I was going to ignore this. Really. The whole empty arena thing is making wrestling very hard to watch. I could not imagine performing in the ring without an audience to bounce off; I was predominantly a heel and the idea of not having some crowd member to abuse just feels… wrong. Even when I did some face stuff at the end of my time in the ring, having that crowd lift you up and them knowing they were lifting you up makes it more than just a theatrical experience. The crowd lives vicariously through the wrestlers, and if they get even an inkling that they are helping the face or making it hard for the heel, then they feel a very real part of the show.
They are a very real part of the show. Without them there, it is performance art and something that is really hard to do well. A crowd can cover mistakes for you; no crowd makes these mistakes become exploded.
But… this is the world we live in. We have to get used to this. And as long as too many people in the world ignore the safety directives (and I am looking at you, religions who insist on having your observations) or put money ahead of health (and here I am looking at you nearly every Western government in the world), then this is never going to end.
So, with literally nothing better to do, I sat down to watch too much wrestling. And, for something different, I am going to rate the matches out of 10!
Let’s do this!!
1) Doing this over two nights, a lá Wrestle Kingdom, has to become the norm! Wrestlemania 35 was a marathon for the bowels and bladder; two nights is so much better!
Wrestlemania Night 1 Kickoff Show
2) Corey Graves is terrible. I mean in his role in the WWE. I don’t know him as a person.
3) The hype videos for matches that would probably be safely ignored are something that the WWE still does better than anybody else in sports, not just sports entertainment.
4) The music video of Miz and Morrison was better than about half the tracks on the current music charts. I’m not sure if that is indicative of their talent or the sad state of music in 2020. Case in point – The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ (the WM theme this year) is so generic it’s… sad.
5) Why have a ring announcer with no freakin’ crowd?
6) Drew Gulak v Cesaro
This was actually not too bad! Back and forth, some nice moves, and Cesaro wins with a no-handed airplane spin! That’s… unique. Yeah, not too shabby. 6.5/10
7) Kayla Braxton is tiny next to Corbin! Then they recap Elias being literally murdered by Corbin at Smackdown. Where’s the freakin’ police? Now, there is a difference between bad singing to be funny and bad singing that is just f’n awful. Guess which category Corbin’s song fell into? And Graves’ toadying… I want to poke my ears out with a spork.
Wrestlemania Night 1
8) Stephanie McMahon starts us off to justify them holding this event. Personally, I am in two minds about it. Part of me thinks we need the distraction. The other part of me thinks… social distancing? I am not sure. Still. Conflicted, that’s what I is.
9) The ‘America The Beautiful’ as a mash-up of previous entries was actually really good.
10) The Honest Trailers opening was… okay, it was funny. And then got suitably epic. In an HT sort of a way. And then we get AC/DC. 1000 times better than The Weeknd. Maybe more. And so much more suitable. F*ck The Weeknd.
11) I am a NE Patriots fan… and if I never see Gronk again it’ll be too soon. I think the term here is “try-hard”.
12) Women’s Tag Team Title: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross v Asuka & Kairi Sane (c)
12 minutes in and the first match starts. Cross plays for the crowd… *sigh*! Oh, God, JBL on commentary. Shoot me now. The match… Look, they had time to reshoot this. There were some obvious edits. But it felt… off? Okay, a part of it was Bliss, who is not on the same level as the other 3, and her final Twisted Bliss (to the shins!) to win the match was terrible. Not a bad match, but maybe too long. However, we have new champs after about 15 minutes. Cross & Bliss are now 2-time tag champs. Cross is vastly underrated and needs to be singles champ yesterday. 6/10
13) Sami Zayn delivers a decent enough promo. Yeah, fine.
14) King Corbin v Elias
Corbin wants a count-out win because Elias is dead. Well, I guess that’s fair enough. But, no, Elias has gotten better (I thought they had a strict drug policy) and he walks in like nothing happened, with a bit of a taped shoulder. This leads to a… match? Yeah. Elias wins. Corbin is one of the worst “superstars” on the roster. This was shit. 2/10
15) Becky Lynch turns up in the Man Truck. Just saying.
16) Raw Women’s Title: Shayna Baszler v Becky Lynch (c)
This was a great match! No, seriously. This was intense, hard-hitting and the lack of a crowd did not factor into it as they were just focused on one another. No crowd means we could hear the blows connect. This was great! However… the ending came when Baszler locked in her Kirafuda clutch and Lynch rolled over to get the pin and retain. Now, while it might be argued that Baszler should have won, that’s not the issue. The issue is that for the second WM in a row the pin looked dodgy. Still. 8/10 I wanted this to go longer. 9 minutes was not enough.
17) Intercontinental Championship: Daniel Bryan (with Drew Gulak) v Sami Zayn (c) (with Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro)
At 9 minutes, too short again. Nice back and forth match until Bryan did a very un-Bryan thing and was merely distracted by Cesaro & Nakamura to allow Zayn to recover enough to hit a mid-air helluva kick to retain. Ending killed it a bit, I’m afraid. But I did enjoy the talking. 6.5/10
18) These self-congratulatory adverts of WWE would mean so much more if their storylines did not reward bullying and abuse so much.
19) Was it ever actually explained why, in kayfabe, the tag titles are being fought in a 1-on-1-on-1 ladder match?
20) Smackdown Tag Team Titles: Kofi Kingston (for The New Day) v Jimmy Uso (for The Usos) v Morrison (for Miz & Morrison) (c)
All right, this was a piece of absolute insanity. I loved it. The moves were great. The pain looked real. The sounds helped make this work. (JBL, on the other hand, reminded me why he is one of the worst commentators ever – Morrison reminds him of a young Curt Hennig? You twonk.) But if any match needed the crowd responses, this was that match. I have to say, I liked the unique finish. All 3 guys had their hands on the titles, Kingston & Uso headbutted Morrison and he fell onto another ladder with the belts to retain. 8/10
21) Seth Rollins (as Pope Seth I) v Kevin Owens
Well… Standard TV match that wasn’t too bad leading to Owens winning by DQ after Rollins hit him with the bell. Owens then insulted Rollins to come back and have a no-DQ, no-rules match. Why did Rollins agree? Well, we had another match which was just an excuse for Owens to jump off the WM sign onto Rollins (almost missing). Owens gets Rollins back in the ring, hits a stunner and wins again. Yeah. 6.5/10
22) Gronk decks R-Truth but Mojo Rawley steals the 24/7 championship. Just let it die already.
23) Heyman delivers a Heyman promo. No-one in WWE touches him on the mic.
24) Universal Championship: Braun Strowman v Goldberg (c)
Kick, spear, spear, spear, cover, kickout, spear, powerslam, powerslam, powerslam, super-mega-dooper-power slam, 2 and a half minutes, new champ. 1/10 Next!
25) Boneyard Match: AJ Styles v Undertaker
Okay, here’s the thing – I have never been a fan of the Undertaker. When he first appeared, his no-selling shat me no end. I think his matches against Michaels are the most over-rated in Wrestlemania history. They’re good, but not as good as everyone says they are. This is my favourite Undertaker match ever. It was different, and they did it really well. Thank God it wasn’t the same as the Bash At The Beach 2000 graveyard match. The acting was superb, everyone played their parts well, and it felt like a movie. I mean that seriously. I enjoyed this. The production values, the edits, the background music (which changed as it went on as well – nice touch!), the story it told – top notch. I am also willing to bet that what they said was not scripted, that they were allowed to go out and say what they felt it needed [edit: I have since read and heard that was in fact the case – no scripted talking]. And not only Undertaker and AJ did well, but the supporting crew – the OC and the druids – played their parts nicely. I have seen too many action movies that did not have fight scenes this good. Of course, Undertaker won, but that didn’t matter for what they produced. And that image of AJ’s hand sticking out of the ground – magic. Then Undertaker rides into the night as his symbol shines out on a burning house. 9.5/10
Wrestlemania Night 2 Kickoff Show
26) Graves is still really, truly awful. Hype videos cool. Same as last night.
27) Natalya v Liv Morgan
I have already put forth my thoughts on Natalya. She’s awesome. Liv Morgan is all about the image. Let’s see how we go. This just did not get out of second gear. Natalya hit some nice moves, Liv… didn’t. Liv won after a series of back and forth roll-ups. I wanted more than this. 5/10
28) Again, Young, Booker and (this time) Christian save me from Graves.
Wrestlemania Night 2
29) Stephanie’s back with the same self-congratulations, we get the same opening video. Cool. I guess.
30) NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair v Rhea Ripley (c)
Biased – I’ve known Rhea since she started and I think she is brilliant. This match was a back and forth and really, really good match. They pulled out all stops and delivered in spades. Maybe at 20 minutes it was a fraction long. But, my God, this was a Wrestlemania worthy match. Hell, yeah. I want to see them go again. Ripley’s selling of the knee was a nice thing to see. Flair won with the figure-8, but Ripley did not lose anything in defeat. And I can see the reasoning. Flair on NXT to bump ratings against AEW. And imagine the matches she could have against those women! New match-ups. Charlotte is her father’s daughter – she will go down as one of the greats, I am sure. 9/10
31) The replays of the damage done to Ripley’s knee looked nasty!
32) Is it just me, or does The Big Show Show look not too bad? (Yeah, okay, it’s just me…)
33) Aleister Black v Bobby Lashley
Why did we have to have this match? Blergh. Just a match, a standard TV match, 2nd hour of Raw maybe. Black wins with the Black Mass. 4.5/10
34) Lana is in a movie? Really? Watching her during this match, I’ve seen better acting at a kindergarten Nativity play.
35) Kayla is with Bayley and Sasha Banks. Nothing was said that hasn’t been said before. Bayley is not good here.
36) Like Money In The Bank is going to go ahead! And why is Totally Bellas still a thing? Why? For the love of God, why?
37) Oh, look, a Gronk sighting. For a host he’s been… missing. Not that I’m complaining. He’s a shit host.
38) Dolph Ziggler (with Sonya DeVille) v Otis
I have to admit – this has been one of the better story-lines in the WWE for ages. I have been sort of invested in it (hey, I’m almost 50… this is not my demographic). The match was nothing special at all, and Mandy comes out and nut-shots Ziggler to give Otis the win with the caterpillar. 3/10 However, post-match, Otis got the girl, which was the result we all wanted and so, despite the not good wrestling, it was a feel-good ending and I had a smile on my face. This makes Lana-Lashley look like the tripe it is. The kiss was even more realistic. Okay, because of that, I’m changing the grade – 4/10
39) Last Man Standing Match: Edge v Randy Orton
I’m torn. Edge was such a great wrestler. Orton is one of the most boring wrestlers I have seen. He’s not bad, just dull. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we got was a 20 minute match done so slowly it took more than 35 minutes to finish. Some nice touches – the RKO out of nowhere to start (a call-back to when Edge played a cameraman all those years ago?) was cool. But this was so slow. And the going everywhere stipulation felt constrained by the Performance Centre or wherever they were. Sorry. This match was dull. Oh, and Edge won with the chokehold he used oin MVP into a one-man con-chair-to on the top of the NXT truck… and Edge dropped an F-bomb. 4.5/10 The extra 0.5 was for Edge’s acting at the end – he’s good.
40) Mojo Rawley runs through chased by… people. I don’t recognise any, so maybe they were just… who knows? Anyway, they swarm Mojo (the 24/7 champeen) and then Gronk jumps on them all from the balcony, pins Mojo and your new 24/7 champion is Rob Gronkowski. Now can it die? Please?!
41) Raw Tag Team Titles: Austin Theory & Angel Garza (with Zelina Vega) v The Street Profits (c)
This match was another TV match that was just there. I am really unimpressed with the Street Profits. Some nice high spots do not wrestlers make. This match tried to be a spotfest, but after watching AEW for almost a year, they failed. And is yelling, “Wrestlemania!” the way they tried to hide that what they were doing was dull? The Street Profits retain, post-match Zelina gets her men to beat them down (so why couldn’t they win?!), and Bianca Belair makes the save. The post-match stuff was terrible! Don’t do it, Bianca! Stay in NXT and have awesome matches with Charlotte and Rhea! Don’t be dragged down by these two sacks of suck (even if you’re married to one of them)! 4/10
42) 5-Way Elimination Match: Smackdown Women’s Title: Sasha Banks v Lacey Evans v Tamina v Naomi v Bayley (c)
Tamina is from the Pacific Islands? All of them? All 100+ of them? Really? Sorry. That’s the most I got out of this 20 minutes of boredom. They gang up to eliminate Tamina first. Banks eliminates Naomi. Banks saves Bayley and Bayley watches Evans pin Banks. Banks then helps Bayley beat Evans. Bayley wins and retains. Dissension is teased. Yep, that was 20 minutes. 3.5/10
43) In 2021 Wrestlemania goes Hollywood. Again. I hope we get those awesome vignettes like last time. Remember the Basic Instinct one with Stacey Kiebler and then Mae Young? Ric Flair and HHH doing Braveheart? Steve Austin as Gladiator? WM-21, that was. Christ! 15 years ago! How f’n old am I?
44) Firefly Funhouse Match: John Cena v Bray Wyatt/Husky Harris/The Fiend/Windham Rotunda
What was this. For everything good about the Boneyard Match, this was not. But there was no wrestling. This was not a match. I think this is really what it’s like in Cena’s head.
I wanted this to end so badly.
I did not like this.
But it was not wrestling. It was performance art by a first year undergrad who thinks he knows it all already. It wouldn’t even get a look-in Off-Fringe at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (and I’ve performed on and off Fringe, so I’d know).
What was this?
I will give it this, though – it was different. And I get what was behind it – taking Cena as a real person. Great. But was this a Wrestlemania thing? It felt… different.
Different is not necessarily good…
45) Titus O’Neill is apparently the new host. Titus: “I don’t know what I just saw.” You and me both, mate; you and me both.
46) Money In The Bank will be next month? What are WWE smoking? And where can I get some?
47) WWE World Title: Drew McIntyre v Brock Lesnar (c)
Remember how the Universal Title was 2 ½ minutes long? Well, this was 4 ½ minutes long. Seriously. A few German suplexes, a few F-5s, a few claymore kicks, new champion in Drew McIntyre. It was better than the Universal Title match. It was inoffensive. 4/10 This needed the crowd to cheer afterwards and explode and everything being right with the world. Instead, McIntyre said, “Thank-you,” to the camera.
An Undertaker match was the best match?! Well, it was helped by the set-up, but, yes. I think that’s it. Armageddon must be around the corner.
Best actual match match was Ripley v Flair. The ladder match and Lynch v Baszler were equal next. With an average match rating of 5.4/10, this was a very mediocre Wrestlemania. But that Boneyard Match was a thing of beauty. If we can’t have live wrestling for a while, that was a nice way to go. And I could handle a few more of that style. But the Firefly Funhouse match? F*ck off.
And that’s a lot of words and a lot of thoughts about a lot of wrestling. What’d I get wrong (or should I say, how much did I get wrong)? Drop a comment!
And I am outa here.