So that was WrestleMania for this year. To paraphrase the star of the straight to DVD epic and pre game show match winner, The Miz… really? REALLY?
Remember when WrestleMania was the reboot point for the year? When everything culminated here? When it felt like a proper big wrasslin’ show, rather than an extended cash cow for the WWE to crow about?
I want those days back.
What was good last night, was good. It would have been a solid, decent three hour show… but it was a four hour show. It was a bloated, lazily booked, plodding, chore to sit through. No WrestleMania should elicit such a feeling.
The Shield were very good. They looked like they belonged. Dean Ambrose lit up that stadium through sheer force of personality, and Rollins and Reign proved they can back up the protective booking they’ve had. Hell, even Randy Orton showed some emotion; I thought such human things were below him.
Elsewhere, Daniel Bryan got his WrestleMania moment. The crowd chanting and point along with his “YES!” celebration at the end was one of the highlights of the night for me. Cruelly robbed by an 18 second match last year, this was truly the story of redemption for me.
Bryan took that disappointment, made that one word his own and has consistently delivered great TV all year. His work in the ring is as good as anybody, and his partnership with Kane, while slightly going off the boil, still remains a highlight of any show.
Then there was The Streak. Taker delivered another stellar performance, and CM Punk delivered the goods too. While not as epic as the Taker/HBK wars of years gone by, let’s not forget that this is an Undertaker beaten up like never before. The man is on borrowed time, career wise.
I thought the match they delivered was better than it had any right to be. CM Punk’s over the top selling and facial expressions worked brilliantly. Then there was THAT spot. The sit up. The Vice. Absolutely fantastic. As a match and a spectacle this was as close as WrestleMania got to being as epic as it should be. I would definitely slot this in between the second HHH match and first HBK match as an Undertaker classic.
It was here that WrestleMania started to die on it’s feet for me.
The booking, pacing, card order and timing was horrific. HHH & Lesnar had no chance of following the emotional investment of the Punk & Taker story. Paul Heyman pretty much had to come straight back out and act as if nothing had happened before. These matches should have been kept apart. HHH & Lesnar would have made a credible “first hour” main event.
No 8 man tag match or diva match to give the crowd some breathing space before a really bland main event showed as well. The crowd were pretty much dead for the inevitable Cena victory parade.
The match didn’t have that feeling that a main event at WrestleMania should have. No epic entrances, no win or bust feeling. It was all a flat procession of events, pretty similar to last year’s match. All the same moves, just not in the same order. The spot with Cena attempting the People’s Elbow and catching himself on the rope to get in the Rock’s head was the only part of the match that grabbed me.
The rest of the match just felt like watching a PS3 game of WWE 13 with infinite finishers turned on.
The love fest between Rock and Cena at the end felt ill judged too, it just killed whatever goodwill that the crowd did have. Saluting each other at the top of the ramp? Oh dear…
The whole show just felt… weak. Dull. Pedestrian.
Jack Swagger’s entrance wasn’t shown? Back to the midcard, Jack. His match with Del Rio was pretty drawn out for what it was, anyway. Ricardo Rodriguez got the biggest pop of it all for just introducing ADR! The crowd calling for a Ziggler cash in all through the latter stages didn’t help, either.
Ryback and Henry was fun, but felt botchy; the finish seemed rushed, a little bit forced. Ryback lifting Henry for his finisher post match was very impressive, though.
As for Fandango? Well, he got a big flashy entrance and his first win. I thought that match, while a bit patchy, was the exact right booking – Jericho dominates and steamrollers the cocky, arrogant heel – who gets the fluke pin for victory. Perfect.
Do the problems with WrestleMania come from the stagnant upper card? HHH, Lesnar, Rock, Taker – 4 of the 6 main protagonists are pretty much part time. For having the extra hour to play with, the amount of talent left off the card was glaring. No Sandow, Rhodes, Cesaro, Clay, Marella, Kingston, or divas of any description bar AJ Lee – and The Miz and Barrett relegated to pre show duties?
At least we were spared the “joy” of a Zack Ryder appearance, I suppose.
Raw this evening has a lot of questions to answer, and even more to pose. Where do the WWE go from here? Who is in Cena’s future? He’s not turning heel, folks. Get used to it. Cesaro would be a perfect foil for the face Cena – his anti-America rhetoric is tailor made for Cena to react against, surely? Even turn Ryback heel, or elevate Wade Barrett? Something, anything other than Orton again, or Big Show again…
The next 2 weeks will define the rest of the year for the WWE. Vince has to prove he still has the midas touch, or maybe it’s time to step aside and let the family take control.
In the meantime, WrestleMania 30 will sell out, and be a huge event, as it always is. The product itself could be struggling on life support by that time, or it could be fresh and vibrant. Only Vince can decide…