By DALE PLUMMER and NICK TYLWALK – SlamWrestling.net
If a wrestling card is only as good as its main event, WrestleMania 34 was a disaster. Most fans would say that’s not the case, that the overall quality of the matches and stories told up and down the card all matter equally. In that case, what played out Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was an entertaining show, marred only by a subpar final bout and a few other head-scratching decisions.
There was actually some question about which match would be the “real” main event, meaning the one that went on last. It turned out to be the most straightforward option, the Universal Championship Match between reigning titleholder Brock Lesnar and challenger Roman Reigns. The two men had previously met under similar circumstances at WrestleMania 31, but neither prevailed that day thanks to an opportunistic Seth Rollins.
Without the threat of a Money in the Bank cash-in looming over New Orleans, Rollins and Lesnar were able to do what they do best, which is to pummel each other and kick out of pinfall attempts. It didn’t take long for Reigns to visit Suplex City three times, but a pair of Superman punches were a great reply. The champ was sent over the top rope to the floor, but he recovered quickly to catch the challenger jumping off the steps and sent him down hard with a belly-to-belly throw.
Lesnar tossed Reigns overhead onto one of the announce tables from a low angle, then returned to the ring for another German suplex. Three more suplexes followed, setting up a story fans had seen play out before. The fight went back to the floor, where Reigns rallied with a tackle that sent Lesnar up and over the announce table.
A running knee in the ring was Lesnar’s response, followed by an F-5, but neither was enough to keep Reigns down for three. Two more F-5s found the mark as well, yet Reigns was able to kick out of both of them. Another F-5 through a table was next, forcing Lesnar to drag his challenger back into the ring.
When a fifth F-5 wasn’t enough to stop Reigns, Lesnar removed his MMA gloves, bloodying Reigns’ face something fierce. The crowd chanted “this is awful” as he connected on two spears, earning a near fall. Lesnar popped back up, hit a sixth F-5 and finally got the three-count to retain his title.
Earlier in the night, much of the drama revolved around John Cena, who started the event in the crowd just as he promised he would when he saw his attempts to goad the Undertaker into a match go unanswered. However, he only stayed there about an hour before a referee came down and whispered something to him, prompting Cena to head to the locker room and get on his ring gear.
That outfit change proved necessary when after a brief skirmish with Elias, Cena found himself face to face with the Dead Man. Yet their official encounter was incredibly short, with Undertaker delivering almost all of the hurt.
The Phenom opened up with a barrage of strikes and went for his Old School rope walk. Undertaker smashed Cena in the corner, delivering Snake Eyes, a big boot (that sort of missed) and a leg drop. A belly to back suplex finally stopped the onslaught, but a chokeslam followed, along with a Tombstone. R.I.P. Cena.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Backlash on May 6.
In a tale as old as time and a song as old as rhyme, Nick’s comments are in plain type while Dale gets the good old italics as his very own.
Pre-show Match #1 – Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
All the competitors are in the ring, so no WrestleMania entrances for any of these guys. Aiden English is the first superstar eliminated, and on Rusev Day, too. Goldust tosses R-Truth over the top rope and then dabs on him. The final four come down to Kane, Baron Corbin, Mojo and Matt Hardy. Corbin dumps Kane over the rope right after the Big Red Machine takes out Dolph Ziggler. The two former winners, Rawley and Corbin, team up on Hardy and are about to toss him out when Bray Wyatt appears out of nowhere. Wyatt attacks Rawley and tosses him out. Corbin hits the End of Days on Wyatt, but that allows Hardy to knock him out over the top rope. Matt Hardy wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Winner of the Andre the Giant Battle Royal: Matt Hardy
Pre-Show Match #2 – Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali – Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Final
Alexander hits a plancha on Ali on the floor. Cedric follows with a huge back body drop in the middle of the ring. Ali fights back with chops and kicks. He nails a facebuster, but it’s not enough to get a pin. Alexander hits a Spanish fly, but is not able to get a cover. Ali hits a Spanish fly from the top rope. Alexander catches Ali on the top rope, knocking him to the floor. Ali counters the Lumbar Check with a reverse hurricanrana. Ali hits a tornado DDT and follows with the 054. Alexander gets a foot on the ropes. Ali goes up again for the 054, but Alexander moves and Ali crashes and burns. Cedric nails a back elbow and hits the Lumbar Check. He covers and gets the win.
Winner via pinfall … and new Cruiserweight Champion … Cedric Alexander
Pre-Show Match #3 – WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal
Beth Phoenix and Paige join the announce team for the match. Becky Lynch comes out to her music and the rest of the women come out together, expect for Bayley. She also gets her own entrance, along with Sasha Banks. Carmella gets beaten down and tossed out of the ring as soon as the match starts. Bianca Belair hits a 450 splash on Dakota Kai, and NXT is very well represented in this match. Kai kicks Becky Lynch and then Naomi in the corner. Natalya hits a double suplex on Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan. Bayley and Sasha toss out Nattie and Liv Morgan. They also take out Ruby Riott. Bayley knocks Logan off the apron, leaving her to face off with Sasha Banks. Bayley extends her hand, and when Sasha takes it, she tosses her over the top rope. Unfortunately for Bayley, Naomi was never officially eliminated. She gets back in the ring and tosses Bayley over the top to win.
Winner of the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal: Naomi
WrestleMania 34 Main Card
Match #1 – Seth Rollins (challenger) vs. Finn Balor (challenger) vs. The Miz (champion) – Intercontinental Title Triple Threat Championship Match
All three men exchange quick roll-up and pinfall attempts before Balor takes to the air early and hits both of his opponents. Rollins matches him with a double blockbuster and a cover on the champ to force a kickout at two. Miz gets a chance to score a victory, then another in short order. The champ drags Balor into the ring by his leg and locks in the Figure Four. Rollins comes flying in off the top rope to not only break up the hold with a frog splash but nearly pin Miz as well. The fans are into this as the opener. Balor counters Rollins with a Sling Blade and uses a dropkick to smash both his foes into the barricade. Both challengers throw strikes until Balor gets another near fall, and he climbs up top thinking finisher. Up quickly, Rollins hit a buckle bomb on Miz but has to scramble out of a cover after he was hit in turn by a Skull Crushing Finale. Still looking for the signature moment, Miz gives Rollins a bulldog off the top rope before Balor delivers the Coup de Grace to both other men. Miz eats a Sling Blade and the corner dropkick and then a Coup de Grace of his very own, but Rollins flies in and clocks Finn. The Stomp on the champ follows, and Rollins completes his WWE Grand Slam.
Winner via pinfall … and new Intercontinental Champion … Seth Rollins
Match Rating: 8/10
Match #2 – Asuka (challenger) vs. Charlotte Flair (champion) – Smackdown Women’s Title Match
The two lock up and trade holds to start the match. Charlotte goes for an early Figure Four and Asuka rolls her up. Charlotte kicks out. A hip attack sends Charlotte flying off the apron and into the security barricade. Charlotte starts to nurse a shoulder injury. Asuka tries to lock in a sleeper, but Charlotte breaks free with a backpack stunner. Charlotte climbs the top turnbuckle and goes for a moonsault. Asuka counters into the Asuka lock. Charlotte powers out and locks in a Boston crab. The two trade near falls. Charlotte dodges another hip attack and delivers a kick to the head. Asuka delivers a suplex off the apron to the floor. Asuka connects on a missile drop kick. Asuka gets caught going up top again, and Charlotte hits a Spanish fly off the top turnbuckle. Asuka rolls through Natural Selection and locks in another arm submission. Asuka shoots off the ropes and right into a a spear. Flair only gets a two count. The champ locks in the Figure Eight, but only uses her arms. Asuka still taps, though.
Ding dong, the streak is dead?
Winner via submission … and still Smackdown Women’s Champion … Charlotte Flair
Match rating: 7/10
After the match, the two women embrace in the ring in a show of respect. As Flair is making her way up the rank, a WWE ref runs down to where John Cena is sitting. He says something to Cena, who leaps the barrier and runs up the ramp into the back.
Pretty sure he’s going to get his jorts on.
Match #3 – Bobby Roode (challenger) vs. Rusev (challenger)w/ Aiden English vs. Jinder Mahal (challenger) w/ Sunil Singh vs. Randy Orton (champion) – United States Title Fatal Four-Way Match
Mahal and Orton get tossed out of the ring, and Rusev sends Roode to the floor with a drop kick. A cannonball from the apron takes out Orton and Mahal on the floor. Roode hits Rusev with a blockbuster and then trades blows with Orton. The Viper executes a power slam, but Roode kicks out of the pin. Jinder tries to forge an alliance with Rusev, who instead clubs Mahal in the back and stomps away at him in the corner. Roode hits Mahal with a spinebuster in the middle of the ring. Orton slams Roode shoulder first into the ring post. The champ follows with a draping DDT to Rusev. Orton looks for the RKO, but English runs in. He gets the RKO and so does Mahal. Roode breaks the pin on Mahal. Roode hits Orton with a Glorious DD,T. A matchka kick to Mahal leads to an Accolade, but Singh distracts Rusev allowing Mahal to hit the Khallas on Rusev. Jinder covers and gets the win.
Winner via pinfall … and new United States Champion … Jinder Mahal
Match rating: 5.5/10
Match #4 – Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H – Mixed Tag Team Match
Steph plays some mind games by pulling Ronda’s hair and getting the former UFC superstar mentally bent out of shape before the match even starts. The Game tries something similar with Angle, but the Olympic gold medalist is ready for him. Repeated distraction of the ref allows the WWE’s power couple to gain the momentum, leading to a spinebuster for two by HHH. Just when it appears Angle might make the tag, McMahon hauls Rousey off the apron. That only delays the inevitable, though, as Rousey fires off a vicious flurry of offense once she gets the hot tag. Fans chant “break her arm” as Rousey goes for the armbar only to see McMahon pull off a surprisingly capable counter and rake Ronda’s eyes. That turns things around, with Steph using submission holds and hair pulls to keep the pressure on Rowdy. Rousey slams McMahon and makes the cover only to see Triple H yank both the ref and Ronda out onto the floor. A finally recovered Angle meets The Game on top of the announce table, but he’s the one who goes for a ride, bouncing off the Spanish table. Rousey wants a piece of Triple H, and she gets it, peppering him with punches and forcing McMahon to save her husband. Alas, that leads to more punishment for Steph until she sends Ronda into the ringpost. Angle and Hunter do battle in the ring, with the Raw GM delivering rolling German suplexes and countering a Pedigree with an Angle Slam. Confronted by MacMahon, Angle chooses to put his boss in the Ankle Lock, but Triple H hits a Pedigree and Rousey has to come flying in to make the save. She further impresses with a hurricanrana into an armbar on Triple H, and she puts Steph in one as well. Trips ends up in the Ankle Lock but manages to hurl Angle into Rousey, breaking both holds. The McMahons are thinking double pedigrees, except HHH gets hurled out to the floor and Steph has to fight to avoid the armbar again. She holds on for a sec but eventually falls victim to the hold and taps immediately.
Winners via submission: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
Match Rating: 6.5/10
Match #5 – The New Day (challengers) vs. The Bludgeon Brothers (challengers) vs. The Usos (champions) – Smackdown Tag Team Title Triple Threat Championship Match
Harper and Rowan are kept from getting into the ring, as Kofi hits Jey with a Trouble in Paradise. Harper pulls Kofi off the pin. Jimmy Uso gets slammed into the ring steps. The Brothers then go after Xavier Woods, who is the odd man out for the New Day. Jimmy Uso connects with a superkick on Harper, and Jey tags in to hit a super fly splash. Rowan catches both Usos as they try a suicide dive. A double suplex on the floor slows the champs. Harper avoids Kofi coming off the top turnbuckle. The Usos catch Harper with superkicks on the top turnbuckle, and Big E tries to lend a hand on a superplex. Rowan saves his partner and slams Kofi to the mat. Harper hits Kofi with a sit out powerbomb from the top rope. He covers and gets the win.
Winners via pinfall … and new Smackdown Tag Team Champions … The Bludgeon Brothers
Match rating: 5/10
In his ring gear, Cena runs to the ring and says things are about to get interesting. He’s announced, but the ref runs down and says something to him again, and a disappointed Cena starts back up the ramp. He pauses when the lights go out, but it’s not the Undertaker on the stage: it’s Elias. After asking rhetorically if the fans were expecting someone else, Elias says “that somebody else” doesn’t have his musical ability, charisma or talent. Cena climbs back over the barricade and returns to his seat as Elias launches into a song. After a verse or so, Cena climbs into the ring, having heard enough. The Five Knuckle Shuffle and AA make mincemeat out of Elias, and the fans chant for Undertaker again. A despondent Cena makes his way back up the ramp when the lights go out again, and suddenly a familiar hat and coat are in the ring. Lightning strikes and they’re gone. Sure enough, the Undertaker arises and starts his familiar slow walk down toward the ring.
Match #6 – John Cena vs. The Undertaker
Winner via pinfall: The Undertaker
Match rating: N/A
Match #7 – Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Remember that Kevin and Sami are fighting for their jobs in this match. They start with a sneak attack from behind, as Bryan and McMahon are expecting them to come down the ramp. Owens powerbombs Bryan into the ring apron, and Shane calls for medical help. The bell hasn’t even rung yet. Shane calls for the bell, and we have a handicap match. McMahon unloads on Owens in the corner and follows with a flying elbow. Shane works over Sami next and hits a DDT. Owens kicks Shane in the midsection and stomps way at him in the corner. The two mock Shane as they beat on him. Shane fights his way out of the corner, only to eat a superkick and take a Blue Thunder Bomb from Sami. McMahon dodges the Helluva Kick, and Sami get hung in the tree of woe. Shane climbs the opposite turnbuckle and hits the Coast to Coast. Owens climbs the turnbuckle and hits a splash on Shane. He covers, but Daniel Bryan is able to make the save. Owens misses the cannonball, but Shane can’t make the tag to a returning Bryan. A suplex to Zayn buys Shane the time he needs to make a tag. Bryan gets the molten hot tag, knocking Owens off the apron and following with a running knee. He connects with missile drop kick to Sami. Owens gets a suplex, and both men are down in opposite corners. Bryan goes corner to corner with dropkicks. Sami gets flipped off the top turnbuckle with a head scissors. Owens grabs Bran by the leg, allowing Sami to hit the Helluva Kick. He can’t get the pin, though. Owens superkicks Shane off the apron and hits Bryan with the Pop Up Powerbomb. Bryan kicks out. Bryan slaps Sami around and unleashes the YES! kicks. Bryan locks in the YES! Lock and Sami taps.
Winners via submission: Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon
Match rating: 8/10
Match #8 – Nia Jax (challenger) vs. Alexa Bliss (champion) w/Mickie James – RAW Women’s Title Match
Mickie James accompanies Bliss to the ring as usual, but she gets smashed into the barricade and eats a Samoan Drop on the floor. We may not hear from her again. Nia controls most of the early action until she goes crashing into the ringpost. The champ hits Twisted Bliss to the floor, then delivers a DDT in the ring and nearly wins it. Talking trash may be a mistake, because Jax wakes up and eventually delivers a Samoan Drop from the middle rope. Ain’t nobody kicking out of that.
Winner via pinfall … and new RAW Women’s Champion … Nia Jax
Match #9 – Shinsuke Nakamura (challenger) vs. AJ Styles (champion) – WWE Title Match
Both competitors feel each out other to start the match. Nakamura kicks AJ into the corner, looking for good vibrations. AJ catches the leg and walks Shinsuke to middle of the ring before dropping him with a knee. Styles with a snap suplex and follows with a backbreaker. AJ slows the match down with a chin lock. Nakamura lands a thrust kick from the middle turnbuckle and follows with an axe kick after taunting AJ. Nakamura has a reverse exploder suplex countered into a reverse facebuster. AJ hits a gutbuster and looks for the Styles Clash. Shinsuke fights out and then catches AJ going for the Phenomenal Forearm. He slams him to the mat with a landslide. Nakamura sets the champ on the top turnbuckle. AJ slips down to escape, kicking Shinsuke in the knee. AJ locks in the Calf Crusher. Nakamura counters into a triangle. The champ powers out, dropping Nakamura on the back of his neck. AJ gets set up over the top rope in the corner, but AJ avoids the knee. Nakamura crashes into the turnbuckle. Styles follows up with the Phenomenal Forearm but can’t get the three count. AJ goes for the 450 splash, but Nakamura blocks with his knees. The two trade punches in the middle of the ring. AJ connects with a Pele kick. Shinsuke hits the reverse exploder, but AJ counters the Kinsasha into a Styles Clash. Styles covers and gets the pin.
Winner via pinfall … and still WWE Champion … AJ Styles
Match rating: 8.5/10
After the bell, the two men embrace. Shinsuke shows his respect by handing AJ the belt, but then he nails the champ with a low blow. He kicks AJ on the apron and finally to the floor. Nakamura kicks Styles a few more times for good measure. Shinsuke finishes him off with a Kinsasha on the floor.
There was something delightfully disrespectful in the way Nakamura kicked Styles off the apron and then around the floor. It was totally disdainful and different than a normal post-match beating. He’s going to be a fun heel.
Match #10 – Braun Strowman and mystery partner (challengers) vs. The Bar (champions) – RAW Tag Team Title Match
Strowman says that since the champs wanted to know who his partner was so badly, he wanted to wait until New Orleans to reveal who he was picking. And his choice is … one of you. Or rather, some random kid from the crowd. He actually briefly gets tagged in, but he tags right back out to Braun. He hits a running powerslam and gets the pin. Some kid named Nicholas is now a tag team champion. My name is Nicholas, but I get no gold, I guess.
Winner via pinfall … and new Raw Tag Team Champions … Braun Strowman and Nicholas
Match rating: 4/10
Match #11 – Roman Reigns (challenger) vs. Brock Lesnar (champion) w/Paul Heyman – WWE Universal Title Match
Winner via pinfall and still WWE Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar
Match Rating: 3.5/10
Total Event time: 5 hours and 5 minutes
Event Rating: 7/10
Nick Tylwalk and Dale Plummer have been doing WrestleMania reports since way back when you didn’t even have to wonder if the Undertaker was going to be in one of the night’s biggest matches. Follow Nick on Twitter at @nick_tylwalk and Dale at @dplummer627.