By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net Members are listening to the 95-minute audio review of WrestleMania 35 that was hosted by Jason Powell and Jake Barnett, the 91-minute ROH and NJPW G1 Supercard audio review hosted by Jason Powell and Will Pruett, and Jason Powell’s 29-minute solo audio review of NXT Takeover: New York. Join us on our ad-free website by signing for membership today via PWMembership.net.
WrestleMania 35 Hits
Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston for the WWE Championship: The best match of the night and the peak of WrestleMania 35. KofiMania has been a fun and completely unexpected treat. Kingston wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, but an injury to (Mustafa) Ali opened the door to everything that has transpired. And credit to WWE officials for riding the hot hand rather than stubbornly sticking to their original plan of Bryan vs. Kevin Owens at WrestleMania. Both wrestlers did a great job, but Bryan was especially terrific and did a wonderful job throughout the match. The post match celebration with Kingston and his sons was fantastic and this will go down as one of the greatest feel good moments in WrestleMania history.
Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in a Triple Threat for the Raw Women’s Championship and Smackdown Women’s Championship: The body of the match gets a Hit, while the finish was a big Miss in my book. I’d be fine with this finish if it had occurred on any other WWE pay-per-view throughout the year, but it was disappointing to see the company’s biggest show of the year end with a controversial referee count. But the women did a very good job of working at an intense and frantic pace and therefore it belongs in the Hit section. Bonus points for the Flair entrance and for Joan Jett performing. I felt bad for her when she stopped playing and fans booed Rousey, as one can only hope that the rock legend realized the boos weren’t directed at her. With two big entrances, the babyface entrance was too routine and left a lot to be desired. More than anything, it was a pleasant surprise to see WWE deliver crowd pleasing finishes with the babyfaces going over in what were widely regarded as the top three matches on the show.
Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship: This wasn’t the lengthy battle that resulted in the babyface winning a war over the monster heel, so I can understand if some fans are frustrated that the match was brief. At the same time, Rollins winning quickly and decisively got the show off to a strong start. WWE did a really nice job of spreading out the big three babyface wins on this show so that they each felt like a moment and didn’t overshadow one another. Here’s hoping that Seth’s sudden penchant for nut shots ends with Lesnar. And I’m also hopeful that Lesnar will go away for a while. His part-time run with the Universal Championship basically went a year longer than intended due Roman Reigns going on medical leave. Fans need a break from Lesnar, who needs to return with a new twist once the timing is right.
Shane McMahon vs. The Miz in a falls count anywhere match: The match that most exceeded my expectations. This was an entertaining brawl. And while it was hard to suspend disbelief while watching Miz manhandle all three members of Sanity, there were no such issues in watching him be the aggressor in a match against Shane. The big stunt bump looked safe by Shane standards and it still got a great reaction from the live crowd. I also liked the finish of Shane getting a flukey victory, as I assume this extends the feud.
Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles: A good match that was ruined for a lot of fans in the building because of a stage light that obstructed their view. The Orton and Styles build primarily consisted of two home run verbal exchanges, and they followed that up with a well worked match. Will this be the end of the feud? Will they still be on the same brand coming out of next week’s Superstar Shakeup?
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin in Angle’s retirement match: Corbin winning the match was disappointing yet not surprising. Angle winning would have been far more satisfying, but company officials clearly remain high on Corbin even if the fans don’t share that sentiment. The Hit goes to Angle saving the best of his farewell match appearances for last. It’s been tough to see him struggle in some of the matches that led up to his farewell, but he came through with a performance that he can walk away feeling good about.
The Usos vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black vs. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev for the Smackdown Tag Titles: The match was thrown together at the last minute on the Smackdown go-home show, but the wrestlers all worked hard and made this work. Cesaro’s 40-second big swing on Ricochet was really fun, and the double splash finish by the Usos on Sheamus was a crowd pleaser. This was another match that exceeded my expectations.
The Revival vs. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins for the Raw Tag Titles: A minor Hit for a good tag team match and the live crowd pleasing title change. It’s a minor Hit because it worked well in the moment, but I can’t say that it’s the right move for the long haul. I could see the Revival regaining the titles tonight or perhaps this was done with the idea of freeing them up to move them to Smackdown in the Superstar Shakeup next week.
Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: A good match to open the show. Here’s hoping that Murphy dropped the title so that he can be promoted from 205 Live purgatory.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal: A minor Hit for the dumb fun of Strowman getting the better of the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchors. Colin Jost was a good sport for agreeing to be tossed onto the pile of wrestlers for the final elimination. Why is the talented EC3 being treated like a nobody?
John Cena and Elias: The return of the Doctor of Thuganomics was well received and gave the show some surprise star power and a fun stroll down memory lane.
WrestleMania 35 Misses
The length of WrestleMania 35: Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. 7.5 hours is too long for any pro wrestling show. The crowd was drained long before the main event and it’s simply asking too much of most viewers to invest this much time and such a late night to one show. Running past midnight in the host city is asinine. And for what? So the executives can boast about how many hours the average network subscriber consumes? Here’s an idea, come up with better content outside of the live specials to draw viewers to your network. FS1 is doing a WWE studio show starting in the fall, but WWE Network doesn’t have its own weekly, let alone daily, studio show? Anyway, make WrestleMania a two-day event or start making the hard call that not every deserving wrestler gets a WrestleMania match. Triple H and his crew make those tough decisions for every NXT Takeover event, and there’s no reason the same thing couldn’t be done for the main roster. Make the battle royals even more bloated to get everyone on the show and cut back on the match count. Take away an hour of the Kickoff Show and dedicate that hour to the actual WrestleMania card. Trim the fat. WWE should want fans leaving their biggest show of the year feeling great about the product, not feeling relieved that the show came to a merciful end.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre: The most disappointing match of the night. I liked the idea of McIntyre going over because the Reigns character had plenty of storyline excuses for losing, and this win would have done a lot more for McIntyre than it does for Reigns. At the same time, I understand the appeal of Reigns winning his first WrestleMania match back from his leukemia battle. In fact, based on the crowd reaction, this may have been more damaging to Reigns than it was helpful. Really, thought, it just comes down to the match being underwhelming. There was no effort made to protect McIntyre. This wasn’t an epic back and forth battle that people are talking about today. It was a Superman Punch, a war cry, and a spear that ended what felt like more of a Raw match than a WrestleMania showdown. Reigns and McIntyre are capable of so much better than this.
Batista vs. Triple H in a No Holds Barred match: A minor Miss. I felt bad for Batista when he slipped on the ring steps and nearly fell, and even worse when he actually fell seconds later while entering through the ropes. Batista clearly took his farewell match seriously and he and Triple H worked hard to make it feel like an epic battle, but it just dragged on too long at a time in the night when where viewer fatigue was an issue. That said, I’m happy that Batista came back and told the story he wanted to tell in his farewell match. And kudos to Shawn Michaels, who was the best of the guest color commentators. Michaels actually added to the storytelling of the match due to his friendship with both men, whereas the other guest commentators just felt like they were just shoehorned in.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: I’m happy the WWE Women’s Tag Titles exist, but I just don’t care about the titles yet. Phoenix did a nice job and can hold her head high if this was the end of her return run. I’d love to see her stick around and work as a singles wrestler, but I don’t get the feeling that’s in the cards.
Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio for the U.S. Championship: A minor Miss. I assumed the match time was cut due to the show running long, but Jake Barnett noted in our audio review that Mysterio seemed to be having some issues with his injured ankle. If the idea was simply to deliver the match and keep it brief to help Mysterio get through it then it’s certainly understandable, as it would have been a shame if Mysterio had been unable to work at WrestleMania. And while I was hoping for a longer and better match, Joe getting a decisive one minute win works well for his character and prevented the show from dragging on even longer.
Bobby Lashley vs. “The Demon” Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship: This match was doomed going in because I just didn’t care who won due to the game of hot potato these guys are playing with the Intercontinental Championship. What purpose was served by giving Balor that brief title reign in the middle of their feud by having him pin Lio Rush in a handicap match? This would have felt much more significant if they had saved Balor’s first Intercontinental Title win for the big stage.
Women’s Battle Royal: The female version of the get everyone on the show match was little more than that. It really grabbed my attention when it appeared Sarah Logan had won the battle royal if only because it was not one of the usual suspects and a name that no one would have predicted. Instead, babyface Carmella was hiding at ringside (why?) and ended up winning the match to continue the big night for New York wrestlers on the Kickoff Show (Carmella isn’t actually from New York, but she is billed as being the queen of Staten Island).
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest John Thorne, who discusses promoting the AIW Slumber Party Massacre from the Thursday of WrestleMania weekend (available via VOD on FITE TV), being a small fish in the big WrestleMania weekend pond, his long history with Johnny Gargano, and much more.