My love of pro-wrestling died swiftly – and though I have a passing (nostalgic) interest in the product I let the last couple of Wrestlemanias go by, sounds like I didn’t miss a whole lot. But Wrestlemania 31 really lifts the game, returns to that feeling of The Big Event – I’ve kept up with storylines and the action only in as much as the PPV events allow, montages fill me in on months of storyline. But I was able to sit down and watch all of WM31, no fast-forwarding, no skipping.
The first Wrestlemania in San Francisco, WM31 filled the open-air Levi’s Stadium (there’s something I really dig about open-air Wrestlemania, even the one people mock, the first noticeable failure in WM’s history – WMIX – it still has a quirk-factor for me).
And though there might not have been one key huge match or moment it was all carried off solidly, and nothing fell over as a dud. The women’s tag match was not strong, and the longer it carried on (shortest match on the card, by some way) it showed up struggling wrestlers and botched moves. Beyond that, everything here works.
The opening ladder match is the thrill-ride we always expect. It delivers.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins shows great skill and a gimmick-free match, just a strong singles match. Undercard stuff, but with a hint, carried out in the in-ring storytelling, that there’s more to come.
The Triple H/Sting match managed to be the event they hoped for. You’ll read online scorn and snark about Hunter burying Sting, or at least shovelling over the dirt after the commentators did their best to bury him, but this was always about the impact of it as a happening over any match or match-result. The reunions of DX and NWO sold the story above and beyond the work Stink and HHH offered. It’s a big match in the way that Undertaker matches at WM are big matches.
And on that, Taker defeated Bray Wyatt but it still almost seemed like a passing of the torch. Another match-as-moment.
I liked the Cena vs. Rusev encounter. The win perhaps arrived a little early, a little quickly in the scheme of how the match was playing out but the early action was ominous.
And the big non-match moment was The Rock confronting Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. He brings out his Furious-franchise co-star and MMA legend Ronda Rousey to rousing applause. It’s an old-fashioned mark-out moment acknowledging a new form.
The matches conclude with a great main event, Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. There’s a run-in and disruption which seemed to shock audience members. And obviously sets up plenty of scenarios going forward, particularly since it involved one of the cast who lost his singles match earlier that night.
Including on the three-disc set is the Hall of Fame induction – always touching, if overlong. Watch it with the remote in your hand, there’s a bit of tear-in-the-eye stuff this year with Macho Man’s induction, and for Kiwis the inclusion of The Bushwackers.
You can’t really fault this year’s Wrestlemania for delivering. It felt like a big event, was carried off like a big event and some of the matches were close to incendiary in their execution and audience reception.