Every WrestleMania is going to be critiqued and criticised to varying degrees. WWE can’t please everyone, but in theory their job should to be to please as many as possible, while keeping long term booking and business plans in mind. With all that said here are some of my personal hits and misses from the highest attended WWE show in history!
Regardless of the in ring action WrestleMania is always fun because of the brand itself and the spectacle. I don’t care who you are, seeing over 100,000 fans (perhaps not legitimately) packed in to a stadium, with an awesome set and ridiculous amounts of pyro, is exciting. The fact that WWE has reached such heights is good for the wrestling business as a whole.
Some of the unique entrances also helped make the event special. Whether it was Sasha Banks coming out with Snoop Dogg, the New Day bursting out of a giant Booty O’s box, or Stephanie introducing Triple H from her skelator throne – going that extra mile for the fans paid off.
No WrestlemMania is complete without some nostalgic feel good moments. While we can all dream that Mick Foley has another street fight, Shawn Michaels puts on another wrestling classic and Steve Austin has that long speculated final feud with (insert name here), we know it’s not going to happen. So seeing them all deliver their finishers against the League of Nations and drink beer to celebrate is the next best thing.
Baron Corbin’s victory in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal is not so much a positive because he won, but because it was a genuine surprise and something fresh. There’s no telling where this will go. The cynical among us might worry that Vince has simply found his new Roman Reigns, while those with hope will recognise that up until now Corbin’s heel character has been everything Roman Reigns could have been and could continue in the right direction. But all that’s in the future, the moment itself felt spontaneous and that’s a good thing in a era of predictability.
Respect For Women
Stephanie McMahon’s annoying corporate PR feminism spiel and inserting herself in to the Diva’s Revolution aside, Lita marked a turning point at WrestleMania when she unveiled a new “Women’s” Championship belt and ushered in a respectable women’s division to replace the Divas. Given the opportunity it’s been proven that women can wrestle just as good, if not better than the men, so a title that is equal to the men’s is the right thing to do. Leave the Divas term for reality shows and the actual eye candy like Lana.
High spots are fun, especially when ladders are involved.
Ever since Mick Foley’s iconic fall from the Hell In A Cell, no Cell match has ever quite lived up to the hype. And although Shane McMahon is known for his incredible stunts, at 46 years old it was reasonable to assume he wouldn’t be doing the ‘big spot.’ But not only did he take the fall from the top of the Cell, it was higher than Mankind’s and he jumped gracefully in to an elbow!
Ok so there was some kind of air/bean bag under the table, but nonetheless it was absolutely freaking insane and the risk level was unfathomable! If this is it for Shane, he obliterated rational expectations. Thank you!
Fans Couldn’t Get In
Reports from the ground revealed that numerous planning errors, such as a bad queuing system and malfunctioning ticket scanners, caused many fans to miss the pre-show matches. They paid to see the event, so there’s no excuse for them to be stranded outside in the heat, demanding water, and missing the action. This isn’t necessarily WWE’s fault, but it is what it is.
The old adage “quality over quantity” certainly applied to this year’s WrestleMania. With the 2 hour kick-off show and then a nearly 5 hour main show, even those of us full of sugary snacks and caffeine were beginning to fall asleep. In the UK I was up until nearly 5am in the morning! A lesson could be learned from NXT here. A concise show that knocks it out of the park is way better than a super long show with areas that frankly sucked.
The Wrong Wrestlers Lost
There were some odd but not necessarily bad results last night, but AJ Styles doing the job to Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose being the play thing for Brock Lesnar should not have happened.
Since AJ’s debut he’s been lumbered with an ageing, slower and less entertaining Y2J in a condescending (the legend is teaching him the WWE style and getting him over) situation. The trouble is the storyline sucked, Jericho is not equipped to get the best out of Styles in the ring, he was already over, and Jericho didn’t give him the rub after all! AJ just looks like a chump now. He should have came in red hot, cocky and confidently expressed why he is so phenomenal and backed it up, had some balls to the wall matches with the younger talent, and if he had to work with Jericho – beat him!
The Street Fight was a let down for numerous reasons. Firstly they teased a barbed wire bat and chainsaw and didn’t deliver on either of them. Sure you can’t saw somebody’s limbs off, but a carefully planned (perhaps even pre-taped) spot where Ambrose chases Lesnar and saws through some props along the way would have been fun. As for the bat, if you don’t condone blood then don’t promise it. Simple.
Secondly Ambrose needed the win more than Lesnar. He’s the hottest babyface in the company. He should be in Roman Reigns’ position. Instead he became a suplex toy.
The Authority Continues
Everyone can get behind Shane McMahon having one last match. But to tease him taking over RAW, getting rid of the long overstayed Authority, and openly mocking the TV ratings and the lack of new talent getting opportunities in the process – and then not following through – is just counter productive. Now fans are left with a product many don’t like and were told not to like on TV! Tell a different story!
Furthermore this was the perfect time for Stephanie to get off TV and be the positive PR person she wants to be. Part of the reason she’s perceived in a negative light is because on one hand she’s pushing charities and “smiles on faces” and on the other she’s one of the most hated characters on the show. Pick one role!
Likewise Triple H (now seemingly a favourite) could have retired and switched his focus to being the face of NXT. Instead he’s likely to continue in this Tweener role that only serves to make creative more difficult.
The Wyatts Are Chumps
Yay for The Rock, yay for the return of John Cena, but did the weak and poorly booked Wyatts also have to feel the wrath of Rock’s jokes? He exposed them for the sake of some cheap laughs and then proceeded to kick their asses. The Wyatts should have come down and destroyed Dwayne before he could belittle them and Cena could have made the save. Then Rock could have gotten the upper-hand. To redeem the situation Bray vs Rock or a tag match with Rock & Cena against the Wyatts next year or at Summerslam would be interesting, but we know who would come out on top. Is it really worth it?
WrestleMania Ends In Boos
Stubborn Vince McMahon chose to live in a fantasy world and threw away the biggest WrestleMania in history by booking somebody the majority of fans don’t like as a face, ending the event in a chorus of boos when the story was supposed to be the opposite. He could have turned Roman Reigns heel months ago, he could have tweaked things so fans did get behind him, they could have thrown in some swerves and surprises such as The Rock interfering or the Shield reuniting. But instead Vince just did what he wanted with no logical explanation, other than spite. Simply put, this was a creative failure. The equivalent of Broadway actors getting booed off stage, or a movie getting a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. The excuse will be “it’s harder to book a face in today’s climate” and/or “any reaction is a good reaction,” but that’s all these are – excuses.
Zack Ryder Wins Gold
I’m indifferent to Zack Ryder winning the Intercontinental title. It’s just odd and I’m not sure where they’ll go with it. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if he just loses it tonight on RAW. You could say he deserves it, but long term what does that mean? With Owens, Zayn, Styles, Cesaro coming back, and NXT talent getting called up etc, the bone thrown to Ryder could have been something less important.
Charlotte Wins By Cheating
Sometimes predictable is a good thing when fans are behind the predictable outcome. Although I thought Becky winning the new Women’s title made more sense from a storyline perspective, the build for Sasha Banks, the WrestleMania diaries, her awesome entrance and the perception that she is the best talent of the bunch, made her the best choice and would have been the best “moment.” The fact that Charlotte won and then did so with help from Ric Flair just seemed bizarre. Especially when the Championship was given a vibe of respectability earlier in the night. A clean victory from a fan favourite would have put a full stop on the new division.
Also why is a strong, confident woman, a ‘BOSS’ crying?
Stephanie’s School Play
Skelator Stephanie was a fun visual, but her promo was a bit too over the top. I guess if she’s a narcissist heel it makes sense (“listen to me perform”) but it just made me chuckle.
— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2016
There were some very enjoyable moments last night, but bad booking and the Roman Reigns debacle took away from what could have been a much more ‘feel good’ event, especially since it was the biggest WrestleMania in history. Of course where they go on RAW tonight could explain and redeem some aspects of the show.