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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reigns vs. Braun: A Match History, Part III

9. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins vs. Chris Jericho (Raw 11/7/16)

ER: Well this probably shouldn't have worked as well as it did. It was a wonderful mess but really nicely structured. Yeah there were some moments where guys disappeared for long-ish amounts of time, but the showdowns were all good. We got a lot of great Roman versus everybody, and Braun versus everybody. This was probably the biggest early Braun star performance. There's a really great early staredown with he and Roman, then Owens/Jericho get in and back him up, with Jericho clapping him on the chest and directing him towards Roman. But Braun don't need no allies and he nastily back elbows Jericho, while Owens hilarious bails to the floor. Braun/Roman really knew how to build to them throwing, amping up the anticipation before Roman beats him to blows. The early gang ups on Braun were really good, with him chokeslamming Roman on his face, Owens throwing stiff blows at his temple before getting leveled by Braun, and eventually all four just clubbing him. It leads to an awesome moment of Braun throwing all four off at once, and they wisely stack offense to knock him to the floor (Owens superkick followed by Jericho enziguiri followed by really great Rollins springboard knee and ending with Roman superman punching him through the ropes (while Braun takes a great sprawling bump in the process), and then getting hit by one of Rollins' best dives. Really excellent sequence. Everybody brawled around the floor, with Owens splatting Reigns with the cannonball into the barricade, Roman threw uppercuts, Jericho got powerbombed through a table with Braun on it, Rollins crashes and burns on a frog splash, and the finish was flat out awesome: Jericho eats a pedigree, Owens kicks Rollins out of the ring, Roman superman punches Owens, who falls onto Jericho, pinning him. What?? It was silly and I loved it. The interruptions and layout of this match was top notch. You need some primo layout to make a goofy match with odd number participants work, and this nailed it. The double teams were smart and everybody's individual psychology made tons of sense.

10. Braun Strowman/Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns/Sami Zayn/Seth Rollins vs. (Raw 1/16/17)

ER: Killer match, one I somehow already forgot about. This has a bunch of good undercurrents flowing throughout, with Roman/Braun played up big, Zayn getting to stand up to Braun, Rollins having a finer outing than I'm sure people gave him credit for, and Owens/Jericho helping each other out. Roman did a couple things I don't see him often do, like a straight right boot to Owens' jaw, and I liked how the heels kept foiling him when he was about to go on a run, like the moment he was lining up Owens for the superman punch and Jericho held his leg, allowing Owens to hit a superkick. Braun being taken down was a huge deal, with the faces layering attacks (Reigns with the big punch, Rollins a nice running knee that Braun sold excellently, dropping down fast to all fours) before Zayn got to knock him off his feet. Zayn standing tall against Braun was the big part of the match, and the crowd ate it up. Zayn hot a huge nearfall off a crossbody (as Rollins hit a massive crossbody to the floor), but it wasn't long before Braun killed him with a lariat and then wandered around holding him up for a powerslam before slamming him through the mat. Everybody got little shine moments throughout, Owens got to control Reigns for a long stretch in the middle, Braun showed that it takes three men to even approach bringing him down, Zayn had a huge flip dive on Owens, just a fun fast paced match. Everybody came off nicely here.

11. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns (WWE House Show 2/17/17)

PAS: Awesome big boy brawl, kind of a house show version of Roman v. Brock. Similar dynamic with Strowman using his power to chuck Reigns around, including an awesome looking spinebuster out of the corner. Roman mainly used his speed to beat Strowman to the punch, catching him coming into the ring, countering a big throw with a punch. I liked the finish as it felt crazy and out of control, and obviously you weren't going to get a clean finish. Really got me excited for their PPV match.

ER: Wow what a match, awesome performance from both guys in front of a crowd that sounded like it was 90% children (who were losing their collective minds for Reigns). They worked the simple story of Braun overpowering Roman, and Roman having to get clever in how he gets in his attacks. Braun hits a meaty back elbow and tosses Reigns to the floor, then knocks him off the apron when he tries to get back in. When Braun tries to knock him off again, Reigns anticipates it and yanks Braun throat-first into the top rope. Reigns is smart about suckering him into missed charges, but when Roman gets greedy and punches on him too long, or tries an Irish whip, that's when Braun smashes him. Reigns threw a bunch of great strikes, big cartoon uppercuts thrown from his waist that really played to the back row, but also nice body shots in the corner, desperately trying to soften up Braun. Every time Braun does catch hold of Roman, he makes the most of it, with a cool face first chokeslam (like Taue used to do) and another variation into the buckles, a cool headlock he turned into a cravat, and a big over the shoulder slam. And what was cool was after he hit that first slam, Reigns found ways to slip out of subsequent ones, even hitting a cool superman punch off a flapjack attempt for a great nearfall. The fight on the floor was great and lead to one of the great set-ups for the drive by, with Braun about to crush Roman with the ring steps until the ref intervenes from the ring, and as Braun is being forced to put down the steel step Reigns vaults off the remaining step to hit the kick. The kids screaming for Reigns really added to this, my favorite being the one that was genuinely concerned they were going to be counted out, screaming "Get back in the ring!!" And while the eventual DQ is expected, they paid it off great with Reigns hitting a huge spear through a table. Killer match. I would have been flipping out for this one live.

12. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns (Fastlane 3/5/17)

ER: This was awesome, even if it had a result that will get dumped on. Braun throws himself into everything, really acting like this match is his WrestleMania, so his hits AND misses are huge. He breaks out a great standing splash, but misses a charge into the ring post, nails a crazy powerslam through an announce table, but takes a huge bump to the floor off a missed big boot. Braun came off like a shark, always moving forward, and Reigns was scrambling from go. Roman is really good at surviving damage and making space for comeback shots, an update of the style John Cena has worked the last decade, dodging Braun and sending him into the steps, hitting a Samoan drop after Braun hits the post, and these two are really going at it. I'm sure plenty of people will be pissed that Roman went over, but Braun stood up to a couple superman punches, a spear, and then did an insane big splash off the top before taking a final spear. I'm sure when people think about this match the visual of Braun standing tall on the top rope will seem like a bigger deal than the fact that he got pinned. He'll get his.

PAS: I really enjoyed this, Braun has gotten really good at Godzilla v. King Kong matches and this was a more extended version of their excellent house show matches. Reigns flying somersault to avoid the ring steps was really pretty, you forget sometimes what a breathtaking athlete he is.  Love how much force Stroman throws in his slams, that Spinebuster felt like he might have broken a slat in the ring, and he really powers Roman with those beal throws.. I did think they could have skipped the chinlock section, this would have been better as a 10 minute bomb fest, not everything has to go 15+.

ER: Both singles matches were good enough to land on our 2017 Ongoing MOTY List. There's a few more house show matches that have been recorded, so we'll see if any of those belong. At that point we may do some list rearranging, as I don't want several version of a match on the list (assuming all the house show matches are following the same formula. If they're different enough than we will have no problem adding multiples, but if it's the same match each time out, we'll just place the best of the four).

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