On the whole, this wasn't the awesome spectacle that WrestleMania 32 was, but it was a much more entertaining wrestling show. In fairness to Mania, this show only being four hours was a huge advantage.
Anyhow, on to the show in my customary "main event to first match" format. If you're interested in more detailed reviews of the show then I recommend Jason Powell from DOT NET's Payback Live Review and his Kickoff Show Coverage.
On to my thoughts...
- Roman Reigns (C) v AJ Styles for the WWE World Title--No one should be surprised that I enjoyed the heck out of this match. Two of my absolute favorites went in there and tore it up for the WWE Title.
The most common criticism of the match was the involvement of Shane and then Stephanie based on Vince's announcement (which I will touch on in the next bullet point), but I thought the action itself was able to rise above that nonsense.
In a lot of ways this match reminded me of Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 31 which is one of my favorite matches. In this one Roman played the Brock Lesnar role and he played it to perfection. The early feeling out process between the two was great. Once it picked up it really got going.
Another common complaint was that Roman was made to look too strong here. I get the premise, but I don't buy it. First off, AJ survived one heck of a beating throughout the match as well. Second, AJ legitimately beat Roman by countout before Shane restarted the match which is kind of wild if you think about it. Lastly, without watching it again, it seemed like in a couple of cases AJ was unable to immediately make a cover and the champion only kicked out at the last fraction of a second.
I thought the outside involvement of Gallows & Anderson as well as The Usos was well-done. If I wanted to nitpick, I'd have to wonder why it took The Usos so long to help Roman.
This was a tremendous match and I cannot wait to watch it with my son ASAP. (Winner and still WWE Champion: Roman Reigns)
- Vince McMahon's announcement about control of Raw--This was a completely yawn for me and the decision to have Stephanie and Shane share control of Raw is underwhelming. It also telegraphed the nonsense we would see in an otherwise excellent main event.
Vince tooling on the Chicago crowd was probably the best part.
- Charlotte (C) w/Ric Flair v Natalya w/Bret Hart for the Women's Title--People will scream about how terrible it was to revisit the Montreal Screwjob in the finish of this match. Those people are perfectly justified in it, but the fact was this match was a failure long before the finish.
Only positive was that the post-match stuff with Natalya and Bret was good to see. Not to go negative, but it was kind of hard to see Bret struggle to step over on the Sharpshooter as much as he did. Honestly though I am just glad he looks as well as he does considering his health challenges. (Winner and still Women's Champion: Charlotte)
- Chris Jericho v Dean Ambrose--I really like Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho is really hot and cold with me. I say that to get my biases out of the way. This is the match I remember the least about if I am being perfectly honest. The right guy won so this match had that going for it.
My underlying issues here are that while Jericho can be entertaining on the mic and his gimmick is perfect for a heel, he has so little value at this point that he can only harm the talent he works with. As far as his in-ring work, I just don't care to see it any longer. (Winner: Dean Ambrose)
- The Miz (C) w/Maryse v Cesaro for the IC Title--I enjoyed every bit of this and Kevin Owens on commentary was nice sizzle to the steak as well as it gave Sami Zayn the opportunity to exact a measure of revenge. The roll-up finish is beyond tired though. It needs to be retired from WWE immediately and for a long while.
In general, I really like what they are doing at the IC Title level. I think The Miz is really underappreciated by a large segment of the fanbase. I hope Cesaro is getting some legitimate traction out of all this as well. (Winnner and still IC Champion: The Miz)
- Sami Zayn v Kevin Owens--The crowd was slow to get into this one as they were deflated from the very scary Enzo Amore injury in the previous match, but Zayn and Owens worked hard and got the crowd fired up.
It was nice to see a clean finish especially since KO got the win. We know this isn't the end for Owens and Zayn. Most folks I read on Twitter want this feud to continue forever. It seems WWE is more than happy to give them that.
For what it's worth I think many people thought this was the best match of the show. (Winner: Kevin Owens)
- Enzo & Big Cass v The Vaudevillains in No. 1 Contender Tournament Final--Not much to say other than that was an extremely unsettling scene with Enzo Amore. Of course we know now that it was a concussion and not something even worse, but that was not something you ever want to see in a wrestling ring. (Winners: No Contest)
- Kickoff Show: Kalisto (C) v Ryback for the US Title--This match was my second favorite of the night I think behind the main event. I have been saying that guys like Roman Reigns, The Miz, and Ryback are unfairly labeled as guys who "can't wrestle." Well, Ryback and Kalisto put on an exhibition here. It was exciting, and athletic. Really fun match.
Ryback also wins the Banter Crown for the night as he mocked CM Punk's entrance while in Chicago, IL. The Big Guy rules.
(Winner and still US Champion: Kalisto)
- Kickoff Show: Baron Corbin v Dolph Ziggler--This was the most problematic moment of the show for me from a booking standpoint. I certainly understand that Baron Corbin most likely stands tall at some point, but Dolph Ziggler is Chris Jericho times a thousand at this point. He means nothing to the point that defeating him means very little. Losing to him? That's bad.
Now I also get the context of the victory and it falls in line with Baron "Banter" Corbin's gimmick in that he just got too arrogant and allowed the fluke roll-up. The problem is that roll-up finishes are so prevalent and overdone in WWE that you just completely hate to see them at this point.
This was the worst moment of the night by far for me (setting aside a legitimate in-ring injury of course). (Winner: Dolph Ziggler)
Surprised isn't exactly the right word because negativity about wrestling on social media is to be expected. I thought the show was solid enough that it might not get thrashed as hard as it did in places however.