SANTA CLARA, Calif. — World Wrestling Entertainment perfectly blended old with new before a crowd of nearly 77,000 people in Sunny California on Sunday afternoon.
On a night in which Seth Rollins captured the WWE World Heavyweight championship by cashing in his Money In the Bank contract, fans in the Silicon Valley experienced a very memorable WrestleMania.
It was also a night that featured the return of The Rock, title changes, surprise appearances by the likes of D-Generation X, the New World Order and a stunning Terminator-style ring entrance.
WrestleMania got off to a raucous start under sunny skies and in sweltering conditions before it officially even began on Sunday.
With the temperature hovering around 30 C inside Levi’s Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers, fans were treated to a pre-show that featured a lively six-man tag team match featuring the champs Cesaro and Canada’s Tyson Kidd (with Natalya) defending against challengers Los Matidores (with El Torito) and Kofi Kingston and Big E. Langston.
In a high-paced match that featured an incredible 6-man suplex off the top rope the champs successfully defended their tag titles, much to the delight of those filing into the stadium.
The second pre-show match was the second annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which moved along swiftly but ended with a satisfactory conclusion in the eyes of those in attendance.
The final three competitors were Big Show and The Miz and his stunt double partner Damien Mizdow. After Miz insisted that his double face the Big Show alone, even violently poking Mizdow’s chest in the process, Mizdow turned on his mentor, tossed him over and faced the Big Show for bragging rights, and the hulking trophy.
Alas, Big Show prevailed, fittingly given his giant similarities to the legendary Andre.
The opening match of the live show featured the Intercontinental title ladder match featuring seven men: champion Wade Barrett, fan favourite Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, Stardust, Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper.
In a match that featured several daring ladder spots and a number of false finishes, Bryan scored the win by plucking the IC title from atop a ladder, igniting the crowd of 70,000 into chants of Bryan’s signature Yes!
Next up was the match many felt could be the show stealer, which featured Randy Orton and Money in the Bank briefcase holder Seth Rollins. The match delivered, with both hitting some daring moves, much to the delight of the crowd.
Orton ignited the crowd with one of the best finishes in recent memory, avoiding an elevated Curb Stomp and converting it to a massive RKO, sending the place into a frenzy.
Making his WWE and WrestleMania debuts, World Championship Wrestling legend Sting was introduced by Taiko drummers, while his opponent, Triple H, made a Terminator entrance, literally to pyro and terminator robots, rising up out of floor sporting Terminator gear and targeting his opponent. Classic Terminator music played and a video appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger delighted the crowd.
Inside the ring, the aging competitors did not disappoint.
It was easily the most entertaining match to that point in the show and featured appearances by legends D-Generation X (X-Pac, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and Shawn Michaels), the New World Order (Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan) and several false finishes.
Triple H scored the victory, but the outcome was secondary to the highly entertaining match.
In the lone women’s division match of the evening, fan favourites AJ Lee and Paige took on the Bella Twins in tag-team action. A fast-pace match that kept the crowd into finished the way the crowd seemed to be hoping, with Lee and Paige scoring the victory.
The first of the three main events on the card featured Russian bad guy Rusev defending the United States Championship against longtime WWE megastar John Cena.
Rusev, who has yet to taste defeat via pinfall in WWE, displayed his power, but it was matched by the equally powerful Cena. With his valet and real-life girlfriend Lana taking the biggest bump of the match, Rusev suffered his first loss, dropping his title to the highly decorated Cena.
Next up, WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon and her husband and COO Triple H addressed the crowd, announcing a new attendance record at the stadium at 76,976.
After heeling on the crowd, The Rock’s music hit and had there been a roof on the stadium, it surely would have been blown off. The Rock challenged Triple H, before McMahon slapped The Rock and ordered him out of the ring.
Rock enlisted the services of UFC star Rhonda Rousey, who would eventually personally remove both Triple H and Stephanie from the ring.
In the most anticipated match of the night, the legendary Undertaker returned after a year-long absence following his first WrestleMania loss in 22 matches last year. He took on the bizarre Bray Wyatt. From the match’s outset, it was evident The Undertaker was in much better shape than last year, when he was decimated by the beast Brock Lesnar.
The Deadman rebounded in dramatic fashion, by improving to 22-1 in his WrestleMania career, leaving the door open to a match in his hometown Texas at next year’s WrestleMania.
In the main event, champion Lesnar opened with a flurry of powerful offence that left his challenger stunned and the crowd buzzing.
In fact, the first 20 minutes of the contest belonged to the powerful Lesnar, who was in control until a blow to the ring post that cut him open turned the tide. Following a back-and-forth period in which both competitors exchanged blows, Rollins suddenly emerged from the back, cashed in his guaranteed match contract and the match became a triple threat match. After Lesnar was dispatched from the ring via a spear from Reigns, Rollins delivered his Curb Stomp, pinned Reigns and essentially stole the title.