Happy Rusev Day!
Let’s talk about WrestleMania 34 from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
What a show it was.
Shades of WrestleMania 20
When the crowd’s chanting for CM Punk two minutes into a match, you’re in for a long night.
The match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns as a button-mashing spam of finishers. I lost count of how many Spears and F-5s got used. And it’s just so hard to get into a match like this when the crowd cares not one whit.
They chanted “Delete!” at Reigns once he got the upper hand on Lesnar. There was also a brief “Boring!” chant after Reigns kicked out of a third F-5.
I can’t blame them for booing that; kicking out of that many finishers after main eventing WrestleMania for the fourth straight year? We get it, dude. You’re strong.
And then Reigns kicked out of another. And another.
The crowd cheered for a beach ball instead and eventually started a “This is awful!” chant.
I wish I could say nice things about this, but what can you even say? Why did this go last? Why do this? Hell, why have Lesnar defeat the Undertaker three years back if Reigns wasn’t going to actually benefit from it?
After the match was over and the referees treated the geyser of blood spouting from Reigns’ forehead, he walked slowly up the ramp. A failure. He turned to look at a silent crowd as the end credits flashed in the bottom corner.
That moment was intriguing for me. That image teases that something will happen tomorrow. I’m excited for that, to see what’s next for him.
But I think it’s safe to say that this Lesnar feud that’s lasted for years has hurt Roman Reigns far more than it’s helped him.
Knee to Face
For a match to be truly special, it needs to excel in every facet. That includes a truly engaging story.
“What a dream match” doesn’t cut it. And that’s what I think was the problem with this match.
It had all the things you might want in a “dream match.” It had the pageantry - good god, that entrance from Shinsuke Nakamura was incredible. It had all the elements of an incredible match like proper pacing and innovative moves.
It just didn’t work. It was missing something.
And that something finally arrived…after the match.
AJ Styles countered Nakamura’s Kinshasa attempt into a Styles Clash to retain his WWE Championship. Nakamura and Styles did the thing every “dream match” has where the competitors hug and sweat on each other as the crowd applauds. Nakamura went on one knee to bestow Styles his WWE Championship and…whoops.
A low blow.
This isn’t over. And now that it’s no longer about that silly respect stuff, we can get into the meat of something real. I was disappointed by this match, but the ending gives me hope for a fantastic sequel.
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Of all the matches on this card, this might have been the one I was most looking forward to. I’ve missed Daniel Bryan desperately.
And against, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, who could ask for a better return? Zayn and Owens were fighting for their jobs and acted accordingly, sneak attacking the SmackDown Live management duo and putting Bryan out of commission.
It was a long time before Bryan got tagged in. It felt like ages. But it was only a matter of time.
…I hope you all have something in your life that you love as much as Bryan loves wrestling. It’s tangible – it’s so readily apparent in his body language. It’s palpable in every movement and facial expression. The crowd returned his love with a chorus of Yes! Chants.
I thought it was extremely notable that Bryan kicked out of both Owens and Zayn’s finishing moves. WWE wasted no time planting him back atop the wrestling landscape of their company – a move I wholeheartedly agree with. Bryan capped the night with a Busaiku Knee strike to Zayn and a Yes Lock to send the duo packing for good.
…Until later in the week, at least. But still, welcome back Bryan!
Early on in the night, a whispered word from a referee had WrestleMania attendee John Cena scrambling to the back.
Was the Undertaker here?
Naaah. Just Elias the Blackheart. You know, if I had not witnessed Tommaso Ciampa with my own two eyes last night, I might have said that Elias was the biggest villain in WWE.
Cena made short work of Elias in disgust and his music played. Just like the past few weeks, Cena forlornly walked up the ramp to the back.
But then his music stopped. The light dispersed. A jacket and hat appeared in the middle of the ring.
Lightning. Thunder. Undertaker.
And he essentially squashed Cena – and it was so cool! The sit up on the Five Knuckle Shuffle was nuts!
Cena wasn’t ready for this. He put all his efforts into calling the Undertaker out, but he never prepared for the actual moment. And for all his words and bluster, Cena sank into terror as soon as his music stopped. His acting for that moment was incredible.
This match felt like the precursor to something big on the horizon for the Undertaker. He’s not finished and he was clearly angry. This match was a rebirth after two losses in three years.
I’m excited to see what’s next.
A True Intergender Match
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!!!”
“Too late!” *arm snaps*
So, if you had any doubts about Ronda Rousey, you might as well let those go.
This match was INCREDIBLE. Booked to perfection.
The fourth match of the night started with Stephanie McMahon getting some cheap shots in on Rousey as she was forced to the outside. Triple H has always been fantastic at slowing the pace as a heel, and this match started very slowly. It needed energy.
It needed Rousey.
We need to give Stephanie so much credit for the shenanigans she pulled in this match. Her deviousness was perfect and helped to build one of the hottest tags I’ve ever seen.
Y’all. I thought Rousey was going to murder her. She nearly did.
Stephanie got no offense in without cheating. Hell, even her husband tried to spar with Rousey and was destroyed for his efforts. This match was historic for so many reasons, but the thing that is sticking with me is the fact that men and women actually fought each other at WrestleMania. Rousey put Triple H on his ass and had him in an armbar. Kurt Angle held Stephanie in the Angle Lock.
In the end, Rousey did her thing. Her Judo background is so freaking scary and impressive. She’s lightning quick and I cannot wait to see her wrestle the best women in WWE.
Kingslayer. Whitewalker. Champion.
This match started the show off and it was so fast-paced.
Seth Rollins came out in Whitewalker cosplay, the Miz sent the Miztourage to the back, and Finn Balor joined Sonya Deville as the second wrestler on the show to embrace the LGBTQ community.
And what followed was insane. For twenty minutes, these three wrestled like Cruiserweights. Who needs rest holds? Who needs time to breathe? Who needs rest periods and times for levity?
This match was a blitz of wrestling prowess. A seminar of ass kickery. I mean…what do I say?
They called back to so many moments – especially between Balor and Rollins. Rollins kicked out of the move that stymied him on Raw two weeks ago. Balor escaped another ride into the barricade like the one at Summerslam of 2016. When Balor had both men felled on the outside, of course he snatched Rollins to throw into the ring.
And the creativity of the finish! Balor was going for a pin and Rollins hit a Blackout onto the Miz’s torso. I’m also intrigued by Rollins choosing the Whitewalker outfit. It makes you think about Balor’s own transformation that he left at home for WrestleMania. Was it meant to send a message?
What a hell of a start to the show.
Wrong. No no no.
Why you no Rusev Day, WWE? (They’re really still trying with this Mahal thing? Damn.)
Charlotte Was Ready
Second match of the night. Second match knocked out of the damn park.
Firstly, Charlotte’s entrance was amazing. It was a callback to Triple H’s entrance a few years ago where she was masked as one of his servants. And now? She’s got Roman soldiers at her beck and call, y’all!
As for Asuka, she had counters for days in this match. It seemed like every stunt Charlotte pulled the Empress was ready for. Charlotte’s moonsault was countered into a triangle choke, for example.
There’s no counter for a Spanish Fly off the top rope, though!
In the end, Charlotte was able to become the one in however-many-and-one. She defeated the undefeatable. It’s incredible how dangerous her Figure Eight Leglock seems, too. Has anyone gotten out of that thing?
I’m a huge fan of how urgent this match felt, as well. Asuka worked Charlotte’s arm a bit and it was a savvy play. It makes Charlotte look so much more impressive for overcoming the injury to hit a one-armed figure Eight as well.
In the end, don’t let anyone tell you that women can’t destroy in wrestling. This match was better than plenty of WrestleMania main events in the past.
“I Loved You.”
Nia Jax should have Alabama Slammed Alexa Bliss about 50 more times. After pinballing Mickie James around ringside, Jax struggled to contain Bliss once her former best friend employed some underhanded tactics.
As for the match, it wasn’t as impressive Asuka vs. Charlotte from earlier in the night – but that was never the appeal. The point of this match was to see a bully get her comeuppance. To see a woman rise above insults and overcome adversity.
That’s precisely what happened.
I would have been fine if this match had ended in a squash. I honestly might have preferred it. Still, WWE made the right call and Nia Jax ended the show as your new Raw Women’s Champion.
Braun Destroys Float, Plucks Child from Crowd, Becomes Champion
And no, it wasn’t Cena.
Strowman made a complete mockery of The Bar and it was brilliant, going out into the crowd to get a kid as his partner. Strowman wanted to win this alone and found a fantastic loophole to do it.
(Cesaro also trash talked said child and threatened violence upon him.)
And then Nicholas – the kid’s name, by the way – got tagged in! And Cesaro scowled menacingly at him! So Nicholas did the only smart thing – he tagged in Braun!
Braun and Nicholas are tag team champions! Don’t question it!
The Dragonzord Won’t Save You Now
Xavier Woods, I love you so much. Pancakes on me if you’re ever in my neck of the woods, alright?
Speaking of pancakes, have you ever seen them do the worm?!
Unfortunately, the fun didn’t last for long. The Bludgeon Brothers bludgeoned. A powerbomb followed by another from the top rope? Vicious.
Soul Outlasts Heart
WWE, shame on you.
Firstly, how awesome was Mustafa Ali’s Sub Zero-inspired mask and ring gear?!
The crowd gave these two a well-deserved ovation for their work in the past few months before the match began, and the match quickly got into the story they’ve been telling in recent weeks: Heart vs. Soul.
When Cedric Alexander knocked Ali down, he implored his friend to “show me that heart!” Ali took the reins and asked for Alexander’s soul.
The story of this match was excellent. Both men got physical and desperate the longer this match went on and both of these men deserved more time to let the match develop.
Instead, WWE cut away to a silly Rousey promo. And I get it – they’re trying to sell this show until the end, but COME ON.
The crowd chanted “This is Awesome” for this match. Drake Maverick was nearly weeping as he handed the Cruiserweight Championship to Alexander.
And WWE cut away within seconds. Shame on you.
If 205 Live keeps bringing efforts like this, they will not be on the preshow next year. Hats off to you both, Alexander and Ali.
History Repeats Itself
Man, did you hear how Paige said “maybe next year?” That was brutal; I’m holding out hope for you as well, Paige.
Another note before the match – I see you with that gear, Sonya Deville!
I was a much bigger fan of this battle royal than the men’s. There was more going on than just the main storyline. Absolution got too big for their britches, the NXT women united to make an impact, and Becky Lynch even fought someone for wearing orange.
But in the end, it all came down to Sasha Banks and Bayley…until it didn’t.
Bayley wasn’t willing to trust Banks and took her offered handshake as means to throw Banks over the top rope. Banks hit the floor and Bayley raised her arms in jubilation, only to turn around into a Rear View from Naomi.
WWE did a great job with this match. Neither Bayley nor Banks are ever going to find success until they settle their differences.
And also – Bianca Belair is NUTS!
Andre the Giant is Woken
Were you jumping out of your seat for that incredible stare down between Baron Corbin and Kane?!
…Yeah me neither. Corbin ended up eliminating Kane as well and my god what a snooze fest that feud would be.
The issue with these battle royals is that they lack much in the way of a story. And that’s precisely why it was so smart to reintroduce Bray Wyatt to help Matt Hardy.
They even hugged afterwards! That was neat! Wyatt’s needed that change for a while now and I’m extremely excited to see where they take this. Special shout out for the Hardy/Tye Dillinger dueling chant spot.
This show was a roller coaster, as all WrestleMania’s seem to be. No matter your tastes, I imagine there was something on this show that you loved and something that you hated. And that’s what pro wrestling does better than anything else, doesn’t it? It pushes buttons.
I thought the pre-show featured some amazing ring work and a really rushed presentation. The two best technical matches of the night for me were the SmackDown Women’s Championship match and the Intercontinental Championship match.
Daniel Bryan was fantastic. Ronda Rousey was overwhelmingly impressive. The Undertaker segment was wonderfully booked.
…But the two “biggest” matches of the show underwhelmed for me. I’m shocked by that, honestly. Still, I think this was a good show that did a lot to provide intrigue for the WWE moving forward.
The undercard of this show was truly incredible. Perhaps the best undercard and midcard for a WrestleMania ever. But we’re 2,500 words in and I’m sick of typing. What did you think of the show, Cageside?