Monday, April 4, 2022

WWE WrestleMania 38, Night 2: Brock & Roman Phone It In

Night 2, for the third consecutive year, was easily the weaker of the two WrestleMania shows; even the presence of another super-energized crowd (likely comprised of mostly the same people as Night 1) couldn't cover for a mediocre-at-best slate of matches.

If you missed the Night 1 review, click HERE

Things started out with promise (after a seemingly interminable Triple H appearance that ended with him leaving his boots in the ring to officially retire), with the RAW Tag Title match.  RK-Bro, Street Profits and Alpha Academy delivered a very enjoyable spotfest with nonstop action, some great big-move moments, and a finish that brought the crowd to its feet.  Why WWE changed the rules for three-way tags to have three legal men at all times, I'm sure I don't know, but it didn't hurt the flow here.  There were some big dives to the outside from Chad Gable and Angelo Dawkins early on, and Riddle played the babyface in peril once again but made the hot tag to Randy Orton.  RK-Bro cleaned house and set up stereo draping DDTs, but their dual RKO attempt was broken up and Street Profits hit Gable with a Doomsday Blockbuster for a nearfall.  The finish came when Montez Ford's top rope dive was countered into a Riddle RKO and Gable's was countered with an Orton RKO for the win.  Post-match Street Profits offered to share a drink with RK-Bro and Gable Steveson (seated at ringside) but Chad Gable interrupted.  Steveson gave him an overhead suplex for his trouble.  Thus far Steveson doesn't have nearly the natural charisma of a Kurt Angle or a Brock Lesnar but we'll see.  This was a very good opener.  ***1/2

Not so good (at all) was the next match, as Bobby Lashley had to try and carry the near-immobile Omos to a passable match.  They got six minutes, most of it unwieldy and not very exciting.  This guy needs to be sent back down to developmental until he can move around well.  Lashley did what he could, including a hard-earned vertical suplex which served as the bout's high point.  A bad-looking back spear and a proper front spear later, and Lashley was the winner.  This would be the first of three matches on this card to end with a spear.  But tell me how overused the superkick is again?  *

Alright, the third bout was one of those matches I was dreading, knew was going to be super embarrassing and stupid, and yet it was maybe the most purely fun thing on the show.  Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville had one of the better dumb comedy matches you're ever likely to see.  This was pure crap and it's stuff like this that makes the average person roll their eyes when you mention the phrase "pro wrestling," but it was a big, stupid guilty pleasure.  They started out with standard garbage-match antics - trash cans, crutches, cooking sheets, a stop sign, etc.  After Sami suplexed Knoxville through a table, Party Boy showed up to interfere and stripped down to his thong.  Then Wee Man appeared and bodyslammed Sami, which was impressive.  Knoxville triggered a pyro as Sami climbed to the top rope, causing him to crotch himself on the top turnbuckle, then rolled a bowling ball into his groin.  Then came the mechanical ball-kicking machine, then Sami walked into the giant hand (which somehow appeared out of nowhere).  Knoxville put Sami through a table covered with mousetraps before putting him in a giant mousetrap (that didn't work quite right).  Knoxville covered him for the win and the Jackass crew celebrated.  This was unfathomably stupid but sadly one of the most successful things on the show.  Would I have rather seen Sami vs. Ricochet for the Intercontinental Title?  100%.  Like I said, this is why no one takes the secondary belts seriously.  I'll be a good sport and give this ***1/4.

The 4-way Women's Tag match was next, and while no better than your average free TV 4-way, everyone here worked hard.  It was another nonstop multi-team schmozz and everyone got a little time in the spotlight.  Ripley and Liv hit a tandem Riptide move on Naomi for a nearfall, Sasha hit Carmella with a frog splash and locked in the Bank Statement, then she and Naomi hit a Glam Slam/Codebreaker combo to win the titles.  Fun little match, if ultimately kind of forgettable.  **3/4

The most disappointing thing on either night was Edge vs. AJ Styles.  These two set out to have an all-time classic, and unfortunately though it was well-worked, it never really got close to that level.  The chemistry and urgency just weren't there, and the rather lame finish didn't help matters.  It seems like this feud is continuing so hopefully they'll find their classic match at some point.  Both guys threw in most of their stuff and there were some nice exchanges, but it felt like there wasn't any connective tissue to this.  After trading finishers and nearfalls, AJ went for the Phenomenal Forearm but was distracted momentarily by Damian Priest, who randomly showed up at ringside.  The hesitation caused him to leap directly into a midair spear by Edge (second spear finish of the night) for the win.  Another babyface made to look dumb.  It says a lot about this show that despite being the most disappointing match, this was still the best one.  ***3/4

The New Day-Sheamus/Ridge match bumped from Night 1 was placed here, and got a whopping minute-forty seconds.  Literally nothing to this.  Sheamus hit Woods with a Brogue Kick, Holland hit his finish and got the pin.  Pointless.  DUD

Another match involving a non-wrestler was next as Austin Theory (with Vince McMahon in his corner) faced the mega-popular Pat McAfee.  The crowd really elevated this far above where it deserved to be, as this was an extremely basic match.  McAfee was dressed in his jeans and unflattering tank top, and didn't even bother to remove the gold chain around his neck - very odd.  One amusing moment occurred on the outside where McAfee was beating up Theory and grabbed a commentator's headset to do commentary on his own match.  McAfee missed a swanton but launched himself onto the top rope to meet Theory and give him a superplex, which was impressive.  McAfee countered Theory's finisher with a schoolboy for the quick pin and the crowd went nuts.  This was fine.  ***

Then the worst thing on either show happened.  McAfee called out Vince (and the announcers acted like he should be scared of a 76-year-old), and somehow an impromptu match was started.  Theory attacked McAfee before the bell and the latter then had to sell the worst-looking clotheslines anyone has ever thrown.  You'd think with 50 or so years in the business Vince would've learned by now how to make any offense look credible.  Every time McAfee would make a comeback, Theory would interfere and the referee would be too chickenshit to call for a disqualification.  Vince then punted a football into McAfee's ribs and pinned him.  Yes, that's right, the mega-over 34-year-old ex-football player had to sell the feeble offense of a barely-upright septugenarian and then get pinned by him.  And of course this was all just a setup to bring out Steve Austin for one more Austin-McMahon moment, which led to Vince fucking up taking a kick to the gut and the subsequent Stunner.  They couldn't have just had Vince and Theory attack McAfee after the first match to bring out Austin for the save?  This was actually offensively bad.  Probably the worst WrestleMania match of all time.  Minus ***** 

And that brought us to the main event.  The match this company thinks we're all stupid enough to believe was The Biggest WrestleMania Match of All Time.  This went 12 minutes, featured a total of six moves between the two, and fell far short of the two previous Brock-Roman 'Mania outings.  Yes, even the one from four years ago where they got booed out of the building (which I consider quite underrated).  And it's a shame, because this crowd was WHITE-HOT for this match.  But once again no creativity was employed in putting this thing together. It went down exactly as you'd expect, there was no story or psychology, and it was simply a series of big signature moves - a "hoss fight" equivalent of a spotfest.  Brock picked up Roman and did a bunch of shoulderblocks in the corner, then hit three overhead suplexes.  Paul Heyman distracted Brock by feigning regret for dumping him, long enough for Roman to spear Brock through the barricade (Ya know, this spot isn't special or gasp-inducing if you do it literally EVERY BROCK MATCH).  Back in the ring Roman speared Brock for a nearfall, hit two Superman punches, missed a third, and Brock hit five German suplexes.  Brock went for an F5 but Reigns escaped and hit another Superman punch.  Roman went for a spear and Brock countered into an F5 for a nearfall.  Roman escaped another F5 attempt, speared Brock into the ref, hit a low blow, and hit Brock with the title belt.  Reigns oddly did a back spear just like Lashley's and it also looked bad.  Brock countered another spear with a kimura.  Roman made the ropes, Brock went for an F5, Roman escaped and hit another spear for the pin.  Yes, three of this show's nine matches ended with the same overused move.  

So to recap, Brock hit three overhead suplexes, five Germans, one kimura, one F5.  Roman hit three Superman punches, a low blow, a belt shot, and five spears.  This was maybe the most lazily booked Brock-Roman match to date.  It's between this and their six-minute SummerSlam 2018 match.  Either way, this sucked.  Brock Lesnar is capable of truly great matches.  Roman Reigns is capable of near-great matches.  Imagine taking a once-in-a-generation talent like Brock and actually making him boring.  Imagine putting this much company muscle behind Roman and not asking in return that he do something to change up his limited moveset or do something, ANYTHING surprising.  This is what it would be like if Goldberg wrestled himself in the biggest main event of the year.  Or if a ten-year-old booked a main event wrestling match - "Hey ya know what would be cool?  If Brock and Roman did nothing but their two big moves over and over!"  I seriously don't wanna hear anyone laud WWE's "storytelling," because this match was devoid of it.  Get both these pricks off my television.  **

So yeah, WM38 Night 2 was pretty shabby indeed.  The best match on the show was a significant letdown, the garbage comedy match nearly stole the show, the penultimate match was one of the worst things they've ever done, and the main event was lazy, repetitive drivel.  The most successful match, meaning the one that best achieved its purpose, was the opening tag.  AEW will have this show topped by Wednesday.

Best Match: AJ vs. Edge by default
Worst Match: Vince vs. McAfee - That old fuck should be embarrassed by his performance and McAfee should be embarrassed for participating in it.
What I'd Change: Book the main event to actually be a WrestleMania main event instead of a pre-loaded finishers videogame match, give AJ and Edge some caffeine so their match has some energy, add Finn vs. Priest to the show, and keep Vince away from a fucking wrestling ring. 
Most Disappointing Match: AJ vs. Edge
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Sami vs. Knoxville was actually enjoyable crap instead of cringeworthy crap
Overall Rating: 4.5/10

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