Thursday, April 2, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXX

It's time to talk about YES-tleMania!

Superdome - 4/6/14

2014's installment was probably the only time I can remember where the fans wielded so much power that WWE was forced to overhaul the lineup of their biggest show of the year.  The originally planned headliner was Randy Orton vs. Batista for the WWE Title.  I'm not sure how anyone in the company thought that was a fitting main event for WrestleMania, but the fans reacted to this development with unbridled hostility.  Add to that the departure of CM Punk (slated to face Triple H) and the surge of fan support for Daniel Bryan, and Vince eventually changed everything around, making Bryan's journey to the Championship the main story thread of the night.

First up, the pre-show Fatal 4-Way Tag match was a fun, action-packed bout and would've been a welcome hot opener on any card.  It really should've been exactly that on the actual PPV.  Nice to see The Usos retain, and even nicer to see Cesaro turn on Jack Swagger and begin his rise to singles stardom.  More on that later.

The PPV itself opened with the obligatory Hulk Hogan host segment, but Steve Austin and The Rock made surprise appearances, and seeing all three in the ring together was certainly historic.  Unfortunately the segment lasted twenty-five minutes.  Twenty-Five.  Look, I get that this was a really special moment, having these three in the ring at the same time, but this is WrestleMania.  This night should by and large be about the actual wrestling and the promos should be kept to a minimum.  A promo is meant to sell a match or an event.  We've already purchased the event, so what are you selling us at this point?

Anyway getting past that, the opening match (which incidentally didn't begin until 38 minutes in!) was the much-anticipated Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H main event qualifier.  And as expected it was an epic duel.  Both guys played their roles to perfection and told a helluva Face-In-Peril story for 26 minutes.  As predicted, Bryan won the match clean to propel himself into the WWE Title match, but Hunter attacked him after the bell in the hopes of rendering him too injured to compete later on.  Made perfect sense and beautifully enhanced the drama of Bryan's quest.

One of the more symbolic feuds in WWE history...

The Shield bout was rather a disappointment as I had hoped for a solid eight minutes.  But Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns made the most of their allotted three minutes and emerged once again as a dominant faction about to have much bigger fish to fry.
Third up was the second biggest shocker of the night, as the Battle Royal was tremendously entertaining and blew away any previous 'Mania Battle Royals.  The scenario I was most hoping for, Cesaro being a surprise entrant and winning the whole thing, was exactly what happened.  Cesaro turned in a star-making performance with a stunning power display as he bodyslammed the 450-pound Big Show over the top rope.  Spot of the night however goes to Kofi Kingston with his vault over the turnbuckles while keeping his feet on the ring steps.  Amazing.  Sadly Cesaro's apparently babyface push never came to fruition and we're all still waiting for WWE to do something meaningful with him.

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt was a match that while not the most exciting, told a terrific story of temptation and good triumphing over evil (for the time being at least).  I probably would've given Wyatt the win here to set up their remaining matches.

Wait........wait, he LOST??  What.  The hell??

The most disappointing match was The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar.  For the first time in eight years, an Undertaker WrestleMania match was not one of the best matches of the night.  I wasn't expecting anything spectactular here but for me this failed to crawl out of two-star territory until the ending (Taker suffered a concussion early on, which put a damper on what probably would've been a three-star affair).  And in the shocker of the night, Brock Lesnar pinned The Undertaker, at WrestleMania.  After over two decades, The Streak was dead.  The nine of us viewing this event at my house watched in utter disbelief as the "21-1" graphic flashed across the screen (two of my friends actually had a 10-1 odds bet over this match, and the guy who put up the ten bucks was none too pleased).  Lesnar would of course go on to destroy John Cena for the Title at SummerSlam and then disappear from TV a month later.  WWE has followed up this enormous 'Mania moment quite poorly, but at the time the possibilities seemed endless.

The Divas match took the buffer spot on the card (a phenomenon I still don't fully understand - IMO a supercard should build to a peak, not have a lull before the main event), and was actually pretty decent for what it was.  AJ Lee retained as I hoped she would.

Finally the main event arrived.  Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE World Title.  We had to expect that Triple H would get involved, which he did; Bryan would suffer an "injury" putting his status in doubt, which he did; and he would eventually overcome it all to complete his journey to the top of the WWE.  Which he did!  First, the match was pretty great; full of violent action, against-the-odds drama, and edge-of-your-seat nearfalls.  But what a moment immediately afterwards!  The visual of Daniel Bryan fallen to his knees, both belts draped over his shoulders, was one of the most satisfying images I've witnessed in my 28+ years as a wrestling fan.  It was the perfect culmination of the 8-month journey Bryan and his massive fanbase endured since Summerslam 2013, and seemed to be the official start of The Daniel Bryan Era.  Unfortunately Bryan's Title run was derailed by a neck injury that forced him out of action for nine months, putting a big PAUSE on his push.  He'd return briefly in 2015 before a concussion seemingly cut his great career short at the age of 34.  But wait, the story isn't over.....

Look at him.  Just look.

Despite the monumentally disappointing aftermath, WrestleMania XXX was an amazing event, featuring two of the best matches of 2014, plus a few other historic and unforgettable moments.  While the wrestling itself wasn't perfect, the booking was spot-fucking-on.  'Mania 30 will always be one of my favorites, as it was the night Daniel Bryan got to be The Face of WWE.

Best Match: Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan over the main event by the slimmest of margins
Worst Match: Divas Title Match - this was still watchable though
What I'd Change: Cut the Hogan segment down to ten minutes and give that extra time to The Shield match.
Most Disappointing Match: Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Battle Royal - I had very low expectations for this but it was tremendously entertaining
Overall Rating: 9/10


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XXIX
https://www.enuffa.com/2017/03/the-history-of-wrestlemania-part-11-31.html






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