Retro Wrestlemania Moment: 2014's Wrestlemania 30

Monday, March 9, 2020

Long time readers of this site know my history with professional wrestling.  For those that aren't aware, here are the Cliffs Notes:  In 1990, at 5 years old, I became a fan when I found WCW Saturday Night on TBS.  I then became a HUGE fan during the Attitude Era but trailed off right around 2000 when I was wrapping up high school, and WCW became as enjoyable as a colonoscopy.  I had a resurgence in 2004, where I became a fan again after finding the Playstation game series "Raw vs. Smackdown," but by 2007, I had already stopped watching again.  In 2013, CM Punk's infamous Pipe Bomb promo brought me back into the fold with the initial intrigue of "Was that real?"

But, by the start of 2014, I was about ready to set fire to my TV and never watch WWE again.  The show was beyond repetitive, and seemingly every fan-favorite wrestler was losing every match. Daniel Bryan, who I remember watching back in his ROH days as The American Dragon, was on the rise and had overwhelming fan support but kept losing matches and being placed in low-level and unimportant feuds.  CM Punk still had a large fanbase from his Pipe Bomb, but like Bryan, it was clear to fans that he was being shoved aside.  The Shield, made of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins, were fresh faces to the WWE and were young tough guys running rampant, but everyone felt it was a matter of time before Vince would "screw it up."  Then, at Royal Rumble 2014, it all fell apart.

Fans "Invade" RAW during the "Hijack RAW" movement

CM Punk walked out of the Royal Rumble and quit wrestling forever.  The fans had begun to revolt and booed anything the WWE did mercilessly.  Vince McMahon brought back the long-retired Dave Batista and placed him immediately in the top spot of the promotion.  The Road to Wrestlemania started to look a little bumpy.  After the way the year started, nobody would predict that WM30 would be one of the best Wrestlemania's in history.

Wrestlemania 30 took place on April 6, 2014, from New Orleans, Louisiana.  I've always had a love/hate relationship with New Orleans.  I enjoy going there for work and getting the chance to walk around, but I hate the seediness.  I love the history, architecture, and culture of NOLA, but it's a dirty, disgusting, crime-filled city.  It's sort of how I feel about Las Vegas.  I like to go and see the sights and get out of the town pretty fast.  But, I digress...  NOLA also appears to me to be the perfect Wrestlemania city.  The entire city is walkable, everything is close together, and there is plenty to do when you're not filling your time with wrestling.  Wrestlemania 30 was also the first time I ever had FO-MO for a Wrestlemania event.

Wrestling fans celebrate on Bourbon Street

Even when 29 was here in my hometown of New York, I didn't even consider going.  WM30, however, with the influx of YouTube vloggers, Twitter accounts, and the creation of the WWE Network, I felt like I was missing out on the event of the year.  It inspired me so much that when 3 years later, the WWE returned to NOLA for WM34, I made all sorts of plans, had purchased all kinds of tickets, and mapped out our week in The Big Easy.  Unfortunately, 2 days before we were set to leave for WM34, we had to scrap our plans as my wife's job suddenly needed her to stay in town.

Back on track here, the WWE Network debuted just before WM30.  Long talked about and a topic for an entirely different discussion, the WWE Network revolutionized the WWE for me.  It was the first time I'd get to watch the Hall of Fame ceremony, especially with the class of 2014, including the long excommunicated Ultimate Warrior.

CM Punk's PipeBomb sets the stage for massive fan upset

Before discussing the events of WM30, we must first briefly cover the events from just months prior at the 2014 Royal Rumble.  This Rumble is best known for its overwhelmingly negative crowd response during the Randy Orton vs. John Cena match, as well as the final minutes of the Royal Rumble, when Dave Batista made a surprise entrance at number 28.  Fans nearly melted down in the arena and on social media (including WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley) when entrant #30 was not fan-favorite Daniel Bryan but Rey Mysterio.

As a response to vocal fan backlash, the main storyline after Royal Rumble went from focusing on Batista to instead focusing on Daniel Bryan. Triple H, and the "The Authority," considered Bryan a B+ player and made it obvious the WWE brass felt the same way.  It was hard to tell exactly what was a work and what was a shoot here because clearly, that's how Vince felt about Bryan before the Royal Rumble.  Perhaps Vince planned this all along and we fell for it, but, I think if anything, McMahon understands what the audience wants.  Sometimes he digs his heels in (Roman Reigns), but for the most part, Vince agrees with the old saying, "Give the fans what they want."


Someone leaked the planned Wrestlemania card, and it showed Bryan facing Sheamus in an opening match.  Again, whether this was planned or not has yet to be determined.  Fans finally had had enough, and begun HIJACKING shows with chants, beach balls, and boos.  They would ruin matches by not paying attention or by entertaining themselves with different chants.  Fans would clearly rattle some wrestlers who weren't used to the fans revolting.  In one definitely scripted storyline event, Daniel Bryan even brought fans into the ring and refused to leave until his voice was heard.

Vince and the WWE had no choice but to change plans for April.

The pre-show match featured a fatal four-way tag team match.  The defending champions The Usos (Jimmy and Jey) defeated Los Matadores (Diego and Fernando) RybAxel (Ryback and Curtis Axel) and The Real Americans (Jack Swagger and Cesaro with Zeb Colter.)  Following the match, Swagger turned on Cesaro, breaking up The Real Americans.


The main show opened with WWE legends Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock.  They entertained fans, and Hulk Hogan had a senior moment when he welcomed the fans in the New Orleans Superdome to the "Silver Dome."  The Silver Dome was home to his famous Andre slam at WM3.  The 3 shares some "Steve-Weiser" beers and left the ring.

In the first match, Daniel Bryan faced Triple H.  The winner of this match would be inserted into the World Heavyweight Championship match in the main event at the end of the night.  HHH was accompanied by Stephanie McMahon.  Interesting tidbit, some of the girls that can be seen as extras during Triple H's entrance were Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, and Sasha Banks.

Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, and Charlotte (left to right) assist Triple H

Triple H targeted the already injured arm of Bryan.  Triple H used the announcer's table and a nasty looking hammerlock belly-to-back suplex off the apron to continue to punish his opponent.  Bryan refused to submit to the cross-face chicken wing and reversed into his Yes! Lock.  Triple H managed to break the hold by getting to the ropes before countering Bryan's running knees with a spine buster and his Pedigree.  Triple H went for the pin.


Most fans, myself included, thought, "Well, Daniel Bryan got this far.  It's over now, and it was fun while it lasted.  Vince will never change."

Bryan kicked out at 2 and 3/4!  After a series of counters, Bryan hit his running knee and pinned Triple H for the win!  The fans nearly blew the roof off the Superdome, and after the match, Stephanie McMahon slapped Bryan, distracting him long enough for Triple H to attack from behind.  He further attacked his injured arm with a steel chair.  Daniel Bryan had to be attended to by medical staff and helped from the arena while Triple H celebrated.

Following this hot match, The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) and Kane were defeated by The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns).


After that, the inaugural battle royal for the AndrĂ© the Giant Memorial Trophy took place.  Long story short, Cesaro won the battle royal after slamming The Big Show in homage to Andre and Hulk Hogan at WM3.


After the "Get Everyone A Pay Day" battle royal, John Cena defeated Bray Wyatt.  New Orleans was perfect for Bray, especially during his "Cape Fear" gimmick.  His entrance included a 'Nawlins bayou voodoo-themed live performance by Mark Crozer and The Rels, and I loved it.  Personally, I think this was one of the many instances that Wyatt's momentum was cut out from under him.  A loss wouldn't have hurt Cena and would only have helped Bray here, but, oh well.


Nothing prepared me for what happened next.  Brock Lesnar was to be the next on The Undertaker's list of Wrestlemania opponents.  I had just started to explain to my wife that Taker was 21-0 at Wrestlemania's and that since Lesnar was a part-time employee at best, he would definitely lose this match before he headed back to the UFC.  The match itself was, plodding and Undertaker looked exhausted throughout it.  My wife kept saying that something looked wrong and that Taker looked legitimately hurt, and after a while, I too realized he wasn't just selling for Lesnar.  Lesnar got Undertaker up into multiple F5's, and in a desperate attempt to turn the tide, Taker hit a Tombstone but looked absolutely horrified when Lesnar kicked out.  Lesnar hit yet another F5 after reversing another Tombstone Piledriver, and when the referee counted "3," Undertaker didn't kick out.


The match was over, and the entire arena fell silent.  Taker's Wrestlemania streak had ended.  Fans were in absolute shock in the arena and at home.  I know I was.


WWE didn't play Lesnar's music and just highlighted the reaction of a quiet and shocked crowd but very quickly flashed a 21-1 sign on the big screen.


Undertaker eventually gathered himself and slowly walked up the ramp, clearly injured.  The fans and WWE's announcers game him a standing ovation to "Thank You" chants as he made his exit.  The fans thought this was his retirement match, as old school guys like Taker believe in the old saying that in the wrestling business, you "Go Out On Your Back."


After the absolute shock of the streak ending before our eyes, the Divas were put into the unenviable task of being the "Bathroom Break Match."  AJ Lee won the match by defeating Naomi and retained her Title.  She would eventually follow her fiance CM Punk out of the company in a few months.


Finally, in the main event of the night, Daniel Bryan stepped into history as he took on Batista and Randy Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat match.  Clad in his furry kick pads in honor of Bruiser Brody, his arm in a sling and bandages on his body, Daniel Bryan was ready for war.  This match battled inside and outside of the ring, again concentrating on the injured arm of Bryan.  Batista set Randy Orton up for a Batista Bomb onto the steel ring steps but was countered into a back body drop onto the same steps.  Bryan finally made his comeback with a pair of missile dropkick and peppered his opponents with his signature roundhouse kicks.  Batista tossed Bryan from the ring, and it looked like Daniel Bryan would be out of the picture for good as Orton and Batista fought again.  Orton eventually hit a superplex to Batista, but out of nowhere comes Daniel Bryan with a diving headbutt!


He applied his signature, Yes! Lock on Orton, but Triple H and Stephanie McMahon emerged once again and pulled the original referee out of the ring to prevent the match from ending and sent in "evil" referee Scott Armstrong.  Batista hit the Batista Bomb on a distracted Bryan, but he managed to kick out at two.  Using the "No Disqualifications" clause in a Triple Threat, Daniel kicked referee Scott Armstrong in the head, followed with a suicide dive onto Triple H.  Triple H tried to retaliate with a sledgehammer, but Bryan used the sledgehammer against him.

After much back and forth, Batista hit another Batista Bomb on Orton but Bryan came out of nowehre with a running knee.  Bryan trapped Batista in the Yes! Lock as fans began rocking the Super Dome.  Batista fought and fought but eventually gave up and had to submit, making Daniel Bryan the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.


The show ended with fireworks, confetti, pyrotechnics, and Daniel Bryan in the middle of the ring leading the crowd in his Yes! Chant.

Following Wrestlemania, The Undertaker was taken by ambulance to the area hospital after suffering a "severe concussion" during his match with Brock Lesnar.  It was later revealed the result of the match was decided by Vince McMahon himself less than four hours before the start of Wrestlemania.


Undertaker, who many thought would retire following his loss at Mania, returned for Wrestlemania 31 to defeat Bray Wyatt.  He would also return for WM32 in a victory against Shane McMahon.  At WM33 in Orlando, Undertaker would fall victim to Roman Reigns.  Following this match, he would leave his jacket and hat in the ring, once again making everyone think he was done for good.  At WM34, back in New Orleans, Undertaker would again return to the ring and defeat John Cena in under 3 minutes.  At WM35 in 2019, there was no sign of 'Taker, who missed his first Mania since 1991.  Will we see Undertaker appear this year at WM36?  Only time will tell...


Sadly, just days after a triumphant return to the "WWE Universe," The Ultimate Warrior would pass away.  He would appear at the Hall of Fame ceremony, Wrestlemania, and on the night after Mania made a passionate promo, that would be his last public appearance.  Warrior suddenly collapsed and died the next morning on his way home.  I don't want to Monday Morning Quarterback or be inappropriate, but during his promo on RAW, I mentioned to my wife that he didn't look good.  He was sweaty and out of breath.  Looking back after his death, on the words he chose and the struggle it clearly was, I almost feel like he knew he was running out of time and had to have this one last moment in the sun.  I'd like to think so, anyway.

Following Wrestlemania 30, time was not kind to Daniel Bryan.  He would go on to hold the Title for just about a month after his glorious victory in New Orleans.  He announced in May that he would need to undergo neck surgery and was stripped of his Title by "The Authority" on TV in June.

Batista would eventually leave the company to return to Hollywood but would make a return in 2019 to face Triple H at Wrestlemania 35.  He is entering the WWE Hall of Fame this year (2020) at WM36.

John Cena would win the vacated Title in June, but Brock Lesnar would later easily defeat Cena in August.  Lesnar held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship until Match of 2015 at Wrestlemania 31 in San Jose, California.  There Seth Rollins would cash in his Money in the Bank in the closing moments of the show to win the Title in a shocking finish.

Daniel Bryan would return in January of 2015, where he would win the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match at Wrestlemania 31 in March.  By mid-April, WWE pulled Daniel Bryan from all live events.  Daniel stated his injury was concussion-related, and he would be forced to relinquish the IC Title.  In 2016 when it was clear that WWE would not allow him to return despite what outside medical professionals had cleared him for, Bryan retired from in-ring competition.  Byran would be the on-screen "General Manager" for Smackdown during 2016-2018 when he was once again allowed to wrestle by WWE just weeks before Wrestlemania 34.


All-in-all, WM30 is still one of my favorites.  What an emotional roller coaster ride from months before the show all the way to the months after!  I think it's best said from Luke Winkle of Sports Illustrated regarding the final moments of the show:  "It was pure, cathartic, we-have-this-moment forever joy."

Where will the Retro Road to Wrestlemania take us next, you ask?  Get in your way-back machine as we head to 1991 for the Technos arcade game... WWF WRESTLEFEST!

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