Is Baron Corbin really getting another Universal Championship match? And does this show really matter at all? We’ll find out as WWE presents its inaugural STOMPING GROUNDS as a Network Special.
Coming to us live from Tacoma, Washington, we’re getting a whole lot of championship matches. At the top of the card, Corbin challenges Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston defends his WWE Championship against Dolph Ziggler inside of a steel cage!
Cruiserweight Championship Triple Threat Match: Tony Nese (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Drew Gulak – I was really only half-watching the first half of this match and didn’t start paying full attention until the last few minutes, but it seemed like a fun, fast-paced match. Tozawa and Gulak took Nese out of the equation at the end and Gulak hit Tozawa with a Torture Rack neckbreaker for the win and the title. Good way to kick off the evening, and probably should have been on the main show. These cruiserweight matches during Network Special pre-shows have been really good.
WWE Stomping Grounds
Raw Women’s Championship Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Lacey Evans – Has the Becky Lynch moment passed? After all that build to the main event of WRESTLEMANIA, it seems as though the focus is off the women’s division now that Ronda Rousey is gone. But Lynch still seems pretty over. Evans did a good job of hanging with the champ, and I’m not sure if she’s that good or if Lynch was carrying her. Regardless, it was a good match and Lynch gets the win with a submission to retain the title.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. Xavier Woods and Big E – One of two matches announced on the card to not have title stakes. Woods took a beating to start the match, as Owens was bringing out the big superkick party guns. With Big E spending most of the match on the apron, the first part of the match was a heat segment on Woods. Once Big E got into the match, the New Day managed to make the big comeback, though I kept expecting Big E to turn on Woods. The team formerly known as Steenerico, though, had the upper hand on strategy, as Big E took himself out with a spear through the ring and Zayn and Owens took advantage. Owens gets the pin on Woods for the win. Good tag team match.
U.S. Championship Match: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Ricochet – The challenger could be having some amazing matches with the guys on 205 Live, and it wouldn’t seem like such a style clash as putting him in a match with a striker like Joe. But both of these guys are pros with enough experience on the indie scene to adapt their spots to any kind of match. It would have been nice if both Joe and Ricochet came to WWE years before they did, just like AJ Styles. Joe is so good at being the big nasty bully inflicting damage on smaller opponents. But Ricochet managed to hold on and withstand beating after beating and finally outsmarted the bigger man to knock Joe out and hit him with his finisher to win the championship.
I’m really pleased with the first three matches on this card. They’ve been a lot of fun and have kept me entertained. Ricochet gets some congratulations from Seth Rollins, Charlotte Flair and other NXT alumna and then gets a good job from COO Triple H.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs. Heavy Machinery – The Tacoma crowd was strongly behind home-state boy Bryan, with Tucker and Otis getting booed loudly. I haven’t seen much of anything from Heavy Machinery, but watching Otis pump himself up as Bryan unloaded a series of YES! Kicks on his challenger was really great. The caterpillar elbow drop to follow up is a bit much, though. I can’t believe the legacy of Scotty 2 Hottie lives on 20 years later. This was a really fun tag team match, with Bryan outsmarting the upstart tag team to retain the championships. Heavy Machinery has a lot of upside, though. These two big guys can work, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with some other teams.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss – Bliss has former Sanity member Nikki Cross in her corner. Bayley shows a little bit more aggression than usual, and it’s probably time to retire the happy hugger gimmick. With the focus shifting away from Becky Lynch and even Charlotte Flair for the time being, a serious Bayley could easily be the face of the women’s division. Of course, I could also see Bliss – who’s improved greatly over the last couple of years – getting more attention, too. The psychology of these matches have been a lot better lately, too, and this match had a logical build that paid off with an over enthusiastic Cross, who Bliss pushed in front of a diving Bayley, going after the champ, but inadvertently leading to Bliss’ downfall. Bayley gets the knees up when Bliss jumps off the top and hits a Bayley-to-Belly to retain. All is right in the world.
Drew McIntyre vs. Roman Reigns – Reigns got beat by Shane McMahon at SUPER SHOW-DOWN, the Saudi Arabia show a couple of weeks ago. And, of course, Reigns beat McIntyre at WrestleMania. This is really the first match that didn’t hold my interest tonight, which is a disservice to McIntyre, who I really like. But Reigns does nothing for me and McMahon involvement in anything is a turn-off. Shane McMahon being the same kind of obnoxious heel he was in 1999 is a bit of a joke. And I cringe every time he does a Coast-to-Coast. This match should have ended with a McIntyre win after the Shane McMahon interference, but alas, Reigns conquers all (except Shane), and he hits a spear for the win. It wasn’t terrible, but it was too long for what it was.
WWE Championship Steel Cage Match: Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler – A rematch from Super Show-Down, the addition of the cage gives Kingston and Ziggler the opportunity to bounce around a little bit more than normal. The match was a little bit more subdued than I thought it would be, with a lot of Ziggler making breaks to try and escape to win the title. Ziggler’s final escape attempt was countered by the champ, as Kofi leapt over Ziggler, who was crawling out the door, to get the win. The New Day comes out to celebrate with Kofi and – AGAIN – I keep waiting on a Big E turn, but again it didn’t happen. It has to happen eventually, right?
Backstage, Shane McMahon tells Roman Reigns that the Big Dog is going to face Shane and Drew McIntyre in a handicap match on Raw. I’m pretty sure that’s what he did tonight, but whatever.
Universal Championship Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Baron Corbin – I can’t believe Baron Corbin is main eventing a WWE Network Special. Corbin was allowed to pick a special referee for this match to drive home the fact that Shane McMahon is evil. After Rollins spent Raw hitting Corbin’s choices for referee with a steel chair, Corbin decided to play some mind games and selected Lacey Evans, who lost the opening match to Rollins’ girlfriend Becky Lynch. At least they have a storyline excuse for continuing to mention that Rollins and Lynch are dating. Corbin uses and Evans distraction to steal Rollins’ chair and beat him with it before the bell gets called. The crowd, which was hot for most of the night, quiets down with the prospect of Corbin winning the Universal Championship.
Typical heel special referee behavior from Evans, including slow counts when Rollins is covering and calling for no count-outs after Corbin got put through the announce table and then turning the match no-DQ after Corbin used a chair. It’s the same formula used in the classic Austin-Mankind match, but at a much slower pace and with less Patterson and Brisco-type humor. These special ref stips where the deck is super stacked against the baby face can get a little overdone, though, and it really kind of kills the flow of the match here.
Finally, we get the payoff of Becky Lynch coming out to help her boyfriend after Evans hits Rollins with a low blow, and Lynch’s appearance is the first thing to pop the crowd all match.
Rollins finally gets the win when the referee who yelled at Corbin in Super Show-Down comes in and Corbin gets distracted. After the match, Rollins makes goo-goo eyes at Lynch, which is completely understandable.
I imagine this will set up a mixed tag team match for both the Raw Women’s Championship and the Universal Championship at Extreme Rules next month, so maybe the Lynch era isn’t over just yet.
Surprisingly good show that looked very blah on paper. Great first half saved an OK back half of the show. The only real blemishes were the Reigns-McIntyre match and the Rollins-Corbin main event. The Shield really was greater than the sum of its parts, huh?
We’ll be back in three weeks for EXTREME RULES, and if it’s anything like last year’s show, the violence will be mild at best.