Wrestlemania Challenge Day 34

Despite a myriad of openings at some level in various states, the shutdown mostly continues, especially here in Pittsburgh, as a color-coded system more complicated than WCW booking goes into effect today. If the red phase is a “mayday! mayday!” situation, the yellow phase appears to be a “seek shelter before the tornado” scenario because through the political jargon and people spending an unhealthy amount of time posting memes on facebook, the basic aspects of the shutdown are still in place. Truthfully, I’m more frustrated with all of the nonsense than Cornette in a Jim Herd booking meeting in WCW circa 1990. Some yo-yo named Billy Bob has a political theory about the illuminati being behind it all on social media while the orange villain wants to chug Windex, and maybe he should? Either way, I really hope this is over soon and the world can get back to some level of normal, mostly because I’ve reviewed almost every WM event for this series, and despite the suggestions from some readers, I’d rather watch 24-hour marathons of CSPAN with the workers on both sides in Washington than attempt to review the early TNA pay-per-views. On the bright side, we might live in a world with a pandemic and economic disaster, but we also live in a time where Tony Schiavone, who read plugs for Playstation 1 and Nintendo 64 on Nitro, tweets about Red Dead Redemption 2.

Anyway, Wrestlemania 34 returned to New Orleans just four years after “the miracle on Bourbon St.” that saw Daniel Bryan hoist two championship belts in triumph. As I wrote a few days ago, I think WM 30 stands as the last great WM of the modern era, mostly because the freedom of the WWE Network has allowed management to run ridiculously long shows and in many ways, they are sacrificing quality for quantity. A longer show doesn’t automatically translate to a better show, nor does it really add to the spectacle. I can’t emphasize enough how tedious of a viewing experience the last few shows were because they were just too lengthy to properly enjoy with so much content jammed onto the broadcast. As I’ve mentioned before, with these nearly six-hour shows, I’m going to summarize as much as possible to attempt to avoid articles that are too lengthy for someone to realistically want to read. The show opened with the IC title triple threat match that saw Seth Rollins claim the championship against The Miz and Finn Balor. The takeaway from the bout at the time still holds up today, it was a good match that would’ve been better if it was just Rollins vs. Balor instead of the triple threat match.

Charlotte Flair beat Asuka to retain the Women’s title, ending Asuka’s extended winning streak in the process. The argument could be made that these two stole the show and this was the match of the night, despite several more hours of wrestling scheduled for the pay-per-view. This bout had a big fight atmosphere, which is something that doesn’t happen too often in the modern era of WWE because the sports entertainment machine seems more focused on churning out countless hours of content than maximizing the impact of it. The match was seamless and built very well with back and fourth action toward the conclusion of the contest. As much as some people complain that Charlotte got her spot because of her dad, which is probably true to some extent, this is really a breakout performance for her in some ways. Early on, even after she was a focal point of the women’s division, I thought some of her inexperience showed through with clumsy selling and spots that looked blatantly staged, but this showcase at WM really showed that she grew into the role of a star in the WWE. As far as her getting a contract because of her dad, that has been done for several generations in the business, why else would anyone hire Erik Watts or George Gulas?

Jinder Mahal won the US title in a four-way match, and this is already an example of how overbooked this show was and would continue to be because it was one of several multiple wrestler matches. The contest went roughly seven minutes so there’s not too much to say about it. This was a four way and there was already a triple threat earlier in the show. Speaking of triple threat matches, there was a triple threat tag team match that similar to the US contest, The Bludgeon Brothers won the Smackdown tag team titles, but it went less than five minutes so it was another situation where everything was rushed. I don’t know how management thought either of those matches could logically even have a chance to be quality matches with such limited time given for them.

A match that did get enough time and rightfully so was Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. On paper, especially considering Ronda’s inexperience in pro wrestling, this might look like it was going to be a clunky bout that only included flashes of brilliance. However, all things considered, it was a very entertaining segment and it was structured in such a way that it allowed Ronda to shine with some of her potential and skills in the squared circle without exposing any major weaknesses either. Granted, Stephanie being able to defend an arm bar is almost as ridiculous as Vince Russo winning the WCW championship, but aside from that, this bout was a success, particularly because it was a major launching point for Ronda Rousey and gave her a good start in front of the WWE audience.

The Undertaker beat John Cena in about two minutes, and while this quick exhibition gave the fans The Undertaker’s signature spots, I’m not necessarily sure that’s what the audience wanted to see from him. That’s not meant as a jab at The Undertaker either, I completely respect everything he’s done and he absolutely has the right to do whatever he wants at this point in his career, he’s earned it, but a segment like this is more of a reminder that he can’t physically be the performer that he was in the past than anything. Unfortunately, the results for lengthy matches he had later in the year against Triple H at Super Showdown and then a tag match at Crown Jewel were disastrous.

After a few years on the shelf, Daniel Bryan returned to action in a tag match with Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Ironically, it was reported that Shane went into this match with legitimate injuries and appeared somewhat limited throughout it. The match was fine for what it was, but it really wasn’t anything too spectacular or memorable, despite the talented athletes booked for it. Bryan and Shane won, but it should be noted that this angle was the start of about a two-year period where Shane was on TV way too often and had too much of the focus of the Smackdown brand put on himself. While I don’t think Shane was politicing for more television time during writing meetings, it certainly looks like a level of nepotism within the company when he was being featured more often than most of the roster. Plus, Shane was near 50 around this time so it wasn’t as though it was an attempt to build for the future.

Nia Jax beat Alexa Bliss to win the Raw wins title in a decent match. More than the in-ring action, this contest and this angle really allowed Nia to showcase the different aspects and depth of her character. It’s disappointing that Nia seems to have plateaued at a mostly subpar level in the ring because as a character, she has done well in a variety of roles. She can portray the monster heel or in this scenario, the baby face that fans rallied around to win the championship.

AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was a really solid match, but I have to be honest, I thought it was a little underwhelming. I know it’s not a fair comparison, but after watching their epic contest at Wrestle Kingdom 10 a few years earlier, I thought it was possible that this might be one of those very memorable WM matches on par with something like Shawn Micheals vs. Kurt Angle from WM 21, but it just didn’t reach that level. However, the bigger point was I think WWE management completely missed the boat on Nakamura, who appears to be content to coast and collect the big money on the contract, and you can’t really blame him because he was casts as a secondary figure in recent years. Nakamura has the charisma and the in-ring skill that transcends any perceived language barrier and he was more than capable of being the first Japanese WWE champion. The heel turn after the contest provided a shocking moment, but there wasn’t any major follow up and it basically halted his momentum after he won the Royal Rumble earlier in the year.

Braun Strowman, who was over enough to be in the main event, won the tag team titles with a 10-year-old kid. Watching this again was almost as ridiculous as typing it for this review. No wonder The Revival turned down six figures and left the company.

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns would’ve been a really good match if the same narrative hadn’t been put on repeat for the previous three years. This was a carbon copy of the generic Brock match at the time and the same stale move set that had the fans reject Roman Reigns, Countless German surplexes, too many super man punches, and an illogical amount of F5 moves made this bout the exact same match that the audience saw before. It offered nothing new, other than it was a different location for the same bout with the same plan to try to get Roman over again. Brock cut him with an elbow, which would’ve been a visual that could’ve been used to get him over if this was an original match in an original scenario. The main event of the biggest show of the year had fans chanting “boring” and that more or less sums up the success of the Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar feud. Don’t get me wrong, Roman Reign the real-life person always puts in the effort, but the way he was cast was completely counterproductive. Eventually, Brock won, but it was a lackluster conclusion to the event.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta