WrestleMania XXX spoilers follow.
This is the first of (hopefully many) reviews of shows in the WWE. This time around, I have been joined by Sassafrass, who has provided his thoughts on each match of the card. Hopefully you enjoy.
WrestleMania XXX wound up being a grand total of six hours in length. Sure, two of those hours were on the WrestleMania Pre-Show, and during those first two hours there was only a single match -- available only to Americans, so it won't be reviewed here -- but the entire event is as big as any other sporting event finale. The only difference is that professional wrestling doesn't end for several months after its big show. It continues the very next day with Raw. And after this specific WrestleMania, Raw is likely going to be something that is incredibly memorable.
It's worth noting that the match on the Pre-Show, the fatal four-way tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championships, was won by The Usos, as anyone would have suspected. More importantly, though, is that the Real Americans (Jack Swagger and Cesaro) seemed to finally split after the match. Swagger put Cesaro in the Patriot Lock, Zeb Colter (their manager) tried to make him apologize, and then Cesaro took Swagger on the Big Swing. That's what we missed by not being Americans and not even having the option to subscribe to the WWE Network.
The actual program -- the four-hour part that you pay $70 to see -- kicked off with "Real American," signaling the entrance of Hulk Hogan, a wrestler your dad remembers better than you do. He's the WrestleMania XXX host, which you might presume means he'll be doing something of interest. Actually, he's in two segments. This opening, and an incoherent one later on involving "Hot Rod" Roddy Piper, Mr. T, and Paul Orndorff. The opening ends with both "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock coming out and attempting to make people who used to watch the WWE/F feel good about having watched it. Hogan flubbed almost all of his lines, and even Austin and The Rock had a couple of of issues on the mic. It's almost as if -- and get this -- you don't practice something, you start to get worse at it. Performing live in front of a sold out Mercedes-Benz Superdome is harder than it looks. After a nostalgia trip, the trio drink beers and soak the ring with the beverage. Next!
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon)
It makes sense for this to be the first match of the night. After all, whoever wins is going to need a couple of hours to rest up in order to compete later on in the night. Now, Daniel Bryan had to make it to the main event. We pretty much knew that going in. His "Yes Movement" angle was not going to die during the first match of the show. The only thing of which we couldn't be sure is if Triple H would also be pulling double duty. He being the CEO, he could probably assure himself a spot in the main event if he so chooses. So, what happened?
Bryan won clean. Yes, that's right. A running knee -- still a weak finisher in my opinion -- and a cover and Triple H lost. The match was a really good one. Lots of high-flying spots from Bryan, a great deal of working that injured shoulder by Triple H, and great in-ring work from both parties. Stephanie McMahon, Triple H's wife, screamed taunts and insults from outside the ring. Most surprisingly, I think, is that Triple H looked great from an in-ring perspective. He's now just a part-time wrestler, but he didn't look out of shape or breath, and this was a lengthy match. Other part-timers -- and I'm thinking Batista here, even if he's technically on a full-time contract -- took months to look in this good of shape. And Triple H is no spring chicken.
After the match, Triple H and Stephanie attack Bryan and further injure his shoulder, because what else would happen? The odds have to be even more insurmountable than they already are, so that had to happen if Trips wasn't going to put himself in the main event as well. That doesn't properly conclude the story, however, which needs to happen ASAP if Bryan wants to have a strong title run -- assuming he wins it, of course. Remember, I picked Batista to win.
A good match, with lots of intensity and throw backs to the time man forgot, Chris Benoit. We had strikes, diving headbutts and crossfaces galore through out. While both men worked a good technical match, I have to say I think Stephanie was the star of the match here. She was constantly circling the ring, barking insults at Bryan and purring over what her husband, Triple H, was doing with Bryan. She added a lot to the match by doing this. In the end, Bryan pulls out the predictable victory and suffers a post match attack from both Stephanie and Triple H. A good way to kick off the PPV.
The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns) vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn)
The Shield has been feuding with Kane and the New Age Outlaws for a few weeks now, but it's never really been something worth watching. There was little doubt how this match would play out, as there's little point promoting older stars over the young and talented Shield. As you'd expect, The Shield was victorious. The match was short and played out like the highlight reel of what an actual match between these groups might be. It was just great spot after great spot for a few minutes. It wasn't back-and-forth, though; The Shield dominated in what was essentially a squash match. If pro wrestling played by its own rules, they would have been counted out during one spot, when all three were in the ring at once, even though only one of them was the "legal" man. You have a five count, but the referee didn't even start counting. Whatever. It allowed for an amazing double-triple (triple-double?) powerbomb spot. Hopefully Kane can go back to something resembling the Kane of old now.
This was nothing but a glorified squash to make the Shield look badass, possibly because of the rumours going around the internet that the opening match ran too long. I was kind of disappointed by this as it had the possibility to be a good match with good showings from everyone but we got treated instead to a quick 3 minute match built to make the Shield look great. Such a shame, as Kane can still go at it and the New Age Outlaws have proven in their tag matches with The Brotherhood and The Usos they can still put on a good match. Still, this made each member of the Shield look good and we got to see Reigns jumping kick on the outside, as well as his Superman Punch.
Following the match we get a "comedic" locker room segment with even more WWE Legends playing with toys. And then Ron Simmons shows up and does his Ron Simmons thing.
André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
30 men. One ring. Over-the-top rules. Go! Much of this match played out like a lesser Royal Rumble. Starting everyone in the ring at once means the first few minutes are going to be incoherent. They were. After most of the eliminations, we were permitted a couple of really great spots. As Kofi Kingston often does, he astounded everyone but somehow surviving elimination by landing on the ring steps after being thrown over the rope. It looked very painful and was incredibly clever. Cesaro wound up the star of the match, both before the finale and prior to it. A Very European Uppercut to Rey Mysterio was great, and he actually wrestled a decent match. The finale came when Cesaro mimicked the big WrestleMania 3 spot by scoop slamming Big Show. But he did it to eliminate the 425-pound man. A scoop slam over the top rope. It was incredible, and a fitting tribute to André the Giant.
Usual business of quick and fast eliminations, as well as rare sightings of Justin Gabriel, Zack Ryder and David Otunga and the usual Kofi Kingston spot where he somehow avoided elimination through some daring feet of acrobatics. While impressive, it wasn't quite as impressive as the ones he pulls off at the Royal Rumble. But apart from that, no real surprises occur and we get to our final four of Cesaro, Big Show, Sheamus and Del Rio. Cesaro wins by throwing Show over the ropes like he wasn't there after Sheamus and Del Rio take each other out. Great to see Cesaro being pushed, he's got everything to be the next big babyface for the company. Little upset Ziggler didn't get the win though. Ziggler's awesome.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan)
The Wyatt family comes out to live music. Their theme song is being performed in the Superdome, and it made the entrance that much better. The band killed it and it added to the show. Cena basically ran down to the ring, probably because the show was behind on running time. This is a story that's been building for many weeks now, and involves Bray Wyatt and his "family" attempting to make John Cena break his "good guy" routine. It's Batman vs. Joker in The Dark Knight, basically. The unconventional Wyatt doesn't care about getting the pinfall; he just wants to see Cena turn to the "dark side."
The match itself was pretty unremarkable, particularly at the beginning. It started off slow, but by the time Cena had speared Luke Harper through the barricade(!), we knew we had a good match on our hands. The best spot came thanks to great camera work. Cena went for the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, but after bouncing off the ropes, Wyatt was in a crabwalk. Super creepy, and was a fantastic counter.
Despite numerous opportunities, Cena doesn't give into his dark side and winds up scoring a clean win on Wyatt. Thanks to events during the match, The Wyatt family couldn't do anything to Cena after the match. The good guy wins because he didn't give into his dark side. Wyatt loses both by pinfall and because he couldn't make Cena "turn." Wyatt should have come off stronger, and this was a chance to do something new with Cena's character. Neither happened.
Wyatt gets an entrance normally reserved for big stars. I love that WWE are going all in with him, he's one of the few people I can see becoming the next monster heel to torment the roster with his family. His promo skills are fantastic as well, and his in ring work is ever improving. This was a slow and purposeful match, less about the in ring action and more about the story of Wyatt trying to convince Cena to turn to the dark side. It wasn't as good as Wyatt's match against Bryan at the Rumble but it did its job well, with both men putting in good performances, outside of Cena's facial expression when he was trying to look conflicted. He actually looked a little constipated at some stages, the faces he was pulling.
The Hall of Fame nominees showed up next. That's a big deal to some people, but if you watch the induction ceremony it really isn't. We already got the speeches and the waterworks. This was just to pay even more tribute, which I suppose is fine. I won't complain about it.
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)
Regardless of anything else that happened on this card, this will be the match that cements WrestleMania XXX in history. The shock of all shocks occurred during this match. The Undertaker, previously undefeated in 21 other WrestleMania appearances, lost to Brock Lesnar. I still cannot believe it. Nobody in the crowd could believe it. The announcers were quiet for several minutes. Nobody saw this coming. Paul Heyman either didn't know the finish or is a truly fantastic actor. He looked more stunned than almost anyone.
It is contrary to the way the match was booked. It goes against all conventional and conceivable logic. Lesnar works four matches a year, at most, and is already in the latter half of his career. Lesnar lost to HHH, who previously failed to beat The Undertaker.
More importantly, it might have been the end of an era. The Undertaker is 49 years old and has been a constant presence in wrestling fans' lives for decades now. After the match, he was left on the mat for several minutes. The announcing team stood up and in unison gave him a standing ovation. The crowd starting cheering. It truly felt like the end. Even the Deadman isn't immortal, and that fact hits people hard.
It doesn't help that the match itself wasn't spectacular. The Undertaker looked to be in great shape heading in, but after the first few minutes you could tell something wasn't right with him. A couple of semi-botched spots might have injured his neck or given him a concussion. He spent much of the match on his back, didn't attempt any high-flying moves -- not even that flying clothesline -- and struggled to do much at all. His match with CM Punk last year was a match of the year candidate. This wasn't even close. Your performance doesn't drop that much in a year. He was hurt.
Lesnar is a stiff worker and always has been. He's also not a technically sound performer. His finisher never looks right, either. He was not the right person to work against The Undertaker. But that would have been The Phenom's choice. If the streak was going to end, it would have been his decision. I hope this isn't the end of an era, but it truly feels like it.
The build up to this match sucked. While it's always fun to see 'Taker, Lesnar was barely put over as a threat to the streak through out, apart from a single solitary F-5 on the go home show. It wasn't much of a wrestling match but it was an entertaining spectacle, although it is lacking the feeling that makes a 'Taker match at 'Mania something special. It wasn't a boring match but it isn't match of the night material as there was lots of moments to let 'Taker catch his breath, making this match mostly a match of submissions and submission counters, giving it an incredibly methodical, almost at times slow, pace. As for the result, well...silence has never been so deafening. Lesnar wins after a third F-5 to 'Taker and ends the streak at 21 and 1. There was a good few minutes where no one could quite believe what they had seen. Hell, even Lesnar and Heyman seemed shocked and they knew the outcome to this before they went in to it.
Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational
How can anything top what happened just minutes before? It couldn't. That's what this match is for. It's a buffer period to give fans some time before the main event. It was a mess of a match to begin, as there were 14 Divas in the ring at once. For some reason, AJ and Tamina are still a team, even though Tamina had turned on AJ at one point -- and then came to her defense, because WWE has no idea what to do with the Divas who can actually wrestle.
Anyway, some of the Divas get signature moves to pull off, there's an eight-person synchronized suplex and pin which was neat, the Bella twins faced off for a second, Aksana didn't injure anyone, and AJ Lee wound up winning, because there isn't a single person who deserves the title more than she does. I still hope she and Tamina will feud, or WWE brings back someone like Kharma. Oh, and the cast of Total Divas gets fired (except Natalya). One can dream.
This isn't fair on the Divas. They have to follow one of the biggest shocks and upsets in WWE history. No one is normally interested in Divas matchs anyway, so to put this on right after the Streak is ended was a stupid choice. Admittedly though, this wasn't a terrible match, the Bella Twins had some good spots and the majority of the Divas had a small spot to make them stand out. AJ Lee retains with the Black Widow hold and remains the champ of a division that could really do away with half of the current Divas. The fact Aksana was in this match after nearly ending Naomi's career was baffling. Any other workplace would have fired someone for nearly blinding someone, surely.
Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan
If it wasn't for the Undertaker/Lesnar match earlier in the match, this would be the talking point of the show. This was a great match, with each performer getting several fantastic spots. The best worker of the night was Randy Orton, even though he's not going to get the praise he deserves (and it doesn't help that, while he also came out to live music, the band's performance was laughable and now we all have to acknowledge that real people sing his theme song).
During the signature moment, Batista and Orton did a combined Batista Bomb/RKO through the announcer table to Daniel Bryan. Orton landed on one of those monitors that they always clear out of the ring. He was in clear pain and had his back cut open. The focus, however, was on Bryan, who got put on a stretcher. Batista then worked Orton's back. You could tell that Orton worked the rest of the match in legitimate pain.
The winner, however, was Daniel Bryan. If he hadn't won after the 'Taker shocker, there very easily could have been a riot. Batista was the one to take the loss, submitting to Bryan in the center of the ring. Triple H and Stephanie interfered in the match earlier on, but they wind up being an afterthought when all's said and done. After he wins, his shoulder is magically no longer hurt as he raises both arms to do his "Yes!" chant. Bryan's wife/child (I presume) come to the ring to celebrate. And that's how WrestleMania XXX ends, but it's not how it will be remembered.
Possibly the match of the night in my opinion. And not, that's not because of the outcome but because of the spots we had. We had Bryan diving onto The Authority, including Stephanie, who had tried to interfere and put a crooked ref into the match to screw Bryan again, Orton back dropping Batista onto some steel steps, Bryan hitting Triple H with a sledgehammer and, despite what you may have read elsewhere on this very website about Batista powerbombing Orton through a table, Batista and Orton doing a powerbomb-to-RKO combination through a table, which left Orton lying as he went spine first straight on top of a monitor, cutting his lower back open in the process. Admiration also has to be given to Orton for even continuing after that spot, let alone Bryan. While Bryan's injury seemed to be a part of the entire underdog story, and his eventual win, Orton was back up soon after and carrying on a very physical match with Batista. Eventually though, Bryan wins after hitting a flying knee on Batista before making him tap out to the Yes Lock. A great match, helped out with some very vicious looking spots.
WrestleMania is supposed to bring up emotions. Either the inspirational or the devastating. It is the most important date in the WWE, and it lived up to its name with its 30th installment. It will be talked about for years to come. And it provided a couple of real-life lessons. (1) No matter how much we think we know, we really don't know anything. (2) Even the most constant things in life can change in an instant.
So, that was WrestleMania XXX, everyone. What did you think? Are you still in shock? I am.
As a side note, what do you think of the review?
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