No matter how out of step I am with wrestling of a year I still look forward to Wrestlemania. As was the case, then, for the 2019 edition – Wrestlemania 35 – particularly after checking in with Elimination Chamber and Fastlane.
And though I always enjoy the ‘big match’ feel of the DVD – right from when it goes into the player, even the ceremony of watching it on DVD takes me back to see the very first Wrestlemanias on VHS – it was hard to stay excited about Wrestlemania 35. There were botches and boring matches galore. The highlights were high – but the lows were fucking low…
Brock Lesnar handed over his “Universal Championship” to Seth Rollins in a sub-3-minute match, after Brock brushed past a crowd-hyping Hulk Hogan. Look, it wasn’t great by any stretch – but the crowd popped. And we knew Wrestlemania was on!
From there I was kinda into the AJ Styles/Randy Orton match – but it dragged through its 15-minute run. That’s because Orton has been wrestling the same match for over 15 years now. The same smug swagger, the same slow-motion intensity. The same boring spots and chops. And AJ is somehow just not meant for WWE. He was a fringe player, so perfectly suited to when TNA seemed like any sort of trailblazer. And he is meaningless – despite his skills – on the big stage.
It wasn’t terrible. It could never be. But it was somehow not as great as it seemed.
Some of the big-big matches were amazing. Let’s get this across almost straight away: Kofi Kingston taking on Daniel Bryn for the WWE Championship was incredible. Bryan loved going heel – and went technical on the mat. Kofi took the beating and endured the blows to show his moves and resilience and to reward fans of his earnest, hardworking approach. In the end this was just classic in-ring storytelling. Two great showcase-players doing what they do best. It was wonderful.
The same was true of botch-fest-messes too – The Miz playing off in his feud with Shane McMahon. It was dreadful. But it worked. Because Shane-o-Mac will always take a tumble. And because The Miz is a player. He worked the angles and went with the botches. The match – implausible – was too long. But it did deliver.
Where WM35 really started to drag was in the OTT non-spectacle of Batista returning to fight HHH. Batista, never any sort of technician, and five years of ring-rust gathering atop that, was against HHH. Also slow and dreadful. But no one could give a shit. They botched, they battled, they made a mockery of the big arena match – nose pliers? Fuck off!
I could not care about the women’s tag titles changing – it wasn’t good. Kurt Angle retiring meant nothing. Rey getting squished by Samoa Joe seemed to only happen because Rey wasn’t ring-ready – and though it wasn’t bad for Joe it wasn’t great.
And so this card struggled. But the women’s triple threat title match with Ronda, Charlotte and Becky also seemed to (almost) succeed for in-ring emotion and storytelling. There were botched spots and it was a bad finish but it carried some emotional weight. And that’s the problem with WM these days – too serious, too long, too boring. Not enough humour, nostalgia, sharpness. The things the best versions of this event have always had.
Too many matches to recall – too many lame delivery-points to recount or even care about. But enough decent stuff to please fans. Which, ultimately, is the real shame of it all.
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