WrestleMania 34 was great. There’s your tl;dr review of WWE’s biggest show of the year. For a little more detail, the last hour was... not great, outside of Braun Strowman’s absurdity, but the six (yes, six) hours before that, well, I love each of them like they are one of my children. My favorite child is one of the middle ones. It’s so hard to choose just one when they’re all so good and pure!
The child I like the least is the first hour from the pre-show.
Aaaaanyway, here are the seven things we learned from WrestleMania 34. If you want the full blow-by-blow results, you can check out our live blog from Sunday.
Charlotte Flair was ready for Asuka after all
It felt like Asuka couldn’t lose to Charlotte Flair, but maybe that’s because we had never seen Asuka lose to anyone in WWE. She was 256-0 with the company heading into Sunday’s SmackDown Women’s Championship, but Asuka is now 256-1 after Charlotte Flair made her tap out to the Figure Eight Leg Lock, retaining the title in the process.
The match itself was incredible, with Asuka and Charlotte both tearing each other apart and sacrificing their bodies with suplexes to the outside and a Spanish Fly off the top rope in order to prove who was the better competitor. It was arguably the match of the night, too, though, your mileage may vary.
We learned more than “Charlotte is still champion” and “Asuka didn’t win,” though: the primary takeaway here is that Charlotte Flair is clearly positioned at the top of the mountain of women’s wrestlers in WWE, with no equal out there to challenge her — not even Asuka. She’s a six-time women’s champ, she’s the only one who has proven ready for Asuka, and there is no one else on her level... until Ronda Rousey is ready for that one-on-one bout, anyway.
Ronda Rousey is legit, and WWE finally figured out mixed-tag matches
Man, I do not like mixed-tag team matches usually. WWE has had a tendency to use mixed tags as a way to tell two different singles match stories at once, and they both end up being uninterrupted messes. Since the Mixed Match Challenge began and ended earlier in 2018, though, it seems WWE has finally figured out the formula that lets these oddball tag matches with their restrictive rules work, both narratively and competitively.
That was great news for Sunday’s showdown between the team of Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle, who were taking on authority figures Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. The men did the heavy lifting at first, building the tension for the eventual hot tag to Ronda — the crowd wanted Ronda tagged in, Kurt Angle’s battered body needed Ronda tagged in, and when she finally entered the match, the only one disappointed was Stephanie, because now she had to fight her.
Stephanie played her part perfectly: she was an opportunistic dirtbag and coward, hiding behind Triple H whenever she could and springing out from behind him to inflict damage on both Ronda and Angle whenever she could get away with it. Triple H was caught up in the gravitational pull of his own hubris, feeling he could take on Ronda Rousey in a match where men aren’t supposed to be fighting against women — he nearly paid for it with a broken arm.
That arm bar is legit, as Stephanie could certainly tell you this morning, and while it’s going to take Ronda some time to move up within the actual women’s division on RAW — as great as this match was, Stephanie isn’t actually a wrestler, and Ronda still had Angle there to help her — I’m much less uncertain about the quality and tension of an eventual Ronda vs. Charlotte battle down the line than I was on Sunday morning.
John Cena was not prepared for the Undertaker to actually answer his challenge
Maybe part of the reason John Cena chose to challenge the Undertaker at WrestleMania 34 is because he didn’t actually expect the Deadman to respond. Undertaker seemingly retired or went to hell or whatever it is that undead morticians do when they’re done wrestling after Mania a year ago, so, as far as Cena knew, Taker was never going to come back no matter how many times Cena called him a coward.
It makes sense that this was Cena’s goal, too. He gets to look like he tried to put on a classic match everyone wanted, that he’s the good guy here, but in reality, he was looking for a way to pin the blame for his Mania absence on someone else — he lost every opportunity he had to earn himself a trip to WrestleMania 34, both on RAW and SmackDown, and then shot an impossible shot at Taker rather than entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, or campaigning his way into the Intercontinental Championship (the only belt he’s missing in order to win a Grand Slam, one of the few accolades in WWE that has eluded Cena), or joining Braun Strowman to become his tag team partner to take on The Bar for the RAW Tag Team Championships.
No, Cena kept coming out week after week, calling out a man who wasn’t listening, because it made sure that Taker was the one who looked weak, not John. Cena sat in the crowd during the first half of Mania, showing he was still a WWE guy, capable of tipping his cap and being a fan of his other wonderful coworkers, but this, too, was a show. When Undertaker finally answered the challenge, and Cena had nowhere to run, he was squashed in one of the most one-sided affairs of Taker’s illustrious career: we still haven’t had the Cena vs. Undertaker match that everyone wanted, that Cena promised, because it was Cena, not Taker, who couldn’t deliver it.
This is wonderful storytelling, and we now have two divergent paths to consider. Cena, prior to challenging Taker, had clearly lost confidence in himself, and started to believe he couldn’t keep up with all of this talent in WWE as a part-timer. Now, we get to see him have to fight back from what, for Cena, is basically rock bottom, possibly en route to his record 17th world championship victory a year from now or whenever WWE gets around to pulling on that thread.
On the Taker side, we see that he’s back, he has two working hips, and while he’s not about to start showing up on television every week or anything, his career clearly doesn’t have to be over just yet. Where does Taker go from here? When does he get the actual retirement match he should go out with instead of one forced by injury, and who retires him? This face-to-face meeting, long overdue, raised more questions, but they’re all questions I’m intrigued by. Great stuff all around.
Braun Strowman is RAW Tag Team champs with a literal child
Braun Strowman needed to pick a tag team partner at WrestleMania 34, and he did not select another wrestler. Instead, Braun went into the crowd and picked a literal child, Nicholas, who cannot be more than 10 years old, and brought him to stand on the apron while Braun wrestled the entire championship match.
Well, okay, all but roughly 10 seconds of the match, because Braun tagged Nicholas in late while Cesaro stood there, mouth agape, wondering if it was okay to attack a child even if the child had signed up to be a wrestler in a WWE match. That gave Strowman just enough time to recover, tag back in, and win the RAW Tag Team Championships for himself and Nicholas.
This was so incredibly stupid, but I say that in the most complimentary way possible. What a dumb, dumb, match that I sincerely love.
Nia Jax defeated Alexa Bliss and we can all breathe a sigh of relief
So... the Nia Jax/Alexa Bliss feud had some real grossness to it. That was intentional, not a tone-deaf thing, or at least, so we hoped. In short, Nia Jax and Alexa Bless, in real life, are advocates for body positivity and loving who you are who have admitted issues with body image in the past, and Alexa, as the heel in this story, leaned about as hard into those image issues as she could in order to put down Nia Jax in storyline.
The problem was going to be if Alexa won the match, because it would serve as validation of what she was saying about Nia being a hanger on who leaned on Alexa for validation due to her own image issues. Not that WWE has ever done a controversial build and then botched the landing or anything, but it happening here again was a real fear, considering the sensitive nature of the story’s content. Nia winning was important, because the entire tale doesn’t work if she doesn’t make Alexa pay for being a terrible friend with terrible opinions and a worse personality. Jax won, though, doing what she could to break Alexa physically since apparently there’s no reaching her emotionally, and she’s now the new RAW Women’s Champion.
WrestleMania 34 wasn’t about Roman Reigns finally beating Brock after all
We all thought Roman Reigns was becoming WWE Universal Champion at WrestleMania 34. We’ve thought this basically since Brock Lesnar won that title from Goldberg at WrestleMania 33. Then Mania 34 happened, though, and Lesnar is still champion: Roman took incredible punishment, absorbing damage from half-a-dozen German suplexes and nearly as many F-5s, but he kept getting up every time. That is, until Brock busted Roman’s head open, covering Reigns entire face in blood in a hurry, and then hit him with another F-5 — then, Reigns was pinned, 1-2-3, and Lesnar retained to the shock of everyone in attendance and at home.
We had reason to believe Reigns was going to win — Mania 34 was supposed to be the sequel to Mania 31’s interrupted main event, in which the question of who would win, Lesnar or Reigns, went unanswered thanks to Seth Rollins’ cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase, giving him a WWE Championship shot. That’s not the story WWE has decided to tell, though, which makes us wonder what story they are telling here.
Lesnar was possibly leaving WWE for UFC, but he’s also still suspended from UFC for most of the rest of this year thanks to failing a PED test the last time he fought in the octagon. Is it possible he’s now going to hold the WWE Universal Championship until August’s SummerSlam event, which would also allow WWE to have a new modern-day record for world championship reign length, i.e., bumping CM Punk from that particular mountain? Will someone who is in the company now dethrone Lesnar in August at the Barclays Center, or will it be a returning major star like Goldberg was when he downed Brock in late-2016?
As for Reigns, where does he go from here? He can’t beat Braun Strowman one-on-one. He can’t beat Brock Lesnar one-on-one. Will this be what gets him moved off of the main event scene for some time? All I know is I want to tune in to RAW to see where both of these wrestlers are going, so even though the match itself at Mania was not good — it was a significantly worse version of the Lesnar vs. Randy Orton match from SummerSlam 2016, don’t @ me — they’ve still got me hooked in here.
Daniel Bryan is back!
What else is there to say? My heart is full of love for Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan wrestled, and at WrestleMania, and he’s going to be able to keep wrestling going forward it sure seems like right don’t take him away from us now that he’s here, that would be cruel.
Bryan is still intense. He’s still hitting hard kicks, he’s still flying around the ring — albeit a bit more reasonably and with less chance of crunching his head on something — and the WWE universe still adore him. And how could they not? It’s Daniel Bryan we’re talking about, a dude so beloved I can root for a team with Shane McMahon on it because of him.
Just watch Bryan being back, it’s much more effective than anything I can say here.