Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 33 - WWE Wrestlemania Sun (2017)

Date: April 2nd, 2017
Venue: Camping World Stadium - Orlando, Florida
Attendance: 64,900

I forgot about the roller coaster set that they had for this show... to sort of live up to that "Ultimate Thrill Ride" tagline that was used to promote this - the thirty-third edition of the Showcase Of The Immortals, the Show Of Shows, the Grandest Stage of them all... I still maintain that they need to bring back the ring carts. I always thought those brought in a nice bit of class to the proceedings and hey, I'm a sucker for them ring carts.

Sadly, I'm not quite sure ring carts could have saved this show... but does it really need saving? I don't know about that, but it could've used more ring carts. They had money, they can afford them... cheap bastards.

Anyway, on with the show...

AJ Styles defeated Shane McMahon in what I will gladly say is Shane McMahon's best match since coming back a couple years prior in watching his annual Mania matches. There were some surprising spots that I had completely forgotten about, like Shane's Shooting Star Press of all things. I do recall referring to this as the best match on the card and... eh, I don't know. I think that's pushing it a bit, but it's still a pretty damned good match and honestly, shows how good of a performer AJ Styles is that he's able to get a great, quality wrestling outing out of Shane. Kudos to him.

Kevin Owens defeated U.S. Champion Chris Jericho to win the title in the second match of the card, which irked Jericho enough that he'd consider a jump to New Japan that would eventually lead him to AEW. I wonder if this being second on the card is the reason why the match wasn't quite as hot as it should have been. For context, Jericho and KO were doing the Festival Of Friendship thing until KO stabbed Jericho in the back and resulted in a blood feud that culminated in this match. So a heated encountered between two heated Canadians (over the United States Heavyweight Championship... guess they couldn't afford stickers to rebrand it a Canadian Championship... Lance Storm would shed tears if he could) should have resulted in a pretty violent affair and it's... just a match. It's a more than fine match, mind you; a perfectly acceptable wrestling match... but for a feud that's supposed to be deeply rooted in personal animosity, you'd expect something more than a perfectly acceptable wrestling match to blow something like this off. Still, in a vacuum, I thought the match was just fine.

Raw Women's Champion Bayley defeated Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Nia Jax in a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match to retain the title, with Nia being outed first via pinfall by the other three smaller women - a spot that I will never tire of because they don't do it enough times in these sort of situations. Then Sasha would be out and finally Bayley would pin Charlotte and retain the title. This was still Hugger Bayley with the inflatable Bayley Buddies and it absolutely befuddles me that this Bayley I'm seeing here and the Bayley that's on screen now is the same person. That's a character evolution if there ever was one and that's not a knock. Hugger Bayley was a fan favorite in NXT, but the jump to the main roster did her no favors and she needed that reinvention in order to survive - much less thrive - in that environment.

Anyway, the match itself was nothing special. It was a four-way match that felt like they were going through the motions and rushing through all their planned bits quickly. I know I complain about matches sometimes going needlessly long, but this was the rare example where a match could have benefitted from a bit more time added to the clock to really tell the story they needed to tell... or something. I don't know. I tried.

The Hardyz - fresh off their TNA run where they lived in their little BROKEN universe of sorts - made their grand return to WWE under their old music and their old gimmick to defeat RAW Tag-Team Champions Les Good Brothers (Gallows and Anderson), Cesaro/Sheamus, and Enzo/Big Cass in a four-way ladder match to win the titles. Yes, the crowd did chant DELETE. Yes, the crowd did chant for BROTHER NERO, which was Jeff's nickname in TNA during that whole BROKEN period... and yes, Matt Hardy still had his BROKEN hair despite not being all that BROKEN here... you'd have to wait a while for that to grace WWE. It was a fun moment if nothing else to see these guys get the hero's welcome and all that. And the ladder match was quite fun as well, so there's that.

John Cena and Nikki Bella defeated the Miz and Maryse in a somewhat ho-hum mixed tag match that saw people chanting for Miz and even calling him awesome while anything Nikki did got the Roman Reigns-esque reaction of booed beyond belief... and then in a moment that is totally awkward to watch in 2024, Cena proposes to Nikki and we have more fodder for that Total Divas show that was on the air at the time. You know, the show where every season was about someone getting married. The reason this is awkward to watch is because Cena and Nikki would break off said engagement and now Nikki has since married someone else. So yes, this has clearly not aged well.

Seth Rollins defeated Triple H in what I have previously dubbed "the trademark McSon-In-Law match that ran too long for its own good." This was a near-half hour of HHH working the injured knee of Seth Rollins, the crowd was dead for most of that match until Stephanie fell through another table to wake the crowd up again - because when all else fails, have a lady fall through a table and people will cheer that shit on. I mean, if it worked for Dixie Carter... oh wait...

Anyway, I'm quite not sure what this match was supposed to achieve, but I think it's safe to say that it didn't achieve it. It's not exactly a good look for your up-and-coming babyface to have his knee get beat up by an elder statesman (which is where HHH was at this point - even more so today). Fortunately, Seth would turn out fine... for another year or two, at least, but that's another story entirely.

Randy Orton defeated WWE Champion Bray Wyatt to win the title in the infamous match where they had an overhead shot of maggots and other vile bugs being projected onto the ring surface for... some reason. I guess the intent was to play mind games, to confuse or scare Randy... but if I were Randy, I'm seeing this weird picture on the ring and wondering what the fuck is this shit on the floor before I'm continuing to beat on Bray's ass. See, you people don't get it. From a distance, you see a close up of maggots and other shit. But if I'm down on the surface and I'm looking at this shit, I'm like "What the fuck is wrong with the lights?" And then you realize what they're projecting and even then, it's like... I get the idea, but it didn't quite work and it just kinda, sorta looks hokey. Even AEW's failed Exploding Barbed Wire match with the faulty bombs were more dignified than this shit.

But the match was just kinda, sorta there. It was ten minutes of Randy doing his slow, methodical thing and Bray doing his "creepy" things that don't look all that creepy before the eventual RKO out of somewhere to end Bray's short-lived WWE title reign, which makes him the fourth man in 2017 to be WWE Champion. For context, AJ Style entered 2017 as champion, before he'd lose the belt to John Cena - which would also mark his 16th title win, thus matching Flair's official count - who would go on to lose it to Bray Wyatt a month later... and then here we are.

Brock Lesnar defeated Universal Red Belt Championr Goldberg to win the title. So Goldberg came back at Survivor Series 2016 and beat Brock in a couple minutes. Then he participated in the Royal Rumble and eliminated Brock from the match before being eliminated himself. And then Goldberg would beat Kevin Owens for the Universal title in one of the more controversial matches to come out of the woodworks. And then we have this match, which, to its credit, is a far better match than their infamously atrocious match at Wrestlemania 20. It was mostly the hitting of the power moves and the finishers; Goldberg with his spears, Brock with his suplexes, Goldberg hits a Jackhammer and Brock kicks out, and then Brock hits an F5 for the win. I was over this match back in the day because I didn't care for the Brock Lesnar Suplex City Bitch formula match that was the thing, but nowadays, I can see it for the mildly entertaining power match that it turned out to be. So yes, I liked this more than I did the first time around. That's a step up.

Naomi (a.k.a. Glow Girl) defeated Smackdown Women's champ Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Carmella,  Mickie James, and Natalya. There was a bit of a ruckus with the placement with this match, because it was originally scheduled for the PPV until it was decided to position it at the pre-show. People were apparently pissed at this move and it was moved back to the PPV, just so we can have another women's match at Mania. And this was, indeed, another women's match at Mania. Not great, not bad, but this was something better suited for TV, not necessarily a PPV match, let alone a Wrestlemania match... and by the way, this is the match booked to bring down the crowd after that hot Brock/Goldberg match before you'd get excited for the exciting main event. Hindsight, this was better off on the pre-show... but hey, at least all the ladies got their Wrestlemania pay day.

Jim Ross comes out to call the main event... for context, this was shortly after his wife Jan passed away in a car accident, so seeing him come out to call this match was a bit of a pleasant surprise. Jim Ross can occasionally be heard on AEW television.

Roman Reigns defeated the Undertaker in the main event... and if this match was any good or worth a damn, it would be as fine a note as any to end Undertaker's long storied run... except he'd come back the following year and that would kick off a number of matches in Saudi Arabia that... well, the less said the better. And honestly, that sort of applies to this match as well. It's less of a coronation of Roman or whatever the intent behind this match was and more of... well, Taker can't quite go anymore, he's lost a step, and so here comes Roman Reigns to put the old bastard out of his misery. This felt even more sad to watch because Taker is trying to hold up his end, but really can't. And Roman wasn't exactly at a point where he could carry a match beyond the realm of mediocrity. Honestly, I don't know what this was supposed to add to Roman's story, but I'd imagine that if you hadn't broken the Streak with Brock three years earlier, this would be the way to do it.

The next night on RAW, Roman would walk down in the ring, he stay silent for practically ten minutes of the most intense, ferocious jeering I've ever heard. It was the opposite of Hulk Hogan in Montreal, where everyone would cheer him for Hogan for minutes on end. Here, Roman was booed out of the building, he said nothing for almost ten minutes... possibly longer... and he simply said, "This is my yard now." It was probably one of the best Roman segments I had seen up to that point, it did a better job of selling me on Roman than any of their other attempts to sell me on Roman. In hindsight, it seemed almost foolish to believe that maybe this Roman thing could be salvaged to something worthwhile and interesting.

That didn't quite happen... instead, the monkeys in WWE Creative booked Roman the same as they always did; as the dominant babyface and doing whatever they could to get people to cheer Roman and once again, it didn't work. And that big win over Undertaker at Wrestlemania? Turns out that was fodder to build towards the following year's main event with Brock Lesnar and... heh, heh, heh. We'll get to that fucking thing soon enough.

So that's Mania 33; first half was good, latter half fell off the rails. Way too long a show for my tastes, but I can say it was a better show than last year. Again, I'm talking about this now rather than next year, but that's enough to say "Yeah, I enjoyed it enough to talk about it, but no real urge to go back to it any time soon." It's just too damn long and even if it's paced well, you're asking a lot for people to sit through five hours of stuff... to say nothing of the additional two to three hours that the pre-show lasts.

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