"Woken" MAtt Hardy Won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Kickoff Match)
Of the five Andre Battle Royal we have witnessed since WrestleMania 30, I can't think of one that was particularly memorable outside of the finish. Needless to say, this installment was no exception. It was basically a bunch of enhancement talent taking turns tossing each other out. The first three-fourths of the match were total throwaway, but the final few minutes were fun with Bray Wyatt returning and aiding Hardy to victory. I guess his big “reincarnation” was turning babyface, and I am in full favor of them joining forces. Both men will benefit in the long-run, though this does make me question where this will put Jeff Hardy (a.k.a. Brother Nero) upon his imminent return to TV.
Cedric Alexander def. Mustafa Ali to Win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship (Kickoff Match)
Despite my initial criticism of these two being relegated to the Kickoff show, it was for the best, because they definitely would not have received the time they did otherwise. It wasn't a completely crazy contest, but it was a ton of fun and both Alexander and Ali had strong showings. You couldn't have gone wrong with either guy taking the title, but Alexander has been long overdue for a championship reign since the dawn of the Cruiserweight division, so I was happy to see him emerge victorious.
Naomi Won the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal (Kickoff Match)
This was a significant upgrade from the men's Battle Royal from earlier in the evening because they told stories. What a concept, I know! Sasha Banks and Bayley obviously had their thing going, obviously, but the NXT women stood out and there wasn't brawling for the sake of brawling. I assumed someone other than Bayley or Banks would win (by the way, neither of them officially turned heel here, only their feud was furthered), but Naomi was an odd choice. I mean, congrats to her, but I would have gone with the overlooked Becky Lynch as the winner. Maybe this sets up Charlotte Flair vs. Naomi for the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Seth Rollins def. The Miz and Finn Balor in a Triple Threat Match to Win the Intercontinental Championship
WWE got it right by positioning this as the opener because it kicked off the event on a high note. I would still rank their Raw match from last year above this match ever so slightly, but it was a terrific Triple Threat, nevertheless. Everything seemed so smooth with no dull moments in between. The chemistry these three have is tremendous and they all came away looking excellent. Rollins is now a Grand Slam Champion with this title victory and fits the workhorse role well as Intercontinental Champion. Time will tell whether this means Miz is SmackDown Live bound where he can rekindle his rivalry with Daniel Bryan.
SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair def. Asuka
Before we address the shocking finish, the fact this was a great match should not be overlooked. They did deliver one of the best women's matches in WrestleMania history (that may sound like a stretch, but look back at what other women's matches we've had at 'Mania and you'll realize it's not) and the back-and-forth action was entertaining. And then came Charlotte snapping the streak. I won't rant and rave because it could prove to be a positive for Asuka, but I thought it was premature to have her suffer a loss, no less on a show where so much else happened. Charlotte vs. Ronda Rousey is virtually set in stone for WrestleMania 35, probably in the main event.
Jinder Mahal def. Rusev, Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal in a Fatal-4 Way Match to Win the United States Championship
Considering this was one of the least anticipated matches on the card coming into the event, I can't say I was surprised that this was a glorified spot-fest (and not an exciting one) and didn't last long. The Superstars involved gave it a good effort and it wasn't terrible, but it never found a real rhythm and will be forgotten by Monday. Mahal pinning Rusev to win the star-spangled prize is WWE at its finest (or worst, I should say). I figured he would win and embark on a reign as the evil foreigner champion, but having him pin the most over guy in the match was mind-boggling. And no, it will not add to more heat on the heel Mahal.
Raw General Manager Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey def. TRiple H and Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon
To be honest, I had low expectations for this outing and it exceeded them by a country mile. Seriously, this was awesome stuff. Of course, it wasn't on the level of Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25 and it was decent from an in-ring standpoint, but as a spectacle, it was a major success. Stephanie played her part to perfection, Angle and HHH held their own, and most importantly, Rousey impressed in her debut match. They also gave us the payoff everyone wanted to see with Rousey "breaking" Stephanie's arm. Be prepared for WWE running that into the ground because it'll make mainstream headlines. Rousey's WWE stint is off to a strong start.
The Bludgeon Brotehrs def. The New Day and The Usos in a Triple Threat Match to Win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
I'm sure I wasn't the only one expecting this to be a potential show-stealer, so what we got instead was a bit of a letdown to say the least. Instead of allowing these guys to go all out, the company likely cut their time and booked it like a television match with The Bludgeon Brothers asserting their dominance and winning the twin titles with ease. I'm fine with the continued push of Harper and Rowan, but the crowd reaction to this was lukewarm.
The Undertaker def. John Cena
I couldn't believe people actually thought the match wouldn't happen, or better yet, that they wouldn't even interact. You don't waste weeks of TV time building to a marquee matchup that doesn't happen at the biggest show of the year. The entire angle was unnecessary, but the audience was into it, so it served its purpose, I suppose. I, like many others, would've had Undertaker walk away after last year's 'Mania match, but he did redeem himself here by looking much better and essentially squashing Cena. Perhaps that's why this wasn't advertised in advance: because they didn't want fans to get their hopes up for a WrestleMania main event-caliber contest. It was a cool moment and nothing more. Does WWE trot out 'Taker next year for a rematch with Cena or for a bout with Braun Strowman or someone like that? They should quit while they're ahead, but I didn't get the sense this was the end for him, unfortunately.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Despite his questionable medical condition prior to the event, Shane worked a majority of the match. He was protected like "Super Shane" per usual, but this truly didn't pick up until Bryan tagged in. The crowd went wild for his signature spots and he didn't appear to have missed a beat. Without Bryan's comeback, though, this would have been a glorified SmackDown main event, and even with Bryan, it was still an average match. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of shenanigans, but I am curious where Owens and Zayn go from here and how they eventually regain their jobs.
Nia Jax def. Alexa Bliss to Win the Raw Women's Championship
I had predicted this would be a quick and painless squash for Jax, but the competitive contest we received instead was fine. Jax mostly dominated Bliss, but then Bliss battled back using heel-like tactics by targeting Jax's knee and eyes. Ultimately, Bliss' attempts to retain her title were unsuccessful and Jax finally captured the championship. They told the story they needed to and it didn't overstay its welcome, so I have no complaints.
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. Shinsuke Nakamura
For a match that had been so heavily hyped as an epic encounter, it fell flat for me. Don't get me wrong, it was a very enjoyable matchup and well-wrestled, but it didn't come close to being on the same level as their clash from Wrestle Kingdom 10. There simply wasn't any drama in the Nakamura nearfalls, and the crowd was waiting for something special to happen. It was an above-average title match, but not the all-time classic many fans had it pegged for. Nakamura's post-match heel turn was equally baffling. He's a natural babyface, and a popular one at that, but fingers crossed this change in character will get him to where he needs to be.
Braun Strowman and Nicholas def. Sheamus and Cesaro to Win the Raw Tag Team Championship
I'm at a loss for words with this one. First and foremost, there were certainly those who were unhappy that Strowman's mystery partner wasn't a returning star or a notable name. It was just a kid from the crowd. This was one of WWE's patented "WrestleMania moments" they love to talk about it, but to me, it was a dumb angle. To their credit, the crowd was hot for Nicholas tagging in, but this all but buried the Raw tag team division and more specifically The Bar. I hate to be that guy, but I didn't see the appeal of this. I realize wrestling is supposed to be silly, but come on, this went a little to far for my taste. If they were going to book a kid as Strowman's partner, I would have much preferred it was Jarious "JJ" Robertson, this year's Warrior Award recipient.
Universal Champion Brock Lesnar def. Roman Reigns
Their WrestleMania 31 main event match was a blast, yet this was the exact opposite. The atmosphere was absolute shit because the crowd couldn't have cared less, and who can blame them? Lesnar was on offense for 90 percent of it, Reigns kicked out of five F5s (which is beyond ridiculous when you remember Goldberg, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and AJ Styles couldn't kick out of just one in the past), and only the finishing sequence was remotely interesting. Lesnar retaining his title was super strange. Fans were ready to crap all over Reigns for beating The Beast Incarnate, but they were confused by Lesnar winning. It does have me looking forward to Monday's Raw to find out what the fallout is going to be, but the match itself was lackluster and overall underwhelming.
What a weird, weird WrestleMania. I say that because it wasn't a bad show, and not in the same camp as WrestleManias 27, 29 or 32. It wasn't near the top of my list of the best in recent years, either. There were a ton of quality matches, but I was left disappointed more often than not, especially with some of the booking decisions. I'm convinced the company likes to swerve people just because they can, not because it's logical. I'll need more time to think this one over, but for now, I can tell you I won't be re-watching it in the near future. All in all, though, WrestleMania was a solid show with its fair share of memorable moments that will have people talking for a while, for better or for worse.