WWE Wrestlemania 31 (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/ 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 233 minutes approx.
For the second year in a row the spectre of the fans rejection of the main event match up loomed heavy over the biggest WWE show of the year. In 2014 the fans rebellion against a Randy Orton vs. Batista main event saw Vince McMahon forced to inject Daniel Bryan into the fray. This year it was Roman Reigns challenging incumbent WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar that saw fans voicing their disapproval, again wanting Daniel Bryan to repeat his Cinderella story from the year before.
Vince however stuck to his guns and after Regins cleanly and fairly defeated Bryan for the title shot at Fastlane, the match was set but how would fans react?
On March 29th a reported 76, 976 fans (some have challenged the figure to be a more around the 67,000 mark) packed into the newly constructed Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California to see if Vince would be left with egg on his face or if he will surprise us again.
Your commentators are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL and for the first time, the ring announcing is shared between Lillian Garcia and Eden Stiles. As usual, no results or spoilers in the match discussion but loads of opinion.
The show actually opened with two matches that were heavily built up on TV – the Four-Way Tag Title Match and the 2nd Andre The Giant Memorial Invitational Battle Royale – but were shunted off to the pre-show because apparently four hours is not enough for nine matches! You can find these bouts in the extras.
WWE IC Title Ladder Match – Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth
We kick off the main show with a ladder match for the IC title featuring the cream of the WWE Glass Ceiling brigade (and R-Truth). It is somewhat unfortunate that Daniel Bryan’s injury meant he goes from headlining one year to curtain jerking the next but at least he got on the card! Insane amount of bumps and risk taking as you’d expect in this kind of match (Dean Ambrose I’m looking at you) and a fun way to open the main show.
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins
Orton returned after a sabbatical at the hands of Rollins and a Curb Stomp on the steel steps to turn on The Authority and reignite his feud with the “future of the WWE”. Decent match with Rollins bumping like crazy to Orton’s greatest hits arsenal, as did J&J Security whose expected liberal interference was curtailed early on. Orton is back to his bland babyface persona but credit where it is due, the finish was a pretty spectacular piece of timing and well executed.
Sting vs. Triple H
A match we never thought we’d see, the one man who had avoided accepting a WWE paycheque for over thirty years was finally in a WWE ring. Sting arrived in November at Survivor Series to cost The Authority the crucial all or nothing match to start this feud. Of course Vince would unnecessarily turn this into a WWE vs. WCW feud because ego, but it made sense by the end of the match. Triple H had another indulgent entrance, this time based around the Terminator which was slightly less ridiculous than his previous ones. The longest match on the show this was quite good, considering Sting’s age and two year absence from the ring, but it was typically over cooked, arguably for the right reasons once the big surprise of the match occurred.
A trio of “Grammy nominated” musicians I’ve never heard of waste everyone’s time with some racket to complete silence, demonstrating once again that wrestling fans don’t give the tiniest of craps about music at their wrestling shows.
AJ Lee & Paige vs. The Bella Twins
The “Frenemy” team of AJ and Paige put their differences aside to bring the nefarious Bellas down in the first Divas match at Wrestlemania since 2005 to have an actual story behind it! Despite the “Give Divas A Chance” campaign the girls were given 6 minutes to do their thing and the result is a fun and hard worked match that sadly didn’t inspire the crowd which is a shame, but it is the best WM Divas match since 2005!!
The 2015 Hall Of Fame inductees take the stage next and the typo on Lanny Poffo’s graphic has been corrected here. The entire ceremony is included as part of the extras.
WWE US Title Match – Rusev (c) vs. John Cena
Despite having a pro-USA rallying video before his entrance Cena was still booed by the crowd. Maybe this was due to a huge chunk of the audience coming from all over the world who wouldn’t be receptive to such manipulation or maybe it was because Rusev came out first in a friggin’ TANK!!! Solid match hat took a while to catch on but I’d venture to suggest that the Fastlane one was arguably a tad better.
A very polarising segment took place next in which Triple H and the Screeching Harpy came out to announce the attendance then boast about how great they are when they were interrupted by Hollywood star Dwayne Johnson. They trade insults for an eternity and were about to get physical but Dwayne can’t hit a woman, so he plucks a female totally at random from the crowd, who just happened to be a UFC fighter named Ronda Rousey, a big name in the MMA world. You can guess the rest.
My problem with this was that a) it was more of a RAW segment and not something people expect to see on a paying show b) it was interminably long, running over 25 minutes, longer than any of the matches. I get why they did it, as Rousey is currently a big name in the US and this it would earn the WWE some mainstream publicity, but had this and the music segment not taken place the two matches shifted to the pre-show could have stayed on the main show.
I know many people loved it, especially MMA fans who got a buzz from Rousey being in a WWE ring, leading to the inevitable crossover speculation to begin but for me, if they had to do it, they could have done it inside 10 minutes as this dragged on becoming pretty much another example of McMahon family indulgence.
The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt
After having the streak ended by Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30 and suffering a concussion in the process it was a subject of much speculation as to whether The Undertaker would be in sufficient shape to make his annual in ring appearance. Taker was kept off TV as a precaution but as we saw, he did indeed accept Bray Wyatt’s challenge. Returning with his mohawk grown out and dyed Taker was in good shape but the wear and tear on his body was obvious, which played into the story of the psychological weakened Taker facing a new and dangerous foe. Match was fine for what it was but the daylight setting harmed the spooky entrances both men benefit from.
WWE World Heavyweight Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
The moment of truth. Reigns received a hostile reaction but I think it was more a case of Vince’s anointed one being rushed into such a big spot. Only this year they have been smart in accepting the cheers for Lesnar and using this dynamic to their advantage. The other shadow hanging over this match was Lesnar’s status with the company, having signed a last minute new deal to spare them another embarrassment like Wrestlemania 20. Match was quite something with Reigns taking a similar beating that Cena did at Summerslam 2014 but earned the respect of the fans by coming back for more. Both guys gave us a good fight and it was close thing but they had one last surprise up their sleeves….
An interesting show this year in that there are no bad matches on this card yet there was nothing that was instantly classic or worthy of being a special Wrestlemania moment match. The Sting vs. Triple H match delivered a fun bit of nostalgia with its surprise twist and the main event was a lesson in authentic brutality before the shock finish. But in the final analysis this was an enjoyable big scale show that may slip under the radar in years to come among the classics.
The booking was largely right for once, especially the main event which opens up some new directions for a change, but as we saw with Daniel Bryan in 2014, the path they go down from here is crucial in the fortunes of both the company and the WWE Champ. Daniel Bryan’s title run – pre-injury – was botched by having his first title feud with Kane so this is a mistake that shouldn’t be repeated.
Again, this DVD/BD presentation is top notch, bolstered by the 2015 Hall Of Fame which is another must watch affair. There are a couple of edits to be made aware of – Daniel Bryan’s “What we do is fictional” line has been cut while Alundra Blayze’s profanity has also been muted – otherwise this is the complete show, all four long hours of it. The original intended length was about three hours but some speeches overran, most notably those from Dana Warrior and Larry Zbyszko, although unlike Mr. T last year they stayed on topic!
Not much else to say but as a memento for the biggest WWE show of the year, this is a no brainer addition to your DVD/Blu-ray collection.
Best match – Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns
Wrestlemania Pre-Show Fatal 4-Way Tag Title Match: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. New Day
John Cena Prepares For Rusev
Seth Rollins Is The Future
Complete WWE Hall Of Fame 2015 Ceremony featuring:
Warrior Spirit Award – Connor “The Crusher” Michalek
Macho Man Randy Savage
Wrestlemania Pre-Show – Andre The Giant Memorial Invitational Battle Royale
The Beast Is Here To Hunt
Daniel Bryan Sets His Sights On The IC Title
Rating – *****
Man In Black