Sports Entertainment Review: "Wrestlemania 34" (2018, New Orleans)
Here you go, folks...it's the Super Bowl of professional wrestling! I've talked at length before about my love of "the business", so I'll skip my rant about how it's THE great sport of America. If you're curious (and you damn well should be) then go back and hit the archives of this fine page.
Without further ado-
THE KICKOFF SHOW:
- Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 6/10 rating: This was your typical Battle Royal. It gave all of the "mid-carders" a chance to have their time in the 'Mania spotlight. I dug the choice of winner: "Woken" Matt Hardy is insanely over and having Bray Wyatt give the surprise assist was a nice touch to further develop that storyline after their extremely entertaining feud. The match itself was nothing groundbreaking, but I'm always entertained with that combo. DELETE!! DELETE!!
- Cruiserweight Tournament Final for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship; Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali 4.5/10 rating: This one could have used a bit more storyline build, but isn't that always the problem with the Cruiserweights? Ali & Alexander are both top-notch althletes for sure. All of the standard high-spots were there, but it was overall bland for me. Cedric Alexander is the undoubtedly the cream of the crop in the division and deserves that title after the Enzo Amore disaster.
- 1st Annual Women's Battle Royal, 6.5/10 rating: Aside from the interesting dynamic of Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, & Bayley being the only ones who got formal entrances, it was an average match with an interesting twist on the end. Sasha and Bayley's rivalry is damn good stuff; using all of the other women to put it over was a hell of a call when you turn around and have Naomi win. I dug it. No gripes here.
MAIN CARD OF WM34:
- Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Championship; The Miz (Champion) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor; 8/10 rating: This was a killer way to open the show. The IC strap is maybe the most prestigious belt in wrestling, given it's history. You don't have to like him, but The Miz has truly brought prestige back to the title (with a generous portion of help from "part-time" Universal Champ Lesnar). You knew these 3 would have a solid match, and they didn't disappoint. Seth Rollins' "White Walker" entrance was visually stunning; Finn Balor's entrance left me wanting more (no Demon??! Really?!) but I dig the inclusion vibe; The Miz had me cheering with his "go to the back" move on the Miztourage. These 3 men have great chemistry. I am glad they gave the nod to Rollins. He is the future.
- Smackdown Women's Championship Match; Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka; 8/10 rating: This may have been my (personal) Match of the Night. I'm a sucker for a good story, and this one had that in spades: The Queen, 4-time Raw Champ, 1-time Smackdown Champ, & 1-time NXT Champ (and daughter of the G.O.A.T, Ric Flair) versus the UNDEFEATED FREAK. It was a true wrestling geek's dream...and they delivered. Charlotte breaks an undefeated streak for the ages in a classic with The Figure Eight. I came out of my seat. No lie. This match furthered women's wrestling in a big way. Thank you, WWE.
- 4-Way for the US Title; Randy Orton (Champion) vs. "Glorious" Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal; 5/10 rating: I'm going to be honest here. Ready? Good- with the talent assembled in this match (not to mention the prestigious history of that title) I felt like this was a missed opportunity. Everyone hit their usual spots, but there was nothing extraordinary about the whole result. Rusev is so over with the WWE Universe that it's criminal. Bobby Roode is operating from another era (I say that in the best way possible). Randy Orton is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Jinder has upped his game greatly (not to mention that stupid physique). I just wanted to see more, but Mahal will continue to play the foreigner heel champ to a "T". This could've been so much more.
- Triple Threat Match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships; The Usos (Champions) vs. New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers, 7/10 rating: I am totally on board with what the "blue brand" is doing with the tag division. It's hard to argue Harper and Rowan as the dominant freaks that they are. The Usos are the most underrated tag team of the last 10 years, and New Day are my personal favorite success story in terms of getting over a gimmick that shouldn't work, but you can't argue with nasty, butt-ugly, raw, hideous power. Kudos to the former Wyatt Family brothers. I loved it. I'm a Bludgeon Brothers fan, even if they do look like Kane's bastard kids.
- John Cena vs. The Undertaker, 5/10 rating: I'm going to rant here for a second. Deal with it. I don't have a beef with the way they built (or should I say "anti-built"?) this match. It was for the sake of intrigue. However, there was never really a doubt it would happen, so you wonder how they tell the story. This was a STORY MATCH. While I personally wanted to see The American Badass character, I will never complain about the classic Undertaker. It's THE most iconic, eerie, chilling presentation in the history of the biz. My gripe (God, I hate saying that!) comes with the lack of that epic feeling. This was the 16-time WWE Champ versus the heart & soul of the WWE. It deserved better. Still......I'm glad it was a line-by-line squash of Cena. You'd better give props to the guy who made 'Mania what it is. He needed redemption on the site of the breaking of The Streak.
- WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle & "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey vs. WWE C.O.O. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon; 8.5/10 rating: Well, this one was your "hype match" for 'Mania. Every Wrestlemania has one- the match that gets the mainstream press talking. We got the debut of UFC phenom & women's trailblazer, Ronda Rousey. The shocker to me is not only that it delivered as promised but that two greats like HHH and Angle were background that you almost didn't notice. Rousey looked seriously polished for a rookie (aside from a couple of awkward timing tics) & Stephanie has clearly been training FOR REAL. They told a great story. And Ronda looked sinfully hot in that Roddy Piper "kilt". Wow.
- "Grudge Match"; Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan; 8/10: You know you weren't going to lose with this one. Daniel Bryan, forced out of the biz by a neck injury, returns to ring after 3 years. That alone is enough for the win. Daniel Bryan is the epitome of heart, & you get him teaming with the craziest son of a bitch to ever step in a ring. That's called a win-win to the point where the opponent almost doesn't matter. Now you pair it with the most dedicated heel in the biz today, Kevin Owens, and the criminally undervalued Sami Zayn and you get a dream match of sorts. I was in wrestling heaven. CONGRATULATIONS, DANIEL BRYAN!! YOU DESERVE IT!!
- Raw Women's Championship Match; Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Nia Jax; 7/10 rating: If you want to bitch about the cliched story of the bully against the picked on then so be it, but it's a timeless story that always works. Nia Jax is a big, beautiful, badass women's version of Andre the Giant. Alexa Bliss is "Five Feet of Fury", sure....but she is also note-perfect in her role as the consummate heel you love to hate that backs it up. Great match with a great story. If anything, I feel they could've done even more to make it bigger. I loved it.
- WWE Championship Match; AJ Styles (Champion) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Royal Rumble winner); 8/10 rating: It was billed as a dream match between two men who've only met once before on Japanese soil (with the win going to Nakamura). It delivered, but it was clearly Round 1 in a long rivalry. Look- these are the 2 most unique and dynamic talents that WWE has to offer. Nakamura is a true rockstar and enigma. AJ Styles is, well...phenomenal. It's a catchphrase that is actually true. They performed a warm-up round that casually outdid the other matches from the men. And that heel turn at the end of the match by Shinsuke? Solid gold. Chris Jericho is smiling. I guarantee it. I can't wait for more.
- Raw Tag Team Championship Match; The Bar aka Sheamus & Cesaro (Champions) vs. Braun Strowman & a mystery partner, 4/10: Look here- I don't need a staple gimmick of the business to tell me that Braun is a bad motherfucker. We're both North Carolina country strong. I get it. Still, I wanted to see a REAL mystery partner (in the traditional sense) not a little kid from the audience. This was a feel-good moment that was damnably necessary. It was a cute and sound business decision for a company that is heavily family-oriented, but I wanted SAMOA JOE!! Whiny, bitchy, geeky rant over. I smell a contractual rematch on Raw tomorrow.
- WWE Universal Championship Championship Match; Brock Lesnar (Champion) vs. Roman Reigns, ?? rating: I don't know what to say. This is a case of the classic "damned if you do...." scenario. Brock Lesnar is a once-in-a-lifetime alien life form, albeit one who has held the title in a part-time fashion for a long ass time. Roman Reigns is a hard-working guy from a legendary family who has paid his dues. It's really not his fault that he's been crammed down our throats. I like Roman; I really do. Still, I was glad to see Brock win. He brutalized Roman and made him bleed like a true victim. The story tells itself. The Beast conquers again. Who can stop him? Probably no one, but here's a bigger question: will Vince commit to a different guy? I honestly thought this one was going to go Roman's way.
All in all, I'm giving the show a solid 7/10 rating. Wrestlemania never fails to deliver.
Yes, I'm something of a mark, but I'm a mark who's spent a literal lifetime as a madly in love fan. I eat, sleep, & breath wrestling. I listen to theme music for inspiration, for God's sake! As a 6-year old I reached out at a guardrail and touched the leg of Andre the Giant at a WWF house show. He looked down at me, & the rest is history.
This is America's greatest sport and entertainment combo. These are my heroes. Thank you, WWE, for another great Showcase of the Immortals. I've been to Wrestlemania twice (WMX7 aka the Greatest Ever & WM32 aka the Biggest Ever), so I know my shit.
By the way, Jeff Jarrett told the truth at the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony: The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels IS the Michael Jordan of professional wrestling, just in case you didn't know. Your argument is invalid.