It has been called many things: The Show of Shows, The Ultimate Thrill Ride, The Greatest Show of Them All. But none of these names capture the full essence of the event commonly known as WrestleMania.
After a string of disappointing WrestleManias over the last couple of years, many fans, including myself, were thinking that WrestleMania 33, which took place April 2 at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, was going to be awful. What we got were surprisingly good and strong matches, all of them telling strong and compelling stories with numerous emotional highs and lows.
First up was the Cruiserweight Championship match between champion Neville and challenger Austin Aries. The buildup, I think, was done way too early. It began at Fastlane back on March 5, when the then-commentator Aries revealed a video package that stated that he would soon be in competition. He would then attack Neville the very next night on “Monday Night Raw,” setting up the match for the championship at WrestleMania.
The buildup should’ve started at WrestleMania, with Aries on commentary showboating as he so often does, then attacking Neville during a post-match interview. However, for a Cruiserweight match, this wasn’t bad. In fact, it is probably the best Cruiserweight Championship match yet, with some good spots such as Austin Aries, with his fascinating speed, going off the top rope for an elbow to the face, then rushing quickly back into the ring for a suicide dive to the outside, or even when Neville did a backflip while falling off the top rope and landed on his feet.
Neville coming away with the victory was a good booking, and it continues to build up Neville as a strong and dominant villain, and gives Aries a possible chance at a future title shot.
Next came the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Overall, this battle royal, a fixture since WrestleMania XXX, has not really impressed me. They have not really put much reason as to the importance of winning the match, such as the winner receiving a future title match at a time of his choosing. Also, with participants such as Braun Strowman, The Big Show and Sami Zayn, all of them big stars, it almost felt easily predictable. And then, the match happened. Of course, Mojo Rawley winning is a big deal for him, congratulations to Mojo on that win.
However, the battle royal’s finish with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski felt a little bit odd and unnecessary. Overall, however, the match was pretty decent with many memorable moments. Not great, but pretty good overall.
The final match on the pre-show was the Intercontinental Championship match between champion Dean Ambrose and challenger Baron Corbin. The buildup was just utterly disappointing, in a wrestling sense. Both characters are crazy and reckless to the point of being dangerous, and they decide to try and capture it by putting them in a match with no stipulation other than a championship being on the line. The beginning was fast and intense, but it fizzled out quickly. A little underwhelming and a bad move by letting Ambrose retain. I wish I could give it a higher rating.
Now onto the main card: AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon. The match that absolutely no one wanted and the match that everyone was blown away by. A very good way to start off the show, with no spots, and pure wrestling. AJ Styles, of course, with the resume that he has, did not disappoint, with him obviously controlling a fair amount of the pace during the match. Plus, Shane McMahon not jumping off a high place for once was a refreshing twist, and the winner was clear from the start. Solid match and job well done by both competitors.
Next was the undisputed best United States Championship match in WrestleMania history by the former best friends of champion Chris Jericho and challenger Kevin Owens. The buildup to this match has been building since June, when both were bad guys who would become more and more entertaining, mostly thanks to Jericho. Of course, that changed when Owens turned on Jericho back in February, leading to Jericho costing Owens the Universal Title back at Fastlane. The match, despite having no stipulation, really delivered the goods in showing how intense the feud has been and both participants, despite Jericho’s age, really put on an amazing match that was booked correctly. One of the best matches of the night and for good reason.
The elimination match for the Raw Women’s Championship between Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Nia Jax was built up amazingly well, with the leadup to WrestleMania making it look like anybody could win the match. The match itself had what will be known as classic moments, such as the triple team on Jax at the beginning and the triple powerbomb to Jax from the top rope. Of course, I am of the belief, as is most of the wrestling community, that Sasha should have turned villainous on Bayley near the match. However, choosing Bayley to win was a good idea, with a tribute to the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage a good way to make the win more special. Not a bad match, but it definitely could have been better.
Next came the triple-threat tag team ladder match between champs Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Enzo and Cass and Sheamus and Cesaro. At least, it would have been a triple threat had it not been for the shocking return of the 11-time tag team champions Matt and Jeff Hardy. Originally, I was not excited for the match, especially the ladder match stipulation, since it felt like something to be added for the last minute. However, the addition of the Hardy Boyz completely changed the complexion and intensity of the match, and as such, their win really made the match and WrestleMania even more special. Welcome home, Boyz.
Next was an OK match, but with a fantastic, beautiful and heart-warming ending. John Cena and his girlfriend Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and his wife, Maryse. It was a pretty standard match, with Miz acting as the cowardly heel, not allowing his wife to step in the ring with Bella, to Maryse’s delight and the fans’ anger. However, once Nikki Bella got into the match, business picked up, with Cena and Bella getting the easy victory. The match itself was pretty ordinary, but then, Cena’s music cut and he pulled out a microphone, telling a story that captured his love for his girlfriend. And then, Cena got out a ring and went down on one knee. This moment was a truly special moment shared by more than 75,000 fans, and is very difficult to top. The match, decent enough, but the proposal made the moment so much more special.
Next was the best match of the night, a match eight months in the making: Seth Rollins vs. Triple H in an unsanctioned match. There was so much on the line and it showed, with Rollins really bringing his absolute best in the leadup, even with an injured knee that left many fans in doubt as to whether or not Rollins would even make it to WrestleMania. However, both men really amped up the drama and created a match that will be cemented deep in the history books. A job well done by the both of them.
This is where WrestleMania began to derail. The WWE Championship match between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton, one with a tremendous amount of buildup that should’ve been creepy and should’ve ended in a Bray Wyatt victory. However, WWE, despite delivering a match rich in history and really fun to watch, could not deliver the goods, with Orton coming out on top. It was a good match, but a little gimmicky, with the infamous projections on the ring when Wyatt began his three spider walks.
Suplex. Spear. Suplex. Spear. Jackhammer. F5. 1, 2, 3. That’s the best way to describe the punishing, fast-paced and hard hitting match known as the Universal Title clash between champion Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. I’m very happy with how the WWE booked the match in the end, no major surprises, which was good. Exactly what needed to happen. Was it a great match? No. Not by any standards, but one that was very memorable and cleverly put together.
Honestly, the six-pack challenge between Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Mickie James, Carmella and Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship was probably my least favorite out of all of the matches on the card, since it was really meant to be a bathroom break match. It was an excuse to just get all of the top women on the SmackDown show on WrestleMania at the same time, however, they all delivered. A job definitely well done and a booking that was unexpected, but felt right.
And finally, our main event of the evening: The Undertaker’s last hurrah against Roman Reigns, probably one of the most controversial matchups in WWE history. The match itself, a no-holds-barred match called by legendary commentator Jim Ross, was the perfect way to capture the nostalgia for The Undertaker. Many of the spots, including Roman Reigns spearing Undertaker through a table and Undertaker sitting up then falling back down, were memorable. For the first time, the fans truly saw the vulnerability of The Undertaker, a vulnerability that led to Undertaker’s second and probably final defeat at WrestleMania. Now, at best, the match was probably four stars. The way WrestleMania ended, however, I will count, because of the pure emotion delivered as The Undertaker removed his gloves, coat and legendary hat and put them in the center of the ring, signaling his retirement after nearly 27 years in the WWE. This was truly a memorable moment, and seeing the Deadman in his final match, and the lights at WrestleMania going completely out with the final gong of The Undertaker was a brilliant way to close the show. A job well done, and, as said on Twitter, #ThankYouTaker.
Overall, this was one of the best WrestleManias over the past couple of years, definitely beating last year’s WrestleMania by a mile. The Undertaker may be gone, however, we can definitely see hope in a high quality WrestleMania for next year.