After listening to Booker T get over excited and forget what words are on the Kickoff panel we are ready for action in sunny Orlando and the stage setup looks magnificent.
Cruiserweight Title - Neville vs. Austin Aries
In retrospect this was a great way to kick off the show. It gets the crowd invested in a good, fast paced match early and it sets the tone for the show. This was good but I got the feeling that they were holding something back for the return match and that's fine. Aries had a lot of the advantage in this before Neville attacked Aries' previously injured orbital bone to turn the tide and pick up the win. It wasn't as good as Neville vs. Gallagher from Fastlane but it did the job of opening the card nicely. ***3/4
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale
This was for all intents and purposes the same as any other battle royal. Kick, punch, throw him over the rope. There were a couple of interesting happenings though. I was surprised that they had Strowman and Big Show eliminated so early and then there was the whole thing with Gronk. After we have got down to the last 3 (Mojo Rawley, Jinder Mahal!? and a strong showing from Killian Dain) Mojo and Mahal end up on the floor where Mahal decided it was wise to throw a drink at Gronk, it wasn't. There is a funny moment where someone clearly didn't tell the security guard that the spot was happening and she tried to stop Gronk entering the ring to get his revenge on Mahal. When the dust settled Mojo had won for some reason. I'm British but I love the NFL, however I've been Broncos fan for over 20 years so this just made me dislike Mojo more than I already did, which is an effort. If you don't wish damnation on the New England Patriots you might like the end of this match more than me. **
Intercontinental Title - Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin
It's bad enough that the IC Title match is on the Kickoff show but what is worse is that they gave us the most boring version of this match. With the way this match was built up you would think that we would get some sort of No DQ match or street fight, which would have been fun, but what we actually got was a 10 minute by the numbers match that did nothing for anyone. **
We start the main card in the same way we always start WrestleMania, with the US national anthem and other associated shenanigans. Also, the New Day.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
If there is, somehow, someone who didn't think that Styles was incredible going in to this match I assume they do now. He makes Shane look like a million bucks. They start the match off with straight up wrestling that is better than anyone expected, and it even includes the same 450 splash into armbar spot that happened on Evolve 80 a few days prior, but you knew that Shane was just waiting for an opportunity to do something daft. He gets that chance after AJ accidentally kicks the referee. Styles gets two trash cans from under the ring, props one against Shane and goes for the coast to coast. Shane throws the trash can in to Styles' face and hits a coast to coast of his own. He follows this up with his trademark elbow through the announce table but Styles gets out of the way. The finish of the match comes when Shane misses a shooting star press and AJ hits the Phenomenal Forearm for the win. Fantastic match that exceeded expectations. ****1/4
US Title - Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
This was the best built match leading in to WrestleMania which explains why I felt slightly disappointed after it finished. It was in no way a bad match but they didn't play in to the story as much as they should have. There was a really well done spot where Kevin Owens managed to get the tip of his finger on the rope to avoid the loss but there won't really be much that is remembered from this match as time goes on. The finish comes a bit out of nowhere too as Owens hits a nasty looking apron powerbomb, rolls Jericho back in and gets the 3. This had the potential to steal the show but for whatever reason it fell short. Not bad but forgettable. ***1/2
Raw Women's Title, Elimination Match - Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Everyone except Nia gets a special entrance with Charlotte in particular looking great. The match starts with all three women teaming up on Nia. There use a number of double and triple team moves, including a german suplex that folds Nia up awkwardly. They all cover Nia and she is eliminated. Charlotte hit that beautiful sky twister press that she does and at some point she attempted to take off the turnbuckle pad but didn't quite manage it. That would prove to be an issue as Charlotte eliminated Sasha by sending her in to that turnbuckle and pinning her. Commentary had to cover for it. The finish comes when Charlotte puts Bayley in to the tree of woe only for Bayley to throw her off. Charlotte then charges Bayley but she moves and Charlotte hits the almost exposed turnbuckle. This allows Bayley to hit the Macho Man elbow for the win. Good match which would have been better if they had avoided the issues. I also feel like this whole match would have worked better if this was Bayley winning the title as opposed to retaining it. ***1/2
Raw Tag Titles, Ladder Match - Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo & Cass vs. The Hardy Boyz
Prior to the match starting we get a New Day appearance to announce that there will be a 4th team entering this match and it's the Hardy Boyz. The place comes unglued when their music hits. They have done a spectacular job of making themselves relevant again and Matt deserves a ton of credit for the whole Broken Universe, he essentially invented a new type of wrestling storytelling. This match was exactly what it needed to be, high spots, nostalgia and DELETE chants and it was an absolute joy. There were too many spots to name but the most notable was Jeff Hardy (obviously) jumping off that ridiculously high ladder and Swanton Bombing Sheamus and Cesaro through a pair of ladders that had been set up between the ring and the barricade. I had great fun with this match and having the Hardys win was the perfect WrestleMania moment. What makes remarkable is that the Hardys wrestled a fantastic ladder match the night before against the Young Bucks in ROH. ****
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Jerry Lawler is on commentary for this match and all he does is rip into Miz & Maryse's marriage. I suspect that may be because he doesn't know what a loving marriage is like. I wish he was as funny as he thinks he is. The bulk of this match was Miz dominating Cena to loud applause from the crowd. Miz thrives in it too. Of course it ends with Cena & Nikki winning without really doing much. It was what it was. **
Following the match Cena proposes to Nikki. It's a nice moment for them but it does kind of prove Miz's point about them.
Non-Sanctioned Match - Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
Triple H comes out on a trike and he is in fighting shape. Steph looks great too. The match started off well but it fell away somewhat in the overly long middle section. This felt like they were having a long match just for the sake of having a long match. Rollins did some good selling of the knee injury and Triple H's character work was really good. The finish to the match was really good too with a Pedigree reversal sequence followed by HHH accidentally knocking Steph through a table and Seth winning with the Pedigree. If they had cut some of the fat from the middle of the match and gone with a more violent tone in keeping with the stipulation this could have been something but as it was it dragged too much to be a memorable match. ***
Pitbull concert. I assume the merch stalls, refreshment kiosks and bathrooms were packed to capacity.
WWE Title - Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
The build up to this match involved arson, desecration of a corpse and the use of ashes from said corpse to imbue oneself with the powers of Satan so I don't know why I expected anything at all from this match. Whatever expectations I had though were definitely not met as this was a complete and total fucking disaster. Bray's main strategy in this match was projecting images of bugs on to the ring. As strategies go it was complete dogshit. If any of it had led somewhere that would have been something but it didn't. It was just a series of pointless things that happened with the one shining light being that it only lasted 10 minutes. The worst match on this show, the worst WWE Title match in recent memory and one of the worst matches in WrestleMania history. DUD
Universal Title - Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
This on the other hand was perfectly executed. It was obvious that this match couldn't go long and it didn't. It contained 10 German suplexes, 4 spears (1 through a barricade), a Jackhammer, an F5 and a sweet leapfrog by Lesnar. That was it. It was fantastic. You will not see a better sub 5 minute match than this. ****
Smackdown Women's Title - Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch
Becky gets a Horizon Zero Dawn outfit, it's good. It's obvious that this match was rushed due to time constraints so it was basically get in, get your shit in and get out. It was pretty fun for what it was. Shame it didn't get a little bit more breathing room. I still think Naomi is sloppy though. **1/2
The New Day announce a record breaking attendance.
The New Day announce a record breaking attendance.
No Holds Barred - Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
So, here we are. I think we all knew it would come down to this. Reigns retired the Undertaker. I really wish the Undertaker would have retired after the End of an Era match at WrestleMania 28 but it wasn't to be. This was made into a No Holds Barred match at the last minute, presumably to cover for Old Man Taker. It wasn't a great match but I suppose that is to be expected when you put a 52 year old in a 23 minute match. Less would have been more here. It had one really noticeable botch from a Tombstone reversal that didn't help the flow at all too. Unlike some people I don't blame Reigns for it, he just couldn't deadlift Taker. It takes 4 Spears to put Undertaker down for good and one of the most storied careers in WWF/WWE history is over. The hope is that this makes Reigns a despised heel because nobody needs him to continue on the path he is on. **
Following the match Undertaker leaves his gloves, hat and jacket in the middle of the ring in a touching moment that will be remembered for a long time. Undertaker takes his last walk back up the ramp to chants of 'Thank you Taker'. It was a truly memorable moment in wrestling history.
Overall Grade - B
Like any show that contains 13 matches it was an up and down show. There were some great matches and memorable moments but on the flip side it also contained the Wyatt vs. Orton abomination.