After all the hype, all the build-up, all the many Raws and SmackDowns, Wrestlemania 33 is in the books. While this iteration of the Show of Shows will probably not be making any top 10 lists, it was a solid show with some missed opportunities, curious booking decisions, and good to great ring work. So, a wrestling show.
We saw five title changes, none bigger than the surprise return of the Hardy Boyz to the Raw Tag Team Ladder match. In a show where they constantly yell at us about "Wrestlemania Moments", this was an ACTUAL memorable moment. From the joy on their faces as they walked to the ring to the fans exploding and yelling DELETE in unison, it was a superb moment and will be talked about for a long time.
Other title changes were…less interesting. Randy Orton taking the WWE Championship really blows, Bray Wyatt has been poorly booked for years now, and the match itself was built weirdly around Wyatt and his new "powers'. Kudos for turning the ring into a projection screen nightmare too, showing maggots, worms, and cockroaches throughout the match for reasons. The Universal Championship match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar was at least entertaining. Only four moves were used between the two multiple times, yet it exceeded expectations. Since they were not high to begin with, that is not saying much though. Not to be outdone in the underwhelming department, Kevin Owens is your new United States Champion after defeating Chris Jericho. This rivalry was so well booked for months that it is really sad that they had such an off match. They just never really found a second gear.
The Women's division matches were the biggest disappointments of the night. Bayley defended her Raw Women's title, but the match was so short and oddly booked that it felt like a cheapened moment instead of a culmination. Even worse was the SmackDown Women's title match, which featured many botches and odd moments. When they added Naomi back to the match, there was no way she was not winning, so it took all of the drama out of it. Not a good night for the ladies. Hopefully the next few weeks improve things.
Elsewhere, AJ Styles and Shane McMahon had a better match than most expected, and less of a spotfest than I expected. Shane didn't jump off anything tall! Mojo Rawley won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal because he knows Rob Gronkowski and got him to make a ring appearance. While Rawley is a good guy and worker, I don't think this will lead to anything. Dean Ambrose retained the Intercontinental Title against Baron Corbin for some reason, Neville defeated Austin Aries in a pretty good Cruiserweight Title match that should have been on the main show, and John Cena/Nikki Bella beat The Miz and Maryse even though neither did much and Miz carried the whole match. It was all a build to Cena finally asking Bella to marry him, and Total Divas/Bellas gets the ending they wanted. That ring though…Damn John!
My favorite match of the night was the non-sanctioned match between Triple H and Seth Rollins. Building for years now, they were given plenty of time needed to tell a great story in the ring, with Seth selling his knee injury like a pro and Trips doing his usual phenomenal heel work. the match had everything: great grappling, awesome power moves, false finishes, Stephanie McMahon going through a table, and in the end, Seth got his revenge and defeated Trips with his own finisher. Hopefully he retires that and brings back the curb stomp now. Triple H continues putting over youngsters on the biggest stage, and his matches are always a personal highlight.
Which leads us to the end, in more ways than one. For the third straight year, Roman Reigns main-evented Wrestlemania, much to the chagrin of the live crowd and most people watching. This time it was against the greatest Mania performer of all-time, The Undertaker. The match itself was pretty terrible, and will go down as one of the worst main events in Mania history. Full of botches by both men, it was pretty evident that Taker just does not have it anymore, and Roman is not good enough to carry someone to a good match. The end sequence with the multiple spears and Superman Punches was more sad than anything, and after the pinfall the crowd mics were muted to drown out the boos, even though some snuck through.
No, it was after the match that meant something. Taker got up, put on his ring gear, removed his gloves, folded his coat, and left it all with his hat in a pile in the ring. With that, after 27 years, we say goodbye to the Deadman. Long regarded as the leader in the locker room, the greatest character in the history of the WWE is no more. It would not surprise me at all if we never see him again, but I hope not. I have never known a wrestling world without him, Wrestlemania will never be the same if he is not there, and it brought a tear to my eye to watch him fight back tears as he took one last look over his shoulder at the ring he called home for over two decades. While it was his time, I wish he would have had a better last match, but by the time most of these performers are done, their best days are usually behind them.
Overall, this year edition of Wrestlemania was a very mixed bag. Mania is no longer confined to the night of the event, just as important is Raw tonight and SmackDown tomorrow. So the jury is still out as to whether the booking decisions will make sense going forward, but we have the Hardy's back. Goldberg is no longer champ. Bayley can hold the Raw Women's Title for awhile (she won't). But this one will forever be remembered as the Last Ride for The Deadman. As it should be.
Thank you Taker. For everything.