WWE Wrestlemania 35
by Scrooge McSuck
- Presented LIVE on the WWE Network on April 7th, 2019, from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This is going to be a long, long, LONG recap, with the largest match tally for a WrestleMania since WrestleMania IV featured SIXTEEN MATCHES. As usual, Monday Night Raw matches will feature commentary from Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young, Smackdown matches by Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton, the Cruiserweight match by Vic Joseph, Nigel McGuinness, and Aiden English, and who knows for the matches featuring talent across multiple platforms. Alexa Bliss is our official "Host" of WrestleMania, but unless something spectacular happens (wardrobe malfunction, surprise appearance... of a Superstar), I'll likely ignore anything to do with her segments to save my hand.
Kickoff Match #1: Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese:
Not quite the quality of match on paper as last year's WrestleMania (featuring Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali), is it? Nese won a contender's tournament, and up until that point, was connected in storylines to Murphy, so he gets the lamest excuse for a babyface turn: the other heel beat him up. Nese is STILL counting his abs and says he has 8 reasons this is his WrestleMania Moment™. Nese avoids a knee strike at the bell and unloads in the corner. Murphy fights his way out but has his legs swept from under him. Nese with a cartwheel off the apron and a forearm smash. Crowd doesn't seem to care for Nese. Murphy meets Nese on the top rope and fireman drops him chest-first across the turnbuckle. SPLIT SCREEN COMMERCIAL BREAK as Murphy stomps a mud-hole in Nese. Snap mare and a kick to the back for two. The referee has the latex gloves on, and sure enough, Murphy has a bloodied left eye. Nese fights out of a chin-lock, blocks a tornado DDT, and throws Murphy into the turnbuckles with a suplex. Nese with more left hands and a spinning heel kick. Murphy gets caught in the ropes and Nese with a springboard moonsault for two. Murphy slides out of a pump-handle slam but is caught climbing the ropes with a jumping palm strike. Murphy with a trap-Super Kick in the corner, followed by a slam for two. Nese counters Murphy's Law with a roll-up for two. Murphy with a pair of knees. Nese counters the brain-buster and spikes Murphy with an inverted-rana. Both men back on their feet, trading strikes in the middle of the ring. Murphy bounces off the ropes to turn Nese inside-out with a clothesline. Nese comes back with a trapped seated splash for two. Murphy bails out and Nese follows with the twisting Fosbury flop dive. Back inside, Nese hits the 450-splash for two. Murphy from out of nowhere with the jumping knee strike. Murphy's Law connects, but Nese is in the ropes. Nese with a super-Kick and release German into the corner. Nese with the running knee strike for three at 10:45 to win the Cruiserweight Title. Good action but took a while to get the crowd into it. ***
Kickoff Match #2: 2nd Annual Women's WrestleMania Battle Royal
(Participants: Asuka, Carmella, Naomi, Lana, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Zelina Vega, Nikki Cross, Dana Brooke, Mickie James, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Maria Kanellis, Ember Moon, Kairi Sane, Candice LeRae)
Coming into the weekend, only 13 names were announced for the match, all the women on the Main Roster not featured elsewhere (except for Alicia Fox, who might be punished for working intoxicated at a house show on February 10th, leading to the dismissal of Arn Anderson, and Lacey Evans). Joseph, Percy Watson, and Renee Young calling this one. Cross goes crazy to start. And we get some sloppy fighting. Moon dumps Maria at 0:39 after a cute spot where Nikki chased Maria around. Asuka knocks LeRae and Cross out at 1:15 to crowd disapproval. I guess Nikki was a crowd favorite and we didn't know it. Lana (cosplaying as Wonder Woman) gets hit with an Eclipse in the middle of a Moon/Naomi stand-off. Moon with an Eclipse across the top rope to eliminate Naomi at 2:20. Eclipse to Mandy Rose. She climbs again but Lana shoves her out at 3:01. HEEL HEAT! Kairi with a pair of chops as the crowd gets in her corner now. Sane with a wheel barrow slam. She climbs up but Logan shoves her down, only for Sane to hang on to the ropes. Riott Squad work on Lana 3-on-1 and Logan tosses her at 4:25 to a good pop. Sane hits Logan with the In-Sane Elbow. Riott and Company regroup and eliminate Sane at 5:11. Vega gets a few shots in before being hit by a double-team finisher. Crowd chants for Dana Brooke as she gets triple-teamed. THESZ PRESS TO LIV! Dana tosses Ruby Riott at 6:52 and Liv Morgan at 6:55. Vega counters the handspring elbow and hits Dana with the Drive-Thru Knees. Mandy and Sonya toss Vega at 7:39, then Dana at 7:58. When did Dana become a smark darling?! Mickie James finally does something out of necessity with only 5 left. She eliminates Mandy at 8:39, then Deville knocks James off the apron to finish her at 8:41, leaving Deville, Logan, and ASUKA. Asuka fights both off at the same time and Deville is eliminated at 9:30... and then Logan tosses Asuka to win at 9:37... BUT WAIT CARMELLA SNEAKS BACK INSIDE, NEVER BEING ELIMINATED! Same finish as last year, huh? They go back and forth until Carmella hits a Super-Kick to eliminate Sarah and really win it at 10:33. Points off for recycling last year's finish, but this was watchable. *3/4
Kickoff Match #3: Raw Tag Team Championship Match:
The Revival (c) vs. Zack Ryders & Curt Hawkins:
After weeks of the Revival being chased by Ricochet and Aleister Black, including an inconclusive "victory" on the go-home Monday Night Raw, they defend against a team featuring a guy on an alleged LOSING STREAK of 269 losses. How that justifies a title opportunity baffles me. I'm sure Dash is a crowd favorite for obvious reasons. Hawkins sporting green, representing the New York Jets, while Ryder's tights have "Still Major" on them. Dawson and Hawkins start. Dawson with an arm drag and trash talking. Lockup to the corner and a break, with Dawson taunting some more. Crisscross and Dawson with a rolling cradle for two. Ryder in to try his luck. Dawson works him over and tags Wilder to a solid pop. Whip to the corner and Ryder gets the knees up before coming off the middle rope with a missile dropkick. Dawson pulls Dash to safety, causing Ryder to take a bump over the top rope. Back inside, Dawson with a leg drop, elbow drop, and headbutt. Revival with a modified Demolition Decapitator for two. Dash yells at Hawkins to stay in his corner and lose like he always does. Dawson with a basement dropkick for two. Ryder blocks a suplex and counters with his own. Ryder with a double neck breaker but Dawson knocks Hawkins off the apron before he can get the tag. Wilder with a short-clothesline for two. Dawson drops Dash across Ryder with a leg drop for another two-count. Hawkins FINALLY gets the hot tag and runs wild with right hands and dropkicks. Hawkins with a back-slide on Dawson for two. O'Connor Roll for two. Victory roll for two. Double clothesline in the middle of the ring. Ryder and Wilder to tumbling over the top rope with a suplex. Hawkins rolls Ryder back into the ring and tags in to cover Dawson, but Dash pulls him off. Dash with a Tornado DDT to Ryder, Hawkins takes out Dash, and Dawson with a brain-buster to Hawkins on the floor. Dawson peels Hawkins off the canvas, but he collapses. He tries it again and Hawkins cradles Dawson for three to END THE STREAK and win the Tag Team Titles at 13:19. That's a Bret Hart spot, for those who are my age and fondly remember that Generation. I typed it up before it all played out, confident that was where it was going. Felt like a standard time-filling tag match you'd see any week on Raw with a strong finish to pick it up. **1/2
Kickoff Match #4: 6th Annual Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
(Participants: Braun Strowman, Michael Che, Colin Jost, Apollo Crews, Titus O'Neil, Tyler Breeze, Jinder Mahal, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, Kalisto, Gran Metalik, Lince Dorado, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Heath Slater, Rhyno, Viktor, Konnor, Andrade, Ali, Shelton Benjamin, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Otis, Tucker, EC3, Luke Harper)
With less than a week away from the show, the only names announced were Braun Strowman and the two geeks from Saturday Night Live (Michael Che and Colin Jost). Luke Harper is deceptively added, back to his standard look, pre-Bludgeon Brothers run. Only the SNL guys (with Jost wearing a Browns Beckham Jr jersey for easy heat), Hardy Boyz, and Braun get entrances. The SNL geeks bail and hide under the ring. Dorado and Axel are gone within 15-seconds. Braun tosses Breeze at 0:30. EC3 is dumped at EC-33 seconds. Shelton at 0:39. Bo Dallas at 0:44. Braun got at least two of those. Everyone breaks up the teased Harper vs. Strowman fight. O'Neil eliminates Slater at 1:33. So much for Slater-Gator Reunions. Ali sends Titus packing at 1:53. Ali with a tornado DDT on No way Jose before tossing him at 2:17. Heavy Machinery with a double suplex to Strowman for ZERO REACTION. Gallows and Konnor post him, sending him to the floor. Apollo knocks Anderson out at 2:47. Andrade and Kalisto square-off. Twist of Fate to Rhyno and he's tossed at 3:09. Poetry in Motion to Roode and Jeff tosses him at 3:43. Mahal sends Metalik out at 3:51. Andrade monkey flips Kalisto out at 4:07. Gable with rolling Germans on Andrade. Andrade counters a 3rd and sends Gable out at 4:27. Otis with THE CATEPILLAR and elbows to Ascension. Otis and Tucker toss Viktor and Konnor at 4:58. Strowman is back in and knocks Gallows out at 5:06. Double dropkick to Heavy Machinery and he dumps both at 5:17. Ali fights out of a Harper suplex as Strowman tosses Mahal at 5:42. Harper with the suplex on Ali, with Strowman booting Harper down, eliminating them both at 5:55. OUCH. Apollo and Andrade fight on the apron and get eliminated at 6:38 with Andrade hitting a hurricanrana to the floor. D'OH? Matt and Jeff Hardy try to pull Strowman out as Jost and Che emerge from under the ring. Yeah, they're weak geeks, and the Hardy Boyz are both gone at 7:20, leaving Strowman and Bad Comedy™. Jost pleads for mercy and offers an impromptu therapy session. Strowman manhandles the geek and plants him with a Choke-Slam. Che figuratively pees his pants and hops over, but Strowman decks him on the way out, eliminating him at 9:35. Strowman practically eliminates himself, but hangs on. Strowman tosses Jost over the top onto a pile of geeks to finally end it at 10:26. Worst Andre Battle Royal yet (although 32 has a responsible chance of surpassing it), and hardly a proper comeuppance for the SNL dweebs. *
- Yolanda Adams sings "America, the Beautiful" to kick-off the main portion of the show.
- Alexa Bliss snaps her fingers to deliver a WrestleMania Moment, and out comes THE IMMORTAL Hulk Hogan to cut a promo and say it's great to be in the Silverdome. Whoops, he means the MetLife Center, he really does. I think he meant MetLife Stadium, but close enough. Hogan and Bliss pose to wrap the segment up (with Bliss doing such a half-hearted Hogan impression at his routine that I doubt she's seen much more than 5 minutes of him). Wait, PAUL HEYMAN storms to ringside before we're completely through. He says if his client isn't on last, he's not waiting around all night. They're getting the business done now so they can get on a Jet to Las Vegas where he's ULTIMATELY appreciated.
Universal Championship Match:
Brock Lesnar (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Seth Rollins:
WOAH, really starting with this?! Rollins won the 2019 Royal Rumble Match to earn the title opportunity, and unfortunately, this hasn't been that big of a deal on TV, at least not in my opinion. Brock destroyed him in a brief encounter shortly after the Rumble, and last week Rollins finally got some revenge for it, but in between, it seems like Rollins was more concerned fighting others like Drew McIntyre. Cole notes Rollins is unbeaten at WrestleMania, except when Randy Orton beat him at 31 in San Jose. Lesnar meets Rollins on the apron with a knee and works him over on the floor before the bell, complete with an F-5. I just noticed, standard ring posts and old-school aprons this year. Lesnar continues to rag doll Rollins, tossing him across the announcer's table. Back inside, Lesnar deposits Rollins back to the floor and throws him into the German announcers. Rollins has a giant welt on his back. The match officially begins with Brock pummeling Rollins in the corner and tossing him with a German suplex. "Suplex city, b*tches." Rollins has more cuts and scrapes across his back. Rollins escapes an F-5 and low-blows Lesnar behind the back of the referee for a cheap pop. CURB STOMP CONNECTS. Rollins with a 2nd Curb Stomp. A 3rd Curb Stomp wins it at 2:35! Well, that was brisk and satisfying. **1/2
A.J. Styles vs. Randy Orton:
Just a classic rivalry match here with both guys wanting to prove who's the better man, and sometimes that's enough reasoning to have a match between two high profile guys without throwing a belt into the equation. Jerry Lawler joins commentary for unexplained reasons in place of Saxton. Lockup and Styles grabs a side headlock. Styles unloads with chops in the corner. Whip across the ring and Orton teases an RKO, but Styles blocks. Orton thumbs the eyes and connects with a dropkick. Boot laces across the eyes and Orton proceeds with the Garvin Stomp. Styles catches him off the ropes with a dropkick of his own. Orton bails and Styles follows with a slingshot forearm. Back inside, Orton with a punt to the chest, followed by a forearm, knocking Styles backwards into the barricade. Orton drops Styles across the barricade and rolls him back inside for barely a one-count. Styles fights out of a chin-lock and unloads with right hands. Phenomenal Blitz and clothesline followed by a sliding forearm. Styles with a jumping clothesline into the corner followed by the Ushigoroshi for two. Styles teases the Styles Clash but Orton blocks and catches Styles off the ropes with a snap power-slam for two. Orton rolls through a Calf Crusher attempt and stomps down on the chest. Styles gets the Calf Crusher on the second attempt, but Orton makes it to the ropes. Styles fakes Orton out with a teased Phenomenal Forearm and hits him with a springboard 450 splash for a near-fall. Orton avoids a second attempt and connects with his signature back breaker. Styles briefly fights Orton off the top rope, but Orton climbs again and brings him down with a high-angle Super-Plex. Orton with the rope-assisted DDT and calls for the RKO. Styles counters with an enzuigiri and cradles Orton for two. RKO OUT OF NOWHERE for two. That was obvious when an announcer proclaims the match is over ahead of time. Orton teases a Super-RKO, but Styles counters with the Pele Kick. Styles follows Orton to the outside with a Phenomenal Forearm. Both men beat the count back in. Styles goes for another Forearm. Orton catches it but Styles hangs him across the top rope and hits the Forearm for three at 16:16. The babyfaces (or default faces like Nese) are sweeping the show so far. Quicker paced than I expected from Orton, who kept up with Styles and both delivered a great performance. ***1/2
- Lacey Evans shows up, waves, and leaves. If only she'd tip her hat, she would've checked everything off on Jimmy Dugan's list of managerial responsibilities.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match:
The Usos (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev (w/ Lana) vs. The Bar vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet:
The Usos are being punished for forfeiting their part of a Gauntlet Match against the New Day by having to defend against three other teams. What's the excuse for every other WrestleMania? Black and Ricochet are in this despite chasing THE REVIVAL FOR THE LAST MONTH ON RAW. Jey Uso and Black start. They take turns with headlocks and head-scissor counters. Crisscross and Sheamus pulls the ropes down on Jey. He hits Black with a rolling senton and works the arm. Rusev blind tags next and hits Black with a clothesline. Nakamura with a step-up enzuigiri and Rusev follows with a spine-buster for two. Jimmy cuts Black off with a pop-up Samoan drop. Nakamura with a knee lift and roundhouse heel kick. Ricochet in with a diving clothesline on Nakamura for two. Ricochet goes around the world take Cesaro over with a head-scissors. Cesaro regains composure and gives Ricochet the SWING as Sheamus clubs the field with forearms. I'M GETTING DIZZY. Cesaro finally lays Ricochet down and turns him over with the Sharpshooter. Jimmy breaks it with a Super-Kick. Black runs wild on Rusev and hits him with springboard moonsault for two. Shinsuke with a running knee and sliding knee for two, broken up by a Ricochet SSP. Rusev catches Ricochet springing off the ropes and spikes him with a twisting uranage for two. Rusev with clubbing blows across the back, setting Ricochet across the top turnbuckle. Cesaro and Sheamus come back to life and we get our obligatory Super-Sized Tower of Doom spot. Ricochet rolls through and ends up on his feet in the corner. He goes up and hits Sheamus with the 630 senton but LITERALLY EVERYONE SANS BLACK BREAKS THE COVER. Jey climbs up and is intercepted by a Cesaro Uppercut. Super Kick, Machka Kick, Black Mass, Kinshasa, and Brogue Kick sequence to light everyone up. Double Super-Kick to Sheamus, and a pair of splashes finishes at 10:05. I'm not the biggest fan of 4-corner tags, but this was non-stop action. ***1/2
- Welcome to the Hall of Fame 2019 Inductees! The Honkytonk Man, Harlem Heat, Torrie Wilson, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, The Hart Foundation (represented by Bret and Natalya), Sue Aitchison, and D-Generation X. It should be noted that one of the inductors last night was Stacy Keibler, who hasn't been on WWE TV in nearly 14-years. God, that sounds like an eternity, doesn't it?
Falls Count Anywhere Match:
The Miz vs. Shane McMahon:
Slow burn storyline that started at Crown Jewel, where Shane replaced Miz and "won" the "Best in the World" Tournament. The two would team up in the weeks that followed, even winning the Tag Team Titles at Royal Rumble. They'd quickly lose the belts to the Usos, and after a disappointing loss in Cleveland, Shane turned on Miz and physically handled Miz's dad sitting at ringside. Now IT'S PERSONAL. Shane demands an obnoxiously over-the-top introduction. Miz gives chase and gets peppered with the usual rights and lefts. Shane grabs Miz's dad again, luring him into a trap. Shane strips down an announcer's table and nails Miz with an over-sized monitor. I thought they did away with those in favor of mini-flat screens? I guess for Shane matches, they're obligated to supply them. Shane climbs up but Miz's dad hops the rail and stands in the way to protect his son. Shane and George Mizanin get in the ring for the face-off of the century. Shane arrogantly instructs George how to raise his fists for a fight then cheap-shots him with a knee. Miz makes the save, tackling Shane to the canvas and unloading with right hands. He sends Shane into the crowd and goes back to check on his fallen father. Is this really an angle you run with a 60+ year old man after what happened at the Hall of Fame ceremony last night? Miz dives into the crowd and continues to assault Shane. Shane fights out of a Skull Crushing Finale and plants Miz with a DDT for two. Miz makes his comeback, kicking Shane off the platform backwards into a guardrail. Miz blasts Shane's leg with a chair with it caught in the railing, then follows Shane through the crowd, unloading with chair strikes across the back. Miz tosses Shane into the International announcer's section and continues to punish him. Miz puts Shane through a table for a two-count. Shane takes a big fall to the concrete floor, falling off the roof of a golf cart after being knocked over the guardrail. OUCH. Oh, and he kicks out at two. Miz with a Skull Crushing Finale for two. Seriously? Shane is being legally murdered and keeps kicking out. Shane decks Miz with a piece of equipment and climbs higher onto a camera platform. Shane begs for mercy with nowhere to go but down. Miz shows him none and takes Shane off the platform with a SUPER-PLEX. Unfortunately for Miz, Shane lands with part of his body on top of Miz and gets the three-count at 15:25. Well, that sucks for Miz. Way more entertaining than I expected, as it was strictly a brawl with neither man attempting to put on a wrestling clinic. ***
Women's Tag Team Championship Match:
Sasha Banks & Bayley (c) vs. Beth Phoenix & Natalya vs. Peyton Royce & Billie Kay vs. Nia Jax & Tamina:
Another mostly-thrown together match. Phoenix is coming out of retirement because REASONS, and Royce and Kay cheated to win a Non-Title Match. Honestly, only Jax and Tamina have storyline purpose here, and that's mostly by default. Paige takes over Corey's spot at the commentary table for this one. Only half of Bayley's "Bayley Buddies" will inflate. Bret Hart gives Natalya and Beth their best on their way to the ring, guaranteeing their loss. Bayley and Tamina start. Tamina takes shots at everyone on the apron for the hell of it. Jax gets sent to the floor and introduced to the steps by the New Hart Foundation. Banks snap mares Royce but misses a knee and gets rolled up for two. Royce with a standing heel kick for two. IIconics with a double-team wheel barrow slam for two. Sasha with a back-slide out of nowhere on Royce for two. Bayley with the sliding clothesline on Phoenix. Kay blind tags and pounds away before hooking the leg for two. Royce drops Phoenix across the knee of Kay for two. Beth comes back with a double suplex on Royce and Kay and tags in Natalya. They hit the Hart Attack, but Bayley breaks the cover. Bayley saves Sasha from a double-team and launches Sasha into a head-scissors on Phoenix. Sasha with the Bank Statement but it's countered. Banks rolls through a Glam-Slam attempt. Natalya wipes Bayley and Sasha out and hooks them both with the Sharpshooter. Tamina comes back to life and KO's Natalya with a Super-Kick. Tamina and Nia with a double-team headbutt before depositing Phoenix to the outside. Synchronized Samoan Drops to the IICONICS. The crowd does NOT care for these two. Both climb the ropes for splashes, but Phoenix dumps Jax to the floor. Tamina simply gives up and rushes around the ring to get laid out by a double shoulder tackle. Bayley with the Big Elbow and Sasha follows with a Frog Splash for two. Natalya with a sit-out Powerbomb on Natalya. Super Glam-Slam to Sasha but the IICONICS steal the pin and titles at 10:55. That was unexpected. Just stuff happening, with the crowd not invested in much of it. At least Tamina and Nia lost, with the crowd satisfied with the decision. **1/4
WWE Championship Match:
"The New" Daniel Bryan (c) (w/ Rowan) vs. Kofi Kingston (w/ Big E and Xavier Woods):
In one of the more unexpected pushes in recent years, Kofi got the "lifetime achievement" push, getting over beyond what his level has been for most of his career, and trying to recreate the magic of the Daniel Bryan run that lead into WrestleMania XXX. Kofi struggled to earn his title opportunity, and finally succeeded when Big E and Xavier Woods went to bat for him and successfully ran the Gauntlet on Smackdown. Fantastic video package highlighting Kofi's run in the company to build up this match. Loud "Kofi" chant as he makes his way to the ring. Big E has a gift for Kofi for later tonight. Bryan's eco-friendly belt is the best thing in recent history. Lockup, Kofi grabs a waist-lock but Bryan counters, going for the arm. Kofi with a headlock takeover and Bryan counters with a head-scissors. Bridge into a cover for two. Bryan flips through a back-slide and monkey-flips Kofi. Kofi lands on his feet, sends Bryan to the floor with a dropkick, and follows with a plancha as we see all the under-card babyface geeks watching backstage (Among them is R-Truth, leaving Sanity as the few male performers we've yet to see tonight). Back inside, Bryan unloads with forearm uppercuts. Bryan gets the better of a crisscross and traps Kofi in a modified surfboard. Kofi fights free and lays into Bryan with kicks. Whip to the corner, Bryan flips over Kofi. Crisscross and Kofi counters the clothesline with a double stomp for two. Kofi comes off the ropes with a jumping clothesline and hits the Boom Drop. Bryan bails to the apron and gets knocked to the floor with a baseball slide. Kofi goes high risk again but meets nothing but the announcer's table.
Back inside, Bryan targets the midsection with knees. He drops Kofi across the top rope, gourd buster style, and unloads with more kicks. Bryan comes off the top with a knee across the back for two. Bryan with a bear-hug as we cut again backstage. Kofi with elbows to escape the hold. Bryan quickly recovers, using a drop toe hold to send Kofi into the turnbuckle. Bryan with a pair of running dropkicks into the corner. Kofi counters the 3rd with the double stomp, but Bryan counters the counter with a Lion Tamer before transitioning into a standard Boston Crab. Kofi gets to the ropes to break the hold. Kofi fights Bryan off the top rope with Yes Elbows and comes off the top with a splash across the back for two. Bryan catches Trouble in Paradise and they take turns countering cradles. Kofi with a springboard body press for two. Bryan rolls through into a cover and transitions to the Lebell Lock. Kofi fights it off but runs into a pair of boots in the corner. Bryan taunts with the "Yes" gestures. He misses the running knee and Kofi cradles him for two. S.O.S. for two. Bryan counters quickly into the Lebell Lock but Kofi gets a foot on the ropes. Bryan with his signature kicks to the chest as Big E and Xavier try to will Kofi through. He fires back with his own kicks. Kofi with a reverse Gourd Buster for two.
Rowan, Big E and Xavier get physical on the floor. Kofi gives Rowan Trouble in Paradise and Big E and Woods give him the Up-Up-Down-Down (formerly Midnight Hour). Kofi intercepts Bryan going for a suicide dive. Back inside, Bryan ducks Trouble in Paradise and hits the running knee for two. Bryan traps the arms and stomps away on Kofi. The Lebell Lock is applied again, in the middle of the ring. They tease the arm dropping but he still has life. Kofi fights through to break the hold and mounts Bryan with right hands. Kofi finds himself on top and he returns the favor, stomping across the face of Bryan. Trouble in Paradise connects, and Kofi is the NEW WWE CHAMPION AT 23:46! Seriously, who convinced Vince McMahon to let ALL THE GOOD GUYS WIN THE BIG MATCHES (SO FAR)? The eco-friendly belt is discarded and the REAL belt, with Kofi name-plates, has returned. Big E brings the present into the ring, and inside it are new t-shirts to commemorate Kofi as the NEW WWE CHAMPION. Feel good moments... feeling good? What a surprise. Great match with a crowd that desperately wanted the happy ending and surprisingly received it. ****1/2
- Kevin Nash and Scott Hall make a cameo backstage to tease a prostate exam on the SNL dorks. Was Nash playing "Dr. Oz"? At this point of the show (almost 5-hours in), I fear the crowd might be deflating.
United States Championship Match:
Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio:
For most of 2019, it seems like Rey was destined for a match with Andrade (no longer Almas), but we got this instead, with very little reasoning other than "hey, Rey won a match on Smackdown." Coming into the show, the match was in jeopardy with Rey tweaking his ankle on the go-home Raw, but he was cleared by Friday night. Booker T is our next guest commentator. Mysterio is wearing Mysterio inspired gear to continue his legacy of WrestleMania outfits. Joe quickly attacks with headbutts. Mysterio with a spinning head scissors, sending Joe into the ropes, followed by a 6-1-9. Joe blocks the West Coast Pop and counters with the Coquina Clutch for the victory at 0:59. Potential injury or not, we need more time for Elias. NR
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre:
McIntyre has been on a rampage since going solo (on the Main Roster), destroying Dean Ambrose at every turn, as well as getting his licks in on Rollins and the returning Reigns. This is Reigns' first solo match since returning from his medial hiatus last Fall. Roman gets a MAJOR pyro show for his entrance. Roman strikes first with right hands. Whip and he plants McIntyre with a Samoan drop for two. McIntyre meets a boot charging into the corner but recovers in time to catch Roman off the ropes with a spine-buster. Roman traps McIntyre in the ropes and drops a leg across the back of the head, knocking him to the floor. Back inside and McIntyre floors Roman with a headbutt. He tosses Roman half-way across the ring for a two-count. McIntyre gets dumped on a failed charge, but Roman's Drive-By Dropkick misses and McIntyre takes him to the floor with a suplex. Back inside, McIntyre with the inverted Alabama Slam for two. He sets Roman across the top rope and wastes time trash-talking, buying Roman time to fire back and trap McIntyre in a tree of woe. McIntyre somehow sits up and grabs Roman by the hair, tossing him to the canvas. Roman's comeback is cut off with a slap. That just makes him mad, as he lays McIntyre out with a clothesline. Whip and Roman with a boot, sending McIntyre to the floor. Roman follows again and connects on the second Drive-By Dropkick. Roman with a Samoan drop on the floor. Back inside, Roman comes off the ropes with a clothesline. Superman Punch misses. McIntyre with another headbutt and Roman bounces back with the Superman Punch. Roman with the Spear and that's three at 10:12. I liked the story that Roman had to struggle to get through the match, but that finish came a little too quickly, even with McIntyre's arrogance. **1/2
- Elias is here for our much-needed piss break. It's a special moment, as he's joined by Elias on Drums and Elias on Piano (via Jumbo-Screen and Special Effects). The performance is interrupted by an old news reel playing Babe Ruth's called shot from the 1932 World Series. Suddenly, John Cena's old music plays and out comes the Dr. of Thuganomics himself with the throwback Yankees jersey on. Cena gives a risqué PG-era "rap", lays Elias out with the knuckles, and gives him the F-U. Cena's appearance was a fun waste of time, and a much-needed breather.
No Holds Barred Match:
Triple H vs. Batista:
If Batista wins, Triple H retires from in-ring competition. This started when Batista randomly assaulted Ric Flair, ruining his 70th Birthday Celebration on Raw to "get Triple H's attention", and on top of wanting to end Hunter's career, reminds us over and over Hunter has never been able to defeat him. Shawn Michaels is our 57th guest commentator tonight. Batista gets the Hollywood entourage entrance and taunts Hunter's parents in the front row for maximum douchebag heat. Hunter is brought to the ring on one of those "Wacky Races" vehicles. Or maybe Twisted Metal. Nah, Wacky Races, that's close enough to PG (yes, I know the real inspiration. I don't care). Batista quickly tackles Hunter into the corner and unloads with shoulders. Hunter fights back but is dropped with a short clothesline. Whip reversed and Hunter with an elbow, knocking Batista to the floor. Hunter follows and gets thrown over an announcer's table for it. Hunter dives off the table and lays into Batista with rights. Hunter finds a tool box near the timekeeper's box and blasts Batista with it. He finds a chain inside (maybe it's the long-lost chain of Hercules Hernandez) and whips Batista. Hunter wraps the chain around Batista's face and pulls back with a knee across the back of the head for extra leverage. Hunter with clamps to the left hand of Batista. OUCH. I know it's No Holds Barred, but any time I see that in TV, it usually results in dismemberment. Hunter chokes out Batista with a chair and teases ripping the nose-ring out. He shows off his prize as Batista staggers around ringside. He recovers to avoid a fistful of chain and slams Hunter across the table.
Batista slams him across the table again, then sends him upside down into the barricade. We get our second replay of the "nose-ring removal". Still not as brutal as trying to clamp off someone's fingers at the knuckles. Batista with a chair across the back then back inside with shoulders to the midsection. Whip to the corner and Batista follows in with a clothesline for two. Hunter comes back with his signature knee to the face. Batista posts himself on a charge to the corner but counters a Pedigree with an overhead slam for two. Back to the floor and Batista rams the ring steps into Hunter's face. Batista looks completely gassed, as does the crowd. He calls for the Batista-Bomb but Hunter counters, with Batista landing on the table but the table not breaking. Hunter with a crotch chop and spear, taking Batista off one table and through another. Both men flail at each other trying to get back in the ring. Hunter searches the ring and if you don't know what he's going for, you shouldn't be watching. Batista greets Hunter entering the ring with a spear for a near-fall. Batista grabs the sledgehammer and meets a boot in the corner. Batista counters another charge with a spine-buster. The Batista Bomb connects but Hunter is up at two. The ring steps make another appearance to set up another spot. Hunter manages to Powerbomb Batista onto the steps and hits the Pedigree for two. Batista avoids the sledgehammer and hits a weak DDT onto the steps. Ric Flair shows up at ringside and hands the sledgehammer to Flair. He taunts Batista, distracting him long enough for Hunter to launch off the steps and blast Batista with it. Pedigree connects and Hunter's career is safe at 24:47. After losing three Mania's in a row, Hunter needed a win, right? Good brawl and enjoyed the intensity, but for the millionth time when it comes to Triple H, it went way too long and the crowd is toast. It'll take a lot to bring them back. **3/4
- The B-Team model Daniel Bryan T-shirts that aren't accurate considering the result of the WWE Title Match. Simmons shows up to say his line. Over on Twitter, Dave Meltzer is arguing with trolls over tweeting WWE Shop having the "Kofi Championship" shirts for sale. Some things people do for their own amusement...
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin:
The final stop in the Kurt Angle Retirement Tour, and it's with BARON CORBIN. Yes, it makes sense in storyline, when Corbin was "Constable" to Angle's GM role and undermined him as much as possible but COME ON. Angle has looked hurt and tired in his matches recently, so while it's sad to see him retire, his body is clearly struggling to hold up at this point. JBL on commentary now. The crowd can't be bothered to boo Corbin at this point. Angle with right hands and an over-head belly-to-belly suplex. Corbin thumbs the eyes clotheslines Angle with the top rope. He pummels Angle and chokes him across the top rope. Angle avoids an axe-handle from the middle rope and hits the trio of Germans for two. Corbin avoids the Angle Slam and hits a big boot. Angle rolls through a sunset flip and grabs the Ankle Lock. Corbin kicks him off and hits the Deep Six for two. Angle avoids a charge and hits the Angle Slam for two. The straps come down to spark a mild pop as he goes for the Ankle Lock. Corbin sends Angle into the turnbuckle in slow-motion and does the Cena taunt. Angle with more German suplexes. He climbs the ropes (OH GOD, NO) and misses the moonsault. End of Days connects... and Corbin wins at 5:58. Wow. There's as many shocked faces to this as there was for the end of Undertaker's streak. Match was what it was. *1/2
>H2>Intercontinental Championship Match:
Bobby Lashley (c) (w/ Lio Rush) vs. Finn Balor:
These two have traded the belt in the last month, and Balor overcame the odds to earn another opportunity. This time he's THE DEMON, complete with goofy close-up facial expressions. I guess he didn't think fighting Brock as the Demon was worth it in storylines, but Lashley for the lesser title is. Andrade, Ali, Otis, and Tucker (among others) lose their full names in the last month or so, but WWE hasn't removed the "Bobby" from Lashley yet? Balor surprises Lashley with a spinning heel kick, followed by a bicycle kick. He knocks Lashley into the corner with a shotgun dropkick, tosses him to the floor, and hits a somersault senton. Back inside, Lashley catches Balor with a spine-buster and carries him across the ring with a suplex. Lashley with a clothesline, knocking Balor off the apron. Lashley follows and gets hit with a Sling Blade. Balor with another dropkick. Rush with a distraction, allowing Lashley to dive through the ropes and spear Balor to the floor. Back inside and another spear gets two. Balor comes back with elbows and knee strikes. Balor gets the Powerbomb on the 3rd attempt and hits the Coup de Grace for three at 4:04 to become a 2-time Intercontinental Champion. I guess it shows how much more respect they have for Lashley compared to Balor's last appearance as the Demon, squashing Corbin. **1/2
- New bogus attendance record of 82,265. Real number: 65,400. R-Truth and Carmella come out for a Dance Break™. I would've enjoyed this more if they go Miss Bliss in on the dancing.
- WrestleMania 36 comes to Tampa, FL. PIRATE THEMED MANIA? Maybe I'll have to be there, April 5th, 2020.
Women's Raw and Smackdown Championship Match:
Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch:
Lynch won the 2019 Women's Rumble to earn her title shot but was removed from the match due to injury/upsetting the McMahon's, with Charlotte added to the match as her replacement. Becky "defeated" Charlotte to earn her spot back thanks to Rousey drawing a Disqualification on Charlotte. Originally this was scheduled to be just Ronda defending the Raw Title, but two weeks before the show, Charlotte defeated Asuka for the Smackdown Title, and on the go-home Raw, Stephanie McMahon announced the match as "Winner Take All." Charlotte gets the helicopter (sort of) entrance to the arena that we all secretly hoped for. Joan Jett plays Rousey to the ring with "Bad Reputation." Becky... gets to have her regular entrance. That's two Mania Triple Threats she's been in where the others guy more spectacular entrances than she.
Calmer start than expected. Becky goes for Rousey but is knocked back into the corner. Rousey with a hard kick, knocking her to the floor. Charlotte moves in to attack and gets the same treatment. Rousey scoops up Charlotte and gives her "Piper's Pit" on the floor. Becky avoids the same treatment and sends Rousey into the post. Charlotte gets a receipt, tossing Rousey into the barricade. Charlotte and Becky have a stand-off in the ring and trade forearms. Charlotte with a sharp kick to the leg. She goes for the arm but Becky rolls through for a two-count. Becky teases a Figure-Four and that doesn't work, either. Rousey returns to the action, booting Becky and going for the arm. Charlotte saves with a knee lift and boot to the face. Lynch and Flair with a double-team Powerbomb, but Rousey holds on and hooks a hanging arm-bar. Becky escapes and hits a basement dropkick, causing Rousey to land on the back of her head. HOLY BALLS. Replay shows her lower back caught the apron, causing the change in direction on the way down. Flair catches Lynch with a back breaker and slams her face-first into the turnbuckle. Flair gives Lynch a taste of the canvas and climbs the ropes. Lynch catches her coming off with a moonsault and hooks the Disarm-Her, but Rousey breaks and goes for her own arm-bar. Charlotte with a running knee to the side of the face to break the attempt and hits a Double Natural Selection for a pair of two counts.
Charlotte dumps Lynch out of the ring and focuses her attention on Rousey. She unloads with chops, but Rousey says she chops like a bitch. Ronda comes off the ropes with a big knee and jumps on her for the arm-bar. Charlotte hangs on and turns it into a Boston Crab, but Becky breaks it and hits a DDT on Charlotte and inverted DDT on Rousey for near-falls. Lynch with a roundhouse Super-Kick to the chest of Charlotte, followed by forearm uppercuts. Flair hits her coming off the ropes with an elbow and climbs the ropes. Lynch meets her on top and connects with the Super Exploder Suplex for two. Rousey with a body press for two. She goes for a double arm-bar, but her arrogance isn't getting her anywhere. Lynch and Flair with a tandem Powerbomb three times. Becky with a belly-to-belly suplex on Charlotte for two. Rolling cradle on Rousey into the Disarm-Her, but Rousey makes it to the ropes. There's no DQ, so she technically doesn't have to break the hold. Rousey meets the post on a charge and Becky grabs the Disarm-Her again. Charlotte breaks the hold with a boot to the face and takes Lynch down with a Super Spanish Fly for two.
Charlotte with an Exploder on Rousey, but Lynch won't even let her get in position for a pin attempt. Lynch gets dumped to the apron and knocked with a running boot. Rousey's leg has taken a beating as Charlotte wraps it around the post and hooks the post-assist figure-four. Back inside, Rousey counters a Figure-Four with a small package for two. Charlotte goes for it again and bridges into the Figure-Eight, but Lynch breaks it with a guillotine leg drop. Lynch digs deep... under the ring and pulls out a table. Why the hell not, its winner takes all. The table is positioned in the ring. Charlotte climbs but Lynch stops her. Rousey flips over the table and punishes Lynch in the corner. She Judo throws Lynch and scoops her up, but Lynch escapes. Charlotte back in with a double spear for two. Michael Cole's voice is practically gone. The table gets propped in the corner as Charlotte hits Lynch with another spear for two. Another spear attempt is countered with a double hip toss into the table, but it won't break, just bends. Lynch and Rousey are slugging it out again. Rousey with a jumping knee strike and Piper's Pit, but Lynch counters with a crucifix cradle... for three at 21:30?! Well, that was unexpected. Seriously, that's anti-climactic. They worked hard and there was a spot here and there that could've looked better, and I'm still not sure if I love that finish, especially when the replay shows Rousey had a shoulder up at one and the referee kept counting. We'll see what happens tomorrow night on Monday Night Raw. ****1/2
Final Thoughts: A lot of good matches, but more importantly, almost every match had the right finish with plenty of feel good moments to mask any short-comings when it came to in-ring quality. Once again, the length of the show is a huge negative, and watching it on tape delay, I couldn't recommend watching this in one sitting, especially if you watch the Kickoff Show. Overall, an entertaining night with some memorable moments that didn't feel forced like some "WrestleMania Moments" of recent years (basically anything from WrestleMania 32).
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