Let the goodwill tour begin, as WWE basks in the aura of its best-received pay-per-view event in some time. And by and large, the lauding was justified, even if five hours of matches made for an exhausting evening on the couch, and the requisite WWE Network glitches once again disrupted its rhythm and immediacy and made one seriously reconsider spending $50 on a standalone PPV.
But hey, let’s not focus on the negative. After all, all three men’s singles titles changed hands, Sting and Undertaker satisfied their popular demand, the Rock and Ronda Rousey proved to go hand-in-hand and the main event was so thrilling it nearly vindicated the few bouts that were admittedly kind of bland.
So without further rhyming and reasoning, here are five key things I took away – in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder – from WrestleMania (insert play-button icon here).
5. So, Here’s the Bad
Contrary to my earlier credo, let’s momentarily circle back to what sucked so we can truly move forward. For one, staging the tag-team title fatal four-way and Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in broad daylight for a stadium checkered with early arrivers kind of sucked. Though not as much as Big Show winning said Battle Royal. And, sadly, the official opening salvo – Daniel Bryan et al. against Wade Barrett for his IC belt in a seven-man ladder match – packed bumps but lacked mojo (Bryan and Dolph Ziggler’s climactic headbutts notwithstanding). That might, however, be more symptomatic of general ladder-match fatigue. Lastly, the Divas tag bout between AJ/Paige and the Bellas unfortunately lived down to expectations without Nikki’s strap up for grabs. Oh, and as for those Levi’s Stadium spectators, we get it: Everything’s awesome, everyone’s still got it and, all else fails, holy shit. (Although, naturally, it took virtually the duration of Lesnar and Reigns’ brutal bout before they’d consider giving Roman anything but grief.) But for the record, roaring, “You still got it” the Undertaker’s way borders on disrespectful.
4. See Terminator Genisys and Furious 7 Or Die!
Well, now we know how WWE can still afford a production on the scale of WrestleMania while all but giving the viewing experience away for just $9.99. Just call in Paramount and Universal to integrate promotion for Terminator Genisys and Furious 7, respectively, into two of your most premium spots on the card. Ten years from now, Triple H will be laughing along with us at his post-apocalyptic entrance, complete with intro from Ah-nuld as his man-machine alter ego. But last night, there was little shame in his corporate game, which would have been more off-putting had Sting not saved the day by giving everything he had out of love for the fans (and money). Later, we got the Rock and Ronda Rousey staring down and taking out Trips and wife Stephanie McMahon. And that was all in good fun, so long as everyone understands that neither Dwayne Johnson nor Ms. Rousey – all due respect to each individual’s well-documented passion for WWE – would have carved out 20 minutes from their unforgiving schedules were it not an opportunity to ensure Furious 7 surpasses $70 million in its upcoming opening weekend. Also, what, no armbar?
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3. It Was Never About Sting and Triple H
Stakes and sympathies shifted before our eyes as the Cerebral Assassin and Vigilante’s personal encounter sprawled to encompass and conclude nearly 20 years of history that both bankrolled and bedeviled WWE. And even in defeat, Sting’s most selfless service to wrestling fans may have been his participation in putting the Monday Night Wars to rest. As Triple H stood triumphantly flanked by D-X across from Hogan and NWO, it was less about good guys and bad guys (after all, hasn’t any WWE fan’s fantasy ended just as it did?) or icons and kings than an ostensible reenactment of how things might have gone down in the ring 14 years ago rather than the boardroom. It was a show of respect to all involved and a chance for they, and us, to finally move on and live in wrestling’s present and future. Which brings us to:
2. Rollins is the Guy
We’ve all been so worried about whether Roman Reigns is our boy or Daniel Bryan’s been pushed down the card that what went overlooked is Seth Rollins isn’t merely the storyline Authority’s face of what’s to come. He is, in reality, the man right now. It’s a move that, above any other WWE’s made with the World Heavyweight Championship over the past several years, suggests a confidence and clarity in the company’s direction. It’s also utterly believable, and hopefully puts things in motion for Rollins to emancipate himself from (and hopefully lead to the obsolescence of) the Authority. Raw will be a lot more fun tonight with Rollins lording that belt over Lesnar and Reigns (and no doubt an entitled Randy Orton following his clean ‘Mania win) rather than toting some beaten-up briefcase and big words. And after so many up-and-down months, we all deserve for Raw to be fun.
1. Best Main Event Ever?
No, not really. Or probably not. Who, besides everyone on the Internet, would be so bold as to make those kinds of hasty declarations without any opportunity for reflection? Not I. Though I will comfortably attest that Lesnar and Reigns, in equal measure, co-conspired for a thrilling and brutal bit of physical storytelling that at least raised the bar for whomever squares off in Dallas this time next year. It was reasonable to assume Rollins would interject himself at some point, but it’s a testament to both Brock and Roman that it was likely the last variable on anyone’s mind by the time his music hit. Lesnar and Reigns fulfilled an apparent pact (as portended by Reigns in our pre-Mania interview) to let everyone watching know there’s a reason they do what they do and no one else does or can. Neither looked weak, despite their shared defeat. More important, Brock emerges only a slightly hobbled beast, while Roman revealed his strength and spirit. It may be Rollins’ time, but Lesnar’s is far from up, and Reigns won’t be put down.
Below the Belt:
- Not much to report from ‘Taker v. Wyatt. But man, does the Dead Man still take bumps. And kind of a weak entrance, no?
- Yes, he’s corny, but who leads a better dance than new U.S. Champ John Cena?
- It really is too bad entertaining, retaining tag champs Kidd and Cesaro were relegated to the matinee shift.
- Naomi is one gifted athlete.
- Travis Barker = pee break.
- Those welts and bruises are painfully hard to hide in the daylight.
- Per my wife, was Sting’s entrance-theme band an America’s Got Talent act?
- Ziggler’s braid might be something he’ll regret.
- The Fink!
- If we’re being honest, those were pretty weak Scorpion Death Locks.
- And in case you were wondering, this is @Rabizad.
- Move of the Night: Just wanted to give a little shout-out to that pretty sweet round of high-impact Bull Hammers from Wade Barrett.
- Line of the Night: “Welcome to Suplex City, bitch!”