As much as WWE WrestleMania 33 was a grand spectacle, it was a confirmation of what the crowd already knew.
Fans knew going into Sunday's pay-per-view spectacular that yesterday takes precedence in today's WWE. And WrestleMania 33 upheld that theory by spotlighting the likes of Randy Orton over Bray Wyatt, the nine-time champion ending the first-time titleholder's reign.
Vince McMahon is not yet ready to hand his empire over to the next generation. Wyatt found that out.
It was clear ahead of The Show of Shows that AJ Styles was a tremendous talent and Undertaker was nearing the final chapter of his story. Sunday's marquee event proved those things to be even truer than most thought. Styles flourished with a mediocre dance partner; Undertaker sang his swan song.
WrestleMania 33 may have surprised us on several occasions, but it sure corroborated previously held thoughts, as well.
AJ Is Amazing
Styles pulled off a stunning performance, putting on a tremendous match against a non-wrestler in his late '40s. Shane McMahon deserves tons of credit, too, but being in the ring with The Phenomenal One clearly elevated him.
Fans griped when WWE went with McMahon vs. Styles. This wasn't the dream match many were hoping for. And few had high hopes for their WrestleMania clash.
Then Styles and Shane O'Mac poured their guts out onto the canvas and opened WrestleMania with a hell of a bang.
Styles thrived as the cocky favorite underestimating his foe. He infused the bout with great athleticism and energy. He led the way as McMahon had the best match of his life outside of his 2001 King of the Ring battle with Kurt Angle.
Will Pruett of ProWrestling.net was among those who loved what they saw on Sunday night:
Styles made it clear that he's WWE's No. 1 performer right now. And it doesn't even matter who is in there with him. He's made James Ellsworth look like a star on SmackDown and now shared the stage with the limited McMahon en route to stealing the show.
Not Quite The New Era Yet
By the time WrestleMania 33 was over, Orton, Brock Lesnar and the Hardys walked out as new champions. That's a statement that sounds like it belongs in 2002.
It was wild fun to have Matt and Jeff Hardy back on the WWE stage. Their surprise return was a WrestleMania moment for the ages.
Coupled with the results of the two world title bouts, though, it made the event feel too much like a celebration of a past era.
Kevin Owens and Styles, the men who carried Raw and SmackDown for the majority of the year, didn't even figure into the top championship contests. Bray Wyatt represented the New Era as WWE champ, but WWE chose to dethrone him just 49 days into his reign.
Orton, the Hardys and Lesnar emerged with gold in their grip instead.
Much of the post-WrestleMania buzz focused on them, rather than up-and-comers like Enzo Amore, Sami Zayn or Wyatt. That's been WWE's M.O. for years. Rather than march confidently into the New Era, the company has inched into it with great hesitance.
Becoming Too Bloated
The WrestleMania pre-show began at 5 p.m. ET. The event stretched on past midnight. The Show of Shows featured 13 matches (three on the pre-show), three of which went over 20 minutes, per CageMatch.net.
WrestleMania is supposed to be massive, but at some point, it's hard to digest all that entertainment in one sitting.
By the time Goldberg strode down the entrance ramp to face Lesnar, the audience seemed spent. The response to both champion and challenger's arrival was muted. You can't blame them; fans had been soaking up the Florida sun in the afternoon and experiencing a string of emotional rides before that.
Nick Irving of ESPN.com commented on the shift in the crowd's energy level:
WWE is going to have to think about how to make the event more efficient, coming up with ways to trim it down some. WrestleMania has felt too much like a test of endurance the past few years.
Emphatic statements were left unsaid at WrestleMania 33. Coming-out parties never began. WWE had two major chances to bolster young stars' careers and didn't take either one of them.
Sunday's PPV could and should have been a pronouncement of Wyatt's power. He could have been the cackling monster standing over the would-be knight. He could have left The Show of Shows surging with momentum.
Instead, WWE ended his world title reign early.
Even though he unsettled Orton with visions of insects and worms, he failed. Orton beat him, moving The Eater of Worlds' WrestleMania record to 0-3.
The knock on Wyatt has been that his actions too infrequently match his grand promises of destruction. That was the case again on Sunday, WWE showing that it's still not ready to make him its king for a sustained stretch.
The long-awaited Reigns heel turn never happened, either.
Reigns grew angry and frustrated as he took on Undertaker but never fully bared his fangs. He could have ruined The Deadman's farewell, broken the icon or been forced to do something dastardly in order to win. None of that happened. There was only a hint of a character change.
NoDQ.com's Twitter account commented on the Reigns situation:
It's hard to argue with that, but WWE has continued to be stubborn about this. The obvious move is let Reigns' darkness envelop him, to position him as its top villain.
The company hasn't come to the conclusion yet, though.
It Was The Deadman's Time
We may have wanted to see Undertaker vs. John Cena or some other WrestleMania dream match next year, but The Phenom's war with Reigns made it clear his time has come.
Undertaker struggled in the ring more than he has in the past. He was slow. He strained. He was awkward too often.
The story and his skills made the bout against Reigns an entertaining one still, but it was sad to see him perform at a level so far below what he has at his best.
He was an aged warrior unable to swing his sword with the proper force.
WWE has been ambiguous about whether this was Undertaker's Last Ride, but the audience doesn't need to hear the official word. It's clear. When The Deadman walked up the entrance ramp after leaving his gloves and coat in the ring, it was surely his last time to grace a WrestleMania stage.