WWE WrestleMania 34 Review: 08/04/2018
WWE's hallmark pay-per-view event of the year, Wrestlemania, returned this weekend with its 34th edition. The event was headlined by a WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, a WWE Universal Championship bout between Brock Lesner and Roman Reigns, and is an event that features the return of Daniel Bryan. The Hype Train provides an in-depth review of WrestleMania 34. All aboard.
WWE WrestleMania 2018: The Card
Wrestlemania was over 7 hours long in total, with 14 matches spanning the event. A total of 3 bouts were live on the Kickoff, and 11 matches graced the main card at Mania.
The event was headlined by Brock Lesner defending his WWE Universal Championship against Roman Reigns.
WWE WrestleMania 2018: Predictions Article
Heading into WrestleMania our team here provided predictions for the event, which you can view by clicking here, or by engaging with the Tweet below.
We also provided running commentary and insight of the event over at @THTwrestling, so check out what we thought in the moment as we watched the event live.
WWE WrestleMania 34: Review
When an event is 7 hours long it is impossible to get a snapshot or a nailed on review that will cover all the bases, as there will at some point during WrestleMania have been something that an individual would have liked. 14 matches, hundreds or wrestlers, returns, heel turns, title changes, and messed up main events, will offer infinite discussion points (some good, some bad), but after reviewing our predictions we'll start at what we thought going in to Mania.
With @HypeTrainRob managing 7/14 correct predictions at WWE's showcase event (the highest number from our team), you could definitely make the case for Mania being unpredictable, and on the whole there were a few matches that nobody would have saw coming.
Wins for Charlotte Flair and AJ Styles against Royal Rumble winners Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura were hugely unexpected, as was a Nakamura heel turn against Styles. The main event saw Brock Lesner also successfully defend his Universal Championship against rumoured favourite, Roman Reigns, which was never supposed to happen. You also had multi-person matches for both of the mid-card titles (United States and Intercontinental), with Jinder Mahal winning against the odds of fan favourite Rusev and bookies favourite, Randy Orton.
Both sets of Tag Team titles changed hands, with nobody on planet earth expecting Braun Strowman's mystery partner to be a small child called Nicholas.
When we look back at history at WWE in general, we should have seen this coming. Titles don't carry the same weight as they once did, with the company using defences as a way to shock the crowd, so tonight they weren't afraid to reverse pretty much every decision heading into Mania. In any other year, Reigns and Asuka would have been victorious.
The only plot of WrestleMania that was slightly predictable but the marquee matches that didn't involve titles. John Cena got his match with The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan was successful on his return, and Ronda Rousey won on her WWE debut. The word predictable here doesn't do justice to the point we're trying to make here, as all three of the instances above were massively entertaining and delivered the fans what they paid to see.
The good at WrestleMania 34...
On the whole, WrestleMania this year was a thoroughly entertaining night, and would have been regarded as one of, if not thee, best Mania of all time, had it not been for the final hour of the show.
The Intercontinental Championship match to kick off the main card was a fine opener, even if the build to the match in weeks prior lacked any steam.
Charlotte and Asuka's match was the second best match of the night in our opinion, behind the mixed tag team match with Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle.
SmackDown Live would then go on to pee in the cornflakes by having Rusev eat a pinfall by the widely unpopular Jinder Mahal to become US Champion, but we've placed this as a good moment as Jinder did everything that was required of him to get the heat from a very loud crowd in New Orleans, and plus taking the belt away from Randy Orton was a welcome sight regardless of the winner.
We then witnessed match of the night, with Ronda Rousey's WWE exceeding expectations. Rousey was agile, quick, and demonstrably a bad-ass in the ring. The live audience were hot for her tag into the match, and her presence and overall in-ring work was a delight to watch. This match felt like a big deal from the entrances to the end cutaway and will live long in the memory of wrestling fans, which is a great plus to have on opening day for Rousey's career.
After calling out The Undertaker (no, we didn't like his promos leading up to Mania), John Cena was very entertaining at ringside as a fan for the first portion of the show, and even though the resulting skit with with Elias was forgettable, The Undertaker's eventual return was worth the wait. Undertaker squashed Cena, and it was everything it needed to be, which was great viewing. WWE wet our lips and now after a year of many people wishing The Undertaker to stay retired, will probably want more of The Deadman next year in New York.
Daniel Bryan's return was also entertaining, even though the two-thirds of the contest was a slow grind that never went anywhere. Shane McMahon wrestled for long stretches of the match on his own, before the tag to Bryan reminded everybody very quickly of how slick and natural Daniel Bryan is in the ring.
Nia Jax would then rightfully claim the RAW Women's Championship as WWE booked the angle with Alexa Bliss into a corner. The 'bully' was never leaving with the belt, and even though we haven't been fans of Jax over the past year (they have treated her like a glorified jobber in every big match), it was refreshing to see her lift the gold at Mania. On the whole, the women stole at WrestleMania this year, something we didn't think we'd be saying with so much male talent on show.
The bad at WrestleMania 34...
This section is going to cover the last hour of the show, but first we're just going to acknowledge the mess of a SmackDown Tag Team title match. Mania went out of its way to make a mockery of the RAW belts by having a child win it, so to combat that they should have had the best tag team of the year hold the ranks on the other brand, but instead Harper and Rowan won in a slow match which featured a terrible entrance by The New Day, on a night which The Usos could have crowned their fantastic year.
If Mania had ended at its 4th hour, everything would have been fine, but it just kept going and going, and eventually lived long enough to see itself become its own villain.
AJ and Nakamura wrestled a slow, methodical match that never managed to get into a high gear. AJ's eventual victory reminded us of how softly Nakamura fell to Jinder Mahal in the fall of last year for the WWE Championship. The company went a long way to redeem the match by having Nakamura turn on AJ in the post-match celebrations, with Styles hit in the crown jewels during a moment of respect, but it didn't do enough to have us forget that there has been a missing ingredient in Nakamura since moving up to the main roster. Maybe some character development might do the Japanese star some good in the months to come.
WWE then turned full 'WCW' by doing something out of Vince Russo's wet dreams at night, having Braun Strowman team with a child named Nicholas for the RAW Tag titles against Sheamus and Cesaro. If that isn't bonkers enough, The Bar's entrance was on a float of massive heads in the theme of the WrestleMania adverts we've been seeing.
We're not going to lie about what we thought of the match itself, but we thought that Michael Cole (who gets a lot of rightful flack for some stale, force-fed commentary lines) was brilliant in this match, and the match as a whole was totally different and entertaining in every way, shape, and form. Strowman going for a hot tag and Cole's subsequent commentary screaming that 'Nicholas is legal' had our team in hysterics (we don't know if for the right or wrong reasons). This definitely deserves to be in the 'good' portion of Mania, but we do understand the wider concern that this decision to have a random kid hold the tag title is what turns a lot of people off the product, especially when you see how good a serious product like NXT is at big Takeover events.
Braun Strowman should have won the Universal Championship tonight (and most fans would have agreed that he deserved the shot in the Elimination Chamber), and on the balance of Mania it would have been a great closer to the show. Instead, we're now slightly worried that antics involving Nicholas might derail everyone's hopes of him being the 'guy' in WWE.
Instead of Braun in the main event, we got another match between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesner for the Universal Championship, and even though it was a spectacle alright, it was one made for all the wrong reasons. The match was nothing short of terrible, the fans in the live crowd didn't care, and the Roman Reigns project continued to fail at the big stages.
The match had long pauses with Brock Lesner trying to find out new ways to hurt Roman Reigns. All these pauses did was allow for chanting 'this is awful', 'boring', and 'CM Punk', which is pretty much the way the WWE crowd tells you that a change is needed.
The only salvation of the main event was Lesner winning, as we don't think we wanted to see history repeat itself, and by that we mean another 'crowning' moment for Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, with the company insistent that he is the 'guy', even though it is more obvious than ever that he is just standing in the way of a natural successor like Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, or AJ Styles.
We've got nothing good to say about the main event, from the potential blade-job to Roman in the closing stages, to how the commentary team repeatedly saying that Seth Rollins 'ruined' their previous main event Mania clash by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract, which in fact saved the encounter.
Mania ended on an extremely damp note, to an otherwise highly entertaining night, which saw time fly by until we were made to stand still in the mess of that main event.
Our overall impression of WrestleMania 34...
WWE pay-per-views over the last year have had a tendency to start strong with its workhorses laying the foundations for a good show, only for the main events to usually implode and cast a dark shadow on the good work that came before it. WrestleMania this year was exactly that.
A litany of very good matches had Mania steaming along to be one of its best ever events, and then the last hour of the show confounded every fear and pet-hate that fans have with WWE in 2018. Strong wrestling matches overshadowed by corny angles, with Vince McMahon's chosen few disappointing when it matters, making you not want to watch the product again because of how out of touch a section of the company has become, despite having so much to offer if the likes of Vince just opened their eyes wider to the array of talent (the Samoa Joe's, the Bobby Roode's) that could turn this company into hot property once again.
In parts, Mania is being pulled in different creative directions, with many visions of the product trying to create a consistent show, only failing to create a proper balance. Change is needed in WWE to end the inconsistency with its regular content on TV and pay-per-views, otherwise we're left ending this review on a downer, much like Mania did to the millions watching.
WWE WrestleMania 34: Match Results
Kickoff; Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal: Matt Hardy was victorious, last eliminating previous winners Mojo Rawley and Baron Corbin with the help of Bray Wyatt
Kickoff; WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal: Naomi was victorious, last defeating Bayley to become the first winner of the trophy
Kickoff; Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander def. Mustafa Ali to win the vacated title
Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins def. The Miz (C) and Finn Balor
SmackDown Women's Championship: Charlotte Flair (C) def. Asuka
US Championship: Jinder Mahal def. Randy Orton (C), Bobby Roode, and Rusev
Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey def. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon
SmackDown Tag Titles: The Bludgeon Brothers def. The Usos (C) and The New Day
The Undertaker def. John Cena
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon def. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
RAW Women's Championship: Nia Jax def. Alexa Bliss (C)
WWE Championship: AJ Styles (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
RAW Tag Titles: Braun Strowman & Nicholas def. Sheamus & Cesaro (C)
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesner (C) def. Roman Reigns
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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.
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The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.