Figure Four Weekly 2/13/2017: Bray Wyatt's overdue WWE Championship winBy Observer Staff | firstname.lastname@example.org | @WONF4W
From nearly the moment The Wyatt Family debuted on the main roster, Bray Wyatt's place as a future WWE Champion seemed almost certain.
The only surprising thing about Wyatt capturing the title is that it took until Sunday night at the Elimination Chamber, where he was finally presented as the force that WWE has all too often failed to portray him as over the last three-plus years.
Despite almost always being featured in feuds that have gotten significant television time, Wyatt's booking has usually failed to match his character. And he's never gotten the top-level protection that a gimmick like his requires.
There were the WrestleMania losses to John Cena and The Undertaker that stagnated Wyatt's forward momentum. And while those didn't necessarily hurt his status in a vacuum, they typified the issues that he's had for his entire WWE run. He was never allowed to win the biggest matches that would have established him as a legitimate star.
There was always a ceiling on Bray Wyatt. That's been true for a lot of wrestlers on the roster, but it was far more harmful to Wyatt than others because of the mythical figure that he is.
Others can get through periods of lackadaisical booking because of their connection with the audience, or because they have enough credibility stored through big wins over the years, or because they're such good workers that they can be positioned at the top and have it work fairly quickly.
But Wyatt is a character that has always needed creative to work alongside his ability. Even though he's a more than adequate worker in the ring, his supernatural gimmick is one that can't thrive without it being booked to have credibility.
Even when WWE attempted to aid Wyatt, there were so many times where it failed. There was the weird singing children's choir in sheep masks during his feud with Cena. There was the lame exploding TV monitor in his match against Dean Ambrose at TLC 2014. Whenever WWE tried to add an aura to Wyatt, it never worked as well as letting him decisively win a major feud against a top star would have.
Wyatt finally got the biggest win of his career in an Elimination Chamber match on Sunday as he eliminated both Cena and AJ Styles to win the WWE Championship. There were no contrived finishes that relied on interference or used supernatural tricks to put Wyatt over without really getting him over. He just emphatically beat two of the biggest stars on SmackDown at the end of the match.
It was a moment that worked in part because of how Wyatt has been handled over the last few months. His storyline with Randy Orton and Luke Harper has been the most captivating thing The Wyatt Family has done in a long time, and WWE let Wyatt get big wins by standing tall at Survivor Series and winning the tag titles with Orton.
The next few months will determine whether Wyatt's win is a permanent step forward or just a way to get to a destination. Wyatt vs. Randy Orton will get overshadowed at WrestleMania with so much star power on the card. But Wyatt carrying the title past April could lead to some interesting angles and fresh matches at the top of SmackDown's pay-per-views if that's the direction WWE decides to go in.
Elimination Chamber was a night of overdue title wins. In addition to Wyatt capturing his first major singles title, Naomi won gold for the first time as she defeated Alexa Bliss for the SmackDown Women's Championship. That was the third women's match on the PPV with so much of the brand's top male talent consolidated in the main event.
While none of those women's matches were standouts, Naomi's win was a nice moment that was helped by her genuine reaction after winning the title. And it's a testament to WWE's handling of the women's division that having three matches on the card didn't at all feel out of place.
But there were obvious depth issues that became apparent for the first time since the brand split. Almost all of SmackDown's roster who were healthy enough to wrestle were on the show, which exposed that there could be issues if injuries take their toll or WWE fails to cycle talent in and out of key spots.
The tag team turmoil match got American Alpha over as much as anything else since they came up from NXT, but WWE clearly doesn't have enough teams to support two divisions in both depth and quality. Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews & Kalisto was illogical from the moment it was announced and was even more of a disaster than anticipated.
Crews in particular has floundered on the main roster, though there are such limited spots on NXT TV that it's not clear where he would have fit in there either. He feels like someone who would have been much better off further traveling the world for a few years and developing both as a personality and in the ring.
But the main event, Orton vs. Luke Harper, and three women's matches showed that there's at least enough talent to keep SmackDown strong in the short term. We'll see where all of the pieces fall as the build to WrestleMania 33 picks up over the next few weeks.
Roughly 30 days to go before what will be one of the three or four busiest weekends of the year arrives in Mexico. Let's see where things stand in relation to that big weekend
March 17th is the annual CMLL Homenjae a Dos Leyendas. No card nor matches has been announced – a press conference should be forthcoming 2/22 or 3/1 to announce the details. Usually, there are two main event matches. As it sits now, the way the promotion of the recent Friday night Arena Mexico show has gone, the direction for the main event still appears to be Diamante Azul against Pierroth, with almost certainly other men added to the match to "dress it up." The lesser of the two matches may be Stuka Jr. defending his mask against Rey Bucanero. If those are the matches, this would be a disappointing H2L to look forward to, with little doubt about match outcomes and only slightly less doubt about match quality. The most intriguing this has been the hints dropped of a feud between Rush and Atlantis, started in Japan and nudged along the last few weeks in Mexico. Now that would be a sight to see, and we might in fact get it one day, but probably not until the day, years down the road, when Atlantis walks into Paco Alonso's office and hands in his retirement. CMLL is just on cruise control now, plugging along at 25-40% houses, making a profit and oblivious to most of the rest of the wrestling world.
March 19th is the annual AAA Rey de Reyes show. No card nor matches has been announced, although word has gotten out that the card is ready. Historically, this show is a means to an end in and of itself. Most times in the past, there would be four undercard qualifying matches after which the four winners would have a fifth match for the Rey de Reyes sword. As noted on these pages earlier. Again, it's not a done deal, but if that is the direction this card is going, then there would generally be three other matches on the show – maybe a minis title match one was set up at the last taping), maybe a ladies' match, and maybe a title match, maybe cruiserweight, maybe heavyweight, maybe Latin American. Pagano will likely complete his face turn on Mesias at that show, while Psycho Clown and Dr. Wagner Jr. will likely continue their buildup for their mask match 8/26. Interestingly, on that AAA 2/11 TV taping, the heels turned on Wagner and left him a man without a country, with neither heel friends nor face friends. Perhaps he has some old friend, Laguneros or Nortenos, who might come to his rescue; we'll have to see. AAA business is surprisingly good, so fat his year at least, as this is the best January and February they've had for attendance in years. This, even though they've had a talent drain this year that has left their cupboard woefully stocked. However, it's been frequently said that they draw based on the company name and by going to cities CMLL and WWE don't go or rarely go, so it's the biggest wrestling show in most towns they visit.
The CRASH continues to draw more and more interest as they increase their talent pool to a very respectable crew. They may actually have a problem, though, one beyond their control if it continues, with their lead heel, the MVP of Indy Wrestling in 2017, Penta el Zero M (okay he and Matt Riddle). He, his wrestling, his gimmick, and his merchandise have become so popular, that they almost surely would end up making more money on him booking him out around the world than they can possibly make on him through revenue/merchandise on shows in Mexico on him (their shows were selling out anyway, before he even signed) – it might be, considerably, in their best $ interest to book him in UK, USA, Germany, Canada, and Japan, and he may end up being as small a part of their plans as he was for AAA.
Finally, what to say about Dragon Lee in Japan last week? Before the upcoming caveat I'd give the match ****¾, but I have to take most of those stars back because I thought it crossed a line of danger and I was frankly mortified while being awestruck at the same time. What I wasn't was entertained.
In the grand tradition of pro wrestling cards being 'subject to change', my promise of a review of OTT's Martina's Gaff Party weekender from Dublin and Belfast will be delayed to next week. Instead, I've been watching ICW's Square Go, which took place last Sunday.
The Square Go is ICW's Royal Rumble, and this year, ICW took a leaf out of WWE's 2017 Rumble booking by backloading their stars into the last 10 spots, leaving the first two thirds of the match to be filled predominantly by jobbers and wrestlers who generally aren't important in the grand scheme of things. Joe Hendry and his mock Sandman entrance was one of the few highlights before an NAK reunion spot with BT Gunn, Chris Renfrew and Stevie Boy signalled the match picking up in excitement and star power. The finale between Joe Coffey and Wolfgang was really good, and continued a strong run of form for Wolfgang, who lost the ICW Championship to Trent Seven earlier in the show. That match told a great story and Seven's selling and facial expressions made him so easy to root for against a man he just couldn't seem to get past. Seven's use of the brass knuckles to finally defeat Wolfgang may get played up in his future match with Square Go winner Coffey, who refused to use the knuckles to eliminate Wolfgang. Square Go was a much better show than Fear & Loathing, and did a much better job of making me want to see more ICW as the year goes on, especially with the promise of a Seven/Coffey showdown.
The big announcement of the week came from Fight Club Pro, with Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks going up against British Strong Style at the Wolverhampton leg of their three day Easter weekender. Making that match even more special is the announcement that the show will not be available on VOD/DVD due to Bate, Seven and Dunne's WWE contracts, meaning only those in attendance will be able to see that unique 6-man tag. It's a big time match for multiple reasons; the WWE vs New Japan connotations, Kenny freakin' Omega in the UK, and with all the doubt surrounding British Strong Style's futures, it's a huge match for the three men who made FCP one of the trendiest promotions in all of Europe right now. With Epic Encounter on Thursday, this on Friday, and then two more FCP shows on Saturday and Sunday, Easter weekend is looking huge for live European wrestling.
August 31st 1993 and September 3rd 1994.
On these two dates All Japan Pro Wrestling fans in Budokan Hall were treated to epic matches pitting Kenta Kobashi against "Dr. Death" Steve Williams. Those were certainly not the only matches the two would have against one another, as they engaged in many other singles and tag battles over the years. However they were the definitive matches of the rivalry and were so important in establishing each man's legacy.
The modern version of Kobashi vs. Williams is a rivalry that's developed over the last eight months in New Japan. Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin has become one of the best competitive feuds in wrestling, and this past weekend they had their best match yet. Like with Kobashi vs. Williams, it's a popular native Japanese star against a powerhouse Westerner, however Naito is a very different type of fan favourite than Kobashi was. While the personalities don't match, the action within the ring certainly does. In the final scenes of this weekend's contest, Elgin destroyed a valiant Naito with one huge high impact move after another. It was eerily reminiscent of the 1994 match right down to a huge Death Valley Driver into the corner which mirrored the Backdrop Driver into the corner that Kobashi fell victim to.
Their first match in Japan was at Korakuen in the G1 on July 24. Naito won what was one of the most exciting matches of the tournament with the Destino. They met again in September at Kobe World Hall, with The Stardust Genius challenging the Canadian for his Intercontinental Title. This match was like an expanded version of their G1 bout going an extra ten minutes and finishing with a dramatic back and forth series of nearfalls until Naito hit the Destino for the win. This past weekend in Osaka saw Elgin get his rematch and they played off both earlier matches in many ways. Elgin had to gut through an assault on his leg like he did in the G1, but he eventually took control and destroyed the champion with everything from a top rope splash to a huge Powebomb into the guardrail. When he hit his Spiral Bomb, it looked like it was over for sure. The reaction when Naito kicked out made for one of the most unforgettable moments in modern New Japan history, and took the match to a new level.
Whilst the Kobashi character was fuelled by heart and a never say die attitude, Naito is fuelled by the unwavering determination to back up his words and cocky attitude. He needs to be everything he says he is and he'll make every sacrifice to stand tall in the end. And that is where their stories within these feuds differed. Kobashi would end up losing nearly every time to Dr. Death, eventually falling victim to a barrage of Backdrop Drivers. Naito for the third time, gutted through everything Elgin had and once again won with the Destino. On the flip side, Elgin and Dr. Death's stories within these matches were also almost identical until the result. They would power through whatever their Japanese counterpart threw at them and just keep dishing out the incredible high impact offence. Only for Elgin, he would again feel the frustration of defeat as his best was not good enough.
The rivalry simply cannot end here. We need New Japan to talk about this match as one of their all time great clashes, because it was. We need to hear from Elgin about his burning desire to one day put Tetsuya Naito's shoulders to the mat for a count of three. We need this match to come about again, and we need to see them add to this incredible Pro Wrestling story.
WWF WrestleMania I (3/31/85)
Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff vs. Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo. Sheik saying "Gene Mean" will never not be funny. The US Express' promo was terribly bad, and Rotundo's "I just woke up" hair was even worse. Nikolai sang the Russian national anthem. The fans did not like this, especially not the guy making the jerk-off motion. Then we got a shot of the US Express standing in the hallway waiting for their cue for what felt like ten minutes. The match was very good. Three of these guys were excellent at this time, and Nikolai knew very well how to do a tag match. In a moment of great irony, Sheik put Rotundo in an abdominal stretch. Maybe that's where Rotundo got the idea to do that every match. Windham tagged in and ran wild on Volkoff, hitting the bulldog, but Sheik broke up the pin. Broke into a four-way, and as the ref was getting Rotundo out of the ring, Windham got drilled with Freddie Blassie's cane, and Volkoff covered him to win the match and the titles. Very solid pro wrestling bout here. (***1/4).
Gene interviewed the new champs backstage. They were wacky.
Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd in a $15,000 vs. career bodyslam match. Lord Al Hayes' intro for this was UNBELIEVABLY bad. They of course found the shortest ref they could to make the big men look even bigger. Gotta credit these guys, they were clobbering each other early, then after Studd bailed, he sold like crazy for all of Andre's horrible offense. Fans were chanting "SLAM!" over and over again. And then they were all blowed up and we got a long, long standing headlock spot. Andre used a low round kick like he was Mirko Cro Cop. A few of them, actually. And then Andre picked him up and slammed him and won. People went crazy for the finish. Andre grabbed the bag of money and started throwing it to the crowd, but Heenan grabbed the cash and ran for the back. Andre's strikes here were about as bad as could be, and the finish came totally out of nowhere, but otherwise a well-pace and put together match. (**1/2).
Gene interviewed Andre backstage. Andre said he didn't need the money, he just wanted to make Studd and the Weasel look silly.
Leilani Kai vs. Wendi Richter. CYNDI LAUPER! No, they did not buy the rights to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Match was all hairpulls, armdrags, and hammerlocks. Also, choking. At one point one of them tried a gutwrench suplex and they both just fell over. They were brawling against the ropes and the ref tried to get a clean break by patting Wendi on the ass. Moolah went after Wendi's hair, so Cyndi went after Moolah. Wendi suddenly hit something like a fireman's carry into a powerbomb for a nearfall. Leilani hit a high-cross. Wendi was supposed to roll through but didn't do it very well, but that was the finish so the ref counted three anyway. Sloppy as all hell, but they tried and the crowd liked it. Cyndi and Wendi had the best celebration EVER afterwards. (*1/2).
Mean Gene interviewed the new champ and her friends. I have no idea what anyone said. Something about Cyndi using a towel to defend herself from Moolah. THIS sucked.
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff. First they brought in Billy Martin to the be the guest ring announcer. He did a horrible job and Finkel had to help him read his card. Liberace came out to be guest commentator. He came out to some SWANK edited-in music and danced with the Rockettes. This was awesome. Then Muhammad Ali came out to be guest ref. Pat Patterson was also out there to be the real referee. Then the heels came out with a full bagpipe and drum band. Cowboy Bob was in their corner. His son Randy was five years old in 1985. And then Hulk's music hit (and I think they edited in Real American over Eye of the Tiger), and out came the babyfaces, along with Jimmy Snuka. Piper demanded on starting, so T demanded on starting for his team. Gorilla claimed that T had been living on tunafish and water for weeks. They traded slaps, then Piper took T down and smothered him for a while before T escaped. T grabbed him in a fireman's carry and hit wasteland. Broke down into a four-way, then almost a six-way, but Ali hit the ring and chased everyone out of the ring to restore order. That's the best guest ref I ever saw right there. The match began again and Hogan ran wild on both heels. T tagged in and ran wild with bodyslams and hiptosses. I've seen a lot of celebrities try to wrestle, and very few of the have looked better than Mr. T. Hogan finally just got overwhelmed for the heat. T was fighting to get in and make the save and Patterson had to FIGHT to put him back on the apron. Meanwhile, Ali jumped in the ring to stop Piper from double-teaming. Orndorff missed a flying boogie-woogie elbow to set up the hot tag. T ran wid with fists and eyerakes, but then they double-teamed him too. Looked for a while like Orndorff was legit wrestling T to the ground to prevent him from tagging out. Piper had T in a front facelock and T just lurched over and tagged in Hulk. And then Hulk got cut off again. Piper took the ref and Orton hit the ring, but Snuka sent him packing. Chaos broke out and Orton went to hit Hogan with the cast, but hit Orndorff instead, and Hogan made the cover to win the match. One of the most chaotic tag matches you'll ever see. Looked they told T just to fight like hell, and they would do their best to fight with him and make the match work. The heels walked out on Orndorff. The babyfaces tended to him. He came to and stared throwing his punches, then realized that there were three enemies standing there, but his so-called friends had left him high and dry. Finally Hogan's music played and he flexed as they brought all the celebrities into the ring to celebrate him. This totally holds up as a PPV main event 30-some years later. (***1/2).
They interviewed Hogan and his crew backstage. T said wrestling wasn't for wimps. Well that's true.
WWE Retro Raw 246 (2/9/98)
Show opened with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Sunny maybe?) singing Happy Birthday to Freddie Blassie and getting her dress blown up. Yeah, that's Sunny.
Steve Austin came out for a promo. They were in Evansville, Indiana, and he was quite popular. He said you didn't come on TV and rub a belt in Austin's face, and he was going to get himself a piece of HBK's ass at the PPV on Sunday, but he also wanted to fight tonight and called out Shawn. DX appeared on the screen and Shawn bragged about pulling Austin's strings. Austin said you should come fight me, because I have your belt. Shawn said no you don't, my belt's right here, but inside the bag was not the 15-pound championship belt, but a half-pound toy. Austin then revealed he had the real belt and Shawn could come try and take it back. DX threw a tantrum.
Road Warriors vs. Barry Windham & Jeff Jarrett. Again, the Rock & Roll Express were at RINGSIDE, not wrestling the Road Warriors for the first time ever. Jim Ross was sure to say there was "internal pressure" on the Warriors. INSIDER COMMENTS, BROTHER. All sorts of suggestions that their time had come and gone, and they needed friends because they were always outnumbered. Short, formula tag match. Rock & Rolls jumped Hawk and dropped his knees across the stairs. Jarrett put Hawk in the figure-four when Bradshaw hit the ring for the DQ.
We saw DX putting together a secret plan to get the belt back. The secret plan was for Chyna to get it. Good plan.
Quebecer Pierre vs. Henry Godwinn. MEAN GUY MATCH. They had a good brawl and then Pierre hit a tope over the top rope. Henry was your default hog farmer in peril. Pierre randomly hit a top-rope legdrop for a two-count during the heat, then missed a somersault senton to set up the comeback. Quebecers hit a bucket shot, but Godwinns hit one of their own and Henry got the win. I'm oversimplifying things, but that's the gist of it. Overbooked finish aside, nothing wrong with this.
Chyna interrupted Los Boricuas' poker game, she got to speak for the first time, because she spoke Spanish. She apparently hired them to take out Austin.
Brian Christopher & Pantera vs. Taka Michinoku & Aguila. This was set up by a match on Smackdown where Pantera and Taka were partners who couldn't get along, I guess. Looked convoluted. Holy crap this was sloppy. You've never seen so many guys launch themselves out of the ring when they were supposed to be thrown. It was also impossible to remember who was on who's team, in part because they were different teams on Shotgun. So they were doing this match, and they went to commercial, and when they came back it seemed to be over and the announcers were just moving on. What just happened? What's going on? Then Kane came out. He and Paul Bearer just cut a promo. Where did the light heavyweights go? Bearer said that mean guy Vader had used a fire extinguisher to try to take out Kane's good eye. He said Vader liked to say "It's time, it's time," and he gave Kane a Vader clock, and apparently Kane used magic powers to set the clock on fire. People booed this, because it was stupid. Bearer added that Undertaker would not be coming back.
Ken Shamrock & Chains vs. Faarooq & Rock. Rock, with his back to the camera, cut a promo about cloning. He determined nobody in Evansville was worthy of being cloned. Always funny watching the top-level MMA fighter go in there and throw clotheslines and leg lariats. I mean, Shamrock was a great athlete and they looked good, but they so made him just another guy. I realize this is not a new point. Match broke down into a four-way. Everyone brawled at ringside. The MMA fighter hit a hurricanrana, but Rock hit him with a chair right in the face and Faarooq pinned him. Shamrock snapped afterwards and took out the Nation, the ref, and Chains until the Harrises and Ahmed all tackled him to the ground.
They showed clips of the Mania main eventers doing a press conference in New York. One reporter there REALLY liked watching Chyna walked by. Vince McMahon finally announced that Mike Tyson would be the "enforcer," in "somewhat of a special referee" capacity. Austin spoke and said he had been working for this for eight years and it was not a joke to him. Shawn said he laid down for nobody. Tyson talked about how much he liked Bruno Sammartino and the Valiant Brothers. The sports guys were all there trying to ask Tyson questions, and Shawn and Austin were interjecting and trying to get headlines. Eventually they got into a shoving match and Tyson was in between them trying to keep the peace. Then they showed the coverage on ESPN and other sources with everyone laughing at them. But hey, HEADLINES!!!.
Chyna and Los Boricuas were patrolling the hallways in search of Austin. They went into the men's locker room, where a tiny guy was taking a shower and Chyna shoved him aside. She checked the showers and kicked in all the stalls, but no Steve.
Steve Blackman vs. Recon. Blackman's entrance now involved glow-in-the-dark escrima sticks. Seconds into the match Jackyl's music started to play, and he lowered from the ceiling behind a podium delivering a sermon. Wrestlers, to their credit, were NOT distracted. He said he was smart and not evil and his fans were called Jackylites. He said he wanted to bring peace to the company, but the WWF only understood the language of violence. Well, yeah. He took credit for turning Recon and Sniper into main eventers, and making Kurrgan big and scary. Blackman used multiple Russian legsweeps. Blackman won with a wacky submission hold, which left Jackyl slack-jawed. He hit the ring and talked to Recon about working in Memphis and eating tunafish out of a can. He tore into Sniper too. Recon apologized and Jackyl seemed to accept, then slapped him. Recon was pissed, but Jackly just turned his back. Recon and Sniper left and Jackyl laughed.
New Age Outlaws came out for a promo. Oh yeah, the guys who the whole show was built around last week are finally here. They talked about how high it was to fall off the stage. They said they had so much fun last week they wanted to do it again and pulled out a dumpster. They went into detail about this dumpster like it was a prize on Price is Right. They showed the dumpster going off the stage last week. They pushed an empty dumpster off the stage through two tables. Then they pulled out crash test dummies dressed like Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie. This led to jokes about mouth-to-mouth as this went on forever and died a dreadful death. Well this was horrible.
Chyna and the Boricuas split up and Austin took the opportunity to lock the Boricuas in a room somewhere.
Goldust vs. Thrasher. OH MY GOD NO. This was to set up Headbangers vs. Mero & Goldust on pay per view. Read that sentence two or three times. Headbangers, the closest thing in this match to babyfaces, were cheating and interfering. THEY SUCKED SO BAD. Goldust smeared lipstick in Thrasher's face as Ross said he wished Cactus and Terry were there. You know, like they had been last week. Crowd chanted for Sable, who had bee sent to the back. Luna tripped Thrasher and Sable came out to confront her. Goldust yelled at Sable, and she slapped him and Thrasher hit a schoolboy for the win. People actually went nuts for that. Luna went after Sable, but Sable slapped her. People liked that too.
DX came out for a promo. They plugged the upcoming PPV eight-man tag of themselves and the New Age Outlaws vs. Austin, Owen Hart, Cactus Jack, and Chainsaw Charlie. Shawn rambled on for a while about getting his belt back. Austin came out swinging the belt and clearing the ring, but then the Outlaws came out to. Austin kept all five of them at bay with the belt. Place was going NUTS for Austin. Then a chainsaw started. Austin threw the belt down in the corner for some reason and Chyna ran and grabbed it. Cactus and Charlie came climbing out of the ring, and Owen ran out through the crowd, and after just a little action the heels ran for their lives. Show ended with Shawn and Austin trash-talking each other from 30 yards away. This felt really long.
WCW Monday Nitro 125 (2/9/98)
Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff came out for a promo. Hogan said word was out on the street, in the gyms, and in the "girlie bars." The word he was talking about was Randy Savage leaving the nWo. He said Savage was in the building, and he was going to give Savage the wrestling lesson of his life. Savage then appeared in the crowd to rebut. He accepted Hogan's challenge and cut a total babyface promo vowing to kick Hogan's ass and take his place against Sting in the championship match at SuperBrawl.
Announcers noted that Larry Zbyszko was not there and they didn't know where he was. They still put his graphic on the screen.
They showed clips of Mongo vs. Bulldog. Why would you do this?.
Steve McMichael vs. Glacier. Louie Spicolli came out to the announce desk, and said he was Larry's friend and he had brought Larry's bags to the building, but he didn't know where Larry was. He wasn't out there to be a good commentator, but his chemistry with the others sucked and this was grating unfunny comedy. There was also no chemistry in the ring. This was terrible. People still went nuts for Mongo and were jumping up and down when he hit a tombstone for the win. Mortis ran out and attacked Mongo for some reason. Then Mongo got up and made his own comeback and tombstoned Mortis too. What in the good god damn was the point of any of this? Mongo cut a promo saying he hoped Bulldog was watching, because he was next.
Norman Smiley vs. Konnan. Yes, it's Screamin' Norman's Nitro debut. He had no graphic, and the announcers were devoted to Spicolli and his schtick about being young or whatever the fuck he was ranting about and never said his name, so if you tuned into this show to watch some wrestling, all you knew was that a black guy was out there in lemon yellow trunks that said MAGIC on the ass. He also had no kneepads, which always looks creepy with trunks. Both these guys worked a lot in Mexico and you would think they'd be on the same page. You would be wrong. They did a lot of wacky lucha rollups until Konnan hit a fisherman buster and the tequila sunrise for the win. Konnan was just GASSED after this, like his heart would explode at any point.
Mike Tenay interviewed some guy from General Motors about WCW sponsoring a racecar. They showed the driver posing for some pictures and this guy whose job it is to drive at 180 miles an hour in tight traffic for hours looked TERRIFIED to be in front of the camera.
Nick Patrick was in the ring to ref the next match and JJ Dillon came out to address him. WCW was so screwed up that Dillon got booed. Dillon said Patrick was still suspended and should leave the ring. Patrick said he had been with the company since before Ted Turner had bought it, he had always been loyal to the company, and he threatened to sue Dillon. JJ brought out security to get Patrick out of the ring. Why is this ref getting so much camera time?.
Yuji Nagata vs. Disco Inferno. Spicolli totally was two decades ahead of his time. He was this total geek out there making a fool of himself at all times, and in the Monday Night Wars that made you a bottom-of-the-card geek. In 2016 on Raw they make characters like that tag team or universal champs. So the match was all Yuji beating Disco's ass and thus it was great. He went to win with the Nagata lock, but Sonny Onoo ordered him to continue the beating. So Disco dodged a fistdrop and hit a stunner for the win. That was seriously his only offense the whole match. La Parka ran out and hit both men with chairs for no good goddamn reason and danced. This show is bizarre.
Mike Tenay interviewed Lex Luger. Lex was sick of both Hogan and Savage, and said they were both overlooking Sting, and Savage was overlooking Lex. He hoped Hulk and Savage beat each other's ass tonight, and then I think he challenged the winner? Or something? He was very passionate about it.
Eddie Guerrero & Chris Jericho vs. Dean Malenko & Chavo Guerrero Jr. They were in El Paso, so Eddie got a big reaction, but not as big as you'd think. Schiavonie said this was brother against brother, then brother against nephew, then he just gave up. Regardless, it was four good friends having a tag match, and so they BEAT THE CRAP out of each other. GOD Eddie was so great. HE WAS SO GREAT. Jericho tagged in still wearing the cruiserweight belt and only removed it when the ref made him. Then Dean tagged in and the crowd liked him most of anyone in this match, and he ran wild and HE was great. Let me tell you something, I go through these shows and most of the time I'm either half-asleep or looking for things to make fun of, and it's a GREAT job, but it is a job and something I just want to get over with so I can do something fun. And then a match like this comes along and reminds me that I LOVE WRESTLING. Eddie tagged back in and the crowd made it clear that THIS man was their favorite. They got the heat on Dean for a while. Jericho tried his foot-on-the-chest cover and Dean got a foot on the ropes. That made me laugh. At last Jericho missed the quebrada and Chavo got the hot tag. Quickly broke into a four-way. Chavo went up top, but Eddie shoved him off, and Jericho hooked the Boston crab for the win. THIS FUCKING MATCH RULED. Young wrestlers all over the world need to watch this to learn how to do a tag match. Just great.
Video package showing the tension between the Steiner Brothers.
El Dandy vs. Juventud Guerrera. Dandy came out to the jauntiest music of all time. These luchadors were also mega-over. They had a fun little match and Juvy won with a Michinoku driver and the 450. This show is on a fucking roll. Jericho then hit the ring to attack Juvi, who made his own comeback and sent him packing. Jericho cut a promo saying he had come out to congratulate Juvy, and THIS was how Juvy responded in Spanish. Jericho translated, saying Juvy had challenged him to a title match, but he wanted to know what Juvy would put up in return. Juvy said he had lots of heart, and was willing to put up his mask. Jericho translated that and accepted, mask vs. title, for SuperBrawl.
Goldberg hype video.
Steven Regal vs. Goldberg. So this is a famous match. Regal saw this rookie getting a monster push and decided to test him. It was not a shoot, but Regal was not cooperating, and for most of the three or four minutes they were out there he was just trying to make Goldberg look silly. And often succeeding. Goldberg looked totally confused, but he maintained his composure and eventually hit the spear and jackhammer for the win.
Louie Spicolli vs. Chris Adams. I believe Adams came out to the Olympic theme. I realized both these guys died young, but Spicolli died just six days after this show, and Adams died two and a half years later. Raven and the Flock made their entrance during this. Where had they been? Short match. Adams hit the superkick, but Spicolli got the ropes, then blatantly smashed Adams in the head with a briefcase for the DQ. Just drilled him. He went after Adams after the match, but Zbyszko finally arrived and chased Spicolli around the ring until Spicolli fled to the back. Larry then cut a promo about how Louie had broken into his room and stolen his bags, then paid off his limo driver to drop him off in the wrong neighborhood in El Paso, and Larry didn't speak Spanish. Larry was supposed to be the babyface here. What a depressing segment.
AWFUL Booker T hype video. Designed and edited to be as annoying as possible.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Saturn. There were some cool suplexes and kick combos in here, but most of this was just Saturn grabbing a hold and just lying there. There were some "BORING" chants, and Saturn acknowledged them. Dragon hit a top rope rana, but Saturn twice escaped the dragon sleeper. Dragon got it on the third try, but Saturn muscled him over into a cradle for the win. Almost a squash for Saturn here. He took 90 percent of the match and won in the end.
They showed DDP wrestling Chris Benoit on Thunder when Raven and the Flock ran in and attacked them both. This match appeared to take place in the middle of a thick fog. They announced a Page-Benoit rematch for SuperBrawl.
Raven vs. Booker T. Raven cut a promo saying Booker's TV title rightfully belonged to Saturn, and he should voluntarily hand it over, but since he knew Booker wouldn't do that, they were going to teach him a lesson, and the Flock attacked. Booker fought them all off until Raven attacked and laid him out. Booker made a comeback, but the Flock interfered again and Raven dropped him with a DDT. Saturn appeared and locked Booker in the rings of Saturn, and the Flock tormented him for a while.
Randy Savage hype video.
Randy Savage vs. Hollywood Hogan. Savage jumped Hogan in the aisle, and also punched out Bischoff. He ran wild for a minute or two, then Hogan cut him off with a low blow and Savage sold for like ten straight minutes. He tried the axehandle to the floor, but Hogan dodged and Savage's face hit the guardrail HARD. Hogan went to swing a chair, but Elizabeth took it away, and Savage posted Hogan and went after him with the chair. He hit the big elbow, but the nWo hit the ring and laid into Savage. They held him so Hogan could hit a chairshot to the head. They left him lying and made their exit, but as the show went to break Savage charged up the aisle and went after Hogan again.
Lex Luger came out, and Schiavonie admitted he had no idea what was going to happen here. Elizabeth came out to talk, but Luger just wanted Savage. And Randy attacked him from behind. He went for the big elbow, but Sting ran out and attacked him. Lex needed help to fend off a guy who was just the victim of a gang beating. Lex was lying there dead as Sting went for the death drop, and Sting had to say, get up, you idiot, I'm hitting my move. nWo came out and surrounded the ring. At this point a giant net fell from the ceiling. Let me say that again. A GIANT NET FELL FROM THE CEILING. Am I watching Batman? So Sting, Luger, and Savage were trapped under the net, and the nWo attacked, and they went to break. Jesus this show.
When they came back the Nitro Girls were dancing. What the hell happened with the nWo and the net? This is so weird.
Outsiders vs. Steiners. Hall did his survey and the nWo won handily. Then they just kept TALKING. Nash sent Syxx a get-well-soon message. Announcers said Sting had suffered "some sort of injury." Thanks guys. Rick insisted on starting so Scott couldn't leave him on the apron this time. Then he tagged Scott in a minute later anyway. Outsiders soon cut Scott off and worked him over. Nash just grabbed Scott by the head, just the slightest tease of a powerbomb, and everyone got to their feet and cheered. Scott hit a double-underhook powerbomb, then again refused to tag out, saying he got this. Hall pulled Scott into Rick, and the ref determined this was a tag. Hall went for the Outsiders' Edge on Scott, but Rick came off the top with a bulldog, wiping them both out. He decked Nash for good measure, then pinned Hall to win the match and the tag titles. Rick had a great celebration, but Scott was reluctant. Eventually he celebrated with Rick and Ted DiBiase, who was still drawing a paycheck for doing absolutely nothing.
WWE Monday Night Raw (2/6/17)
Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon opened the show in the ring. Foley, saying he was not happy about this, introduced Samoa Joe. Joe came out in a suit, looking very much like Taz. I'd have liked this a hundred times more without the tie. Stephanie gave him a hug as the fans told him he had sold out. And then she belittled Foley because of course she did. Foley said he didn't like the way Joe had gotten his Raw contract, so Joe spoke for himself, about the 18 years he had spent trying to get into WWE, and how Hunter was the one man who had finally given him an opportunity. He promised to beat down our heroes, choke them out, then beat them down again. He signed his deal, Foley offered a handshake, but then Roman Reigns came out. SAMOA ON SAMOA VIOLENCE. Roman introduced himself to Joe and then dared him to fight. Foley interrupted and said he was still the GM and still in charge. And he booked Joe vs. Reigns for tonight. Way to go, Mick. Joe and Roman continued their staredown unil Steph and Foley broke it up.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax. They announced Bayley vs. Charlotte for Raw next week. Not even waiting a couple of weeks until the next pay per view. This went forever and it was boring. Just Nia's crappy offense forever. They brawled outside and Nia went into the post twice and sold like she was dead. They teased a countout until Charlotte ran out to distract Bayley and the ref. Bayley kicked her away, but Nia hit a Samoan drop for the win.
Braun Strowman vs. CC Bonin & Rob Pelley & Dusty Wallace & James Stock. THIS IS GOING TO RULE. They scoured every Oregon indy fed for the smallest goofballs imaginable and fed them to the big mean giant. In the worst line of commentary there has ever been, Byron Saxton actually said this: "These guys are probably gonna be using a poop emoji to describe their mood after this match." My god. Braun killed them all and it was glorious. One guy just ran for his life. Strowman brutalized the other three and finally dogpiled them and pinned all three at once. He didn't even bother hitting a finisher or anything, he just beat them up and pinned them. This was the best squash I've seen in YEARS. Strowman said he was going to go find Foley, then went to go find him. And then he did. Strowman said he wanted "everyone." So Foley booked him against Roman Reigns at Fastlane. Braun was cool with this.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho came out for a promo. Owens bragged about beating Braun Strowman last week. Jericho said he and Owens should main event Mania against each other. Owens agreed it would be the biggest main event ever, but he wasn't sure he could fight his best friend. At this point Goldberg interrupted. He told them to step aside and live, or grow a pair and fight him two-on-one right now. They sheepishly retreated to the corner. Goldberg said Heyman and Lesnar had challenged him to a fight at Mania 33, and he had never turned down a fight, so he accepted their challenge. Owens applauded politely, then said Goldberg-Lesnar would be a fine Mania undercard match beneath his main event. Goldberg said Owens was the universal champ only because he hadn't faced Goldberg yet, and in fact Owens had an open contract for Fastlane, and challenged him to a match on that show. Jericho threatened to put Goldberg on the list. Goldberg politely took the list, wrote his own name on it, gave it back, and told the fans he had just made the list. Jericho said Goldberg had a big fat mouth, said he never liked Goldberg, and announced Goldberg vs. Owens for Fastlane. Owens was not happy about that. So Goldberg said Owens and his title were next and left. With the very notable exception of last week, Goldberg's promos have been SO AWESOME since he came back, and he was freakin' awesome here.
Owens confronted Jericho backstage. Jericho talked about all he had done for Owens and said he always had Owens' back. Owens said accepting a challenge against Goldberg was not "having his back.".
Gallows & Anderson vs. Cesaro & Sheamus. Enzo & Cass were watching from ringside. Formulaic tag match, but it worked. Crowd loved the comeback. Gallows got knocked outside. Enzo laughed at him, so he kicked Enzo. Cass responded by kicking Gallows. This was a DQ, so the champs win. This left Sheamus and Cesaro peeved.
They announced that Seth Rollins had suffered a torn MCL and he was questionable for WrestleMania.
Dasha interviewed Chris Jericho, asking him a very wooden question about his friendship with Owens and his match with Sami Zayn tonight. Jericho vowed to win tonight and said he had been having a minor disagreement with Owens. Owens arrived. He said Jericho always had his back, and tonight he would be Sami Zayn he had Jericho's back. They hugged.
ROCK & ROLL EXPRESS HALL OF FAME VIDEO. SHIT YES.
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn. Good match, but not nearly as good as last week. Zayn escaped the Boston crab, but as he was leaning through the ropes, Owens hit a superkick, and Jericho finished him off with the codebreaker.
Sasha was getting her knee checked out backstage when Charlotte showed up to make fun of her for being hurt. She promised to put Bayley on the shelf next week too.
Jericho and Owens had another meeting backstage. Jericho wanted to do a "festival of friendship" next week in Las Vegas. Owens seemed confused, but went along with it.
Cena-AJ highlight video to promote Elimination Chamber. Various legends like Edge and Shawn Michaels talked about what a brutal match it would be, then the six guys involved all talked about how badly they were looking forward to it.
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe. Joe got his music and video played at the beginning of the show, so I am fine with him jumping Roman in the aisle here. It was funny that he was still wearing his towel though. This was all a "before the bell" beating, so the match didn't start proper for several minutes. So not that anyone should be surprised by this, but Joe fit in as a legit Raw main eventer in his very first main roster match. His heat segment was so great, and paced so perfectly to set up Roman's comeback so people couldn't help but cheer. Roman hit the drive-by and the Superman punch, but then out came Strowman. Roman knocked Strowman off the apron with a punch and a Superman punch, but Joe scored with a running enzuigiri and a one-arm Bubba slam for the win. YAY JOE ON RAW! He's so great. Strowman worked Roman over with a powerslam, hit him with the stairs, and then powerslammed him through the barricade. Good build to Braun-Roman, good build to Goldberg-Owens, and Samoa flippin' Joe. I enjoyed this Raw.
WWE NXT 2/8/17
Sanity vs. Bollywood Boyz. Bollywoods came out dancing in their pink gear, playing some wacky red extending thing, and Nigel was immediately sick of them and wanting them to be more serious. Killian Dane is like a fatter, uglier, MUCH hairier Mike Knox. He was SO fucking gross. Not that anyone in Sanity needs to be pretty, but this guy could be a lot prettier and still be ugly. He went the whole way for his team, killed both Boyz, and won with the one-winged angel. They went to cut a promo. Nikki grabbed the mic and just screamed Asuka's name over and over. Eric said he had HUMBLED~! Tye Dillinger at Takeover, and repeated his claim that Dillinger belonged with them.
Liv Morgan vs. Billie Kay. Billie's music is really starting to annoy me. Then the music ended and the match started, and that annoyed me even more. Liv was surfing on Billie, then hooked her feet under Billie's shoulders for "a series of one-counts." This was so stupid. Then Billie used a hold with one hand on Liv's wrist and the other on her chin, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to do or why Liv couldn't escape. We had Peyton and Liv playing tug-of-war with Billie, the heels bonking into each other and Peyton taking a goofy bump to the floor, and Liv winning with a horrible reverse rolling cradle. This sucked start to finish.
Backstage, Tye said he was not joining Sanity. He started talking about the Rumble when Sanity jumped him and dragged him out to the ring. Roderick Strong and No Way Jose ran out to make the save, and together they all cleared the ring.
William Regal announced that Tyler Bate would defend the UK title against Trent Seven next week. Mean girls stormed in and demanded a match with Liv next week. Regal booked the two of them vs. Liv and a partner of her choosing next week. They cackled and said "SHE DOESN'T HAVE ANY FRIENDS!" and left.
HEAVY MACHINERY vs. Revival. Heavy Machinery is the team of Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic, and they are every WCW Saturday Night 1995 team ever combined into one and shot 20 years into the future. They did the best spot ever -- one of them grabbed Dash in a bearhug, then threw him into the air so the other one could catch him in a bearhug. That needs to win move of the year in the 2017 Observer awards, which will be published in 2020. Tucker got the hot tag and ran wild, and I mean WILD. Eventually they outmaneuvered him and pinned him with a DDT. I WANT MORE HEAVY MACHINERY. Revival cut a promo claiming to be the greatest tag team in the world. They said DIY never should have been tag champs, and that was proven when they got demolished by the Authors of Pain. They challenged the Authors to a match in Takeover: Orlando. Authors came out and Revival bailed. Point made, the Authors started toward the back, when Revival ran out, hit them a few times, then ran away. Authors were left steaming and embarrassed.
Tyler Bate video package. A little bit of sitdown talk mixed in with highlights from the UK tournament.
Bobby Roode came out for a promo. He bragged about beating Nakamura, pointing out that Nakamura had been Japan's biggest star and then dominated NXT until Roode got a hold of him. He said he had taken Nakamura's best shot, taken the kinshasa square in the jaw, and still come out on top. Now NXT had a real champion, a man who looked and walked and talked like a champion. He said NXT was his, and he would make NXT glorious.
Trent Seven video package, talking about hailing from Moustache Mountain.
Tye Dillinger & No Way Jose & Roderick Strong vs. Sanity. The highlight of this match came when Roddy got the hot tag. Nothing unsual there, but this had nothing to do with Roddy. As he was running wild with kicks and knees, chunks of something started to fall from the ceiling. Jose, in the corner, was looking up at the lights to see what happened. Match broke into a seven-way, with Nikki interfering. Dane wiped out Roddy with a cross-body (I told you he was like Mike Knox) and Young covered him for the pin. A fun show.
NJPW Highlights (2/11/17)
Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi. They came out and stood there calm for entrances, and stared each other down, and then the bell rang and they just started wailing on each other like cats and it was so awesome I could just laugh. In the next minute we got about 15 ranas and a tope, then they took a WELL-deserved rest in the aisle. Hottest start to a match I've seen in a long time. Then nothing happened for a while. These guys understand the importance of pacing and peaks and valleys and not just going a million miles an hour out there start to finish. Though it must be said that even in the slow bits they were still running all the place. Suddenly Takahashi hit a sunset flip powerbomb and Lee bumped HARD from the apron to the floor. They took it easy for a while, then Lee hit a rana off the apron, then a huge flip dive to the floor. Back in, Lee hit a series of rolling suplexes that probably seemed cooler on paper than it was in reality. They brawled up top, and Takahashi hooked his legs in the ropes and suplexed Lee, who went flat-back to the floor. Dude. What the fuck is wrong with you? And Takahashi followed with a running dive off the apron, but Lee powerbombed him on the floor. This is more hardcore and more extreme than almost anything that ever happened ECW or FMW. They started trading light-speed suplexes, most of them putting the recipient right on his head. This match sure is aerobic, that's for sure. There were assorted upside-down bumps into turnbuckles. Lee tried a running rana, but Takahashi powerbombed him HARD into the apron and let him fall carelessly to the floor. This is like the Hardys-Dudleys-E&C ladder matches, without the ladders. Takahashi followed with a diving senton that sent both men crashing into the guardrail. Back in, Lee used a variety of submission holds, but Takahashi got the ropes. Then we got a ref bump, and not a good one. Lee blocked a rollup, but Takahashi yanked his mask off, which let him hit the rollup, but Lee kicked out and his buddy helped him put the mask back on. He hit a flipping suplex for a Mania nearfall. Takahashi turned a powerbomb into a Canadian destroyer for a nearfall. And then, 20-whatever minutes in, this just turned into a WWE main event, with nonstop big moves and nearfalls. Takahashi finaly won with some kind of spinning slam. Well, I cannot discourage people from imitating this strongly enough, but it certainly was not boring. (***1/2).
Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin. Elgin hit the most effortless press slam of all time early. Then Naito tried a dive but Elgin caught him in suplex position, carried him over to the ramp, and suplexed him there. OK, that was nuts. Naito caught Elgin's leg in the ropes and went to work on it. This went on for a while, including Naito using the wackiest figure-four variant I've seen in a while. Elgin came back with a big flipping suplex. Then he started running all over the place, leg totally fine. He hit a suplex into the turnbuckles, then was like "oh shit, my leg," and limped over and hit a slow-motion German for a nearfall. He hit a bunch of standing lariats, but Naito wouldn't go down. We got a bunch of reversals and then a rolling Germans spot. Naito tried a tornado DDT, but Elgin stopped him halfway through and tried a suplex, but Naito still hit a DDT for a nearfall. Elgin kept throwing elbows, but Naito kept going to the eyes and knee. They brawled up top and Naito hit a sunset flip powerbomb. Then he tried something off the top and Elgin caught him in a powerbomb. Elgin went up top and just hit a big ol' splash. I don't know why that was so funny. Both guys were moving pretty slowly now. Naito tried a top rope rana. Elgin almost reversed it, but Naito pulled it off, then hit a reverse rana for a super-close nearfall. He followed with a wacky leg grapevine. Elgin teased tapping but got the ropes. He hit a DVD on the apron, then a TERRIFYING falcon arrow in the ring for a nearfall. He made fun of Naito's weird eyeball pose and hit a backfist and buckle bomb, but Naito raked his eyes, then hit destino for not the finish. He tried it again, but Elgin caught him and hit a DVD into the corner. They brawled outside, where Elgin hit a last ride onto the apron, which was totally tame, and then a throwing powerbomb into the guardrail, which was INSANE, and then a spiral powerbomb inside for a super-close nearfall. He tried a burning hammer, but Naito turned it into a reverse DDT. He kept avoiding the burning hammer. And then he just hit destino and won. This was WAY too long. (***).
WWE Elimination Chamber (2/12/17)
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James. So we had Mickie out there in silver bell bottoms and Becky in a sheer top over a bra. It was all intense early, but basic grappling. Eventually Mickie cut her off with a divorce court and went to work on the arm. Lots of hammerlocks. Actually, a wide variety of armlocks. Mickie was trained up right and has better fundamentals than 80 percent of the roster. She's also 37 and a mom and looked great out there. Becky made a comeback and hit the exploder, but Mickie came back with a top rope Thesz press for a nearfall. She hit the Mick kick, but Becky got a foot on the ropes, then kicked out. They did a series of counters and reversals and finally Becky got a cradle for the win. This was some very good professional wrestling right here. (***).
Carmella and James Ellsworth were watching the show from a suite. Dasha called her "Carmello.".
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kalisto & Apollo Crews. Dolph jumped Kalisto on the entrance ramp and threw him into the light board. Dolph, who is out there trying to get booed, worked the American flag into his gear. So we got a one-on-one match instead. Long headlock. LONG headlock. This match blows. Kalisto came limping out. Then he tagged in and ran wild, stopping to grab his back once in a while. Apollo tagged in and hit a powerbomb for the win. YAY TWO GUYS! YOU BEAT UP THAT ONE GUY! This was stupid and boring and also stupid. Dolph then beat both men up by himself afterwards and Pillmanized Crews' ankle. Crowd chanted "THANK YOU ZIGGLER!" Did I mention that this was stupid and boring and stupid? (1/2*).
Tag team turmoil: Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. Breezango. FACT: Heath and Rhyno are great. Heath was out there being babyface-running-wild-on-everyone, then when it came time to tag out he pointed at Rhyno who made THE funniest look of anticipation to the crowd. Eventually of course we got heat on Heath. We had like a one-minute battle of a sunset flip, Fandango dropping fashion tickets in Heath's face, then Rhyno blind-tagging in and hitting a gore for the win. This, in hindsight, was the most fun segment of the whole match, and this would have been much better just giving these two teams ten minutes and telling everyone else to stay home. Instead, the VaudeVillains came out. Then two minutes later Heath Slater pinned Aiden English with an impaler DDT to eliminate the VaudeVillains. Usos were out next. Heath ran wild a bit, which made it clear he was losing, and in fact he was after a superkick. Out came American Alpha. They brawled in the aisle. Usos worked them over and there were some boring chants. We went from three pinfalls in six or seven minutes to suddenly a long, plodding heat segment. This is a way to drag a crowd to a halt. Jordan got a hot tag and people weren't even into his suplexes much. Usos counted the double-team bulldog, but Gable got the win with a rolling cradle. Usos assaulted them after the match, throwing Jordan into the post and dragging Gable from the apron to the floor. So Ascension came out with Alpha already laid out. They got wacky new entrance masks. They immediately hit Jordan with the fall of man, but Gable broke up the pin. Then Gable got a hot tag and they immediately pinned Viktor with grand amplitude. This was a very weird ten-minute segment that basically made the entire Smackdown division look like geeks. (**).
Natalya vs. Nikki. The prematch video for this went FOREVER. We get it, Nattie is jealous of Nikki's success and taking jabs at her personal life. This included Nikki Bella doing the worst jiu jitsu ever, and this is ME saying this. They were both doing John Cena's "you can't see me" thing. At some point, shouldn't John and Nikki have been an on-screen couple in this story? Like one of the times she was laid out backstage, shouldn't he have checked on her? Even if it was just to have her tell him to stay out of it, she could fight her own battles? Natalya got the heat forever and it was boring. There was a very long Indian deathlock spot. Nikki turned it into a STF that was actually better than Cena's. I realize that is a low bar to clear. Nikkie made her comeback, which improved things slightly. Nattie hit a superplex and hooked a sharpshooter. Nikki reversed that to the "fearless lock," which is what they call her STF, and suddenly the crowd came to life. They rolled outside and brawled on the floor and both got counted out. A-yup. The best you could say about this is that it was an average Smackdown match that went way too long, but even that is generous for what we got. (1/2*).
Carmella and James Ellsworth in his new white rapper gimmick were backstage watching the show. What's her name interviewed them. Ellsworth just reapeated whatever Carmella said.
Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton cut a promo saying they would go their separate ways, but reunite.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper. This video, with Harper shooting "I hate you" eyes at Randy when they were still in the family together, was amazing. Highlight early was when JBL noted it was a good thing they had eight announcers out there in case somebody got hurt. Harper ran wild early, but people were not into him, and Randy got a big ovation for knocking Harper off the top rope for the heat. Orton hit a suplex onto the announce desk and Harper took the best bump ever, rolling backwards over his head and landing on his feet on the floor, then falling onto Mauro. They did a chinlock for a while. Luke made his comeback. He teased a tope and there finally some chants for him, and he hit the tope on his second try. They brawled on the floor and Orton hit a sloppy powerslam on the floor. Then we got our second superplex in two match. Fans incorrectly chanted that this was awesome. Harper avoided an RKO. Then Randy set up for a second one and everyone cheered, but Harper hit a pair of superkicks for a nearfall. And suddenly this match, which had been just long and dull, got fun and exciting. Harper hit a powerbomb for a nearfall. They did the BOO! YAY! spot and people were cheering for Harper, but then Orton caught him with the RKO out of nowhere for the win. A (****) finish to a (**) match means a final rating of (***).
Nattie and Nikki brawled backstage. Yeah, I needed to see more of them.
Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss. God, Alexa is tiny. I dig Alexa's Supergirl-inspired gear. Nobody cared for a while, then they did one cool series of counters and reversals, then everyone went back to not caring. Naomi did a bunch of extraneous flips, including a blockbuster for a nearfall, then the rear view for a nearfall. Alexa hit her moonsault for a nearfall. Still nobody cared. This looked like it totally fell apart, but they saved it by having Naomi get her knees up on the twisting splash, then hitting a split-leg moonsault (with her knees going RIGHT into Alexa's ribs) for the win. Renee went into the ring to interview her and the crowd told her she deserved it and she actually cried. (*).
More fun with Carmella and Ellsworth. Ellsworth told Dasha to scram.
Elimination Chamber: John Cena vs. AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Miz vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose. I forgot Dean was in this. They got a brand new chamber that was square instead of round. They got a new ring announcer dude. Cena and AJ started. Fans appeared to be chanting 16 different things at once. AJ hit the torture rack powerbomb literally a minute in. Cena hit a code red for a nearfall. AJ hit the AA onto the knee for a nearfall. This whole segment is only going five minutes, remember. JBL talked about Umaga hurting his bare feet walking across the steel great, so imagine what would happen when you fell on it. Literally nothing else happened in those five minutes. Well that was disappointing. Dean Ambrose was the next man in. He threw Cena out of the ring, and that deadly steel great JBL had been talking about was now covered with rubber mats. Well that's much better for everyone. Especially for AJ, who took a crazy flipping suplex out there. Dean climbed up on top of a pod and dove off onto Cena. We got the triple-belly to back suplex spot. Very convoluted choreographed spot ending with a see-saw lariat for a triple-down, then Bray was number four. He ran wild briefly but then got taken out by AJ and we had a quadruple-down. AJ and Cena climbed up the side together for some reason. Then Cena took a big flat back bump to the rubber mats, and the camera MISSED IT. Jesus. AJ and Dean fought on top of a pod and rammed each other into plexiglass. Dean tried something onto Bray and at the point of impact the camera cut to shot that was obscured by the ropes and post and I have no idea what happened. Who is directing this? They SUCK! We got a big tower of doom spot with AJ flying off the top across the ring. Corbin was number five. Wait, they're saving MIZ for last? Somehow, with all that space to work with, we had four guys fighting in one space outside the ring. Corbin hit AJ with an end of days, but Cena zoomed in and locked Cena in an STF. Corbin escaped and hit end of days on him too, but then got jumped from behind by Dean. Baron wiped him out too, and was standing tall alone in the ring when Miz's time ran out an the had to enter. Miz was SO GREAT coming out scared, and then Dean jumped Baron and pinned him with a schoolboy. So Baron snapped and threw Dean threw the plexiglass in a pod. Miz was standing across the ring, hand over his mouth. Corbin dropped Dean with an end of days before refs were finally able to eliminate him. Miz was still standing withing the safety of his pod, and once the Chamber door was locked shut with Corbin outside, Miz jumped on Dean and pinned him. But now they have to open the door again! What if Corbin comes back? Miz set up Cena and Bray and did the Daniel Bryan double kick spot, and the camera cut with ever fucking kick and I was getting nauseous. The directing in this match is AWFUL. Miz continued to run wild on all three men. He hit the skull crushing finale to Bray outside, then tried a dive onto Cena, but Cena rolled through and hit the AA to pin him. AJ and Bray briefly double-teamed Cena, but Bray quickly turned on him, and Cena made a comeback on both dudes and did a ten-knuckle shuffle. It looked SO goofy. He hit an AA on Bray, but then AJ hit him with a Styles Clash for a nearfall. Cena avoided a phenomenal forearm and hit an AA for a nearfall. JBL astutely noted this was a continuation of their Rumble match. Cena climbed up on top of a pod and did a dive onto both men. Wyatt caught Cena with Sister Abigail and pinned him. Well OK then. They paused for a while to let it soak in that we were now watching AJ vs. Bray one-on-one for the WWE world championship. AJ avoided a Sister Abigail, but Bray wiped him out with a clothesline for a super-close nearfall. Yes, with a CLOTHESLINE. AJ avoided the uranage and hit the Pele kick and a shining wizard. Apparently that was supposed to be Daniel Bryan's kneestrike finish. Bryan tried the phenomenal forearm, but Bray caught him and hit Sister Abigail. That didn't come off looking as smoothly as they had hoped, but crowd didn't care and counted along as the ref counted three. Yes, Bray Wyatt pinned John Cena and AJ Styles clean as a sheet with his finish in the middle of the ring to win the world title. Bray was celebrating with his belt and pointing to the sign and the fireflies were out when Orton appeared at the top of the stage. They made eye contact, then Bray dropped to his knees in celebration. Orton just mean-mugged him. Match got off to a slow start, but fun PPV main event by the end. (***1/2)