The whole world was ready for WWE Stomping Grounds to be garbage. Absolute garbage.
And somehow it wound up being one of the most solid cards the promotion has put together all year. But it wasn’t perfect either.
There was great in-ring action, there were some genuine surprises, and of course there were the missteps that are inevitable with all things WWE.
Never mind the fact that expectations going into the show were low. WWE still managed to exceed them.
Preshow Match — Cruiserweight Championship: Tony Nese (C) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Drew Gulak
Oh, the Cruiserweight Championship match is on the Stomping Grounds pre-show. Do imagine my sheer and utter surprise.
Gulak and Tozawa go straight at the champion. Nese dispatches with Tozawa, who brushes Gulak out of the ring. The champion has Tozawa pinned, but Gulak comes out of nowhere, so Nese hits him with a German suplex. He has both guys in a pinning predicament, but both kick out at two. That was cool.
Nese gets a couple of near-falls, but Gulak rushes in to break both of them up. Gulak takes control, locking Tozawa in a submission hold, but Tozawa lifts him up into a torture rack position before just kind of dropping him. That looked kinda botchy.
WWE airs a commercial for Stomping Grounds in the middle of the match. Guys, there’s no pay-per-view to order, you don’t have to sell me on it. Also, it’s a little late to hype the show now.
Tozawa puts Nese in the tree of woe, giving Gulak the opportunity to superplex Tozawa. Nese goes for the 450 splash but misses, and Nese counters with a Canadian destroyer. Tozawa hits a shining wizard on Nese, but Nese kicks out. Gulak gets propped up in the corner, and Nese goes for the Running Nese, but Tozawa breaks it up.
Nese bucklebombs Tozawa, and Tozawa narrowly kicks out. The champ sets Gulak up for the Running Nese, but Gulak counters with an elbow. Gulak knocks Nese off the apron. Tozawa tries to attack from behind, but Gulak catches him with the torture rack neckbreaker for the pin and the Cruiserweight Championship.
Winner and NEW Cruiserweight Champion – Drew Gulak
Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (C) vs. Lacey Evans
Plenty of good seats still available, by the way.
Becky gains control early, and it is pretty sloppy. The champion gets a pin attempt off a backslide, and Lacey delivers a fairly lazy-looking kickout, just kind of sliding under Becky’s arms.
Lacey injures Becky’s midsection and takes advantage, wrapping her around the ringpost. The challenger locks on a pretty weak armbar, and the crowd throws up a “You can’t wrestle” chant. I hate to say it, but I think I agree.
Becky gets dumped on the mat head-first, and Lacey goes back to a slightly-less-weak-looking armbar, punching Becky in the gut as she holds on. The Man fights out with a couple kicks to Lacey’s head, but a shoulder tackle puts the champ back down, but Becky bridges straight out of a pinfall attempt.
Lacey props Becky on the top rope before sloppily slamming her off the top, but Becky rolls through and locks on the DisarmHer. The challenger gets to the ropes, though.
The Sassy Southern Belle pulls a wetnap out of her pants, dabs her armpits, and chucks it at Becky. And Becky fights back with the Mandible Claw, stuffing the napkin in Lacey’s mouth. Um. Lacey cuts off the momentum with a shot to Becky’s gut. Becky hits a diving lariat and stomps a mudhole in the corner.
Becksploder gets two. Becky goes for a second-rope legdrop, but Lacey rolls out of the way. Lacey goes for a sloppy springboard splash, but Becky gets the knees up to block. The challenger keeps going at the Man’s gut but can’t get a three-count.
Lacey goes to the second rope, but Becky pulls her off and hooks in the DisarmHer for an instant tap-out.
Time to go back to the Performance Center, Lacey.
Winner and STILL Raw Women’s Champion – Becky Lynch
There’s some weird promo about Ali saving wayward teenagers from alcohol or something.
Backstage, Kayla Braxton catches Paul Heyman coming out of Baron Corbin’s locker room. Kayla asks if he’s going to be Corbin’s referee, and Heyman says that’s the wrong question to ask. He notes instead the question is whether Brock will cash in at Stomping Grounds.
Corbin follows and says he’s made his decision and that his referee will call it right down the middle.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. The New Day
Plenty of good seats still available at Stomping Grounds, by the way.
Woods and Owens start the match, and Owens superkicks Big E off the apron. A pair of superkicks on Woods leads to the senton, but Woods kicks out.
Zayn tags in and immediately hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Owens is back in, with Woods down in the corner. KO does the “Big E shimmy” at Big E before hitting rolling thunder for two.
More frequent tags from the heels, and Woods is getting the crap kicked out of him. Woods starts to fight his way back, but Zayn keeps him away from the corner, locking in a crossface. Xavier tries to roll out of the hold and gets a quick pin for two, but Zayn drags him away from the New Day corner.
Zayn knocks Big E off the apron again, but Woods is able to muster a belly-to-back suplex. Owens tags in and goes for a running senton, but Woods rolls out of the way. Woods manages a face-buster as Big E gets back to the apron and tags him in.
Big E cleans house on Zayn with a belly-to-belly. Owens tries to run in, but Big E takes him out. A back elbow on Zayn followed by a splash gets two for Big E.
A refreshed Woods tags back in and splashes Big E on top of Zayn. Woods goes for a running ledrop, but Owens breaks up the pin. Big E dumps Owens out of the ring and props Zayn up to take a splash from Woods, but he dodges. Zayn hits the Helluva Kick into the legal man, Owens, for a Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Big E breaks up the pin.
Owens goes for the stunner, but Woods hits a rolling elbow. All four guys are down and, as James Ross, Esq. might say, it looks like a damn car wreck. Big E spears Zayn to the floor through the ropes, allowing Woods to go up top. But Owens pulls him down and hits the stunner for the pin and the win at Stomping Grounds.
That was surprisingly good.
Winners – Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
Backstage, Nikki Cross tries to psyche up Alexa Bliss and to tell us things we already know. Efficiency!
United States Championship: Samoa Joe (C) vs. Ricochet
I’m so glad they added the “p-pew!” sound to Ricochet’s music. Otherwise I might not understand that this is Ricochet.
Joe lays the beat down on Ricochet early, but Ricochet bounces right back up. The champion calls for a test of strength and immediately heart-punches Ricochet. Babyfaces are stupid.
Ricochet lays in a couple right hands and hits a short rana followed by a dropkick that sends Joe out of the ring. A baseball slide on the outside misses, and Joe rushes Ricochet into the apron a couple times. A uranagi gets two for Joe, who calmly waits for Ricochet to get back to his feet.
Joe stays on the attack, and an enziguri gets two. Ricochet is making Joe look like an absolute monster. Ricochet fights up from a headlock and nails a jawbreaker, but Joe puts him right back down. A sit-out powerbomb gets another two for Joe. The champion goes back to the headlock, and Ricochet fights out again and hits a pair of enziguris to put Samoa Joe on his back.
A rana from Ricochet puts Joe in the corner, and Ricochet hits a springboard forearm to put Joe outside. Ricochet takes him out with a running over-the-top moonsault followed by a springboard missile dropkick. A springboard moonsault gets two, and Ricochet hurts his ribs on the landing.
The challenger goes up top, but Joe moves before Ricochet can leap and catches him with a powerslam. Ricochet kicks out. Somebody failed to tell these guys that Stomping Grounds is a throwaway show, and I’m grateful for that.
Joe pulls Ricochet up, but Ricochet keeps swinging. Ricochet goes for a springboard elbow, but Joe catches him with a German suplex for two. Joe tries to set Ricochet up for an arm triangle, but the challenger fights out only for Joe to put him back down on the mat.
The champ locks in the clutch, but Ricochet escapes and goes up top. He goes for the 630 but Joe rolls out of the way Ricochet lands on his feet and hits the Codebreaker. Ricochet moves to the other corner to try the 630 again and hits it this time to win the U.S. title at Stomping Grounds.
That was great. Maybe this builds to a Rey vs. Ricochet vs. Joe match at SummerSlam?
Winner and NEW United States Champion – Ricochet
SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Daniel Bryan and Rowan (C) vs. Heavy Machinery
Y’know, I’m going to refrain from making fun of the ticket sale for Stomping Grounds for a bit. So far, this show is about 10 times better than it has any right to be.
Bryan and Otis start the match out, and Bryan is getting all the cheers, and Otis is getting booed out of the building because Washington. The Planet’s Champion lays in the Yes Kicks early, but Otis catches him with a press slam. He lifts Bryan up for a suplex, and Tucker tags himself in. Otis hands Tucker off to Bryan, who finishes the suplex and gets a two-count.
Tucker bounces around like a cruiserweight and lifts Bryan up for a belly-to-back, but Bryan escapes and tags in Rowan. Rowan hits Tucker with a crossbody and starts tossing him into the turnbuckles. He locks Tucker in a headlock to build some heat. Tucker reaches for his corner, but Rowan puts him back down and tags Bryan.
Rowan throws Bryan into the corner for a splash on Tucker before following up with a corner clothesline. Outside, Bryan wraps Tucker’s left leg around the post a couple of times. Tucker crawls for the corner, but Bryan takes out his knees. Rowan comes back in and nails a couple of elbows followed by a splash for two.
Bryan and Otis both tag in, and Otis goes to town on Bryan, to the crowd’s chagrin. Otis hits the spinning slam. Bryan seeks refuge in the corner, but Otis rushes him only for Bryan to catch him with a drop toehold. The running knees in the corner follow, but Otis catches him with a powerbomb for two.
Otis climbs to the second rope and goes for a Vader bomb, but Bryan slips out of the way and Otis goes crashing. Bryan lays in the Yes Kicks, but Otis isn’t phased. Otis hulks up and hits a belly-to-back fisherman before a corner splash and following with the Caterpillar elbow.
Tucker tags in, and Otis catapults Bryan into a suplex from Tucker, but Rowan breaks up the pin attempt. Bryan gets to his feet and goes after Tucker’s legs again. He hits a belly-to-back, and Tucker goes up top for the moonsault, but Bryan rolls out of the way.
Otis and Rowan tag in and they trade clotheslines, but neither guy will go down. Bryan makes a blind tag, and Otis catches Rowan for a slam. Otis tags Tucker back in, and the challengers go for the compactor, but Bryan tosses Otis to the floor.
Tucker rushes Bryan but gets caught in a roll-up for three, and Bryan and Rowan retain at Stomping Grounds. This was really, really good. Heavy Machinery may avoid the Ascension’s fate yet.
Winners and STILL SmackDown Tag Team Champions – Daniel Bryan and Rowan
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley (C) vs. Alexa Bliss, W/ Nikki Cross
Okay, I won’t make another joke about the ticket sales until Stomping Grounds delivers an all-out stinker.
Bayley looks like a giant compared to Alexa. The champion opens by beating Alexa silly, but Alexa recovers and hits a few shoulder tackles on Bayley in the corner. Bayley plants Alexa face-first into the top turnbuckle for a quick two-count.
Alexa takes control and with some stiff forearms to the back before cinching in a headlock. Bayley tries to fight out, but Alexa won’t let go of the hold and puts her back down to the mat. The champ fights out of the hold only to get hit with a backbreaker. Alexa stomps on Bayley’s throat before stomping her head into the mat. She might be the best heel in this division.
The champion manages a neckbreaker over the bottom rope before heading up top for an elbow attempt, but Alexa moves out of the way. Bayley hits a running knee but injures herself in the process. Alexa slams Bayley’s shoulder into the ringpost and smells blood. She wrenches at the shoulder on the outside a couple times before tossing Bayley back inside for a two-count.
Alexa keeps attacking the shoulder but still can’t put Bayley away. She hooks Bayley’s arm through the ropes for added leverage. Bayley hits a belly-to-back for two, but her arm gives out on the pin attempt. Alexa gets to her feet, but Bayley hits a sunset flip powerbomb into the turnbuckle, and Alexa rolls out of the ring.
Nikki revives her, and Bayley goes for a tope. Alexa pushes Nikki into the line of fire before tossing Bayley shoulder-first into the steps before nailing a sunset flip on the floor. Ouch. Alexa tosses Bayley back inside and sets Bayley up for Twisted Bliss. Nikki runs in for no reason and breaks it up. She goes for Twisted Bliss, but Bayley gets the knees up to block and hits the Bayley-to-Bayley for the pin to retain.
Well, that was pretty good before the stupid finish. Still, that was a really solid match.
Winner and STILL SmackDown Women’s Champion – Bayley
Backstage, Ricochet poses for his pics with the United States title but gets photobombed by AJ Styles and the Club. AJ says he’ll see Ricochet tomorrow on Monday Night Raw. Great. Give away a guaranteed gold match on Raw.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre W/ Shane McMahon
If Stomping Grounds is going to fall off the rails, it’ll be here.
McIntyre rushes at Reigns in the aisle before the bell rings, but Reigns fends him off and tosses McIntyre into the ring. The bell rings, and Reigns gets the early advantage, clotheslining McIntyre over the top rope. Reigns for the dive over the top rope and takes out McIntyre.
Reigns chases Shane through the crowd, reminding us where the “real” feud is. Roman tries to dive at Shane over the barricade but gets an uppercut from McIntyre on the way down. McIntyre keeps up the attack, hitting a belly-to-belly throw for two.
Shane chokes Roman over the bottom rope while McIntyre distracts the referee. McIntyre slows the match down with a headlock before lifting Reigns up for a suplex, but Reigns reverses. With the official’s back turned, Shane hits a stungun on Reigns from the outside. When he turns around, McIntyre hits Reigns with a spinebuster for two. A suplex by McIntyre gets another two-count.
Reigns hits a Samoan drop, but he can’t capitalize. We get a slugfest, and Reigns takes over with a trio of clotheslines. Roman signals for the Superman punch, but Shane gets on the apron for the distraction and takes the Superman punch.
Because Reigns is an idiot, he chases after Shane and hits another one. McIntyre runs outside to make the save and dodges the drive-by before slamming Reigns face-first into the announce table. That was cool. He picks Reigns up and hits a uranagi for two.
McIntyre goes for a superplex. Reigns tries to fight him off, but McIntyre finally hits it, but Reigns kicks out at 2.99. Full disclosure: I want to hate this match, but I can’t. McIntyre signals for the Claymore Kick, but Reigns dodges and backslides for a two-count.
The Scottish Psychopath goes up top, but Reigns catches him with a Superman punch on the way down. It only gets two. Reigns hits the spear, but Shane pulls the referee out of the ring and knocks him out. Shane hits Reigns with the coast-to-coast, and McIntyre still can’t get the pin.
McIntyre goes for the Claymore but gets a Superman punch. Shane tries to rush the ring, but Reigns throws him out and hits the spear for the pin.
This hurts to say. It hurts a lot. That match was pretty good. It was the totally wrong decision, as McIntyre really needed that win. Continuing to act as Shane’s muscle isn’t going to do him any favors.
But still, the match was better than it had any right to be.
Winner – Roman Reigns
Steel Cage Match For The WWE Championship: Kofi Kingston (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Let’s see if the referee at Stomping Grounds remembers the rules of a steel cage match this time.
Ziggler makes an early attempt to climb out. Kofi pulls him down, but Ziggler hits a dropkick. Ziggler goes to exit through the door, but Kofi drags him back in and goes for a pin.
The challenger goes for a superkick, but Kofi reverses with a dropkick for two. Kofi gets a splash in the corner, but when he tries it on the other side, Ziggler dodges, and Kofi goes face-first into the cage.
Ziggler cinches in a headlock, but Kofi elbows his way out only for Ziggler to chuck him to the mat. He throws Kofi into the cage but only gets a two-count and goes right back to the headlock. Kofi hits a jawbreaker to break free, but Ziggler keeps up the attack.
A dropkick from Kofi puts both guys down. Kofi gets another dropkick and goes to follow up with a splash, but Ziggler catches him in midair and throws him into the cage for two. Ziggler heels up and starts slapping and taunting Kofi. He goes to throw Kofi into the steel, but the champion recovers and tosses Ziggler into the wall three times.
Ziggler goes for the Fame-Asser, but Kofi throws him into one of the cage beams. Kofi climbs and gets just past the top turnbuckle, but Ziggler tries to drag him down. The champ kicks him off, but Ziggler rushes back and they fight on the top rope. Kofi bashes Ziggler’s head into the cage a few times, sending him crashing to the mat.
Dolph starts to give chase, but Kofi sees it out of the corner of his eye and hits a crossbody off the top rope. Kofi gets one leg over the top of the cage, but Ziggler catches him again and holds onto the champion’s legs. Ziggler pulls Kofi back into the cage and tosses him off the top rope.
The challenger gets a leg over the top of the cage, but Kofi scales up to meet him. Both guys are locked up on top of the cage, but Ziggler gets both legs over the top. Kofi won’t let go, and Ziggler can’t wiggle free.
Both guys headbutt one another off the cage wall and just kind of fall down. This is boring. We get a slugfest followed by an SOS for a near-fall for Kofi. Ziggler staggers to his feet, and Kofi goes for Trouble In Paradise, but Ziggler dodges it and attacks Kingston’s injured leg. He locks a kneebar in on Kofi makes the rope, but the referee remembers this time he doesn’t have to break the hold.
Kofi fights out and hooks in an ankle lock, but Ziggler kicks him away. Zig-Zag gets two for the challenger. Ziggler goes for a superkick, but Kofi hooks in a front face-lock. The challenger tries to drag himself toward the door, but Kofi drags him back in. Ziggler thumbs Kofi’s eyes and scrambles for the door again, but Kofi leapfrogs him to escape the cage and retain the title.
That match was boring and definitely knocked Stomping Grounds down a notch. It wasn’t bad, but it was boring. That finish was pretty great, though.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion – Kofi Kingston
Backstage, Shane makes a handicap match with himself and McIntyre taking on Reigns for Monday Night Raw. Well that should suck.
Universal Championship Match: Seth Rollins (C) vs. Baron Corbin W/ Special Referee Of Corbin’s Choosing
Seth comes out wearing an Avengers quantum suit and brandishing a steel chair for some reason. He threatens to bash the referee if they have any intentions of taking the title. That’s a threat that applies to only one potential candidate, so we can eliminate Brock from contention right away.
And Corbin’s referee is CM P– nah, I’m just kidding. The referee is Cody Rh– nah, I’m just kidding.
All kidding aside, we finally get Corbin’s announcement, and the referee for the match is Lacey Evans. By the way, plenty of good seats still available at Stomping Grounds. At least it took this long.
Corbin takes the chair away from Rollins and wails away at him, as the bell hasn’t been rung yet. The match begins, and Corbin gets a quick near-fall. Corbin beats the crap out of Rollins on the outside, and Lacey refuses to count. Back inside the ring, the challenger keeps up the attack.
“A-E-W” chant breaks out, if you’re wondering what the crowd in Tacoma thinks of this match. Corbin misses a punch by several inches, and poor Seth has to sell it. The challenger keeps up his opening Raw match offense, and the crowd chants for CM Punk and somebody named “boring.”
Seth is selling this garbage like a trooper. Meanwhile, Lacey is having no bearing on this thing at all. Seth breaks out an enziguri and chops away at Corbin. He follows with an elbow to Corbin’s face and hits a blockbuster. The champ clotheslines Corbin over the top and hits a suicide dive into the barricade.
A springboard knee followed by a superkick leads to a slow count by Lacey. The crowd boos like crazy, but they aren’t “we hate you” boos, they’re “we can’t believe you’re making us watch this” boos.
Corbin tosses Seth over the apron, but the champion lands on his feet only to catch an uppercut. Seth powerbombs Corbin through the announce table to bring the crowd back to life for a few seconds. The champ rolls back in and demands that Lacey begin the 10-count.
She gets to eight and demands the ring announcer declare no count-outs. I remember that from somewhere. Somewhere that it mattered and made sense.
Corbin gets back inside, and Seth sets up for the curb stomp, but the challenger dodges it. Seth goes for the dive but gets slammed on the apron. A chokeslam gets two. Corbin tries to hook in a Boston crab, but Seth makes it to the ropes.
The champion puts Corbin down with a superkick and follows with a top rope splash. Lacey gets to a count of two but feigns an arm injury before she can count three. Corbin wails on Seth with a chair, but Lacey is conveniently checking her nails.
Lacey now reminds the ring announcer that there are no disqualifications. How original. What’s next, a Montreal Screwjob spot?
Seth hits the Falcon Arrow on the chair, but Lacey refuses to count. The champ gets in her face, and Lacey slaps him twice before kicking him the gut and hitting a nutshot.
Y’know, you reap what you sew, Seth.
Corbin hits the End of Days, but Becky Lynch runs out and beats the crap out of Lacey and hits a Becksploder into the barricade. Actual referees come out to pull Becky off of Lacey, and the referee from the Super Showdown match takes over.
Seth hits the Curb Stomp for the pin to retain.
That got hot near the end, and it probably sets up a mixed tag match for Extreme Rules. But that was way too overbooked.
Winner and STILL Universal Champion – Seth Rollins
Goofy main event booking notwithstanding, Stomping Grounds should’ve been awful. It should’ve been absolutely godawful. But the action in the ring was more than enough to make it a solid thumbs-up.
The Reigns-McIntyre finish was dumb, the SmackDown women’s title match had an odd ending, and the main event was just a mess. But everything else on this card was good to great.
I like being pleasantly surprised.
All images courtesy of WWE.