WWE Extreme Rules Preview and Predictions

With WrestleMania 31 in the books, the WWE resumes its normal pay-per-view schedule with WWE Extreme Rules tonight.  After a shaky Road to WrestleMania build up for the biggest pay-per-view of the year, the WWE delivered a surprisingly strong show that was received well by critics.  After all the hype that surrounded the event, it is only natural that there is a bit of a WrestleMania hangover right now and it feels like some talents have lost some momentum. The WWE tells a story that never ends, but as is the norm, the storylines tend to reset after WrestleMania.

Right now, the focus is on the new WWE Champion Seth Rollins.  Rollins wasn’t even scheduled to be in the main event at WrestleMania but he opportunistically pounced on a prone Roman Reigns to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and walk away from WrestleMania as the champ.  This was a fascinating turn of events given that for months prior to WM 31, the WWE had grabbed us by the nose and said “You must love Roman Reigns!” over and over again.  The fan backlash was severe, as the general consensus was that the reason for the hatred was that Reigns “wasn’t ready to be champion”.  I never believed that was exactly the case, I don’t like Roman Reigns because he just isn’t very good.  I felt that he was the weakest former member of The Shield and that he was picked only for his look and his pedigree.  It seems to me that my theory was right because now that Rollins is champ, I haven’t heard or read a single criticism that he “isn’t ready” to be champion at all, and he came up to the main roster at the exact same time that Reigns did.  Rollins is just better than Reigns as an overall in-ring performer, and is a natural on the microphone.  The WWE made the right call when they made Rollins the champion.

The WWE is at its best when the champion is a heel and the babyfaces have to chase the title.  Rollins is the top heel in the company right now, and he plays the part perfectly.  He is equal parts jerk, entitled, liar, coward, cheater, and psychopath.  He is also surrounded by a great heel faction in The Authority, which only enhances his aura as someone who should be hated by the fans.

In particular, Kane has done a fantastic job of getting Seth Rollins over.  I say it all the time, Kane is the most underrated talent on the roster.  He has been a mainstay on WWE television for almost two decades and is the most versatile character they have ever had.  He can convey a wide range of emotion and intent, and can work well against anybody in the ring.  His character has been evil, humorous, and conflicted over the years.  His current role as a corporate shill who is conflicted by his job responsibilities, his past as an evil demon, and his dislike for a snarky champion that he helped create has been fascinating to watch.  His promos have never been better and he is perfectly placed as wild card headed into Extreme Rules. Expect him to play a major part in the main event as the Cage Gatekeeper of the main event between Rollins and Randy Orton.

The rest of the card, unlike WrestleMania, is a focus on the main roster talents.  There are no special attractions, and I wouldn’t expect anything that happens at this even to have a direct carry over to WrestleMania 32.  The “Extreme Rules” moniker is borderline false advertising in today’s PG WWE, but there are some matches that should be interesting to watch on the undercard and I expect this to be a decent show from top to bottom, with the obvious exception of the Divas match.  Let’s take a look at the matches.

Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (c) vs. The New Day for the WWE Tag Team Championship

This pre-show match is right where it belongs.  The WWE Tag Team Championships, along with the talents in this match, are pretty much all at the bottom rung of the WWE these days.  The tag team division is aimlessly languishing, and everybody in this match is marching towards a pink-slip from the WWE as a bunch of individual failed talents.  The WWE couldn’t get The New Day faction over with a catapult.  To their credit turned them into heels.  Fans still don’t seem to care about them either way.  Not much can be said about Tyson Kidd and Cesaro either.  No matter how many times they are repackaged, they can’t seem to get off the ground.

Prediction: Winners and still champions, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro

Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Bad News Barrett for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

The snake bitten 14-month run of Daniel Bryan continues.  He got himself another WrestleMania moment at WM ’31 in a triumphant championship victory in the opening ladder match on the card.  Almost immediately he was injured again and pulled off the tour.  This guy just can’t catch a break, and it is starting to look like it is true that he really is just a B+ player, his body just can’t stand up to the rigors of a full-time WWE schedule.

There isn’t much to say about this match, the WWE is tight-lipped about his injury and we don’t know if it is even going to happen.  If it does, and he Bryan is hurt, they may work a kayfabe injury into the match and have him lose right away.  It all depends on his health.  Given all the unknowns, I’m not going to give a prediction here, and if you are betting on this card, I’d suggest staying away from this match altogether.

Roman Reigns vs. The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match

After the failed Roman Reigns experiment at the top of the card, he landed in a post-WrestleMania feud with The Big Show.  This is the best spot for him for now, in a match that isn’t going to draw too much attention to his weaknesses because it is so far down on the card.  The Big Show is coming off of a surprise win at The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at ‘Mania and actually has some momentum for a change given his typically poor win-loss record.

Reigns is in need of a change of some sort, perhaps a re-packaging after being written off of TV for a while.  Perhaps he would benefit from a two to three year stint in NXT developmental where he can work on his matches and promos.  Until then, there is nowhere to go with him now that he is not going to have his monster babyface championship run.  It really makes no sense for him to win this match and disrupt The Big Show’s momentum.

Prediction: Winner, The Big Show

Nikki Bella (c) vs. Naomi for the WWE Divas Championship

Two boring characters who can’t wrestle.

Prediction: This match is going to suck

Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus in a Kiss Me Arse Match

This is an intriguing matchup with a classic stipulation we haven’t seen in quite some time, one which will force the loser to kiss the winner’s ass after the match is over.  That’ll give you some incentive to win a match!

Sheamus made his return from a lengthy layoff on the night after WrestleMania and was repackaged as a heel with a great new look.  The Celtic Warrior was long overdue for a heel turn, and his new Mohawk and braided beard fit his new character nicely.  His attitude and demeanor are just what the WWE needs right now given that they really only have two or three legitimate top heels in the company right now.

Dolph Ziggler perpetually is on the brink of a breakout but seemingly can’t find a way to make it to the top.  He is considered a steady hand in the ring but has drawn some criticism of late by Stone Cold Steve Austin for over-selling for his opponents.  Either way, I would expect the crowd to be fully on his side for this match and I expect them both to give it their all, and they could potentially steal the show.

Prediction: Sheamus wins and Dolph Ziggler has to kiss his arse!

Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper in a Chicago Street Fight

This matchup between two guys left behind from the Wyatt Family and Shield factions which both broke up last year has a chance to be either memorable or bowling-shoe-ugly.  The competitors in this fight are matched up very well, both are mysterious “unstable” characters who like to fight.  However, there may be a tendency to rely on too many high spots in a WWE street fight that could fall flat given the constraints of PG television standards.

Dean Ambrose performed well in late 2014 in several pay-per-view main events, at Hell in a Cell and TLC.  He is a fan-favorite and can take some nasty bumps.  He is not a technical wrestler and has more of a brawling style, which is why they book him in pay-per-view matches with stipulations such as these.  His biggest drawback these days is that the WWE Creative team seems to have him on a leash by putting too many words in his mouth and forcing him into over-the-top scenarios designed to convince us that he is unstable.  I’d love to hear him say what is actually on his mind for once, I have a feeling he would be very entertaining.

Luke Harper is still a bit of an enigma.  We just don’t know much about him other than he was aligned with Bray Wyatt when he made his debut on the main roster, and now he is on his own.  We don’t know why he was a member of the Wyatt Family, nor do we know what happened that lead to Wyatt setting him free.  It’s hard to tell what motivates the big man, and there is no good way for the fans to identify with him.  Here is another guy that I’d love to hear what is actually on his mind.  I might start to care about him if he finally says something interesting, he certainly has the look and the wrestling skills to be a top performer in The WWE.

There are probably going to be a lot of weapons used in this match, and they will likely spend a great deal of time outside of the ring.  The Spanish Announcers table will likely be in peril.  At the very least, these two are going to lay their bodies on the line and both take a pretty hefty beating.  I would hope that they think this match through and work to a crescendo at the end, rather than string together a series of high spots.

Prediction: Winner, Luke Harper

John Cena (c) vs. Rusev in a Russian Chain Match for the WWE United States Championship

The biggest shame of WrestleMania 31 was that Rusev finally had his undefeated streak come to an end at the hands of John Cena.  Rusev, in less than one year, made himself into one of the top heels in the company.  His undefeated streak felt like it still had some steam left in it and would have been a draw for several more pay-per-views.  Alas, WWE Creative felt like they wanted to put the title on John Cena and Rusev had to lose.  At least he got to ride into Levi Stadium in an actual tank!  I still can’t figure out where they got the tank from.

This is the third straight pay-per-view in which these two competitors have faced off so we already know that they are capable of putting on a competitive match, with each of them owning a victory over the other.  Lana was the difference in both matches, providing a distraction that lead to Rusev’s victory at FastLane, and accidentally colliding with Rusev at WrestleMania which caused him to lose to Cena.  The friction between Rusev and Lana may come into play during this matchup.

The Russian Chain stipulation is a twist on the traditional strap match, with a chain as a substitute for the strap.  Both competitors will be chained together and that will force them to alter their styles as they likely won’t be able to run the ropes.  On the flip side, the chain can be easily weaponized as Rusev has demonstrated lately on Monday Night Raw.  The visual of him applying a vicious Accolade to Cena using the chain around his face was brutal.

I’d like to see Rusev go over in this match, I believe in his potential to work his way up the card to main-event level status sooner than later, and two loses in a row against Cena will certainly slow his progress down.  Cena will be fine either way, he will be the face of the company no matter where he sits on the card or what title he carries.

Prediction: Winner and new United States Champion, Rusev.

Seth Rollins (c) vs. Randy Orton in a Steel Cage Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with Kane as the cage gatekeeper; Orton is banned from using the RKO

At first glimpse, this match seems to be a bit overbooked in the sense that there are a lot of stipulations at play.  A steel cage, a cage gatekeeper, and a banned finishing move?  That’s a lot to keep track of for your average fan!

This is the first time that Seth Rollins will defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship and he is at the top of his game and at the top of the company right now. As I detailed above, he is a classic wrestling heel and seems primed to carry the title for quite some time.  He is going to have to deliver in this match, however, if he wants to maintain his credibility and prove that he can handle himself in this spot.

Randy Orton is an experienced hand and is the perfect foe for Rollins right now. He holds a clean victory over Rollins at WrestleMania and has a lot of credibility as an opponent who has a legitimate chance to take the tile away from Rollins.  Orton needed a new direction after a seemingly never-ending feud with John Cena for almost his entire career and he has shown that he has a lot of chemistry with Rollins.

I thought they could have done a bit of a better job at their WrestleMania match, it lacked drama and that was a bit surprising to me.  Perhaps there were some time constraints working against them, but at least they ended the match with a cool finish.  For reasons that are somewhat unclear, Rollins has stopped using The Curb Stomp as his finishing move, and Orton is banned from using his RKO, so we will have to expect the unexpected in this match.

The role of Kane is going to add a final twist in this match.  The way things are going, he can either be supportive of Rollins, or turn on him and back Orton.  Either way, rest assured that he will be prominently featured in this match as the Cage Gatekeeper, and his actions will likely influence the outcome of the match.

Prediction: Winner and still WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins

Spring Grilling Ideas

Today’s advice column is in response to a question submitted by a fellow North New Jerseyan from neighboring Bergen County about grilling.

Dear North Jersey Nonconformist,

Now that spring time is here, thoughts of grilling are dancing in my head.  Unfortunately I seem to always grill the same thing… Pork Tenderloin, rubbed with some random spice I find in the cabinet.  It’s very tasty, but getting a little redundant.  Any suggestions on interesting grilling recipes?


Karl in Bergen County

Thank you for your question, Karl.  Grilling is a subject near and dear to my heart and you’ve come to the right place for advice.  I have three parts to my answer.  I’ll cover the topics of grilling technique, interesting grilling ideas, and book recommendations.

Grilling Technique

The suggestion I make when asked advice about grilling is to understand the two basic techniques, direct and indirect grilling.  Direct grilling is what most people do and it has many useful purposes.  Indirect grilling (sometimes referred to as barbecuing) is an entirely different method of grilling that opens a whole new range of possibilities.

  • Direct Grilling is grilling meat directly over a source of heat. Typically on a gas grill, all of the burners would be on, and on a charcoal grill there would be a thin layer of hot coals on the bottom of the grill.  Direct grilling is best for meats that take a short period of time to cook, where the outside will be seared and the inside will be cooked to a safe doneness temperature.  Things that can be grilled directly are standards such hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken cutlets, pork chops, and steaks.
  • Indirect Grilling is the act of grilling meat over a cool spot on a covered grill while the heat source surrounds it. On a gas grill, this would mean only turning on one or two of the burners on and placing your meat over one that is off.  On a charcoal grill, the coals are placed in baskets on the sides of the grill and the meat is placed in the middle.  In both cases, put a drip pan under the meat.  This technique will increase grilling time but will allow your meat to cook at an even temperature without burning the outside.  This method opens things up to a wide range of possibilities such as whole chicken, whole turkey, and ribs.

A rule of thumb is that anything that takes less than 25 minutes should be grilled over direct heat, and anything that takes longer than that should be grilled over indirect heat.  Indirect grilling can be made easier if you know the doneness temperature of your meat and you have an instant read thermometer handy.

Rubs, sauces, or mops will enhance the flavor of meats that are grilled indirectly.

  • Rubs are typically made of a mixture of dry herbs and spices. They are sold at any supermarket and can easily be made at home with ingredients that you’d typically have in your spice rack.  For example, if I ever need a rub, I’ll throw together a few teaspoons of brown sugar, kosher salt, ground pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.  Give your meat a thorough coat of rub before putting it on the grill.
  • Barbecue Sauces are sauces that are made with sugar. They will burn if they are on the grill for too long so it is best to apply a sauce to meat towards the last 10 minutes of grilling time so it will caramelize but not burn.
  • Barbecue Mops are sauces that are more acidic than sugary and can be applied to meat throughout its grilling time because they won’t burn. Many of them are cider or vinegar based.

I encourage you to read your grill’s instruction manual and practice indirect grilling.  These are the basic steps:

  1. Apply a rub to your meat.
  2. Set an alarm on an instant read thermometer to the doneness temperature of your meat.
  3. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and place a drip pan under the cool spot on the grill.
  4. Place your meat on the cool spot of the grill and keep it covered until it is done. Only open the grill to apply more barbecue mop, or barbecue sauce.  Mops can be applied throughout the grilling process, sauces towards the end.

Interesting Grilling Ideas

Three of my favorite things to grill are all done indirectly.  They take some extra time to grill, but I find that the end product is worth it.

Beer Can Chicken

This is a unique way to grill a chicken that will crisp the skin but keep the insides most and juicy.  A little rub and sauce will top your bird off nicely.  You can easily search for recipes for beer can chicken online and I’ll make a few author recommendations below.  I’ll outline the basic steps here.

First, you’ll need about a 4 pound chicken.  Clean it off and remove the giblets.  Rub it all over with your favorite rub and sprinkle some of the rub inside the body and neck cavities.  Drizzle a tablespoon of oil on the outside of bird and rub that in as well.

Next, you’ll need a can of beer.  My favorite is Pabst Blue Ribbon, but any 12 ounce can will do.  Drink half the beer (my favorite part of making Beer Can Chicken), and punch two more holes in the top of the can with a keyhole opener.  Sprinkle a few teaspoons of rub inside of the can.

Set the grill up for indirect grilling.  Shove the can up the chicken’s ass and stand it up like a tripod on the grill.  Insert an instant read thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh and grill until it reaches 170O F. Optionally, you can coat the chicken with barbecue sauce within the last 10 minutes of grilling, roughly when the thermometer reaches 160O. Remove the chicken from the grill and let it stand for 10 minutes before removing the can and carving it up.  The skin will be crisp and the chicken will be moist throughout.

Baby Back Ribs

I still recall the first time I tried to make ribs on a grill.  I bought some barbecue sauce and some ribs, applied the sauce to the ribs and grilled them over direct heat.  They tasted like raw meat wrapped in carbon paper.  That was a lightbulb moment for me and it was when I taught myself indirect grilling so that I would never ruin another rack of ribs.

I know people who like to pre-broil ribs inside of aluminum foil in the stove before grilling them.  This step is unnecessary if you know how to properly grill ribs.  Here’s what you do.

Get as many racks of pork baby back ribs as you can fit on the cool spot of your grill.  Most backyard grills can hold about two racks of ribs, they may need to be cut in half.

Using a paring knife, remove the membrane from the back of the ribs by slipping the knife between the membrane and bones.  Once you have an opening, you can pull it off with your hands.  You don’t want to grill ribs with the membrane still on the back, it will take the consistency of plastic by the time it is done.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and rub the ribs with your favorite rub.  Optionally, you can marinade the ribs for 8 hours ahead of time.

Grill the ribs over indirect heat for 1½ hours.  You can apply your favorite sauce in the last 10 minutes of grilling time.  Reserve some of the sauce for serving.

Let the ribs sit for 20 minutes after removing them from the grill.  They should be pulled back from the bones and tender when they are done, and it should come off pretty easily.

Bacon Explosion

This is an offbeat recipe that has many variations available on line, I like the one I found on bbqaddicts and made it several times.  It only has four basic ingredients, 2 pounds of bacon, 2 pounds of Sweet Italian Sausage removed from their casings, barbecue rub, and barbecue sauce.

Cook one pound of the bacon to your desired doneness.  Chop it into bite-sized pieces and set it aside.

With the other pound of bacon, make a 5×5 weave and sprinkle it with some of the rub.  Spread the sausage out on top of the weave.  Top the sausage with more rub, the cooked bacon bits, and some sauce.  Roll the sausage up and then roll the weave around it.

Bacon Explosion Weave

Bacon Explosion Weave

Bacon Explosion Assembly

Bacon Explosion Assembly

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and grill the bacon explosion until it reaches 165O F on an instant-read meat thermometer.  In the last 10 minutes of grilling time, add more sauce to the outside of the explosion.

Bacon Explosion on the Grill

Bacon Explosion on the Grill

Once it is done, let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving it.

Book Recommendations

I learned everything I know about grilling by reading cookbooks by Jamie Purviance and Steven Raichlen.  Both authors each have published over a half dozen books about grilling that contain hundreds of ideas. More importantly, they teach you techniques to grill anything you can possibly imagine.  I learned indirect grilling from just the first five pages of one of Jamie Purviance’s books.  They both make recipes and techniques simple and easy for anyone to understand.

You can purchase any of their books and wouldn’t go wrong.  If you would like the essentials, start with these:

Best of luck with your grilling season, Karl, and thank you again for your submission.

If anybody else is looking for advice of any kind, please send me an e-mail at advice@njnonconformist.com with your question and I’ll be sure to tell you what you need to hear.

It Was a Long Winter

It’s been a long off-season for riding.  My October didn’t line up well, I either had plans or it was raining every Saturday or Sunday during the month and I never really did any fall riding. After that, winter set in and the season was over.  I got the bike to my dealer and back in March to repair a faulty speedometer but other than that, this was the first weekend I was able to ride for fun since September.  Usually I can get on the road earlier in March. Again, the weather didn’t cooperate.

This weekend was the first time I was able to get out and ride in earnest, and I couldn’t wait to hit the road.  Saturday was just a local run in Hudson County.  My time was constrained so I kept it short.

Of the 21 counties in the state of New Jersey, Hudson is probably the worst to ride around in.  For all the great things Hudson County has to offer, none of them are the types of things that Harley riders crave such as open roads and scenic views.  The closest two things we have to “scenic” are Liberty State Park in Jersey City and JFK Blvd. East in Weehawken so I hit both of those spots.  On my way home, I got stuck in a traffic jam on Port Imperial Blvd. in Weehawken.  While it felt good to get out, it was a rather unremarkable ride.

JFK Blvd. East in Weehawken, NJ

JFK Blvd. East in Weehawken, NJ

Sunday was wide open on the schedule and the weather was perfect so I got up and split.  I had all winter to think about where my first ride should be yet somehow I managed to pull out of my garage and I had no idea where I was headed.  I’m not sure why I didn’t plan anything out but I just figured that it would work itself out.

The first thing to do when you ride in Hoboken is to leave town quickly.  Options in this area are pretty much to the west and the north to start and you can branch out from there.  So, I jumped on NJ Route 495 and then on NJ Route 3 and headed west.

At some point as I was passing the Meadowlands, it occurred to me that I had been meaning to visit the Paterson Great Falls.  It seemed like a decent destination even if the roads there wouldn’t be all that exciting so I made my way up to I-80 West and exited in Paterson and followed my GPS to the park.

I hadn’t been to the falls since I was a child and it was neat to see them again.  Unfortunately the foot bridge that gives the best view of the falls was closed so I wasn’t able to get very close.  I snapped a few pictures and headed back on the road, this time with no particular destination.

Paterson Great Falls

Paterson Great Falls

Riding with no place to go is one of the most enjoyable ways to do it.  It frees you up to just head in random directions and try roads you find if they look interesting.  I don’t even know where I was exactly for the next hour or so, I just headed north until something looked familiar.

I ended up in Wanaque which is a town I’ve been to quite often.  It is known for its scenery and open roads around the reservoirs in town and I passed dozens of other bikers along the way who apparently had the same idea that I did.  I have a route that I almost always take that snakes around the lakes but this time I went around them a different way.  Again, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was but the road had to come out somewhere that would be familiar.

Eventually, I found Greenwood Lake and headed north along the lake into Orange County, NY.  The road that tracks the west shore of the lake is normally bustling with activity in the summer months, but it was pretty empty that day.  It didn’t seem like too many boaters got an early start to the season.

New York Route 17A passes the northern tip of Greenwood Lake.  I headed east from there and that route becomes one of the most scenic and interesting rides that you can find within an hour of Hudson County.  It heads up and down through the hills of The Sterling Forest and eventually turns into County Route 106.  The scenery felt like a sharp contrast to the weather.  It was a warm and sunny day but there were no signs of spring anywhere along the route.  Roads that are normally shaded by lush green leaves were instead lined by gray and brown trees with no signs of even the first buds of the season.  There were even still a few stubborn patches of snow that had yet to melt along the landscape.

If there was ever a road that I could use to easily demonstrate to someone the pleasure and excitement of riding a motorcycle, it would be this stretch.  It has elevation changes, twisting roads, and tracks several bodies of water.  It challenges your skills as a rider, forcing you to break and accelerate properly into and out of curves, and to pay very close attention to where you are going.

County Route 106 eventually comes to a T at US-9W in Rockland County.  I made the right and started to head south along the Hudson River towards home.  It was along the way that I noticed something unusual about my new speedometer.  It had a digital read that displayed what gear the bike is in.  I’ve never had a gauge like that, in fact I didn’t even know they made one.  Shortly after I noticed it, I realized that it doesn’t work very well.  It doesn’t have a sensor inside the transmission that can tell what gear the bike is in, it simply calculates what the gear it thinks the bike is in based on RPM and speed.  Therefore, if you are headed up a hill and don’t downshift, the gauge will guess incorrectly and display the wrong gear.  It also only works when the bike is rolling so if you look down while you are in neutral to try to see if the bike is in first gear, it will be blank.  I came to the conclusion that this feature is unnecessary, annoying, and useless.


An anchor I found along the river on US 9W near Tomkins Cove, NY.

US-9W crosses into New Jersey in northern Bergen County and runs along Palisades Interstate Park.  I wanted to track Henry Hudson Drive along the river but it is not fully opened yet for 2015.  I managed to make it to the Alpine Boat basin and parked there for a bit before headed back up to the highway.

On the final push home, I got stuck in a traffic jam in Weehawken on Port Imperial Blvd.  I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson on Saturday.  From now on, I’m never going that way home during the day again.

I made it to Hoboken and did a loop around town, trying to set off car alarms with the roar of the engine.  That generally gets on peoples nerves so I enjoy doing it.  There were tons of people on Washington Street, crowding the outdoor areas of the bars.  As much fun as that looked, I was pretty content to have spent my day on the bike instead of drinking.

I made it back with 140 miles on the trip meter for the day.  My nose was slightly tanned, I got to see some new and old places, and I managed to set off one car alarm.  Winter is over and for the rest of the season, it’s time to let it rip.

WrestleMania 31 Postscript

The WWE gave us a nod to its past and a glimpse of its future with a solidly packed five hour long extravaganza last Sunday, WrestleMania 31.  It was a show full of pageantry, drama, and excitement and can’t believe that just two weeks before the show I wasn’t necessarily thrilled with how the card was shaping up.

I watched the show the way it should be done, with a room full of WWE fans in my apartment.  I spent all day cooking up a feast for everyone and had the WWE Network on all day.  We did what wrestling fans love to do, talk about wrestling with each other all day!  There weren’t too many Roman Reigns fans in attendance.

I took a ribbing from my friends as the show progressed and my picks that I blogged prior to the show didn’t exactly pan out the way I had predicted.  I was accused of being biased and told that maybe I should blog about gardening instead.  Well, I got some things right:

  • Cesaro and Tyson Kidd retained the WWE Tag Team titles. OK, who cares?
  • The Divas match sucked.
  • Triple H defeated Sting.

If I was going to get one pick right, I’m glad that it was Triple H.  I hated the whole Sting storyline and have very little regard for him as a wrestler, especially at age 56.  The fans were convinced that there was no way Sting was going to come to the WWE for one match just to lose it.  Well, that’s exactly what happened and I couldn’t be happier that match will define Sting’s WWE legacy.  It made no sense at all that they would have Triple H lose to a one-and-done relic like sting given the long term plans they have for him as the head villain in the WWE.  I have to hand it to myself on this one, I saw it coming a mile away!

Throw in the pre-show and WrestleMania was five hours long.  There’s a lot to say about the show, about both the matches that were announced, and the things we didn’t see coming at all.

The intensity of the wrestlers entrances was somewhat dampened by the daylight on the West Coast at the time.  It was particularly noticeable for Triple H, Bray Wyatt, and The Undertaker.  The production value they put in to some of the more elaborate ones more than made up for the lack of darkness.  The Triple H entrance was a classic, and even Sting’s intro was fun to watch.

The André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was more entertaining than I thought it would be, it worked well as part of the pre-show.  There were a few interesting spots with Curtis Axel and The MIz and Mizdow.  They even teased a repeat of last year’s finish with Cesaro tossing The Big Show over the top, but it wasn’t to be as The Show broke free and eliminated Cesaro and then the rest of his opponents to win the trophy.

I wouldn’t say that any one particular match is going to be remembered as a classic, but there were many surprise moments, and as a whole the show took an unexpected direction.  From a technical standpoint, probably the best match was Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton, particularly the crazy reversal of the curb stomp into an RKO for the finish.  But I felt like that underachieved a bit and could have been better had it gone longer.

The nod to the past was mainly apparent in the Triple H vs Sting match.  We were treated to a spontaneous re-creation of the Monday Night Wars as represented by members of The nWo and Degeneration-X who made run-ins during the match.  This was likely done to help cover the fact that Sting is too old and withered to carry a one-on-one match at WrestleMania.

Both the nod to the past and the glimpse of the future were evident in the surprise long-running segment that pitted Stephanie McMahon and Triple H against The Rock and Ronda Rousey of UFC fame.  This segment wasn’t even rumored to take place before the show.  There were rumblings that The Rock was going to join the show but nobody predicted that Ronda Rousey would end up in a WWE ring as part of the show. This segment was very likely a commercial for a huge event involving The Rock and Ronda Rousey as special participants, perhaps even at WrestleMania 32 next year in Dallas when the WWE will need a special attraction in order to break their WrestleMania III attendance record of 93,173.

The Undertaker looked good in his return, sporting a leaner physique than we’ve seen in previous years.  The lack of an undefeated streak to defend certainly gave his match against Bray Wyatt much less of a dramatic feel than a typical Undertaker ‘Mania clash, but it was good to see The Deadman erase any doubt that he could still compete at the highest level even on the week of his 50th birthday.

The main event championship match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns took an unexpected twist. Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract during the list minute of the match, turning it into a triple-threat contest and ultimately stealing the title in a feel-good moment to end the night.

This match was shorter than most WrestleMania events, likely victim to the time crunch caused by the Rousey segment.  Brock Lesnar cemented his status as the most popular superstar on the active roster today, and Roman Reigns didn’t do much to disprove his detractors that he was good enough to perform in a WrestleMania main event.  I was surprised that Seth Rollins stole a victory by cashing in the MITB contract, it is unusual for a WrestleMania event take a twist like that, most of the time it is just focused on the announced participants of the match.  Either way, you had to be happy for Seth Rollins as he got his hands on his first WWE championship in his third WrestleMania match.

Wins and losses in professional wrestling are obviously meaningless, but there are winners and losers in another sense.  People can come out of WrestleMania riding a wave of momentum headed into the next round of pay-per-views, or they can watch their current push go down the drain and head into mid-card purgatory for the foreseeable future.  Let’s take a look at the losers and winners.

The Losers

Daniel Bryan

How is Daniel Bryan a loser coming off of a win in the opening match to capture The Intercontinental Championship?  Simple, put it in the context of his career.  Last year, the fans propelled him to an improbable WWE Championship main-event win at WrestleMania XXX.  This year, he has been demoted to the mid-card and with the IC title around his waist, he is not going to be in the mix with Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship anytime soon.  Quite a fall from grace in just one year.


His WrestleMania legacy will consist of one match in that he looked old, slow, and incapable of holding together a one-on-one match without a major run-in from over a half-dozen others.  Farewell Sting, you won’t be missed.


This guy rode a monster push in his rookie year that carried him to a high-profile match against John Cena at WrestleMania and it was predicated on his undefeated streak.  Now that streak is gone and expect him to slide back down the card.  His entrance was one of the best I’ve ever seen at WrestleMania, though.  Where did they get an actual tank from?

Roman Reigns

Just as every expected, the crowd was not on his side during his match.  He exhibited the same predictable offensive move set that he does in all of his matches and really failed to get over as the babyface savior that the WWE wanted him to become.  This will probably be the last pay-per-view main event for him in a while, perhaps ever.  I predict that if he’s not re-packaged, he will be gone in a year or two.

The Tag Team Division

There is not much excitement in this division right now.  The New Day gimmick couldn’t get over with a catapult, one of The Uso’s are hurt, Los Matadores never really had any momentum, and Cesaro and Kidd are a couple of retreads that are still searching for something that will make them stars.  This match wasn’t any better than anything we’d see on Raw or Smackdown.  This division is going to need an overhaul if anybody is ever going to care about it.

John Cena

There was a theory that if Brock Lesnar retained the championship that John Cena was going to be given the WWE US Championship at WrestleMania so that he could be the “main event guy” for house shows and pay-per-views that Lesnar did not perform on.  Only one of the two happened, so much for that theory.  This is the beginning of the winding down of John Cena’s career, don’t expect to see him in the main event picture as often as he used to.

Dean Ambrose

The high-profile program he worked while Roman Reigns was on the shelf really elevated his status in the minds of the fans. It looks like he is now on his way to being the first member of The Shield to be forgotten.  He’ll need to turn it around soon or he will turn into a full-time jobber.

Bray Wyatt

Wins and losses don’t always matter in the WWE, but the guy is off to a 0-2 start at WrestleMania.  He’s going to have to win some high profile matches or a title if fans are going to take him seriously.

Roman Reigns

This was his shot to win a main event at WrestleMania and he did not get over.  Towards the end of the match when he began to gain the upper hand on Brock Lesnar, the crowd could not have been more vocal in their disapproval.  They went so far as to cheer the heel Seth Rollins when he beat Reigns just because it meant that Reigns would not win the title.

The Roman Reigns experiment at the top of the card was a failure.  He did not get over as the babyface savior and he will need to be repackaged if he is ever going to win over the crowd.  Perhaps they should send him back to NXT for a few years to work things out.

The Divas

For yet another WrestleMania, The Divas match proved to be a waste of time, a kind of “working intermission” that gave the fans a chance to take a break without halting the show completely.  This situation is not going to change any time soon, The Divas will never work a meaningful WrestleMania match.

The Winners

The Big Show

It was good to see The Big Show finally win a WrestleMania match, his record is less than stellar.  The tired old bit of “let’s all gang up on the big guy” didn’t pan out and for once Show didn’t live up to his reputation as a jobber.  He should get some mileage out of this win.

Triple H

The Game still has it, he worked his way through that match with a nasty looking injury on his left leg.  Following that, it looks like he inserted himself into a potential return of The Rock and some sort of confrontation with Ronda Rousey.  Triple H will endure as one of the most important characters on the roster.

Shawn Michaels

Even if only for a brief moment, it was great to see the retired Mr. WrestleMania steal the spotlight and work the crowd like only he can.  It only lasted a few seconds but his superkick to Sting followed by an unapologetic stare down with the crowd was classic heel work at its best.  He’s still got it.

The Undertaker

The Deadman silenced his doubters and made his successful return to WrestleMania with a resounding win against Bray Wyatt.  There were rumors that ‘Taker was old and out of shape, but he came out looking much better than he did last year, appearing to have trimmed down, and with an actual real haircut again.  Look to see him again at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas and it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t see him on TV again until that day.

Brock Lesnar

Lesnar came into and left WrestleMania 31 as the hottest talent on the roster.  He had the crowd in his pocket and delivered a masterful performance in the ring last Sunday. Lesnar plays his part better than anybody else does in the WWE these days.  He is a must-see attraction, and with his part-time contract in hand, plan on seeing him show up for only the biggest events going forward for quite some time.

Paul Heyman

The best talker in the business can hang on for as long as he wants as Brock Lesnar’s advocate, or he can split off from Brock and partner with one or many of his opponents going forward.  Either way, the fans are going to eat up everything he says and give him one of the largest ovations of the night every time he speaks.  This was the third WrestleMania in a row that Heyman played a large part in, and expect that trend to continue for the former ECW mastermind.

WWE Developmental Promotion NXT

Most fans who complain that NXT talents aren’t given good enough pushes when brought to the main roster don’t understand the big picture.  Watch the progression of NXT call-ups Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Luke Harper, and Rusev and where they are today.  Each of them spent considerable time in NXT and were brought to the WWE main roster with a plan and a commitment, and thus far every one of them has turned into a star and participated in a high-profile match at WrestleMania 31.  There are a few misses along the way (Xavier Woods and Tyson Kidd for example) but expect the investment in NXT to pay off as a pipeline for new talents for years to come.  If you haven’t watched the show on the WWE Network, check out some guys like Kevin Owens and Finn Baylor.

Ronda Rousey

Nobody saw this angle coming, who would have predicted that Ronda Rousey would appear in a WWE ring at WrestleMania?  Ronda is a cross-industry superstar in several facets of sports and entertainment, building off her brand as the Most Dangerous Woman in the World.  Her bread-and-butter will continue to be her participation in the UFC Women’s division (note, that they don’t use the word “diva” in UFC!) but it seems like this angle is going to continue in the WWE and that we haven’t seen the last of Rowdy Ronda.  This could very well have been a preview for WrestleMania 32.

Seth Rollins

The man of the hour at WrestleMania was Seth Rollins.  Although many speculated that he could cash in the Money in the Bank contract during or after the main event, it seemed unlikely to me that the WWE would throw in a swerve like that and would stick to the one-on-one matchup of Reigns and Lesnar.  Well, that theory was incorrect and Rollins’ run-in with the MITB contract in the last minute of the match created an indelible WrestleMania moment as he stole the WWE Championship.  Rollins came up to the WWE main roster with a chip on his shoulder after having spent 2½ years in NXT developmental.  When he was given the chance, he ran with the opportunity he was given and eventually outshined his former Shield teammates and is now the top heel on the roster.

What’s next?

The Monday Night Raw following WrestleMania has given us a look at how the next few pay-per-views, and possibly even WrestleMania 32 are going to shape up.

The vicious beatings that Brock Lesnar delivered to the announce team and a camera man on Raw are going to be remembered for quite some time.  His subsequent “suspension” was a way of keeping him off of TV for some time until he makes his return to take a run at the title, I’m guessing at SummerSlam.

It was good to see Sheamus return with a new look and a new attitude on Raw.  He immediately inserted himself into a feud with either Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, or both.  I would expect this angle to turn into a highly entertaining set of matches in the coming month or two.

We got another call up from NXT when Neville made his debut on the main roster. Save for one match on Raw last year, we have only seen him on NXT.  I’m not sure what is with this last-name-only movement the WWE has instituted on new talents, but I would expect them to be very high on his abilities and he should work a high-profile program soon.

Seth Rollins has two potential opponents for his title in Randy Orton and Roman Reigns.  It seems likely that one of those two is going to get a shot at the title at the next pay-per-view, Extreme Rules.  In my opinion, the WWE is at its best when the champion is a heel and the babyface roster is chasing the title.

Not much was mentioned about it on Raw, but planning for WrestleMania 32 is already well underway.  There is a lot that can happen between now and then, especially among the 11 pay-per-views that will take place over the next year.  Expect evolving storylines that reach their crescendo at ‘Mania 32 involving The Undertaker, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Triple H for sure, and possibly also involving The Rock, and Ronda Rousey.