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The Tale of Two Wrestlemania Shows



The biggest show of the year is in the books and in many ways, it was a tale of two Wrestlemania events.

Since it would be too lengthy to cover the entire seven-hour show, let’s discuss a few highlights and the impact of those moments on the direction of the product. The first two hours were solid. The IC title match provided good action to set the tone as a good opener, and Seth Rollins has a renewed push as the champion, which is something that can give his character some direction, as he floundered in some ways after Dean Ambrose’s injury led to an abrupt conclusion to the Shield reunion.

Arguably, Charlotte/Asuka stole the show. The bout delivered in the ring and had a “special event” atmosphere to it that suited the WM stage. It was competitive enough that the end of the streak doesn’t necessarily hinder Asuka’s momentum, but much of that depends on where she goes from here. It seems like it’s pivotal for her to be involved in a meaningful angle post-WM so that she doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Charlotte has evolved in the role of a star during the duration of her WWE career and continues to do extremely well as one of the cornerstones of the women’s division. That said, it appears that an eventual Charlotte/Ronda Rousey showdown would be money on pay-per-view.

The US title match was very basic and more or less just a Smackdown TV match that was put on a bigger stage. But, it was kept short and didn’t really affect the pace of the event. Perhaps, the biggest note from this contest is that despite the win, Jinder Mahal is less over now than he was when he was WWE champion.

The Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H/Stephanie match was a wild card because nobody really knew what to expect from the former UFC Bantamweight champion inside the squared circle. I was very skeptical ahead of this match, as Ronda’s promos and selling were awkward on Raw. However, Ronda exceeded expectations and did very well, especially with the presence she brought to the match. Granted, the fact that Stephanie McMahon could block an arm bar, the same submission that trained MMA fighters couldn’t escape, was ridiculous, but wasn’t a surprise. But, the bigger story is Ronda made the transition and set the stage for a major match the next time she’s scheduled for another pay-per-view. While she must be booked on a limited basis to protect her aura and cover her inexperience, even a few key matches a year will be enough to boost business for the WWE.

After the good opener, the stellar women’s title match, and the thrilling Ronda debut, the event took quite the down slide.

The Smackdown tag title match was okay, nothing great, but nothing terrible either. It was similar to the US title bout, mostly because it was another TV match that happened to be on pay-per-view. The repackaged Bludgeon Brothers won the belts and definitely needed a new path, but haven’t been over since their run with Bray Wyatt so time will tell if they make progress with a new gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, Harper is an impressive athlete, but lacks the mic skills to get over on his own. Rowan is almost just another generic big man, but works well with Harper, who needs someone to work with so the duo are a logical team, but again time will tell since they were repackaged before without any long-term success.

The Undertaker has an incredible presence and he might be the best character in the history of sports entertainment. I have a tremendous amount of respect for everything that he did during his legendary career. He’s a prime example of what a true professional should be in the industry. That said, the very brief match was less of a way to see The Undertaker on the show and more of an indication that he can’t perform a full time match. It just didn’t make much sense that John Cena, one of the most accomplished performers of all time, was pinned in less than three minutes at WM. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with “burying” Cena, he’s bullet proof and could lose every match for the rest of his career and still be one of the most over on the roster. The short match just came across as rather odd and underwhelming, considering the star power involved in the contest. It’s possible that this was booked to allow The Undertaker retire with a win, but if he continues with short matches in the future, it might’ve been a better option for him to retire after a main event at Wrestlemania 32.

Maybe it was just the length of the show or the booking of the match, but the momentum of the event halted during the Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn match. The stretcher scenario wasn’t what people wanted to see and it created the very predictable spot for Bryan to finally make his way into the ring so the crowd wasn’t too involved prior to that point in the contest. Credit to Shane for wrestling injured, but his offense looked very sloppy. It’s possible that this segment would’ve worked better if it was kept basic and set up for a tag for Bryan to lead to the conclusion in a much shorter span of time than the 15 minutes the match had for the show.

The Nia/Bliss title match was okay and told a good story from a storyline perspective, but again, was another bout on the card that seemed more like a TV match. This could be another effect of such an extensive show, and there’s probably not much either competitor could’ve done to get more of a crowd reaction.

The WWE title match that was promoted as a “dream match” was decent, but didn’t live up to the hype. It’s possible expectations were too high for this contest, and while I didn’t think they were going to recreate their epic bout from the Tokyo Dome a few years ago, I was disappointed that this match, at least in the context of a five-hour main show, wasn’t a classic bout. It was more of an average pay-per-view match than the memorable WM match.

The tag title match really had no place on the show. The entire angle was more to give Braun Strowman something to do when he probably should’ve had a main event role than anything else. In the process, the tag division was completely buried because Braun defeated the entire division, and then a 10-year-old kid wins the title. Sure, there’s the novelty of a kid involved in a match, but it was just too hokey and didn’t translate on-screen. The tag division was emphasized the past few years, but I’m not sure a tournament on Raw restores that credibility. More than anything, the tag titles were used for an attempted comical angle, but it was lame.

The main event had a surprise ending, but just because it was a surprise doesn’t necessarily mean it was the right decision. The WWE invested an entire year for Roman Reigns to kick out of the F-5, the move that pinned Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman, and when Roman kicked out, there was barely any reaction. The match itself seemed very sloppy and it was surprising to see that Brock appeared to mail it in instead of a stellar performance. It took six F-5 moves to finish the match, which really kills the credibility of the move. Maybe this is an attempt at reverse psychology for WWE to “force” Brock’s repetitive offense in the main event, but that does nothing to get Reigns over.

The follow-up on RAW was just as flat, as it sounded as though Roman tried to cut a “worked shoot” promo. Reigns complained about getting a rematch against Lesnar, which doesn’t make sense for a baby face. It’s very possible that Brock drops the title at the stadium show in Saudi Arabia and WWE gets the moment to proclaim Reigns as the champion, but that won’t be nearly as effective as a win at WM. Keep in mind, Roman might get a better reaction in Saudi Arabia, but 95% of WWE shows are in the United States so the hostile crowd reaction will continue even if Reigns wins it.

The bottom line is, the main event of Wrestlemania was underwhelming. At this point, the WWE is booked into a corner because they invested a year into the moment that Reigns wins, but there wasn’t a pay off. Lesnar’s effort is questionable and there’s not much buzz around his part-time schedule. More than anything, it makes it difficult to book Raw on a weekly basis when the champion can’t be used on the show. Does anyone want to see the same basic Brock match that he has done for the past two years? Especially when there are several talented performers on the roster that can deliver stellar in-ring matches. Where the WWE goes from here is anyone’s guess, but if a year build up didn’t get Roman Reigns over and four consecutive years didn’t work, it might be time for management to finally change the plan.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta