Pro Wrestling

10 Important Things You Should Learn From WWE Roadblock Source:

Leading up to WrestleMania 32, WWE decided that the time was right to air another live event on the WWE Network. Previous attempts have met with varying amounts of success, with Beast from the East, the exclusive show from Tokyo, getting rave reviews (mostly off the back of a Finn Balor-Kevin Owens match for the NXT Title), while a fall endeavor from MSG seeming like a moderate waste of time, with nothing particularly interesting happening and the show headlined by a fairly dreadful match between Brock Lesnar and The Big Show. But WWE really went all out in promoting this latest show, giving it the name WWE Roadblock, and loading it up with title matches, including Triple H defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against the man many wish he’d be facing at WrestleMania, Dean Ambrose. And after the dust settled in Toronto, what did we really learn during this Roadblock on the way to WrestleMania?

10. The League of Nations Needs To Stop

Forming a stable is supposed to be an easy way to elevate multiple people. At the very least, even if a stable fails completely, usually somebody escapes from the wreckage in a slightly better position, because while the whole thing is collapsing, WWE usually identifies someone in the whole mess that they want to protect and keep viable as a potential star. The League of Nations has managed to accomplish the near-impossible, by creating a stable which has made absolutely everyone involved less over than they were going in. Which you’d think would be hard, considering what someone like Rusev was doing last summer, but his stupid love quadrangle with Dolph Ziggler still did more for his character than associating with the League. Sheamus, of course, fell the farthest, going from a man with a Money in the Bank briefcase to the lamest of lame duck champions, to a guy who looked like a bumbling idiot in the ring against The New Day at Roadblock. The other problem, of course, that as the only challengers left in the tag division (for now), the League is forcing The New Day to turn face by comparison, and we can’t help but be worried that the cracks will start to show in New Day’s act once they start looking for those cheers. Source:

9. Jack Swagger Is Always A Bad Choice, But Even More Than Usual

Chris Jericho is still a pretty good heel, and his turn against AJ Styles on Raw, though obvious, was well-executed. Even at this point in his career, few people are as good getting heel heat as Chris Jericho. He is so good at it, that even in a Canadian stronghold like Toronto, which as you know, is predisposed to cheer its Canadian heroes (not entirely, we did boo Edge that one time, but this is the narrative WWE would have you believe), Jericho was initially getting a good negative reaction from his promo at Roadblock. That is, until it was revealed that his opponent would be The Real American, Jack Swagger. Once again, we feel like we should remind you that WWE Roadblock took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, because it seems like WWE might have forgotten in this instance. Jack Swagger barely gets a crowd reaction in the United States, where his uber-patriotic act is the cheapest of cheap heat. In the Great White North, he barely registers as a living, breathing human being. Trapped between a good guy they don’t care about and a Canadian in a heel role, the crowd basically ignored their entire match, which just seems like the predictable end result of this entire booking snafu. Source:

8. Tag Team Wrestling Will Live Again

After getting all that well-deserved credit in the past year or so for reviving women’s wrestling in North America, NXT appears to have set their sights on another badly under-served area of WWE: tag team wrestling. Beginning at the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Classic, NXT has really focused on building a tag team division full of a variety of impressive teams, many of which could probably debut on the main roster this Monday, if WWE were so inclined, and be completely ready to go at that level. Two of those teams battled at Roadblock, with the team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass facing off against The Revival for the NXT Tag Team titles. Enzo and Cass are a crowd-pleasing act in the vein of the New Age Outlaws, and every indication is that they will be on the WWE main roster by the Raw after WrestleMania at the very latest. Meanwhile, The Revival is a great old-school tag team in the vein of The Andersons: they hit hard, they’re technically proficient, and they fight smarter than everyone else. This match was an excellent throwback to a tag team formula that seems to have been forgotten in the modern era, with long heat segments on Amore and a massively hot tag to the gigantic Cass leading to a frenetic finish. Everyone involved worked their butts off, and while we’re almost certain to see Enzo and Big Cass in WWE proper very soon, we wouldn’t be shocked to see The Revival close behind. Source:

7. Natalya Is A Really Good Wrestler

It’s almost a travesty that the only woman to survive the Hart Dungeon debuted in an era where WWE couldn’t have cared less about women’s wrestling. Natalya always stuck out amidst the former swimsuit models and fashion starlets, and rarely was she given anyone to actually have the types of matches everyone knew she was capable of. By the time NXT had groomed a bunch of actual women wrestlers, Natalya was basically a non-factor in WWE, a supporting player on Total Divas who acted as a valent more often than she wrestled. Something a lot of people forget is that she actually wrestled Charlotte at an NXT TakeOver event for the NXT Women’s Title, before people had really noticed what was going on down there, and it was an excellent match. Well, we were reminded of that match at Roadblock, with Charlotte and Natalya putting on a clinic in wrestling that could easily draw comparisons to ones fought years ago between Ric Flair and Bret Hart. The opening minutes of the match featured honest-to-goodness mat wrestling, and escalated from there. It’s a shame that the match had to end with a Ric Flair distraction, but in a way, it allowed Natalya to save some face by not being cleanly pinned or tapping out in her home country, since we all pretty much knew going in that WWE wasn’t going to do a title switch, not with Charlotte vs Sasha vs Becky set in stone for WrestleMania. Source:

6. They’re Not Quite Done With Bray Wyatt

Despite initially advertising this match as Brock vs Bray, Luke Harper was added to the mix as the man to take the brunt of Brock’s wrath, and also the one who got pinned, while Bray escaped a large amount of punishment and watched the finish from the entranceway. It’s a level of protection that has not really been afforded to Bray Wyatt lately, the sort that he once received when we thought WWE might be turning him into something. This match with Brock was seen as another in a long line of humiliating losses for the alleged New Face of Fear, with many having given up on Bray and the Wyatt Family ever being more than a group of bumbling midcard heels, similar to the inept League of Nations. Even more damning is the fact that Bray’s flock doesn’t have anything booked for WrestleMania, after Bray was tapped to face The Undertaker and John Cena in previous years, a symbol of how far the group has fallen. But by somewhat protecting the head of the Family, as well as that mysterious stare-down with Triple H on Raw, WWE is sending a message that they might not be quite finished with the Wyatt clan. It’s not much to go on, but when you’re drowning, even the thinnest thread looks like a lifeline. Source:

5. Stardust Has A Moveset

Objectively, we “know” that Stardust is a good wrestler, because we have seen him in longer matches in the past, when he actually did things like have Pay Per View matches that mattered. But the former Cody Rhodes hasn’t been allowed to show his talent in matches lasting longer than a few minutes for a while now, and live events like Roadblock are a good way to remind us that he’s actually capable of having decent ten minute matches against someone like Sami Zayn. This is the actual appeal of WWE live events, because not only will you get to see a match that likely won’t happen on television (or, at least, not be half as competitive), but they get time to breathe and actually let the wrestlers wrestle. We saw it in the women’s match, and we saw it here, where Stardust and Zayn were given a good chunk of time to show what they can do. This was especially important for Zayn, who hasn’t actually wrestled on the main roster in nearly a year, and even that was only one time, against a much higher level of competition in John Cena. It wasn’t the greatest match either Stardust or Zayn have had (and thanks to a 2/3 Falls Match on NXT against Samoa Joe, it wasn’t even close to the best match Sami Zayn has had on WWE TV this week), but it was nice to see both men get a little time to shine. Source:

4. Dean Ambrose Is A Star

While we always suspected, and fan sentiment has been leaning that way for a while, we could never be quite sure if Dean Ambrose was really that good, or if he was just the beneficiary of the crowd wanting to support anyone but Roman Reigns. At Roadblock, the question was answered: Dean Ambrose is a big star who will be an important figure in WWE in the very near future. He has the crowd on his side, he’s a better-than-average wrestler, and what he lacks in pure skill he makes up for by bringing real emotion into his work. Ambrose went up against a legend like Triple H (whatever you might think of him, there is no denying that fact) in a heavily-hyped main event match and not only did not look out of place, he fit right in. Full credit must also go to Triple H, who worked the match in a way clearly designed to make Ambrose look like a big deal. Triple H sold Dean’s offense like he was taking shots from Mike Tyson, and actually gave Ambrose so much that the crowd believed they might see a title change that night. Everything that happened in this match indicated that WWE knows they have something with Ambrose, who not only got a visual pin on The Game after hitting him with his finisher a single time (even though it was nullified by Ambrose’s feet being under the ropes), but also only lost after nearly destroying himself on the announce table and still making it back into the ring before a ten count, which unfortunately left him unable to protect himself from a Pedigree. Roadblock was a star-making performance for Dean Ambrose, and there can be no doubt that his future should be bright. Source:

3. Roman Reigns Is Plan A, There Is No Plan B

With that said, Roadblock also underlined another point that might not make fans as ecstatic. With Triple H pinning Ambrose and successfully defending his title, there are no magic bullets left in WWE’s gun. There are no surprise challengers, no controversial finishes that could add someone else to the main event, no briefcases to steal victory away, and not enough weeks left to realistically change direction. At WrestleMania, Triple H will face Roman Reigns, and only Roman Reigns, for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. We’d expect Reigns to be back on Raw as early as tonight to remind people of that fact, and it should be clear now that no amount of negative crowd reaction is going to change that fact. Roman Reigns is almost certainly going to be the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion after WrestleMania, because that has been the plan for almost two years at this point. After changing course two years in a row, WWE will not be swayed this time. Of course, what happens afterwards could prove to be very interesting… Source:

2. It Really Was Just A Televised House Show

We really should have expected this, but some of us allowed ourselves to be blinded by the amount of hype that went into Roadblock. It got a special name, it had Brock Lesnar, it had a match for the WWE World Heavyweight title, surely something big was going to happen, right? Otherwise, why would they bother devoting so much time on Raw, to the point of sending Roman Reigns off to get nasal surgery, to promote this Network special airing weeks before WrestleMania? The answer, of course, is because that’s what they wanted you to think. They wanted to pump up subscriber numbers in advance of WrestleMania, get more eyes on the Network, and hopefully translate some of the hype into higher Raw ratings (although that last one has been a dismal failure so far). They wanted to try and get some excitement going with a fan base that was becoming increasingly jaded towards a predictable WrestleMania main event, and have a few weeks where Roman Reigns and his floundering push weren’t the main topic of discussion leading up to the biggest show of the year. But in the end, nothing important was ever going to happen. It was a house show in Toronto that didn’t even have the full roster present (there was a second house show in Atlantic City the very same day), that they decided to televise because it featured a Brock Lesnar appearance, and they threw in a Triple H title defense because they knew it would get more people to watch. WrestleMania is already planned out (well, mostly), and Roadblock was never going to change that. Hopefully someone remembers this the next time they do something similar. Source:

1. Meanwhile, In Atlantic City…

We mentioned briefly that there was another house show in Atlantic City the same day as Roadblock, and it featured a 30-minute Iron Man match between Kevin Owen and AJ Styles. Boy, we sure wish that had been televised, but at the same time, we’re kind of okay with it, because the fact that this match was kept off TV actually means something. It means that AJ Styles and Kevin Owens probably have a great deal of support backstage in WWE, to allow them to put on a match like that, even at a live event. And by keeping it non-televised, it means that there are probably plans for that feud to actually happen on TV at some point in the future, and WWE didn’t want to give it away before they could promote it and make it a featured match on a future Pay Per View. The prospect of an extended feud between Owens and Styles makes us very happy, even if they might not get to have any Iron Man Matches and just stick to regular ones. After all, Kevin Owens can’t fight Sami Zayn forever, can he?

Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to share this promo that Owens cut after the match, because this is another reason to attend WWE live events, where all sorts of crazy, non-canon things can happen, like Kevin Owens actually being nice to his opponent for a second.

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.