It’s the 33rd “Grandest Stage of Them All,” live from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. You know the deal: that special night in April where storylines end and a new season of WWE begins. Legends are made, titles are on the line, greats like the Undertaker and Goldberg might be taking part in their last matches and all sorts of rumors might or might not come true.
Neville vs. Austin Aries for WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Looks like Neville might hold onto the title a bit longer since WWE hasn’t really found a superstar that can compete with him. Austin Aries eventually can, but it will take a little time to build him up with the fans. Not too much of a surprise that he didn’t capture the gold this time around, but it’ll probably happen sooner or later.
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Here’s one you didn’t see coming: Mojo Rawley won the whole damn thing thanks to New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski tossing a shoulder into Jinder Mahal. So is Gronk looking to become the next NFL star to transition into a wrestling career?
Winner: Mojo Rawley
Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for Intercontinental Championship
Looks like the Lone Wolf isn’t really just yet to slap the gold around his waist with a pinfall loss to Dean Ambrose. Corbin looked great early on, but there’s something that really leaves you wondering if Ambrose landing the Dirty Deeds is the last we’ve heard of this rivalry.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
Corey Graves spoke for a lot of fans when he said this match “does absolutely nothing for him.” Sure, Shane-O has put on some classics, but “The Face That Runs the Place” is a legit headliner. It’s easy to say this one was beneath him, but McMahon has a history of proving people wrong.
Shane starts things out showing off some actual wrestling moves, flustering Styles a little. It looks like Styles takes a little pop under his eye that he maybe wasn’t supposed to get. After that, McMahon takes some serious bumps of his own from a guy who knows how to hurt his opponent. He also gives plenty out. Size-wise, Shane doesn’t look that out of element. He’s built like the old man, you might not realize it week after week, but he gives Styles a good run, tossing a few punches, putting up some offense.
The thing about Shane is that he only shows up for Wrestlemania, and that’s what’s sort of great about him. He has nothing but time to prepare for one fight, and he does show up, even kicking out of a Styles Clash.
The first match of the night includes the first knocked out referee of the evening, and Styles takes advantage, tossing garbage cans into the ring like…Shane loves to do. But you know you can’t steal another dude’s moves. Shane crushes Styles with the can in the middle of the air, and suddenly things are different even if the ref is out cold. It gives McMahon a chance to actually pull off the coast to coast into a trash can, but it isn’t enough to finish his opponent.
But it’s like Gorilla Monsoon used to say: McMahon went to the well one too many times. Trying to smash Styles through a broadcast table during the first match is really never the wisest idea, and Styles capitalizes, moving at just the right second. They keep going at it, McMahon tries a shooting star press, misses, then gets hit by a Phenomenal Forearm Smash to end things. Shane doesn’t win, but he puts on another damn good Wrestlemania match.
Winner AJ Styles
Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho for the United States Championship
This one is sort of sad because it feels like the end of a really great storyline. Owens had a good run as champ, and Y2J’s second wind has been one of the best stories in all of wrestling. You really hope that, no matter what, they become best friends again after it’s all said and done.
Jericho, the champ, walks out with a big version of “The List” at the side of the stage. That, and he’s now tied with Bret Hart at 14 Wrestlemania appearances (Undertaker obviously has the most). But you get the feeling he maybe doesn’t have many of these left in him.
Things start out fast. Crowd is obviously on Jericho’s side, the loud chants of “Stupid idiot” echo through the outdoor arena. And to be honest, if anybody could steal the show early on, even after Styles and McMahon, it would be these guys. Owens gets aggressive and takes control. To anybody who pays enough attention to wrestling, you can tell how well these two guys work together. Owens talks a lot of trash, Jericho takes some serious bumps, but the two really go at each other without holding anything back. All that DDP Yoga obviously does something for the 46-year-old Jericho.
The smack talk between the two really makes the match. That, and Owens gets Jericho in the Walls of Jericho. You could see Owens actually pulling it out with Jericho’s move, but the DDP Yoga really seems to help that lower back enough to help him kick out. Jericho gets his ex-best friend in the same move, but Owens forces a break, and suddenly, anybody could really win this match.
These two know each other real well, and they go at it, trading finisher for finisher. Jericho gets Owens with a Code Breaker, but K.O. gets one single finger on the ropes to save his day. A few minutes later, a power bomb onto the side of the ring, and Jericho is no longer the U.S. Champ.
Winner: Kevin Owens
Bayley vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax Fatal 4-Way for Women’s Championship
You have to guess the stars of Raw’s women’s division are going to come out and put on a classic on the biggest stage of them all. Charlotte’s pay-per-view winning streak is over, so going in it was pretty hard to guess who would walk out with the belt.
Interesting thing to note is that Bayley, the defending champ, comes out first. Charlotte comes out last. It doesn’t matter who has the belt, that speaks volumes.
Nia Jax dominates the first few minutes of this elimination match, until the other three competitors start to work together. Even after Charlotte tries to pin her, Jax continues to rule things. The triple powerbomb into a triple pin finally knocks her out, but it’s a whole lot to get rid of one superstar.
Not too surprisingly, Charlotte jumps out of the ring and lets the two friends fight for a few minutes. She pulls out all sort of Flair family heel shit, but her moves off the top rope would have her old man shaking his head in disbelief. She’s so damn good. Good enough to knock out Banks and turn it into a match against the champ.
Bayley looks to be favoring her knee, and, like a Flair, Charlotte takes advantage of that. Charlotte dominates. But in the end, Bayley gets her Wrestlemania dream, pulling a Macho Man elbow drop off the top rope and retaining her title in the end. Great match.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Hardy Boyz Fatal 4-Way Ladder Match for Tag Team Championship
Interesting. It’s supposed to be a triple threat, but then it becomes a fatal 4-way with New Day, the hosts of Wrestlemania 33 showing up and announcing that…the Hardy Boyz, fresh off of losing the belts in ROH, are in the match.
We get some vintage Hardys to start things off, “This is awesome” chants ringing throughout the place. And yeah, it is. This one doesn’t stay calm for even a second. Big boots from Big Cass, plenty of people getting rocked by ladder blows and lots of really crazy moves all around just the way you’d expect when four tag teams are all up against each other. Cesaro and Sheamus look really good, like they’re a legit tag team that should be taken seriously, but it’s hard to tell if they’re going to stick to the formula.
It’s fast, it’s furious. Everybody gets a shot in. But eventually, the Hardys take home the gold for a seventh time after Jeff Hardy does some insane stuff and the duo shocks the hell out of the entire world.
Winner: Hardy Boyz
John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
Couple vs. couple. The buildup for this one was good, up until the week before Wrestlemania. Then it sort of lost something. Could they revive things for this mixed tag team?
Meh. It’s exactly that you’d expect from a match where Al Roker is the guest ring announcer. The good guys win, the crowd doesn’t love that and then…wait…Cena proposes to Bella. So that’s nice. Everything turns out like you’d expect and that’s good sometimes.
Winner: John Cena & Nikki Bella
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (non-sanctioned)
Seth Rollins has been missed. But you know who fans miss more? Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Triple H, The Game, Cerebral Assassin, etc. etc. etc. It’s been a fun feud leading up to this one, including the introduction of Samoa Joe to the main roster. But how would these two work in the ring against each other? Would Rollins be healthy enough to put up a fight? What would Triple H do for an entrance this time? Oh yeah, and then there’s the whole Finn Balor wild card. Would he finally come back?
Everything was answered in this non-sanction match that saw the President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE come out on a chopper with a police escort, sirens blazing. Not bad a bad way to start things off at all. Also: Triple H looks awesome with a beard.
Rollins comes down to the ring showing off an obvious limp, and you can just tell Triple H is going to start hitting that thing right away. The two start off punching each other furiously to kick it off, Rollins looks pretty good initially, adrenaline obviously running high. It doesn’t take long, however, for the knee to start giving him trouble.
But Rollins keeps things moving in his direction, until Triple H DDTs his opponent onto an announce table (it doesn’t break). He works on his opponent’s leg a little more, the pace isn’t like some of the classic no-rules matches from the past, so you’re just waiting for some real brutality to start. Some multiple chair shots, a powerbomb onto something hard, or, since it’s Triple H, a sledgehammer coming into the equation.
Rollins can’t get much done on his bad leg. Real or not, he sells it well. Looking like he’s literally pulling every big of energy from some unseen place to keep himself going. It’s a gutsy performance, especially against one of the greatest ever. Triple H puts a really tight submission hold on his opponent’s leg, the type a guy with a good leg probably couldn’t break out of, but Rollins punches away, keeping the brutality going. How much can Rollins really take?
And then the sledgehammer comes out. How did Triple H ever land on that being his weapon of choice? It’s obviously badass and can crack another dude’s skull, but it’s funny how it became as common as the guy nailing the person he’s fighting with a Pedigree as his finisher.
A Pedigree comes into play, Triple H nails one after Rollins almost gets control of the weapon, but Rollins kicks out. There’s almost a second Pedigree, this one off the top rope, but Rollins pushes off and somehow pulls off a perfect moonsault that would make a cruiserweight standup and say “Daaaaaamn.” But it’s still not enough.
What does it take? Triple H accidentally knocking his wife off the ring, crashing into a table, and then running into a Pedigree for a Wresltemania loss. That’s what it takes.
So Rollins wins and his knee is probably worse off. But where the hell is Finn Balor?
Winner: Seth Rollins
Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship
If there was any one match that could really steal the entire show, it was this one. Two guys from wrestling families, one who has captured the big belt multiple time, the other starting his reign. The buildup for Orton and Wyatt was intense, including buildings getting burned down and some of Wyatt’s best promo work to date. It’s also one of the best storylines Orton has ever been involved in. Shocking, since it didn’t seem to really fit at first.
Again, the champ enters the ring first. Is that a sign, like with Bayley, that he’s going to retain?
As the Apex Predator hits the ring, it’s noticeable how much these two wrestlers have brought out of each other. The announcers don’t say there’s a “big fight feel,” but there is.
Things get weird fast. Wyatt does that creepy thing where he bends backwards and looks at his opponent, except this time the lights go out and the ring is illuminated by giant maggots projected onto the screen. It’s creepy, like old school Undertaker creepy.
Wyatt obviously gets into Orton’s head. The crowd also seems a little freaked out. It’s jarring, honestly. Maybe a sign of what’s to come with Wyatt as the official new face of fear in the WWE.
Orton fights back, but the match belongs to the champ. He’s building something here. No matter what happens in this match, it’s obvious the era of Bray Wyatt is upon us.
The match is strange, to say the least. But in the end, Orton hits a second RKO and collects his 13th title.
Winner: Randy Orton
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship
It’s the end of a road that started back in 2004. That infamous match between two monsters that ended up being, well, really bad. There’s really no other way to put it.
So now we make it to Wrestlemania 33, 13 years later. Brock Lesnar’s legend has grown thanks to his successful UFC career. He’s the WWE’s beast that John Cena and Roman Reigns couldn’t vanquish. But you know who could and who did? Goldberg. After years out of the spotlight, Bill Goldberg came back and just crushed Lesnar. You know the whole story from there. The fairy tale that includes him picking up the Universal Championship.
Would there be redemption? Over a decade of buildup would point to yes, but Goldberg is no spring chicken, and you know Lesnar isn’t going to get his ass kicked again, right?
This one had to be nothing short of a battle the likes of which Goldberg has never been in before.
What do we get? A quick trip to Suplex City. Three in a row. But it does nothing. Goldberg pops right back up, spears Lesnar so hard that he has to roll out of the ring. Then, a spear from hell into the barricades. Lesnar looks like he’s going down again after some more spears and a Jackhammer, but the Beast kicks out. He avoids another spear by jumping clear over his opponent and delivering more suplexes. Even if this thing is done in less then ten minutes, it’s still worth the ticket. It’s the kind of match you wanted out of these guys. It takes ten Germans to finish Goldberg. It’s brutal, and it ends with a new champ.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Alexa Bliss vs. Natalya, Naomi, Becky Lynch, Carmella and Mickie James
It says a lot that the blue brand’s women’s division get the penultimate Wrestlemania 33 match, but it does feel a bit rushed as things seem to be going late in Orlando. That said, Naomi recapturing the title in her hometown of Orlando by making the champ tap is pretty sweet.
Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
No titles, no cage around them and no real buildup. Yet this match between the Phenom and the Big Dog felt so personal in the last few weeks, like maybe it is the last time we’re going to see one of the greatest ever slowly walk down the aisle to the funeral music. No pomp and circumstance, just a final Wrestlemania match and that’s it.
It felt personal leading up to Mania, but the sight of Jim Ross making his way to the announce table before either of the competitors entered the ring, a week after announcing his wife had died in a road accident, added an extra layer of emotion.
The Undertaker. If you’ve been watching wrestling for the last few decades, you know his legend. The ring is his yard, something he yells at the much younger Roman Reigns as the match kicks off.
But Reigns is, the dude. You can boo him all you want, but he’s the complete package, and the WWE granting him the honor of closing out a Wrestlemania against the greatest in the history of the event says a lot. You had to know he was going to show up big time, you know he was going to give Undertaker everything he had.
Reigns plowed the Dead Man through a table, taunting him that the ring is his yard now. You knew that wasn’t going to rest well with the man from Death Valley. Undertaker tossing the young buck down with a Last Ride would have ended any other guy, but Reigns kicks out.
That’s when business picks up, as good ol’ J.R. would say. Chair shots, a Superman Punch that doesn’t knock Undertaker down, then another and…a third that sees Undertaker catching Reigns in the middle of the air, tossing him down with a wicked chokeslam. You think it’s over when ‘Taker delivers a Tombstone piledriver, but no. Reigns keeps at it.
Reigns hits Undertaker with a spear, only to run into a hellsgate submission lock. Reigns finds his way to the ropes, and eventually is the first to his feet. He beats Undertaker with a chair for a good minute, telling his opponent “Stay down,” but you know that’s probably not going to happen.
Undertaker gets up again, Reigns hits him with another spear. Again, you can say what you want about him, but Roman Reigns sells it. He’s in there with one of the greates, so he brings his best. Things continue. Another spear, another kickout. It’s sort of beautiful to watch and you just keep hoping the end lives up to the beating. Reigns hits another Superman punch, and it looks like it’s enough. Classic Undertaker doesn’t sit right back up the way it used to. It takes the biggest spear Roman Reigns will ever deliver to finally give Undertaker his second Wrestlemania loss.
Undertaker, with his coat and hat back on, gets a standing ovation. He takes his gloves off and the crowd chants his name. He leaves everything in the ring, literally. The hats and jacket also come off. It’s the end of something. He’s finally riding off into the darkness for good. This might be goodbye forever.
If that truly is the case, all we can say is thanks.
Winner: Roman Reigns
By Jason Diamond
Courtesy of Rolling Stone
Photo by WWE