WrestleMania wrapped up as Drew McIntyre cashed in his shot at Brock Lesnar’s WWE title – while Edge returned for his first singles match since WrestleMania in 2011.
After last night’s weird show ended with the wackiness that was the Boneyard match, we’ve got a Firefly Fun House match to look forward to today. Or a “Fun House match”. They’d better bring Pat Sharpe. Peter Rosenberg and Corey Graves have changed, and they give us some early nightmare fuel on the pre-show…
Natalya vs. Liv Morgan
Your pre-show match starts on the mat as Natalya and Liv looked for an opening, but they seemed to be even until Natalya rolled Liv to the mat for a leg grapevine.
Switcheroos see Liv going for a leg lock, before a Matrix-come-fall down was saved as she rolled up Natalya for a two-count. A rebound atomic drop, using the ropes, has Natalya ahead, with a low dropkick getting a near-fall, before Liv hung Natalya on the top rope. A kick in the ropes restores order as a running discus clothesline dropped Liv onto the apron, with a Romero special following not long after. Liv gets free and tries another roll-up, before another rebound atomic drop from Natalya was stopped with knees to the head as Morgan almost got the upset. A wheelbarrow facebuster from Natalya gets her back in it, before a Sharpshooter was thwarted with a roll-up, and that’s how things end, when a wheelbarrow roll-up’s reversed back-and-forth, until Liv got the win. This didn’t work for me, and felt like the sort of TV match that they’ve gotten scared out of doing in the empty arena era. **
The PPV proper again opens with Stephanie McMahon saying this will help us “get away”. Then we get the same opening video from last night, and I’m still not sure why Sheamus is on it. Oh yay, more Gronk.
NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley (c)
A surprising choice of opener for me, this… Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton are on commentary, so we’ve nobody from NXT here. I wonder if they would have done had this show not been hobbled?
We get a video package for this feud while Charlotte’s “waiting in the ring”. Rhea’s stomp activates lasers, as she’s… not out in black. What the hell? Charlotte trips Rhea, then yells to the no-crowd as she kept making a point of going for the Aussie’s left knee. It’s not long before Charlotte goes to the chops, but a Flair flip in the corner’s cut-off with a boot as Ripley quickly lands a Riptide for a near-fall. Charlotte rolls outside for respite, but Rhea gives chase… and it backfires as Charlotte won that game of cat and mouse and begins stomping on the champion.
Rhea turns it around with some stomps of her own, following in with a suplex and some body scissors on the mat as she eventually rolled Flair into a cover for a two-count. Another boot puts Charlotte on the apron, but Ripley fluffs a kick and ends up being prey as Charlotte hung her up in the ropes and Dragon screwed the leg on the top rope. Sortof. Charlotte stays on top of Ripley, driving the knee into the mat, before she kicked the knee out of her knee. A simple toe hold’s next as Charlotte held on, but Charlotte went too far and pays as Ripley pulls her into the ring post. But again, Charlotte goes for the chop blocks, as it’s back to stomping on the knee, only for Rhea to score with a facebuster takedown out of sheer desperation.
More chops echo across the empty PC as Charlotte tries to push on, but some capture knees from Rhea stop her, as did a roundhouse kick and a low dropkick… but that aggravate’s Rhea’s knee again. She’s able to stop Charlotte on the top rope as an Electric Chair splash brings Flair down for a near-fall… but Charlotte again went back to the knee, and is made to pay as Rhea escapes and heads up for a missile dropkick. Rhea can’t capitalise though, and so we’re back to the knee with yet another chop block, but Flair goes for a Figure Four, only for Rhea to roll through and catch Charlotte in an inverted cloverleaf… before Charlotte rolled free and went for a Figure Eight. She can’t quite get it on at first, but instead turns in for a Lion Tamer before see-saw pinning attempts led to nought.
Ripley’s flurry of strikes keep Charlotte in the corner, as the pair headed up top… but Rhea’s sent down as Flair positioned herself for a moonsault. Uh oh. Rhea got the boots up, but Charlotte’s right back with a spear for a near-fall, before a Figure Four trapped Rhea in the middle of the ring. It’s turned into a Figure Eight… and that’s all folks! We open night two with a title change after a heck of a match in the circumstances. It was starting to fray a little though, and was a touch too pornographical, but this was as good a match as you’re likely to get without a crowd. ****
Trailer for the Big Show Show. Yes Will, I’ll watch the first episode.
Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
I’d totally forgotten they dub in creaky SFX for Aleister’s entrance. That killed me.
Lashley throws Black aside early on, before unloading with kicks and right arms as Black had to fight out of a bear hug attempt. A low bridge takes Lashley outside as Black tries to follow in with an Orihara moonsault, only to miss as he took a belly-to-belly on the floor instead. Back inside, Lashley mounts Black, then stretches him before a swift neckbreaker dropped the Dutchman. A stalling suplex comes to nought as Black slips free, taking Lashley into the ropes for a kick before he got caught with a scoop slam for a near-fall. Lashley lands that suplex eventually for another near-fall, before a spear’s cut-off with a knee strike that nearly ends things.
Black has luck with an Orihara moonsault on the outside, but back in the ring Lashley bulldozes through him for a two-count, before Lana got onto the apron for… reasons. Lashley looks for a Dominator, but Lana talks him out of it so he could spear Aleister instead, and of course it was dumb as he runs into a Black Mass instead. Furious Lashley is Furious, but not selling the death kick that’s killed job guys for weeks on end. This was fine, but without much background noise… it was what it was. **¾
Backstage, Kayla Braxton is with Sasha Banks and Bayley. Bayley cries foul at being in a five-way elimination match… but Sasha seems to have eyes for the gold.
Rob Gronkowski’s back. Yay. Charly Caruso’s with him this time. He wants the 24/7 title tonight. Oh boy.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Otis
Ziggler’s out with Sonya Deville after the big reveal on SmackDown was that Sonya had screwed up Otis’ Valentines’ date with Mandy Rose. Look, I’ll take any storyline progression that’s going on in this era.
Otis gets lasers as he rushes out, and we eventually get going as Ziggler couldn’t get away from the big guy. A superkick knocks Otis over the top to the outside, but rather than take a count-out, Dolph runs him into the post, before staying on Otis back in the ring, landing a dropkick for just a one-count. Keeping Otis on the mat, Ziggler uses a chinlock, but Otis powers up and clobbered Ziggler with clotheslines. An Irish whip bounces Dolph out of the corner, as Otis began to dominate… they’re outside, with Ziggler getting thrown into the barriers, then the ring post, before a pop-up slam back inside had Dolph down again.
Otis goes for the Caterpillar, but Sonya gets on the apron and distracts him… the ref’s attention is taken too as he misses a low blow, before Mandy Rose comes out. She slaps Sonya as we get a catfight, before Mandy low blows Dolph, leaving him prone for the Caterpillar, and that’s the win. Holy crap, WWE actually followed through with the “big galoot gets the girl” story? I’m floored. **¼
Last Man Standing: Edge vs. Randy Orton
It’s a little heartbreaking seeing Edge’s first match back being… in an empty warehouse.
Randy attacks Edge from behind with an RKO before the bell… with the replay showing us he was dressed as a cameraman to fool us all. The referee won’t start the match until Edge gets to his feet, which he does, but another RKO threatens to end this early as we have to deal with ten counts. Lots of ten counts. Edge rolls to the outside to get to his feet, as Orton grabs a camera and gives us some Rev Pro camera work en route to clocking Edge with it. More counting. Edge gets to his feet as we get something of a tour of the Performance Center, entering a makeshift backstage area where Randy found a noose. That brought back echoes of the Undertaker/Crush match from WrestleMania 10…
Randy finds a barbell plate, but Edge gets to him before it can be used as a weapon, as they continue to scrap around the weights. Edge lets out the yell a lot of us have done ourselves this weekend, before he put Randy into a convenient office chair and proceeded to swing off a pull up bar into a Thesz press. Okay, that was cool. Edge gets whipped into a wall as Orton reverses an Irish whip, and now Randy’s found a new weapon. The thing they shove on the floor with weights on… it’s empty, and Edge rolls away just in time, as the pair finally decide to head back towards the ring. Orton gets thrown into shutters to start another count, before they make it back through the curtain towards part of the stage where the LED boards were.
Edge again beats the count as he pulled himself up using the barriers, as the walk and brawl continued back towards the weight room. Instead, they head towards what was Goldberg’s “locker room” last night, and into a meeting room. This really is ticking off the WWE video game backstage areas, huh? After throwing Orton into a picture of the Revival, Randy’s forced to answer the ten count. They head up onto the meeting table, which handily has some of the old cage wall above it in the ceiling, which Edge used neatly for an elbow drop. I’ll give them this, they’re being inventive.
More walking and brawling takes out the cameraman, which is a handy way to mask a cut as they’re in the warehouse part of the Performance Center warehouse, going around the ladders that nobody’d moved from “yesterday”, before we got the staple of WWE brawls. THE THREAT OF CLANKING PIPES! Another ten-count tease comes to nought as Edge finds yet more stuff to pull himself up on before Randy douses himself in water ahead of… Edge throwing bags they use to weigh down lighting stands. For some reason, Edge throws a knee to take Orton onto a table as I guess he thought this was Falls Count Anywhere… but hey, there’s a handily placed ladder nearby. And a platform. Oh no.
Edge climbs it, then leaps off that platform with an elbow drop, putting Randy through the table, but it doesn’t get the win as Randy gets back up. They find a pickup truck, so of course they fight on it as Randy shakes his head at the ref for ALWAYS COUNTING. A draping DDT breaks the cover of the pickup truck’s bed, but Edge gets back up and climbs on top of the trailer they use for NXT’s production gear.
Randy climbs onto the spare cables box and joins him up there as commentary kept talking in hushed tones. Yep. Edge still isn’t up, but he gets to his feet in time to spear Randy on the roof of the truck. Nine count. Edge runs into an RKO, but gets to his feet… barely. They’re still going. After DDTs on trucks, and RKOs on roof of lorries, Randy grabs two chairs, presumably for a Conchairto of doom. Sure enough, that’s where we head as the referee suddenly shows compassion, but Edge gets up and uses a head and arm choke to squeeze out Randy, leaving him on a chair before Conflicted Edge decided to use a one-man conchairto. The ref wasn’t counting for any of that by the way, as he waited for Edge to hit the move before making the ten count. I wanted to love this, but at ALMOST FORTY MINUTES, this was way too long a featurette to have… especially when the commentary team spoke in hushed tones throughout, like they were doing golf commentary. I guess it meant to be the much-maligned “Owen voice”? Cut this in half, and it’d have been alright, but likewise, I can’t hate it for them having a story and telling it. There’ll be no middle ground for opinions here – for me, it was just way too long and presented badly. Had commentary not been in hushed tones, this could have gotten across a lot better… ½*
Geeks run out as Mojo Rawley is out in his gear, wearing the 24/7 title. Screw social distancing, am I right? I swear there’s a lot of NXT house show guys here. Gronkowski leaps off the crow’s nest into the pile, and conveniently lands on Mojo… and gets the pin. Gronk exits stage left, so that’s the best thing they’ve done with him!
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: Austin Theory & Angel Garza vs. Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (c)
Austin Theory on the main WrestleMania card in 2020 is NOT something I would have predicted when I was watching EVOLVE regularly…
Theory and Dawkins start, with Angelo bulldozing through Theory, before the tag champions flapjacked Garza onto him. My feed drops, so I need to use the replay to see Garza superkicking Dawkins behind the ref’s back as the challengers wear him down. Theory’s back with a rolling thunder dropkick for a two-count, but Dawkins gets free to tag in Ford, who caught Garza with a leaping clothesline and a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Yes, they do the Montez Ford tope con giro, and this time he’s caught… while Garza’s picturesque Asai moonsault similarly finds form. Back inside, Garza repeats it with a Quebrada for a near-fall, while a TKO from Theory’s cut-off as Ford leaps onto him off the top rope… allowing Dawkins to nonchalantly roll over and snatch the win. They tried, but the makeshift challengers meant this was always likely to be throwaway TV match fodder. **½
Post-match, Zelina Vega attacks Montez Ford… only for Bianca Bel Air to run in and make the save, dropping Vega with the KOD. If that’s her call-up, then yes, I’m all in on this.
Titus O’Neil’s replaced Gronk.
Elimination Match for WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi vs. Bayley (c)
Three matches left in an hour, I have a feeling we may be cutting time off this one.
They’re playing up Sasha and Bayley heavily during the entrances, perhaps too much so? Bayley and Sasha gang up on Tamina first, before Lacey and Naomi had the same idea. All four women then join forces, but Tamina monsters up before she decks Lacey with a back elbow.
Tamina’s taken out as bodies fly in the ring… Sasha and Bayley try to pin Lacey at the same time, before time stood still. Naomi and Lacey take over with dropkicks, but Tamina comes back in to change the pace, jamming Naomi’s knee before throwing her across the ring. A hip attack follows, before Tamina went to cover Sasha with her foot for a delayed two-count. Everyone gangs up on Lacey, who rolls outside to save herself, before we got the Team BAD reunion. I wonder if that’d have popped in a stadium? They tease uniting, but Tamina superkicks Sasha before Naomi hit a Darby Allin-ish flip-over stunner to Tamina for a near-fall… Everyone gangs up on Tamina from there, with a split-legged moonsault and a dogpile eliminating Tamina.
Sasha and Bayley roll outside, but Naomi and Lacey just go after them as things break down on the outside. My feed goes again, returning as Naomi knee-slides into a slap on Bayley and Sasha, following up with a wheelbarrow stunner on Bayley, then a springboard enziguiri… before a Bubba bomb and an Anaconda Vise looked to put away Sasha, but Bayley broke it up. Sasha’s back cracker and Bank Statement gets rid of Naomi, which means Lacey’s got a somewhat defacto one-on-two disadvantage. A double-team hiptoss powerbomb and a pile-on can’t put away Lacey, before an errant running knee KO’d Sasha in the corner. Cole and JBL barely acknowledge it as Lacey tries to surprise Bayley with roll-ups, only for Sasha to return and lose her mind at Bayley for the earlier mistake.
A Women’s Right from Lacey KO’s Sasha, as Bayley just watched on… and that left us with our final two. Bayley tries to push the issue with elbow drops for a near-fall, but Lacey finds her second wind with clotheslines out of the corner, before a neckbreaker looked to have Bayley done for… except the champion recovered to run Lacey into the ring post, then used the ring to her advantage, tying Lacey into the corner with the tag rope. Bayley takes her shots at Lacey, but a boot out of the corner gets Evans some time to free herself, as she comes back with some Bronco busters. The camera just about catches Sasha Banks on the floor, as Lacey goes up top for a double-jump moonsault for a near-fall… but Sasha Banks comes in to hit a back cracker on Lacey, as Bayley took the win with a version of Jeff Jarrett’s Stroke. This was aggressively fine, but at this point in the show, I think we’ve had too many matches that felt like padding… **½
Post-match, Sasha gives Bayley her belt, but it’s rather terse…
Firefly Fun House: John Cena vs. The Fiend
Oh. It’s in the PC. It’s not a wacky on-location thing like the Boneyard match. We do get creepy FX as Vince McMahon and Gene Okerlund distort us into The Fiend’s appearance in his house.
Why do we do the things that we do? 2.55am is too early in the morning for such existentialism. We’re taken to the Firefly Fun House, with John Cena in there… he’s prompted to go after Bray… but he comes across “Devil Vince”, who rambles about Ruthless Aggression. They replay Cena’s debut, with Bray interspersing with Kurt Angle’s lines, and holy shit…
THEY ARE REDOING IT! SmackDown fist and all! Cena parrots ruthless aggression, as Bray trolls us with Candice Michelle’s theme, before we get… Bray behind the blue bar cage? They’ve raided the WWE warehouse for this slice of weirdness, and I love it. Cena’s pumping iron… but he falls flat as Bray goes all Hogan on us, and “throws Cena into the rapper days”. Cue Word Life, and a metric shit tonne of GIFs.
Cena promos in rhyme, and gets a dig in at Husky Harris. Go on, do Axel Mulligan. Bray fires back at Cena, calling him a bully, then gave him the floor… so he could attack Cena from behind with the chain. Hey, is Jesus nearby? We jumpcut to early-day Bray, as Wyatt bemoans his loss to Cena six years ago, before a flashback has 2014 Cena escaping Bray as he’s offered a chair. Which swings and misses. The hell? We’re cutting to nWo Nitro?! Is this what drugs feel like? Bray Wyatt is Eric Bischoff? Who spiked my drink? Cena comes out to “nWo Nitro” as Hollywood Hogan, but he snaps and turns on Bray, laying it in as we get flashbacks of Cena’s past failures, until we see he’s been beating up Huskus the Pig… as The Fiend appears. A mandible claw leads to the pin, counted by Bray. I don’t know what I watched, but I loved every second of it.
Titus O’Neil’s speechless… as am I when I see that Money in the Bank is on May 10. You sure about that?
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre vs. Brock Lesnar (c)
The Network’s schedule gives us less than ten minutes of TV time – as the video package comes to an end… this’ll be short. Sadly, we don’t get Broken Dreams. Maybe that was being saved for the stadium? I feel for Drew, that his big moment in the sun’s come in these circumstances…
After an early barrage from Lesnar, McIntyre surprises Lesnar with a Claymore kick for a near-fall… before a second one misses. Lesnar responds with a German suplex, then another, and eventually a third. Paul Heyman barks at Drew from ringside as a F5 dumps Drew… but he kicks out at one! A second F5 follows, but Drew’s out at two as Brock goes red, before a third F5 led to another near-fall. Drew’s still British, folks! Heyman orders Lesnar to keep F5’ing McIntyre, and it backfires as Drew slips out and responds with a Claymore kick. Then another. They’re recycling the Goldberg/Strowman script, eh?
A third Claymore lands, and that’s the win! Drew McIntyre becomes the first ever Scottish/British WWE champion, and that’s a WrestleMania moment that ultimately feels like it’s been lost because of the wider circumstances. Obviously no fans, no pyro, no nothing… just Drew reaching in vain for his fans through the camera, as the show comes to an end, teasing an Undertaker documentary teaser right afterwards. **
So, looking at both parts of WrestleMania… and this was a show that was ultimately a mixed bag. Across the two shows, we had some shockingly good matches, and some utter tripe – albeit mostly in the form of matches that went too long stuff that just didn’t work. Some of that may have been boosted had it been in a stadium setting… but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and across those shows, WWE made the best of an awful situation. Could things have been tightened up and improved? Absolutely, but this isn’t going to be one of those forgettable Manias – for better, or for worse…