This year the WWE returned to New Orleans to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the biggest night of the year for wrestling fans – WrestleMania 34. 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. The class of 2018 inductees included Goldberg, Ivory, Jeff Jarrett, Hillbilly Jim, Mark Henry, The Dudley Boyz and Kid Rock.
This was an interesting show on paper with some matches that I really was invested in and others that I really couldn’t care less about. Pip sadly didn’t make it this year due to some work travel and family stuff but Marko and I got together to watch the show of shows (with my boys watching much of it as well). Looking over some other reviews many feel this was a pretty decent show overall with a both a couple of high points and low points. Sadly, for many, the main event of the evening was the low point. Not sure if I agree with that but we’ll get there.
I do have to point out what I’d consider an alarming trend… the length of the show. Listen, I understand that WrestleMania is the culmination of a year’s worth of storylines and it’s the our SuperBowl as wrestling fans. That said, we don’t need an all day event. If you watched the entire pre-show and stayed till the end of the show you were signing up for nearly eight hours of wrestling. That’s too much. I get that they’re trying to cram as many people on the card as possible but there comes a point where enough is enough. I pointed this out way back in 2015 with this post and it’s been an issue ever since. I’m THRILLED with the announcement that we’re going back to once a month PPVs but it doesn’t change the fact that certain shows, like WrestleMania, are just far too long.
I’ve taken a couple of days to let my thoughts sink in (and to watch the post-Mania RAW and SmackDown). Let’s get into it. (All photos courtesy WWE.com)
Three matches here on the pre-show (which I admittedly didn’t watch much of live). Matt Hardy won the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal with the help of Bray Wyatt which didn’t make a damn bit of sense based on their history. Looking at the participants list I’ve got to say that it sort of sucks to see they went with all mid card talent instead of a surprise return or a legend. Guessing that’s ultimately why it was stuck on the pre-show, and jerking the curtain.
Cedric Alexander beat Mustafa Ali in the tournament final to win the vacant WWE Cruiserweight Championship. I don’t watch 205 Live. I didn’t watch this match. I’m just not a fan of the cruiserweights. By all reports it sounds like it was a decent match, just not something I’m invested in.
Naomi won the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal. This was a pretty standard battle royal, meaning it was tough to follow all of the eliminations. WWE did a better job here than they did with the guys when it came to bringing in new talent with an influx of NXT gals. Not sure if they were up against the start time or they planned it, but this was shy of the 10 minute mark which seemed a bit rushed. Bayley thought she’d won after tossing out Sasha but Naomi had never been eliminated and came back in to get the win. Not sure why they’d give Naomi the win as opposed to Bayley or Sasha but I’m OK with it.
Seth Rollins Defeated The Miz and Finn Bálor For The WWE Intercontinental Championship
This was an outstanding way to start the show. Triple threats can be a mixed bag where sometimes they come off slow even though there’s so much action in the ring but this one wasn’t at all. For over 15 minutes all three guys worked hard and in the end Rollins becomes the company’s latest grand slam winner. I loved seeing Miz come out and send his Miztourage to the back. He’s simply a tremendous heel and I’m glad folks are starting to come around on him. Normally these matches can devolve into spot fests but this one really didn’t feel like it, even though everyone hit (and kicked out of) finisher after finisher. It was nice to see Rollins bring back the curb stomp as I was never a fan of him doing HHH’s pedigree.
Charlotte Flair Defeated Asuka To Retain The WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
If I was a betting man I would have bet the farm that Asuka would have walked out with the title here. I’m thrilled WWE decided to go the other way and have Charlotte retain, ending Asuka’s undefeated streak in the process. I’ve never been a fan of Asuka as I just can’t get behind here for a variety of reasons. I know I’m REALLY supposed to care about her… I just don’t. I’ll leave it at that and say that I’m glad the streak is over because I really think it limited them from a storyline perspective. This may not have been the five star classic that many were expecting but it was pretty outstanding nonetheless. Asuka didn’t lose much by tapping out to Charlotte here and they once again elevated Flair. She went on to lose her title the following week via Money in the Bank cash in from Carmella, but I think they’re actually building to something bigger for Flair… a match up with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 35. More on her later.
The Undertaker’s In The House
Throughout the night we’ve been shown John Cena multiple times, who’s been sitting in the crowd. As you know during the lead up to Mania John had called out the Undertaker on several occasions with no response from the Dead Man. WWE took this opportunity to have an official run to ringside and inform Cena that Taker was in fact in the building. We then got some below average acting from Cena (Oh my gosh?!?!? What? He’s here?!?!?!). This leads to John sprinting up the ramp, presumably to get ready for a match.
Sadly, this was the highlight of John Cena’s WrestleMania 34 performance. More than that later.
Jinder Mahal Defeated Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, and Rusev For The WWE United States Championship
Remember that time when Jinder Mahal was the WWE Champion and he had an awesome run with the title and everyone loved him? Me neither. The entrances here were better than the match and that’s even taking into account how ridiculous Mahal looked being dressed like a shrimp boat captain. Just about everyone here was more over than Mahal most of all Rusev. This was thankfully a rather short affair (just over eight minutes) and makes a bit more sense when you factor in the fact that Mahal lost the title just a couple of weeks later. Clearly the worst match on the main card for me.
Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey Defeated Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
We follow up the worst match of the night with the best. I think it’s fair to say that while everyone might have been intrigued to see what would happen here, nearly no one would have thought this would be as good as it was. For just over 20 minutes these four mixed it up in a match that was far better than anticipated. While Ronda Rousey has been lackluster at best on the mic heading into Mania she proved she’s got what it takes to make herself into a star in the ring. HHH and Steph had their awesome intro as usual and they didn’t disappoint in the ring either. Say what you want about the character of Stephanie McMahon but she goes out of her way to shine when she steps between the ropes. If there was a low point here believe it or not it was Kurt Angle. He’s clearly lost a step along the way and I was sort of shocked that it was him that was dragging things down. While Rousey may have taken her lumps in MMA she’s CLEARLY still an outstanding athlete with legit lightening fast hands. I see huge things for her in the the future. If I had to guess, I’d say they’d build her for the next year and put her in the main or semi main event at next year’s Mania against Charlotte, Asuka or both.
The Bludgeon Brothers Defeated The Usos and The New Day For The WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
If you watched the Fastlane PPV (which I did but never reviewed) you would have seen this result coming a mile away when they laid waste to the tag championship match there. This was a short affair clocking in at just over five minutes but it did exactly what was intended – it continued to build the Bludgeons as monsters. This was one step above a jobber squash match but was pretty enjoyable to watch. I’m not sure where the Usos and New Day go from here. It will be interesting to see if they attempt to build one of those two teams back up again or bring along a new team to challenge the Bros.
On a side note… it’s been quite some time, years actually, since I’ve been over the New Day’s schtick. I find it super boring and at the risk of sounding like an old guy, rather juvenile. That said, the fact that they came out with midgets dressed like pancakes made me legit belly laugh.
The Undertaker Defeated John Cena
We all knew this was coming. We all knew Undertaker was going to show up despite not responding to John Cena’s taunts for weeks beforehand. We all know that Undertaker is old and we all watched his substandard match with Roman Reigns last year. But what we remember about that match wasn’t the 23 minute story they told about the old gunslinger taking a last ride. We remember the last two minutes where he left his hat in the ring and rode off to retirement. That should have been the last time we ever saw Taker. Sadly, it wasn’t.
Prior to the match we got a brief interaction / match between Elias and John Cena with Cena getting the upper hand. Still no Taker so Cena proceeds to go up the ramp. And then… the gong hits and Taker makes his way to the ring. THIS is what we needed from an Undertaker appearance at Mania… nothing else. After that we got a “match” that lasted less than three minutes with Undertaker squashing John Cena. The Elias stuff lasted longer. Hell, Taker’s entrance lasted longer. This was a “dream match” that fans waited for decades for. Unfortunately we got all the spectacle without the payoff. I’m super pumped for my buddy Kevin who was in the crowd that he got to see Taker’s entrance. Other than that this was a huge missed opportunity.
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon Defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
This was all about the return of Daniel Bryan. I don’t watch Smackdown with any sort of regularity so I rely on my buddy Bill to fill me in as to what’s going on. This is the single storyline that I cared about leading up to WrestleMania and I wasn’t let down. Daniel looks great, if a little rusty, in his return to the main roster and Shane McMahon continues to amaze me with his ability to step into the ring with professionals and more than hold up his end of the match. This one went over the 15 minute mark and while it could have gone on a bit longer I can understand why they kept it rather short. Shane didn’t have anything huge to jump off so he had to settle for the coast to coast turnbuckle jump which is still super impressive when you understand just what he’s doing. All four guys worked really hard and put on and outstanding match.
Nia Jax Defeated Alexa Bliss For The WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss is one of my favorite female wrestlers today. She’s a good looking, mean girl, heel that you just love to hate. Coming out of Fastlane it looked like they were going to throw Asuka at her and I said I’d be rooting for Bliss. When they changed course and set her up against Nia I knew her reign as champ was over. This needed to happen. Nia is a beast who has been coming on recently and just keeps getting better and better. They set her up for success here making her look like the monster she is. It will be really interesting to see how, or if, Alexa makes her way back to the title picture but with Jax on top of the division it’s going to be a fun ride to watch.
Side note: huge props to Mickie James for being able to remain relevant after all these years, doing a damn find job in her role and looking fine doing it.
AJ Styles Defeated Shinsuke Nakamura To Retain The WWE Championship
This was the match that every wrestling hipster was pointing to as THE match when it comes to in-ring wrestling. I’ll start off my comments on this match by pointing out that I don’t particularly like Nakamura. I put him in the same category as Asuka… I just don’t think they’re nearly as good as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting he’s not good. Hell, he’s very good. But I just can’t get behind him. That said, AJ Styles is quite simply, excuse the pun, phenomenal so every time he’s in the ring I’m invested. After Nakamura won the Rumble I thought for sure they’d put the title on him and I’m thrilled to say I was wrong. This was an outstanding match…. certainly the best “wrestling” match of the night. But it wasn’t able to live up the the lofty goals that the hipsters had for it. I’ve been hearing for years now how awesome Nakamura is. I then hear about how we haven’t seen his best yet in the WWE and I’ve got to ask. If we don’t see his best at the biggest show of the year, when the hell are we going to see it? The heel turn at the end was nice to see but after a great 20+ minute match I would have preferred the classic “mutual respect” angle. Very interested to see where they go with this program, especially when you throw Daniel Bryan into the mix.
Braun Strowman and Nicholas Defeated Cesaro and Sheamus For The WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Braun Strowman is an absolute beast of a man. And not only is he a big dude, but he’s a legit superstar in the making. The fact that he went in to WrestleMania, without a tag team partner tells you just how high his stock is risen. That said, the way this was handled was both brilliant and hot garbage. Strowman goes into the crowd and selects a scared looking fourth grader name Nicholas to be his partner. (After the fact it was determined that Nicolas was in fact referee John Cone’s son). Strowman returns to the ring and single handedly defeated Cesaro and Sheamus for the tag team title. You didn’t think Nicolas was going to actually wrestle did you? Yes, I know, he was technically the legal man in the match for about 12 seconds. Anyhow. While this was certainly an “interesting” way to handle this, it makes one thing crystal clear: Vince McMahon views tag team wrestling as a joke. The next night on Raw Strowman and Nicholas vacated the titles. I’m looking forward to what they do with Strowman now that this little diversion is out of the way. Just to prove the WWE has a sense of humor, check THIS out… they created and entrance video for the one and only Nicolas. Hilarious.
Brock Lesnar Defeated Roman Reigns To Retain The WWE Universal Championship
For the past several years, WWE has been grooming Roman Reigns to be the next big thing. He was on his way to being crowned the next John Cena. The guy that would carry WWE into the future. Unfortunately for Vince and for Roman, the majority of fans didn’t want that. For whatever reason fans have spent the better part of the past three years booing Reigns and rejecting everything he did… even if it was good. All of that said, fans were ready for Reigns to be crowned Universal Champion even though they didn’t want it. And then this happened.
Lesnar mauled Reigns. He beat the shit out of him. He worked him over the same way he beat up John Cena a few years back. The match went outside and got more physical. Reigns kept getting up and kept kicking out of F5 after F5. The match was playing out the way we thought it would. Reigns would overcome. He would take everything Brock threw at him and still come out victorious. He would be Super Cena. And then this happened.
Brock got frustrated. He took off his gloves and he started raining down elbows. He busted Roman open hard way and the blood started flowing. It brought back memories of the beating Randy Orton took at SummerSlam back in 2016. Roman was bleeding so bad, and so legitimately that you started to question whether something had gone wrong. Was Lesnar really pissed? Wasn’t he leaving the WWE to return to MMA? Maybe he “went off script”. Eventually Lesnar hit a final F5 and pinned Reigns. I have to say I was shocked. I, like everyone else, thought for sure Reigns would walk out with the title. This past year seemed to be leading to Reigns walking out Universal Champ. And then this happened.
I’ve heard this referred to as the worst WrestleMania main event in history. That’s a completely ignorant statement, especially when you remember stuff like Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor. Sure the fans were booing and they didn’t get the main event they wanted but it sure was buzz worthy which is what WWE was going for.
We know that Reigns and Lesnar will go at it in an steel cage at the Greatest Royal Rumble to be held in Saudi Arabia on April 27th. The smart money would say Reigns will finally topple Lesnar here but after this performance, who knows? Has WWE finally heard the boos that Reigns get? Have they finally given up on the Roman push? Time will tell.
If you’ve made it to the end of this review you very well may feel like I did at the end of WrestleMania. It was a LONG night of wrestling with some high points and some low points. I’m really interested to see how they handle the Lesnar / Reigns mess they’ve created. I’m slightly intrigued to see how they continue to trainwreck that is the last days of the Undertaker. AJ vs Nakamura still has legs and it’s always awesome to get a talent like Daniel Bryan back in the mix. Both ladies divisions are setting up to be watchable which is a nice change and I even care about the tag divisions and secondary titles (other than the cruiserweights). If WrestleMania is the end of the wrestling “season” and the kickoff to the next then this show did what it was supposed to do – it told some good stories and got me invested in the future. The fact that we were all wondering whether Lesnar and Reigns was a work or a shoot just goes to show the WWE is still really really good at what they do.
Upcoming WWE PPV Schedule
Here’s a look at the PPV schedule through SummerSlam.
- WWE Greatest Royal Rumble – 4.27.2018
- Backlash – 5.6.2018
- Money in the Bank – 6.17.2018
- Extreme Rules – 7.15.2018
- SummerSlam – 8.19.2018
Did you watch WrestleMania 34? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!