It was big, bold and beautiful. Wrestlemania 31 was the glorious wrestling-fest that we have come to love, nay expect from the company that rules them all. Set for the most part in the California sunshine, the pay-per-view saw the WWE roster meet and exceed Vince McMahon's challenge to 'grab the brass ring'. The whole event constituted a well organised and proper celebration of all the great things WWE is and does.
For those of us that have already subscribed to the WWE Network, we were treated to not one but two excellent pre-show bouts. First, four duos battled it out for tag-team supremacy. It was a remarkable showcase with a number of amazing high spots. Cesaro and Kidd rightfully retained and are building an impressive record. Although, given Cesaro's showing in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal which followed, there is still plenty of mileage in him as a singles competitor if booked right.
The Battle Royal meanwhile, is a good chance for the stars that aren't booked on the main card to get their moment in the spotlight. Notable appearances came from the aforementioned Cesaro, Ryback and of course, Damian Mizdow. It was great to see the expected Mizdow 'face' turn and the fruition of his second successful gimmick. An exciting programme with the Miz beckons. It was appropriate though that the Big Show won the prize and the 'bragging rights' to accompany the comparisons between him and Andre the Giant.
The much-hyped Intercontinental ladder match kicked off the main show with ruthless aggression. Dean Ambrose provided most of the highlights with his exciting, rabid, character-driven feats but Luke Harper was also hugely impressive. Of course, there were another five talented men in the ring and this allowed for a constant flow of action. It was ultimately Daniel Bryan that gained a richly deserved win and given the year he's had, it was lovely to see him celebrating success with the accompanying 'Yes!' chants. Hopefully, the IC title will enjoy a new level of prominence. All in all, a wonderful opener if too short!
Having watched the tag-teams, a battle royal and a ladder match, it fell to Randy Orton and Seth Rollins to deliver something special in the first singles match. Cleverly pitched as the future past vs the future present, this bout had potential and it was a testament to these two talents that they delivered. It was a solid, pacey match with near-falls and some 'RKO's Out-of-Nowhere'. The finale was monumentally entertaining and whilst we would have liked to see Rollins win, it was a nice end to their feud but of course, Rollins wasn't quite done...
As ever, Wrestlemania didn't disappoint on the elaborate entrances and both Sting and Triple H had the full theatrical treatment. There was however no disguising how elated Sting was to be there. In a match that had an 'old-school' feel, there were a number of great moments including Sting breaking Trip's sledgehammer in half. For his part, Triple H seemed to fulfil his company mentor role, delivering a lesson in performance art. If DX interfering to support him seemed momentarily strange, the nWo backup that arrived for Sting helped demystify the interruption. Having the famous faces involved, was a lovely hat tip to the Monday night wars and was just plain fun. To our mind, Flair's involvement would have been great but you can't have it all. We were genuinely shocked to see Triple H win but the touching handshake that followed ensured that Sting had his moment and the WWE had its final win over WCW.
The new generation of WWE women can really go in the ring and the billing of the divas match so high in the card is perhaps an insight into WWE's future plans. The divas were determined to deliver and it showed. Paige is an awesome talent, doing Britain and WWE proud with her in-ring ability. The Bella's for their part were also on great form. Put simply, it was great tag-team wrestling. Paige and AJ Lee took the win in a match that was an all-round joy to watch.
It was clear to see why WWE wanted to give Rusev the 'rub' by pairing him with Cena. He is a first-class talent who played the heel role brilliantly. Whilst Cena, as ever, rose to the occasion with his plucky determination it was Rusev's amazing agility and athleticism that impressed us most. Despite Cena winning, Rusev was kept strong and the US title will now also enjoy the Cena rub..
The Rock delivered another Wrestlemania moment as only he can and the involvement of Rhonda Rousey was intriguing. Hopefully he'll be back next year in a hands-on role. However, if Smackdown is the Rock's show, then Wrestlemania belongs to the Undertaker. It was excellent to see him back and in seemingly great shape. It was exhilarating to see 'Taker sit up and stare down Wyatt in mid crab-like crawl and the tombstone piledriver was devastating as ever. Taker is peerless and we hope this wasn't his last ride. A rematch with Lesnar in his home state next year would surely be a winner for all.
As for Lesnar, he put in a solid showing against up-and-comer Roman Reigns. It really is amazing to think how far Reigns has come in such a comparatively short space of time and he should be afforded proper credit. The booking of the match was again on point and had a suitably MMA feel, with both stars bloodied and battered. Brock was kept strong, Reigns looked credible but with Seth Rollins cashing in, WWE created another monster. The disappointment at Rollins losing his earlier match was vanished and the heel taking the title a sure fire way to keep fans interested beyond Wrestlemania. Rollins deserved this.
Taken as a whole, this was a fantastic display of entertainment. WWE managed to capture something special and no doubt won the hearts of a new generation of fans. To paraphrase WWE Superstar Ryback, feed us more.Suggest a correction