WWE WrestleMania 30 invited fans to hold fast to the reins as it charged ahead on a stirring journey.
The pay-per-view launched a new era, giving Cesaro a major win, placing Bray Wyatt on center stage, ending Undertaker's undefeated streak and propping Daniel Bryan up on a confetti-covered pedestal. The response was equal parts shock and exhilaration.
Cheers, chants and gasps served the backdrop to the action in the ring. Even one of the most successful and moving WrestleManias in years didn't please the entire fanbase, though.
WWE fans are a demanding, critical group of folks. Some members of the audience in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and at home, focused on their displeasure about the match results rather than enjoy the moving stories that WrestleMania 30 told.
One couldn't ask for more from a wrestling show than what WWE produced that night.
Bryan capped off a frustrating journey with a stirring triumph, WWE pulled off the biggest surprise in the event's history, John Cena battled himself as much as his opponent and a rising star kicked off what could become a WrestleMania tradition.
WWE wisely capitalized on Cesaro's surging popularity.
"We the people!" chants accompanied the pre-show tag match. After losing that match, Cesaro and his partner, Jack Swagger, fought among themselves. A jubilant crowd roared approval as he swung Cesaro around, indicating that he would be venturing on his own.
Cesaro then entered the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal where more chants awaited him.
Cesaro chant. Best thing about this battle royal so far. #WrestleMania— Craig Thomson (@craigthehunter) April 7, 2014
Kofi Kingston's latest escape from elimination got a good reaction. Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler and others earned loud cheers as well. It was Cesaro's show, though.
He outlasted the other competitors, last facing Big Show. He lifted the giant up for a bodyslam, and the win generated the biggest reaction of his career. It was an image and a victory that will propel him forward.
THAT is a Wrestlemania moment. @WWECesaro— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) April 7, 2014
The crowd in New Orleans seemed to recognize that, screaming and cheering for Cesaro as loudly for more than just a select few on the card.
Wyatt Tests Cena
The mark of a match that has won over the fans is if it inspires a "This is awesome!" chant. Wyatt vs. Cena produced an even more passionate response—singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
This crowd singing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" and ACTUALLY SWAYING What a visual. Match is about WYATT not Cena. #Wrestlemania— WrestlingNewsSource (@WNSource) April 7, 2014
Fans in New Orleans roared for Wyatt, making it clear to WWE officials that this clan leader has taken hold of their attention.
Meanwhile, many fans booed Cena. For most arenas, that's the inverse expected reaction, but a WrestleMania crowd is one of concentrated fandom.
One has to be mighty diehard to travel from Europe or farther and pay for tickets. This ultra-passionate section of the WWE Universe has so often been anti-Cena.
He represents the status quo, WWE pandering to kids and is often seen as the symbol of the company moving away from its more violent and vulgar past.
Wyatt's dark persona, and the fact that he is new and exciting, led to him generating loud cries of approval. Those cries slowed as the match progressed. The effect of Wyatt's in-ring mannerisms was trance-like.
Cena and Wyatt's bout wasn't the hard-hitting brawl that Wyatt vs. Bryan at the Royal Rumble was. It was far more story-driven.
Rage seemed to rise to the surface for Cena. He struggled to not become the monster that Wyatt promised he was. He lifted the ring steps, but did not use them and thought about cracking "The Eater of Worlds" in the face with a chair but resisted that urge.
Some fans succumbed to these two wrestlers' storytelling.
Really enjoyed the story-telling in Wyatt/Cena and hope it's not over. Shield and Tag match were fun too. #Wrestlemania— Raw is Psyniac (@rawispsyniac) April 7, 2014
Others focused on the result. Cena won—two words WWE fans have been hearing at a disproportionate rate for years.
In many minds, that was the wrong choice this time.
Realistically, Cena should have never won. The Wyatt family was undefeated.— Joker_651 (@Joker_651) April 8, 2014
Wyatt could have had a career-altering win. Instead, he had to settle for the spotlight that comes with tangling with Cena.
WWE is not done with this story, though. Wyatt collided with Cena on the following Raw in six-man action. Expect them to meet at Extreme Rules, with Wyatt's supporters pining for the monster to win this time out.
The Streak Is Over
Undertaker vs. Lesnar was more awkward and tepid than what we have come to expect from "The Deadman" at WrestleMania. After a string of classics, something seemed off between these two foes.
As WWE.com reported, Undertaker suffered a severe concussion during the match. That likely explains his subpar performance.
Fans weren't aware of that.
Hoping to be thrilled, the crowd seemed to waiting for greatness to happen. Vocal response to the action was minimal. The bout was seemingly in danger of being forgettable.
That all changed with a three-count.
Lesnar pinned Undertaker after his third F-5 of the night, setting off a storm of reaction on the Internet and making the Superdome as quiet as a Buddhist temple in the mountains.
Never has a crowd been more shocked.
Undertaker had won 21 times before at WrestleMania. It felt like that streak was untouchable. When Lesnar ended it, passion poured out of fans.
Twitter burst with dramatic responses to Undertaker's first loss.
Once the shock dissipated some, fans began to focus on saluting a man who had given so much of himself for the sake of entertainment. They realized that the ride had to end sometime, and even if it came to a sudden halt that few say coming, it was best to accept it.
As Undertaker walked out of the ring and down the ring, he received a standing ovation.
Bryan's Moment Arrives
Two matches had the impossible task of following that.
AJ Lee retained the Divas Championship in the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational. Bryan then challenged for the company's top prize against Randy Orton and Batista.
While some fans chose to continue typing out their frustration about Lesnar beating Undertaker, Bryan battled in his second match of the night.
It was everything a Triple Threat should be—dramatic, fluid and intense. The crowd was not as loud as it likely would have been had it not been forced to mourn Undertaker's streak earlier. Still, Orton, Batista and Bryan delivered such a great bout, that excitement still hummed throughout the arena.
When Bryan forced Batista to tap out and then held up his new championships as confetti fell like snow, the crowd erupted.
Elated faces and raised arms were everywhere.
On Instagram, Rob Schamberger posted a video of the reaction to Bryan's big win.
That incredible image is the result of Bryan's magical connection with the fans, WWE delaying his triumph and delivering it on a grand stage after two great matches. The way that moment electrified everyone watching is a testament to pro wrestling's power.
This is why fans sit through all of WWE's flaws. After wading through the company's bad decisions, silly toy advertisements disguised as segments on Raw and crappy filler matches, this is the emotion waiting patient fans.
As great as Bryan's moment WrestleMania 30 as a whole was, though, there was still griping under all the cheering.
The Bryan era began, Cesaro climbed a number of rungs, Wyatt and Cena put on a work of art and Lesnar made fans feel a way that they haven't since Hulk Hogan became the third man of nWo.
One can either celebrate everything WWE got right or focus on its missteps. WrestleMania produced a wealth of moments to celebrate, but some folks preferred to pout.
This guy wasn't happy with the result of a match at wresltemania and didn't move an inch afterwards pic.twitter.com/eiKCHLtMPH— Tom Marsland (@TomMarsland) April 8, 2014
You just can't win over fans like those.