Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland, OH – Sunday, February 21, 2016
Mauro Ranallo, Byron Saxton, and JBL are on commentary for the Kickoff, and Michael Cole replaces Ranallo for the main show.
United States Champion Kalisto defeats Alberto Del Rio at 10:42 in a Best Two Out Of Three Falls Match to retain the title. Kalisto has been the Champion since 1.24.16, and this is his second defense. Del Rio is the aggressor in the early going, attacking the Champion’s arm. When Kalisto fights back and the match spills to the floor, Del Rio grabs a chair and clobbers Kalisto with it to draw the DQ at 4:32. The second fall starts and Del Rio traps Kalisto between the top and middle rope, and comes down hard with a double stomp to win the second fall at 0:18. Del Rio continues to dominate in the third fall, but Kalisto hangs in there and flies around to make his comeback. Kalisto tries the Salida Del Sol, which Del Rio blocks, but Kalisto uses his momentum to send Del Rio into the turnbuckles. One rollup later and Kalisto retains the title. This was quite good for the Kickoff, and easily could’ve gone on the main show. These two have good chemistry and did a lot of cool stuff here.
Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch defeat Team B.A.D. (Naomi & Tamina) at 10:09. The not-friends-but-willing-to-work-together team of Banks and Lynch start off in control, but the more cohesive Team B.A.D. puts a stop to that and isolates Lynch in their half of the ring. Eventually, Banks gets the hot tag and she’s all fired up. The referee loses control and all four women are coming in and out of the ring. Banks traps Tamina in the Bank Statement while Lynch grabs Naomi in the Dis-Arm-Her. Both members of Team B.A.D. tap out. Very solid opener here, with the tag team formula working well and lending itself to some entertaining action, especially down the stretch.
Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens defeats Dolph Ziggler at 15:11 to retain the title. Owens has been the Champion since 2.15.16, and this is his first defense. The Champion is arrogant and aggressive in the early minutes, and he wears Ziggler down. Every time Ziggler starts fighting up, Owens is able to knock him back down. Ziggler perseveres and fights up on Owens, getting the hometown crowd behind him. Out on the floor Ziggler counters the apron powerbomb with a hurricanrana that sends Owens into the steps! Unfortunately for Ziggler that’s not enough to get the pin. Back in the ring, Owens avoids a superkick with some inadvertent help from the referee, and he lands a kick to the gut. One Pop-Up Powerbomb later Owens gets the pin. This started off slow but built really well, and Ziggler really got the crowd behind him. The way Owens won made him look clever.
Kane, Ryback & Big Show defeat The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper, Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan, w/ Bray Wyatt) in a Six Man Tag Team Match at 10:36. Both teams trade control early on, and either way the pace remains relatively slow. Kane plays face-in-peril for a while and Ryback is the recipient of the hot tag. Ryback uses four of CM Punk’s running knees in the corner, which I find hilarious. The crowd is into Ryback. Everyone starts ignoring the rules and the match is out of control. Rowan and Strowman get knocked to the floor, and Show press slams Harper right into them. Back in the ring Ryback hits Harper with Shell Shocked to get the pin. I’m not sure why the old guys had to go over, but the match was well worked given the participants.
Divas Champion Charlotte (w/ Ric Flair) defeats Brie Bella to retain the title at 12:28. Charlotte has been the Champion since 9.20.15, and this is her seventh defense. Brie is wearing her husband Daniel Bryan’s kick-pads that he wore at WrestleMania XXX. Both women have a focus, as Charlotte attacks the back and neck, and Brie goes after the arm. The Champion is far more successful and controls the bulk of the matchup. Brie makes the big comeback and goes into “Brie Mode,” which I was led to believe was her getting wasted. Charlotte charges back and Brie counters with a small package, showing that she doesn’t have the move quite mastered like Bryan does. Later Brie counters the Figure-Eight into the Yes Lock, and then she turns that into a single-leg crab. Charlotte powers her way out of that and locks on the Figure-Eight to get the tap out win. No shortage of effort from Brie there, but she’s very clearly a step below The Four Horsewomen. This was a solid placeholder title defense on the way to WrestleMania though.
AJ Styles defeats Chris Jericho at 16:25. These two each have a win over each other, so this is the all-important rubber match. Both men are Babyfaces, so they are aggressive but respectful in the early going. Momentum shifts back and forth throughout the match, with both men unloading with plenty of offense. Scary moment when Styles goes for a top-rope hurricanrana and Jericho counters into a Walls of Jericho and almost drops Styles directly on his head on the way down to the mat. Styles escapes by making the ropes, and then they roll to the floor and Jericho puts the hold on again. At the last second Styles makes it back to the ring and Jericho catches him with a Codebreaker! Luckily Styles still had his hand under the bottom rope. Moments later a series of reversals ends with Styles hitting the Styles Clash for two. Styles locks on the Calf Crusher to coax the tap out. I’m not a big fan of kicking out of the Styles Clash so early into Styles’ run in the company, but a clean submission win is still pretty good. The match was good too, but like a lot of Jericho matches nowadays it just never felt in danger of becoming great. They did some neat spots, kept up a pretty good pace, and offered a clean finish, so it worked.
Curtis Axel (w/ Adam Rose, Bo Dallas & Heath Slater) defeats R-Truth at 2:48. What on earth this is doing on a PPV, I certainly don’t know. With the Outcasts holding a big advantage having three guys on the floor, Goldust comes out to try and even the odds. Goldust ends up hurting more than he helps, and Axel gets a rollup for the pin. This was terrible, even at its short running time. This had no business being on any pay-per-view, B-show or otherwise.
Roman Reigns defeats Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) and Dean Ambrose in a Number One Contender’s Triple Threat Match at 17:38. The winner here goes on to face Triple H for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 32. Lesnar wastes no time asserting his dominance, throwing both Reigns and Ambrose around the ring. He flattens Reigns with an early F-5, but Ambrose breaks up the pin. Ambrose shows no fear and he pays for it, getting suplexed on his head multiple times. The fight spills to the floor and Reigns hooks up with Ambrose to powerbomb Lesnar through the announce table. With the Beast out of the way, the former Shield brothers take it to each other. When Lesnar starts to stir, Reigns and Ambrose go back out and powerbomb him through the other announce table! Neat. Of course, Lesnar doesn’t stay down for long, and when he comes back into the ring Ambrose wastes him with a chair. Ambrose also dishes out a few shots to Reigns for good measure. Reigns pops right up and hits Ambrose with a Spear to get the pin. I’m not a huge fan of that finish, as Reigns took multiple chair shots and sold for about two seconds before getting up and hitting his finish. Leading up to that, this was a fast-paced, hard-hitting match, with all three men using their unique skill sets to mesh really well together. Too bad it didn’t have a better ending.
Outside of the bizarre inclusion of R-Truth v Curtis Axel, this is a remarkably solid card all the way up and down. Had the main event gone four stars or higher, this would be a pretty amazing show. As it is, it’s fun to watch and a good bridge to WrestleMania. Unfortunately, that bridge led to Roman Reigns versus Triple H, and no one wanted to see that.