Happy Easter weekend, wrestling fans, and thanks for taking time out from eating chocolate bunnies and rolling eggs on your lawn to take another trek through our ongoing march to ‘Mania next weekend. Or maybe you’re simply sipping Mimosas and watching some outstanding college basketball (go ‘Nova!). Either way, this is the third in a series of articles breaking down the matches for the WWE’s biggest event of the calendar year. We’ve previously broken down the Dudleys/Usos and the United States Title match, and now we’re back in the tag team ranks for a dissemination of The New Day taking on The League of Nations. As before, I’ll give you whatever build there may be, point out some potential positives and negatives, and wrap things up with what should and what will happen. Plus some of the randomness you’ve come to know and tolerate. Why waste more time? That ham’s not going to eat itself.
Matchup: The New Day vs. The League of Nations for WWE Tag Team Supremacy? (Or something..)
The Build: So far we’ve gone through a tag team that’s turned heel without really becoming full-fledged heels (Dudleys) and a championship challenger who’s turned into a semi-heel without really becoming a full-fledged heel either (Ryback). If you like things to come in threes, it’s your lucky day. The tag belts also feature gents who fit into this mold in reverse with New Day, who have been getting booed as faces since their introduction in the guise of gospel music and DDP-esque positivity. And no, it wasn’t a good thing. Eventually the writers caught on to the hate and flipped TND to heels. That was the correct answer, as they embraced that role with gusto and made the silliness front and center to their credit. Now that we’ve reached a point where that is actually popular, guess what? It’s time to make them faces again. Except a lot of the same fans still want to boo them. What’s creative to do? The answer fell into their lap in the form of the League of Nations, a group of comic-style ruffians who banded together in service to Sheamus and The Authority to protect him as world champion. How’d that work out?
Now that the Irishman has done his due diligence serving as a very pale bridge between Seth Rollins and Triple H in the neverending saga of the ascendancy of Roman Reigns against all odds, he can return to being rather irrelevant. Joining him in that quest are Rusev, whose manager remains the most notable thing going for him; Alberto Del Rio, who made a huge impact upon his surprise return to the promotion that canned him and then fizzled just as quickly; and Wade Barrett, whose only bad news seems to be that he still has dates remaining on his contract before he can bolt WWE as rumored. Since TND has used their triumvirate of Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods to play the odds against any and all opposition, it’s somehow appropriate that they defend their honor in a handicap match against four men. Just so that everyone gets the point that you’re supposed to be cheering New Day, LON has been heeling it up big time but losing constantly against your favorite faux unicorns. Whether or not that continues next weekend remains to be seen.
The Good: New Day may be hokey, and it may still be incredibly lame and short-sighted that WWE scribes are still trying to tell you what to do and who to root for, but there can be no argument that they’ve injected some much-needed enthusiasm to a division that was flailing. New Day have held down the titles for quite a while, and even though their sketch comedy might not be quite on par with either Edge & Christian or the latest episode of Baskets, it’s an impressive and largely successful effort all the same. Allowing all three members of the troupe to be involved in this bout is a good call, as the Freebird Rule has caused Xavier Woods to be generally reduced to First Assistant Trombone. League of Nations is floundering for something to do other than be the Mean Street Posse to Triple H’s Shane McMahon, and there’s certainly enough talent in that foursome to make the work rate better here. Most of the LON have been searching for relevancy since dropping their former straps, and this match has at least some big feel to it. The handicap match puts the champions at a disadvantage on paper, which makes up for some of the seesaw booking we’ve seen in recent weeks.
The Bad: The build has been questionable for this match while WWE has full-court pressed the top of the card. New Day is certainly more popular than when things began, but a good portion of the paying audience still wants to chant “New Day Sucks,” hardly an advertising campaign for your face titleholders. Titles are meant to be defended at WrestleMania, and WWE switched it up by announcing last week that the titles would not be defended here in favor of “tag team supremacy” being on the line. Not exactly the most captivating reason to tune in. The League still smacks of a bunch of former A-listers who are fraternizing with each other at an exclusive party that nobody cares about. The disparate machinations of each of the foursome prevents any logical chance that they are victors here. Does a handicap match with a guy booked as horridly as Wade Barrett has been actually qualify as a handicap match?
What Should Happen: To me, this match exists as a perfectly good reason to break up the silly League of Nations and send folks back to their respective corners. For Rusev, that means a focus on the heat-generating missile known as Lana. For Sheamus, it’s a return trip to Intercontinental Title contention and hopefully a better haircut. For Alberto, it’s hopefully a return to the main highway after the detours that marred his excellent start back with the WWE. And for Barrett, well, it’s likely the unemployment line by choice. An even more compelling facet to this match would be New Day taking a major beating before rallying for the win. Anything that continues to get fans onto their side is a good thing for the company. Isn’t it high time Big E was booked like a big man? He’d be my choice to take the drubbing before an epic comeback victory. Woods is money on the mic and Kofi will of course have something up his sleeve for the big event, but that outcome sends fans home happy and allows the League to move on. Finally.
What Will Happen: New Day should win, although whether the rest of the speculation above occurs is a long shot at best. WrestleMania doesn’t usually feature as many swerves as one might expect, and the best way to continue New Day’s transition into full-on good guys is to repel the challenge of some unruly ruffians. I would fully anticipate Lana being involved in some way, as the WWE continues to give her multiple opportunities to get exposure on their programming without having her actually wrestle. Let’s just pray TND’s trip back to the positive side of the ledger doesn’t mean a return to their Men on a Mission roots. Some gimmicks are so bad even laughter’s not an option.
*Roman Reigns recently touched on the subject of fans booing him, which is surely one of the biggest stories the WWE has heading into their seminal event. It’s also one of their biggest headaches. For Reigns’s part, he can’t find just one reason why fans would boo. His take? “Maybe they don’t like what I wear, how I sound, maybe I did something to offend them, but for me, it’s hard because I’m under the microscope and I’m dealing with a lot of different things and there’s a lot of things flying my way.” This answer actually goes a long way toward demonstrating what is the problem with RR in many of our eyes. Here’s a hint, Roman: it doesn’t have anything to do with your riot gear outfit, nor your improved but still stiff delivery of your scripted lines. As for doing something to offend us, that’s exactly it: you don’t offend us. You don’t amaze us. You sort of just exist, doing everything you’re asked to adequately but under the watchful eye of McMahon, Inc. At the risk of reading too much into simple statements, plenty of what’s gone on with Reigns is not his fault. A lot of the irritation is directed at those pulling the strings, forcefeeding us the former Shield member at the expense of anything and everything else. The heart wants what the heart wants, and the fans deserve the same expectation. I for one wish Roman would do something to offend us. At least then it would be a reaction to his work rather than the edifices created by the brass. A final word of caution: If you think you’re under the microscope NOW, just wait until you spear Trips into oblivion. Carrying the ball won’t get any easier.
*NXT TakeOver: Dallas is shaping up to be the best part of WrestleMania weekend. The card is loaded with intrigue, from the rematch between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe for the NXT championship to the long-awaited debut on the Network of Shinsuke Nakamura against the always-game Sami Zayn. Those two matches are worth the price of admission, but you also get Bayley and Asuka for the Women’s Championship and Austin Aries on the undercard against Baron Corbin. Something for everybody, and all of it good. The importance of this event simply cannot be understated. While WWE has made some great strides on this front all year long, this is a seminal moment for their feeder promotion and everyone knows it. There can be little doubt that the talent on this card will have it in their mind to steal the show before the big show even gets started. If WWE plans on being successful moving forward, their commitment to NXT cannot be questioned. This card has a place in wrestling history, and it’s a big one. If you were planning on taking advantage of free WrestleMania by subscribing, don’t miss what happens Friday. It might give you more reason to stay tuned than anything that happens at AT&T Stadium.