I don’t really know what to say about the show because it was so very different from the Royal Rumble. While the Rumble started my year out with such high hopes, Wrestlemania failed to capitalize on that. It isn’t even that I would say what transpired in New Orleans was bad, because on the whole it wasn’t. But almost worse than that is how, outside of two or three moments, it was forgettable.
This year should have been a huge move for the women of WWE. Not only were there two women’s singles matches on the card, there was a women’s battle royale on the pre-show. Also that mixed tag match. Which, I suppose we should address something right now.
Ronda Rousey doesn’t exist here. Unless she is in a major and un-ignorable singles match against another wrestler on the WWE roster, she’s persona non grata. Because if I am looking for proof of a revolution, I will never find it where she is involved. So when she is bypassed or skimmed over it is simply because she is always going to be a detriment to the WWE’s women’s division. You can just read my Elimination Chamber piece for my feelings as a whole on her and her contributions to “empowering women in sports.” Or go find my Wrestlemania night explosion on Twitter during which I committed what I consider the cardinal sin of Twitter rants: I tagged the celebrity I was insulting.
Even erasing that event from memory (which, trust me, many of my takes on it could easily fill up this article and then some, but I’ve made my decision), the show was creatively so very weird. If I were the type of fan to only base my opinions on the show’s results, I’d say the women had a banner night. Naomi won the women’s battle royale, creating another huge Wrestlemania moment for her. Nia Jax defeated Alexa Bliss, putting the bookend on their controversial feud. And Charlotte was ready for Asuka.
But in watching the actual show, the only thing that played out well was Charlotte and Asuka. And even that was terribly misused on the show.
The big rumor is that WWE plans for next year to make history: women will headline Wrestlemania. This should be a moment of celebration for me. For numerous reasons it is not, but here is one of the major reasons: it should have been this year.
I wrote before about how Charlotte and Asuka should be the main event. I was entirely serious then, and in retrospect I was right. Because far and away those two women had the best match of the main show, not just in terms of the stakes, not just in the huge spots, but in the tension and the way the match earned its shocking end. I had no doubt putting together those two would result in something special and magical, but what actually happened exceeded my expectations.
The problem was, the match deserved twice the time it was given. It ended up feeling rushed. More than that, the match and the “twist ending” happened in the first hour of the main Wrestlemania show. You gave away your biggest moment before 9 PM EST. How were you ever going to follow that up, especially with the World and Universal title matches that we were given.
While that title match deserved twice the time, Nia and Alexa should have needed only a fraction of what they were given. So many people were saying that, especially given the emotional stakes involved, Alexa should have gotten little to no offense. It should have been Nia just utterly destroying her former friend. There was the incredible opening spot where Nia took out Mickie James but just repeatedly slamming her into the barricade (huge props to Mickie for taking all of those hits), but after that, it was…odd. We were sold this idea that the instant Nia got her hands on Alexa she was going to respond to having her heart ripped out metaphorically by ripping out Alexa’s heart literally.
Instead, Nia barely won. But it was a satisfying victory, especially the pure emotion on Nia’s face when they handed her the belt. The look of utter triumph on her face paid off the way the match was built. There was something so real there in response to the body shaming Nia’s admitted to experiencing her entire life. She won, she won as the good guy in the feud and she won while allowed to look glamorous and sexy. Nia strode to that ring in gear that flattered her, that showed off her figure and her power and it wasn’t a joke.
I don’t know what exactly to say about the Thank You Snickers Battle Royal other than notes on specific moments. The NXT Women “invading” the ring and holding it was so fulfilling, especially since the list of NXT talent was so unexpected. Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane and Peyton Royce seemed obvious, but the addition of Dakota Kai, Taynara Conti and especially Kavita Devi was surprising and welcome. Bianca went on to steal the show and is going to be one of the biggest stars the company will see. Naomi deserves the win and the recognition, though I wish they’d given her a trophy that looked less like a uterus and Fallopian tubes. I also wish the win hadn’t come because of yet another “Oh, Bayley, you’re so stupid!” moment.
The thing is, no matter how many things I could criticize about the event, there was one constant. The emotion was so very real. Nia hefting her title over her head with gusto, celebrating and ruining the lives of people who complain about her body. Sonya Deville becoming the first openly lesbian woman to compete at Wrestlemania, entering the ring wearing pride-themed gear. Her best friend Mandy Rose standing beside her in support and solidarity. The huge number of women seeing their first ever Wrestlemania and realizing a dream.
But the moment of the night was the end of the Charlotte and Asuka match. Not when Charlotte ended the streak. But in the aftermath, when Asuka took the mic and made an announcement.
“Charlotte was ready for Asuka.”
Then, looking so happy and so proud, her voice breaking a little with emotion, “Congratulations.”
Before the word was even out of her mouth, Charlotte had pulled Asuka into a hug, the two of them celebrating what they had just achieved.
That moment rivaled Daniel Bryan’s championship win and celebration. It was as amazing as Eddie Guerrero holding the WWE title over his head and Shawn Michaels’ boyhood dream coming true.
And like those moments, it should have been the final memory we were left with when the show was over.
As I said, rumor is next year Charlotte may main event the show, marking the first time a women’s match will headline a Wrestlemania. That’s a bad call. It should have been this year, it should have been this opponent, it should have been a revolutionary moment.
Because next year, with her rumored opponent? I guarantee it really won’t be.
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