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In the future, I think we will look at this WrestleMania and only really think about The Undertaker and how this had to be his last WrestleMania, and unfortunately instead of having a classic match, he had a pretty big bomb simply because he didn't have the athleticism and health to keep on chugging. It is a really complicated matchup that will certainly be discussed further as we learn more about it, but I'll do my best to break it down right now.
Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker: *
Really tough match to rate, I'll give it one star but I don't know if that is really accurate. As a match, it wasn't very good and certainly not a main event level match. The Undertaker started off really strong and looked good, but after the big bump through the table he really had nothing left and the match quickly dissolved into a sloppy affair as Reigns was clearly struggling to carry The Undertaker to even a passable match. The finish was simple and Reigns went over strong, but that feels almost secondary to the importance of the ending segment where it was heavily implied The Undertaker was retiring.
Roman Reigns winning clean and looking strong might rankle a lot of people. It doesn't really phase me that much though; Reigns is getting his super-push and he would be getting it even if he didn't defeat The Undertaker. I know some people never want to see The Undertaker lose, but the reality is The Undertaker's legacy is already cemented and has been for a long time. Whether or not he lost to Reigns is irrelevant, especially because he already lost at WrestleMania to Lesnar. I know a lot of fans don't like Reigns and I have certainly criticized his booking; but The Undertaker was always going to lose his final match and it just happened to be against Reigns.
The real problem I have with this match is that it shouldn't have ever come to this. The Undertaker deserved to leave wrestling with his head held high after a good match; not after a stinker that the crowd became depressed just watching him struggle. The issue is that Vince McMahon and WWE do not trust any of their younger stars to carry WrestleMania for whatever reason; so this year they relied on two guys over 50 (Goldberg and The Undertaker) that really could not wrestle for longer than five minutes. That is absolutely pathetic for the largest wrestling company in the world with the amount of talent they have to have no faith in any of their promising talent to actually carry the big events. The Undertaker was never capable of having a really good match as the main event this year; but because they have no trust in anybody else, they carted him out there to wrestle a match that he didn't have a chance in succeeding in. He could have had a passable mid-card match that went 7-8 minutes and still lost, but the match wouldn't be remembered for The Undertaker flubbing moves and being completely gassed. He would have been able to leave with a dignified performance, but because WWE doesn't trust their young talent, he was asked to do way to much. Now it looks like they won't be able to go to that well again, so Vince will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to using new talent to headline the shows.
Is he really retired though? I don't really know; it certainly felt like that was the angle at the end of the show. However, this is pro wrestling, and if business sags over the summer and into football season (and I totally believe it will) and WrestleMania season comes along again, I could see Vince coax The Undertaker back out of retirement and having him work another match at WrestleMania, maybe a mid-card squash match, but still one more match so he could leave with a victory. I don't know if that would happen, but he has retired after WrestleMania's in the past and yet here he was tonight.
My last thoughts are that I don't know what Reigns gets out of this match. I don't think the match was booked around Reigns dominating The Undertaker at the end because the announcers tried to sell it as this super-close match even though it really wasn't. I figured The Undertaker would hit a couple tombstones and Reigns would kick-out, but he only hit one which is nothing compared to the matches in the past. Reigns had a chance to be a big heel in this match, but at the end he looked just as shocked as the rest of us. He was in a daze walking up the ramp and looked like he would rather be anywhere but in Orlando, a far cry from his cocky attitude at the beginning of the match. As a babyface he certainly won't be able to capitalize on beating The Undertaker; any time he mentions it, fans will just think of this depressing match.
Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg: *1/2
Like a lot of the matches on the show, this match went down exactly as expected, with Lesnar winning in a very short match. I will give credit to Goldberg because a lot of people (okay me) had given him a lot of flak for not taking bumps and he took his fair share of bumps in this match, even if it was really short. A german suplex is not an easy move to take and Goldberg took ten of them so he deserves credit for taking those bumps; even though as a wrestler your job is to take bumps.
I knew the match was going to be really short when it was moved away from the WrestleMania main event; and they were right to do that because the match was way too short to close the show. Not unlike their previous match at WrestleMania, is mostly just finishers with the only real non-signature move was the spear through the timekeeper's area, which would have been really good if they didn't do that same spot on every PPV. I gave the match one and a half stars just because for those few minutes you are at the edge of your seat watching what happens, and there is a unique aspect to it that most matches don't have.
One thing I don't understand is the volume of the crowd mics being greatly reduced during the match. Even if the crowd was booing Goldberg, who cares? He is likely done after this match anyway so it isn't like the Reigns situation where they are trying to build a new star. The actual action in the match sure as hell wasn't going to sell the match, but a lively crowd was what was going to really make the match a top spectacle. Instead WWE chose to take away the best potential aspect of the match for no good reason.
Triple H vs Seth Rollins: ***1/2
Good match, the finish came kind of quick, but it was effective and the result was what needed to happen. What I really need to see know is for Rollins to actually get some long-term retribution out of this victory; Bryan beat Triple H at WrestleMania 30 and Reigns beat him last year, but Stephanie and Triple H still were the big heels that bullied Bryan and Reigns and around without any real retribution following their WrestleMania victories. It would be really cool if Rollins didn't have to deal with that same storyline; but considering the heel authority figure is the only idea WWE seemingly has had in 20 years and this match had no such stipulations that would strip Stephanie or Triple H of any real power, I doubt that will happen.
Maybe some fans will dislike the idea that Rollins had an injured knee for the entire match but kept doing high-risk moves that one would presumably be unable to do if their knee was really injured. I actually liked that aspect of the match; to me it told the story that Rollins was injured, but he hated Triple H so much that he was willing to do all this dangerous stuff to get his revenge. The key was that at no point in the match did Rollins ever stop selling the knee injury; after every big move he hit he always grabbed his knee and writhed in pain. That was very important to the psychology of the match and it was really well done.
The match was methodical, but I didn't find it too slow like last year's main event between Triple H and Roman Reigns. Maybe because it wasn't at the end of the show so it was okay to have a slower match—but it also didn't involve just 15 minutes of Triple H working over the knee. Rollins got in enough offense consistently to break up that kind of monotonous match structure and he worked really hard taking some big risks in the ring. Triple H is still very good at bumping around the ring and his face after Stephanie got knocked through the table was priceless. It wasn't the best match in the world, but it was a satisfying conclusion to the storyline as Rollins comes across as a real conquering hero.
Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton: **
This was a really disappointing match for a couple different reasons. For starters, the crowd was really quiet for most of it. According to reports, following the Cena proposal the crowd mics were turned down a bit which might explain it, but the crowd just wasn't invested in this match, despite the fact that it had a long build and was for the WWE Championship. I think part of the problem was that there wasn't a clear heel/babyface dynamic and the crowd didn't really feel like they had a stake in the match. The other reason is that the bizarre images of the insects on the ring were just too weird; I get the idea but the crowd didn't really know how to react.
Orton winning the WWE Championship feels like such a flat ending to all of this, especially because it was a simple, clean finish. Wyatt needs big wins to legitimize his championship stake, and wins over Cena and AJ Styles will contribute to that; but he needed a big win at WrestleMania and he got just the opposite. Even if he wins the title back soon, when the most eyes were on him at WrestleMania; potential fans that don't normally watch WWE but could become fans, they saw a promising guy lose to a solid, but known entity. I don't think that is the most effective way to build new stars.
The Hardy Boyz vs Enzo and Cass vs Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs Sheamus and Cesaro: ***3/4
This was excellent, right off from the start with The New Day introducing a new team, with everyone thinking it was going to be themselves, and then it ended up being Matt and Jeff Hardy, which was just such a great way to bring them back. A few years ago, Matt was fat and out-of-shape and chasing ghosts in his house and Jeff was battling addiction issues and had that infamous match at Victory Road against Sting. They have come a long way since then and re-inventing themselves as the Broken characters has been such a big boost for their careers; which looked like they were at the end of the line not too long ago.
The return of The Hardy Boys was good enough for this to be a good moment, but the match itself was very good, with all of the teams working hard and taking some big bumps. The Hardys were still the stars of the match, with Jeff taking another crazy bump through the ladders. People don't understand how difficult it is to stand with both feet on the top of a tall ladder, let alone in a huge arena in front of a bunch of people; Jeff is really the only person I have ever seen do it consistently.
Bayley vs Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax: **1/2
This wasn't a bad match, but also not a blow-away kind of show stealer that it had the potential to be, at least on paper. The match started out fine, with Nia dominating everyone and looking strong, but was beaten early when everyone teamed up to stop her. It gets the limited performer out of the ring early, but it makes Jax still look strong.
I thought the match just felt too rushed and didn't really have a great climactic finish. I get that they wanted Bayley to win the match with the elbow drop, but it didn't feel like it was going to be the finish which made it feel kind of flat. Even though Bayley retained the title, Charlotte still came across as the big star. She had the big entrance with the fireworks and also had the awesome corkscrew moonsault—it is clear that WWE still is building the division around her and Bayley is just a temporary champion. I don't disagree that Charlotte is the one woman you would want to build around; but I think Bayley should be given more.
AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon: **3/4
About what I expected out of the match; it wasn't a street fight but they got creative in the stunts that they were doing to give the crowd something to pop for. The opening of the match was different because they actually had to wrestle and that exposed Shane's limitations in the ring. No matter how many times JBL says he is built like a linebacker and Otunga puts over Shane as some sort of MMA fiend, the reality is that he isn't good in the ring. AJ did his best but there isn't much you can do when your opponent doesn't know how to throw a good worked punch and his signature move is to punch you a bunch of times.
The match did tell the story that AJ thought he could easily outwrestle Shane and that ended up not being the case, forcing him to introduce weapons which worked in Shane's favor. Before that Shane was trying to put a bunch of different submission moves on AJ and the crowd was mostly dead because they didn't believe in what Shane was doing and knew it was all just killing time until Shane jumped off something. What he lacks as a wrestler he tries to make up as a stuntman because Shane really does take some crazy risks in the ring. He did the Shooting Star Press from time to time in his prime but I was surprised to see it tonight; he's older but he is in better shape than he was in his prime. The finish was fine, with AJ winning with his finisher and pinning Shane clean; it was a solid effort, but we all know AJ is capable of so much more if he is working with a different opponent.
Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho: ***
Solid match that had good action for a majority of the match and fulfilled the story that was being told. It didn't have the dramatic high spots that the AJ/Shane match had, so the crowd wasn't going to react the same way to a more traditional match structure, but the crowd was more invested in the individual characters that were participating in the match than the previous match. Overall I think it was a bit better, the wrestling was much tighter and the crowd was hotter for a majority of the match instead of just the end.
Jericho being pinned and taking the apron powerbomb is pretty much an indicator that he is taking some more time off beginning right after WrestleMania. That is a shame because he has been such a good babyface since Owens turned on him and there is so much more he can do; but the silver lining is that absence will make the heart grow fonder and he will be even more over when he decides to come back, probably later this year. Owens as the United States Champion actually means something because with the Universal Championship on someone that isn't going to be at every RAW, the US Championship should see a resurgence in importance similar to when Cena held the title a few years ago.
The Miz and Maryse vs John Cena and Nikki Bella: *
The match wasn't any good but it didn't have to be; the whole point of the feud was in the excellent build. It was short but the crowd was into it, mainly because The Miz has been such a stud as a heel to the point that the fans are cheering for him even though he is trying his hardest to be a scumbag. The finish was basic because the whole goal was to get to the post-match proposal, which was short and classy and can be broadcasted for Total Bella's a million times.
I understand WWE likes to have a little bit of a break in-between the big matches, but I don't really care for that philosophy. No other company really does that and when you sandwich this match between the two most-anticipated matches, you put the talent in that middle match into a really difficult situation. The crowd doesn't take it as seriously; they are just getting ready to boo Roman Reigns, and a lot of the crowd has been in their seats for over six hours; they just want to see the main event and go home. They tried hard and there was nothing wrong with the match and they were able to give Naomi the nice hometown win; but they got put into a really hard situation to succeed.
Random other thoughts:
- WWE always announces a fake number for their attendance, there was no way 70,000 people were in the football stadium that only holds 65,000 for football games. They can legally do this because as long as the gate financials are legit, nobody really cares how many people were actually in the stadium. If they are going to do this; why not just go completely overboard and announce the attendance as something like 98,000 people? Anyone with any interest in the real number knows the given figure is inflated, so why not just go the whole hog?
- What are they going to do with the 30-foot inflatable "List of Jericho" after WrestleMania? Asking for a friend.
- Throughout the entire show Michael Cole kept calling the stadium the Citrus Bowl; which of course is not the name of the arena. WrestleMania was actually in Camping World Stadium, which in the past was known as the Citrus Bowl. It is an honest mistake, but corporate sponsors pay big money to get their names on arenas; you would think someone would correct Cole.
- The whole selection process for the Hall of Fame is pointless and the fact that guys like Jim Londos are not in it make it worthless as far as detailing the actual history of wrestling. However, the talent that does get inducted do treat it as a great honor and the ceremony is always a fun affair. Arguing about who gets in and who doesn't get in is an exercise in futility, but the night itself is always worth watching.
- Triple H always tries to look super cool during his entrances but I always end up laughing while watching them. No one in the history of society has ever looked cool while riding a three-wheeled motorcycle and he comes down the long ramp with this look on his face like he is in Mad Max. Then he revs his engine a couple times like a real badass and gets in the ring and spits water in the air. Always a WrestleMania highlight.
- The pre-show I actually didn't see, so I can only comment on the results. Corbin not winning the Intercontinental Championship was really strange because I figured him dethroning Ambrose would be really beneficial to both wrestlers. Neville and Aries I guess had a great match, maybe the best on the show. With Neville winning I'm sure they will have more matches in the future. The battle royal was surprising and would have been a great windfall if you bet on Mojo. In case you guys didn't know, I'm from Boston so I love Gronkowski; although I know a lot of nervous Patriot fans that don't like seeing him involved in unnecessary physical contact.
- What was strange was that there were no real WrestleMania cameos from legendary stars. No Rock, or Austin, or Michaels or anyone like that and they didn't have the normal WrestleMania backstage segments with The New Day interacting with Vince and stuff like that. Maybe they thought that they had enough guys over 40 on the show to begin with.
- Really glad they called up Samoa Joe for the big plans that they had for him. Seriously, how long has that guy waited to appear at WrestleMania and they couldn't even find a spot for him on a 10,000 hour show? Triple H always makes a big deal about not calling people up from NXT until they have plans for him; but he didn't even interfere in the Triple H/Rollins match.
- It was great seeing JR back in WWE and hearing him call the match; everything feels bigger and better with him on the mic. "Reigns' shoulder shot off of the mat as if it was on fire!" Nobody delivers the goods quite like Jim Ross.
Overall, outside of the main event I thought the show was pretty average. The Hardy Boys returning was the clear highlight and was also the best match. A lot of the finishes felt really flat and some of them were clearly rushed. I suppose the show could have been a lot worse, but you never want to leave WrestleMania thinking the show could have been worse and taking that as a positive. I had very low expectations for WrestleMania and those expectations were met; overall I'd give it about a Bret Hart 4/10