It has been a whirlwind two nights and counting at WrestleMania in New Orleans for me and there’s no real way to jot it into a cohesive narrative. Let’s break it down in bullet form.
1. Vince McMahon loves to show and tell us that we do not know what he is going to do.
After a frenetic evening, the crowd was aggressively disinterested in the main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Beachballs were more over than the performers as over 70,000 people acted as one to voice their displeasure with being sold a match that we both did not care about and believed we knew the outcome to. The way I thought it would end would be that Roman would endure and then someone the crowd likes and/or is surprised by — Bobby Lashley? Goldberg? …… Rusev?!– would maul him.
The Lesnar victory was such a surprise and it’s hard to have any idea where the story goes from here. Does he vacate the title? Could Braun Strowman, who proved that he could emasculate the former Raw tag-team champs with a 10-year-old as his partner, step up? And how does Roman handle it? Which brings me to…
2. We are actually quite lucky to have Roman Reigns in our lives.
I know everybody is tired of seeing him win and I know that it’s painfully awkward when he’s in interminable promos forcing himself to remember his lines, but boy oh boy can he take a beating. It is a special occasion when he loses. Who else could lose a wrestling match and send an NFL stadium full of people home baffled and trying to figure out the myriad angles where it could go from there?
It’s hard to know whether this was all a long burn of Vince McMahon playing multi-dimensional chess or whether they stumbled into this by accident, but Reigns is as effective a heel as there can be in the genre because everybody is just dying to see him get his ass whipped. The present may not be enamored with him, but history will reflect very well on him.
3. More Nakamura-Styles is not that interesting to me.
Headed into the evening, many people thought that Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles would steal the show. Instead it was maybe the worst match that Styles has had on a PPV, and we’re definitely going to see it again soon.
I know there are a lot of people who believe the art of professional wrestling is that it is a simulated fight, and they did a lot of isolating of body parts and prolonged selling in this match. I’m a bigger fan of faster pacing. When you throw in the fact that their promos for this match were segments that never commanded my primary attention away from the internet, seeing more of this feud now is just unappealing.
Nakamura oozes charisma and everybody knows his entrance is a huge spectacle, but for whatever reason his matches haven’t been that great since he joined the main roster from NXT. I dunno if there is some sort of injury that he is nursing but hasn’t missed prolonged time for or if he’s holding back, but a heel turn doesn’t really intrigue me for a continuation of this series.
Let’s address Daniel Bryan first. It was a profoundly palpable experience to be in the building for his return to pro wrestling, and it was like he never left. New Orleans is a special place in the lore of his legacy given it was where he defeated Triple H and later Randy Orton for the championship belt at WrestleMania 30, and his comeback was the personification of grit. There’s no natural ideas that come to mind about how to use him next — though, a match against AJ Styles at SummerSlam would be incredible — and we’ll also have to see how Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn go about getting un-fired.
Where Daniel Bryan was wrestling at the peak of human emotion, The Undertaker’s appearance was wrestling at its cheesy, nostalgic best. Everyone knew he was going to be there, but no one knew in what capacity. Squashing John Cena, who had been running his mouth for a month, was a very satisfying experience. You have to suspend belief that The Undertaker is 53 years old, and buy into the supernatural aspect of it all, but if you can get past that it’s a lot of fun.
5. And we haven’t even gotten to Ronda Rousey’s remarkable performance yet.
There were a lot of questions about how Rousey would pan out for WWE as she stumbled through some promos and had snippy answers to benign questions from Mike Golic and Max Kellerman, but she delivered in a big way on Sunday. They have a new Brock Lesnar in the women’s division, only even more interesting, and it will be fascinating to see where they go with her from here. Whatever they do now, my prediction is that she faces Charlotte Flair — who also had a fantastic match on Sunday against Asuka — in the main event of WrestleMania 35.
6. Ring of Honor was also a ton of fun.
Wrestling fans in New Orleans had the difficult decision between attending Ring of Honor and NXT on Saturday night. The pros to NXT were that the show was more centrally located and that it ended much earlier providing patrons the opportunity to go out on Bourbon Street. Ring of Honor had maybe the most interesting story in pro wrestling right now with a fracturing Bullet Club where the leaders Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega are feuding and we don’t know whose side everyone else is on.
The Bullet Club is fascinating because its storyline crosses over between two promotions — ROH and New Japan — on opposite ends of the globe. Omega is one of the more special performers on the planet right now. The match, and the rest of the card, was a great experience. I don’t think there was a wrong pick to be made with either ROH or NXT.
7. WrestleMania should be in New Orleans once every 2-3 years.
New Orleans is the best city in America to spend a weekend. It was only the second WrestleMania I’ve been to, but the extent to which it is better than Dallas almost cannot be quantified.
Everything about New Orleans — the music, food, bars, and liberal open container laws — blends together great with the surreality of pro wrestling, and both sides’ colorful characters combined for an experience that won’t soon be forgotten by anybody who made the trek.
New York is going to be a very strange spot for Mania next year. Where the festivities here didn’t quite take over the city — wrestling fans may not have even been the majority of the tourists in town for the weekend — everywhere you went you saw people wearing WWE gear or even dressed as their favorite pro wrestlers. In New York, they might not even have venue space for some of the Axxess events, and everything will be decentralized in a manner such that the community of the pilgrimage won’t feel the same.
There is no escaping the fact that, after a seven-hour roller coaster in the building, fans were woozy and had no idea what to make of the main event. Once that storyline gets resolved, everybody who was there is going to look back at this weekend as being quite special.