Wrestlemania recap

By: Jeff Boudreaux

    In 1985, Vince McMahon had a vision that would change professional wrestling forever. That vision was called Wrestlemania and sports-entertainment was officially born. For the 30th anniversary of this spectacle, virtually every living wrestler who ever was famous, along with wrestling fans from all over the globe, converged upon New Orleans for the greatest weekend celebration of a wrestling fan’s life.

Anywhere people looked in the New Orleans area, there were pro-wrestling events to be enjoyed. At WWE’s four-day Wrestlemania Axxess in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, superstars and legends of the WWE signed autographs and posed for photo opportunities with fans. The fans could also peruse the memorabilia museum and watch live matches not seen on television.

For what was billed as the biggest Wrestlemania ever, non-WWE affiliated pro-wrestling legends from all over the country appeared at events such as WrestleCon at The Sugar Mill and the Mid-South Legends FanFest at Sigur Center in Chalmette. This gave true wrestling fans a once-in-a-lifetime weekend. Even the historic House of Blues opened its doors on Friday night for “An Evening with Jim Ross,” the famed wrestling commentator and historian.

The most important  event occurred on Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center, where the WWE held its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Legendary grapplers such as The Ultimate Warrior, Jake “the Snake” Roberts, and Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall were among this year’s inductees, and for the first time in history, fans not in attendance could view the event in its entirety on the recently launched WWE Network. On a sad note, The Ultimate Warrior passed away the following Tuesday night at the age of 54, just three days after his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. His last public appearance was on television on Monday Night Raw from The Smoothie King Center where he appeared healthy and in good spirits. He will truly be missed by wrestling fans around the world.

On Sunday, Wrestlemania XXX commenced at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in front of a sold-out crowd, breaking the record for highest-grossing entertainment event in the Superdome’s history. To kick off the pre-show there was a four-team elimination match for the WWE World Tag Team Championship.  This match saw the Uso’s successfully defend their titles against Los Matadores, The Real Americans(Jack Swagger and Cesaro), and the team of Ryback and Curtis Axel. This was a very entertaining and high-flying match to pump up the capacity crowd.

For the start of the actual event, veteran of 10 Wrestlemania’s and arguably the most popular man to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots, the immortal Hulk Hogan, was master of ceremonies for this historic 30th anniversary show. Joining the Hulkster in the ring were two other legends who have rivaled Hogan in popularity over the years, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock. It was a treat for the fans in attendance and for the millions watching at home. Three of the greatest wrestlers in history to open up an event of this magnitude certainly did not disappoint the 75,000 plus fans in attendance. The fans also to cheered on the heir apparent to the throne held by these three legends – Daniel Bryan, the leader of the national phenomenon known as the “Yes” movement.

As everyone knows, America loves an underdog. Daniel Bryan’s not-ready-for-prime-time physique (he’s 5’10 and 210 lbs.), his pure wrestling ability, his inspirational catchphrase (“Yes! Yes! Yes!”), and his uphill battle against “The Authority”, Stephanie McMahon (daughter of Vince) and her real-life husband Triple H (on-screen COO of the company), has captivated the WWE universe like no other storyline since ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin famously feuded with his boss, Vince McMahon, in the late 1990’s. Being “screwed over”, a popular phrase in WWE, by the Authority since last year’s Summerslam, Sunday night was Daniel Bryan’s veritable “last chance” to achieve retribution.

  The opening match of the actual pay-per-view was a one-on-one match between Bryan and Triple H, with the winner automatically earning a spot in the main event alongside WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton and the number one contender for the title, Batista. The opportunistic Bryan certainly was looking for payback against the 13-time World Heavyweight Champion Triple H, the man who had made the last 8 months of his career a living hell. The seemingly overmatched Bryan defied all odds by defeating the COO by pinfall in a very good match, much to the crowd’s delight.

Next up was a six-man tag-team match where The Shield (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and United States Champion Dean Ambrose) absolutely decimated Kane and the New Age Outlaws, lackeys of Triple H. By the second match in,  it’s already a bad night for the Authority.

As a change of pace at Wrestlemania, this event featured an inaugural 31-man over-the-top-rope “Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal,” which featured such superstars as Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, and the Intercontinental Champion Big E. Langston. It was Cesaro, however, who took home the trophy by picking up the 7-foot, nearly 500-pound Big Show, and tossing him over the top rope.

One of the biggest superstars of the last decade, 14-time World Champion John Cena, was there to defend his legacy against the patriarch of the cult-like Wyatt Family, Bray Wyatt. Although the fans were treated to a great match seeing each superstar kick-out of their counterpart’s finishing move, the family proved to be no match for Cena.  Cena handed Wyatt his first loss since debuting last year at Summerslam.

And in what has undoubtedly been the greatest Wrestlemania tradition of all, The Undertaker once again put his undefeated streak on the line, a feat which began in 1991. Going into this event, The Undertaker was 21-0, defeating the likes of former multi-time World Champions Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, C.M. Punk, Randy Orton, Batista, and many others over the years. This year, his opponent was Brock Lesnar, former UFC Heavyweight Champion and 3-time WWE Champion. The sellout crowd was stunned when Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker after three F-5’s(Lesnar’s finishing move), which brought the streak to 21-1 and ended an era in the process.

    What do you do when 75,000 people are shocked and upset over their hero going down in defeat? You give them divas of course! To calm the crowd, the 14-diva “Vickie Guerrero” Invitational for the WWE Diva’s Championship was next where 294-day champion A.J. Lee successfully defended her title when she forced Naomi to submit to “The Black Widow”.

Finally, it was time for the main event. The moment that everyone has been waiting for, the triple-threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Champion Randy Orton, Batista, and crowd-favorite Daniel Bryan put on one heck of a match to end the biggest night of the year for WWE. This match had everything. False-finishes, interference from “The Authority”, and Orton and Batista temporarily working in cohorts to put Daniel Bryan through the Spanish announce table via a Batista-bomb/RKO combo. The crowd, who was very vocal all night and very pro-Bryan, expressed their amazement in the form of a “holy s***” chant, the highest honor a wrestling crowd could possibly give. Bryan was down and even placed on a stretcher, but nothing was going to come between this man and his quest for the championship, as Bryan soon rejoined the match and forced Batista to tap-out to the “Yes Lock”, while Orton was on the floor outside of the ring. I’m not sure if a crowd has ever gone that nuts at a Wrestlemania before, but this was the culmination of an eight-month journey that the fans took with Bryan, and at that moment not only was Daniel Bryan the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion, in essence we all were. And that deserves a big, resounding “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

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