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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Roadblock: End of the Line 2016.
Best: There Goes The Ax, There Goes The Smasher
Over in the vintage Best and Worst of 1997 WWF Raw Is War, we’ve been making jokes about how they named a pay-per-view “Revenge of the Taker” before the Undertaker had anything to revenge, so they had to write him something in the middle of the cycle. The big reveal last night is that “End of the Line” was the final stop on the road to cereal-centric infinity for the New Day, and their 60,000 day Tag Team Championship reign is finally over. WWE should name every pay-per-view like that with some kind of code word or phrase and make us try to figure it out. Tune in next month for Roadblock: Somebody Falls Off The Stage.
Anyway, two things:
1. As you might’ve picked up from him absolutely fucking nuking everyone in a 20-foot radius on Raw, we’ve returned to peak Cesaro. He’s dynamic and motivated again, and doing something important. It’s a testament to that guy’s ability that we can go from “I’m not interested in what Cesaro’s doing” to “WHY ISN’T CESARO ALREADY AN 11-TIME WORLD CHAMPION” in the span of like, six days.
2. My very favorite thing about this match was the finish, which is so fresh and new it felt like it came from a completely different wrestling show. So Xavier Woods spends the entire match trying to out-fox Cesaro and Sheamus, interfering and running into the ring to take Brogue Kicks and playing Francesca II: Third Strike on the apron to distract the referee. None of it works. So once he’s KO’d, Cesaro and Sheamus bust out their Statue of Liberty play.
Sheamus heads over to make a hot tag, but Cesaro doesn’t actually make it. Instead, he just gets into the ring like he’s been tagged and charges Kingston. Kingston hits him with a Trouble in Paradise and goes for the pin, thinking he’s the legal man, but the referee won’t count … and that gives Sheamus a moment to recover, then charge back in and brute-force roll-up Kofi to score the pin.
So not only is the New Day reign finally over, they were sorta hoist by their own petard. Every team that has opposed them — the Dudleys, The Club, Sheamus and Cesaro, even Team Chris and Kevin and the Shield Bros — brought athleticism and/or violence. That’s not how you beat New Day. You beat them by being smarter than them, because they think they’re way smarter than they are. They think trombone distractions make them Super Saiyans. All you gotta do is think about it before you get in the ring with them. Also, kick Xavier Woods in the face.
Another thing I love is that yeah, Sheamus and Cesaro only won the titles now because the Demolition record is finally broken and we can break the seal on the tag division again. And yeah, it sucks that they failed a bunch of times before winning here, with almost no fanfare or gravitas given to their story. Yeah, they wrestled nine matches to stay enemies that want to stay tag partners who bonded over a filmed night in a bar. But what I can get behind is the story point that they couldn’t pull off this kind of victory until they were truly on the same page. This is the first time they stop being babies about their entrance and do a tandem thing, and they end up winning the belts. That’s good.
I’m also interested in whether or not the team actually moves forward. After the match, Cesaro’s all buddy-buddy with the New Day but Sheamus just wants to hold the belts up on the ropes. You’d think they’d realize how good they are when they work together and stop letting their egos get in the way, so if they’re going to tell that story again with them as champions, I hope they get through it quickly.
Worst: Everybody Looks Stupid
Man, what a disappointment this was.
In our predictions post for the show, I wrote about how Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman was the match I was most excited for. While far from perfect, the story has been the most interesting one on Raw, and at least got me emotionally involved in SOMETHING. I think I was supposed to ultimately feel something more complex than “Mick Foley’s a dumb jerk and Sami deserves better,” but at least I got that.
The idea is that Sami wants to prove he can hang with Strowman and not just instantly lose, so Foley gives him 10 minutes to prove himself. Somehow that becomes “if Sami can last until the end of the time limit, he wins,” which doesn’t make any sense, because that’s a fuckin’ draw. You don’t win a draw. But sure, maybe that concept would work if the ten minutes were exciting. If Strowman used all of his strength and speed to just relentlessly murder Sami, to the point that everyone in the crowd was begging him to stop. We’ve seen Sami sell concussions and ankle injuries and everything else to the point of causing widespread Internet panic, and Strowman is legitimately very strong and very fast and gently scary. Instead of doing that, they have Strowman like, clothesline him a bunch. That’s it. He clotheslines him five or six times and runs into him, and suddenly Mick Foley’s out with a towel to throw it in. And Sami’s like NO, NO, LET ME DO THIS, and Strowman’s just standing around like he doesn’t care, waiting for Mick to make the decision. Mick doesn’t even make it. Sami takes the towel away from him and throws it … out? I guess? And then they go to the finish of the match, which again, is Sami just moving out of the way of Strowman running until the time runs out, and he “wins.”
I can’t help but think of how easily this could’ve been booked. Make it exciting. Strowman wants this guy’s head. Sami’s got something to prove. Why are they wrestling so slowly and emotionlessly? Sami making goldfish faces to clotheslines ain’t cutting it. Imagine how much better it would’ve been if Sami was a brutalized mess at the end of the ten minutes, and managed to hang on against the best wishes of like, everyone in the building. Imagine if Braun looked like a threat, and not a dance partner. Imagine if the Foley thing had been an instantaneous moment at ringside, instead of asking the two guys wrestling the match to stop wrestling completely and stand still for two minutes. Imagine if there wasn’t a clock counting down to let us know how long it took, or if there wasn’t a referee standing there not counting them out. Imagine if at the end, Sami had hit a miraculous Helluva Kick as his first offensive move of the match and gotten a two-count as the time ran out. Or if when they called it a draw, Foley or Zayn faced some kind of consequence. Or a draw with some gravity behind it setting up a more important match down the line, instead of making us not want to see it again. Imagine ANY of this being considered.
Just awful. And man, it didn’t have to be.
Best: Die Cruisers Die
Rich Swann defends the Cruiserweight Championship against the only two people who are allowed to fight for it, Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins. About two minutes in they’re trading submission finishers and doing long, agonizing reaches for the ropes. Sure. Swann wins with a kick, and I was prepared for my talking point to be, “at least Swann retained, now let’s actually move on to something interesting, like, I don’t know, Neville showing up and finally being in the goddamn division?”
AND THEN NEVILLE SHOWED UP.
You’re probably tired of me being like BUT NEVILLE all the time, so welcome to the damn fireworks factory. Neville shows up and you’re like, “he’s gonna stare down Swann and maybe say he’s gonna join the division on 205 Live!” And then nope, he just DESTROYS them. All of them. I was practically jumping up and down on my couch.
The best part about Neville — besides the fact that he’s still the best NXT Champion ever — is that he can do everything. His moves are actually quick, and crisp. He’s not standing there setting up a convoluted thing they practiced, he’s snapping shit off. When he flies, he FLIES. He looks like he knows what he’s doing, and like he belongs. He also looks like he’s jacked enough to be able to like, Attitude Adjustment all three of these dudes into outer space. The crowd starts chanting THANK YOU NEVILLE for the beatdown, which is probably not the reaction they wanted or expected, but screw it. The division isn’t going to be fixed until they put people WWE crowds know and care about in it. Swann was a good start. Neville is the next and best-ever step. If we aren’t to Neville vs. Kalisto by WrestleMania, we’re dumber than bricks. Just do it.
And while we’re at it, stop having tag team tournaments without putting actual tag teams in it, WWE Cruiserweight tournaments without WWE cruiserweights in it, and UK Championship tournaments without your half a dozen preexisting guys from the UK in it. Integrate your shit. Synergy. Learn it.
Best/Worst: Iron Takes 15 Minutes To Sharpen Iron
In this weekend’s History Making Moment™, Sasha Banks defending the Raw Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair goes 30-minutes and somehow doesn’t go on last. Even though the men’s main-event was built around a storyline swerve and a non-finish. What, were they afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings?
Like a lot of Iron Man matches, this one had a boring first half and an exciting finale. They go for over half the match without scoring a fall, which makes sense I guess, but I can’t help thinking how much more into it the viewing audience would be if they’d traded early falls just to get some points on the board. Don’t leave us thinking it’s gonna go 0-0 for that long. You got us thinking Mick Foley was gonna declare the rivalry had ended in a tie and make them team up to go after the tag titles.
This is what, the sixth Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair match since the split? I don’t know if they’re doing an understated Best of Seven series or what, but all the callbacks are here, even to the 50/50 booking. The match is good, because the matches are almost always good, but the reality of how they’ve put the rivalry together hurts more than it helps, I think. Charlotte keeps her pay-per-view win streak going, even if it’s a weirdly fabricated statistical footnote nobody really cares about. Sasha Banks is now a three-time Women’s Champion who has never successfully defended the belt. Not once. In THREE REIGNS. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if in two weeks they have Sasha point out that now she’s won 3 matches since the split and Charlotte’s won 3, so even though the Iron Man match was Once In A Lifetime, they’re gonna Make History™ and go Twice In A Lifetime at the Royal Rumble. Possibly IN the Royal Rumble. As the only two entrants. Because HISTORY.
Snarky deconstruction aside, again, the match was good. I liked the callback/homage/reheating of Sasha’s terrible clock management. In the actual first women’s Iron Man match at NXT TakeOver: Respect the finish was exactly the same, only with the alignments reversed. There, it was 2-2 going into the final seconds and Bayley (the face) was able to tap out Sasha (the heel) and win. Here, it was 2-1 going into the final seconds and Charlotte (the heel) was able to tap out Sasha (the face) and send the match into overtime. I guess the only difference is that the Respect match had an exciting, unexpected submission ending it, and Roadblock had Sasha sitting in a figure-four for like two whole minutes and being unable to hang on for four additional seconds.
I did like the overtime a lot, with Sasha very clearly being unable to hang on and Charlotte just stalking her and obliterating her knee at the first opportunity. Sasha looked gross by the end, and part of me wishes they’d gone the WrestleMania 13 and had her pass out. Sasha just kinda looks like a loser not being able to defend ever.
But honestly, WWE needs some kind of Iron Man rule where if it ends tied, it ends tied, and the champion retains. Because that’s how draws work. Or, I don’t know, have the draw mean Sasha Banks “won.” I don’t know how Mick Foley thinks wins work.
Worst/Best: Hope You’re Still Confused By This Friendship!
I’m going to group the remaining two matches together, because there’s really not much else I can do.
If you’ve watched ANY WWE show over the past … Jesus, six months, you know the drill. If Chris Jericho wrestles somebody, Kevin Owens shows up and fails to help him win. That causes distress between the friends, they fight about it backstage and say some mean stuff, and then Kevin Owens has to wrestle without Jericho’s help. Only, whoops, it’s all been a ruse, and Jericho shows up to help him win anyway. They did that again here.
Jericho wrestles Seth Rollins. It’s a good match, but nothing you’re going to remember in a month. As good as Jericho is, he might be the king of competently wrestled and perfectly exciting pro wrestling matches that absolutely do not matter or make a lasting impression. Remember his feud with CM Punk? Remember his feud with AJ Styles? It’s all the same thing. He’s good at what he does and it’s fun to watch, but you aren’t gonna be thinking about it later. Owens runs out to interfere, causing Jericho to get distracted telling him to leave, and they tease that directly leading to the finish. Jericho goes for a Codebreaker, Rollins counters into a Pedigree and wins.
So backstage, Kevin Owens does the Build A Snowman bit at Jericho’s locker room door for the benefit of the cameras, but Jericho won’t talk to him. Earlier in the night he tried to give Jericho a holiday scarf, and Jericho rejected it. When Owens defends the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho interferes and hits Owens with a Codebreaker. Michael Cole is like, “so much for the friendship,” as though he hasn’t been doing this job for 20 years and has never seen heels collude.
Instead of like, heading to the back and revealing their plan on Raw, Jericho and Owens hug, again, and reveal, again, that the arguing was fake. It’s amazing how many times they can do this expecting the crowd to fall for it, and how many times it seems to work. It’s like the Story of Everest, with Kevin Owens repeatedly stumbling backwards into a wall of terrible writing. Reigns and Rollins’ response is to beat them up and put them through tables, which you think would be a big moment of comeuppance, but the audience is just like, “boo, Reigns, booo, booooo.” The show goes off the air with the heels looking like helpless, destroyed Boys Who Cried Wolf and the faces getting a golf clap at best for triumphing post-not-triumphing.
Join us in three weeks for Sasha Banks’ Women’s Championship win on Raw, and again in February for ROAD3LOCK: The Line Actually Continued A Bit More But Now You’re At The Actual End.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
And Raw Talk perfectly summarizes this ppv by falling apart half way through.
The indy wrestlers in the bar had better watch out tonight.
The Real Birdman
More like Roadblock: End of the subscription
Yeah it’s amazing what someone will fight through if they want something. Take Vince for example, he’ll fight through bad promos, unwanted crowd reactions, and wellness violations all trying to get Roman over.
Mr. Royal Rumble, JSF
“Hey, want to spend a couple hundred bucks to have a night out in the December cold and sit quietly at a PPV show?”
The good news is that Sasha just defeated Braun Strowman
An Iron Match, putting the “Fe” in “Female.”
Baron Von Raschke
Neville: I have some frustrations to work through, mate. So, I want you to bring me all of the cruiserweights on the roster…Wait, wait. I worry what you just heard was, “Give me a lot of cruiserweights on the roster”. What I said was, “Give me ALL of the cruiserweights on the roster.”
So does Sami get the Miz Participation Award?
Enzo and Cass jumped over a shark and into a rocketship pointed at a planet inhabited by only sharks and ramps.
End of the line! Thanks for reading, everybody. At first we were like this:
But then we were like this:
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