IHAO on ... Wrestlemania XXX

Yesterday, I took a day off.  I spent all day excitedly awaiting Wrestlemania XXX.  I feel a little guilty about it, to be honest.  But in the end, it was special.  It was great to be able to sit back and watch all day, to have the snacks out, to enjoy the pre-show, the build up from the last Mania, and to see the arena fill up.  I was excited for this PPV.  I do not normally get too excited for PPVs any longer.  But this one ... this one had all the makings to be an important one.  I don't want to be too flowery here, so let's get to it.

Pre-show: The Usos (c) retain against The Real Americans, Los Matadores, and RybAxel in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Tag Match

Ahh, the burgeoning state of tag team wrestling.  There are 3 legitimate teams in here, and 4 more teams highlighted elsewhere on this PPV, as well as the amazing Ascension in NXT just chomping at the bit to get called up.  We are in a nice place for tag wrestling, which I'm a fan of.  That said, I got a few complaints to put out there immediately.

Early on there is a terribly contrived spot where everyone is thrown outside so they can do one of those "throw myself onto the huge pile of people" spots that has become surprisingly prevalent in the past year or so.  Two bad guys go out, then two good guys dive, then two more bad guys go out, then Los Matadores fling themselves, then El Torito throws himself, bah, whatever.  It is contrived, doesn't look convincing, and is just a spot.  Spots for spots-sake are boring, and hurts the story of the match.  And there is a story to this match, which is great.

Second big problem ... the two tag teams that were supposed to last the longest were the ones in the standard tag-corners.  WWE has put the tag teams in the following corners forever: good guys far left, bad guys near right.  So surprise surprise, the first two teams to get eliminated were the good guys far right and bad guys near left.  Then it just looked like a normal match.  It was hokey and again, weirdly pre-planned.  The fun of wrestling is that suspension of disbelief, that indescribable aura of not knowing what is gonna happen.  Don't do stupid stuff like that, WWE.

Ok, so the match itself.  The story here is that the Real Americans, Jack Swagger and Cesaro, are on a roll, and have been.  They look strong as a team and are going into this to finally win.  But there has been some cracks in their armor.  Cesaro was able to make his way into the Elimination Chamber when Jack Swagger lost his match.  Swagger doesn't like getting shown up, and they've come to words a few times, but before anything too violent has happened, their manager has pulled them together.  Now, we are in the match, and the Real Americans are looking like champs.  Swagger eliminates Los Matadores.  Cesaro eliminates RybAxel.  Together, they should be able to stop the Usos.  But the Usos are a team that showed no problems, and eventually took advantage of a small breakdown in communication, pinning Cesaro after a double superkick followed by a double splash.  Usos win a really solid tag match, two problems I said above put to the side.

Verdict: Pretty Daggum Good

But the real story here is what happens after.  Swagger, pissed at Cesaro for being the one who got pinned, puts the Patriot Lock on him ... he let's go almost immediately, but that was enough for Friendly-Dad-Statham as my roommate loves to call Cesaro.  And Cesaro puts Swagger in the Cesaro Swing and leaves with the people firmly behind him, even taking the heel chant "We the People" that they use and throwing it back in his former partner and manager's face.  Big things coming for this man.

A Celebration of 30 Years of Wrestlemania

We open with our "host" Hogan coming out, then being interrupted by Stone Cold Steve Austin, then both being interrupted by The Rock.  This was a ... well, for me, a waste of time.  This is not the thing I care about.  I just want to see wrestling.  But for a lot of people, this was huge!  Seeing three icons all sharing a beer, throwing around catchphrases, and enjoying each others company, as well as hyping up Wrestlemania just in general.  That's fine.  I don't care for it, but whatever.

Daniel Bryan defeats Triple H to qualify for the Main Event Triple Threat match

The story for Daniel Bryan has been a long one.  A frustrating one for a fan.  An infuriating one for ridiculous booking decisions.  But ... if it was all building to this from the beginning (it wasn't) but if it was ... this was great.  Daniel Bryan proved himself with the fans through his matchwork and his demeanor.  He is just a guy, a guy who is great at wrestling.  And he wants to prove it every day.  And does!  At Summerslam last year, he won the WWE Title in a great match with Cena.  He was then completely screwed by Triple H, allowing Orton to snake in and become the champ.  From there, it has been 8 months of fighting to prove himself, proving he is worth, of his fans hijacking Raws and PPVs all in his favor, all to prove he is an A+ player, not a B+ player like Triple H and Stephanie continue to say.

This match was fantastic.  The opening where Daniel Bryan refused a handshake (last time, he got handcuffed and beaten all to hell, injuring his shoulder), kicking the crap out of Triple H, who bails the ring, to only see Daniel Bryan now offer his hand.  The first half of the match was all on Bryan wrestling rings around Triple H, but Triple H taking advantage of his size and strength to continue to punish Bryan's shoulder.  And the second half, all the ring psychology was gone as Triple H just tried to put Bryan away, and Bryan would NOT GO DOWN.  He kicked out of a pedigree, he countered three more, and made Triple H tap in the ring, clean.  A clean win, and the sea of fans throwing their hands in the air, chanting "Yes!" over and over!

But that ain't the end.  Stephanie comes in and slaps the crap out of Bryan, who just smiles and laughs at her ... until Triple H gets him from behind, then before the refs can stop him, wraps Bryan's arm around the ring post and gives a hell of a chair shot to Bryan's already injured shoulder.  Daniel Bryan has a few hours to try to get his arm in working order for the Triple Threat.

It was a great great match.  No shenanigans, just storytelling.  It went a great length, and was just glorious.  It is hard to separate this from the main event, as with a Daniel Bryan win here it all ties together.  But on its own, this match is stupendous.

Verdict: Great great great.

The Shield destroy Kane and the New Age Outlaws

I do not use "destroy" lightly here.  Two and a half minutes.  Two and half minutes of pure dominance from the Shield.  They one-up Kane and the New Age Outlaws in every way.  In power, intensity, teamwork, and skill.  Superman punches, lunatic brawling onslaughts, flippy somersaults over the top, spears, and the only double triple power bomb I've ever seen.  This was a dominant win for the newly turned face Shield, the champions of the people, the Hounds of Justice.  It was short, but fun.  I expected more, but really shouldn't have, because this was about dominance, and about the old guard passing on to the new ones.

Verdict: Real good, super fun

Between this and the next match, we got a WWE Slam City backstage segment with all the Legends enjoying themselves and a Ron Simmons "DAMN" to finish it off.  It was short and entertaining enough.  Plus, I really like Slam City.

Cesaro won the Andre the Giant Memorial 30-man Battle Royal

Wow.  Just ... wow.  Ok, firstly, this match started how it was always gonna, with a lot of chaos.  There were a LOT of bodies in the ring, and they had to get cleared out somehow.  They worked incredibly hard to make sure every spot was covered, and every elimination was on camera.  I appreciate the hard work.  This is the kind of match where you just hope that they get down to a manageable number quickly, and they actually did a pretty great job to have a lot of pretty great spots all through out.  Even Three Man Band looked a threat, as they worked as a group and eliminated folks left and right until Big Show (or whoever) got his hands on them.

Important spots:
 - Kofi was thrown OVER the ring post, but his feet landed on the stairs and not the floor, so he was still in.  Nice Mania check and Mania spot for Kofi this year.
 - Santino getting the Cobra on the Miz and Miz selling like a champ.
 - Fandango dancing like a fool on the outside until he is forearmed to death by Sheamus.  27 forearm shots to the chest and then Fandango goes loopy and just falls
 - LOTS of kicks to the head from Del Rio and Cody Rhodes to various people, getting them knocked out
 - Ziggler bumping like a fool and doing all the hard work without any acknowledgement or even an elimination.  I will always acknowledge your work, Mr. Ziggler.

Eventually it comes down to the final four: Big Show, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Del Rio.  Sheamus and Del Rio eliminate each other, and Show and Cesaro try to smash each other over and over.  Then Cesaro realizes he is the strongest flipping man ever and just lifts Big Show in a scoop slam like it is no problem and throws him out of the ring!  It was a SHOCKING moment just how easy it was for him to just scoop Show up.  Shades of Wrestlemania 3, the slam heard round the world.  Another giant lifted and tossed, a new strong-man is hero!  The crowd were firmly behind Cesaro, and even Show shook his hand in respect.  Cesaro had a great night this Mania.

Verdict: Interesting, a good breather, but nothing to write home about other than the finish

John Cena pinned Bray Wyatt

Yes, yes, I wrote a nice long article about how terrible John Cena is.  Other people have been thinking it for years.  And in fact, that is the build up to this match.  And it was pretty excellent build up.

Bray Wyatt is calling out Cena for all the heel crap I pointed out, for all the terrible things he does, for the monster he is, and says that all the good things Cena does, all the Make a Wish, all the charity, THAT is the work.  THAT is the falsehood, and that the real Cena is the one who throws people off cars to their death or buries guys in chairs.  This is a fight about Legacy.  And Bray Wyatt's goal in this match isn't to win, but to prove Cena is that monster.

And Wyatt succeeds.  Yes, Cena pins Wyatt.  But Wyatt's goals were accomplished.  Cena doubted himself all match.  He did every cheap attack and weapon use and cheating thing, just not to Wyatt.  He hit one of the Wyatts with a chair, he through himself off the top rope at the two of them, he attacked one and took him through the barricade.  Cena held his submission moves through the full five-count in the ropes before letting go.  He was too afraid to run the ropes to do the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, and the first time he tried he was greet with ... this:

Well, that's from the Rumble PPV, but you get the picture.

Wyatt and Cena both ACTED perfectly here.  They were telling a story, beyond the match, above the match, and it was great.  Wyatt played with the crowd, singing his song with them.  Cena never once smiled.  He never could.  He couldn't put on that smile.  And because he couldn't, no matter the outcome of the match, Bray Wyatt actually won.  I look forward to more from them.  This was an incredible match, and one that goes to show that winning isn't the most important part of wrestling, and John Cena helped make a star out of Wyatt.

Verdict: Really really great, especially storytelling-wise

Brock Lesnar ends the Streak

I don't care about either of these men.  Never marked for either of them.  Never cared for their in-ring work alone, and certainly never cared together.  This match was a dead certainty.  There was no way Lesnar was gonna win ... but 3 F-5s later, and a stunned and silent crowd and commentary team watches as Undertaker cannot kick out.  The Streak is dead.

I have always been of the opinion that the Streak was made to end.  You build things up to pay them off.  And they did it.  They ended the Streak.  And the crowd just didn't know what to do with themselves.  I can't blame them.  This Mania felt like every outcome was written in stone, but you see Big Show lose the Andre Battle Royal, you see Cena win but really lose ... and now the Streak is dead.

The match itself doesn't matter.  It really doesn't.  They are both too old to be putting on main events, and both just botch things left and right and don't make a lot of the moves even look like they connect.  Sure, their submissions work.  Their acting and the emotion was pretty good.  The pagentry was whatever.  But when the Undertaker can't do his finishing moves well at all, you got a problem.  That was the most tired looking Last Ride I'd ever seen, not even BEING a Last Ride, which is a Powerbomb with extension that had no extension and was just kind of a drop-him powerbomb.  And the tombstone ... it doesn't even connect.  Lesnar's head doesn't come anywhere near the mat.

But the F-5s.  You cannot fake those.  And the Streak is dead.

Is that a good thing?  Yeah, I think so.  When a wrestler retires, which is what I expect is happening, you retire on your back.  You put someone over.  Austin did it.  Michaels did it.  Flair did it.  And Taker did it.

Is it a good thing to have Lesnar be the man to end the streak?  Eh.  I mean, it would have been great if a full-timer had.  Give the push to Wade Barrett or Sheamus or Ziggler or CM Punk last year.  Someone who was working hard every week.  But Austin put over Rock.  Michaels put over Taker.  Flair put over Michaels.  You go out on your back, putting over a guy you respect.  So I cannot blame them for the outcome that has become a standard outcome.

It isn't the best storytelling.  It certainly wasn't a great match.  But it ended an era.  And that will be more important than anything else in this match anyway.

Verdict: Important, but not very good

We had a backstage segment about the main event of Wrestlemania 1 here ... or after the next match, I don't remember.  It doesn't matter.  It is the only other time we see our "host" Hogan again, and Rowdy Roddy Piper is over the top but entertaining enough.

AJ Lee (c) retains the Divas Championship in a Fatal 14-Way Diva's Invitational match

I may have been the only one really interested in this. Certainly one of the only ones I know personally.  There are a lot of pretty decent to great Divas currently, and this match could have gone a million ways.  I was intrigued with what was going to happen, and I was CERTAIN AJ was losing her title.  Shows what I know, just like with the past few matches.

These women worked hard.  And some got some real moments to shine.  Some don't deserve it, like awful Natalya (I don't know how anyone can like her, she is so plodding and boring, and just does the same damned moves over and over), or Cameron, who had a wardrobe malfunction with her top coming off almost completely, but instead of taking a minute to fix it, just went ahead and kept wrestling anyway ... idiot.  But then you had some really great moments for Tamina, for Emma (who everyone I watched this with BOTH times loves), even for Eva Marie who had a GREAT moment where she pushes Tamina, Tamina gets in her face, and Eva bails out, scared for her life.  The Bellas had a great moment, and looked dominant.  Aksana, who is a great wrestler but has been stripped of any life because of bad gimmicks and nothing to do, got to shine with some good moves and bumps.  And they did the stupid spot from the tag match that I complained about.  But with it being the Divas ... it was actually kind of surprising, and it felt less contrived.

The finish came with Naomi doing her terrible butt-hit move, but AJ coming in and strapping on the Octopus finisher to her latest most likely threat and forcing her to tap.  Literally, AJ took Naomi's hand and made her tap out for her own enjoyment.  Naomi tapped on her own, but AJ just went the next step of ultimate dickitude.

AJ Lee continues to be the longest running Divas champion.  And she needs to be, because the story that's building is about Tamina getting tired of AJ's antics and getting pushed around.  Expect AJ v. Tamina next PPV, and that could be a REALLY good one.  I was rooting for Emma, but in the end, for a big ole craziness Diva-fest, I think they worked real hard and did surprisingly well.  Plus, we got to see both the Dil-Emma and the Emma Sandwich!

Verdict: WAY better than it needed to be, and surprisingly enjoyable

Daniel Bryan makes Batista tap out and becomes the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion in a Triple Threat

Daniel Bryan did it.

He did it!

He proved everything!  He proved he is an A+ guy!  This match was not easy.  This match was a slog, and painful, in a great way!  Batista and Orton threw everything at each other and Bryan.  And it was glorious.  Remember all the build up I talked about in the first Bryan match this PPV?  Here's the rest of it for this part.

Orton was made the face of the company after screwing Bryan.  And he retained his championship from Bryan ONLY through shenanigans.  Evil referee, botched calls, screw overs, everything.  HHH did everything he could to keep Bryan from the picture, and to push Orton.  But once Orton won both titles, unifying them, HHH became uncertain if Orton could handle it.  And then conquering Batista shows up, trying to get the fans praise as he wins the Rumble, but turning on them like they did to him, telling us all to "Deal with it!" because he was here to be champion, he won the Rumble and no one was stopping him.

There was a LOT of storytelling in this match.  A lot of story built up over 8 months here, all culminating in a really great Triple Threat.  Bryan, after already having had to beat one of the best in HHH, has to face TWO more all-time greats, all with a re-injured shoulder.  The crowd here saw the unthinkable happen twice, with the Streak ending and AJ retaining with all the odds against her.  They needed a hero.  They needed Bryan.  They needed a happy ending.

This match was brutal.  Backdrop onto the steel steps.  HHH and Steph and the evil ref from Bryan's past all show up again, but Bryan takes them ALL out!  He gets revenge on all three, finally, removing them from the equation.  And then, the most crazy combination of finishers I've seen in a long time.  Batista and Orton, tired of Bryan continuing to run in and ruin things for both of them, decide to focus on Bryan, and together beat the ever living hell out of him, culminating in a Batista Bomb + RKO through the Spanish announce table!  It is insane, I'm just gonna show you a gif:

You see Orton land on that monitor?!  He was bleeding like a fiend, and Batista was standing tall here.  EMTs came down and put Bryan in a stretcher, so Batista took advantage and started just wailing on Orton while the EMTs were doing their thing.  But Orton wasn't going down like that, and he took advantage.  Until Bryan refuses to go out like that.  He fights back into the match, and in the end, Batista taps out while Orton looks on, just out of reach to stop Bryan from finally proving himself.  Through all the pain on his body, on his face, after a night of brutal beatings, he finally did it!

This was magical.  It was glorious.  Batista, Orton, Bryan, they all worked so hard to make this special, and it was.  It is!  This was glorious by itself.  It was even more glorious in combination with Bryan v. HHH from earlier.  Daniel Bryan did the unthinkable.  He pinned Triple H in the middle of the ring.  Then came back from injury to beat both Batista and Randy Orton in the same night.  Chris Jericho may have beat two of the best every in one night to become the first every Undisputed Champion, but Daniel Bryan beat three future Hall of Famers in a single night, with every ounce of shenanigans and cheating they could throw at him, through every injury, to become the face of the company he knew he could be!  That we all knew he could be!  It was glorious!

Verdict: Absolutely glorious

But, it is even MORE glorious combined with every other match on this PPV.  This PPV is the beginning a new era.  That phrase gets thrown around a lot.  But I really do honestly believe it here.  The Shield beats the veterans.  Cesaro scoop slams the Big Show and becomes the newest hero for the company and the fans.  Bray Wyatt won in spirit and proved himself an incredible villain.  AJ continues to set new records as the best Diva of all time perhaps.  The Streak is over, that chapter of wrestling closed.  And Daniel Bryan, the 5'10", 210 pound grappler and man of enormous heart overcame every single thing placed in front of him to define a new generation for the WWE.

Where do we go from here?  I have an idea.  Daniel Bryan, the real champ, the champion of the people, will have to deal with every contender that evil HHH and Steph can send his way.  Orton, Batista, Lesnar, all are waiting in the wings to eat alive the new face of the company.  Daniel Bryan may be champion, he may have the audience behind him, but he is still fighting an uphill fight.  The story isn't over here.  And it is a story I am finally excited to watch again.

Wrestlemania 30 is the best Wrestlemania I've watched since I started watching again in 2010.  And could be right up there in some of the best of all time.  That comparison is for a later day.  But, in my opinion, I am still ecstatic, and cannot wait for the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment