Hits And Misses Of WWE WrestleMania Saturday

(Photo Credit: WWE)

Wrestlemania weekend began from a chilly Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and not only did it kickoff the two-night event, in many ways the message was sent that this was a new era of WWE, particularly without Vince McMahon, even though it was done without any reference to him. Before the opening match, Triple H was introduced to welcome the fans to the show, and in my view, this was a way for TKO to publicly “cleanse” itself of Vince. Paul Levesque was announced by his real name, a subtle way to distinguish him from his in-ring persona, and it was very clear that he’s the new administrative face of the company. All things considered, Triple H is the guy for the job, not just for his knowledge, but for his dedication to the business. Levesque is the member of the Kliq that didn’t drink or do recreational drugs at a time when it was rampant in the industry in the 90s. Quite simply, you never hear shady stories about Levesque, and that’s exactly what the company needs in terms of its public perception going forward. Triple H is too focused on the actual business and has too clean of a mindset to fall into any of the deprived pitfalls that saw Vince McMahon exiled in disgrace.

The opening of the show was well done, as it gave the spectacle that you’d expect from Wrestlemania, but it wasn’t an extended generic video package that was put on television for several weeks. The production got to the action, and the first bout on the card was Becky Lynch vs. Rhea Ripley for the Women’s championship. The match itself was solid and provided some good action. The only criticism that I’d have for it was that in the opening contest of a two-night event with a total of eight hours of the broadcast, Rhea and Becky kicked out of finishers. It was a terrible trend in the early-2010s, as you’d see multiple finishers used to attempt to create a false finish, but there were very telegraphed scenarios so it often only yielded near falls rather than a believable false finish. That being said, the action built well toward the conclusion and the finish was well done. With this victory, Rhea Ripley is made as a true top-tier star, and that’s nothing against Becky at all. In fact, Lynch is already a top star and is as over as she’s going to be. She’s at her peak as a draw and in terms of star power so she didn’t need the win. On the other side of the coin, as mentioned, Rhea was elevated to a new level.

The tag team title ladder match was the car crash segment that you’d expect, and there’s nothing wrong with that in theory. This was clearly more of a stunt show than the rest of the card, but it was designed to be something different. There wasn’t much psychology, but again, that wasn’t why it was booked. Pete Dunn and Tyler Bate were spotlighted well, and even if they didn’t win a pair of the championships, they looked like bigger names than they were previously since they had those key moments, including the moonsault off the ladder, on the major stage. On the other end of the spectrum, DIY looked more like cosplay wrestlers than legitimate stars or a featured tag team. Don’t get me wrong, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are good utility workers in the sense that they can do the moves, but the fact that they looked like a miniature version of DX at the biggest show of the year, it makes the statement that they just aren’t stars. The power bomb through the ladder that breaks has been seen for years and was rather repetitive. The air raid crash off the ladder from Ciampa was insane and one of the highlights of the show. As far as the finish with Austin Theory and Grayson Waller winning the Smackdown titles and then R-Truth and The Miz winning the Raw championships seems counterproductive. It wasn’t until the belts were consolidated and particularly with the run the Judgment Day had that there was more of an importance put on the division. Trying to split the titles again will probably see at least one, if not both sets of belts get lost in the shuffle within the next few months.

The LWO vs. Santos Escobar and Dominik Mysterio was decent for what it was. There was enough action to showcase everyone, but the task to get the rest of those at ringside involved became crowded. The segment was only about 10 minutes and had a lot of moving parts so it was overbooked to try to give everyone a spot for Wrestlemania. The Jason Kelce cameo was fun and the guy looked like he had a great time with the opportunity to be involved in the city that he played football. It made sense to give the baby face team the win, considering Kelce’s involvement.

The Usos match was okay, but nothing too spectacular. There were too many super kicks and it was a little too dramatic to be believable. They both looked like they were trying too hard to act in their roles rather than allowing themselves to organically portray them. The video package before the segment was very well done and added a lot to the narrative, but the match itself seemed a little too forced to fully capture the drama they could’ve had. Jey getting the win was fine, but this wasn’t anything too memorable, especially given the star power on the rest of the card.

The women’s tag match was fine and it accomplished exactly what it should’ve. Every participant had a chance to look like a star, but the spotlight was rightfully focused on Jade Cargill. It was only about seven or eight minutes, and again, it was what it should’ve been. Keep in mind, the office has to introduce Jade to a new audience, particularly the viewing audience on Peacock. They had to keep the match as short as possible to highlight her without exposing any inexperience. Bianca Belair and Naomi are established within the WWE landscape so their involvement really assisted Cargill’s presentation as a new character in the organization. Jade got the victory, and her WWE stint seems to be off to a good start, albeit from a small sample size for the audience.

The Intercontinental title match was great, and where the Uso bout was a little too forced, the IC championship bout seemed to generate the organic drama. It was stiff and there were some brutal moments that added a lot to the underdog narrative. The conclusion was brilliant, as it didn’t have 38 near falls, the baby face rallied from underneath and a series of manuevers led to the win so it was a spontaneous finish. Sami winning was a legitimate Wrestlemania moment, and it was another scenario where it elevated a performer’s stock within the organization.

The main event was all sizzle and very little substance, and on the surface that’s fine, but the segment dragged on way too long, especially after the card had such a good pace prior to this. There was some Attitude era type brawling in the crowd, which is fine because it’s a safer way to get some mileage from the contest with less of a risk to the participants involved, but the bout could’ve been about half as long as it was to accomplish the same thing. The conclusion within the final five minutes was very good, especially as the narrative tilted back and fourth, but there was no reason for this to be over 45 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t risk an injury on night one when the crescendo of the event is the main event for night two so I don’t think anyone was expecting to see a wrestler jumping off the stage or bumps on the concrete, but there were just too many instances where the match had almost no momentum before the conclusion picked up the pace.

The finish itself was a wise decision. The Rock pinned Cody Rhodes so if Roman loses tomorrow, it opens the door for a conflict between The Rock and Reigns, which could turn Roman baby face down the road. More specifically, this creates an opportunity for an even bigger bout down the road, with The Rock vs. Rhodes for the championship because he can use the pin fall victory on night one to justify a title shot at Summer Slam or perhaps one of the overseas pay-per-views.

Overall, this was a very good night one of Wrestlemania. There wasn’t anything legendary, but there wasn’t anything subpar either and it accomplished many of the goals in terms of presentation of talent. Furthermore, when you take into account that night one more or less naturally builds to night two, the bigger show on the second night isn’t a negative. Keep in mind, there’s much more flexibility with the sizzle or substance ratio when both nights are included in the $4.99 subscription for the Peacock streaming service.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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