WWE heads to Laredo, TX and the Laredo Energy Center one night after the Royal Rumble just down the road in San Antonio. Last night, a Smackdown superstar (Randy Orton) took home the Rumble victory after Stephanie McMahon assured us a Raw star would win. So, the Rumble winner won’t be making an appearance tonight or at least one would assume. But, Roman Reigns – the man who came up short in both the Rumble and his challenge for the Universal Championship will. Will he address Braun Strowman, who took him out of the match against Kevin Owens, allowing Owens to retain his title? Will Goldberg or Brock Lesnar address their shortcomings at the Rumble? Goldberg made short work of the Beast yet again, but got taken out by Undertaker – will Goldberg address that? How will Bayley respond to losing to Charlotte? Lots of questions, but will we get answers?
Show Open, Live from the Laredo Energy Center in Laredo, TX:
Michael Cole welcomed us to the Road to Wrestlemania and introduced the show. Corey Graves and Byron Saxton were on the call with him.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho made their way to the ring, introduced by JoJo. Owens’ arm was bandaged. They showed still shots of last night’s Universal Championship match with Roman Reigns as they entered. “My name is Kevin Owens, and I am your WWE Universal (Jericho helps) Champion.”
Owens said most didn’t think he would leave the Alamodome with his title, but he has been proving people wrong his whole career. He said if he put all of those names on a list, it would be longer than the List of Jericho. Owens said he proved Mick Foley wrong, and said Foley has been stacking the deck against them. He passionately claimed that he beat Roman Reigns, and he is the one.
Owens said he was man enough to admit he had help and thanked the man who helped him, Chris Jericho. Owens thanked him for the support and hugged him. Owens said Jericho is now the greatest Royal Rumble performer of all time. Jericho said he didn’t want to brag but he would, and boasted about his combined time in the Rumble at 4 hours, 56 minutes, and 12 seconds.
Jericho went on to brag about being a 61-minute man this year and told fans to make hashtags up about him. He said the reason he didn’t win the Rumble was that he was suffering from vertigo as a result of being in the shark cage during Owens’ title match.
Braun Strowman came out to no reaction. Cole noted that Strowman was the reason Owens kept his title. Owens said it was funny that he came out because he was about to thank Strowman. That drew a “thank you Strowman” chant. Strowman said he did what he did because he couldn’t stand Reigns and he wants the title shot he was promised.
Owens told him that interfering in a match doesn’t qualify him for a championship opportunity. Strowman said he had proof and showed footage of Owens saying Strowman was next in line after he retained at the Rumble. Strowman said Owens needed to give him his shot tonight, or he would break him in half. Some cheers.
Mick Foley entered in one of the worst plaid suits I’ve ever seen. He said Owens did promise him a title opportunity. Owens tried sweet talking his way out, but Foley made the match official. Cole hyped Jericho vs. Sami Zayn after commercial.
Bill Says: This is a tough crowd tonight. It seems most would have been more receptive to this for an opening segment. They popped up a bit for the match announcement, but otherwise they sat there and didn’t react much.
Match #1 – Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn;
Winner: Sami Zayn
The Reax: The commentary team spent the early part of the match talking about Jericho being a 61-minute man, and how Zayn was in the match for 47 minutes. Heel Graves singing his praises made sense, but all three men gushing over Jericho’s 61-minute stay was weird. You’d think the face commentators would point out that Jericho was lurking outside the ring for most of that time. After using the referee as a shield, the fight spilled to the floor where Jericho took a clothesline then a moonsault.
Late in the match, Zayn hit an exploder suplex into the corner then scored the win with the Helluva Kick. Graves gave Jericho the heelish out by saying he was clearly exhausted from the Rumble. The match was good overall, and the crowd seemed to respond to this more than their reaction to the open seemed to indicate they would. Given the win, I would expect Sami to get a US Championship shot at some point, possibly between now and the March 5 Fastlane show.
Cole hyped Owens vs. Strowman, then Graves noted that they would recap what happened when Seth Rollins showed up at NXT Takeover: San Antonio to try and confront Triple H.
They showed more Rumble still shots, closing with Randy Orton looking at the Wrestlemania sign.
Backstage, Cesaro and Sheamus bickered about their actions in the Rumble. Bayley showed up and got between them, then mentioned their mixed tag match against Charlotte, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. She said they needed to get on the same page and proposed a group hug. Cesaro was in but Sheamus wasn’t. The opponents appeared and Anderson called them the Rumble Loser Support Group. Gallows called them nerds, and Charlotte added they were failures.
Cole set a video package up on Seth Rollins and Triple H, noting that Rollins and Stephanie would go face to face later.
Backstage, Steph was on the phone and told someone “it’s all set.” Owens entered, and she hung up. Owens complained about having to face Strowman after what he went through at the Rumble. He said he’s been trying to live up to Triple H’s expectations but had to be honest and admit he was hurt. Stephanie said she had no idea Foley would book the match and would talk to him after dealing with the Rollins situation to see about getting the match canceled.
Bill Says: So, no talk with Foley? What Rollins business? Weird. Also weird was how they brushed past Orton winning the Rumble when if he chose he could challenge the Raw brand champion. Haven’t said much about him.
Cole hyped the attendance at Royal Rumble, which was 52,020 fans.
Match #2 – Tony Nese vs. Mustafa Ali;
Winner: Tony Nese
The Reax: Austin Aries on commentary instead of Saxton. They recapped Nese attacking TJ Perkins on 205 Live. Cole highlighted that Neville defeated Rich Swann to win the Cruiserweight Championship and would have a coronation later. Late in this one, Ali went top rope with his back to the ring but got cut off by Nese, and he tumbled to the mat. Nese hit a running knee to the head to win.
After the match, Aries interviewed Nese and asked about his critics who say he has clearance wrap charisma, washboard abs and yet talking to him is like talking to a washboard. Nese said he doesn’t have to answer his critics.
I guess it was Nese’s turn to be spotlighted this week. Ali was last week. The post match seemed to point out more of Nese’s negatives rather than build him up. Is this building to something for Aries when he comes back to the ring?
Cole hyped Rollins and Steph coming face to face after commercial.
Rollins made his entrance, and Cole noted he was backstage at NXT on Saturday and had never seen Rollins as angry as he was when he was dragged out. Rollins said he might have been banned from the building last night, but he was on Raw. He said he knows Stephanie wants to scold him for bad behavior, but even billion dollar princesses don’t get their way.
Stephanie came out to no reaction. She said she was there to disappoint him on multiple levels. He cracked back that’s what she does for her husband every night. She said Triple H wasn’t there, and Rollins fired back that he doesn’t care about her and wants to know when she will let her coward husband off the leash.
Steph said Hunter is afraid – of what he might do to Rollins. She said she asked Hunter to stay home but Rollins wasn’t buying it. She said they rode high when he was the face of the company, but now he lost a match and was out of the Rumble, and was even banned from the building. Stephanie said he should be apologizing, not to the fans but to her. Fans chanted “no.”
Rollins said she is the boss. “I’m sorry that over the last two months I have exposed your husband for the gutless snake that he is.” He said Hunter’s legacy is going up in smoke because he won’t face Rollins. Rollins said he went to NXT to call him out in his own house, yet he had security do his dirty work. Rollins said the guy in the suit isn’t Triple H. “That’s a scared dude is what that is.”
Rollins said he is the greatest threat to Hunter’s legacy that he’s ever seen. Hunter knows it, the fans know it, and Steph knows it given the way she has looked at him. Steph said she looks at him with disgust, and if Rollins plays the game he will be the architect of his own demise. Rollins said he has nothing left to lose.
Rollins said that if showing up at NXT was bad for business, how will her father feel when he shows up at WWE Headquarters, or how her kids will feel when he shows up at their door. Steph said she lied. “Triple H is on his way to this arena right now. Triple H is coming and he’s coming for you.”
Bill Says: Definitely heading to this match for Wrestlemania, and it’s a good call. The story is finally getting some traction going now after being poorly handled over the past few months.
The commentary team recapped the angle then set up footage from earlier that showed Strowman demanding a title shot. They hyped the mixed tag and Owens vs. Strowman for later.
Match #3 – Bayley, Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Charlotte, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson;
Winner: Bayley, Sheamus and Cesaro
The Reax: Saxton hyped being able to buy miniature inflatable tube men like the ones that go along with Bayley’s entrance. Cole noted that Charlotte has extended her win streak on pay per view to 16-0.
After a commercial, the heels focused on Cesaro. He got the hot tag to Sheamus. Late, Bayley jumped off of Cesaro’s back and hit Charlotte with a clothesline and Cesaro followed with a springboard dive onto Gallows and Anderson. Bayley hit Charlotte with the Bayley to Belly and pinned her.
Cesaro took a nasty tumble on that dive. A hard landing that looked like Gallows tried to help him on but was still ugly. Charlotte taking the pin begs continuation of the Bayley/Charlotte feud.
Backstage, Steph grilled Mick about booking Owens vs. Strowman. She got upset and asked if he had a brain fart and if he intentionally didn’t tell her about the match. Foley said she hired him to do a job and recounted Hunter’s music playing but him not showing up. Steph blamed production, and Foley told her that he might look stupid but asked that she don’t treat him like he is. She gave Foley her word that Hunter was showing up tonight. Foley pitched his match and said it should be great unless someone plays Hunter’s music and he doesn’t show. Foley offered a high five but Steph glared and walked off.
They hyped Neville’s coronation ceremony for after the break.
They showed more stills from the Royal Rumble. Neville came to the ring and called himself King of the Cruiserweights. He knocked the fans for not supporting him, but look at him now. Rich Swann’s music cut him off. Swann told Neville that the people aren’t out to get him and the fight is in Neville’s head.
Swann said he might not like Neville but even he has to admit Neville is one of the best and proved it at the Rumble. Swann said he has to respect him and offered a handshake. Neville put the belt down and asked when Swann would get it. Neville said you don’t offer your hand to the king, you bend a knee and bow. Boos from the crowd.
Swann dropped the mic and started to leave, but Neville told him not to turn his back. He tried to stop him. Swann threw punches and worked him over. Neville got up and Swann landed a kick. Neville bailed to ringside, and Swann followed up with a dive and threw more punches. Swann returned to the ring and pointed at the title belt.
Bill Says: They pulled off a good segment here, but the live crowd didn’t care. One thing I want to see is Neville drop the constant “King of the Cruiserweights” stuff. I don’t mind it, but turning it down a little for impactful moments makes it come off more realistic.
The broadcasters hyped Enzo and Big Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal as well as the title match for later. They ran a Wrestlemania video package. 62 days away. Triple H just finished his entrance for Wrestlemania 32 – a running Ring Rap Audio joke.
They recapped Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax with still shots.
Backstage, Sasha was getting taped up for a match with Jax. Bayley suggested she wait until she’s recovered, and that Sasha has nothing to prove. Sasha said she has everything to prove, and unlike some people she’s not okay with coming up short.
Bill Says: Sasha sounding a bit heelish there, and it seemed intentional. I think she’s better slotted that way.
The commentary team brought up Randy Orton winning the Rumble and showed stills of him pointing at the sign. Cole said they would talk more about this on Smackdown. Then they turned to Goldberg and Lesnar in the Rumble match.
Bill Says: Finally, after two hours, they told us to tune in to another show. And they still haven’t pointed out the Reigns/Undertaker interaction.
Backstage, Owens stressed out over facing Strowman and told Jericho they need to keep the title again. Jericho said he’s been through a lot the past couple nights and Owens wasn’t out there for his match with Zayn. Owens said he was lobbying to get the match canceled. Owens asked Jericho if he still wanted to main event Wrestlemania together. Jericho said yes, and Owens said it wouldn’t happen if he lost the title. He asked if Jericho had his back and he said he does. Cole said the match was up next.
Entrances took place for the match. Owens and Jericho came out together and Graves said he had an uneasy feeling. Jericho stopped and joined the commentary team, which upset Owens. Jericho assured him and pointed at his head. He told the commentary team he had a plan. They showed still shots of Owens vs. Reigns with Jericho in the cage. Jericho said being in the cage was one of the worst experiences of his life, but he got to see his best friend kick the crap out of Reigns, so it was worth it.
Strowman came out and stopped to look at Jericho. He walked over and kicked him, then choke slammed him through the commentary table. Strowman pointed to Owens, who looked scared. JoJo gave us the introductions while Jericho was tended to.
Match #4 – Kevin Owens (c) vs. Braun Strowman; WWE Universal Championship
Winner: Braun Strowman by disqualification, Owens retains the title
The Reax: Owens fled but it didn’t take long for Strowman to catch up to him and take over. He controlled the offense until he missed a charge out on the floor and grazed the ring post with his head. Owens got a string of offense in, hitting a cannonball on the barricade then a leg drop, senton, and top rope splash.
Strowman recovered and hit a powerslam on a diving Owens, then Roman Reigns’ music hit and he came out. He attacked Strowman for the DQ, hitting a Superman Punch. Reigns clotheslined Strowman awkwardly over the top and worked him over out on the floor, hitting a spear by jumping off the steps. He then went back in the ring and speared Owens.
Cole said Reigns made a statement and also noted that Reigns eliminated Undertaker from the Rumble. Graves noted that Strowman took punches and a spear but was already on his feet.. This interference was logical and expected. It’s a case of the predictable doing the job rather than trying to swerve people. Looks like they’ll go to Reigns vs. Strowman at least at FastLane, but we’ll see if it goes further. No real mention of his comments to Undertaker about it being his yard now.
They hyped footage of Stephanie telling Rollins that Triple H was coming for him, then showed Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman arriving. That duo made their way to the ring for a promo.
Heyman said he was the advocate for the crestfallen beast. He started with “there’s a time in everyone’s career when you have…” but he stopped to wait out a Goldberg chant. Heyman said there is a disturbing truth that every all time great has an opponent who has his number.
Heyman said Andre the Giant was undefeated for 15 years but faced Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. Heyman said Ronda Rousey kicked everyone’s ass in UFC, but got her face smashed in by Holly Holm. He noted Undertaker was undefeated at Wrestlemania until he stepped into the ring with Lesnar.
Heyman mentioned Kurt Angle going into the Hall of Fame, and said “you say Angle, he says Lesnar. Heyman said when he brings up to his children that he is an advocate for Lesnar, his kids say yeah, but Goldberg beat him in a minute and 26 seconds at Survivor Series. Another Goldberg chant. Heyman said he’s been getting “yeah but” all day from fans who keep pointing out that Goldberg eliminated Lesnar from the Rumble with ease.
Heyman said that whenever he says Lesnar’s name, it seems like someone is saying “yeah, but Goldberg…” He says he hates “yeah but” and the “yeah but” must be eradicated. He says this is the part where you hit the record button. He said Lesnar challenges Goldberg one more time. Lesnar and Heyman pointed to the Wrestlemania sign. Heyman confirmed they wanted the match for Wrestlemania. Heyman said the odds are in Goldberg’s favor to be standing over the vanquished victim. Heyman said his client offers Goldberg “yeah but’ and tossed the mic and walked off.
Bill Says: A strong promo from Heyman, probably one of the best he’s cut in a while. He’s always good, but this felt like he turned it up a notch for this one. And yes, the first Wrestlemania match seems to be confirmed with this.
Match #5 – Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks;
Winner: Nia Jax
The Reax: Sasha had her knee wrapped up, but targeted one of Jax’s to get started. Jax took over after a few moments, grabbing her in a full nelson and swinging her knee into the ring post. Jax kept the offense focused on the knee until she applied a submission that made Sasha tap out. Bayley came out to help her when Jax put the hold back on, and Jax left to boos.
This was okay. Jax looks like a remorseless monster, Sasha is growing frustrated, and Bayley will eventually end up being that target. This can work.
They hyped Enzo and Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal in a tornado tag match and showed more still shots from the Rumble.
A trainer and Bayley helped Sasha to the trainer’s room.
Lana was in the ring and said she wished she could be happy in the city, but it was just a small village. She introduced Rusev, who came to the ring with Jinder Mahal for the next match. Enzo and Cass came out and did their entrance bit. Cass asked what was on Jinder’s skin. “Are those veins?” They mocked Rusev’s face shield and the wicked witch Lana.
Match #6 – Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Rusev (w/Lana) and Jinder Mahal in a tornado tag match
Winner: Enzo and Cass
The Reax: Cole noted that all four men are legal in this match and are in the ring at the same time. After some early brawling, the heels took out Cass then worked on Enzo. Cass recovered and worked on the heels, slamming Rusev and hitting the Empire Elbow. Mahal broke up the pin, but Enzo pulled him out and threw him into the steps. Enzo and Cass teamed up to hit the Rocket Launcher a short time later for the win.
A limo arrived and Triple H got out and headed to the building. The commentary team hyped the WWE 24 documentary for Wrestlemania 32 and Cole called it the best documentary the company has done. They hyped seeing another side of Charlotte and how New Day came up with the concept for the giant cereal box for their entrance. They ran a preview clip.
Cole narrated stills of Goldberg eliminating Brock Lesnar from the Rumble then recapped the earlier Heyman promo. He hyped Goldberg being in Portland next week on Raw to answer the challenge.
Hunter’s music hit and he made his way to the ring. JoJo introduced him as the COO.
“Seth Rollins. Seth Frickin’ Rollins,” he began. He talked about picking Rollins from obscurity and making him a star. He made him an offer to leave the Shield and he bought in in a big way. He said that standing by Hunter’s side, Rollins became the face of WWE, the WWE Champion and everything he ever wanted out of the business.
Hunter said Rollins had to hold up his end of the bargain but he collapsed udner the pressure. He said Rollins emotionally handed over the title and everything he ever handed him. He said Rollins thought the world wouldn’t turn in his absence but it did. Hunter said that without him, Rollins was an abject failure. Hunter asked if Rollins took responsibility. “No, no no, that failure was blamed on me.”
Triple H said he’s supposed to apologize to Rollins but doesn’t feel like he owes it. “I gave you the world, Seth Rollins, and you spit in my face.” He asked the fans if they realize how hard it is for him to not come to the ring when Rollins calls him out. Hunter says he doesn’t come out because his wife asks him not to, and she’s right because it’s what’s best for business that he doesn’t. He said he’s trying hard to not be that guy anymore.
Hunter said he’s trying to not be the guy who ends careers, crushes dreams, injures people, and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. He said he puts on the suit and ties his stupid tie and puts it all behind him. He says he goes to the office to be a creator for everyone, but then Rollins comes to NXT where he is trying to create “the next Seth frickin’ Rollins.” Hunter said he’s done trying. “I’m so done trying.”
He pulled off the jacket and tie and the fans chanted for him. Hunter said Rollins doesn’t have to worry about coming to his house, because he’s right there. Hunter said Rollins knows who his creator is, and told him to get in the ring and meet his destroyer.
Rollins came out and headed to the ring, but got blindsided by Samoa Joe. Joe worked on Rollins at ringside, throwing him into the barricade multiple times. A small “holy shit” chant got started. Hunter put the jacket back on and went to ringside to look at Rollins. Joe threw Rollins in the ring and Hunter left. Rollins got a shot in, but Joe hit a kick and multiple senton splashes. Joe waited for Rollins to get up, ducked a punch, then locked in the Coquina Clutch.
Bill Says: A sound promo from Triple H from all angles of delivery and emotions. And when it seemed like Hunter had dumped on Rollins enough to make him a babyface, then here comes Joe. Joe’s involvement makes it seem like Hunter wants to dodge the big match yet talk a big game all along.
I’m thrilled to see Joe get the big spotlight he deserves finally. My only fear is that Joe becomes a stepping stone that Rollins dispatches of quickly in order to get to Hunter. Hell, why not carry this story out further and let it be Joe and Rollins at Mania and Hunter and Rollins at SummerSlam? That might be worthwhile.
A solid show coming out of a long weekend for everyone – fans and talents alike. This show had moments of fatigue (and I had a moment of cable loss, hence the late final update), but all in all a decent start to the Road to Wrestlemania. There was some “anything can happen” feel here tonight with Hunter appearing and some of the other things that happened that seems to come along with Wrestlemania, and obviously we’re going to see bigger names on the show like Lesnar, Goldberg, HHH, and others.
Drew has Smackdown and 205 Live tomorrow, as well as Around the Ring. He and I will reconvene on Wednesday to put a bow on all things Royal Rumble and Takeover and so much more on Ring Rap Audio on Wednesday, and I will also have your Ring of Honor coverage later in the week. See you then.