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WrestleMania 34 pay-per-view report

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New Orleans’ second WrestleMania in four years ended up being memorable – for all the reasons you expected going in, and one that you perhaps didn’t with a weird as all heck main event.

With a monstrous thirteen matches announced (and one more teased), this was always going to be a long night.

Andre the Giant Battle Royal
The ring’s full to start us off, so NOBODY gets introductions apart from commentators: Byron Saxton, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. Elias was originally announced for this, but isn’t in the ring… so have plans changed?

There’s barely enough room for bodies to move as we get going, and the first man out is Aiden English, courtesy of Zack Ryder. Curt Hawkins follows, taking a slap a la TAKA Michinoku, as does Konnor, as commentary struggled here. The Golden Truth reunite, but it’s just a ruse for R-Truth to get turfed, as Primo Colon heads over the top. Yeah, I forgot about him too… Speaking of forgotten, Mike Kanellis is out, as Dolph Ziggler held on… something Tyler Breeze couldn’t do, nor Viktor. I’m starting to get fed up of Dolph doing the Shawn Michaels routine here, and somehow the ring is still full despite all those exits. A Stinger splash misses for Dolph, but Zack Ryder can’t capitalise as Mojo Rawley brutally pounces him out of the match!

A Koppo kick from Chad Gable gets rid of Karl Anderson, before Titus O’Neil boots Luke Gallows off the apron… and we go to a break?! Jesus wept. Apollo goes as soon as we return, with Shelton Benjamin going after he tried to German suplex Dash Wilder off the apron. Rhyno is out too, before the Revival left at the same time, ditto the Miztourage of Axel and Dallas.

The camera cuts to John Cena, who’s in the crowd as a fan, as Fandango’s tossed… then Heath Slater. We missed Sin Cara going out as the camera accidentally cut to Jim Ross, and we get the first mean guy staredown: Baron Corbin and Kane! They’re both jumped, as we lead to Titus O’Neil catching Dolph Ziggler, only to get superkicked and clotheslined out ad Dolph does the Shawn again.

Powerslams r’ us follow from Goldust, who sets up for Shattered Dreams on Tye Dillinger and Dolph Ziggler, but Dolph ducks and eliminates him… before Matt Hardy deleted him with a slap. Cue shtick as we get “ten” and “delete” chants, and of course, Dillinger goes next, before Kane’s superkicked… but he shrugs off Dolph for an elimination! Corbin lifts out Kane seconds later, and we’re down to Matt, Mojo and Corbin as the last three.

A fireman’s carry pancake from Rawley dumps Hardy, who’s then stomped on… before the sting plays as Bray Wyatt returns in the ring. Looking completely the same as he did when he went into the Lake of Reincarnation. Except this time he’s teaming with Hardy, and they’re our final two… except the bell rings, as Matt Hardy’s declared the winner. Eh? So Wyatt was never a competitor? **

Bray actually gets “thank you Wyatt” chants here, as the two hug it out. John Cena is beside himself.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
Unlike last year, the stadium is pretty full for this Cruiserweight title match! We don’t talk about the last champion, by the way…

Mustafa Ali came out with a light-up mask and a laser palm… do you think he’s winning?

The crowd were pumped for this, as were the tournament finalists, and we start with Alexander taking down Ali with a huge waistlock. A ‘rana from Ali takes down Alexander, and riles him up a little, returning fire with a spinning back kick and some headscissors as the tempo was turned up. Ali counters a pop-up with a dropkick, but ends up on the apron for a gamengiri, with Alexander following out with a tope con giro. That gets a near-fall, and another follows after Ali went stratospheric from a back body drop. The mic under the ring sounds extra echoey as Ali knocked Alexander down, then again with a sweet spinning heel kick.

Alexander nails a Spanish fly as there was a USA Network commercial, and we return to the two fighting on the top rope as Mustafa gives us a Spanish fly off the top rope as we get more GOD DAMNED JOHN CENA REACTION SHOTS. Stop it.

Ali tries to finish off with the imploding 450, but his 054 is thwarted when Alexander knocks him to the floor, reinjuring the arm that we he hurt a few weeks ago as we cut to… a Ronda Rousey promo? The picture in picture obscures the match, as we return to Alexander stomping on Ali in the ropes, only to get a reverse ‘rana as the tit for tat continued. A tornado DDT follows as Ali keeps up the head dropping, before finishing off with a 054… but Cedric’s able to get a foot on the rope!

The leg’s kicked away in anger as Ali stomps some more, before he misses another 054, allowing Alexander to mount a comeback, smacking into him with elbows as Alexander looked conflicted at having to do this to his friend… finishing him with a back elbow and a lumbar check to win the title! This was pretty good, even if the crowd were a little mild to it. ***¼

John Cena claps and says well done. This is going to get old for all of us, I feel.

Speaking of Cena, he’s interviewed in the crowd, and I get the impression that drink isn’t sin alcohol!

Women’s Battle Royal
The women get entrances here, as Paige and Beth Phoenix join commentary.

So we get Becky Lynch (whose music actually loops), before a clutch of entrants in Lana, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Rubu Riott, Carmella, Taynara Conti, Dakota Kai, Mandy Rose, Kavita Devi, Bianca Belair, Dana Brooke, Peyton Royce, Mickie James, Natalya and Naomi. Bayley gets her own music, but before we get going, Paige introduces her movie trailer again. In the meantime, Sasha Banks got her own music and entrance, and now we get going!

Carmella gets jumped for bragging about her briefcase, and she’s out first! Dana Brooke’s next to be bullied, before she’s thrown out… and now it’s the NXT crew who turn on the main roster folks and stand tall in the ring.

Becky Lynch gets annoyed that Kavita Devi’s wearing orange, as we see Dakota Kai eliminating Mandy Rose. Bianca Belair flies off the top, crushing Deville with a 450 splash as commentary was messing up names all over the place. Kairi Sane’s eliminated during a commercial break, while Lana is thrown out on the sly… as is Devi. Taynari Conti’s out too, and we build up to Bianca Belair whipping her hair into Lynch!

Lynch quickly eliminates Belair after that, before Dakota Kai goes for Lynch and Naomi, only to get thrown out by Banks as Kai’s aggression got the better of her. Naomi and Lynch are out too as the crowd boos it all, before the Riott Squad worked to eliminate Mickie James. Peyton Royce goes wild with spin kicks, but she’s taken out by the Riott Squad too, who then turn their sights on Natalya. A double suplex takes down Logan and Riott, before Bayley tries to save Sasha Banks… and then throws Natalya out as the best friends started to work together. Morgan and Riott are out next, as we’re down to Logan, Bayley and Banks… Logan’s thrown onto the apron, with Bayley knocking her out as we’re left to Sasha and Bayley… and the crowd roar for that… until Bayley suckered Sasha’s handshake and throws her out!

Problem is, there’s someone left… Naomi apparently never was eliminated. Eh? Bayley’s mad that she missed that, and she runs into the Rear View before Naomi throws her out to win. It wasn’t as crowded as the men’s match, and as such was miles better. They even managed to weave in storylines, as seen by the NXT crew trying to be the noisy newbies and the deal at the end where Sasha was staring holes in Bayley. **½

After the national anthem, we have an arty show-opening video package, with lots of jazz, crowd shots and poses… and now, it’s time for WrestleMania! Pyro! Ballyhoo! Celebrate!

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz (c) vs. Finn Balor
We’re big into the epic entrances already, with Miz getting floaty graphics. He sends Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel to the back… while Balor’s entrance promotes inclusivity, as (presumably) some of his LGBTQ fans joined him on the stage. It’s very reminiscent of one of John Cena’s old entrances…

We start with some early pinning attempts as roll-ups were the order of the day, before Finn went flying with a tope con giro to Miz and Rollins on the floor. Back inside, a low dropkick counters a sunset flip from the Miz, before Seth’s flying cross body almost helped Miz retain the title. Ah hell, John’s back in the crowd, and is shown watching again, and we return to the match as a Blockbuster nearly gets Rollins the title. Miz comes back with a clothesline into the corner, then an axehandle off the top to Rollins before he tried to get the win with a Million Dollar Dream on the mat.

Balor gets the same treatment, but he recovers to stomp on Miz, before a gamengiri knocks Miz off the top rope. A Slingblade’s caught by Rollins, who hits one of his own to Balor, before we get topes on opposite sides of the ring from Seth. Nevermind, Balor lands a Slingblade, before running into a superkick as this is turning into a Parade of Moves, ending with a spiking DDT from Miz for a near-fall.

Rollins takes a nasty spill when Miz boots away his springboard, before Balor gets Dragon screwed off the top rope and into a Figure Four in the middle of the ring… which is broken up by a HUGE frog splash as Rollins almost took home the title. On the outside now, Rollins teased a barricade bomb to Miz… but instead Balor has to fight out of it as he countered with a Slingblade instead. A double shotgun dropkick took Miz and Rollins into the barricades, before Rollins and Balor slugged it out in the middle of the ring, ahead of the Bloody Sunday DDT as Balor almost took it.

They build up into a Tower of Doom, but Rollins just gives Miz a buckle bomb before Balor ate a superplex… before rolling through on impact for a small cradle. Miz capitalises with a Skull Crushing Finale for a near-fall as this opener is tearing it apart! Balor avoids a Skull Crushing Finale as we’re countering everything, including climbing the ropes as Miz crotches Balor up top.

Rollins tries to get involved, but ends up eating a Skull Crushing Finale off the top as Balor’s flying stomp narrowly keeps the match alive, before Finn comes in with a Slingblade, a shotgun dropkick and one more big stomp off the top, crushing Miz’s guts… before a curb stomp from Rollins stopped him from making the cover, as another stomp to Miz earns Seth the title. That was a nice, frantic opener without anything near as much as the “they’re gonna die” stuff from Takeover. Rollins completes his grand slam (becoming the last member of the Shield to do so, it seems), or whatever WWE is calling it with this win… and a good match to seal it with too! ***¾

Yes, John Cena is STILL in the crowd…

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair (c)
I’m a little surprised that this is second match on the main show, but whatever… Asuka’s streak versus. Charlotte’s title is quite the story, especially given Charlotte’s domination in WWE.

Cue an epic Charlotte entrance, complete with the ORIGINAL Ric Flair music. WHOO! Charlotte reverses the roles from her ‘Mania “debut” four years earlier, where she accompanied Triple H under a mask… this time having her own chariot and gladiators. Wonder who they were? Meanwhile, Asuka gets floaty masks and fake CGI lasers…

We start with a nicely-paced wristlock exchange, before Charlotte Fargo struts into a tie-up, and then trips Asuka as an early figure eight led to some pinning attempts. Yes, Poochie is still in the crowd as Asuka’s hip attack led to her rolling up Charlotte before taking some chops into the corner. The hip attack finally works as Charlotte’s knocked off the apron and into the guard rails, giving Asuka a target as Charlotte sold the shoulder. Asuka comes in with knees to the head, but Charlotte counters with some of her own, before a neckbreaker was countered into something close to the Asuka lock!

Charlotte breaks it up with a backpack stunner, before she moonsaulted into a triangle armbar, as someone’s been watching tapes! It’s escaped though as Charlotte rolls over and applies a Boston crab, only for Asuka to get free and target that shoulder once again. A vicious shove gets Charlotte some separation, before she kicks away a hip attack, only to get suplexed off of the apron to the floor!

They both beat the count after that wild bump, as Asuka renews her aggression, clubbering Charlotte down before she went up top for a missile dropkick. Asuka goes up top again, but Charlotte chops her on the turnbuckles before nailing a Spanish Fly for a near-fall! Good God, on first view it looked like Asuka landed straight down on her head… something the replay fortunately confirmed wasn’t the case.

Charlotte tries for Natural Selection after that, but Asuka countered into a grounded Octopus, wrenching away on the arm, before some strikes led to another Asuka lock attempt. Rolling back almost gets Charlotte the win, but it angers Asuka… who runs into a big spear for another near-fall as it almost became desperate for the champion.

Charlotte snaps right into the Figure Eight from there though… and it leads to Asuka tapping as she picked up her first loss in WWE, and her first loss since 2015. That finish felt a little anticlimactic, but Charlotte overcoming the monstrous streak of Asuka was the big story, and cements Flair as the centrepiece of WWE’s womens divisions – as New Orleans saw the death of another streak! ****¼

Asuka gets the mic after the match, and declares that Charlotte was ready for Asuka. Well, yeah. She tearfully congratulated Flair before they hugged.

A ref runs down the ramp and heads towards John Cena to pass on a message… and John runs! Hopefully he’s not too drunk, as I guess he has his match. Unless someone mistook Brian Lee for the Undertaker, nearly 25 years later! Either way, at least we’re not getting any more crowd shots!

WWE United States Championship: Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (c)
Hey, it’s rapping Aiden English!

Randy didn’t have the sperm chasing him like WrestleMania last year, and we start with Rusev clearing the ring… only for Jinder to stop a dive with his forearm. Fair enough! Rusev crashes into him and Orton with a cannonball off the apron, before he had to deal with Bobby Roode’s blockbuster. Roode throws some so-so chops at Orton, who replied with a scoop slam for a near-fall, before getting crotched on the top rope as the champion brings him down with a superplex for a two-count. Jinder tried to form an alliance with Rusev, but gets stomped into the corner for his troubles, ahead of a spinning back suplex as we got another near-fall.

After some brawling on the outside, Jinder slides back into the ring and takes a Roode spinebuster for a near-fall, before a Glorious DDT was escaped by Jinder. Orton’s back in to throw Roode into the ring post, then drags Rusev back into the ring for a rope-hung DDT… but Rusev escapes and throws some kicks, before he misses a hip attack! That rope-hung DDT follows from Randy, but this crowd is struggling to care, at least until Orton busts out RKOs for all… English, Rusev and Jinder, but not for Roode, who broke up the cover! Roode shoves his away then lands a Glorious DDT as we’re back into breaking up pinfalls, before a head kick from Rusev left Jinder laying.

Now the crowd wakes up, as the Accolade followed to Jinder, but Sunil Singh provides a distraction, before Mahal capitalises with the Khallas to get the win. A bit of a flat match all told, as the crowd only really cared about Rusev, but eh. It was what it was. **¼

Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs. Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle
Hunter’s got his bikes again this year, and some REAL lasers. See, they cheaped out for Asuka…

Rousey came out in Roddy Piper-inspired gear, and had the crowd on-side for her from the off. This was announced as “mixed match”, so not full-on intergender then, but a pie-face from Stephanie was sure to make the mainstream news clips… as was Steph pulling her down by her hair as we started with Angle and Triple H. Angle’s already in slow motion as he clotheslines Hunter, before stomping on him in the corner, taking him out with a back body drop. Stephanie gets involved as she low bridges Angle to the outside, as it’s so clear we’re building to the hot tag already, with Hunter whipping Angle into the ring steps.

Rousey does the classic dumb babyface thing of distracting the ref while trying to call attention to cheating, which fits since this is her day one, helplessly watching on as Stephanie liberally interferes. A spinebuster from Hunter gets a near-fall, as he then restrains Kurt from a tag out… whipping him into the opposite corner instead as Angle gets a boot up. Stephanie chokes Angle on the ropes, but nearly gets knocked down by Hunter… she drops down to collect her thoughts, before a back suplex takes Hunter down. Kurt can’t capitalise as Stephanie pulls Ronda off the apron, and we’re going in for all the basic heel tag team stuff… which works!

Hunter gets whipped to the floor allowing Kurt to drag himself to the corner… and the pop that Rousey’s tag got was loud! Stephanie’s thrown in for a rolling clothesline and a back suplex as Ronda went the long way around, and now it’s time for strikes in the corner, like a sparring session! A hair’mare from Ronda sends Steph flying, as did what I can only assume was another take on an Exploder.

Rousey pulls Steph down to the mat for an armbar, as all hope of a save is lost… but Steph blocks it as the ground game degenerated into some hair pulling. Stephanie couldn’t make a tag out as Hunter’s still down, so she kicks and DDT’s Rousey instead for barely a one count. McMahon followed up with a surfboard stretch, as she took control of the match… until she ran into a goozle!

A spin-out Samoan drop follows next as Hunter pulls out the ref, then Rousey, leading to an awkward splat as Angle returned for a beating, dragging Hunter onto the announce table, only for Hunter to block it and throw him into the Spanish announcers. Ronda’s back to her feet as Hunter was left alone in the ring… and she doesn’t care about those mixed match rules! Hunter pulls the referee aside, and… eats a tonne of body blows as Ronda lit him up. The hell?! Ronda does the Mark Haskins roll through into a death valley driver, but Stephanie makes the save with a slap.

Cue a Benny Hill chase scene as Steph gets thrown into the barriers, before she shoves Ronda into the ring posts… and we’re back to the guys as Angle takes Hunter over with belly to belly suplexes and rolling Germans. They counter each other’s finishers before Hunter teases another Pedigree, only to get slingshotted into the corner for an Angle Slam for a near-fall!

Angle tries for the ankle lock, but Stephanie breaks it up… and tries to boot Kurt. He catches it, and turns it into an ankle lock, but Hunter saves it and gets a Pedigree anyway… but Rousey makes the save now! Yes New Orleans, this is awesome to see! Rousey ‘ranas out of a powerbomb from Hunter, then gets in a cross armbreaker… only for Stephanie to break it up with a rear naked choke as the crowd booed.

Rousey flips out of that and into another armbar, and with Angle restraining Hunter with an ankle lock, we almost get the finish… until Hunter rolls through and sent Kurt crashing into the armbar. From there, Angle gets posted, as does Rousey, before the McMahons tease double Pedigrees. Kurt escapes with a back body drop, and Ronda goes right back to the armbar, eventually succeeding with it as Stephanie taps! My word, that was NOT the match I was expecting, nor was I expecting to see WWE pan to Dana White in the crowd at the bell to cheer. I was expecting nothing but smoke and mirrors, but this was a slice of what makes wrestling great – not the celebrity “ooh, we can do a move” nonsense, but a full on match that everyone believed from bell to bell. Sublime stuff from Rousey, playing her role excellently… and it’s just her day one here! ****½

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships: New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) vs. Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) (c) vs. Bludgeon Brothers (Harper & Rowan)
Hey, CGI pancakes! And small people dressed as pancakes, huh… we’re in fever dream land, people!

The match started with the Bludgeon Brothers clearing house, taking the Usos and the New Day into the ring steps and guard rails, before Xavier Woods met his maker at the hands of a powerbomb into the ring post.

Jey Uso’s ragdolled by the Brothers as they turned their attention to Kofi, only for Jimmy to blind tag himself in and go to town with superkicks as the Usos started to focus on Harper. A top rope splash almost puts Harper away, but the crowd’s treating this like a buffer after the last match… and who can blame them?

Rowan’s superkicked off the apron, before a pair of Uso topes are caught, only for them to suplex Rowan on the floor instead. Harper avoids the Midnight Hour and dumped Kofi with a standing Bossman slam, before we work up to a Tower of Doom… which Rowan breaks up by sending folks to the floor… and it’s not long before the finish comes as a double-team powerbomb off the top sees the Bludgeon Brothers pin Kofi and win the titles. Way too short, and the crowd really didn’t get into it… but it did what it needed to do, so I can’t complain. **¼

After a Network commercial, we’re back to… John Cena! Who isn’t in the crowd, for once! Apparently, “he” is here… whomever “he” is. A second referee jogs to the ring with a message that presumably couldn’t be passed to the first one via earpiece, and it’s not good news as Cena grabs him… then looks forlorn.

The crowd chant for the Undertaker, but Cena goes to leave. And then… the lights go out.

GUITAR STRUM!

No, it’s not a dong, and it really pisses off the crowd. Elias strums the intro to House of the Rising Sun as he walks to the ring, unaware of the rising discontent around him caused by those expecting a not-exactly-advertised Undertaker. Elias wanted to perform, as Cena just hops the barrier and goes back to his seat.

Eventually Elias’ song baits Cena back over, and he launches into most of his Five Moves of Doom. Shoulder tackle, back suplex, Five Knuckle Shuffle, Attitude Adjustment, and Elias powders… because…

Cena’s theme plays again. Ah man, no Undertaker? Or was there? The music stops as Cena’s halfway up the ramp, and the lights go out once more!

They come back up, showing the Undertaker’s hat and coat in the ring, which get struck by lighting… and disappear.

DONG!

The Superdome’s bathed in purple, and that means one thing… The Undertaker is back!

It’s original, Deadman ‘taker, not the American Badass, as the spot where the Undertaker’s streak ended four years ago.

John Cena vs. The Undertaker
A referee hits the ring, and we have a match! Body blows in the corner rock Cena, as does a flying clothesline as the Deadman tried to roll back the years, working the arm before going Old School! Cena’s struggling to get going, as he’s overwhelmed with splashes in the corner and… Snake Eyes! A big boot comes next… and a leg drop. Hogan Taker?! Cena tries to make a comeback, but he’s stopped dead in his tracks as the Deadman sat up, and plants him with a chokeslam!

One tombstone later, and John Cena is done! Thank you, and goodnight! This wasn’t a match, but more of an airing of the Undertaker’s Greatest Hits… but a great pay-off as Cena’s squashing slowly made us forget how frail the Undertaker had been made to look in recent ‘Manias, while Cena’s own struggle for results continues.

For those counting, we’re now at 24-2, even though the Streak is long gone…

The 2018 Hall of Fame class is introduced next after their video package… and I guess we’re into SmackDown action next, and the return of Daniel Bryan. Four years from the scene of his greatest triumph too…

Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Daniel Bryan got an epic entrance, starting with shots of fans all over the world in the “Yes Movement”, reminding us all how big a star he was before he had to step away…

Yes! The roof of the Superdome was blown off!

Owens and Zayn came through the crowd to attack Bryan and Shane from behind, instantly dumping McMahon into his family in the front row, before Zayn wiped out Bryan with a Helluva Kick. Another apron powerbomb left Bryan flat on the floor, as they played the injury card already.

Not a fan of that, not on the first match back. The bell finally goes as Shane effectively starts the handicap match, beating Owens into the corner as the medics were still loading Bryan onto the stretcher. Zayn’s kicked down by McMahon, only for Owens to come right back by stomping a mudhole through Shane’s diverticulitis.

Shane tries a comeback, but just runs into a knee from Zayn, as McMahon was in deep trouble thanks to the bullseye that was his midsection. Given that Bryan was still around ringside thanks to the slowest ever medical staff, you’ve got to think the obvious comeback is going to happen. Zayn gets a near-fall out of a Blue Thunder bomb as this crowd remained silent… even when McMahon took Sami into the corner for some “punches” to the kidney. Sami’s put in a Tree of Woe, and Shane can’t help himself as he eyes up for a Coast to Coast, which connects and gives him more tummy ache. When I get that, I find antacids work… or at worst, Buscopan.

Daniel Bryan finally returns to break up the cover as Owens nearly beat Shane with a frog splash… and now the crowd wake up! Owens misses a cannonball, but Zayn’s in to stop the hot tag out, as Bryan single-handedly gets the crowd into this. Finally we get the hot tag, and in comes Daniel Bryan!

Bryan cleans house, scoring with a running lariat to Zayn, and it’s like he’s never been gone! A baseball slide takes Owens down, as does a running knee off the apron, before Bryan comes in with a missile dropkick to Zayn… and kips up! Owens tried a sneak attack, but gets a back suplex for his troubles, and now we’re in with corner-to-corner dropkicks! A top rope ‘rana sends Zayn flying, only for Owens to interfere as a sneak attack from a recovered Sami nearly led to the win.

Owens tries to charge at Shane, but gets low bridged to the floor as Shane dove onto Owens for good measure, as Zayn and Bryan stood in the ring, with Sami throwing punches as we built to the Hogan-ish comeback. Yes kicks to the chest of Zayn follow, as Bryan kicked the snot out of him (literally), before the running Busaiku knee left Sami down for the Yes Lock… and Sami taps! Daniel Bryan wins on his first night back… and the duo of Owens and Zayn will have to look elsewhere for employment!

This started off badly with the injury spot, but it picked up big time when Bryan came in – and we got the feel-good moment we all craved since Bryan’s retirement two years ago. ***¼

That goddamn Paige trailer again… they really need to have different intros for this, as the “some guy in a hoodie you might recognise” line is quickly becoming patronising.

78,133 is the announced crowd for WrestleMania – that’s about 3,000 more than four years ago. Cue pyro!

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
We’re back with the big entrances, as Alexa gets the Shawn Michaels “descending” entrance from WM25 – while Mickie just has to walk.

Jax obliterates James before the bell, throwing her awkwardly between the announce table and guard rails… and I think that’s the protection gone. Alexa tries to sneak attack Nia, and of course that fails, as a Samoan drop left Mickie laying like she’d been in a wreck! When the bell goes, Jax pulls Alexa by the hair, and gets slapped… so here comes the mauling! Hair-mares all over, along with Beele’s and avalanches, before a press slam sent Bliss to the outside.

Alexa tried to escape with her title, but she just gets barged by Jax, before having a bit more luck with kicks back inside. Bliss scores with a double knee drop to the back of Jax’s knee, and that gave her a little hope, but even on the ground, Jax still offered a threat, countering a guillotine into a Northern Lights suplex. Jax misses a shoulder charge and sends herself flying to the outside, where Alexa followed up with the Twisted Bliss to the floor. Back inside, a short DDT almost gets the win, prompting Bliss to snap and slap Jax… which of course fired up Nia, slamming her former friend as the comeback continued, but this crowd has gone dead again after the Bryan return.

Bliss tried a flying ‘rana, but it’s caught… and despite Bliss trying for a Code Red, she’s whipped into the turnbuckle. Again, Bliss rakes the eyes as she had Jax in trouble, only to get flattened with an Alabama Slam, before Jax takes her up top for an avalanche Samoan drop… and kills Alexa off the middle rope for the win! An elongated squash that perhaps wouldn’t have gone as long were it not at Mania… weirdly, an obliteration would have worked better as a pay-off to the bullying storyline, but hey, this worked too. **½

WWE Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles (c)
Nakamura gets a live performance of his theme, starting with some shred rock!

The crowd’s hot for this one, baying for blood from the opening tie-up as they rolled into the ropes. Nakamura tries to feint some kicks, but AJ counters with a waistlock takedown, only for an upkick to send the champion into the ropes. They burst into life, with Nakamura landing a diving kick for a near-fall, as he takes a knee to Styles’ face, only to get a vicious knee to the gut as AJ took him off the ropes.

Styles slows down the pace, but Nakamura comes back with body blows, only to run into a backbreaker as Nakamura is snuffed out again. Styles uses a rear chinlock to keep Nakamura grounded, before nailing a dropkick the moment Nakamura tried to get free. AJ tries a plancha and a running knee off the apron, but instead a sweep sent him crashing down as the tables looked to turn.

Interestingly, Nakamura keeps the pace low, as he tries to bait Styles into his game, dumping him with an axe kick ahead of a running knee in the corner. A front suplex comes next, but Styles is able to stem the tide with a facebuster as a forearm gets a two-count for the champion. AJ keeps up with a pumphandle gutbuster as he started to wear down the challenger, only to get caught with the Landslide (Samoan driver, Show Stolen, whatever you wanna call it) for a near-fall there.

Nakamura looked to go for a superplex, but Styles slipped free and eventually kicked away at the inside of Nakamura’s knee, before he rolled Nakamura into the Calf Crusher. Styles keeps the hold on, despite Nakamura trying to roll free… and the desperation works as Nakamura turns it into a triangle armbar! Eventually AJ lifts it up and dumped Nakamura with a Ki Krusher, as both men crumpled to the mat.

Problem is, we’re now four hours deep into the show, and the crowd – some of whom have been inside for six hours – were starting to wilt, not reacting to the back-and-forth moves. A Phenomenal Forearm nearly ends it for AJ, who tried to follow in with a springboard 450, only to crash into Nakamura’s knees and get cradled for a near-fall there. The two move from there to back-and-forth strikes as the crowd stir, as Nakamura starts to take Styles down for some knees to the ribs, before he nailed a reverse Exploder!

Styles is prone as Nakamura preps for the Kinshasa, but Styles rolled through and turned it into the Styles Clash, and that’s all folks! Back-and-forth until one big counter from AJ got the win… this probably would have fared better on a shorter show, and perhaps a storyline that was more than “it’s a dream match!”, but that’s an evergreen argument for another time. ***¾

Post-match, we get the “respect” hug between AJ and Nakamura, who kneeled down and gave AJ his belt… before low blowing him! When you smell a rat, there’s usually one there folks! Nakamura stomped AJ out of the ring as the crowd slowly booed, and now we’ve got Zero F’s Given bad guy Shinsuke Nakamura. Who likes to kick you in the goddamn ear before walloping you with a Kinshasa. That bit didn’t get over as much as I’d expect, but again… tired crowd!

WWE Raw Tag Team Championships: The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) (c) vs. Braun Strowman & Nicholas
The champions came out on a parade float, just because… but the big pull for this match was who would Braun’s mandated partner be?

Well, once Braun scares away the rest of the float, and pushed it off the stage, we found out… it’s a fan? After searching for a volunteer, he finds one… and no, it’s not Johnny Moss, or that drunk guy begging as he walked through the crowd, but… a child. A child called Nicholas, who’s told to stand in the corner and let Braun do the work.

Of course, Braun makes light work of Sheamus with a Beele, before Cesaro tagged in and offered a fight as the poor kid watched on from the apron. Eventually the numbers game worked against Strowman, who’s caught with a double-team suplex, then a Bomb Scare knee drop from Sheamus, before they do the Quebecer’s assisted senton onto Strowman for a near-fall.

Braun manages to nail a double crossbody as that poor kid’s SHAKING. Not in the good way, either, as Sheamus takes a back drop out of the ring and to the floor, via the ring post. In tags Nicholas, who tags straight back out as Braun powerslammed Cesaro… and they win!?!

I have no idea what I’ve just seen, but Braun Strowman and a ten year old boy are your WWE tag team champions. That is… certainly a bold move, and one that will be divisive as all hell!

WrestleMania next year is returning to the MetLife Stadium near New York… circle April 7, 2019 and the days before it in your diary!

WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (c) 
Commentary notes that Lesnar’s not lost since November 2016… and if you were expecting a WrestleMania 20-like reaction for Brock, then… you’re wrong, although there was a mixed reaction for both guys.

Roman tried to charge in with a Superman punch, but Brock takes him into the corner, before landing a series of German suplexes. Reigns manages to come back with Superman punches, sending Lesnar to the floor, where he’s met with a third punch, before he’s taken back in – and out – of the ring.

Lesnar turns it around with some belly to belly suplexes, one of which spiked Reigns on the floor, and another as a belly-to-belly aimed for the announce table… just not the side of it. Yikes. Reigns seemed to have trouble getting up for those Germans as Lesnar took over… which perhaps wasn’t the way the crowd wanted this as silence fell over the stadium as Brock continued with those suplexes.

Lesnar throws the decorative edge of the German announce table into the commentators, as bad things are in the forecast. Like a throw into the guard railings… and a Roman Reigns spear that was meant to send Brock through the table, only for it to look incredibly uncomfortable. Back inside, there’s more Superman punches, before a pair of spears put Lesnar down for a two-count, before Lesnar drills Roman with a knee to the face as he went for another spear. Somehow Reigns kicked out from that, and if you’re wondering why the crowd’s distracted… a tonne of beach balls will do that.

Reigns kicks out from a F5 as this begins to feel very by-the-numbers… another F5 kick-out yields a sweatier Brock Lesnar, before a third F5… same finish. Kickout at two. Nobody in the crowd cares as Brock dropped a big swear, right as the crowd start their “boring” chants”. It’s not like this reaction wasn’t expected, or the first time there’s been anti-Roman sentiment – but if you do persist with the idea of “coronating Roman”, you’re going to end up with this time and time again. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and all that.

Another F5 sees Roman go through the German announce table, as we go back to German suplexes, with Lesnar cycling through the two moves he’s seemingly only able to do here. It’s like playing WWE 2K18 against someone who has only learned three combinations and somehow has a tonne of finishers stored. F5. Kickout. Yawn.

The clock passes MIDNIGHT Eastern time, and Brock Lesnar apparently is a free agent, so of course, the gloves come off as Lesnar throws punches from the mount, one of which bust open Roman badly, and of course he fires back with a few spears, before getting a crimson mask’d two-count. Roman’s trying to redefine the Muta Scale, as he runs into yet another F5, and Brock wins?!

That was one of the worst main events I can remember, at least in terms of crowd engagement. The crowd simply did not care, and when you had a match that was mostly the same moves ad nauseum with that combination, you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Not what the crowd wanted, in any sense. *¼

Brock Lesnar exited stage left as medics tended to Roman Reigns… and rather than any triumphant end scene, we finished with a crowd shot and a recap music video, before returning to the stadium live as Roman Reigns looked to be the last man at ringside leaving, with his music and all, giving one last look to the crowd before going to the back. That was… odd, and I’m sure will lead to some speculation about both the futures of Lesnar and potentially Reigns.

Until we got to the final two matches (and really, just the main event), this was WWE at their very best. In-ring that lived up to – and at times, exceeded expectations – mixed with their top notch production, and for the first time in memory… a WrestleMania that didn’t have a superfluous musical interlude. Sure, there were some “huh?” moments, but not when the highs were as high as they were, you can forgive the odd headscratcher. I’ve always been loathe to declare something “the best ever” – but 17 years on from “the greatest ‘Mania ever”, I think we’re as close as we’ve ever gotten a replacement. Or at the very least, “the best ‘Mania of this generation” as long as we remain in the era of 6+ hour-long shows…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Hamilton has been a wrestling fan since 1992, and when he’s not watching far too much wrestling for anybody’s own good, he’s usually suffering through Sunderland AFC and the New York Jets. He’s got a couple of books out on Amazon – “Wrestling’s Sinking Ship” and “Gone Too Soon”, and can be reached via his website, BackBodyDrop.com – why not check out WatchaMania 2018 – my reviews of just about every show taped over ‘Mania weekend? 

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