Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Wrestlemania 34

Monday, April 01, 2019

Wrestlemania 34 comes to you from New Orleans. 
(Dark: Ricochet d. Strong
           Sombra d. Gargano
          Dunne/Bate d. Cole/O’Reilly, Hero/Kenta, Aleister Black/Buddy Murphy)

1.       Special MMA Attraction: Ronda Rousey d. Sonya Deville
-The show doesn’t open with a taped package, doesn’t open with the announcers – it opens with the introduction of Ronda Rousey.  It’s meant to be jarring, almost as if Rhonda Rousey is being placed above the tradition that is Wrestlemania – Deville is already in the ring (there’s a cage, whatever Octagon level knockoff makes sense given the intellectual property considerations) – Rousey hits the aisle flanked by as much of Edmond Tarverdyan’s training team as we can get.  It should feel like a fight and not a wrestling match (it’s not a fight, it’s worked, but it should look as much like a shoot as possible, the goal here is not to have a good wrestling match, it’s to give the people Ronda Rousey, shootfighter).  It should be an action fight – Deville comes out swinging, Ronda hits her with a couple of shoot punches and then taps her out.  Whole thing is 2 minutes tops.  Renee Young hits the ring postmatch for an interview, Ronda thanks the crowd, thanks President McMahon and the McMahon family, says she’s going to come to RAW tomorrow night to thank everyone and then go home and make babies. And, what could go wrong, really?

Now we get the show open highlight package – it focuses on the double main event; Bryan Danielson, arguably the wrestler of the millennium, a 2 time WWF Champion forced from the sport – now returns after a 3 year hiatus against the man who grabbed the reigns as the WWF ace and maybe the world’s ace – a man who has been his principal adversary as he attempted to serve as WWF Commissioner – AJ Styles.  One man will leave this ring with the unofficial title as Best Wrestler in the World.  And then we have, for the first time in Wrestlemania history, the two historical singles belt champions each putting their titles on the line – WWF Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, for many years considered one of the world’s great wrestlers – against a man thought by many to be the “Real” World’s Champion, the IC Champion Brock Lesnar.  It’s a double main event of titanic proportion here at the Granddaddy of them All – Wrestlemania 34!

Announcers: Ranallo (11th PPV), Regal (21st PPV) Nigel (8th PPV) and, later in the show, Graves.

2.       Sheamus/Miz d. Full Circle (Orton/Cena), Gods of Carnage(Strowman/Rusev, w/Lana), New Day (Langston/Kingston, w/Woods)
-It’s an elimination match; first to go is the New Day and they go immediately, Kingston and Rusev open the match, Rusev hits him with the kick and pins him.  Strowman then jumps from the apron, charges dead at Woods on the outside and drives him through the retaining barrier – a shocked Langston barely can react before Rusev grabs Kingston from the ring and starts carrying him up the ramp.  That leads to Gods of Carnage getting counted out – but as the announcers make clear, it’s evident that doesn’t matter to them – they didn’t come to win this match, they came to lay out the New Day – and when Langston makes his way up the ramp, he’s hit from behind by Strowman, and he and Rusev send Langton off the ramp with a devastating maneuver.  Gods of Carnage have taken the New Day apart at Wrestlemania 34

-Back in the ring what we’re getting is the blow off to the Full Circle feud against Sheamus/Miz – the babyfaces fight from underneath, the veteran heels acting like veteran heels – the finish comes when the official is distracted, finally catching Full Circle’s double team chicanery and moving to admonish them – when into the ring rolls a large masked man – he hits Cena with an enormous boot, rolls out of the ring, allowing Miz, who had been in jeopardy, to crawl, crawl, crawl atop for the pinfall victory.

-Postmatch the masked man returns to the ring – Sheamus and Miz look at him warily – and then Sheamus breaks into an enormous grin and hugs the masked man – who then pulls off the mask to reveal – Drew McIntyre, Sheamus’s one time tag partner making his return to the World Wrestling Federation.  McIntyre grabs both men’s hands and thrusts them into the air – Drew McIntyre is back in the WWF!

3.       Kurt Angle/Chad Gable (w/Benjamin)  d. Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows)
-it is the return of Kurt Angle to the Wrestlemania ring, and he makes a meal of it, he appears a beat after his theme would suggest he appears, he makes a long slow walk to the ring, deliberately scrapes his boot across the apron – Kurt Angle had the longest WWF Championship reign in the modern era – and after over a decade, he is returning here at Wrestlemania.  Gable plays the role that Lesnar and Benjamin both once played, that of protégé – and you should really get the sense that Gable is doing sort of a mini-Angle with his moveset, it’s not cosplay, you don’t want to take away that Gable is a terrific wrestler and turn him into a tribute act – but Kurt Angle is IRL Bruno Sammartino, and there should be a real respect paid to him by young Gable’s work.  Anderson and Gallows had American Alpha’s number – they really slapped them around in a prior program – and now Anderson and Gallows have seemingly jeopardized Jordan’s entire career.  So – it’s young Gable who gets the fall here; as now, with Kurt Angle as a mentor (along with another Angle protégé, Benjamin, 3 generations of Angles) Gable’s able to do what he could not do before – defeat Gallows and Anderson.  The three babyfaces all hit turnbuckles postmatch to accept the applause as we fade to black.

In Memorium.  Images/clips of the following wrestlers who have passed subsequent to WM33 fill the arena…

Matthew Anoa’I,
Tom Zenk,
Larry Sharpe,
Doug Somers,
Lance Russell,
Mr. Pogo,
Pato Soria,
Smith Hart,
Stan Kowalski,
Tokyo Joe,
Otto Wanz,

And then an extended clip for Bobby the Brain Heenan.

4.       Money in the Bank:  Tyler Black d. Apollo Crews (w/Kalisto), Luke Harper (w/Bray),  Claudio Castagnoli (w/Gargano), Bobby Roode (w/Strong), Roman Reigns-Uso
-This is a long collision match, half an hour of bumps, that’s the real value of so many guys having a second, it’s just more guys to fall off ladders.  Important spots: Reigns goes to the middle of the ramp, he’s going to do a long run for a monster superman punch – when he’s taken out by McIntyre.  Harper and Bray are double teaming Strong – when he saved by a run in from Charlotte.  Charlotte dares Bray to hit her – and then Charlotte starts wailing away at Bray –with fists and boots and then clotheslining him over the top. There’s never been a woman getting offense on a man in the modern WWF – and when Charlotte knocks the much larger Wyatt out of the ring – that’s designed to draw a big babyface reaction.  There’s some kind of extending wrestling sequence with Black and Claudio, like a mini match when everyone else had been laid out from ladder bumps.  And then there’s Gargano – there’s a moment where he is alone in the ring…and then starts to climb the ladder. 

-As he slowly climbs – the Johnny Trash persona, embittered babyface, starts to melt away, and you just see that Johnny Wrestling hunger --- and maybe the fans get behind him – the announcers aren’t quite sure of the rules, Gargano isn’t officially in the match – but if he grabs the briefcase – does he win the Money in the Bank? 

-As it turns out, we don’t ever find out – just before he is able to reach the briefcase the ladder is toppled over, of course, by a returning Tommaso Ciampa. Gone for a year, injured by Gargano when their team split in half during the breakup of GDI – Ciampa lets out a rage filled scream as he stands alone in the ring after sending Gargano plummeting to the floor.

-In the end – it’s Black and Crews alone on the ladder – Black knocks him off and grabs the briefcase.

Tyler Black is the Money in the Bank winner, he can redeem the briefcase all the way through next year’s Wrestlemania.

5.       Cedric Alexander (w/Tozawa) d. Prince Devitt (w/Anderson and Gallows)
-          Long way to go at Wrestlemania without a men’s singles match – this needs to be a real workrate match;  Anderson and Gallows are in streetclothes, having lost their match earlier in the show.  There’s not even a hint of interference – just 20 minutes of back and forth, they have the best match they can have and Alexander gets him in what has to be considered a bit of an upset.  Postmatch, an angry Anderson and Gallows attack, along with Devitt you can feel their frustration as they press a 2 on 1 advantage.
-          In the build, Alexander intimated that maybe Blood Warriors International wasn’t a tag tram – it was a stable.  And then third man in that stable then runs to the ring – it’s the new Dark Ride Wrestling Champion, Ricochet – he’s wearing a BWI shirt and the babyface trio cleans house.  Ricochet/Alexander/Tozawa – Blood Warriors International – stands tall at Wrestlemania 34!

6.       Final Deletion: Nick Nemeth d. Broken Matt Hardy
-Now, a match unlike any other in WM history; it’s a little movie, from the Hardy Compound in North Carolina – Nemeth and Matt brawl all over the grounds – now, when we saw Matt again after several months away in the build to the Rumble, there was a Dickens/Christmas Carol thing with figures representing Matt Past/Present/Future – and we get special guest appearances during the match that reflect the journey of Matt’s career  -- Edge and Christian.  Trish.  The Dudleys. Lita. Van Dam and Bischoff if we can get them. If there’s a piece of Hardy related paraphernalia, it’s somewhere in this match. 

-The pinfall (yeah there’s a pinfall) comes on a boat.  WWF fans were introduced to the geography of the Hardy Compound during vignettes prior to Summer Slam, at the beginning of the wrestling year.  One of those elements is the Lake of Reincarnation – which we learned, in some type of Broken Hardy kayfabe skirting way, is where wrestling personas go to die (and be reborn).  Nemeth pins Hardy on that boat. Nemeth starts choking Matt – Matt having fully pulled all of the broken elements in Nick to the surface as well, and now that he has the pinfall, it looks like Nemeth is out for an even more Final Deletion.

-Jeff’s been gone entirely since Summer Slam, barely any reference beyond the most passing one made to Brother Nero.  He returns here – Jeff is going to do some type of New Jack like fall through that boat (I’m thinking it’s from a helicopter, but I’m not married to it) in order to save his brother.  Jeff crashes into Nemeth and sends all 3 men into the Lake of Reincarnation.  The camera lingers for a moment…no one  emerges from the water…and the movie ends. 

We don’t know this yet – but tomorrow night on RAW, there will be a tribute to Matt Hardy as he announces his retirement – and Matt and Jeff, as themselves, will appear live in front of a WWF crowd. 

When that tape ends – Regal is standing in the ring.  Regal says as everyone knows, the future of the sport comes up from Underground – and the newest graduates will be appearing on RAW, Fight Night, PPV – and competing for titles at WM very soon.  From Dark Ride Wrestling – Buddy Murphy, the Authors of Pain – and Aleister Black!

Those four men, who have had no storyline involvement at all on Dark Ride, come to the ring (Black has a prominent “The U” tattoo in the Underground script) Regal puts them over a little bit more – says this is the next chapter in the future of WWF.

And then Nigel hits the ramp.  Nigel starts talking as he walks to the ring…says his good friend Steve is half right – Underground is the future of the WWF – but when looking to the future – where we should look…is the United Kingdom.  Nigel reaches the ring and introduces the newest stable competing in Dark Ride Wrestling – from Underground – Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, and Trent Seven – British Strong Style!

They all come to the ring – and then at the top of the ramp emerges Chris Hero, Kenta, Sombra and Mascara Dorada.  Hero says you can talk all you want about the future – but there are four men here who have held titles all over the world, and if the men in the ring want to step into that future – first, they have to go through them.  They all come to the ring.

And then emerges Blood Warriors International – Cedric Alexander, Akira Tozawa, Ricochet – Alexander takes the mic – if you want to see title holders – look no further than BWI – Ricochet is the Dark Ride Wrestling Champion and just tonight, you all saw Alexander beat Prince Devitt 1-2-3 right in the middle of the ring.  Blood Warriors International is now the strongest faction in all the WWF.  And they all come to the ring.

And then emerges GDI – Adam Cole, Kyle o’Reilly, Bobby Fish (he’s injured, so in streetclothes). Cole says when it comes to factions – how about a faction who has dominated this sport for more than a decade.  The three most important letters in professional wrestling G…D….I.  Cole introduces all 3 men, hits his catchphrase (they aren’t coming to the ring yet, they’re still at the top of the ramp). Cole says he understands an objection – hey, look, GDI – sure, you guys are talented and handsome and all men want to be you and all women want to be with you – but come on, none of you were here a decade ago – none of you were here back in 2006 when GDI first took over the World Wrestling Federation. 

Cole says that’s right – but our new manager was.  Cole then introduces a real WWF legend – Maria Kanellis!

Maria then emerges onto the ramp – she’s the First Lady of GDI, here with CM Punk at the very beginning over a decade prior, and now she returns to the WWF to manage the current iteration of the stable.  They come to the ring. 

There’s a long pause, as the obviously very full ring begins to jaw at each other.  And then Shawn Michaels music plays.

HBK comes to the ring, walks around, looks at a lot of guys – says he heard the phrase “real WWF legend” and assumed that was his introduction. 

Michaels says he’s enjoying retirement – enjoying life as a Triple Crown winning, multi time WWF Championship holding (“hey, any other multi-time WWF Champions in the ring …no....just me...huh”) Professional Wrestling God. 

But…maybe it’s time to try something else.

Michaels says he loves Dark Ride Wrestling – enjoys all these factions that you see in the ring – but says you just can’t think wrestling factions without thinking about two words.

Michaels makes the handsign.

“The Kliq”

Michaels says – so, you’re going to be seeing old HBK a little bit more on the WWF Network – he won’t be wrestling; but he’s found a couple of young guys who he thinks have exactly what it takes to return The Kliq to its rightful place at the very, very top of the world of professional wrestling.  And HBK is going to be right by their side. 

Michaels says he’s like to introduce to you – the Kliq – Matt Riddle and Keith Lee!

Riddle and Lee make their first ever WWF appearances – it’s a surprise – they absorb whatever the crowd gives them – they come to the ring – they make the Kliq handsign – and then start a brawl – the non wrestlers all bail out – and all the men in the ring fight for a handful of minutes.

There’s then a taped package detailing Ric Flair’s health scare. 

7. WWF Tag Titles: Revival (Dash/Dawson with AA and Ric Flair) d. Usos (Jimmy/Jey)
The Revival becomes the 104th tag team champions in WWF history.

We have a surprise guest announcer for this one – Jim Ross comes to ringside to work the match with Ranallo, that gives Regal and Nigel a couple of matches to return to the announce desk after the Dark Ride angle since Graves is doing the woman’s title next. Flair is the last one announced – he hasn’t appeared on WWF TV since his near death experience; so seeing him at Wrestlemania, particularly alongside Arn while his boys Dash and Dawson win the tag titles, that’s a feel good moment.  Usos do their “we will keep superkicking you” stuff – Revival does their old school stuff, Revival goes over in a terrific match – we’ve seen Angle, we’ve seen Michaels, we’ve seen Flair – heck, we’ve seen Jim Ross call moments with Flair and Arn Anderson - we’ll see Mysterio later in the night, it’s Wrestlemania, man, you gotta play some hits.  JR leaves, perhaps for the final time, postmatch.

8.       WWF Women’s Title: Lumberjack Match: Asuka d. Becky Lynch
-Bullet Club Becky has held the women’s strap for a year, easily the longest women’s run of the modern era – Asuka is undefeated, something’s got to give and it’s Becky, in what is hopefully the best WWF women’s match ever, getting pinned right in the middle.  A couple of lumberjack notes – everyone’s in their gear, except for Paige, who is wearing a t-shirt that says “Nice Girl” – and if that’s not a reference you get, you will tomorrow night on RAW.  There’s a spot where the rest of 4-Ground – Charlotte, Becky, and Paige all find themselves together, throwing Becky back into the ring.  Becky tries one time to bail out and quit, like she did at the Rumble – but she can’t because of the lumberjacks.  So – there’s no Bullet Club, there’s nowhere to go – and there’s a moment where you can see that Becky understands that and accepts it and decides to stand alone and fight – it’s enough that when she shows some fire, she’s like to get a babyface reaction from some elements of the crowd, even given the pretty clearly drawn storyline.  Asuka gets her in the end to become the 8th modern WWF women’s champion to the delight of Corey Graves.

9.       Mask vs. Mask: El Generico d. Kid Canada (Steen) (Rey Mysterio – special guest referee)
-So, something’s about to happen here. 

For the full duration of his WWF run, Steen has been an anti-masker, that played out when Pac lost his mask and it completely changed his entire personality and destroyed GDI.  For months, Steen has adopted the persona of masked luchador Kid Canada to put together a tournament of masked wrestlers, which Generico won.  That facilitated Mysterio’s return – and he’s aided in really giving credibility to the historical significance of masks and of a mask vs. mask match.

This match starts off as a babyface match between friends – but from the first time Steen starts to grab at Generico’s mask – then it really ratchets in intensity – because Steen wants that mask, he wants it for what he perceives to be Generico’s best interest – but this isn’t a passing whim; Steen wants that mask – this is a friendship based on Steen big brothering Generico, and he really thinks he has to help Generico when he won’t help himself. 

And Generico, obviously, is fighting like a veteran luchador whose entirely identity exists in that mask  would fight – so it turns into just this wild, desperate brawl – with the Great Mysterio barely able to contain it --- in the end, it’s Generico who goes over.

Postmatch, calmness settles in – Mysterio deliberately unmasks Steen – after a beat, he shrugs his shoulders and he and Generico shake hands and then hug.

And then Kevin Steen rips off El Generico’s mask.

Generico is too shocked even to cover his face – he just stands there totally exposed – Mysterio similarly in shock – Kevin Steen has broken one of wrestling’s ultimate codes, maybe the ultimate code, at least when it comes to lucha libre – he lost this mask match – and then took Generico’s mask anyway.

Steen’s initially excited – and wants Generico to be excited – “Sami!  Sami!  It’s real!  You’re finally you!”

Generico registers as much betrayal on his face as he can, but doesn’t say a word – he looks at Mysterio, looks at the crowd – as if the moment is just too enormous to fully absorb, and when he looks at Steen, you see it register on Kevin’s face that he’s miscalculated – that he has done something here bigger than he can control – the two longtime friends stare wordlessly at each other for a moment – and then Generico silently exits the ring as Mysterio shakes his head in complete disgust at Steen’s action.

Howard Finkel, in his 125th and final WWF PPV, comes to the ring to announce the next match – and before he does, a tribute package plays.  It’s as many former broadcasters/backstage personnel that they can muster – specifically included are Gene Okerlund, in what will turn out to be his final WWF appearance, and the President of the United States, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who thanks Howard for being the most valued employee in WWF history. 

10.   AJ Styles d. Bryan Danielson
-Who is the WWF Ace?  It’s AJ Styles.  Danielson’s been gone for 3 years when Styles has been winning the most prestigious titles in the biggest matches all over the world – it’s not 2008, it’s 2018, and after a long, main event style, multiple false finish, match – AJ hits the Styles Clash and becomes the best wrestler in the world. 

Postmatch, both men are exhausted- Danielson remains on the canvas as Styles stands and is announced the winner – AJ reaches his hand down to aid the American Dragon to his feet, Danielson says something to Styles that causes AJ to  smile – Danielson exits the ring and Styles stands alone as the best wrestler in the world. 

(There’s no way to know this yet, but they’re going to wrestle on TV again in a couple of weeks and AJ is going to beat him again)

11. Title vs. Title: WWF Champion Shinsuke Nakamura d. IC Champion Brock Lesnar (w/Heyman)
-Brock's been selling an elbow injury for the full duration of his title run; opponents have often attempted to take advantage - Nakamura does and it gets him the win - Brock comes out fast early, power, suplexes, really dominating Nakamura - but it's a rope a dope, Brock gets a little gassed and Nakamura starts working the arm - chopping, kicking, knees to the elbow - working the elbow over and over, essentially making Lesnar one armed; he's still dangerous at one arm, he catches Nakamura with a hard shot - and, smelling blood, Lesnar shakes off the pain and moves to finish - but he can't, the pain is too great, he can't get to the F5 - Nakamura hits 3 Bomayes - and it's done.

Shinsuke Nakamura pins Brock Lesnar in the middle of the ring - Shinsuke Nakamura is the first man in modern WWF history to hold both the WWF and IC Titles (he'll vacate the IC tomorrow night) and he hits a turnbuckle and holds both belts aloft.

Asuka, the Women's Champion - makes her way to ring - and Wrestlemania 34 ends with both Japanese World Champions holding their belts high - the Land of The Rising Sun rides high atop the world of professional wrestling here at Wrestlemania 34!

I've got content for you, as always, this summer - you'll hear from me in both May and June.  Then July we start the new wrestling year with the build for Summer Slam 2018.

34 Wrestlemanias down. 125 WWF PPVs.  13 1/2 years later - we roll on.  

1 comment

Butch Rosser said...

Can't wait to see who's got next with the IC belt. Did not see Awesome Hooligans coming.

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