Friday, March 29, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 35 - WWE Wrestlemania 35 (2019)

Date: April 7, 2019
Venue: MetLife Stadium - East Rutherford, New Jersey
Attendance: 68,000–70,000

For what it's worth, this was a rather significant and newsworthy Wrestlemania.

For the first time in its 34 year history, three of WWE's top female wrestles would headline a Wrestlemania main event. It was here that saw Kofi Kingston become the first black man to be crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion... some would argue Rock, but Rock's only part-Black - he'd more accurately be the first person of color to win said title. It was on this show where Kurt Angle and Dave Bautista would have their final wrestling matches... neither of which were high notes to end a career on, but that's another story entirely. It was on this show...'s pre-show where Curt Hawkins - man who lost more matches than he's had matches - would team with partner Zack Ryder to win the RAW Tag-Team Titles. The team they beat for those titles? The Revival... as in FUCK THE REVIVAL. Or FTR for short.

A fairly significant show with some fairly significant stuff... and the only takeaway I got from this show is that it was too goddamned long.

So here's the thing, right? When I watched these Wrestlemanias the first time around, I watched them in bits and pieces because they were just too much for a single sitting. I like to think that things have improved somewhat because I had no problem sitting through these matches in more or less a single sitting. I took a quick break here and there, but I was able to watch each of these shows on a single night... yes, even the absolutely atrocious Wrestlemania 34, which I am more than thankful for the fact that I never have to watch that pile of shit again.

Wrestlemania 35 was the first show where I actually had to take a break because it was just too fucking long. And while the original viewing took me FOUR DAYS to get through this one show, I was able to manage this in only two. Part of that has to do with the fact that I can more easily stomach the two night at manageable timeframes Wrestlemania format that I can adapt it to this show. And if there is any major takeaway I got from this show, it's that it would've been a lot better if you axed a good chunk of the stuff that didn't need to be there. Anyway, let's blow through this quickly... and I do mean quickly.

So the show opens with Wrestlemania host Alexa Bliss - either she was injured at the time and they still wanted her to be part of the show or they really had nothing else for her to do and they still wanted her to be part of the show... I don't know; I tend to rag on Alexa at times, but she had enough of a following that they could have given her more than just hosting duties... anyway, she re-introduces us to Hulk Hogan, making his triumphant return from exile after all the controversies surrounding the leaked sex tapes, racist talks, Gawker lawsuits, etc... and because we're in New York and New York is generally full of scumbags, they welcome Hogan back with open arms... for whatever that's worth.

Paul Heyman comes out to interrupt the festivities and demands that Brock defends his Universal Red Belt against Seth "Not Yet Freaking" Rollins right freaking now. And so Seth comes out, kicks Brock right in the Lesnars, and hits a couple Curbstomps to win the title in a surprisingly short match. I liked this back then while everyone else was complaining that it wasn't a proper match and watching it again now... nah, fuck it, this is still perfect. It's short, it's sweet, it gives Seth that decisive yet somewhat tainted win over Brock, and now he can start defending that title like a proper champion would... until Brock comes along and wins it back... and then Seth wins it back... and then the Fiend happens and... well, shit. This isn't going to end well, is it?

By the way, we're thirty minutes into this show and we only had ONE MATCH. Fuck this show.

There is a bright light in the roof that people are complaining about because it's blinding light... they eventually get that fixed. Sadly, the thing that could use actual fixing and never did get fixed are these shitty 3d graphics. I had called this Playstation-2 caliber graphics upscaled to then-modern standards, but that was being generous. Even calling this N64-level graphics would be an insult to the Nintendo 64.

AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton in a perfectly acceptable wrestling match. Not exactly one of AJ's best outings and pretty much business as usual for Randy, but I didn't mind this one. This was fine.

Smackdown tag-team champions The Usos defeated Ricochet/Aleister Black (somewhat of an odd combination in retrospect, but okay), The Bar (Sheamus/Cesaro) and Shinsuke Nakamura/Rusev to retain the titles. Probably the closest thing to a party match of sorts as you're going to get in WWE around this time; some fun spots being done here and there, crowd were into it, and it just flew by quickly. I wasn't into this one the first time around, but you know what? I liked this more than I did the, so that's a step up. For what it's worth, 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, which should have meant some fun shenanigans and such, but no... it's just one old guy and one slightly less old guy doing spots in the crowd and around the stage for fifteen minutes until Miz hit a big suplex on Shane off some structure somewhere and they fall through some padding... but as it turns out, Shane's arm happened to be on top of Miz and that's enough for the ref to administer the three-count and award the pinfall victory to Shane. In any other situation, this would've been the kiss of the death for any superstar, pretty much branding them GEEK 4 LIFE. Fortunately, it's the Miz, a guy with a long tenure that comes across as GEEK 4 LIFE even under the best of circumstances to the point where even he's in a deeply serious feud where his FAMILY is being threatened, he still comes across as a goof you can't take seriously. So yes, I had no problem with Miz losing the way he did because he can take it. The match itself? Not all that great.

The Iconics (Peyton Joyce/Billie Kay) defeated Women's Tag-Team champs Sasha Banks/Bayley, Nattie/Beth Phoenix, and Nia Jax/Tamina Snuka to win the titles, making them the second-ever tag team I believe to hold the titles... or something, I guess. They had introduced these titles sometime ago and they continue to exist to this day for... some reason. Anyway, this was a thing that happened and for what it's worth, I was kinda down on the Iconics winning the tag belts, but their act kinda, sorta grew on me eventually. Still didn't make me give two fucks about the tag titles, but that's not their fault.

Kofi Kingston defeated WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan Danielson to win the title, thus kicking off or paying Kofimania in grand style. So this Kofimania was an accident because what happened was that someone else got hurt and Kofi filled a spot, but people were into Kofi and were clamoring for him to win the big one. The road to get to this point is somewhat convoluted and stupid, but a satisfying payoff will more than make up for it... most of the time, at least. Whatever you want to say about the road getting here, the moment Kofi won the title felt like a big deal. It felt special. And the fact that it was someone new winning the World title for the first time since Seth won the title at Mania 31... yeah, that made it a bit of a big deal.

And look... regardless of the build, regardless of what came before or what came after, what you had here were 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. 

This is where I stopped watching the show. And honestly, everything up to this point made this feel like a pretty good Wrestlemania card. And, also, if I'm going to be brutally honest here, this match felt more like a Wrestlemania main event than the match that ended up closing the show. I get the historical significance, but in terms of ending the show on a high note, this would be the better not to end the show on.

So I stopped the show and it took me a couple nights to get back to this one, but I eventually did and so our story continues... there's a bit with Hall and Nash and a couple jabronis that I fast-forward through.

United States champion Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio to retain the title in a short match that saw Rey hit his usual spots early on before Joe killed him and won via submission. Don't recall if maybe Rey was hurt and couldn't do a full match or anything, but I honestly didn't mind this turning out as it did. Give Joe a quick, decisive win over a big name to build up his credibility. I'll take it.

Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre in a thing that happened. So this was shortly after Roman took some time off due to his leukamia kicking in and this was his comeback. People seemed to like him more now, which is nice. But the match itself was just a thing that happened and not much else. Oh well... at least they got paid.

There's a bit with Elias and John Cena that fast-forward through before realizing that the next match is HHH vs. Batista. I fast-forwarded through the wrong thing, me thinks.

Yeah, so HHH defeated Batista via a sledgehammer shot in a No Holds Barred match that lasted twenty-five minutes and probably ran twenty-five minutes too long. Apparently, HHH's career was on the line because... wait, didn't we already do this schtick already?

Yeah, so this was a thing that happened. It was slow, it was boring, it was two senior citizens hitting each other with stairs, chairs, hammers, and other things. Nose rings are pulled and tables are durable enough to not break. Nobody gives a shit and this is just sad to watch. And it's funny watching something like this nowadays when you have guys like Sting, Billy Gunn, and Dustin Rhodes in their fifties and sixties still having high-caliber matches in AEW, but then along comes these two guys to pretty much stink up the joint in the grandest stage of them all. In any event, this would be Batista's last match in WWE and apparently he's more than content to leave it all behind in favor of some proper acting gigs... which he clearly has more fun doing. And I don't blame him because some of the stuff I've seen him in, he's actually pretty good. Probably one of the more successful wrestler-to-actor transitions I've seen. Well deserved and well earned.

But yeah, this match isn't very good and not quite a high note to end a career on... and speaking on not ending careers on a high note, Baron Corbin defeated Kurt Angle in what was billed as Angle's last match and... yeah, no offense to Corbin, but he was not the guy who should be ending Angle's career or anything of the sort. I mean, I get the idea of the so-called "time honored tradition" of the veteran going out on his back and putting over the younger stock, but there were guys who were more worthy of that honor than Baron Corbin, who ended up doing nothing worth a damn afterwards unless you count bitching and trolling on Twitter. And... yeah, look, the match isn't all that great. Angle obviously lost a step or two and Corbin wasn't exactly the right guy who could carry the guy to a quality match. A shame, really.

The DEMON Finn Balor (where Finn painted himself up as a Demon and got the spooky entrance - which looked fine in NXT if nothing else) defeated Intercontinental champion Bobby Lashley in a quick little match to win the title. I was almost surprised that this was as short as it did... but then again, this show is running way too fucking long for one's liking. Amazingly, I remain well enough to finish off the show on this second night of viewing. For those who read the original post, you'll recall that it took me FOUR DAYS to watch this show. I don't know if it's a sign that this show is growing on me or if I'm just more able to stomach these longer shows... probably a little of both.

"THE MAN" Becky Lynch - wearing an absolutely horrible leather get-up that would pale in comparison to some of her get-ups in later years - defeated RAW Women's Champion Ronda Rousey and Smackdown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair in a Triple-Threat Winner Takes All match to win both belts. And the match itself was... fine, I guess. It was alright. It didn't really feel like a big deal or anything... and I'd imagine part of that is due to the absurd length of the show. Providing a bit further context, this would've taken place past midnight when everyone was tired and wanted to go home, but despite all that, we still get the specialized entrances. Charlotte flies in a chopper on her way to the ring. Ronda Rousey would have Joan Jett doing a live performance of "Bad Reputation." And Becky gets a shit outfit.

So yes, given how long this show lasted, I'm not surprised that this didn't get as big of a reaction as it should have nor did it surprise me that this didn't feel like such a big deal. How could it? This show ran way too fucking long and that hurt the match somewhat. I can accept that... but I'm watching this years later, middle of the afternoon, and this match wasn't all that great. I mean, it was fine... you had talented women in that main event (and I guess Ronda did her stuff well enough, too). But it never felt like a major match in any way. It didn't feel exactly main event worthy. I believed this back then and it still holds true now.

So I watched the show across two nights - I ended the first night's viewing on Kofi/Bryan, which had a main event feel where something big and monumental happened. I finish the second day's viewing on the show's actual main event and it felt like any other match. Some would've made the argument that Kofi/Bryan should've closed out Mania and I could see that in a vaccum... but then you add in a bit of context and you sort of understand why we got the main event we did... well, almost.

Kofi was popular, but he lucked himself into a title match because somebody else got hurt. That's not a putdown; that's being honest. If someone goes down, another takes their place and that's what happened with Kofi. And he made the most of it. And he got that moment at Mania... but on the flip side, you've got Becky Lynch, who caught fire late-2018 and was practically the biggest star in WWE without question. They tried to turn her heel and it backfired because she was turning heel on Charlotte Flair, who people were almost treating like the female Roman Reigns, but not quite as intense. The people wanted Becky, they got Becky, and WWE just added in Charlotte to mix to have their cake too. So yeah, the Kofi match felt like the bigger deal, but Becky was just the bigger star and that's where you had to go.

Had the show been much, MUCH shorter and a lot of the excess was trimmed off - about a nice four-hour show - this main event probably would've been better received and it probably would've turned out better with a not-as-lousy finish that's not worth mentioning here. But as I've said once before and I'll say it again here, once you got past the Kofi title win, everything that came afterwards felt hopelessly trivial, and that, unfortunately, included the actual main event. Honestly, if you gave us the Kofi/Bryan match, followed it up with a nice comedown match before giving us the women's three-way, that would've been fine. But Wrestlemania 35 suffers from excess. It's too long for its own good and a lot of the matches and sketches felt more like padding than essential parts of the show. This is another where I'm glad to revisit one and never have to go back to again, especially since you can find the only matches worth a damn on Youtube in their entirety anyway, so really, why bother with this? Just stick with that instead.

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