Wednesday, 1 April 2015

TV Review: WWE Wrestlemania 31

It was the grand-daddy of them all, the biggest wrestling show of the year. But did it live up to expectations? That was what I was hoping to find out by viewing WWE Wrestlemania 31, shown live in the early hours of this past Monday morning on Sky Box Office here in Britain.

The show began with the first title match of the evening as Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, Luke Harper, R-Truth and Dean Ambrose challenging Bad News Barrett for the Intercontinental title in a ladder match.

If WWE's intention was to kick off the main show in style then they certainly accomplished that mission. It was a great way to get things going, with everyone involved putting in good stints and giving us our fair share of holy you know what moments.

The bodies began flying all over the place right from the get go, and it wasn't long before the ladders came into play, with Harper in particular using them to good effect, although Stardust didn't get to use his own particular play-thing.

The biggest holy you know what moment came from Harper when he powerbombed Ambrose over the top rope and through a ladder perched between the ring apron and the barricade, with both ladder and man taking a hell of a lot of damage as they hit the ground.

In the end it became a battle of wills, or heads rather, as Bryan and Ziggler battled it out at the top of the ladder. Bryan eventually won the duelling headbutts contest, and as Ziggler crashed and burned Bryan reached up and grabbed the belt to win his first Intercontinental title.

The singles action began with Seth Rollins, accompanied as always by his security guys, took on Randy Orton.

There was plenty of solid action throughout this one. I think I'm finally starting to warm to Randy Orton, especially when he isn't facing a certain Mr. Cena, because when he's facing a certain Mr. Rollins he's capable of putting in a great performance.

Mind you, Rollins was right up there with him in that respect, and these two, with a little help from the new stooges at ringside, made this a thrilling back and forth encounter, and when both men kicked out after the other's finishing move you just knew that there was going to be something special at the end.

And there was. One of the best finishes I've seen in I don't know how long saw Rollins go for a second kerb stomp, only for Orton to catch him with an RKO as he came down. The crowd were going mad as Orton took the winning pin.

Then it was on to the battle of the big guns as Sting went up against the Terminator....I mean Triple H.

You know, there were two things in this match I thought I'd never see, Sting in a WWE ring, and Sting in another very good match. In fact this was more than very good.

As soon as it started it had that first time ever feeling, that one time only aura as WCW's last soldier took on one of WWE's modern day icons, and for someone who hadn't wrestled in 14 years (wink wink) the Stinger put in a pretty good effort.

It really was quite intriguing to see these two go up against each other, from the initial feeling out process to the moments they brought out their big guns, you just knew that you were getting something special. In fact we didn't know just how special it was going to be until Sting put the Game in the scorpion deathlock and X-Pac, the Road Dogg and Billy Gunn of D-Generation X arrived on the scene.

Thus began the all hell breaking loose moment  as Sting dealt with DX, but when Trips took control again and looked to put the Stinger away the drama was turned up a notch further when Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, the New World Order, arrived on the scene.

Thus began the fight we'd all wanted to see nearly twenty years ago as DX and the NWO brawled around the ring, and a few moments later the drama was turned up to eleven when Shawn Michaels appeared out of nowhere and superkicked Sting into the middle of next week.

That wasn't the end of things though. A few moments later Sting smashed the Game's usually trusty old sledgehammer in two with his baseball bat, and when he delivered a stinger splash in the corner it looked like the beginning of the end. But when he went for a second splash Trips clobbered him with what was left of the sledgehammer, and a three count later Triple H had the win.

Afterwards, as DX and the NWO stood in opposite corners, Triple H stepped forward and shook the Stinger's hand in the ultimate show of respect.

After a nice segment in which Daniel Bryan celebrated his title win with some old familiar faces, and a song from some people I've never heard of, it was on to tag team action as Paige and A.J. Lee faced the Bella Twins. Moving on.....

Following an appearance from this year's Hall of Fame inductees it was back to championship action as John Cena challenged Lana guy Rusev for the United States title.

Out of all the matches on this show this was the one I was looking forward to the least. That's not to say that I didn't think this match wasn't any good, it's just that the thought of this one didn't exactly set my pulse racing.

Performance wise it can't be faulted. Rusev's entrance was actually quite impressive, and it made me wonder if Nikolai Volkoff wasn't a tiny bit jealous. When the action eventually began it pretty much played out how I expected it to. The big Bulgarian (sorry, Russian) showed us some nice power moves, while Cena ran through his repertoire in his usual solid way.

One thing did confuse me a little though, and that was the moment when Lana threw her shoe into the ring. I can't quite work out what the point of all that was, but if it was to hit someone then I'd suggest a trip to Starling City so she can work on her accuracy with Oliver Queen.

Back to the matter at hand. I think you can guess how the final moments of this one played out. Rusev did his camel clutch thing which Cena survived, Rusev survived the STF, Lana got up on to the ring apron before Rusev accidentally knocked her down, and Cena took the title and the win after taking Rusev down with the attitude adjuster.

After one of those great Wrestlemania moments where the Rock and Ronda Rousey took it to Triple H and his lovely wife it was on to the penultimate match as Bray Wyatt took on the Undertaker.

The entrances alone gave me goosebumps, especially those scarecrows, and although this won't go down in history as the Dead Man's greatest Wrestlemania encounter it will go down as a very good match.

This was a veritable battle of the generations, with Wyatt looking to take over the Undertaker's mantle as WWE's face of fear. The only problem was that Taker wasn't ready to step aside, and for the first time since he was promoted to the main roster Wyatt actually looked intimidated.

Now for a guy who hadn't wrestled for a year and a guy who suffered a severe ankle injury just hours before these two put in a pretty good effort. It was obvious that we weren't going to get a technical classic, but what we got was a well-paced match and some very nice moments, such as when both men kicked out of the other's finisher. The expression on the Dead Man's face after Wyatt kicked out after a tombstone spoke volumes.

Then came the freak-out moment. As Taker lay on his back Wyatt did that weird crab walk thing of his, but the attempt at intimidation backfired completely when Taker rose up, old school style. Wyatt just seemed to melt away after that, and a few moments later it was all over as the Undertaker countered a second sister Abigail attempt with a second tombstone finally took the mad man down as the Dead Man got back to winning ways.

The main event saw Roman Reigns challenging Paul Heyman guy Brock Lesnar for the WWE World title.

I've lost count of the number of times I've read that this match wouldn't be up to much. For me it was the perfect Wrestlemania main event, full of drama, packed with great action, and capped off with a great twist at the end.

Reigns tried to take Lesnar out early, and although he managed to bust the champion open he soon found himself on the receiving end of an F5. Lesnar could have taken the pin there and then, but that wasn't the champion's way. He wanted to have a little fun before he took the win.

And so Lesnar took his challenger on a tour of Suplex City. Time and time again Lesnar took Reigns down as he dominated the action. He made Reigns look ordinary, but the pretender to the throne infuriated the champion with his fighting spirit, and at times he even found humour in his situation.

Reigns had his moments, the only problem was that there weren't that many of them. Every time he managed to get in a few fleeting seconds of offence Lesnar would fight back. But Reigns' fighting spirit was there for all to see when he continued to kick out of Lesnar's most powerful weapon, the F5.

The challenger's best chance came after he rammed Lesnar's head into the ring post, busting him open even more, and back in the ring and as the blood began to pour down the champion's face Reigns connected with Superman punch after Superman punch. But even though he had unleashed his most powerful weapon like his opponent he couldn't get the job done.

Then came the twist. With both opponents now severely weakened Seth Rollins came down to the ring, briefcase in hand, to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, turning this into a triple threat match. He promptly kicked Reigns out of the ring so he could take Lesnar down with a curb stomp, but when he went for the move a second time Lesnar caught him and put him on his shoulders. There's wasn't a time for an F5 as Reigns came back in and took Lesnar down with a spear. Rollins then seized his opportunity and took his former Shield buddy down with another curb stomp before going for the pin. A three count later and we had a new WWE World Champion, but not the one we were expecting.

In conclusion - you know, I'm wondering if a few people have been eating humble pie over the past couple of days.

Wrestlemania 31 proved to be a great show from start to finish. It certainly was the grand-daddy of them all, and every match delivered big time as we were treated to tremendous action from start to finish, and while I don't agree that it was the best Wrestlemania of all time it's certainly up there with the best of them.

Non-match moment of the night definitely goes to the Rock and Ronda Rousey's ass-kicking performance. That segment was played out perfectly, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a mixed tag team match in the future.

As for my prestigious match of the night no-prize there are numerous candidates here, but I'm going to plump for the Lesnar/Reigns and later Rollins main event. Many of you probably won't agree when I say that Reigns definitely deserved to be in this match, and the twist at the end with Rollins was just perfect, and I look forward to seeing how the new champion fits into his role.

So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing left to do, and that's to give Wrestlemania 31 the big thumbs up.