Last Rides: WWE legends fall at wrestling’s biggest show

Joshua Lloyd, A&E Editor

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     Legends never die, but they do occasionally get beat. This year’s Show of Shows was a night of redemption, reassertion and good old-fashioned revenge. Legacies were challenged, master plans came to fruition and careers were defined at the home of the Citrus Bowl this past Sunday night. This is, of course, WrestleMania, the most star-studded and dramatic event in professional wrestling. It’s known as the “Showcase of the Immortals,” but this time, the immortals were the ones who tasted defeat.

     Future WWE Hall of Famers formed the backbone of this year’s main card; Triple H, Goldberg, Shane McMahon, Brock Lesnar and Undertaker all stood under the bright lights of WWE’s annual extravaganza.

     It was a rough night for the McMahon family as Shane fell to AJ Styles in the first match of the main card. Later, Triple H unwittingly sent his wife Stephanie McMahon tumbling through a ringside table during his Unsanctioned Match against former protégé Seth Rollins, distracting the Cerebral Assassin long enough for Rollins to administer the fatal Pedigree.

     WrestleMania is a spectacle that blurs the increasingly thin line between sports and entertainment. Tinashe was on hand to open the show with “America the Beautiful” and Pitbull, Flo Rida, Lunchmoney Lewis and Stephen Marley performed “Greenlight” for the sold-out Orlando crowd. During the WrestleMania Kickoff, Rob Gronkowski stormed the ring to help football bro Mojo Rawley win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

     WWE makes sure to sneak in plenty of surprises on its grandest stage, as well. WrestleMania hosts The New Day arrived just before the Raw Team Championship Match, which was scheduled to be a Triple Threat battle under the Ladder Match stipulation.

     The fashionable faction broke the news that it was, in fact, a Fatal Four-Way; the final team turned out to be Ladder Match pioneers and Attitude Era staples The Hardy Boyz. Jeff dispatched Sheamus and Cesaro with his infamous ladder-top Swanton Bomb, and Matt snatched the tandem titles to secure the Hardys’ seventh WWE tag championships.

     The jaw-dropping set for this year’s Ultimate Thrill Ride was inspired by Orlando’s world-famous theme parks, featuring a roller coaster and a massive replica of the squared circle high above the actual ring. For one Superstar couple, there was more than one kind of ring at the Show of Shows.

     John Cena and longtime girlfriend Nikki Bella bested the Miz and his wife Maryse in a Mixed Tag Team contest. Big Match John apparently met his match, though, because he dropped to one knee and proposed to Ms. Bella in front of 75, 245 members of the WWE Universe (a new Camping World Stadium attendance record, previously set by WrestleMania XXIV in 2008). Rumors had been milling about for months that the Cenation leader would finally pop the question on WWE’s most emotional night; it was truly fitting for a power couple like Cena and the Fearless One.

     The party was far from over; Randy Orton RKO’d his way to his thirteenth world championship over arch-nemesis and WWE Champion Bray Wyatt. Universal Champion Goldberg and Brock Lesnar met for the third and perhaps final time, shaking Camping World Stadium to its core as they traded Spears and German suplexes. Lesnar erased thirteen long years of doubt when he felled the WCW icon with a blistering F5.

 

 
WrestleMania 33 was, almost certainly, The Undertaker’s final performance. His ‘Mania record now stands at 23-2 after a heart-wrenching loss to Roman Reigns.

 

     Continuing the new trend of pushing women’s bouts into the spotlight, Raw Women’s Champion Bayley met Sasha Banks, Nia Jax and Charlotte Flair in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match to determine Raw’s top female Superstar. The Huggable One last eliminated Charlotte to keep her arms wrapped around the red-and-white title belt.
 

     Neville, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens and Naomi also walked out of the Citrus Bowl with championships in tow, besting Austin Aries, Baron Corbin, Chris Jericho and the SmackDown women’s roster, respectively.

     Undertaker and Roman Reigns stepped through the ropes to put their bitter rivalry to rest in the main event. It took him five savage Spears (one of which obliterated the Spanish announce table), but Reigns survived chair shots, chokeslams and an emphatic Tombstone Piledriver to put the Deadman down in a No Holds Barred WrestleMania turf war.

     Undertaker symbolically stripped off his trench coat, gloves and hat and left them lying in the squared circle before heading up the entrance ramp and sinking out of sight.

     If Taker decides to hop on his American Badass bike and ride off into the sunset after this one, fans surely can’t blame him. He just turned fifty-two, he’s headlined twenty-five WrestleManias and he’s been with WWE since 1990, making him the longest-tenured performer in company history. The numbers speak for his longevity, since most Superstars would have called it quits a decade ago, but that’s not how the Phenom ran his yard.

     Should the gates of the Underworld ever open again, however, it could just be a matter of time before the bell tolls and the Deadman rises once more.