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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: WrestleMania Star


To call this year’s WrestleMania bad is a disservice to all the performers who went out there and went a hell of a match and stole the show. It’s a disservice to all the performers who—regardless of what happened in their match—put in the time and effort to perfect their craft and more importantly, put their bodies on the line for our entertainment. It’s also a disservice to those who went out there and basically did as they were told to.

But WrestleMania will always be remembered for its biggest matches and its main events. After all, these are the largest carrots dangled in front of the fans who need reasons to be convinced to watch the show. These are the matches that the card is built around, so these main events are the focal points of the show. The reality is that no matter how excellent the undercard is, if the main event matches fail to deliver, then they drag the rest of the show down with them.

That’s essentially what happened with this year’s ‘Mania. We got a lot of matches that were good, if not great. And yet the matches that most of the fans wanted to see ended up falling flat for one reason or another. It’s a shame because, as you’ll see below, most of the card was actually must-see. Unfortunately, the results of the main event left such a sour taste in the mouths of most fans that what happened before the main event seems so easy to forget.

So for our WrestleMania review, what I’ll do is list down the things that made us mark out, the things that were just downright mediocre, and the egregiously offensive in that order. Let’s get to it.

The Good

Rebranding of the Women’s Division

Calling the WWE’s female talent “Divas” has always come with a negative connotation because of what the word implied on its own. It didn’t help matters that there was a long stretch when Vince would only hire models as wrestlers for those bikini or lingerie matches. It may have taken ages, but it’s a relief that someone finally got the old man to agree to call the female wrestlers “Superstars,” and to rebrand the title as the WWE Women’s Championship. This helps the girls get one step closer to being looked at on the same level as the guys, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.


Much has been said about the WWE Women’s Championship belt, with majority of it being positive. I’m a fan of the design because it’s sleek and consistent with the general branding of the men’s top title, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It’s a thing of beauty.

Charlotte (c) def. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks to become the WWE Women’s Champion



This was undoubtedly the match of the night, all three women put out all the stops to leave a lasting impression on the millions (AND MILLIONS!) watching WrestleMania. Say what you want about the result of that main event, but this championship match was the true highlight of the show. These ladies did not let up for a second and kept the pace of their match tight and quick all throughout without sacrificing the story. Don’t get me wrong. The match wasn’t perfect—it had a couple of sloppy moments including Sasha Banks’ suicide dive outside the ring, which almost didn’t hit Charlotte, and Becky Lynch missing Charlotte when the former took off from the top rope while the latter had Sasha up in an electric chair position. But don’t let those moments take away from the brilliance of the match as a whole.


Sasha Banks was the star of the match, despite coming up short. She definitely got a huge rub from Cousin Snoop, but she deserves a lot of praise on her own for realizing the dream of that teenage girl from New England who earned a three-month scholarship at wrestling school. I loved her Eddie Guerrero tributes through her ring attire and her moveset, and it brought a tear to my eye seeing the Boss push ‘em all out the way.


As for Charlotte’s ring attire, the robe she wore—which used actual pieces from the very robe that Ric Flair wore in his retirement match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24—was majestic and fitting of a champion. Charlotte also stepped her ring psychology up, particularly when she threw a hissy fit in the ring after both Sasha and Becky kicked out of her pinfall attempts. She then yelled, “DAAAAD~,” as she struggled desperately to think of a way to beat her opponents on her own. Credit Ric Flair as well for still getting under our skin despite being such a lovable legend. The man still knows how to work all of us, and he’s doing a damn good job at it.


I hope Becky Lynch isn’t the forgotten third woman in this match when we talk about this match in retrospect in a few years. She actually did very well as the workhorse of the match by showing off her ground and technical game, which we need to see more of in the Women’s Division. She’s also the plucky, honest-to-goodness babyfaces that both kids and adults can get behind, and she proved that throughout this whole buildup to WrestleMania. It also helped that she looked like a certain Amazonian princess in that match both because of her attire and her performance.

Zack Ryder def. Kevin Owens (c), Sami Zayn, Stardust, The Miz, Sin Cara, and Dolph Ziggler to become the new WWE Intercontinental Champion



It’s been more than 12 hours since this match ended, and I am still in disbelief that Zack Ryder is actually the Intercontinental Champion. I had to check his Wikipedia page just now to see if he really did win it.

Update: I checked it a second time to make sure nobody fucked with it.

Update #2: I checked WWE.com and Long Island Iced Z is the IC champ!

Ryder was a great sneaky dark horse winner, and it says a lot about him that the WWE Universe is willing to buy into him as a champion despite the fact that he wouldn’t even be in the match if Neville hadn’t gotten injured a few weeks ago. More importantly, Zack Ryder now has a WrestleMania moment that doesn’t involve: (a) cosplaying as another wrestler, (b) singing Rebecca Black’s Friday, and (c) getting his nuts kicked by a woman (or anyone, for that matter).

Dropping the title to Ryder was also a good way to get Kevin Owens to focus on Sami Zayn while letting go of the Intercontinental Championship. After all, KO and Sami don’t need a championship to fight over. They’ve already got 15 years of history.



There were two moments in this match that also brought a tear to my eye: the first was when Stardust brought out the polka dotted ladder and started using it as a weapon, with “HARD TIMES” written at the back of his suit.



The second was when Zack’s Dad entered the ring and started celebrating with the new IC champ. All we needed were Chiapetta and the Big O and we could have had a bonus episode of Z! True Long Island Story!

Sin Cara’s all-white attire was on fleek. I’m also glad he didn’t die out there. Speaking of attires, Dolph Ziggler actually looked great in 80s glam rock mode for the first time in… well, forever.

I love that Miz was in this match because they made the most of his presence out there. At one point, I actually thought he would have another championship win at ‘Mania. He’s also one of the better choices for the anti-indy heel role, which I can totally see him pulling off very well.

The League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, and Rusev) def. The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods)

I know King Barrett is always injured, but seriously, did he get another freak injury right before ‘Mania? Anyway, after being made to look like complete idiots during the Road to WrestleMania, the League of Nations finally got a win over the New Day. It’s about damn time, too, or else they’d have lost whatever little credibility they had left.


Oh, and this must be said: GIGANTIC. BOOTY-O’s. AND DRAGON BALL OUTFITS.



Team Total Divas (Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, and Eva Marie) def. Team B.A.D. and Blonde (Naomi, Tamina, Emma, Summer Rae, and Lana)



This match is automatically placed under the “Good” category because of Lana’s in-ring attire. Although seeing her in-ring debut was also pretty cool, too.


I’m pleasantly surprised they let Brie get the win for her team via the YES! Lock. Way to get your first (and last) win at ‘Mania, Brie!

The Undertaker def. Shane McMahon in Hell In A Cell


This match should have closed the show, as I said during my predictions. I was surprised that there weren’t any shenanigans, but both guys more than made up for it with an onslaught of crazy stunts. In fact, after every spot, I started (1) legitimately praying for both men’s general well-being and (2) wondering out loud what outrageously insane stunt they were going to do next.

Like this Coast-to-Coast.


Or this moment.

WrestleMania: Shane McMahon leaps from Hell in a Cell's roof
HERE COMES THE MONEY from the TOP of HELL IN A CELL!!! #WrestleMania
Posted by WWE on Sunday, April 3, 2016


All in all, I was content with how the match was paced. I didn’t feel like it went 30 minutes long, which is a good thing.

Seeing Shane loses still leaves a lot of questions, but nothing’s ever fully answered at the end of a PPV, is it?

Kalisto (c) def. Ryback to retain the WWE United States Championship



If you were among those early enough to catch Kalisto vs. Ryback live, then these two made sure that your effort was worth it. I’ve been loving Ryback’s work since his heel turn. He’s improved way more than when he first turned heel in 2013. He’s patronizing, in-your-face, and condescending, which means he’s successfully able to get under my skin a lot!

God bless Mauro Ranallo for reminding us on commentary that Kalisto and Ryback’s history dates back to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament last November, where the Diminutive Dynamo defeated the Big Guy to advance to the quarterfinals.

That finishing sequence was frantic, but fun, and it allowed Kalisto to take advantage of his environment—which may or may not have been Eddie-inspired, as well—to stun Ryback, hit the Salida del Sol, and get the 1-2-3.

Baron Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal



Anybody who didn’t watch NXT prior to this match is bound to look Corbin up now, which is a good thing. He’s become a solid talent, who continuously finds ways to improve when paired up with the right opponent.

I loved the entire Battle Royal as a whole because it was just a whole lot of fun, and it wasn’t something to overthink and overanalyze. It was just pure, clean fun! Gotta love that Golden Truth had their moment, as did the #SocialOutcasts and Mark Henry.

But the real highlights were the surprise appearances of Tatanka (I mean, seriously, who the fuck saw him coming?!), Diamond Dallas Page (in the most blatant DDP Yoga shill ever), and Shaquille O’Neal (who played off his old feud with Big Show from the late 2000s). Shaq, in particular, stole the show during the match by holding his own out there, and actually looking like a credible winner.


Imagine Shaq posing right next to that 7-foot trophy. What an imposing visual.


The Meh


Chris Jericho def. AJ Styles




While this match was actually very good, the fact that we all knew what to expect from both guys took away from the overall excitement level. I actually found it bothersome that Jericho couldn’t even be bothered to put the Styles Clash over, but I’m not that mad about the result. Both guys are at 2-2, and maybe they can finally have the feud-ending finale at Payback.

Then again, if the plan was to have a best-of-five series, why couldn’t these guys just have had their fourth match at Roadblock and then their finale at ‘Mania? That would have worked, except they wouldn’t have had the time to flesh out the arc with that chapter in which AJ and Jericho became a tag team.



As for their ring gear, AJ’s choice of colors were a great callback to his early TNA days, while Jericho's light-up jacket was modified accordingly to accommodate the colors of this year's 'Mania logo.

The Usos def. The Dudley Boyz



This was your standard Usos match, and not even the Dudley Boyz could make it all that special.

Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin keep getting ‘em checks.



I love all three guys, and I marked out really hard when Shawn Michaels revealed that he was in ring gear, but what was the point of sending these legends out to punk the League of Nations?

None of them had any history with either team, so it made no sense to have them there. In fact, having the Legends dispatch the New Day doesn't help the Unicorns' babyface turn at all. This was a case of legends being made to appear for the sake of a legends’ appearance. It was very mema.

The Ugly


Roman Reigns def. Triple H (c) to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion


This match was slow and methodical, like most Triple H matches, but it was so boring because for some reason, they failed to maximize one of Roman’s most attractive qualities as a wrestler—his sheer athleticism.

Vince was so hellbent on telling his story his way that it seems like he was going to try his damndest to do as he pleased with his favorite toy, which left more than just a sour taste in my mouth as a viewer. The unwillingness to take a risk on something that could work out for all the players involved led to an overwhelmingly negative reaction both in the AT&T Stadium and on social media, which is a shame because Roman Reigns deserves better.

Instead, Roman will continue to be the smart fans’ object of hatred. Most logical fans won’t hate Joe Anoa’i the person, but when RAW airs live tomorrow night, it will be open season on Vince McMahon via Roman Reigns. You wanted this, Vince. Roman's blood will be on your hands, too.

Brock Lesnar def. Dean Ambrose in a No Holds Barred Street Fight


Ambrose didn't look like he gave a shit either. Just kidding.

Speaking of an unwillingness to take risks, it’s mind-boggling how WWE missed the boat on an opportunity to put Dean Ambrose over as one hell of a star. They already had him face Brock Lesnar in a match that could have benefited both men. Instead, Lesnar just threw Ambrose around like a ragdoll, while Ambrose kept tapping into a violent side that seemed disconnected from the gutsy, resilient lunatic we’d all come to know and love.

Everyone would have been fine with either of these guys winning, but it was the journey to that result which I found underwhelming. It was as if there was little-to-no effort put in establishing Ambrose as a big star, which is a shame because the WWE Universe was just waiting for this. Plus, they’d built up the feud so well only for the match to fall flatter than a 2x4.

The Rock def. Erick Rowan



It was annoying enough that the Rock initially was made to look like he’d only come out to announce the WrestleMania attendance record. But things looked up when the Wyatt Family interrupted him because it seemed that they were headed for a feud that would peak at SummerSlam, when the Rock would likely be available to wrestle.


Except Rocky was actually dressed to wrestle, and he would take on a Wyatt Family member. But not Bray Wyatt, no, he would take on Erick Rowan. What the flying fuck?

So Erick Rowan loses to the Rock in six seconds, which makes Rowan look like a total chump, as if he weren’t a chump already. And then when the Wyatts tried to gang up on the Rock, John Cena would come back out to help the Rock shoo the Wyatts away.


Sure, it felt good to see John Cena back on television, and admittedly, ‘Mania felt incomplete for the first five or so hours without him. But this seemed like a forced way to bring Jearn back in the mix.

More importantly, sources say that the entire segment was the Rock’s idea all along. So Dwayne thought it was brilliant to bring Bray up by putting him over on the mic, only to send him, Rowan, and Strowman back down with the help of John Cena. Way to establish new stars, WWE.

*****

WrestleMania as a whole wasn’t a bad show. The fact that I was lucky enough to catch it alongside fellow Filipino wrestling fans live at Skinny Mike’s helped soften the blow because I had people to share the joy with, as well as to commiserate with. Sadly, I can’t say the same about everyone who has/had to watch the show alone.

That being said, if you want to spare yourself the annoyance and anger, then just watch the Ladder Match for the IC title, the New Day’s match, and the Women’s Championship match. Those three matches, plus the WWE Network-exclusive U.S. Championship match actually had the makings of a solid card.

If I were to rate WrestleMania Star using a 10-point scale, I’d give it a 7.

What did you think of this year's WrestleMania? What were your highlights and favorite moments/matches? Let us know in the comments section!

Photos from WWE.

*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.

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