Previously on the Best and Worst of WrestleMania: WWE responded to Roman Reigns not being over enough in the WrestleMania 31 main event by putting him in a 30-minute version of it with less excitement and no run-in. This year they’re like, “people don’t seem to like Roman enough. Let’s have him RETIRE THE UNDERTAKER.”
If you missed WrestleMania 33 and somehow have no idea where to watch it, click here.
Remember that With Spandex is on Twitter, so follow it. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter. Also, make sure you’re reading the vintage Best and Worst reports.
Hit those share buttons! Leave us comments, spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. A huge thank-you to everyone who took a second to stop and say hello to Bill and myself while we were in Orlando, by the way. Knowing we’re reaching people and making folks laugh is the best feeling. In fact, we love it so much we’re gonna get a big head of steam and spear you out of appreciation.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE WrestleMania 33, the Ultimate Thrill Ride™, for April 2, 2017.
Kickoff Your Sunday Shoes
Best: You Can’t Beat A Guy Wearing Gold
Neville showed up to this match wearing gold. Austin Aries showed up wearing silver. Not sure I could provide clearer symbolism.
The first match in our 96 consecutive hours of pro wrestling was for the Cruiserweight Championship, and while I would’ve loved for this to, you know, be on WrestleMania, it was a great way to get the crowd hot for the night, and an even better way to utilize your tons and tons of pre-show time. Aries and Neville got almost 16 minutes, and about a third of way through it was already better than anything from the 32 kickoff.
But, again, Neville wore gold. If NXT taught us nothing else, it taught us that wearing gold increases your chance of winning a championship match tenfold. Seth Rollins used the same tactic later in the night to great success, although he was more “Legend of Zelda cartridge” than “gold gear.”
Think of this match like the male, main-roster equivalent of Ember Moon vs. Asuka. You’ve got a dominant champion who thinks they’re better than everyone else getting unexpectedly shook by a confident new challenger. So they wrestle, the challenger comes way too close to winning a few times, and the champ takes a shortcut to incapacitate them. At TakeOver, it was Asuka shoving the referee into the ropes to knock Moon off the top. Here, it was Neville countering the Last Chancery by attacking Aries’ previously injured eye, leaving him prone for a Red Arrow. And just like with Jack Gallagher at Fastlane — but not Raw — Neville had to go for his crowd-pleasing finish, because it’s also his most bulletproof. And he has to win.
And hey, the benefit of having this so early on the WrestleMania pre-show is that it avoids the classic “one guy wins at the show that matters, then gives back the win on a secondary pay-per-view nobody’s watching” thing, allows good word of mouth to spread about the match and sets up Neville/Aries II with a probable title change at Payback. Clapping emoji.
Best: Battle Royals Where The Winner Isn’t Just The Most Popular Guy
As you know if you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written, I love battle royals … and I especially love when bookers realize the concept of a battle royal is never “who is the best wrestler,” and that it should be occasionally used to surprise an audience and put someone over. If I put John Cena in the ring with James Ellsworth one-on-one, Cena’s winning 100 times out of 100. But in an over-the-top-rope battle royal? Ellsworth might be able to toss a guy out of the ring amidst a field of thirty once or twice, you know?
This year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal — or “The Dré,” as we call it — had three possible winners:
- Braun Strowman, because he’s the toughest and biggest and fastest guy and he’s been important to Raw for the past several months and just generally rules
- Big Show, because he’s the Big Show, and also because he was supposed to have a match with Shaq that didn’t materialize
- Sami Zayn, who dedicated the match to Mick Foley
They flipped the script on us by having everyone in the match wisely team up on Show and Strow, leading to Strowman breaking free and tossing Show. Then, because wrestlers are occasionally not super stupid, everyone teams up again and tosses Strowman. Show didn’t look too bad because Strowman is dope, and Strowman doesn’t look to bad because it took 20 people to eliminate him. And they had to try more than twice.
Sami Zayn gets tossed without fanfare because LOL.
But yeah, that leaves us with an incredibly unexpected final group that included Mojo Rawley, Jinder Mahal and NXT’s Killian Dain. I know, right? As the guy who fantasy books one of the Usos to win the Royal Rumble every year, I appreciate that. And as a guy who regularly writes about Mongo McMichael, Kevin Greene and Reggie White in the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro column, I can even appreciate a football star hopping the rail to murk everybody. Maybe someone from the CFL can show up to help Jinder win at Backlash?
Before I forget, another supplementary Best and highlight from this year’s Dré was Goldust as GOLDUST CLASSIC, which would’ve been even better if he’d worn out the wig and like, convinced Marlena to show up. Or brought back Dakota as La Hija del Marlena.
Worst: All These Poor Other Dudes
Remember when American Alpha got called up to the main roster and we were so excited to see them get thrown out like afterthoughts in a pre-show battle royal?
See also Titus O’Neil tossing Luke Harper, Tian Bing wrestling like someone who just found out what pro wrestling was this morning, and Dolph Ziggler’s continued existence.
Worst: Can We Demote This Match To BEFORE The Kickoff?
From our predictions:
According to interviews … Dean Ambrose wanted to do a crazy, memorable hardcore match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 and Lesnar was like, “nah, I’m gonna German you a few times and throw you on some chairs and we’re going home.” So what should happen is that Ambrose should do the match he wanted to do with Lesnar with Corbin, who is hungry and probably wouldn’t mind being attacked with a chainsaw.
So, uh, maybe Ambrose’s original plan was actually, “get demoted to the pre-show and shit the bed so hard a crowd that was getting hype for Mojo Rawley eliminating Jinder Mahal in a battle royal sits on their hands.”
This was absolutely dreadful, and that’s coming from a Baron Corbin stan like me. You could’ve sent Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler into the ring for 11 minutes and they could’ve delivered something more engaging and deserving of a solo Intercontinental title defense at a WrestleMania. Easily the worst match on the show, and that’s including the one coming up later where Bray Wyatt turns the showcase of the immortals into an overhead projector in an 8th grade health and science class.
And now, WrestleMania Sun
Best: Shane McMahon No Longer Wants None
First of all, did Shane McMahon not jump off the stage or the big roller coaster ramp this year because he knew the Hardys were coming back, and didn’t want to steal any shine from Brother Nero?
Second of all, we (and most of you) speculated that Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles at WrestleMania would be Styles wrestling a four-star match by himself a la Kota Ibushi because Shane got gassed throwing baby jabs last year and spent most of his Hell in the Cell lying down making bug-eyes. I’m happy to report that Shane brought his Worker Kicks this year, and more than held his own. It’s hurt a little bit by the announce team praising him as the second coming of Christ for wrestling well, but still, we got a straight-up Shane-o Mac match that maintained all of his devil-may-care crazy without the overkill.
The match featured Shane doing his Leap of Faith off the top through a table, dueling coast-to-coast dropkicks — one successful, one not so much — and an all-knees shooting star press attempt. 47-year old Shane McMahon’s officially got more centrifugal force than 26-year old Brock Lesnar. I wish they hadn’t shown Shane going for a shooting star press years ago in his “Shane’s crazy!” video package, because I had like two people say, “wow, when did Shane do a shooting star press?” when it was playing.
And I mean, just to say it again, AJ Styles is the best wrestler on the planet. It’s not even a contest. The guy can do anything he wants physically right now, he can tell a hell of a story in the ring, he connects with every audience he’s in front of no matter the size, he’s got infinity street cred and will hopefully continue to be Smackdown’s biggest star for the next year. Maybe getting a great match out of the boss’ kid will officially make him a Made Man, if he wasn’t already. I hope all of Shane’s kids were like, AJ STYLES IS AWESOME HOLY SHIT and get super into New Japan World.
Best: There Ain’t No Gettin’ Offa This Train We’re On!
I wrote about this a little already but plus-fucking-one to WWE and Square Enix for teaming up to put on a Final Fantasy-sponsored WrestleMania. If you asked 16-year old me what the best event in human history would be, he would’ve said, “a Final Fantasy-sponsored WrestleMania.” He also would’ve said something about going to it with Josie Bissett, but he was weirdly into Melrose Place.
And man, I was so worried about the New Day hosting. I thought their Fla-Vor-Ice-ass ice cream nonsense was going to overshadow everything and make 8 hours of wrestling even more tiresome, but they kept it brief and did a great job. All we got was one (1) intro of them as Final Fantasy character, one (1) tease that they were gonna be in the Raw Tag Team Championship ladder match as a mislead for the Hardy Boyz, and one (1) attendance record announcement. That’s how you do it. Their entire hosting gig was about a third as long as The Rock’s opening host monologue at 27.
My only complaint is that they didn’t bring back Wade Barrett with a gun for an arm to dance with them.
Worst: Michael Cole Sees Moogle, And, Chocobo!
“Say, let’s take a relaxed attitude towards WrestleMania and watch the video game match. The Luca Goers are my favorite squadron.” — Michael Cole
Best, But Not As Best As It Should Be: Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens
Over the past year, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens have carried Raw. They carried it when they were best friends, they carried it when they were breaking up, and they’ve carried it in the aftermath of the Festival of Friendship. They’re two of the best performers in the game doing some of the best work of their career. And still, somehow, their big, final, championship WrestleMania showdown was … a good Raw match. And that’s it.
I feel like I’ve started writing this every year, but I think Chris Jericho is the best performer to never have a truly classic match at a WrestleMania. He’s had plenty of good ones. The triple threat against Angle and Benoit, the match with Shawn Michaels at 19, participation in a handful of ladder matches … but nothing of, say, Taker vs. HBK quality. He’s the best wrestler inspired by Savage/Steamboat to never have a Savage/Steamboat, you know? And it’s not that he hasn’t had quality opponents. Dude’s had a main event against Triple H, matches against guys like William Regal, CM Punk, Edge and Christian, Michaels, and Kevin Owens. Guy even wrestled Ricky Steamboat himself at a WrestleMania and took a punch from a celebrity guest.
That said, the good Raw match is still very good. It’s got the spot you need from an Owens/Jericho blow-off — the Codebreaker counter to a pop-up powerbomb — and even includes one of the best, possibly unintentional callbacks I’ve ever seen:
The finish is a little disheartening, I guess, but what it should be if we’re sending Jericho off to be a summertime rock star and moving forward with Owens as the world’s worst and most opportunistic prize-fighting friend. Owens manages to powerbomb Jericho onto the ring apron — his most powerful possible move — and pins him cleanly, but rudely. Owens adds another prize to his trophy case, and the stage is set for an eventual, inevitable return. Nothing says “Kevin Owens” like him injuring his friends until they heal up and drive back to the arena six months later to kick his ass.
If we don’t see him for a while, thank you (x 100) to Chris Jericho for completely reinventing himself again and being the best part of Raw for a long time. And shout-out to him for continuing his legacy of convincing me I should buy ugly clothes. Why the hell do I want a leather scarf covered in Christmas lights? I want it so bad.
Best: Look At This WrestleMania Telling STORIES
The Raw Women’s Championship fatal four-way continued the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal’s attempt at “if yes, then what” storytelling. In the Andre, Big Show and Braun Strowman were the monster favorites. Because of that, everyone in the match used their brains and immediately teamed up to throw them out. That gave a dude like Mojo a shot at winning. Here, we’re in an elimination match and Nia Jax is one of the competitors. Not only is she strong and dominant, but she got into the match at the last minute and beat everyone up on Raw. So Sasha hates her, Bayley hates her, Charlotte hates her. How should the match start? With everyone teaming up to try to take her out, so someone other than her has a shot at winning. They put her away with a triple powerbomb, but not before Nia’s shown the ability to body three people at once with almost no effort. That’s good.
After Nia’s gone, the story becomes Charlotte trying to play Sasha and Bayley against one another. WWE babyfaces are kinda dumb and noble like that — remember when the Hardys fought each other in the Royal Rumble when they could’ve just hung out for a minute and tried to get to the end, and got eliminated by Drew Carey? — so it works. A little. When it doesn’t lead to them ripping out each other’s throats, Charlotte pulls one of the turnbuckle pads down and boots Sasha into it face-first. That KOs Sasha and takes her out, and is more opportunistic and not on the level than like, a handful of tights.
Then, the story comes back around. Charlotte dominates Bayley, because she almost always should — shout-out to those tree of woe knee stomps, which were amazing — and only stumbles when she tries to charge into the corner and runs into that same exposed turnbuckle. Psychology! Charlotte knocks herself out with her own cheating, and Bayley stays noble and forthright because she was just avoiding an attack. She didn’t like, smash her face into the exposed buckle out or revenge or spite or whatever. Bayley’s already hung up in the ropes, so she moves up top and hits a Macho Man elbow to retain.
See how I’m able to comment on the match and explain it extensively without having to make up a bunch of stuff and go on asides? That’s how easy pro wrestling is to understand and enjoy when it makes sense, and pays attention to who’s in the match, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. Bayley is now legitimately the Women’s Champion, so hopefully post-Mania Bayley will be a little easier to cheer for than pre.
Hall Of Fame Notes
- Diamond Dallas Page is the greatest. We got to sit down and talk to him on Thursday, and I’m not sure there’s a more inspirational or empowering person in the wrestling world. Dude got onto his first WrestleMania because he owned the car they wanted to use, and here he is getting into the Hall of Fame 27 WrestleManias later.
- The Rock n’ Roll Express were my favorite wrestlers as kids. They invented or perfected basically everything you like about tag team wrestling, and my only regret is that we won’t get to see the 60-year old versions of them get wrecked by the Revival for 15 minutes on next week’s NXT. Also, they deserve to get into the Hall of Fame simply by being that ugly and that desirable to women at the same time.
- Good to know Rick Rude’s sexual charisma got passed down to the next generation. Please call me, Rick Rude’s son. I’m not even playing.
- The funniest moment of the entire weekend is Teddy Long hopping out like Gollum for his Hall of Fame wave.
- It’s not mine, but I like that joke about how someone suggested Christian for the 2017 Hall of Fame, Vince wrote down “Edge’s wife” as a rib and now Beth Phoenix is getting inducted. Hoping that Molly Holly love in her speech gets Molly in next year.
- How great it is that 75,000 people yelling YOU SUCK at a Hall of Famer is the best tribute of the weekend? I know the rumor is Angle becoming the new Raw general manager, but I want to see him go to Smackdown and get all Foxcatcher over American Alpha.
Best: I Prefer King Maxel’s Earlier Work
Hardy Boyz returning to WWE got me like
Before the Raw Tag Team Championship ladder match, New Day pops in and is like, “this is gonna be a fatal four-way. We’re in our gear. We are literally the only other team in the Raw tag team division. WHO COULD IT BE?” And then when everybody’s hooting, Broken goddamn Matt and the nefarious Brother Nero trot out. I mean, okay, it’s just Matt and Jeff Hardy, but it’s healthy, happy Hardy Boyz returning to WWE for the first time in seven years after riding a bizarre, unpredictable career renaissance based on them acting like weird assholes and filming it in their backyard. It’s MAGIC.
Now, we’ve read that Matt wants to bring the entire “Broken universe” to WWE — for the uninitiated that includes a sentient, teleporting drone; a chill Matt Hardy clone baby that wins wrestling matches; a helpful gardener who can prepare a battlefield for massacre and is weirdly into digging people’s graves and more — but there’s a lot of legal fussing going on and nobody’s sure how Broken they can be. So Brother Nero is just 100% WWE Jeff Hardy again, and Matt is WWE Matt Hardy with Broken Matt’s hair, and every third or fourth sentence comes out in the Broken Matt voice. Plus, he’s doing the “delete” hand gesture to get US to say it. So, I dunno.
If we can’t bring the Broken universe onto Raw as is, maybe we can at least give it a gritty reboot. Just let them film it and write it themselves, so we don’t get any of that edited-to-shit Wyatt Family Compound stuff.
The actual tag team ladder match is secondary to the return of the Hardys, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The crowd is so hype for the Hardys that everyone could’ve taken turns throwing clapping headlocks and hip-tosses and we would’ve gotten four “this is awesome” chants. The good news is that it’s actually pretty awesome.
Poor Cesaro probably deserves better than being the fifth or sixth most important person in a multi-team tag in the middle of the show, but he and Sheamus were setting the hypothetical roof on fire with that tandem giant swing/Beats of the Bodhrán count-off. And who knows, maybe they’ll stay in the tag title picture and Senor Benjamin will get some breakaway sweats?
+1 to 39-year old Jeff Hardy for still being able to get up and then swiftly down one of those giant Jeff Hardy ladders. Like I said, I’m into the Hardy Boyz greatest hits package we watched, but I hope going forward we move in the direction of their unhinged creative weirdness, even if it’s not exactly the same.
Worst: The Miz Does The Best Work Of His Life And Just Gets His Ass Kicked For It
Burying the Miz at a second WrestleMania violates rule #27 of John Cena’s House Rules.
Best: A WrestleMania House Show Match
In all seriousness, the John Cena and Nikki Bella versus Miz and Maryse mixed tag was maybe the most house show match I’ve ever seen on a WrestleMania, in a good way. It starts with Miz stalling and playing to the crowd too much, hits all the right notes for a live audience interested in classic heel/face by-the-numbers pro wrestling and ends with not one, but TWO crowd-pleasing moments. The first being stereo finishers on the heels, and the second being the whole wedding proposal thing that pays off the Total Bellas parody segments. It was legitimately sweet, even if it didn’t end with Miz running in and DDT’ing him when he was down on one knee like I wanted.
I’m really hoping that a summer without Big Matrimony John gives Miz another shot at the WWE Championship, because the brother deserves it. For real. We might not ever get that Miz/Daniel Bryan match we want, but I hope everyone in the world noticed the work he put into making this feud matter and that the company realizes the guy who was bad in the ring and good on the red carpet is now the guy who is good at everything. Miz for life.
Worst: Can Anyone Tell Me Whether Or Not Pitbull Was Given A Greenlight?
Really enjoyed this performance, featuring Flo Rida and Lunchbox Lewis:
Worst: Triple H’s Motorcycle Entrance, or TRiPs
Triple H gets to ride on the big wheel because he’s a big boy! Vroom vroom!
Note: I was really hoping Seth Rollins’ entrance would’ve included him spinning in place and hammer-throwing his prop torch into a screen with Vince McMahon’s giant face on it.
H vs. Rollins follows the Triple H big match formula and goes almost 26 minutes, because I guess Triple H can’t wrestle a match shorter than 25 anymore. It’s considerably better than the Reigns match from last year, though, almost from the get-go … despite some shaky execution, the basic idea that Rollins is putting his life, career and physical safety on the line just to get a shot at a guy who wants to put him out and lord it over him for the rest of his life thanks to betrayals in two directions is perfect pro wrestling storytelling. The video package makes it seem better than watching Raw did.
The match itself has some iffy stuff, too, like Rollins spending the entire match selling his knee only for all his offense to involve him either jumping off the top rope with or landing on his knee. Or striking people with his knee. Or doing the Pedigree, which is a move where he jumps and lands on both of his knees. But like a lot of Triple H’s WrestleMania matches, it’s less about the match than the broad strokes of the moment, and in that regard, the match really worked.
And for everyone wondering when Stephanie McMahon was gonna get some kind of comeuppance, she took her yearly bump, this time off the apron through a table thanks to an extremely gentle “I don’t want to hurt my wife” shoulderblock. This will only matter if, and I’m going to type this in bold so anyone at WWE who might be reading can see it and feel my finger wag through their screen, Stephanie McMahon sells the embarrassment or physical pain or SOMETHING going forward and treats it like a lump she has to take, instead of instantly being fine and unaffected on Monday night and just ordering everyone around and punishing them for weeks. She doesn’t have to like, wear a neck brace forever, but she has to acknowledge the loss, or make it clear that she’s heel by NOT acknowledging it. She can’t just be the same thing doing the same manipulations. Make it matter. Don’t do the Roman thing again. Or the Survivor Series 2014 thing. Or the Ronda Rousey thing, or any of the past “comeuppances” that haven’t mattered and just lead to everyone we’re trying to like eating shit sandwiches all the time.
Worst: What The Hell Is This
You know that thing I wrote about Chris Jericho never having a truly classic WrestleMania match? Jericho is Shawn Michaels compared to Randy Orton. Jericho is like, ten Shawn Michaelses compared to Orton. Holy shit, I don’t think there’s a more talented or important performer in the history of wrestling who is as bad at a specific show as Randy Orton is at WrestleMania. He is a complete and utter toilet.
And you know how I’m always complaining about how every time they move Bray Wyatt forward a step, they knock him two steps back? Ten steps back? That happens at WrestleMania thanks to SPOOKY BUG PROJECTION:
Here’s the important thing: it doesn’t do anything. That’s my response to the, “if Lucha Underground did this you’d like it” talking point I always get. Bray Wyatt stops the match multiple times just to make the lights go out and make bugs and maggots appear on the mat. And I get how that could be cool psychological warfare, but all it really does is distract everyone from everything. People get out of the ring, and then it goes back to regular wrestling. Wyatt doesn’t even really capitalize on it, and Orton is fine. After the third time, Orton just hits an RKO and wins. Derp.
Remember when Bray Wyatt brainwashed Daniel Bryan, and then it was revealed that Bryan was fine and Wyatt got beaten up? It was cool, but Wyatt kinda looked like a dork. Remember when Wyatt kidnapped Kane and the Undertaker and “stole their souls” and got lightning powers, and then later Kane and Undertaker just showed up like “YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING” and beat him up? Remember the Roman Reigns feud where he just got beaten up all the time? Remember Cena trucking him at WrestleMania 30? Remember literally every time Bray Wyatt has tried to do something psychologically spooky or threatening to ANYONE more important than R-Truth? Nothing happens. It sucks, the matches suck, and we move on to the next time.
Total garbage. One of the worst WrestleMania “main events” ever. And that sucks, because that projection gimmick could’ve been creative and used as some kind of unforgettable theatrical thing. Instead we’re like, “hey Bray, stop making pictures of bugs show up on the ring, do your wrestling moves to him.”
Best: This Is Over
Thank God. Here’s a recap of the entire feud up until now:
– 14 years ago, Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar in a match that everyone hated
– Last year, 2K but Goldberg and Brock Lesnar in the same video game, and it made them mad
– Goldberg returned and pinned Brock like a chump in less than 90 seconds
– Goldberg returned again and eliminated Brock from the Royal Rumble like a chump
– Goldberg pinned Kevin Owens with two moves and won the Universal Championship
– Lesnar was like, “hey?” and got in one F-5, which felt like Christmas
– Goldberg returned and speared Brock like a chump on Raw with almost no effort
So when this match started and Goldberg started with the insta-kill finishers, my heart sank. I seriously put my hands on my head and said “what are they DOING” out-loud. Thankfully what they were doing is having Brock survive, just barely, then survive three more spears and throw ten German suplexes and an F-5 to win the match and the championship in four minutes. Pitbull’s performance was longer than this match. The Undertaker’s entrance by itself was longer by a minute. It’s less than 5 minutes and features exactly four (4) wrestling moves — spear, Jackhammer, German, F-5 — but it worked. And it’s done. And Brock is okay. AND IT’S DONE.
Let us never speak of this again. And let’s get prepared now for Brock to not be on Raw for six months to build to a “the guy who beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania vs. the other guy who beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania” one-on-one championship match at SummerSlam.
Note: now that I typed this, Brock is gonna get beaten by Finn Bálor on Raw tonight, watch.
Best/Worst: The Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
The Smackdown Women’s Everybody-Into-The-Pool Challenge wasn’t a very good match, but (1) I’m glad it didn’t get cut from the card like everyone was worried would happen when we cruised past 11, and (2) Naomi got her “WrestleMania moment” and won back the title in Orlando. That’s great, and long overdue. Plus, how dope is that entrance on a WrestleMania stage? She looks like the biggest star in the world. I’m just sad they didn’t gimmick the ramp so her knee-slide would take her all the way to the bottom.
So yeah. Great entrances, a lot of talent and a great moment for someone who really deserves it. But just too many moving parts to be much of anything else.
Best: Good Ol’ J. Ross
It’s so great to see Jim Ross show up to call the main event, especially after the terrible few weeks he’s had. I’m happy he’s formally coming back to his job, too, even if the conditions are different and he’s only out for the important stuff. Let’s hope they can get through two years without dragging him to the ring in Oklahoma and peeing in his face.
Although looking back, we probably should’ve seen the Undertaker retirement coming, right? Undertaker going on last, him probably losing because he’s up against Mr. Unreasonable Wins, Jim Ross calling the match, Michelle McCool and the Family Taker in the crowd, etc.
So, here’s that.
So Long, Dead Man
This is probably the part where you expect me to write a moving eulogy to one of the most famous and important pro wrestlers of all time, jammed together with a bunch of Roman Reigns jokes. And while yeah, I wish Kofi Kingston had dressed like Sephiroth and stabbed Roman through the heart with a sword to continue the Final Fantasy promotion, I’m not going to do that. Not really.
I think the nicest thing I can say is that I was never an Undertaker fan. That seems weird to type, especially when you’re a dork on the Internet, but it’s true. I grew up watching the NWA and WCW, so I knew him as Mean Mark Callous from the second version of the Skyscrapers. Suddenly he was a zombie and people were afraid of him, and 11-year old me was like, “haha, what.”
I say that’s the nicest thing I can say because The Undertaker is so important to wrestling, so absolutely fucking crucial to the fandom and love and successes of every kid watching WWE that being a “fan” of him doesn’t matter. He transcends fandom. He’s all of his nicknames. He’s all of those memories. He’s everything from an urn with a flashlight in it to a wall of fire to some dead parents in burning caskets to a black wedding to the Big Show desert snake promo and the concrete crypt and everything. He’s trapping Warrior in an airtight casket. He’s the streak. He’s Shawn Michaels, and Triple H, and everyone who fought him. He’s such an unforgettable, irreplaceable composite of the past 30 years of WWE growing as the world’s global leader in SPORTS EVERYTHING that he IS WWE. He’s so much more than a wrestler.
And that’s my Undertaker take. My Undertake. The match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 felt like one of necessity, like he showed up at the Royal Rumble like, “I’m fine, I can still go,” and then was like, “oh no, my body.” And then he had to do one last match, so he wouldn’t go out like that. He doesn’t look good. He doesn’t move well. He stands in place and Roman just kinda wrestles around him. It’s like when Britney Spears tried to make a comeback before she was ready and just stood there while people danced up on her.
His hip doesn’t work, but he does. He can’t move or even look like he can breathe, but he’s still the Undertaker in every movement. So while the match itself is what it is, and the macho storytelling Taker loves is what it is — and it’s great — the moment and the man and the goodbye is what we’ll remember. There’s a picture of Roman Reigns backstage crying that really says it all. He probably doesn’t think this match should’ve happened either, but it had to. It had to.
And now, he’s gone.
And that’s the Undertaker. Pro wrestling. That “end of an era” thing with the Hell in a Cell was just for show. This is the actual end of an actual era. And for everyone who watched the man do what he did for 30-plus years, we say, “thank you.” From the kids who cried when you go too close to them to the snotty little smarks who saw you before you were undead and thought wrestling was worse when it felt fake. Thank you for redefining what pro wrestling is to handful of generations, turning a gong and some blue lights into an event that can send chills up the spines of a stadium full of strangers, and for killing yourself for us, even when you were already dead.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
Roman Reigns is finding out what it’s like to wrestle Roman Reigns
“Well there’s no earthly way of knowing, which way this Wrestlemania is going….”
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
But if Seth did a phoenix splash, what’s Goldberg going to do during his match now?
Trips: hey seth, did you see my cool sexy bike and cool sexy wife and cool sexy cops, pretty cool entrance, right?
Seth: screw you THE FLOOR IS NOW MADE OF LAVA
…This match is Nikki’s Make-A-Wish, isn’t it?
if only the fireworks could spell out FUCK THAT OWL
The Mighty One
“Why are Scotty 2 Hotty and Test in this match?”
“No, Matt, that’s Enzo and Cass.”
“I think I know Scotty 2 Hotty when I see him, Jeff.”
Owens used a move of Jericho, and he locked it in maaaaaaaaaaaan.
AJ didn’t know that there could be this many people in one place in Orlando.
Titus comes out and grabs Taker’s arm.
Thanks again for reading, everybody. Click, share, drop a comment. See you next year, at whatever you do after you’ve ridden the Ultimate Thrill Ride. A bottle of water and a bench? See you next year at WRESTLEMANIA: WATER AND BENCH.