WWE Stomping Grounds Thoughts

I did not expect to be doing a recap for this show. All the talk leading up to it was negative, that the matches were a bunch of rematches from either WrestleMania or the Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia, that the tickets weren’t selling well, and that it had little buzz at all. And in the shadow of the big splash the new company on the block, AEW, made with their Double or Nothing show a few weeks prior and all the noise that their new signee Jon Moxley made about his disagreements with the WWE creative process while he was playing Dean Ambrose the long knives have been out for a few weeks. So what should have been a nice diversion of a show in late June turned into what looked like it was going to be a prime opportunity to dunk on the WWE. Now in the past the WWE has come through in moments exactly like this, but in 2019 there was reason to believe that wouldn’t happen.

Since WrestleMania there has some loudly voiced displeasure with what WWE has been doing on TV, starting with the night after the biggest show of the year when way too many people got mad that the RAW main event between new champions Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston ended with a run-in by Cesaro and Sheamus. Then the yearly Superstar Shakeup went off the rails early, followed by the wildcard rule which was essentially a way to get Roman Reigns back on RAW to help with the ratings nosedive that coincided with him being sent to Smackdown. To be honest I was not expecting this level of anger from people who aren’t the usual Mad on the Internet crowd. It’s become the Airing of Grievances, Festivus style. And I’m not saying that none of them were valid; there have been way too many six man tag matches over the last six months featuring the combination of Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley, and Drew McIntyre, for example. But some of this stuff has been way over the top.

And then there was the Super Showdown, with the handwringing over WWE doing shows in Saudi Arabia and the digs taken at the main event of Goldberg vs The Undertaker both before it was announced and after it ended thanks to a few spots that more than showed the participants age. And while that was going on the news came out the ticket sales for this show were not going well at all, AEW put on a show that got high praise and took some major shots at WWE, and then the newly arrived Moxley made the podcast rounds to take a huge dump on the WWE creative process. In voicing how much he hated the way that he was forced to play Dean Ambrose and unloading on WWE’s creative process, Moxley provided verification and vindication of a million people’s legit issues but also mad tweets, dirtsheet reports, and otherwise stupid takes. June became a perfect storm of bad luck and bad news for the WWE and the calls for Vince McMahon to hang it up have never been louder.

Which bring us to this show. Expectations were low, even though on paper the card didn’t look bad at all. Once the bell rang what would happen? Would the talented roster deliver performances that would help stop the bleeding or would they just tank the whole thing and move on to July? Would the fastest turn from happiness at WrestleMania 35 to almost total mutiny by a not small group of fans get some pushback, or would it be further validated? Let’s see:

Cruiserweight Title Match: Tony Nese (c) vs Drew Gulak vs Akira Tozawa

Perfect way to start things off. This was essentially a 205 Live Originals Tribute Match, as it featured three of the original members of the 205 Live roster, and all three guys showed out in a major way. Gulak winning was a crowning achievement for a guy who has put in a lot of time and character work on 205 Live and has truly earned a chance to be a title holder. These guys go out there and kill it every Tuesday and deserve your support for real. Gulak has the mic skills for the main roster if they ever want to send him there.

RAW Womens’s Title Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs Lacey Evans

This was better than their first match for sure. Both women gave a solid effort here and I thought the match in general was a good one. Lacey is still more character than wrestler now but with her athletic ability if she ever catches up on the latter watch out. I know a lot of people I talk to did not want her in this spot so early but I think she’s a good character contrast to Becky so it made sense. I mean seriously as much as you think you want it Becky running over someone for a month or two who’s primarily just a good wrestler and then beating them would be boring and make her look like a bully. Becky is so character driven that the best move is to have someone with an equally strong character/persona on the other side. Not sure if this is over or not based on how the main event went down, but if it’s over then I’d love to see them revisit it next year after Lacey’s presumably gotten better in the ring.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs Big E and Xavier Woods

I was not interested in this match going in but since it was so early in the show I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. The match was set up well with Big E getting knocked down early so that Owens and Zayn could get heat beating on Woods (I initially thought maybe Big E wasn’t 100 percent so they were limiting his participation on purpose but he proved that wrong), then later on things really picked up and turned into a good outing. This was a case where execution makes all the difference in the world and these guys all are pros at it. Owens and Zayn have been taking Ls on TV a lot so a win here was well placed.

U.S. Title Match: Samoa Joe (c) vs Ricochet

I’ve said on Twitter a bunch of times that I did not like Ricochet before he came to WWE because to me he was the epitome of ‘Flippy Sh@#! killing the business!’ But since he’s been in NXT he has shown that he can actually work and not just jump all over the place. Acrobatics/flippy stuff is fine so long as it’s in a sensible context for the match and you sell the other guys offense, too. Outside of say a Lucha Libre setting where they just don’t do that kind of stuff at all as a brand then I want match action to make sense. And here it did. I wasn’t sure how these two would mesh but they did great. Joe put in more work than I’ve seen him do in a long time and Ricochet sold it all like a champ, and when it came time for the theatrics he did them in a way that made sense in the context of the match. I did not expect a title change here but hey, congrats Ricochet!

And a special shout out to all the people saying he was being misused or buried because he lost a couple of singles matches on TV….I hope one day you learn what that word actually means.

Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: Daniel Bryan and Eric Rowan (c) vs Heavy Machinery

Another match that exceeded expectations. Daniel Bryan took a ton of bumps, Tucker Knight showed off some top rope stuff that I didn’t know he could do, and Otis is Otis. I felt a little bad for Heavy Machinery because there’s no way Daniel Bryan is getting booed in Washington, but they powered through it and didn’t get rattled by the crowd.

Smackdown Women’s Title match: Bayley (c) vs Alexa Bliss

I love the adjustments that Bayley’s made to her character – smarter and more assertive without going ‘dark’ or getting heelish. Alexa gets a lot of crap on Twitter, and I’ve slung some of it myself, but she took some real tough bumps here and did some good work. And the silver lining to her having won so many championships is that now just putting her in a title match adds suspense just like it does with Charlotte. Having people who are always a legit threat to win based on history is a good thing, even if you don’t like those people personally. The spot where Nikki Cross cost her the match was kinda weird but it served it’s purpose.

Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre

Maybe the match of the night, and Roman’s best one on one match since returning. Both guys were able to go deep into their playbook of moves, which is something us Roman Reigns fans have been wanting for a while – an opponent that he doesn’t have to sell for most of the match and can take all of his offense, not just the punches, kicks, and other strikes. Shane McMahon, love him or hate him, got in a lot of good cheap shots outside in support of Drew. Loved the match and the finish, lots of good, well timed near falls. I know some people wanted Drew to win but if one of your main beefs about WWE is the dreaded 50/50 booking then you should applaud it when somebody does indeed get booked strong. And look he did just lose to Shane McMahon. Would swapping those decisions around been better? Maybe, but it is what it is. If Drew is going to become what some people think he can be then he has to show he can survive this kind of thing and bounce back. Given where Roman is positioned in and out the ring this summer, if there was a time to pile on the pay per view wins for him it’s right now.

WWE World Title Match: Kofi Kingston (c) vs Dolph Ziggler

Another good match, but by no fault of their own I was focused more on the main event. Dolph’s near escapes from the cage made for some good, suspenseful moments towards the end and Kofi’s escape through the door for the win was genius in execution. Kofi’s story before and after WrestleMania this year has been one of the most of Kofi well done and properly booked stretches anyone has gotten in some time. They’ve honestly nailed every inflection point along the way and haven’t had even one head scratching decision in my opinion. I was a skeptic of Kofi nailing this big a role but he has more than proven me wrong and now I’m pulling for him to keep the belt as long as possible. That they trusted him to hold the title through what are essentially filler programs but have booked him really strong as champion says a lot about how most people see him. This is as big a mid/late career resurgence as you’ll ever see. Five years ago Kofi was on his way to being a jobber to the stars and maybe even future endeavored eventually. A year ago it looked like the new lease on life his career got in The New Day was going to be confined to tag teams stuff. And now here he is our W-W-E World Heavyweight Champion Bay-bee!

Universal Title Mach: Seth Rollins (c) vs Baron Corbin

So as well as everything was going with the show I figured this would be the match that naysayers would use as their gateway to say the show sucked, and Corbin being involved is a big part of that. Corbin is the antithesis of what wrestling twitter likes about the guys and gals who do the work – no time in the indies, former professional athlete who got into the business late, not a workrate guy, and he doesn’t try to be liked while playing a bad guy. And this match was a sports entertainment match, with a referee to be handpicked by Corbin who was sure to try and screw Seth over at every opportunity.

I thought that referee would be Brock Lesnar, so I was surprised when Corbin chose Lacey Evans. But it made sense because Evans is beefing with Seth’s real life and TV girlfriend Lynch, and she played her part really well.

Unfortunately some people in the building were hoping for Real Serious Wrestling and didn’t take to this. Do y’all not like fun? Come on people this whole ‘how many five star matches does he have?’ nonsense is no way to live. Seriously no one gave a damn how many five star matches Bruno, Hogan, Austin, or Rock had. And while Ric Flair was capable of it nobody cared about that with him either.

Yes sometimes the story calls for a shenanigan laden match. Sometimes it’s just fun to have one. Everyone doesn’t want to watch two dudes trade moves for 35 minute, ok? If that’s the only kind of main event you want there are places that will accommodate you. As for me I’ll gladly take this every time over that. Not that I can’t take in one of those sometimes but no I do not need a 35 minute match on every pay per view or every match from a performer to feel like I saw something good.

All of that was to say the yes I enjoyed this match and thought it was good. If you simply disagree that’s fine but if you’re gonna be mad on the internet about it and use it as a reason to dump on the whole show then go play in traffic instead.

Final Verdict

Good show start to finish, every match is good for a rewatch. No head scratcher finishes or choices of winners. Definitely a thumbs up here.

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