It’s still the biggest show in Wrestling, but could WrestleMania 34 live up to the hype? Matthew Roberts revisits the event courtesy of WWE Home Video’s latest release.
The Elephant in the room for WrestleMania 34 was always going to be the main event. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, if you pay any attention to the internet anyway, were not popular choices for that accolade. And even if you subscribe to the theory that the emptiest vessels make the most sound, there is no denying that a significant portion of the WWE audience simply doesn’t like either man. So the show was always likely to end on a “down” note, even if the site of Roman Reigns failing once again to lift the World Title on the big stage cheered up many. The problems with the booking of Reigns would be an article in itself, but looking at the match objectively it was fine. Not “WrestleMania Main Event” fine, but fine nonetheless. But if you’ve watched WWE at any point over the past few years there will have been no surprise. So if you paid many dollars for an event ticket to complain about the main event that everyone knew was coming twelve months ago, more fool you.
On the plus side, there was a lot of entertainment to be found underneath on the card.
Most plaudits went for Ronda Rousey’s superb debut, which really could not have been put together any better. Kurt Angle and Triple H may have slowed considerably since their glory days but the two still know how to work a match. Ronda’s natural athleticism and genuine love for wrestling shone through and meant that in the space of one night she paid off her deal. If I was nit-picking, and I often do, the fact that Stephanie McMahon got a little bit too much offense in on the real star of the show was disappointing but it was another one of those WWE things that long term fans know goes with the territory.
Shinsuke Nakamura against AJ Styles were on a hiding to nothing given how much the promotional push for the match had been built around their former classic match in Japan. It was almost inevitable that they would fail to live up to the billing in that sense, and so it proved. It was perfectly acceptable and in the closing stages was very good indeed. But overall it would have to be labelled disappointing. At least Nakamura’s post-match heel turn meant that the residing memory once it was over was that.
The emotional pull on the undercard was the in-ring return of Daniel Bryan…not even having to sit through a match with Shane McMahon in it could spoil that. Like the Mixed Tag Match this was expertly put together, but you’d expect nothing less with the talent that was in there. Any, understandable, worry from fans about Bryan’s return soon disappeared and if you couldn’t take pleasure from seeing a man re-living his dreams all over again you perhaps should start watching something different.
The Title matches were a mixed bag; Charlotte and Asuka had a very good match that had an ending I didn’t agree with but at the same time was one that was perfectly understandable. Streaks in wrestling exist to be broken, but it seemed a shame that Asuka’s undefeated one had to end here, especially by clean tap-out. Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax were never going to out-perform the other Women’s match and being placed right after Daniel Bryan’s return did them no favours either. Nor did a storyline where the smaller lady was the one bullying the monster; as fantastic as some of Bliss’ mic work leading up to this one had been it was a difficult sell in terms of psychology.
The Intercontinental Title Three Way that opened the show was one of the matches of the night; Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and The Miz had all come to work and put together a fast paced thriller that never paused for breath once. It was worlds apart from the dull United States Four Way, but when you had the increasingly irrelevant Randy Orton, the never relevant Jinder Mahal and the mis-used Bobby Roode in there it was always likely to be throwaway filler. Of course Rusev was the most over performer in the match but as it was virtually guaranteed that he wouldn’t win the match there was little reason to care about it.
There was a reason to care about Braun Strowman’s shot at the Tag Team Titles held by The Bar, if only because doing the “mystery partner” gimmick at Mania must have meant the WWE had something special up their sleeves. Instead Braun plucked a child from the crowd and singlehandedly won the belt. A reasonably amusing little twist, but not exactly what you’d want at WrestleMania. The Smackdown Tag Title match between the New Day, The Uso’s and the Bludgeon Brothers was obviously better but came across as little more than just another match on the card.
Of course that just leaves John Cena against The Undertaker. I thought it was a bit of nostalgic fun that went down a treat. I would not have too many arguments though with those that thought it was a “match” that didn’t need to happen and made a mockery of Taker’s “retirement” the year before. But hey, it’s wrestling and if the idea of Mania is spectacle and entertainment you have to admit that this did the job.
This will not go down as the greatest Mania of all time; it won’t even be part of the serious discussion. But there was plenty to enjoy and there is no denying that it was largely one hell of a spectacle.
Extra’s include the three kick off matches. The two battle royales are what they are; fun but inconsequential matches that exist purely to get as many names as possible on the card. Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali assembled a good Cruiserweight Title match that probably deserved better than being on the pre-show. But, once again, that’s just life in the modern day WWE.
The post-Mania Raw is also here in its virtual entirety and was it’s usual eventful self. There’s no Smackdown but the Blu-Ray does include the announcement of Paige as the new Smackdown GM and Carmella’s Money In The Bank cash-in on Charlotte. Pre-order copies from WWE Home Video also include a bonus disc with the full NXT Takeover: New Orleans event, which is well worth a revisit too.
Format reviewed: BluRay
Pictures courtesy of WWE and Fetch.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of WrestleMania 34, which is out Monday 4 June. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here