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Sitting in the airport in Orlando waiting to board a flight back to Ireland I can finally gather my thoughts on an amazing weekend! One thing I know for sure is that the WWE really know how to put on a show!
The weekend brought so many highlights or 'moments' as they are always referred to so it's hard to be able to gather them together. Perhaps I need 'The List of Smyths'. Write them down maaaaaaaaaaaaan!
He has been my favourite wrestler since I began watching all those years ago. A man dressed in black that can make his eyes do weird things and likes to win matches by putting his opponents into a casket? Oh, and he had a really creepy manager, Paul Bearer. Over time, he would have incredible matches with Kane, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle and of course, Shawn Michaels. To this day, I have never seen a more complete and compelling match than Undertaker v Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25, if you haven't seen it then what have you been doing with your life? Go now and watch it, I'll wait right here... (waits)... OK, so you agree? Good! Unreal! And the the promo leading up to their re-match at Wrestlemania 26 was amazing too. WWE have a way of making great video packages (Creed - My Sacrifice - WWE Desire 2001). Check out the Undertaker v Michaels WM26 promo here.
It was so emotional in the stadium Sunday night as 'The Deadman' left his gloves, coat and hat in the ring and walk away from the ring for the last time. I can honestly say my eyes were watering up! Over his 26 year WWE career he has always been the standard by which everyone wants to achieve, he will always do what needs to be done and every single person inside and outside WWE has untold respect for him. We may never witness someone as awe inspiring as The Undertaker again!
The Hardys Return!
It was rumoured for quite a while that the Hardy Boys could possibly be returning home to the WWE. They had not partnered together in WWE since 2009 but have since gone on to win Championship Gold all around the world!
When the New Day came out at the beginning of the Tag Team match the entire crowd started chanting 'DELETE' (A reference to the Broken character Matt portrayed in TNA), WE HOPED that it would be the Hardys, but with it being the WWE, anything was possibly. But as soon as the music hit the crowd lost it! over 75,000 people on their feet jumping up and down cheering, I had physical goosebumps on my arms! Amazing!
John Cena Proposes to Nikki Bella
Who says Wrestling can't be romantic!? Ever since Total Bella's (A reality show set around Brie and Nikki Bella) aired last year, fans will have been aware that Nikki wanted to get married to John Cena, and after dating for a few years and with John showing no real interest in getting re-married it looked like it was never going to happen. But in the days leading up to Wrestlemania, internet rumblings suggested it was time and to be honest, it was quite awesome and a moment I'm sure they will cherish.
Kurt Angle being inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame and becoming new RAW General Manager
When it was announced that Kurt Angel would be inducted into this years Hall of Fame, every single WWE fan immediately hoped for an in-ring return for the Olympic Gold Medalist. Seeing him on Friday night at the Hall of Fame Ceremony re-living old memories was pure nostalgia bliss! Following Monday Night RAW we now know that Kurt is the new General Manager of RAW. So at least he's back on our screens every week. It's a start, but hopefully more to come!
WWE Performance Centre
As an avid fan of NXT (You really need to be watching it, if you are not doing so already!), it was such a great experience to see first-hand the training facility that the WWE have developed in Orlando to help develop the future stars of RAW and Smackdown. Amazing coaches, facilites and support systems are there to give the trainees every possible chance to succeed. It's no surprise to see NXT Takeovers often being better than the RAW or Smackdown PPVs.
Never stop being a wrestling fan. It's too much fun!
Diamond Dallas Page started wrestling at 35 so I think there's still time for me to get my act together! Who knows, maybe I could be the next big star? Ok, maybe not.. But there's never been a better time to become a wrestler than right now! Independent wrestling organisations such as Progress and ICW in the UK and OTT in Ireland are booming and this is because people want to see local talent do well. The WWE have taken notice of this rise in Independent talent in the UK and Ireland and have launched a WWE UK division with many stars coming from the above promotions. So stay cool, enjoy professional wrestling!
What to say.. Firstly, after witnessing it first hand and giving myself the night to think it over, I would rate this Wrestlemania as the best Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 17 (Or X7 as it's more commonly known). The entire show flowed seamlessly and despite going 70 minutes over, I never felt like it was being dragged out. Over 7 hours of pure unadulterated fun!
This year will no doubt be remembered as the last time we see The Undertaker in the ring. Upon falling to Roman Reigns in the main event, The Deadman left his wrestling gloves, coat and hat in the ring as he made what appears to have been his final departure from a WWE Ring. It was truly an emotional moment and the chants of 'Thank You Taker' rang loudly from the Camping World Stadium.
We were treated to many Wrestlemania memories including the heartfelt moment when John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella in the middle of the ring after they defeated the team of The Miz and Maryse. It was teased in the build-up to this match that Nikki would never have what Maryse has, a wedding ring, so it is doubly enjoyable for Bella as she is the soon to be the new Mrs John Cena!
Wrestlemania is known for its celebrity appearances and this year we were entertained by a live performance from Pitbull, Flo Rida and Lunch Money Lewis performing the Wrestlemania 33 Theme Song: Greenlight. Quite a catchy song, check it out here.
A familiar face to NFL Fans also got involved in the action as New England Patriots Tight-End Rob Gronkowski helped out good friend Mojo Rawley win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. He looks like he would fit in just fine in the WWE. Wouldn't mind seeing 'The Gronk' in the WWE.
The first match of the night, on the kick-off show, was arguably the best technical match of the entire show. Neville successfully defended his Cruiserweight championship against the Greatest man that ever lived, Austin Aries. Aries is great, but Neville was the best at WM33!
Both Dean Ambrose and Bayley successfully defended their Intercontinental and RAW Women's Championships respectively. The Women's match had some spectacular spots including a Triple Power Bomb to Nia Jax from Charlotte, Bayley and Sasha Banks and a trademark Corkscrew Moonsault from Charlotte off the top rope to the outside of the ring. A great match and it will be interesting to see what happens next!
When it was announced that AJ Styles would face Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania a lot of people were underwhelmed (Including me) but we were wrong to doubt it. It was amazing with some fantastic technical and high-flying spots. One thing we can never doubt about Shane-O-Mac is his willingness to go to the extreme to entertain the fans. Seeing a Coast-to-Coast in person makes it all the more impressive!
One thing that fans will have noticed watching WM33 was the size of the entrance ramp, it was huge! 80 yards in fact, a whopping 240ft! This explains why it took so long for some to get to the ring.
The biggest surprise of the night came at the beginning of the RAW Tag-Team Championship Match as the WM33 hosts 'The New Day' coming out just as the match was about to begin with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows defending against the teams of Enzo & Cass and Sheamus and Cesaro. The New Day announced that they had just received word that this match was being changed from a triple threat to a fatal four-way! Who who is the 4th team going to be? Who? Who? Who? Who? It was only THE HARDY BOYZ!!! First time back we have seen the Hardys WWE since 2009! The pop from the crowd when their music hit was incredible! The loudest of the night bar none! They went on to win the match as Matt climbed the ladder to capture the belts. This was after Jeff had announced his return with a patented Swanton Bomb off the top of a REALLY big ladder onto both Sheamus and Cesaro who were themselves lying on top of two ladders set up outside the ring. As I heard the crash of bodies breaking metal ladders my own back started to hurt!
It's the scarf of Jericho... Light it up maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! How cool was Chris Jericho's scarf!? Was so looking forward to this match with Kevin Owens. The build up to it was so enthralling, from the Shark Cage to the Festival of Friendship - and it didn't disappoint! These guys clearly know each other so well with the blocks and reversals throughout the match but ultimately KO got this win. What next for both these guys?
Possibly the only disappointing match of the night was Bray Wyatt against Randy Orton. The lead up to this match was great, with many deep dark promos from both these guys gave hope that the match between the two could steal the show. But, instead, the match was basic with no stand out memories expect when Wyatt transformed the ring to images of worms and other earthly creatures! Will be interesting to see how the WWE Title picture forms on Smackdown on Tuesday.. I wonder will we see a new arrival? Shinsuke Nakamura perhaps? We can only hope.
The longest match of the night was the non-sanctioned match between Triple H and Seth Rollins. This was a brutally tough match! This match has 4 years of history behind it dating all the way back to days of the Shield and Evolution 2.0! For weeks we were unsure if this match would even take place at all due to Rolins' knee injury but he put his career on the line for the chance to slay 'The King of Kings'!
The match lived up to the hype and, somewhat surprisingly, Seth's knee managed to survive too! (Just about!). The biggest shock of the match was when Triple H accidentally knocked his wife, Stephanie McMahon, off the ring and through a table! Looked sore! This distraction allowed Seth to pick up the win! Somehow, I don't think we've heard the last of this.
The second Women's match of the night saw Smackdown Women's Champ Alexa Bliss defending her title against Becky Lynch, Natalya, Carmella, Mickie James and home town girl Naomi in a Six-pack challenge! These women didn't really get enough time to put on a great match but the reaction to Naomi winning was great.
Brock Lesnar FINALLY got his revenge on Goldberg! After being defeated in 1 minute and 26 seconds by Goldberg at Survivor Series and being eliminated by Goldberg at the Royal Rumble Brock had only one thing on his mind; Destroy Goldberg! He brought Goldberg to Suplex City and back again and with an F5 (After 10 German Suplexes!) he captured the Universal Championship!
Wrestlemania 33 was great! After a rather unconvincing Wrestlemania 32, it was important for the WWE to go back to basics and showcase the quality of wrestling we know is there! With 13 matches on a card lasting just over 7 hours it certainly delivered a fantastic event. This will live long in the memory due to it being the last time we will see The Undertaker! With a career spanning over 3 decades, he managed to be a fan favourite with so many different generations of fans. The mystic of someone seemingly so dark and powerful cannot really be explained, but all I know is that we will never see someone like him again. #ThankYouTaker
Time will tell how the results of Wrestlemania 33 will affect the the environment within WWE but I'm sure we will get some answers on Monday Night RAW tonight!
The Monday Night RAW after Wrestlemania has become the most anticipated RAW of the year. The international fans are still in town after the Wrestlemania the previous day, it sparks the dawn of a new wrestling calendar year. Crowds are loud, will come up with new chants (Sheamus and Cesaro!) and always give a true reflection of what the mood of the WWE Universe is! This was evident from the very beginning of the show with a few minutes of #ThankYouTaker and Undertaker chants ringing loud and proud throughout the Amway Centre. This quickly changes to booes as Roman Reigns music hit and 'The Big Dog' came to the ring. The booes were so loud that Reigns did not speak for at least 12-15 minutes! Everytime he lifted the mic to speak the noise went through the roof! He left the ring after saying only 5 words; This is my yard now!
The Hardys retained their titles after defeating 'The Club' Gallows and Anderson. It's so good to see the Hardys back! DELIGHTFUL, some would say!
NO CHANCE, NO CHANCE IN HELL! 20,000 people singing along to the music for Mr. McMahon. Again, on a normal RAW, Mr. McMahon would not receive such a boisterous welcome, but #RAWAfterMania is a different kettle of fish altogether. He was here to announce the new General Manager of RAW, and after a hilarious cameo from Teddy Long, it was announced that Kurt Angle would be the new GM. I wonder will we see him wrestling again soon too? - We can only hope.
If you were watching along on TV you may have heard Michael Cole reference #BeachBallMania.. This is because we had between 20-30 Beach balls being thrown around the arena (Until security ruined the party and confiscated them). Not going to lie, it was entertaining, especially with chants of 'Beach Ball Mania' and 'Free The Beach Ball'. Nevertheless, the wrestling on show was top quality also, particularly the Cruiserweight match between Neville and Mustafa Ali.
Fans of NXT will be familiar with The Revival. They arrived to answer the New Day's open challenge and the 'Top Guys' left with the victory to announce themselves on the main roster in some style. Watch this space, good things are about to happen - these are arguably the best tag-team on the planet!
We also got the long overdue return of Emma.. or Emmalina, no, it was Emma. I'm sure of it. After a rather confusing few months of promos we finally got the Bad Emma back that we saw in NXT last year as she teamed with Charlotte and Nia Jax in a 6-woman tag team match against Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke and the RAW Woman's Champ Bayley. Good match in which Sasha made Charlotte tap out to the Banks Statement. An interesting moment after the match in which Charlotte went a bit mad and blamed Emma and Nia for the loss, to which Nia did not take to kindly and attacked Charlotte leaving her lying in the ring as Nia left. We haven't heard the last of this.
I mentioned above about the new chant for Sheamus and Cesaro.. This came out of nowhere (Like an RKO from Randy Orton). It was a conga line tune with the words 'da da da da da da Sheamus and Cesaro'. I hope this continues, this team are awesome and two funny guys too (See interview below). After their match with Enzo and Cass, they even did a bit of a dance to it in the ring! The chant was so loud you could clearly hear it above the music of Cesaro that was playing!
Chris Jericho, the man is comedy gold! Once in a lifetime personality, has it all! He was back stage giving a promo which had the crowd loud and simultaneously in tears of laughter until he was attacked by Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. Which resulted in him not being able to compete tonight in a match were he was due to partner Seth Rollins to face off against Owens and Joe. New GM Kurt Angle promised Rollins he would find him a new partner but WHO could it be? Who? Who? Who?
FINN BALOR! The Demon King returned to Monday Night Raw for the first time since he was forced to relinquish the Universal Title after Summerslam in August. The reaction was INSANE! Loudest cheer of the night! So good to see the Irish Man back! He picked up the win over Kevin Owens but the highlight of this match for me was seeing 4 former NXT Champions in the ring, main eventing Monday Night raw was special.
Axxess is the ultimate fan experience for anyone who has ever enjoyed professional wrestling. This year it emanated from the second largest convention centre in all of the United States, the Orange County Convention Centre in Orlando. Axxess is available to fans from Thursday all the way through to Sunday before Wrestlemania. Fans have the chance to meet and greet WWE Superstars, see historic memorabilia and witness some great action from NXT.
This year, WWE brought the newly redesigned Elimination Chamber to Axxess, and my word, it is a scary vision. You truly feel intimidated just standing in front of it, realising that Superstars really do put it all on the line to participate in these matches.
Other attractions that were on display in Axxess this year include the Undertaker's grave yard, the Shark Cage used to hold Chris Jericho and Paul Ellering captive within the past 12 months and also a fan entrance - giving fans the chance to walk down the ramp to the entrance music of their favourite stars.
This truly is one of my favourite wrestling events of the year. Getting to hear great stories from characters no longer on our screens every week. This year the class included Diamond Dallas Page, The Rock 'n' Roll Express, 'Ravishing' Rick Rude, Beth Phoenix, Teddy Long and Kurt Angle. While the annual 'Warrior' award was also presented to this year's recipient, Eric LeGrand.
The Hall of Fame allows the WWE the opportunity to honour past performers with the highest possible recognition for their career and achievements. Names such as Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Stone Cold have all been inducted and the greatest World Champion of all time Ric Flair has even been inducted twice, once for his individual career and once for being part of the dominant Four Horsemen.
Having been away from the WWE for a few years, this was the first time in over a decade that Kurt Angle was part of a WWE event. He was, and still is, the only Olympic Champion to have become a WWE Superstar, after winning Gold for the United States in the 1996 Olympic Games for Amateur Wrestling. Angle had many fine moments in and out of the ring during his time with the WWE. While matches with Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker will live long in the memory, Angle will be remembered for some of his non-wrestling segments also including the tiny cowboy hat, the wig and headpiece, the scooter and possibly the most famous of all was when he drove the Milk truck to the ring and soaked the Alliance!
The night was full of nostalgia and untold stories including how Molly Holly paid the tuition fee for Beth Phoenix at the beginning of her career and how Teddy Long got pulled over by the Police with the APA (JBL and Ron Simmons) in the back of the car having some beers. We were also treated to the return of two of the most controversial people of ever step foot into a professional wrestling arena; Eric Bischoff and Jim Cornette (Yes, he still has that Tennis Racquet) . I literally could have sat there all night and listened to their stories. They inducted DDP and the Rock 'N' Roll Express respectively.
Fans were enthralled all evening and completely captivated by each speaker and bar the occasional Woooo when Ric Flair made an appearance on the big screen, or the deafening booo that greeted Roman Reigns, it was applause all-round.
It will be interesting to see who will be inducted in 2018.
Following on from the early morning media morning in which we meet some of the best Stars in WWE, We were invited to come and check out the amazing new facility that WWE have developed in Orlando, the Performance Centre.
This facility houses up to 100 of the next wave of stars who are beginning their journey within WWE. Stars such as Finn Balor, Bayley, American Alpha, Baron Corbin would have honed and developed their skills here under the amazing tutelage of Matt Bloom (You might remember him more so as Prince Albert or Tensai), Sara Amato and Robbie Brookside. The facilities are second to none and are reminiscent of the WCW Power Plant of the 1990's with Multiple rings, entrance ramp and full gym set up. One thing that stood out to me was the shrine that proudly overlooks the open area in the centre dedicated to the 'American Dream' Dusty Rhodes. Until his passing in 2015, Dusty worked closely with the talent in NXT and trainees in the Performance Centre focusing on personality development and microphone skills. No one drew greater respect than the son of a plumber, Dusty Rhodes.
Today we were lucky enough to get some one on one time with some awesome WWE Superstars including Seth Rollins, Sheamus, Cesaro, Alexa Bliss, Kalisto and Titus O'Neill. We asked them about their preparations for the biggest weekend in Wrestling and how they were enjoying the festivities so far! Check out our interviews below and be sure to like and share, guys! We've also thrown in a bonus shout-out from The Kingslayer, Seth Rollins, to all the WWE fans in the UK. Enjoy!