March 30, 2015 by Joey Keogh
The go-home show for the biggest night of the pro-wrestling calendar may have been surprisingly great but the ending, and the rubbish card for the event itself, spelled disaster for those of us gathered expectantly at home, as well as those sat in a packed-out Levi’s Stadium, last night. How refreshing it is, then, to report that Wrestlemania XXXI managed to do the unthinkable (judging by the past few weeks of build-up, at least) by shocking, delighting and, most importantly, entertaining us with a solid six hours of carnage, capped off by one of the biggest shock endings in recent memory. Kicking off with an over-baked pre-show, during which Renee did her best to keep being a real journalism in spite of the wind playing havoc with her lovely hair, it was a night to remember as scores were settled, heads were knocked together and titles, of course, changed hands. The so-called “expert” panel comprised of Renee, Byron Saxton, the insufferable Corey Graves and Booker T, who, when the show opens, has his nose in what is soon revealed to be his own book. Why can’t we have Booker for PPVs? Why must we suffer the indignity of listening to King perv on the Divas while pretending he’s going to drink a can of Mountain Dew that we all know will remain unopened for the next four hours? Graves is wearing glasses in an effort to be taken seriously as a commentator. Hey, it doesn’t work for Cole, it ain’t gonna work for you, buddy. Booker notes he and Lana (who has just been revealed, hanging out backstage with Rusev, to rapturous cheers) are sporting the same bun, which is just saying what everyone has been thinking for months. There’s a stupidly short interview with Lita and Work Experience Tom, during which Twitter users ask her inane questions. We later cut to Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury, who are getting coffee when Jerry Briscoe and Pat Patterson show up to give them shit for being stooges. Get it!? Also, apparently, Bray Wyatt hurt his ankle while warming up earlier. But that’s okay, he’s fighting someone on the verge of death anyway so it doesn’t really matter.
Fatal 4-Way for the Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Los Matadores vs. The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
Although it’s annoying to see this match relegated to pre-show status – and in the second hour, no less – it’s also nice to see Kidd and Cesaro showing off what they can do, and on the biggest stage in the world, too. A note on that stage: it’s huge. Like, really, stupidly fucking big. It takes everyone a very long time to make it to the ring and it’s kind of awkward. There’s a “Nattie’s Husband” sign in the crowd, which is always welcome, and the fans get a rousing “New Day sucks” chant going whenever those poor lads try to get a clap started. Cesaro swings Kofi into a dropkick early on, establishing he and Kidd as the stand-outs of this match (as if any more proof were needed). On the outside, Nattie puts Torito in the sharpshooter as payback for what he did to her on RAW last week. Naomi gets involved too, hitting the Rear View on her for no other reason than to show off her…talents. The ring devolves into a complete mess of bodies as everyone hits their double team moves simultaneously, but the coolest moment – easily one of the spots of the night – comes with a simultaneous, six-person Tower Of Death that must be seen to be believed. Jey Uso splashes Big E to win, but Cesaro interrupts and snatches the victory. All is right with the world once more. For now, at least.
Winners: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (retaining)
Andre The Giant Battle Royal
In spite of a hilariously strange angle built upon the fact he was never technically eliminated from the Royal Rumble and was therefore on course to turn Wrestlemania into Axelmania, the upstart Curtis Axel gets chucked out almost immediately, to audible boos from the crowd. Bo Dallas, making his return tonight with a really weird puberty beard, leaps out at one stage, does a victory lap and yells “I’m winning” before being eliminated by NXT Superstar Hideo Itami upon re-entering the fray. Itami was the hot favourite to emerge victorious here, after earning a spot in the bout at AXXESS, but sadly it’s not to be as, after putting up a decent fight, he too gets eliminated, to huge boos, by Big Show. Considering they just had a great match a little while ago, it’s a wonder Kidd, Cesaro, The New Day and The Usos even have the energy to take part here, but they show off what they can do yet again, putting on a respectable display in the face of much bigger competitors such as Show, Kane and Ryback, who seems intent on winning, for some unknown reason. He chucks a tonne of dudes out, but it’s Cesaro who rids the ring of Kane, echoing his show-stopping performance from last year. Turning his attention to Show, he lines the giant up to throw him off, showing off his incredible strength in the process, but he is sadly eliminated for his trouble. Ryback squares up to the big man next, managing a lame-looking spinebuster before he, too, is taken out. Finally, it’s only Show, The Miz and Mizdow left in the ring and the stage is set for the first, big Wrestlemania moment of the night. A raucous “Yes” chant fills the stadium as Mizdow finally stands up to his boss, refusing to team up with him to get rid of Show. Miz yells at him for a bit, while Show stands idly by, amused by their bickering. Suddenly, Mizdow snaps, after a few slaps from his soon-to-be ex boss push him over the edge, and he eliminates the smug, shocked Miz, shoving him off the apron to be held back by security after he tries to immediately re-enter the ring. Show goads him until he squares up and the two duke it out for a bit, exchanging clotheslines as Mizdow skins the cat for a terrifying few seconds. They tease it for a while but, sadly, it’s Show who emerges victorious as Mizodw collapses in a heap on the floor, deflated but safe in the knowledge that the fans are behind him, at the very least.
Winner: Big Show
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Bad News Barrett vs. R-Truth vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. Daniel Bryan
Pat Patterson is here to set up the belt! Oh, now he’s leaving again! Bryan gets a HUGE pop as he enters, of course, as do Ziggler and Ambrose, while Barrett basks in the boos and nobody really knows what to do with Harper or Truth. Stardust reacts badly to the “Cody” chants again, which is always nice to see, especially on a stage this grand. As is to be expected, once the bell rings it all erupts into chaos as everyone goes for everyone and soon Harper is the only one left in the ring, having chucked the rest of them out so he can Splash through the second rope to tackle all of them at once. Never one to be outdone, Ambrose soon shows him up by climbing to the top of a strategically-placed ladder to hit a massive elbow drop on all of them simultaneously. Truth manages to negotiate a ladder into the ring but, as Cole is at pains to remind us, he’s apparently afraid of heights and therefore won’t be able to climb it when the crucial moment presents itself. As it turns out, he doesn’t even get a chance to try as Barrett soon tackles him with it. Bryan superkicks the ladder out of his hands, before Harper lines it up, leading him to run full force into it, whacking his arm. Bryan fires back by placing him upside down on it and hitting him with a succession of brutal kicks. He climbs it, once Harper is seeing stars, but Ziggler immediately drags him back down in the first of many hints that these two will be the last ones standing come match end. Meanwhile, Stardust catches Ambrose’s legs in another ladder and squashes them as a “Cody” chant ensues once more. He pulls a special, sparkly ladder from beneath the ring that Barrett wastes no time in pulling apart, before hitting him with the shattered pieces. Back inside, Harper and Ambrose grab a couple of little ladders and fight each other with them. Harper takes his, wraps it around his neck, and then spins it around to hit people. Barrett Superplexes Stardust off the top of another ladder, essentially ending his participation in this bout, as Harper chucks Ambrose out of the ring and head-first into yet another, strategically-placed ladder that crumples under the weight of him (he also has blood on his shirt, but it never becomes clear whose it is, so it may just be a stylistic choice). It’s Bullhammers all round as Barrett seeks to retain what is rightfully his, teaming up with Ziggler to knock Bryan off as he almost makes it to the gold yet again. He almost makes it again soon after, but Ziggler is, once again, too quick for him. They gather at the top, the two of them the only ones still fighting for a shot at the gold, and a flurry of punches and head-butts is unleashed as each man tries desperately to knock the other off. Finally, though, it’s Ziggler who topples as Bryan emerges victorious and steals the championship, to a rapturous reception not unlike that he received last year winning the, er, world heavyweight championship.
Winner: Daniel Bryan (new champion)
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Mercury and Noble are wearing gold ties to match the gold accents on Rollins’ new ring gear, which itself is a reference to his Money In The Bank briefcase he’s been carrying around for nearly a year. There are massive boos as he raises it for the millionth time. Orton, on the other hand, is sporting red tights, which must mean that red is the blue of this year’s Wrestlemania (thank you Twitter for Redny Orton and I hear voices in my red). The Viper is out for blood tonight, unleashing his fury on the bratty Rollins – who goaded him on RAW as he stood just out of reach on the apron – with a load of brutal dropkicks right off the bat. Rollins, ever the brilliant chicken-shit heel, flees the ring in fear, but he comes back harder, stranding Orton in the corner for a succession of superkicks that Noble cheers on happily. Orton hits a double DDT to the security team off the apron to the outside, as Rollins yells “This is MY TIME” upon stranding him in the corner once more. He fights back with some pretty crazy clotheslines, followed by a power-slam as Rollins aims for the curbstomp, while Noble and Mercury sell like champs at ringside. Rollins hits a stunning moonsault from the apron, to tackle Orton on the outside, but he blocks his attempt at a sunset flip (Cole reckons it’s a backdrop) and RKOs Mercury for good measure. Rollins curbstomps Orton, leading to the first near fall of the match, but he soon fires back with another moonsault, which Rollins deftly dodges. And then, in what will go down in history as one of the gnarliest moments in pro-wrestling (not even just Wrestlemania) history, Rollins rolls out, jumps about fifty feet in the air to aim for another curbstomp and Orton reverses it to RKO him and wins. Holy shit. Try and beat that, dads.
Winner: Randy Orton
Sting vs. Triple H
The dads match has finally arrived and, naturally, it’s taking place slightly earlier on the card because, let’s face it, it’s almost past their bedtime. Stinger emerges first, looking a lot like Sgt. Kabukiman only not cool. He’s flanked by a load of people in identical face-paint, which should make his look a lot less lame but doesn’t. Trips, on the other hand, is The Terminator. And his entrance is exactly as cool, and nuts, as that description suggests. Arnie shows up to say things, there’s a scanner to locate his opponent, Trips emerges from the floor, he carries robot heads and then he throws them aside, removes his mask and begins his descent. It’s perfectly-timed and totally amazing. Ridiculous, but amazing, and arguably one of the coolest Wrestlemania entrances of all time. So cool, in fact, that Stinger looks mighty pissed as he waits impatiently for him in the ring. They stare each other out of it for a bit before locking up. Stinger gets the first strike with a limp shoulder tackle. Trips is having an absolute blast throughout, and it’s much more entertaining to watch him over-sell than try to pretend his opponent is anything but super-gassed and struggling to stay upright. A massive, purple butt-bruise presents itself early on but Triple H is nonplussed, even as it spreads to his rippled thigh. Suddenly, midway through the bout, none other than DX show up to rally around Trips. Stinger chucks ’em all out, as Triple H goes for the Pedigree, which he counters to throw him out too. He then splashes out to tackle all of them at once as the NWO storm the arena and things quickly descend into an all-out brawl. Stinger hits the scorpion death-drop for a near fall, but Trips isn’t going down that easy and he crawls for the sledgehammer as Hogan, hamming it up as per, quickly moves it out of his grasp. As Stinger lines up for another scorpion death drop, HBK turns up to intervene, allowing Trips the opportunity to roll over and pin him, just about – he’s barely conscious at this point, while Stinger looks even deader than usual – but Stinger kicks. He then drags his bag of bones to his feet and breaks Triple H‘s hammer in two with his bat but, because he still has the good end, Trips just whacks him with it afterwards and then pins him to win. The NWO and DX stare for a bit, after they’ve dragged their buddies to their feet. Ominous.
Winner: Triple H
Divas Tag Team Match: AJ Lee & Paige vs. The Bella Twins
Twitter was awash with complaints last night, following this match, as certain fans felt the ladies deserved more than about seven minutes to show off what they can do – especially as, soon after, Rocky turns up to do that thing he does for almost half an hour, adding absolutely nothing to the proceedings. Considering the title match on last week’s RAW was so good, and the whole #GiveDivasAChance thing is really gaining traction, we shouldn’t really whinge too much as, all things considered, the Divas still got more of a shot than they usually do here. It’s Paige versus Nikki to start, as AJ gets herself knocked off the apron and spends most of the match writhing around on the floor as a result. They lay into each other pretty impressively, and once again it’s impossible not to wish this was a fatal fourway for the belt so that Brie wouldn’t get a look in because, when she does, the action grinds to a frustrating halt. An Alabama Slam by Nikki is wicked, while, naturally, it’s the Rack Attack that looks set to win it for her and her sister, as Paige is absolutely floored by it. The crowd boo the hell out of “Brie Mode” but, to be fair to the girl, a big dropkick from the top looks pretty good (though kudos must go to Paige for selling it so well). The weaker Bella later gets chucked into the steps by the Brit, which is notable if only for the fact it’s rare to see a Diva pull off such a move, as female wrestlers in the WWE are generally encouraged to go a bit softer. In the end, the Goths win it for weirdos everywhere when AJ locks Nikki into the Black Widow and she taps. Paige, once again, looks on the verge of tears (and rightly so).
Winners: AJ Lee & Paige
US Championship Match: John Cena vs. Rusev
It’s a night of incredible, show-stopping entrances as Rusev arrives in a tank, flanked by Lana and a load of NXT lads in uniforms as the Russian national anthem plays. There’s so much heat for him it’s nuts, but not quite as crazy as the weird, pro-USA bullshit that precedes Cena’s entrance. Suffice to say Ronald Reagan makes an appearance and I feel bad that somebody who presumably went to film school had to sit there and edit this shit. The crowd cheer the Superman, but the usual “John Cena sucks” chant soon ensues because, well, Cena’s still Cena. Hilariously, Rusev interrupts the intro to demand that he be billed first, even though he’s the current champ. It’s a nice touch that, once again, speaks to how great his character is. The two of them start immediately tearing each other apart, with Rusev showing off his remarkable agility in spite of his significant size. He hits a crazy Suplex, then halts the action immediately after and demands the flag from Lana so he can do a victory lap, waving it around as he does so. Again, it’s little flourishes like these that really build guys up properly (and why the ending to this match is such a slap in the face). Once back in the ring, he hits a crazy, MASSIVE knee to Cena’s head as Lana chucks one of her gaudy high-heels into the ring in support as her man gets locked into the STF. Making it to the ropes, he tries for the Accolade, but Cena counters. Rusev runs the ropes into a neckbreaker for a near fall, after which he finally locks in the Accolade. Given the story-line of his character thus far, this should be where it all ends for Cena, but sadly, he powers out as we all suspected he would and chucks the Russian into the turnbuckle. He locks him in the STF again, but as Rusev powers out he accidentally knocks Lana off the apron and Cena capitalises on the distraction to seal the deal with an Attitude Adjustment that the Russian should be able to withstand but doesn’t because Vince says so. And now John Cena is the United States champion for no reason other than he is a too-proud American, y’all.
Winner: John Cena (new champion)
Immediately following the match, The Authority show up to announce that the crowd gathered in Levi’s Stadium on this most joyous occasion have set a new attendance record for Wrestlemania, at a combined capacity of (insert falsified figure here). Steph reminisces about Wrestlemania 1, when she was a wee 20-year-old and all those dudes her Da screwed out of money were working their asses off to fund their drug problems. Good times. She then acknowledges that none of this would be possible without…her! And her husband, Triple H, who is so smug about his victory over Stinger that he’s glowing like a pregnant woman. He reminds us again that he beat him, you know, just to be clear, and postulates that, in doing so, he’s also beaten “anyone who’s ever bet against us”. After all, as we should know by now, The Authority always win. The Rock has something to say about that, and he’s here tonight to rhyme and make dick jokes and generally waste time that could’ve been better spent on matches. Steph is not impressed he’s here, and I don’t blame her because Goofy Rock is almost as bad as Goofy Cena. There’s some not-so-veiled suggestion that maybe he and her hubbie will be facing off at next year’s event (no no no, for the love of god no) to which Trips succinctly responds with “I got nothing to prove to you” before removing his jacket as though to say “But I’ma kick your ass anyway, homie” (in my head, Trips thinks of Rocky as a cool kid he has to impress). Steph stops him, much like she did on RAW last week, when he was considering facing up to that wandering vagrant who usually naps in the rafters up by the cheap seats, and she’s all like “Honey, wait. Who cares about The Rock?” Of course, then Rocky makes a crude joke about her father so, naturally, he gets a slap and is shown the door. But, being DA ROCK, he can’t leave without locating one of his Furious 7 co-stars in the crowd and dragging her up to humiliate the two of them properly. Ronda Rousey is actually pretty good in the ring, and on the mic, so Steph’s recent comments on Twitter about signing her to the Divas division if she could pick anyone in the world suddenly make even more sense. The crowd chant “Ronda’s gonna kill you” as Steph pretends they’re friends, but it’s Trips who suffers at the hand of the UFC star as she floors him and chucks him out. Steph ends up in an arm-lock, too, and Rocky is all like “Har de har”. This promo amounts to nothing and it way overstays its welcome. Wrestlemania moments, everyone!
Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
In spite of the bright California evening, Wyatt enters with a lantern as normal, and is flanked by a load of zombie scarecrows, all of whom do a weird, sort-of Thriller dance down the ramp. The crowd remain eerily silent throughout, which either means it’s incredibly atmospheric or they’re totally bored. Taker’s entrance, on the other hand, will never stop being cool because it instantly turns us all into twelve-year-olds again. The build-up for this match has been fine, but only because Wyatt has essentially been feuding with himself the whole time. This is the first time the two competitors are actually meeting face to face, so it’s entirely up to you whether that makes your skin tingle or crawl. Wyatt kicks things off nicely by shouting about how all of this is his now. Warring chants begin for the two of them, which is cool considering usually it’s “Let’s Go Cena” / “Cena Sucks” or a variation thereof. Seeing equal support is great. Wyatt slams Taker’s head into the steps with his knee early on, belying the fact he’s supposedly injured (but, hey, nobody could possibly limp more than The Undertaker anyway, right?). He gets himself locked into the Hell’s Gate but powers out before aiming for the Sister Abigail, which Taker counters with a MASSIVE chokeslam, immediately followed by a tombstone piledriver. Wyatt thinks he has him beat soon after, once Taker has taking a few hits, and does his victory crab-walk thing, but Taker sits up, Michael Myers-style as he is wont to do, and the two crawl around for a bit until Wyatt lands a stiff uppercut and the Deadman responds in kind, proving there’s still some fire in the old dog’s belly. Wyatt tries for the Sister Abigail again but Taker hits another tombstone piledriver to win, making it 22-1 and rendering this whole exercise exciting but pointless.
Winner: The Undertaker
Main Event: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
The least anticipated match of the night (aside from the dads match) is also the Main Event. Go figure. Paul Heyman has made this feud tolerable for weeks now, but considering the rumours that Vince himself was handling the writing duties on this one, there didn’t seem to be much cause for celebration. At least, not at first. Reigns is accompanied by security detail as he enters to ridiculous heat from the fans, most of whom have been sitting for six hours in the baking sun only to face the prospect of someone they don’t believe in taking a shot at the biggest title of them all. Lesnar, on the other hand, gets a massive pop. He hasn’t bothered with a shirt because, let’s face it, it’d just slow him down. Heyman takes the mic before any punches are thrown, pumping us all up with another rousing speech, in spite of a scratchy voice. The man is a genius, he’s so good that if he were put with Reigns, he might even be able to put him over. Lesnar hits a stunning F5 right off the bat, less than a minute in, his already red face full of glee at the pain he’s administering. It becomes a mess of F5s and Suplexes as he hits Reigns relentlessly, over and over and over, much to the crowd’s delight. Reigns manages a tiny bit of offence, but Lesnar soon fights back, yelling “Suplex city, bitch” (a term that was soon trending on Twitter, somewhat hilariously). More Suplexes and F5s follow as Reigns tries desperately to fight back, only to be clotheslined through the ropes and off the apron. The crowd are out for blood, which is lucky considering Lesnar is covered in the stuff as he hits another F5 for a near fall. The gloves literally come off as he removes his accessories to bring the pain even harder, and the crowd pop massively for it. Another F5 leads to yet another near fall, after which he lines Reigns up for a bit of turnbuckle-based beating. However, Reigns finally manages to counter, sending Lesnar flying into it himself instead as the blood starts pouring out of his head. He hits a Superman punch, and another soon after, as Lesnar struggles to catch his breath in the corner, like a boxer on his final round. He finds the strength to grab him, but Reigns counters again for another Superman punch, followed by a gnarly Spear, leading to yet another near fall. The camera cuts to Heyman, who is literally crouched down at ringside, clutching his heart and praying, which isn’t something any of this thought we’d see him do in this lifetime. Reigns lines Lesnar up again but finally the Beast regains his composure, hitting yet another F5. Suddenly, Rollins’ music drops, and the man himself charges into the stadium, displaying his briefcase and finally demanding a title shot. Lillian who, as Heyman noted previously, is utterly useless, quickly calls the triple threat match as Rollins curbstomps Lesnar to get things rollin’. Reigns suffers an F5 but fires back with a Superman punch and Rollins, capitalising perfectly, curbstomps Reigns to pin him and win. And with that, a new champion, and a legendary Wrestlemania moment, is born.
Winner: Seth Rollins (new champion)
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t particularly excited for this Wrestlemania. Aside from the fact that six hours seemed like a lot of wrestling, the card sucked and the road has been rocky, to put it mildly. But last night was one of those, sadly all too rare, times when our faith was restored and it felt good to be a fan of this weirdest of sports. The night was absolutely jam-packed, with awe-inspiring spots, great story-telling, insane examples of athletic ability and some massive shocks too. As much as we all fantasised about it happening, did anyone actually believe that Rollins was going to turn up and cash in? There was always a worry that Lesnar, who just recently signed another contract with the WWE, would finish the match looking like shit because, all things considered, and no matter how many times Reigns tells us to “believe DAT” we never actually did, or wanted to, not least because of his unfair victory at the Rumble, the effects of which are still being felt. The low points of last night were refreshingly few and far between; Show winning the battle royal, for example, was anticlimactic but we got what we wanted when Mizdow turned on Miz and the ensuing feud will easily overshadow whatever the fuck the big man does next, and while the Divas didn’t get the time they deserved, they got more than usual and they all looked great (er, apart from Brie). The Taker victory seems stupid, but he put Wyatt over in a big way so we can only hope that better things are on the horizon for this most talented performer, a man who has proven he can sell a feud all by himself. Cena beating Rusev, on the other hand, was short-sighted as it negates everything the Russian powerhouse has built thus far. Having said that, it, like Bryan’s unnecessary IC title win, could lead to some interesting story-lines also so we should at least try to remain open-minded. Stinger/Trips was dull, but we always knew it was going to be, and Rocky’s presence wasn’t entirely necessary. This was definitely Rollins’ night and he proved once and for all that he truly is the future of the WWE. This is a kid who was part of an emo tag team on NXT, who was the quiet member of The Shield, the one no one noticed with Mouthy and Angry standing next to him, but who was responsible not just for the most shocking moment of 2014, but also some of the most exciting and interesting moments of the ensuing months. His feud with Orton set RAW alight and he managed to create two legendary Wrestlemania moments in the one show, which is no mean feat. He may have got his dick out and embarrassed his then-girlfriend, mistress and himself, but Rollins came back harder, stronger and faster and now he’s on top of the world. Long may his reign continue. Reigns, your time is up.
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