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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The WrestleMania XXX Report (Part 2 - The WWE Delivers a Very Memorable Event)
By The Doc
Apr 7, 2014 - 4:18:52 PM

The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment.

The Snowman is a genius

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was the most memorable outcome at WrestleMania XXX?

What a night it was, April 6, 2014. It was hyped by this very column for months as the culmination of a story that had captured fan imagination worldwide, spanning every sect of the audience and engrossing a particular part of the viewership in a way that I have not seen in a long time. Yet, it turned out to be so much more. The test of time must be passed, but – in many ways – WrestleMania XXX was as historic a night as there has ever been in WWE. Indeed, the #Yes!Movement got its moment, with Daniel Bryan ascending to the top of the wrestling world in dramatic fashion, book ending the wrestling portion of “The Showcase of the Immortals” with classic matches that seem destined to age well. The opening segment was an unexpected high that made up for the lack of nostalgia on the 2014 Road to WrestleMania. Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and The Rock in the same ring at the same time paying their respects to the industry’s past, present, and future was a thrilling way to kick off the event in place of the more traditional singing of “America, The Beautiful.” It celebrated WrestleMania about as well as could have been expected. The clip of the three of them drinking beer together will be replayed for decades to come. So, too, will be the unbelievable end to the Undertaker’s vaunted Streak and, perhaps, The Deadman’s storied career. What began as a night for The Phenom that, on the surface, appeared little more than a routine day at “The Show of Shows” office turned out to provide a shocking sense of finality to, arguably, WrestleMania’s most respected performer. In totality, after a second viewing allowed some perspective to seep in, this might go down as one of the best WrestleManias of all-time. I, for one, thought it to be a magical night for sports entertainment.

Match 1: Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H in 26-minutes (**** ¾) (What an incredible match between Trips and Bryan! I was expecting that they would have the best match of the night and I thought that they delivered in spades. A second viewing helped solidify for me that this is my new frontrunner for 2014 Match of the Year. They told a story that will be difficult to rival. WrestleMania is all about such stories. Psychologically and technically, this was the best match that Mania has seen in quite a number of years. It reminded me of The Game’s bouts with Chris Benoit from a decade ago. When working against wrestlers of smaller statures, it allows him to open up his playbook and do some things that most people have forgotten that he’s capable of doing. The Tiger Suplex, for instance, was an awesome move to target Bryan’s injured shoulder, which Trips did well to attack throughout the match. The intensity of the execution was top notch and the crowd, predictably, was more invested in this bout and the main-event than any other. It was Bryan’s night from start to finish and, though the finish was an incredible moment that no one who has been on this journey with him will ever forget, what will stand out most to me, I suspect, about WrestleMania XXX will be its opening match. The climax was outstanding, the near falls incredibly dramatic, the intangible qualities brought to the table by Stephanie McMahon enhanced the presentation, and the pure elements were flawless. This was one of the greatest matches in Mania history. If you don’t agree with me now, I suspect you eventually will. It was a match worth repeated viewings for years to come)

Match 2: The Shield squashed Kane and The Outlaws in less than 3-minutes (* ½) (It was not much of a match, but it was the type of match that very well served its purpose despite its lack of critical appeal. Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose simply smashed their opponents and left an impression on the largest wrestling audience of 2014. They made the most of their time and made their mark. People will remember them a year from now when one or all of them are in headlining position at WrestleMania 31)

Match 3: Cesaro won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal in 13-minutes (***) (I was a supporter of this concept from the outset and the way that it was handled last night was the reason why. The mid-card at Mania is not the focus anymore. WrestleMania has grown up to be a spectacular unlike any other PPV and, thus, much of the time that was once dedicated to mid-card talent has been shifted to celebrities and legends. Fair enough, as far as I’m concerned, but kudos to the WWE for finding a way to give the mid-carders a chance to shine. Money in the Bank proved that you did not have to be a headliner to have a “WrestleMania moment.” Cesaro proved tonight, along with fellow Battle Royal standouts Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Kofi Kingston, and Big Show, that the Andre the Giant Memorial idea could successfully allow the mid-carders a chance to have their moment. Bravo, in particular, to the winner, Cesaro, for making an impact. As they say, “Where it goes from here will be telling,” but last night was a wonderful start to the potential great career of “The Swiss Superman”)

Match 4: John Cena defeated Bray Wyatt in 23-minutes (****) (If you have just watched this match one time, I urge you to go back and get in a second and third viewing. I’ve just completed my second and there are little details that make the match great that might have been missed amongst the chatter of your first-time viewing parties. I went on record in stating that Bray needed to win. I still believe that he should have won, but the performance that he put in and the presentation of his loss have kept the door open for him to overcome the defeat. Would it be easier for him to become a draw – the main concern going in for me that led to my proclamation about his victory – if he had defeated Cena in his first huge match? There’s no questioning that. Going over main-eventers who draw money is how best to create new main-eventers who draw money. However, Bray was made to look like the focus of the match even in failing to pick up the victory. Cena, as well established as anyone in industry history, took a supporting role in what was depicted as a Bray Wyatt match. As he tends to do, Cena stepped up his game and delivered. I have a lot of respect for that man. In a match about his legacy, he went out and enhanced it. Wyatt was the story, but if Bray gets the award of the night for “Best Actor,” then Cena gets the nod for “Best Supporting Actor.” Their story was unique and they both knocked it out of the park, for my money. I give credit to DeAndes and Steve on last night’s LOP Radio WrestleMania Post-Show – of which I also participated – for making me want to get up this morning and dissect the Cena-Wyatt match. I predicted weeks ago that it had the potential to steal the show and, in the minds of many, it did just that. Wyatt looked like a star that will be around for a long-time. Win, lose, or financially draw, the match was an awesome WrestleMania performance)

Match 5: Brock Lesnar defeated Undertaker to break The Streak in 25-minutes (*** ¾) (Two streaks came to an end last night – The storyline Streak and the Streak within The Streak. Over is the Taker’s unprecedented string of Match of the Year candidates produced at WrestleMania. Over, too, is the unbelievable Streak heralded by some as The Deadman’s legacy. Perhaps, Taker’s career is over, as well. It was a mixed bag, was Taker vs. Brock. It had all the makings of the usual classic Deadman match at Mania, but the crowd never bought Brock as a serious threat to the Streak and instead invested their energy in the Cena vs. Wyatt match. Subsequently, the audience was flat for the majority of the match and made the otherwise reasonably strong work from the combatants appear mundane. Taker looked his age. They tried very hard to have an awesome encounter, but there was just something missing from the aura and atmosphere that has, for so long, aided Taker’s matches. The debate will likely rage on for a few weeks as to whether or not Taker should have lost to Brock, but I don’t think that’s the story to be discussed. Rather, I believe that, based on what I saw last night, Taker is done with pro wrestling. Leave it to an old school kind of guy like him to go out without advertising it. It would be just like a 25 year veteran to bow out the way that WrestleMania XXX might prove he has. It leaves us wanting more, much like Austin’s quiet retirement did over a decade ago. Better that way? I’m not sure. However, on both Taker losing to Brock and Taker potentially retiring last night, I think that The Phenom has earned the kind of respect that would warrant us to accept his decisions. He must have an incredible amount of respect for Lesnar. We, as fans, can only hope that Taker sat down with him when the decision was made to end The Streak and said “Look, Brock, I’m going to do the honors for you again, but I will chase you through the fiery depths of hell of you bail on the business in the next two years before returning the favor to other such promising talents.” If Brock leaves tomorrow, the Streak died for nothing. If Brock, as I sure as hell hope, is used to put over others in big drawing matches at Summerslam and WrestleMania for the next several years in a row, then the Streak died so that Brock could regain the mystique in pro wrestling that he lost when he came back from UFC and lost twice in his first 11 months)

Match 6: AJ Lee retained the Diva’s title in 7-minutes (* ½) (Good for AJ. She was sporting her engagement ring and she retained the title with her awesome finishing move after doing little else. The girls tried hard, I’ll give them that. It was a perfectly acceptable filler match)

Match 7: Daniel Bryan defeated Batista via tap out to win Randy Orton’s WWE Championship in 23-minutes (****) (And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The 8 month saga came to an end with a very satisfying payoff. If you thought that there was any other way that this story was going to end when Triple H turned on Bryan last summer, then you do not fully understand pro wrestling. It may or may not have taken WWE officials a ground swell of fan support for them to realize that the obvious direction for Mania XXX was Bryan overcoming the odds – we may never know since, at this point, all we have to go on is a bunch of backstage rumors – but the bottom line is that we got here. Cheers to Bryan for being the kind of underdog that combined the elements of Chris Benoit’s skill, Eddie Guerrero’s innate connection with people, and Steve Austin’s right place-right time-right character-right guy for the job good fortune that landed the #Yes!Movement in our laps when a lot of fans really needed something like this to reinvigorate their interest in the sport. More traditional fans with their desire to see more traditional main-eventers will assuredly get their chance as soon as later this year when the crop of talented upstarts more officially arrive on the main-event scene, but the hardcore, diehard fanbase needed Daniel Bryan’s story to be told. And well told it was last night. If there was a better way to execute the main-event’s arc, I’m not sure I could describe it. From The Authority’s involvement to the excellent portrayals of their characters by Batista and Orton, last night’s main-event was great. It bordered on being overbooked, but its attention to storyline details was too good to find much criticism. I applaud the WWE, particularly, for making the triple threat seem like a really big deal rather than merely a vehicle to reach a foregone conclusion. Orton’s entrance gave the match a big fight feel – helluva rendition of his theme song, by the way. The near falls were just about perfect. Orton, in particular, seemed to be right at home in his spot. After the last few years, I’m sure he wanted to take full advantage of his opportunity. Batista, to his credit, performed admirably. He has been under a microscope since his return. He shook off the naysayers and played his role quite well. I loved that he tapped out. People are not currently begging for Bryan to beat Orton, but rather Batista. Good call on the booking team’s part. The night ended as it should have – with Bryan hoisting the titles into the air as 75,000 strong chanted “YES!”)

All in all…it was a night to be remembered for many reasons. Time will tell how the event holds up against history, but I believe that we got three matches at the four star level and one candidate for a top 10-20 spot in the “greatest of” list at Mania in Bryan vs. Trips. The Bryan moment to end the show was incredibly memorable, as was Taker’s Streak ending. I often look at the posting of my Mania review as an occasion filled with mixed emotions. It essentially hails that Mania Season is over and that it is time to move on. Frankly, I’m a little saddened by that fact and I will allow those emotions to stick around long enough for Raw tonight before moving on tomorrow. I hope you all enjoyed the show as much as I did and I look forward to the ensuing conversations about it.

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