For the first time since the “In Your House” era of Pay-per-views the WWE has run two events with the same name. The original Roadblock was essentially a forgettable house show that managed to host a phenomenal title match between Triple H and Dean Ambrose, but literally nothing else of consequence. With this past weekend’s Roadblock: End of the Line, the company hoped to improve on that formula – but was it any good?
Kickoff Show/ Ruzev Vs. Big Cass
If you’re one of those people that skips the pre-show, frankly you’re not missing much. The show features a panel of “experts” hosted by Charlie Caruso, who is sort of a palette swapped Renee Young – and I mean that in a good way. Since last month, the show has also been welcoming on prominent wrestling bloggers and podcasters to be kayfabe members of the panel. For Roadblock it’s Sam Roberts, and while I think his podcasts are great, it should be noted how bad he was on the pre-show. He just can’t carry across a cogent thought while maintaining kayfabe and appears overwhelmed, though it could easily be Booker T’s influence. The 5 time (5 time, 5 time, etc.) WCW champion doesn’t really seem to listen to the questions he’s asked, instead just spewing nonsense tangentially related to the event.
So the first “match” is Rusev vs. Big Cass. I throw match in quotes because it never really gets out of the blocks before Cass takes the countout loss. The proceedings start with a bad Christmas promo from Enzo and Cass. Enzo claims Lana has a lot of nerve tricking him into a hotel room trap a few weeks back, despite the fact that he was there trying to nail a married woman. This meandering promo goes on for far too long, meaning that the first move of the actual match (a simple punch from Cass) leads to that awkward commercial rest moment you see in every Raw match that goes more than one segment. Seriously, it’s a 5-minute promo followed by like 10 seconds of action and then a commercial.
The announcers make note that this is Cass’ first singles match on PPV. Of course it isn’t actually on the PPV, it’s on the pre-show, but even so I don’t think Cass is going to be talking up this performance. The match ends in a crummy countout angle to keep the feud going, but everyone comes out of this looking worse. Enzo looks dumb for getting tricked by Lana again, Rusev looks weak for getting like no offense in the match, Cass looks dumb for getting drawn out into the crowd only to get counted out. Also the match meant so much that they’re literally doing it again tomorrow night. If this weren’t on the pre-show I’d make a comment about how people who paid to see this got robbed, but I digress.
1). The New Day Vs. She-saro (Tag titles)
The first match on the actual show is the New Day Vs. Sheamus and Cesaro. This is literally the first title defense for the New Day since they broke Demoition’s longevity record, and wouldn’t you know it – they lost. Honestly, it is for the best, New Day has been stale for a while and the weird heel-face dynamic of She-saro will make for some interesting storylines in the future.
It must be said that this match just proves that Cesaro is DOPE. He’s like Poochie from that one episode of the Simpsons, whenever he’s not in the ring everyone just asks “Where’s Cesaro?” He’s constantly moving and hitting great moves (the caught cross body into a suplex into a neutralizer was stellar), has a few phenomenal close calls (kicking out of the cheap shot into a Big Ending was a legit surprise), and the ending is potentially the most clever move I’ve seen in the WWE in some time. At the end of the match Sheamus goes for the desperate tag, only for Cesaro to give him the “down low – too slow” treatment and rush in to take the cliche’ comeback move from Kofi only for Sheamus – the still legal man – to rush in and land the pin.
After the match Sheamus and Cesaro continued the heel-face dynamic, though their appearance on the (kayfabe?) Raw Talk after show portrayed them as far more unified with a genuine bond between them. We’ll see how this progresses moving forward.
2). Sami Zayn Vs. Braun Strowman (10-minute time limit match)
Up next is the match between Sami Zayn and Braun Strowman, and for what it was, the match was fairly well worked. That being said, Zayn’s constant flopping in the match becomes a bit much at times. Don’t get me wrong, I get selling for the bigger guy, but Sami takes crazy bumps all the time, it’s kind of his thing. Why is he floored after a single elevated hip-toss? He goes through serious wars with Kevin Owens or Cesaro but is devastated by only a handful of basic moves? Consistency has always been a weak point in WWE’s storytelling, both in the ring and out of it.
Praise is due for Braun Strowman’s storytelling, though. The nearly 7-footer displayed good monster heel mannerisms, stalking around like a predator, yelling at Mick Foley to throw in the towel to save Sami’s life, and picking him up from pin falls is a fun little touch. Similarly, though I’ve had a lot of issues with the camerawork in the WWE recently, the cut to the shocked little kid was a good touch.
That being said, the 10-minute stipulation doesn’t work well with Braun’s relative lack of experience. The match made the monster look a little limited in the ring. His performance is like 90% clotheslines and body slams, which works in a 4 minute squash, but wears thin around the 6 minute mark.
That being said, we learned Braun’s true weakness: running into/through some shit. Running face first into a post and then straight through that little barricade to the Time-keeper’s area dazed Braun just enough to let Zayn get in some offense.
In the end Sami goes the distance (Even hit a Heluva Kick in the final few seconds). Sami looks gutsy, but I think they probably should have had Braun come through and beat the crap out of him after the bell. I don’t think Strowman would be a good sport about this sort of thing, so Sami sitting breathlessly outside the ring while Braun kicks the bottom ropes in anger seems like a lost opportunity for him to get some heat. He’ll probably wreck him on Raw, though, so whatever I suppose.
3). Seth Rollins Vs. Chris Jericho
Given the talent in the ring, it should come as no surprise that this is a well wrestled match – and given how many times we’ve seen these two go at it in recent months, it’s probably not a surprise that it’s hard to care about the matchup. It feels like a Raw match without the commercial break – right down to the predictable botched distraction finish. Owens comes out, messes up the distraction, a brief sequence counter allows Rollins to hit the pedigree and win. The end result was never in doubt.
Going back to The Simpsons analogy from earlier, this is like the Itchy and Scratchy after Poochie died off screen. It’s good and true fans recognize that Rollins and Jericho are two of the best in the game these days, but it’s just not very interesting. Y2J is a legend and first round hall of famer and Seth is a standout performer, I don’t want to be bored by their match.
A couple of notes around this match:
It’s odd that they’re leaving Jericho a heel, even though the crowd REALLY wants to cheer for him. This is the same thing that happened with Seth a few months back.
Points to Corey Graves hoping to trade Byron Saxton to the Japanese commentary team for Funaki. He was Smackdown’s #1 Announcer for many years.
Enough with the pointless records already. Jericho now has the sixth most PPV appearances in WWE history. Get hyped.
4). Brian Kendrick vs. T.J. Perkins vs. Rich Swann (Cruiserweight Title)
Up next is the three-way dance for the Cruiserweight title between the Champ, Rich Swann, and the two former champs in Brian Kendrick and T.J. Perkins. First off, they still haven’t figured out how to film TJ Perkins’ entrance. As the intro to his music plays they always linger on the ramp for entirely too long before he comes out. This time they actually tried to cut something in to eat up the time but had to cut away almost immediately because they still haven’t figured out the timing. Also WTF, did Perkins come out with a Binky? Does creative think giving him MORE accessories will make crowds like him better?
One plus for this bout is that they seemed to let the match be a little more athletic and stylized – at least for Swann and TJP. Kendrick may be a bit too rooted in mat wrestling to get into the flippy/spinny world most of us want out of the cruiserweights. That being said, I can’t get too in depth on analysis for the actual match because my App crashed midway through, but the important bit came at the end.
After Swann hits a couple of kicks to floor his opponents and retain his title out comes Frickin’ Neville who immediately goes heel and wastes the babyfaces in the match. This may have been the highlight for the entire evening, and it’s just what The Man that Gravity Forgot needed to get back into relevance. This instantly puts him at the top of the division when he should have been from day one.
Outside of the action, I have to give props to Austin Aries. Of course I want him to get back into the ring, but it should be said that A-double and Graves are literally the best color men on any WWE programming. His constant shit talking throughout the match was stellar, especially the exchange where he shut down Cole’s Swann praise by claiming that he’s done a double hurricanrana several times. Also +1 for ragging on Neville for dropping his awesome cape. Consistency from the Greatest Man that Ever Lived!
5). Sasha Banks Vs. Charlotte (Womens championship, 30-minute Ironwoman match)
Before we start, I really hope someone screenshotted/gifed the thumbs down hipster from Charlotte’s entrance. Magic.
This is being billed as the blow-off match for this feud, and while I was more than ready for these competitors to move on to new feuds, the ending of this match felt wrong. With the women’s title being hot-potatoed between the two for the past few months (allegedly due to injury concerns on Sasha a few times), it would’ve been nice to see Sasha come out on top of this. She’s now a three-time women’s champ who won (and lost) all of those reigns to Charlotte, with no one run with the belt lasting even a month.
Like all of their matches, things start off kind of slow. The opening is super headlock takeover heavy. There was seriously a 2 minute sequence of headlocks into counters, into headlocks into takeovers into headlocks. Also symptomatic of their other matches, this bout is well worked but there’s a lot of sloppiness at points. It’s particularly egregious on moves like the rollup that caused the second fall. You can tell in practice it was a smooth motion, in effort not so much.
Midway through the match Sasha eats a facefull of the steel steps. Sasha staying in the match despite the punishment she takes afterward is good character building, makes her look strong. That it took a natural selection from the top rope to secure the first fall was a nice touch, even if the move didn’t hit with the impact that I think they thought it would on paper.
The second fall is that kinda botched crucifix rollup I mentioned earlier, then Sasha gets a Bank Statement submission like 1 minute later to move into the lead.
Charlotte hits an inventive knee breaker in the corner (Ever since she bounced Banks’ neck off the top rope in their first PPV match, I cringe every time she has Sasha in the corner), leading her to work the leg for the last few minutes and secure a submission for a tie at the buzzer. Their timing must have been off or something b/c I don’t think they intended to have her sit in the figure four for like 4 minutes with an injured knee only to tap with 3 seconds left in the match.
After one of the worst ring announcement botches in recent memory, we go into sudden death overtime. Sasha gets busted open the hard way at some point, I missed how that happened, but at some point her face is crimson. In the end Charlotte hits the figure 8, forcing Sasha to tap, and earning her 4th (already) women’s title.
As previously stated, I’m pretty disappointed in the outcome. Not to denigrate the ability or talent of Charlotte at all, but jeez, it feels like they’re really more stuck on this records BS than telling good stories. Charlotte retains her undefeated on PPV streak at the expense of the #2 woman on the roster. I’m guessing they wanted a heel champ to face Bailey at Wrestlemania, and Charlotte’s the only proper heel in the game. She isn’t cowardly, she doesn’t have to cheat, she’s just a douchebag that wins. She gets legit heat – and not X-Pac heat – which is hard to do in this day and age.
6). Roman Reigns Vs. Kevin Owens (Universal Title)
The main event of the show is Canadian dad (and Universal Champ) Kevin Owens versus soaked Samoan (and United States Champ) Roman Reigns. A few minutes into the match Owens yells “If you’re so tough how come you didn’t put your title on the line?” and as a fan I wonder the same thing. John Cena put up his title for title in the same scenario last year, so why is Cena 2.0 afraid to? It’s not like he appears to value the title much anyway. Just look at the way he carries the title over his shoulder, which is not how he carried the world title when he had it. It’s draped over his back like he’s ashamed of it, so why not put the damn thing on the line?
If you’ve seen an Owens Vs. Reigns match before there’s nothing too different here. Yes, Owens doing that thing where he busts out new old tricks from his indie days midway through, but it’s not that remarkable. His flipping leg drop while cool, was not as cool as when he first busted out the corkscrew moonsault. Elsewhere, that Swanton onto Roman’s knees was also something to see. How it didn’t break Roman’s legs is beyond me.
The action is decent, just nothing new. At no point does Roman appear to be in trouble, which kind of kills the drama. Even when Reigns gets frog splashed through the table (after a previously failed attempt) and manages to make it back in the ring to beat the 10 count, only to get splashed again – you knew he was going to kick out. As a side note, I also think it’s ridiculous that they won’t let Seth Rollins do the Curb Stomp b/c they don’t want kids googling the name, but Roman can still do a move called the “drive by” in every match.
As most people probably suspected the match ends on a Jericho run-in. Y2J hits a codebreaker on KO for the disqualification victory and a cessation to their beef. I know it’s a silly wrestling storyline but the hug between the two Canadian competitors at the end was legitimately a little heart warming. Of course, we can’t have nice things so Rollins comes out and he and Reigns beat up the bad guys, putting both through tables. Did the Shield guys really need to stand tall at the end? That they felt the need to beat up these guys well after the fact made them come off more as sore losers than wronged fighters.
All in all, Roadblock: End of the Line was a decent PPV event. Most of the matches were well worked but predictable, with the only real high-points being Neville’s return, the end of the tag match and the actual action of the women’s title match. Still, there’s little getting around the feeling that this could’ve been any “special edition” of Monday Night Raw.
Total score: 7/10