Those who were there didn’t know just how big it would become until the very end. How would they possibly top that? With the only Pay-Per-View to come out of three different cities at the same time, coverage bouncing from one to the next in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
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Say what you want, but after the end of WrestleMania, the internet always seems to break and this year, we got yet another reason why.
Seth Rollins has pretty much had the best year anyone can have so far and now he’s topped it off big time.
Doesn’t get bigger than the main event of WrestleMania for a successful Money In The Bank briefcase cash-in.
This opens up so many possibilities. We’ll get into all of them below, but anybody can agree that this show – while lackluster in build and mild on paper except for the obvious marquee matches – delivered in almost every aspect of entertainment.
– The fatal four-way Tag Team Championship match with The Usos (w/Naomi), Los Matadores (w/El Torito), Big E and Kofi Kingston (w/Xavier Woods), and Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (w/Natalya) was predictable in the sense that Kidd/Cesaro were way over, New Day were way not, everyone appreciated The Usos when they weren’t in offense towards Kidd/Cesaro and Los Matadores were just there. The constant switch between control and utter chaos provided a nice pace to the match and set up the finish nicely as Cesaro tagged Uso as he was about to dive off the top and “stole” his pin. They retained and had their moment to shine.
– The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale was the utter expected chaos. Hideo Itami had his brief moment of glory by eliminating Bo Dallas (who just seemed way too happy about being there) but then was boringly KO’d out of the ring by Big Show. Lameness galore. Mizdow finally turning on Miz was excellently done and done in a way that can easily be followed up on post-Mania Raw, but with Show standing around while it all happened, it made you question the logic. Show getting the best of Mizdow was super lame on the big stage, but it gave him bragging rights for future segments if anything, because he needed more? Granted, that shot of him doing Andre’s pose next to the trophy was one to remember.
– The Intercontinental Championship Ladder match between Daniel Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust, Dean Ambrose and R-Truth started the show off on a nice note. It was cool to see the nod of acknowledgment on Bryan’s entrance that this year’s Mania started how last year’s ended, with the Yes Movement. That’s one of those little things that people will notice if they ever watch WrestleMania in consecutive marathons. The action wasn’t too extreme, but a few cool spots involving the ladders (powerbomb out of the ring) were enough to get the crowd on their feet. Bryan was the obvious choice from the get-go and can bring the IC Title to new heights, no pun intended.
– The Randy Orton-Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) match was a solid, though predictable match that brought just the right amount of intensity. That finish with the “possum” RKO was hot and well-executed. Most beautiful RKO ever. The near-falls down the stretch were believable too. Ultimately, Orton got his revenge and taking the end of the night into account, he technically pinned the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Does that put him in line for a Title shot? Raw could be interesting.
– The Sting-Triple H match was preceded by the anticipated elaborate entrances – Triple H’s Terminator-inspired particularly went over well. This match fully lived up to the hype – bringing in an aspect to the match never even considered in the hype, but cool nonetheless in the nostalgia factor with D-Generation X and nWo all coming to blows, which the crowd was hot for. It was a unique sight, especially with memories of the Monday Night Wars in the rearview mirror. Just like WWE beat WCW, Triple H beat Sting, perhaps another metaphorical representation of the war, even though the WWE was led by heels here. Regardless, the “time warp” made this quite entertaining for everybody young and old. The embrace after between Triple H and Sting in the form of a handshake was also great.
– Having Daniel Bryan be congratulated backstage by legends and former IC Title holders like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper and Bret Hart was an excellent rub and showed that he had the backing of everyone – fans and legends. Step one to Operation: Bring-Prestige-To-IC-Title is complete.
– The Paige/AJ Lee-Bellas Divas tag match was short and sweet, making the most of its rather short time. It had the Bellas dominate only to build up to Lee/Paige to grab the momentum and came out with the win. Not much to rave over, but nothing bad either, creatively speaking.
– The John Cena-Rusev match for The United States Championship really went all out with the entrances, especially for Rusev. The match was entertaining for the time it lasted, though it felt just a step behind their FastLane effort. The guys showed their urgency by pulling new moves out – Rusev going to the top rope for the first time and Cena doing a springboard stunner, which appeared better on instant replay – and it spoke to how bad both men wanted it. There were some strange moments – Lana throwing her shoes in the ring comes to mind – but Cena winning the belt was predictable. Lana getting knocked off the apron appeared to have been done for shock value as Cena pinned Rusev immediately after. Rusev not showing concern for Lana while she stumbled up the ramp with officials was an interesting hook for post-Mania Raw. Is there a problem on the Russian Front of the WWE Squared Circle?
– The Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Rock and Ronda Rousey segment delivered in terms of entertainment and did just enough to get everyone talking. Rock appearing on another WrestleMania was no shock and it closed the door on his Rumble appearance and what questions that had left unanswered. Though Triple H was great in his gloating of beating Sting and Rock did his schtick well, much kudos has to go to Stephanie here. She stole this segment with her toughness and facial expressions. She truly owned her words here and the eventual physical confrontation was a nice little payoff, but it makes us wonder just what the consequences will be, if any.
– The Bray Wyatt-Undertaker match lived up to all the hype and got better as it went on. The big moments came in the emphasizing of similarities in both characters with Taker sitting up as Wyatt was in mid-crawl and the trade of finishers was great. Taker winning by the Tombstone Piledriver was a fitting end for what could be his last two-step at the Mania dance.
– The Roman Reigns-Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman)-Seth Rollins match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was everything built up to be and more. Just when we thought we knew what would happen – WWE changes the rules completely. Rollins cashing in with the most eyes on the product on the biggest stage in the biggest match of the year and coming out the winner was perfect. With the crowd’s pro-Lesnar reaction, Reigns could definitely not win this. Even the story of Reigns-Lesnar in the ring was well done, with an inhumane total of F5’s, Spears and Superman Punches as it looked like another Lesnar domination for much of the match. Reigns took a beating and a half and yet at the end was the one pinned and even then, it didn’t feel like he lost too much, besides obviously getting “robbed.” People could argue this moment will lead to a Rollins face turn, but his very actions were quite heelish and you can see it on his smirk with the photo of him, the belt and J & J Security going around online. This does however, set the road for a proper face turn with Lesnar/Heyman, as it also created perfect anticipation for the fallout, as Lesnar would probably be angry and can contest he was never pinned while Reigns had his match and lost.
– Tag Team Championships – Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (Champions) (w/Natalya) def. Kofi Kingston/Big E (w/Xavier Woods), Los Matadores (w/El Torito) and The Usos (w/Naomi) via pinfall to retain
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale – The Big Show eliminates Damien Mizdow to win
– Intercontinental Championship – Ladder Match – Daniel Bryan def. Bad News Barrett (Champion), Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust to become new Champion
– Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins (w/J & J Security) via pinfall
– Triple H def. Sting via pinfall
– Paige/AJ Lee def. Nikki/Brie Bella via pinfall
– United States Championship – John Cena def. Rusev (Champion) (w/Lana) via pinfall to become new Champion
– The Undertaker def. Bray Wyatt via pinfall
– WWE World Heavyweight Championship – Seth Rollins def. Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar to become new Champion via Money in the Bank Briefcase Cash-In
When it first went underway, people didn’t know just how special of an event they were involved in.
The last three matches personified the essence of just what WrestleMania has become known to be; marquee matches along with celebrity presences along the lines of Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, Liberace and the Rockettes.
It’s only fittingly appropriate that this night – also the first WWE Pay-Per-View in March – is this month’s “Throwback PPV.”
– The opening video was a cool generic montage of changing superstar pictures set upon a Manhattan skyline and moving stars in the background. It was the 80’s. What did you expect?
– Mean Gene Okerlund singing the Star-Spangled Banner is the first ever WrestleMania moment in history. Let that sink in for a moment.
– The Executioner… a character who surely stole the hearts of many. For a character nobody knew much about, stumbling over his promo lines was an unfortunate way for him to be introduced. Must be tough to come from Parts Unknown. His match with Tito Santana wasn’t much to write home about. Santana pretty much dominated him and made him tap out rather quickly. Quite far from a historic moment, but it does go down as the first Mania match in history.
– Did they really need to ring the bell 30,000 times after introducing every opponent?! The headaches that must have caused people.
– Special Delivery Jones looked like a decent party guy who could get down, and could deliver a charismatic promo. Unfortunately, these shining few seconds would be his highlight – unceremoniously pinned by King Kong Bundy in nine seconds, which set a record seemingly for the sake of setting one. Replaying the match in its whole entirety put over Bundy’s power, if anything.
– The Matt Borne-Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat match was all about Steamboat doing his thing in the ring – moving around flawlessly with grace and precision, as we all know him for. Borne sold well for him, but ultimately wasn’t much of a serious threat.
– What wasn’t to like about the David Sammartini-Brutus Beefcake match? First – the story here was simple and intriguing. We have a young son fighting to impress his well-known father, with Bruno garnering the highest pop by the crowd at that point. On the other hand, we had Beefcake and his quite vibrant mouthpiece, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, who was quite simply a pimp in his own right. The match had some good time to develop and the buildup to the physical confrontation with the four men was good. The match being ruled a double disqualification was disappointing by the end but the story mad up for it.
– The Intercontinental Championship match between Greg Valentine and Junkyard Dog was good for what it was, as Valentine delivered a good promo beforehand, while Junkyard Dog simply talked too fast to follow. The Title looked like an absolute prize the way the two men fought tooth-and-nail over it. Valentine’s controversial pin used the ropes for leverage and drew good heat, with Santana coming out to sell the moment. The reversal of decision by countout was a crowd pleasing moment but it was obvious the title wouldn’t change hands.
– The Tag Team Championship match between Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Sheik and Barry Wyndham/Mike Rotundo was good for what it was. Volkoff/Sheik were perfect heat magnets, getting fans to throw garbage in the ring and chanting “U.S.A.” Them winning by using dirty tactics was perfect here. Freddy Blassie’s postmatch comments were entertaining as he denied any wrongdoings like a classic heel manager.
– The promos by Big John Studd and Bobby The Brain Heenan had Studd act confident, even though the bag with the $15,000 in it was distracting. The stipulation of Andre being forced to retire if he couldn’t slam Studd was a solid hook for the casual fan. Andre slamming Studd might’ve been the first hint that WrestleMania was indeed a special night given the great pop it drew from the crowd. Heenan grabbing the briefcase and running away when Andre threw the money away was a good way to garner heat. Andre’s postmatch promo had him act happy and sure – why wouldn’t he be?
– The promo by Wendi Richter with Cyndi Lauper was quite good, as Lauper could really talk for a celebrity. Leilani Kai (Champion) and Fabulous Moolah also delivered passable promo work. For a woman’s match, this was a big deal too, being for the Women’s Championship. The match itself was athletic and physical, with even the managers going at it. The finish was also cool as Richter used Kai’s momentum to pin her by surprise. The title change also sold the “big moment” this night become all too known for. Richter’ postmatch comments had her be appreciative and Lauper also continued on as a “tough girl” talker. Good stuff.
– The celebrity involvement on the day was turned up a notch for the main event, with Billy Martin as guest ring announcer and Liberace as timekeeper to start. How can you forget his “kicks” routine with the Rockettes? Muhammad Ali being involved as well, being Special Guest Outside Referee was a big deal. The Rowdy Roddy Piper/Mr. Paul Orndoff (w/Cowboy Bob Orton) entrance with the bagpipers band was the first elaborate Mania entrance. The place nearly came unglued with Hulk Hogan/Mr. T (w/Jimmy “Super Fly” Snuka) made their entrance. The match itself was quite entertaining as Hogan/T surprisingly worked well together. Who knew T had it in him to actually convincingly deliver? The postmatch comments from Hogan, Snuka and T was charismatic as you’d expect and sent the crowd home happy.
– Tito Santana def. The Executioner via submission
– King Kong Bundy (w/Jimmy Hart) def. Special Delivery Jones via pinfall
– Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat def. Matt Borne via pinfall
– David Sammartino (w/Bruno Sammartino) and Brutus Beefcake (w/”Luscious” Johnny Valiant) to a double DQ
– Intercontinental Championship – Junkyard Dog def. Greg Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) via countout; Valentine retains
– Tag Team Championships – Nikolai Volkoff/The Iron Sheik def. The U.S. Express (w/Captain Lou Albano) via pinfall
– $15,000 Body Slam Challenge – Andre The Giant def. Big John Studd (w/Bobby Heenan) to not forcefully retire
– Women’s Championship – Wendi Richter (w/Cyndi Lauper) def. Leilani Kai (w/The Fabulous Moolah) via pinfall to win Championship
– Muhammad Ali/Pat Patterson Special Guest Referees – Hulk Hogan/Mr. T (w/Jimmy “Super Fly” Snuka) def. Rowdy Roddy Piper/Paul Orndoff (w/Bob Orton) via pinfall
When it came down to it, the 1988 Royal Rumble had a little bit of everything: two separate two-out-of-three fall tag team matches, a questionable Dino Bravo bench pressing segment, a thriller of a match between Rick Rude and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and a decent angle that involved Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and an oak table.
Who could also forget the Rumble match itself? More on that below.
– It’s crazy to see how the Royal Rumble took off from where it started: a three-hour TV special in Canada. Nowhere to go from there but up. At the time, this must’ve been a glorified “Saturday’s Main Event.”
– Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura made for an interesting duo on commentary all night long. They were certainly no Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan, but for 80’s WWE, we can settle. Ventura was almost like the JBL of his time; the perfect commentary foil to the straightforward McMahon.
– The Rick Rude-Ricky Steamboat match looked good on paper with their mixing of styles. Steamboat was over with the crowd too. How ironic was it to see that Steamboat was thrown over the top rope, held on, swung himself back over and let Rude go over the top rope a la a Royal Rumble elimination? Steamboat was like a one-man show here, in the prime of his career. The match pace was slow at times, but the psychology was strong and it was a very technical affair. At the end of the night, this match stood out on its own. The 80’s were strange times in wrestling compared to now. There was a point where Rude had Dragon in a Camel Clutch and Dragon tapped his hand on the mat multiple times while in the hold and it didn’t count as a submission. The finish was a way to give Steamboat the DQ win because of how Rude pushed the official in front of him when Steamboat went to the top.
– They actually sold megaphones to fans back then? Can’t see that happening now. Ugh. That guy was annoying as hell during the Steamboat-Rude match.
– It wouldn’t be an 80’s PPV if it didn’t involve some kind of body-building angle. Mean Gene Okerlund’s interview with Jesse Ventura set the rules for the bench pressing. This was such a filler of time. It was obvious Dino Bravo was a heel out there to get heat by telling the crowd to be quiet in spite of him going for a world record. For that reason, why would Gene keep asking Bravo’s manager questions if he didn’t understand French? That angle took freaking forever. Can we even officially count what he did? Were those actual weights?
– The Glamour Girls (w/Jimmy Hart) (Champions)-Jumping Bomb Angels two-out-of-three falls Women’s Championship Match was something you definitely won’t see nowadays, but the match wasn’t anything special despite the stipulation. It was hard to root for the Jumping Bomb Angels when they had no personality; just two Japanese ladies. The finish was hot though and that was the loudest the crowd was all night to that point. Winning the Women’s Tag Team Champinships must have been big back then.
– Anything involving Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant after WrestleMania III would make it must-watch. The angle surrounding the Sale of the World Title Belt with Ted Dibiase and Andre “buying in” was also intriguing for its time. Contract signings must not have been important back then seeing that the ring had a school desk with folding chairs around it. Dibiase was good on the mic here. Of course, a contract signing never goes without a hitch as Andre slammed Hogan’s head into the “solid oak” table and pushed him back with it. The hype for that match was on.
– The original Rumble had only 20 men, no countdown with the crowd and nobody’s music hitting when they came out. The differences were subtle, but noticeable. That aside, the RR magic was evident as everybody worked hard here. Jim Duggan seemed to have a career moment by eliminating One Man Gang. Bret Hart – one of the first two men in the match, also lasted way longer than originally thought. There were a lot of Harts in this match.
– Hogan’s promo on Giant was solid. Guy could sell a match in his day with words alone.
– Dibiase’s promo with Andre and Virgil did more selling for their upcoming match. There’s nothing better to a story than consistently delivering both sides of it. It was a bit hard to take the claim of “Giant-A-Mania” seriously, but that was supposed to be the point.
– The Islanders (w/Bobby Heenan)-The Young Stallions two-out-of-three falls tag match was okay and got better as it went on. The Stallions looked resilient at times but pushovers in others, yet The Islanders were dominant with two straight falls. It was what it was. Strange choice to end a show with.
– Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat def. Rick Rude via DQ
– Women’s Tag Team Championship – Two Out Of Three Falls – The Jumping Bomb Angels def. The Glamour Girls (w/Jimmy Hart) (Champions) Two Falls To One to Become New Champions
– Royal Rumble – “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan Wins
– Two Out Of Three Falls – The Islanders (w/Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) def. The Young Stallions Two Falls To None