WWE Wrestlemania is this Sunday, and it’s become a tradition to devote an entire episode to the biggest wrestling event of the year. Drew and Bill take a look at the card, from top to bottom, and devote the entire show to Wrestlemania 31. How was the build? How will the matches turn out? Where does WWE go from here?
Below is the current lineup for Wrestlemania 31, as of Tuesday 03/24/15. Remember, the card is always subject to change.
- WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Roman Reigns.
- Sting vs. Triple H.
- The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt.
- WWE United States Champion Rusev vs. John Cena.
- Seth Rollins (w/ J&J Security) vs. Randy Orton.
- WWE Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. R-Truth vs. Stardust vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler – Ladder Match
- WWE Divas Champion Nikki Bella & Brie Bella vs. Paige & AJ Lee.
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: The Miz, Damien Mizdow, Kane, Big Show, Erick Rowan, Mark Henry, Curtis Axel, Ryback, Fandango, Adam Rose, Zack Ryder, Jack Swagger, The Ascension, The Primetime Players, Sin Cara, Goldust, Heath Slater, and a WWE NXT talent to be announced.
- WWE Tag Team Champions Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (w/ Natalya) vs. Los Matadores (w/ El Torito) vs. The Usos (w/ Naomi) vs. The New Day (Wrestlemania Kickoff Match)
Heading to Wrestlemania this weekend? Lucky for you, there are a number of superstar appearances that will be considered General Admission appearances at Wrestlemania 31 Axxess. Thursday through Sunday morning, you can see various WWE Superstars, NXT Superstars, and a few WWE Hall of Famers at these scheduled appearances:
- Thursday: Booker T, Erick Rowan, Jack Swagger, Lita, Luke Harper, Prime Time Players, Rusev, NXT Superstars, others
- Friday: Dolph Ziggler, Eva Marie, Jerry Lawler, Kane, Mark Henry, Scott Hall, NXT Superstars, others
- Saturday 8am: AJ Lee, Cesaro, The Boogeyman, Kofi Kingston, Rosa Mendes, The Usos, Tyson Kidd, NXT Superstars, others
- Saturday 1pm: Adam Rose, Bad News Barrett, Paul Heyman, Ryback, Santino Marella, Sin Cara, Summer Rae, NXT Superstars, others
- Saturday 6pm: Big E, Damien Sandow, Goldust, Kane, Los Matadores with El Torito, R-Truth, Xavier Woods, NXT Superstars, others
- Sunday 8am: Bella Twins, Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Roddy Piper, Rusev, Trish Stratus, NXT Superstars, other
If you happen to go to any of the Wrestlemania weekend events, and would like to share your experience, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Bill_SoonerFan
This is it – the final Raw before Wrestlemania 31. Santa Clara, CA is getting ready and crews are assembling staging and sets at Levi’s Stadium, but WWE passes through Los Angeles, CA tonight and pays a visit to the Staples Center before the “Grandest Stage of them All” this coming Sunday. All the main stories heat up: Brock Lesnar will face his challenger, Roman Reigns, on this show tonight. John Cena and Rusev will likely exchange words one more time heading into their US Championship collision. All six men in the ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship will face off in some form. Triple H will address Sting, and surely Seth Rollins has something in mind for Randy Orton.
Show Open, Live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
Then, Now, Forever. Raw intro rolls, then Michael Cole welcomes us into the sold-out Staples Center. JBL hypes up Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar facing off sometime tonight. Snoop Dogg and ESPN’s Bill Simmons will also be on the show.
The arena goes dark and the crow sounds. Sting is joining us to start the show, and he comes out to a big reaction. Cole recounts the end of WCW, and how Sting was the face of the company. He says this is a moment we never thought we would see happen. JBL says Sting has no idea what he’s getting into in WWE and facing Triple H. Booker T says Sting does know what he’s getting into.
Sting waits out a brief chant and says “So this is what it feels like to kick off Monday Night Raw. WOOOOO!” He says he has been known as the WCW soldier and how he has watched Triple H “do whatever he has had to do to get to the very top where he is now.” He asks if Hunter is unstoppable, and if he thinks there will be no consequence.
He says he isn’t there to fight for WCW, because it would be ridiculous at this point. He says he is there to take Triple H down. Stephanie McMahon’s music hits and she makes her way to the ring. “So this is what it feels like to be in the ring with the Stinger, the last holdout of WCW.” She mockingly congratulates him for making it to the big time, to share the ring with her.
Sting calls her a spoiled brat who has had everything handed to her in life “and somehow believes (she’s) earned it.” She says she understands why Sting would lash out, and it’s because he’s intimidated. She tells Sting that he was the big fish in the little pond, but now he is a minnow in a gigantic pond. She reminds Sting that her father defeated WCW.
Stephanie says she has to give the devil his due and credits Sting for his loyalty. She compares him to a dog, saying that dogs are loyal too. She says that she would compare him to a dog, but she didn’t want to insult dogs. “Let me remind you of something. WCW lost. You lost.” She tells Sting he lost his dignity and pride along with that loss. She tells him he will lose whatever he has left of it when Triple H pins him in the ring on Sunday. “Face it Sting, you’re nothing more than a face painted freak.”
Sting gives his yell. Stephanie tries to slap him, but Sting’s too fast. Hunter’s music hits and he comes out, getting rid of the tie and walking with purpose. Hunter slowly walks around the ring, which, by the way has the NXT styled video board on it this week. He talks to Stephanie briefly, then yanks off his coat and rolls up his sleeves.
Stephanie goes under the ring for his sledge hammer. Sting pulls out the bat and Hunter thinks twice. Sting can be heard saying “You’ve got your sledge hammer, I’ve got a bat. Make a move.” Hunter gets off the apron and begins to back away. Sting pulls the overcoat off and goads Hunter on, but Stephanie keeps him at bay.
Sting had some nice confidence and energy here. I like them keeping the physicality apart for these two. It will feel more special on Sunday. Sting actually seemed relaxed and having fun with this. He was good here, and I’m thinking we don’t need another segment with these two tonight.
They hype up Randy Orton taking on someone from the Authority tonight, which will be up to a fan vote.
Backstage, AJ and Paige are talking, and they’re going to have to decide which of them will face Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship tonight.
Dean Ambrose makes his way to the ring for the first match. He will be teaming with the “delightfully unstable” R-Truth to take on Luke Harper and Stardust. That’s coming up next.
Match #1 – R-Truth and Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper and Stardust
Bad News Barrett has made his way to ringside, and he will join us on commentary for this match. Early on, the fans rain down “Cody” chants on Stardust. Harper covers his ears in a funny moment. The announcers discuss the thievery of the Intercontinental Championship belt with Barrett as the early action sees the teams exchange offense. Stardust and Harper end up getting dumped to ringside going to commercial.
Back live, Stardust is controlling Ambrose. They show Harper delivering a big boot during the break. Ambrose ends up in the wrong end of town and tries to escape but Stardust hits the Alabama Slam for two. Barrett says the four men can fight all night so they can wear themselves out because it’s better for him. Harper rakes at the eyes of Ambrose as JBL says that Barrett will give England something to be happy about. Harper hits a slingshot off the second rope.
Barrett threatens Booker with a Bull Hammer for talking about the odds for the match. Harper hits his version of the Black Hole Slam for two. Harper perches Ambrose on the ropes and Stardust tags in to try for a superplex. Ambrose counters with a faceplant, but Stardust gets the tag and Harper knocks Ambrose to the floor.
Harper hits a clothesline, and he and Ambrose get back to the ring. Ambrose plants Harper with a tornado DDT. Both man hit the hot tags and Truth goes off on Stardust. He hits a finish but Harper breaks the cover up. Ambrose takes him out with a dive, and Truth finishes off Stardust for the win. Barrett escapes.
Back in the ring, Truth and Ambrose do a little dance and play to the fans. Cole hypes up that we get to pick who faces Randy Orton later – will it be Kane, Big Show, or Seth Rollins and his security goons? JBL says that Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns will go face to face later, but we will get a look at Reigns in more detail, next.
This was fine. I would liked to have seen more attention paid to the match in the ring, but Barrett wasn’t completely distracting on commentary and it did add to the ladder match story. Some of the odds talk was a bit of garbage that could have been left aside, as each man has a 1-in-7 chance to win.
Cole tells us that we have a special presentation. Renee Young welcomes the Special Olympics CEO and a number of athletes. She says that WWE is pleased to announce their partnership with Special Olympics for the World Games which will take place in Los Angeles this summer.
Focus on the announcers. Cole swings to talking about Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. Cole says that they had a candid interview with Reigns, and sends it to a video package.
Reigns calls this match the biggest moment of his life. He talks about how Heyman has fed Lesnar’s bravado, but he can be beaten and he is the man to do it. He says he will show intensity no one has seen before. There’s a Heyman voiceover in there that says “You can’t slay my beast.” He talks about being told he can’t, and says he can, and he will. Believe that.
Back live, Cole reminds us that Lesnar and Reigns will be face to face later. They move on to talk about Bill Simmons and JBL exchanging words on Twitter all week, and he will be out next. Miz’s music hits and Cole says “look who’s home.”
Miz comes out, with Mizdow in tow. Mizdow gets a big pop, of course. This is a ten-man tag match coming up. Cole says they interviewed Kevin Hart and Will Farrell to talk about “Get Hard.” They feed it to an interview clip between the four men, with Miz using it to insult Mizdow, essentially. The interview is on WWE.com if you care to see it.
Match #2 – Ryback, Erick Rowan, Titus O’Neil, Zack Ryder, and Darren Young vs. The Miz, Mizdow, The Ascension, and Adam Rose
They focus on Bill Simmons who has joined the announce position. JBL gives him credit, but Simmons says he has heard the tweets all week. Miz against Titus early. Titus hits a fallway slam, tags in Young and front suplexes him onto Miz. Miz controls Young momentarily, then tags in Rose.
Young fires off on Rose, hitting a stiff right hand and a neckbreaker. Young tags in Rowan, who hits a fallaway slam. There’s a lot of gabbing going on at the announce position that has zero to do with the match. Ryder gets the tag and hits the Broski Boot on Rose. The Ascension starts to work over Ryder, hitting a combination crab/leg drop move. Ryder breaks up the cover, but the heels continue to control the action.
Mizdow tags himself in and hits the combination backbreaker/neckbreaker move. Miz forces him to tag out and brags about it. Ryder faceplants Miz and tags out to Ryback. “It’s dinnertime, Bill.” Ryback hits a Thesz Press on Miz then a spinebuster.
Ryback sets up the Meathook, but ends up gorilla pressing Adam Rose. The Ascension takes out the Prime Time Players but they get clotheslined by Ryback. Miz takes advantage and stomps Ryback down, but Ryback fires back with the Meathook and Shellshocked to get the win. The faces celebrate as Mizdow tends to Miz.
A rare Raw win for some of the career jobbers. I guess it set up the Andre the Giant Battle Royale a bit, and the action was overall fine, but it was very much the backdrop for the announcers chatting away.
The announcers talk about the Network briefly, then roll it to a recap of what happened with Sting and Randy Orton at the end of Raw last Monday. Up next, we will find out who Randy Orton will face next – Big Show, Kane, or Seth Rollins and J&J. Voting closes soon.
Randy Orton comes to the ring. They talk about his match at Wrestlemania against Seth Rollins, saying he finally gets his hands on Rollins. Booker T announces the results, and it’s Seth Rollins and the security who he will face.
Match #3 – Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins and J&J Security:
Rollins, Noble and Mercury make their way to the ring as Cole talks about how Orton is ready for this. Mercury starts off against Orton, and the three have to tag in and out. Orton plants Mercury and yells to tag in Rollins. Mercury teases a tag to Rollins but tags Noble in instead.
Orton takes over on Noble, using the Garvin stomp on him. He whips Noble thru the ropes to the floor. Orton gets his hands on Rollins and tries the elevated DDT, but Mercury gets involved. The distraction costs Orton, and that lets Noble get in some stomps on Orton. Noble gets in Orton’s face but takes an uppercut and an elbow. Mercury tries to intervene but can’t.
Mercury takes a scoop slam, then Orton sets up the elevated DDT. Noble tries to help Mercury, but no luck. Instead, double DDT. Rollins tries a curb stomp, but Orton avoids it and tries to hit the RKO. Instead, Mercury gets clotheslined over the top. Rollins escapes the ring and jaws at Orton. Noble takes the RKO, and Orton wins.
The build to this match is really odd, but I still think it will be good and worth looking forward to. It’s weird how they want us to be excited to see Orton get his hands on Rollins, but he destroyed him a couple weeks ago. Rollins also needed some heat tonight, and instead he played chickenshit. Odd build.
Cole gives a brief shill for the Network. He moves on to hype Cena vs. Rusev, and feeds it to an exclusive interview with John Cena that took place during the past week. Cena says he wears his heart on his sleeve and he backs up what he says. He wants to be the ambassador to send a good message to all countries by winning back the US Championship.
Cole sells Jack Swagger vs. Rusev to happen later tonight.
Backstage, AJ and Paige talk about Nikki giving one of them a title match tonight. AJ says it seems like Nikki is trying to divide them before Mania. Paige says that she has had to deal with the Bellas while AJ was away, so she feels she should take the title match, unless AJ wants it. AJ says she’s just trying to keep them from falling into a trap. Paige says that turning down a title match makes her crazy. AJ asks what she said, and Paige hugs her and says they’ll be fine tonight. AJ rolls her eyes.
Match #4 – Paige (w/AJ Lee) vs. Nikki Bella (c, w/Brie Bella); WWE Divas Championship
JBL talks about how it’s smart strategy for the Bellas to divide Paige and AJ. Old school ring introductions for this title match. Cole says that Paige can tie AJ and Eve Torres for title runs if she wins tonight with three.
Paige unloads early on Nikki with right hands and a headbutt. Paige knees away on Nikki in the ropes. Nikki falls to ringside to regroup. Paige continues the assault once Nikki gets back in the ring. Nikki starts to fire up and does her push-ups. Scott Steiner would be proud. Moments later, Paige hits a dive off the apron on Nikki. Nikki manages to regroup and take control of the match going to commercial.
Back live, Nikki is controlling Paige with a headlock. Fans are chanting for Paige, who starts to fight back but takes a spinebuster. Nikki trash talks but takes a knee lift then both of them hit clotheslines. The two ladies sell. Paige hits a series of short arm clotheslines and crawls into a two count.
Paige eats an elbow on a corner charge, and Nikki hits a jumping enzugiri off the ropes (?!?!) for two. Never saw that move coming from her. Paige hits a superkick for a two count. Paige tries for the RamPaige but Nikki counters to a small package for two.
Nikki hits the Alabama Slam for two. Nikki’s frustrated, and Brie is too at ringside. Nikki tries to load the Rack Attack but Paige counters out and hits the RamPaige for a good near fall. Paige is shocked. Paige attacks Nikki at the ropes and they tumble through.
AJ runs over to stop Brie from an attack. A wild swing by AJ hits Paige. The distraction lets Nikki hit Paige with the big forearm shiver. In the ring, Nikki hits the Rack Attack for the win. Nikki and Brie leave, then Paige and AJ brawl briefly in the ring. They separate, with Paige and AJ leaving separately. Nikki and Brie smile. The announcers recap, and talk about the two regrouping before Sunday.
This was actually pretty good. Surprisingly good, in fact. I thought they did a good job of having Paige and AJ go right at each other at the end, rather than silly mind games. That did nothing for their story when they went there before.
Cole swings into a discussion of the gauntlet match on Smackdown. Ziggler vs. Bryan was the best part of the match, and they show highlights of the match. Ziggler picked up the win. Cole says that on the app, you can vote for the special referee between Ziggler and Bryan, coming up later tonight. The other five competitors in the IC ladder match are your choices.
Snoop Dogg (or Snoop, D-O-Double Gizzle, according to Booker T) is up next.
Cole runs down the Wrestlemania week on WWE Network. Lilian Garcia introduces Snoop Dogg, who comes out with several women (Summer Rae, Rosa Mendes, Cameron and Alicia Fox). Snoop gets a mic in the ring. “Snoop Mania is in the building, right here on Monday Night Raw.” He hypes up that California is the home of Wrestlemania. He says he has been to a few Wrestlemanias. He is interrupted by Curtis Axel.
Axel tells us to not change the channel. ‘Snoop Mania? No, it’s Axelmania.” He says he won’t let Snoop talk about Snoop Mania when Axelmania is running wild. Fans start chanting it. “Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay, Axel mania is here to stay.”
Snoop says that Axel is the guy that has been popping off on Twitter. He asks Axel if he wants to talk about Axelmania, Snoop Mania, Wrestlemania, or “this” one. Hulk Hogan’s music hits and he comes to the ring to a big reaction. He and Snoop play to the fans a bit.
“Well let me tell you something, brother…” He talks about how he knew that Hulkamania would live forever after Wrestlemania 3, and how after Snoop dropped his first record Snoop Mania would live forever. “But Axelmania? Snoop, you know as well as anyone, what’s this guy smoking?”
Axel does his best Hogan impersonation, asking Hogan what he’s gonna do. Hulk lands a right hand, and Snoop throws Axel over the top rope. Snoop and Hogan play to the fans as the announcers yuk it up.
Snoop posing was ridiculous, but not really all that offensive. And while Axel got handed it here, it was a good moment and I’m sure for him a career highlight. And it’s a good move on WWE’s part to do this on Raw, because at Wrestlemania this same thing gets crapped all over and Axel gets a ton of smart fan support.
Cole sends it to the interview that Lesnar gave via tape on last week’s Raw. Cole reminds us that Lesnar and Reigns will face each other in the ring later tonight.
Match #5 – Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, and Natalya vs. Los Matadores and El Torito
The Usos are on commentary. Cole lets us know that the tag team championship match will be on the pre-show. Fast start with Matadore getting a springboard cross body. Jey talks about his shoulder injury, saying they stay ready so they don’t have to get ready.
Matadore hits a neckbreaker on Kidd, then tries a cross body but Kidd ducks and he crashes to the ropes. Kidd tags to Cesaro, who covers. Frequent tags from the champs. Cesaro swings Matadore and Kidd hits his drop kick off the ropes. Kidd continues to control Matadore. Matadore tries to fight out of the wrong corner but gets draped across the ropes.
Hot tags to the fresh men. Matadore hits a flapjack on Cesaro, then El Torito hits a seated senton with some help from the Matadore. Head scissor to Cesaro is followed up with a dive. A bit later, it’s the Bull and Natalya. She clotheslines him for two. She sets up a powerbomb but Torito counters and rolls her up for the win. Naomi laughs, Matadores celebrate, and Kidd and Natalya argue.
Backstage, Bad News is polishing his belt. In walks Kane, who says he’s proud that Barrett has held the title in his possession for 72 hours. Kane says he has to relieve him of the title to hang it above the ring. Barrett resists, but Kane tells him that he can strip him of the title if he doesn’t comply. Barrett hands it over reluctantly. Kane smiles and tells him that all he has to do is beat six other men and climb a ladder to get it back. Barrett says “it’s my bloody title.”
Cole hypes an eight man tag match on Smackdown. Rusev is in the ring already, waving the Russian flag. No entrance for John Cena’s opponent at Mania.
Match #6 – Jack Swagger vs. Rusev:
Jack Swagger gets a nice reaction for the “We the People” chant. They talk about how Rusev’s attack on Zeb Colter still has Colter on the shelf. Rusev gets a fast start, bouncing Swagger off the buckle and jawing at him. Swagger starts to fight back as the fans chant that they want Lana.
Rusev stomps on Swagger, landing a big kick to the back. The fans start a “USA” chant as Rusev locks on a headlock. Cole hypes up the card for Sunday’s event, with JBL giving a $9.99 shill in there. Swagger starts to fight back, but Rusev tosses him to the corner. Swagger throws some hands and hits a big boot.
Swagger throws Rusev to the corner and hits a big clothesline. He sets up the Swagger Bomb, but Rusev tries to counter with a superkick. Swagger nearly picks the ankle for the Patriot Lock, but he comes back with a gutwrench suplex.
Rusev ties Swagger up in the corner and lands shots to the back, then from the apron hits a clothesline. Rusev hits his thrust kick then locks on the Accolade to make Swagger submit. JBL debates if Cena can do it or not, but if anyone can it’s Cena.
Rusev holds on to the Accolade until Cena’s music hits. Cena charges the ring and takes Rusev down twice in the ring. Rusev tosses Cena outside then runs him to the barricade. Rusev runs him back-first into the steel post. JBL says this was a plot by Rusev to get to Cena. Cena gets tossed over the table, and Rusev gets his flag and celebrates.
Rusev stops and stalks Cena again. Rusev hits the thrust kick then dismantles the announce position, then flapjacks him up on the announce position. Cole hypes how Rusev has lost it as Rusev locks on the Accolade. Officials run out and break the hold. Rusev celebrates in the ring as Cole pleads for help.
This was a good way to get some heat on Rusev heading to Wrestlemania. Cole did a good job of pointing out how Lana normally gets Rusev to break the Accolade, but she’s not present to do so. Makes him, and the move, seem dangerous. You know the smart fans at Mania will be cheering for Rusev….
They hype Triple H and Arnold Schwarzenegger being interviewed on WWE Network after Raw. They then recap the brawl between Rusev and Cena that just went down. Cole hypes how Cena will not be 100% going into Sunday. Wyatt cut-in interrupts the announcers.
Bray Wyatt makes his way out, into a sea of cellphone lights. Cole hypes up Wyatt vs. Undertaker going down on Sunday. Booker asks if Wyatt has tempted the fates, but he wants to make a statement by winning over Undertaker at Wrestlemania.
Mixed chants and Wyatt smiles. “Why, o why, do people hide from the truth? Is it because you’re afraid. Is it because you’re afraid to show the world who you truly are?” He says each and every single one is guilty. Somewhere inside you hate the person you’ve become. You hate your job because all you can see is the color green. He talks about covering one’s face with makeup to cover up the sores and ugliness inside of people. “It does not change the fact that you are all liars.”
He says he’s different and he is not a liar. His tongue is the sword of truth that cuts through the deception of everything in the world. He says that if the fans want the truth, he will give it. “The Undertaker is just like you. The Undertaker is a liar.” He says that Taker tries to deny the fact that his soul wants to be set free. He says the angel with the burnt wings was sent to take him back to the other side.
Thunder rolls and Wyatt calls it a mystical euphoria that the fans have become addicted to. He says it all belongs to him now and he has the power now. “Undertaker, I have judged you and you are guilty.” He tells Undertaker that there is no shield to carry him out and his destiny is sealed with Sister Abigail’s kiss. He says he will take his place among the gods. “At Wrestlemania, you can finally rest in peace.” He strikes Taker’s pose, then the graphic cuts him out.
Wyatt has done a hell of a job carrying this feud on the mic alone. I like that they had him come to the ring rather than in a backstage set. He didn’t let the fans take over on him, and he kept talking over them. The problem I have is they just haven’t made a huge deal out of Undertaker being there. Great promo here for sure, and they need to drive home Undertaker’s appearance over the rest of the show, and any programming this week.
Cole goes into sell mode for the app vote for Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler’s special referee, coming up next.
Back live, they give us the formal announcement of Kevin Nash being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The announcers feed it to a video package highlighting his career through WWF, into WCW, and back to WWE.
More on Nash and his induction in an article on the site posted earlier.
Backstage, Natalya is fixing her makeup. Kidd is eating Burger King beyond a screen. Kidd compliments the burger and Natalya thinks he is talking about her. He says chicken fries are back. She takes them and eats. He tries to say something, but she needs a moment.
Match #7 – Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler; Dean Ambrose as special guest referee
Big reaction for Bryan, who comes out first. Ziggler gets just about the same reaction as well. The title belt is now hanging above the ring. Booker T gets in the ring to introduce the special referee, and it’s Ambrose in a runaway. Cole says this throws unpredicatability into the match. Ambrose comes out with the shirt in his pocket. The match gets underway after the break.
Ambrose is properly dressed as we get started. Chain wrestling from Bryan and Ziggler to start. They work into a corner with a clean break, but Ziggler throws a slap. Fight is on now as the two exchange slaps and strikes. Ziggler tosses Bryan over the ropes but he hangs on. Bryan uses his legs to flip Ziggler to the floor.
Bryan hits a sliding kick through the ropes, then sets up a dive from the apron. Ziggler ducks it then clotheslines Bryan into the timekeeper area. “Hey, you guys need to get in the ring” Ambrose yells as we go to break.
Back live, Ziggler controls Bryan with a sleeper. Bryan rolls Ziggler up for two, then hits a German with a bridge for two. Bryan goes up top, but Ziggler hits the ropes to crotch him. Ziggler joins him up top, setting up a superplex. Bryan blocks it with strikes to the body, and Ziggler falls to the mat. He runs back up and hits a facebuster off the ropes for two.
Ziggler teases the Zig Zag but Bryan hangs on to the ropes. Ziggler gets a backslide for two, but Bryan comes back with a kick to the head for two. Bryan starts unloading kicks on Ziggler in the corner, followed with a running drop kick. Ziggler hits a superkick into the Zig Zag to get the win.
Ambrose raises his hand, but hits Dirty Deeds for good measure. He drags out a ladder from under the ring, then climbs up the ladder. The rest of the men in the ladder match charge the ring and a brawl is on. Truth takes a look up the ladder, but gets hit with Dirty Deeds.
Bryan and Barrett go up, as does Stardust. Barrett pulls him down then hits a Bull Hammer. He eats a superkick from Ziggler. Ambrose and Stardust go up, but Harper tips the ladder over enough to knock them down. All the men are laid out in the ring.
I like Bryan and Ziggler, and I’m glad they stayed away from this feud for Mania. I think if it were a heel-face feud, it would work, but nothing about the two men being faces appealed to me. I do wonder if Bryan losing this match hurt his momentum.
Cole welcomes Middle Eastern viewers who will be able to get WWE Network on OSN Network. The announcers add some shill for the WWE Network and all the Wrestlemania-related programming that will be airing this week.
Backstage, Paul Heyman knocks on Brock Lesnar’s locker room door. “Hey champ, it’s time.” He and Reigns will face off, next.
I gotta admit, they haven’t done a good job of building to this moment. Now that we’re there, it feels big, but they didn’t set the tone throughout the night very well.
Roman Reigns – Brock Lesnar Face-Off:
Lesnar comes out first and they talk about how Lesnar did the unthinkable at last year’s Wrestlemania, and how he manhandled John Cena. “Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman…” Lesnar paces like a caged animal as Heyman introduces him.
“Yak yak yak yak yak yak..” Heyman says if he hasn’t sold us yet on a reason to see Reigns take his beating like a man at the hands of Brock Lesnar, there is nothing he can say tonight to get us to tune in. Heyman says that if we’re looking to see a fight, and looking to see Brock Lesnar lay a beating down on another man, then he swears we’ll get our money’s worth.
“Either Brock Lesnar is everything I say he is, or he isn’t. Either Roman Reigns will be all they hype him up to be, or he won’t.” Heyman says that Lesnar makes failures out of every man that steps in front of him.
Heyman talks about how everyone said Lesnar would not end the Streak. “I said he can, and he did.” Heyman talks about how Lesnar would give John Cena a prison beating. “And he did.” Heyman emphasizes that John Cena isn’t closing Raw tonight, and he’s not main eventing Wrestlemania.
Heyman talks about the “mercenary” label for Lesnar and says about how some say Lesnar is in it for the money. He says that Lesnar is a passionate competitor. Heyman calls Lesnar a beast and a conqueror that will break down your front door, take your wife, take the food off your children’s plates and rename them Lensar.
“That’s a conqueror, and Brock Lesnar conquers everything in front of him, and this Sunday he will conquer the main event of Wrestlemania.” Heyman mentions Reigns’ “I can, and I will” catchphrase. “Brock Lesnar says you can’t., and therefore, you won’t.” Heyman concludes calmly.
Reigns’ music hits, and he makes his way through the crowd. Reigns hits the ring with purpose to a chorus of boos from the male demographic. He and Lesnar circle each other then stare each other down. Lesnar with the smug smile. He holds the belt up at Reigns, who just stares.
Reigns snatches the belt from Lesnar’s hand, then holds it up. The two engage in a tug of war of sorts, and Reigns jaws at Lesnar off mic. That’s how the show ends.
The belt tugging bit was dumb and a really poor ending. Heyman’s promo work, as always, was stellar. I got a chuckle out of the look that Lesnar shot at Heyman when he said that Reigns had to be the kind of man to go in and essentially take over everything of Lesnar’s in order to become champion. It was like he was shocked Heyman went there.
Very, very surprised we heard NOTHING from Reigns. I sense they really went out of their way to protect him here. Los Angeles really wasn’t behind the challenger, so that doesn’t bode well for him on Sunday either. The reaction will be very interesting.
All in all, not a bad go-home show. The top matches got focus, with them doing the best job of putting heat on Rusev for his match with Cena. Drew and I will have our Wrestlemania preview and prediction show tomorrow night on Ring Rap Audio, where we talk about tonight’s show and look ahead to next Sunday. I will be by with live Wrestlemania coverage starting sometime during the kickoff show and following it through the full show.
Feel free to send in your questions and comments for our show tomorrow night. Already have a couple from Twitter, so be sure to add your comments to the mix. See you tomorrow!
WWE Smackdown is being filmed this evening in Kansas City, MO, for airing on Thursday, March 19th, 2015. Below are the results/spoilers of the event.
Be sure to refresh the page for the most up-to-date information.
Bill and Drew have a very special guest joining them this week – Jairo from Choked Out Radio! His time is a bit limited, so we jump right in and take a look at WWE Raw and Wrestlemania 31. How is the build for WM31 going, and are they doing an effective job? Plus, how would we rate the this Wrestlemania against previous ones?
Wrestlemania is 13 scant days away. It sure doesn’t feel like it, if you’re in my shoes. Anyhow, tonight WWE is teasing their final Hall of Fame inductee for 2015. Who might that be? Also, on Smackdown this past Thursday Randy Orton said he had a challenge for Seth Rollins. Looks like it’s pointing to a Wrestlemania match. Will Rollins respond the way Orton wants him to? And will Rollins get some momentum back after taking a beating last week. The struggling challenger Roman Reigns plods on to his match with Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Lesnar isn’t slated to appear tonight – so how will his advocate Paul Heyman fill the void?
Show Open, Live from the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA
Then, Now, and Forever. They open with clips of Randy Orton’s interview with Michael Cole. He talks about how he was biding his time to get his revenge on Seth Rollins. He called it “the perfect time” to strike, saying he saw fear in Rollins’ eyes. He enjoyed beating the holy hell out of Seth Rollins. He says he knows there will be hell to pay but it’ll be worth it. He says he will find Rollins, spit in his face, and challenge him to a match at Wrestlemania.
Live in the arena, Rollins’ music is playing. Kane, Big Show, J&J Security, and Seth Rollins are in the ring. Rollins’ reaction is a bit mixed, given he is from Davenport, IA. Rollins isn’t happy. He says they chant his name now but they all loved “that” (the Orton video package). He says that is called betrayal, and there’s no other way to describe it. He says the fans don’t understand because “in order to be betrayed you have to be somebody.”
He says for important people like him who made it out of Iowa and made something of their lives, that is betrayal. He says that’s what happened, courtesy Randy Orton. He pauses and waits out an “RKO” chant. He says it’s not that Orton betrayed him but it’s how he did it. He says Orton mocked him while he was suffering. Rollins says he called Orton a friend and a family member and he betrayed him.
He tells the fans to not get it twisted and compare it to what Rollins did to The Shield. He says what he did to the Shield was a sound business decision, made to secure his future. What Orton did was “so much different.” He says it was done in cold blood and without the slightest trace of human decency and it was borderline sociopathic.
For three weeks, Orton schemed and conned his way into the Authority. He says Orton made fools of Triple H and Stephanie as well. He says if it weren’t for them opening their arms and welcoming Orton back, none of this would have happened. “It disgusts me.”
Big Show gets a mic and gets some heat. “Seth, I owe you an apology. I’m sorry. I feel as though I’m personally responsible for what happened to you.” Show says he thinks of him as the future and the “best damn talent in WWE.” He calls Orton’s acts cruel and says he betrayed their trust. He says Orton is like Rollins said – a slimy no good snake in the grass. “You know what I do to snakes in the grass?” Show says he crushes them under his boot and that he’s a giant.
Kane also apologizes and says that he wasn’t as gullible as Show but he got sucked in as well. He says Orton will pay for betraying all of them. Noble gets the mic and calls himself the “secret weapon of the Authority.” He says he didn’t see a snake, but did smell a rat. He says he doesn’t care about himself, but he cares about Rollins. He says it hurt Joey Mercury the most.
Mercury attempts to speak, but can’t. He hands the mic off and cries on Big Show’s chest. Rollins says it did hurt, but Orton’s ego will hurt the most. “For years and years, Randy thought he could get away with whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, with no consequences.” Rollins says Orton has never messed with anyone like him.
He says Orton wants to challenge him to a match at Wrestlemania. The fans chant “yes.” Rollins says he accepts, but only on one condition. “You agree to face me tonight in this ring on Monday Night Raw.” Rollins says that Orton likes to call himself the face of WWE…and he gets interrupted by Orton’s music.
Orton comes to the stage with a mic. “Seth, I’m not the face of WWE. I’m just a guy, a guy who last week made you look like a little bitch.” He says he will beat Seth’s ass tonight because he accepts the challenge to face Rollins in the main event of Raw. He says he knows it will be five on one and that Rollins will stack the deck against him. He says that’s okay because he has enough venom for all of the Authority.
He says if he suffers a beatdown from the Authority, it will make it all the sweeter to beat him at Wrestlemania. He says if Rollins doesn’t end it tonight, and Orton makes it to Wrestlemania, he will end the future of WWE.
Why doesn’t Orton end it tonight? Anyhow, not a bad promo segment to sell the main event of the show, as well as set up the Wrestlemania match. Rollins did a nice job of turning his home-state fans against him. With the Authority folks in the ring, they must have done more to get them riled up.
Cole says that’s how bad that Orton wants to get his hands on Rollins, that he’s willing to walk into a trap. JBL says that Orton should know better. Cole says that we’ll also make it official tonight as John Cena and Rusev will sign their contract for their Wrestlemania match.
JBL also hypes up a pre-taped interview with Brock Lesnar, who will speak out about the main event of Wrestlemania. Backstage, AJ and Paige are heading to the ring. They’re going to be out first for the first match.
I really wish WWE would hype Lesnar segments better ahead of time. A pre-tape, given Lesnar’s contractual schedule, is must-see at this point, so they really need to get more mileage out of them.
We get an ad for Wrestlemania, 13 days out.
Match #1 – AJ Lee (w/Paige) vs. Nikki Bella (w/Brie Bella)
As AJ and Paige come to the ring, JBL rants at Cole for not selling Mania harder. I can’t say I blame Cole for not being excited. Anyhow, in a picture in picture, Nikki and Brie talk about how AJ and Paige used to be at each other’s throats, but now they’re suddenly friends. They’ve been sisters their whole lives. “Give Divas a chance? Give us a break.”
Early going, AJ gets an arm bar. Nikki scoops up AJ but she turns it into a huracanrana that looks a bit sloppy. They go to break (yes, you read that right) with Nikki selling outside the ring.
Back live, Nikki is in control, but AJ starts to fire back. Nikki takes AJ down with an elbow for two. Nikki starts to focus on the arm with an arm breaker for two. Nikki runs AJ to the corner and focuses the offense on the arm as the announcers talk about how women hate each other. Score them points, Booker.
AJ turns the armbar into a submission of her own, but Nikki runs her into the corner. AJ comes back with a Thesz press and a corner splash. AJ hits a neckbreaker, then after tripping Nikki she hits a cross body for two. Nikki plants AJ with a facebuster off the knee for two.
Nikki tries for an Alabama Slam but AJ counters with a sunset flip. AJ hits a drop kick but Nikki sends AJ to ringside. Paige runs over to keep the numbers even. Brie and Paige argue, and Paige ends up eating the ring post. Off the distraction, Nikki hits a big forearm shiver then follows with the Rack Attack to get the win. They recap the finish as the Bellas pose to very little reaction.
That wasn’t terrible. I was quietly surprised they got a two-segment match. I am cautious to think they’ll be doing more beyond this feud, but we’ll see where it goes. Definitely did add to my interest in their match coming up at Wrestlemania. Paige getting tossed into the ring post drew a reaction, but not much else did.
Cole talks about the Intercontinental Championship ladder match. Six of the seven men will be in a tag later tonight. Also, Mark Henry appeared on Smackdown, but he got speared by Roman Reigns. JBL says we will get a full recap, next.
Back live, the announcers hype all of the upcoming Wrestlemania programming, as well as a grand total of six hours of show coverage on Wrestlemania Sunday. Oh boy.
They run a recap of Mark Henry interrupting Roman Reigns on Smackdown. Henry mocked him about respect, then got speared through the barricade.
Backstage, Renee Young interviews Big Show and Kane. Kane says he has decided that Show will be in Rollins’ corner tonight. Show and Kane bicker about Kane making that decision on his own. Rollins enters the picture and rants, telling them that they need to see the bigger picture. He reminds them that they represent the Authority, Triple H, Stephanie, and him.
Kane tells Rollins that Stephanie may speak to them however she likes, but Rollins may not. Kane says he feels partly responsible for last week, but kind of liked it. He says that Rollins has been acting like a spoiled and entitled brat ever since Kane enabled him to win Money in the Bank. He says that’s why he won’t be at ringside tonight. He asks Show if he chooses to be at ringside. Show simply stares at Rollins, then leaves.
This could all be a swerve. Kinda dumb, because they could attack Orton without all of this song and dance.
Ryback makes his entrance. He’s got the next match, against Miz.
Back live, they give us a recap of Miz saying he could beat Ryback by himself without Mizdow. Ryback beat him up.
Match #2 – Ryback vs. The Miz (w/Mizdow)
Ryback leads “feed me more” chants as we get a shot of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale trophy. Miz makes his entrance. Fans cheer for Mizdow but boo Miz. Miz says in a pop-box promo, saying that he has a personal assistant to help him win the Andre Battle Royale, or he will be fired. JBL tries to insist that the cheers are for Miz saying that Iowans are slow. “We want Mizdow.” chants start.
Miz starts off fast on Ryback in the corner with kicks and punches. Ryback counters with a press and slam. Outside the ring, Ryback tells Mizdow to hit him. Miz tells him to not do it. Back in the ring, Ryback hits a spinebuster, then the Meathook. “Finish him!” Shellshocked by Ryback nets the win. Booker notes that Mizdow didn’t move to help Miz.
In the ring, Mizdow helps Miz to his feet. Miz tricks him and hits the Skull Crushing Finale on him. He gets booed, but Mizdow gets cheered.
The Miz/Mizdow story has been one of the few highlights of Wrestlemania. It seems like they might just peak this at the right time – I thought it might have gone on too long, but I might have to retract that.
The announcers talk about the US Championship match between Cena and Rusev. Cole feeds it to a video package recapping last week’s exchange between Rusev and Cena that got Cena his match at Wrestlemania. Lana agreed to the match after a second STF by Cena.
United States Championship Contract Signing:
Michael Cole will be our official for this one. He introduces Cena first. He tells Cena that the contract is present on the table, and if he will sign it. Cena takes it and looks it over. He says that he has signed a lot of them, and this one is the most important. He says in moments we’ll be introduced to a super athlete, a hero to the Russian federation – Rusev. He says that as US Champion, Rusev represents all of the fans.
He says he could come down to the ring and whip Rusev all over the ring, but it will do no good. As long as he wears the US Championship, Rusev continues to represent the fans. He says he will sign the contract because enough is enough. He says Rusev lives in America, and has had opportunities presented to him but continued to belittle the US. He says it disgusts him that Rusev belittles a country we’re all proud to call home.
A “USA” chant gets going. Cena tells the fans to let that chant fill them with love and pride for the US. He talks about standing on the front lines with the US Military. In the same breath, he is ashamed that he has to look them in the eye and say Rusev is the man bringing their title into battle. “In my eyes, that contract is a declaration of independence and Wrestlemania is a revolution.”
Cena says he believes that the United States is the greatest country on earth. He says that Rusev will learn that you can only push the US so far “before we just come back and kick your ass.”
A good promo, but the military lines were a bit too much.
Cole introduces Rusev to a chorus of boos. He comes out without Lana at his side, in a suit. He has a gentleman join him and walk behind him though. JBL and Booker debate who this man is. Cole asks Rusev to sign, and Rusev examines it. Des Moines wants Lana. Cena says “apparently this crowd wants the one with the balls.”
The man identifies himself as the attorney for Rusev. He says Rusev won’t sign, and he did not agree to this or any match. He feeds it to “exhibits A and B,” which are video footage of Stephanie McMahon saying that Cena had to change Rusev’s mind regarding the match, and Lana agreeing to it.
Back live, the man – who by the way has a really shitty Russian accent – says that Rusev never agreed to the match, so the contract is null and void. He goes on to say that if Cena will allow Rusev to read a prepared statement without “American brutality,” he will sign the contract for the match. Booker and JBL make fun of the “Russian attorney” and ask where they found him.
Rusev pulls a paper from his pocket. He talks about how Americans live and die on second chances. He cites beating Cena at Fast Lane, but yet Cena wants another chance. He goes on to run down the US, saying that the parents of America are failures and taught their children to be failures. He says that the US will die, then signs the contract. He flips the table toward Cena, but runs. Cena jaws at him and says that he has the contract while Rusev poses at the stage.
That “actor” was terrible. I’ve seen porn with better acting….err…wait…
The segment was fine, and got them to the match, bad actor aside. They played into the fact that Lana, and not Rusev, agreed to the match but still got to it.
Match #3 – New Day (Kofi Kingston and Big E, w/Xavier Woods) vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (w/Natalya)
In a pop up promo, Kidd and Cesaro talk about New Day, mocking their routine and saying “no way!” Los Matadores music hits and they make their way to the ring to look on. In a short match, Cesaro ends up hitting Kofi from behind while he’s distracted to get the win.
Afterward, Los Matadores attack Woods and feed him in to Cesaro, who hits the Neutralizer on him. Torito attacks Cesaro and sends him out of the ring. Los Matadores are standing tall to celebrate in the ring afterward.
The pre-tape was the best part of that sequence.
They replay footage of the Bray Wyatt and Undertaker segment from last Monday. Cole says that Wyatt will respond to Taker later on in the show. Up next though is Brock Lesnar, and his sit down interview.
They run an ad for WWE 2K15, featuring gameplay action between Sting and Triple H.
Backstage, Seth Rollins is with J&J Security. He talks about them working together and not letting things unravel like they did last week. Noble speaks up and says if he didn’t argue with them, they wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. Rollins slaps Noble, and threatens to fire him and send him “back to whatever backwoods true detective hellhole you came from.” Noble says he can’t fire him, because Noble quits. Rollins says to Mercury that they didn’t need him anyhow. Mercury then walks out.
This is a ruse, right? It seems unnecessary – they are the Authority and could do whatever they want without repercussions.
Brock Lesnar Pre-Tape:
Lesnar says he was put on this earth to seek and destroy. He says that it seems sadistic to some. “Is that controversial? I enjoy it.”
“What does Wrestlemania mean to Brock Lesnar?” He says it’s a day where he shows up and gets paid to beat someone’s ass. They roll footage of Lesnar defeating Undertaker last year at Wrestlemania 30. He talks about how Undertaker didn’t stand a chance against him. He says he doesn’t care about the people who were disappointed that he defeated Undertaker. He laughs and says he loves every minute of it.
He talks about his contract. “If I stay, I will be WWE Champion. If I go, I will leave WWE Champion.” He talks about beating The Rock to win the title the first time in 2002, and says he sent Rock to Hollywood. He goes on to say that he suplexed Cena out of the main event. He says that Lesnar in defense mode is more dangerous than Lesnar in hunt mode.
He has a message for Reigns. He tells him he can dream and wish that he will beat Lesnar, but Lesnar will kick his ass. He says it’s no fairy tale with a happy feel good ending. “At Wrestlemania, I am going to f**k up Roman Reigns. The end.”
Back live, Cole says he shudders to think of Lesnar in defense mode, but that is what we’ll get in 13 days.
This is always good when they have Lesnar do the pre-taped segments. This was a good use of Lesnar, and the UFC style promos work out very well with him. They need to find a way to get Reigns over to make the match feel important now. It might be too late though, because they could have done so much more with Daniel Bryan because of how over he already is.
Match #4 – Big Show vs. Erick Rowan
This never gets started. Show attacks Rowan before the bell rings. He roughs Rowan up, then hits him with the WMD Punch. He follows with an elbow off the second rope for good measure. Officials tend to Rowan as the announcers say that Show is on a mission to win the Andre the Giant Battle Royale because he has been compared to Andre.
Hall of Fame Package:
Cole says that it was announced on Rolling Stone that Larry Zbyszko will be the next Hall of Fame inductee. They roll into a video package highlighting his career.
Congratulations again to Larry Zbyszko. We had a report on the site earlier about his induction.
Cole hypes up the six man tag and the main event, saying Rollins’ support is eroding.
Andre the Giant Battle Royale Segment:
Fandango, Goldust, Heath Slater, Titus O’Neil, Curtis Axel, Alex Riley, Adam Rose, Jack Swagger, Darren Young, and Kane are all in the ring. Kane tells us to forget Axelmania, and he says he called everyone out to show them what would happen at the Battle Royale at Wrestlemania. Axel ducks out to ringside.
Mark Henry comes out. He talks about the Battle Royale being its own version of March Madness and declares his entry. Kane and Henry essentially dump everyone else to ringside in seconds. Henry gets Kane by the ropes, and Axel attacks them. Henry dumps Kane, then throws Axel out. He goes out to eye the trophy afterward.
That did zero for me to get excited for this concept.
Cole hypes up a six-person “Interspecies” tag match for Smackdown between Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, and Natalya vs. Los Matadores and El Torito. Yes, that’s happening.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman.” Heyman is in the ring for a promo segment, saying that he is the advocate for the reigning and defending WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Heyman says that Lesnar views the concept of rules and regulations imposed on a title match as something that must have been written by a pacifist. “Brock Lesnar is not coming to Wrestlemania to make love, Brock Lesnar is coming to make war, on Roman Reigns.”
He asks what they will do. “Will they turn off the lights? Will they cut the feed to the pay per view? Will they give you your money back?” He says that we’re stuck with Brock Lesnar as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The mic gets cut off again.
Heyman taps the mic. “Doing that to me is one thing. But what are you going to do when Brock Lesnar does what he’s not supposed to do.” Heyman says no one, not even Reigns, can stop Lesnar. Heyman says that Reigns will get a prison beating from Lesnar.
“To my client, Reigns is not the next great Samoan-American…he’s the next great Samoan-Ameri-can’t.” Heyman repeatedly says that Reigns cannot beat Lesnar at Wrestlemania. He says his father should have told him that a long time ago.
Reigns’ music hits, and he comes through the crowd. He’s got a new shirt – “I can, I will.” JBL says that Reigns is going to answer Heyman right now. Reigns gets in the ring.
He tells Heyman that he respects him. He says Heyman is the best talker in the business and that people think Heyman is talking trash about his family. He says he thinks Heyman is giving fair warning about who he is, and where he is from.
Reigns tells Heyman he will address his client. He turns to the hard cam and says he would say this to Lesnar’s face if he were there. He says they see eye to eye now about this being a fight. He says he will have plenty of family to carry him out at Wrestlemania, but they will carry him out with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over his shoulder. He talks about the chip on his shoulder and people telling him that he can’t. He says he will beat Lesnar’s ass at Wrestlemania. “Because I can, I will, and I believe that.”
Heyman was great here. I like the tone of what they’re doing here, billing this as a fight and playing into the danger of Lesnar going into business for himself and/or ignoring the rules. How you view that depends on where you stand as a fan – casual or more die hard. Reigns got a mixed reaction that wasn’t over the top negative. There was a chant for Bryan at some point in there, which is going to be loud at Mania, I guarantee.
The announcers recap the various segments through the night featuring Seth Rollins and the decaying support around him as he gets ready for his match with Randy Orton. The six-man tag featuring competitors in the Intercontinental Championship ladder match is up next.
Backstage, Renee Young asks Heyman for comments on what Reigns said. He says that Reigns is cool, calm and collected, and wants to play chess with the chess master. He says that Reigns won’t have to wait til Wrestlemania to get in Lesnar’s face, and will give him that chance next week on Raw. He says his toes are curling with anticipation. He says that Reigns can say whatever he wants, and Lesnar can say, or do, whatever he deems appropriate as well. He says Reigns might want to take the week to think about it, but there’s nothing he can do about it.
This is important to get Lesnar and Reigns in the same shot. They needed to do more of that throughout this build, but I’ll take what I can get.
Match #5 – Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose vs. Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper and Stardust
The heels don’t get a live entrance. Bryan gets a big “yes!” chant as he comes out. Ziggler also gets a rousing ovation as well as Ambrose. R-Truth comes out to watch on, and probably steal the belt again. Actually, he has it clipped to his back.
Ambrose starts with Stardust, who does a cartwheel. Ambrose throws a couple shoulder blocks. Truth has the IC title clipped to the back of his jacket. Action continues in the ring with Ambrose hitting a bulldog and a suplex before tagging in Bryan. They exchange strikes, then Bryan locks on a surfboard. The faces control going to break.
Back live, Ziggler sells for the heel team as the announcers talk about Truth learning stuff in Surfing School. Barrett gets a near fall back in the ring, then throws ZIggler to the corner. Harper whips Barrett toward the corner for a big boot but Ziggler moves. Barrett goes over the top, then Ziggler sends Harper to ringside.
Ziggler looks for a tag but his teammates get taken out. Harper tries a powerbomb, but Ziggler counters to a facebuster and comes back with the Fameasser for a near fall. Action breaks down, with all six men fighting. A bit later, Harper hits a big boot then hits the sit-out powerbomb for a near fall. Commercial.
Back live, Bryan goes off, hitting Harper and Stardust with a running drop kick. A little later, a finisher sequence ensues. Ziggler hits a superkick on Bryan and Harper. Barrett loads Wasteland on Ziggler but dumps him out of the ring onto Harper and Stardust instead. In the ring, Barrett tries to hit the Bull Hammer, but Ambrose counters and hits Dirty Deeds for the win.
Truth tries to escape with the belt. Stardust and Harper corner him, and Stardust tries to get away with the belt. Ambrose stops him and sends him back to ringside. The belt falls at Truth’s feet, and he tries to take it again. Harper confronts him at the ramp. Truth tosses it to the ring, where it lands at the feet of Daniel Bryan.
Bryan and Ziggler both grab it. Stardust tries to hit the Disaster Kick, but Ziggler ducks and superkicks him. Bryan hits Harper with the running knee. Barrett gets back in the ring and cleans house with Bull Hammer elbows for everyone. He gets his title belt and poses. He confronts Truth at the ramp and jaws at him, then hits him with the Bull Hammer also.
That was the best tease for the ladder match so far. The action was physical and non-stop. This had an edge to it that got away from the silliness of title belt stealing and calling people turds. I do think the ladder match will be great at Wrestlemania. The build has been wanting though.
Backstage, Seth Rollins enters to talk with Triple H and Stephanie. He says that everyone is quitting on him and wonders what they will do to fix this. Stephanie tells him that he made his own bed by isolating himself from everyone and now it’s time to lie in it. Rollins gets worked up and says that they wouldn’t be in this spot if she didn’t send Kane and Big Show home last Monday.
Triple H asks if Rollins thinks he’s talking to. Rollins asks Hunter if he’s taking a break from playing hide and seek with Sting. He asks if Hunter will screw with the future of WWE. Stephanie steps between them and tells Rollins to take responsibility for his actions. Hunter tells him to run along before his situation goes from bad to worse.
Cole hypes up Bray Wyatt to address Undertaker accepting his challenge, next.
Back live, they recap the contract signing between Rusev and John Cena. They hype up Cena vs. Rusev. They then hype up Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt, feeding it to a recap of how Taker accepted his challenge last week.
Wyatt cut in. He cuts a promo, talking about the first time he saw Abigail. He says Undertaker tried to use his memory against him, and tried to burn fear into his heart. He says the only thing Undertaker did was turn a chair into dust. He pours out ash from an urn.
“Here’s the big question, Deadman. Everyone’s asking what’s left of you? Is it agony, is it fear?” He says last year we saw a broken streak, and now he’s scared to show his face because people’s eyes have been opened. He calls it a tragedy that Undertaker’s destiny was taken. It almost brought him to tears. He says that Undertaker’s fate is sealed. “Wrestlemania will be your requiem, your final resting place. But it will also be my coronation.” He brags that he will make Abigail proud and take his place among the gods. “After Wrestlemania, no one is safe. Behold, the new face of fear.”
The main event is next. Cole asks what Rollins has in mind now that his support has eroded.
They hype Snoop Dogg and Bill Simmons (an ESPN personality) appearing next Monday on the go-home show for Wrestlemania. Also, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns will go face to face.
Match #6 – Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins:
Orton gets his entrance. JBL says that what Orton did last week was brilliant, and hypes that Orton will get Rollins at Mania. Rollins comes out alone, and gets a little bit of a hometown pop. He has a mic and addresses Orton. He tells Orton that it took him three weeks of scheming to get the Authority to look like fools. He laughs and says that it only took him three hours to make a fool out of Orton.
Triple H’s music hits, and here comes all of the Authority. They’re all together, and Orton rolls out to get a chair. Fans are chanting “We Want Sting” as the Authority surrounds the ring. Rollins calls his shots as he climbs up on the apron. The rest join him on the apron on opposite sides. Crow sound.
The lights go down, and when they come back up Sting is standing next to Randy Orton, with the trademark baseball bat. He and Orton unload on the Authority. Sting hits J&J with a Stinger Splash, then hits Noble with the Scorpion Death Drop. Orton follows up with the RKO on Mercury. Sting and Orton jaw at Triple H and Rollins as the announcers recap it.
This was a cool moment. It did leak out that Sting was in Des Moines earlier in the day, but it seemed to go fairly well off-radar so the surprise was fun. Cole really laid it on thick here, and cut off Booker to hype the interview that would take place next on the Network. Booker was emotionless there, which was a bit odd. The fans were really into seeing Sting live, from what I could tell.
There will be an interview with Sting and Orton on the Network, next! That’s how the USA Network broadcast of the show ends.
On the Network:
Cole addresses Orton and Sting, saying that it’s a goosebump inducing moment for them to be side by side. Orton starts out by saying that he doesn’t need anyone to help him, “but I gotta admit, that was pretty damn cool.” Orton and Sting shake hands.
Cole turns to Sting and asks him about the moment. He says he has waited 14 years to get inside this ring right here. He says it feels “smokin’ good, by the way.” He says he meant what he said when he told Triple H that someone had to take him down. “That’s exactly what I plan to do at Wrestlemania!” Sting plays to the fans as they show Sting hitting the Scorpion Death Drop on Noble and Orton hitting the RKO on Mercury. Sting plays to the fans from the stage as Cole sends the show off.
Short and to the point. That’s fine though. You don’t want to overexpose Sting here. Sting looked good. He’s in the best shape that he’s been in throughout his run in TNA.
Raw in a nutshell – thumbs in the middle. It wasn’t without its low points, but it really finally put some emphasis behind Wrestlemania, which is what this show NEEDED to do desperately. Very much improved over what we’ve seen the past few weeks in that regard.
I like the build to Reigns and Lesnar going face to face next week. There’s a hook to get people to tune in. I still think the Andre Battle Royale is in a bad place, as is the tag team championship, but I see some hope to get excitement going for the big show.
Ring Rap Audio records tomorrow evening, so be sure to hit us up with questions and discussion points for Wrestlemania, Raw, and all things pro wrestling. You can hit us on Twitter @RingRap or on our Facebook page, and we’ll be sure to include your topics on the show. Thanks for following along tonight.
The Road to Wrestlemania runs through the Steel City as Raw rolls into Pittsburgh, PA tonight. Hometown rap artist Wiz Khalifa is slated to appear and perform on the show tonight. But in terms of wrestling, John Cena is continuing to press Rusev to get a rematch at Wrestlemania for the US Championship. Tonight, Rusev is slated to defend that title against Curtis Axel, but will Cena do something to force Rusev’s hand? Also, Brock Lesnar is slated to appear tonight. How will he address his challenger, Roman Reigns? Also, will the continued slow burn of Randy Orton and Seth Rollins take a dramatic turn tonight, or will it continue to simmer?
Show Open, Live from Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA
Then, Now, Forever. The show opens with a recap of last week’s main event between Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. They highlight Randy Orton getting involved to help Rollins get the win.
Live in the New Igloo, Randy Orton’s music hits and he makes his way to the ring. Cole calls him the “Apex Predator” as the Authority is shown in the ring greeting him with an ovation. Lukewarm reaction from Pittsburgh. Seth Rollins and Randy Orton will take on Roman Reigns in a handicap main event. Cole gives us the attendance and says Wrestlemania season is here and we can feel it. Well, not really.
Kane says that they could have done this privately before the show started but they wanted to do this publicly to prove to everyone who doubted he was with the Authority. “As the director of operations, it’s my duty to welcome you back to the Authority.”
Big Show starts to talk but Pittsburgh cuts him off. “It’s ignorant people like you that make me mad when I’m trying to make a point.” He tells Orton that when he looks at him that he sees the most talented, sadistic, ruthless superstar he has seen. He says Orton would RKO his own father if he stood in the way of something he wanted. He welcomes Orton back to the Authority “where you belong.”
Noble gets a mic and Rollins tells him to “tell him.” Noble says he’s proud….then says Orton is a snake that can’t be trusted. Rollins says he’s always been the sensitive one. He talks to him in a kid voice and then says that Noble and Mercury are thrilled to have him back. Mercury doesn’t say anything either, and Rollins says “they’re J&J Security, not J&J Public Speaking.”
Rollins says that everyone is saying the same thing – Orton is not part of the Authority. He says that Orton is biding his time to get his revenge on Rollins. Pittsburgh cheers, but Rollins says they must feel like the biggest idiots on the planet. He says it’s because Rollins and Orton are side by side in the same ring as proud members of the Authority.
Pittsburgh starts an RKO chant that Rollins plays into. Rollins says the fans weren’t alone and all the members of the Authority had some doubt. “No one really cares what the Big Show thinks…” Rollins tells Show to take it easy and plays it as a joke. Rollins says they’re back together as a happy family, and they shake hands.
Rollins asks the fans to stand up and pay respect to one of the most decorated champions in WWE, “and my partner in tonight’s main event,” Randy Orton. Orton gets the mic after some cheers. He calls it touching and kind. He says he felt it in the bottom of his heart. “But it left me thinking something.”
Wrestlemania happens later this month, and we’re “full speed ahead” heading to the Grand Stage. Last week, Paul Heyman confronted Roman Reigns, putting him over but reminding Reigns that Brock Lesnar is the greatest of all and a beast. How will Reigns prepare for Lesnar? Seth Rollins appeared on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and confronted him. Tonight, Stewart makes an appearance on Raw. Will he help set Randy Orton up with an opportunity to attack Rollins? And will John Cena continue to pursue Rusev and get him to agree to a rematch of their Fast Lane encounter at Wrestlemania?
Show Open, Live from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ
Then, now forever. The Raw intro leads us into tonight’s broadcast and into a pyro filled Prudential Center. Cole tells us that it’s 27 days until Wrestlemania, and that it’s a sold-out crowd tonight. Seth Rollins’ music hits, and here he comes to a chorus of boos with J&J Security in tow.
As Rollins comes to the ring, they recap how Rollins interrupted his “Moment of Zen” on The Daily Show. Rollins smirks at the video footage. JBL says Stewart better not show up. Rollins says he has received word that Stewart has wrapped up his show and is indeed on his way to Raw. Rollins gives him a warning: Unless he’s on his way to beg for forgiveness, he should just turn around. He says it’s not a “Jerry Lawler/Andy Kaufman situation.”
He says he plans to show the world that he can do Stewart’s job better than he can. He says he is the future, Mr. Money in the Bank, and the shining jewel of the Authority. “Unlike the Daily Show, where they give away their tickets for free, every person in those seats paid to see me.” Roman Reigns’ music hits.
JBL wonders what the “hothead” Reigns wants. Cole reminds us that Reigns will fight Brock Lesnar in 27 days for the title. Reigns gets in the ring with a smile on his face, to boos from the Jersey crowd. Reigns tells Rollins not to stop and says he wanted to come out and hear everyone tell Rollins he sucks live. Boos from some, “you suck” chants from others.
Rollins continues, and says he is worth more than Michael Jordan. He says he can out work everyone – he can out talk Jon Stewart, out rap Wiz Khalifa – addresses the What chant – and out eat Mark Henry. He says he can outwrestle Reigns and will be the next World Heavyweight Champion.
Rollins interrupts Reigns and says “I know what you’re going to tell me, you think you’re going to be the next World Heavyweight Champion. Well, Jersey agrees with me, you can’t beat Brock Lesnar.” Rollins says Lesnar is an unstoppable force, and while Reigns can’t beat him, Rollins can. Cheers from some.
Reigns tells Rollins he had his shot at Royal Rumble and didn’t get the job done. Reigns goes on to ask him if he is man enough to cash in his MITB contract and make the main event a triple threat. Rollins says he might be. He might also be man enough to wait til Reigns and Lesnar wear each other out “and cash in on whoever is left standing. Or, I could wait til the Raw after Wrestlemania. Or, I could wait until it’s on my terms.”
Reigns pulls his mic down and says “or I could punch you in the mouth right now.” Reigns punches Rollins, but J&J Security jumps him. Rollins escapes, but Noble takes a Superman Punch and Mercury takes a spear. Reigns poses while Rollins rubs his jaw at the stage.
I thought this was pretty decent. They set up Rollins with Stewart for tonight, and possibly with Wiz Khalifa (who will be in Pittsburgh) next week. Reigns got a really strong mixed reaction akin to John Cena, but not as strong as I thought it might be. I thought Reigns putting Rollins on the spot about the MITB briefcase was good, but it didn’t get a crowd reaction. Good reminder that it’s in play though.
The announcers talk about what just went down. Cole says that Rollins has to regroup because he will host his own version of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart later, and Stewart is on his way. Also, Paige will take on Nikki Bell for the Divas Championship. They also show Dean Ambrose walking backstage, and he has Bad News Barrett, next.
Back live, Rollins is rubbing his jaw. He says he forgot how hard Reigns hits and asks why J&J Security didn’t jump him. Randy Orton shows up and says that was embarrassing. He asks why J&J wasn’t there and why they let Reigns within 10 feet of Rollins. Orton tells him he should march to the Authority’s office and demand a one-on-one match with Reigns to prove he can out-wrestle reigns and out-talk Stewart. Rollins tells him he appreciates Orton’s advice but he will handle it his way. “Okay. I was just trying to help.” Orton exits.
Orton’s stirring the pot. Will he still be aligned with the Authority by the end of the show?