Sunday evening the WWE was in Orlando, Florida at Camping World Stadium for their version of the Super Bowl – WrestleMania 33. The world of professional wrestling revolves around this weekend as it includes not only the show on Sunday but a NXT show on Saturday evening as well as the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday evening. The class of 2017 inductees included Kurt Angle, Theodore Long, Diamond Dallas Page, Beth Phoenix, “Ravishing” Rick Rude and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.
For the second year in a row I think it’s fair to say that the build toward WrestleMania was lackluster at best. At least for this wrestling fan there really didn’t seem to be much “buzz” around the event. What I’m slowly starting to learn is that WrestleMania itself isn’t really for a long time wrestling fan like myself. It’s for the “oh, I remember that guy” wrestling fan. Looking at the show through that lens it does get quite a bit better but it’s still not great. There was still some rather questionable booking decisions, some matches that were clearly rushed and other that were downright sloppy. That said, while you won’t find any five star, “Match of the Year” quality bouts here, there were some matches that were better than I expected. And regardless of whether you loved or hated the show, thought it was too long, thought it was over or under hyped… this will be the WrestleMania that goes down as the retirement of The Undertaker. He’s my all time favorite and while I was sad to see it, I’m honored to have watched it live.
Pip and I continued our WrestleMania tradition and took a crack at the Beeramid for the 11th time (full coverage of that at a later date). Sadly Mark wasn’t in attendance, breaking his personal streak at six in a row due to an early afternoon broken leg by his son 🙁
I’ve taken a couple of days to let my thoughts sink in (and to watch the post-Mania RAW). Let’s get into it. (All photos courtesy WWE.com)
We got three matches during the kickoff show which lasted two hours and pushed the entire event to nearly SEVEN hours of programming. That’s just too damn long but that’s another discussion for another post.
Neville defeated Austin Aries to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship, Mojo Rawley won The Andre The Giant Memorial 33-man Battle Royal and Dean Ambrose defeated Baron Corbin to retain The WWE Intercontinental Championship.
I didn’t watch the Cruiserweight match or the Battle Royal. From what I’m hearing the cruiser weights put on a great match which doesn’t surprise me in the least based on the guys in the ring.
The Battle Royal was won by Mojo Rawley and no one cares except for the fact that Rawley happens to be friends with New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski who got into the ring and ran over poor Jinder Mahal allowing Rawley to get the win. This was clearly done so ESPN could cover the event the next morning. And while I completely understand that decision, and don’t really mind it, what I DO mind is that guys like Braun Strowman, Big Show (in reportedly his last match), Sami Zayn and Luke Harper don’t get the rub they could have by winning this match.
Ambrose and Corbin was the only match I watched during the pre-show and it wasn’t even supposed to be on the kickoff. It was a decent match but nothing super special which is why I spose it was ultimately moved off the main card.
AJ Styles Defeated Shane McMahon
This was great and everything that it needed to be as the official start to the show. Anyone who knows wrestling knows that there was no way Shane was going to win this match, but just like he did last year with The Undertaker he more than held up his end of the bargain. I can’t tell you how many times I was thinking to myself, “Damn… did Shane just do that? He’s not even a wrestler!” And therein lies the problem with this match. It was great, but AJ was being held back by Shane, no matter how awesome he was. Can you imagine how good a match this could have been if AJ were in there with a wrestler? Dare I say “phenomenal”? In a just over 20 minute match that was full of big spots this one was just a notch below that but will make it on to many “Match of the Night” lists.
Kevin Owens Defeated Chris Jericho For The WWE United States Championship
Speaking of Match of the Night, this was my pick before the show started for that honor. If it wasn’t in the top spot, it was #2 but this was pretty outstanding. Two former best friends going at it always tells a good WrestleMania story and this one didn’t disappoint. It would have been even better if that outcome hadn’t been so obvious (at least in my mind). I really hope Owens has a solid run with the US Title moving forward to cement him in the upper card. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jericho but this last year of his career has been the best work of his career. If he leaves for an extended period after WrestleMania he’ll surely be missed but count me in the group of Jerichohaulics who will be anxiously awaiting his return.
Bayley Defeated Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax – Fatal Four-Way Elimination For The WWE Raw Women’s Championship
This was good… but not great. The problem is, we’ve seen this, or some variation of it for what seems like a year now. Sure we had Nia Jax here but after she was ganged up on and eliminated this was back to a Four Horsewomen esq showdown that for me is getting stale. They’d been teasing a Banks vs Baley breakup that didn’t happen which could have been a nice twist. I was pleasantly surprised to see Bayley retain here as she’s probably the gal that can benefit the most from carrying the belt in the coming months. I’m not sure what it would be but I’m hoping for something to freshen up the women’s division on RAW. Perhaps the impending Superstar Shakeup?
The Hardy Boyz Defeated Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Cesaro and Sheamus, and Enzo Amore and Big Cass – Fatal Four-Way Tag Team Ladder Match For The WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Wait… what? The Hardy Boyz? Yep, you read that right. Jeff and Matt made a surprise return at WrestleMania and won the Raw Tag Team titles. The match itself was solid, if not quite up to par with some ladder matches from the past. All four teams worked incredibly hard pulling out all the stops. This is another match where the booking didn’t quite make sense to me. Clearly the Hardys were back to get a huge surprise pop… which they did. I’m not sure it was the greatest idea in the world though to put the titles on them. Cesaro and Sheamus or Enzo and Cass could benefit greatly with a title run. I’ve gotta be honest… I’m over Enzo and Cass. It’s totally boring at this point. Yep, I’m a hater.
Nikki Bella and John Cena Defeated Maryse and The Miz
I’ll just go ahead and say it: I’m a John Cena fan. This is a pretty rare position to take when it comes to being a wrestling fan as there are SO many hipster wrestling fans out there who talk about how he’s only got three moves, is stiff, etc. I think he’ll go down as one of the best ever so it was pretty sad that he was in this sort of mixed tag match. Don’t get me wrong, for as much of a Cena fan I am, I’m equally a Miz fan. Dude is one of the top heels in the business right now. I would have loved seeing a match between them if it didn’t include the silly romance storyline with their ladies. This match was here for one reason, and one reason only… the TMZ and Good Morning America coverage the next day when it was announced that John Cena and Nikki Bella got engaged in the ring after the match. Meh. Thankfully this was quick but it was still a waste of The Miz and a 16 time world champ.
Seth Rollins Defeated Triple H – Non-Sanctioned Match
The longest match on the card at just over 25 minutes this was the Match of the Night for me. It benefited from having a nice long build (of over a year when you really think about it) based on Rollins’ knee injury that kept him out of last year’s Mania. This one was violent and brutal just the way a payoff match should be. You always hear folks talk about how HHH buries talent. Well, with this loss he become the Superstar with the most losses in WrestleMania history. He put Rollins over and in the process made him a bigger star than he was. Oh and let’s not forget he had a tremendous match as well. Everything worked well here from the bad ass entrances to the final table bump that Stephanie took. I was a little surprised that we didn’t have some outside interference but I’m glad we didn’t as it didn’t need it to tell an amazing end to the HHH – Rollins story.
Randy Orton Defeated Bray Wyatt For The WWE Championship
For as good as the last match was, this one was that bad. It felt rushed for a title match coming in just over 10 minutes and while they tried to do some really innovative things here nothing worked – especially when you consider the outcome. Several times throughout the match Bray did his little corner flip crab walk thing and the lights in the arena went out and an image of worms or bugs appeared in the ring. It was a cool visual I spose but never really led anywhere as the uber predictable “RKO out of nowhere” came literally out of no where to end the match and end Bray Wyatt’s month as champion. Does anyone REALLY want to see Randy as champ? Where was Sister Abigail? Why all the theatrics if you’re just going to have Bray lose? This was just really poor all the way around.
Brock Lesnar Defeated Goldberg For The WWE Universal Championship
For a match that lasted less than five minutes this was damn near perfect. The reality of the situation is Goldberg is incredibly limited these days. Hell, he was incredibly limited back in the day and now he’s 20 years older. This is THE match on the card for the “I remember that guy” match. It sold tickets. I was in the building for WrestleMania XX the last time these two went at it and that match was terrible. This was a huge step up even if it marked the end of a Goldberg run that will be remembered for little more than a couple of sub two minute matches.
Naomi Defeated Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Mickie James, Natalya, and Becky Lynch – Six-Pack Challenge For The WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
This was terrible and it could have been so much more. They were clearly running late so they rushed through this match in less than five minutes. It was a foregone conclusion in my mind that Naomi was going to get the title back in her home town of Orlando. Couple that with a match type where you’ve got way too much going on and this had no chance to succeed.
Roman Reigns Defeated The Undertaker – No Holds Barred Match
Jim Ross returned to the WWE to call what appears to be Undertaker’s final match of his career. This was a 23 minute match that was sloppy at times but that told the story of the old gunslinger trying to hold on against an up and coming trying to cut his teeth and earn some respect in the process. This was clearly a changing of the guard, passing of the torch match and whether the WWE Universe is ready or not, Roman Reigns is the man. In the end, this won’t be remembered except for the final minute or two and the aftermath. Taker left his gloves, hat and duster in the ring and walked out to a huge ovation for the final time. I sincerely hope Roman Reigns understands what he’s been given as the man who retired the Undertaker. If I had to guess I’d say Reigns is once again on a collision course with the only other person to best the Deadman at Mania… Brock Lesnar.
It’s WrestleMania. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of stories and the start of new ones. It’s the Showcase of the Immortals and the Granddaddy of em All. It’s not really a show for a hard core wrestling fan and now that I’m recognizing that I’m fine with that fact. This wasn’t the best Mania in history and wasn’t the worst. If we were to line all 33 Manias up from worst to first I’d say this is right there in the middle ten, perhaps toward the good side based on a couple of standout performances and the final match of an icon. Rest in peace Undertaker… you’ve earned it. Thanks for the memories.
Did you watch WrestleMania 33? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!