WrestleMania 30: Miracle on Bourbon Street
WrestleMania 30 comes to us from New Orleans, Louisiana, the first time WrestleMania had run the Superdome. This was also the first WrestleMania to air on the WWE Network and, much like its namesake in 1985, this WrestleMania could be seen as a make or break for the fledgling network, so WWE arranged what has been seen as an amazing card.
This WrestleMania has been seen as a turning point in the company’s history due to the fallout of three of the matches on this card: Daniel Bryan’s battle for respect and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that would turn into a battle to get back to the sport he loved, and Undertaker pitting his legendary streak against Brock Lesnar’s path of destruction that would end up being a fight over whether or not the Streak would be the only part of his career and legacy that mattered. Of course, no one knew that when WrestleMania 30 started, so is WrestleMania 30 as big a deal as it seems now? Or is it a great but, largely, inconsequential show that should just be enjoyed as is? Let’s find out!
We start with a lively look back at WrestleMania and WrestleMania Moments. Who would’ve thought this show that looked likely to fail would be celebrating 30 years and become a global phenomenan?
We see a clip of Stephanie and Triple H introducing WrestleMania 30’s stage. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like Mardi Gras threw up on it. Joking aside, they both look very proud, and they should be very proud.
I will not bore you or myself with a recap of the kickoff show other than the matches.
Four Way Elimination Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: Usos vs Los Matadores (with El Torito), the Real Americans (with Zeb Colter), and RybAxel
Zeb Colter is in the ring, and he’s talking. New Orleans is even more multicultural than New York, but some people seemed to be buying this. Real Americans come out to a mixed reaction. RybAxel get little reaction. Los Matadores and El Torito get a decent reaction, or that’s their music. Usos are out last and they get a good reaction.
I forgot how pitiful the tag team division was in 2014. Thankfully, despite the motley crew of teams, this match was actually pretty good and got the crowd going. There was a badly done spot where one of the Matadores was supposed to headscissors Swagger over the top rope and, for whatever reason, it didn’t work.
First eliminated: Los Matadores.
Second Eliminated: RybAxel…thankfully.
Third Elimination: Real Americans
Winner: Usos retain via pinfall after a double Splash on Cesaro. Colter isn’t happy, maybe someone should tell him that the Usos are American citizens so he’ll cheer up. Swagger berates Cesaro for the loss and Cesaro isn’t happy. Colter calms the situation, but Swagger tries to put Cesaro in an ankle lock but is stopped by Colter who tells him to hug it out with Cesaro. Swagger extends his hand, Cesaro takes it but then takes Swagger for a swing as payback for the ankle lock and leaves, to the joy of the crowd.
Highlights: Axel stopping El Torito from doing a highflying move. The match between the Uso and Real Americans. The implosion of the Real Americans.
Comments: This was a good match, but Ryback was awful.
We start with a promo about WrestleMania with a New Orleans Jazz band. I guess it’s supposed to be on Bourbon Street, and the cutting in of the superstars and Mania moments is pretty cool in the Mardi Gras type celebration.
Hulk Hogan comes out to a HUGE pop, which is still amazing. Hogan is overwhelmed by his reception. We start out with a flub, Hogan MEANT to say ‘Superdome’ and said ‘Silverdome’ instead and things go downhill from there. After a second flub, Hogan realizes his mistake and apologizes and is forgiven. Stone Cold’s music hits and out comes the Rattlesnake to a HUGE pop.
We get a face off between Hogan and Austin and then Austin gets the mic and teases Hogan about the flub. Austin points out usually, he opens a can of Whoop Ass on whoever’s in the ring when he comes out and asks if the audience would like for him to do that to Hogan, and the audience is happy to see it. Austin talks about how he’d sat next to Hogan at the Hall of Fame ceremony and saw all that Hogan had done in WrestleMania’s early years and about protecting legacies. Austin also says that he respects Hogan and what Hogan did (which is why Hogan isn’t getting stunned, presumably). Hogan asks the crowd to give Austin a Hell Yeah.
Austin says that though he’d like to talk all night, tonight is for the WWE Superstars to come out and give everything they’ve got for the fans, just like he and Hogan have done. Rock’s music hits and out comes the Brahma Bull.
Rock is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the crowd. He and Austin do their special handshake. Rock also teases Hogan about his flub, which Hogan accepts that he will never live down. Rock cuts a nice promo about how important Austin and Hogan have been to WWE and to himself. He puts over Cena and Bryan and links them to Hogan and Austin. He also links the birth of a lot of young WWE fans to their parents feeling the passion of WrestleMania.
(Commenter: Seriously, guys, hurry up).
I ended up fast forwarding through the end of this. They took twenty minutes for this opener. The three legends had a beer bash and had the crowd in a good mood.
We get a promo for Bryan vs Triple H.
Daniel Bryan vs Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon) – Winner is added to WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match
Stephanie is in the ring, to a LOUD chorus of boos and introduces Triple H, who gets an even louder round of boos. This is his last Skull King entrance and he’s attended by three ladies who will soon become VERY well known to WWE fans: Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss. Once Motorhead hits, the pop gets a little better, but the crowd’s feelings are pretty well known.
The pop for Bryan is HUGE! There are ‘Yes!’ signs EVERYWHERE! Bryan’s all smiles until he locks eyes on The Authority and the snarling on both sides has started.
Triple H sticks out his hand, but Bryan isn’t having it, he draws first blood and goes for a quick pin. It’s going to be one of those matches and things get very physical, very quickly.
Bryan mocks Triple H’s attempt at a handshake and the Game is PISSED. Stephanie manages to get him somewhat calmed down, but the tone for this match is set: This is going to be a fight and Trips can’t afford to take Bryan lightly.
I’m sure you will not be surprised that this was a really great match. Triple H and Bryan really took it to each other and both looked great doing it.
Triple H really played up the arrogant heel who didn’t think he had to take Bryan all that seriously and paid for it. I do find it interesting that Stephanie never interfered in the match, or took cheap shots, which she has done in different situations. It plays into this scenario of the Authority not taking Bryan as seriously as they should have.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by pinfall after a running knee. The Superdome EXPLODES. Stephanie and Triple H can’t believe it. Stephanie is livid and slaps Bryan and Triple H attacks him.
Highlights: Bryan hitting a sunset flip powerbomb on Triple H. Triple H still being too arrogant to take Bryan seriously. The sound in the Superdome when Bryan kicked out of the Pedigree.
Comments: Even though I already knew what would happen, Bryan’s victory was a surprise, which is nice. However, I can’t see how a Triple H victory was viable since Evolution hadn’t been relevant in nearly a decade.
Six Man Tag Team Match: The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins) vs The New Age Outlaws and Kane
New Age Outlaws are out first, but due to what just happened, the crowd isn’t having it. The Shield interrupts Road Dogg’s promo and get a good pop. The crowd really wants vengeance for Bryan, apparently. Kane comes out and also gets little reaction.
This match was quick and dirty, which is sad because it really could’ve gone on longer. Dean and Kane start us out, as usual, Dean shows no fear of Kane and tags in Roman. This match quickly degenerates into a free-for-all. The Shield is NOT playing tonight.
Winner: The Shield by pinfall after a Double-Triple Powerbomb.
Highlights: Double-Triple Powerbomb, double Drive-By on the Outlaws.
Comments: I wish this match had gotten more time, but the Hogan/Austin/Rock segment went long, and they didn’t want to take time away from Bryan/Triple H. The crowd is very happy to see the Authority being taken out in some fashion after what happened to Bryan.
We get a backstage segment with a lot of WWF/E Legends playing with toys: Danny Davis, Sgt. Slaughter, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Ricky Steamboat, Ron Simmons, and Ted DiBiase.
Inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Big Show is out and gets a pretty good pop, as does Sheamus. Everyone else is in the ring. Since there’s so many guys and it’s a battle royal, I won’t give you a play-by-play.
Cesaro eliminates Big Show by lifting up Big Show up and dumping over the top rope. To understand what a big deal (no pun intended) that is, Big Show was 450lbs at that time.
Winner: Cesaro by eliminating Big Show. Big Show is a good sport and shakes Cesaro’s hand. Cesaro is elated and manages to lift the VERY heavy trophy up on his own.
Highlights: Kofi and Cody having a top rope version of a chicken fight. 3MB eliminating Khali. Kofi Kingston staying in the battle royal.
Comments: This was a really good battle royal. The shock of Cesaro winning instead of Big Show was a great moment.
We get a video package for Cena/Bray Wyatt. This whole feud was creepy.
John Cena vs Bray Wyatt (with Erik Rowan and Luke Harper)
The Wyatt entrance is supposed to be modeled on voodoo, except the woman isn’t wearing white like in traditional voodoo ceremonies. Wyatt actually gets a decent pop. Cena gets a mixed reaction, as usual. Cena’s usually all smiles when he comes to the ring, but he’s not tonight, probably because of the creeps in the ring.
This was an okay match, but it wasn’t exciting. Something just wasn’t clicking for me. Cena’s reactions were so over the top, it was a little ridiculous and his reaction to Wyatt’s ‘spider walk’ was just…no. The move isn’t scary, and I hate them pretending that it is.
I will give Wyatt credit for being a great wrestler, but the rest of this was just a ‘bleh’ for me on both guys. If this was supposed to bring out Cena’s inner monster, it either failed or Cena’s inner monster is a really lame one.
Winner: John Cena by pinfall
Highlights: Cena ‘getting mad’. Cena doing a flying crossbody on Harper and Rowan, instead of Wyatt. Cena taking out Harper.
Comments: I forgot how over the Wyatts were in 2014. The crowd was super into Wyatt and company during this match.
After the Hall of Fame spot, we see Daniel Bryan being examined by the trainers after his bad shoulder was attacked by Triple H.
We get a video package about the Streak and Taker vs Lesnar. They’re almost telegraphing what’s about to happen, and I’m kind of grateful for that, even though I KNOW what’s coming, seeing it basically being said is a little comforting.
Disclaimer: I have never seen the following match before. When I heard what happened, I avoided watching it, skipping it or WrestleMania 30 in general, so the following comments be my reaction in real time. There will likely be some swearing and I apologize.
The Streak: Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)
Here we go…
Brock is out first, crowd gives him a good pop. He and Paul look a little…nervous. This is bigger than anyone in UFC and they both know it. Cole and JBL are talking Brock’s stats and I really don’t care. Lawler’s legit dislike of Heyman is showing. JBL’s trying to say Heyman’s the greatest manager ever. NOT. EVEN. Bobby Heenan is and will always be the greatest Manager of all time.
Come, on, let’s get this over with, people.
Lights out. We’re getting a montage of the Streak including Heenan’s chilling words ‘You can’t stop him’. There’s a lot of coffins and it’s creepy. Guess the last one is for Lesnar. Gong sounds, He’s coming. The crowd is popping for this.
Taker’s not wearing his robes, he’s wearing his Deadman gear and the last coffin opens. Lesnar looks legit freaked out, like any normal person, especially when the coffin catches on fire.
The Superdome is SILENT until Justin Roberts announces the Undertaker, and then it’s silence again. I’m going to have nightmares about this, I just know it.
Holy Mother of God, Taker looks like an old man. He doesn’t look like Undertaker anymore. I will say that Taker’s gear looks really cool, but holy cow, Taker looks awful and it’s worse when he takes the hat off and he’s still got that godawful haircut.
We’ve got a face off. They both know what’s ahead, they’ve had wars before and they’re going to have one now. Slugfest starting off, but Lesnar’s breaking out the wrestling moves, and Taker’s sent outside but lands on his feet. Lesnar breaking out the UFC stuff. Heyman looks nervous. The ref isn’t doing a whole lot of officiating. Taker’s moving slower than he did last year.
They’re outside and Taker’s in control. The quiet of everyone other than Taker and Lesnar in this match is wigging me out, it’s like hearing people talk in the hospital room of someone who’s very sick or dying. Taker picks Lesnar up for Snake Eyes and Lesnar visibly helps him. Chokeslam early but Lesnar counters, goes for the F-5 but Taker counters that.
Oh, that that looked painful. That bad knee of his is being targeted. This is getting ugly. JBL using car racing terms is making me smile. They keep saying this could be the end, they’re warning the people at home what’s about to happen. Vince KNEW how badly people were going to take this.
Okay, something’s wrong. Taker’s eyes are glazed over and his movements are odd. Lesnar’s pulling his stomps a little because he’s missed Taker’s leg a couple of times. Something is wrong with Taker, like…his bell got rung or something. Oh, I don’t like how Taker’s looking right now.
This looks really sick, Taker’s lying there. I’m sure Heyman’s laughing to sell the story, but this looks awful, Taker’s not fighting back. I wish this crowd would make some noise. Taker hits a DDT that is not the best one I’ve ever seen him hit. I really wish this match was over, Taker’s starting to scare me and not in the way I’m comfortable with. He’s showing life, thankfully, but I still think something’s wrong.
Chokeslam! Only a two-count. Taker goes for the tombstone but Lesnar counters and hits the F-5, Taker kicks out. JBL rooting for Lesnar irritates me, but the crowd is rooting for Taker. Taker is trying to sit up, but I think he just suckered Lesnar in and he’s got him in Hell’s Gate. Damn! Lesnar breaks the hold.
Okay, now I’m really worried about Taker, but he goes for Hell’s Gate again. Lesnar breaks the hold by the deadlift powerbomb. Heyman’s about to have a stroke. Taker goes to sit up but it’s not happening. Lesnar gets Taker in that damn arm break thing of his but Taker’s not tapping and turns it around on Lesnar, just like Triple H did last year.
Both guys are sucking wind like crazy. Taker looks like he can’t believe he knocked Lesnar down. Old School is countered into the second F-5. Heyman throws a damn tantrum over Taker kicking out. Lesnar hits a horrible German suplex.
Taker hits what I think was supposed to be a Last Ride, but he didn’t get it all and he missed the cover. God, Taker looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he was struggling to get Lesnar into a tombstone position.
Okay, he sat up, that’s…that’s good, right? It looks like the lights are coming back on. Lesnar hits another F-5 for three. Crap, even KNOWING that how this match would end doesn’t make it easier, I’m STILL crying.
Winner: Brock Lesnar by pinfall. The Streak is over. The crowd pops but then reality sinks in. There are a lot of stunned and unhappy faces in the crowd. They didn’t even play Lesnar’s music at first. It’s like…that wasn’t the finish that was planned. The crowd’s starting to boo, LOUDLY. Afterwards, Taker gets to his feet and the crowd and ringside crew give him a standing ovation and he walks to the back.
Comment: I honestly never want to see this match again, once is more than enough. I might feel differently next year, but right now, I don’t care if I ever see this match again.
We get a promo for WrestleMania 31.
The commentators give props to Undertaker. It really seems like this was meant to be Taker’s last match.
Vickie Guerrero Invitational Match for the WWE Divas Championship: AJ Lee vs Aksana vs Alicia Fox vs Brie Bella vs Cameron vs Emma vs Eva Marie vs Layla vs Naomi vs Natalya vs Nikki Bella vs Rosa Mendes vs Summer Rae vs Tamina Snuka
All the Divas are in the ring for this match, except for AJ, who gets little reaction, which isn’t surprising given what just happened. Vickie is screeching and it’s getting on my nerves and apparently the Divas aren’t thrilled either.
AJ and Tamina are shoved into the middle and the rest gang up on them. Again, I wish they’d done the Divas/Women’s Revolution sooner, there’s a lot of talented women in this match who really should get more respect than they are given by fans.
Winner: AJ by submission.
Highlights: Stereo snap suplexes. Bellas’ stereo suicide dives. Bellas turning on each other.
Comments: Given what was going to happen tomorrow on RAW, why wasn’t Paige brought in as a surprise entrant?
Mean Gene is doing an interview with Hogan backstage when Piper and Orndorff show up. Piper doesn’t seem to be in the mood to fight…yet. They start rehashing their match at the first WrestleMania and it looks like a fight’s going to break out, especially when T starts running his mouth. Pat Patterson (who refereed that match) reminds them that that match was thirty years ago and Hogan offers to bury the hatchet (not in Piper and Orndorff’s heads, I presume). Everyone shakes hands, and all is good with the world.
There’s a lot of Hall of Famers at ringside, enjoying the show. Bret’s there and he’s a bundle of laughs, as always. The crowd is still dead from the Taker match.
Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan
Orton is being sung to the ring and his pop is minimal. They’re going to have an uphill battle to get this crowd engaged again. Batista gets a round of boos. And the crowd isn’t in a good mood.
Bryan gets a pop, but even he isn’t getting much of one, surprisingly. The ‘Yes’ chant starts, but it’s not as loud as earlier. Even when they do the in-ring intros, Bryan’s not getting a big pop. Bryan draws first blood, Batista goes for a powerbomb, but Bryan counters with a really bad headscissor takedown. Orton targets Bryan’s bad shoulder and Bryan goes outside and we get a match between Orton and Batista.
Triple H and Stephanie show up with Scott Armstrong to make sure that Bryan doesn’t win, but Bryan isn’t going to be robbed of his dream by a bunch of corporate suits or their stooge ref. He takes out Armstrong and Stephanie, and then takes out Triple H with the Game’s own sledgehammer.
Batista and Orton try to gang up on Bryan so they can have the 1-1 they were supposed to have, but Bryan refuses to go away, even shoving away doctors and getting off a stretcher after a Batista Bomb/RKO combination through the Spanish annouce table.
After taking out Orton, Bryan locks the Yes!Lock on Batista and Batista taps. We have a NEW champion and it’s a Mick Foley moment. The guy everyone said couldn’t be champion is the champion. The crowd LOSES it.
This match was also slow moving, or it felt that way. Like Miz/Cena waiting for Rock, it felt like everyone was treading water for the Triple H and Stephanie run in. While it was nice story progression to see them take Bryan more seriously, it hurt the match, in my opinion because things didn’t pick up until they came out.
Winner: Daniel Bryan by submission on Batista. The crowd ERUPTS, their hero is the champion! Bryan celebrates with his sister and niece and then goes to see Connor Michalek, the brave little boy who had been such a fan of his, even while dying of pediatric cancer, and thanks him for his support. Sadly, little Connor would die a few weeks later of his disease.
Highlights: Bryan hitting ‘Yes’ kicks to Orton and Batista. Bryan taking out Scott Armstrong. Bryan using the sledgehammer on Triple H. Batista Bomb into an RKO. The crowd reaction to Bryan’s win
Comments: This match wasn’t as good as Bryan vs Triple H. It was good, but it was too slow a start.
So, is WrestleMania 30 as big a deal in reality as it is in retrospect? Well, yes and no. No, it’s not a big deal because of the fallout of the big matches because no one knew what that fallout was going to look like, but it IS a big deal because of what it represents for WWE and the fans: That Vince McMahon’s biggest gamble is still going strong. The show that everyone feared or hoped would fail is not only still successful thirty years later, but growing and improving, seeking new horizons and still bringing in new fans.
Snoozers: There were several, but Cena/Wyatt was the biggest one.
Match of the Night: Triple H vs Daniel Bryan, that was amazing.
Hall of Fame: Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, The Ultimate Warrior, Lita, Paul Bearer, Carlos Colon, Sr, Scott Hall, and Mr. T. Sadly, this would be the last WrestleMania appearance for The Ultimate Warrior. He would die of a sudden heart attack two days later.
Final Thoughts: Aside from the Taker match, I really enjoyed this show overall. Even knowing the outcome, the Bryan matches were done so well, I was still surprised that he won.