Wrestlemania Diary- The Rest of Mania Week
So, I got way too busy and had way too much fun to continue with doing that diary every day- I was writing them at 1am/2am as it was. Had such an amazing time all around- from HOF, to Axxess, to Takeover, and of course Mania itself and the insane post-Mania Raw. Sitting here on Friday after catching up on sleep, as well as 205 and Smackdown, and my main takeaway is that, no matter how you can pick apart things when watching them on TV, there's nothing like the real live WWE experience for these big shows. You forget about star ratings, and booking decisions, and all that other smarky bullshit... and you just enjoy yourself. To quote the great philosopher, Eminem, you lose yourself in the moment.
Picking back up where we left off, it's Saturday morning. I woke up at 7am after going to sleep at 4am- a combo of the late-running HOF ceremony, the struggle to get a taxi, then deciding to write that HOF blog when I got back to my room. Why was I up at 7 then? I got two words for ya- Nikki Bella.
Yep, I had a 10am VIP signing with the beautiful Nikki, but my ticket entitled me to be there for the start of the session at 8am. On 3 hours sleep, with no breakfast or caffeine, I got in line. A quick browse of the wrestlers doing signings showed me no one that I was desperate to meet. A few that would be cool, like American Alpha, but I had no patience for the long lines that Axxess signings produce, so I made my way over to the ring.
The matches featured wrestlers from NXT, 205 Live and Progress, a UK-based wrestling promotion that worked with WWE in creating the UK tournament. So no big stars, but plenty of action. Being so early, I got the closest seat and bounced between that and the barricade view. I was most impressed by Rich Swann and Mustafa Ali, Buddy Murphy showing some charisma with his new "Best Kept Secret" gimmick, and Kimber Lee looking like a great heel addition to the women's roster.
And then Nikki. Oh, Nikki. So damn fine. I walked up to her like, "Hi, Nikki!" which I'm sure sounded more excitable schoolboy than near 27 year old man, but she gave me the biggest smile and said, "How's it going, stud?", which made my day, week, month and probably year! Got a nice pic with her and said, "I hope you and John have a Wrestlemania moment on Sunday." How right I was. But more on that later.
Saturday was a massive day, so it was onto the afternoon session. Had VIPs for AJ Styles and Chris Jericho, and people were running, sprinting to get to the lines. Having wartime flashbacks to Sheamus and Cesaro on Thursday, I started running too. It looks incredibly weird, but I can do a quick burst of speed pretty well, especially when motivated. I came 4th in the race to AJ. He was polite and I told him I was so glad he was in WWE, and good luck at Mania- I was trying to think of a nice way to phrase, "I hope your match with Shane doesn't suck"- nailed it! Got to Jericho after that with a longer wait, but not Thursday bad. I let Y2J know that he was my all time favourite, and that I submitted a foreword for his book, to which he cracked, "Yeah, I've written a lot of them." He obliged my request to put my mate Brent on the List, but security moved me along. Damn them! Jericho was every bit as cool as I thought he'd be.
More matches for the most part from here, but I did bail a bit early, to save my strength for Takeover that night. It was fantastic, with the triple threat elimination tag match between DIY, Revival and the Authors of Pain being the highlight of the night and maybe even the week (at least as far as match quality goes). The "unholy alliance" between Revival and DIY was something special. The Sanity vs. Team Dillinger match was a chaotic opener, and the Aleister Black vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas was a good intro to Black, while Cien looked good in defeat. Asuka vs. Ember Moon was a bit disappointing- the match they had in Sydney was better IMO- but it served the purpose of making Asuka a legit heel. And finally, Roode vs. Nakamura II felt big time, bit too slow at points, but overall an epic that was a fitting send-off to Shinsuke Nakamura- who made it abundantly clear in the post-match that this was his NXT swan song, soaking in the applause and bowing to the NXT sign as he left.
No rest for the wicked, as Sunday wasn't just a massive day, it was THE massive day! Started with the 8am at Axxess and got to meet 2017 Hall of Famer Kurt Angle. Very nice guy, same height as me, and he seemed to appreciate me saying he had the most entertaining HOF speech in years (you might think I was just saying that, but it's true, it's damn true). Having being at Axxess three times over the past 3 days, I was going to call it from there after meeting Kurt. I did want to get a quick photo in the Elimination Chamber, which had been a quiet exhibit all week. As I went over, people started flooding in. I asked a staff member which Superstar was doing the photo op, and he actually knew- most staff at Axxess had no f'n clue about anything- it was Finn Balor! Well then, here I go in a two hour line. This time, it paid off, and I met the first Universal Champion inside the Elimination Chamber!
And then I figured, I might as well make the most of the last hour I was in, and meet someone else. The someone else turned out to be the Big Red Machine, Kane! Halfway through waiting in line, his former tag partner and DX member, X-Pac showed up! Both great, friendly guys, got my program signed and a pic with both.
Kane is one huge man.
Onto Mania, and besides the asshole stadium staff making us wait an hour and a half in the sweltering Florida heat, it was every bit as amazing as I had imagined it. Had fantastic seats, in row H (that's the 8th row for those who don't know the alphabet).
Aries and Neville kicked off the show, and they went all out. Aries took a wicked German suplex that had me fearing for his safety, but he battled on. Seriously, you would not know these guys were curtain jerking the damn pre-show. Neville busts out the Red Arrow (a rarity these days) to retain his title. Awesome stuff.
The battle royal sucked. Only thing on the show I wasn't hyped about, which is ironic, because Mojo Rawley was your winner. Strowman and Big Show getting eliminated early was a cool surprise (but if it really is Show's last Mania, what a way to go) and I assumed it was clearing the path for a Sami Zayn victory, or even a dark horse like Sanity member Killian Dain. But no, had to be fucking Mojo, with help from his football buddy Gronk. I can't stand Mojo, and I don't know American football, so fuck this. Hard.
Ambrose vs. Corbin for the IC title... on the pre-show? Ambrose goes from Brock last year to the pre-show. Decent match, and Ambrose retains, but you could almost feel the low morale of stars of that calibre being in that spot.
AJ vs. Shane opens the Mania main card? Man, this is full of surprises. And you know what? It kicked ass. Shane worked his ass off to look acceptable next to the best WWE has in Styles, and they met in the middle. Started with chain wrestling, then high flying, some hardcore shenanigans after a ref bump... then Styles wins clean, just as he should. Awesome stuff.
Trend continues with Jericho vs Owens. Two matches into the main card and it's two of the matches I was most interested in. Really well done match, with Jericho scoring an amazing nearfall with the Codebreaker- only for Owens to break it by touching the ropes with the tip of his finger! Days later, the nerd in me is marvelling at the ring positioning to pull off a move with that level of precision. Being a centimetre or two short would have been disastrous. Owens wins moments later with a powerbomb on the apron to claim his first US title.
Next up, the Raw women take centre stage for the fatal 4 way. This is where the awesomeness of WWE's Wrestlemania level production comes in. Bayley with a crazy colourful outfit and additional Bayley Buddies (inflatable tube men) at ringside, Sasha gets escorted to the ring in a cool vehicle, Charlotte gets New Year's level pyro, and Nia gets nothing, because fuck her. I mean, that's how I feel about her, too- in a non-sexual way- but it seemed like a bit of a shot at Rock's cousin. Some good high spots, including Bayley winning with the Macho Man elbow. Okay match, nothing on last year's triple threat though.
-Seeing Kurt Angle back on stage at Wrestlemania was an incredible moment.
-Speaking of incredible moments- what the fuck, the Hardys are back?!? Jeff kills some fools and almost himself with a Swanton of a ladder. Matt grabs the Raw tag titles. New champs. I'm nearly crying with happiness here.
-The mixed tag match was simples- and disappointly, the ladies did next to nothing- but it was all about the post-match. Using her real name, John Cena proposes. She says yes. What a Wrestlemania moment, indeed. The guys booed while the women cheered and screamed. Assuming that it's not an angle, congrats to the couple
-Seth Rollins vs HHH was pretty methodical for such a heated feud, but Rollins won and Steph went through a table, so that was great. Plus, my Crossfit Jesus sign made TV- and WhatCulture!
-Pitbull & Flo Rida did a thing! Meh.
-Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton was weird going in, and it was even weirder in the match. Not "weird" in the "ooh spooky" way, just weird in the sense of "what the hell are they thinking?" I appreciated the idea that Orton was able to break through the mind games to win, but it was still a painfully average match with special effects. And Bray had the balls to say he felt sorry for anyone who had to follow this match.
-Goldberg and Lesnar was fucking fun. Just 5 minutes of pure chaos and going for kill shots. Shows you don't need a 25 minute match for it to be epic. Take notes, Triple H.
-Alexa and friends from Smackdown basically had the buffer match. Some cool outfits and I want to wife Bliss, but it's hard to stand out in 5 minutes when there's 6 of you. Naomi wins in her hometown and no one cares, because, well, 99% of the people in attendance aren't actually from Orlando.
-Main event is Reigns vs. Taker. Main event over both world title matches. JR on the call. Yep, Taker's losing. It's a methodical (read: kinda boring) pace, and they fuck up a Tombstone reversal spot. Bad. Anyway, after I believe 4 Spears- it's over. Reigns exits quick, conflict etched on his face. Taker removes his gloves, hat and coat and leaves it all in the ring. That's it. The last of the Deadman. My first and last time seeing him live. There's people crying in the crowd. I'm fighting back tears myself. Undertaker does his "fist raised" pose and 75,000 people do it in unison as he descends back into the stage. Thank you, Taker. I think it was time. Ultimately, this match ended up okay, botch aside, but it wasn't a bit on what he could do 5 years ago. Amazing show with a heavy, emotional end.
I slept almost all day Monday. Woke up just enough for room service (pancakes!) and fell back asleep until 2:45pm. By that time, it was time for beers with the boys (a couple of new friends from QLD) and then it was time for Raw.
-Damn, Reigns had NUCLEAR HEAT in opening Raw. Close to 15 minutes of booing, "fuck you Roman" and "shut the fuck up", which in watching Raw back today, came through uncensored on the telecast. Roman gave a 5 word promo- "This is my yard now." Brilliant, and insane atmosphere.
-The Hardys can still go in a standard match as they faced the Club. Lots of TNA related chants, but Matt and Jeff acted way less "broken" than they did at Mania. Waiting on the results of a lawsuit, apparently.
-Neville and Mustafa Ali had a great match. Too bad we were all distracted by about 5 beach balls flying around the arena. How did they get past security?
-Vince McMahon is here! Holy shit, there's someone I never thought I'd see live. He announces a "superstar shake-up" (draft? trades? what?) and a new Raw GM- Kurt Angle. Fucking love it.
-Revival debuts on Raw and destroys New Day and their strupid ice cream cart. Love it. Dash and Dawson are tag team brilliance.
-Emma returns! Oh, I've missed that booty. And dat wrestling skill, damn son.
-Yeah, I'm rushing this. Pizza is here and I've gone on for ages here. Brock and Braun could be fun. The crowd is very anti-Reigns. I don't know, I really liked Brock vs. Roman at WM31.
-Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Hardys next? I can dig it.
-Finn returns! Awesome. Had to know he was coming at some point soon. Looked as sharp as ever, and I like that WWE are firmly behind him as main event talent.
-Full disclosure, I skimmed the results of SD and watched the debuts of Nakamura and Dillinger only. Both came off like major stars, and are great additions to the roster. Whether they stay there after next week, who knows.
-Alright, later tonight I'll catch NXT and 205 Live. Pizza time.
This was the greatest week of my life, but it's time to go from fake fighting to real fighting with this blog. My next post will be Sunday night about UFC 210, headlined by Daniel Cormier defending his light heavyweight championship against Rumble Johnson.
Until next time, take care,