To preface, I’m a fan of 19 years who has grown up watching wrestling and the evolution from attitude to reality. I like to consider myself very level headed with my fandom. I believe I can look at wrestling objectively and without allowing passion to blind me to the good and bad of what I am watching.
For example, Roman Reigns is a fantastic wrestler who has put on incredible performances over the last few years. Is he my favourite? Not even close (Daniel Bryan knocked CM Punk off the top spot and Punk himself had knocked Austin off). Do I think Roman deserves the ridicule he gets from fans? I do not. This recap is not the place to discuss such topics however. Feel free to discuss wrestling with me @AndyF1069
The pre-show begun with the men’s battle royal. It immediately struck me that there was no introduction for any individual. Typically, the biggest participating names will receive music and an announcer’s introduction, which we later saw with the women. Because of the chaos of a battle royal, it was quite difficult to pay attention to everything at once and to comment on how entertaining of a match it was. I fondly remember R Truth getting jiggy with Goldust before being eliminated. Sadly, other than that and John Cena being shown in the crowd, nothing else stood out to me until the final two minutes. The appearance of Bray Wyatt was extremely unexpected and the crowd who had made it in early lost their minds. This was the moment which finally drew the fans to their feet. I’m not sure how relevant Bray can be as an ally of Hardy, but it’s different at the very least. Fans were very happy with the Hardy victory and delete chants went on long after the match ended.
The cruiserweight championship match was eagerly anticipated throughout, with moth men receiving large ovations during their entrances. Am I crazy or was it not announced to be a championship match? Fans were torn between who they wished to win. Seeing the intensity and aggression pick up drilled in how important this match is to both men and upped the investment that the fans were feeling. From start to end the crowd were hot for both guys and I believe that either men winning would have been equally satisfying. Cedric getting his foot on the ropes is the closest the fans got to choosing sides as they felt real empathy and sadness towards Ali for being denied his victory. Very fun match and I hope to see more from them in the future.
Next was the women’s battle royal, complete with introductions and music for Becky, Bayley and Sasha. These little touches made it feel like a big deal (on top of it being a first ever) which makes it stand out more than the men’s equivalent. We also got honest to goodness story telling. The NXT girls banding together was really cool, even with the irony that all the other girls are NXT alumni with many only being brought up to the main roster recently. On a side note, Bianca is going to be a huge star. She has so much presence and ability, especially for somebody as new as she is. I remember her being featured on wwe.com before having appeared on television. Clearly it was for good reason. The faceoff between Sasha and Bayley had the crowd on fire for the short moment it lasted. Pop of the night to that point went to Bayley “winning” but that was deflated mildly by Naomi appearing. No idea if it was mentioned on commentary or not that Naomi hadn’t been eliminated but it caught (at least my side of) the audience off guard. They quickly recovered and were happy with the ending, if not disappointed for Bayley. Like the Royal Rumble, the girls made the most of their opportunity to perform. I’m eagerly awaiting the time that we no longer exist in a revolution and that we exist in an acceptable era of women being as capable as the men and not needing to be reminded on a daily basis.
The Intercontinental championship was the absolute perfect way to kick off the main show. Three extremely capable performers, whom every single person in the crowd cared about. The match was paced extremely well. Fast enough to keep us interested at all times but not too fast to exhaust us. Each move had time to be digested and build ups were teased well, from the attempts at barricade powerbombs, multiple attempts at 1916s and extremely smart use of finishing moves. The final transition into the pin fall rivals any point in the entire show for fan investment and noise. We’ll likely have many combinations of these three men competing for the championship over the next few months and I am absolutely fine with that. It’s always a good time. I can’t imagine Miz not eventually holding the record for longest accumulative reign as IC champion.
Getting to watch Charlotte’s entrance up close and personal was an absolute joy. An incredible tribute to her father, whilst also being an exhibition for herself and her own talent. The crowd was red hot for this match from start to finish. I don’t remember any specific part of the wrestling that stood out, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was an intense wrestling performance from start to end and didn’t need any high spots to be a good match. Every person around me was invested in every minute of the action, no cell phone checking, no random chant attempts. Asuka submitting caused literally every person around me to either put their hands to their mouth or onto their heads. Nobody saw it coming. The shock of such a thing happening in the audience when you can’t hear the buzz of the crowd via TV audio or the increased intensity of the commentary really amplified the moment as a fan in the crowd. I imagine a similar sensation for The Undertaker at wm30. I do find it a tiny bit iffy that Charlotte hadn’t worked the leg prior to the submission. I feel it would have added to the story and the drama, but it certainly didn’t detract from the moment.
The US championship match was a bathroom and food break for many of the crowd. That’s unfortunate, but sadly the match justified this. It didn’t have the intensity of the opening triple threat and seemed to be by the motions. There is nothing I remember about this match other than the surprise ending. Perhaps the late addition of Rusev threw a wrench into the planned structure of the match. Besides the Rusev day chants, the crowd didn’t care about what was happening. After the match ended and the cameras were off, I got to watch Rusev walk up the ramp. I don’t know if it was for the sake of the live crowd or if it was real emotion, but Rusev looked heart broken. It didn’t come across to me as a wrestler being disappointed in his story loss, it looked like a real person being disappointed with how things had panned out. At least I got to see Glorious up close.
The mixed tag match is where the crowd really came into their element. For sheer investment in a match, this match blows every other match away by a country mile. Nothing else comes close. I’ve seen lots of discussion about Ronda far exceeding expectations. I don’t see it that way. We have a legitimate lifelong fan working alongside the brains behind the company. Kurt was there too. The match didn’t need to be a technical masterpiece. All it needed was simple believable storytelling and that’s exactly what we got. Everybody played their role to perfection. In an era in which bad guys rarely cheat, the non-wrestler Stephanie put on a clinic of how to be a bad guy and to build up anticipation for a butt kicking. As far as memorable moments, the entire match could be considered one. I would have loved to see a double tap out personally, but the ending was very satisfying regardless. My section of the crowd was on the ground. Typically, people stay seated for respect and courtesy of those around you for viewing sake, besides the big moments which everybody wants to see. The final ten minutes of the match had literally everybody on their feet with no signs at all of wanting to sit down. No other match can claim this. As much as people have been treating Ronda like Roman, they cleared cared about her. Fantastic start to WWE for her and I look forward to what comes next.
The triple threat tag match unfortunately had to follow this. I expect the time allotted to the match reflected this. We’ve seen over and over what the New Day and Usos can produce together. Luke harper can hang with anybody and Rowan can up his game when it counts. They certainly crammed a lot of action into such a short amount of time, but it was far too fast. It’s as if they tried to fit a 20-minute match into 5 minutes (which is likely the case). It was a fun match regardless, but I feel the potential wasn’t reached and who knows if this combo of teams will ever get this big of an opportunity again. As goofy as the Bludgeon Brothers are (it’s wrestling so it’s acceptable), they’ve been built as a credible threat and its cool to see that build continue. Congrats to them.
I’m so damn happy to see how highly the company thinks of Elias. What an incredible spot for him. He also got absolute nuclear heat with his lights off fake out. He was the most booed individual by far tonight, more so than Reigns (since the fans didn’t pay any attention to Roman’s match) and he did it masterfully. The gong of The Undertaker almost caused the roof to come off the place. For a single moment of crowd reaction, this might be the biggest individual pop. I got to watch Cena react on the ramp whilst the cameras were focused on the ring and on ‘Taker. Cena was freaking out and I feel the loss would have been more tolerated by fans if this was portrayed. He was completely off guard for this, having already resigned himself to not having his match. Getting to watch Taker’s entrance up close was an absolute thrill, and I also got quite the tan from the fire effects. As for the match, I feel it was perfect the way it was. Undertaker doesn’t need another 20-minute classic and probably can’t physically do so anymore. Cena doesn’t need the win and the loss doesn’t hurt him at all, because he is Cena. To me this was The Undertaker coming to kick the ass of the dude who kept insulting him before riding off into the sunset. I think it was absolutely fitting and I hope this is it in the ring for him. He gets that happy ending, having redeemed himself. Cena will get to acknowledge getting his ass kicked, discuss how we pick ourselves up and move on, give us a salute and he continues as he was.
The match I was personally invested in the most left me with mixed feelings. But to be a part of that crowd during Daniel’s entrance is something I can keep with me for the rest of my days. I get what WWE was aiming for, having Daniel produce the massive fired up come back, but with all respect, nobody wanted to see Shane as part of this match. Add in his real recent hospitalisation and it makes even less sense. He legitimately wasn’t 100%. Why expect him to compete for ten minutes straight at less than his best when the biggest babyface in the company was inches away? To take Daniel out at the start was the biggest boner killer in the history of wrestling induced erections. It seemed to really deflate the crowd up until his comeback. As fun and satisfying as it was, I feel it was squandered. The crowd definitely used up what was left of their stamina by the end of this match.
For the position in the card, the raw women’s championship did surprisingly well. Nia had Mickie for breakfast before moving into lunch with Alexa. Alexa gave her a bad case of food poisoning on the way out, looking like a threat to the more dangerous Nia. Personal highlight of the match for me was the two ladies sitting up facing each other. Nia screamed in rage, Alexa screamed in fear. Big pop. The crowd was behind Nia in a big way and that personally made me feel good. I was worried the popularity of the character of Bliss would detract from Nia, but the crowd gave her their full support and cheered enthusiastically when she won. I wonder if the emotions from Nia were as much from the crowd reaction as they were for the moment itself. Not a memorable match, but fine for what and where it was.
The WWE championship match is what triggered me to bite the bullet (you decide if that’s a pun or not) and book my Wrestlemania trip. I’m an enormous fan of both men, but was hoping for Shinsuke to get his big moment. Nakamura’s entrance was cool as hell too. I’ve read that it seemed messy on television. In person it sounded incredible, but maybe that’s subjective. Perhaps the acoustics of such a large stadium impacted how the audio came across on television? As for the match itself, it kills me to admit that it didn’t match my expectations. It was certainly fun with many cool transitions, but I feel it had so much more potential, especially from what we’ve seen before from both men. Maybe age and bumps are catching up to Shinsuke. He doesn’t seem to have captured the magic that he brought with him to his debut match with Sami Zayn. Maybe AJ’s injury hadn’t fully healed and he had to restrain himself for long term considerations. The heel turn caught me and everyone around me off guard with a transition from shock to awe. The fan in me legitimately felt sad for a few moments before realising how damn cool the ass kicking to AJ was. That was shades of the Shinsuke I’ve been hoping to see. I don’t know how I feel about a heel Shinsuke after the last two years of WWE, but if it helps him to find himself then I’m all for it.
I’d legitimately forgotten about the raw tag team title match. When Sheamus and Cesaro came out on their float, I thought it was supposed to be a fun segment to cool down to the main event. I was inches away from getting beads! I was anticipating a big name to appear as Braun’s partner, such as Batista or Samoa Joe. The approach they took was certainly different, but I fear they will milk the cow dry before the cow has even begun to lactate. As a one-off moment it would be very cool. Hopefully that’s how it remains. Nicholas got a huge reaction from start to end and the generally reserved section I was in all joined in with standing and clapping.
I have to be careful with my discussion of the main event and not go too off topic. Speaking as a fan in the crowd, the atmosphere the fans produced legitimately disrupted my enjoyment of the match and made it difficult to focus on what was taking place. The fans with beach balls intentionally sabotaged the match. There were zero beach balls in any of the prior matches, but amazingly turned up for the finale. They obviously would have been inflated after getting inside due to the ban on beachballs in place for WWE events. Brock and Roman could have put on the greatest match of all time but it would have been irrelevant. The fans made their mind up to not care about the match before the match had even begun. They were going to hate it no matter what. The beach balls caused the fans to pay more attention to the crowds than go the match. Multiple balls appeared and at one point at least four were going around simultaneously. People in my section were stood up watching the balls hoping for it to come to our area. This made seeing the monitors and ring impossible. And because the fans had the mindset of not caring about the match, they also didn’t care if others couldn’t see the match. They all assumed that everyone else cared as little as they did. In my eyes, the fans who had already made their mind up the hate the match may as well have taken a simultaneous dump in the crowd and then left to go home. I can’t comment on the match because I missed most of it. I ended up on Twitter to read reactions because of not being able to see the action and because of anger at the audience. This wasn’t even about being a Roman or Brock fan or disliking them both. We all paid money to see an event and many of us didn’t get to see a main event because of the ignorance and malice of a handful of fans which spread to the majority as the “cool thing” to do at that point in time. Funnily enough, Brock winning produced an enormous reaction of shock and even happiness from the crowd, even though the fans had already decided not to care. How impactful would the ending have been if the fans had actually watched the damn match? The experience of the main event left a very bitter taste in my mouth after what was otherwise an extremely fun night.
After the show ended I made my way to ringside for an obligatory selfie and got to watch Roman get treatment before leaving. He was obviously beat the hell up, and even with the cameras off the fans still belittled him. Why? I’m happy to say that I got to start a round of applause that eventually carried around to the handful of fans that were present. It saddens me that fans can’t let go of their pre-conceived perceptions to show appreciation for somebody who just busted his ass regardless of if they like his character or not. I saw the absolute best of wrestling fans tonight in person. I also saw the worst. Thankfully the earlier content was enough to keep this a happy experience for me. Being a part of such a loud and passionate crowd was as much of an experience as the spectacle of Wrestlemania itself. I made the spontaneous decision to attend after Shinsuke won the Royal Rumble and travelled all the way from the North West of England. The travel sucked. I’m currently in my second airport ten hours into my journey home. I have two more airports and 14 hours ahead of me to get home. My debit card got blocked (stupid American swipe systems, chip and pin is the way to go!). I had to walk home at 11pm at night in a foreign city through a dangerous neighbourhood. When my card was eventually resolved, Ubers cost me an arm and a leg, including a $50 (later reduced to $28) bill for my trip from the stadium to my hostel. There’s a lot more that goes into Wrestlemania than just wrestling and not all of it was enjoyable. Writing all this (on my phone mind you) this has been my chance to reflect and let everything soak in. I had an incredible seat and go to experience a whole different side to live events by being at the entrance ramp for the spectacle. I also got to attend the Hall of Fame (so much fun!) and NXT as well. You may ask me if it was all worth it after the bad experience of the main event and all the hassles, headaches and expenses involved.
To quote my favourite wrestler: Yes!