Date: March 21, 2021
Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Michael Cole, Samoa Joe, Byron Saxton
It’s time for the show that doesn’t exactly seem like it needs to exist but actually doesn’t look too bad on paper. There are some matches here which could be pretty good, though you never can tell with a show like this. A lot of the promise might come from the fact that the expectations are so low, but take whatever you can get. Let’s get to it.
Kickoff Show: US Title: Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali
Ali is challenging and also has Retribution with him. Riddle snaps off a gutwrench suplex for two to start but Ali gets in a suplex of his own. Ali wraps Riddle’s leg around the post and then swings him around to send Riddle’s head into the post as well. There’s a dropkick to the ribs but Ali stops to brag to Retribution. The bodyscissors stays on the ribs and there’s a dropkick to the back to give Ali two more.
Ali seems to be favoring his knee before he slaps on another bodyscissors. Riddle reverses into a sleeper but Ali flips backwards for two to break things up. A Pele kick knocks Ali into the corner and there’s the PK to the chest. Riddle hits a Final Flash for two more but the Floating Bro hits knees.
Ali’s tornado DDT is countered into a fisherman’s buster but Ali snaps on a Koji Clutch. Riddle finally picks him up and gently drops him down for the break, which has Ali smiling at Retribution. Ali talks trash and crotches Riddle on top, only to charge into a sleeper while Riddle is still on top. Riddle isn’t done though and pulls him up for a super Bro Derek to retain at 9:19.
Rating: C+. That’s how I like my Riddle: turning on the jets to run someone over because there is no way to keep up with him. It’s nice to see him crank up the seriousness every now and then and that is what we got here. Retribution has been done for a long time now an it wouldn’t surprise me to see them split up before we even get to Wrestlemania.
Post match Ali blames the rest of Retribution with Reckoning being specifically called out. Reckoning walks out and Slapjack follows her. Ali keeps yelling at Mace and T-Bar, who lay him out with a double chokeslam.
The opening video looks at the main matches and how everyone is trying to make it to Wrestlemania.
Women’s Tag Team Titles: Nia Jax/Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair/Sasha Banks
Jax and Baszler are defending and have Reginald in their corner. Both teams are bickering coming in because that’s a really popular idea around here. Banks and Baszler start things off and we’re at about nine camera cuts in the first five seconds. Baszler is knocked into the corner for the slingshot knees and Belair comes in for two off a standing moonsault. Belair blocks an attempt at a triangle choke with straight power so Baszler hits her in the face.
Jax tags herself in, much to Baszler’s annoyance, and the champs start taking turns working over on Belair. Jax chokes away and it’s back to Baszler to work on an armbar. It’s back to Jax for a cobra clutch but Belair fights up. A missed charge sends Jax shoulder first into the post and the hot tag brings Banks back in to clean house.
Belair comes back in with a 450 to Baszler but Reginald offers a distraction. After a forearm takes care of him, the Bank Statement has Baszler in trouble. Belair goes to cut off Jax, who shoves Belair into Banks to break the hold. That lets Banks and Belair argue some more so Baszler rolls Banks up to retain at 8:46.
Rating: C. The match was fine enough but egads it’s annoying seeing the women be either best friends or arguing all the time. It’s like they have two emotions to choose from and that’s not exactly interesting. On top of that, the Women’s Champion just got pinned by someone who isn’t going to mention going after the title because that’s not what we’re doing right now. Instead, Baszler is just going to be happy that she has a path to Wrestlemania. The logic and lack of planning from this company is astounding. Oh and what was the point of Tamina and Natalya jumping Belair on Smackdown?
Post match Belair and Banks argue again, with Banks calling her a rookie. Banks hits a heck of a slap to the face and leaves while holding the title.
Shane McMahon injured himself in training earlier today and is limping around with ice wrapped around his knee. Elias comes up to say he has an idea for the most epic musical performance ever at Wrestlemania (How many of those is he going to have???). He’s willing to do anything and Shane might have an idea.
We recap Apollo Crews vs. Big E. Crews has channeled his Nigerian royal heritage and is being more aggressive. He has attacked Big E. over and over again but Big E. won’t give him another title shot. Then Crews went too far and it was time for a showdown/beating.
Intercontinental Title: Big E. vs. Apollo Crews
Big E. is defending and the slugout is on in a hurry. The spear through the ropes drops Crews in less than thirty seconds with Big E. saying this is what Crews wanted. There’s the apron splash and, after a lot of shouting, another apron splash cruses Crews again. Big E. hits an overhead belly to belly and shouts about how much he has worked for this.
There’s another suplex but Crews kicks the knee out to cut Big E. down. A German suplex sends Big E. flying again and a frog splash gets two. Crews’ toss powerbomb is countered and they fight over a small package with Big E. getting a pin…..maybe…..to retain at 5:44. Commentary seemed to be rather unsure about whose shoulders were down.
Rating: C+. This was all action and while the ending isn’t exactly inspiring (How many times can they do the same thing with these two?), this was the Big E. that fans have been wanting to cheer for a long time now. I could see this version getting a heck of a push and that is a rather appealing idea. Crews looked good too, but it isn’t going to matter if he keeps losing over and over.
Post match Crews stays on Big E. with an Angle Slam and stands over him, declaring himself the Intercontinental Champion.
A guy named Joseph Average is giving out Old Spice samples. R-Truth is in the samples case and Average wins the title by accident. Then R-Truth wins it back and runs off, picking up the samples on the way. Akira Tozawa shows up to yell at Average but gets freaked out by his Nightpanther shirt. The Average guy looked a lot like Ric Bugenhagen.
We look at Shane McMahon getting injured again.
Shane is in the ring with Elias and Jaxson Ryker for a Wrestlemania preview. Hold on though as Shane forgot to mention something: Elias is taking his place.
Braun Strowman vs. Elias
Strowman jumps him fast to start and the beating is on in a hurry. Elias gets knocked outside where he and Jaxson Ryker consider leaving, only to get run over by Strowman. Back in and a Ryker distraction lets Elias get in a chop block and DDT. The top rope elbow doesn’t work though and Strowman this the running powerslam for the pin at 3:44.
Rating: D. Well thank goodness we get to stretch out Shane vs. Strowman, because that is something worth waiting on. I’m still not sure why I should want to see that match but WWE is not about to let it go until (and possibly after) Wrestlemania. Strowman winning makes up a tiny bit of the mess from Raw but there is only so much good that can come from the whole thing.
We recap the Kickoff Show match with Retribution seemingly breaking up.
Riddle bumps into Shinsuke Nakamura and tries to get him into the business of dressing up a scooter like a stallion with a bubble machine. Then he tells a story about his cousin Skeeter the skater hurting himself at the skate park….but Nakamura has disappeared. Riddle leaves and Nakamura is back.
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura is standing up for Cesaro after Rollins took him out. Rollins’ headlock doesn’t last long to start as Nakamura fires off some knees to put him on the floor. Back in and Rollins knocks Nakamura to the floor for a change, allowing him to shout about disrespect. Some shots to the back keep Nakamura in trouble and we hit the waistlock. A knee drop gives Rollins two (via a pair of ones) but he stops to shout about Cesaro swinging him 22 times.
Rollins loads up his own Swing but Nakamura sends him outside for a baseball slide. A running knee sets up the kicks to Rollins’ chest, including Good Vibrations. The middle rope kick is cut off with a shove to the floor and there’s the suicide dive to send Nakamura into the barricade. Back in and Rollins hits the springboard knee to the head into the Sling Blade for two. The Falcon Arrow is blocked and they slug it out, including an exchange of kicks to the head.
Nakamura sends him into the corner for the sliding German suplex but Rollins is right back with a Falcon Arrow for two. Back up and Nakamura hits the Landslide into the reverse exploder for two more. Rollins misses a kick to the head but hooks his foot on Nakamura’s leg so he can use the other leg to kick him in the back of the head (that’s a new one). The Stomp finishes Nakamura at 12:59.
Rating: B-. That’s the match you would expect from these two as it was hard hitting with both guys beating each other up rather well. There was zero doubt as to who was winning as we know what Rollins is doing at Wrestlemania, but it was nice to have something other than just going through the motions. By far the best thing on the show so far.
Rhea Ripley is on Raw tomorrow.
We recap Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre, with a focus on how far they have both come in twenty years. They had been friends for that whole time but everything broke down because Sheamus wanted McIntyre’s WWE Title. They have fought twice since then and now it is No Holds Barred to decide the winner. There was some cool stuff from Europe in there to make this feel a lot more personal.
Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre
No Holds Barred and McIntyre has his face painted like the Scottish flag. Sheamus shouts (as someone has done in every match tonight) about twenty years to start so McIntyre suplexes him down. They’re on the floor in a hurry with McIntyre beating up against the announcers’ table but getting sent into the post. It’s time for the weapons, including a bunch of kendo sticks being thrown inside.
McIntyre takes too much time picking one up, allowing Sheamus to knock it into his face. Some stick shots to the back have McIntyre in trouble but he headbutts Sheamus down. Now it’s McIntyre’s turn to hammer away with the stick to send Sheamus outside. McIntyre follows but gets sent into the steps, which Sheamus then uses to hit him in the face. They fight to the announcers’ table with Sheamus being sent into the barricade and then into what would be the crowd.
The slugout is on until Sheamus muscles him over with a suplex. They fight into the stands with Sheamus not being able to hit White Noise. Instead Sheamus is sent through some of the screens for some sparks and glares from Drew. It’s back to ringside with McIntyre hitting another suplex on the floor to knock him even sillier. Sheamus is right back up with a Brogue kick but seems to be badly favoring his hip.
After shouting that Drew kept him from Wrestlemania, Sheamus hits White Noise from the barricade through the announcers’ table for the huge crash. They get back inside with Sheamus holding a piece of the busted table. That takes too long though as McIntyre hits him in the face and grabs the Futureshock. The Claymore finishes Sheamus at 19:40.
Rating: B. It went a bit long but they beat the fire out of each other and had some rather nice big spots. That’s about all you could have expected here as I don’t think there was any realistic expectation that Sheamus would win. This was about beating each other up for a long time and what we got here. Good stuff, and exactly what it should have been.
We recap Alexa Bliss vs. Randy Orton. Bliss is mad that Orton lit the Fiend on fire to get rid of him and started using evil powers on him. Tonight, she has offered Orton the chance to get rid of her for good.
Randy Orton vs. Alexa Bliss
The black goo starts coming out of Orton’s mouth during the entrance so he…..demands a towel. Bliss comes out and stands across the ring for the bell, so Orton charges into a wall of flames. Orton misses a charge into the post and the slow motion chase is on. Then a lighting truss falls and nearly crushes Orton, with Bliss saying it was so close.
Bliss sits on the bottom rope and Orton slowly gets back inside where Bliss blows a kiss….and throws a fireball at him. That misses so Bliss sits on the top rope as the ring splits open (seemingly with fire underneath it) and a gloves hand grabs Orton’s leg. The Fiend, now with a charred mask and clothes, pops out. Bliss kicks Orton into Sister Abigail and gets the pin at 4:39.
Rating: D. This wasn’t exactly a match and the ending is their latest venture into a horror movie. What else were you expecting here though? It was all about bringing the Fiend back so we can have the Firefly Fun House match at Wrestlemania, but I’m not exactly thrilled by Randy Orton’s Nightmare On Elm Street.
On Talking Smack, Paul Heyman promised more Roman Reigns destruction at Fastlane.
We recap Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan. Reigns beat Bryan at Elimination Chamber immediately after Bryan had won the Elimination Chamber. As a result, Bryan wanted a rematch under slightly fairer conditions, which he ultimately earned. This did not sit well with Royal Rumble winner Edge, who thought Bryan getting a shot first was unfair. Edge is going to be the ringside enforcer here as well to make things more interesting. Edge’s complaints are pretty ridiculous as he is guaranteed a title shot no matter what, but we need some drama because Edge vs. Reigns isn’t very interesting.
Universal Title: Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns
Reigns is defending with Paul Heyman in his corner and Edge is the ringside enforcer. We get the Big Match Intros and the canned noise really favors Bryan. Reigns powers him into the corner to start and Bryan needs to rethink things. The threat of a kneebar sends Reigns bailing to the ropes so Bryan goes for both legs at once. That has Reigns in the ropes again but this time he looks a little more serious. A cross armbreaker has Reigns in the ropes for a third time in the early going and they continue to circle each other.
Reigns’ headlock takeover has Bryan down but he counters into a hammerlock and talks about the importance of technique. Back up again and Reigns hits him in the face to take over, which feels like admitting defeat in the grapple off. Bryan picks up the pace and loads up a running clothesline but charges into a tilt-a-whirl slam for two more. Reigns stomps Bryan down and grabs a chinlock while talking about how his isn’t going to be broken.
Bryan gets thrown outside, where Reigns glares at Edge and sends Bryan into the barricade. Back in and Reigns hammers him down into the corner and tells Bryan to look into the camera and acknowledge him. Bryan manages a few shots of his own though and there’s the running dropkick in the corner. The super hurricanrana is blocked though and Reigns gets him into a Boston crab of all things.
Bryan slips out and strikes away before managing to send Reigns outside. A running knee from the apron rocks Reigns and a top rope knee starts in on Reigns’ shoulder. The missile dropkick gives Bryan a delayed two and Reigns isn’t happy. He knocks Bryan into the corner and unloads with right hands and knees, followed by the stomping on the mat. Bryan is right back with some YES Kicks and the big one puts Reigns down.
The arm trap stomps set up the YES Lock in the middle of the ring and Bryan pulls it back from the ropes to crank on it again. Reigns finally turns it over and unloads with heavy shots to the face to knock Bryan silly. Hold on though as Reigns has to stop to rub his bad arm, allowing Bryan to come back with the running knee….and take out the referee by mistake.
Reigns hits the spear so Edge comes in for very delayed two. That’s not cool with Reigns so he yells at Edge, allowing Bryan to pull him into a triangle choke. Bryan pulls him down into the YES Lock but here’s Jey Uso to break it up and drop Edge. Uso grabs a chair but stops to send Edge shoulder first into the post. Bryan hits the running knee on Uso and chairs him down but Reigns is back up with the Superman Punch.
The spear is countered into the YES Lock though and Reigns is in big trouble. Reigns taps (very subtly to make it better) to no referee and Edge chairs Bryan over and over. Edge shouts that this is his and leaves as another referee comes in, about seven minutes after the first one went down, to count Reigns’ pin on Bryan at 30:00.
Rating: A. Well that was excellent. This was a near master class in storytelling as Bryan was slowly picking Reigns apart with technique and the never say die attitude but Reigns just bombarded him with one heavy shot after another. I would have loved for this to have headlined Wrestlemania but alas it was left here where it won’t get the attention that it deserves.
The ending was annoying (as Edge’s stuff for needing the big moment after winning the Royal Rumble from #1 continues to sound ridiculous) but I get what they are going for. They absolutely have to go with the triple threat now and that should be amazing. Watch this match and take notes because it is one of the best storytelling displays I have seen in a very long time.
Overall Rating: B+. The big matches delivered and the bad matches were kept short, with the main event being a half hour instant classic. I’m not sure what more you could ask for out of a low level show that was over in less than three hours. I had a great time with the main event and most of the rest of the show was very good as well. It means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things and most of Wrestlemania is set, but dang this had some fun moments. Heck of a show, and that isn’t the biggest surprise.
Nia Jax/Shayna Baszler b. Bianca Belair/Sasha Banks – Rollup to Banks
Big E. b. Apollo Crews – Rollup
Braun Strowman b. Elias – Running powerslam
Seth Rollins b. Shinsuke Nakamura – Stomp
Drew McIntyre b. Sheamus – Brogue Kick
Alexa Bliss b. Randy Orton – Sister Abigail
Roman Reigns b. Daniel Bryan – Chair shot from Edge
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