The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Twenty-Three

*This is the twenty-third episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Thursday Night Smackdown, originally televised March 31, 2016

Match #1: Baron Corbin vs Mojo Rawley

With a large percentage of the roster resting in preparation for Wrestlemania, attention turns to the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and attempts to qualify for the event by those on the cusp of the card.

In the first of these matches, the Lone Wolf Baron Corbin takes on one half of the Hype Bros in Mojo Rawley. Rawley gets in the face of Corbin early, daring him to try and take him down.

Unfortunately for Rawley, that is exactly what Corbin does. Barely waiting for the bell to ring, Corbin swarms Rawley, punishing him over and over with heavy blows that only cease when the referee threatens to disqualify him. A short rally from the Hype Bro takes Corbin down briefly, but a missed lariat leaves Rawley victim to a crushing belly to back suplex, followed by the End of Days for the victory.

While many of the spots in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal are designated, making some of the spots earned makes the match a little more prestigious, and makes it something worth watching. Otherwise, it feels like a cheap attempt to give as many wrestlers as possible a Wrestlemania moment.

Match #2: Johnny Gargano vs Elias Samson

In the second qualifying match of the evening, Johnny Gargano takes the fight straight to Elias Samson, battering the Drifter with a series of blows to the chest and head. Samson takes Gargano’s legs out to create some separation, dragging him from the ring and throwing him into the ring steps.

Gargano tries to recover, but Samson knocks him back down, whipping him into the barricades and clotheslining him into the crowd.

A ten count is just barely enough time for Gargano to make it back to the ring.

Samson, frustrated he didn’t win by count out, grabs Gargano by his throat. Stands over him. Slaps him. Hard. Once, twice three- Gargano loops his legs around Samson and pulls him down, rolling into a cradle for a three count and the victory.

Gargano rolls from the ring, hand raised in victory as the Drifter fumes in the centre of the ring.

Johnny Gargano has earned himself an opportunity to compete on the Grandest Stage of Them All by beating Elias Samson just over a week since he defeated him on NXT. Now Johnny Wrestling will have his chance to shine brightest when it matters most.

Match #3: Tommaso Ciampa vs Apollo Crews

With his tag team partner through to the Battle Royal, Tommaso Ciampa hopes to earn his own spot on the card.

However, standing in his way is a 240 pound wrecking ball known as Apollo Crews. The rising star of NXT withstands the early offense, driving Ciampa into the corner and delivering a ring shaking dropkick to his head.

Ciampa rolls out of the way of an attempted Moonsault; a series of hard kicks gives him the momentum. A couple of suplexes and a near fall follow. A high knee to the jaw and a kick to the stomach. Crews stumbles back. Ciampa rushes him once more.

But Crews halts his stumble and shows the ruse, stepping too close for another high knee strike, wrapping his arms around Ciampa and suplexing him into the ropes.

Dazed, Ciampa attempts to come back swinging. But he walks straight into a Sit Out Spinning Powerbomb.

He kicks out.

Crews hits a Moonsault.

Ciampa kicks out.

Finally, Crews deadlifts Ciampa into the air and hits a massive Gorilla Press Drop, followed by a Shooting Star Press for the three count, and the victory.

Tommaso Ciampa gives as good as he gets, but in the end, he doesn’t quite have enough to take down Apollo Crews. The rising star of NXT is headed to Wrestlemania.

Well it’s a Big Show. Yes it’s a big bad show tonight.

The Big Show returns to Thursday Night Smackdown, declaring that as the reigning Andre the Giant Battle Royal winner, he would be defending his title against any and all challengers. Unsurprisingly, this draws out several of his opponents in the match, including The Ascension and Sheamus, who each in turn declare that they will be the one to hold the trophy at the end.

As more and more wrestlers come to the ring, fire burns from the turnbuckles, as the demonic Kane returns, and it seems that once again an episode will end in an all in brawl. But as Kane goes to once more draw fire from the turnbuckles, the power in the building short circuits.

The screen goes black. Confusion reigns in the darkness. And lofting through the speakers comes an eerie song…

“There is a house in New Orleans… they call the Rising Sun…”

Summary

Every thing has been left in the ring. There is no more time for discussion, or building of momentum. The Show of Shows is here. It’s time for Wrestlemania.

The next post of this series will cover an overview of the Wrestlemania card, and an opportunity for predictions. And then, onwards to Wrestlemania…

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

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
AJ Styles def. Heath Slater Baron Corbin def. Mojo Rawley
D-Von Dudley def. Jey Uso Johnny Gargano def. Elias Samson
Dean Ambrose def. Erick Rowan Apollo Crews def. Tommaso Ciampa
  Andre the Giant Battle Royal Promo