WrestleMania 34 has come and gone and all the experts want to talk about the main-event and Ronda Rousey’s big debut but let’s look at the show from a different perspective.
I wanted to share some thoughts from someone with only a passing familiarity with pro wrestling. As someone who has watched every ‘Mania on the day it aired going back to the year 2000 (and I know many of you out there have me beat by a number of years), it’s easy for me to slip into a certain mode and see the show through very well-worn eyes.
But here’s what a pair of fresh eyes thought, and the “if you had to give it a 1-10 rating...” ratings that followed...
PRESHOW ANDRE BATTLE ROYAL
“The stage looks like Harley Quinn from the Batman animated series.”
“So it’s a bunch of guys not good enough for the main-event just throwing hands to see who’s the best loser?”
“I like the guy who looks like C-3PO with polka dots.”
(no comments about Matt Hardy or Bray Wyatt, which is understandable since it’s a storyline-driven moment)
CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
“I love the Sub-Zero cosplay entrance.”
“They keep screaming about heart and soul and it’s weird. Why are they so friendly?”
“These guys aren’t as flippy and crazy and fast as I was promised they’d be.”
WOMEN’S BATTLE ROYAL
“The trophy has fallopian tassels.”
“How come the redhead gets an entrance but the rest don’t?” (because they’re not important). “Oh, so I guess those other two are important too?” (yes). “Then why don’t they just let those three have a match?” (I... don’t know).
“That was fun but the ending made no sense.”
(The ending confused him because he assumed Naomi came into the match as a non-competitor like Bray Wyatt did.)
“Probably should have given her an entrance, huh?”
(The stage lights up with pyro and ballyhoo)
“Oh wow that’s awesome; do they do that every week?.”
(They used to...)
(Cena in the crowd)
“I bet he puts himself in the title match at the end.”
(Silly marks always fantasy book the dumbest things..on the other hand, if anyone has the power to do that, Cena has demonstrated it.)
I-C TITLE MATCH
“I was promised a man in paint.”
(nothing else of note, other than a few gasps, was said till the finish)
“Holy cow that was awesome. Everyone was so fast. That’s what the Cruiserweight fight should have been.”
SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH
“I remember watching a few times in the 90’s when women were just there to look pretty. Like UFC ring girls.”
“I need to go to the bathroom, can you pause it?”
(That may seem like an inconsequential comment, but it will come back into play later. He didn’t have a lot to say about the match while it was happening, so let me add a thought of my own: It’s amazing how far women’s wrestling has come on the main-roster. It’s gone from being a waste of time/filler just before the main-event, to the early Women’s Revolution matches, where they were thrown into a bunch of multi-woman fights that devolved into mere spot fests.
Now look what we have: A true one-on-one match with great psychology, happening early in the card when a fresh crowd can appreciate it. Women’s wrestling has finally reached the level of its NXT-peak, and the crowd was all in on it. I was fine with Asuka losing, even if it feels like they did it because it was the site of Taker’s loss and they wanted to hit another big shock-moment as well as build to next year’s presumed Ronda vs Charlotte main-event. Still, as an experienced fan it was shocking. On the other hand...)
‘I figured Charlotte would win since she had the knock-out entrance and everything.”
(That reminds me of watching Mania 30 and being in stunned silence when Taker lost, only to have my non-fan friend sitting next to me say “well of course he lost, look at that guy [Lesnar]!” Sometimes it helps to see things from an untainted perspective.)
US TITLE MATCH
“No pyro for these guys but at least they have their own caddies.”
“I don’t know what Rusev Day is...” (I explain what Rusev Day is) “...I don’t get it, but the crowd seems to dig it so that’s nice.”
(two minutes into the match he gets up to go back to the bathroom; he didn’t even ask me to pause it. The woman are no longer the bathroom break, even to casual-watchers.)
“Oh wow the only guy the crowd liked got pinned. You must hate that Indian guy.”
(You have no idea.)
“5/10 but I missed a minute or so of it” (No you really didn’t.)
“I love Ronda Rousey, but I don’t know about this...”
“Ha ha why are they riding motorcycles if they’re only going to go 2mph? It’d be more fun if they raced down the ramp.”
“Oh wow Ronda looks like Brittney Spears in the Baby One More Time video. I love it.”
“Why are you crying?”
(Because Kurt Angle is my favorite of all time and was the guy who debuted right around the time I started watching and... [minutes of Kurt Angle talk later] ...just seeing him in his singlet with that music and all that jazz. Shut up we had onions with our burgers.”)
“He looks like he’s wrestling with a flesh-colored airplane pillow”
(violent assault occurs)
“Oh man, this place is going to come unglued when Rousey gets in the match.”
(Rousey gets in the match)
“Ha ha this is awesome. I mean it’s stupid and corny but it’s hilarious and I love it.”
(Rousey and Triple H go at it)
“This should have been the main-event.”
“10/10 that was a blast.”
SMACKDOWN TAG TITLE MATCH
There was a lot of laughter here for New Day’s shenanigans. Little people-based humor might be a bit dated, but it sells.
“Those guys with the hammers look like they’re from some generic Playstation Smash Bros knock off.”
“Wait that’s it? What was the point of that?”
CENA vs UNDERTAKER (EVENTUALLY)
“Holy cow it’s...oh wait no.”
(No that’s a guy named Elias. It just looks like Macho Man Randy Savage...Randy Savage actually died several years back.)
Furious googling commences. “I’m not the only one who thinks so.”
(It’s the beard.)
“No it’s the crazy eyes.” (He shows me a picture of Savage on his phone, like I don’t already know Mach’ had crazy eyes).
“Oh he sings.”
(minutes pass, lights go out, then the cartoon lightning bolt elicits an uproarious laugh, then Taker finally returns. I spend the next minute recapping Undertaker’s recent history and Cena calling him out)
“Oh wow he walked on the ropes!”
(Taker wins decisively)
“Good: You call a man to fight like that and you deserve to lose.”
My commentary: Elias is so good so young he’s basically peak Miz without Miz’ early “funny hat and pants” years. He’s not going to be a superstar; he already is.
BRYAN’S RETURN MATCH
“Yeah I know the YES guy. I didn’t know he’d been hurt though...so he’s like the male Rousey (because of the huge ovation).”
“Why are you crying now?”
(Because Bryan worked so hard to get back here, etc etc etc)
“Does wrestling always make you cry like this?”
(Only when it’s good.)
“Those guys down there keep watching the ring, so Bryan’s obviously going to come back into the match.”
“This is just two bearded guys beating up an old dude.”
(Bryan comes back in, tears it up)
“7/10 needed more Bryan, or just less time spent without Bryan” (a sentiment I can not disagree with).
RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH
“These videos do a great job explaining why I should hate that beautiful woman. It’s like the simplest story in the world but I really want to see that big one squash her like a bug.”
(Bliss descends from the rafters)
“Yeah that’s cool and all but I really want to see her squashed like a bug.”
(minutes of wrestling happens)
“Still waiting for that bug-squashing.”
(Samoan drop from the top)
“hahahahaha that’s awesome. LIKE A BUG!”
WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
“So what’s the story here?”
(he says after watching the hype video and being impressed with the storytelling in the build-up. I tried to explain their history in Japan and how they are two of the best at what they do. He just nods and waits.)
(Nak’s entrance happens)
(he was tired by this point and since he had no context to the match, he had no vested interest)
“Man this better be the best thing in the world the way they keep saying it’ll be.”
(minutes of wrestling happens)
“I gotta pee.”
(I pause the show, he waves that it’s no big deal)
“I don’t...get it?”
“Okay, now there’s a story.”
My commentary: It’s hard to believe this is already Styles’ third ‘Mania. It feels like he just debuted, and yet he’s accomplished so much. Now he gets to join so many other greats in saying he was the number two match / Smackdown main event at WrestleMania.
After fizzling out over the previous hour, the crowd came back for the start of the match but they fizzled again just like my friend. It was too slowly-paced. Too much of a “WWE heavyweight main-event style” when it would have been better going at the speed of the IC title match. I also think if it’d happened in hour two the crowd would have been more forgiving. The right man won and I’m glad Nak turned heel, but this was a poor first match in the feud.
RAW TAG TITLE MATCH
(I recap Braun and his needing a partner. He’s too tired to laugh at the Mardi Gras parade from The Bar).
“Ha ha, he scared off the Burger King guy.”
(Braun pushes the float over the ramp)
“He’s like The Mountain from Game of Thrones”
(Braun seeks for a partner)
“He should pick that big girl who won the championship.”
“I guess John Cena’s not back in his seat or he’d be the logical choice...”
(Braun picks a literal child)
“I get it. If he wins he did it single handedly, and he can make that kid’s day letting him get the pin.”
(Braun wins and gets the pin)
“Well that seems like a waste.”
UNIVERSAL TITLE MATCH
(Roman comes out; my friend nods silently)
(Brock comes out)
“Man I hated that guy in UFC.”
(After multiple Germans and F-5 kick-outs)
“This is boring. Is this the last match?” (Yes, mercifully) “Shoulda been the Rousey match.” (They like to end with a championship fight) “Oh well then it should have been the little girl getting squashed like a bug.”
(Reigns wears a crimson mask)
“Oh wow, is that real?”
(Yeah he’s done that before)
“Thank goodness, that was stupid.”
0/10 “I hate Lesnar.”
(What about Reigns)
(shoulder shrug) “He didn’t do anything but kick out and bleed everywhere.”
My Commentary: This match was supposed to be Superman vs Doomsaday and the crowd was doing the wave and chanting “delete” and for “CM Punk.”
Is it still right to say “But Roman gets the biggest reactions!” when the reaction he gets for the biggest match of the year is about anything BUT him? The crowd couldn’t even get a good “let’s go Roman/Roman sucks” going.
So many F5’s but no one cared because they weren’t invested in either guy. Brock is leaving and Roman just gives the crowd nothing in the charisma department to invest in. Though to be fair, Lesnar is not a guy to help you get over since he’s just going to spam his two moves. If the crowd cares, a Lesnar match can be incredible (vs Cena in 2012). If the crowd doesn’t care it’s death (vs Triple H...all of the times).
(So what’s your overall rating?)
“It was an 8/10 show. A couple matches were boring and the Hammer Bros. tag match was a waste of time, and the one with the four guys, but the rest was fine, and some of it was awesome.”
(You said Bliss vs Jax should have been the main-event, what about Charlotte vs Asuka?)
“Oh yeah I forgot all about that. That was great. The show is just too long.”
Please note, the views and opinions above are not shared by me. In no universe would I have given the Bliss vs Jax match an 8/10. But it’s interesting to see it so highly rated here simply because he was invested in the story, and that’s really what hurt the WWE Title match.
If I was scoring it, I’d rate the show maybe 11th out of 34. The highs were really high and the lows (but for the main-event) were just mediocre. Imagine if this ‘Mania didn’t have the US and SD Tag matches, if the Raw Women’s match went 5 minutes shorter and the WWE Title match went 5 minutes faster...we might be looking at a top five show, even with the abomination of a main-event.
Instead it was just too long.
What are your thoughts on the show overall, now that it’s in the rear view mirror? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!