5. ROH World Tag Team Champions The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) Vs. The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley): Or let’s call it what it really is: four guys whom TNA foolishly let walk away in favor of ex-WWE rejects and have decided to show Dixie Carter the error of her ways. However, that would only work if she didn’t have an unidentified material for a brain. The match was going fine, with the in-ring work being up to the usual high standard of these two teams until the trainwreck of a finish. Guns had the match won when Kamaitachi came to ringside and picked a fight with NJPW talent Jay White. He yanked White over the guardrail and the two began brawling. They took their brawl into the ring, inadvertently breaking the pin attempt before resuming their brawl out of the ring. All this distracted ref Paul Turner, who tried to stop the brawl. With the ref distracted, Daniels gave Shelley a shot to the balls, incapacitating him. Shelley rolled out of the ring in pain. Without his partner, Sabin was easy prey for Daniels and Kazarian, who finished him off with the Best Meltzer Ever for the pin. The Wrestling Observer compared this finish by stating it was if he had become the booker and possessed twice the ego of Dusty Rhodes at his worst when booking NWA/WCW. I agree. This was the kind of convoluted, idiotic finish better found in WWE and TNA. I know ROH wants to be a Big Three player, but their strengths are in not imitating WWE and TNA. This finish marred what was a strong match. ***3/4
6. Unsanctioned Fight Without Honor: Steve Corino Vs. BJ Whitmer: I admit that I was apprehensive about this match. Corino hasn’t wrestled in years, largely retiring to a color commentary role with ROH and doing a great job with it. I was also wondering just how far would ROH take this match given that it was an unsanctioned Fight Without Honor. I’ve seen so-called Unsanctioned matches that had all the daring and danger of an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (namely a snoozefest of a match between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels at Unforgiven 2008, which was anything but exciting). This was one of the sickest, goriest and wildest bloodbaths I’ve seen on a US PPV since old school ECW’s heyday. Either you love this kind of match or you don’t. When done well, like this match, I love it. Also a major plus is that this match is just about never done on a major wrestling PPV from one of the Big Three promotions, so it had the feeling of freshness and novelty instead of Just Another Brawl. YoCorino sported his classic bleached blond buzzcut look of old, signaling that the brawler was back. I did carp at one moment when Corino was busted open hardway over the eye and they stopped the match so the doctor could take a look. For a moment, I wondered if Vince McMahon had taken over. To my relief, this was just scripted as part of the match and used for psychology to get over the fact that Corino was vulnerable against a sociopathic opponent. It was brilliant booking that helped the match instead of hindering it. Corino bled an incredible sickening amount as his blond hair soon turned deep red. Corino returned the favor for the hardway eye shot by smashing a beer bottle over Whitmer’s head and rubbing the jagged bottleneck into the gaping wound, causing Whitmer to bleed a sickening amount of his own. Tables were brought out, ending with Whitmer driving Corino through one and both using the jagged pieces of the now broken table to gouge each other’s wounds even further. Corino seemed to be on the verge of gaining the upper hand when the image turned black. At first, I thought it was another technical issue, but it soon turned out to be a planned spot since when the lights returned, the legendary Kevin Sullivan, clad in his classic hooded purple robe, was in the ring. The crowd went nuts upon seeing a bona fide legend inside an ROH ring. Sullivan laid out Corino with the Golden Spike, allowing Whitmer to make the cover for the 1-2-3. At first, I admit that I carped over the interference finish. But upon further reflection, I realized that unlike the previous match, the interference and cheating made complete sense. Plus it leaves the window open for another sick Corino/Whitmer match on a future PPV, perhaps at Final Battle 2016 in December. Either way, I’m sold on a rematch. The best match of the show and one of the best matches of the year thus far. ******+++
7. ROH TV Champion Bobby Fish Vs. Dalton Castle: It was a big mistake to stage this match after one of the most exciting bloodbaths on a US PPV in a long time. Fish and Castle tried, but they had no chance at following Corino/Whitmer. Like AJ Styles/John Cena at Money in the Bank Sunday, this match wound up being a victim of my own expectations as I was expecting nothing short of great from these two. What we got was very good and the wrestling was solid, but something was missing. The live crowd wasn’t into it either, as they were still hopped up from the previous match and clearly didn’t want to see a purely technical bout. Not to mention that everyone watching wanted Castle to win the title and when he didn’t, it was disappointing. Fish played subtle heel since Castle always gets a thunderous babyface reaction whenever he enters the ring. It did seem as if Castle was going to pull off the win when he leveled Fish with a killer suplex. He signaled for the Bang A Rang, but Fish wrapped him up with a cradle to score the pin. It was kind of an anti-climatic finish. ***1/2
8. The Cabinet Approves Of This Message: The US presidential theme music rang out inside the Cabarrus Arena. No, President Obama didn’t make an appearance since he wouldn’t be caught dead appearing at a mere wrestling PPV. Nor was it a campaign stop for the odious likes of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. No, it was the debut of a new faction in ROH: the Cabinet. Headed up by Caprice Coleman, Rhett Titus and Kenny King, they declared war on the champions of ROH. They spoofed Trump by stating that they were going to make wrestling great again. Coleman stressed that Titus and King never lost the tag team titles and that they were going to bring back wrestling to ROH and do away with the endless flipping around and superkicks that have dominated the company as of late. It was an effective debut for a fresh new stable in a company that sure use one.
9. ROH World Heavyweight Champion Jay Lethal Vs. Jay Briscoe: This was a rematch one year in the making. At last year’s Best in the World event, then-TV champ Lethal defeated then-World champion Briscoe to win the World title in a phenomenal ******+++ match. So one year later, they faced off yet again. Since the show was running long at this point, this was a shorter than usual World title match, clocking in at roughly 16 minutes instead of the usual 30+ minutes. Yet it was just as awe-inspiringly great as their first PPV match. To their credit, they didn’t merely rehash last year’s match. It was a different match: faster paced, with a touch of hardcore thrown in at times. ROH finally decided to fix the mic issues and we at home at last got to hear the rabid live crowd in this PPV. Since they had limited time, both men just got right to it and went to work. Lethal hauled out the Black Machismo flying elbow drop to a huge pop. Briscoe used Lethal’s own Lethal Injection finisher for a near fall. Lethal used Briscoe’s own Jay Driller for a near fall of his own. Both traded wild topes through and off the ropes with the skill and precision of a luchador. Taeler Hendrix attempted to interfere early on, but was quickly sent to the back by the ref, ensuring that her interference would NOT play a role in the outcome of this match. If this was a WWE or TNA match, Hendrix would have returned and played a role in the finish. To ROH’s credit, they chose not to have her return, which was a major plus. After 16 minutes of killer action, Lethal finally scored the pin with the Lethal Injection. In what was a surprise, Lethal abode by the Code of Honor and shook Briscoe’s hand in a gesture of respect. Lethal has completed the babyface turn teased last month at Global Wars. Last Sunday, WWE finally booked a pair of World title matches to achieve maximum impact to begin the week. Now ROH has booked a World title match to achieve maximum impact to close the week. Kind of an interesting symmetry, isn’t it? ******+++
June wound up being a stacked month for pro wrestling PPVs. We began the month with a stellar NXT Takeover card. Then there was TNA Slammiversary, which all but the most stubborn and dedicated TNA fans that remain even bothered watching; I skipped it because life is too short to waste any more time on clueless co-owner Dixie Carter’s vanity vehicle. WWE Money in the Bank proved to be a disappointing show in execution.
And now the month comes to a close with Ring of Honor presenting their third annual Best in the World PPV. Despite the disadvantages of being held on a Friday night with a relatively late 9 PM Eastern start time, ROH wound up blowing away Money in the Bank and slightly edging out Takeover for the best wrestling PPV of the month. The wrestling inside the ring was at such a high level that it made Money in the Bank look like crap by comparison. All but one match was perfectly booked. The announcing by Kevin Kelly and Nigel McGuinness took care to make the wrestling itself the top focus, not kowtowing to sponsors and social media.
On the negative side, it soon became crystal clear that Sinclair Broadcasting, the owners of Ring of Honor, did nothing to address the technical problems that plagued their previous live PPV, Global Wars, last month. The live crowd was poorly micced, making it come across on television as if this show was taking place in the Tokyo Egg Dome in Japan, where fans remain quiet and don’t react much to the matches out of respect, rather than the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, North Carolina, where American wrestling fans react with passion and emotion towards what they’re seeing. There were also video issues as the image went black several times in the opening match.
If Sinclair wants ROH to become a major player in the wrestling PPV business, they need to start investing more in the technical department. It’s one thing for a house show to use second-grade sound and video equipment. It’s another to use the same for a major PPV seen worldwide at $50 a pop.
Kyle O’Reilly Vs. Kamaitachi: For those wondering, Kamaitachi is a former New Japan and CMLL wrestler who has relocated to the United States and is now a regular for ROH. This was his PPV debut. O’Reilly is getting a World title shot against the winner of Jay Lethal/Jay Briscoe at the TV tapings the following night, as the commentary made constant reference to it. It wound up tipping off the finish since there was no chance that O’Reilly was going to lose the eve before having the biggest match of his ROH singles career. On a technical level, the wrestling was superb. There were a few sloppy moments on Kamaitachi’s part, but that could be chalked up to him still getting used to an American style and ring. O’Reilly scored the win, making Kamaitachi tap out to the Fujiwara armbar. O’Reilly went to shake Kamaitachi’s hand as a sign of respect for their face-vs-face match, but Kamaitachi refused to shake hands, beginning a heel turn that could be completed later in the evening. A solid opener. ****1/2
ACH Vs. Silas Young: 2016 is proving to be the year ACH broke free from the midcard. With the departures of several key talent, I think ROH would be wise to take the opportunity and elevate ACH to the main event field. He had the best match of the year so far last month when he took then-IWGP World Champion Tetsuya Naito to the limit in a masterpiece of a title match at the NY leg of the War of the Worlds tour. Now he follows that up with another masterpiece. Considering that his opponent Silas Young is widely considered a good but not great worker, it proved that ACH can carry talent or in Young’s case, help a solid talent reach an exciting new plateau. This was a hell of an incredible match. ACH was simply incredible, once again taking an opponent to the limit with splendid results. To his credit, Young showed that he could hang with a lighter, faster opponent and even attempted some daring moves off the ropes himself. The finish came when ACH rolled out of the way of a Young springboard moonsault and finished off his quarry with the double jumping knees, followed by a brainbuster and the 450 Splash off the top rope for the win. ******+++
Battle For Respect: Mark Briscoe Vs. Roderick Strong: This marks the final ROH PPV appearance for Strong, as he appears to be NXT bound. This put the outcome in about as little doubt as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump becoming the top two presidential candidates despite being about as popular as anal warts. To his credit, unlike others who would be in the same position, Strong didn’t phone in his performance as he was determined to go out with a bang. This was a hell of match, with strong psychology and exciting action. It may be Mark Briscoe’s finest singles performance to date, proving that he can hang tough in a great match just like his brother Jay proved time and time again last year. There was a neat bit of psychology early on when Mark pulled off his hair, revealing a freshly shaved head. Since this is the same look his brother Jay has, it added a little extra dimension to the match- there may have been doubt as to whether this was truly Mark or if it was Jay doing a bit of Twin Switching. Just about the only negative I can think of is that since this was Strong’s last match, it became obvious that he wasn’t winning. I imagine those not in the know about Strong’s departure will probably rank this higher. The hits were hard and fast. Strong seemingly finished off Briscoe with the Gutbuster but Mark kicked out. Briscoe finally won the match, leveling off Strong with a vicious kick to the head for the pin. Fans chanted Thank You Roddy in acknowledgement that this was the end, at least for now, of Strong in ROH. Most expect him to sign with NXT soon, especially since with Vince McMahon planning to gut the NXT roster potentially of as many as 12 major names, Strong would be a perfect fit. ****3/4
Texas Tornado Match: Moose & War Machine Vs. The Bullet Club (Young Bucks & Adam Cole): Speaking of ROH stars becoming potential NXT signees, this is likely the final ROH PPV appearance of Moose, who is expected to report to the WWE Performance Center by September. It will be a serious loss for ROH and a great gain for NXT since Moose is an incredible natural wrestling talent considering this marks only his second year in professional wrestling. For a man of his size and experience, he is just awesome in the ring. Even though this was his potential swan song, you’d never know it based on his performance here. He went all out to give a strong in-ring performance and was simply fabulous. This was yet another chapter of the ongoing interpromotional feud between ROH and New Japan’s Bullet Club. ROH incredibly outbid WWE for the rights to license the name Bullet Club from New Japan for use in the US, so for those wondering why the AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows tandem are only referred to as The Club in WWE, that’s why. This match was off-the-charts and served as a textbook example of how to stage a Texas Tornado Rules match on a wrestling show, unlike the decidedly soft boiled and way too short Tornado match between The Usos and Anderson/Gallows on WWE Extreme Rules last month. Speaking of last month’s PPVs, you may recall that I criticized the Young Bucks match at Global Wars for being too predictable and reminiscent of earlier matches. To their credit, this match focused more on unpredictable action. Unfortunately, they still overuse the superkick, but at least it made logical sense to use multiple superkicks in this match since their opponents were such large men that it would take repeated superkicks just to knock them down. Moose did an incredible moonsault off the top rope and onto the Bullet Club that has to be seen to be believed. War Machine did their usual unique blend of solid wrestling and stiff brawling. What was a surprise was that the Young Bucks and Adam Cole retaliated as stiff and intensely as they received. It seemed as if Moose and War Machine were going to destroy the Bullet Club once and for all, but the Bucks and Cole had other ideas. They eliminated the threat of Rowe and Hanson with low blows and then finished off Moose with triple superkicks and the Meltzer Driver for the pin. All three kissed to celebrate, making me wonder if they are supposed to be gay in this storyline. If not, it made for a strange conclusion to a stellar match. ******+++
Money in the Bank 2016 was heavily hyped as being the greatest MITB PPV of all time. When it was all over a little after 11:30 PM Eastern time, their boasting turned out to be a tad premature.
The latest incarnation of Money in the Bank, taking place live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, was just another Sunday night PPV. Only the main event featuring Roman Reigns defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Seth Rollins resembled anything close to an excellent match. Many of the matches were disappointing in one way or another. Some of the booking decisions were strange, to say the least.
I will say this in WWE’s defense. Despite the disappointments, this was the first post-Mania PPV to finally feel like a New Era had been ushered in. Fresher talent scored crucial wins over established talent, which wasn’t the case with Payback or Extreme Rules. The main event featured several surprises, all of which were for the betterment of the product and provided several tantalizing options for the future.
A thumbs in the middle for Money in the Bank. It’s not the greatest in history (that would be 2013’s edition) but it’s not the worst either (that would be 2011’s edition, which boasted a classic John Cena-CM Punk main event but had nothing else worth recommending, with 2014 a close second)
1. Pre-Show Match: Golden Truth Vs. Breeztango: This match didn’t look great on paper, but it could have been decent if not for one tragic booking decision. Since Tyler Breeze and Fandango were locked in a tanning booth by Goldust and R-Truth on last week’s Smackdown, they became “sunburned”, so the decision was made to milk this match for cheap laughs. The problem was that only one person found it funny: Vince McMahon. Certainly the audience didn’t find it humorous to see Breeze and Fandango wince in pain every time Golden Truth touched them. So that meant lots of stalling. There was very little in the way of actual wrestling in this match as a result. Then there was the fact that WWE suddenly expected us to care about four guys who lose all the time on television. Horrible match finally came to an end five interminable minutes later when Goldust finished off Fandango with the Final Cut. Consider it a mercy killing, not an end to the match. One of the worst matches of the year so far. -**
2. Pre-Show Match: The Dudley Boyz Vs. The Lucha Dragons: This match wasn’t as good as it could have been, but compared to the previous match, it was a classic. It didn’t start out well, as Bubba Ray Dudley has slowed down in the ring since packing on the pounds once again. Not to mention the Lucha Dragons were confined to being tossed around like rag dolls. Eventually the match picked up to the point that it became a fairly good match. The last three minutes were really good, with Kalisto going wild with the high flying. Kalisto flattened out Bubba with the Salida del Sol, allowing Sin Cara to finish him off with the Senton for the pin. **3/4
3. WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E) Vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows Vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English & Simon Gotch) Vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass: This could have been a great match considering the talent involved. Alas, it was only very good. The main problem was they were only given 11 minutes of TV time for the match itself, which is far too short for a Fatal 4-Way loaded with talent like this one. As a result, the match was rather rough at times due to all eight men rushing to get in their high spots. Still, it was definitely exciting most of the way and unlike most of the other matches this evening, the fans were into it right at the start. It would have been even better had the endless 10 minute promo cutting before the bell rang had been trimmed and the extra time given to the match itself so these four teams could have had a classic match. It’s kind of sad to see the Vaudevillains stripped of what made them so special on NXT: their tongue-in-cheek humor. As humorless cardboard villains on the main roster, they aren’t getting over in the slightest. Enzo and Big Cass were the most over team, so naturally they weren’t going to win. Most expected (myself included) Anderson and Gallows to win the tag team titles, but in a surprise, the New Day retained when Kofi pinned English after Anderson and Gallows destroyed him with the Gallows Killer but couldn’t score the pin due to Enzo and Big Cass taking them out. ***1/2
4. Baron Corbin Vs. Dolph Ziggler: After the two traded wins on the pre-shows of the last two PPVs, Corbin and Ziggler had their rubber match of their feud on the main PPV itself. Their first two matches were terrible, but to my surprise, this one was actually pretty good. Perhaps it was a combination of working on the actual PPV instead of the pre-show and being given enough time to have a better match, since they had 12 minutes instead of the 8 or less their first two matches were given. Either way, this was a great improvement. The live crowd didn’t care and actually chanted boring, which it most certainly wasn’t. I still think Corbin was called up too soon from NXT as an additional year there would have done him a world of good. Still, he showed promise here, something he didn’t in his first two bouts with Ziggler and the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. Corbin scored the win with the End of Days, which was another pleasant surprise. ***1/4
5. Women’s Champion Charlotte & Dana Brooke Vs. Natalya & Becky Lynch: Reportedly, HHH had pitched a Money in the Bank ladder match featuring the women who have revitalized women’s wrestling in WWE. But to no one’s surprise, Vince McMahon said no, preferring to do just an ordinary tag team match. After eight or so months of longer women’s matches on WWE PPV, we were back to the rush job city of the Divas era, as they barely had 7 minutes here. Dana Brooke was given a hideous makeover, including make-up so overdone that it made me recall comedian Mario Cantone’s stand-up routine about Tonya Harding dubbed “Whores on Ice”. Brooke didn’t look impressive here, which just goes to show you that once out of the nurturing atmosphere of NXT, talent are still left out to dry on the main roster. Most of the match was below par considering the talent involved. It was decent, but it could have been great with more time and had it consisted of something more than Natalya being beaten on for most of the match. Charlotte cheated to win yet again when Brooke slammed Natalya into Becky Lynch, allowing the champ to finish off Nattie with the Natural Selection for the pin. Then came a WTF moment when Natalya turned on Becky, beating her to a pulp and then cursing at the fans when they started showering her with boos. So they turn Nattie heel for no reason whatsoever during a time when management is complaining about a lack of faces in the women’s division. And they wonder why people have no faith in the main roster product. **1/2
6. Sheamus Vs. Apollo Crews: Far and away the best match of the first half of the show, primarily because it was rock solid wrestling from start to finish. Crews looked great, pulling off every move with skill and precision. He did a moonsault off the ring apron and onto Sheamus outside the ring that was simply awesome. Sheamus was the ideal opponent for the up-and-coming Crews: hard hitting when necessary and a skilled in-ring worker who could pull off the wrestling end of things. This match was so good I wish they had been given more than just 9 minutes. Crews scored the pin by trapping Sheamus in a crucifix slide. The announcers played it as a total fluke, saying Crews was lucky when they should have been hyping his craftiness in getting one over on Sheamus. Crap like this is why fresh new talent like Crews have a hard time getting over in this company. ***3/4
7. John Cena Vs. AJ Styles: I wound up becoming a victim of my own expectations with this match. There was no match on this show I was looking forward to more as two of the greatest in-ring performers of their time were facing off for the very first time. I was expecting nothing short of a phenomenal match. Sadly, the match turned out to be less than phenomenal. It was way too slow moving during the first half of a 25 minute match. I don’t mind a Japanese-style slow build, but it felt more like stalling to stretch things out here. Cena seemed to have some ring rust as both men bungled entire spots with shocking sloppiness. Sloppiness and Cena haven’t been in tandem since 2005. They seemed to be telling the story that Styles was superior to Cena, but just couldn’t get the job done. Not the best story to tell considering Styles has lost his last three PPV matches. After ten minutes of snail-paced tedium, both men finally found their groove and started putting on a strong effort in the ring. Both men broke free from the other man’s submission finisher: Cena’s STF and Styles’ Calf Crusher. Cena took an insane bump on his head from the Styles Clash and managed to get up, which is a testament to his strength. The finish was a cluster as Cena had Styles up on his shoulders for the Attitude Adjustment, but Styles managed to shift their collective weight towards the ref, knocking him out. This allowed Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to hit the ring and destroy Cena with the Magic Killer. Styles made the cover and the ref recovered in time for the 1-2-3. This ignored the stipulation of the match that Anderson and Gallows couldn’t interfere in the match. Then again, this is main roster WWE, where logic is a dirty word and the belief is fans have no long-term memory. Styles wins, but in a tainted manner that wasn’t nearly as effective as a clean pin over Cena (like Kevin Owens achieved last year at Elimination Chamber) would have been. Let’s hope their next match is better than this. ***1/4
8. Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Kevin Owens Vs. Dean Ambrose Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. Sami Zayn Vs. Cesaro Vs. Alberto Del Rio: WWE made a huge mistake putting Jericho in this match. Besides the fact that he’s a 46 year old veteran whose best days are behind him, adding him into what is supposed to be a fast paced match caused problems. Since he can’t move as fast as his fellow competitors, they couldn’t move as fast as they normally do to accommodate him. The result was a sluggish ladder match that wasn’t even close to the best this match usually delivers. Not to mention that it was a non-stop demolition derby devoid of psychology. There was one missed opportunity when Kevin Owens had Sami Zayn pinned to the ring apron with a giant ladder. He teased running up the ladder and flattening Zayn out with a running senton, but he chose to deliver a weak superkick instead. Fans live weren’t happy over this undelivered promise. There was one innovative spot where Del Rio clamped on the armbar onto Cesaro while atop a 15 foot high ladder. It was the usual daredevil ladder match spots, but something was missing. Jericho looked ancient in the ring and when he dominated large stretches, the match stopped dead. The best stuff in the match came from Cesaro, who was just awesome. Whether it was doing the European uppercut while on the ladder, to a triple set of running uppercuts to three men in the corner to breaking free from Del Rio’s armbar without breaking his arm, he really should be considered as a top claimant of the inevitable second World title that will be created once the brand split happens in July. The finish was heartpounding in one way. It looked as if WWE was going to do something stupid and have Jericho win the match by grabbing the briefcase. The fans were starting to boo, but along came Dean Ambrose who promptly slugged Jericho with such force that it caused him to fall off the ladder and right through another that was sandwiched between the bottom rope and the ladder. Ambrose grabbed the briefcase, which was a welcome sight indeed. Ambrose more than anyone else on the roster deserves to be in the top world title mix. **3/4
9. United States Champion Rusev Vs. Titus O’Neil: After two disappointing matches in a row, along came Rusev and O’Neil to set the ship right. No one was expecting much from this match, so with nothing to lose, both men went all out and had a really good and very stiff match. I applaud both for giving us a Grade-A effort during an evening with one underwhelming match after another. The match started out as a physical brawl, which was simply great and exciting as hell. Then they took it to the ring for some solid matwork that was quite impressive for two fairly large men. They even had Titus score several near-falls, allowing him to look as if he could pull off the upset. I was kind of hoping he would win the title, if only for a week, since Titus is an underrated talent that could use the rub of the title. But alas, even on Father’s Day, the MEGA Award winning Celebrity Dad of the Year couldn’t pull off the win. Rusev finished off Titus with a superkick, a stomp to the back and the Accolade for the tap out. Afterwards, Rusev walked up to Titus’ two sons at ringside and made fun of their father. Most noticeably, Rusev spoke with an American accent instead of the faux Bulgarian one he usually uses. Strong effort from all involved here. ***3/4
10. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns Vs. Seth Rollins: Despite being the storyline heel, Rollins was heavily cheered. Despite being the storyline babyface, Reigns was booed out the building in what may have been the worst reaction he’s received to date since being anointed the latest Chosen One by Vince. This show desperately needed a great match to close the show and thankfully, Reigns and Rollins delivered. This was a near-perfect match and the only one resembling an excellent ****+ bout on this show. The fans started chanting “You Can’t Wrestle” to Reigns, which is beyond idiocy at this point. Now if they would have said “You Can’t Talk” or “You Have No Charisma”, then they’d be onto something. Reigns worked total heel style, right down to his mannerisms, trash talking and choice of spots. He did debut a killer new spot in which he lifted Rollins up in the Razor’s Edge and then turned it into a sitdown powerbomb. This spot was so impressive and looked so devastating that it should immediately be turned into his new finisher instead of the Spear, which is already used by at least two other wrestlers in other promotions and they both do it more effectively then Roman does. Some have knocked the match for being too long at 27 minutes, but when the work in-ring is this good, why complain? It was Reigns’ best performance in the ring since winning the title at Wrestlemania, atoning for a disappointing showing at Payback and Extreme Rules. Then again, Reigns and Rollins weren’t saddled with the overbooked mess that Reigns and AJ Styles were least month. It was a pair of simple stories well told: 1) Reigns finally getting his hands on the man who has been a thorn in his side for two years and 2) Rollins triumphantly returning to regain the World title he never lost in the ring due to injury. The last five minutes of this match were heartpounding and oozing genuine suspense as the match could go either way. Rollins nailed Reigns with the Pedigree but the champ kicked out. In a killer spot, Reigns went for the Spear but Rollins neatly reversed it into a second Pedigree for another near fall. Finally, Rollins lifted up Reigns and planted a third Pedigree to score a major surprise 1-2-3. Rollins cleanly pinned Reigns to regain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. ****3/4
The cheers were deafening when Rollins pulled off the win. But there was another surprise in store for us this evening. The theme music of Dean Ambrose, the newly christened Mr. Money in the Bank, rang out in the T-Mobile Arena to thunderous cheers. Rollins looked on in utter shock and stood up to stare his quarry down the ring entrance. Ambrose came from behind and clocked Rollins in the head with the briefcase. He then slid out of the ring and handed the briefcase to ref John Cone, who signaled for the bell, leading to…
11. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins Vs. Dean Ambrose: Ambrose picked up Rollins’ carcass and promptly finished him off with Dirty Deeds in a mere nine seconds, finally winning the World title that should have been his last year. If you thought the cheers were deafening when Rollins won, they were nothing compared to the jubilation that erupted in the T-Mobile Arena when Cone handed Dean Ambrose the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
What a great moment it was! With Ambrose as World champion, there are so many tantalizing programs that can be done for the title. Ambrose lost to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Now you have a top challenger for the title. Rollins will certainly want his rematch. So will Reigns. There’s also Kevin Owens, who has several victories over Ambrose during their feud over the IC title earlier this year. Then there’s Rusev, who having conquered the US title, might want to go after the World title to truly stick it to America. AJ Styles could challenge for the title. Or have Dean him go the distance with John Cena and win clean. Bray Wyatt holds several victories over Ambrose from their 2014 feud.
In the span of five minutes, I just came up with eight fresh and exciting feuds for Ambrose to defend his title in that takes us up to Wrestlemania 33. What I hope is that Dean Ambrose is not merely a transitional champion and the belt will go back to a babyface Reigns no one wants. The WWE World title is finally on the right guy. Don’t screw it up, Vince.