By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Stomping Grounds Kickoff Show
Aired live June 23, 2019 on WWE Network and social media
Tacoma, Washington at the Tacoma Dome
-Jonathan Coachman, Booker T, Charly Caruso, and David Otunga hosted the show from the usual desk on the main floor. The cage was set up on the ring behind them.
-A video package showcased the WWE Championship feud between Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler.
-Caruso and Booker stood inside the cage and Caruso had him share his expertise on being in cage matches. Booker spoke about the cage being American made and the mental aspect. He said you know you’ll go through a lot of pain. Booker said he hadn’t actually had many cage matches. He said promoters would ask him about working cage matches and he would pass them off to the next guy.
Powell’s POV: When they want you to play the role of a cage match expert, it’s probably not a good move to say that you haven’t been in many cage matches.
-Big E and Xavier Woods sat in at the Kickoff Show desk with Coachman and Otunga. Coachman asked how they feel about the cage preventing them from behind involved. Big E, who had been gulping water and pouring it all over himself while kicking his feet up on the desk, said that Kofi doesn’t need their help.
-A video package focused on the Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin feud over the WWE Universal Championship and the mystery regarding Corbin’s pick for special referee for tonight’s match.
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton asked Baron Corbin if he’s made up his mind regarding his choice for special referee. Corbin claimed people have been knocking on his door all day because it’s an amazing opportunity. Corbin questioned why he would tell Braxton or Seth Rollins.
-A Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Cross video package recapped their storyline to set the stage for Bayley vs. Cross for the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
-Coachman said there is a new star on the horizon in WWE and his name is Ricochet. Footage aired of Ricochet winning the five-way match to become No. 1 contender to the U.S. Championship, then performing a flip dive onto Samoa Joe afterward.
-Ricochet joined the panel of Coachman, Caruso, Booker, and Otunga at the desk and was dressed in regular clothing. Ricochet said the U.S. Title opportunity means everything to him. He said he’s worked hard and isn’t taking it for granted. Ricochet said Joe will bring out the best in him. He said Joe is a bully and is relentless and is willing to do anything to keep his championship. Ricochet said that what Joe did to Rey Mysterio shows he has no respect.
Samoa Joe appeared on the big screen from backstage and called out “Oh, Ricochet.” Joe said there are levels to this and Ricochet is not on his level. Joe said Ricochet is an amazing athlete who amazes the fans, but being amazing has never saved anyone from the beating he puts on them. Joe said Ricochet will sleep well, but he promised him that tonight won’t be his night. After Joe stormed off, Ricochet said there had been enough talking and he’d do his later in the night.
Powell’s POV: A simple and effective exchange. Ricochet came off like the nice, humble babyface while Joe was the angry heel who thinks he’s better than his challenger.
-Backstage, Daniel Bryan flipped out because a referee walked into their camera shot. Bryan said people like New Day and The Usos make a joke out the division. He added that he and Rowan are trying to save the tag team division. Rowan asked if you could imagine Otis and Tucker as champions. Bryan continued to yell about saving the entire tag team division, then he mellowed out and said they are doing it for the planet.
-A video package spotlighted the Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre match. Drew McIntyre cut a promo backstage with Shane McMahon at his side. McIntyre said he will hurt Reigns and when he goes home his family won’t recognize him and his children will scream at the mere sight of their beloved father. McIntyre said if that upsets him then the truth hurts, but not half as much as what he would do to Reigns.
1. Tony Nese vs. Drew Gulak vs. Akira Tozawa in a Triple Threat for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. The 205 Live broadcast team of Vic Joseph, Nigel McGuinness, and Aiden English were on commentary. The bell rang and Gulak immediately dropkicked Nese. Gulak was quickly cleared from the ring and then Nese and Tozawa had an exchange. Gulak returned and was suplexed by Nese, who rolled into a pin on Tozawa simultaneously and picked up a two count on both men.
Tozawa performed a tumbleweed senton from the apron onto Gulak. back inside the ring, Tozawa performed a missile dropkick on Nese and covered him, but Gulak returned to break it up. Tozawa tossed Gulak back to ringside, then went up top for a move only to be cut off by Nese, who performed a gutbuster that led to a pin that Gulak once again broke up. A split screen ad aired for the pay-per-view.
Tozawa tied up Gulak in a submission hold. Nese broke the hold, then threw Tozawa at Gulak. Moments later, Gulak recovered and wrapped up Nese in a submission hold, which was broken when Tozawa crashed onto both men (a replay showed it was a cool top rope senton from Tozawa).
At 7:45, Nese and Tozawa traded chops and Tozawa knocked the champion down with a punch. Nese got up and hit Tozawa with a left hand and then set him up for a superplex. Tozawa fought him off and put him in the tree of woe. Gulak raced to the corner and performed a superplex on Tozawa. Nese went for a 450 Splash, but Gulak avoided it. Nese ended up hitting a move and covering Gulak, but Tozawa broke it up with a shining wizard. The crowd applauded during a rare break in the action.
Nese caught Gulak with a running knee in the corner, but Tozawa rolled him up for a two count. Tozawa applied an arm submission hold. Nese performed him up for a one-armed slam that led to a near fall. A short time later, Tozawa tried to dropkick Gulak, who moved out of the way, causing the dropkick to knock Nese off the apron. Gulak ducked a kick from Tozawa and then performed a Torture Rack neckbreaker and pinned him…
Drew Gulak defeated Akira Tozawa and Tony Nese in a Triple Threat in 11:20 to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Powell’s POV: A very entertaining opener. There wasn’t much selling or psychology, but it was very good for its style and the crowd was receptive. I like the finish in that it puts the title on Gulak while protecting Nese, which sets up the obvious need for a showdown match between the two.
-The broadcast team ran through the pay-per-view lineup and then a video package on the main show opening match between Becky Lynch and Lacey Evans was shown. The panel discussed the Smackdown Women’s Championship and offered final hype to close the show.
Join me for live coverage of the WWE Stomping Grounds main show in a separate story on the main page.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Brian Fritz of the Between The Ropes podcast discussing WWE’s creative and ratings struggles, Bray Wyatt following the Firefly Funhouse, WWE Stomping Grounds, NJPW G1 Opening Night, and ROH’s issues, what would happen if AEW opted to run head-to-head with WWE Raw, and much more.