Here we go, it’s time for WrestleMania again! All of your favorites are here: Triple H, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Chris Jericho, Shane McMahon, and even The Hardy Boyz! It looks to be a very exciting 2002. Wait, are you sure it’s actually 2017?
Before we get to the Showcase Of The Immortals, let’s talk about the night before that had about the same amount of anticipation. I’m assuming that anyone who clicked on the wrestling article on the film website already has a base knowledge, but just in case, you should know that NXT is essentially the minor leagues or collegiate level to WWE’s major leagues. NXT puts on bigger shows (called “Takeovers”) the night before WWE does one of their bigger PPV’s. Among the more committed wrestling crowd, NXT ends up being a more consistent show, so it draws a smaller but more dedicated crowd.
Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno, and Ruby Riot v. Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain, and Nikki Cross
This opening match got the crowd excited without exactly meaning much in the long run, which is what the opening match is usually supposed to do. It ended up being mostly a brawl outside the ring, where everyone could get in some decent offense. The match ended with the monster, Killian Dain, destroying Dillinger and scoring the pinfall.
Aleister Black v. Andrade “Cien” Almas
This match is the equivalent of the Nakamura/Zayn match from last year’s Takeover: Dallas, where there is absolutely no story because one of the competitors is debuting. This is Black’s first match under the NXT banner, and he finds himself against Almas, who seems to be finding his footing as an arrogant heel. The problem is that these two never really seemed to find their chemistry. Black performed an impressive jump off of the rope where he rebounded and landed in a seated position, and the match was fairly stiff, but we’ll need to wait to see more from him. Aleister Black wins his first match with a spinning backheel.
Authors Of Pain v. The Revival v. #DIY
The latter two teams have had a rivalry that has gone through several Takeover events, with their 2 out of 3 falls match in Toronto being the peak. Their classic tag team psychology couldn’t match up to the pure muscle of the new Authors Of Pain. This leads to a triple threat elimination match of AOP’s tag titles.
The story told here was arguably the best of the whole weekend, where the longtime rivals had to team up in order to defeat the monsters. DIY try to put Rezar through a table, but they can’t move him until The Revival add in some force from inside the ring. Dawson helps Gargano perform DIY’s tag team finisher, followed by Ciampa and Wilder unleashing the Shatter Machine. The teamwork is beautiful, until they get distracted and DIY gets eliminated. This puts The Revival in a weird position of having to act as the face of the match, which they haven’t had to do before. While this throws off the energy a little bit, the remaining teams still give it their all until the Authors Of Pain win by sheer size and power.
Asuka v. Ember Moon
This has been a hotly anticipated match ever since Ember Moon debuted last year. She has torn through her competition with such ferocity that it would naturally lead to a confrontation with the undefeated Asuka. With this match, Asuka seemed to have finally met her match. The two women were fighting even harder than the earlier Black/Almas match, where every move can be felt through the screen. Their chemistry was perfect, and it seemed like Ember had the upper hand. To escape, Asuka knocked the ref into Ember while she was on the top rope, making her lose her balance and fall right into Asuka’s trap. This move is definitely pushing the NXT Women’s Champion closer to being a heel, and it will only intensify the inevitable rematch. Hopefully, this will cause to get that Bayley/Sasha heat, and Ember’s triumph will be a true crowning moment
Bobby Roode v. Shinsuke Nakamura
Roode was only able to beat Nakamura the first time by exploiting a mid-match knee injury that would take Shinsuke out for a couple weeks. His strategy was the same this time, to take every single second he had on forcing that knee into precarious positions. When a first Glorious DDT couldn’t put away the former champ, Roode took him up to the second turnbuckle for another to retain his championship.
All in all, it was a really fun NXT show. This Orlando Takeover had a stronger card than the previous San Antonio card, but perhaps a notch down from Toronto. No, I’m totally not biased because I was there in the Toronto crowd for the magnificent DIY v. Revival match. Not one bit.
Let’s get to the main attraction.
Neville v. Austin Aries
The first match of the kickoff show featured the two top superstars of the Cruiserweight division going at it while people were still filing into their seats. These two put on a surprisingly good match, not surprising based on their abilities but based on the placement on the card. It really deserved to be on the main card, but they worked with everything they had and those in the arena excited. Neville retained his championship after attacking Aries’ recently healed orbital socket.
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale
This match honestly means nothing and is just an excuse to get as many people as possible onto the card, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. WWE pretends that winning it is supposed to be a big achievement, but previous winners Cesaro, Big Show, and Baron Corbin haven’t really done much with it. After the two frontrunners (Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn) were eliminated, the pickings were certainly slim. After Mojo Rawley was beat up in front of his real-life best friend, Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, Gronk got involved in the match, tackling Jinder Mahal in the corner. In a weakened position, he proved no match for Mojo. I really had a hard time writing this out, but not as bad as watching it.
Dean (“Jeans”) Ambrose v. Baron Corbin
I’ll be right upfront with how much I love Dean “Jeans” Ambrose, because it’s a lot. When I saw he was on the kickoff show, I was heartbroken. I’ll also be upfront with how much I dislike Baron Corbin, because that’s also a lot. However, I didn’t get to make much of a decision here. These two had absolutely no chemistry and the match never got off the ground. Ambrose retained the Intercontinental championship, so that was neat.
AJ Styles v. Shane McMahon
Styles is arguably the single greatest professional wrestler in the world, and Shane is the boss’s son. I don’t mean to trivialize the great matches Shane has had in the past, but I think most people were disappointed to see him paired with AJ. Luckily, we were proven wrong. Without ridiculous things to jump off of, Shane worked a strong and calculated match against the phenomenal Styles. The “coast to coast” spots worked well, and the father of three even performed a shooting star press from the top rope. AJ can make anyone have a good match, but Shane earned that one, even if he couldn’t defeat Styles.
Chris Jericho v. Kevin Owens
Jericho has consistently been one of the best all-around workers since his debut almost 20 years ago, and the storyline with his former best friend has been one of the hottest this season. This match wasn’t exactly filled with spots that will be replayed for years to come, but it thrived on ring psychology and storytelling. These two work so well together, and that’s all they needed. That said, reversing Owens’ pop-up powerbomb into a codebreaker was a genius move. However, KO was able to land his powerbomb and defeat Jericho, taking the United States Championship with him.
Bayley v. Charlotte Flair v. Sasha Banks v. Nia Jax
Typically, one-on-one matches are what you really want to see for story purposes, but making this Fatal 4-way an elimination match made it easier to work with. The only way to defeat Nia was for the other three to work together, or else they’d all be individually decimated. Charlotte’s big boot into a double German suplex from Bayley and Sasha was great, and that led into a triple powerbomb to eliminate Nia.
From here, the easy money was on Sasha turning heel and upsetting Bayley, since that what every Raw has hinted at the months. When she was the next woman eliminated, the crowd lost their energy. Bayley and Charlotte put on a hell of a match after that, and Charlotte is one of the most talented women in the world, but they never got the crowd back. Bayley retained off a Macho Man elbow, but I can’t help but think she should’ve won for the first time here instead of retaining her Raw Women’s Championship. Becoming the new champion is more interesting than staying the champ.
Gallows/Anderson v. Enzo/Cass v. Sheamus/Cesaro v. The Hardy Boyz
The pop when The New Day announced the surprise entrants in this tag team ladder match was deafening. Matt and Jeff Hardy, gone for so long, have come back home. It was such a joyous moment that everyone got to share together. The Hardys not only got to show off their stuff but also made their fellow teams look great. The highlight, of course, was Jeff jumping from a ridiculously tall ladder onto Cesaro and THROUGH a ladder. You know, like he usually does. The Hardys become the new Raw Tag Team Champions. That’s a weird sentence to type, but I’m happy with it.
John Cena and Nikki Bella v. The Miz and Maryse
On paper, this match is awful, but the buildup was actually pretty interesting. It didn’t last, because Maryse was barely ever in the ring and Cena spent most of the match getting beat down by Miz. The match is only significant because afterwards, Cena proposed to his longtime girlfriend. We all saw it coming, but he really did sell it.
Triple H v. Seth Rollins
This match was several years in the making. From Triple H making Seth break up The Shield, to having to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase, all the way to turning his back on Seth in favor of Kevin Owens. Rollins is one of the best workers in the company, and the story was all about whether his knee would outlast the Cerebral Assassin he was facing.
In my opinion, this was the match of the weekend. From bell to bell, no storytelling was done as effectively as in this match. The constant reversal of each other’s moves and Seth constantly putting his knee in danger with top rope moves in order to beat his opponent. In the end, Rollins caused Triple H to bump into his wife, Stephanie, putting her through a table on the outside. His distraction was his downfall, as Seth picked up the pin.
Bray Wyatt v. Randy Orton
Here is an example of the buildup really cooling off right before the match. Orton couldn’t beat Wyatt and his allies, so he chose to join them. He won the Royal Rumble and Wyatt won the WWE championship at the Elimination Chamber, cueing Orton to turn on his comrade. This match never clicked, because Orton didn’t do anything different from what he used to do. For some reason it works now when it didn’t then? I can’t follow that. Wyatt used his spooky tricks to cover the mat with images of various bugs, but it didn’t deter Orton. Another RKO “outta nowhere” (ya know, like always) and we have a new WWE champ.
Goldberg v. Brock Lesnar
In a WrestleMania 20 rematch, these two beefy stars were fighting for the new Universal Championship. Goldberg had won all of their previous greetings, rather quickly, so the story was if Lesnar could finally win one. And he did. And it took about five minutes. Now he’ll take Raw’s top championship and leave for months at a time. Oh well.
Alexa Bliss v. Becky Lynch v. Mickie James v. Natalya v. Carmella v. Naomi
This match was originally on the kickoff show instead of Ambrose, but fervent fans got it to change. At least we think we did it. The problem is that there was absolutely no story to build a proper rivalry around, so all of the women from the Smackdown roster were thrown together and also given only five minutes to work. Naomi made the champ, Bliss, tap out, so she gets to win the title in her hometown.
The Undertaker v. Roman Reign
This was a surprise to be the main event at first, but then everyone who has been a longtime fan realized what it meant. This would be the last time that we all would see The Undertaker wrestle. It was time to retire. The Deadman debuted in 1990 and has had a career anyone would dream of having, but he’s looked rough in his past few outings. The crowd has been unnecessarily against Roman since they decided that he was “being forced down their throats”, which is silly. It was a hard-fought match, and it took everything that Reigns had, but he put away Taker and walked back up the ramp. The crowd chanted “Thank you, Taker” as he placed his hat, gloves, and coat in a pile. That was the signal. The greatest character that WWE ever produced is gone. Wrestling won’t ever be the same.
I know this has been a lot to read. There was a whole lot of wrestling this weekend, and I can’t be stopped when it comes to the biggest weekend in all of wrestling. Overall, these two cards were much better than they were bad. The highlights far outweighed the low points. The match between Rollins and Triple H might even be Match Of The Year contender. Only time will tell.
What did you think of WrestleMania 33 and Takeover: Orlando?