Side Note on why this is so late: Okay so lately I’ve been trying to write for 411, it has NOTHING to do with the quality of this site or me not liking it or anything like that, it simply had to do with me wanting to get my name out there and get some more attention. 411, I’m not sure if they actually get more viewers than Inside Pulse (though they probably do if I’m going to be honest), but I also get way more feedback on my columns than in here. In here its like dropping something you’ve worked SO hard on into the middle of the fucking ocean. You’re lucky as fuck if you get one or two comments on your post.
So I was doing 411 for a bit and digging it for the most part. However there was one MAJOR problem, I didn’t have access to an editor/publisher, I was having to go through someone that already wrote for the site. He is Caliber Winfield and we had done similar write ups before on wcw2000 (a wordpress site we had together were we reviewed all the Nitro’s and PPV’s from 2000). So I figured since I’m comfortable writing with him I’ll do a team up article for the ppvs and get more attention from 411.
Well, first off the columns were put in by him so even though he acknowledged that I was doing most of the writing his name was still the author. After having your own column for a while that kind of bites BUT to me it wasn’t that big of a deal because at least we were getting them out there. No what REALLY pissed me off is that he would give me a deadline, I’d turn it in by then and then the column would just sit unpublished. I’d bitch at him ALL THE TIME asking him where the column is, why isn’t it published and 90% of the time he’d just ignore me. When he’d finally get back to me he’d give me a different day then when he originally said it was going to be published. This is EXTREMELY frustrating for a wrestling writer or anyone trying to review anything NEW. When something is NEW you need to get them out asap to keep the relevancy.
Now I’m going to end up posting a review for Mania when its already A WEEK PLUS OLD. Why? Same shit, Cal kept on changing the date of when the review was going to come out. He told me he needed it by Thursday because it was going up Friday…. then he told me that it was going up Sunday, now he hasn’t even given me a date but just said he put it in Sunday. I love Cal but I can NOT deal with this level of unprofessional bullshit when I’m putting in 4,000 words for Mania and actually want people to see my column.
So it looks like I’m back at Inside Pulse and am going to try to keep a more consistent schedule than usual, try to do ppvs once or twice a month depending on how many come out. Anyway, lets jump into Mania…
The Only Review of Wrestlemania 34 That You’ll Ever Need
By Sebastian Howard
This Wrestlemania was extremely hyped up, you had a shitload of great looking matches on here that you were looking forward to, it reminded me very structurally of last year’s Mania in that I cared about almost every match on the card which is something a lot of the old Mania’s don’t have (you usually give a shit about one or two big main events). However I think overall this show was hurt from two main factors, over hype in some cases (though that can’t really be helped with Mania, it’s the most over-hyped thing in wrestling) and a way too long card. Last year you could get away with having an extremely long show because you were ending with a Taker Mania match and the crowds going to be hot for that. Here you were ending on Lesnar/Reigns and after seven hours of wrestling they just didn’t care. I think the best thing they could’ve done was maybe have done the Taker reveal at the end of the show (which would have made thematic sense in that Taker “retired” last year and here he’s coming back at the main in both) or you could’ve done the Bryan tag match at the end. I think if you had done either of those two as their main the crowd would’ve still been hot for it but the real main problem is these overly long shows. Anyway, let’s jump into it….
I’m skipping the preshow as nothing really jumps out at me and I completely missed it anyway, though I have heard good things about the cruiserweight match.
1st Match: Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor vs Miz © for the IC Championship
4.0/5.0 – Very fun match here and a great way to start the show. This felt very much like a Takeover/Indie match, was extremely crisp and never stopped being fast. It never devolved into triple threat formula and was just fun. Some of the spots were cute like Balor stopping a Miz win with a double stomp from the top and I liked how dominant Seth looked at the end of the match. Just put both guys out with double curb stomps. The crowd was also SUPER hot for this and again it felt very Takeoverish to me which is a good thing.
2nd Match: Asuka vs Charlotte © for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
5.0/5.0 – This begins the theme of this show that being that it completely swerved just about everyone. In the first match Seth winning wasn’t that big of a deal as a lot of people assumed he was going to win (I thought it was going to be Finn so we could do Seth/Reigns at the next show after Mania, have Reigns defend the title and then send Seth to Smackdown to wrestle Shinskue and AJ) but here Charlotte beat Asuka. That’s a HUGE shock to anyone who was trying to predict the show pre Sunday, I don’t know one person who predicted this match correctly. It makes sense too as Charlotte is the best women’s wrestler in the division and they always put her over HARD at Mania but Asuka’s undefeated streak was also THE LONGEST UNDEFEATED STREAK EVER!!!! We all just assumed this was going to continue on for maybe another year or two and maybe Asuka would eventually lose to Rhonda or Ember Moon but nope, they just ended it and it was BRILLIANT!
The problem with most of Taker’s streak matches after 06 is that the crowd simply doesn’t buy that he’s going to lose so it led to a crowd just not responding to near falls. Here, even if the crowd didn’t actually buy that Asuka was going to lose until the end of the match they still ate everything up and loved it. Charlotte has been getting a lot of flak lately, I saw Hyatte compare her to Kane (!?) on twitter because she’s been having extremely average matches lately but when she wants to she can be the BEST wrestler on the roster and here, not only was it Mania but she had a great partner in Asuka, a hot crowd and ended the longest streak in wrestling. The end of the match was great too as it kept the psychology of Charlotte having a busted arm that Asuka was working over so she had to bridge from the figure four to the figure eight with one arm in an incredible visual. Just a great match here, not only match of the night but very well could end up being WWE MOTY.
By the way I liked Charlotte’s evolution of entrances, at WM 30 she was one of three women (along with, I THINK, Sasha and Bliss) that stood around and looked sexy for Trips entrance. Here she has her own throne entrance with her own slaves. That’s probably the coolest evolution of a character and their entrance since Punk came out at WM 22 as a Tommy totting gangster for Cena in Chicago and in 2011 came out in Chicago to one of the most over responses ever to WRESTLE Cena.
3rd Match: Jinder Mahal vs Bobby Rhoode vs Rusev w/ Aiden vs Randy Orton © for the US Championship
3.0/5.0 – This was a weird match because looking at it would seem to be a breather/piss break match so the crowd wouldn’t burn themselves out. The problem with that is that is that Rusev is INCREDIBLY over so the crowd was invested in this and wanted Rusev to win. Basically this match was hot whenever Rusev was in and for the rest of it the crowd was dead. Jinder winning was again, pretty surprising but not truly shocking or anything. Jinder’s going to get another half year push (and it looks like they’re already leaning into more Jinder/Orton matches because we didn’t get enough of them last year), Orton’s going to be busy not giving a shit and Roode and Rusev just have nothing to do. This win was probably motivated by the Saudi Arabia Rumble coming up and Vince wanted someone brownish holding one of the midcard titles. Its fine but Rusev really should have won here, you could’ve let him hold the title for a week or two before losing it and I think it would’ve gotten him even more over than he is. Also you could’ve leaned into Rusev/Jinder which would’ve been a far hotter feud than more Jinder/Orton matches.
4th Match: Rhonda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs Trips and Stephanie
4.0/5.0 – This ended up being WAY better than anyone expected, Rhonda is a NATURAL in the ring and got to look strong as hell. She completely rag dolled Stephanie whenever they were in the ring together and Trips sold his ass off for her. I also liked the story of this match before it picked up its pace as Trips and Steph understand wrestling better than Rhonda does so they cheat a bunch and keep Angle from getting the hot tag. This was just a FUN match with a hot crowd and it was really nice to see Stephanie get her comeuppance after getting over on people for years and not ever having any kind of karmic payback. Stephanie/Rousey really could be the new Vince/Austin, especially with Stephanie playing her role as good as she does. Her post Mania promo about how she’s such a great woman for wrestling last night and basically trying to make herself look sympathetic to a wholly un-sympathetic hot crowd only for Rhonda to come out and put Stephanie in another armbar was really fun. I just hope that Rhonda doesn’t end up becoming a dick face that’s just a huge bully and is just torturing Stephanie every time she sees her even though Stephanie’s not fucking with her anymore and that Rhonda already got even with her at Mania. As for the other parts of the match, Angle/Trips, while solid was probably the least interesting part of the match. Stephanie also looked pretty good out there. I think an interesting question that comes from this match though, is WWE considering doing cross gender stuff or is it just a onetime thing with Rousey because she’s a celebrity? Other companies like Lucha Underground do cross gender matches all the time and make it work but I’m kind of two minds about it in WWE. I think in some cases it could work really well like here but at the same time I don’t really need to see Lesnar selling offense from Alexa Bliss…
5th Match: Bludgies win the titles from New Day and Uso’s ©
Blehhhhhh, I predicted Uso’s to win here because they’ve been making a story out of Uso’s never having a mania match and having them win here would’ve given the crowd a lot of goodwill as well as elevated the Uso’s and given them some good promos. Instead we get the Bludgies…. It was a very whatever match with a dead crowd. You have to actually TRY to make the crowd dead during a New Day match, Jesus.
6th Match: Undertaker over Cena
Hmmm, this was WEIRD. So you have Cena come out for weeks and weeks challenging Taker to a match at Mania. The match was never advertised but people assumed it was going to happen anyway because y’know, they spent weeks building to it. So Taker finally comes out to a really cool entrance, an extremely hot crowd… and then just bodies Cena and beats him in under five minutes. The main argument I’ve heard for why this match was this way was that it wasn’t advertised so they could get away with doing a squash. Also people were assuming two other things, one that Taker couldn’t go anymore so they had to do this and two that this was going to be Taker’s last Mania match so why not send him off on a high note? I think both of those are wrong and think the main reason they didn’t do this match was because the show was so damn packed already. If Taker couldn’t go anymore why bring him back in a match that’s basically a re- introductory match? This match had Taker come back and destroy Cena, JOHN CENA, arguably WWE’s biggest wrestler right now and from a kayfabe perspective almost invincible.
That doesn’t read to me like its Taker’s last match, it reads to me like they’re trying to reestablish Taker as a threat and using Cena to do it. And of course I was proven right as they’re doing Taker/Rusev in a Casket Match at the “Greatest Royal Rumble.” What really sucks is that I highly doubt we’re going to get another Cena/Taker match at Mania. From a kayfabe perspective why would Cena get a rematch against Taker? He just got DESTROYED by him. So a match that people have been looking forward to since forever ends up as a squash and we’re probably not going to get a rematch. I get that Cena was going to do the job here regardless but considering that this is something people have wanted since like 06 it’s kind of bullshit. It did work as a reintroduction match for Taker and showing that he’s a threat again but I feel like you could’ve done this with ANYBODY in hindsight and that Cena could’ve done anything else and we still would’ve had Taker back at Mania as a threat and wouldn’t have had to sit through weeks of weird Cena promos. You literally could’ve done Taker/Elias and gotten the same result. I will say this though, Cena is a serious company guy. He has to look like an asshole for a month doing promos to a guy who’s retired, basically look like a total heel while still being technically a face, have NOTHING happen and then get buried at Mania by a guy who’s way older than him and isn’t going to wrestle for as long as Cena is. That’s some serious dedication right there.
7th Match: Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (If KO and Zayn lose they’re fired from Smackdown)
3.5/5.0 – It was really fun to see Bryan back and super over at Mania, again I think this should’ve been the main because at least the fans would’ve been hot for it even if it’s not that big of a deal or for a title or anything. The crowd really made this for me, Bryan/Zayn was a lot of fun and Shane showed how tough he was wrestling with diverticulitis and still doing crazy high spots. I think the biggest problem with this match is that it seemed like we were building to a Bryan turn here or maybe a Shane turn, as we had MONTHS of Bryan siding with KO/Zayn and Shane trying to fuck them over… only to get it simplified to Zayn/Owens are evil and attacked both of them. There was either a serious rewrite there where we were supposed to get a twist but they decided not to pull the trigger on it because Bryan turning heel right after coming back and being the biggest babyface in the company probably isn’t the greatest idea OR the writers were just trying to come up with shit to fill Smackdown and didn’t have any plans to do anything interesting at the end of the storyline. Either way it is disappointing for someone who’s been sitting through Smackdown for the last year but whatever, Daniel Bryan’s back (and it looks from Smackdown full time too) and that’s what really matters.
8th Match: Nia Jax over Alexa Bliss © for the Raw Women’s Championship
2.5/5.0 – This is where the show kind of took a dive, not that this match was bad but after the Bryan match the crowd was just burnt out. Cal got me into thinking that Alexa was going to retain here because she’s been A + as champion even though the story makes a lot more sense for Nia to go over and Nia/Alexa are friends for real so it’s not like Alexa would mind putting Nia over. This match was fine, Nia looked strong and went over and Bliss got to hang with her a bit. Pretty much everyone online says that Alexa should’ve gotten squashed here in like 30 seconds but I disagree. Bliss has been THE women’s division for the last year, has been A + at everything and deserved to look credible and get some time here against her best friend. A good match and Nia going over was the right call, I’m curious if Alexa’s going to go back to Smackdown right now or if she’s going to stay on Raw. Alexa/Charlotte would’ve been a natural feud but now that Carmella’s cashed in and is the Women’s Champion on SD you can’t really lean into Carmella/Alexa as its heel vs heel but Nia/Alexa doesn’t really interest me that much and the result seems pretty obvious too so I don’t know what they have planned for Alexa but hopefully it’s SOMETHING so she’s just not just floating around like Bayley and Sasha have been doing for like, the last two years. I was hoping we’d get some indication of what they were doing with the women’s division at the Greatest Royal Rumble but there’s not even a women’s match on the card. This might be because it’s Saudi Arabia and I’m not SURE if this is the case but I know in other Middle Eastern shows women weren’t allowed to wrestle or even be in the arena as fans so maybe it’s the same deal here.
9th Match: Shinskue Nakamura vs AJ Styles © for the WWE Championship
3.5/5.0 – Cute thing I noticed that no one else has mentioned online, when Styles came out the graphic said UNIVERSAL CHAMPION! Pretty funny considering it’s the biggest show of the year and they can’t even get the name of the title right. Now to this match, I want to preface this by saying before the show came on this was the match I was most looking forward to on the card. My friend Momo and I played this on 2k18 a bunch of times, did sixty minute ironman matches with this that ended in draws weeks before the match happened and were generally excited. I wanted THIS to be the main event because it’s AJ/Shinskue, c’mon that’s going to be amazing, four stars minimum right? And it’s GOTTA be better and hotter than Lesnar/Reigns! Well all I could think of during this match was holy shit, it was a good idea that it didn’t main event. The crowd was NOT engaged in this match and the match never really changed that. It was stuck in a building, slow pace for the most part then when it finally did pick up a bit it just ended. Shinskue went for the kinsasha, AJ ducked it and it a Styles Clash for the win. That is VERY disappointing considering that they had a legit five star in NJPW that everyone loves and that told a story (namely that were going back and forth until the end where Shinskue just kept on killing AJ but he kept on kicking out until Shinskue was finally able to put him away).
Here it felt like the first chapter in a rivalry… the problem with that is ITS WRESTLEMANIA!!! You shouldn’t be holding back or having a just decent match here, it’s the main event, the BIG show, it’s not supposed to be build up to something else, it’s supposed to be IT! And even if you did want to do a series of matches with AJ/Shinskue why not let them have a great match and then have a series afterwards where they have to try to equal or top the match they already had ala Angle/Shawn? I think if they had a match of that caliber people would’ve been salivating for the rematch and the heel turn at the end would’ve had more impact. Another thing, the swerve here with AJ beating Nakamura. Again, another match I completely predicted incorrectly, I figured that we’d be getting Asuka winning the women’s strap and Shinskue winning the WWE title, they swerved us here with having AJ win. I think the main problem with that is that you had two Rumbles this year and neither of them ended up winning their respective matches. I don’t think it’s too big of a deal right now but if you keep on having Rumble winners lose their big title matches it’s going to make the Rumble lose credibility. I also get why you wouldn’t switch the title to Shinskue here, the WWE champ is a big deal for the company and Shinskue can barely speak English. Also there isn’t really a huge revenue boost for them for making Shinskue champion right now, not to mention that AJ typically has better matches. However WWE really could’ve made themselves look progressive here by putting Shinskue over and having the first Asian WHC in WWE. Instead AJ goes over and it felt like the match was just getting good. I feel like you also would’ve gotten a lot of goodwill from the Smarts if Nakamura would’ve gone over here and they would’ve been more forgiving of the match in general.
As for the heel turn, it was cool and unexpected but it would’ve been a lot cooler if they just had an amazing match and Shinskue had done it because he’s a d bag ala Jericho/Shawn at WM 19. Instead of it feeling like its own standalone thing and it being a big deal it just feels like buildup for another match down the line and character development for Smackdown. I don’t think it’s terrible to use Mania to build back to your main shows but this overshadowed the match itself which isn’t a good thing. Now instead of looking forward to AJ/Shinskue I’m almost apprehensive, just hoping that they end up having a great match that will stop the critics from bitching and blow people out of the water which is very similar to KO/AJ from last year. The sad part about this match is that AJ/Bryan, the match they did on Smackdown two days later blew this out of the water.
10th Match: Strowman and Nicholas won the Tag titles from Cesaro and Sheamus
People are bitching that 10 year old went over Cesaro… who cares, it was really just Strowman and was a cute way to keep the crowd invested leading to the main event.
Main Event that the crowd couldn’t give a shit about: Roman REGINS vs Brock Lesnar w/ Paulie Dangerously© for the Universal Championship
2.0/5.0 – This wasn’t a terrible match but it was TONE FUCKING DEAF!!! According to the Torch and Dave Meltzer the original finish for this match was Reigns going over (jeez what a shock) and you can see that in the story of the match. Reigns getting his ass kicked is fun sure but not him kicking out of a million f5’s and doing his comeback. Everyone figured the finish to this was so predictable that the crowd didn’t give a shit about the match or any near falls. It was kind of an inverse of Taker’s WM Streak where the crowd cares and is into the match but doesn’t believe any near falls except here they didn’t believe any near falls AND didn’t give a shit about the match. I think what Vince was hoping for was that Roman would still have serious heat from the crowd and that would make them care about the match, even if it was just them cheering for Lesnar. But these people had sat through SEVEN HOURS of wrestling and this point just didn’t care about the match so Vince called an audible and changed the finish to Lesnar going over. I’m of two ways about this, first I get why Vince would do it, it’s a good way to get the crowd back and make people think, “OMG this Mania’s great because Lesnar won,” completely disregarding the match quality itself or the dead ass crowd. It’s a good idea because fans are very sheepish and if you give them a finish they weren’t expecting or something that makes them happy they’ll blow the show even though it doesn’t really deserve it and it’s a good way to win the crowd back.
On the other hand we now have to sit through another month of Roman chasing the title only for him to win it at Greatest Royal Rumble. I almost would’ve rather had Reigns just win it here to a pissed off crowd because at least it would’ve gotten it out of the way and we could move on to something else that’s NOT Reigns/Lesnar. The thing is with Reigns it’s not like, oh Vince changed his mind about him because he lost at Mania, no Vince is just playing the long game and knows Reigns winning will be better accepted at Saudi Arabia than in the States. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW BAD YOUR FACE IS IF YOU LITERALLY HAVE TO GO OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES TO LET HIM WIN THE TITLE!??? I give a lot of shit to Cena but at least he could get away with winning titles in heated crowds, here the crowd hates Reigns so much it’s gone from booing the shit out of him to just pure apathy. As for the match itself… it didn’t feel main event of Mania worthy. The crowd was so checked out that it legit made for a bad viewing experience and I really wasn’t paying attention until the finish because it was surprising.
Final Thoughts: Jesus Christ, I’ve been writing for three hours and want a cigarette so I’m going to close this out real quick. The first part of the show was great, had a hot crowd and was really fun. After the Bryan tag match the show really took a dive downward as the crowd was dead though I still think the last half of the show is worth checking out as its still INTERESTING but not really of high quality.
Tags: wrestlemania, Wrestlemania 34