These two were allowed to go out there and work the opener as if it was the main event of the show. They got to bust out every trick in the book in order to deliver the best spectacle possible for the fans. They took the fans on a wild journey, and everyone lapped it up.
There was a huge issue with that journey though. Two thirds of the match was basically spent establishing that Shane McMahon was a legitimate threat to AJ on a grappling level. It was basically a competitive, 50/50 battle where each guy got chances to get the better of the other. That is so counterproductive in the grand scheme of things.
From there, the match took a turn for the better. They did a ref bump, and then the match became about big spots and huge risks. They built to each of them well, and it seemed much more fitting that Shane had a chance to win this way. It all built to this great moment where Shane tried (and then failed) with the shooting star press.
The frustrating thing was that they had a great in-ring story just waiting for them there. AJ should have kicked Shane’s ass and out-grappled the fuck out of him. AJ would have grown overconfident. Shane would have grown desperate. It would have led to Shane taking the big risks to give himself a chance. The McMahons never allow themselves to look that weak though. It’s a real shame because they are generally great performers for what the WWE does.
There’s no way to objectively claim that this match was not successful. It will probably go down as one of the most memorable and beloved Wrestlemania openers ever. It just really undermined itself for no justifiable reason along the way. At least AJ managed to win cleanly in the end. (***)