2/26/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Wrestler of the Week – Dean Ambrose
The most memorable moment of the week was Shane McMahon’s return to Raw, but if you dig deeper into the performances of the top wrestlers, Ambrose tops the list. He was the glue that held together a fun main event at Fastlane between Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and himself. The lingering suspicion that his popularity would lead him to an upset win in the match mitigated the feeling of Reignsian predeterminism. Ambrose also put on a great show in the match with his defiantly resilient attitude toward Lesnar.
That defiance carried over into Raw, where Lesnar jumped him in the parking lot, slammed him through a windshield, and sent him to the emergency room. When Lesnar and Paul Heyman came to the ring to gloat about the beating, Ambrose made his way to ringside, stumbling down the ramp from his hijacked ambulance. He continued to berate Lesnar and earned another F5 for his troubles. Ambrose challenged Lesnar to a street fight at Wrestlemania. Even before he came to WWE, Ambrose was well known for his ability to take a beating. A street fight against Lesnar is perhaps pro wrestling’s best setting for taking a beating, so this match will be Ambrose’s greatest opportunity yet to realize his potential as a true main event star.
Match of the Week – AJ Styles def. Chris Jericho
Styles and Jericho wrestled a pair of very entertaining matches on their way to Fastlane, where their rubber match took place. Their pacing and psychology in the third match was a master class in putting together a bout. They used carefully measured moves and counter-moves, holds and counter-holds. Each time there was a minor blip in the work, the two savvy veterans not only covered it up, they used it to enhance the narrative depth of the match. Styles got the win with his Calf Crusher submission, which finally earned him Jericho’s respect. Their burgeoning tag team will end in a fall-out- wrestling tag teams always end in a fallout-, but the question is whether that fallout will happen soon enough to lead to a more emotional encounter at Wrestlemania.
Must See Wrestling
- Shane McMahon Returns to WWE
Shane’s interruption of his sister’s award ceremony got one of the biggest pops in recent memory from the Detroit Raw audience. His return was so unexpected that the reaction was equal parts shock and jubilation. I have no idea whether Shane can wrestle a worthwhile match against Undertaker at Wrestlemania or if he will even try. What I know is that he has brought the excitement and hype for the event to a level that most thought it would not reach this year.
- HHH Gets Heat
After Roman Reigns wrestled Sheamus in an uninspired Raw main event, HHH returned without his corporate accoutrement. He brutalized Reigns around the ring, both with the ring bell and on the announce table. Blade, blood packet, or broken nose, Reigns came away from the beating a bloody mess. The visual got a big reaction and turned the HHH-Reigns story from one about corporate hijinks into one about personal hatred. Whether fans are sympathetic to HHH is secondary; people now care about this match.
- Matt Hardy and Johnny Mundo Highlight Non-WWE Wrestling
It’s no surprise that WWE dominates this list in the week that the Wrestlemania build kicked into high gear. There were other worthwhile bits in other promotions, as well. Hardy and Rockstar Spud channeled the Freebirds vs. the Von Erichs when Spud slammed the cage door on EC3’s head to help Hardy retain his TNA World Title. Mundo needed help from the debuting Taya and a lead pipe to overcome Cage in a frenetic Lucha Underground main event. Neither will have the long-term effect of Ambrose or Shane, but they were certainly entertaining.