Well, it’s with a heavy heart that I prepare to pen this review. As some of you may know, yesterday the world lost one of its most incredible authors in Terry Pratchett: the man who inspired me to write and who affected many, many people. So, this review (like a fair few other things I imagine will be written today) is dedicated to Sir Terry, considering that, without him, I most likely wouldn’t have persevered to the point where I was doing something like this.
Which would be a shame, because I really enjoy it.
Still, can’t spend all my time rolling on the floor in the foetal position, clutching Night Watch, Raising Steam and Monstrous Regiment to my chest: we’ve got some wrestling to make fun of.
We kick things off with fan darling Daniel Bryan in the ring. Michael Cole tells us that if we’d like to talk about this on social media, use the hashtag #yesyesyes, which is a sneaky move by WWE to claim all of the tweets made by people having orgasms as well. Bryan tells us that, ever since Fastlane, he’s tried to ignore the big WrestleMania sign. Don’t point to it, Bryan; that’s how it sucks out your soul. He says he can’t repeat last year, but when one door closes, another door opens. Unless the Lord closes the door, because he apparently just leaves a window open. Bryan puts over the historic history of the Intercontinental Championship, saying that it was way better than the World Title scene back in the Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels days. He then states, surprising me actually, that the Intercontinental Title is the one belt he hasn’t held. There’s also the Divas Title, although if Brie gets it that has to count.
Barrett shows up, with his seriously cut body, as says something in his ridiculous accent about regaining the Intercontinental Championship. Ziggler then makes his way out, and says that Barrett is his hero because he’s delusional and desperate. Wow, Dolph, that’s…that’s a terrible criteria. Harper then gets in on this action, and does that man have a microphone in his hand? He points at the sign, which in some mythologies gives him just seven days to live, and has a beard-down with Bryan (I’d call it a stare-down, but come on: they’re both staring at each other’s beards).
Ambrose’s music hits, and he strides out, yelling that nobody starts a fight without Dean Ambrose. He loses the jacket and gets in there to get it on. The psychotic content of this segment is then raised with the appearance of Stardust, who gropes around under the ring before yelling in drug-language, demanding that he just gets given the belt: bold strategy. Then R-Truth shows up, proving to once again be the worst thief ever by returning to the scene of the crime with the stolen object. He incites Barrett to come after him, apparently lighting the fuse which sets off the powder keg, and we’ve got ourselves a brawl. Barrett is tossed by Bryan; Stardust gets chucked by Dolph and Dean, and then Ambrose tosses Harper as well. The faces are left standing in the ring to end this segment.
Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
It’s eight-man tag time, as the Usos and the New Day take on Los Matadores and their partners. I know Los Matadores won their match on Monday, but they are still the biggest losers in the tag team division because they’re dressed as matadors and have a vertically-challenged man in a costume as their manager. There’s not even a joke there: I just get sort of angry when I see this team. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd make their way down to the ring, and how exactly did a tag team of a wrestling genius and a fuckboy see its inception? King is making disparaging remarks about Natalya, because apparently a tonne of emotional abuse by your fuckboy husband (yes, I just learned that word recently) makes you a bad person.
Matador 1 starts pounding on Kofi Kingston, but gets stopped short by a springboard dropkick. Kingston tags in Woods (the smart guy of the team!), who smacks Matador 1 with a forearm. Must be weird for the New Day, actually fighting a team lower down than them on the food chain. Matador 1 somehow gains the advantage, and brings Woods into the heel corner: somewhere a smart guy would know to avoid. Matador 2 tags in, before Woods fires back, only for Jimmy to get the blind tag: that’s a face move, right there. Backdrop takes Matador 2 up high and then crashing down. Uppercut sends Matador 2 reeling, but Matador 1 runs interference so that Matador 2 can crotch Jimmy on the top rope. Man, Los Matadores are dicks.
Back from the break, the Matadores are still the aggressors, and that is wrong in whatever kind of world this is. King then mistranslates whatever one of the Matadores says as ‘order a burrito’. That’s offensive both racially and also because, if you’re Jerry, that’s a suicide joke. Jimmy finally gets out of the sleeper hold he was in and hits an enzuigiri to Matador 2. Kidd and Jey get the tag and Tyson gets smacked around for a while before Kingston gets the blind tag. The cute thing is that Kingston kept hesitating before doing so, as if he didn’t want to do it at an impolite moment. This leads to dissention, because being employed by a wrestling company means you get pissed off by the little things, but Kingston springboards over Jey to crossbody Kidd, with Cesaro sliding in to break up the pin. Dude, if he gets pinned off a crossbody, he deserves death. Woods smacks Cesaro around before Matador 1 accidentally runs into the Swiss Superman, knocking him out of the ring, and then Woods takes care of the Matador. Jey Uso leaps past Woods to take out the Matador and Cesaro, which apparently means that Woods is cool leaping out onto Jey. Wow, how do tag teams ever stay together?
Kidd and Kingston trade roll-ups until Kidd kicks out, sending Kofi right into an uppercut. Cesaro gets superkicked on the outside, and as Tyson goes for his finishing move, Matador 2 tags himself in. This distracts Kidd into stopping his finisher, but he’s able to duck Trouble in Paradise, and it hits Matador 2 instead. That fucking bull causes a distraction, meaning that the Matadors switch without the referee noticing (that striped-shirt racist thinks that all Matadors look the same). Matador 1 hits a backstabber which looks like it just about broke Kofi’s neck, and they get the win. Up is down, black is white, King needs to lose his job.
This was actually a fun match due to the amount of interference and cross-purposes going on. If this was a taste of what’s happening with, say, a Fatal Four Way match for the titles at WrestleMania, it could be one of the more entertaining matches. 3 Stars.
We replay John Cena using the old CM Punk manoeuvre to get himself a title match. Shit, the first time someone said that it was my call whether or not to allow a guy a title shot, I’d immediately hire so many guys with guns. I also find it kind of sweet that it was Lana who granted the match; nice hint that she actually really cared about Rusev. I know, right: villains with the slightest smidgeon of depth.
Feed Him Miz
Ryback makes his way out to the ring, but then has to wait for Miz to deliver an interview before he gets a match. In his interview, Miz lists his accomplishments and…holy shit, he’s actually held more belts than Bryan has in the WWE. Literally, I don’t even. Mizdow is somehow doing a snarky impersonation, although does try to persuade the Miz that going up against a near-300lb man might lead to his death via spine-ripped-out-and-used-as-dental-floss. Miz sends him away, saying that he can do this by himself. Godspeed, you smarmy motherfucker.
Did you know that Cricket Wireless is empowering us to share our voice in partnership with the WWE, who will ignore it?
Miz finally makes his way out to the ring, as the golden visage of the Andre the Giant trophy looks on. Sure, honour the most memorable big man in wrestling with a midcard and jobber festival if you want, but did you have to make the trophy look like something you’re going to sacrifice the loser of this match underneath? Besides anything else, that’s stealing my idea for my death-trophy.
Miz flaps his arms like a…I honestly do not have the words, and then gets a headlock on Ryback. Ryback just places Miz on the turnbuckle, as if he’s combining feng-shui with making Miz his bitch. Miz comes back, only to get his face slammed off the floor, then runs into a back elbow and takes a delayed vertical suplex. The actor tries to escape, hanging Ryback up on the ropes in the process, and then is finally able to dodge the Big Guy’s charge, leaving Ryback to blast the turnbuckle.
Miz immediately goes on the attack, surprisingly vicious for the whole ‘cowardly heel’ thing. A ‘We Want Mizdow’ chant distracts him just long enough to run the hell into a spinebuster, which is the kind of thing you don’t want to make a habit out of, and then a Meathook takes him head over heels. Shell Shock finishes things.
I’ve liked Ryback’s intensity since his return. His slamming-the-face-into-the-mat move is an example of that; he’s selling the strength and power really well. Miz also has a few good moves to him, although this match was…probably not the best showcase. 2 Stars.
I hope you like interviews, because at least half of the build for WrestleMania is entirely that. That’s not a joke, nor is it an exaggeration. Right now, Roman is on his way to the ring to say some things about what Paul Heyman said. Bray Wyatt will later talk to the Undertaker. We’ll be lucky if we get a recording of Sting or Triple H saying a word. Literally, the matches with the best build for the Show of Shows are the US Title match and the Intercontinental Title match. Anyway, I’m probably just saying this because I am embarrassed for the WWE and…more or less most of what it’s doing right now. Let’s watch a crowd shit on Reigns.
The crowd delivers, by the way: steady stream of boos and catcalling throughout Roman’s speech. Reigns is all ‘you can’t say that about my family or me and I’m going to beat you at WrestleMania and you can believe that’ before Mark Henry, like the ginormous beautiful beast that he is, interrupts him for an honest-to-Gods pop. If I remember Survivor Series correctly, he’s a heel now, but he trades in moralities so much he may as well have Multiple Personality Disorder.
Henry gets on a microphone, because this feud needs more words, and then hypothesises that Roman has been hit on the head by too many coconuts. I swear to God, this is your build on SmackDown. Henry says he doesn’t like anyone talking about his past, and fucking kudos to the guys in the crowd who immediately yelled ‘Sexual Chocolate’ in response. Mark tells Reigns that he didn’t beat Brock, so Roman damn sure can’t. I think Henry’s here to be the Mick Foley to Reigns’ Edge, which is fair enough. Mark asks Roman if he thinks anyone respects him, in the crowd or in the back. Roman tries to leave and Henry gets pissed and clocks him, right before Reigns Superman Punches him the fuck out and spears him through the goddamn barricade wall. I really hope that’s what Henry was aiming for, because otherwise that is probably the worst way his plan could have gone.
Reigns gets on the microphone to tell us that he can. Okay, seriously, enough discussion. We’re not here for the conversation; we’re here to watch Reigns murder the nearest guy to him as a substitute for Brock Lesnar. If he needs to have a microphone in his hand, it should be to ask Lesnar how he’s going to compete in UFC after Reigns rips off his leg and uses it as a sex toy.
We see a recap of Bray and the Undertaker having a conversation WITH SPECIAL EFFECTS!!
Total Divas Has A Season Finale? How Do You Know Anything Exciting Will Happen?
Here’s AJ Lee, looking cheerful, and here’s Paige, looking sort of more ironically cheerful. Oh, and the Bellas are on commentary, and none of the guys bothered to introduce them so I get mildly surprised. Brie also explains why everyone sits next to Byron with the words ‘Byron smells good’, and now I’m wondering what Byron smells like. Is it old leather and whiskey? Does anyone actually smell of old leather and whiskey? Nikki offers to sit in Michael’s lap, and would that finally persuade Cena that they need to be closer as an onscreen couple?
Anyway, Paige starts off against Cameron, and just kicks her in the stomach before tagging in AJ, who rocks Cameron with a back elbow. Clothesline, then a neckbreaker, and Summer Rae is outraged by the display of totally fair tactics, and Cameron takes advantage off the distraction. Split-kick to the head of AJ, and Summer gets tagged in. Double team manoeuvre rocks AJ’s head off the canvas before Summer knocks Paige off the apron. Cameron gets tagged in now, and tags Summer in again, only for AJ to fire up, taking both of the girls down and making the tag to Paige.
Paige takes it to Summer, her legal counterpart, with some clotheslines and a running dropkick. She knocks Cameron off the apron and hits a superkick to Summer – does anyone not use the superkick now that Shawn’s gone? – and the PTO takes the win.
Good advert for the PPV match: a match which, again, has been built better than the three main events. Obviously, Summer and Cameron have their limitations, but AJ’s looking good and Paige’s hard-hitting is still a refreshing part of the Divas division. Once Natalya and Naomi are done with the tag-team storylines, I’m hoping they can get involved with the title. 2 Stars.
Post-match, Nikki and Bella want to get into it, and Brie and AJ have to be the voice of reason: weird role for AJ, considering.
Mark Henry’s sitting in the training room, and I love that the doc’s got a diagram of a spine on that wall: just in case he forgets everything he’s supposed to know about his job. Renee shows up and asks about what the hell happened out there. Henry confirms that he was intentionally antagonising Reigns to get him fired up, and I do kind of like that as a story device.
Backstage, Michael Cole sat down with Randy Orton and asked him to define ‘revenge’ further. Seriously, why are we making a big deal about this? Is it because Orton waited two weeks before murdering the fuck out of Rollins? Because the rest seems sort of obvious. Really, did Orton need to be back in the Authority? For two whole weeks? Actually, Orton just put that down to him finding mind games hysterical: that’s the sick bastard I’ve missed. Seriously, most of his reasons for everything have been: ‘wow, that was funny as hell’. Pretty sure that, if Michael and Orton had a table between them, Randy’s erection upon looking back at this would have sent it into orbit.
Also, Randy’s view of the consequences of his actions is: ‘worth it’, and he wants a match against Rollins at WrestleMania. Honestly, nice to have the guy back.
How Many Times Has R-Truth Tried To Put That Belt On Little Jimmy?
Main event o’clock, and the faces and heels have assembled accordingly during the commercial break. I was on the receiving end of a quite Attitude Era-esque WWE Network advert there; not sure if that means Vince has decided that we can be bribed with filth yet again. I, personally, cannot, although that doesn’t mean I do not welcome and enjoy attempts.
Ambrose looks to be starting this one off against Barrett, and quickly takes the Brit down with a shouderblock and some forearms, dropping the elbow and wrenching back on Barrett’s head. Tag to Dolph Ziggler, who tries to work the arm and gets smacked in the face. Wade gets out of there fast, tagging in Stardust, who becomes infuriated by the ‘Cody’ chants. Man, Goldust seriously screwed up that whole ‘saving my brother thing’. Just a terrible job right there, Runnels. Ziggler manages to gain an advantage, and here comes Daniel Bryan, immediately starting things off with a surfboard as Ambrose keeps calling Stardust ‘Cody’. Stardust nopes the fuck out of there once free, and Barrett enters the ring, bulling through Bryan with some strikes. Stardust comes right back in then, hitting headbutts to Bryan in one corner before eating a running dropkick in another. Hurricanrana drops Stardust down from the top, and Bryan wants him a Running Knee, only for Cody to take another trip to Nopesville just in time for a break.
When we come back, Luke Harper has entered the match and has clearly had an effect, as Bryan is currently locked in a Gator Roll. He transitions that into a headlock, keeping Bryan away from his corner, before throwing him down and tagging Wade Barrett in. Barrett drapes Bryan over the corner before slamming some forearms onto his back and a mean kick to the stomach. Stardust’s back now, hitting some fast offence before getting Harper back in there. Bryan slides out of a bodyslam out of nowhere, first trying to roll Harper up, and then kicking his head around before tagging in Ambrose.
Dean comes in hard and fast, taking it to the now-legal Stardust. Forearm, bulldog, whatever the fuck kind of wheelbarrow facebuster that was. Harper drags Dean to the outside, but eats a hard clothesline that drops him. Stardust tries to take advantage, only to get elevated to the outside. Ambrose heads to the top rope and hits his elbow drop to both of them. Back in the ring, Stardust wants some, but takes a Pendulum Clothesline. Ambrose’s looking for Dirty Deeds, but Barrett interferes; Dean makes him pay for that, taking it to him on the outside, but Harper hits a big boot out of nowhere, laying Dean out as we go to the final commercial break.
Back to the action, and Wade Barrett has Ambrose strung up in the ropes, slamming a boot into the guy’s face. Sleeper hold to follow that, as the other four men look on. Stardust comes back in, taking Dean all the way up to the top rope, looking for a superplex, but Stardust gets planted right from the top, getting up in time to get a pair of boots right to the face, courtesy of Ambrose. Stardust tags in Harper; Ambrose tags in Dolph, and away we go.
Dolph’s taking it to Harper with every move he’s got, hitting a Stinger Splash, but missing the Fameasser; he hits a dropkick and the Fameasser connects this time for a near-fall. Stardust tries to get involved and gets knocked off the apron; Harper rolls Ziggler up, but Dolph pops right back up with a superkick! Stardust breaks up that pin, and Bryan comes after him, kicking him right upside the head and elevating Barrett to the outside right after him. The three faces are in the ring, and all three of them try to dive out, but Harper skids into the ring and boots Ziggler right in the face as Ambrose and Bryan dive past him!
Sit-out powerbomb to Ziggler, and Dolph just gets his shoulder up. Harper’s pissed now, and he tries for the Torture Rack, but Ziggler slips out for a Zig-Zag! A Running Knee from Bryan takes Harper down again, and that’s three!
Good match, and another good advert for a match I think might honestly steal the show at ‘Mania. And, really, it deserves to. Everyone here’s been working crazy-hard, and they’ve managed to make an Intercontinental Title feud one of the most interesting things I’ve recapped in a while. 3 Stars.
Michael Cole comes into the ring with a microphone, because it’s not a WrestleMania storyline without an interview. Ziggler gets pissy about Bryan stealing a victory and tells Bryan that he’s not a pussy like Batista and Orton, and he’s going to have to deal with Dolph in a few weeks. Ambrose then gets annoyed, saying that it was his idea to steal the championship, and everyone else has been committing plagiarism. He claims that Ziggler thinks that he’s not as good as Bryan, and calls him a turd to end the interview. Um…okay? Ziggler thankfully stops us from ending on that note, and then calls Bryan a turd as well. Bryan seems amused and perplexed; I have no clue what that’s about, and it was a weird way to end the show.
All in all, this was pretty good. It’s amazing how the big matches get all of the random video packages and the interview segments, but the matches that are lower down the card, like the Battle Royal, the Tag match, the Divas storyline (although I wish it was a Four-Way for the title, somehow) and, of course, the Ladder match have been either built up with a simple, coherent build or (more in the case of the Ladder match) has been more complex and carried off well. Just an awkward final note on the show: I’d not be surprised to learn that that wasn’t entirely planned or, at least, that Bryan wasn’t aware of it. Still, good night: gets an eight.
David Spain’s Movie Recommendation: I’m still doing my trek through horror movies, trying to find a film which genuinely disturbs me. And…I’ve yet to find it. So, instead, I’ll go for a newer release: Kingsman. For me, genuinely the highlight of Colin Firth’s acting career, also featuring Michael Caine, Samuel Jackson, Sofia Boutella and Mark Strong. Equal parts awesome and funny as hell.
Tags: AJ Lee, byron saxton, Cameron, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Intercontinental Championship, Jerry Lawler, John Cena, Los Matadores, Luke Harper, Mark Henry, Michael Cole, Mizdow, Natalya, Paige, paul heyman, R-Truth, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, rusev, ryback, seth rollins, smackdown, Stardust, Summer Rae, the bellas, The Miz, The New Day, The Uso's, Tyson Kidd, Wade Barrett