The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins: Intercontinental Championship
WrestleMania started on the right foot with a pretty epic Triple Threat match. With these names, I figured this match would be good, but I was rather pleased that the three men brought their A-games.
There were high spots, and everyone got their big moments and finishers. With news of Miz taking time off to spend it with his kid, it wasn't too surprising that he dropped the title, but the match was built in a way that it looked like it was anyone's game.
After two curb stomps, Rollins won the Intercontinental Title. It is pretty cool that all three Shield members are now Grand Slam Champions.
Match Rating: 4.25 stars
Charlotte vs. Asuka: Smackdown Women's Championship
Asuka's undefeated streak against Charlotte's Title made for another exciting match. Both women showed what they were made of in this intense bout. They even broke out some unique offense such as Asuka catching Charlotte's moonsault into a submission and Charlotte pulling out a Spanish Fly.
Both women scored their big finishing submission moves on each other but the Queen kept her throne. I felt like Asuka should have put up a little more fight in her first loss—specifically in the Figure Eight that made her tap. But this was an acceptable first loss for someone who's been undefeated for roughly two years.
Match rating: 4.25 stars
Randy Orton vs. Rusev vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal: U.S. Championship
This was another solid four-way. The guys didn't do anything too special or groundbreaking, but they kept the flow going. Jinder Mahal got the duke, thus earning the United States Championship. I do take a little umbrage to Rusev taking the fall, but hey—this could pay off.
Match Rating: 3.5 stars
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
Here we go, the big in-ring debut of Ronda Rousey. Kurt Angle and Triple H started off the match. Angle took a few shots to the head that made me wince. Trips and Steph did their job of playing the cowardly, sneaky heels. Examples include Steph slamming Angle into the ring steps when the ref wasn't looking. To her credit, Steph proved her competence in the ring.
There was a lot of suspense around Ronda first entering the ring, with Triple H keeping Angle in the ring as long as possible. When Ronda finally entered, she looked mostly good, though there was a noticeable botch when Rousey went for a move that she never finished. Also, she must have made Chris Jericho proud with plenty of armbars!
The rules were pretty loosely enforced after a while, but it led to a fun brawl. Ronda looked like a fighter by challenging and holding her own against Triple H. Stephanie bit off more than she could chew by challenging Angle. This turned into an exciting back and forth brawl. My only gripe is that it went a little too long. There were plenty of spots where the match could have ended but it kept going. Still, Ronda made Steph tap, for once proving the Authority does "what's best for business." Warts and all, this was a fun match that put the right people over.
Match rating: 4 stars
The Bludgeon Bros. vs. The Usos vs. The New Day: Smackdown Tag Team Titles
I don't have a lot to say about this one. All three teams got their moments. The match was too fast-paced and quick to get boring but also too quick to really get things going.
Match Rating: 3 stars
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
This is it: The dream match fans have been clamoring for. Yes, the men have squared off before, but they've both become legends since that time. Cena comes out after being told his weeks of challenging Taker have paid off. The lights go dim and we're greeted by . . . Elias. Elias cuts a scathing promo that takes pot shots at Taker and the crowd in what amounts to a pretty hilarious moment of trolling. Cena makes Elias pay for it, only to be greeted by the real deal.
First there was the familiar gong, then we saw Taker's ring gear lying in the familiar pile from last year. Then that familiar presence returned. Last year, Taker showed his age, but the guy still looked like he belonged here . . . even if it was only three minutes. But what a three minutes it was. Okay, there was an obvious botch when Cena sold a big boot that missed by a mile. I'm a Cena defender, but it was pretty surprising to see Taker just squash him. The highlight of this quick bout was Taker just denying Cena's Five Knuckle Shuffle attempt by sitting up. Maybe this was a glorified segment. Maybe this wasn't the match it could have been 5/6 years ago, but it was satisfying in a unique way.
Match Rating: 3 stars
Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn
One of the true feel-good stories of the season has been the surprise comeback of Daniel Bryan to wrestling. One of the best parts of Smackdown over the last few months has been the duo of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They've played vicious, entitled but just a little goofy heels and earned real heat from fans. To Daniel Bryan's credit, he's adjusted his style—no flying headbutts, he can control his dropkicks so he's not falling on his head. Many of us were rightfully worried about his injuries, but Bryan is wise enough to prevent injury.
Though with his list of recent injuries, the real concern was over Shane McMahon. Someone who recently recovered from (and may still have) a hernia should not be doing coast-to-coast moves. Also, it was a little obvious Zayn lunged forward so Shane could hit the move properly, but imagine how badly it would have whiffed if he didn't.
Zayn and Owens owned their roles as heels with Owens bombing Bryan onto the apron and taking him out of the match. Most of the match was okay, but Bryan's comeback was the real story. Bryan scored the win by making Zayn tap, making for one of the real feel-good moments of the night.
Match Rating: 3.5 stars
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax: Raw Women's Championship
While Nia Jax has shown considerable improvement over the last few months, she did make a few botches early on. During the opening, Mickie James took much of Jax's wrath. Eventually, Bliss had to face the woman she manipulated and teased over the last few months. As always, Bliss played her role as the spoiled dastardly heel.
Even if this match wasn't perfect, it was solid, and Nia winning the gold was a feel-good moment for the evening. Jax has shown her value in the past and playing the conquering hero was satisfying.
Match Rating: 2.75 stars
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: WWE Championship
For months, WWE billed this as a dream match—a re-match from their epic showdown in New Japan. And we get . . . this. Was it a god awful match? By no means, but this was certainly an underachiever. Nakamura seemed to be pacing himself on the main stage, but he also seemed to forget that he needed to bring his A-game for Mania. Both AJ and Nakamura seemed to play things a little too safely. The crowd picked up on this as well, as they seemed a little out of it for much of the match.
To their credit, B-level Styles and Nakamura is still Styles-Nakamura. There were some exciting falls. I was surprised when I found out this match was 20 minutes because these two did put on a pretty breezily paced match. Plus the ending where Styles countered the kinshasa into a Styles Clash.
Sadly, for the bar that was set, this may be the most disappointing match on the card. Maybe re-watch their Wrestle Kingdom match if you love these two.
The real news of the match is Nakamura's heel turn. He seemed to accept his loss gracefully, only to deliver that knee to face he promised. Gotta say, I am curious what happens next.
Match Rating: 3.75 stars
The Bar vs. Braun Strowman and ???: Raw Tag Team Championship
Before the match even began, The Bar had a fun Mardis Gras-themed entrance. It was strange from a heel group but still fun. Even more fun was when Strowman ran a rampage on the whole roster, causing everyone in funny costumes to run wild.
Then came the moment of truth: Strowman was finally going to announce his tag partner. It seemed that everyone and their brother had a theory of who it could be: Samoa Joe, a returning Rey Mysterio, Elias, Curt Hawkins. Then Strowman announced he was going to pull his partner out of the audience. And this wasn't some rouse to reveal one of those guys: He really pulled a kid out of the audience. (Yeah, I know this kid HAD to be a plant but still.)
Strowman did all of the work, only tagging in Nicholas once. Nicholas of course tagged Strowman back in immediately. Strowman got the duke and I kinda think Nicholas not getting the pin was a missed opportunity. If you're gonna do something this silly, go all the way.
The Nicholas situation will likely garner a little controversy from the fans, but I support it. First of all, WWE never promised Mysterio or Joe as Strowman's partner so there's no fault in them not delivering. But the whole thing does deliver on allowing wrestling to be fun and letting a fan live out his fantasy of being a champion. I'm not saying this should happen all the time, but as a one-time feel-good moment at Mania, I'm cool with it.
Plus it helps establish Braun Strowman as big, strong teddy bear who beats the stuffing out of people.
Match rating: 2.25 stars
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns: WWE Universal Championship
Three years later, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns finally have their big re-match - this time with actual build. This year's battle better resembled Lesnar's match against Cena from Summerslam 2014. The comparison felt inevitable with the commentators explicitly bringing it up. This match was a little sloppy in parts. Lesnar and Reigns went for some of the same moves - specifically Superman punches and Belly-to-Back suplexes - a little too often. But this was still an exciting brawl. The "boring" and "This is awful" chants from the crowd felt a little unwarranted.
To Lesnar and Reigns's credit, they at least had a big match feel that belonged at Mania (more than I could say about HHH-Reigns from a few years ago). The company tried to sell the impact of Reigns kicking out of several F-5's. I know WWE spent the last year building the F-5 as a killer move, but that was kinda lost on four years of WWE using it as a transitional move. (I'm saying that as someone who considers the F-5 one of the coolest finishers.)
Plus we got to see Roman juiced the hard way. Say what you will about Roman but the guy showed his toughness after taking several unprotected Brock Lesnar punches. Plus the image of Roman bleeding like a sieve with blood on his face was pretty memorable. The real surprise was that Lesnar actually got the duke. After a year of positioning Reigns to conquer The Beast, it was pretty surprising to see Lesnar win.
Match Rating: 2.75 stars
WrestleMania was an overall good show. Most matches were good. Even the few sub-3 star matches delivered on the level they needed to. Unfortunately there were no classics—the Intercontinental Championship and the Smackdown Women's championship were the main highlights.
One recurring problem with the show was too many swerves—so much of the event had a vibe that the company knew who the obvious choices were and swerved fans just for the sake of swerving them. Or maybe the company knew the obvious choice and put some money on the actual winners.
To the company's credit, Brock retaining and Nakamura's heel turn made me curious about what will happen next on both shows.
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