And it started so promisingly…
Well WrestleMania 34 is in the books and it was….okay? What started off hot with some extremely competitive matchups and interesting plot twists eventually just puttered out and limped to what most would consider a pretty lackluster finish. The thing is, Mania is a marathon, but the audience hit a wall after the (surprisingly good) Ronda Rousey match. This led to tepid responses to the major title matches (both of which were disappointing in their own ways), one compelling heel turn, and the reveal of Braun Strowman’s “mystery partner.” Still, there were brilliant moments on the show and some grand performances, so lets break down the biggest card of the year.
- It started in the pre-show and continued throughout the entire night, but WWE’s production team and camera crews really need to work on their cutaway game. Both battle royals were so poorly shot that they missed several important eliminations, there were a lot of awkward moments where the camera lingered on the interviewer/interviewee for like 30 seconds too long (poor Sam Roberts looked like a deer in the headlights talking about “all the action”), and there were so many cutaways to John Cena that dude may as well change his name to Poochie. Seriously, the focus on him is so bad that he legitimately spoils Charlotte’s celebration following the SmackDown Women’s Championship match by hopping the barrier and running up the ramp to change clothes. They don’t even pay that off for another 40 minutes. Great work, guys! Really worthwhile production decision.
- The Andre the Giant Battle Royal is a waste of time that should be done away with. This year’s outing made the interesting choice to feature exactly zero interesting choices for winner, which made it especially hard to care. Ultimately it came down to Matt Hardy vs. Mojo Rawley and Baron Corbin, with the heels maintaining the upper hand until Bray Wyatt returned to help Hardy eliminate both former ArMBaR winners. The ring crew forgets that Wyatt isn’t in the match, so it’s like a full minute into the post match stare down before they ring the bell and realize Hardy won. Bray and Matt hug it out and go to do a new #Woken pose…but the camera crew cuts to Cena when that happens so we miss it. Great work, guys! Really worthwhile production decision.
- The Cruiserweight title match was pretty good – much better than some of the matches on the main card, as a matter of fact. Both men came out dressed in superhero outfits, with Ced rocking some Black Panther-inspired gear, while Ali came out in an Iron Man helmet and gauntlet. It was a bit much for Ali — he should have just stuck with his normal look as the Digi-devolution of Seth Rollins. Still, a lot of great back and forth between these two and a hard fought victory for Cedric. I’m happy that he won; that dude has deserved the purple belt for a long time. I was pulling for Ali, personally, but I’m not mad at this result. Of course when Drake Maverick comes in the ring to give Cedric his coronation, the camera captures the great moment…of John Cena sitting in the crowd. Nothing says exciting action quite like a bored millionaire drinking a $10 stadium beer next to what looked to be an actually pregnant Claire Lynch and Jacob from Lost. Great work, guys! Really worthwhile production decision. (You may be noticing a theme here.)
- The second ever First Ever Women’s WrestleMania Battle Royal™ was much better than its male equivalent, but it was just as sloppy. There were long periods where some of the women were on the outside of the ring but not eliminated, several key eliminations were missed by the camera (notably including Kairi Sane and Becky Lynch) and the pacing was a bit all over the place. The highlight by a mile was the contingent of NXT women led by my bae Peyton Royce going on a dominant streak toward the middle of the bout. Paige was on commentary for this bout and confirmed that Sonya Deville is her favorite in Absolution (duh) at one point. The end comes when Sasha and Bayley are in the ring and Sasha offers a handshake but Bayley, having seen wrestling before, takes the opportunity to chuck her frenemy out of the ring. Unfortunately for her, Naomi wasn’t actually eliminated from the match (just inconsequential) and slams her butt into Bayley’s face before eliminating her and earning the Fallopian trophy. Amazingly, there’s no cut to John Cena at this point, but don’t you worry: he’ll be there to ruin a woman’s victory celebration a little later in the night.
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins vs. The Miz (c) (Intercontinental Championship)
As one might expect, this was a pretty strong match, with all three guys turning in really athletic performances. The real surprise here was The Miz, who did a lot of work to shed his “king of safe style” title by controlling most of the match and keeping up with the pace of super athletes like Seth and Finn. He wasn’t Minoru Suzuki out there, but it was potentially the best performance he’s put on from an athletic standpoint, so kudos to Miz. Maybe he is a new man now that he’s a dad.
First up let’s talk about the entrances, because each guy had something worth talking about in their own way. Seth came out first dressed as the Night King from Game of Thrones, complete with icy ring graphics and husky blue contacts. I honestly prefer his all white or gold gear, but this was a different look, in a good way. Less successful was The Miz, who was out here looking like Avatar Aang trying to sneak into the fire Nation. Dude’s red coat and headband would have worked better if he had the Miztourage in matching gear, but he sent them back to catering before the match started anyway, so I guess that’s a moot point. The one that will have people talking the most would have to be Finn Balor, who comes out in subtle rainbow gear with a contingent of fans all wearing similar shirts in a meaningful nod toward the LGBTQ+ community. Earlier in the night Sonya Deville rocked similar colors in the battle royal, but this was (a) on the main show and (b) while the crowd was actually excited and paying attention. Classy move by WWE. I mean, they’ll waste that good will during the New Day entrance a little later, but this was a nice touch all the same.
The ending is pretty typical of WWE triple threats, but with a few inventive twists. Miz hits a Skull Crushing Finale on Seth from the second rope, but Finn breaks up the pin with a Coup de Grace to Miz’s back. He hits another one on Miz’s chest, but as he’s rolling Miz over to go for the pin, Seth gets back in and curb stomps Finn into Miz’s chest, then hits a second one on the A-lister for the pin and the win. Overall, a great opener — all three men are stars and they each had their own unique entrances that will have people talking. Hopefully this lets Miz take some time off to spend with his newborn daughter while Seth and Finn feud over the IC belt. I don’t want Miz away for too long, though. 2017/18 has been eye opening about what he has to offer as a performer.
Oh, and in the middle of the match the announcers literally shout over one another about John Cena sitting in the crowd and miss a pretty cool sequence between Seth and Finn. You know where this is going…Great work, guys! Really worthwhile production decision.
Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair (c) (SmackDown Women’s Championship)
While there was a lot to love about the entrances in the first match, Charlotte had the best entrance on the show even though she came out first for her own title defense. Clad in gold and sat atop a shimmering throne, Flair was led to the ring by Centurions, looking every bit the queen she claims to be. It’s unfortunate that Asuka then had to follow that, because short of some augmented reality masks projected on the screen, her entrance was pretty much the same one you see every Monday night.
Not to give the match short shrift (honestly, it was the best women’s match in WrestleMania history), but all that we’re going to be talking about from this match is the outcome. After a pretty stellar back and forth, Charlotte placed the Empress of Tomorrow in the Figure Eight and made Asuka tap out. Charlotte beats the streak in a hard fought submission victory. It’s perhaps less shocking than Taker’s streak ending in the same building four years earlier, but it was a shock nonetheless. Now if this had to be Asuka’s first loss, I’m glad it was at Mania and I’m glad it was to Charlotte. It deserves to be a big deal on a grand stage and to the best of the best. I’m fine with all of that. What I’m not cool with is Asuka tapping out — and tapping out only seconds after being put in the damn hold. It’s not like a ton of offense was geared toward Asuka’s legs, either. She just sort of gave up. After the match she put Charlotte over and congratulated her, which is classy I guess, but it felt hollow for a woman who has been undefeated for nearly three years to just sort of quit, then congratulate the woman that made her do it. I would have saved the classy move for Raw or something.
The good news is, again, the match itself is DOPE. These two women pulled out all the stops, with Asuka using a ton of interesting counters (changing the moonsault into a triangle choke was particularly cool) and Charlotte powered through all of her signature spots (including her best spear ever). Then there were “only at Mania” spots, like that suplex from the apron to the floor, or that top rope Spanish Fly. It was, honestly, a fantastic performance from both women. There’s also some positive potential from a storyline perspective. Now that the streak is broken, we can stop talking about it in every match. The last few weeks, in particular, have seen Asuka teamed with weaker people (Bayley, Dana Brooke, Miz) with the storyline being “She could lose her streak without even losing.” There is the concern that now that the streak is broken that she’ll begin losing all the time, but let’s try and remain positive.
Oh, and while Charlotte is celebrating her victory on the ramp a referee runs by to tell Cena that Taker is in the building, leading Big Match John to hop the barrier and run up the ramp to the back. Way to let a moment breathe, John. Can the women in WWE have one major moment that isn’t spoiled by some jackass running in at the last second to steal the spotlight? Great work, guys! Really worthwhile booking decision.
Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (c) (United States Championship)
If there’s someone who could have benefitted from a grand WrestleMania Entrance™ it would be Bobby Roode, but sadly dude doesn’t even get a full play of Glorious Domination before a freshly shorn Aiden English (seriously, he had hair on the pre-show) is out there talking up Rusev. Next up, we have Samir Singh dressed as a Bollywood baggage handler, which is appropriate given that Jinder comes out in a Sergeant Pepper jacket that looks less like a military coat and more like a…well you know what, the legendary Virgil actually said it best:
Modern day meat sauce dressed like a bellman at hilton garden inn #WrestleMania
— Virgil (@TheRealVirgil) April 9, 2018
Randy’s out last, looking disinterested, and if I’m honest, a little drunk. I know he’s a company man, so he gave it the typical Randy sleepwalking performance, but it’s clear he never really cared about this U.S. Title program. This was all just an avenue to get him on the Mania card.
Anyway, this match is pretty by the numbers, with everyone hitting all their signature spots and Mahal getting tossed out of the ring every two minutes or so (I counted, it happens four times). Orton RKOs everyone but Roode, who does hit the Glorious DDT on Randy but never feels like a potential threat in the match. The end comes when Jinder hits his finisher — letting a Singh Brother get demolished then hitting the Khallas — to pin Rusev for the pin and the win. Jinder’s not a terrible choice for U.S. champ, but what the hell is it going to take for WWE to actually push Rusev? What does Jinder have? His clothes? Whack. His moves? Whack. His gear? Whack. Rusev? He’s tight as fuck!
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
I’ll say this about this match: the people I had the least faith in stole this show. Not only did Ronda look pretty damn good out there, especially for her first match in the company, but this was also Stephanie’s best performance to date. She was athletic and engaged and knew exactly how to sell the terror of being up there against someone who would literally devour her soul in a shoot fight. To think she put in this caliber of performance against someone who has never done this before. All the kudos in the world to Steph. Also Trips and Kurt were there.
The House of H is out first, retreading last year’s entrance on dual motortricycles and spitting water together. Michael Cole loudly exclaims “Now that’s a WrestleMania entrance!” and my eyes literally rolled so far in the back of my head that I could see my molars. Kurt comes out next to a great response and pyro, then it’s Ronda’s turn. Now I’m going to say a lot positive about Ronda in this section, but they really whiffed it on her entrance and attire. She comes out wearing piper’s jacket and a little mini kilt that looks like a shitty halloween costume. It’s WrestleMania and you’re bringing in a huge cross-market star. Spend some money on her damn entrance. Worse yet, she wrestles in a Hot Rod sports bra and basic black booty shorts. Now Ronda’s cute and in great shape and all, but it’s not a flattering look. Why not put her in MMA gear like you did with Brock when he came in? Also, whoever did her makeup needs to find a new brand of waterproof mascara, cause homegirl was looking like a raccoon toward the end of this thing.
All that aside, Ronda did great out there. There was some sloppiness here and there (her attempt at a quick chain sequence at the beginning really spoke to her status as a novice), but she’s already in there throwing more convincing worked punches than Shane McMahon or Dean Ambrose. Her selling is also a lot better, as she knows when to flop, she knows when to struggle and she knows when to play dead. When she squares up with Triple H it doesn’t look out of place, and when she muscles him up, it’s pretty convincing. A lot of this could also be said of Stephanie. I know she’s had a number of matches in the past, but this is probably the first one where she feels like a wrestler instead of a celebrity participant. She’s always been great at working the crowd, but this was some top-level heel work. Kudos to her.
The finish comes when the Helmsleys have both of their opponents set up for the Pedigree, but both Kurt and Ronda fight out of it and Ronda gets Steph in a diving armbar that would make Pentagon Jr. proud for the submission win. This was a match that was so much better than it had any right to be, and it literally wore the crowd out. Seriously, this wasn’t even the halfway point of the night and the audience is dead for the rest of the card, barring perhaps Taker’s return. Everyone in this match played their part, but this was Steph and Ronda’s show, and they both crushed it. If this is the new McMahon/Stone Cold dynamic at least we know the matches can be good.
The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Usos (c) (SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
This was the cooldown match for the previous bout (which was clearly the match of the night from an entertainment standpoint) and it really shortchanged two of the biggest teams in the company’s history in favor of a quick squash. Worse yet, the New Day come out with a team of little people in pancake costumes to dance around the ring and up the ramp. On a night where the WWE did so much good will building and inclusivity (with great nods to the LGBTQ+ community, the best women’s match in Mania history, and a babyface vs. babyface match between a black man and a Muslim American where neither their nationality/ethnicity played a part in the build), this felt ugly and regressive. Shit like this is why people still can’t take wrestling seriously.
Anyway, there isn’t much to talk about with this one. After the build to their encounter at Fastlane made such a big deal about what it means to both the Usos and The New Day to compete at WrestleMania (with the former having never made the main card and the latter having never won at Mania), it was kind of sad to have the Bludgeon Brothers just squash both teams in one of the shortest matches on the card. Given more time, this really could have been something, but as it stands, the most memorable thing about this was the regrettable choice to play little people for comedy — or Harper’s new mask, which is much cooler than his partner’s new mask. Seriously, Rowan’s new mask looks more like a red panda while Harper’s looking like Reaper from Overwatch.
I’m assuming the Usos will get a rematch at Backlash and hopefully that one will be better than this.
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
While the previous match was entirely too short, this…thing, seemed to go on forever. So Cena runs out in his atrocious lime green T-shirt and is told that Taker isn’t coming by another run-in ref. The lights go out, Elias strolls out and does his usual spiel about how the town is trash, and Cena beats him up. As he goes to leave, the lights go out, Taker’s hat and coat appear in the ring and get struck by lightning. Anyone who has seen a Frankenstein movie (or Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives) knows what happens next. Taker is reborn, more zombie than man, sporting an embarrassingly bad dye job and hair extensions and (Under)taking his sweet ass time to get to the ring. Once he’s there he proceeds to lay waste to Cena in a one-sided beatdown the likes of which Big Match John hasn’t endured since Brock Lesnar ate his lunch at SummerSlam 2014.
Seriously, Cena gets in one move (back body drop) but takes Undie’s greatest hits, from the old school to the chokeslam to the tombstone in a three minute squash match. On one hand I get why you book this segment after the last one: The tag triple threat was sort of heatless and could use the pop of excitement that comes with the Undertaker’s return. Stacking two squash matches on top of each other, however, was a poor decision. This felt needless and served as little more than an excuse to put these two on the card, and frankly I’d be happier if Taker stayed gone. Of course, the legendary Virgil once again chimed in:
The Undertaker back better than Everlast of house of pain #Wrestlemania
— Virgil (@TheRealVirgil) April 9, 2018
Despite what Michael Cole says, the Undertaker is not “Back and better than ever” — he’s not even better than last year, as his dyed hair and hair extensions look silly. I want to remember Mark Calloway the way he was, a terrifying but physical specimen who played his gimmick perfectly and had a string of great matches with HBK, Triple H and CM Punk. Every time he comes back, though, he loses a bit of that man and just becomes a broken down old timer. He moved pretty quickly out there tonight, but he only had to perform for three minutes. Let the man retire and stay retired; I don’t need or even really want him at the next Mania unless he’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Owens and Zayn’s jobs on the line)
On a night where the Ronda Rousey match far exceeded expectations and the Styles/Nakamura match failed to live up to them (more on that later) Daniel Bryan’s return match lined up pretty directly with my expectations. Now I’m a big fan of Bryan and I, like most of the world, have missed his contributions to the wrestling landscape — but after 4 years away from in-ring competition, you knew there had to be some ring rust on him. Not much, mind you, but going from the best wrestler in the world to an inactive NPC for three years and back will affect your in ring prowess, however slightly. Still, Bryan at 85% is better than most people at 110%, and the thrill of seeing him back in a real match cannot be denied.
After the faces’ entrances, which included a needless and stupid Terminator-like vignette about the Yes Movement, KO and Sami rushed the ring to beat the shit out of the competition before the bell and apron powerbomb D-Bry to set up an injury angle. This led to about seven minutes of Shane going it alone to some impact. Sure, he’s not the best wrestler on the card (shoot, tonight he wasn’t even the best McMahon on the card), but dude managed to put on a pretty good match for his portion, even hitting his coast to coast at one point. I mean, Sami had to lean into it to sell the connection, but it was still a fun spot. Eventually, Bryan climbs back into the ring and has a fairly good match. He’s clearly being a little safer out there (as one would expect), but he still hits most of his old high notes – from the corner dropkicks to the Busaiku Knee to the Yes Kicks. He’s a little smaller than he was when he last wrestled, but KO and Sami are pros and make Bryan (and Shane) look like stars.
The ending sees Bryan hit the knee on Sami and follow it up with the Yes Lock for the submission win. This match was exactly what it needed to be as it allowed Bryan to show that he could still go, put him on an even playing field with two of the best performers in the company, protected him enough that he didn’t have to carry the whole thing, and gave him a strong win to send the crowd home happy. The big question now is what happens with KO and Sami? They’ll go to Raw almost certainly, but what are they going to do to earn that spot? Will Bryan remain as the GM on SmackDown? Will Kami be the ones to eliminate Bryan from the Greatest Royal Rumble next month? I mean, if I were booking it…
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss (c) (Raw Women’s Championship)
So already tonight we’ve had two surprise squash matches; why didn’t they make this the third? Beyond the obvious nature of Nia being a lot bigger and stronger than Bliss, having the bullied face convincingly destroy the villainess who has been body shaming her and insulting her intelligence makes for a better narrative than what we got. Then there’s the fact that this happened about three and half hours into a five hour wrestling show (seven if you count the pre-show), and the crowd would have been more than happy with this one being quick. I don’t think Bliss really gets a rub from how competitive the match was either, as she spends most of the encounter running away and thumbing Jax in the eye.
This whole encounter feels a bit undercooked anyway, from the entrances to the attire to the forced platitudes of body acceptance eschewed by the announce team once the match was over. For one, the idea to have Bliss on a pedestal probably sounded good on paper, but it was a mess in reality. Bliss looked legit terrified atop that pneumatic lift, and the setup had to include her coming out and getting into position before her music even hit, killing a bit of her pop in the process. Then there’s Nia, who didn’t get a special entrance but got some ring gear that did not land with me. It was like a golden one-piece bathing suit and a full body stocking. It looks like one of those old military jackets that Michael Jackson used to wear that had been shredded by a cat. Nia’s always had issues with her gear, though, so that’s not a new issue. How does former WWE Superstar Virgil feel about it, you ask?
No matter what happens tonight I love Nia Jax #WrestleMania
— Virgil (@TheRealVirgil) April 9, 2018
Once Nia won with a Samoan drop (needlessly) from the second rope, Coach and Cole instantly launched into these hollow prepared statements about body shaming and bullying that just rang super false. Shoot, Coach couldn’t even finish his before Cole was jumping over him reading Nia’s mission statement. I’m all for spreading a positive message and shutting down bullying, but you don’t do that by having two dudes in their late 40s reading statements written by someone from marketing.
Still, I’m good with Nia winning. She’s overdue for a title, and I’m glad she got it at a Mania (and as a face surprisingly). Now hopefully there’s a legitimately threatening heel for her to work against in the coming weeks, because I don’t really think Bliss should stay in the title picture at this point. She’s had her run, let someone else work at the top.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles (c) (WWE Championship)
So here’s something I’m not proud to say: I fell asleep during this match the first time. I had already watched six hours of wrestling, I’d had a few beers, it happens. The thing I later asked myself, however, was why? Wasn’t this this the match I most wanted to see at Mania? Didn’t I talk it up a good deal on the podcast because of how much I liked it the first time around? Unfortunately, a second viewing of the match confirmed my fears: this match just wasn’t all that good. Maybe it was the crowd, who tired themselves out chanting for both men at the onset; maybe it was the fatigue of a long day; maybe it was all the hype, but AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura wasn’t even the third best match at WrestleMania, and that’s insane.
I want to clarify, it wasn’t that the match was bad — I honestly think Styles would have to try to have an actually bad match — it just wasn’t very good. I hate to get all smarky here, but I think a lot of this has to do with how matches are booked in NJPW versus how WWE likes to do business. See, WWE runs between four to six televised shows per week, which is a pretty insanely grueling schedule for a job that is so physically demanding. Because of that, the pace of their matches tends to be slower, the high spots are a little less dangerous and the bumps that the performers actually take are fewer and further between. Look at the NJPW match linked above and then rewatch the Mania bout from Sunday. There were times in that first match where I thought AJ might have died, those two went that all out. Here? It’s a fine WWE Championship match, and would be the best match on the card in almost any other Mania — it’s just not what you want from a match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Something else that may have may have dampened people’s enthusiasm for this match was the ending. As Nakamura is setting up the Kinshasa, AJ ducks it and rolls through to set up the Styles Clash which hits for the win. Now it’s not bad that Styles won, but on a night where we also saw Asuka’s streak defeated, I personally felt like it was the wrong call to let Styles beat Nak. Both your Royal Rumble winners (and later your Elimination Chamber winner) look like chumps who fail on the big stage. It’s somewhat saved by Shinsuke’s excellent heel turn after the bell, but I still want to complain about it.
So that heel turn: Shinsuke kneels to present the title belt to AJ in what appears to be a sign of respect, but is actually Nak getting close enough to punch Styles RIGHT in the balls, then kick the shit out of him for a few minutes at ringside. That part is great, and I’m really enthusiastic for heel Shinsuke. I just which the actual match itself stood out more.
The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman and Nicholas (Raw Tag Team Championships)
More of an angle than a match, this one was ridiculous. First up, the Bar come out on a Mardis Gras float, which feels like more of a face move but whatever. When Braun’s out next, all the characters from the float are all just kinda hanging out on stage until Stro lets out one of his trademark roars and chases them all off. He then dumps the float off the stage and marches toward the ring where he says that his tag partner is one of the fans in the crowd. Sure enough, he marches out to the audience (marching past a contingent of NXT stars like No Way Jose in the process) and finds a 10-year old boy named Nicholas (in reality the son of WWE ref John Cone) to stand on the apron while he beats the hell out of two men who should not be jobbing like this. Now, No Way Jose wouldn’t be my first pick either, but at least you won’t get sued to hell if he catches a stray boot from Sheamus on the apron. I’m not the only one who recognized that possibility:
Brogue kick the child. #WrestleMania
— Ronald Funches (@RonFunches) April 9, 2018
Anyway, this is another one-sided beatdown more or less. The Bar do get in some offense at points, but Strowman never looks in trouble and eventually hits his running powerslam for the pin and the win. Braun and a 10-year-old boy are now the Raw tag champs. So fuck you, tag teams who want to be taken seriously, a fifth grader is now your champion. Like…I get that Braun could have won (and in fact did win) this thing on his own, but putting him in these comedy angles is only going to hurt his draw eventually. He is killing it at the moment, but there’s a fine line between occasionally cracking a joke and turning into the Great Khali during his Punjabi Playboy days.
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (c) (Universal Championship)
The city of New Orleans was not a fan of this match. Amidst the string of suplexes, F5s, Superman punches and spears were loud and sustained chants of “Bo-ring,” “CM Punk” and “This is awful.” While it wasn’t fair to call this a poorly performed match, it was a rather boring one. Much like their last encounter at Mania 31, this match saw Roman ragdolling for Lesnar for like 10 minutes, getting in a spear or Superman punch, then getting destroyed again. Unlike last time, however, Rollins wasn’t waiting in the wings to save the crowd reaction to this match. Instead, WWE was hoping (I guess?) that some blood would help do that, as Brock knelt down and busted Roman open like he did Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2016. That didn’t work, so instead, Brock hit five F5s (and one through the announce table) for the clean win after a hard hitting but dull 15 minutes.
So the baffling question that remains is: With Brock still as champion, who do you have stand up to the Beast? The guy you’ve been building up to do it for the past three years just failed in spectacular fashion (the fact that he survived as long as he did does not put him over as much as WWE seems to think), and the only guy who is even competitive with that dude is in a comedy tag team with a 10-year old. The IWC seems to think that Vince is bringing back Bobby Lashley for that role, but will the WWE Universe be any more accepting of him his second time around? I didn’t watch him in TNA (I hear he improved a bit), but he was the prototype for the “failed corporate project” before Roman was even an FCW prospect.
More than that, was Dana White just bullshitting about the MMA return? As I was putting together this review news broke about Brock re-signing with the WWE — is THAT the work? Roman will be facing Brock for the title in a steel cage at the Greatest Royal Rumble, and I believe foreign crowds are more into the Big Dog than Americans, so is that where he will crowned Universal Champion, or is Brock just going to continue to hold that belt until someone shoots him with a tranq dart and finally pins him for the belt? Either way, I think I’m officially checked out of the Universal title scene at this point. It’s about as useful as the European Championship for how often it’s on TV, and now — if Brock’s signing is legit and we’re due for another year or two of this “defending it once per quarter” bullshit — I just don’t feel the need to care. The Miz was right: the Intercontinental Championship is the top belt on Raw.