IMPORTANT NOTES

September 15th, 2019 will see the return of regular daily posting.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

4186 - RAMBLEMANIA 35



So it's a history making night at Wrestlemania... depending on who you ask.

To WWE, all its contracted talent and employees as well as the most diehard of diehard fanbase, it was the event where women took part in the closing main event spot for the first time ever. It was the event where Kofi Kingston became the first black man to hold the prestigious WWE World Heavyweight Championship (assuming you don't count the Rock, of course.) It was the event where Kurt Angle and Dave Bautista had their final matches as professional wrestlers and WWE Superstars.

To everyone else, it was the longest fucking sports entertainment show in the history of mankind... no, not THAT Mankind.

While I had not been excited to watch Mania this year - primarily due to the booking and storytelling being somewhat lackluster in getting me excited for this show - I was able to catch the first couple hours or so live before dozing off to bed... and then a week and a half would pass before I'd get around to watching the rest of it. And even then, it took me a couple days to get through the rest of it because... well, let's just get into it.

I'm not going to touch on the pre-show because I generally don't watch the pre-shows. But for anyone who cares, Carmella won the women's geek battle royal, Braun Strowman won the men's geek battle royal, we got a new Cruiserweight champion in Tony Nese, and apparently Curt Hawkins went from "guy who lost 2 billion matches in a row" to RAW Tag-Team Champion with Zack Ryder, as they defeated previous champs The Revival for the belts. Make of that what you will because I've no real thoughts on the matter.


Day One Viewing
So the show opens with Wrestlemania host Alexa Bliss re-introducing the world to Hulk Hogan - he of the orange tan, the Gawker sex tapes, and racist talk - and he's cheered by New York because at the end of the day, the WWE Universe is a forgiving bunch despite claims to the contrary. And then Paul Heyman shows up and demands that we have the Seth vs. Brock match to get it out of the way. Good diea

And so, in our opening contest, Seth Rollins defeated Red Belt holder Brock Lesnar after a swift kick in the junk and a couple curbstomps to win the prop in relatively quick fashion. I like this because it was nice and short... no need for extended periods of tiresome suplexes or kicking out of a billion finishers. Just a couple quick moves, an opportunity taken, a couple big moves, and a finish. That's it, that's all, Seth gets his big moment and the crowd is largely happy. And to anyone who says they should've had a longer match... FUCK YOU. THIS WAS PERFECT!

AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton in a pretty fun match whose only real highlight was people in the arena complaining about a bright light flashing in their face for most of the time. When the people finally popped, it was because the light was turned off. When the only highlight is people cheering for the lights getting turned off, that's a little disconcerting. It's a shame that light couldn't do anything about the abhorrent 3D graphics that show up on screen because good god, they look awful. It's like something that was rendered on a Playstation 2 and upscaled to modern standards. It's not that the graphics themselves are terrible, but they look really bad when inserted into the live shots.

You'll notice that I spent more time on the graphics and lighting than on the match itself. I should probably rectify that by re-iterating that it was a pretty fun little match.

Smackdown tag-team champions The Usos defeated three other teams who don't matter to retain the titles. Hey, you might as well tell it like it is and to be honest, I kinda zoned out here and paid very little attention. Which is a shame, because it's a tag-title match and you have eight talented individuals in that squared circle busting their asses to put on the best possible match... but then I've never been a fan of these one-fall four-ways... add in elimination rules and then maybe I'd pay attention... in any event. the Usos would lose the titles to the Hardys a couple days later on Smackdown and make the jump to RAW... in case anybody cared.

Shane McMahon defeated The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere match when Miz hit a big suplex on Shane off some structure somewhere and Shane's arm was on top of Miz in the aftermath, which counts as a pinfall and making Miz look like an even bigger geek than usual. This should've been a fun match because whenever you have these Falls Count Anywhere matches and you go just about anywhere, they tend to be fun for a laugh... but it's Shane McMahon vs. The Miz, a feud I could not care about in 2019. The only highlight here seems to be Shane punching out Miz's dad, who sold the punch like a champ and might have a future in sports-entertainment.

The 2Conics defeated Women's Tag-Team champs Sasha/Bayley, Nattie/Beth, and some other team I completely forgot about to win the titles. What was it I said about the tag titles being treated like an afterthought? The funny thing was that when I heard the 2Conics were going to be inserted into the match, I knew right away that the 2Conics would win because I wouldn't put it past WWE to give their newly minted tag titles to the geek tag team. As for the match itself... it's a four-way, it's not that interesting, and it's mostly background noise... which might seem cruel, but at least it's a step above "obligatory bathroom break."

Kofi Kingston defeated WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan Danielson to win the title in what felt like the only real highlight in the entire viewing experience. Say what you will about the booking being sloppy and the storytelling being nonsensical and stupid, but when it came down to showtime, you've got two of the best wrestlers in WWE giving people a really fucking awesome match that made you believe that it could've gone either way. And on this day, we went with the happy ending of Kofi beating the champion to win his first World title in what felt like the first genuine Wrestlemania-worthy moment. It was a feel good moment with a workhorse who has been in the promotion for over a decade and finally got what many felt he should have gotten ages ago. The fact that people reacted in an overwhelmingly positive way, cheering Kofi for his climbing the mountain, gave this whole match that Wrestlemania main event feel that had eluded such "main events" in the past few years. And if the show had ended here, it would've capped off a largely so-so Mania with a satisfying ending that made people happy... if only.

Per my personal rule regarding the viewing of PPVs on the WWE Network, I pause after the conclusion of the WWE championship match with the intent of watching the rest at a later time. If only I knew how much later that time would be...

Day Two Viewing
A week has passed since my last viewing.

So I restart the show and I see two random geeks who are apparently stars from Saturday Night Live, a show I haven't watched in decades since the show had some semblance of actual funny talent. And then Scott Hall and Kevin Nash come in dressed as doctors and ready to give the jabronis a prostate exam.

United States champion Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio in relatively quick fashion to retain the title. No, seriously. Rey hit his spots early on before Joe killed him and won via submission. I don't know if this was always the plan or if it was due to Mysterio not quite up to par after suffering a leg injury, but in either case, I appreciate the quick victory. Both in terms of keeping the show and also in terms of presenting Joe as a vicious killer in the Joe kingdom.

Speaking of Joes... Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre in a match where the crowd was booing because nobody wanted to do the wave or something. This was a thing that happened... and that's all I could really say on it. Look, bless Roman; he's able to do the wrestling thing again and I don't want to take anything away from his recovery... but once you take that angle away, I'm left with the same quandary that I had with Roman before he left; why am I supposed to care about him? And what makes it worse is that the reactions to Roman is that of confusion; because they don't want to cheer the guy, but they also don't want to boo the guy and so it's like... "Now what?" Once the shine from his recovery has dulled, which way does he go?

So there's an Elias concert; a video where he plays drums and piano through some clever editing. And then Elias tries to play his GEE-TAR, only for a video of Babe Ruth to play on the screen before we get Word Life blaring in the arena. Yes, kids. John Cena, the doctor of thuganomics who eventually became a puppet of whoranomics, is doing the throwback thing and getting into rap battles with Elias, which is just about the best use for old man Cena at this point. This was actually better than I was dreading and Cena was in top form here in his dirty limmericking, so I'm not going to complain about something that I probably would've had I been watching this live from the beginning.

HHH defeated Batista in a No Holds Barred match thanks to a distraction from Ric Flair, who decided to show up after fifty years of two old men hitting each other with stairs and hammers, trying to break tables and failing miserably, nose rings getting pulled in an otherwise cringeworthy moment, and just going on forever. Per stipulations, HHH's career was on the line and because he won, he can still do his two matches a year in that one country we're not supposed to talk about. This match was sad to watch. Poor Dave got into the ring and tripped, which got a couple chuckles... give him the benefit of a doubt; he's a bit rusty and stuff. HHH has a Mad Max-themed entrance this year featuring a cheesy CGI-sequence of road blasters in the desert or something. It's probably one of the hokiest things I've seen and probably should've been a sign of things to come.

The end result was inevitable and I had no problem with it. HHH needed to get his win back and Dave was more than happy to oblige as thanks for getting him over during his prime years when he was in his forties. As much as people would've liked Batista face off against someone else, he wanted this match with Hunter to do the favors and I applaud him for ending his wrestling career on his terms because that's not something that happens often in this business if the horror stories are to be believed.

And to be fair, when both guys were in their primes, they had some really great matches, including Hunter's only really good Mania main event. Unfortunately, both men are now older, slower, and more plodding... and the end results speak for themselves. This was sad to watch. This was Roddy vs. Lawler at KOTR 94 sad, this was Age In The Cage sad, this was Superstar Slowdown sad. This is like watching two old grandpas trying to play fight each other while being careful not to break their hips or lose their dentures. I mean, god bless those two, but the magic is gone. And I was just too depressed to keep going.

Day Three Viewing
So on my third day of viewing, which took place a couple days later, I remind myself that Hunter got his win back in a match that needed more than Geritol tabs to keep the energy up. Nonetheless, with only a couple matches to go, I tread onwards.

Baron Corbin defeated Kurt Angle in his retirement match. And despite everyone else hoping that this would be a quick victory and we'd get a "proper" final match against a proper opponent such as John Cena or whatever, this was a full match that saw Corbin defeat Angle in what was perceived as a shocking upset... but really, if you had paid attention to Angle's past few matches, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise.

The match was a thing that happened... and with regards to the end result, I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, Angle is doing the time-honored tradition of going out on his back for his last match. And while one would prefer his final match be against some other old guy, it made sense for Angle to "put over" a younger guy and give him the rub. It's why I had no problem with Roman beating Taker on that one match because it's what a bigger star is supposed to do in his twilight years; give the rub to the younger star and make him look strong with the crowd.

On the other hand... I honestly don't see what the big deal with Baron Corbin. Even when he was just tall wrestling with the long hair and receding hairline, the guy never blew me away and came off as a tall geek who pissed and moaned on Twitter than he did "big tough guy." In his current form and especially during that whole constable stupidity, Corbin isn't a good heel; he doesn't make me want to hate him so badly that I pay to see him get his ass kicked. He makes me want to turn off the show and find something better to do with my time. It's not entirely his fault; the blame falls on creative as well. But when I see a roster full of potentially more interesting characters waiting in the wings and the one getting all the attention is someone who has killed ratings faster than McSon-In-Law's stint as World champion has throughout the early 2000s, it re-affirms that my decision to skip the weekly shows entirely is a sound one indeed.

The DEMON Finn Balor defeated Intercontinental champion Bobby Lashley in a relatively short match to win the title. Because that's what Finn needed to beat a guy he had already beaten for the belt; an overblown entrance and PAINT! And hey, you know what? I get a kick out of watching that whole production and under the right circumstances, it would've added a bit of a mystique to the aura of Finn Balor. But this late in the game, even on the third chunk of viewing, this was just a thing that happened with people who just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

Day Four Viewing
Yes, it took me FOUR DAYS to watch this fucking show.

So we have our main event. Our history making main event that we're all supposed to care about... but we don't, because it's too fucking long, it's way past midnight, and yet despite all that, we're still going to fit in this stupid cutscene where Baby Flair is riding a helicopter and I'm already losing my patience despite having just RESUMED this show a couple days afterwards. In an effort to make this seem special, they brought in Joan Jett to do a live performance of Cold Ronda's "Bad Reputation" theme. And then out comes Becky in what seems like the most ridiculous and bowling shoe ugly outfit I've seen lately; this awkward leather top that seems to have been pulled from a BDSM site or something.

Anyway, Becky Lynch defeated RAW Women's Champion Cold Ronda Drowsey and Smackdown Women's Champion Baby Flair in a triple-threat match featuring a botched finish to win both titles. Said botch finish features Becky rolling up Ronda and Ronda getting a shoulder up, only for the ref to count the three-count anyway because all he knows is that's the finish and subconsciously, he just wants this shit over and done with. I want to believe it's the latter and declare that ref a hero from ending this farce of a show early so that I can recognize his sacrifice entailing a chunk of change and a chewing out.

So WWE got their wish. They made "history" with this first-ever women's main event. And under any other circumstance, they deserve the spotlight. They deserve the opportunity. But not this night... on this night, they didn't deserve the main event spot. They deserved something better... like a receptive crowd who was into their match, not a crowd who was tired and wanted to fuck off out of the arena hours ago, only reacting when Becky won. Time was not on their side on this night... and to make matters worse, the match itself was merely pedestrian fare with a couple table spots tossed in for good measure. There was no rhyme, no reason, no excitement, no investment... it was just a match with nothing special about it... much like every "history-making" women's main event in WWE.

A great match - and especially a truly great main event worthy of Wrestlemania - would've had no problem getting the crowd invested into the show and not worry about the time. This women's three-way didn't get the job done and it's not their fault. This needed to be a one-on-one match and it needed to be focused in its storytelling... and instead, we got this. When the biggest takeaway from the show was that it was too fucking long rather than anything that happened on the show, that's a problem that needs to be rectified, but probably won't be.

Final Thoughts
So I will be completely honest with you; if there was ever a show that could have completely killed off my interest in the current WWE product once and for all, it would've been a straight 10-hour viewing of the entire Wrestlemania show. How other people are able to endure this; I'll never know because it's too damned taxing. That's part of the reason why I watch these shows in chunks and that method certainly helped in my enjoyment of the shows... or at the least, diminished my contempt for some of these truly horrible shows.

Wrestlemania 35 - and yes, I still use the numbers even if Vince doesn't - challenged that methodology. Perhaps not to the extent that it challenged New Jersey transit at the post-show, but it was a struggle to care enough to go back and watch these shows. It's one thing when it's a minor PPV show like a Backlash or Money In The Bank which can been skipped for the most part, but Wrestlemania is supposed to be the big show - no pun intended. It's the one show that even if you forget everything else, you'll remember what happened at Mania.

Now that's a discussion for another time, but as far as the show itself is concerned... it was a case where once you've seen Kofi get his first World title, nothing else mattered and everything else becomes an afterthought... and I'm afraid it's deservingly so. Roman's big return is a nothing match, the No Holds Barred between two old men was more sad to watch than entertaining, and by the time you got to the much vaunted main event, it was just... a match with a messed up finish. And come next year, there's a pretty good chance I'm going to forget anything that happened on this show. Even Kofi's big moment may very well be an afterthought after a while, which is a shame because it was a great match and it was a genuine Wrestlemania moment.

So that's it, ladies and gentlemen. Another year, another Wrestlemania in the books, and I'll be damned if I remember any of it. I wish I could've been a happier camper who thought this was a great show... but even in multiple chunks - a strategy that has made long WWE PPVs tolerable in the past to a point - Wrestlemania was a chore to watch. It was a show that needed to be spectacular and worthy of the name... and it ultimately wasn't that.

And that is truly a shame.

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