WrestleMania 31 Review: Seth Rollins emerges as WWE champ

wm31Seth Rollins lost a clean fall to Randy Orton in a suspiciously early match on the WrestleMania 31 card, so suspiciously early that you knew that Rollins’ night wasn’t done.

And it wasn’t. After WWE heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar was done in the main event rag-dolling Roman Reigns, who then had a brief comeback enabled by a chance meeting of Lesnar’s head with the ringpost, Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, making the title match a three-way, and scored the surprise fall on Reigns to take home the WWE title.

How’s that for an ending that none of us had thought of to what turned out to be maybe the best WrestleMania of all time?

Yeah, I just wrote that.

Best. WrestleMania. Of. All. Time.

You had former WWE champ Daniel Bryan in the opener winning the Intercontinental championship in a seven-way ladder match that ended with Bryan and former World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler trading about a dozen headbutts while standing on the opposite sides of the top of the ladder.

Then Orton defeated Rollins with a nice finish – a failed Rollins Curb Stomp into one of the more athletic RKOs you’ll ever see. Then, let’s see, dang, so much … Triple H defeated Sting in their no-DQ match that featured run-ins by dX and the nWo, including some Sweet Chin Music from Shawn Michaels.

John Cena won the U.S. title from Rusev in one of the two duds of the night, the other being the Divas match, which saw A.J. Lee and Paige win by submission over the Bella Twins. (But you knew going in that those matches were filler.)

A nice extra came in the form of the segment featuring Triple H and Stephanie McMahon being interrupted by The Rock, who was slapped by Stephanie, ordered out of the ring, then plucked UFC star Ronda Rousey out of the audience to confront Stephanie, and throw Triple H across the ring for good measure.

This all came before The Undertaker raised his WrestleMania career record to 22-1 with a fall over Bray Wyatt, and the main event.

It’s rare for WWE to go with the creative finish, so after a failed buildup to the ascension of Reigns to be the next world champ, it seemed foreordained that Lesnar would retain the title after Lesnar announced to a live worldwide audience on ESPN earlier this week that he had re-signed with WWE for a multi-year deal.

But now you look back on what has transpired in WWE the past few weeks, with the Lesnar signing, with Rollins being pushed with that brief media feud with “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart that gained widespread mainstream pub, and you can see in retrospect that this was the plan all along.

Lesnar didn’t suffer the fall in the match, so he’s left with a legit storyline beef with the new champ, and with Reigns, who himself has heat with the new champ for stealing his WrestleMania main-event slot out from under him. Insert Orton into this mix, because remember, earlier in the night, Orton scored a clean fall on the guy who a couple of hours later would end the night as the champ.

Yeah, wow.

Rollins is the world champ, and there’s a four-way cluster at the top of the card. Daniel Bryan and John Cena hold the mid-card titles, adding legitimacy to those straps that has been gone for years. Undertaker is repaired and can be trotted back out at least one more time in Texas next spring. We can salivate over the idea that Ronda Rousey might jump to WWE. (Ain’t gonna happen, but we can dream.)

Helluva show. For a night, wrestling was unpredictably fun again.

– Column by Chris Graham

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