Wrestlemania: Silicon Valley
March 29, 2015
Santa Clara, California
Wrestlemania. The biggest night of the year. The night where stars are made, legacies are forged, rivalries ended. On this night, WWE sits at a crossroads. We have top stars John Cena and Daniel Bryan dropping into secondary roles to allow Roman Reigns his shot at the main event. Roman Reigns, the hero we deserve but not the hero we need. And in the other corner, Brock Lesnar. The top star in wrestling, the one guy who makes his matches feel special just by showing up. So where are we going? Is it time to crown the new king, or is it Brock’s world now? Or…might WWE have something up its sleeve? One way to find out:
I thought the pre-show matches were good. The tag title four way was a bit silly with a lot of contrived spots, but still fun and a good way to start the show. The battle royal was strong, I loved Mizdown and Big Show’s segment at the end. No problem with Big Show winning. I think if they committed to making him a big deal he could get his heat back and this could be the start. And Mizdow is a plucky underdog babyface, his big win can’t come yet. Well, we now know they preceded to do nothing with MizDdow. By the way, this is a review I wrote contemporaneously last year so I’ll be adding current commentary in italics.
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler Luke Harper vs. R-Truth vs. Stardust
This match exists because Wade Barrett is a shitty champion. Not in reality, but in kayfabe. He’s lost to virtually every contender to his title in recent months (including Sin Cara, who was screwed out of a title shot here). So all the contenders get their shot at one time in a match where the odds are decidedly stacked against Barrett retaining.
The goal here is to bring prestige back to the Intercontinental Championship by having seven guys kill themselves to win it. And on that front, I think it succeeds. Within a minute of this match starting, we have guys flying over the top rope to the floor and smashing into each other. Then we have guys climbing the ladder and getting thrown off. Almost everyone (really except R-Truth) gets a memorable moment. The highlight (which was scary as shit) is Ambrose getting Powerbombed from the ring down to the floor through a ladder. He looked like he might have been legitimately messed up after that and didn’t come back to the match. Shades of Mike Awesome with that Powerbomb by Harper.
In a match that was a battle of wills for all involved, it only makes sense that the littlest man with the biggest heart would come out on top. And that’s exactly what happens, as Daniel Bryan wins a slugfest at the top of the ladder with Dolph Ziggler, then pulls down the belt to become the Intercontinental Champion for the first time.
Rating: ***. It was fine, I didn’t think it was special. We’ve kind of seen all the spots at this point, so this match kind of felt like a greatest hits version of old ladder matches. The everybody dives on everybody spot, the slam through the propped ladder, the dueling ladders. I think you can dial back the bumps and focus on story and drama instead and be better off for it.
Let’s hope he can be WWE’s version of Shinsuke Nakamura. Nope, but who’d have thought a year later WWE would have the real Shinsuke Nakamura? Also, at least they haven’t made Kevin Owens look as terrible as Wade Barrett did on the way into this Wrestlemania. So maybe they’re learning?
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins is the golden boy. Next big thing. Favorite of the powers that be. Funny, that used to be Randy Orton. Orton was groomed for success from the moment he debuted, and he achieved it. Intercontinental Champion, youngest World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Champion. Did it all, and then was cast out like spoiled produce in favor of the new big thing, Seth Rollins. And he got an ass whipping and a curb stomp on steel steps to boot. Tonight Randy gets a chance to prove he’s still relevant.
These guys are both tremendous athletes and wrestlers, and basically mirror images of each other (Orton is a little taller and Rollins more of a high-flyer). And they proceed to work a damn fine match here. I love when guys go counter-for-counter, and that’s what we get from these two. And because these guys are amazing, everything is on-time and perfectly fluid.
Orton and Rollins are almost perfectly evenly matched, but Rollins and Mercury and Noble in his corner to give him an edge. They allow him to score a Suicide Dive, then a beautiful Asai Moonsault. And after Rollins kicks out of the RKO, they stop Orton from hitting Rollins with his notorious Punt. That gives Rollins space for a Curb Stomp, but he can’t keep Orton down.
They trade more counters until they bust out the greatest counter of them all: Rollins goes for the Curb Stomp, Orton pops him up in the air and nails him with the RKO. One of the best RKOs I’ve ever seen, and there have been a lot of great ones.
Rating: ***¼. Really liked that match. Only thing I wasn’t crazy about were the finisher kickouts. I think those should be saved for the main event matches. Wouldn’t have hurt this match at all if they weren’t in there.
Once upon a time there was a land of many kingdoms. The WWF in the northeast ruled by King McMahon, and WCW in the south were the two greatest. They gobbled up the other kingdoms with their insatiable appetites as the many kings fell: King Von Erich, King Gagne, ultimately even King Crockett. There were only two kings left: King McMahon and King Turner. They fought greatest war the world had ever seen with soldiers of unparalleled ability. In the end, it was King McMahon who survived. All the soldiers from King Turner’s army were quickly bought up by McMahon. All but one man. The man they called Sting.
Sting held out. He held out so long he even outlasted the reign of King McMahon, who turned his kingdom over to his most loyal soldier, the man who married the princess of the kingdom. And the new King, King Hunter, ruled the kingdom with an iron first. A curse be upon any man who dared challenge him. The peasants of the kingdom suffered. But when all appeared lost, the great warrior of the past reappeared from the shadows. The man they called Sting had returned.
And now, on the grandest stage of them all, the warriors of the past met one more time.
Sting vs. Triple H
No idea what they were going for with Sting’s entrance. Nothing about Sting is Japanese. Triple H’s was a bit a misfire too. I think something akin to the famous “Terminator 2” teaser with Triple H being constructed would have been cool, but he just looked ridiculous in that helmet.
After months of concern about t-shirt Sting, it turned out Sting was in tremendous condition. He could easily pass for mid-30s looking the way he does. The crowd was absolutely buzzing at the start of the match. Love when they erupt for the bell. Sting brings the fire early, breaking out a beautiful Dropkick. He earned those “you still got it!” chants.
The tide swung when Triple H slammed Sting’s back into the railing, and he immediately targeted the back with Terminator-like precision. Triple H is great at working body parts, he just has a tremendous intensity to his heat segments. Sting turned it around and locked on the Scorpion Deathlock! And then…
Shit got crazy.
First, it was DX coming down the aisle: Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, and X-Pac. Triple H’s old buddies, out to bail him out. Sting handled them, and then broke out a phenomenal dive from the top rope to the floor. That’s fucking hardcore. The distraction allowed Triple H to hit a Pedigree, but Sting kicked out. Triple H went for his sledgehammer, lined up his shot, and then…
SHIT GOT CRAZIER.
Yes, it’s the New World Order. Hogan, Hall, and Nash. Time ran in reverse, and it was like 1998 all over again. The last battle of the Monday Night Wars, being fought in 2015 in Santa Clara, California at Wrestlemania. The NWO wiped the floor with DX, and Sting nailed a Scorpion Death Drop. Only two, and he set up for the Scorpion Deathlock. The NWO guys took some bumps, including Hall getting Back Dropped out of the Outsider’s Edge. Then…
HOLY FUCK IT’S SHAWN MICHAELS! SWEET CHIN MUSIC!
I actually wish they’d gone further with this. Why can’t Bret Hart beat the crap out of Shawn? Or Ric Flair lead the Four Horsemen out there into battle? Or shit, what if ECW had come down through the crowd?
Then we got sledgehammer vs. baseball bat, which baseball bat improbably won. Then Sting set up for the Stinger Splash, but Triple H smashed him with the hammer. And pinned him. Huh. Well. Then. I guess.
Rating: ***. No idea how to rate that. It was awesome and stupid and crazy and fun. I’m actually curious what would have happened if they’d just had a normal match. Sting looked great, but maybe he didn’t have the cardio to go hard for 15 minutes. Well, based on the match against Rollins he did. It was fun that they turned this into a crazy nostalgia clusterfuck, but I do sort of wish they’d just had a straight up match. And that Sting had won and banished The Authority.
Sting and Triple H shake hands after the match, which I don’t feel fit the storyline at all. No, it really fucking didn’t. Neither did when Sting had to gratuitously praise HHH while feuding with Rollins.
Fun backstage segment with great former IC Champions congratulating Bryan. Love the acknowledgement of the history of the title and all the guys putting him over. Hope he’s the next great champion. Well, we know what happened here.
The Bellas vs. Paige and AJ
Another year, divas stuck in the death slot again. This match was fine, but they couldn’t get the crowd into it. There was no pop at all for the hot tag to AJ. AJ and Paige won when AJ submitted one of the Bellas with the Black Widow.
Rating: *. Tough to have a good tag match in less than seven minutes. A year later AJ is retired, Nikki and Brie are on their way to joining her, and Paige is barely on the card.
United States Championship: Rusev (c) vs. John Cena
From the moment Rusev debuted, everyone assumed this was heading here. Rusev vs. Cena. I don’t think anyone realized just how great Rusev was though. Both in and out of the ring, he’s become one of the top performers in all WWE, and I’m not sure he gets the credit he deserves. For some reason people seem to think that him losing here is the end of his run, and I couldn’t disagree more. I think he’s got a huge future ahead of him. Well, that wasn’t an insane idea until they had him lose to Cena 50 times in a row and then turned him into a lovesick teenager.
Rusev’s entrance was pure perfection. So delightfully heelish. Cena’s entrance was a little much, but there’s never subtlety when John Cena is involved, is there?
This match rocked. They tore it down. I can’t praise Rusev enough. I love his timing, his agility is tremendous for a big man, and he has tons of personality in the ring. And Cena brought it here too. He kept his worst tendencies (cartoonish selling and facial expressions) in check. And they fought. They spent the whole match establishing Rusev as Cena’s equal, as the two guys broke out counters for everything and slammed each other over and over. Cena escaped The Accolade, Rusev escaped the STF. It seemed neither man could beat the other.
Until Rusev showed compassion.
Rusev accidentally hit Lana, and he paused just a second to check on his beautiful manager (or is she more?). And you can’t give a legend like John Cena a second. Cena scored with the AA and pinned Rusev in the middle of the ring to become the new United States Champion.
Rating: ***1/2. Thought that was tremendous. I’m not sure I could come up with a better or more interesting way for Rusev to have lost. He is protected, and it opens up interesting stories with Lana. I don’t want to go into what they’ve done with Rusev. It’s a crime against booking how much they’ve destroyed this guy.
The Triple H/Stephanie/Rock/Ronda Rousey segment was a great idea that could have had better execution. They were clearly stalling for time to get the sun as low as possible before Taker/Wyatt, and as a result this segment dragged forever. Still, I love Ronda and the idea of having her involved in WWE.
The pop when she was revealed at ringside was great, as was her taking Triple H down. I’m glad she didn’t put the hurt on Stephanie too much, because it would strain credibility for Ronda not to snap her arm. Fun stuff that could have been better for understandable reasons.
Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
Both of these entrances would have been great in the dark. With the sun still up, they were both a little off. Actually surprised by the simplicity of Taker’s entrance, but I guess the sunlight limited their options.
Taker had something to prove here in more ways than one. He passed the first test by showing up in tremendous shape. Having his hair grown out helped, and he looked 20 years younger here than last year. For the early part of the match, he put the hurt on Bray Wyatt. And it was like nothing had changed from the glory years. Undertaker back to Wrestlemania to teach a young punk some respect.
And then Wyatt cut him off and tuned him up. And the doubt started creeping in. Is Taker hurt? Should he have come back? Could he really lose again at Wrestlemania and tarnish the legacy? Bray keeps dishing it out until Taker blocks Sister Abigail and hits the Tombstone. But Bray Wyatt has fighting spirit, and one Tombstone isn’t going to keep him down.
For some reason, Taker is shocked by this development, even though it happens at every Wrestlemania. Bray comes back with Sister Abigail, and for one moment everyone holds their breath…until Taker gets his shoulder up. Naturally, we get the sit up/spider walk combo.
A Tombstone later and we’re finished. Undertaker prevails. The phenom lives. The legacy grows.
Rating: **1/2. Atmosphere kind of carried it. Taker looked great, but him and Wyatt didn’t really mesh. Also, Wyatt is supposed to be a heel but the only reaction he garnered was a minority of the audience chanting for him. I don’t have a problem with him losing here, but I think he needs a new plan. Who’d have thought, there was no new plan. A year later he’s done absolutely nothing and is being left off the main card.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
You know the story here. I won’t bore you with the details. Insert Steve Austin saying “it was what it was” in a sad voice.
From the bell, Brock Lesnar is unleashed. He murders Roman Reigns. Beats him all over the ring, throws him around like a child. An F5 within thirty seconds, but he doesn’t pin him because he wants to punish him. Reigns had the audacity to cut Brock Lesnar. And now he’s going to pay.
The ass whipping just won’t stop. Minutes go by with Reigns barely mounting any offense. As Brock said, it’s “Suplex City, Bitch.” This match feels so real. The shots are STIFF. Maybe it was all work, or maybe Brock got pissed that Reigns cut him and Reigns gave it back. I love it when things are on the edge, and this match was on the line.
It was a bloodthirsty crowd, and they got their fill. Brock Lesnar beat the shit out of Roman Reigns. In the ring, on the apron, down on the floor. The only thing off with this match is that Reigns should be getting sympathy, but instead the crowd is cheering Brock kicking his ass.
Somehow, those slaps Brock dished out were the most brutal part of the match. I think the finisher kick outs here got excessive, but I always think that. Reigns finally turns the tide slamming Brock into the ring post, which gets hardway juice.
And this is why I miss blood, because it made the moment so much more dramatic. The Beast is vulnerable. Bleeding. If he bleeds, he can be killed. Reigns hits him with everything he has: Superman Punch, Superman Punch, Superman Punch, Spear, Spear. And it’s still not enough. AND THEN BROCK CATCHES ROMAN OUT OF THE AIR FOR THE F5! They’re both dead. And then…
WWE World Heavyweight Chapionship: Brock Lesnsar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins runs a 4.25 40 yard dash down the aisle and cashes in his contract. The match becomes a Triple Threat, because…sure. I’ll allow it.
After a flurry of Curb Stomps and Spears, Rollins pins Reigns to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Rating: ****3/4. Unbelievable. I think that was perfect. Everybody comes out great. Lesnar is a monster. Reigns won’t quit. Rollins is a sneaky asshole and the world champion. Perfect cliffhanger for Raw tomorrow. How could you watch this and then not tune in tomorrow? Turns out Raw the next night was awesome. And then Brock went away and Seth’s title reign began and it was terrible.
Overall: Loved it. Great, great Wrestlemania. It feels like a great Attitude Era show, where maybe the wrestling matches weren’t great, but the storylines were so perfect that it didn’t matter. How many intriguing doors did this show open? Sadly, they really didn’t capitalize on any of them other than Cena as US Champion.