I missed the Andre the Giant Battle Royale but, apparently, Matt Hardy won after Bray Wyatt returned and helped him out. Apparently they’re allies now.
Joined in progress for the start of the Cruiserweight Championship match; John Cena is sitting in the front row. Mustafa is rocking a weird Iron Man/Sub-Zero hybrid outfit. Both guys do a lot of yelling about “showing he heart” and “showing the soul” to sell their competitive stance but also do that back-and-forth strikes, counters, and wrestle bit to show their athleticism and how physically serious their taking the contest. I talk a lot of shit about the cruiserweights, mainly because of how they’ve been booked until recently, but they really need this kind of fire and vigour and attitude if they want people to wake up and care about them. Of course, actually booking competitive matches like this would really help, too.
Cedric Alexander used his bigger posture and power to tease the crowd; grounding Ali and going for repeated pins, building the tension and drawing decent little pops from the crowd every time Ali busted out a more flippy/jumpy type of offense. A series of clotheslines and counters leads Ali into a forward-flip X-Factor move, that only gets two, but put Ali in real control of the match for the first time.
Cedric put a stop to that with the Spanish Fly, leaving both men down; seems a little early for that as they’ve not really overexerted themselves too much. Cedric muscled out of Ali’s attempt at a Tornado DDT and dumped him on the top rope, only for Ali to hit a top-rope Spanish Fly! Cedric kicks out but Ali set him up for the 054 Splash, so Cedric dumped him out of the ring in a nasty spill.
The WWE runs a promo for the Triple H/Stephanie McMahon vs. Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey match while Ali recovers on the outside and Cedric stalls in the ring; kind of distracting and insulting to the competitors in the ring but it’s enough for Ali to back-flip out of the Lumbar Check and hit a sick Reverse Frankensteiner and the Tornado DDT. Ali with the 054 Splash but Cedric gets his foot on the ropes!
Ali stomped on Cedric and went for the 054 Splash again but, wisely, Cedric rolled out of the ring and Ali crashed and burned. Cedric with the Reverse Elbows and literally begs Ali to give it up, then smashes him with the Lumbar Check and finally becomes the Cruiserweight Champion. Honestly? A good match but quite rushed; they could have done with another five minutes or so.
Lilian Garcia is out to announce Beth Phoenix as a guest commentator for the women’s Battle Royale and she joins Paige at the commentary desk, automatically (and dramatically) increasing my interest in this match (though she sounds a bit rough, possibly a bit drunk). My pick, Becky Lynch, is out first and then a whole mess of other women come out without any music or interest (I see Ruby Riott, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Natalya, Lana, Naomi, Carmella, Dana Brooke, and Peyton Royce). On the Raw side of things, Bayley comes out with music and fanfare but, of course, Sasha Banks gets all that too. Nobody else comes out…that was weird.
Anyway, everyone attacks and eliminates Carmella because she has the briefcase and then they all…stand around a bit before Dana and Natalya get into it. Again, everyone attacks and eliminates her before the NXT entrants attack the main roster girls and stand dominant for a bit before Becky attacks…one of them…for wearing orange and the match breaks down. Mandy gets eliminated while Natalya works over Bayley in the corner and Bianca Belair splashes Kari Sane with a 450 Splash; Sonya Deville gets dumped and Ruby finds herself under attacked.
The Riott Squad remain but Absolution have all been dumped; Becky takes a whipping from Belair, so she kicks her out of the ring. Dakota Kai attacks her and then gets chucked by Sasha, who is predictably smug about it. There goes Becky, to a chorus of boos!! Mickie James goes next, then Peyton, as the Riott Squad remains dominant. They team up with Natalya to beat up Sasha and Bayley, but soon turn on her.
Bayley and Sasha team up, dumping Natalya, Morgan, Ruby, and Sarah Logan, leaving it down to the two former best friends. So, basically, this was all smoke and mirrors to get every woman on the card and still have the Bayley/Sasha match after all? Well, it’ll still have to wait because there goes Sasha! However, she turns around and it turns out that Naomi is still left standing. Naomi tosses Bayley and takes the win…which is a little weird, as it seemed like it would have been perfect for Bayley to have won but the crowd seems happy enough.
And we’re kicking the event proper off with the Intercontinental Championship match. Seth Rollins is out first (Michael Cole says he’ll become a Grand Slam Champion if he wins but isn’t he already, as he won the World, United States, and Tag Team Championships?), followed by the Miz (with Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas), and Finn Balor. Unfortunately, Finn isn’t rocking the Demon attire; actually very disappointed to see that, but he does get a whole bunch of Balor Club supporters.
Everyone’s a bit reluctant to start but then Finn and Seth take turns trying to roll up Miz before Rollins Clotheslines Miz out of the ring. Rollins goes for the stomp, Finn doges, dumps him, and the takes them both out with a Suicide Dive! Balor, in control, takes it to Miz in the ring; Balor looks pretty pumped tonight! He dodges an Irish Whip but Rollins takes him down with a Cross Body. Miz tries to steal the win, as John Cena watches on with his sad panda face, before Rollins takes both guys out with the double Blockbuster.
Rollins hits the corner elbow, tries for the Falcon Arrow, but Miz flips out of it and takes him down with a knee. He splashes Balor in the far corner and hits a Double Axehandle on Rollins, but it’s still too early. Miz slows it down with a headlock and then switches his attention to Balor, trying for a pin after a Reverse Neckbreaker. Balor kicks out and, again, Miz slows it with a head/arm lock thing so everyone can catch their breath.
Miz whips Balor to the corner, he takes him down and builds up momentum, hitting the Double Stomp to Miz and laying in the Ric Flair chops in the corner. Balor dumps Miz with a Bicycle Kick and then She is back in, planting Balor with the Slingblade and taking him down with a Suicide Dive of his own. Balor recovers, hits his own Slingblade, but Miz is back and tries to steal the win after the Silver Spoon DDT but Rollins is still able to kick out.
All three men are down but Miz and Rollins are up first; Miz goes after Rollins’ knee and tries for the Figure Four but Rollins kicks him off and then gets kicked out of the ring. Balor avoids the same fate but then Miz goes for his knee and locks in the Figure Four. Rollins his a huge splash them to break it up and almost takes the win with a quick pin and, again, all three men are down.
Balor is favouring the knee, so Rollins (also limping) goes after him on the outside and teases the Barricade Powerbomb but Balor slips free and hits another Slingblade on the outside and then hits both men with the Shotgun Dropkick into the barricade. Balor picks Rollins, throws him back in the ring, and goes for the 1916 but Rollins fights free. They trade elbows and strikes; Rollins with the Enziguri but Balor recovers, hits the 1916, but Rollins kicks out at two.
Balor goes for the Coup de Grâce but Miz is back and sets him up for a Superplex. Rollins hits a huge Buckle Bomb then lands a Superplex but Balor rolls him up; Rollins kicks out but gets hit with the Skull-Crushing Finale….but only for two! The crowd loves it, starting the “This is awesome!” chants. Miz measures Balor, who dodges free and rolls him up, for two, then Miz crotches him as he goes for the Coup de Grâce. Miz, now sporting a scratch or bruise on his side, goes for another Superplex but here’s Rollins again with the Enziguri.
Rollins leaps up but Miz plants him with a top rope Skull-Crushing Finale and Balor breaks the pin up with a Coup de Grâce. Balor, still limping, is feeling it, hits the Slingblade on Miz, then the Shotgun Dropkick. He jumps up… Coup de Grâce but here’s Rollins with the Blackout to both Finn and Miz! Rollins stomps Miz again, covers….and wins!! Rollins takes the belt at the last second! This was spectacular from the bell; it slowed a bit after the initial flurry but picked up quickly afterwards once all three and regained their stamina. I was sure Balor would win but, hopefully, this leads to an awesome feud between Balor and Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship.
The SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship is next; Charlotte Flair gets a big, dramatic entrance with full on Ric Flair music, throne, Gladiators, and smoke machines galore. Asuka, however, gets…3D lasers and Kabuki masks, which is quite trippy. I really hope that Asuka lamps Charlotte once the bell rings and just takes the belt within seconds, to be honest.
Instead, it’s a traditional lock-up as Charlotte tries to get some leverage on Asuka. Asuka hangs on to the wrist tenaciously and they lock-up again, grounding Charlotte with a headlock. Charlotte whips out of it and tries to roll her up, but Asuka kicks free and it’s a stalemate in the early going.
Charlotte goes for the chops and knee strikes, then ends up draped over the middle rope and bumped out of the ring by a Hip Attack. Asuka stalks around the ring and indicates that she’s going for Charlotte’s shoulder. Charlotte gets back in the ring and Asuka immediately grinds her down and begins work on the shoulder, keeping her grounded with an elevated arm lock.
Charlotte rolls through and tries to trade strikes, which goes pretty badly, so Charlotte uses her size and power to take Asuka down. Asuka tries for the Asuka Lock and turns it into a sleeper hold, which Charlotte breaks with a very Ryback-like Backpack Stunner. Now Charlotte tries to work over the lower back of Asuka in the corner, then her neck. She misses the Moonsault and lands right into the Asuka Lock!
Charlotte scrambles free and turns it into a Boston Crab but Asuka rolls her up, for two, and gets back on the shoulder work using the ring ropes. She lays in the face stomps but Charlotte fights her off in the corner and then boots her right in the face from the middle rope. Charlotte tries to Suplex Asuka onto the rind apron but Asuka counters it and Suplexes her off the apron and to the floor.
They recover and Asuka attacks with a rapid series of strikes, goes to the top, and hits a janky Dropkick, but Charlotte kicks out. Asuka locks in the Surfboard Stretch (with some stomping) and then tries for a Tornado DDT, or something, so Charlotte fights free and this a really scary looking Spanish Fly for two. Seriously, that rotation was barely enough to save both women from a serious injury.
Though dazed, Asuka rolls through the Natural Selection and locks Charlotte up in some kind of weird arm-lock thing. Charlotte twists free, tries for the Figure Four, and end sup laying in the chops so Asuka goes for the Asuka Lock. Charlotte struggles enough to almost steal a win, hits a Spear, and Asuka shrugs her off.
Charlotte locks Asuka up into a one-handed Figure Eight and…Asuka taps out!? What? Damn, well…okay…that was unexpected? Kinda seems like Asuka has been through worse punishment and matches and won before but I guess this takes care of the burden of Asuka’s undefeated streak so we can move on from that. I am honestly surprised, though, as it seemed Asuka was a dead cert to win. Asuka is up and staring down Charlotte; she grabs a mic, praises her, and they have a bit of a cuddle. Let me just get some chocolate sauce…
Next up is the United States Championship match; Bobby Roode’s entrance is interrupted by Aiden English, who hypes the crowd up for Rusev Day at WrestleMania. Sunil Singh tries to do the same for Jinder Mahal but everybody hates Mahal so it doesn’t do much but inspire a never-ending chorus of apathetic boos. Also, the WWE choose Jinder’s entrance to introduce all of the foreign language commentary teams, probably to distract from the lacklustre crowd reaction he inspires. The crowd wakes up a little bit for Randy Orton’s entrance but it feels like everyone’s going for a piss for this match.
Rusev takes immediate control, clearing the ring and wiping everyone out with a somersault from the ring apron. Rusev encourages and soaks in the “Rusev Day!” chants, then focuses on Bobby Roode. Roode dodges a charge and lands a top-rope Blockbuster, but Rusev kicks out and now, Roode and Orton juggle Mahal with strikes and get back into it. Roode with the chops, but Orton ducks a Clothesline and this his patented Powerslam,
Roode kicks out and Orton talks him; Roode goes up top but gets crotched and Orton plants him with the Superplex (man, they are loving the Superplex tonight). The pin is broken up and, now, Mahal and Rusev lock eyes; Mahal tries to inspire a team up so Rusev dumps him into the corner and stomps his ass into oblivion, then lands a Side Suplex. Mahal kicks out and rolls out of the ring, so Rusev follows and moves on to Orton, who hits a Back Drop onto the barricade.
Mahal is planted by Roode’s Spinebuster in the ring, for two, and Roode prepares for the Glorious DDT but Mahal powers out. Roode tries to roll him up but Orton breaks the pin and rams Roode shoulder first into the ring post. Orton considers his options and targets Rusev, who fits out of the Draping DDT, hits a side kick, and misses a rolling leg whip.
Orton finally lands the Draping DDT because, you know, it’s Orton, and plays to the crowd for seemingly no reason. He drops into position for the RKO but Aiden gets in the ring, eats an RKO, another to Rusev, one for Mahal, but Roode breaks up the cover and dumps Rusev. Roode counters the RKO into the Glorious DDT but Jinder saves the match at the last second. Rusev hits the Machka Kick, powers out of Maha’s attempt at a roll up, and the crowd wills him on to lock in the Accolade and finish it. Sunil distracts him, eats a kick, Mahal plants Rusev with the Khallas and takes the win and the belt! Two surprise outcomes in a row; I honestly did not see Mahal winning this match but, in a way, I’m glad. It would suck to put all that effort into pushing Mahal as WWE Champion only to bury him back down the card; hopefully this leads to a proper face turn for Rusev so he can relieve Mahal of the belt later down the line.
It’s one of the scariest matches on the card next as Ronda Rousey teams up with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. This year, Triple H and Steph both come out on big, stupid motorcycles, flanked by a convoy of other bikers, and I am just praying for Steph’s to stall halfway down the ramp but it doesn’t. They’re really playing up the unstoppable power couple bit really well but I can’t help but think that, of all people, Triple H would want to team up with someone a little more competent that Little Miss Slaphappy. Angle is rocking the classic singlet again; it’s surreal to see him back in a WWE ring after all these years. Rousey, meanwhile, is sporting a sexy little “Rowdy!” tube top and Roddy Piper kilt and manages to make it all the way down the ramp and into the ring without pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
Stalling to start as the referee makes them all just stand and taunt each other; Steph slaps Ronda and goes after her but immediately tags out. Angle goes for Triple H and takes him down, then works him over in the corner, before landing a Back Body Drop. He twists his wrist up in a lock, grounding the bigger man, and then turns it into an arm lock as the crowd chants for Ronda. Triple H tosses Angle over the ropes, with Steph’s help, and chucks him into the ring steps.
Triple H gets all up in Ronda’s face so Steph can slam Angle’s face into the steps; Ronda is desperate to get her hands on Steph! Triple H suplexes Angle into the ring from the apron and starts with the mounted punches; he rams Angle into the corner and chokes him with the ropes, then Steph gets in there as the referee is distracted. Triple H plants Angle with the Spinebuster but he kicks out, so Triple H slows it aright down with a head lock. Kurt tries to reach for the tag and muscle his way to Rousey, so Triple H whips him into the far corner.
A boot from Angle gives him a chance but Steph chokes him; Triple H swings for Angle and nearly hits Steph so she takes a powder. Angle his a Back Suplex and both men are down, but Steph pulls Ronda off the apron before she can tag in. they’re going to great pains to keep the women out of the ring so far. Angle counters the Pedigree, whipping Triple H to the corner so he can do his over-the-ropes spot. Kurt finally makes the tag and Ronda wrenches Steph into the ring and throws her about with some judo throws.
Ronda works the corner strikes and whips Steph across the ring by the hair, and then tosses her with a Reverse Cradle Suplex (which was a bit janky). She counters a slap into a grounded armbar, but Steph counters it into a hold of her own. Ronda tries to fight free so Steph gets in her eyes; she tries for a tag but Triple H is still down on the outside, so she kicks Ronda in the face and DDTs her. Ronda kicks out, so Steph applies a Surfboard Stretch; Jesus, isn’t Ronda supposed to be some kind of professional fighter?
Anyway, Steph dominates and mocks Rousey but Ronda grabs her by the throat, lands a twisting Samoan Drop, but Triple H yanks the referee out before the pin could be made. He trips Ronda and pulls her out, which the referee is apparently okay with, so Angle decks Triple H and tries to German Suplex him through the announce table. Triple H fights him off and goes to Steph but Ronda is back up and wants some of the Game. Triple H squares it with the referee and indulges Ronda, who lands a flurry of strikes and trips him into the twisting Samoan Drop but Steph saves him.
Steph slaps Ronda and then runs for her life; Rousey bashes her into the barricade but then Steph bounces her face off the ring post. Angle is back in the ring, hits the Belly-to-belly Suplex but then gets caught with Triple H’s patented knee. Angle shakes it off and begins throwing German Suplexes; Triple H counters the Angle Slam but Angle counters the Pedigree, twice, into the catapult into the Angle Slam but Triple H just barely kicks out at two.
The straps are down! He goes for the Ankle Lock but Steph breaks it up and yells in his face, so Angle says “Fuck it!” and ties her up into the Ankle Lock! Wait, Triple H with the Pedigree and the cover but Ronda breaks it up! Triple H goes to Pedigree Ronda but she counters into a Hurricanrana into the Arm Bar and Triple H is struggling and fighting it. Stephanie applies a Rear-Naked Choke to save the Game but Rousey throws her off, locks her into the Arm Bar while Angle puts Triple H into the Ankle Lock. Triple H tries to keep Steph from tapping and settles for whipping Angle into Rousey to create some separation.
Angle is up first but Triple H is right there, tossing him shoulder-first into the ring post; Steph repeats this for Ronda and they move in for the kill. The o for stereo Pedigrees but Angle back drops Triple H over the ropes and Rousey locks Steph up again into the Arm Bar. She shrieks and begs and complains but Ronda cinches it in and Stephanie taps out as Dana White applauses at ring side. Luckily for us, Ronda held her own in there and didn’t hurt anyone (or herself); Angle looked a bit winded at times but, overall, like he hadn’t missed a step.
The New Day are out next for the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship match with a whole parade of midgets dressed up in pancake outfits! The Usos are next followed by the Bludgeon Brothers, who are all business. The New Day is being represented by Big E and Kofi Kingston. The Usos hit stereo sliding Dropkicks on Harper and Rowan but Kofi tries for an early win with Trouble In Paradise. Harper and Rowan yank them out and start pummelling Big E, Kofi, and Xavier Woods at ringside. Xavier takes the fight to them so they Powerbomb him into the ring post! They toss Kofi back in the ring and Rowan splashes him and Jey Uso.
Harper and Rowan continue to double team Kofi but Big E distracts them long enough for Jimmy Uso to take out Rowan, tag in, and trade Superkicks with Harper. Jey tags in and they hit double Dropkicks to Harper. Jimmy tags in and hits a Splash, but Harper kicks out. Jey tags back in but Rowan attacks Jimmy at ringside; the Usos continue to take the fight to Rowan and hit a double Suplex at ringside.
Big E goes after Harper, tagging in Kofi, but Harper tosses Big E, slams Kofi, and goes for a tip rope move. big E saves him and the Usos hit a double Superkick on Harper, followed by an attempted Tower of Doom. Rowan makes the save, throwing Big E to the outside, but Kofi tries to take advantage. Rowan Powerbombs him and then hoists him up to Harper and they hit a double diving Powerbomb from the top rope, which is enough to get the win. Short match that was basically an extended squash for the Bludgeon Brothers; now let them go on a dominating tear through the tag team division while you try and build the Ascension back up to topple their reign.
Oh my God, it’s John Cena! He’s in his ring gear and ready for a match! A referee runs down to tell him something; whatever it is, Cena’s not happy about it. The crowd chants for the Undertaker but Cena leaves the ring dejected….when the lights go out…
And Elias appears on the ramp! He calls for silence and trolls the crowd by running down the Undertaker. He turns his attention to Cena and gets in the ring; I’m actually half expecting Jeff Jarrett to turn up and attack Elias for gimmick infringement. Cena leaves and goes back into the crowd as Elias sings to the crowd, which draws Cena back into the ring. Cena hits two Shoulder Blocks and the Proto-Bomb, the Five Knuckle Shuffle, and finishes the job with an Attitude Adjustment.
Disappointed, Cena wanders up the ramp with his sad panda face on but the lights go out again…
The Undertaker’s hat and jacket are in the ring…lightning strikes them…and they’re gone!
Smoke fills the aisle way and the Gong! hits. The Undertaker’s music plays and he slowly (sl-lo-ow-ly-!) makes his way to the ring (where Cena now waits, visibly shaken). Undertaker finally enters the ring, surrounded by a weird ring of red lights, and removes his hat and coat as Cena watches cautiously.
And the bell finally rings and the match finally begins. It’s predictably all Undertaker to start with; he takes down Cena, hits Old School (nearly stumbling as he does so), and hits two running splashes and Snake Eyes. The Big Boot…doesn’t really connect….but the Leg Drop does and the commentary hype Undertaker’s conditioning, though he seems just as slow as ever.
Cena counters the Chokeslam into a Proto-Bomb, to a chorus of boos, and Undertaker sits up before Cena can hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Undertaker hits the Chokeslam and goes for the Tombstone Piledriver, hits it, and pins Cena nice and easy, no mess and no fuss. Apparently, according the Michael Cole, he’s “back, better than ever”. I dunno about that but keeping the match short and sweet was a great idea; he’s clearly not up for big, long, hard-hitting matches but, still, I really do feel like Undertaker is at the end of his tether and there’s not much more to do with him. Time will tell, though but, for now, the Undertaker is back in action and Cena is done. Hope it was everything you wanted, John!
It’s Daniel Bryan’s return to the ring next as he teams with Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Happy to hear a few boos as Shane McMahon makes his way to the ring; his family is at ring side again, because this is all about his God damn ego! Anyway, here comes Daniel Bryan and the crowd is absolutely unglued! This does not bode well for Roman Reigns because these people are more in love with Bryan than ever! Bryan looks to be in decent shape, all things considered; as long as he stays healthy, he’ll likely improve, obviously. Owens and Zayn jump Bryan and Shane from behind; Zayn tossing Shane over the barricade and into his family while Owens smashes Bryan off the barricade and sets him up for the Helluva Kick. Owens and Zayn then hit the Apron Powerbomb on Bryan, completely disregarding everything I asked for regarding Bryan’s safety!
Shane waves for the EMTS while Owens and Zayn celebrate in the ring. Shane, the brave and all-conquering hero that he is, opts to take them both on alone. You’d think the numbers game would put him at a disadvantage but, no, he throws his crappy punches and kicks and largely dominates the early going. Finally, Owens takes control as Bryan is strapped up too a stretcher at ring side.
Zayn comes in and puts the beats on Shane, who continuously kicks out at two. Owens tags in and puts the boots to Shane, all while taunting Bryan. Owens lays the elbows in and Shane is already spent but, of course, he keeps kicking out even as Owens yells taunts in his face. Zayn tags in and works the body (which is quite dangerous, given Shane is apparently legitimately hurt down there), and lands the Exploder Suplex but still can’t get three.
Shane rallies back with some strikes but Owens kicks Shane in the face, into the Blue Thunder Bomb from Sami, but Shane still kicks out. Sami misses the Helluva Kick so Shane hooks him into the Tree of Woe and lays in the strikes before staggering to the top rope for the Coast To Coast. Shane lands it but hurts himself on the landing, allowing Owens to splash him to break up the pin attempt. Owens hits the Frog Splash but Daniel Bryan breaks it up!
Bryan rolls to the apron and Owens cannot believe it. Shane dodges Owens’ cannonball and drags himself to the hot tag as Owens tags in Zayn, who intercepts and slaps on a Sleeper Hold. Bryan rallies the crowd as Shane’s face turns an alarming beetroot red; Shane muscles himself up but can’t quite make the tag. Shane hits the Back Drop but he’s too hurt to reach the tag still; he scrambles across the ropes and finally tags Bryan in.
Bryan takes the fight to Zayn, back flipping out of the corner and landed the flying elbow. He Baseball Slides into Owens and then flies at him with a knee from the apron. Bryan ascends to the top rope and hits a Dropkick on Zayn, then hits a German Suplex on Owens; he flies at Zayn and Owens with Dropkicks to each corner, causing Owens to spill to the apron.
Zayn begs off, so Bryan flies at him again and then hits a top-rope Hurricanrana! Owens grabs Bryan’s legs, allowing Zayn to hit the Helluva Kick, but Bryan kicks out! Owens tags in, sends Shane to the outside, and hits the Pop-Up Powerbomb but Bryan kicks out! Shane sends Owens flying over the top rope and then wipes him out on the outside.
Zayn is legal and stalking Bryan but Bryan starts the Hulk Up, laying in the strikes and the Yes! Kicks. Zayn is dazed as Bryan charges up the Flying Knee with a Yes! chant; he loads it up, hits it, and ties Zayn up into the Yes! Lock. Zayn taps and it’s over! Owens and Zayn are therefore fired from SmackDown! Live and neither Shane nor Bryan turned heel or died in the ring; they even have a hug to celebrate.
Super cute pixie-girl Alexa Bliss defends the Raw Women’s Championship against Nia Jax next. Alexa gets the raised platform entrance and comes to the ring with Piggy Mickie James. Nia, however, gets a bog standard entrance; I wonder if the crowd really buys her as this vulnerable, bullied, sympathetic babyface when she’s been booked as a relatively dominant force all this time? Seems an odd fit; like, why would a bully enrage or start a fight with someone who can so clearly squash them with ease?
As if to emphasise that, Nia takes out Mickie straight away, shoving her from the ring and tossing her about at ring side as Alexa watches on in horror. Alexa tries a sneak attack and then runs away, leaving Mickie to get planted with the Samoan Drop.
Nia slowly makes her way into the ring and the bell rings; she grabs at Alexa’s beautiful hair and gets a slap for it. Alexa tries to run but Nia whips her about by the head and hair and squashes her in the corner before hoisting her up for the Military Press. Alexa lands a bit janky and spills out of the ring; she grabs her belt and tries to leave, so Nia dumps her with a Clothesline and tosses her back into the ring.
Alexa pokes Nia in the eye and tries to work her over in the corner, dodging a boot and targeting Nia’s leg. Alexa hits a Basement Dropkick, and jumping stomp to the spine, and gets to work on Nia’s knee cap and left leg. Alexa keeps Nia grounded and tries for a guillotine choke but Nia powers out with a Suplex-like throw.
Nia misses the charge to the corner and gets posted, spilling to the outside. Alexa goes to the top rope and dives at her with Twisted Bliss, leaving both women down. Alexa gets back in the ring and tries for a cover but, after Nia kicks out, throws a bit of a tantrum and gets in the referee’s face. She lays the slaps in to Nia and talks smack but Nia grabs her by the throat, hoists her up, and slams her down. Nia with the Clothesline, the Hair Whip, splashing her in the corners, and then knocking her down clumsily with another Clothesline.
Alexa fights back with the slaps, heads back up top, but Nia catches her into a Powerbomb and dumps her into the turnbuckle after Alexa tries to Sunset Flip out of it. Alexa goes for the eyes again, racking her way out of the Samoan Drop, however Nia finally gets her up and hits an Alabama Slam-type move. She drags Alexa up and clambers up the ropes, planting Alexa with a Super Samoan drop, and finally captures the belt. Nia breaks down in tears and celebrates with the belt uninterrupted; I guess we won’t ever see Carmella cash in that briefcase.
The Dream Match is next: AJ Styles defends the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura in a match which needed a little more build but has been primarily hyped through the assumed knowledge of both men’s previous encounters in Japan and the air of legitimacy they carry. Nakamura gets the special entrance, being played to the ring by a bad ass guitar solo from Nita Strauss and a full violin chorus. AJ, meanwhile, gets his usual entrance affair (though billed as being the Universal Champion) and can I just say I really hate his WWE theme. His TNA/Impact Wrestling themes were far better; I’ve no idea why the WWE chose to go with this weird hip-hoppy mess for him.
The dance begins with a tentative lock-up; they struggle into the ropes and corners so the referee forces a break. Nakamura tries for the kicks but AJ dodges and counters with a wrestling takedown; Nakamura fights his way up and the referee has to separate them again as they hit the ropes. AJ gets the fight started with a strike, so Nakamura knocks him down and lands a big knee to A’s face. In the corner, Nakamura lays in knees to the midsection and the teases Good Vibrations but AJ fights out and takes him down with a massive knee to the throat/face.
AJ takes Nakamura to the corner and seems to be working a more heel-ish style; he lands the Snap Suplex, but Nakamura kicks out. AJ pulls Nakamura up by his hair and they fight for a Suplex; Nakamura continues striking the ribs and gets AJ back in the corner. Nakamura with the forearms and elbows by AJ slows his momentum with a Backbreaker and lays the kicks in to the back and head.
AJ gets Nakamura up again and whips him down to land a Flying Knee Drop for two, so AJ slaps on a chin lock to cool things down. He switches to a Reverse Chin Lock but Nakamura fights to his feet, laying in the knees, but AJ drops him with a Dropkick. Nakamura rolls to the outside so AJ leaps at him, stops on the apron, misses a kick, and gets tripped and lands bad on the apron.
Nakamura takes control now with a kick to the head and hits a flying karate kick from the top rope, knocking both men down. Nakamura is first up…”Come onnnn!” he unloads with strikes and the Axe Kick and sends AJ to the corner for a splash. Setting him up on the top rope, Nakamura throws the knee at AJ’s ribs and gets a two count. Nakamura plants AJ with a Front Face Slam, applies the Front Face Lock, but AJ finally turns it around with a face-first sit-out wheelbarrow slam.
This time, AJ is up first and takes control back with a Basement Forearm for two. AJ hits a Pumphandle Gutbuster for two and teases the Styles Clash, but Nakamura tosses him to the apron. Nakamura then counters the Phenomenal Forearm into a Landslide and nearly stole the victory. Nakamura plants AJ on the top rope and lays in the kicks; he climbs up for a Superplex but AJ slips out of it and tries for a Powerbomb, but Nakamura fights out of it. AJ gets a good shot in on Nakamura’s knee and then starts working on the leg, rolling into the Calf Crusher!
Nakamura tries to reach the ropes so AJ rolls through and keeps the hold on, until Nakamura twists it into a Triangle Hold. AJ clambers to his feet but Nakamura forces him back down but AJ manages to dead-lift Nakamura up and drive him back down with a sloppy-looking Death Valley Driver-like manoeuvre.
AJ goes for the Styles Clash again but his back is too messed up to get it done, so Nakamura hits a Spinning Back Kick and instantly remembers his messed up leg. Nakamura, limping, tries for another knee but AJ dodges and Nakamura hits the turnbuckle’ AJ with the Phenomenal Forearm but it only gets a two count!
AJ is back up and goes for a Springboard 450 Splash but Nakamura gets the knees up and almost steals it with a roll up but only scores a two. Nakamura headbutts AJ and they start trading strikes, an exchange that AJ soon wins with a Pele Kick but Nakamura suddenly strikes with a knee to the back of AJ’s head but still only gets a two!
Nakamura plants AJ with the Reverse Exploder Suplex and sets up for the Kinshasa but AJ rolls through, hits the Styles Clash, and retains the championship! Wow, it really is a night of surprises! I guess the WWE is still not ready to pull the trigger on Nakamura yet and will save his WWE Championship win for the inevitable rematch. Afterwards, Nakamura and AJ embrace and Shinsuke presents AJ with the belt…and low blows him! Nakamura stomps the shit out of AJ and kicks him from the ring! Holy hell! Nakamura kicks at AJ at ringside like he’s garbage and then murders him with the Kinshasa! Nakamura has lost it!
The Raw Tag Team Champions, Cesaro and Sheamus, come out on a Mardi Gras float…which is certainly unique, I guess. Braun Strowman is out next, destroying the float, and his partner is…
A random boy from the audience?
Strowman heads out into the crowd to search for his partner and picks a little boy, walking him to the ring and setting him up on the apron. The bell rings, as Braun technically has a partner, and Strowman takes it to Sheamus. He sends him over the top rope and Cesaro tags in, bringing the fight, but Strowman plants him with a Chokeslam and Sheamus breaks up the count.
Strowman gets overwhelmed by the numbers game, allowing the Bar to hit the double Suplex and Sheamus to hit the top rope Diving Knee. Sheamus gives Cesaro a boost for a Senton Splash but Strowman kicks out at two. The Bar take the boots to Strowman and isolate him in their corner but Strowman surprises them with a Cross Body.
Strowman tosses Sheamus over the ropes again and tags in the little boy! Strowman tags back in, catches Cesaro and plants him with the Powerslam, and wins the Raw Tag Team Championships! Okay…so, I guess Braun is Heidenreich now? Will he pick a different child to team with every week? I kind of wish Strowman had just pinned both guys with one hand after all. I’m sure it’s great PR and a fantastic moment for the kid but…it’s effectively killed the already half-dead tag team division.
And, finally, the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar faces off against Roman Reigns in the main event. I guess we don’t have to worry about Reigns substituting himself with a little boy, if nothing else. The promo video is a fantastic piece of revisionist history, casting Reigns as a respected member of the full-time locker room who is finally standing up to and speaking out against the part-time Lesnar.
As soon as Reigns’ music hits the boos start but the music soon drowns them out, so I guess it’s okay? Mind you, Lesnar gets his fair share; perhaps a sizeable contingent is finally tiring of the half-assed attitude he tends to bring to his work? You know it’s a “big fight” because Michael Cole is rattling off statistics and history and all that crap that was barely mentioned in all the build up to this match.
Lesnar immediately goes for the lift into the corner to throw the shoulders; Reigns tries to fight back and end sup in Suplex City, courtesy of Lesnar. Reigns hits two Superman Punches, causing Brock to roll to the outside, where Reigns hits a third off the ring steps. Reigns stupidly stalks around the opposite end of the ring rather than take the fight to Lesnar, so Brock tosses him with a Belly-to-Belly on the outside.
Another Belly-to-Belly and the crowd starts a “CM Punk!” chant, I think, as Lesnar starts dismantling the announce tables. He tosses Reigns into one with a half-ass Belly-to-Belly and throws Reigns in the ring. Lesnar his a Release German Suplex, wanders about a bit and talks some smack, then hits another and then another Belly-to-Belly Suplex. Reigns is done already, apparently; didn’t take much.
Lesnar, now, with yet another Belly-to-Belly Suplex and Reigns spills out of the ring; Lesnar clears one of the tables a bit more and those and gets Reigns, throwing him into the barricade. Lesnar hoists Reigns up but he slips out and hits Brock off the ring post. Reigns then kind of Spears Lesnar up and onto the announce table, then throws him into the ring.
Reigns with another Superman Punch, then hits the Spear…and another…but Lesnar kicks out. Lesnar counters the Spear with a high knee and hits the F5 but reigns kicks out…to absolutely no pop at all! Lesnar hits another and Reigns kicks out again and there’s still no pop. The crowd is murmuring and noisy but they aren’t cheering. Lesnar hits a third F5 and, again, Reigns kicks out! Oh, this is just devastating!
The crowd is chanting “Boring!” and “Bullshit!” Lesnar hoists Reigns up and F5’s him through the announce table and still nobody cares! Back in the ring and the crowd boos Reigns getting up! Lesnar with another German Suplex; the announcers are desperately trying to get over Reigns’ perseverance it isn’t working. Reigns kicks out of another F5! Michael Cole can’t believe it but the crowd could not care less, chanting “This is awful!”
Lesnar takes his gloves off and lays into Reigns, busting him open, and it’s still doing nothing. Lesnar tries for another F5 but Reigns hits two Spears and Lesnar kicks out. Reigns goes for the three-rope-running Super Spear that ended the Undertaker but Lesnar hits another F5 and wins!! Hahaha, what!? What the hell? Oh my God, what was that!? Cole is still desperately trying to put over Lesnar’s heart and perseverance but it’s a sad, almost disgusting effort; they’re trying to sell it like Reigns “gave his all […] everything he had” but he barely did anything! The crowd popped when Lesnar won but, otherwise, this was a shit show! What a truly rubbish, pathetic end to an otherwise pretty decent night.
Overall thoughts: This was a pretty enjoyable show with a lot of shocks and surprises but some of the decisions were very questionable. Jinder Mahal winning the United States Championship, for example. If it means an extended push for a face Rusev then, maybe, okay, but if not then surely you’re just squandering all of Rusev’s popularity? Ending Asuka’s streak…I mean, I get it because that story has the potential to die out but it really seemed like it was here time to win. Turning Nakamura heel could be exciting and I’m sure that the rematch between him and AJ will be fantastic with more time and an aggressive, no-nonsense heel Nakamura. But Jesus, poor Roman reigns! He got to walk off like a wounded animal after the show and looked absolutely terrible. All that effort and time in “building him up” as the guy to slay the Beast and he still didn’t win even after all this stupid kick outs! It makes it kind of interesting to see who will actually beat Lesnar for the belt because, honestly, if not Roman then who else is there?