It’s not often that a B-show pay-per-view contains two WrestleMania-caliber matches, but here we are—in WWE’s autumn doldrums, and its No Mercy card containing John Cena vs. Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal championship. The A.V. Club will be liveblogging the show. Feel free to chime in along in the comments below.
The Miz vs. Jason Jordan for Intercontinental championship
The Staples Center audience looks to be one of those, as Vince McMahon likes to say, one of those wacky and strange crowd who cheers for the bad guys and boos the good guys. The Miz got a great pop from the audience—and well deserved, methinks. He’s been doing some great work on the mic, blurring the line between reality and fiction, which the hardcore WWE audience seems to appreciate. Crowd applauds loudly when Miz reaches the rope on an attempted crossface submission from Jordan.
As expected, Miztourage interference figures into the ending. Curtis Axel cheap shots Jordan, which led to a Skull-Crushing Finale for the pin.
Strange promo by Jordan in-ring after the match. In demanding a rematch from The Miz, he invokes that sick burn that WWE crowds tell his “father,” Kurt Angle: He tells The Miz he sucks! Oh man, this Jason Jordan character is dying on the vine.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
Two talented wrestlers, both of whom with a disappointing main roster career thus far, continue their underwhelming series.
Bray Wyatt attacks Finn Balor from behind to start the match. Balor is walked to the back with the refs, until Wyatt calls him a coward on the mic, forcing Balor back to start the match. Boy, Balor recovered in a hurry.
Match was fine. We had ourselves two wrestlers, both faster than they appear, give us a quick-paced match without a lot of downtime. Balor finishes off Wyatt with a Coup de Grace. I don’t remember much else about this match. The crowd seemed to enjoy it (Balor especially), but something feels off with their back-and-forth. We haven’t seen Balor at his full potential, but I really would like to see Balor as a heel with Gallows and Anderson again.
We get news that Asuka will be making her main roster debut at Tables, Ladders and Chairs on Oct. 22.
Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose vs. Cesaro/Sheamus for Tag Team championship
Cesaro swings Ambrose’s shoulder against the steel steps outside the ring, and heels spend much of the match working over that shoulder. Cesaro got bloodied up somethin’ nasty by Ambrose during a sling shot to the ring post, may have lost several teeth in the process. Rollins gets the hot tag, but heels get the upper hand and works over Rollins now. Thus far a smooth, professional, by-the-books tag team match.
Crazy false finish saw Sheamus give Ambrose the White Noise, followed by Cesaro hitting a second-rope power bomb of Rollins onto Ambrose. Ambrose kicks out! Crowd wakes up now. This was followed by Sheamus accidentally hitting the Brogue kick onto Cesaro—Sheamus turns around and gets the Rainmaker knee from Rollins, followed by the Dirty Deeds by Ambrose. Excellent finishing sequence and last three minutes of the match.
Nia Jax vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Emma vs. Alexa Bliss for Raw women’s championship
Standard five-person match to start—couple of ladies get thrown to the outside, couple of ladies stay inside, and that’s where the action is focused. A match like this really shows off the choreography of professional wrestling. Scary spot in the middle where Nia Jax is powerbombed from the ring apron to the floor by the other four competitors. (I believe this was the first “holy shit” of the night from the crowd.)
Finish sees Alexa Bliss DDT Bayley for the pin. Smooth match, built up to a compelling finish. Bliss is just a fantastic character—the bitchiness pierces like a dagger from her eyes. But oh boy, is Bayley getting buried in this women’s division. Is she turning heel? Is this the impetus?
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
Have you listened to John Cena on the Edge & Christian podcast? You really should. Cena is really articulate when it comes to explaining the psychology of storylines. There really seems to be some professional truth to the Cena/Reigns program, and in turn, the emotional realism in their respective promos have produced one of the more compelling WWE storylines of recent memory. But beyond the storyline, we’ve got two of the best big show performers in professional wrestling, and for those of us fan who want a five-star match rating from Dave Meltzer, this has that potential.
“You both suck” chant begins the match, and Cena threatens to walk out on the match. Reigns retrieves him and the match starts in earnest. Reigns is fully embracing the heel character in this match, talking back to the crowd, oozing cockiness and sneer.
The match really gets hot after Cena’s first Attitude Adjustment. Near fall. Cena hits a Super A.A. from the turnbuckle. Reigns kicks out. Cena clears the Spanish announcer’s table and was about to deliver a third A.A., but Reigns reverses it and spears Cena in mid-air, destroying the table. This is a super hot crowd.
Cena then goes for his rollover-double A.A. and Reigns kicks out from that. That was the false finish of all false finishes. Then from out of nowhere, Reigns hits a Superman punch and a spear, and scores the pin against Cena. Crowd hating this. Not five stars, but entertaining as hell.
After the match, Cena gave back all the goodwill this Los Angeles crowd handed him—he raised Reigns’ hand in victory. I couldn’t have think of a more heelish act.
Neville vs. Enzo Amore for Cruiserweight championship
Neville is great. Enzo is terrible. The crowd chants “this is boring.” Enzo kicks Neville in the huevos while the ref’s back is turned, stealing the pin and the championship. This match sucked. Infuriating.
Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar for Universal championship
The biggest babyface WWE has created in years, Braun Strowman, goes against the best-booked champion of the last decade, Brock Lesnar. Seriously, why was this not the main event at WrestleMania? Regardless, we’re getting it in September, and I’ll take it.
In the end, this match was a massive letdown. Punjabi prison-level disappointing. Crowd was dead, there was no build throughout the match, and the finish came out of nowhere.
Lesnar can’t take down Strowman to begin the match. Lesnar hits a German suplex, and Strowman immediately hits a choke slam, followed by the running power slam and a near fall. I nearly fell for that finish. Strowman is having his way with Lesnar.
Lesnar locks in the Kimura lock on Strowman. Strowman reaches the ropes, then hits Lesnar with a spinebuster and another near fall. Now comes Lesnar and a flurry of German suplexes. Lesnar attempts an F-5, which Strowman reverses into a running power slam. Strowman hits a third power slam but Lesnar kicks out. Lesnar then picks up Strowman and hits an F-5, and pins him. This came out of nowhere, and was it ever anti-climatic. Some matches, the loser wins even in defeat. Not in Strowman’s case. It feels as if the WWE slammed the brakes on the performer with the most momentum.