So Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are back, and they wasted no time in kicking off 2015 much in the way they kicked off 2014: with proclamations and machinations designed to put their enemies in their places. Assembling the entire WWE roster in the middle of the ring, The Authority — after some perfunctory face-rubbing for John Cena, who was forced to reinstate them — set about rewarding facilitator Seth Rollins with a third spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Title Match between Cena and Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. They also declared the night “John Cena Appreciation Night” as payment for the Cenation leader's contributions ... and placed Dolph Ziggler into an Intercontinental Title Match against Bad News Barrett.
If The Authority's back, that can only mean one thing: Dolph Ziggler is not long for this world as Intercontinental Champion. The corporate cabal picked up right where it left off before Survivor Series vis a vis The Showoff and his title, immediately putting him into a defense against Bad News Barrett, who technically never lost the championship in the first place. A fair enough ruling, though when Ziggler escaped the impromptu bout by reversing the Winds of Change into a pin, Barrett's lengthy post-match pasting left The Showoff in tatters and Kane — re-installed as Director of Operations — turned the match into a 2-out-of-3-Falls contest on the spot.
The fix was in from that point on. Barrett took Fall No. 2 with the Wasteland, and even though Ziggler overcame a battered shoulder and rallied to bring the Englishman to the edge, it wasn't enough to get the job done. After a superkick took Barrett off his feet, Ziggler took his eye off Barrett to drive an interfering Kane back and the Brit roared into action, lighting Ziggler up with the Bull Hammer to claim his fifth Intercontinental Title.
Call The Ascension a throwback, just don't call them the new Road Warriors. Or the new Demolition, for that matter. Konnor & Viktor's path of destruction extended into their second week on the main roster, as the former NXT Tag Team Champions laid waste to their second set of local athletes after denouncing any comparison to the powerhouse tag teams of WWE's yesteryears. The poor guys didn't even stand a chance, and The Ascension obliterated them with the Fall of Man in a matter of minutes. What a ... well, you know.
Having traded trips over the announce desk last week, one would expect the third Roman Reigns–Big Show battle in two weeks to contain some combination of airborne bodies and unmitigated destruction. The rubber match was, however, light on gratuitous chaos and heavy on the bone-rattling power maneuvers that have come to define both Superstars. While Reigns promised to use his speed to his advantage, the giant took the wind out of his sails with a spear early on and The Big Dog played catch-up for a solid 10 minutes until Big Show decided to end Reigns’ night with a blast to the face from the steel steps. Even though the ref threw the match out, Reigns still managed to get the last laugh by spearing Show in the ring with the stairs above his head, taking the giant out and adding insult to injury when the steps crashed down on him.
Never underestimate the power of “Total Divas” solidarity. While Natalya and Paige seemed to be on the outs at the end of last night's midseason premiere, The Diva of Tomorrow extended an olive branch to Natalya that was even better than a gift for little Makaveli. After The Queen of Harts rode a distraction from Paige and defeated Nikki Bella in a reverse of last week's result, Paige then ran to her castmate's aid and saved Natalya from an after-the-bell ambush by the champ.
The Authority's belated tour of revenge got off to a boffo start when they finagled Dolph Ziggler out of the Intercontinental Title yet again, and their follow-up was equally impressive. Nothing less than the mental and physical railroading of Erick Rowan. Not only did the corporate power worm their way into “Big Red’s” formidable cerebellum by pitting him against his former Wyatt Family brother Luke Harper, but they also stacked the deck physically by appointing J&J Security as the guest referees.
The strategy paid dividends almost instantly. Despite a smothering attack by Rowan, J&J bailed the former Intercontinental Champion out at every turn, blocking his attacks and intentionally bungling the pinfall count. That is, until Harper unleashed his discus clothesline on an exasperated Rowan and J&J hit the canvas for a fast-count and assisted in a post-match humiliation of the sheep-masked giant.
Somebody dial 911! In a trip to Happy New Year Hell he certainly didn't expect, The Lunatic Fringe was wheeled out of Corpus Christi, Texas, in the back of an ambulance, taking the decisive loss in his and Wyatt's epic rivalry. Blame a solid plan of attack by The Eater of Worlds for the loss. Wyatt went to town on the former U.S. Champion's knee in the early stages of the sprawling brawl and Ambrose was slowed to a crawl for a long slog of the bout.
But a plunder in the match restored life to The Lunatic Fringe. Chairs and tables stored in the bed of the ambulance provided him last-ditch escapes and a stretcher backboard to his enemy's throat (turnabout is fair play) plus an elbow off the top of the ambulance to a table-prone Wyatt seemed gave Ambrose some much-needed breathing room. His relief was short-lived, though, as a pair of Sister Abigails to the ambulance doors left Ambrose out on his feet, and it was Wyatt who finally shut the door, literally and figuratively, on the contest. So Ambrose is headed to the hospital. Now, just pray for the poor orderlies who have to restrain him.
The Miz & Damien Mizdow have yet to declare their rematch for the WWE Tag Team Titles, but in the meantime, The Awesome One and his rising-star stunt double got themselves mixed up in yet another professional rivalry: that of former and new “Total Divas” cast-members Naomi and Alicia Fox. With the two Divas uniting alongside The Usos and The Mizzes, respectively, the ensuing Six-Person Mixed Tag Team Match immediately took on an intensely personal air.
Naomi and Alicia started things off — unsurprisingly given the incident before the match — but the bout quickly reverted to Miz, Mizdow and The Usos. Mizdow, sadly, was denied entry into the match yet again by his mentor, but Miz proved to have learned his lesson from last week. A timely bit of misdirection employed to a rolling Uso gave Miz the opening to seal the bout with a roll-up. Awesomely done.
The hits keep on coming for the veterans of Team Cena. After Dolph Ziggler and Erick Rowan were served their payback by The Authority, Ryback was the next to face the brass-knuckled bruise of the corporate power couple when his bout with Seth Rollins was turned into a Handicap Match pairing Mr. Money in the Bank with Kane. Needless to say, The Devil's Favorite Director of Operations hadn't quite exorcised his lingering beef with Ryback over their concession-stand fracas from a couple months ago, and despite The Big Guy's positivity-fueled counter-attack, The Authority's synergy was too strong. Interference by Kane stopped Ryback from hitting Shell Shocked on Rollins, and when The Big Guy answered by administering his signature slam to Kane, Mr. Money in the Bank pounced with one — no, two — Curb Stomps to finish it.
Adam Rose, it seems, has fashioned himself less a party leader than a deity among his Rosebuds. He certainly had some kind of higher power on his side in a match against Big E, who was well on his way to steamrolling Rose when two masked Rosebuds interfered and disposed of the former Intercontinental Champion on their benefactor's behalf. The hooded bandits turned out to be none other than Cesaro & Tyson Kidd, who have been making waves in the tag division of late and appear to have served notice of their own to one of the WWE roster's more beloved entertainers.
“John Cena Appreciation Night” took a sinister turn particularly fast, as The Authority's would-be celebration of the man who brought them back turned into a systematic dismantling of the Superstars who helped oust them in the first place. Less an appreciation than a public humiliation of the Cenation leader's closest allies, The Authority went from a disingenuous “praising” of Cena's perseverance to making him watch as they subjected his Survivor Series teammates to their long-promised punishment. For their insubordinate actions at Survivor Series, Erick Rowan, Ryback and Dolph Ziggler were all fired. So say the king and queen.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Bad News Barrett defeated Dolph Ziggler (c) in a Best Two Out of Three Falls Match to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship
- The Ascension (Viktor & Konnor) defeated Papi C & Titan (0:40)
- Roman Reigns defeated The Big Show by disqualification (5:30)
- Natalya defeated Nikki Bella (w/ Brie Bella) (1:16)
- Luke Harper defeated Erick Rowan (w/ J&J Security as special guest referees)
- Bray Wyatt defeated Dean Ambrose in an Ambulance match (19:34)
- The Miz, Damien Mizdow & Alicia Fox defeated The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) & Naomi (4:11)
- Seth Rollins & Kane (w/ J&J Security) defeated Ryback in a Handicap match (11:52)
- Big E (w/ Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) defeated Adam Rose by disqualification (1:48)
Other on-screen talent