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WWE: WrestleMania XXX
On March 31, 1985, Vince McMahon made industry history in the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden with the inaugural WrestleMania. With an iconic main event pitting Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorf, the genesis of WrestleMania set a trend for years to come, mixing top-notch pro-wrestling with a healthy dose of celebrity and pageantry, making it very much the Super Bowl of the sport. As any longtime fan would tell you though, not every WrestleMania has been a thrilling success, largely because not every year leading up to it has been that impressive. Few would argue though that the WWE falls short of pulling out the stops at the big milestones, thus far: "WrestleMania X" and "WrestleMania XX." With a year of wonky booking leading up to it as well as the shocking departure by CM Punk early in the year, "WrestleMania XXX" had an uphill battle to win over a fan base growing restless with a very rudimentary product.
Beginning with a truly iconic in-ring segment featuring Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock all in the same ring to simultaneously kickoff "WrestleMania XXX" as well as pay tribute to the history of the event, for the most part I'd be hard pressed to find any fan not instantly sucked into the atmosphere of the event. Riding that electric build, the night's most controversial and likely anticipated match was underway pitting Daniel Bryan against HHH in a match with the winner getting an entry in the main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It's not secret that Daniel Bryan's elevation to the main event likely went against the WWE corporate plan, but at the end of the day, the sheer energy behind Bryan's fan base coupled with his undeniable talent would see him best HHH in a match that showcased both performers abilities and more importantly, told a very brutal and entertaining story that would inevitably pay off later in the evening.
The following match pitting The Shield against Kane and The New Age Outlaws was a bit of a shock, if nothing more than its less than three minute runtime, seeing the fan favorite faction of today metaphorically putting a nail in the coffin of the last remnants of the beloved Attitude Era. Quickly following it was the Andre the Giant Invitational Battle Royal that for the most part was a chaotic disaster until the final moments, culminating in a WrestleMania moment for Cesaro that evoked another iconic WrestleMania moment between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at "WrestleMania III." In the grand scheme of things, the match may have been a disaster, but was a fun time extender and a great boost for the future of Cesaro.
John Cena's encounter with Bray Wyatt is arguably the evening's biggest mixed bag. Once one gets over the strange sight of Cena working a mid-card match, the actual match itself feels more like a build to something bigger down the line. A testament to Cena's polarizing nature, what should be a clear-cut face vs. heel encounter turns into a whole other beast as the enigmatic, cult leader-esque Wyatt inadvertently wins over the crowd with his creeper rendition of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands," not to mention sending Cena scurrying backwards in terror with spider-walk. Despite taking the pinfall, Wyatt proves, despite being in the WWE for less than a year, his showcase at the biggest event of the year is well deserved. And then we get our annual Undertaker match…and honestly, it's a match I do wish I could "un-see."
While not horrible in any real sense, there was a point in the match, somewhere midway where things just felt off. The buildup to Taker vs. Lesnar was most definitely lackluster, but things do start off on a great note. As it would be reported later on that evening, the Undertaker suffered a very real and very serious concussion that when revisiting the match is quite obvious, most notably during an attempt to give Lesnar a Last Ride. What does make the match one of the most important WrestleMania matches of all time is the ending with Brock Lesnar completing the impossible and sending Taker on a long walk backstage with a WrestleMania record of 21-1; yes, the streak was over. The stunned audience reaction itself is almost reason enough to recommend a purchase of the DVD.
The remaining two matches of the night consist of your annual Diva's time-waster, this year a convoluted 14-person elimination match that very obviously ends in a botched finish. Like all the other Diva's matches of the past few WrestleMania's, it exists solely to give a breather between the two biggest matches of the night. The main event this year ends up hitting all the right notes in the final six to seven minutes, but the 17 or so that precede it feel just a tad above any other pay-per-view main event. It's not until the overly dramatic return of Daniel Bryan to the match that the crowd is brought to its feet and left standing through the closing credits, seeing the hero of the people stand triumphant and career dream realized; a fitting end to one of the best WrestleMania's of the past decade.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer highlights the sheer spectacle of the event well. Colors are vibrant and detail is well above average; there are issues with noticeable compression artifacts, but overall, it's a great SD translation of a signature WWE HD broadcast.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio provides reasonably effective atmosphere with commentary coming through the front channels loud and clear. The in-ring action is equally clear, although overall, the low-end is a tad weaker than expected, especially during the biggest wrestler intros.
The bonus features are plentiful, beginning with the complete 2014 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, spread across two complete discs. Following this phenomenal presentation, the pre-show match of The Usos vs The real Americans vs Rybaxel vs Los Matadores is included, well-removed from the full show; frankly I would have liked to have seen this one included prior to the main program itself, as it's a quality match and very much on par with the event as a whole. The remaining bonus features include featurettes focusing on the "Top 30 Greatest Wrestlemania Moments, "Hulk Hogan Discusses Wrestlemania, "Triple H & Stephanie McMahon Reveal the Wrestlemania Set," Batista Reflects on His Return to WWE," "Randy Orton Speaks on Becoming the Face of the WWE," The History of Andre the Giant," "The Streak vs The Beast, " A Look At Hulk Hogan's Storied Career," "John Cena Confronts His Fears," and last but not least, "AJ Lee vs The World." It's quite a roundup and fitting of such a hallmark event.
Unlike many of the pay-per-view's that preceded it, "WrestleMania XXX" is a wrestling event of the highest caliber, fitting of it's famous pedigree and worthy of revisiting many times over. There's not any match that's truly horrible and the vast majority have that big time feel. Add to the complete package a great Hall of Fame ceremony and a plethora of supplementary features, and the WWE hits it out of the park. Highly Recommended.