Top-Down Smackdown: WrestleMania in Review

What in the HOLY FUCK were they thinking with this?

Regardless of the merits of the actual card, WrestleMania can usually be counted on for spectacle, if nothing else. And the massive entrance stage at Levi’s Stadium did just that, even if some subpar TV direction led to a lack of wide shots that really took in the whole thing at times (major case in point: Bray Wyatt’s entrance, shot all in closeup, sapped the thrill of seeing motionless scarecrows all the way down to ringside BEFORE they creepily came to life the moment he walked by).

As for the booking, it veered wildly between “inevitable” and “WTF.”

Let’s look at it from the best decisions to the worst:

1. The Main-Event finish.

I guess the biggest question here is did they change it at any point? For months it was rumored that WWE wanted Roman Reigns to be the champion for a long time, but it became obvious to most people watching that he wasn’t ready yet, and I for one got a thrill seeing Brock Lesnar toss him around like an Ultimate Warrior Wrestling Buddy plush.

My predictions aren’t always right, but I’m proud to say I absolutely called this one. Seth Rollins losing earlier and then cashing in on Reigns accomplishes a few things. First, it is both the essential next step for Rollins’ character, and for Rollins the performer, who is a technically gifted champion far more fun to watch than someone like John Cena.

Second, it creates TWO #1 contenders: Lesnar, who was never beaten; and Randy Orton, who beat Rollins that same day. Reigns did get pinned so he’s lower down in contention now, but he’ll remain in the picture too. Lesnar’s aura as indestructible beast also remains unbroken.

My only misgiving is that I like consistency in WWE rules, which is a hopelessly old-fashioned point of view that the company will never again respect. Money in the Bank allows a title match any time, but I don’t think it should be allowed to fundamentally change the rules of a match in-progress. I’m not a fan of triple-threats anyway; again, old-school me thinks the champion should have to be beaten, and that three-man matches should be elimination style if they happen at all.

If Cena can beat Lesnar in an Extreme Rules match, I don’t think Rollins scoring the win after some sort of brutal disqualification beatdown would be a big deal. Maybe Brock’s contract specifies who he’ll lose to. Either way, my technical quibbles aside, the finish was what it needed to be.

2. Randy Orton over Seth Rollins.

Essential to set up the main event run-in, obviously.

3. My cable company’s decision to crap out for the entirety of the Divas match.

It literally did. Short outage, but by the time it came back on the bout was over. It can’t have been very good.

4. Cesaro and Kidd retain the tag titles.

It was a clusterfuck of a match, but letting these two show what they can do for a while seems like a good plan.

5. The ladder match.

It was fun to watch, gave everybody their spots, and showed me more from Luke Harper than I expected. But seriously: that finish? 20 headbutts and no bleeding? Even the legendary Kevin Nash finger-poke of doom would have been a cherry on top there.

6. Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker.

Somebody told ‘Taker he looked terrible last year, I’m guessing. This year he got in shape, had a no-frills entrance, and put on a straightforward wrestling match.

Bray probably should have won, but losing doesn’t hurt him. The biggest loser, perhaps, is Paul Heyman, who’s going to have to stop himself from saying “the one who put the one in 21-1.”

7. Miz and Mizdow melt down in the battle royal.

That battle royal was such a mixed bag. I loved that they finally pulled the trigger on Miz vs. Mizdow, but the Big Show win was just poorly planned and thought out. The Big Show’s character on TV is that of a mercenary jerk, and now, at the very last minute, you tell us the angle is that he’s never won a major battle royal and this is a lifelong career goal? WHY WASN’T THAT IN THE BUILDUP?

8. Rusev’s communist-era ring entrance.

The full-on Russian tanks and cannons were perfect, though I’m not sure viewers watching in Ukraine were amused. It’s too bad Putin isn’t still “missing” – a WWE doppelganger coming out would have put things over-the-top.

Obviously Cena couldn’t lose with the implied endorsement of Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. But where does Rusev go from here? Does anyone really want some sort of feud with Lana to become a thing? And WTF was with the pointless shoe-throwing that never paid off?

9. The Rock and Ronda Rousey beat up Triple H and Stephanie.

THIS is what we bumped the battle royal to the pre-show for?

I get it: on the one hand, you want Triple H to get a comeuppance somehow.

On the other, you just let two celebrities who are not signed to the company make the heads of the company look like pussies. It’s the equivalent of me asking Rob Bricken to return for one guest editorial that points out everything bad I’ve ever done in my life. Fun for a moment, but ultimately not great for the brand overall.

10. Vince McMahon pisses on WCW one more time, because he can.

I had faith that a Triple H-Sting match could be good. But I may never know, because it got turned into an impromptu DX-NWO brawl from people long past the ability to actually put on a good brawl. The Outlaws recently proved they can still go, but Hogan and Nash can barely walk, and Hall is a shell of his former self.

It didn’t even make sense, as Hall and Nash are Triple H’s buddies every other time they show up, and Sting opposed the NWO back in his WCW days. If they were coming to his aid, they should have at least worn red and black. I actually started hoping for a surprise Goldberg comeback just to clear house.

So after all that buildup, Sting – who has stayed active in wrestling all these years – loses to semi-retired Triple H, because why? Because this was built up as an extension of the old Monday Night Wars, and heaven forbid Vince concede one inch that WCW had a better star than his son-in-law.

As for Triple H’s stupid Terminator get-up – followed by a nonsensical removal of his robo-skeleton so that he could carry bags of robot skulls to the ring – do we all forget that when it comes to ill-conceived promotional tie-ins with cyborg movies, Sting has basically been there, done that? And that it sucked then too?

Look, if you like wrestling to be utterly absurd, I guess it was funny. I like them to stick to some semblance of continuity whatever the tone, and the NWO defending Sting violated that in so many ways. I mean, the notion that Hulk Hogan is somehow standing up for WCW at WrestleMania? Not buying it, even as fake storyline.

I wouldn’t blame Sting for walking away now. I have a feeling they’re going to try to embarrass him further just to see if he takes it, but unlike Booker T, whose comedic persona works with humiliation, Sting shouldn’t play that.

Let’s see what Raw has to show us tonight.