Quick note: if you’re someone who looks at the number grades I give, this might seem a little lower than prior reviews. I actually introduced a real system with math and stuff so I can grade more fairly. There’s number ratings for matches and everything! Wow! Math!
Okay, I may have made some fun of Sunday’s WWE Pay Per View event Stomping Grounds. I may have joked about how repetitive the matchups were and silly the name “Stomping Grounds” is. I wasn’t wrong about the name and concept being silly, or how repetitive the booking was, but a solid chunk of this show was pretty damn good. My biggest issue with the show was that the best matches all could have been longer and the less good matches could have mostly been shorter.
Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak def. Tony Nese and Akira Tozawa
RATING: 4 SCREAMS OF GRATITUDE (AND 2 INVULNERABLE KNEES)
I was pretty mad to see the Cruiserweight Championship Match relegated to the preshow, where the absurd commercials for the event I’m about to watch on the WWE Network where I’m already watching it always interrupt the flow of the matches. However, this triple threat was everything a triple threat title match should be: fast-paced, exciting, and, most importantly, not a one on one match with adjustments. The flow and pacing were completely dependent on all three performers styles and stories, and everyone got cool stuff in. The Tacoma crowd tried to get a “this is awesome” chant started at one point, but they picked the wrong time so it didn’t really take off. (Finding the right time to start up a chant is a tougher skill than you might think.)
Did your humble reviewer immediately start crying tears of joy when Drew Gulak won his first WWE belt? Yes. I did.(His first singles belt since he was CZW Champion in 2014!) As I have said in the past, in a few different places, if you want to talk about talents as well-rounded, talented and versatile as Drew Gulak in WWE, you’re getting into Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Cesaro territory. It is well-deserved and a joy to see happen.
Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch def. Lacey Evans
RATING: 3 SWEATY HANKIES
I thought this was a less good version of their match at Money in the Bank. Lacey Evans’ weird wild west saloon girl entrance gear was indeed: wild. She did a perfectly watchable job in the ring. There seemed to be a little hiccup getting the handkerchief out of her trunks for the armpit sweat dabbing spot she does, but yeah. It was fine. I would have liked this a lot more if I had had any time at all to miss Lacey Evans. I was very invested in it, but most of my investment was fear that she would win. Which is investment! I guess!
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn def. Big E & Xavier Woods
RATING: 3.5 SERVINGS OF POUTINE
Professional wrestling is great when it surprises you and thinks outside of the box, but sometimes you love to see a formula followed well. There was nothing new or groundbreaking about Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beating the crap out of Xavier Woods, hitting him with big move after big move, until he finally made it to Big E for a tag. But they did it so, so well. Kevin Owens is so good at being delightfully horrible, and Big E is so good at making me love him and want to buy him dinner. You can’t really go wrong here. Plus, with this ending, they have to give me a KO Big E singles match on TV soon. They have to!
United States Championship: Ricochet def. Samoa Joe
RATING: 3.5 SICK FLIPS
Thank you all for your prayers— we finally got our actual Samoa Joe PPV match. This was good! How could it not be good, right? Ricochet looked fantastic taking Joe’s moves, getting out of Joe’s moves and hitting his own moves on Joe, but I didn’t feel Joe got as much time to shine. If they had just tacked on a few more minutes where Joe could really just wail on Ricochet, it would have been much more satisfying to see Ricochet win his first main roster title. Still, if I’m complaining “this wasn’t long enough,” that’s a sign I liked what there was.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Daniel Bryan & Rowan def. Heavy Machinery
RATING: 2.5 OUNCES OF WASHINGTON STATE MIDS
This would have been a perfectly fun mid-card tag team championship match if whoever had booked it had considered for one second that the official state mascot of Washington probably wasn’t going to get booed, especially up against a mostly unknown up-and-coming team like Heavy Machinery. Otis and Tucker were plenty impressive athletically, but seemed completely out of their depths having to be the babyfaces and not get treated like babyfaces by the crowd. Daniel Bryan is always a joy to watch, and the wrestling was good, but this did nothing to help the Smackdown Tag Team Division out of the swamp of confusion where it currently resides.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bayley def. Alexa Bliss
RATING: 4 SUCCESSFUL SHOPLIFTING TRIPS TO HOT TOPIC
Remember how I wasn’t that excited for this match? Remember that absolute idiot of a person who used to exist? Wow. WOW! How wrong I was. This Smackdown Women’s title match saw Bayley and Alexa Bliss at their absolute best. I mean, Bayley! Remember Bayley? The heart of NXT? The rough and tumble sweetiepie who is sick of taking your shit? I haven’t seen Bayley look this strong on the main roster since ever. She went in on Alexa Bliss, every move looking like hard, sparkly justice. Bliss, on the other hand, was in full vicious shithead form. I got a tattoo a couple of weeks ago and the artist’s dog, a tiny little Pomeranian, spent the entire session barking at me. Alexa Bliss is like that Pomeranian, if that Pomeranian had just went ahead and tried to kill me. Even if I think it should have been given more time than the absolute slog that followed it, I just absolutely loved this match.
Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre
RATING: 1.5 BOTTLES OF CONDITIONER
I’m sorry Drew. I’m sorry Roman. I’m sorry to every wet hunk all over the world. I could not bring myself to care about this match. I’m not going to say that I texted my friend about Bloodborne strategy for the whole thing, but I texted my friend about Bloodborne strategy for some of it. The thing is, it seemed like a perfectly fine match, but its placement on the card was abysmal. How am I supposed to care about this after Bayley and Alexa Bliss tore the roof off the Tacoma Dome? They made it look way cooler in the photos than it actually was to watch. Sorry guys. Shane McMahon’s ambient sweat was the most entertaining part. This had no business being longer than ten minutes.
WWE Championship: Kofi Kingston def. Dolph Ziggler
RATING: 3 ACTING CLASSES
So, I thought that to win a steel cage match, you have to climb over the top or get a pin. Not true! You can also just walk out the door. That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. This match focused on the door stuff and no one seemed to try to do any climbing at all. I want to see a room match. A room match is like a cage match but it’s in a regular room and to win you just have to leave the room. Does this already exist? Please let me know in the comments.
I don’t really have much to complain about with regards to Kofi and Dolph’s match. It was well wrestled, there were some fun false finishes and cool moves, I loved the ending of Kofi shooting out of the cage like a bullet over Dolph Ziggler’s body. I’m not going to go back and rewatch it or anything, but yeah. Fine stuff. As happy as I am for Dolph that he took some acting classes, I really prefer him just being a sneering dipshit. I’m ready for this feud to be over.
Universal Championship: Seth Rollins def. Baron Corbin
RATING: 2 PUNCHES TO THE BALLS
Seth Rollins vs Baron Corbin part deux, refereed by Lacey Evans and featuring interference by Becky Lynch, was about as good as it could have been. Like, at least there were shenanigans, you know? Not everything is for everyone. Maybe someone out there is super invested in this Baron Corbin Seth Rollins feud. I bet that person had a blast. The second Lacey Evans was revealed as the special guest ref, I knew Becky Lynch would have to come out and save her scrub boyfriend, which actually gave me something to look forward to, even if it was a dumb something to look forward to.
A few people on Twitter pointed out that making the match no countout and no disqualification only served to help Seth Rollins win when Lacey Evans could have just not called for a DQ or countout, but who cares? A bartender at an airport Marriott got his swing dance revival friend to help him cheat to beat guy who is both an arsonist and an architect. It’s dumb! Becky Lynch had to come save Seth Rollins from having to hit a woman when Lacey Evans hit him in the balls. It’s dumb! Don’t worry about it!
Commentary made a lot of references throughout the night to Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch being boyfriend and girlfriend, and I don’t know how I feel about it! Sandwiching the show with Becky Lynch made it obvious that linking them onscreen helps Seth more than it helps Becky, but they seemed uncomfortable having to be an affectionate couple in front of cameras and an audience.
I mean, imagine: you’ve been dating someone for a few months and you have to start also dating them on TV to make both of you more likable. That sounds stressful!