It’s fair to say that the mood heading into WrestleMania 31 was a strange one.
It appeared the company had failed to construct meaningful storylines and with the booking rushed, fans were not fully on board.
WM 31 could easily have been remembered as the show of shows that was booed out of the building after last year’s unbridled success.
Instead, Vince McMahon and the WWE creative served up a wrestling masterclass, producing a show capable of rivaling any WrestleMania that has come before.
By Stuart Hynd – @supers0nic_
It wasn’t perfect and, as we all know, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But God damn, WrestleMania 31 came pretty darn close.
A gander on Twitter during the pre-show would tell you that fans were less than impressed with the outdoor venue due to the sunny conditions.
Some understandably said it affected the atmosphere, reducing the aura surrounding the entrances of Bray Wyatt, The Undertaker and Sting.
It was a fair point, these guys do seem a lot more intimidating in darker venues, but the action in the ring and the performances by the company’s top stars more than made up for this on the night.
An exhilarating ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship kicked things off, with fans’ favourite Daniel Bryan the eventual winner. This was a match filled with talent and insane spots. Dean Ambrose, Stardust and Dolph Ziggler all took interesting bumps in a contest which really got the ball rolling. Seeing Bryan and Ziggler exchanging headbutts at the top of the ladder was the best moment of the match and seemed to signal a future rivalry between the two great workers.
What followed was a sure-fire contender for match of the night as Seth Rollins took on Randy Orton in a fast-paced grudge match. I’ve always admired Orton’s ability in the ring and this performance was no exception. Okay, so it didn’t steal the show (Vince understandably saved this for later) but one spot in particular will go down in WrestleMania history. With Orton bent over in preparation for a curb stomp, and just as Rollins made contact, the Viper pushed his opponent into the air and delivered, in my opinion, the best RKO of his career.
It was out-of-the-blue, breathtaking moments like this one which really sold me on WrestleMania 31. This was more than a wrestling show.
I was expecting a slow-paced intricate match when WCW frontman Sting took on the cerebral assassin HHH. But what unfolded can only be described as a glorious trip down memory lane involving both the New World Order and Degeneration X. This felt like a truly special moment, with some of the greatest names in the business squaring off and backing their respected figureheads. The match may not have been a clinic, but it delivered on pure entertainment factor alone. And I’m still picking up pieces of my brain off the floor from when Shawn Michaels delivered Sweet Chin Music to Sting.
[youtube id=”Jy4g_eMkhHs” align=”center” maxwidth=”680″]
That’s another reason for why WM 31 was such a huge hit for me personally, it had a variety of great spots, entertaining face-offs and to top it off an amazing promo featuring the Rock and UFC star Ronda Rousey.
In the past, guest appearances from superstars outwith the WWE have made the granddaddy of em all feel that little bit bigger. Mr T did it for WrestleMania 1 and Mike Tyson did a similar job at WM 14 when he turned on DX. Rousey’s appearance can certainly be put in that bracket as she manhandled HHH and Stephanie McMahon much to the delight of the San Francisco crowd.
But while I will always have fond memories of WM 31 for the midcard and the beautifully-constructed return of the Undertaker, it was the main event which stole the show.
I’m a massive fan of Brock Lesnar, his intensity in the ring has rejuvenated the WWE and his character along with his achievements outside of the ring make him a huge draw. I don’t think I was alone in thinking this match had a Reigns victory written all over it. But of course that’s exactly what the creative wanted us to think. What followed was a brutal beatdown by Lesnar on the challenger Reigns.
But things really livened up when Lesnar was burst open by the ring post. This for me was a fantastic spot, to make Lesnar firstly appear like a wrestling God only to tear that down and make it feel real was truly outstanding. And of course with both Reigns and Lesnar beating seven shades of shit out of each other this left Mr Money in The Bank Seth Rollins with the opportunity he sorely craved to cash in his briefcase.
Before the Lesnar-Reigns match got underway, I took to Twitter and said that if Rollins were to cash in, WM 31 would surpass the excellence of last year’s event. And I wasn’t left feeling shortchanged. Despite the obvious predictability it was how this was done that was so magical. With Reigns and Lesnar left in a bloody heap after the most gruelling match of the year, Rollins was portrayed as the classic opportunist.
His entrance to the match didn’t make either Lesnar or Reigns look weak, instead it improved his own character and built for what should be an interesting rivalry down the road.
Rollins didn’t pin Lesnar to win the title, instead covering his old Shield brethren Roman Reigns to win his first WWE world heavyweight championship. This of course instantly builds for what I think would be the perfect main event at next year’s show – a Shield triple threat with the title on the line.
WM 31 was not only a tremendous wrestling show, with Lesnar vs Reigns and The IC title match particular highlights, but it was also a show intent on great storytelling.
Rusev’s entrance will go down on Mania folklore with the hero of the Russian federation entering the ring in a tank, literally a tank.
In fact all the entrances were on point, with special attention paid to HHH’s terminator-themed get-up, which, despite feeling a bit over the top, sold the Game as the self-adoring, egomaniac.
It really was a fantastic show, and if you get the chance it’s well worthy of the WWE Network’s admission fee.
So now eyes understandably turn to Monday Night Raw, with Rollins featuring as the new champ and with other new storylines set to be revealed, I personally can’t wait and I’m already looking forward to next year’s effort from Texas.
Bravo WWE, you did good.