If you’ve been anywhere near social media today you’ll know that last night, the WWE held Wrestlemania 34 from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The biggest show in the pro wrestling calendar finally arrived and with a stacked out card there was a hell of a lot of pressure and excitement on the event to deliver as Wrestlemania often does. With the event, shown on the WWE Network, spanning a colossal 7 hours including the kickoff show, it’s certainly a mammoth task getting through it all and especially for us fans in the UK who had to stay up until 5am to watch it all, battling fatigue and tiredness to witness first hand this years Wrestlemania moments. The moments were certainly plentiful this year too and with 33 other Wrestlemanias preceding it (including my Top 10 favourite as reviewed last week) it had a huge task of standing out, but it may have just managed to do that based almost entirely on unpredictability and shock factor.
Now, Wrestlemania has been known for big moments, shock returns and huge developments and this one had no throw away matches and everything was important, however it did have its ups and downs and it has divided opinion today as social media would normally illustrate anyway. Let’s take a look at what went on, beginning with the three matches from the Kickoff show…
We began with the annual Andre The Giant memorial battle royal, which has found itself relegated to the pre show a few times now. This year I was surprised to see it take a backseat as HBO have recently premiered an exclusive Andre The Giant documentary and I’d have expected that a natural promotion point would be to make more of a show of this particular match, however it still delivered despite its position and despite no huge entires into the match, be that legends or NXT stars, we eventually saw Matt Hardy win with an assist from his recent adversary Bray Wyatt. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what this unlikely new union has to offer on the Raw brand. Following this, the Cruiserweight championship was contested in the finals of a recent tournament and we saw Cedric Alexander pick up the win after a long campaign to become champion spanning right back to before Enzo Amore was released and the title became vacant. The crowd appeared only as interested in this match as they normally are with the stars of the 205 Live brand, but the men in the ring gave them a hell of a show regardless. We then saw the Women’s battle royale, billed as the first, but widely known that it isn’t (see Wrestlemania 25). A messy match but with a cool NXT vs WWE gimmick going on for the first half. It came down to Sasha Banks and Bayley and eventually Bayley eliminated Banks and began to celebrate, as did I because I had £10 riding on it, until Naomi reentered the ring as it transpired that she’d not been eliminated… unreal. Naomi won, and I lost some money.
The main show began and with all the pyro, the pageantry, the video packages and the shots of the 70,000+ fans in attendance we were ready for Wrestlemania to really begin. Now, they’d really crammed everyone onto the card this year and there was more than a few multiple person matches, but they all had their place and all delivered. The show kicked off with a Game of Thrones inspired Seth Rollins, a LGBTQ supporting Finn Balor and then of course the Intercontinental champion the Miz, and it’d be Rollins that took home the belt and added his name to the short list of grand slam champions in the WWE. We also had a Fatal Four Way United States title match featuring champion Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal and Rusev (who is as hot as hell at the minute with his Rusev Day gimmick). Another athletically impressive match and again we saw the title change hands as Jinder Mahal left as the new US champ. I’ve seen a lot of complaining online about this result but I had him backed from the beginning and was over the moon to see him win. Pro wrestling is still pulling off the evil foreigner gimmick and it still works perfectly, so why not. Keeping within the trend of title swapping between multiple people, the Smackdown Live Tag Team titles were won by the awfully named and repackaged Bludgeon Brothers, also known as Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. They’ve proven a thousand times over how good they are but this new persona isn’t working for me and although the win was possibly the right call, I don;t find myself caring about this match at all and it sits at the bottom of the list for the main show matches.
Moving onto some of the more high-profile matches of which there was loads, we saw The Undertaker return to FINALLY answer the challenge of John Cena in a match barely lasting three minutes, The Deadman won in convincing fashion as he hit Cena with a tombstone and made sense out of everything that had been going on. With a massive build up but no real conclusion it’d become quite confusing, but it is now clear that the whole point behind this story is that they knew the match would have its limitations and constraints so don’t promote something you won’t deliver. By doing it this way, I feel that they actually over delivered. I was impressed by Takers movement and physical condition, the story was exciting and the entrance felt huge. It’s easy to doubt the WWE but they do get it right more often than not. Same goes for the return of Daniel Bryan as they put him into a tag team match with Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. By being one half of a team, Bryan could be eased back in whilst giving him to time to re-acclimate and also build further anticipation for his in ring return. The match was fantastic and despite spending most of it feeling terrified for both Shane and Bryan, it all came off great and the right team won, asking the question, whats next for KO & Zayn? Raw maybe? Speaking of Raw, I don’t even know where to start with the Raw Tag Team championship match as we saw The Bar take on Braun Strowman and a mystery partner… You’ll have without doubt seen memes and pictures from this match as Strowman selected a shy young child out of the audience, called Nicholas, who awkwardly joined him in the ring and is now, not even joking, is now one half of the Raw Tag Team champions. I could slag it off and complain that we waited for a huge return or big reveal, but honestly, this was hilarious and is still cracking me up all this time after.
Our “main events” were the bit that drew some ill feeling from the viewers both live and at home as it seemed the wrong match had been scheduled for last and we’d be forced through a predictable Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar match to close the show. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE World Heavyweight championship had been hyped so heavily and yet the WWE didn’t invest in it enough to feature it at the top of the card which immediately pulled a little interest away for me. I lost focus and allowed tiredness to set in and by the time the match came to a close the only thing that woke me up was the shocking result that AJ retained his title. I thought it was an absolute lock that Nakamura would become champion and so what a twist this was, but wait, there’s more. During a celebratory show of respect Nakamura would then low blow Styles and proceed to kick the shit out of him, literally throwing stiff, real boots to the face and head of Styles. It appears we may be seeing a new side to Nakamura and it may be exactly what he needs since struggling to connect properly with fans since his main roster debut a year ago. As if that wasn’t enough, we’d be given the same treatment in the Universal title match which ended the show. The fans were at no point excited about this and the match was predicted correctly at the end of last years Wrestlemania. But nobody, absolutely nobody saw Brock Lesnar winning. In an ugly, brutal match full of power moves, suplexes, throws and power moves we’d see Reigns take six F5’s before being pinned. A ridiculous amount by anyones standard and just like John Cena’s AA, I suggest both Reigns and Lesnar go shopping for new finishers as they clearly don’t work too well. Still, both these matches appeared to lack something last night, but on re-watching them I find that I enjoyed them both a lot more and actually have no issue with either.
HOWEVER, the night belonged to the women of the WWE. They stole the show without doubt and gave everything, including the debut of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey who adapted to the WWE style of entertainment like a duck to water. Smooth in the ring, as legitimate looking as Brock Lesnar and an absolute natural in the ring. Her opponent Stephanie McMahon gave as good as she go to and they were both backed up by Triple H and Kurt Angle who played their parts wonderfully, including the best performance since his return by Kurt Angle who has looked unnatural and lost in previous matches. The match had every right to be an absolute dumpster fire and yet it prevailed, sitting as one of the best of the whole show. Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss gave an amazing performance featuring a dominant Jax, a cowardly heel in Bliss, a very selfless Mickie James who I assume is dead after the beating she received at ringside, and to cap off a great match, the most authentic, honest emotion of the night from Nia Jax as she won her first Womens title in the WWE. The match of the night by far came from Charlotte Flair and Asuka as they embarked on another dream match of sorts. It’d be Flair’s championship against Asuka’s streak of 914 days undefeated. In another shock move Charlotte Flair would retain her title and push back the challenge of the undefeated Royal Rumble winner, ending the streak at the same time. It was the right call as nobody else would really be viable for ending the streak other than Charlotte, and if she couldn’t do it, then it’d have made more sense to let her stay undefeated forever. The match was technically impressive, featured a ton of great spots and moments and could have been the main event to the entire show. The Womens Evolution may have made its most recent evolution and the men will have to up their game, as the women could be closing the show next year.
Monday Night Raw emanates from New Orleans tonight and there’s a lot to look forward to. Will there be any NXT call ups? What will Ronda Rousey move onto now? Will Lesnar be there and will he be defending his title soon? Are Nicholas and Braun still getting along as the newest tag team on the scene… Only one way to find out.