. After teasing Eva, Nikki Bella made her return to a pretty great pop. I’m a man, so I will point out that nearly every woman in this match looked great. I appreciate that they were given a fair amount of time and did well with it. Having Nikki involved made the crowd more interested in this I think. My biggest issue was that not everyone got a chance to shine. I didn’t feel like Alexa specifically meant anything. It was built around Nikki and her return. I would have liked to see Alexa get the pin but the returning Nikki won with a TKO on Carmella. Fine match but odd placement on the card too. It wasn’t earth shattering but everyone did well and it made for entertaining stuff.
Putting this on before the United States Title match gives the feel that Roman Reigns isn’t in the title picture, but he’s still more important. Finn’s demon look was one of my favorites ever with cool face paint and a green tongue drawn on. This came off as a bigger deal than the earlier title match. After Finn tried his finish early, things slowed down with Finn taking a bit of a beating, including a power bomb into the guardrail which seemed to hurt his elbow. The crowd hurt this because they spent a fair amount of time chanting among themselves and discussing or booing the ugly Universal Title. The final stretch was really good though, with Balor kicking out of God’s Last Gift and a Pedigree. He countered a second attempt, hit a double stomp and then a bigger Coup de Grace to become the champion. I prefer Seth but I’m glad they had the balls to pull the trigger on Balor. They overcame the bad crowd and got them back with a hot ending and clean win.
Instead of Roman Reigns vs. Rusev again, we got a big brawl and a match that never really started. They beat each up and Rusev kicked ass. But the BIG DOG can’t stay down, so he turns it around and attacks Rusev with a chair. Even after Rusev was down, Roman continued the assault and Rusev was deemed unfit to compete. At least it kept the show from running over since the WWE can’t manage a six hour show.
I really enjoy watching Brock Lesnar when he actually tries. The thing is, I don’t think he does anymore. He sabotaged the Dean Ambrose match to preserve himself for UFC and this was just the same thing he’s done for a while now. I had high hopes for his matches with Seth Rollins, Ambrose and Randy Orton, but none of them really delivered. Orton took a beating and went through a table before hitting Brock with an RKO on the table. He also hit his DDT and a second RKO but Brock kicked out. I THOUGHT IT ONLY TOOK ONE RKO RANDY! Brock wailed away n Orton and busted him open horribly with an elbow. Orton just laid in a pool of his own blood. Brock went back on the attack and the referee had to stop things. Typical Brock stuff but I do give credit for the finish being somewhat different.
Brock continue to attack so Shane stepped in to stop this. Brock wouldn’t let him walk past and picked him up before planting him with the F5.
Overall: These six hour shows are too much. I love pro wrestling but it is way too much. The show always drags at points and the WWE can’t seem to ever book these right. They also make odd decision and place matches in strange places. It happened at Mania and again here. There was some good (Finn/Seth, Sheamus/Cesaro, JeriKO/Enzo and Cass for example) and one phenomenal match (AJ/Cena) but the main event was underwhelming along with a few other matches.