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donsem43 posted a topic in January 2016I actually liked this more than Brock/Sheamus from the night before. It's a paint-by-the-numbers "Southern" tag but everything was really smoothly done. Enjoyed Xavier being in the match rather than Kofi because it allow for some really nicely timed interference spots. Maybe it was this smooth because they've done the same match on a dozen other house shows but it all really came together here.
What a clusterfuck on every level. New Day can have the three guys competing. Why ? Torito stays in the Chamber. Why ? The Ascension in on my TV. Why ? The idea was cool. The execution wasn't. Watching Tyson Kidd is a bittersweet feeling. Cesaro is the Arn of this match. So they start with the Lucha Dragons, and it only will go down from here. Kalisto soon gets stuck over the New Day's pod. They fuck up the countdown because he has to do a spot. Ascension gets in. What a complete and utter waste of time these guys have been. Match goes awry already. They are not over one bit. Los Matadores get in and El Torito gets the best spot of the entire match. Kalisto takes forever to climb to the top of the cage. He has second thoughts. Cesaro signals for him to drop as the entire groupe is awkwardly waiting. Kalisto won't drop. He drops. He could have killed himself. The spot is forgotten immediately. Way idiotic. Later on Torito will do kinda the same, from less high, only to get caught by the Ascension, with an even lesser impact since we just saw a bigger drop a few minutes ago. Anway, this is a complete working clusterfuck at this point when booking clusterfuck makes its ugly way : Ascension eliminates both the Dragons and Matadores. People boo in a negative heat way. Prime Time Players in. More completely non-over guys. Darren seems competent. Titus looks sloppy. They eliminate the Ascension. We've reached the "Who booked this shit ?" territory now. More negative heat. New Day come in for the final stretch. They get the match back on track a bit, but Cesaro & Kidd get eliminated. MORE NEGATIVE HEAT. No one gives a fuck about the players and the New Days are only warming up as heels. The final minutes are okay because the New Day make it that way. They win. Complete waste of a good idea, waste of the coolest teams, waste of good workers who were over to feed to a bunch of tools who got booed out of the building (Ascension, Prime Time Players). Waste of the gimmick, with a completely stupid and very dangerous bump that was forgotten immediately. This has to be one of the very worst EC match, despite a few good moments. Cesaro was Arn. MVP was... I dunno. Torito ?
supersonic posted a topic in Pro WrestlingRECOMMENDATION: READ THIS VIA MOBILE APP OR MOBILE SITE DUE TO NUMEROUS LINKED YOUTUBE VIDEOS. The Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33559-the-road-to-wrestlemania-31-the-good-shit/ The Road to Takeover: Dallas & WrestleMania 32: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33560-the-road-to-takeover-dallas-wrestlemania-32-the-good-shit/ NXT Takeover: Dallas – April 1, 2016 Live from Dallas, TX NXT Tag Titles Match The Revival vs. American Alpha The excellent, obvious choice for the opener since a title change was very apparent. Rather than modify their game plan, the champs intensified their underhanded tactics in an attempt to overcome the mat wrestling and suplex arsenal of the challengers. That ultimately proved to be the end of their title reign. Whether it was mind games, attempts to cut the ring in half, manipulating the ref with false illegal tag attempts to get a cheap shot, the champs were never able to get a lengthy, momentous advantage on either Chad Gable or Jason Jordan. While the ring was cut in half at times, it was never for very long. In particular, Gable drilling Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder simultaneously with DDTs told the story of the match; no matter what, the Revival couldn’t crush the focus and heart of American Alpha. Not with slaps to the face. Not by cutting off a hot tag by climbing under the ring. Not even bailing each other out from certain punishment. This night belonged to many names, and among them were American Alpha. They were not to be denied. The best part was the finishing stretch as Dawson and Gable exchanged near-falls that got the crowd rocking. At this point the match beautifully had the Dallas crowd guessing, even with the booking and match placement making the end result crystal-clear. Once the near-falls got out of the way, the challengers double-teamed Dawson, leaving him prone to the Grand Amplitude and title change, with Wilder being a non-factor as Jordan cut him off. A tremendous opener as expected. **** KOTA FUCKING IBUSHI, one half of the reigning Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year Award, is sitting at ringside. Per Corey Graves on commentary, there will be a “global cruiserweight tournament” coming as well. OH FUCK YES~! The WWE Debut Match of Austin Aries Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries Not the most ideal debut for Aries as this got quite tedious when Corbin was in control, although I could still appreciate the story being attempted. Simply put, the storyline of the match was that Aries did his homework, while Corbin didn’t. It was absolutely foolish for the former NFL player not to hit the film room and respect that Aries had been successful against much larger men throughout his career. There’s of course one of his career-defining moments in dethroning peak Samoa Joe at ROH’s Final Battle 2004, but also his participation in Generation Next thwarting off the monstrous Abyss and the rest of the Embassy, humbling Bubba Dudley in TNA, and taking Takeshi Morishima to the limit. This cockiness and disrespect was all the advantage Aries needed to embarrass Corbin. That wasn’t the only thing that hurt Corbin in his failure to study Aries. While he got an advantage in targeting the right shoulder of Aries, it still allowed the southpaw Aries to make a successful comeback with his left hand. Knowing something as simple as which dominant hand Aries possesses could’ve helped Corbin’s youth and size become too overwhelming for the mileage and experience of Aries, who perfectly scouted an End of Days attempt to get a roll-up victory. Roman Reigns would never get this embarrassed, as his frequent counters of big moves prove that unlike his fellow former gridiron colleague, he actually hits the film room. Stepping away from the actual fictional storyline, it was another brilliant piece of booking for Aries to win his LONG, LONG, LONG overdue debut. Dream Match and Shinsuke Nakamura’s WWE Debut Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura Prior to April 1, 2016, I had seen one match involving Nakamura, and it was before his breakout persona that ultimately led to his Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame induction as well as his departure from NJPW to WWE. It was an absolutely FANTASTIC ****1/2 level tag match on March 1, 2009 in NOAH, with Nakamura & Milano Collection AT being total cunts in a brutal collision against Go Shiozaki & Takashi Sugiura. While I am absolutely aware of his legendary status and current star power, I know damn well just from that one match during his “so-so” period as a personality that he is an elite performer. Without question, Nakamura has already stood out from the majority of other outsider debuts for WWE, displaying perfect charisma and personality just during his entrance, completely in tune with WWE's style of production. Amazing how that happens when WWE caters to the talent’s natural habits instead of forcing a playbook on that talent. The pre-match and early off-the-charts atmosphere that I recall experiencing in person translate masterfully to the broadcast version, displaying what a truly historic match this is. The bell hasn’t been rung yet and this is already the 2010s decade version of the Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi epic. Nakamura's mind games are immediately on display, showcasing just fantastic psychology and even more personality, but Zayn has done his homework, evading Nakamura's deadly stomps and kicks. Nakamura looks like he may not have done as much studying as he should have, getting placed in arm twists and arm drags while Zayn returned the taunting from minutes earlier. The Hall of Famer seems to know he did himself a disservice, getting vicious with surprise knees to Zayn's gut and then targeting the left arm. He cuts off Zayn's comeback attempt with an Enziguri-style knee to the face, then cuts off the former NXT Champ with a spinning heel kick. Zayn finally cuts Nakamura off via a snap suplex, then unleashes standard offense to wear down the company's newest top free agent signing. They exchange forearm strikes in the corner, causing Nakamura to topple to the outside. Rather than get aggressive, Zayn lets Nakamura get on the apron, leaving him prone to a kick to the face and follow-up knees to the skull. This gets a wonderful reaction as the action gets back into the ring, triggering dueling chants in the process. Zayn's attempted counters to the swaggering Nakamura's corner knees are for naught, as he gets placed on the top rope and eats one anyway. Moments later, Zayn outsmarts the overzealous Nakamura, causing him to dive to the outside. This time, Zayn wastes no time with a Pescado on the outside, and then a crossbody inside the ring for a near-fall. Nakamura blocks a suplex attempt with a knee to the skull, then follows that up with some more as well. He runs the ropes which is a mistake, as it allows Zayn to block him and hit a deadly Michinoku Driver. They then have a mid-ring forearm exchange that has Dallas rocking, and Nakamura's nose is now bleeding. Both are running on fumes at this point as the crowd gives the continued exchange a standing ovation. Zayn tries bouncing off the ropes for balance and momentum, leaving him prone to Nakamura forearms, knees, stomps, and kicks. Nakamura seems to get cocky when he runs the ropes, for Zayn hits a lariat and then a clothesline; a second clotheslines attempt puts Zayn in position to get locked into a cross armbar submission, but Zayn clasps his hands to block it, so Nakamura goes for a Triangle Choke. Zayn twists a bit so that he can stomp on Nakamura's head and get the hold broken. Zayn returns the favor from earlier with stomps to the head, then scouts Nakamura's forearms with a counter into the Reverse STO and follow-up Koji Clutch. Nakamura turns his positioning for a near-fall, then cuts off Zayn with another Enziguri to daze Zayn. At this point the crowd breaks into a "Fight Forever!" chant, a true display of respect and admiration from the audience. Zayn blocks an Inverted Exploder attempt, only to eat more knees. Nakamura goes into the corner for my favorite moment of the match, proving that indeed, he did his homework by blocking Zayn's Yakuza kick. With Zayn's leg stuck on the top turnbuckle, Nakamura takes advantage with a successful Inverted Exploder, but Zayn shows he did his homework by avoiding the Bomaye, then hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for an off-the-charts near-fall, bringing the crowd to a frenzy. Considering I can't think of one time that move has actually finished a match for Zayn, it's a testament to these two that they had us biting. Nakamura lands a high kick counter when Zayn goes for his through-the-ropes Tornado DDT in yet another highlight. Both are highly fatigued and Nakamura can't hit whatever he has in mind off the top rope, so Zayn goes for what I assume is a Top Rope Brainbuster, but Nakamura blocks it. Zayn tries to hit a Corner Exploder on a running Nakamura, but that's blocked with elbows to the head, then gets followed with a knee to the back of the head, then it finally ends with the Bomaye Knee, bringing this work of art to its masterful conclusion, and not just for this match, but for Zayn's NXT tenure. Post-match, both show the obvious respect that only grew even more after this all-time classic as the crowd thanks Zayn, knowing this is his NXT swan song. Zayn is left alone to get the standing ovation he earned, marking the end of an era. In one night, Nakamura proved he was ready to do whatever WWE needed him to do, be it the face of a brand, a solid hand on the undercard, a workhorse groomer for other future main-eventers, or maybe even a tippy-top star. Everything he did was on point from the moment he stepped through the curtain both before and after the match. His entrance, his mannerisms, his offense, his psychology, all of it was just flawless. For Zayn, this match was critical in showing he still had elite workrate capabilities in him, which seemed to possibly no longer be the case since his return from shoulder surgery a few months earlier. For one man, it was the perfect beginning, for the other, the perfect finale. The only way to have made this even better would’ve been to have this close the event, and Zayn’s post-match goodbye to be interrupted by Kevin Owens. It’d had fit everyone’s characters and only further given last-minute extra heat to their ladder match coming less than 48 hours later at WrestleMania 32. This is simply the best match I saw all weekend this past April in Dallas, better than any of the spectacular and genuinely great shit involving the likes of Owens, the Revival, Chris Hero, Will Ospreay, Fred Yehi, Ricochet, AJ Styles, Marty Scurll, Zack Sabre, Jr. and others to come later on this same card. This truly felt like a historic match in person, and on the broadcast I felt that I was watching an all-time important mega match on par with The Rock vs. Triple H at SummerSlam 1998, Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 21, and Edge vs. John Cena at TLC 2006. The electricity in the building was absolutely undeniable and added to what would've already been a fantastic match just based on the ring work of both performers. Even further, this surpasses the Undertaker vs. Triple H "End of an Era" Hell in a Cell masterpiece from WrestleMania XXVIII as the second-greatest match I've ever witnessed in person. So with that in mind, I will add this quote from my review of the only match I have ranked above it on this list, that being Bryan Danielson vs. Roderick Strong from ROH's Vendetta: This is a match stockpiled with moments that I'll remember for the rest of my life, and serves as a reminder that despite current financial difficulties, if I can find the money to end up being in Orlando this spring and override my recent cancellation of it (a certain Phenomenal main event would be enough to convince me), then I'll be there. I will cherish this match forever, a match that surpasses Sasha Banks vs. Bayley from Takeover: Brooklyn as the greatest match in NXT history. Last but not least: if this does not end up being The Road to Takeover: Orlando & WrestleMania 33 Match of the Year, then holy motherfucking shit are we in for an historic year of workrate from WWE. ***** NXT Women’s Title Match Bayley vs. Asuka An early submission exchange gets broken when Asuka strikes Bayley's face, which is a nice message to send. This isn't gonna be a monster heel or arrogant opponent trying to keep Bayley down; Asuka will just come right for the fucking throat. This is further proven when Asuka lands kicks, but Bayley tries to show she can strike to, although Asuka has the ultimate advantage early. Bayley scouts a running butt-butt after having just experienced one seconds earlier, allowing hereto get the advantage. After various attacks, a clotheslines attempt is turned into an arm submission by Asuka. Bayley quickly regains the heat by ducking corner roundhouse kicks. She puts Asuka in the Tree of Woe, allowing for an elbow drop. Asuka ends up on a turnbuckle and eats a Hurricanrana, then gets placed in the guillotine choke. Unlike Nia Jax, Asuka doesn't fall to this, instead positioning it into an ankle lock submission. Bayley throws her out of the ring, but the left ankle damage is done. Despite the damage, Bayley hits a head-scissors on the outside before bringing Asuka back in the ring. Asuka gets fighting spirit from Bayley's strikes and uses that to regain the heat with various attacks, including numerous kicks. Bayley finally scouts the kicks by blocking one and hitting a forearm, only to eat a knee strike to the head and then a Shining Wizard for a near-fall. Bayley scouts another butt-butt and turns it into a backdrop suplex after Asuka attempts to block it. After ducking an Enziguri, Bayley eats an immediate follow-up kick to the face, and both go down sour and fatigued. After a brief stalemate, they have a strike exchange which would seem to favor Asuka, only for Bayley to catch a kick and turn it into an ankle lock submission of her own, then drives Asuka's right knee onto the mat. She then targets Asuka's left leg, which is perfect to fuck up the base and kicking abilities. That's for naught, as Asuka catches Bayley's arm for a cross arm bar submission. Asuka even gets into position for a hyperextension, but Bayley escapes for a couple near-fall pin attempts. Asuka goes for the Asuka Lock, but Bayley has that scouted. She follows up with more signature attacks, then hyper-extended Asuka's shoulders in a submission that won her the Iron Man match against Sasha Banks. That's turned into a pin attempt, so the champ goes for the belly-to-belly suplex, which is blocked of course. Asuka ducks a clothesline, hits a roundhouse kick, a snap suplex, and then locks in the cross arm bar submission again. Asuka's attempt at the Asuka Lock again is almost broken by a rope grab, but the challenger drags her down on the mat in the middle of the ring. The champ won't give up, but Asuka gets her back down on the mat, and there's no escape, as Bayley passes out for this historic title change. This was definitely a great match with a terrific story of Bayley being resilient but outmatched, while obviously hurt by following Zayn vs. Nakamura, further evidence that the match placement on this card was flawed. The finish was perfect, as it makes Asuka even more of a juggernaut while making Bayley even more deserving of an inevitable rematch. This could've possibly been a MOTYC had it not followed Nakamura's epic debut. **** NXT Title Match Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe Former TNA Champion BOBBY FUCKING ROODE is sitting front row. OH FUCK YES~! Balor uses a Texas Chainsaw Massacre gimmick as part of his entrance; such a novelty would be the entrance of the evening on a normal night. Joe came into this one seemingly with the dominant strategy that would indicate a title change in storyline. However the early bleeding on his face early was enough to keep this even and allow Balor to avoid any sustained disadvantage. Even with Joe scouting some of Balor’s signature moves, the blood loss clearly affected Joe’s ability to relentlessly deliver his standard punishment from his prime a decade or so earlier. The crowd of course got fucking irritated with the match being paused at points to fix Joe’s bleeding face, breaking out in chants of “Let Joe bleed!” and “Fuck PG!” Wrestling fans really are as low on the intellectual totem pole as stereotyped; if were truly creative and zesty with displaying our sense of entitlement, we’d have screamed shit such as “Let him gush blood!” and “Fuck these doctors!” and “Fuck your sponsors!” and “Fuck his safety!” Joe did himself no favors in storyline with the WWE clichéd shocked facial expression after Balor kicked out of the musclebuster. This was time wasted in which Joe could’ve delivered additional punishment on the NXT brand’s absolute best competitor, and it allowed Balor to make an easy comeback and win the match with by countering the Coquina Clutch with the same finish Bret Hart used at WrestleMania VIII and Survivor Series 1996. At least the finishing moments were red-hot, a sign that this match had the potential to be a MOTYC even after a far hotter, more newsworthy piece of history earlier on the card. Even had Joe not been busted open early, it was a clear mistake to close with this match. Here’s why: as soon as the bookers got cold feet on a title change, then the crystal-clear peak of the show was going to be Nakamura’s live debut, along with the fact that everyone with common sense knew this was Zayn’s final night on the brand. Having Zayn vs. Nakamura close the evening allows for the anticipation of that historic dream match to continue building just a bit longer, and having Owens ruin the Zayn’s post-match swan song ceremony closes out the event with more buzz for WrestleMania 32, which is supposed to be the grandest event EVER in company history due to Jerry World’s attendance size. By doing this, the crowd also isn’t quite as drained for Bayley vs. Asuka, and that title change is therefore more impactful for those in attendance. As is, this is a very good match that wasn’t just handicapped by Joe’s blood loss, but by flawed match order on the card. ***3/4 Easily the North American show of the year that I’d sentimentally put on par with Punk: The Final Chapter. Like that show, the reasons are obvious here. This was worth every penny spent on the vacation I took in Texas…easily. NXT @ WrestleMania 32 Axxess – April 2, 2016 Taped from Dallas, TX The following aired on April 13, 2016: NXT Champion Finn Balor knows that Shinsuke Nakamura’s ultimate goal in NXT is the obvious, which will be to become NXT Champion. This would seem to indicate that either Nakamura will be gunning for it VERY, VERY soon, or he’s gonna be exclusive to NXT for a lengthy period of time. Earlier in the day, NXT Tag Champions American Alpha bask in an empty Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore arrive to congratulate and make the challenge for the NXT dream tag match, even if it’s non-title. Bayley vows to reclaim the NXT Women’s Title in the future, and that the defeat to Asuka will not break her. American Alpha vs. Cassady & Amore is next week in a non-title match, as is Samoa Joe vs. Apollo Crews in a first time ever matchup. The following aired on April 20, 2016: American Alpha vs. Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore – *** No Way Jose makes his debut after a few weeks of hype videos. Seems fun and energetic, and upon first impression doesn’t give off a big money vibe, more of a curtain-jerker to make the crowd feel welcome on the card. Who knows, maybe he’ll be more than that, after all, Colt Cabana went on to headline the greatest ROH show ever in a violent feud-ender against Homicide. Samoa Joe vs. Apollo Crews – *** The following aired on April 27, 2016: NXT Women’s Champion Asuka has a stare down with Nia Jax, which would seem to indicate the next Takeover direction for that division. This follows up on the tease at Takeover: London, and Asuka vs. Bayley II makes far more sense for Takeover: Brooklyn II. The Revival mince no words in stating they’re aiming to reclaim the NXT Tag Titles.
supersonic posted a topic in Pro WrestlingThe Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33559-the-road-to-wrestlemania-31-the-good-shit/ NXT at WrestleMania 31 Axxess – March 26, 2015 These matches aired on the April 8, 2015 broadcast Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal Neville vs. Hideo Itami Staredown triggers a “THIS IS AWESOME~!” chant, and it should for this is a dream match. Eight years ago, this could be manipulated into being ROH vs. PWG. Five years ago, NOAH vs. DG. Easily the best match of the tournament as this would be the only chance for these two to collide while in NXT based on plans in the very near future. While this of course didn’t reach greatness, they showed that such a match of that magnitude is capable in the future. Everything about this match was just so professional, from the mat wrestling (including a battle to gain leverage on hammerlock trades), Neville refusing to be the answer to the Go to Sleep trivia question, and Neville’s cut-offs when Itami took over in the middle and in the closing sequences. In particular, my favorite spot was a teased running corner dropkick from Itami, only to eat a perfectly timed superkick from Neville for a hot nearfall. Of course, the tease became reality since these two are so polished and experienced. This should’ve been the tournament final, and as someone who finds fan conventions totally useless, advertising a match like this ahead of time in the future would make me consider attending the session. ***1/2 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze Couldn’t come close to breaking ***, let alone the semifinal that this followed. This was paced as a fine TV or house show style match, nothing memorable whatsoever, but just enough for Balor to get his shit in and pop the crowd and lead to the rematch with Itami in the final. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Final Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami Nothing close to their first dream match in NXT’s prior tournament several weeks earlier and for understandable reasons, as both men are in their third matches of the evening, plus have matches booked the next night at San Jose State University. There really are no complaints to make here, as the match was good but nothing special, which is exactly where it needed to land to leave the crowd happy. Itami pulls off the major upset though, which shouldn’t have been with so much Japanese media in town due to Tatsumi Fujinami’s HOF induction. *** Crazy food for thought: I never, ever prior to 2014 would’ve thought I’d see KENTA on the same WrestleMania card as Sting. WrestleMania 31 Tag Titles Match Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston The SF native Usos are of course decked in 49ers colors, and it’s an obvious shame that Jey had the busted shoulder and could only come out to soak in the moment without getting to do anything physical whatsoever. Gut-wrenching, as them winning the straps in a standard tag from the champs to open the PPV broadcast would’ve been something special. The champs and hometown boys are of course the most over, while the New Day are still like a wet fart, looking hopeless to ever catch on. Now as for this match, I hated it on broadcast viewing. Sure it was a fun spotfest live, but the broadcast version exposed this as nothing more than a TNA “go out there and do a video game” match. That’s probably not a coincidence with Rudy Charles as the assigned referee, and this was the first WWE match I think I’ve ever seen in which a referee failed to keep track of who was legal. The match wasn’t THAT crazy to justify such sloppy officiating. Others will love this more than me, but I have no use for this in ROH, PWG, or TNA, let alone WWE, especially on the industry’s grandest card of the entire year. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Decent battle royale that didn’t quite live up to the original’s finishing stretch. The segments to mention were of course Show eliminating Itami like a complete, utter jabroni, thus making his appearance useless, as him getting to the final four would’ve done quite a bit to build the NXT brand. Cesaro got his moment to shine by scoop-slamming Kane out of the ring, only for Show to get his win back over him from the prior year. Then of course Damien Sandow (Mizdow) got fed up with the Miz’s bullshit, eliminating him to have a fun final with Show. Show won for what would be obvious reasons at the conclusion of the event, although I sensed live during this match, and now believe even more so with the narrative forced by the commentary when Show won, that Sandow should’ve gone over here. The reason isn’t even about Sandow being the hot hand at the time, although that plays a part (Miz could destroy the trophy leading to their singles match at the next PPV, and maybe it actually would’ve caught on as a singles program for a few months.) Instead, I believe with how limited Show has been in terms of being the slightest bit of an interesting character in 2015, having him choke in this match for a second straight year could’ve made for a compelling undercard narrative going into WrestleMania 32 – would the third time be the charm for Show? Show him preparing for what he feels is his rightful prize in training videos, cutting promos/interviews explaining what it’d mean to him due to the Andre comparisons, etc. Then he is an actual force in that match at AT&T Stadium, perhaps the last highlight of a long and successful career, even though it never reached quite the level of Andre’s. IC Title – Ladder Match Wade Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Daniel Bryan Fun gimmick match to open the PPV portion although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a memorable ladder match. There were stunts in this match, although nothing was timed and delivered to be on par with the memorable spots of prior ladder matches such as the Shawn Michaels splash, Edge leaping spear, etc. Having three of the most organically popular babyfaces (Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry) thrown in a match with four geeks obviously didn’t help either. If any moments were standout, they’d have to be the dumbest one and the finish. Ambrose got pushed off by Harper and fell off of a ladder in the ring, onto a ladder platform outside the ring. Now with this being the biggest show of the year, this is the time to do a stupid stunt like that, but I’d have reservations had I been in his shoes, as this spot on the card was clearly beneath him and the other two legitimate stars shoehorned into this match. Those other two provided the other standout moment as Ziggler and D-Bry exchanged headbutts on the ladder, with D-Bry of course winning thanks to experience against Nigel McGuinness, and claiming the IC Title. Quite the lazy way to pacify those upset with D-Bry’s booking since returning a few months earlier, but if anyone could make that belt mean something again, he’s the very best choice. ***1/2 Since WWE was adamant about having a ladder match on this show, here was one of the million ideas I had in fantasy booking: Seth Rollins is forced (thanks to Sting somehow getting leverage on the Authority) into putting the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line against the five guys (minus Roman Reigns) he and his buddies had violated the most since his betrayal of the Shield. That would be Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry, Ryback, and Randy Orton. That provides a loaded ladder match, that also manages to put two of the company favorites and the three fanbase favorites as mentioned all in a marquee match for the event, as well as providing quite the compelling story for a match since Rollins would see everything he had gained potentially blow up in his face. Now speaking of the two company favorites I was referring to… Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton Rollins is of course accompanied by J&J Security. My favorite match of the night in person, and maybe still even with something else later on objectively edging this out quite a bit. What I love so much about this match is that it not only overcame the shitty booking since Orton’s return several weeks earlier, but this felt the most like a sporting competition compared to everything else on the card. Sure, J&J Security got involved a little bit and were quickly dispatched by Orton, but that was as minimal as possible. This looked like a match in which both men went to the film room and put in their proper time studying one another. There were great counters and blocks all over this match, plus excellent teases. Whether it was Rollins dodging an early Ace Crusher attempt, or blocking a powerslam only to eat one seconds later, this was a purist’s dream for me. In person, this was an excellent match, but on broadcast with polished production, this held up many months later, and the finish of Rollins going for the SR curb stomp, only for his momentum to backfire and see himself lifted to helplessly fall into a perfectly timed Ace Crusher, is gonna be played in highlight reels and talked about for years to come, no matter how uncomfortable WWE is about the stomp. This lived up to my expectations after the classic they had months earlier in Buffalo. **** Dream Match and Sting’s WWE Debut Match Sting vs. Triple H It sure seemed strange to have two of the most promoted matches taking place so early on the card, but I’ll explain why it was actually quite brilliant in my overall assessment of this event at the end of this review. Charles Robinson is the assigned referee, and I shudder to think had it been someone else not familiar with Sting. This may not have been as much fun live if it wasn’t for him. Unlike HHH’s prior WrestleMania match, I’m not going to provide the detailed move by move analysis. This match wasn’t about putting on a technical masterpiece to pay off an angle several months in the making. Instead, this was about providing a dream match for lapsed fans that yearn for the business to feel like the days of the Monday Night War. Now with that said, the first thing I’m going to address is the storyline going into this match. This was a blood feud based on vigilantism vs. corruption and oppression, so this match based on that storyline shouldn’t have relied on the retro faction warfare smoke and mirrors it got. This match certainly needed to have its smoke and mirrors, as NEITHER man looked to be in the best shape from an appearance or conditioning standpoint, but structured more like a brawl. While color was also obviously being saved for later on the card, I believe it was absolutely essential to have here both for the storyline and hide the shortcomings of both performers, and that it wouldn’t take away from the color in another match later. The decision to have the original New World Order and D-Generation X, while providing for a fun, unforgettable segment, was extremely out of place for the storyline developed between Sting and HHH. Don’t get me wrong – it was something to see the two hottest factions of the Monday Night War finally collide, and I never thought the day would come in which SHAWN MICHAELS GIVES STING THE SUPERKICK. That was definitely a surreal moment. I’m going to analyze that decision and its effect on this match even more. I had been critical that Sting’s perspective shouldn’t have been so limited going into this show, and that it should’ve been hammered down the audience’s throat that the Authority reminded him of the nWo being such a destructive cancer and leading cause in WCW’s death (his mission would be to save WWE from a similar fate.) While that dynamic was mentioned in one great video, it was so brief while the Authority hogged so much mic and screen time that even a detailed viewer like me practically blinked and missed it at the time. So DX comes to help out HHH, and then the nWo comes out minutes later. Some may question that based on Sting’s history with the nWo. Why would they come out to help? The reasons are layered – it’s an opportunity for Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to appear on the biggest show of the year, so of course they’ll take it. Also, let’s remember (as much as none of you want to) that when the nWo splintered into separate factions, Sting joined the Wolfpac version. Also while in TNA, Sting has shown he no longer held a grudge against any of those three, teaming with and aiding them on multiple occasions. WWE would never mention these details of course, but they exist. In addition, the original nWo are all backstage at Levi’s Stadium, see someone they went to war with and against getting manhandled by D-Generation X. Why wouldn’t they wanna come help out someone they respect, while also feeling a sense of competitive pride dating back to the Monday Night War to prove who the alpha faction of that time truly is? With that part of the analysis out of the way, I move on to this. The way this match was structured, including DX and nWo involvement/brawling, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and HBK attacking Sting to benefit HHH, this didn’t belong in 2015 at all, not even thinking about the vigilante vs. authority angle. This entire segment should’ve taken place at WrestleMania X8 or WrestleMania XIX, with it leading to the Sting vs. Shawn Michaels dream match at the following year’s WrestleMania. The timing would have been far more appropriate with the War wounds far fresher, it’d lead to a hot match nobody could’ve even thought would become reality, and it’s a shame that couldn’t happen as WWE’s insistence on pussy-footing around with established WCW talent rubbed Sting the wrong way after WCW’s death. With all of this said – this was a hell of a spectacle, even with Sting and HHH appearing to both get gassed or out of sync at points. And I’ve no problem with the handshake afterwards – HHH was the one that offered it, both men having earned each other’s respect and moving on despite what lead to their dream showdown. I’d have had Sting win of course for the obvious reasons, but this definitely contributed to me getting my money’s worth live. For the next half hour or so, the show is all filler. A mini concert. A meaningless divas match pitting the Bella Twins against Paige & AJ Lee (I’m sure Divas champ Nikki tapping clean to Lee’s Octopus hold will lead to something, I just know it will), and then the HOF recognition segment. While many hate filler and I’d usually argue against this as I strongly prefer cards to be structured in order of match importance, it worked for me here for two reasons, one which I’ll list here. This half hour or so of pure filler gave me time to walk around Levi’s Stadium while still in daylight and take in the surrounding Santa Clara beauty. HIGHLY suggested for everyone to do the same when at this venue. US Title Match Rusev vs. John Cena By far the hottest, most sensible angle coming into this show, it’s just a shame that this didn’t quite live up to its buildup or even their first match several weeks earlier. This was of course a good match, but it’s not a compliment when stating the best moment was Rusev’s tank entrance (the night’s best gimmick entrance by far), no matter how spectacular that particular piece of production was. Before I explain why this didn’t quite live up to the hype, especially for this being Rusev’s year-in-the-making first loss, the match had its bright spots. Everything was clean and crisp, nothing sloppy like Sting vs. HHH, and I appreciated Cena’s overall no-nonsense demeanor throughout the match. That sold his perception of Rusev as a threat and also his patriotic anger. Rusev also got his fair moments of dominance and had to really work to lock in the Camel Clutch, but of course it finally wouldn’t work out for him. As for why I found this disappointing, which my star rating won’t reflect, is mostly because this didn’t have a super-hot finishing competitive stretch of epic proportions as it deserved. For Rusev’s historic loss, a year in the making, on the year’s grandest stage, more effort should’ve been placed in showing just how difficult that task would’ve been for Cena, similar to how opponents of the Seahawks have felt for the past four years. A distraction sports-entertainment finish thanks to Lana, while obviously leading to a breakup between her and Rusev that those behind the scenes would want, didn’t add to the primary story. Rusev wouldn’t have been hurt by losing without the sports-entertainment booking; but his stock certainly hurt by being down for the count after just one Death Valley Driver, rather than a series of nail-biting nearfalls that would’ve had us all in attendance jumping up and down with emotion. Like the IC Title with D-Bry earlier in the evening, if the plan is for the US Title to have its prestige raised after a solid Rusev reign, Cena certainly is the best pick possible. ***1/4 In the next segment, the Authority gloat over the supposed attendance record and that they drew the box office, rubbing in HHH’s victory over Sting. To be clear, that wasn’t disrespect from HHH towards Sting, but towards the audience for relying on Sting to get the job done and thinking he could take the Authority down and serve them the same humble pie as the Shield and D-Bry did in 2014. Speaking of pie, out came the Rock, predictably so after the Authority threw in a “millions” remark, What followed is one of the greatest segments I’ve ever experienced live and has been discussed to death in what looked to be leading to a huge crossover match the next year at AT&T Stadium. Rock got the cheap pop talking about his very early days in the Bay Area and got slapped by Stephanie McMahon, then convinced Ronda Rousey to come into the ring and help him knock the Authority down a peg. Not quite on par for me personally with the Championship Ascension Ceremony in Seattle, but definitely an all-time WrestleMania moment that blew Rock, Hogan, and Steve Austin’s segment a year earlier out of the water. Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker Live, this match looked like a sloppy mess to me. That’s explainable as Wyatt reportedly rolled his ankle earlier in the day during warmups or walk-throughs, and he’s not elite enough to overcome that. On broadcast, this match was still nothing special and arguably felt like a waste of time, but Taker still looked a bit lethargic and broken down, albeit still significantly healthier than a year earlier when he was concussed. Of course, Taker gets the win to show he’s still got it, and leaving Wyatt, one of the most pushed acts on the roster without any clear storyline direction. Whatever, the crowd popped for it. WWE Title Match Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns Now of course, was this the right main event? I still say no, even with how shockingly great this turned out to be, as the “right main event” I’m referring to has the potential on paper to be a true all-time classic for the industry should it ever actually occur. Now with that said, I went into Levi’s Stadium, despite how disappointing the Reigns push was, hoping these two would give me my money’s worth and prove everybody wrong that was concerned about the predicted lack of chemistry these two would have. And I’m happy to say that I was totally wrong in that regard. Start to finish, this entire presentation was top-notch art. In a match perfectly structured for each other’s strengths, they went out and smashed it for the top prize in the industry. From Lesnar getting the early domination segment (in a manner far more captivating than Kane or Big Show struggled to reach against Reigns in the months leading up to this), to Reigns smiling to show he could absorb the pain that the Beast Incarnate unleashed upon him, to Lesnar juicing after being slammed head-first into a ring post to transition to Reigns shining, I could not have asked for a better match from these two. It wasn’t just the structure of this match, or even the off-the-charts, unforgettable finish that made this a special match between two bad-ass heavyweights. The crowd provided an AMAZING big fight atmosphere that translated exceptionally well to the broadcast, and I can say that live it was a pleasure to be a part of. Lesnar was the hottest babyface on the roster, and Reigns through no fault of his own was the biggest heel to a significant portion of those in the Bay Area that weekend. Now as for the finish, nobody could’ve really seen it coming after the booking of the prior several weeks and Lesnar signing a contract extension just days earlier. But to see Seth Rollins, the former Tyler Black, sprint to the ring once Reigns had knocked down Lesnar (but still struggling himself to take advantage thanks to the former UFC World Heavyweight Champion’s brutality), and successfully cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase, was a rewarding live experience I’ll remember forever, reminding me of why I remain a fan of such an often-disappointing niche industry after 18 years. He had worked his ass off to achieve the Shawn Michaels spot I foresaw for him a year earlier, and it was the right call to make to give the company a chance to (hopefully) re-evaluate the path for Reigns to reach his inevitable coronation. Plus, Reigns seeing a bit of humility doesn’t hurt him, and Lesnar is still protected since he didn’t do the job. This also adds a layer to the choice Rollins made to sell out and destroy the Shield, in what I hope one day will pay off in that particular threeway dream match so many of us yearn for. ****1/2 Coming out of this show, many who attended it, including Dave Meltzer himself, said this may have been the greatest WrestleMania of all-time. That was a bit hyperbolic, but as someone who has attended every WrestleMania since the 25th edition at the now-named NRG Stadium, this is right behind WrestleMania XXVI in Phoenix as the best one I’ve attended as an overall event and experience. I had mentioned earlier that this show used an unusual but very satisfying format. With many months to have slept on it, it was actually BRILLIANT to split the card into pretty much two halves, with the first half closing with the Sting vs. HHH co-main event prior to going on what was in reality a halftime/intermission show before getting to Rusev vs. Cena to kick off the second half. This allowed those in attendance to get snacks and use the restroom without missing anything important, and for me personally I used the time to admire the geographic and new money beauty surrounding Levi’s Stadium. This was a WrestleMania with two great matches, one of them a MOTYC, plus THREE absolutely unforgettable WrestleMania moments, including a historic first-ever MITB cash-in on the grandest stage (poetically a decade after the concept’s birth), Sting’s first ever WWE match, and what appeared to hopefully be signs of the company re-evaluating some of its storytelling mentalities, both with the one that seems destined to be its next face, as well as two midcard titles that were now placed on true champions. This review isn't quite done yet though. I must throw in my two cents regarding two special documentaries highlighting the WrestleMania 31 journeys of Hideo Itami and Roman Reigns, the former airing on NXT's April 8, 2015 broadcast, the other being a WWE 24 episode. As has been said over and over again, I don't care how much time and money these types of pieces cost, they should be happening more frequently. How anyone could watch these documentaries and not feel some kind of connection to Itami and Reigns, who obviously came from VERY different backgrounds and would both leave Levi's Stadium empty-handed in storyline, would be truly baffling. Not only do these documentaries do a great job of highlighting its particular superstars, but the engulfing experience that is WrestleMania weekend and why everyone should enjoy it first-hand at least once.