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KELLER’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 33 KICKOFF SHOW REPORT
APRIL 2, 2017
ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE CITRUS BOWL
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
CHECK OUT MY DETAILED WRESTLEMANIA 33 KICKOFF SHOW REPORT HERE.
WRESTLEMANIA MAIN CARD REPORT
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton.
-They went to Tinashe mid-ring to sing “America the Beautiful” and then four fighter jets flew over the stadium and the crowd cheered and chanted “USA! USA!”
-A video package aired on the Ultimate Thrill Ride that they are promising WrestleMania to be. John Cena said in the video to brace yourself because it’s going to be one hell of a ride. They showed people screaming on a roller coaster. The narrator described WrestleMania as “the greatest live event in entertainment, the ultimate thrill ride.”
-New Day introduced the show. They came to the ring in elaborate Court Jester outfits. As they made their way to the ring, they showed the Spanish and German announce teams. New Day did some schtick, but it didn’t add up to much.
WWE already sent us a press release on this:
WWE Superstars Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods, all members of “The New Day” were part of an exciting kick off to WrestleMania 33 tonight at the Orlando Citrus Bowl as part of a partnership between WWE and Square Enix, makers of the popular FINAL FANTASY video game franchise.
The trio, who hosted WrestleMania, dressed as characters from critically acclaimed online game FINAL FANTASY XIV Online in a one-of-a-kind, FINAL FANTASY-themed entrance to WrestleMania 33, WWE’s biggest event of the year and pop culture spectacular that streamed live around the world on WWE Network.
Big E dressed as the Samurai, Xavier Woods as the Monk, and Kofi as the Red Mage entered riding their “POP-cycle” bike, which was styled with memorable FINAL FANTASY XIV Online characters – Moogles and Chocobos!
-A video package aired on the A.J. Styles-Shane McMahon feud.
(1) SHANE MCMAHON vs. A.J. STYLES
Shane came out first. Then Styles. The bell rang. Shane was wearing a white jersey with Shane-O-Mac on the front and dollar signs on the back. Styles outwrestled Shane a little with a lockup and headlock and then a shove into the ropes. He said he’s going to embarrass him. He was cocky. A “Let’s Go A.J.!” chant started. Styles caught Shane with a snap mare and he showboated. The crowd cheered. Shane soaked it up while sitting in the corner. Otunga said Styles has to be sure his confidence doesn’t turn to cockiness because that could be bad for him. JBL asked how Styles can’t be cocky given that he’s among the best of his generation. Shane arm dragged Styles a couple times and then did some amateur wrestling and tried to roll up Styles. Styles rolled to the floor and looked back at the ring in shock.
Styles threw the first punch to Shane’s face. The announcers talked about Shane training in striking. Styles invited Shane to give it his best. Shane punched away at him and then thtumaplatrew a hard elbow in the corner. Otunga said you don’t want to do stand-up with Shane. Styles threw Shane out of the ring, then slide-kicked him hard into the announce table. Shane backflipped over the table and into the chair. Back in the ring, Styles took over on Shane with a methodical beating. JBL talked about how Shane doesn’t know fear or hesitation. Shane knocked Styles off balance when he was on the top rope. Shane danced around and threw more punches. He was looking sweaty and winded.
Styles flipped Shane back-first over his knee. Styles countered an attempted Shane comeback into a Calf Crusher. Shane countered into a sleeper. He maneuvered into an armbar. Then an omaplata. JBL wondered how Styles would react if he had to tapout to Shane after bragging he’d put on a wrestling clinic. Styles went for a 450 springboard splash, but Shane countered into a triangle. Otunga said Styles might have to tap. Styles lifted Shane and dropped him with a one-armed Styles Clash for a near fall. They exchanged punches mid-ring a minute later. Shane got the better of Styles. He threw some knees in the corner. Styles tried to kick Shane, but Shane ducked and the ref went down. Styles landed a Pelé kick. As a medic checked on the ref, Styles grabbed two trash cans from under the ring. JBL said Styles is fighting for his survival since taking Shane to a wrestling clinic wasn’t enough. Styles put a trash can up against Shane in one corner, then climbed to the top rope in another corner and went for Shane’s signature spot, but Shane leaped up and blocked Styles with a trash can. Styles went down. Shane threw the can out of the ring, but then saw the second one.
Shane then put the trash up against Styles and landed his top rope dropkick into the can. He made the cover. The ref made the count, but Styles kicked out. Shane then went to ringside and cleared an announce table. Shane set Styles on the table on his back. Shane leaped off the top rope and dove at Styles, but Styles moved and Shane crashed onto the table. The table collapsed. Medics checked on him. He clutched his ribs. Styles went after Shane. He rolled him to the ring and threw him into it. Shane went fora Phenomenal Forearm, but Shane caught him mid-air and DDT’d him. Shane then climbed to the top rope. He went for a shooting star press. Styles moved. Another “A.J. Styles” chant. Styles hit his Phenomenal Forearm for the win. JBL said Styles had to earn that win every step of the way.
WINNER: Styles at 20:35.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was on the higher end of any reasonable expectations. They told a good story, if you buy Shane as a wrestler who can hold his own against Styles for 20 minutes. If you can’t, then it was groan-inducting seeing Shane outwrestle Styles and out-strike him at various time. It was smart to do that early, since it did feel like a novelty match, and grumpy tired crowd might have been less responsive and even unforgiving of certain aspects, especially if anything went wrong or looked especially sloppy. The crowd definitely enjoyed it and didn’t reject the premise. Although it cheated Styles out of a true showcase match for then ages, he’ll get historic credit for carrying Shane to a match that largely got by with a story told in the ring. I was truly happy that other than the shooting star press attempt, Shane didn’t leap off of anything other than the top rope.)
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(2) CHRIS JERICHO vs. KEVIN OWENS – U.S. Title match
Jericho took it to Owens early. They fought at a steady pace for several minutes before taking it to the floor. Jericho made a comeback against Owens. Back in the ring, Owens blocked a Code Breaker and landed a package sitout slam on Jericho for a two count. Cole acknowledged a red contusion on Owens’ forehead. Jericho pounded away at Owens on the top rope, then landed a huracanrana. Owens avoided a springboard Lionsault, then kicked Jericho in the face and scored a near fall. Owens went for a frog splash, but Jericho lifted his knees. Owens came back quickly and landed a top rope swanton right onto Jericho’s lifted knees. Owens went for a Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Jericho avoided it and then instantly landed the springboard Lionsault for a two count. A “Y2J” chant started.
A minute later Owens put Jericho in the Walls of Jericho mid-ring. Cole asked how embarrassing it’d be if Jericho had to tapout. Graves said, “I love it!” Owens hit the cannonball in the corner. Jericho caught him, though, and twisted him into a Walls of Jericho. Owens reached the bottom rope. Owens came back with a Pop-up Powerbomb for a near fall. The crowd popped. They were slow to get up. When Owens went for a Pop-up, he landed the Code Breaker. Owens placed his index finger on the bottom rope to force a break. A “This is awesome!” chant started. Owens rolled to the floor. Jericho went after him. Owens powerbombed Jericho spine-first into the ring apron. He went for the cover and got the three count.
WINNER: Owens to capture the U.S. Title at 16:20. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: For this spot on the card, this worked really well. The crowd was into the match start to finish. I liked that they didn’t overdo it with near falls at the end, and sold the idea that a powerbomb on the edge of the ring apron was enough. This was a disciplined, well-executed, smart match that felt like two people fighting over a grudge, not just putting on a show.)
-A video preview aired for the Raw Women’s Title match.
(3) BAYLEY vs. CHARLOTTE vs. NIA JAX vs. SASHA BANKS – WWE Raw Women’s Title match – Elimination Rules
Bayley came out first followed by Sasha, Jax, and Charlotte. Jax caught Charlotte diving at her and shoved her into the corner. All the women went after Jax early, but she fended them off rather easily. Saxton said this is the story of her career – complete total domination. Jax sit splashed Bayley in the corner. Charlotte distracted Jax, which gave Bayley an opening to roll to the floor where Banks had been for a while already. Jax then knocked Charlotte off the ring apron onto Bayley and Banks at ringside. All three women returned to the ring, and Jax told them to bring it on. They did, and they triple powerbombed her off the top rope and piled on top of her to pin her. She was eliminated, so it was down to Charlotte, Banks, and Bayley.
Charlotte offered a high-five, but Bayley and Sasha wouldn’t. Charlotte bailed out to the floor and told them to fight instead. They decided to, but quickly Charlotte yanked Bayley to ringside by her foot. Banks then flip dove over the top rope, landing by mistake on Bayley. Graves said it was intentional and told Graves one day he’ll figure it out. Charlotte then hit both with a corkscrew moonsault. They replayed it in sl0-mo. Graves said it was a work out of art and should be in a museum. Charlotte went for Natural Selection, but Sasha countered into a Bank Statement. Charlotte fought free and gave Sasha a back-breaker for a two count. Sasha took over with running knees in the corner. Then she dove with the knees onto Charlotte off the top rope and scored a two count. She applied a Bank Statement. Charlotte struggled to escape by standing and lifting Sasha. Sasha countered into a roll-up, but Charlotte pushed out of it and shoved Sasha into a partially exposed turnbuckle for the three count.
It came down to Bayley vs. Charlotte. Bayley avoided a moonsault, then scored a two count on Charlotte. Bayley leaped off the top rope, but Charlotte caught her and slammed her into the mat. Then she applied a figure-four and shifted into the signature Figure-Eight. Bayley grabbed the bottom rope to force a break. Charlotte hung Bayley upside down in the corner, then worked on her left knee with stomps. Bayley back body dropped Charlotte off the top rope, but was still stuck up there hanging upside down afterward. Bayley eventually shifted out of that position and leaped on Charlotte with a top rope elbow for a three count. She sold her knee afterward. She clutched the title belt on the mat as her music played. She stood up crying and held the belt high in the air. Charlotte caught her breath at ringside.
WINNER: Bayley at 12:45 to retain the Raw Women’s Title. (**1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. I liked how they “protected” Jax by having her lose only because three others teamed against her. Then they had some good action, although it was just jam packed into 12 minutes, so not enough time to really tell a great story. But overall, definitely acceptable.)
IN-STADIUM NOTE: With the sun setting, they turned on lights shining at the ring. A lot of people in the crowd are upset because it’s blinding and they can’t see the ring.
— Shelly Walsh (@JaxRunnerGirl) April 3, 2017
— Garron (@iamgarron) April 3, 2017
— Ken Arnold (@KenArnold1984) April 3, 2017
— Danny Walsh (@dmw4gators) April 3, 2017
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Cole thanked the city of Orlando for being an incredible host all week. He said the weekend began with the Hall of Fame. They aired a highlight video. Then the Hall of Famers stood on the stage, introduced by Greg Hamilton rather than Howard Finkle as is traditional. The crowd chanted, with affection, “You suck!” at Angle.
-A commercial aired for a charity raffle for the Boys & Girls Club of America.
-They showed Seth Rollins backstage having his knee taped. He is in the building after suffering from a fever and being sick for the last few days.
(4) KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS vs. SHEAMUS & CESARO vs. ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS – WWE Raw World Tag Team Championship match
After the three scheduled teams were announced and in the ring, New Day came out and said a fourth team has been added. The announcer assumed it’d be New Day. But instead, the Hardys music played. They came out to the biggest pop of the night so far. Cole said it’d been almost 7 years since the Hardys have teamed together in WWE. Graves said everyone in the Citrus Bowl is in shock. The bell rang and the four-way brawl was on. They cleared the ring of all but Anderson and took it to him. The crowd chanted “This is awesome!” Jeff hit Whisper in the Wind on Sheamus and Cesaro. “Delete! Delete!” rang out. Then “Welcome back!” Matt shoved everyone who tried to enter the ring with a ladder. Gallows tipped a ladder over so Jeff fell onto the top rope. Then Gallows and Anderson rammed Matt with a ladder. Cole said the Dudleys, Hardys, and Anderson & Gallows are the only three tag teams in history to win the WWE and IWGP tag team championships.
Cesaro stepped off of the ladder onto Gallows’ shoulders and landed feet-first on Anderson’s chest. Cass went to work with some big boots and then played to the crowd to no reaction. They brawled at ringside. Sheamus then went at it with Gallows on the ring apron. Cesaro used the swing on Anderson as Sheamus pounded Gallows’ chest over and over to the pace of Cesaro’s revolutions. Cesaro catapulted Anderson into Sheamus, who powers lamed him. Cesaro then gave Cesaro a 619 on the ring apron. Cole said the tag team titles haven’t changed hands since WM17 when Edge & Christian beat The Dudleys and the Hardy Boyz in a TLC match.
After several minutes out of the picture, the hardys got back into the mix. Jeff went for a dive off the middle rope onto a crowd at ringside, but Sheamus gave him a Brogue Kick. He landed on a crowd at ringside. A “Brother Nero” chant broke out. Sheamus and Gallows climbed a ladder and each grabbed at the red belts hanging above the ring. Enzo tipped the ladder over, although it took some real effort. When Enzo climbed the ladder, Cesaro and Gallows made sure that didn’t happen. Sheamus and Gallows tumbled to the floor. Enzo was left on the ladder and reached up for the belts. Anderson raced up to stop Enzo. He knocked him down. Cesaro and Sheamus went for a Crucifix on Anderson, but Gallows intervened. Matt gave a Twist of Fate to Gallows. Anderson threw him out of the ring, then climbed a ladder. Sheamus and Cesaro were KO’d on ladders bridged at ringside. Hardy gave Anderson a Twist of Fate off the ladder. Jeff then climbed to the top of the giant ladder at ringside. He leaped at Cesaro and Sheamus. The ladder broke under Cesaro. Matt then climbed the ladder and grabbed the belts to win. The crowd erupted as Cole declared they are seven-time champions. “That has to be one of the greatest WrestleMania Moments ever,” said Cole. “The Brother Hardys are back!”
WINNERS: Matt & Jeff Hardy to capture the WWE Raw Tag Team Championships at 11:05. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: A lot of fans who knew to chant “Delete!” were also aware that they might be arriving today or later this week. The Hardys threw some red herrings out there to try to throw people off. The way it was done was a clever swerve in that it seemed New Day, without a match and only hosting duties, teased they had been added. So the Hardys music was, to many, a double-surprise. Well done. The Hardys did their thing and looked the part, not just a nostalgia act. The Hardys didn’t take over the entire match, and all the teams had their moments. Good match, and Cole added a lot to the moment by seeming genuinely excited himself. The Hardys have a lot of ways to make money for WWE the next couple of years if they can work together that long. It could be a fun journey. If you’re a Smackdown fan, pin your hopes on Shinsuke Nakamura, I suppose.)
-A commercial aired for WWE Network hyping WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, La. next year along with other original programs.
-A video package aired on the John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. Miz & Maryse feud.
-Jerry Lawler joined Phillips and JBL on commentary at ringside.
-Al Roker stood inside the ring and was mildly booed. He said, “I am Al Roker from the Today Show, but you can call me Chocolate Thunder.” Stuff like that never works, but nobody outside of pro wrestling fandom gets why it doesn’t. It comes across as lame and patronizing.
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(5) JOHN CENA & NIKKI BELLA vs. THE MIZ & MARYSE
Miz and Maryse came out first. They had other announce teams from around the globe introduce themselves on camera. Then Nikki and Cena came out separately. Cena sprinted to catch up to Nikki. Cena ran full speed and slid into the ring. Roker was, as expected, awful at ring announcing and also totally unselfaware of the fact. Nikki and Maryse began, but Maryse tagged out before a lock-up. Lawler said he got a kick out of the Total Bellas spoofs. Lawler said he’s surprised Miz and Maryse’s marriage has lasted this long because it not typical for Hollywood marriages. Lawler said people didn’t expect it to last long because at their wedding they were throwing Minute Rice. Miz stomped away at Cena early and then played to the crowd. Maryse slapped Cena after Miz broke a sleeper against the ropes. Miz taunted Nikki.
Miz got a sustained beatdown on Cena. Lawler said he doesn’t believe things are great between Miz and Maryse. He said it’s a big front and a big show. He said he heard the other morning Miz asked for breakfast in bed and Maryse told him to go sleep in the kitchen. JBL said Miz is the modern day Gregory Peck. Lawler said the fifties want his reference back. Miz gave Cena a DDT for a near fall. Miz threw a barrage of round kicks at Cena’s chest as the crowd chanted “Yes!” with each kick. JBL said Miz does that better than Bryan did. When Miz taunted Nikki with a “You can’t see me” hand save, Nikki slapped Miz. Cena then knocked Miz to the floor. Cena crawled over to Nikki and gave her a hot-tag. Nikki tackled Maryse. Maryse bailed out to the ringtorlaside to regroup with Miz. Nikki dove through the ropes, but hit Miz instead of Maryse. Nikki KO’d Maryse with a forearm. Cena then entered and gave Cena a side slam. They played to the crowd before doing the You Can’t See Me routine. Then they dropped five knuckle shuffles. They scored stereo pins with a Rack Attack and Attitude Adjustment combo.
WINNERS: Cena & Bella at 9:40.
(Keller’s Analysis: The match itself was a virtual night off for Cena, and even more so for Nikki. It was what it needed to be, though, because it was just filler for what was coming next.)
-Cena grabbed the mic afterward and looked over at Nikki. He said, “This is what you wanted over a year ago. You broke your neck and you did everything you could to come back because you wanted a WrestleMania Moment. He said how proud he is of her. He said after she went into surgery, he said there’d be a time she’d be a little loopy and she’d given him an honest answer and she wouldn’t remember what she talked about. He said not a week went by when she didn’t ask what happened and he promised to eventually tell her when the time was right. He said right as they were wheeling her into the E.R., she was glassy eyed. He leaned in and asked if she could hear him. She said yes. He said, “Well, I have only have one question.” He said, “Do you know one day I’m going to marry you.” And she said yes. “I just need you to say yes one more time.” He reached into his pocket and got on his knees and showed her the ring. His voice quivered as he said he has been waitiing so long to ask her this. “Will you marry me?” She nodded and said yes and hugged him. The crowd was mic’d odd during this as only some localized screeches from a girl could be heart. She put on the ring and hugged John. They exchanged some private off-mic words. Then they kissed. They went to ringside and hugged some family members.
-The announcers reacted, then threw to a Seth-Triple H video package.
(6) TRIPLE H vs. SETH ROLLINS
Triple H’s ring entrance this year was one of the anticipated moments of the show. He rode to the ring with Stephanie McMahon behind him on a motorcycle led by a parade of motorcycles with sirens in front of him. Clever way to avoid walking to the ring like a real man (or running like Cena did). Stephanie looked like Lita. Cole said this is Triple H’s 21st match at a WrestleMania, second only to Undertaker. He said his debut was in 1996 and he’s missed just one with a torn quad at WM23. Next out came Seth. he carried a torch to the ring. I appreciate the product placement. Seth took it to Hunter at the start, overwhelming him with punches. Seth kicked Triple H into a ringpost at ringside a minute in. Cole said it’s non-sanctions and “pretty much anything goes.” Hunter dragon screw leg whipped Seth from his good knee. Then they tumbled overt the barricade to fight “in the WWE Universe in Orlando.” Now we know where the WWE Universe is located, apparently. Boy does that always sound stupid. Graves said Seth has been battling a 103 degree temperature the last three days. He clew at Triple H with a springboard clothesline off the ringside barrier. He eyed Stephanie, who was at ringside for Hunter. Hunter grabbed Seth’s leg mid-air as Seth flew at him off the top rope. Seth hit Hunter with an enzuigiri. Hunter rolled to the floor. Seth did a running dive and tackled Hunter. He did it again. Not much crowd reaction. They’re at the five hour mark since the Kickoff Show began. Half of them have been there that long. It’s 75 degrees and not sunny.
Seth set up a Pedigree on an announce table. Hunter countered with a DDT. Triple H hit Seth with a chair on his bad knee. Hunter dropped a knee on the back of Seth’s knee, then threw him back into the ring. Hunter settled into a leglock on the mat. Seth went for a sunset flip off the top rope. Hunter held on. Seth landed hard and clutched his knee. Graves said that’s the same move that first injured his knee in Europe that caused him to miss WrestleMania 32. Seth tried to powerbomb Hunter off the top rope, but his legs gave out. Hunter stood over him and then set up a Pedigree. Seth blocked it and gave Hunter a buckle bomb. He went down clutching his knee. Seth got up and whipped Hunter into the corner and Hunter spilled over to the floor. Seth then dove off the top rope. Seth scored a two count after a Falcon’s Arrow.
Hunter made a comeback and methodically beat down Seth and worked over his knee. He put Seth in a figure-four at ringside. When Seth escaped, Hunter produced a sledge hammer. When he entered the ring, Seth punched Hunter until he dropped it. Hunter gave Seth a knee to the face and a clothesline. Seth did a 360 bump. Stephanie yelled to Hunter, “Twist his knee off.” A “Let’s go Rollins!” chant started. Hunter grabbed the sledgehammer. Seth hit Hunter with an enzuigiri. Seth then picked up the sledgehammer. Steph yanked it away. Hunter then surprised Seth a Pedigree for a believable near fall. Hunter set up a top rope Pedigree, but Seth backdropped out of it. He then climbed to the top rope and hit a Phoenix Splash for a near fall. Cole said that’s something you’d see on 205 Live. Saxton put over how gutsy Seth has been. Hunter went for another Pedigree, but Rollins escaped and set up a Pedigree. Hunter backdropped out of it. Seth landed hard and sold knee pain again. Hunter then set up a Pedigree, but Rollins countered with is own attempt. Hunter gave Seth a forearm to the knee. Steph stood on the ring apron and held Seth by his throat. Seth moved and Hunter almost hit Steph. Seth then shoved Hunter into Steph, who went crashing off the ring through a table below. Seth then gave Hunter a Pedigree for the win. Cole called him a “King Slayer!” Graves said Hunter’s kingdom is burning and Seth holds the torch.
WINNER: Seth Rollins at 25:50. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: Okay, if that was there main event of a three hour PPV, that’d be a fitting main event. For an event where half the fans have been there for five hours already, and just about everyone for over four, with a live music performance and four more matches to do, that was excessive. Just get to the point faster given the situation, especially since poor Seth was suffering from a 103 degree fever the last three days. In any case, there was a lot good in that battle. The finishing sequence is intriguing. Does plant a seed of a storyline divide with Steph and Hunter since her attempt to interfere cost him the match? Or was that just an “out” for Hunter to lose as he showed concern for his wife’s well-being? They told the story of working over Seth’s knee. It got repetitive that Seth would do a big move, sell his knee in pain, do a big move, sell his knee in pain. Yet he kept getting up to do another big move. The crowd was into at the end, but live reports indicate they were dead for a lot of the body of the match. Cut this down by ten minutes and it’s better match and better for the show.)
-They had live music performances by Pitbull and others. JoJo introducd them.
-A video package aired on the Randy Orton-Bray Wyatt feud.
(7) BRAY WYATT vs. RANDY ORTON – WWE Championship match
Bray came out first. Then Orton. The walk to the ring was so long, they seemed to play Orton’s song on a loop three times. The bell rang to start this 32 minutes into the fourth hour of the show, not counting the two hour Kickoff Show. So over five-and-a-half hours deep since the Kickoff Show started. Randy went for an early RKO out of nowhere. Bray leaped to ringside. Orton went right after him. They exchanged strikes at ringside. Orton threw Bray into the ring. Bray caught him with a forearm and then a running headbutt to the chest. Bray bent over backwards. The camera showed the action from overhead. They projected maggots on the ring surface. The crowd got all grossed out and let out a collective “ewwww!” JBL said he’s never seen anything like that in his life. Otunga said Bray’s been different since Orton burned down “the place that houses Sister Abigail’s ashes.” They won’t say “compound” or “shed” or anything. It’s just “that place.” Bray methodically beat up Orton. He bent over backwards again and the ring filled with earthworms crawling through dirt. Orton acted creeped out again. Bray pounded on the back of Orton’s head with elbows, then yelled out, “I am a god!” He hit a senton for a two count.
JBL said Orton was as fired up on his way to the ring as he has ever seen him, but the images of the worms and the psychological warfare has taken him out of it completely. JBL said the place is in shock, noting the silence in the stadium. Orton rolled out of the ring and took a breather. Bray rolled out the other side and jogged at him with a running clothesline. Orton gave him an RKO out of nowhere at ringside. Back in the ring and waited for Bray to stand, and he went for the running punt. Bray avoided it and went for Sister Abigail. Orton blocked it and landed a DDT off the second rope. Orton pounded the mat and then charged at Bray, but Bray gave him Sister Abigail. Orton kicked out. Just silence afterward. Now we had a ring full of some sort of bugs. Randy didn’t seem to notice, which made it even sillier. Bray pounded on Orton methodically with forearms, but Orton hit an RKO out of nowhere for the pin. They cut to a shocked fan. Or else he’s frozen in fear from those creepy bugs.
WINNER: Orton to capture the WWE Championship at 10:30. (**1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: I don’t know what to say. The match was what I expected, but worms and bugs were an added… bonus? It works in the sense that this whole feud has been about nonsense spookiness, so why get serious now? When someone at WWE HQ’s said, “Wouldn’t it be neat if…” that person should have been shot down immediately and moved to new division.)
-A Total Divas commercial aired.
-A video package aired on Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar.
(8) GOLDBERG vs. BROCK LESNAR (w/Paul Heyman) – WWE Universal Title match
Lesnar ran the ropes after he arrived in the ring and his music stopped. Then Goldberg’s music played. The crowd seemed fatigued. A weak Goldberg chant fizzled quickly. Someone knocked on his door, and Goldberg came out of his locker room. He walked too the ring with the belt around his waist. He looks the part. More gray in the beard, but he looks badass. He walked the whole way to the ring. They should have had the champ come out first in this match, of all matches, so Goldberg could rest up a bit. Heyman insisted on introducing Brock, yanking the mic from JoJo. When Jo Jo got to Goldberg, the crowd booed with whatever little energy they had left. Lesnar sidestepped a spear and gave Goldberg a German Suplex. And two more. Goldberg popped up and speared Lesnar into the bottom rope. Lesnar staggered to his feet and ate another spear. Lesnar rolled out of the ring. Goldberg snuck around the ring and went for a third spear. He speared Lesnar into the time keeper’s area through the barricade. Both were slow to get up. Goldberg was selling convincingly. Back in the ring, Goldberg signaled for a Jackhammer. Lesnar countered into an F5 attempt. Goldberg escaped and hit a spear again. Lesnar struggled to stand. Goldberg seemed to be handling the cardio well so far. He set up a Jackhammer and landed it. Lesnar kicked out. Goldberg looked down at him in shock. Heyman pounded the mat as the crowd woke up and cheered. Goldberg waited for Lesnar to stand and set up a spear. He charged, but Lesnar leapfrogged him. Goldberg’s head might have caught Lesnar’s knee. Lesnar then took Goldberg back to Suplex City. Sexaton said he’s trying to make Goldberg a permanent member. After five more, Lesnar staggered to his feet and delivered a ninth overall. The crowd chanted for Tye Dillinger. Lesnar delivered. Then he gave Goldberg an F5. Cole said Lesnar has finally exorcised his demons.
WINNER: Lesnar to capture the WWE Universal Championship at 4:45. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: That was a best case scenario for this match. Goldberg pulled off the moves well. Neither was asked to do anything they weren’t able to do or that the fans weren’t in seeing. It delivered Suplex City and some teases of finishers, a bit spot at ringside, and then more of the same in the ring leading to the logical finish. Had Goldberg not been so vocal about regrouping and reassessing after WM, the outcome might have been a bigger mystery.)
(9) ALEXA BLISS vs. NAOMI vs. MICKIE JAMES vs. BECKY LYNCH vs. NATALYA vs. CARMELLA (w/James Ellsworth) – WWE Smackdown Women’s Title match
Alexa came out first. Naomi made a grand entrance with the whole arena staging going neon. After some early chaos, it came down to Bliss vs. Carmella. Alexa yelled a lot. Natalya re-entered and charged at her. Bliss gave Natalya a DDT and made the cover. Carmella broke it up. When Ellsworth got involved, Becky suplexed him out of the ring. Natalya went at Lynch. Naomi kicked Becky in the chest and setoff ora sunset flip, which turned into a powerbomb and a two count. Natalya went for a sharpshooter on Naomi, but Carmella interfered. Natalya went for a double sharpshooter on both Naomi and Carmella. Mickie scored a near fall on Becky a minute later, Carmella broke it up. Naomi then hit the Rear View on Bliss, then landed a dive onto a crowd at ringside. Naomi threw Bliss into the ring, then springboarded at her. Bliss just nailed her with a strike to the face out of mid-air. Naomi applied a submission hold mid-ring and Bliss tapped out.
WINNER: Naomi to capture the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship.
-A commercial aired for Payback.
-A commercial aired for Final Fantasy.
-They returned to the stadium where New Day’s song played. They walked onto the stage. The crowd shots showed a few people clapping along, and a lot of exhausted looking people. They announced the Citrus Bowl attendance record – 75,245. Big E said without the WWE Universe, there is no WWE, so they thanked them. They began dancing to the WM33 theme song.
-A video package aired on Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns.
-Jim Ross walked to the ring to his music to announce this match as a special guest announcer. He hugged Cole ad shook JBL’s hand. JBL said, “It’s so good to see you.” Cole said it’s an absolute treat. He said it’s been a rough couple of weeks for him, but he wants him to do what he does best. “Let’s raise some hell and have some fun,” said Ross.
(10) ROMAN REIGNS vs. UNDERTAKER
Reigns got booed coming out. He soaked up the reaction on the stage and then walked to the ring. Ross said Reigns is a magnificent athlete and a tough individual. He said he has so much to gain with a victory tonight over Undertaker. As he entered the ring, more boos. Ross said Reigns has the lineage and background in sports to know what a big moment it is and what it’s going to take to succeed. The music stopped. More boos. Roman’s just thinking about his paychecks when he gets this reaction. Undertaker’s bell sounded. Flames shot up from the stage. Undertaker was lifted from a trap door in the middle of the ramp. That was a long ring entrance. Taker looked like Undertaker, despite being 52. He walked, though, like a 52 year old with the type of mileage on his body. The limp visible in that college pep talk video last week was noticeable here. He punched away at Reigns and knocked him to the floor. He looked down and yelled, “My yard!”
Reigns circled the ring as Taker stared him down. Reigns yanked Taker’s neck over the top rope and then punched away at Taker. He clotheslined him over the top rope. Taker landed on both feet and stared down Reigns. He then yanked Reigns out of the ring by his feet and whipped him hard into the ringside steps. “Roman sucks!” started. Loudest chant since the Hardys, but the tired crowd couldn’t keep it up long. Taker threw Reigns back into the ring. Reigns gave Taker a Samoan Drop.
Reigns shoved Taker into the ringpost a minute later at ringside. He then hit the Drive By. Ross said Reigns is a young, athletic machine. “Look at him any way you want,” he said. Back in the ring, Reigns took it to Taker with punches. Taker gave Reigns a Snake Eyes and then a boot to the face and a legdrop for a two count. Ross noted that was the first near fall of the match, and it went to Taker. Reigns rolled to the floor. Taker blasted Reigns with a punch out of mid-air at ringside. Taker cleared the English announce table. Cole said, “Welcome back, J.R.” Reigns recovered and fought back momentarily, but Taker choke slammed Reigns on the German announce table. He then went to the Spanish table and cleared that.
Taker stepped onto to the Spanish table and did the throat slice gesture. Reigns lunched at Taker and speared him through the table. Reigns entered the ring. Taker hadn’t moved yet. Ross said the referee has the discretion to stop the match if Taker cannot defend himself. Reigns entered the ring and got booed. He yelled, “Who’s yard is it now?” And then he spit down at him. Taker sat up and then entered the ring. Reigns went at him aggressively with stomps and did some serious trash-talking. He threw some clotheslines at the side of Taker’s head in the corner. Taker slumped in the corner. Reigns yelled more about it being his yard. Taker gave him a Last Ride out of the corner. He could barely do it. He made the cover. Reigns kicked out. Taker punched Reigns in the head and then rolled out to ringside again. He went near JoJo, who looked genuinely nervous. He grabbed a chair and limped back to the ring. Reigns reached down to grab the chair and Taker kicked him in the face. Taker jabbed Reigns in the spine with the chair. Then a whack across his back.
Taker signaled for a chokeslam. Reigns rolled out of the ring. Taker went after him. Reigns quickly reentered and hit Taker with a Superman Punch. Then a second one, but it looked strange. Ross paused when calling it. Taker then grabbed Roman’s throat. That explains it. Reigns was expecting Taker to chokeslam him on the previous one. Taker chokeslammed Reigns onto a chair and scored a near fall. Taker then gave Reigns a Tombstone mid-ring. He crossed his arms. The ref counted. Reigns powered his shoulder up. Taker looked shocked. The crowd seemed surprised. They took their time getting up. Taker set up a second Tombstone. Reigns tried to counter it. Taker slipped out of Reigns’s arms. The crowd could tell and started groaning. Taker called for a Superman Punch as an audible and Reigns hit one for a two count. JBL said it looked like Reigns couldn’t get a grip on Taker when he went for a Tombstone. It was an ambitious spot to try. Reigns waited in the corner for Taker to stand. When he did, Reigns yelled and speared Taker. Reigns made the cover, but Taker surprised Reigns with a Hell’s Gate attempt. It was applied awkwardly, though, and didn’t look good. Reigns rolled over to the bottom rope and put his leg on it. Reigns sold his arm being sore from the hold. The crowd was just silent. Ross said they’re back where they started and it was anybody’s ballgame. He said they are two proud, tough men.
Taker crawled over and grabbed a chair, but Reigns stood up and stood on the chair. He looked down at Taker and then took the chair and bashed him across the back, then jabbed him in the chest, then bashed him again, and jabbed him. Reigns told Taker to stay down. Taker tried to get up. Taker hit him again across the back. Ross said it sounded like a gunshot. The crowd chanted “Un-der-taker!” Reigns speared Taker again for a believable near fall.
Taker got up, and Reigns gave him yet another spear. Taker kicked out. Reigns looked dismayed. The crowd began chanting “Yes!” Then came a loud “Un-der-taker” chant. Reigns waited and Taker eventually stood again. He hit a Superman Punch. Taker bumped to the mat. Reigns leaned in the corner and looked down at Taker. Ross said he might be well-served to make a cover. Reigns shook his head no and looked around. Then Taker sat up. Then he tipped over sideways. Ross said his body wouldn’t allow it. Reigns walked toward Taker. JBL said his heart and soul is legendary, but has his body given out. He said he wasn’t counting him out.
Reigns walked over to Taker. Taker reached up. Reigns slapped his hand away. Boos. Reigns trash-talked Taker some more about this being his yard. Taker talked back. Reigns threw some uppercuts and ran back and forth rebounding off the ropes and hit another spear and scored the pin. Cole said it’s the greatest win of Reigns’s career. JBL said it’ll be his greatest win 20 years from now, too. He said Reigns might have emptied everything in his soul. “The deed to the yard has apparently changed hands,” Ross said. Reigns stood on the ramp as a ton of pyro woke up a bunch of people in Orlando just two minutes past midnight ET.
WINNER: Roman Reigns at 23:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The crowd wasn’t sure how to take it. It looked like a potential final Undertaker match, whether he wants it to be his last match or not. The match was a mix of high drama and discomfort.)
-With Reigns gone, Taker stayed on his back in the ring. The crowd chanted “Un-der-taker.” Then “Thank you, Taker!” Taker sat up eventually. They cut to match highlights. When they came back, he was on his feet in his hat and robe. He soaked up the moment. Then he took off his gloves. He laid them down in the middle of the ring. That’s a strong signal that this was his last match. Then he took off his robe and folded it up and set it down in front of him. Then off came the hat. He took a very deep breath. The fans stayed and stood and applauded. His music continued to play. Taker left the ring, looking all of his 52 years and then another 25. He kissed his wife at ringside. Then he limped his way up the ramp. They did cutaways to fans who were crying and sensed this was definitely it. He was about half way up the ramp and raised his arm. Another “Thank you, Taker!” chant. A few more bell sounds. Then fade to black.
(Keller’s Analysis: The crowd was quite this was the end for Taker after that. Emotional apparent farewell.)
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