Friday, March 29, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 31

And we're past enumerated WrestleManias, moving on to symbols instead.....

Levi Stadium - 3.29.15

WrestleMania 31 (or Play Button as Vince apparently wants it known) had probably the worst buildup in over a decade.  There was almost no urgency to the product leading into this show, and my expectations were as low as I can remember for a WrestleMania.  As it turned out though, this was a very solid PPV featuring several good-to-very good matches and no real stinkers.  I've read some reviews of 'Mania 31 calling it one of the best WrestleManias of all-time (Dave Meltzer initially called it one of the best shows he'd ever seen but dialed back his praise on a second viewing).  Personally I find that assessment waaaaaay overboard.  I mean let's be honest, this show was nowhere near as good as 'Manias 17 or 19.  Come on.  Hell, it wasn't even on par with 'Mania 30.  This PPV had several good matches but no all-timers, some great results and some not so great, not nearly enough wrestling for a four-hour broadcast (The seven matches totaled about 100 minutes which is downright skimpy), and the longest match was in my opinion the worst by far.

There were two preshow matches (I will never understand why WWE can't fit nine matches on a four-hour PPV when they routinely fit eight on a three-hour one), and one of them was quite entertaining.  The Fatal 4-Way tag match had highspots galore and lots of fun tandem offense that showcased three of the four teams (Sadly Jey Uso sat out the match with a legit shoulder injury).  Cesaro & Kidd won as expected, and I liked Cesaro's douchy heel move of letting Jimmy Uso hit his finisher on Big E, tossing Jimmy out of the ring and covering E himself.  Fun way to open the festivities.

The Battle Royal on the other hand I found rather pointless.  The only participant who gained anything from it was Damien Mizdow (and by proxy The Miz I guess), when he finally turned babyface and nearly eliminated Big Show to win the whole thing.  And of course the company followed up on Mizdow's crowd support with....nothing.  Overall WWE wasted several opportunities to make some underneath guys look good - The New Day all got owned by Show and looked stupid in the process, Hideo Itami from NXT was given about thirty seconds to shine before also being punked out by Show (How pissed d'ya suppose Triple H was by this?), and finally Mizdow failed to get the job done in the end.  The announcers pushed the whole "Big Show has never won a battle royal" thing, but was anyone really clamoring to finally see that happen?  This ended up being another one of those matches that didn't help anyone.

D-Bry becomes a Grand Slam Champion

Moving along to the main card.  The Seven-Man I-C Ladder Match opened the show as I figured it would, and it was a fun watch that didn't really feature anything we haven't seen before.  Once it was over it was forgotten, like a run-of-the-mill Adam Sandler movie (back when he was funny).  Obviously Daniel Bryan winning the one Title he'd never held was a great moment, and had he not suffered another injury shortly thereafter I've no doubt he would've revitalized the I-C Title much as Cena did with the US.  As for the multi-man Ladder Match I think it's time to retire the concept, for a while at least.  There's simply nothing more to do with these matches.  Every conceivable high spot with ladders has been done it would seem, and each of these matches now blurs into the rest.  What's most significant about this match now is that it was Daniel Bryan's final 'Mania match for a while, and he became a Grand Slam Champion.

Next up was one of the two high points of the night - Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins.  At the time I was flabbergasted how early this was placed, but by the end it made sense.  Orton and Rollins nearly tore the house down as expected.  The bout was fast-paced and featured multiple intricately timed spots, including a breathtaking finish where Orton countered a Curb Stomp attempt into an RKO.  Unfortunately these two were only given 13 minutes so the match wasn't able to get out of ****1/4 territory.  Had it gone five minutes longer we'd probably be looking at a Match of the Year candidate.

Those five minutes could've easily been taken away from match #3.  Personally I found Triple H vs. Sting a pretty wretched affair.  They started out having an okay match and after ten minutes it disintegrated into a total Seniors Tour clusterfuck involving DX and the nWo attempting to brawl around ringside.  The live crowd went nuts for this, but I spent the next ten minutes groaning.  In the first place this match was never supposed to be about WWF vs. WCW.  Sting even said as much in his promo.  But ol' Vince couldn't help shoehorning that tired, fifteen-year-old concept into the proceeding.  Second, why on Earth would the nWo ever rush to Sting's aid?  They were mortal enemies in WCW (minus the idiotic Wolfpac angle), and two of the three members are Hunter's best friends!  Not to mention all three are obviously working for WWE now.  None of this lunacy made any sense, and when it was over we were once again left with the takeaway "WCW are poopyheads, WWE rules!"  This match felt like it was booked by a child.  I half-expected a reveal that Will Ferrell and the kid from The Lego Movie were behind it all.

This broke the Guinness record for oldest combined age in a wrestling ring

The Divas match was next, and just as I predicted it only went about six minutes.

This left two full hours for the final three bouts.  When you note that the longest of those three bouts went a shade under 17 minutes, it really speaks volumes about WWE's time management on these 'Mania shows.

John Cena vs. Rusev was a solid match but felt underwhelming compared to their FastLane encounter.  Both guys brought out some new moves which was nice, but the ending of the match felt totally anticlimactic, as Cena dispatched Rusev's year-long undefeated streak with a single AA.  The announcers also sold zero astonishment at Cena's conquering of said streak.  I think JBL made one offhand comment about Cena "defeating the undefeatable."  This should've been treated as a much bigger deal.

The next segment went on.  And on.  And on.  And onnnnn......  Now look, I enjoyed the Ronda Rousey involvement.  I like her a lot and for a while she made a pretty great WWE star.  But this segment didn't need to be twenty minutes long.  It felt to me like they were trying to wait out the sunlight for Taker's entrance (I guess an outdoor stadium on the west coast isn't ideal for WrestleMania if Taker's there).  Anyway, this segment had moments that were entertaining, but I don't watch a PPV to see people talk for twenty minutes.  This slot should've gone to the Tag Title match.

It's still light out, but it's time for the Taker-Wyatt match.  This was fine too, but also pretty underwhelming.  Taker looked much healthier than at WM30 and Wyatt was solid.  The spiderwalk vs. situp moment was pretty cool.  But I couldn't help wondering, what's the point of it all?  How did this match help Wyatt?  His whole reason for wanting the match was to become the New Face of Fear, and he failed.  So now what?  Taker went home and Wyatt was still there.  So who benefitted from this match?  This is a question WWE needs to ask themselves much more frequently when putting together WrestleMania cards.  "Yes, this will be a big money match and yes the crowd will mark out for this, but in the end, who does it help?"  If the only perk to wrestling Taker is you'll avoid the pre-show Battle Royal, it's probably time to rethink things.  And judging by the next two months of WWE programming it's clear the company had no big plans for Wyatt past 'Mania.

This was cool but otherwise the match was forgettable

Now for the main event.  This was really something.  One of the better pure "fights" I can remember taking place in a wrestling ring.  Lesnar proved once again what a truly compelling figure he is when motivated, and Reigns earned more than a few stripes by taking one of the stiffest "pretend" beatings I've ever seen.  I liked the use of blood, which made the match immediately stand out in this PG Era.  But it was once again Seth Rollins who stole the show, literally.  I absolutely loved the mid-match cash-in.  This was the perfect way for Rollins to finally lower the boom, and Michael Cole's comment at the end summed it up perfectly: "Seth Rollins has just pulled off the heist of the century!"  For a main event match I had basically no interest in two weeks earlier, this was a helluva spectacle and was executed brilliantly.

Ok this was awesome

So overall did I enjoy WrestleMania 31?  Yes.  It was an entertaining show with some good matches and a few great moments, and my outlook on the product improved drastically from the day before.  Was it one of the greatest shows of all time?  Not even close.  There was still way too much emphasis on nostalgia and way too much time devoted to non-wrestling (Seriously, how many elaborate entrances do we need?  Did WrestleMania X-Seven have any entrances like that?).  Had this show contained a Bryan vs. Ziggler show stealer like many fans wanted, that would elevate this to possibly an A-.  But 'Mania 31 didn't present a single Match of the Year candidate, and one need look no further than 'Mania 30 for a far superior edition.

Best Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins)
Worst Match: Sting vs. Triple H
What I'd Change: Bryan, Ambrose and Ziggler deserved to not be crammed into a multi-man Ladder Match.  Book Bryan vs. Ziggler so die-hard fans like me have something to care about.  Cut the nostalgia horseshit from the Sting match and give him a win in his WWE debut.  Cut the Rousey segment and save it for RAW.  Put the Tag Title match and the Battle Royal on the main show and give Mizdow the BR win.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably Rusev vs. John Cena, based on how good their FastLane match was
Most Pleasant Surprise: How good the main event was
Overall Rating: 8/10

Thanks for reading!  Join us on Facebook, Twitter, MeWe and YouTube!


1 comment:

  1. there's a reason why he's called Mr.Wrestlemania and you captured it to perfection