As if 2,000 words weren’t enough, I’m doing a summary post about WrestleMania. I know, I’m droning on as much as the Edge vs. Randy Orton match.
First thing to take away is: I think it’s great that the show went ahead. People are starved for live performances, and with both theatre and sport not happening, the pro wrestling is a perfect mid point for people to reduce their withdrawals.
I was impressed by how quickly the plans shifted from one night in a stadium to two niights at the Performance Center. They built up a lot of matches with an actual reason for happening.
The flipside of that is that a lot of the matches felt like they weren’t well planned out. Now, if you’ve got a bunch of veterans, that’s not an issue: they can play off each other, if not a crowd. But the veterans were in very scripted matches (Edge vs. Orton last man standing, Undertaker vs. AJ Styles in a boneyard match, Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena in a firefly funhouse match), meaning greener performers were in half-cooked in-ring matches.
Generally, the women’s matces were the best. Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler was an exception in that it felt unpolished, and all about the idea of Becky countering the rear naked choke into a pin. But the women’s tag title match was fast paced and interesting, the 5-way title match was a lot of fun, and Charlotte vs. Rhea Ripley was like a Ric Flair match in its narrative.
The most worrying thing, booking aside, was the execution of the men’s heavyweight title matches. Goldberg vs. Strowman was complete shit, but Goldberg is about 200 years old at this point, and Strowman was a last minute replacement for the immunosuppressed Roman Reigns. But Lesnar vs. McIntyre was exactly the same, has been in the works since at least January, and they can both go. Why was it so bad?
I get that the last couple of decades have seen an increase in people kicking out of finishing moves, but for both of your biggest matches to be nothing but finishing moves is embarrassing. I assume as some point we’ll find out. It can’t be time constraints because both nights aired on WWE’s own streaming network (and there were other matches you could have taken the time from).
The less said about the boneyard match, the better. Some online have said this was a good segment. Don’t fall for it. It was as embarrassing to watch as it should have been for the performers to participate in.
Braun Strowman as universal champion seems to be a case of unintended consequences: Bray Wyatt took the title from Seth Rollins, which made sense as Wyatt’s Fiend character is unstoppable. Goldberg beat him because he insisted he do so (the kids wouldn’t want to see the hero losing to a monster, apparently). I assume Goldberg was to drop the title to Roman Reigns. But with Reigns self-isolating and the Fiend possibly bigger than a belt (in that Undertaker sense), Goldberg had to drop it to someone. Let’s pick a big guy then.
The saving grace was the firefly funhouse match. It was the most creative pro-wrestling… thing that I’ve seen in years. I liked Cody Rhodes on commentary for AEW recently, showing his love of the game and his knowledge of its history, but this match was a perfect example of “show, don’t tell”. Wyatt and Cena went through both of their careers in a twisted This Is Your Life episode as well as parodising anything from mid-90s WWF commentary, the homoerotic Hulk Hogan era and the sleazy complacency of NWO. More of this, please: this is how you really make a virtue of having no audience.
So, what next? Drew McIntyre will be the champ for a decent while (at least the lack of audience meant we were spared the pathetic “you deserve it” chants, where any pretence at suspending one’s disbelief goes out of the window). Lesnar, Cena, Undertaker and Goldberg (and Edge? AJ Styles?) will step back, maybe for good. If I didn’t know better, it would seem that the men in general are taking a back seat to the women, if you look at match quality and personality. The future will be interesting.
The matches (best to worst):
- Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena
- Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair
- Kabuki Warriors vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross
- John Morrison vs. Jimmy Uso vs. Kofi Kingston
- Bayley vs. Lacey Evans vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks vs. Tamina
- Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley
- Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins
- Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler
- Street Profits vs. Angel Garza and Austin Theory
- Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan
- Edge vs. Randy Orton
- Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler
- King Corbin vs. Elias
- Goldberg vs. Brawn Strowman
- Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre
- Undertaker vs. AJ Styles