The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Five

This is the fifth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Monday Night Raw, originally televised on February 8th, 2016.

All three contenders for the World Heavyweight Championship open Monday Night Raw, as Stephanie McMahon oversees the in ring contract signing. Cutting off Paul Heyman as much as she can, Stephanie focuses on getting it signed and getting as far as she possibly can from the three of them before the fireworks.

It doesn’t take long once the contract is signed though. Brock Lesnar gestures patiently for Roman Reigns or Dean Ambrose to do something, and Ambrose is happy to oblige, having spent most of the signing trying to goad Lesnar into a fight anyway. The ring erupts into chaos, as Lesnar throws the table at Reigns, and Ambrose crashes to the ground thanks to a second F5 in as many weeks.

Reigns continues to fall into the background in this rivalry, and that is how it should be. Reigns vs Lesnar has already played out, and this is really the platform to separate Ambrose and Reigns in terms of their approach to taking on Lesnar. It also portrays Ambrose as the chaotic wildcard between two powerhouses, who might be out of his weight class but keeps coming back regardless. As such, this stays exactly the same as the televised version.

Match #1: The League of Nations vs The Lucha Dragons

The League of Nations enter the tag team tournament looking to get their hands on even more gold. Facing off against the Lucha Dragons with the returning Sin Cara alongside the United States Champion Kalisto, Alberto Del Rio and Rusev look to build significant momentum heading into Fastlane.

Isolating Sin Cara, the League take advantage of his ring rust to keep Kalisto out of the match for long stretches. Kalisto finally makes it into the match, only for a distraction from King Barrett to leave him open to a kick to the head from Del Rio, and an easy pin.

Building further momentum for the League of Nations going into their two matches at Fastlane, this match doesn’t change at all. The return of Sin Cara is important from the perspective of providing Kalisto with a little back up over the last week before the pay-per-view, but in reality, there is little that either could do with the numbers game the League employed.

Match #2: Tamina vs Becky Lynch

Following the announcement that Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch would face Naomi and Tamina at WWE Fastlane, Lynch squares off against Tamina in one on one action. With Banks at commentary and Naomi pacing around the side of the ring, the distractions are continuous. At the height of the battle, Naomi attacks Banks, drawing Lynch to her partner’s aide. She runs straight into a superkick from Tamina though after chasing off Naomi, costing her victory.

This match remains the same as well, showing the clear difference between Lynch and Banks, and the potential cost to Lynch. Her consistent support for someone in trouble (even a rival like Banks) costs her a match that she could otherwise have won, and does little to strengthen the bond between her and Banks.

MizTV welcomes Chris Jericho to the ring, but after The Miz’s fight with AJ Styles last episode ended with a couple of teeth kicked out of his head, that’s all Miz can talk about. Sick of Miz’s complaining, Jericho redesigns the stage, taking over the show and turning it into the Highlight Reel.

As Miz and Jericho almost come to blows, Styles charges the ring, and chaos breaks down amongst them. Miz gets thrown from the ring, leaving Styles and Jericho facing off, before Y2J backs slowly away, happy to wait for their rematch on Thursday Night Smackdown.

Again, this promo stays largely the same as the televised version, as it works well within the context of building up the rivalry between the three men, while keeping the focus on Jericho and Styles.

Match #3: The Usos vs The Dudleys

What starts as a hard fought match between Jey Uso and D-Von Dudley quickly descends into chaos, as Bubba Ray Dudley interferes, bringing the match to a disqualification end. While Jimmy Uso attempts to help his brother, both Usos are subdued, and systematically dropped through a pair of tables.

The Dudleys’ rivalry with The Usos takes another step forward with this new addition to the match card. Looking for retribution for their interference in the Tag Team Tournament match, instead the Usos find themselves on the losing end of a couple of tables.

Match #4: Paige vs Natalya vs Alicia Fox

With Brie Bella fighting for the #1 Contender spot in the main event, Paige, Natalya, and Alicia Fox look to position themselves favourably in the chase for the championship. After Natalya is kicked through the ring ropes by Fox, Paige counters a scissors kick with a Rampaige for the victory.

Furthering the development of meaningful matches in the Women’s division, this match gives an opportunity for all three women to further their positions, building towards opportunities down the line at the Women’s Championship.

After getting hit with another F5 earlier in the evening, Deam Ambrose comes to the ring looking to pick a fight. Or perhaps to prove a point. Calling Brock Lesnar out once more, he continues to insult the Beast until his music plays, facing down another beating at the hands of Lesnar, but refusing to stay down after a number of suplexs leave him writhing in agony.

Roman Reigns appears at the top of the ramp, drawing Lesnar’s attention, as he prepares to face his Wrestlemania 31 opponent; only for Ambrose to low-blow him when his back is turned, leaving Lesnar the only one not on his feet…

The reason that this promo stays the way it was televised is because it perfectly encapsulates the way Lesnar looks at his opponents. He is completely dismissive of Ambrose, thinking of him as a yapping puppy rather than an actual threat, while he is wary of the presence of Reigns, given how close Reigns got last year. But by turning his back on Ambrose, he left himself vulnerable to exactly the kind of attack that Ambrose is willing to make to get the job done.

Match #5: Adam Rose vs Titus O’Neil

Titus O’Neil is on a roll, and came to Raw ready to fight. Facing off against The Social Outcasts’ Adam Rose, O’Neil put on a show, throwing Rose around the ring before powering out of an attempted sleeper hold to position him for the Clash of the Titus.

However, the numbers game comes into plan, as distractions from Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel provide Rose with a moment of relieve, and a quick rollup gives Rose the victory.

This is the final match of Titus’ push in this rewrite of Wrestlemania, and is largely the same as the televised version. After this episode, Titus is suspended, and so will no longer be available. Had he not been suspended, this match would have been a springboard for Titus to enter the larger singles championship picture; however, that is now on hold until his return post Wrestlemania…

Match #6: Ryback vs R-Truth

Looking to build on his recent victories, and position himself for a shot at the Intercontinental Championship, Ryback competes against R-Truth in singles action. The Big Guy runs over R-Truth, despite the attempts to fly high. A Meathook clothesline and Shell Shocked later, and Ryback continues to roll toards Fastlane.

The main purpose of this new match is to set up one of the key match ups at Fastlane, by preparing Ryback as a worthy challenger once others have had their shot. That way, matches continue to feel like they have real meaning and losses have consequences in terms of championship contenders.

Match #7: Brie Bella vs Charlotte

The main event of the episode is the rematch between Brie Bella and Charlotte, with a shot at the title at Fastlane on the line. Charlotte takes the fight to Bella, dominating for most of the early stages of the match. Brie responds with a series of kicks to the chest that slow Charlotte down, but a spear ends the momentum swing.

The match then becomes a mugging, as Charlotte looks to make a statement. Ric Flair climbs up on the apron, distracting the referee to allow Charlotte to increase the damage being done without disqualification. But it works against them, as Bella twists Charlotte into a rollup. Flair’s reaction causes the referee to turn, and a three count later has Brie Bella headed to Fastlane.

And with that, the adjustments needed to make the Charlotte vs Brie Bella match at Fastlane make more sense, and feel more realistic, are complete. Charlotte’s arrogance, and Ric Flair’s continued interference, ultimately cost them in this match, as it did the last one, setting up potential animosity between them down the line. Meanwhile, Brie Bella’s two victories over the champion now earn her a legitimate shot at the title, whereas previously it felt a little more like she had been granted the title based on one win and (possibly) Daniel Bryan and her impending retirements.

After the main event, Daniel Bryan emerges to confirm what he announced earlier in the day on Twitter: that he was retiring from wrestling, due to a series of concussions throughout his career. While the audience was hopeful that the tweets were a ruse, Bryan ensures that his retirement party is a celebration, not a moment of sadness. He speaks of his favourite moments, his love of the ring and the fans, and is thanked by everyone present, as the backstage area empties of wrestlers, standing at the top of the ring to give him a standing ovation as he leaves.

Daniel Bryan’s retirement, like several moments in this rewrite, has no business being changed (though perhaps I’d change Titus O’Neil being suspended, but that is another issue). It was the right way to end his career, though far earlier than many had hoped.

Summary

The women’s division took centre stage this episode, as the #1 Contender was determined, a tag team match at Fastlane was made, and Paige returned to dominant form. Beyond that, the rivalry between The Usos and The Dudleys has reached boiling point now, as the Dudleys used two tables to make a statement about their intentions regarding the Tag Team Tournament.

Episode Six continues with a rematch between two veteran wrestlers, and a hint at what is to come…

Let me know what you think in the comments down below.

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
#1 Contender Contract Signing #1 Contender Contract Signing
Dolph Ziggler def. Kevin Owens The League of Nations def. The Lucha Dragons
Charlotte def. Alicia Fox Tamina def. Becky Lynch
MizTV and The Highlight Reel MizTV and The Highlight Reel
Bray Wyatt def. Ryback Jey Uso def. D-Von Dudley by disqualification
Adam Rose def. Titus O’Neil Paige def. Alicia Fox and Natalya
Dean Ambrose Promo Dean Ambrose Promo
The League of Nations def. The Lucha Dragons Adam Rose def. Titus O’Neil
Tamina def. Becky Lynch Ryback def. R-Truth
The Usos and The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day and Mark Henry Brie Bella def. Charlotte (Non-Title Match)
Daniel Bryan Retirement Daniel Bryan Retirement