Every year around the start of April. there are three things that many look forward too; the NCAA Final Four, MLB Opening Day and if your like me WrestleMania. While this year the card didn't excite me very much, I can't say that I was not looking forward to Sunday night. Mania has changed a lot over the years, the first WrestleMania didn't even feature a match for the World Title, only ran for 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes) and only had 19,121 in attendance. Last night's WrestleMania 33 featured seven championship matches, ran for 302 minutes (5 hours, 2 minutes) which doesn't include the 2-hour pre-show, and was attended by 75,245 people. One thing that hasn't changed is the spectacle of it all. WrestleMania has always been the "Showcase of the Immortals" and last night was no different. Below is my take on the matches:
Match 1: Cruiserweight Championship
"King of the Cruiserweights" Neville (c) vs Austin Aries
The lucky match to kick of the show was for the Cruiserweight Championship. It was a great match-up between a savvy veteran in Austin Aries and a guy in Neville who's comeback from injury is nothing short of remarkable. If you went into this match thinking you would get a ton of breathtaking, high-flying moves you would walk away disappointed. What we got was great wrestling and an appropriate amount of high risk. The match had a great pace and had you believing that Aries was about to when his first WWE title. But Neville was not about to give up so easily as he use an eye poke to break up Aries' Last Chancery, giving Neville just enough of an opening to hit the Red Arrow and pick up the win.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Great way to start the Mania day. Competitive match. Neville winning came as a surprise, but it was done well. Looking forward to him continuing his dominance in the division,
Match 2: Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The next match on the card is what we call filler. Lets put everyone we don't have a spot for in this match and watch them not win. I fully expected this year's Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal to mean something, but after seeing the match I guess I was wrong. There were so many great names who should have walked out victorious; Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler or a parting gift for Big Show, but instead the glory went to Mojo Rawley who is as green as they come inside the ring. Mojo's win did allow the WWE to use New England Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski in a spot, but I can't see any push Mojo will receive from this win going anywhere. There was a great spot win Strowman threw off 12 other guys before single-handedly eliminating the Big Show, but overall it was kind of a let down.
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Rating: 4 out of 10
Wrong guy pushed, could have done more Braun was still the best.
Match 3: Intercontinental Championship
Dean Ambrose (c) vs Baron Corbin
For a match that was supposed to be on the main card, this was a let down. Dean Ambrose is an excellent worker, Baron has come a long way, but the match felt like I was watching SmackDown Live not WrestleMania. In any case, I was looking forward to seeing Corbin take the next step but instead we got a last second win via Dirty Deeds version 2 and the continuation of a dry existence for the IC Champ,
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Rating: 5 out 10
I still feel Ambrose will drop the belt soon. It is time for him to get back to main event status. As far as Corbin is concerned, he is still the future so gold should be coming his way soon.
So it's time for the main show and we get the beautiful Tinashe in the ring singing "America the Beautiful" complete with the F-16s flying overhead. Then your hosts, the New Day, show up and amazingly no chants referring to Xavier Woods film career (I am sure there were some but you couldn't here it on the broadcast). Best thing about them hosting had to be the Final Fantasy 14 theme costumes. They do their thing, entertaining I guess but not too long so it's cool. Then comes the opening bout.
Match 1: Shane McMahon vs A.J. Styles
As WrestleMania matches go, you can't ask for much more than this one. Didn't know what to expect out of these two, AJ Styles is one of the best in the ring and he can go in a variety of matches while Shane McMahon amazes with his death defying stunts but he is not a wrestler, so a normal one-on-one match-up seemed one sided. What we got was nothing short of phenomenal. Shane held his own while AJ proved that he is a natural between the ropes. They added a little taste of the fun stuff with 2 attempts at Coast 2 Coast, a miss by AJ and a hit by Shane, an attempted elbow drop through the announce table by Shane, a Styles Clash outta nowhere and more. This match delivered on every level plus the right person won. Many people thought this match was beneath AJ, but afterwards you can see that this was a high honor. Beating the boss always means good things in the WWE and I think we will see a lot more good come AJ Styles way.
Winner: A.J. Styles
Rating: 9 out of 10
Great way to open a PPV, this match would have been great anywhere on the card. Truly a main event effort by two people who clearly give their all for the biz. I want to see more from this rivalry so hopefully the storyline continues even if we don't get another match featuring these two.
Match 2: U.S. Title Match
Chris Jericho (c) vs Kevin Owens
After this match I thought that this would have to go down as one of the best Manias ever (boy was I wrong) because this was another gem of a match. We all know that both Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens bring it in the ring but this was full of drama and action. These two told an amazing story, one of betrayal, disappointment, frustration, jealousy and a need to prove yourself. I did think that the match with have a bit more brutality, especially when you consider that the feud started with Jericho being thrown into a TV screen, but what they gave was good enough. For a match where the outcome was painfully obvious, the counters and close finishes had me on the edge of my seat. It was great to see Owens get back to himself with the powerbomb on the apron and he truthfully deserved the win.
Winner and New Champion: Kevin Owens
Rating: 8 out of 10
Owens winning was the right move. This was an excellent way to end this short rivalry and to send Jericho off so he can tour with Fozzy. With each departure it seems less likely we will see Jericho return but I am hoping for at least one more run. Owens with the US Belt should make the belt mean something again, kinda like how John Cena made the US Belt matches must see. Future feuds with the likes of Finn Balor, Tye Dillenger and eventually Samoan Joe should make for great TV, and Raw needs that right now.
Match 3: Raw Women's Championship Elimination Fatal 4-Way
Bayley (c) vs Sasha Banks vs Charlotte Flair vs Nia Jax
I love the women wrestlers on Raw, and this was a proper showcase for them. Every women in this match had good reason to be a part of it and in the end they played their roles well. Nia Jax will be a dominate force no matter which brand she will eventual rule but it wasn't her time, she showed that the future of the Women's division is in her hands. It was smart to have the other three ladies take her out with the first elimination. Sasha being eliminated next came as a shock to me, I thought Sasha pinning Charlotte would go a longer way than Charlotte continuing her PPV dominance over "The Boss." This also somewhat ruined the end for me too as I was looking forward to the two "friends" battling it out to see who is best with Banks losing to Bailey and causing a rift that would lead to a future showdown. Instead we saw Bailey once again get the Charlotte monkey off her back which was nice but would have meant more if we didn't seen this happen on Raw and again at Fastlane. Winning with the Macho Man elbow was a nice touch.
Winner and Still Champion: Bayley
Rating: 6.5 out 10
I'm cool with who won just not that thrilled with how they got there. The future for this division is not as clear as I would hope, but with Emma and Dana Brooke lurking, things may get interesting quickly. Still waiting for that Sasha heel turn.
Match 4: Raw Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Ladder Match
Gallows & Anderson (c) vs Cesaro & Sheamus vs Enzo & Cass
This starts off simple and without much fanfare. Enzo and Cass out first to do their thing, then out come Cesaro and Sheamus in matching kilts, and finally the champs, the Good Brothers, Gallows and Anderson. Then the New Day's music hit and they are looking ready for a fight. They announce that the match was now a fatal 4-way, and joining the match would be...The Hardy Boyz
Match 4: Raw Tag Team Championship Fatal 4-Way Ladder Match
Gallows & Anderson (c) vs Cesaro & Sheamus vs Enzo & Cass vs The Hardy Boyz
Massive DELETE! chants led by the Broken One, Matt Hardy. Jeff seems normal but it looks like Matt will continue his quest to be the best in all of space and time. The match starts with a brawl and all hell breaks loose. This match did not disappoint with tons of big time spots like Cass kicking everyone's head off, Cesaro using Gallows shoulders to hit a double stomp on Anderson and Matt hitting a Twist of Fate off the ladder. In the end Matt and Jeff were victorious and we even saw Jeff hit a swanton off a 20 ft ladder on to two people on ladders. Great surprise for all even though it wasn't much of a surprise, but sometimes getting exactly what you want is the biggest surprise of all.
Winner and New Champions: The Hardy Boyz
Rating: 9 out of 10
Amazing surprise, amazing match, even Enzo looked good. Looking forward to how the WWE will use the Hardys as despite their massive popularity, they can't really have much more to give to the industry. Their return will be best if they do a lot early and just try to stay relevant while helping the youth later in their run. As much as I love them as champs, I look forward to Gallows and Anderson getting the straps back soon.
Match 5: Mix Tag Match
The Miz & Maryse vs John Cena & Nikki Bella
Every PPV needs that break match, and unfortunately this turned out to be it. Say what you will about this match but it had one hell of a build. With two former WWE Champions and two former Divas Champions involved, you would expect this to at least be entertaining. Instead what we got was a match pitting four celebrities in an attempt to fight with out leaving any marks. The Miz and Cena did not seem completely into it and Maryse looked like she has never been in a WWE ring. I can't say much for Nikki because she never really got a chance to show what she's got. The match end, which saw Nikki and John be victorious, mean't nothing. The proposal after the match was somewhat special as I am glad to see these too become official. The Miz and Maryse may be heels, but seeing their real relationship is something special, as is the other married superstars, and John and Nikki are no different.
Winner and newly engaged: John Cena and Nikki Bella
Rating: 2 out of 10 for the match. 7 out of 10 for the engagement (Macho Man/Elizabeth was better)
You knew this wouldn't be good when Al Roker was the special guest ref and Jerry "The King" Lawler's commentary was a bit too much. The I proposed to you when you were drugged thing was weird as well. But the end result was nice so I guess it was all worth it. Let's see how much this engagement works into future storylines. WWE has always been a sucker for a superstar wedding.
Match 6: Non-Sanctioned Match
Triple H w/Stephanie McMahon vs Seth Rollins
Well this was some kind of fight. It started off with a brutal brawl and it just got more savage from their. Triple H show why they call him the cerebral assassin as he went after Seth Rollins knew early and often. The match was a nice mix of technically sound wrestling and out of control mayhem. Chairs, tables and a trusty sledgehammer were all involved. Stephanie made sure here presence was felt , distracting Seth a few times but it was not necessary for this match (though I will never complain about seeing her play WrestleMania dress-up). Seth ended up feeling the wrath of the table as Triple H was kicked into her when she was on the apron, sending her crashing through the table to the floor. She obviously has bad look at Mania considering last year she took a spear from Roman. The end was prim and proper with Seth over coming his creator and beating Triple H with the Pedigree.
Winner: Seth Freakin' Rollins
Rating: 8 out of 10
Great story, great match, would have been even better with a 100% Seth. Was surprised not to see Samoa Joe during this one but he wasn't truly needed. The fight may be over for these two, but I am sure the war will continue in some form.
Match 7: WWE Championship
Bray Wyatt (c) vs Randy Orton
I had high hopes for this match but it did not deliver in my humble opinion. They took two amazing workers and reduce the match to parlor games, Turning the ring mat into an image of maggots, okay sure. Doing it again with cockroaches (the Madagascar Hissing kind for those keeping track), overkill. When the image popped up for the third time, I checked out. Bray Wyatt is fun and we get he is demonic, but so was the Undertaker and the Boogeyman. The difference between the two is that Undertaker was all business in the ring were Boogeyman just wanted you to see his worms. Wyatt needs to be the new "Prince of Darkness" and leave the mind games for the build-up to the match. The worse part of the match was seeing Randy Orton win with no real emotion behind it. It was as if someone said hurry up and win so he hit the RKO and that's it.
Winner and new WWE Champion: Randy Orton
Rating: 5 out of 10
The wrong guy won but that isn't what made the match sub-par. They will go on to produce so great matches, but last night wasn't their night. Hopefully the BackLash will be a rewarding one.
Match 8: Universial Championship
Goldberg (c) vs Brock Lesnar
This match was wayyyyy better than expected. Brock Lesnar hit 10 German suplexes on Goldberg. Goldberg hit 4 spears on Lesnar, one through the barricade. Lensar kicked out of a jackhammer, which maybe the first time I have ever seen that. The match was only like five minutes long but it delivered more than you can possible ask from a guy who hasn't wrestled in 13 years. The right guy won, I'm glad Goldberg is gone, but I enjoyed the final stop on this trip.
Winner and new Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
Rating: 7 out of 10
When you get more than you expect, that's a good thing. It doesn't make up for the crap fest that was their WrestleMania 20, but they still made it special.
Match 9: SmackDown Live Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge
Alexa Bliss(c) vs Becky Lynch vs Natalya vs Carmella vs Mickie James vs Naomi
The WWE Universe demanded that this match be on the main card, which I'm fine with, but they couldn't have possibly wanted it in this spot. The match was good but not great, but had some good spots by all of the competitors. Mickie James, Becky Lynch and Naomi were by far the best of the group, but Carmella had some decent spots. This was a perfect match for Alexa Bliss as she wasn't exposed much for her continued lack of chemistry. If it wasn't obvious that Naomi was gonna win I could have easily seen Alexa escape with the belt, a move that would have been great for her character as her mic work is really good. In the end they went with the feel good story and let the hometown girl win.
Winner and New SmackDown Live Women's Champion: Naomi
Rating: 6 out of 10
Bad spot for the match but decent match. Would have done better as the second or third match on the card, but you gotta deliver when your name is called and this is when it was called. I hope this all leads to Asuka debuting on Tuesday but we will see.
Match 10: Roman Reigns vs Undertaker
If it is possible to hate and love a match at the same time, this was the one for that. When Roman Reigns music hit I felt anger building in me, I knew what was coming and the WWE fan in me wouldn't accept it. Then Undertaker's music hit, he comes up in the middle of the ramp and makes his way to the ring and all that bad feeling in me went away cause I just knew he would prove that this was his yard. Oh and FYI, his entrance was still a minute longer than the Brock/Goldberg match. The match starts, punches are thrown and Roman is kicked out of the ring. "This is my yards!" screams Undertaker and the crowd goes wild. Roman gets back in, seconds later he's back outside and Taker says "Still My Yard"! The rest of the match was just a journey that no one wanted to take but knew it would happen one day. Taker gave us his all and really could easily leave Orlando with the win, but it just wasn't what needed to happen. The torch need to be passed, the yard needed a new master, and you may not like it but Roman is that guy. Roman did his job, did it well, but at the end it was still about Taker and we will forever be grateful for what he has given us.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Rating: 7.5 out 10
The "End of an Era" was what we saw, Taker left it all in the ring, quite literally. I don't know if this was truly the end for the Deadman but if it is, he still went out on top despite the loss. As for Roman, good luck on Monday Night Raw cause they will hate you.
Overall, WrestleMania was good but not great. It delivered more than many people thought, but was lacking in areas people expected greatness. If you lasted the full five plus hours, then you should have been entertained, and that is the whole point.