Though Rollins made off with the Heavyweight title, the real winners of Wrestlemania 31 were the Intercontinental and United States titles. Both titles were won, not incidentally, by former Heavyweight champs Daniel Bryan and John Cena, respectively, ostensibly restoring a certain level of credibility to the both belts while failing to extract either championship from the shadow of the Heavyweight title.
Cena, for his part, has been on a mission to imbue the U.S. title with meaning through his particular brand of jingoist, nationalistic hyper-patriotic love-it-or-leave-it fervor in his promos before the “open challenge” title matches he’s hosted on each RAW following his victory over Rusev at Wrestlemania. To hold the U.S. title is to be a Patriot, Cena reiterates in both rhymes and screams before each match — unless you are Not A Patriot, in which case you are corrupting the title and don’t deserve the belt, the flag or the Constitution. This week the enemy Cena faced was more foreign than domestic when Stardust1 took Cena up on the open challenge. While tearly on the match looked for all the world like it was going to be a squash — a natural fit, with the perpetu-champ up against the WWE’s most adept punching bag — Stardust made it a surprisingly long if not terribly competitive match, but eventually lost to Cena by pinfall.
With the main event set to determine who among Ryback, Randy Orton and Roman Reigns will face Rollins for the title at Extreme Rules, each of the three men first had to get through a singles match on last Monday’s show. Two of these three matches were terribly booked, which is to say they featured Kane and the Big Show at all, but those men against Orton and Reigns, respectively. First up were Kane and Orton, who began the match with me changing over to watch the NCAA men’s basketball final.2 Orton wins by DQ when Kane hits him with a chair, which incidentally was also the most realistic-looking hit either man landed throughout the match.
The Show-Reigns match-up is particularly egregious, even allowing for Show’s insistence on wrestling well past his expiration date. Both men have very limited fighting styles with two or three distinct moves at their disposal, and what’s worse is they’re essentially identical move sets. See Reigns’s superman punch against Show’s knockout punch, or Reigns’s spear against the Big Show’s…spear. Right. Reigns wins after three consecutive superman punches, a spear and a pinfall.3
WWE fans were blessed with an NXT match tonight with newcomer Neville (fresh off an introduction via squash win at last week’s RAW) pitted against fellow NXT vet Seth Rollins. For a farm league designed to feed into a show where bigger is definitely still better, or at least more highly rewarded, NXT sure does turn out a lot of high-flyers. It’s a gorgeous match that the newly-coronated Rollin must and does eventually win, but with the amount of hits, spinning kicks and wholly unnecessary backflips Neville gets in, it’ll be difficult to justify keeping him away from the main event for long.
With AJ Lee now retired, Naomi is Paige’s new tag team partner in her feud against the Bella twins. Naomi goes over Divas champ Nikki Bella, hitting her with an ass-of-yet unnamed ass-based attack and pinning her for the win. Ryback defeats Luke Harper in a too-short match, but it’s encouraging to hear the announcers describe both men as main event material — Harper in particular could be developed into a Heavyweight-haunting monster, given the opportunity and a better catch phrase than his current goat-like bleating. Which brings us to a new segment:
HOW IS LUKE HARPER FLAGGING THIS WEEK?
Harper tends to wrestle with a bandanna conspicuously hanging out of one of his back pockets, though what color bandanna and which pocket shifts from week to week. While this is likely for effect the same way choosing what can only be described as “speed banjo” for his entrance music is, it’s only right that we track what Luke Harper communicates in a code he’s probably unaware he’s using. This week:
How he’s flagging: Black bandanna, left pocket.
The meaning: According to this very scientific-looking and slightly NSFW website, Harper is indicating he’s a top who’s into S&M. Good on you, Luke, whether you mean it or, in all likelihood, not.
The New Day saw their first signs of Xavier Woods’ wavering faith in the group’s dogmatic positivity, followed by a swift loss to two more recent NXT call-ups, luchas Sin Cara and Kalisto. I have a particular weakness for high flyers, so had Monday night not also featured a match I’d waited literally months for, this would’ve been my match of the night. More on that other match in a moment.
Sheamus’s new look is staggeringly whack, and the beard-braids and ginger mohawk don’t become less repulsive with familiarity. The Celtic warrior squares off with Mark Henry, Sheamus’s idea of a “real man,” unlike the comparatively diminutive Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler who have somehow infuriated evil red Sheamus with their presence in the WWE. Apparently Sheamus spent a lot of time on MRA subreddits in his absence from the WWE. Fortunately the Texas crowd was there to remind Sheamus “you look stupid,” chanting it loudly during his promo, and they might’ve continued it into the beginning of the fight the way Mark Henry tossed him around the ring. Sheamus put a stop to Henry’s momentum and finished the match with a brogue kick, pinning Henry and going over yet another opponent on his comeback tour.
Finally finally finally the Miz/Mizdow feud that’s been bubbling since before Fastlane has come to a boil4 and tonight marks their first official one-on-one match. In a move that only the WWE can pull off, the Miz mounted maybe a fourth of the offense Mizdow did — if we’re being generous — but still won the match. But what does “winning” really mean when
A) We’re going to see this fight played out in a dozen more matches, culminating at Extreme Rules or, if they want to drag this one out, SummerSlam, and
B) We finally got to see Mizdow hit the Miz in the mouth. Like, a whole bunch of times.
With the Miz and Mizdow feud finally begun, we’re all winners.
It didn’t take long for the Reigns/Orton/Ryback triple threat main event to dissolve into an Authority-initiated smozz. Somewhere in the mess Orton pins Ryback for the win, allowing for Seth Rollins to do the thing where he curb stomps everyone after the match is over anyway. Which means Extreme Rules will host yet another Rollins/Orton main event. Let’s hope Lesnar shows up to make it interesting.
whose new, incredibly trill introduction claims he hails from “the fifth dimension,” ↩
Duke beat Wisconsin, but Kaminsky beat Okafor. ↩
Part of the WWE’s efforts to make Rollins less despised following survivor series was to pair him with ultra-popular face Daniel Bryan; I can’t help but wonder if pitting him against terrible, impossible-to-like opponents like Show isn’t the other side of that strategic coin. ↩
When Mizdow betrayed Miz at Wrestlemania, throwing him over the rope during the battle royal and very nearly beating Big Show to the championship. Hilariously, since the feud began, Mizdow — AKA Damien Sandow AKA Idol Stevens AKA Aaron Haddad — has kept the “Miz”-based moniker, the Miz’s entrance music, and wears Mizdow-vandalized Miz t-shirts into the ring. ↩