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Figure Four Weekly: Previewing WWE Fastlane

Previewing WWE Fastlane


by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

The era of brand-exclusive pay-per-views will officially come to an end on Sunday night as Fastlane takes place at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Even with SmackDown's quality having been down and this again being a fairly lackluster card for the brand, there's always some added intrigue for PPVs that set things up for WrestleMania. And while Fastlane isn't quite a one-match show, almost all of that intrigue lies in what will happen in the main event.

John Cena was added to the main event last week, expanding an already bloated match. It will be AJ Styles defending his WWE Championship against Cena, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin in a six-pack challenge. Cena joining the match isn't a bad decision. After not being much of a factor for the past year, the angle of him being desperate to find a path to WrestleMania is at least compelling. Sure, it's definitely contrived. But there really aren't any better ways to get to Cena vs. The Undertaker. Assuming that plan comes to fruition, Undertaker's time on television needs to be as limited as possible leading up to WrestleMania in New Orleans. But Cena's addition makes Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin's participation in the main event pointless. They're just taking up space in what should be a fatal four-way between Styles, Cena, Owens, and Zayn.

Sunday night should end with Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura being confirmed for WrestleMania. There's nothing else SmackDown could do that's a better option, and adding anyone else would cheapen it. WWE has seemingly saved their first singles meeting in the company for the biggest spot possible. And while Nakamura hasn't fully lived up to the hype either in NXT or on the main roster, he's been an elite big-match wrestler throughout his career. There's no reason to think him facing Styles won't be near the level of their Wrestle Kingdom 10 match at the Tokyo Dome. It's an important spot for Nakamura to prove he's still capable of being one of the best in the world when the occasion calls for it.

If Styles vs. Nakamura does end up becoming official, SmackDown's biggest remaining question for WrestleMania will be what's planned for Owens and Zayn. Their feud with Shane McMahon has been the primary focus of the brand since October. It peaked in December, but there's never been a point where a satisfying conclusion has seemed likely. The program has overstayed its welcome, and the logical endpoint for it isn't possible unless Daniel Bryan somehow gets cleared between now and April. If Owens and Zayn are going to face each other, the months of authority figure drama has been a waste.

As important as Styles vs. Nakamura is for SmackDown, Charlotte Flair defending her Women's title against Asuka at WrestleMania might be even more vital. The division has been stagnant since the roster shakeup in 2017. Losing Asuka would hurt the mix that Raw has going on in the women's division, but there's enough depth there to get by. Ruby Riott, who is challenging for Charlotte's title at Fastlane, is the only credible challenger left with the current face/heel alignments. And The Riott Squad still feel like a group that has been thrown together instead of integrated members of the roster. Asuka would add another main-event level wrestler to SmackDown and freshen things up, hopefully giving people like Becky Lynch and Naomi more to do. Asuka facing Charlotte is the biggest non-Ronda Rousey women's match that WWE could put on.

With there being too many people in the main event, The Usos vs. New Day for the Tag Team titles is the safest bet to be match of the night at Fastlane. The tag division was the highlight of the SmackDown-only PPVs in 2017. Going back to this matchup might not be ideal, but the story of The Usos wanting to finally get on a WrestleMania main card is a good direction for the division. On the other hand, the Bobby Roode/Randy Orton/Jinder Mahal United States title program has been awful. When no one else on the roster cares about the SmackDown Top 10 List, they look stupid for feuding over it. Hopefully their matches are better than the segments that they've taken part in.

WWE's change to all dual-brand PPVs should be a welcomed one. On average, SmackDown's PPVs were well below Raw's last year -- and Fastlane doesn't look like it's going to break that trend. But heading into New Orleans, things feel hotter for WWE as a whole than they've been in a while with Ronda Rousey signing, Brock Lesnar's contract status being built into his storyline with Roman Reigns, and the potential for a Styles vs. Nakamura title match. Sustaining that momentum and putting the company in the best position possible for TV rights negotiations will be WWE's focus coming out of WrestleMania.


Mexico Notes


by Steve "Dr. Lucha" Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

AAA is the oddest wrestling promotion in the world at the moment, and one of the oddest ones ever for a "national" promotion. The ideas they come up with and think to use, their cards, their shows, their TV.

This past Sunday evening, March 4th, AAA ran its annual El Rey de Reyes show. The venue this year with the brand-new Acropolis in Puebla. Honoring its namesake, the Acropolis is roughly a modern version of a Mexican bullring and pretty close to be two-times-sized replica of Mexico City's Arena Coliseo. It would and could have made a spectacular sight on television; it was the first wresting event in the venue. The pictures on social media were gorgeous. Every seat wasn't taken but most were and it was a nice house and would look very good on TV. You would hardly know it if you were one of the sometimes-close-to-20,000 fans watching the feed live on Twitch. Wow.

You would know that Vampiro was there at TV control trying to get the attention of the TV hosts, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, an affect that was sometimes hilarious and sometimes weird and sometimes sad. Wow.

Neither the crowd nor the ring was miked well and what appeared to be easy loud pops (say La Parka's entrance) could barely be heard. But you could hear the announcers say the same word every ten seconds, after anything that happened in the ring. Wow.

Look, we knew going in that virtually everything that would happen would be to set up TripleMania, even on their second-biggest show of the year, in the sort of way the Royal Rumble leads to WrestleMania. It leads to fairly obvious guesses as to how matches and story lines will go, and that can be frustrating, but to me, not nearly so frustrating as following the action as AAA films/broadcasts it. Nowhere are spots, blades, uncertainties, botches, etc., more on display than when AAA tapes its TV. The camera angles are often weird, more video-game-ish than television-traditional as CMLL is these days. The matches and spots are probably better than we are seeing on TV, they're just not filmed to highlight the abilities of the workers. Wow.

Lastly on the review of the product, seriously, both if not every Mexican wrestling promotion should throw out basically every referee there is and start anew with the rules that any referee who gets noticed in a match gets fired. I understand the core base of lucha libre as a cathartic-for-the-fan morality play for good (the fans) overcoming all the obstacles of life in the end, including THE MAN (referees) corrupting the system at every turn, but the modern Mexican ref goes way beyond that and way way way into the areas of suspension-of-disbelief-running incompetence, or entertainment-corrupting venality, or both. Wow.

El Hijo del Fantasma (mask) defeated El Texano Jr. (hair) in a short match, decent for a while but rushed - almost surely to be done before the stream time limit expired (PS need I mention AAA did not start on time and added an extra match before the announced matches started). So Psycho Clown's and Hijo del Fantasma's masks will be on the line at TripleMania. Wow.

Rey Escorpion won the Rey de Reyes tourney. He was not in any of the four quarterfinal qualifying matches but was a "luchador sorpresa" in the first of the four semifinal matches. Argenis, Pagano, and El Mesias was the other surprises, far outshining virtually everyone else who qualified in the quarterfinal. La Parka, El Hijo del Vikingo, and Bengala advance to the final as well. The matches were "eh" as four-way dances. Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. pinned Dr. Wagner Jr. in the semifinal of an eight-man tag, furthering a feud that I strongly suspect the AAA audience will crap all over. A TLC match with no belts to grab but apparently for the AAA Tag Titles wen to not-that-Tito Santana, Carta Brava Jr., and Mocho Cota Jr. Finally, Faby Apache beat Lady Shani in that unannounced opener, a good and solid match, maybe the best on the show. Wow.

Next weekend (3/16) is the date for CMLL's El Homenaje a Dos Leyendas; preview in next week's issue, with results and analysis the week after that…


Japan Notes


by Bryan Rose (@br26)

With the New Japan Cup brackets being released this past Monday, and with the first show starting on March 9, now's a good time as any to take a look at the opening round brackets that will take place across four shows.

March 9 will have Juice Robinson taking on Yujiro Takahashi, which honestly doesn't sound that great. Takahashi at this point is fine as a guy in a multi-man tag bout, but doesn't show anything beyond that. Meanwhile, Michael Elgin will take on Tomohiro Ishii in the main event. The last match they had back in 2015 was awesome, so I hope their 2018 bout is just as good.

March 10 will have Bad Luck Fale facing off against Lance Archer. This sounds like a fun "big guy" bout that has a lot of potential. Meanwhile, Taichi and Hiroshi Tanahashi will headline. I feel like Tanahashi is coming back way too early from a barrage of injuries he's collected over the last year, not limited to his bad knee and his torn bicep. Taichi, graduating to the heavyweight division, is getting some recognition for his work as a heel who will do everything in his power to stall and have a bad match. Some people think it's great. Good for them! I think his act sucks once the bell rings and I blame him for killing the Super J Cup for another decade. This will be either astonishingly bad, or way better than it had any right to be. Take your pick.

March 11 has YOSHI-HASHI vs. Kota Ibushi. YOSHI-HASHI's a good, but not great worker, while Kota Ibushi is one of the best in the world, so I think they'll have a pretty fun match. Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. face off for the first time ever in the main event. This should be fascinating to watch; a first time match between these two could easily wind up being one of the best bouts of the tournament. I think in terms of overall interest this has to be the match to watch out for.

The final day of the opening round, March 12, has Toru Yano facing Davey Boy Smith Jr.. Remember that the New Japan Cup features one or two upsets every year, so Yano is likely to spoil DBS's prospects of winning. But then again, maybe he won't -- you never know! Chuckie T and SANADA will determine the final second round participant in the tournament. Chuckie's likely replacing Baretta, who is out for the foreseeable future with tears in both his pectoral and tricep muscles. This should be good, as I like Chuck's work and SANADA can be pretty damn awesome in high profile situations like this.

As far as who will win, it's kinda too early to tell. But if I had to choose, I think Tanahashi, Ibushi or even a dark horse candidate like Tomohiro Ishii have a good chance of taking it. Any of those three headlining against Okada at Sakura Genesis sounds like the best possible main event for a Sumo Hall show.

Tanahashi coming back early makes it seem like he has the best prospects of winning. But if he does, who will he challenge? The last time we saw him, he was utterly destroyed in what was a virtual squash by Minoru Suzuki. Theoretically, it would make the most sense for Tanahashi to challenge him if he wins the tournament. But will he? A IWGP title match in such a high profile setting is almost too good to pass up, after all.

Decisions, decisions. But then again, he may not even make it past the first round! Upsets are bound to happen, and Tanahashi may somehow lose to Taichi. Yes, it's possible. When it comes to the New Japan Cup, anything can happen, so be prepared to crumple up your brackets and throw 'em in the trash because nothing's a sure thing.


Vinny's TV Reviews


by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

NWA World Championship Wrestling (11/28/87)

Show opened with just a clip of Ric Flair making his entrance with his music playing. Nothing else needed to be said.

Tony Schiavonie opened with the big news: Nelson Royal was the new Jr. Heavyweight champion. Seriously. Then he broke down the other title changes from Starrcade, and Nikita Koloff stepped up with both TV belts. He said Terry Taylor was right up there with his best opponents ever, but now it was time to move on to the Bunkhouse Stampede, and he left to prepare to fight 20 or 25 men.

Rock & Roll Express vs. Trent Knight & Larry Stephens. New music for the Rock & Rolls. I think this may have been the music they were actually using at the time. This went much longer than it needed to, which meant a lot of headlocks and chinlocks, but at least the Express wasn't justlying there. They'd put on a hold, crank it a bit, then transition to something else. Eventually they won with the double dropkick.

Jim Cornette immediately hit the announce desk with the Midnight Express and Big Bubba and said Morton's dad was alcoholic and his mom was ugly. Rock & Rolls just walked off. He talked about Bubba winning the most money in the Bunkhouse Stampede last year, and how the US tag team champs represented America than the US singles champion, Dusty Rhodes. Bobby and Stan were having so much fun silently fucking with each other.

Michael P.S. Hayes & Gorgeous Jimmy vs. Gladiator #1 & Gladiator #2. They were pushing the Freebirds as the new top contenders to Tully & Arn. Freebirds beat them up for a while and Jimmy won with the brainbuster.

They showed the finish of the Luger-Rhodes match from Starrcade. This involved lots of lying around. Tony then gave a speech about being around the sport for four years, and how what followed was a side of the Dream not many people had seen before, but he had. They showed a press conference where Dusty Rhodes awkwardly sat at a table and began to speak. He was joined by Jim Crockett, Johnny Weaver, and three dudes I didn't recognize. He said a few times this was a postgame press conference and we were to believe it was right after the match, although Dusty was all showered and clean and not bleeding. He said he was as tired as he had ever been, and it might be time to lay this old body down. He would go home and think about it, and if he had to retire in 1988, he would be grateful for everything. And he walked away. Nobody could possibly have believed there was any actual press there.

Larry Zbyszko vs. Bob Riddle. Nothing happened. I mean, nothing. For the first three minutes there was one lockup and just lots of chanting. This went on for a few minutes. Then the wrestling started and I understood why Larry had stalled so long. Bob Riddle, the Worst Wrestler of All Time of the Week, fucked up every single thing he did, including fucking up the finisher at least twice. Larry then cut a promo saying Barry Windham's time was up, and he was going to take the Western States Heritage title, then challenge Ric Flair. Baby Doll cut him off and said Dusty Rhodes was the new US champ, and she knew how to beat him. They showed a clip of Zbyszko and Windham wrestling. Larry hit Barry with a foreign object and won, but then Tim Horner hit the ring and stooged Zbyszko off, even reaching into his trunks to grab the gimmick. So Larry beat Horner's ass and then beat Windham up some more too. What a monster Larry looked like here. Larry ranted about how all the champions were in danger now.

Flair came out for a promo. The studio audience gave him a standing ovation. They showed the finish of the Flair-Garvin match. Flair was very happy to see this, then promised to be MORE obnoxious, MORE overbearing, and teach everyone to learn to love it. He said he had destroyed Garvin, Tully & Arn had destroyed the Road Warriors, and Lex Luger suffered a minor setback, nothing he couldn't fix tomorrow. He talked about how great the Horsemen were, and promised that the captain of the team was still behind Lex, and Dusty should retire because nobody would want to wrestle Luger twice. DAMN this was great. This is how it should be, with Ric Flair as world champion, and Ronnie Garvin not.

Sting vs. David Isley. Some sloppiness. Sting sometimes he was just going to drop elbows, didn't matter if Isley was on his back, on his belly, sitting up, rolling over, whatever. Then he hit a standing elbow where Isley just had nowhere to go and they both almost fell down. He won with the Stinger splash and the scorpion. In all seriousness, maybe the worst I've ever seen Sting look in a match.

After the break, but still blown up, Sting talked about going through five different partners and all kinds of opponents, but he had been through it all and was challenging Ric Flair. He was randomly screaming and howling and turning his back to the camera. Schiavonie asked about the Bunkhouse Stampede and Sting said it was right up his alley, a great tension release, and he beat his chest and howled and left. This was great. Jim Crockett then talked about how surprised he was to hear that Dusty was considering retirement.

Midnight Express vs. Thunderfoot #1 & Thunderfoot #2. Cornette did a promo about how the Midnights were so desperate for competition, they pulled Thunderfoots, the former Central States champions, out of the heel locker room to get a match. Midnights beat them bell to bell and won with a flapjack. This meant more promo time for Cornette, so he plugged the Bunkhouse Stampede.

JJ Dillon and Lex Luger came out for a promo. Lex wasted no time in congratulating his fellow Horsemen on their big wins. He said the intensity of Starrcade was unlike anything he had ever felt in a football game. He congratulated Dusty on wrestling a hell of a match, and said they were two of the best athletes in all of wrestling. He took off his shirt and started to flex to show off the merchandise. He learned something in every match, and someday he'd thank Dusty Rhodes for what he had learned. He promised to dominate for the next decade. A great promo to re-establish Lex after his title loss.

Steve Williams vs. Tommy Angel. Doc ran wild with armdrags and dropkicks like he was a luchador. He won with a press slam, a football tackle (which Angel managed to fuck up somehow) and the stampede. Williams cut a promo saying there was no controversy in the title match. Doc had done what any athlete would do with gold on the line. He offered Windham a rematch whenever he wanted, then moved on to the Bunkhouse Stampede, which now was up to 30 or 35 men in one ring. He said he was the fossil of the UWF, but he could prove how tough he was.

Ronnie Garvin came out for a promo. He made no excuse about his title loss, here in his trucker cap with the US and Confederate flags that read "American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God," and his denim jacket. He said when a football team lost the Super Bowl, they fired the coaches and the players, but he had no coach and he was the only player, so he was going to swim twice as far, run twice as far, train twice as long. The Freebirds came out and said sometimes in sports, the event did not live up to the hype, but Hayes had never had the feeling he had watching the Flair-Garvin match before, and in his eyes Ronnie was still the champion. He thanked Ronnie for exposing Flair's weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and they all wanted a shot at Flair. Jimmy congratulated his brother on proving the champ could be beaten, and that nothing was impossible. Ronnie Garvin said any one of them might beat Flair, and he didn't really seem to care which one it was.

Ron Simmons vs. Rick Steiner. Well then. Kevin Sullivan came out to watch, and started shouting instructions to Steiner. Rick hit a powerslam, but stopped to ask Sullivan what he wanted. Simmons hit a schoolboy for a two-count, but Steiner popped up and low-blowed him. This was not a DQ. Then he threw Simmons over the top rope. This was also not a DQ. Then Steiner and Sullivan left together and got counted out. Well this could have been done WAY better, but it leads to the creation of THE VARSITY CLUB, one of the best factions ever, so I'll allow it.

SPAM SLAM OF THE WEEK. Doctor Death press slammed a Thunderfoot. They didn't even show the slam, just the lift.

Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Rocky King & Chance McQuade. Horsemen beat their asses and won with a spinebuster and slingshot suplex. Horsemen then all cut a promo saying the Warriors must be back in the gym, working on their bench press some more, but now the Horsemen were on to bigger and better things, by which he meant the afterparty. Arn talked about doing whatever it took to win a championship, but now there was a void in the group. Lex took off his sunglasses and listened. Arn said some people wanted to be a star, wanted to make commercials, wanted to go to Hollywood. He said the Horsemen were a well-oiled machine, and when one of those gears went flying off, the others got that gear back on track. Flair promised they were all together and got them all to do the handshake together, but Arn wouldn't look Lex in the eye.

Mike Rotundo did a promo about how some guys didn't have their mind on wrestling, and they wound up in trouble. He said he could outwrestle anyone and take any strap.

Mighty Wilbur & Barry Windham & Ricky Santana vs. Ivan Koloff & Warlord & Barbarian. HOLY CRAP! They did some awful brawling, especially when it came down to Wilbur and Ivan. Wilbur was just unwatchably bad. Barry didn't even bother tagging in, he just hit the ring and told Wilbur to leave. Sadly Wilbur later returned. This guy had NO clue what the hell he was doing. Soon all six dudes were brawling everywhere. It settled down and Windham got a hot tag, but then the brawl just broke out again. They were pushing this as the kind of action you'd see in the Bunkhouse Stampede. Wilbur got a chain but Teddy Long got it away from him. Somewhere in here we got Barbarian vs. Barry Windham, which was the best possible combination they could do. Santana got a hot tag and the show went off the air with the match still in progress. LAME. Still, a fun show, and a much needed reset after the Starrcade build had everything in a holding pattern for so many weeks.

WCW WrestleWar 1992 (5/17/92)

WarGames: Sting's Squadron (Sting & Nikita Koloff & Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes & Ricky Steamboat) vs. Dangerous Alliance (Rick Rude & Steve Austin & Larry Zbyszko & Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton). Announcers were Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura. They were awesome. Paul E Dangerously had this massive chart with him, like a flowchart, breaking down all the possible matchups and strategies they would use. Austin and Windham started. Austin's trunks were so fantastically ghetto. Can you get wrestling trunks made at the mall? Last year everyone fucked up the dives from one ring to the other. This year Austin hit the very first one, a ring-to-ring clothesline. Austin hit the cage and started bleeding. They had a time on the screen for the last minute. It had tenths of a second. That made me laugh. The Alliance won the coin toss and Rick Rude hit the ring. This was a big deal -- he was their top guy. He took over on Windham and the place was going crazy. Windham made a short comeback but got overwhelmed. Austin was VERY bloody. His blood was dripping all over Windham's body. Steamboat was in next and made a white-hot comeback, DDT'ing all the heels and firing up. It was awesome. Arn was the next man in for the Alliance. DDTs and spinebusters rained down. He and Rude put Steamboat in a double crab. Dustin was in next and made another great comeback. Twenty-six years later he's still working. He did a great atomic drop on Austin where Austin's head hit the cage and his ass hit Dustin's knee and he sold both. Arn got his head stuck between the rings and Barry, well, shook him. Larry was in next for the heels, but Dustin was there to greet him and whip his ass to a massive ovation. Madusa climbed the cage and passed Paul E's cell phone into the ring. Sting climbed up there to meet her, and she scurried back down. This all looked terribly unsafe. So all the heels were winning now. Sting, the world champion, was in next for his team. He threw everyone around. Everyone ended up in one ring for a while. Rude got his head stuck between the rings. Eaton was the last man in for the Alliance. Good lord almighty Dustin was a bloody mess at this point. Is it possible to gig your own head off? Because he might have done it. Alliance members were loosening the turnbuckle in one corner. Nikita was the last man in, and the match beyond began. He had a staredown with Sting, his own partner. But the Alliance charged, and Nikita pushed Sting aside to take the bullet. Then they made a comeback and they had a big high five and hug and everyone went crazy. Dustin hit Larry with about the best boot you ever saw. Sting locked Arn in the scorpion, but Eaton broke it up. The turnbuckle came apart, and the one ring had no top rope now. So much blood here. Dustin got a figure-four on Larry, but it got broken up. Larry swung the turnbuckle at Sting, but Eaton took it in the arm instead, and Sting locked Eaton in an armbar. Eaton submitted quickly to end the match. Alliance determined this was Larry's fault and chewed him out for several minutes, but nothing came of that. Well, I don't know if that was the best WarGames of all time, but it was awfully fucking good. (****1/4)

WWF Retro Raw 301 (3/1/99)

The Corporation came out for a promo. Vince said he had shown weakness last week, and that moment had been place in the museum of television and radio history. He was "reduced to a quivering mass of apoplexy." He talked about his capacity to love, and said he had a surprise for Taker this week. He addressed Kane, who had LIED last week when he said Taker would burn in hell. And so Kane became I think the first guy to hear "YOU'RE FIRED" from Vince. The guys in the white coats came out to get Kane, so at least they maintained that bit of storytelling. Kane was ready to fight them when Chyna joined in and they beat the orderlies up. Chyna told Vince Kane could be an asset, and I can control him. She offered to be responsible for Kane and take accountability for him, and wanted Vince to book Kane vs. Steve Austin. So Vince agreed that if Kane could beat Austin tonight, he would stay in the Corporation, but if he failed, Kane and Chyna would both be fired. Mankind came out and said he wanted to ref the match. Vince agreed, if Mankind could beat Undertaker tonight, noting that nobody had beaten Undertaker more than Mankind. Mankind agreed and the lights went out and Taker's music played, and we heard his disembodied voice threatening Vince and cackling. Well there sure was a lot going on in this segment. We're already 15 minutes in.

Austin arrived at the building During The Break and Earl Hebner let him know he was wrestling Kane. Austin said he was going to Mania any way so he didn't care who he wrestled.

Ken Shamrock vs. Val Venis vs. Goldust. They showed a doctor telling Billy Gunn he had fluid in his lungs and was on the verge of pneumonia and could not compete tonight. Billy was not happy about this. Blue Meanie and Ryan Shamrock were out there. They worked hard and had a fun three-minute match. Goldust kissed Ryan to piss off Ken. Ken DDT'd Val, then went after Goldust. Blue Meanie tried to fight Ken Shamrock and failed. Oh, how I laughed. And then Goldust and Ken got counted out and Val won. In a TRIPLE THREAT. Yeah. Billy Gunn ran out and laid out Val. "He couldn't compete tonight because of asthma!" Cole screamed.

Mankind and Al Snow were shown talking to "Jim Ross" backstage. We only saw Ross from the back.

Mankind had a great Chef Boyardee commercial.

Well, Jim Ross came out. No Oklahoma music, but a big ovation. He was there to interview Bart Gunn. Yes. They showed the mystery masked man attacking Bart last week. Ross asked Bart if he could knock out Butterbean like he had everyone else. Ross immediately noted that Bart, like everyone else, couldn't look him in the face. He said he was ready to go back to work, but they wouldn't put him on TV because nobody wanted to look at his face now. He said Bart had knocked out Steve Williams in Brawl For All and then bragged about knocking out JR's boy. He slapped Bart in the face and blamed Bart for his condition. Bart backed him into the corner when Williams appeared and suplexed Bart onto his head repeatedly. Doc and JR left together to cheers, because Ross had a legit beef about not getting his job back and Doc is awesome.

Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, and Debra came out for a promo. Owen said he was not a nugget. Jarrett listed all the teams they had beaten. Both of them. Jarrett said they had issued an open challenge, and if they lost tonight, Debra would disrobe.

Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart vs. Triple H & X-Pac. They worked hard and had a fun three-minute match. X-Pac hit Jarrett with the X-factor but Debra distracted the ref. She got knocked off the apron and X-Pac went to check on her, and Shane threw him into the stairs, and X-Pac chased her to the back, and the champs double-teamed Hunter, and Ivory came out, and X-Pac returned, and the ref disqualified somebody for something, and D-Lo Brown laid out Jarrett and Hart, and Ivory tore Debra's robe off, and Jarrett tried to cover her ass and boobs with the tag belts, and that was it. Well that was a waste.

Owen, Jarrett, and Debra did a promo backstage. Debra challenged Ivory to a match tonight.

Luna and Tori came out for a promo. Luna said she was standing up for Tori and herself and the fans Sable used to get where she was. She threatened to bring Sable back down to earth. Sable came out and they showed her Playboy cover. The word "sex" appeared on this cover at least three times. Then Tori attacked Luna from behind and she and Sable put the boots to Luna. Sable powerbombed her and that was that.

Rock vs. Road Dogg. Paul Wight came out. He interfered once but it wasn't a major part of the match. They worked hard and had a fun three-minute match. Rock won with a Rock bottom and corporate elbow. Al Snow came out wanted to continue their series of hardcore matches. Dogg kicked his ass. Geek of the Week: Al Snow. Hardcore Holly appeared and Dogg whipped his ass too. He called them both pussies and dared them to meet him in the parking lot.

Road Dogg was ranting alone in the parking lot.

Public Enemy came out dressed as the Brood. They said they could dress up like Halloween too and then immediately tore the costumes off. They said "NOT!" and claimed to not be afraid of the Brood. The lights went out and the Brood's music played, and when the lights came back on "Flyboy" was gone. Grunge went chasing to the back after him, I guess.

Holly and Dogg were fighting in the parking lot. "COME ON BOB!" They went to break and were still fighting afterwards. A bell rang in the ring.

Steve Blackman vs. Droz in the first ever kendo stick match joined in progress. Both guys had sticks and the first guy to get knocked off his feet lost. Droz immediately left the ring, which I guess did not count. Ref got bumped, here in the first-ever kendo stick match. He missed Droz taking a knee but saw Blackman and awarded the match to Droz. UTTER SHITE.

Road Dogg and Holly were still fighting. Al joined in. They brawled into the streets with cars driving around them.

Mean Street Posse hype video, with the debuts of Rodney and Pete Gas. They noted Shane was as tough as any "scumbag or Julio." I see. Well they had personality to go with their casual racism, so there's that.

Flyboy had been chained up and bloodbathed.

Mankind vs. Undertaker. Vince came out. He casually announced Taker vs. Big Bossman in a Hell in a Cell match at Mania. Yes, just out of the blue like that. There was a sign reading "PLAY FANTASY WRESTLING" and then, instead of a URL, there was an 800 number. Yes. Match was all brawling on the floor. The bell rang at a random point and Taker turned and punched Vince. He teased a chokeslam through the announce desk when Bossman zoomed in and attacked Taker with a nightstick. The Ministry arrived to make the save. Taker was pissed, so he chokeslammed Mankind.

Vince got into a limo and left.

Debra vs. Ivory. During the heels' entrance they cut to a fan who had unbuttoned her shirt and revealed her bra, and the guy behind her was openly fondling her with a creepy smile. That was the most Attitude Era thing I ever saw. Jarrett and Owen were ejected before the match. The bell rang and they had a catfight and PMS ran out and Jacqueline attacked Ivory for the DQ in ten seconds. Jacqueline hit a piledriver before D-Lo arrived to chase them away.

Kane vs. Steve Austin. Chyna elbowed Austin right in the face and Austin started stalking her, but stopped to fight Kane before he could do anything to her. They had plenty of time and good, hot TV main event. Ref got bumped, Kane bumped into Chyna, and Austin stunned Kane. Cover, but no ref. Ref recovered, but Chyna pulled Austin off Kane. Austin grabbed Chyna, but Kane cut him off again. Paul Wight came out. The match continued and Kane hit the top rope clothesline for a nearfall. Wight slipped a chair into the ring, but Austin got it and laid Kane out with it. This was not a DQ. He went after Chyna, but she dodged. Then he turned his back and she low-blowed him. Also not a DQ. Kane held Austin's arms so Wight could hit him, but Austin dodged and Wight booted Kane. Austin left and his music played. No finish in the main event. A chaotic but fun show.

The finishes on this show were: COUNTOUT IN A TRIPLE THREAT; DQ for no apparent reason in a tag match; clean pin by the world champion; fuck finish in the first-ever kendo stick match that was joined in progress and went less than a minute; DQ or countout or something, I don't know; DQ in ten seconds; non-finish in the main event after several should-have-been DQs.

WCW Monday Nitro 181 (3/1/99)

David Flair and Torrie Wilson were in a limo playing voicemails from Ric and laughing at him. This went on for what felt like hours. They said he should retire. Announcers said Ric Flair would make an announcement tonight.

They showed the finish of the Goldberg-Steiner match from last week, then Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell came out for a promo. Buff showing off his abs and cackling was gold. They ran down the fans and made some local sportsball references, then called out Rick Steiner and Goldberg for tonight.

Rikki Rachtman was at a Nitro Party. Looked lame.

Nitro Girls were fucking around at the North Carolina campus.

Kevin Nash, Lex Luger, Disco Inferno, and Elizabeth came out for a promo. Lex's arm was in a massive brace and he appeared to be wearing a white rubber sleeve under it. I had little idea what they were talking about. Lex forgave whoever caused his injury. Kevin forgave Rey Mysterio Jr. for beating him last week and invited Rey to come out and join the Wolfpac. Disco wanted it confirmed that he was the deciding vote, and Nash did, and Liz laughed. Rey didn't show up, so Nash gave him a call. Announcers made a joke about how everyone had a cell phone. Nash called Rey, Rey apparently said he was not interested, and the Wolfpac hung their heads and walked to the back. I am not making this up. They could not have made me care less about any of this if they tried.

Booker T-Bret Hart video package.

Psychosis vs. Kidman. They worked their asses off and had time and did all kinds of cool shit, going back and forth the whole way. They were still selling and giving the biggest moves time to sink in, so it wasn't a total spotfest. Kidman won with the powerbomb counter and the shooting star press. Well this was a win all around.

Arn Anderson confronted David Flair in the locker room. Arn said he had promised Ric he wouldn't lay a finger on David. Arn was appalled that David would throw away his whole family for THAT, pointing at Torrie. "Yeah!" David said immediately. That was funny. They jibber jabbered for a long time and finally Arn left, saying David had been warned.

Hulk Hogan was with Vince, saying Stevie Ray was jealous that Vince was in charge of the black-and-white. If Stevie Ray spoke up, Vince had Hulk's permission to slap him silly.

More with Riki Rachtman.

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. They tried to imitate a lot of the spots Bam Bam had done with Spike Dudley in ECW, including him pressing Rey out of the ring onto a bunch of random security dudes. They did a bunch of other obscene power spots but somehow it wasn't very exciting. This went on and on and finally Rey made a comeback and it felt like they were building to a finish. Then Bam Bam clotheslined him and the second-hour pyro went off and the match just kept going. Bam Bam seemed absolutely bewildered by what had just happened. Rey hit a victory roll out of nowhere for the win. Everyone went crazy for the finish. So I have to say in the end this was a win, but LORD it took a long time to get there.

Mean Gene interviewed Rey backstage. They were using a boom mic so Rey had no mic to hold and he had no idea what to do with his hands. Rey talked about inspiring small people when he got jumped by the Wolfpac, who said he should have taken the shirt.

Suddenly Bam Bam Bigelow and Raven were brawling backstage. It was a much better brawl than the parking lot shit they did on Raw. Sandman joined in and wacked the cameraman with a cage for good measure. That one gal was there but not identified. Chastity?.

Ric Flair arrived. He was not happy.

Nash and Luger met with Stevie Ray and said he needed to take Vincent out.

Jerry Flynn came out with his mullet in a ponytail. He got to cut a promo, calling out Earnest Miller so they could have a KARATE FIGHT. Cat was fucking around backstage when Scott Norton arrived and asked where Earnest's heart and guts were. Cat left to go fight Flynn.

Cat vs. Jerry Flynn. WHAT IN THE FUCK IS THIS GENERIC MUSIC THEY ARE USING FOR CAT? He still had Glacier's entrance, complete with snow, but apparently he had actually used a James Brown song this week. And that got edited out and we got THIS instead. IT WAS HYSTERICALLY AWFUL. I was in tears. He was all upset about the snow, then charged the ring to grab Flynn, but grabbed the ref instead. Cat used a chinlock and the crowd said it was boring. They did some god-awful grappling and brawling, then both hit roundhouse kicks for a double-down. Ref announced that the first man to his feet would be declared the winner, and administered a ten-count to boot. Miller grabbed the ref, Sonny Onoo kicked Flynn, and Cat stood up and won, which means WE HEARD HIS MUSIC AGAIN! Flynn chased Onoo around a bit, but Onoo and Cat escaped.

Perry Saturn vs. Hugh Morrus. They did comedy spots with Jimmy Hart running under everyone's legs. Bobby Heenan gave so few fucks at this point that he was working it into his schtick. Just going out of his way to not talk about the matches and make goofy jokes about the city or building instead. This included jokes about basketball players literally being hanged here in North Carolina. Match was boring and the crowd let them know it. Jimmy Hart took the ref. Chris Jericho ran out and hit Saturn with a gimmick. Morrus hit the moonsault for the win. Jericho celebrated like it was his win.

Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell were driving the bus and the hummer around the country picking up women.

Geeks at the Nitro party were playing Twister and eating pizza.

Chris Benoit vs. Bret Hart. Well then. Now Heenan had a good match to call and his passion for the business returned. Benoit was making a comeback and they were trading finishers and they WENT TO COMMERCIAL. YOU BASTARDS! Benoit made another comeback and Heenan was comparing him to another Crippler, Ray Stevens. Benoit tried to drop Bret across the ropes and dropped him on his head instead. Bad trade there. Bret tried a suplex and they both fell over the ropes and Bret landed on his again. Curt Hennig and Barry Windham ran out and attacked Benoit with the tag belts. Bret locked on the sharpshooter. Benoit got the ropes, but Bret wouldn't break the hold for the DQ. LAME LAME LAME. Dean Malenko ran out for the save but got overwhelmed. Crowd demanded Flair. He didn't show up. I don't think this happened, but Hart, Hennig, and Windham would have been an amazing second-generation grizzled-vet stable.

Hulk Hogan and his flunkies came out for a promo. They said David Flair had made the right decision joining the nWo, but said they couldn't say Torrie Wilson's name for some reason. He said Ric Flair had seen Hogan backstage and begged for mercy, but Hogan wouldn't beat him up any more, because he already had. As he was ranting Vincent appeared and attacked Stevie Ray. Apparently Nash had been picking a fight between them. Geeks took Vincent away and Hogan ignored them and moved on. He really had nothing else to say.

Konnan rap video. WHY DID HE NEVER WEAR THIS PIMP SUIT TO THE RING? That is awesome.

Ric Flair came out for a promo. He was relaxed and low-key, and said he would let it build before cranking it up for them. He said for two weeks, Arn had wanted to beat up his son, and he had been listening to everyone ask how David could join Hogan's crew. He said he knew what David was going through, because 20 years ago he had met a blonde who had changed his life too. As promised, he cranked it up and started ranting off North Carolina sports legends. He said for Uncensored, he was booking himself in a cage match against Hogan with barbed wire at the top.

Scott Steiner & Buff Bagwell vs. Rick Steiner & Goldberg. They announced, for Uncensored, a PAY PER VIEW, Jerry Flynn vs. Cat & Sonny Onoo. That added, seriously, no buys. Is this the first time Buff has actually had a match since his injury? And the very first guy he's in there with is Rick, the guy who hurt him? So where to start with the awesomeness here? Goldberg pressing Scott Steiner over his head a half-dozen times? Scott grabbing his brother and suplexing him over his head? Heels threw Rick into an exposed buckle for the heat, then put the bucklepad back on. Very basic heat where they held Rick down with, uh, holds, and finally he escaped and tagged Goldberg, who made THE GREATEST COMEBACK IN WCW HISTORY. Jesus Christ he was a force of nature here. He did a shoulderblock where he jumped about 14 feet straight up and somehow still fired forward in midair and collided with Buff. I mean, we knew this, but Goldberg was so one-of-a-kind. He speared the hell out of Buff. Rick actually went for the same bulldog that nearly killed Buff in the first place, but Buff turned to face him to take it more like a clothesline. I am more than fine with that. Anyway, Rick pinned him. That was one hell of a tag match to cap off a very good show.

The finishes on this show were: clean pin; clean pin; victory via standing up after another guy stood up but the ref didn't see it; pin after outside interference; DQ for refusing a rope break; clean pin.

WWE NXT (2/28/18)

Show opened with a truly amazing recap of last week's Almas-Gargano match. I need to hear the glorious music they were playing before the finish every day when I get out of bed.

Velveteen Dream vs. Tyler Bate. They meshed well together and had a very good TV match. I suspect they've worked together a lot off-camera, either in practice or house shows, but it never felt overly choreographed or rehearsed. Very long by NXT standards, ten minutes or more, but they never got blown up. Finally they were brawling on the top rope when Bate got crotched, and Dream hit the purple rainmaker for the win. If every match I saw was this good I would never complain again.

Paul Ellering did a promo saying the Authors of Pain would repeat as Dusty Rhodes Classic winners, then regain the tag belts from Undisputed Era. Authors showed up and shouted in various languages. This was awesome.

William Regal, Drake Younger, and Johnny Gargano signed the papers terminating Johnny's NXT contract. They made it clear Johnny would still be fulfilling his prior commitments, but would be finished in a few weeks. Younger admitted that he had made a mistake, a mistake that cost Johnny his NXT career, but he was sorry and offered a handshake. Johnny accepted the handshake and apology and signed. They were all so sad.

Cezar Bononi vs. Adam Cole. Cole cut a promo about being in the ring with NXT's future Superstar of the Year and applauded. They tried to recruit Bononi and tossed him a t-shirt. As he was thinking about it, Cole jumped him and high-fived his buddies, but Bononi quickly recovered and went on offense. Fish and O'Reilly distracted him, and Cole hit a shining wizard to the back of the head for the win. This was the second singles win on TV for Cole in NXT. The first was his first match, against Eric Young, in September. Yes, it has been a while.

Kairi Sane-Shayna Baszler video package.

Street Profits video pretending to be fans and predicting themselves to win the Dusty Rhodes classic.

Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler. Shayna took over with lots of knees and kicks. She also did a gutwrench suplex at such a high angle Kairi landed in a sitting position. Kairi made a comeback, flying all over the place. Good contrast of styles here. These are not two generic cookie-cutter wrestlers -- one's a veteran MMA fighter and the other's a total high-flyer. Kairi went up top, but Shayna grabbed her in a suplex, dropped her on her ass (paying off the first time that happened) and transitioning to a rear naked choke for the win. Well that ruled. Shayna cut a promo on the announcers saying Ember Moon was a coward, and if she got in the ring with Ember, she was leaving with the title, or leaving with a limb. This was a great little old school pro wrestling segment.

Andrade Almas and Zalina Vega came out for a promo. Zalina bragged about Andrade going 4-0 against Gargano, a clean sweep. Fans started chanting that. She said Gargano had earned respect, but Andrade had earned money and fame and power. She didn't feed off a man's success, she said, she created it, and that's why Andrade was still champion. Andrade talked, and, well, his English still needs work. I caught maybe half of what he said. He said he was the "Enn Eck Stee champion." They were about to leave when Aleister Black interrupted. They were baffled to see him. Black is one of the very few exceptions to the "Everyone in NXT has generic interchangeable music" rule. Before Black could say anything, Killian Dane came out to interrupt him. Dane screamed that Black was in his path and they started brawling. Andrade didn't know what to make of all this. He didn't want to fight either of them and left. Dane won the brawl and ended the show standing over his body. OK, so that's one match for TakeOver, but who's going to challenge Almas? Regardless, this was a very good show.


Bryan's TV Reviews


by Bryan Alvarez (@BryanAlvarez)

WWE Elimination Chamber

Raw Women's Title Chamber match: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Mandy Rose vs. Sonya Deville vs. Mickie James. Bayley and Sonya Deville start. Shouldn't the idea be to start with your two best workers? Sonya fucking Deville is starting this match. First five minutes was like a bad indy match. Bayley did her elbow off the top onto the outside area that used to be metal but is now padded, which is for the best. Mandy Rose is next. Bayley worked them over for awhile until they cut her off and double-teamed her. Sasha is in next. Runs wild on Sonya and Mandy. Her and Bayley then team up and almost kill Sonya throwing her upside down into the side of the cage. Sasha puts Mandy in the Banks statement. Sonya tries to break it up but Bayley tackles her and Mandy submits. This got some boos. Can't believe of the two of them they eliminated Mandy and not Sonya. Mickie James is in next. She runs wild on Sasha and Bayley but the crowd is dead. Hits a huracanrana off the side of the cage on Sonya. Mickey and Bayley start climbing. Even the announcers are pointing out how stupid this is. Mickey kicks her off and climbs to the top of the pod. Hits her sit down splash onto Sonya for the pin. Sasha then hits her with a backstabber and Mickey hits a belly-to-belly for the pin. This also got booed. Alexa is last in. First she tries to lock herself into her own pod, then flees and tries to climb to safety. They go after her. Sasha acts like she's going to help Bayley up, but instead, she boots her in the face. Fans give this a "YES!" chant. "WHEN IS BAYLEY GOING TO LEARN?" asks Cole. Well, if she didn't learn after winning GEEK OF THE YEAR she's never going to learn. Alexa hits Bayley with a superplex and Sasha follows it up with a frog splash for a nearfall. Sasha takes her up top but Bayley gives her a middle rope belly-to-Bayley. Alexa steals the pin. Covers Sasha but Sasha kicks out. So it's Sasha vs. Alexa. Sasha misses a boot and gets her leg caught in the cage. Then they do the stupidest spot of the night. Alexa hits a twisted bliss OFF THE CAGE onto Sasha on the outside and Sasha no-sells it and puts her in the Banks statement. Was ridiculous but got a THIS IS AWESOME chant. Sasha then climbs up but Alexa rams her face-first into the pod and then gives her a draping DDT for the pin. **3/4 Fans give her a "YOU DESERVE IT!" chant. Alexa starts with a babyface promo saying this is proof that if you believe in your dreams and never give up you can accomplish anything. But, she says, none of these fans will ever accomplish anything. She said the odds were stacked against her and nobody believed she could win -- except everyone including the oddsmakers -- and said she proved that she was the best. Sasha just sat outside and wept through all of this.

Kurt Angle knocks on Ronda Rousey's door and goes inside.

Braun Strowman cell phone video vows to win the Rumble. Says he's going to make Brock "HIS PET BEASTIE BOY." .

The Bar vs. Titus O'Neil & Apollo for the WWE Tag Team Titles. Heels attack the babyfaces before the bell. Titus makes a comeback and tosses them both outside, and then Apollo dives off the post onto both of them. Cesaro sells his shin but it led to nothing. They cut off Apollo and worked him over. Titus got the hot tag, ran wild with tackles and clothesline. Boots Sheamus off the apron and boots Cesaro for a nearfall. Sheamus gets a blind tag, necks Titus on the top rope, and tries to come off the top but eats a short powerbomb. Cesaro makes the save. Apollo hits a dive onto both guys to the outside. He's running wild when the heels make a hot tag, chop block his knee, and then hit the combo springboard uppercut and white noise for the pin. **3/4 Last few minutes were very good, the rest of it was just a match.

Asuka vs. Nia Jax. Alexa is shown watching on backstage. They had the exact same match they had in Seattle, except this was faster-paced. There were actually loud dueling chants during this match. There was a new spot, Nia doing a jackhammer and just squashing Asuka and then she sold it. Someone forgot something somewhere. Nia was supposed to miss a rolling senton but landed on both of Asuka's legs. Asuka sold her right knee, and hopefully she was selling and didn't get hurt. Asuka with a flying armbar but Nia powered out. Nia finally went for a powerbomb but Asuka rolled through into a cradle for the pin. Nia attacked her afterwards and threw her into the post, then ran and smashed her through the barricade. She ended up having to be helped backstage. Alexa was very pleased with all of this backstage. **1/2 .

Renee interviews Alexa. She's so happy about what Nia did to Asuka. She says nobody is ready for Alexa.

Roman Reigns promo vowing to win the Chamber and beat Brock at WrestleMania.

Bray Wyatt vs. Matt Hardy. Crowd is bored and chants, "RUSEV DAY!" and "WE WANT BEACHBALL!" They did some magic early. Matt did his entrance, then Bray did his but Matt had vanished. He did a promo on the big screen and then magically reappeared and attacked Bray. Match was very similar to the house show match but they did more. Same DDT on the ring apron for the heat, but Matt also took a hard clothesline on the floor. Crowd was dead and Corey Graves tried to explain that the last time the fans cheered for Matt it did him no favors and so now the fans had decided it was better to be silent. Matt made his comeback, hit a middle rope elbow, but then ate a uranage and a senton. He went for Sister Abigayle but Matt slipped behind and hit the twist of fate for the clean pin. Exact same finish as at the house show. I can imagine that finish in a house show opener, but on PPV it was pretty surprising. *3/4 .

Contract signing time. Kurt comes out first, followed by Hunter and Stephanie. Fans chant "TRIPLE H!" and boo Stephanie. Hunter and Steph do their monologue and the fans boo when she talks and cheer when he talks. Hunter says there may be no greater signing than the one they're about to do tonight. Says there hasn't been someone like this walking through the door since perhaps Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. Puts her over like a million bucks and then introduces her. Rousey out to her UFC theme. Crowd is heckling and screaming things at Steph, so she hands the mic over to Rousey and the same thing happens. She says she's speechless but then thanks everyone in the ring and we get a RONDA ROUSEY chant. She says she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her hero Rowdy Roddy Piper. She just wants to make him and his family proud. And she wants to earn the fans' respect in this ring. Hunter says well, with that said, let's get down to business. Wants to make it clear that she didn't want anything special put in the contract, no perks, no special travel, no private cars. She says she didn't want to be treated any different than anyone else. The only thing she wanted was an invite to WrestleMania. He says when she signs the contract she'll not only be appearing at WrestleMania, she's be competing in a match at WrestleMania. It's not a title match, but it's a match nonetheless. Steph gives her the contract. Before she signs, she looks at Kurt and asks if he wants to say something. He says no, I'm just in awe of Hunter and Stephanie. They've been talking about wanting you here since the day I showed up, and I know why. They want to manipulate you and get revenge for you embarrassing them three years ago at WrestleMania. Hunter is aghast. He says Kurt has the flu and he's delirious and he's going to get him out of here while Stephanie handles this. Steph says yes, we have been talking about you since Mania 31. You embarrassed us but you also impressed us and ever since then we've wanted you here, you're one of the best in the world, and we want you here. Kurt then grabs the mic and says hey Steph, didn't you say in my office that Ronda was a has-been and even you could take her? Hunter drags Kurt to the back. Ronda gets in Steph's face. Hunter hits the ring and separates them but Ronda shoves his hands off her. Hunter escorts Steph out of the ring. He heads back towards the middle and Ronda grabs him and gives him a slam through the table that the contract was on. Steph then gets in the ring and slaps her. Fans chant "YOU FUCKED UP!" Ronda, whose face is beat red, stares her down and Stephanie leaves the ring. Ronda then grabs the pen and signs the contract anyway, dropping it on Hunter's body. This was great. Ronda's talking needs work but her role in this should have been as someone excited and nervous about starting a new venture, and she's got a great mean face and everything she did physically was great.

Elimination Chamber with Drifter, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Miz. Drifter opens with his usual mini concert. Fans are eating it up, either positively or negatively. He sings a song burying everyone when Braun's music interrupts. One underrated thing about Drifter is the classic comedy of him ALWAYS BEING STUNNED THAT SOMEONE INTERRUPTED HIS CONCERT. Rollins, Balor and Miz start. Seth and Balor did most of the work early and it was good, way better than the first half of the women's chamber. They were working at a pretty fast clip and Corey said it was slower than he expected. John Cena is in next. Faceoff with Seth Rollins, then Cena does his usual comeback. It gets broken up and everyone hits a big move on everyone else. Match had a lot less heat than you'd think until Cena hoisted Rollins and Balor up for a double AA, but it got foiled. They did a double superplex spot to set up the next guy coming out. Roman Reigns is next. Just no reaction to anything. Somehow four guys ended up on their knees and Miz asked the crowd who he should kick and the four dudes just had to sit there on their knees forever. They wanted him to kick Roman by the way. Roman is about to do the superman punch, but he is distracted by a CLOCK counting down Braun's entrance. Braun is next. Fans were kind of into him but even him double suplexing two guys barely got a pop. He went after Miz. Miz ran for his life and got on a pod but Braun sprinted after him, which was very impressive, and rammed his head into the pod before tossing him off onto the pile in the ring. Corey says Miz was playing the role of Fay Wray. Actually, technically, Miz was playing the role of Kong, which would make Braun Strowman FAY WRAY. Braun then just grabbed Miz and powerslammed him for the pin. Good luck making me care about that match if they do it at WrestleMania. Elias is in last. Everyone attacked Strowman and pounded him down. Then Roman told them to hoist him up for the Shield powerbomb. Well, it was a double Shield powerbomb with Cena and Roman hitting the powerbomb. He kicked out. Cena hit the AA and he kicked out at one. Roman speared him and he kicked out. Rollins hit the curb stomp and Strowman rolled outside. Finn hit the double footstomp but Braun was outside so he couldn't be pinned. The other four guys then all hit big moves on each other. Drifter hit a bunch of big moves on everyone. They all kicked out, but then he turned around into Braun. Elias tried a stupid deadlift on him, failed, and Braun powerslammed and pinned him. Everyone tried another move on Strowman until Cena did a high cross of a pod and Braun caught him, powerslammed him and pinned him. So I guess he's OFF THE WRESTLEMANIA CARD. Braun challenged everyone. Finn ran wild on him, including hitting another double footstomp, but Strowman kicked out. He ran wild on everyone else, hit the double footstomp on Roman, then Braun grabbed him and powerbombed him for the pin. So Braun has eliminated everyone so far. Braun vs. Seth vs. Roman. Rollins and Reigns double-teamed Strowman but then Rollins turned on him. He hit the buckle bomb but Roman popped out and hit the superman punch and then collapsed. Roman gives Strowman a Samoan drop on the ramp and he rolls inside. Seth hits a frog splash off the pod but Braun kicks out. Seth hits one last flurry but then runs into the powerslam for the pin. So it's down to Braun vs. Roman Reigns. Fans chanted "GET THESE HANDS!" Braun threw him over the top and Roman sold his knee. Braun tossed him through the pod, hit a superman punch, then another one, then went for the spear. Braun avoided it the first time, but then Roman hit it on the second try for the pin. So Roman vs. Brock is the WrestleMania main event. Strowman gave Roman the powerslam. Fans chant ONE MORE TIME, so he hits a second one and then tosses him through a pod to leave him for dead. Presumably, this was all done in case the shit goes down with Richard Rodriguez and they need to replace Roman in the match. ***1/2


Alexa and Mickie out. Alexa cuts a victory promo while Mickie stands there looking annoyed, and occasionally glancing at her belt. Says she's not a selfish person and would like to give credit where it's due. Puts over Mickie, says she's learned so much from her and she's a future Hall of Famer. Buries everyone else in the match, says she beat them all, and finally targets Asuka, saying she cannot wait to finish the job against her at WrestleMania. Asuka comes out. Alexa says she watched the match last night and saw Nia beat the hell out of Asuka before making one little mistake and getting beaten. Says Nia deserves to be in the WrestleMania match and Asuka knows it. She makes fun of her broken English and then tells her to wipe the smile off her face before she does. Nia comes out and attacks Asuka and all three girls triple team her until Bayley runs out to make the save. Sasha, who turned on Bayley last night, runs down to help, but the heels lay them out as well. Boy did they make the babyfaces look like geeks.

Bayley & Sasha & Asuka vs. Nia & Mickie & Alexa. Sasha was just out there working babyface early after seemingly turning heel at the Chamber. Nia ran her over outside the ring for the heat. Alexa ended up walloping Asuka and she went down on the apron, so the only person she could tag was Bayley. So she crawled over to make the tag and Bayley just dropped off the apron. Sasha ended up tagging Asuka and she ran wild on Mickie. Broke down and Bayley returned to the ring and gave Alexa a belly-to-Bayley. Asuka then hit Mickie with a flying armbar for the pinfall. So basically this was about furthering the Bayley vs. Sasha feud and also rebuilding Asuka.

Clips of John Cena all preposterously despondent on Raw Talk. Cena came out to a decidedly mixed reaction. He stared at the Mania sign. He said last night he failed, then was thrown in front of a microphone and he felt demoralized. Says failure is tough and judging from the reaction he got tonight, you go through failure alone. Said he thought he'd win the Royal Rumble but he failed. He didn't give up. He thought he'd win Elimination Chamber. He failed and almost gave up. He said no other superstar would get in the ring and tell you they failed. Fans boo him so he lets them boo. He said he could sit there and cry about this but he was just going to do it, something he should have done a long time ago, and that was put out a WrestleMania challenge to the UNDERTAKER. Crowd popped huge for that. Well, whatever you want to say, that's still clearly a megamatch. But, he said, that match isn't happening. I don't make the matches he said, and as obvious as this seems, he's been told the match isn't happening because it's impossible. Says he can stay down or get his ass back up and he's in the get his ass back up business. So tomorrow, he's going to Smackdown Live tomorrow not to beg for a countout, but to do whatever it takes to earn a spot at WrestleMania.

Bray Wyatt came out and beat up Rhino and Heath Slater. There was no bell, he just came out and there were two guys in the ring and he beat them up, laying them both out with Sister Abigayle. Then he cut a promo saying it was Matt Hardy's fault he did this, destroying two innocent men. Says the GREAT WAR is far from over. Says Matt will face him again. I pretty much zoned out at that point.

Miz came out. He cut a promo and buried Anaheim while talking about what a huge star he was. Says Kurt takes his stars for granted. He's 62 days from becoming the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time. Ranted and raved about how the company had no merchandise for him, his face wasn't on any promotional material, and he should be going to the main event of WrestleMania. Complains about having to start the Elimination Chamber. He's sick of being taken for granted and the disrespect. Says he holds the most prestigious title in all of WWE. So why does he care about the Universal Title. So he asked Kurt what he was doing at WrestleMania. Kurt told him his opponent tonight MIGHT determine who his opponent would be at WrestleMania. He just kept ranting and raving and screaming. I was ready to switch to football but football is over. Finally Seth Rollins came out, not a moment too soon.

Seth vs. Miz. Miztourage interferes to allow Miz to get the heat. I understand the idea is to get heat, and I guess it works because it fucking infuriates me, but he looks so bad doing Daniel Bryan's YES kicks and the dropkicks in the corner. Seth finally hits the superplex into the falcon arrow for a nearfall. Miztourage interferes again so Seth dives onto both of them, then clotheslines Miz outside and hits another dive onto all of them. He hit the revolution knee and then a frog splash from a legit three quarters of the way across the ring for the pin.

Finn Balor out. Apparently he's facing Miz next, but the Miztourage attacks him and beats him up. Gallows and Anderson run out and attack them. Angle then shows up on the big screen and announces this match IS going to happen and everyone else is banned from ringside. Says there WILL be a winner or Miz isn't going to WrestleMania.

Balor vs. Miz. Miz got the heat from the opening bell. More Daniel Bryan spots. It's so bad. Seth was shown watching on backstage. Balor hit his Pele kick to start his comeback. They traded nearfalls, which included Balor kicking the hell out of him with YES kicks. Hit a running dropkick outside sending him into the barricade, then another one in the ring, then the coup de gras for the pin. So it looks like a three-way with Miz vs. Seth vs. Finn at WrestleMania.

Renee then interviews Seth. Seth is not impressed with Balor's performance. Renee then asks what he's going to do at WrestleMania. I thought that was made clear a few moments ago. So anyway, he says he wants Miz for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania.

Clips of Steph on Raw Talk. She says Kurt needs to apologize and Ronda has some explaining to do. They then cut to Ronda and Kurt talking backstage.

Roman Reigns promo. Says he's a man of his word. Says he was going to win the Elimination Chamber and he did. Says when he claims he can go to WrestleMania and beat Brock Lesnar, he's telling the truth. Then he hangs his head and says listen, I don't know why I'm covering for this guy. They're not going to like it back there but I'm going to say it anyway, Brock Lesnar isn't here tonight. Up until about 20 minutes about I thought he'd be here but then something happened and he didn't show. Says nobody back there will say this but he will, Brock Lesnar is an entitled piece of crap that's hiding behind his contract. They're six weeks from Mania and Brock's not here tonight. Says Elimination Chamber was last night and Brock wasn't there, he was running around the strip taking selfies with Dana White of the UFC. Says he doesn't respect Roman, the fans, and nobody in the back. Says they're all sick of it. Every week he and his boys travel all over the world and bust their ass and Brock shows up when he wants to and where he wants to depending on how big the city is. But he doesn't care about any of that, he'll be anywhere because he said he'd be there. Says Paul and Brock are businessmen but he was born in this business and he was taught there was a fine line between business and respect. Says he doesn't respect Brock and he damn sure doesn't fear that bitch. Says he's said enough, he'll go take his ass-chewing like a man, but he doesn't care because he actually respects this place. This was awesome.

Braun threatens to kill Elias.

The Bar vs. Cesaro & Sheamus in a best-of-three-falls match. Cesaro distracts Titus and Sheamus brogue kicks him for the pin. This is pointless. Second fall went awhile. Cesaro was isolated for a long time, which was some odd psychology, then the heels got the heat during the break and when they came back Titus made a big comeback on Sheamus. He hit a pretty terrifying dominator, then Apollo hit a frog splash off the top. Cesaro broke it up. Apollo hit a standing moonsault for another nearfall. He finally got cut off and the heels hit their white noise combo for the pin. So the champions retained in two straight falls, and I'm not even sure why there were two falls. Sheamus and Cesaro cut a promo afterwards rattling off the name of all the teams they've beaten. They said they were going to be punished here in WrestleMania season for being so dominant, since there was nobody left to beat. And that was it.

They announce the Warrior Award recipient this year. Jarrius "JJ" Robertson, who had a liver transplant and ended up in a coma for a full year. They took him off the ventilator and made funeral arrangements and then he started breathing. But he kept having issues and ended up with a second liver transplant last year. So he became an organ donor advocate with #ittakeslivestosavelives and now he's doing much better. Awesome story.

Elias does his concert. His whole concert is about burying Braun Strowman. As you can imagine, this does not end well.

Strowman vs. Drifter. This went way too long. Braun doesn't need to go this long with a guy like Drifter in a straight wrestling match and Drifter needs to be carried. Drifter sprayed him with a fire extinguisher for the DQ. Posted him afterwards, threw him into the ring and hit him with the fire extinguisher. Strowman made a comeback and was going to put him through the announcer's table but Seth raked his eyes and ran backstage. Strowman lurched after him and screamed that he wasn't finished with him. Just then a limo arrived.

Hunter and Steph came out. She blames last night on Kurt Angle, saying he was hallucinating and spouting nonsense. But, she said, he had double pneumonia. Ronda took action, but that's how you take action in MMA, not in the WWE. THEY REPLAY THAT SEGMENT AGAIN. Steph said she had to get physical with Ronda to remind her of the hierarchy here in WWE. She's the Commissioner of Raw so Kurt Angle must report her to her, and Ronda, since she signed the contract, now reports to her as well. Says WWE owns her. She wants them out there so she can explain everyone's roles and responsibilities. She wants Kurt out to apologize. Ronda storms out instead. Kurt tells her to hold on. Says he wants to tell her something. You coming to the WWE is the best decision you ever made. She says she meant everything she said last night, she wants this more than anything. But she's never been slapped in her life and she refuses to be disrespected and she's nobody's property. Kurt says listen, you have to work within the system. And honestly, I need this job. People laughed at that line. He says last night I lied. Hunter and Steph get back into the ring. Says he doesn't know why he lied, he misheard Steph and he has had pneumonia for weeks and doesn't know what he said. Says he's sorry. Steph says they're not horrible people despite what you might read on social media or hear in the arenas. Says they want to put this behind them and make her the superstar she deserves to be. Ronda says we have addressed everything except your slap. If you want to put all of this behind us, you need to apologize to me. And if you don't apologize I will not hesitate to rip your arm out of its socket. Fans chant "RIP IT OFF!" Steph gets in her face and says I'm so sorry, I'm terribly sorry, you put my husband through a table, it was the wrong thing to do and I'm so sorry. Thanks Kurt, and welcomes her to WWE. Steph leaves but then Hunter sucker-punches Kurt on his way out. And that's the end. Last night was a home run, tonight was just bizarre.