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March 30, 2015

WrestleMania 31 review: Mr. Money in the Bank cashes in, wins WWE heavyweight title

Sunday night ended with WWE crowning a new World Heavyweight Champion. However, it isn’t someone who was originally booked to be a part of the main event, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and pinned Roman Reigns to win the title literally minutes before the pay-per-view was scheduled to go off the air. We’ll examine how Rollins did that a little bit later on.

 WrestleMania 31, which took place from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, was a great event despite the pretty terrible build it’s received over the last few weeks.

I said last week I thought the event would deliver and be entertaining, and it absolutely did just that. With the surprise appearances of The Rock, Ronda Rousey, and even the nWo and DX, WrestleMania 31 definitely had that big show feel and delivered on a lot. Would I have done some things differently? Sure, who wouldn’t? But it should be looked at as an absolute success for WWE even if they did some things I didn’t agree with, which we’ll get into as I run down the card.

Now let’s see how my predictions from Friday morning stacked up against to what occurred Sunday night at WrestleMania.

WrestleMania Kickoff Pre-Show

 Fatal 4 Way WWE Tag Team Championship Match

Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (c) vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston [The New Day]

 WrestleMania 31 began with the Tag Team Titles up for grabs in a Fatal 4 Way match. Going into this match, Jey Uso’s shoulder was in bad shape and we wondered how WWE would book around the injury. Well, just moments into the match, Cesaro threw Uso into the barricade and he eventually was taken backstage, so that was how they wrote him out of the match.

There were a lot of high spots that made the crowd ooh and ah, but there was really no storytelling during this match. It almost felt like a spotfest, and I really don’t enjoy those types of matches. The finish saw a bling tag in from Cesaro on Jimmy Uso before Uso delivered a frogsplash to Big E from the top rope. Cesaro entered the ring, cleared out Uso, and pinned Big E for the three count as the champions retained.

 Your winners and still WWE Tag Team Champions: Cesaro and Kidd

 Predictions: 1/1

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

 I had predicted Ryback winning this, and my prediction was looking pretty good as he was one of the final four remaining. However, the Big Show eliminated him before coming face to face with The Miz and Damien Mizdow, and that’s where Mizdow’s WrestleMania moment came. The Miz ordered Mizdow to help him take out Show, but Mizdow refused, eventually turning on the man who’s been making him look foolish the past month plus.

After Mizdow eliminated The Miz, and held off Miz from reentering the ring, it looked like this was going to be the moment Mizdow had been waiting for. It wasn’t. After a close call and almost eliminated Show, the giant was able to eliminate Mizdow and take home the Andre trophy.

I could have seen something like that happening last year during the inaugural edition of the match, but this year it seemed like a total buzzkill to not only my pick of Ryback, but also Mizdow’s popularity as the match waned down. This will hopefully be the beginning of Mizdow’s resurgence up the ladder in the company, but a feud with Miz surely awaits this next month.

Your winner: Big Show

Predictions: 1/2

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match

Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth vs. Stardust

 I said I wasn’t a fan of spotfests unless they contained a story that’s easy to follow. These ladder matches WWE has had over the last few years, including the ones at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, contain storylines throughout the match that are easy to follow.

We didn’t see much of that during the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match Sunday night, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining as hell. We had ourselves powerbombs through ladders, a superplex off the ladder, and dueling headbutts that ultimately helped Daniel Bryan win his first ever Intercontinental Championship.

Do you think Bryan is holding anything back with his injury history? Not a chance. Those headbutts looked stiff and it gives credence to the fact that Bryan has said in interviews before that he really can’t change his in-ring style because he only knows how to wrestle that style. There’s no slowing him down, and hopefully we’ll see a long run by Bryan with the strap.

This certainly wasn’t long enough or good enough to be nominated for match of the night.

Your winner and NEW WWE Intercontinental Champion: Daniel Bryan

Predictions: 2/3

Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

The match I’ll always view with a “What could have been?” attitude. The promo WWE aired before the match did a better job building up the match than any week after WWE’s last pay-per-view had. While the match was good and we saw a couple of good spots, this didn’t have as big a feeling as it probably should have. Orton controlling J & J Security early by DDTing both of them off the apron to the floor was a good way to keep the focus on him and Rollins for the most part.

Rollins kicking out of the RKO was actually a bit surprising because we’ve probably seen that happen less than wrestlers kicking out of Undertaker’s tombstone piledriver.

Then when J & J Security recovered to distract Orton as Rollins was able to curb stomp him, Orton kicked out of that finishing maneuver. But the finish that saw Orton literally reverse a curb stomp into a Super RKO that surprised even him was pretty damn spectacular. While Rollins needs a big win soon, this is exactly how I expected the match to go.

Your winner: Randy Orton

Predictions: 3/4

Sting vs. Triple H – No Disqualification

 A bit surprised at the match placement for this one, but after learning that Bray Wyatt suffered an ankle injury while preparing for his match against The Undertaker earlier in the day, it made sense for WWE to give Wyatt more time to recover before his match.

So Sting and Triple H faced off only one hour into the event, and Triple H’s elaborate Terminator entrance – complete with an Arnold Schwarzenegger promo – made this moment feel even bigger.  A few minutes into the match, I noticed a huge bruise on the side of H’s left leg. It wasn’t there when the match started, so H definitely injured something in his leg, despite never favoring it during the match.

In what was definitely a “Holy Crap!” moment, both DX [Billy Gunn, Roaddogg, and X-Pac ] and the nWo [Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall] showed up and took out each other before Shawn Michaels appeared and superkicked Sting.

Near fall after near fall, both guys gave us an entertaining match, and then came the ending. For some inexplicable reason, it was decided to have Sting lose his first match ever in WWE, and caught me completely off guard. There has to be more to the story, but after Sting and H shook hands after the match, I’m not so sure we’ll see Sting wrestle in a WWE ring again. Did Sting want to do the honors? We may never know.

Here’s the thing, though. We had Sting tell us just last Monday on Raw that he wasn’t there to avenge WCW, but DX and the nWo playing a factor in this match was in direct correlation to the Monday Night War. Then we had a handshake between Sting and H that really wasn’t needed. Sting was there, by his words, to stop Triple H’s tyranny and control of all aspects of WWE and terrible treatment of his talent. So I fail to see how this really resolves anything. In fact, I’m more confused if anything.

Your winner: Triple H

Predictions: 3/5

A.J. Lee and Paige vs. The Bella Twins [Nikki (c-Divas) and Brie]

This Divas match was about as good as I expected. It was a good and solid match between four women who really know how to work in the ring. Lee was able to make Nikki Bella to tap to the Black Widow, which I think sets up your Divas Championship match for Extreme Rules next month.

Your winners: A.J. Lee and Paige

Predictions: 4/6

WWE United States Championship

Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

Rusev’s entrance was as spectacular as I anticipated, with him coming out of a tanker with Russian soldiers carrying the Russian flag, and the return of Lana. The crowd was fickle in this one, as they sang “John Cena sucks!” along to his theme music when he made his entrance, then booed Rusev, cheered for Lana, and booed Cena.

The match was a good back-and-forth encounter, with a few near falls. By the end of the match, it seemed like Cena got the fans back on his side, as he pinned Rusev after an Attitude Adjustment to the joy of most of the fans. Distracted by Lana, Cena went to confront her then moved out of the way when Rusev tried to attack, allowing Rusev to run into Lana and fall off the apron while Cena was able to give the Bulgarian Brute his finisher for the pin.

Both the Intercontinental and United States championships are now on the main event level with Bryan and Cena respectively, so I don’t mind that part. I absolutely think a Rusev win is necessary in a rubber match between him and Cena at Extreme Rules next month. Rusev as United States Champion still works, and I don’t think it was time to have him lose the title, even if it was to Cena. Rusev then lambasted a fallen Lana, who seemingly twister her ankle upon landing on the ground after Rusev ran into her.

I think Lana and Rusev are still at the point where they belong together and teasing a split is unnecessary. Two years in a row, Cena has gone over two of the youngest and brightest stars WWE has, and I honestly hope that doesn’t come back to bite them.

Your winner and NEW United States Champion: John Cena

Predictions: 4/7

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were then in the ring talking about the Levi’s Stadium record-breaking attendance of 77,000 people, the growth of the WWE and the WWE Network in what sounded like a face promo, until Stephanie did what she does best, and turned it into a bait-and-switch. Instead of thanking the fans for that growth, she thanked herself and Triple H.

The Rock had heard enough, because he made his way down to the ring in a surprise appearance. Just last night, he was hosting Saturday Night Live and participating in wrestling promo skits. But Sunday night, The Rock made his way to WrestleMania to confront Triple H. After he exchanged some heavy words with Triple H and Stephanie, Steph thought she got rid of The Great One.

The Rock left the ring, but didn’t go far. He found UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey, in the front row and invited her over the barricade and into the ring with him. Ronda and Stephanie had some words for each other as Stephanie demanded she leave her ring. Rousey responded with, “Any ring I step into is mine!” Triple H and The Rock then erupted into a brawl before Ronda Rousey judo tossed H out of the ring and held Stephanie in an armbar before allowing her to escape to the outside.

It absolutely looks like we’ll be getting The Rock vs. Triple H one more time along with Ronda Rousey vs. Stephanie McMahon. Of course, Rousey is still under contract with UFC, so it might not be any time soon.

Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker

Coming into this match, nobody thought what to expect out of The Undertaker since he’s been gone for a year after losing to Brock Lesnar at last year’s WrestleMania. The Undertaker looked in phenomenal shape. Did the fact that he didn’t suffer a concussion moments into the match help? Probably. His body and agility were so much better than what we saw last year that I was telling myself I could see him wrestling for three of four more years. He looked that impressive.

As I had predicted, Wyatt kicked out of a tombstone piledriver because that’s a thing that happens with relative frequency the last few years. However, it didn’t help Wyatt gain a win, as The Undertaker put him away with a second tombstone piledriver.

I honestly cannot fathom how WWE thinks this is a smart booking decision. We’ve seen over the years how it tries to create stars but don’t give them what they need – a sustained run with a multitude of wins to build a star that the audience accepts as a star.

That’s how Cena became a huge star. Despite the audience hate, they eventually came to respect Cena and WWE helped that by giving him win after win after win. That’s how WWE is going to build a new star, whether the audience likes it or not. WWE has not done that in over 10 years. Wyatt losing two years in a row to Cena and Undertaker isn’t helping him.

The “even steven” booking where guys get just as many losses as wins is not the answer. Wyatt’s character is still over, but if he doesn’t get some big wins or a title soon, he’s going to be gone before long. That’s not how you build stars.

Your winner: The Undertaker

Predictions:  4/8

WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Lesnar was busted open mere seconds into the match, but didn’t allow that to stop his brutalization of Reigns as the match continued. Lesnar completely dominated Reigns with suplexes, knees, and punches until Reigns changed the momentum by shoving Lesnar into the ring post while both combatants were outside the ring.

Lesnar was busted open and Reigns gained all the momentum until Lesnar was able to counter with another German suplex. The match had been absolutely on fire up to this point, and it was about to get even better.

Then we heard Seth Rollins’ theme music and the future of WWE and the architect of The Shield was there to cash-in his Money in the Bank briefcase. After numerous curb stomps to Lesnar, and one final one to Reigns, Rollins pinned Reigns to surprisingly win the championship. After a brilliant story told by Lesnar and Reigns in their match, a different competitor is walking away with the WWE World Heavyweight title.

 Your winner and new WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Seth Rollins

Predictions: 4/9

I certainly wasn’t expecting that. That was the first time WWE has used the Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in to end a WrestleMania main event, and it was part of a bigger and better story in the Lesnar/Reigns match. Of course, this brings about a “buttload” of angles WWE can build off of, as I said in my interview on SportsRadio 94 WIP last Thursday night. Lesnar will probably be kept as a special attraction, but I don’t see him winning the title back any time soon.

Rollins, Reigns, and maybe even Dean Ambrose can now vie for the championship if they don’t plan on doing a Triple Threat match at Extreme Rules with Rollins, Reigns and Lesnar. I don’t see Lesnar regaining the championship soon because I don’t think WWE would have Rollins win the title on the grandest stage of them all just to lose it rather quickly.

On the bright side, we’ll be able to see the WWE World Heavyweight Championship each week on WWE television for the foreseeable future.

WWE also announced that WrestleMania 32 next year will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In 2017, it looks like WrestleMania could emanate from Lincoln Financial Field right here in Philly. There have been rumblings for a while to bring WrestleMania back to Philadelphia with 2017 being the likely year, so we’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Stay tuned tomorrow morning for my roundup of Monday Night Raw, which airs tonight on the USA Network at 8 p.m. The night after WrestleMania is always a huge one, so look for some fireworks coming out of Raw.