We’ve got just one more WWE Pay Per View left to deal with before we close the books on 2016, and unfortunately for Raw, they get the least envious spot on the entire calendar. Roadblock: End of the Line had the bad luck to be in December (traditionally the worst month for PPVs), taking place on the last weekend shopping day before Christmas Eve, and being the third WWE PPV in just six weeks. Even if Survivor Series and TLC hadn’t already been good shows, there was going to be a huge mountain to climb to make anyone care about Roadblock, and while the wrestlers themselves clearly gave an effort, Roadblock will unfortunately go down as one of the more forgettable PPVs of the year, and in WWE’s overall history. Let’s take a closer look at what went down at the very last WWE PPV of this year, and talk about what worked and what didn’t.
Ignore The Part That Makes Us Look Bad
Everyone involved in the feud between Enzo, Cass, Rusev, and Lana deserve better things than what they’re getting from WWE Creative. There were flashes of the right way to go with this, when Lana and Rusev were actively evil, setting up a trap to destroy Enzo, and choosing to focus on that part of the angle at Roadblock. However, surrounding the decent “bad guys set up an ambush for sympathetic face, and his friend swears vengeance” part of the feud is the part where Enzo really, really wants to have sex with Lana, and both Lana and Rusev are, rightfully, disgusted. Even if she’s arguing with him, Lana’s still married to Rusev, and has proclaimed undying love for him. Any attempt by Enzo to hit that is just plain wrong, and when things were going right in this angle, it was when Enzo realized that fact. Of course, that was after an hour or so of celebrating the fact that he was headed to a hotel room to try and sleep with her, so we can’t really give full credit. In any event, since it’s a pre-show match, we get a non-finish and a rematch on Raw, where hopefully this whole thing will get blown off and the next angle for Rusev doesn’t involve people trying to have sex with his wife.
If there were any remaining doubts that WWE had New Day break Demolition’s record just to be petty, there shouldn’t be after they dropped the titles at the very first opportunity following the record-breaking evening. And we shouldn’t be shocked, after all, WWE did the exact same thing when Nikki Bella broke AJ Lee’s record for longest reigning Divas Champion, then lost the title in her very next match. In both cases, WWE saw a record held by someone on the outs with the company, then focussed the entire booking strategy of the entire division around it until the record was broken, at which point they finally did the ending fans were screaming to see happen far earlier. Sheamus and Cesaro winning the Raw Tag Team Titles (in, it should be mentioned, a very good match) was the obvious and desired end point back when they were forced to team up after tying their Best of Seven series. Except that happened back in September, and the storyline should have paid off long before now. The good news is, the stasis of the tag team division is over, and we’ll get to see what New Day does when they’re no longer Tag Team Champions for the first time in a year and a half.
Survive And Thrive
We’re not big fans of the “survive 10 minutes” stipulation on this match, and not just because it meant that Sami won the match without actually winning. In fact, Sami was actually in a position where he might have won had the match been slightly longer, as he had hit his finisher and was setting up for a second one when the buzzer sounded. That’s actually the real problem we have, which is that the match was set up for a big finish with the underdog hitting everything he had and maybe even getting the pin, but then it just…ended, because time was up. Sure, Strowman maintains his unbeatable aura because he didn’t lose, and Sami gets credit for technically lasting five times as long as anyone else, but in reality, it’s like someone chopped the last two minutes off a movie, right before the final reveal. In addition, it’s pretty clear that however much Strowman has improved as a wrestler, he’s in no way equipped to go ten minutes, leading to roughly a third of the match wasting time arguing with Mick Foley on the outside. In fact, if anything, we’d argue that Strowman didn’t look impressive enough, as Sami wasn’t quite in a position where we felt like he was getting completely destroyed.
No Time For This
Well, the Cruiserweight Division got six minutes on a three-hour show with only six matches, and the entire crowd had basically given up on the whole experiment by the finish. At this point, as much as we want it to succeed, we can’t really blame them, because what we saw in those six minutes was possibly the blandest Triple Threat match wrestled by any weight class. We’re not watching Cruiserweights to see them work a side headlock or hit a dozen Superkicks, we want to see things that we don’t already see every week on Raw and Smackdown, and the match at Roadblock didn’t deliver that in any form. Heck, Cesaro looked more like a cruiserweight on Sunday night than anyone actually weighing under 205 pounds! He actually got to hit a top rope hurricanrana! An additional part of the problem is that the fans are still struggling to care about a bunch of guys who were all introduced at once, many of whom don’t really have great personas. Rich Swann has done his best, but even so, his character at this point comes down to “black guy who likes dancing and is somehow ‘Outlandish'”, which is lacking motivation, to say the least. Fortunately, the post-match stuff showed that WWE may still be trying to rescue this entire concept…
The Second-Best Decision They Could Have Made
The best decision, obviously, would have been to either move the division wholesale to Smackdown, or just 205 Live (although that was unlikely given WWE isn’t going to keep contracted wrestlers only on a Network show), but as a Plan B, having Neville return and just destroy Swann and Perkins in an unexpected heel turn was absolutely the right move. Neville’s an established figure that the WWE audience already cares about, so putting him in the division where he clearly has belonged this entire time instantly gives it more star power, which will help elevate all those guys who all appeared one day and started fighting each other without being properly introduced to the fans. There’s even an obvious character motivation for Neville’s turn, as he’s been around far longer, and clearly should have been the star of the Cruiserweight Division from Day One, so now he’s feeling passed over and forgotten about. We’re not saying that Neville and his monstrous beard can save the Cruiserweight Division, but it’s definitely been given the best lifeline (well, non-Ibushi lifeline, anyway) that WWE has left.
This Will Pay Off Later On
In our heads, we know that Chris Jericho vs Seth Rollins was a good match, because they’re two good wrestler who have good matches every time they face each other. The problem is, this match didn’t matter. Jericho was just an obstacle to Rollins, a perfunctory stepping stone on his path to Triple H, and everyone knew it. Even when Kevin Owens ran out, Rollins’ win was all but guaranteed from the start, because this story isn’t ending on the first chapter. Meanwhile, Chris Jericho’s fractured friendship with Kevin Owens paid off in another match that same night, and while it didn’t undo Rollins’ win, it did serve to point out that Rollins didn’t really vanquish Jericho, and yet, beating him once in a match is likely going to be considered enough that he can move on to the next step of the plan. In the end, it was a good match, and if that was enough for you, then that’s what it was.
Leaving It All In The Ring
While we’re not certain that this final blowoff between Sasha and Charlotte really needed to be an Iron Woman Match, with all falls coming in the last ten minutes plus overtime, we respect their attempt to show that they were capable of wrestling for 30-plus minutes. At this point, it’s hard to pick out one Sasha-Charlotte match from the six singles bouts they had in 2016 as truly being the “best” (and trust us, that’s going to become clear in our Match of the Year list later this month), because they’re all part of the inter-connected storyline that these two women have written for most of the year, and they all build off of each other. This probably wasn’t the actual best match of their series, but it was important nonetheless, and most importantly, in a world where WWE stretches things out to get just one more match, it had a finality about it that will hopefully let everyone move on. It sucks that Charlotte won the feud in the end, but the journey that got us here was pretty darned incredible. And really, isn’t coming up short in the end (and possibly seeing someone else accomplish what she couldn’t) just the perfect impetus for The Boss to make that heel turn we all know is coming?
While we’re not saying that Sasha-Charlotte should have been the main event of Roadblock, the ending to that match just drained all the emotion and energy out of us, and from what we saw, the audience in attendance as well. We’re aware that Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns had a match for the Universal Title, and it was probably fine (although they sat around in chinlocks for just a little bit too long), but compared to blowing off a long-running feud between two top competitors, Owens and Reigns just couldn’t match up. It doesn’t help that Reigns is, well, Reigns, and Owens hasn’t exactly been treated as the most important Universal Champion of all time. In fact, that was the largest problem we had, which is that the match, despite being for the alleged top title on Raw, didn’t feel “important”. Whomever won the Iron Woman Match, it was in service of making the Women’s Title the most important thing in the company for Charlotte and Sasha. Meanwhile, the Universal Title doesn’t feel like it matters. Sure, either man would have been happy to win the title, but in a feud built around bickering friends, a lukewarm babyface who barely cares about the title he already has, and a guy who’s only involved because it leads to a feud with someone else entirely, the Universal Championship has really been getting short shrift, and that’s a shame.
A Christmas Miracle
We theorized in the prediction column for this show that Kevin Owens was actually a good guy, except not really, he’s just a bad guy who wants to be good and just can’t be. Well, if you didn’t know ahead of time that Kevin Owens was a complete bastard, watching his performance at Roadblock probably made him look incredibly sympathetic. First he got rebuffed when trying to offer his best friend a Christmas scarf, then he had that heart-breaking speech to Jericho’s locker room door where he talked about how friends may fight, but that doesn’t mean they stop being friends, and even offered up the greatest sacrifice he could think of in order to save the relationship. When Jericho showed up and hit Owens with a Codebreaker, then revealed it was all a clever ploy to save Owens, and the two best friends hugged, it was actually a great moment that seemed like the perfect climactic ending for the holiday season. You know, as long as you don’t remember that they were technically screwing over someone else and motivated by selfish desire. The best heels are the ones who think they’re doing the right thing, and right now, few are doing it better than Jericho and Owens. They’ll break up one day, for incredibly petty reasons, but until then, feel the love, mannnnn.
Send The Crowd Home Happy (But Not Really)
Of course, because we can’t end the show without Roman Reigns looking strong, he and Seth Rollins almost immediately interrupted things and powerbombed both Owens and Jericho through separate announce tables. If only Roman Reigns was actually a popular babyface, it could have been a strong moment, and WWE probably hoped they could coax a similar reaction out of the crowd like they did last year, having Reigns destroy Triple H, Sheamus and Vince McMahon and actually look like the ass-kicking cool guy they wanted him to be for five minutes. They also clearly hoped there was still enough desire for another Shield reunion that pairing Reigns back with Rollins could coax some positive reactions out of the live audience. Unfortunately, the beatdown dragged on and the crowd clearly wasn’t interested, especially after popping for the Owens-Jericho reunion just moments earlier, and the segment may have done more harm to Rollins’ momentum than help to Reigns as a result. We know that WWE hasn’t given up on Reigns, but we can’t help but be reminded of the popular definition of insanity. Something about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right?