It's all been going on in WWE recently, hasn't it? Title matches on TV, the big ol' draft with the brands and what have you, NXT call ups and Zack Ryder ending up with a US title shot for reason that I'm even sure he understands. But were Vince and the boys going to stop there? Hell na, where they! Bring on a PPV, because...PPV. How would the WWE landscape look after Battleground and more importantly, would it be any good?
Let's get down to business straight away, Dean Ambrose only went and retained his WWE Championship in a triple threat match with Seth Rollins and the returning Roman Reigns. What a moment for Ambrose here, that really solidified his title reign, just five weeks after a Money in the Bank cash-in, as he went over two of the top names in the company, clean. No shenanigans, Ambrose hit Reigns with Dirty Deeds and that was that. Whether it was a huge statement of belief from WWE on "The Lunatic Fringe" as a prolonged headliner or whether it came down to circumstance with the renewed brand-split a few days earlier and wanted to stack Ambrose's Smackdown with legitimacy (think the same reasons John Cena and Randy Orton ended up on the show), I think we'll have to wait a bit longer to find out. However, it does mean that Ambrose should get an opportunity to headline next month's SummerSlam special, which would be a massive moment for Dean, right now.
The triple threat was an extremely satisfying main event, that worked towards the crowd reaction and played to what the majority of fans wanted to see. I mentioned earlier how the match went with what the audience wanted to see and this was obviously in reference to Ambrose and Rollins teaming up together to take out Reigns. The crowd was so hot for Reigns, that had it gone any other way, then the reaction would have been nowhere near as strong. There was so much to like from the match taking this route, like the sequence with a suicide dive from Ambrose and tope conhilo from Rollins, the old Shield style powerbomb and into Rollins nailing Ambrose with a steel chair invoking images of the groups original break up. Another great sequence of action from Rollins and Ambrose was the icing on the cake. The structure of the match, seemed to be Reigns being put in his place by WWE's chunky cheeses, as even though he clearly wasn't "buried", he definitely wasn't allowed as many moments to shine or "look strong" as he would have been a six months ago.
The contest took a while to find it's rhythm with a few minutes of "one in, one out" stuff, but once the three guys got going and the story of the match began ticking over, with the twists and turns started coming, it built into a hell of a three way. As soon Reigns had hit his Drive-By kick on Rollins, it was time to buckle in, because the match really took off at that point. It built and built and built with extra layers being added, whether that be through sequences of action, something extra for the story or a immense near fall, it had the people hyped until the final moments, especially with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan out at ringside to lift them when needed. The finish felt like it came a little too soon, maybe because of the way it was put together, with "The Lunatic Fringe" nicking in on Reigns with Dirty Deeds after he'd hit a Superman Punch and Spear on Rollins. It was such a sudden conclusion and I feel like there was a bit more to see here with these guys, so maybe there's a plan for another three way somewhere along the line.
Before I get into John Cena, Enzo & Cass going over The Club, it'd be almost rude not to talk about Enzo Amore (and to a lesser extent Big Cass) bringing his A-grade promo skills to PPV and whipping the Verizon Center into a complete frenzy. Amore had managed to run down all three members of The Club on this past Monday's RAW and he went topped it here. With a special ability to be funny, but completely serious at the same time, be able to get the audience to laugh with a line about the Scream trilogy one moment and then make them want to see a fight the next moment, Amore makes every second he's one the screen count. Just like their in-ring partnership, Cass is always there to provide one hefty exclamation point on the whole situation and that's why I'm so happy that the duo weren't broken up last Tuesday!
Amore would play a major role in the set-up of the match, being part of the hot face shine, that included Cass lobbing both Amore and AJ Styles over the top on the other Club members, before becoming the Certified G in peril. "Jersey's Finest" has really carved out a niche for himself in this position during his time in NXT and now on the main roster, not many can take a beating quite like Enzo. The bruising style of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson played well into this, with there being a strong dynamic between the three, that got the crowd super invested into every hope spot for "Muscles Marinara". I love to see what Enzo & Cass and Gallows & Anderson could do together as a foursome if given the chance on Monday Night RAW. The moment when Amore was able to take out the entire Club on the outside of the ring, only to get nailed by a huge flying knee by Anderson, was worked to perfection by everyone involved and possibly my favourite sequence of the entire night. It did mean however that the actual hot tag, that saw Amore dodge a splash from Gallows, was a little flat by comparison.
Although I'd have liked to have seen more Cena v Styles one on one, the final third of the match was equally as entertaining as what had came before it, with the tempo being upped and all six guys getting involved, in-side and out-side of the ring. After we'd got passed the shoe-horned stuff involving members of each team accidentally hitting each other, the match erupted with Cena taking a spinebuster from Anderson onto the announce table and Amore nailing "The Machine Gun" with a planted DDT off the step. The booking off the final straight worked for me, with Anderson & Gallows looking dominant against Enzo & Cass, hitting the Magic Killer on "The Big Bambino" before Gallows bested "Smacktalker Skywalker" with a big ol' superkick, there window was left open for a future feud between these teams on Monday nights. The culmination with Cena and Styles battling on the top rope wasn't quite as smooth as it shoulder have been, with "The Phenomenal One" struggling to avoid a Super Attitude Adjustment never seeming to be going in any other direction, but it was definitely a cool way to bring the feud to end, although I can't help feeling that the pair deserve to have one more singles match together.
Sami Zayn defeated Kevin Owens and it was exactly how grudge matches are supposed to be presented in 2016. These lads made you think they hate each other and went at it from the opening bell, with every move being delivered with that extra bit of malice and intent, making for a compelling contest. By the end of the match, you could see what it meant for Zayn to have defeated Owens, like a proper no doubt about it, clean as a whistle win over his friend turned arch nemesis. He showed it in every movement he made during the match, but especially in the closing sequence as he nailed an exploder suplex into the bottom turnbuckle, a half and half suplex and two Helluva Kicks before draping himself over his opponent. After the match he looked liked he'd won a title belt, which considering the pair have cost each other World title shots, the Intercontinental Championship a few times and the Money in the Bank briefcase, felt particularly fitting. A real lesson in making a non-title contest feel as important as any prize in the company (without actually doing any damage to any other trophies, obviously)
Christ, there was so much I liked about this match, that I'm struggling to formulate a coherent review of it. There were a collection of things that all contributed to the fight being a brilliant experience from beginning to end. Owens being an absolute boss when in control, managing to be annoyingly entertaining, as he trod on Zayn's hand and locked on head locks to spite the live audience. "The Prizefighter" targeting the arm after Zayn appeared to injure it on a botched Arabian Press attempt (that was probably the only foot put wrong in the entire match) in a case of the performers taking a negative and turning it into a positive, with it leading to a nasty looking Crossface "near fall". Then there was stuff like the brainbuster onto the apron by Zayn, Owens hitting a cannonball on Zayn with the later draped upside down in the turnbuckle, a superb sequence with Zayn nailing two half and half suplexes after Owens blocked the Helluva Kick and emotionally fueled slap battle. Then there was the near falls and falsies for Owens, first off a well-timed Frog Splash and a Pop-Up Powerbomb where Zayn got his foot on the ropes, simultaneously popping the people, whilst protecting Owens finish. Yeah, I liked this match, it was entertaining, emotional and clever wrestling. One more match at SummerSlam please? Surely these boys can't be on the same brand and not wanted to rip each others heads off and piss in the hole? I'll leave this here...ladder match, loser leaves RAW...gew on.
You know how much I lurve a talking segment on a PPV! They are just the best, aren't they? I much prefer talking to wrestling. All those words that people use to convey meaning about things they have done or plan to do in the future. Okay, so Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel with a returning Randy Orton was actually an entertaining talking segment, that managed to tell a cool story and promoted Orton's upcoming match on 21st August with Brock Lesnar. But on PPV? Or Network special? Or whatever we're calling these situations in 2016. Nah, thanks. "The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels has left the building" "I know 1004 holds and wrote them all down" "Say Goodbye to CM Punk" "Rick Rude or Robert Roode or whatever that jabronis name is" all brilliant talking segments (okay, maybe not that last one) for various reasons, but you know one things about them? They didn't happen on PPV. No. Stop it, WWE. This would have been a huge headline segment on tomorrow's RAW, but kind of got lost in the mix on this show.
That's the rant bit over (for now), let's bring a bit of power of positivity to this hizzouse! Jericho and Orton owned this segment, like the two veteran performers that they are. The whole section was based on the idea that everyone knew how it was going to end, a bit like Romeo and Juliet, I suppose. Randy Orton was never going to leave that ring with nailing "Y2J" with one of those jumping cutters that he's so bloody fond of. This lead to a lot of build up with Jericho antipating the move and constantly calling "The Viper"'s bluff, which meant the spot got much more meaningful pop. Jericho worked his role as host well, finely walking the line between annoying and entertaining, just to the point where you'd quite like to see some lad try to yank his head off a bit. Orton on the other hand was dropping bombshells on Brock Lesnar about taking naughty substances and getting UFC all huffy and kind of also making WWE look a bit shitty for not doing anything about it. It was pretty cheap, but it got the crowd to pop, and will get some coverage, I suppose. Orton's clearly forgetting his two previous wellness policy violations under WWE, but let's brush that under the carpet, eh?
For the second PPV in a row the Women's Champion featured in a tag team match, as Sasha Banks and a debuting Bayley defeated Charlotte and Dana Brooke. It was a feel good moment to see Bayley turn up on a WWE PPV and her entrance got a tremendous reaction at the start of the show, a reaction which probably drove the match, in all honesty. Removed from the hype of Bayley's debut, this was an alright match in-ring. The action was pretty back and forth in the early going, with no one getting too much time in control. The audience was still hot for everything that was going on, as Bayley briefly slotted into a face in peril role, before Banks had a face shine/hot tag situation and Charlotte would take back control. It took a while to find it's grove, but once Brooke had taken advantage of Charlotte distracting Bayley, pulling her off the middle rope and sending her head crashing into the top turnbuckle, everyone found their place in the match and played it up well.
The closing stages of the match struggled to keep up with the ideas that were involved, with a everything feeling a little rushed and more than a few timing issues. The biggest example of this was Bayley charging in way too early on a Natural Selection false finish, breaking up the pinfall before the referee's hand had even slapped the mat. Obviously, if you break up a cover this early, it stops being a falsie and takes away part of the drama that should have been building in those closing stages. The ending with Brooke interrupting a Banks Statement on Charlotte, only for Banks being able to lock it in again was another piece of action that didn't quite come across as I feel it should have. Brooke pulling Charlotte out of the ring looked rough and lacked the finesse that a major spot should have and I feel it took a little away from the finish. This was a solid tag match, but had the potential to be much better than that.
The Wyatt Family conquered The New Day in a surprisingly compact match, that was put together pleasingly but didn't quite break out into the top speed that I think I was expecting. Whether that's that Braun Strowman isn't as strong a worker as previous Wyatt Family member Luke Harper, or that the match was dampened slightly to allow the other six man tag to take the spotlight, I'm not quite sure. However, what was on display here was a gratifying watch with a handful of distinct elements that kept me interested from start to finish. Stuff like Kofi Kingston taking a beating and Big E going nuts on a hot tag, nailing an overhead Belly to Belly suplex on Erick Rowan, were all well and good, but the thing this match did best was the showdown between Xavier Woods and Bray Wyatt. Every hung on Woods firing up and finally going for Wyatt after being supposedly "under his spell", it could have came off as a bit corny, but the crowd popped big for it and Woods' going for it hammer and tongues produced a cool moment. The finish did feel anti-climactic as Wyatt simply used the spider walk to confuse Woods, a similar ending to their singles match on Smackdown last Tuesday.
Many years from now, wrestling fans will mingle with one another at a show and one will say to the other..."Do you remember when Darren Young got an Intercontinental Championship match on PPV?" the reply will be "No". Literally the only thing that happened before the finish was a fan heckling the phrase "Straight to DVD" at The Miz. I have no notes on anything else, so I have to accept that as gospel. I'm not even sure what happen during the finish, if I'm brutally honest with you. Miz's wife Maryse slapped Young's coach Bob Backlund, so Backlund took a back bump and then struggled to take his shirt off. Something else would probably happen and then Young locked in a Cross-faced Chicken Wing on Miz on the outside and the ref just called for the bell. I don't know. I don't know. Why were Young and Backlund so bloody happy to have not won anything at all? Why any of this?
In another weird title feud, Rusev defeated Zack Ryder to retain the United States Championship. This match actually came off much better than it's IC counterpart, telling a simple underdog USA story for "The Long Island Iced Z" and keeping things lively with plenty of hope spots for Ryder as Rusev attempted to machka his American arse. The dropkick from Ryder off the barricade was the highlight of the match, being a well thought out spot that gave the pair plenty of time on the outside to re-group before heading for the finish. I was genuinely excited when Ryder hit a Rough Ryder and seemingly had the win, but then he weirdly went for an Elbow Drop instead of going for a pin, which would ultimately be his downfall. A long-ish spell in the Accolade, including a strong moment where it appeared "The Ultimate Broski" may have escaped, would spell the end for ol' Zachary. Oh yeah, Mojo Rawley turned up as well. I tried Mojo, but I couldn't even get hype for you, let alone stay hype, bud.
Natalya defeating Becky Lynch with the Sharpshooter, probably came out being my sleeper match of the night. It wasn't anything spectacular, but the pair wrestled a solid match, that featured some lovely technical chain wrestling. The section when the pair both went for their respective finishers was super smooth and a real pleasure to watch. The finish was also novel idea, that involved the former Diva's Champion getting behind the referee in the corner, before kicking between his legs towards "The Lass Kickers" knee when the latter approached, in a decent end to the story the pair had told. I'd have liked that story to have kicked in just a little earlier as Natalya took quite a while to formulate a simple game plan of attacking Lynch's leg and with the contest not having a lot of time I'd have preferred to see it get straight into the narrative. Top marks to Lynch for her selling which was consistent throughout, although I think if we'd see Natalya do a bit more damage then it would have warranted the level that Lynch went for. Weirdly, Natalya sold her own leg at the end of match, maybe she just got confused?
Tag Team Match: Bayley & Sasha Banks def. Women's Champion Charlotte & Dana Brooke in 7 minutes, 25 seconds.
Six Man Tag Team Match: The Wyatt Family - Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt & Erick Rowan def. Tag Team Champions The New Day - Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods in 8 minutes, 47 seconds
Singles Match for United States Championship: "The Bulgarian Brute" Rusev (C) (with "The Ravishing Russian" Lana) def. Zack Ryder in 7 minutes, 1 second.
Singles Match: Sami Zayn def. Kevin Owens in 18 minutes, 22 seconds
Singles Match: Natalya def. Becky Lynch in 9 minutes, 3 seconds
Singles Match for Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (C) (with Maryse) v Darren Young (with Bob Backlund) ended in a No Contest after 8 minutes, 41 seconds
Six Man Tag Team Match: Big Cass, Enzo Amore & John Cena def. The Club - AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson in 14 minutes, 30 seconds
Triple Threat Match for WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose (C) def. Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns in 18 minutes, 3 seconds