Monday, 9 April 2018

Takeover/Wrestlemania Weekend

Another Wrestlemania has come and gone and somehow, someway, Roman Reigns is even further away from being the Top Guy than he was when they started this whole endeavour. Never has there been a more shoddily booked company Ace. But for the first time in about a decade I was genuinely hyped for what was happening over Wrestlemania weekend. The Mania card itself was the best in a long time, Takeovers are usually good, plenty of indie shows had interesting match-ups on them, etc. The only shows I watched in full were Takeover and Mania, and while some of the booking decisions in the latter were...questionable, I didn't regret staying up until 5.30 in the morning watching it. It's way too long these days (the pre-show started at 10pm and the closing montage hit at about 5.20am, which is ridiculous), but it had my favourite match of the year from the most unlikely of sources and a bunch of other stuff that I thought was decent to good. Plus Takeover had Velveteen Dream and overall was pretty great top to bottom. I will now gush about things I liked most.

Adam Cole v EC3 v Velveteen Dream v Ricochet v Killian Dain v Lars Sullivan (Ladder Match) (Takeover, 4/7/18)

The multi-man ladder match has been run into the ground as a concept by now, but this was about as much as I'm ever going to enjoy one these days. I don't even actively dislike matches like this, they're just not very interesting anymore because pretty much everything has been done already and you inevitably reach the point of diminishing returns. But I'm absolutely 100% all in on Velveteen Dream so for the first time in ages I was rooting super hard for a wrestler to win a predetermined contest. I thought he was legitimately great in this. His selling has an awesome car crash quality to it where his limbs go all rubbery on those big bumps. Him hitting elbow drops on everyone and capping it with the Purple Rainmaker off the ladder was my favourite spot of the year. I love him. I want him to win matches and titles and I'm bummed when he doesn't. I don't even dislike Adam Cole, but I was deflated when he won, not because Adam Cole won a match and he's lame or whatever, but because Velveteen Dream DIDN'T win. When/if he wins the NXT title I'll absolutely flip and I never expected to be invested in a wrestler like that again in my old age. I generally have no use for Ricochet but he's perfect for a match like this. That SSP to the floor at the start was wild and he was the projectile in an impromptu person-chucking contest so I liked him fine. Hopefully he curbs more of his annoying tendencies in the NXT run. EC3 never really did anything for me in this. Most of his offence was very early 2000s indieriffic and I wasn't sure whether he was hitting a move or the other guy had reversed it. The beefies were fun and I'm fine enough with Cole as the best possible version of Edge. They maybe could've done with trimming it by a few minutes, but I was hyped for this and it came through.

Johnny Gargano v Tomasso Ciampa (Unsanctioned Match) (Takeover, 4/7/18)

I'm not quite as high on this as the majority, but I still thought it was pretty excellent. It was maybe the best possible version of a WWE grudge match with all the DRAMA and callbacks and storytelling and whatever else that you could ask for. Ciampa getting all that heat was incredible. The silent entrance! They were booing him for absolutely anything at the start and he reveled in it. Thought this could've done with being trimmed a bit as well, but the big spots were huge and the stretch run was pretty great. Mostly felt like they communicated the hatred as well. I'd rather they went the Duggan/DiBiase route, but I'd rather every match went the Duggan/DiBiase route and this is 2018 and those expectations are unrealistic and so we take what we are given. Gargano grabbing Ciampa's beard as he slapped him about the face was great. Ciampa stomping Gargano into oblivion then applauding himself was one of the best things I've seen all year. The finish was basically perfect and drew the whole thing together really well. The melodramatic acting, the INNER CONFLICT, the bastard trying to be a bastard, the comeuppance...yeah, this promised something special and it delivered. 

Charlotte v Asuka (Wrestlemania, 4/8/18)

Man, how about that Charlotte entrance? Going in I thought this might've been a sleeper pick for MOTN, and it wasn't that but it was still pretty great. It was also stiff as shit. Asuka was really laying it in with those kicks, the knees, grabbing Charlotte in a surfboard and curb stomping, reeling off a nasty flurry when Charlotte tried to get defiant. Match had some big bumps as well, like the suplex off the apron and the Spanish fly off the top rope that looked potentially disastrous when they came off initially. Charlotte's dodgy arm being a theme throughout worked well and I thought she did a really good selling it right until the end, especially with the one-armed figure eight. I kind of question why they had Charlotte tap Asuka clean as a sheet already, but I'm guessing they're building to Charlotte/Ronda for next year so...fine, I guess? 

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle v Stephanie McMahon & HHH (Wrestlemania, 4/8/18)

The miracle of all miracle matches. I fully expected this to blow. Angle somehow moves slower than Undertaker and Undertaker moves slower than my 88 year old grandfather. HHH is less interesting to me than lots of uninteresting things. Rousey has looked awkward at best in the build up. Yet this match went from kinda nothing when it was Angle/Helmsley to way hotter than expected when Rousey got in to flat out awesome by the end. I was practically in slack-jawed disbelief at one point. When they did Rousey/Helmsley I fucking flipped my melon and when she put him in the armbar I was stripped to the waist. I thought he was actually going to tap for a second there. Steph was the best McMahon on this show by a million miles and I loved how she was basically a cheapshotting Jim Cornette for the most part. Did she look stronger against Rousey than she should've? Maybe. But she took the advantage by clawing Rousey's eyes and Rousey sold it great and her eye shadow was all over the place like Steph had maced her or something, so it's not like she bested her with wrestling proficiency. She certainly never looked as strong as most of us probably feared she would. I wouldn't have hated it if Rousey just ragdolled her silly, but I don't mind her showing a wee bit of vulnerability out the gate. Can't say enough good things about Rousey in this match and it felt like a true star making performance. I mean, she absolutely felt like the biggest deal on this card and she probably main events Summerslam and that is fucking wild. Match was probably laid out to the letter but I don't give a shit. Lay everything else out to the letter if it ends up being this enjoyable. I wasn't sure how it'd hold up on a rewatch, but it was somehow even better and it was already one of the most fun live wrestling experiences I've ever had. Amazing spectacle and genuinely one of my favourite matches in company history. 

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