The Law Reviews: Wrestlemania XXX

Wrestlemania XXX: YES-tlemania!
April 6, 2015
Mercedes Benz Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana

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Every legend overcomes obstacles in their path to greatness. But perhaps no champion in wrestling history had to overcome more obstacles than Daniel Bryan. He overcame his lack of size and charisma. He overcame being passed over for opportunities to work in WWE. He overcame being fired from WWE the night he made his main roster debut. He just kept fighting and climbing up the ladder, all the way to the night he fulfilled his destiny: Summerslam 2013, when he defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship.

The moment was perfect, but it was fleeting. His championship reign lasted all of five minutes. Triple H betrayed him and Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to steal the title. Every time Bryan received a shot at the title, circumstances conspired to deny him. And the night that should have been his coming out party, the Royal Rumble, was ruined when he wasn’t allowed to compete in the match in order to clear the way for the returning Batista, who won the match and the Wrestlemania main event that came with it.

At this point, any reasonable person would have given up and accepted that it wasn’t their year. But Daniel Bryan was done being reasonable. He took over WWE Raw, threatening to hold the show hostage until he got what he wanted: a match with Triple H at Wrestlemania. And an added stipulation: that if he won the match he would be added to the main event. Triple H accepted the challenge, and we were set to witness one of the great trials in Wrestlemania history: could Daniel Bryan defeat three legends in one night to become champion?

Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL are our hosts tonight.

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Our host, Hulk Hogan, kicks off the show. As you surely know, he’s interrupted by Steve Austin and Rock. Awesome segment, great way to start the show. I remember seeing an idea of having those three, Bruno, and Cena celebrate with Bryan at the end of the show to signify the passing of the torch, but I’m glad they didn’t take the attention off him. Would have been awesome for the night after Wrestlemania though.

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

Winner gets added to the WWE Championship match against Orton and Batista. Triple H’s entrance in skeleton king gear was absurd, but mostly worked. I don’t care if he’s using steroids, Triple H’s physique is impressive for a guy his age. Cole for some reason has to bury Daniel Bryan right off the bat, saying this “should be a mismatch on paper.” Bizarre way of promoting a guy who’s going to be in the main event.

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Bryan came in with an injured shoulder due to an attack from Triple H, and it plays heavily into the match. Bryan is able to out-wrestle Triple H throughout the match, but every time HHH shuts him down by going to the shoulder. The fact that there is actual wrestling in this match is refreshing, as it’s not something you see a ton of in WWE at this point.

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Bryan breaks out an inside Front Flip Senton to the floor, and though it connects it probably hurt him more than Triple H. Triple H quickly goes after the shoulder and retakes the advantage. The next few minutes are a clinic of intensity and body part work as Triple H destroys Bryan’s shoulder. And Bryan’s selling is shades of Ricky Morton, another plucky underdog who wrestled many times in the Superdome over the years. I also have to compliment Stephanie’s work at ringside, as her trash talking Bryan absolutely added to the match.

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Whenever the heat segment is getting long, Bryan makes a comeback. But then Triple H gets in a cheap shot to cut it off. Triple H hits an awesome Tiger Suplex. I love when guys break out unusual moves at Wrestlemania. Makes the show special. The match swings when Bryan is on the verge of passing out in the Crippler Crossface, but manages to roll into a Yes Lock. HHH makes the ropes and both men struggle to stand.

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Bryan follows up with a flurry of offense, including a pair of Suicide Dives and a Missile Dropkick. That sets up the Running Knee, but Triple H cuts it off with a Spinebuster. A Pedigree follows and The Game appears to have won, but Daniel Bryan just won’t die. Got to be honest, I was worried that was it watching live. Triple H sets up for another Pedigree, but gets Back Dropped into a pin for two. Bryan escapes a Back Suplex attempt and scores with the Running Knee for the win!

Rating: ****½. Awesome match. Loved the pacing, the psychology, and the fact that Bryan was put over so strongly. He kicked out of Triple H’s finish. He out-wrestled him all throughout the match, and he beat him in the middle of the ring.

Triple H takes liberties after the match, smashing Bryan’s arm with a chair.

The Shield vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws

Squash city here as Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns absolutely destroy the three has-beens.

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Absolutely the correct outcome as the most dominant force in wrestling battled three guys who were flat washed up.

Rating: *. Love that they didn’t bother making this competitive. Wish they had found a better match for The Shield. Shield vs. Wyatts would have been epic here.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

I won’t recap all the participants because there are a ton. It’s everybody on the roster who wasn’t in one of the other matches. 

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This is a relatively good battle royal with some fun eliminations. And I had forgotten Kofi avoiding elimination by landing on the steps after being Back Dropped. Final four were Big Show, Sheamus, Del Rio, and Cesaro. Sheamus and Del Rio eliminated each other, setting up Cesaro vs. Big Show. As you surely remember, Cesaro Body Slammed Big Show over the top rope in epic fashion that should have made him a star.

Rating: **1/2. One of the better battle royals I can remember. Lots of good spots in there and didn’t take up too much time. Should have been a breakout moment for Cesaro, but they botched his subsequent push badly.

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

Wyatt’s entrance here was top-notch as Mark Crozer performed “Live in Fear” live and 60,000 people clapped along. They had a clear story in this match, where Wyatt kept pushing Cena to a darker and darker place. Cena doesn’t do subtlety, so this came off a bit cartoonish. The problem is we’ve seen Cena do far more violent things in the ring than punching and choking without any hint that he was conflicted about what he was doing. So seeing him anguished here by wrestling a pretty typical match was strange.

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This match was pretty good, although the story never clicked. Why was Cena at risk of having his legacy destroyed if he lost here? No real explanation. The match was probably longer than it should have been. Sounds like I’m trashing it, but like I said it was pretty decent. Cena was tempted to hit Wyatt with a chair, but resisted and hit Rowan instead. Then he reversed Sister Abigail into the AA for the win.

Rating: **. Not a huge fan. Longer than needed to be, story was melodramatic and didn’t make a ton of sense. And Wyatt probably should have gotten the win.

Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

On-face, this should be epic. The undefeated Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar, the baddest legitimate fighter in WWE history. Mix in that these two have an unspoken personal rivalry (Taker memorably challenging Brock at ringside of a UFC fight revealed a tension) and you should have an epic build.

Instead, after a badass first segment (Taker Chokeslamming Brock through a table), they did nothing except lots of long promos. At no point did they do anything that made me think that Brock had any chance of ending The Streak. Funny how that worked out.

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As you remember, this match sucked. It actually started pretty well, with both guys exchanging big shots. And then Lesnar got Undertaker with a takedown on the floor, Taker smacked his head on the ground, and was concussed. And obviously it ruined the match, but the real problem was that it wasn’t a big move that caused the injury. If Brock hit the F5 on the floor, we would have understood Taker being destroyed and this would have been more akin to the Cena/Lesnar match from Summerslam. Instead we were just confused by the weakness of Lesnar’s never-ending heat segment. And unable to understand why Undertaker wasn’t fighting back. We’ve seen him take 15 chairshots and sit up, and here he can’t handle Brock’s forearm shots.

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There are probably wrestlers who could have pieced together a good match on the fly here despite Taker’s injury. Brock’s not someone with the in-ring experience to do that. So they muddle through with Taker making comebacks in slow-motion and Brock hitting him with weak, boring offense. I did pop for Lesnar lifting Taker into a Powerbomb to get out of Hell’s Gate. Triple H did that too, but he had Taker on the steps first which would make it a lot easier.

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The Kimura/Hell’s Gate sequence was smart, probably the best thing they could have done with Taker in the condition he was in. The Old School/F5 reversal was really good, wouldn’t have been a bad finish. And then, the infamous finish: F5 attempt, reversed into a Tombstone, reversed back into the F5.

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And Taker didn’t get up. I was sure it was a false finish. Somehow, my brain convinced me that Taker had actually gotten his shoulder up and that someone was going to come out and restart the match. And it didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen. When Brock’s music came on it should have been an indication. When he walked all the way up the ramp too. But when Taker stood up and the “21-1” graphic came on it finally sunk in.

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Surreal, jaw dropping, unbelievable, astonishing, extraordinary, stunning. This might be the most shocking moment in wrestling history that didn’t involve a death. There was booing, but mostly stunned silence. No one could believe what they had seen.

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Rating: *¼. Bad match. No getting around it. Slow, boring, sloppy. Taker’s injury excuses it. Things were going well for the first few minutes before that.

It’s uncomfortable watching Taker struggle to get to his feet for so long knowing that he’s not pretending. The fact that no one helps him is a problem. He collapsed right after making it through the curtain and had to be rushed to the hospital. Turned out fine, but there definitely could have been a serious situation here.

Oh, and one dick in the crowd yelled “you suck!” at the top of his lungs. Fuck that guy, whoever he is.

Diva’s Championship: AJ (c) vs. Aksana vs. Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella vs. Cameron vs. Emma vs. Eva Marie vs. Layla vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella vs. Naomi vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Summer Rae vs. Tamina Snuka

The only people I can think of who had a tougher spot on the card were the guys who had to wrestle after Owen Hart died in the ring. This thrown together match with every woman on the roster doesn’t have much chance. They have five minutes for fourteen of them to try to get their shit in. Not going to happen. AJ won with the Black Widow on Naomi.

Rating: ½*. Like I said, they never had a chance.

Fun backstage segment with Hogan, Mr. T, Piper, and Orndorff reminiscing about the main event of Wrestlemania 1. Pat Paterson showing up in his referee outfit made it for me.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan

Forgot that Rev Theory was there to play Orton out. It seems notable that there was no reaction at all for Orton. He’d been WWE Champion for six months and top heel, and absolutely no boos. Meanwhile, Batista got a ton of heat. Big Dave makes a great heel. His outfit here wasn’t quite “Blue-tista” ridiculous, but he did appear to be wearing sneakers and legwarmers. Bryan only does the “Yes!” chant with his healthy arm, which I appreciate.

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Bryan starts out fast, knowing he can’t last long with his arm damaged. Orton quickly goes to the shoulder and shuts him down. Subsequent segment is Orton vs. Batista, and the crowd has no one to cheer for. Bryan gets in, heats things up, then gets dropped on his shoulder again. He comes back with a Diving Headbutt and locks Orton in the Yes Lock, only for Triple H and Stephanie to show up and beat up the referee. Such blatant cheating, and I love it. They’re not even trying to be fair anymore.

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Bryan gets squashed with a Spinebuster, at which point Scott Armstrong (who had been involved in multiple Bryan screwjobs) shows up to make the count. Now the crowd is rocking. Bryan kicks Armstrong in the head and knocks him out, which is tremendous. Then he levels Triple H, Stephanie, and Armstrong with a Suicide Dive. Triple H gets the sledgehammer, but Bryan cuts him off and knocks him out with a hammer shot.

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Orton and Batista double team Bryan and drive him through the table with a brutal Powerbomb/RKO combination. Bryan is stretchered out, but fights his way off and gets back into the ring. Bryan blocks an RKO attempt and hooks the Yes Lock…but Batista breaks it up. Bryan hooks Batista in the Yes Lock! Orton breaks it up. Batista blocks the RKO, but Orton dodges a Spear and hits the RKO on the second try. That only gets two. Orton sets up for the Punt but gets a Running Knee from Bryan. Batista makes a cover on Orton for two. Batista hits the Batista Bomb, but gets drilled with the Running Knee and Bryan applies the Yes Lock! Orton is out, Batista has nowhere to go and gives up! Bryan wins! Bryan wins! Bryan wins!

Rating: ****. That fucking rocked. One of the better triple threats I can remember. So much fun stuff, tons of huge spots. Bryan’s ultimate triumph as he takes out Orton, Batista, Triple H, and Stephanie. The stretcher spot, the fake out finishes. So perfectly done.

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Bryan celebrates in epic fashion with his two titles. Confetti falls from the ceiling, fireworks explode. His family gets into the ring to celebrate with him. He goes and hugs Connor “The Crusher” Michalek at ringside. It’s such a perfect moment. In the end, the long journey was worth it. The Impossible Dream came true.

A strong show overall. Two great matches in the opener and the main event, and the rest of the card was fine. If Brock/Taker had delivered this might have been the best Wrestlemania ever, but instead it settles for being in the conversation. I like that they kept it down to just seven matches and let the big matches have a lot of time.

Grade: A-

 

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