25 Matches that Defined 2016 #19: Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns, Roadblock: End of the Line
WWE Roadblock: End of the Line
18th of December 2016
PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho have been best friends for the last few months. Owens has held onto his Championship in matches against both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins with the underhand assistance of his buddy. Recently the friendship has started to look rocky, and a bit of bickering has taken place.
Early in the PPV Owens cuts a promo at the door of Jericho’s dressing room. He first apologises, then says his feelings are being hurt that Jericho won’t come out to speak to him, nor unlock the door for him to come in.
Later in the night Owens interferes in the match between Jericho and Rollins in a misguided attempt to get on his friend’s good side, only to be battered by Rollins and berated by Jericho, finally leaving looking like he’s realised he’s been stupid in coming out at all. Jericho misses out on a win due to the ref being distracted, then loses soon after.
Main event time and Owens squares off against Reigns, who’s convinced Owens to put up his belt to prove he can win without Jericho’s help.
The match itself is fine, if a little by the numbers. There are some nice spots here and there, including a welcome return of Owens’ 270 legdrop, and a lot of rolling out of the ring by Owens. Despite being a heel move at times this gets cheers; notably when he keeps rolling towards the corner as the setup for Reigns’ spear then keeps going right out of the ring , the cheer is louder than the “Boo Ya” call for Reigns.
As the match comes to an end, Reigns and Owens are both lying on the canvas exhausted after a section with three frog splashes, a pop-up powerbomb, a sit-out powerbomb and a spear. Chris Jericho comes out. He looks at both men a few times then eventually performs a Codebreaker on Owens. The match ends in a DQ, and after a pause Jericho hands a confused Owens his belt. The announce team speculate that it was the plan all along, and the two leave the ring – only to be met on the ramp by Seth Rollins.
Trapped between the two former members of The Shield, the heels take a beating. Jericho is put through the Spanish announce table with a double powerbomb, then Owens is put through the English announce table at the top of the ramp, and the PPV ends with a shot of the faces looking down at the broken champ.
Why does it define 2016?:
* deep breath *
It’s a Raw PPV main event featuring really talented Superstars sort-of going through the motions in a match we’ve already seen four or five times in six weeks, with a storyline that doesn’t make complete sense, mostly because the last PPV was less than a month ago AND with a confusing ending that not only squanders the little bit of story that was working but also manages to make the top champ look weak and a bit stupid whilst also making him a more sympathetic character than either of the faces.
On a personal note, it also summed up 2016 because it was the final-final-final final straw in a long-running series called “Raw is fucking awful and I think I should dingy it…”
Let me expand on this:
My thoughts: Kevin Owens is pretty much the reason I started watching wrestling again, after my brother sent me a text and said I should check out NXT. I was lucky to tune in the week after Owens debuted and was instantly a fan of this angry powerhouse who’d betray his best friend to get to the top of the ranking. Everything about him made sense.
Fast forward a year or so and Owens is now a craven braggart half the time, and a funny dick the other half – a bit like a cross between Brodie from Mallrats and the original Transformers series Starscream.
Totally at odds with the fully-thought-out character arc on NXT, he picks up the Universal Championship in circumstances that weren’t explained at all. The main question is why did HHH attack Seth Rollins in favour of Owens? They’ve been slowly teasing the reveal of this for so long… actually no they haven’t; there’s no further deepening of the mystery beyond the original Why Did Hunter Do That? Imagine if Twin Peaks had opened with Laura Palmer being discovered then the rest of the show was nothing to do with the investigation till nine months later when the killer was revealed in a season finale. You wouldn’t give a fuck.
And that’s without going into the confusion that is the character of HHH who’s a good guy when he’s on one of the smaller shows; taking the credit for NXT, CWC, and so on; yet a corporate heel (or something) on the main show.
Putting all of that aside for a moment and sticking just to this PPV, Owens is a fairly sympathetic character, albeit in a story that is more like a desperate boyfriend trying not to lose his lover than a guy worried about a failing friendship. He’s had to put up his title (he’s The Prizefighter so this should be the most important thing to him) without his opponent having to lay his less prestigious belt on the line. The PPV ends with him getting assaulted by his buddy then getting pummelled as he’s trying to make sense of that, and finally gets put through a table by the two big handsome muscle guys in black: go back and look at that last shot and tell me who looks like the protagonist. The fact it was the announce table also meant this last minute or so was done with no commentary only added to the ominous feeling.
This whole thematic misfire was compounded by the opening match having odd couple Sheamus & Cesaro finally clicking and taking the Tag Team belts off the record-breaking New Day. Given the “End of the Road” subtitle, and the genuine emotionally-charged win/loss, shouldn’t this have been the Main Event, ending the PPV on a crowd-pleasing high?
I know I’m not writing anything here that hasn’t been discussed elsewhere and realistically I’m not being fair singling this match out as it wasn’t awful by any means. In fact there was a lot about this match that was good. In particular I think it’s worth pointing out that Owens sold his relationship worries throughout the whole match, adding little gestures to his intro, and rolling out the ring to get time to think.
But it’s also the perfect summary of everything Raw does wrong, and has been doing wrong since well before the brand split. At a time when, to my mind at least, the Intercontinental Belt has earned more prestige than the Universal Championship, you’d think Raw would at least try to make their top champ to look strong, or cunning, or even outright ruthless even if that’s just so when either of the former Shield guys do pick it up, that they look in some way like they earned it. Instead you have them double-teaming a guy when he’s down, and a guy who’s not even been made to look much of a threat in the first place.
Honestly, I just don’t see why anyone should have to watch this shit when in the same timeframe you could watch Lucha Underground, NXT, & an episode of Westworld/Dirk Gently/The Expanse?
This article was edited on 18th January to include the paragraph about the Tag Team Championship match. Mostly as I forgot to put it in due to writing the article at 2am, and losing my notes.