Styles is a guy who went from no longer being by TNA to rebuilding his career in Ring of Honor and New Japan. Now he’s wrestling a McMahon at Wrestlemania. Regardless of what you think of this idea, this is a big deal whether it’s the opener, third match, or main event. Shane McMahon has proven to be game and capable of delivering in big match situations as long as he has world class opponents. That’s why his match with Kurt Angle in 2000 is still one of my favorite matches ever. On the other hand, when he’s in the ring with a way past his prime Undertaker, you’ll get a borefest.
Based on his age and wear and tear, we’re probably in Styles’s late prime. This may have been one of his best performances ever in caring Shane. Styles is way too cocky while Shane is not someone to be underestimated even if he’s not technically a great wrestler. Dropkick sends Shane over the Smackdown announce table. Guys, it’s only the opening match! Every time Shane is able to use his punches, he gets the advantage. Shane goes for a series of submissions, and Styles does an incredible job selling. Springboard 450 is countered into a triangle. They’ve done a great job of having Shane counter everything Styles wants to do and not be able to use some of his most well known moves. Styles hits a one armed Styles Clash out of the choke. We get a ref bump. Pele kick. Out comes a garbage can and he sets it up with Shane in the corner. Van Terminator countered. Shane manages to hit it. He covers but only gets two. He puts Styles on the table but misses the elbow drop. Phenomenal forearm turned into a DDT. Shooting star press….from Shane McMahon…misses. Phenomenal forearm hits and that’s it.
I’m not a tremendous fan of ref bumps, especially in the opening match, but I liked what they did. It wasn’t about “cheating” per se but calling back to what Shane McMahon is known for.
Winner (s)/Rating: AJ Styles/****