Well here we are, it's Wrestlemania, baby! It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact this is the 37th installment of this spectacle - man am I getting old! Especially, since they've stopped using the numbers in the event title - you just kind of realize where we are, whoa, 37!
As mentioned in my NXT Stand and Deliver Reviews (Night 1 and Night 2), I've had VERY little interest in this Wrestlemania season and build. Quite frankly, I've felt like the WWE has been the worst of the wrestling companies throughout the duration of existing without a live audience.
Yet, regardless of the interest, Wrestlemania is instilled in me, and this one doesn't need the build. It's so much more than the RAW's and Smackdown's leading up to it. The (obvious) poetic beauty of this Wrestlemania is that it indeed will be the first WWE event with a live audience since the pandemic began.
And yes, there is the main event of two black women headlining the event for the first time.
Those are two topics that have dominated our world over the last 12-18 months. Regardless of feelings on the product, Wrestlemania will be at the forefront of leading our emotions and realities into the "new normal" - whatever that is as we discover it. And that's all it needs. And that's pretty damn cool.Here are my quick thoughts on Wrestlemania Saturday:
- It's easy to make fun of WWE (especially JBL) and the overabundance of using the phrase "Wrestlemania Moment!!" for everything that is heightened during the event - quite honestly, it's sometimes annoying. However, the opening moment of Vince McMahon leading the charge on welcoming back fans in attendance and transitioning to his famed "Welcome to Wresttlllllllllleeeeeemania!!" line was as described above - pretty damn cool.
He also referred to the "pandemic", which was something the WWE did not do - just the tip of the shocking statements to come from the night.
Nonetheless, we've seen fans at other events (especially the recent Texas Rangers home opener - yikes!), but again, pro wrestling learned the hard way (if they forgot or took it for granted) that the lifeblood of their product is a live audience. Regardless of the guaranteed TV money that now drives the product.
The short moment of watching Rhea Ripley get emotional as Vinnie Mac spoke was the exclamation point on the moment for me. Again, so cool.
- However...(here's my slight heel turn) while it is emotional to see fans back for a WWE event, there was still a part of me that was highly concerned about everything that is yes, having fans back for a WWE event. I don't think that it's pandemic conditioning because I do believe there are ways to conduct these events safely, but there were cringe-worthy moments of fans dropping their masks throughout the night and letting loose.
- We got our first rain delay in Wrestlemania history. Because, of course, we did. Why not?! The random promos to fill the air were kind of cool because they were off-the-cuff, unscripted, and almost felt like the old days of rotating graphics zooming in and out of your television screen with constant promos and cheesy music.
- Michael Cole gets a lot of grief from wrestling fans, and sometimes he deserves it. But it's a night like tonight, with an unexpected rain delay, where his experience and professionalism comes through. He carried the product during what could have been an awkward time on the air.
- I don't get the point of having a Wrestlemania host - or co-hosts. After sitting through a rain delay, they send out Titus and Hogan? While I know it's the order of the run-of-show and they were just moving along to the next segment, I wished they called an audible. That was tough after waiting for the show to start.
- Also, the older I get, the less I like Hulk Hogan. And that's coming from a kid who wasn't a Hulk Hogan fan in the late eighties and nineties. Maybe it's just me.
- Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre was as hard-hitting as we expected it to be. We've seen them deliver some awesome matches in the past when their paths crossed in TNA/Impact, but this is probably the best both have been performing in their careers.
Bobby Lashley is 45 years old and is a marvel to watch move in that ring.
Lashley winning with the hurt lock was the right call here. It almost felt like McIntyre was going to get "the moment he missed" last year, but he's sort of becoming - historically - the Pandemic Champion. There is a storyline in there for next year of Drew chasing his "Wrestlemania Moment". Maybe even a heel turn in being obsessed with it? Heyyyyy!
BTW - I'm calling for a new Hurt Business on Monday Night Raw. Because, why not?
- Tag Team Turmoil was pretty cool. Of course, all we'll talk about is poor Mandy Rose's slip on the ramp (again, wrestling fans are the worst) and Dana Brooke's well... other kinds of slip(s). I hope Peacock hired Right to Censor. Ahhh, I'm not sure how many fans will get that last line...great times. I hear their theme music already as they edit out that match forever from the platform...
With all of that said, Tamina getting some shine is way overdue. She's always positioned as this huge monster, but really, never is positioned as a threat - it's been a rather interesting career for her thus far.
- Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins was a joy tonight. Cesaro is almost truly like the Internet Champion of the world. We all root for him unconditionally - because it just feels like they never get behind the guy.
Going back in the time machine, the moment Cesaro joined Paul Heyman, it's been a steady decline from what was a hot run.
Also, Seth Rollins delivers. Say what you want about the guy, but he really does on the big stage.
- It's amazing there wasn't a spot for Bayley on this Wrestlemania card. She was one of the pillars in carrying the company through the pandemic...
- Everything about the AJ Styles & Omos vs. The New Day was so great. Everything revolved around Omos - as it should - and it made for a great story. While AJ was doing his thing, I couldn't help but find myself hoping Omos wasn't a dud in the ring. Because his size and appearance instantly jumps off the screen. His look is that impressive.
Also, AJ Styles is the perfect partner for him. It should be a couple of months of intriguing tag matches for the duo. If I had to put money, we'll probably sAJ take him for granted and then the eventual Omos face turn on AJ, leading to a match...blah, blah, blah. I'm hoping they don't go that route. I really believe there is something interesting here. Let it ride for the long run. Just my wishing and fantasy booking.
- I have a feeling I'll look back on this Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman match a few years from now and simply wonder - "what the hell is this?". The build was that absurd. But I guess anything to get Shane on the card at Wrestlemania to perform a big bump.
I'm not throwing shade, I'm just erring on the side that with a roster of so many talented wrestlers, a spot is given to Shane McMahon who returns out of nowhere, became a hype man for Raw Underground, then suddenly reappeared again calling Braun stupid? I don't know...no one likes nepotism.
The ripping through cage bit was cool, so I'll calm down. And despite my cynism, it takes a lot of guts to pull of what Shane did.
- I didn't expect Bad Bunny to be a lead topic after Wrestlemania Saturday was over, but hey, here we are! And, you know what? He deserves it! That was impressive. Outsider's (Not Hall and Nash) are always more enjoyable in their spot roles when it's obvious they take it seriously and put in some training behind it. And Bad Bunny definitely did.
Of course, you know I have to offer up an SMH comment on the Canadian destroyer on the outside. But hey, everyone does it now. Sorry, Petey Williams.
Despite that back-in-my-day comment, this was really enjoyable. Also, kudos to the Miz on making it work.
- We all knew Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair was history. We've heard this before from the realms of WWE - look no further than when Kofi won the WWE Championship a few years ago at Wrestlemania. Never once discussed was WHY it was history. WWE felt afraid to acknowledge it, or at the very least, went the safe route not to disrupt the status quo.
Of course, they did this same dance around throughout the night with this newer historic match. And then to my shock - right to my core - Michael Cole let it rip, from his chest with no hesitancy, what made THIS Wrestlemania special - "For the first time ever, two black women have a title match in the main event of Wrestlemania." That got me. It really did. That moment - regardless of what happened the rest of the match, was the main event.
officially a michael cole stan. he said it with his chest !!pic.twitter.com/tQBCGusWcv— john cenas jorts • 💜 (@pAYOdriver) April 11, 2021
The WWE acknowledging race, having black champions, and pursuing intentional representation up and down its roster - it's rather surreal to see. I'm thirty-five years old, and this might be the first year of my existence where I've felt like the WWE truly is a reflection of the world that I see.
Again, pretty damn cool.
- The pause after the bell rang as both women let the history reside and fill the air was a nice touch, too.
This moment made me come to realization and I finally cried. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair are here and they did it.🥺💙🙌🏽 pic.twitter.com/IHTiYuTZ9o— 𝑀𝓇. 𝒯 𝒟𝒾𝓅𝓅𝑒𝒹 𝒾𝓃 𝒲𝑜𝓃𝒹𝑒𝓇 𝒲𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 (@TheBpKrew) April 11, 2021
- Of course, the match also lived up to the billing. The underlying story of Sasha constantly using Belair's hair throughout the match just to have it be her downfall with that devastating whip was awesome.
It doesn't need to be said, but Belair is a freakish athlete. I would love to watch her measurables in a combine-like show. It could be argued that the two purest athletes in WWE are women - Belair and Charlotte Flair.
As expected, we got a feel-good moment for Wrestlemania with Belair taking home the championship. I'm a sucker for feel-good Mania Moments - damn it, there it is again - and this one is up there.
It's only Saturday night but well done, WWE. Take a bow.