Pro wrestling’s biggest week is over and there were high stakes for dozens of performers.
Several of them not only lived up to the hype but raised the bar for the whole industry. Let’s take a quick look at the ones that changed the game.
1. Kofi Kingston
The big question was will Vince really do it. Will he really put a title on a man that has performed in an upper mid-card tag team for the last 5 years? Or would he build the fans up only to let them down? McMahon did the right thing, and after an emotional matchup, he finally put the most prestigious title in wrestling around a black wrestler’s waist.
Kingston had one of, if not, his best match ever. Daniel Bryan delivered a masterful heel performance. Every time it seemed like Kofi was getting momentum, Bryan shut him down with a brutal technical offense. He wrestled circles around the New Day leader until Kingston snapped and attacked Bryan. He rained down blows and even stomped the champ’s face. Then Kofi called for the end and delivered his thunderous finisher. When it happened it took a couple of seconds to grasp it. Did that just happen? Did he actually just win the WWE Title? Yeah. It was a dream come true made even better because he got to share it with his wife and kids. This was one of the most emotional moments in WrestleMania history and well deserved. Kofi-Mania lives!
2. Becky Lynch
Charlotte Flair entered on a helicopter. Ronda Rousey had the Joan Jett play her out to the ring. Becky Lynch simply walked out. No celebrities. No fireworks. Just the people’s champ coming out to meet her people. It was simple but fitting. Lynch never got the bells and whistles that her opponents were granted. She had to prove how good she was the hard way, in the ring, and on the mic.
It took seven and a half hours to get to Becky’s crowning achievement, but when it came it was a beautiful reckoning. I’m a big fan of The Man, although I must be honest I thought Charlotte and Ronda were the glue that held this match together. Especially Ronda screaming obscenities and acting crazy as ever. (I’m gonna miss her.) But Becky was the beating heart that kept us engaged. The truth is the match quality almost did not matter. What mattered was the end result.
Wrestling’s biggest star just made history and did it on her own terms. No blonde hair, or cosmetic enhancements needed. Now the tricky part comes. Lynch has to keep her character interesting although she is no longer the underdog. I’m confident she’ll meet and exceed that expectation. The women’s division could not have a more exciting or talented leader.
3. Johnny Gargano
Johnny Wrestling was supposed to have this match with Tommaso Ciampa but because of an unfortunate injury, he had to bow out. Adam Cole was a hell of a replacement. I’m a big fan of his and honestly, he was the reason I was excited about this matchup. I have to admit I’ve never been that big of a fan of Gargano. I have not really been impressed with some of his other matches, and I hated his heel turn. It felt too contrived. But after this match, I am a believer.
This was one of the best babyface performances I’ve ever seen. It was Ricky Morton good. He simply wouldn’t die. No matter how many times he was destroyed with kicks to the head the man kept finding a second wind. It got so brutal I was silently hoping he would just give up. (That is the sign a babyface has done his or her job.) But even when The Undisputed Era slithered into the ring to hand the title over to their conniving leader, Gargano still kicked out. And unlike The Kofi/Bryan match, it never felt like a foregone conclusion that Johnny would win. So when the ending came it was… as Bobby Roode would say, GLORIOUS!
4. Kazuchika Okada
As Okada entered the Garden he was greeted with a rock star reception. New Japan’s top star is known by any and everyone even remotely familiar with wrestling. His iconic matches with Kenny Omega has made him an international star, but it has also set a match standard that is very hard to top. I thought he came close this night. Jay White was more the game. Although he has not always garnered the respect he deserves he almost always delivers in big matches. This was no different.
White played up his heel antics beautifully. This match started slower than we are used to in the States, but it built brilliantly. As it started to reach it’s crescendo every move was nerve shattering. This was a riveting match that went over the 25-minute mark yet never felt slow. My favorite moment was White kicking out of The Rainmaker. I popped just as loud as the crowd. But The Rainmakers kept coming until the final one put the champ to rest. I loved this match. And Okada is a god! I hope he never comes to WWE. They would ruin him.
5. Velveteen Dream/Matt Riddle
I’m a big fan of The Dream, however, I must admit I did not know much about Matt Riddle. I knew he had an MMA background. But, honestly, I had no expectations that he could keep up with Velveteen. Not only did he keep up with Dream, but he damn near stole the whole match. I loved the back and forth between the two. We are used to seeing Dream be arrogant and often using his insane athleticism to outmatch his opponents. But Riddle was a different beast.
It’s like if Tarzan learned MMA, then decided to wrestle. His offense was off-kilter, hard-hitting, and elusive. I especially loved the way his behavior changed as the match got deeper. The laid back bro became a rabid animal. He was actually foaming at the mouth because he could not put away the North American Champ. Riddle let his emotions get the best of him, and Dream did what he almost always does – he won. Like I just said, I was impressed by Matt Riddle, but it was Velveteen Dream that actually impressed me more. He selling was majestic. It’s just one more element of his game that he is continuing to sharpen and perfect. He has a massive career in front of him, Hell, both these men are going to have huge futures. I am itchy with anticipation thinking about their next face-off.
- Enzo and Cass – These two idiots, who were both shamefully terminated from WWE, tried to “hijack” the New Japan/ROH MSG show. I expect this from Enzo but come on Cass.
- Zachary Madsen – This pathetic absolute piece of s**t attacked Bret Hart at The WWE Hall of Fame. He said, “it was the right moment”. It was also the right moment to get his a** kicked, which is exactly what happened. Seriously, this was a suicide mission.
- WWE – A 7 and a half hour show is too long. This was ridiculous. Not everyone needs to be on the card. And what about all the fans that have to catch the train, or go to work in the morning? Next year keep it under 6, Vince.
All in all, it was a great week to be a wrestling fan, and I can only imagine what next year will look like, especially with the addition of All Elite Wrestling. It is truly a fantastic time to be a wrestling fan.