Wow, that was really something wasn’t it? Certainly historic, even if not for the right reasons. Shall we start from the beginning? Let’s.
The pre-show had a great little tag-team four-way. In it, we saw the true gimmicky potential for Los Matadores and El Torrito, we got the best work from Ryback and Axel we’ve seen in months – in fact, seeing some of Ryback’s moves last night I remember why he was main eventing PPV’s not too long ago – and even though The Real American’s dominated, taking out two teams, the Uso’s left the building with the belts, showing us some high flying action while they were at it.
All was not done for the Real American’s though. After the match, Jack Swagger was not best pleased with his partner and looked to put him into the Patriot Lock. Cesaro – having none of it – responded with a giant swing. Having both men go their separate ways is the best thing that can happen right now. Cesaro now has a shot at proving that he’s main event material and Swagger can go back to being a physically dominant heel.
After this, we had a real special moment. Hogan introduces WrestleMania XXX and brings Stone Cold and The Rock along for the ride. What made this moment truly go over the top though was that all three men were clearly having a riot. Stone Cold got right up in Hogan’s face. Hogan challenged Austin years ago at his Hall of Fame induction but Stone Cold said his spine was too beat up to ever wrestle again. Stone Cold didn’t take kindly to be called out either. This was a knife-edge. That’s not what this night was about though and the tension made the banter even more hilarious. The highlight was Hogan “accidentally” calling the New Orleans Superdome the Silverdome, the venue in which he bodyslammed Andre the Giant. Now, as the jokes were a little too perfect and as there is a battle royale named after the famous behemoth in the event, I’m not sure this was as improvised as they were making it seem. Does that matter? Not one bit.
Next we have the much anticipated Daniel Bryan versus Triple H. This was by far and away the best match of the night and it was the most technical match WWE has put on since the days of Benoit, Guerrero and Angle. Funny how the best moment on a PPV that was founded on the notion of combining celebrities with pro wrestling, was the most old-school and traditional moment of the night. Watching this you are reminded just how rare it is to just see a suplex in this day and age. Bryan won cleanly which was a breath of fresh air. You knew after this match that finally he would have his night. Oh and HHH came out to an entrance that had to have three scantily clad women in it just to make sure nobody thought it looked gay. It looked like he lost a bet.
Then The Shield came out, they dominated, destroyed their opponents and then left. I feel sorry for anyone who quickly got up to get a drink during the entrances because they probably missed the whole match. It was a dominant showing by the team who just outright buried their opposition, cementing them as the most dominant force in the company. They problem though? It just didn’t feel like a WrestleMania moment. The match was over too quickly and there wasn’t enough storytelling to support the spots, which – while neat – don’t come off as iconic as they could have done.
The 30 man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale otherwise known as “We’ve got thirty other guys on the roster, what the hell do we do with them?” Battle Royale. For something that started out with thirty men in the ring this turned out to be pretty decent. Once the overcrowded ring was cleared there were some pretty decent spots, including Kofi Kingston getting thrown miles without ever touching the ground. But what made this match was the finish. Suddenly the Andre the Giant assosiations made a lot more sense. Antonio Cesaro, pound for pound the strongest man in WWE and in the build-up far more involved with is shot at tag team gold, picked up the favourite to win and tossed him over the ropes. The favourite was The Big Show, a 7ft tall, 500lb, giant, constantly compared to Andre. Picking him up is like Hogan doing it to the French collussus back in WrestleMania 3. It was a great thing for Show to do the job here as many thought his name would be etched on the trophy already, he even shook Cesaro’s hand on the way out. Cesaro winning big is something the crowd have been after for months and the pop he got here was huge.
Next was Bray Wyatt and John Cena. While I’m one of those who don’t really get on with Cena’s sloppiness, the chance to see Bray at Mania made this one of my most anticipated bouts. Bray Wyatt is like Jake the Snake, Terry Funk, Mick Foley and the Undertaker all rolled into one. He is the best character in years, and one of the greatest creatives working in wrestling today. The angles he takes his feuds into make for some of the most compelling television WWE is capable of offering. Here he and Cena made a masterclass in Sports Entertainment Storytelling. Bray was practically begging Cena to delve into his dark side to beat him, meaning that his prediction of Hustle Loyalty and Respect meaning nothing would come to fruition. And we saw that dark side but Cena managed – barely – to contain it. But it does exist leaving the feud open to continue next month at Extreme Rules. Will we see Bray Wyatt destroy the legacy of John Cena?
After that was Undertaker vs Lesnar which we will talk about later for obvious reasons. Then the Divas match which was always going to go to AJ Lee. She’s been great for the division, one of the best heels in female wrestling history. Challengers so far would be Emma and Tamina Snuka. But apart from that none have the in ring skill or the charisma to carry the title. Although things will get interesting when Paige makes the transition from NXT to WWE. There is a girl who has the presence of a champion.
Finally we have the main event (although not the main event in this article). Daniel Bryan vs Batista vs Randy Orton. The match maybe triple threat, but its all about one man and one word. The YES! Movement was out in force throughout the entire event, possibly the biggest presence its ever had. The whole arena was buzzing and the tension was palpable. The Authority put him through the wringer. Crooked refs, sledge hammers, Triple H payback, announce tables, Bryan went through them all. But his victory was set in stone and the crowd finally picked up after seeing their champion rise to the occasion. Or is it the occasion that rose to him?
Us fans who have cheered for Bryan for all these years should be happy. But it isn’t his victory I woke up this morning thinking about. For once Daniel Bryan is not the main talking point in this article. I think we all know what that is. Undertaker lost the Streak. And he lost it to Brock Lesnar . There are many arguments for it. Brock is a legit tough guy, his fame transcends Wrestling, the shock of this loss means that fans now know that anything really can happen, that you can take nothing for granted. All of this is true. But the price is far too high. The streak stands as one of the most unique accomplishments in all of wrestling; the person to beat it has an achievement worth five title reigns, probably more than that. Loads of people have held titles, but only one can conquer the streak.
Brock Lesnar may only be thirty-six but he’s still a pretty beat up guy. He can’t put in the hours fans would like him to pull, he also dosen’t display the kind of respect for the industry that many of the hardcore audience like to see. Wrestling to him – as he has said many times – is a paycheck, only worth doing if no other sport will take him. Remember his bout with Goldberg at WrestleMania XX? Did WWE really just give the streak to a guy capable of that kind of apathy on a stage as grand as WrestleMania? On the occasion where Brock does turn up can we really rely on him to “turn up.” Also does this really do anything for Lesnar’s legitimacy? For the kind of fans he attracts, he already is as big of a bad ass as you can get.
And even if he does get a lot of heat off of this victory, will it be the right kind of heat? Only a few months ago WWE gave another prestigious win to another part timer. He was greeted not with the kind of boos that were so great for the heel heat of Triple H or The Rock back in the day. He was given bitter, disillusioned boos, negative and unpleasant. His very presence was unwanted. The very same might happen for Lesnar. And no matter how you spin it “Eat Sleep Conquer the Streak” will never sell as many T-Shirts as “22-0”.
One other side of it is this. I’m about to tell you something and I want your reaction. Chris Jericho in one night beat both Stone Cold and The Rock to become the first Undisputed WWE Champion. So what did you think about that? Did you think “Wow, I now think of him as a more legit competitor than before” or did you think “What?! Really?? Who booked that?” Lesnar is in danger of falling into the same category.
So who should it have gone to? Well CM Punk is the obvious choice so it could never be him. In reality I see only two men who could do it. Both could be his successors, so the match would have that passing of the torch fans element have dreamed of. One could be his successor through sheer physicality, and fighting style. The other through his use of in ring psychology to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The former is Roman Reigns, the latter Bray Wyatt. One of them winning would give them the kind of heat that would really optimise their ascent to stardom in a way that couldn’t really happen with Lesnar.
The worst thing about this though? Not who was chosen to do it but the way they chose to do it. They sacrificed drama for surprise. The thing about surprize is, it’s cheap and its easy. You know how to generate surprize? You just do the thing that no one sees coming. And what people see coming is easy to manipulate. There was some hype surrounding the Lesnar fight but not much. Nowhere near the level of Taker v Michaels or Taker v Triple H. No real angle to help the victory really lift off. He doesn’t have a streak of his own, there’s not a passing of the torch element as we mentioned earlier, I’m not even sure who his opponent will be next as there are no real obvious choices. The match wasn’t even that great (maybe it was but not on the level of WrestleMania 25 or 26) and Lesnar isn’t the wrester he used to be. This felt like an unceremonious dumping of the streak when it should have been a fitting tribute.
There’s only one real reason for this to happen. Taker doesn’t think he can make another WrestleMania. He left The Superdome with a concussion and a near broken neck. Just ask Bret Hart or Edge what injuries like those can do to you. It’s a shame as this smacks of a rush job. Not something that they wanted to do, but something that they had to do. To put an end to the streak before the streak put an end to taker. People don’t quit when they’re at the top because they’ve got so much success to look forward to. People quit when they know all their success is behind them.