3/21/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Dean Ambrose Goes Hardcore
Dean Ambrose addressed Brock Lesnar from another local watering hole when Terry Funk interrupted him. The Middle Aged and Crazy legend gave Ambrose a pep talk and a chainsaw, which he used to rip apart a table in the bar. I have loved the interaction between Ambrose and hardcore heroes like Funk and Mick Foley. It’s a great way to pass the torch, contextualize Ambrose, and position him as a main event star.
Ambrose had a main event match against Braun Strowman with Paul Heyman on guest commentary. As usual, Strowman dragged the pace down to a near halt and made Ambrose fight from underneath. Ambrose had trouble keeping Strowman down and eventually started to assault him with a chair. He hit Dirty Deeds on the chair to lay out the big man and then taunted Heyman as the show went off the air. Strowman isn’t much of a wrestler, but he has been protected in a way that makes this beating mean something. WWE has had some missteps with building characters of late, but Ambrose is on a roll and looks more likely that ever to become a true main eventer.
McMahon Family Prepares for Showdown
Several past stars testified in vignettes about Shane McMahon’s athleticism and courage. The segment included highlights of Shane training striking and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was a well-done segment that will help remind or educate fans about Shane’s capabilities. Repeating the segments through the show might have been a bit of overkill. Still, the promo packages are always a great way to give historical context to WWE’s big storylines.
Later, Vince McMahon tried to pump up Undertaker by reiterating Shane’s statement that Undertaker is Vince’s “bitch.” He also said that the Hell in a Cell match at Wrestlemania would put Undertaker’s career on the line. It’s an odd stipulation that I don’t particularly like. Nobody wants Undertaker to go out a loser at Wrestlemania, but most fans want to see Shane win for the shakeup of Raw that would follow. I suppose Shane could reinstate Undertaker after winning, but the stipulation makes it harder to cheer for one wrestler or the other.
-Raw opened with a promo by Stephanie McMahon, interrupted by Roman Reigns. When Stephanie tried to slap Reigns, he caught her hand said that, “I am the Authority now.” HHH pulled into the arena in a limousine later and Reigns met him at the garage door and started to assault HHH. After a brief skirmish, HHH jumped back in the limousine and sped away. The segment didn’t do much for me, and the silence of the live audience demonstrates that I was not alone in that reaction.
-Kevin Owens and AJ Styles had another very good, hard-hitting match. Chris Jericho interrupted, which broke up Styles’s Calf Crusher and allowed Owens to get a schoolboy pin. Styles proceeded to officially challenge Jericho to a Wrestlemania match. This show was not necessarily a high point in their rivalry, but I have greatly enjoyed their story arc overall.
-After Owens won his match, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, and Sami Zayn joined Owens in the ring and challenged him for an Intercontinental Title match at Wrestlemania. Owens asked Stephanie McMahon if he could make a Triple Threat match to determine his challenger. Instead of the three rivals, he made a match between Stardust, Sin Cara, and Zach Ryder. Ziggler, Miz, and Zayn came to ringside, and it led to a brawl involving all seven men. As punishment for abusing his match-making privileges, Stephanie told Owens he would face the other six. It’s a shame that Owens and Zayn will have their rivalry watered down with so many marginal participants. I could have lived with the fatal fourway that was telegraphed, but Ryder and Sin Cara simply don’t belong in this match.
-Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks bickered on commentary while Natalya put up a good fight against Charlotte in the ring. Natalya got a near fall off of a sit-out powerbomb and applied the Sharpshooter. Charlotte fought back and got the win off of Natural Selection.
-New Day gave one of their least funny or edgy promos directed at League of Nations. It led to a brawl in advance of a Big E-Rusev Match. Big E used an electric chair to counter the Accolade and won with a Big Ending. League of Nations needs to get some heat and quickly for anyone to care about this match.
-Kane helped chase the Social Outcasts off of a beating on the Big Show and then took out Big Show as well. It was a preview of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. If WWE is going to invest very little talent in the Andre, then I wouldn’t mind leaving the build off of TV altogether.
-Bubba Ray Dudley got an easy win over R-Truth. Goldust ran in to make the save, followed by the Usos. The entire segment mirrored the interaction on Smackdown. Like the Andre, this match is shaping up as Wrestlemania filler.
-Speaking of Wrestlemania filler, Paige, Natalya, Brie Bella, and Alicia Fox will face Lana, Naomi, Tamina and a mystery partner. The mystery partner is going to have to be transcendent to save that match.