The WWE takes a step into a new era, but not without paying homage to its past first
Wrestlemania is in the books and, as expected, it was quite the show. RAW from the next night may well have been even more impactful—with the return of Brock Lesnar shaking up WWE’s main event lineup—but Wrestlemania itself had a number of very interesting developments.
Daniel Bryan Vs. Sheamus—The de-valuing of the World Titles continues, as one of them got to curtain-jerk. This eighteen second match started the show off on a fairly shocking note; it didn’t seem like anyone was expecting Daniel Bryan to lose as fast as he did. WWE, notorious for their contempt for non-WWE wrestling federations, had already spent several months giving Bryan—a wrestler who is nearly synonymous with indy federations—the “weak champion” treatment. That is, a champion who can’t really seem to get any major wins on their own. They frequently do this with their heels, then wonder why said heel doesn’t have credibility with the fans after their title reign inevitably ends. In Bryan’s case, no one expected him to beat Sheamus here, but his putting up a valiant fight would have at least made him look like a formidable future threat in defeat.
Instead, WWE went out of their way to bury Bryan and give a big “f u” to the “internet wrestling community” and any ROH (Ring of Honor) fans that have followed his work. Bryan may be short and he may not fit the mold of what WWE wants out of their superstars, but he deserved a lot better than this.
Luckily for him, the side effect of his burial is that the Miami fans vocally got on his side… after the match, Sheamus’ win was tainted by audible “bullshit” chants and “Daniel Bryan” chants could be heard during the next several matches. Sheamus didn’t emerge better off from this affair either, as a result; his win, which should have been a great moment for him, was tarnished. Sheamus didn’t deserve that either.
The next night’s RAW, also in Miami, featured the crowd constantly chanting Daniel Bryan’s “YES!” catchphrase as well as his name. Despite his not being scheduled to even physically appear in front of the crowd during the show, that crowd managed to turn him into a megastar that night.
They couldn’t have foreseen it, but WWE’s burial of Daniel Bryan ended up being the best thing they’ve done with him. At this point, the guy could be huge—especially if he ends up aligning with fellow ROH alumni CM Punk in some sort of rebellious faction. In other words, they lucked out and fell into this development.
Did You Know? Despite what WWE would have you believe, that wasn’t the shortest title match in Wrestlemania history, falling short by a good 10 seconds or so. It seemed like the participants torpedoed the match time on purpose, with Bryan taking a moment to have a make-out session with AJ Lee after the bell rang. If they “accidentally on-purpose” drew things out so that WWE’s attempts to set a new record would be screwed up, then good on them. That didn’t stop Michael Cole from claiming that it was the shortest title match regardless, though.
Randy Orton Vs. Kane—This was a perfectly serviceable match. Put aside the fact that these guys didn’t really have a major reason to be fighting in the first place – they go well together as opponents. And how about Kane’s entrance? The flames looked pretty amazing on the Sun Life Stadium stage setup.
Big Show Vs. Cody Rhodes–Big Show deserved this moment, and the match was decent. Cody has great potential, but a loss of the Intercontinental Championship can’t really hurt him when he spent most of his “reign” losing matches anyway. So we got the right outcome here. I hope now Rhodes can move on to something more substantial.
Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos Vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve – Eve, who looks like the goddess Athena and acts like some sort of ex-girlfriend from hell, seems to be primed for great things in WWE. She elicits one of the strongest heel reactions on the show for her treatment of former sorta-boyfriend Zack Ryder. Which begs the question of why the vastly less over—but vastly more badass—Beth Phoenix is the women’s champion. Not that it particularly matters, as during this match Beth (…again, the champion) found herself getting pinned by an injured reporter.
Triple H Vs. Undertaker—and here we have what was, debatably, the star of the show. The match, from bell to bell, wasn’t particularly extraordinary; it mostly consisted of the two guys beating each other senseless with chairs and other objects. The before-match entrances were superb, however, and the visuals of HHH and Undertaker staring each other down as smoke billowed by gave the match a legendary feel. This was the wrestling equivalent of gods fighting each other on Mount Olympus. And the after-match? Wow. That was an incredible amount of respect. Throughout the match, all three guys played their parts to perfection. Shawn Michaels did an incredible job as the referee for the match, struggling with his own emotions as he tried to call things down the middle. It became abundantly clear as the battle dragged on that Shawn just wanted the match to be over regardless of who won; the fact that his best friend and a guy he hugely respects were physically destroying each other seemed to hurt Michaels just as much emotionally. Huge props to all three of these guys.
Team Long Vs. Team Laurinaitis—Well, the bad guy got control of both brands, which seemed to be the point of this. Eve got to be even MORE of a heel and the match served its purpose.
CM Punk Vs. Chris Jericho—Out of all the “main event level” matches on the show, this is the one that truly seemed like a traditional good vs. evil match. Chris Jericho has been a completely narcissistic asshole for most of this feud, going out of his way to attack CM Punk in the most mean-spirited ways simply because the hard-partying Jericho doesn’t agree with the straight-edge Punk’s worldview. This match was an outstanding wrestling match, and Punk emerged victorious to give the fans a feel-good moment. Of course, Jericho’s loss didn’t deter him very much and the next night he came back with his most vicious assault yet on Punk, trying to force Punk to take his first drink. It seems that this feud is going to be continuing for a while, and it remains to be seen how Punk responds to Jericho’s renewed assaults.
The Rock Vs. John Cena—Here we have the most awaited match of the night. Who really expected John Cena to lose here? Not many, but The Rock surprised the world. The match was as good as can be expected from these two guys, while the lack of interference was needed and welcome. Great match, all in all. I did some research and it might be interesting to note that out of the three era-defining superstars in wrestling history, all of which The Rock has beaten, he seemed to have the easiest time with Cena. It took two Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow in a row for The Rock to beat Hulk Hogan. It took three Rock Bottoms in a row to beat Stone Cold Steve Austin. It took… one Rock Bottom in a row to beat John Cena, which doesn’t really bode well for the latest standard-bearer of an era.
In closing, the real winner of the night seemed to be The Attitude Era. Aside from the Punk-Jericho match, whenever a match featured an Attitude Era guy against a modern era guy, the Attitude Era guy won. Does this show a lack of confidence in their modern product on the part of WWE as a whole right now? Considering their constant self-back-patting with “Did You Know?s” and Twitter trends, it sure seems like it. As things stand, it seems like the company is ending a transition state between eras; they haven’t quite figured out what they’re going to be next yet, but they’re transitioning into it regardless.
All in all, if this Wrestlemania is any indication, then their next era is off to a very interesting start.