Friday, April 7, 2023

Ramblemania 39

Also considered for a tag-line: "The Story Isn't Finished, But Your Push Damn Sure Is!"

Wrestlemania 39 took place last weekend; two nights of Wrestlemania, with one night easily considered to be one of the best Wrestlemania cards ever put together and the other night... well, you know.

This was the first time that I was actively looking forward to a Wrestlemania. Hell, it was the first time that I was actively invested in a major WWE storyline without all of the usual trappings that would be associated with. I was actually enjoying the ride that they were taking me on for the first time in a long, LONG while. I was actually intrigued by how things were going to turn out. And Wrestlemania turned out to be a tale of two shows. One show living up to the hype and delivering the pay-off to one of the most engaging storylines in years and the other... well, you know the old saying about the more things change...

The funny thing is that at the end of night one, I could safely that I had a good time. I will go so far to say that night one was one of the best Wrestlemania cards put together on PPV and it all came together thanks to all the superstars who made it happen. The way I saw it, Night One went down exactly as it should and everything played out exactly as it needed to. It was a good feeling.

But as the good feeling started to fall away, there was a dark thought came to mind. A thought that was fleeting and yet that fleeting moment was enough to cast doubt on the second night. It was the thought that if Night One is where everything would go right, then Night Two is where everything would come crumbling down.

Sure enough...

Okay, let's get this over with.

April 1st, 2023

The show opens with comedian Kevin Hart narrating over some classic Mania footage... and also some of the not-so-classic stuff. There is also some rather unfunny bits here and there, but on a whole, not a bad open. This is followed by Miz and Snoop Dogg wasting time. This will be a bit of a recurring thing with this show, but that's to be expected.

United States Champion AUSTIN THEORY defeated John Cena to retain the title in a typical John Cena match. If you've seen every single John Cena match in the history of the whole damn universe, you know what to expect. The only thing missing is the crowd chanting "JOHN CENA SUCKS" during the entrance. Eventually, the ref gets bumped, Cena goes for his STFU, Theory taps, Cena notices the ref is down, gets low-blowed by Theory and pinned after his finish for the win.

Street Profits defeated Braun Strowman/Ricochet, The Viking Raiders, and the Alpha Academy in the "Wrestlemania Showcase Showdown" to presumably get a title shot down the road. This was short, this was a bunch of guys doing a bunch of fun bits, and was entertaining enough. Street Profits would then appear on RAW and get killed by the tag champs in a non-title match. So much for that push.

Austin Creed and the UpUpDownDown crew preview the next map with the new WWE video game. Well, at least he's getting paid.

Seth Rollins defeated Logan Paul in a match that featured some dude in a Prime Bottle costume trying to help LP by placing Seth on a table, only for Seth to swap places with the bottle dude so that Paul frogsplash through him instead. I have no idea who this person is, but apparently, they're a big deal. I'll give Paul credit; he's no longer trying to be a white meat babyface and is embracing his douchebaggery. And yes, this was a great little showcase of Seth Rollins carrying the other guy to a great match. I'd sing more praises if I cared one iota about Logan Paul and if Seth Rollins had a better gimmick than some laughing mentally challenged prick with a shitty song that people like to sing because it's easier to remember how to sing it.

Becky Lynch, Lita, and Trish Stratus defeated Bay Ley, Dakota Kai, and Iyo Sky in a thing that happened. Well, at least they got paid.

Rey Mysterio defeated Dominick Mysterio in a fine match between the deadbeat dad and the prison-served son, albeit one that would've been better off without all the run-ins from the Judgment Day people, the LWO people - no, they didn't bring back the LWO; they just gave the name to the current Latin gimmick group... and there was also a dude dressed in cereal... and that Bad Bunny fellow who is supposed to be really popular. The entrances were kinda neat, too; Dominick, fully embracing his time spent in HARD TIME, comes out cuffed and escorted by rent-a-cops while wearing one of Rey's classic masks. Rey, meanwhile, gets the Eddie Guerrero lowrider entrance and even Eddie's last WWE theme plays for a bit before it goes to Rey's regular tune... with Rey sporting a new detailed mask that harkens to the Great Muta's lovely headwear.

Like I said, this was a fine match and I'm glad to see Dominick being able to hold his own against his (fake) father and living up to the legacy of his real one. I would've been much happier if they just kept the run-ins to a minimum, but again, that was to be expected. Still, the crowd was into this one and at the end of the day, the right guy won. This gets a gold star.

Rhea Ripley defeated Smackdown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair via top-rope Riptide finisher to win the title and get her long overdue win back from a couple years back when she lost the NXT Women's title to Baby Flair in an empty Performance Center. I'll be honest; I wasn't feeling this match at all. Anything involving Charlotte Flair is already coming in cold in my book and the only expectation is seeing Rhea win this one. But I will give them this; this was a damn fine match. Both women brought their working boots on this night and did their absolute damndest to make you forget they had a so-so match in an empty warehouse with a disappointing ending. And it's safe to say that they succeeded.

Miz and Snoop Dog waste more time before on-and-off commentator and football guy Pat McAfee comes out and challenges Miz to a match. Snoop Dog makes the match official - because he can - and Pat defeats Miz in a quick match, retaining his "undefeated" Wrestlemania record... because apparently him losing to Vince last year doesn't count. On the other hand, the guy saying this is Michael Cole, who is also "undefeated" at Wrestlemania.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defeated Undisputed Tag-Team Champions THE USOS to win the titles in a tremendous, TREMENDOUS main event that saw a year-ish long storyline pay off in a satisfying fashion. Admittedly, this match started off a bit on the slow side of things, but the longer this went, the more the crowd got into it. And when Sami delivered that final volley of Helluva Kicks to Jey for the final pinfall - with KO cockblocking a run-in from Jimmy - the crowd popped HUGE. There were a lot of twist and turns along this journey and some decisions were questioned along the way, but when all was said and done, the journey came to an end at the right place and at the right time, with the right people being triumphant at the end of the night. And that is how you pay off people's investment in a story.

And that was when a wonderful chapter of WWE storyline came to an end... in more ways than one.

It's worth noting that I was able to watch both Nights each in a single sitting and part of that was because I expected the shows to run at least four hours and they both ended just shy of four hours. And yes, a lot of the runtime was padded with video packages and constant product placement commercials, but for what it's worth, the pacing was largely smooth on both nights.


We open the show with Kevin Hart in a bathrobe... and then the Miz and Snoop Dog welcomes us to Wrestlemania. I guess they kissed and made up.

Brock Lesnar defeated Omos in a match that was short, but sweet. This was all about Lesnar trying to suplex this Omos fellow, who is a genuinely tall bastard. But he'd eventually suplex Omos and give him an F5 for the win. Hey, for what it was, this was a fun little spectacle and the crowd was into it, so that helped a bit.

Ronda Rousey and Shayna Bazler defeated Nattie/Shotzi and two other teams who don't matter in the other "Wrestlemania Showcase Showdown" to get a title shot down the road... or something. This was a thing that happened... with Ronda doing very little because she injured her arm at some point... but she still won the match. Well, at least they got paid.

Bobby Lashley comes out to show off the Andre The Giant trophy that he won at Smackdown by surviving a Jobber Battle Royal. The guy went from possibly having a match with Bray Wyatt (who apparently fell off the face of the Earth... again) to having a token appearance at Mania lifting a jobber trophy... I don't know if this is supposed to be a step up or down, in all honestly.

Intercontinental champion GUNTHER defeated Sheamus and Drew McIntyre in a "three big fuckers beating the fuck out of each other" match to retain the title. Simple, straightforward three-way hoss fight with three big hosses that the crowd was into. For all intents and purposes, this was my party match and while you could debate who should've come out of this the winner, this was really a case where I would've been happy with any of these guys coming out on top... okay, that's a lie. There is no reason for GUNTHER to lose this one. At all. That man is amazing.

RAW Women's Champion Bianca Belair, who comes out to a dance troupe of little kids - I get annoyed with these entrances running long, but even I have to admit that this was a cute act. It also hits a bit different when you find out one of the little girls - the contortionist - found out that her mother had passed away that day and she still went out on stage to perform. That's a level of bravery few people could match under that circumstance and I wish her all the best.

Anyway, so Bianca retains the title over Asuka in a pretty good match. Not quite up to the level of Rhea/Charlotte from night one, but still a fine match on its own and more than makes up for the lousy women's tag matches.

Miz and Snoop Dog do their thing again, which brings out SHANE MCMAHON of all people... SHANE MCMAHON, for fuck's sake... and he challenges Miz to a match. Miz declines, but Snoop Dog makes it official because... I guess he can do that now. So Shane is doing his shuffle and then all of a sudden, he falls down... apparently, he pulled a Nash and tore his quad. You can tell because they stop showing Shane and focus on Miz, who just stands there. And you can also tell Miz isn't very bright because he doesn't call for the bell to end the match and declare him the winner via forfeit; if nothing else, so he could get his win back. And so out of nowhere, Snoop Dog punches Miz and does the People's Elbow before pinning the guy himself. That Snoop Dog sure is a worker; books a match between two people so that he could take the win for himself... but kudos to him for thinking on his feet and making the most out of an ugly situation. Best wishes to Shane McMahon on a speedy recovery, though I'm not sure it was worth the effort.

"Brood" Edge (don't @ me; they actually called him that) defeated "The Demon" Finn Balor in a Hell In A Cell match. The daylight sort of ruined the entrances for both wrestlers; with Edge going back to the old Brood "emerging from the fire pits" schtick and Balor coming out as his Demon alter ego that I don't think he's used in a good long while. Had this been later at night or in a darker stadium, the effect would've been stronger, but regardless, it was a neat moment... not so neat is Edge's weird metal face mask gimmick, but they can't all be winners.

Case in point: Balor suffering a nasty gash causing him to bleed buckets as a result of Edge throwing a ladder his way. So much so that they had Edge throwing shit around to distract from the fact that they had a bunch of doctors and medical personnel stitch this poor bastard up. Other than that, this was a no-holds barred fight within the confines of Hell In A Cell. Not exactly up to the standard of the best Cell matches (not involving people falling off the top of the cage), but it was fairly entertaining. And it was nice to see an Edge match that didn't last five years; this only lasted less than 20 minutes.

Undisputed WWE Champion Roman Reigns defeated Cody Rhodes to retain the title. Look, let me get this out of the way. The match itself was great; quite possibly Cody's best match up to this point both terms of the overall story being told as well as the crowd reactions, which were nowhere near as negative as people had feared going in. This played out almost note for note like the Sami match in Montreal; they test each other, they start slow, things pick up, eventually the run-ins come in with the Usos trying to get their licks in, but KO and Sami come in to nullify that advantage. And just as Cody is about to score the final pin, Paul pops up to distract the ref, allowing that Solo guy to come in and spike Cody, which allows Roman to hit the spear for the pin. Hope you enjoyed your time in the sun, Cody. Have fun chasing the 24/7 title when they eventually bring that back. And to anyone anywhere else hoping to see this as a sign that WWE was changing its ways, let this be a fucking wake up call.

There are people who are going to make excuses over the ending of this thing. "Vince is back in charged and they changed the ending at the last minute because that's a Vince thing to do." Or maybe it was "Uncle Paul's ultimate revenge for Cody wrecking the throne at the first Double Or Nothing show." Or maybe it was "Well, Cody is a bigger star by losing at Wrestlemania, just like Lex Luger was a bigger star by beating Yokozuna at Summerslam via COUNT OUT." You can make all the excuses under the sun and thensome as to why the ending turned out the way it did, but the fact of the matter is this; this whole Cody run was about "finishing the story." That was the end goal, that was what was promised, and that's what should have happened.

Night One proved that WWE could pull off a satisfying conclusion to a long story. Night One proved that you can have a show that ends as it should and still make it a genuinely powerful feelgood moment. Once again, this was the easiest fucking thing to book. This was the easiest story to pay off. This should have been the end of the story... and instead, WWE continues to do what they do better than anyone in the world and that's find a way to take the simplest thing in the world and muck it all up.

Here's the sad thing. Night 1 proved that they can tell a story right. KO/Sami winning the tag titles over the Usos was the right call, so I will give them credit on that count. On top of that, you had a tremendous undercard to support that great main event. That one night alone is a worthy Wrestlemania card that's worth watching. Night 2 could've been that and while the matches on this second night weren't as great as the first, it was still a tremendously fun show that came to a screeching halt at the very end.

I am not afraid to admit that they got me with this one. I am often cynical of every "big" WWE storyline that comes along because I'm waiting for the moment where it all falls apart because it almost always does. But this was a case where everything was going so well that I felt that maybe... just maybe... this was going to play out. I gave them the benefit of the doubt on this occasion that things would pay off in a satisfying way. I will not make that same mistake again.

You know what, kids? It's been fun... and bummer ending in the main event aside, Wrestlemania 39 was a solid card across both nights with a lot of great stuff among the padding and few downer moments (along with the downeriest moment of all), but this is where I get off the WWE train for a little bit. Hell, I may well as take a break from this modern rasslin thing a shot. I'll put

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