An absolutely, totally fine, slightly disappointing start
Harper and Ziggler was really good. Two of the brighter faces in the company determined to make the whole world pay attention. There were some pretty inventive ladder spots! Harper did that thing where he landed on a ladder suspended in mid-air between the apron and the announce table, Ziggler took one to the dome against the ropes that busted him open nice and ugly. It was a ton of fun! But also, you know, about 15 minutes. Dolph Ziggler’s nuclear overness makes for a nice parable, but we’re still talking about the Intercontinental Belt in the lukewarm opening spot. So Ziggler/Harper isn’t much different from Ziggler/Cesaro, or Ziggler/Sheamus, or any of the other solid, mostly insignificant matches he’s had over the past year. Giving him the IC Title again might help elevate it to something more meaningful than, well, the IC Title, but we’ve been down that path of logic many, many times before.
It’s just a nice little hard-fought victory that slowly brings Ziggler down from his Survivor Series pedestal, so the likes of Roman Reigns can find his place again.
You have to at least do something a little different on the PPV, guys
I love Damien Mizdow. I think he’s funny and talented, and he absolutely deserves to be over. But this match against the Usos was literally the exact same thing we’ve seen from Raw the last three weeks. Oh look at that! The Usos are holding Miz in the air, something they never do, so that Mizdow can do a headstand in the corner. The phantom bump stuff is good and Mizdow coming out with a fake Slammy is hilarious, but beating this into the ground without the guiding hand of responsible creativity is going to make me sad. Like, I’m not trying to fantasy book here, but it would absolutely break my heart if Mizdow’s gimmick flounders. It just got over in such a precious, organic way.
Someone somewhere thought a stairs match was a good idea
I hate the ring stairs. I think they’re the lamest prop the WWE uses. When John Cena picks up the stairs, and the announce team goes ‘Oh man, those weigh a ton” and you can clearly see how they’re hollow on the inside? It can’t be suspension of disbelief when the truth is right in front of you. The stairs suck. The sound they make sucks. WWE putting over Tombstones and Attitude Adjustments onto the stairs like it’s a huge feat sucks. Michael Cole exclusively referring to them as “STEEL stairs” sucks. And they know this. You know why? They put up this graphic.
Straight up, the writers are fighting a losing battle right in front of us. “Oh man, how do we force any shred of legitimacy into something called a Stairs Match? We really went and did it this time, huh?”
I was actually excited about Big Show and Erick Rowan, simply because Rowan has gotten surprisingly over as a babyface lately, and it would be cool to watch him in his first big solo-PPV setting. Unfortunately, and expectedly, I just got a lot of stairs spots. I’m pretty sure wrestlers don’t claw their way to the WWE and expect to be told to make a 12-minute match out of stairs.
Also, how is stairs match any different from any other match? In a Tables Match you need to put someone through a table to win. You climb a ladder to grab the belt in a ladder match. Every single episode of Raw, someone eats the stairs and there’s no DQ, so why is this any different? It should’ve gone down on a flight of stairs; that’s the only way it makes sense.
So yeah, this wasn’t very good! Big Show limply placing a set of stairs on top of Rowan, who sells it like he’s just been cut in half. Not great television. Also, Big Show won! Which like, what? Why? Big Show, the 42-year-old dude who can’t even deliver a believable chop anymore? Sigh.
If you got excited when the WWE announced the FIRST EVER UNPRECEDENTED STAIRS MATCH, you are either 9-years-old or the most gullible person in the universe.
Remember that time a couple weeks ago when John Cena beat Seth Rollins on Raw? Well, yep!
A perfectly acceptable match that would’ve been a great Raw headliner, say, two weeks ago. I get it, Cena needs to wrestle someone, and Seth Rollins is literally the only credible top heel left standing. It was fun, I enjoyed Noble/Mercury’s constant interference, there was some good tension with the tables, and Rollins’ cowardliness is potent enough to drum up sympathy in me for John freaking Cena, which is almost unprecedented. These matches are at their best when they focus on one, specific thing, like Who's gonna go through the table first. Instead of like, the main event, which we’ll get to in a second. Speaking of which, pretty surprising that this didn’t headline the show! I guess even Vince McMahon knows when a Cena stopgap is a stopgap.
Oh, also Roman Reigns came back. It was awesome. He killed everyone and then left to botch some lines on TV. That’s Roman for you!
Into the nothingness we go!
I liked that they gave Nikki and A.J. enough time to try to make… something. And the wrestling was fine. But there wasn’t nearly enough psychology outside of Brie constantly screaming at ringside, and the crowd was entirely disengaged. I don’t really know if it’s them or not, but I do know I just watched Charlotte and Sasha Banks have an absolute blast of a title match on NXT: R Evolution on Thursday, and it got me to thinking: Has A.J. Lee ever had a great match? I’m not sure. Maybe that’s why these title defense have lacked a certain drama. I could be wrong, but I’m not going to blame the company forever.
The most nothing match ever
I can’t think of a more nothing match to appear on a WWE Pay-Per-View this year than Ryback vs. Kane. Two known quantities, one returning babyface and one heel who looks closer and closer to retirement. It’s a chairs match, which means it’s mostly just two giant dudes beating each other’s backs up with chairs. At one point, Kane throws a chair at Ryback and it looks like it hurt really badly. For the uninitiated, this was probably awesome. Like if I grabbed someone off the street who’s never seen wrestling before to watch these two giants kill each other which chairs, they’d probably be into it. For everyone else, it was Ryback hitting his finisher for the win. Yawn.
I’m not writing about Swagger vs. Rusev on principle
Is that how TVs work?
Our main event between Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt was okay. I was pretty excited about it once I realized it would be the headliner in lieu of Cena/Rollins, but that was slowly deflated by the trudging, messy course the match took. Here’s the thing about TLC matches: as much as we love big prop spots, the first 20 minutes leading up to that spot are generally pretty boring. They’ve got a whole lot of time to fill before Dean hops from that 25-foot ladder to annihilate Bray through the announce table. And as much as WWE might want you to believe in it, shoulder bumps into the turnbuckle are just not quite up to that level.
...So this match also ends with an exploding television that distracts Dean long enough for Bray Wyatt to score the cover. He seriously just unplugs a TV and it goes up in smoke. It doesn’t make any sense; it has nothing to do with Wyatt’s mystical teleportation powers… it’s just really dumb. I feel bad for them having to sell such a stupid idea. On the bright side, next PPV is the Royal Rumble! Oh God, let’s hope we get back on track.