“Live” as in “back home four hours after the show has ended”
Hey, Scott, this is BonzaiDBSM somewhat fresh from WM31. I figured I’d throw in some observations from being in the Wrestlemania crowd if you’d be so kind to post them; why listen to random Meltzer crap on the BoD Daily Update about how the crowd was when you have a top-5 BoD commentator, a BoD C-List Champion and three-time BoD fantasy sports champion right in the thick of it?
This was my fifth PPV and second Mania (the other being 21, 10 years ago), but my first stadium show. They couldn’t have picked a better day for it, it was about 70 degrees all day even the sun right on us. It also made for a cool spectacle to have most of the show drenched in sunlight WM9-style (although some entrances suffered for it), only darkening for the main event. Sounds weird to say, but I wish I had brought sunscreen for Mania. My sis bought me the ticket as a Christmas present and got me a decent middle-pavilion seat. Although I was directly facing one of the ring support pillars, they at least had the foresight to make them semi-transparent; while the action got obscured a bit at times, it could’ve been worse (I imagine it was the first few years they did it), but I hope in the future they figure out a way to not block people’s views.
I don’t know if it was a kickback from the Reddit stuff about security removing the dressed-up fans a few weeks ago or the usual enthusiastic Mania goers, but you could barely walk a few feet without seeing someone dressed up head to toe as a wrestler (even CM Punks!). In the row in front of me, there was a group of folks who were dressed as Daniel Bryan (complete with homemade Bryan trunks and shin guards), Bray Wyatt (with natural long hair and beard to match), Taker, a girl dressed as Paige (with fishnets!), and the clear winner, LANA, with blonde bun and red skirt-suit. Fans and little kids were posing with them throughout the day, and it was such a cool sight to see that I hope Kevin Dunn loses a lot of sleep over it.
Also got a ton of compliments on my Finn Balor shirt from folks sporting NXT shirts themselves (and nearly every major player there was covered by somebody in the vicinity). NXT really feels like this weird “secret handshake” among fans now, which is friggin' neat.
Pre-game stuff were fun clusterfucks that got the crowd nice and riled up; Nattie’s sharpshooter got a bigger pop than most of the male combatants got. Mizdow easily had one of the biggest reactions of the night finally turning on Miz, but of course, WWE can’t let us have too much of a good thing and not enough of a bad thing, and you could feel the air go out of the place when fucking Big Show won. What is it about frying pan hands that gives Vince such a stiffy for this guy? Not that an ARMBAR win would’ve helped Sandow anyway; just ask Cesaro how that worked out for him.
Crowd favorite in the IC match was clearly Bryan, but it did seem a little muted than when I was at Summerslam 2013 (could've just been the stadium space too). Ziggler and Ambrose are still big fan favorites despite WWE saddling them with dumb shit, and crowd went dead silent for Luke Harper’s entrance; I don’t still get why they split off him and Rowan from Bray, as they both have zero heat without him. Crowd loved Ambrose being dumped into the splitting ladder and the Bryan/Ziggler finish; hopefully they may actually do something worthwhile with this run.
Crowd was a bit torn with the Orton/Rollins, they kinda wanted to cheer for both guys (only J&J got a lion’s share of heel heat) and wound up hesitant backing either. Didn’t really pick up noise-wise till the finish, but the Curb Stomp to RKO reversal got everyone into a tizzy. As someone who was also at 21, I feel like I can lay claim to seeing the two best RKO reversals ever with that and the chokeslam reversal 10 years ago, although someone can vouch for the Shooting StaRKO on Bourne a few years ago.
Say what you want about the Sting/HHH match having little significance or the silly brand synergy for the Terminator entrance, but the place was definitely going apeshit for this from jump street. DX got one of the bigger pops of the night, but nWo blew that away because no one really expected THAT. It was a good way to overbook it to mask the limited capability of this matchup and the fan pandering worked (even I was going nuts seeing DX square off against the nWo). Crowd was kinda stunned HHH won; it definitely seemed like Sting was going over when he broke the sledgehammer, but the crowd at least didn’t rebel against the finish. I hate that Sting/HHH handshake in hindsight; if HHH was going to heel up later in the Authority segment, then don’t fucking try to get the respectful pop here. It harkens back to the revolving door HHH stuff pre-WMXXX and it’s dumb; commit to being the bad guy if that’s what you’re doing. As insufferable as Stephanie can be in her role, at least she stays in that zone, but HHH wants the cake and eat it too.
I bet the 30-minute stretch of concert-Divas-HoF was death at home, but I will actually defend it. With the recent WM strategy of quality over quantity on the card, there are hardly any blows for the crowd to go to the pisser or grab food, so this stretch was very welcome. I was able to put some charge in my phone (seriously, phone charging stations should be mandatory at all arenas), go to the urinal, grab some more food and got back just in time for Rusev’s entrance. It must have been hard sitting through it if you’re at home, but I liked that they stacked it for the people in attendance; it was like a super-sized hockey intermission, and I think I prefer that over doling out smaller breaks throughout the show. Crowd was definitely dead as a doornail for the Diva match; if they’re serious about Hashtag Give Divas A Chance, they need to start by cutting bait with the Bellas and start bringing up the girls from Full Sail who know how to pop a crowd with ring work.
For Rusev/Cena, crowd started about 75/25 in Rusev’s favor; it felt like they cranked up Cena’s theme a little louder than the others, and it needed to to drown out the giant JOHN CENA SUUUUCKS chant set to his theme. To his credit, he was able to swing the crowd heavily in his favor by the end (around the time of that nifty little springboard Stunner), even though it kinda felt like the crowd was saying “the only thing we hate more than Cena is Russians beating Americans.” Still, it was probably nice for Cena to get a win and get the hero treatment from the crowd.
While the pre-show panel was recapping some of the earlier events, Triple H and Steph came to the ring. The crowd gave a Triple H a solid NXT chant (and gave Itami a nice HI-DE-O chant earlier in the royale); even though he was about to heel it up, that had to be a feather in his cap. Steph and HHH did their usual Main Event Promo thing but everyone knew someone was coming because a cameraman was perched on the ramp the whole time facing the entrance, so everyone could smell (heh) something was coming. Rock easily had the best pop of the night, truly nuclear stuff (I have a feeling the Bray/Taker video package got audibled out because of how long Rocky soaked up the cheers, pushing them to 7:10 local time). I was marking out like mad because I'd never seen him live before and now have completed my wrestling Mount Rushmore by having seen Hogan, Austin, Flair, and Rock in the ring, in person, albeit with only Flair wrestling and that was in 2002. Ronda also got a mega pop of her own, and whenever she wants to stop killing bitches dead and snapping arms like twigs, she could easily come be the female Brock in WWE if the NXT ladies are populating the main roster down the road. As you mentioned in the rant, Rock and Ronda’s pops easily dwarfed most of the roster’s, although the crowd did boo that Ronda didn’t really do much to Steph. She couldn’t fake a Kimura for us? Come on, someone — whether if it was WWE’s or UFC’s call — let us down on that.
Bray and Taker easily were dud of the night if we’re discounting the Diva match. Here’s where the daylight atmosphere really killed them; both entrances need a darkened arena and effects-laden lighting, but in the daytime, you can’t see the cell phone “fireflies” and the zombie scarecrows just looked silly, and Taker lacked a certain je ne sais quoi in the sun, kinda like Batman. I don’t know if the crowd was burned out from the Rocky/Ronda segment, if Taker has no pull with the crowd post-Streak, or if the crowd just didn’t care for this feud (likely a combination of all three), but the crowd flatlined for this. The usual Taker spots and near-falls didn’t get a rise out of anyone; the pre-show stuff with half the stands full got a bigger response. The crowd came alive a bit at the Crab Walk/Sit-Up spot and finally popped for the final Tombstone, but this was a clear sign that they’ll need to figure out something special next year for Mean Mark if they’re gonna use him. It’s pretty telling that an eight-year-old kid in my section said aloud, “If Undertaker wins, this should be his last match.” It was kinda stunning how little the crowd was into it, even during the entrances; it didn’t help that the match just felt like a WWE video game Story Mode match with objectives (“Hit Old School” “Tombstone Bray twice”) with no real psychological flow.
There was no mistaking who was heel and who was face in the main event (hint: it wasn’t what WWE wanted). To Roman’s credit, the little fan support he did have, man, they really supported him to a fervent degree. It was almost like an affront to them that someone could boo Roman, but boo they did. The Brock match formula is still golden; suplex guys dead and let the crowd revel in the destruction. Counting the suplexes was fun for everyone, but I think alcohol was taking control because people in my section started adding on two or three more out of thin air like a week in Goldberg’s undefeated streak. They made a fantastic call in sending Rollins out there; I think everyone knew a cash-in was coming, but feared Roman would still get a moment in the sun a la Bryan at Summerslam 2013, so props to whoever decided to send Rollins out there before the match was decided. He came out to 100% crowd approval before the cash-in and after the win; WWE couldn’t script a better way to finish it if they wanted to end the show with crowd support but the title off Brock. Post-signoff, Seth posed with the belt for minutes; Brock stared off in a dazed “WTF just happened” manner, but Roman looked like he was tearing up, like “Maria Menounous trying to finish her Backlund speech amidst the booing” tearing up — could they make this guy any more of a puss? He got booed on his way back up the stage too.
All in all, for the second straight year, a bad product didn’t stop them from putting on a hell of a WrestleMania, and this one is more impressive - maybe not better, but more impressive — considering the lowered expectations and given it didn’t have the Bryan story of last year. Despite all the shitty builds, the crowd was hot for pretty much everything sans the Divas and Taker match, and I think WWE can all pat themselves on the back here for delivering the goods. It is worth noting most of the biggest pops of the night went to part-timers and no-timers; with a bigger stadium slated for next year, expect a heavier dose of it as long as they're not interested in putting any of their current guys on that level. That said, Bryan, Cena, and encouragingly Rollins still have a lot of crowd support on the main event stage, Ambrose, Ziggler, and Sandow are still very over, and Reigns can still be salvaged, so hopefully they give these guys the ball in the next 12 months. I also dug that the crowd was really into enjoying the show, I never got the sense that they would turn on anything Rumble-style except for a possible Roman win, and WWE deftly dodged that. Everyone was pretty much smiling and chanting (lots of ROLLINS chants on the way out) going home, and that’s how it should be leaving WrestleMania. All in all, I had a fucking blast and hopefully you folks at home did too.