When WWE Stomping Grounds started on Sunday in Tacoma, Washington, it felt as if fans were watching a show booked by someone other than Vince McMahon. With fast-paced action, creative booking and interesting finishes, Stomping Grounds was on its way to being one of the top shows of the calendar year for WWE. And while the final few matches did not sully the first half of the show, they did bring the overall grade down.
Why, exactly? The pace slowed, most of the finishes were predictable and even the reveal of the special guest referee for the universal title main event match was underwhelming considering many expected Brock Lesnar or another big name to take that spot. Instead, it was used more as a future booking device with WWE going heavy on the real-life relationship of Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch as an on-screen storyline.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Sunday updating this story with results, grades and highlights. Be sure to subscribe to the State of Combat with Brian Campbell podcast for a Stomping Grounds breakdown in our weekly professional wrestling show on Wednesdays.
2019 WWE Stomping Grounds results, grades
Cruiserweight Championship -- Drew Gulak def. Akira Tozawa (via pinfall) and Tony Nese (c) to win the title: Hot friggin' fire. The in-ring chemistry between the three performers was off the charts as the high-flying and stiff style of Nese and Tozawa meshed perfectly with Gulak's power game to produce a thrilling spot fest featuring a handful of well-timed saves. The pace was off the charts, and the high spots were extremely memorable including a senton off the top rope from Tozawa that broke up Gulak's submission attempt on Nese. The finish came after Nese was sent outside of the ring and Gulak landed a torture rack neckbreaker on Tozawa for the 1-2-3. May the dawn of the Power Point Era begin. Grade: A-
Raw Women's Championship -- Becky Lynch (c) vs. Lacey Evans via submission to retain the title: The first main roster feud for Evans appears to have come to a close following a second straight title defeat. While the "you can't wrestle" chants from the crowd were certainly too harsh, Evans did prove that she still has plenty to grow inside the ring to equal her sensational work on the microphone. Lynch did well to carry the duo in this match, working from underneath throughout. Evans wiped her armpits with a handkerchief and tossed it onto Lynch in a spot that turned out to be the turning point as Lynch shoved it down Evans' throat to begin her comeback with a Mandible Claw. After a pair of near falls from Evans late, Lynch applied her Dis-Arm-Her submission to get the instant tap out. Grade: C
Paul Heyman meets with Baron Corbin: Caught backstage coming out of Corbin's locker room, Heyman refused to acknowledge why he was speaking with Corbin. Instead, he deflected and noted that Brock Lesnar may or may not be in attendance and may or may not cash in tonight against either the universal or WWE champion. That led Corbin to come out and drop a sexual innuendo before saying he has already chosen his referee who will be competent and not favor him int he match. "If you keep hanging around my locker room, you may make me think you're here for something more than an interview," he quipped.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn def. The New Day via pinfall: For whatever this match lacked in terms of a proper storyline build, it more than made up for in terms of intensity and electricity. The heels told a full-circle story throughout the match that began in the opening seconds with an instant attack on Xavier Woods that saw him eat four super kicks a Blue Thunder Bomb from Zayn and a top-rope frog splash from Owens with Woods kicking out of a trio of quick pin attempts. The gradual weakening of Woods paid off late when Big E speared Zayn through the ropes but took himself out of the match in the process. Owens then tripped Woods from the top rope and connected with a stunner to score an emotional pin that saw him and Zayn celebrating wildly. Grade: B
United States Championship -- Ricochet def. Samoa Joe (c) via pinfall to win the title: Ricochet's first championship in WWE turned out to be a hard-earned journey paved with stiff strikes and acrobatic selling. This was about as physical as a main roster WWE match typically gets as Joe beat Ricochet from pillar to post until a late rally from the challenger which featured dramatic near falls and reversals. As expected, Ricochet was sensational in delivering the high-flying moves to perfectly offset Joe's ground game. Ricochet slipped out of a late Coquina Clutch attempt by escaping over the top rope. He went on to stay on his feet after being flipped over by a clothesline before delivering his 630 finisher to earn the pin.
After the win, Ricochet was given a standing ovation by his peers inside Gorilla Position and even received a hug from NXT patriarch Triple H. Two matches later, Ricochet was shown backstage getting photos taken with the title when The Club approached with AJ Styles promising to see him Monday night on Raw. This is how you put over a pure babyface who fought through extreme adversity within the storyline in order to secure the clean win late. Grade: B+
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- Daniel Bryan & Rowan (c) def. Heavy Machinery via pinfall to retain the titles: This match had no business being this good. Not only did Bryan receive a babyface reaction throughout from his home state, he combined with Rowan to do a phenomenal job in putting over Otis and Tucker as legitimate title contenders (if not outright stars). All four competitors completely sold out, to boot. Even Tucker was attempting moonsautls and top-rope splashes outside. Bryan, who cut a promo-of-the-year contender during the kickoff show about bringing respect and prestige back to the tag team division, was tremendous in terms of his in-ring mannerisms and visual disgust for his opponents. Bryan, despite scoring the pinfall on Tucker, did the job in his own way by scoring a sneaky rollup on Tucker to steal the victory. Grade: B
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Bayley (c) def. Alexa Bliss via pinfall to retain the title: Earlier in the night, Bliss and Nikki Cross (who accompanied the challenger to ringside) were show talking smack about Bayley backstage. The storyline dislike between the two competitors came through in a stiff match that saw Bayley send Bliss headfirst backwards into the second turnbuckle on a sunset flip bomb and Bliss later returning the favor on the floor. Bayley went for a suicide dive late but Bliss pulled Cross in front of her to absorb the impact. Cross made her presence felt once more shortly after but her attempt to save Bliss was interrupted by the referee. Bliss went on to eat Bayley's knees on a Twisted Bliss attempt from the top rope. Bayley followed with her Bayley-to-Belly suplex finisher for the 1-2-3. After the match, Bayley pushed down Cross and talked trash on her way up the ramp as the two heels hugged inside the ring. Grade: C+
Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre via pinfall: Against all odds, including extensive interference from Shane McMahon, Reigns found a way persevere. Sound familiar? Despite the impressive effort put forth by both wrestlers in this physical match, the "Super Cena" style booking that originally saw fans booing the babyface superstar Reigns unfortunately continued in delivering a flat finish. The match began hot as Reigns hit an insane tope con hilo onto McIntyre outside before chasing McMahon through the crowd. Big spots followed, including McIntyre hitting a superplex before sending Reigns hard into the announce table with an Alabama slam. McMahon prevented a late Reigns pin following a spear by pulling the referee out of the ring by his legs despite McIntyre kicking out anyway. From there, McMahon stomped on Reigns and delivered a coast to coast before Reigns predictably kicked out of the pin attempt. A late Superman punch and a spear on McIntyre was enough to record the pin as Reigns tossed McMahon over the top rope in between. After the following match, McIntyre was enraged and trashing the backstage area before McMahon set a handicap match for Raw. Grade: C
WWE Championship -- Kofi Kingston (c) def. Dolph Ziggler via door escape to retain the title (Steel Cage Match): A creative finish did its best to make up for a somewhat plodding match as Kingston dove through the ropes and over Ziggler's crawling body to land shoulder first outside the door on the floor. The fact that WWE was one month removed from promoting a cage match at Money in the Bank between The Miz and Shane McMahon didn't necessarily help this match feel fresh. Kingston appeared to have the match accidentally won late when Ziggler super kicked him into the open door which produced a dive from Ziggler to prevent Kingston from crawling out. Interviewed after the match by Charly Caruso while dancing alongside his New Day brethren, Kingston said he respects the hell out of Ziggler but followed through on his promise to walk out of Stomping Grounds as the WWE champion. Grade: C+
Universal Championship -- Seth Rollins (c) def. Baron Corbin via pinfall to retain the title: The long-awaited reveal of Corbin's hand-picked referee that has been the centerpiece of WWE television recently was paid off with Lacey Evans donning the stripes. Mere hours after suffering her second consecutive loss to Rollins' girlfriend and Raw women's champion Becky Lynch, Evans played her role of heel referee exactly as intended with inconsistent pinfall counts, and she even changed stipulations twice to no countout and then no disqualification in an effort to aid Corbin. Near the finish, Evans connected with a low blow to Rollins which was followed up by an End of Days. Before Corbin could execute his title-winning pin, though, Lynch bee-lined down to the ring and took her nemesis out of the equation as an official with a beating that concluded in a Becksploder on the outside into the barricade. Referee John Cone, in a callback to the Super ShowDown match, took over from there. Corbin attempted another End of Days, but the champ countered into a superkick followed by a Stomp to retain his title. Lynch and Rollins celebrated in the ring and then at the top of the ramp to conclude the show. The reveal of Evans was a clever touch, though it was severely telegraphed by Michael Cole's commentary during the show, and the referee choice itself telegraphed the ending of Lynch running in to save the day. Grade: C+
2019 WWE Stomping Grounds highlights
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