WWE Review: Roadblock 2016

Date: March 12, 2016

Venue: Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

When WWE announced a Network exclusive special between Fastlane and Wrestlemania, people were expecting a glorified house show. Originally titled the March to Wrestlemania, it was renamed Roadblock. As some of the matches were announced, interest suddenly piqued. Fans saw the possibility that the Wrestlemania event card could be reshuffled, with Roman Reigns (whose push as top babyface has not been well received) possibly facing former tag partner Dean Ambrose instead of Triple H. So in this review I share my thoughts on whether or not this event was a game-changer or a throwaway show.

The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston w/Xavier Woods) vs. the League of Nations (King Barrett & Sheamus) for the WWE Tag Team Titles (6/10)

The New Day come out first and gave a funny promo. It wasn’t as good as some of their earlier stuff until they introduced their special brand of cereal: Booty-O’s! They proceeded to insult the League of Nations with painful accuracy. Because really, the League of Nations, consisting of international stars Alberto Del Rio, Rusev, Sheamus, and Wade Barrett, is one of the worst factions ever. When they started they had Sheamus as world champion and Alberto Del Rio as U.S. champion (after beating John Cena clean in ten minutes no less!). But Sheamus lost his title pretty quickly (a month after winning it) and Alberto Del Rio likewise lost the U.S. title to Kallisto. Sheamus was booted out of the world title picture while Barrett and Rusev have been losing most of their matches.

The match itself was heel vs. heel, but the crowd cheered New Day, who by being so funny and entertaining are slowly morphing into babyfaces. New Day dominated the early going with a lot of tags to keep up their momentum. Barrett and Sheamus got the upper hand as they beat up Kingston for a while. Kingston finally made the tag to Big E, who was hit with a pretty neat suplex by Barrett. Later on Sheamus was set up for the tag-team version of the Big Ending, but he slipped out of it and Kingston landed on his head. Ouch!  Barrett went for the pin, which would have succeeded except that Xavier Woods got on the apron and distracted the ref. They are still bad guys. After some more back-and-forth Barrett was hit with the Big Ending and got pinned, as he usually does.

This was a good match, but nothing too special. It wasn’t as great as New Day’s bouts with the Usos and Lucha Dragons. They did make both teams look strong.

Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger (5/10)

This is where Roadblock started to look like a high-class house show. Jericho came out and spent what must have been ten minutes insulting the fans and even insulting Canada. He said that he turned heel because everyone was cheering the recently-debuted AJ Styles when they should have been exalting his latest return. I actually find Jericho’s constant returns annoying. He goes on tour with his band Fozzy and then comes back for a few months to wrestle. For the first couple times it was amazing, but now it’s the same thing over and over. Some lower card heel comes out to say a bunch of rude things and then suddenly the light goes out and he makes his dramatic return. Fortunately this time he’s in a pretty good feud with AJ Styles.

Ironically, the man who would fight for the Canadian fans was American patriot Jack Swagger. He and Jericho had a pretty back-and-forth match. It was nice seeing every signature and finisher get countered, but I feel that some of the moves weren’t really clicking all too much. Also, the crowd wasn’t really into it. Jericho did a good job of making his fellow Canadians hate him with that promo, but they weren’t really buying Swagger all that much and at one point were chanting “CM Punk”. Towards the end Jericho broke up the Patriot Lock by grabbing the ref’s pants. He then applied the Walls of Jericho and got the win via submission.

Swagger can put on some good matches but I wasn’t feeling it here. The crowd didn’t help too much either. The match was also a bit of a random set-up. Sami Zayn, a native Canadian, was there. So why didn’t he defend Canada against Jericho?

Big Cass & Enzo Amore (w/Carmella) vs. the Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) for the NXT Tag Team Titles (8/10)

I was pretty excited to see an NXT match in front of a larger crowd. Fan reaction was a bit light since not everybody has the Network and watches NXT, but enough joined in on Amore’s opening mic spiel. The story was heavily reminiscent of their NXT Takeover: London match, in that Cass and Amore just can’t seem to win the tag titles and they’re facing off against the brutally old school Revival.

In the opening the crowd got fired up when Cass started literally throwing Amore, whose character is a loudmouthed, but not that good wrestler, into the Revival, one time even over the top rope. The Revival finally got their act together and dominated Amore for a while. The best bit of this part was when Amore fought off his opponents and was nearing for a hot tag. Just as he was about to get it, Dawson just swooped in and knocked him all the way out of the ring. Amore finally tagged in Big Cass, who blasted the Revival and then tagged Amore back in for the Rocket Launcher on Wilder. Dawson stopped them and a chase ensued outside the ring, concluding with Carmella slapping Dawson. Cass then ran into the Revival’s tag team finisher, a two-man Codebreaker. Amore managed to fight both of them off for a bit, but was eventually hit with the two-man Codebreaker and pinned.

As usual with the NXT talent, this was a great match. They really got the crowd into it, which bodes well for them if they move up to the main roster. It’s always crushing to see Amore and Cass fail to win those titles, but the Revival may get their final comeuppance against another NXT team called American Alpha.

Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) vs. Natalya for the Divas Title (7/10)

Once again the signs that this is a large-scale house show were shown when it was announced that this was originally a non-title match. Some verbal sparring earlier in the day led to it being made into a title match. Since Charlotte is already locked into a triple threat at Wrestlemania with other former NXT alumni Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, the outcome of this match was made much more obvious. Also Natalya is the daughter of pro-Canadian Jim Neidhart, so the Canadians were really behind her on this one.

The match started off with the two twisting around into different submission holds. It was nice, but a couple of them didn’t look very effective, such as Charlotte’s leg scissors which Natalya could easily punch her way out of. Charlotte finally came out on top, working on her opponent’s knee and bashing Natalya’s head into the mat. She locked on the Figure Eight a couple times, but Natalya managed to counter them into pins before getting beaten up some more. Charlotte hit the Natural Selection and went for a moonsault.  Natalya got to her feet and regained control with a powerbomb. She eventually locked on the Sharpshooter. Charlotte pulled herself closer to the ropes, where Ric Flair tried to grab her in hopes of breaking the hold. His interference caused Natalya to let go of Charlotte and yell at him, leading to the overused distraction roll-up pin.

This was actually the second longest match of the night, unusual for women’s wrestling on the main roster. I thought it was pretty good, though some of the Charlotte dominance spots dragged on.

Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper (4/10)

This was supposed to just be Lesnar vs. Wyatt. Wyatt’s faction of evil swamp men had ganged up on Lesnar during the Royal Rumble to eliminate him. This was going to lead to a Wrestlemania match, but plans were changed to have Lesnar face Ambrose. Now he had a chance for revenge on Wyatt here in a one-on-one match. Wyatt said he made a deal with the devil (probably the booking team) to turn this into a handicap match because Lesnar is so freaking powerful.

I have mixed feelings about this match. It was advertised as one-on-one, a first time showdown between the Beast Brock Lesnar and charismatic cult leader Bray Wyatt. Wyatt tagged out at the beginning and it was just Lesnar vs. Harper. It was a decent match. Harper started off getting suplexed. Wyatt stood in the entrance aisle. Lesnar started coming after him, since he was the main target, but decided to finish off Harper. Turning around, he was greeted by Harper’s flying attack. Harper actually managed to dominate him for a good minute with his superkick and discus clothesline. Lesnar kicked out of a pin attempt and then German suplexed Harper about seven times before putting him away with the F-5. A displeased Wyatt retreated.

By not resolving Lesnar vs. Wyatt, WWE actually made the outcome of the main event more uncertain. Instead of facing Lesnar, Ambrose could beat Triple H for the title and face Roman Reigns instead. Lesnar himself would be free to have a final confrontation with Wyatt.

Sami Zayn vs. Stardust (5/10)

Sami Zayn has made it to the main roster. This was his introduction match and feels like it belongs on a house show. Stardust dominated the match, as Sami Zayn’s character is that of an underdog. Now Zayn and Stardust are both great wrestlers, but the match felt a bit lethargic, not helped by a disinterested crowd. I think the problem is that Stardust has turned into a complete jobber, so people don’t really buy that he can beat Zayn. At the end Zayn came back, suplexing Stardust into a corner and hitting the Helluva kick

Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose for the World Title (10/10)

As a warm-up for his match against Roman Reigns, HHH had a feud with Ambrose. In just three weeks everyone was invested in this feud thanks to great promo work and high levels of violence. There was even reason to believe that Ambrose could win the gold and go on to the main event of Wrestlemania. After all, Roman Reigns, the supposed hero, is getting met boos or indifference.

The crowd was actually split on who they wanted to win at the beginning. Things started off with a lot of holds. Amusingly Ambrose targeted Triple H’s large nose, biting and pulling on it. Triple H finally got control when he sent his opponent into the ring steps. He applied the Crossface Crossbreaker and the Rings of Saturn. By the way, Ambrose and HHH used a lot of other wrestlers’ submission finishers in this match. Triple H hit his signature spinebuster to stop a comeback. Ambrose finally came back with a bulldog. Both competitors failed to hit their finishers.

Ambrose got Triple H onto the floor and went for his suicide dive, but was clocked as he was coming out of the ropes. HHH started tearing up the announce table, but Ambrose turned the tide and got him back into the ring, where he locked on the Figure Four. Triple H managed to crawl his way to the ropes, but Ambrose got him again, this time with the Sharpshooter. For a really long time again Triple H managed to crawl to the ropes and really looks like he’s hurting. Coming back into the ring, he was hit with the Dirty Deeds and the referee counted to three to make Ambrose world champion!

Except one of Ambrose’s legs was under the bottom rope. The ref caught this and quickly waved off his decision before the bell could be rung. The fans were super-hot for Ambrose winning and equally let down when they learned it didn’t happen. I myself let out a “YES!” and then growled in anger. Dean Ambrose argued with the referee, enabling Triple H to roll him up. Ambrose kicked out and sent him flying to the outside. He connected with the suicide dive and put him on the announce table. He came off with an elbow, but Triple H rolled out of the way.

HHH got into the ring while Ambrose laid on the collapsed announcers’ table. He barely beat the ten count to make it back inside the ring, but in the process ran straight into a Pedigree. Triple H got the win after that.

A lot of people like this match, but say it had some flaws. I’ll admit I was incensed when Ambrose didn’t get the win because of a technicality, but I think that’s a good reaction to have. It certainly makes me want to root against Triple H. Speaking of Triple H, he was in top form here. He really helped make Ambrose look like a star with his selling and he didn’t use a bunch of run-ins or a sledgehammer to win, which was a nice change of pace. I’m giving this match a perfect rating. It kept me engrossed and I haven’t been this emotionally attached to a WWE performance since Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 30.

Overall

This was a good show, but it is more in line with a house show. No titles changed hands and a couple of the matches were just there. But I think WWE will bring it up fairly often especially after that main event. There is no doubt now that Dean Ambrose could and should be the next top babyface. Roman Reigns, who’s supposed to be the conquering hero, hasn’t even appeared recently and Wrestlemania is about three weeks away. Here’s hoping that event ends with a big twist.

Final Rating: 7/10

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