Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The 39 Best Matches From WrestleMania 31 Weekend

I went to WrestleMania for the first time this year, and it exceeded every expectation that I could have possibly had for the experience. Sure, I could nitpick here and there, but overall, every single event that I went to was pretty awesome. Yes, Axxess was unorganized, but I met Hulk Hogan, and it gave me and Big E a chance to reminisce about picking up chicks at the Field House during our time at the University of Iowa. Meanwhile, I went to not one, not two, not three, but four wrestling events from Friday-Monday. Every night was something different with NXT on Friday, WrestleCon on Saturday, WrestleMania 31 on Sunday, and Raw (with a dark match and Superstars taping) on Monday. There is no perfect way to recap the weekend, but I saw a lot of incredible wrestling, and although the matches were very different, they provided a ton of great moments, and even the worst of the bunch were fine.

39. Prime Time Playas vs. Adam Rose and Heath Slater - Raw (Dark Match)
Things I learned during this match:
1. Heath Slater and Adam Rose are a tag team, I guess?
2. They do not sell bottles at the SAP Center.
3. They didn't open half of their concession stands despite having a sold out crowd in the arena. Whoever is running that arena did a piss poor job.
4. The Prime Time Players won, I think.

38. Fandango vs. Jack Swagger - Superstars
Fandango wrestled Jack Swagger. Fandango hit his finisher. He danced with Rosa Mendes before and after. This is a match that happened.

37. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper - Superstars
This is another match that happened, but it gets rated slightly higher because R-Truth seemed like a nice guy at Axxess.

36. Jason Jordan vs. Bull Dempsey - NXT
Jason Jordan was referred to as a jobber during the whole match. They apparently all forgot his great run as the tag team partner of Tye Dillinger. Who is Tye Dillinger? Aw, crap, nevermind. Anyway, Jordan showed some good power in throwing around Dempsey in some suplexes towards the end of the match. He surprisingly won, but it's not too surprising, since it is just Bull Dempsey.

35. Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno - NXT
A pretty blah match that Corbin won. Baron Corbin has great size for NXT so he can be dominant, but I don't see where he fits at the next level. Rhyno kind of had the same story in ECW where he can be impressive against small opponents, but then you see real big guys, and it loses some luster. Corbin won, but Rhyno hit him with the Gore afterwards, so everyone went home happy.

34. Stardust vs. Damien Mizdow - Raw
It was another fine match. There really isn't much to it, but Mizdow is way over, so he got the win, even though Cody Rhodes is awesome and should be in a much better position, because the dude had his wife hand out cookies as they left his photo in the Elimination Chamber at Axxess.

33. Rusev vs. Goldust - Raw
Rusev crushed Goldust. Rusev is pretty great, so even though it was a pretty blah squash match, it is still entertaining to see Rusev crush.

32. Havok vs. Tessa Blanchard - WrestleCon
Havok is not a lady to be trifled with, like seriously, she would absolutely crush me. Tessa is the daughter of an original Horseman, so that makes it an even matchup as far as I was concerned. It was a solid match which told the classic tale of giant using power versus speed and determination. The power dominated and eventually, the power won out, and Havok took out Tessa.

31. Cedric Alexander vs. Brian Kendrick - WrestleCon
This was a fine match, but nothing really grabbed me about it. It followed up a mixed tag match that we'll get to later that was one of the best matches I saw all weekend, so it was a tough act to follow.

30. Bayley and Alexa Bliss vs. Dana Brooke and Becky Lynch - NXT
Dana Brooke still flexes a lot, and Becky rocks harder than most people can imagine, but Alexa Bliss has glitter, and Bayley was in her hometown. I think Bliss is stepping up her game in the ring. She was still probably only the third best wrestler in there behind Bayley and Lynch, but it was good to see her start closing the gap. Overall, it was a fine, safe, women's match where the crowd really amped things up with their love for Bayley and freaked out when she hit the Bayley-to-belly suplex.

29. AJ Lee and Paige vs. The Bella Twins - WrestleMania
This was a necessary match. It wasn't going to tear the house down, but it wasn't meant to. It was meant to give people a chance to breathe. It was a totally fine women's match that was enhanced by being at WrestleMania.

28. Solomon Crowe vs. Calisto - NXT
This was a fine wrestling match, but I am not in on Solomon Crowe, so it kind of takes me out of his matches. I want to like him, and giving him a submission finish instead of that stupid splash is a step in the right direction, but I'm not buying Crowe yet. Calisto is great, and it was a good match, but it didn't really grab me.

27. Disco Inferno vs. Mr. TA - WrestleCon
This was the first match from WrestleCon, and I honestly couldn't believe that Disco Inferno was opening the show, because I thought they would save him as he was such a big name. This may be a sign that I love late-era WCW more than I should, but damn, Disco will always be a star in my opinion. Mr. TA was a Teaching Assistant, and he put up a good fight. There really wasn't too much special about this match, but Disco did win it with a Chart Buster, which Stone Cold stole and named a Stunner. The match wasn't anything special, but Disco danced afterwards, so he gets bumped up a few points for showmanship.

26. Man Scout, Jake Manning vs. Matt Striker - WrestleCon
So, on pure wrestling, this probably has to go last place, but somebody in the crowd told Striker to stick to commentary, and Striker stopped the match, got a mic, and went on a tirade that included telling the guy that he looked like Bill DeMott's abortion. After that, he kicked a man who was dressed up as a boy scout in the gut and hit him with The Pedigree. There may have only been about ten seconds of wrestling, but I was thoroughly entertained, so nice work, Matt Striker.

25. The Hardy Boys vs. RVD and Sabu - WrestleCon
This was a hardcore match, so there were lots of cheap weapons being used. This match ranks this high almost purely based on nostalgia and the venue. Like seeing The Big Show at Mania was nothing, but if Big Show had been at WrestleCon after some time away from WWE, I would have freaked out and automatically given it a top-5 ranking. I honestly never really cared about these guys out of early RVD being pretty cool, but seeing them here made it a lot more fun. Still, it was a hardcore match. It was disorganized, and eventually it ended.

24. Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt - WrestleMania
This is a nostalgia pick as nothing really great happened in this match. For two guys that I am just not that into, their is still a mystique when it comes to The Undertaker. People are really happy Undertaker didn't get concussed, but that is a pretty low bar to clear for me to get pumped about another match for next year. Still, the spot where Bray Wyatt did the spider walk and then had Undertaker sit up was a good spot that gave me a good chuckle, and it's Taker at Mania, I don't think I'm allowed to put it below Disco Inferno.

23. Seth Rollins, Big Show, and Kane vs. Randy Orton, Ryback, and Roman Reigns - Raw
This match wasn't bad, but it was horribly disappointing. The first two hours of Raw were hot fire. The third hour was just waiting for something big to happen. This entire 6-man tag match was just waiting for some big debut or run-in, but it never came. Another thing that hurt it was the crowd doing the wave and chanting, "We are awesome," two of the douchiest things a crowd can do at a wrestling event. If WWE did have something cool planned, I wouldn't blame them if they just decided to wait a week and give it to a crowd that actually is there for the show instead of to be the show. As for the match, it was fine. Ryback getting The Big Show up for the Shell Shock was cool to see, but nobody outside of Ryback gave a shit about this match, and I really can't blame them.

22. AJ Lee, Paige, and Naomi vs. Brie and Nikki Bella and Natalya - Raw
This match was actually solid, but the crowd really took a turn for the worse during this match. They were pretty positive up until this point, but they turned on the Divas hard, as they called out the five ladies who are in relationship with wrestlers by insinuating that they perform oral sex on their significant others. If you are trying to make the point that wrestling fans are the lowest common denominator of human beings, this is a pretty good example. I'm blaming the chants for causing AJ's retirement, and I believe that CM Punk can travel through time, saw this happen, and retired a year earlier. But the ladies put on a solid match, but it wasn't NXT level good.

21. Murphy and Blake vs. The Vaudevillains vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady - NXT
This was the big hope that maybe they would do a title change as Enzo and Big Cass are majorly over with the NXT crowd (and Carmella is majorly hated). The Vaudevillains are over as well, and nobody is really sure what is going on with Murphy and Blake. I have no idea what their gimmick is, but they are actually putting together the tag wrestling side of things. It was just a good tag match with some decent spots in there. Nothing special, but the crowd was way into it, so it added a lot of fun. Unfortunately, no title change.

20. John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose - Raw
I'm in the minority where I'm not really into Dean Ambrose. He's fine, but I don't find him particularly compelling with this character. He was far more interesting as a member of The Shield as opposed to the lunatic/stupid person he is now. Still, they put on a really good match for two guys that I'm just fine with and have no strong opinions on. It had a lot of good action, and I will admit that I'm happy that Cena is going to just keep going up against surprise challengers.

19. Curtis Axel vs. Neville - Raw
I'm very excited for Axtreme Rules, but Neville dominated this match. He hit a bunch of high spots and delivered exactly what he should have. It was a quick squash, but hopefully it leads to Neville getting pushed into a higher tier of opponent where he can really shine in full matches.

18. Chris Hero, Drew Gulak, Brian Myers, Tommaso Ciampa, James Storm, and Abyss vs. Colt Cabana, Matt Sydal, Big Zeke, Tommy Dreamer, Bubba and D-Von Dudley - WrestleCon
This match was a lot of fun, but the big issue is that 10 guys standing on the apron made it really hard for half of the audience to see what was happening in a lot of the match. Still, putting this many former WWE guys in a single match brought a lot of nostalgia and fun. It wasn't meant to be the best wrestled match of the night, it was just meant to be fun, and at the end, everyone got their spots, and it was a very fun match. It might have moved up a couple spots if Big Zeke's sweatpants hadn't blocked a lot of it for me, but it was still enjoyable.

17. ACH vs. John Morrison - WrestleCon
I had heard of him but never seen ACH before, because I have zero Indy street cred. But I was way too excited to see the guy who used to be Johnny Nitro, although I was slightly disappointed that he was not accompanied by Eric Bischoff. This match had a lot of Lucha elements to it, and it made things really fun. Also, ACH was stealing Stone Cold's shtick, and Morrison was stealing HBK's. It was a good back and forth match where I wasn't sure what was going to happen until Morrison hit the Starship Pain and won the match.

16. Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal - WrestleMania
It's a 30-man battle royal. That is incredibly fun to watch. I will admit that with that many guys in there, it can be a little tough to follow the storylines, but WWE knows what they're doing and gave guys enough separation from the crowd of wrestlers to tell fans, "Hey, look over here" for anything developing. It was stupid for the most part, but any time you give me Cesaro feats of strength, I'm going to be a big fan, and I had no issue with The Big Show winning it this year.

15. Jack Evans vs. Aerostar vs. Andrew Everett - WrestleCon
I have to admit that I didn't know a single one of these guys before the match. I think they knew that, and they worked incredibly hard to put on a fun show. There was a lot of high flying and some nasty bumps during the match. They kept an incredibly high pace, and Aerostar won it with a top rope Canadian Destroyer, so yeah, safety was definitely not their number one concern.

14. Finn Balor vs. Adrian Neville - NXT
This was a very good match, but I think I had too high of expectations for it. During Axxess, I thought they put on a better match (I'm not including Axxess matches, because there were a ton of them, and they rarely had my full attention). Still, it was a good match, and Balor came out as The Beast which was really cool. Those two guys can go, and they are probably both ready for the big show. Neville is now up there, and Balor is ready anytime they need some fresh blood.

13. The Ascension and Tyson Kidd and Cesaro vs. New Day and Lucha Dragons - Raw
This match was about as awesome as the WrestleMania tag match. The Ascension being involved after they have already been castrated from having any impact hurts them quite a bit, but having Calisto around, especially working with Cesaro, is something that is very awesome. Sure, it's completely ridiculous that he did a backflip off of Cesaro's shoulders, but those are the type of moment that make wrestling awesome. In the end, it ranks below the Mania tag, because of Sin HuniCara being involved.

12. Triple H vs. Sting - WrestleMania
Yeah, the match was just fine. It was great considering the ages of the two guys involved, but it was a fine wrestling match. But seeing the nWo, especially Hogan, come strutting out and fighting DX was just a really fun moment. That's the beauty of wrestling; it's not always about what happens in the ring, as what happens around the match is just as important. Was it stupid? Of course, but that's what makes pro wrestling so enjoyable.

11. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro vs. Usos vs. New Day vs. Los Matadores - WrestleMania
Cesaro is my favorite wrestler, so I will support anything he does. Also, Tyson Kidd and I shared an in-depth conversation about BK Chicken Fries at Axxess, so I'm pretty cool with him too. This was the first match of Mania, and it had a ton of energy and gave everybody a chance to shine. Clearly, Cesaro was depended on to shine brightest, but there were a lot of good spots, and it helped give the crowd energy for Mania, despite about half of the crowd still working their way through the gates/concessions to their actual seats. I'm very happy I got there early and didn't miss a second of this match. Before Mania, I said that I probably wouldn't yell much as I was already losing my voice. This match ended that plan, and I don't regret it a bit.

10. John Cena vs. Rusev - WrestleMania
Rusev entered on a tank in what will probably be my favorite entrance ever. Also, Rusev always has good matches and Cena puts it together when it matters. It was a fun match that may not have provided a magical moment, but it was super enjoyable throughout, and that's an important and underrated aspect of good wrestling.

9. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan - Raw
I think this match may make it higher on a lot of people's lists, and I thought it told a great story, but I can still only get it to this number. This was much more of a fight than a wrestling match, and although that was highly entertaining; there is practically nothing better than these guys getting in there and wrestling. The crowd gave this match a standing ovation during the match for what they were doing, so yes, it was totally great, and you will never hear me complaining about headbutts as headbutts are awesome. This was a great match, but it was not the greatest match I saw this weekend.

8. Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze - NXT
This was the first match on the NXT card, and although the crowd was hot going into it, this took it to another level. Hideo Itami is somebody who is still putting it together on television, but that due is the hottest of fire in person. Tyler Breeze seems like just a goofy gimmick, but he puts on really good matches. He's not quite on the indy-darling level of Zayn, Owens, or Balor, but he's right below that. Like in all of Itami's matches, people wanted him to use the GTS, since he was using it before Punk but has yet to use it in the WWE. They teased it, but Breeze escaped. They went back and forth, and it led to Itami going into psycho strike mode which is super fun to watch in person. Then he put Breeze up for the GTS again, and the crowd rose to their feet, because they had never teased it twice. Sure enough, he hit it, and the crowd went ballistic. I'm still smiling about seeing him hit that GTS. It was a good match up until that point, but seeing the first GTS in person definitely bumped it up to greatness.

7. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins - WrestleMania
Even without that insane RKO, it was a great match that had a lot of great spots and tons of excitement. Rollins is about as sure of a thing that the WWE has right now, and Orton will always put on great matches against great wrestlers. It was a great match, and we can never forget that this happened.

6. Roderick Strong, Kazarian, and Christopher Daniels vs. AR Fox, Ricochet, and Jushin Thunder Liger - WrestleCon
This match was truly the best of both worlds from WrestleCon. It had the nostalgia with guys like Liger and Christopher Daniels who have been around forever but are still very entertaining (And bonus for Daniels and Kazarian going full cosplay as the Legion of Doom). And it had the up and coming stars in AR Fox and Ricochet who can just do ridiculous things and put on an awesome show. I had heard great things about Ricochet and he delivered, but AR Fox did some things that made my jaw drop. It was just good, fast-paced wrestling where everybody got some spots, and there was rarely a chance to catch your breath. Probably the best wrestling match of WrestleCon, but not quite the most entertaining one.

5. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte - NXT
If you would have told me that I would have loved a women's match by far over every other match I saw on a card a year ago, I would have thought you were crazy, but the NXT Women's division has changed that, and Sasha and Charlotte put on an absolutely awesome match. It was high-paced, back and forth action that totally made sense and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire match. Also, it was a great decision to give Sasha the clean win, because she's The Boss, legitimately, her wrestling is next level, and if she won the Divas Title tomorrow and didn't lose it for two years, I guarantee it would be awesome.

4. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins - Raw
So the fact that this wasn't technically a match that ever started hurts it a little bit, but this was still totally awesome. Being there in person and being promised a World Title match got me pumped beyond belief. Pro wrestling is so wonderful in that you can get lost in the moment, despite knowing that it is scripted. Seth Rollins walking into the ring and going right up to Lesnar and raising the belt in his face made me believe that Lesnar was literally going to rip his head off and throw it into the crowd. And then Rollins bowing out of the match because his foot hurt from too many curb stomps. It was perfect. Then Lesnar goes on a rampage, and when Rollins does a backflip out of a German suplex and then kicks Lesnar in the face, he has that moment where he thinks that he can handle Lesnar, except he looks up and realizes that nothing hurts The Beast. It was all pitch-perfect. Rollins escapes, and then Lesnar destroys everything in sight, and he proves that he is probably the greatest pro wrestler alive, because everything is more important with him doing it.

3. Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. Dean Ambrose vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper - WrestleMania
I think this match is getting overlooked because all ladder matches are great, but this match really was awesome. Everybody got their chance to shine in the match, and there were plenty of "Holy shit" moments. I didn't think there was any chance that Barrett would suplex Stardust off the ladder, but it sure happened. And, even though I was cheering for Ziggler, the ending was absolutely fantastic, because headbutts are the best.

2. Zane Riley and Caleb Konley "The World's Dudest Tag Team" vs. Candice LeRae and Joey Ryan "The World's Cutest Tag Team" - WrestleCon
What are usually the worst wrestling matches? Mixed tag matches. You can't get in a tag rhythm, and everything ends up stilted and boring. But OH MY GOD, this match. The World's Cutest Tag Team comes out to The Darkness's "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." And do you know why one team is known as the World's Dudest Tag Team? Because Zane Riley is just a dude, with a beard, dressing in women's wrestling gear. That means it wasn't just guys against guys and girls against girls; it was a goddamn free for all, and it was one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen. Candice LeRae straight up GOES. Somebody called her female John Cena, and they weren't wrong, but she does more risky moves and nothing can stop her. At one point, she grabbed Konley by the balls to do a balls suplex off the top rope, but Riley came in and grabbed her like a bowling ball with his thumb up her butt and a finger in...well, you know, and then Joey Ryan came in and got the whole thing started by lifting up Riley and everyone went tumbling back for a huge superballsplex involving everyone. I thought the match was over at one point, and that was only the halfway point of the match, as they just kept doing high spots, and I was all in on this match. The World's Cutest Tag Team won, because Joey Ryan is awesome, and Candice is an unstoppable force, God, this match was so awesome.

1. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, and eventually vs. Seth Rollins - WrestleMania
There were people who cried their eyes out about Roman Reigns got to main event WrestleMania. They did it, because he wasn't ready, yet they all wanted him to win the Royal Rumble the year before when it came down to him and Batista. Anyway, Brock Lesnar is the greatest thing in pro wrestling and him and Reigns told an awesome story that I was totally into. Lesnar just a dominant beast welcoming Reigns to suplex city, while Reigns is too stupid to stay down. Finally, Reigns gets a glimmer of hope and finally gets some offense on Lesnar for Seth Rollins music to hit and him to come sprinting down, putting in a great 40 time, to make the match a triple threat. Rollins curb stomps Lesnar, but it's not enough, and then he gets put up for an F-5, only for Reigns to save him with a spear. Rollins thanks Reigns with a curb stomp to him and gets the pin. The crowd went insane for Rollins, who yes, everyone realizes is a total heel, but also realizes that the guy has been the best thing on Raw for the last six months. Rollins, not Reigns, is the champion that we want to boo. Wrestling fans can boo him vigorously while still appreciating everything he does. It was an incredible moment.

I saw a ton of incredible wrestling during WrestleMania weekend, and honestly, if I saw a live card with the ten lowest ranked matches on this list, I still would have thought it was a pretty solid card. But in the end, there could only be one match at the top of this list, and that is the main event of WrestleMania. It's the pinnacle of the wrestling year, and it delivered beyond my wildest expectations. I waited 30 years to go to my first WrestleMania, I'm not going to wait that long before attending my second.


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