Thirty years of WrestleMania have come and thirty years of WrestleMania have gone, but the memory (as James Hetfield said once in a really bad Metallica song) remains.
Now that the initial shock and awe has worn off, we can all get to evaluating the event we've spent the last few months predicting and analyzing. A few rumored-events occurred last night (Daniel Bryan winning), a few shockers were pulled off (Undertaker losing), and some curious booking decisions were made along the way (LOLCenawins).
All in all it added up to one of the larger spectacles WWE has ever managed to pull off. Here's how I graded each piece of that spectacle:
***** - One of the greatest moments you'll ever see in a wrestling ring.
**** - An instant classic - true WrestleMania moment.
*** - Very good quality for a PPV.
** - Solid, if unspectacular, possibly forgettable.
* - Bust. Don't even bother watching.
OPENER: Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock in the same ring. If that didn't get your cold, smarky heart to increase three sizes that moment you really should just stop watching wrestling. This was probably the best way to open the show and Hogan flubbing his lines actually made the whole thing even more endearing. I wouldn't expect Austin to ever get back in the ring, though, he was sporting a noticeable gut underneath that t-shirt. I'm not going to fault him, he's earned that beer belly.
FIRST MATCH (Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H): Daniel Bryan and Triple H put on a typical Triple H psychology-heavy match. If you like Triple H matches, you probably loved this as it played to the strengths of "The Game" and Bryan did his plucky underdog part to perfection. The match didn't go a second longer than it needed to, wasn't over-booked, and set the perfect tone for the evening.
SECOND MATCH (The Shield vs. Kane & New Age Outlaws): The New Age Outlaws and Kane really have no business taking up a spot on a WrestleMania card, and it's more than a shame that of all the performers who had great years in 2013 and so far in 2014, the three members of The Shield are basically afterthoughts. They got a big-moment, but their win at WrestleMania 29 was more impressive, since, well, they actually faced guys who could go. That being said, the squash was fine for what it was - the first cool-down segment of the night after a hot opener. Still, The Shield deserved better.
THIRD MATCH (Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal): Things I didn't like about the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: The jobber entrances for 98% of the participants (78% of whom were actual jobbers). The fact that a commercial cut out what was probably the last WrestleMania entrance for Rey Mysterio, who probably deserved better. Also the match itself was pretty dull for the first two-thirds of it -- as most Battle Royals are -- which is why we don't see a lot of them outside the Royal Rumble - which is a controlled Battle Royal. This was uncontrolled, and at times looked like a complete and utter mess with action being difficult to follow for seeming everyone from the camera crew to the announcers. I love that Cesaro won, and love how he did it - with a great throwback to Hogan slamming Andre at WrestleMania 3. I just hate that for that 3-second moment we had to sit through 15 minutes of crap.
FOURTH MATCH (John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt): I was feeling this match until the end, even though it never quite got rolling the same way Bryan vs. Wyatt at Royal Rumble did, but this match felt like a bigger deal overall. Then, of course, the LOLCenawins part happened and everything they had built into this match over the past two months suddenly went away. So much for Cena putting the young kids over. So far, Cesaro and Wyatt are 0-2 against the great multi-colored yardstick.
FIFTH MATCH (Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar): This was such a shocking ending I'm surprised Brock Lesnar didn't come out to a live band playing 'The Rains of Castamere'. It was still a shock to see Undertaker's shoulders remain on the mat for the three-count. This whole story and build-up was so surreal. It almost came across like the only two people in the world who didn't care about the streak was the guy holding it and the guy trying to break it. The last time I watched a wrestling event and felt a palpable sadness permeate an arena was the night Owen Hart had his tribute on RAW. Once you get past the general shock, though, you're left realizing one of the greatest performers of all time just went out like a crippled old man who had no business being in the ring in the first place. It was, and I think I'm not alone in this assessment, rather uncomfortable watching Undertaker try to keep up with even a slowed-down Lesnar and the moderate pace he cut last night. The match itself seemed like it lacked the planning and forethought that went into "The Phenom's" last few WrestleMania matches. A lot of stuff just seemed called out on the spot, and maybe that added to the sloggy feel of the match. Overall, this was so shocking I'm still not sure how I feel about the choice of Lesnar breaking the streak. I do, however, know how I feel about the match. It sucked.
SIXTH MATCH (Divas Championship Invitational): Boy, were the Diva's put in a unenviable position or what? They were going to be the cool-down match no matter what, but with Undertaker's shocking loss right before, the Diva's match felt more like time to give the fans a moment to sit silently and rock in the corner, telling themselves it'll all be all right - rather than a standard bathroom break/recharge segment. Hey, at least the girls got a pay day.
MAIN EVENT (Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan): Yeah, this match was the best match of the night. Not by far, but it slightly eclipsed the opener because of the drama surrounding the chance of a screwjob. And once Triple H and Stephanie McMahon made a return and Bryan started getting carted out (note - I actually thought he hit his head on the monitor during the Batista bomb and got knocked out) things seemed gloomy for the bearded wonder. I greatly enjoyed Randy Orton's work in this match. He'll probably never get the credit he deserves for doing all the little things right, and he definitely deserves respect for continuing on after falling flat onto a monitor and almost breaking his back. That's dedication and professionalism. As for Batista -- well, he was there. He didn't add too much and didn't take away too much. He served his purpose, as did basically everyone involved in this story, which was one of the better-told stories leading into a WrestleMania in years. Fine match that all involved with should be proud of. Bryan is finally a made guy.
OVERALL SHOW: ***
This was not the best WrestleMania of all time That's not a complaint, by the way, it never could have been considering the fundamental lack of talent on the roster right now. I would like to say this is probably the best they could have gotten out of this roster in terms of making WrestleMania 30 as good as it could have been, but again, some curious booking decisions cast doubt on that notion. Did Cena really need the win? Was Lesnar the right guy to beat the streak? Should the streak have ended with so little fanfare? Why was the hottest group in the company relegated to a 7-minute squash match?
Lot's of curious decisions, booking-wise, probably will eventually lower the overall feel of the show over time. I think people are still riding the sugar-high from seeing Bryan win, as well as the gut-punch of Undertaker losing, to truly step back and evaluate the whole show.
This wasn't one of the worst WrestleMania's of all time, but it wasn't one of the very best either. It relied on one guy to carry it (Bryan) which makes it look and feel better immediately than it might a few weeks or months from now. If I had to rank it, I'd put it somewhere in the upper half to upper-third of the 30 shows. Maybe somewhere around No. 11 to No. 12 all-time.
Not too shabby, but not as good as it could have been. Re-book Wyatt to beat Cena, re-book the Shield to actually have a real match, and somehow go back in time re-do the entire Lesnar-Undertaker buildup so that the ending fits... and maybe, just maybe, this ends up being one of the Top-5 WrestleMania's of all time.