WWE WrestleMania 34
April 8 2018
We’re in New Orleans, Louisiana for the Grand Daddy of them all. It’s WrestleMania baby. I’ve already watched ten shows this weekend! I’m all fired up. I’m full of caffeine. I’m here until it’s over.
First, a word on NXT. You might have noticed by off-base takes last night and there’s a reason for that. Loved the opener and was enjoying the women’s title match. Then my wife came home from the pub, wasted, at 2am. I had to go and pay for her taxi and missed the finish of Bazsler/Moon. My mood deteriorated as she told me a few incoherent stories and then went to be sick. I took out my frustrations on Adam Cole and any spots I didn’t like. I didn’t get my mojo back until the main event. Main event was great btw. I think I need to rewatch the show before firmly settling on any snowflakes so apologies for a lack of them here. My wife is fine by the way. A bit of a sore head. She’s asleep as I write this, some two hours before WrestleMania’s pre-show starts.
10pm Pre-Show! JBL is back. As is Booker T and David Otunga. Is this a collection of guys who got kicked off commentary duties?
Big Match John bought a ticket. He’s in the crowd. So is Tanahashi. Dream match! Someone get them together!
— 棚橋弘至 (@tanahashi1_100) April 8, 2018
Carmella turns up to tease cashing in on Asuka or Charlotte. Oh, please don’t.
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler join commentary with Byron Saxton. Lawler fresh off shooting Joey Ryan in the dick with a fireball a few days ago. Wrestling! The ring is just full of useless guys who nobody cares about. Dolph Ziggler is in there. Former winner Baron Corbin. Matt Hardy. A lots of scrubs. Big old to Goldust for dabbing. I swear some of these guys throw themselves out because they’re bored. Ziggler plays Shawn Michaels 1995 Royal Rumble. Mojo Rawley, another former winner, manages to batter Ryder out with a Pounce. It might be the best thing he’s ever done. Lots of people keep getting dumped and Cena is shown on camera, reacting like he’s a fan shown on the big screen. It’s good stuff. The field thins out and they get down to the ‘name’ talent like Kane, Corbin, Goldust, Ziggler, Hardy. It’s slim pickings.
Final Four: Kane (who dumped Ziggler, cheers), Mojo, Corbs & Matt Hardy. Corbin chucks Kane out so you’ve got two former winners and Matt. Wait…Bray Wyatt!
His distractions allow Matt to win. This was a load of crap but it does set up some weird union between Matt and Bray.
Final Rating: *1/2
Jeff Hardy looks rough pic.twitter.com/i2LijZnq8O
— Arn: Fan of Ronda Rousey (@ArnoldFurious) April 8, 2018
Now we get the actual pre-show.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
This is for the vacant cruiser belt, vacated a few months back by scumbag Enzo Amore. He’s not at Wrestlemania as he’s in the bin with all the paedos, rapists and assorted sex offender dregs that are destined for the ninth circle of hell. Both these lads are extremely talented and get stuck in to a fast paced, entertaining bout. They both put in the effort to be here. The only trouble with this is it’s hard to route for either one of them because I want them both to do well and that’s reflected by the crowd reactions. It’s not because the crowd don’t like them it’s because they don’t want to choose. They do a lot of cool stuff, especially with the Spanish Fly. One standing, one off the top. Ali takes a death bump off the ropes, face first. My god, it’s sickening. Unfortunately WWE decide to go picture in picture to sell us on Ronda Rousey. Which is a shame because it was the point where Ali became the more sympathetic of the two. Imploding 450 would finish but Cedric gets his foot on the rope. Then they switch back with Ali being a jerk about Cedric’s heart. Lumbar Check finishes and Cedric wins the belt. I love them hugging right afterwards. This was never about them going to war. Just about two lads proving they belonged here.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Women’s Battle Royal
Unlike the men the women actually get introductions. Here are the participants: Becky Lynch…and everyone else! Hahaha. Taynara Conti is in there. Lana. Kairi. Mickie. Ruby. Dakota Kai. Bianca. Peyton. Then Bayley gets her own entrance.
There’s no Billie Kay despite Peyton being in there. Sasha Banks also gets her own entrance. Carmella is thrown out first for being a bitch. Next to upset everyone is Dana Brooke. That’s unsettling. The NXT girls get together to take over the ring and establish a divide between everyone. They start to clear out and Kairi gets dumped during an ad break. An ad break! Are you nuts? The production is bad with missed eliminations and such. Bianca is a star, hitting the 450 Splash and using her hair as a weapon before she’s dumped. She’s a future champion and no mistake. Becky manages to get dumped in a throwaway mid-match spot, which is typical of WWE’s nonsensical booking of her. She can’t be around when Sasha and Bayley go at it. The Riott Squad start to take over and Natalya is too stupid and self centred to notice. Sasha and Bayley clean everyone else out. Sasha vs. Bayley for the ugly trophy. Bayley refuses to accept Sasha’s friendship and throws her out. Only Naomi reappears because apparently she didn’t go out.
Congratulations, you both lost.
Final Rating: **1/4
This is easily top 5 fave pics ever pic.twitter.com/aBVc7gOX5P
— Alex (@trinidadchainz) April 8, 2018
WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Finn is out last, after the champ, which is weird because Seth is out first. His entrance is all about inclusion and he doesn’t have the make up job. They’ve done various combinations of this match in the past few weeks and they’re a good mixture of talents. Two able babyfaces with exciting movesets and an established jerk heel who can slow things down. In between Miz’s moments of jerkery (is that a word?) Seth and Finn can litter the match with big spots. A fine example is the Figure Four on Balor and Seth coming off the top with a Frogsplash. Balor escapes Seth’s evil Barricade bomb although Finn quite happily doesn’t give a shit about hitting the John Woo on the damn floor. The counter spot was done on RAW when they wrestled each other, so it’s a bit lazy to do it again but it did get a reaction. Seth’s massive superplex immediately being countered into a roll up doesn’t sit too well with me but it figures into the frantic nature of the match. Same with Rollins kicking out of Skull Crushing Finale. Just have Finn break it up! Little flaws aside they work well together and it’s a lot of fun. It’s the hot opener the pre-show didn’t bother with. Finn breaking up a pin with the Coup de Grace is well timed but he ends up limping from it. It’s over but Seth hits the Curb Stomp…into Miz’s back. That’s not particularly effective! Curb Stomp on Miz and Seth wins the belt.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Smackdown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka
Asuka remains undefeated, having never, ever lost in a WWE ring going back to her NXT debut. Big entrance for Charlotte, who gets the Flair treatment.
Stunning entrance. The only trouble is, it’s so stunning that Asuka’s fucking horrible entrance with onscreen ‘lasers’ looks like utter dogshit.
— Jude Kilgour (@judekilgour) April 8, 2018
This is why Charlotte has that entrance, throwing back to when she was one of Triple H’s ring girls back in the day. Look at how far she’s come. Asuka hasn’t had a big match since coming to the main roster (bar a decent one with Sasha on RAW) but she’s been built up as an enigma. Charlotte has the chance to show off her skill in stopping Asuka’s dominance. It’s intriguing before we get going and Charlotte’s speed, power and mentality are all highlights. Once they’ve settled in Asuka works the shoulder over to set up the Asukalock. This leads right into Charlotte moonsaulting into the triangle. Asuka clearly having scouted Charlotte’s big game offence but Charlotte is able to power out. They start into a story where Asuka is technical, Charlotte is powerful but they’re both aggressive. They make a point of turning it into a Big Match with Big Spots and Asuka hits a suplex off the apron. SPANISH FLY! HOLY SHIT. It’s interesting that Charlotte trying new things gets Asuka into trouble but Natural Selection gets her trapped in a submission. Charlotte has to surprise Asuka. She switches it around; Figure Four (shut down), chops (blocked) and then the spear (finally connecting).
Charlotte gets the Figure 8 and Asuka taps out! The streak is over! “Charlotte was ready for Asuka. Congratulations” – Asuka.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Video Control goes ringside. “The Undertaker’s here”.
WWE United States Championship
Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal
Warning: may cause drowsiness pic.twitter.com/jEtJCslxmh
— Arn: Fan of Ronda Rousey (@ArnoldFurious) April 9, 2018
The match goes a few minutes deep before I realise I’ve not written anything. I mean really who gives a shit? The crowd get fired up for Rusev but everyone else gets the cold shoulder because they’ve been pushed over and over and no one cares. Because Vince didn’t want Rusev to get over he eats the pin and Jinder wins.
Final Rating: 1/2*
Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs. Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey
We all know who the real star is around these parts.
Love the kilt on Ronda as part of her Roddy Piper tribute. Steph, like a yappy little dog, nips at Ronda pre-match before they let HHH and Kurt take the bulk of the match. Boy, is it ever not good. Kurt working a loose wristlock to kill time. Poor Kurt is positioned as the dope, having to take abuse from Steph on the outside.
Kurt looks in such bad shape. We knew he was run down when he came back, which is why he has the ‘office’ job. When Ronda gets the hot tag the crowd erupts. Steph hasn’t got a clue how to take Ronda’s state of the art MMA cross-over stuff.
Steph has no idea how to take bumps for any of it. She goes careening across the ring and sometimes lands in something resembling a bump. It’s a good job she doesn’t wrestle all the time because she’d get injured in a hurry. The women handily outwork the men, who are broken down and washed up. As the match progresses I get really into it, which is the power of Ronda’s persona and star power. When she decides to go after Hunter we’re into the unknown. This is actually good. Who would have thought it. As we get into the stretch even Angle feels it, throwing Hunter around.
Ronda, considering it’s her first match, has great timing. She breaks up a pinfall and it’s bang on time. The false finishes here are great and I buy into both teams winning. Steph finds herself isolated and Ronda beats her with the armbar. This was brilliant. Like really, actually brilliant. Sports Entertainment people! Good lord.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers
I’m gonna level with you, I had no idea this was on the card.
Everyone works hard here but the crowd is stunned from Ronda’s match and there’s no pops left. I’m reeling myself so it’s rough to even get invested. It’s a pity seeing as this is the Usos first ever Mania main show match. They’ve earned the spot but the spot they’ve been given isn’t ideal. Especially as the match resolves around the Bludgeon lads, being big old bosses. Bludgeon’s dominate and take home the belts, hammering the Usos and New Day into the past.
Final Rating: **1/2
John Cena vs. The Undertaker
Referees come down here and tell Big Match John that Undertaker ain’t here. But they said he was! Bait and switch. Instead he gets Elias. Trolling. Beautiful. Elias sings for a bit but Cena doesn’t care for his stylings and kicks his ass. So Cena walks off and he stops. He feels something.
In the ring is Undertaker’s gear.
And then it’s gone.
Credit to Taker, he fucking sprints across the ring to hit his spots, which is astonishing considering he can barely fucking walk! Cena does some magical selling of Taker’s mythical superpowers. The way he chickens out on the Five Knuckle Shuffle as Taker sits up is amazing. Tombstone! It’s over! That was perfect.
Final Rating: NR
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Daniel Bryan’s first match in 3 years. We thought he was done for good but he was recently medically cleared. I honestly thought he was going to leave WWE this year and end up working on the mid-level Indies. I was looking forward to seeing him in 16 Carat next year!
There is a party atmosphere out here, until the bad lads jump Bryan from behind and powerbomb him on the apron. I can’t say I agree with that logic. No one has seen him wrestle in 3 years. He’s chomping at the bit! So obviously Bryan spends aging lying on the floor while Shane works his trashy punches and eats heat. Shane spends a lot of time selling his injured midsection until Dan returns to the ring and the match stops sucking. Daniel looks fresh as a fucking daisy. It’s a miracle. Flying knees off the apron? Sure, why not?
Bryan isn’t crisp like he was 3 years ago but he throws himself into everything and looks incredible for someone who hasn’t wrestled in 3 years. It’s like riding a bike. It’s certainly interested in testing his limits right out of the box, not holding back one bit. Interesting that Sami is very careful around him. Busaiku Knee Kick sets up the YESlock and Sami taps out. The Shane stuff was awful but Bryan suddenly being back and right at the top of his game again is the stuff of dreams.
Final Rating: ***1/4
RAW Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
Mickie James corners the champion. Unforunately not sporting the same incredible hair as in the promo video. She gets her butt kicked before the match starts as Nia destroys Alexa’s game plan. Alexa goes to Plan B; run away. That doesn’t work so she goes to Plan C; take the leg. The crowd are not prepared for a long scientific match, or a long match at all.
Nia is bad at long matches. Alexa isn’t known for being able to carry people who can’t wrestle long matches. It’s not a good idea. Alexa being a bully is fine but they can’t find the right spots to demonstrate this, nor Nia’s comebacks. Nia hits the Samoan drop off the ropes and that finishes. This was not good.
Final Rating: *3/4
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nak has a guitarist and a full string section!
He seems pretty happy about it. They clear an entire band out of there pretty darn quick to get AJ out here. The WWE machine is scary. AJ has now accomplished everything he ever wanted to do in wrestling.
Defending the WWE title at WrestleMania is pretty much the pinnacle of a career in wrestling. Nakamura might have dogged the vast majority of his WWE career but let’s face it, he’s a Big Match Wrestler and has been for years. This is his kind of show, his kind of match. Everything is sharper, more aggressive. AJ wrestles like it’s the main event of Wrestlemania literally every week so we’re set for a banger. The best part is the NJPW match they had a few years back. It gives them a base to work from and allow familiarity recognition. There is a big issue; they take a steady pace and it’s late (4am in the UK) and the crowd is burned out already. There’s another issue; they decide to do a leg match and Nakamura is not good at selling his knee.
It’s not until they get into AJ trying to finish the match that it picks up. Big moves. Kick-outs. Etc. The feeling that the match is underdelivering is overwhelming and I’m reminded that Nakamura hasn’t had a truly great match since his debut against Sami Zayn. The counter from the Kinshasa into the Style Clash to finish though. Awesome! This match was riddled with unexpected issues. It ended up being ok and nowhere near as good as the New Japan match. What happened? Sluggish start. Bad leg focus. Then finally the meat of the match. Too little, too late.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Nakamura offers the belt up to the champ but then nut shots him! Heel turn! He belts AJ with Kinshasa on the floor and walks off doing weird poses. I hope heel Nakamura delivers more than babyface Nakamura did. He’s been such a disappointment but this felt like a radical change.
RAW Tag Team Championship
The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman & Mystery Partner
The Bar have a Mardi Gras float entrance. It’s pretty nifty.
Braun sending the characters scurrying from the float is good but Coach’s “this is so funny” laugh is bad. Braun decides to pick a fan as his partner because fuck it, why not?
And he picks a child called Nicholas. The poor kid is fucking terrified. Braun legally tags him in briefly and then powerslams Cesaro for the belts.
Final Rating: DUD
WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Are they saying “booo” or “hooooo aaaaaahhhhh”? As with last time these two headlined ‘Mania Roman takes a bunch of suplexes, including one on the floor where Brock can’t get him over and Roman lands on his head. Brock gets even sloppier by throwing Roman face first into the announce table. Because of those two mistakes I’m really worried about Roman’s wellbeing. Then they do a spear-thing into the announce table and that looks horrible too. Brock Lesnar is effectively done as a top level performer and he’s pointless as a midcard act so he might as well retire. Brock, whose F5 has been heavily protected, hits it three times and can’t get the pin. The crowd don’t give a fuck. Either they didn’t pay attention to the finisher storyline or they just hate Roman Reigns. Basically WWE have failed to deviate from their booking when the crowd told them they were wrong.
Roman gets busted way open. It’s a gusher. Lesnar hits another F5 and retains. Oh boy.
Final Rating: *
This was looking like a great show until the wheels fell off it and it just rumbled on too long. But hey, at least Ronda Rousey and Charlotte came out of this looking like stars. So next year they can main event with the women so they don’t have to book around the deficiencies of their main event men.