By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Stomping Grounds Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre: McIntyre should mean so much more than he does. A win over Reigns could have set him up as the next challenger for Rollins, but Vince McMahon doubled down on showing that Reigns is superior to McIntyre. This match was much better than the lopsided and forgettable match they had at WrestleMania, but the problem remains that McIntyre is booked no differently than Baron Corbin or Bobby Lashley when it comes to losing to the top babyfaces when it matters. Again, though, this was a well worked match and Shane McMahon did a nice job in his role at ringside.
Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs. Heavy Machinery for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship: A fun tag title match with the fans rallying behind home area hero Bryan without completely rejecting babyfaces Otis and Tucker. The heel champs went over, but it felt like the challengers gained something in defeat.
Tony Nese vs. Drew Gulak vs. Akira Tozawa for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: A hot opening match with good, fast paced action. The title change legitimately surprised me, as I assumed they would have Nese beat Tozawa to retain and then work toward the singles match with Gulak. Instead, Gulak won the championship without beating the champion, which works nicely in this case and puts Nese back in chase mode.
Becky Lynch vs. Lacey Evans for the Raw Women’s Championship: A solid match with Lynch getting the decisive win. Given what they had planned for the main event, I’m actually surprised in retrospect that this match didn’t end with a cheap finish and a post match angle that set up the need for Lynch to get revenge on Evans later in the show. The issue with soft heels isn’t limited to the men’s division. Which heel is being build up to be a strong challenger to Lynch once she’s finished working with Evans?
Big E and Xavier Woods vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: My favorite match on the main card and right there with the cruiserweight match for best of the night. Owens and Zayn have lost most of the Raw and Smackdown television main events lately, so I’m all for them getting this win.
Samoa Joe vs. Ricochet the U.S. Championship: A good match that didn’t live up to my high expectations. That’s all about my strong belief in both wrestlers than it is a case of this being a bad match. It was actually a good match, but I believe these two are capable of better. The WWE broadcast teams have been billing Ricochet as a sensation and he was finally booked in a way where he lived up to that billing. Here’s hoping that continues and that creative breaks the formula of having their secondary champions look weak by losing non-title matches so frequently.
WWE Stomping Grounds Misses
Overall show: More of an in the middle than a true Hit or Miss despite the lopsided Hit count. The company put the show in the hands of the wrestlers for the most part they delivered. It was a good, straight forward pro wrestling show that wasn’t booked to be needlessly long. But there are reasons why WWE had trouble selling tickets for this event and why fan interest was lacking. The show was missing an attraction and the product feels stale. The world title matches looked flat on paper and needed the special referee and cage match hooks, and even those weren’t enough to make this feel like a must see show. So while Stomping Grounds was about as good as it could have been given the lineup, the lineup itself was unappealing and had too many rematches with babyface champions facing heels they’d already beaten on previous shows.
Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin for the WWE Universal Championship with Lacey Evans as special referee: A minor Miss. The main event outcome seemed predictable on paper. And the match became even more predictable once Evans was named the special referee, though the majority of the live crowd seemed okay with it. The fans showed that they knew where it was going with “Becky” chants while a small group of fans showed their displeasure by chanting for AEW and CM Punk, and even chanting “this is stupid” at one point. Let’s face it, this wasn’t an attractive main event on paper and the creative forces knew it, which is why they went with the mystery referee hook. Fans always get their hopes up for something special when there’s a mystery person advertised. And while Evans didn’t live up to any big surprise expectations, the most realistic candidates seemed to be Shane McMahon or Paul Heyman. Sure, Bray Wyatt or Brock Lesnar were possibilities, but they are both names that WWE would have advertised in advance, so you had to know they weren’t going to be cast in that role. I just pray that referee John Cone replacing Evans at the end doesn’t mean we’re in for another month of Corbin in the pay-per-view challenger’s role. The problem is that WWE doesn’t appear to be grooming any heels for title contention.
Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler in a cage match for the WWE Championship: Meh. They started the match with the handicap of no one actually believing that Ziggler had a chance to win the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, they never had any near falls or near escapes during the match to create those moments of doubt where you think for even if only for a half-second that the challenger might actually win. And while I liked the concept of the finish with Kingston performing a dive over Ziggler and through the ropes to win, the running leap felt premature in that Ziggler barely had his arms out the door when Kingston dove over him. Jake Barnett made a great point in our members’ exclusive audio review. He recalled both wrestlers speaking about how the other had nowhere to run and implying that they were down for a fight, but then we saw both men attempting to escape the cage early on with the hope of getting a quick win. It’s one thing for the heel to lie and attempt to take the easy way out, but it did seem odd that Kingston was trying to escape the cage early on. This match needs to be the end of the feud. Kingston needs to work with bigger names, not the same guys who would be challenging him if he held the Intercontinental Championship.
Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: A well worked match that resulted in a minor Miss due to the finish coming off awkwardly. The idea was that Nikki Cross inadvertently cost Bliss the match by interfering as she was setting up for her finisher, but Bayley shot up so quickly that it didn’t really feel like Bliss was actually going to hit her Twisted Bliss finisher on Bayley. I still like the ongoing storyline between Bayley, Bliss, and Cross and felt it was the best written story heading into the pay-per-view, but that finish left something to be desired.
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.