WrestleMania implies two things: wrestling and, well, mania. Wrestling is understood. Mania could use some clarification.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of mania is as follows: extreme enthusiasm for something that is usually shared by many people.
Sure, tons of enthusiasm, shared by nearly 80 thousand people in attendance and the countless others watching on—yes, Hulk Hogan—the WWE Network. But it's WRESTLEMania. Mania that includes wrestling. Last night, the two hardly mixed, save for two matches. While the WWE knows how to promote its own product, it's often promoted at levels the product could never live up to.
Last night, that's exactly what happened.
There are two ways to approach this WrestleMania review: to be in awe of the moments, which were stellar by any standards, or to talk about the wrestling. This review is going to focus on the wrestling more than anything, and in that regard, this pay-per-view was more mania than anything.
By the time Hogan's music hit to start the event, The Usos had already defended the Tag Team Championships on the pre-show. That is to say that the Tag Team Champions were relegated to irrelevance in place of 35 minutes of forced nostalgia and extended WrestleMania promoting.
People love Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock. But people go to comic book exhibits to see their childhood heroes pat each other on the back and talk about days gone by. By the time the last catchphrase was said, WrestleMania was nearing its first hour without so much as a body slam.
Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan
Triple H's entrance was more elaborate than anything that happened in the ring. He might want to reconsider the whole King of King's medieval entrance shtick—the last time he did that, he tapped out to John Cena. Last night, he lost in clean fashion to a Daniel Bryan flying knee.
There wasn't a whole lot of surprises here. What baffled me is how Bryan kicked out of the Pedigree, a move we've witnessed beat two of the three legends that opened up WrestleMania. Yet it took just one flying knee to put Triple H down.
I get Triple H's job was to put Bryan over. But he did it at the expense of himself. Triple H lost in clean fashion to Bryan. That means the next time someone induces Triple H to rip his shirt off and slip back into Cerebral Assassin mode, we shouldn't be that afraid. Triple H's most convincing role will now officially be in a corporate capacity. Maybe that was the point.
The Shield def. Kane and the New Age Outlaws (NAO)
Quick and clean. This match gave the impression that all the 20-minute entrances had finally caught up to them. It was an absolute decimation of the NAO, as both received triple power bombs. The official Twitter account of the WWE tweeted later in the night that Billy Gunn was coughing up blood after the match. While it reads like a work, it's really irrelevant. The NAO were finished a long time before WrestleMania. As for The Shield, the search for the next compelling angle ensues.
Antonio Cesaro wins the Andre the Giant Memorial
Which means what, exactly? Cesaro wins the trophy on a night where we might have finally witnessed The Real Americans dissolve. He did win in impressive fashion by body slamming The Big Show over the top rope, an extremely notable feat. But overall, the match was a snore.
Kofi Kingston demonstrated that you can literally be knocked to the floor, but so long as your boots rest on the stairs, you can still be considered in. This needs to stop and it needed to stop last Royal Rumble.
There is nothing else in this match worth commenting on. The WrestleMania battle royal is just a way to get superstars involved in the card. Mission accomplished. Moving on.
John Cena def. Bray Wyatt
The match was as slow as it was disappointing. In a match that was supposed to threaten Cena's legacy, somehow, it ended up being business as usual. The WWE decided to bury arguably its fastest rising star via an Attitude Adjustment. We can now only assume that John Cena will re-enter the title picture, and who knows what happens with Bray Wyatt from here.
Hard to maintain the hype after Wyatt goes down in that fashion. Not only did Cena put away Bray, but his biggest spots were landed on the other two Wyatts. Cena hit a flying cross body on the brothers outside the ring, then put one of them through the outside barrier, which was cool.
But the effects were damaging. In a sense, one man decimated the entire Wyatt Family. Considering that the family has now been dismantled by both Daniel Bryan and now John Cena, how are they supposed to give this popular heel faction any momentum at all?
This was a huge opportunity missed to establish the industry's next great heel.
Brock Lesnar def. The Undertaker
The faces on the fans said it all. Of everything the WWE wanted to accomplish last night, this was irrefutably the most impressive work. While the match itself wasn't that impressive, its ending made history.
What the Undertaker did last night for the business was immeasurable. The streak is over. But the streak was a necessary sacrifice. Be honest: you were thinking Undertaker kicks out of the third F-5. We all were. And had he been hit with a fourth, we had him kicking out of that one too.
We watched that match with very little expectations. The question wasn't if Undertaker would win; the question was whether this match could live up to the Shawn Michael's match, or the Triple H ones. Not for one second did anybody believe Taker would fall to a three count.
And that's why Taker's loss was so incredible. He gave back to the business that had given so much to him. At his age, to even be in the ring with Brock was mildly insulting to the sport. There's just no way to suspend disbelief when you see these two stand face-to-face. And last night, The Undertaker reminded us all that we don't know it all, that this sport still has the power to leave us with our mouths ajar.
It was a remarkable company move and one that no one should be disappointed about. You didn't see that coming. And that's more than we can say about any other event on the card last night.
AJ Lee won the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational
Because of course she did. This match followed one of the most incredible WrestleMania moments ever. The divas didn't have a chance. All that's important is that AJ Lee is still the champion. The rest looked great.
Daniel Bryan def. Batista & Randy Orton to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
The match itself had a decent pace. The majority of the contest rarely consisted of Orton, Batista and Bryan all wrestling at the same time. Two would battle as one recovered. The Batista Bomb-RKO hybrid to Daniel Bryan through the table might have been the spot of the night. Orton drew blood as his back fell on a monitor directly beneath him. It was impressive all around.
They did a good job of building suspense, and at one point, I was somewhat convinced that Randy Orton could really win this thing and shock/disappoint everyone. After Batista took him out for the final time before falling to the Yes-Lock, it was obvious that the Yes Movement had reached its peak. Daniel Bryan won the match, the belts, and New Orleans exploded in confetti and cheers. It was a phenomenal moment.
The event as a whole wasn't remarkable. The WWE didn't push envelopes and the company took very little risks, minus Undertaker's superb sacrifice. Daniel Bryan did what everyone expected him to do and finally reached the summit. Antonio Cesaro might have renewed a singles career, John Cena buried another stellar young talent, and Triple H has dissolved his own status as nothing more than a sideshow.
With the Yes Movement finally reaching its climax, an obvious question arises: can Bryan the champ ever be as compelling as Bryan the underdog? The rules of gravity would suggest otherwise.