SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NEW INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION…
Recap: In the show’s second segment, Finn Balor came to the ring for a match. At the end of his entrance, the Titantron showed a creepy close up of Bobby Lashley’s face staring down at Finn.
After a commercial, Lashley made his entrance and the match began.
Mid-match, the bell unexpectedly rang. The camera showed that it was Lio Rush in the timekeeper’s area. Finn went after Lio, who by then had come to ringside. After dispatching Lio, Finn slingshotted back into the ring, where he was caught by a Lashley spear for the pin. Lashley and Lio then celebrated.
Evaluation: It seems that WWE has changed direction on the Lashley-Lio breakup. It’s somewhat disappointing that an Intercontinental Title loss for Finn was used to undo the breakup storyline.
Forecast: It seems likely that Finn will be chasing Lashley, culminating with a title match at WrestleMania.
RONDA EMBRACES HER NEW PERSONA…
Recap: At the top of the second hour, Ronda Rousey came to the ring. She told the fans to take their applause and shove it. She said the fans wouldn’t be booing without the safety of a barrier, and that they’d cower before her if they were face to face. She referred to Becky, Charlotte, and WWE are “carny con artists,” and referred to the whole affair as a “charade.” She also gave WWE “permission” to make the match at WrestleMania a handicap match.
Dana Brooke then came out. She got emotional, angry at Ronda for disrespecting WWE. She said that she wasn’t a household name like Ronda, but reminded Ronda of her post-PPV open challenges. Dana said she wanted to accept such a challenge. Ronda beat down Dana and positioned her for an armbar. but then told the fans that seeing an armbar would cost them $60. Referees ran out, and Ronda knocked one to the ground before laughing and leaving.
Evaluation: I’m not a fan of WCW worked shoots, but this did stop short of that, as Ronda never referred directly said everything was fake. As such, I didn’t have a problem with the segment.
The new Ronda character is a 100% improvement over the face version. It not only plays into the fans’ existing booing of Ronda, but also plays off of many negative real-life stereotypes about her. It also seems like she’s able to channel many of her real-life frustrations with the fans, which makes her promos even more believable. It’s refreshing when WWE actually goes with fan reactions instead of trying to change them.
Forecast: If the reports that Ronda is done after WrestleMania are true, I expect Becky to pin her.
TRIPLE-H VS BATISTA NO HOLDS BARRED…
Recap: At the top of the third hour, Triple-H came to the ring. We had already seen Batista’s limo arrive earlier in the night. Triple-H called Batista to the ring.
Eventually Batista’s music hit and he appeared, flanked by bodyguards. He stood there in silence as Triple-H referred to him as a nose ring model. Batista demanded that Triple-H give him what he wants. Triple-H mocked Batista for quitting and going to Hollywood. He said he wouldn’t give Batista anything. Batista countered by saying that until he gets what he wants, he would keep hurting the people Hunter loves.
Batista then said Hunter couldn’t give it to him, since it would mean he’s not in control. The two got into a shouting match which culminated in Triple-H setting a match for WrestleMania. Batista thanked him for allowing him to end his career on his terms, and said he’d end Triple-H’s career as well. Before Batista could leave, however, Triple-H informed him that the match would be no holds barred.
Evaluation: This was a great promo by both guys. They spoke intensely and believably. Batista’s threatening of Triple-H’s loved ones made setting the match believable. Triple-H’s mocking of Batista quitting WWE and joining Hollywood was likewise a believable insult.
Forecast: The stipulation helps the match here, as it gets across the grudge match angle and also allows for some smoke and mirrors if Batista is rusty.
THE SHIELD & OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS..
I was initially hopeful that naming Alexa Bliss as host of WrestleMania tonight meant that the two Saturday Night Live geeks from last week’s Raw whose segments totally bombed were being replaced in toto. Unfortunately a later video package tonight confirmed that wasn’t the case. Last week’s abysmal reaction paired with the fact that the audience didn’t know who the two guys were showed it was time for an audible. If you think WWE comedy is bad, watching 5 minutes of an “SNL” episode (yes, it’s still on the air!) will teach you that bad comedy writing isn’t unique to WWE. With Comcast Corp owning both USA and NBC/SNL, however, I suppose such an audible would’ve been too awkward in real life. At any rate, if Braun wasn’t cold enough already, he’ll be glacier-cold after being paired with these two for the next month….
I did like Michael Cole prefacing his trademark, “Here comes the big dog!” with an apology on commentary tonight. At least he’s self-aware….
There was excessive talk about the Shield having gone their separate ways, followed by Roman’s first singles match being derailed by a Drew McIntyre attack, followed by Seth helping Roman backstage, then followed by McIntyre laying a vicious beating on Ambrose. There is no way the Shield is over….