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The sheer size and length of WrestleMania makes it very difficult to come to a critical consensus on its quality. The show is so long, with so many matches, it is going to have its high points and low points. The Kofi Kingston vs Daniel Bryan matches was one of the most rewarding matches WWE has presented in years. The Triple H vs Batista match was a complete train wreck that I will never watch again in a million years. You can't just give WrestleMania a thumbs up or a thumbs down, the show is way to big and complicated to be summarized like that.
One thing I noticed was that the crowd's tolerance and enthusiasm begins to wane after several hours. Matches that would have gotten over if they opened the show struggle to get a reaction later in the show, when the crowd is just waiting for the main event and can't scrounge up the enthusiasm for a mid-card match, even if the performers are doing a really good job. WWE probably won't cut down on the run time for WrestleMania, but I would like them to structure the show better so the biggest matches do go on last. Bobby Lashley and Finn Balor had no chance at being a great match starting at 11:30 p.m., but it probably could have if it went on at 7:30 instead. The crowd is going to react to the major matches (like Brock vs Seth) regardless of spot on the card, so the matches that need some help to get over, should be put in the spot that will aid them the most.
The major theme of this WrestleMania does seem to be fan service, which is good, because the fans who follow the product religiously should enjoy the results they get. Rollins got the big win over Lesnar, Kofi had the emotional peak of the night by winning the WWE Championship, and of course Becky Lynch won in the main event. The show definitely had some flaws, but this was a big improvement over last year, when the crowd basically ignored the main event as they protested the Roman Reigns push. We all laughed when Vince and Co. came out earlier this year and said that they would listen to the fans and that we are in charge now; but the fact is they did deliver on that promise tonight by putting so many of the fan favorites over, some of whom were not the company's first choice.
Becky Lynch vs Charlotte vs Ronda Rousey: **3/4
They had a lot of hype for this match, and it deserved to be in the main event because it did have a lot of interest...but it did feel like kind of a flat match. It was mostly a basic wrestling match, not any different than something you would see on RAW. I thought that maybe they shouldn't have done so many weapons/tables spots in the Shane McMahon/Miz and Batista/Triple H matches, because the main event probably could have used some more of that kind of action.
Becky Lynch got the big victory, although the finish really came out of nowhere with her cradling Rousey. Because of that, I don't think it quite had the same kind of emotion as the Kingston victory, which felt more dramatic despite not being the main event. I will say that Charlotte was awesome tonight and it was pretty clear she was the best worker in the ring during the main event. Rousey was fine, although there were instances when her inexperience was apparent. Considering she is a celebrity, she has done a great job over the past year.
Kofi Kingston vs Daniel Bryan: ****
So this is what you can do when you have a babyface that fans really care about and want to see accomplish something. I don't think they did anything incredible in this match, if Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese did this exact same match it probably wouldn't have been very memorable, but since fans were really invested in the outcome, it was a really cool match. Kofi going over was the logical choice since he is the most over male wrestler in the company right now, and it was nice to see the fans naturally rally behind someone who has worked hard in WWE for more than a decade.
Triple H vs Batista: -*
This match was TRASH. I thought it might be a struggle going in, given Triple H is old and coming off of major surgery and Batista is older than Triple H and hasn't wrestled in five years. This was the worst case scenario; really it reminded me of the infamous Hulk Hogan vs Warrior match in WCW, when both guys were old and incapable of having a real wrestling match, so they tried a bunch of gimmicks and it didn't really work. Both guys looked old, out of gas, and wrestled very slowly. They relied on gimmicks and spots, and while the table bump was good and the crowd popped for Flair, most of the match failed to land. I thought the build was great for this match, but the crowd really didn't react to this match. Triple H's career was on the line and he had just taken a Batista Bomb, but the crowd hardly made any noise when he kicked out. Just a miserable viewing experience.
Seth Rollins vs Brock Lesnar: **
This was interesting, it opened the main show and a majority of the match was Lesnar beating up Rollins outside the ring. Then Rollins was able to turn the tide, quickly hit three curb stomps and pinned Lesnar. This was basically the inverse of Lesnar's WrestleMania matches in the past; the difference being that Lesnar lost this match. The fans are happy the belt is off Brock and onto someone who will be there every week, but this isn't a match future generations are going to be raving about.
Drew McIntyre vs Roman Reigns: **½
Despite WWE clearly wanting both of these guys to be big stars, the crowd was dead for this match and neither of these guys felt like superstars. I'm not sure if it was fatigue five hours into the show or they just didn't care at all about a match with no stakes, but this was a flop, even though both guys were technically fine in their performance. Raj said that the fans aren't ready to boo Roman yet so they were just quiet, but they are getting there. I think that might be accurate.
The Miz vs Shane McMahon: **¾
A lot of people probably thought this match overachieved. I thought the start of this match was really bad; Shane controlling the match with his crappy punches was bad, and the segment with The Miz's dad went on too long. However, once they got into the audience the match picked up, I really liked them brawling in front of all the international announcers, the audio of all the guys calling the matches in different languages was cool. The big suplex spot got over, although I thought the finish was kind of lame with Shane going over. I wonder if they will continue with another Miz match, or will they move Shane onto a different feud?
The Usos vs The Bar vs Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura vs Ricochet and Aleister Black: ***
Everyone worked really hard, but it is hard to have a great match with eight different guys and have it not go 30+ minutes. The match was fast-paced and exciting and everyone got a nice spot. One thing I will note is that Ricochet and Black are people who WWE want to push, yet in the last six days they have lost RAW, SmackDown and NXT tag title matches. Maybe they should split up and get solo pushes?
Kurt Angle vs Baron Corbin: *1/2
There are about a million better ways for Angle to end his career than jobbing out to Baron Corbin, but alas that is what took place tonight. The crowd gave Kurt a nice farewell which is hopefully what people will remember about him. Corbin just isn't a star in wrestling, and I don't see him being worthy of getting this kind of win. If Corbin and McIntyre swapped places on this show, wouldn't that make a lot more sense? Corbin loses a low-stakes match and McIntyre gets a huge win over a legend.
Finn Balor vs Bobby Lashley: **1/4
This was a fine match, but it went on super late during the show and the fans were just looking to see the main event and head home. The crowd did pop for the demon, and they protected the character by putting him over.
AJ Styles vs Randy Orton: ***
You could argue that this was from a technical standpoint the best worked match on the show, as both guys are known for their smooth work and timing in the ring. The match was hampered by the crowd trying to get WWE to turn off a bright stage light that was blinding the audience, so that hurt. AJ kicking out of the RKO was a nice false-finish.
This was not good. They gave them plenty of time and they didn't do much with it. Beth and Natalya and Bayley and Sasha were fine, the other two teams it was struggle. The IIconics are annoying, which is a part of their gimmick, but they are not good wrestlers and I don't expect the tag belts to grow in prominence now that they have them.
Samoa Joe vs Rey Mysterio: *
This was a quick squash match, perhaps done to save time, or perhaps done because Mysterio had an ankle injury. I'd probably go with the former, since it wasn't like Rey didn't jump around or take any bumps in this short match. Both men probably deserve better, but at least WWE didn't job Joe out here.
A few other random thoughts:
- I just really don't want to see Hulk Hogan on my TV screen anymore. I know a lot of people have nostalgia for him, but he is just an egoist who only cares about himself and getting himself over. At least his segment was short.
- Braun Strowman won the battle royal, but the winner of the battle royal has never gone on to do anything right after winning it, so it is hard to get excited about Strowman winning. WWE hasn't given Braun anything really substantial at WrestleMania during his career, and it is hard to make a guy a major star if he isn't getting a real spotlight on the biggest show of the year.
- John Cena coming back as the Doctor of Thuganomics character was a refreshing change. I'm docking him Boston points for wearing a Yankee jersey, but other than that he displayed such great charisma, really there is no one else like him.