By Graham "GSM" Matthews
The Miz Hosted 'Miz TV' with Paul Heyman (Kickoff Show)
It continues to boggle my mind as to why they advertise talking segments for their pay-per-view pre-shows. The purpose of the Kickoff Show is to convince fans to purchase the event/sign up for the WWE Network, and there was hardly anything noteworthy about it. The concept has been around for three years and I know they stopped caring about it long ago, but there was nothing to this segment at all, especially considering we heard Heyman say something similar two weeks ago on Raw. The interaction with Miz and Damien Mizdow was fun as always, but Heyman's promo, albeit good, was pointless.
Seth Rollins, Big Show and Kane def. Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan
While it was a solid six-man tag team match, it suffered from the involvement of Show and Kane. They weren't terrible and I was thankful Rollins did most of the work for his team, but I just can't get excited about a match with them in it in 2015. Ziggler and Ryback are over enough on their own, so they made a portion of the crowd care toward the end. I figured The Authority would win to give Rollins a win on PPV before WrestleMania, but why did it have to be Kane of all people pinning Ziggler? Last and certainly not least, it was about damn time Randy Orton returned and the live crowd ate it up. Obviously, this sets up him vs. Rollins for The Show of Shows.
Goldust def. Stardust
As someone who has waited years for this matchup, I was really hoping they'd save their first encounter for WrestleMania. That said, they made this match matter with Goldust's awesome backstage promo. Although the live crowd wasn't responsive (they broke up all of six days ago so it's hard to blame them), the match itself was pretty good aside from the botched finish. That came off terribly, but at least Stardust's loss will drive him further over the edge. I also love the story they're trying to tell with Goldust punishing Stardust to the point where he goes back to being Cody Rhodes, so a rematch is definitely in the cards.
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd def. The Usos to Win the WWE Tag Team Championship
It wasn't exactly barn burning bout I was anticipating, but the match was still very good and fun down the stretch. The Memphis crowd was pretty quiet (and by quiet I mean crap) for most of the night, but they came alive down the stretch. I was convinced The Usos were retaining, so Cesaro and Kidd winning the straps was a pleasant surprise. They can really bring the division to new heights if Creative gets behind them and I hope the plans is to keep the titles on them beyond WrestleMania where they'll likely do the rematch between these two tandems.
Triple H and Sting Came Face-to-Face
It's amazing how different Triple H looked in street clothes as he's consistently been sporting a suit since his last match at Payback in June. I was interested in how they'd handle this segment and they ultimately executed it to perfection. Sting was brilliant here and I love how they kept him quiet. Hell, I'd be content with him not saying a single word on the entire road to WrestleMania! Sting pulling out the bat for the first time since coming to WWE and then pointing it at the WrestleMania sign felt like a major moment. They just keep finding ways to get me excited about that match.
Divas Champion Nikki Bella def. Paige
They were given the same amount of time they usually are (roughly five minutes), and it still wasn't any good. Both Nikki and Paige are good on their own, and maybe it's a lack of in-ring chemistry, but I think it has more to do with the Divas division being dead right now. I'm a big fan of Paige and her work, but I had no incentive to cheer for her here because the story they've tried to tell with her and The Bella Twins has been terrible. It's quite sad when you think about how Paige competed in one of the best women's wrestling matches of 2014 around this time one year ago with Emma at NXT: Arrival.
Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett def. Dean Ambrose by Disqualification
Barrett and Ambrose worked a decent matchup, but the problem wasn't the in-ring action; it was that there was, again, no reason to care. As I've said time and time again, the Intercontinental Championship is absolutely worthless and it's been proven to be a curse, so why would I want to see Ambrose with it? It also didn't help that the finish was lame as well. I realize the commentators acknowledged it was a disqualification loss for Ambrose, but it was never officially announced, so the live crowd was probably confused more than anything. Of course, it sets up a rematch between the two and I'm somewhat happy they have direction going into WrestleMania, but both guys deserve so much better right now.
Bray Wyatt Called Out The Undertaker
Having not read the spoilers earlier on in the day, I legitimately thought for a second that Undertaker was showing up, but then I came to my senses and realized it was all a ruse (and a good one at that). Wyatt finally mentioning Undertaker by name wasn't a shocker since it's been apparent for weeks that they're facing each other at Fastlane, but this was an effective way of finally making it clear to the casual viewers who may not have picked up on it. I'm still concerned with who wins that match, but the build-up should be a lot of fun.
United States Champion Rusev def. John Cena
I wouldn't go so far as to call this a great match, but it was very solid for the most part. Rusev didn't look out of place at all and Cena was superb per usual. The suspense of whether Cena might actually end the undefeated streak of Rusev definitely added to it, making the final few minutes highly intriguing. Technically, Rusev cheated to win with the help of Lana, but I was very happy we didn't get a non-finish here, and I honestly can't remember the last time Cena lost a rematch by knockout. I still believe it's only inevitable before Cena beats Rusev and I'm positive it'll happen at WrestleMania, but at least they didn't go through with it here.
Roman Reigns def. Daniel Bryan in a No. 1 Contender's Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Nothing early on made me jump out of my seat from excitement, but they picked up the pace down the stretch and had a great match. Needless to say, this was Reign's best singles showing to date, and although a lot of that had to do with Bryan being his opponent, Reigns deserves a ton of credit for holding his own and even busting out a few new maneuvers we haven't seen before. The live crowd wasn't split down the middle or anything (as noted before, they were terrible for most of the night), but the drama was there even though it was clear Reigns was winning. I really liked the finish with the spear out of nowhere to Bryan and the show of respect afterward. Personally, I'm not mad at Reigns winning here; if anything, I'm completely content with it. They already had him get the victory at the Royal Rumble, so unlike last year, they might as well go through with it. I don't know where this leaves Bryan (and I assume we'll find out on Raw), but Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar is fresh and has potential, even though there's a fairly good chance the 'Mania crowd might turn on it.
This was easily the best pay-per-view WWE has put on in months, though that's not saying much since they've been in a creative lull since the summer. Not everything about it was fantastic, but it was enjoyable on the whole with a lot of great moments including Orton's return, the Sting/HHH face-off and the crowning of new tag team champs. Furthermore, the final two matches lived up to the hype and the finishes of both were well done. The WrestleMania 31 card as it currently stands is shaping up to be stellar and words can't express my excitement for it. WrestleMania, here we come!