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What started at 5PM EST and ended at about 12:15 AM EST had all the makings of one of the best WrestleMania cards from the recent offerings, but ultimately falls into the good, not great category. Carried by three bouts, one of which was no surprise, one of which is probably the finest WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) Women’s Match ever and one that was designed to gather as much mainstream publicity as possibly carried the seven hour and change spectacle to a fun night. It was certainly the best WrestleMania I can recall watching in the past couple of years.

Seven hours is a long time to sit through any live event. The Super Bowl, from kickoff to finish is close to four. Obviously World Series games a longer and the NBA and NHL seem to get it right with two and a half to three hours. Seven hours is a hell of a long time to sit through wrestling however, especially the repetitive nature of the WWE’s match presentation formula. I, your humble author, who has been a fan of professional wrestling since the age of six and has been involved in everything from acting as a referee, to storyline writer and commentator, have gladly offered up my thoughts on the 34th annual “showcase of the immortals”.

WrestleMaina Kickoff


Matt Hardy won the Men’s Andre The Giant Battle Royal thanks to the returning Bray Wyatt and threw out previous winner Baron Corbin for the victory. The ending was very confusing as we learned Wyatt was not an official entrant and there was a delay in announcing the winner. Wyatt returned after his “Ultimate Deletion” match and is now aligned with “Woken” Matt Hardy.

Cedric Alexander pinned Mustafa Ali to win the Cruiserweight Title after a fun match that was hurt by the lack of crowd reaction. Both men were fabulous in their performances, but even my wife kept wondering why they kept kicking out of big moves that would normally end most matches. Alexander’s “Lumbar Check” finishing maneuver is always wicked to witness. Welcome to the modern WWE, where it is impossible to win with your finishing maneuver.

Naomi won the Women’s Battle Royal after eliminating Bayley at the end. Yet another confusing finish to a battle royal as no one new why Naomi was still alive. It appeared Bayley had won after eliminating her now former bestie, Sasha Banks, but in a repeat of many years ago where Santino Marella was a forgotten entrant in a WWE Royal Rumble, Naomi was never officially eliminated and snuck up from behind to dump Bayley out for the victory.

Pros of the Kickoff Show: All of the WWE Superstars that can’t be featured on the “main” card get a chance to shine and warm the crowd up.

Cons of the Kickoff Show: With the exception of the Cruiserweight Title Match, the action felt rushed. As with the last couple of years, it was all about pushing people to purchase the free WWE Network trial, which really cuts into the flow of the matches.

WrestleMania Main Card

Seth Rollins won the Intercontinental Title over Finn Balor and The Miz after pinning The Miz via “Stomp”

The Miz entered the match as the champion and is considered by the WWE fan base to be a fabulous character but marginal performer. In my opinion, Miz more than held up his end of the bargain, and Balor and Rollins of course brought their high standards for a match to this performance. Rollins won the match after breaking up a pinfall of Balor on Miz and then “Stomping “ Miz’s head into the mat for the victory.

Pros of the match: All three men delivered for this opener and a pleasant surprise from The Miz, who will have some bruises after this one to show off. A fun match to kick things off and one many may say was the match of the night. This match fired the crowd up for the first hour.

Cons of the match: The political nature of Balor’s entrance. I have no issues with the inclusion of the local LGBT community in Balor’s ring entrance. I do have an entrance with WWE having to pat themselves on the back for it and for the trolls on Twitter assuming they know Balor’s sexual preference and mocking his cause (a cause which Balor supports, inclusion of all).

Charlotte Flair retained the Smackdown Women’s Title over Asuka via submission

Match of the night in my opinion. Our storyline here was the two plus year-undefeated streak of Asuka against the most prominently featured female performer in WWE (until they get more behind Rousey) in Charlotte Flair (daughter of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair). Just fantastic action from start to finish with Flair debuting some new moves and a wicked suplex by Asuka to Flair to the floor from the ring apron. Flair forced Asuka to submit to her “Figure Eight” leg lock.

Pros of the match: An epic display that represents what the WWE wants you to believe about their Women’s division. A lot of the matches just haven’t lived up to the hype over the last 12 months, but this one did.

Cons of the match: WWE thought it would be a great moment during an emotional post match celebration to inform “Fan of the Night” John Cena, that the Undertaker was in the building. WWE cut to Cena running to the back. Just bad judgment and timing for the production.

Jinder Mahal won the U.S. Title over Randy Orton, Bobby Roode and Rusev in a “Fatal Four Way” match via pinfall over Rusev

The crowd was just spent emotionally after the upset victory of Charlotte, but all four athletes worked hard here. The lack of crowd reaction hurt the match presentation. A little disappointing that Rusev, a rising star on Smackdown, didn’t get the victory.

Pros of the match: Fun and brief. A nice buffer after the spectacle and emotion of the first two matches.

Cons of the match: WWE making Mahal champion. Probably setting up a feud with Rusev, but for one of your best developing merchandise sellers over the last couple of months, they should have given Rusev the “WrestleMainia” moment.

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle defeated HHH & Stephanie McMahon via submission

Obviously the match designed to get the most mainstream press. This match was 20 minutes of well put together action that centered on McMahon avoiding getting into the ring with Rousey as much as possible. The match the crowd was most into for the night, and all involved did well to how establish Rousey as the future number one star for the company.

Pros of the match: Beautifully put together from a storytelling standpoint. If you have been watching WWE for the last few years, you know HHH and the McMahon family are always going to have a focal point at WrestleMania. It was nice to see Stephanie get her comeuppance, especially when I was convinced towards the end that HHH and Stephanie may win.

Cons of the match: Another WrestleMania and another McMahon is better than you angle leading up to it. WWE needs to reconsider using Stephanie (and Shane) in these important spots for WrestleMania. There is a real lack of top talent at the top of their cards, and no one gets a shot if the owner’s kids are taking top spots every year. Plus Stephanie is a world class athlete that held off the arm bar for as long as she could.

The Bludgeon Brothers won the Smackdown Tag-Team Title over The Usos and New Day in a Triple Threat Match

The Bludgeon Brothers pinned Kofi Kingston from The New Day to win the titles. Another buffer match hurt by the lack of crow reaction as they were coming off of the Rousey match. All the teams worked hard.

Pros of the match: WWE trying to make new stars out of The Bludgeon Brothers

Cons of the match: Short and put in an impossible position to follow after the Rousey match.

The Undertaker pinned John Cena after a “Tombstone Piledriver”

The story for the last month and half was Cena calling out the “old” Undertaker (he is 53 years old). It looked like the match wasn’t going to happen and WWE’s resident rocker, Elias came out to eat some Cena offense. The Undertaker did eventually emerge, and made quick work of John Cena. I suspect a rematch at SummerSlam for these two, and then The Undertake will retire at next year’s WrestleMania.

Pros of the match: They gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, a John Cena ass beating by a WWE legend.

Cons of the match: If John Cena is cutting back on his in ring performing for acting (and all indicators are that he is), shouldn’t he be used to help elevate newer talent?

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon defeated Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn when Bryan forced Zayn to submit to the “Yes Lock”

An emotional return after a three-year WWE imposed absence for Bryan due to multiple concussions. Story of the match was Shane McMahon, who was allegedly inured going into the match, was beat down until he could finally tag Bryan in.

Pros of the match: Daniel Bryan, Kevin Ownes and Sami Zayn. Owens and Zayn went above and beyond in making the boss’ son, Shane look like a million dollars and Bryan looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in his time off.

Cons of the match: Again, a McMahon is featured prominently and tougher than nails. WWE needs to move on featuring the corporate children in storylines as it is hard to take them serious in these roles and if they want to elevate new talent. The beat down of Shane went on far to long and bored the crowd. Plus the crowd was on a down after The Undertaker match.

Nia Jax pinned Alexa Bliss to win the Raw’s Women’s Title after a “Samoan Drop” from the second rope

This was the culmination of a “bullying” storyline. Both women worked hard, but the crowd was still down for this one.

Pros of the match: Bliss and Jax put on a great effort and had an emotional ending.

Cons of the match: I would have had Jax destroy Bliss, as that made more sense than the back and forth match they had.

AJ Styles pinned Shnsuke Nakamura to retain the WWE Title after the “Styles Clash”

Probably the second most anticipated match of the night, it kind of just felt there after it was all said and done. Nice mat wrestling and back and forth action, but I felt like I was watching a match on Smackdown. Nakamura turned on AJ post match to setup a rematch where he will be the “heel” going forward.

Pros of the match: Technically solid and entertaining. The ending was pretty much out of nowhere.

Cons of the match: This went on well after 11 PM EST, so the crowd was tiring out. Plus, they ran an angle to end the match, when fans wanted a decisive winner.

Braun Strowman & Nicholas defeated Sheamus & Cesaro to win the Raw Tag-Team Titles

Our story for this match was that Braun had to pick a partner and after much speculation that it would be a returning WWE Superstar, Bruan picked a 10 year-old boy from the crowd (rumored to be a WWE referee’s kid) as his partner. Braun pinned Cesaro after a powerslam.

Pros of the match: Just plain fun as Strowman walked through the crowd to “pick” his partner. Nicholas was the highlight of Twitter for the next half hour or so as well.

Cons of the match: Poor Sheamus and Cesaro, a hard working team, have been reduced to a joke. But that was their job for the night, so we can’t really fault them here.

Brock Lesnar pinned Roman Reigns to retain the Universal Title after a million “F-5s”

WWE has been trying for the last four years to make Roman Reigns “the man”, accepted by the fans and the torch barer after John Cena for the company. I think we a lot of other opportunities (see Zack Ryder, Rusev and others), they waited too long and most of the crowd (for better or worse) is against Reigns as the face of the company. The crowd was not into this match and reports of beach balls being tossed among the crowd and chants of boring filled the Super Dome during the bout. No one had kicked out of Brock’s F-5 for the whole year and Reigns did it four times in a row. Lesnar even drew blood from Reigns and finally put him down with one more F-5 for the victory.

Pros of the match: By the end, when Reigns was a bloody mess, some of the crowd was cheering for him. The ending is designed for a rematch where hopefully the crowd backs him (think Steve Austin/Bret Hart from WrestleMania 13). Plus the ending was opposite of what the entire viewing audience thought was going to happen.

Cons of the match: Again, no crowd emotion for the last hour and 10 minutes of action on the night. No matter how hard WWE tries with Reigns, he isn’t coming across as the big time star they want him to be on television (despite his merchandise sales).

Final thoughts on the show: Overall, I enjoyed WrestleMania 34. My top matches in order:

Charlotte Flair v Asuka

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle v HHH & Stephanie McMahon

The Miz v Seth Rollins V Finn Balor

Braun Strowman & Nicholas v Sheamus & Cesaro

These matches provide fun, athletic and emotional moments while the rest of the card tired us out. Seven hours is just too long for wrestling spectacle, plus we have to sit through another five hours of WWE programming on cable through the week to see the fall out. Still, go out of your way to watch the matches I highlighted here and see you at ringside.

 

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