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The Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ WrestleMania XXX HUGE kudos to the production crew. Fantastic stage setting and appropriate lighting for a venue that is generally an eyesore for those watching on TV. Tag Titles - Elimination Match The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Real Americans vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel Fun match with all kinds of crowd-popping spots, including El Torito getting his shit in. Cesaro was of course the star of the match, continuing his momentum that had been ongoing since CM Punk's abrupt vanishing from WWE. Every time he got on offense, the crowd became hotter. Any time someone cut him off or got offense on him, extremely audible jeers. What matters most obviously is that Cesaro lost the final fall to the Usos, which live at the time seemed puzzling since he was clearly ascending to a substantial position on the roster, while Jack Swagger was an established mid-carder after multiple attempts at various pushes. But the Real Americans had come into this match with tension, an angle I had failed to mention as I reviewed the journey to this event. Swagger therefore shit on Cesaro much to Zeb Coulter's dismay for the loss, then placed the ankle lock on the former King of Wrestling. After Coulter convinced Swagger to stop and shake hands to apologize, Cesaro finally gave into the crowd's demand, delivering the anticipated giant swing to the former NCAA All-American as the audience popped huge. This had been building for several weeks and was perfectly timed and positioned on the card, as this was part of the free pre-show as a final way to entice anyone on the fence about ordering. *** The Three Icons of the WrestleMania Era The actual PPV portion of the event kicks off with the greatest, most charismatic talking segment in WrestleMania history, as host Hulk Hogan comes out to fire the crowd up and twice mistakenly refers to the evening's venue as the Silverdome, then catches himself when the crowd gives him a hard time over it. Minutes into this, his promo is interrupted by Steve Austin, and they have a staredown, making all long-time and lapsed fans sad we never got that dream match. Austin cuts his own great promo to fire up the crowd, giving Hogan a hard time for the Silverdome flub. He also puts Hogan over huge, showing a side that had significantly mellowed out since his big-leaguing of the fellow HOFer a dozen years earlier. But we're not done here, as the Rock interrupted to further electrify the crowd. Rock went through his routine that always works because he knows what the fuck he's doing when he grabs a microphone. He then says we have two icons in the ring that truly paved the way for two of the biggest babyfaces for tonight's event. Before John Cena was telling kids to live and die by hustle, loyalty, and respect, there was Hogan telling the previous generation's kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers. Before Daniel Bryan faced his oppression at the hands of corrupt power figures, there was Austin raising hell every week on Vince McMahon and company. They close out the segment putting each other over, each doing their promo-closing routine one at a time. This is a segment I will never forget experiencing live, one truly deserving of being placed on the grandest stage. WWE Title Shot Match Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan The PPV matches kick off with the primary match of the evening, obviously to make sure the winner would have time to rest for his earned spot in the main event. Stephanie McMahon introduces her husband, who has an awesomely OTT entrance, sitting on a throne and dressing like Shao Khan, just completely saying through this sequence that he thumbed his nose at his scheduled opponent for the evening. In contrast, D-Bry came out with the long hippy hair, bushy beard, and just regular gear, truly setting the story for anyone not familiar with the events that led to this dream match. D-Bry's left shoulder is heavily taped due to the damage inflicted upon it the past couple months. Before the opening bell, the Authority have an intimate kiss, completely rubbing it in that they're happy and successful, then HHH looks at the former WWE Champion ever so smugly. The Game offers a handshake, which D-Bry obviously rejects by kicking the hand and trying to get this matchup over early with a schoolboy pin. D-Bry goes on a fury, but HHH takes a quick powder to ensure no momentum is built. HHH looks to cut off D-Bry's superior technical wrestling and striking, but D-Bry cuts him off to regain momentum, making HHH's cut off merely a hope spot and then gets a headlock takedown. He easily gets out of HHH's head-scissors as fans of the indy scene during the 2000s had the pleasure of seeing him do on a nightly basis. HHH during a headlock gets D-Bry in a corner and goes after the left arm, but D-Bry doesn't allow that to go on long at all, unleashing more furious kicks to the crowd's delight. But HHH catches the left leg and drops it STO style, showing off why he has such a cerebral reputation. However, even that doesn't really go anywhere for the time being, as D-Bry prevents HHH from dragging him into a corner for more limb work. He charges at the first-ballot HOFer multiple times, including doing a front flip off the top rope which looked to be a bad landing for someone with a well-documented injury history. As D-Bry continues owning HHH, Steph attempts to verbally troll him, knowing damn well her husband is getting his ass kicked so far. HHH crotches D-Bry as he goes for another top-rope move, finally gaining some significant heat over the former multi-promotional champion. He follows that up with a charge to knock D-Bry down to the floor in front of the commentary tables. He attempts a Pedigree on one of those tables, but D-Bry blocks it and fights back, only for HHH to grab the severely pained left arm and slam it onto the table! At this point the commentary team, which has often been justifiably criticized, did a phenomenal job in selling HHH's craftiness. JBL in particular really put over the brilliant bluffing HHH pulled on D-Bry, going after the left leg early to make it seem like he wouldn't target the left arm. This was critical in showing that while the stakes were incredibly high and the emotions going into this even higher, this was also a matchup of two of the most gifted in-ring psychologists in the history of the business. HHH of course became merciless on D-Bry's left arm, slamming it down with various moves and locking submissions aplenty, including a modified London Dungeon. But even THAT is short, as it looks like D-Bry is about to regain momentum when he throws off HHH to the outside and goes for a tope suicida, only to get cut off by the Game before flying through the ropes. HHH gives him a Hammerlock Backdrop Suplex on the apron, and D-Bry's audible screams of pain are sensational just like his classic against Randy Orton in Dallas a few months earlier. Stephanie chimes in with "you mess with the bull, you get the horns," then kisses her gloating husband. Awesome. D-Bry of course follows up his sensational screams of pain with sensational selling outside the ring, struggling to get up and break the ten count. In yet another highlight of the match, one that shows what an excellent student of the game HHH is, D-Bry finds himself in one of his own established finishers, that being the Crossface Chickenwing. Fantastic poetry while also causing further pain to the damaged left arm and shoulder. As D-Bry is losing consciousness, the crowd rallies behind him, hoping to not see him pass out. HHH then further shows off his experience and studying habits, locking on the Crippler Crossface, reminding all technical wrestling fans of an even sexier dream match we sadly never got to witness. D-Bry reaches the ropes, only for seconds later to get that left arm slammed down with an arm twist on the mat. The Game goes to work with punches in the corner, and D-Bry attempts to fight back to no avail as the audience is trying to give him adrenaline. They exchange more punches, with a crowd reaction reminding me of Rock vs. Hogan and Austin Aries vs. CM Punk, and this time D-Bry is able to regain the heat with a running forearm straight to the face. That though is also short-lived, with us bearing witness to yet another display of brilliance from HHH. When D-Bry goes for his turnbuckle backflip spot, HHH stays in the center of the ring, not allowing D-Bry to get behind him. I can't recall any of D-Bry's most reputable opponents on the indies ever scouting this out, nor any of his prior opponents in WWE either. That moment of brilliance doesn't get much though, as D-Bry blocks a German Suplex and unleashes a couple of his own. HHH blocks a third and goes for the Crossface Chickenwing, but D-Bry intelligently sees it coming this time and blocks it, only to get dumped on his head and shoulders via a release Butterfly Suplex. Hey, if you're gonna do head drops and other risky shit, THIS is the show to do it on. D-Bry blocks a Superplex attempt to the crowd's delight, landing a Sunset Flip Powerbomb for a great crowd pop and slowing down the Game's momentum. HHH goes to recover in a corner, so D-Bry goes for this routine three running heel kicks, but the third, much like Cena, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, and Nigel McGuinness had done in the past, countered that with a beautiful lariat. When they both get up, HHH goes for another Pedigree, but D-Bry blocks that and goes for a jackknife pin for two, then follows that up with a kick to the head. At this point the crowd is starting to get incredibly excited, sensing that their chosen face of the company was gonna finally humble the Authority. But a diving headbutt is blocked with a knee to the face, and HHH then locks on the Crippler Crossface again. It should be obvious at this point that this match was a partial tribute to a man that had a significant impact on both men's careers, one by working with him, the other being inspired and heavily influenced by him. This second Crippler Crossface was a sight to behold, as HHH made sure to block D-Bry's eyesight during a portion of the submission. D-Bry rolls back but HHH keeps it locked on, remembering the same thing had happened to him a decade earlier and learning from it should he ever be in the opposite position. D-Bry rolls back again though and goes for a pin attempt false finish, then gets the Lebell Lock on, a moment we had been waiting to see for many, many months! As a receipt, D-Bry makes sure to block HHH's vision, and Stephanie has to audibly coach HHH to make him aware of how close he is to the ropes. With HHH on the outside getting nursed by Steph, D-Bry hits two tope suicidas, then follows that up with a missile shotgun dropkick in the ring. He kips up to another great crowd pop, and then sucks up whatever pain he's feeling to land furious kicks to the chest and a final kick to the head as the crowd pops yet again. More than 20 minutes into this classic, both men are exhausted and the crowd expresses their happiness watching this unfold. D-Bry goes for the Busaiku knee, but this is the Cerebral Assassin he's facing. In a match in which HHH likely brought forth the most brilliant game plan of his career, there was no greater display of his scouting techniques than taking D-Bry's momentum and turning it into a spinebuster that certainly had Arn Anderson popping backstage. HHH goes for the Pedigree and the thrid attempt's the charm, but that's nothing more than a phenomenal false finish as the crowd is going apeshit. D-Bry pulls out the small package, but that's another false finish unlike his ROH days. HHH shows his frustration, almost getting DQ'ed for not breaking his punches in the corner. He then goes for another Pedigree, but D-Bry flips him overhead and keeps the butterfly position for another great false finish pin. HHH rolls D-Bry over with the arms still butterflied, but D-Bry dead-weights him, so HHH knees D-Bry in the face a few times for good measure and to display his frustration. Another Pedigree attempt though is countered as D-Bry gets out of it and lands a roundhouse kick, but a second roundhouse kick is ducked. HHH looks to go for an Atomic Drop or backdrop suplex, but D-Bry flips back to land on his feet, then finishes off the Game finally with a Busaiku knee!!! Steph's facial expression is priceless, the facade she and her husband running for months becoming exposed on the grandest stage. The crowd is of course ecstatic and D-Bry is exhausted as he celebrates. Steph walks over to slap him, leaving him to be attacked from behind by HHH. The Game slams the damaged left shoulder on the ring post, then smacks it with a steel chair, completely embarrassed as the Authority try to mask it with smugness and their underhanded corruption. D-Bry goes into the main event with the odds only stacked against him even more. For many years, the thought of Triple H vs. Bryan Danielson had always intrigued me, dating back to the latter's days on the indy scene as he showed why he was clearly the best in-ring wrestler this side of the Pacific. I had always imagined they would have at least very good chemistry, as both are master storytellers and HHH has proven to be more than capable of working a great technical wrestling match when the time calls for it. And when the fantastic SummerSlam 2013 ended, I was excited to know this match would be taking place on this night. That this match almost didn't happen despite the lack of an emotionally satisfying conclusion as 2013 ended, only for a series of game-changing events to take place in order for it to do so, makes me feel like it was truly fate that this dream match was destined to take place at such an important landmark event. But did this match live up to the expectations I had? To be brutally honest - it shattered them. Due to the storyline, I went into the Superdome expecting this to be more of a sports-entertainment style that favored HHH's routine. That element was obviously utilized to its fullest potential, but these men also managed to add in the sizzling technical wrestling that I always saw them pulling off together should they ever face off. In addition, the commentary for this match deserves an ovation of its own, as JBL, Michael Cole, & Jerry Lawler did a great job in putting over the emotions, work, and story being told in the ring. Stephanie was a delightful wrinkle as well, adding further heat with her presence, trolling, and mannerisms as she rooted for the love of her life. This was a jaw-dropping roller-coaster that more than lived up to its storyline as well as its position as the most pushed match going into this show. This was a back-and-forth nailbiter with amazing counters, outstanding submission wrestling, and incredible storytelling. I also loved this significantly more than The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber 2014. The only nitpick complaint that keeps this from being a flawless masterpiece is that they had to hold back just a teeny bit for obvious reasons. But make no mistake: I look forward to the eventual rematch at some point, as I know they have a perfect match in them; and this is a work of art, easily in the top three matches I've ever seen live, right behind the pieces of perfection pitting D-Bry against Roderick Strong at Vendetta and HHH against Undertaker inside the Cell at Sunlife Stadium. ****3/4 The Shield vs. Kane & New Age Outlaws An almost complete obliteration to showcase the Shield. It's a shame we look to never get a classic Shield match at WrestleMania, but at least they were booked to be pure bad-asses with all three stars getting their shit in on the old geezers before putting them down in a matter of minutes. We got a wacky backstage segment with a bunch of legends, ending with Ron Simmons doing his "Damn" routine. First Ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Clusterfuck at first as these matches usually are due to too many bodies in the ring, but it improved as it they thinned out the complete, utter jabronis. An early highlight was Fandango teasing an elimination and then the crowd Fandango-ing in appreciation as he gyrated on the apron. Another major highlight was Kofi Kingston looking to be eliminated, but it turns out both of his feet landed on the steel steps. Phenomenal spot. The match got significantly better once it got to the stars of substance such as Big Show, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Rey Mysterio, and Alberto Del Rio. The crowd appreciated seeing another giant swing from Cesaro as he unleashed it on Kingston, only to get pissed off when Show chokeslammed him. They popped for Ziggler's offense, but he was still in his burial stage so he got immediately eliminated by Del Rio as soon as his heat segment started. Del Rio put a cross armbreaker on Sheamus, but was lifted up while the submission was still locked in. Sheamus attempted to break the hold over the ropes so that Del Rio would drop and be eliminated, but Del Rio held on and it became a mutual elimination, leaving Show and Cesaro as the final two. The crowd became antsy at this point, as this was definitely an interesting matchup, the respected veteran giant against an ascending mid-carder. Cesaro breaks a chokeslam and tries to clothesline Show over the ropes. Cesaro goes for a top rope move but Show just slaps his chest. Cesaro manages to slide off of Show's shoulder before getting dumped, then gives the giant a European Uppercut. Cesaro then follows that up with a scoop slam to eliminate Big Show and win the trophy as the crowd popped in approval! Not a match that'll get a special rating, but a special moment that brilliantly offset Cesaro's loss earlier in the evening. Oh what WWE had on their hands with this guy... John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt This one turns out to not hold up. The video package was phenomenal stuff, reminding me that other than Cena channeling Hogan from October 1998, this was a truly excellent program to elevate a fresh talent and give a potential wrinkle to Cena's character. The use of Eminem's "Legacy" certainly didn't hurt either. But the match itself, it really just never picked up. The story was a fine idea on paper, that Wyatt would try to be Heath Ledger's Joker, a tortured soul that left Cena opportunities to display that he would finally be corrupted. And like the Joker, Wyatt would utilize Cena's ethics against him to gain an advantage when he felt like it, as well as making sure that Luke Harper & Erick Rowan intervened behind the ref's back. I appreciate that the goal was for Wyatt to be an unpredictable heel. With that said, Wyatt showed once again that he fails to be emotionally engaging when he has the heat, as he does nothing to fire the crowd up, to make them hate him and wanna see the babyface make a comeback. That is the ultimate failure of this highly anticipated showdown. Once Wyatt figures out how to engage the audience, perhaps he won't feel so overpushed at the expense of others who do a significantly better job of connecting with the paying customers. I don't even care at this point that Cena won the match. Sure, Wyatt, much like Cesaro, was an ascending star, and even had the bragging rights of pinning Roman Reigns twice as well as the only clean singles victory over D-Bry in the past year. But as I just detailed, would the Wyatt character have any additional value had he won this match when the guy portraying the gimmick has such obvious holes in his game still? Howard Finkle introduces the 2014 WWE HOF class to the audience. Little did we know that we were seeing the last of a man that is a staple in WrestleMania lore. Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker Like the match prior, fantastic video package with Paul Heyman putting over the significance of what Lesnar was aiming to do just so strongly. This match was even sadder to watch almost a year later. Not even just because of the match itself, which was handicapped by Taker getting a concussion when he was thrown into a barricade (that's how it appeared to this viewer at least), but also WWE's failure to truly maximize the historic result of this match. But the aftermath is a topic I'll be detailing later on in this reviewing project. I understand many people being upset about a part-timer being the one to break The Streak, even though someone rational like me could see the benefit of it. I was only upset that such an iconic moment took place in such a tedious, plodding match. Not only was Taker clearly woozy, but the story of the match itself, which was pushed only even more by the commentary, was "wow, Taker is old." Not exactly a captivating narrative. Those who say that Lesnar is an overrated performer will certainly be using this match as a primary example to back up their argument. But just because he couldn't carry a concussed, broken down 49 year old heavyweight doesn't mean he wasn't "deserving" of this moment, nor does it mean he's terrible at what WWE pays him millions to do a few times per year. Only a select few in the world could've gotten anything resembling a fun match in these circumstances, and it's not a slight on Lesnar that he's not one of those few. I really can't be bothered to give this the same kind of detailed treatment as HHH vs. D-Bry. One moment, no matter how iconic and historic, doesn't justify that for me. But this match was opposite of that, as I can't imagine any nails being bitten by the fellow 70,000+ fellow fans that were in attendance unless it was done out of habit or boredom. The crowd reaction was certainly something, but would've been much hotter had this match not been such a chore to sit through. Lesnar and Heyman are booed out of the building before they leave the stage, although I'm not sure if that's good or bad heat. Taker gets a well-deserved standing ovation for the legacy he built as he walks the aisle for what many wondered at the time would be his final ringside walk ever. I for one am glad he's gonna try to make sure he goes out with a better match that this one, as this was a sad sight to watch, much like Peyton Manning's injury-riddled performance when his former Colts eliminated his Broncos in decisive fashion. WrestleMania 31 - March 29, 2015 in the Bay Area~! AJ Lee wins a match against a bunch of other divas to keep the Divas Title in the obvious death spot of the night. The crowd doesn't give a shit as they had the air sucked out of them by what they just witnessed minutes earlier. The only note I'll make is we got a preview of obviously the most enthralling program of the year when Brie Bella and Nikki Bella went at it. WWE Title Match - No DQ, No Countout Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan Crowd finally recovers in this one for D-Bry, although they never truly recovered from having the air sucked out of them. The Authority come out to try to spoil it all for D-Bry, attacking him and bringing back the supposedly fired ref Scott Armstrong, who is clearly taking orders from them and revealing he had been in cahoots with HHH at Night of Champions 2013. D-Bry takes them all out and gets them to fuck off so he can focus on regaining the prize that he had continuously been getting screwed out of for months. The match itself wasn't super special, as it was about the moment. Unlike Taker vs. Lesnar though, this was still incredibly fun with a great story. Orton & Batista went after the injured D-Bry early to take him out, both to prey on him for being weakened, and also knowing he was on a white-hot roll that had been ongoing for almost a year. They took him out with a powerbomb neckbreaker combo on the commentary tables at ringside, with Orton taking a bad bump and hurting himself in doing so. Before that spot, Orton and Batista had a good fight as D-Bry was knocked out, with Batista getting backdropped on steel steps when attempting a powerbomb. With Batista down, Orton saw D-Bry regaining consciousness, so Orton attacked him to keep him down before the big double-team spot I detailed in the prior paragraph. Amazing that Batista could still go after that steel steps bump. The crowd though didn't care for obvious reasons when the heels went at it, so when D-Bry finally came back into the action, they truly woke up with excitement. Nothing would keep him down, not even doctors trying to take him away from ringside on a stretcher. They had a nice finishing sequence for the last few minutes, with Orton being knocked out of the ring. In the meantime, D-Bry got Batista in the Lebell Lock, leaving the Rumble winner with no choice but to tap out. I'd have liked a couple false finishes with that before the tapout, but I'll take it. For anyone not to see this finish coming, that's a clear indication of their lack of instinct as this was telegraphed at the end of Elimination Chamber 2014. This match was very fun with everyone working hard, ending with a moment on par with the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII for me. For fans of independent wrestling during the 2000s decade, the only more rewarding moment that could've taken place on this night would've been Punk vs. D-Bry in the main event, unifying the titles. Seeing Bryan Danielson holding both title belts to close out a landmark WrestleMania inside such a historic venue was rewarding, vindicating, and a defining reason on why I love pro wrestling despite all of its bullshit and disappointment. ***1/2 Greatest WrestleMania ever as some wondered when leaving the Superdome? Sorry - this doesn't measure up to WrestleMania X-Seven and WrestleMania XIX. Overall, it's not quite as great as I had remembered that night. But this is one to watch and remember, with a legacy that nobody could've seen coming as the show closed that night. The booking was newsworthy, some of it phenomenal, some of it head-scratching (and even maddening for those irrational) at the time, almost entirely across the board. We got a talking segment involving the Mt. Rushmore of the past quarter century, one that will never be topped. We got a tag team split we had been aching to see, complete with the ascending star getting the nod in a match paying tribute to a HOF giant. In addition, we got the Shield being displayed as unfuckable bad-asses, a critical piece of storytelling in the wake of them almost breaking up, setting the stage for a shocking, game-changing moment to come. Most importantly, we got two stars standing head-and-shoulders above everyone else for what they accomplished. Daniel Bryan, after months of oppression, and years of connecting with every audience he ever performed in front of, reached what will certainly be his career defining moment, even if he defeats the other shining star of this night at another WrestleMania. He won two main event matches to gain the top prize in the business, one of them an all-time classic in company history that more than lived up to its hype. For him personally, it doesn't get any better than the entire family being present for a moment like that, a dynamic he'll sadly never to get experience again. The other star as I just alluded to was of course Brock Lesnar, shattering a mythical element and looking to have possibly ended the Undertaker's career in addition to The Streak. It's a moment that will obviously always stand the test of time, and even though the match was lousy for understandable reasons, that moment itself makes the match must-see at least once for all fans of pro wrestling. It is this decade's version of Mick Foley being thrown off the top of the Cell. There's also an element of sadness to this show, as not only would Danielson lose a family member present at ringside shortly afterwards, as well as his well-known fan Connor the Crusher, but this would be the farewell weekend of the Ultimate Warrior. As would be said later in the week, it seemed to be fate that his final moments would be burying the hatchet and becoming more involved in celebrating his role in the legacy of WWE. These tragedies only further put forth an additional value on the show that cannot ever be properly measured in words; they remind us on such a night of pageantry and anticipation of what truly matters most, that life, love, and family are precious and not to be taken for granted. With that said, this was a hell of a way to kick off The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit, and we're gonna keep on rolling with a night of celebration in the Big Easy on the next post.