Intercontinental Championship chase continues to heat up
Ziggler — wearing Barrett’s title belt — said that he deserves an Intercontinental Championship rematch, because he never received one after losing it. Instead, he won Survivor Series and got fired. Ziggler announced his official entry into the IC Title ladder match, before saying that there was still someone missing.
Ziggler said that he wouldn’t feel right entering the match without Bryan, his hand-picked choice to tear down the house with at WrestleMania. Instead of Bryan, Barrett entered and asked Ziggler who he thought he was to be inviting wrestlers to his title match.
Harper snuck up behind Ziggler and took him out, leading to a two-on-one beatdown. Ambrose entered to even the odds, and he and Ziggler cleared Barrett and Harper from the ring. Truth came out of nowhere, hiding behind the ring apron until all four men were distracted enough for him to grab the title belt.
Truth climbed under the ring and walked away up the entrance ramp with the IC Title belt. In a backstage interview with Renee Young, Truth said that he took the belt before he actually wins the title, because he likes to plan ahead. Truth added that he eats when he’s not hungry, so that at meal time, he’s conveniently already full.
Renee reminded him that he would have to climb a ladder to retrieve the belt at WrestleMania anyway. Truth then tried to give away the belt to Renee, who declined. Truth said he would give it to “Gene Ambrose” instead, and ran off to find him.
Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose def. Bad News Barrett and Luke Harper by pinfall
Ziggler hit Harper with a dropkick, but Harper responded with a facebuster. Ambrose hit a running crossbody on Barrett, following up with a bulldog and a top-rope elbow drop, forcing Harper to make the save. Harper tagged in and hit an elbow drop, followed by a suplex for two.
Ambrose fought back with a tornado DDT on Barrett, and both men made the hot tag to their partners. Ziggler hit a neckbreaker and an elbow drop, followed by a DDT for a near-fall. Ziggler hit a facebuster, but Harper fought back with a spinning side slam.
Ambrose made the save, and Ziggler planted Harper with a superkick and a Zig-Zag, earning the pin. Barrett took out both Ambrose and Ziggler after the match, and R-Truth teased giving Barrett his title back.
Truth’s distraction gave Ambrose enough time to hit a dive between the ropes on Barrett. Truth teased giving the belt to Harper as well, but kicked him in the face instead. As Truth reached the top of the entrance ramp, Daniel Bryan entered and Truth gave him the belt.
Truth led a Yes! Chant and Bryan held up the belt, until Stardust attacked from behind, stealing the title and climbing a ladder.
Scott’s Thoughts: You want to elevate the Intercontinental Championship? Build an entire show around it, like WWE did tonight. The insertion of Stardust into the angle was a bit forced, but I assume he’ll be fed to Bryan on Raw for the right to enter the IC title match at WrestleMania.
AJ Lee (w/Paige) def. Brie Bella (w/Nikki Bella) by submission
The Bellas cut an in-ring promo, saying that they had been giving every Diva in the locker room a chance for ages now, but none of them live up to the Bella standard. AJ quickly gained the advantage, earning a near-fall with a top-rope crossbody.
Brie responded with a second-rope missile dropkick for two of her own, following with a clothesline. Brie hit a basement dropkick for another near-fall, followed by another clothesline. Brie continued to dominate with a DDT for yet another very close near-fall.
Brie used a running cutter, but AJ kicked out yet again. Brie hit a running knee, but AJ finally fought back with a Thesz press. AJ then took a page from Dolph Ziggler’s playbook, hitting a Stinger Splash into a neckbreaker. AJ hit a dropkick and locked in the Black Widow, forcing Brie to tap out.
Scott’s Thoughts: This was a very good match, as AJ and Brie told a good story in the ring that built at an appropriate pace. Looks like the Divas are actually getting a chance, after all.
Rusev (w/Lana) def. Jack Swagger by submission; Axelmania runs wild on Rusev
Swagger gained the early advantage with a clothesline, but Rusev responded with a dropkick for two. Swagger hit another clothesline and tried for a Swagger Bomb, but Rusev got his knees up.
Swagger caught Rusev in a Patriot Lock, and Rusev reached the ropes to break the hold. Swagger dumped Rusev outside and drove him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Rusev planted Swagger with a superkick, then locked in The Accolade for the submission win.
After the match, Axel appeared on the Titantron, saying that Axelmania is often imitated, but never eliminated. Axel challenged Rusev to a match on Raw, saying that he would put Rusev down and earn himself a WrestleMania title shot.
Scott’s Thoughts: The commentary team repeatedly pushed the idea that John Cena might not have a match at WrestleMania, which is such a ridiculous angle that they should drop it as soon as possible. As for this match, Swagger and Rusev have so much experience together that they’re still able to put together a relatively engaging 5-minute match.
I still worry that Axelmania might have a short shelf life, but it’s entertaining me for now, so I’m looking forward to seeing where (if anywhere) they end up going with the angle.
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (w/Natalya) def. Los Matadores (w/El Torito) by pinfall
Fernando hit an early neckbreaker on Kidd, followed by a leaping headscissor takedown on Cesaro. Diego hit a hurricanrana, which Cesaro answered with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a double foot stomp for a near-fall. Diego tried to reach Fernando for a tag, but Kidd pulled Fernando off the apron.
Cesaro rolled up Diego, but the referee caught him using the ropes for leverage. An El Torito distraction gave Diego time to roll up Cesaro for a two-count of his own. Cesaro hit an uppercut on Diego, and when Torito tried for another distraction, Natalya pulled him off the apron.
Cesaro and Kidd teamed up for the Giant Swing/dropkick combo, earning Cesaro the pinfall victory.
Scott’s Thoughts: A fun, fast-paced match that saw Kidd/Cesaro/Natalya resort to classic heel tactics for the win. I also am always a huge fan of matches ending on signature moves, rather than finishers. This trio has lent more legitimacy to the tag titles recently, and are having a highly entertaining run.
Ryback def. Kane (w/Big Show) by pinfall
Big Show let Kane know that he was entering the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and Kane responded that he was too. Show asked whether the devil’s favorite demon or a Men’s Wearhouse spokesman would show up. Kane invited Show to come watch his match against Ryback, before saying “You’re going to love the way I look. I guarantee it.”
Before the match, a “tale of the tape” graphic appeared on-screen, mirroring the way Ring of Honor presents their matches. Ryback gained the advantage with a neckbreaker, a belly-to-belly suplex and a second-rope splash. Ryback followed up with a spinebuster, but Show jumped onto the apron to make a distraction.
Show’s interference did more harm than good, as Ryback used the opening to hit a Meathook Clothesline for the pinfall. Kane picked up a microphone and announced that Ryback had another match, this time against Big Show.
Scott’s Thoughts: The night’s first two matches both ended with pinfalls following signature moves, rather than finishers. I love that, because it gives those signature moves added kayfabe power.
Big Show (w/Kane) def. Ryback by pinfall
Show knocked Ryback down with a clothesline, following up with two gorilla press slams. Ryback responded with a spinebuster and nailed an interfering Kane with a Meathook. The distraction allowed Show to hit a KO Punch for the pinfall. After the match, Show refused to give Kane any credit for helping him win the match.
Scott’s Thoughts: This feud seems to be leading to Kane putting the mask back on, and also returning to tweenery semi-face Kane. The corporate Kane gimmick grew tired a long time ago, so I hope I’m right about this.
Kofi Kingston and Big E (w/Xavier Woods) def. The Miz and Damien Mizdow by pinfall
Miz hit a DDT which Kofi sold beautifully, but Kofi responded with a dropkick. Mizdow tagged in and hit repeated clotheslines, followed by a backbreaker/neckbreaker combo. Mizdow hit a big boot, but Miz tagged himself in blindly.
Miz and Mizdow stared each other down, as Miz screamed “I’ll end you!” Mizdow walked down the ring steps and stood with his back to the ring. Kofi used the distraction to tag in Big E, who hit the Big Ending as Kofi nailed a top-rope diving cutter for the pinfall victory.
Scott’s Thoughts: This was a good reminder of how the New Day are good workers, which makes it all the more unfortunate that they’re stuck in the awful gimmick they have. Miz and Mizdow’s split continues to entertain, and I expect it to come to a head in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.