Welcome to this week’s special edition of The Voice of Reason! With WrestleMania 31 in the books, I go out of my routine once again to review The Show of Shows! I’ll return to my regular bi-weekly schedule after this. Let’s get right to the grandest stage of them all!
One of the knocks on this year’s WrestleMania would be the bright sunshine! At many of the past WrestleManias at outdoor stadiums, the show would start with some sun and drift into darkness. This year’s show was unique in that almost the entire show was in the sun and I liked it. I would think that they knew it would be like this in the planning stages so they tried to fit things in where they could. Sure, the entrances weren’t as cool in the sun but I liked the show. Having been to Levi’s Stadium when it was under construction, it’s an impressive and unique structure. It’s got a theme park next door! They moved two matches to the pre-show so I expected & hoped that the main card would get plenty of time. I refreshed my Roku and tuned in for the entire pre-show to get my $9.99 worth!
WrestleMania 31 Kickoff Show
We started off with the Fatal 4-Way tag team match. They had some cool spots and put on a good show. They showed they should have been on the main card but oh well. I’m glad Kidd and Cesaro retained. I hope the emphasis on the tag division doesn’t stop and they build successful feuds from this.
The ARMBAR was next and I didn’t like it. It seemed very much like the Royal Rumble. I know they’ve got producers/agents for every match but the person in charge of this match seemed to just toss it together. I didn’t like how The Big Show, a guy well past his prime but can still help sometimes, won the thing. Along the way, he buried every up-and-coming guy including the New Day, Ryback, and others. Like, why? Is this Show’s last stand? He’s had as many turns as the Undertaker’s wins at WrestleMania. I just don’t get it. We got to see Sandow turn on Miz and even a Bo Dallas victory lap! As we saw last year, the ARMBAR doesn’t mean much except for a trophy.
The show started off with the Intercontinental Championship Ladder match, which was the right call. Did anybody hear the pop Daniel Bryan got when his music hit? Holy crap. If they can’t market him, somebody needs to be replaced. When Bad News Barrett came out, he looked the best I’ve ever seen him. He’s big, ripped, and they need to push the guy. Dolph Ziggler got a nice pop too. Cody Rhodes can get over anything he’s given and this was further proof. I read where he was going crazy at Axxess. Just like Curtis Axel and Damian Sandow, I think it pisses Vince off when these guys get over the crap they’re given. That’s true talent. Luke Harper and R-Truth looked out of place but both delivered some quality spots. Dean Ambrose got a great pop and I liked the black tank top that differentiated him from Harper some. I loved Stardust’s custom ladder! I do wonder how it is for Eden Stiles & Renee Young to watch their husband & boyfriend, respectively, in these high-risk matches. Ambrose’s powerbomb through the ladder looked sick! I hate when they sell taking forever to climb the ladder only to sprint to the top a few minutes later. I’m looking at you, Dolph. Bryan winning was the right call. He should do great things with the belt. And if he does & stays healthy, he deserves another World title run!
Next up was a blowoff to the Rollins-Orton feud. The video package on this was great. They compared the parallels to how Orton was the “chosen one” by Triple H and now Rollins is in that spot. Side note: I love Rollins’ theme and I’ve got it on my workout playlist. I also loved the gold piping on his gear, perhaps a hint to later in the show! Randy Orton came out in some red trunks and someone remarked how it had been years since he used those. A lot of superstars had red & gold in their gear, perhaps a nod to the host stadium’s 49ers. I hope Vince was watching because Rollins can go. He’s similar to Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, and others in that he’ll be able to put on a good show with just about anybody. The finishing spot with the high Blackout/Curb Stomp into the RKO was awesome. Randy Orton continues to get better with age and move to that elite star category. RKOs out of nowhere rock. Will he continue to top himself with different variations? I hope so.
By the time the Sting-Triple H match rolled around, about half the stadium was out of the sun. Sting had a Japanese drum entrance with black smoke, which was odd but he looked excited to be there. As was rumored, Triple H had a Terminator-themed entrance, which was cool. If there was an award for best entrances, Triple H wins it until Finn Bálor shows up. I loved that Charles Robinson was the official for this match, since he was a former WCW guy. They started off with Sting dominating. Triple H kept hitting crotch chops, which foreshadowed to involvement from Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, and X-Pac. I hoped somebody from WCW would get involved on behalf of Sting and wasn't disappointed when Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall walked out. Nash and Hall are buddies with Triple H but who cares, the pop was awesome! DX squaring off with the NWO was awesome! I would have marked out hard if DDP had come out but HBK came out and gave Sweet Chin Music to Sting. The Bat-Sledgehammer square off was pretty cool too. I disagree with Triple H winning, even though he used part of the sledgehammer. We got our usual nostalgia feeling too.
Another nostalgia segment was having former IC champs come by and congratulate Daniel Bryan. Ezekiel Jackson, Val Venis, and Jeff Jarrett were not there, unfortunately. I think it's cool they're pushing Bryan as a workman type with the belt but that's who he is in general. He's a fighting champion.
Going into the Divas tag match, I was hoping they'd get plenty of time. Paige was looking extra hot at WrestleMania. I can say that since I’m near her age. However, can we stop with Jerry Lawler making creepy old man remarks? His shtick might have been funny 15 or 20 years ago or never but now it's gross. AJ got hit with a cheap shot and she looked like Dolph Ziggler when he sells; death. I heard a while back that there was heat on AJ for taking so much time off. I wondered if this was part of her punishment cause by the time she got in, she had taken 3 shots off the apron. I timed this match with the stopwatch on my iPhone. From opening bell to the tap: 6 minutes and 39.78 seconds. Seriously? On a 4 hour show with just 7 matches on the main card?
On the Squared Circle Reddit, they remarked how awesome it would be if John Cena would come out on the back of a bald eagle or Rusev interrupting “America the Beautiful.” Lana is gorgeous and plays her role perfectly. Her freaking out when the Russian flag fell was perfect. I marked for Rusev’s entrance. I’m just saddened that during his entire reign as the US Champion, they didn’t rechristen it like Lance Storm did with the titles in WCW. What’s amazing is how a pro-USA video quickly turned into booing when John Cena’s music hit. I’m kind of let down he didn’t wear some Apollo Creed-type shorts. I’m sure Xavier Woods would have given him some of his old ones. I do think that the “John Cena Sucks” in tune with his music is right up there with “You Suck” during a true American hero’s theme, Kurt Angle. I was shocked at Cena’s springboard stunner. I didn’t like the dirty finish with Lana getting bumped off the apron and Cena hitting a single AA for the win. Where does Rusev go from here? He was such a monster and was fed to Cena. I hope they do something good with him. Lana and Rusev belong together.
I was wondering where the segment with Triple H and Stephanie was going until The Rock’s music hit. He was soaking it all in and Stephanie’s side comments during this were awesome. She plays her character to perfection. You could argue they set this up when Rock surprised everybody in Brooklyn. The Triple H-Rock rivalry was what really got me into wrestling when I first started watching. As much as I enjoyed the entire segment, it did go a little long. I had a feeling that Ronda Rousey would get involved since she was already shown at ringside and “Furious 7” is coming out. The crowd ate this up and did I. This was up there with the WM30 segment with Hogan, Austin, and Rock. She didn’t break Stephanie’s arm but could have done so easily. Have you seen the video of her breaking a reporter’s rib off a simple judo throw? Amazing. Brock shows up at her UFC fight and gets a little pub. Rousey shows up at WrestleMania 31 and actually gets involved. Amazing. If they don’t do a mixed tag at SummerSlam, do it at WrestleMania 32.
The new face of fear had his interesting entrance. He had hurt his ankle earlier in the day and from all reports, it was bad. Much respect to him for working through it cause he didn’t look hurt. The Undertaker looked to be in awesome shape. Going into this, I wanted a good match and a Wyatt Spider Walk with Undertaker sitting up. Sure enough, we got that towards the end of the match. Undertaker got the win, which is the right call. I just hope they continue with something worthwhile with Wyatt.
The main event made me nervous. Reigns was getting booed by the casual crowds. How would he fair with the hardcore fans? Sure enough, he got booed and security escorting him to the ring tossed people out along the way. Brock Lesnar got a huge pop on his way out. Lesnar delivered many suplexes including the one with the tagline, “Suplex City, bitch!” I popped big for that. There was a remix to “Rack City” with that by Monday afternoon. Wrestling fans are so creative! I didn’t understand why they had Reigns smiling during the match. Lesnar continued his domination but Reigns kept kicking out. It eerily reminded me of Super Cena. They could have been telling the story similar to Steve Austin-Bret Hart at WM13 when he passed out with blood running down his face. What I didn’t like was how Lesnar was dominating, then all of a sudden, Reigns hits a few moves & they acted like it was over. After watching it again, he did hit 3 Superman punches and 2 spears so it was something but not a lot. Then, I noticed a camera man easing toward the ramp.
Now before I continue, I don’t like when they’re going to surprise us and accidentally give it away. There have been past moments, I don’t know from the top of my head, where they give away stuff before actually doing it. Moving on…
When the camera guy was on the ramp, I knew Rollins was coming. When his music hit, I marked out. He comes running down the ramp, JBL going nuts, I was right there with him. When they made the announcement, I marked out more. When he won the title, I flipped out more than I did when Daniel Bryan won the title at WrestleMania 30.
It works on so many levels though. You get the Rollins-Reigns feud they’ve teased and wanted to do. You get the title on full-time Rollins and off of part-time Lesnar without making Lesnar look weak. It also fits the logic of Dean Ambrose saying he’d stop every Rollins cash-in because he was destroyed from the IC title ladder match. This also helped elevate the Money in the Bank Contract in that it can be cashed in at anytime, no event is off limits.
Despite the event having many veterans go over, they ended it perfectly with Rollins cashing in. He plays the slimy, slippery heel to perfection. He got the win, and then hauled tail to escape with the title with no punishment on him. It reminded me a lot of how Edge was.
Overall, I turned off the event satisfied. I didn’t feel like I had been ripped off and that I got more than my money’s worth. The event worked well and it’s one that I will watch again.
Just when we’re ready to send Vince packing and thinking he’s lost his mind, he goes & pulls this. To borrow a line from “Dumb & Dumber” he went and “totally redeems” himself.
Perhaps we’re too critical sometimes of Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Sure, there are gaps and logical pitfalls. Do we sometimes, like the old saying goes, miss the forest through the trees? Are we so worked up about Roman Reigns getting shoved down our throats that we fail to realize Vince has a grand plan all along? Maybe. I know sometimes it seems that they’re booking, or not booking, by the seat of their pants. We fail to realize how good Vince can do this and entertain us. Sure, there are the times when he seems to be doing things to make himself laugh or to inflate his ego. But you can’t argue with the fact that he can keep us guessing. To borrow from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, just when we think we have all the answers, he goes and changes the questions. Days before the biggest event, he gets Brock Lesnar to agree to another contract. At WrestleMania 31, he changed the game and showed he’s still got some magic up his sleeves by having Seth Rollins cash in. Now if we could harness his genius for the entire year and not just a few events, we’d be great.
This is two WrestleManias in a row where I felt entertained during the entire event. My hats off to you, WWE! I just hope that they continue this and do things to make being a wrestling fan cool again.
Hall of Fame
I was watching NCAA Basketball so I tuned into the Hall of Fame show a little late. I got in during the acceptance of the Warrior Award from Connor’s dad. I’ll echo what Chris Jericho said; a Hall of Fame ceremony isn’t the time to be a jackass. The fans saying “What” or general heckling during the ceremony should be kicked out. People, for some reason, choose to be disrespectful during ceremonies like these or graduation ceremonies. That ticks me off. I seriously wish we had a Hunger Games or some other fancy way for taking these people right out of the service. It’s obvious some folks cannot follow simple directions. I thought the speeches by the people I saw like Kevin Nash or The Terminator were fine. I saw one report during the week that said officials were upset that the ceremony went so long. Here’s an idea; limit the time for speeches. They may already do this but it’s simple. If you’re trying to jam 8-9 inductions plus introductions, just limit their time. I know these people put their bodies on the line for the business and deserve respect & a chance to say what they want to. If you limit their time, they’ll pick out what are the most important things to say. Just look at how other leagues do their ceremonies to get a better idea.
RAW After WrestleMania
For the past few years, I’ve always looked forward to the RAW after WrestleMania. It’s always a hot crowd and the chants are pretty funny. This year, however, things went a little too far. Everything was fine for a while. I thought the “You look stupid” chant towards Sheamus was funny and accurate. The crowd popped big for the debuts of the Lucha Dragos and Adrian Neville. But when the divas got their chance to shine, the chants got offensive. These ladies have busted their tails and they were finally getting another chance to show what they can do. But chanting “You suck (enter significant other’s name here)” was awful. That’s not funny. Speaking of Ronda Rousey, go watch the video of some reporter commenting on her sex life. I believe she asked him if he would say that with his mother standing there. I’m all for fans expressing their opinions at different events. You’ve paid your money to see the event so you should be able to do most anything you want within the rules. But, you can only go so far with what you say or chant to where you’re no longer a “cool” or “fun” crowd but an obnoxious crowd.
One last note before I go. I was getting ready to upload this onto the posting site when I got the alert that AJ Lee has decided to retire from in-ring competition. I won’t speculate as to why or anything else. I think AJ is extremely talented. She fulfilled her childhood dream to make it to WWE. She’s good in the ring and on the mic. With the women, there’s only so much you can do once you’ve won the Divas Championship, especially a 3-time winner. There’s not much left for her to accomplish. Just like her husband CM Punk, once you’ve done all you can do and there’s nothing left really to challenge you, why stay?