Maybe wrestling cards really aren’t supposed to be more than five hours long. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much, even when it comes to an event centered around spectacle like WrestleMania.
Then again, maybe it was appropriate that WrestleMania 33, which was billed as the “Ultimate Thrill Ride,” ended up feeling like one with its ups and downs as it snaked its way for more than six hours when its pre-show matches were included. The record crowd of 75,000-plus at Camping World Stadium in Orlando were certainly treated to a large number of ups and downs during an uneven slate of matches that featured a popular return, some head-scratching booking, a few pleasant surprises and what appeared to be the final match of a bona fide legend.
That came in the night’s final bout. Even with both major WWE titles changing hands earlier in the night, the true main event was contested between the Undertaker and Roman Reigns, ostensibly over who was the bigger dog in the promotion but with all the feeling of a distinct passing of the torch.
As expected, Reigns heard some boos but also a fair amount of cheers as he made his way to the ring first. The Undertaker rose from beneath the ramp and made his way slowly as he always has. The match was announced as a No Holds Barred Match, adding an extra twist.
Undertaker dominated the early exchanges, knocking Reigns to the floor and telling him the WWE ring was still his yard. A surprised Reigns saw the Dead Man land on his feet after getting flipped over the top rope, hurling him into the steel steps.
Back in the ring, Reigns connected with a Samoan Drop, then used a kick and a headbutt to take the battle back outside. The Phenom met the ringpost face first and ate a jumping kick before absorbing a series of right hands.
The two men exchanged right hands, but a kick seemed to wake up Undertaker as he poured on offense in opposite corners. Snake Eyes and a legdrop earned ‘Taker the first near fall, and Reigns wisely rolled out to the floor after kicking out.
Reigns went for another jumping kick but ran into a right hand, and J.R. and company were forced to clear out as the Dead Man eyed up the announce table. Reigns took a chokeslam on the German table, which didn’t break, but popped up to spear Undertaker through the Spanish table. Reigns returned to the ring, greeting the Dead Man with repeated knees after sitting up and climbing back between the ropes.
The Dead Man rallied to hit the Last Ride only to see his foe kick out. That gave him the idea to grab a steel chair, which he used several times, forcing Reigns to roll out of the ring again. Undertaker ate two Superman punches while in pursuit, but he delivered a chokeslam on the steel chair for another two count.
As fans have seen so many times before, a Tombstone was up next, but Undertaker was forced to wear a look of disbelief as Reigns kicked out at the last second. Another Tombstone might do the trick, but after another Superman punch, ‘Taker had to kick out again.
Reigns launched into a spear but blundered into Hell’s Gate while going for the cover. Pivoting to get his legs on the ropes broke the hold, and Undertaker crawled toward the steel chair before getting cut off. A series of chair shots set up another spear for Reigns, who showed some frustration when that still wasn’t enough to finish the match.
Yet another spear failed to end it, and the crowd began some Undertaker chants. A fifth Superman punch found the target, and Undertaker tried but failed to sit up. The two men exchanged some words before Reigns landed a series of right hands, then used the ropes to give himself momentum for a final, more devastating spear. Finally, Undertaker stayed down for three, and while it wasn’t exactly the “send the crowd home happy” outcome WrestleMania is known for, fans applauded and started a “thank you ‘Taker” chant.
It sure looked like a curtain call for one of the most beloved wrestlers of the last few decades as the Undertaker recovered his hat and remained in the ring while his music played. He symbolically removed his MMA-style gloves and left them in the ring, then covered them with his trademark coat and hat. Appropriately, the Dead Man then returned to the same platform from which he rose and descended for what could be the final time.
Lest anyone forget the actual titles, one of them was up for grabs in the grudge match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. With both men built up as superhuman monsters, something would have to give, but it played out in surprisingly entertaining fashion.
Lesnar fired off three quick German suplexes and looked ot be well on his way to a measure of revenge. But Goldberg responded quickly with a spear and another one outside the ring, driving the challenger through the ringside barricade.
Spear, Jackhammer, was that it? Nope, as Lesnar kicked out, stunning the champ. Not ever known for his large repertoire of moves, Goldberg tried for another spear, though Lesnar pulled off an impressive leapfrog and sent him crashing into the corner.
How would Goldberg respond to a trip to suplex city? Seven more German suplexes followed for a total of 10 since the match began. The F-5 was delivered and Lesnar claimed his first Universal Championship.
My name in Nick Tylwalk, and I am a certified G and a bona fide stud. And since you can’t teach that, my comments are in plain type whike Dale has to use italics. How you doin’?
Pre-show Match #1 – Neville (champion) vs. Austin Aries (challenger) – WWE Cruiserweight Title Match
The crowd is firmly behind Austin Aries, chanting the challenger’s name. Aries catches the king of the cruiserweights with a Japanese arm bar. Neville slides out of the ring to avoid the Last Chancery. Aries charges for a suicide dive, but Neville stops him cold with a kick to the face. Neville goes up top and connects with a drop kick. Aries rolls away from a splash and drops the elbow. He then sends Neville flying over the top rope with a back drop. AA drops an elbow from the top turnbuckle to the floor and follows with a suicide dive. Neville is rolled back into the ring, but Aries only gets a two count. Aries hits another missile drop kick and again only gets a two count. Neville drops Aries on his head with a snap German suplex. Neville goes for another suplex, but AA lands on his feet. Aries goes for the discuss forearm, but Neville cuts him down with a superkick. Aries fights out of the Rings of Saturn and hits the Discus Fivearm. Neville unfortunately rolls out of the ring. Both men go to the top rope and Austin sends the champ flying across the ring with a head scissors. Aries follows with a 450 splash, but Neville kicks out. Aries locks in the Last Chancery. Neville breaks the hold by raking the eyes. Neville goes up top and hits the Red Arrow, and the king of the cruiserweights covers and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall … and still Cruiserweight champion: Neville
Pre-Show Match #2 – Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
The Big Show gets his own entrance, along with Braun Strowman, while everyone else all come out at once. New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski is in the front row to support his buddy, Mojo Rawley. Primo is the first superstar thrown out as it looks like there are 30 men in the ring. Even NXT guys, like Killian Dain. Braun Strowman eliminates Big Show and starts cleaning house until 15 men combine to take him out. A Helluva Kick from Sami Zayn sends Epico flying off the top turnbuckle. The final four comes down to Jinder Mahal, Killian Dain, Mojo and Sami. Dain takes out Zayn. Mojo gets tossed through the middle rope and Mahal follows him, beating him in front of Gronk. Jinder takes the NFL star’s drink and tosses it at him. Gronk jumps the barrier as NFL officials try to stop him. Gronk hits the ring and takes out Jinder with a shoulder tackle. Mojo is hyped. Rawley decks Dain with a right and tosses him out of the ring. He tosses Jinder over the rope, but Mahal lands on the apron. Mahal fights to stay on the apron, but Mojo is able to knock him to floor with a well placed shoulder tackle. Mojo invites Gronk back to the ring to celebrate the ring.
Winner of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal: Mojo Rawley
Pre-Show Match #3 – Dean Ambrose (champion) vs. Baron Corbin (challenger) – Intercontinental Title Match
Corbin strikes first by slamming Ambrose back first into the ring post. Corbin takes the fight to the floor and smashes the champ into the security barrier. Ambrose responds by driving Corbin into the ring post shoulder first. Ambrose dodges a shoulder block, which cause Corbin to crash into the ring steps. Back in the ring, Corbin shuts down the asylum clothesline with a big boot and then hits a Deep Six. Ambrose kicks out at two. Corbin blocks a Dirty Deeds and counters with a sidewalk slam. Ambrose counters an End of Days with a Dirty Deeds and covers to get the win.
Winner via pinfall … and still Intercontinental Champion: Dean Ambrose
WrestleMania Main Card
Tinashe sings the national anthem. Not sure who that is, but she does a nice job.
The New Day comes to the rings in attire inspired by Final Fantasy. It’s their job to pull the lever on the “Ultimate Thrill Ride,” but they don’t even have a giant lever. Feels like a missed opportunity.
Match #1 – AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
Wow, this is the curtain jerker? Color me legitimately surprised. Styles mocks Shane’s trademark footwork and has a few laughs at his expense, but McMahon whips out some arm drags and mat wrestling. His brief run of control ends when AJ dumps him to the outside and kicks him over one of the (many) announce tables. An exchange of strikes leads to Styles attempting the Phenomenal Forearm, but McMahon bumps the ropes to prevent it. Shane ends up in the Calf Crusher shortly thereafter, but he ends up reversing it into several different submission holds. You did not expect that technical mastery from the Boy Wonder! Styles goes for a springboard splash but gets caught (after a semi-botch) in a leg triangle. The Styles Clash is a good answer, but McMahon manages to kick out. The ref takes a bump, allowing Styles to bring some garbage cans into play. Wait, doesn’t he know how this will end up? AJ tries going coast to coast only to have Shane greet him with a can to the face. The second can allows McMahon to hit the Coast to Coast and cover for the conveniently revived ref, but Styles kicks out at two. McMahon goes for even higher risk, trying to drop an elbow through a table only to see AJ move out of the way. Undeterred, McMahon attempts a Shooting Star Press back in the ring and misses that too. An incredulous Styles connects with a Phenomenal Forearm and gets the pin, but that was one of Shane’s best performances ever.
Winner via pinfall: AJ Styles
Match Rating: 8/10
Match #2 – Chris Jericho (champion) vs. Kevin Owens (challenger) – United States Championship Match
Owens and Jericho start brawling as soon as the bell rings. The fight spills to the floor, where Owens get slammed into the announce table. Owens delivers and cannon ball back in the ring and then follows with one on the apron, crushing Y2J into the ring post. Owens shoots off the ropes but right into a drop kick. Owens looks for the powerbomb into the apron, but Jericho counters and tosses KO back into the ring. Owens blocks a Code Breaker and counters with a cradle sit out slam. Jericho kicks out. Y2J connects with a head scissors from the top turnbuckle and follows with a running bulldog. Owens gets the knees up for a counter on a Lionsault. Jericho then counters a swanton bomb by getting his knees up. Jericho goes up and over on a Pop Up Powerbomb and then hits a Lionsault. Owens catches Jericho and is able to lock him into the Walls. Jericho escapes but is met with a superkick. Owens goes for another cannonball, but Y2J catches him and locks KO into the Walls of Jericho. Owens gets to ropes. Owens ducks a clothesline and Jericho runs right into a Pop Up Powerbomb. Jericho kicks out again. Jericho counters another powerbomb into a Code Breaker, but KO breaks the pin by getting one single finger on the ropes. Owens catches Jericho on the apron and powerbombs him into the apron. He rolls Y2J into the ring, covers and gets the win.
Winner via pinfall … and new United States Champion: Kevin Owens
Match rating: 7.5/10
Match #3 – Bayley (champion) vs. Sasha Banks (challenger) vs. Charlotte Flair (challenger) vs. Nia Jax (challenger) – RAW Women’s Championship Fatal Four-way Elimination Match
The thinking here is that the other three competitors might have to combine forces to eliminate Nia Jax, but early on, even that doesn’t work. But wait … a cool triple power bomb out of the corner and all three women piling on top of Jax does the job, and the strongest competitor is the first one eliminated. Charlotte wants the faces to fight it out among themselves, but when they head out to the floor, she uses a corkscrew moonsault to drop them both. Flair ends up in the Bank Statement, then gets rolled up, but Charlotte kicks The Boss into a sort of, kind of exposed middle turnbuckle and pins her. That leaves Charlotte and Bayley, who manages a bit of a suplex despite being in the Tree of Woe. After freeing herself, Bayley drops the elbow off the top and retains her title.
Winner via pinfall … and still RAW Women’s Champion: Bayley
Match rating: 4.5/10
It’s that time when all of the new WWE Hall of Famers come out on stage. Maybe the happiest I’ve ever seen anyone having 70,000-plus people chanting that they suck. And I could watch him sing, “I’m just a sexy Kurt … I’ll make your ankle hurt” approximately forever.
Seth Rollins is getting his knee wrapped in what looks like tons of duct tape. Not sure if that’s going to help.
Match #4 – Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (champions) vs. Enzo and Cass (challengers) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (challengers) – RAW Tag Team Championship Ladder Match
After all the intros, the New Day comes out on stage and it looks like they are going to interject themselves into the match, but instead it’s the HARDY BOYZ! Jeff starts off fast delivering some Poetry in Motion to Anderson and Gallows. Matt clears the ring, laying waste to everyone with a ladder. Enzo with big boots to everyone. Sheamus hits the Beats on Gallows as Cesaro takes Anderson for a swing for a 28 count. Enzo is all alone on the top of ladder, but Anderson is able to cut him off. Enzo is tossed off the ladder into an uppercut from Cesaro. Gallows saves his partner from a crucifix. Matt fights Anderson on top off a ladder and Hardy hits the Twist of Fate. On the floor, Jeff climbs one of the big ladders to deliver a Swanton Bomb to Sheamus and Cesaro. Back in the ring, Matt is all alone and is able to climb the ladder to claim the titles.
Winners … and new RAW Tag Team Champions: The Hardy Boyz
Match Rating: 7.5/10
Match #5 – The Miz and Maryse vs. John Cena and Nikki Bella – Mixed Tag Team Match
Say what you want, but this match has had a very entertaining build-up. Never expected to see that. Miz spends some time early on playing into the fact that some fans are actually cheering him. Funny, that. The women, who did not wrestle when they started the match, get into a bit on the outside. Cena is in trouble, barely kicking out of a DDT, but he needs to tag his girlfriend. Miz mocks Daniel Bryan too, but he overdoes it by getting in Nikki’s face, which gets him slapped. Of course, Nikki gets the hot tag, and she dives to the outside to connect with Miz, who pulls Maryse out of the way. Miz and Maryse suffer through the indignity of a double Five Knuckle Shuffle and a simultaneous Rack Attack 2.0 and Attitude Adjustment. Cena and Bella do the double pin thing, and uh-oh, Cena has a mic. As rumored, he proposes, and she commits the biggest heel turn ever and kicks him in the groin. Just kidding. She says yes, they kiss, etc.
Winners via pinfall: John Cena and Nikki Bella
Match rating: 5/10
Match #6 – Seth Rollins vs. Triple H – Unsanctioned Match
Rollins opens with a one legged dropkick and the fight spills out to the floor and into the crowd. Rollins makes his way back to the ring and stares down Steph. Hunter starts to focus on the injured knee of Rollins, targeting it with a steel chair. Hunter continues the punishment atop the announce table with a DDT. Rollins tries a sunset flip powerbomb ff the turnbuckle, but his knee gives out and he crumples to the mat. Rollins looks for a buckle bomb, but his knee fails him again. Rollins counters a Pedigree with a buckle bomb. Hunter gets whipped out of the ring and Rollins connects with a splash from the top. Rollins pulls out multiple chairs and tosses them into the ring, but Trips hits a spinebuster to cut him off. Hunter wraps a chair around the ankle of Rollins and stomps away at it. Rollins hits a superplex and then rolls through into a falcon’s arrow. Rollins goes back up top and Steph yanks him off the top rope. Triple H locks in a Figure Four on the floor. Seth reaches under the ring for anything and pulls out a sledgehammer. Hunter grabs his favorite weapon. Rollins cuts him off in the ring, but Hunter responds with a massive clothesline. Steph saves her husband from the sledgehammer, allowing Trips to hit a Pedigree, but Rollins still kicks out. Rollins lands a phoenix splash but still can’t get the pin. Rollins and Hunter counter finishers back and forth until Hunter takes a shot at the knee. Steph jumps to the apron as Rollins superkicks Hunter into her. Steph crashes through a table on the outside as Rollins hits Triple H with a pedigree. He covers and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall: Seth Rollins
Match rating: 7/10
I like Pitbull as much as anyone (actually probably not true), but is there time for him and Flo Rida to perform? We still have four matches left.
Match #7 – Bray Wyatt (champion) vs. Randy Orton (challenger) – WWE Championship Match
Orton fires out of the gates with a Thesz press, arm drags and a powerslam and Wyatt has to scramble out of the ring. That barely helps him as Orton follows him to the floor, but Wyatt gets his feet under him when they return to the ring. Wyatt apparently has the power to project disturbing images on the ring mat, and he clobbers Orton coming off the ropes. More visual tricks, which clearly have Randy out of sorts, and the ref gets the heck out of there too. Orton finally get some momentum back by nailing an RKO on the floor, but that doesn’t do him much good as he tries to win the title. The Sister Abigail is countered by a backbreaker, which is followed by Randy’s trademark elevated DDT. With Orton looking for an RKO, Wyatt deftly executes a Sister Abigail only to see Orton kick out at the last second. With Wyatt pondering his next attack, the proverbial RKO out of nowhere comes and we’ve got ourselves a new champ.
Winner via pinfall … and new WWE Champion: Randy Orton
Match rating: 5.5/10
Match #8 – Goldberg (champion) vs. Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman (challenger) – WWE Universal Title Match
Winner via pinfall and new Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
Match rating: 6.5/10
Match #9 – Alexa Bliss (champion) vs. Mickie James (challenger) vs. Carmella w/ James Ellsworth (challenger) vs. Naomi (challenger) vs. Natalya (challenger) vs. Becky Lynch (challenger) – Smackdown Women’s Title Match
This is not an elimination match, so the first woman to score a pinfall or submission wins. Nattie and Alexa double team Naomi on the floor while Mickie and Becky fight in the ring. Carmella joins the fight and hits a headscissors with some help from Ellsworth. Alexa breaks the pin and shoves Carmella out of the ring. Ellsworth tries to interfere and gets suplexed by Lynch for his efforts. Naomi goes for a sunset flip over Becky and Nattie as Becky gets the worst of a German suplex. Nattie locks in a Sharpshooter on Naomi and Carmella at the same time but gets kicked in the face by Mickie James. Multiple pinfalls are broken up. Naomi hits Alexa with the Rear View and then flies over the top rope to take out everyone on the outside. Naomi catapults off the ropes but right into a forearm from Alexa. Naomi counters into a headscissors crucifix choke and Alexa taps out.
Winner via submission … and new Smackdown Women’s Champion: Naomi
Match rating: 7/10
The New Day makes another costume change and decides to come back out for one final segment. Even Kofi Kingston calls it the Citrus Bowl, announcing an attendance record of 75,245 people. And Jim Ross, as rumored, gets a standing O as he joins Michael Cole and JBL (?) to call the main event.
Match #10 – Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
Winner via pinfall: Roman Reigns
Match rating: 7/10
Total Event time: A record-breaking 5 hours and 11 minutes
Event Rating: 6.5/10
Nick Tylwalk and Dale Plummer sometimes consider themselves wimps for teaming up for PPV reports, but doing a show as long as WrestleMania 33 is tuly a two-person task. Follow Nick on Twitter @nick_tylwalk and Dale @dplummer627.