WWE – Wrestlemania 35 (Cert 15)
2 discs Blu-ray/3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 259 minutes approx.
Of the all the epithets and marketing slogans attached to Wrestlemania – “The Grandest Stage Of Them All”, “The Biggest Show Of The Year” “The Showcase Of Immortals” – one is still conspicuous by its absence, that being “The Biggest Slog Of The Year”.
Yes, Wrestlemania 35 set a new record for WWE in being its longest show ever, clocking in at a bum numbing 7 ¼ hours and for all we know, might still be running as you read this. There is big and there is TOO big and Wrestlemania is definitely getting TOO big and currently cannot justify such excess with its stale, ratings killing creative direction.
On the plus side, history was made in another area when the Women headlined the show for the first time its 34-year existence, something many never thought possible. Granted, it took the addition of former MMA fighter Ronda Rousey to help break this particular duck rather than the sole merits of the extant Women’s division but the “regulars” were well represented by Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch.
Held on April 7th 2019 at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey before an announced crowd of 82,265 fans, with commentary provided by Michael Cole and Renee Young for RAW, Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton for SD, Corey Graves working for both and guest spots from JBL, Jerry Lawler, Booker T and Paige.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers (I’ll leave that up to the back cover artwork of this release) but plenty of opinion.
The show opens with Titus O’Neill’s girlfriend warbling the US National Anthem to a stadium half full of non-Americans, then Alexa “Sick Note” Bliss as designated host kicks things off properly by bringing out WWE Hall of Famer and unrepentant racist Hulk Hogan to say a few (non controversial) catchphrases.
WWE Universal Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Heavily pushed as one of the “main event” matches on the show, the decision to go first was literally made minutes before the main show went on air, which is why Hogan and Bliss were surprised to be interrupted by Paul Heyman. He cut a promo saying Lesnar wanted to go on first so he can get home quicker (in hindsight a smart move given the traffic woes after the show), though the real reason was that going on early would ensure a better reaction than later when the crowd was tired (and because Lesnar wanted to get home quicker).
Not much of a match if we’re being honest – Lesnar jumped Rollins as he entered the ring and beat the snot out of him then after 5 minutes the bell rang and before you know it, we’re done. But at least I gave us a hot opener to the show whilst for Lesnar these ten minutes were the equivalent of a month’s work for him.
AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton
This was the original opening match, but since Orton only has one speed – inert – this would have been the dullest opener to a Wrestlemania in recorded history. Styles tried his best but suffered an injury early on which hampered his performance but not so much that he still couldn’t run rings around Slow Motion Predator.
Lacey Evans earned her salary with another taxing and strenuous walk onto the stage then a walk back again. With the ramp being five times as long as normal she clearly felt the extra effort to go all the way to ringside wasn’t worth making, but easy work if you can get it I suppose.
WWE Smackdown Tag Title Fatal Four Way Match – The Usos (c) vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet vs. The Bar vs. Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura
Finally something with a bit of a prolonged buzz to it, even if it descended into a typically chaotic schmooze fest. The big spot, of many, was Cesaro swinging Ricochet for a whole 45 seconds whilst Sheamus did his chest punches on all the other wrestlers! Bell to bell action that gave everyone a chance to shine, it didn’t feel like a crucial title defence but was a lot of fun and he best match thus far.
The Hall Of Fame class of 2019 came out to take a bow. At least nobody tried to attack Bret Hart this time.
Falls Count Anywhere Match – Shane McMahon vs. The Miz
So, Shane O’Mac finally turned on The Miz at Fastlane even committing the heinous act of attacking Miz’s father, a man so devoid of charisma he makes Randy Orton look like Robin Williams. This stipulation of being Falls Count Anywhere of course allows Shane to do his usual stupid stunts where he jumps off high places – stupid because he is 49 years-old and get winded walking to the ring.
If you judge matches on work rate this was horrible for the above-mentioned reason, but if death-defying stunts are your thing, well this was still wretched but ends with a typical dangerous high spot that will be forgotten minutes later.
WWE Women’s Tag Title Match – Sasha Banks & Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax & Tamina vs. The Iiconics vs. Natalya & Beth Phoenix
Beth Phoenix came out of retirement after Tamina and Nia attacked her at Fastlane and proved she hasn’t missed a beat in teaming with Natalya here, who had Uncle Bret join them on the stage. Not the best showcase for the women’s tag division as it could have been if I’m honest but certainly not the worst.
Honestly, this would have been a better match if it was just Beth & Nattie vs. Sasha & Bayley as this was when things were at their best. I’m not sure why but it just click or run so smoothly when everyone was involved. Jax was working injured so did very little. The Iiconics are good in their roles but in carrying this into the ring, they are hard to take seriously. I can’t say the result was the right one either but there you go.
WWE Title Match – The New Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston
A match many of us never thought we would see as Kofi has never been seen as anything more than a tag wrestler or perennial mid-card act until an injury to Mustafa Ali saw Kingston picked as his replacement in a gauntlet match on TV and the fans suddenly started to believe. Following months of Vince McSenile trying to hold Kofi back, fan opinion one again forced his hand and here we are.
The first of two Cinderella stories of the show, it is amazing how Kofi Mania took off but it is hard to argue that the results, not just because it gave us the best match of the show but because of the emotional investment in it. They almost spoiled the outcome when Big E showed up with a present for Kofi to be opened after the match otherwise this did exactly what it needed to on every level.
It’s backstage skit time with Alexa Bliss, two chaps from a US TV show no-one outside of the US has heard of who were in the Andre Battle Royale in the pre-show, and Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Why, I have no idea but Vince probably thought it was funny. Well, there is always one…
WWE US Title Match – Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio
Rey was injured during a match with Boring Corbin on RAW before this show so they had to work around that – by cutting the match short to under a minute! And they brought Booker T out to commentate on the match, for 60 seconds! This, of course, is ironic given some of the matches on this card that would have been significantly better had they been truncated to a minute…
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
Speaking of which…. Roman is in a strange place at the moment in that the fans don’t want to boo a cancer survivor but don’t want to cheer Vince’s chosen one either. To be fair, the fans were starting to tire and with Reigns only recently having returned, this match was created in a rush, so their investment was low. Not a great outing for either men and could have been omitted from the card and not missed.
With the show only 10 hours old by now, Elias came out to add to the ennui and fatigue that was setting in, but was interrupted by a video of baseball legend Babe Ruth followed by John Cena revisiting his old Thug Life gimmick. The purpose of the preceding video was to instil into fans’ minds that Cena is the “Babe Ruth” of WWE, i.e.: the Greatest of All Time because Vince loves Cena and wants to have his babies.
No Holds Barred Match – Triple H vs. Batista
And here‘s another bout that would have been improved by some prudent shearing off its run time – by a good 20 minutes. This is only happening because despite having one of the best rosters in a long time, Triple H, like his brother-in-law, has to have a match on the Mania card or the (WWE) universe will implode or something, at least in Vince’s addled mind.
Being No Holds Barred means these two 50 year-olds can cover their shortcomings with plunder and violence which they tried to do for 25 VERY LONG PLODDING MINUTES! Yes, this is tedium defined, outside of a gruesome spot where Trips pulls Dave’s nose ring from his nose with a pair of pliers. The loser would have to retire which means one would continue making more direct to DVD films whilst the other would have devote all his energies to NXT. Who are you rooting for?
Alexa Bliss and the B-Team shill some Daniel Bryan T-shirts but are interrupted by Ron Simmons who had something to say on the subject.
Farewell Match – Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin
Another career coming to an end, Kurt had decided to hang up his boots and wisely too as his body is completely broken down now, but he did put it through hell both in and outside the ring. He announced a “farewell tour” and worked with people like Styles, Samoa Joe, Chad Gable, yet for storyline reasons, chose Corbin for his final match, following on from Corbin replaced Angle as RAW GM and tormenting him ever since.
Not much to say here except not the best send off for Angle and Corbin being his opponent didn’t help either. At least it was kept short.
Disc one of the Blu-ray ends here, so Disc two opens with
WWE IC Title Match – Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Finn Bálor
Lashley wore yellow contact lenses presumably to ward off the evil of the Demon! It was late in the night and this feud has gone on long enough so the match was kept short. Wither the IC title?
Alexa Bliss returned to announce the new attendance record (because of course) but was interrupted by R-Truth and Carmella for a dance break which drew boos as the show was only 20 hours old at this point and the last thing it needed was further padding.
Winner Takes All – Smackdown & Raw Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Becky Lynch
Cinderella Story number two is the one making history as the ladies take the final match honours this year. Many would have preferred it was a singles match between Becky vs. Ronda but it doesn’t happen that way because, of course, Vince. He had already pegged Charlotte as his WM headliner against Ronda, but Becky’s popularity explosion forced his hand, though he wouldn’t give up on Charlotte without a fight, and inserted her into the match to spite the fans wishes.
Thus we had months of Becky being forced to jump through hoops to get this match and other stupidity like her being arrested, suspended and injured when all they needed to do was just keep Becky and Ronda apart and cut promos on each other. Then, they had Charlotte beat my Goddess Asuka for the SD title a week before this show in an unannounced match to add further spice to the match and the “Winner Takes All” stip.
Anyway, Charlotte arrived at the venue via helicopter like her dad did in the 80’s for stadium shows whilst Ronda had Joan Jett play her to the ring. So, was it a good match? Yes, it was. Hard hitting, intense, and well laid out but didn’t feel as epic at could have been for a WM main event partly because of it happening at midnight before a frazzled crowd and everyone knew Rousey – who broke her hand during the match – was leaving after this show to make babies.
The botched ending put a damper on things but the ladies worked hard to ensure this made their mark as the first ever female headliners of Wrestlemania!
At 7 ¼ hours long – including the two hour pre-show which hosted FOUR matches – this was the longest Wrestlemania yet and frankly, it had no business being that length. I get that they want everyone to have a spot on the show in some form but from the audience perspective, it isn’t feasible enough to pull off it one show without draining them of their enthusiasm and energy.
Nor is fair on the wrestlers, especially the main eventers who this year didn’t even hit the ring until nearly midnight! Worse still, the local public transport in New Jersey shut down before the show ended claiming they didn’t think it would be running so late, meaning there were over 70,000 angry people without a means to get back home or to their hotels!
Wrestlemania is beginning to feel like a vanity project that has run away from its creator and he can no longer contain it. No disrespect to the roster but some matches didn’t need to happen here while others needed serious truncation (HHH vs. Batista, I’m looking at you!). Backstage skits with Alexa Bliss and the Elias nonsense might give fans a breather from the action but when a show is this long, they have the opposite effect and prolong the agony.
Look past the bloated run time and there is a decent show here but in its present elongated form, Wrestlemania is less the Biggest Show of the Year, more the Biggest Letdown of the Year, given the hype behind it. A shame but you know, Vince…
Best match – Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Wrestlemania Kick-Off Matches
WWE Cruiserweight Title Match – Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese
Women’s Battle Royale
WWE Raw Tag Title Match – The Revival (c) vs. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale
Monday Night RAW – April 8th 2019 – Entire Post-Mania show
Dean Ambrose Farewell Address – After RAW went off the air April 8th 2019
WWEDVD.co.uk Exclusive Pre-order edition:
Bonus Disc – NXT Take Over: New York
DVD only upgrade with exclusive new artwork
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black