WrestleMania 39 — Review

WrestleMania Hollywood is in the books now. It led to shocking some, attempting its own cinematic ending. The anticipation fell flat in some areas, exceeded in others.

Below is the Twitter feed of scores as the two nights unfolded and post-match opinion:

Night 1— Saturday

While Cena Putting Theory over wasn’t a shock, elements of the bout were — including the finish. It was a bland start to the Showcase of the Immortals, and make no mistake, John Cena is one of the immortals in this pantheon. There’s some leeway given to a part-time performer, and they designed the finish to protect the 16-time World Champion.

But are we supposed to think Big Time John has left his in-ring experience on a Hollywood set? This isn’t even a reference to a lack of thrilling action. The false finish where he thought Austin had tapped was excruciatingly cringe.

The criticism comes from a place of disappointment. The cheap shot to win, without Cena ever looking near his best or a credible threat to Theory’s US Title, means that one big last match appears less likely. Another go around with a fellow legend doesn’t work as well when one of them has taken soft losses.

The Tag Team Fatal 4-Way was one match I saw as filler. It left me in the awkward position of having to temper its rating. It was a great match. Fast-paced, standout moments — take a bow Chad Gable. He hit a German suplex on Braun Strowman. It was a tremendous show of strength and technique. For a match this writer had little interest in seeing before the bell, it paved the night well for some great action. This felt like WrestleMania had started.

WWE has a history of dropping the ball and doing the wrong thing in big matches, killing its own stars in the process (hello, Bray?). The fear going into the event was Rollins was going to be fed to Logan Paul. Thankfully, that never happened, and arguably WWE’s most prolific performer’s legacy remains intact.

The match itself lacked the impact seen in Paul’s bout with Roman Reigns. That’s probably due to the shock factor dissipating: we know Paul can hold his own between the ropes now.

The above Tweet says it all. It had some legends, two of the biggest women in today’s WWE and it was bang average. This is what nostalgia gets you in 2023.

Many loved this result, but it makes little sense. In hindsight, it wasn’t important to keep The Judgment Day’s momentum going (more on that later), but surely it was wrestling props for Rey to put his son over? Nothing will harm the legacy of the man freshly entered into the WWE Hall of Fame. He’s not winning another world title. Letting Dom bag the win would provide his lad with the sort of boost others can’t buy.

But the babyface won — it was time to start a tab on that front.

Sometimes in professional wrestling, it’s important to give the fans what they want (more on that later). The last time Ripley and Flair met at WrestleMania, the Queen was put over to keep her legacy intact, and let her run with the NXT Title to challenge AEW on Wednesday nights. The effects were only detrimental. AEW continued to draw more viewership every week, and Rhea Ripley’s natural momentum was derailed.

Through hard work, Ripley is seen as a legitimate threat again. She avenged her loss here in a match which was the best of the night so far. Charlotte Flair — for all the criticism she gets about being too protected — is afforded this position because of how good she is at putting on bangers. This was no exception. She has a way of making you feel every klump, and the way she sold in the dying moments was nothing short of epic.

Charlotte will be back, and will reign again. But this was the right call for what WWE needs now. The match rating perhaps should have been higher but the WrestleMania calibration gauge was in a state of turmoil with what it’d already seen and what was expected to come. Ratings made in the moment shouldn’t contain too much emotion [good luck with that – Danny].

As a final thought: this always should have been the main event on the first night. It sends the women’s division back a little when the tag team division, scorned by WWE for so many years, is seen as the bigger match (admittedly, if probably was a bigger draw — even so, it feels off).

Speaking of emotions, it doesn’t come much bigger than Sami Zayn teaming with Kevin Owens to take down The Bloodline, by way of the Usos. This was another example of WWE giving the fans what they expected. It needed the feel good pay off which was duly delivered. Fans online and other reviews have perhaps graded it on heart because the wrestling itself wasn’t the best match you’ll ever see.

But it ticked all the boxes. And that is what prevents it getting a higher rating — it was an exercise in reaching certain checkpoints, almost formulaic, for a result that was never in doubt. It set the whole “is the Roman Empire crumbling?” narrative into play.

Night 2 — Sunday

Is there any bigger sign that WWE is merging with UFC and Vince is back at the creative controls than Brock Lesnar reasserting his dominance? Sorry, my bad, that line was meant for a day later. This was a match that no one asked for, and we all remembered why afterwards. Brock is too important to waste in matches like this. The whole size issue was a flat gimmick. It was Brock beating a lower mid-card talent.

There’s nothing positive to add about the Rousey/Baszler win in the Fatal 4-Way, other than it was a good excuse to fill up on the snacks, do some ironing, and tidy my bookshelf.

The fans that were wax lyrical about this online are the same ones dismissive of AEW and the indies. Everything that was good about this match — and there was a lot of good — was a watered-down version of what you can find regularly elsewhere. Gunther winning was the correct call. He’s been handled well and when he transitions to a world title bout, he’ll appear a credible threat.

The tease that this is the one belt Sheamus hasn’t won left some doubt in the match. Personally, since he’s blocked me on Twitter following a sense of humour transplant, I’m pleased he went home empty-handed [at least you’re not bitter — Danny]. You have to feel for Drew, though. The pandemic WWE Champion has been denied a packed WrestleMania moment and appears to be slipping further down the card, perhaps out of WWE altogether.

Heading into the event, a great match was all but guaranteed. The outcome was less clear. Asuka may have been used like the modern day Sid Justice. She appeared indestructible heading into Mania, only to be beaten by the champ.

Except Bianca Belair is no Hulk Hogan — she’s infinitely better.

It takes two to make a great match, so all props to Asuka. In hindsight, this was the best match across the two nights. While the build was good, the contest itself is what pushed it over the line as the one to rewatch.

In all honesty, the match was only rated this high (6/10) because of the effort and commitment. Finn Balor clearly took a nasty blow to the head as Edge threw a set of ladders his way. Based on what we saw, one of the matches this writer was most looking forward to, fell apart and fell flat.

Where to start? Circumstance played its hand. Balor clearly needed important treatment after the ladder shot. But a company as experienced as WWE should be able to think on its feet quick and weave a new story element into play. Saying plainly that The Demon is receiving medical attention kinda kills the idea of The Demon persona.

But we shouldn’t have worried about this. Edge won the match, and with it, The Demon is dead. It’s a shame. It could have been this generation’s version of a rarely used Undertaker. Which has also been said about someone else, many times…

Once Edge won, it was clear WWE were keeping the gold on Roman Reigns. If you’ve watched enough pro-wrestling, the sign posts are always clearly marked. The tally of babyface wins reached its threshold. And with it, The Judgment Day lost its teeth. 

Before we dive into the main event, some loose ends:

I didn’t want to comment on The Miz’s WrestleMania treatment. He’s poorly utilised and under-appreciated by the WWE and its fans. He shouldn’t be getting buried in unexpected matches. But it would be remiss not to mention Snoop Dogg’s quick thinking to save the Shane McMahon segment.

There were some questionable matches on the card. That aside, there was probably about two hours wasted each night on filler. There were opportunities for people like Bobby Lashley and LA Knight to feature.

This rating took some flack online. But it was overbooked. The story (which Cody never finished) didn’t require the interference. There were more near falls than a drunkard walking on ice. Which was fine, it ramped up the tension and emotion even more. And this was a match built on emotion.

So it would have been fine to have Reigns win clear after a war of attrition. That would keep his standing as the man to beat intact, while still keeping the story alive for Cody. After such a strong showing, he could still have been considered a credible and deserving opponent.

And for the record, I have no issue with the result. (Sorry, Amy.)

Many were left dumbfounded, and one point is absolutely valid: this was the most perfect time to pull the trigger on The American Nightmare. There’ll never be a better chance to coronate Cody. But what was the best outcome for Cody was only the best outcome for Cody. For WWE, it would have created a few issues.

Firstly — and the Vince McMahon return may have played a factor here — dethroning the modern day Bruno Sammartino would make some a little uneasy in Stamford when the candidate is a guy who set up a rival company and never challenged for their world title.

Now maybe when he signed for WWE, he was the chosen one, and they could have ironed this issue out during a year-long campaign of proving his value. He was well on his way to doing this by overcoming Seth Rollins in every meeting (including the unforgettable Hell In A Cell). But due to injury, it was a small record when going up against the sheer dominance of Reigns.

A story is made up of many chapters, it feels like Cody’s WWE return requires a few more so when he does (if he does) finally become World Champion, no one can say he was gifted the belt. Everything worth working for is hard fought. Cody is about to enter his Hard Times.

While the perfect WrestleMania moment may have slipped through his fingers, a more enriched crowning now awaits.

Overall, despite how the cards looked on paper, Saturday was the best of the two nights. The general consensus has credited this WrestleMania as the best in years. Maybe that shows how lacklustre they’ve become. It was better than average, but once the dust settles, it won’t be making any top ten lists.


Why I’ll Watch WrestleMania (by an AEW fanboy)

I haven’t watched a full WWE PPV since Evolution. I totally believe in the positive strides taken to recognise women in Sports Entertainment, and in that particular point in time, they deserved all the attention not because of the “Women’s Revolution” but down to the fact they were markedly better than the male counterparts.

I stopped watching WWE because of Bad Creative and the Saudi situation. Any company that can ignore murdered journalists and still collect a pay cheque is morally bankrupt. Evolution came at an unfortunate time for me to make that ethical choice. Once the PPV was over, the Network was cancelled.

On Saturday, I will again decide to become an active subscriber. (This will be on the back of one of my many personas who have yet to take a free trial.) Much has changed in the intervening period. I’ve become AEW – I’m All In. WWE has further morphed into the modernised version of eighties WWE that was trounced by an emergent WCW. If you can’t learn from history, you are destined to fail. Vincent K. McMahon doesn’t view history – he has a clearly defined end version he’s been trying to paint for years.

Starting Saturday, even Vince will be forced into parts unknown. Everyone around him advised it was best to have a WrestleMania delay. Vince refused. It could be he’s so stubborn, he needs to see WrestleMania chalked off his calendar on exactly the correct date.

It could also be that the most successful and influential wrestling promotor of all time knows how to make prosperity out of chaos.

WWE will always be able to say WrestleMania proceeded unabated. The pre-filmed nature means they can aim for a cinematic feel. Vince is on record saying he makes movies. This is his chance to make The WrestleMania Movie. The two-night affair is also a handy trial. The event has become too long. Now they have a chance to see if two nights, two main events, is palatable.

I’ll be watching WrestleMania this year because it’s a once in a lifetime experiment. If they get it right, it’ll be like nothing we’ve seen before – or will again. AEW has done a far better job with its crowd-less shows so far. It could be WWE has deliberately downplayed the Performance Centre so what we see this weekend blows us away.

The Showcase of Immortals has never been so intriguing.

Now, as long as The Fiend wins, Goldberg is exiled, The Man finishes looking strong, Charlotte Flair loses, Drew looks strong, The Undertaker comes as the American Bad Ass and Edge is retired with an RKO, WrestleMania will be a great success.

WWE Money in the Bank 2017 – Review

Think Money in the Bank and you think CM Punk leaving the WWE with the title after an epic match with John Cena. You think of Chris Jericho telling us how he invented the concept and its beginnings as a WrestleMania bonus. You think of men prowling for months with the threat of cashing in the contract.

After the Women’s Revolution (which WWE has largely mishandled) it was natural to offer them a ladder match with a briefcase suspended from the centre of the ring. Many called eventual winner Carmella for a few weeks. Heels run well with the case, and people like Charlotte Flair are too good – therefore wasted – to be kept on the side-lines when they could be fronting the division.

See how I just dropped the winner in from the start?

I did that because the ending undoes the credibility of the women getting a male gimmick match. That’s because James Ellsworth actually won the match. Not with a distraction or anything like that. He climbed the ladder and retrieved the briefcase.

So the first winner of the Women’s Money in the Bank was a man.

Way to go, Vince. Triple H must be cursing at his father-in-law’s handling of talented females.

The match was decent enough, if played a little safe.

For my penny’s worth: I’d have given Natalya the win. She can play the stalking heel, presents a credible wrestling threat, and has done her time many times over.

The tag title bout was another lacklustre affair until the final five minutes. It’s clear The Usos and The New Day have the potential to cut a decent programme but the cop-out count-out from the champs was something more befitting a SmackDown Live before a major PPV.

As was Lana versus Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Okay, to be entirely fair, Lana defied her critics and performed better than anticipated. She ran the match – some are claiming at too slow a pace, but that’s denying her props for technicality – and looked credible.

It was right to offer a distraction followed by a Naomi submission win. It was a way of putting Lana over and keeping the champ looking strong – a real win-win.

Next up was the WWE Championship with Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton.

If you follow sports entertainment (you’re reading this, so you must have a slight interest) you’ll have an inkling by now how it works. Mahal is a project for now. How long remains to be seen. It’s a way to make waves in the Indian market (yes, he’s Canadian, but still).

To keep the gold, he will have to cheat and use the Singh Brothers. How they keep this fresh is the only challenge WWE Creative face. The Miz had Alex Riley, then Damien Sandow, and now his wife Maryse to help keep the foul play feel fresh.

Mahal’s way at Money in the Bank was obvious when we saw legends at ringside sat with Randy’s father – Bob Orton.

What followed as a good match. It really was. The Modern Day Maharaja brings the best out of Orton, it’s the best the Viper has looked in years. And it came about by Mahal appearing so strong. There’s the problem – how can it be forgotten a man that now handles Orton with ease has been a jobber all his career.

It’s a suspension of disbelief that ranks up there with the best of them, like Sheamus having a charismatic personality or John Cena putting people over. Jinder couldn’t win a one-man raffle and suddenly he’s the pumped-up face of the company.

When the Singh’s inevitably attacked Bob Orton, it allowed Jinder to sneak another win. No surprise but the whole set-up sits uneasy.

This article’s Top Tip: WWE, when making a humorous Fashion Files (this time a Miami Vice parody with Michael Jackson song references) segment that leads to Breezdango facing their mystery attackers, do not use said segment and match if the team in question is The Ascension.

Again, another example of material not fit for a PPV escaping from TV land.

The closing bout was the title of the show – the Money in the Bank ladder match.

Baron Corbin took out Shinsuke Nakamura at the ramp entrance, so the majority of the bout was between five men, the others being Sami Zayn (the only one guaranteed not to win), Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler.

Nakamura was obviously bound to return, so he became a favourite, and it was easy to discount Ziggler. He’s had the briefcase in the past and a win for him would undo the idea SmackDown is the land of fresh opportunity.

AJ had a chance. Yeah, he’s figured heavily in the main event scene but WWE likes to give accolades to people that are seen as next level.

Without giving a move-by-move account – but mentioning powerbombs from the top of the ladder (Zayn on Ziggler); Styles hanging from the briefcase and falling the whole way to the mat; Phenomenal Forearm’s from high up; Owens being smashed onto horizontal ladders down low – it was a really good example of a ladder match.

A classic? Perhaps not. But noteworthy and the only true PPV grade bout on the card.

Corbin ended the match by pushing Styles and Nakamura off the ladder and climbing it to take the contract.

The Lone Wolf is the perfect prowler going forward. It means whoever takes the gold from Mahal (like Cena on 4th July?) will only hold it for minutes.

5/10 (Based on the overall show.)

WWE Fastlane 2017 – Review

Clive Balls back at the helm with another WWE review. I now realise why Danny Simms brought me to the site, for events like 2017’s Fastlane. Sure, it’s tops when I’m smashing out detailed match-by-match analysis (as seen with the recent Elimination Chamber) but he wanted that viscous WWE-knocking viewpoint I’d printed elsewhere. I really didn’t want to do what The Rock always insisted and Just Bring It, but WWE “creative” forced me. Made me, in fact

They did that when they served up the crock of sh*t that will go down as this year’s WrestleMania foreplay PPV. Being honest, we can’t act surprised, the signs were there (in blazing big neon, more distracting than a Chris Jericho jacket) that Kevin Owens would be made to drop the belt to Goldberg.

But come on. Man. There’s always hope they won’t be so dumb. And if they are, at least be creative with it.

Before we get to that travesty. Let’s skim the other key matches from the night. I’m not going too in depth – because quite frankly, if WWE don’t care and can’t be creative, why should I? – but a look at some highlight the points that will close this piece out.

A semi-positive note is Samoa Joe’s submission victory over Sami Zayn. The big man is being portrayed as Triple H’s newest henchman. But unlike so many before, this one can handle himself without the need for mob mentality. A clean win here is a major step to injecting him into a major feud. Maybe even Triple H and Seth Rollins?

As for Zayn, he has been painted as the popular trier that will more often than not, come up short. The readymade Dolph Ziggler replacement. So a loss means nothing.

We’ll tie the two women’s results into one thought because those four women will (probably) go to WrestleMania in a four-way for the title. First up Sasha Banks avenged her Royal Rumble defeat to Nia Jax. This is clever booking (see, they can do it sometimes). Jax still looks strong, it was her application that let her down. Banks scores a needed victory over a dominating figure.

Flick to the Raw Women’s Championship bout. Bayley seems out of place in this division as a leader of the pack. Interference from Banks prevented Charlotte Flair from reclaiming gold. The match itself wasn’t great, the result at least makes some sense. The belt has been passed around too much. Now we have a weak but fan-favourite heading into the year’s main PPV with a strong chasing pack.

The Cruiserweight match deserves a mention. Indeed, it was for many the best match of the night. That’s like picking your favourite illness. I guess you need to be invested in the division. When I see the purple ropes, my mind wanders. It should be a good division but it’s an annoyance on Raw and its PPVs.

WWE Jack Gallagher

Speaking of annoyances, Jack Gallagher got over despite losing to Neville. Ooops. That wasn’t the plan. This was a placeholder bout. Filler. Instead “creative” has an extra ball to juggle.

Okay, let’s get it done. Roman Reigns defeated the unstoppable, invincible, monster of destruction, unassailable Braun Strowman. Are we surprised? Not any longer. It’s the WWE way. Feed talent to their chosen characters. It’s been pointless building Strowman for this result to occur.

Reigns Strowman

We didn’t even get the expected Undertaker interruption to set-up a WrestleMania bout and protect Strowman from a clean loss. Just more of the same Reigns bull.

Speaking of bull, I can’t skip around the houses for another minute. The main event. The main disappointment.

Let’s be clear, Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg at WrestleMania will sell perfectly well on its own. It didn’t need the Universal Championship attached. But Vince McMahon in his wisdom believed otherwise. After Sunday’s shenanigans, it may actually turn some viewers off.

What we got was a match that lasted 21 seconds. The longest reigning Universal Champion dropped the title in the time it takes to sneeze.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I’ll make no bones about it: Goldberg is being protected because he’s physically unable to wrestle a bout of any note. That’s WWE’s problem heading into the next PPV. We’ll probably get a two-minute match where Lesnar destroys Goldberg and the veteran will retire again with less than five minutes of wrestling to add to his history.

On Sunday, Kevin Owens delayed the match, rolling in and out of the ring. It was pointless. It wasn’t tricking the audience, we know how long these things run and there was less than four minutes on the clock.

WWE Owens Goldberg

Jericho did come out – as expected – but it didn’t validate how Owens can be caught off-guard and make it okay to let Goldberg have another smash-and-grab.

It’s creative suicide from the WWE. They have devalued a new title and the credentials of every top guy on the active roster. All for a former WCW man they never really liked during his first run with the company.

It’s madness. At least KO and Y2J will give us a good US Title match at WrestleMania.


Jim Ross Tweeted the only thing WWE deserve applauding for during Fastlane:

WWE Royal Rumble 2017 – Review

Thirty years of the thirty man battle royal (apart from when it was forty men or included Chyna) brings us to a unique moment in WWE PPVs: there are no clear winners to choose from in this year’s Royal Rumble.

First up, we had the Raw Women’s Championship match. Charlotte is pound-for-pound better than her old man. He may have had the charisma, she has pure ability than not many male performers from any period of sports entertainment history can better. The Bayley match didn’t showcase this, the result wasn’t surprising.

Charlotte is the champ with only Sasha Banks on her level but they can’t fight every PPV.

Next up, was the Universal Championship. Even though most expected a Roman Reigns win, with it, another forced push at the top, the Chris Jericho subplot meant an Owens victory could lead to a fight between the buddies later down the line for the gold.

Fans clearly cheered KO, the Cena fans (kids) liked Reigns throwing Y2J into the shark cage. Roman being hated for being the next Cena isn’t a marker of success. He needs a character reboot.

The match had a good pace. A pyramid of chairs early on was a teaser. The first big spot was Owens frog-splashing from the top rope to the outside, putting Roman through a table in the process.

Of course, Reigns kicked out. The commentators played up broken ribs but considering The Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar fell so fast to Goldberg with this kayfabe injury, it makes no sense Roman Reigns can shrug off the same ailment.

Jericho then provided brass knuckles (knuckle dusters, my UK friends). Owen provided a brass knuckle punch. Reigns provided a kick out at two.

Owens ended up going through the stacked chairs and an announce table. Then appears Braun Strowman to smash Reigns against another announce table, his head dangerously close to a monitor in the process. Then a slam through a table propped in the corner of the ring.

Again, head smashing against objects.

It gave Owens the win, keeps the rise of Reigns at bay, and raises questions about Strowman’s big game mentality.

It also increased Jericho’s chances of winning the Rumble later in the night.

In the following match, Neville took the Cruiserweight title but that’s all I’ll say about a division that hasn’t worked and should be given a separate platform on a permanent basis. Other than the awkwardness of changing the ropes every twenty minutes, it is sinking on the normal roster.

Styles and Cena in their WWE Championship match told a good story, the tease of tying with Flair’s record by winning with the figure-four was good.

Fair play to WWE, after seven hundred different finishers followed by two-counts, an AA from the top rope, followed by the look on Cena’s face, victory seem assured. Styles kicked out.

In the end, it took another AA, immediately rolling into another AA, for Cena to get the three count and record equalling sixteenth title.

The victory increased The Undertaker’s chance in the Rumble.

Remember Jericho’s chance improving early in the night? Well he started against Cass as the number two draw in the Rumble match. We’ve done this twice before with Y2J, there’s no suspense or enjoyment watch him set stamina records again. It would have been better to see him emerge in the last five.

So, this isn’t the place to deliver a blow-by-blow account of the entire Rumble. There are live feeds for that, and to be honest, there weren’t that many big spots. Even Kofi Kingston’s annual Rumble breath-taking escape was reduced to him landing on his chest on the top of the ring post.

Also, there were no surprise blasts from the past. No Kurt Angle.

If you can detect a slight disgruntlement it’s because once again, the modern WWE managed to build an event, add all the right ingredients, then not know how to use them.

The omission of Seth Rollins is a bizarre decision. As the entrants came and went, we quickly came down to a thin field with not too many names to follow. That trimming was thanks to Braun Strowman but again, he looked dangerous. His size should be storyline scary, his actions in the ring storyline devastating. The reality is, he’s one move away from ending someone’s career.

Baron Corbin relieved the wrestlers of Strowman and it set up the final act. We all knew Brock Lesnar and Goldberg were to come, along with The Undertaker. That was one potential combination to end the match.

When Lesnar finally appeared, he either threw people over the top rope or took them to Suplex City. Until Goldberg entered, speared and dispatched him over the top rope. Embarrassing for Brock, but more awkward for WWE that after that quick act, the aged superstar look immobile.

Chris Jericho had spent half the match hidden from the ring action. So was this to preserve him for a big finish? The KO v Y2J Wrestlemania main event? Nope. It was to serve zero purpose other than extend his record for longest career time in the Rumble match.

When the final man entered, the arena erupted – into a chorus of boos. It was Roman Reigns, a man no adult wanted to win. Again, he was booked to look strong, eliminating The Deadman who had taken the ring for his own with a dashing late appearance.

It was cheeky of WWE to tease the idea of another Reigns Rumble win. It riled the crowd and a match that started with several possibilities came down to Roman or the Wyatt family.

Thank the Lord that the RKO exists and a fresh direction, with a continuing storyline woven in, takes centre stage. Maybe WWE has finally learned, and Roman will have to earn his crust.

After this Rumble, it looks like that will be against The Phenom. And hopefully best friends Jericho and Owens can still book that big Universal Title bout.

6/10 (I’d have added 3 points for a shock The Miz win.)