By Jonathan Byrne
THERE was a rare lunchtime experience for fans of WWE as the company rolled into Leeds for the latest show on their post-WrestleMania tour.
The event had been rescheduled from the Monday, with the majority of the roster needed for the RAW TV Taping in London. With a show already scheduled for 12th April in Manchester, this meant that the Leeds event kicked off at 1pm but the crowd were treated to two fantastic matches and lots more fun during the show.
JoJo kicked things off as ring announcer about five minutes before the opening bell with a Twitter vote for the Divas match. The six-diva tag won the contest easily.
There was a Triple H video on the big screen, asking us ‘are you ready?’ – it’s confusing because the kids in attendance want to boo the guy who screws over their favourites week-after-week.
FINN BÁLOR vs. NEVILLE
Nice ovation for Bálor given that his only exposure to many people is through NXT so far. His entrance is excellent live, from the opening beats of the music, to his movements and the lighting – this is going to look spectacular when he comes up to the main roster and has a big match in his face paint.
A bigger ovation for Neville as the home country boy. Bálor excelled quickly turning to a cocky, arrogant heel and was able to get the crowd on his back.
They worked the arm to start before Finn took over with a couple of very loud knife-edge chops. Neville would take to the air to get on offense, including a nice looking standing Shooting Star Press, but would be quickly grounded by the Bray native.
They hit the chinlock twice early as Bálor took over before he missed a charge and ended up on the floor. Neville followed him out with a spectacular somersault plancha. Neville looked to get a flurry going with some kicks but he was cut off by the Sling Blade for a great near fall.
Bálor went up for the Coup de Grace but Neville got to his feet and tried to go for a top rope hurricanrana but was pushed off again. Finn finally climbed to the top but Neville got back to his feet. There was a standing Coup de Grace attempt but no one was there.
The Englishman hit a roundhouse kick and the Red Arrow was enough to get a popular victory. The pair shook hands after the bell. An excellent opening contest from two of the new breed of young guys. They were given time to express themselves and made sure they utilised every moment of it.
Neville pinned Finn Bálor with the Red Arrow in 12 minutes – ****1/4
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E) w/ Xavier Woods vs. TYSON KIDD & CESARO w/ Natalya (c)
‘New Day Sucks’ chants as the challengers make their way to the ring. Good ovation for the champions who were wearing matching hoodies with Switzerland and Canada on their respective backs.
Xavier Woods grabbed a ‘New Day Doesn’t Suck’ sign before the bell, which drew a chorus of boos. The bell rang and they started the ‘New Day Sucks’ chants to the sound of Woods’ clapping. Big E dropped to the floor and the same thing happened. Kofi grabbed the mic and said he would explain what New Day is all about and that he signed autographs and posed for pictures with all the fans and that New Day doesn’t suck, which drew more boos. Kofi has something of the Winston Bishop about him for you New Girl fans. Natalya’s facial expressions and interaction with the crowd throughout this were superb.
Kingston and Kidd exchanged some high-flying in the early going before Cesaro got a near fall with an Earthquake splash. There was slight miscommunication with Kidd as he was in the wrong corner to make a tag but they soon glossed over it.
They told a neat story of two teams that were evenly matched with one high flier and one power guy and it being a contest of who could cut the other half of the ring off.
The champions got the upper hand early, cutting the ring in half and teeing off on Big E with quick tags. Their double team moves were done to the tune of ‘New Day Sucks’, including arm wringers, punches and mudhole stomps – the crowd was right with them throughout.
Big E overpowered Kidd and it was the turn of the heels to tee off on the Canadian with quick tags. Woods kept interfering and distracting Cesaro and this led to Big E getting an extremely near fall off the Warrior splash, following two brutal belly-to-belly suplexes. Every time Kidd went for a tag, Cesaro wasn’t there for one reason or another.
Big E made the tag but missed his half of a huge running shoulderblock in the corner and struck the post hard. That knocked him to the floor and allowed Kidd to make the hot tag to Cesaro.
Cesaro levelled Kofi with forearms, whilst Kidd found himself using Natalya as a shield on the floor but they built to another great spot where Woods dared Kidd to come out and fight and
Natalya instead levelled Xavier with a huge running clothesline to a massive pop.
Kofi came off the top with a crossbody but Cesaro rolled through into a running powerslam for a near fall. Kingston then ducked a clothesline and hit a spin wheel kick before getting an extremely near fall off a Boom Drop but Kidd made the save. Big E came back in but Kidd low bridged him and took him out on the floor with a dive as Woods backed away from Natalya.
Kofi missed Trouble in Paradise and Cesaro held a leg and teased a giant swing. Kofi kicked him away and got another near fall off a cradle. Cesaro reversed a whip and hit the Swiss Slice, tag was made to Kidd and they hit the swing/low dropkick combo for the win to a great ovation.
It was a sensational match with good storytelling, great action (both power and high flying), near falls and a clean finish in just over 20 minutes.
Tyson Kidd and Cesaro retained the WWE Tag Team Championship over New Day members Kofi Kingston and Cesaro after Tyson Kidd pinned Kofi Kingston following the giant swing/low dropkick combo – ****3/4
XAVIER WOODS w/ Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. R-TRUTH
New Day stayed in the ring following their loss and blamed the fans. Woods sold a sore throat from all his ranting and raving, which drew great laughs. He issued an open challenge, which was answered by R-Truth.
He did some funny mic work where he kept getting New Day to move so he could see the fans in the horseshoe shaped arena. Truth got half the arena to chant ‘Whassup’ with the other half chanting ‘New Day Sucks’.
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The match started with Woods firing a right hand that missed. Truth fired back two of his own, the second spun Woods around and Truth rolled him up for the pin. Pure comedy but it kept the heat going from the previous match.
R-Truth pinned Xavier Woods with a roll-up in less than a minute – 1/4*
The Warrior Award/Connor ‘The Crusher’ video got an amazing ovation. There was then a promo for a vehicular-themed show on WWE Network, wasn’t clear whether it was a Countdown show or not but the video featured Austin, Rock, Undertaker, Randy Orton, Eddie Guerrero and Edge, amongst others.
FANDANGO w/ Rosa Mendes vs. JIMMY USO
Rosa Mendes was out to introduce Fandango, they danced before Jimmy Uso’s introduction. Jimmy wasn’t impressed with Fandango’s dancing so he got JoJo back in the ring and they danced to “Sexy and I Know It’.
Rosa pushed JoJo, which distracted Jimmy and Fandango pushed him out of the ring. Fandango brought him back inside. Jimmy ducked a clothesline, hit one superkick that rocked Fandango, the second sent him down and the big splash from the top finished at just over a minute.
Jimmy and JoJo celebrated afterwards. It was another short match but fun and harmless enough.
Jimmy Uso pinned Fandango with a big splash from the top rope – 1/4*
JoJo did the merchandise plug and Roman Reigns got the biggest pop.
BRAY WYATT, BAD NEWS BARRETT & SHEAMUS vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER, ERICK ROWAN & DANIEL BRYAN
There was some sound issues and you couldn’t hear his spiel before his entrance. The entrance is something to behold with all the mobile phones lit up. Barrett and Sheamus initially got pops on their entrances. Ziggler got a big pop but Bryan’s was bigger. Rowan got crickets.
It was weird seeing Wyatt buddy up to Barrett on the floor, which is totally against his character.
The heat was on Barrett in the early exchanges with huge Yorkshire chants. Lancashire, where Barrett is from, is a rival of Yorkshire going back hundreds of years.
Sheamus came in and got ‘you look stupid’ chants. He grabbed the mic but there were again sound problems. Sheamus sold that well and said Leeds was trying to make him look stupid but it was the fans who looked stupid.
He asked whatever happened to their football team? What League are they in now? Division Four? This got good heat (Leeds United used to be one of Europe’s top football sides in the 70s but have fallen on hard times in the past ten years).
He called Rowan an ‘upside down Sheamus’, which finally got Erick some heat when he smacked the microphone back in Sheamus’ face.
There was no semblance of order to this match, it was just one guy hitting a few trademark moves after another, apart from Wyatt who spent most of the bout on the outside.
Bryan’s moveset was by far the most over. It broke down near the end with all six men brawling. Sheamus knocked Rowan to the floor but got caught with a Zig Zag for a near fall that was broken up by a Bullhammer from Barrett.
Another Bullhammer sent Rowan back to the floor and Barrett followed him out. Wyatt went for Sister Abigail on Ziggler but Bryan returned and cleaned house, eventually singling out Barrett.
Barret ducked a roundhouse kick but missed the Bullhammer and Bryan grabbed the arm down into the Yes Lock for the clean win by submission.
Given who was involved I was expecting a lot more, it felt like they didn’t have much planned beyond the home stretch.
Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Erick Rowan defeated Bad News Barrett, Sheamus and Bray Wyatt when Bryan made Barrett tap to the Yes Lock – **3/4
Intermission time. The merchandise stands had Yes Movement and the latest Jericho shirt reduced to £10. Finn Bálor’s t-shirt was sold out in all but Small and Medium. Cena’s sweatband set was selling well, as were the Connor’s Cure bracelets.
ROSA MENDES, CAMERON & ALICIA FOX vs. SUMMER RAE, EMMA & NATALYA
This was completely the wrong match to start the second half with and lacked any energy with only Natalya getting a reaction from the crowd.
They kept Summer in the opposing corner but her selling isn’t great and it was hard to get invested in the action.
The match broke down into a six woman brawl and it ended very quickly with Natalya catching Alicia in the Sharpshooter for the submission win in about eight minutes.
Summer Rae, Emma & Natalya defeated Rosa Mendes, Cameron & Alicia Fox when Natalya made Alicia submit to the Sharpshooter – ½*
THE MIZ vs. DAMIEN MIZDOW
The Miz got some good heat with his pre-match spiel about how he made Mizdow and was a huge movie star, WrestleMania main eventer. Mizdow responded saying the fans made him.
The match was boring and dragged on though. Mizdow dominated the early going and hit an Elbow of Disdain for a near fall.
Miz took over with basic stomps and elbows. Mizdow made a comeback and then grabbed a mic to say he would mimic Miz one more time and began taking the same bumps as his former partner. That made no sense as why would anyone want to take bumps when they don’t have to?
They battled over a Skull Crushing Finale with Mizdow eventually hitting the move for the win in about 12 minutes.
Damien Mizdow pinned The Miz following the Skull Crushing Finale – *
LEEDS CITY STREETFIGHT
BIG SHOW vs. ROMAN REIGNS
Heat for Big Show as he strode to the ring. Reigns’ initial pop was muted until the fans could see him and it was a good ovation from then on.
The match was another Leeds City Streetfight, the third in a row at Leeds. As it was a streetfight they started with an over hand wristlock.
Show dominated early and ragdolled Reigns around. Show got posted on the floor and Reigns hit the apron dropkick, which looked impressive. Reigns went for plunder but was on the wrong side of the ring for it.
He eventually brought a table into the ring but the table leg broke, Show did get face planted through it eventually though.
Reigns brought a Singapore Cane into the ring but Show just grabbed it and snapped it in two. Reigns was looking really weak at this point because everything he did backfired, he very rarely had the upper hand.
Reigns brought a chair into the ring and levelled Show with it. Show finally took a step back. A first spear attempt was blocked by the knockout punch for two. A second spear attempt was avoided and Show hit his own spear for two.
This was stupid because Show’s spear looked like it could shatter Reigns in two but we’re meant to believe Reigns’ spear is unstoppable. You could not imagine Warrior hitting an up and coming Undertaker with a Tombstone halfway through their ’91 matches or one of the DX flunkies hitting Austin with a stunner in ‘98.
A third spear attempt was blocked by a chokeslam for two. Reigns eventually rocked Show with a Superman Punch, a second sent him through another table set up in the corner and the spear got three.
For a guy they are meant to be pushing hard, Reigns was made to look a sap throughout. His weapon shots had little effect on Big Show, he was unable to generate any crowd support through a concerted comeback, he just got beaten down and then made a quick turnaround.
Roman Reigns pinned Big Show in a streetfight following a spear – *1/4
1. Daniel Bryan
2. Roman Reigns
3. Dolph Ziggler
5. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro and Natalya
1. New Day
2. Bad News Barrett
3. Sheamus (during the match)
4. Big Show
5. Fandango (when he sneak attached Jimmy Uso)
Overall it was a show of two halves. The first half had everything. Two great matches, two fun segments and quick matches and a six-ma with plenty of star power. The second half was so slow and plodding, summed up by a pretty heatless main event.
Arena was between 50%-60% full – the whole top section was tarped off and there were huge gaps to either side of the first tier. They really need to look at how they space these UK shows out. I travelled one hour 20 minutes to the show but Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester are all easily accessible too and there is less than 100-mile radius between the four venues.
The only Rollins shirts were the ones being sold as snideys outside the arena on the way out.
The next Leeds show will be on Saturday 7th November, tickets are on sale Friday 24th April.