Whether or not you believe that WrestleMania XXX was the best of all time, there can be no denying that the event was tremendously athletic and entertaining. It also left a lasting impression on wrestling history for several reasons. The Authority was toppled as Daniel Bryan realized the dream of a lifetime, Antonio Cesaro took a huge leap towards super stardom, Cena slaughtered the buzzards and the greatest streak in sports entertainment came to an end. While the memorable moments and quality matches were abundant, perhaps the most pleasant surprise came in the night’s main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
After Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H in an opener that many have already placed in the running for best Mania opener of all time, he cemented his spot in the Triple Threat for the gold with The Animal and The Viper. We should all thank our lucky stars that the event was booked in this fashion. It could have just as easily been Helmsley advancing, or a draw seeing both men moving on to what could have been a cluttered Fatal Four Way much like Mania XVI. Fortunately, it was only the Yes Movement that was represented as things drew to a close in New Orleans. Without turning this into a review of the entire evening, let’s just say that the end of The Streak served as the perfect catalyst for what was to come.
An eerie and pitch perfect live performance of “Voices” introduced the reigning champion to the Superdome crowd and was followed by a pyro free entrance by “Bootista”. As Bryan came down the ramp, any concerns that the crowd might be slightly less enthused to see him the second time around were put to rest. In fact, the fans were even more passionate as they had just seen the legend of Undertaker’s streak slayed by Brock Lesnar. A Bryan victory was not only what the people wanted to see, it had become downright necessary to avoid a ring full of wrappers and plastic cups to close the show. Now the only question was, would the match be a simple means to an end or would it succeed in being something more?
Bryan was taken out by Orton early on, giving us a few minutes of what was originally planned for the final match at wrestling’s biggest event, a one on one clash between Batista and Orton. In truth, it was not all that bad. Could they have turned 75,000 plus into believers if things had stayed this way, maybe. In a different year, definitely, but Mania XXX was meant to be Daniel Bryan’s night. He came back with flurries of offense here and there, until the Authority attempted to sway things in The Animal’s favor via a former crooked referee in Scott Armstrong. This moment was reminiscent of the Austin vs McMahon days, with Bryan firing off a suicide dive to Stephanie McMahon, Armstrong and Helmsley and then using The Game’s patented sledgehammer against the COO. It was a satisfying sequence that gave the crowd another jolt and all the more reason to continue chanting passionately for Bryan.
Once the Authority was disposed of, the next chain of events was both awe inspiring and cringe worthy. Orton and Batista started a short term partnership to take out Bryan and setup a dastardly device via the steel stairs and two announce tables. As Orton perched himself on the steel stairs and Batista set up for a Batista Bomb on the American announcer’s table, you knew it was not going to end well. The only question was, would the execution bring the match to a premature end? As Batista released Bryan from his clutches, he fell into a pretty decent reverse RKO that looked even more painful as it exploded an announcer’s desk and caused Orton to land spine first on a television monitor that had not been removed from the primary area of impact. His back began to bleed and it is incredible that he didn’t crack a vertebrate or worse.
To all three competitors credit, they soldiered on and gave false finishes and seamless flow. Bryan refused to be stretchered out, returning to the bout and delivering kick after kick but also catching a spear that was intended for Orton. The false finishes were not excessive, and each one served its purpose of keeping you on the edge of your seat. There were legitimate moments where you actually thought Batista would win or Orton would retain. Thankfully, neither was to be the case as Bryan hit The Animal with the big running knee and cinched in the Yes Lock, forcing Batista to tap out and making Mania history that had not been seen since Bret Hart in 1994. And in many ways, Bryan’s journey surpassed The Hitman’s. While you could argue between Bret vs Owen and Bryan vs Helmsley, there is no denying that the Triple Threat bout of Mania XXX trumped the Hart vs Yokozuna title match of Mania X.
With that being said, where does this contest rank in my previous list of all Mania’s WWE title bouts? While I cannot simply toss it into the top three just because of the triumphant babyface ending, I can safely give this match a well earned spot at number five. That’s right, shift everything back a spot and insert Bryan vs Batista vs Orton at WrestleMania XXX into the number five slot of Mania’s WWE Championship clashes. Even though it is still fresh, I fully believe the match will age well and the moment Daniel Bryan left us with in the center of the ring, titles hoisted high above his head while confetti rained on New Orleans, will last forever. Congratulations to Daniel Bryan and congratulations to the WWE for giving us a WrestleMania that is in the running for the best in history.