-Live from Chicago
-On the call, Cole, JBL, and Lawler
Pre-Show: Bad News Barrett vs. Neville
This is indeed the first WWE PPV singles match between two Englishmen ever, even if it is pre-show. And Daniel Bryan had to get hurt for it to happen. But whatever, right? Chicago predictably chants 'NXT'. Barrett shoulder blocks to start and postures. Barrett blocks a hiptoss and tries his own, but falls victim to a complex rolling cradle for 2. Barrett stomps away in the corner and sends Neville across, but Neville avoids the charge with two handspring rolls. A headscissors sends Barrett outside, and a quebrada attempt is broken up with a leg trip. For some reason we get a goddamn commercial after Barrett sends Neville into the barricade. This isn't Sunday Night Heat on TNN, come on now. Barrett works a chinlock when we come back, which Neville escapes. A corner-assisted headscissors is countered into a kick to the gut for 2. Cole astonishes me by noting that Barrett's a five-time Intercontinental Champion. JBL: "This is like watching William Regal take on Dynamite Kid!" Lawler: ".....kinda". Glad he's here. Barrett gets kicked in the mouth, but kicks Neville in the face off a rebound for 2. Barrett gets a neat-looking slingshot neckbreaker for 2 as he works another chinlock. Cole says he heard a lot about Neville in NXT. Which means Cole doesn't have WWE Network. Neville cuts at Barrett with a kick barrage and baseball slide to the side of the face. Barrett goes outside and Neville gets a 180-twisting plancha that kinda looked like an AJ Styles Fosbury Flop. Back inside, Neville lands a dead-lift German suplex for 2. Barrett prevents Red Arrow, and catches Neville with a Winds of Change with extra twirl for 2. Neville blocks Wasteland, and a counter-sequence sees Neville springboard into Wasteland anyway for 2. Barrett telegraphs the Bullhammer, misses, and Neville hits an enzuigiri. Barrett shakes the ropes to prevent Red Arrow, but misses the Bullhammer while Neville is crotched. Neville leaps over Barrett, hits a high kick, and lands Red Arrow anyway for the win at 10:38. Enjoyable match with a good, progressive build. A few too many chinlocks, but that's fine, as they saved the big stuff for an enjoyable finish. ***1/4. A healthy Bryan vs. Neville? Yes please. Cole: "He's beaten the five-time Intercontinental Champion, Barrett!" Dude, they don't even let you into the UNDERCARD unless you beat Barrett clean.
Chicago Street Fight: Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper
It's like a regular street fight, except you get fined $10,000 if you hit the other guy in the head. Ambrose attacks on the floor and lands a good looking right hand to the mush. Ambrose brings Harper in to officially start the match, and immediately sends Harper back out in order to hit a plancha. Harper eats the steps and the chairs come out. Lawler notes that any weapons you find on the streets of Chicago are legal. Ambrose attacks Harper with a kendo stick, which grow on trees near Wrigley Field. Harper suplexes Ambrose through an unfolded chair for 2. Harper attacks with the kendo stick before wedging a chair in the turnbuckle. Must play a lot of WWE2K. Ambrose tries a tornado DDT, but is thrown off. Harper then javelins Ambrose at the chair and barely grazes it, getting two. Still, nice visual. Crowd is way into Ambrose as Harper continues the beating. Ambrose avoids a slam and scoop slams Harper onto a steel chair before sending him to the floor. Back in, Ambrose gets the tornado DDT he was looking for. Ambrose hammers away on Harper, but takes a thrust kick. Ambrose fires back with a running neck and an awkward running dropkick. Flying elbow to a standing Harper gets 2. Dirty Deeds is blocked, and Harper kicks to avoid the rebound lariat. Ambrose escapes a powerbomb and sends Harper outside. A plancha is caught and rejected, and Ambrose rebounds, 619-ish, with a lariat. Nice. Ambrose attacks Harper with the stick and they fight to the back. Ambrose sends a creeper case into Harper's knees, and throws a ginormous length of pipe into Harper. Harper attempts to flee in an SUV and Ambrose dives in through the passenger window as Harper speeds off. Uh, no finish? The crowd gets annoyed and reverts to a "CM PUNK" chant.
-Triple H wants Kane to find out where Harper and Ambrose are, which may involve commandeering a helicopter. I smell OJ stock footage; it's been two decades. Rollins condescends to Kane once more and Hunter plays peacemaker. What lifts does Rollins wear when he stands next to Hunter? I'm thinking double-stacked moon shoes.
Kiss Me Arse Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
Jojo saying "Kiss Me Arse" has its charm. Cole struggles to read Ziggler's tweet, which explains why Vince yells instead of texting instructions. Ziggler bashes Sheamus with right hands to start, hits a nice dropkick, and spears Sheamus out to the floor. Sheamus sends Dolph into the steps, and on a second attempt, Dolph lands on the steps and jumps off with the wedging DDT on the floor. Back inside, Sheamus lands a pump knee-strike as Lawler makes a point about anal hygiene. Didn't say it was a wholesome point, but a point nonetheless. Sheamus applies the most vicious chinlock you'll ever see. Ziggler escapes, and a fameasser attempt is countered into a sitout powerbomb for 2. Sheamus floors Ziggler with a clothesline and just revels in the crowd heat. I'm amazed it took this long to turn Sheamus heel. Actually, not really; look at Cena. Sheamus slaps on another extended chinlock, which Ziggler fights free of. Dolph gets an exuberant string of forearm smashes and corner splashes before getting clotheslined down. ZIggler blocks the Cloverleaf, but a second attempt gets its application. Dolph manages to swing out and cradle Sheamus for 2, and then gets another 2 off of a superkick. Sheamus hotshots Ziggler and lands a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for 2. Sheamus then pulls out a bizarre vertical swinging suplex drop, which looked nasty. Brogue Kick is teased (Crowd: "NO!") but Dolph rolls him up for 2. Sheamus gets a powerslam for 2. Sheamus tries a suplex and Ziggler cradles him for the win at 9:18. Looks like those tweets were a rib after all. Good match after the chinlocks, similar to the pre-show match. ***. Sheamus gets standoffish, and does Dolph gets all stripteasey as they milk the crowd. Ziggler hooks up the shorts (away from the camera, because you know, it's a kids show dammit), and Sheamus finally drops to his knees before giving Ziggler a low blow, followed by the Brogue Kick. Sure enough, as I predicted, Sheamus makes Ziggler, unconscious, pucker up. Okay, maybe the tweets *weren't* a rib.
WWE Tag Team Championship: K-Swiss vs. The New Day
To say that Cesaro and Kidd get a heroes reaction is an understatement. Kidd and Kofi start off with Kidd working an armbar, and Kingston gets the usual acrobatic counters. Xavier Woods' shit-eating cheerleading should relegate him to a manager's role where he can thrive. Kidd escapes a Kofi hammerlock by stepping through the ropes, back in, and getting Kofi all tied up in a nice spot. Big E tags in and Kidd milks tagging Cesaro, which the crowd digs. Cesaro catches a leapfrogging Big E and twists him into a powerslam for 2. Jesus. The champs kick Big E down in the corner, and Kidd kicks in rhythm to "NEW--DAYSUCKS". Ha! Kidd manages to knock both challengers to the floor and gets a somersault senton through the ropes onto Kingston, before Big E nails him with a body block out of nowhere (trademark, Randy Orton). Lawler: "Can't they do anything besides clap?" As if they had a choice in the matter. Kidd becomes face-in-peril and Big E milks the clap before missing a running splash. Kidd sends Big E through the ropes and tags Cesaro, who snakes eyes' Kofi in the corner before throwing running European uppercuts. Clothesline gets 2. Cesaro teases the Swing, instead slingshotting Kofi, who lands on the middle rope and flies into a tilt a whirl for 2. Tag to Kidd as Cesaro lands the dead lift superplex, followed by the Kidd diving elbow for a shocking 2. Kinda thought that was it. Kidd tries the Sharphooter but is kicked off. Kofi tags Big E, who spears Kidd (on the apron) to the floor. Cesaro gets backdropped on the floor, The challengers hit the assisted Big Ending for 2, broken up by Cesaro. Cesaro and Big E take each other out. Kidd blocks Trouble in Paradise and gets the Sharpshooter. Big E breaks it up with an overhead belly to belly. Cesaro tags in, nails Big E with Swiss Death, and they hit Kofi with a Cesaro Swing with a low dropkick. Woods distracts the ref, earning a slap from Natalya. Big E takes Kidd out, Cesaro knocks Big E to the floor, and Kofi rolls up Cesaro with the tights for the win and the gold at 9:35. Really good formula match with a shit finish, but I'll take a good tag team title match anyday. ***1/2. Remember kids: whenever you boo a babyface, WWE just turns them heel and pushes them harder. Lest you forget. Silence is your ally!
-Renee interviews New Day, who draw nuclear heat. Man, I hope they get a long reign, there is so much heat they can draw. Meanwhile, the SUV pulls up and Ambrose dumps Harper out. Then he leaps off the top and leaps onto New Day. JBL with the best plainspoken line: "When they left, Harper was driving!" It bothers me that both Michael Myers and Dean Ambrose can drive.
Ambrose vs. Harper, continued
Back in the arena, Ambrose dives in from out of nowhere with an attack. Back inside, Harper gets a superkick, but Ambrose responds with the rebound lariat. Both go for weaponry, tossing chairs into the ring. Approximatrely 20 chairs litter the ring as Harper powerbombs Ambrose onto one for 2. Harper buries Ambrose under the chairs and heads up top, but Ambrose unearths himself and launches Harper onto the pile. Dirty Deeds finishes, time unknown. THE STREAK IS OVER. AMBROSE WINS A GODDAMN PPV MATCH. Way too much fun, silliness and all. ***. No bad matches so far, but I sense that's coming soon.
WWE United States/Russian Chain Match: John Cena vs. Rusev
No awesome tank entrance? I'd settle for Rusev destroying a Chicago mall with the Bluesmobile. Tug-of-war starts, and Rusev attacks after letting go. I just noticed that there are red and green lights on the buckles to indicate who touches. They had to cut six NXT talents to have the money to buy them. Cena makes the first pass but has stopped. Rusev tries, but gets only 2. Cena is sent to the floor threw the ropes and Rusev elevates him, kicking the body. Suplex back inside as Rusev goes to make the pass, touching two corners before Cena whacks him with the chain. AA is blocked and Rusev whips him with the chain. Cena falls outside and Rusev slides out, only for Cena to yank him into the post a few times. Cena gets 2 posts before Rusev dead weights him, breaking up the sequence. Spinning heel kick drops Cena and Rusev slams the chain into Cena's guts a few times for good measure. I feel the crowd dissipating, and the next two matches may not get it back. Rusev whips Cena's back with the chain twice before touching three corners. Cena, brave patriot, rolls to the floor and prevents Rusev from touching the fourth. A bit early for three posts, but maybe we're rushing? Rusev kicks Cena in the ribs and headbutts the neck. Rusev heads up top, and Cena jerks him off (Jim Ross voice). Clothesline with the chain, and the crowd is really fading. It's Chicago! Just root against Cena, it's your nature! Or chant for Punk!
Cena touches two corners, and Rusev pulls him back. Shoulderblock drops Rusev, but a second is turned into a fallaway slam, followed by a low savate kick. Crowd chants for Lana and she climbs to the apron before Rusev sends her to the locker room. Well, now they have someone to boo at least. Cena gets the spinout powerbomb and Five Knuckle Shuffle. Another AA is blocked and Rusev gets the Alabama Slam. JBL drops a Chernobyl reference that he'll probably have to apologize for. Cena avoids the Accolade and gets the STF, putting Rusev out. Cena touches three buckles before Rusev slides out, using Cena's strategy. Continuity! Another AA is blocked and Rusev drops him with a sidekick. Accolade is locked on. Cena backs Rusev into two corners, illuminating two lights. Rusev gets the third, but Cena pulls him into the AA. That was clever. Cena and Rusev each touch one corner. They make it 3-3 (out of order, but whatever), and Cena AA's him before touching the fourth at 13:41. Like most matches tonight, a slow start but a fun finish. Solid overall. **1/2. That's the worst match of the night so far, which makes this an automatic thumbs up show, unless Rollins starts throwing babies into Lake Michigan during the main event.
-Roman cuts a promo while I get a Danish. Might rewatch it later, probably not.
WWE Divas: Nikki Bella vs. Naomi
The Bellas are both wearing hats so now I can't tell them apart again. Wasn't that the point of giving Nikki the cap? That's trumped by Naomi wearing a trenchcoat and some bizarre sunglasses. At least she has new music. RIP Ernest Miller's theme. Naomi pie-faces Nikki, who responds with a snap mare and Kelly Olynik armbar into a cross armbreaker. Well, if Ronda can't wrestle..... Naomi gets 2 off a pin and works a chinlock as the crowd fades. Brie's attempt to clap them awake barely works. Ass-in-the-face pin gets 2. Naomi with a cravate into a bodyslam and an elbow drop for 2. Nikki ducks a clothesline into a rollup for 2. Naomi hits the corner bulldog that she recently concocted, but gets only 2. That really should be a finish. Rear View is avoided and Naomi hits the corner. Kick to the face by Naomi, however, gets 2. I'd like to point out that Brie screaming "COME ON NIKKI" like a banshee isn't appealing. Naomi kicks Brie in the head outside before falling victim to Nikki's dropkicks and clotheslines. Alabama Slam gets 2. Naomi hits a layout reverse DDT. Naomi misses a split-legged moonsault and Nikki gets a face-to-knee buster for 2. Naomi escapes the Rack Attack and gets a sad-looking full-nelson bomb for 2. Springboard kick from Nikki gets 2. Brie kicks Naomi in the head behind the refs back and the Rack Attack finishes at 7:24. Some noticeable boos for that. Just a match, with a few nice spots, but plenty of ugliness. How long until the Bellas shift back to being heels? Seamlessly, I'm sure. *
-Rusev chews out a despondent Lana, who goes into the Authority's office, drawing an "ooh" from the crowd for some reason.
Last Man Standing Match: Roman Reigns vs. Big Show
51 weeks ago, the crowd lost their shit when Reigns speared Batista and pinned him. And well, here we are. Your official Roman crowd update: some cheers when the song hit, quickly fading into silence. Camera focuses on the "ROMAN EMPIRE" group signs, then comes across a "LAST MAN AWAKE" sign. Heh. Show wins an early beatdown and drops Reigns with a shoulderblock. I'd laugh if this was the finish. Reigns is up on three. Reigns fires back, but is dropped by another shoulder block. Crowd chants "YOU SOLD OUT" at Show. I'd chant "YOU MAIN EVENTED THE FIRST SOULED OUT" instead. Reigns retrieves a table and Show levels him before putting the table back under the ring. Well, halfway. Reigns sends Show into the post, and comes back with the apron dropkick. Show beats an early count and Reigns gets the table back. Show sends him into the barricade and then smashes the table with his own fists. Reigns fetches the kendo stick and lands a few shots before eating the post. Probably doesn't look good when Reigns willfully goes for weapons, while the historically-pussified Show is like, "Nah". Show breaks the kendo stick over his knee and Reigns fires back with right hands, clotheslining Show in the corner several times. A second rope jump flies into an uninspired strike from Show. Reigns is up on six. Reigns gets jerked to the apron, but throats Big Show on the ropes. Chair to the back and ribs follows, bringing Show to the mat. Reigns stops the count and DDTs Show on the chair. Show is up at seven.
Reigns brings a couple tables into the ring, but Show gets him with the WMD. Reigns is barely up at 8, stumbling, Show sets up the table and Reigns avoids the chokeslam. Samoan drop puts Show through. Show rolls to the floor and gets his verticality to stay alive. Reigns preps the other table in the corner, but ends up getting speared. Reigns is up on 8 (Vince probably insisted, because only pussies need the nine count). Bad looking pump splash from Show crushes Reigns. Reigns gets up, so Show heads up top, only to get crotched (complete with ha-ha funny visual of Show whining). Reigns sets up two tables side by side at ringside and tries a superplex, but Show tosses him back into the ring. Reigns ends up slamming him off to the canvas. Both men make it up and Reigns stuns Show with the Superman punch twice, but Show catches the third and chokeslams him over the ropes through both tables. Reigns of course is barely up on nine, and it sounds as though he's actually winning some of the Chicago crowd over. Show fetches both halves of the 9000-lb ringsteps and reassembles them by the announce table. Show actually leaves the monitor in when taking the table apart. Maybe Reigns called his mother a whore. Show heads in and tries a spear, but Reigns moves and, wouldn't you know it, Show goes through the previously-set corner table. Both are up on eight and Reigns spears him back down. Show rolls to the floor and they make their way over toward the announce table, where Reigns spears Show through the barricade. Both make it up and Reigns climbs the table, but Show clasps the throat. Reigns is tossed down, but he runs back up the steps and spears Show off the main table through the Spanish one. Because of course! Show makes it up, so Roman lifts the American/Robot table and dumps it onto Show, pinning him beneath the the wreck. Pretty sure Roman standing on the table is illegal, but whatever. Ten count is reached at 19:50. Cole: "Roman Reigns has arrived tonight!" That's quite the admission for a man that won the Rumble three months ago. A lot of fun spots in parts, but it really dragged in others. **3/4. Maybe Reigns is salvageable after all. Though he won't be doing wacky stunts to pop the crowd like this every month. Humanizing him has been spotty so far, and that's where his hardest growth as a pushed performer will come.
-Meanwhile, Kane is MOPEY. He comes across Orton, who tells him he knows who he is. The Periodontal Witness Protection Program has failed him,
-Tough Enough wannabes video. Here's a video I want to see: "I've busted my ass for ten years in the indies; I've put in the work, you superficial clowns."
-Bo Dallas is here to kill time and rip on Chicago. Ryback comes out to provide the expected beating. That segues into the Bray feud, since Ryback just murdered his brother. And boy is it a good thing that Ryback had his tights on, just in case somebody cut a promo that irked him.
-Saxtomatic 2000 interviews Rusev, only to be disrupted by Lana, who informs us that there's a match at Payback: Rusev vs. Cena in an I Quit match. Cena/Rusev IV is like Rocky IV, except the villain's girlfriend doesn't get freaky with Flavor Flav.
WWE World Heavyweight/Steel Cage: Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton
Kane is the gatekeeper. The satanic music means he's one of the few executives who has no problem admitting that he's utterly fucking evil. JBL mentioning the blue bar cage does me proud. Rollins tries to escape, but Orton naturally prevents it. Orton is sent into the buckles, but comes out with a clothesline. Orton flings Rollins at the cage, and he clings to it, trying another escape, only to be harshly pulled off with a pancake bump. Rollins is sent upside down into the corner and is hit with a European uppercut on the rebound. Orton slingshots Rollins at the cage, and he again clings on an escape attempt. Orton stops him and hammers away in the corner, only for Rollins to counter with the coast to coast powerbomb. That gets 2. Rollins calls for the door, but Orton prevents the escape. This is reading like a TNM blow by blow thus far. Rollins repeatedly throws Orton into the cage as we're off to a slow start. Common theme tonight. Rollins makes it up the side of the cage, but Orton stops him. Orton sends Rollins into the ropes, and Rollins busts out JTG's Shout Out for 2. Rollins mugs for Kane, then charges at Orton, who sends him careening into the cage. Orton gets the better of a slugfest and Rollins is sent into the cage. Orton sends Rollins off and tries for the snap-slam, but Rollins holds on and heads up. Rollins sends Orton down and hits the flying knee for 2.
Rollins heads up and gets one leg over, only for Orton to break it up. They fight while straddled atop the cage, a modern cliche of these matches. They fight down to the top rope and Orton is elbowed off. Rollins gets caught in a snap-powerslam for 2. Rollins avoids the draping DDT and rolls up Orton for 2. Superkick follows for another 2. Rollins climbs up and over, but Orton springs up and grabs him by the hair. J&J materialize and try to pull a flailing Rollins down, but Orton superplexes him in, getting 2. Noble and Mercury try to convince Kane to open the door, only to be chased away. Instead, the try climbing the cage, and Orton sends Rolins barreling into them to knock them off. Orton pulls out a capture suplex (!). Rollins gets crotched on the top rope and Orton is tempted by the door. Instead, he plants Rollins with the draping DDT from the top rope. Orton then teases the RKO (significance missed by the announcers for the longest time), before hitting a Pedigree to a big pop. That gets a VERY close 2. Orton then teases the punt, but misses, and Rollins comes back with a dropkick. That would finish if he were Ricky Morton. Kane opens the door, but Orton stops Rollins, hitting the across-the-back neckbreaker. Orton goes to step out the open door, and Kane abruptly shuts it. Rollins flies in and accidentally dropkicks the door, knocking Kane down. They fight at the exit and Kane slams the door, knocking both men out. Fan: "THAT WAS MEAN". Oh, I concur. Then Kane removes the jacket and tie, storming the ring. Boy, will Orton's face be red when he realizes the Authority is interfering. Kane chokeslams the Stooges. Kane teases goozling Rollins, but instead chokeslams Orton. Then he prevents Rollins' escape and chokeslams him as well. Then he puts Rollins on top, only to get 2. Orton ends up RKOing Kane (which is legal), and Rollins RKOs Orton (which I assume is legal) and Rollins slides out at 21:59. Good enough, but not quite at the level of the WrestleMania match. **3/4. Kane's involvement is just irritating. Making Kane a central character in 2015 would be like if Seinfeld were based around Wilhelm.
OVERALL: Lacked the true blowaway match to make this a great PPV, but there was nothing awful. In that sense, it's like a poor man's WrestleMania 31, with a lot of really good matches, but nothing outright great. Call it a thumbs in the middle somewhat pointing up, because the efforts of the performers were there but, once again, the creative felt lacking.