With the conclusion of last night’s Lockdown episode of TNA Impact, it’s time to put this week’s shows into perspective.
And this has been a very interesting week for wrestling.
WWE’s Fastlane pay-per-view on Sunday felt like every bit of the filler that it was. For being the mid-ground between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, Fastlane feels like a full stop on the road to the Grandest Stage of Them All, serving as an incredibly predictable pay-per-view that feels more like an expensive episode of Raw than anything else, which is incredibly disappointing for an event with its important positioning.
This is not to say that Fastlane didn’t have a few entertaining matches on the card. Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler delivered a solid Intercontinental title match. Kalisto and Alberto Del Rio had an enjoyable 2 out of 3 falls match in the opener. And the triple threat main event was fantastic, even if its result was completely predictable.
But the show also had its fair share of rough moments. The Divas title match between Brie Bella and Charlotte was a complete mess with what was either a terribly botched ending or just flat out one of the worst endings to a match ever. The exchange between the New Day, Edge and Christian, and the League of Nations was an awkward, unfunny mess that is well below what most fans have come to expect from New Day segments. And the match pitting the Wyatt Family against Ryback, Big Show, and Kane was a terrible affair with a terrible ending that places the Wyatt Family in an even worse position than they were in before.
Overall, the show did a terrible job of serving as a transition between Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. Rather than helping in the build, Fastlane made it even more clear that with just under 6 weeks to go until WWE’s biggest pay-per-view of the year, there is still no clear direction at all as to filling out the card and selling the event. Virtually no one on the roster feels over right now, including number one contender Roman Reigns, who was booed out of the building Sunday night, and faced much the same on Monday.
And on the note of Monday, well, let’s talk about the show that Raw was. Monday’s Raw event had one of the biggest openings in recent memory with the return of Shane McMahon, who received one of the most incredible reactions in WWE history. Shane McMahon’s return managed to set up a very interesting match for Wrestlemania: Shane McMahon himself, one on one against the Undertaker in Hell in a Cell.
Yes, 46 year old Shane McMahon, who hasn’t had a match in years, will take on the 50 year old Undertaker for control of Monday Night Raw.
This little announcement has gotten mixed reactions from fans. One one hand, folks are willing to buy into the story and see where this goes, but on the other hand, a lot of folks are worried about the potential lack of quality that this match could have. Folks have come to expect a great deal from Undertaker matches over the years, as his Wrestlemania performances have often been the highlight of the show and perennial Match of the Year contenders. But there comes a time where folks have to perhaps begin to let those expectations go. If this match goes through as it is now, Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker will unquestionably be a spotty, ridiculous spectacle, made to please a casual audience over the hardcore workrate fans, and this will be just fine. As it stands now, Undertaker and Shane McMahon could be a very fun and ridiculous David and Goliath bout.
Following Shane’s return, Raw took a huge nosedive. One could argue that WWE had to cool folks off after such a tremendous opening segment, but it was a very long cool down. The middle segment of the show dragged on painfully, marked by a bunch of mediocrity highlighted by a Ryback heel turn which feels completely idiotic given how poorly that went the last time.
If there was a saving grace to the middle of Raw, it would have to be the exchange between Dean Amborse and Brock Lesnar. Prior to Raw going on the air, Lesnar was shown to have put Dean Ambrose out of commission, throwing a beating on him that sent him out of the arena in an ambulance. But Ambrose made a mid-show return to face off against Lesnar, demanding that the Beast face him in a street fight at Wrestlemania, a challenge which Paul Heyman accepted on Lesnar’s behalf.
The final segment of Raw, however, served as a solid ending which raises a whole mess of interesting questions. In the final segment, Roman Reigns took a fantastic beating from his future Wrestlemania opponent, Triple H. This beatdown, which wasn’t too dissimilar from the beating Triple H laid on Daniel Bryan a few years ago in the build to their Wrestlemania match, was interesting because Triple H was cheered the entire time.
This can’t be good news for Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns was absolutely savaged by Triple H, beaten to a pulp and left a bloodied (sort of) mess. And throughout the entire beatdown, the crowd was hot and firmly behind Triple H, and at many points, Triple H paused to throw a WWE 2k style taunt in to pop the crowd even more.
WWE has spent more than a year at this point building up Roman Reigns to be the new face of the company. He has been in main event after main event, overcome tremendous odds, and has overall been made to look incredible over and over again over the course of the year, and at this point one would have to say all that effort was for naught. Roman Reigns has been firmly rejected as the face of WWE to the extent that really the most over true heel on WWE’s roster has been turned face by proxy of facing Reigns.
This raises so many questions for Wrestlemania. Will WWE still have Reigns win the title at Wrestlemania knowing there is a tremendous risk that he will be booed to an incredible degree? And if they’re not willing to run that risk, then what next? WWE has spent so long refusing to believe that this would fail in spite of all evidence to the contrary and now, less than 6 weeks away from the show, there looks to be absolutely no way to salvage Roman Reigns. In some ways, these questions make WWE some must watch programming over the next few weeks, but not for the reasons that they would probably like.
Last night’s TNA Impact did a pretty good job of following a big Raw, bringing to TV the Lockdown event and an array of solid matches. If one has to compare TNA and WWE over the last few weeks, it may be best to say that WWE has had more tremendous highs and lows, while TNA has been more consistently good-not-great and overall solid, and last night kept that trend going.
Last night’s Impact saw a very enjoyable array of matches and a few gigantic moments. Tigre Uno’s leap off the cage in his X-Division bout with Trevor Lee was an amazing moment and probably the highlight of the show, but pretty much everything on the show delivered in some way, from the opener between Beer Money and the team of Eric Young and Bram, the Knockout’s Lethal Lockdown match, and the main event for the title between EC3 and Matt Hardy.
TNA feels very much like a brand in transition, but the quality of the programming since their move to Pop is enough for one to have hope for the future. TNA is filling out with some interesting characters, and it feels like from top to bottom these individuals are being given stories and opportunities to get over, which is a very refreshing change from WWE’s programming where everyone in the undercard seems to be treading water.
EC3’s face turn has to rank at the top of TNA’s recent creative successes. EC3 has been playing the role well, channeling an individual who doesn’t quite know what to do with the crowd support that he’s never had before while playing an entertaining and fiery never-say-die face in and out of the ring. This was an unexpected transition which has been handled very well, and given EC3’s rising popularity since his debut, it would seem that selecting him to be the face of the company going forward is a smart move.
Even EC3’s recent struggles against Matt Hardy have been examples of how to do a face in peril correctly. EC3 is not shown to be an unstoppable superman, but an individual who struggles in the face of adversity, who is currently experiencing the consequences of his past behaviors in an incredibly notable way. This is consistent, enjoyable storytelling that is doing a tremendous service in justifying EC3’s turn and making it mean something.
EC3’s loss last night to Matt Hardy due to Rockstar Spud’s interference is a perfect example of this dynamic and developing story. Spud’s betrayal is a swerve that makes sense and that adds to EC3’s trials, which will make his eventual triumph all the sweeter. TNA is essentially doing with EC3 exactly what WWE has failed to do with Roman Reigns by combining solid creative storylines with compelling matches.
This was a pretty good week for wrestling. While Fastlane was a disappointment, both WWE Raw and TNA Impact delivered fairly enjoyable shows. While WWE may have edged out Impact this week by the sheer weight of Shane McMahon’s return, both shows had their share of memorable highlights.