The ultimate thrill ride.
The Superbowl of wrestling.
Welcome to the emotion!
This is WrestleMania!
WrestleMania 33 was broadcast live from Orlando, Florida on Sunday, April 2nd. The four hour pay-per-view spectacle was figuratively, and literally, a roller coaster. Orlando’s Camping World Stadium was host to WWE’s (World Wrestling Entertainment) headline event of the year. Inside was the annual 80-yard runway entrance, an actual roller coaster (not actually rideable), a Hulk-sized wrestling ring above the actual ring, and a WWE replica of the trademark Disney World globe. Even I, a former die-hard WWE fan, was impressed by the set-up.
Back in the day, I was the number one member of the WWE universe. I went to multiple pay-per view events, including Hell in a Cell, Fatal Four Way, TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, and even WrestleMania 29. I had the action figures, a healthy amount of WWE Xbox games, and I still have a replica of the WWE championship title belt. I sadly started to grow out of the WWE universe once I realized that I probably ever be have the chance to walk down that WrestleMania stage. But I still try to watch WrestleMania every year, because anything can happen at WrestleMania, even a Rob Gronkowski appearance.
The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal was an exciting way to kick off the program. A battle royal is when all contestants are in the ring at the same time, and the only way to eliminate each other is to toss one another over the top rope. Last man standing wins. This year’s battle royal consisted of 26 superstars. As the match went into its final stages, participant Jinder Mahal took NFL star Rob Gronkowski’s drink and threw it into his face. Gronkowski stepped over the guardrail and delivered a Gronk spear to Mahal to help his friend Mojo Rawley win the match.
The main card of the show kicked off with the phenomenal AJ Styles against former WWE CEO Shane McMahon. The son of head chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, Shane returned full-time to WWE this year to resume his 12-year wrestling career and joint control of the company. Styles and McMahon scheduled a match for the big stage after Styles launched Shane through a car window. The no–disqualification match was majestic. The match was filled with highlights, such as a miscalculated shooting star press from the top rope, a countered elbow drop through the announcers’ table, and a vintage coast-to-coast by McMahon. In the end, Styles outlasted McMahon and sent a message to wrestlers backstage that, “He’s coming.”
Veteran and icon of the attitude era Chris Jericho was back for yet another WrestleMania. His match for the US title, with former tag team partner Kevin Owens, nearly stole the show. Jericho started out in control, but Owens later turned the match into a fight. Each wrestler gracefully countered each other’s signature moves. After barely escaping a pinfall late in the match, Owens’ ring savviness turned out to be the difference. He power-bombed Jericho to become the new U.S. champion.
Now onto possibly on of the most colossal surprises in WrestleMania history. Another team was added to the triple threat tag team ladder match for the WWE Tag Team titles. Matt and Jeff Hardy, the Hardy Boyz, also known as team Xtreme, were back. After seven long years, my two favorite wrestlers had returned.
The high-flying, risk-taking tag team drew “This is Awesome” chants from the record crowd. Their ladder match versus Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Cesaro and Sheamus, and Enzo Amore and Big Cass had the perfect amount of steel ladders hitting flesh to satisfy the average customer.
Both Matt and Jeff hit their signature moves off the tops of ladders. They came back to the WWE for the first time in seven years to a grueling ladder match, to which they showed every viewer that they still had it. Matt climbed the ladder and unbuckled the titles to become tag team champions with Jeff for their seventh time. All was right in the world for just a moment.
The next match was a mixed tag team match (A man and a woman versus another man and woman). Poster boy and face of the WWE, John Cena, teamed up with long-time girlfriend Nikki Bella. The couple’s relationship has been brought into the spotlight from the reality TV series on the E! network: Total Divas. Their opponents, The Miz and Maryse, are also a WWE power couple. The match had been brewing for sometime after The Miz and Maryse started mocking Cena and Bella for having a fake relationship. NBC’s Today Show weatherman Al Roker served as the special guest ring announcer, as Cena and Bella rallied after falling behind early to hit a simultaneous five-knuckle shuffles for the win. But what came after overshadowed the match. After three years of dating, Cena got down on one knee and pulled out a ring big enough to serve as an ice skating rink for mice. After some public words and kisses, Cena and Bella shared some private heartfelt words as they hugged and walked arm-in-arm into their own sunset.
The next match, or street fight, consisted of a former mentor and student. The king of kings, Triple H, took on former WWE champion Seth Rollins. The two agreed on a match that was unsanctioned by the WWE, due to the amount of destruction and pain the two guaranteed to inflict on each other. Triple H targeted Rollins’ surgically repaired knee, keeping him from controlling the tempo. I think everyone’s favorite moment was when Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter and Triple H’s wife, was ringside and tried to interfere with the match. Rollins escaped Stephanie’s grapple and super-kicked Triple H into her, sending her through a table. Rollins finished the job and hit Triple H with his own move, the pedigree, to win it.
The next match took the title as the creepiest match of the night. The Viper, Randy Orton, known for his internet-famous RKOs, took on one of WWE’s scariest superstars, Bray Wyatt. The match was for the WWE championship, a titled captured by Bray Wyatt at the Elimination Chamber pay-per view on February 12. Orton is coming of his second Royal Rumble victory. Whoever wins the Royal Rumble is guaranteed a spot in the WWE Championship title match at WrestleMania. The match was highlighted by the mind games and ring displays put on by Wyatt. The match finished with Orton walking away champion after a finishing RKO.
Brock Lesnar’s feud with Goldberg finally ended (we think) after thirteen years. Their string of quick matches continued at WrestleMania. Brock took Goldberg to his world-renowned Suplex City. Goldberg answered with a spear through the barricade. The match was too quick as usual, with Lesnar finishing him off with his patented F-5 to become the new WWE Universal champion.
The main event of the night was a man who strikes fear into opponents and viewers, and who was once 21-0 at WrestleMania. The Undertaker, after falling to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, was back to defend his WrestleMania dominance. His opponent, Roman Reigns, wanted to show the Undertaker that the WWE is now his yard. The legendary Jim Ross came back to commentate the match, immediately increasing the quality. The titans traded haymakers all match. The Undertaker refused to lay down after taking spear after spear and a barrage of Superman punches. The Undertaker gave Reigns everything he had but couldn’t kick out of a pin just one more time. Reigns came out victorious. The Undertaker finally rose up from the mat to the 75,245 fans chanting “Thank you Taker.” The Undertaker laid his hat and gloves in the middle of the mat and said goodbye to WrestleMania and the WWE universe, for what looks like the last time. He finished his outstanding career, 23-2 at WrestleMania.
WrestleMania returns for its 34th show on April 2, 2018 in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
All photos courtesy of WWE.