WrestleMania 33 Review | The Undertaker Retires, The Hardy Boyz Return

WrestleMania 33 is over, bringing an end to the WWE’s top story lines while also closing the book on The Undertaker’s illustrious career. The event was filled with both highs and lows, a given in a show that stretched to 6 hours with the pre-show included, but compared to the dire WrestleMania 32 it can be considered a relative success.

With plenty of high-profile matches, a magnificent return of two fan favorites and the final chapter of WWE’s most enduring Superstar all on offer, there’s plenty to take away from the show following its final gong. So with that being said, let’s see how WrestleMania 33 fared now that the dust has settled:

 

The Hardy Boyz Return and win the tag titles

Credit: WWE Network

It’s difficult to truly surprise wrestling fans these days, what with the internet spreading insider information almost as soon as it reaches the ears of Dave Meltzer and co. While The Hardy Boyz were earmarked for a return to the company in the near future, there were no significant murmurs regarding the team making their return at WrestleMania 33, so the pop as their entrance music hit was huge.

Also See: Interview with John Cena on WrestleMania 33

There are still question marks regarding which version of the Hardyz the WWE will be treated to. Matt Hardy’s mannerisms during the match (not to mention his encouragement of the frequent “DELETE” chants) certainly seem to indicate that we were watching Broken Matt in action, but Jeff didn’t don his Brother Nero garb. A video posted to the WWE’s Snapchat saw them discussing how former RAW tag champs The Club’s reign was now “obsolete,” but we’ll have to wait until RAW tonight to see whether they’ll be fully Broken or just a little bit bent out of shape.

The match itself was the highlight of the night, with Cesaro and Sheamus being responsible for the majority of its most impressive spots aside from its finish, which saw Jeff Hardy performing a Swanton Bomb onto the international duo from atop a 20-foot ladder. Considering Enzo Amore’s involvement I was surprised that everything went off more or less without a hitch, and while it didn’t compare to The Hardy Boyz’s legendary TLC matches of the past, it was still a lot of fun and provided Jeff with his first ever WrestleMania victory. After an excellent couple of years working in TNA and the indies, it’s great to see the Hardyz’s bringing their Broken brilliance back to the WWE.

 

The Undertaker retires

Credit: WWE Network

When Roman Reigns v The Undertaker was moved to the main event, it became abundantly clear that the rumors of it being the Phenom’s last match were true. Though it wasn’t explicitly confirmed by commentary, the symbolism of ‘Taker leaving his hat, coat and glove in the ring before the screen faded to black indicated that, as most veterans do, he was going to go out on his back in the main event of the show that defined his career.

‘Taker has struggled to “get it done” in the ring for a few years now, and while there were still at least two dream matches fans wanted to see before he hung up his boots — most notably against John Cena and Sting — it was probably for the best that he did so sooner rather than later. Unfortunately his retirement bout didn’t see him put in a show-stopping performance, and though there were a few impressive spots such as Reigns spearing the Deadman through the announcer’s table, the bout was underwhelming. There was a much better story to be told here if the WWE had opted for ‘Taker to be retired by an opponent the fans actually wanted him to fight, but the inclusion of Reigns saw the match soundtracked almost exclusively by boos. A number of botches also didn’t help matters, with ‘Taker fudging its finish leading to Reigns needing to alter the course of his Spear.

Reigns played the heel throughout the duration of the match, condescendingly slapping ‘Taker over the back of the head before putting him away and delivering a crunching chair shot to his back. Though fans continue to speculate on when he will eventually turn heel, the WWE isn’t going to go in that direction with him despite all logic dictating that they should, and it’s inevitable that this victory will see him placed in an angle with new Universal Champion Brock Lesnar in the near future. It’s difficult to comprehend how WWE believes that Reigns defeating and retiring The Undertaker at WrestleMania will help improve his audience reaction, but there’s no doubt that the boos he routinely receives are about to get a lot more intense following this ‘Mania.

 

Brock Lesnar wins the Universal Championship

Credit: WWE Network

It was a given that Lesnar was going to capture the Universal Championship from Goldberg, and while no one was expecting a classic from the pair, the bout was hard-hitting and serviceable enough. Though I still miss pre-Suplex City Lesnar and would love to see his faux MMA style tweaked to accommodate for more moves outside his German Suplex and F-5, the match was enjoyable as a spectacle and Goldberg looked in much better shape. Goldberg spearing Lesnar through the barricade was an unexpectedly risky move for the 50-year-old to pull off, and it made sense for him to drop the title in what will likely be the last match of his final WWE run.

While many complained about Lesnar’s previous heavyweight title reign due to him rarely defending the belt, the Universal Championship will likely benefit from him giving it the rub after Kevin Owens’ underwhelming run with it. Him eventually dropping it to Reigns is an inevitability, but now that he’s been humanized following his swift Survivor Series defeat to Goldberg, hopefully he can work a few high-profile matches with other guys on the RAW roster. If the rumors are true that AJ Styles will be drafted from SmackDown Live in the near future, that’s a match that will put a whole bunch of asses in seats.

 

Randy Orton’s underwhelming WWE Championship victory

Credit: WWE Network

Despite winning the Royal Rumble, Randy Orton’s match against Bray Wyatt was not the main event of the show. After watching the match, I can understand why.

Although Bray had claimed that he and Orton had prepared to steal the show, their WWE Championship match was one of the low-lights of the night, revealing a lack of chemistry between the former tag team champs. The visual of the bugs beamed onto the ring during Bray’s “spider walk” were entertaining (though it being used three times was overkill, but that’s WWE for you), but aside from that it was a disappointing and forgettable conclusion to SmackDown Live’s biggest story line.

Orton as WWE Champion isn’t exactly the most exciting prospect, and it’s difficult to see where Bray’s career can progress from here. This would have been the perfect time for the WWE to press the button on a monster heel push for the Eater of Worlds, but instead he’s been made to look ineffectual once again after being bested both physically and mentally by his former protege. This feud deserved a better match.

 

Bayley retains the RAW Women’s Championship

Credit: WWE Network

My main takeaway from this match is that Charlotte is now a bonafide star in the company, having firmly moved out of her father’s shadow and receiving a huge pop from the Orlando crowd as her entrance music hit. Nia Jax looked strong in the opening minutes, and though she’s still green in the ring she fits the role of a monster heel nicely.

Bayley retaining the championship surprised me, though it appears that WWE has acknowledged criticism of them playing hot potato with the belt and have decided to continue her run. I’m still of the opinion that it was far too soon to put the belt on her, and that her awkward promo style has not translated to the main roster at all, but considering her underdog success in NXT it was heartening to see her receive her “WrestleMania moment.” The loss won’t effect any of the other three women, even if she’s better suited to chasing the belt than holding it.

The match itself was good, even if it was below the quality of other matches held by the Horsewomen. Charlotte’s pirouetting dive to the outside from the turnbuckle was a thing of beauty, and bested the moonsault she pulled off at last year’s ‘Mania to make it one of the most impressive spots of the night. I’m still waiting for the Sasha heel turn, though given the dearth of female faces on the RAW roster, I assume that’ll take place around the time of the next draft.

 

Seth Rollins slays the King

Credit: WWE Network

I predicted Seth Rollins’ match against Triple H to devolve into a clusterfuck given its “Hold Harmless” no disqualification stipulation, with there being suggestions that Samoa Joe would interfere on behalf of The Game only to be fought off by Finn Balor. Considering that Samoa Joe was brought in as Triple H’s enforcer, he was completely absent throughout the entirety of his match, which in kayfabe means that he’s pretty terrible at his job.

The match was a good conclusion to the pair’s lengthy rivalry, and a considerable improvement over Triple H’s previous WrestleMania match against Roman Reigns. While Stephanie McMahon has her critics, she once again admirably put herself in harm’s way after taking the Spear last year, this time falling through a table after accidentally being shoved off the apron by her husband. In a symbolic move Rollins then defeated his rival with the Pedigree, and will hopefully now be on the hunt for a new finishing move better suited to his character.

Considering the heated rivalry between the duo I was expecting some bloodshed in this match, but the WWE mostly played it safe in this department for the duration of the event. Rollins is scheduled to face Samoa Joe at house shows following ‘Mania, so that will likely be his next feud, and hopefully Rollins can now go on to reclaim some of that momentum he lost after being sidelined with his knee injury.

 

Kevin Owens defeats his former best friend

Credit: WWE Network

The best story line in the WWE by a considerable margin heading into ‘Mania was Kevin Owens’ heated rivalry with his former best friend Chris Jericho. Though Jericho has had potentially the best year of his career, he hasn’t put on a spectacular match in quite some time, and his bout with Kevin Owens was no different.

Though better than the Orton/Wyatt match, WWE’s other most enduring angle, Owens and Jericho didn’t really deliver considering how much had gone into this story line over the past six months or so. The main thing lacking in the match was intensity which, considering Owens viciously threw Jericho into a TV screen only a few weeks ago, really undersold just how much of a blood feud this was. Both men are two of the very best at telling a story between the ropes, and though it was still a good match, I was expecting more considering its build up.

 

AJ Styles silences Shane McMahon

Credit: WWE Network

A lot of folks were upset that AJ Styles WrestleMania opponent was Shane McMahon, but from WWE’s standpoint it made a lot of sense. Shane’s a proven draw, and AJ can pull a good to great match out of just about anyone. The lack of a stipulation was a curious omission given Shane’s biggest selling point is his willingness to jump off really tall structures, but nonetheless this match exceeded my expectations and Styles sold Shane’s moves like a champ.

The match doesn’t really do anything for Styles’ career heading forward, but drawing out a good match of a non-wrestler will surely impress those behind the scenes, and it was a good opening match for the event. That Styles even managed to make Shane’s punches, which are indisputably the worst thrown by anyone in the WWE, look powerful says a lot about how talented The Phenomenal One is.

Styles won the bout, as he should, though not before taking a vicious-looking Coast to Coast and rolling out the way of a Shooting Star Press, which rightfully earned a “holy shit!” chant from the crowd. Shane McMahon is 47 years old, and he’s pulling out Shooting Star Presses. Take that, Oldberg.

 

Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn are wasted in the ARMBAR

Credit: WWE Network

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was moved to the pre-show, and though there was a hell of a lot of disruption regarding the SmackDown Women’s Championship match originally not being placed on the main card, in hindsight its position in the death slot ahead of the Reigns/’Taker match would have best been suited to the ARMBAR. Unfortunately, the battle royal itself was pretty infuriating, with it serving no other purpose than to have the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski show up to help Mojo Rawley (?!) get the victory.

Considering that the big angle heading into ‘Mania was Braun Strowman squaring off against the Big Show, it was a big surprise when both men were swiftly eliminated from the match, as was the final three consisting of Rawley, Jinder Mahal (again, ?!) and NXT stable Sanity’s Killian Dain. Considering that Strowman’s had a breakout year as RAW’s go-to monster heel, that he wasn’t given more to do at WrestleMania 33 is criminal, while Sami Zayn continues to be under-utilized after being unceremoniously dumped from the match by Dain. Both men were wasted in this year’s show, and Zayn desperately needs to be transferred to SmackDown.

 

Naomi wins the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Credit: WWE Network

The SmackDown women’s division is struggling for legitimate opposition against Becky Lynch, whose talents far exceed those of her peers on the show. Becky has been chasing the title for months now, and once again came up short after Naomi picked up the submission victory by making former champ Alexa Bliss tap.

This was not the match to put on in between Lesnar/Goldberg and Reigns/’Taker, with the crowd being dead until the final bell. Naomi got a decent pop for snagging the title, a given considering that it was her home town, but this was a poor choice for the penultimate match on the card. Hopefully the upcoming draft livens up the division.

 

John Cena proposes to Nikki Bella

Credit: WWE Network

The Miz put in a considerable amount of effort heading into WrestleMania 33 to make people care about his mixed tag match, starring in the hilarious Total Bellas spoof videos alongside wife Maryse, who has also proven to be exceptional in her role as his valet. This earned him a great reception in Orlando, with the assembled crowd loudly favoring him and his wife over their rivals John Cena and Nikki Bella.

Unfortunately, both were soundly beaten by the power couple with dual finishers, before Cena proposed to Nikki in the ring and essentially justified Miz’s taunts regarding their relationship being little more than a show for the cameras. Jerry Lawler awkwardly tried to undermine the cheers Miz was receiving, suggesting that only a few members of the crowd were behind him rather than Cena, before the stadium erupted in “Miz is awesome” chants right on cue.

This entire angle has been one of the highlights of SmackDown, though was once again an example of Cena being positioned as a face despite being booked like a heel. Cena proposing to Nikki in the ring essentially justified every criticism The Miz and Maryse had of their relationship, making their “WrestleMania moment” somewhat confusing.

 

Ambrose and Neville retain

After a year spent as the company’s most reliable workhorse, Dean Ambrose was thanklessly relegated to the pre-show in an underwhelming Intercontinental Championship defense again Baron Corbin. I’m not the biggest fan of Ambrose’s lackadaisical style of wrestling, but he wasn’t at fault for this lackluster match, which was bogged down by Corbin’s inexperience and a lack of chemistry between the rivals. Fortunately Ambrose retained, but this match was evidence that Corbin isn’t ready for a main event slot just yet.

Neville and Austin Aries put on a much better match, and continue to elevate the Cruiserweight division. Alongside Jack Gallagher, the pair are the most entertaining stars of 205 Live by a considerable margin, and though this didn’t compete with some of the tremendous matches Neville was responsible for during his NXT run, it was the best match on the pre-show.

Final thoughts

WrestleMania 33 was a decent show, though not without its problems. As is the case with most ‘Mania’s, it was more about the spectacle than it was about putting on classic matches, and there wasn’t a classic anywhere on the card. The litany of part-timers may have helped sell tickets, but the lack of truly incredible matches over the course of six hours of wrestling really hurt the show, making it difficult to sit through in many parts.

I would have liked to have seen more of the company’s bright new stars such as Strowman, Zayn and the absent Samoa Joe and Finn Balor, but considering the dull mess that was WrestleMania 32, this year’s show was a big improvement. With it bringing an end to most of the company’s longest standing storylines, along with earning its place in WWE’s history books by virtue of being the final resting place of The Undertaker character, WrestleMania 33 was a memorable if disjointed PPV that, like all WWE programming these days, lasted too long to hold its audience’s interest.

 

Featured Image Credit: WWE / Facebook

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