The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Thirteen

This is the thirteenth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Monday Night Raw, originally televised on February 29th, 2016.

Shane McMahon opens this episode of Monday Night Raw to a standing ovation. Soaking in the crowd pop, he thanks them for being every bit as amazing as they had been in days gone by.

He then apologises. Because he can’t say the same for the WWE. Vince’s poor booking choices, the power-hungry obsessions of Triple H and Stephanie, and the overall poor show quality have left many fans disheartened. Disenfranchised.

But Shane intends to change all that. For the sake of his children. To make sure his kids have the same future he did at their age.

Vince McMahon emerges, disgusted by what Shane has said. He declares that he should have banished Shane, but he didn’t think he’d ever have the balls to come back. But he is adamant regardless.

“I will not give you my company. Stephanie and Triple H will not give you the company… but,” he says, suddenly pensive. “We have always settled things in the ring…”

Shane shakes his head with a smile. “Predictable. That’s what this has become. Let me guess. One match. At Wrestlemania, right?”

The crowd goes wild, and Vince seems to ponder the idea. He suggests that maybe Shane doesn’t have what it takes to step into the ring anymore. Not like his real heir, the WWE Champion Triple H. He tells Shane how The Game was always the better choice to know how to run the business.

Shane’s eyes darken. “One match. I win, I have complete control of Monday Night Raw. I lose?”

Vince smiles. “You are never seen in my house again.”

Shane grimaces. Then he sighs. “Well, I guess we can always do Christmas at Stephanie’s. Deal.”

The crowd goes wild, as Vince declares the match is on. Shane raises his voice over the crowd to declare that he will beat Vince, just as he did all those years ago.

The smile on Vince’s face slowly spreads, as his eyes narrow. “Oh no, you aren’t facing me. I’ve done my time in that ring. No, if you want to claim this company, then you will have to defeat my greatest creation.

“At Wrestlemania it will be Shane McMahon… vs The Undertaker.”

The crowd goes quiet in shock.

“Inside Hell in a Cell.”

We’ve reached the same point that was televised in episode 11. The match for Wrestlemania has now been revealed - Shane McMahon vs Undertaker, inside Hell in a Cell, for control of the company. The problems with the previous set up were fairly simple: Vince jumped the gun too quickly, and there was little push back from Undertaker. In this version, Vince retreats in Episode 11 before returning here to set Shane up for his fall, having taken the time to develop a plan to deal with Shane. Now Shane is on the back foot, after having had a full week to press the advantage.

Match #1: Paige vs Tamina

The first match of the evening features Paige looking for a little retribution from Tamina after the attack in the previous episode. The early stages of the match highlight Paige as one of the more technically gifted wrestlers in the WWE, overcoming Tamina’s strength advantage with technical brilliance… until Naomi makes her presence felt at ringside, causing a distraction that gives Tamina the opening needed to end the match with an emphatic kick to the head.

Naomi and Tamina continue to set themselves in place as dominant heels, showing little regard for anything but putting their opponents down. The point of this is that there are, a limited number of strong heels for the baby face wrestlers to face. But that will be solved by Wrestlemania.

The Beast is here. And he is looking for a new challenger.

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar come to the ring, still a little angry that a chair knocked them out of the championship race. But they’ve made sure retribution would belong to the Beast at Roadblock, and now they can focus on the other piece of the puzzle - a new challenger is needed for Wrestlemania. A new sacrifice for the Beast Incarnate.

Paul Heyman gestures to the locker room, and demands that they send forth a worthy challenger. Or a sacrifice. Whichever.

However, no one comes out. And after enough time has passed, Lesnar starts getting visibly put out. Heyman, disappointed, threatens the entire roster: either someone comes out to face Brock, or Brock goes back and picks someone…

Largely the same promo from the televised post-Fastlane Raw (without Dean Ambrose coming out), this sets the stage for what has really not been looked at: who on the roster can step into the ring with Lesnar at this point. Lesnar has been built up into an unstoppable machine, and while that creates a great opportunity to build up a young talent to face him, it NEEDS build up time. You can’t just throw someone into the fire. So now we set the stage for an actual story, and leave the threat of Brock rampaging through the locker room looking for someone to fight present for just a little while…

Match #2: Fandango vs Sin Cara

With Kalisto watching from ringside, Sin Cara looks to build momentum for the Lucha Dragons. However, he runs straight into an on point Fandango, who wrestles a clean and dominant match before putting Sin Cara away with a Diving Leg Drop.

After the match, Kalisto comes to check on his tag team partner, who is clearly frustrated by the loss.

Building towards Wrestlemania and beyond, this match highlights two major points: the problems of having a tag team with a singles champion, and the progression of the US championship towards a more intro/new talent/lightweight belt.

Having had a week to collect herself after the embarrassment of her brother’s return, Stephanie McMahon comes out to deliver a scathing speech about Shane, the WWE Universe, and how she and Triple H have made this company everything it is today. She then declares that Shane will get everything he deserves at Wrestlemania: her father’s champion will ensure Shane Rests. In. Peace…

This promo is so important for setting the stage for what is essentially the major storyline going into Wrestlemania, and the matches that will impact that storyline. The Authority storyline continues unabated, though it has drifted into the background in recent months, since Seth Rollins’ injury. Here, we bring it roaring back, filled with all the narcissistic vitriol that Stephanie is capable of. The Authority runs the show. The WWE Universe owes them everything. And everyone, even the Undertaker, follows orders…

Match #3: The League of Nations vs The Wyatt Family

Despite the even numbers, the Wyatt Family time their attack to perfection, waiting until King Barrett attempts to distract the referee before swarming Sheamus at ringside. With him taken down, the Wyatts hunt, distracting Rusev long enough for Braun Strowman to pin Alberto Del Rio, before the family rush the ring, ensuring each member of the League is beaten down and methodically hit with a Sister Abigail in the centre of the ring.

Bray Wyatt then continues his preaching, speaking of his belief that soon, the new dawn would wash away all of the WWE’s failings. That Roadblock was nothing more than a ripple in the lake…

With the continued dominance of the Wyatt Family, they are starting to take on the persona they should have had from the beginning - an all conquering powerful faction that when allowed to run free, could barely be contained. In addition, this fractures the League’s loyalty to each other just a little more, and gives them another point of blame to argue over.

Match #4: The Ascension vs The New Day

Viktor and Konnor put on a solid showiung against the Tag Team Champions, but The New Day are the champions for a reason. Xavier Woods and Big E put on a clinic with Kingston dancing at ringside…

Until the lights go dark and the Wyatt Family music plays once more…

The Wyatts slowly make their entrance, walking behind the Bray Wyatt’s lamp towards the ring. In the confusion, Konnor knocks down Woods, and as the lights come back on, Big E is hit by the Fall of Man for the victory.

To be very clear, the Wyatt Family do NOT use their surprise entrance here. They enter as they would normally for a match… just before the end of the previous one, distracting The New Day and costing them a victory. This strengthens the rivalry without overusing the surprise entrance, or requiring any actual interaction… though they do have a match next…

Match #5: Kofi Kingston vs Luke Harper

The New Day have no time to regroup after the Wyatts cost them their match with The Ascension, as Kofi Kingston faces off against Luke Harper. The Wyatt Family captain waits patiently for Kingston to make his move once the bell rings, but Kingston is distracted by what is happening outside the ring.

The rest of the Wyatt Family slowly circle the ring, boxing Xavier Woods and Big E into a corner, as it looks as if after weeks of build up, the two factions are going to finally go to war. But they simply wait, just out of reach. The New Day’s confusion only serves to distract Kingston more. He turns straight into a bonecrushing Discus Clothesline, and Harper calmly pins him for the victory. Bray Wyatt chuckles softly, and the Wyatts depart as if nothing ever happened…

Another dominant victory for the Wyatt Family, taking advantage of a brilliant yet simple strategy to throw Kingston off his game. The Wyatts are building towards several storylines that will run through Wrestlemania and into the summer, but the important thing here is to not rush their rivalry with The New Day. Dismissive of the champions, and comfortable in their role as the dominant force in WWE, the Wyatts continue to not include the champions in their post-match beatdowns; a subtle jibe that the champions are not worth their time. The rivalry will explode, eventually. But for now, it can continue a slow burn.

Match #6: Brie Bella vs Naomi

Despite a solid showing from Brie Bella, Naomi is on a fiery winning streak, and uses Brie’s momentum against her, reversing a Yes! kick into a Dragon Leg Whip and Single Leg Boston Crab for the submission victory.

Once the match is over, Tamina enters the ring to celebrate with Naomi, though their celebration quickly becomes an assault, pinning Brie to the mat and hitting her over and over with a series of power moves, and even bringing a chair into the ring - though the referees are able to prevent it from being used. Instead, Tamina and Naomi proudly walk back up the ramp, while Brie is stretchered out.

One of the last pieces has now been set in motion for Wrestlemania. While Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and others within the division have raised the quality of wrestling, Naomi and Tamina are showing that the violent side of wrestling is now present too. And soon, the match ups will be revealed…

Match #7: Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens comes into his match with Chris Jericho on a roll, but the Ayatollah of Rock’n’Rolla is not about to let a potential opportunity to insert himself into the Intercontinental Championship picture slip away. The wily veteran uses every trick at his disposal, digging into his bag of tricks to hit a Lionsault and reverse a Pop Up Powerbomb into a Codebreaker.

But the arrival of The Miz as Jericho hits the Codebreaker distracts him, and Owens is able to recover enough to reverse the pin attempt, using the ropes to leverage a victory, before escaping a fuming Jericho.

Building towards the Intercontinental Championship match at Wrestlemania, Chris Jericho has now, despite the loss, inserted himself into the conversation alongside The Miz. Tension between all three grows, as both Miz and Y2J believe they should have beaten Owens, while the champion continues to look confident and strong.

After the break, Jack Swagger is seen heading towards the locker room, before the main event of the evening. As he rounds the corner, Bo Dallas is seen leaving the locker room. Dallas wishes Swagger luck tonight as he passes, before Swagger heads inside, tossing his bag onto the bench. Then he frowns. Attached to his locker is a note. He pulls it down and reads it, before squaring his shoulders and dropping it onto his bag. The camera pans down to the note, and then fades to black:

“I believe. Do you?”

Spoilers

Match #8: Jack Swagger vs Sheamus

The main event of the episode pits Jack Swagger against Sheamus. Swagger comes to the ring ready to fight, but the presence of the rest of the League of Nations, in a poor mood after their beatdown earlier in the evening, complicates matters. Every time he builds a little momentum, King Barrett, Rusev, or Alberto Del Rio edge closer, not enough to get them sent away, but enough for Sheamus to recover.

Swagger is clearly frustrated, as even a Gut Wrench Powerbomb is undone by Rusev climbing the ropes.

But all that changes when The Social Outcasts’ entrance music starts playing.

Led out by Bo Dallas, the four men come to the ring, surrounding the non-competing members of the League. Sheamus, distracted, yells at them to mind their own business, but Swagger takes advantage and drives Sheamus from the ring with a spinning clothesline. Dallas and the Outcasts swarm the other members of the League, as Swagger drags Sheamus back into the ring.

The League, already battle worn, are overwhelmed by the Outcasts, hit by finisher after finisher, while Swagger hits a second Gut Wrench Powerbomb for the victory.

With the League a broken mess at ringside, the Social Outcasts join Swagger in the ring, celebrating the victory. Bo Dallas, microphone in hand, tells Swagger “I told you my friend! All you have to do, is Bolieve!”

Swagger hugs Dallas, nodding his head. He takes the microphone. “You’re right. I do believe.”

As the Outcasts celebrate his statement, Swagger turns to the hard camera. “Brock Lesnar, I accept.”

And so, the Wrestlemania card continues to take shape, and we can now take a look at two of the main storylines of Wrestlemania: The Social Outcasts vs The League of Nations, and Brock Lesnar vs Jack Swagger. The League/Outcasts rivalry has been simmering for weeks, but this is critical mass, and where the fight really is all they think about from here on out. It needs to be solved at Wrestlemania now. As for Swagger, well. When I was working out storylines for Wrestlemania, I couldn’t get away from an idea I had at the very beginning. Swagger needs a statement match, and Lesnar needs an opponent worthy of him. And while arguments can be made that there are bigger draw matches, I don’t think there is any single wrestler that benefits from a match at Wrestlemania with Lesnar. Instead, I think a really good storyline involving Lesnar has the potential to raise the quality of the entire storyboard. But I guess we will have to wait and see…

Summary

Jack Swagger vs Brock Lesnar. The Wyatt Family’s disregard for an entire division. And Brie Bella in hospital? Maybe the road to Wrestlemania isn’t as clear as it was…

In the next episode, Paul Heyman responds to Jack Swagger, and Dean Ambrose finds out exactly what it can be like to play The Game…

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

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Dean Ambrose Roadblock Promo Shane McMahon Promo
Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks ended in a Draw Tamina def. Paige
The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler Brock Lesnar Promo
Stephanie McMahon Promo Fandango def. Sin Cara
The League of Nations def. The Lucha Dragons Stephanie McMahon Promo
Ryback def. Adam Rose The Wyatt Family def. The League of Nations
Y2AJ def. The New Day The Ascension def. The New Day
The Undertaker Promo Luke Harper def. Kofi Kingston
Bubba Ray Dudley def. Jey Uso Naomi def. Brie Bella
Big Show def. Kevin Owens by Count Out Kevin Owens def. Chris Jericho
Naomi def. Brie Bella Jack Swagger Promo
Dean Ambrose def. Alberto Del Rio by DQ Jack Swagger def. Sheamus