Well, that’s over and done with. I’ll admit, WrestleMania wasn’t the total trainwreck that it could have been, though I doubt it’ll be remembered for much beyond the empty arena, the Boneyard match, and the Firefly Fun House match. But the shining star among all of this is that both main belts are now on full-time stars. Drew has been built beautifully from the Rumble to this moment, but that’s not my area. I’m stuck with Braun, whom I love, but whose booking has been, to put it charitably, AN ABOMINATION.
But Goldberg’s gone. He’s finally gone. All I want now is for Strowman to turn heel in the short-to-medium-term future, then be an indomitable God of Death, laying waste to every shmuck that tries to take the belt off him, so that Roman can arrive following his long absence and be the conquering hero that we’ll all need at that stage. Sort of like what they tried to do with Lesnar, only with an established rivalry to be capitalised on and the potential to be…you know…good.
So, as I turn to this first week of the new wrestling year (that is totally how the wrestling calendar works, you illiterate peasants), it’s with a feeling of something approaching hope.
And with the feeling that WWE should be taking social distancing a lot more seriously than they are, but we covered that last week. Right now, just take me to the place where a roaring giant is Universal Champion and Mustafa Ali is hacking arena security cameras using four keyboards and seven screens.
It’s a complicated world, and everyone who lives there is an idiot.
Other than that, I hope that everyone’s coping as well as possible, given the circumstances and are managing to keep themselves diverted. I’ve so far learned the phrase “I have eaten your cake” in Italian and have become rather good at playing “Rebel Rebel” on the guitar, both of which are likely to cause my flatmate no end of annoyance as our lockdown continues.
“Get These Hands” is not a proverb, Braun
The show kicks off with big, beardy, Braun Strowman, who marches to the ring with his new Championship. We’re shown a recap of WWE finally exorcising Goldberg for hopefully the last time, and I wish I could have the same amount of faith in myself as Goldberg has in his ability to perform a Jackhammer on Braun Strowman.
Back in the present, Braun says that when opportunity knocks on the door, you answer it, but he knocked the door off its hinges. So…he knocked his own door off its hinges? What a weird guy. He claims that he took everything that Goldberg, an autumn-yeared man in his physical decline, was able to dish out (I guess we’re all pretending that the Jackhammer no longer exists, which is probably for the best in terms of WWE employees’ wellbeing).
Before he can go much further, Shinsuke Nakamura’s music interrupts him. If Zayn and pals challenge him to a three-on-one for the title, I don’t think Braun should accept this time. But it looks like Shinsuke’s by himself this time, and he mocks Braun’s “opportunity knocking” speech, which I can’t call him out for without being a hypocrite. He tells Braun that he’s here to knock on his own door, reminding the big man that he’s beaten him once already.
Strowman has no interest in listening in Shinsuke, warning him that he’d better get lost before he has to attack him and then presumably get jumped by Zayn and Cesaro. Nakamura tells him that Strowman reminds him of an old Japanese proverb, which is something I bet he says to all the big, muscular Universal Champions. The proverb apparently means “the weak are the meat and the strong eat”. Strowman answers by promising that Shinsuke will “get these hands”.
Cesaro appears out of nowhere and tries to jump Strowman, who shoves him back out of the ring before turning into a roundhouse kick that staggers him. Apparently Nakamura and Cesaro feel like it’s best not to push their luck, and they skedaddle.
Asuka’s crazy evil persona is everything
We take a look back at Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross winning the Women’s Tag Team Championships, and apparently the automatic rematch rule is only dead when WWE wants it to be, because the Kabuki Warriors want their damn belts back. I wonder which of the two teams this spells disaster for. I want an Asuka/Kairi feud more than words and possibly Japanese proverbs can ever describe, but I’m also super in-love with their whole aesthetic and honest-to-God team theme music, and I’m not willing to say goodbye to that yet.
On the other hand, Nikki and Alexa’s friendship is the purest thing on this planet, and I’m not emotionally prepared for that break-up either.
Post-entrance announcements give us our first post-Mania BIGMATCHFEEL, and the match then gets underway. The commentary team is really pushing how happy Nikki is about her Championship win, and I’ve known WWE for long enough to consider this a worrying sign.
The Kabuki Warriors strike, immediately going on the attack against Bliss, keeping Nikki out of contention. They’re really dominating Alexa, who tries her best to fight her way back into the match before Kairi shuts her down and tags in Asuka. The Empress of Tomorrow picks up where the Pirate Princess left off, ie. stomping Alexa like she owes her money and/or a Tag Team Championship. Frequent tags and teamwork keep Bliss down for a while, even managing to stop her outside the ring when she rallies, leaving her laying.
Asuka grabs a headset and stands on the commentary table, yelling at Nikki before teeing off with her as well. The distraction allows Bliss to trip Asuka up, and Cross takes the former Champ out with a crossbody. After a break, the Kabuki Warriors have regained control, utilising double-teams again to great effect. Now it’s Nikki’s turn to get beaten down, until she suddenly surprises Asuka with a bulldog.
Both Bliss and Kairi tag in, with the Goddess keeping Sane on the defensive for a moment before getting wiped out by a spear. A big right hand staggers Kairi, who’s saved by Asuka by way of a roundhouse kick. Nikki tags in, but she misses a charge, allowing Asuka to catch her with a running knee to the spine. The Empress of Tomorrow gets Cross up in a powerbomb position, with Kairi hitting the LOD tribute act before Asuka applies the Asuka Lock.
Bliss breaks up the submission, immediately eating a neckbreaker from Sane. Kairi tags in, but she misses the Insane Elbow, with Nikki managing to make the tag. Bliss scores with the DDT, but Asuka makes the save before wiping out Nikki with a knee to the face. Alexa suddenly flies with Twisted Bliss to the outside, wiping out both Kabuki Warriors!
Back inside the ring, Alexa goes for Twisted Bliss a second time, managing to save herself from crashing and burning as Kairi rolls out of the way. Nikki gets the blind tag, and she hits the neckbreaker to retain!
That was a good match, with enough substance to it that I genuinely thought that we might see the belts change hands again. 3 Stars.
Elias is here, and he’s on the balcony, spitting in the face of PTSD. He plays a song about winning at WrestleMania. He compares himself to Simba in the lyrics, which is a weird misreading of The Lion King and, it follows, of Hamlet. The only thing of substance is his suggestion that he’s going to take part in the Money in the Bank Ladder match and swap the briefcase for a guitar case. He’d better do that if he does win, because that is an excellent idea.
Dolph Ziggler is the coronavirus of people
We recap the whole Mandy/Otis saga, the highlight of which is still WWE’s inablity to understand hacking and the fact that Sonya has to read everything she types aloud: it’s the first decent piece of characterisation they’ve given her.
Oh Christ, it’s Dolph Ziggler. One day, I’m going to wake up to the news that he’s dead, and I’m ashamed to say that the first thing I’ll feel is relief. He’s here with Sonya, and they yell at Michael Cole for pushing doctored footage and fake news. If WWE could do deepfakes that convincing, could they please use their powers for good and do the Invasion angle right this time?
And then Tucker shows up to mock Dolph Ziggler, which is a fun activity for all participants from ages 0 – 200. He has photos to show Dolph of Mandy and Otis, and these ones aren’t graphic nudes either. I mean, what is even the point of this? Is Tucker just showing that they’re happy together, because you’d assume that even Ziggler would have guessed that. Or does he just assume that their lives as a couple are some grey, Dickensian nightmarescape of bitterness and poverty?
The photographs do involve a lot of bananas, which I’m choosing to read as a massive and not particularly coded reference to big old genitalia, and you can’t stop me.
Prior to the match, we get a recap of Dolph trying to murder Tucker for no reason. I really do think that WrestleMania brings out these sick urges in people.
When the match starts, Tucker bounces Ziggler around the ring like Mandy’s bouncing on Otis’…no: bad Dr. Spain. Dolph does put up some resistance, but Tucky’s in no mood for it, smacking his head off the announce table before hurling him into the steel steps.
Ziggler manages to rake Tucker’s eyes, buying himself some time, but his Fameasser attempt sees him caught and slammed onto the announce table. Tucker hustles him back into the ring, then blasts him with a huge powerslam: that should definitely be Tucker’s solo finisher. Dolph’s still trying to fight back, but Tucker blasts him with a clothesline.
This is the most cathartic thing that I’ve ever watched in WWE.
A springboard crossbody from Tucker is terrifying to watch and also doesn’t get the job done. He blocks a superkick, misses a charge into the turnbuckles, and another superkick catches Tucker, and Ziggler wins.
URGH to that result. I hate Dolph, but he’s still an absolute artist in the ring, and furious and intense Tucker was awesome. 2.5 Stars.
Two halves do make a whole
We recap the extremely inventive ending to the Tag Team Championship Ladder match, and now it’s time for the Dirt Sheet. They applaud themselves for retaining the Tag Team Championships either alone or from their couch. It’s the usual entertaining patter with a look back at how intimidating the Undertaker is when he’s not trying to wrestle.
And then they start rapping, which is…God, it’s both good and bad. It defies classification, and it’s quickly interrupted by the Usos. Are we getting another rap battle? It feels like we’re getting another rap battle.
After some rowing back and forth, it’s made apparent that the Usos want another shot at the titles. Miz claims that he was injured by the Usos, finally giving us an excuse for him not showing up for the Tag Team Championship match at WrestleMania, and an excuse for him not being able to compete tonight.
And then the New Day show up, saying that the only fair thing to do is for Big E, the Miz and whichever Uso you want to compete for the titles. And that match will happen next week.
Apparently the Uso in question will be Jey, but I guarantee that I’ll have forgotten that by the time that the match actually happens.
Forgotten no more
Here come Lucha House Party, who are going to die at the hands of the Forgotten Sons. The match is more even than you’d think, but it’s still an effective showcase that manages not to devalue LHP any more than years of disuse on any of the important shows.
A good introduction to the Forgotten Sons if you’ve not seen them. 2 Stars.
Backstage, Bliss and Cross are celebrating their victory before Carmella and Dana Brooke just show up and ask for a title shot. Alexa quite rightly states that asking for a title match doesn’t mean that they can just jump the queue. Who do they think they are, Roman Reigns?
Alexa and Nikki confer briefly, and considering that they just beat the Kabuki Warriors it’s not like their titles are exactly in danger from the likes of Brooke and Carmella. Nikki excitedly accepts, and there’s a slight hint of dissension that manages to kick me into full paranoid mode.
How to lose friends and retain a championship
Sasha Banks and Bayley are here, and they’re here to talk. Bayley crows about her victory over all her competitors and Paige, who had tried to cause the end of her title reign and her friendship. Both women mock anyone for thinking that they can topple her, and this brings out Tamina for…some reason?
Tamina claims that Bayley didn’t beat her WrestleMania, stating that it took everyone to eliminate her. Well, sure, but she still got eliminated. Tamina challenges Bayley to a title match. Roman Reigns-itis is on full display tonight, by which I mean just arranging matches yourself, not leukemia.
Banks tells Tamina that there’s a pecking order that Snuka needs to respect. And then Bayley shoves Sasha under the bus by making Tamina’s title match conditional on the challenger first beating Banks. Sasha’s facial expressions during that exchange were on point.
Tamina accepts, telling Sasha that Bayley just screwed her. I know that it was probably supposed to sound intimidating, but it read more as Tamina trying to spell out the subtext of the situation, like she thought that both Sasha and the audience might have a learning disability.
Sheamus will make the world clean
It’s WWE’s main eugenics advocate: Sheamus is in the house. He’s apparently irritated at not being able to compete at WrestleMania, and he’ll be taking his frustrations, both with his career and the impurity of the human race, on a young jobber who is definitely going to die as a result of not observing social distancing guidelines, though not from the coronavirus.
A swift beatdown, the Ten Beats, and then the Brogue Kick. Nice and quick.
A reminder, I guess, that Sheamus still exists and hates anyone shorter than him. 1 Star.
After all this time, Strowman would know how to counter the Kinshasa
Here comes Braun, ready for retribution. He’s joined by Shinsuke and Cesaro, and the bell rings. Nakamura uses his speed to score some glancing hits off Braun before Strowman boots him solidly in the chest, knocking him straight down before starting to beat on him. Nakamura’s tossed out of the ring, with Braun heading out after Cesaro before turning his attention back to Shinsuke. Nakamura is able to take advantage of Strowman’s delay climbing back into the ring, but it doesn’t help him, as Braun hurls him over the guard rail.
After the break, Shinsuke manages to score a desperation kick, aided by an uppercut from Cesaro that allows him to clamp on a headlock. Strowman’s not to be stopped, however, and he soon bulls his way back into the fight, unleashing a clothesline that sends Shinsuke to the outside before knocking both him and Cesaro with shoulder tackles.
Inside the ring, a knee strike from Nakamura almost nets the Artist the win, only for Strowman to catch him with a powerslam and win.
That ending came out of nowhere, but I’m happy to have Braun solidify his reign. Honestly, I’m good with Braun going undefeated for the next long while: it’ll be nice to have a final boss Champion that’s also full-time. Just keep the Fiend away from him for a good long while, maybe? 2.5 Stars.
JESUS, BRAY, NO!!
Damn it, the Firefly Fun House shows up, with Bray addressing Braun. I could accept this if it was just a mild hint at something months down the line, but WWE wouldn’t know subtlety if it hit them with a shovel. Bray’s severed head appears to be trying to communicate with Sweater!Bray, who admonishes Braun for abandoning him.
Wyatt toys with forgiving Braun, which most of the puppets disagree with (Ramblin’ Rabbit is the obvious renegade). Braun brushes off Wyatt, who replies that he brought Braun into this world and that he’ll take him out of it. Before Bray can go, Strowman stops him, telling him that he’s ready to let him in.
Ah, the old WWE standby: writing themselves into a corner that no-one asked them to go into. Either Braun becomes a transitional Champion in order to give Bray the belt back, in which case the belt should never have been taken off him in the first place, or Bray is wasted on the first feud of Strowman’s Championship reign. The time and place for this was six months down the line, once everyone had accepted Strowman as both a Champion and an unstoppable force.
Most people learn from failures, but then I guess WWE isn’t a person.
Tags: Alexa Bliss, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. Kabuki Warriors, bayley, Bliss Cross Applesauce, Braun Strowman, Braun Strowman vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, Dolph Ziggler vs. Tucker, Jon Morrison, Lucha House Party, Lucha House Party vs. The Forgotten Sons, Mandy Rose, Nikki Cross, otis, sami zayn, sasha banks, Sheamus, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown, Sonya Deville, tamina, The Dirt Sheet, The Fiend, The Miz, The Miz and Morrison, tucker, wrestlemania, WWE