Steel Cage Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (C)
Before the main event could get underway, there was a number of backstage segments, focused on building the story of the bout. Kicking off with Triple H talking to the "Gatekeeper" for the match, Kane, and Seth Rollins in his flimsy office. A rather long winded segment that didn't provide any new information, rightly receiving "Boring" chants from the Chicago crowd. The build up continued with another backstage segment between Kane and Randy Orton with Orton relaying the history between the two, in an equally dull conversation. Neither of these segments were particularly needed and nothing new was put out there for the match.
The match focused on Rollins' repeated attempts to escape over the top, Orton not being allowed to hit the RKO and Kane being the gatekeeper. Rollins attempts were always foiled by Orton but this lacked the big spot that was required especially when both were fighting on top of the cage. Orton would attempt to use the other big move in his arsenal, the Punt, but of course because that move is legitimately banned Rollins moved out of the way. Orton did however hit the RKO on Kane latter on, which was fine, apparently, as was Rollins hitting Orton with a cutter variation. Kane proved to want to hurt everyone, but still put Rollins on top for the pin, making his entire involvement in the match as irrelevant as the rest of his last three years in WWE.
When the two were allowed to wrestle, they put together some nice sequences that used the cage well, Orton catching Rollins dive off the ropes into his signature Scoop powerslam stands out, but these were too few and far between. A lack of convincing finishes, mainly down to the shocking amount of over-booking, hurt this match more than anything else, with only Orton's pedigree and Kane's chokeslam spot really standing out as potential match enders. As main events go this was tepid affair that perhaps wouldn't have looked out of place on an episode of Monday Night Raw, but lacked any real drama to justify it's spot closing a PPV.
By this match, it's clear that the pairs feud clearly isn't over yet. We know that they can put together good match, with their WrestleMania bout standing testament to this, so a rematch with less focus on Kane's involvement and more on the animosity between the two wrestlers would be more than welcomed by this reviewer. WWE seemed reluctant to put it's faith in either Orton or Rollins to carry a PPV main event and therefore decided to through all the gimmicks they could possibly think of at the match, which was in the end it's downfall.
Last Man Standing Match
This bout received a little build-up before bell time with Renee Young interviewing Roman Reigns. I believe Reigns took inspiration from Chumbawamba's 1997 hit Tubthumping, when he reminding us that he might get knocked down, but he would indeed get up again. I think I would've actually preferred to see Reigns sing the entirety of this banging tune, (with Renee on backing vocals) as seeing the big man belting it out at the top of his lungs would have been a lot more entertaining than this tired promo. I think I am now most angry that this song only ever got to Number Two in the UK charts.
All joking aside this match proved to be the surprise of the night. Mainly focused around the big spots, these built up nicely, with each spot feeling like a natural progression from the next, as the referee's count got closer and closer to ten. The hints at upcoming spots were placing nicely throughout the match as the environment developed throughout, but this never felt contrived as can often be the case, and allowed the match to flow much better than if the pair simply went from one spot set up to the next. Big Show choke slamming Reigns off the apron through a pair of tables was visually impressive, whilst Reigns' samoan drop through another table made The Juggernaut look pretty damn badass himself.
Storytelling wise the last man standing gimmick offered pretty much all that needed to be there, with the gimmick offering itself as a skeleton around which the match could be fleshed out. However, Reigns attempting to knock Show down with his signature Superman Punches but being unable to was a nice addition, although it would have been more effective if we hadn't seen Big Show get chucked around like a ragdoll by Brock Lesnar a few months prior. Show's booking has been inconsistent at best throughout the last two or three years and I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief at points during the match.
The objective here had to be continuing the attempt to get Roman Reigns' over as a babyface, that the fans can get behind. Whilst there will always be a section of fans (see: John Cena) that will forever be getting on Reigns' back, it seems that Reigns has turned the corner in most fans eyes, actually being helped by not winning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. He looked impressive in a bout against a now limited Big Show and even with the Last Man Standing gimmick offering itself as a crutch of soughts, seemed more than comfortable in another main event-esque match.
Russian Chain Match for the United States ChampionshipJohn Cena (C) vs. Rusev with Lana
Those stupid fucking lights. I suppose the argument for them is that it creates a good visual, but I struggle to get my head around what purpose they actually have. The concept of momentum is entirely subjective, and without it being fully explained pre-match either by the commentary team or even on the Kick-Off show, it for frustrating viewing for the finish of the match, where Rusev was "touching" the corner, whilst Cena was ramming him into it. I can't be the only who considers that if your getting shoved into a turnbuckle then you haven't got any momentum and if you do that means your opponent doesn't have any either. The finish was so weak, with Cena hitting an AA on Rusev to touch the final ringpost, that it moved what had been an enjoyable feud into dangerous territory.
The action wasn't anything special here and the gimmick wasn't used to it's full potential. Whilst it should have been a brutal conclussion to the feud, it looked like both men simply wanted to touch the turnbuckles as quickly as possible and leave, rather than two guys who wanted to beat the shit into each other and prove that their country was indeed the best. The chain looked flimsy when used a weapon, and the two looked creatively baron when using it for spots, with Rusev using it as a pully system on the outside about all the two could string together. Whilst there were a handful of good reversal sequences, they seemed plucked from their previous outings and had little to do with the match itself.
A real missed opportunity in this one saw Rusev begin to work Cena's ribs, picked up on well by Michael Cole on commentary, including the aforementioned pully spot which saw Rusev laying into Cena's mid-section with some nice kicks. This seemed like it would become the story of the match, but was seemingly dropped in the later stages, with Cena neglecting to sell the ribs and nothing really coming of this earlier good work. The psychological attempt could have added the story telling element that the match craved, with Cena unable to hit signature moves like the AA and having to put in a superhuman effort to pull Rusev around to make it to the turnbuckles. Alas, it was not to be.
Following the bout there was to be even more antics, as Rusev and Lana argued in what I imagine was Russian, before Lana went to talked to The Authority. It was later revealed in a backstage interview with Byron Saxton that Lana had negotiated for an "I Quit" match between the two for May's Payback PPV. This continued WWE's run of announcing a match for the next PPV on PPV's that are included as part of free months on the WWE Network. Personally, I think this feud was feeling tired after WrestleMania so another four weeks or so, could really drag. A third loss in a row to Cena, especially having to say "I Quit" could really harm Rusev going forward.
Kiss Me Arse Match
A decent enough match, that saw Sheamus dominating for the majority of the match, allowing The Celtic Warrior to really show off his new antagonistic persona. Whilst Sheamus was busy working the crowd, Ziggler worked well fighting from underneath, selling Sheamus' offence well and able to garner crowd support with quick bursts of offence. The biggest problem this match had was that it was just too short for the story that was being told. The finishing sequence felt more like a transitional sequence building towards something bigger, and when Ziggler got the pinfall it didn't feel like the satisfying finish that the build up had layed the foundation for. A more decisive finish would have made Sheamus' post match reaction even more deplorable.
That reaction, seeing Sheamus first trying to avoid kissing Ziggler's arse and then hitting a low blow and a Brogue Kick to get Zig's to kiss his pale Irish behind, finally made sense of the gimmick that had been randomly plonked on top of the match. Sheamus looked like a nob for not following through with the stipulation he came up with and recieved a decent amount of heat for his dickish reaction. However, again because Ziggler's win came across as a fluke, him then getting battered even more post-match didn't do much for The Show Off, hopefully with Daniel Bryan (who Sheamus would surely have been feuding with heading into the next PPV) currently out injured, we'll get to see some more of this feud and Ziggler get, at least, a modicum of revenge.
Chicago Street Fight
Quite literally a match of two halves and from bell-to-bell one of the longest singles matches in WWE history! This one really comes down to one spot, which saw Harper attempting to drive away from the arena, only for Ambrose to dive through the window of the car as Harper drove them both away. It was a make or break spot, that you were either going to love or hate and personally I hated it. I think the idea on paper sounded quite good, but it was poorly executed and didn't really suit the characters in the match. I found it hard to believe that the two had continued fighting and driving around for fourty minutes in between the two sections of their match and this wasn't helped by neither man looking remotely tired or selling anything upon their return. Perhaps some pre-recorded footage of their antics around Chicago would have improved the situation.
The final portion of the match followed pretty much the same pattern as the first, with a couple more spots to finish things off. Whilst the spots were good, and the finish was strong with Ambrose hurling Harper off the top onto a pile of chairs before hitting Dirty Deeds for the win, it felt like there was no real consequence to anything that was going on. Alongside the gimmick of them disapearing for a drive around Chicago mid-match, this bout was let down by nothing looking quite as good as the spots that were used in the build up. We'd seen Ambrose head through a ladder at WrestleMania and then the announce table on Smackdown, and yet neither of those weapons came to play in this match. Not the show stealing performance many had expected.
Tag Team Match for the Tag Team Championship
Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (C) with Natalya
Big E & Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods
Big E & Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods
For the length of the match, I thought the four guys in this match did incredibly well to create an exciting tag match with a number of athletic sequences and worked in a handful of nice false finishes, including Cesaro making the late save for Kidd after Kingston and Big E hit their Midnight Hour finish and Big E saving Kingston when it seemed like Kidd's Sharpshooter was about to get the win. The finish was built well getting all participants involved before Kingston was able to get a school boy roll up on Kidd with a handful of tights to pick up the cheap victory and win his fourth tag title in WWE. The newly heel New Day have a lot of potential and their reaction post-match and in a backstage interview with Renee Young showed promise for this title run going forward.
Singles Match for the Divas Championship Match
Nikki Bella (C) with Brie Bella
Nikki Bella (C) with Brie Bella
Apart from the out of the blue babyface turn by the Bella Twins and a couple of slip ups early on, I was actually rather impressed by this Diva's Championship match. Given a decent amount of time, Nikki and Naomi put together some decent sequences, with Naomi slipping out a Rack Attack to hit a Full Nelson Bomb being a particular highlight for me. Naomi seemed to trying a little too hard in her new heel role, but I get the feeling she'll settle into it over the next few months, and hey, she's got shoes that change colour! The finish let this one down, as it just didn't make any sense to have the newly babyface Bellas cheat to win, with Nikki's distraction allowing Brie to clatter Naomi with a kick on the outside. A few troubles throughout, but still a promising effort from the two female performers in the ring.
Bo Dallas & Ryback Segment
FILLER CITY, BITCH! Bo Dallas came out and cut a creative, but cheap promo on the city of Chicago, for reasons. Before Ryback came and battered him with a Meat Hook and Shellshock. The only real reason for this seemed to be to make up a bit of time, although giving Ziggler and Sheamus an extra five minutes would have been a much better option.
The WWE Network was heavily pushed throughout the show, with a number of new shows being promoted for the next week, seemingly because the free month of April is about to come to an end. Tough Enough is back soon, as a couple of audition videos were shown, some good and some bad, although it was painfully obvious that this audition process isn't as open as WWE would have the public believe. The Kick-Off panel got their obligatory segment with Byron Saxton, Booker T and Corey Graves chatting about the Chicago Street Fight and Tag Team title match, as well as highlights from Bad News Barrett and Neville's pre show match. The Marine 4: Moving Target is WWE's latest direct-to-DVD offering, this time featuring The Miz and Summer Rae, which is nice. A promo for Payback on 17th May aired, mainly focused on Roman Reigns. MTN Dew is a beverage that can be drunk, it was good to be reminded of this. Live is Jericho returns to the WWE Network following this week's Smackdown with Jericho being joined by Stephanie McMahon. There is a hero in all of us, apparently, which surely removes the point of being an actual hero.
Not a good PPV by any stretch of the imagination, but there was enough that kept me entertained throughout the three hours. Big Show and Roman Reigns put on the pick of the three main event level matches, with Rollins vs. Orton and Rusev vs. Cena both being harmed by a lack of creativity and questionable booking. The mid card was hit and miss with both Sheamus vs. Ziggler and Harper vs. Ambrose having their moments, but Sheamus and Ziggler could've done with a bit more and the Chicago Street Fight being harmed by a gimmick that didn't deliver on what it promised. The tag team and Diva's Championship matches made the most of their undercard placings, with the tag team match in particular shining through as a standout match on the show. Not a great follow up to a strong WrestleMania card, WWE will need to dust itself down and try again come May 17th's Payback.