Going to post this today instead of Saturday, seeing as when I planned this series of reviews Mania was still supposed to be a one night event.
Well, seven weeks ago I decided to review 5 WrestleMania Main Events a week, and now here we are at the end. I’ve decided that I’ll leave the reviews of this year’s Mania matches to Scott Keith and Thomas Hall, mainly because I’m actually not sure whether I’ll watch WrestleMania or not.
I’ve made it no secret that I’ve not been enjoying these empty arena shows and I haven’t really been watching either WWE or AEW recently because of it. As Jock Stein once famously said, football without fans is nothing, and I think you could extend the same sentiment to wrestling. I probably will end up dipping in and out of Mania because it’s on the WWE Network and it’s still WrestleMania at the end of the day, but I’m not optimistic as to its quality. Hopefully I’m proven wrong and it ends up being a barnstormer!
Once again, thoughts with you if you’re having to isolate or any of your friends or relatives have been hit by COVID-19. It’s been a real pisser all told hasn’t it? Hopefully reading this can give you a bit of a distraction.
Please feel free to check my archives for the previous Mania Main Event reviews.
Anyway, that’s enough chatter from me, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
WWE Heavyweight Super Duper World Title
Brock Lesnar w/ Paul E. Dangerously Vs Roman Reigns
So most of you will know the story with Reigns I think. He was popular as the muscle of The Shield, but fans turned on the idea of him being the top babyface and booed his 2015 Royal Rumble win because they wanted Daniel Bryan in the slot instead. Mania 31 was set up to be Roman’s coronation as the new top guy, but fans weren’t buying it. I’ll be honest and say that I was actually all aboard the Reigns Train and wasn’t bothered at all with the push, but I was in the distinct minority. If anything, I was annoyed they weren’t pushing him strong enough in all honesty. Reigns sure fails a lot for someone who is supposed to be the top babyface.
One thing about the build for this that I liked was that Brock said that he didn’t respect Reigns, only for Reigns to reply “You will” in a great line. Lesnar wastes no time throwing Reigns around, getting an F-5 right out of the blocks and then officially putting a shovel in the ground for the building of Suplex City, by suplexing Reigns around and delivering the famous line. It’s an incredible butt whipping for poor Roman, but he tries to laugh it off, thus annoying Brock further.
What I like about this is that Reigns isn’t no selling here despite laughing, He’s clearly showing that the suplexes are hurting, but he’s deciding to tackle it with some gallows humour, which I love. Reigns does get the occasional flurry, but it always ends with Brock cutting him off and mauling him some more. In some ways it’s similar to Hogan Vs Andre all the way back at Mania III, except the crowd here hates the babyface. Reigns sells the beat down perfectly, getting the right mix of pain, exhaustion, desperation and defiance. It’s one of the better sell jobs of his career, possibly because Brock is just killing him for real.
Brock ups the ante by taking off his gloves and throwing some slaps before delivering more suplexes and two F-5’s, only for Reigns to kick out. Reigns finally manages to get something going by throwing Brock into the ring post, cutting the Champ open in the process. Reigns gets the big comeback with Superman Punches before getting two Spears for a near fall. Another Spear is countered into an F-5 for a double down, which is the cue for Money in the Bank holder Seth Rollins to run down and cash in his briefcase. Brock tries to F-5 him, but Reigns Spears him before he can complete the move, which allows Rollins to pick the bones with a Curb Stomp to his former Shield pal to steal the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SETH ROLLINS
I love this match. The Brock/Roman section is one of the best and most believable beat downs that you’ll ever see, and the Rollins cash in was a great surprise ending. Good as it was though, I can’t help but think that Reigns beating Lesnar would have finally given him the steam he needed to be the top guy. Overall it was a missed opportunity, but the match was still enormously entertaining and Rollins cashing in the briefcase was a genuine “WrestleMania Moment™” in every sense of the phrase.
WWE Heavyweight Super Super World Title
Champ: Triple H w/ Stephanie McMahon Vs Roman Reigns
Reigns finally got anointed at Survivor Series 2015 by winning a tournament for the vacant Title, only for them to take it straight off him right away by having Sheamus cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Just imagine if right after Hulk Hogan beat The Iron Sheik in 1984 they sent down Killer Khan to beat him immediately? There might not even be a WWE in existence today! Reigns did beat Sheamus for the Title on an episode of Raw not too long after, foiling the evil McMahon Family in the process, and that seemed to finally get him over the line as a top guy. So they promptly took it off him AGAIN, by having Triple H win it at the Royal Rumble in the Rumble match itself. Strangely heel authority figures Triple H and Stephanie then allowed Reigns to fight for the #1 contender status after going to so much trouble to keep the belt off him, which Reigns promptly won to set up this match so he could win the Title for the third time in 5 months. And they were SURPRISED that he wasn’t getting over?!?!
Triple H gets the big WrestleMania entrance, with guys in suits looking all sad and down trodden due to their mouths being sown shut like something out of an Oddworld game, which leads to Stephanie in full Mortal Kombat mode giving a big speech about how The Authority owns everything. She had to remember a heck of a lot of lines there to be fair to her. Well, I’m sure she helped get some of the younger readers through puberty thanks to her Sindel inspired outfit at least. There’s also masked guys with belts who accompany Triple H to ring, which were probably guys from NXT considering how Triple H liked to give them roles on these shows.
Reigns still gets booed out of the building despite all this effort being made to make both Triple H and Stephanie look like the biggest heels who ever heeled. I mean, they were one step away from having Triple H Pedigree a puppy there. I do like how, despite the fact he’s feuding with the people who own the company, Reigns still gets a lavish pyro display for his entrance. Who picked up the tab for that? “Yeah, I hate you Roman and want to crush all your hopes and dreams, but I’ll totally pay for you to get a Bonfire Nights worth of fireworks for your entrance!”
Triple H cosmetically looks fantastic here, and the crowd cheers every time he gets the better of Reigns in the early going. The hate for Reigns here seems even worse than the previous year. It’s venomous. Triple H controls things for quite a bit, with Reigns not really getting what you’d consider a traditional babyface shine. To be fair, even if he did the crowd would just boo it anyway. Reigns does eventually get some sustained offence, only for Stephanie to distract the referee, thus allowing Trips to kick Reigns right in his Samoan Spike for the cut off.
Strangely the commentators aren’t really referencing the dichotomy of the heel Triple H getting cheered whilst Reigns gets mercilessly booed. I hate when they just blatantly ignore the crowd reactions like that. Triple H’s heat segment is the usual methodical one he likes to do, which works when the crowd is into his babyface opponent but drags like a mofo when they don’t. Even Reigns’ hope spots get jeered out of the building, as this crowd is just not playing ball. The actual work from both men is fine, but the crowd doesn’t give a flying squirrel. Triple H actually tries coming off the second rope at one stage, but Reigns catches him with a throat thrust on the way down, which leads to him getting a Samoan Drop for two.
The crowd is so against Reigns that some of them even cheer when Triple H quite literally flees to avoid a Superman Punch, thus cheering for a heel to deny them a big move. Triple H regains control outside the ring by flinging Reigns over a commentary table, only for Reigns to fire back with a Spear through the barricade. We probably would have got a similar spot this year in his match with Goldberg if Reigns hadn’t had to pull out of the show (And good on him for doing so as well, health and safety come first. I don’t begrudge any wrestler who decides not to wrestle in the current climate, especially if they have underlying health reasons that would make them more susceptible to suffering severe symptoms of COVID-19)
Reigns lugs Triple H back into the ring following the Spear and both men lie around for a bit. Reigns gets up first and goes for the Superman Punch, but Triple H counters it and goes to some arm based submission holds, which is not something he’s even been known for. Despite his sudden surprise submission skills, Reigns is able to survive Triple’s devastating holds and powerbombs his way (barely) out of an arm bar for two. What’s next, is Triple H going to do a subpar moonsault just to show that he can do high flying wrestling as well? Reigns back body drops his way out of the Pedigree to send Triple H outside and then goes for his big Mania dive to the floor, only for Triple to stop that with a punch from the apron.
Reigns hits the Spear back inside anyway, but Stephanie pulls out the ref to prevent the three count and then chews him out for good measure. Sadly the phrase “Eyes up here” isn’t used during the bollocking, even though it would be appropriate given her attire. This leads to her accidentally taking a Spear from Reigns so that she can “get hers”. To be fair, Stephanie gets to destroy everyone for 364 days a year so it’s only appropriate that she has 1 day where she doesn’t conquer the whole roster all by herself. With Stephanie dealt with, Reigns and Triple H do a nice little closing segment which leads to Triple H grabbing his “signature” sledgehammer. Reigns gets the Spear before Triple H can pull the trigger though and that’s enough for the three count.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: ROMAN REIGNS
The work here was fine, but the crowd hurt it for me and it probably went a tad too long as well. Yeah I know, Triple taking too much time for his match at a WrestleMania, what are the odds eh? Reigns gets even more pyro to celebrate his win, which again makes me wonder why Triple H would set some of the budget aside for fireworks just in case his hated opponent happened to defeat him, unless the pyro was actually meant for his H’ness and an intern just got overly excited with the buttons or something.
No Holds Barred
Roman Reigns Vs The Undertaker
This is the one Reigns Main Event that really made no sense to me. The past two years he was in the Title match, so closing the show made sense, but this one just felt forced and the match itself was thrown together. It really felt like “It’s the Main Event because Reigns is in it”, rather than it actually being the most anticipated match or it being for a major belt. I decided to watch the pre-match video package just to get a sense of why they were fighting. From what I could glean from the video, Reigns threw Taker out of the Royal Rumble, so Taker choke slammed him in response, and thus we have a Main Event. They are clearly trying to position Reigns as the new version of Taker, but that’s not what Reigns is. Reigns is supposed to be the next Bruno/Backlund/Hogan/Austin/Rock/Cena, not the next Undertaker. Undertaker was never the top guy in the company or the guy who was supposed to carry things. He was a big star who posed the obstacle for the top guy to overcome. He’s not the main “WWE Superstar”, he’s the “WWE’s conscience”, the man who tests the top star.
Jim Ross gets to come down for commentary for this one. They don’t even bother working holds, instead going straight to the brawl. Taker doesn’t look to be in the best of shape, so Reigns is charged with doing a lot of the work whilst Taker sells and stumbles around. The match itself feels kind of flat, although they do as good a job as they can to try and hide Taker’s physical limitations. Reigns actually does a good job and you can see that he’s putting the effort in to try and get the match over, including getting choke slammed onto a non-budging German announce table.
Taker takes a big bump of his own by getting Speared through the Spanish table. Taker does the zombie sit up following that, but when he gets back into the ring the main story of the match kicks in, which is Reigns wearing Taker down to put him away. Taker does manage to (barely) get Reigns with the Last Ride for two, and then brings in a chair to make use of the match stipulations. Reigns shrugs that off so, so Taker choke slams him onto the chair for two and then adds a Tombstone Piledriver for another two.
That kick out gets disappointed boo’s from the crowd, as they are clocking on that this match is designed to give Reigns a big scalp as opposed to giving the veteran a battling win. They sadly botch a Tombstone counter, with Reigns either not being able to heave Taker up or Taker just not going up properly. It looked bad regardless. We get the Mania 24 call back from the same city, as Reigns gets a Spear only for Taker to catch him in the Hell’s Gate when he gets too close. Reigns makes the ropes however, so that’s another of Taker’s big moves that the younger man has survived.
Reigns wears Taker out with the chair, with the shots reverberating all over the stadium. The crowd chants for Taker hoping for an upset, but Reigns delivers a Spear for two. Another Spear gets another two, getting a pop from the crowd as they again chant for Taker. This is all very well done I must say, as it makes Reigns look tough whilst also making Taker look gutsy. Reigns tries another Spear but Taker isn’t ready for it, so Reigns has to throat thrust him a couple of times before finally finishing it with one more Spear.
WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS
The story was there, but this was one Mania Main Event too many for Taker, as he just physically wasn’t up to it here, which was highlighted by him botching things he could have done in his sleep back in his younger days. Still, I appreciate the story they were trying to tell, it just got a bit depressing at the end. But you know what, if you’re going to book regular roster members against aging part timers then this is how you should do it, with the younger guy winning decisively in dominant fashion. They should have just copied this match lay out for Fiend Vs Goldberg in Saudi.
Taker should have retired a long time ago and seeing him continue to shuffle out for another outing because he needs a payday is really sad. I’m actually kind of happy that they are doing the whole “Boneyard” thing this year, as it least it probably means they can edit it in post to play to Taker’s strengths. Taker does the big emotional farewell, but it would end up being for naught, so it loses a lot of its effectiveness as a result.
Champ: Brock Lesnar w/ Paul E Vs Roman Reigns
I actually reviewed this one over at Gaming Respawn back when it happened (Check them out for great Video Game content, including Retro articles from yours truly) so I’ll just re-post that as my views haven’t changed much.
Oh thank heavens; this means the show might actually end soon. So the crowd doesn’t give two currants in a bun shop about this one and decide to entertain themselves by playing with beach balls and just generally being anti-social. Reigns sprints straight out of the block with Superman Punches but Lesnar catches him on the outside with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Brock delivers some more, with Roman barely getting all the way over with some of them and clearly banging his head on the floor.
Back inside, we get some more suplexes but Brock soon tires of that and decides to try and put Reigns through a table outside. Reigns is able to slip out of an F-5 attempt and then spears Brock over the table. Back in, Roman delivers two more spears but only gets a two count. The fans are too busy playing cribbage to notice however. Brock gets his knee up to block another spear and then gets the F-5 for two.
There was practically no reaction to that kick out. Considering they spent a whole year making sure no one kicked out of the F-5, so that when Roman did it would mean something, the lack of reaction is actually kind of terrifying. Like, if it was back in the day when they weren’t surviving on TV rights money, this is the sort of reaction that would suggest the incoming death of the entire promotion. You know, back when they actually had to present a product that people wanted to spend money on in order to remain financially solvent?
Brock smashes Reigns with two more F-5’s, with Reigns kicking out each time. The fans are too busy enjoying a particularly tasty watercress sandwich to notice however. Brock takes Reigns outside and F-5’s him through a commentary table, to still nary a peep from the crowd. A fifth F-5 in the ring still fails to end the match, as I start begging Heyman to turn on Brock just to wake the crowd up if nothing else.
Brock takes his gloves off and starts hammering away on Reigns, busting him open in the process. The fans are too busy wondering if Oasis will ever tour again to notice however. Brock tries for a sixth F-5 to kill poor Roman off for good, but Reigns gets out and then smashes Brock with two spears for a near fall. Roman, wearing the famed crimson mask, fires up and goes for one more spear, but Brock catches him with a sixth F-5 and that ends things.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: BROCK LESNAR
What a weird match that was. They did everything they could to get Roman over and yet still had him lose at the end. I just don’t get what they want with Roman, I honestly don’t. If you want him to be the top guy then at least book him as the top guy. Cena beat everyone constantly for years and hardly ever failed in the big match until he was already “made” as a top guy.
I just can’t wrap my head around what this company wants. Pretty much every other company in wrestling today picks someone and says “Yup, you’re our guy, go win loads of matches”. New Japan did it with Tanahashi and is now doing it with Okada. All Japan has being doing it with Miyahara. WWE is the only company that “pushes” its top stars by having them job constantly in the big matches when the chips are down.
It’s a baffling way to run a wrestling company, especially when you consider the biggest stars in WWE history have been protected in a way that Roman never has. Would Hogan, Bruno, Austin or Cena have failed like this in the same scenario? They all might have lost now and then, but in the big title match when the stakes were highest they almost always won, because that’s how you MAKE A STAR!!!
If Roman is your guy WWE then make him your guy. Even if fans boo, just keep having him win. And if you’re not prepared to do that then please either turn him heel or go with someone else. It’s just getting depressing now and I feel for the guy because I genuinely think he’s a good wrestler. It’s already an uphill climb for the poor sod and stuff like this only makes it harder for him.
Winner Takes All
Raw Champ: Ronda Rousey Vs Smackdown Champ: Charlotte Flair Vs Becky Lynch
Lynch ended up getting pretty over in the summer of 2018 by turning heel on Charlotte, even though the fans decided to keep cheering her because all of a sudden she was winning matches and cutting confident promo’s about how good she was. Funny how talking big and then backing it up in the ring got her over eh? It’s almost as if booking someone strong makes them more of a star or something. Anyway, after beating Charlotte and winning that feud, Becky targeted Ronda Rousey next, but their big match at Survivor Series ended up getting pulled due to Nia Jax injuring Becky with an errant punch.
Charlotte took the match instead and lost via DQ to Rousey. It looked like Charlotte Vs Rousey was going to be on the docket for Mania, but the crowd made it clear that they wanted Becky in the slot, so eventually WWE ended up going for a Triple Threat match, even though Charlotte really was an unwanted third wheel by that point in most people’s eyes. I personally would have preferred them to do a double Main Event of Charlotte Vs Asuka for the Smackdown belt and Rousey Vs Lynch for the Raw belt, so they could really push the whole “Women’s Evolution” thing, but alas it wasn’t to be.
Charlotte gets to pay tribute to her Dad by arriving in a helicopter like he did for a match with Ricky Morton on a Great American Bash tour, although it falls into the WWE trap of being way over produced, featuring countless camera cuts of her looking out of the window at the view. The Ric Flair one worked because a copter landed in the stadium and Ric Flair just appeared out of it like a big star. There weren’t 70 shots of him enjoying the ride first. WWE just have to overdo everything. Less is more sometimes. Rousey gets a live musical performance from Joan Jett whilst Becky, the one who is supposed to be getting elevated into a big star, just walks out to her music.
Rousey controls things in the early going by attacking women on the floor, but things soon turn into the usual triple threat where two fight in the ring whilst the other sells on the floor. The crowd is behind Becky, and generally boo’s whenever she’s on the defensive. Rousey takes a rough bump to the floor when Becky dropkicks her whilst she has an arm bar over the ropes on Charlotte. Overall the match has a lot of action, even if the execution isn’t always on point.
Not surprisingly the smoothest stuff is between the more experienced Becky and Charlotte, as Rousey is still quite new to this and this was one of her first multi-person matches I think. Rousey tries a double arm bar on both her opponents, but they powerbomb their way out of it and Charlotte picks the bones for two. We finally get the big Rousey/Lynch collision, which is the most invested the crowd has been so far, and that leads to Becky trying to arm bar the Raw Champ until Charlotte comes in to ruin everyone’s fun. Charlotte really is like ants a picnic here.
Charlotte gets a segment of control, where she busts out the ring post Figure Four on Rousey before going to the Figure Eight, but Becky saves to prevent the tap out. Becky tries to introduce a table into proceedings, but Rousey is having none of these pro-wrestling hi-jinks and gets rid of it before declaring that “tables are for bitches”. Rousey as the heel MMA star who looks down on wrestling would probably have a lot of juice in it if she ever comes back actually.
Charlotte gets a double Spear following the rejection of the table, but can’t get the pin on either woman. Charlotte actually yells “dang it” to show her displeasure. Nice of her to watch her language at least. I wonder if she’ll yell “fiddle-dee-dee” if she ends up getting locked in an arm bar? Charlotte decides this match MUST have a table spot and sets it up in the corner, only to then get hip tossed through it by the two other women. Becky and Rousey then go to the finish, where Becky counters a rolling slam into a crucifix pin for the three count, even though Rousey’s shoulder wasn’t down properly. I’m sure the comments will be full of people demanding the referee get fired! Oh wait, this isn’t an AEW review, never mind.
WINNER AND DOUBLE CHAMP: BECKY LYNCH
This had good energy, I’ll give it that, but it was also pretty sloppy and the botched finish didn’t help. Becky Vs Ronda in a straight singles match would have probably been the better match, and the whole “Winner Takes All” aspect of the match would be nullified when Becky lost the Smackdown belt back to Charlotte a month later anyway. Charlotte didn’t need to be in the match and it muddied the waters, but the eventual match was decent in the end.
And thus we reach the end of our journey, with 35 Main Events in the bag. It’s strange that this time out we generally had a lot of middling matches here, especially when you take into account that WWE has one of its most stacked rosters ever when it comes to in-ring performers. I think the fact that these shows are so long these days really doesn’t help the matches that go on last. You need to get the right mix of good in-ring action and personalities that people care about to get crowds to care about Mania Main Events these days, and sadly most of these just didn’t get that combination right.
Thanks for joining me for these reviews and I hope you have fun if you decide to watch Mania 36 this weekend!