I think I’ve gone through all of the Network’s archive/vault shows, so let’s take in a newer version of a previous entry. It’s the 29th January 2016 and we’re in the AmericanAirlines Arena of Miami Florida for an episode of WWE Superstars! Your main event tonight: Titus O’Neil vs Tyler Breeze!
This is actually right around the time that I started to get back into wrestling, after a few years of a break. I was working in a toy store at the time, and having a working knowledge of what was current in the wrestling scene was actually useful in terms of pushing WWE merch on impressionable kids, so I had started dipping back in-and-out around the time of Survivor Series 2016 (the one with sad Roman Reigns) and then watched my first full PPV in ages, Royal Rumble 2016 (which takes place a week before this show). In terms of product quality, I would say it was actually a very mixed bag: good stuff like AJ Styles just debuting, the women’s division really ramping up in quality, NXT was amazing, but then you had Roman Reigns at his most unpopular with the smarks dominating the main event scene, Triple H was Champion for some reason and we were on the road to what turned out to be a lacklustre injury-hit Wrestlemania. So, anyway, Superstars!
Now, Then, Forever, “It’s a dawn of a new day” and straight into our first match. Rich Brennan and Byron Saxton are your announce team.
Stardust vs Darren Young
Not much longer left with the Fed for Rhodes, who was around three months into a half-year effort to get WWE to ditch this character before he just gave up and asked for his release. A big What If? there. Young nowhere on the roster at the time either. Circling, and Stardust loses his mind when the crowd chants “Cody”. Lock-up, Young knocks Dust down with a big shoulder block. Theatrical bow and a handstand from Rhodes, lock-up, Stardust thrown of again and he takes a powder while the “Cody” chants start again.
Back in, another lock-up, Stardust thrown off again, lots of hip-tosses, leg-drop on the arm and into a resthold. Out of it, shots in the corner, running chains, and Stardust walks into a discus elbow. Inverted Atomic Drop, swinging neckbreaker, two. Nearly all Young so far. Headlock, Stardust back with an elbow to the gut, then stomps, as Saxton suggests both men are working harder during “Wrestlemania season”. Think these two are heading straight for the Andre myself. Rhodes with the beatdown, knee to the left arm, then an arm-lock on the same.
Young out of it, eats a slap, back with his own, and a few more strikes for good measure. Clothesline floors Stardust, then a belly-to-belly overhead, and Young has the crowd invested if nothing else. Drops Rhodes on the ring apron, then back in for two. Looking for the Gut Check, Rhodes grabs the ropes to get out of it, Young misses a clothesline, and Stardust able to hit the Queens Crossbow for the 1, 2, 3 in around six.
Winner: Best of luck in the indies Cody.
Verdict: Decent short encounter between two guys who deserved more from the company at the time, but were totally at sea in a bloated roster.
Brennan hypes our main event and promises footage of AJ Styles’ singles debut in WWE as we go to break. This show is recent enough that we actually get some ads, which includes the first series of Ride Along (alright), some episodes of Steve Austin’s podcast (quite good), Camp WWE (putrid), the Edge & Christian’s show (never bothered) and some upcoming PPV’s. There’s also a new season of Total Divas where Mandy Rose has just showed up. Hope she’s doing OK.
Back from break where we get those promised highlights of Styles’ Raw debut, which was against Jericho. I never liked what they did with AJ early, which was essentially to keep wrestling Jericho for months: two-and-a-half months after this they were having a match at Wrestlemania. Thankfully they figured out what they had with him soon enough after. Anyway, this is a decent match I suppose, highlights include a perfectly judged Jericho drop-kick that looks like it came within an inch of actually knocking Styles out, Michael Cole referring to Jericho repeatedly as “Chris”, the Phenomenal Forearm being a kick-outable signature instead of a finisher, Jericho putting in the Walls after teasing a Styles Clash, Styles going for a Frog Splash instead of a 450, and WWE teasing the Styles Clash for a bit longer. Styles won off a roll-up, because of course.
We’re promised a look at the Rock’s return to Raw as we go to another break. It’s an elongated Edge & Christian promo. Still not super interested. Promo for Wrestlemania follows, and it is 65 days away. Thanks to to the technomancer Flo Rida for the theme tune, and congrats if you got that reference.
More Raw highlights, as the Rock returned, again. Ratings must have dipped. The Rock had just been announced as being the host of Wrestlemania, where he would have the world’s shortest Mania match against Erick Rowan. He hyped up Wrestlemania where they planned to break attendance records (que Meltzer screaming) but before he could go too far out come the unicorn horned New Day, still technically heels at the time but with the crowd eating out of their hands. They ran down the Rock and the Usos, who they were feuding with at the time, and we get a rapid fire delivery most of their amazing catchphrases, as well as an awesome reference to Rikishi’s “I did it…for the Rock” line in 2000. Not hard to see why people love these three. Rock back by saying the three have llama penises strapped to their heads, which got the world’s worst crowd chant going. Some insults back-and-forth, Rock challenged the three to a fight, the New Day consulted in a “champions huddle” which Rock described as “three uni-bitches in a huddle”. The New Day begged off, but of course out come the Usos, still face, to ambush. Rock Bottom, Samoan Drop, and a People’s Elbow to Xavier Woods rounded it all off. They really do just show the whole segment here, no wonder this episode has only two matches.
Backstage, Prince Pretty is interviewed by JoJo. Says he is more than a pretty face, and he’s not feeling his outfit right now so he is out. OK then.
An ad for The Condemned 2 follows. That’s Randy Orton’s “big-screen” debut after he was ousted from The Marine franchise because of the whole “dishonourable discharge” thing. A promo for JBL’s interview show then, which features an episode with Road Dogg talking about his addiction issues. Hard pass.
Titus O’Neil vs Tyler Breeze
Neither of these guys up to much on the main roster at the time, or ever, really. Still, always a good time to listen to Breeze’s theme music. Lock-up, Breeze out, and posing in the corner. Lock-up, O’Neil throws him off, and does some posing himself, to Breeze’s chagrin. Breeze with chops to an uncaring O’Neil, before he gets floored off a shoulder tackle. O’Neil with chops, that are a bit more effective. Crowd into this as O’Neil indulges the calls for more chops.
Breeze with a kick to the head, caught off a second rope crossbody, then takes three side backbreakers before getting tossed. We go to break and when we are back Breeze has the advantage, sending O’Neil out and giving him a Wrecking Ball Drop-Kick for good measure. Back in, O’Neil sells a really whiffed head kick, then eats a super version for two. Strikes in the corner, drop-kick, two. Mounted punches in the corner, until Breeze is inevitably shoved off. Shoulder block, clothesline, big boot from O’Neil. Corner splash, looking for the Clash Of The Titus, Breeze out, off the ropes, now O’Neil does hit it and that’s the 1, 2, 3, in almost six on the dot.
Winner: Titus O’Neil who I am sure is going places.
Verdict: It was fine, nothing super special. These guys are sleep-walking with their place on the roster what it is.
Still a few minutes left in the show, so we get footage of Triple H’s Championship celebration on Raw after he won the strap at the Rumble. Saxton says that there is a cryptic quote they’ve heard a lot recently which is “The Authority always wins”. That’s not cryptic at all. On Raw, Vince McMahon gloats about breaking Roman Reigns “in half”, and telling that we don’t get any crowd reaction to that moment, but we do when Triple H comes out with the belt. Love that entrance in the suit, and the reveal of the belt by the way. Later that night Reigns and Dean Ambrose beat the League of Nations, and give Rusev a two-man Shield bomb. The Authority – think this is the dying days of the use of that term – announce that Fastlane’s main event will see a Triple Threat match for deciding who will challenge Haitch at Wrestlemania, with Ambrose, Reigns and Lesnar. Show ends with Ambrose and Reigns looking at each other. Guess who’s going over Jon! Poor Roman, the crowd just wasn’t biting and that Mania main event was a snore fest.
Best Match: Um, I suppose, let’s say Stardust/Young?
Best Wrestler: Rhodes deserved more from WWE, and there wouldn’t be any “Elite” competition if they had trusted him a bit.
Worst Match: By default the main event. There were only two matches on this show, give me a break.
Worst Wrestler: O’Neil sold a really obvious whiff, and that’s about as much as I can say.
Overall Verdict: A highlight show that, for some reason, gives us two inconsequential matches. A depressing look at the undercard at a time when being on the undercard was a figurative death sentence to your career. Fun fact: only three of the 20 men who were in the Andre a few months later are still with the company. Avoid.
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