WWE – Wrestlemania 34 (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 304 minutes approx.
It’s that time of year again – when the WWE wrestlers get to compete on the Grandest Stage of Them All, when an arena just won’t do and the show is moved into a huge stadium and a colossal crowd of wrestling fans from across the globe endure seven hours of distractions to prevent them from ruining another Roman Reigns main event.
Of course, it doesn’t work, and it seems that maybe – just maybe – Vince McSenile may have got the message even though all signs are pointing to this year being the year Roman finally dethrones Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Which is why the card has been loaded with many marquee matches to burn the crowd out before hand so they are too tired to boo Reigns out of the stadium.
Will it work? Well, it didn’t the last three years…
This event took place on April 8th at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana in front of a reported 78, 133 fans (expect the real number be closer to 68,000) with commentary from Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton for the SD Live matches and Graves with Michael Cole and the insufferable Jonathan Coachman for the RAW matches.
As ever, while my match review won’t contain any results or major spoilers, expect plenty of opinion and backstory to the matches.
WWE IC Title Triple Threat Match – The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor
Aka The Cosplay Match as Rollins came out like a character from Mortal Kombat while Miz was channelling Naruto. Not to be left out Bálor *may* have outed himself by sporting rainbow colours for his “Bálor Club is For Everyone” gear. This is all incidental though as this was about settling the three-way feud that has been rocking for quite a while with each man holding singles victories over the others, leaving the winner not so clear.
Non-stop action this was a hot opener with all three trading big moves and finishers but no-one getting an advantage. Miz should have been the lone heel here but having just become a father the week before, he was embraced by the crowd meaning the heat was solely about the action. The TV singles matches might have been better but for a PPV opener this was great way to start.
During the nine hour pre-show, newly single (or is he?) John Cena arrived and sat in the crowd because he didn’t have a match due to The Undertaker no responding to his challenges on RAW each week. I mention this because the camera cuts away to Cena regularly during the pre-show and main card matches because John Cena.
WWE Smackdown Women’s Title Match – Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka
After winning the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, Asuka had a big choice to make and despite being on RAW, she chose SD women’s champ Charlotte at Fastlane for her title match. Let’s face it, this was always going to be the better match up and Charlotte is higher up on the management’s favourites list so this was inevitable, but as a fan of both I’m not complaining.
The story of course is Asuka’s undefeated streak potentially coming to an end and with everyone else having fallen to the Empress of Tomorrow, maybe Asuka was about to meet her match. Work wise, this was fantastic with both ladies busting our big moves among some fine technical wrestling, and the build up to the finish was great, leading to this being an early show stealer.
Unfortunately WWE didn’t feel the same as they cut away straight after to show Cena being given a message by a ref and him running off the back. Did he have a backstage pass as well as a ticket?
WWE US Title Fatal Four-Way Match – Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal
The big news was Aiden English coming out with a bald head, 90-minutes after having a full head of hair in the Andre Battle Royale. Maybe not the biggest news but this match was the pits and of course Rusev, the most over guy, was booked as the heel. And if anyone thought we really needed another Orton vs. Mahal PPV showdown, they are probably the sort of pernicious miser who reads the Daily Mail and complains to Ofcom about TV shows they don’t even watch.
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon
This was the match that had readers of a certain insider newsletter salivating because they have been brainwashed into believing Rousey is the hottest female star on the entire planet because opinions>facts. This was the pay off from the angle that took place at WM 31 where Rousey embarrassed Triple H and Big Steph alongside The Rock, but Mr. Johnson is busy conquering Hollywood so Kurt Angle was drafted in as Rousey’s partner.
Truthfully, this was a fun match but not as earthshakingly awesome as some will say but it did its job and hit all the right notes. It had been rehearsed for months to ensure Rousey held her end up for her in-ring debut and she was actually very good, not letting the nerves show and living up to her reputation which won the fans over.
The issues are that Triple H and Angle were working in slow motion and looked tired against Rousey’s fire, but the big problem was Big Steph, who as you might expect, was given too much against Rousey, and instead of being squashed in seconds as she should have, she got to fight back and counter Rousey’s armbar which was dumb when legit MMA fighters would tap instantly. But the match fulfilled its purpose and McEgo booking aside can be called a success and a memorable debut for Rousey.
WWE Smackdown Tag Title Triple Threat Match – The Usos (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers
You have to feel for these guys, having to follow the last match. Even with the history between New Day and The Usos for having great matches, when you’re only given five minutes and have two big lugs whose sole remit is destruction to counter your high flying arsenal, failure is the only option. Not the wrestlers’ fault, just wrong place, wrong time.
The Undertaker vs. John Cena
That must have been some sort of package Cena got with his ticket if it afforded him screen time, a backstage pass, an impromptu spot on a loaded card complete with his full entrance! Initially Elias came out to distract Cena with a song but you can guess how that went.
The fact Taker did show up after all so this isn’t a spoiler nor is the fact Cena got what was coming to him after weeks of running his mouth but Taker really didn’t look good here even if the match was short.
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
You read that right – three years after a series of concussions saw Daniel Bryan forced to announce his retirement then a year later, he was given the role of SD GM. Then a miracle happened when Bryan was finally cleared to wrestle again, allowing this long running feud with Zayn and Owens to reach its natural conclusion…. except two weeks before Shane O’Mac was hospitalised and it looked unlikely he would be able to compete.
Chris Jericho was the back-up plan if Shane couldn’t make it, despite his band Fozzy having a scheduled gig that same day, but in true McFashion, Shane defied medical opinion and made it to the show. Then, some idiot through having him work most of this 15-minute match when you have Daniel Freakin’ Bryan right there was a good idea, making this another match that was good but fell short of expectation. But at least Bryan is back and on the road to regaining his old form again.
WWE RAW Women’s Title Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax
With Asuka challenging Charlotte, Alexa needed a challenger so her best friend Nia Jax was suddenly replaced by Mickie James and the pair began body shaming Nia and insulting her behind her back. In fulfilling the narrative of beating the bullies (yes , tiny Alexa was the bully here) this should be have been another squash match but again, the girls were given 10 minutes.
They told a good story and did what they could with the size difference messing up the heel-face dynamic but this particular layout should have been reserved for the rematch.
WWE Championship Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
So here it is – the dream match. Of course, if you are a fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling then you’ll have seen these two have a stonking match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016 at the Tokyo Dome but this is the WWE so it is a dream match for them and one of the few deserving of being a WM main event (except in Vince McSenile’s eyes).
The build up was Nakamura winning the men’s Royal Rumble then choosing Styles as his opponent because everyone knew Lesnar was reserved for Reigns. Nak then would play harmless mind games with Styles saying he was too emotional but it grated on Styles on threatened to ruin their friendship.
With such lofty expectations behind this match, it is safe to say without being snarky or deliberately contrary that it under-delivered. Don’t get me wrong it was a great match and one of the better ones on the show by a mile but it never ascended to the greatness we all know or at least hoped it would. The crowd was still awake for it which was a plus but there was just something missing to make it the classic it should have been. But then again, maybe this was due to what happened after the match…
WWE RAW Tag Title Match – The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman & Mystery Partner
Nothing gets you tag team division over like having one man destroy every team by himself in a Battle Royale. Strowman needed a match for this show having got over big time with the fans but with everyone else already booked, they slotted him into the tag division, sans partner.
Coming out alone, after weeks of speculation as to who his partner would be, Braun went into the crowd and picked a little girl. Actually it was referee John Cone’s 10 year-old son Nicholas and yes, he even tagged in at one point but this was all Strowman, but no, Vince Russo hasn’t returned to the WWE.
WWE Universal Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns
Vince failed again. Having kept everyone waiting for fifteen hours and making them sit through some utter dross, the crowd in the Superdome still had some energy left to welcome Roman with a hearty chorus of vociferous boos. But then the match started and they finally got some sleep.
This was basically Lesnar and Reigns trading big moves and finishers for 15 minutes and it wasn’t pretty or interesting. Chants of “Boring” and “This is Awful” could be heard among the otherwise muted ennui of the crowd that even the sight of Roman gushing blood from some sick elbow strikes to the head couldn’t break. As main events go, this was a disaster creatively and philosophically and whilst he result was a shock, it left one to wonder if there is a method to this madness, or more importantly, when Vince will wake up and smell the rebellion of the fans who refuse to accept Roman as THE guy of the WWE.
This might be damning the show with faint praise but WM 34 is better than last year’s event and probably the year’s before too, by virtue of having more stand-out matches and memorable (often for the wrong reason) moments. It is however still a hugely bloated affair that collapses under its own weight, even if the gesture of getting as many wrestlers as possible on the show is a noble one, the seven hour run time (that’s combined with the pre-show) is just too excessive.
In terms of the booking, hardly anyone came out of this show any better or further up the rankings than they did before it took place. One major moment was practically nullified moments after it happened in an attempt to sell an unrelated incident that could have waited, whilst the pressures of delivering some of the bigger and overhyped matches meant others suffered as result, reaffirming where the hierarchy is in the eyes of the management.
But, if you cherry pick from this overstuffed card you can find something to entertain you and make it feel like the special show it is but taken as a whole, the slog of sitting through such a long show takes its tool. You know what they say about having too much of a good thing…
Best Match – Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka
A note about this release from WWE Home Video. Regular patrons of their Wrestlemania collections will have noticed the Hall of Fame ceremony is not included in the extra features. This is because the show ran to over four and half hours this year (some reports claim people, including many of the wrestlers, left before Goldberg’s headlining speech, explaining the lack of reaction it got).
Instead, by way of a replacement, the RAW from the next night is included in its entirety, featuring the usual array of NXT call-ups and returning faces from the past, as the fallout from the night before at WM 34 begins. Whilst not the whole show, the two big happenings from SD Live are featured too only Blu-ray only.
But, there is light at the end of the tunnel because WWE Home Video UK have an exclusive deal, whereby if you pre-order this release from their own website, you will get a FREE bonus DVD of the NXT: TakeOver – New Orleans II event from the night before WM 34, which was another fantastic show from the yellow brand and frankly, a much better event than WM itself!
To take advantage of this offer visit the WWE Home Video UK website via this link: https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/wrestlemania-online-exclusive-order-p-12571.html
Blu-ray Disc 2:
Wrestlemania Kick-Off Match – Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale
Wrestlemania Kick-Off Match – WWE Cruiserweight Title Tournament Final – Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali
Wrestlemania Kick-Off Match – Women’s Wrestlemania Battle Royale
Monday Night RAW – April 9th 2018 – Full Show
Smackdown Live – April 10th 2018
Shane McMahon Introduces The New SD Live General Manager
Carmella Cashes In!
Rating – ****
Man In Black