Courtesy of WWE Home Video, Matthew Roberts takes a look at their latest Blu-Ray release, WrestleMania 37.
With a proper amount of fans back in attendance for the first time in ages, it was only fitting that Night 1 of WrestleMania 37 was delayed due to thunderstorms and inclement weather. The time filling promos that the WWE used on the night are not included here so after the traditional opening stuff (and Titus O’Neill and Hulk Hogan hosting the event) we’re straight into the action with the WWE Championship match between Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre.
It was obviously emotional for Drew and if Lashley’s push had somewhat come from out of nowhere (all things considered) the prospect of a big hoss match to kick things off had me excited. And that’s what we got.
The two, at times, really wellied into each other and little suspension of disbelief was required. Although the result made sense (Drew had his moment as being the first active wrestler to make an appearance, Lashley didn’t need to lose the title so soon) I was mildly surprised by it at the time but was also pleased that there was no cop-out finish. Lashley went over clean and that was great.
The Women’s No. 1 Contender’s Tag Team Turmoil match had no chance of following that, not least because the rules of these things generally don’t make it past the first couple of gears. And this one didn’t either. Billie Kay provided the comedic entertainment and the likes of the Riott Squad and Dana Brooke provided the modicum of flashy/cool moves. Most of it was a mess. Admittedly my mood was not improved on the night, nor watching it back, by Natalya and Tamina winning. But what do I know?
Cesaro and Seth Rollins couldn’t fail to pick things up after that one and although there seemed to be a couple of mis-steps in the early going they soon picked up and gave us the top-notch action you would expect. How Cesaro/his opponents can function after nine swings early in the match, never mind the 23 (ish) later on is beyond me. But there was more to this that just those two big spots. It was just well put together and again featured no get-out ending.
Expectations were mixed for the Raw Tag Team Title match. Of course with the New Day in there with AJ Styles it was always likely to be entertaining but the wild card of Omos shook things up a bit on that score. This was cleverly put together though; Styles carried the work for his team without it ever becoming too obvious that that was what he was doing. The hot tag went down well and Omos looked good and got the win. As I say, very well put together.
The next match wasn’t. On the live showing, I took the opportunity to cook some supper. As I’m nothing if not fair I actually watched it this time around. It was just as bad as I expected. I don’t mind Braun, but if I never see Shane McMahon in another match ever it will still be too soon. It was very boring.
Expectations were also mixed for the Bad Bunny & Damien Priest against John Morrison and The Miz match. With a straight Bunny/Miz match being nixed for this tag apparently there was concern that Bunny, despite training extensively for the match, wasn’t up to it. We needn’t have worried. It may well be one of the best “non-wrestler” performances ever. It’s certainly right up there in terms of a “non-athlete”. Showing respect and love for the business, Bunny took this seriously and it showed. Yes, his opponents provided a great foil and his partner carried his end of the bargain too. But Bunny looked very good here and all in all this was a classic slice of sports entertainment.
And so it came to the Night 1 main event. The historic Sasha Banks / Bianca Belair clash for the Smackdown Women’s Title. The build up hadn’t been great and although I am clearly in the minority I did not feel that Belair’s push to the title opportunity itself had been set up all that well. And I maintain that whilst Belair is a very impressive athlete, she’s yet to truly master the psychological side of wrestling. But that’s by the bye. With the eyes of the wrestling world both women delivered, even if I found the claims that this was somehow the “greatest Mania main event of all time” a little too far over the top. It was good, it was very good. Sasha proved she’s as good as she says she is and Belair, in what must have been a very high pressure situation, more than held her own too. And it gave people the finish that they wanted to Night 1.
So with WrestleMania Night 1 in the books and generally receiving positive responses, could WrestleMania night 2 live up to its predecessor? For an opening while it seemed like it couldn’t.
The Bray Wyatt / Randy Orton match was a confusing mess. To call it a “match” might be overdoing it even. Maybe the Fiend character paints the bookers into a corner at times likes this but the in-ring part of it has always been the weakest link. Yes circumstances, as it would turn out, might have played a part in how this one went but that doesn’t mean what we were saw was any good. I’d still rather watch that than the WWE Women’s Tag Team Title match that followed. For the 267th time we got the always boring “Nia/Tamina” face off and although the match went around 15 minutes it felt like an hour to me. I just found it absolutely boring.
Thankfully things picked up considerably from there. Although they were given five minutes LESS than the previous match, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have such genuine, career-long chemistry that their match could pack in twice as much as it needed and still never seem ridiculous or over-blown. And we got to see Logan Paul take the Owens Stunner. Riddle and Sheamus followed that up with a great hard-hitting match over the US Title that was topped off by an absolutely fantastic finish.
That no-one had bothered to explain the rules to a Nigerian Drum Fight in the build up didn’t bode well for Big E and Apollo Crews’ battle over the Intercontinental Title. In essence there were just a load of kendo stick and other weapons strewn around that were all legal. It was too short to make that much of an impression and the debut of Babatunde/Dabba Kato as Crews’ sidekick played a big part in the ending. But it was fun whilst it lasted, if hardly essential.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka and challenger Rhea Ripley had a lot to live up to after their Smackdown equivalents the night before. They didn’t quite manage it, if only because the emotion in terms of Belair’s prospective win wasn’t there. It was still a good match though and fun to watch. And with Ripley joining Belair as a new champion there was a definite “changing of the guards” feeling within the women’s division.
And then it was time for the final match of the festivities. And whilst many people had complained about the insertion of Daniel Bryan into the match between Roman Reigns and Edge it made it all the more of an entertaining prospect for me. And to me they delivered with the match of the (either) show. The three exchanged heavy duty blows, technical holds, submissions…the whole gamut. It was fantastic stuff with a genuine feeling that any of the three could win. And I was ecstatic when all proclamations of Bryan only being in there to take the pin from Edge (so protecting Roman) proved to be utter nonsense. And I know many of you reading will have been disappointed with the outcome. But I thought it made perfect sense and was the logical choice.
Overall I thought both nights of WrestleMania were great examples of the best of the WWE. Certainly not everything worked but the main matches delivered in spades. If you’d removed the women’s tag team title situation and Braun & Shane I’d be saying this was up there with some of the best WrestleMania shows (even if them it would still have fallen a little short of the top of the list).
Disc 1 of the Blu-Ray adds three matches from Stand & Deliver to the WrestleMania proceedings. The Triple Threat Match for the NXT Tag Team titles is a good efforts, Io Shirai and Reina Gonzalez’s battle over the Women’s Title is excellent stuff and the NXT Championship match between Finn Balor and Karrion Kross is yet another great Takeover main event. Disc 2 adds Bobby Lashley against Cedric Alexander from Raw, the Andre The Giant Battle Royale and a Roman Reigns segment. A bonus disc on the blu-ray version adds the post Mania Raw and Smackdown, neither of which are essential but do help to round out the package. This is all replicated across four DVD’s in that version.
8 out of 10
Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE. Thank you to WWE Home Video for our review copy of WrestleMania 37 which is out Monday 7 June on Blu-Ray and DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.