The flagship event – “Superbowl of wrestling”, etc – is always a calendar-event; for the 33rd time that Wrestlemania has occurred it was a long, rugged set of matches, not without botched spots or weird booking; not without some flatout head-scratchers, but also – the look and feel of it as it was happening, particularly across the first half, was of a Big PPV (as it should be) and a big PPV event really delivering.
That wasn’t always the case – but there’s enough good stuff in there to maybe make it one of the more memorable ‘Manias. Hmm…let’s see…
First up, Shane McMahon and AJ Styles went at it in a classic curtain-raiser. Weird of course – AJ’s one of the more gifted athletes of the modern era, and Shane-o-Mac is the body-on-the-line nutjob-son of the nutjob that runs things. It’s not really a fair match, and shouldn’t be a worthwhile one. It’s odd that we get a whole lot of ground manoeuvres from Shane – making him out to be some MMA-type move-maker. Absurd really. But it means that when he and AJ both get into the high-flying antics the drama has been set. It’s inconceivable of course that Shane could ever win. And he doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop this from being a fun and wild ride to get things going.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho next had a very solid, entertaining match. Though the whole personal-grudge angle didn’t seem to make any sense, nor play out in the way this story was written.
Bayley, Charlotte Flair, Nia Jax and Sasha Banks squared off in a Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match for the RAW Women’s Title and it had some great moments but felt rushed. Nia Jax was dominant early on and her removal was a great pay-back/pay-off but then we had to rush through some sequences (Banks vs. Bayley) and Flair seemed lost/poorly used all so we could have Bayley retain. After early PPVs opening and closing with women’s division matches it was hard to see ‘Mania’s Women’s Division matches as anything other than the annual filler. A great shame.
Big surprise of the night was the return of the Hardy Boyz, to a genuine pop, and then a great-clusterfuck of a Ladder Match (in the best possible way).
John Cena and Nikki Bella defeated The Miz and Maryse in a nothing match that existed only for Cena to propose and Bella to say yes. And it was awkward, and forced and uninteresting.
Seth Rollins and Triple H put on a snore-fest, both are largely unappealing, and to have them together saw them play to their weaknesses. Again, no real sense here – Triple H labouriously working the leg and then Rollins, a daredevil-sort, simply rolls and leaps and tumbles everywhere, effectively no-selling the damage allegedly done.
Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt had much better chemistry but still it didn’t quite mean anything, maybe we’ve seen them together too often; or a show approaching the four-hour mark (with warm-up matches before it) was taking its toll.
Brock Lesnar crushed Goldberg in a kinda fun/kinda lame squasher. Well, Bill came out and speared. His one move. And Brock could handle it. Then Brock did suplexes all over the joint. His one move. And threw him up and then down and pinned him. Some six months of ‘rivalry’, manufactured for a quick pay-off and pop and third time around it felt a bit silly.
Noami, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lyrnch, Mickie James, Carmella and Natalya were packaged up as the Six-Pack Challenge for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Naomi got the win for a home-town hoot, but again it was back to the days (three-five years ago) where the women’s div was merely filler, nothing more. A great shame.
And then Roman Reigns rolled Undertaker in what we now know is his last match. This was slow and painful and boring. ‘Taker already well-hobbled and slow and largely incapable of action. Reigns a completely unlikable presence that stomped him out and did not decent effort at selling any of the emotion that should have followed for a passing of the torch and retirement.
But Wrestlemania 33’s heart was in the right place. The aim was to offer up a joyride of emotional experiences – a wedding proposal, a surprise return, a big crush payoff to a series of Big Ego squashers, a retirement and several title changes. And so on that level it (sorta) delivered. But it also ran way-long, and missed out on any great humor-spots; usually a mainstay of the ‘Mania. Even the involvement of celebrity-fans or noticeable crowd-cameos was down on previous years.
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