I’ve been watching pro-wrestling since I was six. And yesterday marked another Wrestlemania that has come to pass. While I was watching it, I thought, ‘Hey, why not do a review?’ Not many people will care about it I suppose (I know just about ten people who still watch pro-wrestling). But I reasoned that whatever allows me to hone my writing skills at this point it time shouldn’t be passed up. Plus, I can justify spending seven hours of my life watching pro-wrestling. Why not then?
I’ll get straight to it!
Four years ago, this happened. It was one of the finest moments in pro-wrestling history, one of the best stories ever told. And one of the best matches in Wrestlemania history. This is by far my favourite Wrestlemania promo. Any chance that Wrestlemania 34 will be a hit like its predecessor four years before?
1. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The best part of this match was seeing Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jim Ross on the mic again. That was some nostalgia, especially given that I just watched Man on the Moon over the weekend (in which both featured). And I still hold that that watching WWE these days isn’t the same with the new commentary teams.
And speaking of nostalgia, my favourite bit was seeing the reunion of Goldust and R-Truth (who were the tag team duo the Golden Truth), with Goldust doing a dab right after eliminating him. And you got to give it to Goldust – I still believe him to be one of the most under-rated performers, even if he isn’t that great as a wrestler. He gave us some great entertainment throughout the match, especially that spot with him kicking the balls of Tye Dillenger.
The Battle Royal featured some past and some present mid-carders of note – Dolph Ziggler, Kane, Matt Hardy, Baron Corbin. I always liked Ziggler, and often root for him (I did in the last Royal Rumble) but he’s always falling short and falling further down the pecking order.
When JL commented on him hanging on to the bottom rope, JR summed it up nicely (and symbolically):
“But he’s always in trouble, he’s always in trouble, he’s always dangling.”
Then, there’s Kane. Seriously, what’s the point of Kane being around anymore? Especially when you compare Kane to Goldust, it has to be the most static gimmick ever, and one that has well passed its usefulness.
Matt Hardy’s altercation with Tye Dillinger was a joy. Him asking the latter, “Who are you?” was gold, really.
Bray Wyatt’s entry was excellent, but confusing. The crowd erupted when the lights when out and Wyatt appeared. But I think Wyatt’s involvement in Matt’s victory was botched to some degree. Why did he have to take a hit from Baron Corbin? And just lie there while Matt Hardy won the match on his own accord?
“We’re all confused here,” JR uttered. So was I.
But credit to Matt Hardy, who got the fans involved in getting Bray Wyatt over. And this is why he is a fantastic performer. He deserves more credit and exposure in the WWE and winning the Battle Royal seems to signal WWE’s faith in him.
2. WWE Cruiserweight Championship
I was actually rooting for Mustafa Ali, having followed him on Instagram lately. Him being the first WWE wrestler of Pakistani origin was something I was kind of excited about. It was obvious that he wasn’t as over as his opponent Cedric Alexander though. And while both men put in a great shift, it was rather disappointing that Mustafa Ali didn’t emerge champion.
3. Women’s Battle Royal
The match started with two quick eliminations – Carmella’s being significant. (Paige called the wrestlers ‘a pack of wolves’ for their ruthlessness.)
Naomi’s victory I feel was well-deserved, and a welcome break from one of the established names (Sasha Banks or Bayley). It was great to see Bayley’s mean streak in eliminating Banks but it was better to see someone else getting over this time.
4. Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Championship.
This was easily my favourite match of the night. The pace was frenetic, the storytelling was great and the overall performance by all three wrestlers was excellent.
I was rooting for Finn Balor to win, but to be honest, any of the three winning would have been great anyway. I was for one impressed with The Miz’s decision to send the Miztourage backstage in order for him to fight ‘clean’. An inevitable face turn soon maybe?
5. Smackdown Women’s Championship
Asuka’s grappling style was reminiscent of the old school WWF wrestling – something you don’t see too often nowadays. And the storytelling throughout the match was great. Asuka repeatedly targeted Charlotte’s left arm and shoulder and this was carried on to Charlotte’s victory at the end. Nice job.
I was rooting for Asuka to win and continue the streak, but I guess streaks are meant to end. I just hope they know what to do with Asuka now, that the one special thing about her has been taken away. The outcome of this match reminded me of Charlotte’s WM32 match with Sasha Banks. Banks was widely tipped for victory – so much so that she was escorted to the ring by her cousin, WWE hall of famer Snoop Dogg – only to lose.
It was a nice touch with Charlotte being all emotional and the two wrestlers embracing one another. Still, does Asuka have to scream into the mic each time she says something..?
Up to that point, the camera kept on zooming in on John Cena as part of the audience. It was so obvious that something was gonna happen sooner or later. (Did you see the number of security guards who were guarding him?) The question wasn’t what but when?
So it came as little surprise when one hour into the main show, we had a referee running down to John Cena to tell him something. (That, made little sense. I mean, how did he know John Cena was seated there, and who told him to tell John Cena about whatever it was he was telling John Cena?) And it was equally entertaining to see Cena run to the locker room.
You should have caught the look on Asuka’s face though…
6. Fatal Four-Way for the United States Championship
“It’s Rusev Day!”
Bloody hell, it should have been. Despite the crap that WWE had thrown on to him since his invincible debut years ago, Rusev has continued to defy expectations and has pushed himself to revival and significance. And he did it pretty much on his own. (If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and follow him on Instagram. The guy is hilarious!)
Oh, how I wanted Rusev to win so badly.
Rusev of course, started strong and looked likely to overpower his three opponents to victory. And then there was Jinder Mahal, who looked completely out of sorts, barely even making an appearance in the ring before being tossed out repeatedly. I was thinking, it wasn’t too long ago that Rusev (in his feud with Roman Reigns especially) was in the position of Jinder Mahal – the wrestler no one took seriously, and was only there to be made a fool of.
Jinder Mahal was awful in the match – not because he is an incompetent wrestler but because he barely got involved in it. I was thinking, hell, they could have just replaced him with Santino Marella for the comic relief they wanted. It made me wonder whether Mahal’s downward spiral to irrelevance is delayed punishment for him holding on to the WWE championship for so long last year. (If you don’t get what I mean, you should have seen his Royal Rumble involvement.)
But who cared about all that? Who cared about all the other wrestlers. (Still I have to say, I love to hear Randy Orton’s theme song whenever he comes on.) I had never been so excited over or invested in a single wrestler in any single match. Please, let it be Rusev!
In the last moments of the match, as Rusev towered over a defenceless Jinder Mahal, with the entire Superdome chanting his name. I knew it was going to be Rusev Day!
Except that it wasn’t. It was, Jinder Mahal. United States Champion.
Jinder Mahal is that annoying insect bite that you scratch every now and again, refusing to heal.
Way to go WWE…
7. Mixed Tag Team Match (the one with “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey)
The match starts off with another over-the-top Triple H Wrestlemania entrance. (This time though, Stephanie gets her own big bike…)
I’m not a big fan of Ronda Rousey. I think her acting skills need some major improvement. (Her Royal Rumble appearance – alternating between scowls and smiles in a split second. What the hell is that? I’m confused.) It was a major throwback to see Kurt Angle in his red and blue spandex though. (Unlike Spiderman, he didn’t really look too good in the black of The Shield, did he?)
I nearly injured myself looking at Ronda Rousey warming up! What intensity. This match promises to be great. And when Rousey was unleashed it sure was. She’s like the female Brock Lesnar (part-time and all no doubt.) The ending with Stephanie begging and apologising as Rousey was slipping the submission on her – simply fantastic. It would have been great if the whole feud was given months or multiple PPVs to build up though. This seemed a little rushed but judging by the ovation she received, the WWE fans didn’t mind at all.
You got to give it to all four wrestlers, for telling a major story in the ring almost flawlessly, and for lasting 30 minutes! I mean, Goldberg vs Lesnar didn’t last two!
But seriously, what next for Ronda Rousey? I suppose this match is supposed to give her the legitimacy of challenging for either of the Women’s Championship?
8. Triple Threat for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
“Soldier of armageddon at work, and it isn’t pretty.”
The Bludgeon Brothers (formerly of Wyatt family fame) made quick work of their opponents, the New Day and the Usos. It was the best entertainment I had watching – I simply cannot stand both the New Day and the Usos. The repackaging of Luke Harper and Eric Rowen in their new gimmick is amazing, and a wonderful nod to old school tag team gimmicks like the LOD and Demolition.
9. The Undertaker vs John Cena
You have to give it to WWE for the publicity (or lack thereof) for this one. You know that The Undertaker was going to make an appearance eventually (although I liked the theory that deleted Bray Wyatt would have made a reappearance as The Undertaker). I just didn’t like the fact that he didn’t say anything. And this wasn’t his first Wrestlemania in which he has appeared and not said anything.
WWE did brilliantly to troll the expectant fans with Elias. Never thought I’d see the day when the fans would turn on a wrestler in full force when John Cena was in the ring. Well, at least WWE didn’t screw the fans over with another Under-faker.
Cena was clearly heel going into this match, and WWE should have really build it such. It would have made the squash match understandable as a comeuppance for an arrogant wrestler. (But, no of course, Cena had to sit with the fans and drink beer with them.. pfft..)
And then the match went underway, and ended in all of three minutes! It took him longer to get into the ring! (Guess I spoke too soon about Goldberg vs Lesnar). It was (to me at least) the stupidest, most pointless match in all of Undertaker’s Wrestlemania career!
10. Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
“If you fight for your dreams, your dreams will fight for you!”
“Daniel Bryan hasn’t missed a beat!” one of the commentators mentioned. Shane looked good too, but the night belonged to Daniel Bryan. It was great to see him back in action (in the same venue he won the WWE Championship in WM30 no less!) and the pace and action he brought to the match, the intensity and purpose, is something we have not seen in WWE or Daniel Bryan himself since he retired.
I was for a prolonged storyline involving Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens but there was no way it seemed that WWE was going to keep Daniel Bryan from a victory in his first in ring return.
An emotional Daniel Bryan embraced his wife Bree Bella after the match. (Why she wasn’t with Nikki is anyone’s guess. But my guess is that Nikki probably knew the Undertaker would mop the ring with her fiance John Cena). Nevertheless, we wrestling fans are suckers for emotional payoffs like this one, no?
11. Raw Women’s Championship
Nia Jax’s victory over Alexa Bliss was a classic example of emotional investment paying off in a classic good-over-evil victory.
12. WWE Championship
It was built as a dream match – a battle between arguably two of the most over wrestlers in WWE’s current roster. But honestly, I felt the match was a letdown. It wasn’t the fast-paced and high-energy match I anticipated. Rather, it felt slow at times. And the crowd was quieter than expected. Six hours into the show, lethargy was perhaps setting in among the audience as well. Yet, after a slow start, an exchange of submission moves and picking up the pace, the crowd started to pick up as well.
“This is a pure battle of attrition” (if the commentators thought this match was such, wait till they watched the main event.)
At the end, no one can say Styles was an undeserving winner, but the way the match ended was simply anti-climatic. True that Styles has performed incredibly since signing with WWE (his match with John Cena at Summerslam ranks amongst my favourite) but it felt like both wrestlers were holding back – a signal that this rivalry is going to stretch past Wrestlemania. Again, with all the hype surrounding the match, I’m not sure it delivered completely at Wrestlemania.
Yet, the post-match heel turn was plain delightful. It felt a bit overdrawn that the match would end with the same feel-good sentiment as Charlotte and Asuka’s. I haven’t followed Shinsuke Nakamura much but I believe he has so much to offer as a heel. “Knee to face!” chants showed that the crowd loved getting behind Nakamura as a heel. Still, you wonder whether WWE booked this correctly. The face trying to regain the title is always a more compelling story than the heel trying to win it at all cost. (Christian’s underwhelming 2011 title run, anyone?)
13. Raw Tag Team Championship
“I know everyone of you want to know who my partner is…”
WWE really built up expectations and excitement by keeping this match to the penultimate. I’ll admit, I wasn’t concerned two weeks leading to Wrestlemania but by the time Braun Strowman stormed in for his match with the promise of a mystery partner, I was psyched to see the return of a superstar – the way the Dudley Boyz did at Royal Rumble (2015 in Philadelphia) or the way the Hardy Boyz did just a year ago at Wrestlemania 33. Would it be hall of famer Mark Henry maybe?
But then again, knowing the way WWE often threw curveballs these days just to, I don’t know, mystify fans? Or maybe annoy them? – I was half-expecting Hornswoggle, or maybe Doink or even the Gobbledy Gooker.. But they wouldn’t, would they? I mean, it’s the match before the main event!
But yes, they did.
I almost wished it was Hornswoggle.
You couldn’t screw your fans any more than you can screw Roman Reigns can you, WWE?
14. Universal Championship
I have to admit, every time I hear Brock Lesnar’s music hit, and I see Paul Heyman coming down the aisle with him, I get goosebumps. If everything I read about Brock Lesnar is true – how he is only concerned about himself, and money – then his presence and sheer monstrosity often makes me forget about it all. And of course, WWE played this up during the build – Roman Reigns’ main point of contention was Brock Lesnar’s preferential treatment by the management despite his status as a part-timer in WWE, while all other wrestlers had to put in full shifts.
I had always been vocal about Lesnar’s recent role in WWE. Not just Lesnar, but other part-timers who come in as and when they please and getting top-billing, in the last five years or so – Lesnar, Batista, The Rock and Goldberg (and now we can possibly add in The Undertaker’s name to that hat). WWE’s preference for them to sell PPVs is the reason why wrestlers like Rusev, Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Finn Baylor are under-utilised, and the reason why others like CM Punk and Cody Rhodes have left.
And news of Brock Lesnar leaving for the UFC is good news to me. At least, it will thrust a few more names to main event status. I don’t mind of course, if Roman Reigns is meant to be the intermediary. And the way WWE has mishandled Roman Reigns is just sad. Really, I feel for the guy. His run at the main event should have been great. But it hasn’t. Fans, and non-fans alike are tired of him. And unlike John Cena (who we are mostly tired of anyway) he doesn’t have the natural charisma to justify his position as the company’s top babyface. Roman Reigns has no doubt improved since his main event with Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31, but has his gimmick changed? Not one damn bit. I can write a paper analysing WWE’s failure to properly invest in Roman Reign’s character, but I shall just highlight this one bit – Roman Reigns is the only member of The Shield who is still wearing the group’s outfit and he still comes out to the group’s music.
Maybe for this reason, and the fact that Wrestlemania 34 had dragged on for nearly seven long hours (the way that this entry has dragged on for far too long as well..) the fans seemed lethargic and unimpressed with the main event. Poor Roman Reigns, every time he kicked out of a Lesnar pin, the crowd didn’t seem to care less. Maybe it is for this reason that Brock Lesnar decided to make Reigns bathe in his own blood. But it wasn’t such a good idea was it Brock, when fans started chanting, “THIS IS AWFUL!!” It seems WWE is going out of their way to make Brock Lesnar the most hated heel in the company.
So when Brock Lesnar finally pinned the hapless Roman Reigns, everyone was left stunned.
“The reign continues!” (Oh what irony to those words..)
What now for WWE? What now for Roman Reigns? Seriously. I’m not a big fan of him, but to see the way he was walking by himself, dejectedly, from the ring to backstage, with fans didn’t seem to care or connect at all – that was sad on a whole new level.
The post-WWE rumour it seems that Roman Reigns was expected to defeat Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34 and win the Universal Championship. But Vince McMahon made a decision to reverse that during the match as Reigns wasn’t getting over the New Orleans crowd. Roman Reigns is now widely expected to win the rematch between the two at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia on April 27. The reason being that Vince feels that the Saudi crowd will take to him better. (Uhmm.. Okay..)
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
What seemed to be a promising start to one of the biggest WWE PPVs in history – with the Intercontinental Triple Threat – dragged on for seven hours, draining the fans and leaving us all perplexed and uncertain of things to come.
What are your thoughts about Wrestlemania 34 and the upcoming months in WWE?