In many ways, this year's 33rd WrestleMania event felt much like the end of an era. Not like the "End of an Era" advertised for The Undertaker and Triple H's hellish Mania 28 bout, but like a legitimate changing of the guard. A passing of the torch, if you will. We saw legends fall. We saw new stars rise. There were moments which produced shock and awe; for the right and wrong reasons. Moments that had us breathless in anticipation for what was to come next and moments that left us scratching our heads in bewilderment. Whether you were disappointed at the overall show or legitimately amazed by the entire spectacle, one thing is for sure that this year, what we got was undoubtedly, unequivocally, unapologetically WrestleMania.
WrestleMania 33 had a lot to offer. The show was a mixed bag of goodies that gave us tastes in our mouths which were both equally sweet and sour. We relished as remnants of the past re-emerged for a special night, we mourned as those same remnants showed signs of fizzling out, and watched in intrigue as refined jewels of the future rose to the occasion. It is genuinely exciting to leave WrestleMania knowing the seeds were planted for WWE to start anew with a reinvigorated brand of next generation superstars ready to take the helm. Yet, also bittersweet to watch as relics we embraced in our childhood must now take a step back for the new guard. In other words, there was some good, some bad, and a whole lot to talk about. Some moments even managed to surprise us more than anything else. Let us further analyze and ponder on the moments from WrestleMania 33 that exceeded our expectations and also disappointed us.
15 Exceeded: Aries vs Neville
The night started of strong with a good showing for the Cruiserweight division. It’s a shame that the Cruiserweight Championship match couldn’t be added to the main card to add some much needed legitimacy to the division, but Neville and Austin Aries made sure to do with what they had to make an impression on the incoming crowds. Initially, the two struggled to get the crowd to care about them, but when the match kicked into high gear, they were able to truly excite and pop the audience. The two pulled out some eye popping, dazzling moves. Despite being in the same weight class, the two had a contrast of styles which allowed the two to compliment each other’s offense. Neville showed ruthless aggression while Aries balanced a technical style with high flying offense. The latter especially was highlighted by one whopper of a top rope hurricanrana. By time Neville retained in the end, they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands.
14 Disappointed: Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Well, it was a battle royal. That’s the nicest thing that anyone can say about it. No one expected much, but even for a battle royal, it could have been better. After the two biggest favorites of the match, Big Show and Braun Strowman, were eliminated within the first five minutes, the match grew terribly boring. With few (if any) worthy stars to root for, it basically felt like jobber central. With the final competitors consisting of Mojo Rawley, NXT’s Killian Dain, and Jinder Mahal, that just goes to show that WWE had no problem showing how much of a filler match this was with little to no thought put into it. Apart from a baffling run-in from Super Bowl winner (apparently, when you’re a celebrity, you’re just allowed to jump the barricade and enter the ring these days), nothing of note happened during the match. If nothing else, it’s the ramifications of the match that make the match worthwhile. That being how it ended by creating a new star in Mojo Rawley.
13 Exceeded: Mojo Rawley's Star Making Performance
Not a lot of people are going to like the sound of this, but more good can be found in Mojo Rawley's Mania win than the bad. While it can be argued that his in-ring talent is scarce and his character annoying, these qualities can improve with age. The biggest positive outlook here is the fact that his win tonight shows how WWE is willing to push new stars to the forefront. In a time where new stars are lacking, it is never a bad thing to produce new stars. Even with a disappointing celebrity run-in, Gronkowski served his purpose in getting a wrestler over, seeing as we got some genuine "Mojo!" chants from the crowd. For tonight at least, Mojo received a big rub and feels like a sorely needed new star in the making.
12 Disappointed: Dean Ambrose on the Pre Show
The steady decline of Dean Ambrose has been a disappointing one indeed. While he still has found his fair share of success, it's hard not to see him as the most expendable and underwhelming member of The Shield as a singles star. Despite winning the WWE Championship halfway into 2016, Ambrose's run felt lackluster at best. Before that, he put in a disappointing effort against Brock Lesnar at last year's WrestleMania. He seems to have lost much of his momentum since first beginning his singles run and while he should be adding prestige to the Intercontinental Championship, it mostly feels like he's been badly relegated down the card. There's no further proof of that than the fact he was pushed down the Pre-Show. While that might not have been the case if fan outrage didn't move the Smackdown Women's match onto the main card, it just feels disappointing to see Ambrose's star power slowly diminish with each passing feud, especially when his Pre-Show match with Baron Corbin felt largely boring. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
11 Exceeded: Raw Women's Match
Despite the high levels of talent superseding the match, there were some genuine worries going into the bout. Mainly that the Fatal Four Way would somehow fail to deliver or worse, Bayley's Raw Women's Championship run would be cut short and the title will once again get hot potatoed to the next female contender. Thankfully, neither happened to be the case. It was a strong showing for each competitor and overall an enjoyable bout. Despite being eliminated early, Nia Jax still feels like the division's resident monster after needing cooperation from all three of her opponents to eliminate her. Sasha Banks looked impressive on the big stage before being taken out by Charlotte Flair, whose show stealing performance cemented her presence as perhaps the best female athlete in the current wrestling industry. Then, finally, we got a feel good moment with everyone's favorite mega-fan turned mega-starlet, Bayley, picking up a win thanks to a Macho Man elbow on the 30th anniversary of Steamboat vs Savage from Mania III. It was a tremendous moment indeed to see the girlhood dream come true for Bayley.
10 Disappointed: The New Day as Hosts
To be fair, The New Day did nothing wrong as hosts. Their promos were as charismatic as ever and they got the crowd hyped. The energy they produced for the crowd proved the trio are still extremely over now as they were during their first Tag Team reign a couple years ago, which is insane. Unfortunately, they never had any real memorable moments. Past Mania hosts have had a handful of great sporadic moments throughout the night. Hulk Hogan started off WrestleMania XXX with a memorable promo between himself, The Rock, and Stone Cold. Later on, he had an electric promo between his fellow participants from the main event of the very first Mania. Years before, The Rock as host of WrestleMania XXVII set up the following year's main event with John Cena. This year, The New Day really did nothing. With no backstage segments and only a handful of promos in front of the crowd, The New Day segments kind of felt like filler. Apart from an opening segment where nothing big happened, the biggest things The New Day did was announce the show's attendance record and introduce The Hardys for the Ladder Match. One can argue that less is more with The New Day in efforts to not make the three seem overexposed or annoying, but without any standout moments on the show, it risks making the trio feel like forgettable hosts and seemingly confirms speculation that they were only made hosts because WWE had nothing else for them to do on the Show of Shows.
9 Exceeded: The Hardy Boyz Return
In the last few weeks, there was little to no fanfare for the Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. Even when the match was made into a Ladder Match at the last possible second, it was still hard to get fans excited about this match. That was until WWE made another last minute addition to the match: The Hardy Boyz. Less than 24 hours after losing the ROH Tag Team Championships, Matt and Jeff Hardy made their long awaited return to WWE by capturing the Raw Tag Team Championships. The match itself was loads of fun with spots galore (including a signature Hardy Swanton off a ladder onto Cesaro through a ladder), but above all else, it was The Hardy Show for this match. It can be argued that it made the Raw Tag division look weak to have an old timer team beat these rookie teams, but to be fair, Raw's tag division has been weak as of late. The Hardys being added to the match not only helped the crowd get invested, but looking towards the future, their win helps create a newfound interest in a tag division that has been lacking a pulse as of late.
8 Disappointed: AJ vs Shane
This is a bit of a conundrum seeing as AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon both exceeded expectations and disappointed at the same time. Mostly disappointed, but exceeded in that as the opening bout of the main show, the crowd were naturally hot for it. Plus, for a non-wrestler taking on a veteran of the sport, the match turned out better than a lot of us expected and proved just how AJ Styles really can have a good match with anyone. Disappointing because, well, for a number of reasons. The first being that the booking of the match didn't make much sense. Whoever booked the match thought it would make sense to have the non-wrestler and the veteran wrestle as if the two were on par with each other. Which is just as ludicrous to wrap our heads around as Shane McMahon lasting a half hour against The Undertaker last year. Shane McMahon put out a valiant and impressive effort this year (especially for a well executed Shooting Star), but that's easy to say when expectations were low for his performance. Styles got the best match he could out of Shane, but throughout the match, it was hard to shake the feeling that a man of Styles' talents deserved a better opponent for Mania.
7 Exceeded: Rollins vs Triple H
Much like Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho before it (which isn't on this list because it delivered exceptionally in exactly the way it was expected to), Triple H vs Seth Rollins was just as good of a match as everyone expected it to be. Well, almost as good. It actually did manage to be better. But how can you make a match as hotly anticipated as Trips vs Rollins even better than anyone can imagine? Put Stephanie McMahon through a table. While this match was great beforehand, it was a spot that was insane enough to define the match. It was a shocking moment that no one saw coming and helped heighten the match by ten-fold. After months of watching as Rollins struggled to get his hands on his former mentor, he managed to get some sweet revenge on both of his former Authority cohorts. First by allowing Triple H to inadvertently send his wife through a table, then by pinning Trips himself for the victory. The Kingslayer finally toppled the King of Kings and it was well worth the wait.
6 Disappointed: The Cena/Nikki Proposal
This is definitely when the night took a turn for the worst. Up until now, the show had a string of pretty darn good matches while this match killed much of this show's momentum. Going into this, everyone knew what the end game of the match was going to be. In fact, the only one likely to not know that John Cena would propose to Nikki Bella was Nikki herself and even saying that might be a stretch. The issue here is that while the promos for the last few weeks have been wholly entertaining, the night's build-up (aka the actual match) left more to be desired. The couple's bout against The Miz and Maryse was dull, bordering on flat out bad. It was a fairly standard contest with the heels getting much of the offense for the majority of the match until the babyface shot off with a comeback in the final minutes of the match. The match killed whatever "thrill ride" Mania was coasting off of during the first half of the show and started a steady decline in quality for the show's second half. The payoff for Cena to finally propose to Nikki was not satisfying enough to warrant the match being worth sat through. All of the participants involved deserved a better showcase of their skills, especially The Miz who after career revitalizing career he had deserved much better than a basic squash.
5 Exceeded: The Universal Championship Match
The main reason that this match exceeded expectations was because of the fact that it lasted more than 20 seconds. In the weeks building up to this bout, since both of Goldberg's return bouts combined barely passed the minute mark, fans dreaded the idea that a World Championship match on the Grandest Stage of Them All had the possibility of being less than a minute long. These fears were doubled at the time when it was assumed that these two goliaths would be taking part in the main event of the show (aka the final match on the card). It seems as though low expectations proved to be a deciding factor in making this match more enjoyable than it probably deserved to be. The match only lasted just under 5 minutes, but it was better than the 20 seconds that had been previously speculated. Plus, both Goldberg and Brock Lesnar managed to do everything they could in that time frame to keep a raucous crowd on their feet until The Beast struck the Universal Champion down with one final F5 to take the title from him. While the match was mostly filled with smoke and mirrors opposed to actual wrestling, it was the kind of spectacle which catered to the sports entertainment side of wrestling. In that regard, it all worked perfectly in Goldberg and Lesnar's favor.
4 Disappointed: Wyatt Loses
We can say that the match as a whole was disappointing given how many considered it boring compared to much of the card. However, the most disappointing aspect is seeing Wyatt's bad luck at Mania continue. Ever since his first Mania loss to John Cena at WrestleMania XXX, Wyatt has felt like an incompetent character. Whether it's losing to Cena, losing to Taker, or getting decimated alongside his Family in a segment with Cena and The Rock, Wyatt looks like he could never get the job done when the time is most right. It was most essential for Wyatt to retain his WWE Championship at this year's Mania for the sake of continuing his momentum of newfound credibility. Once again, as with all Manias, that momentum was crushed in favor of an already credible legend, Randy Orton, who slithered his way to defeat Wyatt for the title. It didn't help that the match also felt largely uneventful, apart from the times during the match where the ring mat would randomly become engulfed with some sort of eerie graphic. Which, honestly, did more to hinder the Eater of Worlds than make him look strong or even spooky. In kayfabe, this was Wyatt's attempt at getting inside The Viper's head, but since it didn't work, the end result just made him look a bit silly.
3 Exceeded: Naomi - Hometown Hero
Sometimes, WWE refuses to follow through with a seemingly no-brainer decision in favor of swerving the fans with a shocking moment. As history has proven, shocking does not always mean good and alternatively, predictable does not always mean bad. Many predicted for Naomi to return from her unceremonious injury sustained earlier this year to capture the Smackdown Women's Championship at WrestleMania in her hometown of Orlando, Florida. Surprisingly, WWE actually followed through with that decision instead of going with a disappointing, unpredictable route. Naomi winning back the Championship she never lost makes too much sense not to execute, but knowing how much WWE loves to be one step ahead of the fans, this was in jeopardy of not coming to fruition. Thankfully, WWE put their egos aside to deliver a genuinely satisfying WrestleMania moment.
2 Disappointed: 23-2
This is a finish that countless fans were afraid would happen, but it happened nonetheless. Not only has The Undertaker now lost twice at WrestleMania, his second lost was suffered at the hands of the much maligned Roman Reigns. There were a handful of sloppy spots which dampened the overall quality of the match, but it is the final image of the ref counting 3 as Reigns covered Taker that will be remembered forever. Some hoped that a win for Reigns would also signal a heel turn for The Big Dog, but judging by how the match ended with Reigns showing sympathy towards Taker, it seems like same old Reigns. Only now with the confirmation that, to the chagrin of many of the guy's detractors, the ring is in fact Reigns' yard. As for the former yard owner himself, it appears that Undertaker won't be returning to any yard or squared circle any time soon.
1 Exceeded: The Undertaker's Last Bow
It appears to be all but confirmed that The Undertaker has bowed out of his last WrestleMania. It feels like the wrestling community has been predicting that The Deadman was on the verge of retirement for the past few Manias, but the gesture he partook in following his 2nd Mania loss seemed to be his way of quietly riding off into the sunset. As Reigns headed towards the back, Taker started to remove his gloves and leave them in the middle of the ring, which is symbolic of a wrestler hanging up their boots for good. To take things a step further, Taker removed his iconic leather jacket and hat, leaving both in the ring as well. Most intriguing is the fact that he walked over to his wife in attendance and hugged her before walking to the back. Taker has always been a strong proponent of kayfabe and he wouldn't have broken it by acknowledging his real life wife if he didn't think his career was truly done. Given the level of attention WWE gave this moment and the time Taker was allowed in the ring. I think it's safe to say that The Undertaker is retired. Disappointing to see such an illustrious career end, yes, but if we look at the bright side, there is a lot of good to take away from the moment. For starters, it has to be commended that The Undertaker was willing to lay down for a young up and comer like Reigns on his way out; it's the right thing for a veteran to do. Plus, despite the importance of Taker's streak, he agreed to eat a pinfall at Mania not once, but twice now. That has to be respected. The Undertaker has given more than enough to wrestling industry as a whole and now, he is more than deserving of some much needed rest. He took the opportunity to give us one last incredible WrestleMania moment and what an image it was. It's been said before but needs to be said again: Thank You Taker.