Matthew Roberts takes a look at WWE Home Video’s latest release, WrestleMania 35.
With all due respect to WrestleKingdom and/or AEW, WrestleMania is still THE biggest name in town when it comes to wrestling supershows. It’s the one thing that even someone who has never watched a wrestling match in their life is most likely to have heard of. And if that puts pressure on a show to deliver, then that’s what 35 years of expectations brings down on you.
This year’s event certainly started with a bang (we’ll ignore the pre-show for now) with Alexa Bliss…no wait, Hulk Hogan…, no, I mean with the WWE Universal Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins. The (logical) twist and shock of this being up front was well handled (even now some people will insist it was a legitimate “power play” from Lesnar – but my take on fooling the internet would be a whole different article) and whilst you could argue that it’ wasn’t much of a “wrestling match” as such it was entertaining, didn’t outstay it’s welcome and opened up the show with a legitimate feel good moment.
Of course the downside was that AJ Styles and Randy Orton couldn’t follow this. Their match wasn’t bad, even with Orton continuing to exist in that comfort zone that he’s been in for about a decade, but it simply never felt like a big Mania match between two of Smackdown’s big dogs. My only crumb of comfort was that at least Styles won. Much better was the four way match for the Smackdown Tag team titles. The talent on display was certainly enough to overcome the fact that this all seemed a little thrown together and the match was fought at a fast pace with a back and forth style that was very entertaining. The Uso’s retaining seemed a little pointless, but perhaps this was the point that it became clear that the makeshift team of Aleister Black and Ricochet was not here for the long haul.
If you don’t know my opinion of Shane McMahon as an in-ring performer let me make it perfectly clear that if I never saw him wrestle ever again that would still be far too soon. I don’t deny his “guts”, but being indulged in allowing his hard man, insane bumping personae to get high profile matches when others on the roster don’t get that opportunity to “shine” is just plain wrong. Miz tried, he really did, but it’s impossible to suspend your disbelief when Shane is going toe-to-toe with an actual wrestler. And for him to get the win, however scrappily, just topped it all off. And as we would find out, it’s not even as if Miz would gain any real measure of revenge at a later date. So all this was twenty minutes of air time that achieved absolutely nothing.
At least the Women’s Tag Team match achieved something, even if it was only that it led to Sasha Banks walking away from the company as a result. Wrestling fans are a strange breed; some lambasted the result of the Iiconics winning, others chose to decry Banks’s “tantrum” despite having lauded the likes of Pac when he walked out over his booking. The match itself was not great and as I said many seemed to lay that at the feet of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. Which ignores the fact that Nia Jax and Tamina were a terrible team, that Natalya has been phoning it in for years and that Beth Phoenix’s “legendary” status with the WWE is certainly not built on a resume of five-star classics. I have to declare that I like The Iiconics, can see past their on-screen characters (which are a hoot anyway) to see the dedication they have put into wrestling and had money on them at the bookies. So I was one of the few happy with the result, despite the hope that Sasha and Bayley would have a memorable, long reign.
The WWE Championship match that followed was the match of the night. For all the vitriol thrown at WWE booking you have to give credit where credit is due when they get things right. Who would have thought that the wave of support for Kofi Kingston, which the WWE clearly were not expecting, would actually be capitalised on for once. The supposed mis-steps on the way actually made this moment all the more special and showed that wrestling will always retain the capacity for genuine emotional moments (and I say that as not being particularly a member of the “Kofi for Champion” campaign). The match was almost perfect, with heel Bryan making Kofi fight all of the way as the fans willed him on to win and the pop when he did so was one to remember.
Samoa Joe and Rey Mysterio couldn’t have followed that in a traditional sense so a one minute match with a Joe win was actually quite good as a “WrestleMania moment”. Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre followed this up with a decent, but underwhelming match when all things are considered. Who would have thought that randomly heating up Drew in the weeks before Mania to job to Reigns wouldn’t have been a huge success? Again, like Styles and Orton earlier this simply didn’t feel like a Mania match between two “top guys” (I know…) should have done.
Elias had a fun skit next, and the return of the Basic Thuganomics version of John Cena to interrupt him was also entertaining. The return of Batista was less entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, as a character it was good to see him back, however briefly but in 2019 does anyone need to see a twenty five minute Triple H match with a superfluous No Holds Barred stipulation tacked on? If you’re struggling to sleep this would be a good watch. And I say that with experience as watching it live on the night it did send me off. Watching it again now I realise I missed nothing.
As one of the few Baron Corbin fans out there I was not incandescent with rage that Kurt Angle’s retirement match was against him. It was never likely to be great, not least because the miracle working days of Kurt had long since gone, but it was what it was and there was never really any doubt that Kurt wouldn’t go out the “right way”. Finn Balor and Bobby Lashley was another short one but it was fun whilst it lasted.
And so it was time for the historic main event. The Women got their chance to shine as Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair battled for ALL the gold. It’s easy (and fair) to pick holes in how the WWE got us to this point but nevertheless this did feel like a special moment. And if the match didn’t quite live up to the hype (and in all seriousness it was never likely to) it was still a very good effort. Maybe I’m overthinking things too, but seeing Charlotte getting an old school Ric Flair/Helicopter style entrance, Ronda being payed to the ring by Joan Jett but Becky Lynch getting her “normal” entrance played into the whole “they didn’t want Becky to headline” vibe. I could have done without the “disputed” finish mind you but we’ll all forget about that until the time Ronda comes back…if she ever does.
It’s difficult to say that WrestleMania 35 was one of the best of all time. There were a few too many “bad” match and other short affairs for it to be anywhere that honour. But by the same token, the WWE gave us the results “we wanted” (generally) with wins for Rollins, Kingston and Lynch and if you’re the kind of person who thinks that the WWE should offer up a little bit of everything on their big shows you should not have been too disappointed by this. It was supremely entertaining and engaging when it needed to be.
All the pre-show matches make it onto the set. The Cruiserweight match is the usual 205 “great action but sadly few people seem to care” affair but it just seems a struggle to see what the WWE can do at this point to change that perception. The Raw Tag Team Title match is fun and provided a nice end to Curt Hawkins losing streak gimmick. The Men’s battle royale was pointless, whereas the Women’s one was a pleasant surprise that had a lot more going on in it and a lot more people being allowed in the spotlight. Nothing on the pre-show was “essential” but most of it was fun. The post Mania Raw is also included. The BluRay adds Dean Ambrose’s “farewell address”. They might regret including that now!
WrestleMania has high expectations; on the night this was a very entertaining night of action but a second viewing highlights the flaws in the experience. Still, when Mania soars, it soars high and overall this is a show well worth a second look.
Format Reviewed; BluRay
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of WrestleMania 35 which is out Monday 3rd June on DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here. Online pre-orders come with a bonus disc of NXT Takeover New York.
You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON.