OK folks, you’re going to be overwhelmed with these today so I’m going to try and give you something that the others aren’t. What that is I don’t know but I’ve read some recaps already so I’m just going to try and not do what they did. I don’t do star ratings for matches, and I try to live by the rule that if the live crowd loved it then that’s not the time to be Mr. Contrarian and say it actually sucked or wasn’t that great. We watch this stuff to be entertained by characters we love and hate so when people in the building are entertained and show their love then it’s just it’s just dumb to go and crap all over it to prove you’re not one of the sheeple. If you want that kind of analysis there are plenty of places to get it. Not here. And the last show of the year to do that with is WrestleMania. If the show has memorable WrestleMania moments then you’ll know it yourself when you can recall them without having to be reminded that they happened by someone else. And if it truly sucks you’ll know for yourself from your gut feeling without needing to read a bunch of thinkpieces by people too enamored with their own perceived intelligence. OK, rant over. How was the show, match by match and overall? Here’s what I think:
Fatal Four Way for the WWE Tag Team Titles: Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (champs) vs New Day, the Usos, and Los Matadores
This is what you want from an opening match. It was fun and exciting and there were some good high flying and double team spots from everyone. I wish Cesaro would have hit the giant swing on someone but he didn’t get that in. It looked like Jay Uso was legit injured going into the match judging by the injury spot they did with him early on and him being carried off. Lots of believable near falls by everyone, and the sequence where Naomi, Natalya, and Torito got involved was fun. And the right team won, in my opinion. Cesaro and Kidd are a good team and Natalya is far more interesting as a heel manager type than a good girl supporter of her husband Kidd. It think it’s fine to let them keep the belts for a while and work with these three teamsand some others like the Ascension (when the company gets their act right with them) or even the Lucha Dragons.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale – The demotion of this match to the kickoff show didn’t go over very well with some of the people I interacted with on Twitter. My take was that if it cleared out space for the other matches to get enough time I was fine with it. It looks like it was moved to give time for the Rock/HHH/Stephanie McMahon/Ronda Rousey bit that happened later; they probably didn’t have full clearance for Rousey to do anything or knowledge that the Rock would make it until last week, which would be why they didn’t announce the move until a few days before the show. Anyhow, as far as the match itself….it was cool. Battle Royales are never great encounters. They did a nice spot where Cesaro dumped Kane the same way he did Big Show last year but failed to do the same to Show this year and got dumped for his trouble. The long teased Miz/Mizdow breakup happened as expected and was ok. What pissed some people off here was the finish and the way it was set up. Big Show threw a bunch of people out on his way to victory, and there were people angry that somebody like him got that kind of push when one of the younger guys could have benefited. To be honest I don’t care. Because of his sheer size Show is always going to be a threat to win these things and a viable opponent for any of the big stars on the roster. Setting him up for a run over the next months really isn’t that big of an outrage. And you can’t poo poo this for young guy/older guy reasons and applaud the result of a match I’ll get to later.
Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title: Bad News Barrett vs R-Truth, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, and Stardust –
Very good opener for the main show, even though it was cut a little short (it went for 14 minutes and change instead of the 20-plus I was hoping for). That may be due to Dean Ambrose’s legit injury after getting slammed through a ladder outside. As with all good ladder matches there were a ton of cool ladder-assisted spots throughout. The end sequence with Ziggler and Bryan fighting on the ladder and then trading headbutts was both fun and ridiculous. Bryan winning was the right move, even though the crowd would have probably lived with Ziggler pulling it out also. Hopefully Bryan will get a good run with the belt and re-establish it’s importance. A lot of people see this as a demotion of sorts (and it is), but given the reports that surfaced a few days ago about the company being (legitimately) concerned with Bryan’s long term health this is a safer place to put him on the card.
Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins –
People are going to be talking about that RKO for some time. It might be the coolest one I’ve ever seen. This was the first half of a two match parlay from a prediction standpoint. I had either an Orton victory combined with a Rollins main event money in the bank cash in or a Rollins win with no cash in later. The match itself was pretty good with a spectacular finish. Orton got his signature stuff in and went for a punt kick while Rollins went for all his high flying stuff and nailed some of them (he went for the Phoenix splash but rolled to avoid missing it when Orton moved). J and J Security played their part saving Rollins on a few occasions and eating some of Orton’s offense. Orton winning plays right into the Rollins victory later in setting up an immediate opponent for the coming months.
Sting vs Triple H – Oh boy, where do we start. The over the top entrances for both men, or the overbooked middle and end of the match? Sting’s Asian drum section entrance was a real ‘huh?’ moment and then Triple H’s Terminator product placement entrance was really doing too much. But it’s WrestleMania so what the hell. And then the match itself……. Sting did well early on and didn’t move around like a 55 year old man, but the run-ins came exactly when they should have. I knew somebody was coming in for both men but I did not have Degeneration X as a group figured for Triple H’s assistance. And the NWO run-in for Sting was seemed odd until you realize that the NWO and DX were the two factions the embodied the spirit of the Monday Night Wars on each side. What took place looked like a brawl between two groups of retired OGs but was still cool from a nostalgia standpoint. The baseball bat vs sledgehammer spot was nice. And the Shawn Michaels delayed run-in after everyone had arrived and fought was a nice unexpected touch. But the finish with Triple H going over will go down in the Triple H ‘dammit I’m going over because I said so!’ Hall of Fame. Of course this time you can thank Vince McMahon for that. It dawned on me immediately after that there was no way on God’s green earth that Vince McMahon was going to give anything WCW related a win over his product. You saw how he carried on during the Invasion; we shouldn’t have expected anything different here. No one holds a grudge in the wrestling business or has a complete lack of regard for his competitors like Vince McMahon. And in Triple H you have someone who is more than happy to play along, especially if gets him a win.
Diva’s Tag Team Match: The Bellas vs Paige and AJ – This is about what I figured it would be. They got less than 10 minutes to work but did ok with it. It is what it is. Paige and AJ won as I figured they would.
US Title Match: Rusev vs John Cena –
Back to the over the top entrances. Rusev got the full Ivan Drago experience with the Russian anthem, uniformed soldiers, and a ride to the ring on A TANK. Yes, a Tank. It was as awesome as it sounds. Cena got the full jongoistic ‘America – F Yeah!’ video before he came to the ring. The match was pretty good but largely paint by numbers. Cena pulled out a new move in the form of a springboard stunner. The finish was somewhat meh. We knew Cena was winning but a rollup after a collision between Rusev and Lana was a bit less than expected to finish a near year long winning streak. Like with Bryan, hopefully Cena gets a good run with the belt and establishes it as something to be sought after.
Bray Wyatt vs Undertaker –
Bray got a kinda special entrance with some zombie scarecrow looking dudes. Undertaker got a very toned down entrance for him. The match wasn’t bad. Whatever issues Undertaker had last year that made him damn near immobile against Brock Lesnar must have been remedied because he was getting around a lot better this time around. He even hit walked the ropes to hit Old School for the first time in three years. Some spots were a little sloppy but for the most part things worked well. Most importantly, the sit-up spots were perfectly timed, especially the one he did right when Bray was doing his duck walk. I figured Bray would get the win here to kick off an over the hill angle to lead into a last dance at next years’ Texas-bound show. Instead, ‘Taker got the win here. The crowd was for that, and they still love the Undertaker so I had no beef with it. Like the songs says, got to give the people what they want. I will take issue with some of the people I saw on Twitter who were ok with this finish but had a problem with Big Show going over several younger guys in the battle royale. The only real difference is that the Undertaker is a beloved character while Big Show is not. Which is fine, but if you’re going to pontificate on whether or not older guys should put over younger ones you need to be upfront with whatever exceptions or biases you’re bringing to the plate.
WWE World Title Match: Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns –
Reigns was getting a full heel reaction from the crowd while Lesnar got cheered loudly. It was sad, really. Lesnar no-sold some of Reigns’ stuff and the crowd went wild. Whatever you think about Reigns’ in-ring ability one thing is for sure: he sold the hell out of a serious beating. The match was a mostly one sided affair with Lesnar just dominating with suplexes all over the place. (‘Suplex city, b-!’ is a catchphrase waiting to happen thanks to this match) And the inevitable Superman comeback for Reigns was set up nicely, crowd reaction be damned. And the big finish. I and a lot of other people called the Rollins cash-in so it was not a shock when he ran out there. It was the right call. The crowd cheered it but it wasn’t so much that they have to consider turning Rollins face. They avoided the spectacle of a live crowd booing the new champion and they delivered a WrestleMania moment with the first in-show Money in the Bank cash-in. At the end of the day they usually make the right call to end the show, and I trusted them to do that here. So unlike other people I’m not shocked that they got it right.
More than any other event on the calendar WrestleMania is a major pander to the fans. The NWO vs DX run-ins are all about pulling at the heartstrings of those of us who either grew up or came back to the game during the Monday Night Wars and even though those guys all look like they should be beefing on a shuffleboard deck more than at a wrestling show it was still a fun moment. The Rollins cash-in and the Bryan ladder match victory were all about paying off the fans who have been voicing their displeasure over the past few months. And the Undertaker was all about giving his fans a win vs what the bookers should have done. And it worked well. You switch up those results and people would have hated the show no matter how good the actual in ring action was. This was a good show and a good WrestleMania.