Killam’s WWE WrestleMania 35 Review
Scroll down for match ratings.
1. Tony Nese def. Buddy Murphy (c) to become the new WWE Crusierweight Champion in 10:40.
This was the perfect way to kick off the show. Non-stop action full of hard strikes, stiff offense, and a bit of flash and brilliance. Nese came in the underdog, not because he’s untalented — every member of that 205 Live division excels within the ring — but because he hasn’t exactly been one of the brand’s “chosen ones. He capitalized on every moment in this match and really reminded everyone (well, me at least) that he has been the constant in the division since the very beginning. Tremendous match. I could watch these two work all day, and I hope we get a rematch with even more time to turn up the heat.
2. Carmella won the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal in 10:30.
This battle royal wasn’t really anything to write home about, so instead I’m going to spend my time talking about how much I hate when leave battle royals by rolling under the bottom rope, and then hang out on the outside. Not only does it make zero sense — anyone who doesn’t do it is basically an idiot — but the spot is so overdone. I think the whole concept would be so much better if they actually used all those referees that hang around outside the ring, and give anyone who leaves a standard 10-count like you would in any other match. You have 10 seconds to get back into the ring and participate in the battle royal, or you are disqualified and eliminated from the match. If I never see the “surprise, I was hiding under the ring the entire time!” spot again, it’ll be too damn soon. Shout out to WWE, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, who had three battle royals in less than 24 hours, with all of them ending in that stupid spot.
3. Braun Strowman won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in 13:20.
I did not hate this. There were some really fun spots, and it was cool seeing Andrade being so dominant — right up until the moment he eliminated himself from the match. The whole thing was obvious a vehicle to make Braun Strowman look good, as he eliminated half the field on his own before terrorizing tthe celebrity guests from Saturday Night Live. As far as celebrity matches at WrestleMania go, this wasn’t bad. They genuinely fooled me twice when the SNL hosts nearly eliminated Strowman, and the crowd seemed to be at least amused by the whole thing. I don’t give battle royals ratings. This one was pretty okay.
4. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder def. The Revival (c) to become the new Raw Tag Team Champions in 10:20.
This was a pretty fun match, especially if you enjoy watching Zack Ryder sell his ass off for The Revival. They must have worked through their entire moveset twice over in keeping him away from the longest hot tag in the universe. I’m never going to complain about watching The Revival manhandle anyone. Eventually Hawkins got the hot tag and ran wild, almost single-handedly carrying his team to a comeback and ultimately the Raw Tag Team Championships. For a pre-show match that could have been easily overlooked, they were given enough time to put something really fun together. I loved Hawkins getting to earn his WrestleMania Moment with his own two fists.
5. Seth Rollins def. Brock Lesnar (c) to become the new WWE Universal Champion in 2:30.
I’m including all the excellent pre-match shenanigans in the overall rating on this one. This match was exactly what it needed to be. Lesnar looked like an absolute psychopath out for blood before the bell even rang, whipping Rollins’ body over the announce table over and over again before cracking him through every available ringside object that he could find. The Beast Slayer’s back was an absolute tapestry of violence, and the match hadn’t even officially begun. One desperate kick to the groin, a superkick, and three consecutive Curb Stomps later, and we have a brand new champion. I loved Lesnar getting back up after the first stomp, crawling his way back for the second, before finally staying down after three. This was booked perfectly and with great consideration to the characters of both men in the ring. Just listen to the crowd in the 60 seconds leading to the finish — you can’t argue with that.
6. AJ Styles def. Randy Orton in 16:20.
I thought this was a solid pay-per-view level match that essentially “played the hits” and did exactly what you’d expect from a performance between AJ Styles and Randy Orton. That’s not to say they’re overly predictable, or that I didn’t enjoy it — I actually enjoyed the match quite a bit. Just that at this point in their veteran careers they have their particular styles, and while they may deviate in small ways, here and there, it’s largely consistent. Both guys worked hard and found a second gear late into the match after Styles kicked out of an RKO, and needed a springboard 450 and two consecutive Phenomenal Forearms to put The Viper down. While it wasn’t the most interesting thing on the card and got lost in the shuffle by the time this 7-hour show was over, it was well built, didn’t overstay its welcome, and I have no major complaints.
7. The Usos (c) def. Aleister Black & Ricochet, Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura, and The Bar to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championships in a Fatal 4-Way match in 10:10.
WWE is getting really good at putting together these insane multi-team brawls, and this Fatal 4-Way is absolutely no exception. They packed so much into a 10-minute window while still making sure every wild sequence and crazy spot felt special. Everyone got a chance to show off, but the real showoffs were Black, Ricochet and — to my very pleasant surprise — The Bar! The two big obvious spots of the match were Cesaro’s record-breaking Big Swing, and of course the train wreck Tower of Doom that Ricochet not only survived, but rolled through. The nearfall on that spot was excellent, too. I’ll admit I was a little surprise by The Usos winning, as WWE has been pushing the hell out of the NXT newcomers on a weekly basis, but I’m certainly not against the greatest WWE tag team of the modern era added another WrestleMania moment to their accolades.
8. Shane McMahon def. The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere match in 15:30.
Most Falls Count Anywhere matches are just normal No Disqualification matches that allow for one big, ridiculous spot at the end, but I loved how much both Miz and Shane were able to utilize their surroundings all over the arena. From swinging from production equipment, to crashing through tables and over barricades, to the insane 20-foot suplex plunging off the top of the scaffolding — that last one especially will be an image they’ll be talking about for years to come, and featured in WrestleMania highlight packages until the end of time. The action in the ring was slow at times, but I thought they made up for it in the last few minutes, and did a great job telling a personal and physical story throughout. Solid work.
9. The IIconics def. Bayley & Sasha Banks (c), Nia Jax & Tamina Snuka, and Beth Phoenix & Natalya to become the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions in a Fatal 4-Way match in 10:45.
I thought Beth Phoenix was the best part of this match, to the point where I almost wanted the Divas of Doom to win just to see more of her over the next few months. Nia Jax and Tamina sort of got out of the way early and were oddly absent from a lot of the action, which is weird because Nia is usually only good in these types of matches. I would have liked to see more between her and the Glamazon. The rest of the action was okay, but largely forgettable. Bayley and Banks did a lot of the hard work and heavy lifting, along with Phoenix and Natalya (a straight tag match between those two teams probably would have been better), and The IIconics characteristically came in to steal the win at the end without having contributed a whole lot prior to that point. It was okay…
10. Kofi Kingston def. Daniel Bryan (c) to become the new WWE Champion in 23:45.
This was the best world title match on a WrestleMania card in five years — ironically, since Daniel Bryan won the very same title at WrestleMania XXX in that classic New Orleans triple threat match. There was something so fresh about the matchup, for the obvious reason that in 11 years we’ve never seen Kingston even have the opportunity to go 20-plus for the world title on a major stage. They tore the house down. Bryan was the perfect heel, hatable in every single way, while Kingston sold me on every comeback, and every single nearfall. When he kicked out of the running knee strike, I’ll admit I jumped out of my chair in excitement. Everyone in the room was on the edge of their seat for every second of the finale. If Kofi powering through those chest kicks, screaming for more punishment as he got in the champion’s face — if that doesn’t get blood pumping through your veins, you’re just not a pro wrestling fan.
Post-match an emotional Xavier Woods and Big E revealed the old black WWE Championship title belt with custom Kofi side plates and presented it to the new champion. His children were brought into the ring, and his older son was a rock star, immediately climbing the ropes and throwing his dad’s brand new t-shirt into the crowd. Man, once Woods starts crying, it’s water works for me every time. The match was truly excellent, but good luck finding a better moment than Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania surrounded by his sons and his brothers. This is pro wrestling at its peak.
11. Samoa Joe (c) def. Rey Mysterio to retain the WWE United States Championship in 1:00.
I understand that this match got cut for time reasons, but when your show is more than SEVEN HOURS LONG why bother to nitpick a few minutes, here and there? If I’m already up until 12:30am watching WrestleMania, chances are I’d be willing to watch until 12:39am if it meant getting an actual match between two of the best wrestlers on the card. Oh well. Normally I’m on bored with Samoa Joe steamrolling through his opponents, but Mysterio is a legend and this just made him seem… less special. Like he’s just another guy, and not one of the most influential and innovating wrestlers of all time. I liked his gear, too.
12. Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre in 10:10.
The match was technically fine, but not terribly exciting. McIntyre controlled most of the offense, Reigns did have one great babyface fire-up after getting slapped in the face that I thought looked tremendous, but that was the sole highlight. It had potential at the start with a good back-and-forth slugfest, really laying in some punches, but it dragged as it went on. On a show full of fun performances — and even those that weren’t stellar still left a lasting impact in their own way — this match was kind of just “there”.
Elias appeared in the ring for the “greatest musical performance in WrestleMania history”, and was shown on the giant tron playing the drums, and then shown again playing the piano. In the ring he did a little soloing, before telling the fans to silence their cell phones and shut the hell up for his final performance. Before Elias could play he was interrupted by an old film strip of Babe Ruth calling his shot, introducing the return of the “Doctor of Thuganomics” John Cena, who cut a sick promo on the Drifter before dropping him with an FU.
Man, I loved this. Cena explained in a great interview after the show that he wanted to do something special with the fans, but he didn’t want to take up a ton of time or steal the spotlight from the full-timers on the roster who worked hard to earn their spots at WrestleMania. I personally loved that Cena got his first pure babyface reaction in nearly 15 years. Every single time he’s gone into WrestleMania to perform, he’s been met by tens of thousands of booing fans. It was just a lot of fun to watch him go out and be cheered and loved on by 80,000 screaming fans.
13. Triple H def. Batista in a No Holds Barred match in 24:45.
I really liked the first few minutes of the match, with both guys coming out of the gate swinging. I also liked the last few minutes, starting with Triple H delivering a brutal powerbomb onto the steel ring steps, both men kicking out of each other’s finishers, and the return of Ric Flair to get his revenge and help The Game put down The Animal. It was built out like your traditional Triple H main-event-style match but nearly came to a screeching halt for long periods of time. By the time it was over I thought they had built to a pretty good place, and the fans came back around for the finish, but at this point in the show it was well past the 5-hour mark and it often felt more like something to “get through” rather than something I really wanted to sit back and enjoy.
14. Baron Corbin def. Kurt Angle in 6:05.
I believe in the old school mentality that a wrestler should go out on his back, and truth be told I didn’t even mind Baron Corbin being the guy to do the honors. He’s one of the few genuine “heels” that WWE actually has, in that consistently gets heat in every single segment that he’s a part of, and the company is obviously very high on him because he’s constantly got his grimy little hands in something.
I just hated that this didn’t feel special. It never once felt like one of the greatest wrestlers of all time was retiring on the grandest stage of them all. It was just a match. Not even a particularly good match. There was no overwhelming sense of finality to it; no true closure like we had when Shawn Michaels retired Ric Flair, or when Undertaker retired Shawn Michaels two years later. I wanted more for Angle’s last match. I wanted to feel like WWE actually cared, and instead it felt more like they tossed his retirement together with whoever they could spare, and squeezed it into the show where they had time. Like it was some sort of annoying obligation to pay tribute to one of the greatest in-ring athletes to ever compete in a professional ring.
15. Finn Balor def. Bobby Lashley (c) to become the new WWE Intercontinental Champion in 4:05.
I’ll give them some credit — this was far better than I thought it was going to be. They did about as much as you could possibly expect anyone to do with a 4-minute match. This was the best Lashley has looked since returning to WWE, showing that he wasn’t afraid of The Demon with an all-out, explosive offensive. For once, he came across like a dominant badass instead of whatever cartoon bully they’ve been painting him as for months now. In fact, The Demon felt almost unnecessary here. Look, it wasn’t the greatest thing on the show or anything, but for a 4-minute match I thought they killed it. That Lashley spear through the ropes, channeling Big E, was tremendous, as was Balor digging down deep to hoist up the juggernaut for a massive powerbomb. Why can’t they always be booked like this?
16. Becky Lynch def. Ronda Rousey (c) and Charlotte Flair (c) in a Winner Take All match to become the new Raw Women’s Champion and the new Smackdown Women’s Champion in 21:30.
I’ll say the same thing virtually every other critic and fan alike has been saying — it’s a very good match, that was on track to becoming a great match before it abruptly ended in controversial fashion. It was like you could feel the air being let out of the room. The match had all the anticipation of some of the greatest WrestleMania main events behind it, but right as it reached a fever pitch, it instead punched you in the gut and left you feeling completely unsatisfied.
I will say that when you watch the match a second time, it’s actually much better. If you know the finish is coming it’s much less disappointing, and you can actually remember some of the really cool moments that did happen in the 21-minutes leading up to the finish. All three women were laying in their offense. By the end Ronda was obviously in a ton of pain with a legitimately broken wrist, and a gashed up leg, and Charlotte had been selling her knee the entire match. They actually had a damn good match — it’s just the frustrating controversial finish. Ronda, for whatever reason, couldn’t keep her shoulders down, I guess. It’s amazing how a tiny thing like that can so drastically effect the flow of an otherwise incredible show, immediately casting a shadow over what should have been a positive, euphoric feeling to end the night on. It’s a bummer.
WrestleMania Shines Bright, Burns Out Early
The show features 5 strong hours of entertainment featuring 2 stellar title matches, plenty of very solid performances, and some unforgettable moments. Unfortunately, the third act grinds to a painfully slow halt and fumbles in an otherwise awesome main event. I'll give it this -- nothing at WrestleMania 35 was ever bad.
- WWE Cruiserweight Title Match
- Raw Tag Team Title Match
- WWE Universal Title Match
- AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton
- Smackdown Tag Team Title Match
- Shane McMahon vs. The Miz
- WWE Women's Tag Team Title Match
- WWE Title Match
- Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
- Triple H vs. Batista
- Kurt Angle's Farewell Match
- Intercontinental Title Match
- Winner Take All Triple Threat Match