Oh look! It’s another fool throwing his hat into the ring and sounding off about the biggest event in the WWE calendar. Yes, this past Sunday (as every commentator in wrestling and absolutely no-one else, anywhere, ever) says saw the biggest names in professional wrestling going for glory on the grandest stage of them all. Full disclosure – although I’ve been a wrestling fan my whole life, its one of those things that I step away from every so often only to come back to a year or so later. I was into it in the 80s, stepped away at some point in the 90s only to return to it shortly after Raw started. Then again, around 2005 I stopped watching regularly, only to return to it (though primarily TNA) around 2008. It’s really only the last three or so years that I’ve picked up regularly on WWE again.
So Sunday was Wrestlemania 34 – a ridiculous seven plus hours bonanza of action, talking, and reminders that it’s free to new subscribers to the WWE Network. I know you yanks love your pomp and pageantry, but even this is excessive. That’s actually one of the issues I have with WWE at the moment – there’s just too much – too much of everything. I honestly only have time for Raw and Smackdown, mainly because my daughter is now obsessed with wrestling so I’m not allowed to watch anything if she’s not there too – so between getting home from work, doing schoolwork with the kids, and getting the bedtime routine sorted, there’s no way I could also squeeze in NXT and 205 Live. It’s a shame though, because Cruiserweights have always been a favourite of mine – high flying action as a counter to the beasts and monsters. Some of my favourite TNA people have migrated to NXT, but I rarely get to see them, and when some NXT guys feature in a pay per view I don’t have much history with their characters or stories. I’m sure for those of you who have the time, then it’s a wonderful problem to have… I just don’t have a solution for it. What I would say is that currently there are a lot of nobodies on Smackdown and a few of the bigger names on NXT or 205 deserve to feature there instead.
I’ll get my other issue with WWE out of the way – Wrestlemania isn’t what it once was. It used to be the high point of the year, but now it feels more like a more bloated standard Pay Per View. The Royal Rumble has always been my favourite event, and each year only further cements that. My main issue is that there are simply too many Pay Per Views on the calendar – do we really need one per month? To me that means you’re condensing story lines to get them out the door by the end of a month, or you end up dragging them out too long. It feels like there is no road to Wrestlemania anymore. If it was me, I’d have Royal Rumble… then Wrestlemania – no PPV in between. I know you have to give equal focus to Raw and Smackdown, but if you can’t wait a few months in between, throw in Elimination Chamber for Raw and Smackdown in a single event – at least it has an interesting gimmick.
But enough moaning, lets get on to the good stuff. The Pre-show is nothing more than an excuse to entice new subscribers to sign up. They throw in a handful of matches to encourage new or semi-interested fans to get involved. The three matches in the Pre-show this year all had great potential, though only one of them was pure entertainment, and one of the best matches of the night.
Andre The Giant Battle Royale
I said the Royal Rumble is my favourite event of the year and I love the gimmick of not knowing who’s involved, even if you can almost guarantee the genuine contenders. This was a complete mess until the herd was thinned out. You had no idea who all was in the ring although the direction and general camerawork was better than the women’s equivalent. At the start of the match I figured Baron Corbin or Dolph Ziggler to win, though I was pleased to see Hardy get the win. Bray Wyatt returned, pretty much quashing my wife’s thinking that he would be Strowman’s mystery partner. Matt Hardy though… everyone seems to love the Woken gimmick. It was terrible on TNA and it’s just as bad, if not worse here. It’s good for a chuckle, but it’s not as funny or interesting as it thinks it is, and the ultimate deletion things are always a trial to get through. The trouble with this match is that it doesn’t mean anything yet – there’s little or no prestige and it cheapens the Royal Rumble. It should be a spur of the moment match, not a yearly thing. If it is to be yearly, then make it more important.
Cedric Alexander vs Mustafa Ali
This was a terrific match and deserved better than the pre-show. When your pre-show match is more interesting, better received, and has more talent than your main event, you know something ain’t right. And that’s with me not knowing much about either wrestler. I’d watched them fight before, I love the fact that fucking Enzo is gone, but I had no grounding in their history. This was too super talented athletes going full pelt with genuine passion. On a side note – DJZ’s entrance gear is much cooler than Ali’s. Oh yes… Drake Maverick? What the hell sort of fifth grade half-assed porn-star name is that? You are Rock Star Spud, and you always will be.
First Ever Women’s Battle Royale
Or second. Or third if we include the Royal Rumble, but who cares. This was a more interesting match with better stories than the men’s one, but the direction was absolutely terrible. At least viewers at home got to see who was in the ring from the start, though having three of the superstars getting individual intros must have felt like a kick in the nuts. It didn’t help though that I knew almost none of the NXT people, or basically anyone who wasn’t on Raw or Smackdown. At times there seemed to be only two cameras working, and both were suffering from delay. JR and The King didn’t help matters as neither seemed to know who anyone was or what was happening. The whole Naomi not eliminated thing was handled terribly – I commented when Becky was eliminated that Naomi was on the floor and asked if she went out too. Only my youngest daughter was able to say that she didn’t go over the top rope, so we kind of knew she was maybe still in the match. I imagine a few people lost their jobs over this match.
The Miz vs Seth Rollins Vs Finn Balor
This was a great way to kick off the main show, with three, by and large, evenly match competitors. It seemed likely The Miz would lose so he could take some paternity leave. I’ve never been a huge fan of his, at least in the ring, but at this point in time there’s no-one better on the mic than The Miz. Finn Balor I don’t care too much for – he smiles too much and the beard and costume are ridiculous. That leaves Seth, who seemed like the obvious choice to win. This was a strong match to get things going.
Charlotte Vs Asuka
One of the most anticipated matches of the night deserved higher billing. I honestly didn’t care who won this, though I have a feeling at Royal Rumble it was set in stone to be Asuka. Once Asuka started on the mic in shows after Royal Rumble, some sectinos of the crowd began to turn on her and I think the decision was made to allow Charlotte to pick up the win. Sucks for Asuka, especially as Charlotte didn’t need the win. This was another passionate performance though, I’m surprised it ended with a submission quite easily in the end, and I was expecting Asuka to turn heel during the celebration. That would have opened her up to be taken under Paul Heyman’s wing. In the end, it was what it was, and remained one of the best matches of the night, though it was soured a little by the whole Cena thing. Why was Asuka left in the ring by herself while this was going on, and why did they keep cutting to her looking bemused as if something was about to happen her? It was as awkward as the pre-show interview with Cena.
Randy Orton vs Bobby Roode vs Jinder Mahal vs Rusev
Most people were expecting Rusev to get this one, and most people were pissed that he didn’t. I had an inkling Orton would keep it, because Orton is another figure who always seems to get what he wants. I’ve never been a fan of his, Jinder Mahal has weird bandy looking legs, and I was never taken by the whole Rusev day thing – as far as entire gimmick’s based around a single word or phrase goes ‘Indeeeeeed’ would still be my go to. That leaves Bobby Roode, who I love from the TNA singles and Beer Money days. This was an okay match, but there was no reason for it to be a fourway.
Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs HHH and Stephanie McMahon
Easily the match of the night. We were all wondering how Rousey would get on, and while purists have had issues I loved every second of it and can’t really faulty her performance. Naturally Hunter and Steph were their usual scumbag selves and played the roles better than anyone else in the last twenty years has been able to. I was honestly more concerned about how Kurt would fare given he seems barely able to stand on a regular Raw. He did okay, but seems a pale shadow of his cyborg days of a few years ago. So yes, great match and I’m keen to see what they do with Rousey. Also – the referee was laughing his ass off all the way through this.
The Usos vs New Day vs Bludgeon Brothers
Bludgeon Brothers all the way. Ever since they first appeared I was begging someone to give them a proper match, not the succession of jobbers they kept destroying. I don’t care about the Usos – their gimmick is terrible and they haven’t impressed me much as fighters. The New Day are for the kids and nothing more – fun gimmicks and quotes, but I don’t care. Gable and Benjamin are clearly the best in the division and I was pissed when they won/didn’t win the titles. Brothers picked up the win fairly easily, but I’ve no idea what can be done with them as champs – note that at time of writing I haven’t finished watching the post PPV Raw or started Smackdown yet.
John Cena vs Alias (vs The Undertaker)
Kudos to them for keeping The Dead Man under wraps – no rumours or sightings of him ever went online until the very second his hat and coat appeared in the ring. Alias was dispatched of quickly and ‘Taker defeated Cena in less time than it took him to get to the ring. It was great to see him back, he looked better in his two minutes here than he did against Reigns last year, though I’m not sure what else they can do with him at this point – or even if he wants to be involved.
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
When I first started watching Smackdown again after being away, I wasn’t convinced that Zayn wasn’t some guy from One Direction. More importantly, I didn’t really know who Daniel Bryan was or why he seemed so beloved. Now that they’ve shown the Yes footage so many times since then, I get it, but I wasn’t there to see him wrestle and so I’m fairly ambivalent towards him. People have said he looked as good as ever in the ring, but I didn’t see anything special here. I was hoping Shane would pull something out of the bag – but the only highlight was a patented leap across the ring. Owens and Zayn are annoying to me, I don’t care what happens to them next… decent match, but can’t say I cared much.
Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax
This was pretty much a certainty, at least for me. It was definite when Jax destroyed Mickie James at the outset. Again, where do they take Jax as a champion – will Asuka want a piece? Will Ronda? It was a good match, it won’t be long before Bliss is a champ again given she’s so strong on the mic and very popular, but Raw has a surplus of female talent at the moment.
AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura
This was the one everyone was looking forward two, and it’s the one most wanted to be the main event. Perhaps there was too much anticipation, perhaps it was the fact that Styles was injured a few weeks before, but it never quite got into top gear. I don’t have much history with Nakamura – I like him, but I’ve never seen him be spectacular in the ring. Styles on the other hand I’m well versed in and he’s one of the best, most well-rounded performers I’ve ever seen. The match seemed to lack the energy that both men are known for, and there was no real build up to finishers or a true spark or inspiration. Nakamura’s low blow ensures that we haven’t seen the last of this story and hopefully future matches will be more intense.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs Braun Strowman and Nicholas
We all knew Strowman was winning this, the only question was who was going to be his partner. As the night went on, I became more and more convinced he would pull a randomer from the crowd, and lo and behold that’s what happened. Some people have slammed this but I thought it was great fun and my kids loved it. I was hoping that the kid would actually do a bit more, or even that Strowman would give him the pin, but still it was pretty funny. I don’t think it should have been so high on the card, but it was a highlight of the end of the show.
Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns
What. A Mess. You don’t need me to tell you. It wasn’t even the main event no-one asked for, it was the match no-one asked for. I’ve never liked Brock Lesnar, between him never showing up, never talking, looking out of breath and half wrecked every match, always on the verge of tears, yet inexplicably always beating much better and more interesting people, and Roman Reigns who I’ve never had the opportunity to warm to as everyone hates him, this was always going to be a disaster. People walked out in their thousands. The ‘this is boring’ chant soon became ‘this is awful. An inflatable ball got more cheers in the match. And then the twist came – when Brock actually beat Reigns. The one absolute guarantee long before Wrestlemania was that Brock was leaving and Reigns was becoming champ. Nope. The man who’s maybe turned up half a dozen times in a year retains the belt. The belt is now worthless – Nicholas would probably throw it back at you. The match itself was a horror show too, F5 after F5, failed suplex after failed suplex – that one into the table was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in over thirty years of watching (the Undertaker boot miss was pretty bad too). I can only assume this was Reigns playing dead after seconds before Brock botched another suplex, dropping Reigns onto his head. This was a main event bad enough to bring the entire world of professional wrestling into disrepute. The thing is… I thought the last few weeks of build up had been decent – the Reigns calling out Lesnar business worked well and some of the booing of Reigns up till the main event wasn’t fair. All of that went out the window in the succession of finishers and kick-outs. It’s at times like these you wish someone would put Vince through a table.
So, a botch filled main event, lots of incorrect title logos, interviewers not knowing how to fill time, and stoned cameramen, but nevertheless an incredibly entertaining show. That’s probably the only wrestling post you’ll see here… it all happens to fast that I can’t be arsed recapping or reviewing, and I follow plenty of blogs who already do it better than I could. Let us know in the comments what you thought of the show and what the future holds. But MOST IMPORTANTLY – who the hell is that guy with the long hair who gets ringside seats at EVERY SINGLE SHOW!? The long lost McMahon son? Answers on a postcard.