Pruett's Pause: WWE WrestleMania 31 - The future is now with Seth Rollins. The past is now with DX and the NWO. Current WWE is an amalgamation of eras. In person thoughts on one of the best 'Mania's ever.
By Will Pruett
Last night WWE produced one of the best shows in their history. It was stunning. After a buildup which left many wondering if this show would be a disaster, WWE managed to out-perform expectations in a major way. I'm not exaggerating when I call it one of the best shows of all time. More interesting than the sheer quality of the show was the message WWE sent. WWE, in one show, told us they're about the future, about the past, and told the present to sit in the backseat for a little while.
First, let's talk about the past. WWE used this show to attempt to make Big Show relevant, to bring back the NWO and D-Generation X, to re-establish the presence of The Undertaker, and to put Triple H and The Rock over. Only one of these things actually made sense to do. The rest, to varying degrees, felt like WWE was trying to recapture the glory of their past. It also felt like they were failing to do so. While some have the ability to turn of their brains in order to watch and enjoy, I couldn't do this while watching Sting vs. Triple H. It just wasn't possible. I tried. The run-in's were illogical and I couldn't get past this. I didn't mind Undertaker or The Rock being used as they were, but it still felt like WWE attempting to glorify their past.
With their present, WWE asked the modern stars of today to take secondary roles. Look at John Cena, the biggest star of WWE's current era. He is very much in their plans for the future, but you could feel his role changing. John Cena wasn't the centerpiece of this WrestleMania. We wasn't in the main event. He wasn't even in show closing segments leading into it. Cena was simply another star on the card bolstering its value, not the central focus. This is a new role for Cena, who for years has been the cornerstone of WWE. Elsewhere on the show we saw something similar with Daniel Bryan. We saw it all over the place. WWE's current era isn't being immediately phased out, but they aren't the focal points of the promotion.
It's impossible to talk about this WrestleMania without turning an eye towards the future. It's impossible to talk about one of the most amazing moments in WrestleMania history without looking at the stars who were a part of it. The main event of this show featured a star-making performance from Roman Reigns. No one was criticized more going into this show than Roman and most of it was justified. He didn't seem ready. He didn't seem like the right guy at the right time. On this show he proved to be more than ready. He proved that he belongs. Roman Reigns, in his match with Brock Lesnar, has to have won many over.
More than Reigns becoming a made man in the aftermath of last night's performance, Seth Rollins became a true super star. Rollins was already the highlight of most WWE shows since his heel turn. Last night, he was launched into the stratosphere with a once in a lifetime moment. Seriously, WWE can never do this angle again. Money in the Bank has been in play for ten years and they've never done this. Now, it's off the table forever. They took a situation where it looked like they couldn't win a week ago and somehow produced the best possible result for Lensar, Reigns, and Rollins. It was an amazing piece of booking.
Seth Rollins has often promised to be the future of WWE. He has the opportunity in front of him to do so. It's hard to remember a heel champion being set up with as many amazing opponents to work with. Rollins has reasons to enter feuds with Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, and many others. It's stunning to think of what WWE could produce on top of their cards in the next year with Rollins at the helm.
WrestleMania 31 was about where WWE is going and where they have been. Very little of it was about where they are. This is encouraging and frightening. As we move past WrestleMania and into the new year of WWE programming, hopefully we will see more of the future come through. Even if The Rock and Triple H are going to have a match in Dallas next year, we need more of the future peaking through. Moving the current generation to high-profile secondary roles in nice to see. There is more breathing room for rising stars today than there was a year ago.
The only thing left to do now is wait for WWE's new year to begin.
And now for some random thoughts:
- This show was wonderful to see live. Even with delayed sound in the press box, it was pretty awesome. WWE treated me exceptionally well during this entire weekend.
- The set was a little too much like the WrestleMania 28 set for my liking. It was pretty, but it wasn't the stunningly beautiful set we saw a year ago.
- Speaking of the future of WWE, the four-way tag match definitely delivered. Cesaro, Kidd, Big E, Kofi, Los Matadores, and The Usos all delivered a quality effort. It was a tough slot to be in, as fans were still filing into the building, but they captured the imaginations of the fans in attendance. It was a great opener.
- The battle royal for The Dre disappointed me with the result, but not with the Mizdow and Miz breakup angle. It was a mixed bag.
- As I said in my live blog, the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match was exactly the kind of spectacle WrestleMania has been missing since 2011. I understand WWE spinning Money in the Bank off into its own show, since the match is often breathtaking, but from 2005-2010 those Ladder Matches were highlights. It was nice to see these highlights come back. I know the wrestlers in the match were hurting after it was over, but they all performed exceptionally well. Dean Ambrose looked to be the most injured of the bunch.
- Stardust's sparkle ladder made me laugh far too much.
- Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton was Orton's best WrestleMania effort to date and easily the coolest surprise RKO spot I have ever seen. The finish of this match was spectacular. It was one of the coolest moments on the show, and that is saying something.
- Triple H's entrance was ridiculous, but not surprisingly so. I didn't hate the Terminator inspired spectacle. If Triple H is charge of the future of WWE and wrestling itself, get used to crazy entrances. He obviously adores them.
- Sting vs. Triple H was a good match until the bevy of run-ins. I guess this is something I just have to accept. It wasn't for me. It wasn't necessarily awful. It was just illogical.
- The musical performance didn't excite me. It didn't anger me. I was apathetic towards it.
- The Bella Twins vs. A.J. Lee and Paige wasn't exactly a buffer match, but it also wasn't put in a position to shine. I don't see this as damning for WWE's future efforts to push women, but it is disconcerting. I'm curious to see what the women's division looks like in a month. I'm still more convinced we will end up with the old status quo, but I want to be wrong.
- Rusev's entrance may have been the best thing I have ever seen live. It was breathtaking. It was completely over the top. It was completely perfect. This was the entrance we all needed. If the show wouldn't have had an absolutely amazing main event, Rusev on a tank would have been the WrestleMania moment we all deserved. It was perfect. Rusev's entrance was the best thing ever.
- Cena vs. Rusev was a good match. I didn't love every bit of it, but it was well wrestled and logical. Rusev does lose anything in losing this one match, but follow up is key. Rusev has to have a compelling story now and not be left out to flounder with some weird children's choir like Bray Wyatt was last year. If Rusev can keep the children at bay, he will be okay.
- Another issue with Triple H on this show: his character was completely different from the end of the Sting match to his segment with The Rock.
- Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Rhonda Rousey, and (of course) The Rock had a very good segment. My only criticism would be the amount of time they took together, as it felt a little too long. I know they were all trying to feel out the crowd, but it felt like they let things get past the points where they peaked. It was a fun segment, though,
- Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt was the first time I have ever missed The Streak. Undertaker and Wyatt were obviously trying to have an epic match, but it felt empty. After so many years of stunning Undertaker efforts, this one seemed hallow. It's disappointing and I'm sure next year will mean a ton of it is "The Last Ride" but for now, I'm left feeling "eh" about it. The effort was there and Undertaker looked far younger than he did a year ago. That's a plus.
- Reigns and Lesnar tore the house down before Seth Rollins music was even dreamed about. They were having an amazing match. As bad as the build was at times, when they stood in the ring together, the big fight feel was there. WWE certainly over-delivered on expectations with this match. This was before Rollins' moment even began.
- Seth Rollins was amazing. His cash in and quick celebration was spectacular. I cannot wait to see what he does as champion.
There are little nitpicks with this show, but I honestly have to give it an A+ grade. It was almost everything I would want a wrestling show to be. It offered great angles and stories, different styles, stunning matches, and one unforgettable true once in a lifetime moment. If I was grading this show, it would get a 98%. It was that damn good. WWE was almost perfect here.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren't super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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