What a weekend of wrestling! Truthfully this week I have actually been a little wistful after the sugar rush that came with the smorgasbord of wrestling on offer over Wrestlemania weekend. However upon reflection I cannot help but smile at just how well the weekend went, from Friday’s phenomenal TakeOver card, to the historic NJPW & ROH G1 Super Card at MSG, the first Wrestlemania of the Marathon Era that managed to nail the formula and of course Kofi Kingston’s historic win. There were some downs to go with the ups, which I will get to but let’s focus in on the big takeaways from the weekend.
Pete Dunne v WALTER Stole the Weekend
It wasn’t even meant to be the best match on its own show and yet for me Pete Dunne v WALTER ended up beating out not just Adam Cole v Johnny Garagno at Takeover New York but the likes of Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Kuzicka Okada, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey to take out match of the weekend honours.
In an utterly brutal and completely characterful match for the WWE UK Championship, Pete Dunne would try and fail to scratch and claw down the far bigger and supremely powerful WALTER. Dunne showed once again how well he embodies his Brusierweight character as he fought with every ounce he had and used every inch of the law and then some to break down the bigger man he was up against. He kept coming even after absorbing some massive strikes and there wasn’t a moment in the match he wasn’t trying to manipulate whatever part of WALTER he could get his hands on, paying particular brutal attention to the Ring General’s fingers.
For his part WALTER was a revelation, I have not seen a whole lot of his work previously but if this match is anything to go by he is everything a big man in 2019 should be. Every move he made had an incredible sense of power and weight to it and even when he took to the air it was decidedly unpretty but incredibly impactful way.
His intimidating, stoic character of The Ring General was the perfect contrast to the scrappy and fiery Brusierweight. While Dunne would unload with a battery of punches and kicks WALTER’s strikes would explode like cannons, literally no one else hits like him and it is exhilarating to see. Despite that WALTER was not afraid to sell for the smaller man, slowly losing his composure as the match went on and Dunne’s tactics started to have effect. Ultimately it took a giant Powerbomb from the top turnbuckle and a follow up splash to put the champ away and even after that WALTER could be seen clenching his fingers as he accepted the title, still in pain from Dunne’s joint manipulation.
To me this blend of Strong Style and the WWE Main Event Style was so perfectly put together and provided a fantastic contrast to the more athletic North American indy style that runs rampant in NXT and has become very popular on the WWE main roster too. It is a tired wrestling cliche but on that completely rings true both men looked like a million dollars after this match, WALTER is a great choice to lord over the NXT UK division and Dunne looks fantastic on his way off to bigger and better things.
I’ve already rewatched it once and I cannot wait to go back and rewatch this match for many years to come.
NJPW Needs to Run From ROH
Even though it was Wrestlemania weekend, for me the most anticipated card of the weekend was the New Japan and Ring of Honor G1 Super Card from Madison Square Garden. Being the first non-WWE wrestling show at the most famous arena in the world in over fifty years it was a truly historic event for both NJPW and ROH. However despite the auspicious setting there could not have been a clearer distinction between what each company brought to the table, what they wanted to offer fans and where they are taking the art of pro wrestling.
While New Japan used the historic night to showcase the likes of Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi in ring and hit the climax of Kazuchika Okada’s redemption story, Ring of Honor decided to celebrate the date by debuting The Beautiful People, an act that was only marginally popular ten years ago, spoil the swansong of two Japanese legends for cheap ‘heel heat’ that has no place in 2019 and put on a worked shoot crowd invasion to introduce Enzo and Cass, sorry nZo and caZXL, to their tag team division.
Yes it is true that NJPW is locked in a commercial contract with ROH and yes it is true that without Sinclair Broadcasting’s lawyers neither ROH or NJPW would have got into MSG. However Ring of Honor has shown on this show that it is a company floundering creatively and that it is a company that has a completely different vision for pro wrestling to New Japan.
As a New Japan fan I pay to watch because they take the art of pro wrestling seriously; their matches are incredibly athletic and well put together, their creative process is well thought out, has long term vision and respects the people it is telling the story too. ROH may have once been similar but on the biggest night in the company’s history they decided to use their platform to show off a sensationalist crash TV direction that would make Vinny Russo proud.
If this is the bait they are putting out there to grab new viewers I am not biting and if this is the line in the sand pointing to where the company is headed then New Japan needs to get away from that company before they are caught in the collateral damage ROH is doing to itself.
WWE Finally Nails a Marathon-Mania
A Mania weekend column wouldn’t exactly be completely without talking about Wrestlemania and I’m so happy to say that this year I have far more positive things to say than negative. The biggest thing being that the WWE managed to produce its first ‘Marathon-Mania’ that kept the crowd engaged throughout.
Since the WWE extended its Wrestlemania run time beyond four hours at Wrestlemania 32 they have very much struggled to find a formula that has kept the live crowd and audience at home engaged for such a long period. The failure in pacing and match placement has resulted in series of Manias that have started out strong and featured some great matches but ultimately lost the crowd by the final few matches and year after year finished the night on a sour note.
This year though by doing a few key things the WWE finally got it right. Firstly they structured the card around the big title matches, kicking off with one, putting the longest one just after the middle of the show and ending on the most anticipated match of the card. This allowed for natural peaks in the crowd’s attention but also kept the anticipation up for what would come next too.
Secondly, they kept the matches we cared least about short, Reigns v McIntyre and the two tag team matches all only got 10 minutes, Balor v Lashley 4 minutes whereas the longer, twenty minute plus run times were mostly left to the biggest matches.
Finally and most crucially they gave the fans a satisfying conclusion to the stories they had been telling. The WWE resisted the urge to pull out the arbitrary rule that some of the heroes have to lose but instead did what the stories they were telling demanded and the audience rewarded them with their good will as a result.
It was not perfect of course, the overly long Triple H and Batista match deep in the night threatened to derail things and they certainly tested the crowds patiences by putting on two random segments and a very long Charlotte Flair helicopter ride before the main event, however as a result of the good work they had done beforehand they still managed to stick the landing.
What they have now is a template they can follow for Maina’s to come. Personally I would prefer a tighter presentation with a little less filler, there was still less than three hours of actual wrestling on a six hour show. However if they are determined to keep these six hour cards then Wrestlemania 35 shows them how to do it.
KOFIMANIA Is One of the Most Important Stories the WWE Has Ever Told
Finally, while I prefered Dunne v WALTER as a pure match, the climax of Kofi Kingston’s quest to win the WWE Championship Title is one that will echo into the future as one of the most important stories the WWE has ever told in its ring. The match alone was an amazing construction by two wrestlers at the peak of their game however it was the emotional outpouring that accompanied Kofi’s win that showed the importance of this result to the African American community.
Social media was flooded with posts of praise, including a video of former WWE wrestlers MVP and Shad Gaspard openly weeping at the sight of only the second black wrestler to win the WWE Championship and the first to do so on the company’s biggest stage.
In the ring, in a Wrestlemania moment that truly deserves to be immortalised, Xavier Woods openly weeped as he held his brother, who worked so hard for this opportunity, aloft and Kofi’s two young children celebrated with their father, holding the title he had won aloft.
In a world where forces would try and divide us based on our race, religion, politics or identity I cannot think of a more important statement than a sea of seventy thousand people in MetLife Stadium and hundreds of thousands more watching at home cheering on this kind accomplishment.
This is wrestling at its absolute best, it is one of the greatest Wrestlemania or WWE moments of all time and this is what I will always remember from Wrestlemania 35.
That’s all from me today LOP, thanks for reading what were your big takeaways from Wrestlemania weekend and what did you think of mine?
Let me know in the comments below, on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or you can even write about it yourself on the LOP Columns Forum. It is where every columnist on this site started and will make you both a better writer and a more engaged wrestling fan. While you’re there why not check out my entry in the series DOA, a fictional annual tournament where different teams of pro wrestling fight to the death. I got Andrade & Zelina Vega v Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush, you can check mine and all the other entries out here.
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