Last night's grandest stage of them all was not the harbinger of watershed change that I was hoping for, though that's probably my own fault for having my usual #IrrationalIdealist expectations. We got the distinct impression from Wrestlemania that this is still Vince McMahon's company and, with minimal exceptions, what he says goes.
Doesn't mean it wasn't an enjoyable show to end an enjoyable weekend, though.
Come with me, NAIborhood, as the Pope of Positivity walks you through his personal list of favorite moments from Sunday's Wrestlemania.
Kalisto vs. Ryback
Full disclosure: I was doing a food run during this match, so I can't preach too much about the positivity of the match itself, but Kalisto is still our United States champion. Nothing wrong with that. I also heard that Ryback might have gone full heel following the match, which is also a good thing. I imagine this feud will continue throughout the spring, and while I'm not wild about it, I also don't detest the idea as much as I thought I would.
Ten Diva Tag Match
This match was way more enjoyable than it really had any business being - I was engaged from start to finish. I feel like these women knew about the changes coming to their division and decided to step things up.
Let's talk about Lana for a second. She didn't do a whole lot in this match, which was by design. We saw a couple impressive kicks and I just adored how she stood very tall, extended her hand formally and announced that she'd like to be tagged into the ring now. I'm excited to see where she goes heading out of Mania season.
Also, if this was truly the swan song for Brie Bella, she picked a very nice way to go out. Daniel Bryan tweeted it and he was totally right, the rolling Yes Lock Brie performed was better than any version I ever saw her husband do. I've never been a huge fan of either Bella twin, but you can't say they weren't talented.
Really, there was a lot to like from all participants. Paige, Naomi, Emma, Tamina and Natalya all had nice moments.
Who was the real star? Do you even need to ask?
It wasn't just that she soaked up those boos from the crowd like they were manna from heaven. It wasn't that she refused to take in Paige, then tagged Natalya via slap. Even her most hardcore haters admit she knows how to be an uber-heel.
But Eva Marie acquitted herself quite well purely as a wrestler. In fact, she did pretty good.
She wasn't in the match long, and she wasn't supposed to be, but when she was there, she did her job. That's all we can ask.
The Dudleys vs. The Usos
I loved that The Dudleys, despite being the storyline heels in this match, got cheered exponentially more than their opponents. So much so, in fact, that Bubba and Devon seemed to forget they were supposed to be the bad guys. Didn't they come out on RAW a few weeks ago and say they were done with tables? Didn't seem to be the case here.
Not a whole lot to say about this match, except one last thing - I am positive that I hate the superkick.
IC Ladder match
I normally am not a super-emotional person when it comes to pro wrestling, but I have to admit to getting a tad bit glassy eyed watching Sami Zayn make his way to the ring. Zayn had a TREMENDOUS weekend, coming close to stealing the show at BOTH NXT Takeover and Wrestlemania. In a fair and just world, Sami just assured himself a main event spot in WWE.
Loved the Zayn and Kevin Owens moment where they are on either side of the ladder, look up at each other, then drop the ladder and just started punching. This feud is going to be amazing to watch over the next decade.
I don't want this to turn into a Sami love fest but the way Zayn dove THROUGH THE OPEN LADDER and then over the ropes is something I'm going to need to watch at least a half dozen more times.
He was an afterthought for a lot of people in this match but props need to be given to Sin Cara for his performance. We expect botches from Sin Cara, yet he did VERY well here, falling off the ladder into a perfect springboard (WHERE NOBODY CAUGHT HIM, I MIGHT ADD) and then his falling splash onto Stardust later in the match.
As for Stardust, the tributes to daddy Dusty were fantastic. I still don't think we'll see Cody Rhodes again (at least not for a while, still), but the guy from the cosmos who admits his heritage is pretty cool.
Kevin Owens has now lost his IC title, but really, did he ever need it in the first place? A lot of people were awed by his frog splash, but I was far more impressed with the way he channeled his inner RVD by leaping up to the top rope in the first place. I tweeted this earlier, but now it's written in stone - Kevin Owens WILL win Money in the Bank this year.
Provided he isn't dead from that awesome half and half suplex onto the ladder.
He is The Miz, and he is awesome! He didn't do a whole lot in this match but him posing on the ladder at the very end was priceless. He's so good at what he does.
As for the winner, Mr. Zack Ryder, this was a shocking victory that proved that WWE can and will reward talents for taking a "demotion" to NXT and working hard when there to develop their characters. We saw it with Tyson Kidd and again with our IC champ. Congratulations, Zack, you deserve it.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
This was one of those matches where I found myself too distracted by Twitter to give it a proper viewing. A lot of people are claiming that it's the best of the series, and that might be true, though I find it challenging to watch the same match over and over again. If they had said from the onset this would be a "Best of" series, I think I'd have had an easier time.
Still, I enjoyed AJ's counter to the corner dropkick - hopping over the ropes and delivering one of his own. I thought Jericho's borrowing of Austin Aries' rope-drop neckbreaker was an interesting choice. I could keep going here naming specific moments, but I'm already over a thousand words on this column. Suffice to say, it was a good match.
DC's unpopular opinion - The Styles Clash does nothing for me. I don't find it particularly impactful or visually impressive, and I don't care how many legitimate injuries have been caused by it. That just makes it dangerous AND unexciting. Get rid of it. Between the Calf Crusher, the Phenomenal Forearm and the Springboard 450, AJ's got plenty in the arsenal.
I was a bit surprised by the Jericho win, but I'm OK with it. In fact, it's exciting. I'm hoping we see them both move on to face other talents - Jericho would be a great matchup with Sami Zayn or either mid-card champion, and truthfully, I'd be all for a Jericho / Reigns program. As for Styles, the sky is the limit as well.
Just. . . . Just not Styles / Jericho V. . . . Pretty please?
New Day vs. League of Nations
New Day's entrance was entertaining, though (and I might lose my nerd card here) I'm not sure what the costumes were referencing. Dragon Ball Z? Mortal Kombat?
I had really, REALLY hoped Rusev would drive a tank over that big box of Booty-O's, though him looking like he wanted to stomp every piece of cereal was funny. Rusev was one of the big stars of this match, I thought, showing off his flexibility and skills as a wrestler, doing some of the most enthusiastic celebrating I've ever seen, then taking a Stunner like a champion. I'm still super high on the talent of the Bulgarian Brute.
I think this might be the end of the League of Nations. There seemed to be a feeling of finality to things. I'm guessing we don't see Bad News Barrett in WWE again, and on RAW tonight, "The Lads" go their separate ways. It's a shame, since I think they were just starting to fire on all cylinders.
New Day was. . . Fine. I don't think they got as big of a 'rub' as everyone else seems to just because they shared a ring with Austin, Foley and Michaels for about a minute and a half. Don't get me wrong - I loved the segment, but I do think this bodes well for New Day.
In fact - #PreDCtion - New Day loses the tag title to Enzo and Cass TONIGHT on RAW.
HEY NAIBORHOOD - The first person to find me a GIF of Austin dancing wins a shout out in this column! And. . .um. . . a big thumbs up!
THANKS TO BAILEY BISHOP (@baileybishop) for finding it! YAY!
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose
Realistic Aside: If I can be serious for a moment, this match was the most personally disappointing to me. Again, I blame my own lofty expectations. I really thought this was going to be the Arrival of Ambrose, where Dean ascends to the main event picture full-time, and that was not what I got. In fact, I'm tempted to . . . .Aw hell, why not?
PreDCtion - Dean Ambrose never main events a major WWE PPV again unless Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns is also a part.
I'm not counting minor shows like Fastlane - These are the big ones. Unless one of the other, more successful members of The Shield are there to help make it meaningful, Dean never sniffs true main event status again.
I seriously hope I'm wrong. . . But I don't think I am.
Despite this, there were still moments where I can Preach Positivity - I liked that Brock didn't bother with weapons; there was no need for them, obviously. Paul Heyman, as always, came close to stealing the show, moving into Dean's sight line to gloat and selling the kendo stick shots like he himself was taking them. Lesnar's cat-like ascension to the top rope was beautiful, and I suppose Dean had a good moment posing with Barbie. . . But yeah. . . That's about it.
Let's move on before I get truly sad.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
My plan is to do an entire column devoted to the women's division, but just so we're clear, I dig the new Women's title. I like that it looks a lot like the World Heavyweight Championship - There's a level of legitimacy to it that many others belts, including the copper penny tag titles, lack. It's cool.
I finally found a legitimate reason for Snoop Dogg to be part of a WWE show, so that was nice. Both Sasha and Charlotte had pretty nice entrances for their first Wrestlemanias. Charlotte's robe was a particularly nice touch.
In fact, this was the first time in AGES that I watched Charlotte and was reminded of the NXT talent that made me so fervently believe that this could be the best female wrestler of all time. A lot of that had to do with the lack of Ric Flair presence - Charlotte did most of this on her own. I hope we see more of that from our new Women's Champion.
Becky Lynch stood out as well - Her suplexes are especially impressive and really bring a level of legitimacy to the quality of wrestling we see. I also love it every time I see a move I've never seen before, and the hammerlock / reverse DDT combo was a new one for me.
If anything, Sasha Banks had the hardest time making a statement in this match. The dive through the ropes was nice (I really wonder if she realized she wasn't going fast enough so adjusted it into a flip halfway through to make sure she connected), but otherwise I didn't see anything super memorable from The Boss, save for the ending.
I loved the way this ended. I've been railing against Ric Flair's constant interference for months now, I know, but this worked for me. It was sneaky, it was dirty, it was Horseman-esque, which is what I want from the 16 time World Champion. Maybe it's because, on the biggest night of them all, Ric Flair realized that this wasn't about him, so for the most part, he let the women shine. When he did cheat, he made it count (and got out of the way of the camera). Nice job, Nature Boy.
Trust me, NAIborhood - This step in the journey for Sasha and Becky will make the destination all the sweeter.
Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker
This match should have closed the show for a number of reasons, not the least of which was what I (and Liam Stryker) have been saying all along - The fate of the company trumps the fate of the champion. Had I been forward thinking, I'd have called an audible in my PreDCtion when I realized the Cell was coming down too early, as there was no way Shane would win at 10 PM.
The use of the McMahon grandchildren was a nice touch for Shane's entrance and it was nice to see a Taker entrance in actual darkness. Note to WWE - No more outdoor shows.
This match reminded me a lot of the Cell match from Wrestlemania 28, in that I found it almost boring until the steel steps came into play. One Shane was chokeslammed onto the steps, business, my friends, picked up. A lot of great moments followed that, from the dueling triangle chokes to Shane's Van Terminator, which was special simply because Shane could have travelled another 5-7 feet if he wanted to.
Then we went outside the Cell. Loved when Shane had Taker in the sleeper, and everyone in the world knew Undertaker was about to send them both through a table. Loved that the toolbox exploded when Shane hit him with it. Loved The Dive, obviously, and thought that the announce team did a very good job of selling the moment. We give them a lot of grief, but when the time came, they sounded legitimately concerned, which is all we needed.
I've even talked myself into the ending of the match, which I was not a fan of last night. Once more, I had convinced myself of something that was probably a silly idea in the first place, and I paid for it with disappointment. Doc Manson was right, Shane was never going to be a long term fixture in the WWE, as much as we all wanted him to be. He came back for one more night of glory, got the "respectful pat on the cheek" from Taker (which, in my mind, sold the whole thing), and then lost. As he probably should to arguable the greatest wrestler in Mania history.
Not the best match of the night, but certainly had some all-time moments. Well done to all involved.
The Andre Battle Royal
It is tempting, I believe, to think back on Wrestlemania and see it, in broad terms, as a bit of a slap to the face of the IWC by Vince McMahon. Damien Sandow got eliminated by Shaquille O'Neal. What else is that but a middle finger to all those who love him and sing his praises on Twitter?
Still, this match was good for one reason and one reason only. . .Well, two I suppose - It's always nice to see Tatanka.
Bo Dallas is my favorite wrestler in WWE right now when you consider the ratio of minutes on air to moments of pure entertainment. Nobody makes me happier than Bo does. I mean, come on. . . Look at him!
How can you not love that excitement?
As for the result, this was totally unexpected, which is a positive in and of itself. I'm not sure Baron Corbin is WWE ready (in fact, him being called up really screws up some NXT fantasy booking I was planning on doing later today), but this is the right way to use this match. Baron instantly has more reason for being in WWE than a lot of the other recent NXT call-ups. We'll see if he's on RAW.
The Wyatts / Rock and Cena segment
Odd for the host of the show to make his first appearance right near the end, but I guess The Rock is truly one of those eccentric Hollywood types now!
The best part of this entire segment was listening to Rock put over Bray Wyatt, and even moreso, listening to the crowd go nuts for it. Obviously most fans want to see something meaningful happen for Bray, and while I'm not sure if we're going to get it, at least I can take solace in the knowledge that the feeling is widespread.
I wrote last week that the Wyatt Family, Bray included, was officially dead, and hopefully last night proved it. Now is the time for a phoenix to rise from the ashes and take his rightful place among the top talent in WWE. I still Bray-Lieve!!!
. . . Hmm, that doesn't work as well as his brothers' slogan.
Roman Reigns vs. Triple H
Triple H's entrance was good. Not as good as some of his others, but the fact that he didn't adorn himself in skulls for once was a nice touch. Sensational Stephie was good, too.
Having watched ALMOST all of the Wrestlemanias from my Lost Years (29 wasn't able to keep my interest in the last hours), I have a deeper appreciation for Triple H's talent than I did before. The guy is good, plain and simple, and last night was no exception. I enjoyed his role as the cerebral veteran, taking advantage of Roman's youthful exuberance and capitalizing on his mistakes. Also enjoyed how he isolated body parts, though his choice of some of them left me feeling uncomfortable.
Roman didn't do a whole lot in this match and actually, I think that was kind of the point. As Michael Cole mentioned during the entrances, Triple H has been champion a combined three and a half YEARS in WWE. That's as long as Roman Reigns' entire WWE career. This match shouldn't be all that close, and if Roman wins, it should seem to be a fluke, which that match did appear to be.
I do give Roman credit for making the spear to Stephanie look visually impressive while also being adjusted to ensure she wasn't hurt. Classy touch.
I shouldn't find this as funny as I did, but watching the cameramen scouring the crowd trying to find people happy about Roman's victory, and not being able to do it, was hilarious.
#PreDCtion - Stephanie and Triple H open RAW tonight. Stephanie tries to gloat about still being in control of the company but HHH is having not of it, beside himself at losing the title. This results in him going off the reservation, as it were, leading to some sort of No Holds Barred gimmick match at . . . Whatever the next PPV is.
All in all, Wrestlemania was an exciting show to cap off a fantastic weekend of wrestling. Could it have been better? Sure. There are a lot of questions that remain about some of the events of Wrestlemania, but that just means everyone will be tuning into RAW tonight to see if we get some answers. In a wrestling world without offseasons, isn't that the point?