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From The Vault: WWE WrestleMania 30 Review

By Mick Robson

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Ooh, WrestleMania XXX. The naughty WrestleMania. In the lead-up to WrestleMania 40 (or XL) this weekend, I went back and watched the first WrestleMania, Mania 10, Mania 20, and now I'm bringing you the review for the 30th edition of the Show of Shows, the Grandaddy of Them All.

Taking place in New Orleans, in the year of our Lord and Saviour, 2014, we were right in the midst of The YES Movement. The WWE fanbase was dying to see Daniel Bryan win the big one, and they simply weren't having it when WWE tried to go any other direction. They tried to present John Cena and Randy Orton as the two biggest stars ever, fighting to unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships, and in the contract signing for that match, the crowd chanted for Daniel Bryan. They brought back Batista, a former World Champion that went Hollywood, but that star power wasn't enough. These people booed Rey Mysterio, for crying out loud!

I was watching WWE at the time, but The Arena Media and my written reviews didn't yet exist in any form, so this'll be an interesting way to experience this milestone Mania again.

Let's do this!


We open with a great highlight package for Mania, interspersed with shots of party life in New Orleans. Really gotta get there one day!

Hulk Hogan opened the show as the host of WrestleMania to a nice reaction. I feel like this may have been pre-outing the Hulkster as a racist, as the fan response seems very positive, unlike when he co-hosted WrestleMania 37 with Titus O'Neil. He welcomes everyone to "the Silverdome", which actually does draw some boos, since Hogan flubbed it- they're actually in the Mercedes-Benz SUPERDOME. After realising his mistake, Hulk says, "now that I stand corrected by all my Hulkamaniacs", the night is going to be full of WrestleMania moments-

GLASS SHATTERS and Stone Cold Steve Austin emerges to a thunderous ovation. Michael Cole tells us that it's Austin's first Mania appearance since WM27. The less said about WrestleMania 27, the better. Austin immediately teases Hulk by saying, "it's good to be back in the Silverdome" before asking the crowd if they want him to open up a can of whoop ass on Hogan. HELL YEAH is the response from the crowd, but instead Stone Cold shows the Hulkster respect, then...

IF YA SMELL... hey, it's WrestleMania 40 headliner, The Rock! Rock shows off the goosebumps and makes his way to the ring as the crowd roars. "It's the Mt Rushmore of wrestling come to life!" says JBL. Hey, doesn't Mt Rushmore have 4 faces on it? Rock grabs a mic, and does his catchphrases, including, "FINALLY, we've come back to the SUPERDOME!" He smiles and gives Hogan a quick hug, but he looks a little miffed that they keep giving him shit for his mistake.

Rock talks about the history of WrestleMania and the magnitude of the event, including saying that he's responsible for so many people being born 9 months after WrestleMania, because they feel the electricity and say, "C'mon mama, let's make some Rock babies!" Rock also says that they paved the way for stars on this card like John Cena and Daniel Bryan. They wrap the segment up with the "IF YA SMELL!" "that's the bottom line" and "whatcha gonna do when the SUPERDOME runs wild on you!" Redemption for Hogan, and the three legends have a beer bash.

Incredible way to start this WrestleMania, it'd be very difficult to load more star power than that into one segment. Part of me wonders if they'd do an equivalent segment this year- perhaps Cena and Punk in the Rock/Austin roles, and Austin himself in the Hogan spot? Time will tell. Awesome, memorable way to kick things off, absolutely a WrestleMania Moment (TM)

A video package plays for the opening match of Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H. The winner of this match would be added to the Mania main event of Orton vs. Batista to make a triple threat match for the title. The video package chronicles Bryan's career from the indies to NXT to the main roster, including his conflicts since Summerslam with Triple H and The Authority. The backing music is Imagine Dragon's "Monster", and it's one of the my favourite videos that WWE have ever put together.

Daniel Bryan is fired up here with his YES chants, as is the crowd, but it's a relatively standard entrance for him. Meanwhile, Triple H dives right into the King of Kings thing, coming out with a gold crown and chainmail, along with 3 young women removing his robes for him. At the time, those women were relatively unknown, but they would go on to be Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks & Alexa Bliss.

Match 1: Winner Goes To The Main Event- Daniel Bryan def. Triple H (w/ Stephanie McMahon) (at 25:58)

Thoughts: This was high energy, with Triple H at his bastard best. Stephanie McMahon also added to the heat at ringside, while Bryan was the consummate underdog. Bryan was bandaged up around his shoulder due an attack by Triple H in the build-up to the show, making for a clear and obvious target during the match.

The match played out as speed vs. power, underpinned by the technical prowess of both men. Bryan had the early advantage flying around until Triple H dropped him with a jumping arm breaker on the announce table. From there, The Game unleashed some unique offense designed to target the shoulder and arm, including a crossface chicken wing and a tiger suplex. Bryan managed a few moments of separation before a powerful move by Triple H put him down again.

Bryan's technical ability provided him another opening as he reversed a Triple H crossface into the YES Lock! Hunter made the ropes but you could feel the tides shifting. The crowd exploded after Bryan nipped up following a missile dropkick, but when the trademark running knee was countered with Triple H's signature spinebuster, the crowd fell silent. Pedigree followed- but Bryan kicked out to a thunderous pop! An angered Triple H went on the attack, but a series of well-timed reversals led to Bryan blasting The Game with a running knee, securing his spot in the main event of WrestleMania!

Star Rating: ****1/2. To me, this replaced Bret vs. Owen as the greatest Mania opener of all time. A near-perfect David vs. Goliath battle, with enough ebbs and flows that it never felt boring. A molten-hot crowd also made this feel like the biggest deal in the world. Awesome stuff.

Post-match, Stephanie gets in Bryan's face and slaps him a bunch of times, because she's gotta swing her big lady balls around, and then Triple H attacks Bryan from behind. HHH then grabs a steel chair and hits Bryan in the shoulder with it. So, Daniel Bryan's going to the main event of WrestleMania, but The Authority ensured that he'll be doing so with a major disadvantage.

The New Age Outlaws make their entrance for their six man tag. Road Dogg starts to do his schtick- they're also "representing The Authority at WrestleMania 30", which sounds so wrong- but they're cut off by The Shield's entrance. It's the Attitude Era vs. the present day (well, at the time).

Match 2: The Shield def. The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn) & Kane (at 2:56)

Thoughts: Pure domination by The Shield. Kane was in his Corporate attire (never did get used to that). Ambrose knocks down the Big Red Mayor with his rebound lariat. Tag to Reigns, who hits both New Age Outlaws with the Drive-By kick. Rollins takes out Kane with a springboard knee strike. Roman Spears everyone. Double Shield Bomb on the NAO, and it's over just like that.

Star Rating: *1/2. Well, we had over an hour of greatness on this show, it couldn't all be top-tier. It got The Shield on the show in a featured spot- much deserved after being the workhorses of the company for the last year and a half. JBL summed it up with his line of "There goes the Attitude Era", which makes me, as a child of the Attitude Era, quite sad.

We get a backstage skit promoting the Slam City toy set, featuring legends Sgt Slaughter, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Ricky Steamboat, old school referee Dangerous Danny Davis. They play with the toys, then Ted Dibiase comes in to buy them all. Cue Ron Simmons with the DAMN. Always good to see the Legends, even if they're shilling silly little toys.

Match 3: Cesaro wins The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (at 13:25)

Thoughts: This was the first-ever Andre Battle Royal, now a Mania weekend staple, and they actually treated it with a little prestige here. Wish it was still on Mania itself rather than the SmackDown before, but I digress.

The battle royal format generally doesn't lend itself to great action, but there was some effort put in here. Yoshi Tatsu flies out in the first 5 seconds. I believe that's the first time Yoshi's name has ever been written on The Arena! We also see this year's WrestleMania main eventer, Cody Rhodes, struggling to hang on in the opening moments. Great Khali was sold as a threat, but we're long past his main event push, and he's among the first few to go. Mark Henry eliminates 3MB- which includes future WWE Champions Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal.

As the field thins out, Fandango gets a brief moment of glory, eliminating Big E and dancing around on the apron, only to fall victim to Sheamus and his 10 Beats of the Bodhran, leading to his own elimination. Big Show yeets R-Truth to ringside then imitates his dance... very poorly. Del Rio eliminates Tyson Kidd, Goldust & Cody Rhodes in quick succession. Cesaro blocks the 619 and eliminates Rey Mysterio. Cesaro launches Kofi to the outside- but his feet land on the stairs! He's technically not eliminated! Cesaro blocks Trouble In Paradise and catches him in the Giant Swing! Big Show spoils the fun by planting him with a Chokeslam.

Sheamus finally eliminates Kofi with a Brogue Kick. Del Rio kicks Ziggler out. Del Rio puts Sheamus in the cross armbreaker, Sheamus powers out- and they both tumble over the ropes! We're down to Cesaro & Big Show. Cesaro gets the WrestleMania Moment (TM) by body slamming Big Show to the outside!

Star Rating: ***. There was enough star power and moments in there for it to feel like a bigger deal than the standard battle royal, particularly with the amount of former world champions in there and the way the final few went down. It really felt like, at the time, that Cesaro was poised to become a major superstar off the back of this win. Also, bonus points for not giving it away by having Cesaro as one of the televised entrances.

The announcers thank Eminem for his song "Legacy", one of the WrestleMania themes, being used in the following John Cena/Bray Wyatt video package. As someone who's almost as big an Eminem fan as I am a wrestling fan, I always wished Eminem had more involvement with WWE. They were both huge around the same time in the late 90s/early 2000s, it always seemed like a no brainer to me.

Match 4: John Cena def. Bray Wyatt (at 22:25)

Thoughts: Bray got the big superstar entrance with a live band performance, Cena just had his standard intro. Really felt like Bray was right on the verge of becoming the next big thing. The story behind this one was that Wyatt asserted that Cena had a dark side beyond the public persona he put out, and he was determined to unveil it.

They adhere to that storytelling in this match, as Bray falls to his knees to start, almost sacrificing himself, urging Cena to "be the monster", but Big Match John wants a straight up fight. Bray takes control with a rough beatdown, as Cena seems spooked, conflicted, or otherwise thrown off by Bray's mind games.

The Wyatt Family (Harper & Rowan) are at ringside, and at one point they get on the apron to distract Cena, but Wyatt yells at them to get down, as Cena continues to struggle with his emotions. Bray wears down Cena with a sleeper, but he fights back and goes into the Five Moves of Doom, at which point he relaxes and starts to look more comfortable again- until Wyatt pops up into his spider pose. This spooks Cena and allows Bray to hit a massive uranage for a near fall.

Bray starts to hit some higher impact moves, including countering a top rope leg drop with a powerbomb, and an apron DDT. Cena battles out of a superplex attempt, and opts to dive onto the Wyatt Family at ringside rather than Bray! Back in the ring, Bray is able to take back control, and the Family get involved at various points to help their leader maintain the advantage. After Cena kicks out of Sister Abigail, Wyatt goes to ringside and grabs a steel chair. He offers it to Cena to use on him, but instead, Cena hits Rowan with the chair and drops Wyatt with the AA for the win!

Star Rating: ***1/4. The story was good and conveyed better through facial expressions and dialogue than I remembered. The pace of the match was deathly slow at some points though, and the crowd were definitely less engaged than I've typically heard for big John Cena matches. Thankfully, the aggression was upped down the stretch. We would get a better payoff to a Cena/Wyatt feud some six years later.

We get a recap of the 2014 Hall of Fame class, including Jake Roberts, Lita, Paul Bearer, Mr. T, Carlos Colon, Razor Ramon and Ultimate Warrior. They come out on stage to applause from the Superdome.

Backstage, Daniel Bryan is being examined by the doctors, having difficulties with his arm and shoulder.

A video package plays for The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar. I remember the build-up for this match being very cold, but WWE are great at doing these hype videos to make things seem like a big deal. Clearly though, a routine defence of The Streak for Taker.

Match 5: Brock Lesnar def. The Undertaker (at 25:12)

Thoughts: Well, damn. Not so routine. Perhaps the most shocking moment in WrestleMania history.

That said, this is not a great match at all. People don't generally remember the match quality here, it's all about the significance of The Moment (TM). But we have almost 30 minutes of a slog of a match, where Taker gets his bell rung early, and Lesnar has to take a concussed Deadman through the remainder of the match. At the time, the match just felt oddly slow and off. Lesnar does his Suplex City schtick, mostly being ahead of Undertaker, who comes back with his signature spots, and it seems inevitable that Taker will get the final shot in, regardless of the damage that Lesnar is dealing out...

We go into finisher spam territory- almost an expected part of Taker Streak matches at this point- and Paul Heyman does a nice job at ringside adding to the drama with his reactions. Taker goes for the Hail Mary submission a couple of times with Hell's Gate- an almost desparation move which saw him win previous Streak matches against Edge & Triple H- but the Beast powers out. Taker goes for Old School but Brock catches him in the F5 in a great feat of strength for a near fall. A greatly fatigued Deadman comes back with the Last Ride and Tombstone, but Brock kicks out! Undertaker goes for another Tombstone, but Lesnar reverses into a third F5- and the Streak is over.

Star Rating: **1/2. Something felt off through this entire match, and it wasn't clear that Undertaker was hurt at the time. Following this match, he would be transported to hospital and Vince would actually leave WrestleMania to be with him. That said, Lesnar and Taker are two pros and even with one man concussed, they pieced together a watchable match with dramatic beats. It's all a moot point though, as all that really mattered here was the result.

A stunned silence fell over the Superdome, apart from Heyman losing his mind screaming "oh my god!" WWE got some close ups of iconic fan reactions, like the now-famous "Just Say No" guy. In a nice touch, Lesnar's music didn't play right away, and after a moment we got a "21-1" graphic on the big screen. Brock leaves the ring to the Undertaker, who gets a polite but somewhat muted applause before his music hits to walk him out.

An ad airs for WrestleMania 31 (or WrestleMania Play Button, if you will), at Levi's Stadium, Silicon Valley, California, on March 29th, 2015.

What do you do with a crowd that's absolutely shattered following the Undertaker losing his Streak? Bring on the Divas!

Match 6: WWE Divas Championship- AJ Lee (c) wins the Vickie Guerrero Invitational (at 6:48)

Thoughts: The WWE women's division- oh sorry, Divas division- was a long way off what it would become even just a couple of years later. With all due respect, it's quite evident looking at some of the names in this match, who weren't necessarily hired for their wrestling talent, like Aksana and Rosa Mendes.

That said, they could have had the banger to end all bangers, and it wouldn't have mattered considered how shell-shocked the crowd was after the Taker match. The only wrestler to get an entrance was the reigning Divas Champion, AJ Lee, and they didn't really bother making it look like anyone else had a chance. Vickie's shrill voice cut through to wish everyone luck, "especially AJ!" The match is one fall to a finish with 14 Divas involved. Definitely not a clusterfuck!

Naomi hits a Heatseeker in the early going. This was about a year before MJF debuted, so I guess he was stealing Naomi's shit! Natalya goes for a triple Sharpshooter, but Eva Marie rolls her up for a near fall. Most of the field gets suplexed simultaneously for the ref to call a 6 way near fall. Emma does her silly little dance that got over in NXT, hits the Emma Sandwich on Summer Rae, then gets dropped with a Scissors Kick from Alicia Fox.

The ring clears out with the Divas taking turns hitting big moves. The Bellas take out Tamina then wipe out everyone else with stereo suicide dives! Nikki and Brie then fight each other, with Nikki dropping Brie with the Rack Attack, but the pin is broken up. AJ Lee gets back involved and with the ring clear again, locks Naomi in the Black Widow to get the tap and escape with the title!

Star Rating: *1/2. Look, they were put in an awful spot. But I actually commend the effort here, finding ways to give all 14 Divas at least a moment in such a short window of time. Sadly, this would be the first and only time the Divas Championship would be defended at Mania, as WM32 saw the title rebranded as the Women's Championship.

We go backstage to the legendary Mean Gene Okerlund! He brings in Hulk Hogan, and they are immediately interrupted by Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. They're still salty about WrestleMania 1. Mr T comes in and we might get a do-over of that tag match main event from the first Mania! Pat Patterson shows up in old school referee's attire, but he tells them to get over it, it was 30 years ago, and they all reluctantly shake hands. Fun little bit of nostalgia on this milestone Mania.

They show more Hall of Famers at ringside, Bruno Sammartino, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Bob Backlund and Bret Hart!

It's main event time. Randy Orton gets a live performance of his theme song by Rev Theory. Very cool.

Match 7: WWE World Heavyweight Championship- Daniel Bryan def. Batista and Randy Orton (c) (at 23:20)

Thoughts: Very high energy start, which was needed on a couple of levels- the show and the crowd needed it, but it also made sense in the story of the match. Bryan was injured and needed to attack hard and fast before Orton or Batista could zero in on his injuries.

Bryan gets taken out for a spell, leaving it as Orton vs. Batista one on one for a bit. The crowd don't especially care for that, but they come back to life as Bryan re-enters the fray, taking them both out with a missile dropkick! It looks like Bryan has it won after he puts Orton in the Yes Lock, but Triple H & Stephanie gets involved, causing Cole to lose his shit on commentary. They bring their own referee, Scott Armstrong. Batista hits the Batista Bomb on Bryan- but he kicks out!

Bryan wipes out the Authority and the crooked ref with a suicide dive. An enraged Triple H gets back up and grabs his sledgehammer- but Bryan gets it and knocks him out with it instead! Following this, Orton and Batista put aside their differences to hit a Batista Bomb/RKO combo on Bryan through the announce table. This leads to a stretcher job, but Bryan gets off the stretcher and returns to the fight, Foley style!

Orton almost retains with a RKO on Batista but the Animal kicks out. Bryan flies in with a running knee on Orton and Batista tries to pick up the scraps, but Orton kicks out. Ultimately, it's another running knee on Batista by Bryan, followed by the Yes Lock- and he taps!

Star Rating: ***3/4. The action falls a bit short of that classic tier for me. Especially after rewatching WrestleMania XX the other week, it's clear they were just trying to re-do the Chris Benoit thing with Bryan- similar size, similar story, similar movesets- and even things like the two established stars putting the underdog through the announce table, and the match ending with a crossface submission, lifted directly from WMXX. That said, it was definitely entertaining, and the payoff was cathartic for Daniel Bryan fans, many of whom had supported him since his indie days. To see him achieve the goal on the grandest stage possible was awesome.

Post-match, Daniel Bryan celebrates with the title as confetti falls. "A miracle on Bourbon Street!" Cole yells. "It's YES-tlemania!" King exclaims. He stands on the announce table leading "YES" chants as fireworks go off.

Overall Thoughts

My thoughts on this WrestleMania have always been that it's a bit overrated. Watching it with fresh eyes here, I stand by that. It's far from a BAD show, but some people have it in their top 3 Manias of all time. Each to their own, of course, but I feel like rating the show that highly is getting too caught up in the Daniel Bryan story.

This show had an excellent opening- both the Bryan/HHH match and the legends segment of Hogan/Austin/Rock kicking us off- and a great finish with Bryan finally winning the big one. Everything in between went from either "okay" to "not very good". Cena/Wyatt was a bit disappointing. The Shield bit was fun, but blink and you miss it. The Streak breaking was shocking, but the actual match wasn't good, and there's a whole debate as to whether the Streak should have been broken there- I personally lean towards not at all, but Brock certainly didn't need it. And finally, the Divas Championship match was probably the one thing on this show that made me go, "oh yeah, this was a different era".

WrestleMania 30 was a show where the highs were really high. But to me, a truly classic Mania is more consistent, with more highs and little to no lows. But we do love the Daniel Bryan story- and it does carry a heavier weighting being the main event story versus the undercard stuff. Always got time for the underdog.

Overall Score: 8/10

Until next time, take care.


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Who's Behind The Blog
Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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