Wrestlemania XXX has come and gone and here’s my two cents on what I thought of the biggest show of the year. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good show that had plenty of talking points and only a couple of disappointments. Structurally, I hope future Wrestlemania shows follow the scheduling format – a record four matches went over 20 minutes in length – giving them all a decent opportunity to shine.
As you would want for a decade anniversary show, it felt like it offered a passing of the torch moment, the conclusion to some long running story lines and a glimpse into the stars of the future.
Here’s the rundown of how it went down.
Daniel Bryan vs Triple H
Winner Enters The Main Event
Wrestlemania XXX opened with an excellent in-ring segment featuring Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin after which the show kicked off in earnest with Triple H vs Daniel Bryan. As has become the tradition at recent Wrestlemania shows, they went the extra mile with elaborate entrances featuring costumes and extravagant Titantron videos in the shape of the show logo. Japanese pro wrestling companies have been doing these types of entrances for years and its pleasing to see the WWE embrace their showmanship side and really shine with spectacular ring entrances. When I was a kid, I thought those little carts that wrestlers came to the ring on at Wrestlemania III & VI were the height of cool. Look how far we’ve come in terms of presentation and production quality!
The match itself was exactly what I hoped for. An honest-to-God, straight up one on one match with no interference and a good competitive contest. I thought Stephanie was excellent working the Sensational Sherri role on the outside of the ring and her own mini ‘iron cross’ pose that she did when Triple H struck a thunderous lariat to Bryan was hilarious.
In the end, Daniel Bryn won clean as a whistle with his running busaiku knee which, depending on who you ask, is either known as The Knee That Beat John Cena or the Knee Plus. Both names are pretty awful really. Either way, it was a great start to the show and inserted Daniel Bryan into the main event. It’s also great to see the crowd really starting to respond to that move as a credible finisher that can put anyone away.
Who I Said Would Win: Daniel Bryan
Who Did Win: Daniel Bryan
The Shield vs Kane and The New Age Outlaws
This match was pretty short and basically a squash match. Post-show rumours suggest it got cut for time to allow more breathing room for the battle royal. To be honest, it was probably for the best and the match played out more or less exactly as it should do. The Shield looked strong and went over clean, finishing the show with a double-triple power bomb (does that even make sense?)
Who I Said Would Win: The Shield
Who Did Win: The Shield
The Andre The Giant Memorial 30 Man Battle Royal
This battle royal match was way better than it had any right to be and the quality of the match would suggest that its probably going to make a return at future Wrestlemania shows. As he has done at plenty of Royal Rumbles and Money In The Bank matches, Kofi Kingston ensured he would be a fixture of the highlight reel by falling out of the ring but keeping his feet on the ring steps, a unique spot that I haven’t seen in a battle royale before.
The booking of this match was pretty smart, playing to most people’s expectations that Big Show would win since he’s basically a modern day Andre. Instead the honours went to star-in-the-making Antonio Cesaro who made the 70,000 strong crowd audibly gasp at his amazing feat of strength when he scooped up Big Show and sent him over the top rope. It was a great call back to Wrestlemania III and made Cesaro look like a million bucks.
Time will tell whether the WWE can strike gold with Cesaro. He is an incredible athlete, has a couple of genuine crowd pleasing moves (the swing and the uppercut) but is just lacking that last tweak to his character to really connect with the fans in the way a main eventer should. Hopefully he can find that last piece of the puzzle and reach the upper echelon this year.
Who I Said Would Win: An unannounced competitor
Who Did Win: Antonio Cesaro, an unannounced competitor
John Cena vs Bray Wyatt
It wouldn’t matter if John Cena won, I wrote in my preview, as long as Bray Wyatt looked competitive. And competitive he was in a solid encounter that ended with Cena picking up the win but still left Wyatt looking like a credible threat and a main event heel. I thought Wyatt’s Wrestlemania entrance which included a live band performance and a voodoo queen was pretty sweet and it looks like he might have a new catch phrase to get over with the crowd as he sung He’s got the whole world, in his hands… during the match itself.
The feud looks like it will continue on through to Extreme Rules. If they do indeed go a second time around with an additional gimmick – a cage, weapons, I Quit rules – it has the potential makings of a classic.
Who I Said Would Win: John Cena
Who Did Win: John Cena
The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar
Wrestlemania XXX will be remembered for two things. The making of Daniel Bryan as a permanent fixture in the WWE main event and the show where The Streak died.
I’ll put my hand up and say I did not see this ending coming at all and my reaction was pretty much the same as the guy in the screen capture above. Equally unexpected was just how terrible this match was. There were rumours that Taker got concussed midway during the match and you could believe it. He was incredibly lethargic, plodding and feeble looking. There was a point during the match where Lesnar began hitting Taker with some rolling German suplexes and Taker was not co-operating at all. Instead of jumping backwards, Lesnar was left to do all the heavy lifting and the moves looked particularly sloppy and painful as a result.
The weird thing is that Taker’s sub par performance was kind of fitting and plays into the story of the match itself. Taker had been lionized as this legendary figure who always rose to the occasion at Wrestlemania and delivered feats of super human strength. At this show he looked like exactly what he was – a semi-retired, aging wrestler who’s time has passed.
Having become the recipient of wrestling’s biggest accolade, The Man Who Broke The Streak, Brock Lesnar is likely poised for big things in the WWE’s future plans. I don’t doubt that he will deliver but there remains a pang of frustration with how the company has booked him upon his return. I have no problem with Lesnar being the guy who broke The Streak but just imagine how much more of a monster he would have been if he hadn’t been hampered by some even-steven booking at the start of his WWE return where he traded losses with Triple H and John Cena.
I’m quietly hopeful for an extended feud with Daniel Bryan where we get some matches that are comparable to Lesnar’s classic in 2004 against Eddie Guerrero at No Way Out. Make it happen, WWE!
Who I Said Would Win: The Undertaker
Who Did Win: Brock Lesnar
The Divas Gauntlet Match
In the preview I wrote for the show, I mentioned how I wasn’t even sure how this match would work logistically. It basically functioned as a chaotic mini battle royal for five minutes as the divas eventually tumbled out of the ring one by one leaving defending champion AJ Lee in the ring with Funkadactyle Naomi. AJ picked up the win by locking in her Black Widow submission maneuver. It was a great way for AJ to cap off a deserved run as the longest running divas champion.
Who I Said Would Win: Funkadactyl #2
Who Did Win: AJ Lee
Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan or Triple H
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Thank God, this main event didn’t stink.
As little as four weeks before Wrestlemania XXX, there looked to be a very real possibility that the main event of the show would be a singles match between a noticably unfit Batista and a heat-less Randy Orton. Thanks to the injection of Daniel Bryan into the encounter and a timely intervention from Triple H, this match turned into a fun, 20 minute barn burner that called back to some of the better booked Russo style Attitude era main events that had table spots, run ins and a couple of swerves.
In the end, Orton and Batista ended up delivering better than expected performances in their roles as lackeys to the Daniel Bryan show and the show ended exactly how it should – with an ecstatic crowd on their feet chanting YES! whilst a jubilant Daniel Bryan held the title belts in the air.
It caps off a topsy turvy period for the company starting from Summerslam where they seemed to strap a rocket onto Bryan, then lose their nerve and change their minds, before forcibly being put back on track by a vocal WWE audience who wouldn’t have it any other way.
History tells us that Bryan will have the make the most of his time as champion. In the previous decade anniversary shows, the newly crowned heavyweight champions Bret Hart and Chris Benoit only had short reigns as main eventers before returning to the midcard for the next Wrestlemania. Hart was shunted down to the midcard for a match against Bob Backlund at Wrestlemania XI and Benoit ended up in a six man ladder match for the inaugural Money In The Bank contract at Wrestlemania XXI. Daniel Bryan is arguably more over with the crowd today than either of those men so time will tell how he will go as the face of the company.
Regardless, I’m thrilled with how the show ended and two years after his ignoble 18 second defeat in the opening match of Wrestlemania 28, I’m glad Daniel Bryan finally got to have his Wrestlemania moment.
Who I Said Would Win: Daniel Bryan
Who Did Win: Daniel Bryan