Sunday Sermon: WWE WrestleMania 35 and Beyond

Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow Padraic Toolan and Benjamin Trecroci

With WrestleMania 35 in the bag and the typically action-packed post-mania episodes of Raw and Smackdown, in today’s Sunday Sermon the team look back and see what the WWE got right and what it got wrong.

Craig: First up, I thought WrestleMania was good. A safe seven out of 10 for me. Plenty it got right: KofiMania, Becky going over, Seth and Balor winning their respective titles. Sure, there was some stuff that we could have done without Trips vs Batista and some filler: the Smackdown tag title match didn’t reach the heights I expected and who really needed to see R-Truth and Carmella? But overall, plenty of big stuff happened over the course of almost seven and a half hours of wrestling – when the pre-show was included.

On Raw, we finally got the debut of Lars Sullivan, we got a fleeting return (maybe longer term?) of the Undertaker and on Smackdown we got the first post-mania title change when the Hardy Boyz defeated the Usos to recapture the tag gold. All in all, certainly an eventful seven days and that’s without discussing the near perfect NXT Takeover and an eventful, to say the least, edition of the Hall of Fame.

So, gang, what did the WWE get right and what did it get wrong?

Brian: Wrestlemania 35 was a very good show. I’ll agree that the Triple H vs Batista match was too long and could have easily been left off the show. AJ Styles vs Randy Orton wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Samoa Joe making quick work of Rey Mysterio was a bit perplexing. I think it took Rey longer to get dressed in that outfit than his actual match.

I think the 7 plus hour show really gassed the usually raucous Raw and Smackdown crowd the following nights.

Bottom line is, Wrestlemania unofficially kicks off a new season for WWE. New wrestlers debut, new feuds begin and angles are set up for the remainder of the year. The superstar shake-up will be interesting to see where everyone ends up. Remember, Smackdown moves to FOX this October… so it’ll be interesting to see who ends up there.

There’s really not a whole lot WWE got wrong these last few days. Kofi and Seth are champions, Sami Zayn returned with a new gimmick and the same looks like will occur with Mojo Rawley and Bray Wyatt.

Jamie: I was pleasantly surprised by the whole weekend. I think WWE got way more right than they got wrong, with what they got wrong detailed elsewhere on the blog i.e. length of the show and number of matches. With that said, there’s probably plenty of people who love that the show lasted as long as it did and featured so many matches.

My intentions for the weekend were to watch NXT Takeover and Kofi vs Bryan from the main show. I did indeed watch a near perfect NXT show, saw the majority of Wrestlemania and caught the main parts of Raw too. I did skip through the second half of Mania because, quite frankly, I had shit to do! While too long – hence my fast-forwarding – this was probably the best all-around Wrestlemania show I’ve seen in many years. The reason I watched more of the show than I thought I would is that it sucked me in. I started watching to see the intro and what the stadium looked like, as you do. But hold on, here’s Paul Heyman and the Universal Title match is kicking off the show, so I figured I watch that to see what happens. Styles vs Orton is when I got my breakfast, so that was what it was. I really liked the men’s four corners tag match for what it was, loved Shane vs Miz, took a slight dip with the women’s four corners tag and blew the rook off with Kofi vs Bryan. After that, I kind of lost a little interest but thought the Cena segment and Finn Balor’s entrance were cool.

I guess by producing a show that lasts seven weeks and features 500 matches there will always be something you like, so there was always going to be something for me to enjoy at Mania. However, does it make me want to start watching Raw and Smackdown on a more regular basis? Not really. As a stand-alone show it was cracking entertainment and I’m looking forward to the next one, but I don’t mean the next WWE show, I mean the next Wrestlemania.

Padraic: Padraic: Oh man, what an incredible experience to see WrestleMania live, and it’s going to give me a different perspective on how the show was compared to those who just watched at home. I did watch it on the network afterwards, and there were some matches that were good live and bad on TV, and vice versa. The biggest disappointments live were the Reigns-McIntyre match and the HHH-Batista match. On the network, you got the closeups of the facial expressions for Roman and Drew and you could hear all the taunting Drew was doing, and I thought it made for good psychology, but live, that match was shit. Almost the same for HHH-Batista. I thought Shawn Michaels’ commentary made that match better on TV.

Conversely, the women’s tag title match was terrific live but bored me to hell when I watched it after. The main event was terrific, but the finish was as bad in person as it was on TV. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have Becky tap out Ronda. I’ve heard all about the botched finish, and even the original plan apparently was for Charlotte to tap. Being there for Kofi’s win and Kurt Angle’s last match was magical and emotional. I loved the SmackDown tag team fatal four way. Finn vs. Lashley suffered from being late on the card but was a great match. We expected one of the matches to be a quick squash as it was getting late, and obviously, that honor went to Joe and Mysterio. I thought Randy and AJ was as good as expected. And what an incredible way to start to show the main show with Rollins slaying the beast. My problem with it is that I would have had him win clean, because sure, Lesnar attacked before the bell, Rollins went low, now we’re even. But if Rollins had won clean after that pre-match attack, that’s how legends are created. Now you just have a guy who was tough enough to overcome that pre-match attack and smart enough to punch Lesnar in the balls when the ref wasn’t looking. That’s why Gargano’s win was so much better on NXT. Sure he wasn’t up against Brock Lesnar, but he was up against the entire Undisputed Era and took everything they had and still won.

I thought Monday night was a dick move to the fans with the bait and switch on the main event. If you’re gonna tease the Seth-Kofi match then have someone ruin it, have it be someone bigger than the god damn Bar. Yeah, I get it, you’re pushing the superstar shake-up, but news flash Vince: you’ve watered down the brand split that half the people don’t even realize that The Bar is only on SmackDown, PLUS WE SEE THEM EVERY WEEK ANYWAY! They also had Drew McIntyre disappear during a commercial break on the SmackDown main event, for some reason. Stuff like that is insulting to the fans. AND STOP WASTING ASUKA! I’m convinced Vince forgot she was the SmackDown Women’s Champion, and as soon as he did, he had Charlotte take the belt from her.

On the positive side, I’m glad to finally see Lars Sullivan arrive. I worry that Baron Corbin’s rub from his Mania win immediately transferred to Sullivan. Hopefully, they both get pushes. I’m all in for Lacey Evans vs. Becky Lynch. The tag team divisions are still diluted. Now that Braun’s SNL feud is over, can we PLEASE get him a real push to the top? I love Seth Rollins, but goddammit, how is Strowman not crushing all competition? They dropped him from the main event picture faster than they dropped Muhammad Hassan. I feel like there’s a ton of potential going forward, but Raw and SmackDown this week make me feel like it’s going to be a shitty month or two coming up.

Benjamin: Great live perspective from Padriac! Swear I still have a WrestleMania hangover from Sunday.

Rollins win was sensational! Such a great way to kick off the real show. Then Kofi’s was emotional, brought a tear to my eye. Could really see that was more than just a wrestling storyline win there. Was actually really worried that Big E was going to trip Kofi at the end of the match. That would have been ugly.

The one match that absolutely killed it for me was Batista and Trips. Good Lord, wrap it up. Then Becky’s win reminded me a bit of Sting vs Hogan at Starrcade ’97. All that build up and then what happened?

Overall WM was good but they have to cut it down or start it earlier. Nothing should ever end at 1230am in the home of the event. Just obnoxious.

Then as far as Raw & SmackDown go, why do they insist on not having the ill-advised Super Shakedown on the night after Mania?!? These shows ended up being basically throw away episodes. Outside of Lars Sullivan, the return of Paige and Sami Zayn, nothing of note really made me excited at all. No new feuds or storylines. Kofi and Rollins don’t have new challengers for their titles.

Each show needs new major storylines, new feuds and a basic reset and also no more McMahons or The Authority please!

We shall see…

Padraic: NXT works absolutely fine with no evil authority, just William Regal making matches. It’s totally unnecessary to keep trying to recreate Stone Cold vs. Mr. McMahon when it’s obvious that they’ll never recapture that magic.

Brian: I agree with the assessment of NXT. Triple H lets the wrestlers tell the stories and he is never used as an evil authority figure. The same for 205 live which in my opinion is a vastly underrated show.

There is a lot to like about WWE right now. I know it is easy to crap on WWE, but most of their programming as of late….with the exception of being long has been solid.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.


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