July 7, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
Surprisingly enough this was both my first WWE House Show and first time ever in the main part of MSG (I went to The Theater for the first time for a NXT show in November). The card looked pretty good, so I was looking forward to the show and several specific matches.
Whoever set up the match order knew what they were doing, as the show opened with the vibrating sound of a violin and the crowd came unglued for Shinsuke Nakamura’s MSG debut. He went a good twenty minutes with Dolph Ziggler in one of the best matches of the night. They had time to tell a good story with strong action and Dolph looked better and more motivated than he has in a long time. Hopefully it wasn’t just for the one night. Shinsuke’s a superstar and had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
Goldust vs R-Truth was kept short enough to be inoffensive, but I’ve never cared for Truth and this did nothing to win me over.
In light of Austin Aries being granted a release earlier in the day Neville defended his Cruiserweight Title against Cedric Alexander instead. Great opportunity for Cedric, who wowed me in Evolve and is capable of much more than what he’s been allowed/able to show on Raw and 205 Live. Fun little encounter, with Neville cheating to win with a rope leveraged pin like a good heel.
Miz was out next and my friend commented the match had oddly been announced as a tag encounter, not an Intercontinental title match (as advertised). Sure enough, Miz cut a promo explaining we don’t deserve a defense and goes into Rick Rude mode asking the “New York City Sweathogs” to keep the noise down for his partner, at which point Samoa Joe came out and that’s two advertised matches we suddenly weren’t getting. Out come their advertised singles opponents Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins in another mini-reunion for the Shield.
Joe vs Rollins was one of the matches I was really looking forward to so this change was disappointing, but the resulting tag match was admittedly solid. They put on a good, old school house show tag match, working the crowd up with strong character work and timing. Several nice false finishes lead up to Ambrose eventually catching Miz with the Dirty Deeds for the feel good victory.
The US Title match seeing Kevin Owens (c) defend against AJ Styles was my most anticipated of the night, but I had no idea of what was in store for us. The match was as good as to be expected from these two, but it also found a new gear late and started raising some flags when Owens kicked out of a Styles Clash and AJ returned the favor on a pop-up powerbomb.
After that my friend pondered about it maybe being one of the few times a title would change hands at a house show, but we laughed it off not really believing it possible. Even when AJ nailed the Phenomenal Forearm and had Owens laid out in the center of the ring my first thought was “huh, odd that Kevin will be kicking out of both of AJ’s finishers.” Instead the ref counted 3 and the crowd erupted. Great choice to bring back a little unpredictability to the house shows, and MSG was of course a perfect venue for it.
Cesaro & Sheamus are really gelling as a team and have been revitalized with the full heel turn (especially Sheamus, who looks consistently motivated and crisp for the first time in a while). As such I was excited to see them live to defend their RAW Tag Team Titles against The Hardy Boys (Matt & Jeff). Good semi-main with a fantastic ending that saw blind tags on both sides leading to Jeff hitting the swanton on the no longer legal Sheamus only to be immediately rolled up by Cesaro for the pin. In a great touch Cesaro fireman’s carried his loopy partner up the ramp after the victory while Sheamus had just enough energy to clutch his title belt.
Bray Wyatt vs Roman Reigns was a solid enough main event, hindered a bit by telling a standard face vs heel story when the NYC crowd was largely booing Reigns and cheering Wyatt. Good effort and action from both though. After Reign’s expected victory Braun Strowman made a surprise appearance to beat him down (with some help from Wyatt that provided great tentative interactions as Bray tried to subtly direct his former charge without angering him). Rollins made the save to a big pop and the former Shield allies cleared the ring.
With Reigns and Rollins alone in the ring celebrating the crowd got LOUD with a “we want Ambrose chant” to complete the reunion. After a few minutes with no Dean, Rollins got the mic and expertly handled the situation saying the bad news was Ambrose was probably already a few deep at a bar somewhere, but the good news is “we hear you NYC.” The acknowledgement, whether or not it leads to anything, that the crowd wanted to see the three of them together was a simple, perfect way to handle Dean not being able to come out without having the fans leave feeling disappointed. Nicely done.
I had a lot of fun at this show, and the surprise US Championship switch was icing on the cake.