MFX Ramblings, Under The Spotlight

Under the Spotlight – WrestleMania XXXI: Part One

The dust has finally settled from a stellar WrestleMania weekend, and whether or not you were excited about the event to begin with, WWE delivered a showcase that exceeded all expectations.

It’s strange to think, last week I was trying my hardest to write some predictions for the 31st instalment of the Show of Shows, and it just felt so unnatural. The build-up was so lacklustre that it felt like I had to work harder to get myself excited about each match, than WWE creative did actually building towards the event.

I will admit, however, that in the final days before ‘Mania, the expertly designed promo vignettes for each bout actually did a great job of creating some last-minute hype, but up until then it was just the name “WrestleMania” that kept me intrigued.

But needless to say, I loved WrestleMania 31 to the point where I can say it was one of the best I’ve seen in years. My two favourites are 20 and 28, my first to watch live as a kid and my first to attend respectively, but apart from those, this could easily be up there with my all-time favourites.

And before we move forward and look towards Extreme Rules and even as far as SummerSlam and next year’s WrestleMania, it’s time to look back at the spectacle that came out of Levi’s Stadium last Sunday night.

Now, the last thing you need is for me to do match-by-match analyses of the show, because it would honestly just be me saying “that was bloody awesome, next” to each one. Instead, let’s discuss some of the biggest moments, highest talking points and the questionable decisions that came out of it, as well as how to go forward from them.

Big Show wins the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

There was a lot more disappointment from this result than I ever would have imagined. To be quite honest, I can’t think of anybody more deserving to win a Battle Royal dedicated to the memory of André than Big Show.

Granted, I think having Cesaro bodyslam Show over the top rope last year was genius, and Cesaro was long overdue a bit of spotlight in WWE. The way they almost repeated that finish this year was great too, because once again, Cesaro’s unparalleled strength was put on display. He looked amazing yet again, and that was even after he’d retained the Tag-Team Championship in an extremely fun, exciting opening contest with a brilliant finish.

I won’t lie, I was rooting for Cesaro, Hideo Itami and by the end, Damien Mizdow to pull off the victory, but did Big Show deserve it? Damn right he did. The only good WrestleMania moment he had to himself was winning the Intercontinental Championship in 2012, and after a brilliant career like he’s had, I think it only makes sense for him to have at least one match he can look back at as an example of where his size actually proved an advantage to him.

Big Show has been compared to André the Giant his whole career. Hell, I wrote a list of my dream matches for SLTD Wrestling for Christmas in 2013, and I had Big Show/André in my top five. It just makes sense, and I know it’s easy to look at a man as big as Paul Wight and say “that guy’s like André the Giant” but I feel like he’s prided himself on it his whole career, and not only that, but he’s tried to amass a legacy just as impressive.

There are many people who see Big Show, and this goes for Kane too, and think his day in the sun should’ve ended several years ago, and that may blind people into thinking the man doesn’t deserve big things anymore because he’s overstaying his welcome, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Especially in Kane’s case, a lot of people think that the corporate stuff they do these days is ruining the legacy they’ve created for themselves over the years.

I think it shows that they can adapt, that they know what it takes to stay around for so long in a business that thrives on new faces being introduced every year. And no, Big Show isn’t going to be on our television screens for much longer, whether that means a couple of months or a few years, but I think he’s good enough at what he does, that if he feels that he can still work every week, he should be allowed to do that.

Besides, I think he proved during the Battle Royal just how physically fit he really is, because he was knocked off the apron by Big E, and he had to rely on his upper body strength to pull himself back up. That’s a lot of man to pull up! Now, he didn’t exactly skin the cat, but it was impressive nonetheless, and it’s small feats of strength and moments like that that show me he’s not quite ready to hang the boots up just yet.

My only critique is that the Battle Royal was on the pre-show, but I still got to see it live (not for €9.99 though, bloody currency conversion), so I suppose that’s only a small thing. I wouldn’t mind the André Battle Royal being an annual thing, because it means that some of the rivalries, as we saw with Miz and Mizdow, can have their moments on the grand stage of WrestleMania. It also gets some of the lower card stars like Zack Ryder and Heath Slater on the card somehow, which is great.

It is also a nice way of introducing an NXT star or two to the crowd in a small way, as we saw with Hideo Itami, who had a lot of supporters, especially after eliminating Bo Dallas with a huge kick to the face. It was also cool to see that rather than have someone like Ryback take Itami out, and then get eliminated himself, they had to have the 400-pound giant do it, and he ended up winning the thing in the end. Hopefully when Itami makes his official debut, we can see him go one-on-one with the Big Show, because that would be a David vs. Goliath situation if I ever saw one.

Anyway, nobody should criticise WWE for giving Big Show this victory, because I cannot stress enough just how much he deserves it. Out of everyone in that match, young or old, face or heel, this man winning made the most sense. If he wins it two years in a row, then you can talk, but for now be happy for the man.

Sting plays the game, and loses

Let’s be honest here; after an entrance like that, how can you possibly lose? I don’t care if Triple H used his relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger to make that Terminator-inspired arrival a possibility, if WWE paid a fortune or if Hollywood paid for the publicity for the new film, I thought it was amazing.

Triple H has become known for his unbelievably powerful, emphatic entrances on the Grandest Stage of them all, and I don’t know if he’ll ever top what they accomplished this year. That was damn cool. The Terminator series is probably my favourite action movie franchise, and Arnie’s “it’s time to play the game” was just freaking awesome. Definitely screamed “WrestleMania” to me.

Back on the wrasslin’ side of things, I think there were a lot of mixed feelings going into this match to begin with. Some people expected it to be slow and boring due to it being Sting’s first ever match in a WWE ring, not to mention his age, other people thought that the atmosphere of WrestleMania would bring the best out of Sting and make his debut one to remember.

I for one, did not expect the nostalgia-fest that we witnessed when D-Generation X squared off against the New World Order. That was an extremely pleasant surprise, and only served to make it, what many seem to believe, the match of the night.

It wasn’t my favourite match last Sunday, but that’s only because I thought the rest of the line-up was so entertaining to witness. Without the blast from the past, and that amazing Sweet Chin Music from Mr. WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels, I’m not sure it would’ve been nearly as enjoyable. Still though, amazing stuff.
One of the most questionable decisions that came from Sunday’s event was the decision to have Triple H go over, and at first, I was confused too, but in hindsight I think it was the right decision.

It may have seemed weird to hype Sting up to the point where you treat his WWE arrival like the second coming of the Messiah (or in this case, the first), and then turn around and have him lose his debut match, on a grand stage like WrestleMania, no less.

But this was a unique case in which WWE, and Sting himself, had no idea if this would be a once-off match to say farewell to a legend who never had his day in the sun, or just the beginning. Which means this match had to be treated as a one-time thing.

If you’re looking at this match as the kingpin of WCW taking on the arguable kingpin of WWE, over a decade after WCW lost the Monday Night War, then there’s no way that Sting could’ve left that building with his arm raised.
If you think that’s a crappy way of looking at it, and I sincerely do (or I did, at least), since Sting blatantly stated that he was not going into this match to represent WCW, then you’re looking at one icon versus another. Two equals, two men who were, at different points, at the very top of the ladder in their respective companies.

You still can’t have Triple H lose here, because he’s the one who sticks around. Triple H is the one who walks around Monday Night Raw with his head held high and a grin on his face, because the Authority have once again proved their dominance. And they can throw that in the faces of the John Cenas, the Rocks and the Daniel Bryans of the world.

Sting wins the match, he goes home, and what? Treating this as a once-off means that Triple H had way more to lose in this match. And going back to my previous statement, if Sting had been right about this being a one-on-one match, then yes, he probably should’ve won.

But the second Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall walked out to trade blows with Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac, it became about WWE versus WCW again. It wasn’t just about the NWO and DX, because if it was, Shawn Michaels could’ve easily come out wearing black and white too.

Now obviously HBK’s role in DX was about a million times more impactful than his introduction to the NWO in 2002, but the fact remains that he was once a member of the legendary faction. This was obviously about WCW and the WWE again, and in this day and age, you just can’t have WCW win that battle.

Triple H is allowed to have this win, in my opinion. Seeing Sting in the WWE has been amazing, and I think there’s too much potential for them to let him go now, when a legendary final match against The Undertaker would be money in their pocket the second they announce it.

But as we saw on the WWE Network after this week’s Raw, there is no guarantee that Sting will ever face off against The Undertaker. It looks like he wants it to happen, based on his reaction to the chants of the crowd, and there have been several rumours going around that Sting and ‘Taker were fairly close this past weekend, but I don’t think anything is set in stone just yet. Meaning this win belonged to Triple H.

Bryan and Cena win gold

As far as obvious results go, John Cena’s clash with Rusev last weekend takes the cake. If you thought for one second that they would let an undefeated, anti-American powerhouse like Rusev leave WrestleMania with his streak intact, over John Cena, no less, then you need to get your head checked.

But the predictable finish didn’t hurt this match too much. Sure, out of everything on the card, I was probably least interested in this one, but that’s not the point. The biggest question was how Cena could topple the Bulgarian Brute in a believable fashion, so that Rusev could continue to dominate the rest of the roster until his next big adversary came along.

What I did like about the finish to this match was that Cena didn’t win clean. He had what I would call a babyface’s equivalent of a dirty finish, using Lana against Rusev to get the victory. It leaves the question; what would the result be if Lana wasn’t at ringside?

Well, it would’ve been the exact same, but thankfully that doesn’t need to be proven to us. At least not until the latter half of 2015 when Cena buries Rusev in a 30-second match to hype a main event against his newest opponent. I’m looking at you, Bray Wyatt…

Anyway, Cena winning the United States Championship is great in a number of ways. For all of you Cena haters out there, it keeps him away from Ric Flair’s record for at least another couple of months, but it also brings some much-desired prestige to a title that severely lacks it.

As we saw on Monday Night Raw, the reign has already started giving us spectacular matches, with Dean Ambrose’s valiant effort to win back the title. What a brilliant way to give that title some relevance, huh?

I also sense a shift in personality for John Cena too. Maybe it was just that raucous Raw crowd, but Cena seemed a little more attitudinal than usual during his pre-match promo this week. I’m not saying a heel turn is imminent, because I won’t believe that will ever happen until I see it with my own eyes, but after Cena picked up the win, I would not have been too shocked to see him turn on Ambrose. Whatever it was, I liked it.

And speaking of new champions, Daniel Bryan picked up his first Intercontinental Championship in a brutal Ladder Match, meaning he’s officially won every title there is to win on the main roster, excluding the Divas Championship. Obviously.

Again, this is much-needed in order to make a legendary title like the IC Title relevant again, and I can see we’re going to be getting some brilliant matches out of it. For example, I reckon a Fatal Four-Way will be in order at Extreme Rules, with Bad News Barrett, Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus, who has constructed this incredible new heel persona for himself.

I can’t wait to see where Sheamus takes this new-found hatred for human life. For now though, I’ll be happy to see him, Bryan, Barrett and Ziggler deliver what will undoubtedly be some superb matches over the course of the next few weeks.

There are a lot of people that think this is all leading up to Daniel Bryan taking on John Cena soon to unify the mid-card titles, but I think that’s an awful idea. Unless they decide to shorten Raw and have less content each week, which I can’t see happening, that would be counter-productive.

I would absolutely not be opposed to Cena and Bryan squaring off again somewhere down the line, but to unify the titles? No thanks.

No matter where these championship reigns lead, I do think the right men won at WrestleMania, and hope that Cena and Bryan can make the titles important again. That way, whoever ends up winning the belts next will benefit from it the way they should.

Rollins exchanges cash for gold

I don’t know if there’s a person out there that thinks Seth Rollins was undeserving of this monumental victory. Maybe Roman Reigns’ family, who’ve supposedly been so angered by their relative’s loss that they wanted to “go to war” with the WWE over it. Give me a break.

We, as fans, wanted to go to war with the WWE at the Royal Rumble this year (and last) because Daniel Bryan didn’t win the big one. Did we get over it? Yes. Was WrestleMania amazing in spite of it? You’re damn right it was. For such a tough, legendary family, it looks like some of its members need to buck up.

Anyway, I love how last year, well before The Shield imploded following its collision with Evolution, the vast majority of fans thought that Seth Rollins would be the afterthought once the dominant trio went their separate ways.

Dean Ambrose was always considered a wizard on the microphone, Roman Reigns had that sought-after look that Vince McMahon has always loved, and while Rollins had the ability, many people reckoned that he would be the one to fall behind when the other two reached success.

But despite being the only former member of The Shield not to be scheduled for a championship match at WrestleMania this year, he was the only one to walk out with championship gold, and in the main event, no less.

Seth Rollins solidified himself late last year as arguably the biggest heel in the WWE, and quite possibly the future face of the company, and last Sunday he proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It’s actually phenomenal to think, when I went to Miami for WrestleMania 28 three years ago, the very first match I saw that weekend was Rollins squaring off against Ambrose at Axxess. I knew that was an IWC-dream match, and I loved every minute of it, but never did I think that just three years later, the winner of that match would walk out of WrestleMania with the WWE’s crown jewel. It’s spectacular.

With the news of Brock Lesnar’s new WWE contract breaking early last week, a lot of people (most of whom I think were originally expecting Reigns to win) were left guessing as to who would walk out with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Surely WWE wouldn’t allow Lesnar to keep the title when he’s done barely anything with it since SummerSlam, but surely they also wouldn’t let Reigns win the title when the vast majority of fans in Levi’s Stadium would lose their shit if he did.

In the end, no matter how many people wanted Lesnar or Reigns to win, WWE gave us the best result we could’ve possibly gotten. Whether or not you are a Seth Rollins fan, and I have no idea why you wouldn’t be, him leaving as Champion leaves us with endless possibilities for at least a few months.

I think we all figured that, no matter who left ‘Mania with the title, the next Pay-Per-View event or two would be headlined by Reigns/Rollins, because all signs seemed to be pointing in that direction. The only hint of a one-on-one rivalry they had was when Ambrose had to shoot a movie last year, but that got cut short when Roman got injured.

Lesnar re-signing or going back to UFC would’ve sparked the same result either way from a summer standpoint, he wasn’t going to be wrestling full-time anyway. But now it looks like these Pay-Per-Views will be headlined by Seth Rollins putting his title on the line against Roman Reigns.

Now whether or not Reigns defeats Rollins for that title is a story for a different day. But for now, we fans can rejoice in that the Architect of the Shield has now become the face of the WWE, after creating history at WrestleMania as the only man to ever cash in Money in the Bank on the Grandest Stage of them all, and winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to put the cherry on top.

Thanks for making it this far, guys. In the next part, I’ll be talking about The Undertaker’s return against Bray Wyatt, the potential for The Rock to clash with Triple H in the future and some of the new Superstars we were introduced to from NXT this week, Neville and Kalisto, as well as why I don’t think any NXT Divas should be brought up just yet.

If you enjoyed this blog, please feel free to leave a comment below, and if you’d like to talk to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @AdamOB_UTS, or you can click on my name at the top of this webpage to take you right there.

Also, be sure to support all of the other MFX Ramblers here by having a look at the extensive range of blogs on the site. And as usual, don’t neglect the two head honchos, Sir Ian and Duckman, and make sure to check out their latest podcast where they will review WrestleMania themselves. I just know you’ll love it.

Auf Wiedersehen!