As previously stated in our predictions article, Wrestlemania is the biggest event for all wrestling fans. The show is more than just a PPV of matches. It has become an event that has taken over an entire weekend of any fan. It’s a wrestling fan’s dream to attend the weekend festivities that come with the monumental occasion. As much as the WWE would like you to forget their age, yesterday marked the 31st anniversary of Wrestlemania as we all gathered around our respective viewing stations and watched what can be viewed as the culmination of the year’s storylines. What will follow in this article is a critical view of the Mania itself. It wasn’t all bad, it wasn’t all good, and not all of it made a lot of sense. Join me as we look back at this year’s Wrestlemania.
We kick off the preshow at 5pm EST. The beginning of a run time that approached 7 hours by the time we reached show end. Of course we get a bit of banter from the usual preshow team before we get into the matches. Nothing groundbreaking, but it is hinted that Lita has a big announcement to make going into the second hour of the preshow.
We kick off the first match between Kalisto and Ryback. The stadium, still half empty at this point, erupted into Goldberg chants as Ryback walked to the ring. Again, nothing surprising, these two had a decent contest that ended with Kalisto getting a clean victory and retaining the US Title. It was at this point that I noticed grumblings on the internet by fans not being allowed into the arena. These fans were rather vocal on the twitterverse beginning to blame WWE. Honestly, I would say that the fault lies with poor planning by the stadium staff. Most of the fans were in prior to the beginning of the main show and I’d say they didn’t miss much by not seeing the preshow.
As we kick into the second hour of the preshow we have Team Total Divas taking on Team BAD and Blonde. The match itself was not too bad with impressive showings by both Alicia Fox, Summer Rae, and Emma. The Total Divas pick up the victory as Brie forces a Naomi tap out when she applied her husband’s Yes Lock.
Following the match there is a huge announcement by Lita in the middle of the ring. This is it, the moment we’ve all been clamoring for. They’ve unveiled a new Women’s Championship as they are finally retiring that dreadful butterfly belt. The women will now be referred to as “Superstars” like the men, as it should be. The only part of this unveiling that confused me is Lita saying that this is the first Women’s Championship. I’m almost 100% sure that prior to the Diva’s belt, the female title was always referred to as the Women’s Championship, but, I digress.
We then have a quick match featuring the Usos taking on the Dudleys. Usos go over clean to audible boos. Following the match the Dudley Boyz begin beating down the Usos and imply that they’re going to put them through tables. The Usos fight their way back and end up putting the Dudleys through tables. The crowd was beginning to fill in and loudly boo as the Usos made their comeback. They seemed to be playing the crowd emotions up a bit and even teasing a slight heel turn. This will be a great way to reinvent the stale team.
Finally, two hours in, it is time to kick off the main show. Unexpectedly we kick off the show with the Intercontinental Ladder match. I believed we would begin with the Battle Royal but that wouldn’t come for much much later. This ladder match was amazing, no surprise there. I would even say it was the second best match on the card. Stardust unveiled a polka dot ladder in tribute to his late great father, Dusty Rhodes, and there were a few pretty great spots including Sin Cara being pushed off the ladder onto Stardust through a second ladder. Going into the match there were two obvious choices for who was going to leave with the belt, Owens or Zayn. This was the main feud to come out of this contest. The cards were all on the table. Who was going to be leaving the champion and who was going to be chasing the title? As we approach the ending of the match we see an incredible bump by Owens onto the ladder that basically took him out of the ending. Miz climbs the ladder as the stadium erupts into boos. Even I was flipping out. I just knew WWE was going to screw this up at this point. All of the sudden, Zack Ryder climbs the ladder, pushes Miz off, and claims victory. This was shocking and definitely unexpected. However, this guy has done so much for this company and I was glad to see him pick up the win. He deserves this. The Zayn/Owens feud doesn’t need a belt to fight over and this can easily pour over into them being too distracted by eachother to win the ladder match. This was only the beginning of the many swerves we would see tonight. Probably the only one I popped hard.
We are then led into the video recap of the feud between AJ Styles and Chris Jericho. Many expected this match to be a show stealer, myself included. It didn’t turn out that way in my opinion. It sunk in that we’ve seen this match and all of these spots many times before. I was invested and when Jericho teased him hitting the Styles Clash I was on the edge of my seat. It was the moment that AJ finally hit the Styles Clash and Jericho kicked out that made me roll my eyes. The Styles Clash used to be one of the most devastating moves in wrestling. It’s no more effective than Ziggler’s fameasser. The match ends when Jericho reverses a Styles’ Phenomenal Forearm into a Codebreaker. Visually this looked awesome but as the dust settled I was just left confused. This should’ve been Styles’ Wrestlemania moment. Jericho did not need this win at all. Think about it, Jericho lost to Fandango at Mania but beat AJ Styles. This was a booking decision that I just do not understand. The way this match ended I would say the feud is not finished but that just means we are going to see yet another match from these two. Swerve number two of the night.
What’s that on the stage? That’s a giant box of Booty-Os baby! I was too hype for this entrance as the box tips over and out comes the New Day dressed in full Dragon Ball Z gear. The match itself was a standard match between New Day and the League of Nations. However, for some reason the League of Nations went over for the first time of their entire feud. They announce that they are the most dominant group in professional wrestling (lulz). At that moment Shawn Michaels’ music hits and out he comes in his ring gear. This is followed by Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They destroy the League of Nations and celebrate in the ring with New Day. Xavier Woods tries to get Austin to dance and Austin answers with a stunner. Let’s get this straight, you have one of the most over tag teams in WWE history and you have them lose to set up a legends’ appearance? It was a nice little moment but still doesn’t make much sense to me. My knee jerk reaction was excitement but, once again, as the dust settled I was left a little underwhelmed.
Alright, now it’s time for a fight as we set up for Lesnar vs Ambrose in the Street Fight. I was pretty excited for this match. Finally an opponent for Lesnar that I can see going over. Ambrose is booked as this lunatic that will stop at nothing to beat his opponent. However, what we got was a standard Lesnar match. A lot of suplexes with a brief comeback by Dean. Ambrose brought out both the chainsaw and barbie which led to a whole lotta nothing. A notable spot includes Ambrose channeling his inner Terry Funk by filling the ring with chairs. This decision would backfire as was both suplexed and F-5ed onto the chair pile leading to a Lesnar victory. What did this feud do? Lesnar dominated on the build and the match. If Ambrose went over he would’ve been a made star. He would’ve been the crazy man who conquered the beast. Legendary! Instead, swerve number four as nothing notable happened.
This leads us to the match of the night, the Women’s Championship match between Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha. Becky comes out with a pseudo steam punk look filled with emotion. Sasha is accompanied to the ring by her uncle, Snoop Dogg, and is decked out in her hero’s, Eddie Guerrero, gear. Charlotte comes down wearing a robe that was made from pieces of the robe her father, Ric Flair, wore during his retirement match. If you were to watch these entrances you would say that Sasha was going over. She had the fantastic fanfare entrance and the Guerrero tribute gear, the stage was set! That wouldn’t be the case. These three women had a fantastic match that could be considered the greatest women’s match in Wrestlemania history. I have one complaint with this match and it has to do with the finish. I have no issue with Charlotte keeping the belt. I do have an issue with Ric being involved with the finish. All of this build for the Women’s Championship and it’s decided by Ric Flair restraining Sasha Banks. Just seems like a fantastic match with a underwhelming finish. That being said, still match of the night.
Holy waste of a storyline, Batman! The Hell in a Cell match between Taker and Shane almost caused me to turn the network off. The match itself wasn’t horrible. Shane’s offense looked about as good as it has always looked, not great. It did make Undertaker look a bit week as McMahon kicked out of both the last ride and a chokeslam onto the steps. We saw triangle chokes, a coast to coast, and the destruction of multiple announce tables. You’d think this match was amazing, it wasn’t. It was pretty dull to be honest. It all built to one big spot. Shane lays Undertaker across the announce desk and climbs to the top of the cell. I didn’t want to see this and I was audibly begging for this not to happen. Shane dives off the top of the cell and flies through the announce table. The company that is now preaching about safety to all of its superstars just allowed a 46 year old man to jump off a 20 ft cell through a table. Thankfully McMahon was okay but one wrong move and we could be telling a different story. We didn’t need a spot like that from Shane in this day in age. Nevertheless, the men get back into the ring. Taker tombstones Shane and gets a clean victory. Someone please explain the point of this to me. We brought Shane back for Mania and built up this big change coming to WWE. The fans were teased with a Shane run Raw. Are we supposed to be happy because this won’t be a 51 year old man’s last Wrestlemania? This entire feud seemed to be built around the fact that they wanted Shane to jump off stuff. There was no real payoff here. I don’t expect to see either of these men at Raw. Just seems like a waste at this point.
By this point I’m burnt out on Wrestlemania but we’ve still got about an hour or so to go. Out come the competitors for the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Notable entrants include Tatanka, DDP, Big Show, Kane, Baron Corbin, Mark Henry, and Shaquille O’Neal. That’s right, an unadvertised appearance by Shaq that has been teased for years. Plenty of fun but questionable spots involved in this one. Make note, Sandow got a huge pop which led to boos as he was tossed out by O’Neal. The match ended as Baron Corbin stood victorious. It was nice to see an NXT superstar go over here. Even though Corbin is basically the Roman Reigns of NXT. I would presume he will be on the main roster from here on out.
What follows is a segment that I’m still baffled by at this moment. The Dallas Cheerleaders come out and perform a quick routine. The Rock’s music hits and out he comes with a flamethrower. I had no idea what I was watching but the crowd was eating it up. The Rock hops on the mic and announces that the AT&T stadium has set the new attendance record. At this moment the Wyatt’s interrupt. They come down and come face to face with the “Great One”. The Rock then calls out a referee and rips his pants off. He’s wearing his gear and is ready for a match. He beats Erick Rowan in three seconds…………why? The Wyatts then surround the ring and out comes Cena for the save. The two men then destroy the Wyatt Family and celebrate. Who did this help? The Wyatts could be huge but they continue to be booked to lose to part timers and legends. They are no longer a threat and this made that very apparent.
At this point it is past 11 and we’ve been watching Wrestlemania for 6 hours. It’s time for the main event and Triple H comes out to an entrance that is indescribable. Seriously, go to the Network right now and watch this thing. Roman comes out to huge boos, unsurprisingly. This is it though; the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We know that Reigns is going to turn heel, it’s the only logical step. There’s no way he could go over clean and leave with the belt as a face. Well hold onto your hats because there’s swerve in every match except for this one! Reigns beats Triple H clean and even gets a spear in on Stephanie. What a great guy! It’s 11:45 and Wrestlemania goes off the air with Roman Reigns standing tall amongst a mixed reaction crowd that was mostly boos.
I didn’t hate this event. It was actually much better than the build for it. The ring work itself was fantastic. That being said, it was too damn long as I found myself drifting asleep during multiple matches. The NXT event on Friday night was a quick, fast paced two and half hours. I know Wrestlemania needs to be longer than that because of the sheer magnitude of the event. That being said, there is no reason it couldn’t have been about four hours and some change. It wasn’t just the length but the booking didn’t make any sense. Ask yourself, what does the future hold coming out of this event? I’ll wait………… It seemed as though creative was trying to swerve us for the sake of swerving us. As stated, I love Zack Ryder’s moment but what in the hell else happened for the better of the company? Right now, your most over guys coming out of Mania is The Rock, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho and the Undertaker. Fantastic, where’s the future? This is all being written before Monday Night Raw so hopefully something has changed.
I may sound bitter but I was very excited for this event as I am every year. Wrestlemania is supposed to be the “season finale” for WWE. So far nothing has changed. We are still going into Raw as an Authority run WWE. Most of the individuals who got over last night will not be there tonight. What do we do now? Hopefully we see a few surprises on Raw. Have a good one. — The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles
About the writer: The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles has been watching wrestling since his emergence out of the womb on April 10th of 1992. A lifelong WWE fan, the first event he can remember watching was Wrestlemania 11. Since then, he has surrounded himself with the world of wrestling in multiple facets. Besides wrestling Dylan is an obsessive fan of both horror and comic books. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the MonsterMania Con on the east coast. You love him and he loves you!