It may sound awfully silly, but I actually had the Wrestlemania pre-show blues after it was over. I was actually looking forward to the pre-show for once, especially since it was originally announced as a stacked pre-show with four matches instead of the standard one or two. I figured that with a two-hour pre-show, there would be ample time to deliver four strong matches.
Then disaster struck. A last-minute decision moved the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal from the pre-show to the main PPV broadcast. This wound up causing major problems with time management of the PPV later on. Then those in charge of the ticket scanning system at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas didn’t bother testing the system prior to show time to make sure it was functional. It wasn’t, leading to the stadium not only having difficulty scanning tickets but processing the huge last-minute rush of fans who decided to buy tickets the day of the show.
So with all the delays caused by the faulty ticket scanning system, the decision was made to stall, stall and stall until they could stall no more. That meant lots of talking and chatter. LOTS of talking. Endless talking. You could grow cobwebs on your posterior waiting for the first match, which didn’t start until 5:45 PM Eastern time. While analysis and discussion was fine for about a half-hour or so, by the end of the two-hour pre-show, Renee Young, Booker T, Lita and Corey Graves found themselves repeating points that were already well made.
1. United States Champion Kalisto Vs. Ryback: Rumor had it that Kalisto had pitched a US title defense against his tag team partner Sin Cara, but to no one’s surprise, Vince McMahon said no. So we get yet another match in which there is a size difference of at least one foot between opponents. Sometimes this mismatch on paper can work when turned to reality, as it did at NXT Takeover on Friday. However, Austin Aries and Baron Corbin didn’t have the handicap of a styles clash to contend with. While Ryback has improved a lot since his early days as Skip Sheffield, a luchador he ain’t. Kalisto wasn’t allowed to show off any of his great high flying in the match as the majority of the bout was Ryback tossing him around like a rag doll. This was the kind of match you’d expect on a C-level show like Main Event and not on the biggest show of the year. Since people were still filing into the AT&T Stadium due to issues with the ticket scanning system, there wasn’t a full house. As a result, the match lacked the palpable crowd heat that would have helped. I was fully expecting Ryback to win the title since word on the street is that he’s in line to challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE World Championship, but I have a feeling all things have been reconsidered since he lost clean to Kalisto’s Salida Del Sol finisher. This was an average match at best. **
2. Total Divas (Brie Bella & Paige & Natalya & Alicia Fox & Eva Marie) Vs. BAD and Blonde (Lana & Emma & Summer Rae & Naomi & Tamina Snuka): What do you get when you try to shoehorn 10 Divas, several of whom are of marginal ring ability, into a non-elimination tag team match in barely 11 minutes? A mess, that’s what! Despite being on the babyface team, Eva Marie was booed out of the building. Not helping matters was how slow and mechanical the few spots she did were. They certainly got the name in regards to the heel team BAD and Blonde since they were pretty bad overall. Only Emma looked somewhat decent. For her big in-ring debut, Lana didn’t do anything besides a few mediocre kicks. Her biggest asset right now is her heel presence. As for the match, it was largely a collection of spots, some good and some bad and all too typical of why the Divas division was looked down upon. The match finally took off when Brie Bella tagged in as everything she did looked razor sharp, but it ended shortly after when Brie finished off Naomi with the Yes Lock for the tapout. Brie’s sister Nikki, sporting a neck brace, joined in what would be the last hurrah of not only the Divas, but the Bella Twins’ wrestling careers in WWE. **
In the first hour, Lita stated she had a major announcement that she would reveal during the second hour. As it turned out, it was confirming the rumors that had flown earlier in the week that WWE was finally abandoning the putrid Divas division and replacing it with a bona fide, wrestling-heavy Women’s division, replete with a new Women’s Championship belt. It’s about time since fans will no longer accept the mindless T&A displays that the Divas division had devolved to. It also made the planned Divas Championship Triple Threat match between Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch a major event, with the winner being crowned the first Women’s Champion. However, no one clued the announce team that this match was crowning a new champion and that Charlotte wasn’t automatically the Women’s Champion. It would prove embarrassing later on.
3. The Usos Vs. The Dudley Boyz: Since the pre-show had 30 minutes of TV time left and the AT&T Stadium was largely full, I was expecting a fairly long match here. The Usos were given an opportunity to showcase their stuff in a lengthy pre-show match at the previous two Wrestlemania shows. Coupled with the fact that this was a grudge match stemming from a Dudleys heel turn, this should have been a showstealer. Alas, while what they did was good, they barely had 5 minutes to do their stuff. So everything was a rush job. I suppose we can’t do without the constant reminders to order the WWE Network or PPV, even though by this late time on game day, most people have already decided one way or another. Since they were pressed for time, they just got right to it, brawling all over the ring. Both teams paid tribute to a legend: The Dudleys to newly inducted Hall of Famer Stan Hansen; the Usos to late relative Umaga. A nice touch, don’t you think? After a scant few minutes of intense back-and-forth, the Usos scored the win when they broke free from a Dudley Death Drop attempt and superkicked D-Von for the pin. The Dudleys didn’t take the loss well and attempted to retaliate by putting both Usos through tables. Alas, the Dudleys were made to look like chumps as the Usos turned the tables and put both Dudleys through tables with Superfly Splashes. The live crowd was royally pissed since they were pro-Dudleys despite this team being the heel team. Not to mention it made no sense having the Dudleys lose since this is intended to be a multi-match feud and tradition says the heel wins the first encounter. ***1/4