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WrestleMania runs wild in New Orleans

Jake McDonnell, Sports Editor

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     More than 78,000 WWE fans converged on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday night to witness the thirty-fourth chapter in WrestleMania’s history.

     This marked the second time in five years that the Superdome hosted “The Show of Shows.” In 2014, WWE selected New Orleans as the home of WrestleMania 30. On that night, Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H, Batista, and Randy Orton in two separate matches to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion before neck and concussion problems forced Bryan into retirement.

     WrestleMania 30 also saw the Undertaker’s 21-0 undefeated streak at WrestleMania come to an end at the hands of Brock Lesnar, marking one of the most shocking moments in the history of professional wrestling.

    On Sunday, both Bryan and Undertaker’s Superdome stories came full circle. Almost three years had passed since the WWE Universe saw Bryan perform in a WWE ring; the “SmackDown Live” General Manager was just cleared back to in-ring competition three weeks ago. Bryan teamed up with former “SmackDown Live” Commissioner Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.

     After McMahon and Bryan made their entrances, Owens and Zayn attacked their former bosses from behind. McMahon started the match, but eventually tagged Bryan in. From there, Bryan hit his signature moves to deafening “Yes” chants. After Bryan floored Zayn with a running knee, he cinched in his patented “Yes Lock” on Zayn, who tapped out in moments.

     It remains unclear how often the Yes Man will compete in a WWE ring, but even if it’s not full time, some Daniel Bryan is better than no Daniel Bryan. Although his history of concussions remains a concern, seeing Bryan return after spending three years in retirement was one of the most inspiring WWE moments in quite some time.

     Last year at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Roman Reigns felled the Undertaker in what many thought was The Deadman’s last match. After all, he left his signature hat and coat in the ring.

     In the weeks leading up to this year’s Showcase of the Immortals, John Cena called out the Undertaker each week on Raw, but was answered by silence every time. Cena spent the first few hours of the show sitting in the front row and sipping beer with fans, without an opponent.

     About an hour into the show, a referee ran down the aisle and found Cena, who then hilariously sprinted to the backstage area. Halfway through the main card, we heard Cena’s iconic music hit. He stood in the ring for a few moments and the lights went out, but it was Elias walking out from the back to challenge Cena, not the Undertaker.

     Cena hit his signature moves on Raw’s balladeer and started trudging up the ramp, but then the lights went out a second time. ‘Taker’s hat and coat appeared back in the ring and disappeared after being struck by lightning (suspend your disbelief, it’s pro wrestling). Then the infamous gong thundered in the Superdome, and The Deadman finally arrived.

     The match itself clocked a just under three minutes; Undertaker dominated the entire way and won after hitting Cena with a chokeslam and an emphatic Tombstone Piledriver.

     The WWE Universe wanted to see this match at ‘Mania for years, and there could certainly be a rematch down the road. However, after watching ‘Taker seemingly retire last year, the direction of his historic character has taken a confusing turn.

     Something wrestling fans will remember for years to come is the Women’s Revolution leaving a large mark on WrestleMania 34. Four matches on this year’s card featured female Superstars, a number that was unheard of in years prior. Naomi started the night for the women on the WrestleMania Kickoff show, topping 19 other Superstars in the first-ever WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal.

     On the main card, we saw both the Raw and SmackDown Live Women’s Championships defended. On the “SmackDown Live” side, another streak ended in the Superdome as Charlotte Flair retained her title by defeating Asuka, who came into the night undefeated as a WWE Superstar. Askua’s spotless streak on the WWE roster lasted 914 days, which is officially the longest undefeated streak in the history of the company.

     Later in the night, real-life best friends Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax dueled over the Raw Women’s Championship. Bliss is the first ever to win both the Raw and SmackDown Live Women’s titles, but Jax pinned Bliss after a crushing second-rope Samoan Drop to win her first-ever championship on the main roster.

     A Mixed Tag Team Match pitted Triple H and Stephanie McMahon against Raw General Manager Kurt Angle and former Olympic gold medalist and UFC Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey. This marked Rousey’s WWE in-ring debut.

     Angle and Triple H began the match, but after about seven minutes, Ronda was let loose. Rousey looked like a natural, pulling off hurricanranas, spinning slams, roll-throughs, and of course, armbar submission holds.

     After just over 20 minutes, Ronda forced Steph to tap out to her infamous armbar, successfully capping off her in-ring debut. We don’t know if she’ll wrestle full-time or work as more of a marquee performer, but she proved that she can hold her own in the squared circle.  

     Finn Bálor, Seth Rollins and the Miz put on a Triple Threat thriller for Miz’s Intercontinental Championship. Rollins can now call himself “Grand Slam Rollins” after stomping Miz with a Blackout for the pinfall.

     Two of the last three matches of the night featured the title matches involving SmackDown Live’s WWE Championship and Raw’ Universal Championship. The “dream match” came first, with A.J. Styles defending his WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. Many expected Nakamura’s first ‘Mania to end with him hoisting the belt, but Styles countered Nak’s Kinshasa knee strike into a match-sealing Styles Clash.

     After the match, Styles tried to help Nakamura to his feet. In a shocking turn of events, Nakamura hit Styles with a low blow, signifying a heel turn that no one expected.

      In the WrestleMania main event, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns closed the show in a rematch from ‘Mania 31. The crowd was simply not into the match (some unruly audience members broke out the beach balls for this one), and WWE knew it.

    WWE even pulled a rare blade job that saw Lesnar elbow Reigns in the forehead, and shortly thereafter Lesnar hit Reigns with a sixth F5 for the win. To everyone’s surprise, the show ended with both major titles not changing hands.

     WrestleMania 35 is set for Sunday, Apr. 7 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Hopefully the weather will turn much faster in 2019 than this year, or else WWE will have a chilly situation on their hands.

 

Brock Lesnar has signed a new contract with WWE and will defend the Universal Title against Roman Reigns at a huge live event in Saudi Arabia on April 27.

 

Former UFC champ Ronda Rousey stole the show in a Mixed Tag Match at WrestleMania 34.

 

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WrestleMania runs wild in New Orleans