DANIEL BRYAN vs. DREW GULAK - 7.75/10
We started with Gulak working over Bryan’s knee and some actual WRRRRRESTLING going on. It was beautiful. Graves and even Cole were pointing out that Gulak was working over a body part that is key to Bryan’s offense- including his finisher- and noting that Heath Slater had worked this body part over in a match recently so maybe it’s already weakened. It was like I was watching a totally different promotion. Or maybe Hunter locked Vince in a closet and produced the announcers himself.
Then Bryan took an absolutely TERRIFYING bump on his neck. Gulak even cradled his neck when going to pin him, which had m even more worried. Bryan turned out to be okay though, and the story shifted to Bryan’s neck being worked over. Bryan even started holding his arm like he was losing feeling in his fingers, and Cole even reminded us that losing feeling in his fingers was the first sign of Bryan’s big neck injury that almost ended his career. Gulak kept working over the neck, even using Bryan’s MMA elbows, but Bryan made a comeback, locked in the Yes Lock and got the win. An excellent twelve minutes, and one of the best things on the show.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS DOLPH ZIGGLER & ROBERT ROODE - Fine. The point of this was to show us the weird thing in the background on the screen, and also to build up the Dolph/Mandy/Otis story. It accomplished those goals.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Andrade “Cien” Almas(c) (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Humberto Carrillo - 7.25/10
This was a great big moves match that still maintained the necessary grudge match atmosphere. They made good sue of the motif of the hammerlock DDT on the concrete that has been the touchstone of this feud. Andrade won with a handful of tights, so the feud will continue.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS AJ STYLES - This was them telling us that the match we want to see is going to be full of interference. I guess we kind of figured it would be, anyway, but then what makes this that much different from Raw, where the scenario was also essentially three-on-one? Yes, AJ was entertaining, but this didn’t make me want to see the match.
ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR THE WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Miz & John Morrison(c) vs. New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E.) vs. Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode vs. Heavy Machinery vs. the Usos vs. Lucha House Party (Lincé Dorado & Gran Metalik) - 8/10
This was your usual series of big spots but not much else. Once you got your big spot in, you were eliminated. The Usos had very good segments with first New Day and then Miz & Morrison at the end.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS NATALYA - Bad. Charly asks for an update on Beth Phoenix, and Nattie cuts a promo to put over the Edge/Orton feud. Why are you wasting time on a PPV to build up the TV show? Especially for an angle you’ve already run one commercial for tonight.
When Nattie finally got around to talking about the Elimination Chamber, she said “I will unleash my legacy.” What does that even mean?
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS MATCH:
Aleister Black vs. AJ Styles (w/Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson) - 7/10
These guys were having a really great match with shockingly little interference. Then Gallows and Anderson interfered, which led to Undertaker teleporting into the ring to take them out, then take AJ out, then teleport away so Black could hit his finisher and get the win. Does that set up Taker vs. AJ or some sort of OC vs. Taker/Aleister/? match at Mania? Yes. You could also set such a match by doing this same thing but cutting ten minutes out of it, because it was the finish that was the important thing. They made this same mistake last year at the Royal Rumble and haven’t learned from it. If you’re going to do a finish like this, don’t go twenty-five minutes first. Just go eleven.
WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Street Profits(c) vs. Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy (w/the AOP) - 7.5/10
The Viking Raiders came out to brawl with AOP after AOP interfered, leaving the actual competitors alone. These four had a GREAT match… until the finish, which totally killed it.
Said finish saw Kevin Owens wander his way down through the crowd with popcorn. He came to ringside, which distracted Rollins. Owens through popcorn at Rollins to distract him further, allowing Dawkins to blindside Seth and take him out. The Street Profits then hit Dawkins with their moves and got the win. So in other words, it’s the same f*cking finish we got on Raw when the Street Profits won the titles.
On its own that wouldn’t be good, but in this case it was even worse. Why? Because while Owens screwing his hated rival out of the tag titles (especially after AOP tried to get involved) is fine for the Owens vs. Rollins feud, the fact of the matter is that it is still our babyfaces winning the titles via interference. What this match should have been was retaining their belts against the former champions cleanly to legitimize their title reign and take away the talking point that they couldn’t have beaten Rollins & Murphy without outside help. Instead, WWE doubled down on that idea, and wound up hurting the Street Profits to gain absolutely nothing for Rollins vs. Owens because they did an angle that they had just done six days ago.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. For no reason, Rollins gives Owens a stunner. What did this do for anyone, other than make Owens look like a jerk? Get a pop? Well how about you get your pop by having the babyfaces win the match cleanly and prove their worthiness as champions?
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS SAMI ZAYN & FRIENDS - A fine promo, but we’ve already bought the PPV so stop wasting my time on a work night.
HANDICAP MATCH FOR THE WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Braun Strowman(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, & Cesaro - 6/10
The story was the numbers game and Sami running away and letting his lackeys of the work for him before he got the win. Well… at least the IC Title is off of a guy who would never lose it cleanly. Hopefully this leads to an angle for WrestleMania where Nakamura is annoyed that Sami won the title when it theoretically should have been his, as this was his rematch they were all using.
MORE TIME IS WASTED RECAPPING SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED ON RAW - Again… IT’S A F*CKING WORK NIGHT!
Oh my G-d, now they’re wasting time hyping up Mania matches. Do they really think there is anyone watching a PPV who doesn’t already know about Charlotte vs. Ripley, Roman vs. Goldberg, Drew vs. Lesnar or Cena vs. Fiend? I have to wake up at 6:30 to catch a 7:00 bus to be at work in the city by 9:00 am! Stop wasting my time!
ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR A WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH AT WRESTLEMANIA XXXVI:
Liv Morgan vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Ruby Riott vs. Sarah Logan vs. Natalya vs. Asuka (w/Kairi Sane) - 4.25/10
Stuff happened. We started off with Nattie and Ruby, then Logan entered. Then Baszler came in and tapped everyone out. Then we waited, watching absolutely nothing happen for a few minutes before Liv came in. Baszler tapped her out, too, and we waited some more. Asuka came in and had a nice little segment with Baszler, but didn’t even last five minutes. This also don’t completely wasted the first-time-ever dream match that Baszler vs. Asuka should have been by having it go less than five minutes!
I understand that they wanted to put Baszler over strong, but there absolutely no reason that doing so required an Elimination Chamber, and that was the big mistake here, because unless you were going to have Baszler enter last, the format of the match was going to require at least one long period of boring down-time. You want Shaya to beat five women in the same night? Just do a six-way elimination match! Or why not have beat seven woman by doing a Cibernetico where she runs through the entire opposing team, then her own entire team? Or, even better, don’t diminish the title by throwing a bunch of unworthy losers in a #1 contendership match just so Shayna can beat them and instead have Shayna win a series of match over several weeks of television!
This was a disappointing show from WWE. It looked like it had the potential to be really good on paper and it started off well, but it just kept running into walls due to the uninspired nature of booking, and, quite frankly, the pointless self-promotion of preaching to the choir. Finishing off with an Elimination Chamber match that turned into mostly waiting around for something to happen was a frustratingly fitting way to end this show, and will definitely be my lasting memory of it. Not good.