Monday, October 30, 2017

Kevin's Random Reviews: WWE WrestleMania XXX

WrestleMania XXX
April 6th, 2014 | Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana | Attendance: 75,167

For the first time in history, a Pay-Per-View would stream on the brand new WWE Network. This WrestleMania is pretty notorious. After Batista returned and on the Royal Rumble, the WWE had their hearts set on having he and Randy Orton headline their biggest show of the years. The fans wanted no part of that, forcing the WWE to give them what they wanted and that was Daniel Bryan. The show itself ended up running for four hours, plus a pre-show match. Obviously, it was the 30th WrestleMania in history.

WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. Los Matadores w/ El Torito vs. The Real Americans w/ Zeb Colter vs. Rybaxel

About a month earlier, the Usos captured the Tag Team Titles for the first time. Rybaxel plays the bully role early. Each team gets a bit of time to shine but when Cesaro is tagged, the Superdome comes alive. He’s clearly the most popular guy in the match. They go the spot where guys get to dive outside and everyone ends up laid out. El Torito tries to do it too but Curtis Axel stops him. He climbs up, not his strong suit, and Los Matadores grab him, opening the door for Torito to splash him onto everyone. Swagger catches a member of Los Matadores with a second rope flapjack of sorts, right into the Patriot Lock. He gets the submission elimination, sending Los Matadores packing. We see some good teamwork from Rybaxel, who get a near fall following a splash and fist drop from both members. The hot tag goes to Jimmy Uso who reels off Samoan drops and ass attacks. Cole incorrectly calls is “shades of Rikishi” when it is shades of Umaga. Swagger calling his splash the Swagger Bomb is an insult to Vader. It ends up being a battle between Cesaro and Ryback, the two strongest guys involved. Cesaro is a freak of nature and he nails Ryback with the popup uppercut and Neutralizer to eliminate Rybaxel. It’s down to the two best teams. They each get the crowd to do their respective chants. WE GOT US SOME FLYING USOS MAGGLE! The Usos prevent the Cesaro swing to the crowd’s dismay. Swagger avoids the Umaga ass attack and applies the Patriot Lock. They do a great tease when the other Uso tries to break it with a superkick, only for Cesaro to stop him. He still ends up hitting the superkick anyway, but that was a nice twist. They send Cesaro into Swagger, knocking him outside, before nailing duel splashes on Cesaro to retain.

Winners and Still WWE Tag Team Champions: The Usos in 16:11
Damn good way to kick things off. All four teams brought their “A” games and each did their parts very well. It came down to the right two teams and their interaction was the most fun. The crowd loved the Usos and Cesaro, which helped this work perfectly as an opener. ***¾

After the match, Jack Swagger is not a happy man. He puts Cesaro in the Patriot Lock but Zeb Colter breaks it up and wants them to shake hands. Swagger isn’t pleased, but offers it. The fans chant “no”, so Cesaro grabs him and does the swing to a huge pop. Zeb seems to lose his mid as this goes on.

Moving on to the actual main show, it starts with a video package set in New Orleans and hyping the main matches on the card for tonight. Kid Rock’s “Celebrate” plays over all of this, as we see various Superstars and Divas partying in New Orleans.

Hulk Hogan, the host of WrestleMania XXX opens the show by addressing the fans and he almost instantly messes up. He calls it the Silverdome instead of the Superdome and nearly says WWF instead of WWE. When he finally corrects himself, glass shatters and out comes “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to a massive ovation. Austin pokes fun at the Silverdome remark before teasing that he would open a can of whoop ass on Hogan. He then puts over Hogan, says he respects him and shakes his hand. Austin says that he doesn’t want to take up too much time since tonight is about the current crop of stars, but then the Rock’s music plays and he comes out as well. He also makes sure to poke fun at the Silverdome stuff. I won’t go into detail about the stuff Rock says. It’s such a cool and funny moment that you should see it for yourself at least once. The three greats close things out by sharing some beers. I’m normally against show opening promos on Pay-Per-Views, but considering the event and who was involved, it was great here.

Over the years, the WWE has produced a ton of great video packages. The one for Daniel Bryan set to “Monster” by Imagine Dragons, is easily one of the best ever. I’d say top five for sure. When that video ends, Stephanie McMahon introduces her husband, who gets a grand entrance complete with Sasha Banks (instantly making me happy), Alexa Bliss and Ric Flair’s daughter (since that’s all she’s known as now).

Winner Advances to Main Event
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H w/ Stephanie McMahon

Judging by their entrances, Triple H is a megastar and Daniel Bryan doesn’t belong in his league. Triple H smugly offers a handshake but Bryan gets behind him with a rollup for two. Bryan forces HHH to regroup outside and then offers the handshake back, playing the mind games very well. They go through a feeling out process with Triple H working the injured shoulder and even trying the leg. Bryan nails the first big spot with a DDT on the apron. He follows with a huge somersault dive outside. It looked like HHH didn’t catch him very well. The announce table comes into play, but Bryan fights him off only to get his arm slammed down on it, continuing the focus on the bad shoulder. HHH is more than willing to take the countout but Bryan beats the count. Even when Bryan tries a tope, HHH is ready with a right hand, followed by a back suplex on the apron that again targeted the shoulder. He’s had an answer for everything. He applies a crossface but Bryan reaches the ropes. Bryan starts a comeback but then HHH busts out a goddamn tiger suplex that expertly dropped Bryan on his shoulder. If HHH doing a tiger suplex doesn’t blow your mind, then I don’t know what will. A second rope powerbomb seems to turn things around, but Bryan’s series of dropkicks is ended by a vicious clothesline from HHH. Stephanie’s reaction at ringside is perfect. HHH goes to the crossface again and Bryan fades until he can reverse it into the Yes Lock! Triple H gets to the ropes and rolls outside but Bryan greets him two topes. Bryan goes for the knee but HHH catches him with a great spinebuster. He follows with the Pedigree for one of the better near falls in recent memory. Bryan pulls him into a small package for two. HHH goes for the Pedigree again but Bryan counters and blocks it before hitting a kick. He misses a second big kick but lands on his feet when HHH tries a back suplex. Bryan charges and scores with the knee, earning the victory.

Winner: Daniel Bryan in 25:57
Almost everything about this match was masterfully executed. From the contrasting entrances up until the finish, this was all just great. There aren’t many high spots but everything has a purpose and it might be the smartest worked match in the WWE over the past few years. Extra props to Stephanie McMahon, who played her role perfectly and only added to this. Just a brilliant start to the show.****½

Daniel Bryan’s celebration is short lived when Stephanie McMahon enters and slaps him around. He laughs at them because he’s won either way. Triple H attacks and drives a steel chair into Bryans’ shoulder and into the ring post.

Kane and the New Age Outlaws vs. The Shield
The New Age Outlaws’ pre-match promo gets cut off by the Shield, who show up in some sick skull facemasks. Dean Ambrose starts with Kane but everybody gets a short turn in the ring. Roman Reigns dominates, taking out all three men and even hitting the Drive-By kick to both Outlaws. Ambrose and Rollins take out the Outlaws with stereo suicide dives and Reigns gives all three of them spears. They hoist up both Outlaws and hit a double triple powerbomb, if that makes sense, winning in short order.

Winners: The Shield in 2:54
This was exactly what it needed to be. The Shield had been way too dominant during their run for these three to be a threat. Extra points because the Shield was awesome and I was never an Outlaw fan. **½

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Participants: Alberto Del Rio, Big E, Big Show, Brad Maddox, Brodus Clay, Cesaro, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Darren Young, David Otunga, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Fandango, Goldust, the Great Khali, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Justin Gabriel, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, the Miz, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Santino Marella, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Titus O’Neil, Tyson Kidd, Xavier Woods, Yoshi Tatsu and Zack Ryder

Otherwise known as the “creative has nothing for you” Battle Royal. The only guys to get their entrances shown are Big Show and Sheamus. As usual with battle royals, it’s hard to keep track of every single elimination. I do know that Yoshi Tatsu and Brad Maddox go out early. Commentary was surprised to see Brad, like most fans. As soon as they discuss Khali being a tough person to eliminate, he goes out. More relative lower card guys go out while the higher midcarders hang on. Otunga lasted much longer than I thought he would. Fandango tosses the IC Champion, Big E, and dances on the apron while the crowd “Fandangos”. It’s a cool visual but Sheamus beats him up and sends him out. Del Rio gets rid of Kidd with a step up enziguri before doing the same to Goldust. Cody attacks but Del Rio shoves him off the top and out. Mysterio hits 619 on Del Rio but Cesaro catches his next attempt and uppercuts him out. The final six are Cesaro, Show, Sheamus, Ziggler, Del Rio and Kingston. Cesaro launches Kofi over and out onto the steps, but he somehow lands with his feet on the steps and staves off elimination. It’s one of his better spots in these kinds of matches. Cesaro swings Kofi around right before he gets dumped. Del Rio superkicks Ziggler out. Sheamus and Del Rio continue their never ending rivalry and go over and out together. Cesaro fires away on Show with uppercuts and has him reeling. Show tries to send him over but Cesaro stays alive. He goes to slam Cesaro over, but Cesaro slips out and then not only lifts Show for a slam, but WALKS with him to the edge and tosses him over to win.

Winner: Cesaro in 13:24
Like most battle royals, this doesn’t get off to a fast start. There are too many people for anything significant to happen. Once the field started thinning it became a lot of fun. Kofi’s spot, the back and forth between some of the final guys and of course, Cesaro’s incredible show of strength were highlights. ***¼

Bray Wyatt w/ the Wyatt Family vs. John Cena
The “Legacy” video package before the match is pretty great. Bray has a live band play him to the ring. At the bell, Bray drops to his knees and demands that John Cena unleash the monster inside and finish him. Cena declines, wanting to actually fight. The action itself isn’t the most exciting but they do a splendid job of telling the story of Bray trying to bring out the monster in Cena. Cena goes for the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, but Bray sits up in his eerie crab walk thing. Cena stops in his tracks and sells this tremendously. Better acting than he did in the Marine or 12 Rounds. The fans start singing “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands”, which WWE would take and drive into the ground. Cena ends up stopping Wyatt Family interference by taking them out with a dive, so Bray sends him into steel steps. Bray continues to be great, caressing Cena’s head and singing after a near fall from a cross boy. Cena comes back with the AA, but one of those is almost never enough anymore. Cena ends up putting Harper through the guardrail at ringside, showing some of the monster. Cena counters Sister Abigail into the STF, but Bray reaches the ropes. A close near fall comes after Bray hits Sister Abigail. Bray brings a chair into play, sliding it to Cena and daring him to “fulfill his legacy” and use it. Rowan gets on the apron and Cena whacks him with it instead. Cena then reverses Sister Abigail into a second AA and wins.

Winner: John Cena in 22:26
These two did a tremendous job of telling a story. This match wasn’t about who could hit the fanciest moves. It was about Bray trying to bring the monster out of Cena, while Cena sold his internal struggle with it very well. Bray was just on fire with every expression and mannerism possible. Not Bray’s best match ever, but probably his best individual performance. ***½

The WWE Hall of Fame class of 2014 comes out to the stage, including Lita, Razor Ramon, Carlos Colon and the Ultimate Warrior.

Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. The Undertaker
Undertaker gets his usual big time Mania entrance. Brock attacks quickly, trying to assert his dominance. Undertaker does some of his typical early no selling, showing that he is not like any other guy that Brock has faced. He gets his stuff in, like snake eyes. Both men counter big moves like the Chokeslam and F5. It is shortly after this that Brock hits a suplex and drops Undertaker on his head. From what we’ve heard, it was there that Undertaker got knocked loopy and I believe he got a concussion. I don’t think I noticed it much when I watched this live, but you could just see that the Undertaker is pretty badly out of it. Even as he starts making a comeback, it just doesn’t feel the way it should. Brock eventually hits the F5 but Undertaker kicks out. Undertaker locks in the Hell’s Gates submission but Brock powers out and slams him to break that. They trade submissions though the crowd doesn’t buy it because they know neither man is really going to tap out. Undertaker tries Old School but Brock counters into a second F5 for another near fall. Uncharacteristically, Brock tries ten punches in the corner. It’s so obviously there so Undertaker can do a powerbomb. I hate when they do something uncommon like that for the sake of a spot. Tombstone connects but it’s not enough because it hasn’t been enough in a Taker Mania match in about five years. He goes for it again, only for Brock to seemingly counter it into one of his own. Instead, he nails a third F5 and the streak is over

Winner: Brock Lesnar in 25:10
A really dull match that will completely be overshadowed forever by the historic moment that ended it. I blame most of the match sucking on Undertaker’s injury since they went out and had two good ones the following year. Still, this was the worst thing on the show so far. Just a big, long disappointment. 

The best thing about the match is the reactions after. Brock’s music doesn’t hit when he wins. Instead, we just get to appreciate the stunned silence that falls over 70,000+. Some of the facial expressions in the crowd are priceless. People don’t even fully believe it until the 21-1 graphic appears on the screen. There is a rather emotional exit for the Undertaker as fans and commentators give him a standing ovation.

WWE Divas Championship
AJ Lee (c) vs. Aksana vs. Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella vs. Cameron vs. Emma vs. Eva Marie vs. Layla vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Summer Rae vs. Tamina Snuka

These poor women. Not only did they get shafted with a poorly thrown together clusterfuck of a match, but they get to go on after the streak ended and the crowd completely died. AJ Lee is the only woman to get an entrance. For some reason, Vickie Guerrero has a ringside podium and gets on the microphone, making everyone’s ears bleed. All of the girls target AJ and her only friend, Tamina. This is pure chaos and hard to keep track of. The Bellas do an awful looking double team move. Everyone gets involved in a giant multi-suplex spot. Cameron’s top busts and she struggles to keep the goods covered. At least Emma gets a chance to strut her stuff a bit. Eva Marie gets a spot too, but as expected, it looks pretty bad. The Bellas team up for duel suicide dives before going at it themselves. There is the typical tower of doom spot as well. AJ sneaks in and makes Naomi tap out to the Black Widow.

Winner and Still WWE Divas Champion: AJ Lee in 6:47
Okay, that was better than it had any right to be. By all means, this should have been horrible considering it involved 14 women, some of them being terrible, and was one fall to a finish. There were some blown spots, but they kept me entertained and did the best they could. **

There is a backstage segment involving the four men from the first WrestleMania main event. It was cool to see Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan, Mr. T and Paul Orndorff together again.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan

Rev Theory performs “Voices” as Randy Orton makes his entrance. Bryan attempts to start hot but his injury quickly comes into play. While Bryan recovers outside, Batista beats Orton up around the ring. Orton ends up back dropping Batista onto the steel steps. They continue to go at it until Bryan gets involved, waking the crowd up. It’s a testament to Bryan’s popularity that he was able to get the crowd going after Undertaker. Bryan starts a rally but gets thwarted by the heels, freeing up Orton to hit a superplex on Batista. Bryan is back up and hits the diving headbutt on Orton. He gets the Yes Lock on but here come Stephanie and Triple H through the crowd for some reason to pull the referee out. They bring crooked referee Scott Armstrong with them and Bryan eats the Batista Bomb for two. Bryan ends up taking out Armstrong, HHH and even Stephanie with a suicide dive. The crowd comes unglued for it. HHH tries bringing a sledgehammer in but it backfires when Bryan levels him with it. Orton is now back up and sends Bryan outside. Batista and Orton channel their Evolution roots and work together to take out Bryan. The crowd chants for CM Punk as Batista and Orton murder Bryan with a Batista Bomb/RKO combination through the announce table. It was more of a neckbreaker from Orton, but it still looked rad. Orton took a sick bump on one of the monitors. Batista and Orton go at it while the crowd chants for Bryan. They do the stretcher job for Bryan but he pulls a Mick Foley and hops off, trying to fight for his life. Orton looks to take advantage but Bryan puts him in the Yes Lock. Cole shouts that it’s Bryan’s last chance and Batista interrupts. Bryan gets taken out and Orton hits the RKO for a near fall that the fans bite on. Orton looks for the punt on Batista but Bryan lays him out with the knee. Batista tosses him out and tries to steal the pin, which the fans again bite on. Batista Bomb connects but Bryan charges in with the knee. He slaps the Yes Lock on Batista, who submits.

Winner and New WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Daniel Bryan in 23:19
Remember how Stone Cold used to have these great main event matches with the deck stacked against him and overbooking done right? That’s what we got here. They threw everything at Bryan in this match from the Authority interference to the stretcher job to the close near falls for Batista and Orton when they looked like they would steal it from him. Everybody played their roles well and the crowd got exactly what they wanted. A great main event. ****

Overall: 9.5/10; Phenomenal. I’d honestly consider this to be a top five, maybe even top three WrestleMania of all time. Outside of the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar match, everything on this show delivered or even exceeded expectations. The Cena/Wyatt match told a great story, the women over delivered, the Tag Title opener was a blast, Cesaro was amazing in a good battle royal, the Shield dominated and Daniel Bryan put on the greatest single night performance in Mania history. Just a spectacular event. One of the best the company has ever put on. Up next, “Random Network Reviews” has me look at Slamboree 1999!