WWE returned to Madison Square Garden in NYC tonight for their final house show in the venue before Wrestlemania 30. It was very much a show where you didn’t feel like anything major went down and the wrestling was OK, but there was nothing memorable when the show was over. Usually the MSG shows “feel” like a step up from the normal WWE live event, but tonight it just felt like another night at the office with guys doing enough but not going out of their way to break out of the pack. It didn’t feel like Wrestlemania was around the bend, that is for sure.
That said, the majority of the audience there seemed to be young children and their family and they were easily the loudest and most into the show, specifically for the entrances and cheering for the heroes. In that aspect, WWE delivered.
There were several instances of chanting for CM Punk but other than the Miz vs. Justin Gabriel match nothing was extremely loud or lengthy. Lots of Punk merchandise in the crowd and WWE was selling different shirts and other Punk merchandise.
*WWE Tag Team champions The Usos defeated Ryback and Curtis Axel & Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a three way match. Good opener. The Usos received a really big reaction coming out. You got the feeling the crowd was really into them and I noticed a bunch of kids walking in the venue with their faced painted like them. A good back and forth match. In the end, The Usos nailed their stereo dives over the top to the floor. Ryback missed a top rope splash on one of the Usos. Jey then pinned Ryback with a splash off the top.
*The Miz vs. Justin Gabriel went to a no contest when Ryback hit the ring and attacked both. Miz received a nice reaction. Gabriel received no real reaction coming out. They were both babyfaces and went back and forth. Ryback took the mic and said that there’s too much negativity in NYC and the fans were responsible for where he is now. He said tonight was the night he took his destiny back into his own hands. Miz grabbed him and nailed the Skull Crushing Finale. Gabriel hit the 450 splash. That got a nice pop from the audience.
*WWE Women’s champion AJ Lee pinned Cameron. They did a fan voting for a title match or a dance-off. The dance-off won. Cameron danced and Lee, disgusted, walked off. Cameron goaded her back into the ring by ripping her on the mic. Lee was worked over early but came back for the win after Tamina distracted Cameron, allowing Lee to nail the knee from behind.
*Kofi Kingston pinned Damien Sandow with the Trouble in Paradise as he argued with referee. Sandow came out and demanded a better reaction and went to the back and returned to get more heat. They spent a lot of time in the ring going back and forth. OK but nothing great, Sandow used a Scorpion deathlock variation and when Kingston got to the ropes to force the break, Sandow argued with the referee, setting up the finisher.
*Daniel Bryan pinned Kane with the running knee. Triple H came out and cut a promo about being back in MSG and talked about all the stars who had headlined there, namechecking Bruno, Hogan, Hart, Michaels, Austin, Backund and himself, saying they were all A+ players, while Daniel Bryan is just a B+ plus player. He said the Yes Movement was like a Bowel movement. I did think that was a funny line. He said he’d never face Bryan. Good heat for HHH. Bryan received a nice reaction but not a thunderous reaction like you see on Raw and expected here. Lots of Yes chants but nothing that shook the foundation of MSG. The match was similar to what we saw on Main Event Tuesday and was fine. HHH stopped Bryan from getting the pin by tossing the referee, John Cone out of the ring. A second referee hit the ring and Bryan kicked out of a chokeslam. Kane was so mad he hit that referee. Kane was tossed a chair by HHH but Bryan nailed the knee and scored the pin. Bryan ended up with the chair and HHH said that if Bryan didn’t have it, he’d get in the ring and kick his ass all over MSG. Bryan tossed the chair to the outside and invited HHH in the ring. HHH took off his jacket and shirt and they teased fighting but out came Stephanie McMahon, flanked by Finlay and security. Stephanie said this was never going to happen and told Bryan he was never going to main event Wrestlemania. It ended with Bryan nailing the running knee and hit a dive to the outside on Kane and HHH. The crowd loved that and really got into the “Yes” chant.
*Vickie Guerrero came out and said she had a surprise. She introduced the NXT Tag Team champions The Ascension, who came out with the belts. They faced Los Matadores with Torito. The crowd didn’t seem very familiar with Ascension, so that led to a lot of apathy and quiet as the audience watched. The match was OK, but no really standout moments. The Ascension won with their finisher. Afterward, The Matadores ran off Ascension, which left Guerrero in the ring. Torito gored her in the butt, which the crowd loved. This was Torito and Ascension's MSG debut.
*Dolph Ziggler pinned Alberto Del Rio with the Zig Zag. A nice reaction for Ziggler coming out. A solid back and forth match. Del Rio went for the armbar at the end but Ziggler slipped out and nailed the finisher. At one point, Del Rio hopped over the rail and faced off with a fan that was jawing with him. The crowd was much more into Ziggler than you'd expect given his placement on the roster.
*John Cena and Batista defeated Bray Wyatt and WWE World Heavyweight champion Randy Orton. Cena received the biggest reaction of anyone on the show coming out by far. Batista didn’t receive much of anything – there weren’t tremendous amounts of cheers or over the top booing, he was just sort of there. Wyatt and Orton received nice reactions. This was Wyatt's MSG debut and he had a video where he told MSG "I'm here" and came out alone with a lantern. The audience was clapping to his music. Batista worked most of the early part of the bout, being worked over by Wyatt and Orton. The kids were really into Cena. In the end, Orton accidentally knocked Wyatt off the apron. He had Cena on the run, but Cena made a comeback and went to tag Batista, who dropped to the floor and then walked off. Orton had Cena beat but Wyatt returned to the ring and nailed Sister Abigail to get revenge for being knocked off the apron and Cena nailed the AA for the pin on Orton. A really solid main event. Wyatt hung with Cena and Batista and looked credible.
Notes: It was a healthy crowd but nowhere near a sellout. Scattered empty seats all over the place….CM Punk shirts and other merchandise were being sold at the venue….They return on 7/12. There is an ongoing pre-sale right now using code WWEGARDEN….One of the biggest pops of the night was for a photo of Hulk Hogan that was shown on the video screens as WWE had rotating photos from recent events interspersed with texts and tweets from fans….Justin Roberts did the ring announcing. This is the part of the article where I say it is completely stupid not to have Howard Finkel ring announcing in MSG.