The Blue Brand looked to deliver where its sister show failed last night and ramp up excitement ahead of Extreme Rules on Sunday, in what was the go-home broadcast before the PPV…
Kevin Owens attacks Dolph Ziggler in the Parking Lot
The Prizefighter intensified his feud with The Showoff by attacking him in the car park in video footage shot earlier in the day. The warring superstars were separated by some of the other talent and Shane McMahon responded to the altercation by barring Kevin Owens from the building for the rest of the evening, thus postponing the main event between him and Ziggler.
Owens looks to be further teasing this eventual babyface turn and it could be just the kick-start his career needs at this juncture. Owens is a superstar and playing the role of the company’s resident anti-hero could produce some thrilling TV in the months to come, not to mention a feud with the equally stellar Ziggler to kick off his face run.
KO airs his frustrations at the state of WWE
And in the space of a short but powerful shoot-style promo, Kevin Owens’ babyface turn was complete. He interrupted the broadcast to bemoan how McMahon has basically buried numerous stars and has deprived people far more talented than him their place in the spotlight. The line between fact and fiction was blurred as Owens claimed it was a travesty that truly talented stars like himself and Asuka were being treated as secondary to the Boss’ son. Shane McMahon entered and tried to silence KO by cutting his mic and then sending out a bunch of security, at which point Owens retreated through the WWE Universe.
The audience loves it when they have a mouthpiece to echo their frustrations at the product and Owens delivered big style. He is already massively over with fans around the world, but this shift in character towards the anti-establishment bad-ass could, if booked correctly, propel him to superstardom, as he looks to take down the entire McMahon family, a la Steve Austin.
Finn Balor vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This couple of former NXT superstars could easily have been named by Owens as two prime examples of quality wrestlers being criminally underused in favour of pushing part-time McMahon family members. This match could have quite easily been mooted as a main event at a major PPV just a couple of years ago, such was the fanfare around their call-ups to the main roster. Instead, Nakamura has been aimlessly wandering around the mid-card shuffle for the past year, while the fact Balor holds the Intercontinental Championship has been completely neglected, and creative hasn’t even bothered to enter him into a feud.
Nakamura was given the opportunity to step into this position with a match with the Irishman. He mainly dominated the contest, hitting Balor with an innovative sliding German suplex. He then negated any offence from Balor, by evading a Coupe de Grace and retaliating with a Kinshasa on the outside. The gutsy IC champ somehow managed to break the ten-count and make it back in the ring, only for The Artist to hit a second Kinshasa to secure the win and, seemingly, a title opportunity. Nakamura looked refreshed and beat Balor clean in the middle of the ring, Balor will be looking to come out fighting to retain his title and the two, given more time, should be able to create a meaningful feud for themselves.
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match Contract Signing
Alexa Bliss was absent for the contract signing ahead of the handicap championship match at Extreme Rules on Sunday. Bayley pleaded with the Scot to see sense and realise that Bliss is using her. She tried to relate to her, saying they are more alike than she thinks. Cross responded by saying she had her friend’s back, something The Hugger wouldn’t know about considering all her friends (hmm, maybe Sasha Banks) had abandoned her.
This segment did little outside of playing up to the numbers advantage the heels are going to have in the match on Sunday, and oversold how Bayley does not have any friends in her corner. Maybe foreshadowing an old ally returning this weekend to help Bayley even the numbers?
Nikki Cross vs. Carmella
This was a showcase of how prominent Cross has become in this programme, and she displayed an aggressive, focused approach as she decimated Carmella to further underline just how much of a dangerous component she is going at the weekend. She viciously attacked ‘Mella throughout the contest, countering any attempted comeback from the Princess of Staten Island. She put the former Miss Money in the Bank out of her misery with a Neckbreaker for the win, giving her and an absent Bliss the rub going into Extreme Rules.
Daniel Bryan vs. Otis vs. Xavier Woods
The move away from PG Rating continued as Big E delivered an hilarious promo laden with double-entendre. Bryan and Rowan hit the ramp, with the Bearded One claiming that smutty remarks like this are a prime example of why nobody takes the New Day seriously as credible title holders, and added that Heavy Machinery are buffoons. Otis and Tucker took umbrage to this and referenced how close they came to causing an upset and snatching the titles at Stomping Grounds.
Woods and Otis locked up first, as Bryan rolled out of the ring to let the babyfaces battle it out. Otis showed his strength by taking out the New Day member and taking out a returning Bryan. He then executed an unbelievable double-suplex on his two opponents followed by a near-fall. Otis continued his mightily impressive run over the past few weeks until Rowan interfered, clotheslining him from the apron. Woods then had his turn, hitting Bryan with a dropkick from the top rope, before Bryan fought back with the LaBell Lock. Otis broke the submission and took some ‘Yes’ kicks for his troubles. Otis then took out the two smaller men and broke out the delightful Caterpillar. He somehow managed to see off a couple of Woods superkicks and pinned the New Day member to score a hugely impressive win.
Otis has been unbelievable in the past few weeks and continued that run here, not looking out of place at all against his two more experienced opponents. With the equally impressive Tucker by his side, Heavy Machinery, in the space of a few weeks, have become legitimate threats to Bryan and Rowan’s titles. If they can cause an upset on Sunday, it will be fully deserved.
Roman Reigns vs. Dolph Ziggler
Given the talented in-ring performers on show, this promised to be a top quality match-up, but the odds looked to be immediately stacked against the Big Dog as Shane McMahon, Drew McIntyre and Elias joined at ringside. Ziggler attempted to ground the big man by looking to put Reigns out if his comfort zone with some mat-based maneuvers. Reigns brought him back to his yard with some big punches and blocks, looking to engage the Showoff in a brawl. Ziggler responded, though, with the best dropkick in the business and a big elbow for a two-count. Reigns countered with a drive-by and stared down Elias, who threatened to get involved. The distraction allowed McIntyre to shove Reigns into the ringpost and handed the impetus back to Ziggler. ‘Roman’ chants rang round the arena as Ziggler kept the ex-Shield powerhouse grounded. Reigns began the babyface comeback, hitting Dolph with a Samoan Drop and a couple of clotheslines. An interfering Elias momentarily distracted Reigns, allowing Ziggler to execute the Zig-Zag for a near-fall. Reigns countered a superkick with a Superman Punch for another near-fall before McIntyre dragged Ziggler to safety. Reigns took out the heels with a suicide dive before McMahon entered the ring to protest. Kevin Owens appeared from the crowd and hit Shane with a stunner. Reigns took out Ziggler with a Spear and scored the win.
This was an entertaining match with two workers who were always going to put on a quality spectacle. Ziggler, though in the twilight of his career, continues to make his opponents look fantastic and proves his worth by seamlessly being able to work with any superstar on the roster and making them look good. Reigns is fully back in the swing of things as the relentless, ass-kicking hero. It was the sub-plot here that was the talking point though. Owens hit the Boss’ son with a stunner and might just have ushered in a Stone Cold-esque era, in which he is the super-over tweener, the perfect antidote to WWEs establishment, and maybe, just maybe, the next megastar of the company.