Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– The Ultimate Thrill Ride™ has arrived! Live from the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL on April 2nd, 2017. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pull together the funds to buy nose-bleeds, so like most of the wrestling world, I’m watching this on the WWE Network.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Neville © vs. Austin Aries:
So we kick off the in-ring action at around 5:40 ET. Tom Phillips and Corey Graves calling the action. Crowd is firmly behind Aries. Neville has reigned over the Cruiserweights for most of 2017. Aries immediately earned the #1 contender spot winning a Fatal-5-Way on 205 Live, and that’s pretty much it. Not much of a feud, so there’s absolutely no reason for a title change, especially at 5:30 in the afternoon. Without having to research, I can safely say this was the longest Cruiserweight Title Match in the history of WrestleMania. Steady pace, but the crowd was hit and miss throughout. Things really picked up in the closing minutes. Aries took Neville off the top rope with a Super Hurricanrana, followed by a diving forearm and 450 Splash for a near fall. He locked in the Last Chancery, but Neville opted to rip away at the previous injured eye socket to escape the hold. With Aries rolling around in pain, Neville took advantage of the opportunity and came off the top with the Red Arrow to retain the Championship at 15:41. ***1/2 Good match that picked up momentum in the last 5-6 minutes. With a crowd that was fully focused on the action (and fully in their seats), this could’ve been a show-stealer. Instead, it was just a very good, but easy to forget, undercard match.
4th Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
(Participants: Braun Strowman, Big Show, Sami Zayn, Mark Henry, Jinder Mahal, Goldust, R-Truth, Primo, Epico, Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, Titus O’Neil, Sin Cara, Mojo Rawley, Luke Harper, Apollo Crews, Dolph Ziggler, Curt Hawkins, Chad Gable, Jason Jordan, Fandango, Tyler Breeze, Heath Slater, Rhyno, Aiden English, Simon Gotch, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Viktor, Konnor, Kalisto, Tian Bing, Killian Dain)
This is taking place at around 6:05 ET, so they must’ve bumped something from the main show? Goldust is sporting some Retro-Tights from the Mid 90’s. No surprise returns or hidden NXT guys (Bing and Dain were announced on YouTube). To the surprise of everyone, Simon Gotch WASN’T the first eliminated… that honor went to Primo at 0:03. Kalisto followed at 0:24, and there goes Gotch at 0:28, all by Strowman. Show takes out Slater at 0:45, Jimmy Uso at 0:56, and Goldust at 1:00. There goes Konnor at 1:11, and none of the eliminations get a reaction. Strowman and Show waste little time teasing a colossal jostle, but everyone gangs up on them. Strowman fights free and dumps Show at 1:49. Everyone joins up on Strowman again, but he plows them over and tosses Viktor at 2:00. One more time, and this time Strowman is tossed out at 2:09! Wait, they just got rid of the odds-on favorites in the opening minutes of the match?! From here, it’s just a scrub Battle Royal. O’Neil is responsible for eliminating Harper at 10:02 and my fiancé laughed at me for picking him after Strowman was eliminated. Zayn eliminates Titus at 10:25 and Dain throws out Sami Zayn at 10:31. I missed Apollo Crews being eliminated, leaving Dain, Mojo, and MAHAL. Mahal gets in Gronk’s face and throws his beverage back at him. SAVAGE! Gronk hops the rail, but security hold him back for about 5-seconds. Gronk gets in the ring (did I really type that?) and nails Mahal with a shoulder tackle. Dain misses a charge and Mojo hits him with the running forearms. Dain is tossed out at 13:36! Mahal misses a charge and gets thrown off the apron, giving Mojo Rawley the win at 14:07. This one died once they got rid of Big Show and Strowman, but Gronk getting involved woke people up. Good win for Mojo, even if throwing out Mahal last is underwhelming. No rating, but it was bottom of the barrel, heatless stuff for about 10 of the 13 minutes.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
Dean Ambrose © vs. Baron Corbin:
Well, that answered my question. Considering this match didn’t get any hype on the last episode of Smackdown Live, it almost feels like it belongs on the Kickoff Show, but now I’m not so sure if there’ll be a title change with it not being on the main show. It’s not impossible, but seems unlikely to put a belt on a heel on the warm-up part of the night. Ambrose immediately counters Corbin’s in-and-out spot by interrupting him with a suicide dive. He ends up taking a slide into the post, which is unfortunate for his previously injured ribs. Corbin pounds away with his usual offense. Ambrose fights back and they do an awkward spot with Ambrose coming off the top, and something must’ve gotten wrong, because he starts selling and the announcers cover for it saying the ribs are hurting. Then he successfully does his flying elbow from the top to the arena floor, so they just shrug it off as “Dean gonna Dean.” Corbin slips catching Ambrose for Deep-Six, but they recover well, with Ambrose teasing the Lunatic Lariat and Corbin hitting him with a boot. Deep-Six for two. Powerbomb into a jackknife cover for another two count. Corbin calls for the End of Days, but Ambrose flips through and hits Dirty Deeds out of nowhere to retain at 10:46. ** The usual match you’ll see out of Corbin. It was just fine, nothing to write home about, and with a few sloppy spots. Ambrose honestly seemed like he didn’t care if it were WrestleMania or a Live Event in Anchorage.
– The New Day arrive as the OFFICIAL HOSTS of WrestleMania, dressed as what I’m assuming is Final Fantasy characters. It’s not my thing, so I’m not sure. Their role of hosting duty actually lead to less ring-time than a typical Raw segment, with this quick introduction for the show, an appearance before the Tag Title Ladder Match, and coming out even later to announce the bogus attendance of 75,000+.
Shane McMahon vs. A.J. Styles:
Yes, the Pay-Per-View portion of the card is kicking off with one of the bigger matches. I guess it’s a smart spot with how popular Styles is with this type of audience. The feud developed with Styles frustrated at what he deemed to be unfair handling of his talent, and being screwed out of the Main Event of WrestleMania when Randy Orton decided to commit arson. This isn’t a Hardcore or Last Man Standing or any other form of “an excuse for Shane to jump off a building” gimmicks. Straight rules… until there’s a referee bump. Styles would clearly out-wrestle Shane, but to his credit, Shane kept up with him and even performed a few decent chain wrestling sequences. It didn’t take long for punches to fly, and yeah, taking punches from Shane should be an extra bonus, because Styles looked like he was developing a shiner half-way through the match. Shane also worked in some MMA stuff, like a triangle choke. Styles hit the Styles Clash in a neat counter, for two. There was a predictable referee bump, and Styles, frustrated at Shane’s guile and determination, went for a weapon (trash cans), but it backfired, and Shane hit the Coast-to-Coast for a near fall. He went for the diving elbow through the table, but Styles rolled away. Back inside, Shane countered the Phenomenal Forearm with a DDT for two. He went for a SSP, but Styles rolled away, and the second attempt at the Forearm connects for three at 20:30. **** The referee bump was a bit preposterous, but the work itself was above the expectations coming in, with Styles carrying Shane to one of his least gimmicked matches that I can remember.
WWE United States Championship Match:
Chris Jericho © vs. Kevin Owens:
This one has been building since Owens won the Universal Championship back in September, and recruited Jericho to watch his back. What followed was an awkward friendship, mostly from Jericho, that seemed destined for a big break-up. That moment came during the Festival of Friendship, where Owens gave Jericho a gift… The List of KO, and finished off a beat-down by putting Jericho through the Jeri-Tron. I’m disappointed I didn’t order a KO-Mania 2 shirt. Jericho’s entrance had the big countdown and a giant “List of Jericho” at the top of the ramp. What followed would be considered a good match, but with a lukewarm crowd. They did a lot of spots where they countered each other’s signature moves, including getting knees up on three consecutive spots that include a Lionsault, Frog Splash, and Senton Bomb. Jericho survived the first Pop-Up Powerbomb. On the second attempt, he did a pretty good counter with the Code Breaker, but Owen literally got one knuckle on the rope to break the count. Owens got Jericho in a compromised position on the floor, dropped Jericho across the ring apron with a Pop-Up Powerbomb, and rolled him back in to win the U.S. Title at 16:48. **3/4 Considering all the build and how they wanted this to be a great match, it under-delivered. I’ve come not to expect much out of Jericho at this stage of his career, beyond a decent match, and that’s what we got: a decent match, with a lot of good counters.
WWE Raw Women’s Championship; Elimination Match:
Bayley © vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax:
I’m surprised they didn’t put the Smackdown Women’s Match on early in the show, considering this one feels a bit more important. Bayley won the title on an episode of Raw emanating from Las Vegas, and since then, it’s come into question whether or not she’d be champion with the constant help from best-buddy-in-the-whole-wide-world, Sasha. Nia earned a spot in the match by pinning Bayley a few weeks ago. Charlotte gets fire-works for her entrance, Sasha a ride down the ramp wearing a ridiculous wig, and Bayley has Super-Sized “Bayley Buddies.” Nia gets a normal entrance, so we know she’s losing. Nia actually dominated early, taking on all three at once. Cool idea, except I liked it better at TakeOver the night before. The three Women managed to plant Nia with a Triple-Powerbomb (SHIELD!) and dog-piled her for three at 4:10. How can that possibly be legal?! Charlotte bails, challenging Bayley and Sasha to fight each other. Sasha accidentally hits Bayley on the floor with a somersault plancha, and Charlotte follows with a Corkscrew Moonsault from the top! Back inside, Charlotte removed a middle turnbuckle pad setting up the next elimination: Sasha goes for the Bank Statement, but Charlotte rams her into the steel for the pin-fall at 8:12. Charlotte misses a Moonsault, but quickly recovers and locks in a Figure-Four, only for Bayley to make it to the ropes. Bayley gets trapped in the tree of woe, but manages to slam Charlotte off the top, recover, and hit a “Macho Man” Elbow that resembles more like CM Punk’s Macho Man’s Elbow, and THAT gets three at 12:15. That was seriously the finish? *** Another underwhelming match that was good, but needed another 10-minutes on a show that lasted three weeks.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship; Ladder Match:
Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows © vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo & Cass:
There’s really no reason for this to be a Ladder Match, which was shoe-horned into the storyline on the go-home episode of Raw, including Sheamus getting busted open and needing 16 stitches. There’s not a whole lot of reason behind this other than “these guys are chasing and these guys are the Champions.” The New Day show up, seemingly to add themselves into the match, but instead, this will be a Fatal-Four-Way: Anderson & Gallows vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo & Cass vs… MATT AND JEFF HARDY. Holy crap, the crowd was ready for that and exploded! If there were a roof on the building, it would’ve been blown off. The Hardys wasted little time hitting poetry in motion. Gallows and Cass work together to sandwich them between ladders, setting up a spot for later in the match. Cesaro swings Anderson around while Sheamus clobbers Gallows across the chest for what feels like forever. Enzo keeps teasing climbing the ladder, including a boost from Cass, but he was eventually shoved off and killed by a Cesaro Uppercut. Cesaro gets taken out with the Magic Killer. Matt takes Anderson off a ladder with a Twist of Fate. Meanwhile, on the outside, Sheamus and Cesaro are laid out across two ladders, and here’s Jeff with a super-sized ladder, and we all know what happens next: A Swanton Bomb that could break ribs and knock someone’s teeth out. Back inside, Matt easily ascends the ladder to win the Raw Tag Titles at 11:00. Believe it or not, this was Jeff’s FIRST WrestleMania win. ***1/2 Good match with some neat spots, but it was a little short, and everyone was a lame duck once the Hardys made their “surprise” return.
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse:
For a match with nothing but bottom-of-the-barrel expectations, the build-up to this one was pretty darn good, with Miz and Maryse doing their best to troll Cena and Nikki about their relationship, including multiple vignettes where Miz and Maryse dressed up as them for a “never before seen” episode of Total Bellas Bull S***. No special entrances, but Al Roker does the ring introductions for the simple reason that he’s on TV in some capacity. Maryse and Nikki tease starting the match, but Maryse immediately tags out. Miz takes almost all the offense, much to the delight of the crowd, and you can tell he’s loving it and milking every moment as much as possible. The crowd even gets riled up when he does the Daniel Bryan “YES!” Kicks. Cena eventually dumps Miz out of the ring and tags in Nikki, her levels Maryse with a Spear. She hits Miz with a tope suicida, and back in the ring, the “good” guys finish the “bad” guys with the synchronized Attitude Adjustment and Rack Attack at 9:39. Post-match, Cena tells an awkward story about asking Nikki something while under sedation and told her he would let her know what he asked when the time was right… and that time is now (see what I did there?), and pops the question to a mixed reaction. * The match was almost nothing but Miz doing basic offense to crowd jubilee, and the post-match proposal isn’t my cup of tea, and was far from the Macho Man and Elizabeth moment from over two decades ago.
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (w/ Stephanie McMahon):
This is an “Unsanctioned Match”, which usually means “No Disqualification for the sake of No Disqualification.” Rollins is sporting a new gold outfit, and sets the ramp “on fire” with a torch at the top of the ramp, while Triple H rides down with Biker-Mama Steph with a police escort. The beard makes Hunter appear to be 10 years older than he is, and he’s already pushing 50. Rollins’ heavily bandaged knee is an obvious target, and to no surprise, Triple H spends most of the match working on it. I know Triple H loves to work old-school NWA style, but sometimes it doesn’t fit the stage he’s performing on. Rollins attempting the sunset flip out of the corner proves to be a dumb move, as expected, but he still managed to do a gingerly-thrown Buckle Bomb, so not to kill Triple H. Hunter locked in a reverse figure-four on the floor, and Rollins futility in trying to escape by weakly throwing chairs at him was a neat visual. Other than chairs, what should he pull out, but a Sledgehammer. Hunter, seeing a Sledgehammer like a Junkie sees Smack, couldn’t resist, and opened the door for a comeback. Stephanie tried to interfere, and there was almost heel miscommunication, but Seth followed through by knocking Hunter and Steph together, which knocked Steph off the apron through a table at ringside. Hunter, in shock, turned around was caught with the Pedigree for three at 25:20. ***1/4 Another good match, although to be fair, I didn’t expect much out of this one, so I guess it over-delivered. Could’ve stood to lose at least 5-minutes, and to my surprise, no interference from Samoa Joe or Mick Foley.
– Pitbull performs a few songs to “cool” down a crowd that looks exhausted already, and we’ve still got four matches and about TWO HOURS LEFT, because dammit, this show is definitely going until Midnight, if not longer.
WWE Championship Match:
Bray Wyatt © vs. Randy Orton:
Another match without any special entrances, just some fancy graphics on the ramp, like Orton walking in time with a giant Viper. I’ve already mocked the build-up to this, with Orton turning on Wyatt after months of a confusing relationship, by setting fire to the Wyatt Compound and the burial ground of Sister Abigail. “I’m coming for you, Bray, I’m coming for your title” has become my new favorite thing to randomly yell out. A mostly non-descript match. The most memorable spots were Wyatt posing in the corner, when suddenly the lights go out and there’s a flickering effect on the apron, showing disgusting things like maggots and other types of bugs that make things go bump in the night. Wyatt hit a Sister Abigail into the barricade, and another in the ring, but Orton kicked out at two. Orton ducked a running clothesline and hit an RKO out of nowhere on the floor. After the third special effects show on the canvas, Orton casually recovered and hit another RKO (also out of nowhere) to become a 13-time World Champion at 10:13. *1/2 Seriously, that might’ve been the most disappointing match of the night, and expectations again weren’t high because these two showed little chemistry during one of the Smackdown PPV’s in the Fall.
WWE Universal Championship Match:
Goldberg © vs. Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman):
The hype video that preceded the match, featuring Heyman telling the feud as if it were a Fairy Tale, was probably the most original video package WWE has put together in a long time, and really gave the match an extra boost in feeling like it’s something special. Heyman does Lesnar’s ring introduction, and Goldberg’s entrance takes approximately 10-minutes because he has to walk down a ramp that is almost as long as Football field. Lesnar hit three consecutive German Suplexes early, but Goldberg popped up and surprised him with a Spear. Goldberg hit another Spear, followed Brock to the floor, and Speared him through the barricade. Back inside, ANOTHER Spear and Jackhammer, but Brock kicks out! Brock recovered, hits seven more German suplexes to get us to 10 (Tye Dillinger would be proud), and the F-5 means we have a NEW Universal Champion at 4:45. Well, that was much more exciting than I thought it would be, and still way shorter (I had it at around 8-10 minutes). **1/2 Hard to rate a match like this, but it was a train-wreck in the good sense, and Brock going over was the right move, although what he does as Universal Champion is still up in the air.
WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship; Six-Pack Challenge Match:
Alexa Bliss © vs. Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth):
I feel bad for these performers, having to follow that last match, and sandwiched in a spot that is definitely undesirable. If you want to play a game of “who’s winning”, just judge by the entrances: Becky, Mickie, Natalya, and Carmella are ushered out one after another with little breathing room, while Alexa gets a decent length entrance (and wearing Riddler inspired tights), and Naomi not only gets a full entrance, but milks it far beyond the point it just slaps you in the face and says “I’m going over.” Why are Mickie and Becky dressed as Native Americans? The match was rushed, without much happening worth noting, and the crowd didn’t care. Natalya blew her one big spot, trying to turn over Naomi and Carmella in a Sharpshooter at the same time. James Ellsworth gets his WrestleMania Moment, being thrown by Becky with an Exploder Suplex. The finish came out of nowhere, with Naomi and Alexa alone in the ring, and Naomi trapping Alexa in a double chicken-wing/leg-lock for the tap-out at 5:38 for her 2nd Women’s Title. * This honestly belonged on the Kick-Off Show. Filler Match.
– Jim Ross comes out to call the “Main Event”, so we know something major is going down.
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns:
It’s the Battle of the Yard… I made that up, myself. No matter what, there’s going to be a lot of unhappy fans. The over/under for Undertaker’s entrance was set at 5:00, but the bastard cheated, being shuttled up to the half-way mark of the ramp via trap door for his entrance. It was still as long, if not longer than the Universal Title Match, and almost surpassed the previous Women’s Title Match, too. They slugged it out early, with Undertaker getting the early advantage. Most of the match ended up being exchanging of their signature moves. Reigns kicked out of a Chokeslam onto a Chair and a Tombstone. Undertaker went for another, but Reigns countered, and God it was ugly, as they fell and Reigns could’ve lift Undertaker up for the obvious spot. Reigns hit Superman Punch after Superman Punch, and scored near falls on multiple Spears. When Undertaker kicked out of a third Spear, it was clearly the beginning of the end, as he struggled getting to his feet, while Reigns tried to project facial expressions that harkened back to the Michaels/Flair match at WrestleMania 24. Reigns ended up hitting more Superman Punches, and sprung off the ropes a few times before hitting a FOURTH Spear, and finally that was enough to put Undertaker down for his second WrestleMania loss at a needlessly long 22:59. ** Considering Undertaker’s physical limitations, this was as good as you were going to get, with only one ugly sequence and a lot of the same stuff to pad the time.
– Post-match, the Undertaker took off the gloves, his trench-coat and hat, and left them in the middle of the ring, symbolizing his farewell to the ring. On his way out, he stopped to give a quick smooch to his wife, the former Michelle McCool, which is definitely an out-of-character moment in a short list of them throughout his career. Undertaker stopped halfway up the ramp, saluted the crowd with a fist in the air, and lowered through the same trap door as WrestleMania came to a close.
Final Thoughts: From opening bell of the first match until the fade to black, WrestleMania ran from 5:40 until 12:10 A.M. ET, making it the longest WrestleMania of all-time (not including the 8-hour pre-show for “WrestleMania All Day Long” in 2000, featuring clips of all previous 15 WrestleMania’s). Unlike last year, the filler wasn’t as obvious, and more matches (not all, but more) getting a little bit more time than usual. A few matches were short-changed, but they honestly were better off with the lesser time than on a show that would require giving them extra. There wasn’t a show-stealing performance, but there were a decent number of matches that delivered and only a few that disappointed. Despite the ridiculously long run time, there’s enough good stuff to consider this a good WrestleMania, but there’s not enough to push it to the next level.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.