|The view from the crowd.|
It was a privilege to be there and definitely something every wrestling fan has to go and be a part of at some point in their life.
If you ever get the opportunity to head to 'Mania, don't hesitate. Just get some tickets, because it's amazing and you'll regret not doing it later.
Of course, if you're really lucky, you'll get to go to a WrestleMania as good as #30. While the show was by no means perfect, Daniel Bryan's triumph over the authority and his championship win was pretty much universally loved, and while Undertaker's Streak ending to Brock Lesnar was controversial, no one will deny that it was very memorable. Last year's WrestleMania XXIX didn't seem to have much going for it, but so much happened during WrestleMania XXX and it was especially awesome to witness live and in-person. I figured I would recount what it was like as a fan in the crowd and fill you guys in on some bullet points of what worked live, what fell flat, and where the WWE stands after a wild weekend in New Orleans.
The day before WrestleMania, I got to go to Axxess—WWE's annual pre-Mania convention, which was held in what seemed like the longest building in human history. That thing stretched for many, many miles. It's optional, but I definitely recommend Axxess if you want to go to WrestleMania in the future. It really gets the buzz going to see loads of like-minded fans in one place, and of course the big attraction is getting to meet some of the Superstars. It was complete pot-luck at the start of the session, as we just picked one of the 10 or so autograph lines and waited to see who we would get. The lines on either side of us got David Otunga and Cesaro respectfully, illustrating the two-sided nature of luck at Axxess perfectly. The line for Cesaro's booth stretched out of sight, and was probably even bigger than Hulk Hogan's VIP line. Otunga didn't get the same demand.
I got to meet fellow Brits Paige and Bad News Barrett at the regular booths and Daniel Bryan at the VIP booth, all of which was very, very awesome. There was a little bit of time to watch some of the NXT matches, but Axxess was mostly waiting in line for the signings. If you don't mind that, then Axxess is brilliant, although I would recommend going to two sessions in order to get round some of the memorabilia they had there, as there's just no time for that in one trip.
- There were 'This is awesome' chants for the pre-show tag match, and I don't remember any other match getting that all night, so that shows you the quality level of the final part of that match between the Usos and the Real Americans. Of course, Daniel Bryan probably would have gotten them if he didn't already have a multitude of other chants ready to use.
- I was lucky enough to be in one of two big 'Cesaro Sections', and I held that sign up proud whenever Cesaro did something awesome...which meant I held it up a lot.
- Seeing Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and Rock in the same ring shooting the breeze was a very hot way to start the show, and definitely 'electrified' the crowd. The 'Silverdome' blunder was hilarious, and will probably be just as memorable as this segment itself.
- Triple H's 'Shao Kahn' entrance was definitely the best of the night. It looked spectacular and excellently showed just how egotistical his character has become by this point, as well as making him look like the final boss of Daniel Bryan: The Video Game.
- Bryan's simple entrance juxtaposed Triple H's perfectly, as he showed he didn't need a throne, a crown and a bunch of Princess Leia slave girls to make an impression. All he needed was the fans, and the Superdome loved Byran all night.
- Bryan/HHH was the best match of the night, both from a storytelling and technical standpoint. Trips really worked hard in this one, as this was his best match since becoming a part-timer. Bryan also took his game to another level of awesome, especially with his dives out of the ring.
- I got to within about 5 feet of The Shield as they made their entrance. That was absolutely crazy. My section had barely sat and calmed down again before the match was over. The Shield looked very strong coming out of that match and they have such a solid support for their babyface roles. The potential for them to be huge stars as a team or on their own is immeasurable.
- The Andre the Giant Battle Royal was pretty much nothing until the last few guys were left. I couldn't really tell who was being eliminated early on and I didn't really care. A few people around me were confused about Rusev not being in it, and it seemed like a missed opportunity. There was a lot of support for Cesaro and Ziggler. Even though I didn't have a clear view of it, Kofi's near-miss spot was cool to see.
- Huge reaction to Cesaro doing the Hogan/Andre slam on Show, and the Cesaro Section signs got a welcome second use. Big things to come from the King of Swing, as it looks like WWE is going all-in on him.
- Many more people were supporting Bray Wyatt than they were John Cena, and there was a very good reaction for Wyatt's entrance. Not nearly as many 'Let's go Cena/Cena sucks' chants as I heard at the last WWE show I attended in 2012, which could mean that peoples' interest in him is dwindling now.
- Wyatt/Cena was a decent match, but I expected more. Both guys were weighed down by the campy superhero story that was being told, and there was never any real doubt that Cena would stay away from 'the dark side'. When Cena gets serious, he gets a lot better, and we didn't see that here, which is a shame.
- Wyatt's loss here doesn't bury him, but it does set him back after beating Daniel Bryan and The Shield previously to this. He's still progressing up the card, while Cena is still as stagnant as ever and this win means nothing for him.
- I really wanted to go to a WrestleMania before Undertaker retired so that I could claim to have seen a Streak match. What I saw from this one was more shocking and astonishing than I could have ever expected, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it entirely a week later.
- The most unfortunate thing about the Undertaker's last Streak match was that it sucked. Taker suffered a concussion early on and it showed. The crowd was dead throughout, and while we tried to perk up for signature spots, our enthusiasm was never captured by either Taker or Lesnar, who both seemed to care more about just getting through the match than the actual quality of it.
- When the 3-count happened, my jaw hit the floor, and stayed there for a good few minutes. Nobody in the stadium could believe it, and there was a mix of shock and anger throughout, especially when the '21-1' graphic flashed up. It sounded like Lesnar had just shot Bambi's mother in the middle of the ring.
- The Divas match definitely needed to be where it was to let 21-1 sink in properly. My brother reported that the people queuing up at the toilets were majorly pissed off at Taker losing and that some people were even leaving the show. That just shows you the power of pro wrestling; a fake accomplishment being tarnished making people legitimately very angry.
- Personally, I don't really mind The Streak ending. It was memorable and emotional, and that's what pro wrestling at its best always is. Giving the win to Brock Lesnar rather than a younger guy like Reigns or Cesaro could be very shrewd, as there could have been backlash against those guys that would tarnish them for the rest of their careers. Instead, an already established monster heel looks legitimately scary for the first time since his loss to John Cena in his first month back, and if booked well from here, Lesnar could have a big 2014 and put over someone else, such as Cesaro, hugely at next year's WrestleMania 31. Let's just wait and see on this one.
- While a lot of the crowd was still pretty down when the main event came around, Bryan nonetheless received a rather large pop and Batista got quite a few boos. Every time Batista and Orton were in the ring without Bryan, there was no reaction from the crowd at all, but Bryan's involvement got the crowd interested.
- Triple H interfering in the main event was a very smart move, as he was the biggest bad guy in Bryan's story and still needed to receive true comeuppance. Bryan's sledgehammer shot/suicide dive combo to Trips was very satisfying, and got the crowd completely re-energised as if it were the first match all over again.
- The announce table spot was really scary. I thought at first that Orton was getting stretchered off having seen the cuts he got from falling on the monitor, but when they started motioning for Bryan, my heart legitimately sank. People around me were as shocked as they were for the Undertaker losing. I was all but praying that it was a work. And then it was. And then I was marking out.
- Every nearfall at the end of the main event was believable. After the Streak ending, nothing was sacred and anything could happen, and that enhanced this match in a big way. Everyone wanted Bryan to win, and it was cathartic when he finally got Batista to tap out. There were huge and continuous YES chants until the end of the show, and I joined them with aplomb. Amazing moment to see Bryan leading the chants while covered in gold and confetti.
RAW after WrestleMania XXX:
If WrestleMania was the spectacular showpiece, this was the fan-service filled after-party. Yet again, the RAW after 'Mania delivered some big talking points, and being part of that crowd (even if I was sitting in the upper bowl) was very fun.
Even though my throat was pretty hoarse, I sang along to 'John Cena sucks' with gusto, and that entire match was hilarious. Bad News Barrett practically blew the roof off with the support he had, and of course, everyone still loved Daniel Bryan. Paul Heyman's gloating 'I told you so' promo was glorious, and does make me feel confident that WWE will deliver on Lesnar after ending the Streak.
But the thing from RAW that I remember most fondly was seeing Paige enter to a great pop and win the Divas Championship while the crowd chanted 'This is awesome'. For that to happen during a Divas segment is basically unheard of since about 2007. I'm so happy to see a fellow Brit who I've been watching on NXT for the past two years make such a big impact on the main roster.
RAW was a really great way to round out an amazing weekend in New Orleans. The city itself was lovely, and although the ridiculous drinking age of 21 (18 here in the UK) stopped me and my brother from having the 'full New Orleans experience', we still had a good time outside of the wrestling-based stuff.
Obviously the weekend for WWE was impacted by the Ultimate Warrior's death on Tuesday. I have no real connection to Warrior, having been born after he retired, but he seemed to have buried many hatchets by the time he was inducted in the Hall of Fame, and it's good to know that his ties to the WWE were re-established before his death, unlike so many other wrestlers.
So that's WrestleMania Weekend from the perspective of a fan that was fortunate enough to go to all three major festivities. If you went to the show, share with us your reactions and tell us what you did in the comments below!