Reigns, Man: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 2/25/15Posted: February 26, 2015
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three days later) from Memphis/Nashville! The Wrestlemania main event is set as, just as it was at the conclusion of Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns will face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I remain uninterested.
We also got that face-to-face meeting between Triple H and Sting, which (surprise!) led to the official scheduling of their ‘Mania match, along with Cena losing to Rusev and Bray Wyatt officially challenging the Undertaker. So, pretty much everything unfolded as we predicted. We’re geniuses.
Will: We also had a six-man tag match to snuff out the lingering embers of the Team Cena vs. Team Authority feud from Survivor Series, more Rhodes family drama, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro winning the tag team belts, and some other flotsam and botched finishes. Yes sir, we sure are in the fast lane to Wrestlemania now!
This pay-per-view (free-per-view, since WWE is offering a free trial to the network this month?) is striking me like a subpar casserole: it provided nourishment, but not real satisfaction. The learned wrestling cognoscenti (read: internet) generally spat upon Fastlane, especially the possibly-tranquilized crowd.
Pops—that is, loud, sudden reactions from the crowd—are perhaps the best way to measure a wrestler’s over-ness, and the pops were decidedly lacking from the Memphis audience. I don’t want to side with the internet, as the internet is generally an angry, short-sighted entity, but they’re largely in the right on this one. Even when the lights cut out and Undertaker’s theatrics began, there were crickets. If the Monday Night Countdown crew did WWE, they’d be saying, “C’mon man!” I am glad that said crew does not do WWE.
That said, Fastlane had some great moments. Which was your favorite?
Derek: Unquestionably the Sting-Triple H segment. I thought it was far and away the most engrossing part of the show.
Will: I really, really enjoyed Trips-Sting. I thought the bat vs. sledgehammer exchange was dynamite; the two iconic weapons squaring off hadn’t occurred to me as, until it happened, I’d forgotten all about the sledge. It’s obviously a bummer that it wasn’t a proper match, but it makes sense, and I really ate it up. I love that Sting hasn’t said a word yet.
…He hasn’t said a word yet, has he?
Derek: No, not on the microphone. I think he said something to Triple H after Trips accepted the challenge. Something along the lines of “See you next month,” or “See you soon.” Other than that, he’s just done a bang-up job of standing around and being Sting. I may be a sucker for nostalgia, but I thought it was awesome, with the exception of the continued use of WCW as a key part of the storyline. It’s worth mentioning, though, that Triple H finally made me care about that angle somewhat when he said “My legacy is destroying your legacy.” Quite a burn. I’m way more excited for the HHH-Sting match than any other on the Wrestlemania card right now.
What did you think of Reigns-Bryan?
Will: I thought it was solid. Unfortunately, the lack of crowd shone brighter as the matches got bigger . Even the “YES!” chants weren’t that great. I thought the back superplex that Reigns pulled off the top rope was nuts. Reigns came out of the match looking pretty good, though skeptics will say that’s thanks to Bryan being such a good worker. That’s probably true to some degree, but I thought Reigns did well. His forearm/elbow strikes were especially excellent.
All that said, I don’t know if I know what type of wrestler Reigns really is yet. He’s supposed to be a big strong monster, but he isn’t that big compared to most non-Bryan guys, and his signature moves are mobile/athletic maneuvers. I’m not that down on him, but there are definitely still kinks to work out.
Is Roman Reigns making you believe that he deserves to headline Wrestlemania?
Derek: No. It’s actually kind of alarming how stubborn WWE has been about this. I don’t think I’ve ever been less in on Reigns than I was on Monday night.
I minored in creative writing in college and, while I’m certainly no expert, I’ve heard my fair share of “show, don’t tell” in my day. And I’m getting pretty tired of WWE telling me how awesome Roman Reigns is instead of showing me how awesome Roman Reigns is. Case in point, the ridiculous promo Paul Heyman cut on Monday. Heyman claimed that Reigns could beat Sammartino, Hogan, Stone Cold, Rock, and Cena in their primes. He just couldn’t beat Lesnar right now. It had Vince’s fingerprints all over it.
There’s a chance this is some kind of Heyman manipulation, but it seems more likely to me that Vince ordered Heyman to go out and sell the bejesus out of Reigns. You know, kind of like Daniel Bryan also did on Monday. I’d rather watch Reigns win the Royal Rumble than listen to a bunch of people tell me how great he is. Show me how great he is. Until that happens, I’m not getting excited about him.
How about Bad News Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose? Did that do anything for you?
Will: I didn’t like it nearly as much as I wanted to. I’m starting to think I don’t really like Ambrose in the ring. He has a couple good moves, but he generally looks a bit clumsy in there—or something; I’m just not buying it. I liked the mini-angle of Barrett just trying to bail out of the match with his Intercontinental title belt and take the count-out loss. What do you think the ending was supposed to be? It seemed like the ref and wrestlers weren’t on the same page.
Ambrose salvaged the match when he decided if he can’t win the belt, he would just take it. He’s held onto the strap ever since, and he’s effectively holding it hostage and claiming that it’s his now. If rules are meant to be broken in any one arena, it’s wrestling, so kudos to Dean for his creativity.
The bigger question is: Why wasn’t the Dean Ambrose-Bad News Barrett match more compelling? We like both of these guys, but their match was rather blah. Is it the booking? Is it them? Was it the crowd? Was it the ending?
Derek: Part of it has to do with the feud having little to no buildup. It kind of seemed like a throwaway match. I’m hoping they’ll fix that over the next month. It looked like they might be livening up the feud with the injection of Dolph Ziggler and … R-Truth? Uh, okay, sure!
The finish was a little weird, though that was a theme of the evening since only Reigns-Bryan had a clean finish. I’m not giving up on them yet. I think they’ll have some good Raw segments before ‘Mania.
Let’s move on to Bray Wyatt, who entered the ring in a casket while the Undertaker’s music played. What did you think of his official challenge to the Undertaker?
Will: I capital-L Loved the Bray promo. It was the highlight of the night for me besides the Sting-Trips clash. His face right when he popped out of the casket was brilliant. I guess it wasn’t a huge surprise to some folks, but it got me and it was really well done. Bray making his quest to be “the new face of fear” is a sensible angle for him, and it’s a reasonable excuse to bring ‘Taker back for Wrestlemania.
What was your reaction when his big bearded smiling face popped out of the casket? Did you know it was him?
Derek: I suspected. I couldn’t imagine the Undertaker making his return in a casket. I thought something was up, with Wyatt being in the casket in play. The look on his face was definitely memorable. I’ll be more excited when the real Undertaker shows up.
Rusev defeated Cena, but he didn’t give up! He didn’t give up, Will! He passed out! He didn’t give up! Did you enjoy the match?
Will: Boy, that John Cena never does give up, does he? He should incorporate not giving up into his gimmick or something. Anywho, Cena-Rusev was slow at first: the pattern seemed to be strike, cover, kickout, repeat. Once they got into the groove and the bigger moves came out, it was a decent match. I enjoyed the back-and-forth with Cena trying to break the Accolade, even if that move. Lana’s interfering probably means there’s a rematch or three on the way.
Again, the crowd was lame. Cena can coax a reaction out of any arena, but there were only tepid “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chants. Come on, Memphis!
(Sidenote: why do Cena’s arm veins looks like crazy straws? Is that normal and/or healthy?)
Derek: Since their feud is going to continue through Wrestlemania, I have to say I’m really excited to see a super duper American version of Cena over the next month. His outfits are going to be tremendous. His promos are going to be legendary. John Cena was put on this Earth to feud with a foreign monster. At long last, I’m excited for a Rusev match.
We still haven’t mentioned the return of Randy Orton! How did you feel about his return via interference?
Will: Orton’s return would have been way cooler if the crowd wasn’t chanting his name 10 seconds before he came out. Of all the things to be tuned in to, it had to be spoiling a would-be surprise. You’re lucky you have that barbecue of yours, Memphis.
Orton’s never totally spoken to me, but it’s exciting to have him back. He’s a legit performer and a known commodity, and more talent in action is always good. The opening six-man tag match that preceded Orton’s appearance didn’t do much of anything for me. Were there any stakes besides beating the dead horse of the Authority v. Cena storyline and providing an excuse for Orton to interfere? No? No. Okay.
Derek: I just want the announcers to start billing Orton from Outta Nowhere. I don’t ask for much.
Cody Rhodes has been making the best of his strange gimmick. Aside from all of the cat-like hissing, he has completely owned the persona. He went to acting school after high school, and it shows. I continue to be impressed by how he plays the character even when his wife is interviewing him.
Will: I am all in on the Rhodes family saga. All the way in. Cody is absolutely killing his angle. The segments with he and Dusty have been legitimately intense. I liked the working in the Gold/Stardust match too; the constant reversals made sense given their brotherly familiarity. I’m really interested to see where they go with all of this. Some little things were fun, too: Since Stardust was introduced on his own, I learned that he’s billed from “The Fifth Dimension.”
Let’s move to the Dust Brothers’ old stomping grounds, the tag team division. Is Kidd and Cesaro winning the titles a good thing for the tag world? And perhaps more importantly, WHY DID THEY SHOW THE DINNER PARTY FOOTAGE AGAIN?!?!?!
Derek: Why wouldn’t they show it? Don’t be ignant.
Kidd and Cesaro winning couldn’t hurt. I enjoy them, and the Usos are getting a bit stale. Maybe Cesaro can use this to finally get some of the attention that many think he deserves. He’s already had ten times more success with Tyson Kidd than he had with Jack Swagger in the Real Americans.
Let’s wrap things up with the Divas. Nikki Bella (unfortunately) defeated Paige to retain the Divas Championship. Your thoughts?
Will: I didn’t understand what happened in the Paige-Nikki match. There was supposedly some illegal tight pulling during Nikki’s roll-up pin, but that didn’t come across clearly, and it wasn’t much of a match even before that. I hoped and expected good things, given how good Paige is. Alas.
Derek: It was weird. The Divas have been getting poor treatment lately, which led to #GiveDivasAChance trending worldwide on Twitter during Raw. Even Vince acknowledged it and A.J. Lee and Paige spoke up. The Bellas faced Paige and Emma in a tag match, which the Bellas won in about 10 seconds. This was all while they stood in the ring and watched a Sting promo package that was about ten times longer than their match. Pretty messed up stuff.
I should announce a quick **UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT** before I say this, but the Divas should push for the cancellation of the relentlessly atrocious Total Divas. I’ve only seen one episode, but based on that and everything I’ve heard, they’re portrayed as catty and superfluous and their matches are often used more toward promoting the show than standing out on their own merits. I watched an NXT show for the first time last week, and the women’s match I saw was so much better than any of the Divas matches. I’m sure there are many reasons for that, but Total Divas isn’t helping. Less Total Divas and moar wrasslin’!
So to recap:
Will: Yeah, a bit of a meh PPV overall. It totally makes sense when you consider it was the beginning of the free month on the Network. WWE was doing little more than laying out a bunch of storylines to be resolved at Wrestlemania, and I don’t completely fault them for that. It’s just a bummer.
At least it’s Wrestlemania season! MOAR WRASSLIN’!