By Haydn Gleed, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
-So being a Cardiff City fan is never easy. We were seven points ahead of our rivals and promotion seemed inevitable this time two weeks ago, but following a draw and two crushing defeats we are now out of the promotion places. As a Bluebird you come to expect this, but it still doesn’t make it easier. There’s still a lot of points left to play for but our momentum is certainly going in the wrong direction. It might be because of these lackluster performances by my beloved soccer team that I didn’t enjoy WrestleMania as much as I thought I would or indeed as much as others seemed too.
-I’m not going to go into detail about every match or breakdown the full seven hours of WrestleMania 34, because that has already been done by thousands of others. The show seemed to feel a step off the pace with it’s layout and most of it’s matches. I thought Asuka vs. Charlotte was way too short for the epic that it was supposed to be. I thoroughly enjoyed the match but it felt that we were just reaching the apex of the match when it suddenly finished. If it had been given another five minutes and they continued with the pace and style that had been built, in what I felt was the first half of the match, this would have been tremendous. As a result it left me disappointed.
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was okay, but nothing to write home about. Daniel Bryan’s return was fun but the match itself was hampered by a clearly struggling Shane McMahon. Undertaker vs. John Cena – what the hell was that? Brock Lesnar against Roman Reigns was Suplex F5 City and not much more. The Smackdown Tag Title match was way too short for the talent in the ring. Sheamus and Cesaro were buried because WWE wanted to give a “nice” corporate feel good moment by showing their sponsors that they make kids dreams come true, and so on and so forth.
The only match that exceeded already lofty expectations was the Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H match, which told a great story and had the right finish. I’ve made my thoughts clear on my hatred for the rehash of an authority figure against a top talent, but Rousey and Stephanie have the potential to take what was clearly a successful story, reshape it, and make it fresh. I look forward to seeing how the feud develops. Overall, it certainly felt and looked like WrestleMania, but there wasn’t that extra sparkle in the ring or the type of booking that pushes the show into the top category. I give it a C-.
-Just as a quick aside with WrestleMania, and I’m surprised this wasn’t jumped all over by people because the comment was just insane, but Booker T describing Maryse as Miz’s “little woman” at home on the pre-show caused my girlfriend to stop watching the show and call me a caveman for watching this company. The thing is I couldn’t disagree with her. My understanding is that this is a common phrase while perhaps dated jargon in the U.S. Still, he and the company should be aware that this lingo doesn’t fly on these shores.
-NXT knocked another show out of the park with the latest Takeover special. They certainly are showing the rest of the wrestling world that less is more. From the outstanding matches to the very surprising but logical turn of Roderick Strong, from top to bottom I find very few things to even nitpick. A lot of people liked Shayna Baszler using the ring post to put her shoulder back into socket as it showed how tough she is, however it just conjured images of Mel Gibson’s character in “Lethal Weapon” doing the same thing. I always felt it was stupid in the film and as a result I thought this came across badly as well, but I guess that’s more my age and personal opinion more than anything. Overall, though, the NXT Championship match delivered to a high standard and Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano not only met but exceeded already lofty expectations that people had going into the show. NXT continues to astonish me in that despite being part of a company that can sometimes feel stuck in a twenty years ago time loop, NXT feels like the hot, progressive promotion that gives fans what they want, and they have done so for many years now.
-Ring of Honor let me down this weekend. Firstly, they had issues with their PPV stream which is inexcusable. I was willing to give them a pass after 16th Anniversary because it was the first real world test of the system, but they must have known that demand would be higher to watch one of the top matches of the weekend. They should have spec’d their technology accordingly. What really bothered me was the tweet they sent out to advise they were adding extra hardware to their infrastructure and to hold tight. I’m sorry, but that’s an ass backwards way of running an IT service. You over provide resource in your infrastructure and if you don’t need the high amount of bandwidth or processing power you gradually reduce it. To say they had the equipment on hand and it wasn’t in use boggles my mind as an IT team leader.
Secondly the show was just too darn long. It is in the en vogue thing at the moment for shows to last nearly the same amount of time as the average person’s working day, but to me it’s crazy. Yes, there were a lot of good matchups and a lot of talent to get on the card, but to go five hours is just fricking insane. It means that not only where the crowd burnt out by the time the main attraction between Cody and Kenny Omega came around, but so was the patience’s of the viewer at home who, if they were like me, were looking forward to the match being over so they could move on with their lives. Jason Powell hit the nail on the head when he said that he felt like he was being held hostage because the show exceeded any realistic expectation of how long the event would last. It certainly wasn’t as an enjoyable show as I hoped and thought it would be.
-I really enjoyed the HBO Andre The Giant documentary. I started watching wrestling at the tender age of 8 in 1991, so I came in at the very tale end of Andre’s run and unfortunately never got to see the best of him. Obviously, I know of him and I know all about his legacy in the business, but to be talked through his life along with some very old clips was fascinating. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one tackling him while playing rugby! But the documentary succeeded in showing Andre as the person not just the Giant wrestler. It did a good job of humanizing him while showing how one of a kind he was. I could have done without the ra ra WWF/E stuff and especially Vince McMahon making the audacious claim that his father was the one who made Andre a true attraction despite many territory bookers and historians emphasizing prior to this statement that the fact he was such a unique attraction was the reason they drew a lot of money. Ultimately, these bold claims only caused some brief eye rolling moment before I moved on and continued to enjoy the film.
A significant amount of time is devoted to emphasizing Hulk Hogan and what he meant to the business around WrestleMania III. I’ll admit for a while I was wondering why we had wandered into a Hogan documentary, but they tied it nicely into the narrative they were going through throughout, which was Andre was somebody who everybody respected and thought the world of, but he knew when to pass the torch. Ultimately, despite Hogan’s popularity, it was the selflessness of Andre that pushed Hogan over the top. It was the ultimate nice guy moment from the gentle giant by allowing Hogan to do what nobody else had done to him, at least according to the WWE narrative. I don’t buy people like Hogan and Tim White pushing the narrative that nobody, not even Vince, knew what Andre would do for the finish, but I can certainly see Andre and Vince keeping Hogan in the dark about the finish to rib him or even to humble him before the big rocket was put on his back. From watching the documentary, I could also see Andre getting a massive kick out of making Hogan more and more nervous by not confirming the finish as the match drew closer.
It’s definitely a documentary that as a wrestling fan I feel you should watch that is mostly not WWE spin on a story, but instead the story of a true legend of the wrestling business. By the way, Vince McMahon describing Andre’s 30 second farts may be my favorite clip of any TV show in the last decade!
-War Machine have been renamed War Raiders in NXT. Really?! REALLY?! I can understand changing their name so that WWE can own the name, but when it’s this close to the original name and this weak of a name it makes me cringe every time I hear it. What the hell is a War Raider, anyway? It makes them sound like shop looters in a war zone.
-So Brock Lesnar has resigned for an undisclosed amount of time. Oh, goody (*sarcasm). The amount of money this man earns for the limited amount of stuff he actually does just defies logic. He doesn’t cut promos, is only booked for a small percentage of shows, and he mostly just throws people around and smirks. The mystique around Brock has faded and ideally WWE and Lesnar would have gone their separate ways until WrestleMania 36. This would have allowed Brock to have one final run as the vicious badass heel that he could be, not this bouncing, suplexing, giant muppet that he has become over the last 18-24 months. I genuinely hope that the extension is literally for a month through the show in Saudi Arabia and then we don’t see him for awhile in WWE.
-I’m getting more and more excited about The Greatest Royal Rumble event. The biggest Rumble match ever could be a lot of fun especially with the talent involved, but it could also be too much of a good thing where there just far too many people in the ring and/or it goes on for too long. It’s going to be interesting to watch. They are also building up the card well with some big time matches, with obviously the standout from a storyline progression perspective being the cage match between Lesnar and Reigns. Could WWE feel that this will be the best time to crown Roman due to an assumed more positive reaction to him than usual? I was 110 percent confident that Roman would win at WrestleMania so I’m not going to answer that, but it’s going to be intriguing. The Undertaker having a casket match against Chris Jericho is also fascinating. Are we going to get another three-minute match that is essentially a special appearance role by the Undertaker or is this a sign that he was testing out his body at WrestleMania to see if he could have one or two matches a year for the next couple of years? It’s going to be an interesting event all round.
-I was gutted when Paige announced her retirement on Monday. Obviously being from the UK, I have an affinity for her, but I’ve felt for reasons in and out of the ring over the last couple of years that she never reached the heights that she seemed destined to. There’s no denying that she has been one of the biggest influences behind the women in WWE being seen more as wrestlers than sex symbols. The sky was the limit for her, but a combination of overexposure and then her personal issues put a stop on that promising career. For her to get everything in her life together to continue what she loves doing only for her to have her career taken away almost immediately is beyond cruel. However, she can still be that trailblazer with the announcement of her as the Smackdown General Manager. I’m so glad that WWE has taken this step with her. One of my fellow Dot Net staffers (forgive me for now remembering which one) noted that the interactions between the male authority figures and female wrestlers has always felt a bit awkward, but with Paige now in that role I’m hopeful women’s wrestling on Smackdown will get a new lease of life, which it so desperately needs.
-I can’t wait for the new WWE UK tournament coming in June, it should be a lot of fun. It should hve some of the guys you already met in the inaugural tournament last year, plus there should be some other characters making an appearance. I was fortunate enough to be there last year and I’m hoping to make the show again this year. Even if I don’t, I will give you guys some background on the wrestlers involved once they are announced.
-There has been so much happening in the world of wrestling this week, including the Superstar Shakeup taking place next week. I will leave you with one big move that I want to see happen. Braun Strauman to Smackdown. Before you call for my head please let me explain. Raw is the big dogs yard i.e. Roman Reigns, and with him as the top babyface there is always going to be that glass ceiling that Braun will never break unless Vince has a major change of heart. The sky is the limit for him on Smackdown. How much fun does a rejuvenated and inspired heel Nakamura against Braun Strowman sound? It sounds like a lot of fun to me.
Have a great week everyone! As always feel free to leave a comment below, or if you want to speak to me one on one you can find me on twitter @haydngleed or via email email@example.com