Magic, Memories, and Mania VALENTINO'S MAGIC, MEMORIES & MANIA: Live at WrestleMania 31 - A Mania With No Great Matches But Many Great Moments
Apr 5, 2015 - 8:25:16 AM
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MAGIC, MEMORIES & MANIA: LIVE WRESTLEMANIA 31 REPORT - A Mania With No Great Matches But Many Great Moments
I have been living in California for over ten years, and this was the first time in a decade that WrestleMania returned to my home state. When I was a child, attending WrestleMania was a dream, and now it is a yearly tradition. This year was my 13th Mania week live, and every year, the experience gets more electrifying. We stayed at The Fairmont in San Jose with all the wrestlers so it was a really a behind the scenes experience, but nothing can compare to the magic of being in person at the Showcase of the Immortals.
This WrestleMania had one of the worst builds I have ever seen, and there was not a single match that I was really anticipating. At the same time, I felt WWE would surprise us with an excellent show, and I was right. I likened it to WrestleMania 22 in Chicago when the build-up was shaky but the show was spectacular. Here are my live experience ratings of WrestleMania 31.
THE CROWD AND THE SETTING
One of the unsung heroes of WrestleMania Weekend is the production team that usually creates a sensational set. This year, I found the stage and stadium decorations to be lackluster at best. I hated the "press play" logo and felt they could have done something cooler and more creative. Unlike the Citrus Bowl setting in Orlando, where they really created an awe-inspiring display, it was obvious that WWE wanted to save money in production costs and went with a simpler set.
Additionally, I was really surprised by all the empty seats in the stadium. In fact, my friend did not have a ticket coming to the show, and he was able to get in free as the show started so it is possible they were trying to fill seats.
Another issue was the event taking place in daylight hours. Nearly every seat in the stadium was exposed to the sun so many of us were struggling to cover our faces from the blazing light. This was the first Mania I attended where heavy sunblock was necessary.
It was also more difficult to see, and some of the magical atmosphere that comes from the night sky and the stars was missing. It severely hampered many of the entrances, including Sting, Triple H, Bray Wyatt, and The Undertaker, all of which would look much cooler in the dark.
Despite the negatives, the actual stadium itself was beautiful, and the event was very well organized. Additionally, the crowd was great and into the show for the entire four hour extravaganza.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 5 out of 10.
IC TITLE LADDER MATCH
This was effectively a replacement for Money in the Bank, and I would not mind if they make this a yearly tradition. MITB was a guaranteed dose of excitement and athleticism, and Mania had sorely lacked those attributes in recent years. Unfortunately, this did not really live up to my expectations. Despite an absolutely awful build, I thought the athletes in the match would have some memorable spots and tell a compelling story.
The poor build and being desensitized after years of these types of matches made it difficult for this to be a memorable match. There were enough exciting moments and dangerous stunts to keep things interesting. The right guy won in Daniel Bryan, and hopefully he can bring some more meaning back to a once treasured title. Sadly, he and Dolph Ziggler, two of the goofiest characters in wrestling despite their popularity, ended with one of the worst-looking finishes I can remember. I always thought the Chris Benoit Memorial Diving Headbutt was the worst move I have ever seen, but the barrage of headbutts at the end of this match may have been even more ridiculous. Despite that, at least the match started the show with some energy that would set the tone for the night.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 7 out of 10.
SETH ROLLINS VS. RANDY ORTON
This was a very solid match between two of the top wrestlers in WWE. The crowd was into both characters, and the ending was one of the most memorable athletic spots we have seen in a long time. It helped set up a similar story to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania X and Chris Jericho at Unforgiven 2008 where they lost their first match of the card only to win the World Championship to conclude the show.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 7 out of 10.
STING VS. TRIPLE H
This is an impossible match to rate on any objective scale, and it was the most polarizing contest of the show. I would have liked to see both entrances take place at night because both characters have a dark aura. I thought Triple H’s entrance at WrestleMania 30 was one of the best in history, but the Terminator themed entry was more difficult to pull off during the day.
Since I did not care much about seeing these two try to pull off an actual wrestling match, I turned my brain off and enjoyed the spectacle. I was surprised to see DX and the NWO share the stage at WrestleMania, something I thought I would never see. It was cool how Shawn Michaels came in later in the most surprising moment of the match.
Of course, logically speaking, nothing that took place in this match made any sense, and the lack of character consistency and historical context was astounding even by WWE standards. Personally speaking, the fun and nostalgia made up for the inanity of it all. The one moment that I felt was unforgivable was Sting shaking Triple H’s hand after the match and after being pounded by a sledgehammer. This made absolutely no sense. As for Triple H, he has lost much more than he has won in the shows I have attended, so it was pretty shocking to see him go over here, and I believe Sting definitely should have won this match. But I will remember the chaos more than the contest, and my friends and I had a great time.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 8 out of 10.
LIVE MUSIC PERFORMANCE
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 0 out of 10.
DIVAS Tag MATCH
I honestly do not know why WWE bothers putting a Divas match on the WrestleMania card if they make the Divas such an afterthought. The audience either sat quietly or went out of their way to do something that distracted them from looking at the ring. I was staring at empty seats in the crowd. Anybody that thinks the treatment of Divas is going to get better will be sorely disappointed. My friend and I commented that you know things are bad when you have beautiful women wrestling in front of an enormous audience of mostly men, and they cannot sustain the crowd’s attention.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 1 out of 10.
JOHN CENA VS. RUSEV
Rusev and Lana’s entrance was meant to be a grand showcase, similar to Ivan Drago in "Rocky 4," and it turned out to be one of the best in wrestling history. We were really anticipating this entrance because the duo was staying in the room right next to us in the hotel. The soldiers and the tank were over the top in a good way, although I thought it was funny because they played larger-than-life villains in the show, but they had been complaining about us making too much noise in the hotel that morning.
The match was exactly what it should have been. Cena should have won the U.S. Championship against the "foreign menace," but he did it without Rusev looking weak. Lana’s distraction gave him an excuse, but I hope that they do not break up the pair because she makes the entire act work.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 7 out of 10.
THE AUTHORITY-ROCK & ROUSEY SEGMENT
This was the most entertaining and star-studded segment of the show. I was genuinely shocked to see The Rock for the second consecutive year. I enjoy his promos more than his matches, so I feel this is the perfect usage of Dwayne Johnson. I thought Stephanie McMahon put on one of the greatest performances in WrestleMania history with her verbal smackdown of Rock and Ronda Rousey. She was absolutely brilliant on every level from her facial expressions, body language, and tone to delivery and dialogue. It is obvious that she is the one that inherited Vince McMahon’s charisma and screen presence.
I am not a UFC fan, but Rousey was also excellent in her role as well. Her facial expressions were perfect and she had a formidable presence just standing there in the ring. It was obvious that she was a wrestling fan because she understood how to effectively convey her dangerous aura in a way that captivated the audience. I was at the edge of my seat for the entire segment, and it elevated the overall show by several notches.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 10 out of 10.
UNDERTAKER VS. BRAY WYATT
I have been in the audience for Undertaker’s entire stretch of classic WrestleMania matches, and unfortunately I was there for his unnecessary defeat at the hands of Brock Lesnar last year. I thought the end of The Streak was the worst moment in Mania history, and I felt that WWE would not reap any benefits from finishing what was the most proud accomplishment and sacred record in the history of the company. This year’s Mania build could have used The Streak as a selling point because the promos leading to this match felt flat despite strong efforts by Wyatt.
A year later, Brock is no longer the champion, and he only legitimately won one Championship match in his “dominant” reign. Roman Reigns, the man that was supposed to be elevated, is less popular than he was last year, and he did not even beat Lesnar to avenge Taker’s loss. So far, it has all turned out to be useless just like I predicted.
The match itself was okay, and it was probably as good as you can expect from Taker at this stage in his career. The entrances were severely hurt by the daylight as they lacked any form of true mystique without the dark atmosphere. Again, if The Streak was not foolishly ended, this could have been more of a compelling battle. The final minutes were fun as the crowd finally got into the match and the two characters played off each other well. This should have been so much more, but thankfully Undertaker looked in great shape, and I feel he should be able to fight in front of the massive audience in his home state next year at WrestleMania for one last ride.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 6 out of 10.
BROCK LESNAR VS. ROMAN REIGNS
This was one of the more fascinating matches in recent history. It was one of the more unpredictable finishes out of any Mania main event. Everyone had guesses, but hardly anyone could say they were certain who was going to win, and that is what made the match interesting from start to finish. The actual work in the ring was about as good as you could possibly want. Lesnar was absolutely devastating giving a brutal beating to Reigns that reminded us of his Summerslam demolition of John Cena.
Reigns also played his part well as the resilient underdog struggling to win the fans’s respect and fight off a seemingly invincible force of nature. The match was laid out brilliantly, especially Lesnar's cut that dazed him, and that was the impetus for Reigns’s comeback. The last few minutes, I had no idea who was going to win, and I certainly did not think Seth Rollins would cash in his contract in the middle of the match. It was a unique finish that electrified the crowd and made sense in the narrative. It presented numerous exciting options going forward and it was a bona fide WrestleMania moment.
LIVE EXPERIENCE RATING: 9 out of 10.
Overall, this was a very good WrestleMania live. Interestingly, there was not one match that I would consider a classic, but there were plenty of great moments that combined to make it an exciting show from start to finish. It was fun in the California sun, and I thought it was the best WrestleMania I have attended in recent years.
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