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WWE WrestleMania 31
by Scrooge McSuck
- Presented LIVE on the WWE Network on March 29th, 2015, from Levi's Stadium in San Francisco, CA. Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and John “Bradshaw” Layfield are calling all the action, while we have Renee Young, Booker T, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton handling the duties on the WWE Panel. Much like WrestleMania 31, a few things from this recap are edited for time issues, including thoughts on the Hall of Fame ceremony and watching a 6-hour block of filler programming on the WWE Network leading into the Kick-Off Show.
WWE Tag Team Championship Match:
Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (Champions; w/ Natalya) vs. The Usos (w/ Naomi) vs. Los Matadores (w/ El Torito) vs. Kofi Kingston & Big E. (w/ Xavier Woods):
The team of Cesaro and Kidd have only been Champions for about a month, so it wouldn’t make much sense to switch them already, especially on the first of two kick-off matches. Matadores turned heel, I think, but worked a completely clean style, with one lone exception. Almost instantly, Cesaro took out Jey Uso, who was suffering from a shoulder injury, and this was done to write him out of the match. Very little wrestling as it was non-stop high-spots, all of them pulled of flawlessly. Cute spot saw Jimmy Uso cleaning house and hit four corners worth of opponents with the running butt to the face. As expected, chaos erupted on the floor, with all corner people getting involved, including Natalya making Torito tap out to the Sharpshooter, and Naomi hitting the best looking Rear View I can recall her ever performing. One notable blown spot, courtesy of a referee: the Matadores tried doing an illegal switch, but the referee wouldn’t do a count because the man in the ring at the time (Big E.) wasn’t legal… but then he just let the illegal Matador and Big E. continue working, like they were legally in the ring the whole time. The commentators buried him for the mistake, of course. Suicide dives and towers of doom were done, leaving Jimmy Uso the last man standing. He hit the Splash on Big. E, but Cesaro blind tagged his ankle before flight, tossed him from the ring, and covered to retain the Titles at the 10-minute mark. **3/4 Good spot-fest that surprisingly got a still-arriving crowd going, but that one mistake really came off poorly, and burying the referee for it just made it less enjoyable.
2nd Annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
(Participants: Ryback, Mark Henry, Big Show, Kane, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Diego, Fernando, Jimmy Uso, Kofi Kingston, Big E., Xavier Woods, Goldust, Erick Rowan, Curtis Axel, Alex Riley, Hideo Itami, Adam Rose, Fandango, Zack Ryder, Bo Dallas, Sin Cara, Viktor, Konnor, Darren Young, Titus O’Neil, Heath Slater, Jack Swagger)
Yes, they did bring back everyone from the Tag Title Match to bump it up to about 30 people again. With the exception of Big Show, Kane, and Ryback, I didn’t give anyone else much of a shot, but now we have Cesaro in it. Curtis Axel does his Axelmania thing to a solid reaction, then gets the body surf elimination to finally shut him up. Alex Riley is in there, back in action after a return in NXT, and has a great exchange with the Miz until Mizdow helps eliminate him. Zack Ryder teases a Broski boot, but hets dumped by BO DALLAS to disapproval. Dallas celebrates prematurely, and ends up being eliminated upon returning from his lap, by NXT superstar Hideo Itami. Itami has an exchange with Big Show… then gets dumped. Of course. Kane takes out both Matadores at once. The Ascension blow the Fall of Man on Henry, but still dump him. Ryback dumps both Viktor and Konnor, followed by Darren Young, Heath Slater, and Titus O’Neil. The New Day triple-team Show, but he survives and eliminates all three, and nope, no special tease from Kofi this year. Show tosses Rowan with ease, of course. Cesaro does the scoop and slam over the top to eliminate Kane. Cesaro and Show have a great exchange playing off last year, with Show over-coming Cesaro this time. Ryback is gone courtesy of Show, leaving him, The Miz, and Mizdow. Miz and Mizdow have their breakdown ending with Mizdow tossing Show. Mizdow and Show have a good little exchange, and they actually tease the 2004 Rumble Spot that saw Benoit victorious, but Show powered out and threw Mizdow off the apron to win at the 17-minute mark. **1/2 For a battle royal, this was really good once we weeded through all the scrubs who didn’t have a cute spot to do. Mizdow looked good in defeat, but he’ll be booked poorly on Raw, so it doesn’t really matter.
- Aloe Blacc performs “America, The Beautiful” to kick off the show. You want to know how far out of touch I am with current music? My 60 year old mother knew who Aloe Blacc is, and I haven’t a clue.
WWE Intercontinental Championship; Ladder Match:
Bad News Barrett © vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper vs. Stardust:
WWE Hall of Famer and 1st ever Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson is here in an effort to remind the fans how important the Title used to be. As confusing, and occasionally comical, the angle has been, the idea of a bunch of the best workers (and R-Truth) scrambling like crazy to obtain the Intercontinental Title really helps bring its stock back up. They didn’t take long getting into the crazy spots, with everyone doing their signature stuff, like Stardust’s falling star springboard, Harper’s suicide dive, etc. etc. Ambrose ended up climbing a ladder in the aisle to drop the big elbow on the whole pile of Superstars. Stardust worked the legs of a few opponents before pulling out his bedazzled ladder, but Barrett intercepted it and smashed a piece off. Harper worked in the three stooges routine with the ladder over his shoulders and whacking anyone within reach of him. Barrett with a brutal super-plex on Stardust from the top of a very tall ladder. Ambrose worked in his spring-off-the-ropes spot, pushing a ladder over in the process. BRUTAL spot saw Ambrose take a Powerbomb over the top rope through a ladder, smashing it in half, and taking him out of the rest of the match. Ziggler hopped on Harper’s back with a sleeper, but Harper kept climbing until being taken down with a Zig-Zag. Barrett went nuts with Bull Hammers, but was taken out by a running knee. Bryan and Ziggler ended up fighting at the top of the ladder, throwing vicious headbutts. Bryan eventually prevailed, and pulled down the Intercontinental Title at 13:30. **** Great match to open the show. Everyone worked hard and took some vicious bumps, the crowd was super hot, and the favorite of the crowd won (to be fair, Ziggler and Ambrose were acceptable winners, too).
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins (w/ J & J Security):
I’m just going to pretend that Orton came back and was out for vengeance on Rollins, without the unnecessary bullshit on Raw that saw him “trick the Authority” into trusting him, even though he came back at Fast Lane and ATTACKED THE AUTHORITY. Just like in any match where two people absolutely hate each other, we start with a casual lockup. Just pretend I’m slapping my forehead right now. Orton instantly goes for RKO, but Rollins avoids it. Orton no-sells taking the powerbomb into the turnbuckle and bounces right back with a clothesline. J & J Security prevent another RKO attempt, so they eat a hanging DDT on the floor and play dead for 10 minutes. Rollins comes back with a suicide dive. Orton avoids the springboard knee and connects with the snap powerslam. Rollins with the Asai Moonsault. They battle on the top rope until Orton comes flying off with a body press, but Rollins rolls through for two. Orton hits the DDT, but ANOTHER RKO is countered. RKO out of nowhere, but it only gets two! I was so convinced it was over, I wrote three in my notes. Orton sets up for the punt, but Noble and Mercury are back, and both eat RKO’s. Rollins with the Curb Stomp, but it only gets two! He goes for it again, but Orton counters for one of the most awesome RKO’s, and it’s good for three at 13:10. ***1/4 Slow start, but they picked it up halfway through the finishing sequence was hot. I really liked how they got over how much each man wanted to show up the other, and were able to withstand each of their signature finishing moves.
Sting vs. Triple H:
Anyone else surprised this is going on third? Unusual entrances. Sting is played out to a chorus of gongs, while Triple H is apparently the Terminator. Vince McMahon must’ve discovered the Game-Show Network and re-runs of the Gong Show, and thought it was a fresh concept. They go for some old school grapplin’ to kick things off, with both men working the headlock and shoulder tackle. Hunter does a crotch chop, so Sting hip tosses him and follows up with a dropkick. Hunter with the knee to the face, but Sting no sells it and knocks Hunter to the floor. Stinger Splash hits the barricade, and back in the ring Hunter gets two from a delayed suplex and knee drop. Anyone else getting Sting vs. Flair vibes yet? Sting makes the comeback and quickly goes for the Scorpion Deathlock, but D-GENERATION X (Outlaws and X-Pac) come out, only to get fought down. Sting with a plancha from the top rope to the floor, at his age, is a great visual. Back inside, Hunter with the Pedigree, but it only gets two. The Sledgehammer comes out, as does the New World Order (Hogan, Hall, and Nash)! Wait… didn’t the nWo hate Sting? Why did Mr. Smith kill everyone? They take out DX, and the Scorpion Death Drop gets two! Deathlock again, and here’s SHAWN MICHAELS with Sweet Chin Music! That gets two. Hunter has the sledgehammer, and Hall hands off the bat to Sting! The bat smashes the sledgehammer in half, and Sting hits the Stinger Splash! He goes for it again, but Hunter still has the front half of the sledgehammer, KO’s Sting, and covers for three at 18:35! *** Well… I was disappointed Sting lost, but whatever. Much like Hogan vs. Rock, this is going to be one of those matches that is just impossible to rate on a normal scale. They went into total over-book mode to protect them from under-performing, and as a whole, it was great fun.
- Daniel Bryan is backstage, receiving kudos from former Intercontinental Champions Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, and Bret Hart. Non-Intercontinental Champion Ron Simmons arrives for a “Damn”, and the other legends bust out in a “Yes” chant. Cute segment.
- We get a live performance of the official theme song of WrestleMania, featuring Kid Ink and Skylar
Grey. Again, I have no idea who any of these people are. I could’ve sworn LL Cool J was performing, but all we saw of him was the opening video.
Paige & A.J. Lee vs. Nikki & Brie Bella:
They’re screwed. I don’t care if there’s a Give Divas a Chance campaign, on a WrestleMania card with limited amount of matches, the women will always be dead in the water until major changes are done. Nikki and Paige start. Paige is worked over for the most part, with A.J. constantly getting knocked to the floor and selling it like death. Seriously, a bump off the apron is enough to warrant taking a nap for the majority of the match? Brie screams for Brie Mode (blown spots?), but there goes A.J. one more time. Nikki comes in and hits the Rack Attack, but Paige kicks out at two! No finishers are protected tonight! NONE! Paige recovers, knocks Brie and Nikki to the floor, and follows them out with a somersault. A.J. finally gets the hot tag. Thesz Press on Nikki, followed by a clothesline and cat-fight strikes. Tornado DDT gets two. More chaos until A.J. hooks on the Black Widow, forcing Nikki to tap out at 6:42. *1/2 All four women tried, but the crowd was still out of it, and they didn’t have enough time to get things to the next level.
- Hall of Fame inductees are introduced: “Macho Man” Randy Savage (represented by Lanny Poffo), Kevin Nash, Larry Zbyzsko, The Bushwhackers, Tatsumi Fujinami, Alundra Blayze/Madusa, Rikishi, Warrior Award recipient Connor “The Crusher” Michalek (represented by his father), and Celebrity inductee Arnold Schwarzenegger.
WWE United States Championship Match:
Rusev © (w/ Lana) vs. John Cena:
The build up to this should mean it will be an exciting, hard hitting match to top their performance at Fast Lane. Lana is back after a few weeks absent (filming another crappy WWE film). Rusev gets the Ivan Drago entrance, complete with a TANK. John Cena unfortunately doesn’t use “Living in America” or “There’s No Easy Way Out”, but rather a very strong video featuring some of the more encouraging speeches from various U.S. Presidents. Crowd chants U-S-A then seconds later sings along to Cena’s theme music in a negative way. WWE fans… can never make them happy. They waste little time hitting each other with bombs. Rusev with the first near fall off of a jumping heel kick. Cool roll into a gutwrench suplex for another two count. He crushes Cena in the corner with an avalanche, followed by the Otto Wanz body roll. He celebrates pre-maturely, so Cena recovers and does his usual (shoulders, back suplex, 5-knuckle shuffle). Rusev fights off an STF and hits a uranage for two. Cena comes off the top with a leg drop across the back of the head for two. Cena gets a boot up on a charge and hits a tornado DDT for two. Rusev with a BRUTAL Mui Thai knee to the face and Alabama Slam for two. Cena counters the Accolade with the STF, and suddenly Lana throws her SHOES in the ring. What is this, WCW circa 1996? Rusev regains control and comes off the top with a flying headbutt for two. Another Accolade attempt is blocked, and Cena springs off the ropes with an elbow for two! Rusev finally applies the Accolade, but Cena escapes! STF! Rusev fights free, but ends up knocking Lana off the apron, and walks into the AA. Cena covers for three at 14:31, ends Rusev’s unbeaten streak, and wins the U.S. Title… LOL. **3/4 Very disappointing, as I had this match pegged to be the show stealer, and it just ended out of nowhere. Post-match, Rusev chews out Lana, so I guess her character is being killed off. Makes no sense, but whatever.
- Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are out to announce a bogus “record” attendance of 76, 976. They drag things out until The Rock makes a surprise appearance, no doubt planting more seeds for a potential WrestleMania 32 match. Despite Rock’s level of being over, I’m bored waiting for this to end (it’s 10 pm at this point with two high profile matches left), and then Ronda Rousey gets involved and helps the Rock punk out Triple H and Stephanie. I speculated they wanted to buy time for the sun to set, but no dice.
The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt:
I have to admit, the entrances would be better without daylight shining down on everything. Bray is followed to the ring by a group of Zombie Scarecrows doing their best unlicensed version of Thriller, while Undertaker gets his usual entrance, and appears to have reverted to his humanoid “BikerTaker” look. I noticed this early on, but Undertaker’s body language seemed to be the story of the match that nobody was picking up on. A kind of reluctance that I can’t explain. He lays out Wyatt with a boot before the bell, works the arm, and hits Old School to show off that he’s in decent shape. He drops Snake Eyes, but Wyatt recovers and launches himself to take ‘Taker down. He pummels Undertaker into jelly and hits an Avalanche for barely a one count. Wyatt rests ‘Taker’s head against the post and charges, smashing his leg into the steps at the same time. I bet the spot was done to cover his injured ankle. Back in the ring, Wyatt hobbles around until being caught in Hell’s Gate! He punches his way free, connects with an uranage’ and a back splash for two. Sister Abigail is countered with a Chokeslam. Tombstone connects, but Wyatt easily kicks out at two. Wyatt hits Sister Abigail on the second attempt, but that gets two. Wyatt does his Spider-Walk, but Undertaker one-ups him with the sit-up. They slug it out until Wyatt goes for another Sister Abigail. Undertaker counters with another Tombstone, and it’s good for three at 15:12 and to improve his WrestleMania record to 22-1. That 1 is still very glaring. **1/2 Not a classic like pretty much every Mania match from Undertaker from Mania 23 through 29, but better than the year before, and Undertaker came across as human, as someone who could actually be beaten with unbelievable extremes.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match:
Brock Lesnar © (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Roman Reigns:
The crowd is lukewarm for Reigns entrance, then boos him out of the building during the introductions. Heyman personally introduces Lesnar, and I just have to say, whoever is in charge cannot be dumb enough to put the belt on Reigns in this environment. They brawl early and just like that, Lesnar hits the F5! Reigns must’ve been hitting him good, ‘cause Lesnar has blood on his cheek. Lesnar throws Reigns around with various suplexes as it is starting to look like the SummerSlam match with John Cena. Reigns appears to be taunting Lesnar after every move or two, enraging the Beast Incarnate™. The old rope-a-dope technique? I approve. Reigns throws a flurry of knees from the apron, but Lesnar comes back with a (but not the) Clothesline From Hell. Lesnar throws Reigns across the ring with a suplex, brings him in from the apron belly-to-belly style, and hits a second F5 for a two count. He takes the gloves off to show he means business. He slaps Reigns around, who continues egging him on. More suplexes and a THIRD F-5, but again, Reigns kicks out! They take it to the floor, and Lesnar ends up meeting the post! He’s busted hardway, and it looks good. Back in the ring, Reigns with two Superman Punches and two Spears, but Lesnar kicks out at two! Lesnar catches Reigns with a FOURTH F-5, and both men are down… and here comes SETH ROLLINS, cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase! Curb Stomp to Lesnar. Another is caught, and Reigns hits the Spear on Lesnar! Rollins with the Curb Stomp on Reigns, and Rollins is the NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion at 16:43! Holy hell, was that a surprise, and holy hell was that one damn good match I had little expectations for. ****1/4 Honestly, with the match they put on, I could’ve accepted Reigns winning the Title. Both men busted their asses and gave us a memorable match, and then Rollins cashing in was the icing on the cake. Just an outstanding performance and a great way to close the show and letting the fans go home happy.
Final Thoughts: From top to bottom, a very strong show. A Main Event that promised so little delivered beyond the expectations of most people. Sting vs. Triple H was bound to be an over-booked nostalgia trip and that delivered on its promise. The Ladder Match opened the show and brought prestige back to the Intercontinental Title. Undertaker came back to show he still has what it takes, but is showing signs of mortality. Heck, even the two kick-off matches delivered some quality performances. There was very little I could consider low-lights, like Cena going over Rusev too easily, and the poor Women having to work a match while everyone went to the pisser. While I didn’t have the emotional investment to this like I did WrestleMania XXX, it was still a very good show, and well worth checking out.
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