So, we’re finally through the looking glass. Not to spoil my opinion before you’ve read the rest of the article, but I thought Wrestlemania 31 was fantastic. I’m going to do the now-standard match by match breakdown, but I’d like to mention the matches that were on the pre-show briefly. I thought the tag match was a great opener. What I’m even more pleased about is the fact that Tyson Kidd and Cesaro retained. I love seeing them work together and having them continue to be Tag champs is a great move. Oddly, they also moved the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal to the pre-show as well, which I felt hurt the supposed prestige of the new trophy and also softened the impact of the breakdown of Miz and Mizdow‘s partnership. Not sure of the logic of Big Show winning. I get he’s a giant and that he was once billed as being Andre’s son (he isn’t, just in case you were wondering), but the story was Mizdow finally getting sick of The Miz’s shit and snapping. Having Big Show win is great for him, but probably not the best way to get a reaction from the crowd. It didn’t prevent it from being an enjoyable match though.
Seven Man Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
We opened hot with this site’s most anticipated match of the card. As soon as Daniel Bryan’s music hit, the crowd went nuts and the energy stayed up. It was such a great match. To me it showed the diversity in the WWE’s midcard. You had seven colourful characters battling for one belt and all got their moments to shine. Dean Ambrose took one of the biggest bumps of the night when he was powerbombed through a ladder by Luke Harper. I also loved the fact that Stardust had his own bejewelled ladder. Why don’t more people like him? He’s so much fun. The whole thing built to an admittedly rather lame headbutting contest at the top of a ladder between king babyfaces Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler. Bryan prevailed and grabbed the strap, leading over 67,000 people in a deafening “YES! YES! YES!” chant. Good work.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
No title on the line, just a good old fashioned grudge match for this one. I’ve really enjoyed the Orton/Rollins feuding up until this point and I’m a big fan of both of them. The match was outstanding. Slick fighting and Orton being hellbent on punishing Rollins made it ridiculously entertaining. There were plenty of high spots, but the one that still has people talking, may be my personal favourite RKO ever, where Orton counters a curb stop, boosts Rollins into the air with his shoulder as he stands up and RKOs him as he falls. Just poetry in motion.
Triple H vs. Sting
More of an old school feeling to this one. Both got ridiculously over-the-top entrances, but Triple H had a goddamn Terminator intro, complete with exoskeletons and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I cackled with glee. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s dumb and cheesy as anything, I just love Triple H’s overcompensating entrances. Max Landis’ short Wrestling isn’t Wrestling gives a great character study of Triple H and this was so fitting of the character outlined in the video. Anyway, the match was enjoyable. It was more of a storytelling match-up than a physical battle, although having said that, Sting was surprisingly light on his feet and strong. It became a real treat for older fans as both D-Generation X and the NWO came out to help their respective pals. Don’t know why Triple H had to walk away with the victory, but I hope this isn’t the last we see of Sting.
Paige and AJ Lee vs. The Bella Twins
The token Divas match got underway and it was decent. Paige got her first Wrestlemania match and there were some great moments. After some of the huge matches already seen, it felt a bit of a step down and felt a bit rushed. It needed more time as it clocked in at a paltry 6 minutes. Was fantastic to see Paige slam Brie into the steel steps though. Looked and sounded harsh as hell. More stuff from the Women’s division please. Maybe cut down the concerts next time.
John Cena vs. Rusev for the WWE United States Championship
Best entrance of the night has to go to Rusev, who showed up in a goddamn tank. It was glorious. John Cena got some crappy “America is great” video package, but I was still thinking about the tank. Really good match. They’d built up a Rocky IV type deal and whilst it was eye-rolling at times, it at least served as a simple enough reason why two men should fight each other. Rusev is one of my favourites on the current roster, so I was disappointed in Cena winning and breaking his streak. People feel that by losing, he’s being buried by Cena, but I don’t think so. Rusev isn’t so easily forgotten and I feel that now he’s free of the one-note gimmick of a streak, he gets the chance to really breathe. Plus, great care was taken in the way he fought to make him look strong. The fact he’s wrestling a big name like Cena elevates him and the title. I’m liking Cena too. He gets too much hate. I’m more “Let’s Go Cena!” than “Cena sucks!” these days, especially as he’s not clogging up the WHC race. Also, his second rope stunner to Rusev was fucking sweet. Want to see that again at some point.
HHH and Stephanie came out to inform people of the attendance record and turned wild cheering into vicious booing and jeering when they said that they owned each and every one of them. Suddenly: IF YA SMELLLLL… hit and the true people’s champ The Rock came out to set them straight. The whole bit was entertaining, especially when The Rock involved legit badass Ronda Rousey. It was clear that they were trying to buy time enough to let the sky above open-air Levi’s Stadium darken for Undertaker vs. Bray’s spooky theatrical entrances. The whole thing was funny and it got the crowd good and involved but it dragged out for way too long. You could have had two Divas matches in the time they took talking.
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
My most anticipated match turned out to be a little disappointing. There was a hell of a lot to love, but it didn’t reach any real hype level for me. Perhaps I bought into the build up too much and forgot what modern day Taker matches are like, being more slow, but solid slugfests than physical showdowns. Both competitors’ entrances, Taker with his classic funereal march and Bray with his latern and re-animated creepy scarecrows, were great. However, there’s no question that the fact that it was still relatively bright out robbed them of some of their spectacle. This again was more of a storytelling match than a proper fight. I wasn’t really feeling it until Bray did his spiderwalk thing only to be met with the Undertaker doing his zombie sit-up thing. Bray practically collapses and finally realises he may have bitten off more than he can chew. I became a lot more involved and properly got into it after that point. I do wish Wyatt won for the surprise it would have caused, but I understand the reasons why not. Having a match with The Undertaker is a huge boon for his career, regardless of the outcome. I’m not sure people would have been able to handle two Taker Wrestlemania losses in a row. I’m excited to see what’s next for Wyatt.
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Wow. Was not expecting this. TPM’s least anticipated match between Reigns and Lesnar turned out to be an absolute barnstormer. The pyro for their entrances was awesome, especially the 360 degree fireworks for Reigns. He looked like a legitimate superhero. However, every hero must have a villain and that was Lesnar. I know it’s said often, but Brock really is a beast. He manhandled Reigns and suplexed him to within an inch of his life. Him screaming “Suplex City, bitch!” was the icing on the violent cake. Reigns took a beating and smiled for more. There was some proper personality coming through. During the match, parrt of me was baying for blood and part of me felt sorry for Reigns the guy, not the character. He doesn’t deserve all this hate, it’s creative and a certain Vincent K. McMahon that do. There was some top-notch physical narrative going on here. Lesnar suplexed Reigns like he did Cena. Reigns hit him with everything he had and barely staggered the guy. Reigns isn’t ready. They both did incredible work in the ring (surprisingly bloody too). I spent the match with my heart in my throat, praying Reigns didn’t win and have the crowd boo him out of the stadium. When Seth Rollins’ music hit and he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and pinned Reigns for the championship, I was elated. It’s a perfect way to end Wrestlemania and make sure everyone looks good. Rollins looks like a crafty heel. Lesnar was never pinned and still looks like an animal and Reigns did a Rocky and proved he could go the distance, even if he didn’t win. Hopefully people will give Roman a break now he he’s not champ. I’m already more of a fan of his thanks to his impressive match performance and now I don’t have to dislike his push on sheer principle.
So, I had a huge amount of fun with Wrestlemania 31. They had a wonky road to it, but they pulled it out of the bag spectacularly. It didn’t quite reach the highs of ‘Mania 30, but very few things do, hence why it was so special. Fantastic work all around that reminded me why I love wrestling in the first place.