Friday, April 19, 2024

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WrestleMania 30 in Review: AJ Takes on the World

Welcome one and all to the official Diva Dirt WrestleMania 30 review! Bringing you the Diva goodness from last night’s festivities will be none other than yours truly, Bobby, and it was quite a controversial, yet humongous show from top to bottom.

Diva wise, we had our Vickie Guerrero Invitational aka AJ Lee vs. The World match, which saw AJ Lee put the Divas Championship on the line for the first time ever at WrestleMania in a 14 Diva free for all opposite Naomi, Cameron, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Eva Marie, Natalya, Summer Rae, Aksana, Layla, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Emma and Tamina Snuka! Vickie was, of course, ringside as well, but did AJ escape with a victory? And was the actual match itself as much of a trainwreck as we all assumed it probably would be when it was revealed to be 14 women in the ring at the same time?

Let’s find out… a little later on!

First up in the show, we’ve got a big Diva surprise to get through. It happened moments into the start of the Daniel Bryan/Triple H segment and involved… well, let’s just get to recapping, shall we?

Following one of the many amazing video packages as of late (Bonus points if you successfully play “Spot the Angela Fong“), we see Stephanie McMahon in the ring as she introduces her husband, Triple H, to a round of absolute boos. Suddenly, the lights go dark as some very heroic gladiator-esque music hits and out slides a huge throne with The Game himself on it. But something is different about this entrance… there seem to be three women surrounding him all decked out in gold and… is that? It can’t be…

IT IS. It’s NXT Divas, Charlotte, Alexa Bliss, and Sasha Freakin’ Banks! What even?! Upon watching this, I didn’t know how to react due to how unexpected it was. I still don’t. Therefore I’m just going to let you all take the beautiful, surreal moment in as I did watching live and we’ll talk about it in great detail down below when we get to the thoughts section. But holy crap.

Also, feel free to find a way to watch the rest of the match (and the main event) because Stephanie McMahon is at her finest during the entire Triple H/Daniel Bryan match and what would transpire at the end of the show.

Now that that little surprise is out of the way (because I couldn’t possibly write about the match before I watched their entrance again), let’s head on over to the first ever Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational!

Well this doesn’t start out the greatest as we head to the ring and see 96% of the participants standing inside. BUT, it didn’t get cut so there’s that! AJ Lee gets an entrance at least, as Vickie Guerrero randomly chimes in wishing everyone good luck tonight… especially AJ. She follows it up with the best evil laugh EVER, as the bell sounds and everyone shoves Tamina/AJ to the center. Diva ambush! Everyone’s going after one another and it’s our biggest fear come true, but Summer Rae does get a nice spin kick on Emma. Alicia Fox is working over Cameron and Naomi hits a really nice move on Aksana but unfortunately suffers from a bad camera angle. Layla nails a crossbody, but Brie and Nikki kind of mess up a double gutbuster. Nattie hits a bodyslam on Alicia, as dear Rosa Mendes tries for something but falls into a Sharpshooter! Natalya looks to go for a TRIPLE version including Cameron until Eva Marie rolls her up! The internet fears for its life as I get ready to explode with joy, but Natalya kicks out!

A lot of suplexes happen now, followed by a lot of covers but they’re all broken up. Vickie looks amused with what she sees, as Summer Rae hilariously screams “YOU!” and then charges after AJ Lee like me when I see DVD’s on Black Friday. Unfortunately, she gets slammed into the corner and decked with a few kicks until Cameron — Cameron Lynn! — hits a Codebreaker on AJ Lee. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only thing breaking by that move as it looks like the straps of her gear have snapped and she’s trying to wrestle with one hand and keep her top on with the other. Hashtag Pray4Cameron.

She misses a charge to the corner as Emma looks to lock in the DilEMMA as this poor girl has to either take the move poorly or risk her top coming off. I can’t even right now. She somehow manages to both sell the move and keep her top on, as Emma fires up with some dancing and splashes into the corner with the Emmamite Sandwich! Alicia with a Scissors Kick! Layla with a Bombshell! Aksana with a Spinebuster! Natalya with a Discus Clothesline! Rosa with a sidewalk slam (like a true badass)! Naomi with the Rear View! Tamina with a Superkick! Eva Marie with a… spin around and push! I can’t handle this. Eva Marie blows Tamina a kiss and poses, but Tamina isn’t here for it as she chases Eva right on out the ring. Snuka then turns around into the sharp knee jawbreaker by Nikki into a missile dropkick from Brie! They kick AJ off and then run off the ropes with a set of suicide dives onto the whole roster. Holy Bella! That is how you do it.

The Bellas roll back in the ring and celebrate… but that quickly stops when they realize they’re the only two Divas in the ring. Brie shoves Nikki! Nikki shoves back! Brie kicks her in the abdomen and goes for the Bellabuster, but Nikki hoists Brie up and hits the Rack Attack on her own sister! Alicia and Layla break up the pin and take out Nikki, but Alicia turns on Layla right after. Fox now with a backbreaker, as Nattie nails some suplexes and Tamina scores with a Samoan Drop. She heads up top, but Naomi stops her! Naomi now on the top rope, but Aksana gets in the way. God dammit Aksana leave Naomi alone, you have done enough to this poor woman. Natalya now walks up behind Aksana and they nail a tower of doom! Nattie only gets a two count though, as Tamina slides both Aksana and Natalya out. She goes to double clothesline them, but only nails Aksana as Nattie ducks and clotheslines Tamina. AJ then dropkicks Natalya and locks in the black widow on my beloved Naomi, who is forced to submit with one hand as AJ suspiciously forces her other to tap first. Hmm…

Thoughts: Good God.

Where do we start? How about that match though. Going into this I said there was a 95% chance it would be nothing but a clusterf*ck because sticking 14 people in the ring at one time, male or female, had the makings for a mess.

The Divas totally took that 5% I gave them of proving me wrong and actually ran with it.

I thought the match was truthfully the best women’s bout we’ve had at a WrestleMania since Mickie James vs Trish Stratus. The beginning was kind of all over the place yes, but once they got going, for being a 14 woman free for all, that was actually pretty damn good and had a lot of spots I’m going to remember for quite a while in comparison to some of the other recent Mania matches where I only remember one thing at most. I don’t think it was a classic or anything like that, but it was very entertaining and kept me on the edge of my seat once we got past the typical punch/kick fest that always starts multiple person matches.

My personal MVP’s of the action would be… and I kind of love/hate saying this after the column I posted the other week because I don’t want this to come off biased, but it’s Brie and Nikki Bella. They did mess up a little in the start, but I don’t even care because by the time the match was over they made me forget the start even happened. Those suicide dives were by far my favorite moment of the whole thing, followed up with the tower of doom and the tension Brie and Nikki showed against each other. It truly bums me out at the situation the Divas had to follow because I think if you stick this match anywhere before Taker/Brock, the crowd would have loved all three of those moments I mentioned and maybe even some more. They, along with a few other spots too like Eva and Tamina’s humorous showdown, felt big and bold like something I should see at WrestleMania. When I think of Maria Menounos and Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve, all I remember is Kelly’s go round off the top, as well as Maria looking like she pooped her pants with Eve’s makeup… and I was even there in the crowd. When I think of the mixed tag from WrestleMania 27, all I remember is Snooki’s handspring elbow. This did have a lot of spots, but to be honest I’ll take a spotfest in this kind of match over a bunch of kicks and punches any day. Memorable moments like seeing those suicide dives and seeing the tower of doom, plus a few extra ones as well, is what I want out of Mania if we’re going to get these big multi Diva matches. The crowd may have been too shocked to respond, but I wasn’t. I appreciate the fact these girls took something that was basically guaranteed to be a big fat mess and made the absolute best of it. Granted the standards for Divas on Mania have been knocked down to the point of almost no return, I do have to say I had a ton of fun watching this one and I really wasn’t expecting to. Go Divas!

The bad part was of course the crowd, but with what they witnessed before it, I don’t even blame them or the Divas. Anything that had to go up after Undertaker’s streak being broken was going to get crickets, so I don’t count the lack of fan interest as a notch against the match because there was just no way for it to recover. I will say though that my desire of seeing a new champion crowned at Mania completely took a 180 after the Undertaker match as I don’t want to see a Diva get her moment to a dead silent crowd. Because of that, I’m actually okay with AJ retaining. I kind of feel like tonight on Raw, Vickie could just play back the footage and “coincidentally” only see Naomi’s hand being forced to tap by AJ and ignore the fact she was actually tapping with her other hand as well, almost to vindictively find a way to one up AJ after she reviews the footage. After that, she could then book either a 14 diva rematch to punish AJ further or just AJ vs Naomi for the championship. It would make perfect sense and also save the Divas from having to end the longest reign ever in front of a crowd who wouldn’t react to it. Win-win(?)!

The lack of entrances (minus AJ) also sucked, but eh, in the end I’d rather have a match I can look back on and enjoy without entrances than a match where the entrance is the only fun part about it *cough WrestleMania 25*. I think maybe seeing the males in the battle royal earlier suffer the same fate too was, in a way, kind of like sick self satisfaction because it made me realize everyone’s stuff was getting cut and it wasn’t just automatically being the women’s. Hell, The Shield only got a three minute match on the whole show so we can finally at least feel the Divas got some sort of justice despite time having to be shed. Small victories as always!

Bonus points for letting Emma and yes, “YOU!” Summer Rae get a little moment to shine throughout the match too. Words can’t explain how happy I am for those two — Emma in particular being that she just only got called up, and to see her get a moment to do her dance and stomps while the camera was solely on her made me beam with pride.

Speaking of beaming with pride though… can we talk about the fact that Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Alexa Bliss were on Wrestle freakin Mania? What the hell?! I can only assume Triple H, being so involved with NXT now, decided to include them in his entrance which just makes me even more of a fan. I basically exploded like a teenager at a One Direction concert when I first identified who they were, and I honestly don’t even know the right words to explain what a moment that was for either them or fans of them watching at home. It was so unexpected and so not even anything I saw happening in a billion years when they could’ve just easily hired three random actresses that I’m probably going to wake up in the morning thinking it didn’t really happen… but it did!

I know it might be a bit of a bummer that Paige and Bayley didn’t get to experience it as well, but I can kind of see why you wouldn’t want to include them. Even masked, Bayley doing the role of a sexy Roman goddess type figure would just feel so weird to anyone who follows her on Twitter or knows what her character is. I know Sasha, Alexa and Charlotte weren’t playing their character, but still, it would seem really uncomfortable watching sweet, innocent Bayley holding a wine cup as she sexy walked over to Triple H and removed his cape. Paige on the other hand, is kind of in the same boat. Do we really want to see our Anti Diva in a skimpy gold top with a long dress as she poses alongside his throne? It just wouldn’t fit to me, as cool as it would’ve been to see all five NXT Divas there. Sasha, Alexa and Charlotte have the looks down for the role, and I don’t think this damages their NXT character at all because for the BFF’s, it’s believable they would be seen in this way. Plus with their faces covered by those masks, I doubt anyone who didn’t already know it was them would be able to remember it a few years from now, unlike Paige and maybe Bayley as well. With Alexa Bliss though, she doesn’t really have a known character to judge from, so it worked! Plus she made her first TV appearance on WrestleMania… talk about a debut!

Whatever your thoughts are on why not all of them got chosen, I am just so happy for Sasha, Charlotte and Alexa. These girls deserve this for all of the hard work they put in at NXT and just once, it was so nice to see the spotlight on them for a change. Sasha Banks in particular made me the most excited to see because, not taking anything away from anyone else, but she puts in so much hard work that tends to (at least in my opinion) go unnoticed and I’m just ecstatic to see her finally reap some benefits for it. I’m not even talking about how she developed the Boss persona and improved over time, but I’m more focused on the fact that she has also been wrestling on every single live event NXT does for a LONG while, and half the time she ends up competing in two to three matches throughout one night of TV tapings due to how small the heel roster is. She steps up and delivers for them so much, and I just wanted her to not even get a push, but at least a win or two every once in a while. That may have bothered me 24 hours ago, but now it’s not even a factor because this felt like the justification that all she’s been doing down here has been recognized. Same goes for Charlotte and Alexa as well. I don’t want to repeat my NXT recap too much, but the improvements Charlotte has made in every single factor from wrestling to acting to look to character since aligning with the BFF’s deserve to be rewarded. She’s getting a push now, which is great and I’m totally behind it… but seeing her get this moment on stage was so much more to me. Obviously I can’t say as much about Alexa since she hasn’t been on TV yet, but from seeing her wrestle in person, it’s clear this girl has worked her ass off just as much as anyone has. I felt like I hit the lottery by the fact alone that they brought her to Axxess to compete in matches I wouldn’t even get to see, much less this!

Maybe I’m overreacting if you see this as being “just an entrance”, but as someone who has been wanting to see Alexa break out and finally make an impact, as someone who wants all of the hard work and vast improvements Charlotte has made be recognized, and as someone who has waited for Sasha Banks to explode into the star she can be since before she was even signed to the company, seeing them pop up out of nowhere on that huge stage was my own personal Mania moment. Tonight, it wasn’t about Bayley and it wasn’t about Paige. It was about Sasha, Charlotte and Alexa getting their moment to shine. I loved it.

And as always, Stephanie McMahon plays that role to perfection. Her constant screams at Daniel Bryan through the match and main event attack were everything, as were the slaps she gave him. Bringing her back to TV in this way has made me fall in love with her character all over again after a few random appearances here and there beforehand, and I couldn’t have been more invested in Triple H and Daniel Bryan’s feud. That may not sound like much of a compliment, but I’m basically the one person who does not give a care in the world when it comes to the main eventers. They just, for the most part, don’t do it for me because it all feels so stale and reptitive. This feud, however, took so many fun, unique twists along the way and like all good feuds, it involved A LOT of truth when it comes to how WWE views the people who are stars from the people who are “B+ Players”. It all just felt so special and unlike your regular old title feud, and that’s what gets me hooked. Daniel Bryan’s journey from the bottom of the totem pole to the top is inspiring, and his likability is something that I think relates to all fanbases enough to appreciate it and make you care when he’s in the ring. Nobody else really has that effect to appeal as heavily as he does no matter what sort of “clique” you see yourself in as a fan, but he has managed to crack the code and it has clearly paid off. It sucks Brie wasn’t allowed to run out and celebrate with him after the match (seriously what do they have against letting them appear together?!), but it was literally the fairytale ending we hope to see everyone get at WrestleMania. Two thumbs up!

Overall, I may be biased towards 28, but I thought this was honestly the best WrestleMania in a long time. Not even just for the Divas, but Antonio Cesaro getting spotlighted, the Daniel Bryan moments and even Bray Wyatt getting to shine despite unfortunately having to lose to John Cena. There were down moments sure, but I enjoyed tonights show as a whole immensely, and I’m so excited to see where we go from here.

Until next time (and sorry for the length but there was just no stopping me after the NXT Divas appearance),


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