Wrestler of the Week – Seth Rollins
The 2014 Wrestler of the Year downshifted in preparation for the Fast Lane PPV, but it was a very brief deceleration. What started as a pure comedy exchange between Jon Stewart and Rollins developed into a real wrestling storyline when Stewart appeared on Raw. Rollins reasserted his status as the only real challenger to Brock Lesnar, participated in a very fun verbal exchange with Stewart, beat Roman Reigns with some outside help, and continued his tightrope-walk of an alliance with Randy Orton, all in one episode of Raw. His match was as good as any of the wrestling on the show, his exchange with Stewart was memorably clever (as was the proper low blow payoff from Stewart), and his storyline with Orton has as much momentum as any headed toward Wrestlemania. When Rollins says he is the future of WWE, it is as true in reality as it is in the kayfabe sense.
Match of the Week – AJ Styles def. ACH
While ROH’s 13th Anniversary Show did not live up to expectations, there were notable bright spots outside of the main event slots on the card. The brightest of those bright spots was likely the match between the IWGP Heavyweight Champion and ACH. Styles wrestles in the US infrequently enough at this point that each match feels very important. I feared that he might not treat a mid-card match with a developing opponent as seriously as he would one against the likes of Tanahashi in Japan, but he brought tremendous match out of ACH that made them both look good. Styles has learned over the course of his career that big spots mean more when wrestlers take time to build anticipation for them. This match started deliberately, which is not to say it was ever boring. Instead, Styles wore ACH down, allowed ACH to show some real fire, and eventually put him away with the Styles Clash. They both looked good and it was highly entertaining.
Quote of the Week – Seth Rollins
“Don’t let these abs fool you, I can out-eat Mark Henry,” Rollins, bragging to Roman Reigns that he can outdo anyone in WWE.
Must See Wrestling
- Backstage Takes Center Stage
While WWE would like to keep the focus on the in-ring product in the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania, a number of non-wrestling stories crept into the wrestling headlines. Most notably, Brock Lesnar stormed out of a meeting with Vince McMahon and appeared at UFC show with Dana White in what can only be interpreted as a sign that he is serious about resuming his MMA career after his WWE contract expires next month. In happier news, rumors have indicated that Samoa Joe might buck the trend of TNA stars and leap into the WWE in the coming months. Lastly, WWE trainer Bill DeMott has come under intense scrutiny for a series of stories alleging mistreatment toward his trainees.
- Divas Get a Chance
In response to a wave of social media momentum to expand the role of its main roster women, WWE dedicated more time and effort to a Divas Title match between Nikki Bella and Paige and the ensuing return of AJ Lee. While not every episode of Raw can include two major developments like these, it was nice to see a more serious rivalry and a little more time for the women’s division. With plenty of in-ring talent on the roster, we can all hope that the backlash inspires a serious change in the way WWE looks at its women wrestlers.
- NXT Expands its Star Power
Last week’s NXT main event included four wrestlers and two storylines that are all fresh and relatively new to NXT. The Brian Kendrick returned to WWE to face NXT #1 Contender Finn Balor in a solid match, albeit one that Balor mostly dominated. Meanwhile, Champion Kevin Owens sat in on commentary and took umbrage at Alex Riley’s comments. He excused himself from the announce table and returned later to ambush Riley. None of the four have long histories in NXT- Balor is the longest tenured at just a few months-, and both Kendrick and Riley have the credentials outside of NXT to make themselves instantly relevant. NXT has done a great job of keeping things fresh and giving opportunities for its young wrestlers to gain experience.