Wrestlemania 34: The Good, The Bad, and the WTF

THAT.

Was a weird.

Fricking.

Show.

But yeah. Wrestlemania [34] is in the books, and in the prelude to the event, a lot of people looked up and down the card and thought “Wow, this could be one of the best Wrestlemanias in history”. Vince McMahon and WWE management, however, looked up and down the card and thought, “I’mma troll people”.

Seriously, that was a weird, wild Wrestlemania. But we’ll get into that here and now as we look at everything that made up the 2018 edition of the Showcase of the Immortals: The good… the bad… and the WTF.

For transparency’s sake, I’m already regretting this format because so many items are going to belong in two out of these three categories, but I will endeavor to make the hard choices I wouldn’t expect you to have to make. Don’t worry, kiddos; I got your back!

THE GOOD

+The opening match of the night was the INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH, and it was just about as good as we all hoped. Rollins came out first, followed by The Miz, and I thought for a moment there would be a demon sighting for Finn Balor, but nope… he just came out as regular Finn Balor. Which was the right call because Balor has no business being The Demon in matches he isn’t going to win. But at this point, jeez, it’s been several months since we have last seen The Demon. I’m not sure whether I respect that as protecting the gimmick or worry that WWE doesn’t see enough in Finn to think it’s worth the time and effort. That said, the match was fun and frantic and went 15 minutes. Another five minutes would have been super, but they did everything they needed to here. Seth won the title, and as I noted previously… all of these guys deserve it, so that’s terrific. Are we setting up Seth vs a returning Dean Ambrose?

+I can’t properly give the best match of the night a WTF, so here it is in The Good: STEPHANIE MCMAHON WAS IN THE BEST MATCH ON THE CARD! Against all reason and likelihood, Stephanie/HHH vs Ronda Rousey/Kurt Angle was the best match of Wrestlemania, and no one on Earth would have believed you of you said that going in. All four participants carried their weight here, but the MVP was Rousey who put most of the concerns around her to bed. She was a star here: charismatic, powerful, talented. She sold well, she looked like a monster when she needed to, and she was delightful (telling HHH “I’m going to go finish beating up your wife” at one point when he was trying to distract her from outside the ring). Kurt and HHH played it safe and stuck to their classic shtick, there was a great false finish when HHH and Steph were both locked in submissions and it looked like we might get the #DIY/Revival double-tap ending, and Steph was pure evil against Ronda’s heroism. Quality!

+The Smackdown Tag Title match might be controversial–I was chatting with Andy’s brother during the show, and he really didn’t like the booking here–but I thought it did exactly what it needed to as THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS WON IN DOMINANT FASHION. Harper and Rowan really deserve the title run, but the counter argument is that they absolutely destroyed possibly the best two tag teams in WWE to get it. But for my money, the Usos and New Day are so established and over that they can eat this loss with no damage to their forward momentum. This was more about establishing the Bludgeons than hurting anyone else. On a night where precious little went the way I thought it should to the letter, this match found a way there.

+I’m running late to the party on Elias, as I just don’t think the guy is the gem a lot of others do, but ELIAS’ ROLE AT WRESTLEMANIA was fun. With John Cena awaiting The Undertaker in the ring, the lights went out… and Elias popped out with a shit-eating grin and a “Were you expecting someone else?” for the crowd. He ran down New Orleans and the crowd before getting flattened by Cena (and people will take issue with that, but Elias is fine. It was a mugging by John, so I don’t think it weakened Elias, and it played into Cena’s frustration). It worked to keep the crowd hot.

+DANIEL BRYAN IS BACK, AND HE LOOKS GREAT. Terrific tease to start the match with Bryan getting assaulted by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn so that appeared that he would not be involved, but he ended up making his way in and getting the winning submission from Sami to the Yes Lock. The match wasn’t great or anything–and it relied far too heavily on Shan McMahon while Bryan was out of commission on the floor–but none of that is the point. Bryan ran around like a goat possessed, hit all the classics, and emphatically reminded everyone why he is a star. Someone get him and The Miz on the same show now, STAT. What does STAT mean? I never really know. Let’s see… Get Bryan and Miz on the same show So They Attack Themselves! I think that’s it.

+NIA JAX VS ALEXA BLISS HAPPENED and it was completely inoffensive. Nia won, but not via effortless squash, so it was good to not have Bliss go out like that. This was a well-booked if ultimately forgettable match that did what it should have.

+A cursory overview of this article will show that I have parts of Braun Strowman/”Nicholas” vs The Bar in all three categories because various parts of the affair belong in each. But as for the good? BRAUN AND NICHOLAS VS THE BAR WAS THE KIND OF SILLY FUN I ENJOY IN WRESTLING. Nicholas, the kid from the crowd that Braun pulled to be his partner was charming especially with his white-knuckling the ring ropes because the few times he let go, you could see he was shaking like a leaf. It gave commentary something to play with, too. At one point, Nicholas even got tagged in before seeing Cesaro and immediately running back to Braun. Not everything is end-of-the-world stuff, and this was just flat out pleasant. The match part of it, anyway…

THE BAD

-There is one “bad” that, while also fitting as a “WTF” is just so bad–so soul-crushingly awful and ludicrous–it’s the easiest call of the night: ASUKA LOST–BY TAP OUT!–TO CHARLOTTE. Who on Earth made this call, and… why?! Asuka’s entire undefeated tenure in NXT, her winning the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, and her challenge of Charlotte’s Smackdown Women’s Title was all for THAT? To protect Charlotte, who is already well-situated and dominant in the WWE Women’s Division? It’s a mind-bogglingly short-sighted idea of being a shock finish just to be a shock finish. WWE had an incredibly over female version of Goldberg, and they threw it away for NOTHING. On a tap-out, no less! I spent the next several matches stewing in my anger after this result; it’s such a pointless conclusion! I can’t… I feel like I need to shake someone and ask them what they were thinking. Like, “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING YOU FOOL”, and then some kind of slap for dramatic effect. The premise here, I’m sure, is that WWE sees more money in next year’s ‘Mania being Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte than Ronda Rousey vs undefeated Asuka, but WWE is god damn wrong on that front. Even if they do believe that, they still could have done Charlotte vs Rousey; Charlotte’s position would have been completely unaffected by a loss here. Asuka, meanwhile, has had her aura destroyed and is now just another woman. A great woman. A wonderful, talented, charismatic woman. But now she’s just another one on the roster with nothing special about her. Also, Charlotte has cemented her position as Female Roman Reigns Who Will Always Be Booked Strong And Put Over Everyone Because Of Her Bloodline Moreso Than Her Actual Abilities. So good for her?

-The UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH was a match. It wasn’t a particularly good one, but… it happened. As many feared, not only was Rusev NOT there to win, but he was placed in the bout so he could be the guy to eat the pin. For Jinder friggin’ Mahal. Who I don’t hate nearly as much as many fans, but come on! It’s Wrestlemania! You have Rusev win here for the elation and the pop, and then he can drop the belt on Tuesday if you simply MUST give it to Jinder. This match did nothin’ for nobody, and the US Title continues to hot potato its way around the roster and feel like a prop.

-Between the 2:10 (two hour, ten minute) mark of the show and the 2:50 mark, the only “match” that happened was Cena/Undertaker, and that last less than three minutes. So Wrestlemania went, at one point, FORTY MINUTES WITHOUT A REAL MATCH. Between commercials and Undertaker’s relaxing jaunt to the ring, and the Elias stuff, there was a lot of not wrestling for almost an hour.

-AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura were given over twenty minutes to work with, but THE WWE TITLE MATCH NEVER GOT OUT OF THIRD GEAR. This is something where “good”, “bad”, and “WTF” don’t seem to quite work, but I am not creating a fourth category which would essentially be “The Good, The Bad, the WTF, and the *half shrug*”. The match was fine, it was fine, this is fine. But it’s AJ STYLE VS SHINSUKE NAKAMURA. I don’t want “fine”; I want ****3/4. This affair sure as heck didn’t break four stars for me. It took a long time to get going, and even then, it just felt like they were holding something back. Like I said… “fine”.

BOTH ROYAL RUMBLE WINNERS LOST BECAUSE WWE HATES JAPAN. No, that’s probably not true. But it might be! Tell your friends.

-Almost exactly what I didn’t want to happen happened, and THE BAR LOST THE TAG TITLES TO, ESSENTIALLY, BRAUN STROWMAN BY HIMSELF. I don’t HATE this because the match was just supposed to be the rib-tickling breather between world title matches, but still… Cesaro and Sheamus deserve better.

THE WTF

!?So the first pure “WTF WAS THAT?” of the night–if you ignore Asuka’s loss, and you should, because it was BAD–was the JOHN CENA VS UNDERTAKER match. The match lasted all of two minutes and forty-five seconds and was a SQUASH. Cena has been jobbing to absolutely everyone on the planet in the last year or so as he knows his time is coming to an end and he wants to give all the rubs he can, but this was silly. Who is helped here? I mean, it’s better than a lumbering thirty-minute match that ‘Taker clearly can’t still work, but… now what? Is Undertaker BACK-back? Is this his “Now I retire a WINNER” match? Was it just something to do? What was the point of this?!

!?After the WWE Title Match, SHINSUKE NAKAMURA TURNED HEEL BY CROTCHING AND ATTACKING AJ STYLES. Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming… Shin had been so playful and goofy leading up to ‘Mania, that he didn’t seem like he had this in him. This is not a negative WTF, either; I’m excited to see where this goes because Nak REALLY needs an adjustment to his character. Just a weird trigger to pull here.

!?Braun Strohmann ended up not having a mystery partner, and instead BRAUN PULLED A TEN YEAR OLD KID NAMED NICHOLAS OUT OF THE AUDIENCE TO BE HIS TAG TEAM PARTNER. It was certainly something. I really want too know more about this kid! I’m sure he was a plant, but I’d love to know to what degree. Is he a relative to someone in the company and was planned for this whole angle? Or was he a genuine spectator that they pulled before the event and told him what was coming and what he needed to do? It’s definitely not anything I would have expected, though!

!?In the ultimate example I have ever seen of WWE just trolling everyone, BROCK LESNAR RETAINED THE UNIVERSAL TITLE AGAINST ROMAN REIGNS. This match was weird. Just… no other way of putting it. Brock went absolutely bananas on Roman pretty much all match, REPEATEDLY hitting him with F5’s, only for Roman to keep kicking out. It was like WWE was trying to piss everyone off because we all “knew” Roman was winning, so they were going out of their way to make him look as indestructible as possible even though no one wanted him to. He kicked out of three F5’s in a row at one point. He kicked out of an F5 through a table. This was WWE telling the story no one wanted to see. And then Roman made a comeback and appeared to be on the cusp of winning… and Brock hit a fifth or sixth or twentieth F5 or whatever and won. It was so damn bizarre. It was a weird inversion on the underdog story because BROCK was really the underdog here, and not just in the way that everyone assumed Roman was winning, but in that no matter how much Brock did to Reigns, Reigns couldn’t be put down. It was like the guy was made out of adamantium. And then finally…suddenly… Brock was able to do enough to win, and his win popped the crowd and sent everyone home happy. Just… I can’t tell if this was genius or trolling or pointless or what. But it was a huge shock.

So there you have it! All of the crazy that was Wrestlemania 34 all neatly divied up and categorized for you. Each category had more than enough items, so… was Wrestlemania a good show? I don’t know… that Asuka loss is legitimately the worst thing I’ve seen WWE do in a LONG TIME. The only comparable example I can think of would be to have Finn Balor come out as The Demon just to get innocuously pinned by Rhyno. Or if The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak has ended in his casket match against Mark Henry. It’s abject idiocy. That said, the stuff this show did well, it did pretty darn well. I don’t know… this might be the most subjective and divisive Wrestlemania in history when it’s all said and done. Most importantly… what did YOU think?

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