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?
Tonight 100,000 people will file into AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX for a history making WrestleMania. There has been a lot of apathy towards this event due to the lackluster build and some people not being a fan of the main event. Instead of focusing on the negative in this column I am going to give my prediction on who will win each match and give a piece of positivity to each one. So let's dive right into the WrestleMania card.
United States Championship Match - Kalisto vs. Ryback
Prediction: Kalisto will retain his United States Championship and go on to feud with someone else after this. Perhaps AJ Styles becomes his next challenger after defeating Jericho tonight?
Piece of Positivity: Regardless of my personal opinions on Ryback these two will put on a good match to kick to kickoff the WrestleMania pre-show.
The Total Divas vs. B.A.D. & Blonde
Prediction: Team B.A.D. & Blonde win due to Eva Marie costing The Total Divas the match
Piece of Positivity: We will get to see what Lana can do as a wrestler, plus we get to see Emma at WM and really for me that is all I need
3rd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Prediction: Battle royals are hard to predict with so many participants especially this one. I'm just going to go with the wild guess that Cesaro makes a return and wins his second Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Piece of Positivity: This match gets all of the roster on the card and allows them to make a WrestleMania moment for themselves.
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match - Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz vs. Stardust
Prediction: Kevin Owens will retain his Intercontinental Championship and KOMania will run wild.
Piece of Positivity: This match will most likely kick off the main show and this match has the possibility to steal the show. Also Zack Ryder is proof that anything is possible as he went from mostly being in NXT to finding himself in a match at WM.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match - New Day vs. The League of Nations
Prediction: New Day retains their tag team championships goes on to feud with The Revival after WM. I must admit that last part is wishful thinking, but anything is possible on the Raw after WrestleMania.
Piece of Positivity: New Day will entertain 100,000 people as they always do.
The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz
Prediction: Even though WWE likes to send the fans home happy I think the Dudley Boyz will win this match and move back into contendership for the tag titles.
Piece of Positivity: Both the Usos & the Dudleyz will put on a great match and add another WrestleMania moment to their careers.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Prediction: AJ Styles
Piece of Positivity: While we have seen these two face off three times before these guys are going to show us something that we haven't seen and quite possibly steal the show as well.
Divas Championship Triple Threat Match - Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Prediction: Sasha Banks wins the Divas Championship and we get the new rumored Women's championship on the Raw after WrestleMania
Piece of Positivity: These three are going to put on a phenomenal match and create a great WrestleMania moment.
No Holds Barred Street Fight - Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
Prediction: Dean Ambrose will beat Brock Lesnar and become WWE's next rising star.
Piece of Positivity: Dean Ambrose will be a made man after this match whether he wins or loses tonight.
Hell in a Cell Match - Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker
Prediction: Shane McMahon wins with some help from Bray Wyatt or John Cena
Piece of Positivity: Shane McMahon is in this match and he is going to do something crazy as evidenced by his elbow drop on Taker on the go home edition of Raw last Monday.
WWE WHC Match - Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
Prediction: Roman Reigns gets his WM moment and wins the WWE WHC.
Piece of Positivity: Roman Reigns and Triple H will both step their game up to put on a memorable match and WrestleMania moment.
Yesterday, my esteemed partner in podcast crime Doc Manson posted an article about the reasons why he was excited for this Sunday's Wrestlemania. Never one to shy away from borrowing a good idea, I've decided to go ahead and offer my own reasons. In order to keep the good Doctor from screaming about plagiarism on this week's DDTpod, though, I've ranked the matches in order of my excitement AND I have included the three prospective pre-show contests.
The Usos vs. The Dudleys
As I wrote on the forums last week, this has not been a pretty return to World Wrestling Entertainment for Bubba Ray and Devon, as evidenced by the fact that they are in the pre-show and nowhere near the tag team titles. They face the main roster equivalent of Blake and Murphy (ie the Biggest Black Holes of Charisma) The Usos, so yeah. . . I'm not on the edge of my seat for this one.
Why I'm Excited: Well, I'm obviously not, though I suppose the wrestling itself will be good. Plus, I haven't actually watched a Dudley match since they turned heel, I don't think, so that will be nice.
Kalisto vs. Ryback for the US Title
While Ryback's slightly-heelish-but-not-quite character change has been better than anything else he has done of late, I'm still not pumped for this contest. Kalisto became as much of a household name as he currently is by doing crazy things with a ladder - Why not give him the opportunity to do so again at Wrestlemania?
Why I'm Excited: There are few wrestlers in WWE I am continually entertained by more than our United States Champion, and this particular David vs. Goliath matchup will certainly wind up in Kalisto being tossed around like a lawn dart, though it won't be as good as this was...
Divas Tag Match
To be honest, I'm actually a little excited for this match.
Why I'm Excited: After all this time, we finally will get to see if Lana can be a capable wrestler. I expect she won't get a whole lot of ringtime, hence the use of the multi-person format, but it will be more than we've seen so far. Besides Lana, it's always nice to see Natalya wrestle and it has been so long since Paige has competed on major WWE television that I've almost forgotten what she looks like.
She's the pale one, right?
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Why I'm Excited: First and foremost, just to figure out exactly how they're going to fill the ring, what with all the talents being used elsewhere on the card. My main reason for excitement, though, is that a large number of my favorite WWE superstars will be featured here. Bo Dallas, Damien Sandow, Bray Wyatt (as sad as this makes me), perhaps we'll even get a look at the Ravenesque Alex Riley. I love the lower card talents, so this match is right up my alley.
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
You might think it's unusual, if not plain old wrong, for me to have this match ranked fifth out of eleven, but really, this is a positive thing. This Mania is so good from top to bottom that the World Heavyweight Championship match technically ranks in the bottom half. How cool!
Why I'm Excited - Triple H won't be coming to the ring like a Terminator. . . I hope. . . And even if he does, this arena is indoors, right? We're not going to make the same mistake twice, are we?
Anyway, I'm excited because I'm expecting big things from Roman Reigns on Sunday. The last two weeks have been pretty much everything we could hope for and more and there is no reason to expect any different. Maybe modified theme music, maybe a new outfit (Really, Roman, just ditch the vest. Make the ladies - And some of the gents - happy!), but his evolution (HA!) concludes this Sunday.
Even when Triple H retains his title.
Full Disclosure: Don't tell him, but this match is ranked so "low" because deep down, I know Doc Manson is right, and I can't be too excited about a match where the outcome is so obvious. Fingers crossed for some sort of swerve!
Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles
I don't understand why so many people have been lambasting this card "on paper". Look at the talent on this show! This is like your WWE 2K16 game come to life! Stop riding the Negativity Narrowboat and climb on board the Paddlewheeler of Positivity - This is going to be FUN!
Why I'm Excited: It's Jericho vs. Styles, and despite the slight letdown of it being part 4 (the inner math nerd cringes when we have even numbered best-of series), this match is going to be pretty tremendous. Earlier today, I listed the "best" matches of the previous Wrestlemanias according to the ratings of Dave Meltzer and Y2J's name appears a couple of times. While I'm not willing to do the research required, let me just go ahead and assure you that AJ Styles has had some 5 star quality matches as well. They will not disappoint.
League of Nations vs. New Day
A lot of people were belly-aching (forgive me, NAIborhood, but it's true) about the fact that this match is no longer listed as being for the WWE tag team championships, but I don't think that's such a big deal. For one thing, how exactly do 4 people carry 2 titles? The Freebird Rule is soon going to be a Hall of Fame standard, so that makes sense. There is no precedent, that I am aware of, for more than three guys holding tag team titles, unless the Villano family did some crazy stuff in Mexico.
I know, I know, that was a deep pull. I'm proud of myself.
Why I'm Excited: This match will feature seven quality wrestlers. All of them are enjoyable to watch, when they feel like giving it their all in some cases, but these guys are going to put on a show. We've been pretty lucky to have some high quality tag team matches at recent PPV's (especially when you consider the relative weakness of the division) and I don't expect anything to change.
I agree with Doc that the New Day gimmick has started to. . .forgive me. . . sour a bit as of late, but unlike the esteemed Monsieur Manson, I find the League of Nations very entertaining, especially in recent weeks. No longer tied so closely to The Authority, they can be a bunch of international hooligans, and that's A-OK with me right now.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Why I'm Excited: The same reasons you all are - For the first time EVER, the women's title match has a really good chance to steal the show. Along with looking up the best Wrestlemania matches this morning, I also went ahead and found the WORST ones, too, and more often than not, the female competitors found themselves on that list. In fact, I just went back and counted. They showed up 11 times. I can pretty much guarantee that won't be the case this time.
Intercontinental Ladder Match
I was delighted to see Miz tweet that he wasn't injured, he was simply acting. I don't buy it, necessarily, but at least this means he'll be competing in some form or fashion at Wrestlemania. In truth, him being injured isn't the worst thing in the world, since Miz' entire character revolves around him trying to sneak his way to victory. Remember when he won the IC title Battle Royal by hiding outside the ring? Expect more of the same Sunday.
Why I'm Excited: With the exception of Sin Cara, I enjoy all of these wrestlers, so putting them all together is never going to be a bad thing. Would I have liked to see Owens vs. Zayn? Of course I would, but I can also understand why WWE would choose to wait for that. You let that story build on the main roster and the payoff at Mania 33 (or 34, or 35, or 40) will be that much sweeter.
I know Sin Cara won't win the title, and I don't particularly want Dolph to win it (only because there's nothing new he can do with it) but outside of that, I am totally fine with any other competitor in this match being the one to bring down the title. That's a very good thing.
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
I saw somebody tweet earlier that they were disappointed that Dean Ambrose hadn't yet shown himself to be a true challenger for Lesnar. That's the entire point. Nobody in WWE right now, and in fact, nobody in NXT either, SHOULD be a challenger for Brock Lesnar. The man has been booked to exist on an entirely different plane of existence - Dean Ambrose should absolutely NOT be seen as a credible threat.
Which is why, when he wins, AND HE WILL, it will be that much sweeter.
Why I'm Excited: The no holds barred stipulation (or whatever they're calling it - all means the same thing) is what's going to make this match fun. Ambrose will wheel his shopping cart full of goodies down to the ring, including the chainsaw, and in between being suplexed, F-5'd and kneed right in the face, he'll use every single weapon in his arsenal to bring Brock Lesnar to his knees.
Dean Ambrose's career leaps forward on Sunday. I can't wait to see it.
Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker
Why I'm Excited: It is rare in the wrestling business to have a match where the entire scope of the product hangs in the balance. Yes, I know that it's a storyline, and yes, I know that the powers that be will still be when the Cell raises at the end of the night, but regardless, in 170 hours we could be looking at a completely different WWE. How can that NOT be the most exciting part of Wrestlemania?
Shane McMahon, even at his accelerated age and with his phantom punches, is going to do a tremendous job and take a couple of risks he has no reason to take. Undertaker, as my column earlier today showed, has done his best work in the last 10 years, so there's few worries on his end.
AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!!! We could see Bullet Club . . . Or Balor Club. . . Or the Redneck Reppin' Crew (shut up, it could happen) Triple H could get involved. Kane could get involved. John Cena? Why not? Seth Rollins? Sure, it could happen! The Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Sting? The list goes on and on.
Bold (and probably erroneous) Statement to end the Column: Since coming back to regular wrestling watching with the debut of the WWE Network, there has not been a main event match. . . or perhaps even a match itself. . . . I have looked forward to MORE than Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker.
For many in the NAIborhood, the last few weeks have been spent binge watching Wrestlemanias of old in preparation for next weekend's festivities.
However, not everyone might have had the time (or interest, honestly) to do so. Still, some sort of homework must be done, so leave it to "The Teacher" to have you covered.
This is the first of what might be a couple of Wrestlemania Watch Lists, where I offer a series of matches for your entertainment and education.
How do I select these? Well, I'd love to say that I've spent hours upon hours scouring through the entire Wrestlemania archive and using a carefully constructed criteria, have ranked everything myself. But sadly, even I don't have that kind of time.
So I'm using Meltzer's ratings.
Disclaimer: I am NOT in love with Dave Meltzer's ratings system. In fact, it's confusing and seems to have a whole lot of personal bias thrown in. However, until I find a better system (one with a clearly understandable rubric), this is all I've got.
This week: The Highest Rated Matches of Each Wrestlemania
Wrestlemania 1 - Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne - 3.25 stars
Note: If you don't know who Matt Borne is. . . It's Doink. The Dragon is wrestling Doink.
Wrestlemania 2 - The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake) - 4 stars
Wrestlemania 3 - Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage - 4.5 stars
Note: This match would appear on anyone's ratings system, I believe. Some consider it, from a WWF standpoint at least, the first "modern" match. If you have never watched it, fix that promptly.
Wrestlemania 4 - (3 WayTie) - 2.25 stars
Note: As the low rating suggests, Meltzer wasn't a huge fan of these tournament matches. I seem to recall finding them better than he did, but none of them were stand-outs. As for the winners, we have Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine, Randy Savage vs. Greg Valentine, and Savage vs. Ted Dibiase.
Tangent: Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat are really the standouts of the very early Wrestlemania years, as either man was part of the best matches of the first four Manias.
Wrestlemania 5 - Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage - 2.75 stars
Wrestlemania 6 - Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior - 3.75 stars
Note: Yes, Hulk Hogan had the best match 2 years in a row. Obviously Meltzer considers storytelling alongside (if not above) in-ring action.
Wrestlemania 7 - Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior - 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 8 - Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair - 4.25 stars
Tangent: The first decade of Wrestlemanias belonged to the Macho Man, as we can see, which makes the fact that he didn't wrestle at Mania 9 so curious. Was he injured? Was it really that Vince thought it was time to move on, since obviously Savage still had some gas in the tank. I mean, he had a very enjoyable match with Crush at Wrestlemania X. . . Odd.
Wrestlemania 9 - Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka - 3.25 stars
Wrestlemania 10 - Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon - 5 stars
Wrestlemania 11 - Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel - 4 stars
Note: Really? I remember very little from Mania 11, despite it being as close to my hometown as you could get. I certainly don't remember this main event being anything good. . .
Wrestlemania 12 - Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart - 4.25 stars
Tangent: It's a shame we never got to see a prolonged feud between HBK and Macho Man. Apparently there's a match or two floating around out there on the Internet, though.
Wrestlemania 13 - Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin - 5 stars
Note: According to Meltzer, this and the ladder match from WMX are the only 5 star matches in Wrestlemania history. If you want proof that his ratings system is totally wrong, that's probably exhibit A.
Wrestlemania 14 - New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie AND Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin - 3.25 stars
Wrestlemania 15 - Steve Austin vs. The Rock - 3.5 stars
Note: Impressive 3 year run for Stone Cold, especially when you consider he broke his neck in between Mania 13 and 14, forcing him to drastically alter his wrestling style.
Wrestlemania 16 - Dudleys vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Hardys - 4 stars
Wrestlemania 17 - Dudleys vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Hardys - 4.75 stars
Note: Only three matches will repeat as the best match of back to back Wrestlemanias - Without cheating, can you name the other two? Bet you can.
Wrestlemania 18 - (3 Way tie) - 3 stars
Note: Ric Flair vs. Undertaker, The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan and Chris Jericho vs. Triple H all share the victory here. Having just recently seen this PPV, I agree with the first two, but Y2J vs. The Game doesn't belong here. Good match, but not on the level of the others.
Also, despite this being the second decade of matches for The Deadman, this is his first appearance on the list, but nowhere near his last. More on that later.
Wrestlemania 19 - Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar - 4.25 stars
Note: Imagine how good it would have been had Lesnar NOT landed on his head!!!
Wrestlemania 20 - Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Benoit - 4.75 stars
Note: This is a 5 star match to me. Not sure what the .25 was Meltzer deigned to deduct from this Triple Threat, but it was as good as you can get.
Wrestlemania 21 - Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle - 4.75 stars
Note: I originally was trying to devise a formula one could use to accurately calculate "Mr. Wrestlemania", but after looking at this list, there's no point. Even the Undertaker, at 21 and 1, doesn't hold a candle to the Heartbreak Kid. Four Best Matches in a row in the 1990's, then 3 more consecutive ones in the 2000's, and we're STILL not done!
Wrestlemania 22 - Money in the Bank and Mick Foley vs. Edge - 4 stars
Note: Foley vs. Edge should be ranked higher, and not just because MITB is a glorified spot-fest (albeit a thoroughly enjoyable one). Mick Foley and Adam Copeland damn near killed each other (and Amy Dumas, while they were at it) and if you want to choose a single moment when Edge went from being a good wrestler to a main event juggernaut, I imagine this was probably it.
Wrestlemania 23 - Money In the Bank - 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 24 - Edge vs. Undertaker - 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 25 - Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker - 4.75 stars
Note: This is not only a 5 star match, it probably goes beyond that. In the NAI150, most people picked this match as the best one OF ALL TIME. Yet Lord Meltzer deemed it unworthy of such distinction.
Tangent: Seriously, why can't somebody come up with a better ratings scale? Do I have to do this? Is this what my life will become now?
Wrestlemania 26 - Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker - 4.75 stars
Note: Shawn Michaels stole the show at just about one third of all Wrestlemanias. Forget you, Triple H, let's all bow down to the REAL king, the guy. . . . The guy who probably wouldn't find it religiously appropriate for us to bow down to anyone. How about a hearty handshake, Shawn? Nice work!
Wrestlemania 27 - Triple H vs. Undertaker - 4.25 stars
Wrestlemania 28 - Triple H vs. Undertaker - 4.75 stars
Wrestlemania 29 - CM Punk vs. Undertaker - 4.5 stars
Note: It's worth mentioning here that Undertaker turned 40 years old in 2005, yet this Streak, if you will, didn't start until he was 43. From ages 43 to 48, Undertaker had the best match at Wrestlemania. Now, granted, his opponents (Edge, HBK, HHH, Punk) were among the best in the world at the time, but regardless. This might be even more impressive than being 21-1. Any other wrestlers you know that peaked in their 40's?
Wrestlemania 30 - Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan - 4.5 stars
Wrestlemania 31 - Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (guest starring Seth Rollins) - 4.5 stars
Note: Curious thought experiment would be what the ratings, and crowd response, would have been had we not been TOTALLY SHOCKED by Rollins cashing in during this match.
Twitter is ablaze with comments about the latest developments in the Undertaker v. Shane McMahon storyline that is being built for WrestleMania this year. The most vocal portions of the audience are displeased with the overall direction of the angle, and every new development only seems to heap more fuel upon the already blazing IWC (Internet Wrestling Community). I'm just not so sure that this storyline is as bad as everyone wants me to think it is.
Just this last week on Monday Night RAW, another stipulation was added to the match at WrestleMania. Not only is Shane McMahon fighting for control of RAW, but now the career of the Undertaker is on the line.
Well, sort of. It isn't exactly clear whether the Dead Man's career is actually at stake. When Vince McMahon made the stipulation, he said that if Taker loses, then this will be his last match at WrestleMania. It is entirely possible based on the exact phrasing used that Undertaker could conceivably continue to work for the WWE if he were to lose his match against Shane. Just never again at a WrestleMania.
The IWC is pretty much at a consensus that this is a completely pointless stipulation. The detractors of the angle say that if Shane were to win the match, then Vince would be out of power and Shane could just refuse to fire the Dead Man. I personally don't think that this represents a large hole in booking logic. In my mind, there are a number of ways that this could develop that would all ultimately result in good storytelling.
First, why isn't it possible that Shane would not want to hire back the Undertaker? After all, Shane is nothing if not a fierce competitor, and Shane has given the Undertaker every opportunity to back away from this fight. To some extent, by agreeing to and participating in the match, I could easily see Shane's viewpoint that the Undertaker is sealing his own fate. Frankly, I think it would be uncharacteristic of Shane, acting as a face or not, to allow Undertaker immunity from Vince's stipulation.
The other possibility that I see lies in the subtleties of Shane's own stipulation. If he wins, Shane gets control of RAW. Although it has been said on air that this would essentially put Shane in control of the company, the key word in that statement is essentially. In reality, Shane would run RAW, but not the company. Unless the stipulation changes before WrestleMania, even if Shane wins, Vince McMahon continues to be the Chairman of the Board. That means that contract decisions still ultimately fall to Vince and that Shane would really have no say in whether the stipulation is enforced on the Undertaker.
Honestly, I actually like that latter scenario a great deal. If Shane wins at Mania, I see him coming out on RAW, dismissing Stephanie and Hunter from their roles as the Authority, and then attempting to reconcile with 'Taker by offering to drop the consequences of the stipulation. This provides an immediate and logical reason for Vince to assert his Chairman authority and cements Shane as a face in front of an extremely pro-Dead Man crowd.
Don't get me wrong, I don't love the storytelling that has been going on in regards to Shane v. Taker these last couple of weeks. However, I hardly agree that WWE Creative has "booked themselves into a corner" on this one.
Disagree? Register and leave a comment below.
The general consensus from last night's RAW was that the show was a dud.
Well, that's not entirely true. Most people will admit that the show was decent enough, but it paled in comparison to what many believed the penultimate RAW before Wrestlemania "should be". I can understand where those people are coming from - the lack of Lesnar, Undertaker and Shane-O-Mac was pretty evident.
However, let's focus on the show for what it was, not what we wanted it to be. Yes, friends, I'm donning my #PromotingPositivity Pork Pie hat and sharing with you the things I think you should be excited about from last night.
Roman Reigns Silently (and from the Ramp!)
What I expected to be yet another incredibly annoying promo by Stephanie McMahon wound up being far more than I could have hoped for with the entrance of Roman Reigns, from the ramp no less! Sure, he's got the Shield music, sure, he's got the Shield outfit, but just a new way to the ring alone is enough to get some people popping.
Then he got to the ring and. . . He didn't act like The Rock. He wasn't trying to be a Jericho-type "cool guy". He spoke softly AND carried a big stick, and by stick, of course, I mean his serious presence. It couldn't mean anything else, right?
It seemed like the Philly crowd helped us figure out what's really going on with Roman these days. People inherently like him, especially when he acts the way he did, so the initial reaction is to cheer him. Then, after that first burst, people realize that "it's cool to hate Roman" and THAT'S when the boos come. It's not legitimate, it's an artifice. I expected better, Philadelphia.
Styles and Owens, part 2
If it was up to us, NAIborhood, I'm sure we'd let them have a best of 70 series - I didn't catch their Smackdown encounter but this match was everything I hoped for and more.
Food for thought - Has Kevin Owens had a bad match in WWE yet?
Even the ending was fine by me - Yeah, it was a repeat of what happened on Smackdown, but that's going to be what happens until Shane McMahon wins at Wrestlemania and Smackdown becomes a WWE / NXT hybrid show.
If I say it enough, it will come true.
Battle of the Beasts
In a ROH review I wrote yesterday, I mentioned an encounter between Moose and Kongo, and bemoaned the lack of Rusev being used as the monster that he is. He might not have won last night, but at least the match was more along the lines of what I was thinking. He and Big E had a chance to tear the house down and while their stables got in the way, they did just that. I enjoyed that contest, and I hope it's not the last time we see them in a match.
While we're on the subject of New Day, two quick points off the #PromotingPositivity podium. First, what the hell were Big E, Kofi and Xavier talking about last night? Is this what we're going to get out of a "face" New Day? If so, please turn them heel again as soon as possible.
Secondly, Rusev has outgrown the League of Nations. His Twitter feed alone should be enough to get him back into the mid-card singles title market. Why he's not part of the IC ladder match is beyond me.
Ok, let's get back to the column proper.
Bo Flippin' Dallas
If you were to check out my DDTwrestling.com profile, you would notice that I have listed Bo Rida as my favorite current wrestler. That's probably not true, but I'd be hard pressed to find a guy more entertaining on a regular basis than Mr. Dallas. In fact, let me be bold.
Bo Dallas is performing, character wise, on a level very close to one Kevin Owens.
He might not be getting as much of a chance to shine, but in my mind, Bo Dallas is the leader of the Social Outcasts (in fact, I find Heath Slater to be the least entertaining of the bunch). Every little thing he does is magic. Go back and watch him try to beg off of Kane - Totally hilarious.
I'm pulling for Bo Dallas to win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and then I want his cheesy smile bronzed and put in Andre's place.
Fandango had a match!
His hair might have been terrible, but at least we saw him. I was beginning to forget what he looked like.
The IC ladder match.
I'll be honest - This is not the match I was hoping for. No Harper (though since he apparently got injured, that's probably for the best), no Rusev, obviously no Titus O'Neil. I had originally expected Stardust to be a part of this, so that was nice to see.
Despite my minor disappointment, it's not like this match is going to be terrible, folks. Owens and Zayn can tell their stories, Ziggler and Miz are always dependable for some entertaining action, Sin Cara will dive off of stuff and Zack Ryder will be so legitimately happy to be on the Mania card that we'll be pulling for him the whole time.
Plus, there's always the chance (not really) that Cody Rhodes makes his return.
Young Mister Reigns continued to be the badass we all have wanted him to be by slowly (ssslllooowwwlllyyy) appearing from beyond the garage door and battling Triple H backstage. Once again, no talking, just brooding, exactly what we fell in love with when he was with Rollins and Ambrose.
This is what we've been asking for, folks. Stop moaning that "it's too late". Give him the cheers the last two weeks have earned.
Charlotte and Natalya got the chance to have an actual wrestling match, not a 3 minute hair-pulling contest. I know this is becoming much more of the norm thanks to the Diva's Revolution, but it's still worth mentioning. I get why Natalya can't force her way into the championship triple threat, but it's delightful to see her mattering in WWE again.
Ambrose bringing Hardcore back
Terry Funk might not have had as perfect a moment as Mick Foley did last week, but it was nice to see old Chainsaw Charlie back on my TV screen. As for the main event - I'll admit it, I went to bed after Vince's pretty underwhelming "big announcement". Braun Strowman just doesn't make me want to stay up until 11:00.
I did enjoy hearing that Ambrose got himself disqualified, though. There's no way Dean can beat Brock in a one-on-one contest. I better be seeing Ambrose drag a hot dog cart AND a shopping cart full of weapons to the ring in Dallas.
Like I said when this column began, I get it. Last night was not the explosion of excellence we all expected.
But it was a good RAW. Plenty to enjoy. Wrestlemania weekend is going to be a fantastic time.