By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Daniel Bryan Announced His Participation in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Bryan's big story has been what role he'd have at WrestleMania, and I can't believe it took them this long to confirm he'll be in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder match. He should have been one of the first ones in considering he beat the champ in non-title action (along with everyone else) weeks ago. Everyone cut a decent promo and their brawl set up the six-man main event tag match, but it was predictable this was headed after Dolph Ziggler came out and it was fairly formulaic from that point forward.
WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Tyson Kidd and Los Matadores def. The Usos and The New Day
Los Matadores tagging with Cesaro and Kidd made no sense given that the two teams are polar opposites. I realize it's their way of building up the tag title match and teasing tension between everyone involved, but I find it increasingly difficult to care about either The New Day or Los Matadores. The match was fun at times, but I would have rather had the focus on the champs winning rather than Los Matadores. Even if WWE is trying to establish them as heels, I don't think anyone will give two craps.
Ryback def. The Miz
It may have seemed to be a nothing match on paper, but they made it feel somewhat meaningful with Miz's pre-match interview and banning Damien Mizdow from ringside. They worked a decent matchup with the crowd solidly behind Ryback throughout. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Michael Cole bring up their history on Tough Enough as I found that to be a nice touch. I still don't see Ryback winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (my money's on Mizdow), but at least they're letting him ride a wave of momentum going into the match.
Mark Henry Interrupted Roman Reigns
It was nice to see Henry back, but he felt out of place in this segment. He filled the seasoned veteran role well, and even though he appeared to be a heel, this also could have been a case of him trying to bring out the fire in Reigns. That said, was Reigns justified in attacking him? Thankfully, they ended up making sense of it later on with Henry saying backstage that Reigns made a believer out of him, but I was glad Reigns looked strong in this segment and we should be seeing more of this Reigns going into WrestleMania. Now if only we could get him and Brock Lesnar in the same ring...
AJ Lee and Paige def. Summer Rae and Cameron
Well, it appears WWE listened to their fans for all of one week in regards to the #GiveDivasAChance movement, as this match was nothing out of the ordinary. Not every Diva match is going to get an ample amount of time, but they could have easily gone a few more minutes to make it more memorable. On a side note, I would have liked if WWE made a bigger deal out of AJ and Paige teaming up for the first time ever here.
Michael Cole Interviewed Randy Orton
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't WWE advertise Orton's return to SmackDown on this show? Technically he didn't even appear as the interview was pre-taped. Nevertheless, I enjoyed how they switched up the format by incorporating clips that recapped the history between Orton and Rollins dating back to last year. Orton was calm and composed in his answers and as I've said before, this is the most interesting his character has been in years. Him calling out Rollins on Raw to challenge him to a match at WrestleMania was also a nice hook.
Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose def. Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper and Stardust
This is what this multi-man feud should have been about from the start: the exceptional in-ring ability of each of the combatants. The game of hot potato all but killed my interest in the Ladder match at 'Mania, but this very solid match served as a nice reminder that if given time on the grand stage, they can deliver one hell of a match. All six competitors had impressive outings and the pace really started to pick up down the stretch leading to a fun final few minutes. The post-match interview bit with the babyfaces was... uh, weird, but it effectively sent the message that it's every man for himself in that match.
Personally, I'm a fan of less being more, so I liked how they gave us four matches instead of the usual seven or eight as each of them served a purpose and had meaning. Only the main event stood out as being above average, but the other three matches were decent and built nicely to WrestleMania. With a little over two weeks to go until The Show of Shows, WWE really needs to go into high gear when it comes to making the match card feel special. I'm still excited for it regardless, but TV time is precious and they need to make the most of what they have in the remaining weeks until the event.