When we came back, Ambrose was in control. RVD finally came back with his apron spinning legdrop and a senton to a standing Ambrose in the ring. Reigns blocked the Rolling Thunder. Ambrose came back with a spinebuster. RVD came back with the Rolling Thunder and the Five Star Frog Splash! Reigns promptly hit RVD with the spear. RVD wins by disqualification.
This was shaping up to be a heck of a pre-show match. That finish was obviously awful. At least no one had to pay for that finish. Match Rating: **1/2
The Miz comes out, because he is the host of the PPV for some awful reason. I hate everything about everything when Miz is on screen. Fandango came out and danced with Summer Rae.
JoJo sang the national anthem.
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt (w/ Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) [RING OF FIRE MATCH]
The Wyatt Family's entrance is a thing of beauty. Seeing Luke Harper on a WWE PPV makes so fucking happy.
Apparently, a Ring of Fire match is just an Inferno match setup, but you win by pinfall or submission. I think Bray Wyatt watching Johnny Cash's music video for "Hurt" would be more entertaining than this match. Wyatt was in control at the start. Kane made a comeback. Wyatt cut him off. LOL. Rowan tried to use a fire extinguisher, but the flames no-sold it. Kane hit a chokeslam. Kane hit another chokeslam. Kane called for the tombstone. Harper and Rowan managed to use a mat to cover the flames, and they got into the ring. Kane got mauled. The crowd wanted Undertaker. Bray easily hit his spinning reverse STO: 1…2…3
The Wyatt Family crushed Kane with steel steps after the match. They did it in a way that made it impossible to believe that they actually made contact with him. They dragged Kane to the back.
This was a bizarre choice for an opener. I was never bored watching it, but I don't think it was all that good. Needing three people to defeat Kane is not really the strongest way to debut in my opinion. Whenever Kane returns, I really hope that Kane doesn't get revenge on them. The Wyatt Family has too much potential, and it would be a waste if they get stuck in a competitive feud with Kane.
The hate for this match seems overblown. It was too short to be as bad as some people are suggesting. Match Rating: **
Damien Sandow vs. Cody Rhodes
I think these two needed to be in a tag team for a bit longer.
Cody shaved his mustache. I do not know how I feel about this. The match started as a brawl. Cody was running through Sandow to start the match. Sandow quickly cut him off and then worked him over. Cody eventually came back with a Muscle Buster of all things. Cody made a comeback. He has a nice missile dropkick. Sandow got a nearfall with a swinging neckbreaker. Cody then got a nearfall with the Beautiful Disaster. Cody then hit the Cross Rhodes: 1…2…3.
This was a solid match that I enjoyed. They did not get a ton of time, but I think they made the most of it. WWE's long running tradition of jobbing out the Money in the Bank holders continues. It does not make sense to me, but whatever. Match Rating: **1/2
They aired the Christian hype video. It's one of those videos that makes you think he has to be winning the title on the show.
This should be a really good match. Fun fact: I once saw Alberto Del Rio at a Wawa. Del Rio managed to cut Christian off with an enzuigiri. Del Rio was in control for a bit after that. He was going after the left shoulder. Del Rio missed his dropkick near the ropes. Christian then hit a plancha. Christian made a comeback. Del Rio avoided the Killswitch and hit an elevated backstabber. Del Rio was in control again after that. Christian came back with a super hurricanrana: 1…2…NO! The crowd bought that. Christian called for the spear, but Del Rio blocked it with a dropkick. Christian avoided the cross armbreaker, but Del Rio hit a kneeling superkick: 1…2…NO! "This is awesome!" chants. Christian avoided a second kneeling superkick and hit a short-range spear, but he started to sell his shoulder after. Del Rio pounced with the cross armbreaker. Christian fought and fought, but he eventually had to tap out.
This match was really, really good. Christian is a fantastic world title challenger, because the fans love him and bite on all of his nearfalls. On top of that, Del Rio and Christian perfectly added the shoulder injury story into the match, which just made everything better. Match Rating: ***3/4
Maria Menounos and The Miz were backstage. Fandango appeared again.
Natalya (w/ The Funkadactyls) vs. Brie Bella (Nikki Bella & Eva Marie)
They traded some slaps. Natalya went for the sharpshooter, but Brie got to the ropes before it was locked in. Nikki and Eva interfered, and Brie got control of the match. The fans started to chant for the announcers to express their indifference about what was happening in the ring. Natyala got the sharpshooter, but Brie managed to roll through. A brawl broke out between all the women on the floor. Brie was in control for a bit, but Natalya hit an Alabama Slam and locked in the sharpshooter: 1…2…3
I thought this was fine. Brie isn't that good, but the simple in-ring story (Natalya continuously going after the sharpshooter) made the match better, and the crowd was more into the match than one would expect. The obnoxious chanting seemed to be just an especially vocal pocket of fans. Match Rating: *3/4
Ryback, in a vest, was backstage and yelled at a catering dude because the soup was cold. The caterer informed him that it was supposed to be cold because it's gazpacho. Ryback pretended that he knew all along. He's officially Bobby Cannavale from season 3 of Boardwalk Empire. Also, I'm a sucker for gazpacho jokes. Thumbs up!
CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar [No Holds Barred]
The video package for this feud was perfect. Apparently, WWE had been planning on Punk winning this match for a long time. WWE is weird. Regardless, this could be the match of the year.
JBL has dropped Randy Couture multiple times on this show in relation to Brock Lesnar's dominance. I feel like that is something worth mentioning. Brock dominated early on, and it was grand. Punk came back with running knee strikes and a tope suicida! Punk got steel steps, but Brock shoulder tackled them back into Punk. Punk came back with a plancha. Punk started going after Heyman, but Brock made the save. Brock tossed Punk around, and once again, it was grand. Back in the ring, Brock locked in a bearhug. This match is being laid out as if Punk is winning. We'll see if I am misinterpreting the structure. Punk escaped the bearhug but then ate a nasty knee. Punk tried to come back again, but Brock hit a fall away slam. Punk came back by biting Brock's ear and lots of strikes. Brock seemed rattled, and Punk hit a diving knee. Punk hit his running knees. Brock countered one attempt into the F5 position, but Punk avoided and hit a high kick. Punk hit the Hail to the King: 1…2…NO! Punk has seemingly given up on trying to make his diving elbow remotely good. Brock avoided the GTS. Punk avoided the F5 again and hit a high kick. Punk went for the GTS, but Brock reversed it into a very loose kimura. He transitioned into the body scissors with the kimura. Punk managed to reverse it into a cross amrbreaker. Punk went for the triangle. RAMPAGE POWERBOMB! Punk held onto the triangle. RUNNING RAMPAGE POWERBOMB! This match rules, obviously. Brock got a chair, but Punk did a plancha onto Brock and the chair. Ouch. Punk used a chair repeatedly. Brock got the chair, but Punk hit a low blow. I knew Punk was winning. Punk, chair in hand, hit a second Hail to the King: 1…2…NO! Punk used the chair on Brock's back. Heyman grabbed the chair. Punk went to attack Paul, but Brock grabbed him for the F5. Punk held onto Paul's tie, which caused Paul to choke. Punk escaped and hit a GTS, but Paul crawled in to make the save. Punk chased Heyman around, but Brock got him in the F5. Punk reversed it into a DDT: 1…2…NO!!!!!! Anaconda Vice! Heyman crawled in with a chair. Punk stepped on the chair. Punk punched Heyman in the face and locked him into the Vice. Heyman obviously tapped. Brock MURDERED Punk with chair shots. F5 on the chair: 1…2…3! YES!
This was exactly the kind of match that I expected from these two great performers. The big man-little man dynamic was mixed with great brawling spots and even better storyline/character moments. In my ideal world, Brock wins the WWE title in the next six months, Punk wins the Rumble, and we get Punk/Brock II in the main event of Wrestlemania XXX.
This match was so great that it made me angry all over again that three of Brock's five WWE return matches have been with Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Match Rating: ****1/2
Dolph Ziggler & Kaitlyn vs. Big E. Langston & AJ Lee
Langston dominated Dolph early on. AJ and Kaitlyn tagged in. AJ dominated Kaitlyn was eventually able to tag out to Dolph. Langston had to tag in, and he mostly dominated Dolph. Dolph avoided a charge in the corner. Kaitlyn nailed AJ with a spear on the floor. Dolph avoided the Big Ending and hit a Zig Zag: 1…2…3
Obviously, Dolph is way better than Big E. and deserves to be pushed more. However, this seems like a strange job for Big E. to do when AJ could have just as easily taken the pin. Dolph needs to get far away from this program. Match Rating: **
The Miz was about to announce something. Fandango appeared again, but Miz punched him. Why is this a thing?
This is obviously big rematch from Velocity 2004. Daniel Bryan wrestling in the main event of a "big four" PPV makes me so happy. Bryan did a lot of sequences early on that he had not really used since his indie days. Also, HHH's getup is about a million times worse than HBK's short shorts days. Cargo pants tucked into boots???? Cena got control of the match after a suplex from the steps to the floor. The crowd was very clearly behind Bryan. Bryan came back with some kicks. Cena went for the FU, but avoided it and hit a missile dropkick. Oh gawd, I just remembered Triple H was refereeing this stuff. All I want is a clean finish before the storyline kicks in. Bryan started to go after the injured arm. Bryan got the STF. Cole had a brain fart and completely forgot what this submission was called. Bryan got a nearfall with a bridging German. And again. Daniel Bryan understands basic things like all beer and suplexes are better when they're from Germany. Bryan locked in a guillotine. Bryan has been in control for a few minutes, and the crowd does not seem to understand what to make of it. Cena escaped and hit the FU out of nowhere: 1…2…NO!*
*This reminds of a recent rant I went on to one of my friends about American wrestlers not protecting their finishes as well as they could. In the long run, there is far more drama to be had from making matches about avoiding finishers than from constantly kicking out of finishers. To back up my point, I point you all to the Hiroshi Tanahashi/Kazuchika Okada matches from the last two years.
Bryan came back with a spider superplex and a Flying Goat: 1…2…NO! Cena blocked a tope suicida and hit a diving FameAsser: 1…2…NO! Cena went for a super FU, but Bryan fought out of it with the elbows. Bryan went for a super hurricanrana, but Cena blocked in and dropped to the mat (and Bryan fell, face-first, on the mat). Cena locked in a STF and transitioned into a sleeper with a leg trap. Bryan escaped and got the Yes Lock! Cena got the ropes. Bryan hit two corner dropkicks; on the third attempt, Cena turned Bryan inside out with a lariat. They traded strikes until they both went down. More strikes. Cena (sort of) caught Bryan; he went for a FU, but Bryan reversed it into a DDT. Cena practically screamed for Bryan to reverse it into a DDT. Cena went for the FU again, but Bryan reversed it into a small package: 1…2…NO! Bryan then caught Cena with a buzzsaw kick to the head. Bryan Yesed Up the crowd and hit a KENTA running knee: 1…2…3?
That finish took me off guard. I expected Bryan to win the match, but I did not expect a running knee to be the finish. As we all expected, this match was quite great. The crowd was really pulling for Bryan to win; Bryan then pinned WWE's franchise player clean via a knockout knee. That is pretty much perfect. I look forward to these two tangling on PPV again one day. Match Rating: ****1/4
Cena shook Bryan and HHH's hands after the match. The crowd was elated. Where is Randy Orton to ruin all the things? There was a giant pyro and confetti celebration because this was a big deal. Literally, just as I got complacent, Randy Orton came out. Thankfully, he just taunted Bryan with the briefcase. This is actually very clever. He's letting Bryan know that he can come at any time. Not only is Bryan established a bona fide main eventer on this show, but now he has a program…and Bryan got pedigreed. Of course. I know better than to be surprised, but here I am, slightly annoyed and bemused at my life choices.
It's hard for me to get mad at anything in the WWE these days. I just expect them to do things that annoy my sensibilities. That is why I only watch the big PPVs and mostly ignore Raw.
The 411: There are three matches on this show that every wrestling fan should watch. Two of them are truly unique and fantastic. Nothing else on this show is worth watching. If that sounds like something worth your money, then go ahead and buy the replay. This is clearly a Thumbs Up show.