The immense crowd! The extravagant setting! The pressure experienced by all the WWE wrestlers! The breathtaking action and excitement! These elements made up the spectacle of Wrestlemania 31, held this year at Levi’s Stadium, in Santa Clara, California. New champions were crowned. There were many shocking moments and even a few surprises. The opening contest was the multi-man ladder match, where the winner was awarded the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

Spectators witnessed an exhilarating battle and remained invested throughout. One of the great spots in the match saw ladders positioned from the barricade (which separates the fans from the wrestlers) and the ring apron. Luke Harper powerbombed Dean Ambrose from inside the ring and onto the ladders. Ambrose felt the impact and experienced pain. As a result, he was unable to continue the match.

The conclusion saw Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler climb the ladder simultaneously. When they reached the top, they exchanged punches and headbutts. It was an exciting exchange which resulted in Ziggler dropping to the mat. Bryan grabbed the IC belt for the win. What an amazing match, filled with thrilling performances from all the superstars involved. I hope that with Bryan as the new IC champion, the WWE will allow him to defend it very often and bring back the significance the belt once had.

The first main event was considered a “dream match” to fans who would have reflected on the Monday Night ratings War between WCW and the WWE back in the mid 1990’s. This match pitted Sting against Triple H. The latter entered the arena in Terminator gear (as a tribute to the Terminator movies and its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger). What a site that was! When both competitors were in the ring, the crowd chanted “this is awesome”, and the match had not even started! The stipulation was that the match could only end by pin or submission. Sting utilized the signature moves he made famous in WCW – the Scorpion Deathlock (a version of the Sharpshooter) and the Scorpion Deathdrop (a reverse DDT). They even used baseball bats and sledgehammers because the wrestlers could not be disqualified.

A major surprise occurred during the match as D-generation X (X-Pac, Billy Gunn, and Road Dogg Jesse James) entered and attacked Sting. The crowd went wild when the NWO (Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) entered the Stadium,
met the three D-X members at the ramp and started fighting. That was a Wrestlemania moment no one thought would ever occur – D-X vs. the NWO. As Sting had the Deathlock on Triple H, Shawn Michaels entered and superkicked Sting. Triple H then hit his opponent with the sledgehammer to gain the victory. This match had all the dream scenarios every fan could think of. The NWO vs. DX interaction was a tremendous throwback and a pleasant surprise for the audience. It was also great comradery when Triple H and Sting shook hands. The gesture showed reflected the respect between the two legends. But, Triple H’s night was not over yet….

Later in the evening, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were standing in the ring to announce the attendance of 76,976 people, which was a new attendance record for Levi’s Stadium. I found that strange because usually the ring announcer would do this. So, I was sure there was a story planned. And what a story it was! Steph began to thank the fans, and then turned the announcement into self-promotion. Triple H talked about his victory over Sting, and said they own the fans, which bothered someone. Another surprise occurred as the Rock entered the Stadium to a huge ovation. The Rock began making fun of the couple, but Stephanie responded by saying that the Rock would be nothing without her family and slapped him. She then demanded him to get out of the ring.

The Rock left the ring, walked around ringside and re-entered the ring with UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Ronda Rousey, who was sitting in the front row. The segment ended with the Rock attacking Triple H, and Rousey getting her Wrestlemania moments by hiptossing Triple H and “armbarring” Stephanie. This was an interesting segment and I am sure the WWE has something in mind for the future. But, what could it be? A mixed-tag match either at Summerslam or next year’s Wrestlemania? A one-on-one match between Triple H and the Rock at either of the above events, with Stephanie in Triple H’s corner and Rousey in the Rock’s corner? Let the speculation begin!

Another intriguing match was between Bray Wyatt and the Undertaker. This was Taker’s first match and appearance since his Wrestlemania undefeated streak ended last year. The WWE and Bray Wyatt deserve credit for his entrance. Wyatt slowly walked to the ring and as he strolled, he passed some well-placed “zombies.” As he stopped each time, he tapped each one and they all moved. It was so unique and it looked like a scene from the television show, the Walking Dead. The match itself was short. Bray performed his signature moves a few times, but Taker kicked out – he was not losing in back-to-back Manias. To conclude the match, Taker reversed Wyatt’s finisher known as Sister Abigail, and hit his signature Tombstone for the victory. The Undertaker is now 22-1 at Wrestlemania – an astonishing feat for any superstar. Physically, he looked better than he did last year. But, he is slowing down and I would not be surprised if maybe next year is his final Mania.

The main event ended up being two matches instead of one for the WWE Championship. The Champion Brock Lesnar fought Roman Reigns. Early in the match, Lesnar realized he was bleeding and went crazy on the challenger, hitting a suplex and his F-5. When Reigns regained his footing, he was hit with suplex after suplex after suplex, much to the crowd’s delight. Reigns had his moments as well, hitting a Superman Punch and a Spear, but Lesnar kicked out of the Spear at two. He then hit his F-5 and both men were exhausted. Lesnar probably would have retained the title, if he went for the pin. But, he did not. This is when things became a little wacky.

Seth Rollins, who won the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2014, ran to the ring and decided to ‘cash in’. The match became a three way for the title. The crowd was shocked and excited. The end came when Seth performed his Curb Stomp on Reigns to become the new WWE Champion. The Stadium was stunned. There were many stories told here. Despite being mostly dominated the entire match, Roman Reigns showed that he deserved to be in main event picture. Lesnar got robbed, and deserve a rematch – he was never pinned in the end. I am also sure that Randy Orton, who defeated Rollins earlier in the night, will want a title shot. So, it will be interesting to see the developments regarding the WWE title in the coming weeks and months.

Heading into this Wrestlemania, I did not have high expectations, because of how the matches were built up during the weeks prior. Despite that, the WWE did a tremendous job giving the matches the proper time and telling stories. The surprises were exciting – the first ever Money in the Bank ‘cash in’ at Wrestlemania, and nostalgic – the DX vs. NWO battle. The Rock and Ronda Rousey in a WWE ring together was an unforgettable moment and got the WWE some media attention. In my opinion, this year’s event was a successful one and I am sure that next year’s spectacle at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, in front of possibly 100,000 fans, will surpass this one.

Azeem Kayum

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