If this was essentially supposed to be this week’s Raw, I’m sure glad it got cut down to two hours. Unlike December’s Super SmackDown Live, this live edition simply felt like another episode of SmackDown. There was still a ton of filler, and not much to speak of in terms of good wrestling, either. Furthermore, the show was plagued by unusually long and frequent commercial breaks that killed any hint of momentum. Also, where the hell was Dean Ambrose? “Creative has nothing for you, Dean”? His complete and total absence from the show was very odd.
That said, it wasn’t all bad on this week’s SmackDown. Triple H and Michael Cole both heavily teased a possible change to the WrestleMania main event, to be announced on Monday. Cole reminding fans of Triple H’s impending announcement during Daniel Bryan’s victory celebration leads me to believe they’ll either shoehorn him into the main event again, or they’re going to pull some type of cheesy swerve on Monday. We shall see. -Scott Strandberg
Daniel Bryan def. Kane in a casket match
Kane hit a basement dropkick to start the match, and Bryan hit a series of kicks to Kane’s left leg. Kane picked Bryan up in a military press and tried to dump him into the casket, but Bryan wriggled out of the way. Kane kicked Bryan in the head and tried to force him into the casket. Bryan fought back with kicks of his own, but Kane immediately shut him down with a big boot.
Kane hit a sidewalk slam, but Bryan used a headscissor to nearly get Kane in the casket. Bryan hit a crossbody off the apron, and tried for a second one, but Kane caught him and drove him into the ring post. Kane hit a big boot to land Bryan in the casket, but Bryan got his feet up when Kane tried to close the lid.
Kane landed a clothesline, but Bryan hit one of his own. Bryan hit his signature series of kicks, but missed the final kick. Bryan managed to dump Kane out of the ring, then hit a dive between the ropes. Kane fought back, tossing Bryan over the barricade, into the timekeeper’s area.
Kane threw Bryan over the announce table and hit Bryan with stiff chair shots. Kane drove Bryan’s head into the lid of the casket, then tried to Tombstone Bryan into the casket. Bryan avoided it, hitting a jawbreaker and repeated dropkicks, but Kane managed to hold onto the ropes.
Kane countered another dropkick with a chokeslam and nearly got Bryan in the casket. Bryan hit a kick to the head and got Kane in a Yes Lock inside the casket. Bryan tried to close the lid, but Kane grabbed the lid at the last second. Bryan tried for his signature kicks again, but Kane stopped him, got out of the casket, and hit a stiff clothesline.
Bryan dumped Kane over the top, hit an enziguiri, then hit a running knee to land Kane in the casket. Bryan slammed the lid shut and stood atop the casket, leading a Yes! chant.
Michael Cole suspiciously chose this moment to remind everyone that Triple H had started off the show with his announcement to address the Royal Rumble controversy, this coming Monday on Raw. They even cut away from Bryan’s celebration to show a replay of Triple H’s promo from the start of the show. Cole then said that Triple H’s announcement might not be a good thing for Roman Reigns.
Scott’s Thoughts: I should probably address the match first. It was alright, but the placement of the commercial breaks really damaged this match’s momentum — moreso than any other segment of the show. Also, the casket match isn’t exactly the most versatile of match types. Still, pretty good.
Okay, now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m of two minds regarding WWE’s Bryan tease tonight. Part of me thinks that if they really wanted Bryan to be part of the main event at WrestleMania, they would have just booked him to win the Rumble in the first place.
Repeating the same story as last year, with Bryan forcing his way in somehow, would still be welcomed, but it would feel so inorganic. They just did it last year. I’m not sure I even want to see WWE try to shoehorn him in again this year, just because there’s no way it will feel natural.
On the other hand, I don’t even remotely understand why WWE would tease Bryan’s possible inclusion at WrestleMania if they’re not going to pull the trigger. Booking Reigns to win the Rumble was a mistake, to be certain. However, it wasn’t done intentionally to anger fans.
Let’s face it, if WWE really teased Bryan’s inclusion this heavily, only to not follow through, they have to know how insanely angry many fans will be. At that point, people are really going to feel like they’re being cheated, and I wouldn’t blame them. That would be equivalent to making fans chase a carrot on a string. It would be insulting. The only way it would make sense is if Reigns turned heel…but a turn wouldn’t really make sense either.
So…I don’t know. I have no idea what to think about all this. I am definitely anticipating Triple H’s announcement on Raw. I’m not even going to try to predict what’s going to happen, simply because WWE is such a hot mess right now. Hell, I’m not convinced WWE knows what they’re going to have Triple H announce on Monday quite yet (if they did, why not just do it tonight?). And you know what? It’s kind of fascinating.
The train is certainly teetering, but it’s not completely off the tracks yet. At any moment, that locomotive could gain momentum, and get firmly back on the tracks. Similarly, it’s about one bad booking decision away from flying completely off the rails. So far, I’ve been thoroughly entertained by watching WWE try to navigate around its own ridiculous booking.
Triple H and Roman Reigns struggle to deal with hostile crowd response
Triple H said that the WWE doesn’t like to be told what to do, before taking shots at the NFL, making way too many jokes about balls. Triple H said that he’s a problem solver, and that he would solve the problem of Sting at Fast Lane.
He continued by saying that the Royal Rumble pay-per-view was a great success, touting the triple-threat match as an all-time great. Triple H noted that the Rumble match itself was the problem, saying that on Monday, he will make an announcement that will shake the WWE Universe to its core.
Roman Reigns entered, saying that he doesn’t see any controversy, as the fans showered him in boos. Triple H said that Reigns may have won the Rumble, but he wouldn’t win his next match, against Big Show.
Scott’s Thoughts: Reigns said maybe a dozen words, which (perhaps wisely) leaves his performance tough to criticize. The main focus of Triple H’s promo was interesting — as discussed above — but the testicular humor wore out its welcome long before it was over.
Roman Reigns def. Big Show by pinfall
As the match got underway, some fans tried to get a “Let’s go Roman” chant going, but were quickly silenced by boos. Big Show suplexed Reigns to gain the early advantage, following up with a shoulder tackle. Reigns fought back, clotheslining Big Show out of the ring.
Big Show wore Reigns down with an ankle lock, but Reigns reached the ropes, using the ropes to help gain leverage to “hurricanrana” Big Show out of the ring. That’s one of the worst hurricanranas I have ever seen. Please, Roman, never do that again.
Back in the ring, Reigns hit clotheslines and a Samoan drop. Reigns tried for a Superman punch, but Big Show reversed it into a very clumsy chokeslam for a near-fall. Big Show climbed up top, but Reigns hit two Superman punches to Big Show on the second rope, then threw him to the mat. Reigns hit a spear for the pinfall victory.
Scott’s Thoughts: Yawn. Not really Roman’s fault — except for that ill-advised headscissor — it’s tough to look good in a match against Big Show, especially when the fans understandably turned on the match from the moment it was announced.
It was pretty crazy to hear Big Show get a pop when he nearly pinned Reigns with the chokeslam. The fact that a not-insignificant number of people in attendance actually wanted to see Big Show win speaks volumes about fans’ feelings toward Reigns.
John Cena discusses Rusev’s pubic hair
Rusev said that he should have been declared the winner of the Royal Rumble, then said that Cena is a loser. Cena entered, saying that he held the US Championship before Rusev had pubes or Lana had boobs. Cena said that Rusev had made the biggest mistake of his life in challenging him. Rusev and Lana retreated up the ramp, as Cena told him that at Fast Lane, he would walk out saying “The champ is here.”
Scott’s Thoughts: Ugh. I could have lived a perfectly satisfying life without ever having heard John Cena talk about Rusev’s pubes. This was bad-joke Cena at his very worst. I did find it interesting that this segment implied that the United States Championship will indeed be on the line at Fast Lane. Odds on a clean finish for that match? I’m thinking they’re pretty, pretty slim.
Tyson Kidd (w/Cesaro and Natalya) def. Jey Uso (w/Jimmy Uso and Naomi) by pinfall
Kidd immediately went to work on Jey’s left leg. Jey knocked Kidd out of the ring and tried for a dive between the ropes, but Tyson caught him with an enziguiri. Jey recovered to hit a Samoan drop, but Tyson countered the stinkface with a dropkick. Kidd hit his spinning neckbreaker finisher to put Jey away. Oddly, Cesaro’s music played as Tyson celebrated his victory.
Scott’s Thoughts: It looks like Cesaro and Kidd are next in line for a shot at the tag titles, which is awesome. I would absolutely love to see Tyson and Cesaro with the belts. Side note – Poor Adam Rose. He doesn’t even get to hang out with his new friends anymore. He was nowhere in sight. (Another side note – If Cesaro and Kidd are going to share theme music, why in the name of anything holy aren’t they using Kidd’s far-more-tolerable theme?!)
The Ascension def. Stardust and Goldust by pinfall
Stardust earned an early near-fall with a rollup on Viktor, following up with an arm drag. Konnor tagged in and hit Stardust with an uppercut, and Viktor added an elbow drop for a near-fall. The Ascension continued exchanging quick tags to wear down Stardust.
Stardust finally reached Goldust, who hit clotheslines on Viktor, following up with an inverted atomic drop and a big boot. Goldust hit a scoopslam, and Stardust tagged himself in. Stardust tried for a Disaster Kick on Konnor, but came up empty. The Ascension hit the Fall of Man to finish off Stardust.
Scott’s Thoughts: Well, well. It appears we may get our Goldust vs. Stardust feud for WrestleMania after all. This definitely felt like the start of a separation angle.
Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan attack Seth Rollins
Rollins issued an open challenge, which Ryback accepted. Rollins, Noble and Mercury beat him down until Rowan entered. Rowan took out J&J Security, but Rollins kicked him off the ring apron. Ziggler entered next, but Rollins, Noble and Mercury ran away up the entrance ramp.
Scott’s Thoughts: I have no idea what the point was for this segment. If you squint really really hard, you could maybe see the setup for a legitimate Ziggler/Rollins feud, but I’m pretty sure this segment was simply to give these guys a spot on the show. Which makes me wonder again why they didn’t have time for Ambrose, but whatever.
Some guy does magic tricks, bad jokes ensue
There was a magician backstage doing tricks for Summer Rae, Zack Ryder and R-Truth. Miz and Mizdow entered, and Miz pretended to know how the trick worked. The magician did a magic trick, and Miz ended up with an egg broken on his head. R-Truth finished the segment by saying “The yolk’s on you!”
Scott’s Thoughts: Seriously, who the hell was that guy? A quick look at my Twitter feed during this segment showed that I was far from alone in having no clue who this guy is, or why he got several minutes on the show, while Dean Ambrose hung out with Heath Slater back in catering.