WrestleMania 34 by Anton Jackson

Spectacle and Atmosphere: WWE WrestleMania 34 Live Report

WrestleMania is, unquestionably, one of the biggest events in the entire world. It’s the cultural touchstone for pro wrestling, as the WWE goes to extended lengths to produce one of the most eye-popping, sensory-overloaded spectacles in all of showbiz. With an event of such massive proportions, the difference between what most of the world sees on television and what the crowd attendance experiences can sometimes contrast significantly. WrestleMania 34 marks my eighth attendance at the “Granddaddy of the Them All”. Each WrestleMania has its distinct personalities and this one is no different. Here’s a rundown of the atmosphere and crowd reactions to all of the matches from inside the Superdome.

All photos by WWE.com; WrestleMania 34 Featured Image by Anton Jackson

PRE-SHOW

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Battle Royals have served as the first match of the show for most of the WrestleMania’s I’ve attended. The reaction is usually the same – an enthusiastic reception that eventually ebbs and flows depending on who’s left standing. Goldust, in particular, received a warm reception from the New Orleans crowd, taking on a sentimental favourite role. A lot of heat for Mojo Rawley anytime he got to hit some spots, as well as Baron Corbin. A sizeable amount of reactions for Dolph Ziggler. Matt Hardy shared the clear portion of the crowd’s support with a chorus of “Delete!” chants filling the Superdome multiple times.

Bray Wyatt received a significant pop for his appearance, but there was some initial confusion when the bell rang with Hardy and Wyatt being the last ones in the ring. Temporary confusion, but confusion nonetheless. Either way, New Orleans was very pleased to see Matt Hardy pick up the first win of the night.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali

When there’s more than one per show match, it’s a little more difficult to play to the crowd when a large portion are in the concession, restroom, merchandise and general crowd lines. While there were plenty of people in the Superdome for these pre-show matches, there was a noticeable dip in participation and atmosphere here. That’s what happens when 78,000+ attendees have to prepare for the next six hours ahead of them. The crowd reacted to a few spots and the finish, but ultimately this was one of the stadium’s general restroom and concessions breaks.

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

With the main show starting at the top of the hour, the restroom and concession lines made their way back into the stadium to check out this WrestleMania first. Much like the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, a lot of reactions moving in waves here. Interactions between Bayley and Sasha Banks drew huge cheers in the stadium – with Bayley eliminating Sasha Banks drawing the biggest pop of the hour. Bayley’s elimination by Naomi kinda deflated the crowd, though. Not as crowd-pleasing a reception compared to Matt Hardy’s win earlier.

 

MAIN CARD

WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

An excellent choice to open the main card of WrestleMania. The Superdome’s popping huge for all three entrances, all three workers are respected by those in attendance, and the fast pace allowed for a lot of crowd participation. Throughout the course of the weekend, I spotted an overwhelming amount of Bullet Club merchandise throughout New Orleans. The Superdome was mostly pulling for Finn Balor to pick up the win, but the reaction to Seth Rollins’ win was as positive as you’d want for a babyface winning the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania.

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka

When the “Up Next” graphic for this flashed on the Superdome screens, there was an initial crowd reaction that was half “Here we go!” and “Wait, already?” You could hear and feel the anticipation during the feud recap video package. Charlotte Flair’s entrance, which mirrored Triple H’s WrestleMania XXX entrance from the same stage four years ago, brought the appropriate level of “big match” atmosphere to the proceedings.

The audience is reacting to every single move, in some form. But after Charlotte took Asuka down with a spear, the frenzy of the crowd broke into rumbles, cheers, and screaming as Flair locked Asuka in the Figure Eight. Asuka’s submission drew a combo of audible gasps and raucous cheers. Everybody in the Superdome knew it was big deal and you could feel it. This was truly a special match to experience on the show.

It should also be noted that John Cena’s run from the ringside to the backstage area drew a huge pop from the Superdome as well. That confirmed what everybody wanted a little later in the evening…

Fatal Four-Way for WWE United States Championship: Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal

“Rusev Day” chants were ubiquitous at every show this weekend in New Orleans. Rusev was, by far, the most over wrestler out of this bunch. Roode’s first WrestleMania went over huge with the Superdome, but it was clear that the audience wanted Rusev to walk out as the new United States Champion. Jinder Mahal picked up the win over Rusev and that upset a huge portion of the fandom. Mahal’s victory was met with an overwhelming sense of “Really? Really?!” and there’s not much to say beyond that.

Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon

This played like gangbusters in the Superdome, which I think surprised a lot of people. Going into the weekend, there was a general feeling that this match would eventually be a letdown. But Stephanie and Triple H’s antics with Rousey’s well-placed and awesome spots drew huge pops from this die-hard audience. By the finishing the stretch, the crowd had been well on their feet for several minutes. Hats off to everybody involved because this match overcame a lot of cynicism to be one of the most entertaining matches on the card. I’m still in disbelief as I type this.

Triple Threat Tag Team Match for WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: The Usos vs. The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers

After the high of the previous match, this was definitely a “come down” spot. Noticeable exoduses to the restrooms and concessions here after the team entrances. Making their first main card appearance on a WrestleMania, the crowd was pro-Usos. When it was apparent that this would be a Bludgeon Brothers squash, the audience kinda lost interest and turned their attention to their cellphones or the restroom line.

The Undertaker vs. John Cena

This entire section was a masterclass in misdirection and crowd-pleasing. When the second referee gives Cena some bad news, there was a mix of “C’mon!” and “Are you kidding me?” that came from pockets of the audience. When the lights went out, the crowd erupts… only to laugh, boo, and eventually cheer the reveal of Elias in ultimate heel form.

After Cena beats down Elias, everybody’s phones are out, getting ready for something big to happen. There’s a hush from the crowd as Cena hits the halfway mark when ascending the ramp. Then we here the gong. The pop is immense. The Undertaker enters the Superdome and draws the largest pop of the night. The crowd stays with him throughout the squash, cheering on all the trademarks and just the mere sight of the Deadman. This was, by far, the biggest crowd pleaser of the night.

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

Daniel Bryan is the only focus here, pure and simple. “Yes!” chants, much like four years ago, dominated every event that took place during the weekend. Massive pop for Bryan’s first wrestling entrance in over two years. The others got decent reactions, but they were nowhere near as intense as Bryan’s. Daniel Bryan is still the WWE’s most empathetic underdog and it’s really spotlighted here.

Before the bell rings, Zayn and Owens get heat for attack Bryan from behind. When it was obvious that the match wouldn’t start with Daniel Bryan after his hot entrance, the crowd was almost immediately taken out of the match. Zayn and Owens beat down Shane, for what felt like an eternity, to no crowd reaction. When Daniel Bryan finally got involved in the match, the Superdome lit up and that was all she wrote. “Yes!” chants to all of Bryan’s trademark moves. Wild cheers to Bryan’s taunts and facial expressions. Huge ovation to Bryan getting the relatively easy win. If Shane McMahon weren’t involved in this match at all, I think the atmosphere would have served this match far better.

WWE Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax

Following the electric reactions for The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan, and Ronda Rousey kicking ass, this was the stretch of the show that fatigue really started to set in. Alexa Bliss’s entrance got a decent reaction, but the Superdome was mostly quiet for these two. Some people around me were questioning why Charlotte and Asuka’s match wasn’t in this spot. This section of the show would have benefited from it.

WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Massive pops for Styles and Nakamura’s entrances, but the slow-and-steady pace of the match itself brought the atmospherics down a fair bit. Duelling crowd sections would chant “Nakamura!” and “AJ Styles” to keep invested, but the match in person felt like a bit of a let down for the billed “dream match.” Nakamura’s heel turn drew a huge reaction from the Superdome, but it felt like too little, too late at that point.

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: The Bar vs. Braun Strowman & Nicholas

Braun is over. Very over. It’s still baffling that the WWE hasn’t placed the Universal Champion on him, but it’s Braun’s charm that carried the atmosphere here. Right away, the Superdome crowd played into Nicholas, with loud chants of “We want Nicholas!” and teased tags for the fourth-grader. Nicholas’s only tag-in received a grand-ole pop and huge laughs. There’s not much to recount here other than that Braun is extremely over… and the New Orleans Superdome liked Nicholas to a large degree, as well. This was a fun watch.

WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

I saw Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 31 in San Jose three years ago. The crowd was super hostile to Reigns and Brock was walking in as “the guy.” That lead to one of the most unique crowd experiences I’ve ever taken in for a WrestleMania main event. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for this edition of Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns.

This New Orleans WrestleMania crowd did not care for the match at all. Everybody had an idea that this would be the main event. Everybody had an idea that Roman Reigns would walk out as the new Universal Champion. Brock Lesnar’s shtick is starting to wear thin these days. The audience doesn’t want any of it.

The beach balls come out, small sections of the Superdome try to get The Wave started, most of the stadium is chanting “This is awful!”, “boring,” “CM Punk,” etc. Nobody is reacting to Reigns kicking out of F5s. It’s a disaster – albeit, an amusing one to witness. The crowd eventually draws surprised cheers for Brock Lesnar’s three-count. New Orleans was happy to see Reigns lose, but they weren’t exactly elated that Lesnar’s still the champion either.

Upon exiting the stadium, the general atmosphere felt like one big shrug. The fatigue likely played a factor into that feeling as well.

Overall, this was still a fun WrestleMania to experience in person. Just like any show, you’ll have your crowd-pleasing moments followed by some not-so-crowd-pleasing lulls and extensive show lengths, but WrestleMania is definitely a show that every wrestling fan should experience once in their lifetime. You get caught up in the spectacle and the fanatical, infectious happenings that occupy the stadium.