“The Ultimate Thrill Ride”
The 2017 Road to Wrestlemania culminated this year at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. WWE took over Orlando for the 5 days straight with the Hall of Fame, NXT, Mania, Raw and Smackdown.
My excitement levels were at an all-time low for this year’s edition of the Super Bowl of pro-wrestling. On paper, none of the matches looked that appealing and none of the outcomes enthralled me in either direction. It’s hard to care about winners and losers when you’re barely interested in the event. Many of these matches had been building up since late last summer or early fall and if anything, I’m glad to see them come to an end so we can move on to something new.
With that being said, I think I was able to take a step back and watch the show at face level. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting through a 6 hour show, but you can still watch the Super Bowl even if your team’s not playing, right?
I actually enjoyed some of the build up to the show in the last couple weeks. The Miz and Maryse stuff against John Cena and Nikki Bella has been hilarious, Wyatt and Orton have invoked the dark lord, and Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho have had one of the best feuds of the last few years. None of these angles made Wrestlemania must watch, but for 10 bucks I didn’t feel ripped off.
Tinashe was out first to sing America the Beautiful. The hosts for the evening, The New Day came out next, cosplaying as Final Fantasy characters thanks to the newest WWE sponsorship. They kept their shtick short and sweet.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
Tell me this match would be opening Wrestlemania two years ago and I would call you insane. Nobody was excited for this match. AJ’s one of the best in the entire world and to give him a headlining match against the boss’s 47 year old son is straight nepotism. WWE’s excuse is that everyone else was tied up for a match and this was their last option available. I guess they trust AJ with a singles match with Shane, or else he’d be in the geek battle royal? Fans were hoping there would be a bait and switch and Shane would swap out for someone at the last minute, like a Shinsuke Nakamura. Instead, they went full bore and this match definitely happened.
And you know what, it was pretty good. Give AJ more than 15 minutes and he can carry anyone to a great match, but Shane worked his ass off and held up his end of the bargain. Their match was a phenomenal mix of mat wrestling and submission exchanges, high flying and huge table spots.
Shane kicked out of the styles clash, AJ nailed the referee and knocked him out, Shane hit a flying coast to coast into a trash can and even attempted a shooting star press.
AJ picked up the win, as he should. I liked this a lot more than I expected to and they got Wrestlemania started at full tilt. Match Rating: 4/5
Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho (c)
United States Title Match
Owens is out first and they play their ridiculous video recap. The trials and tribulations of their friendship were detailed, with Jericho having Owens’ back all of last fall helping him retain the Universal Championship. These video editors deserve some kind of an award. Owens turned on his best friend and here we are now. This is top tier professional wrestling cheesiness and the match hasn’t even started.
They were very physical but mostly kept their fight in the ring. Owens used the Walls of Jericho back on Y2J, Jericho countered the pop up powerbomb into a codebreaker, and Owens stopped a pinfall in the most Kevin Owens way possible:
Owens powerbombs Chris onto the ring apron and picks up the clean victory, looking like a killer. For these two at Wrestlemania maybe my expectations were higher, but this was totally fine. Just not a classic. Match Rating: 3.5/5
Bayley (C) vs Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Four-Way Elimination Match for the Raw Women's Championship
This is the entire women’s division from Monday Night Raw all thrown together into a match. Bayley is walking in as the champion instead of chasing the belt, Charlotte’s pay-per-view streak ended at Fastlane, Sasha’s been out of the title picture for months and Nia is nowhere near ready. Put all of that together and you get this match. Maybe Sasha would turn heel on Bayley tonight?
The girls teamed up on Nia and eliminated her first in quick fashion. Charlotte hit a beautiful corkscrew moonsault:
Charlotte did some heel tactics with the turnbuckle, I checked twitter for a minute and when I looked up Sasha was eliminated. Bayley and Charlotte went back and forth and Bayley picks up the win with a Macho Man tribute flying elbow drop. What’s the story here? Bayley survived all three girls she’s already beaten before. Bayley’s in tears as she holds up the title. I’m happy for her, just not her booking. Match Rating: 2.5/5
The Club (c) vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo & Cass vs. THE HARDY BOYZ
Four-Way Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Championship
Rumors had been circulating all the day that The Hardy Boys were showing up for this match. They just finished up with Ring of Honor the night before and it was well known they were coming to WWE, people just weren’t sure if it would be tonight or Raw on Monday. I had my doubts.
The three advertised teams make their entrances and the match is about to start when the New Day’s music hit. Big E announces that there is a fourth team entering the match tonight, and they’re in their ring gear to try and fool the fans that it might be them, but of course nobody bought it. Fans started going nuts and chanting, “Delete,” and the Hardy Boyz music hits. This crowd went bananas. People in the crowd were high-fiving and hugging each other and this was one of the loudest pops I think I’ve ever heard. I geeked out too.
Once the crowd settled down, they got the match started. This was your typical four team ladder match insanity, but they kept it safe. Everbody crashed and burned all over the ring and every team had a chance to shine, but this was obviously the Hardy’s show. Matt and Jeff had just worked a ladder match the night before in Ring of Honor, the absolute madmen.
Jeff does what he does best.
Jeff does a swanton off of a ladder and allows Matt to grab the belts for the win. Without the Hardys surprise this would be a 3/5, but with the Wrestlemania Moment I’ll give this a Match Rating 4/5.
The “Broken” gimmick is tied up in a legal battle with TNA/Anthem Sports. I hope it works out for the Hardy Brothers and they can bring some of their insane brilliance back to WWE. They completely reinvigorated their careers with it, and it ultimately helped them come back to the company.
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
Another disappointing match on paper. AJ Styles and John Cena had some of the best WWE matches in the last year, and they’re both placed into nothing matches. Cena’s becoming more of a part timer and I would have liked to see him tear the house down in a singles match.
This was set up entirely for John Cena to publicly propose to Nikki. The Miz and Maryse are the evil villains, going after John for not proposing to Nikki yet. Their feud was less pro-wrestling and more E! Network Reality Show. Their build was good in a so bad it’s good kind of way.
Absolutely nothing happened in this match. It was maybe 10 minutes but they kept it short. The Miz got a very warm reception from the crowd. It was nice to see after the hard work he’s been putting in on Smackdown over the last six months. Nonetheless, Miz and Maryse were just here to get clowned by the good guys and set up the proposal spot.
Cena gets down on one knee and gives a heartfelt proposal with the biggest diamond ring ever. It was sweet. They must have proposed months ago privately before this, right? Al Roker was also here, for some reason. The match didn’t matter, at all. Match Rating: 0/5
Wrestlemania is about halfway over and I realize I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s been well paced and the matches have all been good, or had some memorable spot that made them enjoyable. There weren’t any backstage skits or long promos, they kept the action high and fast paced.
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H
That all came to a grinding halt in this match. After their rockin’ Metallica video package, Triple H had a hilarious entrance, as usual:
Man, he’s so cool.
They proceeded to have the weakest weapons match I’ve seen in a long time. Everything felt slow and methodical, extremely Triple H style. Seth’s knee was the storytelling device in the match with Triple H targeting it with an arsenal of weapons.
Stephanie McMahon accidentally gets blasted through a table after Triple H runs into her. Seth and Trips reverse the pedigree back and forth until Seth hits it for the win. No sign of Finn Balor or Samoa Joe. This was supposed to feel like Seth’s big redemption, but totally fell flat for me. I know there’s a good worker hiding in Triple H somewhere (as evidenced with his matches with Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose), but he didn’t show up tonight. Match Rating 2/5
Current and popular acts Pitbull and Flo-Rida came out to perform the Wrestlemania theme song. I went out to smoke.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (c)
WWE World Championship Match
This match probably had the most buildup for anything on the show. Randy had joined the Wyatt Family back in October of last year, Randy won the Royal Rumble, Bray won the Championship at Elimination Chamber, Randy burned down the Wyatt Compound, Bray invoked Satan himself. I loved all the campiness, but giving this match the Rumble and Elimination Chamber was totally overkill.
This match sucked. It was slow and prodding, like they were wrestling underwater. They basically tried to trade their finishers back and forth. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail outside into the guard rail, Orton hit the RKO out of nowhere for the win. All of that, just for this.
However, this happened:
At a few different points in the match they would randomly cut to the bird’s eye camera and project something into the ring. I think they did maggots, worms and cockroaches. I laughed so, so hard. Lucha Underground never tried anything this wacky. It was like a 13-year-old Slipknot fan scripted this match out. They built this match up for six months, gave it the Royal Rumble and the Elimination Chamber, and it ends with that. Maggots and cockroaches. This was so absurd I must give it a Match Rating 3.5/5.
Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg (c)
WWE Universal Championship Match
This was the exact opposite of Orton and Wyatt. They went 1000 miles an hour, spammed finishers and big moves back and forth and it was over in 5 minutes. It was definitely “lit.” This was two life sized action figures smashing into each other in the name of entertainment.
Brock avoided the spear and kicked out of the jackhammer. Goldberg went to suplex city. Goldberg speared Brock through the barricade:
Brock did a crazy vertical leap over another spear from Goldberg, got the F5 and the win. Brock is the champion again. This totally ruled. Their entire series up to here was quality stuff, Goldberg had a great run overall and it was his turn to give back to Brock. I was thoroughly sports entertained. Match Rating 4.5/5
Alexa Bliss (c) vs Becky Lynch vs Carmella vs Natalya vs Mickie James vs Naomi
Smackdown Women's Championship
This made it from the pre-show to the main show, but unfortunately made it to the buffer spot between the main events. The crowd was dead and the length of the show was starting to wear on them. Very short, but slightly longer than Brock and Goldberg.
There wasn’t much of a story here other than Naomi returning. James Ellsworth got involved for a comedy spot, Becky got to shine for a few moments and Naomi picked up the win by getting Alexa Bliss to tapout. Naomi wins the title in her hometown, all the Smackdown women get onto the main card. That’s about it. I didn’t hate it, but wish they could’ve done more. Match Rating 2/5
Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
No Holds Barred Match
With Brock and Goldberg happening earlier, this was the only match left that would main event. Sometimes I really wish they would advertise the last match as the concrete main event so we’re not left guessing until the day of the show. With this going on last, it was obvious what was coming.
Jim Ross came out to call the match which drove the point home: this is Undertaker’s last match.
Roman comes out to a chorus of boos. Undertaker rises up halfway down the ramp, which answered that question.
Undertaker’s been looking rough ever since the Rumble. There’s lots of slow brawling and this show’s reaching 11 p.m. They certainly tried to have an Undertaker style Wrestlemania match and it just wasn’t working. I like to think part of it was a shoot, that 52-year-old Undertaker can’t do the moves he used to do and that WWE made that part of the storyline as well. Taker couldn’t get Roman up for the last ride. They tried a tombstone reversal that also backfired and this match was looking ugly.
They hit a few big spots with Taker hitting a chokeslam on one announcers table, and Reigns spearing Undertaker through another. The No Holds Barred stipulation saved them from having a complete dud, I guess.
They went back and forth with chairs, Roman kept hitting superman punches and spears until Undertaker tried to do his signature zombie sit up and failed.
Roman hits one last spear for the win, putting the Dead Man down for good.
What’s weird to me is how they played up Reigns’ win here. He wasn’t played up like a valiant babyface who was getting the torch passed down to him, nor was he treated like the biggest heel of all time by ending the career of The Undertaker. He just won, fireworks went off and he was gone.
They gave The Undertaker the last 10 minutes of the show for his ride off into the sunset. Taker took off his gloves, coat and hat and left them in the middle of the ring. He left the ring and raised his fist up for one last time. This all felt surreal. I just watched the Dead Man’s last ride, ever.
For The Undertaker’s last match this was a bummer. Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels was emotionally charged, Shawn and Taker was the same, but this fell flat until Roman left the ring. As fans, we’ll remember the moment of him leaving his gear in the ring, even if the match was a bust. I can’t say I liked the match very much, but the final moments of The Undertaker were gut wrenching. Match Rating 2/5
Wrestlemania 33 was a long, long show. There were 10 matches on the main card which came out to almost 5 hours. The highs were very high while the lows were very low. There were title changes, surprises, retirements, proposals and maggots. I can now say that The Undertaker retired on the same show that Pitbull performed on.
Ultimately I enjoyed Wrestlemania 33 a lot more than the slow death march that was Wrestlemania 32 from last year. The first half of the show was great, Goldberg and Lesnar was awesome and I’ll remember Undertaker’s last match forever. I think the positives outweigh the negatives and I left the show satisfied.
With main roster call-ups and roster shakeups happening soon I’m interested in WWE again. We’ll get AJ vs. Nakamura again, someday. Wrestlemania 33 gets a B-.
by Nate Dimit