A few months ago my wife and I went to “Wrestlemania XXXII” and took in the whole weekend: Axxess (two sessions), “Takeover: Dallas”, “Wrestlemania XXXII” and “Monday Night Raw” the night after. It was the biggest weekend of the year and we had a blast. Somehow in the next four months it’s Wrestlemania time again as only that weekend can have as much packed into it as the next five days are going to have. Today we’re going to look at the three big shows over the weekend in one big preview.
Ring of Honor Death Before Dishonor 2016
I’m well aware that they’re bigger stars and more developed characters (well some of them at least) than the ROH crew but at the end of the day, this is an ROH show and over half the card either directly involves New Japan talent or part of the ROH wing of the New Japan Bullet Club stable. Most of this year has been dedicated to the New Japan talent and this show is no exception. Maybe they wouldn’t be needed if ROH spent more time developing its own talent but then they wouldn’t get meaningless ROH World Title defenses on major New Japan shows. To the matches!
This show is going to be a little tricky as a lot of the matches have had next to or literally no build on ROH TV. For example, we have New Japan stable Chaos (Roppangi Vice/Toru Yano) vs. Bullet Club (Guerillas of Destiny/Yujiro). These people have made occasional appearances on ROH TV but I have no idea who I should pick in this one. We’ll go with the Club and move on after a coin flip.
Next up is another match with little build but at least there’s a basic story involved. This time it’s ROH tough guy Silas Young vs. New Japan tough guy Katsuyori Shibata (spelled Kaysuyori on ROH’s site). Since Shibata is currently the Never Openweight Champion, I can’t imagine he loses here so Young puts up a good fight but comes up short.
A third match with basically no build is Kazuchika Okada not defending his IWGP World Title against Dalton Castle. This sounds like a good way for Castle to lose another big match but still get some solid points as a result. Okada is one of those guys that just isn’t going to lose in ROH and while that makes for some predictable results, the matches mostly work. Castle vs. Okada should make for an interesting clash of characters alone but there’s no way Dalton wins here.
Now we get to a title match as ROH World Tag Team Champions the Addiction defend against TWO New Japan teams at once with Hiroshi Tanahashi/Michael Elgin and Tetsuya Naito/Evil both challenging. This match was actually mentioned on TV this past week so we’ll count that as setting something up. Again I’ll take the Addiction to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Naito/Evil took the belts, just for the sake of giving New Japan more presence on TV.
We’ll stick with the title scene for a bit as Kamaitachi, Jay White, Lio Rush and Donovan Dijak have a four way for the #1 contendership to the TV Title. As much as I’d like to see Dijak win here, I think they’ll go with White who can then have a good but not great match for the title and give him a rub in the process. I wouldn’t sleep on Rush either though as ROH LOVES that guy for reasons I don’t quite grasp.
Before we get to the big matches we have Jay Briscoe vs. Hangman Page in another grudge match. This time we’ll go with the easier pick and take Briscoe to win in what should be a good rematch. Page surprised me in their first match and beat the heck out of Jay so hopefully they do the same here and give the fans something to really get behind.
Now we have the big ones and the best built matches on the card, starting with Mark Briscoe challenging Bobby Fish for the TV Title. I’m really not sure here as Fish has been on a role with his new mostly heel character but Mark is firmly at the point where he needs to win something without his brother there helping him. That being said, I’m actually going with Fish retaining the title in a better match than I’m expecting.
That leaves us with the very strong main event as freshly face Jay Lethal defends the ROH World Title against former champion Adam Cole. This match was set up a few months back and after the fairly unnecessary rematch against Jay Briscoe, there’s nothing left for Lethal to do before he defends against Cole. The build has been strong with this one as Cole and the Young Bucks shaved Lethal’s hair and got him angry enough to agree to the title match (which was announced on ROH’s website around the same time that Cole was banned from challenging for the title). This should be awesome and the best match on the show.
What isn’t awesome is how easy this one should be to predict. There’s no real reason for Lethal to hold the title any longer as it’s been well over a year and he’s out of challengers to beat. It’s going to mean something when Cole wins the belt and turns the company into Bullet Club West, which it probably should have been a few months ago. Either way, Lethal puts up a great fight in defense of his title but falls, likely due to extreme interference by the Bucks.
Overall “Death Before Dishonor 2016” feels…..incomplete. Over the last few weeks there’s just not enough going on to make me care about the show because so much of it is another HERE’S NEW JAPAN card with little effort besides figuring out where ROH can win a few matches to save face. The main events look great though and should be more than enough to carry the rest of the card. I’m sure the wrestling will be fine but I have almost no interest in the booking this time.
NXT: Takeover – Back To Brooklyn
Now we’ll head on to the show that a lot of people are looking forward to the most with “Takeover: Back to Brooklyn”, which has also been called “Brooklyn II”. These shows have become some of the most entertaining cards of the year and last year’s Brooklyn event is one of the best in the series’ history. I’m not sure if this is going to be at the same level but it certainly could be excellent.
We’ll start with the now traditional debut match as Ember Moon has her first match against Billie Kay. This should be the normal competitive match before Kay goes down to the newcomer. The women’s division is dying for some fresh talent and Moon could make a big splash in a hurry. Moon wins here in a match that’s more competitive than would be expected.
Next up we have what is actually one of the more intriguing matches on the card as Austin Aries faces No Way Jose. Aries is in need of a big win to make him look more like a serious player but Jose isn’t the best candidate to give him that win, at least not under this character. What this feud has shown me is that Jose is WAY too talented to be playing this goofy comedy guy and could more than handle a repackaging to give him a serious character. It’s too early for Jose to get a win like this though and Aries needs it more so we’ll take Austin to win a match that should be much more competitive than you would expect.
In an anticipated Takeover debut, Bobby Roode will face Andrade Cien Almas. This is a great example of two guys on very opposite tracks as Roode is looking like a huge prospect and Almas is a rare NXT flop. Almas just isn’t interesting in this role and Roode looks like he could be a good choice for an NXT Title contender in the coming months. They really need to change something up with Almas as it’s just going to get ugly in the very near future, starting with him being annihilated by the Brooklyn crowd. Roode wins here and moves on to something else while Almas should be lucky he isn’t moved to the unemployment line.
That leaves us with the three title matches so we’ll start with Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa challenging the Revival for the Tag Team Titles. The more I think about this match the less sure I am about who is winning and I love that feeling. Revival won the titles back from American Alpha in a pretty big surprise while Gargano and Ciampa are on fire at the moment and look to be almost unbeatable. That leaves you with two strong options and no clear winner, which can make for a great match.
I think I’m actually going with the Revival to retain though, probably by some kind of nefarious tactics. The interesting thing is the Authors of Pain waiting in the wings as the next challengers in what should be a match against Gargano and Ciampa, but that’s assuming TM61 doesn’t get the shot instead. Either way, I’ll take Revival to retain here but with very little confidence in the pick.
Now we get to another interesting match as Bayley gets a chance to regain the Women’s Title from Asuka, who beat the heck out of her a few months back in Dallas. Asuka has basically turned heel since then and looks unstoppable, but this is Bayley in Brooklyn and that opens a lot of doors. That’s a really strong point but I don’t know if it’s enough to get past Asuka.
The problem here is the potential looming main roster callup for Bayley. Smackdown is really in need of top level talent and Bayley would fit that description, but for reasons that only kind of make sense, NXT is obsessed with the idea of keeping her down there as the anchor of the women’s division. That being said, maybe it would be better for her to stay down there than have to job to Honky Tonk Eva when she becomes Women’s Champion. I’ll take Asuka to retain here though and send Bayley to the main roster, where she should have been months ago.
That leaves us with the NXT Title match and oh dear goodness this could be fun. To put this simply, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura are going to beat the heck out of each other for at least twenty minutes and it’s going to be absolutely glorious. I mean, maybe not Bobby Roode levels of GLORIOUS but still very glorious. You really don’t need much more than that: two people beating each other up a lot and one of them walking out with the title.
As for which person that will be, my head says Joe but I can’t imagine a Takeover with no title changes so I’ll say Nakamura wins. That would be a bit unfortunate as Joe has been on fire as a heel and has more challengers to defend the title against but Nakamura is such a special kind of wrestler that it’s hard to imagine not putting the title on him almost immediately. I’ll go with a new champion here and put almost no confidence behind it as either could very conceivably pull this off.
I really don’t think this needs to be said but “Takeover: Back To Brooklyn” has the potential to blow the roof off the place like few shows are ever going to do. NXT knows how to do these things and even the worst editions are more than worth watching. The key thing is that it’s not about one match so if the main event doesn’t work all that well, there’s more than enough to make up for it and give the fans a great show. As usual I’m more excited about this than anything else all weekend and I’m sure I’m not alone.
That leaves us with the main event of the weekend and this is one heck of a stacked card. There are four matches that you could argue should main event the show which just does not happen. It’s also a very rare occasion where the Summerslam card is probably stacked a lot higher than the Wrestlemania card. Hopefully the action lives up to the hype but having a six hour show is going to make that difficult.
We’ll start with a title match as Apollo Crews challenges the Miz for the Intercontinental Title. Crews won a triple threat match a few weeks back to earn the shot and has barely had any interaction with Miz since then, making this a fairly lame duck title match. I like Crews a lot and he could make for a Shelton Benjamin style champion, but at the same time it’s hard to imagine taking the title off Miz when he’s just so perfect in the role. I’ll say they keep the title on Miz but he can’t hang onto it that much longer.
Next up we have Cesaro vs. Sheamus in the first match of a best of seven series. I almost wrote the column on this booking choice but opted against it due to reasons of not wanting my blood pressure to go through the roof. Cesaro has already beaten Sheamus twice in this feud to “establish dominance” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) so now we’re having at least four more matches because beating someone twice just isn’t enough anymore. Sheamus almost has to win here to give him any real chance of making this series go long without making Cesaro look like an idiot so I’ll take the pale one to win.
There’s also a six woman Smackdown tag match with basically the entire division going at once. That’s enough to give them a title to fight over right? In theory Eva Marie makes her debut here and unfortunately she’ll likely get the winning fall. Marie is in the same school as Eugene was twelve years ago: it’s entertaining to make fun of her but once you actually try to make her serious, the joke ends and you’re left with someone who can barely do a basic sequence without screwing something up.
That being said, WWE LOVES her because of her wacky personality on “Total Divas” and thinks a crossover with the 700k people who watch that show are the answers to their problems. Marie likely pins Naomi here and the joke ends in a hurry as she goes from “can’t wrestle this week” to winning the first Smackdown Women’s Title a few months from now.
We’ll jump up a lot higher on the card now and knock out one of the four potential main events with John Cena vs. AJ Styles II. As much as I’ve liked this feud, it’s hard to imagine that they don’t go with the standard Cena formula: Cena loses the first match and then comes back to win the rematch. That being said, this hasn’t been the standard Cena feud and it’s very clear that Cena’s time as one of the top WWE stars is winding down.
The thing is Styles needs this win a lot more than Cena. Styles has one really big win under his belt in WWE and that was a few months back when he beat Cena in their first match. Another win for Styles would put him right in the hunt for the World Title while Cena will be fine no matter what happens to him. I’ll actually go with Styles winning here but unfortunately it’s probably going to be Cena winning to set up the fabled rubber match that WWE absolutely loves.
In the first of two World Title matches and the second potential main event, we have newcomer Finn Balor facing Seth Rollins to become the first Universal Heavyweight Champion (still can’t stand that name). Rollins would seem to be the likely winner here but I really can’t imagine WWE debuting Balor as the Demon and then having him lose his first big match as the character. That being said, it’s really hard to imagine that they’ll have Balor become World Champion in his third televised match on the main roster.
This match boils down to a choice: do you go with the man who didn’t do very well on top (albeit with a lot of factors outside of his control dragging him down) or do you try a brand new idea with Balor? I really can’t imagine WWE tries something new with ratings trending down so I’ll say Rollins, but I’m hoping they go with Balor, if nothing else for the sake of the Demon character not being taken down from the start.
If that’s the beginning of an era, the Tag Team Title match is probably going to be the end of an era. New Day won the titles a year ago at “Summerslam 2015” and it’s hard to imagine they’re going to make it past this thanks to Anderson and Gallows. With Big E. out with an injury, I can’t imagine Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods can hang on to the belts by themselves and there’s really no reason for them to. New Day has run its course with the titles and needs to go on and do something else while Gallows and Anderson can fight the face teams for a bit. So yeah, new champions here in a good match.
In another big title match we have US Champion Rusev defending against Roman Reigns in a match designed to get Reigns even slightly over as a face with the crowd. Reigns is standing up for AMERICA and the USA chants he received on “Monday Night Raw” suggest that this is working for him. Unfortunately for him this is coming about two years late and it’s going to be very hard to get the crowd on his side no matter what he does, especially in Brooklyn.
I think they keep the title on Rusev here though, likely in a long match because Reigns already beat him earlier this week on “Monday Night Raw” (which would have been a good companion piece to the Sheamus vs. Cesaro column) so they can have the big showdown at “Night of Champions 2016”, therefore not having to come up with anything new whatsoever as the writers get EVEN MORE time off. Everybody wins!
In a non-title match we have Enzo Amore/Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho/Kevin Owens. The Canadians are kind of an odd team but this seems to be the start of a bigger storyline which could end up with Owens turning face against Jericho. I’ll go with Enzo/Cass to win here as Cass is clearly being treated as a bigger deal and a loss here wouldn’t do the team much good.
Back over on the Smackdown side we have WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose defending against Dolph Ziggler. This is a rather odd feud as you have Ambrose saying that Ziggler, a former two time World Champion in his own right, has never scored a touchdown because apparently defending the title is now more important than winning it. At the same time though, Ziggler has turned up the intensity and is teasing a much needed heel turn that could revitalize his career.
Again though, I don’t think it’s enough to warrant a new champion. Ambrose is likely to retain here after a very hard fought match. Ziggler has surprised me in this feud but at the end of the day he’s still the same Ziggler that hasn’t reached the same heights in years and I can’t imagine he does it here. Ambrose retains in a match much better than people are giving it credit for.
In the other title match we have Women’s Champion Sasha Banks defending against former champion Charlotte with Dana Brooke banned from ringside. These two had a great match a few weeks ago on “Monday Night Raw” with Banks winning the title in a major showdown. I think she retains the title here but it’s going to be a show stealing classic, as the women have so often.
That leaves us with the last main event and the match that probably should close the show: Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar. Now this one has been treated like a major match and a clash of two guys where you could see either of them winning. Lesnar is an interesting case at the moment as he’s fresh off a drug suspension in MMA but at the same time, no one has come close to beating Lesnar in what feels like forever despite Undertaker beating him just a year ago.
On the other hand, Orton has only had a handful of matches since his major hiatus due to shoulder surgery and it’s not like he needs the win to go anywhere. Lesnar doesn’t need it either though and if there’s one thing WWE has proven, it’s that they don’t care what Lesnar does as long as he smashes people in the big matches with about ten straight German suplexes.
All that considered, I’m going to go with Lesnar but hopefully after a much more competitive match than what he’s been doing in his most recent outings. It gets dull watching Lesnar destroy everyone in sight and that’s been the case for a long time now. Orton will be fine with the loss, but Lesnar’s wins need to lead somewhere in a hurry because he can only do this for so long before the returns start diminishing. Lesnar needs to be interesting, not the same repetitive guy he’s been for so long now.
“Summerslam 2016” should be awesome with one heck of a lineup that doesn’t even need to be perfect throughout to make it a great show. Much like “Takeover: Back To Brooklyn”, the show is a collection of potentially great matches that can pick up the slack if one of the matches isn’t as good as it should be. I’m very excited for the show, even moreso than “Wrestlemania XXXII” in some ways.
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