The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 31 – 03.29.15
Live from San Francisco, CA
Your hosts are Michael Cole, JBL & Jerry Lawler
I’m trying the live stream tonight, so hopefully it doesn’t die on me. The picture is already heavily pixelated early on, though. (The Network had some pretty gnarly problems with live streams until they drastically improved their streaming provider later that year and it’s been great ever since.)
Intercontinental title: Bad News Barrett v. Dolph Ziggler v. Daniel Bryan v. Luke Harper v. R-Truth v. Stardust v. Dean Ambrose
So Daniel Bryan goes from winning the World title in the main event to curtain-jerking as the seventh guy in the opener this year. If only he had been born a Samoan. (It certainly would have prevented a lot of his concussion problems.) Giant brawl to start, as expected, and guys start hitting dives immediately. Truth, who is apparently a geek that fears heights, tries to climb first but is terrified to do so. Bryan sandwiches some guys behind a ladder and dropkicks it a few times, but that backfires on him. Harper climbs and ends up hanging upside down on the ladder, and Bryan climbs until Ziggler makes the save. Stardust takes out a few guys as the feed jumps around a bit, and he discovers a sparkly ladder under the ring that is apparently his own personal one. And then Barrett immediately breaks it. Well that’s kind of a waste. Harper and Ambrose have a ladder duel and Dean gets dropped on a ladder with Snake Eyes. I can only presume that it was a tribute to Hall of Famer Kevin Nash. Truth clears the ring but is unable to overcome his crippling acrophobia again, which leads to Barrett superplexing Cody off the ladder. Everyone climbs and we get another trainwreck with everyone falling off, leading to Ambrose taking a powerbomb from Harper through a ladder. Jesus. (And yet he never suffered any kind of major injury until this year!) Harper climbs, but Ziggler is on his back with a sleeper and thus both guys fall off. Ziggler climbs alone, but Barrett saves with the Bullhammer. Truth climbs and he takes one too. Bryan hits Barrett with the flying knee, clears the ring, and slugs it out with Ziggler on the ladder with insane headbutts until Ziggler finally drops, to win the IC title at 13:31. That also puts Bryan in elite company as one of the few to hold the WWE Grand Slam (WWE, World, IC, US and tag titles). The match was a crazy, non-stop trainwreck with little else going on, but that’s what we wanted out of it. ***3/4
Randy Orton v. Seth Rollins
Orton with a dropkick early and Seth bails, but catches him with a necksnap to take over. Orton slugs away in the corner and goes after J&J as the feed bugs out a bit, but Rollins hits him with a dive. Back in, Seth gets two. Suplex gets two and we hit the chinlock. Seth pounds away in the corner, but Orton comes back with clotheslines and the powerslam. Rollins bails to the apron and fights out of the draping DDT, and follows with a quebrada. Back in, they fight on the top rope and Seth goes down first, but he rolls through a flying bodypress for two. Orton with the draping DDT, but Rollins rolls him up for two. RKO gets two. I really wish I could mute JBL on this show. HE’S GOING TO THAT PLACE, MAGGLE! HE’S HEARING VOICES, MAGGLE! And then the feed buffers like crazy again on me. RKO on J&J, but Seth gets the curb stomp for two. Moonsault misses and they trade finish attempts, but Orton manages to reverse the curb stomp mid-move into the RKO at 13:10. That was quite the finish and should probably be a GIF for the next 15 years. Nothing special as a match, however. ***
HHH v. Sting
Sting’s entrance just lacks something in the bright sunlight. Hard to be mysterious at four in the afternoon, I guess. Meanwhile, HHH’s entrance is a literal commercial for the new Terminator movie. And the announcers are making fun of WCW?!? Well, credit to HHH for being willing to go out and embarrass himself with this shit. (Kenny Omega made it a wee bit cooler.) They trade shoulderblocks to start and Sting dropkicks him into the corner, but HHH slugs him down. Sting no-sells the facebuster, but HHH bails as JBL continues randomly bouncing between heel and babyface. Back in, Sting dumps him, but debuts the “dive at the railing and miss” spot. Back in, HHH with a suplex for two. The announcers constantly burying WCW on commentary is really irritating. You won the war FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Get over it. HHH with the chinlock and some really loud spot-calling, and a spinebuster gets two. HHH has some kind of really ugly bruise on his thigh and it’s kind of scary. Sting fights back and the feed suddenly jumps to the Scorpion Deathlock, but now D-X (New Age Outlaws & X-Pac) runs in and Sting fights them off. I think it would be more awesome if DX was played by the chicks in the Max Landis video. (Now there was a bit of zeitgeist that came and went.) And then Sting hits them with a dive from the top, which is a sight to behold. Back in, KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two. HHH grabs his trusty sledgehammer, but now the New World Order (Hogan, Nash and Hall) does the world’s slowest run-in and the Scorpion Deathdrop gets two. Scorpion Deathlock while the senior citizens battle at ringside, but HHH makes the ropes. And then Shawn Michaels comes in to superkick Sting in the name of DX, but that only gets two. So it’s the sledgehammer v. bat showdown, and the hammer breaks under the awesome force of WCW’s bat. Stinger splash, but HHH manages one last sledgehammer for the pin at 18:16. Everyone who thought HHH was laying down here were being very naïve. This was more of a wacky spectacle than a match, but it was fine for what it was. ** I suspect it’ll get a lot of love for all the nostalgia stuff, which is also fine. I’m not saying it wasn’t neat to have D-X facing off against the nWo at Wrestlemania, but let’s not get silly about it. (Meltzer went crazy for it watching live in the press box, and then backpeddled significantly once he actually saw the tape. And of course now we know that it wasn’t Sting losing to set anything up, it was just Sting losing.)
Coming to WWE Network: A whole bunch of stupid bullshit that no one in their right mind would want to watch. A prank show? Diva Search 2015? Really? (Did that Diva Search ever happen?)
Meanwhile, Daniel Bryan gets the endorsement of a bunch of former IC champions. Hopefully they actually follow through on that and don’t just have him do a bunch of jobs to build up title matches. (Nope!)
And now the concert portion of our show, which is where I break for dinner and pause the stream for a while to hopefully let the buffering catch up. I’ve heard of Travis Barker before, but that’s about it. And why you need a drummer for a chick who’s lip-syncing is a mystery to me. And wasn’t there supposed to be an LL Cool J concert, too?
AJ Lee & Paige v. The Bella Twins
Nikki takes out AJ quickly and Brie works Paige over with a running knee for two. Bellas with a double slingshot suplex for two. Paige manages a rollup on Boobs Bella for two, but the Rack Attack gets two. Paige makes her own comeback while AJ is still old cold on the floor for some reason. WHERE ARE THE MEDICAL PERSONNEL? Suddenly AJ pops up again and gets the hot tag, but Nikki rolls through a flying bodypress. It’s breaking loose in Tulsa and AJ gets a really shitty DDT on Nikki for two. Another brawl and Nikki lays out AJ with the forearm for two. The feed jumps to AJ putting Nikki into the Black Widow at 6:32. I have no idea what the point of AJ having to sell on the floor for four minutes was about. *1/2 (AJ Lee gave notice backstage before the match, I believe the story goes.)
Commercial, commercial, Hall of Fame ceremony, commercial, commercial. You can pretty much cut out an hour of stuff on fast-forward thus far and this whole series of stuff has really sucked the momentum out of the show.
US title: Rusev v. John Cena
Thankfully Lana is back, and Rusev gets to ride a tank. I thought that was D-X’s gimmick? John Cena of course gets the most over-the-top jingoistic video package (complete with Vince heroes George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan) to show everyone that he’s fighting for freedom everywhere. As long as you’re an American who votes Republican. And the crowd STILL boos him. Oh man, this crowd is gonna destroy Roman Reigns. And Rusev also gets booed, so I guess they just hate everyone. (WHO WOULD BOO RUSEV DAY?!?) Cena immediately attacks and gets one, but Rusev hits him with a spinkick for two. Rusev busts out some sambo (well, he’s playing a Russian, so I can only assume) with a rolling throw for two and follows with a rolling dive into the corner for two. Rusev stops to wave the Russian flag, but this enrages the American blood of John Cena, who comes back with VINTAGE CENA, including getting booed. Rusev escapes the FU and gets a backdrop suplex for two. Uranage gets two. They head to the top and Cena comes off with the guillotine for two. The crowd now resorts to cheering for Lana as Rusev comes back with a superkick for two. Cena with a tornado DDT for two. They slug it out and Rusev gets a whiplash slam for two as the crowd is increasingly bored by this. Cena takes him down with the STF, but Lana throws a shoe in the ring. Honestly, who throws a shoe? This somehow allows Rusev to escape the hold as foot fetishists everywhere lose their minds, and Rusev hits a diving headbutt for two. JBL notes that Rusev is discovering that John Cena does not give up. Except for last month. Cena reverses the Accolade and hits a stunner for two. Oh sure, they bring that move back after 12 years and it’s for JOHN FUCKING CENA? Cena with a rollup for two, but Rusev superkicks him into the Accolade. And Cena powers out of it and reverses into the STF. Lana distracts the ref, however, and Cena lets a charging Rusev knock her off and hits the FU for the pin and the title at 14:34. Nowhere near as good as last month. *** So now Cena can travel the world and inspire United Statesians everywhere.
And now, the pre-show panel discusses the stirring victory for Big Show in the battle royale. So much for Hideo Itami’s big Wrestlemania debut. (What a ridiculous waste of Itami that was.)
The Authority is out to announce a new fake attendance record of 76,000 people! Way to go, 20000 phantom people! Like really, it’s 2015, do they really think people are stupid enough to just believe WWE would have an exact count of people two hours into the show? What if another 100 still want to show up late? (Snark aside, the real number indeed dropped a lot, down to 67,000 in the building and 55,000 paid or so.) HHH takes credit for all of it, but the Rock interrupts. Good, I was thinking that this show was moving at too much of a breakneck pace and needed an interview segment to breathe. Rock lays down the challenge and Stephanie gets in his face and claims that the McMahons made him, then slaps him and sends him packing. But Rock would never hit a woman, so he heads to the crowd, finds RONDA ROUSEY, and invites her to kick Stephanie’s ass instead. And Stephanie can’t resist talking shit to her, which the Rock warns is a bad idea. HHH has had enough and get his ass handed to him, but Steph makes the mistake of going after Rousey and gets chased from the ring under threat of armbar. Obviously she couldn’t actually finish the job due to legal stuff with UFC. Which is too bad because it would have been legendary. See now, Rock v. HHH at WM in Dallas makes way more sense than Rock v. Brock, because there was already a backstory and people would actually want to see that match again. Myself included. If they could pull off Rock & Ronda v. HHH & Stephanie, more power to them. Although once again, how sad is it that these guys just blow away everyone on the roster and make them all look like a bunch of indy chumps by comparison in the span of 20 minutes? (And then here we are, 3 years later, and they’re actually going to pay this off, sort of.)
Bray Wyatt v. The Undertaker
We are apparently running long and skip the video package for this match, which is kind of astonishing. Undertaker has reverted to Zombie Cowboy with hair after a few years of the demonic wizard with Mohawk look. Apparently Undertaker’s 21-1 is now the “greatest record in sports history” and I don’t even know where to begin with that one. Like, I’m pretty sure the Patriots going undefeated that one year was a bit more impressive. Somehow, Undertake has used his magic powers to generate 30 pounds of muscle since those photos of him surfaced a couple of months ago, and he’s looking much better than the last couple of years. Bray charges and gets beat up in the corner, and Taker goes old school. Bray comes back with a clothesline, but Taker continues kicking his ass and legdrops him on the apron. Back in, Taker hits Snake Eyes, but Bray comes back with a back elbow and pounds away in the corner. He grabs a hold on the mat and does some sort of charge on the floor to run Taker’s head into the post. That didn’t really translate very well and just kind of looked like Bray taking a bump into the stairs for no reason. Back in, Taker catches him in the gogoplata, but Bray slugs out of it. The announcers now suddenly bring up the storyline of Undertaker doubting himself and contemplating mortality, which would have been nice to bring up TWO MONTHS AGO. Like, did we ever have any followup from Undertaker about how he felt after the Streak ended? Nope. Bray puts him down with a uranage and senton for two. Sister Abigail is reversed into the chokeslam, and the tombstone…gets two. I’m gonna have to call bullshit on that one. A second try is reversed into Sister Abigail for two. I kind of get what they’re going for here, but it’s not working, like at all. We get the crab walk v. zombie showdown, and Bray freaks out. They do the slugfest and Bray tries Sister again, but this time Taker reverses to the tombstone to finish at 15:07. Not at the low level of last year’s match, but there was a lot of laying around and clearly this wasn’t the right opponent for Undertaker. **1/2 (Bray was a complete waste of time for Undertaker.)
Chris Jericho brings his podcast to the WWE Network with super-controversial guest John Cena. I bet Cena will stir up headlines by talking about how fans might love him or hate him but he always shows up.
WWE World title: Brock Lesnar v. Roman Reigns
And so it’s come to this. Don’t you tell Roman that he can’t do something! Because he’ll just go ahead and do it anyway, but to half the crowd reaction he otherwise he would have received. He enters through the crowd and security has to actively fight off people trying to tell him what he can’t do on the way to the ring. DON’T YOU FUCKING TELL HIM WHAT HE CAN’T DO! He summons the anger of people telling him what he can’t do and punches the ring so hard that he sets off fireworks. Brock is so the clear babyface here, and the crowd even sings along with Paul Heyman’s ring introduction of him. Brock shrugs off Roman’s attack, quickly suplexes him, and follows with the F5. The crowd loved that. Brock is bleeding from one of Reigns’s wussy shots. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE BROCK BLEED?! He’s going to murder you! Reigns tries to fight back and Brock suplexes his dumb ass again and beats the shit out of him. Another suplex and Brock is having fun with this. A sixth german suplex and then Brock changes it up by dropping him on the top rope and throwing knees to his face. He punches him right to the railing as the crowd breaks out the “This is awesome” chant for the supposed top babyface getting beaten like a red-headed stepchild. Reigns comes back with a knee and the crowd boos him out of the stadium, and then Brock clotheslines his head off to send him flying off the apron again. Brock should win Wrestler of the Year for this shit. Back in, another suplex sends Reigns out of the ring again, and Brock suplexes him right back in. The crowd is now keeping count of the suplexes that their hero is taking. F5 gets two. Brock is now gloveless, I repeat, gloveless, and personally bitchslaps Reigns with his bare hands. Another pair of suplexes, another F5 gets two. Oh come on. Brock takes him outside to the ringpost, but Reigns reverses him into it. Why would you make this man angrier!? Your continued kicking out has already angered him enough! Back in, Reigns hits the superman punch twice and Brock won’t go down because he’s a real man. A third one finally drops him and Reigns follows with the spear, twice, but it only gets two. One last charge and Brock hits the F5…but Seth Rollins cashes in and it’s now a three-way. Curb stomp, but Brock catches him, so Reigns hits the spear and Rollins curb stomps him and pins him at 16:37 to win the WWE title! So…that was quite the ridiculous finish, but damn if I wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement at it. And really, they found a brilliant way to get out of the corner they were painted into with Reigns. Brock Lesnar has to be some kind of superhuman wrestling machine to carry Roman Reigns to that kind of match. ****1/2 (And then Sika nearly started a samoan riot backstage afterwards, since they weren’t smartened up to the finish. Hopefully this year will placate them.)
I actually liked this show better than last year, even if the middle dragged a lot for me. The ladder match / Rollins v. Orton / Sting v. HHH spectacle to open the show was a fantastic start and the Rousey angle was incredible TV. And then Brock showed why he’s worth whatever the fuck he wants to be paid with a finish that will probably go down in WM history. Reigns is dead in the water, but who gives a shit about him anyway? Big thumbs up here, especially given low expectations. (Some reviews called it one of the best Wrestlemanias ever, but I really think the previous year is one still remembered, whereas this one is mostly forgotten.)