WWE delivered a WrestleMania full of moments, entertaining matches and interesting booking last night in Santa Clara, CA. Coming in I had pretty high expectations for the show, based more on the card itself and the workers involved than the build. The company and its performers certainly did not disappoint.
Were there things you could nitpick about? Of course. But all in all I found this to be one of the best WrestleManias. Below are my quick hits on WrestleMania 31:
• The finish to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match could not have been booked any better. It was the first time a Money in the Bank cash in has been done during a match and with the briefcase being around for as long as it has, it’s always great when WWE can come up with a new way to use it. The tide of the match had just turned to Roman Reigns’ favor and both men were rocked, making it a perfect time for Seth Rollins to capitalize.
The way this was done makes it fairly easy to book the WWE Title picture all the way through SummerSlam, as well. Lesnar wasn’t pinned so he has a legit beef along with his rematch clause, which I would expect won’t come until SummerSlam. Roman Reigns took the pin but a program between the former Shield brethren is an obvious summer feud. And there’s also Randy Orton, who pinned Rollins earlier in the night following a spectacular RKO, who could claim rights to a title match.
The ending also can be used as the final piece of a Brock Lesnar babyface turn. We’ll see where that goes on tonight’s Raw.
• The aforementioned spectacular RKO earned the first pop of the night from this viewer. As with Money in the Bank cash ins, finding creative new ways for Orton to hit an RKO “OUT OF NOWHERE” can be challenging, but Orton turning a curb stomp attempt into the finisher was a truly clever spot. It was also perfectly executed by Orton and Rollins, so kudos to them.
The match was great but could have used a little more time. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since these two are top shelf when it comes to in-ring work.
• The Intercontinental Championship ladder match had some good spots and a few scary parts as well, most notably the harsh landing Dean Ambrose took onto a ladder bridged between the barricade and the ring apron. Daniel Bryan winning is the right call. The IC Title desperately needs an image restoration and putting it around the waist of the hottest babyface in the company (with Brock Lesnar giving him a run for his money) is a wise move.
• I liked the incorporation of DX and the nWo into the Sting v. Triple H match, even though it didn’t make sense to have the nWo side with their longtime nemesis Sting. While it was a bit of a mess, it made sense given Sting’s age and the amount of time it’s been since he last wrestled a lengthy match while in TNA. I would have booked the match to end after the nWo showed up and Sting hit Triple H with the Scorpion Death Drop but apparently Vince McMahon wanted to make sure that – even 14 years later – everyone knew the WWE beat WCW.
I thought Sting looked great, especially for being 56 years old. While The Rock looked gassed shortly into his WrestleMania XXVIII match against John Cena, Sting showed no similar signs. Maybe this is it for the Stinger but if he has enough in the tank, it would be great to see him stick around for a few more WWE matches. Even better would be to see him go out with a win.
• Rusev had to lose eventually but I was really hoping he would get a WrestleMania moment over Cena. Getting the US Title off him could mean he’s headed to the WWE Championship picture, although that looks like a crowded landscape at the moment. Certainly giving Cena the strap will elevate the title in the same way the IC Title will be heightened by Daniel Bryan holding it but Cena didn’t need the win at ‘Mania.
The match itself was very good and it looks like we might be headed towards a Lana-Rusev breakup. Maybe Lana will come back from filming her movie as a babyface who suddenly lost her Russian accent?
• The match between Undertaker and Bray Wyatt was fine and Undertaker looked good, especially for being 50 years old, but it didn’t have that same mystique for me as usual. Obviously Taker not having the streak was a big reason for that. There were some good moments here, especially the spot where Wyatt was doing the reverse spider walk and Taker sat up. This one could have been booked either way and made sense, but it’s the second year in a row Wyatt loses to a high profile star at WrestleMania. That in itself can be considered quite the rub, though.
• The Tag Team Championship 4-Way match was a crazy yet entertaining trainwreck. I’m glad they kept the belts on Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. The team is getting over and if they’re not ready to give Cesaro a real singles run, it’s smart to keep the two together and let them grow as a team.
• Big Show winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was fine. If you got upset that someone else didn’t get the rub or Big Show “didn’t need the win,” you must have forgotten how little it did for Cesaro last year. Show had never won a battle royal or Royal Rumble before so it was a nice touch to give him the nod, along with the obvious comparisons throughout his career to (his one-time father, according to WCW) Andre the Giant.
Miz and Damien Mizdow were also able to tell their story in a big way, which was important. I would expect a match between the two at Extreme Rules.
• I thought the special entrances were all well done, even Triple H’s Terminator cross-promotion which was either the greatest thing ever or the hokiest thing in wrestling history, according to my Twitter timeline. It could have done without the whole “targeting” view-from-the-Terminator thing, but it was fine.
Rusev’s tank-riding entrance was the best of the night for me and I’m disappointed there was only a Fox News viewer’s dream of a video package before Cena entered. Really thought he would MURICA it up a little more.