We live in an amazing time to be a television watcher, and I'm not just talking about the variety of choices and the flexibility that we have to watch what we want, when we want (via DVR and On Demand). I'm talking about watching what we want, multiple shows, all at the same time!
On Sunday night, the schedule included the Oscars (a treasure trove of show content for Monday), random NBA basketball games (gambling!), and the WWE's final pay per view before Wrestelmania 31 in early April, their "Fast Lane" pay per view.
So we had the Oscars going on the big screen (keeping my girlfriend happy, stealth move), hoops on the iPad, and WWE on the computer (with headphones), all while tweeting on my iPhone. It was truly glorious. And knowing that I had to write about something this morning, and knowing that a) the Press has someone else on Oscar duty and b) I only watched like five minutes of the NFL's combine (and I refuse to fake like I did watch it), we are left with a post on WWE's pay per view Sunday night.
That's not the worst thing in the world! So let's first recap where we were the Monday after the WWE's last pay per view, the Royal Rumble with its borderline disaster main event Rumble match....
To recap the end of that show, the entire city of Philadelphia was completely shitting on the single most important night (to that point) of Roman Reigns' career so badly that not even an open endorsement from The Rock could pull the whole thing out of its tailspin. It was simultaneously a great night and a horrible night to be Reigns, great in that this was a clear sign of what management thought of him, horrible in that we learned what the WWE Universe (WWE-speak for "fans") thought of him.
The booing of Reigns was problematic for a couple reasons. First, it was not the kind of booing in which fans are doing their part to forward a storyline, the booing of something fictitious. This booing was real live disapproval of a big picture decision (arguably, the most important big picture decision) by the company. Second, this explicit, real life booing was for a performer who was being set up as the babyface for the main event of the biggest card of the year. That's an issue.
It got so bad that there was a Twitter campaign to get people to cancel their subscriptions to the WWE Network (#CancelWWENetwork), which in the end had almost zero impact on subscription count. It didn't help Reigns that the ultra popular Daniel Bryan was eliminated in underwhelming fashion, lasting ten nondescript minutes.
So despite Reigns winning the main event slot at Wrestlemania in a title match with champion Brock Lesnar, WWE leveraged the animosity for Reigns and the popularity of Bryan for one more main event match before Mania, putting Reigns' title shot on the line in the main event of "Fast Lane." It was one of a handful of matches on the card, and as the February pay per view normally does, the storylines leading up to Wrestlemania are pretty well laid out now.
Let's quickly go through what happened last night...
1. The six man tag team opener was a backdrop for Randy Orton returning. In the opener, the Authority (Seth Rollins, Big Show, Kane) beat Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, and Ryback, but the shenanigans after the match were the important part as Orton came in for the save while the Authority were about to give Ziggler a few more curb stomps after the bell. Orton has "returned" to WWE rings roughly a dozen times in his career it feels like, and usually they have a huge pop early and then down fades real quick. By the time Mania rolls around, Orton will be back to his mid card level of heat. Guessing Orton versus Rollins for Mania?
2. The Rhodes brothers have issues. So Goldust beat Stardust, and afterwards Stardust went to the locker room and found Goldust and beat him up, and told Dusty Rhodes (father of both Goldust and Stardust) that Dusty killed Cody Rhodes (Stardust's actual wrestling name, when he uses a "real person" name), or something. I guess we are getting some variation of a Rhodes family fight at Mania. Yay.
3. New tag team champions! The Usos lost the belts to the team of Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, to the delight of the WWE internet crowd, who seem to big fans of Cesaro's work and feel like he's being kept down by "the man." I have no idea what this means for Wrestlemania, but the rematch has "countdown show" written all over it.
4. Sting will face Triple H at Wrestlemania, and the set up for it has been awesome. As nonsensical or boring as some of WWE's storylines have been in the past year, the setup for the Sting and Triple H match at Wrestlemania has been the opposite of that. It's made sense, it's been a slow build, it has a backstory that fans can connect with (Sting as the face of the failed WCW, Triple H as the literal family member of the WWE's patriarchal family). Wisely, they haven't let Sting say one word yet, and when he could've beaten Triple H like a drum tonight (Why did Triple H drop his sledge hammer, instead of...y'know...USING IT?), instead he pointed at the Wrestlemania sign. So this match is now set.
5. Nikki Bella is still Divas champion... ...and that's all I have to say about that.
6. Dean Ambrose and Wade Barrett are both sort of in limbo. Nothing like a DQ title match that was given barely two minutes more air time than the Divas match that preceded them. At this point, I guess we pencil in Ambrose and Barrett? I guess we do, which has to be a huge letdown for Ambrose, who was showing main event level potential in the last couple months.
7. Undertaker will try and start a new streak against Bray Wyatt. Last year at Wrestlemania, as we all remember, Brock Lesnar ended the Undertaker's 21 match winning streak at Wrestlemania, handing him his first loss of his career at the company's marquee event. Remember? We know this guy does...
wrestle mania 30 undertaker black guyでググるとこんな感じ pic.twitter.com/QmZmyz39wT
— MoroFalcon@垢作り直した (@CinderellaBoy_M) October 28, 2014
So apparently, this is not the end of the Undertaker. He will be back to fight Bray Wyatt as we found out in a "casket rolled out but isn't really the Undertaker" segment with Wyatt at "Fast Lane." Obviously, there's no longer a streak to hype, so you need something else to provide the juice. If nothing else, Wyatt's promos for the next six weeks should be amazing.
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8. John Cena lost clean, AGAIN. Going back to SummerSlam, within the last eight months or so, John Cena has taken two of the cleaner losses you'll ever see a "favored nation" wrestler like him sustain. We all remember the dominant win by Lesnar at SummerSlam, where he destroyed Cena with over a dozen suplexes. Then last night, Rusev made Cena pass out with his variation of the Iron Sheik's Camel Clutch. At this point, I have no idea what to expect at Mania with Cena. Is he officially transitioning into "put guys over" mode, or does he get his win back in April? On the other hand, Rusev's buildup as a wrecking machine has been nothing short of fantastic. And if you don't agree, then you can just SHUT TUP....
9. Reigns has bounced back impressively since the disastrous Rumble. In four weeks time, Reigns has gone from a guy reviled by the entire WWE fan base to someone that you can viably see in the main event t Wrestlemania. Truth be told, he's closer to the bottom end of the "Mania main eveners" list, but he's certainly not the worst, and he's got to be incredibly motivated to have a great match with Lesnar (and possibly Bryan, if they find a way to make the title match a three way, which has been rumored). In retrospect, the RAW the day after the Rumble getting snowed out might have been the best thing to happen to Reigns, because it gave everyone a chance to calm down and rationally assess his push, as opposed to just being pissed about the man keeping Bryan down. Also, the possibility of Rollins lurking with his Money In The Bank briefcase to cash in after the Mania title match is intriguing. In short, it looks like the company has fished their golden boy out of the fryer, and the road to Wrestlemania can now begin.