Wrestling Review: WWE WrestleMania 35

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WrestleMania 35 has come and gone! We were treated to quite the show, one that had a lot more hits than misses, and one that ultimately should be remembered quite fondly. Let’s take a closer look at the card, match-by-match. Given that there were 16 bouts in total as well as other segments, I will try to keep it as brief as possible, otherwise it would take hours for you to read it (meaning that you’d be better just watching the show itself).

Cruiserweight Championship Match
Buddy Murphy (C) vs. Tony Nese

Opening proceedings on the Kick-Off Show was the Cruiserweight Championship clash. The fans didn’t seem to be enthused about this one (which is probably a sign of where 205 Live viewership is at right now), and Nese seemed to elicit more boos than cheers when they did react at first. That didn’t stop both men performing to the standard expected of a Mania though, with Nese shining strongest with such moves as a moonsault off the ropes onto a straddled Murphy and a turning moonsault to a standing Buddy on the floor. And it proved to be Tony’s night, as he hit the Running Nese to claim the biggest win of his career by becoming Cruiserweight Champion. Fun stuff if you can focus solely on the action.

Women’s Battle Royal

It was obvious that this was just filler for the women that didn’t have a match on the card, as evidenced by the fact that it wasn’t particularly memorable, as well as there being a couple of blown spots. Dana Brooke and Lana were booked more strongly than one might have expected, while Asuka’s assumed dominance came to an abrupt end via Sarah Logan. Logan thought she’d won, but Carmella hadn’t been eliminated to step back in and ultimately throw out Sarah to triumph. The finish was exactly the same as last year, but this was still okay to watch. Lacey Evans’ presumed involvement didn’t transpire; instead, on the main card, she stepped out to do her usual teased entrance and that was it for her.

Raw Tag Team Championship Match
The Revival (C) vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder

After tasting 269 consecutive losses, Curt Hawkins finally ended his long losing streak by rolling up Scott Dawson to lift the Raw Tag Titles for himself and Ryder. This bout was alright (Dash Wilder received massive cheers for his part in the Hall Of Fame skirmish the previous night), and the audience were starting to become more invested in the show (which still hadn’t officially begun, incidentally). A brainbuster to Hawkins on the floor seemed to put him down, only for him to snatch victory at the death. A big win for the Bro-ski’s, but WWE could have done more to tease this (such as announcing the bout on television), because it kinda felt booked purely for the moment.

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

The ATGMBR was the usual. Braun Strowman was clearly the star of the match, with his recent issues involving Saturday Night Live performers Colin Jost and Michael Che being the thread throughout. Both SNL guys hid under the ring as soon as possible, allowing Braun to run roughshod on the remaining field. Of note, Ali took a nasty bump onto the floor which saw his face bounce hard off an announcer’s table. In the end, Braun was being pulled out by Matt and Jeff Hardy when the SNL boys ran back in to try and assist, only for Strowman to knock everyone aside, eliminate both Hardyz and, after ignoring verbal pleas, he tossed out Che and then Jost to win the trophy. Later on, the injured Jost and Che were shown in the medical room, apparently being about to be “seen to” by Kevin Nash and Scott Hall In doctor’s gear. Okay then.

Believe it or not, the WrestleMania card was only now officially starting! After Yolanda Adams covered America The Beautiful (accompanied by helicopters flying over MetLife Stadium) and an opening video about storytelling leading to a big fireworks procession, Mania host Alexa Bliss opened the show proper by noting how she could create a Mania moment just by clicking her fingers. With that, Hulk Hogan joined her on the stage to a big reaction, and after joking about his inability to correctly name WM host venues, he reeled off his catch phrases and posed with Alexa. As they finished off, Paul Heyman marched to the ring and said that, if Brock Lesnar couldn’t be in the main event, he’d handle his business in the opening match so that he could jet off to Las Vegas where he would be “ultimately appreciated!”

Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Seth Rollins

Lesnar attacked Rollins before he could even get into the ring, recklessly bouncing him all over ringside and across announcer’s tables. Indeed, Brock laid a hellish beating on Seth before the match even started, and after the bell rang, the suplexes began. But Rollins avoided the assumed F5 by knocking Brock into the referee, allowing him to hit a low blow followed by kicks to the jaw and three consecutive Curb Stomps to capture the Universal Championship in short order! Fans were super-hot for this moment, as Lesnar’s dominance of Raw’s top title has ended (hopefully for good this time). MetLife Stadium is to Lesnar what Toronto SkyDome was to Hogan (and on April 7 to be more specific).

Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles

After that frenetic opener, the pace slowed down with Orton vs. Styles, though that wasn’t a bad thing as these two put on a strong bout. It was back-and-forth action, with big moves being matched only by even bigger counters. AJ teased a Phenomenal Forearm that allowed Randy to go to the ground (in prep for a mid-air RKO) to taste a 450 Splash. Orton did hit an RKO later, which Styles survived, and AJ hit a Phenomenal Forearm to the floor. Orton tried a top rope RKO but AJ fought Randy away, leading to a Phenomenal Forearm in the ring for the pinfall win. I enjoyed this match, and hopefully the feud continues beyond Mania.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (C) vs. The Bar vs. Ricochet & Aleister Black vs. Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura

This has the dreaded “filler” feeling to it, but with it still being early in the main show and with fans solidly behind the recent NXT call-ups, it ended up exceeding expectations. Of particular note, Cesaro spun Ricochet in his Giant Swing for dozens of rotations while Sheamus pounded almost everybody else at various intervals. A huge exchange of finishers between all involved culminated in Jimmy and Jey Uso striking Sheamus with double superkicks and a double splash, giving The Usos a successful title defence and their first win on the main card of a Mania.

Before the next match, we had the Hall Of Fame inductees bow. This included The Honky Tonk Man, Brutus Beefcake, Warrior Award winner Sue Aitchison, Harlem Heat, The Hart Foundation, Torrie Wilson and D-Generation X.

Falls Count Anywhere Match
The Miz vs. Shane McMahon

This had the most personal build-up, with Shane beating Miz down and even putting his hands on Mix’s dad George. The latter was at ringside here, and Shane again scrunched his face up. Somehow, Shane managed to overwhelm Miz in the early going, all leading to Miz Sr. actually confronting McMahon in the ring. Shane humorously helped Mr. Miz to put ‘em up only to beat him down. At this point, Miz exploded and pounded Shane all over the building, at one point sending him bouncing over a mini-balcony in a brutal moment. In the end, Miz suplexed Shane off a camera-rig tower to the mat below, but because Shane landed on Miz, he managed to pin him for the victory. This feud is far from over.

Women’s Tag Team Championship Match
Sasha Banks & Bayley (C) vs. Nia Jax & Tamina vs. The IIconics vs. Natalya & Beth Phoenix

Bret Hart accompanying Natalya and (the returning for Mania Season only) Beth to the aisleway was the most memorable aspect of an unmemorable match. On a show this long, it’s inevitable that some bouts won’t go over as well as others, and that was definitely the case here. It had a surprising outcome, though, as Phoenix hit Bayley with a Glam Slam off the ropes, only for Billie Kay to run in and snatch the pin to win the titles for herself and Peyton Royce. Fans definitely approved of this outcome, but not as much as they would for the next bout.

WWE Championship Match
Daniel Bryan (C) vs. Kofi Kingston

To me, this was the highlight of the show. Kofi, the previously-unfancied underdog who wasn’t even considering a singles push as recently as Royal Rumble, was the sentimental favourite against Bryan, the environmentally-obsessed heel. It built slowly, with Bryan wearing Kofi down after the latter had missed his adversary and crashed into the edge of an announcer’s table. A multitude of submission holds by Bryan followed, but Kofi fought back with a jumping stomp, and he soon caught Bryan with an SOS for a near-fall. As Rowan and The New Day brawled at ringside, Daniel caught Kofi in the LeBell Lock, and he drilled him with a Running Knee for a very close two-count. Daniel attempted more big kicks, but this only fired Kofi up more, who battled back and eventually struck with Trouble In Paradise to claim the gold in a major feel-good moment. The crowd noise peaked here, as Big E and Xavier Woods reintroduced the previous (non-hemp) title belt, along with a commemorative shirt, while an emotional Kofi celebrated with his kids and his New Day teammates. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call this a classic match; it was certainly the most memorable WrestleMania moment of the evening.

United States Championship Match
Samoa Joe (C) vs. Rey Mysterio

Samoa Joe beat Rey Mysterio in a minute to retain his United States Championship. Rey struck with an early 619 but quickly succumbed to the Coquina Clutch. Rey’s ankle injury probably explains the sudden nature of this bout.

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

This served its purpose of giving Roman a simple babyface triumph in his first singles bout since leaving to battle leukaemia for a second time. McIntyre (whose entrance was accompanied by a bagpipe-playing band) brought the goods to harm Reigns, in an attempt to take down The Big Dog once and for all. But Roman fought back, and after a Superman Punch, he nailed a Spear for the pin. Not much to say here, but given the forecast for Reigns in late October, the fact that this was even possible has to be considered a major positive.

Elias’ big performance humorously opened with footage of him playing the drums and the piano alongside the man himself playing guitar in the ring. He was (of course) interrupted, with footage of Babe Ruth leading to the Babe Ruth of the modern WWE generation, John Cena, who was going old-school here. By that, I mean that he was in Thuganomics mode, delivering a cutting and risqué rap at Elias’ expense, before dropping him with an AA. A fun segment, though Cena being involved here meant that he would play no role in Kurt Angle’s departure, and it also removed any possibility of an Undertaker cameo, meaning that The Dead Man missed Mania for the first time since 2000.

No Holds Barred Match – If Triple H Loses, He Retires
Triple H vs. Batista

The Animal’s last match began very badly for him as he tripped through the ropes while making his entrance. It got worse in a kayfabe sense as Trips attacked him with a chain, bent his fingers back with pliers and even removed his nose ring with another set of pliers. This wasn’t particularly PG, and remember that H was the babyface. From there, Batista fought back, slamming The Game onto various tables, leading H to spear Batista through another desk. The usual big moves kicked in from there, and both men kicked out of each other’s finishers, as well as avoiding sledgehammer shots. In the end, Ric Flair (who Batista had attacked off-camera in February) made the difference, handing H another sledgehammer which he used to hit a jumping blow, followed by a second Pedigree, to finish off Batista. Triple H’s career continues, but Batista was now officially retired, having had the final bout that he had wanted for years.

Kurt Angle’s Farewell Match
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin

No sudden squash, no last-minute swerve. Instead, it was a straightforward match between Kurt and Baron, and by now the fans were feeling the fatigue of being at the show for so long. There were a couple of close near-falls, and Corbin came close to submitting via the Ankle Lock. Kurt somehow busted out a moonsault but Baron moved, allowing him to hit the End Of Days for the pin. It seemed deflating, but the younger opponent triumphing does make sense (and it’s rare that a retiring legend wins in his final bout, in hindsight). Afterwards, Kurt thanked the crowd and received one final, endearing “You Suck!” chant as he brought his career to an end. This could have been more based on the occasion, though given how limited that Angle has become due to injuries, they actually exceeded expectations.

Intercontinental Championship Match
Bobby Lashley (C) vs. Finn Balor

Lashley was rocking some wicked contact lenses here, while Balor was in full Demon mode, leading to quite the entrance. Finn pounded Bobby early on, but the All-Mighty fought back with a big spinebuster. A spear didn’t earn Lashley the victory, and Balor struck back once again with a shock powerbomb, followed by the Coup De Grace for the relatively quick victory. Again, this served a purpose, and though it was obviously no classic, it was still a big moment for Finn, who has his first victory at Mania.

Alexa Bliss announced the attendance for Mania 35 (82,265), and brought out R-Truth and Carmella for a Dance Break. We also had a pirate-themed video to promote WrestleMania 36 in Tampa Bay, before we had our main event.

Raw & SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Ronda Rousey (R C) vs. Charlotte Flair (SD C) vs. Becky Lynch

Ronda had Joan Jett & The Blackhearts singing Bad Reputation, while Charlotte arrived at MetLife Stadium via helicopter. Becky had her usual entrance, but she would ultimately get the biggest moment. The match itself was well-worked, with typical intensity and intriguing spots. The atmosphere was a bit weak, but we were well into the running time, and a few chants indicated that the fans were still interested, they were just exhausted. Ronda took a hellacious bump to the floor at one point, and there were quite a few close calls off submission lock-ins. Charlotte was driven through a table by both Becky and Ronda, before Rousey locked in her Armbar on Becky, who rolled back and managed to pin Rousey to win the match and both titles. Ronda’s shoulders appeared to be up on one, which (along with the sudden nature of the ending) meant that it was a bit of a flat finish, but Becky still had her big moment as she held both titles high as the fireworks went off to close the show.

On the whole, I really enjoyed WrestleMania 35. The biggest three potential babyface moments all occurred with varying degrees of success, other superstars enjoyed career-defining triumphs, and there were big spots aplenty in other matches. We saw seven titles change hands (a WWE record) and two major careers end, along with some nifty under-card action, plenty of eye-catching entrances, and a couple of big surprises. It didn’t quite reach the heights of the best Manias ever, but it was better than I had expected beforehand. I would need to watch parts of the show again to judge its long-term legacy, but on the night, I thought that this was the best WrestleMania in a good few years.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent