So it’s Monday, the day after WrestleMania 31 (or Play Button) and it’s been quite a few days worth of “sports entertainment.” On top of the classic amount of 3 Hour Raws, Smackdowns and NXTs the WWE Network added even more content with the addition of two, two hour update shows on Thursday and Friday, the Hall of Fame with it’s own hour long red carpet and of course the four hour event with a two hour pre-show. Together that’s a staggering 19 hours of content in a week.
So much like the college student who spends the whole spring break at the bottom of a glass, let’s try and review some of the stuff that went down for WrestleMania.
WrestleMania Today (Thursday and Friday)
While the idea of a talking head panel might seem like something the WWE has been doing to death with the Network (that and Total Diva’s reruns) this time the panel does more good. With a big card this close, it helps to drive home the stories in the final minutes with the use of their excellent video package team and some good ol’ fashion vamping from the mindless drowns.
Thursday’s panel featured the grouping of Michael Cole (WWE’s head of propaganda), Booker T (the man who’ll plug his book more than I will) and Corey Graves (not CM Punk) as they went over half of the matches on the card with all of the energy that comes from a Raw taping. To be frank this one felt it’s length, as Cole used his trademarked “I’m trying to sell you this thing” attitude that makes me wish JR was still on the roster. The only segment standing out was when Ric Flair started talking about his, Booker T’s and Stings TNA run in passing. That aside this panel really felt boring and not fresh in the least, this would change a little the next day.
This time the panel was maned by Rene Young (everyone’s new WWE crush), Byron Saxton (a man who was going to prom…don’t ask) and again Cory Graves (still not CM Punk). Despite having the same formate as the first episode there was something fun about these two hours. While there were a few technical issues, the biggest being a package not airing when Young throw to it, the three seemed ready to have fun, something Michael Cole hasn’t since Heidenrich took his innocence.
However, it wasn’t perfect as at times it translated from fun to weird but there was youthful glow about this show. If the WWE wants more programming for the network these three would be a good group to pool together for a Tuesday Night Titan’s reboot or something to that effect.
The segment that stood out the most was the Dolph Ziggler I.C. title segment which ended with Mean Gene Okerlund awkwardly interrupting the segment and interviewing Ziggler. It was fun.
Hall of Fame
As per usual the Hall of Fame was held on the Saturday before the big card. While other years have had the honour of inducting larger stars, this batch was based around one man, Randy Savage. However, his brother’s, Lanny Poffo, speak was not the main thing that I came away with this year. Instead I couldn’t stop thinking about who rambly some of these older stars are.
It should be no secret that Pro Wrestlers can talk, in fact they partially made their livings by talking you into buying a ticket or a PPV. Despite this when it comes to things like a Hall of Fame time management is needed. Greatly needed.
With a (seemingly) large window of three hours allocated on their schedule my PVR cut out before either Kevin Nash or Poffo could get up the podium due to the long, dry and dull speeches of Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko. To say that these two went long, would be an understatement of a major kind, as Sammartino gave us a Wikipedia run down of the his friends career only to be followed by what could be one of the most nonsensical speeches from Zbyszko.
It’s not like the words weren’t nice said between the two legends, it was the fact that there were two many. This speech will play well next year in their video packages due to the fact they can edit and choose the sound bits, a luxury that we as the audience didn’t have.
As a pessimist, I often see the worst in everything around me, this can go double for WWE storylines over the past few years. That being said, this years WrestleMania card isn’t as bad as it could have been. It’s not like there isn’t an heat going into the main event, it’s just that the fans were behind the champion and not the babyface challenger. But with that out of the way the card looked pretty solid top to bottom. Let’s talk a little about the main-events.
Triple H vs. Sting:
I’d be lying if I said that this one wasn’t the question mark of the card. Both men are older with one not wrestling since his stint in another company. That being said, they managed to work an OK match using enough smoke and mirrors under the “match only ends with a Pinfall or Submission.” While the addition of this WWE vs WCW storyline didn’t make sense in 2015 the appearance of both D-X and the NWO was a fun visual for fans. However, the biggest mistake must be Stings loss. Why would they bring him in only to make him lose in his first match? It’s that same logic that lead to Brock Lesnar needing to be rehabbed with a streak killing match. Plus it’s not like Triple H can’t take a lose. I really hope this isn’t the end for Sting as they could probably do more with him over the next few years.
Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt:
For a match featuring a 50 year old man facing someone who is basically a promo in a sweet hat, this one played out pretty well overall. Both worked to their strengths and saved their big spots, i.e. crab walk and Taker sit-up till the end. One of the many match types we see at these super cards is the passing of the torch and this probably should have been that in the end. With Taker nearing the end of his run and Wyatt working strong with everyone he faces the match should of probably went the other way. But who knows, maybe there’s more for Taker after this.
Triple H/Stephane McMahon’s stand off with the Rock and Ronda Rousey:
In the typical “let’s have a celebrity on the card” move we get a fun stand off between the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and Stephane McMahon, arguable the biggest female heel on the show. You can say that it was a little played out and predictable but it added to the charm of the show and gives us our first real WWE/UFC cross-over, something that could of easily happened with Brock Lesnar if both parts stopped to think hard enough.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:
In the dark horse match of the night, we have our main event, the match that made internet wrestling fans cry; Reigns vs Lesnar. Let’s get one thing straight first, while the idea of Lesnar vs. Bryan is interesting, is it a good match for a man with a bum neck? No, but neither was a ladder match…anyways, with over a year to prep for this match it turned out to be a fun one to watch. Even before the run in.
With the story being, Lesnar destroying Reigns, there was that strong image of Brock bleeding from the face after the opening moments. While it wasn’t intentional (either time he was cut open) it was the first time we’ve seen him bleed in a while, thus showing us he’s still a man and possibly prone to being knocked out after getting punched in the face several times. Despite this, the match stayed in his favour with Roman being thrown around like a Vergil insult on a wrestling forum. Whether or not you like blood in wrestling, it’s hard to deny that it helped the matches story, especially in the end.
After wrestling a decent little match with Randy Orton early in the card, Seth Rollins enters the arena and uses his Money in the Bank to make it the main event a triple threat. Soon after, he ends up winning by pinning Roman and not the monster who had been in control most of the night. This is brilliant as they took the title off Brock without making him lose, and possibly opening the door for Lesnar to take some time off. Now with the belt on Rollins he’ll get his time to shine all while Roman learns and grows as a performer. I’d say that’s a win, win, win for everyone in this match.
In the End:
With WrestleMania Play Button behind us, it’s hard to think of too many bad things about this card. While it made Sting look like he wasn’t as great as we were told, it had some great moments and gave some well deserved spotlight to a few people. Hopefully with this direction the writing team can continue their momentum and let the World Title keep it’s special feel. Only time will tell.