Cubed Circle Newsletter 179 – WrestleMania 31 Weekend
We didn’t have an issue last week due to WrestleMania Weekend, and our preparation for various events. However, we are back this week for what will be, behind the yearbook, most likely our biggest issue of the year covering not only WrestleMania 31, but also all the WWN Live shows (excluding Kaiju), the Hall of Fame, last week’s RAW and NXT, Balor/Owens, the post-Mania RAW, terrific ratings, and more! It was the happiest time of the year – WrestleMania Weekend.
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
PDF – WWN Live Super Show, Hall of Fame 2015, Shimmer, King of Indies 2015, EVOLVE, WrestleMania 31, NXT & More!
WrestleMania 31: A Classic Show? Not Really.
It seems strangely apropos that the most important piece of build on this year’s Road to WrestleMania took place not in a medium governed by the pens of creative, or even exclusively by the whims of Vince McMahon, but rather through the contract negotiations between the aforementioned VKM and the WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. With Mania excitement as low as it has been in years, perhaps decades the WrestleMania 31 outlook was far from positive – a reality further compounded by what seemed to be the inevitable departure of Brock Lesnar for a second run with the UFC.
Whilst Creative was not remedied during the final week’s build, nor may it be recovering a week on from the year’s biggest show, last week’s breaking news of Lesnar re-signing with the company, soon heated, at least somewhat, a build that had been fast approaching absolute zero. No longer, as in WrestleManias over the past five years, was this show’s closing image predictable – the opposite was the case, in fact, as many a possibility involving Lesnar, the heel who was over like a God, Reigns, who was hated by the majority, and Seth Rollins, the Money in the Bank briefcase holder with respect from the hardcore fanbase – were possible. For a second year in a row the company’s hand was forced by the core fanbase to switch the finish, not from Reigns/Lesnar to Lesnar/Bryan as originally wished by that subsection of the audience, but to anyone but Reigns going over. In fact, even with the end of major pay-per-view business for the company, their mentality of closing the show out with a “happy (kayfabe) ending” was replaced with Seth Rollins cashing in on both Reigns and Lesnar in order to win his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship and singles title. This makes WrestleMania 31 the first since X-7 to feature a victorious heel as the closing image.
Those who followed the Shield from their inception as a stable to their breakup and beyond, know that the general consensus upon the breakup was that Reigns would be the most likely member to succeed based on his push, followed by Ambrose, who whilst disagreeing with their vision of a star, was talented enough, especially on the mic, to become a major star. In third place was Rollins, who whilst leading in the work department lacked some promo skills. Yet, it was Rollins, the man seemingly most incompatible with the WWE’s top star template, babyface or heel, went over in the main event of the company’s biggest show of the year and is now their WWE World Heavyweight Champion. One may perhaps be tempted to make comparisons to Daniel Bryan’s victory of 2014, but Rollins victory is dissimilar in at least two major ways. The first isof course that Rollins was not built as a title contender like Bryan was in 2014, but on the other hand never endured the repeated attempted burials that Bryan faced for years before making it to the top at WrestleMania 30. This raises an interesting question, as with Rollins’ quick ascent more or less to the top why do other former-indie/ROH stars like Cesaro, Ambrose, and Bryan, with (in varying degrees) equally good looks, speaking ability, and working ability not given similar opportunities? This is a question I have no answer to – Rollins is however, very much deserving of the championship.
With WrestleMania 31 closing strong after a well worked main event and a good opener in a similar vein to WrestleMania 30 at the SuperDome, the show has been subject to a great deal of hyperbole on the internet – I have seen comments ranging from “WrestleMania 31 was the best show ever” to the more common “WrestleMania 31 was the best WrestleMania in years”/”WrestleMania 30 was one of the best WrestleManias ever”. I don’t believe any of the above statements to be true. Whilst I incorrectly stated the following up on the site minutes before the show started, the lack of quality on the uppercard including Rusev/Cena and Wyatt/Undertaker coupled with copious amount of filler, took this show down greatly in my estimation – “Unless they pull out sleeper after sleeper with an uber hot crowd, this may very well be the worst WrestleMania after the last 15+ years.”. Of course, the entrances were great, but no better than their WrestleMania 30 or 29 counterparts, with stars performing, generally speaking, better in their 30 matches than in 31. The booking of John Cena over Rusev, Hunter over Sting, and Big Show as the winner of the Battle Royal also did little to endear me to the show. Conversely, Ronda Rousey and the Rock did have a memorable moment laying out the Authority, presumably leading to a match at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas.
It should then be asked where this year’s spectacle ranks in comparison to those of years past, specifically recent years, and due to the number of nothing matches on the show, together with the great opening and closing segments, I would place it in the class of WrestleMania 27 and WrestleMania 25 – although the respective Undertaker matches on those shows were better than anything on this year’s card. For perspective, for my taste WrestleMania 30 would lie together with WrestleMania 21, 23, and shows of that ilk.
Even with the Undertaker deteriorating in physical working capacity over recent years, his match this year against Bray Wyatt made the mistake that was his loss last year all the more obvious. Undertaker’s matches over recent years meant perhaps more to the Mania shows than anyone realised, and whilst Vince didn’t quite know if Undertaker would return this year, nor did Mark Calaway himself, the finality that a loss would bring to the streak I don’t believe was fully grasped. And as such, the Wyatt/Undertaker match became little more than the obligatory WrestleMania kick out sequence, with nothing much else in between.
Lesnar will be gone for the next several months, meaning that Rollins alongside Bryan, Intercontinental Champion, and John Cena, United States Champion, will carry the main event scene as they were all but forced to do in the pre-Mania months without those titles. Now that John Cena is champion they have practically forced themselves to push the US title as something meaningful, but from past experiences with Daniel Bryan as champion, I cannot say that I have devout confidence in their ability to book him strong too, especially when he has been marginalised to the extent he has in past months. Unfortunately, in what has become an ongoing rib on the audience, or an esoteric meme that I have no knowledge of, Kane and Big Show are still in main event positions, at lease of this week’s RAW mainevent. This over utilisation of the pair, coupled with poor creative direction in the months proceeding Extreme Rules last year do very little for my confidence in the company’s ability to produce consistent weekly and monthly content.
There does exist a wealth of super talent that may very well revitalise the roster; stars like Finn Balor, who is from my understanding being paid main roster money, and Sami Zayn – who should be called up within the next few months at the very most. The Lucha Dragons and Adrian Neville (now just Neville, because the cool kids don’t have first names) were called up on the RAW after WrestleMania, but the chances of Sin Cara & Kalisto progressing past the Los Matadores & New Day booking blockade is unfortunately quite low. Neville has a chance, but was given an unremarkable debut, has a strong accent and poor mic skills, which is a major problem for Kevin Dunn – he was also inexplicably given a purple cape. Zayn and Balor are both talents in the mould of a Daniel Bryan in that, should they be poorly positioned , which I don’t strongly suspect, especially for Balor, they are of an overall talent level great enough to overcome. Even so, whilst Balor and Zayn will make it to the top somehow, what their talent cannot save them from is general creative incompetence, which has been plaguing everyone on the roster for months. And by “everyone”, I mean main roster talent not named “Brock Lesnar”.
WWE WrestleMania 31 Review March 29th 2015
Levi’s Stadium, San Jose, California, USA
-1: Fourway Tag Team Title Match
Kidd and Cesaro retained following a very fun spotfest, which I managed to catch half of.
0. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
For all the discussion of the NXT Five, or whatever, Itami was placed in this throw-away battle royal. Then again, Bo Dallas appeared in a Rumble and that was promptly forgotten – oh, wait. Miz and Mizdow attempted to eliminate Riley, with Mizdow eventually tossing him to the floor. Bo Dallas eliminated Ryder and celebrated going under the bottom rope, which the announcers completely miscalled. Big Show eliminated Itami, as Cole uttered the customary “welcome to the big leagues” – this company really sucks sometimes. Big Show and Ryback were running wild like it was 1986. “Let’s go Mizdow” chants rang loud, as Big Show proceeded to eliminate man after man. The entire crowd chanted “feed me more” along with Ryback, which of course meant elimination from Big Show. This left Miz and Mizdow to take on the Big Show; with Mizdow finally refusing to follow Miz’ orders. Miz freaked out with Show just standing there. Miz poked him in the chest over and over again, before he was eliminated by Mizdow! Mizdow tried with all his might to eliminated show and almost got him over the top, but Show landed on the apron. They then teased the Benoit guillotine finish before Show eliminated Mizdow. I don’t think they fully understood the magnitude of crowd reaction a Mizdow victory would have received. Suffice is to say, the WrestleKingdom Battle Royal was better, but only just.
Aloe Blacc, a man I have never heard of, sang America the Beautiful a cappella. LL Cool J narrated a wacky video package supposedly analysing the “human condition” through a look at the evolution of entertainment media and a juxtaposition of Mania moments. He ended up cutting a super promo though.
1. Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolf Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth
There aired a ladder and IC title video package, with them putting the 2000/2001 ladder matches over when IC title matches clearly became irrelevant in the timeline – this package aired on the pre-show. Daniel Bryan came out to an enormous pop; he really should have been placed higher up on the card. Stardust had a really cool looking/cringe-worthy jacket. They got right to the highspots with R-Truth landing a tope, Stardust an Aerostar dive, Ziggler being tossed to the floor, Harper landing a tope, and Ambrose hitting an elbow from a ladder. Harper drove a ladder hard into the face of Bryan. Bryan landed some “yes” kicks on Barrett in the ladder, and Ambrose and Ziggler scrambled for the belt. Stardust grabbed a, presumably WSX inspired sparkly ladder from under the ring, from which Barrett grabbed a rung and began beating people. Harper did the Terry Funk helicopter. Stardust killed himself and Barrett with a superplex from three quarters up a ladder. Ambrose landed his jawbreaker lariat on Harper. Ambrose was powerbombed through a ladder positioned between the ring and barricade. Ziggler was pulled off of a ladder and elbowed to death, the same for Stardust. Barrett looked to grab the title, Bryan looked for the victory himself, but Ziggler and Barrett interfered. Bryan, however landed the busaiku knee to more yes chants, scaling the ladder only to be interrupted by Ziggler trading blows including headbutts! A headbutt war followed! Ziggler was then dropped to the mat and Bryan captured the belt following a great match.
2. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins w/ J & J Security
Orton landed a double DDT on J & J out on the floor before taking a high momentum tope from Rollins. Headlocks followed with Rollins yelling “this is my time” before punching Randy in the gut. Rollins landed an Asai moonsault. Orton landed a backdrop from the top and cross body for two. Orton went for the RKO, but was met with a superkick before landing an RKO anyway for two. Orton took out J & J with RKOs as they attempted to interfere. Orton kicked out of a curb-stomp. Then came perhaps the single most spectacular spot of the weekend, with Orton lifting his head from a curb-stomp propelling Rollins into the air for the most crazy video game RKO finish you will see.
Ronda Rousey was shown in the front row.
3. No Disqualification Match
Sting vs. Triple H
It’s strange to note that Sting’s first ever WWE match entrance took place in the blazing sun, but it did, with men in Sting masks playing Taiko drums. Hunter had a crazy Terminator-inspired entrance with terminators popping up on stage and Hunter rising up from the stage with a scouter and mechanized arms and helmet. Arnold showed up on screen saying “it’s time for the game” – Hunter then lifted up some awesome terminator skulls. There were early “this is awesome chants” with Sting in the best shape he has been in in years, no longer even looking like someone’s grandmother, wearing a singlet. Sting landed a dropkick for a good pop and the dreaded “you still got it” chants. Hunter avoided the scorpion deathlock and rolled to the floor. Sting sent Hunter out to the floor, but was met with a vertical suplex. There was some obvious spot calling going on. Sting locked in the scorpion deathlock until, out ran DX, Road Dogg, Billy Gun and X-Pac. Sting landed a splash to the floor on all three men. Sting kicked out of a pedigree. Hunter grabbed his sledgehammer when the NWO music hit, and out came Nash, Hogan and Hall. DX are clearly in better shape than the NWO, and bumped all over the place for the WCW stable. Hunter kicked out of a scorpion death drop, Hunter reached for the sledgehammer, but Hogan grabbed the sledgehammer. X-Pac pushed Hogan over, thankfully not breaking him into pieces, Nash broke upon falling to the floor though. Scot Hall took a backdrop on the outside! Sting continued to hold onto the death lock until Hunter made it to the ropes. Michaels ran in with a superkick on Sting and gave him the crotch chop for two. Hunter was handed the sledgehammer again, Sting was given his bat. Sting used his bat to break the sledge hammer. Hunter landed a sledge hammer shot for the win. They had something going there. Sting and Hunter shook hands at the end of the match, which made even less sense than the NWO interfering on Sting’s behalf.
There was a trailer for the new “adult animated comedy” ‘CAMP WWE’, ‘Swerved’, ‘Jerry Springer’s Too Hot for TV’ as well as for the new Diva Search. Maria Menounos was with Daniel Bryan in the back congratulated by Pat Patterson. Piper came by and told Bryan he was changing the questions and kissed him on the head. Steamboat had to clearly lie saying that the ladder match was just as good as his Mania III match. Ric Flair came by too, but Bret Hart got the biggest pop. They all did “yes” chants together until Ron Simmons came by with a “Damn”. There was a silly little concert with Skylar Grey, Travis Barker, and Kid Ink.
4. AJ & Paige vs. The Bella Twins
The crowd was expectedly dead for this. The Bellas had the heat on Paige with AJ knocked down to the floor. Paige landed a rolling senton off of the apron onto both Bellas. The room temperature tag was made to AJ who landed a unique implant DDT from an electric chair. Nikki was forced to tap to the Black Widow.
There was a “MyHeroIs” video package followed by a Hall of Fame recap with the inductees brought out on stage.
5. WWE United States Championship Match
Rusev w/ Lana vs. John Cena
Rusev had the greatest entrance ever with men marching with a Russian flag to the anthem, cannons going off and Rusev entering on a TANK. There was an ” America, yay us” video package featuring not so universally beloved leaders George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Harry Truman – quite the controversial crew. The crowd still sang “John Cena sucks” to Cena’s theme. Rusev overpowered Cena early and waved the Russian flag. Cena landed a leg slice and the crowd chanted for Lana. Cena landed a tornado DDT with Rusev kicking out at two. Rusev was being cheered over Cena in a strike battle, yes, Rusev, the evil Russian! Lana threw her high heel into the ring, which Cole called “one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen”, Rusev then landed a diving headbutt for two! Cena landed a second rope springboard ace crusher of all things! Cena grabbed a rollup for two and was met with a superkick. Rusev locked in the camel clutch, but Cena powered out. Lana got up on the apron, Rusev ran into her, and Cena landed the AA for the win. Rusev screamed at Lana to close the match off. Cena hugged Betty Skaaland after the match, and shook hands with his dad.
There was a trailer for WrestleMania Dallas. Hunter and Stephanie were out for a promo announcing a new attendance record of 76,876 — fascicle of course. She still cut a heel promo saying that it all wouldn’t be possible without them. Hunter said that he feels as though he has beaten all those in the arena and those watching at home. This led to the return of the Rock. Rock rambled on for a while, which the people ate up, and he called Rock/HHH one of the biggest feuds of all time; another lie. Rock told Hunter that he left his genitals in Stanford. Stephanie stepped in with her troll attempts saying that neither the Rock nor his family would be anything without the McMahons. Stephanie slapped Rock after a joke pertaining to her conception. They had a stare-down, Steph told him to get and he teased walking off. He then met eyes with Ronda for a gigantic pop and got Rousey to step over the barricade for a first bump. Stephanie tried to convince everyone that they were friends. Stephanie said that Rousey could destroy her in the octagon, but they were standing in her ring. Ronda said that any ring she steps into is hers. Ronda ordered Stephanie make her. Rock said that Ronda would play jump rope with Stephanie’s Fallopian tubes. Rock said that it would be the last thing he said after Hunter stepped in, and Rock went after Triple H and Ronda tossed him. Ronda then blocked a slap and teased an armbar before Stephanie slip out.
6. Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
Bray made it down with a bunch of walking scarecrows, which was quite the interesting aesthetic, albeit gravely dampened by the afternoon light. Taker has switched back to his deadman pants attire from pre-2006, and has started to grow his hair back. Essentially, he was biker taker, but still playing the dead man gimmick. There were some loud “you still got it” chants. Undertaker landed the old school. Wyatt was in control of Taker early. This was essentially Kane/Undertaker from WrestleMania 2004 with very little heat. Bray landed a choke slam for two with Taker rolling his eyes back in his head moments prior. Wyatt looked for the Sister Abigail, but was caught with a chokeslam before landing the tombstone for two and the match’s first major pop. Undertaker kicked out of a Sister Abigail. Wyatt did his Exorcist gimmick, but Taker stood/sat up looking to trade. Undertaker countered the Sister Abigail into the tombstone for the win. To shamelessly steal a line from Rob McCarron of VoicesofWrestling.com and ‘Shake Them Ropes’, this was in fact the best Undertaker match all year.
There was an announcement trailer for a WWE Network podcast with Chris Jericho and John Cena.
7. WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Roman Reigns
The crowd HATED Roman Reigns to such an extent that they turned the crowd audio down during his entrance. The duo went straight after one another with Brock cutting his check and landing an F5 within the first minute. Lesnar no sold a strike from Reigns and landed a German to the delight of this crowd. Reigns smirked, which sure is the best way to win over a crowd after years of Cena smiles. Lesnar said “Suplex City, b***h” – a phrase that has, as expected, become a catchphrase in its own right. A destruction followed with knees in the ropes and suplex after suplex. Reigns attempted to fight back with a big knee, but was lariated to death on the floor. Lesnar’s mouth was busted open too. Reigns was caught with a belly to belly suplex and was pulled by the hair back into the ring. Lesnar landed another F5, but Reigns kicked out. Reigns continued to laugh whilst being suplexed to death, which just made Brock angry. Lesnar landed a third F5 for two. Lesnar was sent into the post and busted open hardway. Lesnar just slid back into the ring at the count of nine, Reigns landed a superman punch and Lesnar remained standing; Lesnar still refused to fall even after a second. Reigns went for a third, but Lesnar looked to counter. Reigns landed a series of headbutts and two spears for two! Reigns went for another, but Lesnar landed another F5, but was unable to make the pin. This brought Rollins out! Rollins landed a curb-stomp, went for another, Lesnar caught him in the F5 position, was met with a spear, and Rollins made the cover for the win!