WWE Stomping Grounds
June 23, 2019
Watch: WWE Network
Meet Our Reviewers
- Kelly Harrass: Look, I’m not going to lie to you all, this one is going to be rough. Coming off of a two week tour of Japan, I’m more enthused about wrestling than ever and WWE felt the need to challenge me. Wish me luck and give me a follow over on Twitter @comicgeekelly.
- Garrett Kidney: Hello there fellow wrestling fans. We’re here to stomp some grounds – whatever that means. Why is Tacoma, WA the stomping grounds? Who can possibly say. Follow me on Twitter @garrettkidney.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak def. Tony Nese © and Akira Tozawa
Kelly: This was just a preshow match, but it was a pretty hot little opener. Nine times out of ten, the 205 Live roster impresses when they’re given matches on PPV’s and this was one of those nine times. The match was very smartly worked, ramping up in the second half and giving the crowd time to breathe when needed, or just when WWE decides they need to plug the show that you’re already watching. Gulak is a guy I really like, so I’m happy to see him win the belt. This was a very good match and looking at the rest of the card, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this be the match of the night when we look back at the end of the show. ***½
Garrett: Tony Nese just wasn’t the potential brand elevating champion 205 Live needs to stay even remotely relevant in the same way PAC, Cedric Alexander and Buddy Murphy were. Neither is Drew Gulak mind you, it’s nice that those early 205 Live lower card names are now anchoring the brand but they’re too dry and always have been. This was a fun little opener – full of energy and the crowd was willing to give them a chance unlike a lot 205 Live matches, Tozawa was a bundle of delight as always. But Gulak will not be the champion people rally behind only for him to be moved to another brand to do nothing. Maybe that’s the smart play – keeping the title on people who will never leave 205 Live. ***¼
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubIta) June 23, 2019
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch © def. Lacey Evans
Kelly: Remember that scene in Mad Men where Don goes to Roger’s party and Don looks disgusted when Roger entertains his guest by putting on blackface and singing a song? Lacey Evans would have been one of the characters laughing it up. On one hand, Evans is a good heel because I actually hate her, but on the other hand… she’s very bad. This match felt like it was a year long and it never managed to catch my interest. It doesn’t matter how hateable you are if I don’t want to watch you get your ass kicked. Hopefully, this is the end of this feud and the Lacey Evans experiment. *¾
Garrett: This crowd absolutely did not buy Lacey Evans on the level of Becky Lynch, or even on championship level in general – responding to her heat segment with chants of “You can’t wrestle.” Thankfully this crowd still buys Becky and that carried the match. As perfectly passable, solid title match but Becky Lynch needs more. She’s been completely flat since WrestleMania. Lacey Evans has been a weight around her ankle. This was a perfectly pleasant opener though thanks nearly entirely to the crowd investment in Becky. ***
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn def. The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods)
Kelly: These are four guys that should all be doing more than they are now. As far as your basic killing time feud match goes, this was pretty solid. It would have been a great TV match, but you hope for a little something more on a PPV. It is just Stomping Grounds though, so getting anything better than house show effort should be seen as a win. ***
Garrett: Watching this match a question will certainly cross your mind. A question that has been asked many times. A question that does not have a good answer. Why isn’t Big E the biggest star in this company? Charismatic, explosive, full of fire – he is everything you want in a top act. He is everything a wrestling company should be looking for. And yet this company hasn’t even tried. He has been on the main roster for nearly seven years now and never rose above the midcard. It is absurd. This match was a lot of fun. On paper, it looked the best match on the show and while these guys didn’t try to push a level further to deliver a classic, this was a damn enjoyable tag match. ***½
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubIta) June 23, 2019
WWE United States Championship: Ricochet def. Samoa Joe ©
Kelly: There’s something really cool about this match when you put it in the context of Samoa Joe’s career. Over a decade ago, he was having matches in TNA, destroying flippy guys and dominating the X Division. Now he’s older, he’s slower, but he’s still fighting flippy guys. This very much felt like the limited, modern version of his old X Division matches, but now, he can’t keep up anymore. He’s been surpassed by the new generation and Ricochet has officially arrived on the WWE roster with his first big singles title win. The match itself wasn’t great, but the bones of the action were serviceable enough to carry the meat of the story. ***½
Garrett: Samoa Joe is done. All the fire and intensity and snap and ferocity that used to make him special is gone. He’s so slow now. The format of this match desperately relied on that Samoa Joe beating to make you rally behind Ricochet. For Ricochet’s fight back to feel earned and meaningful, Joe’s mauling had to be compelling. But it wasn’t. It was tedious and labored. Ricochet took some really incredible bumps but didn’t fight back with the fire to make it feel like he truly toppled a monster. Once you’ve seen how good this format can be, especially when applied with Samoa Joe, this felt like the half speed emotionless knockoff. **½
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Daniel Bryan & Rowan © def. Heavy Machinery (Otis & Tucker)
Kelly: Anytime that Bryan can win with his signature small package, I’m a happy man. Other than that, this was a very nothing match. The crowd was heavily behind Bryan, showing that he should absolutely be doing more than this. I don’t like or understand Heavy Machinery and it’s clear that this crowd didn’t either. Maybe these weirdo’s could work as heels. You know what else I wish would work? The WWE Network. My feed has been absolute trash tonight. I thought we were past the time of near constant buffering and random looping of the feed, but here we are. **
Garrett: It looked in the first two minutes like they were going to smart enough to flip the roles, it turns out they weren’t. There was a moment toward the end where Otis and Rowan slowly entered the ring and faced off – clearly designed to be a MOMENT in the match – and the crowd gave them nothing. The only thing interesting about this match was the miscast roles. Small package king reigns supreme. *½
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley © def. Alexa Bliss
Kelly: I want everyone reading this to make the longest possible fart sound with your mouth that you can. That’s my review of this match. It was incredibly boring and they killed the crowd. The less said about this match the better. Not a good night for either women’s title. *
Garrett: This has been a very good crowd – especially by recent WWE PPV standards. Even the less interesting matches on this show, with work that has ranged from fine to good, have benefitted from that crowd. This match didn’t even have that. Boring, utterly uninspired work, a pointless story with Nikki Cross and absolutely nothing from a crowd that’s been super into this show. No good. *
Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre
Kelly: Outside of WWE this match would be good, right? I like both of these guys quite a bit, but both of the times that I’ve seen them wrestle against each other on PPV, the matches have been okay at best. There was a brief section in the middle of this where we saw the match they could have had. It was right after they stopped grabbing a hold and it ended when Shane started to interfere. So I enjoyed maybe three minutes of this. So many constraints were put on these two that it just choked the life out of everything. Get Shane out of there, get the holds out of there, get the strange pacing out of there, and then we could get something good. What a disappointment. **½
Garrett: Just hit each other. Is that too much to ask? Is it too gargantuan a task for these two to throw bombs? Seeing Roman battle from underneath as Drew applies a series of pointless holds is the least interesting version of this match. I just want to see them hit each other. Why does every Roman match have to be like this? He is called the BIG DOG. Why does he always have to work from underneath? He is a four-time World Champion and he still works like an underdog. The reason Cena went from good to great during that Open Challenge era was he started wrestling like he was the best wrestler in the company. People had to beat him. It was great. Reigns still constantly gets his ass kicked. The work was perfectly competent but I hated every single creative choice this made. I just wanted two big lads hitting each other. **
— Italo Santana (@BulletClubIta) June 24, 2019
WWE Championship – Steel Cage Match: Kofi Kingston © def. Dolph Ziggler
Kelly: I’m sure I could go through my past WWE reviews and find several instances of myself explaining why I hate WWE cage matches. I should really work on a stock cage match review because they’re pretty much all the same and all suffer from the exact same problems. I don’t want to watch wrestlers try to escape a cage, I want to watch them wrestle. I don’t want to watch the valiant babyface try to run away from a fight. I don’t want to watch long plodding matches full of limb work that never pays off. WWE cage matches are broken and I can’t exactly blame the wrestlers involved for the failings of the match because 99% of them are like this. If I could erase a single wrestling stipulation in all of wrestling history, it would be this style of cage match. Just stay in the cage and pummel each other. *
Garrett: This was one of the most boring matches in recent memory. They did nothing for twenty minutes. Literally nothing. No drama, no escalation, no interesting sequences, no fire, no hatred, no passion, no interesting use of the cage, it wasn’t grueling, it wasn’t engaging, it wasn’t dynamic – they did absolutely nothing. Escape the cage matches are an uphill battle at the best of times, watching climbing contests is rarely compelling, but it is compounded when the competitors don’t do anything. This was so dull. It felt twice as long as it was. Never watch this match. I’m sure these guys have had some much better random midcard matches one of the other 27 times these two have wrestled. Go watch them instead. This was inexcusably lackluster. *
WWE Universal Championship – Special Referee: Lacey Evans – Seth Rollins © def. Baron Corbin
Kelly: Well, uh, that sure was something. Just when I thought this show couldn’t get any worse, this match happened. Lacey Evans was announced as the guest referee and it was easy to see that everything was fucked. Evans was legitimately terrible as a ref and had the ultimate case of “what do I do with my hands,” but with her legs, in this case, causing her to spend the match pacing back and forth like a hyena in a zoo. She changed the match stipulation twice because who gives a shit and Rollins had to fight against some very stacked odds. Then Becky Lynch saved the day and that was actually pretty cool, but it had no chance of saving what came before it. If this happened on a RAW, I wouldn’t care (mostly because I wouldn’t have seen it then…). This is a solid enough last quarter hour segment that sends the crowd home happy with a cool moment. This ISN’T a good main event for your big monthly show. The cool moment at the end wasn’t worth killing your crowd with the garbage twins of Corbin and Evans. What an awful way to end the show. ¾*
Best pro wrestling on the planet. Period. https://t.co/Frd8occDhd
— Seth Rollins (@WWERollins) June 23, 2019
This show is an illustration of everything wrong with WWE. Watch the first half and you’ll see a bunch of great wrestlers having fun matches in front of a crowd having an awesome time. They were loud, invested in the wrestlers, elevating the matches – it was everything WWE hasn’t been for a while. Simple, light, enjoyable – separated from the clunky overwritten nonsense you see every Monday night, it was a fun time. There were some booking missteps, most notably positioning Heavy Machinery against hometown hero Daniel Bryan, but it was a good time as the company got out of the talent’s way.
And then something began to happen in the back half of the show – something that happens all too often in WWE – the fans began to be punished for investing. Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss was a poor match, Reigns vs. McIntyre was yet another in their string of underachieving matches and Kingston vs. Ziggler was interminable bore. Then we reached the main event. In response to the overbooked farce that was Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin featuring Lacey Evans as special referee, the same crowd that had raucously supported Becky Lynch and gone wild for Daniel Bryan chanted “This is stupid”, “boring” and “AEW.” WWE’s creative decisions took a crowd thoroughly supportive of their show and drove them to chanting for their upstart competitor.
Look down. See that? There’s no further to go down. WWE is creatively bankrupt. Their star-making process is not just broken, it’s toxic. It spreads like a virus dragging down anything it touches. Nobody can become a star in this environment. Everybody, literally everybody is corrupted by their nonsense. They are over-exposed, overproduced and under-served. You can be the most talented wrestler in the world, the most dynamic personality, the most engaging promo – but once they get their hooks in you’ll become just like everybody else – just another meaningless body on the roster whose sole function is to fill television time and spout poorly written corporate speak.
A day after Seth Rollins thumped his chest and declared WWE the best wrestling in the world, his World Championship main event illustrated everything that’s driving fans to the competition he feels so threatened by. *