This was not supposed to be Daniel Bryan’s night.
He was never supposed to be the top guy in the promotion. When he got injured in May, and came back this past January, they made sure to cement that. The interesting thing about life is that it always throws you curveballs that you’re never prepared for, aren’t ready to deal with, but have to find some way to get through them and persevere.
The plan for WrestleMania XXX was for Batista to come back, win the Royal Rumble, and take on Randy Orton for the WWE championship, the title now unified as one after John Cena lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Orton in a unification ladder match.
You were going with guys you made in 2005 to headline a show in 2014. In comparison, it’s like taking Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage from 1996 and trying to do it in 2006. Granted, the latter two are better athletes and would have a far better match, but it just came off as stale and uninteresting. We’ve seen Orton and Batista wrestle countless times, and none of them were ever memorable. Why would this one be any different?
In Vince McMahon’s eyes, it was gonna be awesome, it was gonna be the best WrestleMania main event of all time (if you want to believe CM Punk’s interview regarding the subject).
Speaking of, he was set to take on Triple H in the usual anti-authority vs. authority angle. Triple H and Stephanie were cast as the top heels at the end of SummerSlam 2013, and they ruled the roost of WWE, making everyone in their path look like complete fools, tools, or both. CM Punk had largely avoided their wrath until a few weeks before the Royal Rumble, and things looked like they were about to heat up. Punk had enough of the WWE lifestyle, the storylines, the injuries, everything. He decided his best course of action was to leave, and that left a big hole in WrestleMania plans. It also didn’t help that the crowd that night at the Royal Rumble completely shit on the idea of Batista winning the Royal Rumble, to the point that they were cheering for Roman Reigns when it came down to the final two. For whatever reason, they felt that Daniel Bryan should have been here, and when he didn’t arrive, they got pissed.
Batista continued to flounder as a babyface. People just weren’t buying it. Who they were buying was Daniel Bryan, and they wanted him in the main event. There was no real alternative, honestly. Batista was going to be booed out of the building at WrestleMania, and you don’t want a top face being completely eviscerated at the biggest event of the year. Vince made the call to go with Bryan, and soon enough he was slotted into two matches. It just so happens that him being plugged in made sense; it was Triple H pedigreeing him at SummerSlam that set the catalyst for the Authority storyline, and he never got his measure of revenge for what the Authority did. So he got his match with Hunter, and he got his opportunity to be in the main event of WrestleMania. The question was, however, if Daniel Bryan could not only beat Triple H, but take the WWE title and have his big moment.
Hulk Hogan comes to the ring to start off WrestleMania. He makes sure to flub his lines in seconds as he kept calling the Superdome the Silverdome. Oops. He corrects himself eventually. Austin comes out and asks if people want to see him kick Hulk Hogan’s ass. They do, but Austin says no, he’d rather see today’s WWE stars come out and do that. This brings out the Rock, who says all of his catchphrases and says that it’s an honor not only to be here with his friend, but his childhood hero here at WrestleMania. He hypes the big matches for tonight, and then they celebrate with a few beers. I was hoping Austin would stun some people, but I guess that was out of the question. I think Hulk Hogan would shatter into a million pieces at this point if he had to take a bump.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H: Well, I guess they have to get this one out of the way early. Stephanie came out wearing the silliest outfit imaginable. Like, if she were dealing cards at a casino or something. Completely weird, but it works here. She introduces Hunter, who comes out to his bi-annual HUNTOR outfit with skulls and stuff. He really, really likes Conan the Barbarian or whatever, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 WrestleManias or so. They had a really great back and forth match. Triple H worked over the arm, but Bryan made a comeback, only for Triple H to cut him off and work on a crosslock. Bryan counters it into a yes lock but Hunter manages to exit the ring. Bryan comes back with two suicide dives and takes him back into the ring, but Triple H nails him with the pedigree. Bryan kicks out, however, and flies with the knee strike for the victory. Again, a super fun back and forth match with some great heat. ****¼
Stephanie is not happy about this result and starts slapping Bryan. Triple H jumps him from behind and destroys his shoulder, leaving him in a handicap for tonight.
The Shield vs. The New Age Outlaws and Kane: This was not much of a match. The Outlaws and Kane are quickly decimated as everyone is laid out and are pinned super quickly. They would have bigger things to worry about in the next few months anyway. NR
Stupid toy commercial aired. The more WWE does these sort of things, the more I groan. There’s a time and a place…and it’s not on TV when you have more important things to take care of. The only highlight was DANGEROUS DANNY DAVIS making his return to be the ref for the dumb match all the usual WWE legend guys were having. The punchline was Ron Simmons saying damn.
Geek Battle Royal (Oh sorry, The Andre the Giant Battle Royal): The latest in the “let’s get everyone on the card” special line. Only people who got entrances were Big Show (because of course) and Sheamus. Yoshi Tatsu is immediately eliminated, probably got thrown all the way back to New Japan. Even though Cesaro wrestled in the opener (a great **** opener, actually) he was in here because…well, because. This turned into a pretty fun battle royal. At one point, Cesaro and Mysterio were in the ring, and I was hoping that Mysterio would be the victim of a giant swing, but sadly it didn’t happen here. Kofi got his contrived spot in when he got tossed over, but his feet landed on the ring, so he saved himself. I know people like the spots, and doing it every once in a while isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the more I see it, the more I don’t like it. Especially when Kofi’s next spot is almost always getting eliminated immediately after the big spot anyway. Try and pretend it’s real guys, this is how wrestling has worked for decades. The last two men in the ring were Cesaro and The Big Show (of course). Big Show has him nearly eliminated (of course) but Cesaro rallies back, lifts him up, and tosses him over to the floor for the victory. So Cesaro wins here, but given how he’s turned out a year later, well, lets just say this trophy does no one any favors in the long run. Pretty fun at times. ***¼
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt: The STORY here is that Bray Wyatt wants to make Cena into a monster, which I guess means they want to make him heel or something. Mark Krozer performed Bray Wyatt’s theme, and it was awesome. Wyatt wanted Cena to finish him off immediately, but Cena doesn’t play into the mind games. Harper and Rowan interfere but Wyatt tells them to stay down. Wyatt gains control of the match after some uninteresting back and forth and tries for the Sister Abigail but Cena counters into the STF. Wyatt comes back and hits his finish, but it’s a nearfall. Wyatt exits the ring and grabs a chair, throwing it into the ring and telling Cena to finish him off once and for all. Cena holds the chair like he’s about to become A MONSTER or something, but opts to hit Rowan with the chair then pins Wyatt clean with the AA. Funny how working with Cena gets you to be less over than you were originally. Turned out to be pretty good in the end. ***¼
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar: This year’s Undertaker entrance includes caskets of all the men he’s laid waste to over the years. As usual, some back and forth early. Taker hits the snake eyes and goes for a chokeslam but Lesnar opts for the F5, which Undertaker blocks. Brock lays him out and takes over. Not the most interesting stuff in the world. I think for Brock, he needs to be in physical matches, and at this stage in the game the last thing Undertaker needs is to be having physically exerting matches. Undertaker makes his comeback and locks in the Hell’s Gate, but Lesnar instead powerbombs him instead. He locks it in again, but the same result occurs. He sinks in the kimura only for Taker to reverse it. He goes for old school, but Lesnar comes back with the F5. Lesnar throws him around with some Germans and takes him to the corner, but Lesnar responds with a Last Ride and a tombstone, but Lesnar kicks out. Undertaker tries for another tombstone, but Lesnar reverses and hits the F5….and pins the Undertaker. Yes, after so many years, so many opponents, so many close calls…Brock Lesnar is the man who beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania. You were stunned by this, I was stunned by this, everyone was. The match itself wasn’t that great, but everyone will remember this for the finish. **¾
21-1 is displayed as a stunned Heyman and Lesnar exit the ring. Undertaker slowly gets to his feet as all the announcers stand up and applaud Undertaker. He slowly makes his way to the back as his future looked to be in question.
Vickie Guerrero Invitational: Yes, filler time! All the nondescript divas were already in the ring when AJ’s music played and she hit the ring. Large swathes of divas were laid out at a time and everyone hit each other with stuff. This was a one fall match, so of course this was beyond the realm of possibility that this would be anything but a giant clusterfuck of a match. Tamina goes for a splash but Naomi shoves her off. Aksana grabs her, but Natalya powerbombs the both of them. AJ then catches Natalya in the black widow and she taps out. The very definition of a diva’s Wrestlemania buffer match. *
Hulk Hogan is interviewed by none other than Mean Gene Okerlund. The band is back together! They were chatting when Hulk sees someone off camera and asks what are they doing here. In walks in Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, who has the most amazing mustache of all time. Mr T comes out and they confront one another, calling back to the main event of the very first Wrestlemania. Eventually, everyone makes up, though Piper was quite reluctant to do so.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Randy Orton © vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista: Rev Theory plays Orton out. Remember, Bryan’s arm is injured because Triple H was mean and attacked him after their match. The heels team up on him, working over the injured arm. Bryan makes a comeback, but Orton hits an exploder. Batista works over him, but Bryan comes back and gets the yes lock in when who should come out but Triple H, Stephanie and crooked referee Scott Armstrong. Batista lays him out with the Batista bomb but Bryan kicks out and takes out Armstrong, then hits a suicide dive, taking out both Triple H and Stephanie. Triple H comes back with the sledgehammer, but Bryan takes him out and strikes him with the sledgehammer instead. He rolls up Batista, but Orton interferes, and its back to Orton and Batista working together, including hitting a Batista Bomb/RKO combination through a table in one of the best spots on a WWE PPV in ages, holy toledo. Medics go and tend to Bryan, trying to take him out of the match as Orton and Batista work over one another. Bryan crawls to the ring instead, but Orton jumps him and motions for the RKO. Bryan counters with the Yes Lock, then Batista interferes only for him to be put in the Yes Lock as well. Bryan hits Orton with the knee strike, but Batista powerbombs him. He looks to finish him off, but Bryan hits the knee strike and locks in the Yes Lock. With no other option, Batista taps, giving Bryan the title. A bit overbooked, sure, but it fit into the story, and the match itself was pretty damn awesome. ****¼
Bryan gets his big moment at WrestleMania as everyone cheers for him, chanting yes. He holds up both championships as WrestleMania comes to a close.
Final Thoughts: A fantastic show! Everyone out there worked their ass off, and it felt like a big show. Everyone got what they wanted in the end, and what do you know, it ended up being a far better show because of it. Who would have thought that giving people what they wanted would result in a product that felt hot once the show ended? Of course, Bryan’s run with the title was less than stellar, but at least he got his big moment here.
And that is all 30 WrestleMania events reviewed! Holy cow, didn’t think I’d actually be able to do it. It’s been a fun ride, no doubt, but it’s not over yet. There’s still one more WrestleMania to do, and that’ll serve as the epilogue to this ongoing series. Check it out next week!