Wrestlemania 31

WWE

Last Sunday saw the 31st instalment of WWE’s flagship event, Wrestlemania, often considered the Superbowl of professional wrestling. A record-breaking crowd of just under 77,000 flooded the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California for over six hours of sports entertainment. With nine matches, including four title shots and many special guests and surprises, this was an unmissable event.

The two-hour pre-show featured two matches; a fatal four-way for the tag-team championship and a Royal Rumble style thirty man Battle Royal for the Andre the Giant memorial trophy.

In the tag-team match, champions Cesaro and Tyson Kidd defended their title against Los Matadores, The New Day and previous champions the Usos. The Usos performed well and just when it looked like Jimmy had done enough to secure the pinfall over Big E of The New Day and regain the title, Cesaro stole the pin and he and Kidd retained the belts.

There was almost an Irish interest in the Battle Royal, with Bray man Finn Bálor narrowly missing out on a spot to Japan’s Hideo Itami in NXT’s ‘Wrestlemania Axxess’ tournament. The “World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry was eliminated surprising early by tag-team ‘The Ascension’, before Big Show and Ryback began to clear house, eliminating over half the field between the two of them, with Big Show’s eventual elimination of Ryback a telling moment. The tension between The Miz and Mizdow finally came to a head, with Mizdow, as expected, eliminating The Miz, leaving only he and Big Show. Despite his best efforts and several switches in momentum, Mizdow was not able to eliminate the giant and Big Show took the trophy.

The first match of the main card was the ladder match in which Bad News Barrett defended his Intercontinental title against six others. In the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania, the belt was trading hands like a hot potato. Originally stolen by Dean Ambrose, all seven men at one time had their hands on the belt that rightfully belonged to Barrett. Fan favourite Daniel Bryan always looked likely to get the victory, and after a series of headbutts exchanged between him and Dolph Ziggler at the top of the ladder, Bryan eventually got the upper hand and grabbed the title, ousting Bad News Barrett to become Intercontinental champion.

Recently returned from injury, Randy Orton had a score to settle with Seth Rollins, the man who put him out of action for four months with a vicious Curb Stomp on the steel steps of the ring. Having tricked his way into The Authority’s good books, Randy Orton ambushed Rollins after his loss to Roman Reigns, beating him brutally before later demanding the match at Wrestlemania. There was no title on the line here, it was simply a grudge match. After both men landed their finishers and failed to pin their opponents, Randy Orton successfully reversed Rollins’ curb stomp, landed his RKO for the second time and got the pin.

The third main card match was one of the big talking points in the lead up to this year’s Wrestlemania. WCW and TNA legend Sting made his first appearance in WWE, taking on Executive Vice President Triple H in a No Disqualification match. After an elaborate ‘Terminator’ inspired entrance from Triple H, the action got underway, with the crowd already chanting ‘This is awesome!’ A near-victory for Sting with his submission finisher the ‘Scorpion Death Lock’ prompted an unexpected interference from one of WWE’s Attitude Era’s most prominent stables Degeneration X, who saved the match, only for Sting’s former WCW rivals the nWo to later interfere on Sting’s behalf, resulting in the entire ring area becoming awash with nostalgia and grey hair. Triple H eventually got the upper hand, hitting Sting with his trademark sledgehammer before scoring the pinfall. The adversaries later shook hands in a show of mutual respect.

The Divas division has been growing in quality and popularity of late, and the most prominent female wrestler’s faced off in a tag-team match. High school cheerleader type characters Brie Bella and her sister and Divas champion Nikki took on the less popular girls, the gothy Paige and her punk partner AJ Lee in a match that had been built up over the previous weeks, with no love lost between the two sides. AJ and Paige eventually got the win, by way of AJ’s impressive submission finisher the ‘Black Widow’. No title was on the line but it looks like AJ or Paige will soon challenge Nikki for the Divas belt.

In a match echoing ‘Rocky IV’, the undefeated Russian Rusev defended his US Championship against the all-American John Cena. Arriving to the ring in a tank, waving a Russian flag with a video playing behind him showing Russian landmarks and the president Vladimir Putin, there is no doubting what Rusev’s gimmick is. The fight itself was one of the best of the night, filled with submission attempts and near-falls, the power kept swaying and it was difficult to predict an outcome. Eventually, after landing his finisher the ‘Attitude Adjustment’, Cena pinned Rusev, ending his unbeaten streak and claiming the US title.

During a segment where Stephanie McMahon and Triple H announced the attendance and bragged of Triple H’s earlier victory, The Rock interrupted and brought MMA star Ronda Rousey into the ring to attack and banish the couple in charge of the WWE. A great moment with the fans going absolutely wild.

The penultimate match saw the return of WWE legend The Undertaker, his first appearance in the ring since Brock Lesnar ended his 21 year unbeaten streak at last year’s Wrestlemania. His opponent, the self-proclaimed ‘New Face of Fear’ Bray Wyatt had called him out weeks earlier, seemingly in an effort to take the Undertaker’s place and end his career. An unfortunately timed match, it was still bright in the outdoor arena when the two dark and creepy characters took to the ring, lessening the impact of their elaborate entrances. A fairly tame match, neither wrestler seemed in the best shape. Both men failed to win with their finishers the first time, before both simultaneously began theirs for a second time, The Undertaker landing his Tombstone finisher this time and pinning Wyatt. Next year’s Wrestlemania is set to be held on The Undertaker’s home turf in Dallas, Texas and could well see the Dead Man bid a final farewell to his millions of fans.

The main event had Brock Lesnar defending his Heavyweight title against Roman Reigns. Lesnar had just days earlier renewed his contract with WWE, amid speculation that he might make a return to UFC. From the off it was clear that these two beasts had little time for each other, Brock Lesnar taking Reigns to ‘Suplex City’ with Reigns responding by laughing in his face. After repeatedly suplexing Reigns and using his finisher the ‘F5’, Brock Lesnar’s momentum was eventually interrupted by Reigns landing three Superman punches and two spears, but Lesnar still managed to kick out of the pin attempt. When both men were down, Money in the Bank winner Seth Rollins ran down the ramp, briefcase in hand, looking to cash in his title shot. Seemingly unphased by his earlier loss to Randy Orton, the match was turned into a Triple Threat for the title. Lesnar got control of Rollins, picking him up for an ‘F5′ attempt, but was interrupted by a Spear by Reigns. Lesnar dropped Rollins, who curb stomped Reigns and pinned him to pick up the Heavyweight title, without the champion ever being pinned.

An absolutely action packed ride, this Wrestlemania really delivered despite earlier scepticism from fans, especially with regard to Roman Reigns’ getting the title shot. The fans got what they wanted and three belts changed hands. An excellent night was had by all. Well, most…