Happy Wednesday Everyone!
Back with some more Opening Matches from WrestleMania. Today we’ve got some pretty big matches, so I’m hoping we have some good match quality. Sadly we now enter the period where they stop putting numbers on the logo, as Vince apparently thought it would make the event seem too old and un-hip. Because whenever I want to know what’s hip I always want to know what Vince McMahon thinks!
WrestleMania Play Button
WWE Intercontinental Title
Champ: Bad News Barrett Vs Daniel Bryan Vs R-Truth Vs Dolph Ziggler Vs Stardust Vs Dean Ambrose Vs Luke Harper
It’s the opening match of WrestleMania, and you know what that means! I honestly have no idea what the background for this match is, but I’m guessing all of these guys were 50/50ing each other in the mid-card and they decided to throw them all in a multi-man match at Mania, with the ladder stipulation ensuring it will be an exciting opener?
Truth supposedly has a fear of heights, which might come up in a ladder match. We of course get our parade of dives to start, with the crowd enjoying that. The sun is blazing during this and I can only imagine how hot the ring canvas was out there. Taking bumps on that is probably not a lot of fun, especially if you are wrestling shirtless like a lot of these guys are.
Stardust is Cody Rhodes doing a wacky face painted gimmick, which he totally committed to and it remains a character that has its fans. Personally I think they should have had him go back to Cody Rhodes after a certain point, but that didn’t end up happening. He even brings out a sparkly ladder at one stage in a funny gag, although Barret ends up smashing it up and hitting Stardust with chunks of it. Well that’s just plain inconsiderate on his part!
Harper does the old Terry Funk windmill spot with the ladder at one stage, which is always a fun thing to do in one of these matches. Ambrose ends up taking the now mandatory bump through a ladder courtesy of Harper, which I think will remove him from proceedings. Barrett eventually runs wild with some elbow strikes, taking out everyone except Bryan, who cuts him off just as he’s about to get his belt. Bryan ends up taking him out with a Busaiku Knee though and the fights off Ziggler to claim the belt.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: DANIEL BRYAN
This was good fun but it didn’t really feel like a classic or anything to me. The big spots looked good and there was some nice intensity in the closing stages, but it just didn’t rock my world as much as I thought it would for some reason. I certainly appreciated the hard work from everyone though, as they went all out to have the most exciting match they could. Sadly Bryan’s reign wouldn’t last for too long as he had to step away from wrestling for three years due to injuries.
WWE Intercontinental Title
Champ: Kevin Owens Vs Sami Zayn Vs The Miz Vs Dolph Ziggler Vs Zack Ryder Vs Sin Cara Vs Stardust
Because it worked so well the previous year, we get it again. Annoyingly the entrances get ruined somewhat as we have to see the parade of international announce teams getting introduced instead. Sadly we don’t have an England based announce team so we can listen to people actually speak properly.
Owens and Zayn had the biggest issue between everyone in the match, so their exchanges get by far the loudest reactions. Zayn gets one of the more impressive looking sequences in the match, as he dives through a ladder onto everyone else and then dives through the ropes to DDT Owens on the floor for good measure. It’s clear that the fans really want him to win.
Sin Cara (not Mistico) gets a pretty impressive dive of his own at one stage by jumping off the ropes first before diving onto everyone outside the ring. Ryder is probably the secondary favourite with the crowd, as they get excited when it looks like he’ll give Ziggler a Rough Ryder. Stardust does the Dusty “tribute” by bringing out a polka dot ladder (I use quotation marks because Dusty hated the dots and his greatest fear was them being the thing he was most remembered for) and Owens chucks that into the aisle at one stage for cheap heat.
Owens’ big spot is laying Zayn on a ladder and following up with a Frogsplash, whilst Ryder comes off the ladder with an elbow drop onto Miz at one stage for his big spot. They’ve done a good job letting everyone have a moment to shine in this one, with someone getting a big move and then another guy coming in to take them out when it’s time for their big move/spot.
There is actually some selling in here as well, with Owens selling his arm at one stage whilst Ziggler comes up limping after a spill off the ladder, with both injuries slowing the respective guy down at different points. We have our mandatory bump through a table of course, with Sin Cara getting shoved off the ladder all the way through Stardust who is on a ladder outside the ring.
Zayn manages to prevent Owens from winning at one stage to keep their feud cooking, as he suplexes him on a ladder. Owens sell of that was fantastic, as it looked absolutely brutal. The finish is really well done actually, as they tease that Miz, the guy the fans like and respect the least, is going to win, but he stops to taunt them about it and that allows Ryder to come OUTTA NOWHERE to prevent him winning and give the crowd the surprise happy ending.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: ZACK RYDER
I enjoyed this more than the previous ladder match, which is a shout that I’m guessing will put me in the minority. I just felt this one flowed a bit better and they did a better job of letting everyone get a chance to shine. It also benefitted massively from the Owens/Zayn exchanges being both so well done and over with the crowd. Ryder would lose the belt the next night on Raw. Apparently he wasn’t even supposed to win here but everyone else in the match petitioned for him to win so he could get a WrestleMania Moment™, so WWE agreed and let him have a one day Title reign.
AJ Styles Vs Shane McMahon
AJ ran afoul of Shane during his WWE Title reign, with AJ blaming Shane for him missing out on the Mania Title match (even though really it was Daniel Bryan’s fault), thus setting up a feud between them. They tell a simple story here, with AJ being the more skilled wrestler of the two and thus controlling things for the most part, but Shane gets some stuff in of his own, which allows AJ to get angry and frustrated that Shane is actually hanging in there with him.
Now, you can argue as to whether Shane SHOULD be able to hang in there with AJ Styles (The answer is no, no he shouldn’t) but I can’t deny that the execution of the story is done well, even if the story itself is kind of bonkers when you spend more than 5 seconds to think about it. Shane does some stuff on the mat to frustrate AJ early on and then peppers him with punches, but AJ eventually flings him over the announce tables for the cut off and some heat.
Shane is absolutely goosed by the time we reach the heat segment, but AJ manages to hold things together well enough for the most part, even though Shane is soon beet red and looks like he might need some form of medical assistance. Shane makes a comeback after a bit and he honestly looks like he might collapse, and I don’t think it’s selling either, I think he’s legitimately mere moments away from the cold clammy hands of Death.
Shane tries some submission holds and pin counters with AJ, as AJ desperately manages to drag him through it. It’s a truly masterful job on AJ’s part, and he gets his share of chants from the crowd as a result. Shane counters a springboard splash into a triangle at one stage, although the execution is pretty sloppy, and AJ sells it big as a submission tease before muscling Shane up into the Styles Clash for two.
We get the “Boo! Yay!” punches following that, which leads to the referee taking a bump after an errant kick from AJ, leading to AJ getting the Pele on Shane before heading outside for a metal bin. AJ preps Shane for the Van Terminator, but Shane hits AJ with the bin to counter it and then delivers the move himself for a two from the revived referee in a good near fall. The fans totally bought that and AJ timed the kick out well.
Shane preps the announce tables following that, as they’re giving him ALL the smoke, mirrors and shortcuts for this opener here in an effort to make this a good match. AJ manages to dodge the flying elbow though and Shane crashes through the table. Shane still manages to go for a Shooting Star Press back inside, but there’s no water in the pool and AJ gets the Phenomenal Forearm for the clean three count.
WINNER: AJ STYLES
This was as close to a one man show as you’re going to get on a major event like this, as Shane was absolutely bushed after the shine and AJ basically carried him throughout the rest of the bout in order to drag this to being watchable. They also gave Shane FAR too much offence against AJ as well, to the point that it became kind of impossible to suspend disbelief because there was just no way you could believe this exhausted non-wrestler could hang this long with a World Title level guy like AJ. They’d given AJ a decent push prior to this match but it always felt to me that going out there and getting a match this good out of Shane at Mania was what really made Vince fall in love with him.
WWE Intercontinental Title
Champ: The Miz Vs Seth Rollins Vs Finn Balor
Rollins had been placed into the IC Title division for a bit in an effort to make the belt feel a bit more important due to having a former WWE Champ fighting for it. I’ve reviewed this for the website Gaming Respawn before so I’ll just re-use that here as my thoughts on the match haven’t changed much.
Seth either has blue contacts in for his entrance or a very serious case of glaucoma. Miz sends The Miztourage to the back and wants to do this on his own, whilst Finn Balor brings out the LGBT Community with him in a nice touch. Everyone goes for school boy roll ups to start and it ends up with Balor diving outside onto everyone. Back inside, Rollins gets a double blockbuster on both men but Miz cuts him off with a knee to the gut.
Miz works both of his opponents over, as the announcers say he is 22 days away from Pedro Morales’ record as IC Champion. Miz gets a snap DDT for two on Rollins and continues to dominate by putting Balor in the figure four leg lock. However, Rollins comes off the top with a splash onto Miz whilst he has the hold applied. The fight spills outside and Rollins teases power bombing Balor into the barricade, but Balor thankfully slips out and gets a Sling Blade on the floor instead.
Back inside, Balor gets the Saving Grace on Rollins for two. Miz comes back in and goes to superplex Balor, but ends up eating a buckle bomb from Rollins to stop that. Rollins superplexes Balor off the top but, when he tries the Falcon Arrow, Balor counters to small package for two. Miz comes back with The Skull Crushing Finale on Rollins for two, but Balor counters the same move to a cradle for a two of his own.
Balor goes up for the Coup De Grace but Miz jams the ropes and crotches him. Miz’s mid-section is noticeably bruised, but he heads up top to do battle with Balor. Rollins climbs up to fight with them but gets brought down with, what I think was supposed to be, the SCF by Miz. Balor is still up there though and comes down with the Coup De Grace on Miz, but Rollins comes back with Curb Stomps on both men and then pins Miz for the title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SETH ROLLINS
This was an enjoyable opener, as all three men were up for it and worked very hard. Rollins winning here made him a Grand Slam Champion in WWE. Rollins would defeat Miz in a rematch to win that feud and would then trade the belt back and forth with Dolph Ziggler in the summer.
WWE Supreme Global International Super Duper Universal Title
Champ: Bork Laser w/ Paul E. Dangerously Vs Seth Rollins
In storyline this match was supposed to be on later in the show, due to Rollins being the Royal Rumble winner and all, but Brock and Paul join us to say that they aren’t going to wait till later and want to have the match now, which Rollins agrees to. I think they were doing a “Brock prefers UFC” story with him at the time as well in order to get him over as a Heel, but I’d long since checked out of following the product week to week by this stage so I could be off base with that one.
Brock quickly destroys Rollins with an F-5 out on the floor before flinging him into the apron and barricades for good measure. Rollins sells all of that well and this was before they’d killed him off as a babyface with that terrible feud with The Fiend, so the crowd is behind him and wants him to make a comeback as Brock continues to maul him outside the ring and around the announce tables. This is obviously a very effective way to book Brock and get sympathy on Rollins.
Rollins manages to get a undetected low blow to get himself back into the match, which is okay because Brock technically cheated first by jumping Rollins during his entrance, which leads to Rollins getting three Curb Stomps and that’s enough for the flash pin.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SETH ROLLINS
This was fine but was more of an elongated angle than an actual match at points. Rollins sold excellently and the crowd loved it when he was able to win. It’s baffling to me how they had Rollins so over here but they then managed to screw it up all up later in the year. Rollins would end up losing the belt back to Brock when Brock cashed in MITB on him, only for Rollins to then win the belt back at SummerSlam.
And there we go that’s five more openers covered. Next week we’ll have four matches seeing as they switched Mania to two nights from 2020 onwards. I’m obviously not looking forward to the no crowd Mania but I will endure.