It’s the Showcase of the Immortals! The Grandest Stage of Them All! The biggest WWE event of the year is finally here, and it is making history once again with the first-ever women’s match in the Main Event!
The 35th annual WrestleMania is coming to you live from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., less than 20 miles away from where I sit, watching the show on the WWE Network. There are… 16 matches announced for this show, with four of those on the 2-hour pre-show.
You’re going to be reading a lot on this thread, but before you go further, if you want some analysis of what’s to come, check out the NORTH JERSEY NONCONFORMIST‘s WrestleMania post! Hope you’re having fun at MetLife, cuz!
It’s gonna be a long one, folks! Let’s settle in, grab a cup of coffee or some hard liquor and maybe get comfortable, because it’s time for WRESTLEMANIA!
Cruiserweight Championship Match: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese – Hometown boy (well, from Long Island, anyway, but WWE and the NFL seem to think MetLife is in New York anyway…) Nese won a tournament on 205 Live to get here, finally beating one of my favorites, Cedric Alexander, in the finals. Murphy has been impressive since winning the title at the SUPER SHOWDOWN last year, but Nese had a little bit more fight in him here, winning the title to start the festivities.
Women’s Battle Royal – There are some pretty big women’s matches set for the show tonight, but this one has “throw away get everyone on the card” written all over it. Some fun action in the match, with the Riott Squad using the numbers advantage they have to clear the ring at first, before Dana Brooke of all people got rid of Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan. Sonya Deville, Sarah Logan and Asuka make up your final three and they surprisingly go with my girl Sarah Logan… until Carmella comes from out of nowhere and eliminates her for the win! That was disappointing…
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: The Revival (c) vs. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder – Michael Cole admits that the show isn’t actually taking place in New York! It’s a WrestleMania miracle! And he makes a GI Bro reference?!? The commentary is on point in this preshow match. I love the Revival. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are a great throwback to classic NWA-style tag teams of old. The focus of Ryder and Hawkins, on the other hand, was on Hawkins losing 260-plus matches straight. But that streak ends here, as Hawkins plays possum with the Revival and gets a small package to win the Raw Tag Team Titles.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal – The focus of the ARMBaR is SNL stars Michael Che and Colin Jost’s involvement, and Braun Strowman wanting to tear them apart because they gave him a car. WWE is weird. But Jost and Che escape right off the bat and hide under the ring. Strowman makes everyone else look like jobbers, including eliminating Luke Harper while he was in the midst of suplexing Ali. The finale of course comes down Strowman, Che and Jost… and Jost’s therapist, I guess, and Strowman continues a path of destruction that will likely lead nowhere.
That was a really terrible edition of SmackDown! Live. And we still have a dozen matches to go!
The “greatest live event in entertainment,” Michael Cole? Really? Maybe the longest…
Host Alexa Bliss kicks off the show by snapping her fingers and summoning the most important man in the history of WrestleMania, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan. “Real American” is still maybe the greatest entrance music this company ever produced. Hogan makes fun of his WrestleMania XXX Silverdome gaffe and I immediately regret not going to the show as Paul Heyman blows by Hogan and Bliss and comes to the ring. Heyman complains about his client not going on last, so he’s getting Brock Lesnar’s match over with so they can head to Las Vegas.
Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins – The champ destroys Rollins before the match even starts, hitting an F5 on the floor and tossing him over the announce desk, and through a table, and the referee hesitates to start the match because of Lesnar’s assault. But Rollins finds the universal equalizer in this Universal Championship match: a shot to the groin. Three curb stomps later and Rollins does what his Shield brother Roman Reigns couldn’t do: he beat Brock Lesnar. Weird way to start the show, and I’m not sure if this is a good or bad omen for the rest of the evening.
AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton – Guest commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler doing his best to read from the Henny Youngman joke book doesn’t help this match the way they probably thought it would. Orton and Styles are capable of having great matches, but this one just wasn’t clicking for me at all. Most of the match was attempts to counter the others’ big move. Styles finally gets a Phenomenal Forearm for the win, but this match did nothing for me.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Fatal Four Way Match: The Usos (c) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black – This is a mishmash if I’ve ever seen one. New call-ups Ricochet and Aleister Black got to showcase some skills in an otherwise throwaway match meant to get some more tag teams on the card. The Usos continue to dominate SmackDown! Live and get the pin on Sheamus to retain the titles.
This card is very blah so far. I’m getting up to walk around while the Hall of Fame stuff is going on. If WWE wanted to make sure people didn’t try to get involved in the action, they should show the guy who bum rushed Bret Hart at the induction ceremony and how he dot the hell kicked out of him. Don’t be dumb.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: The Miz vs. Shane McMahon – If you ever really wanted to see The Miz’s father, George Mizanin, get involved in a high-profile WrestleMania match, this is for you. If WWE hasn’t signed Papa Miz to a long-term contract… well, it’s probably for the best. Did we really need Shane assaulting Miz’s dad to believe he would be fired up enough to beat up the 49-year-old executive? Of course, Shane took a shot from a bell, flipped over a guard rail, hit the roof of a golf cart and fell to the floor and still managed to kick out at 2, so maybe Miz does need a little bit extra. Like a superplex off of some scaffolding unto a crash mat. The crowd was into it, but when it was announced that Shane won, because Miz sunk in the mat to allow Shane to pin him, MetLife seemed a bit confused. This feud… must continue…? The superplex was an awesome visual, but getting convoluted with the finish probably hurts it a bit.
Women’s Tag Team Title Fatal Four Way Match: Bayley and Sasha Banks (c) vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Billie Kaye and Peyton Royce vs. Natalya and Beth Phoenix – This was set up last month at FASTLANE when Natalya and Phoenix got into it with Jax and Tamina after Jax and Tamina lost to Bayley and Banks. I guess Kaye and Royce got in by beating the champs in a non-title match? Of all the multi-team matches tonight, this one, I think could have benefitted the most from elimination rules to give one team a focus and more of a push. Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix, even though she’s been retired for five years, looked great. Hitting a Glam Slam from the ropes onto Bayley led to the finish, when Kaye and Royce knocked Phoenix out of the match and pinned Bayley themselves to win the tag team titles. Questionable decision, I think, because Bayley and Banks could have done with a longer reign to establish the titles. I guess the money is in the chase, though, right?
WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston – Starting with ELIMINATION CHAMBER, WWE did a great job with building up Kofi as the guy to challenge Bryan for the title here, and for a lot of folks, this is one of the more anticipated matches of the night. Bryan’s new sustainable heel persona is so perfect, too. The strong build-up for the match pays off, as the crowd is absolutely into this match, which always helps. Kofi may have gotten used to tag team matches, but Bryan led him through a fun match that had everyone rooting for the underdog to get his victory. I would have been OK with Bryan retaining the title, but it was not to be on this night. Kofi nailed Bryan with a kick and got the pin to drive everyone crazy. Easily the best match of the night so far.
We’re halfway through the main card and that means we check in with host Alexa Bliss, who is checking in with SNL cast members Michael Che and Colin Jost. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall show up, because why not. Nash asking if they should start with a prostate exam is maybe one of the creepiest things I’ve seen all year.
U.S. Championship Match: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio – That didn’t last long. Joe squashes Rey and knocks him out with the coquina clutch for his first WrestleMania match win. I won’t complain about a ridiculously quick match when we still have at least 5 matches left.
Drew McIntyre vs. Roman Reigns – This is the first time since WrestleMania XXX that Roman Reigns isn’t in the main event of WrestleMania. That’s insane. McIntyre is on the cusp of being made within the company, and he really has the look to be something special. This needed to be an epic battle to lift Drew up to be Rollins’ first challenger for the Universal Title, but it was a little too methodical for my tastes. But that just seems to be the way Roman Reigns matches go. Reigns gets a spear for the win in his first singles match since his leukemia went into remission. Reigns had what seemed like a legit ear-to-ear smile on his face as the ref raised his arms in victory, but no one else seemed to care. Maybe the open-air stadium is eating up all the crowd noise.
Because this show isn’t long enough, Elias plays guitar, piano and drums for the MetLife audience, all at the same time! Just as he’s about to start his true performance, he’s interrupted by the video of Babe Ruth calling his home run shot. Wait a minute… Babe Ruth… professional wrestling… is it Hulk Hogan? The Babe Ruth of professional wrestling?
Nope, it’s the Doctor of Thuganomics! John Cena, in Yankees gear and his gimmick from 2002 comes to the ring acting like a sitcom dad who’s having a midlife crisis. This is the second year in a row that Cena and Elias had a WrestleMania confrontation. I wonder if they’ll go for the Pete Rose-Kane-like trifecta.
“I feel like I’m watching one of my movies because this whole thing sucks.” OK, that was a funny line. Oh good, the Titantron Photoshops are back! And so is the FU! Cena knocks Elias out with his WORD LIFE knux. Nice nostalgia bit, but will it lead anywhere?
No Holds Barred: Batista vs. Triple H – If Batista wins, Triple H’s in-ring career is over. Until the next time WWE feels they need to pop a rating, no doubt. If Triple H wins, Dave has to give Triple H a role in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Batista trips getting into the ring, stares down guest color commentator Shawn Michaels, comedian Kumail Nunjiani and Triple H’s parents before we get to Triple H’s super-entrance, which looks like The Game has joined the old Hanna-Barbera Wacky Racers. I wonder if Muttley is around.
Triple H started emptying out a tool box on Dave, methodically taking Batista apart, including taking his nose ring out with a pair of needlenose pliers. Dave apparently really liked that nose ring, because then he started slamming Trips on tables and barricades. More slow, methodical violence, but damn if those announce tables aren’t game day players. They survived a lot in this match. Well, not the German announce table. That collapsed after a Triple H spear. In the end, Ric Flair gave Triple H a sledgehammer and The Game hit a Superman Sledgehammer and followed it up with a Pedigree for the win to ensure that he can fight the occasional match for years to come.
Every year, Trips tries to have an epic encounter and he always seems to miss the mark. It was a little too long, but did what it needed to do.
They sell a Ron Simmons “DAMN” T-shirt? Take my money, WWE!
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin – I can’t believe Kurt Angle is going out with a match against maybe the most boring guy on the roster. And Corbin wins! Angle missed a moonsault and Corbin nailed him with his finisher, the End of Days, for the pin as WWE went to the reaction shots that weren’t quite as good as when Lesnar beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX. Kurt gets up after the match like nothing happened and tells the crowd to start chanting YOU SUCK to his music. There’s something poetic there.
Does WWE really see something in Baron Corbin that they wanted him to get a win over Angle in Angle’s final match? That seems so weird.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Finn Bálor – Lashley is sans headband here. I wonder if that means anything. Bálor comes out as The Demon for the Intercontinental Title, and it really makes you wonder why he didn’t do that at the ROYAL RUMBLE when he had a Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar. The Demon goes crazy with running dropkicks and even manages to get Lashley up for a power bomb before hitting the coup de grace for the win and the title. Short but sweet, the perfect table setting for our main event.
Alexa Bliss comes out first to announce our new MetLife attendance record: 82,265, for anyone who keeps track of these things. Though, sometimes I think WWE only announces these things to drive Dave Meltzer batty. Bliss calls for a “break” three times before R Truth and Carmella come out to waste more time. I really want to go to bed. I wish WWE would start the main show at 4 p.m. Eastern again. And then WWE announces next year’s show, in Tampa Bay: WrestleMania – Pirates of the Caribbean!
Winner Take All Raw and SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match: Ronda Rousey (c – Raw) vs. Charlotte Flair (c – SmackDown! Live) vs. Becky Lynch – I think everyone in this match has turned heel over the last couple of weeks.
Charlotte Flair is shown getting flown in on a helicopter while Joan Jett does a live performance of “Bad Reputation,” Ronda Rousey’s entrance theme. Becky Lynch just comes down to the ring looking ready to kick ass. Flair won the SmackDown! Live title from Asuka a few weeks ago, changing the DNA of this match a bit.
The whole build for this match, dating back to before the SURVIVOR SERIES, was building Becky Lynch up as a fighter who wanted to take the reins of her career against Rousey, as Flair found ways to insert herself. Eventually it became all three of the women looking to beat the hell out of each other, and we got that in spades, with Flair and Lynch frequently teaming up to try and take Rousey out. The psychology made perfect sense, but something just didn’t click fully with the match. Maybe it would have been better as a one-on-one match, but there was definitely more cache with the Triple Threat.
The ending, though, came out of nowhere, as Rousey went for a Piper’s Pit back drop on Lynch, who reversed it into a crucifix pin for three. There may have been a bit of a botch there, as the announcers seemed to try and cover for a little bit of confusion, and no one was ready for the win. The match didn’t build to a fitting climax, it just kind of ended. It kind of blunted the scene that everyone wanted to see: Becky Lynch victorious in the ring at the end of the main event.
Final Thoughts: The show was, once again, way too long, and too many matches were just mediocre, which definitely makes it difficult to give it a lot of praise. It wasn’t bad, just not as good as a WrestleMania should be.