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WRESTLEMANIA

WrestleMania 33: Hardy Boyz make triumphant return

By Jan Murphy, Kingston Whig-Standard

Matt, left, and Jeff Hardy celebrate with the Raw tag-team championship belts inside the ring following their ladder match victory on Sunday at WrestleMania 33 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The due made a surprise return for the match. (Ricky Havlik/SLAM! Wrestling)

Matt, left, and Jeff Hardy celebrate with the Raw tag-team championship belts inside the ring following their ladder match victory on Sunday at WrestleMania 33 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The due made a surprise return for the match. (Ricky Havlik/SLAM! Wrestling)

ORLANDO — A weekend of feel-good returns and feel-good moments took a sudden bittersweet turn in Orlando at WrestleMania 33 at the Camping World Stadium in a more than five-hour show.

The emotional weekend never felt better than on Sunday when the legendary Hardy Boyz made their World Wrestling Entertainment return, some seven years after leaving WWE.

On a weekend that also saw the returns of polarizing figures Eric Bischoff and Jim Cornette, and the homecoming for incoming Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, the Hardys added to the good feelings by returning in a ladder match no less and winning the Raw tag-team titles, giving the legendary brothers their seventh reign as WWE tag champs.

The final match of the evening featured another feel-good moment, with legendary commentator Jim Ross, who tragically lost his wife Jan in an accident just weeks ago, returning to call the match between the iconic Undertaker and Roman Reigns.

Undertaker was participating in his 25th WrestleMania, by far the most in history.

But those good feelings ended with uncertainty when Reigns dominated The Undertaker en route to victory, which felt symbolic. The record crowd of 75,245 was clearly disappointed with the outcome. The victory was a convincing one for Reigns, a young star WWE has been building for years.

The Undertaker very symbolically acknowledged the crowd, leaving his iconic ring attire in the ring before departing and disappearing into what felt like retirement.

In one of the most anticipated matches of the night, Brock Lesnar and legendary Bill Goldberg squared off again. In the previous encounters, at Survivor Series in Toronto and at Royal Rumble, Goldberg had his way with the former UFC fighter.

Ten German suplexes and two F5s later, Lesnar dethroned the Universal champ, much to the delight of the crowd.

The WWE Smackdown women’s title was on the line in the second last match of the night, with champion Alexa Bliss putting her title on the line against Calgary’s Natalya, Naomi, Mickie James, Carmella and Becky Lynch.

Orlando native Naomi captured her second women’s title by forcing Bliss to tap out to submission, but not before Natalya put an impressive Sharpshooter on two of her competitors at once, a sight to behold to say the least.

The WWE world champion Bray Wyatt put his title on the line against former Wyatt family member Randy Orton in one of the big three matches of the night and one that fell rather flat.

The match featured some bizarre images of maggots and worms appearing in the ring with a prone Orton lying inside it several times. In the end, Orton prevailed, winning Wyatt’s title in a match that seemed to have lost the crowd.

John Cena and his real-life fiancee Nikki Bella defeated The Miz and his real-life wife, Montreal’s Maryse, but the match took second fiddle to another of the aforementioned feel-good moments after the win.

Following the win, Cena got down on one knee and proposed. The answer, of course, was yes.

In the first of the semi-main events, Triple H, the decorated wrestler-turned-executive, faced his former protege Seth Rollins, who nearly missed WrestleMania due to reinjuring a knee injury that kept him out of last year’s WrestleMania in Texas.

Rollins not only scored the victory, but he also caused Triple H’s wife, Stephanie McMahon, to go through a table in the process, much to the crowd’s delight.

The Raw women’s title was the first of the women’s championships up for grabs. Champion Bayley defended against Sasha Banks, Nia Jax and Charlotte Flair. Jax was the first to be eliminated, followed by Banks, leaving Bayley and Charlotte to battle it out for the title. Bayley retained her title with an elbow off the top rope, winning her debut WrestleMania match, with family and friends in attendance.

Two of Canada’s very best, Montreal’s Kevin Owens taking on Winnipeg legend Chris Jericho battled it out in the second match for Jericho’s United States Championship. For most of the year, Owens and Jericho were in a storyline as friends, before it went south, setting up the WrestleMania encounter. Owens, making his singles WrestleMania debut, power bombed Jericho on the apron outside the ring, securing the win and capturing his fourth different WWE title in his short career. He’s also held the NXT championship, the WWE Universal title and the Intercontinental title.

The card opened with a marque matchup, AJ Styles taking on Shane McMahon. In a match that featured McMahon performing his usual high-flying risky antics, including a dive from the top rope through an announce table and an inverted moonsault, Styles scored the eventual victory, with his Phenomenal Forearm, in a match that was carried for the most part by McMahon.

The pre-show opened with the Cruiserweight championship on the line in a match between Austin Aries and champion Neville. The high-flying 205 Live stars delivered an up-tempo match with Neville retaining his title.

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, featuring a pile of of WWE superstars who started in the ring and were eliminated, one by one, until the winner was left standing, was the second pre-show match. The match ended with NFL star Rob Gronkowski lending an assist to Mojo Rawley, who eliminated Jinder Mahal.

The final pre-show match featured Baron Corban challenging Dean Ambrose for the WWE Intercontinental championship. The up-and-coming Corbin failed to capitalize on the opportunity and lost to Ambrose, who beat him with his finisher, Dirty Deeds.

Cornette and Bischoff returned to WWE after lengthy absences to induct some of the latest members of the WWE Hall of Fame, Cornette the Rock ‘N Roll Express and Bischoff Diamond Dallas Page.

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