Chris and Spaceman Frank review WrestleMania 34 weekend and speculate the Superstar shakeup and the state of the main roster.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
Chris and Spaceman Frank review WrestleMania 34 weekend and speculate the Superstar shakeup and the state of the main roster.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
Chris sits down with the mighty Bruce Corbitt, who may or may not be Batman as they talk Rigor Mortis, Mike Scaccia, Corbitt’s uphill battles and much more – including the April 21 “Freaks” demo release that has Corbitt’s long-lost vocals from yesteryear!
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Jon Schorr
Ya boy Jon and the Jewharaja review NXT TakeOver: New Orleans and WrestleMania 34!
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
It’s that time of year where being a wrestling fan becomes a full-time job.
WWE has decided to blast us with 14 matches on ‘Mania Sunday, which on paper seems insane. But at the same time, there is very little fat to trim from the PPV, and I can honestly say I am stoked for about 11 and a half of the matches. Sure, it is going to be a long night, but this has the potential to be the best of the six plus PPV’s WWE has insisted on putting on in the WWE Network Era.
The big questions I have for the event is 1) when will I be able to pee during the event and 2) how bitter and angry I’ll be during the Universal Title match. The build could have been better for some matches and Raw and SmackDown still are tolerable only as a series of Youtube clips, but IT’S ‘MANIA SEASON BABY! You can’t not get at least a little bit of excitement going when thinking about it. I’m Spaceman Frank and these are my WrestleMania 34 predictions.
WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
Big mistake to have both battle royals on the preshow as it is hard enough to get people to care about the men’s one before throwing women in their as well.
I would have had the women’s battle royal and the Cruiserweights on the main show and throw the Raw women’s championship match and the US title match on the preshow. Anyway, WWE really screwed this one right out of the gate by initially naming it after The Fabulous Moolah.
To use their “what if kids google her and find out what she did” anti-Chyna logic, there is plenty of popular and talented ladies involved here, but not a whole lot of story to go around. Bayley and Sasha Banks are getting the most screen time, but I see them eliminating each other to set something up later. Outside of that I could see Becky Lynch win since she really needs something in the win column. She is my pick of the announced people in the match, but I will cheat a bit and take a flyer out on Ember Moon being a surprise entrant and winner.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
WWE has not exactly stacked this match with a murder’s row of talent, instead giving people a chance to remember that Rhyno and Zack Ryder are still employed.
The honor of winning this match has lost all meaning, so I hope they have some decent action planned for this thing. Out of the announced people in the match I do not feel particularly keen on any of them, so using the “well, I have one of his shirts” logic I’ll give Heath Slater the nod. However, I’ll take a flyer out on a returning Samoa Joe winning this thing since Joe needs to be on a WrestleMania card finally and get a win as well.
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)
This was the second match announced for WrestleMania.
205 Live has been a very exciting program to watch as the tournament unfolded. Cedric continues to be the guy we truly hope gets a big break and gets the push we know he deserves. Ali has built a groundswell of support by getting you invested in his story and cutting better promos that most of the main roster. But these guys are an inch or two too small SO AWAY TO THE PRESHOW WITH YOU LADS!!
Seriously, perhaps one of the biggest mistakes the WWE has made with the WrestleMania card is putting this in the preshow and it is a continued sign that the 205 crew are stuck in no man’s land. I wish both men could win this match, and no matter what, I think they will have a hell of a match that pumps up the crowd. I am split 50/50 between the two, but Ced has been my boy for longer so I want him to finally get the crown.
Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Nia Jax (Raw Women’s Championship Match)
The simple story here is Bliss has gone full mean girl on her IRL best friend but onscreen rival Nia Jax.
This has lead to lots of crying from Jax followed by unbridled rage. The complicated story is that WWE continues to treat women differently from men, since you do not see Braun Strowman crying in the corner because The Bar made fun of his height.
Slightly problematic, but Jax has said she is fine with it and it is a solid bet she will win. Jax has deserved a high profile win for years at this point, since most big match she is in ends with her losing. She will steamroll the tiny Bliss in a fun but short match and finally get the big win on the biggest stage of them all.
The Bar (C) vs. Braun Strowman and TBD (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)
If WWE does not make a Brains Strowman shirt I have lost faith in humanity.
I think Braun should be able to challenge for the belts solo since it would lead to some more interesting future booking. Plus, it would give him something to do while they fart around with Roman before they realize Braun is better in every single way.
While the Bar continue to be as solid as ever, it is hard to compete with the magic that is Braun. As much as I want to see James Ellsworth make his triumphant return to WWE and be Strowman’s partner, I doubt that will happen. I could see Rey Mysterio being the mystery partner for a similar dynamic, plus it could give Rey a chance to recover while Braun does the heavy lifting. However, I think Big Show will return and the pair of massive men will win the championships off The Bar.
Randy Orton (C) vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev (Fatal Four Way for the United States Championship)
This match is Rusev’s to win, which makes it all the more shocking that he was a last minute addition to this match.
His merch sales have been through the roof in 2018, and you would think that if WWE cared enough about the Bulgarian Brute to make Rusev Day calendars they would have a plan for him during ‘Mania.
Meanwhile, Randy Orton is farting about SmackDown as per usual and has added nothing to the US belt as champion. Roode has quickly lost momentum as well and needs to be a heel ASAP. In other news, Jinder continues to Jinder his way through life, and I could see him eventually get the Rusev circa 2015 treatment with the belt.
But all in all, it is Rusev’s time and there is no way they completely ignore the babyface connection he has with the crowd right? Right???? Rusev wins on Rusev Day and we get America-loving foreigner Rusev filming skits at The Alamo and national parks for six months.
The Usos (C) vs. The New Day vs .The Bludgeon Brothers (Triple Threat for SmackDown Tag Team Championships)
First off, I am super happy all three of these teams get a chance to wrestle on the main card of WrestleMania this year (New Day hosted last year). Second, this could be a sleeper hit on a long card.
Give these guys around 15 minutes and let them go balls out and it could be an amazing way to invigor the crowd after say, a Roman or Ronda debacle.
The Usos have been great as champs, and The New Day continue to find ways to keep their gimmick fresh. Meanwhile, the Bludgeon Brothers are not exactly a new team on the scene, but MY BOY Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are looking like killers thus far (now if only they dressed like real people).
Any team could walk away with the belts and I would be happy, but I am going to be biased and say The Bros. win the belts and MY BOY brings the blue and silver strap home to Western New York.
The Miz (C) vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins (Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Championship)
This is another tough one to call.
The Miz has been his glorious best as of late, having a healthy baby girl born and winning 100K for homeless dogs by winning the Mixed Matched Challenge. On that note, YA DON’T SEE ROMAN REIGNS HELPING SHELTER DOGS DO YA??!! SOME BIG DOG YOU ARE, YOU PUTZ!!
Miz has to deal with two stellar workhorses that it can be argued need to belt. Finn is trying to get the Balor Club (now with more than one member!!) off the ground, and Rollins has been ramping back up to pre-knee injury levels as of late.
What I really want is Miz to come within days of becoming the longest reigning IC champ of all time then lose leading to an epic meltdown. What I see happening is Finn remembering he can put on the paint and stomp people to death and win the belt. Seth has no backup and Miz should probably take some paternity leave after ‘Mania.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs. Asuka (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
The real main event for women’s wrestling for the weekend (though it probably will not be the last women’s match on the card) sees Asuka defend her streak against arguably her toughest opponent yet.
Charlotte is someone I can see beating Asuka once her streak is already over, but not before. Having Asuka face Ronda in a year is much more of a money match, unless Ronda failboats hard in the following months. That being said, this should be a hell of a match, and Flair is one of the few women that can match Asuka’s physicality in the ring.
There are some rumbles that Carmella will cash in here, but I see her going to Raw to make up for Asuka jumping ship and cashing in on Jax or Bliss. Asuka wins in an epic encounter that makes you pause and think the streak may end.
Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
This could be fine, but I have a feeling the audience both in the arena and at home will have little patience for this match.
Triple H moves at glacial pace against younger opponents, but against Kurt and his dead shark eyes I do not see much vigorous action happening. Meanwhile, we got a non-wrestler and actual executive taking on a former UFC champ.
Ronda has not exactly wowed as a pro wrestler thus far, but awkwardness on the mic aside, she is still an elite athlete. If she went against someone she could just trade blows with and do some chain wrestling with this would be fine, but against Steph? No way this is going to be smooth.
Name one offense move in Stephanie McMahon’s moveset besides a slap. I’ll wait.
That being said, if this match ends with Kurt and Ronda getting the double tapout victory in less than ten minutes I’ll consider it a win for the company. Team Tapout beats team Board Members in a hot mess.
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
This shocker of a match came together at the last minute and probably has more to drive the hype up for WrestleMania and any single other match has.
The immediate flood of support for DB has myself and most other wrestling fans on a high, and I cannot wait to see Shane get beat up in front of his stupid kids and then give a hot tag to Bryan.
They also have the perfect foils in Sami and KO who will do everything they can to make both men look good. There are lots of rumors that Shane or Bryan will turn heel here, but I do not know if I see it happening at WrestleMania. Both these guys resigned their authority roles, so I see this as a chance to reintegrate DB into the active roster and give Shane a chance to disappear for a bit to refresh his character and maybe comeback as a bad guy.
But this is WrestleMania and Daniel’s first match back will be a clean win with no shenanigans so the crowd have a happy moment before the main event (shudder…it’s getting closer).
AJ Styles (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship Match)
What everyone wants the main event to be besides Old Man Vinny Mac sees two of the best in the world square off at the biggest show of the year. Shut up and take my money.
This has not gotten the grandiose treatment that the Universal Title match has gotten, but it does not need it. Everyone knows this is the Savage/Steamboat match on the card and could be something truly special.
Do I expect them to knock each others brains out like they did at Wrestle Kingdom? No. Do I still expect a spectacle? Yes.
Shinsuke should have the entrance of the night which will be worth the price of admission alone. I really hope WWE does not drop the ball and have this be the opener. I will chug a beer in anger if that happens. As for who wins, I think it is Shinsuke’s moment here and pulling the trigger on him later will not nearly mean as much.
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
While not an official match on the card, I cannot imagine WWE would allow Cena to drag ‘Taker’s name through the mud for nothing.
What remains to be seen is what version of Undertaker we get, both in terms of look (Biker ‘Taker rumors have been a hot topic as of late) and how healthy he will be. He did not look great last year, and post-hip surgery makes me worried about how many bumps he will be capable of.
This is more of a curious sideshow more than a match that I am really looking forward to, but if it wipes the taste of last year’s debacle of a main event out of my mouth I will be fine with that. It will also be interesting to see how salty Undertaker is after Johnny Boy effectively turned the Dead Man into a heel during the build.
As for who wins, if this is closer to the beginning of the show I can see ‘Taker passing the part timer torch to Cena. If ‘Taker comes out as the American Badass towards the end of the show I think he will pull out the victory. I’ll go with historical precedent and say ‘Taker wins to get some revenge on the Neon Knight.
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship Match)
We got the best version of this match three years ago that featured Brock beating the piss out of Roman for 90% of the match before Seth Rollins came in to win the belt. Now, we have no last minute contract renewal by Lesnear, no Money in the Bank cash in (imagine Baron Corbin being the savior of ‘Mania), and no reason to allow Brock to dominate Roman.
I really wish they would put this match on first to placate Vince so he could go to bed and AJ vs. Shinsuke can headline. Instead, I think WWE is going to wait until the entire crowd is tired and ready to boo this match into oblivion or file out early. I cannot see this match being worth the previous six or so hours of waiting. Roman wins, nobody is happy, and everyone goes to bed angry and disappointed. Happy ‘Mania day to all.
by Frank Lucci
The Easter Bunny has delivered a late present with this one. TakeOvers are usually grad affairs, but WWE really have gone all out on this one.
This could be one of those events that gets into the rarefied air of other legendary live events. I could not hype this one up more if I tired, and I plan on spending my Saturday night freaking out and yelling at my TV like I am a wee lad again. Hell, I plan on taking a nap after work so that I can be fully energized for the event. When your wrestling is so good you need to take an afternoon nap beforehand you have something special on your hands. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my TakeOver: New Orleans predictions!
Ember Moon (C) vs. Shayna Blazler (NXT Women’s Championship Match)
I start with the match that has the least mystery to me.
I was shocked that Ember held on to her championship the first time around, so I think Kanyser McDanger will take the belt here. NXT told a good story of how Moon survived their first encounter, but they cannot do the same finish twice. Plus Ember is prime for a main roster run and get some matches in with ladies like Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.
I could see Wanyer Gamezer jumping ship to act as Ronda’s proxy while she get’s good, but really I think WWE has made it clear on their weekly programming she is going to be the focus for the foreseeable future. Blaszler wins in the only potential misstep of the show.
Undisputed Era (C) vs. Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne (Triple Threat for NXT Tag Team Championship)
It is very unfortunate that Bobby Fish got injured right at WrestleMania season, but it did add some last minute mystery to this match. I was hoping Adam Cole would be forced out of the North American Championship match, but having him choose is also an interesting twist. I see him choosing the singles belt but running interference to help his buddy Kyle. Authors of Pain have nothing to prove, and I want them to challenge Braun and his mystery partner for the Raw belts the show after ‘Mania. Strong and Dunne are the X factor here, and they could be a super fun tag team that has a good run before the sudden but inevitable betrayal. But I think Undisputed Era wins via some tomfoolery to retain, with Cole losing his ladder match so that they can keep Undisputed strong sans Fish.
Adam Cole vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Velveteen Dream vs. EC3 vs. Ricochet (Ladder Match for NXT North American Championship)
My reaction to finding out about this match boiled down to this for about four days.
For one thing, my boy Ricochet is making his debut, and I am all in on seeing him in WWE. Second, we got EC3 also making his in ring debut, and just his intro promo alone has me excited to see what he will be able to do for NXT. Throw in four other capable wrestlers and this could be special.
My only complaint is I wished they swapped Cole out of the match once Bobby Fish got hurt and replace him with Kassius Ohno or someone similar. But between Lars and Dain trying to out hoss each other, several debuts, and Cole probably flying through the air repeatedly I am stoked. Plus, anything involving the Dream could lead to some levity in what could be a death defying showdown.
I think EC3 and Ricochet have the best chance to win, and out of the two I can see EC3 getting the strap. He would serve well as the entitled heel that NXT is known for, and having him already debut has allowed the crowd to get their “welcome to NXT” pop out of their system.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa
IT’S TIME FOR BLOODSPORT BABY!
These guys are going to tear each other to pieces and I cannot wait. One of the best long-term stories in WWE of the past decade, which is even more impressive because Ciampa has been gone for most of it.
Johhny Wrestling is one of the most over pure babyfaces in all of WWE, and Tommaso has been pitch perfect as a vengeful heel. Just watching the hype packages they have rolled out for this have me ready to see some violence.
But who wins this match? I could see it go either way. Gargano is ready for a main roster run, even if he will most likely end up on 205 Live, so that makes me lean towards a Ciampa win to keep Johnny off of NXT. However, considering Johnny has won very few big matches and I think NXT will allow everyone’s favorite wrestler a chance to hear his entrance music play twice on a live event. Gargano wins in a gutsy affair.
Andrade “Cien” Almas (C) vs. Aleister Black (NXT Championship Match)
Who would have thought after seeing this match at TakeOver: Orlando that this would be the main event of any show?
Cien has grown tremendously as champ, and while it still feels a bit odd that he is the top guy in a loaded field, it does not seem as improbable as say, Jinder’s run at the top.
His opponent, meanwhile, has been steadily proving himself as one of the most believable and consist performers in all of WWE. He looks the part of a demonic kickboxer, and I could see a scenario where he is on the main roster ASAP.
That being said, I think we have gotten all we can get out of Cien as champion. He had a match of the year candidate against Gargano, so they should have him drop the belt and move up while he still has some goodwill. I just do not see him being compelling for much longer in NXT and could be a boon to 205 Live. Aleister wins, holds down the fort, and offers up some dreams matches for the next year or so.
by Jon Schorr
Ya boy Jon and Matt preview Wrestlemania 34 and NXT TakeOver: New Orleans!
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by Frank Lucci
In Preparation for the inevitable crowning of Roman Reigns as Universal Champion, Spaceman Frank has taken it upon himself to go back and look at some events that happened around the same time WWE tried Brock vs. Roman first. In the third and final part of our trilogy we look back at WrestleMania 31, AKA WrestleMania Play Button AKA The Rise of the Roman Empire. Is this PPV a sign of things to come for this year’s ‘Mania, or have the WWE learned from their mistakes? Let’s look back and see if the first attempt to crown Roman Reigns (along with the other four or five hours of this show) hold up or are forever tainted by the main event controversies.
WrestleMania 31 AKA WrestleMania Play Button (because Vince declared numbers higher than 30 to be unpopular) is very much a roller coaster of emotions. One one hand, there was plenty to be excited for such as the Intercontinental Championship Ladder, Sting making his debut inside a WWE ring, and, ummm…a nice view of a sunny stadium? On the other hand many (including myself) were going into this in full on cringe mode. Roman infamously won the Royal Rumble in such a way that not even The Rock could get the man some cheers. When the most popular person on the planet (and potential future president) cannot get you over you should throw in the towel. It seemed unlikely that Brock Lesnar would be walking away champ due to his contract running out, but thankfully at the last hour he announced on ESPN that he had signed a new deal. This gave hope to the Visigoths (I’m just going to call the anti-Roman crowd different barbarian tribes that fought the Roman Empire), but was it too little, too late? I first watched this PPV in my parents basement like a true wrestling fan, with a few friends and perhaps a wee bit too much booze and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Now a little bit older, a bit wiser, a decent amount more salty, and wayyyy more sober let’s see if ‘Mania 31 can stand up on it’s own past the shocking finale.
Look, I am not going to force myself to watch 90 minutes of the Preshow Panel no matter how lovely Renee Young is. The two matches on the preshow were…fine. First we had a fatal four way with The New Day, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (aka The Brass Ring Club), Los Matadores, and The Usos. This was a match type that would end up being much better at Summerslam later in the year, but here we see a good nucleus of the tag team divisions found on today’s roster. The New Day were just about to become beloved, Tyson and Cesaro are The Bar 0.5, and The Usos were FUN TO WATCH MAGGLE. Also the Matadores aka The Colons aka The Shining Stars are still employed, making them the real winners here. I do miss El Torito though…. Anyway Tyson Chicken and Cesaro win to retain their belts and prove to Cesaro fans that last year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal win meant nothing.
Speaking of, the second and final preshow match was the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. This was pretty standard affair except for a few spots. Axelmania officially died when he was chucked out first, and retroactively I cannot believe that was a thing. Hideo Itami made his main roster debut here, which was promptly derailed after a shoulder injury, then it further fell down a cliff due to more injuries, and now finally he is stuck in the watery abyss known as 205 Live where he is not even a big deal there. Sad stuff. FInally the one bright spot was Damien Sandow breaking free of The Miz and eliminating him, leading to myself and the crowd roaring. Mizdow was legit one of my favorite things of this period of time, and I was all in on Sandow becoming a bigger deal. LOL NOPE BIG SHOW WINS YA GET IT HE WAS ANDRE’S SON IN WCW! Deflating moment that immediately sent up red flags for me when watching live. But in retrospect Big Show winning is still better than Mojito Rawley and The Leather Baron.
WrestleMania 31 opens to a beautiful sunny shot of Levi’s Stadium as some dude named Aloe Blacc sings America The Beautiful. It’s not bad, and considering many of the jokers that come to ‘Mania to perform it stands out. I wonder if WWE does America the Beautiful over the national anthem because so many of their wrestlers are from other countries they would have to go through like, two dozen anthems before the show started. Typical WrestleMania opening package featuring LL Cool J talking about human connectedness and media or something.
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
The show starts off hot with probably their best match of the night. The story was Bad News Barrett kept getting his title stolen by randos, so they threw them all together plus Daniel Bryan for this match. DB went from main eventing to show to opening it thanks to his debilitating injury, and his return in the Royal Rumble (and quick elimination) was the spark that started the rebellion against Reigns. So this match is essentially WWE throwing bone to his fans in hopes we forget about all that.
Daniel Bryan is out first to a pretty good pop but not as many people Yessing with him. Champ Bad News Barrett is out next, and BNB was effing money when he had his gavel and podium. Dolph Ziggler comes out…yup. Stardust is out next dressed like Mister Sinister and I have a feeling Cody will enjoy wrestling Kenny Omega this ‘Mania Weekend way more than anything else he did during previous WrestleMania weekends. MY BOY Luke Harper out next and we get the bane of my existence R-Truth. Finally we get Dean Ambrose, who is the most popular guy in the match besides Bryan.
Hot start as everyone must have collectively decided to go at 150% speed. Before a minute is out everyone does suicide dives and planchas until finally Dean climbs a ladder outside the ring and drops on everyone. Everyone gets a chance to try to gain the advantage, with the sickest moment involving MY BOY Luke Harper dropping a ladder straight into DB’s head (cringe). The competitors climb the ladders like regular people (aka at normal speeds and not like they lost feeling in their legs), which is refreshing. Stardust pulls out his bedazzled ladder, which has a name I refuse to type. It breaks immediately, which kinda sums up Stardust’s run in WWE. MY BOY Luke Harper and Ambrose get an extended sequence in the ring which is pretty fun which ends in the airplane spot that is required for ladder matches. BNB and Stardust go for a mega-suplex off the massive ladder which deservedly gets “Holy Shit” chants.
We get the sickest spot of the night when Ambrose takes a powerbomb from MY BOY Harper from the ring to the outside and through a ladder. I remember hearing on Table for 3 that Ambrose busted the back of his head open and got staples to close the wound by the ringside doctor. This hurt worse than the actual bump, and they had to be removed anyway to get new staples in once we was backstage. Damn. MY BOY Luke takes a Zig Zag off a ladder to take him out as Ziggles gets close but takes a Bull Hammer elbow. A few more elbows takes out R-Ron and Stardust but is foiled by DB from getting the belt. Running knee takes Barrett out for good and Zigglypuff and Gogoat Bryan trade headbutts on the ladder. Headbutt has a 30% chance of causing your opponent to flinch, which eventually happens to Zigglypuff. He faints and DB wins the Ladder Badge. (sorry for all the Pokemon references.)
Overall- Not fat in this match as most everyone pulls their weight. R-Duff does not do much, but everyone else gets a memorable spot to add to their sizzle reel. DB winning was the best choice of a winner considering the circumstances, but it is a bit melancholy to see him win. This was his last PPV match until his upcoming triumphant return at WrestleMania 34. Everyone else in the match has had their ups and downs, which only Ambrose truly being elevated in the years since as a key player. But overall a fun match that is very rewatchable today.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Here come the Black Hole of Charisma to make the pace of this WrestleMania a bit more methodical. Randle is seeking revenge on The Authority for trading him in for younger, hippie model Seth Rollins. Babyface Orton is somehow even more insufferable than Heel Randy , who attempts to curry favor with the crowd by raising the roof and giving out some half hearted “cmons!” Seth gets plenty of cheers by the live crowd, and he is with J&J security who I dearly miss.
Whole bunch of “methodical” pace to start us off as Randy counters Seth’s attempts to be exciting. Randle the Mandle delivers hanging DDT’s to the floor to J&J but eats a suicide dive for attacking the security boys. Whole bunch of nothing for several minutes as each men trades control and bland moves as I check out reviews for Dark Nights: Metal. Orton has had the same move set +/- the punt for over a decade so once you seen one Orton match you’ve seen them all. Seth tries to liven things up with his flashier moveset (including a beautiful springboard moonsault off the apron), but has to continuously match Orton’s pace. Finally we get to the only part of this match worth remembering when Orton counters the Curb Stomp into and RKO. Seth seems to fly ten feet in the air while taking the move and Randy wins the match.
Overall- Match will be immortalized for it’s Gif spawning ending and that is it. Rollins will have his WrestleMania moment later in the night, but this match could have been on Raw for all I care. Now both these guys will be in matches for secondary titles in WrestleMania 34. Seth has the chance to bring the house down against Finn Balor and IC Champ Miz, while if Rusev does not win the US belt from Orton I will riot.
Ronda Rousey makes her first appearance of the night in the front row. Hmmmmm… I wonder if this will come into play later tonight or in three years.
Sting vs. Triple H
Between the hype package, Sting’s Entrance, Triple H’s entrance’s intro video, and his actual entrance you have enough time to make and eat a sub. I know because I tested this. Weird disjointed mix of Sting being like “I just think Triple H is a jerk” and everyone else yelling FINAL BATTLE OF THE MONDAY NIGHT WAR! Sting’s entrance is pretty cool, but would have better if it was orchestra playing his WCW theme song like they did for the WWE 2K commercials. Triple H’s video and entrance is pretty much an ad for Terminator Genisys, which is a terrible movie I sat through because I hate myself. Also it looks 100% like Triple H has a metal pole sticking out of his ass during his entrance.
Match begins with Triple H being shocked that multiple time world champion and thirty year veteran Sting remembers basic moves. Sting gets “you still got it chants” after hitting a shoulder tackle, headlock, hip toss, and standing dropkick. I could hit those moves guys c’mon. Sting is already looking pretty disheveled after five minutes as his makeup starts coming off and his bald spot appears.
We then get the second portion of every modern Triple H match where he gets over his shock of seeing his opponent his basic maneuvers and slowly grind away at his opponent. I never really noticed his pattern until Having watched this and his ‘Mania 30 match roughly a week apart. This is about as fun as actually having the COO of WWE put you in a chinlock \. Only thing of note is Triple H’s massive bruise on his thigh and buttcheck and JBL claiming WCW was “a small pond.” What did you spike your diet Mountain Dew with John moonshine.
OLD MEN ALERT #1 as DX shows up to help their boss errrr friend. Haggard Sting gets some air on a dive to the ring apron but eats a Pedigree. It gets a two count though as OLD MEN ALERT #2 sounds as the even older NWO show up. I would have loved if X-Pac ripped his DX shirt to reveal an NWO one. A brawl between a bunch of old men occurs that ends with a bunch of gentle yet uncomfortable bumps. HBK superkicks Sting when it looks like Triple H is doomed, thus showing us he is a heel. Or he is just a toadie for Trips.
Final sequence sees bats and hammers come out as Sting smashes Triple H’s hammer and attempt a final rally before eating a sledgehammer to the face and losing. Everyone just kind of makeups after as the crowd is dead silent for the hopefully last victory of WWE over WCW.
Overall: OK nostalgia trip if you watched wrestling in the 90’s. I did not so much of the magic is lost. Sting looked fine in spots but showed his age elsewhere. Triple H stuck to his formula but it is not like either men were gonna get out of second gear. At first view it is entertaining enough but each time I watch it I grow more and more bored.
Legends spot as WWE throws as many legends as possible at Daniel Bryan to make his victory seem like a big deal despite headlining the show last year and opening it this year. We get a Bret Hart smile though which is rarer than diamonds. Afterwords a bunch of people pretend to make music. Just take a piss instead.
AJ Lee and Paige vs. The Bella Twins
The sole women’s match sees sometimes rivals, sometimes friends AJ and Paige take on The Bellas because reasons. Nikki is in the middle of her record breaking title run (to erase AJ’s record title run), which was immediately surpassed by Charlotte. Solid decision making all around. Tons of Divas era offense as someone has a “Nikki I’ll give you babies” sign. Stay classy dude. AJ spends most of the match on the outside taking a rest while Paige gets beat up. Brie yells “BRIE MODE” which is the most exciting she does in the match. Paige does a cannonball spot to the outside which is the most exciting part of the match. AJ recovers from the three forearms she took and runs wild. It is slightly sloppy as the ladies go through to motions. ALmost as if they planned out the whole thing out beforehand. Something tells me this wrestling stuff is fixed. Anyway AJ gets the tapout victory over via Black Widow.
Overall: Nothing match to get what amounts to the cream of the Diva crop before the women’s division really started taking off. Lee would be out of the company almost immediately afterwards rendering the whole thing useless besides some long forgotten Total DIvas storyline. It is curious to watch just for seeing how much better the women’s division is now but easy to skip.
Hall of Fame spot which is good for making you cry over Connor the Crusher (pours one out for the fallen homie). We then get a commercial for an old WWE video game but that does not matter cause RUSEV IN A TANK!!!! RUSEV IN A TANK!!!!! RUSEV IN A MUTHA EFFING TANK!!!! Seriously the best wrestling entrance ever. Some BS USA images appear to remind you that by booing John Cena you boo america. Really sick of this type of exploitative crap. Don’t use dead soldiers and real life tradigities to get me to care about stuff, wrestling or otherwise. If John really loved the USA maybe he would wear more patriotic colors rather than neon colors and jean shorts. Seriously lame build that belongs in 1985. At least it brought us RUSEV IN A TANK ALL HAIL GLORIOUS LEADER RUSEV.
Rusev (C) vs. John Cena (US Championship Match)
Despite the USA chants Rusev still gets more cheers than Cena. I guess the patriotic video did not work. Lana must be baking in that suit and fur getup in the middle of California. Match starts with some beef being thrown about as Cena hits a big clothesline and Rusev hits his running heel kick. Rollover overhead suplex by Rusev is equally impressive. Rusev takes a second to gloat about Russia which leads to Cena’s four moves of doom. Rusev blocks the AA and the crowd is pretty hot. I do not think RUsev was as over as Bray Wyatt was against Cena at ‘Mania 30 but this crowd is definitely louder in their anti-Cena chants. “Let’s Go Lana” chants show Rusev is far from the darling of the smarks he is now.
Both men take turns hitting some big moves, and they work really well together. RUsev is the bigger and quicker guy, but Cena started changing up his moveset at this point to be a bit more flashy. Rusev hits an Alabama Slam, err ummm Sofia Slam for a two as we get to the point that happens every time someone faces Cena where the Heel starts panicking that they have not put him down yet. Brah you have not even hit your finisher yet calm down. STF by Cena is an excuse for the boys to have an audible chat and for Lana to throw a shoe in the ring. Who throws a shoe, honestly? Cena’s shite STF does not work and neither does Rusev’s flying headbutt, but that does get slight Rusev chants. Cena blocks the Accolade and hits his springboard stunner that Rusev sells like a champ. People crapped all over this move but I always liked it. Showed Cena was at least trying to change things up in his moveset unlike some people (cough Randy cough)
Finish sees Rusev hossing Cena around before getting the Accolade in. Cena sees a bald eagle flying overhead, hulks up and breaks the hold by backing Rusev into the corner. This leads to a still shite STF. Lana tries to distract Cena but ends up being hit by a charging Rusev and knocked off the apron. Cena takes advantage of this spousal abuse with an AA for the win and championship.
Overall: Fun match. The patriotic angle made me hate the pre-match stuff besides RUSEV IN A TANK but the actual match was good. Lots of back and forth and big hoss moves. Rusev looked good in defeat and it was inevitable that Super Cena would win for America. This would lead to Cena’s US Open challenge which really helped him turn a corner with snarky bastards like me. It was all downhill for Rusev however as he would keep falling downwards until his pairing with Aiden English and Rusev Day. It would be nice if Rusev regains the belt he lost three WrestleManias ago this year especially if it means Randal takes the pin.
Recap of the preshow by the Preshow panel in case you are like and said “screw that crap this show is long enough as it is.”
Big Ol’ Ronda Segment
Since this takes up a good 20 minutes it gets a headline. Steph is here to have a good wank session about how great the WWE is. Triple H gets to be here trophy husband despite being responsible for most of the positive changes in WWE the past few years. I really do think these segments are a big turn on for the power couple. Nobody is allowed to take up more time and have a better wank session on screen than Dwayne Johnson though so he appears and takes his sweet ass time getting to the ring. For real it takes about five minutes for him to get to the ring and start talking. Rocky here is completely bald and lacks a beard, making him look like a confused baby turtle. Typical Rock speech full of Rockyisms about the fans, his greatness, and genitalia. Eventually Rocky goes to Slapfest County as Steph taunts him after wacking him good. Admittedly that is pretty heelish and amazing. Crowd catches on quick with “Ronda” chants before The Rock moves a muscle. Shayna Blazer makes a quick cameo as Dwayne walks by and he picks lucky fan/future Hall of Famer out of the crowd to fight his battles for him. We pretty much see the same Ronda segments on Raw we have seen for the past several weeks, swapping out one bald man (The Rock) with another (Kurt Angle). Only difference is Ronda only says two lines and thus is 1000% better. “I’ve had it with this whole frickin thing” says Triple H, echoing my thoughts on the 2017 Ronda angle. The good guy and gal beat up The Authority as everyone cheers.
Overall: Is this better than putting on another match? Maybe. WrestleMania needs segments on this to act as a palate cleanser, especially in the era of 7 hour PPVs. WWE essentially copied much of this for their build to ‘Mania 34, only with charismatic Rocky over dead on the inside Kurt Angle. It’s fine for what it is, but has lost some polish now that it is something we see on the reg.
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
They start hyping this with Ronda and The Rock still in the ring. Taker hype package with Johnny Cash backing it, which is pretty rad. We Undertaker’s lost from last year’s WrestleMania which transitions to Bray doing Bray things. I thought Bray might have a shot of winning so they could pass the torch. LOL NOPE. To make matters worse Bray hurt his foot on the weekend of the event and was limited a bit with what he could do. Recipe for a disappointment.
What does not disappoint is Wyatt’s entrance which sees him animating scarecrows as he passes them. Would look cooler in the dark, but it is still a cool entrance. I think he should have kept the scarecrow look too as his current look of white dude dreads and white pants are super generic. Undertaker is out next with tons of fog, tombstones, and purple light. LOts of people complained about the entrance because it was still light out, but I think the purple tinge and shadows do the job well. Taker has also abandoned the amish punk look of last year for a goatee and shorter hair. He looks way better than last year, which admittedly is a low bar to hurdle.
Opening of the match sees Undertaker hitting a bunch of big moves to assure fans that this time Takie Baby can still go. Commentary acts like Wyatt does not have a chance and, well, he doesn’t. Match is so exciting my mind wanders and I wonder why Undertaker has not had his tattoos touched up. They are really faded and it is distracting. Eventually Wyatt begins to rally but it is so lame the only way I can describe it is he hits the old man a bunch. Bray hurts his foot again diving into the steel stairs that looks like it maybe got within a few inches of Undertaker’s head. Match is already winding down as we get a Hell’s Gate and Uranage/Senton combo. Yay?
As we get to the finish Bray does his spooky man spine bend in the corner, which earns him a chokeslam. Tombstone gets a two count, which I guess is as close as to putting over Bray as Undertaker will get. Desperation Sister Abigail does not get the win and we get the spider walk/sit up gif that people will remember this match for. Both men slug it out with strikes with Bray getting the advantage until Undertaker decides he is ready for his hotel bed and hits a second Tombstone to win. Big blasts of pyro go off as we fade to the main event hype.
Overall: Nice to see Undertaker look mobile and healthy. That is about all the positive I have for this match. Bray did not look like much of a threat throughout and was here to put the old man over. Not a horrible match though and way better of a watch than the ‘Mania 30 match for both these guys. Short and to the point, but definitely in the middle of the pack when it comes to Undertaker WrestleMania matches. If you really love either man i say rewatch it otherwise skip.
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Crack one open folks. It’s that time. Hype package tries desperately to make Roman look cool or at least likeable and fails. Brock meanwhile looks cool as a GD cucumber talking about how he likes to hurt people. Funny how much WWE has recycled from this first go around from the “right guy in the right place at the wrong time” line to the whole part timer/full time divide.
Roman out first to the mild “oooooooo” of an audio tampered crowd as security guards literally have to shove people out of the way from giving him the business. “Roman is a Wank Pheasant” sign out which always draws a smile from my bitter and salty soul. Reigns also has some lame ass pyro that looks like a bunch of roman candles…..oooooooh now I get it. Brock gets a massive cheer and blows up the stadium with his pyro. Almost as if he is a way bigger deal than Reigns. Heyman gets a big cheer for his intro speech as well and off we go.
Gotta say, the opening minute of this made me crackle. They start hot with Reigns trying to get the jump on Lesnar only to get suplexed like a ragdoll and eat an F-5. Brock is bleeding from the cheek which makes him even more terrifying. Nobody makes him bleed his own blood. NOBODY. Louder than ever boos for Reign’s attempt at a comeback and big cheers for bodying Roman during a clothesline and suplexing him for a third time. At this point the crowd has caught on that this is not the Roman crowning we all thought and perhaps with his new contract WWE would just allow Brock to steamroll their golden boy.
SUPLEX CITY BITCH is born as Heyman smiles knowing his client just came up with his new catchphrase. Heyman is preening like a peacock which is always enjoyable to watch. He just loves his client so much. Reigns smiles and laughs after his fifth trip to Suplex City, which is incredibly stupid and I still get mad watching him smirk while getting the crap kicked out of him. I could keep counting all the suplexes and Reign’s attempt to come back, but really the next five minutes is Brock beating Roman like he ate the last McRib.
After Reigns kicks out of a second F-5 Lesnar literally takes the gloves off and slaps the piss out of Reigns. Not gonna lie, I just love watching the man suffer. If they had Reigns take the Curt Hawkins spot he would 100% be in my boys stable. Third F-5 does not do it and the crowd starts to boo and get worried. Brock then goes into a ringpost and starts bleeding immediately as the crowd further get on edge. Parade of Superman punches get even more hate followed by a pair of spears. Lesnar ain’t having none of that though and kicks out as Paul clutches his heart with worry. Massive fourth F-5 stops the rally cold and then….
IS THAT CROSSFIT JESUS’ MUSIC?????!!!!!
Seth is out here to save the day!!!!! True story when I watched this live my livestream cut out and we went into panic mode as we heard Seth’s music but could not see what happened. Crowd goes nuts as Seth kicks Roman out of the ring and curbstomps Brock. Brock catches him for an F-5 but Roman spears Brock as Seth goes flying. Rollins recovers and hits a curbstomp to ROman to win the belt as the stadium erupts in cheers and pyro. Final image is Rollins swinging the belt over his head like a dead cat as massive amounts of fireworks launch from everywhere. Such a smart choice for WWE to give the belt to a workhorse like Seth who, while his run had plenty of downer moments started out in the most epic fashion ever.
Overall: If you like watching Roman Reigns get beat up this is an easy rewatch. If not well you have the next several WrestleMania main events to watch. Brock looked like a killer and Seth like a savvy villain who was one step ahead of everyone. The match is fairly short and does not have many bad moments, and lead to some really great stuff. Now without a cash in nor a new contract for Brock now we shall see the crappy original version of this match WWE wanted to put on here for ‘Mania 34.
Final Thoughts: Much like WrestleMania 30 the bookends of this show are the best. The ladder match is head and shoulders above anything else and featured plenty of fan favorites working frantically for your approval. The main event was also fun and very much memorable. Other than that much of the rest of the card is forgettable. Many of them featured newer guys like Rusev, Wyatt, and Sting in prominent roles only to lose. It is hard to get through this PPV knowing many of the deserving wrestlers lose out and floundered soon afterwards. If not for the cash in this would have been a forgettable Mania. A solid hour of good wrestling with three other hours that feel like a decent episode of Raw.
In Preparation for the inevitable crowning of Roman Reigns as Universal Champion, Spaceman Frank has taken it upon himself to go back and look at some events that happened around the same time WWE tried Brock vs Roman. In the second part of our trilogy we look back at WrestleMania 30, the first proper PPV of the WWE Network era and the last WrestleMania in New Orleans until this year’s event. Will the epic tale of Daniel Bryan vs The Authority hold up four years later? Let’s find out!
WrestleMania 30 is an event that is often lionized for its big moments. Daniel Bryan finally got the championship he deserved, even if in retrospect this was the beginning of the end for the internet icon. This also was the place where Undertaker’s streak ended, spawning countless memes and cementing Brock Lesnar as the real rising star of this era. I remember hosting a party for the event as a housewarming style bash that both regular wrestling fans, as well as new people, were able to get into. Nowadays good luck asking someone to try and watch 8 hours of wrestling and see if they stick around to the end.
Looking back this was a really special era full of hope for the company. There was no Roman Reigns to hover over the event like a vulture, and while Brock beating the streak was a shocker it at least made sense. Personally, I was more worried about the Network feed messing up like it did during NXT Arrival more than the quality of the show. As a fan who was less than a year into his full-time wrestling obsession, I was all in on Bryan’s story and not as concerned with part-timers and the like. Oh, how things have changed.
Before the PPV begins proper there a couple of things I’d like to address. There are only 8 matches on the card including the pre-show, and the PPV is just shy of four hours long. This is about how long a big PPV card should be, and in comparison, WrestleMania 34 has ten matches announced with several more weeks to go until the event. Please WWE, there is only so much I can take. I did not watch the preshow, which saw The Usos beat Los Matadores (lol), Rybaxel (LOL), and The Real Americans. Hopefully, The Usos get on the main card this year. HALL OF FAMER KID ROCK’s theme song for the night is mildly upbeat and very annoying and does not convey a sense of grandioseness that is required for ‘Mania. The stage is very cool at least, and all the purple and gold give the arena a very royal sensibility. On commentary is Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL, who do their best throughout the night. AKA very average stuff that is easy to tune out.
Opening video montage featuring HALL OF FAMER/FUTURE SENATOR KID ROCK is an upbeat mardi gras parade featuring a truly random assortment of wrestlers including Fandango and Sheamus. Sheamus does not move, he just holds his arms out on top of a float for the entire thing. Probably his highlight of the night. They edit in footage of legends such as HBK and Andre the Giant, which is sorta cool but also very distracting. Before the action begins we get the Host of WrestleMania/Slayer of Gawker Hulk Hogan. Hogan is caught singing his own theme song while walking down the ramp like the mark for himself that he is. No wonder he keeps challenging Cena for one last match. Hogan takes too long to get to the ring and the crowd begins to quiet down once the second verse of his song starts. Once he is back in the ring the crowd fires up more. IMMEDIATELY Hogan begins messing up by calling the Superdome the Silverdome, The WWE the WWF, and stumbling over his words. Pretty bad for a “pro” like Hogan, but at least the Silverdome debacle lead to some gold later and the commentary team crackling up like loons.
Austin comes out next to a gigantic pop as Lawler literally screams “SPECIAL MOMENT! SPECIAL MOMENT!” Thanks, Jerry, I got it no need to let us know what it sounds like when you climax. Stone Cold comes out, makes a Silverdome reference and also manages to stumble on his words and look winded from the walk down the ramp. He threatens to beat up an old man but then decides to kiss his ass instead. The Rock is out last and takes his sweet time to even get to the ramp, let alone get to the ring. Being the most popular human on the planet The Rock is a much better promo than either of the other guys. Rock also gets major points for me for actually bothering to mention people wrestling on the show like John Cena and Daniel Bryan. The three guys do their catchphrases, drink some beer, and the segment ends. Not the worst way to kill 20 minutes, but the improved Superdome jokes are the best part of this opener.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (Winner gets added to WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
Did anyone really expect Daniel Bryan to lose this match? Could you imagine the Evolution triple threat closing the show? In the era of Roman Reigns, yes, but this night is all about DB baby! Nice hype package highlighting Bryan’s rise throughout his WWE career cut with The Authority holding him down. “You don’t listen to these people. You don’t listen to their obvious desire to see somebody like me succeed.” prophetizes Daniel Bryan. Amen dude, amen.
Stephanie Mcmahon is out in a tux jacket/short shorts combo to introduce her husband. Triple H is in full Conan the Barbarian mode despite being announced as the COO of the WWE. He is out with three women surrounding him who just so happen to be Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss. Say what you will about Triple H but he picked pegged those three as winners right off the bat. Might as well say it but The Game is one of the best themes songs…ever. Still get chills hearing it. Daniel Bryan comes out to his usual massive pop but very little extra flair for the big event. Cole refers to DB as “the proletariate” like he is going to win back the means of production for the working class instead of a championship belt. I miss the massive waves of “Yes” from crowds and really no one else has come close to being as over as Bryan was at this time.
35 minutes into the PPV and our first match starts. Typically of part-time Triple H, the match begins with stalling, followed by H’s opponent hitting a move, then Triple H sitting there being like “OMG HE HIT A MOVE!” The early portion of the match sees DB trying to gain the advantage with strikes and chain wrestling as Triple Haitch seeks to work Daniel’s injured shoulder and use his power to take down the smaller man. It is not the flashiest match, but it works and is enjoyable.
Getting it out of the way now: It is a little uncomfortable watching Daniel Bryan land on his shoulder and back of the head. Knowing what we know now it is hard not to see Daniel throw dropkicks and go for dives/headbutts without cringing. It does add a bit of melancholy to this event overall, but in the heat of the moment, you still get caught up in the action.
Bryan hits some huge moves to the outside including a massive but ugly as hell moonsault to the floor before Triple H regains control by slamming Bryan’s hurt arm onto the table. To add insult to injury Steph is her usual screeching self on the outside. God, she could tell me I’ve won the lottery in that voice and I would still want to punch her. DB takes a bump on the ring apron as Triple H and Steph smooch while he is being counted out. Classic heel move showing affection for your wife.
“Hache” gets a dirty crossface in that puts the STFU to shame except for the fact that he locks it onto the forehead. Daniel Bryan sells for a bit before he begins a mini-comeback which includes a few trips to the Suplex Co-Op. Top rope sunset flip powerbomb and dropkicks from Daniel before he gets decapitated by a Triple H clothesline. Flying Goat gets countered by a knee to the face (cringe) but a Yes Lock attempt by Triple H eventually by a rollup/Yes Lock of his own. JBL already sounds drunk as Triple H makes it to the ropes.
The finish sees the classic DB combo of suicide dives/ top rope dropkick/Yes kicks but it is not enough to put down The Game. Triple H fires back with his own classic combo of spinebuster/Pedigree but The Goat kicks out to a massive pop as the crowd knows the end is near. Triple H keeps trying to get in a second Pedigree but DB eventually counters his way to the Running Knee for the win. Bitter Boi Triple H beats up Daniel afterwards to leave “doubt” as to if he will be able to wrestle later.
Overall: A Good opener for the show. It was pretty methodical at times but it worked for the story that they were telling. Besides some cringe moments involving DB’s injuries, this match has held up pretty well. When he needed to Triple H bumped like a boss for the much smaller man and the crowd was nuclear hot for portions of this match. Only real negative is Drunk JBL commentary and Steph screeching but those are more annoyances than real flaws.
Footnote: I wrote all of the above before Daniel Bryan was cleared to return to the ring. While I am still cautiously optimistic about his return, I cannot help but still cringe at the thought of him taking bumps. On one hand, I am immediately stoked by his return, and on the other, it is still going to be tough to not freak out every time he takes a nasty spill. Watching him land on his shoulder and rolling while doing the running dropkicks against KO and Sami makes me hope he will be playing it much more safe this time around. However, if he pulls out the Flying Goat headbutt again I will drive to New Orleans and punch him in the mouth. Can we get an official ban on jumping headbutts yet?
The Shield vs. The New Age Outlaws and Kane
Show of hands: Who remembered this match happened? I sure didn’t. Zero hype package as The New Age Outlaws are out ASAP after the last match. Road Dogg tries to say something, gets cut off by The Shield coming through the crowd. Kane is out last, leaving this feeling like they are scrambling to make up for time. The story here is that the Authority B squad beat up The Shield…and that is it. This match is in fast forward as each member of the heels takes a turn getting beat up. Triple powerbomb to the New Age Outlaws wins the match and also IRL messes up Billy Gunn so bad he gets hemoptysis.
Overall: Filler match. Match was so short Seth Rollins’ only move as a legal man was for the finish. Prime example of getting everyone on the card and getting their stuff in. The bathroom break match for the first half of the PPV.
Sargent Slaughter and Hacksaw Jim Duggan are playing with toys like adults until Ricky Steamboat comes out to be a stereotype. The toys are bought by Ted Debaise and Ron Simmons comes out for the “DAMN” spot. I usually enjoy Legends spots on ‘Mania but adding the toy commercial was pretty lame.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Number of people in this match who are no longer with the company: twelve. Number of people in this match who are active members of the WWE roster: fifteen. Throw in several people who have since retired and that is not a good look for the company. Big Show and Sheamus get their own entrance which everyone else is already in the ring. It makes since for Big Show to get an entrance but Sheamus? Lawler here is more annoying than usual as he does not recognize Brad Maddox and didn’t know 3MB were in the match despite having a “wok band” joke ready. Match is a hot mess until about half of the men are eliminated and some actual spots start happening. Random highlight of the match sees Fandango eliminate Intercontinental Champion Big E as the place starts Fandangoing. Remember that random craze that lasted all of two weeks? Something I wish I could unsee from this match is R-Truth and Big Show exchanging pelvic thrusts at each other.
This match only gets good once we are down to the final seven. Rey Mysterio and Cesaro have a fun sequence that makes me wish they had a full match together. Kofi does his usual battle royal magic by catching his feet on the ring stairs to avoid elimination. I still don’t know how they pull that off. Final four is Big Show, Cesaro, Sheamus, and Del Rio. Jamison and Patron eliminate each other and the crowd comes alive for the stare down between Show and Cesaro. Crowd goes even more mental when Cesaro lifts Show up like he was a sack of dog food and dumps him out for the win.
Overall: This ‘Mania weekend pretty much has been the highlight of Cesaro’s singles career. Between winning this and becoming a Paul Heyman guy the next night there was plenty of hope for the Swiss Superman. Sadly they continued to start and stop pushing him even though Cesaro can out wrestle most everyone on the roster. I really hope we get him into a Universal/WWE title program at some point. Meanwhile, Big Show would get his win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal next year before Baron Corbin and Mojo Rawley killed off whatever importance the match had.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
An AMAZING promo package hypes this match as a big effing deal, and even though it is set to an Eminem song it does a great job of highlighting the differences between the two men. God, Wyatt was so good at this time, and this felt like his chance to move up into the main event scene. How far he has fallen, and after years of his promos getting more and more nonsensical he really needs a chance to freshen up the character.
Wyatt is out first with a voodoo style dancer intro and a live version of his song. All of it is fantastic and they really need to bring back his gimmick of appearing on the Tron and saying “(insert town name)..we’re here.” Cena’s entrance by comparison is his standard look and the crowd is mostly negative towards him as usual. Contest begins with Wyatt playing some mind games by getting on his knees and begging John to unleash his anger and be a monster. Good Guy Cena just waits until Bray charges before going for a headlock ASAP. Less than a minute in and we got rest holds. Wyatt gets some offense in but it is pretty plodding to say the least. This apparently pisses off Cena who gets his anger face on and smacks Wyatt around a bit as the Eater of Worlds laughs at him. For the first time ever dueling “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” chants get under Johnny’s skin as he mugs to the crowd and throws a hissy fit when he can’t beat up Wyatt when he is in the ropes. Different side of Cena here, but it is so exaggerated that it comes off as comical. Serious Cena only really became good lately when he just coldly goes for multiple AA’s and clobbers people with meaty closelines.
Both men continue to wrestle at was can charitably be described as a leisurely pace and it is a good time to grab a beer. Crowd do not care much for this match until Bray does his crab walk pose when Cena goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle. This causes the crowd to start singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” in what is the coolest spot of the match. Shame it is something the crowd does and not something the wrestlers do. Both men continue to wrestle at a lackadaisical pace as they trade power moves. Some look good like Wyatt’s powerbomb counter to a top rope leg drop while other look sloppy like Bray’s gutbuster move where he can barely lift Cena up. Cena decides to dive on MY BOY Luke Harper and Erick Rowan like a cowardly heel. Shame on you sir don’t you mess with my fellow Western New Yorker and his ginger friend! Cena considers heeling out by crushing Wyatt with the steel steps but that might make a child cry so he tosses them aside. Cena impressively scrambles out of frame when Wyatt goes for a running senton, making it look like he disappeared before hitting the AA. Wyatt kicks out and MY BOY Luke gets revenge for Cena’s unprovoked attack with a massive kick. Still not enough to get the pin and Cena gets driven into the barricade and murders MY BOY Luke in the process.
The match concludes with Wyatt hitting Sister Abigail then throwing a fit when Big Match John kicks out. He grabs a chair to try and make Cena disqualify himself as the ref meekly stands by and asks politely for them to stop. Ref literally is yelling at Cena “this is not who you are!” Like Cena has never been in a no DQ match before or used weapons. Cena puts on his best “anger” (aka pooping) face, hits Rowan with the chair, counters a rollup and Sister Abigail into an AA and gets the win as JBL and Cole talk about what a swell guy he is.
Overall: The portions of the match that focused on Wyatt trying to corrupt Cena were good. Everything else was pretty meh. The action was pretty slow and Cena’s rage faces are comical more than anything else. They would have a rematch in a steel cage which Wyatt won via demonic singing child which harmed him worse than losing. Wyatt weirdly has failed upwards around WrestleMania as he went from this to Undertaker the next year to dealing with The Rock at 32 and entering 33 as WWE Champion. He ended up on the losing side of all those encounters, which sums up his career pretty well. I would not be surprised if down the line Bray leaves WWE and goes on the indy scene and revitalizes his career by going full on Satanic with his character. I think a blood feud with someone like Jimmy Havoc would be awesome. Until then, expect more rambling promos and glimpses of what could have been.
Hall of Fame recap segment is next. Jake the Snake’s speech was amazing and if you have not yet check out the movie about him getting clean. You will get choked up. Other than that and feeling sad about The Ultimate Warrior’s passing this did not do much for me. Whole bunch of filler next as we see DB being worked on by trainers, shots of New Orleans, and the Spanish Announce team.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
Oh boy it is Streak time (grabs the whisky). Video package about the Streak is interrupted by Paul Heyman who delivers his usual masterpiece of a promotalking up how Brock is going to be the One in 21-1. I do not know anyone who thought that would actually happen, but we all know how it all shakes out these days. The Jimmy Johns monster is out first to his usual entrance. ‘Taker’s entrance begins with several coffins representing his victims (including the people who are dead IRL. Real sensitive WWE) as a video package is interlaced between. ‘Taker comes out with the usual fog and lightning show as Brock’s coffin opens by itself due to magic/hydraulics. ‘Taker is rocking the Amish goatee/ mohawk look that makes him look about a decade older than he is. Not a good look, but he looked much better next year with the medium hair/no facial hair look. ‘Taker’s entrance takes what feels like an hour, which is a shame since it is not particularly memorable considering what we are about to see.
Back and forth to start and I spent much of the early portion of the match trying to decide when exactly Undertaker got concussed. One random note: when was it decided that ‘Taker was “the best striker in WWE history?” Shouldn’t Ken Shamrock, Brock Lesnar, or some other notorious tough guy (Vader) get that node? Amish ‘Taker tries a weird arm hold that I think is suppose to be him pulling Brock’s arm while it is tangled in the rope but it just looks like they are holding hands. ‘Taker is working the shoulder by repeatedly sending Brock into the ring post as Lesnar occasionally responds with a punch. The pace can generously be described as glacial as they hit a few strikes, talk a walk to a different part of the ring, and do the same thing. Match picks up slightly as some finisher reversals and ‘Taker looks like he pulls his groin for for a boot. Brock takes over and he pushes the pace forward somewhat in that he begins to turn pink. Not quite purple yet. Brock dumps ‘Taker backwards onto the floor and for my money, this is when ‘Taker gets concussed. He definitely is slow to respond and he looks way more off balance.
At this point, this match gets a bit hard to watch as Undertaker stumbles around and spends plenty of time on his back as Brock works his leg. You can see him grabbing towards his head several times and it seems like Brock is doing anything possible to avoid laying blows there. Brock tries to throw ‘Taker into the stairs and ‘Taker whiffs completely and barely gets a toe to hit the steel. Crowd is dead as Brock spends minutes punching and kicking with very few actual moves. The fans are having none of Brock’s offense, but when Undertaker rallies they get a little more energized. Undie continues to rally and hits a Chokeslam for a two. Brock counters with an F-5 and now the crowd is coming alive since nobody expected this match to end before a single finisher was hit. Undertaker is either selling like a champ or he is legit struggling to get up. Hell’s Gate is powered out of right when ‘Taker mumbles “do it” in what I am sure is a random coincidence. It should be noted that JBL calls the whole match like he knows ‘Taker is going to lose, which is full of foreshadowing moments. Repeat of the Hell’s Gate spot with a much better slam. Both men trade Kimura Locks and while two men laying down in the ring is not the best it is more exciting than the past 10-15 minutes of strikes.
The last act of the match sees both men pretty pooped as Brock is full-on beet red and ‘Taker struggles to maintain his balance for Old School. He literally does not take a step before Brock turns it into an F-5. Wince. Paul Heyman spazzes out on the outside and ‘Taker looks even worse than before a he landed right on his head on that on. Paul takes the moment to yell encouragement to Brock as ‘Taker composes himself for the finale. Desperation Last Ride which sees ‘Taker just kind of drop Lesnar with zero force as he collapses afterward. Thank God the match is about to end cause this is painful to watch. Tombstone just gets a two and Brock is a much braver man than me for allowing a severely compromised man to attempt to safely drop me on my head. The second Tombstone is countered in a third F-5 and the streak is over. Crowd visibly are stunned and the crowd reaction sounds like a very loud and confused scream. This guy as the crowd either boos or sit there like Brock shot Santa. Heyman freaks out and Brock’s music does not play, which is a smart move because you can take in the crowd reaction much better. Bullshit chants begin as 21-1 flashes on the screen. Brock leaves as Undertaker has a hard time getting up. Once he goes the crowd showers him with praise as is expected. He gets a standing ovation from everyone as he limps to the bad a broken and beaten man.
Overall: Another hard match to watch knowing the injury ‘Taker has to deal with during it. The match was very slow and the eventual rematches were much, much better. The twenty minutes beforehand are entirely skippable until the end, and really that is what people are going to remember more than anything else that happened. ‘Taker would return to murder Bray Wyatt next year and Brock would have himself a year by murder John Cena among other on route to winning the world championship. His run with the belt was pretty fun and better than his Universal Championship run, though there has been some fun highlights there like Lesner vs Joe. But in the moment it was hard not to still feel the shock and weight of the moment he won and signalled a big shift in the WWE.
Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational Match
Oh God, these poor women. After all that they do not even get entrances (Except Mrs. CM Punk) and the crowd could not be bothered to pay attention. AJ Lee is the champ, and this came about because the WWE is lazy and just threw most of the women into this match as the bathroom break. Fun fact eight (nine if you include Brie Bella) of the fourteen women here are no longer with the company. But considering that this list includes Rosa Mendes, Cameron, and (sudder) Eva Effing Marie that is probably for the best. Vickie gets here own set of stairs to climb on and talk from, which made me laugh. Match is two or three DIvas (not yet Superstars) doing their spot as the rest hang out on the periphery looking busy. Essentially the few women who are talented look good and the rest show why NXT was so necessary for the division. Lots of super choreographed spots (including the Bellas fight betray each other for the millionth time) until AJ gets her submission in and gets the win. AJ gets about ten seconds to celebrate before they move on to the next segment.
Overall: Crowd does not care and neither do the announcers, but this match was not bad. Short and sweet and inoffensive for the most part. I’d compare it to the Smackdown Women’s Championship match at ‘Mania 33. AJ (much like the women who beats her for the belt Paige) is one of those people who looked good because she had crap to work with. Ere she did maybe three moves and did not come across as a star. Hell, Alicia Fox and Tamina looked better here than she did. It is what it is and if you want a slice of what the WWE women’s division was like before The Four Horsewomen this is it.
MEAN GENE is trotted out to interview Hulk Hogan (who has not appeared since the opening segment). Mr. Wonderful and Roddy Piper (RIP) interrupt so they can have a grump off. This inevitably brings out Mr. T and Payday Pat Patterson who just wanders in and out of the shot. The oldies eventually all shake hands a make up as Roddy struggles to shake Mr. T’s hands, probably cause they were not exactly buddies IRL. More legends as Bruno, Harley Race, Bob Backlund, Dusty (RIP), and Bret Hart are shown before we finally get to the main event.
Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
Fun fact: Besides the preshow tag team title match this was the only title match on the card. Mr. Excitement himself and current champ Randy Orton is out first to no pop. He gets a live version of his theme song which is god awful. I hope nobody spends money to see these guys perform live. The lead singer looks like Corey Graves’ cousin who slept in an alley the night before. This is back when they had the champ bring both belts to the ring, which I thought was a cool look back before every belt was a different color of a Chaos Emerald. Batista is out next and he at least gets boos. Poor Drax got a rough deal when he came back and now I am sure people would be like “OMG DRAX IS BACK HELL YES!” Especially if he came out in the body paint. Commentary is quiet until Batista is midway down the ramp, which is odd cause I would have loved to hear even Drunk JBL over Randy’s theme. DB is out last to a somewhat muted response until he starts leading the yes chants. Cole hypes this match and the WWE Network one last time before the bell rings and off we go.
All three men jockey for dominance and the pace is so very welcome after the past hour of farting around. Everyone takes a turn looking good and even Captain Methodical Orton moves a bit quicker. Granted he is walking a brisk pace instead of his usual putzing around but i’ll take it. Batista takes a slam on the steel steps and guardrail and he really deserves credit for making the other two men look good on offense. Bryan hits a beautiful double dropkick that makes it look like he flew into the screen but his head slams into the ground in my first cringe of the main event. DB keeps trying to put both men down long enough to get a in but with each successive hit, he begins to slow down. He takes a nasty back body tumble from the ring to the floor where he manages to smack his forehead on the ground despite landing on his feet (cringe). He catches Randy in the Yes Lock after the he superplexes Big Dave but that is Steph and H’s cue to to move in. Trips pulls the ref as the crowd gives him the business.
OMG IT’S EVIL REF SCOTT ARMSTRONG! I FORGOT HE WAS A THING! CAN HE COME BACK PLEASE?! Seriously though can they bring him back I feel bad because once you get the crooked ref gimmick it’s not like you can go back to officiating regular matches. Drax hits the Batista Bomb but the evil ref just counts normally do DB can kick out. This sets off the crowd wh go nuts with their yes chants. One of the best visuals of the past decade of wrestling is when the crowds would yes in unison. Steph and Hunter looked shocked as we get a background cameo of Connor the Crusher (pours one out for the little guy). DB gets his revenge against Scott (who JBL calls “not that bad” which is like getting an endorsement from Louis CK) with a kick and suicide dive. Crowd continues to go nuts for this and it is nice to have a WrestleMania main event that the crowd, you know, actually likes.
Triple H goes for the sledgehammer shot, but DB grabs it and knocks him out first. Each time Bryan foils the Authority crowd get louder and louder. Daniel remembers he is wrestling Batista instead of The Authority and goes for a rollup but Randy breaks it up after he was napping for the past few minutes. A karmically neutral ref is back as David and Randall team up to wallop Bryan as the rest of the Authority limp to the back. Random CM Punk chants until JESUS CHRIST BATISTA BOMB INTO AN RKO THROUGH THE ANNOUNCE TABLE. easiestly the sickest bump of the night as DB took the hit like a champ and Randy lands on a monitor and looks to be in even worse shape. Dave is the only one who makes it out ok and he uses the opportunity to… stand around. He eventually snaps out of it and lays into Orton as a stretcher is prepped for Daniel Bryan.
But that isn’t going to stop history as he flops off the stretcher and tries crawling to the ring. Randy throws him into the stairs, preps the RKO, but gets caught in the Yes Lock. Batista breaks it up, gets caught in his own Yes Lock, but Randy breaks it up next. Randy takes The Destroyer down with an RKO but he kicks out before Randy the Accuser can win the match. The Punt tease is met with a flying knee by Bryan, but Batista throws him out and tries for his own cover. This does not work either, and finally DB hits the running knee on Big Dave, throws on the Yes Lock, and gets the tapout victory as the crowd goes insane. Confetti and fireworks goes off as the show goes off the air.
Overall: easily the best and most exciting match of the night. Everyone involved worked hard and all the extra drama kept the crowd from winding down. You would have never known that Taker’s streak was broken about an hour before. Seeing DB beat all of his Authority obstacles one by one was smart booking and each small barrier he overcame let the crowd get more and more hyped. Of course, from here he would feud with Kane before the injuries finally caught up to him and he would be gone for months and months. I didn’t think I would enjoy the match as much as I did knowing the aftermath, but maybe DB’s sudden clean bill of heath has me feeling better about his title win. Of course, Randy Orton is still sticking around being as exciting as a basket of ghee and Batista would leave in a few months and become part of one of the most successful Marvel movies of all time. Not a bad deal all things considered.
Final Thoughts: While this WrestleMania had some great moments, it was lacking in match quality. I remember this being a super exciting night, but now it feels flat. The Streak being broken will always be the big thing taken away from this PPV, nd when your biggest moment is horribly depressing that’s never good. Thankfully Daniel Bryan’s win was a high point in what continues to be an up and down road for the former champ. Everything else was just filler that makes for good background noise. At least it is only four hours long instead of the six or seven hour marathons of today. I watched it in three parts and it was…fine. Not the best, but there is some good stuff here. The first and last matches are worth revisiting as well as the aftermath of the Undertaker vs. Brock match, but ignore the rest.
by Frank Lucci
In Preparation for the inevitable crowning of Roman Reigns as Universal Champion, Spaceman Frank has taken it upon himself to go back and look at some events that happened around the same time WWE tried Brock vs. Roman. He will look back at the last WrestleMania to take place in New Orleans, WrestleMania 30, as well as WrestleMania 31 and the first encounter between the two men. But first The Spaceman will check out the very first live wrestling event ever streamed on the WWE Network, NXT Arrival!
Nowadays it is taken for granted that TakeOver shows will be the better show going into big event weekends. But in the early days of the WWE Network heading into WrestleMania 30 there was no such hype. As a slightly younger Spaceman still in the infancy of my superfandom I watched the weekly NXT shows and while they were fun they were far from must watch television. Honestly I think the biggest draw for me was that they were just one hour long and they featured characters that you would never see on Raw or SmackDown. But with the launch of the Network it seemed the developmental brand was poised to take off, and when they announced a live special weeks before Mania it was hard to not get at least mildly excited. But how does this experimental and primordial TakeOver feel four years later? Let’s find out.
Now to get it out of the way, yes there was some technical bugs that plagued NXT Arrival. I was one of the many people who were stuck watching Tyler Breeze posing on the turnbuckle as the stream froze. WWE later apologized for the interruption to this “special episode” (as Wikipedia describes Arrival as if the roster would host an intervention for Mojo Rawley over his caffeine pills), but I was nervous that, if a lowly NXT event could get messed up, how would WrestleMania fare? In addition WWE overbooked Full Sail University, leaving about 200 people who bought tickets in a lurch and unable to watch the show. All in all, not the best showing for NXT and WWE. I watched this program live (until being forced to watch Breeze over and over again), and while I have fun it just felt like something to do on a Saturday night rather than something equal or surpassing a PPV. At just under two hours this should be an easy watch, so let’s dive right into it.
The intro to the show jumps right into the darkened arena as Triple H hypes the crowd. He does his standard “the future is now blah blah blah” stuff before we get the regular NXT into video. Our announce team is Tom “check out my bulge” Phillips, Byron Saxton, and William Regal (JBL is GM at the time, which is something I completely forgot about). Considering two of these guys are black holes of charisma the commentary throughout is not great. No special video package and two minutes in Sami Zayn’s music hits. Kind of a lame opener, but again I do not think Triple H was thinking to himself “these kids are gonna sell out Brooklyn three years in a row.” Speaking of Sami…
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro
Sami won an epic 2 out of 3 falls match against a moonlighting from the main roster Cesaro, which lead to this match. I wish WWE would occasionally bring in ringers again for NXT, if only to give some floundering people some touch ups or a chance to try a new character. Sami is out first to his weird and super generic first theme song. It sounds like music from a menu screen for a Street Fighter clone on the PS2. We the People Era Cesaro is out with his garter belts on his thighs and Tea Party track jacket out. Crowd is hot for both these guys, and we get “match of the year” chants before the bell rings. Lockup and Cesaro smacks Sami in the back of the head, which is something all heels should do 100% of the time. Immediately shows your the bad guy and works for wrestling machines like Cesaro. Commentary seems to hint that big things are going to be happening for Cesaro which, um, may happen still. Much of the early portion of the match is Cesaro using his efficient Swiss engineered strength to counter Zayn’s high flying offense. The big highlight is Cesaro turning a crossbody into a tilt a whirl backbreaker. Nice.
Things slowwwwww down as Cesaro constantly throws Sami to the outside and bounces him off the guardrail. Epic uppercut counter to the diving corner DDT and we slow things down again. This was probably more exciting at the time, but now this feels like a Raw match. Cesaro works the leg as Regal provides insight into the little things that make Cesaro into a world class wrestler. Sami almost gets his comeback until his “bounce off the ropes backworks plancha” (which he needs to bring back and find a better nickname for) is caught and turned into a massive titing slam on the ramp. Awesome spot. Zayn sells like his leg is broken but crawls back into the ring to deliver his exploder suplex that everyone has stolen from him at this point.
Sami starts his classic comeback moves of Blue Thunder Bomb and Koji clutch but Cesaro powers out into a stretch muffler, which IMO is one of the most underrated submission moves in wrestling. Someone in WWE pull this move back out instead of everyone using the Rings of Saturn nowadays. Zayn reacts to the Cesaro Swing like my roommate’s cat stuck in her pop up cat fort which made me laugh so hard my chest hurt. Swiss Superman repeatedly tries to give Sami CTE with strikes until an attempted top rope powerbomb is turned into a hurricanrana. Helluva Kick isn’t enough and at this point Cesaro starts to feel bad…but not enough to stop giving Sami uppercuts and trying to get the win via TKO. Sami sells head injuries like no one else, and a final rally by Sami leads to hockey punches being thrown into the “pop up reversed code red powerbomb” thing that only these two guys seem to be able to do. Great spot, but literally I think these two are capable of doing that move. It is not enough to get the win for Sami, who eats a pop up uppercut and kicks out at one. This freaks Cesaro right the eff out, who hits a running uppercut into the Neutralizer (such a great name) for the win. They hug it out for fans of sportsmanship/ WWE shippers.
Overall: The longest match of the night was pretty good. Crowd proclaims it match of the year, and it has its moments especially at the end. But the middle section is pretty bland and features lots of walk and brawl. Sami does a lot of moves he never does anymore, which retroactively reminds me of what a great babyface he was in NXT and how poorly he was booked on the main roster. Cesaro meanwhile looks like the boss he always has been, and I am still waiting for a main event Cesaro run. Nowadays Sami is the Martin Prince to Kevin Owen’s Nelson, and Cesaro is with the admittedly awesome The Bar. Cesaro would win the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at Mania 30, but that is a tale for another time…AKA part two.
Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker
We get a literal hype package for Mojo before the match, and it is pretty hilarious how much faith WWE had in the guy this early on. CJ Parker is out first, who dances and spins around in what probably was Dusty Rhodes’ best guess as to what hippies were like back in the day. Mojo comes out already peaking on a combination of preworkout powder/ Molly as what appears to be his entire family in custom made Mojo shirts cheers him on. It’s pretty adorable. Crowd for some reason chants for Mojo instead of praying for Mojo. Big dirty squash match to show off Rawley’s “explosiveness” AKA the four moves Triple H knows he can’t mess up as Regal talks about his SUV. Mojo wins with the Hyper Drive (a move I personally cannot stand even when done by guys like Yokozuna) in about three and a half minutes. “We just saw a star being born tonight!” proclaims Regal in a call that made me grab a beer.
Overall: I forgot this match happened to be honest. Mojo would fart around in NXT before farting around on the main roster. He did win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (just like Cesaro!) and then feud with Zack Ryder, so you know his family probably regrets those shirts. Meanwhile CJ Parker was doomed from the start with the hippie gimmick, especially because Daniel Bryan was the hottest guy in wrestling at the moment and was actually a God Damn hippie. He would ask for his release and now has a fairly prominent spot in NJPW, which makes him the real winner here.
Hype package for Emma before her title match with Paige. I miss bubble popping fun Emma and it is hard to not fall in love with her. Of course Bayley would perfect the goofy but super talented female wrestler, but I think Bubble Emma should have gotten a better shot. We then get a package for The Ascension who have the tag titles and the next match on the card. They face a mystery team which turns out to be a Florida Swamp person and his parole officer. Oh wait it is just Too Cool.
The Ascension (C) vs. Too Cool (NXT Tag Team Championship)
Weird to see the crowd make noise for The Ascension. Scotty 2 Hotty looks pretty good considering he is 40 here. Meanwhile Grandmaster Sexay is…himself. Once I found out he was Jerry Lawler’s son it is hard not to unsee it and shower afterwards. Ascension work the vets using locks of head/chin locks and occasional power moves. Hot tag to Scotty who admittedly has some great strikes. He does not do much else until it is time to tease the worm, which Heavy Machinery’s Otis has now perfected. Konnor decides enough is enough, flattens Scotty, and they hit the Fall of Man for the win.
Overall: The Ascension were as hot as they ever were going to be here, but it is telling they have them work with the jobber team for a bygone era instead of another tag team in NXT. They would eventually lose the titles to the Lucha Dragons later in the year. 2014 was a strange, magical time. Scotty would turn this performance into a job at the Performance Center and is a firefighter/EMT so good for him. Sexay meanwhile probably retreated back into the Florida swamps, only occasionally appearing to be drunk in public or add further shame to the Lawler name.
Hype video for Paige who is in the middle of her run as the first NXT Women’s Championship. Cut to Ric Flair and proto-Charlotte in the crowd. It’s weird how Charlotte having darker dirty blond hair makes her almost unrecognizable.
Paige (C) vs. Emma (NXT Women’s Championship)
Ah, the old school NXT Women’s belt complete with glittering pink jewels and My Little Pony style sound effects for the logo animation. Thank God WWE treats women more seriously now. Stephanie Mcmahon the inventor of women is here to take credit for the success of this show, gender equality, and the universe in general. Crowd chants “you still got it” at her and she replies “ I never lost it!” Ya better still have it Steph you got Rousey coming up! Emma is out first as Steph and Regal imitate the bubble popping dance like lizard people attempting to act humans. Paige is out and she is OVER. She gets a loud sustained pop despite being the heel.
Match starts with Paige trying to physically intimidate Emma, who responds by getting the jump on the Brit. They start hot as Paige goes for the Paige Turner early and Emma tries for her setup to her finisher as well. Pure fire to start with some stiff kicks and even their headlock rest spot is more entertaining than usual as Emma flails trying to escape and Paige yells and constantly adjusts the hold. Fast pace to start as Emma tries to get the Emma Lock and Paige does her best to wear down the Aussie with kicks and strikes. Regal claims to have been married 17 times in the meantime. What the hell? where did that come from??!!
Emma in control with a bow and arrow which looks vicious when she plants a boot on the back of Paige’s head and starts cranking her arms. Paige is crying and looking like the good guy here as we see a glimpse of Dark Emma. Emma stomps away and I am pretty sure she may be possessed by the Phoenix Force. Top rope powerbomb from Emma only gets a two and I LOL when Paige makes sure to get her hair out from in front of her face before the spot hits. Paige starts her comeback with kicks leading to a superkick to Emma’s womb before hitting the Paige Turner for a two count. She debuts her quickly abandoned PTO submission to get the win.
Overall: Paige has always been one of those people (especially after this latest injury) who I debated if she was as good as advertised or someone who just looked good because her competition was not up to par. Here at least she looks phenomenal, as does Emma. WWE made a big mistake releasing Emma, and hopefully she does some good starting up Ring of Honor’s women’s division. It blows my mind when WWE looks to cut corners they start at the women’s division like they did with Emma and recent releases Abbey Laith and Sage Beckett when they need every talented women they can get their hands on right now. The fact that they did a Royal Rumble match with only 18 women available on the main roster says it all about the shallowness of the division. Anyway this probably was my favorite match of the night as it closely follows the pace and style modern WWE matches now use and both women bring it with little breaks. There is some definite hints of “THEY ARE HITTING REAL MOVES! LIKE REAL PEOPLE!” from the commentary team, but if you tune them out it is not particularly aggravating.
Video for Neville which makes me sad. Please come back Neville. We Need you. I need you. Dusty and Pat Patterson are in the crowd which makes me even sadder. Angel Grove/Somebody Call my Momma theme song Xavier Woods come out for a match. Woods really overcame some bottom of the barrell booking when he first debuted on Raw. Tyler Breeze is out with his wordless original them which still works for him. Can they bring back the selfie video thing again? At this point this is where my original watching of the show in 2014 froze up. This match lasts half a minute before (Alexander) Rusev and Lana show up and he murders the men in the ring. It is crazy to think how over and beloved all three of these guys would become years later, but here they are just here to kill some time and get over Rusev as a killer.
Bo Dallas is seen resting his head some lockers before a Bo montage begins. God, Dallas was such a great character in NXT. His face is just so punchable. It is a real shame how butchered his character became on the main roster, and you would think a guy who made a name for himself on the mic would get more chances to talk. I blame his white trunks. Seriously, White/grey trunks are one of my most hated things in wrestling. It looks like you are wearing a diaper and grey trucks show off your swamp ass pretty well. Larry Zbyszko and Steve Keirn are in the crowd as we get the second video package in three minutes explaining the build to the championship match. Long story short they both are ready for their first ladder match, which Triple H made because something something HISTORY. HBK shows up first to ramble through a promo and plug his DVD. Woo?
Finally after all the stalling Neville comes out first. Dallas is out second to some generic rock music instead of the instrumental music he had during his Bo-leve days. Bo’s hair is already dripping wet, which is gross as hell. Neville starts off strong with some explosive offense until Bo takes control and slows things down with forearms every 30 seconds. Neville gets caught in the ropes and Bo causally gets a ladder instead of sprinting to get one and win the match. Not sure why everyone does not try hog tying their opponents during ladder matches. Almost as if they want to fall off ladders repeatedly. Neville tries to take control with a baseball slide and plancha, but Dallas counters with some generic offense. Pretty sure Bo has the same moveset as a default create a wrestler. Back and forth spots of people trying to climb the ladder only to be knocked off. Bo takes perhaps the safest fall of the ladder possible as he jumps off and lands on his feet. Shows the difference between a guy like Dallas and a guy like Neville who has flown repeatedly off the ladder and taken a few hits from one as well.
The action begins to pick up finally as Neville hits an awesome tornado DDT off a ladder wedged in a corner that Dallas sells like a champion. Neville loses control again and takes an inadvertent ladder shot when it falls on his head. Look like it was the most painful bump so far. More generic ladder spots until Dallas shoves Neville off the ring post and he hits his back again the ring apron. Bo is about to climb the ladder the ladder but Neille leapfrogs him. Its all for naught as Neville takes a buckle bomb on the wedged ladder. Dallas finally takes a serious bump with a slam onto the ladder and then the Red Arrow on the ladder. The Red Arrow is just as spectacular as I remember. This is enough to put Dallas down long enough for the Englishman to grab the ladder and win the belt. Dry ice shoots down as Neville celebrates on the ladder, the ring, and a golf clap from John Cena as the broadcast ends.
Overall: Decent match. Not a whole lot of crazy ladder spots due to the smaller size of the arena if I had to guess as to why. Neville is a way better wrestler than Bo and it showed here. As much as I liked Dallas’ character he was always a C+ wrestler in the ring. Putting the belt on Neville started the template of NXT champs who were the best wrestler in the company over cartoon characters like Bo. This title run has been the highlight of Dallas’ career as soon after his main roster debut he was treated like a jobber. R-Truth of all people snapped his winning streak. Neville meanwhile would be a reliable workhorse for the company until they decided to have him lose to Enzo Amore. Considering how terrible that decision has proven to be it is easy to see why Neville walked out of the company. Hopefully we see him return to a WWE ring eventually,as his King of the Cruiserweight run was a highlight of 2017.
Final Thoughts: When I watched this event live it really blew me away. Now with the main roster filled with high quality workers this feels like a typical episode of NXT. The opening match and the women’s match were highlights and the NXT championship match was ok in places. The rest was a bunch of filler. NXT did not really become the hottest brand in WWE until Sami Zayn’s chase for the title, and this very much felt like the first attempt to start taking the brand more seriously. At just shy of two hours this was an easy watch, and even the slow portions of the event were not bad. I watched this in two chunks and the matches flew by for the most part. I’d say this is a solid B, with the big matches worth a watch and everything else being skippable.