Finding the all-inclusive theme of a night with 14 matches is rather difficult, but if I had to take my best stab at it, I’d say the theme of WrestleMania 34 was the “E” in WWE finally getting back to its “F” roots.
If you’re a longtime fan of WWE, you remember the old line well:
Anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation.
And in the 1990s and part of the early 2000s, it felt true.
Don’t you remember when Monday nights were appointment television? When you weren’t sure what “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would do to the Corporation next and you didn’t know if Mankind would win the freakin’ WWF Title (if you weren’t watching WCW Nitro, that is)?
You had an idea where storylines were going, sure, but details were hard to come by and predicting their end sometimes felt impossible.
At some point over the last decade, that changed. The signs of where WWE was going with its top storylines became all too clear, all too apparent. The suspension of disbelief the company thrived on for years and years slowly but surely dissipated.
And because of the way things were, Roman Reigns, standing next to arguably the most popular person in the world, was booed out of the building upon winning the 2015 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia.
Something had to give, and to me, WrestleMania 34 was the culmination of a conscious effort by WWE to get the creative direction back where it belongs.
Of 14 matches Sunday night, I correctly called six, or less than half. Of the four men’s and women’s world title matches, the only one I properly predicted was Nia Jax defeating Alexa Bliss.
The key difference on Sunday night was the prematch advancement of reasons both sides could win.
WWE pushed The Miz becoming the longest-tenured Intercontinental Champion of all time extremely hard, so Seth Rollins took the title from him. Bayley and Sasha had to be the finale for the women’s battle royal because of their deep, rich storyline over the past two months, leading everyone watching to forget Naomi, the eventual winner, was even still in the match. John Cena and Undertaker had as unique a build as I can remember in years.
Ronda Rousey, in her first WWE match, in my opinion, stole the damn show.
And then there was Roman Reigns.
I’m not afraid nor ashamed. Let’s pull up my prediction for the WrestleMania 34 main event:
There are more than 12 matches on this WrestleMania card, and of them all, I am least looking forward to this one. The absurdity of that is this is the main event, which, by definition, is the bout I should be looking forward to the most. But it’s simple, I think. Watching this match, despite over a year’s build (see above), will be like watching the Sixth Sense already knowing our guy Bruce is deceased. Roman Reigns is going over. Vince McMahon is handing Reigns the torch even though it’s taken him six years to show any sign of a spark—and that’s only been in recent weeks. Do I think the match will be above average? I do. Will I care having known the end for months? I doubt it. Please WWE, make me look ridiculous for writing this paragraph... Pick: Roman Reigns
It was so obvious that Reigns would win the match, I begged WWE writers to make me look ridiculous. And guess what? They did.
And you know who else looked ridiculous?
The crowd in New Orleans tuning out the match, with pockets of fans bouncing around multiple beach balls, their backs to the ring. What a mistake that was.
I hope it served as a lesson learned.
I’m not saying Reigns and Lesnar had the greatest match of all time; they did not. And I’m not saying WWE officials ran the match at exactly the right point in the night; they also probably did not.
But the match was good. And while certain fans at the Superdome had their attention on beach balls, they were missing the surprise ending of surprise endings in the ring.
It took six F5s, but Lesnar defeated Reigns, and now no one can be sure what will happen on Monday night. And isn’t that what we have been longing for?
I’ll admit, “Anything can happen in World Wrestling Entertainment” doesn’t have quite as good a ring, but that’s beside the point.
What made wrestling so good back then has found its way back to the surface, and WrestleMania 34 served as the cold, hard proof.