The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Twenty

This is the twentieth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Monday Night Raw, originally televised on March 21st, 2016.

For the first time in years, Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Vince McMahon, and the Undertaker stand together in the ring, though the wariness of all concerned is obvious. Damien Sandow paces at ringside, clearly still hurting from the attack the previous week, but still on both feet.

Vince and Stephanie rant at Shane, denouncing his claim to the throne. But the Undertaker remains silent.

Shane McMahon steps up to the table, and signs the contract; his eyes never leave the Undertaker. He says that he remembers when the Undertaker was unbeatable at Wrestlemania. But then he also remembers when the company was strong, and creative. And he remembers cord phones. And VCRs.

“You’re time has passed, Taker. And there is nothing that you, or T-“

Triple H’s music hits, and he emerges, flanked by the Dudley Boyz. The distraction leaves Shane open to attack, and Vince shoves him into the Undertaker, who grabs him by the throat. Shane fights briefly free, but with Sandow dealing with the Dudley Boyz, Undertaker grabs him again and Chokeslams him through the table.

Triple H steps into the ring, and with the fight still going on outside, for a moment he stands face to face with his Wrestlemania nemesis.

And then Dean Ambrose’s music hits.

Still bandaged up from the beating he took from Brock Lesnar, Ambrose stalks to the ring, Barbie in hand. Vince and Stephanie scatter, but the Dudley Boyz aren’t so lucky. Both are taken down by blows from Ambrose. Triple H tries to stand tall, but flees in the face of the barbed wire, leaving Ambrose standing over the fallen Shane McMahon; Vince and Stephanie fuming in the corner.

And then the Undertaker steps forward, and the Lunatic Asylum comes face to face with the Deadman. Undertaker looks at Ambrose. Lowers his gaze and looks at Barbie, and everything it represents.

And he smiles. Ever so slightly.

As should always have been the case, the closer we get to Wrestlemania, the more intwined some of the stories become. Triple H’s desperate attempts to hold onto his power start spreading into other matches, distracting him from his own championship defense. Will he get back on track before Wrestlemania arrives?

Match #1: Emma vs Summer Rae

With her match with Paige at Wrestlemania on the cards, Emma takes on Summer Rae in a singles match. Paige watches on from commentary as Emma methodically targets Summer Rae’s neck and ankle, finally locking in the Emma Lock for the submission victory.

There is plenty of backstory to the feud between Paige and Emma. Little build up is needed when the wrestlers can play off so much history, and with Emma announcing her return to the main roster by costing Paige a shot at the championship, this rivalry is already ready to explode.

Match #2: Enzo vs Kofi Kingston

With Big Cass, Big E, and Xavier Woods patrolling at ringside, Enzo Amore goes one on one with Kofi Kingston. Enzo shows that he can more than hold his own without Big Cass, taking the fight to the former Intercontinental Champion. But a timely distraction from Woods causes the referee to miss Enzo’s pinning attempt, and his mouth gets him in trouble, snapping at the referee and opening the door for Trouble in Paradise, and a Kingston victory.

The lead up to their match at Wrestlemania gives both teams an opportunity to showcase their versatility individually and as a group. The New Day shift back and forth between being babyfaces and heels, but with Enzo and Cass the clear crowd favourite, they now have a chance to really open up their bag of tricks.

Match #3: Fandango vs Zack Ryder

In the next United States Championship Ladder Match qualifier, Zack Ryder takes Fandango to the very limit. Wanting to get back into the main roster title race, Ryder hits a Rough Rider, and climbs the turnbuckle for an Elbro Drop…

But Fandango is waiting for it. He springs to his feet and hits Ryder’s feet with a drop kick, dragging him from the turnbuckle and climbing high to hit a Leg Drop for the victory, and the fifth spot in the Ladder Match.

Fandango and Zack Ryder are both young talents, and this match gives them both a chance to show the fans what they’ve got. Fandango gets the win, and generates a fair amount of heat for beating a crowd favourite.

Fandango’s music never plays. The lights go out, and the Wyatt Family’s fireflies light up in the crowd. Bray Wyatt’s haunting voice mocks the competitors.

“You climb your ladders, you grab your gold, and round and round and round it goes. It never changes, and you. Never. Listen.

The wolves will rise, my brothers. They will howl to the moon and you will see this falacy that you have believed to be nothing but a lie.”

Soon.

Match #4: Becky Lynch vs Charlotte

In the first round robin match leading up to Wrestlemania, Becky Lynch takes on Charlotte one on one. Submission after submission is countered and reversed. Natural Selection. A clothesline. A big boot reversed into a Dis-Arm-Her.

Sasha Banks watches from ringside as Ric Flair shouts encouragement at Charlotte. The champion stretches out, reaching the ropes and breaking the hold. The referee pulls Lynch off of her. She tries to get back to Charlotte, but the champion pulls her into the ropes, and a break in the referee’s line of sight gives Ric Flair a chance to trip Becky up, leaving her at the champion’s mercy and a three count.

Banks makes sure there is no post-match assault, but the win still goes to Charlotte…

A round robin competition gives all three wrestlers a chance to test their skills against their opponents, while giving the crowd a chance to see all of them in singles competition against the very best. These three are the very top of the division, and the more face time they get now, the better for the division going forward.

Bo Dallas and Jack Swagger head towards the arena, talking about the next training match for Swagger. They are interrupted by the rest of the Social Outcasts, who demand to know why Dallas is here with Swagger instead of preparing for their match later. Dallas tells them that he believes that this is important. That Swagger could be one of them.

They needed to trust that he would be ready for the match. They need to Bolieve.

Bo Dallas is starting to test the strength of his group with his split attention. His desire to help push Jack Swagger to the top could cost him a lot more than a match at Wrestlemania if he isn’t careful…

Match #5: Jack Swagger vs Mark Henry

The World’s Strongest Man rushes Jack Swagger as soon as the bell rings, pounding him into the turnbuckle and putting on a show. In less than a minute, Henry hits the World’s Strongest Slam, and shakes his head in disgust.

But Swagger kicks out of the pin.

Bo Dallas shouts encouragement from ringside, and Swagger gets back to his feet. Henry throws a punch, and Swagger responds in kind. The two wrestlers throw punch after punch, until Swagger slips beneath a wayward strike and lifts Henry up, hitting him with a German Suplex. Driving the advantage home, he hits a running clothesline and a big boot for the victory.

A couple of things happen here. Firstly, Swagger makes a huge impression. Dallas’ belief in him is starting to pay off, building some momentum headed to Wrestlemania. But more importantly, Swagger didn’t win with a finisher. Which is important. Because the lack of non “finisher” finishes to matches dilutes the meaning and impact of those moves.

Match #6: Natalya vs Naomi and Tamina

From the first moment that Naomi and Tamina come to the ring, it is clear they aren’t all that interested in a singles match with Natalya. Both wrestlers wait patiently in the ring, and when Natalya’s music hits, they beckon for her to join them in the ring, holding the ring ropes apart, waiting for their prey to approach.

But Natalya hasn’t come to have a match. She’s come to fight. And she isn’t alone.

Brie Mode time.

Natalya and Brie Bella charge the ring, not giving Naomi and Tamina enough of a chance to respond before they are suddenly fending off blows from both attackers. Naomi scampers from the ring, followed closely by Tamina, their attempted beatdown turned on its head just two weeks before Wrestlemania.

Brie Bella has been out injured for several months, and now she is back, and raring to go against the current queen heels. Naomi and Tamina might well have their hands full with this new change in the division…

Match #7: The Social Outcasts vs The Dudley Boyz and The Ascension

An eight man tag team match between The Social Outcasts, the Dudley Boyz, and the Ascension takes centre stage, as the Outcasts try to get on the same page ahead of their match at Wrestlemania with the League of Nations.

The match goes back and forth, as Slater and Dallas struggle to work together effectively, and the Dudley Boyz and Ascension bicker over who can beatdown their opponents best.

As the match reaches its climax, the bickering between the Dudleys and Ascension becomes their undoing. A miscommunication allows Curtis Axel to knock both Viktor and D-Von to the floor. Rose takes out Bubba Ray, leaving Slater and Dallas in the ring with Konnor; a Big Boot Bo Suplex combo later, and the Social Outcasts have the victory.

Except the League of Nations take their chance to charge down the ramp into the ring, and four on four becomes seven on four, and despite Adam Rose grabbing a kendo stick from under the ring, there is little they can do.

Until Jack Swagger’s music hits, and he charges the League, clearing the ring. Ducking an attempted Brogue Kick, he takes Alberto Del Rio down with a spinning clothesline, and Adam Rose tosses a second kendo stick into the ring for Curtis Axel.

The League scurry away to regroup. The Dudleys and Ascension lick their wounds. And the Social Outcasts stand tall, Jack Swagger at their centre.

This is one hell of a stacked episode. All the pieces are on the board. All the twists and turns and betrayals are coming home to roost, as alliances strengthen and crumble. And we’ve still got a main event to go…

Match #8: AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler vs Chris Jericho, The Miz, and Kevin Owens

They don’t even wait for the bell. All six men brawl, the violence barely containable by the referee. Mini alliances seem to pop up here and there, but at times it feels as if there are no teams in this match.

But slowly, things start to take shape. The Miz and Chris Jericho start to take control. Kevin Owens goes on a tear, taking out all three of his opponents with Cannonballs. Jericho catches a flying Sami Zayn with a Codebreaker.

Dolph Ziggler breaks the pin.

AJ Styles hits a Phenomenal Forearm.

The Miz rolls out of the ring before he can be pinned.

And then, as the pace picks up, Miz tags himself back in, hitting AJ Styles with the Skull Crushing Finale. He takes too long to gloat though, and Ziggler and Zayn, deciding to take the initiative, rush across the ring, catching Jericho and Owens off guard and connecting with a Super Kick and Helluva Kick respectively.

Miz is shocked, and hesitates, giving Styles enough time to recover, roll him up, and claim the victory.

Owens snatches up his title and stalks off in disgust, refusing to acknowledge that his title match at Wrestlemania will now be a fatal four way. Jericho, meanwhile, loses his mind at ringside, throwing an epic tantrum to close out the night.

Only a Chris Jericho tantrum could finish this episode.

Summary

With only three episodes left before Wrestlemania, the card is almost complete. Now it’s all about momentum. Who can grab it? Who can hold it? And who will end up with all the power?

In the next episode, a contract will be signed, rivalries will push towards their final climaxes, and the United States Championship Ladder Match qualifiers will continue.

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

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Roman Reigns Promo Hell in a Cell Promo
Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles Emma def. Summer Rae
Big E def. Rusev Kofi Kingston def. Enzo Amore
Big Show Promo Fandango def. Zack Ryder
Chris Jericho def. Fandango Bray Wyatt Promo
Zack Ryder vs Sin Cara vs Stardust Charlotte def. Becky Lynch
Roman Reigns Promo Jack Swagger Promo
Charlotte def. Natalya Jack Swagger def. Mark Henry
Bubba Ray Dudley def. R-Truth Natalya vs Naomi (no contest)
Hell in a Cell Promo The Social Outcasts def. The Dudley Boyz and The Ascension
Braun Strowman def. Dean Ambrose by DQ AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, and Dolph Ziggler def. Chris Jericho, The Miz, and Kevin Owens