It’s that time again, the big one, the showcase of the immortals. Everyone loves Wrestlemania and the excitement and pageantry it brings but this year has thrown up some matches that have confused and enraged the fan base. WWE have put themselves in a unenviable position of delivering the show of shows to an already dubious audience. Here’s how I felt about each match on this years card.
Aj v Shane:
First match of the main show and what a match! What struck me in this match was that Shane actually wrestled very technically, it was quite impressive. Plenty of back and forth with AJ and the crowd seemed to love it. It was a pretty smart choice to open this strongly and get the crowd pumped from the off. Some great spots after the ref getting taken out, allowing a failed coast to coast from Styles and a successful coast to coast from Shane. The phenomenal forearm into a DDT was awesome, missed shooting star press from Shane looked gnarly. A very strong way to start mania proper, crowd popped the whole match.
Owens v Jericho.
Fast moving from the off from these two, there was a Walls of Jericho within the first few minutes and two cannonballs in succession from Owens, one to the apron. Some really nice crow pleasing spots in this match particularly Owens putting Jericho into the walls, Owens near fall with a pop up powerbomb and the surprise codebreaker broken by a trolling Owens putting a finger on the ropes. Powerbomb to the apron and a 3 count gives Owens the title. The match was fairly predictable with Jericho leaving soon but at least the two made it an entertaining one.
Raw womens fatal 4 way – Bailey v Charlotte v Sasha Banks v Nia Jacks.
There was a lot of expectation for this match to be a show-stealer considering those involved, I did have some reservations from the off about it being a fatal 4 way match with the addition of Nia Jax who actually dominated the match early on but was dispatched quickly which raises the question of why she was involved in the first place but it did elicit an pretty cool triple team big boot in to suplex to Jax which was awesome and the triple powerbomb and pin to take out Jax early was a nice spot. Some nice back and forth between Charlotte & Sasha, however the short run time of the match meant it was not something to get too involved in with Sasha eliminated by being sent head first in an exposed turnbuckle courtesy of Charlotte. Bailey takes a win in a match that was well performed and enjoyable to watch but did feel a little anticlimactic and could have been much more.
Raw tag team championship ladder match – Enzo & Cass v Gallows & Anderson v Sheamus & Cesaro v The Hardy Boys.
In a pretty unsurprising turn of events due to internet chatter, The freakin Hardys are back!! This pretty much sated the appetite of every IWC fanboy, they were taking it to everyone and the crowd were loving it. It was a match of some pretty cool spots like Cesaro’s springboard from the ropes to a ladder into a double stomp from the ladder which was awesome and Jeff being Jeff and taking out Sheamus & Cesaro through two ladders on the apron was awesome & terrifying allowing Matt to climb the ladder and take the titles. If the Hardys get to retain their ‘Broken’ gimmick remains to be seen on RAW, here’s hoping.
Mixed tag match – John Cena & Nikki Bella v The Miz & Maryse.
On paper this match sounded awful, in actuality it was pretty damn awful. A lot of time at the top of the match was wasted through runaround and false starts. As expected, Miz & Cena pretty much carry the whole damn match with respect to actual wrestling, Miz getting some genuine pops from the crowd and continuing his current run of on point heel work. Nikki & Maryse going one on one is kinda terrible as only Nikki displays any kind of In ring proficiency, mercifully the match doesn’t last long enough for them to spend much time in ring. It turns into a predictable Cena/Bella win followed by a cringeworthy public engagement with dialled down crowd response with still audible booing which WWE can only go so far to cover up, they’re not miracle workers you know.
Rollins v Triple H – Unsanctioned Match.
Firstly I have to say, Trips custom bike is the tits! How bad-ass was that entrance?! You can always count on Triple H to deliver a Mania worthy entrance. Closely followed by a gold garbed Rollins, flaming torch in hand making cool use of that insane runways video screens, it was very clever and affective, it’s an effect that is used by other wrestlers during the course of the night but done the best here. Early doors and Rollins was all over Trip, this was always going to be a match that was going to be physical as hell. Trip delivering a DDT on an announcers table that didn’t give way made me wince a little, it’s a spot that’s going to hurt no matter how it’s performed but when the table doesn’t go down, it starts to look dangerous. Props have to go to Rollins in this match, the superplex into a falcons arrow was superb and the near fall from an amazing Phoenix splash was pretty cool also. Steff being sent through a table got a big pop before Rollins hit a pedigree for the 3 count. Glad Rollins got him moment this match.
WWE title – Orton v Wyatt.
I started this match feeling that it had been relegated way too far down the card for a match that should have been the main event by usual standards. Orton’s viper entrance was pretty cool as an idea but had a really bad delay. There was an overuse of video effects this whole Mania but the worst, most jarring attempt were the weird maggoty/creepy crawly ring effect, its fine for intros but to start using them during a match just felt like a really odd decision. There were some nice early spots with respective Sister Abigails & RKO’s outside the ring but this match was over before it had even started with Orton winning with an RKO in a decidedly lacklustre match that was probably correctly placed in hindsight.
Universal title match – Goldberg V Lesner.
Goldberg beating Lesner at Survivor Series was pretty funny and eliminating him at the Rumble also. However, I always thought this match was going to be a massive letdown and yup, it was. Pretty much everyone was expecting going in that this was going to be another match that would be over in minutes and that’s exactly what happened. Some spears from Goldberg, one of which through a barricade. Lesner surprising with a frickin jumping jack over a charging Goldberg then followed by 10 suplexes from Lesner, F5 and done. Less than 5 minutes on a marquee match at the biggest show of the year is pretty disgraceful really and the Universal title is now in the hands of yet another part time talent, disappointing.
Smackdown 6 way women’s championship – Alexa Bliss v Naomi v Carmella v Natalya v Mickie James v Becky Lynch.
From the off I thought that there was way too many people involved in this match and as a effect it was going to be messy along with the fact that not enough time was given to build any kind of momentum, the whole thing felt very throwaway with Alexa Bliss tapping out to Naomi. It felt really Ill conceived and with the superior Cruiserweight & IC matches being relegated to the pre-show in the place of this match, it felt like a bad decision.
Reigns v Undertaker.
Ah this match, it’s so difficult to remain level headed with so much to be angry about in the execution of this match. Unsurprisingly Reigns makes his entrance to a chorus of boo’s, again the video ramp is utilised with Reigns basically Hulk smashing it. Taker rises from the middle of the ramp for two reasons, 1: It looks cool & 2: We’d still be waiting for him to get to the ring now if he hadn’t. It’s a REALLY long ramp! From the off Taker is all over Reigns, Reigns comes back with some offence of his own to turned down but still audible boo’s from the crowd. A cool spot from Reigns as he spears Taker through an announcers table on the outside. To that point the match was alright, the beating Taker starts to receive does start to feel a little unbelievable though, this is the freakin Undertaker for Christ sake! Reigns during these beatdowns starts to botch spots, on more than one occasion that starts to look increasingly embarrassing, I was actually biting my fist one was so bad. And then the ending, Reigns start a prolonged beatdown on Taker with chair shots, spears and superman punches, another spear, pausing briefly to try and emote but succeeding in looking a little constipated and/or confused. Reigns wins to a suspiciously muted response from the crowd. Taker loses at Mania to an opponent who made numerous botches throughout, the deadman was made to look weak to someone who at one point in the match fluffed lifting him multiple times. What made this an even sadder state of affairs is what happened next, a symbolic retirement announcement from Taker as he leaves his gloves, coat & hat in ring before he exits, breaks character to kiss his wife at ringside and leaves lowering into the ramp to his trademark gongs. This is how WWE decided to retire Taker, to a modestly proficient but wet behind the ears performer who the crowd just can’t get behind. Unless this is leading to the ultimate heel turn, I’m confused as to what was achieved here.
This overlong Wrestlemania has been an odd one, a show that you could split equally down the middle and call incredible and awful. When it was good, it was very, very good, shoutsouts going to the Raw tag ladder match and Rollins v Trip in particular. However when it was bad, this Mania stank something rotten, the mixed tag match, Goldberg v Lesner and unfortunately Takers retirement match. I don’t enjoy smarking about wrestling, it’s not big and it’s not clever but my God, some bad and confusing decisions were made for the flagship show of the year but as always with WWE, when they do something right the showcase of the immortals is still the hottest ticket of the year.