SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Brock Lesnar returned to a WWE ring, Chris Jericho replaced the injured John Cena, and more from Houston’s Toyota Center the Friday night before the NFL Playoffs kicked off.
WWE Live Show Results
January 8, 2016
In-Person Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
Groups of floor seats were still available as of mid-week, but they filled up by showtime. The upper sections were tarped off and the arena was set up for about 5,000 in the building.
Demographically, this was a heavy family and kids audience. Not a lot of the “PPV fans” who get tickets for the bigger WWE events. This came into play later in the show when Brock Lesnar was introduced…
Before the show, WWE ran a poll on which classic Royal Rumble PPV to show the ending of – Rumble 2001 or Rumble ’88. Steve Austin’s Rumble win in 2001 took the poll. They showed the Final Three of Austin, The Rock, and Kane. This was of course to hype past Rumble PPVs available on WWE Network.
Greg Hamilton was the emcee for the night and JoJo was ring announcer. After the National Anthem, a pre-taped introductory message from Triple H came on the screen to introduce the live show.
JoJo started the show announcing that John Cena was not here because of an injury. She said refunds are available in the next 20 minutes. Hardly anyone moved. You sit through horrible Friday evening traffic, find parking, get food, find your seats, get situated, and then you’re going to leave and go through the hassle of a ticket refund after already dropping $40+ for parking and food? Not realistic.
Suddenly, Alberto Del Rio’s music played to interrupt JoJo’s refund offer. The U.S. champion came to the ring to run down Cena, saying he told everyone that he’s a dirty dog. Del Rio also heeled on Houston, put over San Antonio, and said he doesn’t have to wrestle tonight. He started to leave, but Chris Jericho’s music interrupted. Big reaction for Jericho as Cena’s replacement. Jericho took Del Rio’s mic, put over Houston’s wrestling history, took a second mic from Del Rio, talked into both mics, and tried to take away a third mic. They did the bit until Jericho finally got Del Rio to fight.
(1) Chris Jericho beat U.S. champion Alberto Del Rio in 12:00 in a non-title match. Jericho won clean with the Codebreaker after avoiding Del Rio’s new corner foot stomp finisher. Good opener. Del Rio appears to be in the best shape of his career, while Jericho did the best he could trying to get back into ring shape after his latest hiatus. Both wrestlers worked hard to kick off the show right.
(2) Titus O’Neil beat Stardust in 5:00. Fun match. Titus did the Big Show routine of hard chops to the chest, then again upon request of the crowd, and a third time. Titus hit Clash of the Titus for the win. Former Rockets star Tracy McGrady took a ringside seat during the match. Afterward, Stardust sold the effects of the match really well, making people believe he was injured. Really old-school selling in the ring and all the way to the back.
Rusev and Lana were out next with their old heel routine. They did the local heel promo hating on Houston sports snd propping up the Dallas Cowboys to get heat. Rusev also declared that he will win the WWE Title. Ryback cut off the promo to set up the next match.
(3) Ryback beat Rusev (w/Lana) in 8:00. Ryback won clean with Shell-shock after escaping The Accolade. This was better than expected. They wrestled a really good match and included some unique spots in this one. The best spot was a dueling vertical suplex. They stalemated on six or seven attempts doing a block, then another block, then a half lift, then another half lift, then three-fourths of a lift lingering in the air, and then finally Ryback got in the suplex to a strong reaction. Rusev had Ryback in trouble with the Accolade, but the crowd rallied behind Ryback. He hit Shell-Shock moments later. Good match that the crowd was into.
(4) R-Truth beat Heath Slater in 5:00. Hardly any wrestling in this one. They did a dap-off, then some more dance moves, then the crowd chanted for a dance-off, apparently not wanting to see them wrestle. Slater got on the mic and asked if the crowd really wanted to see a dance-off. He got them hyped, then said “no!” and kicked Truth when he let his guard down. Slater controlled the match, then went for a dirty pin with his feet on the ropes, but referee Charles Robinson disallowed it, and Truth reversed into a quick pin for the win.
(5) Kalisto y El Torito beat Los Matadores (Diego y Fernando) in 6:00. Torito replaced the injured Sin Cara in this fast-paced comedy tag match. Kalisto hit Salida del Sol for the win. This was the only tag match of the night, with all of the top tag teams apparently not booked tonight.
Daniel Bryan came on the screen to a pop. It was his Hall of Fame induction speech for Connor the Crusher, who was highlighted in a video package for Connor’s Cure.
Then, it was Brock Time. Here’s where things got interesting. Sheamus was out first, so everyone who knew that Brock was advertised expected Lesnar to come out next. But, feeling out the crowd in-between Sheamus and Brock’s entrances, a good portion of the crowd did not seem to know that Brock was coming out next. It points to a lot of the family-oriented crowd simply coming to the show because they heard WWE was in town, but not necessarily being aware of the advertising, even though ads for Brock ran in the local market during Raw TV the past few weeks. Really interesting to see a lot of people were surprised that Brock was there.
When Brock did come out with Paul Heyman, Heyman took over the formal ring introduction for Brock. Total babyface presentation for Lesnar, including Heyman’s pre-match promo running down Sheamus and hyping Brock.
(6) Brock Lesnar beat Sheamus in 8:00. Very physical match. Lesnar took a Brogue Kick and did not go down, then took a second one and do down, but kicked out of a pin. Lesnar came right back with four or five straight suplexes for the win. There were about 12 total suplexes from Lesnar on the night. Lesnar left with a big red mark on his face from the Brogue kicks. Lesnar was definitely way over with the older crowd and everyone had their phones out to take pictures of Brock, but the rest of the audience still seemed to be surprised to see Brock.
[Intermission. WWE announced the post-WrestleMania Smackdown will be April 5 in Houston. WWE followed with some games on the screen for the kids. Incongruently, WWE ran a lengthy video look at the next season of Total Divas.]
A promo from Kevin Owens vowing to beat Dean Ambrose brought the show back from break. JoJo announced it will be a Street Fight later tonight.
(7) Brie Bella (w/Alicia Fox) beat Tamina in 6:00 with Summer Rae as special referee. Brie was the default babyface for this match. Tamina was out by herself without Sasha Banks or Naomi. Naturally, the crowd chanted for Sasha, to which Tamina yelled that the crowd doesn’t deserve her. Tamina dominated, setting up Brie with the comeback via her husband’s Yes Kicks. Tamina then shoved Summer, who shoved her back right into the X Factor from Brie.
On the video screen, Dean Ambrose cut an old-school locker room promo vowing to beat Kevin Owens.
(8) Dolph Ziggler beat Tyler Breeze in 12:00. Heck of a finish with about eight straight rapid-fire pin reversals wearing out both men and making ref Robinson work. Dolph then surprised a weary Breeze with a superkick for the win. Dolph carried himself like a veteran opposite Breeze, who was just called up from NXT.
Main Event time. But first a plug for Ric Flair on the Stone Cold podcast this Monday after Raw.
(9) IC champion Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens in 14:00 in a Street Fight to retain the IC Title. Ambrose was right up there with Lesnar for biggest reaction of the night. The crowd just seemed to be more familiar with Ambrose than Lesnar, placing them about even. Ambrose and Owens fought at ringside right out of the gate. Kendo sticks, chairs, and finally a table were introduced in the match. Owens put Ambrose through the table with a powerbomb, but Ambrose kicked out. Ambrose then dropped Owens with Dirty Deeds onto weapon scraps for the win.
After the match, Ambrose celebrated on the way out, then Hamilton and JoJo signed off after a two-and-a-half-hour show.
It was a good show. It was what it was in terms of the matches mainly catering towards kids with some spots to get laughs or easy heat. But, there was some good wrestling on this show and Brock Lesnar made a rare house show appearance, so that was a special treat for the audience. By the end of the night, people forgot that John Cena was not there and left happy after Ambrose’s win.