By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
I take no pleasure in saying this, but the build-up for this year’s Wrestlemania has been the most creatively bereft I’ve ever seen.
I understand this wasn’t the card they wanted. Cena is out, Rollins is out, Orton is out, etc. But it goes beyond that. The storytelling is immensely flawed. In Roman Reigns, we have a lead babyface who isn’t getting cheered. The Undertaker is an executioner with no motivation to execute. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock are supposedly going to be on the show. But the show is getting closer and they have no roles yet.
I won’t deny the card looks interesting on paper. But the stories are all so messy. And this is supposed to be the biggest Wrestlemania of all time?
in any event, let’s look at the good and the bad…
The New Day def. Alberto Del Rio & Rusev to retain the Tag Team Titles. I loved the kick-off this week. Why? The show always picks up when The New Day are out there. But more than that, it was different. It wasn’t another 15 minute segment with The Authority. It was a breath of fresh air.
The match itself was fine, but we had some problems at the end. Firstly, Xavier Woods had a handful of tights when he rolled up Rusev for the win. As it looks like The New Day are babyfaces now, that’s a no-no in my book. Also, the post-match beat-down went on forever. Somebody in The League of Nations would hit their finish, and they’d pose. They they’d hit another finish, and they’d pose. This process kept repeating, and by the time it was over, roughly five minutes had gone by. I think we got the point after the first 30 seconds: The New Day got beat up. From an in-story perspective, the match was over. Where were the officials to break it up?
I know, I know. Logic is too much to expect from WWE these days…or perhaps any day.
I liked the visual of Ambrose holding the crowbar. Sadly, the crowd didn’t get much of a chance to pop for it, as I think they were watching Brock approach the ring when he pulled it out. I imagine that served as a bit of foreshadowing as to what this match will be like. Ambrose and Lesnar have a legit chance to steal the show at Wrestlemania. And for those of us hoping Ambrose to get the lead babyface spot currently occupied (in theory) by Roman Reigns, that’s a great thing.
Ryback def. Sin Cara. “That’s what happens when a good big guy meets a good little guy. Size matters.” I imagine that was a Vince McMahon line. It’s certainly from his playbook, isn’t it?
So much for Ryback facing Goldberg at Wrestlemania, huh? Still, this isn’t a bad spot for him to be in. He’s got a title match at the biggest show of the year. His Smackdown match with Kalisto wasn’t bad at all. So hopefully these two will put on a decent match.
Dolph Ziggler interrupts an Authority promo. After last week’s Raw, Dolph cut an awesome promo that aired on WWE.com. I’d like to think somebody writing TV saw that video, and put this segment together.
I liked this segment for the most part. I wish Ziggler had come out there to actually challenge Triple H. But to me this was more about the novelty of seeing him out there with a mic in his hand, talking to Hunter and Stephanie. I was amazed he got to call Steph “idiotic” on television. Granted, she slapped him like she does all the babyfaces on this show. But he showed some great fire out there. And what’s more, he got to wrestle Triple H in his first Raw match in a long time. Win or lose, it was a big night for Ziggler.
Is this an indication of bigger things for him down the road? Probably not. But it’s fun to hope, right?
Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Raw gets around three million viewers each week, right? And the WWE Network has about one million subscribers. So why are they assuming we all know Zayn and Kevin Owens are old rivals? At least that’s how it seems. I like Sami Zayn, but he was on Raw once last year, and then he showed up again in the Royal Rumble Match. So if you’ve strictly been watching the main roster stuff, you’ve only seen Zayn twice. It’d sure be nice for them to formally tell us a little bit about this guy.
It’s looking like they’re building to a multi-man match for the Intercontinental Title involving Owens, Zayn, Neville, and likely a few others. (Miz? Ziggler?) That’s all well and good, I suppose. It’s disappointing from a traditionalist’s standpoint, but I don’t think we’ve had enough time to let this Owens/Zayn rivalry blossom.
Naomi & Tamina def. Brie Bella & Alicia Fox. Rumor has it they’re building to a multi-woman tag team match at Wrestlemania, and this show seemed to confirm that. At the very least, it looks like we’ll get Brie, Alicia, and Paige against Lana, Naomi, and Tamina. This match won’t win any awards, but it’s cool to have two women’s matches on the show. Has that ever happened before?
The Dudley Boyz vs. The Usos to take place at Wrestlemania. That match with the Social Outcasts doesn’t bear much mention. This on the other hand? This is nice. I’m hoping we see some nice, hard-hitting stuff from these guys. In time, this program could be really good if it’s done the right way.
Mick Foley pops up on Raw to give Dean Ambrose a gift. I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see Mick in front of the live crowd. Nevertheless, the gift of “Barbie” was a nice moment, and again a nice foreshadowing for the match with Brock.
Triple H def. Dolph Ziggler, Roman Reigns attacks. I really wish they’d advertised this, even if it was only that afternoon. I know I’d have been anxious to see Hunter in the ring on free TV.
It was pretty obvious they weren’t going to beat Triple H right before Wrestlemania. So that took some of the steam out of this one. But I imagine these two had fun being in the ring together. And it’s a big deal for Dolph to be in the ring with Hunter.
As for Roman Reigns, he wasn’t universally booed. But there were definitely more boos than cheers. Though that’s not to say Reigns lacked intensity. It seemed like they were trying to get him some cheers by putting him in a big brawl, and even busting Hunter open. It was nice to see The Usos come in to break it up, as that plays up the family connection they have with Reigns. But what the hell were Mark Henry and Jack Swagger in there for? That was random as hell…
It was a good fight, but it’s obviously too little, too late.
Neville def. Chris Jericho via disqualification, gets a beating from AJ Styles. I’m hoping these two do a rematch next week. I was disappointed to see this one was more about sizzle than substance. I’m growing concerned that they haven’t announced Styles vs. Jericho for Wrestlemania. It’ll be a colossal waste if they put this guys in a multi-man match for the Intercontinental Title.
The Undertaker, Vince McMahon, and Shane McMahon share a ring to close the show. For better or worse, this is the big draw at Wrestlemania. It’s got problems, but one can’t deny the attraction of seeing Shane return to the ring, inside Hell in a Cell no less.
The big problem in this match continues to be The Undertaker’s motivation, which Shane called him out on here. What does The Undertaker have against Shane McMahon? Why should he go so quietly with Vince’s plan? I can buy that Vince has the power to force ‘Taker into a match. But why wouldn’t he have objections? Shane called him a puppet, and that’s what he is here. That’s the main ingredient we’re missing. Are they not telling us because they have something planned? Or does this story simply lack that kind of depth? Sadly, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.
Images courtesy of WWE.com.
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