Date: April 8, 2018
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Jonathan Coachman, Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton
So here we are. After all these months, we’ve finally arrived at Wrestlemania and as JR has put it, it don’t get no bigger than this. The main event is Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (THIS TIME FOR SURE!), along with Ronda Rousey making her long awaited in-ring debut. It’s hard to say what to expect, other than a very long show with a lot of stuff crammed in. Let’s get to it.
I was in the stadium for this show. My seat was in the lower arena in the corner, opposite the hard camera. I was looking almost directly at the upper right hand ring post.
Kickoff Show: Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Apollo, Shelton Benjamin, Konnor, Mike Kanellis, Primo Colon, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy, Baron Corbin Scott Dawson, Fandango, Mojo Rawley, Chad Gable, Luke Gallows, Dash Wilder, Aiden English, Heath Slater, Viktor, Curtis Axel, Tyler Breeze, Bo Dallas, Rhyno, Titus O’Neil, Kane, Tye Dillinger, Goldust, Curt Hawkins, Sin Cara, Zack Ryder, Karl Anderson
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are in on commentary for this, along with Saxton. I was coming into the stadium as the wrestlers came down the ramp so my timing couldn’t have been much better. As usual, it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on to start until Aiden English is eliminated. Anderson gets rid of Viktor and it’s already time for Ziggler to do his last second saves.
There goes Hawkins (who I still can’t wait to see actually win something) R-Truth and Goldust reunite for all of eight seconds before Goldust tosses him. With an incorrect countdown to Wrestlemania clock on the screen, Primo is eliminated as well. Mike Kanellis is out (I forgot he worked here too) as Byron tries to explain the Woken Universe to JR. With Jim not exactly sounding interested, Apollo knees Breeze out.
Viktor is out next and the ring is starting to clear a bit, at least to the point where you can at least see the mat. Matt does his rapid fire rams into the buckles to rock Goldust, drawing another DELETE chant. Ryder loads up the Broski Boot on Ziggler but Mojo Rawley runs him over for another elimination to make the fans hate him even more. Gable eliminates Anderson and Titus gets rid of Gallows and we take a break.
Back (After they showed the commercial in the stadium. You know, the place WHERE WE’RE WATCHING WHAT THEY’RE ADVERTISING!) with Revival getting rid of Apollo. Wilder is sent to the apron but a Dawson save allows them to eliminate Benjamin instead. The Revival is sent out at the same time, followed by Kane getting rid of the Miztourage. We cut to the crowd where John Cena is watching as a fan (because of course he is) and come back to see Cara being tossed as well.
Kane uppercuts Fandango out and Slater makes the mistake of going to the apron, allowing Corbin to get rid of him as well. Gable joins him on the floor, leaving us with Corbin, Goldust, Rawley, Ziggler, Fandango, Kane, O’Neil and Dillinger. That means a Kane vs. Corbin showdown but everyone else interferes before anything happens. Titus starts cleaning house and throws Ziggler over his shoulders, only to get superkicked and clotheslined out. Goldust snaps off the powerslam to Ziggler and it’s Shattered Dreams to Tye.
Ziggler is ready for him though and dumps Goldust but gets punched down by Hardy. That gives us the TEN vs. DELETE showdown, which I didn’t know I needed to see. A Twist of Fate is enough to get rid of Dillinger, followed by Ziggler superkicking Kane’s hands. Kane dumps him without much effort but Corbin dumps his fellow giant to get us down to Mojo, Corbin and Hardy. A fireman’s carry faceplant drops Hardy and the double teaming begins. Not that it matters as we’ve got Bray Wyatt to save Hardy, allowing him to eliminate Rawley. Wyatt takes End of Days but Matt gets rid of Corbin to win at 16:34 as Wyatt wasn’t entered.
Rating: D-. Yeah this was terrible, running WAY too long and making me wonder when it was going to be over. So many of these people just don’t need to be on Wrestlemania (Hawkins, Ascension, R-Truth, Primo, Kanellis, Rawley to name a few) and they’re just extending the show by being in this. Matt winning makes the most sense as it’s not like many other people in the match are doing anything at the moment.
Matt and Bray pose post match as Bray is officially good. Now just don’t get injured and lose your spot again.
Kickoff Show: Cruiserweight Title: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
The title is vacant coming in, Drake Maverick is at ringside and Ali is SubZero for some reason. Cedric shouts a lot and they shake hands for the sake of good sportsmanship. An exchange of shoulders goes to Cedric so Ali snaps off a hurricanrana for our first standoff. Back up and Cedric flips away to grab a headscissors, followed by a dropkick for two. Ali gets sent to the floor and taken down by a big flip dive but there’s no commercial, despite the announcers sounding like they were sending us to one. Nice change of pace for once.
Back in and we hit a waistlock to keep Ali down and a high backdrop gives Cedric two. Another waistlock and a knee to the ribs keep Cedric on target as he certainly has a game plan. Cedric plants him with a Spanish Fly and counters a tornado DDT by crotching Ali on top. With Ali stunned, Cedric goes up as well but gets caught in a super Spanish Fly, which even impresses Cena. The 054 is broken up with a shove to the floor and now we go to the inset ad for Rousey’s debut. At least they didn’t show this in the stadium, which would have almost been just as annoying as showing the whole thing.
Back with Cedric getting caught in a reverse hurricanrana and now the tornado DDT connects. The 054 hits this time but Cedric gets his foot on the ropes. Another 054 attempt misses and Alexander elbows him in the head. Ali gets elbowed down again and the Lumbar Check gives him the title at 12:18.
Rating: B-. This was a lot less competitive than I remember it being as Alexander dominated from the beginning and ran over Ali save for a little flurry near the end. Alexander winning is the right call and I’m glad neither of them went heel here. They both looked good but Ali was a step behind what he usually does here. I had a good time with it and Cedric winning is a feel good moment. That’s all you could ask for here.
Kickoff Show: Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal
Naomi, Carmella, Mandy Rose, Peyton Royce, Liv Morgan, Kavita Devi, Sarah Logan, Dakota Kai, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Bianca Belair, Becky Lynch, Kairi Sane, Taynara Conti, Sonya Deville, Lana, Bayley, Ruby Riott, Natalya, Dana Brooke
Paige and Beth Phoenix are on commentary. Royce, Devi, Kai, Belair, Sane and Conti are from NXT. Lynch, Bayley and Banks are the only ones to get entrances. Carmella poses with the briefcase at the bell and gets gang attacked, meaning it’s an early elimination. It’s Dana being circled (Dana: “THAT’S NOT NICE!”) and gang attacked for the elimination.
Everything breaks down and the NXT women stand tall, meaning it’s time for the required NXT chant. Becky yells at Devi for stealing the orange look and gets slammed for her complaints. Mandy gets tossed and Paige is panicking. Deville is slammed down and Belair is allowed to hit a 450 as we take a break.
Back with Sane being tossed after hitting the Insane Elbow on Riott during the commercial. Devi is tossed and Conti is knocked out a few seconds later. Belair whips Becky with the hair but gets kicked out in short order. Kai kicks Naomi in the face to put her under the ropes and out to the floor. Banks gets rid of Kai and Riott punches Mickie out. Now it’s Royce firing off some kicks but the Riott Squad superkick her out to a chorus of boos.
We’re down to the Squad, Natalya, Banks, Bayley and Naomi on the floor. Natalya suplexes Riott and Logan down but Bayley saves Sasha from the same. Bayley and Sasha get rid of Natalya, Morgan, Riott and Logan in short order. They stare each other down and Bayley gets the quick elimination. Cue Naomi though and the Rear View is good for the win at 9:49.
Rating: D+. I liked it better than the men’s version (that’s not exactly a high bar to clear) but egads what is the point in giving this to Naomi? She’s been doing a grand total of nothing in recent weeks (months really) and there was a story between Banks and Bayley. This feels like giving Orton the Royal Rumble last year in that someone has to win it, even if
And now, the main show.
Khloe and Halle sing America the Beautiful. They’re billed as “the future of music” but I’m not convinced. If that’s the case, I’d expect an original song.
The opening video is about having a good time, just like it was four years ago. The camera walks through the streets of New Orleans and goes into a cafe/club before someone goes onto a balcony to throw beads down to a crowd below. The regular highlight package, set to Kid Rock’s Celebrate and mixed with Wrestlemania XXX highlights (good choice really), takes us into the stadium and my goodness the set looks amazing. It’s designed to look like a Mardi Gras mask, though the bottom looks like a huge mustache over the entrance. Also, several of the wrestlers’ eyes will appear in the mask for a very cool touch.
Intercontinental Title: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor vs. The Miz
Miz is defending after both challengers beat him in one night, which is totally the same thing or something. Rollins has blue contacts in, I guess making him the ice to the fire that burns it down? Still though, looks pretty cool. In another cool addition, there are some personalized 3D projections for some wrestlers, including Miz’s name with quotes around him saying how great and awesome Miz is. These could only be seen on the monitors so I didn’t notice them until the second match.
Miz, looking even goofier than usual with what looks like a red version of Drew Gulak’s old gear, sends the Miztourage to the back so he can do this on his own. Balor has a rainbow shirt on with a group of fans in identical shirts cheering him on from the stage. The screens say “for everyone” with FOR EVER capitalized.
Balor sends Miz into Rollins to start and some rollups get two for all three of them. With Miz being sent outside, Rollins superkicks Balor in the ribs, only to get sent outside. That means a big flip dive onto the two of them as Balor gets the first real advantage. Everyone heads back inside with Rollins hitting a double Blockbuster for two on Balor. Miz takes Rollins down and grabs a chinlock for a few seconds to slow things down. A neckbreaker gets two on Balor and it’s back to the chinlock.
Balor fights up and stomps on Miz’s ribs but gets caught with a Sling Blade from Rollins. Seth isn’t done and hits a suicide dive on both guys, only to get caught in a Sling Blade from Balor. Miz’s short DDT gets two on Seth and he boots Rollins in the face to break up a springboard. A dragon screw legwhip sets up the Figure Four on Balor but here’s Rollins with a frog splash for the break. That looked much better on screen as you didn’t see Rollins until he was on the top and ready to jump.
They all head outside again with Balor escaping the shoulder breaking barricade bomb. Instead it’s a Sling Blade to put Rollins down but he’s back up with an enziguri to rock Balor. That earns him a Pele and the 1916 for two as Balor is stunned. Miz catches Balor on top but gets caught in a buckle bomb, leaving Balor to take the superplex into a Falcon Arrow but Balor reverses into a small package for two. A Skull Crushing Finale gets two on Rollins to cap off a rocking sequence.
Another Finale is reversed into a rollup for two but Balor gets crotched on top. Rollins goes up top with him but Miz is right there with a super Skull Crushing Finale (looked better than it sounds). The cover is broken up with a Coup de Grace and a second hits Miz clean. Rollins runs over with a Stomp to drive Balor’s head into Miz’s back, followed by the regular version to pin Miz for the title at 15:30.
Rating: B. This was the kind of match you expect from the Intercontinental Title as all three were working hard and the match felt very crisp at the same time. Miz will get the title back someday and break both records, as he should. I’m sure Balor will get the title as well, which is nothing but good for the Intercontinental Title. If nothing else it’s cool to see the former World Champions becoming Intercontinental Champions. That wasn’t always the case (After Pedro Morales, the next former World Champion to win an Intercontinental Title was HHH in 2001) but it’s a good way to give the title some more instant credibility.
Ad for the Andre documentary. I’ve heard good things.
Cena is still a fan. How cool would it be to have him next to you at Wrestlemania?
We recap Charlotte vs. Asuka, which is title vs. streak. Charlotte has dominated the Women’s Division for nearly three years now but Asuka hasn’t a match since debuting in late 2015. The match here is Queen vs. Empress with Charlotte saying she’s ready for Asuka.
Smackdown Women’s Title: Charlotte vs. Asuka
Charlotte is defending and copies HHH’s entrance from Wrestlemania XXX with a throne and three masked men helping her off. These three: Riddick Moss, Tino Sabbatelli and Dan Matha. I’m assuming this was something about she once helped HHH off the throne but now she has her own, but it felt like a tribute to HHH more than anything else. Asuka on the other hand has 3D masks superimposed over her entrance. You know, in case it wasn’t scary enough already.
They fight over a wristlock to start with both of them flipping away, leaving Charlotte to hit the strut. Charlotte trips her down and goes for the leg but Asuka kicks her away, setting up a knee shot for two. Back up and Asuka’s hip attack is blocked so it’s time for the chops. The second hip attack sends Charlotte outside and you can see the cockiness on Asuka’s face.
Charlotte gets back in and it’s time to start cranking on the arm to set up the Asuka Lock. It’s way too early for that though so Charlotte strikes her in the face a few times but has to break another attempt. This time it’s a backpack Stunner to get Charlotte out of trouble and some knees to the head (think the Stomp but with a knee) put Asuka down again. The moonsault misses though as Asuka catches her in a triangle (SWEET!) in the middle of the ring.
That’s reverses into a Boston crab but Asuka rolls her way out of it. They head to the apron (becoming way too common) and Asuka suplexes her down to the floor in a big crash. Back in and the missile dropkick puts Charlotte down for two and Asuka is getting frustrated. They go up top and it’s a super Spanish Fly (I believe that’s three on the night so far) to give Charlotte a big breather.
Natural Selection is countered into something like an Octopus Hold on the mat before switching to the Asuka Lock. Charlotte reverses that with a rollup before cutting Asuka in half with a spear for a VERY near fall. With Asuka half done, Charlotte grabs the Figure Eight, balancing on one hand because of the banged up arm. After hanging on as long as she can, Asuka ACTUALLY TAPS to retain Charlotte’s title at 13:05.
Rating: A-. I was kind of stunned at the amount of time this had as I would have bet on it being at least five minutes longer. This felt like a clash of titans and Charlotte winning gives her a very strong case for being the best of all time. Aside from not being around as long as some others, she has the resume, skill and pure skill to make her the best WWE has ever seen.
Having Asuka do a lot of her usual stuff (albeit cranked up a few notches) was a great way to set up the match as Charlotte was able to hang on and use what she had seen along with her natural athleticism to be ready for what Asuka brought. It was hard hitting, told a story and was an instant classic. Great stuff here, which shouldn’t be that surprising.
Post match Asuka says Charlotte was ready for Asuka and congratulates her.
With Charlotte on the ramp and Asuka in the ring, a referee tells Cena something (the words “Taker is here” may have been spoken) so Cena jumps the barricade (security around here sucks) and sprints up the ramp. That took something away from the women’s moment. Do the commercial and then move on to the Cena angle. It’s not going to make that much of a difference and lets the women have their full moment.
US Title: Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton
Orton is defending after having a three way feud with Roode and Mahal for the last few weeks. Rusev pinned Orton in a tag match to be added, along with being one of the hottest guys in the company. Aiden English (who has gotten his hair cut since the battle royal) introduces Rusev, in rhyme of course. You can see the fans heading for the concourse during the entrances, which is rather interesting given how popular Rusev was over the weekend. Aside from a Wrestlemania shirt, I saw more Rusev Day shirts than anything else. I guess the repelling powers of Mahal and Orton are too much even for Rusev Day.
The early threat of an RKO sends Mahal bailing to the floor and Rusev dropkicks Roode to the floor. Rusev cannonballs off the apron to take out Orton and Mahal as Phillips acknowledges the popularity of Rusev Day. Back in and Roode’s Blockbuster gets two, leaving Mahal to get punched back and forth between Roode and Orton. A superplex brings Roode down but it’s Mahal asking Rusev for an alliance.
Rusev, realizing that he should have been Mahal last year, stomps Mahal down in the corner instead before getting two off a belly to back suplex. Roode is back with a spinebuster for two on Mahal but gets posted by Orton. Now it’s Rusev kicking Orton down until a spinwheel kick misses. The hanging DDT plants Rusev and English is starting to panic. A pair of RKO’s take out English and Rusev, followed by one to Mahal for a near fall with Roode making the save. Mahal takes a Machka Kick but can’t get the Accolade. Instead he has to deal with Sunil Singh and walks into the Khallas to make Mahal champion at 8:15.
Rating: D. And that is the big middle finger to the fans who thought they were getting somewhere with the Rusev Day chants. WWE wants Jinder Mahal to be pushed in this role and the lack of success and complete apathy to his push means nothing. This is what WWE wants and you can chant RUSEV DAY and buy his merchandise all you want. Mahal is WWE’s guy right now and you can just deal with it until they’re tired of him. Rusev taking the fall here is all the evidence you need: your voices don’t matter here and get over it. The match was as uninteresting as these four were going to be, which was completely expected.
The Fashion Police try to give Mick Foley a ticket but Breeze likes his style, driving Fandango to his knees in terror.
We recap Ronda Rousey/Kurt Angle vs. HHH/Stephanie McMahon. Rousey signed with WWE earlier in the year but Angle thinks HHH and Stephanie are just trying to use her. This set off a feud between the two teams with Rousey beating HHH much, only to have Stephanie put her through a table. The match was set up because Rousey needs a debut and putting her in a tag match is the best possible idea. It lets them hide her negatives and accentuate her positives so this has some potential. Of course there’s also the potential that it’s really just about Stephanie, which certainly wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility.
Stephanie McMahon/HHH vs. Ronda Rousey/Kurt Angle
In a near repeat of last year, HHH and Stephanie come out on matching motorcycles with a group of motorcycles accompanying them. I don’t know if HHH is just that big a fan of motorcycles or if he just wanted to see his wife as a biker chick again (fair enough) but this didn’t do much for me. Rousey comes out in a Roddy Piper style kilt, in what shouldn’t be a shock to anyone paying attention whatsoever. The fans give Rousey a nice reaction and Stephanie pie faces her before the bell. They’re already milking the heck out of Rousey murdering her and a hair pull makes things even worse.
The men start things off with the fans telling Angle that he still has it. Angle cranks on the arm as they’re actually treating this like a tag match to start. Stephanie offers a low bridge though and HHH sends him into the steps to really take over. A suplex brings Angle back inside and we’re just waiting on this to explode. Back in and HHH calls for and delivers a spinebuster for two. Angle kicks him away and nearly into Stephanie but HHH puts the brakes on in time. A suplex drops HHH, only to have Stephanie pull Rousey off the apron. I’ll give Stephanie this: she knows how to be an amazing heel.
Another kick to the floor is enough for the tag to Rousey and the place goes coconuts. Rousey EXPLODES into the corner (Graves: “CALL THE COPS!”) to pull Stephanie in and scores with a running clothesline. With Stephanie in big trouble (Rouse: “COME ON B****!”), Rousey takes her into the corner and unloads with rights and lefts before throwing Stephanie again. It’s already time for the arm….and Stephanie blocks it by stacking her up.
You can hear the air go out of the stadium, mainly because STEPHANIE MCMAHON JUST BLOCKED THE ARMBAR THAT MMA FIGHTERS (not to mention Olympic level athletes) COULDN’T BLOCK! I mean, is anyone really surprised? It’s the dumbest, most Stephanie praising thing that could have been done so of course they went there. Rousey lets go and gets DDT’d as the announcers try to explain that Stephanie grew up in wrestling so she knows how to do that. Ignore that she’s wrestled one match in over fourteen years; she knows wrestling.
Back up and Rousey goes into Beast Mode, setting up a spinning Samoan drop for two with HHH pulling the referee out. Rousey: “You’re the biggest cheater I’ve ever seen! I’m going to go continue beating up your wife ok?” HHH pulls Rousey outside as well but Angle takes him onto the announcers’ table. Kurt gets thrown onto the other table so HHH can check on Stephanie. He turns around to see Rousey though and it’s time for some intergender violence.
You can see HHH thinking about it and the fans are WAY into this one. He finally agrees to it and Rousey UNLOADS on him with rights and lefts to drive HHH into the corner. A fireman’s carry has HHH in trouble but Stephanie makes the save. This was GREAT with HHH selling the heck out of the beating and making Rousey look that much better. Stephanie slaps Rousey for some reason and the chase is on, this time with Stephanie sending him into the barricade.
HHH takes Rousey down though and it’s time for Angle to unleash the suplexes. The rolling German suplexes have HHH in trouble but he tries a quick Pedigree. That’s reversed into a catapult into the corner (he always takes that so well) and the Angle Slam gets two. There go the straps (that never gets old) but Stephanie breaks up the ankle lock. Angle doesn’t seem to mind and puts the ankle lock on her (doesn’t look great this time around). That’s broken up with a Pedigree but Rousey makes a save.
A powerbomb attempt to Rousey is countered into a hurricanrana (good one too) and there’s the armbar on HHH. The place (including me) goes even more nuts until Stephanie makes the save with a sleeper (called a rear naked choke, which of course Stephanie knows how to do). That’s reversed into another armbar attempt but Stephanie blocks AGAIN.
The ankle lock goes on HHH and the villains grab hands until HHH sends Angle into the women for the break. Angle and Rousey both get posted and it’s time for the double Pedigree. Kurt sends HHH to the floor and the armbar….is blocked for a third time. Rousey FINALLY gets it on and Stephanie taps at 20:38. Dana White is shown applauding Rousey from the front row.
Rating: A-. I can’t give it anything higher than that due to Stephanie going toe to toe with Rousey (at grappling nonetheless) but this was INCREDIBLY fun and far better than anything I was expecting. They pulled every trick they could to make Rousey look better here and it worked to near perfection. She looked like someone who had been doing this for years and came off like a star who is in this for the long haul. Absolutely incredible here and as entertaining as it could have been. I had a blast, Stephanie issues aside. The ending was fine and the most important part, so we’ll call this a major success.
Smackdown Tag Team Titles: New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers vs. Usos
The Usos are defending, the New Day has 3D pancakes and, with the call of the DragonZord, Woods’ trombone summons an army of little people dressed like pancakes. I do like the Bludgeon Brothers’ logo with the arms holding hammers to make a B. Kofi wastes no time hitting Trouble in Paradise on Jimmy but Harper makes the save. The Brothers pulls Big E. to the floor for a beating and then powerbomb Woods into the post for good measure.
Back in and Kofi’s beating continues but Jimmy tags himself in and starts kicking away. Some superkicks do a little good but Harper shoves Jimmy into the corner. Jey tags himself in as well (must be a family thing) and starts kicking away, only to have Rowan break up the double Us.
A superkick takes Rowan off the apron…but he catches the double suicide dive. The Usos don’t mind and suplex him down on the floor, leaving Harper to escape the Midnight Hour. Back in and Rowan breaks up the Tower of Doom by shoving the champs to the floor. For some reason Kofi charges at Harper on the top, setting up an assisted super sitout powerbomb to give Harper and Rowan the titles at 5:55.
Rating: D+. This feels like a victim of time but it’s not the worst thing in the world. They went out of their way to make the Brothers look like killers and that’s exactly what happened here. I could have gone for a little more time given to the match, but something has to be cut on a show this long and this was one of the most logical choices. The Brothers won though and that’s what matters the most.
Here’s John Cena for a match, though no opponent has been named yet. A second referee runs down though and tells Cena something is wrong. Cena grabs the referee as he’s shaking his head no. This goes on for a bit….and there go the lights….because Elias is here. Elias: “Were you expecting somebody else?”
Well that someone doesn’t have the charisma Elias has, nor does he have the talent that Elias carries in his soul. Cena bails back to his seat in disgust and leaves Elias alone to sing his song, insulting the fans as he always does. As you might guess, Cena gets up and cleans house by initiating his finishing sequence.
Cena shouts about that being all there is and goes up the ramp…as the lights go out. A spotlight comes on in the ring and Undertaker’s coat and hat are on the mat. Some VERY bad looking CGI lightning hits the gear (looked far better in person, possibly due to the surprise) and panic has set in. And then, a gong strikes. Undertaker appears with his full entrance, meaning it’s time to go! I know I didn’t want to see the match but that entrance, all 6:02 of it from the gong striking to the opening bell, will never stop being mesmerizing.
Undertaker vs. John Cena
Undertaker goes straight at him in the corner and hammers away, including the running clothesline. Old School sets up Snake Eyes and the WORST BIG BOOT EVER. When you’re sitting hundreds of feet away from the ring and can see the gap between the boot and the hands in front of Cena’s face, it’s a really bad sign. But remember, HE STILL HAS IT. The chokeslam is countered into a belly to back suplex but Undertaker sits up before the Shuffle, sending Cena falling off his feet in shock. The chokeslam and Tombstone end Cena completely clean at 2:42. Undertaker doesn’t even seem to be sweating.
So….that happened. I definitely like it better than seeing Undertaker stumble through a long match and it certainly should be memorable. Of course it’s not likely to mean anything until next Wrestlemania season, but this is the perfect payoff: Cena has been acting like a complete and utter jerk this whole time and Undertaker threw him the most decisive beating of his career. Even the Lesnar squash saw Cena get in a little offense and a near fall. Here it was a single suplex and that was it. I’m fine with Undertaker going out like this, but at this point I have no reason to believe it’s over.
Hall of Fame video. Hillbilly Jim should be done any minute now.
Here’s the big presentation to the crowd.
Jeff Jarrett. Nice reaction and the strut still looks good.
Mark Henry. No salmon jacket, no buys.
Hillbilly Jim. My hero as a young Kentucky boy.
Ivory. She’s looking better now than she did when she was active.
Jarius JJ Robertson. Did you know he’s cute? Wasn’t sure if that was made clear.
Dudley Boyz. Yep. Next.
Goldberg. I’m hoping those chants aren’t piped in. He does a Green Lantern pose with the ring to wrap things up.
We recap Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn. Owens and Zayn have been going after the two of them for months now and it wasn’t clear where things were going. Then Bryan was cleared to wrestle again and everything came together at once. The evil Canadians have been attacking both of them, including giving Shane a hernia. They’ve been fired, but Bryan wants one more match with their jobs on the line. The question here is whether or not Shane turns on Bryan, which could go either way.
Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon vs. Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens
Shane is in a YES jersey, with the YES being pretty clearly taped on. That sounds like a way for a quick switch to YUP (Owens and Sami’s battle cry) for me. Bryan gets his own entrance, with a Terminator style video, showing the YES chant spreading around the world, even in mainstream sports, before locking in on the home of the YES Movement, which happens to be right here in the Superdome. You can see the emotion on Bryan’s face as he comes to the ring and it’s nearly moving to see.
Owens and Zayn’s music hit but they come in from behind for the big beatdown, including an apron bomb to Bryan. That might be enough for him as the medics come in to check. Even the fans don’t seem to buy this one, as they probably shouldn’t. Shane is willing to fight on his own and YES, we get the lame punches on Owens in the corner. The jumping elbow to the jaw puts Owens down but Shane has to beat up Zayn as well.
Now of course he can do that at the same time, including a jumping kick to Owens and a Maivia Hurricane to Sami. The old hernia pops up though and brings Shane down as we have a stretcher for Bryan. We settle down to Sami taking over on Shane before it’s off to Owens (thankfully in a KO Mania III shirt) to step on the stomach. Owens: “MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY! MONEY ISN’T GOING TO SAVE YOU NOW!”
A superkick sets up the Blue Thunder Bomb for two but Owens gets knocked to the floor. The Helluva Kick misses and Sami gets caught in the Tree of Woe. Of course Shane is fine enough to hit the Coast to Coast but Owens makes the save with a backsplash onto the bad stomach. The frog splash gets two but Bryan comes back in for the save. That’s not enough for a hot tag so Sami gets out of a chinlock by slamming Sami into the mat.
NOW it’s off to Bryan for the first time in nearly three years. He takes his time coming in (as he should) before hammering away on Zayn. There’s the moonsault into the running clothesline, followed by a running knee off the apron to Owens. A missile dropkick puts Bryan down but he grabs his head….and nips up because he’s fine. That was a scary but great moment. The running corner dropkicks rock Owens and Zayn and a top rope hurricanrana drops Sami. Kevin breaks up the knee though and the Helluva Kick is only good for two. My goodness finishers mean nothing on Wrestlemania night.
Owens tells him to stay retired and gets two more off the Pop Up Powerbomb. Since we haven’t seen him in long enough, Shane takes Owens down and we’re back to even again. Back in and Sami hammers away while asking how Bryan could do this to them. That’s enough for Bryan and he unloads with the strikes and YES Kicks, even hitting the big one. The running knee into the YES Lock is good for the submission at 15:25 to keep Owens and Zayn fired.
Rating: C+. This was of course ALL about Bryan, to the point where even Shane’s usual superhero efforts seem to pale in comparison. They didn’t go with the stupid swerve finish for the sake of the storyline because this needed to be Bryan’s night. To go from having no chance to wrestling in a huge Wrestlemania match is more than you could ever ask for and he doesn’t look like he’s lost a step. If he’s back full time, WWE just got one heck of a bonus. Not a great match, but the ending was what it should have been.
Bryan and Shane celebrate with Bryan going to the floor to kiss Brie in a nice moment.
We recap Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax. Bliss had been her friend for a long time but was eventually caught making fun of Nia’s size and weight. This didn’t sit well with Jax and it was time to SMASH. And take the title. Bliss is suddenly ultra confident despite being a foot shorter and about 160lbs lighter.
Raw Women’s Title: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss
Bliss is challenging and comes down from the set on a mini platform. So that’s what happened to Bad News Barrett’s stage. Hang on a second though as Nia needs to destroy Mickie James before the bell, meaning this is truly one on one. Bliss slaps Nia due to high levels of stupid and Jax’s growl gives us a horror movie level scream in response. Makes sense actually.
There’s a gorilla press to plant Bliss as the dominance isn’t taking time tonight. That’s not the beginning of the end for some reason as Bliss starts in on the knee to take over, including a double knee to the knee in the corner. A guillotine choke is shrugged off but Nia goes shoulder first into the post (WAY too common of a spot tonight). Twisted Bliss to the floor drops Nia and the DDT gets two, shocking/scaring the heck out of Bliss all over again.
For some reason Bliss calls Nia pathetic and slaps her a few times….until Nia grabs her by the throat. A charge into the corner is cut off by another kick to the knee but Bliss’ sunset flip is tossed into the corner. Bliss is right back with a poke to the eye but Nia is right back with one of the hardest Alabama Slams you’ll ever see. Since Bliss is mostly dead, it’s a super Samoan drop to put her away for good and make Nia champion at 9:01.
Rating: D+. I was firmly in the camp of this needing to be about a minute long with Bliss getting in nothing beyond a few harmless forearms and I’m still of that state of mind. Bliss didn’t look like a joke here but there’s a time to squash the heck out of someone and that’s what we had here. Jax is a monster and should have destroyed Bliss in short order. Bliss is going to be fine with one more of those cocky promos and it really would have been better to have her get crushed here. The ending did look great though and the right person won, but it’s the wrong path to get here.
We recap the Smackdown World Title match. AJ Styles is the ace of the show and has beaten everyone put in front of him. Shinsuke Nakamura won the Royal Rumble to earn this shot and we have a dream match. Both guys have promised to win and hopefully they don’t collapse under the expectations. The hype video goes throughout AJ’s career, including clips of him on Thunder and from TNA (!) because WWE can just do something like that.
Smackdown World Title: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles
Nakamura is challenging and gets played to the ring by an army of violinists plus Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss playing the heck out of a guitar. That’s one of the better Wrestlemania entrances I’ve ever seen with Strauss’ playing stealing the show. AJ’s graphic lists him as the Universal Champion. If nothing else he gets a cool looking spinning ring of blue light around him once he gets inside for a cool visual.
Feeling out process to start as the announcers talk about the Japanese match without talking about the Japanese match. AJ drives him into the corner but gets shoved away as they’re still in low first gear. They hit the mat with Nakamura kicking him in the face before doing his head on the chest arm waving deal. A knee drop keeps AJ in trouble but he breaks up Good Vibrations to offer some mind games of his own.
Back to the corner we go with a hard forearm rocking Styles but he grabs a backbreaker for his first major offense. A knee drop gets two on Nakamura and it’s off to the chinlock. The drop down into a dropkick sends Nakamura outside but he kicks the leg out from the apron. A kick to the head really puts Styles in trouble and a middle rope kick to the face makes it even worse. Nakamura tells him to come on but kicks AJ down. Well dude if you want him to COME ON you have to give him the chance to pull it off.
The running knee in the corner rocks AJ but he’s right back with a pumphandle gutbuster for two. It’s Nakamura’s turn to come back in a hurry though and a Landslide (Samoan Driver) gets another near fall. Some right hands in the corner have AJ rocked but he kicks the knee out to take Nakamura down. There’s the Calf Crusher but Nakamura reverses into a triangle choke (another very popular move this weekend).
That’s broken up with something close to a Death Valley Driver and they’re both down again. Nakamura gets in the kick, only to come up holding the damaged leg. There’s some logic to Styles’ plan at least. The running knee hits the buckle and the Phenomenal Forearm gets two.
AJ needs to bring out the mega guns and tries the springboard 450, which hits the bad knee and gives Nakamura two off a small package. They slug it out until AJ Peles him down, only to get kneed in the back of the head. Nakamura has had it and drives knees into the head before slapping AJ a few times. The Kinshasa is loaded up but AJ rolls through, straight into the Styles Clash to retain at 20:20.
Rating: B. Yeah they didn’t really come close to the expectations here and I can’t say I’m surprised. They didn’t have much going on in the way of telling a story other than both guys hitting their big moves and countering a few of the other’s. There’s no reason to hate either of them and that makes for a dull match if you don’t build to a big finish. It’s certainly good but it never hit that next level that people were expecting. Oh and both Royal Rumble winners lose in their title shots. What a great use of the pay per view.
Post match Nakamura presents AJ with the title….and hits him low (with some Ric Flair level force) to turn heel. Nakamura mocks the fallen champion and kicks him to the floor for Kinshasa. For some reason he flashes a Diamond Cutter sign as he goes up the ramp. Maybe he’s a DDP Yoga user?
Now this was good, but why not do this BEFORE NAKAMURA LOST CLEAN? Do it at the worthless Fastlane or on any show before this match. Give them something more personal to fight over, because what we got for a story here was lacking a bit. I don’t get why WWE thinks this has as much of an impact after a loss, because it really doesn’t work. If nothing else have Nakamura hit him low to steal the title after Kinshasa didn’t get the job done. Just something other than this.
Kickoff Show recap.
Raw Tag Team Titles: The Bar vs. Braun Strowman/???
Strowman won the shot by winning a tag team battle royal on his own and his partner has been quite the topic of debate coming into this show. The Bar comes out on a Mardi Gras float to the tune of When the Saints Go Marching In before switching to their usual entrance. I was worried I was a bit too tired and imagined all the costumed people on the float but not so much apparently.
Strowman comes out and turns the float over off the stage but has no partner. He knows everyone wants to know who it is, but he wanted to wait until he got to New Orleans. That’s because his partner….is a member of the WWE Universe. Strowman looks around forever and finally sees someone in the crowd. He goes into the crowd (this is taking WAY too long) and finds….a ten year old boy. The boy, named Nicholas, is introduced as Strowman’s partner as Graves is losing his mind.
Nicholas is terrified (completely understandable) as Braun starts (good idea) with Sheamus. Graves isn’t sure about this as Nicholas probably has algebra tomorrow. Fans: “WE WANT NICHOLAS!” A chokeslam gets two on Cesaro but Braun gets double suplexes. With Sheamus talking trash to Nicholas, he drops a top rope knee for two. On Braun, not the kid.
Braun crossbodies both of them down and Sheamus gets backdropped over the corner for a NASTY fall, hitting both the post and the steps on the way down. That’s enough for the tag to Nicholas….who tags straight out again. The powerslam on Cesaro is good for the pin and the titles at 3:57.
Rating: F. I laughed when it happened but the more I think about this, the worse and worse it looks. If you want to do this over a comedy team or something then fine, but after everything Cesaro and Sheamus have done over the last few years, this is the best they can get? Having Brains Strowman come out there would have been a better move as this comes off as a stupid idea where they just refused to pick something and went with the first stupid idea that came to their heads. Put Hawkins out there if this is the best thing you can come up with. I didn’t like this idea as it makes it into a total joke, which shouldn’t be the case.
Wrestlemania XXXV is in New York. Well New Jersey but whatever. I’m good on that one.
We recap Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. Lesnar won the Universal Title at last year’s show and Reigns won the Elimination Chamber after doing nothing main event level for months. Reigns went on to call Lesnar out for not being here all the time and just doing what’s best for himself, which earned Reigns a series of beatings. But hey, this time for sure, right?
Universal Title: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Reigns is challenging and nope, the plan didn’t work. As you might expect, the fans boo him out of the building all over again because THIS ISN’T WORKING. After the Big Match Intros, Lesnar hits three German suplexes in the first thirty seconds. Reigns is right back up with two Superman Punches and a running clothesline to put Lesnar on the floor. Brock grabs a belly to belly on the outside, followed by a second one with Reigns almost landing on his head.
The fans chant for CM Punk as Brock loads up the announcers’ table. Another belly to belly sends Reigns face first into the table (no elevation at all) and Brock hits another German suplex back inside. A seventh suplex (with a fan providing helpful signs) is almost completely flat as we’re just waiting on the beach balls now.
There’s another belly to belly, during which time the fans started doing the Wave. A fan in my section started shouting about how the fans should just leave if they’re that bored because they’re ruining it for the rest of the fans. He was promptly given a DELETE chant because wrestling fans are rather horrible people at times. It’s time for another table as the fans want Johnny Gargano.
Reigns posts him on the floor as the fans aren’t reacting in the slightest. A spear sends Lesnar over the table (still no reaction) as the Wave is in full swing. The fans loudly boo….because a beach ball is taken away. Reigns gets two off a Superman Punch and two spears and it’s beach ball time again. Brock blocks a spear with a knee for two, followed by the F5 for the same. The fans still aren’t interested, because this just isn’t anything they care about.
F5, two, F5, two (Brock: “MOTHERF*****!”), the fans chant BORING (actually acknowledging the match for a change, F5 through a table (to NO reaction), F5, two. That’s enough for Lesnar as he takes the gloves off and just unloads with the hard right hands as the fans declare this awful. Reigns is GUSHING blood but hits two spears for a near fall. Not that it matters as a sixth F5 retains the title at 15:49, shocking the heck out of the crowd.
Rating: D. Here’s the thing: the match itself is a hard hitting video game match and had some entertaining spots. If you watch it in a complete vacuum, it’s actually good. The problem is, at least in this case, you can’t just ignore everything else and watch the match on its own. This was a complete and utter rejection of everything going on and you can’t ignore it. I’m not sure how much more needs to be done to make it clear that Reigns isn’t working but this might be it. Either that or we try to do this again NEXT year, just because that’s what WWE is obsessed with doing.
I have no idea where they go from here as Lesnar might not be around much longer and other than Reigns, there’s no one that could conceivably take the title from him. Reigns winning here was the logical call, but I can see why they pulled the plug. If it’s that bad though and the fans have rejected him this many times in a row, it’s time to admit defeat and move on. Hopefully that’s what the loss means, but stranger things have happened, just with Roman alone actually.
After a long highlight package, as in about seven minutes long, a cleaned up Reigns walks up the ramp to end the show.
Overall Rating: B-. You know, there’s a pattern to these mega long shows. For the last three years, they’ve all started off white hot for about two hours but then they hit a road block and go sailing off a cliff. In Dallas it was the Cell, in Orlando it was the mixed tag and here it was pretty much everything after Rousey’s match (Bryan and Styles’ matches ranged from good to acceptable).
Maybe it’s having Reigns as the big finish or maybe it’s just the length of the shows, but they simply can’t maintain the momentum they set up at the start of these shows. It’s like they just run out of ideas and throw whatever nonsense they have on the screen, which may or may not work. I can get that with a small writing staff, but with THIRTY WRITERS put together into two groups, there’s never an excuse to run out of ideas this quickly.
Overall, the show is more good than bad, thanks to the first two matches, the mixed tag, Bryan and AJ, but they really needed to shed….oh a good two hours to get this down to manageable. Notice that I keep saying that year after year. Seven hours is just not something that anyone can pull off because eventually your buzz goes away. It’s happened to me three years in a row and I can’t imagine I’m in the minority. Just give us a break at some point because not everyone needs to be on the show. If you’re only good enough to be thrown into the battle royal, odds are you don’t belong on the card.
Really, the mixed tag main eventing would have made more sense (like you would EVER have to ask Stephanie if she wanted to main event Wrestlemania). If they were going to pull the plug on Reigns winning the title here, go with the feel good, fun match and let Rousey look like the big star. It would make more sense but Reigns seemed to be set in stone for that spot, pretty obvious reaction aside.
All in all, Wrestlemania XXXIV is a good show that needs a MAJOR edit to make it work. Switch the lineup around, shorten some matches, cut some matches (in other words, GET THE TIME LOWER) and you might have something great on your hands. As it is though, it falls into the same category as the other two mega long shows: a hot start, but they run out of gas because there’s a limit to how much wrestling any large group of fans can take.
Seth Rollins b. The Miz and Finn Balor – Stomp to Miz
Charlotte b. Asuka – Figure Eight
Jinder Mahal b. Randy Orton, Bobby Roode and Rusev – Khallas to Rusev
Ronda Rousey/Kurt Angle b. HHH/Stephanie McMahon – Armbar to McMahon
Bludgeon Brothers b. New Day and Usos – Double sitout superbomb to Kingston
Undertaker b. John Cena – Tombstone
Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan b. Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens – YES Lock to Zayn
Nia Jax b. Alexa Bliss – Super Samoan drop
AJ Styles b. Shinsuke Nakamura – Styles Clash
Braun Strowman/Nicholas b. The Bar – Powerslam to Cesaro
Brock Lesnar b. Roman Reigns – F5
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 26 wrestling books. His latest book is the WWE Grab Bag.
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