The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Nineteen

This is the nineteenth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Thursday Night Smackdown, originally televised on March 17, 2016.

Thursday Night Smackdown opens with The Miz talking about how he wants to challenge Kevin Owens to an Intercontinental Championship title match at Wrestlemania. But first, he has two people he needs to explain a few things to.

With that, he welcomes his two guests to MizTV: AJ Styles, and Sami Zayn.

The Miz tears them apart, verbally chastising them for thinking they are anything but mid card rookies. Neither has been around long enough to deserve a shot at the title. Miz is first in line if for no other reason than because he is awesome.

Styles and Zayn point out how he had his chances to beat Owens, and couldn’t get the job done. So he should move to the back of the line.

Chris Jericho emerges, and Styles jokes “Speaking of the back of the line…”

Jericho, Miz, Styles, and Zayn, get into a heated argument about who deserves a title shot, until Miz tries a cheap shot at Zayn, which sparks a brawl between the four wrestlers. Security are forced to rush the ring, drawing Stephanie McMahon out from the back, to create a new opening match for the evening: Jericho and Miz vs Styles and Zayn.

Once security has the ring back under control, a referee is sent out, and the wrestlers head for their corners…

Now that the other matches on the Wrestlemania card have had some time in the spotlight, we bring the focus to the Intercontinental Championship. There is no challenger for Kevin Owens’ title yet. Will this match clear things up?

Match #1: AJ Styles and Sami Zayn vs Chris Jericho and The Miz

AJ Styles and The Miz are already circling each other, when Kevin Owens’ music hits. The champion saunters to the ring, ignoring everyone and everything on his way to commentary. There, he takes control, talking about everything BUT the match. As Chris Jericho and Miz start working more and more as an effective veteran team, Owens turns his attention to deriding the two of them, not even mentioning Styles and Sami Zayn by name, referring to them only as the “local unknown indie tag team”.

But when the action spills outside the ring, Owens gets involved, attacking Zayn as soon as his back is turned, and clotheslining Styles before he can react. The attack gives Styles and Zayn the disqualification victory, but leaves them open to the 3 on 2 attack that follows. Jericho, Miz, and Owens use the numbers advantage to great effect, setting Styles up for a Pop Up Powerbomb on the commentary desk.

Until new music hits. All three are confused, and look back and forth between each other… until DZ appears on the titantron, and Dolph Ziggler emerges, fresh and revitalised. His hair longer than before but not bleached, his ring gear remains pink and black, but without as much flair. He sprints to the ring, going straight after Kevin Owens, who left him in hospital back in episode 11. Styles and Zayn recover now that the numbers advantage is gone, and the three wrestlers are able to chase Jericho and Owens from the ring, leaving Miz all alone. Trying to scramble away, Ziggler catches him with a thunderous Lifting DDT in the centre of the ring.

Ziggler stands tall, as Owens flees the many challengers to his crown.

Another big return in the lead up to Wrestlemania. Having been given some time to change up his image and move away from the “Show Off” moniker towards something a little more technical focused as he is best suited for, the revitalised Dolph Ziggler is another thorn for Owens to pluck if he is going to make it out of Wrestlemania with his title.

Match #2: Alberto Del Rio vs Bo Dallas

Alberto Del Rio takes on Bo Dallas, as the rivalry between the Social Outcasts and the League of Nations continues to boil over. The League are outnumbered, but seem completely indifferent to that fact. Instead, they quickly find themselves toe to toe with the Social Outcasts at ring side, with Alberto Del Rio yelling for the Outcasts to back off from the ring.

Bo Dallas takes advantage, slipping into the ring and hitting Del Rio with a dropkick, followed by a crushing suplex for the pin. Dallas scrambles out, only to roll straight into the path of an oncoming Sheamus, who connects with a Brogue Kick, before the two sides create a little separation, and Heath Slater and Curtis Axel help Dallas from the arena…

Now we are reaching a point with this rivalry where the two sides are really taking shape for the crowd. The League of Nations is a group of elite powerhouses, while the Social Outcasts are young, hungry, and talented, and pushing for an opportunity. But they don’t have the veteran experience of the League, who know that a victory only counts if you walk away.

Backstage, Kevin Owens storms into Stephanie McMahon’s office, demanding that Dolph Ziggler be fired for attacking him like that. Stephanie, on a phone call, is forced to raise a finger to silence him, a look of annoyance brushing her face, before finishing the conversation on the phone; an apology added for the interruption.

She glares at Owens, snapping at him for barging into her office. She says she saw the match, and given he got involved first, she doesn’t particularly have any sympathy. But… the attack raises an interesting point. He doesn’t have an opponent for Wrestlemania. In fact, the Intercontinental Championship is the only title not being defended at Wrestlemania.

Yet.

“So, you don’t think any of them deserve a title shot. Fine. Prove it. Next week on Raw, we’ll have a six man tag team main event. AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler will take on Chris Jericho, The Miz, and you. Win? Your match at Wrestlemania is a triple threat with Jericho and Miz. Lose? Fatal Four Way.

Now get out of my office.”

Now we really have something to look forward to in the episode 20 main event. Will the Intercontinental Championship match at Wrestlemania be a Fatal Four Way or a Triple Threat Match? Can the seven wrestlers vying for the title coexist in any functional way?

Match #3: Big E vs Big Cass

Enzo and Cass make their way to the ring, tearing up the mic as Enzo carves The New Day into tiny pieces. The Tag Team Champions interrupt before Big Cass can call them SAWFT though, with Xavier Woods drawing his own micsaber to crush the opposition.

The two teams face off in the ring, before the referee takes control and rings the bell.

Throughout the match, Enzo is harrassed at ringside by Kofi Kingston and Woods, distracting Big Cass. But an attempt from Big E at a diving tackle goes awry, and gives Cass an opportunity to clean house, dragging his opponent back into the ring to pick up the victory.

It is important for both teams to get a chance to showcase their skills both individually and as teams in the lead up to Wrestlemania. Here, Big Cass shows that he is the powerhouse, and more than capable of going toe to toe with The New Day. How Big E responds will say a lot about their chances at Wrestlemania…

As The New Day regroup in the centre of the ring, laughter fills the arena. The lights go out. And Bray Wyatt’s voice echoes through the darkness.

“It’s a New Day, yes it is brothers… but not for you. No, not for you. I see it, in the darkness. Rising in the deep. The dawn will come. Soon. And it shall be red…”

The sun rises. And the Wyatts come…

Damien Sandow arrives at the arena for his US Championship qualifying match with Stardust. On the way through the corridors, he finds himself face to face with his opponent, and smiles. Stardust glares at him, demanding to know what he is looking at.

Sandow shakes his head, somewhat disappointed. “Nothing. I just wish I was facing Cody tonight. Not… whatever you are.”

He turns as if to head towards the arena, and walks straight into a clothesline from Bubba Ray Dudley. D-Von Dudley cuts shoves Stardust away, telling him to go glitter somewhere else, as the Dudley Boyz beat down on Sandow, then drag him out of shot.

So this is the start of a thread for post-Wrestlemania. I know, a little frustrating, but it is the first seed, and good booking requires planning ahead. Stardust is a tired gimmick, and Cody Rhodes has far more potential. With Damien Sandow an equally misused wrestler, and a former tag team partner, he is the obvious choice to start pushing Rhodes towards a return.

The Dudley Boyz drag Damien Sandow to the ring, and despite his attempts to break free and fight them off, the surprise attack left him significantly disadvantaged. They toss him into the ring, hitting him with a 3D and a Bubba Bomb.

And then the Game’s music hits.

Triple H walks out to the ring, no emotion on his face at all. He steps inside the ropes, picks Sandow up, and Pedigrees him in the centre of the ring.

Without a word, Triple H and the Dudley Boyz walk back up the ramp, leaving Sandow a broken mess in the centre of the ring.

This is simply a message. The Game does not get crossed by anyone. Any uncertainty that the Dudley Boyz were working as the Game’s muscle is now put to rest; Ambrose, Shane McMahon, and anyone else that gets in his way better be ready.

Summary

A week’s break for some of the titles, as the mid-card and tag team divisions come to the fore here. Plenty of rivalries are brewing for Wrestlemania, but which ones will get blown off? And have we seen them all yet?

In the next episode, the Hell in a Cell contract will be signed, the women’s division will come to the fore, and the fate of the Intercontinental Championship Match at Wrestlemania will be decided.

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

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Roman Reigns Promo MizTV with AJ Styles and Sami Zayn
Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz AJ Styles and Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho and The Miz by DQ
Dean Ambrose Promo Bo Dallas def. Alberto Del Rio
Bubba Ray Dudley vs Goldust Kevin Owens Promo
Women’s Championship Promo Big Cass def. Big E
Kofi Kingston def. King Barrett Bray Wyatt Promo
Dean Ambrose Promo Damien Sandow Promo
Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles Damien Sandow vs Stardust never starts