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Notes on WrestleMania 33

Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 33

Some quick notes on this past weekend’s WWE shows for WrestleMania in Orlando, fleshing out my tweets you might have already read as I watched things live from home.

  • NXT TakeOver Orlando was the best NXT supercard since last year’s Mania weekend, for me. Better matches, better pacing and better stories, despite the lacklustre build-up from the weekly shows (which I’ve been gradually catching up on after a post-Royal Rumble malaise; that should tell you everything).
  • The opening mixed eight-person tag was a fun brawl that served as a decent taster for more exciting matches to come on the weekly show. SAni†Y is a great concept that’s been in search of a story, and they have the makings of one now. I want to see Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot at the next TakeOver (which is only seven weeks away).
  • Bee’s storyline idea for SAni†Y: Eric Young quilts all their ring gear, has an Etsy page on the side.
  • Killian Dain’s finisher is called the Ulster Plantation? Yeesh.
  • Match number two was a great debut (not counting his appearance at the UK Tournament as Tommy End) by Aleister Black, of whom I’m sold on everything bar that kick to the face as a finisher.
  • NXT debuted new championship belts* on the show, starting with the tag team titles. These are fine, but I prefer the old ones. (*Belts, not ‘titles’, whatever WWE says. The title is the acknowledgement of position; the belt is the physical object symbolising the title. There is a distinction, Vince.)
  • What began as a fantastic match — a three-way pitting two teams in Dash/Dawson and Ciampa/Gargano with growing animosity against the immovable objects that are the Authors of Pain, forcing them to work together in their better interests — ground to a screeching halt when #DIY (oh I hate that name) were eliminated fairly early on, leaving us with two heel teams that have little chemistry, and writing the story of everyone involved into a corner. The NXT tag division now has no competition, when you have monster champions with no demonstrable weakness. Boring.

Ember Moon vs Asuka at NXT TakeOver Orlando

  • I’d been waiting for Asuka vs Ember Moon even since the latter debuted. She’s a natural opponent for Asuka just from appearances alone; they’re like the Ken and Ryu of NXT. And finally seeing them clash? I wasn’t disappointed. This made up for the tag title match’s storytelling deficiencies in spades, and I can’t wait to see the rematch between the battle-hardened Moon and a full-blown heel Asuka. It should be outstanding.
  • 3MB reunion imminent: Drew McIntyre (né Galloway) is shown in the crowd mere hours after a hit-and-run appearance at the Evolve show across town. If they’re going the Bobby Roode route, expect his first NXT matches on the upcoming UK tour.
  • Speaking of Roode, he has his best NXT main event with Shinsuke Nakamura here, despite a slow start. Even so, it’s still not the best match on the show, like it should be. NXT Championship matches have been underwhelming since at least 2015, so I don’t know why everyone seemed so surprised on Twitter about this one.

I wonder where things will go from here, now that Shinsuke — and Tye Dillinger — have moved up to the main roster. The next TakeOver is less than two months away, and the brand needs a new top babyface. Is Kassius Ohno the answer?

  • On to WrestleMania proper, and over six hours of action (not counting the first hour or so of the kickoff show) begins with a heated Cruiserweight Title match between champ Neville and Austin Aries, in what must the the latter’s biggest show to date. It’s a tough crowd to win over — it’s not all smarks, after all — but they do a bang-up job.
  • The third Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal is what it is. Everyone’s hopes get crushed when Killian ‘Big Damo’ Dain and Luke Harper get eliminated; no one outside of America gives a crap when Gronk hops the barrier and does the Hacksaw Jim Duggan three-point stance thing on Jinder Mahal; and the air goes out of the balloon when his buddy Mojo Rawley wins the whole thing.
  • I don’t think that was the result WWE was expecting — kind of like that security staffer who tried to stop Gronk getting in the ring on cue.
  • Baron Corbin works his second Mania pre-show in as many years, wrestling a decent but unremarkable match against Dean Ambrose for the latter’s Intercontinental Championship. That title’s rarely been well served at Mania, so I’m not too disappointed; it’s just a wasted opportunity to make Corbin a force to be reckoned with.
  • Remember when Ambrose wrestled Brock at last year’s Mania? He’s just a ghost at this stage; why should WWE or fans care to invest in him any more when he seems barely bothered himself?
  • Big surprise to kick off the main card with AJ Styles versus Shane McMahon, but probably best to get it out of the way early. It’s been well received online, but there’s a lot of compartmentalisation going on here, I reckon.
  • “The wind is doing great things for AJ’s hair.” — Bee.

AJ Styles at WrestleMania 33

  • Shane McMahon is the world’s best backyard wrestler. That’s not a compliment. This match was the midlife crisis Ferrari of wrestling, come on now. Props to AJ Styles aside, can we stop indulging Shane O Mac now? Please?
  • Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho didn’t have too tough and act to follow, considering Shane didn’t leap off the giant ring above the ring in a wingsuit or something equally insane.
  • They put on a good match that was clearly building to something bigger (they’ll have a rematch at Payback four weeks from now) and with one sublime moment, as Owens broke a potentially match-ending pin with a single finger on the bottom rope. Now that’s what I call a WrestleMania moment.
  • Nia Jax looked legitimately nervous walking down that ridiculously long ramp to the ring for the Raw Women’s Title four-way. But they went away quickly; she’s comfortable working with the pros that are Bayley, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair.
  • Nia’s early elimination s what should have happened to the Authors of Pain the night before.
  • The match was a bit rushed, which usually happens to women’s matches on Mania, but everyone did herby, and the result was the right one. Nary a bad match on this show so far.
  • The same can’t be said for the production. Shitty TV direction; bad lighting and poor sight lines in the stadium. Fire Kevin Dunn.

Matt and Jeff Hardy at WrestleMania 33

  • Why is Al Roker? I mean, I know who he is; we used to get Today on the old NBC Super Channel. But why?
  • Cena/Nikki vs Miz/Maryse was less a match than a Total Divas bit, a waste of everyone’s talents (bar Nikki, who doesn’t really have any to begin with).
  • You know why people love The Miz and Maryse? Because they’re objectively awesome, without a hint of irony.
  • So let me get this straight: Cena took advantage of a doped-up Nikki on a hospital trolley?
  • Macho Man and Elizabeth at WrestleMania VII this ain’t. (And yes I know the actual proposal was on an episode of Superstars a few months later.)
  • Triple H at Mania is all about the entrance now, the match is virtually an afterthought. Tonight is no exception: Trips rides his Orange County Chopper (I presume) to the ring with a police escort, then switches on the cruise control. Meh.
  • Working theory: Seth Rollins wore that knee brace outside his tights so Triple H remembers which leg to work.
  • This match made me nod off for the first time, 10 hours into this 12-hour marathon (which started at 5pm with a Lapsed Fan livecast) but in fairness I’ve only really liked one Triple H match ever (that would be his brawl with The Undertaker at WrestleMania X Seven).
  • At this point of the evening, after the Pitbull halftime show and the overlong Triple H/Rollins slog, fear that the Smackdown Women’s Title match will be cut for time is getting in the way of the show as delivered. I don’t want to see Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, I wanna see Alexa Bliss!
  • I missed most of that match, as it happens, in the bathroom with stomach cramps (damn you junk food). I didn’t catch Randy’s giant sperm till later. But I will say this: worms, maggots and roaches, oh my.
  • Welp, I was wrong: I was convinced Brockberg would go last. And we got almost five minutes bell to bell. Still only four moves between them, though. I wasn’t into it.
  • This SmackDown women’s match was definitely cut for time. There’s a bit right at the start, where Becky Lynch and Mickie James are in the ring ready for a plancha spot, when they remember it isn’t happening any more and they skip to the next bit.
  • In total the SD women get all of five minutes. Yeah, great for Naomi to get a hometown win and all, but this match got about as much respect as any previous Divas match in the history of WrestleMania.
  • I’m sure Camping World are delighted their purchase of the naming rights for the Citrus Bowl is being pointedly ignored by WWE. The WWE Twitter account even @s the wrong account in a tweet, the Citrus Bowl now only referring to an event (a college football game) and no longer a place.
  • Before the main event: Yep, pretty sure this is The Undertaker’s last match. And Roman Reigns is going over, hence it’s last.
  • Half-way through a match that had no business going 25 minutes: Taker is clearly fucked, like shoot fucked. Time for Roman to step up and end this.
  • Ten minutes later: Roman Reigns carried that match don’t @ me.
  • I get pride and all, but that match was nothing for Taker to be proud of. He looked like shit, was blown up within minutes, couldn’t even do his signature spots. It was a complete and utter embarrassment, and it’s doubly embarrassing how everyone’s now paying respect to Taker on his retirement as if it never happened. He should have quit after the first Brock match, the one that ended the streak; that would have meant something. This was just sad. Fuck that ‘leaving his hat and coat in the ring’ bullshit.

The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33

  • I’m serious about Roman carrying that match, by the way. I’m no fan, his character is awful and he’s still terribly booked; Vince McMahon trolling the fans made manifest, basically. But he can bring it in the big match scenario, and he tried his best to salvage a match that was crumbling through no fault of his own. Sure, maybe the likes of John Cena might have done a better job in there. But you can’t blame Roman for not being Cena.

This was still the best WrestleMania in years, despite its second half. Much of it ended up being far superior to what was on paper. The rest, bar the very last match, wasn’t any worse than expected. There’s plenty I’d watch again.