It’s WWE’s biggest show of the year! It’s also the LONGEST show of the year! It’s WrestleMania! What surprises does WWE have in store for us?
Live from Orlando, Florida and on the WWE Network.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries – I wish they found a way to put these guys on the main show, because they have both made the floundering cruiserweight division interesting again. And a quicker-paced cruiserweight style can really be hurt by commercials. Neville, really, has been the MVP of the division since coming back and winning the title. Putting him in the ring with Aries, who has been sidelined for quite some time with a broken orbital bone, was a great way to get Neville over as a force to be reckoned with. The champ takes advantage of Aries’ injury and hits the Red Arrow finisher to keep his gold, which is what’s best for the division. It’s just a shame he didn’t get a main show WrestleMania win.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal – Once again, WWE provides a head-scratching moment with this annual battle royal, having Braun Strowman, probably the most over guy in the match, eliminated shortly after Big Show, instead of letting the two giants dominate and giving Strowman the win. The ring was then basically filled with guys that fans weren’t given any reason to care about. We come down to a final three of Jinder Mahal, Mojo Rawley and NXT’s Killian Dayne when New England Patriots player Rob Gronkowski came in to get a celeb moment and help lead his buddy Rawley a win. What a waste.
Intercontinental Title Match: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin – Another match that probably should have been on the main show, since it had an actual build to it. Corbin has had a pretty good build since winning last year’s Andre Battle Royal, and a win here could have cemented him as a player on SmackDown! Live, and Ambrose certainly didn’t need the win. The man manages to stay over no matter what. Regardless, Corbin spends the match beating on the champ, only to fall prey to Dirty Deeds, Ambrose’s finisher, and the champ retains. It seems the faulty booking that plagued last year’s show may continue…
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon – An interesting choice to open the show, but Styles – “The Face That Runs the Place” and the MVP of the previous year in WWE – can definitely get the crowd going. Even still, being in the ring with Shane McMahon meant this match was going to get ridiculous, and it did when Shane countered a 450 Splash into a submission hold, and then kicked out of the Styles Clash, which should knock a 50-year-old businessman into next year. Instead, Shane leaps off the top rope and through a table and then misses a shooting star press. Thankfully, it was over not long after that, as Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm to put the SmackDown Commissioner down.
U.S. Title Match: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens – While AJ Styles has been the overall MVP of the WWE, Jericho and Owens have been the MVPs of Monday Night Raw, and in a just world, this would have been the WWE Universal Title match. The former Best Friends beat the hell out of each other and Owens picked up the win after nailing Jericho with a powerbomb on the ring apron. While Jericho should be heading off to tour with his band Fozzy, this should give Owens some nice positioning on Raw while the Universal Champion will be a part-timer for the foreseeable future.
Raw Women’s Title Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax – They’re really front-loading this show with matches that people want to see, I’m guessing so we can all go to bed early. Nia Jax is the only one here who hasn’t held the title going into this match. Charlotte and Sasha Banks spent months trading the title back and forth, while Bayley ended Charlotte’s pay-per-view win streak at the last Raw show. The elimination rules benefit the match, as the three smaller women can logically team up to eliminate the much more threatening Nia Jax, but it begs the question, why include her in the match at all? And considering the build to the match that had Charlotte sowing seeds of dissension between Sasha and Bayley, Charlotte eliminating Sasha was also an odd choice. And once Sasha was gone, Charlotte spent some time working over Bayley’s leg before the champ backdropped Charlotte off the top rope and nailed hit the former champion with a “Macho Man” elbow drop, in honor of Randy Savage for a fairly random win. Bayley definitely deserves the win, but it would have been a greater moment had she not won the title on a random Raw earlier this year.
The show pivots to highlight the Hall of Fame ceremony from Friday night and holy geez, there are still seven matches to go. Plus a concert? The McMahons are out of their damned minds.
Raw Tag Team Title Fatal Four-Way Ladder Match: Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows (c) vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Matt and Jeff Hardy – Former tag champs and WrestleMania hosts came out to announce a surprise fourth team in the match, and of course, my least favorite tag team ever – the Hardy Boys – are back and in the match they helped make famous 17 years ago. Matt and Jeff have just left TNA and have been collecting tag team titles, so adding the Raw tag titles would be a nice notch on their belts. And in this match, Enzo and Cass are the only team to not have held WWE tag team gold. The match was the exact kind of car wreck that a tag team ladder match involving Matt and Jeff Hardy is expected to be, with people going off and through ladders, and Jeff doing a crazy ass spot, hitting a Swanton Bomb on Sheamus and Cesaro through a pair of ladders. And then Matt went all the way to the top and gave the returning brothers their seventh WWE tag team titles. Ugh.
Mixed Tag Team Match: Miz and Maryse vs. John Cena and Nikki Bella – After three straight Raw title matches, we get the SmackDown match with maybe the best build so far. The Today Show’s Al “Chocolate Thunder” Roker serves as guest ring announcer to help with the WWE-NBC Universal corporate synergy. Miz and Maryse have been great mocking Cena and Bella, and the Total Bella stars have seemed pretty unbelievable as a couple. The WrestleMania 27 main event rematch doesn’t go well for Miz as Cena and Bella make short work of the “Power Couple.” And then, to the shock of… probably no one, John Cena breaks his vow of not wanting to get married by proposing to Nikki. And they still don’t seem like an actual couple. But good for Nikki, I guess.
Unsanctioned Match: Seth Rollins vs. Triple H – We’re back to Raw with the payoff to an angle that’s been on and off since last August, when Triple H screwed Rollins out of the Universal Title against Kevin Owens. The match is “unsanctioned” because of Rollins’ knee injury, to keep him from “suing WWE” if he gets injured worse. The COO and his wife ride a giant motorcycle down to the ring with a police escort for the annual overdone Triple H entrance. Rollins, to counter… lights the entrance ramp with a torch. Lame. In a match where guys are supposedly irate at each other and want to beat the living hell out of the other, putting them in submission holds seems silly. It makes sense for Triple H, who wants to cripple Rollins, but the Architect going for submissions – or high-flying spots – seems silly. Triple H going for his sledgehammer, on the other hand, fits perfectly. After a ridiculous series of Pedigree reversals (and an even more ridiculously long match), Rollins pushes Triple H into Stephanie, who flies off the apron and through a table. The COO, pissed, charges Rollins, but gets nailed with a Pedigree and Rollins gets the win.
After losing to Roman Reigns last year, Triple H now has to lose to Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 34 to give the Shield the sweep. Let’s see if that happens…
At this point, with four matches left, I pause while the pay-per-view heads to commercials so I can head home. Looks like I’ll be playing catch-up… Oh Jesus, they’re going through with the concert? They’re insane.
I skipped the concert and I am shocked to discover they didn’t use the concert to segue into the SmackDown! Live women’s title match, a la WrestleMania 25.
WWE Title Match: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton – This has been a bit of a convoluted story, which also involved the AJ Styles-Shane McMahon match, but at least they bothered to craft a story for the match beyond, “Uh, let’s promote the video game.” I’m not going to bother trying to break it down, though. Go check out the Wikipedia page or something. Wyatt goes for the head games early by … getting an A/V guy to project maggots and worms on the ring surface. You may as well take the “sports” out of “sports entertainment,” folks. Outside of the projections, the psychology of the match seems to be countering finisher attempts into running strikes. And once they manage to hit their finishers, we get more bugs. But then Orton hits an RKO – OUTTA NOWHERE – and wins the WWE Title. What a totally pointless result. Wyatt really needed that win to establish him as a made man in the company. Instead, we get more of Orton at the top of the food chain. Complete waste.
Universal Title Match: Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar – 13 years ago, these guys had one of the most disappointing WrestleMania matches ever. Let’s try it again, why not? The main title on Raw is being contested between two part-timers in a match where the title is completely unnecessary. And it’s a rematch from a contest where the champion beat the challenger in less than 90 seconds. The hype video is longer than that match was. Three German Suplexes. Four spears. A jackhammer. A missed spear attempt into the turnbuckle. Seven more German suplexes. An F5. And Brock wins the belt. All high-impact moves and this match goes the way most people expected it to go. At least it wasn’t long.
SmackDown Women’s Title Six-Pack Challenge: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Naomi – It’s a shame they couldn’t manage to get a one-on-one spotlight match for the women, but almost everyone here deserves a spot on the card. The exception being Carmella and James Ellsworth, of course. Bliss is only champion because Naomi had to relinquish the title due to injury, and the Orlando girl gets the rare hometown win, as Naomi manages to make Bliss submit in a pretty quick match. Naomi may have spent more time dancing in a black light than she did wrestling.
75,245 people were apparently in attendance at WrestleMania 33, a record for the Citrus Bowl. I guess we’ll debate if that number was real or rigged until the next quarterly phone call.
No Holds Barred Match: Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker – How is this the main event? There have been no real stakes, no real reason for the build, other than what? Reigns eliminating Undertaker at the Royal Rumble? This is now Reigns’ THIRD STRAIGHT WrestleMania main event! “Stone Cold” Steve Austin didn’t even get that! I really don’t get the WWE obsession with Reigns. And they brought Jim Ross in to call the match. Seriously, the poor guy hasn’t suffered enough lately? As Undertaker get’s in the ring, there’s about 35-40 minutes left in the show, according to the WWE Network timer. What the hell are they planning? This is gonna suck. After what seems like hours of plodding, Undertaker hits Reigns with a Tombstone piledriver, and Reigns kicks out at 2. Taker looks shocked. Has he not been watching WWE the last couple of years? Reigns’ main offense is repeatedly hitting Taker with spears and Superman punches. Seriously, learn another move, you’re in your THIRD STRAIGHT WRESTLEMANIA MAIN EVENT. And they give Reigns a win over the Undertaker after ANOTHER spear, as the Orlando crowd is mixed with boos and indifference. I thought last year’s main event was bad. This was much, much worse.
We spend TEN MINUTES after Reigns gets the win watching Undertaker wake up and recapping the stupidest WrestleMania main event decision since they made Triple H and Randy Orton follow Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25. Taker then puts his hat and coat back on and then back off to soak up the admiration of the crowd and we can only hope he never comes back…
With the pre-show, that was 7 hours and 10 minutes of WrestleMania action. It took me 17 and a half hours to get through it all. It wasn’t a bad show, but that main event was ridiculous. I understand putting it on last if it was indeed Undertaker’s last match, but they needed to cut it in half. I can only hope WrestleMania 34 is just a little bit shorter…