wrestling / Columns

Kevin’s Top 10 WrestleMania Weekend Matches

April 7, 2017 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja

Over the course of WrestleMania weekend, I took in a lot of wrestling and I still didn’t watch everything. However, I watched enough to compile a top ten list. There’s a simple criteria for this list. To be included, a match had to take place from March 30th until April 4th and take place in Florida around WrestleMania (that means nothing from NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis can be included). Also of note, the biggest shows I missed were ROH Supercard of Honor, PROGRESS Orlando and SHIMMER 91. Sorry, I didn’t have time to cover those. Lastly, these are the reviews I posted for the matches originally, so expect any matches from TakeOver to have longer write ups, since I covered those live.

Honorable Mentions

Chris Dickinson and Jaka vs. The South Pacific Power Trip – WWN Mercury Rising

Finn Balor and Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe – WWE Raw

WWE United States Championship: Chris Jericho [c] vs. Kevin Owens – WrestleMania 33

10. Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Ruby Riot and Tye Dillinger vs. SAnitY – TakeOver: Orlando

SAnitY has facepaint and they look like the Motionless in White album cover. Motionless in White does a theme for the show by the way. Kassis Ohno is the mystery partner. The faces charge the ring and we get a big brawl. Ohno kicks the shit out of Dane, knocking him outside. When the match officially starts, Ruby and Nikki go at it. Nikki tosses her across the ring but misses a charge. Ruby sends her facefirst into the turnbuckle, so Nikki tags out. Wolfe comes in and gets knocked out by Ohno. EY runs in and gets the same fate. Ohno bends and twists at Wolfe’s wrist for a few. Ohno gets in trouble but it doesn’t last long and he tags Strong. Strong hits everything moving, including an Angle slam, backbreaker and dropkick. He hits EY with a corner knee and kicks Dane, but is stopped by a Wolfe German suplex. Dane comes in and wears down Strong. Strong has a hot tag cut off and Dane lays him out with a dropkick. Young hangs Strong with a corner choke. SAnitY keep Strong isolated. I love the joy Nikki takes in Strong’s peril. Young hits a flying elbow but Tye breaks the pin with an aggressive stomp. The crowd chant “ten.” Strong fights off Young but gets sent into the corner. He avoids a Young dropkick and has an opening. He tags Tye, who gets a monster pop and finally gets his hands on Young. Tye hits a series of strikes and a DDT on Wolfe and is pumped. Nikki attacks but Tye avoids and Ruby tackles her to the outside. Tye hits a baseball slide to an interfering SAnitY member, a cross body on Wolfe and a suicide dive on Young. Dane attacks him until Strong shows up. Wolfe takes him out. Ohno goes for a dive, but Wolfe moves. Ohno calmly lands on his feet. He knocks out Wolfe but goes down with Dane. Ruby tries a dive but Nikki intercepts with a forearm. Ruby trips her up and lays in the rights and lefts. Tye and Young are back inside, so Tye delivers ten corner punches. Dane intervenes but eats a superkick. Wolfe breaks up a pin.Ohno continues to abuse Wolfe with more kicks and forearms. Young takes him out with a neckbreaker. Young’s finish is cut off by a Sick Kick. Strong is left with Dane to a huge “Roddy” chant. Nikki hops on his back, so Ruby does the same to Dane. Nikki lets go to attack Ruby but gets sent outside. Strong is pulled out and Ruby takes out Nikki with an apron dropkick. Tye is left with Dane and gets him up for the Tye Breaker. Wolfe cuts it off. Dane picks up Tye and hits his finish for the win at 12:18. Awesome way to start the show. Wall to wall action. When you have a multi-man tag like this, there should be no down time and there wasn’t here. Great pacing. [***¾]

9. Anything Goes: Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page – Evolve 81

This has been building for quite some time. Even going back to last year’s Mania weekend, when Page defeated Allin in short order. Half of Darby’s body was painted and the word ETHAN was written all over. Most of this match saw Page kicking Allin’s ass. He launched him into chairs with a gorilla press slam from in the ring. Page remained in control, talking shit the entire time, until Darby got an opening inside. By this point, Allin was a bloody mess. Each time Allin seemed to gain momentum, Page had an answer. He slammed him onto a ladder and threw a chair at him to stop him. Page brought the big spots, busting out a GORILLA PRESS OFF A LADDER THROUGH TABLES ON THE FLOOR! My god. Page and the Gatekeepers attempted to murder Darby but Priscilla Kelly came out. Her distraction brought out Austin Theory, who neutralized the Gatekeepers. Allin hit a Coffin Drop but nobody caught him. I swear he almost died about five times in this match. Allin won with a crazy splash off a ladder through a table at 20:07 to finish his revenge. A spectacle with some bonkers spots. They booked this the right way. Allin took a beating and came out as a star who finally overcame his bully. [***¾]

8. WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows [c] vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. The Hardy Boyz – WrestleMania 33

Yes, before the match the New Day introduced the returning Hardy Boyz to a MONSTER pop. It was a great “holy shit” moment even though the rumors had been swirling for a while. I was never a huge Hardys fan but even I marked. I have to give props to commentary for to shoving “WRESTLEMANIA MOMENT” down our throats during this. I dug this match because it did what some matches on this show failed to. It didn’t go overly long and was jam-packed with action. Cesaro and Sheamus were the MVPs here for me. They beat the shit out of everyone and it was delightful. Enzo took a few bumps, Cass had some good moments and the Club were good heels throughout. Jeff, the madman that he is, pulled out a Swanton off a giant ladder like it was 2001 all over again. Matt retrieved the titles at 11:03 and the Hardys are champions again. Like I said, this was a blast with non-stop action, a great moment and it didn’t overstay its welcome. [***¾]

7. Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle – Evolve 81

This stemmed from Yehi being irritated by Riddle not always being loyal to Catch Point. Things come easy to Riddle, while Yehi had to scratch and claw to his position and earn Drew Gulak’s respect to get into the group. They traded mat work in the early stages, with neither main gaining a clear upper hand. It was Yehi who got the first advantage. Him stomping on Riddle’s feet was extra great here because Riddle wrestles barefoot. As things progressed it got more physical, with them powering up out of moves and hitting more strikes. The longer the match went, the better it got, which isn’t always the case with Riddle matches. They built to bigger moves and everything felt like it mattered. After trading some suplexes, Riddle nailed a tombstone but Yehi kicked out at one. Riddle hit a second (jumping) and it still wasn’t enough. He transitioned to the Bromission only for Yehi to counter that into the Koji Clutch. Riddle fought but couldn’t reach the ropes and passed out at 17:18. This was great. Two of my favorite guys on the indies having a great wrestling match. It felt like an important match with both guys fighting hard for the win. [****]

6. WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville [c] vs. Austin Aries – WrestleMania 33

Seeing Austin Aries on WrestleMania was surreal. Putting this on the pre-show was the best move. On the main show, they might’ve been restricted to five or so minutes. Instead, they got 15:37 and made it work. I appreciated that they didn’t go for the typical spotty match and used a slower start to build to something more. Aries hitting the heat seeking missile got a pop from me. Their finishing stretch was awesome and Aries even busted out the 450 splash. Neville kicking out of it didn’t bother me since Aries hasn’t established it as a finish in WWE. The finish was great with Aries digging into Aries’ old eye injury to open the door for the Red Arrow. I see I liked this more than most but it was, to me, the first great Cruiserweight Title match since the belt returned. [****]

5. NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka [c] vs. Ember Moon – TakeOver: Orlando

Asuka is the clear favorite. if I were booking, I’d have Ember come close and lose here before winning at the next TakeOver. It’ll give me reason to care. They lock up and go to the ropes with a clean break of sorts. Another sees them roll to the mat before Ember gets a headlock takeover. Asuka escapes and they do the same thing with Ember getting free. Arm drags from both and they whiff on dropkicks. Asuka offers a handshake but pulls back. Ember does a handstand and pulls her over, so Asuka gives a nod like, “Oh, okay.” They go at it again with Ember pulling her over. They trade shoulder blocks with neither girl falling. Shoving match and they go for it again but Asuka tricks her with the hip attack. Ember pops up and nails a dropkick. Ember does a weird taunt and tries a move outside but is sent into the guardrail. Back inside, Asuka hits two spinning back fists and a spin kick. Asuka takes time to gloat. Ember shoves her away, catches a kick and slams Asuka onto her face. Ember hits some shots but is met with another hip attack. Big kicks from Asuka on the ropes. Ember elbows out of a waist lock and avoids the Asuka lock. She hits a big sliding forearm that sends Asuka outside. Ember follows with a scary looking plancha. Inside, Ember wants the Eclipse but Asuka cuts it off. She blocks a dropkick and nails the shining wizard. More kicks from Asuka. Asuka Lock attempt is fought off by Ember. Asuka gets it in but not fully locked so Ember can still fight. Ember avoids a hip attack and hits a superkick. Both women are down. Asuka catches a kick but is still brought into a head scissors. Ember hits an interesting leg sweep and dropkick. Asuka has FIGHTING SPIRIT but Ember shuts her up with kicks and a fallaway slam. Ember kips up and charges with her handspring forearm. She tries a springboard move but is stopped and eats a big German suplex. They trade palm strikes until Ember hits a huge rolling forearm. Asuka is back up but has a kick caught into an exploder for two. Ember goes up for the Eclipse but again, Asuka cuts her off. Asuka wants a superplex but Ember release front suplexes her. Asuks shoves the referee into the corner to send Ember crashing. She hits the big kick and retains in 12:09. My favorite Asuka match so far. Ember Moon delivered in the ring, which I knew she would, and I care about her more now. The strikes and back and forth were great. The finish is what put it over the top for me. It was perfect. Ember didn’t get to hit her devastating finisher and Asuka looked desperate to retain. Ember winning with the Eclipse in a rematch would top it all off. [****]

4. Keith Lee vs. Ricochet – Evolve 80

This was part of Keith Lee’s “Trial Series.” It should make for an interesting clash of styles. Ricochet’s early grapple attempts were fun. He turned to try his athleticism but Lee showed off his skill in that department with a great dropkick. Ricochet was game for this and bumped like an absolute madman for Lee. He finally got an opening after snapping off a big rana and nailing a dive to the outside. Lee survived some of Ricochet’s best shots. Ricochet then impressed everyone with a reverse rana and Benadryller. It wasn’t the best Benadryller but just picking up Lee was huge. Lee survived a series of kicks and avoided the SSP. After a series of strikes, Lee hit an awesome sitout powerbomb but Ricochet got the shoulder up. Lee went for the moonsault that broke the ring in San Antonio but missed. Ricochet hit a springboard 450 for two and then the SSP. Lee kicked out so hard he launched Ricochet into the turnbuckle. Ricochet hit another but Lee grabbed him by the throat, so Ricochet had to fight him off. Kicks after kick and Lee barely got down. Finally, a 630 got Ricochet the win at 17:13. That was the best Lee match thus far. I was surprised he lost but he looked awesome in defeat. Ricochet threw everything he had at Lee, over and over, and it was still barely enough. Ricochet bumped like crazy for him though I’d still have preferred a Lee win. [****]

3. Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee – Evolve 81

Despite this being two big dudes, they started by showcasing their athleticism. Dijak did a cartwheel before Lee one upped him by landing on his feet on a monkey flip. He also busted out a twisting dive to the outside. They continued to one up each other when Dijak did a springboard corkscrew attack. I don’t want to do play-by-play but this was a series of two big dudes doing things they physically shouldn’t. Dijak did a GODDAMN CANADIAN DESTROYER! BIG BOYS! Dijak nailed Feast Your Eyes but it wasn’t enough. A Lee moonsault wasn’t enough so he tried a chokeslam. Dijak back flipped out and tried his own, so Lee responded by doing SAME DAMN THING! Lee finished it with the Spirit Bomb at 12:09 of pure insanity. This was fucking nuts. They had a different kind of hoss battle and I enjoyed the hell out of it. It was one of the most impressive spot fests I’ve ever witnessed and kind of a spectacle. My friends and I were going nuts. [****¼]

2. AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon – WrestleMania 33

There’s a lot of talk about who the best wrestler in the world is. For me, there’s no question or debate. It’s AJ Styles. He proved it again on this show. AJ helped carry a non-wrestler to a great wrestling match. Not one that relied on smoke and mirrors either. The story early was that AJ was overconfident because a straight up wrestling match is his domain. Shane made him rethink things by busting out some solid grappling of his own. It never felt like Shane was better than AJ, just that AJ took him too lightly and it cost him. They advanced to strikes, where Shane seemed to get the better. We got a ref bump, but it worked here. AJ went for Shane’s coast to coast spot but Shane threw a trash can at him. He then showed that he can hit the coast to coast still. Shane, the wild man that he is, tried a goddamn shooting star press, but missed. AJ hit the Phenomenal Forearm for his first Mania win at 20:28. This was better than it had any right to be and better than both guys’ Mania matches last year. They told a great story, had lots of action and AJ bumped his ass off for Shane. My only major gripe was Shane kicking out of the Styles Clash. That should be protected. AJ Styles is the GOAT. [****¼]

1. NXT Tag Team Championship: The Authors of Pain [c] vs. #DIY vs. The Revival – TakeOver: Orlando

William Regal is in the ring to show off the new NXT Tag Team Titles, which look nice. DIY and the Revival turn towards AOP together in a show of unity. The bell rings and all hell breaks loose. DIY take out Aka outside, while the Revival work over Razar. DIY go under the ring to get tables. It gives Akam time to recover and he backs them into the guardrail. DIY fight him off and send him into the steel steps. With AOP incapacitated, DIY and Revival renew their rivalry (they had my 2016 MOTY). DIY hit stereo dropkicks and a series of corner moves on Dash. It breaks down into a calmer match as DIY hit a double hip toss on Dash. Akam blind tags in and knocks them both down. Ciampa is left alone and leaps into a slam. He wriggles free and hits a boot. He tries tagging Dawson, but the Revival back off the apron and he gets walloped. The Revival sneak in and hit a DDT on Akam (I think) and put Ciampa on him but it only gets two. Time for the Revival to show why they’re the masters. They work a double team on whichever AOP member is in. Dawson gets in a bit of trouble but DIY backs off the apron to avoid tagging him. Dawson still takes Akam down before Gargano blind tags in. The Revival send Akam outside and Gargano gets two on the slingshot spear. He kicks the hell out of Dash and delivers kicks to Dawson and Razar as well. Ciampa takes out Rakam with a knee so Gargano lays out Akam with a somersault off the apron. Slingshot DDT by Gargano on Dawson gets two. AOP catch a Gargano dive. Ciampa goes to dive onto them but AOP throw Gargano into him. They also take out the Revival by throwing Gargano into them. AOP hit Gargano with a sidewalk slam/stomp combo for two. Johnny goes up on Akam’s shoulders and gets racked. It lasts a while without him doing much. Gargano gets free and avoids an elbow. An enziguri connects and he gets cut off from tagging Ciampa. Johnny fights free and sends Akam into Dawson. Tag to Ciampa who hits a flying clothesline. He boots Razar off the apron and hits more clotheslines on Akam. Another knee keeps Razar outside. He hits a snap German on Akam, levels him with more strikes and we got another German. He hits a running knee but it only gets two. Ciampa hits some strikes  before trying a sunset flip bomb on Razar through the table. Razar holds on for dear life until Gargano comes to help. Wait, he still hangs on until the Revival hit him and Razar goes through the table. Akam is left alone with the Revival and DIY. They all jump him but Revival is taken out. Akam clotheslines Ciampa too and is left alone to powerbomb him. Ciampa fights off and the Revival agree to the tag. They chop block Akam and Dawson puts on the reverse figure four. Gargaon goes to break it but remembers its elimination. Instead, he applies the Gargano Escape to a MONSTER OVATION. Raar gets up and is held back but powers through to break up the double submission. That gets MASSIVE HEAT. The Revival fight off Razar and Gargano superkicks him. Gargano and Dawson are left with him and they hit DIY’s finisher! Akam comes in and Ciampa and Dash hit the Shatter Machine! OH MY GOD! With AOP sent outside, DIY and Revival are back at each other’s throats. Gargano and Dash knock AOP back and go to hit each other. They stop and take out APO with stereo dives. With those four outside, Ciampa goes up top. Dawson cuts him off but delivers a FUCKING SUPERPLEX TO THE OUTSIDE ONTO EVERYONE ELSE! Back inside, Razar tags himself in with Ciampa down. Akam comes in and they hit the Last Chapter to eliminate DIY at 18:52. The Revival see they’re left with AOP. Dash fights them off but is outnumbered. Razar hits a sidewalk slam for two. Dawson cuts off an AOP double team with shots. Dash gets Akam in powerbomb position and Dawson comes off with a reverse bulldog. They hit Razar with a European/German combo, followed with a middle rope European into another German. Razar takes out Dash and chokeslams Dawson. They go for the Last Chapter but Dash cuts it off. He gets hit but still. Dawson counters into a pinning combination for a close near fall. AOP hit stereo powerbombs. They try again and Dash is set outside. Dawson can barely stand. He falls when put in powerbomb position twice. On the third, he uses a small package while Dash holds Razar for two. Akam and Razar both hit DVDs (one into the guardrail and one to the corner). They hit the Super Collider for the win at 23:39. This is up there with Cena/Styles for my current 2017 MOTY. Not just match of the weekend, potentially my match of the year so far. Revival and DIY are the two best tag teams in the world and AOP has managed to hang tough with them recently. This had so many great moments and tons of action. The interactions between DIY and Revival as guys who hate each other but know they must begrudgingly work together was fantastic. I dare anything else this weekend to top this. [****¾]

For more, check ou tmy spreadsheet of every rating I’ve ever given out!

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EVOLVE, NXT, WWE, Kevin Pantoja