Kevin Owens (c) vs Sami Zayn vs Zack Ryder vs The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler vs Sin Cara vs Stardust (Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship)
The best opening bout in WrestleMania history? Quite possibly! I found myself bored by last year’s opening 7 man ladder match, but right from the bell ring this match never gave up. Each wrestler took a beating (usually with or on a ladder!). Owens looked dominant for much of the match and his frog splash to a prone Sami Zayn on a ladder was but one highlight of the match. Zayn also impressed, with a picture perfect suicide dive through a ladder onto the opponents outside and a brutal half-nelson suplex on Owens onto a ladder! He was clearly the fan favourite throughout the match. Of course, this is the WWE: the fan favourite rarely gets the victory! Ziggler had a sequence of superkicks. Stardust got a big pop by bringing out a polka dot ladder in homage to his deceased father, Dusty Rhodes (and Owens brought the heat by chucking the ladder out with distain!). Ryder hit an elbow drop off the top of a ladder onto The Miz, in each man’s match highlight. Sin Cara was pushed off a ladder onto Stardust, who was lay prone on a ladder straddling the apron and the barricade. It looked and sounded horrific! However, the only downer was (you’ll be hearing this a lot!) the end of the bout. Ryder won. Yes, you read that correctly. Zack Ryder won. If he’d been built up as an underdog, then his victory would be understandable. But he was simply a replacement for Neville!
WINNER: Zack Ryder
VERDICT: 8/10. The best opening bout in WrestleMania history? Wait, it wasn’t better than Bret Hart vs Owen Hart…but few matches are!
AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho
For the first time (but not the last), a heated feud resulted in a match beginning with a lock-up. Styles and Jericho should have been battering each other! Not wrestling! A brawl would have set their match apart from the three other recent matches they’ve had. Once again, they put on a good match, but one I couldn’t distinguish from their previous battles. Styles botched his Phenomenal DDT again, by the way. Just eliminate the move! I think that this may have been their best bout together. I’ll have to re-watch it to make sure. But they didn’t do anything different to what we’ve seen before. And the result was more than questionable. Why have Jericho win, fairly cleanly? This should have been Styles night to shine. I remember wondering why Jericho lost to HBK at WrestleMania XIX, and had similar feelings here. What did Jericho’s win achieve, exactly?
WINNER: Chris Jericho
VERDICT: 7/10. Their best bout together yet, but familiarity bred indifference to much of the match. And why did Jericho win?
The New Day vs The League of Nations
Apart from the grand Booty-O’s entrance of The League of Nations, there was little to set this match apart from your average bout on Raw. Without the Tag Team titles on the line, it all seemed pointless. The match was a bit of a bore. The only moments I remember were Big E’s spear through the ropes on to three members of the League and Alberto Del Rio’s double foot stomp to Kofi on the apron. Decent in-ring work from all wrestlers, but all for nothing! And the post-match shenanigans were more than questionable…
WINNERS: The League of Nations
VERDICT: 4/10. A pointless match. The wrestlers tried their best, but this was a Raw-level match at best.
Post-Match: King Barrett got on the mike and said that there is no three man team that can match them. That’s probably because the League of Nations is a four man team, isn’t it? Interrupting Barrett came Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They beat down the League of Nations and danced with The New Day. Well, danced until Austin Stunnered Xavier Woods for no reason. What did this achieve, apart from a nostalgia pop? Have them come out, by all means, but make it productive for the wrestlers who are carrying the WWE! I wasn’t overcome by nostalgia, and the sight of three retired wrestlers beating up four regular wrestlers made the previous match even more pointless!!!
Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose
A little disappointing, this one. It rarely deviated from the usual Lesnar suplex fest, which is getting tiresome. Yes, the crowd love to count the suplexes, but Lesnar needs to change his act! Remember his first run in the WWE? He didn’t only rely on the German Suplex to create a match. The highlight of the match, for me, was after Ambrose hit Lesnar with an announcer’s laptop. “I hope you backed up!” shouted one concerned member of the crowd. Classic! Where was Ambrose’s red cart full of weapons, by the way? He tried to rev up a chainsaw, but that failed. Even getting out Barbie didn’t reap any rewards. I’d liken this to Lesnar’s match with Seth Rollins last year. Lesnar dominated most of the match and both the offence of Rollins and Ambrose was lacking. Ambrose made the match a little more competitive with liberal use of a kendo stick and a diving elbow aided by a chair. But apart from that, he participated in little more than a squash match. There was never any point where I thought Ambrose would win it. Lesnar won, again giving prominence to a part-timer rather than a regular!
WINNER: Brock Lesnar
VERDICT: 7/10. A good match, but not the show stealer that I’d hoped it to be. Little more than a squash match with added weapons!
Charlotte (c) vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch (Women’s Championship Match)
This was easily the match of the night! The women were given time to craft a spellbinding match. There was only one noticeable botch (the sunset flip/German Suplex early on in the match), but mostly everything else was sublime. Each woman tried to outdo the other and show that the Women’s division can be as exciting (if not more) than the men’s. They didn’t need ladders or cells or weapons to create greatness: they did it by wrestling! It’s surely a Match of the Year contender. There were too many highlights to name, but I’ll try a few. Banks’ Hurricanrana early on in the bout was something a little different. Her splash onto Charlotte’s Figure 4 on Lynch was another surprise. Lynch taking out Ric Flair with a suicide dive was hilarious! And, of course, Charlotte’s moonsault from the top rope to the two other wrestlers on the outside was spectacular. The final ten minutes were the most heated of the night. These girls blew away the competition in NXT, and they blew away the competition at Mania.
VERDICT: 9/10. Easily the match of the night, that needed no assistance to reach greatness.
The Undertaker vs Shane McMahon (For Control of WWE Raw)
Why wasn’t this the main event? Surely control of WWE Raw means more than the WWE Championship? Regardless, this was a drag of a match. Sure, it was brutal, but Shane O Mac’s resilience broke suspension of disbelief on more than a few occasions. His offence looked terrible (especially his strikes). The announcers’ told us about Shane’s MMA training, but he’s 46 and has been out of the wrestling business for ages. There’s only so much I can suspend my disbelief! There were high spots, like’ Shane’s DDT on the steps and ‘Taker’s chokeslam on the steps. But it was clear that they were playing for time until the highest of high spots. They destroyed two announce tables, used steps and toolboxes, but the entire match seemed like a stalling contest. Maybe that’s why the match dragged so much: was I waiting for Shane to leap or be pushed off the cell? When he did, it was awesome. My fiancée looked on in horror as he lept off the cell and through the announce table after ‘Taker had moved out of the way. ‘Taker slowly carried Shane into the ring and put him away with a tombstone. So, after all that build up, ‘Taker wins? Shane doesn’t win control of Raw? Well, that was all a waste, wasn’t it?
WINNER: The Undetaker
VERDICT: 6/10. Without Shane O Mac’s insane leap off the top of the cell, this would have been a turgid bout. Brutality has never been so average!
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Well, at least an up and comer won the match! But I’ll be honest: I didn’t watch the match. I played the original Legend of Zelda instead. So I can’t give a verdict!
WINNER: Baron Corbin
The Rock vs Erick Rowan
Yes, you read that right. The Rock fought. For nine seconds. Rowan walked into a Rock Bottom and the match was over. It came after The Wyatt Family interrupted another long-winded mike segment from The Rock. Post-match, John Cena came down to save The Rock from a beating. Yay?!?!?
WINNER: The Rock
VERDICT: 1/10. Need I say more?
Triple H (c) vs Roman Reigns (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
This reminded me of Triple H’s patience-sapping main event with Randy Orton at WrestleMania 25. A heated feud led to a match that lacked any heat or great aggression. A heated feud culminated in a tedious bout. Why did HHH and Reigns begin with a lock-up? Surely they should have continued their brawl from Monday Night Raw! HHH had the perfect ‘Mania bout with Ambrose at Fast Lane. Ambrose took a beating, but there were instances where you thought he could clinch the victory. The pacing in that match was perfect, with Ambrose’s comebacks executed with precision. Here, however, the pace was all over the place. Being the main event (for some reason), the end was never in doubt: Reigns would win the Championship. The two wrestlers never made us doubt that. There were hints at what the match should have been throughout the match, such as HHH’s neckbreaker off the announce table, and Reigns’ spear through the barricade. But most of the match dragged, not helped by the mega-boos rained down on Reigns. When the crowd are chanting for Bayley, you know something’s wrong. At least the regular wrestler won, and not the part-timer!
WINNER (And NEW Champion): Roman Reigns
VERDICT: 4/10. A below-average match from a veteran who should know better and a wrestler who should be fighting tooth and nail for the crowd’s admiration. Simply boring!
OVERALL VERDICT: 6/10. The women’s bout stole the show, which was no surprise. I only thought it would have more competition. True, the ladder match was a stunning start to the show. But the other matches left me shrugging my shoulders. Styles and Jericho didn’t do anything we haven’t seen before from the two. Lesnar went through the motions with Ambrose. The Hell In A Cell will only be remembered for Shane’s insane elbow drop attempt. Not only was the general quality of the matches suspect, but the outcomes were often questionable. Once again, in the main, the part-timers received the glory over those who work four nights a week, every week. Good work, WWE!
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(Click here for my review of WWE Fast Lane 2016)