Friday, 3 March 2017

DVD Review: Roadblock: End Of The Line 2016

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 179 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: March 6 2017

(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)

Since the Brand Extension, there has been a theme with the single-brand PPVs, and the single-brand television output for that matter. Whilst SmackDown has largely impressed despite having a fairly small crew of wrestlers to mix and match with, Raw has generally been a case of "good but not great" even though it boasts a more star-studded roster, partly due to the occasionally questionable creative decisions relating to the red brand (such as Triple H turning on Seth Rollins in spectacular fashion in August 2016, only for HHH to not appear on Raw to address the situation for more than five months). Roadblock: End Of The Line, like Clash Of Champions and Hell In A Cell before it, is a good snapshot of the Rad brand in general, as despite some strong in-ring action, the card ultimately feels underwhelming as a whole.

Before I begin the review proper, I should mention that this was the second Roadblock event of the year, following the Network special in March 2016. As such, note that this DVD is for the Raw-brand PPV, not the March event headlined by Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose (incidentally, the original Roadblock show would have made an excellent DVD extra if this were a two-disc release, but it was not to be).

Anyway, the show arguably peaks in the opening match, as The New Day's record-breaking WWE Tag Team Championship reign hits an, erm, roadblock against Cesaro and Sheamus in a really good doubles encounter with a clever finish. Mind you, seeing the path that the titles (which, by the way, would be remodelled the very next night on Raw) has taken since this PPV, the outcome seems a bit of a waste upon second viewing, and perhaps could have been saved for the upcoming WrestleMania 33 (a show which New Day, who had been champions since SummerSlam 2015, will be hosting whilst trying to launch their own brand of ice cream as things currently stand).

Next up, Sami Zayn battles Braun Strowman in a bout where the storyline dictated for Zayn to last ten minutes with big Braun (or BRRRRAUUUUNNNN!, as popular Internet memes would say). It was built well on television beforehand, and the execution is decent on the night, so in that respect it's a success, even if it seems like light years ago when rewatching it just eleven weeks later. Seth Rollins meets Chris Jericho in match three, which is a competent effort that plays second fiddle to the ongoing JeriKO storyline which, at the time, seemed to be part of the "best friends" seeing their bond exploding. As such, it's a watchable bout but, had it occurred three or four years earlier when Jericho was slightly younger and quicker, and aside from a larger plotline, it probably would have been a lot better.

The following Cruiserweight Championship three-way between Rich Swann, TJ Perkins and Brian Kendrick is a perfect example as to why the division as a whole hasn't set the world alight: the talent work hard and put together some nice sequences, but they are restricted when it comes to the high-flying moves that most consider to be synonymous with the cruisers. Indeed, there's barely any high-flying moves here, and whilst one doesn't necessarily want to tag all performers below 205 pounds with the acrobatic style, I have no doubt that fans would be far more invested in the division if Swann, Perkins, Kendrick and others could demonstrate what they can really do. Case in point: the post-match capers (which I won't spoil here) receive the undesired reaction, partly for this very reason.

The Raw Women's Championship Iron Man match between Sasha Banks and Charlotte is probably the bout that Roadblock will be most remembered for, due to the fact that females receive more than 30 minutes of PPV ring time (not including entrances, post-match scenes and the excellent pre-match video, which take their overall air time on this card to around 45 minutes). It's a strong effort by both women, and the fact that their positioning on the show seems completely natural is an indication of how far women's wrestling has come in WWE since the division became red-hot in NXT. However, the finish is a bit anticlimactic, and because the early going is a bit slow (despite the very commendable execution by Sasha and Charlotte), as well as this being yet another match in an almost never-ending feud, the match as a whole comes across exactly as the Raw brand does: it has its moments and is of a high quality, but is not quite as satisfying as it could be under ideal circumstances (that this marked the third time in six months where Sasha captured the Raw Women's Championship on TV only to lose it back to Charlotte at the following PPV didn't help either).

The main event between Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship is a slight anticlimax to close the show: again, the bout has its bright spots, but there's a lengthy period of non-action unbefitting two performers of this calibre, and as with the earlier Rollins vs. Jericho match, it plays second fiddle to the Owens-Jericho storyline. It ends up having an amusing conclusion at the end of this contest, but the bout, and thus the PPV, suffer as a result. The post-match scenes are worth watching and partly justify the outcome, but the match really exists to set up a rematch at Royal Rumble, meaning that this main event is a transitional match as opposed to a true headline attraction in its own right. The DVD extra consists of the Kick-Off bout between Rusev and Big Cass (as part of an unusual and somewhat edgy storyline relating to Lana and Enzo Amore), which is short and has a screw-job finish, but in its pre-show position, the layout of the contest is more forgivable (plus, Enzo's pre-match promo raises a few laughs).

Overall, Roadblock: End Of The Line is the weakest WWE supershow since the Draft. The best two matches (New Day vs. Sheamus & Cesaro and Sasha vs. Charlotte) don't shine as brightly as the best encounters on previous cards held by Raw (Cesaro vs. Sheamus at Night Of Champions), SmackDown (The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler at No Mercy) or both (the men's Raw vs. SmackDown clash from Survivor Series). The card was well-built beforehand, but some of the creative decisions - not for the first time by any means - let down the pay-offs that we get on the night. In the end, it simply feels like a more important edition of Raw (I can't say "longer", since Raw is three hours) rather than a PPV extravaganza. Roadblock: End Of The Line, therefore, is not a must-see show, but it should provide some decent entertainment over the course of its duration.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 - Okay

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