Even though I’m too much into WWE right now, that doesn’t mean I’ll skip a pay-per-view event. Oh, I wasn’t too excited for Stomping Grounds. I mean, what a stupid name! The matches themselves didn’t seem all that interesting but I still went ahead and watched Stomping Grounds. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised with the entire pay-per-view. It wasn’t something that altered my rather subdued perception of the WWE’s product or anything like that. But, considering how uninterested I came in, it was much better than I expected.
I guess let’s start with what I considered to be the best match of the night: The New Day pairing of Xavier Woods vs the duo of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. We know that the New Day are great because they’ve been a team for so, so long. But I find it incomprehensible that the WWE hasn’t been pushing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, two personal favorites of mine. They have always been good in the ring, both as singles competitors and as a tag team. Hopefully, after their Stomping Grounds match, the WWE will open their eyes and see them as much more than glorified mid-carders.
The match started off with a bang, as Kevin Owens just came in and walloped The New Day with a barrage of superkicks. I usually expect a Kevin Owens match to start off rather slow, so him changing things up was a nice surprise.
I will say that the beatdown on Woods felt a little too long for my liking as things got a little monotonous. Things did get better after Woods made the hot tag to Big E. Lots of inventive storytelling spots, like Woods straining to get Big E up into the electric chair splash position from the extended beatdown. The near falls looked real with a lot of times when I definitely thought the match was over only for the pinfall to be broken up at the last millisecond.
The finish came after Big E speared Zayn to the outside. Woods tried to take out Owens but Owens crotched the New Day member on the top turnbuckle. A stunner later and Owens gets the pinfall, winning the match for his team. I really liked this as the energy was really great. My comment about the extended beating of Woods still stands and I do wish they put in a little more time into the finish. Still, this was a fun match to watch.
The next match that deserves attention was the one for the RAW Women’s Championship. This had “The Man” Becky Lynch defend her title against Lacey Evans. I do believe that the WWE has watered down the gruff personality of Becky Lynch’s “The Man” persona but she’s still good. Lacey Evans is one of the best heels on the mic, although she does botch a few moves in the ring here and there. Pitting them against each other, however, has been fantastic.
The match itself was indeed a mixed bag. As per usual Lacey Evans looked awkward at times in the ring. Sometimes it’s with her positioning like when she was too far away for Lynch to connect with her springboard kick in the corner and the Sassy Southern Belle’s kicks look weak at times. Other times, she does phenomenally well, like when she hit that springboard stunner close to the end of the match and that bow and arrow maneuver on Lynch on the ringpost.
But what sold the match was the in-ring storytelling. Evans knows how to play the crowd and Lynch is great in hyping the audience by selling the moves. Sadly, their chemistry in the ring makes it all the more weird why Evans would still make gaffes during their match.
The finish came with Evans attempting a moonsault but The Man taking her off the top turnbuckle. The instant Lynch locked the Dis-Arm Her submission, Evans tapped out. I dislike this kind of finish as there isn’t an y real drama to the conclusion of the match. At least have Evans attempt the Women’s Right or something. Still, I can’t be too upset as the overall layout of the bout was good.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we had the Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre, the match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship with Bayley going against the challenger Alexa Bliss and the match for the WWE Universal Championship, which had Seth Rollins face off against Baron Corbin and his special guest referee. Actually, I wouldn’t say those matches are bad. They just didn’t excite me as much as I wanted them to.
This goes double for the one for the WWE Universal Championship. This had some incredibly bad storytelling. Baron Corbin assigned Lacey Evans to be the special guest referee. I guess because he knew that Rollins was dating her rival, Becky Lynch? Anyway, it makes for a good story but it’s also rather illogical. Also, when can a referee, even a special guest referee, inject stipulations during the middle of the match? Oh, and the beatdown on Rollins was just too long. I just got bored.
The only thing that kind of redeemed this match was the finish as Becky Lynch made the save when Evans declared it to be a No Disqualification match. After Lynch took out Evans, the replacement referee turned out to be the guy who Corbin blamed for his loss as Super Showdown. Nice touch. Anyway, Rollins flipped out of an End of Days attempt, nails Corbin with a superkick and connects with a curb stomp to get the pinfall victory. It was cute to see Lynch and Rollins in the ring, especially Lynch who was definitely more playful. It was still a boring match until the very end, though.
The same thing can be said for the Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre match. It had the same nonsensical in-ring storytelling, like Shane McMahon dragging the referee out of the ring to break up a pinfall attempt by Reigns. Why this wasn’t an immediate DQ, I have no idea. I will give props that the middle part was good, with spots like McIntyre performing his reverse Alabama Slamma, driving Reigns into the announce table face first. But the match just went on for too long. The finish had Reigns kicking out after getting nailed by Shane’s Coast-to-Coast because the ref was still out of it. Reigns counters McIntyre’s Claymore Kick with a superman punch. Shane tries to run in but it sent flying out of the ring. A spear to McIntyre and Reigns get the pinfall victory. It was just too long with nothing really happening for my taste.
I was also disappointed by the Smackdown Women’s Championship bout. I’m a huge Alexa Bliss fan and I am enjoying the entire “best friend” schtick with Nikki Cross. I used to be a Bayley fan until she became a generic character. I still do admire her in-ring work, though. However, this match felt like your plain RAW/Smackdown match. Some antics were fun, Bayley sunset flip powerbombing Bliss into the turnbuckles and Bliss’ corner charge into a big slap. That was unexpected.
But the finish was incredibly dumb. Bliss shoved Nikki Cross into a suicide diving Bayley, allowing Bliss to nail a flipping powerbomb on Bayley. Bliss rolls Bayley into the ring and sets up for Twisted Bliss but Nikki runs into the ring and… tries to attack Bayley, I guess. This gives Bayley enough time to recover and block Twisted Bliss by bringing up the knees. A Bayley-to-Belly suplex later and Bayley retains her Smackdown Women’s Championship. I really expected more, especially with the unknown factor of Nikki Cross. She was wasted as the ending sucked.
The remaining two matches I really enjoyed but I just have a few personal taste issues with them. The one for the United States Championship with Samoa Joe vs Ricochet was incredibly exciting but I just thought it was too… far-fetched? I don’t have a problem with the little, quick man beating the monster. That’s been a staple of wrestling since time immemorial. I just don’t like it when the moves become too unrealistic. Look, Ricochet is fantastic in the ring, flying around like it’s nobody’s business. However, when you see him doing a somersault flip while using Samoa Joe’s chest like a wall, it breaks the illusion for me. I want to believe wrestling, for all it’s fakery and unbelievability, is still real. When I see things like this, it reminds me that it’s all staged.
The finish has Ricochet leaping over the ropes to break up Samoa Joe’s Coquina Clutch. Ricochet sets up for his 630 senton but Joe recovers. Ricochet rolls through, though. Joe goes for a clothesline but Ricochet… follows through the hit and lands on his feet? Once again, this breaks my immersion. Anyway, Ricochet connects with a Codebreaker and finally lands the 630 to become the NEW United States Champion. It was a fun match but in the sense like if I were watching movie stunt show. In wrestling terms, not so much.
The match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship had The New Daniel Bryan and Rowan facing off against Heavy Machinery. I really enjoyed this match as it allowed Heavy Machinery to be involved in a high profile bout and they made the most of it. Lots of good spots, like Otis “hulking up” from The New Daniel Bryan’s Yes Kicks and the passing delayed suplex was impressive as hell!
The finish was pretty good, with Bryan just rolling up Tucker in a small package to retain. As much as I enjoyed the match, however, I do have a problem with The New Daniel Bryan kind of being wasted in the Tag Team division. Okay, he’s been very good before when in a Tag Team (Team Hell No springs to mind). But Rowan is just not a charismatic partner for him. It just feels out of place. If he were paired with someone a little more high profile, I would be more accepting of his current status.
Overall, despite the ho-hum name, Stomping Ground’s initial show was pretty good. Even the lamest match, which is Roman Reigns vs Drew McIntyre had its moments. The biggest issue is that nothing really felt like there were any stakes. The feuds will continue on until the next pay-per-view so nothing that happened here was of any consequence. It was a good show, though.
What did you think of the inaugural Stomping Grounds pay-per-view? Do you think the WWE should change the name? Let me know in the comments section below!