4/3/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
After two consecutive years of exceptional Wrestlemanias, it seemed that WWE was due for a bit of a let down. The rash of injuries over the last six months that took Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, John Cena, and others out of action only added to that likelihood. Oddly, the only real shortcoming with this year’s Wrestlemania had nothing to do with a lack of available talent and more to do with WWE’s misevaluation of its own talent. Charlotte, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, and others all delivered in big ways. The main event, though, went exactly as one would expect given the constantly negative reactions to Roman Reigns. What was otherwise a very good show fell flat in the end because the main event was deflated by pure disinterest.
Roman Reigns def. HHH to Become WWE World Heavyweight Champion
A deliciously evil promo from Stephanie McMahon and a fireworks display were insufficient to get the fans behind Roman Reigns. In fact, the reaction ranged from solid boos to complete silence every time he mustered a comeback against HHH. As the main event wore on, more and more fans left the stadium. Stephanie handed HHH a sledgehammer after Reigns kicked out from a Peidgree, but Reigns continued to fight back. He took out Stephanie with a full-force spear that left her laid out. He hit a series of Superman punches and a spear that got him a victory to a shockingly unsupportive crowd. On John Cena’s worst day, he at least had the support of a segment of young fans and their families. Reigns stood tall at the end of Wrestlemania to crickets, which is the worst possible reaction for a wrestling champion. It will be very interesting to see whether this triumph represents the start of a Reigns-based era in WWE, or if the company merely wanted to see the lengthy Reigns storyline through to its conclusion in spite of the fan reactions.
Undertaker def. Shane McMahon
With the advanced ages of the participants in the match, it was very wise for them to economize their big spots. They wasted very little motion and got straight to the drama of the match. They traded big spots in the ring and submission holds until Undertaker speared Shane through the cage door. They continued to fight outside the ring until Shane left Undertaker on the announce table. He climbed to the top of the cage, crossed himself and leapt to the floor. Undertaker rolled out of the way, slowly carried Shane back into the ring, and hit the tombstone piledriver to win. It was a dramatic match with great support from the fans. Perhaps more importantly, it leaves open many questions about Shane and control of Raw and Smackdown, which carries forward the never-ending storyline of WWE.
Brock Lesnar def. Dean Ambrose in a Street Fight
Although this match received #3 billing on the card, it went on very early and did not get nearly the time that the other featured attractions received. The lack of time was a problem because the match, while wrestled reasonably well, simply lacked the time to build up the story it was trying to tell. As we anticipated, Lesnar hit Ambrose with a variety of stiff suplexes- 12 of them, to be exact- and Ambrose continually fought back. He tried to introduce a chainsaw and a barbed wire baseball bat, but Lesar avoided shots from both of them. Lesnar hit an F5 on a pile of chairs, which was enough to get him the pin, but most fans seemed surprised that the match ended as early as it did. I have to agree, because the idea that Ambrose can fight back from any beating is a hard one to express in a short match that does not show him getting much of a beating.
The Rock def. Erick Rowan
Rock came to the ring to announce the record-breaking attendance figure and the Wyatt Family interrupted him. He challenged Bray to a match and Bray dispatched Rowan, who ate a Rock Bottom and a pin in only six seconds. The Wyatts surrounded the ring and John Cena returned to rescue Rock. Altogether, it was a fun and unexpected segment. The biggest surprise was that Rock actually wrestled a match, though it quickly became clear that his “no contact” movie insurance policy meant that he could not even take a single bump. Nonetheless, WWE found a good way to use him within his contractual limitations.
Charlotte def. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to Remain Women’s Champion
No women’s match at Wrestlemani had ever lasted 10 minutes, so the mere fact that this match was 16 minutes long was a huge step for the division. Add in Sasha’s entrance with her cousin Snoop Dogg, the outstanding new Women’s Title belt, and the fireworks that punctuated Charlotte’s win, and there was no doubt that this was the most important women’s match in the history of the event. The wrestling was very good, as well. Each wrestler repeatedly got close to victory with their own submission holds. Sasha looked like she was going to capture the title when she put Becky in the Banks Statement for a second time, but Charlotte broke up the hold. Ric Flair interfered and Carlotte was able to pick up the win. More than any bold proclamation of a revolution, this match represented a real change in the women’s division.
Chris Jericho def. AJ Styles
My favorite match of the night went on very early. It also happened to be the only singles match of the night with no stipulations or interference. Instead, Jericho and Styles matched each other move for move and showed that they learned from the matches they wrestled over the last few months. Styles kicked out of a Codebreaker and Jericho kicked out from the Styles Clash. Both wrestlers fought out of the other’s submission hold. When Styles went for his springboard forearm, Jericho caught him with a Codebreaker and got the surprise victory. Even with the loss, Styles came away from this rivalry looking very strong and looks poised for a slot very high on the card.
League of Nations def. New Day
The enjoyment of this match had almost nothing to do with what happened from bell to bell. New Day’s entrance saw them emerge from a giant, inflatable box of Booty O’s cereal to possibly the most positive reaction of the night. Sheamus’s Brogue Kick got the League of Nations a surprise victory, but their celebration was halted by Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and Steve Ausitn. The three legends- who all looked ready to wrestle a full match- destroyed the Lads and celebrated with a beer bath. Austin was the most popular wrestler of the night in his home state, and it surprised me that he did not have a bigger role. As for New Day, the loss likely means that they will have a Tag Team Title match with the LON in the near future, which always seemed inevitable.
Zack Ryder def. Kevin Owens, Stardust, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Sin Cara, and The Miz to Become Intercontinental Champion
It’s hard to tell one of these multi-man ladder matches from another, but they’re always fun to watch. The highlights of this one included lots of interaction between old rivals Owens and Zayn and a polka dotted ladder for Stardust. Sin Cara took a big bump off of a ladder onto another ladder perched outside the ring. When it looked like Owens was ready to retain, Ryder knocked him off of the ladder and got the belt. Ryder appeared to be the least likely competitor to win the match, especially since he reportedly only found his way in due to Neville’s injury. He has also been very scarce on WWE TV for several years. He retains considerable popularity (I don’t understand it, but the cheers are undeniable), so maybe this is a chance for WWE to make good on his poor US Title reign.
Baron Corbin Wins the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The most noteworthy part of The Andre was the inclusion of Shaquille O’Neal in the field. Shaq and Big Show squared off early in the match and were both eliminated quickly. Kane and Mark Henry each had a strong showing. It looked like Kane had won, but Corbin appeared and threw him to the floor to stand as the winner. Corbin was the only NXT wrestler in the match and got a good reaction when he pulled off the win. It seems likely that the victory will mean that he becomes a full time member of the main roster.
-Ryback mostly dominated Kalisto while fans trickled into their seats. Kalisto hit the SDS to get the win and retain his US Title. The match was mostly unexceptional and could have taken place on Raw.
-The 10 woman tag match only reigstered because it was Lana’s in-ring debut, but nothing important happned in the match. Brie Bella got the win for her team with the Yes Lock and her sister returned to celebrate with her. It had the strong feeling of Brie’s last match.
-The Usos got a fairly routine win over the Dudleys. After the victory, they put the Dudleys through a pair of tables. I though this match was a chance for the Dudleys to make waves as heels. Their loss makes this WWE run seem pointless.