Well, WrestleMania 34 is now in the books and the marathon of a show was one of the more interesting WrestleManias of all-time, primarily on the basis of some downright surprising match results. I don't usually review shows like so many other people online, so you won't find any star ratings or match analysis, but I thought I'd chime in with some thoughts on each of the matches that took place. A quick disclaimer though, I watched the PPV just once when it aired live so all of this is going off of memory and some crappy notes that I made.
The night started off with three matches on the Kickoff Show, the first of which was the Andre the Giant battle royal. All the 20 or so wrestlers began in the ring at once with no formal introductions, which right away meant no surprise entrants, legends or returning-from-injury talent as was rumored. In fact, the match seemed filled with guys who barely even get on Raw or Smackdown, with Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Kane and Matt Hardy leading the charge. Tye Dillinger I guess if you want to group him in that tier, though his stock has plummeted fast apparently because Vince McMahon hates the "10" chants. Anyway, I digress. The finish came down to Corbin and Mojo Rawley teaming up against Matt, when the lights suddenly went out. When they came back on, Bray Wyatt - back from the Lake of Reincarnation - was standing there. Everyone - the wrestlers included - stood around confused before Wyatt helped eliminate Rawley and Hardy eliminated Corbin in an anti-climactic fashion. People (including me) were still confused because it wasn't apparent if Wyatt was actually in the match or not, but the bell rang and Hardy was declared the winner. After the match, Matt and Bray seemingly joined forces and hugged it out. Not sure where these guys go from here, but I don't have exceptionally high hopes for either. Jeff Hardy is also due back imminently so it will be interesting to see how he fits into this storyline.
The cruiserweight match was next between Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali, the winner being crowned as the new champion of the division. It was a decent match, but not anywhere close to the quality of some recent matches on 205 Live. In the middle of the match, WWE sort of went to a split screen where they started promoting Ronda Rousey's match which was weird and helped confirm that this was way down on the totem pole. Alexander won as expected and the 205 Live division has now officially turned the page on the Enzo Amore era.
The inaugural women's battle royal was next. Becky Lynch was introduced first which totally made me think that we would be getting some surprise entrants since I thought they would be introducing everyone individually. But right after that thought, a bunch of women then all came down at once before Sasha Banks and Bayley got their own entrances as well. Paige and Beth Phoenix-Copeland were at ringside for commentary and one of the announcers pointed out that Paige was not competing due to injury, which might be the first time WWE has acknowledged that on TV. Paige said maybe next year she'd be in it and nobody said anything after that. The match seemed to come down to Bayley and Sasha Banks and predictably one turned on the other (Bayley on Sasha) for an elimination. That seemed like the finish, but I guess at some point during the match, Naomi had slipped out of the ring and wasn't actually eliminated. She was back now, hit the Rear View and threw Bayley over to win. Curious booking, but whatever. The funniest part was on commentary as Beth Phoenix would randomly chip in with some awkward sounding comments, but the best was when she started talking about Mickie James, who was promptly eliminated. She then wasn't heard from again in a while until mentioning Ruby Riott, who was then eliminated right away too while Beth was in mid-sentence.
The actual PPV then began with the triple threat Intercontinental title match between Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and The Miz - a good choice of an opener as it would take a disaster of epic proportions for this match to fail. Each of the guys had some unique entrances, Balor being saved for last as he was accompanied on stage by members of the LGBT community in New Orleans. Rollins ended up winning a very good match, making him a Grand Slam champion though I would have preferred Balor to win. I was always of the opinion that either Rollins or Balor was headed to Smackdown after WrestleMania and when they were announced as being in this match, I figured whoever didn't win the title would be that guy so if I stick to my guns, it will be Balor making the move. Not sure what happens to The Miz from here, but it's interesting that he's been showing some recent signs of being a babyface - first by being teamed up with Asuka in the Mixed Match Challenge and winning the tournament for a charity like Rescue Dogs Rock and then talking so much about his newborn baby girl.
The Smackdown women's title match, which promised to be a dandy, was next and boy did it deliver. I thought it was a fantastic match with a shocking result as Charlotte had Asuka tap out to a Figure Eight on one arm, as she was selling an in-match injury to her left arm. It was a bit of a weird way to end the undefeated streak as pretty much everyone thought that Asuka would be running with that for at least a few more months, perhaps even until she clashed with Ronda Rousey. The result does avoid WWE having to deal with and explain a Raw wrestler winning a Smackdown title, but it also clearly shows how high the company positions Charlotte. I suppose one can conclude that it will be Charlotte who ultimately will get the big shot against Rousey next year at WrestleMania and it is also fair to question if this will damage Asuka's character moving forward as the streak was really the only thing she had going for her. Post-match, Charlotte was extremely emotional and I'm guessing it was a combination of the health struggles of her father Ric Flair over the last year as well as it being very close to the anniversary of her brother's death.
As Charlotte was still celebrating, a referee ran down and whispered to John Cena - who was sitting in the audience as a fan - that the Undertaker was here. Cena acted like the ref was joking and didn't believe him at first before hopping over the barricade and running off to the back right past a still-celebrating Charlotte.
The US title four-way match between Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, Rusev and Jinder Mahal came next and not surprisingly, the fans were hot for Rusev. The match ran short of ten minutes and the finish saw Mahal pin his former ally Rusev to win the US title after some distraction from Sunil Singh. Looks like Mahal is going to get pushed again - which he sort of has to because WWE is lacking in legitimate heels - but they've learned from their mistakes and aren't expecting him to carry the brand as the WWE champion. I sure hope Rusev wins this title before his character runs out of steam with the audience.
Arguably the most important match for WWE came next with Ronda Rousey making her debut for the company in a mixed tag team match with Kurt Angle against executives Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. I will admit, I did not go into this match with very high hopes as I figured that Angle and Triple H would do most of the wrestling for about 10 minutes or so, before Rousey would get her hot tag, beat up Stephanie and lock the armbar in to make her quickly submit. Man, was I wrong. The match went over 20 minutes and Rousey had arguably the most impressive debut I've ever seen, hitting all her key spots and excelling in her facial expressions and mannerisms - a stark contrast to her awkward interviews to date. She is clearly going to exceed expectations and will continue to be a major star while bringing WWE a ton of publicity since she comes from a "real" sport. The only thing I'm worried about is over-exposure because it's one thing to have a great match at WrestleMania, but quite another to be on Raw week in and week out. Some other observations - watching Kurt Angle wrestle is getting painful. He's one of my favorite wrestlers ever, but the struggle is real as Triple H talked him through a bunch of spots. Speaking of Triple H - man, that guy looks more jacked at almost 50 than he did when he was at his peak as an active wrestler. Also, Stephanie countering Ronda's armbar multiple times was both silly and unrealistic but I hope on Raw, Steph shows up with a broken arm or at the very least in a sling or something. Anyway, I came away very impressed and I'm sure everyone in WWE is absolutely thrilled with the way this match turned out.
The Smackdown tag team title match was in the unenviable position of following Rousey's debut and WWE smartly chose to keep it short. The Bludgeon Brothers pretty much dominated, first by destroying the New Day and then the Usos before pinning Kofi Kingston with an assisted sitout powerbomb. WWE really pushed them as a monster team in this match so I would expect that to continue onto Smackdown.
John Cena was in the ring next for his expected showdown with the Undertaker, after having earlier been told that Taker was at the arena. When the lights went out first, it was Elias who slowly made his way to the ring singing and playing his guitar, but Cena made quick work of him and sent him on his way. As Cena was set to leave again, his music stopped, the lights went out again and we got some trickery in the ring with Undertaker's gear appearing and disappearing before finally, the Dead Man himself emerged. Cena comically acted terrified. The match was very short, maybe three minutes, and Undertaker looked in remarkably better shape than he did the last time we saw him wrestle as he's undergone surgery to fix a pretty bad hip but still a far cry from his peak. His vintage rope walk was done quite gingerly and he missed Cena by about half a foot with a big boot, but all in all, it was massively satisfying to the audience who popped big for the entrance and for his big spots. What this means for Taker I'm not sure, as it could lead to another match with Cena down the road (SummerSlam?) but it could also just be a way to let him go out with a win. However, given that he looked fairly healthy and the fact that he makes a ton of money to wrestle once per year, I think he'll be back.
They introduced the newest inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame. I watched the ceremony on Saturday and man, it ran long. Goldberg, The Dudley Boyz, Jeff Jarrett and Mark Henry were fine, Hillbilly Jim rambled on forever and Ivory's speech was quite original and unique as I would have expected. When everyone was introduced at WrestleMania, the biggest pop went to Jarrius "JJ" Robertson, who was the recipient of the Warrior award. I could see WWE using him in some capacity in the future. Kid Rock wasn't there, guess he didn't stick around to walk out onto the stage for a couple of minutes.
Daniel Bryan's in-ring return was featured next and predictably he was greeted by a monstrous ovation, though it was funny to see the camera-facing seats littered with "Yes" signs that WWE obviously distributed for the match. They brought in Linda McMahon as well as Shane's wife and kids to sit at ringside and early on Sami Zayn tossed him over the barricade right into their seats and almost onto Linda's lap. Zayn and Kevin Owens disabled Bryan early on by powerbombing him on the ring apron again, leaving Shane to surprisingly work most of the initial parts of the match. Shane's punches to Owen in the corner early on were utterly ridiculous as he was barely connecting on most of them. Shane was also consistently selling his injuries by constantly grabbing his mid-section while Bryan was still getting medical attention outside the ring. Bryan eventually made it back, got the hot tag and the place erupted. He eventually won the match by making Zayn submit to the Yes lock. Pretty good first match back for Bryan and it's obvious that he's headed for bigger and better things as he gears up. The dude is so incredibly over, is a great worker and is extremely underrated on the mic - all the traits you need to be a superstar. Well, except maybe one so we'll see if Vince buys into him this time. There was also nothing at all to suggest a Shane McMahon heel turn like many expected, but that can still happen on Smackdown in the coming weeks. The question also remains what happens to Owens and Zayn, who are technically still unemployed. The easy out would be to send them back to Raw.
They announced the attendance at 78,133 which is exaggerated. It predictably beats the 75,000+ that WWE announced for the same venue in 2014, but the actual real attendance won't be known for at least a couple of months.
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax went as expected, with Jax winning not only the match but the title as well. This had to be done after Bliss spent the last few weeks making fun of Jax's weight and basically coming off across as a huge ass bully. Nia celebrated after the match by celebrating with her family - the Rock's mom and daughter.
AJ Styles' title defense against Shinsuke Nakamura was expected to be one of the best matches on the card and while it was good, it was certainly not at the level many were anticipating. Styles retained the title after avoiding a Kinshasa and hitting the Styles Clash. The real story happened post-match as Nakamura brought AJ's title over and knelt down to give it to him but suddenly delivered a low blow that pretty much shocked everyone and immediately turned him heel. The sideshot when he does it is worth watching, if only to see the reaction of everyone gasping in utter disbelief. In hindsight, the heel turn does make sense because both Raw and Smackdown are extremely weak on top heels and this program logically needs to continue but wouldn't make sense with both men as babyfaces. This also likely rules out either guy moving to Raw anytime soon. I've always wondered if Nakamura would reach his potential on TV given the language barrier so that is something to keep an eye on moving forward as we would all expect him to explain his actions on Tuesday.
The Raw tag team title match was the penultimate match on the show and the interest surrounding it was mainly to see who Braun Strowman's partner was going to be. It turned out to be a randomly selected kid from the audience named "Nicholas", who looked maybe 10 or 11 years old. Nicholas was tagged in only once, but got scared and immediately tagged back out to Strowman. The duo ended up winning the match and the titles, which pretty much made the Raw tag team division look like a joke. As it turns out, Nicholas is the son of WWE referee John Cone (who officiated that match) so for anyone wondering whether this was some spontaneous act, of course not. My kids were asking me this constantly and I told them there's no way WWE would just pick a fan to even stand at ringside and risk a possible injury and lawsuit. Anyway, what happens from here will unfold on Raw tomorrow, but it's possible the new champs will be stripped of their titles or the decision reversed because Nicholas isn't an active wrestler, underage or some other technicality.
And finally, we get to the "main event", Brock Lesnar facing Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal title. Whether it was because it was the last match of a very long night or whether it was because the fans didn't care for either wrestler or maybe because everyone thought they knew what the outcome would be, this was a disastrous match. A lot of boring chants, a CM Punk chant, distractions in the form of beach balls in the audience and the same old Heyman formula of spot after spot after spot. Reigns did kick out of multiple F5s and at one point appeared to take a stiff elbow that cut him open bad. There was a TON of blood. In perhaps the biggest surprise on a night full of them, Lesnar pinned Reigns to retain his title and consequently give rise to a bunch of questions. Has Vince McMahon finally listened to the WWE Universe and aborted his Roman Reigns plan? Is Brock Lesnar still leaving WWE? Was the whole thing with Dana White and the tease of going to UFC a work? Honestly, I have no idea but I'm sure a lot of questions will be answered on Raw tonight and in the coming weeks.
And that wrapped up the night's action. I would say it was a pretty good PPV overall, though the first half of the show made it seem like the event was headed to be one of the best WrestleManias of all time. After the Ronda Rousey match though, things started going downhill and by the time the main event rolled around, it seemed most people in the audience didn't care. This was a very long show and questions will once again be asked on if WWE is better served to make WrestleMania a two-day event. The other thing that became annoying - at least at the beginning - was the constant pleading to get people to subscribe to the WWE Network to get WrestleMania for "free" due to the 30-day trial or whatever. It was being pushed so heavily that WWE made the Kick Off show available on Youtube as a way to plug the free offer and get people to make some last minute sign-ups. I do understand why they have to do this with the network subscriber number so critically important to their stock and an internal goal of 2 million to be announced later this week, but it was still a bit much. All things considered, the company is going to chalk up WrestleMania 34 as a massive success and rightly so.
And with that, it's almost 4 AM here and I'm signing off so I can make it to work tomorrow. Excuse any typos and other blatant oversights. Email me your love and hate to firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to vote in the poll below where you can also leave your comments on the show. Later!