I know I am opening Pandora’s Box with writing a wrestling related article on my gaming site (hell, I’m writing a book and talking about it here too), but I need to get this off my chest:
WrestleMania 34 was better than any of us would have ever expected.
After an NXT TakeOver the night before that was easily a top three PPV show ever for a mainstream wrestling federation, I had zero anticipation for the main rosters biggest show of the year. After two five star quality matches in the North American title ladder match and the unsanctioned Tomasso Chiampa vs Johnny Gargano bout, I couldn’t see how the main show would ever come close to matching the overall quality of last nights show. While it didn’t reach those peaks, IMO it managed to still be probably the best WrestleMania in the 21st century.
Here’s a rundown on the good, bad and ugly of this rock solid show:
- Every match on the main card delivered in some form; the weaker matches told stories to make up for the lack of a strong wrestling match
- The night started with what should be considered a top five opening WrestleMania match in WWE history, being as entertaining and exciting as Daniel Bryan vs Triple H of WrestleMania 30 or Mysterio vs Eddie at WrestleMania 21, though not as brilliant as Owen Hart vs Bret Hart at WrestleMania 10
- Asuka vs Charlotte Flair was my match of the night, and threw out a swerve that few people ever saw coming, and one I am fine with
- The US title match was fun, with another swerve ending
- Ronda Rousey’s WrestleMania debut was solid, with very little going wrong on her end, and much better selling on her being injured
- That entrance Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had was yet another badass Triple H entrance at WrestleMania
- The mixed tag match overall was easily the second best match of the night, one that I didn’t have much expectations going into, but told an amazing story in the ring, and outside it
- The visuals and overall presentation were the best WWE has ever done. The weird 3D they used for the entrances of the Miz and Asuka were kinda sweet
- The triple threat Smackdown tag team title match was a bit too brief, but was very entertaining
- Elias coming out and faking out John Cena was a brilliant wrinkle in the plans for a John Cena vs Undertaker match. It gave Elias a well deserved WrestleMania moment
- Undertaker’s reappearance, between the Hate, gloves and coat appearing in the ring and then being hit by lightning and disappearing, to the gong going off and the arena going mental, was absolutely magical
- John Cena getting maybe two offensive moves total in the match, and losing in what seemed like 5 minutes, made it all that much better
- Daniel Bryan. Just, Daniel Bryan. First wrestling match back in two years and he still commands the audience better than anyone else
- The Raw women’s title match told a better story than it was a match, and that worked out for it
- Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen in the history of man
- The Nakamura heel turn, a MAJOR swerve, shocked the hell out of me
- Braun Strowman choosing someone from the audience to be his tag team partner, completely walking past No Way Jose and choosing a 10 year old over him (that says a lot)
- Said 10 year old, Nicholas, got one of the biggest pops I have ever heard in my life when he tagged in
- The Universal title match was beyond what I ahd expected; it seemed as if we all knew what would happen, but boy were we wrong
- In probably the biggest swerve of the night (which says a lot), Brock Lesnar retains the title after it looked like Roman Reigns would come back from FIVE F5’s and win the match
- No Demon Balor? They had the opportunity to have one of the most memorable WrestleMania entrances ever with Demon Balor, and he gets this head scratching entrance. Is it because the Demon never loses, thus no demon entrance here?
- Kurt Angle just can’t go anymore. Considering just two years ago he was still wrestling and wrestling at a moderately high level, seeing him tonight was sad
- The focus on John Cena throughout the first few matches was nauseating. We know he is “there as a fan” but do you have to cut to him that often and take the attention away at the men and women performing in the ring?
- The Smackdown tag title match could have used another 5-10 minutes. What we were given was quality, but it would have been much more enjoyable had it not been saddled with its brevity
- While it was great to see Cena more or less get dominated, it made the build feel pretty pointless, as pointless at the match. I have a feeling it’s going to culminate in a year long feud for WrestleMania 35 where it will be career vs career
- Taking Daniel Bryan out of the match right off the bat for the first 8-10 min really deflated the crowd, and he magically teleported back to the ring like nothing
- I’ll even go as far as to say that match was maybe my “least favorite” even though I genuinely enjoyed every match on the main card tonight
- Speaking of main card, the kickoff matches were overall pretty heinous. The Cruiserweight title match was fine, but the crowd weren’t invested enough. The Andre the Giant memorial battle royal was not that bad, with a (stop me if you heard this before) swerve that was pretty sweet. The formerly-known-as the Fabulous Moolah women’s battle royal was easily the worst match of the entire show, completely anti-climatic
- Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss wasn’t the best in ring match of the night, but it at least did tell a fantastic story
- Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles was looking to be a slow burn match, and just as it was about to really take off, it ended. It was the most disappointing match on the card, especially since it was supposed to be the next HBK vs Undertaker or Ricky Steamboat vs Macho Man, but it wasn’t. It was a slow, often plodding match that had a few strong moments, but failed to live up to the hype, and ended just as it was picking up steam
- A 10 year old winning the Raw tag titles. Yes, it was hilarious, and that kid was OVER like you wouldn’t believe, and it was a billion times better than WrestleMania 25 and Santina winning the Miss WrestleMania battle royal, but it was a bit too far of a stretch. It also made the Raw tag team division seem like a joke, even if it was a memorable and just a fun moment
- Roman Reigns kicking out of five F5’s from Brock Lesnar, including one through an announce table. Not even John Cena would do something like that, and he kicked out of like four rock bottoms at WrestleMania 29 against The Rock
- No Samoa Joe once again. He is still recovering from an injury it seems like, but it’s a crying shame he has missed out on two straight WrestleMania paydays in a row
- While Lesnar vs Reigns actually had a solid match, it felt too much like Lesnar was intentionally trying to injure Reigns, and at certain points, the same could be said for Reigns
- A number of early suplexes by Lesnar were sloppy in the kind of way that made it seem less like a work and more like a shoot. The suplex on the outside into the announcers table looked malicious and intentional. Then Reigns’ huge spear on Lesnar on the outside into the tables looked like he was trying to get him back
- The elbow strikes that gave Reigns a crimson mask that was about a .5 or .6 on the Great Muta blood scale, were completely unnecessary, and further made it feel like they were both shooting on each other throughout
- The constant John Cena camera cuts
- The fact that the pregnant fan/plant Cena sat next to in the crowd had more air time than his match later in the night
Match ratings (by star):
- SD Women’s Title Match – **** 3/4
- Mixed Tag Match – **** 1/2
- IC Title Match – ****
- Universal Title Match – ****
- SD Tag Title Match – *** 1/2
- WWE Title Match – *** 1/4
- Bryan & Shane vs Owens & Zayn – ***
- US Title Match – ***
- Raw Women’s Title Match – ***
- John Cena vs The Undertaker – ***
- Raw Tag Team Title Match – ***
The bad are more nitpicky overall than anything. WrestleMania 34 managed to deliver where I really had no positive expectations going in, outside the Styles/Nakamura match (which was somewhat disappointing) and the Charlotte/Asuka match. Did they match NXT TakeOver from the night before? They did not, but in their own way, managed to put on a high quality production that, for the first time I can remember, had no “bad” matches on the main card.
I think this would easily fit into a top five WrestleMania’s of all-time for me. It had what so many WrestleMania’s have been lacking for so long (and hell, the product as a whole) – storytelling. Whether it was the in ring performances or the psychology applied, WrestleMania 34 managed to capture that magic that had been lost for quite a long time. It also helped that the obvious outcomes were swerved in major ways.
If you’re someone that used to enjoy watching WWE and have grown frustrated with the direction they’ve gone with how overbearing the Roman Reigns force feeding has become, or just the bland wrestling and lack of storytelling, I implore you to give WrestleMania 34 a viewing. While it’s entirely possible that they will not retain this momentum and quickly stumble back into the stagnation that has plagued the product for years upon years, this is a five hour (yes, five hours) block of entertainment you will appreciate.