I tend to write these WWE reviews in the form of an overarching blether, without much structure. They’re not even really reviews, just general thoughts on the state of the product at the conclusion of a particular pay-per-view. WrestleMania happened last night – y’know, that wrestling event sort of familiar to non-fans? The one all over television, bearing more taglines than Shawn Michaels? (My personal favourite is ‘showcase of the immortals’). A lot happened, and there’s inevitably a lot to talk about. For that reason, I’m going to do this match-by-match.
Some updated thoughts are given in bold brackets after each main show match review.
Tag Title Fatal 4-Way
This was fun. There were eleven people involved in a variety of spots, and the match flowed well considering the potential chaos. Kidd and Cesaro retained.
Winner: Kidd & Cesaro
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
NXT’s own Hideo Itami won a tournament over the weekend to enter this match, but maybe he should’ve stayed in Orlando. I’m not entirely sure why they had him in this; he never got an entrance and was eliminated early via Big Show, who eventually went over (ironically, by not going over). Nor am I entirely sure why they went with Show as the victor. Cole mentioned he’d never won a battle royal before, so perhaps they wanted to impart some legitimacy on the giant for future reference. However, this should’ve belonged to Mizdow. His split with Miz was rightly predictable and well executed. Cesaro was also over huge. Vince must not watch the pre-shows.
Winner: Big Show
Intercontinental Title Ladder Match
Daniel Bryan opened the show to a huge ovation (presumably Vince missed this too). The most affable man on the planet went on thereafter to win the title. Dean Ambrose took a nasty bump through a ladder, and it turns out R-Truth is in fact a wrestler. The crowd were damn loud during this, especially for Dolph Ziggler and our favourite bearded warrior. All of the guys deserve credit given the painfully tough environment. Look, it’s great and all that they’re lumping the IC title on the best wrestler in the world, but he shouldn’t be in this spot. 70,000 people were going crazy for him. Hey, whatever.
(UPDATE: These multi-man ladder matches are always dangerous and the guys involved deserve plaudits for taking risks. This one was as good as the old WrestleMania MITB ladder car crashes and, even though he shouldn’t have been in this position, Bryan winning and getting his moment was the right decision.)
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
This was a solid match. I think a lot of us were hoping that this one would steal the show – the guys over at Inside The Ropes talked about Orton needing a WrestleMania moment, and this could’ve been it. I don’t think the bout was quite at that level, but the ending was exceptionally well executed. Orton reversed a Curb Stomp into an RKO (from outta nowhere!!!) and it was bloody delightful. I love the RKO, it’s my favourite finisher, and Orton is constantly thinking of new ways to execute it. I’m hoping for a stellar rematch at Extreme Rules in Chicago.
(UPDATE: I’m still reeling over that RKO. Presumably these guys will go at it again next month, presumably for the title. If so, I can’t wait.)
Winner: Randy Orton
Sting vs. Triple H
Sting – who entered first to a weird Japanese drum thing – must’ve been rethinking his contract terms as he watched Triple H do the full Terminator shabang. It divided opinion on Twitter, but I really liked the presentation even though it was a mega babyface entrance. Perhaps that’s just the movie lover in me. The match itself wasn’t really a match. DX and the nWo showed up, which was cool and super over with the crowd. Triple H’s leg looked badly bruised, so maybe this was a way to compensate and save both guys some time in-ring. Triple H went over because he can’t lose to a 56 year old and Vince can’t have WWE lose to WCW. Come on guys. For me, this undid some of the work they put in.
(UPDATE: In hindsight, I probably done these two a disservice. It was actually a decent match. Sting still should’ve gone over. Triple H started the night as a heel, switched to babyface with the handshake, and then went heel again later. That’s either poor booking or an ego thing. Regardless, I’ve upped this to three stars.)
Winner: Triple H
AJ Lee & Paige vs. The Bella Twins
Not the divas match we all hoped for, primarily because they didn’t get enough time, which is a shame. AJ and Paige won. For future reference, maybe WWE should cut the ten minute musical act that nobody cares about and, y’know, #GiveDivasAChance.
(UPDATE: They needed more time.)
Winners: AJ Lee & Paige
Rusev vs. John Cena
Rusev trampled all over Triple Terminator with his insanely devious tank entrance, accompanied by the brilliant Lana. Cena got the patriotic montage treatment and the crowd still booed him. This was hard-hitting, as expected, but not as good as their match at Fastlane. Cena added another move to his repertoire (surely we’ve hit double figures by now) – the Cena Stunner! Austin was surely grinning from ear to ear, with sincerity too. The finish was quite damp. It only took one Attitude Adjustment to end the Russian/Bulgarian’s streak. I do like Cena as US champ though. Hopefully he and D-Bry and decriminalise the secondary titles now.
(UPDATE: That tank entrance was an absolute winner. This felt much the same upon second viewing. Kudos to Lana for her spot on ‘it wasn’t me’ reaction after the shoe throw. Rusev is very good, I really hope they keep him strong.)
Winner: John Cena
Triple H/Steph & Rock/Ronda Segment
Triple H and Steph hit the ring and HHH became a heel again (after shaking hands with Sting earlier). The Rock appeared because that’s what he does these days. He’s been at every WrestleMania since 27 (as a host, a main-eventer and a surprise). I love The Rock, and I always will, but I’m sort of over the whole shtick now. It’s the same every time: Michael Cole loses his mind; Rock takes forever to walk to the ring; he stands silently waiting for a Rocky chant; he practices for his appearance on Catchphrase, and so on. Thankfully, he tagged in Ronda Rousey and she saved the segment. I can’t see her wrestling Steph any time soon, sadly. Rousey has a fight lined up and is, presumably, under contract to UFC.
(UPDATE: This went longer than any of the matches – twenty-five minutes – when it really didn’t have to. Steph was devilishly on point. I missed The Rock skip miming after his fallopian tube joke, which is hilarious. The pop for Rousey was brilliant. She’s a star, big time.)
Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker
Neither entrance looked as good as they would have in darkness. It’s amazing how much stock we – or at least I – put in entrances. I prefer east coast outdoor venues and indoor stadiums, but it’s not a massive issue. Begone, light! Taker looked great, probably the best visually since he shaved off his hair in 2012. Bray Wyatt’s entrance was apparently an audition for the horror Wizard of Oz remake. The crowd were quite quiet during this, certainly at the beginning, which is understandable given the length of the show and the heat. Wyatt executed his spider walk and then melted to the mat before an up-sitting Deadman in what was an outstanding moment. Taker pinned Wyatt after a second Tombstone (only one AA to defeat Rusev though). This was a fine match, but Wyatt winning would’ve been more exciting and daring.
(UPDATE: I think Taker has almost cornered himself at WrestleMania given his amazing track record when it comes to match quality in the last decade. This was better than last year, but nowhere near the level of the HBK or even HHH bouts. Much like Rusev, I hope they don’t drop the ball with Wyatt now. Give him something with depth and he’ll make it work.)
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
Unsurprisingly, the people weren’t that enamoured by Roman. Brock was a mega babyface. Reigns shouldn’t have been in this spot: he’s not particularly likeable; he’s not over; and he has yet to exceed upper mid-card level. Brock’s early F5 was rousing and the stadium exploded. It’s almost as if the crowd ingested all of those roasting sunshine rays and subsequently discharged them all over Roman. He was booed big time. This match was suplex city again but Reigns kept laughing, presumably as he realised how not-over he was.
The story seemed obvious from the get-go: Lesnar to beat up Roman just like he beat up Cena, but Roman to overcome it. After an ass-whipping, Rollins’ music hit. He cashed in and pinned Reigns. I didn’t see this coming at all – in fact, I thought Rollins was going to fail and take the pinfall to get rid of the briefcase spectre and keep the Reigns/Lesnar feud going. I like that Lesnar wasn’t pinned. Unanswered questions are abound: Who is the number one contender? Is Lesnar? Or Orton? Where does Reigns go? There was a heck of a lot riding on this match and, to WWE’s credit, they adapted. Hardly anybody wanted to see Reigns leave as champ, therefore he didn’t. I would’ve preferred Brock going over but I understand the thinking, and Rollins is phenomenal.
(UPDATE: I underrated this. Wrestling is about drama and suspension of disbelief, and they dramatically fooled me. It was a little too similar to the Cena SummerSlam match, but this one had even more at stake. “Suplex City bitch!” is ready-made merchandise money. Brock is WWE’s biggest asset and he should be booked as such until he decides to lace up the boots. Reigns done well here too – his comeback was (terrifyingly) excellent. Rollins has that main event aura. I updated this to four stars.)
Winner: Seth Rollins
This WrestleMania was all about the special moment, and maybe that’s how it should be. Mizdow’s breakaway. Bryan winning. Various entrances. DX versus nWo. Ronda Rousey. Spider walk versus sit-up. Rollins’ cash-in. Those were all thrilling moments built upon either forsaken hope or unshaken nostalgia. The in-ring action wasn’t anything to write home about though. For me, the wrestling never quite piqued. The opener and main event worked best, the former for its anxiety-driven excitement and the latter for its raw drama. The crowd in San Jose seemed to enjoy the show a lot, which is important because those folks paid heaps of cash to be there. As a home viewer, I think it was good. Occasionally great.
(UPDATE: To be fighting it out with WM17 and WM19 as one of the best ever, I think the show needed a few classic matches. There weren’t any bad bouts to be fair, only good matches and greater moments. I normally avoid 0.5 scores, so even though the show was probably 3.5 stars, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and round up to 4.)
On January 26th, 2014 CM Punk tweeted: “The view never changes”. This tweet, and all that followed, really hurt.
On January 27th, 2015 Seth Rollins tweeted: “I am the light at the end of the tunnel”. He was right. How exciting.
Images credit: WWE