Wrestlemania. The showcase of the immortals. Wrestling’s World Cup, Super Bowl, World Series, Grand Slam and Stanley Cup all rolled into one. This is without doubt the biggest event on the sports entertainment calendar and WWE’s 30th annual instalment potentially promised an extra special occasion choc-full of those ‘Wrestlemania moments’.
I for one, was not disappointed. The card was stacked with intriguing plotlines and exciting superstars that the WWE so often manages to combine in timely fashion for Wrestlemania season. This PPV is the WWE’s grandest event and you can normally guarantee they’ll go the extra mile for the fans.
I shall run through last night’s card, an overview of each bout’s background followed by a description of the action, review and rating.
Pre Show – Tag Team Titles, Fatal-4-way Elimination: The Usos Vs The Real Americans Vs Rybaxel Vs Los Matadores.
Overview: Back on March 3rd, The Usos captured the Tag-team gold from The New Age Outlaws for the first-time on an edition of Monday Night Raw. NAO were on only ever really transitional champions, taking the belts from the Rhodes Brothers (Cody & Goldust) at the Royal Rumble in January. It’s pretty rare the WWE will have one face (good guys) take a title from another face, so it made logical sense to most that the NAO would take the straps being heels (bad guys) and set the Uso’s up for their first win. The fact this match was on the pre-show, and the limited rivalry developed between any of the teams bar the Usos and The Real Americans, suggested that a title change was unlikely. It was also too many hardcore fans regarded as a meteoric waste of Cesaro’s burgeoning star power and non-sensical to not include The Rhodes Brothers, who have nether split nor gone on to another storyline.
- Real American Jack Swagger’s patriot lock eliminated Los Matadores
- Cesaro eliminated Rybaxel when he hit the neutralizer on Ryback
- The Usos retained the titles with a double splash on Cesaro
- Cesaro used the giant swing on Swagger to end the Real Americans
Review: Although the match was a decent watch and carried a relatively fast tempo, the real story was Cesaro’s break from The Real Americans at its climax. I was surprised Cesaro was the one to take the deciding fall, as the WWE normally protects the supposed stronger partner in a tag-team from taking the pins to boost credibility. After Swagger got in Cesaro’s face, the Swiss-born superstar executed his immensely popular and impressive Giant Swing to solidify the end of the union managed by Zeb Colter. WWE had teased this for what seems an age and now Cesaro’s long-awaited face run appears to be on us after spending nearly a year in this heel faction.
Opening segment – Hogan, Austin, Rock Promo
Overview: It was announced in accordance with the WWE Network that Hulk Hogan would return from his frankly disastrous run in TNA, and come home to the company that made him. Hogan was to host the 30th instalment of the showpiece he main evented in its very first edition. Hogan made his way to the ring, bumbled a few lines before Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupted to what has to be considered a massive pop (crowd reaction). The Texas rattlesnake teased hitting Hogan with a Stunner before putting over (endorsing) Hogan’s legacy. Queue The Rock’s music, which again drew a massive, massive pop. Huge ‘Rocky’ chants drowned the Mercedes Benz Superdome arena in New Orleans. The Rock did his usual shtick with some rhyming twists before proclaiming the two men he shared the ring with the two biggest names in the history of wrestling. Difficult to argue, though I’m sure some would. The Great One remincied about how he faced both of them at different Manias (four infact, 99’, 01’, 02’, 03’) before each signed off with their signature catchphrases and toasted a textbook Steve-Wiser.
- Hogan mucking up the name of the Stadium was gold. He said Silverdome (where Wrestlemania III was held, and he bodyslammed Andre the Giant) instead of Superdome.
- Rocky & Austin both jumped on the joke, which Hogan took in his stride and the crowd loved
- Three icons toast to start the show off
Review: I loved it. PPV’s rarely have promo spots (interviews) within them these days, and given when The Rock hosted Wrestlemania 28 he did a very tedious and pointless one, I didn’t have high hopes for Hogan. However, it ended up being a very amusing use of time and gave the opportunity to a wide audience who no doubt, like me, consider these three men heroes of theirs.
Daniel Bryan Vs HHH – Winner inserted into triple threat main event for WWE World Heavyweight Title.
Overview: The essence of this story stretches back to Summerslam last year where Triple H, acting as a special guest referee in Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title match with resident poster-boy John Cena, decided following Bryan’s big win he would screw the leader of the ‘Yes Movement’ with a Pedigree, allowing his hand-picked face of the company, Randy Orton, to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and thus, steal his newly won title. This sparked a near eight-month battle between Bryan and The Authority, who have constantly tried to keep Bryan from being the main man in the company. HHH labelled him a ‘B+’ player, and when Bryan asked to face him at Wrestlemania the COO (chief operator of operations) believed Bryan was beneath him. It’s worth noting, Bryan is SUPER over (popular) in the WWE right now and has been for some time. Especially since CM Punks abrupt departure, the fans have pined for Bryan to represent them as their underdog, their success story. I haven’t seen crowed reactions for a guy like this since Austin in the late 90’s. For the less informed fan, HHH is known to have a prior reputation backstage as being someone who will actively bury talent (stifle/end careers) he doesn’t like. Which of course gives added intrigued – would he actually put Bryan over? (help him get bigger/win).
- Excellent video package, the WWE really are outstanding at putting those together
- The Yes chant consumes the stadium prior to the match, Bryan rejects HHH handshake
- HHH 18 Mania matches, Bryan 3
- Triple H works the shoulder, locked in Bryans patented ‘Yes Lock’
- Great spot where Bryan flips to the outside and HHH swats him to the barricade. Bryan also nails a cool looking tornado DDT from the apron to the floor
- Each man kicks out of each other’s finishers, a frequent at Wrestlemania
- Bryan Wins Via Running Knee then pinfall
- Stephanie then walks in the ring and continually slaps Bryan, drawing a smile from Bryan.
- HHH attacks Bryan’s shoulder after the match on the ring-post with a steel chair.
Review: Best opening bout I’ve seen in a long, long time. The performances, spots, pace and overall story telling was excellent. HHH can still really go to, I think people often forget he’s easily one of the best in-ring technicians there has ever been. The combination of him and Bryan was just an excellent blend. Bryan’s irrepressible offence was a symbol for his never say die attitude against the oppressive HHH. Triple H’s ring demeanour was also fantastic to watch, often swatting and viciously hammering Bryan away as the bigger man in a fight often will. But Bryan would not be stopped. The work on the shoulder also played up the underdog tag, and would be a significant bit of storytelling as the night progressed.
The Shield Vs The New Age Outlaws & Kane
Overview: This ‘feud’ so to speak had precious little legs to work with, and probably explains the quick nature it was dealt with. The backstory merges into the Authority’s with Daniel Bryan, where the Shield acted as HHH’s henchmen for several months, often giving beat downs to a wounded Bryan. Kane was also part of the authority, acting as a Director of Operations, taking off his mask and pulling on a suit to morph into Corporate Kane. Quite simply, The Shield grew tired of taking orders off of Kane, and turned face by attacking him. Kane then for some reason enlisted the NAO (their tentative links to HHH many moons ago through DX) who also donned suits, and challenged the Hounds of Justice at Wrestlemania. In my opinion, The Shield are still extremely hot, and perhaps should have been broken up when it was teased around elimination chamber following the Wyatt family feud. A triple threat match between The Shield would have been an instant classic, I don’t see why the veterans really needed be on the card.
- The Shield make quick work winning under 5 mins with an utter destruction.
- Reigns hit a double spear on the Outlaws, as well as spearing Kane
- Reigns hit superman punches on both Outlaws
- Rollins flipped to the outside and hit Kane with a lariot
- A never-seen before double powerbomb on the Outlaws at the same time finished the bout
Review: Don’t get me wrong, the in-ring action was delivered and then some as usual by The Shield, but there wasn’t any real reason to invest in the match or any suspense created what so ever. It was a pure demolition from start to finish, a waste for a trio as talented as Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. It could be argued that it would have been difficult to put on a clinic after such a great match preceded it, but the fans still gave a respectable amount of energy to the bout.
Andre the Giant Memorial 30-Man Battle Royal
Overview: The whole purpose of this match is without a shadow of a doubt is to give as much of the locker room some ring time at the biggest event of the year. There were guys in the ring who don’t even get a match on Main Event, so it wasn’t as star studded as one might think. Hulk Hogan announced on Raw about a month before Mania that this battle-royal would take place to commemorate the greatest big man the industry ever saw. It’s a nice touch, and an added bit of interest to the show. Not quite the same as when Money in the Bank was at Mania…but still, I welcomed a fresh kind of match.
Participants: Big E, Dolph Ziggler, Fandango, Alberto Del Rio, Damien Sandow, Titus O’Neil, Cesaro, Sheamus, Big Show, Mark Henry, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Goldust, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Brodus Clay, Darren Young, Justin Gabriel, Rey Mysterio, R-Truth, Santino Marella, The Great Khali, Zack Ryder, Sin Cara and Brad Maddox
- Big Show & Sheamus only ones to have entrances
- Kofi Kingston with an incredible bit of improvisation to stay in after Cesaro chucked him over
- Final five: Ziggler, Del Rio, Sheamus, Big Show, Cesaro
- Cesaro wins after lifting Big Show, and holding him, above his head
Review: Like most Battle Royals, until the final few it’s a very clunky and miss-able engagement. Just a lot of clubbing and hanging on the ropes while superstars try to tip others out/bide their time. The Kofi Kingston spot is incredible, as many will have become accustomed to seeing and expect. It definitely got me on the edge of my seat, maybe even drew a ‘wow!’ from me, which is good at 2:30am. The real moment was Cesaro bodyslamming, and holding for a few seconds I must add, Big Show out of the ring. Bearing in mind Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre the Giant, we should have seen there would be some kind of reference to that in this bout I guess. Cesaro was also the only superstar pulling double duty after featuring in the pre-show, so that’s another indicator he would win that I missed. Seeing Cody Rhodes and Goldust feature in this was very annoying to me too. They should have split the team and had them face each other at Mania, enough fans want to see it. Goldust’s interest in this match was amusingly obviously low to all as he just strolled about the ring, barely bothering to appear he was trying. Cody is dangerously close to being ready to being a main-eventer in my eyes, his in ring performances are right up there. Still, the finish which truly cemented the beginning of Cesaro’s singles face run will definitely go down as one of those ‘Wrestlemania moments’.
John Cena Vs Bray Wyatt
Overview: A good way to keep this short and sweet for fans who follow wrestling would be to say just research the Kane and Cena feud from the beginning of 2013, it’s literally almost exactly the same. Bray Wyatt though of course is infinity times better on the mic than Kane and built the feud with his cryptic and captivating promos (particularly when he told Cena he could go home to his plastic girlfriend…who just so happens to be Nikki Bella, who has an expensive pair of breasts). His two sidekicks, Luke Harper and Eric Rowan also did their fair share of leg work in the weeks building up to the event, facing the 14-time world champion on numerous occasions and indeed attacking him. Much like Kane wanted Cena, a seemingly eternal good guy, to embrace the hate, Wyatt insisted Cena’s heroic persona was a façade and wanted to show the world the real, darker John Cena.
- Another great video package recapping the rivalry, portraying Cena as concerned about Wyatt’s wild and ruthless ways
- Cena visibly frustrated and angry in the early exchanges
- Majority of the crowd booing Cena
- Cena goes for five-knuckle shuffle and Wyatt pops up in a reverse crab
- Cena goes for leg drop from the top-rope and Wyatt catches and reverses into a powerbomb
- Cena cross-body to the outside on the Wyatt Family
- Luke Harper speared through the time-keepers barricade by Cena
- Wyatt kicked out of Attitude Adjustment, Cena kicked out of Sister Abigail
- After trying to convince Cena to hit him with a chair, Wyatt catches and AA and Cena wins with a three count
Review: The priority here should have been to put Wyatt over. He’s quite obviously becoming a main attraction within the WWE, and despite working as a heel, the crowd love him. With nothing really on the line, Cena didn’t absolutely have to win this match. I feel a win for Wyatt, who only beat Daniel Bryan clean at the Royal Rumble back in January, would have done so much more for his character. Yet, we were forced to see Cena, yet again, rise above the odds and emerge victorious. The performance was more than good enough, I was interested in the match and its developments. However, how much of that was what was going on, or my desire to see Wyatt win, is debateable. Wyatt has a methodical, slow-pace to his matches where he controls affairs that also might catch some viewers off guard after the electric bouts that came before it, but it’s still masterful ring work.
Re-cap of Hall of Fame ceremony: Carlos Colon, Razor Ramone, Mr T, Lita, The Ultimate Warrior, Paul Bearer (I still love Razor Ramones: “Ay yo”)
Undertaker Vs Brock Lesnar – The Streak
Overview: Precious few people in the world, wrestling fans or not, won’t know about the Undertakers Wrestlemania streak. Going into the bout with former NCAA, WWE and UFC Champion Brock Lesnar, Taker was 21-0. The Deadman had beaten the likes of Shawn Michaels (twice), HHH (three times), Diesel, Edge, Kane (twice), CM Punk, Batista, Randy Orton and Ric Flair. I might as well have named them all after that, but that’s still a very impressive big-game resume. Originally, Lesnar wanted a piece of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and believed he was, despite Batista’s Royal Rumble win, the deserving, outright, number one contender. Next thing you know, Taker’s gong hits, and the writing was on the wall. Another magnificent Paul Heyman-centric video package aired, detailing how The Undertaker stuck a pen in Lesnar’s hand at the contract signing and had the upperhand before Lesnar’s sneaky F5 on the Raw before the event. There was little to no sign the streak would be broken going into this match, and I fully expected an Undertaker victory once again.
- Standard 10 minute entrance for Taker. Lesanar doesn’t appear intimated
- Lesnar powerbombs out of Hells gate X2
- Finishers are exchanged
- As Taker is executing Old School, Lesnar reverses into a second F5
- Lesnar reverses a second tombstone into a third F5. Lesnar wins via pinfall!
Review: My initial reaction to the result was to sit there with my hands on my head for a good five minutes in disbelief. I genuinely thought something must have gone wrong or Taker was badly hurt, because Taker losing his streak was simply inconceivable – especially to a part-timer. Having had time to let the dust settle and take in what happened, I actually think it was incredible. I’ve never seen a crowd stunned into silence like that, it was perfect! The swerves and surprises are what make watching this soap-opera like product so addictive, and I was well and truly shocked. Never in a million years would have predicted that. Well maybe if I had a million years I might. People will obviously have a big problem with Takers legacy being compromised and feel it should have been left well alone. I can see and sympathise with those views, and I feel a bit that way myself. I don’t mind it being broken however if it leads to a greater significance. Really, Lesnar should go onto something bigger from here, a title reign must be in his near future. If he doesn’t, for me, that’s a massive slap in the face to such a prestigious honour as beating Undertaker at Wrestlamania. We’ll have to see where that goes on that one, but for shock value that was absolutely fantastic viewing. Stalling Lesnar’s music after the win was class too – literally no one knew what was going on. Taker himself looked out on his feet nearly the entire bout. Unless he is an Oscar worthy actor, I would say he is dangerously close to being, if not already, done. The after match lingering in the ring and commentary certainly suggested that was The Phenom’s last match, which gives me goose-bumps just typing. He is a cornerstone of the entire industry, and if it is the final time we see The Undertaker – as the 75,167 strong New Orleans crowd chanted - thank you Taker.
Vickie Guerrero Battle Royal – Divas Championship
Overview: This will be quick. There is pretty much zero background to this match. Vickie Guerrero decided to chuck the longest ever reigning Divas Champion in a match with every Diva on the roster in order to stack the odds and hopefully, take the title from AJ Lee. AJ entered the match on a horrendous run of results, a quite incredible losing streak for a champion truth be told, which just so happened to coincide with her boyfriend CM Punks departure from the company. Make of that what you will.
- AJ Lee wins via submission with Black Widow on Naomi
- Terrible match overall
- Bellas suicide dive through the ropes onto all the other Divas
- Natalya attempts a triple Sharpshooter
- Bellas stand-off a watchable moment
Review: It’s funny, because I couldn’t take my eyes off the action for all the wrong reasons on this one. I encourage you to give it a watch if you get the chance, because the so-called action was painful. Half the women don’t know how to take the bumps, and the others had such little fluidity in their moves it was like the lady receiving the move hadn’t been told what was going to happen at all. Incredibly painful viewing! Natalya as usual was the one ray of light being the efficient performer she is. Alicia Fox was surprisingly good too, executing a frankly excellent tilt-a-whirl back breaker I thought miles beyond her or anyone in that ring. To be fair, if she was allowed on television, at all, I might have known she was capable of more. The Bellas suicide dive to the outside on all the Divas was carried out well enough, the resulting altercation between the two had potential to be a semi-plausible Wrestlemania moment, and the crowd encouraged them to make the most of it following complete silence the Undertakers result had bestowed upon them. Poor girls. Sadly the moment came and went far too quickly, and the girls little push and shove didn’t really fulfil the build-up. Still, I love watching AJ Lee lock in her Black Widow submission, that’s a very cool, easy-on-the-eye move. If you enjoy a good botch (muck up), this match will bring you a degree of joy.
Grade: 4/10 (that’s generous)
Backstage segment – Mean Gene Oakland interviews Hulk Hogan talking with WM1 opponents Roddy Piper & Paul Orndoff before Mr. T enters
Overview: It was a simple throwback and reference to the first Wrestlemania main event just prior to the 30th’s. All men begrudgingly and reluctantly shook hands to bury the hatchet. The best part of the whole thing was Mr. T coming in and saying his line waaaaaaay too early, it was comedy at its highest level as he clamoured to repeat the line when he was actually meant to say it like nothing had happened, while Roddy Piper tried to save the day. I laughed hard. I suppose the segment had some context to it given the occasion, but still without Mr. T’s muck up, it was an awkward bore. I can’t bring myself to grade it lower than the Diva’s, mind.
MAIN EVENT - Randy Orton Vs Batista Vs Daniel Bryan – WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Overview: The beginnings of this story you can see from the top of the show when Bryan faced HHH. While that rivalry continued to escerlate, Orton managed to go on and beat John Cena to unify the WWE Title with the World Heavyweight Title to make what we now have, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Orton has flipped between vicious heel, to winey, coward champion for the last 6 months either hiding behind or arguing with the Authority as they demand he be the face of the company. As 2014 begun, Dave Batista announced he would return to the WWE after a 3 year hiatus and would enter the Royal Rumble (which he obviously won). So, the stage was set for the old Evolution stable-mates to headline Wrestlemania - except nobody wanted that. Batista was pushed as a face upon his return, but fans who were angry internet darlings CM Punk or Daniel Bryan didn’t win the Rumble booed him out of every building, for simply being booked to win the Rumble. Now known as Boo-Tista to the wider public, The Animal has embraced the bitter crowds and reverted to the heel persona he exhibited before he exited the company. Faced with two heels in the main-event and a crowd likely to boo the main-event from start to finish (e.g Goldberg/Lesnar WM20), the WWE had to submit somewhat and give Bryan the opportunity to compete for the title in the main event. An opportunity we have learned he took full advantage of at the beginning of the night.
- Early stages, Bryan favouring left shoulder and goes down early. Batista and Orton slug it out
- Triple H w/ Stephanie comes down and breaks up the count
- HHH brings in Scott Armstrong, who tries to count following Batista hitting a Batista bomb on Bryan
- Bryan dives through the ropes hitting Armstrong, HHH and Stephanie, injures Steph
- HHH pulls out his famous sledgehammer, which Bryan manages to grab and hit HHH with
- Incredible spot where Batista powerbombs Bryan through a table where Orton connects with a reverse RKO at the same time!
- Bryan put on a stretcher, but at the bottom of the aisle takes himself off and back into the action
- After Batista hits a Batista Bomb on Orton, Bryan nails a running knee and then locks in the Yes Lock making Batista tap. Bryan wins via submission!
Review: Wow. Now that’s a main event! Bearing in mind three years ago the main event was John Cena Vs The Miz, which the latter won incredibly, it’s worth noting the bar has been incredibly low in recent times. Even Rock Vs Cena part II was a laboured piece of wrestling which was effectively a finisher-fest. This however was booked to perfection, and had the right pick me ups for the crowd at just the right times which the booking team must have known would be vital following Takers loss. After a luke-warm start, the crowd were fully invested in Daniel Bryan’s pursuit of the top prize in the industry. HHH’s interference and attempt to insert a corrupt official peaked my interest, and I couldn’t help but get off my seat when he pulled his infamous friend out from under the ring – his sledgehammer. Seeing Bryan turn the tables and use the foreign object on The Game was immensely satisfying for those watching, and had the energy at fever pitch for the first time in the bout. The Batista Bomb come RKO on Bryan through the announce table was mind-blowing. I love a never seen before spot, but that was insane. Orton took a monitor right to his spine for his troubles too which looked rather nasty, but it was Bryan who was stretchered away seemingly unconscious. After Orton and Batista traded blows and moves in the ring, Bryan rallied off the stretcher to re-join the fray. Following a Batista Bomb which put the champion out of commission, Bryan hit his running knee and applied his Yes Lock to make The Animal tap and send the Superdome delirious. The site of Bryan holding both titles above his head (left shoulder miraculously better) with confetti raining down brought back memories of Chris Beniot’s victory 10 years earlier and gave the occasion the celebration it deserved.
Rating: 10/10 – Booked to perfection
Overall, I feel the main storyline with Daniel Bryan, which invariably people will have paid their money for, was performed in a way which I’d forgotten the WWE can. It was a masterful ride on their part, nothing was too obvious and there was plenty of reason to have suspense and intrigue. I feel the show featured a fair few highlight moments which is what every fan wants. The performers went out and certainly did their bit and given the card it was impressive work. The Undertaker shocker will obviously work for people in different ways, and that’s par for the course with such a delicate tradition as that of the streak. It’s said that Undertaker hand-picked Lesnar to end the streak, so hopefully there’s a good reason on the horizon. As long as there is, I’m fine with it. Plus, I love a good twist and there was none better that that! I would have loved the Rhodes brothers to go at it, a Wyatt win and a Shield triple threat, but that’s just fantasy booking on my part. It is without doubt the best Wrestlemania I have seen in recent memory, certainly at least the last five years. Wrestlemania 18 is still ranking as my favourite.
Overall Rating: 8/10