Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch are an item and WWE is making sure you know about it — but this wasn’t the way to do it.
Lynch’s on-screen nemesis, Lacey Evans, was Baron Corbin’s special guest referee for his Universal championship match with Rollins. The decision and the result epitomized what you got from a solid Stomping Grounds pay-per-view in Tacoma, Washington on Sunday. WWE delivered very good storytelling with average to good in-ring action, especially at the top of the card.
It’s admirable of WWE to start meshing storylines with real life — see Drake Maverick’s wedding and the 24/7 championship — and putting Lynch’s rub on anything is a good thing. It literally saved a main event that inspired an “AEW” chant from the crowd.
Evans made some logical sense to be the referee because Rollins wasn’t going to hit a woman with a chair like he had Corbin’s other potential choices. Then the bell rang. Corbin and Evans have generated some main-event-level heat around them, but they aren’t anywhere near Rollins and Lynch’s equals in the ring.
Evans did have some fun crooked referee moments — a hurt shoulder while counting, making the match no count outs and then no DQs to aid Corbin. All the gaga, however, took away from the main-event feel and made the match about Lynch’s arrival.
Two slaps to Rollins and a low blow by Evans finally sent Lynch rushing to the ring to beat her up. It forced John Cone — the ref Corbin blamed for his Super ShowDown loss — to take over and count to three after Rollins hit The Stomp. Rollins and the Universal title deserve more than a gimmick match like this.
Lynch and Rollins, who became WWE Instagram official in May, shared embraces in the ring and we are left to wonder where this goes. Will we be forced to watch Lynch-Evans and Corbin-Rollins a little bit longer or maybe a mixed tag match? The prospects of that don’t sound enticing.
Evans does have promise in the ring and her few power moves looked good during her match with Lynch, which was an OK opener because of how over The Man is. Evans needs a little more polish to get to the next level. Lynch, who carried the bulk of the match, right now needs a more credible challenger to her Raw women’s championship and Rollins needs a worker better than Corbin to make magic with.
WWE’s other top champion, Kofi Kingston, also retained his title by beating Dolph Ziggler in a steel cage match. The two went for grueling — maybe because of the setting — instead of making use or their ability to really work. After a fast-forwardable middle of the match, we got Ziggler working Kingston’s leg to prevent him from climbing and some fun cage elimination spots — including Ziggler three times dangling toward the floor for drama.
Kingston ultimately leaping over a crawling Ziggler — landing hard on his right shoulder in the process — to escape the cage and win was a fitting end to the “It should have been me” storyline. Kingston literally jumped over The Showoff in the match and WWE’s hierarchy. Still, you expected more from these two.
Stomping Grounds did build upon one of WWE’s best storylines with Bayley beating Alexa Bliss to retain her SmackDown women’s championship. Bliss pushed her “friend” Nikki Cross in front of Bayley’s suicide dive. Cross later contributed to Bliss losing. She went to retaliate against Bayley with The Goddess set to hit Twisted Bliss — which eventually was countered into a Bayley to Belly for the win.
This was an important win for the rebooted version of Bayley because Bliss was the one she refused to hit with a kendo stick during their flawed feud in 2017. The match was wrestled in a way that showed Bayley had no intention of playing nice with an opponent she truly hates.
The match was part of an undercard that delivered — no match more than Ricochet and Samoa Joe. Joe continually used his power to counter Ricochet’s athletic ability and vice versa in a very well laid out contest. Ricochet even sold the punishment he took each time he went over for the 630 Splash, the second one connecting and earning him the United State championship — his first belt in WWE.
His reaction to it was great, as was seeing him being congratulated backstage by the likes of Rollins, Charlotte Flair and Triple H. It made you feel like you saw something special. The one nitpick is it should be more of a grueling journey to defeat Joe, but if this is WWE’s way of rocketstrapping Ricochet then it was worth it.
He could already be onto a match with AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One — flanked by Gallows and Anderson — told him he’d see him on “Monday Night Raw”
Daniel Bryan and Rowan over Heavy Machinery to retain the SmackDown tag team championships
It really was a good night for the tag teams. While Heavy Machinery didn’t beat Bryan and Rowan, they proved themselves as a top-tier team. And Bryan, whom the hometown crowd was fully and amusingly behind, using the small package for the win means this doesn’t have to be the last we see of their feud. Otis is a fun personality who can back it up and he and Tucker’s tandem offense are a great foundation. Bryan is also telling a heck of a story with his focus angle.
Roman Reigns over Drew McIntyre
While this was one of the worst matches of the night, it did get better as it went along. The crowd went from chanting “This is awful” during a painfully slow start to “Let’s go Roman” by the end. This match could have been so much more if there was real stakes, especially with Shane McMahon interfering. We will get more of this with Reigns facing McMahon and McIntyre in a handicap match on Raw. McIntyre’s character may soon become more known for putting McMahon on his shoulders than actually winning matches.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn over Big E and Xavier Woods
Simple story of an imperiled Woods, jumped early in the match, being desperate for the hot tag to Big E made this very entertaining. Crowd loved it. Zayn and Owens really know how to draw heat from fans — a tag team championship run for them should not be dismissed by WWE. Woods lifting Big E up on his shoulder was an excellent little spot. Woods eventually took too much punishment and was pinned by Owens after a Stunner. Let’s hope we see more of this pairing.
Drew Gulak over Tony Nese and Akira Tozawa to win the Cruiserweight championship
Gulak deserved this moment and his first championship after three years in WWE and wrestling across brands lately. We will see if he can bring the cruiserweights out of obscurity, but the trio delivered a match worthy of a bigger stage. They made you care because they wrestled with the urgency that showed they did.
Biggest Winner: Ricochet
Biggest Loser: Drew McIntyre
Match of the Night: Ricochet vs. Samoa Joe
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