Monday, 14 March 2016

Special Event Review: WWE Roadblock (Ambrose vs. Triple H *WWE World Heavyweight Championship*)

Broadcast live on 12th March 2016, WWE Roadblock aired from the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on the WWE Network. Triple H put his WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line for the first time, against Dean Ambrose and Natalya challenged Charlotte for the WWE Diva's Championship...but was it any good? Let's find out!

roadblock match card

Match 1 - WWE Tag Team Championship - The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) (C) w/Xavier Woods vs. The League of Nations (King Barrett & Sheamus) 

Match 2 - Singles - Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger

Match 3 - WWE NXT Tag Team Championship - Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady w/Carmella vs. The Revival (C)

Match 4 - WWE Diva's Championship - Natalya vs. Charlotte (C) w/Ric Flair 

Match 5 - Two on One Handicap - The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper) vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman

Match 6 - Singles - Sami Zayn vs. Stardust

Match 7 - WWE World Heavyweight Championship - Triple H (C) vs. Dean Ambrose 

Commentary Team - John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Michael Cole & Byron Saxton

fast-forward...Opening hype package, focusing on Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt

the new day defeat the league of nations to retain the wwe tag team championships

Before we get into how good or bad this match was, it has to be bought up that before their victory over The Lucha Dragons on this week's Thursday Night Smackdown, King Barrett and Sheamus hadn't teamed as duo (on TV) since 2nd November edition of Monday Night RAW (which coincidentally was a losing effort to the Lucha Dragons) That aside having The New Day open the show with their usual brand of comedy was a good move, with the trio holding the crowd really well with some material that could have absolutely bombed. The unveiling of a box of "Booty-os" cereal. Big E playing a child, with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods being his new-age funky parents, handing out insults to various members of the League of Nations, should have been absolutely awful, the crowd should have turned on it, but it wasn't and they didn't. It was ridiculous, but it made me chuckle. It did get a little lost towards the end and didn't have a real punchline, but hey, it was still better than it had any right to be!

The match itself was a strange one, The New Day haven't quite been presented as babyfaces on television yet, on occasion their popularity as an act has seen WWE allow them to work the tweener role to varying success, but this match saw them up against two bonafide established heels. The fact that there was a lack of any real face shine to begin with meant the bout took a little while to get going, as fun as the Unicorn Stampede is a heel tactic, it's not exactly anything to get excited about. Luckily, Sheamus and Barrett worked well in their role keeping control of Kingston, before Big E launched into a brilliant comeback sequence. This sequence was the moment I began to warm to the potential as a babyface team, the former NXT Champion's explosive power is something that has been rarely tapped into since he came to the main roster, but alongside a flippy babyface Kingston could propel the team to new heights. The finish was disappointingly awkward however, with Kingston taking a nasty fall, before Big E pinned Barrett with the Big Ending. There were some moments of promise here, but let down by some moments of sloppiness on both sides. (In other League of Nations news, at the untelevised WWE Live Road to WrestleMania show in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Rusev went over Sin Cara, whilst Alberto Del Rio failed to take the WWE United States Championship from Kalisto)

fast-forward...Backstage, Paul Heyman cut a characteristically excellent promo a head of Brock Lesnar's match with Bray Wyatt, during an interview with Greg Hamilton...

chris jericho defeats jack swagger in a singles match

If you were a fan of pre-match promos then Roadblock was the show for you, as Chris Jericho got on the microphone ahead of his bonus match with Jack Swagger! Jericho worked the crowd into an absolute frenzy with his anti-Canadian, arse-based tirade. It was great to see Y2J back at his antagonistic best as he ran through the reasons he'd left Canada and refereed to Toronto as the anus of the country. Of course, there were some choice words for his short-lived tag team partner AJ Styles (who faced Kevin Owens for the WWE Intercontinental Championship in a 30 minute Iron Man match in Atlantic City on the same evening) as well, to keep that feud ticking over. The seque into Swagger coming out was a rather clumsy one though, as he called back to when the All American took the World Heavyweight Championship away from him (via Money in the Bank cash-in) on Friday Night Smackdown #554 in March 2010. Having Jericho cut an anti-Canadian promo in Canada and then bring out "A Real American" whose titantron shows a waving American flag was a strange piece of booking to say the least.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the action here, Jericho and Swagger are more than capable of putting together a free-flowing wrestling match. But I had no reason to care. No one had a reason to care. The Canadian crowd could be heard boo-ing Swagger anytime he was looking for a pop and rightly so. If a Canadian had been bought out (Ummm...Sami Zayn?) then you've got something that the live crowd can get behind and a story that can easily be followed, but a Real American fighting for Canadian pride is at best, a rather patronising message. Of course, Jericho would go on to get the victory via submission with the Walls of Jericho. A good effort from Jericho and Swagger, but with very little thought put into it by whomever was booking the event. A fun little fact, this was Jericho's first victory over Swagger, having suffered three consecutive losses (all on Friday Night Smackdown #554, #708 and #709).

the revival defeat enzo amore & colin cassady to retain the wwe nxt tag team championships

Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady put in a spirited performance in the chase for The Revival's WWE NXT Tag Team Championships. If the lack of face shine had bothered me in the opener, there was more than enough of it to go around here! Amore looked on fire in the opening, pulling out a series of different moves, before Cassady got involved an business really picked up. The two have got their act down to a tee at the moment and seem more than ready to hit the main roster and make a mark on the tag team division if given the right opportunities. Toronto was into them and who can blame them as Cassady sent Amore flying into both Dash and Dawson numerous times including launching his partner over the top rope onto both of the NXT Tag Team Champions!

Amore went on to work the G in peril role, with The Revival looking great when in control. Unlike Amore and Cassady there's no flash about the pair, as they took advantage of Amore going shoulder first into the ringpost by putting together a serious of moves focused on Amore's arm. The Realest Guy in the Room works as a brilliant face in peril, his facial expression in particular making it easy to get behind him, however here I wished we'd have seen him continue to sell the arm The Revival had worked over, especially when he attempted to dodge both Dash and Dawson to make the hot tag to Cassady. The closing stages that saw Amore left to fight valiantly on his own, after Cassady had taken a Shatter Machine on the outside, was done very well, with Amore's school boy roll-up having me convinced that we were about to see new NXT Tag Team Champions. However, it wasn't to be, as The Revival were able to take advantage of the numbers game to pick up the win with a new elevated lungblower double team move. It will be interesting to see where the Tag Team division in NXT is set to move next, as after two clean victories for The Revival over Amore and Cassady, they will surely move onto a new challenger in time for Takeover: Dallas on 1st April?

fast-forward...WWE Diva's Champion Charlotte and former 2 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair interrupted Greg Hamilton's interview with Natalya and after a slight disagreement decided to put her title on the line for reasons...

charlotte defeats natalya to retain the wwe diva's championship

The sleeper hit of the evening for me, as Charlotte and Natalya put on a cracking encounter. The match started with some of the best wrestling between two women that WWE has ever aired, as the duo worked together well, moving from hold to hold expertly. The main meat of the bout saw Charlotte working over the challenger with a series of ground and pound based offence, before targeting the left leg of her opponent. Using a lot of signatures of her father, like the chop block on the ropes, Charlotte looked the most comfortable she has been since her heel turn. I was also impressed with Natalya's selling when under attack, it was a shame that this element of the story got a little lost as the bout went on, as it could have made the action later on in the contest even more interesting.

The Toronto crowd that was initially luke-warm to a contest with very little build and zero push on television over the last few weeks (Natalya hasn't wrestled on Monday Night RAW since 18th January) bought into the action in the later half of the bout, which is a real testament to the two ladies in the ring, as well as whoever worked as their agent for the bout. The crowd willed on their fellow Canadian through a series of well-done submissions, with Charlotte and Natalya exchanging their signature holds, the Figure 8 Leglock and the Sharpshooter. The pop when Natalya finally locked in the Sharpshooter was something special. Having Ric Flair involved in the finish, and also seemingly refuse to help Charlotte reach the ropes, furthered the on-going storyline between the two and allowed Charlotte to once again claim a cheap victory to retain her title. It's a real shame that opportunities for Natalya to wrestle this kind of match have been few and far between in her WWE career, but also a great sign for what's to come at WrestleMania, if the "Diva's" are allowed to perform at this kind of level once again. (Coincidentally, Charlotte's WrestleMania opponents Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks went over Team B.A.D. in Atlantic City on the same night)

fast-forward...A promo for upcoming WWE Network shows aired, which was nice...

brock lesnar defeats bray wyatt and luke harper in a two-on-one handicap match

It bugged me more than a little that WWE had pushed a Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt match for this show and we didn't actually get it. Yeah, The Wyatt Family are heels, and Wyatt chickening out of the match should make angry anyway, but I don't think I was angry, I was just a little bit let down. Harper and Lesnar put on some decent stuff, including a trip to suplex city, but beyond an initial scuffle at the beginning Wyatt wasn't involved in the match. Had the match been advertised as Brock Lesnar vs. Luke Harper, I honestly wouldn't have minded, I'm sure many others would have felt the same. A Lesnar vs. Harper singles contest would have been much more satisfying than the bait and switch that we got. For a Network Special, I'm just about willing to let it pass because the action was damn good, but if this had been a regular PPV event...hmmm. With the rumour that WWE will be opting to create more of these specials and less PPV's over the next twelve months, I'm hoping this isn't a sign of things to come. (Wondering where Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman were? They were in Atlantic City, putting over The Big Show & Kane in tag action)

sami zayn defeats stardust

Another Canadian getting a run-out in-front of his home country was Sami Zayn. After returning to Monday Night RAW just five days prior and his Two out of Three Falls match with Samoa Joe airing two days after that, Zayn being booked against a Stardust who hasn't won on RAW or Smackdown since August, couldn't help but come across as a little flat. After the bout initially had a lively crowd, the longer things went on, the more Toronto began to turn on it. As much as I respect both Zayn and Stardust as talents, you can hardly blame Toronto for getting bored and chanting for JBL. Similar to Chris Jericho and Jack Swagger's match earlier on, the action inside the ring was perfectly fine, but no one, either inside or outside the Ricoh Coliseum, had a reason to care. 

This match could have gotten away with being six, seven, eight minutes shorter. At this point in their careers, it was clear Sami Zayn was always going to get the win and everything else was filling time and actually might have ended up harming Zayn's current push. Whilst he looked slick and performed well, a 12 minute plus match with Stardust hardly makes him look like a world beater. If these two had been having a feud leading into the bout and had they both been presented as equals over the last few months, then this would have been a decent match. It was a decent match. But it just wasn't the match that these two performers should have been having, right now.

triple h defeats dean ambrose to retain the wwe world heavyweight championship

This was the big-one, the match that made the show more than just a broadcast house show (especially after Brock Lesnar's match with Bray Wyatt became a handicap match). One thing that did surprise me here, was just how mixed the crowd were, with the match beginning with a duelling chant for both men. Over the last few weeks on Monday Night RAW, we've seen crowds be very much behind Dean Ambrose. It perhaps had something to do with Triple H having no performed in a singles match since last year's WrestleMania with Sting. It almost certainly has something to do with this being Triple H's first match in Canada since he teamed with Shawn Michaels to face Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in a Submissions Count Anywhere match at Breaking Point 2009 and his first match in Toronto since he defeated Chavo Guerrero on Friday Night Smackdown #488 (December 2008). When you're dealing with someone with the tenure of Triple H it's almost inevitable that he'll garner a portion of the crowd support when wrestling on events like this one.

A big chunk of the storyline from the match came from Ambrose targeting Triple H's leg, with the commentary team making reference to The Game's previous quadriceps issues (2001 & 2007). Another interesting piece of booking, as it meant that the man usually presented as a nutjob was using obvious strategy in the ring, which lead to the commentary having an awkward bicker. Triple H's selling was almost babyface-esque as he struggled to get to his feet. Of course, there was the later pay-off with Ambrose locking on the Figure Four Leg Lock and the Sharpshooter, which got a decent reaction, but I'm sure this part of the match was handled as well as it could have been for the two characters involved in the match.

Once Triple H pushed Ambrose into the steel steps on the outside, I felt the match settled into a much more enjoyable pattern, as Ambrose fought from underneath and took risks in order to get in offence. The contest peaked at the right times, with the veteran champion knowing just when to lift the contest to keep the crowd involved. We saw The Game lock in a Crossface, that was essentially a glorified rest-hold, but add that little extra to it, whether that be through facials or vocals that kept me focused on what was going on. Alongside this we had Ambrose gaining space and leaping off the top rope, as well as a number of surprisingly slick back and forth reversal sequences.

Both men attempting to hit their (rather similiar looking) finishers, had Toronto seemingly on the edge of their seat knowing that either man's move could very well end the contest. That meant that when Ambrose hit his Dirty Deeds DDT, the crowd popped big and then popped even more when The Lunatic Fringe seemingly had the match won! A big shock pop, only for it to be quickly wave off because Ambrose foot was under the ropes. A big moment in Ambrose career as it showed WWE were willing to protect him, I wouldn't be surprised if a he get's a short title run later in the year. I thought the finish also leaned towards Ambrose, as while The Game picked up a clean win with a Pedigree, it could easily be argued that it was Ambrose own risk-taking that cost him the match, after missing a diving elbow drop through the announce table. After a shaky start, I thought this contest ended up delivering above my expectations and was easily the best match on offer here.


atpw scale rating - 5.78/10

Let's not beat around the bush, this was a one match show. Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose was the only match here that had any real consequence. Even then, I was 90% certain that Triple H would be walking out with his title and therefore it's even more impressive that the Toronto audience was convinced that Ambrose had won the match at one point. The same goes for Charlotte and Natalya's WWE Diva's Championship match that was an absolute no-brainer in terms of who was walking out with the title, but the two ladies put on a bloody good bout that had the crowd buying into the action more and more as it went on. Of course, if the live crowd is into the action, it's even easier for me as a home viewer to get involved. The NXT Tag Team Championship match also deserves a mention here, quality work by all four men involved in that one.

It was a shame then that a lot of the rest of the show felt thrown together. Sami Zayn vs. Stardust, Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger. Why? Personally, I think the show would have been better off being half an hour or even an hour shorter. If you don't want to have Jericho vs. Zayn on TV, have it as a dark match. Whoever decided that Zayn and Stardust needed to go for 12 minutes is a boob. Then there was the advertised Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt match that never actually happened. The opening tag bout falls somewhere in the middle for having some bright ideas and action, but never quite coming together on the night.

In terms of Live Specials, Roadblock was probably marginally better than Live from MSG: Lesnar vs. Big Show event from last year, I'd even go as far as saying that this show was a little bit better than WWE's last PPV offering Fastlane. With just 20 days until Takeover: Dallas and 22 days until WrestleMania, it was clear that Roadblock was never going to set the world on fire and it didn't, but parts of this show definitely whetted my appetite for the sports-entertainment feast that was still to come. 

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