by Scrooge McSuck
- It's the final PPV before WrestleMania 31/XXXI, and this show marks the 1st Year Anniversary of the WWE Network. Writing this up before the show, there's definite intrigue to what the direction is leading into the biggest show of the year. What will WWE do with the World Heavyweight Championship scenario? Continue on with Roman Reigns, or call an audible two years consecutively and insert Daniel Bryan into the Main Event? What about Cena and Rusev? Seth Rollins? Where's Randy Orton? What of the Undertaker, or Sting, or the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal!? These questions need answering.
- Presented LIVE on the WWE Network on February 22nd, 2015, from the FedExForum in Memhpis, TN. Michael Cole, Jerry "The King" Lawler, and John "Bradshaw" Layfield are at ringside to call all the action, unless otherwise noted.
Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Erick Rowan vs. Seth Rollins, Corporate Kane, Big Show (w/ J & J Security):
Interesting choice for the opener. Despite the placement of importance of most of the participants (that would be WWE’s list, not mine), this was one of the “filler” matches added at the last minute. Yes, they’re still milking the whole fall-out from Survivor Series. Rowan, the whipping boy of the face side, gets absolutely zero reaction. You know the rule… any reaction is better than no reaction. Ziggler and Rollins start, thus guaranteeing that the match will fall apart as soon as both tag out. They have a hot opening sequence, and then it’s into the abyss with Kane and Rowan. In almost an instance, Rowan does something stupid (a missed spinning kick, whacking the post) and becomes the Troll-Faced Goof in Peril. Can I get a trademark on that? Show tagging in draws GROANS. The highspot of the heat sequence is one of many Christmas Creature references. Ryback gets hot tag #1 and cleans Rollins’ clock. He actually gets to hit the Shellshock, but the pin is broken up. Ziggler, selling on the floor like he’s been shot (a kick from Rollins two minutes prior), gets the real hot tag and does his best working over Kane and Big Show. Plucky underdogs never really succeed, and he succumbs to a combination KO Punch and Chokeslam, and KANE covers for the three count at 13:00. Yep, KANE pins Dolph Ziggler. I guess they felt sorry for jobbing out Rowan so much? Curb-stomps for everyone afterwards, but RKO OUTTA NOWHERE, IT’S RANDY ORTON! His body language reminds us exactly why he’s rarely cast as a babyface. **1/2 When either (or both) Ziggler or Rollins were in, the match was really good. When neither was in it, it stunk, and the finish sucked. Rollins getting the pin would be acceptable, or Rowan taking the fall, but Ziggler doing what is practically a clean job to Kane isn’t necessary in 2015.
Goldust vs. Stardust:
Surprisingly lengthy recap video and promo leading into the match. I guess Dusty Rhodes’ promo is 100% scripted, because he’s so lifeless, you’d think he was there against his will. Cody… whoops, Stardust, has a new look. He’s ditched the body suit and is just wearing long tights and gloves. Crowd constantly heckles him with “Cody” chants, leading to a bit of stalling. Hot start with a pretty good arm drag sequence. Goldust mostly controls, using his experience to catch Stardust off guard. He manages to slip out of a Director’s Cut attempt, and works the ribs. Nothing really worth noting. He eventually goes for the Cross Rhodes (it’s time to change the name if he disowns the Rhodes name), but Goldust counters with a crucifix for tw---three, at 8:55? Replays show that Stardust got his shoulder up, AND the referee didn’t even make the third count, but still called for the bell. Awful finish #1 tonight. *3/4 You know this isn’t over. Stardust gives a half-hearted handshake post-match, but attacks Goldust backstage and spews venom (not literally) at his father. WrestleMania ReMatch?! Hopefully it doesn’t have a completely botched finish,
WWE Tag Team Championship Match:
Despite weeks of trading wins, the only thing recapped before the match is that awful “double date” that was taped at some random point in the week, but replayed on EVERY show. I’m not against her choice of attire tonight, but when did Natalya become Catwoman? Kidd and Jey start. Jey gets an early two count from a corkscrew moonsault. Jimmy tags in, gets his knee clipped, and proceeds to be the face-in-peril. They are definitely rushing through things, so far. Kidd wraps the leg around the middle rope and applies a spinning toe hold. Cesaro with a double stomp to the knee, hooks the leg, and does a brief Giant Swing before locking in a single-leg crab. Kidd with a slingshot leg drop for two. Indian Deathlock applied. Jey gets the hot tag and cleans house of both challengers. Cesaro ends up crotching him along the top turnbuckle, takes him over with a super-plex, and Kidd from the opposite side of the ring with a springboard elbow drop for two. Action spills to the floor, and it’s USO CRAZY TIME! Jimmy slams Kidd into the barricade in a blown Samoan drop spot that actually looked cooler than it probably would’ve been. Back in the ring, an Uso splash meets knees, but a cradle from Kidd only gets two. Sharpshooter applied, but a superkick to the back of the head forces a break. The action continues to get out of hand, until Kidd plants Jimmy with the Fisherman Buster and covers for three at 9:30. New Tag Team Champions… FACT. OK, that’s dumb ***1/4 Really good match, but felt a bit rushed, especially the opening minutes skipping straight into the heat sequence.
Jimmy & Jey Uso (w/ Naomi) vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (w/ Natalya):
- Triple H comes out, dressed for a fight, to officially call out the Icon Vigilante Legend Sting. OFFICIALLY. He cuts a short promo about Sting backing the wrong horse and wanting to screw over himself and Stephanie as revenge. Sting shows up, and Hunter continues calling him a loser until trying to sucker punch him, only to get knocked back. Hunter eventually recovers and whacks Sting in the face with the microphone, and it’s Sledgehammer time. Before he can use it, THE BAT is back and Sting backs Triple H into the corner. After forcing Hunter to drop his weapon, he continues to stare a hole through him until pointing at the WrestleMania sign. And now you know the rest of the story. Not an earth-shattering segment, but Sting revealing the bat to counter the sledgehammer ruled, and who isn’t a mark for “WE’RE POINTING!”?
WWE Diva’s Championship Match:
It’s such a shame… in NXT, the Women’s Championship is practically treated as an equal to the men, and has consistently featured some of the best wrestling the NXT specials have to offer. The Diva’s Championship continues to be a play-thing to occupy piss-breaks and feature what is generally the worst wrestling of the night. At least these two have been given more than a week to develop a program, but unfortunately, WWE just repeats the same idea over and over. Slugfest to start, won by Paige, but Nikki quickly takes over. Crickets are chirping, and all you can hear is Brie’s annoying hollering. Alabama Slam gets two. Paige comes back with short-arm clotheslines and a one-foot dropkick for two. Nikki escapes the Ram-Paige, but gets nailed with a super-kick. Paige goes for the PTO, but Nikki manages to make it to the ropes before it can be fully applied. Suddenly, Nikki with a roll up, “handful of tights”, and three count to retain at 5:35. Awful finish #2, #3 if you REALLY hated Kane pinning Ziggler. ** Was going just fine until the crap finish. Too rushed, as well.
Nikki Bella © (w/ Brie Bella) vs. Paige:
- Triple H vs. Sting is confirmed for WrestleMania (31). Set your calendars now!
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
This has potential to steal the show. Good hype leading into the show about the prestige of the Intercontinental Championship and how it deserves to be treated with the same respect now as it was years ago. Have I mentioned Barrett doing worthless non-title jobs to Sin Cara and R-Truth in the last month? So… what Road Runner finish are we getting tonight? Ambrose starts hot, sending Barrett to the floor. Shoulder tackle and twisting elbow drop gets two. Ambrose to the top rope, but Barrett manages to boot him off, to the floor. This allows Ambrose to work in his momentum clothesline in a cute spot. Back in the ring, Ambrose with a tornado DDT and running bulldog. Barrett comes back with the Winds of Change, but Ambrose recovers and cradles him for two. Ambrose with his signature running dropkick and flying elbow for another two count. They go through a series of counters until Barrett connects with Wasteland, but it only gets two. He sets up for the Bull Hammer, Ambrose ducks and rolls him up for two. Ambrose with the clothesline off the ropes. He sets up for Dirty Deeds, but Barrett desperately leaves the ring, attempting to take a count-out. Ambrose is repeatedly forced to throw him back in the ring. He traps Barrett in the corner and pounds away on him while he clings to the bottom rope… and it draws a DQ at 7:59 In yet ANOTHER awful finish. What the HELL is going on tonight?! ** It WAS going good until we get another horse-shit finish, and another super-rushed effort that felt more like it belongs on an episode of Raw or Smackdown.
Bad News Barrett © vs. Dean Ambrose:
- We tease the (unadvertised) arrival of the Undertaker, but it turns out to be Bray Wyatt riding in the casket. He cuts another promo, outright calling the Undertaker out, and offering to collect his soul at WrestleMania. Will the Undertaker accept the challenge? Will we get more than one good finish on this PPV?
WWE United States Championship Match:
I still don’t get the concept of pushing Cena as some washed-up has-been. You can play up the age factor by saying how much younger Rusev is, as well as being an athletic powerhouse, without undercutting the golden boy of the company. I smell another shit-finish, just because it’s for the Title, and does anyone expect Cena to leave Fastlane as the U.S. Champion? Rusev teases Cena early with kicks, and eats a haymaker for his arrogance. Rusev comes out of nowhere with a spinning heel kick and avalanche for a pair of two counts. Cena throws a dropkick, so Rusev retaliates. Cena goes for his signature shoulder tackles, but they’re countered. AA is countered with a DDT for two. Cena eventually works in his shoulders, back suplex, and five-knuckle shuffle, but Rusev practically shrugs it off and connects with a heel kick for two. Urange’ gets two. Cena with a Tornado DDT for two. They slug it out. Cena fails again at the AA, and Rusev manages to rip Cena’s grip away from the STF. Rusev with a spinebuster for two. He goes for the Accolade, but Cena blocks the stomp and turns it into another STF! This time Rusev is forced to go to the ropes to break. Cena finally hits the AA on attempt #4, but it only gets a two count. He heads to the top rope for a guillotine leg drop, but it’s countered with a Powerbomb. Rusev with the Accolade! Cena keeps fighting out of the grip, and eventually fights to his feet with Rusev on his back! Suddenly, Lana comes into the ring to distract the referee, Rusev kicks Cena low, hits his super-kick, and reapplies the Accolade. Cena is unconscious, so referee Charles Robinson calls for the bell at 18:41. Ugh… not an awful finish, but disappointing because I was really get into things. ***1/2 I thought they did a pretty good job of making Rusev look like a monster, but coming closer than ever to suffering his first defeat, and even though I’m not the biggest Cena fan, I was really sucked into the final sequence and was cheering for him to find a way to escape or counter.
Rusev © (w/ Lana) vs. John Cena:
Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns:
Winner gets to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXXI. I have a bad feeling we’ll get an inconclusive finish to this one. Early in the match, the lines in the sand are clearly drawn: Daniel Bryan is going to out-wrestle Reigns, and Reigns is going to do everything to over-power Bryan. The crowd musters a dueling chant, but it sounds 70-30 in favor of Bryan. Bryan heels it up a bit, kicking Reigns questionably low. He tries to do his flip out of the corner and clothesline, but Reigns counters with a tilt-o-whirl back breaker. Bryan continues to target the leg, but Reigns fights free with a flurry of forearms. He turns Bryan inside out with a clothesline, but it only gets two. Reigns with an impressive trio of gutwrench suplexes, holding onto the grip along the way. He sets up for the Superman Punch, and takes a kick to the ribs, crumbling in pain as a result. Bryan with more kicks as the referee tries to check to see if Reigns can continue. Bryan with three running dropkicks, but a hurricanrana attempt is countered with a sitout powerbomb. More back and forth until they take it to the floor. Bryan with a pair of a suicide dives, but a third is caught and countered with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Reigns charges and spears the ring steps. They tease a double count-out, but both are in at 9. Superman Punch connects for two! Reigns goes for the Spear again, but it’s countered with a small package for two! RUNNING KNEE CONNECTS… and Reigns kicks out at two! That’s the first time anyone has kicked out of it. Reigns shrugs off a flurry of kicks, so Bryan slaps him around! He hooks the Yes-Lock, but Reigns escapes. Bryan briefly applies a triangle choke, but Reigns counters with a Powerbomb! Bryan finds himself in charge again. He sets up for another running knee, but this time Reigns meets him with the Spear, and Reigns is (officially) going to WrestleMania at 20:10. I’m SHOCKED we got a clean finish, and a decisive winner. Post-match, Bryan yells at Reigns to kick Lesnar’s ass at WrestleMania and shakes his hand. ****1/2 I don’t know how much this did to sway the fans, but I felt this was a show saving performance, and Reigns was more than able to carry his own weight. They worked a smart formula, stuck to it, and threw everything they had at each other until ultimately only one could be left standing.
Final Thoughts: Take away the Main Event, and this is a pretty forgettable show. I liked Cena and Rusev, but we all knew something screwy was going to take place, and a lazy “low blow, knocked out opponent is put in submission hold” finish was even worse than I expected. The next high profile angle was the non-match between Triple H and Sting. The rest of the undercard was rushed and/or featured some of the worst finishes you could find… from the 1980’s. Did I mention Ziggler doing a pinfall job to Kane? Adding in Bryan vs. Reigns, I have a very hard time even suggesting this as a recommended show. I say skip the entire undercard and just watch the Main Event. It’s the only thing worth your time.
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