Monday, April 7, 2014

WrestleMania XXX

So. That happened.

Before the show, I complained on Twitter that WWE had kinda dropped the ball on making WrestleMania feel like a milestone. I know WWE's primary canon exists very much in "the now," but Mania 30 is huge. THIRTY! When I got into broadcasting shortly after WrestleMania 19, WrestleMania 30 was my goal, I wanted to announce that show (no, I was not the short French guy), and while my life took a much different direction, I've always felt like WrestleMania 30 should be "the big one" and I didn't really feel like that was coming through in the buildup.

Be careful what you wish for.

The pre-show Fatal 4-Way between The Usos, Rybaxel, Los Matadores and The Real Americans was a ton of fun. Los Matadores got to do their thing, Ryback and Axel may have been mildly reestablished, and we got to see the showdown we all wanted in the end, The Usos vs. Swagger & Cesaro. The Usos retained, as they should have, and we finally got the big break up between Swagger and Cesaro. I don't know if Cesaro is officially turning, but the crowd made him a hero.
Predictions: 1 for 1

Once WrestleMania officially kicked off, we were treated to an ultra fun segment with the three biggest names of the past, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Host segments have fallen flat in the past and pauses in the action for in-ring talking rarely goes over well at WrestleMania, but these guys were spectacular. Between Austin & Rock busting Hogan's balls for calling the Superdome the "Silverdome," everyone working in a catchphrase and then a three-way beer bath (less sexy than it sounds), this was the perfect way to kick off WrestleMania and made me feel like a dumbass for the whole "doesn't feel like a milestone" comment.

Surprisingly, but not really, Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H was the first match of the night and perhaps the best. Triple H got to do his ridiculously over the top Oderus Urungus tribute entrance, Stephanie looked like his maid, and Daniel Bryan kneed him in the face. It's a win for everyone! Perhaps this match will get lost to time since the story played itself out further in the main event and that's what everyone was there for, but Triple H vs. Bryan has been the predominant story in WWE since SummerSlam and we finally got the cathartic moment of Bryan beating him. What came later is unquestionably the moment, but this story needed to see Triple H laid the fuck out and Bryan did it. He did it.

The little extra at the end with Triple H striking Bryan's shoulder with a steel chair was well done too, because as WWE would prove later, nothing is guaranteed.
Predictions: 2 for 2

The Shield vs. Kane & The New Age Outlaws was precisely what it should've been. Who the fuck do these guys think they are stepping to The Shield? The Shield took out Sheamus, Orton and Big Show last year and a trio of corporate sell-outs, two of which haven't been relevant since Janet Reno was Attorney General, think they're going to topple them? Get the hell out of here. The Shield beat them in under three minutes with their new finisher, the Double Triple Powerbomb!
Predictions: 3 for 3

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was next and wow, 30 men in the ring at once is a lot. I'm honestly not sure if I've seen a 30-man Battle Royal since WWE went HD to really get a sense of just how crowded the ring gets. Imagine if they did the Rumble like this one year where no one got eliminated until the 30th guy came out? It would be bowling shoe ugly, but at least an interesting statistic.

I picked Sheamus as my winner, Big Show was too obvious and since Sheamus was the only other guy who got an entrance, I was feeling pretty confident until I saw Cesaro in there, the only guy pulling double duty. It came down to Cesaro and Big Show and for a second there I thought we were going to see Big Show get the Big Swing, but instead, Cesaro picked him up, Hogan/Andre style, walked him to the ropes and dumped him over the top. I'm going to repeat that: Cesaro WALKED while carrying the Big Show and dumped him over the top. Dude is a beast and solidified himself last night, the Andre the Giant trophy could easily be the new MITB in the sense that it guarantees a trip to the main event scene.
Predictions: 3 for 4

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt... phenomenal storytelling. Cena was a little hokey in the early goings, and I'd be a little more invested in the "will Cena embrace his dark side?" angle had I not previously seen him drop two dozen chairs on Wade Barrett, but once Wyatt really got to do his thing, the match came alive. The match will be forever remembered for this alone:

No big deal, I never needed to sleep again or anything.
I had a feeling Cena would win with the emphasis on his legacy and the constant mentioning that Bray didn't need to win this match in order to win in his mind, and that's all well and good, but I still would've went with Wyatt winning. Personal preference, but I especially get why they did it considering what was to come later. Regardless, Wyatt has arrived and I have a sneaking suspicion he's only just begun to loom over John Cena. I don't think this was the era-defining moment I predicted, but we saw something special here.

And major kudos to Mark Crozer for a tremendous performance of Wyatt's entrance. I know a lot of people were worried it wouldn't "fit" Wyatt's character, but the Voodoo dancers, the lighting, THOSE PLAGUE MASKS?! It was perfect.
Predictions: 4 for 5

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker.

I've spent the last 12 hours trying to wrap my head around this one, but I just can't. I've seen a lot of people coming around on it and actually kinda digging it, but I just can't. I'm still gutted, shocked, and just plain sad. The magic is over.

The Streak is over.

No one saw it coming, the life was sucked out of a room of 75,000 people who just sat there in stunned silence and I died a little inside.

I've often asked myself if I can get emotionally invested in wrestling anymore. I get pissed off about decisions, sure, the "oh why did they do that?" stuff when they don't put Bryan in the Royal Rumble, but rarely do I feel anything for the result like when I was a kid and cried my eyes out when The Undertaker beat Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title in 1991 or when I leaped from my couch screaming when Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12.

But last night, I damn sure felt it, and I didn't like it. And I know that was the point and I know this was likely 100% Undertaker's call; Taker is "old school" and that isn't just a name for a move, so I had a feeling he would also end his career with a loss, but I didn't think it would be at WrestleMania and I never thought it would be Brock Lesnar.

And I don't like that it's Lesnar, I don't think they can get much mileage out of this, Heyman's promos will be the stuff of legend, but what's Lesnar going to do, beat Bryan for the WWE Title and disappear for six months?

But it's not even about the business aspect of it, I just didn't want The Streak to end. I used to be of the mindset that it should, but then it became too big to end, probably around WrestleMania 24. Some things just need a happy ending and Taker's Streak was one of those things. Sure, no one would get the infamous "rub," but no one got it anyway. And giving it to some young up and comer is far too risky, what happens if they quit at the height of their popularity, like, ya know, BROCK LESNAR DID?!

It was just something that should've stayed magical, a bridge to a time when we thought it was real and the stuff people talk about in video packages for years to come. Now it's gone and I don't think it was worth it.

I know that's the reaction WWE, and probably Taker himself, wanted. You're supposed to be shocked, you're supposed to be appalled, you're supposed to be mad, sad, frustrated, and confused, that's drama and it's good drama... but I don't like it. I don't like that Joffrey had Ned Stark beheaded, I don't like it when we find out this isn't really a story about How He Met Your Mother... and I don't like to see my all-time favorite wrestler lose the one thing that made him the most unique Superstar of all-time.

Think about your all-time favorite television show, think about it's most heartbreaking, gut-wrenching moment, then multiply it by 24 years... that's how I feel about The Undertaker's loss. I watched his debut live when I was seven-years-old, I know it's cliche to say "oh a piece of my childhood just died," but I've invested 24 years into this character and the mystique of The Streak, to see it end, especially in this fashion is the most shocking thing I've ever seen on television.

Apparently Taker got a concussion early on, so that explains the match not exactly being up to the standard he set over the last several years, but this is a match that is entirely about its finish and I'm legitimately heartbroken over it.

Predictions: 4 for 6

And the poor Divas, what a shitty spot to put them in, forced to follow the most unbelievable match since at least Montreal, if not ever. The crowd was not prepared for this and booed, they weren't booing the Divas, but it didn't help. AJ retained in a match I admittedly paid very little attention to.
Predictions: 5 for 7

It even took some time for the crowd to even get into Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista, but once the match really heated up, especially when Triple H and Stephanie ran in with crooked referee Scott Armstrong, things were on fire.

The match also featured the sickest table spot I've ever seen, with Batista Powerbombing Bryan from one table to the next, while Orton caught him for a reverse RKO, then both Orton and Bryan crash through the table, with Orton landing back-first onto a monitor. It was nasty.

But after Taker, I wasn't getting my hopes up for anything and kudos to WWE for making it unpredictable. The near falls here were heart stoppers, there was a spot near the end where it looked like Batista had it won and I had the remote in my hand to instantly turn the damn thing off, but thankfully, the right man won.

Daniel Bryan is your WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

Let it sink in.

Daniel Bryan

Won the WWE Championship

in the main event

of WrestleMania 30.

No matter where we go from here, whether he loses it to Lesnar tonight on Raw or holds it for a year, Daniel Bryan is the real deal. A legit main eventer in a company that has a long history of relegating guys to "B+ player" status. Bryan just gave a flying knee to the glass ceiling and it's because the audience made WWE listen to them. That's how you create a milestone WrestleMania.
Predictions: 6 for 8

Overall I'd say it was easily one of the top five WrestleManias of all-time and when the dust settles on the grief of losing The Undertaker's Streak, possibly Taker himself, it could go down as the best ever. The news came out today that there are over 650,000 WWE Network subscribers, after that show, the stream being reliable the entire night, and the fact that you get every PPV from here on out for $10 a month, there's no reason not to subscribe.

Well played, WWE... through heartbreak and triumph, you revolutionized the industry again last night.

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