Wrestlemania thoughts and comments as I watch! As well as the Raw-after-Mania, a.k.a. Smarkmania.
- Man, Ryback vs. Kalisto is in front of a ¾ empty arena, it seems like. Plus, they’re cutting away to commercials! Good times. Also, Mauro Ranallo is soooo much better than Cole, except that Lawler keeps stepping all over his shit.
- Renee Young is basically wearing a white sports coat and the world’s longest necklace.
- Hey, they actually are letting this 5-on-5 women’s match go on for a bit! Still amusing to see the crowd shit on Eva Marie; I wonder how long she’ll stick with wrestling because of it though. At least they’re finally having her acknowledge the boos and that she’s a heel. Really sick bump taking by Naomi when she basically air-tackled herself into the ropes, and then, when Emma was stepping on Paige’s hair and yanking her upward. Unsurprisingly, Eva Marie and Lana were tagged in for about 30 seconds total.
Naomi is hella athletic, way more so than the other divas in this match. She’s a little sloppy on some of the stuff though, as is Brie; the final minute or so, it looked like Brie got her legs up too slow on the corner spot, and then, Naomi was way too far away to make Brie going to the top rope look plausible. Also, weird that they brought Nikki out at the end. Why bother? With so much other stuff going on during Mania, why bother having Nikki make an appearance? If this is their swan song, it's wasted on the pre-show for Mania, when it could instead anchor a segment of a three-hour Raw.
- Usos vs. Dudleys, meh. It could have been a Raw match, except for the table spot at the end, which probably (thankfully) ends the feud. Usos need to turn, though, as they’re now getting booed. I’m not sure if that’s the Reigns halo effect, or just if they’re stale as faces. (Again to fantasy book: A Samoan heel stable with Reigns, the Usos and The Rock in his sporadic appearances could be good.)
- They seemingly introduced the new women’s belt in an untelevised segment on the pre-show, which was stupid. The promo card for the title’s match also had the old one still in there, which was stupid as well.
- Corey Graves on the pre-show is interesting, as he actually brought up that Roman Reigns was going to get shit on and he needed to focus it out. He also had a good line as they introduced Michael Cole. “Is that 100,000 people booing Michael Cole?”
- Ziggler’s twitter is still HeelZiggler, and I don’t think he’s been heel in like two years. Also, in a ladder match, is there anything preventing the first or second guy from trying to get the belt during the introductions? They should have someone try to do that some year. Unsurprisingly, Kevin Owens is hella over, so I’m guessing it’s a smark crowd here at Mania.
As usual with the ladder match, there are plenty of “holy shit!” moments, such as Sin Cara’s dive on Stardust. But yikes, that finish! Zack Ryder?!?! Woo woo woo, who knew it? I guess this could free up Owens to feud with some others, but geez, the IC belt had been regaining some stature as he did a good job of holding it. That takes a hit now that it’s on a guy that has solidly jobbed for about two years.
- As expected, Jericho vs. Styles is a perfectly professional match with plenty of false finishes. But wow, the actual finish! Through two main show matches, it’s like WWE is trying to make-up for a probably-predictable upper card by putting a bunch of surprises in the opening matches. While I don’t think that’s the worst idea overall, geez, it’s hard to see why Jericho needed the win over Styles. Maybe their program is going to continue after Mania?
- The New Day’s prop game is on point tonight. Also, at some point this match went from 4-on-3 to just a straight 3-on-3, as Wade Barrett is apparently sitting it out. It’s not entirely surprising, since he’s reportedly gone once his contract expires, but I figured that would mean he would be in the match and taking the pin.
We’re 3-for-3 on confusing decisions, at first, as League of Nations gets the pin. They’re all so friggin’ dull, who cares? Rusev is the only one who might be salvageable as a single to me. But then, it makes sense with the post-match cameos. Also, Rusev sold the hell out of that stunner!
- Lesnar with the win isn’t all that shocking, but I thought Ambrose had a really nice showing. It was also a good touch that he tried to kick out just after the count. It was a good match that didn’t really hurt either one of them, and may have helped to elevate Ambrose a bit.
- Confusingly, they show a Snickers commercial with champion Zack Ryder, except it’s actually Charlotte feeling like someone else because she’s hungry, like their other commercials. Blah.
- I don’t have much to say about the women’s title match because it was really well done! Good intro with Snoop and Lady Rapper, and good action and spots throughout.
- Holy shit, that was a crazy leap from the top of the cage by Shane McMahon! Good lord. Storyline-wise, it seemed like Shane was going to win somehow, since that would give them way more options going forward and pop the rating for Monday Night Raw. However, they played it pretty straight, with Shane only getting in occasional offense against Taker.
- Hey, it’s the Andre Battle Royal! I forgot it was happening. And hey, it’s Tatanka and DDP! And Shaq! Hahaha. How bizarre! Brawn Strowman was the odds on favorite for a while, but he and the rest of the Wyatts aren’t even in this.
It’s been quite the fall for Sandow, from a fairly-over Miz clone to being eliminated by Shaq in a battle royal. And wow, Big Show is out early, so I guess we’re going to get a somewhat surprising winner! (Unless it’s Kane.) After some decent eliminations, Baron Corbin is the winner, so I guess we know who’s coming up to the main roster soon.
- Unpopular opinion alert, possibly: I can do without more eight minute promos from The Rock. So, I’m glad to see Bray Wyatt out here to break it up. But, ugh, not so glad to see him just immediately squash Rowan. And once Cena came out, I vaguely held out hope that he might attack The Rock instead… Nope. It’s not the long-awaited heel turn.
- Okay, title match time… What the fuck, Stephanie McMahon? Jesus. She’s trying her best to channel Cruella de Vil or something. It felt like a last-ditch effort to get the crowd against Triple H, and he still got cheers during his intro, and Roman got absolutely crapped on. Yikes. Anyway, the inevitable happens, despite the crowd booing anytime that Roman got any offense in. He’s your new champion, and I guess we’re headed for some rematches on Raw and at the next few PPVs, since Shane lost his match.
ODDS AND ENDS
- There’s speculation that Bayley or Finn Balor could be up soon, but Jesus, I’m not sure how the hell they’d fit in. Baron Corbin is seemingly going to be a heel, and you have a slew of established talents returning from injury in the next couple of months. Bayley and Finn would just get lost in the shuffle quickly, a la Tyler Breeze.
- I have no idea how they’re going to fill 3 hours on Raw, and I don’t mean that in the good way.
- I think the love for the women’s match is wayyyy too much course correction on the part of fans. When the division has been chicken shit for 10 years, then it doesn’t have to be chicken salad to seem excellent.
And, I’ve been complaining about the optics on Ric Flair for months. You have a six-foot women’s champion that’s built like a brick shithouse and her geriatric dad is a major component in how she wins matches. Ugh. Charlotte should have been built up as a Female Lesnar. It would have been better if Ric stayed down after taking that hit from Becky, and Charlotte still could have won in a heel manner anyway. (A ruthless, blindside hit on Sasha when she had Becky in a submission hold, for example.)
- It’s like they realized how booty Mania was, and tried to fix it in one friggin’ show! Between Shane getting to book Raw, New Day pinning League of Nations, and then the Wyatts attacking the League after the match. Just a stellar start of the show.
- Sasha vs. Summer Rae was a fun squash match. And of all people from NXT, surprising to see Apollo Crews up! He looked hella good on Raw, although unfortunately, it came at poor Tyler Breeze’s expense. Crews is like if Ahmed Johnson could actually work without hurting everyone he wrestled. Baron Corbin also looked good against Ziggler later in the show, although again, it’s too bad that Ziggler is apparently the new Brooklyn Brawler.
- Amusing to hear the commentary crew explain away the crowd reaction at the top of the hour, and then have Vince acknowledge it, and then, they send Reigns out there by himself anyway. He’s back to being an ass and cocky, so I’m not sure if that means he’s turned heel or something.
Jericho! Interesting that he’s been playing a heel for months now, but he still gets treated like a face when paired against Reigns. And then, they multiply the fun by throwing Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn out there. Predictable pairing off, but any of the four could make for a decent Reigns opponent.
- As much as the Ryder title win surprised me, the promo was good, and the crowd really did respond to it the next night. I’m a bit more confident it could work, as long as they actually keep the belt on Ryder for a bit to build it back up… and ugh, nevermind, as the Miz wins thanks to a distraction from Maryse. (But hey, she looks great still! Good for Mrs. Miz.)
- Charlotte looked overwhelmed when it came to dealing with the crowd response, which isn’t surprising, since she is pretty green still. But hey, a feud with her and Natayla should be fun!
- Amusing crowd signs: “I’m a Hulk Hogan guy.” “We paid money – Listen to us!” However, unlike some of the past post-Mania crowds, I really thought like this one actively detracted from the show. It's one thing when you have guys like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk who can feed off of it, or even Cena, who knows how to handle it by now. Outside of Shane, Jericho and Owens, everyone else seemed to be overwhelmed by it. (And as usual, Jericho was the master at dealing with it.)
- Smart booking by WWE to load up the show with smark favorites. Like Enzo and Cass! And hey, the Dudleys would be a good initial opponent for them.
It extends to the main event, as Sami Zayn gets knocked out and replaced by Cesaro. Also, Kevin Owens’ ability to sell is incredible, like when he got thrown into the guard rail. Really good Fatal Fourway, and I’m surprised Styles got the pin! They tried so friggin’ hard to get Reigns over as a face, and now, they picked the one opponent that will surely get a face reaction against Reigns. Let the heel turn begin!