Monday, May 19, 2014

WWE Extreme Rules 2014

WWE Extreme Rules 2014
May 4th, 2014
Izod Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Attendance: 15,907

Well we're a month removed from YES!lemania and though Bryan has taken a bit of a backdrop in his feud with Kane to the Shield and Evolution's feud, this looks to be a solid show on paper and the one gimmick show a year where the guys really try to go all out. I've heard good things about this show so let's get to it.

Pre-Show WeeLC Match
El Torito (w/ Los Matadores) vs. Hornswoggle (w/ 3 Man Band)
Well this should certainly be interesting if anything. We're joined at ringside by miniature versions of the commentary team with their own table and headsets and everything. Even the ring announcer is a little person.Torito immediately sends Swoggle to the floor with a headscissors and wipes out the entire 3 Man Band with a tope. Swoggle goes for one of his own but can't quite clear the ropes. Torito sets up Swoggle in the corner for the Bronco Buster off of a mini chair. Swoggle hits a clothesline and.asks for a mini-ladder from his teammates. He sets it up and misses a splash. Swoggle comes back with a powerbomb as take an ad break. When we return both stables are just brawling at ringside and one of the Matadores gets back dropped through a mini-table. Back in the ring Swoggle hits Rolling Thunder with a mini-chair. The action spills out to the floor where Swoggle sets up Torito on the mini-commentary table and then elbow drops Torito through it! 3 Man Band sets up another mini table for Swoggle in the ring and Slater tries holding Torito so Swoggle can give him a chair shot, but Torito moves and Slater winds up sailing off the apron through 3 more mini-tables! Although there might have been a regular sized one in there, it's hard to tell. Back in the ring Torito climbs up the ladder while Los Matadores hoist Jinder Mahal on thei shoulders so that Torito can dive off the ladder and give him a tower of doom clothesline through another two mini-tables with two mini-ladders on top of them! These little guys are bumping their asses off. Swoggle sets Torito up on a regular sized table on the other side of the ring for McIntyre, but the little guy escapes and nobody's home for Drew's somersault plancha through the table! Finally Torito wins it with a springboard seated senton through another mini-table at 10:53. This was shockingly awesome, it's rare for what is essentially a comedy match here to deliver so well, but they nailed it here. It was funny, and it was definitely extreme, and reminded one of an ECW show in the way that they broke about nine tables in the opener. Way more fun than it had any right being. ***

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and John Bradshaw Layfield

Triple Threat Elimination Match
Cesaro vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger
Glad to see Cesaro getting the rocket push with Heyman as his manager now. All three men exchange blows at the bell until Swagger slams Cesaro. Van Dam hits a springboard thrust kick on Swagger and then monkey flips Cesaro on top of Swagger. Cesaro catches Van Dam in mid air off a cross body attempt and Swagger kicks them both down. Swagger gets sent out to the floor and then Cesaro joins him after a sunset flip powerbomb off the apron from RVD. Back inside Swagger gets a two count off of a wheelbarrow suplex on RVD. Swagger Bomb gets another two count but then Swagger is met by Cesaro with a spinebuster and the big swing, which RVD breaks up with a kick. Van Dam looks for the Frog Splash but Swagger gives him a big belly to belly suplex off the top and then slaps on the Patriot Lock. Cesaro breaks the hold up with a springboard European uppercut. Swagger tries for the top but Cesaro uppercuts him again and then superplexes him back into the ring from the apron when out of nowhere RVD comes flying off the top with the Five Star Frog Splash on Swagger to follow up and eliminates Swagger at 6:27! Cesaro gets a two count on RVD off an uppercut and them delivers a trio of gut-wrench suplexes in Guerrero fashion. Van Dam tries for a spin kick but Cesaro counters with a German suplex for another close two count. RVD tries to catch his breath outside the ring but Cesaro meets him with a flying double axe handle and then tosses him torso-first into the barricade. Cesaro tries climbing the barricade but gets knocked off and draped over it so RVD can hit the flying spinning heel kick over the apron for our first "ECW!" chant. Rolling Thunder and the split legged moonsault both get Rob two close near falls, so he goes out under the ring for some plunder. Van Dam grabs a trash can but Cesaro just dropkicks it right into him, crushing it. Van Dam uses the trash can to hit the Van Daminator on Cesaro and then tries for the Five Stat Frog Splash but finds only the trash can instead. Cesaro gives Van Dam the Neutralizer onto the crushed trash can for the win at 12:34. This was pretty solid stuff with all three men's styles meshing together cohesively, and there were some nice spots, but it felt lacking in places and a bit light on the plunder when the crowd was hungry for it. Still a good way to kick off the PPV. **3/4

Backstage Stephanie McMahon warns Daniel Bryan that she can't control Kane and that she doesn't want to see him hurt so she offers for him to not compete at all and just surrender the WWE title. Bryan tells her to get out of his face and that he's going to walk in and out tonight with the belt. Steph thinks he'll be walking out Kane's bitch instead.

Alexander Rusev vs. R-Truth/Xavier Woods
Before the match begins Lana dedicates the match to Vladimir Putin, getting some nice heat. Putin may be bad news for global peace but he's good news for WWE creative, who can milk the old Russian heel character again. Woods eats a big axe kick from Rusev before the match even begins and then delivers a nice overhead belly to belly suplex to him outside the ring. Back inside the bell officially rings and Rusev tosses Truth into the corner. Truth gets some petty offense in and then hits a dropkick from the second rope and a corkscrew elbow. The axe kick gets him a two count. Back on his feet Rusev nails Truth with a spinning heel kick. Spinning sidewalk slam from Rusev is followed up by the Camel Clutch to make Truth tap out at 2:53. After the match Rusev delivers a fallaway slam to the already hurt Woods on the outside. Rusev shows some promise, but this didn't belong on PPV. Truth and Woods could be a solid boost to the tag division with so many teams having broken up recently. *

Backstage Renee Young is with Evolution. Hunter talks about the 31 World championships between them and says their egos are well deserved. Orton says tonight the Shield will perish.

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Big E © vs. Bad News Barrett
Barrett informs us that we're all going to be struck down with a debilitating sickness but even that will pale in comparison to the pain Big E will feel when Barrett wins the title tonight. Shoulder block from Big E sends Barrett to the floor at the bell. Outside the ring E sends him into the turnbuckle and then gives him the old football tackle into the post. Barrett catches E with a stiff kick off the apron and then drops an elbow from off the apron on him. E blocks a suplex with one of his own and then Barrett counters into a suplex of his own as well. Barrett gives E a big boot while he's tied up in the opes. Big overhead belly to belly suplex from E. Another belly to belly followed by a clothesline sends Barrett to the apron, where E spears him right off of it to the floor! Love that spot. Barrett hits the Winds of Change for a two count back inside. Barrett hits the Waste Land and that gets him only two as well. E blocks the Bull Hammer elbow with a uranage for two and then delivers a big splash. He tries for the Big Ending but Barrett slips out and hits the Bull Hammer to pick up the win and the title at 7:55! Crowd was really hot for Barrett here so I don't mind the title change, E had a solid run with it. The match itself was stiff and hard hitting, high-impact stuff, just as you'd expect from these two. Another very solid if not spectacular match. **3/4

The Shield (Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns) vs. Evolution (Triple H/Batista/Randy Orton)
This one has been brewing for awhile now and on paper this should probably be the main event, but I like that they're giving Bryan and Kane those honors. If this is even half as good as the trio of six man tags the Shield had with the Wyatts than I'll be one happy camper. Cole reminds us it's been ten years since we've seen these three wrestle together and that they look better than ever. JBL goes a step further and says they are better than ever. I don't know about better, but they definitely used to have more hair because now all three are looking a bit like generic meatheads. Shield make their entrance and we're under way with all six men brawling at the start of the match. Shield dumps Evolution out of the ring completely and the bell officially rings when Triple H makes his way back in to eat some right hands from Rollins. Clothesline from Rollins sends the Game to the floor where Seth meets him with a big tope. Back inside Hunter takes Seth inside out with a clothesline. Batista tags in to beat down on Seth for a bit before tagging out to Randy. Orton catapults Seth throat first into the bottom rope and tags Hunter back in. Triple H works him over for a moment until Batista tags in and gives Seth a big boot on the floor while he's dangling off the ring apron. Orton tags back in and this is all the Seth Rollins as YOUR Babyface in Peril Show so far. Rollins tries for the tag but Batista and Hunter break it up. Randy tries grabbing Seth off the mat but instead Rollins springboards himself up with a stiff kick and finally manages to tag out to Dean Ambrose. Ambrose takes Orton's head off with a lariat and then slaps the figure four on him, but Hunter breaks it up. Outside Reigns misses a spear and flies into the steps. Back inside Evolution continue their quick tags while working Ambrose over behind the ref's back in true heel fashion. Orton works a chinlock on Ambrose, ah yes that's the rest hold loving young Orton from Evolution I remember. Hunter tags in and gets a two count off a spinebuster on Dean. He tries for the Pedigree but Ambrose counters into a DDT and gets the REAL hot tag to Roman Reigns, who nails Orton and Batista with right hands. He hits the running boot on Batista outside the ring and tosses Orton into the barricade. Back inside Batista sets up for the Batista Bomb on Reigns but Rollins breaks it up with a springboard flying knee! Superman punch from Reigns to Batista followed by all three members of the Shield delivering a triple powerbomb to Batista for a close near fall. Rollins tries to take out Triple H with a tope but just nails himself headfirst into the barricade instead. Back inside Triple H hits the Pedigree on Reigns, but Ambrose breaks up the cover attempt and he and Hunter topple on top of the Spanish commentary table while Orton manages to sneak up on Reigns for the RKO. Total chaos now as everyone is just brawling at ringside and into the timekeeper's section. Ambrose dashes across both commentary tables like a madman and wipes out all of Evolution with a body splash! Brawling into the crowd now where Orton and Ambrose are exchanging fisticuffs while Hunter and Rollins do the same. Meanwhile Batista and Reigns are still the legal guys in the ring. We're up into the cheap seats now and Ambrose tumbles down a set of stairs. Orton and Hunter work over Ambrose for a bit while Rollins makes his way further up into the stands and comes flying off the balcony with a crossbody wiping out all three men in a sick spot! Someone's been watching his old school Big Japan tapes, as that's a spot they used to love to run for all their big matches. Back inside the ring Batista hits a spinebuster, but Reigns counters with the Superman punch and then finishes Batista with the spear at 19:50! This was all kinds of awesome, an intense throwback to the wild Attitude Era brawls or even Mid-South with all six men just going at it tooth and nail. Some nice heel work from Evolution as a group early in the match set up the hot finish, and Rollins continues to shine as the arguably the most fearless of the Shield in terms of willingness to take bumps. This was a real throwback match. ****1/4

Legends House promo. I haven't caught any of the episodes yet but I imagine it's a slightly more boring version of The Surreal Life. If the talk of getting Flair and Hogan together into the house for the next season winds up being true though, I'll definitely be tuning in.

Steel Cage Match
Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena
The week to week promo stuff for this feud has continued to be good, if a bit over the top. Wyatt dominates to start with right hands and stomps in the corner. Fisherman suplex from Cena and he goes to climb the cage but is brought back down by Wyatt. And already we've got the dueling Cena chnts. Wyatt sends Cena face first into the cage. Wyatt holds him up against the cage and Rowan nails him from outside the ring as the crowd starts singing that damned song again. Wyatt tries to escape but Cena cuts him off and catapults him into the cage. Cena climbs to the top of the cage and gets over but Wyatt drags him back inside. Cena sends Wyatt off the top rope and tries to climb the cage again but Wyatt crotches him on the top rope. He plants Cena with a euranage for a two count but Cena fights back with a dropkick. Cena stupidly tries to scale the cage again (there's a door right over there John) and Wyatt takes the opportunity to bust out the creepy Linda Blair spider walk towards the door. Cena sends Wyatt into the cage and follows up with a pair of shoulder blocks and a sidewalk slam. He hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle and goes for the AA but Wyatt pops out to try and climb the cage so Cena just powerbombs him off the top rope instead for a two count. Cena goes to the door but Rowan just shuts it in front of him. Cena tries muscling it open and Harper helps out but Cena is just to gald darned strong darnitt! Wyatt grabs him and DDTs him for a two count back in the ring. Cena tries climbing out of the cage again but Rowan meets him and forces him back inside. Seriously, what the fuck is the point of having a cage match when you're just going to run interference anyways? Cena bulldogs Wyatt off the top for a two count and tries to climb the cage again, but Harper meets him this time and punches him back in. Cena drags Harper into the cage and tries climbing out again. Meanwhile Wyatt is crawling towards the door, but Cena slams it in his face. Rowan comes up with a chair and backs Cena back into the cage now with two men. Release suplex from Wyatt followed by a senton for two. Wyatt tries to climb out but Cena grabs him and gives him the AA off the top rope. It only gets two because Harper breaks up the pin. Cena tries to escape but Rowan meets him off again. Cena hits the top drop legdrop on Harper and tries crawling towards the door when suddenly the Wyatt's music hits and the arena goes dark. When the lights come back on a small child in a black robe is singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" in what sounds like a retarded android's voice. Well that was stupid. This gives Wyatt the chance to hit Sister Abigail on Cena and just walk out for the win at 21:26. This was nowhere near as good as their Wrestlemania match and suffered from way too much interference, the stupid escape rules, and an absolutely goofy finish. The little kids creepily being swayed into the Wyatt's cult is a good thing, but they used it in the wrong way here and it hurt the match. Not that the match they were having was even anything special to begin with. **

Over at the WWE Network analysts table Josh Matthews, Booker T, Sheamus, and Alex Riley are all shocked by Wyatt's actions. Well, Sheamus isn't. But everyone else is just appalled. Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

WWE Divas Title Match
Paige © vs. Tamina Snuka
Oh yes I love me some Paige. Beautiful and a solid worker. Paige stomps away at Tamina at the bell and then follows with a dropkick. Victory roll from Paige only gets one. Paige sets Tamina up in the ropes and nails her with a few knees. She goes to the top but Tamina hits her with a kick and Paige falls to the floor. Back inside Tamina scoop slams Paige for a two count. Another pair of bodyslams gets her another near fall. Both ladies tumble out to the floor where Paige tries for a 'rana off the apron but Tamina just slams her head first into the barricade instead. Sunset flip powerbomb from the top garners Paige a two count and the flying headscissors gets her another one. Tamina catches Paige on a body press and hits a nice tilt-a-whirl slam. Tamina tries for the superkick but Paige catches her and locks her into the modified scorpion cross lock for the submission victory to retain at 6:18. This was solid but nothing special, there were a few awkward moments but overall perfectly acceptable wrestling. **1/4

Backstage Bray Wyatt does some more preachin' and prophesizin' to Little Johnny, who again talks with the weird Children of the Corn voice and puts a lamb mask on. All righty then.

WWE World Heavyweight Title Extreme Rules Match
Daniel Bryan © vs. Kane
Glad to see these guys getting the main event spot, the title should always go on last. Also glad to see Kane back with the mask, not that Corporate Kane wasn't amusing. Bryan doesn't wait for the bell to run out to the aisle and start brawling with Kane as soon as he makes his entrance. Kane immediately goes under the ring and grabs a kendo stick and meekly hits Bryan with it before tossing it aside. He climbs to the top rope where Bryan meets him with a running knee and a top rope Frankensteiner. Bryan sends the both of them to the floor with a crossbody over the top rope, but outside the ring Kane takes the upper hand again with a big boot. He grabs a chair and uses it to assist him in slamming Bryan into the barricade. He grabs another chair and sets it up in a corner in the ring but Bryan takes the time to grab the kendo stick and mash Kane with it. He tries another attack with the stick off the top but Kane blocks it and waffles him with another steel chair. He sets the chair up and then side slams him right through it for a two count. Bryan blocks a chokeslam attempt and drop toe holds Kane into the chair in the corner he previously set up. Missile dropkick sends Kane out to the floor where Bryan delivers a big tope to him. Bryan slams the monitors and covering pieces of the commentary tables into Kane, and Kane returns the favor. Kane tries for a chokeslam on the Spanish announcer's table but Bryan blocks and counters with a big tornado DDT off of the table. Kane tries for a tombstone on the steel steps but Bryan slips out and slams him into the steel post. Guy in the front row to Kane: "You're terrible! You have fake hair!" Well that's just mean. Bryan grabs the kendo stick and starts going to town on Kane with it, hitting him repeatedly with it up the aisleway. Kane cuts him off though and then just sends him sailing head first into the LED display on the stage. The action spills into the backstage area now where Kane unsuccessfully tries to throw a TV at Bryan. They brawl all the way out to the parking lot now where Bryan hits Kane with a snow shovel and this is like an old Hardcore Title match now with them brawling on top of a car. Bryan takes a nice back body drop onto the hood of the car. Kane tosses what looks like an oxygen tank through the windshield just inches away from Bryan's head and then slams his own fist through another car's back window trying to punch Bryan. Bryan cleans Kane's clock with a tire iron out of the trunk, seemingly knocking the big monster out, but this isn't a falls count anywhere match so he can't just pin him here unfortunately. Since it would be foolish to try dragging the big man all the way back to ringside, Bryan loads him onto a forklift and just casually drives him back to ringside and just dumps him into the ring. The crowd seems bummed he didn't just keep Kane on the forklift and do a spot from it into the ring, so Bryan being the people pleaser that he is, he just climbs right up to the top of the fully raised forklift and delivers a sick flying headbutt halfway across the ring to a huge pop for a near fall. Crowd goes into YES! mode but Kane does his usual late match sit-up for the comeback and chokeslams Bryan for a two count. He sets up for a tombstone on a chair, but Bryan counters with a DDT onto it instead. Bryan has a hold of the chair now and slams it over Kane's back a good eight or nine times and then slaps on the YES! Lock. Kane tries breaking the hold with a kendo stick but Bryan just grabs it from him to help assist in the hold. Kane barely manages to escape out of the ring, where again Bryan tries a tope but this time Kane sees it coming and grabs him throat first to choke slam him right through the announcer's table! Kane tosses Bryan back into the ring and then sets up another table outside, and then grabs a god damn can of gasoline from under the ring! He douses the table in it and yes sir we have ourselves a good old flaming table. Kane goes to the apron but Bryan meets him there and simply flings him off the apron through the flaming table! Personnel are all over Kane with the fire extinguishers only seconds after the bump and apparently were blatantly obvious at ringside, kind of telegraphing the finish to the live crowd, but it still provided a great visual. After Kane has been extinguished completely he slides back into the ring where Bryan meets him with the running knee to retain at 22:28. This was a great way to cap off another good show, as both men have a decent amount of chemistry due to all their ring time together as a tag team. This was a pure old school Attitude Era brawl mixed with some ECW styled spots, and it was a very heated and well executed brawl at that. They worked in some creative stuff amidst all the plunder too and this was really a perfect way to end a show called Extreme Rules, by giving the fans something you don't usually see anymore in wrestling with the flaming table. It really drove home the whole old school ECW PPV vibe this whole show has had going for it. Also one of Kane's best singles matches in a long time. ***3/4

After the match Bryan celebrates for a bit before Kane awakens again and gets to do his fire pyro to close out the show.

Bottom Line: This was another winner from the WWE as this PPV typically tends to be, but this year they really delivered something special that gave off an old ECW vibe I hadn't really felt since watching...well, the original ECW. For a show built on that companies legacy, that's a very good thing and this was a solid show with two great matches in the main event and six man tag matches. The undercard is solid if not entirely spectacular, but combined with the fun pre-show antics I have no problem giving this one a hearty Thumbs Up. 

Score: 8.0

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

WWE Wrestlemania XXX

WWE Wrestlemania XXX
April 6th, 2014
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Attendance: 75,167

Well it's been awhile, hasn't it? I can't remember the last time I properly sat down to do a full review, but it had to have been at least a year ago or so. With Daniel Bryan fever spreading across the nation I got sucked back into the product again and have spent the last few weeks properly watching all of the shows I missed out on to have everything in the proper context and all that jazz. The fact that the fans basically had to tell the WWE who they wanted to be in the spotlight at Wrestlemania this year and they actually listened is great, and a testament to hard work and wrestling talent overcoming things like marketability and crossover appeal.

Pre-Show WWE Tag Team Title Fatal Four Way Elimination Match
The Uso's (Jimmy Uso/Jey Uso) © vs. The Real Americans (Cesaro/Jack Swagger) vs. Ryback/Curtis Axel vs. Los Matadores (Diego/Fernando)
Jimmy and Axel start us off with a headlock than Axel tags Ryback in for a big boot. Diego makes the blind tag and exchanges chops with Jimmy until Cesaro tags himself in. Diego hits an Asai moonsault and suddenly everyone gets thrown out to the floor where the Matadores wipe everyone out with stereo flying elbows. Axel sets up for a top rope move but the Matadores holster him up on their shoulders so El Torito can give him a flying body press off the top and take everyone out tower of doom style. Back inside Swagger eliminates the Matadores with the Patriot Lock at 5:44. Axel tags back in and hits a knee before tagging Ryback in who gives Jimmy (or Jey who knows) delayed brainbuster. Ryback hits a splash and Axel follows up after him with an axe handle for two. Ryback works a sleeper on Jimmy to build some heat and then misses a shoulder block in the corner allowing Jey to tag in and clean house with a Samoan drop on Axel. Swagger powerslams Jey but gets cut off on the Swagger bomb and Ryback cleans house on everyone in the ring. Cesaro tags in and gives Ryback a stiff European uppercut and the Neutralizer to eliminate Ryback and Axel at 11:45. The Uso's wipe out both Swagger and Cesaro outside with stereo planchas and the crowd is fired up already. Cesaro catches Jimmy off the top in a backbreaker for two. Swagger tags in but Jey wipes both of them out with a corkscrew moonsault. Swagger has the Patriot Lock on one of the Usos but eats a superkick while the other Uso is busy eating a European uppercut from Cesaro and bodies are flying everywhere. The Usos hit double superkicks on Cesaro and then follow up with a double flying splash off the top for the pin on Cesaro to retain at 16:13. After the match Cesaro turns on Swagger. splitting up yet another of the great tag teams the WWE had going for themselves and gives Jack the Big Swing to the crowd's pleasure. Typically red-hot action from the on-fire tag team division here and one of the better pre-show Wrestlemania matches I can remember ever seeing, did a good job of getting the crowd hot and ready for the show. ***1/4

We get a jazzy little opening video package showcasing Wrestlemania's history, the Yes! Movement, and of course the heritage of the city of New Orleans.

Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and John Bradshaw Layfield

HULKAMANIA IS RUNNING WILD BROTHER! What better way to kick off a celebration of Wrestlemania than with Hulk Hogan, the man who ensured the success of the inaugural show in the first place? Hogan seems to think he's back in the Pontiac Silverdome, but this is the Superdome brother. Hogan doesn't get to say much else before the glass shatters and Stone Cold Steve Austin himself makes his Wrestlemania return as well. Austin asks the crowd if they want him to open up a can of whoop ass on Hogan, and of course they do Steve, of course they do. Austin tells Hogan he appreciates what he's done for the business though and shakes his hand instead. Austin gets a 3:16 line in and then The Rock's music hits to have this whole segment come full circle. Rock and Austin embrace each other like old war buddies and it's a glorious sight to behold all three of these men in the ring at the same time. The Rock makes striking comparisons of Daniel Bryan to Steve Austin and John Cena to Hulk Hogan Rock does some comedy stuff before all three do their catch phrases and share some beers.

Winner Gets a Spot in the WWE Title Match
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H
Great video package for this one and you've got to give the WWE credit for recognizing that their initial plans of Batista and Orton wasn't going to fly at Wrestlemania and finally giving into the fans demands. What a novel concept. Triple H's entrance this year is perhaps his most decadent and over the top yet, complete with Viking music, armor, and a trio of slave girls as well as Steph introducing him. 75,000 people doing the YES! chant simultaneously is quite the sight. Credit to Steph for still being a great heel after all these years, all of her facial reactions and mannerisms are gold. Hunter offers his hand to start but Bryan kicks it away and rolls him up for two. Hunter rolls out of the ring and gets a pep talk from Steph. Back Bryan dropkicks out of a hammerlock and works a headlock, feeling out the veteran. Hunter targets the injured shoulder but eats a dropkick on the apron and Bryan catches him with a flying DDT off the apron to the floor. Bryan follows up on Hunter with a somersault plancha off the top and gets a two count back inside. Bryan gets crotched on the top rope and Hunter sends him back out to the floor and clears off the announcer's table. He sets Bryan up for the pedigree on the table, but Bryan fights out of it only for Hunter to slam his injured shoulder into the table. Back inside Hunter stars targeting the shoulder and arm again, working it over with knees and another hammerlock. Hunter misses a charge and is sent out to the floor again so Bryan attempts a tope but gets cut off by a right hand from The Game. Hunter follows up with a nice suplex on the ring apron, once again targeting the injury. Bryan barely beats the ten count back in and is met with a cross face chicken wing and then just a traditional cross face. Back on their feet they trade blows and Bryan backflips into a waistlock, but he reverses that into a pair of German suplexes. Triple H blocks a third one with a sick Tiger suplex right on the injured shoulder. When's the last time you saw Hunter bust out a move like that? Bryan counters a superplex attempt with a sunset flip powerbomb off the top. He blocks a Pedigree attempt and goes for the flying headbutt but Hunter moves and slaps the crossface back on Daniel. Bryan manages to counter that into the YES! lock but Hunter gets to the ropes and goes outside for a breather, but Bryan hits him with a pair of topes to the floor. Back inside he hits a missile dropkick on the Game and follows with a flurry of stiff kicks. Hunter counters a running knee with a spinebuster and then hits Bryan with the Pedigree, but Bryan kicks out! Hunter is frustrated now and just starts laying in closed fists on Bryan in the corner. He goes for another pedigree but Bryan counters into a nearfall. Bryan counters another pedigree attempt with a kick and then flips out of a back suplex and hits the running knee for the win and the title shot at 26:01! The crowd goes wild but after the match Hunter attacks Bryan with a steel chair to further injure his shoulder. This was an awesome opener, a hot match with great psychology and a classic story of the overconfident grizzled veteran getting his comeuppance from the hard working young rebellious babyface. Steph's heel mannerisms and the story really put this over the top from goodness to greatness. ****1/4

The Shield (Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns) vs. New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg/Billy Gunn)/Kane
The Shield's entrance cuts off the Outlaws usual pre-match mic work, which is what you want when they're playing heels. Reigns hits some big forearms on all three of his opponents and then hits the running boot on the apron on both of the Outlaws. Kane blocks a Superman punch but Rollins sends Kane to the floor and wipes him out with a plancha. The Outlaws try to regroup outside but Rollins and Ambrose take them out with topes while Reigns spears Kane inside. Reigns hits a spear on the Outlaws back inside and all three members of the Shield deliver a triple powerbomb to the Outlaws for the quick and decisive victory at 2:56. Just a dominant squash for The Shield and that's all it should have been, though I wish they could have come up with something better for them to do on the biggest show of the year than this. *

31 Man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
(Featuring Alberto Del Rio, Big E, Big Show, Brad Maddox, Brodus Clay, Cesaro, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Darren Young, David Otunga, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Fandango, Goldust, The Great Khali, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Justin Gabriel, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, The Miz, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Santino Marella, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Titus O'Neil, Tyson Kidd, Xavier Woods, Yoshi Tatsu, & Zack Ryder)
Winner gets themselves a big old shiny golden statue of Andre himself. Odd numbered battle royals give me the creeps. Yoshi is the first eliminated (racism!) and is then shortly followed by Maddox. Khali eliminates Clay with a chop but then gets dumped out by a group of guys himself. Ryder gets tossed out by 3MB and is followed shortly by Young. Henry eliminates McIntyre and Jinder at the same time and then tosses Slater onto them for good measure before getting dumped out himself by Big Show. Show eliminates Titus next. Santino eliminates Miz with the Cobra (hard to believe he was main eventing this show a few years ago) and Sandow joins him. Big E dumps Gabriel and Otunga out but then gets eliminated by Fandango of all people. Sheamus breaks up his dancing celebrations with the clubbing forearms in the ropes and then just shoves him off the apron and eliminates him. Show tosses Truth out next while Tyson Kidd, Goldust, and Cody Rhodes are all eliminated by Del Rio kicks. Mysterio hits the 619 on Del Rio and then tries it on Cesaro but gets eliminated by a stiff European uppercut. Kofi gets seemingly eliminated but his feet hit the steel steps and technically he's still in the match, playing off his Rumble appearances. He hands out some spin kicks to everyone in the ring but then gets caught in an extra long big swing from Cesaro. Cesaro walks right into a chokeslam from Show, who eats a Brogue Kick from Sheamus who then eliminates Kingston. Ziggler gets superkicked out of the match by Del Rio to huge heat bringing it down to Cesaro, Show, Sheamus, and Del Rio as our final four. Sheamus tries to counter out of Del Rio's arm lock but both men wind up tumbling over the top and to the floor, leaving it down to just Show and Cesaro. Cesaro can't eliminate the big man with just a clothesline and he nearly gets tossed himself. He eats a huge chop from Show after coming off the top but Cesaro feeds him an uppercut and then picks the big man up off his feet and body slams him out of the ring ala Hogan slamming Andre at Wrestlemania 3 to pick up the win and the trophy at 13:25. Crowd pops big for Cesaro's win and it gives him a nice Wrestlemania moment early into his career. Show shakes his hand afterwards in a show of respect. This one was fun once most of the clutter was removed. **1/2

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Wyatt offers John a free shot to finish him at the bell but Cena isn't having any of that and works a headlock instead. This is all Bray in the early going as he gets as much heat as he can muster from this decidedly anti-Cena crowd before John gets fed up manhandles Wyatt in the corner. Cena does a good job of selling the psychological aspect of the feud with his facial expressions here, appearing to take the crowd's jeers to heart for once and slowly doubt himself. Dropkick from Cena is followed by a long sleeper hold from Bray. John breaks it up and gets freaked out by Bray doing the Linda Blair crabwalk (and really, who isn't freaked out by that?) and slammed to the mat. Spinning DDT out of the corner gets Cena a two count. Cena goes for his top rope legdrop but Bray catches him mid-air with a powerbomb in a great counter for two. Five Knuckle Shuffle from Cena and he looks for the AA but Wyatt counters with a nasty gutbuster. Bray plants Cena on the apron with a DDT and looks for a superplex back inside but Cena blocks it and then wipes out Luke Harper and Erick Rowan on the outside with a plancha! Cena grabs the steps and thinks about hitting Bray with them but his conscious gets the better of him and he doesn't go through with it. Back inside Bray misses the back seton and walks into the AA but Wyatt kicks out at two. Harper attacks Cena behind the ref's back and Wyatt gets his own near fall. Best sign of the night pops up in the background here: "If Cena Wins, We Wyatt". Cena spears Harper through the barricade outside the ring and back inside slaps the STF on Wyatt briefly but it's broken up and Bray manages to deliver the Sister Abigail for a near fall the crowd buys into. Wyatt grabs a chair...and then tosses it to Cena and begs him to become the monster he truly is and finish him with it. Cena hits Rowan with it instead and blocks another Sister Abigail attempt with the AA for the win at 22:25. This really wasn't the right crowd for the Cena babyface shtick, but you can't fault their effort as both men wrestled a good match that was made even better by the running story and Cena's layered character work. They probably should just have taken a chance and pulled the trigger on Bray here, but he doesn't lose anything from the loss. ***

All of this year's Hall of Fame inductees get their moment on the big stage as they do every year. Surreal to see Warrior so happy knowing now that he'd be dead less than 48 hours after this.

Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
The build for this infamous match was one of the weakest in years, but it's to be expected after the great builds they had for the HBK/Taker and Hunter/Taker series of Mania battles. Even the Punk build was better than this, but I always go into things with an open mind so lets get to it. Taker starts off with some punches but Lesnar gives him a nice overhead belly-to-belly suplex and sends him to the floor. Back inside Undertaker sends Brock into the ring post. Lesnar blocks an Old School attempt and they tussle out to the floor. Undertaker gives Brock a leg drop on the apron and back inside he gives him snake eyes. Brock blocks a chokeslam attempt and goes for the F5 but Taker blocks that as well. Lesnar works over Taker's leg for a bit with stomps and a half Boston crab. They fight to the outside again and Lesnar sends Taker into the barricade. Back inside Brock gives him a suplex. The announcers are calling this almost like it's an MMA fight, talking about Lesnar setting the pace. Lesnar lays into Taker with a series of punches for a bit until Undertaker counters with a DDT. Undertaker finally puts together a string of offense with another snake eyes and a big boot followed by a chokeslam for a two count. He tries for a Tombstone but Lesnar counters with the F5 for his own near fall. Undertaker catches Brock with the Hell's Gate submission but Brock just lifts him up and slams him to the mat. Taker catches him in the hold again and Brock slams him even harder. You knew they were going to work some MMA styled spots into this one with Taker's love for the sport. Lesnar gets the Fujiwara armbar on Taker but he reverses it into one of his own. It should be noted that the crowd is dead for all of this. Lesnar counters Old School with the F5 for another near fall. Brock follows up with a pair of German suplexes and then works Taker over in the corner with punches until Undertaker counters into the Last Ride. Taker follows up with the Tombstone but Lesnar kicks out. Undertaker goes for another tombstone but Brock counters into another F5 and yes, gets the pin to end the streak at 25:13. The crowd is in complete shock at this, as was everyone, and the camera catches some incredible reactions from some of the fans at ringside. I'll just say that I understand why they wanted to book Lesnar over Taker here because of the shape Undertaker is apparently in, but they really fumbled this one. The streak is something that should just have been left alone as an accomplishment in Undertaker's career and there are other ways you can give Lesnar a rub from Undertaker instead of him flat out losing to him. As for the match itself, it was a plodding affair that definitely showed Undertaker's age, focused more on slow matwork and a few bursts of offense. It's not nearly as bad as some people might have you believe, but it obviously just didn't work as a match or an angle. **1/4

Vickie Guerrero Diva's Championship Invitational Match
AJ Lee vs. Aksana vs. Alicia Fox vs. Brie Bella vs. Cameron vs. Emma vs. Eva Marie vs. Layla vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella vs. Rosa Mendes vs. Summer Rae vs. Tamina Snuka
Ah yes the annual piss break match. Perhaps that will change next year with women like Paige and Charlotte being thrown into the mix. Usual chaos you'd expect from a match like this. They do a suplex spot where everyone covers one another for a two count. The announcers are more interested in talking about the streak ending than this match. Emma works the Tarantula on Summer Rae but then eats an axe kick from Alicia Fox. All the divas fall to the floor where the Bellas wipe them all out with stereo topes in a fun spot. Back in the ring it's the BATTLE OF THE BELLAS! That gets broken up quickly though. Tamina tries for the splash but Naomi sends her sailing. Aksana comes to meet her up top and Natalya comes over as well and they do the tower of doom powerbomb/superplex combo. Outside Natalya hits a nice spinning clothesline on Tamina. Back in the ring AJ puts Naomi into the Black Widow for the submission victory at 6:48. All of the divas have improved remarkably in the ring and this was a fun match even if the crowd didn't care. **1/2

Backstage Mean Gene Okerlund is joined by the Hulkster and then Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful, Paul Orndorff! I can't even remember the last time we saw Orndorff, but I'm pretty sure it was the 80s. Orndorff says every week of his life someone brings up the fact that he lost the first Wrestlemania main event and here comes Mr. T to back up Hulk and Pat Patterson in a referee's shirt for some bizarre reason. Hogan and Orndorff shake hands and bury the hatchet after all the years, and even Piper reluctantly shakes T's hand.

We get a shot of all the legends in the audience tonight, and when the camera pans to Bob Backlund he seems to be locked in an intense battle of trying to get something out of his teeth with his tongue.

WWE World Heavyweight Title Match
Randy Orton © vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan
Whatever terrible Jersey Shore radio rock band that does Orton's theme music is here to perform it live for him for some reason. Batista tries for a Batista bomb right at the bell on Bryan but he counters and sends him to the floor. Orton cuts off some kicks from Bryan and just like Hunter targets Bryan's injured shoulder. Orton cuts in and gives Batista a backbreaker before getting clotheslined out of the ring himself. Batista slams Orton into the announcer's table and barricade while the crowd generally shits on them both. Orton back drops Batista onto the steps and then grabs Bryan and slams him into the barricade. Randy gives Batista a back suplex onto the barricade and soaks up some heat. Back inside Orton gets a two count and then both men are met with a double missile dropkick from Bryan. Bryan takes out Batista with a head kick and tries one on Orton but Randy counters into a powerslam for a near fall. Bryan hits a flurry of running kicks into both men in opposite corners and then gives Randy a Frankensteiner off the top. Batista suplexes Bryan out of the ring and then gets superplexed off the top from Orton. Bryan has recovered by then and hits a flying headbutt then follows up with a crossface on Orton when suddenly Triple H and Stephanie McMahon make their way to ringside through the crowd and pull the referee out of the match. They bring in their own personal official, Scott Armstrong, playing off the Bryan/Orton match at Night of Champions back in September which is a brilliant little bit of psychology to bring into the match but he can't get a fast count on Bryan down in time. Bryan kicks Armstrong to the floor and then wipes out Scott, Hunter, and Steph with a big tope to pop the crowd. Triple H pulls out a sledgehammer now but Bryan grabs it from him and cleans his clock with it. He rolls up Batista for a hot near fall and the regular referee is back with us now. Orton tosses Bryan into the barricade outside and then double teams Daniel with Batista for a bit as the McMahon family exits the ringside area. Orton slams the steel steps into Bryan's injured shoulder and both Orton and Batista are fed up now and strip the regular and Spanish commentary tables clean. Orton sets up the steel steps next to the tables and Batista delivers a Batista Bomb to Bryan right into an RKO through the announcer's table from Orton! Great spot there. They bring out the EMTs to put Bryan onto a stretcher while Batista works over Orton in total control. Orton fights back with a DDT from the apron and the crowd goes nuts as Bryan pulls himself off the stretcher and begins crawling back to the ring! Orton cuts him off with the steel steps though and tosses his limp body back into the ring as the crowd is back alive now. Orton looks for the RKO but Bryan counters into the YES! lock briefly until Batista breaks it up. Bryan slaps the hold on Batista for a bit as well but that's broken up too. Batista blocks an RKO from Orton and goes for a spear but Orton leap frogs him and he winds up taking out Bryan instead before turning around right into the RKO for a two count. Orton sets up for the punt but Bryan hits the flying knee on him instead. Batista looks to steal Bryan's pin attempt but only gets two. Batista Bomb on Orton but Bryan hits him with the flying knee out of nowhere and then slaps on the YES! Lock and Batista taps to give Bryan the title at 23:20! Bryan celebrates with pyro and confetti and all that jazz as the crowd goes ballistic and everyone is sent home happy. They don't catch it on the PPV broadcast but moments after we go off the air Bryan thanks the now deceased young "Stone Cusher" Connor Michalek at ringside with a hug and some heartfelt words in one of the classiest things a champ has ever done afterwards. This one started off a bit slow but the run-ins and double-team psychology actually helped elevate it and the crowd was rocking for all the near falls for the home stretch. Bryan gets his deserved moment in the sun in another great match to cap off the night. ****

Bottom Line: This was definitely a show where they had to give the fans what they wanted or there would have been hell to pay, but fortunately enough they actually listened to the audience and put over Daniel Bryan in a major way with this show. Solid recommendation on this one because of the great opening and closing matches, but the stuff in the middle isn't bad either for the most part. Not one of the greatest Wrestlemania's of all time like I've seen some people say, but one of the better ones for sure. 

Rating: 8.0