The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Fourteen

This is the fourteenth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Thursday Night Smackdown, originally televised on March 03 2016.

Dean Ambrose comes to the ring, a little worse for wear after all his beatings of late, and takes a seat in the centre of the ring. He talks about how he likes to live by more of a five second plan than a five year plan, living the life in front of his face. And how, while that gets him in trouble sometimes, it also means he has a championship match at Wrestlemania. And he takes his time, happy to do things at his own pace.

Until Kevin Owens comes out to belittle him. KO mocks the injured Ambrose, before taking a swing at him with the Intercontinental Championship. Ambrose ducks out of the way, before hitting Owens with a chair and chasing him from the ring. He grabs the microphone, pointing out that he could see Owens from a mile away - there is a giant tv screen right there.

Before he is done though, Stephanie McMahon comes out and tells him to put the chair down. Cause he has a match, right now. Against Kevin Owens…

Apart from the presence of Stephanie McMahon, there are a couple of focus point changes in this promo. Firstly, moving the match up to first on the card sets the precedent that there are consequences, without disrupting the rest of the card - making it feel more like an addition than a plan from the beginning. Secondly, this promo is no longer about Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose. It is about Kevin Owens reinforcing that he is the company’s top heel, with a complete disrespect for anyone that isn’t him.

Match #1: Dean Ambrose vs Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens is barely in the ring long enough for the bell to ring, before he rolls out of it, looking every bit like he is about to walk off as he has done so many times before. He grabs a microphone and begins to mouth off about how the match is a waste of time. Everyone has seen it before. He starts to walk off, but Dean Ambrose rolls out of the ring to stop him… only for Owens to low blow him, gifting Ambrose the DQ victory.

Owens looks down at Ambrose, shakes his head, and says “Can no one in this company schedule something original?” before dropping the mic and leaving.

This match serves no real purpose for either wrestler - if Kevin Owens wins, Ambrose/Lesnar loses value and undermines the championship match at Wrestlemania. If Dean Ambrose wins, Kevin Owens loses to someone not in the Intercontinental Championship race, losing momentum with no pay off. Instead, KO gets heat from the three fans who haven’t seen this match before and wanted to, more heat from Ambrose’s fans, further positions himself as a great heel, categorically states something we’ve all been thinking (undermining The Authority and showing Stephanie is starting to lose control), and setting Ambrose up for later in the night…

Match #2: Natalya and Paige vs Naomi and Tamina

With the rivalry between these four escalating, a match is scheduled between Naomi and Tamina, and Natalya and Paige. But it never gets off the ground. An attempted pre-bell attack from Paige leads to a miscue with her partner, sending both women crashing to the ground. Naomi and Tamina recover and pounce on their fallen foes, and the referee has no choice but to call a no contest.

More important than the rivalry is the continued collapse of everything The Authority organises. Rivalries are getting out of hand, matches are not having clean endings… things are starting to come to a head, and as this happens more and more, the fans will begin reacting poorly, and The Authority will start venting their frustration.

Fuming from Kevin Owens’ low blow earlier in the evening, Dean Ambrose heads backstage, looking for a little redemption. However, he walks straight into a clothesline from Bubba Ray Dudley. The Dudley Boyz, lying in wait for Ambrose, use the Lunatic Fringe as a punching bag, then kick a door shut in his face, before wrapping a chain around his neck. A handful of referees and backstage personnel rush in to separate them, and as are pulled away, D-Von Dudley shouts “How you like the game now, punk?”

Dean Ambrose is playing the game, and now he is getting a real taste of what that means. The Dudley Boyz executed a hit on Ambrose courtesy of Triple H, leaving him a broken mess in the back halls of the WWE. This sends a very simple message to Ambrose, and the rest of the locker room: The Authority runs the show.

Backstage, Paul Heyman is interviewed by Renee Young about Jack Swagger. Heyman says that he was surprised by Swagger accepting the challenge, since the former World Champion hasn’t really done anything in recent years. But, as The Beast, Brock Lesnar, is a man of his word, he accepts Jack Swagger’s sacrifice. And, he says, make no mistake: Jack Swagger IS a sacrifice…

Paul Heyman gets a chance to run a promo against someone else for once, and sets the stage for what really is a David vs Goliath match at first glance. Heyman has built up numerous talents over the years, and now he has an opportunity to build Swagger up through critical promos and undermining snark. Meanwhile, Lesnar gets to fight someone new, with time to build the story around them.

Match #3: Charlotte vs Summer Rae

Summer Rae goes after the champion with a desire to prove herself against the best, but Charlotte is more interested in making a statement than giving her opponent time to settle into the match. A pair of clotheslines provide the opening for Natural Selection, and Charlotte locks in the Sharpshooter for the victory.

The thing to note here is that Charlotte won this match without her father’s assistance. And that is something that we will continue to build to over the next few episodes. Charlotte as the champion makes the most sense when she is a dominant heel; having her constantly helped by Ric Flair undermines the division as a whole - if it was someone else, someone not a part of the Four Horsewomen, maybe; but Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and the rest of the next generation need to stand on their own before a setup like this can happen.

Match #4: The Usos vs The Wyatt Family

The Usos were hoping that, unlike the rest of the tag team division, they could go toe to toe with The Wyatt Family, and put themselves back into the title conversation.

They were sorely mistaken.

Bray Wyatt takes a seat at commentary, with Braun Strowman standing beside him, as Luke Harper and Erick Rowan run roughshod over the Usos. Not even given a chance to build a little momentum, Erick Rowan charges past Jey Uso to kick Jimmy Uso in the head, as Harper uses the confusion to hit a turned around Jey with a Discus Clothesline. He then steps back out of the ring, as Erick Rowan rounds on Jey and finishes him off with a Superkick.

Bray nods at Strowman, who rushes the recovering Jimmy, and the Wyatts drag both men to the centre of the ring for Bray to hit them with Sister Abigails.

In what is becoming familiar territory for the WWE Universe, the episode ends with Bray Wyatt preaching that soon, the world would know what it is to fall, as the darkness rises to claim it in the new dawn.

The Wyatts have now decimated every major team in the tag team division. No one is left to stand between them and the tag team champions… Or maybe not quite…

Summary

Dean Ambrose is down. Every team that has stepped up to the Wyatt Family has been crushed. And control is quickly slipping out of The Authority’s grasp. But they still have a few tricks up their sleeves, as The Lunatic Fringe discovered…

In the next episode, a couple of returns take place, some retribution is had, and the Phenomenal One comes face to face with the Prizefighter…

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

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Dean Ambrose Promo Dean Ambrose Promo
The League of Nations def. The Usos Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens by DQ
Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz Natalya and Paige vs Naomi and Tamina
Golden Truth Promo Dean Ambrose Promo
Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch Paul Heyman Promo
AJ Styles def. Kofi Kingston Charlotte def. Summer Rae
Dean Ambrose def. Kevin Owens The Wyatt Family def. The Usos