-So the word is that WWE creative is high on the idea of running these sort of Sunday specials every two weeks, because it’s easier to do two-week stories instead of four-week sagas. Keep in mind, ‘creative’ is in their job title. I’m in the wrong line of work, apparently. And forget my annoyance; did Jim Cornette ever address this on his podcast? I’d love to hear his retort for the statement, so long as it doesn’t lead to him having the aneurysm we all fear is inevitable.
-Live from Corpus Christi
-On the call, Cole, Lawler, and JBL
WWE Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber: The New Day def. K-Swiss, Prime Time Players, The Ascension, Lucha Dragons, and Los Matadores in 23:21
Yes, the teams were crammed into the standard-size pods. New Day were permitted to compete as a trio, and comically, they were all stuffed in one pod. I have to say that these six teams, plus The Usos (Jey is still injured) and Harper/Rowan actually give WWE a respectably-deep tag team scene.
The Lucha Dragons and The Ascension kicked off, giving us our second match between participants in an NXT Title change (Neville/Dallas). The Ascension are LOD ripoffs in a War Games match ripoff. It can’t end until one of them digs a spike into JJ Dillon’s arms. Sin Cara flew off of a pod with a swanton onto Viktor in a daring spot, while Kalisto was crotched in the chain link atop New Day’s pod (who proceded to do the Lucha arm-thrust dance in celebration)
K-Swiss hits the ring after a four-minute interval and destroy The Ascension, and Cesaro nails Kalisto with a leaping Swiss Death while Kalisto was still trapped on his Chamber. Superplex off the pod leads to a Kidd elbow for 2, broken up by Sin Cara. Crowd’s periodically disinterested, despite the wild spots scattered about.
Los Matadores are in fourth with no eliminations yet, and El Torito (stationed on the pod) hits Cesaro with a diving rana. Meanwhile, Kalisto climbs to the apex of the Chamber roof and gets a swinging suicide dive onto a pile of guys in a spot that wakes the crowd up, at least. Fall of Man finishes Fernando at 10:14. Another finishes Kalisto at 11:11. Hey, they’re actually making the Ascension look dominant! Who knew that kicking ass worked better than bad promos?
Prime Time Players enter fifth and quickly finish Viktor at 13:10 with a Gut Check. A unique Tower-of-Doom spot with a Cesaro gutwrench superplex/Titus powerbomb occurs, and some vocal fans get a minor “This is awesome” chant going. It mostly turns into laying around as they wait for New Day, who predictably enters last.
Swinging kick lays out Kofi, but Young rolls up Cesaro for the surprising elimination at 18:09. Crowd doesn’t much care for that, but since it came down to New Day and the Players, Young becomes defacto babyface for escaping the Midnight Hour and sending Big E headfirst into a plexiglass door. Young gets two off a Gut Check on Kofi that Charles Robinson stalled noticably on. Titus gets finished at 23:21, following a Big E clip and a Woods Shining Wizard, followed by a three man pin.
The crowd found it hard to get into with the lack of distinguished stars, but was gradually sucked in by the hard work of everyone involved. It’s a fun match with a lot of dead spots diluted by some admirable creativity
WWE Divas: Nikki Bella def. Naomi and Paige in 6:03
Naomi’s light-up sneakers are blue tonight, for those that find such information pertinent. They’re beautiful compared to Nikki’s springboard kick that missed by such a mile, even the reverent, Bella-admirous announcers have to admit that it shot wider than an Alex Henery field goal.
Not much story to the match, aside from the competitive nature of triple threats resulting in a mad dash to break up fall attempts. Paige seemed to be hurt legit on a Nikki Alabama Slam, favoring her head for the remainder of the bout. A couple of decent spots (Rear View breaks up the Rack Attack, a Naomi reverse rana), but not much else. Nikki finishes Naomi with the Rack Attack, and that’s that.
Kevin Owens def. John Cena at 19:54
Considerable cheers for Owens upon his entrance. Funny how a soldier of WWE’s corporate facade (Cena) restores cred to a belt, and an IWC stud (Owens) takes a dump on it. Owens actually mines some quality heel heat out of a WWE crowd pre-disposed to hating Cena on sight. Some IWCers will question why such fans would boo Owens, and yet it’s like currency to him. He’s happy to be hated.
Also of note was Lawler’s rapt interest in this match. Not only did Lawler put over that he’d faced Owens before in a previous life, but brought some of his old attached focus out of the mothballs, extolling his no-frills brawling style. Point being, if you can get bored Lawler’s attention in this modern age, you’re worth your salt.
Conversely, it’s still disarming when someone like Lawler (this isn’t being cast as blame on him) has to note that Owens likes to fight. Shouldn’t that be standard in any WWE wrestler? They’re there to compete physically, though it seems each WrestleMania season, it’s all about ‘building legacies’. This is why we love Brock so much, even though he only shows up when they’re electing a new Pope.
Owens did well adapting to Cena’s rigid main event formula, though Cena did break form a few times in the slugfest sequences, allowing for Owens to shine as a stoic scrapper. Cena kicked out of a pop-up powerbomb, which isn’t surprising. To paraphrase RVD, that doesn’t mean Owens sucks; it just makes him like everyone else, unable to beat Cena with one finisher.
Owens actually missed a turnaround moonsault (stunning everyone), and kicked out of the ensuing AA, so the shine goes both ways. Truly, Hunter didn’t miss this match’s production session, taking up for his project. Owens even tried for his own Five Knuckle Shuffle and was pulled into the STF. Upon escaping, he hits Cena with his own AA and gets two, and the commentators sell admiration more than disgust, which is unusual in today’s perpetual rah-rah Cena world.
Cena dug into the well he went to with his matches against Rock, selling genuine frustration at being unable to finish, no matter what the circumstances. Both kicked out of one innovative move after another, including Owens busting out a modified Steenalizer (Owensalyzer?) and a reverse superplex, and the crowd, while quiet in parts, it was a respectful silence. As in, what the hell will they do next?
Cena’s frustration with being unable to finish Owens led to some angry clotheslines, the last one walking into the pop-up powerbomb to give Owens the shocking clean win. The announcers play it up as perhaps the most startling upset ever, followed by Owens cutting a spiteful promo, giving Cena ‘veteran advice’, imploring him to quit wrestling, and then ripping off “THE CHAMP IS HERE”.
Neville def. Bo Dallas in 8:53
Didn’t anticipate this topping the previous match, though I’ll note that except for Sami Zayn, every NXT Champion (Rollins, Owens, Neville, Dallas, Big E) performed on this show. Beating OVW’s track record, anyway.
Neville’s daredevil antics keep the crowd into it, and Dallas at least plays his insincere heel bit to the hilt. Actually reminds me of The Mountie and other villains of that ilk. In other words, they’ve done a fine job carrying the crowd through when the previous match most certainly drained their emotions.
Sadly, Dallas works a chancery for what feels like an eternity, prompting the announcers to argue about football and baseball called shots in light of Owens’ win. Gets Dallas some good heat, but it doesn’t make for an exciting match. Neville’s comeback, littered with his usual flash, can’t get them back to any real degree.
Neville countered the Bo-Dog, hit a high kick, and finished with the Red Arrow, which popped the crowd enough. That could have used about three less minutes and 20 less chanceries.
WWE Intercontinental/Elimination Chamber: Ryback def. Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry, King Barrett, and R-Truth in 25:06 to win the vacant title
Henry was Rusev’s replacement, failing to even get a home state pop. That, or Dallas killed the city worse than an ancient plague. He, along with Truth and Sheamus, really give the match a musty 2011 feel. All we’re missing is an Alex Riley semi-push.
Barrett and Ziggler open, probably rightly so, guaranteeing a period of quality wrestling among some of the clunkier performers. Even then, the opening sequence was fairly uninspired, and R-Truth’s entrance third into the match doesn’t change that. Even Ziggler’s comeback attempt and Barrett’s posturing fail to electrify. It takes a sick superkick to Dolph’s mouth to draw some revulsion sounds.
Barrett sends Ziggler into Henry’s pod prematurely, breaking it, and Henry’s allowed to enter for some reason. Ryback joins the fray seconds later, so I’m guessing they felt they were short and time, and found a workaround to get everyone involved quicker.
Barrett ends up being the first man gone, losing to R-Truth’s Moment of Truth, of all things, at 10:59. Sheamus has a problem with his pod upon final entry.Ryback gets Truth with Shell Shock at 13:53 while Sheamus remains stuck. JBL: “Who’s doing our equipment, the Patriots equipment guy?” Well, WWE does inflate their attendance figures…
Sheamus finally answers after picking the lock with his cross necklace, and puts Ziggler through another pod window, which naturally doesn’t draw blood or anything. Those WWE video games are liars. Brogue Kick finishes Henry at 17:12. Ziggler then eats one at 20:19 after an awkward sequence, taking the air out of an already deflated crowd.
Ryback gets some courtesy cheers from fans sick of Sheamus. Even his gutsy kickout after White Noise on the mesh can’t spur a loud response. The rolling senton on the mesh shortly thereafter gets near silence, and is a sign that the gimmick overuse has taken its toll. Ryback does finish with two powerbombs (one into the Chamber wall) and Shell Shock. And you know what? Good for him. After gutting it out with a busted rib since Payback and beyond, he should be rewarded for his grit. Shame the match was a colossal disappointment, more awkward than a Duggar therapy session. Could be the worst match of the year to this point, topping the Paige/Tamina slog-fest from Monday. At least that was short.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose def. Seth Rollins by disqualification at 21:47
At this time 17 years ago, to this exact day, an anti-social hellraiser (Austin) faced long odds against a hand-picked corporate avatar (Dude Love), for the WWE title. That was a five star match, so I was holding high hopes for this one through calendar osmosis. This is also the first time in WWE history that a PPV/special ends with two men in their twenties going one on one for the WWE Championship, so there’s history here.
The match actually begins very slowly, despite building up Ambrose as hellbent on ending Rollins for the Shield split a year prior. Lots of mat wrestling from Ambrose in the first five minutes, sort of betraying the story. The crowd is into it insomuch as chanting negative remarks at Rollins, but it’s a long time before Ambrose looks like the true babyface. A pinfall reversal sequence ten minutes in triggers this.
Ambrose lands a suicide dive shortly thereafter and the crowd is now sufficiently invested. Of course, a more long-term story building to this would help, but with two weeks between ‘specials’ (which are hardly special), they’re kinda handcuffed. Otherwise, this just feels like a TV match at the 10 PM hour.
Ahh, but it’s a disqualification. Well, there’s your new #CancelWWENetwork campaign, with an hour to go before the end of the free month. I think it’d have been better just to hotshot the belt onto Ambrose and have Rollins win it back at Money in the Bank, but I’m not one of the beancounters here. Reigns helps Ambrose clean house and Ambrose absconds with the belt, but it doesn’t bail out the crap finish and the mostly average match.
OVERALL: Owens/Cena is worth going out of your way to see, and would’ve bolstered a thumbs up on its own power had much of the remainder of the show not been so disappointing.
It’s a thumbs-in-the-middle show, and I’m hoping this bi-weekly special experiment ends with a thud, like this show did.