By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE WrestleMania 34 Kickoff Show
Aired live on WWE Network and second hour on USA Network
New Orleans, Louisiana at Mercedes-Benz Superdome
-Renee Young hosted the show with panelists Booker T, JBL, and David Otunga. Their desk was on the floor of the stadium with a shot of fans and the amazing WrestleMania set behind them.
-The first video package focussed on Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
-Sam Roberts checked in from outside and had fans chant “free” for the new subscriber network pitch.
Powell’s POV: Since we’re in pitch mode, you could be reading this on the ad-free version of Prowrestling.net for just $2 (for one month). Check the main page for our WrestleMania week membership sale.
-The next video focussed on AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship.
-After some panel discussion, the next video was on the Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon match.
Powell’s POV: I’m going light on the breakdown of what the panelists discuss because, well, do you really need to know who JBL, Booker T, and David Otunga expect to win? That said, I will be giving the usual coverage and commentary for the actual matches once they begin.
-Charlotte vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship was chronicled in a video package.
-Carmella crashed the panel’s set and showed off her Money in the Bank briefcase. She said she had a plan for cashing in her MITB contract. JBL assumed she was cashing in tonight. She said she wasn’t saying yes and she wasn’t saying no.
1. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The broadcast team was Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Byron Saxton. They were introduced on camera, however none of the wrestler entrances were shown. It looks like the advertised talent with no sign of Samoa Joe, Big Cass, Bray Wyatt, or any of the unadvertised talent that have been the subject of fan speculation when it comes to this match.
The first truly spotlighted elimination was Mojo Rawley bouncing Zack Ryder. They cut to a WrestleMania ad shortly thereafter (the Kickoff Show also airs on WWE’s social media platforms. [C] John Cena was shown sitting in the crowd. He acted all fired up once he was on camera. The match was down to Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy, Baron Corbin, Goldust, Fandango, Mojo Rawley, and Tye Dillinger.
Goldust was eliminated by Ziggler. Hardy led a Delete chant and then punched Ziggler. Hardy asked Dillinger who he was. Dillinger did his ten bit. Hardy eliminated him moments later. The final five were Kane, Ziggler, Hardy, Rawley, and Corbin. Kane eliminated Ziggler, then Corbin eliminated Kane.
The final three were Hardy, Corbin, and Rawley. The heels teamed up on Hardy. They went to toss him over the top rope when the Bray Wyatt video flashed. Wyatt was in the ring after the brief video and received a good reaction. Wyatt threw Rawley toward Hardy, who elimianted Rawley. Corbin hit End of Days on Wyatt. Hardy eliminated Corbin to win the match.
Matt Hardy won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in 15:45.
After the match, Hardy pointed at Wyatt and asked the crowd to applaud him. There was a “thank you, Wyatt chant.” Wyatt stood up and hugged Hardy. They cut to a shot of Cena watching from in the crowd. Wyatt struck his kneeling pose in the ring while Hardy did the delete behind him…
Powell’s POV: Well, it was a battle royal. No complaints about Hardy winning given the options. I thought it would be a spot for Elias or a returning star such as Samoa Joe, but it’s nice to see Hardy get a moment. Hardy’s moment with Wyatt means they could ultimately form a tag team. If so, does that mean Jeff Hardy is going to have a singles run? By the way, there were more fans in the building than we’ve seen for past WrestleMania opening matches, so it looks like they got the fans in the building promptly this year.
The panel spoke and they went to break as it was time for the second hour with the USA Network simulcast. The broadcast team reset the show. Sam Roberts also checked in again…
2. Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali for the vacant WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuiness were on commentary for the match. Drake Maverick was shown standing next to the WWE Cruiserweight Title belt, which was on a podium at ringside. Alexander caught Ali with a one man Spanish Fly at 6:00. Alexander followed up a couple minutes later with a top rope Spanish Fly for a two count. Joseph told us that this is what 205 Live is all about (some things never change). A short time later, Ali went up top, but Alexander kicked the ropes out from under him. They cut to a split screen that showed the match along with an ad. [C]
Ali hit his 054 finisher coming out of the break. He hooked one leg, but Alexander put his other foot on the ropes to break up the pin. Ali showed frustration and kicked Alexander. Ali went up top for the move again. Alexander moved this time, causing Ali to crash and burn. Alexander told Ali this is enough and looked remorseful before he hit him with an elbow and followed up with the Lumbar Check for the win…
Cedric Alexander defeated Mustafa Ali in 12:20.
Powell’s POV: The story with Alexander showing pity for Ali at the end was odd. It’s not like they had a 30-minute war and Ali had shown great fighting spirit. Did I miss something? Anyway, the match was solid and they gave viewers repeated shots of Cena watching form his seat on the floor.
Charly Caruso interviewed John Cena in the crowd and said it was unfortunate that he wasn’t on the card. Cena played it up and spoke about the fans around him, including Sign Guy. He took a swig from his beer. He said he was having a good time and said, “Point the camera that way (toward the ring)” and told viewers to enjoy WrestleMania…
Powell’s POV: How great would it be if Cena stayed in his seat and just got progressively drunker throughout the night to the point that the final shot showed him passed out with vomit all over himself at the end of the seven-hour marathon?
Lilian Garcia was the guest ring announcer for the women’s battle royal. She introduced Beth Phoenix, who was on commentary for the women’s battle royal along with Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Paige…
3. The WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal. Unlike the men, the ladies received entrances. Well, Becky Lynch did. A bunch of the women walked out to the bad Kid Rock song (the WrestleMania one). Some of the unadvertised entrants included Kairi Sane, Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, Peyton Royce, Billie Kaye, Tamara Conti, and Kavita Devi. Bayley received her own entrance and then they cut to the “Fighting With My Family” trailer. A portion of Sasha Banks’ entrances was televised.
The women all ganged up on Carmella as she strutted around with the Money in the Bank briefcase. They got her on the apron and then Kai caught her with a kick that knocked her off the apron. Dana Brooke was the second woman eliminated. There were some rapid fire eliminations. Belair performed a 450 splash on Sonya Deville, who was eliminated moments later. [C]
Sasha and Bayley eliminated several women together. The final three were Sasha, Bayley, and Sarah Logan. Bayley and Logan were fighting on the apron. Bayley hit Logan from behind and eliminated her. Banks and Bayley had a friendly moment in the middle of the ring, then Bayley suddenly eliminated Banks and appeared to win the match. However, Naomi returned to the ring and the broadcast team said she’d never been eliminated…
Naomi won the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal in 9:50.
Powell’s POV: I was hoping for closure in this Bayley and Banks saga, but instead we got another chapter. Naomi winning is a nice moment for her, but it felt rather uneventful to have her return out of the blue to win the match.
-The panel set up a video package on the Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns match for the WWE Universal Championship.
-The panel, which included Peter Rosenberg in JBL’s chair, delivered final hype to close the Kickoff Show.
Join me for live coverage of the WrestleMania 34 main card in a separate post on the main page and check out Will Pruett’s WrestleMania 34 Live Blog.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...