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WWE WrestleMania 33 Recap - The Undertaker
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WWE WrestleMania 33 Recap

WrestleMania gets broken by a special return, titles change hands, and an icon takes his last ride.

It’s WrestleMania. What else do I really need to say in this opening paragraph? Get comfy and grab a snack, because we’re going to dive into the WrestleMania 33 recap and it’s going to take a while.

WWE WrestleMania 33 Recap – Kickoff Show

WWE. Then. Now. Forever. Your Kickoff Show panel consists of Renee Young, Booker T, Jerry Lawler, and Shawn “HBK” Michaels. Lawler gets replaced by Lita for the discussion on the two women’s division matches which seemed to go over huge on my Twitter timeline. The Social Media Lounge hosts are Charly Caruso & Maria Menounos – their guest is Paul Heyman. Sadly, he didn’t answer my question about how many suplexes Lesnar could dish out to Goldberg in under two minutes.

Other than that, it’s a Kickoff Show. The vast majority of the time is spent talking about the matches and watching video packages. Since the Kickoff moved to the USA Network for the second hour, we even got another “Then. Now. Forever.”!

We get a few looks at the set, which is actually quite awesome. You really get to see how much detail WWE put into the set once the sun sets. Incredible production on this year’s show. Also of note, the ramp is absurdly long and is really tall at the stage level.

So, on to the Kickoff Show matches, then.

The lone match during Hour One was the Cruiserweight Championship match. Aries enters first, Neville enters second.

Match #1: Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)

The match went down about how I suspected it would. Aries is still really new to the WWE audience so, even though he was over with the crowd, Mania was too soon to pull the trigger on a title swap. Add into that how turning heel has single-handedly resurrected Neville’s career, the title really needed to stay put at WrestleMania. Sure enough, that’s what goes down. Aries gets in some of his offense and even slaps on the Last Chancery, but Neville counters just about everything Aries throws at him. When Aries was unable to put Neville away with a 450, I knew Neville was going to retain. Sure enough, Neville raked Aries’ eye and put him away with a Red Arrow. Live by the “thumb to the eye”, die by the “thumb to the eye”, Aries.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – Solid opener and both guys really delivered as I suspected they would. From here, we either continue this program or Aries sparks a true heel turn after taking this loss in such a fashion.

The first match on Hour Two was the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Wow, what a dumpster fire this match was and I should have known I was going to hate it as soon as they showed “Gronk” in the front row.

Match #2: Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

So, out of the gate, Big Show and Strowman are eliminated throwing out everyone’s two top favorites to win the whole thing. As the field thinned out (which was largely comprised of SmackDown tag teams), it came down to Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, Killian Dain, and Mojo Rawley having a legit shot at winning. Sorry, Jinder Mahal. Dain being in this match was a complete red herring since he didn’t do a whole lot. Likewise, this was a complete an utter waste of Sami Zayn and Luke Harper. Of course, Mahal and Mojo end up outside the ring in front of Gronk and Gronk actually leaps the rail, gets in the ring, and takes out Mahal. Mojo ends up dumping Mahal to win the battle royal. Hot garbage.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Absolutely nothing redeeming happened in this match and it was a complete waste of time.

The final Kickoff Show match was a late addition. After the internet exploded at the SmackDown Women’s Title landing on the Kickoff Show, it got put on the main show. Something had to give. That something was the poorly conceived Dean Ambrose / Baron Corbin IC title match. Corbin enters first, Dean enters last.

Match #3: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin (WWE Intercontinental Championship Match)

This match was not very good. I’m not sure if that was why it got bumped, or because it got bumped, they just decided to half-ass the match. Either way, this pretty much stunk. It felt like a SmackDown match that was being worked in front of 70,000 fans. After a slow build, that involved Corbin hitting a Deep Six, and Dean kicking out – Dean hits Dirty Deeds out of nowhere and retains.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – This makes absolutely no booking sense and if Dean holds the title after Tuesday (or at the very latest the next SmackDown PPV) then I don’t even know what to think.

Time for the main show!

WWE WrestleMania 33 Recap

Unauthorized interception prohibited. WWE. Then. Now. Forever.

Tinashe sings America the Beautiful and we’re sent to the WrestleMania opening video – which continues the “ultimate thrill ride” theme that WWE has bashed into our heads since January.

The New Day, who are hosting the show, are out first. They’re dressed like Final Fantasy characters and have their ice cream cart that they’re still trying to get over. After a brief spiel, they send us to the SmackDown announce team since we’re kicking the main show off with AJ and Shane McMahon of all things.

Shane enters first to a much more subdued entrance than he had last year. AJ is out next. It’s windy and outdoors, so AJ’s luxurious hair was able to fly freely in the breeze. He really does look like a shampoo model tonight.

Match #4: AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon

AJ and Shane were my match of the night. A relatively tame affair by Shane McMahon standards, but a solid match that told a great story. Shane manages to absorb a Styles Clash and not die. He also hits his signature “Coast to Coast” spot on AJ after a ref bump allows those obsolete aluminum trash cans to get involved. By all rights, AJ Styles should win a straight wrestling match against Shane McMahon and he does ultimately go over here. But, these guys put on quite the show. Shane goes for his “elbow off the top into the announce table” finisher, but AJ dodges it. Surprisingly that does not put Shane away, he’s able to counter a Phenomenal Forearm with a DDT, but flies too close to the sun trying for a Shooting Star Press off the top. Yeah, Shane McMahon can do a freakin’ Shooting Star Press. I was impressed. After the missed Shooting Star, AJ connects with a Phenomenal Forearm and takes home his first WrestleMania victory.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – My match of the night and it was way better than it seemed like it would be when the match was first announced.

Next up, is the U.S. Title match. Kevin Owens is out first and during his entrance we’re shown a “YouTube sensation” named Lilly Singh out in the crowd. We get the hype video package next. After that, we get a classic “Y2J countdown” lead in to Jericho’s entrance. Jericho is out wearing a light up scarf and has a gigantic inflatable “List of Jericho” up on the stage. Totally awesome.

Match #5: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens (WWE United States Championship Match)

Another solid match, that in retrospect has me feeling like WrestleMania (beyond fleeting moments on the back half of the show) peaked early this year. This match really felt like the third act of the Jericho / Owens feud. Sure, we’ll probably have a rematch at the end of the month at Payback, but really that is going to be more of an epilogue than anything. The theme of the match appeared to be both guys trying to see who could get their signature moves in first. Jericho slapped the Wall of Jericho onto Owens out of the gate, from there it was a build to a Lionsault, peppered with KO hitting his cannonball, before we escalate into both guys trying to hit their finishers. One amazing moment from this match was Jericho countering a pop-up powerbomb into a Codebreaker, seemingly beating Owens. But, KO breaks up the pin by getting literally one finger on the ropes. Almost a call back to the “Creation of Kevin” painting that Jericho had made for the Festival of Friendship. The attention to detail in the Jericho / Owens program overall was outstanding and this was a proper blowoff match. It takes an apron bomb on the outside to put Jericho away and KO checks off “Become United States Champion”  on the “List of Owens”.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – A great match that gave us some good closure to the JeriKO feud. I suspect the next few weeks will tie up any loose ends before Jericho disappears to tour with Fozzy this summer.

Next, it’s time for the Raw Women’s Fatal Four Way. Champ enters first because to heck with tradition. Nia Jax follows Bayley and Sasha Banks is out next, riding on the back of a little mini car. A nice call back to Banks arriving in a vehicle for big PPV matches. Charlotte is out last.

Match #6: Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair (Fatal Four Way Elimination Match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship)

The first fall of this one focused on the three horsewomen forming a pact to eliminate Nia Jax. After Jax dispatches each women individually, Bayley, Charlotte, and Banks finally decide to work together. It ends up being quite effective and we get a “Shield” nod with a triple “Shield powerbomb” spot delivered to Jax. All three women pile onto Jax to get the pin fall.

The second fall began quite cleverly with Charlotte bailing out of the ring and telling Bayley and Sasha to fight it out. After that we get a decent back and forth between Banks and Charlotte, but ultimately, Banks goes into an exposed buckle in the corner and Charlotte gets the roll up victory. I think this fall surprised a lot of people who expected Sasha to win the match, but I still think they’re saving that for down the road.

The final fall largely consisted of Charlotte working the knee to soften Bayley up for the Figure 8. After an extended sequence featuring Bayley fighting out of the Tree of Woe, Bayley hits a “Macho Man elbow drop” off the top to retain the title.

The match was okay. It was nothing super special and was one of several cases on this show where bad booking from the past caused the finish to feel flat. Imagine how much more meaningful the final fall would have been if it was the underdog challenger Bayley facing off against the “undefeated on PPV champion Charlotte” – with Bayley getting her first title win at Mania. Sure, any Bayley win at Mania is a nice “WrestleMania moment” but had they not done the random title switch on Raw and then had Bayley unceremoniously end Charlotte’s streak at Fastlane – this could have been a huge moment to remember.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – WWE really missed a big opportunity by not waiting to put the title on Bayley for the first time tonight. The match was okay, but not as spectacular as it could have been.

Next, we get a video package showing highlights from Friday night’s Hall of Fame ceremony.

After that, each Hall of Fame inductee is shown on stage. Kurt Angle is introduced last, comes out to “Medal”, and basks in 70,000+ chanting “You Suck!” along to his song at him. Wrestling is so cool.

Meanwhile, Seth Rollins is backstage getting his knee wrapped up ahead of his unsanctioned match with Triple H.

Up next is the Raw Tag Team Championship ladder match. Enzo & Cass are out first. Standard spiel that ends in everyone being called “sawft”. Sheamus and Cesaro are out next, and wow. They’re each dressed in a kilt and a suit jacket. That fact is what finally had me turn the corner and start liking this team. I’m sure now that I’ve warmed up to Sheasaro, they will get broken up on Raw post-haste. The champs actually enter last, which is a rarity on this year’s show.

Right before the match, the New Day are out and they’re dressed to wrestle to swerve us. The New Day say as hosts they have to announce that this match is now a Fatal Four Way Ladder Match. The remaining team to enter? The Hardy Boyz.

The Hardys are out to a Road Warrior pop and Matt even still looks pretty broken all things considered. I’m not going to lie, I totally marked out at this reveal even though I was 99.8% sure it was going to happen. Pro Wrestling Sheet is never wrong, kids.

Match #7: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. The Hardy Boyz (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match)

A complete and utter spot fest and I loved it. Sure, it paled in comparison to the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches that I was spoiled with growing up on wrestling, but not too shabby. And as I predicted, the Hardys took the titles. But not after Matt gave Karl Anderson a twist of fate off a ladder and Jeff hit Sheasaro with a Swanton Bomb, putting them through ladders. I really enjoyed this match and thought everyone looked really good, Big Cass especially. Looking back, this is where the show really peaked, and save a few bright spots, it was all downhill from here.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – Hardy Boyz, I know you’d come… home.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon is in the crowd.

Next, it’s time for the mixed tag. We get Lawler as a guest announcer and Al Roker does the ring announcing. Roker wants us to call him “Chocolate Thunder”, but, nah. Miz and Maryse are out first and wearing crazy armor-plated matching gear. Nikki enters next to her standard entrance. Cena is out last to his standard entrance.

Match #8: John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

As I predicted, this match was a disaster, but thankfully Miz and Maryse are over enough to recover from this mess. Especially since taking the loss here will likely give Miz weeks of Talking Smack fodder to bless us with. But, yeah, most of Miz’s offense was him posing and reacting to the insane pop he was getting from the crowd for most of the match. Lawler was borderline insufferable on commentary and it kept distracting me from watching the very little that was happening in the ring. Maryse was largely a non-entity, which was a shame, because she wrestled during that window where I wasn’t watching WWE, so I hoped to get to see her do something here. But, nope. After the “10 Knuckle Shuffle” and the “Double AA” spots (both of which got massive boos, by the way). Cena and Nikki double pin Miz and Maryse. Or a “double count out” if you’re Jerry Lawler.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Add Miz and Maryse to the “wasted talent” list for this year’s show. The match was garbage enough, WWE didn’t even bother putting up a clip on their YouTube channel.

Post-match, as expected, Cena proposes to Nikki Bella and she accepts. I’ll admit that Cena’s proposal was quite sweet and after the crazy build to this match, it was nice that was the payoff. But yeah. I’d have much rather just had a random backstage segment where Cena proposed to Nikki than have to suffer the match that preceded this.

Next, it’s time for some “non-sanctioned” action. Triple H is out in biker leather on a three-wheel motorcycle, with Stephanie McMahon riding on the back, also dressed in biker leather. Like all true 1% outlaw bikers, Triple H has a police escort of a dozen motorcycle cops, with sirens and lights, as he heads to the ring. Someone finally watched Sons of Anarchy, I see.

Rollins is out next, holding what looks like the Olympic torch. He uses it to “light” the ramp and walks to the ring on what looks like a channel of lava. Despite this being a “non-sanctioned” match where, and I’ll quote JoJo “anything goes”, we have a WWE referee and the Raw Commissioner is at ring side.

Match #9: Triple H (w/ Stephanie McMahon) vs. Seth Rollins (Non-Sanctioned Match)

I bet you expected Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Pete Dunne, Bobby Roode, and the Shield to turn up, making this into a massive cluster. You expected wrong. What we get is an average, plodding Triple H PPV match. I wasn’t terrible, but felt like it went on about ten minutes too long. They tried to introduce tables and chairs, but man, you can only watch Triple H work an “injury” for so long before it gets tiresome. I get that it makes sense in storyline, but man, if I put “Triple H works the knee” on the drinking game, even as a 1 shot challenge, you’d have died from alcohol poisoning during this match alone. Of course, since there was zero outside interference, a sledgehammer appears late in the match. Trips tries to use it, but Seth counters and picks it up. Steph grabs it out of Seth’s hands so the sledge never really factors in to the match after all. The finish involves a ton of Pedigree teases and finally comes to a crescendo when Stephanie is accidentally knocked off the apron by Triple H and bumps through a table. HHH turns and runs into a Pedigree to take the loss.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – The pacing of this match was terrible. Slow and plodding for most of the match and then a finish that felt out of nowhere and rushed. The lack of Triple H’s heel stable was also somewhat worrisome since I really want that to happen. Either they’ve changed their minds on that or it goes full force due to Steph going through the table. The lack of Samoa Joe means you can also add him to the list of talent completely wasted at Mania this year.

Up next? Pitbull’s performance of the WrestleMania theme “Greenlight” (aka – bathroom break).

Bray Wyatt is out next and finally gets a proper “in the dark” WrestleMania entrance. Orton enters next because heck with the “champ enters last” tradition.

Match #10: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton (WWE Championship Match)

Wow, what a terrible payoff to one of the best told stories on WWE programming since the brand split. The match just wasn’t very good and kept involving Bray doing his “crab walk” and projecting images of maggots, worms, and roaches on the ring while Randy was down on the mat. Absolutely zero Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, or Sister Abigail, so surprises to even spice this up a bit. Nope, just a match even more lackluster than the Bray Wyatt / Orton match from No Mercy, which ended with an RKO out of nowhere after Bray’s projector showed roaches on the mat. Randy Orton takes the title and I could not care less.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Completely anticlimactic. I figured Orton would win, but this was some nonsense that didn’t even come close to doing the build of this match justice in any shape or form. Bray is one of my faves and he continues to get the short end of the stick at Mania.

Next, we’re jumping right to the Universal Championship match. Brock (w/ Heyman) enters first. Goldberg gets his entire entrance which takes forever because the ramp is really long.

Match #11: Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) (WWE Universal Championship Match)

The match actually goes 4 minutes and 45 seconds. So there’s that. It’s also about how I expected their match at Survivor Series to go. Remember the one that went under 2 minutes? Tonight, Lesnar suplexes Goldberg a ton of times and shakes off multiple spears, including one through the barricade. After at least 10 suplexes, Brock finally puts Goldberg away with a F5 to become the new Universal Champion.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Didn’t care back in November, don’t care now. I’ll maybe raise an eyebrow if we see Brock actually defending the title between now and SummerSlam. Otherwise, pass.

Almost immediately after the finish of the Universal Championship match, Alexa Bliss is out for the SmackDown Women’s Championship match. I half expected to see Alexa pass Brock on her way down the ramp, they must have had some alternate exit planned for a situation like this. Anyway, Becky Lynch enters next and debuts a new look with braids and face paint. Mickie James is out next, followed by Carmella & Ellsworth, and Natalya. Naomi enters last and gets her full entrance. I’m so glad they waited to do this match so late in the show because Naomi’s entrance looked really cool in a dark stadium.

Match #12: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth) vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Naomi (Six Pack Challenge for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)

Well, first off the show is running way late at this point. Needless to say the “all available women” thing was clearly scrapped as once again this became a Six Pack Challenge. It’s essentially a spot fest since the women were so pressed for time. Memorable spots included James Ellworth getting Bexplexed by Becky and Natalya slapping the Sharpshooter on two women at the same time. Surprisingly enough, Naomi slapped on a submission hold to make Alexa tap out and regain her SmackDown Women’s Championship. I’m assuming that was the safe call so she didn’t reinjure herself doing the same finisher that caused her injure her knee.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Okay for what it was, but having it so severely cut for time did no one any favors. I’ve seen people complain that WWE now “hot potatoing” the SmackDown women’s title, but nah. Give me at least three more title changes in the next few months and then we’ll talk. The switch back to Alexa was WWE hedging their bets in case Naomi wasn’t able to come back in time, which was a smart play. I imagine with the strap now back on Naomi, booking will continue forward as was originally planned.

Next, the New Day are out to announce tonight’s record-breaking attendance of 75,245, which is already being outed as “fake news” by sites like AV Club. C’mon guys, it is pro wrestling after all.

Time for the main event, er final match of the night. Jim Ross’ music hits to a pop and he’s out to do guest commentary with Cole and J**. Reigns is out next to massive boos. His entrance involves him punching the ground and making sparks and fireworks go off. It was pretty cool looking, I must admit. Taker is out next. He appears in smoke, mid rampm which shaves a little time off of his entrance. This also got a “No Holds Barred” stipulation added which really had no impact on the match at all.

Match #13: Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker (No Holds Barred Match)

Oh boy, this was a hard watch. I knew going in Reigns was going to win, as it was the only move that made any sense. So, I wasn’t upset when Reigns did finally go over. Regardless, it was painful to watch Taker in this match. I don’t know if he is shoot this broken down, or the whole thing was working us all to make it look that way. But, damn, I felt bad for both him and Reigns here. It appeared like Roman had to carry the entire match and there was even a weird botched spot towards the end where it looked like neither guy was on the same page. Roman kicks out of the Tombstone and had to deliver a half-dozen Superman punches to Taker. Reigns keeps delivering spears, but Taker keeps getting a shoulder up. Eventually Taker tries to do the “Taker sit-up” and collapses to the ground. Taker still won’t give in, so Roman gives him one more spear and covers Taker to end the misery.

Most interesting to me was how Roman sold the whole thing. I saw people online thinking he was “heeling out”. But, if anything, Reigns just looked depressed. I can’t tell if that was a work or if he was shoot unprepared for how the match went down. Either way, it seemed really awkward when Reigns won and he’s posing with fireworks going off – but the guy looks legit sad over what just transpired.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – This match was literally depressing to watch and not just because it is the last time we’ll see Taker work a match.

Post-match, Reigns poses on the ramp while fireworks go off. Taker lays flat in the ring for a really long time. He eventually struggles to his feet and gets dressed in his hat and jacket. He goes to leave, but stops, and heads to the middle of the ring. Taker takes off his gloves, jacket, and hat, and stacks them in the ring before leaves.

We go off the air with Taker descending into the ramp and likely into retirement. Thank you, Taker. I know you wanted to go out like that, but I wish we didn’t have to see it because it was so, so depressing to see.

So, there you have it. WrestleMania was a mixed bag as most WrestleManias tend to be. I did like this year’s card better than last year’s show where I struggled to find anything that I thoroughly enjoyed. It will be very interesting to see what happens on Raw and SmackDown this week. I can’t wait!

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