Count to three

Published April 12, 2015
Defending champion Brock Lesnar
Defending champion Brock Lesnar

Cultured as they were, the ancient Greeks still loved to wrestle. Wrestling, or Pale as the Greeks used to call it, was about paying tribute to Heracles, considered a paragon of strength and masculinity. The Greeks also loved their theatre; performed in honour of another god, Dionysus, the Greeks wanted to be swayed by tragedies, charmed by comedy, and lured by satire.

Centuries later, wresting and theatre merged into one: WrestleMania, an annual pay-per-view event produced by the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), has been held since 1985. Though the event is not really a professional wrestling tournament and most of the fights are fixed, the matches generate much excitement among the crowds coming to watch and those following on television, especially kids.

This year, WrestleMania 31 was held in California on March 29. It saw the return of The Undertaker after a one-year hiatus. Then there was Sting, a former World Championship Wrestling (WCW) superstar, who made his WrestleMania debut by fighting Triple H.

WWE legends roll back the years to deliver great drama at this year’s WrestleMania

But this is the tip of the iceberg; to the applause of millions, theatrics of the wrestlers took centre stage at WrestleMania 31. The Greeks must have been proud.

The Rock at WrestleMania 31

Every WrestleMania has its moment and this year it was The Rock, who made his way down the ring, when The Authority (Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) — who control the WWE — were bragging and making everyone yawn. Stephanie McMahon asserted her power by slapping The Rock to which the People’s Champion brought Ronda Rousey into the ring, who happens to be a professional bantamweight fighter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). She took down Triple H with a swift move and locked Stephanie in an arm bar. This became a moment in time which will be remembered for years to come.

Tag Team Championship

The first match of the night was a Fatal 4-Way Tag Team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, defended their gold against The New Day, Los Matadores, and The Usos. The match’s climax occurred when, during a show of strength, Cesaro and Big E superplexed both members of Los Matadores, Tyson Kidd and Kofi Kingston on to the mat. The Usos were at the verge of winning the match; however, Cesaro capitalised, resulting in Kidd-Cesaro to retain their titles.

Seth Rollins takes the title
Seth Rollins takes the title

Battle Royal

First held at WrestleMania 30, the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal pays tribute to WWE’s former champion, Andre The Giant. Akin to any Battle Royal, the rule is simple — a Superstar is eliminated once tossed from over the ropes with both feet touching the ground. The complexion of the match however changed when The Big Show made his entrance and eliminated 10 Superstars. Damien Mizdow, the fan favourite, was the only one remaining with the Show, however, Mizdow could not take down the world’s largest athlete. Show eliminated Mizdow to win the match and the trophy.

Ladder Match

It is always enthralling to watch Ladder Matches. However, stakes reached sky high when seven WWE superstars competed in the Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31. Defending Champion Bad New Barret valiantly try to retain his title against Daniel Bryan, R-Truth, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler and Stardust. After every Superstar had tried his luck in climbing the ladder and falling down, Bryan and Ziggler scuffled on the ladder before Bryan threw Ziggler to retrieve the belt and become the new IC Champion.

The Face vs The Future

If the Ladder Match was heart pumping, then the match between Randy Orton and Seth Rollins was combustible.

The Undertaker
The Undertaker

Orton, once siding with The Authority, was The Face of the WWE. However, The Authority soon took Rollins under its wing to make him The Future. Rollins, also the Money in the Bank Briefcase winner, had the option to cash in his Briefcase for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match anytime by the end of WrestleMania 31.

Orton and Rollins began strong, with both competitors eagerly wanting to earn a win. Rollins did prove his worth and got Orton where he wanted to deliver his signature move, the Curb Stomp. To gain extra momentum, Rollins jumped high in the air by stepping on Orton’s knee, however, Orton caught him in midair to deliver his RKO to pin him and win the match.

The Vigilante vs The King of Kings

Speaking of confrontations, the WWE Universe is aware of the heated rivalry between the WWE and the WCW during the 1990s. WWE bought the latter in 2001 with every WCW wrestler crossing over into the WWE except for one — Sting, the Vigilante. At the 2014 Survivor Series, Sting made his shocking debut at the WWE to cost The Authority their jobs, only temporarily, and to escalate his rivalry with Triple H, the King of Kings.

Sting making his WrestleMania debut
Sting making his WrestleMania debut

The 76,976 fans in attendance saw the past and present of promotional wrestling collide. However, being a no-disqualification match, outside interference was allowed. With Sting controlling the match, members of D-Generation X (DX), Road Dogg, X-Pac and Billy Gunn, came to assist Triple H.

Though the event is not really a professional wrestling tournament and most of the fights are fixed, the matches generate much excitement among the crowds coming to watch and those following on television, especially kids.

With odds against Sting, Triple H froze in his boots when The New World Order (NWO) came down the ring and physically confronted DX.

It became a trip down memory lane as DX and the NWO, part of the WWE and WCW respectively during the 1990s, wrestled outside the ring. Back in the 1990s, both teams were fighting to keep their respective company to gain higher TV ratings, an era we know as the Monday Night Wars. With Sting moving for a win, Triple H’s partner from DX, Shawn Michaels, came from the crowd to deliver the Sweet Chin Music to Sting. Triple H knocked down his opponent with a sledgehammer for the three count and the win.

Roman Reigns before and after WrestleMania 31 loss
Roman Reigns before and after WrestleMania 31 loss

Cena vs The Russian

At WrestleMania 31, the Russian Rusev defended his US Championship title against John Cena. Rusev did remain undefeated after making his WWE debut in January 2014, and after becoming US Champion in November 2014, he had been retaining his title with ease. Cena was unable to beat Rusev for the US Championship at the 2015 Fastlane but did get a rematch at WrestleMania 31.

Rusev overpowered Cena during this year’s match by catching him in his submission hold, The Accolade. Cena, however, countered while showing super human strength which he is known for. Rusev’s social ambassador Lana, with her habit of distracting Rusev’s opponents, did play mind games on Cena, but it backfired as Rusev accidentally crashed into her. The distraction was too much as Cena delivered the Attitude Adjustment to Rusev. The Russian could not kick out and Cena became the new US Champion.

The Dead Man vs The New Face of Fear

WrestleMania is also known for The Undertaker’s winning streak which lasted for 21 years before coming to an end at WrestleMania 30 by the hands of Brock Lesnar. The Undertaker did not compete for the entire year, however, he did accept Bray Wyatt’s challenge for a match at WrestleMania 31.

Wyatt, the New Face of Fear, promised to end The Undertaker’s dark reign from the WWE. Although his Streak was over, The Undertaker had to prove his worth as a fighter. Wyatt did bring his best and gave tough moments to The Undertaker. Wyatt even kicked out after receiving The Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver.

With both men down, Wyatt elevated himself for the scary upside down Spider Walk, a move which intimidates all. However, it was Wyatt who was jolted when The Undertaker sat up and stared down Wyatt’s eyes.

Wyatt then went for the Sister Abigail — his signature move — however The Undertaker countered to deliver the second Tombstone Piledriver for the win. The Undertaker, therefore, brushed off his last year’s loss at WrestleMania to make a fresh start.

The Beast vs The Juggernaut

Roman Reign got the opportunity to compete in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Brock Lesnar at WreslteMania 31 after he won the 2015 Royal Rumble. Lesnar vs Reigns confrontation also had a post-match build up. Lesnar, The Beast, did not lose his title in over a year while Reigns, the Juggernaut, was showing his thirst to become champion.

Lesnar wasted no time in beginning his assault and delivered an F-5 within the first minute of the match. Lesnar later assaulted with a series of German Suplexes to wear out Reigns. However, Reigns gathered his strength to counter with a series of Superman Punches. Lesnar and Reigns both went down and while they were trying to recover, Seth Rollins’ entrance music signalled that Mr Money in the Bank has plans to cash in his Briefcase.

The match, which began as a one-on-one contest, became a Triple Threat encounter when Rollins cashed the Briefcase. He immediately delivered the Curb Stomp to Lesnar. The Beast carried Rollins on his shoulder for the F-5 but Reigns delivered a spear. Rollins took his chances to Curb Stomp Reigns and hook him for the pin. Who knew Rollins would leave WrestleMania 31 as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion?

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, April 12th, 2015

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