OH YOU THOUGHT THE BONEYARD COULDN’T BE TOPPED WELL SAY HELLO TO THE TRUE MESSIAH OF WRESTLING WHO’S PAVING THE WAY FORWARD WITH OVER THE TOP CHARACTERS AND INSANELY FUN STORYTELLING: BRAY WYATT!
I am not okay. I am so giddy after the Firefly Fun House match, which absolutely should have ended the show but who cares, really? We got a Firefly Fun House match; that automatically earns this show an A grade. Spoilers, I guess.
WWE peaked, man. Not in terms of tv ratings or mainstream appeal or anything, but I guess in terms of my own enjoyment of the product. I’m not sure I’ll ever enjoy a WWE match more than I enjoyed the Firefly Fun House match. And I’m just rambling at this point and I need to start describing the damn thing, but how do you describe a masterpiece, Cageside?! I LOOKED INTO THE FACE OF GOD AND I SAW BRAY WYATT.
It was an acid trip from the opening moment. John Cena walked out like it was a usual match, and then suddenly the walls melted and Cena’s “Welcome to WrestleMania!” got morphed with Vince McMahon’s all those years ago...and suddenly, Cena was in the Firefly Fun House. He looked around, perplexed, and Rambling Rabbit gave him his marching orders: Go through that not-at-all-scary door that read, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Cena did, disappeared into darkness...only to be confronted by puppet Vince McMahon telling him to have Ruthless Aggression and to make his mark on the industry.
Cena was even more perplexed, walked off screen, and suddenly we finally got to the point of what the Firefly Fun House would be. It was a trippy, insidious reimagining of Cena’s career where his own insecurities were vocalized and Wyatt added onto it by showing Cena where he had failed.
Wyatt was in the ring cutting the same promo that Kurt Angle cut all those years ago, and Cena came out in the tights he wore during his WWE debut. He relived the moment where he defied Angle by screaming “Ruthless aggression!” and decking him with a punch...but Wyatt ducked. Cena had no idea what to do; he tried the same thing over and over, and Wyatt kept berating him until the scene suddenly changed and an 80s style Wyatt was introducing his tag team partner “Johnny Largemeat.”
Cena showed up with a set of dumbbells and blew himself out as Wyatt hyped him up. This felt like a call to his affinity for Hulk Hogan - which became more overt later - before Wyatt whipped him over to Basic Thuganomics Cena with the old SmackDown fist in the background.
This was the moment where Wyatt’s thoughts on Cena finally got vocalized. Cena seemed to finally become aware of what was happening to him here with the “so I can only talk in rhymes?” line, and he did what he usually did as the Doctor by insulting Wyatt over and over. Wyatt, however, talked about how awful it is for someone with a silver spoon like Cena to look down upon others for failing with their chances when Cena was given an unlimited amount of chances. From there, Wyatt morphed into his old persona - the one from WrestleMania six years ago. He gave one of the brooding promos that he was so well-known for, and vowed to fix the past.
He sunk to his knees in front of Cena, who was holding a chair, and told Cena to fix the mistake. Back then, Wyatt wanted Cena to show the world the monster he truly was by giving in to hate.
This time, Cena did. He swung, but hit only air.
We were transported to the past once again with Wyatt playing the role of Eric Bischoff introducing Hulk Hogan in the nWo. It was Hogan at his peak, Hogan at his most damaging...and Cena got to live it. Puppet Vince said “this is such good shit” on commentary to add to the surrealness of this whole experience, and Cena attacked again only to cut away once more.
Flickers of Cena’s past were shown. The crowd booing him, Cena’s failures - CM Punk escaping into the crowd at Money in the Bank 2011, most notably - before Cena was in the ring in his own gear with the Fiend behind him. The Fiend held both hands to his ears, the HURT and HEAL gloves, and Cena’s promo from the last SmackDown rang clear: “At WrestleMania, I’m erasing the most overhyped, overprivileged WWE Superstar in existence.”
Sister Abigail. The Fiend wins.
Literal goosebumps. WWE peaked. If the Boneyard made WrestleMania worth it, this match made WrestleMania amazing, even with its severe limitations this year.
This is my Fatality
WrestleMania couldn’t just be special moments like the Boneyard or the Firefly Fun House match, and in my opinion Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair was the best in-ring match of the entire weekend. It opened night two, and I loved it to bits.
(It also featured Rhea wearing what looked like Vegeta-inspired ring gear, which further cemented my investment into seeing her win the match.)
It felt more important than nearly the entire night one card right from the get go. And I think it’s because it had such a clear story that was told so well by the wrestlers. The pre-match video highlighted Charlotte’s vow to take Ripley into deep waters, and Charlotte vocalized the same point right at the start of the match. She did her best to punk out Ripley, and Rhea refused to back down.
It got physical in a hurry, and Ripley withstood the opening salvo without too many issues. In fact, Ripley started to gain an advantage, so Charlotte started doing everything she could to take out Ripley’s left knee. She’d attacked the knee a while back, and commentary was quick to point that out as the match went along.
Ripley would rally, but Charlotte always went back to the knee. In fact, she hit Ripley with a knee chop at one point and it was so vicious; Ripley went down like a ton of bricks and howled in agony.
This ended with Charlotte locking in the Figure Eight and forcing a tapout, and you know what? That might honestly be the best outcome if you’re willing to put aside the disappointment of seeing Ripley lose. This gives so many fresh matchups to NXT with Charlotte around. It also brings with it a “we’ve never seen this” mystique which could be really cool.
As for Rhea, my goodness. This might be the best thing that’s happened to her in quite a while. Think of all the potential stories they’ve just given Rhea. Our favorites shouldn’t just be champions all the time; they should have setbacks and struggles. She brought an incredible fight to Charlotte, but got caught out by one of the most decorated champions in WWE. There’s no shame in that...so long as the storyline moving forward is fun.
Let me put it this way: I’m not discouraged by this. Instead, I desperately want to see a rematch down the line...and I want to see Rhea Ripley find a way to break the Figure Eight and thrive in those deep waters.
Every Vegeta has their day, Rhea. Keep grinding.
Drew McIntyre rewrites his legacy
The Goldberg vs. Strowman match from night one was disappointing. But Brock Lesnar and McIntyre showed you how to properly do a finisher spam match on night two.
This ended the show, which I don’t think was the right decision considering how incredible the Fun House match was, but who cares? Lesnar attacked right from the opening bell, but got caught with a Claymore pretty quickly. That earned Drew a 2 count, and he set up for another one but got caught by Lesnar. That featured a minute or two where it felt like this was going to slowly fall into the usual “Lesnar throws a guy around for 5-10 minutes” trope. Drew ate a few German Suplexes and three F5s, but kicked out of everything. And as Drew crawled to Lesnar’s boots in an attempt to get up, Lesnar told him he could do this all night.
Uh...wrong answer, Brock. McIntyre slipped the next attack and followed up with another Claymore. He capped it off with yet another, and won the WWE Championship.
There was more meat to this match than the Universal Championship match on night one. The two opponents also just seemed way more dangerous, at least to me. It’s a shame that McIntyre wasn’t able to have this moment in front of a crowd, but this was a really solid story. McIntyre always came across as likeable and relatable in this build, which is honestly somewhat rare for a top-billing babyface.
Edge Stands Tall
I was complaining in nearly every Raw and SmackDown review over the past few weeks about WWE’s refusal to use the entire Performance Center in their shows. Ah, this must have been why.
This match...I have mixed feelings, which really sucks. I loved the build, I love both guys, and thought there were some great moments all throughout the fight. Orton staged himself as a camera guy to get the upper hand with two RKOs to Edge. Edge’s calculating side glances as he figured out how to use the exercise equipment or the caged ceiling of the office room to hurt Orton were great as well.
It was also great to see the entire PC. The gym was really cool, and featured a spot where Orton tried to murder Edge with a weight sled. The office was great, as was the warehouse that featured a ton of equipment. Hell, that 30-foot ladder at the end was mesmerizing as well.
The problem is that...well, this match lost my attention. I noticed somewhere around the point where they left the gym that my attention was waning. I kept checking my phone, and then the clock, and then social media to see if others were having similar thoughts about the match. This match was about 20 minutes too long.
And that sucks, because it had such a poetic ending, too! Edge was nearly in tears over the loss of a friendship before ending it all the way it began: with a con-chair-to.
It’s rough that the world is how it is at the moment, because I’m still psyched to see Edge wrestle someone else. But I’d like to see the legend get a singles match in front of a crowd, and who knows when that’ll be allowed to happen?
Bayley def. Lacey Evans, Sasha Banks, Naomi, Tamina - The story here is clearly the beginning of a Bayley/Banks feud, so let’s talk about that first.
The duo were interviewed backstage before the match where Bayley confidently proclaimed that they were on the same page and would back each other up. But as we’ve come to expect recently from her, she had to look to Banks for assurance, because even Bayley isn’t buying her own bullshit.
And that was evidence in this match after Naomi and Tamina got eliminated where Banks got caught with a Woman’s Right from Evans and Bayley had a chance to break the pin attempt up...and didn’t. Banks got eliminated, and that rift is absolutely not going away.
Banks made the save at the end for Bayley since this was a no disqualification match, and Banks went a step further in handing Bayley her title and putting it around her was for her. But like I said...that right ain’t going away.
Otis def. Dolph Ziggler - This match was always going to be about the outside interference, and it came when Otis had Ziggler in a spot of trouble. Sonya Deville, who accompanied Ziggler to ringside instead of Mandy Rose, hopped up onto the apron to distract the ref long enough for Ziggler to punt Otis between the legs.
That brought out Rose who laid her former tag team partner out with a flurry of punches. She slid into the ring and hit a dismayed Ziggler with a below-the-belt uppercut. Otis would win, hug Rose, pick her up, and kiss her.
...I’m not sure I needed all of that, but sure. Good for them.
(Who the heck scoops someone up like that?)
Aleister Black def. Bobby Lashley - This was way better than I thought it’d be! The story was Black trying to find a way to survive a much bigger opponent than he’s usually facing, and it started right off the bat when he tried to snatch Lashley up in a standing Kimura attempt. Bobby’s strength won out, however, and Black had to struggle to get back control.
Here’s the thing - the small guy having to deal with a big guy struggle works, but Bobby’s a midcarder. If Black’s supposed to be important, he needed to find a way to win this decisively. Countering a Spear into a Black Mass is as decisive as it gets.
The Street Profits def. Austin Theory, Angel Garza - This was a really solid match with a fun finish. Theory had Dawkins dead to rights, but Montez Ford was atop the turnbuckle and hit a splash to break up the pin attempt. Dawkins rolled over and flopped an arm over Theory to win the match.
The heels beat up the Raw champions when Bianca Belair came out to make the save. She hit Zelina Vega with a K.O.D. for good measure and...y’all. Find someone in your life who will look at you like Montez looks at Bianca. Who knows if this was an actual call up in the face of whatever the heck WWE will look like moving forward, but it was a fun middle-of-the-show moment.
I thought night two was a better night of WrestleMania than night one. And I’m still grading on a curve here, okay? An 80,000-attended WrestleMania with pyro and atmosphere is just a different monster than what WWE was able to create this year.
But you know what? This night had flaws, but it also had the Firefly Fun House match. I rest my case.
Love ya, Cageside. Stay socially distanced and awesome.