Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 680 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 4
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 4 2018
(Thanks to Fetch Publicity for arranging this review.)
The biggest annual WWE DVD of the year, WrestleMania, is here again. This time, the Hall Of Fame ceremony has been omitted due to time restrictions, being replaced by the Kick-Off Show bouts, the episode of Raw after WM, and for some sellers, the NXT TakeOver: New Orleans special.
Starting with Mania, it opens with a great three-way for the Intercontinental Title between The Miz, Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor, and a big moment in the career of The Architect. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka is another excellent bout, though I found the decision to end Asuka’s undefeated streak to be wrong on the night and even more so upon second viewing.
Two filler bouts (a four-way for the United States crown and a three-way for the SmackDown Tag Team belts) book-end an extremely well-booked mixed tag clash as Ronda Rousey, teaming with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, makes her WWE debut in style (though I could have done without the announcers gushing over HHH & Stephanie’s entrance; they are heels, remember. A fun segment involving John Cena, Elias and The Undertaker caps off the Cena-is-desperate-for-a-WrestleMania-moment storyline, and Taker looks good as he makes short work of Cena, negating his most recent farewell ceremony in the process.
Few would have imagined when 2018 began that Daniel Bryan would be wrestling, but wrestle he did in his first match since 2015, as he and Shane McMahon draw a line under their long-running feud/association with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Owens saying “Money money money” to mock Shane is amusing). Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax exceeds expectations, though AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, whilst being a very good match, doesn’t quite meet the hype. Shinsuke’s post-match heel turn on AJ was a shocker, and it has revitalised his career in the process.
Braun Strowman teaming with a ten-year-old kid to face The Bar couldn’t have been predicted by anybody beforehand, though I feel there was an overreaction from fans considering that they were happy for Braun to go this alone; having a young spectator as a co-champion barely made a difference. As for Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns … well, the lack of crowd interest harmed the entertainment value of the contest, though it was also damaged by whomever decided that Roman should only lose after taking six F5’s. The heavy blood loss was unnecessary, and the shock result created more questions than answers; that Brock is still Universal Champion now means that SummerSlam or WrestleMania 35 will most likely be where Brock is finally dethroned.
In terms of the Kick-Off Show matches: Goldust dabbing is the highlight of the men’s Battle Royal, aside from the finishing sequence, and the women’s Battle Royal isn’t quite as entertaining as the women’s Royal Rumble (plus, the spot where several NXT ladies – regardless of their face/heel alignment – start an “NXT!” chant feels so forced). Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali for the vacant Cruiserweight Championship is very good, though I preferred Neville vs. Austin Aries last year.
I’ll wrap up the Raw after Mania very quickly: we get main roster debuts for Ember Moon, No Way Jose and The Authors Of Pain; returns for Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley and Samoa Joe; Paige retiring; and Kurt Angle casually name-dropping TNA. What more could you ask for?
Finally, it’s onto NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, which is just awesome. The six-man Ladder match is unbelievable; I wasn’t sure if I agreed with those claiming it was one of the best Ladder matches ever at the time, but after a second viewing here, I more than agree. Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler is okay, actually it’s really good, but it can’t compare to the excitement of the opening bout.
The three-way NXT Tag Team Championship scrap is chaotic yet entertaining, and it has a shocking ending. Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black is another excellent NXT Championship match. Lastly, Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa is one of NXT’s best ever matches, a truly epic 37-minute Unsanctioned Brawl with all sorts of layers and spots which ensure that it will rank high when the 2018 Match Of The Year is announced.
Phew! That is some wrestling DVD, even if the action isn’t always spot-on. There are plenty of moments and matches here that will cater to every fan, from the casual viewer tuning into see Ronda Rousey’s debut to the longtime follower watching for Undertaker vs. Cena to the die-hard supporter that will eat up Gargano vs. Ciampa. There have definitely been better WrestleManias, but the four-disc version of WM 34 is one of the most stacked WWE DVDs that you will find and is therefore a must-own.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding