Hello everyone, thanks for stopping by again. You've landed on Planet Kayfabe. It's the day after Wrestlemania 34. Usually I simplify these PPV reviews by dividing the good and the bad, but since this is Wrestlemania, I am going to comment on each match and then wrap it up at the end. There's a lot to get into.
I'll start by lumping my pre-show thoughts together. I had picked Matt Hardy to win "The Dre", but I wasn't sure that Bray Wyatt would come back and allign himself with Matt. In this match I think Matt is the only winner that people would have cared about. The Crusierweight match was fine. I don't think it did much to lure people back to 205 Live, though. The Women's Battle Royal was fine as well. It started with Lilian Garcia introducing the match. She should have been there at the Royal Rumble instead of the embarrassing parody ring announcer voice Maria Menounos tried pulling off. The angle with Bayley eliminating Sasha at the end was good and I almost nailed my prediction, but Bayley celebrated prematurely and was eliminated lastly by Naomi who is your winner of the first Women's Battle Royal at Wrestlemania.
Seth Rollins vs The Miz (c) vs Finn Bálor (Triple threat match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship)
Winner and new Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins
3 1/4 *
That's right I'm doing star ratings for this! Heel turn? I think people who hate Dave Meltzer take star ratings more seriously than Dave does and get way more worked up about them than the wrestlers do. Anyway this match was good. I think Seth Rollins and Finn Balor on Raw was better, but think was a fine opener to the show. My pick was Miz to retain. The Coach tried saying that Seth has never had a Wrestlemania moment "like this in a building like this". I'm not sure what that means. The guy closed a Wrestlemania holding the company's top title above his head once. I'd say that was a great moment and more people will remember that than this. Did he mean he never had a moment like this in that building? I don't know. Whatever. Coach has not been great since he returned, but that's about all I have to say about commentary tonight. Other than that line there was nothing glaringly bad that ruined the show for me.
The title drop has me thinking Miz is not long for Raw. They're probably going to move him on Smackdown to try to reignite his feud with Daniel Bryan in which Miz cut promos that started the resurrection of his career.
Charlotte Flair (c) vs Asuka by submission (Singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship)
Winner: Charlotte Flair via submission
It was a very good match that had good drama throughout. On Twitter I said if you're going to end Asuka's streak, that's how you do it -- with a clean finish at a big show. However, I'm not fully comfortable with the decision. I don't think Charlotte needed the win and I think there was a lot of juice left in Asuka has an undefeated destroyer. It also seemed like Asuka was working Charlotte into a list of great submission holds and then once Asuka was in Charlotte's hold she tapped out. That was kind of weird to me. I'm not a fan of her streak ending and I'm not sure what this win will even do for Charlotte. For all her talents in the ring, I think she is a terrible babyface. That may get me some heat, but her promos are shit and it just seems like a role that she's not really comfortable in.
I need to see more out of Charlotte than just woo'ing, doing her dad's chops and doing her dad's strut... which is the most awkward thing of all. Seriously, when she does the Ric Flair strut it's so awkward that it looks like she's making fun of her dad. So cringe... However we saw more out of Charlotte as a heel. We saw a legit heel that had real heat. As a babyface it feels like people just started cheering her late last year because Ric almost died and now they just still kind of cheer her because they respect her skill and like her dad. Her future is still set in being a great heel and the sooner -- the better. If it sounds like I'm being harsh, this has nothing to do with her work. I notice Charlotte is much better at selling now than she was even last year, so she's even better now than she was a couple years ago when she was still putting on very good matches. It's just as a babyface I feel she's miscast.
Randy Orton (c) vs Jinder Mahal (w/ Sunil Singh) vs Bobby Roode vs Rusev (w/ Aiden English) (Fatal four-way match for the WWE United States Championship)
Winner and new United States Champion: Jinder Mahal
Randy Orton just won this title about a month ago at Fastlane. "Rusev Day" chants filled the arena the entire pre-show. Who won? Jinder Mahal. The clearly least over guy in this match. The match was a forgettable 8 minute match. The crowd just wanted to see Rusev win. It's the US Championship. It's not the world title. I get it if they aren't high on Rusev and don't want to push him hard, but... it's just the US title. You can put it on him here at Wrestlemania, see how it goes and if in the off chance the business implodes simply because of this one booking decision then you can take the title off him. Especially after Asuka's tap-out left the fans feeling somewhat empty a Rusev win would have acted as a nice crowd pleaser to keep the spirits up during this show. But... no. We need to watch Jinder have shitty matches and cut shitty cliche promos where he also looses his voice after a minute just because they thought it would get heat. The fans already saw him as WWE Champion. I don't think putting a title like this on him is going to get the fans that worked up, so if you're going to hot-potato this belt again why not put it on the most popular guy in this match?
Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs Triple H and Stephanie McMahon by submission (Mixed tag team match)
Winner: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey via submission
From a pure entertainment standpoint this match was great. Maybe even the match of the night. Since coming back to WWE Kurt had moments where he looked pretty slow and rusty. Here he looked pretty good working with Triple H who also has shown his limitations in recent years so the actual work wasn't too bad either. For Ronda's limitations as a promo, her work in the ring looked pretty good. She moved pretty fast and smooth, though there were a couple clunky moments, but maybe that has more to do with her having to work with a 41 year old mom who isn't a wrestler.
Of course there was the absurdity of that 41 year old mom getting a lot of offense in on a wrestling Olympic gold medalist and former MMA champion, but wrestling is full of absurdities... plus it's Stephanie McMahon... they have to make her look equal to the workers because... they have to? I don't know. There was a moment at the end where I thought Triple H was going to tap out to Ronda and I was laughing thinking that Hunter was out-politic'ed by his own wife so she wouldn't have to take the fall. In the end though, we got the shot we all wanted. Stephanie McMahon screaming in agony, tapping out to Ronda Rousey. A great 20 minute debut for Ronda.
The Usos (c) vs The New Day vs The Bludgeon Brothers (Triple threat tag team match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
Winners and new Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Bludgeon Brothers
This match got just under 6 minutes. It was pretty much a television style match at Wrestlemania hence the poor rating. I think most fans wanted this match to be a straight up continuation of the great New Day vs Usos feud and get at least 15 minutes. Instead it went 5:50 and the Bludgeon Brothers walked out with the titles. They all don't have to be pretty, but it felt like the fans just wanted Usos and New Day to go at one more time and wrap up their feud at Wrestlemania, so the heat was lacking especially after witnessing the 20 minute spectacle before this match complete with motorcycles and pyro. I see potential in the Bludgeon team, but this was a kill spot on the card.
The Undertaker vs John Cena (Singles match)
Winner: The Undertaker
Surprise, surprise... I didn't mention this but throughout the pre-show and the first two matches on this card they kept showing John Cena "as a fan" in the crowd. Not just after matches and other reset segments. No. They were cutting to him DURING matches and it got annoying fast. The segment started with Elias playing the chords to "House of the Rising Sun" once the lights went out momentarily "fooling" fans into thinking The Undertaker was showing up. Essentially all this was done to prolong the segment since the Undertaker match would end up being very show.
On Twitter a couple weeks ago, I said this about how they should book this match:
At this point I think the most satisfying finish to Cena vs Undertaker is Undertaker winning in a Goldberg-esque squash. Don't over-stay. Do the entrance. Shut Cena's mouth. Please the fans. Wrap it up.
And that's exactly how it was booked. Of course in the thread you can see Virtue disagreeing saying this match deserves to go 15-20 minutes but in the end I was right ;-) Don't let my gimmick name fool you. I know my shit and now you know you're in good hands following me. I've heard a lot of people actually say this match should have gone at least 15 minutes and to that I say, no, you only think it should have gone that long. This match officially went 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Undertaker looked good and hit his signature spots to the fans' delight and got out of there before it got sad and he overstayed his welcome. If John Cena (age 41, never an incredible worker, rusty part timer) went 20 minutes with The Undertaker (age 53, beat up, even more of a part timer) this would have gotten ugly fast.
The story here was all about Undertaker redeeming himself. Yes it is odd seeing him make such short order of a guy like John Cena, but it worked here. We got the "Deadman". We got the big entrance. We got the rope walk. We got the Tombstone Piledriver. Cena asked, even begged for The Undertaker and we got him. I just hope after not advertising his appearance at all that casual fans were actually around to see it. At least they didn't wait too long during the show to drop a hint that Undertaker was there. I'm not going to speculate if this is his last match. They didn't play up his potential retirement at all unlike last year. I'm sure we will see him again, but with Cena off the list, who is left? Maybe a rematch?
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Tag team match; If Owens and Zayn won, they would have been reinstated to SmackDown.)
Winner: Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vis submission
This was Daniel Bryan's return match. That was the big story. The crowd went nuts when he came out on stage. He stood there, soaked in the moment before throwing his hands in the air leading the crowd in 'YES!' chants. That's what the fans were invested in. However WWE had other plans which lead to this match being poorly booked. Instead they tried equally (or more so) playing up the story of Shane's diverticulitis and umbilical hernia surgery for much of the match by taking out Bryan early and having Owens and Zayn work over Shane's stomach.
The crowd was pretty dead for this. I get the idea was probably to build up Bryan getting into the match, but it was poorly executed. Many fans probably thought WWE was going to cheap out and have Bryan get carried out backstage by the medical staff and leave the match to Shane. Bryan got in the match and that's when the fans woke up and became invested. Bryan hit his signature spots minus the flying headbutt (good) and he also modified his corner running dropkicks to land on his side and stomach area (also good). The match got about 15 and a half minutes but if the match was more about Bryan's return than just Shane working so soon after having surgery like the big tough McMahon he is, it probably would have gotten a higher rating and a better reaction. Daniel Bryan came off as a huge star. They showed clips before his entrance of the "Yes Movement" going viral. Just another reminder how stubborn WWE was during Bryan's first run, having this huge star organically fall on their lap and do nothing with him until CM Punk walked out on the company in the middle of WrestleMania season throwing their plans in the air... remember the plan that year was just for Bryan to have yet another pointless match with Sheamus. Instead we got Bryan standing tall at the end of Wrestlemania 30 and it became one of the best Wrestlemania events they ever had during a time where they needed to pull off a great Wrestlemania after like 5 straight mediocre to pretty bad ones since 25.
Alexa Bliss (c) (w/ Mickie James) vs Nia Jax (Singles match for the WWE Raw Women's Championship)
Winner and new Raw Women's Champion: Nia Jax
The match went just over 10 minutes and it was not very good in my opinion. Much like the tag match, this match had to follow not just Daniel Bryan but The Undertaker before it, so it lacked some heat. The work was pretty sloppy as well. WWE is fully in this "body shaming" angle which I guess speaks to the younger fans, but to me the chemistry and psychology seemed weird. It sounds like I'm over-thinking it but I'm not. The visual of this match was watching a 6 foot tall 272 pound woman rag doll her 5 foot 100 pound "bully". Yes Alexa played a good bitchy heel, but it's hard to cheer someone who is a foot taller than Alexa Bliss and well more than twice her weight toss her around the ring for 10 minutes and then applaud because she took down her bully.
This angle hasn't been all bad. Nia has done a good job selling it in promo segments by crying, seemingly tapping into real memories of her childhood. However once the bell rings and you see these two ladies together the visual dynamic is hard to digest. Maybe is Nia was a chubby 5'4" tall woman this story would have gotten over more between the bells, but watching her tower a foot over Alexa would almost be like if they shot an angle where Rey Mysterio was bullying Braun Strowman. Alexa is a very good heel, but I question how well Nia will do as a babyface after this angle.
The whole bully thing doesn't do much for me. I know it's been a Hollywood hot button to jump on for like a decade now but you're just pandering to a bunch of people who think they are always victims more than you're reaching people who are truly just innocent people who are subjects to bullying and have never harmed anyone before. It wasn't that long ago when I was in school and I doubt it's much different now and I doubt it was much different even when Vince McMahon himself was in school. Kids bully. It's what they do. There's also a pecking order. It's not like you have a few bullies and kids who are bullied. The bullied also turn into bullies. The young girls who are "body shamed" like Nia in this story in real life in turn also body shame girls that are bigger than they are. So, this may have worked for many people but to me its a bunch of Hollywood bullshit and the lamest modern day cliche attempt at a feel-good story. Also, I have a feeling Nia wasn't bullied that much after telling people The f***ing Rock was her cousin. I'm sure young girls everywhere can so totally relate to her upbringing.
AJ Styles (c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura (Singles match for the WWE Championship)
Winner: AJ Styles
You may say my rating is too high, but to me 3 stars is disappointing. Some people have said this match was pretty shitty and look... I agree it was not great. It never kicked into high gear, however I'm not sure if it was meant to given Nakamura's turn at the end which tells us this feud is going deep into the new WWE calendar and not just a one-off "dream match" at Wrestlemania.
Much of the disappointment I think came in WWE's build of this being a "dream match". We were promised a classic and just got a good match that was... JUST a good match. A good match that simply did not live up to the hype. Even though it missed the high mark WWE set for this match, it doesn't make the match bad. It just wasn't an all-time classic and the crowd was pretty dead for this as well. Hopefully with Nakamura turning it injects some life into this feud because I don't think the fans cared much for the story of two great working babyfaces going at it in a "dream match". Also it's hard to sell a "dream match" when Nakamura hasn't had a 5 star match yet in front of WWE fans like AJ has on multiple occasions.
I'm interested to see where this goes, though. As a heel Nakamura is going to have to change much of his routine that made him popular, like his entrance... or he'll pull a Sami Zayn and keep the entrance and just do it mockingly. Who knows.
Braun Strowman and Nicholas vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (Tag Team Match for the Raw Tag Team Championship)
Winner and new Tag Team Champions: Braun Strowman and Nicholas
Braun went to the crowd to find his tag team partner. So no Samoa Joe. No Jeff Hardy. No Big Show. No whoever you guessed. His pick was a 10 year old (I guess?) boy named Nicholas. Obvious plant, of course. Nicholas is actually the son of WWE referee John Cone. So yeah... Here's your new tag team champions.
I have nothing bad to say about the kid. I see some people ragging on him on social media because, of course, that's what we do I guess. Maybe WWE should do more pro-bully angles if they want to truly pander to their audience. That being said, this was not good. It was fun and Braun came off as a great guy and it got over to a degree, but this is not the kind of angle you do at the expense of one of your championship belts. If Cesaro and Sheamus were not the champions I would have thought this was harmless fun, but really... Did WWE have to put a championship title on one of the ref's kids? Again, it was cute and all that, but this did nothing for the Raw tag division, which to be fair has been pretty dead anyway.
Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Roman Reigns (Singles Match for the WWE Universal Championship)
Winner: Brock Lesnar
You may even think 2 stars is generous, but as far as Wrestlemania main events go -- this was garbage. It went about 16 minutes and it was just a bunch of pointless big moves. Both guys hit their finishers with no build and kicked out of them with no build. This was one of those matches that makes wrestling look really fake. Roman got hit with F-5 after F-5 and just kept kicking out.
This match has the least heat of the night. WWE and Roman alike love to harp on that deceptively bullshit line of "as long as they're making noise that's all that matters" yeah, what do you have to say now? The crowd did not react at all these near falls. They didn't care at all about this match. What noise they did make was popping for the occasional beach ball tossed around the stadium and chants of "CM Punk" and "we want Nicholas". To cap it all off the fans chanted "this is awful". So there ya go, WWE! They're "making noise". Exactly what you want, right?
Take away a pretty disinterested crowd, the work was just lame. This match had no real story. It was just big signature moves and kicking out of them. You might say "if Roman won this match you still would have complained" and yes, I would have because this match sucked anyway, but it would have made more sense if Roman won. Brock has held this title for a year and the whole point was to put over Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. Instead it came off like WWE got cold feet and decided to try and make Roman look strong in a loss. I think WWE over-reached a bit though. If they wanted to do that, it should have been a grueling back-and-forth match where Roman kicks out of an F-5 at the end in desperation before finally losing to one more F-5. Instead all I remember about this match is just Roman kicking out of F-5's. It was seriously like watching a video game. Just fake as fake can be and there's no other way to put it. Fake and lazy. Why work to a climax when the whole match can just be hitting F-5's and Superman Punches. I seriously think Roman threw more Superman Punches than normal punches in this match. What a shit show. Seriously one of the worst Wrestlemania main events in history.
There's my match-by-match review of Wrestlemania 34. If i were to give this show a score of 1 out of 10 I'd go with a 6
The first half of this Wrestlemania was very good. The two best matches in terms of pure work were either the IC title match or the Smackdown Women's title match. In terms of entertainment it's no question that the mixed tag between Angle and Rousey vs Hunter and Stephanie was the best. After that match, that's were things fell off a bit. Undertaker and John Cena was a fine segment but it was really just more an Undertaker "greatest hits" concert where he hit his spots and left. Bryan was great and didn't look rusty at all, but the match focused way too much on Shane's story when it shouldn't have been about him. It doesn't help that this PPV closed with what could be considered one of the worst Wrestlemania main events. Despite it being a very physical match it was a very shallow match.
The Roman loss is puzzling. They want this guy to be the next big thing (yes, pun intended) but they have him lose in a bloody mess to close the show after a couple of months of calling Brock Lesnar a part time bitch. Sure Roman kicked out of like 73 F-5's but the ending visual we got this year was WWE's supposed top boy that they want to be your hero so bad leaving the ring a defeated bloody loser. It may be their way of trying to get Roman sympathy, but I'd be willing to safely bet when Roman comes out on Raw, the fans are not going to have a sympathetic ear for him in the entire crowd. He's going to come out, as usual, to jeers and jawing from the crowd giving him shit for losing to Brock and not just losing this match, but Brock beat Roman's ass on Raw the last couple of shows leading up to this match. Yeah, it's a pretty interesting way to try and get Roman over. I know some people are sick of hearing it, but is there any other route they can go than to just turn him?
There's my thoughts on Wrestlemania 34, everyone. Thanks for reading. If this is your first time, welcome. I hope you enjoyed my review. If you're a regular reader, I appreciate you coming back and thanks again for the support. You can follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe Thanks again everyone. Enjoy Raw tonight. For NoDQ, I'm Paul Matthews. Enjoy your day.