Friday, 11 April 2014

WWE WrestleMania XXX Review

It's a little bit late, but I've been very busy over the last couple of day, so finally here's my WrestleMania XXX review! There's a lot to talk about and a lot of opinion to get through. I know a number of people who weren't particularly excited for this year's Mania, after a number of years where the show has failed to live up to it's own hype, how would this year's offering fare? 



After a two-hour pre-show featuring The Usos retaining their tag team titles against The Real Americans, Rybaxel and Los Matadores in a stellar fatal-four way Elimination match, the show proper kicked off with a video package, featuring highlights of previous Wrestlemania's, alongside a street party in New Orleans, with the likes of The Bella Twins and Sheamus dancing and other such hijinks. At times the two would merge creating some really nice visuals such as Shawn Michaels ziplining in above the crowd. A quick look then at the major matches on the show, Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan and the World title bout that would follow, as well as The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar and John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt. I really enjoyed this opening package it got me hyped for the upcoming show, which is exactly what you want from an opening video package.

After some ballyhoo and Michael Cole's opening lines pushing the "Then, Now, Forever", we were treated to a lovely opening segment between Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock. Whilst Hogan continues to be shockingly bad at cutting promos, almost calling the WWE Network the WWF Network and referring to the Superdome as The Silverdome, Stone Cold and The Rock more than made up for it with their entertaining work on the microphone. With each man coming out toe big pops, it was a very cool moment to see three of the biggest draws WWE has ever had in the same ring at the same time. A truly fitting way to kick off the 30th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All.


1. Singles Match: 

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H with Stephanie McMahon





Before the match got underway, we got a superb introduction for Triple H by Stephanie McMahon, when she's on her game as a heel, she's spectacular and generates some great heat for herself. Triple H's entance was the first to get the WrestleMania treatment as he entered in a glorious headress and robe, flanked by NXT Diva's Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Alexa Bliss and sitting in a huge throne, it was a moment that was as spectacular as it was symbolic. By comparison Bryan's entrance was basic, no fancy ring jack, no fireworks, just 75, 000 people chanting "YES!" in unison. The contrasts between the two were clear and obvious, none more than when the two stood across from each other in the ring to start the match. 

For me, this match was an absolute pleasure to sit and watch. Triple H did a superb job in his role, working over Daniel Bryan's injured arm with a series of impressive manoeuvre's including an arm trap back suplex on the apron and a tiger suplex. I'm still not over Triple H hitting that tiger suplex, has he ever used it before? Stephanie McMahon was also on top of her game as Triple H's manager, cheerleading from ringside and keeping the fans involved when the pace of the match slowed, allowing Triple H to focus on Bryan. We've seen it time and time again from Daniel Bryan, there really is no one better at fighting from underneath, his selling believable and his offence crisp throughout. Altogether, the story told was captivating and easy to get behind, it's not often that WWE television manages to make me buy into the characters and story as well as this match and it's build up did, but it was fantastic to watch something and be completely engrossed in the match, willing on Daniel Bryan every step of the way. The finish was strong, seemingly coming out of nowhere with Bryan flipping out of back suplex attempt from Triple H and nailing him with The Knee That Beat Cena to pick up the pinfall victory. That knee has been very well protected so far, and I was surprised that Triple H didn't kick out, seeing as most finishers are kicked out of at WrestleMania! Overall, a very very good match, well paced with plenty of excitement with everybody involved playing their part down to a tee, even the commentary team did a decent job.

After the bout, McMahon got in the ring with Bryan delivering a few slaps to the face, allowing Triple H to pearl harbour Bryan, before nailing him with a steel chair shot to the arm. I actually called this happening in my predictions for the show, personally, I expected more of an attack, but this did the job well enough. 


2. Six Man Tag Team Match: 

Billy Gunn, Kane & Road Dogg vs. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins



Essentially, this match was a squash match and I'm not complaining. It went less than three minutes, with The Shield dominating throughout. Roman Reigns continued to look impressive with single handedly taking apart the opposite team in the early part of the match. Seth Rollins was also on form with a beautiful heelo dive, whilst Dean Ambrose joined him for a suicide dive later on. The finish looked great with The Shield hitting both New Age Outlaws with the Triple Powerbomb at the same time, which got a nice pop from the crowd. Credit to the New Age Outlaws and Kane for putting The Shield over so strongly, as they barely got in any offence in this one. For three minutes of action this was a lot of fun, I'm interested to see where The Shield go from here.

A backstage segment with Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter, Danny Davis, Ricky Steamboat, Ted DiBiase and Ron Simmons took part in a mildly humourous segment based around the Slam City range of action figures. It was a nice way to get these guys on the show and went short enough that it couldn't be accused of taking time away from any of the matches.


3. Andre the Giant Memorial Thirty-One Man Memorial Battle Royal: 

Alberto Del Rio vs. Big E vs. Brad Maddox vs. Brodus Clay vs. Cesaro vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow vs. Darren Young vs. David Otunga vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Fandango vs. Goldust vs. Heath Slater vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Mark Henry vs. R-Truth vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Santino Marella vs. Sheamus vs. Sin Cara vs. The Big Show vs. The Great Khali vs. The Miz vs. Titus O'Neil vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Xavier Woods vs. Yoshi Tatsu vs. Zack Ryder




Once some of the talent that rarely appears on television was sent packing in this one, (David Otunga, anyone?) things got a lot more interesting. There were some genuinely impressive spots, none more so than Kofi Kingston being launched over the turnbuckle by Cesaro, only to keep himself in the match by landing with his feet on the steps, which helped to lift the crowd in the later stages of the match. As soon as I noticed Cesaro was in the match, it was clear that he would be picking up the victory, as he was the only participant from the Pre-Show tag team match in the battle royal, so if he wasn't heading for victory there really would've been no need for him to take part in the match. The finish saw Cesaro pick The Big Show up in a body slam position, reminscent of Hulk and Andre at WrestleMania III, and send him out over the top rope, in what felt like a star making, true WrestleMania moment for Cesaro. Let's hope that in a years time, he has a much bigger role in WWE's biggest show of the year. 

4. Singles Match: 

Bray Wyatt with Erick Rowan & Luke Harper vs. John Cena




Whilst I wasn't a huge fan of the build being focused around "Legacy", which seemed only to be to fit around the Eminem song which was being used as a theme and throughout the hype package, the story told within this match was exquisite. I loved the idea of Wyatt trying to turn Cena into a monster and this lead to some of Cena's best character work in a very long time, fighting with his demons as Wyatt got inside the fourteen time World champions head. A highlight for me saw Cena attempt a five knuckle shuffle, with Wyatt blocking by entering his "spider-walk" position, with some really nice camera work setting up the visual to perfection. Whilst many were disappointed that Bray didn't pick up the victory here, I certainly wasn't up in arms about the result. Of course, Wyatt would have gotten a lot out of defeating Cena at WrestleMania, but his climb towards the upper echelon of WWE talent was hardly dented by Cena going over here, especially when that never seemed like Wyatt's plan anyway. I look forward to more bouts between these two with a battle at Extreme Rules in May seeming almost certain, giving Wyatt and Cena a gimmick match could produce a match of the year contender. 

After a video package from the previous night's Hall of Fame ceremony (unfortunately nothing about Mr. T's mother, before the traditional show-case of the new class of Hall of Famers. Jake Roberts, Mr. T, the sons of Paul Bearer, Carlos Colon, Lita, Razor Ramon and The Ultimate Warrior were all present to accept the adulation of the 75,000+ in attendance. It's a moment now tinged with sadness, due to the passing of The Ultimate Warrior, seeing him walk through the giant X, is a sight that pulls at the heartstrings. Thankfully he got this moment in front of a huge crowd one more time, if his last appearance at a wrestling had been wrestling Orlando Jordan in Spain, it really wouldn't have felt fitting. 


5. Singles Match: 

Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman vs. The Undertaker




Well, what can I say about this one? Let's be honest, the actual match really isn't that important, is it? The bout was messy, Undertaker looked old and tired, but there were some nice moments like the false finish that saw Undertaker's Old School move reversed into an F5 for a late two. It really should have been about fifteen minutes shorter but that aside, this one was all about the result. Yes, THE STREAK IS DEAD! The internet exploded, the arena were as shocked as Shane McMahon the day Kane introduced a current to his testicles. It really was one of those "Did that just happen moments?", wasn't it? Many were angry at the result, feeling The Streak should have lasted forever, which is a testament to how well WWE have built it up over the year, but if Undertaker really is retiring then it's was the right result, losing on your way out has always been the way in wrestling. Yes, we'd have all loved to have seen Bray Wyatt or Roman Reigns be the ones to end the streak, but neither were ready for a match of this magnitude this year, and The Undertaker was ready to bow out this year, so Brock Lesnar it had to be. Hopefully, we'll see Lesnar in action more often over the next 12 months to really capitalise on this win, it would be great to see him mixing it up with he aforementioned Wyatt and Reigns, as well as Daniel Bryan and Cesaro along the line.

A video package hyping WrestleMania XXXI at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California was shown, with clips of previous WrestleMania's being shown. I thought it was strange that they didn't show any pictures of the host city, and the logo was under whelming. It will be the sixth time Mania has graced California and the first since Triple H and Batista main evented WrestleMania 21, who knows what Santa Clara will get on 29th March 2015.

6. Diva's Championship Vickie Guerrero Invitational Match: AJ Lee (c) vs. Aksana vs. Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella vs. Cameron vs. Emma vs. Eva Marie vs. Layla vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Summer Rae vs. Tamina




In the biggest graveyard slot of all-time was the first title defence of the show as AJ Lee defended the Diva's belt against EVERYONE, because booking a feud for the women at WrestleMania would be a mental and out there idea. For ever good idea in this one, like Natalya's triple sharpshooter, there was an Eva Marie roll up, to keep things in check. It quickly 
evolved into a finisher fest, with everyone getting their chance to hit theirs (Who knew Rosa Mendes did a side-walk slam?) The finish was botched with AJ Lee supposedly having Naomi tap out to the black widow, by slapping Naomi's hand on the mat, which would have allowed Naomi a reason for a rematch later down the line, strangely Naomi tapped any way. Whilst it won't be remember for too long, the girls should be commended for keeping up a killer pace throughout, in what, when taken on it's own, is an entertaining couple of minutes.

In strangely only his second appearance of the night, host Hulk Hogan was interviewed by Gene Okerlund. Quickly, the two were joined by Roddy Piper and his friend from the late 1800's, who sported a magnificent moustache. I jest, obviously, it was Paul Orndorff, still sporting a magnificent moustache. When Mr T arrived we were treated to the terrific visual of the four men who main evented the original WrestleMania shaking hands, including an embrace between Piper and T. Pat Patterson turning up a referee outfit was surely the icing on the cake.


7. World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match: 

Batista vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton (C)




This is one of those matches that improved on a second viewing, away from all the hullaballoo surrounding the ending of The Undertaker's streak. Steeped in drama from the outset, this truly was a fantastic triple threat bout, that typified WWE's style of professional wrestling in 2014. Playing to each man's strengths, the early parts of the match saw Orton and Batista take out Bryan on numerous occasions allowing the former Evolution stablemates to go at it, with Orton dominating from a backdrop on the steel steps onwards, this allowed for quick comebacks from Bryan, building up towards a magical double frontkick, made even better thanks to a clever camera angle keeping Bryan out of shot until just the right moment. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon's appearances to keep Bryan from winning worked very well indeed, allowing the odds to be stacked even higher against Bryan, and a surprising piece of continuity for WWE saw Scott Armstrong placed into the match, only to get a kick in the head from Bryan! After Bryan had conquered Triple H with a sledgehammer to the face, Orton and Batista's teaming up made a lot of sense, placing another obstacle in Bryan's path as they sent him crashing through the announce table with a Batista Bomb/Neckbreaker combination, that looked to have broken Orton's back as he landed hard on a TV monitor. After Bryan had refused to leave on a stretcher, this is where th best wrestling content of the bout lied. Playing of the triple threat concept well, we saw a number of false finishes broken up by the other participant, as well as some late kick outs that had the crowd on the edge of their seat. But as soon as Bryan nailed Batista with The Knee That Beat Cena, followed by locking in the Yes Lock for the tap out victory, we crowd were out of their seats, arms raised in the air in a truly spectacular moment, that will be remember for some time to come. 

Overall, I felt this was a really good WrestleMania, certainly one of the best in some time, with both Daniel Bryan bouts and John Cena's match with Bray Wyatt being of the highest order, and each presenting something different in some way. Brock Lesnar defeating The Undertaker's streak was a historic moment even if the match wasn't too great in itself. The undercard also delivered with The Shield's bout being booked perfectly, whilst Cesaro was handed a WrestleMania moment in an exciting battle royal. The backstage segments were non evasive and fun, whilst Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock opening the show was both fitting and epic. Overall, a top notch PPV in my book, helped out by a surprisingly good showing on commentary from Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler (JBL was there too) and a faultless stream on the WWE Network. Let's hope WWE can keep this up as we head towards Extreme Rules on 4th May. 

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