Editors Note: This column will likely be one of my most discussed to date. It is incredibly difficult for me to write, as both a fan and an author. Rarely do I allow my emotions to get the better of me, but twice this weekend it happened. First with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts Hall of Fame induction I was overcome with happiness, and then again the next night with The Undertaker’s streak ending, overcome with shock. Typically I wait for emotion to subside before writing my columns, and I’m glad I slept on WrestleMania before writing about it. This column likely would have been shaped differently had I wrote immediately. In any event, please enjoy, and I’d love to hear your feedback both on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chinlockdotcom) or our Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/chinlock).
WrestleMania 30 HITS:
Brock Lesnar ends the streak: I can’t think of any other way to open this column than with the most polarizing issue coming out of WrestleMania (and, in my opinion, the most newsworthy event in professional wrestling in a long, long time). Nobody, myself included, thought that Brock Lesnar was going to end the streak. We all had our reasons why we believed it wouldn’t happen. The build wasn’t there. Brock Lesnar and Undertaker don’t like each other (which is actually a false rumour perpetuated by an unannounced angle they did when Lesnar was in UFC), Brock Lesnar is a part-time wrestler, there is someone better out there to be given this honour/responsibility, etc. etc. etc. And I am of the opinion that, regardless of who it was, the streak should have never been broken. It was too iconic, and too important to the fibre of the WWE to ever be broken. But, because they decided to end it, Brock Lesnar was absolutely the right person to do it (and I’ll tell you why). Lesnar is a legitimate bad ass, a complete freak of nature and one of the scariest human beings on the planet. He dominated a sport in record time, and record fashion that nobody had ever done before when he competed in the UFC. Nobody, when you compare Lesnar’s credentials, even comes close to being as believable of a threat to Undertaker’s streak than Lesnar. Yeah, the build to the match left a lot to be desired, and given the outcome, I think they left a lot of money on the table with the less-than-stellar build they gave this match. But, that aside, Lesnar is the only man in WWE right now who could have believably pulled this off, and not suffered from complete revolt from WWE fans. The argument has already been made that an up-and-comer should have been built up, and beat the streak. I think that’s a horrible idea, as that wrestler, no matter how popular, or respected, would be blackballed by WWE fans as being undeserving, and the “wrong guy.” But Lesnar is on a different level than everybody else. When his music hits, you know something big is about to go down. And who’s to say he hasn’t signed a multi-year extension with WWE for more dates than he was previously working? That still remains to be seen. WWE would not have given this to Lesnar if they didn’t firmly believe that they would not only make money from it, but be able to use the momentum it creates to create an even bigger moment down the line. This was the right choice, and I am firmly in support of it. I’m just glad you didn’t ask me last night. Sleeping on this helped me make a lot better sense of it, and its gravity.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker: Now let’s talk about the match. The Undertaker was slightly thinner, and slightly slower than his last appearance at WrestleMania, and his match last year with CM Punk was certainly better. But this told an entirely different story than any recent Undertaker streak match. Brock Lesnar controlled large portions of this match, and physically dissected the Undertaker in a way we haven’t seen in a long, long time. Paul Heyman was pure, 100% liquid gold on the outside of the ring, and I found myself slowly beginning to believe throughout the match that there was actually a chance that Undertaker might lose. It was such a faint thought, though, that I truly never believed it was going to happen. I sat, and waited for the multiple tombstones/chokeslams/last rides that were ahead in the epic continuance of the Undertaker’s streak. And then it happened. Brock Lesnar reversed a tombstone, and hit a 3rd F5 on The Undertaker. I still didn’t believe it was the end, and then 1. 2. 3. The Undertaker’s streak ended right before my very eyes, and there was an entire room full of grown men in my living room left completely in shock. This was professional wrestling magic at its absolute finest, and never again will be be able to say we were part of a moment this big. This was artwork, painted right before our very eyes. It wasn’t a five-star classic from a pure wrestling standpoint, but from an emotional storytelling standpoint, it was 10 stars.The Rock, Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan in the same ring at the same time: WrestleMania weekend is one weekend I really try to avoid any and all spoilers. All year long, especially in working for Chinlock.com, I try to make sure that I have all of my angles covered, which includes reading a number of “dirt sheet” reports. Most turn out to be untrue, but some turn out to be true, and that heightens my awareness of the product allowing me to write these articles with greater insight. But WrestleMania is the exception. I avoid everything, at all costs. A few things were spoiled for me by WWE (Steve Austin seated with Hulk Hogan at the Hall of Fame) and other things were spoiled via text message (CM Punk attending the Chicago Blackhawks game yesterday afternoon), but I was largely able to avoid most spoilers. That’s what made this moment so much more enjoyable for me. Hogan opening the show was a nice nod to the history Hogan has in the company, and his part in opening doors to allowing even a second WrestleMania to happen. Steve Austin’s interruption was enough for me to say that we were witnessing a really damn cool moment in history. But the Rock’s interruption, which came as a complete surprise to me, really capped this off as the coolest WrestleMania opening in history. Go out of your way to see this, if you missed it. It’s largely fluff, and little substance, but it was such a fun moment in history. Very, very thankful that it was able to happen, and that we were given the opportunity to share it.
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H: WrestleMania’s opening match was a great window to look at what was to come with WWE exercising our emotions. Going in, I had no doubt that Daniel Bryan was going to win this match, and move on to the main event of WrestleMania with Batista and Randy Orton. But there were multiple near falls that actually had me believing that Triple H was going to be the one moving on to the main event. Masterful storytelling by two of the very, very best in the history of professional wrestling. The nod to Ring of Honor’s “code of honor” at the beginning of the match was nice (disguised as the offer of a handshake). It took a few minutes for them to find their grove, as the opening minute or two were a bit clunky. But, once they found it, they absolutely tore the house down. Absolutely awesome match, and the clean finish in the middle of the ring was an incredibly satisfying finish to the match leading to Bryan entering the main event.
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista: This was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best WrestleMania main event in years. All three guys worked their collective asses off, and put in one of the best triple threat matches I’ve ever seen. The crowd was mentally exhausted having come off the low of witnessing the Undertaker’s streak coming to and end, and they sat on their hands for the first half of this match. But as it pitched up down the stretch, they came back to life, and responded well to the huge spots towards the end of the match. Randy Orton deserves a bonus for landing on that monitor the way he did. The man is lucky to be walking after something like that, and Shawn Michaels will be the first to vouch for something like that. The finish of this match was another picture perfect example of great storytelling with Bryan seemingly re-appearing out of nowhere to hit Batista with his running knee, and have him tap to the Yes! Lock. The crowd rightfully exploded, and Daniel Bryan’s celebration with both championships felt like your own celebration. It has been exhausting, at times, watching WWE fumble with such an organic growth in Bryan’s popularity, but for all of the missteps, the payoff in the end was more than worth the pain in getting there. Masterful payoff, and an amazing WrestleMania moment.
Cesaro wins Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: I had Cesaro as my pick, and I only picked him because I’m a huge mark for Cesaro’s work right now. I didn’t really believe he would win, and I was betting more with my heart than my head. And then it happened. Cesaro literally throws Big Show over his shoulder, powerslams him over the top rope, and wins. WHAT?! In a moment that will likely be replayed until the tape physically wears out, we witnessed the most incredible feat of strength in WWE history. Antonio Cesaro is real. Honourable mentions in this match go to Kofi Kingston for his amazing near elimination (as usual), and Fandango for his elimination spot with Sheamus.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt: The wrong person won this match, but this was the best showcase of Bray Wyatt’s skills to date. And frankly, this was John Cena’s best WrestleMania match in recent memory, as well, if only because there was reasonable belief that he wouldn’t leave victorious. Part of the magic of professional wrestling often gets lost in Cena matches, especially against slightly less established opponents. But I believed there was a real chance of Wyatt leaving victorious, so this match was much more enjoyable in that respect. I still think the wrong person won, but at the end of the day, these guys had a good, hard hitting, believable match that was a fun watch. Bray Wyatt’s entrance also ranks high in my favourite WrestleMania entrances of all time. The live performance was chilling.
WWE Network: Not a blip. Not a frigging blip all night long, or all weekend long for that matter. WWE revealed that it has nearly 700,000 subscribers currently signed up for its network (3/4 of the way to its goal of 1 million before the end of the year), which is absolutely incredible to consider. But, hypothetically, if a half a million people were watching an online stream of a single event (and my guess is, there were MANY more than that), and they experienced little to no network issues, that has to be some kind of a record. A few people on my Twitter feed mentioned they got the odd momentary pause, or degradation in audio quality, but I didn’t experience either one with the exception of a one-second pause during The Rock’s entrance. If the Rock, Austin and Hogan in the ring at the same time doesn’t take down the network, I’m confident nothing will. Invest your money in the WWE Network if you haven’t already. It’s flawless, and such an incredibly vast consumable resource. Vince McMahon and the entire WWE (as well as Major League Baseball’s tech folks) should be very proud of what they accomplished last night. Mind-blowingly successful first WrestleMania on the network.
None: As close to a perfect WrestleMania as anybody could reasonably ask for. The storytelling was masterful. The action was excellent. The show flowed well, and never felt like it was overstaying its welcome. The pacing was very well done, and even the “comedy” bits backstage were welcome, and well done. Appearances by the legends always pop me, and seeing Paul Orndorff and Dangerous Danny Davis were fun surprises as well. This was the best WrestleMania in a long, long time. Buy the Network. Order the replay. This gets my highest recommendation.