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    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    Who Won And Who Lost On WrestleMania 34 Week?

    WrestleMania Week has just ended, but as we wrestling fans are all too familiar with by now, wrestling never stops. Seriously, you can tell all your friends who go, "#BasketballAboveAll" that hoops still has offseasons. Wrestling doesn't, even after the Show of Shows. Now that WrestleMania has come and gone, it's as if your favorite TV show closed a season and immediately opened a new one. But before we move on, we here at the Smark Henry Offices wanted to break down the week that was by highlighting the biggest winners and losers of WrestleMania Week.

    Winner: Adam Cole (BAYBAY!)

    Adam Cole arguably had the biggest night throughout WrestleMania Week. Over the course of three hours, he did the following: (1) He became the inaugural NXT North American Champion, (2) he managed to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships for the Undisputed ERA—becoming a double champion in the process, (3) he won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in the process, and (4) got himself a new ally in Roderick Strong.

    It remains to be seen what Roddy's true motivations are—whether he's fully turned to the dark side or plans to destroy the ERA from within. But for now, NXT just got more dangerous with this stable of Ring of Honor alums, who are all ready to take down anybody who's in their way. It truly is a new ERA for NXT.

    Winners: NXT

    NXT won the week on so many levels. Let's start with the fact that they had the better show of the weekend, as expected, in TakeOver: New Orleans. That card was stacked from top to bottom and had two instant classics in the Ladder Match and in the Gargano/Ciampa Unsanctioned Match.

    At WrestleMania 34, six female NXT Superstars joined the first ever WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal. Dakota Kai, Kairi Sane, Kavita Devi, Taynara Conti, Bianca Belair, and Peyton Royce all made their WrestleMania debuts last Monday (Manila time). Even though none of them won, it was pretty cool seeing them all walk down that ramp and have a moment where they stood united to soak in the "N-X-T! N-X-T!" chants.

    You also had NXT Superstars Tino Sabbatelli, Riddick Moss, and Dan Matha being part of Charlotte's entrance at WrestleMania XXX, the last time that 'Mania was held in New Orleans. It was a tribute to her being an extra in Triple H's entrance (during his match against Daniel Bryan) alongside Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss. Let's see if these three guys will be champions and main eventers, too, in three or four years.

    And then there were the call-ups. After losing in the Triple Threat match for the NXT Tag Team Championships, fans were expecting the Authors of Pain to debut on the main roster afterward. We called it and they appeared on RAW, destroying Heath Slater and Rhyno in the process. No Way Jose debuted on RAW this week, so we'll let him savor this feeling now, before he turns into Fandango 2.0 in six months. The RAW Women's Division also got a boost in Ember Moon, although if RAW messed Bayley up so bad, what more a ridiculously athletic lady who wears contact lenses and doesn't have much of a character?

    Let's close this out with the debut of the Iconic... Oh, wait they're just The Iconics now? Sure. I still am relatively unimpressed by Billie Kay. But give me Peyton Royce and her hips swinging all day, every day. Welcome to the Land of Opportunity, ladies!

    Loser: RAW Tag Team Division

    Several weeks ago, Braun Strowman laid waste to every tag team that wasn't The Bar. And then at WrestleMania, he won the RAW Tag Team Championships all by himself.

    Okay, he wasn't alone. He technically won it with 10-year-old son of referee John Cone Nicholas as his partner. In a vacuum, it was a fun moment that showed both sides of Braun as an entertaining character. He's freakishly strong and imposing, but he's also incredibly funny and charming.

    But did it really have to come at the expense of an entire division?

    Winner: Nicholas

    How many kids have gone to WrestleMania and dreamed that they'd somehow find themselves in the ring, much less be an actual match? No matter how it happened, Young Nicholas achieved the stuff our wildest fantasies are made of, and for that, he wins already!

    The fact that he officially became a champion in WWE, despite his... scheduling conflicts cause, y'know, he's in the fourth grade, is just icing on the cake.

    You also have to give the kid props for delivering on his one line in that backstage segment with Braun and RAW GM Kurt Angle on RAW. We'll see you on NXT in eight years, kid.

    Loser: Rusev and (Anyone who wanted to celebrate Rusev Day)

    It pains me so much to have to write this on Rusev Day, but yes, our boy lost big time this weekend.

    Look, we were all ready to have a huge celebration on the grandest Rusev Day of 'em all, but it still sucks that RuRu couldn't get that moment in New Orleans. It's just as bad that he couldn't get that huge win to be the #1 Contender on SmackDown Live either. 

    So let's just get the Orton rematch out of the way so we can get the Jinder/Rusev feud started. In the meantime, WWE should really stop giving fans blue balls when they're ready to burst for a guy who's just busting his ass to get an opportunity.

    Winners: AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura

    Sure, we may not have gotten anything close to what AJ and Nakamura did at WrestleKingdom 10, but seeing Nakamura go apeshit on Styles after losing clean reinvigorated me. It told me that the story was clearly not over, and that it was only just beginning. 

    I'm excited to see where this goes, how crazy evil Nakamura can be, and what role Daniel Bryan plays in this picture, following the events of SmackDown Live

    The biggest takeaway out of all of this is that we're getting CHAOS Nakamura (the iteration in which he led his NJPW faction), and not just some generic stereotyped Japanese heel a la Kenzo Suzuki or Taka Michinoku.

    Winner: Ronda Rousey

    Ronda Rousey couldn't ask for a better debut than what she had at WrestleMania. She had what was arguably the Match of the Night, all while showing the world that she's a natural fit for the WWE. Her weaknesses were hidden and her strengths were accentuated, plus, she wasn't rocket-strapped to the top, so she didn't look like she bit off more than she could chew. The only question for The Rowdy One now is if she can keep it up moving forward.

    Losers: Main Roster Booking 

    From Rusev's loss, to Asuka unnecessarily having her streak cut short, to the RAW Tag Team Championships, to that horrible main event (which we'll get to later), the Creative Team really did some of the Superstars (and us fans) dirty with certain decisions. 

    Fans are willing to care as long as the storytelling on the shows is worth it. We've seen it in the KO/Sami angle against Shane McMahon, and later, Daniel Bryan. Fan Cena was way more fun than it had any business being. Even Alexa Bliss' feud with Nia Jax was a story worth getting behind.

    It proves that Creative, when motivated, can actually do their jobs right. But if NXT can make their shows compelling with whatever little time they have, relative to their deep roster, then why can't RAW and SmackDown Live? Wait, don't answer that. We all know the answer is 72 years old.

    Winner: Tommaso Ciampa

    Speaking of compelling NXT storytelling, isn't it amazing how they made the Gargano/Ciampa interesting for 10 months, despite Ciampa not being around for more than half of it? 

    Tommaso Ciampa has managed to be one of the most hated men in professional wrestling, a feat which is so difficult to achieve, especially in the modern era. Fans will cheer for who they want to cheer for, even the heels, out of respect or as an act of rebellion.

    But when it comes to Gargano and Ciampa, there are no acceptable reactions other than cheering for Johnny Kick-'Em-In-The-Ding-Ding and booing the Sicilian Psychopath. Ciampa was so insufferable and abhorrent that he didn't need entrance music. The fans in New Orleans just booed and jeered him all the way to the ring and he drank it all in, maaaaan. Hell, Mauro Ranallo called Ciampa "a son of a bitch" on a live broadcast. If that's not top-notch heel work, then I don't know what is.

    Ciampa may have lost at TakeOver: New Orleans. But he most certainly won, considering he not only did his job, but he did it so damn well.

    Winner: Returnees

    RAW was the stage for returns this week as Bobby Lashley, Jeff Hardy, and Samoa Joe all came back and made a huge impact (heh) on the show. It should be fun seeing how WWE writes Lashley, whether they hotshot him to the top, or give him a slow burn for an ascent. As for Jeff Hardy, while he isn't back as Brother Nero, it's fun watching him be the straight man to Bray and Matt's antics, while still relating to them on some level.

    And then there's Samoa Joe—who signed with WWE in 2015, but hasn't appeared at WrestleMania yet, mind you—and his vendetta against Roman Reigns. I can't wait to root for The Destroyer, especially since everything he said about Reigns and his failure to defeat Lesnar is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Winner and Loser: Charlotte

    When you end the biggest undefeated streak in WWE, you're automatically a winner. When you get to do it at WrestleMania and add it to your already-stacked resumé, that's just icing on the cake.

    But when you lose your championship in two nights after an attack from two debuting Superstars and a Money in the Bank cash-in, then that makes you vulnerable and human. Unfortunately, that also makes you a loser... for the purposes of this column, at least. Sorry, Charlotte.

    Loser: Asuka

    It's a shame that the first ever winner of the Women's Royal Rumble Match couldn't win at WrestleMania. It would've been the most epic way to culminate Asuka's rise to the top. She'd have gotten to keep her streak intact, win a championship at WrestleMania, and lay the blueprint for how to have a successful Road To WrestleMania for the Women's Division.

    Instead, her Road To WrestleMania was just a road to being another notch on Charlotte's belt. It clearly was not Japan's night. Sigh. 

    Winner: The Wyatt Family (minus Randy Orton)

    Bray Wyatt came back from the Lake of Reincarnation and rose as a Woken Warrior to aid WOKEN Matt Hardy in his quest to win the trophy of Humongous Wonder Number Eight. This is an alliance most WONDERFUL and I can't wait to see these two make a run for the now-abdicated RAW Tag Team Championships.

    Meanwhile, Harper and Rowan validated my pick and became the SmackDown Tag Team Champions at WrestleMania, which was a great way to build these two monsters up as threats on the Blue Brand. Sticking with the tag teams, the aforementioned Braun Strowman also won tag team gold with Nicholas, who should be a Wyatt by association, right?

    You can even count Daniel Bryan in here, after he made his triumphant return to in-ring competition and defeated Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens with the Yes Lock. Okay, I'm going to stop crying now.

    While Randy Orton most certainly lost his United States Championship at WrestleMania, he's still a winner. It's not because he's facing Jinder Mahal for a championship for the 45823098475309th time. It's because he didn't have to walk over a gigantic sperm cell on his way to the ring this year.

    Winner: Paige

    We've known for quite some time that Paige has been medically disqualified from returning to in-ring competition due to her neck issues. Watching her retirement speech on RAW gave us the same feels when Daniel Bryan had to retire himself in Seattle two years ago. Who knew she'd bounce back less than 24 hours later as the new General Manager of SmackDown Live?

    It's time for us to start asking if there's a Lazarus Pit in the SmackDown Live GM's office. Or we could just wait if Paige returns to the ring in two years. All jokes aside, Paige's injuries are more similar in nature to Edge's than to Daniel Bryan's. So if Bryan's return was a miracle in itself, then a return for Paige could very well be divine intervention.

    Nonetheless, it should be interesting to see Paige and AJ Styles feud over whether SmackDown Live is her house or the house that AJ Styles built. Looks like we're in for another real estate dispute.

    Losers: The SmackDown Live Superstars who got benched

    While we have to thank Paige for giving us Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles as her very first main event, I have to ask why she couldn't even book Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, Zack Ryder, Tye Dillinger, Breezango, The Ascension, Primo, Becky Lynch, Lana, or the Riott Squad on SmackDown Live?

    Sure, we had a great episode nonetheless, but when none of these Superstars can even appear and get the ball rolling on their new stories post-WrestleMania, then you just set them back even further. It also shows how the SD Live roster is already deep as it is. So don't cry too hard about Andrade "Cien" Almas not showing up on the Blue Brand. They should be fine with The Iconics as our only debuting Superstars.

    Winner: Carmella

    Carmella pulled a Dolph Ziggler and cashed in on the first show after WrestleMania and became the new SmackDown Women's Champion. Yes, she got some help from Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, but the bigger injustice is referee Mike Chioda acting all disoriented and confused. Come on, Chioda, you've worked in WWE all this time and you still don't know how a cash-in works? You've got to be fucking with me.

    At least the Princess of Staten Island didn't screw it up and proved that Mella is money. Congrats, champ.

    Loser: Roman Reigns

    The guy gets built up for almost four years to be this top dog in WWE, gets booed because he's shoved down our throats, is knocked down a few pegs, and then is brought back up to finally slay the beast...

    And then he gets bludgeoned and bloodied by Brock Lesnar's elbows only to lose... again?! 

    Once more, let me go back to the fans already having resigned themselves to Roman Reigns conquering The Conqueror and standing tall as the new Universal Champion. Having Roman lose again, just so he can eventually win it in Saudi Arabia at The Greatest Royal Rumble doesn't really help Roman's credibility anymore. 

    It's bad enough that wrestling fans who aren't women or children already hate him. Waiting for the Saudi event to finally give him his moment of coronation is just extending this redemption arc that's gone way too long and has tuned way too many people out. This is how you make people completely apathetic towards someone.

    If this wasn't another case of troll booking, I don't know what is. 

    Did we miss out on any winners or losers? Bang your keyboards angrily in the comments section!

    Photos from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: Who Won And Who Lost On WrestleMania 34 Week? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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