WWE WrestleMania 33 – April 2nd 2017
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL.
There was so much great professional wrestling this week and so many shows it was literally impossible to watch everything. WrestleMania may be the annual apex of the weekend and a celebration of everything WWE, however as time goes by the biggest event of the year becomes less about the actual wrestling and more about the fabled “moments.” Clocking in at a torturous 6 hours and 45 minutes, WrestleMania 33 was a good show packed with memorable moments that will become part of the company’s mythology and will be replayed until the end of time. The Undertaker retired after losing to Roman Reigns and there wasn’t a dry-eye in the house. John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella following their victory over Miz & Maryse for an angle that will be shown all over their various reality shows. The Hardy Boyz returned to win the RAW Tag Team titles in their second ladder match in 24 hours, receiving the biggest reaction on the show in the process. We’ve been told for years by the company that WrestleMania is all about the moments and if you subscribe to the theory that the main focus of a near seven hour show should be a few scattered singular instances, it’s hard to argue against WrestleMania 33 being anything other than a good show.
While all these memorable moments were befitting of the biggest show of the year, the actual wrestling was nowhere the mega-event level. As a loose comparison, two of the other giant shows this year – New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 and DDT’s 20th Anniversary – featured far superior match quality up and down their respective cards. Obviously on a near seven hour show there were peaks and troughs; some of the matches were good, some were bad and a couple were boring. There was one match however, which managed to deliver the “big fight” atmosphere and the performance felt special as it was completely different from everything else on the card, when Brock Lesnar finally defeated Goldberg in the shortest and best match on the show.
WrestleMania 33 is going to be remembered for a long time, probably until the end of time, or at least until the self-imposed extinction of the human race. As an all-time great mega-event that will hold up in the future the show failed to deliver, however the once in a lifetime moments (there’s that damn word again) that the show was centered around will likely out live us all. Why it is not possible for WWE to produce an extravaganza which delivers both blow-away matches and memorable moments is probably a question worth answering at some point. But for now, let’s have a look at the 13 matches on the show.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (C) vs. Austin Aries – Neville retained with the Red Arrow in 15:40. Match was technically very good and the crowd were into it in spots, however it just felt like nobody was ready to see this style of match this early on. It would have been in the top tier of matches on most any other WWE show. (*** ½).
Andre the Giant Battle Royal – Mojo Rawley eliminated Jinder Mahal to win this parade of tomato cans in 14:15. They did a deal where Jinder threw a drink over Rob Gronkowski, so Gronk jumped the rail and got in the ring to tackle Mahal. The funny part was that they clearly didn’t smarten up one security guard, who hilariously tried to stop Gronk from jumping the rail. (DUD).
WWE Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Baron Corbin – Ambrose retained in 10:55. This was barely at the level of a SmackDown TV match and the crowd didn’t care about it whatsoever. Corbin worked over Ambrose’s ribs after the ludicrous forklift angle a couple of weeks ago. Dean won with the Dirty Deeds DDT. (**).
New Day opened the show; they only showed up a few more times to announce the Hardys and to give the worked attendance number.
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon – AJ over in 20:35. Technically, this was a good match. Styles worked his ass off to get a decent performance out of Shane, who to his credit was at least in position for everything. It was laid out and paced well too, as Styles out-wrestled Shane then the MMA wizard McMahon took over after turning it into a fight. For me, the story was a little ridiculous, plus Shane’s abysmal stand-up and laughable Jiu Jitsu was just too phony to suspend any disbelief. Still, the fans ate it up and were going crazy by the end during the near-falls, which again were paced very well. There was a ref bump, Shane missed his Diving Elbow through the announce table, kicked out of a One-Armed Styles Clash then missed a Shooting Star Press. AJ won with the Phenomenal Forearm. (***½).
WWE US Championship: Chris Jericho (C) vs. Kevin Owens – Owens became the new champ at 16:20. Match was solid, but took a while to get going. They did a lot of counters and reversals; the best spot of the match saw Owens take a Code Breaker and get one finger on the rope to stop the count. Owens won after a Powerbomb on the apron. (***¼).
WWE RAW Women’s Championship: Bayley (C) vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax – Bayley retained in 12:45. Charlotte did a nice Corkscrew Moonsault off the post to the floor. Nia played the monster and was relatively effective; Bayley, Charlotte & Sasha gave her a Triple Powerbomb and all covered her to get the elimination. Charlotte eliminated Sasha after an exposed turnbuckle spot that wasn’t really exposed at all. Finish came out of nowhere, as Bayley used the Randy Savage Elbow Drop to pin Charlotte. Typical WWE multi-person match with a bunch of quick eliminations that have no time to breath. (**¾).
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson () vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. The Hardy Boyz – Hardys became the new champions at 11:05. People went insane for the Hardys and did all “DELETE” chants. Compared to the Hardys/Young Bucks ladder match 24 hours earlier, this was utterly tame and the Hardys understandably did very little in the match. Matt gave Anderson the Twist of Fate off a ladder, while Jeff did a Swanton off a giant ladder on the floor through a double ladder bridge with Sheamus & Cesaro on top. Match wasn’t all that much compared to other Mania Ladder matches, but the Hardys return was an amazing moment. (***¾).
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse – Cena & Nikki over in 9:40. This was a total non-event and would have fit right in on a house show in Biloxi, Mississippi. Cena & Nikki won after a double Five Knuckle Shuffle and simultaneous finishing moves. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Cena proposed to Nikki afterwards (he even called her by her shoot name) and they both got emotional during this completely spontaneous and not at all contrived display of affection. Nikki said “Yes,” obviously. Another big moment; another disappointing match. (* ¾).
Unsanctioned Match: Seth Rollins vs. HHH w/Stephanie McMahon – Rollins over in 25:30. This was the annual HHH long, methodical, work a body part match. It went way too long and the crowd lost interest; it was another technically good match but it could have done with been several minutes shorter. HHH worked over the bad knee; they both kept going for the Pedigree. Seth bumped HHH into Stephanie, who took a comically safe bumb through a table off the apron. This does not count as Stephanie’s comeuppance for all the horrible things she does to the talent on TV! Rollins finally hit the Pedigree for the win. (***).
WWE Championship Bray Wyatt (C) vs. Randy Orton – Orton over in10:30. This had to have been one of the worst WWE title matches in Mania history. They had a basic match in front of a tired crowd, however somebody decided to get way too cute with Bray’s magic and the match became a complete farce. Basically, the lights would go out and creepy projections of maggots, worms and crickets were projected on to the canvas, all of which played out on an overhead camera angle of the ring. These bursts of magic projection killed the crowd even more and made a dull match into a terrible one. I’m all for trying new things and whatnot, but this simply did not work. Orton won with an RKO. (½*)
WWE Universal Championship: Bill Goldberg (C) vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman – Lesnar became the new champion at 4:45. Absolute perfection for what it needed to be and the crowd woke up for probably the last time on the show. Since they had established the match could finish at any given time, every single move felt like important and could have potentially been the finish. Lesnar Suplexed Goldberg, Golberg Speared Lesnar, rinse, repeat. Goldberg Speared Brock through the barricade and Brock kicked out of the Jackhammer. Lesnar hit some more Germans and won clean with the F5. These men worked for just under five minutes, did about four moves total, and had the most heated, exciting and dramatic match on the entire show. It was one of the best sprints you’ll ever see. (****).
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Six Pack Challenge: Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi – Naomi became the new champ at 5:35. After all the outrage at this originally being on the pre-show, this was a total waste of time and would have been much better off on the kick-off. They clearly had their time cut and went 100mph, doing all their spots they had planned. Highlights were Becky Suplexing James Ellsworth and Natalya failing to do a double Sharpshooter on Naomi & Carmella. Naomi submitted Alexa with a goofy Lucha submission. (**).
No DQ: Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns – Reigns over in 23:00. The no DQ stip was added with zero warning, just like Austin/Rock at Mania 17. Jim Ross came out to do commentary for Undertaker’s last match; he was so much better than all the other announcers it wasn’t even funny. Match was tragic. Taker was hobbling around from one contrived spot to the next; Reigns was booed out of the building and looked like he didn’t even want to be in there. They tried all the smoke and mirrors to produce a good match, but it just wasn’t happening. It was clear Undertaker had nothing more to give and Reigns was not the guy to carry him to one last epic performance. They messed up a few spots and there was a blown Tombstone reversal that was just heartbreaking to see. Story of the match was lifted directly from the Taker/HHH match at Mania 27, with Roman killing Undertaker with chairshots and Taker refusing to stay down. Taker tried the Michael Myers sit-up, but collapsed just like he did in that HHH match and Roman put him and all of us out of our misery with a final big Spear. After the tragedy of the match, Undertaker put his coat and hat back on and stood in the ring while his music played. He slowly removed his hat and coat one last time then took off his gloves and left it all in the middle of the ring. Taker went over and kissed Michelle McCool at ringside then walked up the ramp to his trap-door and he disappeared into the underworld with his arm high in the air, similar to how Arnold Schwarzenegger went out in Terminator 2. For as bad and emotionless as the match was, the post-match was one of the most moving scenes the WWE has produced in a long time. People will probably forget just how poor Undertaker’s last match was, however nobody will every forget the sight of the Undertaker riding off into the sunset. (**½).