The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Ten

This is the tenth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers part two of the first Pay Per View: WWE Fastlane, originally televised on February 21, 2016. Part one is available here.

Match #5: AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho

The second half of the pay per view begins with the rubber match between Chris Jericho and AJ Styles. With only two matches between them previously, the two wrestlers take their time looking for an oportunity to strike, testing their opponent’s defences.

Jericho looks to ground Styles, slowing the pace of the match right down with a series of holds, most of them armbars. A dropkick sends Styles crashing out of the ring, as Jericho takes the fight ringside, using as much of the arena as he can get away with to wear down his opponent.

Leaping on to the barricade breaks Jericho’s momentum; a moonsault from Styles leaves both men sprawled on the floor, as the referee continues to count.

They make it back, but only on a count of 8. After that, Styles picks up the pace. The two wrestlers trade a series of maneuvers; suplexes and attempted submission holds, each countered into something equally devastating. Jericho counters an attempted Pele Kick into the Walls of Jericho, but Styles makes it to the ropes. Jericho is forced back by the referee, but charges back in as soon as Styles is on his feet, only to be met by a sharp elbow to the head. Styles flies high, hoping to hit a Flying Forearm, but Jericho times his counter perfectly, and hits a punishing Codebreaker instead.

Both wrestlers crash to the mat. Styles rolls away before Jericho can go for the pin. He kips up, dodging beneath a clothesline and hitting Jericho with a leaping forearm. He sets Jericho up for the Styles Clash, but Jericho counters it into the Walls of Jericho. Styles rolls through, holding onto Jericho’s legs and pulling him upward, turning for the crowd and finally hitting the Styles Clash for the three count and the victory.

After celebrating, Styles offers Jericho his hand, but the veteran slaps it away, rolling out of the ring and flipping over the stairs in frustration as he exits the ring.

The result of the match may be the same, but a couple of key points have changed that alter the story, and the landscape around both wrestlers. Firstly, the Styles Clash ends the match once AJ Styles is actually able to hit it. As I’ve said before, finishing moves should do exactly that, with exceptions in certain matches or sometimes at pay per views; the Styles Clash has not been established as a devastating move in WWE yet though. A few more convincing victories are needed before it can be kicked out of. Secondly, the post match handshake is replaced by Jericho’s more petulant behaviour after their feud erupts again in the televised version. This allows the story to progress rather than stagnate, and moves Jericho into a roll he is much better suited for - the petulant heel who doesn’t get his way.

Match #6: Kevin Owens vs Ryback (Intercontinental Championship)

Having regained his Intercontinental Championship in a Fatal Five Way in Episode Eight, Kevin Owens now defends his title against Ryback, the man he first won the championship against back in September. Owens’ brutal strength is matched by Ryback’s own, but the champion’s viciousness and in ring psychology sees him with a clear advantage early on.

Owens targets Ryback’s shoulder, looking to limit his offense, mocking him every step of the way. But his ego gets the better of him, and Ryback finds an opening to build momentum, hitting Owens with a suplex and a clothesline, and driving him into the corner.

As the match reaches its climax, Ryback looks to hit Owens with a Meathook Clothesline; Owens counters it, using Ryback’s momentum against him and throwing him into the ropes for a Pop-Up Powerbomb and the victory.

The match between the two powerhouses solidifies Owens as a dominant champion as he continues on the road to Wrestlemania. This rivalry is a short one, built around their previous battles, and Owens’ mastery of in-ring banter, but it marks the meeting of two wrestlers who had significant momentum coming into the match. While the loss knocks Ryback down a peg or two, it does not remove him from the championship picture; moreso it separates Owens from the pack, forcing them to fight anew for the chance to challenge him.

Match #7: Neville vs Stardust

Neville, unwilling to give Stardust the chance to ground him, takes a running leap over the top rope as Stardust is making his entrance; both wrestlers crash to the ground, and Neville climbs back into the ring to take another shot. He leaps high again as Stardust rises to his feet, but Stardust counters, kicking him in the stomach as he lands and tossing him back into the ring.

Stardust looks to damage Neville’s knees, tangling him in the bottom ropes and testing the referee’s patience with a series of holds outside the ring, slamming his knees into the edge of the ring. Neville kicks free but its clear that damage has been done. But Stardust’s focus on Neville’s legs allows The Man That Gravity Forgot to predict his opponent’s attacks, countering several holds and using the ropes to escape potential submission attempts.

As the adrenaline eases the pain in his legs, Neville picks up the pace of the match, hitting a series of high flying moves. He starts to climb, but takes his eyes off the ring for a moment to catch his breath. Stardust takes advantage, connecting with a Beautiful Disaster to knock him from the ring post to the arena floor.

Stardust drags him back into the ring, and sets him up for the Queen’s Arrow, but Neville counters it, rolling through it into a pin attempt. Stardust barely kicks out.

Neville hits a DDT and then looks to fly high again, but Stardust counters the Red Arrow with his knees, and finally hits the Queen’s Arrow for the victory.

There are two considerations here with the victory to Stardust. Firstly, a Neville victory leaves the possibility of a continuation down the line, with Stardust returning just because he doesn’t like losing; this victory, however, allows Stardust to move on clean, without making Neville look weak. Secondly, and more importantly, it begins to separate the two under card championships. Currently, there is little difference between challenging for the US Championship vs the Intercontinental Championship, so they don’t have any perceived value in that sense. The ending of this rivalry will allow for the continued differentiation between them, as each combatant goes after a different title…

Match #8: Charlotte vs Brie Bella (Women’s Championship)

The Women’s Championship match starts with a flurry of attacks from Brie Bella, as she looks to use the emotion of the last few weeks to her advantage. Momentum swings back and forth, and each time one gains the upper hand, she taunts the other; Charlotte and Ric start “Yes!” chants, while Brie mocks them with a condescending “Wooo!”. The effect of each is immediately apparent, getting under the skin of their opponent and leaving them off balance.

Charlotte begins to take control, despite Brie Bella’s use of several of her sister’s signature moves, slamming her to the mat and standing over her asking “Where is your sister now?”; voice dripping in sarcasm. A brief opening in Charlotte’s continued assault allows Bella to hit her with a dropkick, forcing separation, but Charlotte recovers with a Big Boot and locks in the Figure Four. Before she can turn it into a Figure Eight, Brie reverses it, twisting Charlotte first into a Yes! Lock, and then into a Boston Crab, taunting Ric Flair as she does.

But when Ric Flair gets up on the apron, the distraction allows Charlotte to break free, kicking Brie into the ropes. When she turns around, she’s met by another Big Boot, and Charlotte locks in the Figure Eight Leglock for the submission victory.

This match occurs almost exactly as it did on the televised version, because it doesn’t need to change. The issues with this storyline all stemmed from the lack of strength in how it was put together - the adjustments to the progression that lead to this match correct that issue, and now this match makes sense from both an in-ring and emotional perspective. It no longer feels like it was given to Brie Bella because of Daniel Bryan’s/her impending retirement (something we will get to later).

Match #9: Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose vs Roman Reigns

Brock Lesnar. Roman Reigns. Dean Ambrose. And Paul Heyman standing at ring side, counting the suplexes. It doesn’t take long to get off the mark, as the opening bell marks the moment Lesnar clotheslines Ambrose out of the ring, twisting Reigns around and suplexing him across the ring. Another suplex. A third… almost… as Ambrose returns to the ring, leaping from the top rope to knock Lesnar down with a dropkick.

The fight moves outside the ring, as Reigns put some space between himself and the Beast, and Lesnar chases hiim. Ambrose leaps through the ropes. Lesnar catches him mid air, tossing him over the commentators’ table. The Beast grins. He’s barely breaking a sweat. And he’s having fun.

A pinning attempt on Reigns by Lesnar after a thunderous F-5 is barely broken up by a diving Ambrose. The Lunatic Fringe goads the Beast away from Reigns, slapping him and daring him to try to hurt him. Responding the only way he knows how, Lesnar hits Ambrose with knee strike after knee strike, before three German Suplexes in a row leaves him a crumpled heap in the corner.

An attempted F-5 to Ambrose is countered by a Spear from Reigns, followed by a Superman Punch. A second one misses, as the Beast rolls out of the ring. But Ambrose is waiting, and when the Beast turns his back on him, Ambrose hits him with a low blow.

With no intention of letting the opportunity pass them by, the brothers clear off the top of the announce table, and Powerbomb Lesnar through it. With an hint of amusement, Ambrose gestures to Reigns, and they get back in the ring, and go back to work on each other, trading signature moves and counters, showing how well they know each other’s offense. Ambrose hits a Diving Elbow Drop, but when he goes for a second, Reigns hits him with a Superman Punch, then suplexes him off the turnbuckle. But Ambrose kicks out at 2, barely getting his shoulder up.

Reigns goes for a Spear, but Ambrose avoids it, shoving Reigns into the ringpost and hitting Dirty Deeds. A 2 count is all he gets, and when he goes for a second Dirty Deeds, Reigns counters it, lifting him onto his shoulders for a Samoan Drop.

Which is when Lesnar returns, picks up Reigns, and suplexes both of them.

All three men crash to the mat. Exhausted. Barely moving. Ambrose rolls from the ring. Reigns gets to his feet and meets Lesnar head on with a Spear, but the Beast turns it into a Kimura Lock. Reigns powers through, lifting Lesnar with one arm and driving him into the mat. But the Beast holds on…

Until Ambrose arrives, steel chair in hand. He lays waste to both men, breaking the hold on Reigns and beating down Lesnar until it seems the chair might crack in half. Reigns rolls slowly out of sight, as Ambrose’s focus remains on ending the Beast as a threat. Reigns drags himself to his feet, and waits, as Ambrose drives Lesnar from the ring.

Reigns charges.

And Ambrose pivots, swinging the chair upward into the diving head of his friend. Reigns crashes to the mat, and Ambrose falls to his knees and pins him, to earn a title shot at Wrestlemania.

The only thing that changes about this match is that rather than being hit with the Spear, Ambrose uses the chair in his hand to take out Reigns and win the match. While there is a story for Reigns’ run to the championship, there is far more room for creative development if it is Dean Ambrose, and not Roman Reigns, that carries on to Wrestlemania to face Triple H.

Summary

And with that, the pay per view is over. No titles changed hands, but each champion emerged stronger than when they entered, solidifying their position on the Road to Wrestlemania. And finally, Dean Ambrose claimed his place in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, ensuring that he would go one on one with The Game…

The next post will be a summary of the storylines I’ve created, the ones that I’ve removed from development, or moved, and an overall look at the creative platform leading into Part Two.

Part Two will begin with Episode 11. Here comes the money…

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

Full Pay Per View Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Episode One  
Kalisto def. Alberto Del Rio (United States Championship The Dudley Boyz def. The Usos
Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch def. Naomi and Tamina Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch def. Naomi and Tamina
Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Championship) Kalisto def. Alberto Del Rio (United States Championship)
Ryback, Big Show, and Kane def. Braun Strowman, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan The League of Nations vs The Ascension vs Enzo and Cass vs The Social Outcasts ends in no contest
Episode Two  
Charlotte def. Brie Bella (Women’s Championship) AJ Styles def. Chris Jericho
AJ Styles def. Chris Jericho Kevin Owens def. Ryback (Intercontinental Championship)
The Cutting Edge Peep Show Stardust def. Neville
Curtis Axel def. R-Truth Charlotte def. Brie Bella (Women’s Championship)
Roman Reigns def. Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose Dean Ambrose def. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns