LESS OF A ROAD BLOCK, MORE OF A SPEED BUMP – 5.5/10.
Any rasslin fan has at some point had to endure the following conversation; “You watch WWF? You know it’s all fake right?” The correct response to this is to feign total shock, sit down on the ground and start openly weeping while screaming “Why God? Why?” at the sky. Yes, we know that rasslin is scripted, just as we knew that Breaking Bad wasn’t a documentary about the pitfalls of meth manufacturing, and Fraggle Rock wasn’t edited together using footage of Fraggles in their natural habitat. But just because we know that WWE programming is scripted doesn’t mean that we want it to be predictable, but it’s sort of hard for it to be anything else when they throw together a title match this close to Wrestlemania.
Despite their best attempts to build up this network special as a mini PPV, Roadblock is in essence a large scale house show. We know nothing of any real importance is going to happen which is why it seems a waste to have booked two huge matches like Lesnar vs Wyatt and Ambrose vs HHH. These are marquee matches that could easily be featured on a Summerslam card. What’s more we knew with almost total certainty going into this that Dean Ambrose couldn’t possibly win as they aren’t going to alter the main event this close to Mania. Sure they did it for Wrestlemania 30, but that was under totally different circumstances and nothing short of the apocalypse is going to stop Vince from crowning his new ‘guy’ at this year’s show. Sadly we can all belee dat.
So while the expectations are reasonably low for Roadblock that could actually work in its favour. Don’t expect anything too spectacular and you may be pleasantly surprised. At least there might be a few entertaining matches.
NEW DAY (C) – KOFI KINGSTON & BIG E vs THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS – WADE BARRETT & SHEAMUS
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
WINNERS: NEW DAY
Wow, Toronto really loves the New Day; I actually think they may have got the biggest pop of the night. These guys are always a lot of fun and this is really the perfect way to kick off the show. The guys dance down to the ring where they unveil their brand new BootyO’s cereal to a wave of ‘BootyO’ chants from the crowd. Hopefully the New Day are getting a hefty wad of merch cash; they definitely deserve it having been one of the most entertaining acts in the WWE for a while now. I am somewhat confused as to why they are feuding with The League of Nations though, turning New Day face right now would be a huge mistake. They get cheered because of how obnoxious they are, if they stop being obnoxious they will stop getting cheered.
The match itself is pretty entertaining and it’s especially good to see Wade Barrett being given a chance to shine. WWE have totally dropped the ball with him, he could have been huge off the back of the Nexus angle but he ended up as little more than a glorified jobber. Hopefully he goes on to bigger things once his contract is up (not TNA). The League works a very stiff style in this match, which has sort of become their calling card, while New Day hits all of their usual spots. The crowd is massively into it which helps to elevate a pretty standard match into something a bit more special. There are a few nice moments, for example Kofi reversing Sheamus’ Clover Leaf into the SOS, but for the most part there isn’t anything here that you wouldn’t see on an episode of Superstars.
The match ultimately goes to New Day after Big E hits the Big Finish on Barrett off of the distraction from Xavier. This may be a heel tactic but the crowd still gives them a huge babyface pop. It will be interesting to see if WWE actually takes the feud with the League any further as it feels very thrown together. Right now there isn’t a babyface team that is over enough to knock off New Day, actually they pretty much are the most over team so it isn’t really clear what the plan is for them going into Mania. It will most likely be a multi team ladder match for the belts, which wouldn’t be the worst thing but isn’t the best use for a group that is so over with the crowd. As for this match, it was fun but not relevant enough to leave any kind of lasting impression.
Who the hell is Greg Hamilton and what is going on with his hair? Thankfully Paul Heyman shows up and shoves this strange looking man out of frame. Not that Paul is any oil painting but seriously, what was that. Paul does his best to sell Brock’s match with Wyatt, reminding us of the beef between the two that dates back to the Royal Rumble. Apparently Brock didn’t forget about Wyatt, he was just biding his time to take his revenge, revenge that he totally wants… honest. Okay I am not buying it either but it’s always nice to see Brock, it’s just a shame it is going to have to come at the cost of yet another loss for Wyatt. Seriously, someone needs to save that guy from Creative.
CHRIS JERICHO V JACK SWAGGER
WINNER: CHRIS JERICHO
I didn’t even know this match was on the card, if you want this special to come off as ‘special’ then don’t book filler matches like this. It’s always nice to see Jericho but putting him in a match with Swagger does nothing for him. Jericho comes out to a huge pop from the Toronto crowd, however he immediately proceeds to demolish them, gaining atomic heat after declaring the city to be the anus of Canada. He even takes a brutal swipe at Bret Hart, claiming that they are never going to see him again. He cuts a promo on AJ Styles which he ends by once again declaring himself to be the best in the world at what he does. I am really delighted that he has reverted back to this particularly douchey version of Y2J as it is my favourite iteration after the Ayatollah of Rock ’n’ Rolla character. Jericho’s return had been stagnant up until his feud with AJ, but now he is clearly having a lot of fun.
Swagger comes out to a queef-like pop. The ‘we the people’ catchphrase will always get over but the same can’t be said for him, especially when he is flying the American flag in Canada against a Canadian. JBL tries to build the match up as a rekindling of their 2010 feud but there really is no reason for it to be happening. Jericho does his best to get heel heat and force the crowd behind Swagger by running away and pulling out every dirty trick in the book, but they aren’t buying it and they soon descend into the dreaded ‘CM Punk’ chant. Swagger does his hardest to rally them but is continually met with boos. The match itself is much of a nothingness that culminates with Jericho scrambling out of the Patriot lock and then forcing Swagger to tap to the Walls of Jericho.
It wasn’t a bad match and it actually features some good back and forth but it had zero stakes to engage with. Also the crowd was expecting an AJ run in that never happened, which only served to further deflate the atmosphere. Swagger is a gifted performer but something has never quite clicked with him, even when he was receiving his giant push. Jericho looked as good as ever and he really seems to be throwing himself into his role as a heel, even going so far as to rip up a “Get Well Bret” sign on his way to the back. Now that is some downright villainous behaviour right there.
THE REVIVAL (C) vs ENZO AMORE & COLIN CASSADY
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
WINNERS: THE REVIVAL
It’s a total delight to see four of NXT’s best included on this card. The crowd seems pleased to see them as well, joining in with Enzo and Cas’ opening spiel. I am also thrilled that The Revival has a team name now as opposed to just being called Dash and Dawson, tag teams should have a name and matching gear as part of their packaging. The match gets off to an intense start with the champions getting in some strong offence on Enzo. Every match featuring Enzo and Cas tends to follow the same pattern; Enzo gets beaten down and then makes the hot tag. But Enzo does get some great moves in, including a hurricanrana and dropkick, proving that he is more than just a promo guy. They pull off some great double team maneuverers before Cas launches Enzo over the top rope onto The Revival, getting a huge pop from the crowd.
The champs keep Enzo isolated in their corner; it really is some great tag team psychology. The Revival may be a pretty poor name but it aptly describes the style of this throwback team. Enzo sells like a champ but is finally able to tag in Cas who destroys Dash and Dawson, hitting the East River Crossing on Dash. Cas sets up Enzo for the Rocket Launcher but he ends up getting caught up on the ropes by Dash. Dawson lures Cas into a trap by hiding behind Carmela and then he and Dash take the big man out of the match by hitting him with the Shatter Machine outside of the ring. The champs target Enzo but he manages to hit a top rope DDT on Dawson before rolling up Dash who barely manages to kick out. The crowd are solidly into the match and who can blame them?
Enzo does his best to fight off the champs but gets caught with a viciously modified version of the Shatter Machine. Despite a valiant effort, Enzo ends up getting pinned for the three count allowing The Revival to retain. This was without doubt the match of the night and it felt like the only match where the competitors were really giving it their all. If Enzo and Cas are going to win the belts then it seems most likely that they will win them at Takeover: Dallas next month. This will be a huge and well deserved moment when it finally happens although it’s not like they actually need the belts. Enzo and Cas are hugely over and more than ready to move up to the main roster, although truthfully why would they want to when NXT talent has been so badly booked on Raw?
Greg Hamilton is back in a pre-recorded segment with Natalya and his truly mind blowing hair. Natalya dedicates her match against Charlotte to Bret, which somehow summons Charlotte and Naitch who begin to disparage Natalya, Bret and Canada. Natalya challenges her to put the Women’s Championship on the line (that’s what I am calling it from now on). Charlotte refuses but changes her mind when Natalya accuses the entire Flair family of cowardice. No one mentions Greg’s hair, I’m not really sure why.
CHARLOTTE (C) w/RIC FLAIR vs NATALYA
WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
I am actually looking forward to this match, Natalya and Charlotte had some great matches in NXT and both are more than capable in the ring. It really does make all the difference when it comes to women’s wrestling, because that is what these women are; wrestlers not divas. Natty comes out to a huge pop thanks in no small part to her t shirt featuring an image of Bret and Owen. Charlotte also comes out to a decent pop, thanks in no small part to standing next to the greatest wrestler of all time. The match begins with some strong chain wrestling while the women exchange holds and counter holds. However this soon breaks down into a physical exchange of chops that culminates with Charlotte trapped in a Surf Board.
Having such a rich history together, the pair are able to sell an awareness of each other’s movesets and there is a lot of interesting reversals. Charlotte soon begins to target Natty’s leg, setting her up for the Figure 8. Both women go for their signature moves but are unable to get them fully locked in. Charlotte finally manages to lock on the Figure 8 but Natty is able to reverse the pressure. Charlotte only escapes by clambering to the ropes and dropping outside of the ring. She hits Natalya with the Natural Selection but it still isn’t enough to finish her off. Charlotte goes for a moonsault but Natty is able to reverse it into a sit down powerbomb. After several attempts, Natalya finally manages to get the sharp shooter locked in on Charlotte.
The ending of the match is spectacularly sloppy; Charlotte crawls to the ropes and grabs hold of her father’s hand. Assuming Ric has interfered in some way Natalya releases the hold and begins to scream at him. This allows Charlotte to roll her up, placing her feet on the rope for the win. This is more or less the same finish they used in Charlotte’s match against Brie and it really isn’t doing her any favours. This was actually a very solid match and the crowd was firmly behind the hometown hero, a Hart will always get cheered in Canada and that will never change. Natalya may not be great on the mic but she is a gifted in ring competitor who often gets lost in the mix so it’s always nice to see her being given a chance to shine.
BRAY WYATT AND LUKE HARPER vs BROCK LESNAR w/PAUL HEYMAN
2 ON 1 HANDICAP MATCH
WINNER: BROCK LESNAR
Bray comes out to once again remind us about the thing that happened three months ago to inspire this match. Regardless of its thrown together vibe I am still excited about the prospect of Bray vs Brock. Although WWE has done so much to devalue Bray’s stock that the idea of him beating anyone of importance, let alone Brock, feels like a bit of stretch at the moment. Bray randomly announces that he and Harper are going to destroy Brock together, so now this is apparently a handicap match. Who authorised that? Can Bray just do that? This thing is already feeling like a mess and it hasn’t even started yet. This will look even worse for Bray if he not only loses AGAIN, but loses in a handicap match where he actually has the numbers advantage.
Before I can dwell on this nonsense booking for too long I am snapped from my train of thought by the arrival of Paul Heyman and his nightmarish shaved gorilla. Brock is simply awesome and any opportunity to watch him do his thing is greatly appreciated so I decide to stop whinging and make the best of it. Wyatt bails out the ring, leaving Harper to suffer a suplex as soon as the bell rings. Harper rolls to the outside; Brock throws him back in to the ring but gets hit by a suicide dive that staggers him. Harper really can move for a big guy and it’s a shame that his solo push never really took off. Harper mounts some stiff offense on Brock, hitting him with all of his best moves including several super kicks and a discuss clothesline, but it isn’t enough to keep the beast down.
Harper puts Brock in a sleeper, but Brock simply reverses it into a suplex. He proceeds to deliver several more suplexes to Harper, flinging the big man around the ring while Bray watches on from the ramp. After the eighth suplex Bray hits Harper with the F5 for the win. Brock goes to chase after Bray, but Wyatt makes a quick escape. So that wasn’t really a match as much as it was a brief suplex exhibition. What was the point of hyping a match between Bray and Brock if Wyatt never even got in to the ring? While you can argue that they are saving the match for a later date it seems unlikely that they will ever return to the angle. If Brock was so intent on getting revenge on Wyatt how comes he made next to no effort to catch him. Still at least we got to see Brock conquer someone.
SAMI ZAYN vs STARDUST
WINNER: SAMI ZAYN
I wasn’t expecting this match but it’s always nice to see Sami and the crowd clearly feels the same as the hometown hero gets a huge pop. I’m also a big fan of Stardust, Cody Rhodes has made pretty much every gimmick he has ever had work and he is a solid hand in the ring. But despite the huge talents of both men nothing really seems to click in this match. Stardust keeps Sami grounded for most of the match, working the leg and eliminating Zayn’s high flying offence. At some point there is a huge miscommunication and the men end up colliding in to each other with some damage clearly being done to Stardust’s leg. He follows this up with a fairly ineffective submission hold that elicits “this is awkward” chants from the crowd.
Thankfully they do manage to claw the match back from here. Stardust lands a big superplex but Sami is able to kick out at 2. Stardust takes off his glove and begins to slap Sami with it which leads to the men exchanging a series of stiff blows. Sami sends Cody to the outside and then hits him with a flying senton over the top rope. With the match now in full flow the men both go for their finishers, Sami takes out Stardust with the Blue Thunder Bomb , but only manages to get a 2 count. Cody responds with a Disaster Kick but Sami still has the wherewithal to launch him into the corner, following it up with a Helluva Kick for the win. This wasn’t a bad match but it just didn’t feel like either man brought their A game, which is a shame as they are both capable of so much more
HHH vs DEAN AMBROSE
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
This match feels a bit like consolation prize for people that don’t like Roman Reigns. It could have headlined Wrestlemania but realistically we knew that it never would, just like we know that there is no chance in hell of Dean getting the win here. But this is an interesting pairing and one that I am pretty psyched to watch. The crowd is hyped for the match which helps to give it a big fight feel, although they definitely pop harder for HHH than Dean. The game dominates in the early part of the match, keeping Ambrose locked up in holds and charging through him with power moves. However Dean is able to pull off some chain rasslin of his own, taking HHH to the ground and then mocking him by walking over to the corner and doing the classic Shawn Michaels pose on the top turnbuckle.
The match builds at a deliberate pace but apparently this isn’t enough for some fans who start up another ‘CM Punk’ chant. Thankfully the rest of the audience drowns them out with boos. I understand that that chant has become a form of protest in the WWE, but watching two top guys face off for the first time doesn’t seem like an appropriate time to be protesting. Ambrose’s offence is as unique as ever and he seems to be targeting HHH’s nose for some particularly dirty moves. They fight their way to the outside; HHH launches Ambrose back into the ring which allows Dean to do his spinning lariat move that I really wish he would drop from his arsenal. It just doesn’t look very good. From here Dean proceeds to focus on HHH’s leg while JBL sells Hunter’s quad injuries.
The fight once again gets taken to the outside where HHH goes for a pedigree but ends up getting shoved back into the steps. Dean doesn’t get a chance to build up much offence as he soon finds himself trapped in a particularly nasty crossface. Ambrose tries to stage a comeback but gets caught in a hard spinebuster. He manages to fight back, hitting the flying elbow and several other high impact moves but is again swatted off by HHH. Both men continue to try to go for their finishing moves without any success. There is a series of blow for blow exchanges that ends when Ambrose hits his rebound clothesline, which is another of his moves that I don’t like but it actually gets a pretty big pop from the crowd who are finally starting to get back into the match.
HHH rolls to the outside, Dean goes for the suicide dive but gets caught mid-flight. Enraged, HHH proceeds to take the announce table apart. The men fight their way back into the ring where HHH attempts another Pedigree but Dean is able to reverse it into a figure four and then a Sharpshooter. HHH finally manages to escape but is immediately caught by Ambrose with Dirty Deeds. The ref counts 3 and the crowd explodes for Ambrose however the ref immediately waves it off claiming that Dean’s feet were under the ropes. While Ambrose argues with the ref HHH rolls him up for a pin that Dean only just manages to kick out of. The false finish seems to have done the trick for the crowd who certainly aren’t cheering for CM Punk now.
Ambrose launches HHH to the outside and takes him out with a flying elbow from the top rope. He lays the champ out on the announce table and attempts to drop an elbow on him from the security barricade, however Hunter moves and Dean goes crashing through the table. HHH crawls back into the ring, clearly hoping to win by a count out. Dean somehow manages to slide back into the ring before the ten count but is caught with a Pedigree, giving the win to HHH. This wasn’t a bad match at all, but it really could have been so much better and it definitely should have happened on a bigger stage. Ultimately the predictability of the end result hurt the flow of the match, which is a shame as it was actually a pretty decent showing from two great performers.
The WWE kind of shot themselves in the foot by overhyping Roadblock, it felt as if they wanted it to be like the main brand version of an NXT: Takeover show. Ironically enough it was only the match featuring NXT stars that felt anywhere near that level of excellence. Roadblock was a wasted opportunity, as the last major stop on the road to Wrestlemania there simply shouldn’t have been any filler on the card. It’s not that it was a bad show; it’s just that nothing really happened to set it apart from an episode of Raw. In fact any many ways it wasn’t even as good as an episode of Raw, which really does say a lot considering both HHH and Brock Lesnar were booked to compete. That about wraps things up, remember to join me on April 3rd for my live drunken coverage of Wrestlemania 32.