Fireworks exploded in the night all around me. Looking towards the ring, I saw a defeated Roman Reigns lying inside while an angry beast stomped around on the outside, his advocate trying to calm him. On the stage was Seth Rollins, spinning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship above his head like a madman. As Wrestlemania 31 came to a close, he had just pulled off what was “the heist of the century” in Michael Cole’s words.
I knew I’d witnessed a moment in WWE history. I could feel the buzz in the air; the atmosphere was electric. Everyone in attendance at Levi’s Stadium knew that what we had just seen would be replayed in video packages for years to come – perhaps decades.
And now here we are, three years later. There have been two Wrestlemanias since that night in Santa Clara, California and a third one, Wrestlemania 34, takes place in New Orleans this Sunday. Yet, in many ways, the 2018 edition seems more like a sequel to the 2015 “Showcase of the Immortals”. Wrestlemanias 32 and 33 have had little bearing on this year’s show, yet several ripple effects are still being felt from Wrestlemania 31.
The Return of Daniel Bryan
Although Daniel Bryan announced his retirement from in-ring competition in February 2016, many forget that he had been out with injury for 10 months by that point. His last match to date was on the April 16 edition of Smackdown in 2015, just a couple of weeks after his last pay-per-view match, which was at Wrestlemania 31. It was there that he won a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship in the opening contest at Levi’s Stadium. It’s fitting that three years and a miracle later that we see Daniel Bryan’s return to the ring at another Wrestlemania.
The Debut of Ronda Rousey
After defeating Sting at Wrestlemania 31, Triple H returned to the ring with Stephanie McMahon later in the show to announce the live audience attendance – a Levi’s Stadium record. The power couple soon started lauding their accomplishments over the WWE Universe and boasting of how they owned everyone in the locker room. Enter The Rock, who arrived to verbally spar with The Authority, demonstrating the fact that they don’t own “The People’s Champion”. Stephanie got in Rocky’s face, though, goading him with calls of “What are you going to do? Hit a woman?”. Seemingly dejected, The Rock left the ring. However, he changed direction before heading up the ramp, walking instead around ringside until he found Ronda Rousey in the front row of the crowd. At the time she was the undefeated UFC Bantamweight Champion. As a female, she could smack that smirk off of Stephanie’s face.
Back in the ring, a little more verbal jousting took place until The Rock decided to lay the Smackdown on Triple H. Hunter staggered towards Rousey, who hit “The Game” with an arm drag to the canvas. Watching as her husband rolled out of the ring, Stephanie went to slap Ronda, only to get caught in an armlock. Rousey would eventually show mercy, allowing Stephanie to bail from the ring alongside Hunter.
Fast-forward to the 2018 Royal Rumble, where Ronda Rousey arrived in the closing moments of the broadcast. She had signed on as a WWE Superstar, her UFC career apparently behind her. The following night on Raw, Triple H and Stephanie were all smiles; after all, they’d signed one of the biggest sports stars in the world. Only, Kurt Angle would reveal that the couple hadn’t forgotten Rousey’s slight against them from Wrestlemania 31 and that in signing her, they sought to make her life a living hell. This has all led to Sunday’s Wrestlemania 34 showdown as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon team up to take on the tandem of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle. While Rousey might not be teaming up with The Rock, we finally get a little continuity to that epic face-off from 3 years ago.
The Rematch: Lesnar vs Reigns II
Whether Roman Reigns should be main eventing his fourth consecutive Wrestlemania is an argument for another article. However, one can’t deny that his facing Lesnar one-on-one has been a long time coming. Since their Wrestlemania 31 main event 3 years ago, “The Beast” and “The Guy” haven’t met in singles competition. In that time, Roman Reigns has also beaten The Undertaker at a Wrestlemania, making these two the only competitor to defeat “The Deadman” on the “Grandest Stage”. As mentioned, Seth Rollins stole the win via Money in the Bank cash-in during Lesnar and Reigns’s first hard-hitting clash. This time, with no Mr. Money in the Bank lurking behind the curtain, we’ll get a conclusive finish to the match that started in 2015.
Rusev Day comes around once again
As a last minute bonus, Rusev was added to the United States Championship match at Wrestlemania 34. His last major match at Wrestlemania was at 31, where he entered the stadium in a tank only to lose the United States title to John Cena. Can the “Bulgarian Brute” recapture the same championship at this year’s Wrestlemania? It would certainly make for a memorable Rusev Day.
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