Last Sunday, World Wrestling Entertainment hosted the 30th edition of its annual ‘WrestleMania’ Pay Per View event. The company celebrated its anniversary in style by crowning a new World Champion in Daniel Bryan, a greatly respected wrestler formerly known as ‘The American Dragon’.
The show, held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, featured a star-studded card. Returning stars Hulk Hogan, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock made non-wrestling appearances, as more recent stars like Antonio Cesaro, The Shield and AJ Lee emerged triumphant in various contests.
The talk of the night, however, was Daniel Bryan.
As part of the WWE’s ongoing storyline, ‘D-Bry’ had made an enemy of company bosses Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. He first won the WWE Championship at the company’s ‘SummerSlam’ PPV in August of last year, however, minutes later, fellow wrestler Randy Orton arrived and took the belt away via the company’s ‘Money in the Bank’ stipulation.
Later, at September’s ‘Night of the Champions’ event, Bryan was victorious over Orton, only to have his title belt stripped away the following night by HHH. Further attempts to raise the gold at October’s ‘BattleGround’ PPV and October’s ‘Hell in a Cell’ event were also unsuccessful (in most cases due to some outside interference).
During this time, Daniel Bryan’s quest for the WWE laurels became a mainstream concern. His T-shirts were seen being worn at numerous American sporting events and his signature chants of “YES! YES! YES!” and “NO! NO! NO!” were heard in a multitude of sports.
For a while, the WWE appeared to have dropped Daniel Bryan as a Main Event prospect, raising the ire of his fellow wrestlers and wrestling fans alike. The company promoted returning wrestler and former champion Batista as being the hero that would unseat the villainous Randy Orton, but fans rejected this premise, booing Batista and demanding Bryan.
The event stipulations were that Daniel Bryan first had to defeat multi-time WWE Champion Triple H in order to gain a place in the Main Event against Orton and Batista (all are considerably bigger than the diminutive would-be champ). If successful, Bryan would then have to triumph over the combined might of two established WWE stars in order to finally take back the title.
The majority of fans were overjoyed by the result.
More controversial (and far more polarizing) was legendary wrestler The Undertaker’s loss to former WWE and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) kingpin Brock Lesnar. The Undertaker is famous for his winning streak at the WrestleMania events, having never lost in 21 years of appearances at the company’s flagship show. Lesnar’s victory signalled ‘Taker’s first ever loss at the event, something which many fans found distasteful and upsetting.
WrestleMania has been the WWE’s signature event since 1985. The show was wrestling’s first major Pay Per View event and featured appearances by mainstream MTV stars of the time like Cindi Lauper, Mr. T and even Liberace.
In addition to numerous live musical acts (most notably Ray Charles, Little Richard, Living Colour, Run DMC, Willie Nelson, Ozzy Osbourne and Motorhead) later celebrity WrestleMania appearances have included boxing Champion Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, American footballer Lawrence ‘LT’ Taylor, Mike Tyson, baseball legend Pete Rose, Pamela Anderson, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, Alice Cooper and, of course, Muhammad Ali.
The 30th anniversary show was also the first WWE event to be streamed online via the company’s newest venture, the WWE Network, a live-streaming subscription service.