The second biggest WWE event of the year has left New York City and gone up over the border to Toronto, home of the NBA Champion Raptors. Between the preshow and the main card, we have 12 matches announced, seven of which are for championships. On paper, this card looks to be a bit underwhelming compared to the last few months, but that usually means we’re going to get a pretty good show.
Jonathan Coachman is leading the panel, which is fine, but they keep throwing to ringside, with Sam Roberts and JBL, and I would pay any amount of money to see JBL hit Roberts with a clothesline from hell. I know Roberts is working a heel announcer gimmick, but he’s just always been obnoxious.
Cruiserweight Championship Match: Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan – I still contend that Oney Lorcan is a stupid name, but the guy can go in the ring. Gulak, though, has been great since winning the Cruiserweight Championship. A fine match between the two to kick off the show for the fans in the audience, but I don’t think anyone who missed it (and the arena still looked plenty empty) need to go out of their way to see it. Gulak retains the title, of course, to continue his run at the top of 205 Live.
Apollo Crews vs. Buddy Murphy – This may be the most pre-showest match ever to be on a pre-show. I really enjoyed Buddy Murphy in his run as Cruiserweight Champion, but this is, apparently, his first Network Special appearance as a member of the main roster. Crews, on the other hand, has done nothing to really impress me since he’s come up from NXT. Murphy gets the duke by DQ here when Erik Rowan comes out to decimate Murphy. The Daniel Bryan henchman attacked Murphy because Murphy told Roman Reigns that Rowan was the man who tried to run him over, because WWE at its best is high school. As Daniel Bryan looked on silently from backstage, I think a mystery is a foot. Where’s Leslie Nielson and George Kennedy when we need them?
With 30 minutes left on the preshow, Elias is in the ring. WWE really wants me to not watch the rest of this preshow. He bashes Toronto enough to bring out Hall of Famer Edge. The hometown boy’s entrance music is still some of the best WWE ever produced. Edge hits a spear to a huge pop and that is the moment of the night so far. Will it possibly be topped?
Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (c) vs. Peyton Royce and Billie Kaye – Apparently, Bliss and Cross won the titles on Raw this past week. With Sasha Banks nowhere to be found and Bayley with the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship, the tag team belts are in good hands with Bliss and Cross, who are definitely not acting like the heels they were last time I saw them. Color commentator Corey Graves’ anger at Bliss and Cross playing to the fans definitely helped the match. Graves is the best part of the modern era commentary teams and the best part of the match. Bliss and Cross retain, and even though I just watched it, I couldn’t tell you what happened. Still, it was the right way to go.
Raw Women’s Championship Submission Match: Becky Lynch vs. Natalya – I was thinking that WWE must have run out of ideas for Lynch if they’re putting her in the ring with Natalya, the closest thing WWE has to a cat lady. I was forced to only watch this peripherally, since I had some work I had to do at the start of the show, but from what I saw, it looked like Lynch and Natalya were beating the hell out of each other, trying to set up each woman’s submission finisher. I want to check back in on this, because it looked like it was a lot of fun. Lynch, of course, retains the title by getting Natalya to submit to the Disarm-Her.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Goldberg – I have no idea how this even makes the card. Ziggler is best when he can go 10-15 minutes and Goldberg gets winded 10-15 seconds into his entrance. Ziggler stuns Goldberg with some superkicks, but Goldberg gets up and hits a spear and a jackhammer for the win. Ziggler felt the need to stretch out his TV time, so he calls Goldberg back and gets another beating for his troubles. The beatings will continue until morale improves, and Goldberg comes back a second time after Ziggler keeps running his mouth, giving the Showstopper a chance to bounce around some more. What a waste of time.
United States Championship Match: A.J. Styles (c) vs. Ricochet – Is Ricochet going surfing after this show? Was he surfing before the show and just didn’t have time to change? That full body suit can’t be comfortable. Styles and Ricochet are great storytellers and managed to keep a cohesive thread throughout the high spots, with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows keeping Ricochet distracted all the way through. Styles eventually counters a high spot into a Styles Clash to retain. I’m never a fan of having the announce team tell me a match is going to steal the show, because it almost never works out that way, but this was still pretty good.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Bayley (c) vs. Ember Moon – I don’t get the hype over Ember Moon. I don’t think she’s anywhere near as good as the original batch of NXT women. The crowd seems completely dead for this match, which may be a bad sign for the more serious, more competitive version of Bayley. Or it could mean WWE hasn’t given anyone reason to care about Ember Moon. At the very least, no one is talking about Toronto being “Bizarro Land,” where no one is like they used to in the Ruthless Aggression days. The lack of crowd reaction really kills this match dead, much like Bayley kills Ember Moon dad with a Bayley-to-Belly Superplex to retain the belt.
Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens – Shane O’Mac drafts Elias as his special referee, and uses him to distract Owens on the outside. Considering Owens said he would quit WWE if he lost this match, this whole thing is just an extended angle, with Elias messing with Owens the whole time, until Owens snaps. He teases using a chair before taking out both Elias and the in-ring referee. Once the official ref comes to, Owens kicks McMahon in the crotch then gives him a Stunner for the win. Nothing but gaga, but completely worth it. Owens makes things fun.
Charlotte Flair vs. Trish Stratus – It’s a clash of generations! The top women from two different eras going at it! I have no idea why this match is happening, but I’m pretty happy to see it. Trish Stratus retired from full-time competition in 2006, so it’s understandable that she’s a little rusty here. She did, though, take a beating from Charlotte Flair really well. Trish actually had a really good showing against the woman who many consider to be the best athlete in WWE today, and the crowd was into it all the way through. But the right woman went over, as Charlotte Flair gets Stratus to submit to the Figure-Eight. Toronto gives Stratus a genuine emotional send-off. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Stratus in the future.
WWE Championship Match: Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Randy Orton – It’s amazing that they’re building this match off the mini-feud Orton and Kingston had 10 years ago. Honestly, I can’t believe Kingston has been around this long. It’s also surprising how Kingston has been WWE Champion since WrestleMania, which makes this match reminiscent of the first time Orton was a World Title at SummerSlam, back in 2004. It was a little amazing then that Chris Benoit had held on to the title for as long as he did, finally losing it to the still-green Orton. “The Viper” is a lot more seasoned know, but lightning doesn’t strike twice. I thought it was going to, when Orton got an RKO – OUTTA NOWHERE – on a flying bodypress, but Orton spent too much time trying to “savor the moment,” as announcer Michael Cole put it, and Kingston managed to roll out of the ring. Orton follows and brags in front of Kingston’s family, leading to a brawl outside and a double countout. The Toronto crowd rightly calls the finish BS.
Bray Wyatt vs. Finn Bálor – After months of his Firefly Funhouse vignettes on WWE television, Bray Wyatt redebuts as The Fiend with a remixed version of his theme song, which I do not find as awesome as the old one. His entrance, though, with the new mask and the Bray Wyatt head lantern is super creepy. Bálor, who was beat up by Wyatt on Raw, made a huge mistake not coming out as The Demon. In his all-white get-up, he looks like a jobber on WWF Wrestling Challenge. Wyatt treats him like one, too. Bálor only gets a brief comeback spot before Wyatt catches him in the Mandible Claw to knock him out for the win. I think I dig the new Bray Wyatt. Hopefully WWE gives him some time to run with the gimmick before they screw it up.
I figured this would be where we would find out who was attacking Roman Reigns, but instead, it’s time for the main event. WWE is keeping me on my toes!
Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins – Lesnar has spent the last few weeks since cashing in the briefcase and winning the title at EXTREME RULES completely dismantling Rollins at every turn, leaving the former champion with taped ribs. Despite the injured ribs, and an early attack on them, Rollins is able to flip out of an early German suplex to give Lesnar some superkicks. And then, later, he manages a frog splash to Brock on an announce table. And then another one in the ring. This is why no one likes Rollins. There’s no ring psychology. Rollins rides the lack of any sense to the match by skipping out of an F5, hitting another kick and a stomp to Lesnar to win the title and the whole thing just stinks. I’d rather Roman Reigns win the damned title. The match was fine, I just didn’t care who won and you could take Rollins’ head off and he’d still make sure he got all his spots in.
And that’s all from Toronto tonight! If you were hoping to find out who’d been attacking Roman Reigns, I guess you’ve got to tune in to Raw.
Final thoughts – This didn’t feel like the second-biggest show of the year, but WWE continues to produce perfectly acceptable Network Specials. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but I enjoyed watching it for what it was.
WWE will be back in five weeks for CLASH OF CHAMPIONS, and we’ll be here later this week for the first of August’s WrestleVersaries!