USA Today Sports

NOLA’s wrestling week comes to a close after breaking records

Mark Menard
April 12, 2018 - 8:50 pm

Tuesday night’s broadcast of WWE Smackdown Live on the USA Network marked the final night of a week-long smorgasbord of professional wrestling in the Big Easy.

The centerpiece of course was Sunday’s WrestleMania 34, an event that broke records in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with 78,133 in attendance, according to WWE, and now ranks as the highest-grossing entertainment event in Superdome history, raking in $14.1 million. It broke the record set last time WrestleMania came to town in 2014.

But what of the entertainment value? The biggest headlines of the week came courtesy of the WWE debut of former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who acquitted herself quite well in her first match. Rousey teamed with former Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle to defeat one of WWE’s most decorated superstars Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon in a match that can only be described as a crowd-pleaser.

Those in attendance were deeply engaged in what was essentially a showcase for Rousey, and she didn’t disappoint, forcing McMahon to tap out with an arm-bar, a moment that resulted in an eruption that rivaled any roar I’ve heard in person in the Dome.

Women were front and center for two other anticipated matches, a big turnaround from a time not so long ago when the women’s matches were little more than glorified bathroom breaks for the WWE faithful. Nia Jax utilized a more than 150-pound weight advantage to toss Raw women’s champion Alexa Bliss like a rag doll, ultimately taking her title as the ultimate revenge after being verbally abused by Bliss for weeks.

Smackdown women’s champion Charlotte Flair, on the other hand, successfully defended her title against Asuka, ending the Japanese star’s three-year-plus unbeaten streak. Flair’s title-reign would only last two more days however, as she was beaten on Smackdown Tuesday night in the Smoothie King Center by Carmella, who cashed in her Money In The Bank title shot after Flair was beaten down by new arrivals Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, former NXT stars making their main roster debuts.

As far as the men were concerned, mammoth “Monster Among Men” Braun Strowman chose a 10-year-old from the Superdome crowd to be his partner for his WrestleMania tag team title match against champions Cesaro and Sheamus, then single-handedly beat down both men to win the belts. The following night on Raw in the Smoothie King Center, Strowman relinquished the titles due to his new partner Nicholas’s “scheduling conflicts,” citing that he’s still in fourth-grade.

The only drawback seemed to be the lackluster response to the match dubbed the main event of WrestleMania 34, a successful Universal Championship defense by Brock Lesnar over a bloodied and battered Roman Reigns.

With a stellar NXT Takeover event on Saturday in the Smoothie King Center, the fan-centric WWE Axxess at the Convention Center, and a slew of non-WWE events headlined by Saturday night’s masterful Ring Of Honor Supercard at the UNO Lakefront Arena combined with the trifecta of WrestleMania 34, Raw and Smackdown on three consecutive nights, the week seemed to offer a wrestling fix for all manner of fans who made their way to New Orleans from all over the planet.

No word on whether New Orleans will bid on bringing the event back in the near future, but next year’s WrestleMania 35 has already been announced as taking place in New York City.

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