The main event of WrestleMania 34 saw reigning Universal Champion Brock Lesnar take on challenger Roman Reigns. The match was far from an all time classic. Most seem to agree their WrestleMania 31 bout was better, and that it was even one of the least satisfying matches of a lackluster WrestleMania. Despite it’s limitations, however, Lesnar-Reigns 2 did offer up its share of Easter eggs and historical anomalies worth paying attention to.
Lesnar is a uniquely booked phenomenon of a wrestler, and a rare case of WWE truly pushing a heel as its most dominant star in a sustained fashion. Most fans anticipated WrestleMania 34 marking a passing of the torch moment as Lesnar finally put over Reigns as the man, presumable on his way out the door for a new UFC run. Lesnar winning introduces all manner of questions about his and the WWE main event’s trajectory moving forward. More over, what can we expect for Reigns? Was this a step toward transitioning him out of the preeminent top spot in WWE in favor of someone like Braun Strowman, or perhaps a returning star like Bobby Lashley? Or is this just another step in The Big Dog’s long game journey toward the tip top of the business? WWE has demonstrated its patience in delaying Reigns’s win at WrestleMania 31, and this may well be another choice in a similar vein.
Whatever the future might hold, there’s quite a bit we can pull from this WrestleMania main event match itself. This article looks at fifteen items you may well have missed while watching Reigns challenge Lesnar.
15 Brock Lesnar Made World Title History
Brock Lesnar is no stranger making WWE history, but The Beast Incarnate achieved a truly unique milestone at WrestleMania 34.
He became the first ever WWE Superstar to win a world title at one WrestleMania, hold it all year long, and go on to successfully defend it at the following year’s WrestleMania.
Lesnar, in fact, joins only Hulk Hogan in holding a world title from one WrestleMania, as The Hulkster had his first world title going into WrestleMania, and would hold it continuously through WrestleManias II and III.
Winning a top prize at one ‘Mania and holding it straight through the next is unprecedented, though, and particularly impressive for an era when year-long title reigns, in and of themselves, are pretty rare. The combination of Lesnar’s aura of dominance and only working a part time schedule, though, facilitated this historic run.
14 The Undertaker Connection
Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns are bound by their WrestleMania connections to The Undertaker. Yes, they’re the only two performers to ever beat The Deadman at WrestleMania, which is noteworthy in and of itself. There’s more to the story than that, though.
Reigns had defeated The Phenom at the most recent WrestleMania, in a victory that was widely perceived to have charted his course to this year’s main event. While Lesnar’s win over The Undertaker was less recent, when it happened, it was the last time WrestleMania had emanated from New Orleans back in 2014. As such, it felt pretty poetic for these two men who’d vanquished The Deadman on the grandest stage of them all to do battle at this event, in this venue, in the main event.
13 Roman Reigns Tied For The Most Consecutive WrestleMania Main Events
It hasn’t been much of a secret these past five years that WWE is trying to cement Roman Reigns’s place as one of, if not the single top star in the company. In that interest, it makes sense for The Big Dog to have booked to headline WresteMania. And now Roman finds himself in the history books with Hulk Hogan.
Reigns has now matched Hogan’s historic mark closing out the most consecutive WrestleManias, with four straight and counting (Hogan had his run from WrestleManias 5 to 8).
Reigns’s win loss record can’t compete with Hogan’s, who won three out of four of those encounters. Nonetheless, in our contemporary era, in which there’s more than one world title and it’s not a foregone conclusion a world title match will main event a PPV, Reigns getting this nod for this many years is a pretty big investment and testament to the faith WWE has in him.
12 Reigns Was The First To Kick Out Of An F5 In A Year
Brock Lesnar’s F5 finisher has been a reasonably over finishing maneuver throughout his entire wrestling career, and it’s noteworthy that it was even the move he used to win his very first WrestleMania main event match fifteen years ago. As wrestling has evolved, though, the potency of any single finishing move has by and large diminished. It’s not unusual for someone to kick out of John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment or The Miz’s Skull Crushing Finale. Even seriously over finishers like The Undertaker’s Tombstone have required two or three applications to get the job done in some of The Deadman’s biggest match situations.
Throughout 2017 and early 2018, the F5 has been a killer, with a single use of the move proving enough to put away guys like Goldberg, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, and Kane. It was widely rumored that WWE was carefully making this booking choice in the interest of making it feel like a special moment when Reigns kicked out of the F5 en route to victory at WrestleMania.
Reigns did kick out of not just one, but four F5s, making him the first wrestler to do so even once since the previous year’s WrestleMania. He did ultimately succumb to the fifth time Lesnar hit the move, though (six if you count the one through the table).
11 Brock Lesnar’s Ground And Paid Made An Homage To Another Of His Matches
When Lesnar took his gloves off and positioned himself to straddling Reigns’s prone form, WWE paying homage to another of Lesnar’s most famous, most controversial performances from SummerSlam 2016, when he defeated Randy Orton.
That match ended due to referee stoppage when Lesnar nailed Orton with repeated elbow shots until he was badly bloodied. It was a brutal and surprising finish, made all the more unusual for WWE planning around both blood and blunt force trauma to somebody’s head. That closing spot even resulted in an infamous confrontation between Lesnar and Chris Jericho backstage, when Lesnar thought The Beast Incarnate may have been shooting on his friend.
That WWE would call back to that moment sent a message about selling Lesnar’s brutality, edge, and realism. One could also read into a message about Reigns’s toughness, given he weathered the blows and kept fighting, as opposed to Orton who needed the match stopped.
10 It’s The First Time A Heel Won The WrestleMania Main Event Without Any Outside Help
Traditionally, WWE books WrestleMania around a hero prevailing. Indeed, in its first thirty-three years, there were only three occasions when a heel won the last match of the show, with Triple H prevailing at WrestleMania 2000, The Miz winning at WrestleMania XXVII, and Seth Rollins successfully cashing in Money in the Bank for WrestleMania 31. (You can argue on behalf of Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX, but despite winning the technical main event, he’d drop the WWE Championship to Hulk Hogan minutes later.)
One of the interesting things about Lesnar’s big win here is that it happened without any outside interference, or unusual external factors that would give him an unfair advantage.
Yokozuna had Mr. Fuji throw salt in Bret Hart’s eyes. Triple H had Vince McMahon turn heel to help him. The Miz had The Rock give him a hand. Seth Rollins cashed in on two guys who were already badly beaten down. Lesnar? He just straight up dominated Roman all by himself, and won the fair fight.
9 This Was the First Time Dana White Was In The Crowd For A Lesnar Wrestling Match
Dana White and Brock Lesnar have a longstanding relationship from their work with UFC, and what a powerful draw The Beast Incarnate proved to be for the MMA brand. Lesnar’s work for WWE, however, has always been something of a sore spot. UFC and WWE have had a tumultuous relationship, and it’s only in relatively recent years that White and Vince McMahon seem to have moved past begrudging respect to actually working together to an extent, including allowing Lesnar a UFC fight amidst his WWE contract.
White claims to have been in attendance for WrestleMania 34 purely to support UFC alum Ronda Rousey, and the cameras only fixed on him during her bout.
However, rumors swirled that Lesnar is coming back to UFC, and there was a hint that White was there on his behalf, too. Whether it was intentional or coincidental, it’s interesting to note that this was the first time White was in the live audience for a Lesnar pro wrestling match.
8 It’s Only The Second Time Two World Titles Were Retained At A WrestleMania
WWE has a relatively short history of having two world titles at a time. The first time it came up, the company was in the process of integrating WCW, and kept its world championship separate for the first half year (a period that didn’t include a WrestleMania. It happened again with the advent of the first brand split, with the WWE World and World Heavyweight Championships and lingered for some time after the brands had mostly recombined. With the second brand split in 2016, WWE introduced the Universal Championship as a new second top title.
As such, there have been two world titles on the line at WrestleManias 19 through 29, and again at WrestleManias 33 and 34 (and counting). Thirteen years, and there had only been one occasion when both world titles were on the on the line and both champions retained. That was WrestleMania 27, when Edge pulled off a minor upset to beat back rising star Alberto Del Rio and The Miz surprisingly defeated John Cena in the main event.
This year, AJ Styles surprised a majority of fans by defeating Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the WWE Championship. More surprising was this main event collision, in which most fans pegged it to be a crowning moment for Roman Reigns, but instead Lesnar elbowed, suplexed, and F5ed him into a bloody, beaten mess.
7 Count Out Rules Were Ignored
As most wrestling fans are well aware, standard WWE rules would dictate that wrestlers have only up to a referee’s ten count before they’d be counted out of the ring. This rule has been used across generations of stars to allow for non-finishes, or to provide an excuse for someone losing match on indecisive. In other words, a count out doesn’t necessarily mean someone lost a fight, just that he or she got caught outside the ring too long.
There’s a long history of lax countout rules when it’s necessary to the story WWE’s telling but Lesnar vs. Reigns was particularly egregious in ignoring countout conventions altogether.
After a certain point in the match, there was no clear indication the referee was counting at all when the buys when the guys went out of the ring for long brawling sequences, with little mention of the issue from commentary either. Traditionally, play by play announcers have at least covered up by reminding fans of a referee’s discretion, particularly in big match situations. This failure to follow rules felt entirely arbitrary.
6 Suplex City Echoed WrestleMania 31
Brock Lesnar taking an opponent to “Suplex City”—his term for dominating another man with suplex after suplex—is nothing new, and he arguably had his first match in the Suplex City style against John Cena at SummerSlam 2014 when he suplexed him sixteen times. The first Lesnar actually uttered the famous words, “Suplex City, b----” came via an ad lib at WrestleMania 31, while he was taking apart Reigns.
That Lesnar would use the exact same verbiage amidst assaulting the Big Dog at WrestleMania 34 was most certainly an homage to their previous ‘Mania clash and the history between the two characters. Unfortunately, while it felt like an iconic moment for Lesnar the first time around, this iteration felt more like The Beast Incarnate was going through the motions.
5 Michael Cole Accidentally Got On The House Mic
After Brock Lesnar threw Roman Reigns across a fully assembled announce table at ringside, there was a clear shift in the audio for those of us listening at home. It would appear the collision momentarily put Cole on a house mic, rather than simply feeding into his usual headset and to the fans at home.
It’s possible this was a work to subtly enhance the chaotic feel of the moment, but Cole was quiet shortly thereafter, suggesting he either cut out altogether or, more likely, sat out the proceedings until the production team could straighten out the issue. It will be interesting to see if WWE will correct the audio here on the archived version of WrestleMania or let it ride, and whether they tend to it may be telling about whether it was a mistake or an intentional effect.
4 A Call Back To Last WrestleMania Event In New Orleans
It’s not terribly unusual for WWE performers to put one another through announce tables. Particularly for PPV settings, it’s not so unusual for a spot like that not to happen until the late stages of the show, or the main event, not only for dramatic impact, but so the broadcasters don’t have to do without their monitors and notes for very much of the show.
WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans saw a wild announce table spot emerge when Batista and Randy Orton combined their signature moves—the Batista Bomb and the RKO—into one hybrid maneuver to put Daniel Bryan out of action for several minutes.
Not to be outdone, in WrestleMania’s return to New Orleans, Brock Lesnar delivered a rare iteration of his own finishing move, the F5, through an announce table.
In each match, the table spot was probably the most unique and memorable of the whole main event match.
3 Every Time A WrestleMania Main Event Has Repeated, It Has Involved An Anoaʻi
In Brock Lesnar squaring off with Roman Reigns in the final match of WrestleMania 34, the two accomplished the rare feat of repeating a WrestleMania main event match. This has previously only happened for Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleManias 15 and 17), The Rock and John Cena (WrestleManias 28 and 29), and sort of Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (WrestleManias IX and X, but it was followed by Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX, and not an advertised main event for WrestleMania X, so take that s you will).
A matchup has to be a pretty big deal to justify a WrestleMania main event at all, let alone getting the nod twice. The common thread through each of these instances of repeat top billing at the biggest show of the year? The Anoaʻi family lineage. Yokozuna, The Rock, and Roman Reigns all share this familial connection, and it’s a testament to the stars the family has produced, and WWE’s faith in them that they’ve had these unique opportunities at the spotlight.
2 It Was An Incredibly Rare Intentional Use Of Blood
From its earliest days, WWE was relatively hesitant about blood. The Hulkamania era saw the company deemphasize realism in favor of offering a wholesome, family friendly product, and thus tried not to air situations of gratuitous violence. Even in the waning days of Hulkamania, WreslteMania matchups like Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart had to get color surreptitiously to work around management, while guys like Randy Savage and Ric Flair got in trouble for more overtly drawing blood against Vince McMahon’s orders.
While the Attitude Era marked a departure, to a degree, WWE has still generally not used a ton of blood, and the PG Era in particular has seen the company move away from any intentional bleeding, and often pauses matches if someone is bleeding a lot. There are only three known cases of intentional blood in WWE in the past two years. One was Brock Lesnar beating Randy Orton bloody at SummerSlam 2016. The next was Kevin Owens head butting Vince McMahon himself open this past fall. Finally, there’s Lesnar vs. Reigns.
It’s possible the blood was an accident here, but given that it resulted from the same ground and pound elbow shots Lesnar had used to open up Orton, we have to assume that they weren’t an accident. Perhaps the amount of blood—Reigns really did gush a crimson mask—wasn’t intended either but did work to some extent in selling the brutality of the beating he was taking at Lesnar’s hands. Additionally, reports have come out that Vince was upset at Brock backstage after the show for the blood spot, but we've seen the two work the locker room before.
1 The Loser’s Music Played On His Way Out
After the WrestleMania main event, Brock Lesnar uncharacteristically left the ring quickly. Doing so isn’t altogether inconsistent with his character, as a big bully who dominates and leaves with little fanfare. Nonetheless, it was interesting to observe in the live broadcast that after Lesnar walked back and highlights of the match were replayed, fans both at home and in the live stadium heard Reigns’s music play as he made his own way to the back.
Having the losing party’s music play as he leaves post main event is pretty unusual, if only because these matches tend to see the victor stay in the ring for prolonged celebrations.
The choice was likely meant as a recognition of the effort Reigns had put in—both in kayfabe and in reality—to sell him as a never say die hero, besides offering a token moment to Reigns fans as the show wrapped up.