Although the WWE Network has impacted upon DVD sales in recent years, one annual release which still remains a top seller is WrestleMania. As ever, this year’s set contains the entire WrestleMania event, along with the Hall of Fame ceremony. UK fans will also get the three Kickoff Show matches (this isn’t the case for the U.S. release, which calls into question the theory that those who appear on the pre-show can still class it as a ‘Mania appearance).
More than any other WWE card, WrestleMania is the subject of debate and scrutiny with regards to top-notch matches and memorable moments. So, how did the 33rd ‘Mania fare compared to its predecessors, and is the WrestleMania 33 DVD a must-own?
1. AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon
After the traditional performance of America The Beautiful by Tinashe, a superbly-produced opening video befitting the show’s “ultimate thrill ride” theme (as an aside, one drinking game during the live broadcast of ‘Mania was to count how many times somebody said “ultimate thrill ride”) and a standard promo by WM hosts The New Day, the action kicks off with AJ Styles battling Shane McMahon. An underwhelming match prospect when it was first confirmed, AJ and Shane nevertheless open proceedings with a great match. The structure of the bout is kept simple, and it builds slowly to Shane’s big spots, while delivering some other cool moments that fans weren’t expecting. This is probably the best match of the whole event, so this was definitely a success, with much credit going to the Phenomenal One, who has a good-to-great match with just about everyone.
2. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (United States Championship)
The culmination of a long storyline whereby the “best friends” became bitter enemies, Jericho vs. Owens is another strong match, with perhaps the most memorable spot being Owens using a fingertip on the ropes to survive a Codebreaker. Had it gone another five minutes or so, this would have been better, but it’s still well worth watching, as Owens picks up the win which has since allowed him to become “The New Face of America”.
3. Bayley vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax (RAW Women’s Championship)
Unlike last year, where the three-way between Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch was promoted as a feature attraction and was arguably the top match of the evening, the RAW (previously WWE) Women’s Championship match this year has something of a filler feel to it, largely because of the card being so stacked. There are some eye-catching moves, but all of the eliminations feel rushed, and with the impact of Bayley’s big victory reduced by her previous triumphs over Charlotte on RAW and at Fast Lane, it is less memorable than the Women’s Title match from ‘Mania 32. It’s still a good effort by all four, though.
4. RAW Tag Team Championship Ladder Match
When the bout between Gallows/Anderson, Sheamus/Cesaro and Enzo/Cass suddenly became a Ladder match, I had a sneaking suspicion (based on heavy rumors) that this would be a pathway for the return of a legendary tag team synonymous with ladders, and who had become the hottest act in wrestling outside of WWE. And so it proved, as The Hardyz made a big return to a massive response from the Orlando crowd. The set-up for the reappearance of Matt and Jeff stands out more than the match itself, but this is still a very good Ladder match. The Hardyz’ signature spots towards the end bring the contest to a perfect finale, although I also liked Cesaro and Sheamus delivering never-ending versions of the Giant Swing and the Beats of the Bodhrán respectively.
5. John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse
A Total Divas episode come to life, this tied a bow on a rivalry which elicited groans when it was first rumored, but which became arguably the most exciting feud heading into ‘Mania based on spectacular promo battles and the brilliant spoof of Total Bellas by Miz and Maryse (Total Bellas Bulls–t). The match itself isn’t particularly memorable, since Cena barely hits any moves before the finishing sequence, although it does have some funny one-liners from guest commentator Jerry Lawler (“I heard that one night Maryse was at the front door in sexy lingerie… the only problem was that she was coming home”). Most notably, this sets up the post-match proposal from Cena to Nikki which she supposedly wasn’t expecting, despite almost everybody else knowing about it beforehand. (Strangely enough, I thought that the kayfabe reunion of Randy Savage and Elizabeth – a real-life couple, admittedly – at WrestleMania VII was far more emotional than this genuine proposal between an actual item in Cena and Nikki. That’s wrestling for you, I guess.)
6. Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (Unsanctioned Match)
This is a divisive match. Some people enjoyed it, appreciating the methodical pace and the way in which Rollins has to struggle through his knee injury in order to beat The Game. Others disliked it, counting it as one more ‘Mania flop involving HHH. I personally enjoyed the match, though I was hoping that it would be more of an all-out war considering the animosity between both men, and I couldn’t understand why HHH’s hired hitman Samoa Joe wasn’t involved in some way. Unlike Jericho vs. Owens, this would have been better had it been a few minutes shorter, but overall it’s still a good match, and the unexpected bump by Stephanie McMahon through a ringside table was an added bonus!
7. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton (WWE Championship)
Then comes what, to me, was the most disappointing match of the night. After a terrific slow-burn storyline (no pun intended) where a generic Wyatt vs. Orton feud evolved into Randy joining the Wyatts, gaining Bray’s trust and then burning down the Wyatt compound, unfortunately the end result here at ‘Mania is a match which was average at best. So many people assumed that Bray would win, based on the feeling that he couldn’t afford to lose having finally become WWE Champion just weeks earlier, that it was a surprise of the unwanted kind when Orton picked up the victory. Randy didn’t need a 13th championship win, and his title reign hasn’t been particularly memorable so far (unless you count his recent Twitter war against the indies). More importantly, the match itself wasn’t any different from a typical television match involving either man. The use of a projector to display creepy crawlies on the ring mat was something different, which I suppose is good, but otherwise the match isn’t memorable at all, and with the exception of the already-infamous House of Horrors match at Payback, this was a big anticlimax when it comes to ending what had been a brilliant plotline.
8. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar (Universal Championship)
Who expected this to be one of the best matches of the evening? I expected Goldberg and Lesnar to surprise those who assumed that their 86-second clash at Survivor Series was all that they were capable of, but I didn’t think that a five-minute match would be this good. To be fair, it mostly consists of two men delivering the same move over and over, along with their finishers, but the match is put together so well, and both men look much more motivated than they were during their previous ‘Mania meeting in 2004, that the bout is a complete success. Even Goldberg’s detractors had to admit that this was well done and, whilst some may not be happy that Lesnar is a part-time champion again, his victory here perfectly capped off another strong storyline based on Goldberg repeatedly having the number of the unstoppable Beast. Also, look out for Lesnar fist-bumping a fan as he walks up the aisle; given how much Brock hates anybody not named Paul Heyman, this random moment tickled me.
9. SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Campaigning on social media by fans ensured that these ladies avoided the Kickoff Show and were instead a part of the main card, but they were still given a tough spot in having to follow the two main title matches and providing a breather of sorts before the main event. The blue brand ladies make the most of their allotted time, though, by putting on a pretty good match, and Naomi gets the big hometown title victory to a loud pop, making this a big moment for her.
10. Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker
And so we come to the match which was suddenly moved to the main event slot, raising suspicions that something historic was about to go down. On the night, this match seemed like a disappointment, with Taker’s best days now long behind him. Upon second viewing, though, it’s a reasonable match with only one major botch and some slight miscommunication at other points. Based on match quality, this perhaps doesn’t merit its main event position, but the main reason for this comes after the bell, due to Undertaker’s emotional retirement ceremony. Though fans had expected this day for years, it still felt like a jolt when you realized that it was actually happening, and many in attendance were teary-eyed as ‘Taker bowed out in a perfect manner, given the nature of his character. Though it sounded like a horrendous suggestion beforehand, as the match wore on, it was clear that Roman needed to win, and his career received an almighty (if unwelcome to many) boost as he has the bragging rights of beating Undertaker in his final match. As for ‘Taker, a Hall of Fame induction in 2018 (where the Streak ended in New Orleans) is virtually guaranteed, and his sad farewell here is ultimately the most memorable moment from WrestleMania 33.
1. Neville vs. Austin Aries (Cruiserweight Championship)
I thought this was one of the best matches of the night. Given plenty of time since it was early in the Kickoff Show, Neville and Aries had the chance to put together a proper match worthy of the occasion, and fans (of which many had arrived early to see the pre-show bouts) lapped up the high risks and cool spots by both men. This feud is still ongoing right now, and whilst I’m not sure if Aries will eventually seize the Cruiserweight Championship from Neville, he and the King Of The Cruiserweights still put on one heck of a battle here.
2. Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Of the four ATGM Battle Royals to date, this is probably the worst, since the logical victory for Braun Strowman, or even perennial underdog Sami Zayn, gave way to a forgettable celebrity cameo (which was nearly spoiled by an uninformed security guard) and a win for Mojo Rawley which, at time of writing, hasn’t advanced his career very much, and is unlikely to do so before the same match at WrestleMania next year! In hindsight, it provides a hint about Jinder Mahal’s sudden ascension up the WWE ranks, as he’s the last man for Rawley to beat (with help from Rob Groncowski), but Gronk’s appearance aside, it’s just another bout.
3. Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin (Intercontinental Championship)
Speaking of which, the IC Title match could have been transported from an episode of SmackDown. It can’t have pleased Dean and Baron when they found out late that their match wasn’t going to be on the main card, but their performances here don’t provide much evidence to suggest that this was the wrong decision. It’s a comedown for Ambrose, following a WM32 battle with Brock Lesnar and his spot as SmackDown’s top babyface and WWE Champion, but based solely on match quality, one cannot argue with this being on the pre-show, especially since their feud was cut short days later due to Ambrose being moved to RAW in the Superstar Shake-Up.
The 2017 class for the WWE Hall of Fame includes Diamond Dallas Page, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, Ravishing Rick Rude, Beth Phoenix, Eric LeGrand (Warrior Award winner), Teddy Long and Kurt Angle, along with the Legacy group (Martin “Farmer” Burns, June Byers, Haystacks Calhoun, Judy Grable, Dr. Jerry Graham, Luther Lindsay, Toots Mondt, Rikidozan and Bearcat Wright). It seems redundant to rank induction speeches, or even inductees, so I’ll simply say that the ceremony is a lot of fun and thus is well worth going out of your way to see.
In particular, it’s fantastic to see Kurt Angle make his proper return to the WWE fold, and it’s surreal to see Jim Cornette on the HOF stage to induct Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. If you enjoy watching the annual Hall of Fame ceremonies, then this year’s event is another treat for you.
The longest WrestleMania ever (north of five hours) and a lengthy Hall of Fame ceremony (four hours), plus the three Kickoff Show matches, mean that extras are severely lacking — Miz and Maryse’s Total Bellas spoof is the only extra segment, and that is solely for the Blu-ray release.
This year’s WrestleMania card is an improvement on WM32 with several matches of a high standard, along with a few key title changes and some of the most memorable ‘Mania moments in recent years (The Hardyz’ return, Undertaker retiring). It also caps off several months-long storylines, as well as delivering the usual pomp and circumstance that we all love about ‘Mania (the over-the-top aisleway, the spectacular firework displays and the crazy entrances).
The one thing I feel that the show lacks is a truly classic match befitting the grand stage and, as is often the case these days, some of the results are a bit questionable, whilst the sheer length of the show may be off-putting to those of us who didn’t watch live on the night.
It’s not the best WrestleMania ever by any means, and perhaps it’s not even the best WrestleMania ever held at the Citrus Bowl Stadium (though I hold a slight bias because I actually attended WMXXIV in Orlando), but it’s still a fun one to relive on DVD/Blu-ray, and the always-entertaining Hall of Fame ceremony (and the Kickoff matches for UK fans) round off the set nicely. Ironically given some criticism of the tag-line, WrestleMania 33 really is a thrill ride, because it covers a range of emotions when delivering totally different yet equally memorable moments, and there’s a good mix of styles, match types and performers to ensure that 33 has something for almost everybody. So, not really one of the all-time great ‘Manias, but it’s probably on the next rung below, and for that reason I recommend owning WrestleMania 33 on Home Video.
Get your hands on the WRESTLEMANIA 33 DVD, Blu-ray or Steelbook…
– United States: AVAILABLE NOW! Get the WrestleMania 33 DVD now here on Amazon.com.
– Australia: May 24th. Pre-order WrestleMania 33 on DVD over at Madman.com.au.
– UK/Europe: June 5th. Lock in your pre-order for the WM33 DVD here on Amazon.co.uk.