Well, WrestleMania 31 has come and gone. A lot of reviewers have said that it will go down in history as one of the best WrestleManias of all time. Well, if you have low expectations for something, then even if the thing is only marginally better than expected, it will seem like the best thing ever. That’s what I think has happened with WrestleMania 31. It was enjoyable, far more enjoyable than I expected, but I wouldn’t dare say it was one of the best WrestleManias of all time…So here’s an in-depth look at WrestleMania 31…
The Pre-Show is something I watch half-heartedly. If matches are deemed worthy enough to be on the PPV, then why should I watch them? Kidd and Cesaro retained the Tag Team Belts in a rushed match that didn’t leave an impression on me. The Andre the Giant Battle Royal was won by Andre’s ‘former son’, The Big Show. Why? What does he gain from it? At least we saw Mizdown turn on The Miz before Mizdow was eventually thrown over the top rope by The Big Show. Wouldn’t Mizdow have benefitted from the win more than Show? An enjoyable Battle Royal, any way.
1. 7 Way Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
A fun, entertaining way to kick off WrestleMania. But it pained me later on to hear Ricky Steamboat call it a better match than himself against Randy Savage at Mania III. No way! It was a spot fest, with little else to the match. Dean Ambrose threw caution to the wind early on in the match by leaping onto the rest of the competitors off the top of a ladder. Later on, he was powerbombed through a ladder resting on the barricade and the ring apron. It looked like he had broken his neck. All for nothing, however. Nothing else left a lasting impression. It moved from spot to spot as a number of wrestlers pretended they were dead on the outside. The eventual winner, Daniel Bryan (obviously a consolation prize for not headlining Mania), did little of note in the match. Very strange…
VERDICT: 6/10. They all worked hard in the match, but to little importance. Just another overstacked ladder match that will fade into obscurity. And poor Wade Barret. Never given a chance with the IC Title.
2. Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton
It began with a curious statement from JBL: “This is what happens when you meet a younger version of yourself.” I half-expected a Delorean to appear out of nowhere with a future Orton in the driver’s seat. The match of the night without a doubt, but very different to the match it should have been. It should have been an aggressive brawl as Orton tried to batter Rollins for the Curb Stomp onto the steel stairs last year. However, it was still a great match. It was a fast-paced match from the two smoothest workers in the WWE, both wrestlers doing reversal after reversal. Rollins hit a beautiful Asai Moonsault to Orton on the outside. Orton even broke out a crossbody from the top rope, like the young Orton used to do. The continued interference from J+J security did mar it a little, as did the time limit. Another five minutes and it would have been a classic Mania match. The end was something to be seen to be believed. Rollins went for the Curb Stomp, but Orton lifted Rollins up and hit him with an RKO. Stunning!
VERDICT: 8/10. Nothing came close to this match in terms of in-ring quality. But they should have been given more time. Aided by a stunning ending.
3. HHH vs Sting
Well, after HHH’s entrance had left me wondering where Robocop was to help Sting fight HHH and The Terminator, it was good to see Sting finally grace a WWE Ring. But I was still none-the-wiser as to why Sting wanted to batter HHH. It was a decent match, as Sting managed to keep up with HHH for the first ten minutes of the match. It didn’t make much of the No DQ stipulation, did it? However, it was ruined by the interference of first D-X, and then the NWO (and then Shawn Michaels). Sting was flagging just before DX came down to the ring, so it was probably a good thing that they did. So many questions were raised by the interference of the NWO that I found it difficult to concentrate on the match after that. Surely Hogan is a WWE man over an NWO man? My WCW history is a little hazy, but was Sting ever part of the NWO? Aren’t Kevin Nash and HHH best friends? How did Nash’s quad not tear after Billy Gunn jumped on him? It dragged on and on until finally HHH defeated Sting after a sledgehammer. What was the point of HHH’s victory? As the commentators said, the Monday Night War ended with HHH’s victory. That’s strange, I thought it ended when WWE bought WCW. Sting himself said on last week’s Raw that it wasn’t a WWE vs WCW feud. Also, wasn’t the NWO created to destroy WCW? So why would they represent WCW? If anyone should have come down to aid Sting, it should have been Robocop…I mean, Ric Flair. So many questions…so little time…
Then, to top it off, Sting shook HHH’s hand. What?!?!? I thought Sting wanted to take HHH out?
VERDICT: 5/10. The match was watchable until the interference. After that, it became a plot hole within itself. I cringe just thinking about it. Oh dear…
If that ending wasn’t enough, there were promos for some WWE Network shows that look truly awful. And bringing back the Diva Search again? Bad idea. Skylar Grey and some drummer played terrible music for a while, until it was time for wrestling to continue.
4. Paige and AJ Lee vs The Bella Twins
As good as one could expect from the Bella Twins. The Bella Twins showed some actual team work, which was nice to see, like a double suplex. The match was kept short, and all the women put in a fair amount of effort.
VERDICT: 4/10. A below average match, constrained by a short time limit.
5. John Cena vs Rusev (c) (US Championship)
If Rollins vs Orton wasn’t on the card, this probably would have picked up match of the night honours. Rusev’s entrance was the best of the show (I want a tank now!). Even with all the USA stuff before Cena’s entrance, he still got a mixed crowd reaction. I’d forgotten, but Cena said that Rusev could have the right to free speech, but he couldn’t say anything bad about the USA…so Rusev shouldn’t have the right to free speech…but that’s a philosophical debate for another time.
Both men worked their tails off here, and Cena even broke out some new moves. There was his Tornado DDT from the tope rope, and his amazing Springboard Stunner! I kid you not. Rusev looked dominant for some of the match, and gave Cena was of his better one on one matches of recent memory. Cena just needs the right opponent, and on the evidence of Fast Lane and this match, Rusev is a great opponent for him. However, I disagree with Cena winning. Sure, Rusev bumped into Lana, causing the distraction so Cena could hit him with the AA. I hear the WWE want to build the midcard titles up again (see Bryan’s win in the Ladder Match for further proof). So why not have Rusev beat Cena cleanly? That’s how you put a midcard title on the map. And shouldn’t Rusev’s undefeated streak be broken by an up and comer? Regardless of the victory, it was still a great match.
VERDICT: 7/10 Cena and Rusev have great chemistry in the ring. This was even better than their Fast Lane clash. With it being Mania, Cena pulled out a few new moves as well! But where does this loss leave Rusev?
A never-ending segment followed with The Rock confronting HHH and Stephanie McMahon. After being slapped by Stephanie, The Rock brought UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey from ringside. The Rock punched HHH around a bit until Rousey hip tossed him. The Rousey put Steph in an arm lock. If only it lasted that long in reality. In reality, it dragged on and on.
6. Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Another entrance, another pop culture reference for me when Wyatt was followed by the scarecrows (Family of Blood, Doctor Who, anyone?). Wyatt struggled to bring a decent match out of The Undertaker. Taker looked a little better here than he did at last year’s Mania, but this is not the man who gave almost every Mania of the past decade or so a classic match (Sting appeared to be in better condition than Taker). The only notable thing about this match was the spot where Wyatt did his spiderwalk and Taker sat up. I presume that was the only reason this match was booked? To get that image on camera? Taker won. Wyatt did kick out of a first Tombstone, but stood no chance after the second. So what was the point of the match? To re-establish Taker after being defeated by Lesnar? What about Wyatt? He has been going through the motions ever since he lost to Cena at last year’s WrestleMania (with that said, it doesn’t look good for Rusev then…).
VERDICT: 5/10. Perfectly average match. Taker cannot go on wrestling for much longer. Have his retirement match next year. Preferably with Sting (but with Sting’s loss to HHH, is that possible match now void?)
7. Brock Lesnar (c) vs Roman Reigns (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
At last, the main event almost nobody wanted, and even fewer anticipated. Reigns was booed as soon as his made his entrance. However, at least WWE gave us what we wanted to see: Reigns get pummelled for the majority of the match. In his own words, Lesnar welcomed Reigns to ‘suplex city, bitch!’ After an early F-5, Reigns suffered German suplexes, vertical suplexes, and, at one point, even a PerfectPlex (if I’m not mistaken). Reigns’ smiling throughout the match made me want to see Lesnar punish him even more. Reigns kicked out of two F-5s before mounting his well-built comeback, one worthy of Hogan or Cena. After three Superman Punches and Two Spears, Reigns still couldn’t beat Lesnar. Lesnar hits an F-5, and as both men are down…Rollins enters and cashes in his Money in the Bank contract! A few moments later, Rollins pins Reigns to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion! Forget the commentators (and The Rock) trying to shove a WrestleMania moment down our throats; Rollins winning the Championship was the true WrestleMania moment of the night. And after a pretty good match.
VERDICT: 7/10 for the first match, but 8/10 just for Rollins cashing in the contract. The match gave us everything we wanted to see: Reigns getting battered by Lesnar, and Rollins cashing in.
OVERALL VERDICT: 6/10. There were two great matches (Rollins vs Orton, Cena vs Rusev) and the main event was very good, with a brilliant ending. The kick-off match was entertaining, but no classic. The Divas match was a typical Divas match. The less said about HHH vs Sting and Wyatt vs Taker the better. A poor build up hindered WrestleMania 31 before it even started, but the event managed to rise above the poor expectations. Not among the best WrestleManias at all, but an above-average one.