It was brains over brawn at WrestleMania 31. In the main event, Roman Reigns faced Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Title but it was sneaky Seth Rollins who walked away with all the gold.
In more or less a replay of the WrestleMania IX finale, Rollins arrived out of nowhere to leave as champion. Finally cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase, he took advantage of a bloody Lesnar and Reigns, who had pummeled, battered, bashed, walloped and beaten the life out of each other for over 16 minutes before Rollins arrived on the scene.
Reigns was hammered from pillar to post in what could arguably be the most devastating beat-down The Beast has dished out since he crushed John Cena at last year’s SummerSlam show. Reigns, however, fared much better than Cena, badly bloodying Lesnar.
What Reigns closely shared with Cena is the amount of boos he received during the bout itself. From the moment he made his way down from the crowd, Reigns was mostly taunted by the fans in attendance and was flat on his back only 45 seconds in when Lesnar hit the F5 after fending off a rather weak assault right out of the gate.
With his cheek already lacerated, Lesnar suplexed Reigns across the ring twice. As would be his trademark throughout the match, Reigns smiled as Lesnar dished out more punishment.
Swinging blindly, Reigns was flattened by six more suplexes before receiving a barrage of knees in the ropes. Fans in attendance started keeping count. Taking a running forearm from Lesnar, Reigns flew off the ring apron and into the barricade shifting it several feet. Barely beating the referee’s count, Reigns climbed back in and landed some knees to Lesnar’s head. As he tried to Big Boot Lesnar, Reigns had his leg blocked and he was brutally clotheslined right out of the ring. On the outside, Lesnar delivered some knees of his own.
Back inside, Lesnar suplexed Reigns with such power, he flew back to the floor. As Reigns once again attempted to regain his composure on the apron, Lesnar suplexed him back in. That’s eight suplexes, if you are counting. Mystifying Lesnar, Reigns kicked out of an F5. Brock smiled, took off his gloves and threw them out of the ring. Time to get serious.
Sadistically slapping a prone Reigns in the face over and over again, Lesnar executed two more suplexes and third F5 for another two count. With manager Paul Heyman shouting words of encouragement, Lesnar threw Reigns to the floor, setting up a tipping of the scales in Reigns’ favour.
Lesnar smirked as he prepared to smash Reigns’ head into the ring post. At the last moment, Reigns shrugged him off and it was Lesnar hitting the post full-tilt. Lesnar came up bleeding profusely and visibly staggered.
Beating the count back in only set-up Lesnar for two Superman Punches but it took two Spears to bring him down to the mat. As Heyman prayed to any deity who would listen, The Beast kicked out of a pin attempt. As Reigns prepared to unleash yet another Superman Punch, Lesnar raised him into another F5.
Before Lesnar could cover Reigns, Rollins came running down the ramp cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase. The match was then restarted as a triple threat bout.
It wasn’t long though before Rollins was hoisted up into a possible F5 but a Spear from Reigns put Lesnar down. A timely Curb Stomp on Reigns scored Rollins the pinfall and like a thief in the night, Rollins sprinted up the ramp way with the WWE World Heavyweight title, spinning it around in the air, celebrating.
It was the perfect ending to the perfect WrestleMania. Although the WWE’s consistency on the whole has been severely lacking over the last year or so, WrestleMania 31 was the very best WrestleMania the WWE has ever produced and that is saying a lot when one examines its storied history, classic moments and classic matches.
In terms of overall consistency though, there was not a bad match on the entire card. In fact, except for the women’s bout, every match was well above average when it came to booking and the effort of all the superstars involved. Looking back, the same cannot be said of any of the previous WrestleManias, even the very best of the best such as 3 and 17. Even a lengthy and almost senseless Furious 7 segment involving The Rock, mixed martial artist turned action star Ronda Rousey and The Authority didn’t and couldn’t spoil things.
WrestleMania 31 was not just a homerun for the WWE. It was an unequaled grand slam. I would even go as far to say WrestleMania 31 was perhaps the very best event in the WWE’s 35-year history.
Part of that history came to the fore when WWE Executive Vice President Hunter Hearst Helmsley, he of the fabled sledgehammer, faced off in a dream match against former WCW superstar, he of the legendary baseball bat, Sting, in a grudge match.
Full of superb surprise appearances, the match’s only flaw was the alarmingly dreadful commentary provided by John Layfield (JBL) which was frankly was quite embarrassing, especially to anyone who has followed pro-wrestling all the way back to the Monday night wars between WCW and the WWE.
While he is a heel commentator, sort of, JBL constantly comparing WCW to some bush league operation when in reality, it was on par and even surpassed the WWE as a rival wrestling promotion, were just ridiculous notions for any true fan to hear and a slap in the face of anyone whoever did good work there. Comparing the Sting, HHH match to the AFL competing against the NFL was just nonsense. While it is his role to support the villains, in this case The Authority, his comments were overboard to the point of being absurd and actually hurt the match, somewhat.
In spite of JBL’s brainless remarks, the match was everything we had expected and more. While Sting came out to Kabuki drummers wearing his make-up, which really didn’t make too much sense, Triple H arrived dressed as a Terminator scanning the stadium for Sting. Sure, it was campy. Sure, it was goofy. But, it was fun.
A very serious Sting only began hooting and hollering when he tried to lock Triple H in the Scorpion Deathlock. As fans chanted…You still got it!…Sting flung Triple H over the top rope to the floor. A failed Stinger Splash caused the Silent Warrior to careen into the ringside barricade. Triple H seized on the opportunity to hurl Sting into the steps.
Taunting Sting with D-Generation X crotch chops foreshadowed what was to come when Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac ran down to interfere in the match on Triple H’s behalf. Sting tagged DX keeping them at bay but fell victim to a Pedigree from HHH. As Triple H reached for his trusty sledgehammer, Sting’s calvary arrived in the form of the original nWo: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hulk Hogan. As DX and the New World Order brawled at ringside, and X-Pac fumbled with who to support, Sting locked on the Scorpion Deathlock. When HHH reached for his sledgehammer, Hollywood Hogan took it away.
Sting calls out. (WrestleMania 31: First Half Photo Gallery)
While all of the stable members fought some more, Shawn Michaels scampered into the ring and delivered Sweet Chin Music to a stunned Sting. Sting kicked out of the pinfall. As Gunn handed HHH his hammer, Hall gave Sting his bat. Bat breaks Sledgehammer. The Silent Warrior mowed HHH down with a Stinger Splash but was KO’ed by what was left of the sledgehammer.
As DX and the nWo protected and reassured their ally in opposite corners, Triple H extended his hand to Sting. The two icons shook hands in a bizarre moment considering what sparked their feud in the first place.
In the media, Sting has commented that his match at WrestleMania could be his retirement bout but with the cameras just cutting away from him being supported by the nWo and no footage of him bidding farewell to fans or the cameras following him up the ramp way as he “walked that aisle” one last time, it might be safe to assume that we have not seen the last of Sting in the WWE.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Extreme Rules on April 26th.
WWE WrestleMania 31 (Santa Clara, California, Levi’s Stadium) Results
- Mercury and Noble run into the original Stooges, Patterson and Brisco backstage while getting some coffee. Patterson and Brisco mock the younger versions of themselves.
The Usos Versus El Matadores Versus The New Day Versus Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (WWE World Tag Team Title Match)
- A mad scramble of a match, in a very good way. Cesaro tosses Jey Uso off the apron to the barrier below almost right after the bell rings. A few minutes later, the trainer leads Jey from the ring. There is talk he might not return to the match and he never does. Jimmy is tagged in and goes haywire on everyone, laying people out left, right and centre. JBL infers that a deal was made backstage between the other competitors to take out one of the Usos. Nattie puts the Sharpshooter on El Torito on the floor. Cesaro capitalizes on the chaos to pin Big E. A fun opening match that really got the crowd fired up. Great energy on display by all the participants.
- Winners: …and still WWE World Tag Team Champions…Cesaro and Kidd at 10 minutes and 1 second.
- Match Rating: 7.5 / 10
Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
- The participants barely fit in the ring. As Curtis Axle does his whole hulking up routine, everyone grabs hold of him and he is heaved from the ring. Big Show knocks Hideo Itami out of the ring with one punch. The crowd boos. The Accension teams up to throw out Mark Henry. Ryback goes on a tear pressing O’Neil over the top rope. The Big Show gets rid of every member of New Day in succession. An impressive Cesaro scoops up Kane and slams him over the top rope. The Miz, Mizdow and The Big Show are the finalists. The Miz pleads with Mizdow. “I need you. I made you,” but his words fall on deaf ears. Mizdow gets rid of The Miz. When The Miz jumps back onto the apron, Mizdow punches him off. Although Mizdow throws everything he can at Big Show it is not enough.
- Elimination Order
- Curtis Axel – 41 seconds
- Adam Rose, Fandango – 2:18
- Alex Riley – 3:57
- Zach Ryder – 4:22.
- Bo Dallas – 4:51.
- Hideo Itami – 5:28.
- El Matadores – 5:43
- Sin Cara – 5:55
- Tyson Kidd – 6:13
- Mark Henry – 6:42
- The Accension – 7:58
- Darren Young – 8:18
- Heath Slater – 8:30
- Titas O’Neil – 8:56
- Jack Swagger – 9:10
- Xavier Woods – 9:44
- Kofi Kingston – 9:54
- Big E — 10:00
- Erik Rowan – 10:51
- Goldust – 11:03
- Kane – 11:43
- Jimmy Uso – 11:57
- Cesaro – 12:25
- Ryback – 13:03
- Damian Mizdow – 18:54
- Winner: The Big Show at 18 minutes and 54 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8 / 10
The Big Show with the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy after his win. (WrestleMania 31: First Half Photo Gallery)
- LL Cool J gives one of the best WrestleMania intros of all time reflecting on the history of WrestleMania and how entertainment brings people together from the early days of television to the digital age. A very memorable and slickly produced segment.
Bad News Barrett (champion) versus Daniel Bryan (challenger) versus Dolph Ziggler (challenger) versus StarDust (challenger) versus Luke Harper (challenger) versus R Truth (challenger) versus Dean Ambrose (challenger) – WWE Intercontinental Title – Ladder Match
- While there is a pile-up outside the ring, Ambrose gives them all an elbow drop from the top of a ladder. Harper gets hung upside down through a ladder and Bryan lets loose a succession of Yes! Kicks. StarDust pulls out his own bedazzled ladder from under the ring but Barrett beats him down with one of the broken rungs.
Daniel Bryan claims the belt in the opening Intercontinental title Ladder Match. (WrestleMania 31: First Half Photo Gallery)
- Barrett suplexes StarDust from the top of a ladder to the ring below. In a rough hit, Harper powerslams Ambrose out of the ring through ladders on the outside. Ouch! Ringside docs are out to check on Ambrose and her never returns to battle. Barrett dishes out several Bull Hammers to knock competitors down. At the top of the ladder, Bryan and Ziggler trade a series of punches and vicious headbutts before Ziggler falls off.
- Winner: …and new WWE Intercontinental Champion…Daniel Bryan at 13 minutes and 58 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8.5 / 10
- The WWE promotes their sponsorship deal with TapouT. A promo airs with several WWE superstars working out. Whatever.
Seth Rollins Versus Randy Orton
- How times have changed. The match is hyped as new school versus old school. Rollins enters with new attire inspired by MVP, apparently. Yeah, he looks like a Power Ranger. The announcers remind us that Rollins can cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase any time he likes. Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink.
- When Orton goes for the RKO, the New Stooges attack. Orton double DDTs them from the apron to the floor for poking their noses in his business. Rollins leaps through the ropes while Orton is distracted knocking him into both announce tables and some chairs. That enables Rollins to take control of the match. “This is MY time,” Rollins shouts in Orton’s face. Rollins moonsaults from the apron onto Orton on the outside of the ring.
- Back inside, Rollins survives an RKO to the amazement of everyone. Orton attempts a Curb Stomp but The New Stooges interfere again. Orton RKOs them. Rollins hits a Curb Stomp. Time for Orton to kick out of Rollins’ finisher. Rollins tries again leaping high into the air but Orton catches him with a devastating RKO.
- Winner: Randy Orton at 13 minutes and 25 seconds.
- Match Rating: 7.5 / 10.
- The WWE has resurrected Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with their new toy line. When did wrestling become boxing? Danger, Will Robinson! This looks like junk.
Sting Versus Triple H
- Winner: Triple H at 18 minutes and 53 seconds.
- Match Rating: 9 / 10.
- Pat Patterson, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair and Bret Hart congratulate Daniel Bryan on his Intercontinental title win and do the Yes! Chant. Ron Simmons? Damn!
Paige was victorious in her Mania debut. (WrestleMania 31: Main Events Photo Gallery)
Paige, AJ Lee Versus The Bella Twins
- AJ lights it up by being constantly knocked out of the ring. The Bellas take their turns beating on Paige. Paige kicks out of the Rack Attack. Paige splashes The Bellas from the apron to the floor. Paige battles on alone. AJ is finally hot tagged in and lets loose on The Bellas. Paige throws Brie into the steel steps while AJ puts the Black Widow on Nikki inside the ring. Nikki submits.
- Winners: Paige and AJ Lee at 6 minutes and 39 seconds.
- Match Rating: 5 / 10.
Rusev (Champion) Versus John Cena (Challenger) – Unites States Heavyweight Title MatchJohn Cena is the new U.S. champion. (WrestleMania 31: Main Events Photo Gallery)
- Cannons and soldiers escort Lana to the ring as she carries the U.S. title. Rusev arrives in a freaking tank. Let me repeat that, Resuv arrives in a tank waving the Russian flag. Brilliant. A pro-American, promo airs for John Cena. It doesn’t stop the crowd from cheering “John Cena sucks!” in time with his entrance music. Man, one has to wonder if Cena would have to face Satan himself to end the sucks chants.
- Rusev demands to be introduced first. Cena is booed, maybe not as loudly but still booed. Rusev takes control early on stomping Cena into the ground. Rusev is rewarded with a two count. As Rusev gloats waving the Russian flag, Cena fights back knocking Rusev to the canvass.
Cena drops the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena hits a top rope leg drop on Rusev driving his face into the mat for a two count. The fans start cheering “Let’s go Lana!”
- Rusev and Cena trade punches with some fans chanting for Rusev. Rusev yells in Cena’s face: “You cannot beat me.” Rusev starts talking to himself, Cena grabs his ankle and locks in the STF. Lana throws her shoe into the ring. Rusev makes it to the ropes. Cena complains to the ref about the shoe, which hit nobody. Confusing that.
- Rusev lands a flying headbutt from the top rope. Two count. Rusev is perplexed. He eventually yells out “Rusev crush!” and puts Cena in The Accolade but cannot lock it on properly.
- Cena bounces off the ropes hitting Rusev in a modified Stunner. The announcers sell it like Cena has evolved or something because he learned one new move. Rusev face plants Cena and puts on The Accolade again. Cena powers out and locks on the STF. Lana distracts the referee. Rusev accidentally charges into Lana, knocking her off the apron. Cena hits the AA on Rusev. The faux Russian submits.
- Rusev screams at Lana as she lies on the ground clutching her ankle. He storms way as she is helped to the back by referees.
- Winner: …and the new United States Heavyweight Champion…John Cena at 14 minutes and 49 seconds.
- Match Rating: 7.5 / 10.
WHAT YOU THINKWhat did you think of WrestleMania 31?
It was great – 53%
It was okay – 19%
Didn’t like it – 6%
Didn’t see it – 22%
- The Authority cuts a promo in the ring patting themselves on the back for breaking the stadium’s attendance record. After Triple H spouts off about how he beat Sting and how The Authority owns everyone into the back and all of the fans, The Rock’s entrance theme hits and out comes The People’s Champion.
- The Rock heads down to the ring and poses while Triple H stares on quizzically. As the crowd chants his name, The Rock stares Triple H and Stephanie down.
- “You don’t own them and you damn sure don’t own The Rock,” says The People’s Champion as he reminds them he was born in the East Bay. “We have two choices, you can go back and dress up like Terminator again or we can create a WrestleMania moment, right here, right now,” comments The Rock challenging HHH to a fight.
- Triple says he has nothing to prove. He has kicked his ass many times. The Rock insults Triple H saying he left his balls back in Stamford.
- Stephanie: “Without the McMahons, there would be no Rock.” Stephanie slaps The Rock. She dares him to hit her. She demands he leave her ring and her building. “Get to steppin’, Rock,” she laughs.
- The Rock teases leaving, paces outside the ring and stops before Ronda Rousey who climbs over the barricade and enters the ring with The Rock. Stephanie demands Rousey get the hell out of her ring. The Rock has had enough gabbing and unloads on Triple H. Rousey flips Triple H out of the ring. She then puts an arm lock on Stephanie. The Authority splits the scene and The Rock and Rousey stand tall in the ring.
The Rock and Ronda Rousey. (WrestleMania 31: Main Events Photo Gallery)
The Undertaker versus Bray Wyatt
- Wyatt comes out with shuffling scarecrow zombies who come to life at his touch. Uh, okay. Sure.
- “Where are you? Come and get me,” yells Wyatt. The bell tolls and out comes the Deadman. The announcers wonder if Phenom has returned to leave on his terms or to resurrect his career?
- Taker stares at Wyatt from outside the ring as fire and lightning erupt. The Undertaker chants begin. Wyatt starts pacing around. Wyatt charges The Undertaker who lays him down with a boot. Taker shoulder butts Wyatt to the mat and lands Old School. The fans cheer “You still got it.”
- Wyatt hits a clothesline and stalks Taker clotheslining him to the floor. Undertaker lands on his feet, hurls Wyatt back into the ring and beats on him some more.
- Wyatt counters the Big Boot after Snake Eyes. This brings both men down. Wyatt backs Undertaker into a corner and begins pounding on him. Wyatt’s running charge gets him a one count. Taker crawls after Wyatt. Wyatt slams Taker’s head into the steps and then kicks it into the ring post.
- The announcers question whether this is the same Undertaker. Out of nowhere, Taker locks on Hells Gate but Wyatt fights his way out of it. Taker struggles back up. Wyatt slams Taker violently to the mat. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail, mocking The Phenom. Taker reverses and hits a chokeslam then drags his thumb across his throat. Tombstone. Wyatt kicks out.
- Taker collapses in a heap and stares menacingly at Wyatt. He calls for the Tombstone a second time. Wyatt escapes and lands Sister Abigail. Taker kicks out. Wyatt does his Exorcist spider thingy. Taker does his sit up thingy. A slugfest ensues. Taker reverses Sister Abigail into a Tombstone Piledriver for the win. The announcers insist The Undertaker is back.
- Winner: The Undertaker at 15:31.
- Match Rating: 8 / 10.
Bray Wyatt can’t believe The Undertaker is still going. (WrestleMania 31: Main Events Photo Gallery)
Roman Reigns (challenger) Versus Brock Lesnar (champion) – WWE World Heavyweight Title Match
- Winner: Match called at 16 minutes and 20 seconds.
Roman Reigns (challenger) Versus Seth Rollins (challenger) Versus Brock Lesnar (champion) – WWE World Heavyweight Title Match
- Winner: …and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion…Seth Rollins…at 50 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8.5 / 10.
- Total Event Time: 4 hours and 10 minutes.
- Overall Event Rating: 10 / 10
- One of the founding managing editors of SLAM! Wrestling, John Powell is a veteran entertainment journalist currently covering Big Brother, Survivor for Shaw, the video game industry for G4. The first WrestleMania he ever attended was WrestleMania 6 in his hometown of Toronto. He sat in Level 500 as a fan. Check out his comic book Cover 2 Cover blog. He can be reached at [email protected] or @POW2112 on Twitter.