The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 34 – 04.08.18
Live from the
Silverdome Superdome in New Orleans, LA
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Corey Graves and the Coach.
I had other stuff going on, so I missed most of the pre-show, and it didn’t sound like I missed very much.
Foxy Boxing Battle Royal
Paige is on commentary and she is looking and sounding ROUGH. Lay off the unfiltered cigarettes and lipstick. Michaels says “trailblazer” about 18 times before Becky Lynch’s entrance is even done, as everyone is a trailblazer no matter how important they actually are. Becky gets an entrance, and then USA cuts to a commercial and everyone else in the match wanders out like geeks, and then we return with Bayley and Sasha making their entrance. And then we get a commercial break even on the Network, as we get the Paige movie commercial on this service we’re paying $10 a month for. Oddly, only Peyton Royce of the Iconic Duo made the cut for this geek battle royal. Everyone immediately teams up to eliminate big threat Carmella, and then gang up on Dana Brooke and dump her. More stuff, no one cares. Bianca Belair hits a 450 while everyone literally stops and let her do it. Kavita Davi is awful, unable to do anything and also she steals Becky’s orange look. Becky wears orange! That’s her thing! The whole thing is a ludicrously terrible trainwreck and Sasha and Bayley clear out all the heels and it comes down to them, as everyone in the free world predicted, and then Bayley throws her out to win. BUT WAIT! Naomi apparently was never eliminated, and indeed she wins instead. Who booked this crap? They finally got Bayley a babyface reaction and then immediately had her get thrown out like a complete doofus? To put NAOMI over?
Strong contender for worst ever pre-show here.
Intercontinental title: The Miz v. Seth Rollins v. Finn Balor
“Yay, Roman Reigns!” says my wife. “No, it’s Seth Rollins” I correct her. Well, she’s trying. So…is Finn trying to say something with his rainbow Balor Club gear and LGBT fanclub as a part of the entrance? I’ve heard others make claims, but I don’t think he’s ever said anything on the record. Corey is mixing metaphors early, noting that Miz is trying to “put the icing on the cake of his storybook life.” They quickly trade some near-falls and roll each other up a million times, leading to Finn hitting the other two with a dive. Seth takes over with a blockbuster on the other two, but runs into Miz’s knee, and Miz gets a double axehandle for two. Neckbreaker on Finn gets two. Miz goes to the chinlock on Balor, but Finn makes the comeback with a double stomp and kicks Miz to the floor. Seth dumps Balor and follows with a suicide dive, then one for Miz. Back in, Balor gets a sling blade on Seth, but Miz sneaks in with a short DDT for two. He boots Seth to the floor and goes after Finn’s leg to set up the figure-four, but Seth flies in with a frog splash on Miz for two. They all head to the floor and Finn hits Seth with a sling blade and dropkicks him into the railing. Back in, Seth comes back with an enzugiri, but Balor gets the 1916 for two. Miz and Finn fight on the top, but Seth saves with a buckle bomb on Miz and then hits Balor with a superplex, which Balor reverses to a small package for two. Skull Crushing Finale on Seth gets two. Another Finale is countered into a rollup by Finn and he goes up, but Miz crotches him and everyone fights on the top rope. Miz bulldogs Seth to the mat and gets two, but Finn saves with the Coup de Grace on Miz for two. Another one follows, but Seth saves with the curb stomp and pins Miz to win the title at 15:32. Finish was a bit flat, but they had a great opener. ****
Meanwhile, John Cena is in the front row. Totally not wrestling tonight.
Smackdown Women’s title: Charlotte v. Asuka
They exchange wristlocks to start and Charlotte trips her off a criss-cross and goes for the figure-four, but Asuka reverses for two. Asuka pounds on her and tries a rollup, but Charlotte chops free, so Asuka puts her on the floor with the hip attack. Back in, Asuka goes to work on the arm and fights for the choke, but Charlotte escapes with a jawbreaker. She drops a knee on Asuka’s neck and goes up with the moonsault, which misses and lands in Asuka’s triangle. Damn! Charlotte powers into a boston crab to counter, and they trade near-falls off that. Asuka with a head kick for two and she goes for the arm again, but she misses a charge and Charlotte tries a suplex on the apron, which is THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, but Asuka gets a suplex to the floor instead. Back in, Asuka puts her down with strikes and goes up with a missile dropkick for two. They fight to the top and Charlotte brings her down with a terrifying Spanish Fly from the top that gets two. Natural Selection is countered into a crucifix submission hold, but they slug it out and Asuka takes her down for the Asukalock, which Charlotte counters into a rollup for two. Asuka charges and runs into a spear for two. Charlotte with the figure-eight and Asuka’s streak is over at 13:13. That’s a crazy call to make, but at least it was a great match. Why waste the first Rumble winner on a loss, though? ****
John Cena gets some news from a referee, and bolts backstage to deal with whatever it was.
US title: Randy Orton v. Bobby Roode v. Rusev v. Jinder Mahal
Rusev quickly dumps the others and hits them with a dive, but Orton takes over and powerslams Roode for two. To the top with a superplex for two. Rusev cleans house and takes over with a beatdown on Jinder in the corner, and they fight to the floor. Back in, Roode with a spinebuster on Jinder, but Mahal counters the Glorious DDT for two. Orton runs Bobby into the post to get rid of him and tries the draping DDT on Rusev, but Rusev escapes with a leg lariat. A second DDT succeeds and Orton hits everyone with RKOs and gets two on Jinder. Roode escapes an RKO and gets the DDT for two. Rusev with kicks for all and it’s time for Rusev to crush, but Jinder Mahal gets the Khallas after distraction and wins the US title at 8:26 in the same lazy way he won every WWE title match. Kudos for not only putting the title on the worst possible choice, but making sure that Rusev Day does the job, on this, the first annual Rusev Day. *1/2
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle v. HHH & Stephanie McMahon
HHH is turning more into Ole Anderson every day with that beard. Weird to put this one only 90 minutes into the show. Ronda is all smiles and waves for her entrance, which is not really the thing you’re going for with her. HHH slugs it out with Angle to start, and Kurt gets a backdrop out of the corner and goes to work on the arm. The heels get a cheapshot on Angle and get some shots on him outside to take over, which gives us assorted chicanery in the heel corner. HHH is nearly yelling spots on camera, and hits a spinebuster for two. I guess it’s appropriate that they were talking about Ken Shamrock earlier, because I got flashbacks to his matches just then. Angle nearly runs HHH into wifey, and comes back with a suplex, but Stephanie cuts off the tag to continue the heat on Angle. Man, Angle looks sad out there, broken down and in pain. Hot tag Ronda and she hauls in Steph for a suplex and throws some punches in the corner and kind of an awkward slam-throw thing. Ronda with an armbar, but Stephanie blocks, because of course she does, and rakes the eyes to escape. DDT gets two and Stephanie goes to work on Ronda, because of course she does. Ronda comes back with a samoan drop of some kind for two, but HHH pulls out the ref, and then pulls out Ronda as well. Angle comes over for the save, but he gets tossed into the Spanish table. HHH goes to check on Steph, but doesn’t see Ronda behind him. He of course is happy to sell for Ronda’s punches, and she tries her finish on him as well, but Steph saves. Ronda chases her around ringside, but gets run into the post, which leaves Angle to make the comeback on HHH with suplexes. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE is reversed to a catapult and Angle Slam for two. Steph comes back in to yell at Kurt, so he puts her in the anklelock until HHH saves with the Pedgiree. That gets two, but Ronda breaks that up, and then takes HHH down with a rana into the armbar, and Stephanie saves from that. She tries to choke Ronda, but gets taken down and armbarred, while Angle puts HHH in the anklelock, but Angle gets flung into Ronda to break it up. Angle and Ronda get sent into posts and the heels go for the kills with stereo Pedigrees, but Angle backdrops HHH out of the ring and Ronda armbars Stephanie and this time gets the tapout at 20:35 despite Steph frantically apologizing for everything. Once they got past the dull early portion where they pretended to do a normal tag team match and proceeded to the point where they had a goofy and wacky smoke and mirrors match, it worked way better than it had any right to. ****1/4
Smackdown tag team titles: The Usos v. The New Day v. The Bludgeon Brothers
The New Day has an entrance flanked by midgets in pancake costumes, which should prove once and for all that Vince is not out of touch with the youth of today. Kofi storms out with Trouble in Paradise, but the Brothers immediately pull everyone out and start beating on them outside. In the ring, Jimmy tags in and makes a comeback on Harper with superkicks and the Usos double-team him in the corner and hit the flying splash for two. Big E comes in and the Usos get rid of him again, and then they try a dive on Rowan but get caught. Big E keeps coming with the Big Ending on Harper, but he escapes that and then goes up. That goes nowhere as the Usos cut him off, and then get bumped to the floor by Rowan. Rowan powerbombs Kofi and they hit a double-team powerbomb on him to win the tag titles at 6:01. Worst match of the main show to this point, by far. Just a bunch of meaningless stuff that went nowhere. *
John Cena is here and it’s apparently a match, since he’s now changed from his fan-jorts to his wrestling-jorts. Sadly, a second referee runs out to deliver some bad news, and Cena calls it off and goes to leave. Which brings out Elias to SAVE THE SHOW while John retreats to his front row seat. Sadly, Elias makes one too many song-related threats and Cena charges in and kicks his ass. “That’s all we get?” John complains, as even he is confounded by the booking tonight.
And then the lights go out again, with Undertaker’s gear from last time magically appearing in the ring this time before MAGIC CGI LIGHTNING makes them vanish. And then John finally gets what he’s been begging for…
John Cena v. The Undertaker
No American Badass, thankfully. Taker comes out throwing punches on Cena and hits the flying clothesline and ropewalk. Apparently getting harassed and called out for six weeks makes him grumpy. Taker with a pair of corner clotheslines and Snake Eyes, and the big boot and legdrop set up the chokeslam, but Cena reverses to the suplex. Taker sits up to counter the five-knuckle shuffle, and chokeslams Cena, then pulls down the straps and finishes the complete squash with the tombstone at 2:41. Well, that was certainly memorable.
Hall of Fame equals snack time.
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon v. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
I’d say this Daniel Bryan guy is pretty popular. Team Yep jumps the babyfaces out of the crowd and hit Bryan with the apron powerbomb before the bell, because they’re EVIL. So Shane decides to go it alone and attacks KO in the corner while EMTs tend to Bryan. He slugs away on Zayn as well and hits the hurricane DDT, but his hernia gets the best of him and Owens takes over and stomps on the gut. “Your tummy hurt?” KO asks, providing the quality trash talk. Sami beats him down and the heels take turns getting their shots in. Blue Thunder Bomb gets two for Zayn. Sami misses the Heluva kick and Shane makes his own comeback with the coast to coast dropkick for two. Owens breaks it up with a senton like a complete dick. Frog splash, but Daniel Bryan returns to make the save out of nowhere. Owens misses the cannonball, and Zayn manages to cut off the ring with a sleeper, but Bryan WILLS Shane to escape one last time and make the hot tag. Bryan runs wild on Zayn and hits Owens with a knee off the apron, and back in with a missile dropkick on Zayn. Corner dropkicks on both heels and a top rope rana for Zayn, but Owens trips him up and Zayn hits the Heluva Kick for two. Owens comes back in and gets rid of Shane again, but Bryan blocks the powerbomb before falling victim to a second one for two. Shane and Owens take each other out on the floor, leaving Bryan alone with Zayn, who gets his shots in until Daniel has had ENOUGH and hulks up to give us the Yes Kicks. And the flying knee and Yes Lock finish at 15:23, and no one turned and the bad guys lose and are fired for good. Right finish, but I dunno, match felt off most of the time and Shane selling for 10 minutes wasn’t the best. **1/2
Tonight’s fake attendance number: 78,000. Yeah, OK.
RAW Women’s title: Alexa Bliss v. Nia Jax
This has actually been one of the most surprisingly effective builds of the show. Nia completely obliterates Mickie James before the bell while Alexa makes horrified faces and she’s like “Oh shit…” Alexa tries running away and gets caught and mauled before wisely retreating to the floor. She tries to walk out and gets blasted again, but finally goes to the eyes to take over. She goes to the knee to get Nia down and works the leg. Nia charges and hits the post and Bliss hits her with a dive to the floor. Back in, Bliss gets two and throws a tantrum, but Nia has had enough of that and tells her to shut the hell up, then makes the comeback and destroys her. Alexa tries a sunset flip and Nia blocks and slams her into the turnbuckles, but Bliss goes to the eye again. Nia no-sells it this time, hits a whiplash slam on her, and then finishes with a samoan drop off the middle rope to win the title at 9:03. Wasn’t terrible, but it should have been a minute long and ended with Nia squashing her. *1/2
Universal WWE World title: AJ Styles v. Shinsuke Nakamura
After showing Nina the Guitarist on NXT last night, they pay it off by having her play Shinsuke down to the ring. Also, apparently AJ is now the Universal champion according to the graphics. Someone’s gonna get yelled at about that one. They have a stalemate to start, but Nak hits a high knee for two and drops a knee, but AJ counters Good Vibrations and gets his own knee to the face. They fight over a suplex and AJ gets a backbreaker and drops the knee for two. We hit the chinlock and AJ gets a dropkick, but Nakamura fights back with kicks and a flying kick off the middle rope. Nakamura wants him to bring it on and hits him with strikes and the running knee in the corner for two. Gourdbuster from Nakamura, but AJ hits him with the facebuster out of the wheelbarrow. AJ with a running forearm for two and a pumphandle into a gutbuster for two. Styles Clash is escaped and AJ tries the Phenomenal Forearm, but Nakamura catches him with the Landslide slam for two. They fight to the top and AJ tries a powerbomb, but Nakamura fights out of it, so AJ clips the knee instead. Calf crusher, but Nakamura reverses to a triangle and AJ is forced to power out and escape with a slam. AJ goes back to the knee and follows with the Forearm for two. Springboard 450 is countered with a rollup from Nakamura, and that gets two. They slug it out and AJ hits him with a Pele Kick, but Nakamura gets a knee strike to the back of the head for two. Exploder sets up the Kinshasa, but AJ rolls into the Styles Clash to retain at 20:26. Rough night for the Japanese. Well, this was a pretty big disappointment. It was good, but too slow and didn’t really have much of a story. So both Rumble winners blow it on the grandest stage this year. ***1/2 And then Nakamura offers his respect…and NAILS him in the junk to finally turn heel and hopefully unleash the REAL Nakamura.
RAW tag team titles: Cesaro & Sheamus v. Braun Strowman & ???
The Bar has a Mardi Gras float for their entrance in keeping with the spirit of the show, although Braun destroys it. Braun decides to pick someone from the crowd to be his partner, and wanders into the floor to find some kid as the champs are pretty confused by this whole deal. So the kid (Nicholas) stands on the apron while Braun manhandles both heels, but Cesaro goes after the knee and the Bar double-teams Braun with a Cesaro senton off Sheamus’ shoulders. That gets two and the Bar goes to finish, but Braun makes his own comeback and dumps Sheamus onto the post and tags in the kid. He looks like he’s going to piss himself, so Braun takes the tag again and pins Cesaro with the powerslam and wins the tag titles at 3:57. Was this seriously the best payoff they could come up with after six weeks to plan it out? DUD THIRTY WRITERS.
Next year: Wrestlemania returns to New York! You know, at Met Life Stadium, which is totally in New York state. I bet the set will have a big Empire State building and Statue of Liberty again so we all know they’re in NEW YORK. Because they totally are. NEW YORK CITY.
Universal title: Brock Lesnar v. Roman Reigns
As expected, the plan to get Roman cheered was a complete failure. Brock comes out swinging with suplexes, but Roman hits a pair of superman punches to put him on the floor. Back in, Roman dumps him right back out again. Reigns charges and Brock catches with him a pair of suplexes on the floor and botches some kind of suplex into the table. Back in, more suplexes, crowd is dead. Back to the floor and Brock hurls him into the barricade, but Roman spears him into the tables in a half-assed spot and now the crowd is actively engaged in other stuff. Back in, superman punch and spear gets two. Another spear is blocked by Brock’s knee, which gets two. F5 gets two, which is the big kickout spot they’ve been building to for a YEAR, and there’s no reaction from the crowd. Another F5 gets two. A third F5 gets two. Crowd shits all over that and chants “Boring” So Brock takes him outside and gives him an F5 through the table as the crowd continues to shit all over this disaster of a main event. A fifth F5 gets two. This is completely ludicrous. And in fact the crowd now chants “THIS IS AWFUL”. Roman gets busted open by a punch, (Brock punched the left side of his face but the blood came from the right, so it’s a magic punch) but Roman gets all fired up…and walks into another F5 for the pin at 15:54. WHAT IS THIS SHOW EVEN? What a complete disaster this main event turned into. -**
I have no idea how to recommend this show. The first half was great, building to a fantastically over-the-top Sports Entertainment match with Ronda, and then it kind of went off a cliff with wacky booking and RomanMania IV ending with him getting pinned clean in the middle by the guy going back to UFC.
I mean, three **** matches is an easy thumbs up, but really only the first half of the show is worthwhile at all. Sadly, I don’t see this one being held up as an all-time classic like it was shaping up to be beforehand.