So Wrestlemania weekend has been and gone… and to be honest, I’m a little bit downhearted. Last night promised to have one of the best cards in years – and was set in New Orleans, the stop for arguably the best Wrestlemania of all time. But, iif I’m being truthful, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. And seeing as this is supposed to be the highlight of wrestling, that’s not good.
It wasn’t all bad though, we had NXT Takeover, which many fans believe stole the weekend – and with good reason. And to be fair, Wrestlemania had SOME good moments, so it wasn’t a completely wasted weekend.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my review for both Wrestlemania 34 and NXT Takeover: New Orleans.
NXT Takeover: New Orleans
We started off with a, somewhat pointless musical intro by Cane Hill – which had a pretty bad musical balance as well. But it was worth the wait as afterwards, we were treated to one of the best ladder matches I’ve seen in a while.
Featuring Adam Cole, Killian Dane, Lars Sullivan, Velveteen Dream, new acquisition Ricochet (OMG yes!) and the returning EC3, it set the bar for the event. With bodies flying around, getting torn open – and some insane flying spots (including an awesome elbow by Velveteen Dream from the top of a cage), it energised the crowd so much that the “Fight forever chant” was prevalent. Ricochet astounded us with his high-flying skills and EC3 proved he was ready for the big time (having already proven himself as one of the best TNA superstars). In the end, Adam Cole (baby!) won it for the Undisputed Era. And the crowd couldn’t have been happier. Hands down one of the best ladder matches I’ve seen in a while.
After coming up short against Ember Moon at the last Takeover, Shayna Blazer had a lot to prove. And with her fellow UFC’s friends in the crowd (including Ronda Rousey), she had a lot to prove. It was a brutal back and forth – with Blazer even countering Moon’s Eclipse finishing move (something even Asuka wasn’t able to do!) and forcing the Kirifuda Clutch on her. This time, Moon wasn’t able to escape and passed out – making Blazer the new champion. Good match to follow the ladder match.
The finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic match were next – Authors of Pain versus Pete Dunne (who was one of the most over people tonight) and Roderick Strong against The Undisputed Era. With Boddy Fish injured, Cole had to do double duty tonight. The match went back and forth as you’d expect until, in a shock twist, Strong turned on his partner and helped the Era win – joining them in the process. Whilst I guess this was supposed to be a “heel” moment, the crowd just cheered this and even chanted “Yes!” Not quite what WWE were hoping for, but it was still a good twist to end.
The NXT title was up for grabs now, with Cien Almas against Aleister Black, probably my favourite wrestler in NXT right now. At the last Takeover, Cien and Garganos had possibly the match of the year, which was gonna be hard to top. And whilst this match didn’t exactly live up to that standard – it was still amazing! Throughout the match, Vegas (possibly the best heel manager ever) interrupted the match with some savage attacks on Black – and it looked like Cien would get the victory because of this. However, Black fought through – and a mistake by Vegas led Cien right into a Black Mass, where Aleister Black gained the win, ending Almas’s title reign. Good for Black, he deserves it!
Funnily enough, I seem to remember he fought Almas in his first match on last years Takeover. Seems like it’s come full circle now.
And finally, to end this night was the “unsanctioned” match between former #DIY team mates Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, in which his NXT career was on the line. This is one of the most intense rivalries I’ve seen in years, and the fans are still hurting over Ciampa betraying Johnny about a year ago. I swear that Ciampa must be one of the most legitimately hated heels in years – when he came out, he had no ring music, just the sound of the fans boos. Chants of “f*** you, Ciampa” and “you’re a w***er” (being British, that brought a smile on my face) filled the arena. WWE should take note – with this amount of heat, they can make him into a real badass.
I have rarely seen a match with such white-hot emotion. Both Gargano and Ciampa really put 500% into their roles and gave us a spectacular match. All the rage and hate they had for each other boiled over here – and they hit both with everything from crutches to a suplex from the announcer table to the floor – even a powerbomb onto exposed concrete! Honestly, there was more in this one rivalry that WWE have had in any of their main roster feuds in a while. The ending was especially poetic – as it looked like Ciampa and Gargano would make amends as they both sat next to each other, remembering their friendship. But Ciampa would try to take advantage of this – however, Gargano scouted this and finished it with an STF (using Ciampa’s leg brace) to finally get his revenge. And so ends one of the most intense and emotional feuds we’ve seen in years.
All in all, this was a solid event and Wrestlemania would have to have done a LOT more to top this. Could they do it?
I didn’t seem the pre-match bouts, but from what I understand Matt Hardy won the Battle Royale (with help from a new “Woken” Bray Wyatt), Cedric Alexander captured the Cruiserweight Championship, and Naomi won the Women’s Battle Royale (Wrestlemania has been good to Naomi I’ve noticed).
The main event card started with the Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Championship between The Miz, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor. This was a very strong start to the event, with all three guys proving they are main event material. There were some great spots – but the highlight was Rollins doing a double Blackout to both Finn and Miz, before finishing Miz to grab the title, becoming a “Grand Slam Champion.” Good for him! Like I said, a solid start to the event.
Next up – one match I was really interested to see – Charlotte Flair versus the seemingly unstoppable Asuka. Title versus Streak! I would say that this was one of the best women’s matches I’ve ever seen (and Charlotte’s entrance was also amazing), both Flair and Asuka pulling out all the stops, and for a whilst Asuka really had Charlotte’s number at the beginning. However, Charlotte managed to fight through and get Asuka in her Figure Eight Leg Lock – causing her to tap, much to the shock of the audience. Her streak had ended! Afterwards, Asuka proclaimed “Charlotte was ready for Asuka” and the two embraced. It was a lovely moment and I would say the highlight of the event.
It was kinda spoiled when it focused on John Cena running to the back, having just heard the Undertaker was in (for god’s sake, Cena, let the women have their moment). More on that later.
We then had the four-way match for the US Title. RUSEV DAY! RUSEV DAY! RUSEV DAY! RUSEV DAY! RUSEV… oh b****cks Jinder Mahal won. Really, WWE? You’re really gonna do this again? Have you not learned your lesson from last time? *sigh*
At least the next match was a crowd pleaser – even if it did get a bit chaotic near the end. Seeing Ronda Rousey kick the living crap outta both Stephanie AND Triple H was pretty fun, and Angle did pretty good as well. It was a match that was better for fan service than wrestling – but Rousey did prove herself. With a bit more polish, she’ll become a force to be reckoned with.
The Smackdown titles were defended now for the first time in forever at Wrestlemania. The New Day came down with a group of dwarfs in pancakes, which was – weird. And the Uso’s celebrated the fact that this was their first time in the Wrestlemania main event card. However, it was quickly ruined by the Bludgeon Brothers – who in usual fashion squashed both teams to win the titles. It was quick, but we’ve come to expect that from the Brothers. Kinda seemed like the predictable route to go though – wished the Uso’s have had a better Wrestlemania moment. Never mind.
After that (in hopefully an end to one of the worst storylines ever), John Cena came to the ring, believing the Undertaker to be here. After calling him out for so long, he might finally get his Wrestlemania moment – because he’s NEVER had one of those.
Then came down Elias for – reasons. John Cena beat him up and seemed to leave. But then, SHOCK ALERT, the Undertaker DID appear. And I could not give any less of a s***.
What we then saw was one of the worst squash matches since Bret Hart versus Vince MchMahon. The Undertaker was sluggish and nowhere near as amazing as he once was. At one point he did a kick that didn’t even connect with Cena! It was just embarrassing – but at least it was short. In the end, this whole “Undertaker” thing, whilst arguably a crowd-pleaser, did nothing for either man in the end. Now do you see why I said this match shouldn’t happen?
And it went downhill from there.
Ok, that’s a bit unfair – as we next had Daniel Bryan (in his triumphant return to the ring) and Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Bryan didn’t miss a beat and the fans loved it. I’d be lying if I said it was the best match of the night, but it was decent – and ended with Bryan getting the win with “Yes!” chants filling the ring. The stipulation was that if they lost, Owens and Zayn would be fired from Smackdown. Move to Raw maybe?
After the dreadful body shamming angle with Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, I was hoping for a Jax victory. But knowing WWE, I figured Bliss would get one over. As it turns out, I was wrong! Jax DID win the match, pretty much squashing Bliss. It wasn’t a great match, but it wasn’t terrible either. And at least the result was the right one – about time Jax had some love.
The next match was a match that I, and many fans, were waiting for. AJ Styles versus Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE title. This is something that many fans have been waiting for – and based on their past battles in Japan, it was going to be epic! Shinsuke’s entrance alone (with guitar provided by Alice Cooper’s guitarist) was damn amazing. So we had high hopes for this match. And let me tell you, it was one of the most…
…underwhelming matches I’ve ever seen.
That is a phrase I thought I would never say about a AJ Styles or Nakamura match.
The match itself wasn’t bad, per say – it just wasn’t very exciting. Styles and Nakamura just didn’t seem to click here for whatever reason, and what should have been a fast-paced bout just became sluggish. The ending was good, when Styles counted a Kinshasa into a Styles Clash to get the win – and Shinsuke’s heel turn at the end could be interesting. But on the whole, this was not the magical match we had hoped for.
As a side note, anyone else noticed that neither Royal Rumble winner came out well in this event? That’s harsh.
In the penultimate match, The Bar went up against Braun Strowman and his mystery partner – after tipping over a Mardi Gras float that is. With so many theories flying around, everyone was on tender hooks as to who it would be. And so, Strowman announced his partner as…
Nicolas, a ten-year-old boy from the audience.
I should be pissed off about this; in fact I WAS. It was one of the biggest cop-outs in WWE history. But at LEAST it was kinda entertaining. Nicolas got a good fan reaction (with the crowd chanting “Let’s go, Nicolas”), even if he did look physically terrified! Strowman obviously did all the work – and beat them for the titles. This means that Nicolas is the youngest person in wrestling history to EVER win a title (something which I don’t think will stick).
Yes, it was utterly stupid, and some might say completely out of character for Strowman. But I actually quite liked it. At least it was WAY better than the train wreck of a main event.
This could possibly be a contender for worst match ever in Wrestlemania history possibly in ANY main event. No one really wanted Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to duke it out, and no one really cared. It was pretty much just signature moves and finishing moves – all the while the fans chanted “Boring”, “This is awful”, and the always classic “CM Punk.” Even Lesnar splitting Reigns open (which to be fair looked pretty brutal) couldn’t save this stinker and it was over in minutes. Oh, and if you thought that Reigns was gonna win, think again. For whatever reason, WWE decided to have Lesnar keep the title. And so, the worst title reign in WWE history continues.
What can I say about NXT Takeover, other than it was frigging awesome! From the opening ladder match to the intense rivalry of Gargano and Ciampa, it was non-stop action from bell to bell. There wasn’t a single bad match, or even a match that I considered mediocre. In fact, the only negative thing I can think of was the musical opening, but even that would be a nitpick. NXT once again pull out all the stops and arguably steal the weekend.
As for Wrestlemania… I really wanted to say I enjoyed this event, but it was just a huge let down. How can an event that had one of the best cards in years turn out like this? Most of the matches were just ok and very few of them had any memorable moments. It wasn’t all bad – the Intercontinental match was solid, Daniel Bryan’s return was a fans dream, Ronda Rousey’s debut was decent, Asuka having her streak broken by Charlotte was a shock moment – and hell, I even enjoyed the Braun Strowman/Nicolas win, despite it being a complete cop out. But the “dream match” between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura just broke my heart at how dull it was, and the main event was just a car wreck from beginning to end. And don’t even get me started on the pointlessness of the Undertaker versus Cena. Even the commentators seemed to give up, as there was more dead air here than in a graveyard.
Wrestlemania 34 was by no means the worst Wrestlemania, but it was by no means a classic – and it did have one of the worst main events I’ve ever seen in WWE history. Thankfully we had NXT Takeover or this weekend would have been a waste.
To sum up the events in one word. NXT Takeover = awesome. Wrestlemania = underwhelimg.
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