Sunday night was the showcase of the immortals, the Granddaddy of them all (though allegedly the WWE doesn’t want you to call it that any more) the 32nd iteration of Vince McMahon’s greatest creation Wrestlemania. The buildup to the WWE’s super bowl was a strange one considering the amount of injuries that has plagued the roster in the last year. With the retirement of Daniel Bryan, injuries to mainstays such as John Cena, Randy Orton and last year’s breakout star Seth Rollins plans had to change. But as usual, the WWE found a way. Relying more on spectacle than storyline they drew a record setting 101,763 to AT&T Stadium.
Results: Kalisto retained the US Championship, The Total Divas defeated B.A.D. & Blonde, Usos defeated The Dudley Boys, Zack Ryder captured the Intercontinental Championship, Chris Jericho defeated AJ Styles, League of Nations defeated The New Day, Brock Lesnar defeated Dean Ambrose, Charlotte retained her Championship, The Undertaker defeated Shane McMahon, Baron Corbin won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale and Roman Reigns Captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H.
Pros: Ryder won the IC title setting the tone for a show where anything could happen. Sure, I could grouse about him ruining #KOMania for Kevin Owens, but it was a nice moment for Ryder after years of being an also-ran. A new Women’s Championship title belt was debuted and Charlotte became the first to hold the belt after retaining it in her match with Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Finally, after years of “Divas” matches and a “Divas” championship Women’s wrestling has been elevated from sideshow to full fledged part of Wrestlemania. Especially with this new crop of talent being given the chance to show off and enough time to nearly steal the show. Not to mention, the belt looks fantastic. The New Day’s entrance was a 15 on a ten scale, the giant box of Booty-O’s, Dragonball Z inspired armor, it’s everything you want in a Wrestlemania entrance.
As an addendum to the New Day’s match 3 of the greatest Superstars ever, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Mick Foley came down to the ring to deliver finishers and drink some beers which is what everybody wants. Shane doing a death defying leap off the cage was what the whole Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker was about, and it delivered on that end. Baron Corbin winning the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale made both the match and the winner feel important. Hopefully Corbin gets more out of it than Cesaro did, but with his follow up on Raw the next night it’s pretty clear the NXT mainstay has been given the opportunity to be a star. Roman Reigns winning the WWE Title (hear me out, anti-Reigns marks) the WWE has been working on this for the last couple years and they finally did it. Everyone loves complaining about a wrestling storyline while we’re in the middle of it, but now that Roman Reigns is Champion we can see how it will pan out.
Cons: The show starts too early, I like me some wrestling, but a show that goes from 6pm to 11:45pm is too long. I understand there were some issues getting people into the stadium, but Kalisto and Ryback were entering the ring with only 3,000 people in the building. Tag Titles were not on the line in the New Day and League of Nations match, for some reason, it was never really explained. Sure it was supposed to be a 3 on 4, then became a 3 on 3 match last minut, but the WWE has put belts on the line in weirder situations. Plus, THEY CAN MAKE UP THE RULES! Just would’ve made the match more compelling, but also probably would’ve meant that The League of Nations wouldn’t have won. but you could easily have just had a DQ finish or something. AJ Styles and Chris Jericho are two of the best doing it currently, perhaps of all time, but their chemistry just seemed off and major spot seemed sloppily executed. Shane McMahon versus The Undertaker and the storyline behind it never really made any sense, and I think the WWE even knew that hence why the announcers seemed to shy away from talking about their motivations. Shane had some dirt on Vince, wanted control of the company and Vince was going to have The Undertaker beat on him to keep that from happening. The dirt was never exposed and why Vince would even entertain the idea was never fleshed out. Not to mention Vince gave Shane control the next night anyways…
Speaking of which, the episode of Raw after Wrestlemania has traditionally been the reboot of the WWE universe for the following year. Whoever the Champion is finds a new challenger, new superstars debut and it’s usually one of the wildest episodes of the year and Monday night was no different. First off, Vince gloated over Shane McMahon’s loss to The Undertaker, but then decided he needed to see for himself how bad a Shane McMahon led Monday Night Raw would be and gave him control of the show anyways. NXT superstars that were called up included, Apollo Crews, Enzo & Big Cass, Baron Corbin appeared on Raw for the first time and the Vaudevillains were announced for Thursday night Smackdown. Zack Ryder celebrated his Wrestlemania moment from the night before, only to be goaded into a title defense which he promptly lost to The Miz (with an assist from Miz’s real life wife, former Divas Champion Maryse). Wade Barrett was Brogue Kicked out of the League of Nations for being the “weak link.” To cap it all off, a new #1 Contender was determined for Roman Reigns’ World Heavyweight Title in a match featuring Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, AJ Styles and returning Cesaro.
Results: New Day retained the tag titles against Barrett and Sheamus of the League of Nations, Sasha Banks defeated Summer Rae, Apollo Crews defeated Tyler Breeze, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler fought to a double count-out, The Miz defeated Zack Ryder to become the new Intercontinental Champion, Dudley Boys defeated the Usos in a Tables Match and AJ Styles defeated Jericho, Owens and Cesaro to become the new #1 Contender.
Pros: NXT call-ups, Crews’ debut was framed as Shane’s first act as GM of Monday Night Raw and perhaps new talent and new feuds are intended to be the hallmark of his administration. While physically impressive, it remains to be seen whether Apollo has that “it” factor to connect with audiences and one can’t help but think of that when you looked across the ring at Tyler Breeze a former “can’t-miss” NXT prospect that was called up last summer. Baron Corbin has had one of the longest tenures in NXT and his win at ‘Mania and then his aggressive display on Raw let’s you know he matters and looks to be making an impact on the mid card immediately. Enzo & Cass were who I was waiting for the most, they’ve been on the road with the main roster and appeared at Roadblock and are incredibly unique talents. Sure, last night’s Wrestlemania vacationer crowd was already in the tank for the charismatic duo, but an initial feud with the veteran Dudley Boys is a perfect way for them to start their careers on the main roster. Roman Reigns’ promo last night, despite entering to a sizeable amount of boos, was exactly what he should have done. Roman can’t help that the older fans don’t like him, but that’s the kind of promo he should have been doing all along. Short, sweet and about how he’s just going to kick everyone’s ass. The part where he let Sami Zayn and Owens duke it out and AJ Styles and Jericho do the same was a nice touch. Plus, it’s great to see a fighting champion. Some on twitter speculated that he was perhaps turning heel, but I think Roman’s just going to keep acting how he’s been acting and having him face AJ is a way for people to be excited to see his next PPV match.
Cons: The Crowd, while enthusiastic, was not into the show at all and were far more interested in themselves. The “Narcissist” Lex Luger didn’t love himself as much as that audience at Raw did. It didn’t help matters that the WWE has publicly acknowledged how “crazy” they can be the night after Wrestlemania(even starting Raw with Michael Cole essentially giving a disclaimer), basically giving them carte blanche to act however they want. Chanting for themselves, chanting for a beach ball, singing songs and generally being disinterested in the in-ring action.
All the fans on the internet do is complain that the “storylines are repetitive” and “new superstars don’t get a chance to be featured,” but when the WWE tries to give them that, they’re chanting “Let’s go Beachball” and “Beachball sucks!” Look, go to the show and do whatever you want, but have some respect that these men and women are literally putting their lives on the line for your entertainment. This isn’t open mic night, just enjoy the show. Wade Barrett being kicked out of the League of Nations isn’t a con as a storyline, but because it seems like this is the rumored end of Wade’s run in the WWE. Guy is tremendously talented and I’m sure he’ll be successful wherever he goes next, but it’s a shame we never got to see his full potential realized in the WWE. As a former King of the Ring and many time IC champion, it always seemed like Barrett was about to break through, but never got that extra little bit to put him over the top. So, if this is truly the end, thanks for the memories. Finally, I know this is not the first time it has happened, but to have Shane fail to beat The Undertaker and have Vince give him control of Raw regardless of the match’s stipulation is dumb. Sure, a 46 year old non-wrestler father of three shouldn’t be beating The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, but to have Vince seemingly no longer care about the success of his flagship program is silly. I get that it’s the new storyline, and I’m grateful to see something new after 4-ish years of “The Authority,” but maybe you could have had Shane get control another way. Also, I guess Shane’s dirt on his dad will never, ever be revealed.