Wrestlemania weekend is behind us. The showcase of the immortals, the grandest stage of them all, the ultimate thrill ride. It certainly was a great weekend of WWE programming. Numerous titles changed, there were good matches, there were bad matches and legends fell. We also finished our first season of Book it Vince crowning our inaugural Book It Vince champion.
Wrestlemania 33: The PPV started off very strong. Even on the pre-show there was some great entertainment to be had, well 2 of the 3 matches anyway. The Cruiserweight championship started proceedings off and was a great way to build the fans up for the next 7 hours of wrestling they’d be sitting through. I have to admit I had Aries to win, but keeping the belt of Neville is a good move as his current heel run is garnering some legitimate heat, and the eventual new champion should go over very well. Next up the Andre battle royal was actually very interesting, more so because of our predictions for winners. I opted for the rather out there pick of Mojo Rawley, But it would end up being an educated selection as he won giving me my first point of the Wrestlemania card.
Matches moved around the card: It was very surprising to see that Dean Ambrose would defend his IC title against Baron Corbin on the pre-show. I can’t lie, I’m actually very happy this was on the pre-show. Had this match been on during the main card at like 3am, there’s a chance that it could have made me want to ‘rest my eyes’. It’s a bit of a shame though that the belt that had some great prestige built up by the Miz found itself defended on the pre-show. It did mean that the Smackdown women’s championship match got some main card time which was great. Especially given who won in their home town. Although it was a bit worrying if the match would get on the card at all as the night progressed and time ran out.
Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton: This match felt like it was the victim of time cuts. One of the biggest and best builds of a match towards Wrestlemania ended up in a very rushed and not very interesting match. Bray Wyatt had lots of visual aids in the match which seemed to point towards perhaps more being originally in-store. But it ended up finishing just shy of 10 minutes. It felt like a main event that could have happened on Smackdown Live and not Wrestlemania. It’s not the match that this feud deserved, and certainly not what a Royal Rumble winner deserved. And in all honesty I don’t feel the right person won either. Randy’s had numerous title runs and Wrestlemania moments. Bray has been the victim of terrible booking for so long, and just when you had the feeling that WWE was doing right by him, he drops the title in a boring match. I hope that this isn’t the end of the line for Bray, I hope it’s just something that’ll be rectified sooner than later with another longer title run paired up against more wrestlers. Unless of course he’s bound for RAW so the title drop was tactical?
I was wrong: AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon huh. No one want’s to see AJ wrestle Shane right? Well, it turns out that they might have genuinely put on the match of the night. It was the opening match of the proper Mania card, and it was a damn good match with some great exciting spots that got the crowd fired up. AJ can carry matches and make almost anyone look a million bucks. My frustration before the match was that AJ deserved a better opponent in a more important match, and I do still feel that way, he did deserve more, but I can also admit that the match was 10 times better than I had anticipated and I cannot say it was a wasted spot on the card. It was a genuine highlight of the night and a great opening match.
Universal Title Match: This match was also a lot better than I or anyone I imagine had anticipated. It certainly wasn’t a classic, but it was much better than their first Mania match all those years ago. The match itself was exactly what it needed to be. 2 huge destroyers applying huge moves and finishers one after the other. It didn’t need to be a technical showcase, it needed to demonstrate 2 powerhouses looking to hurt one another and it did just that. Spears, Jackhammers, Suplexes and F5’s. All that was needed and the match did it’s job.
RAW Tag Team Championship: One of the matches I had been anticipating the most. I had Enzo and Cass to win. There were plenty of rumours that the Hardy Boyz were to return to WWE, but I don’t think anyone would have expected them to return at Mania, Especially considering the night before they were in ROH battling the Young Bucks. But they did it, WWE managed to get them to feature in the ladder match. And not only that, they went on to win the championships on their first night back in the company. As you can imagine the crowd pop was insane. It was an incredible moment. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Matt can embrace the full Broken Hardy character as WWE & TNA continue to battle for the rights. But it’s still pretty incredible to have them back. Hopefully the legal jargincan be sorted so we can have Broken Matt and Brother Nero in WWE soon.
Thank You Taker: And the saddest moment of the night, but the one we all expected. Undertaker lost to Roman Reigns which would create nuclear heat for Reigns. At the end of the match The Undertaker took his gloves, hat and coat off and left them in the centre of the ring leaving the stadium to the sounds of the gongs from his theme tune, disappearing into the ramp. It was heartbreaking to see. This guy was one of my favorites of all time. The ultimate company guy. Never breaking kayfabe. The moment he embraced his wife in the crowd after the match, that was the real moment you knew it was over as Undertaker doesn’t acknowledge anyone. He was applauded off by an equally visible upset WWE crowd. What an icon and legend. Hall of fame beckons and a nice retirement I hope.
Undertaker *clap clap clap* Undertaker: As RAW opened, there was no commentary, there was no theme music, it was just the camera panning across the RAW after Mania crowd who were at full volume chanting Undertaker and showing their appreciation for the legend. It went on for a good 5 minutes with no commentary whatsoever. The chants changed to abuse for Roman. Very loud and clear chants containing harsh curse words aimed at Roman. His music would hit and he made his way to the ring. The crowd reaction could blow the roof off the arena. So many boos. Every time Roman would attempt to speak into the microphone, the crowd would increase the volume of their booing. This segment went on close to 15 minutes without a word being said other than what the crowd were chanting at Reigns. He eventually opened up and spoke over the deafening crowd to exclaim emphatically that this was “His yard now”. Followed by a mic drop and leaving the ring. He’d done enough to cement himself as the biggest heel the company has had in quite some time.
RAW’s new General Manager: Mick Foley is gone, and Vince McMahon reminded us of the shocking events that happened to his daughter Steph the night before at Mania. She’s pretty badly beaten up after going through a table, so she’s not in work. Technically that means RAW is running without a boss. So Vince rectifies this issue by announcing that the new GM would be someone who just got inducted into the class of 2017 hall of fame. As we all expect Kurt Angle’s music to hit, Teddy Long’s music hits to a happy Teddy dancing around on the stage. He’s quickly turned away and the real new GM’s music hits… Kurt Angle, oh it’s true, it’s damn true! It’s a surreal night on RAW with Kurt Angle and the Hardy Boyz both featuring. What year is it again?
The Revival make RAW debut: Literally the night before I confidently suggested that despite The Revival being ready for the main roster, they wouldn’t make their debut on the main roster for a while due to the lack of tag competition down on NXT at the moment. Shows what I know right? The New Day issued an open challenge for anyone to take them on as they didn’t get an actual match at Wrestlemania. What they got were The Revival who received a huge ovation with the crowd participating in their entrance music. The demonstrated exactly what it is that got them over down on NXT with some brilliant heel-esque moves and tactics. And scored a win to a great crowd reaction. The heels then turned their focus on attacking Kofi Kingston once the match had finished which got them loud boo’s, Mission accomplished for them, they’ve made their RAW debut and got the correct heel heat that they should have based on their characters. I just hope they don’t go the same way the Vaudvillians and Ascension go after their callups.
Finn Balor returns: During RAW Y2J is giving a backstage promo about his list, and what he’s going to do to Kevin Owens, only to be brutally attacked by the new United States Champion and the Destroyer Samoa Joe. New GM Kurt Angle later on would tell Rollins that Jericho is unable to compete and he’d find someone to assist Rollins. So the main event comes, 3 of the 3 men are out in the ring anticipating Rollin’s partner. Finn Balor’s music hits to a huge ovation from the emphatic crowd. It was great to see Finn back, and great for him to have that huge pop.
Nakamura makes Smackdown debut: And another absolutely incredible main roster debut, Shinsuke Nakamura made his first appearance on Smackdown Live. He came to the ring shortly after The Miz and Maryse did their imitation of John Cena. The arena went dark and a single figure stood on the ramp and began to play the violin. You knew right away what was about to happen. Nakamura appeared to emphatic crowd applause. He made his way to the ring and did his signature ring drops. The crowd were eating it up. There was no need to fight anyone, or say anything, the reaction from the crowd to his appearance alone did enough to display just how big of a deal he is.
Brock’s Universal Title Challenger is…: Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman come down to the ring to a hero’s welcome from the crowd. Heyman name drops that Lesnar has beaten Goldberg who gets a boo from the crowd. Right now Brock and Heyman legitimately have the crowd in their hands. Then Paul starts to discuss who can challenge for the Universal title. He name drops Seth Rollins and both the Hardy Boys which get pretty decent reactions. He then goes onto say about the other person from the 2 in 23 and 2. Roman Reigns. Well here we go then. It was rumoured that Mania next year main event had already been decided with Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar. It wasn’t ever confirmed if it was to be for a title, but if it’s main event, then you kind of assume it will be. So is this it then? Is this the year long feud with no other person getting within touching difference of the Universal title as Brock holds onto it till Mania next year. RAW should have had a spoiler warning on it to warn us that we’d effectively be spoiled on who retains the Universal title at every defense of it now till Mania next year.
There were plenty of highlights this week with Kurt Angle proving to be a goldmine.
Kurt Angle can’t be taught that – RAW – 03/04/2017: Enzo and Cass approach Angle formally introducing their-selves in the only way they know how to. “And you can’t teach that” Explains Enzo as he explains that he’s a certified G. Angle agrees that this is the case “Not in any college I’ve heard of”. Once Enzo then explains that Cass is 7 feet tall and that “you can’t teach that!” Kurt once again agrees “You sure can’t!”. Kurt as GM is going to be alot of fun.
Enzo Confused Kurt Angle even more – RAW – 03/04/2017: As Enzo plea’s his case to have a tag title shot, he then goes on to use analogies of why they deserve title shots. One used is “Why is Goofy treated like a human and Pluto treated like a dog?”, It was at this moment Kurt had to interrupt and admit that “I have no idea what you just said!”. Big Cass then goes on to describe Cesaro and Sheamus and offers to spell it out for Kurt. Once Enzo and Cass leave, Kurt is left even more puzzled, “That’s not how you spell soft?”
Big E’s blood is rushing – RAW – 03/04/2017: As Big E struggles to contain his excitement he admits that “all the blood is rushing from my head to my”… Kofi interrupts at the nick of time.
Neville vs Mustafa Ali – Cruiserweight match: These guys had the unfortunate luck of trying to showcase their ability at a part of RAW while the fans played with the infamous beachball. So the crowds attention was stupidly very much turned towards the beachball. But these guys put on a stellar match that did eventually get the eyes on them. Ali hit some high flying moves that the cruiser division is best known for. And even got chants of this is awesome eventually. I’ve mentioned before in previous Shoot Talk’s about Ali’s abilities. He’s one to watch, but then so is the entire division. It’s stacked with talent.
The matches on SD Live this week weren’t particularly great. It was more about the new roster members. The best of Smackdown this week came from Tye Dillinger making his debut and looking like he thoroughly enjoyed himself and enjoyed the fans reaction to him, it’s well deserved. And of course the showcase of NXT, Shinsuke Nakamura. He didn’t need to say a word, he just had to appear and perform his famous in ring theatrics to have the crowd immensely hyped. If a casual fan or none wrestling fan happened to watch this episode of SD and saw the manic reaction that Nakamura got, even with no wrestling knowledge they’d realise that this guy is a big deal. Brilliant debut.
Well this episode of NXT was very much a reminder of what happened at Takeover on the weekend, there were some matches though and the best of them surprisingly came from the tag team affair between Bollywood Boys and Heavy Machinery. There wasn’t anything overly fancy about the match, but it was a good match to demonstrate the strength and power of Heavy Machinery as they bulldozed (no pun intended) their way to a victory over the Bollywood Boys. I had been critical of the tag division in NXT with my 2 fellow Book It Vince compatriots, claiming Revival would never go to main roster because all NXT had were them, #DIY & Authors of Pain. Turns out there are a few more potentially promising tag teams that might make the cut.
Not even close this one, the best of 205 Live was undoubtedly the fatal 4 way for the number one contendership to the Cruiserweight championship. The 4 contenders with Ali, Aries, Gallagher and TJ Perkins put on a real show case of how talented this roster is. And if that wasn’t enough Tozawa, Kendrick and Swann all featured in previous matches too. I might sound like a broken record, but this roster is incredibly stacked, and I really want to see the talent here get more over with the standard WWE universe. Matches like the fatal 4 way main event are sure fire ways to get the attention on this division.
Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar: Yes this has really, really got me worked up. Wrestlemania in my eyes is like the season finale to the show, with RAW after Mania the first day of the new season. What a shitty way to open the new season by pretty much confirming every WWE fan’s worst nightmare that Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar is happening again, and not just happening again but could potentially be your main event for Wrestlemania next year if all things are to be believed. It’s effectively just ruined or spoiled every PPV featuring the Universal championship now as you’d expect Brock to retain until the inevitable loss to Reigns at Mania. Now I’m not overly keen on the idea of Reigns vs Lesnar at next year’s Mania at all, but if they’re going to do it, then so be it, but what annoys me here is making it seem like it’ll happen a year away from the actual show. This build up could have started from Survivor Series. It means that if Balor or Joe challenge Brock for the title, you know they won’t win. I think they should have kept this feud till later on in the year. Thrown other RAW competitors at Brock for the title, even if they lost at least it’d be a little less obvious what the plan is.
WWE Roster Shakeup: Vince McMahon confirmed that next week we’ll be seeing a roster shakeup. I’m pretty happy with this if it results in stars that have lost their way to find momentum again on another show. Smackdown Live has reinvigorated The Miz, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Baron Corbin and even to a lesser extent Dolph Ziggler. Some guys on RAW while still featuring and getting TV time seem lost in pointless feuds with no ultimate goal like Rusev, Zayn and recently Jinder Mahal. So a shakeup could be good to give the aimless wrestlers a new lease of life. I just hope that the good work done to the majority of the Smackdown side of the roster doesn’t get undone if they end on RAW.
AJ Styles wants to stay on SD Live: During Shane’s ring segment about trying to explain the shakeup next week, AJ Styles crashed the ring. He offered Shane his had in respect and announced he wants to stay on Smackdown Live. Given that Nakamura made his Smackdown Live debut a little while earlier, this is music to my ears. I do fully expect AJ will end up on RAW, but it’d be so good to keep him on SD to rekindle his feud and have more matches with Nakamura (who I presume won’t be moving to RAW). If somehow this shake up leaves SD with AJ, Nakamura and perhaps Sami Zayn or Rusev, I’d be pretty happy with the main title picture of Smackdown. Especially if Bray and the Miz remain on SD. It seems The Miz is due a good title run from his incredible 2016.
And here we are, the end of our first Book it Vince championship. It was a very close fought fight, the confirmation of the championship took place during the RAW women’s title match at Wrestlemania. With Nia being eliminated and Bayley retaining, Mike had enough space to breath regardless of his different prediction in the Bray vs Randy match which still ultimately ended up being correct. I was in a spirited mood as Asuka came out on top for me over Ember, although my own dumb ass self mistook Alister Black for someone else which is why I opted for Andrade. When MoJo won the Battle Royal I was on cloud 9 and fully believed that Nia would putt it out for me.
Here’s how we predicted the 2 PPV’s over the weekend:
When tallied up our final scores were:
So we’re onto season 2 of Book it Vince to crown the 2nd champion. A year from now we’ll see if Mike retained of if we have a new champion (and there’s me mocking WWE booking have Reigns vs Lesnar booked so far in advance). Our first batch of points will be based on this WWE Shakeup that is due to take place on RAW.