The opening promo between Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens: Jericho comes to the ring to one of the biggest initial pops in quite a while. Chicago loves him. Jericho comes out a slightly more humbled, a slightly more thoughtful Jericho than he’s been in the past year. Jericho tells the crowd how he’s been doing a lot of thinking after the disappointment and hurt caused by Owens’s turn at the Festival of Friendship. But one question is on his mind: why? He wants Owens to explain.
Owens comes out. His reason for why it was easy to turn on his best friend is simple in that Jericho “was never his best friend.” Jericho challenges him to a match at Wrestlemania. When Owens wants Jericho’s U.S. Title on the line, Jericho doesn’t hesitate: “Okay, done.” He suggests, because Wrestlemania is a month away, that they fight tonight. Owens runs to the ring but Samoa Joe also comes from the crowd, and the two men beat down Jericho. Sami Zayn’s music hits to a pop. He runs out with a chair and helps Jericho fight the two men. They clear the ring with the help of a chair and stand tall at the end.
While the segment could have had a couple minutes trimmed off, this segment kept all men involved looking strong. Jericho didn’t back down from Owens, Owens didn’t back down from Jericho. Samoa Joe needed several chair shots to run him off. Sami looked like the babyface savior he is.
The ferocity of Kevin Owens: Owens took on Sami Zayn after the promo in an impromptu match set by Commissioner Mick Foley. (We’ll ignore that this match happens every other week on RAW.) The two men do good work, as per usual, but Owens looked like a beast in the match. His two Pop-Up Powerbombs were devastating-looking, and it helped that Zayn has such practice taking the move to sell it that way. This is the Kevin Owens that WWE needs right now.
Austin Aries’s “package”: This is a running joke that started last night. Austin Aries, who has been recovering from injury and has been announcing for the cruiserweight matches, has been showing his promotional package for his return since last week. He introduces it, saying “It’s not a bad package. It’s not a good package. It’s my package. Take a look.” Afterwards: “You know everyone was talking about Fastlane last night, but the thing they were talking about most was my beautiful package.” Corey Graves chimes in, “It’s quite a package, Austin. What’s not to be excited about?” Cole moves onto the match.
Cruiserweight Title Match – Neville (c) vs. Rich Swann: This was a really good match. It was fast, but well-paced, intense, and worthy of both men. Chicago was a good crowd all night, but they weren’t into this match early, but the work that these two men did got the crowd into it. The atmosphere felt like a World Title match by the end when Neville got the win with a Rings of Saturn. It can’t be understated that the Neville/Gallagher match last night, along with Neville’s great heel work for weeks, might have changed the minds of quite a few fans about the cruiserweight division.
Austin Aries establishes himself as a contender against Neville: Aries interviewed Aries after the match where Neville gave a strong, harsh heel promo. Neville even got into the rhythm of the “What?” chants, which made him feel even more heelish. Neville said there was no one on the 205 Live roster that could challenge him. The crowd, who had already started an “Austin Aries” chant during the match, started it up again. Aries said that it sounded like the audience had an idea of who could challenge Neville. Neville scoffs. Aries says he has one more question. “Well, not so much a question as a statement,” he says before laying Neville out. A discus elbow sends Neville from the ring, and Aries stands with Neville’s title raised above his head to uproarious applause.
Goldberg and Lesnar showdown: Another strong segment here as Goldberg comes to the ring to a mixture of cheers and boos. Chicago is not the city any mark-loved babyface wants to be in, especially if they are being booked over smark favorites. Nevertheless, Goldberg gets through his, luckily, short promo with only one set of loud “CM Punk” chants. Paul Heyman interrupts him and saves him from more. He says he’s not alone tonight and introduces Lesnar. The two men have a stare down while Heyman cuts a “spoiler” promo behind them. The “spoiler” is that after their match at Wrestlemania “there will be a new reigning, defending, undisputed Universal Champion and his BROOOOCK LESNAR!” Heyman moves away from the two men, walking to the corner behind Goldberg, and continues, “Which means after the match they can all say, ‘Look, there he is. Brock’s bitch!’” An seething Goldberg slowly turns to face Heyman when Brock grabs him up and hits the F5. Brock and Heyman leave the ring with Goldberg lying hurt. This should be the last time that two touch in the ring, but undoubtedly, there will be a segment in the next few weeks where Goldberg stands tall, probably on the go-home show.
Samoa Joe wins via a cheap count-out: The match itself was fine – too short, but sound. The ending, however, found Samoa Joe giving Chris Jericho the Coquina Clutch outside the ring to make him pass out. At the ref’s count of eight, Joe released and rolled back into the ring for a cheap win. That is a heel tactic. Bravo to whatever road agent helped book that.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude is joining the Hall of Fame: This is about time. Rude is only one of the greatest heels in the history of WWE history. Any man who has another man’s wife’s face spraypainted on the crotch of his tights belongs in the Hall.
The Undertaker and Roman Reigns showdown: The Undertaker seemingly came to the ring to run Braun Strowman out of it for reasons unexplained (see “The Bad” section). After Strowman left the ring, The Undertaker went to leave when Roman’s music hit. Roman came to the ring, got in The Undertaker’s face, and told him that Braun asked for him, not ‘Taker. “This is my yard now,” he says, recalling what he told The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. The Undertaker looks at the Wrestlemania sign, Roman looks back at it too, and Kevin Dunn gets the long shot he needed for a promo package before the ‘Mania match. ‘Taker then grabs Reigns by the throat and chokeslams him. Thankfully, the chokeslam looked convincing and The Undertaker didn’t look like an old man with a failing physique this appearance. While the segment was good, it left the impression that the company still isn’t going to turn Reigns heel for it, which is the most disheartening part of the entire show.
Advertising the WWE Network in perpetuity: It’s completely understandable that a company wants to sell their product on their own television show, but at some point, the law of diminishing returns sets in. The least the company could do is figure out different or interesting ways to sell the product rather than having the same commentator mention it in the same language and same voice over and over. By the time Wrestlemania, which is including in your subscription if you act now and start your monthly subscription for $9.99, it’s also understandable that some people might want to cancel their subscription because they can’t stand the thought of hearing about it so much.
Seth Rollins’s rehab video and HHH’s interview via satellite: This would have been great…eight months ago. Showing Seth talking about the hard work and commitment it takes to recover is good idea to help him return as a babyface….again, eight months ago. The cherry-on-top here is that HHH gives another strong promo running down Seth. He says that he’s been called The Cerebral Assassin, The King of Kings, and The Game, but others called him that. He didn’t name himself those names. Seth, however, had to start calling himself “The Man” because nobody else does. That’s just cold. It’ll be interested to see if they can truly get Seth over as a face in this short amount of time; if this is any indication, they won’t.
Braun leaves the ring when the Undertaker shows up: Before Roman and The Undertaker have their exchange, The Undertaker has a stare down with Braun who was in the ring waiting for Roman. After about forty seconds, Braun leaves the ring as if he is running away. After his loss to Roman last night, this makes Braun look even weaker. There was no reason to include him in the segment at all.
The What Are They Thinking?
The New Day, their ice cream, and The Shining Stars: The New Day comes out with some quips about their ice cream machine, which is simply a promotion for some ice cream bars they will obviously start selling at Wrestlemania. The New Day contains three strong wrestlers who could easily be performing at different levels on the card in single action, yet they are doing these banal promos about an idiotic ice cream truck and squashing The Shining Stars in two minutes every week. Like AJ Styles wrestling Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania, the company sees making these three the hosts of Wrestlemania as an honor, but they deserve something more after taking a minstrel gimmick and getting it over.
Enzo/Cass, Gallows/Anderson, and Cesaro/Sheamus mashup: There are three key questions here. First, why can’t any of these teams have a tag team name? They’ve backed away from The Club moniker, so there’s not even that reprieve. Second, why should anyone care about the tag team titles or the division after Roman single-handedly overmatched Gallows and Anderson in the past two weeks for no other reason than they had nothing for him to do? The current pecking order is Roman > Gallows and Anderson > Cesaro and Sheamus > Enzo and Cass > The New Day’s ice cream machine > The Shining Stars. Third, why do they have no heat? See question 2.
Bayley, Charlotte, and Sasha never-ending tango: This storyline just keeps going with no real throughline. Mick Foley has Bayley come out who has the feels because she doesn’t feel like a champion after Sasha interfered again last night. This reaction would have been more appropriate two weeks ago, but better late than never? Mick asks her who she wants her opponent at Wrestlemania to be, and this is one of the better parts of the segment: the champion having a choice of opponent, a concept that has become lost over the years. When Mick asks the question though, Sasha’s music hits. She says that since she and Bayley became friends, they have talked about “tearing the house down” at Wrestlemania together, and she says that’s what they should do. The crowd seems to agree with this.
Charlotte comes out; she says she understands now what Sasha’s plan was: Sasha wanted to help Bayley keep the title because 1) she didn’t believe Bayley could beat Charlotte, 2) she thinks Bayley is an easier opponent for her to beat for the title, and 3) she knew she could leverage their friendship to get gullible Bayley to agree to a match with Wrestlemania. Sasha shakes her head as if this isn’t the truth, but it sounds rather convincing.
Somehow though, Charlotte is going to wrestle Bayley at Wrestlemania, and it is decided that if Sasha beats Bayley tonight it will be a three-way at Wrestlemania. The two women wrestle, Charlotte tries to interfere to help Bayley because she doesn’t want a three-way, but she’s turned back by Sasha who wins with a Bank Statement. She then covered her mouth like she was going to cry because she controls herself for once. This segment did little but move towards the three-way – probably four-way with Nia next week – match at ‘Mania and make the world champ look idiotic.
The Final Analysis
The most amazing thing about this show was that nearly all the good was in the first hour and twenty minutes. The show nosedived from there into silly mediocrity. Even the lively Chicago crowd felt this as evidenced by the pop for Jericho at the beginning of the show versus their near non-reaction when he came out to face Samoa Joe. The filler in the show kills the crowd, and the home audience according to ratings, every week.