WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and NXT it's developmental/sister program is the most widely known pro wrestling company on the planet and have been for quite awhile now. I'm sure most of you have heard the names of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena, so you know wrestling's biggest names over the past 30-40 years. Aside from Dwayne getting his yearly WWE appearance checks and Cena still going strong, most of what you probably watched "back in the day" are probably all gone from headlining the product on a weekly basis. There's still a lot to talk about after WWE's Superbowl last night, Wrestlemania 32, and if you remember my article on NJPW, I'm probably not going to be as enthusiastic here. Major spoilers ahead probably. Most all pictures used were taken from WWE.com too.
I'd like to think I'm a WWE fan boy. I've been watching faithfully since around Wrestlmania 20. From the WWECW revival, to the Raw Guest Hosts, to Mike Adamle, the switch to three hours, the shift from TV-14 to TV-PG and into the reality era. I've been through most all WWE has transitioned through the last 12 years. But the past year or so, at least on the main roster side of things, WWE has been painfully average at the very best. Vince McMahon is dead set on shoving Roman Reigns down our throats. After the fans fought back with deafening boos and general dislike of anything Reigns has done over the past two years, he finally captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship last night in the main event of what turned out to be, including the preshow, an almost 7 hour affair. I don't hate Reigns, I just hate that it seems like he's not learning. His promos are still a mess, his move-set is still limited and turning him heel or at least giving him actual programs with people, would do wonders for him, or at least start to help him look better. This is all after two years now too. I get he primarily was a tag team wrestler before these past two years. But, unlike Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, who grew up in the indies, Reigns was not ready to be a singles guy, much less the face of the WWE.
Triple H, the savior of WWE and the pioneer of NXT, the show that's hard to dislike, was given the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Their mistake with his title run from the Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania, is that NXT is arguably better than the main roster right now. This is the "reality era." We know Triple H, outside of "The Game" is a major part in the company and has made NXT into a showcase. Where indie darlings and homegrown talent clash together to have meaningful matches and emotionally investing storylines. This is due to Triple H, or Paul Levesque, if you want to get completely real. The fans hate Roman's character and the fans love Triple H cause of his NXT work, so it was clear every time Triple H was out there, he was going to get cheered. Even against Dean Ambrose at Roadblock (his best match over the title run) the fans cheered. When he cut long-winded promos, calling us sad and pathetic for not taking our lives by the throat, some of which were alright, they didn't boo him.
On the flip-side, we have Reigns, who can't cut promos and is booed out of every arena. Even last night at WWE's biggest show, Vince's baby, during his main event in front of 100,000 (*cough* 95,000) people, the boos were so deafening, he turned down the crowds mics. Something done on Smackdown to try and get people over, replacing boos with cheers and vice versa, Vince did it at the biggest event of the year. All of this to try and get the man no one wants to see as champion (right now) "over" with the audience, that he has to know despises him. Because Vince is almighty and if he wants face Roman as champion, it's going to happen. If reports are true as well, Reigns will be main eventing Wrestlemaina for the next two years.
Now WWE won't and shouldn't bend to our fickle desires. I most certainly am a fickle fan when it comes to pro wrestling. Anyone invested into anything they like becomes this way. And who knows maybe in the coming months and years, Roman will develop. But you don't develop a character while he's on top of the company, especially if that hated person is a good guy. He can't talk and is hated by the fans. You could argue that's what John Cena did too. But he was built up from a heel rapper to where he got to, he wasn't just given the spot after a few years cause of his heritage. Reigns is probably a cool dude, I don't know, but what I do know, is that how they're presenting him now, is not working at all. All of Roman's post-Shield matches he needs to be carried in, even his good ones, see with Daniel Bryan from last year. The face of your company should be capable on the mic and in the ring.
Enough about Reigns debacle, let's get to all my 100% correct thoughts on everything that went on from NXT TakeOver Dallas until last night's Raw. We'll start with Wrestlemania, since it was the longest. So. Long.
The ladder match for Kevin Owen's Intercontinental championship was pretty well done. The entire world knows it should've been a one on one match between Sami Zayn and Owens and we also know WWE needs to have their big non-Money in the Bank ladder match ladder match each year. The match was fine, it got cool people into the match, you've gotta think Neville and Cesaro would be in this over Stardust and Sin Cara, no offense to them. Injuries suck. Zack Ryder is totally deserving of holding the belt. This also frees up Owens and Zayn to feud with each other or other people over the summer.
AJ Styles and Chris Jericho continued their feud that was pretty much over after Jericho was beaten at Fastlane. Hopefully they just leave them at 2-2 and don't force Styles, arguably the best wrestler on the planet into an overlong pointless WWE storyline as his introduction to the company. The match was fine, but we've seen just about everything they can get out of each other in the last three months.
The New Day is the most over group in the WWE right now (and can hold their own in the ring) and The League of Nations is filled with great talent. I just don't get how we were forced into a Raw-level match at Wrestlemania for these two groups. It wasn't for the title, it wasn't 4-on-3, which begs the question why it wasn't for the titles. Sheamus, Rusev, Wade Barrett and Alberto Del Rio vs The New Day in even an elimination tag match, would have done wonders to what amounted to a pointless match between the feuding parties. Plus Rusev's stunner sell was amazing.
Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar, for me, was what I thought was going to steal the show. Instead, we got a short match in which Ambrose didn't look good and Lesnar looked the same as he always does. I love Lesnar, but this is not how you book him. Nor is it how you use Ambrose. Ambrose was built as a guy who was going to fight Lesnar until the bitter end. Instead he took some suplexes and didn't even kick out of the lone F5. It did nothing for Lesnar overall and hurt Dean, the guy who has been heavily cheered and has been working his ass off all year.
The women's title is back. No more "Divas." And we get a match, up until the last 10 seconds is still worthy of being called the best of the show. The rumors of WWE dropping the hideous Divas Championship and replacing it with the WWE Women's Championship again, was supposed to happen tonight on Raw. Instead, Lita unveiled the new belt, which looks good, and let us know the first, new, champion would be crowed. Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and the last Divas Champion, Charlotte had one helluva triple threat match. Was there a few miscues, sure, was the ending unneeded, absolutely, but the match as a whole reminded me why wrestling is awesome. Banks' entrance, the moonsault from the top rope Charlotte pulled, the fighting spirit of Lynch. All three women showed they belong in the main event and stole Wrestlemania. Get Ric Flair away from all these matches too, he adds nothing and takes away so much.
Undertaker is getting ever older. Shane McMahon is a madman. This match settled nothing and was pointless. Shane was supposed to be change we all want. But this is Vince McMahon, the change we all want is stamped out by Undertaker for some reason. Plus Shane jumping off the top is the kind of insane stuff Dean Ambrose should be doing. That spot alone made Ambrose using a few weapons in a no DQ Barred Streetfight look like nothing.
Baron Corbin won a Battle Royal involving Big Show, Kane, Shaq and Tatanka. I don't even know, but the only better choice would've been Tyler Breeze.
The Rock lit his name on fire, gave props to and then slandered The Wyatts in the same sentence, beat Erick Rowan in a 6 second match and brought out Cena (who probably should've won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal) to get the crowd going? This was all a mess and everyone, but Cena really, looked meh.
Finally in the main event, which I talked about at length above, Triple H and Roman Reigns, who don't have much chemistry, competed in to most predictable main event in Wrestlemania history. Stephanie McMahon looked great and Triple H's entrance as a whole was awesome. The match however, was boring. The spear through the barricade and the spear to Steph were neat. But Triple H trying to work a match while Reigns only threw punches and spears, does not a good match make. Not to mention after six and a half hours of WWE, four and a half if you didn't watch the preshow, there was nothing left to like.
NXT TakeOver: Dallas continues in a long line of NXT specials or PPVs, whatever you want to call them. Usually about two to two and a half hours, they show case five or so of the biggest matches and stories that NXT has going. Going into Wrestlemania weekend NXT had a lot to prove. And boy did they prove it, by putting on a better show than Wrestlemania itself. NXT is story and character building, with great matches to go along with it all and TakeOver: Dallas was no exception.
American Alpha and The Revival for the NXT tag titles was fun as hell. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are the new Worlds Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas.) Hell, Jordan even uses a modified Angle Slam. One day Kurt Angle will come back and the ovation will be thunderous. They're decked out in red, white and blue and Gable has competed in the Olympics. They are a BLAST to watch. High energy, sound in the ring and know what they're doing. Not to make light of The Revival, Dawson and Wilder. They're a throwback tag team that have been getting better with each match. Love the comparison people are making to Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Though it doesn't seem like many people like them all that much. Smashmouth and beatdown can only get you so far nowadays, but I'm still a fan. Either way, Gable and Jordan won in exquisite fashion and gave The Revival their best match so far. Fast paced, everyone looked good and everything flowed really well. I loved that the two teams actively tried to save their partners from moves, instead of just letting them take them. A really nice touch. I hope these two teams can get a feud going. It set the tone for the show in a big way.
In the low match on the card that was still pretty okay, in Austin Aries vs Baron Corbin. Austin Aries, a guy I left off of the list up there, cause there's so much talent being brought in, clashed with Baron Corbin, who just keeps getting better at being a dick-heel by the week. A year ago I loathed him, now he's growing on me as a jackass bad guy. Aries is getting older, but hopefully this fresh NXT look can help elevate him and the rest of the people on NXT up a notch. This match showed he can work WWEs slower style against a big man. When we do see him unleashed more it will be great. Corbin also showed that he can hang with these indie guys, even though he ate the pin he looked good and had some good moment.
In the match of all the years in WWE NXT, the King of Strong Style himself, Shinsuke Nakamura, debuted to a rousing ovation against Sami Zayn. No one could've guessed that Wrestlemaina weekend, for the NXT brand, former NJPW World and Intercontinental Champion and King of Swag, Nakamura himself would be facing Sami Zayn. Sami Zayn, who I think could reach Cena levels of popularity has the improving mic skills and the amazing skill-set need to be a top star. But back to Nakamura. He strikes hard, he has the charisma of a God and always looks good. You can't not like him and if this was your first time seeing him you were in for a treat. Everything from his dope theme, to his oozing character, to his hard-hitting knees were showcased. You got emotionally invested in what was WWE biggest debut in a long while, while appreciating Zayn even more as he heads to the main roster. The back and forths, the realism, the passion and the excitement. Nakakura, if he continues to bring this type of energy, and WWE lets him, can be a top star, no doubt about it. Plus he didn't really looked like his stiff, hard strikes were scaled back too much. He brings out the best in his opponents and Zayn had his best match in WWE to date here. Go find this match and watch it twice. Nakamura has arrived.
Bayley the most bubbly and unsuspecting woman in WWE had held the NXT Women's Champion since last August going into last weekend. Asuka, the joshi (women's wrestling in Japan) style, hard striker, much like Nakamura, from Japan has been on a war path in NXT leading to TakeOver Dallas. She's undefeated, ya know? This was the hardest match of the weekend to predict cause both of these women have shown they can go. The two, despite having not wrestled on TV before delivered a great match. The crowd was behind Bayley all the way and she looked good. You could tell she had never been in a match with Asuka, because of the pace of Asuka, Bayley looked a little slow at the start, but as the match went along, she got much more comfortable. Otherwise this match was a great Asuka showcase. We've seen Bayley, we know her and she adapted well in this match. We didn't really "know" Asuka until now. Now she has complete credibility. She will kick and submit anyone in NXT. I'm really excited for Asuka and Bayley going forward in NXT.
Finally in a stellar main event, The Demon, now with chainsaw, Finn Balor defended his NXT championship for the second time against the Samoan wrecking ball, Samoa Joe. Now, their first match at NXT TakeOver: London was fine, but it was missing something. This match was not missing that something. Balor looked like a champion on the ropes and Joe looked like a monster ready to kill. There was brutal back and forths, Joe was cut up the hard way early on and then it became a monster fighting refs, doctors and a demon, and looking unstoppable doing it. Taking nothing away from Balor, Joe made this match way better by being the machine we've seen over the years. His moves were great and he looked ready to kill anyone and everyone. The ref stoppages weren't too bad, I get it, it's WWE now. It made Joe more angry and that's fine by me. Balor was great as always. On NXT TV he's fine. But he always adds that extra oomph to TakeOver specials. I thought Joe was winning once the final part of the match was starting, but that didn't happen. So I guess Bulletproof, Balor Club, Bullet Club, whatever, with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows will debut in NXT in for awhile before the main roster. This was a great min event and if it was Joe's last NXT match, the main roster better be ready. NXT needs to get ready as well because Nakamura and a Club is on the horizon.
*All of the above was written before Monday Night Raw from last night.*
The Raw after Wrestlemania! Usually one of the best Raws of the year, and WWE has decided to take what makes it special and making a video package and a spectacle, instead of it just being an understood thing. Either way after a sub-par at best, Wrestlemina, Raw was primed to have big debuts and shocking moments. Except booing Roman Reigns, because that was a given.
Vince McMahon started the show by making Shane McMahon the GM for Raw for tonight, rendering the last month of build and the match with Undertaker useless. At least we got the awesome spot of Shane leaping.
The New Day are still as positive and awesome as ever. League of Nations booted Wade Barrett after their loss to New Day. Then after they kicked him the Wyatt Family attacks the three remaining members. I'm confused, but this probably all but confirms Barrett is leaving this summer. I'm not terribly excited either, because Harper is injured it severely limits match potential.
Sasha wins again. #LegitBOSS
Did not expect Apollo Crews to make his main roster debut, but since they're not using him in NXT, he's more than ready to be promoted to the main roster. With the amounts of NXT alumni on the main roster now, an NXT stable or "The Future" stable at some point. Breeze needs to stop being jobbed out, but Vince doesn't think NXT can draw, but loves big muscly men. So Crews must have him ripping his hair out. I like Crews, I hope he doesn't turn into Lashley 2.0, cause Crews has mad appeal.
Reigns promo went "Come on guys. I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a good guy. I'm THE guy." Who writes this shit, cause it makes the good guy and face of your company now look even more unlikable. Then he challenges anyone to come out, so Chris Jericho, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn come out. The all brawl around him ending with Jericho getting speared. When we get back from commercial Shane makes a fatal four way for the No.1 Contender-ship between those four men, the main event. Praise be to Shane. He's getting better on screen (again) and would be a pleasure to see weekly in all honesty.
Big Banter. PRESENCE. Baron Corbin has arrived. After winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal he makes his Raw debut. In a solid match up, until the mind boggling double count-out, Corbin showed he can hang with with the main roster. It's helps that it was Dolph Ziggler too. He's always really under appreciated.
Zack Ryder vs The Miz for Ryder's new Intercontinental Championship happened. Fine match. Then The Miz got in Ryder' dads face, who pushed him down. Then the lovely Maryse (Miz' wife) hopped the barricade and slapped Ryder's dad. Allowing enough of a distraction for Miz to regain the IC title for the fifth time. How bizarre, poor Ryder, and good to see Maryse back. Rematch on Smackdown.
The Vaudevillains are debuting on Smackdown this week too. Underrated as hell. Let's see how they are used in this huge tag division. Hopefully they don't go the way of The Ascension.
Charlotte pissed off the women's division and got shook up by the vocal crowd during her official title presentation. They all left, and Natalya stayed to tell her to be a little more humble. It seems like these two are heading for a title match. Which is fine, they had a great NXT match awhile ago and their match at Roadblock was fine too. I don't get why Sasha isn't involved at this point. She has still not been pinned in any form aside from the draw with Lynch. Maybe they'll get to work with Paige and Emma going forward, that would be awesome.
The Usos and The Dudleys. Meh. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady debuting?! What a moment! Enzo was fire, Cass looked great and the crowd was white hot.
Kevin Owens killed Sami Zayn in the back prior to the main event. Boo. But The Swiss Superman Cesaro is back! Yay! Now Zayn and Owens can feud too! Yaay! This main event, for the first man to lose to Roman Reigns. Everyone looked stellar and the pop for Cesaro was great and he looked good. An actual match, with real stakes without a DQ or interference to finish Raw was nice. Did not expect AJ Styles to take it, but damn am I happy he did. Even though he's probably going to lose, I think, Cesaro, Zayn, Owens and him are the ones that can lead Roman to a good match.
I watched 12 hours of WWE and NXT programming over the weekend between TakeOver, 'Mania and Raw. Wrestlemania was too long, TakeOver was just right and Raw was alright. There's going to be a lot of people who swear of WWE, but I think the summer build should be fine with Zayn, Styles, Cesaro, Owens, etc in the fold on the main roster. The women are getting better and better, Sasha, Becky, Charlotte, Paige, Emma, Nattie, etc, could have actual programs soon. While we can look forward to more Nakamura, Balor & Anderson/Gallows, Bayley, Asuka in NXT soon. Not to mention Ibushi, HELL YES, is rumored to have signed and the Global Cruiserweight Series will happen as well. But this is still WWE, over produced and not ready to fully commit to new stars that the fans want to see, but they're slowly turning. When they do finally make the leap, it's going to be awesome.
To end I'm going to highlight my six favorite things about Wrestlemania weekend. Thank you for reading this long-winded diatribe about WWE after it's biggest weekend of the year.
6. Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe, NXT TakeOVer:Dallas, 4/1/16
5. Shane McMahon jumping off the Hell in a Cell cage, Wrestlemania 32, 4/3/16
4. The Revival vs American Alpha, NXT TakeOver: Dallas, 4/1/16
3. Bayley vs Asuka, NXT TakeOver: Dallas, 4/1/16
2. Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks vs Charlotte, Wrestlemania 32, 4/3/16
1. Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT TakeOver: Dallas, 4/1/16