We’re just days away from the most STUPENDOUS WrestleMania weekend ever! It’s no doubt that WWE is going all out with the two-night event set to be closed by “the biggest WrestleMania match of all time”. With WWE Champion Brock Lesnar taking on WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns in a winner takes all unification match, I thought it’d be good timing to revisit one of their two previous WrestleMania encounters. But which of the two would I be revisiting? Thankfully Twitter was at hand to help and voted for their WrestleMania 31 encounter.

I’ll say I’m grateful to everyone who voted for two reasons: 1) this match is far more memorable, and 2) WrestleMania 31 is an easier watch compared to the marathon slog the yearly event would become just a few years later. Excluding the two pre-show matches, we’ve got seven matches tonight, thankfully. Anyway, let’s go back in time to 2015 and head to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

After the usual opening ceremonies – Aloe Blacc performing ‘America the Beautiful’ in the Californian sun, and LL Cool J hosting the opening video package, it’s time for our first match. Ladder matches have a history of standing out at WrestleMania. Tonight that continued with a stellar seven-man Intercontinental Championship ladder match involving current titleholder Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, the late Luke Harper, Stardust, and Daniel Bryan.

As expected, this was chaotic straight away. Throughout there were a variety of dives and ladders used as weapons with each participant given a moment to shine.

Stardust freaked out to chants of “Cody” and drops a ladder on Harper. He then pulled out a glitter-covered ladder, which saw Barrett break off one of its rungs and used it as a weapon. Barret suplexed Stardust off a large ladder. Harper powerbombed Ambrose through a ladder outside. Ziggler wore down Harper to deliver a zig-zag off of a ladder. Barrett hit Ziggler, Stardust, and R-Truth with bull-hammer elbows. The crowd erupted as Bryan grabbed for the title but was stopped by Barrett. Bryan delivered a flying knee to Barrett before climbing the ladder again. Ziggler and he slugged it out with fists and headbutts. With Ziggler knocked off, Bryan reached up and became Intercontinental Champion for the first time.

This was a hot start with a plethora of spots from start to finish, and it’s topped off with a crowd-pleasing winner in Daniel Bryan.

A recap of Seth Rollins’ rise as part of “The Authority’ and his feud with Randy Orton leads into a match between the two. Rollins was the current Money In The Bank holder and was accompanied by Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury (J&J Security). Orton and Rollins went back and forth before Orton dropped a double DDT on J&J. Rollins dived onto Orton, sending him into the announcer’s table. Seth claimed it was “his time” as he briefly dominated Orton, who avoided a curb stomp with a powerslam.

More back and forth action before Orton draped Rollins across the middle rope to deliver his signature DDT. Orton rallied up the crowd as Seth rolled him for a 2 count. Randy hit an RKO but failed to get the pinfall. A frustrated Orton prepared to punt kick Orton but J&J attempted to interfere only to both receive RKO’s in the process. Curb stomp from Rollins. A desperate Rollins attempted a Phoenix splash but rolled through. This led to the highlight reel moment where Rollins went for another curb stomp but ended up using Orton’s back as a springboard who then delivered a stunning RKO for the win.

Hey look, it’s UFC’s Ronda Rousey in the front row! Anyway… for 20 years, Triple H breathed WWE to the point where he’s had a greater responsibility than any of us can imagine. But there’s an icon here to stop his domination… it’s Sting!

It’s a shame Sting’s only WrestleMania appearance was in the blazing East Coast sun, as his entrance would look so much better at night. New WWE Hall of Famer Arnold Schwarzenegger said “judgement day is here. It’s time to play the Game” as HHH embraced the Terminator with his extravagant entrance. The Stinger and The Game faced off before tying up. HHH took advantage with rights. but his signature face-breaker smash into the knee did not affect Sting. On the outside, Sting missed a stinger splash landing on the barricade. HHH continued to dominate. JBL belittled Sting on commentary; “he’s a minnow in a freaking ocean”.

Sting put on the scorpion deathlock only to be interrupted by D-Generation X; Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, and X-Pac. Sting dived onto the outside onto all four members. Pedigree by HHH but it was only a 2 count. As HHH grabbed his sledgehammer, Sting’s former rivals, the new World order (Hogan, Nash, and Hall) turned up to help him. It was DX vs nWo! (just 15 or so years too late).

Scorpion Death Drop to HHH. X-Pac pushed Hogan into the ring post, as Sting put the deathlock on again but he met by Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music. HHH had his sledgehammer, but Hall handed Sting his iconic black baseball bat. He used it to snap Hunter’s weapon in half. Sting took advantage, yet HHH used the head of the hammer for the win.

Sure, it had a dose of nostalgia, but the outcome should have been different. On paper, this could’ve been a classic but it was hindered by being over-booked and the wrong winner.

Following a musical performance by Skylar Grey, Travis Barker, and Kid Ink, it was time for some Divas tag team action as AJ Lee and Paige faced Divas Champion Nikki Bella and her sister, Brie. The Bellas took out Lee early on to focus on Paige. Nevertheless, she rallied to give the hot tag to AJ. She attempted a black widow submission but was stopped by Brie. Paige saw her off by throwing Brie into the ring steps. A second black widow saw Nikki tap out.

The women’s division was months away from beginning its “Evolution,” yet considerably all four of these performers had an influence on it, this match was forgettable. Formulaic and not different to what we saw weekly.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2015 was out, as Rikishi, Alundra Blayze, the Bushwhackers, Larry Zybzsko, Tatsumi Fujinami, Lanny Poffo (representing the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage), Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kevin Nash waved to the crowd.

Rusev WrestleMania 31
It’s US Championship time. Rusev had been dominating John Cena in recent weeks. Rusev’s celebratory Russian-centric entrance certainly wouldn’t be happening now, even if he did come out on a tank! Cena’s entrance celebrated America’s determination and fight for freedom. This was your run-of-the-mill John Cena match.

The undefeated Rusev dominated for the majority of the match, showcasing his strength. Of course, big match John momentarily rallied up to deliver a five knuckle shuffle. Rusev came back with a series of big moves before Cena reversed with an STF submission. Although Lana’s flying shoe didn’t entirely detract Cena, Rusev broke the hold. He delivered a flying headbutt, yet Cena kicked out. The crowd was stunned when Cena delivered a springboard cutter. Rusev locked in the Accolade submission, but as expected, Cena broke it countering with another STF. The typical finish came as Lana tried to interfere only to be knocked off the ring apron by Rusev, allowing Cena to deliver an Attitude Adjustment. 1-2-3 and we got a new US Champion.

Although this was pretty formulaic, it was well-paced. However, it’s not remembered as one of Cena’s best ‘Mania matches.

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were in the ring to announce the disputed attendance of 76,976. Steph said it’s all down to her and HHH. They continued to brag before The Rock made a surprise appearance. When his entrance and the crowd chanting eventually end, he ran down the Authority duo. HHH and The Rock teased rekindling their longtime rivalry. Steph said The Rock and his family wouldn’t be anything without her family (she has a good point). Dwayne made a crass dick joke and got slapped by Stephanie. Rock walked over to Ronda Rousey. The pair faced up to Steph and HHH. McMahon complimented Rousey’s toughness but said this is her ring and told her to leave. The Rock delivered punches to HHH before Rousey gave him a judo throw. Rousey threatened to break Steph’s arm but threw her out of the ring instead.

The Rock and Ronda Rousey - WrestleMania 31

This segment went on far too long. Yes, it helped break up the show but The Rock’s lengthy pandering to the crowd went into overdrive. Nevertheless, it planted a seed for what would happen three years later, albeit with Kurt Angle and not The Rock.

One year on from the streak ending, The Undertaker returned to face Bray Wyatt. Some thought this could have been a passing of the torch moment, but with Wyatt carrying an ankle injury, it lacked gusto. Both entrances suffered due to the evening East Coast sun, not quite being the spectacle they could’ve been.

Throughout, it was a vintage Deadman display with a determined Wyatt beating down ‘Taker. The 2022 Hall of Famer came back to deliver a Tombstone but Wyatt kicked out. Bray hit Sister Abigail, but no 1-2-3 pinfall. Wyatt’s spider walk saw ‘Taker sit up to Bray’s surprise. A second and final Tombstone saw The Undertaker go 22-1 at WrestleMania.

As one of The Undertaker’s final ‘Mania matches, this isn’t one of his best yet it proved to be engaging with occasional hints that he could be defeated again. For Bray, it once again showed his character work was above his in-ring work. However, in hindsight, this somewhat derailed the potential he had to become the “next Undertaker”.

Our main event was preceded by a video package highlighting Roman Reigns’ rise and courage. Brock Lesnar, on the other hand, didn’t give a shit about anyone but himself. It ended with that awkward tug-of-war over the WWE Championship belt. As expected, Reigns got a polarising response. Paul Heyman introduced “The Beast, The Conqueror,” etc. to cheers.

Straight away a German suplex and an F5 were delivered by Lesnar. I dislike his style; repeated power moves with little variation. Brock continued to dominate but Reigns is smiling. Outside the ring, Reigns pushed Lesnar into the ring post, busting him open. A bloody Brock was given three superman punches, followed by two Spears. However, it’s only a two-count. Another F5 saw both people down and beat. But wait, who’s this that?

Mr. Money In The Bank, Seth Rollins, seized the opportunity to an electric crowd, sprinting to the ring to cash in his title opportunity. Curb-Stomp to Lesnar but a second saw him being caught by the Beast Incarnate. Yet, there’s no F5 as Reigns Speared Lesnar allowing Rollins to Curb Stomp his former Shield teammate. 1-2-3, and Rollins completed what Michael Cole described as the “heist of the century”. An OTT firework display saw Rollins celebrating as the show ends.

The main event was a rollercoaster. From Lesnar’s domination from the outset to the tedious lull of an expected Reigns comeback to Rollins’ surprise cash-in, it was a thrilling conclusion to a match that could have been a bit shorter. Nevertheless, it delivered a lasting WrestleMania moment.

Seth Rollins WrestleMania 31

While WrestleMania 31 had its fair share of highlights, it didn’t have many noteworthy wrestling matches. I’d go as far as saying the opening ladder match is the only contest watching bell to bell. The remainder had memorable spots; Orton’s creative RKO, nWo vs DX, Rusev’s tank, Rousey and taking down HHH.

As for Lesnar and Reigns’ first WrestleMania encounter, it was an enthralling contest that saw Brock showcase his dominance as Reigns tried his best to be the unwavering babyface. Furthermore, Rollins’ cash-in provided a lasting image that is up there with outstanding WrestleMania moments.

Their re-match 3 years later was marred by an uninterested crowd. No matter how many suplexes, F-5s, and false finishes were done was enough to win the crowd over. Even the unexpected outcome of Brock retaining fell flat. Therefore, the first part of their WrestleMania trilogy is remembered more, even if the result didn’t involve either of them.

WrestleMania 31 is available on WWE Network and Peacock – Photos and video courtesy of WWE

By Sêan Reid

Based in Nottinghamshire, Sêan is a freelance music and pro wrestling writer. Away from music, his interests include watching sporting events (football, ice hockey), maintaining his mental and physical well-being, and consuming books, films, TV shows and video games.

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