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WrestleMania XXVIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII
From SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL
April 1, 2012

BACKGROUND
It’s been purported that each WrestleMania event is generally planned a year in advance, and the booking is written backwards to support what they want to present on the grandest stage. While recent WrestleManias seem a bit more thrown-together at times, owing to an increasingly frenetic Vince McMahon being known to make constant changes, WrestleMania XXVIII was an event where a year-long plot was used, this time as an actual storyline.

One night after WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, John Cena called out The Rock. Rather than thrash the previous night’s guest host for costing him his World Title match against The Miz, a calm and happy-go-lucky Cena simply challenged Rock to a match at next year’s big event, giving both men one year to prepare for the clash of the ages.

The idea was unique for a modern time frame in which that $45 secondary PPV that you’re being offered has but two matches booked sixteen days before the event. It’s a little hard to get up for those shows (and buyrates seem to agree), but a WrestleMania where the main event is entrenched in everyone’s brains for 363 days?

Those “in-the-know” fans who balked at WWE’s most overexposed star, and most overexposed part-timer, getting a full calendar of non-stop billing would be rewarded by the successes of their heroes.

WWE was becoming a different place, as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, who’d each passed through Philadelphia’s Murphy Rec Center on the way to the top, won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2011.

In spite of all of the social media blitzes, irksome moments from Michael Cole, and use of gimmickless FCW/NXT castoffs, it seemed WWE was crafting a WrestleMania unique among the pack. Between a year-long main event build, and two “workrate” champions, the everyday mold was finally being broken.

THE EVENT
Cena and Rock crossed paths prior to the WrestleMania main event, as Rock’s movie schedule allowed him to wrestle at Survivor Series 2011. That night at Madison Square Garden, he and Cena formed a super-team that annihilated The Miz and R-Truth. Afterward, Rock dropped Cena with a Rock Bottom as a reminder that, in four months, they’d each engage in a defining match in their careers.

After Cena was sidetracked by a hard-boiled feud with Kane through early 2012, he and Rock criss-crossed on the remaining road to WrestleMania, insulting each other in their typical juvenille fashion. Rock would host one of his trademark “Rock Concerts” laden with entendres and jibes toward the current company flagbearer, while Cena reinstituted his “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona, ripping into Rock with some lines that would make the kid-friendly sponsors cringe.

The match was even given a TV special on USA Network to promote the history of the icons, giving this match, dubbed “Once in a Lifetime”, a super fight feeling like no other in recent memory.

As if the dream match wasn’t enough to churn buyrates, the “end of an era” was also promised. The Undertaker, 19-0 at WrestleMania, wasn’t happy with how he barely eked the win out over Triple H one year earlier, and demanded a rematch with COO of the company.

Hunter initially balked, but The Dead Man persisted, eventually goading the man technically his boss into a fight. The Game agreed on one condition: that it be a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn Michaels, who’d had his career ended by Undertaker, was made guest referee as one last twist of the screw.

Sheamus was the winner of the 2012 Royal Rumble, last ousting a quizzically-acting Chris Jericho. The Celtic Warrior waited three weeks before deciding which championship to challenge for, ultimately deciding on the World Heavyweight title held by an increasingly-self-indulgent Daniel Bryan.

Bryan was an anomaly, winning the title as an underdog hero on December 18 via briefcase cash-in, but slowly took on a portrayal as an egomaniac jerk. Not only did he ignore the affection of girlfriend AJ Lee, but Bryan began to praise himself more and more for minor victories, many of them tainted. He even allowed AJ to be injured by a stampeding Big Show, all just to keep his title.

As for the WWE Championship, anti-hero CM Punk would face the winner of a ten man battle royal that took place on February 20. Jericho would win, and thus be afforded a chance to continue his vague “end of the world” crusade via the company’s top champion.

Jericho first began the mind games with Punk by claiming the “Straight Edge Superstar” had stolen his “Best in the World” moniker, which Punk gladly challenged Jericho to try and take back. With the champ not fazed, Y2J resorted to revealing the ugly family history of Punk, complete with the addictions his family members all once had. Jericho promised to lead Punk down the road of self-destruction en route to taking his title.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were the evening’s commentators, joined by a now-goateed Jim Ross for the Hell in a Cell match. For the third time, Lilian Garcia performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 consisted of Edge, The Four Horsemen (dual induction for Ric Flair), Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, and celebrity inductee Mike Tyson.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the title
(And we stumble out of the gate. Boy the fans at SunLife dumped on them for this decision. I’ve said it in other mediums: it’s not the treatment of Bryan that made this moment suck; it was the belief by the company that Sheamus was going to look stronger as a result. The people who run WWE couldn’t find the pulse of the fans if they had a GPS)

Kane def. Randy Orton in 10:56
(I don’t know who this “Daniel Bryan” fellow is, but he sure got a lot of chants during this match. Decent contest that ended with a flying chokeslam)

WWE Intercontinental: Big Show def. Cody Rhodes in 5:18 to win the title
(The build was entertaining, with Rhodes showing film of Show’s WrestleMania embarrassments to psyche him out, but the match was all too brief. Rhodes actually reigned as champion for eight months)

Maria Menounos/Kelly Kelly def. Eve Torres/Beth Phoenix in 6:49
(All of these women are gone from WWE, which is a commentary on how women would rather do “something else” than work there. But I’d take a stinkface from Miss Menounos, at least)

Hell in a Cell/”End of an Era”: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 30:50
(Opinions of this one are a little divided. Some call this the greatest match in the history of the galaxy. Others think it was stupid to have Triple H assault Undertaker with basic moves, and have Michaels nearly “stop the match” because Taker couldn’t continue. Because Hunter’s so bad ass. Eh, 20-0 is 20-0, even if was slower and more plodding than Heaven’s Gate)

David Otunga/Mark Henry/The Miz/Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre def. Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella/Great Khali/R-Truth/Zack Ryder/Booker T in 10:38
(As a result of this, John Laurinaitis won complete control of Raw and Smackdown from Teddy Long. Oh, and Zack Ryder looked like a useless tool. That’ll learn em)

WWE Championship: CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in 22:21
(A highly physical and intense battle that took some time to find second gear, I still found it to be the best match of the night. The battle at the end over the Anaconda Vise, with Punk refusing to give up on the hold, despite Jericho’s vicious struggle, was a nice touch)

“Once in a Lifetime”: The Rock def. John Cena in 33:34
(Nice throwback to the big-time WrestleMania main events of old, even if it was preceded by a six hour concert featuring Flo Rida and anorexic Shannon Moore. Cena’s undoing came as he tried a People’s Elbow, only to be Rock Bottom’d. Some said it was boring, but I actually liked it. Whether Rock has the endurance for another 30 minute match is another story)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
It’s hard to argue with 1.22 million buys, a WWE record, so some would say that a year-long build is the way to go. Rock would remain a part of WWE in a limited capacity, sticking around to challenge for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, but we’ll get to that next year.

The show began disastrously, and the fans largely didn’t come out of their anger-induced coma until the Hell in a Cell match. As many people who remember that match, and Rock and Cena’s epic showdown, equally remember how the show opened with the misstep of Sheamus and Bryan, possibly the worst WrestleMania booking since Hogan went over a tired Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX.

It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t a home run in any way except financially (undoubtedly important, despite our gripes). For the official “portrait” of the show, my pick will be a split screen. On one side is Shawn Michaels and Undertaker holding up a semi-conscious Triple H on the stage, while The Rock stands tall on the other side. WWE more than ever lives off of the past, as it can’t create an exciting present. Logically, their imagery should make you think you’re in 1998.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania 27: Well, That Was Different

April 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Another day, another running diary. But I keep coming back to entertain all (sixteen) of you that read my work. And, unlike certain hosts of certain PPVs, I will NOT phone it in via satellite!

-I’ll phone it in right here, in person.

-We are looking LIVE (Trademark Brent Musberger) from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where fingerpoking and NFL playoff choking are all the rage. I’m joined at my brother Josh’s domicile by Josh himself, and jaded buddies Dave and Rob for some good action and, hopefully, some unintentional comedy to offset the cost of this shindig. Also, Domino’s Pizza is the order of the day, because if you’re going to pay to see Snooki, you should at least get fat on Cheesy Bread doing it.

-Keri Hilson performs America the Beautiful, and is the latest contestant in the “Are they Black or White?” game with Derek Jeter, Latoya Jackson, Alicia Keys, and Jason Kidd. Black seems likely, for those wondering how I’d score.

-The Rock is out here to waste time, you know, because the biggest show of the year needs talk. Rock assures us, through his self-intro, that he still eats pie, which must confuse twelve-year old kids in the audience who see a muscular athlete that LOVES to indulge in pastries. But you can see why Daniel Bryan and Sheamus would get axed.

-Rock further validates their excising by leading the crowd in a chant along. Here’s one for you: When I yell “RE!”, you yell “FUND!”. Ready?

-I never thought I’d see the day where four longtime wrestling fans shake their heads in exasperation, wondering when Rock is going to stop talking. I thought April Fool’s Day was Friday.

-Wait, wait, wait, wait…..The World Heavyweight Title match….is OPENING? The prize for winning the Royal Rumble is to open WrestleMania? Well, it’s Atlanta, and Vince probably thought “You know….I wonder how I could devalue the World Heavyweight Title more than WCW ever did”.

-So it’s Edge, with Christian, defending against Alberto Del Rio, with Brodus Clay and Psicosis in a tuxedo. Del Rio takes a nasty slip to the floor, indicating that perhaps Del Rio wants to steal the show and make Vince pay for his error in judgment. Or, maybe he just slipped.

-Del Rio hooks the cross-armbreaker, leading to a false finish. Del Rio then ups the ante with a springing enzuigiri. You’re telling me it was necessary to not make room for this guy later in the night? I thought WWE was all about putting over the future? You know, that outmoded concept that TNA seems to not seem to buy into? Did Russo book this?

-Edge’s spear misses, and it leads to a cross-armbreaker, which Edge refuses to give into. If Edge tapped in the opener to lose the title, then it’s proof Russo WASN’T booking. My money would then be on David Lynch.

-Edge gets the Edgucator, and Del Rio won’t give up. The challenger finds his way out, and Edge merely spears him to win. Really? All that “destiny” chatter and this is the payoff? It was a good match, with few flaws (you know, other than being the opener), but why have Del Rio fall short in what was, basically, a throwaway? I’m not mad, just confused. A lot of us are, really.

-Meanwhile, Michael Cole taunts Jerry Lawler from inside the Cole Mine. He shows off his Slammys and calls himself a “broadcast journalist”, which makes him half Owen Hart/half Bobby Heenan. No wonder I like him so much now.

-Cody Rhodes is out next, Vinny Del Negro face shield and all, to take on Rey Mysterio, who is dressed as Captain America. Interesting that WWE took their two top “lucha” stars and put them at the bottom of the card. Know what other company used to do that? Hint: they were based in Atlanta, and aren’t in business anymore.

-Well hey, Cody’s bringing the energy. It’s like he wants to steal the show all for himself, as he’s keeping up with Mysterio all the way. Not only does Rhodes bust out the Alabama Slam (finisher of ex-partner Hardcore Holly), but he even borrow’s CW Anderson’s delayed superplex. There’s even faint “CODY” chants in the Georgia Dome. Good on you, kid.

-Rhodes tries going into Mysterio’s pant leg, which makes me think he’s trying to find evidence of drug muling, but he’s merely going after Mysterio’s knee brace. Rey responds by taking off Cody’s facemask (“WE CAN SEE WHO IT IS! IT WAS CODY THE WHOLE TIME!”), putting it on, and then headbutting Cody with it. Isn’t that a DQ?

-Rhodes goes an eye for an eye by bashing Rey with his own knee brace, and then hitting Cross Rhodes for the win. I enjoyed the match, and Rhodes proved who the real dead weight of “Legacy” was. No wonder Triple H embarrassed Junior Dibiase so handily. Welcome to the food chain.

-To further urinate in Sheamus and Bryan’s faces, here’s a pointless talent contest backstage. Just know that Rowdy Roddy Piper does a pretty good impression of Jeff Hardy at Victory Road.

-I’m going to give the eight man tag as much time and effort as WWE gave it. I don’t think I physically saw Justin Gabriel. I’ll also bet Vince couldn’t pick him out of a police line-up.

-Eve tells The Rock that she’s enjoying the show. She also believes that, as Divas champion, she’d valued more for her brains and ability than looks, so her credibility is somewhat questionable. Mae Young shows up, because Vince loves her, and then we get an Austin/Rock staredown for old times’ sake. Ok, that was enjoyable. Just glad Austin didn’t strike Eve.

-Randy Orton and CM Punk, the match I was looking forward to the most, is next. Just a classic cat and mouse heel vs. face feud, with very few weak spots. Except for the acting of Randy Orton’s “wife”. This should be an annual tradition: find a fitness model with zero personality, and make her Orton’s designated wife. It’s like “Rock of Love” with fewer degrading skits.

-It needs to be said: CM Punk is about as complete a heel as you’ll find in wrestling these days. He was born about twenty years too late. Take away the excessive tattoos and couldn’t you see him in the old NWA, attacking babyfaces in the parking lot? He’s like Tully Blanchard, except you won’t find him repenting tearfully over the days of sniffing lines out of the belly buttons of ring rats.

-Punk is carrying his end swimmingly. I think he and Cody Rhodes are playing “can you top this” in terms of bringing their A-Game to the night. Punk’s arrays of kicks, as well as the kick-to-the-face counter to the RKO, are keeping the viewing party entertained. In other words, we like Punk.

-ANACONDA VICE! ORTON HOLDING ON BY A THREAD! Hold my coat while I forget that this is fake for a little while!

-After Punk avoids a few defeat attempts due to Orton’s injuries, Punk springboards into the ring and eats a vicious RKO. Great match, best of the night so far (edging the Cody-Rey “feelin’ it” fest). For as badly structured as the backstage stuff is, the ring work is carrying the card.

-The Rock talks to Pee Wee Herman. I go for more cheesy bread, to find none left. I’m sad twice.

-Howard Finkel! #27! THE REAL STREAK LIVES!

-Hall of Famers are then introduced: Abdullah the Butcher, Sunny (YOWZA!), Legion of Doom (Man, Hawk got small….oh, that’s Ellering), Bullet Bob Armstrong, Drew Carey, Hacksaw Jim Duggan (complete with tuxed-up 2X4), and Shawn Michaels, whose presence on these shows is definitely missed. Now we have to be more selective with our “FIVE STAR” declarations.

-Booker T is out next to commentate as is, wait for it…..GOOD OL JR! And Jim Ross said on Twitter that he WOULDN’T be commentating! Using Twitter to deceive people? When did JR become Dixie Carter?

-Michael Cole is dressed as a mildly-less retarded Rick Steiner while Jerry Lawler is, well, Jerry Lawler. Steve Austin, the referee, nearly runs over Jack Swagger with his ATV. What if Swagger DID get hit? Could they have tousled Drew McIntyre’s hair and given him a singlet in time?

-Cole’s having the time of his life, performing like a modern Andy Kaufman. Meanwhile, Swagger busts out the ankle lock on Lawler. Question: if Kurt Angle was a real Olympian, is Swagger WWE’s “Special Olympian”? Question two: am I going to Hell for making this joke?

-Cole seems to have no concept of applying holds, which may lead one to think he doesn’t watch ROH. And why would he? Working ROH style leads to you having your US Title match scrapped.

-Match slows down as the crowd chants “DORING” in the hopes that former ECW Tag Team Champion Danny Doring arrives to spice things up. No dice, sadly.

-The match breaks down into a typical Austin showcase (Stunner for Swagger, babyface comeback), with Lawler applying an ankle lock for the submission, with Cole tapping forever, and Austin delaying the bell ringing. Just for fun, Booker T jumps in for a beer and eats a Stunner, because Austin remembers when Booker stole his truck and cost him the Undisputed Title.

-But WAIT! The Anonymous GM, per Josh Mathews, announces that Austin overstepped his bounds and that the virtually dead Michael Cole wins by DQ! So Austin beats up Mathews, just because. Maybe Austin’s just mad because they’re making Expendables II without him.

-Meanwhile, at AXXESS, Sheamus fans flew from Ireland to see him! Just slap em in the face, why don’t ya, WWE….

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-No Holds Barred is next, and while I’m fearful of Zeus returning, it’s actually the heavily-hyped Undertaker-Triple H match. Hear that buzzing? That’s me. I’m abuzz.

-Triple H immediately endears himself to me by using “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, my favorite song from my favorite band of all time, Metallica. The booking staff could use “Frayed Ends of Sanity” themselves. He then switches to Motorhead after a redux of his Conan entrance, and then The Undertaker arrives to Johnny Cash. Metallica, Motorhead, and Johnny Cash? Sounds like the contents of Triple H’s iPod. Can we work some Warrant in there somewhere, just for laughs?

-Of note, this is Triple H’s first match in almost a year. In most cases, the man’s gut might sag. Not the case here, but his forehead’s sloping to the point where he could become a GEICO pitchman.

-The brawl goes outside and they end up destroying the Cole Mine, near the Spanish announce table. Rob points out that the last time he saw a mine collapse in the presence of Latinos was in Chile. So Rob takes my coveted title of “most tasteless joke told in a Justin diary”. I couldn’t hold it forever.

-Match is a damn good brawl, and Hunter takes a SICK backdrop off of the announce table, landing right on his hip. Gotta respect the man for taking so much abuse when he can just sit back.

-Jerry Lawler mentions that Undertaker’s never faced someone quite like Triple H, except when he faced…..Triple H. Of course, Lawler missed that WrestleMania when he protested alongside a woman that would later desert him for another man, so I can excuse it.

-HHH lands a Pedigree for 2, and then another which doesn’t finish. Hunter is now screaming “STAY DOWN”, which seems to indicate that Undertaker isn’t following the script that Hunter carefully wrote. Had Hunter yelled “JOB!”, that would have been my undisputed WrestleMania 27 moment. Hands down.

-Hunter decides to violate company policy by bashing Taker in the head with a chair, and then adds a Tombstone, which still isn’t enough. Finally, he gets the sledgehammer, but Undertaker applies Hell’s Gate. Hunter can’t swing the weapon, goes limp, and then lightly taps out. Wow, insanely epic brawl. Perhaps it’s not of the caliber of the Taker/Shawn matches, but best match of the night anyway.

-Note: Hunter tapped three times in big Mania matches. Who says he doesn’t lay down?

-Undertaker, near death, is carted off with the help of several officials, including IRS. Didn’t IRS once repossess headstones just to mess with Taker? Wrestling sure is full of forgiveness.

-Hey, Vickie’s here to shriek! Fan sentiment: “if we keep booing her and giving her insane heel heat, maybe she’ll go away!” Yeah, sure, maybe.

-John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki are facing Dolph Ziggler and LayCool, which seems to be a recipe for disaster, especially when Trish and McCool fall awkwardly to the floor from the top rope. Then McCool accidentally almost takes Layla’s face off with a blown kick meant for Trish. WWE does strong style better than the indies!

-Morrison adds a Starship Pain to the floor. Bad ass.

-Snooki gets booed after a tag, but amazes all with a handspring back splash that puts Great Muta to shame. Flip splash pins McCool to give us a pleasant surprise. Ya know, take away her drunkenness, her annoying personality, her burnt skin, and her overexposed celebrity, and what do you have? A short girl with some shapely thighs and is quite bottom heavy. Give her a normal life where she’s just “Nicole”, and I’d be shamelessly lusting after her like George “The Animal” Steele.

-(The above statement was made without a trace of irony)

-The Tough Enough contestants are in the crowd and, as Dave points out, they got better seats than the WCW roster did ten years ago at X7. Shows you where WWE’s priorities are.

-Miz’s opening video for the main event, with him “taking over production”, while “Hate Me Now” plays, is one of the freshest presentations WWE has yet done. Makes The Miz seem like a big time performer.

-Alex Riley, by managing Miz in the main event, is the Harvey Wippleman to Riley’s Sid Justice. It’s official.

-John Cena‘s entrance of the year: a church choir, singing over a montage of Cena photos and videos of his youth. If you’re going to do a church choir, can’t you get a James Brown impersonator to sing in preacher garb while Cena yells “THE BAND, ELWOOD! THE BAND!”? Is that too much to ask?

-Slow opening to the WWE Title match. Fan with a sign reading “PLEASE GIVE UP” in one of Cena’s fonts makes us laugh. Not a good sign.

-Cena and Miz seem to be rushing through this, due to time constraints. I dunno, maybe giving Rock 4 hours at the start of the show to cheerlead wasn’t such a good idea.

-For a WrestleMania main event, this is resembling a match in Stu Hart’s basement: no heat, and it’s not exactly visually pleasing. Oh, and there’s a ref bump! This just gets better by the second!

-Riley bashes Cena with a briefcase, which IRS seemed to have left at ringside, and Miz still can’t finish. So the two men brawl to the floor and Cena takes Miz over a pair of railings. Mike Chioda counts both men out which means….MIZ RETAINS! The crowd, which booed Cena all match, boos Miz retaining the title. And this is why smart-ass fans can’t have good things.

-But WAIT! Rock is out here to restart the match! The crowd doesn’t know how to feel.

-But it’s okay, because Rock gives Cena Rock Bottom as a receipt, and allows Miz to pin him and retain. Ballsy ending, I’ll give em that. Not a great match, but it’ll be fun to see where they take it from here.

-Oh, and Rock gives Miz a beating as well, because Rock’s the star. The prodigal star.

CYNIC SAYS: I didn’t HATE the show, but the structure was definitely weird. Taker-HHH was a match of the year candidate, Rhodes-Rey and Orton-Punk were both excellent, and the World Title matches were solid enough (yes, even Miz-Cena was “okay). Lawler-Cole was also fun for what it was.

There was nothing outright terrible, but not a whole lot of “blowaway” for the biggest show of the year. Call it a thumbs in the middle, leaning up, pending further review some day.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XXVII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVII
From The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA
April 3, 2011

BACKGROUND
WrestleManias these days are more like the Super Bowl than ever before. In the NFL’s biggest annual game, while the outcome determines a champion, thus making the game the most relevant part of the weekend, the lure and aura of the halftime show, commercials, and interminable pre-game shows loaded with puff pieces draw in the casual viewer.

With WWE’s ratings and buyrates waning incrementally from the Attitude Era’s ending, Vince McMahon has discovered other ways to appeal to the casual viewer, especially come “WrestleMania season.”

In the last year and a half or so, World Wrestling Entertainment has dove into the deep end of social networking. You can’t sit through more than five minutes of Monday Night Raw anymore without Michael Cole prattling on in his cacophonic shriek about “hashtags” and “trending” and whatnot. Wrestlers tweeting threats to each other on off-days, usually in character, have begun to replace traditional story elements of tag team miscues and title shot demands as a means of fueling feuds and grudges.

With Twitter and Facebook as prime means of communication, it’s no doubt that WWE would exploit any chance to reach potential viewers.

Of course, WWE also continues the time-honored tradition of immersing past stars into the present story world. In recent years, we’ve seen Chris Jericho run afoul of Hall of Famers like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat on the Road to WrestleMania. One year later, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart modified their years of bad blood into a three month story arc that culminated in one of WrestleMania’s most unlikely matches.

With a Georgia Dome to fill, and fans to get talking, WWE brought somebody in off the bench to help ensure the likelihood of both. It had been nearly seven years since he was last seen….

But finally……he came back.

THE EVENT
On February 14, 2011, a day devoted to love, wrestling fans jilted by the loss of WWE’s classic spontaneity and assertiveness were greeted to the sports entertainment equivalent of John Cusack standing below their bedroom window with a boombox.

One week after Vince McMahon announced a special guest host for WrestleMania, The Rock showed up in Anaheim, to an ungodly ovation from fans who had missed one of the sport’s greatest heroes. Dwayne Johnson systematically riffed on The Miz and John Cena, the two would-be main eventers, the latter in particular for some scathing public comments. Cena had derided Rock for leaving WWE completely behind in his pursuit of Sunset Boulevard, and now “The People’s Champion” was back to dress down his verbal attacker.

For weeks, Rock and Cena exchanged jibes back and forth so often, you’d think they were facing off at WrestleMania. Instead, Cena (who won #1 contendership at Elimination Chamber) would be challenging The Miz for the WWE Championship. Miz became a secondary figure to Rock and Cena’s trash talk, even while Michael Cole was championing Miz as “the most must-see WWE Champion in history.”

Ahh, Michael Cole’s heel turn. That ties into WrestleMania as well, as Cole, now pro-heel to the hilt, kept getting under the skin of Jerry Lawler, his longtime partner. When Lawler attempted to become WWE Champion in his only-ever shot, and felt short vs. The Miz, Cole rubbed it in to Lawler in antagonistic fashion. Emotions spilled over when Cole let slip that Lawler’s now-dead mother watched her son lose, and “The King” finally put his hands on his partner.

Soon enough, a match would be signed, with Jack Swagger as Cole’s trainer, and Stone Cold Steve Austin (what did I say about classic acts?) as the guest referee.

We haven’t even mentioned the Royal Rumble winner yet. Alberto Del Rio won the only 40-Man Rumble in history, and selected Edge, the World Heavyweight Champion, as the hilltopper he wished to knock off the summit. This feud had the added advantage of involving Christian, whom Del Rio put out of action in the fall of 2010. The reunited brothers (not friends, screw you WWE) banded together against Del Rio, his servant Ricardo Rodriguez, and protégé Brodus Clay.

To add more star power, The Undertaker’s streak of eighteen WrestleMania wins would be put on the line. Rumors swirled about who would try to end the mark. First, former UFC Champion Brock Lesnar was considered, but a deal never occurred. Then Sting was to jump from TNA, but re-signed with the company in the eleventh hour. Finally, Triple H stepped in, and engaged in weeks of tremendous dueling promo monologues with The Dead Man. The one from March 28 involving Shawn Michaels was some of WWE’s best TV to date.

CM Punk would face Randy Orton in a war over some of Orton’s past acts of aggression. And speaking of aggression, Orton would take out each of Punk’s Nexus flunkies on the road to their showdown.

Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Josh Mathews provided commentary, with Jim Ross and Booker T joining in later. Keri Hilson performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Famers included Shawn Michaels, The Road Warriors, Paul Ellering, Sunny, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Abdullah the Butcher, Bob Armstrong, and Drew Carey.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Edge def. Alberto Del Rio in 11:10
(Not only did the Royal Rumble winner open the show, but he also lost, looking like quite the “chumpstain” in the process. This would be Edge’s final match before retiring due to spinal injuries, but at least it was a really good opener. But still, why did it have to open?)

Cody Rhodes def. Rey Mysterio in 12:00
(This was quite an important match, as not only was it really good, but it showed that Rhodes can shine in a role outside of being Randy Orton’s lackey, or Ted Dibiase’s co-conspirator. If you wonder why Rhodes is trusted with a serious push, look here)

Kane/Big Show/Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella def. The Corre in 1:35
(As of this match, Santino Marella is 2-0 at WrestleMania, and Big Show is 3-8. Let that sink in)

Randy Orton def. CM Punk in 14:48
(If the crowd wasn’t so restless by this point, and if the night didn’t have a sour tone overall, this would be remembered as something more. Damn good match, but greater things lie ahead for both. Especially Punk about three months later….)

Michael Cole by Jerry Lawler by DQ in 13:42
(Why yes, this got more time than the first two matches. Coupled with The Rock wasting fifteen minutes at the start of the show with a cheerleading session, and you see why Sheamus and Daniel Bryan’s US Title match was bumped. The only good this match provided was getting Jim Ross to do commentary for the rest of the evening. Watching Cole on extended offense is like watching a midget do a caber toss)

No Holds Barred: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 29:26
(Not the five star classic some were hailing it as, but still a match of the year contender, surpassed by Christian/Del Rio a month later, and then Cena/Punk at MITB and Summerslam. Just a wild brawl with an insanely intense last few minutes. Undertaker springing back from the dregs of death to make Triple H tap out was heart-stopping excitement, and it pretty much saved the show. 19-0)

John Morrison/Trish Stratus/Snooki def. Dolph Ziggler/Michelle McCool/Layla in 4:00
(I’ll say it: Snooki + WWE’s make-up team = mildly attractive. She filled out those shorts nicely, even if I find her repulsive otherwise. Morrison snubbed Trish for much of the post-match, out of protest for Melina not getting to be on the show, and would fall out of favor with WWE entirely, leaving by year’s end. Actually, factoring in Layla’s near year-long injury, and Dolph is the only one still there)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: The Miz def. John Cena in 16:10
(If there’s one thing Miz doesn’t know how to do, it’s put on an epic match. Pedestrian, Raw-like, and building to nothing exciting, the match ended in a double countout before Rock restarted it, just so he could screw Cena with a Rock Bottom. Then Miz, after winning, got one too, and Rock celebrated to end the show. Really, that was the ending. The Seinfeld finale was better conceived)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Rock and Cena would immediately begin to hype their one on one match for a year later, but the fans were still coming to grips with the show that they’d just been fed. Bryan/Sheamus bumped? Edge opening? Rock rambling in horrible segments? Cole wrestling for fifteen minutes? Snoop Dogg hosting a sing-off? No title changes? SNOOKI?!?!

Four of the matches (Edge/Alberto, Rey/Cody, Punk/Orton, Taker/HHH) were all WrestleMania worthy, and keep this from being a complete clunker. That said, there were so many head-scratching decisions involved with WrestleMania XXVII, you’d think Vince McMahon was bound and gagged backstage while Vince Russo and Herb Abrams ran amok with the booking sheet.

As for the show’s most enduring image, it has to be The Rock. It was supposed to be, theoretically, a night for Cena and Edge, two longtime heroes, to wage war with two upstart villains, Del Rio and Miz, in championship matches, but they were mere appetizers. Rock leading the fans in a chant exhibition, and then cavorting around with Mae Young and Peewee Herman…..this was somehow necessary, according to WWE.

Rock standing tall to close the show is the official portrait, and that pretty much sums up the show’s downfall.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania 27 Results – The Rock Gets Revenge, Triple H Taps

April 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

It was the old guard that stole WrestleMania 27. The Undertaker vs. Triple H will go down as a WrestleMania classic. The Rock made a WrestleMania moment of his own to close the show and Stone Cold Steve Austin delivered a pair of stunners that had the sold out crowd rocking!

The Rock was introduced as the Guest Host to open up the show. No need to wait to see the Great One right? The Rock left his suit at the press conference and hit the ring in full workout attire. He didn’t get the insane reaction he has been getting on RAW but that could have been the acoustics of the big arena.

The Rock rallied up the crowd with his promo. Rock chanted “wrestle” and the crowd chanted “mania” (Guess he wasn’t in on the recent meeting.) The Rock cut a brief promo on John Cena who the crowd booed big time. No real mention of The Miz. The gist of the promo though was The Rock being a cheerleader and cutting a very standard “Rock promo” and telling the fans how great WrestleMania was going to be.

This was fine for an opening segment but definitely the weakest promo he cut since his return. Nothing of substance here, just the usual catchphrases to hype the crowd.

Edge defeated Alberto Del Rio to retain the WWE world title. This was the first match to kick off the show (Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan actually opened the show but it wasn’t televised). Wow, that was different. This was the first time a WWE world title match was ever slotted first on a WrestleMania. Most reports had Sheamus vs. Bryan opening so this must have been changed. Also, it should be noted that Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were on commentary which was kind of weird. Cole was in his Cole Mine box.
At one point Michael Cole points out that Edge rarely puts himself in danger. Has he seen those TLC matches?

Edge pins Alberto Del Rio after a spear. This was a great opener with lots of action. There were a lot of near falls in this one, especially for an opening match. I would have liked to see Alberto walk away with the belt here. However, as I pointed in my preview he has been struggling a bit lately. Honestly I think that low rating in a match against John Cena on RAW a few weeks ago sunk him.

There was also no Christian heel turn either as expected. That one surprises me. Why bother have him go over on Del Rio the last few weeks if a) Del Rio list and b) he didn’t turn. At one point after the match Edge and Christian each had lead pipes and destroyed Del Rio’s car. It looked like Christian was going to turn around and nail Edge but nope, business as usual.

Cody Rhodes pinned Rey Mysterio with Crossroads. Rey Mysterio came out in a real cool Captain America outfit at WrestleMania 27. There was a really cool spot in the match where Cody held Rey up from the second turnbuckle in a vertical suplex for what seemed like over a minute. Cody tried to work over the injured knee for most of the match but never seemed to get a great opportunity. Cody did remove the knee brace. Rey hit a real nice moonsault block during the match for a near fall. The finish Rey go for a tope, Cody removed his mask outside the ring and nailed Rey behind the referee’s back which set up the Crossroads and the pinfall. This was another great match and the guys got a lot more time than I expected.

Snoop Dogg did a backstage segment “auditioning WWE superstars” to go on tour. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper made a cameo otherwise his was a real momentum killer. I’d be pretty angry if I paid three figures for a WrestleMania ticket and had to sit through this. I am pretty angry at paying $55 to see this. The finale here was Hornswoggle rapping.

Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston defeated The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, and Heath Slater). The Big Show pinned Heath Slater. Kofi Kingston was a late (and pleasant) replacement after the Corre took out Kozlov in an angle during AXXESS. This one was over quick. I was hoping to see Wade Barrett get the fall but it wasn’t to be.

The Rock was back and had a conversation with Eve Torres. Mae Young was back and The Rock made some old jokes at her expense. Then The Rock turned around and was face to face with Steve Austin. This was a pretty cool yet uneventful moment which saw the two end the segment by shaking hands.

Randy Orton pinned CM Punk with the RKO. CM Punk worked over Randy Oron’s injured leg for most of the mach. An odd spot saw Randy Orton suplerplex Punk after having his leg worked over for 10 minutes. Even stranger is that nobody acknowledged Cowboy Bob during the spot. The wrestling psychology here was just awful as Orton would go from selling the leg to no selling between moves. I guess the apple fell very far from that tree. This was an okay match, nothing great, very deliberate and slow paced at times. There was a cool spot that saw Orton go for the RKO out of nowhere and Punk avoid it. The next one got him and downed him for the pinfall.

The Rock was backstage again and met “John Cena’s number one fan” who turned out to be Pee Wee Herman. This was actually pretty good. Gene Okerlund was back there with both of them in full Cena garb. The segment ended with Pee Wee disowning Cena and joining Team Bring It.

Howard Finkel made it 27-0 and introduced the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame class. Bob Armstrong got a really nice surprising pop. Abdullah the Butcher looks like he dropped about 60 pounds. HBK of course got the best ovation although nothing close to what Stone Cold got at WrestleMania 25.

The anonymous G.M. chimed in after the match and awarded Michael Cole the win via disqualification. Swagger and Lawler wrestled early on as Cole sat in the Cole Mine. Cole in that Cole Mine was actually pretty damn funny. Cole’s selling was also great. Lawler climbed into the Cole Mine and beat on Cole. He finally dragged him out and ran his head into the G.M. post. Swagger finally took Lawler out as Austin had his back turned.

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Cole’s first move was a baseball slide as Lawler laid on the ring apron. Swagger applied the ankle lock outside the ring on Lawler which set up Cole’s offense. Cole worked on Lawler’s leg. It got pretty stale midway and the crowd started to boo and turn on the match (reminded me a lot of Bret vs. Vince). Cole even pulled the strap down to mock the King and applied a version of the ankle lock.

Swagger threw the towel in when Lawler pulled the strap down and Austin used the towel to wipe himself down. Swagger got in Austin’s face and got the stunner. Cole got in Austin’s face and Austin pushed him into Lawler’s right hand. Lawler even pulled out the dropkick, which had great height. Lawler dropped the fist, had the three count, but pulled Cole back up. Lawler finished with the ankle lock. Austin called the match and awarded the win to Lawler which would be temporary.

Michael Cole wrestled in amateur wrestling gear which was pretty freaking awesome! Cole actually came out cutting a promo on Lawler and JR with no music which was different. Steve Austin came out on his four wheeler to a huge pop. Austin chased Cole into the Cole Mine. Jerry Lawler got practically no reaction walking out which is really odd following Cole’s great opening promo.

Jim Ross finally made his way back to the WrestleMania broadcast booth for the first time since WrestleMania 25. It couldn’t have come any sooner as the commentary was really awful tonight thanks to the Cole-Lawler dynamic. Booker was a bit rusty but a welcome change indeed.

I was really surprised at how little the crowd seemed into this match. They were way into Stone Cole but nothing else, which surprises me after their highly rated segments. At one point in the middle of the match the crowd started to boo and I even heard a few “boring” chants. I’d be shocked if they brought these two back.  This was definitely not a WrestleMania classic and was easily the worst of the night.

Booker T came in after the match and Austin wound up giving him a stunner. Well they did feud back in 2001 and Austin isn’t a forgetful man. Remember that supermarket brawl?

The G.M. chimed in during the celebration and reversed the decision and awarded Cole the win via disqualification citing Austin being a partial referee. Austin wound up giving Josh Matthews a stunner after he made the announcement. The good news here is that this leaves only Lawler and JR to call the rest of WrestleMania. There is a God!

The Undertaker defeated Triple H in a No Holds Barred Match. Triple H came out to Metallica “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a very cool ancient king costume. I know he has a ton of haters but the guy still has one of the best entrances in the business. The Undertaker wasn’t outdone and had a real cool entrance himself. Triple H got the second biggest pop of the night up to this point besides Austin and that includes The Rock. The crowd was really into this one.

The match started off as a brawl, just like their WresleMania 17 match. Less than a minute in and they hit the floor. Triple H tackled Undertaker through the Cole Mine so I guess that angle is officially over. Both guys went back into the ring brawling. For all of their injuries both guys looked really mobile early on.

The Undertaker went “old school” but Triple H took a page out of his mentor Ric Flair’s WrestleMania X8 game plan and reversed it. They went back to the floor which saw Triple H toss the dead man into the barricade. Five minutes in and both announcers’ tables were in play. The Undertaker reversed an attempted pedigree on the table with a big back drop. Hunter flew off the table to the floor in what will probably be the WrestleMania moment of the night. Lots of action for the first five minutes.

The Undertaker hit an awesome suicide dive onto Hunter which will give their previous WrestleMania moment a run for the money. The match slowed down quite a bit at this point. These guys are throwing everything out there. Triple H reversed a charge and gave The Undertaker a cool spine buster onto the table. This is probably the best WrestleMania match Triple H has ever had.

The Undertaker got a close fall back in the ring with a chokeslam. Triple H caught The Undertaker with a second spine buster in the ring for a close fall. Triple H brought a chair into the ring which was countered by Taker. Taker used it and nailed Hunter on the back. Hunter nailed a pedigree out of nowhere that got a count so close I thought the match was over.

These two never slowed down. Undertaker got a real close fall with a Last Ride powerbomb. Fifteen minutes in and The Undertaker slashed the throat calling for the end. Triple H kicked out of a tombstone and the place went crazy. He is really Superman isn’t he? Well JR says it is “amazing will” so we’ll go with that.

Triple H changed the tide with a DDT on the steel chair. Triple H was definitely on the receiving end a lot more than The Undertaker in the match. Hunter nailed a second pedigree which saw Taker barely kick out to another pop. This match has definitely stolen the show.

The announcers started putting over damage to The Undertaker’s neck. Could the streak be ending? Taker kicks out of yet another pedigree. No, HE is Superman! Trips returned the favor and nailed The Undertaker on his back with the chair. JR wants to nominate the chair to the WWE Hall of Fame. No less deserving than Drew Carey so why not?

Both guys finally slow down at around the 25 minute mark. Triple H yelling at The Undertaker to “stay down!” Triple H nails The Undertaker on the head (now that is how to take a protected chair shot) in the center of the ring but doesn’t cover. The Game continues yelling at Taker to stay down and tells him to “just die.” The Undertaker responds by grabbing Hunter’s throat. The Undertaker can barely stand.

Triple H his a tombstone on The Undertaker and yes, Taker kicks out. I admit I thought it was over at that point. Triple H in shock. This is good but at the same time it is getting a bit ridiculous. Out comes the sledgehammer from underneath the ring at about the 28 minute mark. Taker instead catches a hesitant Hunter with the gogoplata out of nowhere. Triple H can’t find the hammer. He finds it and drops it. The Game taps at around 30:00!

This match rivaled both HBK vs. Undertaker WrestleMania matches and was arguably better. Some will argue that the amount of near falls got a bit ridiculous and it did, but it was no different than HBK vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania 25.  This was just a tremendous match and I would be absolutely shocked if they don’t come back with a rematch next year with Career vs. Streak. The Undertaker had to be taken to the back with a cart without moving.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Trish Stratus and John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool). Good luck following that one kids. Vickie Guerrero announced her group. Snooki got a very tepid reaction coming out. It looked like half the crowd went to the concession stands. In all fairness to these guys and girls, anyone would have had a hard time grabbing the crowd after the last match.

At one point Stratus and McCool fell off the ropes to the outside and it didn’t look like a planned spot. It ended up well but that is something that could have turned ugly.

Snooki was booed big time when she finally tagged in. She came in doing a hand spring elbow that believe it or not looked pretty good. She pinned McCool with a cartwheel into a splash. Snooki actually won back some of the crowd with the hand spring. This one was over pretty quick.

The Miz defeated John Cena to retain the WWE championship. Cena came out to a gospel choir and had a video longer than the last match about God and praying. The cynic in me thinks that the WWE pulled this thinking fans wouldn’t boo a guy coming out to a gospel choir and a video about praying. Think again WWE! Cena was booed and booed worse than Snooki. It should also be noted that Cena has dropped the purple colors in favor of a more masculine red.

The crowd argued quite a bit early on who sucked more. The Miz does his best Triple H imitation and tells Cena to “stay down” in the early going.  Back and forth basic stuff between both guys early. The crowd isn’t into this one at all early on. Cena and Miz turn it up five minutes in as Cena nails a leg drop off the top rope.

The guys missed a horrible spot in the middle of the match with Cena seemingly falling out of nowhere. I can’t recall seeing a botched spot that bad in a WrestleMania main event. Hey, it happens but talk about bad timing. And yes, this match is really disappointing in terms of WrestleMania headliners but let’s face it, the best is yet to come.

Cena escapes an Attitude Adjustment 9 minutes into the match. Cena going for all of his finishers at the 10 minute mark and The Miz has avoided them all. The Miz removed the top turnbuckle. Cena finally gets an STF at the 11 minute mark but The Miz uses the ropes to break the hold.

Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale after Alex Riley throws Cena into the exposed turnbuckle. Cena kicks out. Miz goes for another  and Cena reverses and throws him into the referee by accident at about the 12 minute mark. Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment but no referee. Alex Riley nails Cena with the briefcase but Cena kicks out. Crowd starting to come alive. Miz kicks out of a big Attitude Adjustment. The announcers are trying to put over his resilience. Good luck.

Both guys outside the ring. Cena clotheslined The Miz into the crowd. Cena proceeds to tackle him and the two hit the floor, although the WWE cameras missed it. Both guys are counted out and The Miz retains. I smell something cooking!

The Rock finally returns and the crowd is happy to see him. The RAW G.M. chimes in. The Rock reads the email and mocks the G.M. The Rock says WrestleMania is not over. The Rock as Guest Host restarts the match and makes it No DQ. The Rock says it is time to give the people what they want. The match is back on!

The match restarts and The Rock gives John Cena the Rock  Bottom! The fans go nuts chanting “Rocky!” The Miz takes advantage and covers John Cena for the win. A predictable, yet exciting finish to the match. It seemed as if the fans were just waiting for The Rock to come out and do something.

The Rock and The Miz had a staredown which saw The Rock hit the ring and lay the smack down on the WWE champion. The Rock dropped a People’s Elbow on The Miz and then hit the turnbuckles to celebrate.

Overall I’d say it was a pretty good WrestleMania. The WWE definitely made a mistake not closing the show with Triple H vs. The Undertaker. Even with The Rock, the main-event still felt flat having to follow Hunter and Taker. The undercard was pretty good with Cody vs. Rey being particularly fun as well as Edge vs. Del Rio. Cole vs. Lawler was terrible and went way too long. John Cena is a lost cause right now and either needs to go full heel or rescue a few babies from burning buildings on RAW to get some fans back.

As great as I think the stuff has been with The Rock and Cena I think they overplayed their hand just a little bit. I think fans expected the finish and Rock Bottom which really killed a lot of the match. In my opinion, Cena and Rock should have been kept separate until WrestleMania. That way the fans wouldn’t know what to expect.

The Rock is scheduled for RAW tomorrow night. This all has to end at some point with The Rock vs. John Cena. I hope they don’t water it down with a 3-Way and throw The Miz in. At this point I don’t think there is any way out of this other than the big match. Maybe Cena can do something drastic tomorrow to buy some time and “injure” The Rock until he comes back. Either way tomorrow night is going to be a very interesting night.

The ending really did kill for the show for a lot of people. I have talked to a few friends that hated it purely on the way the show ended, last match, etc. I get it and I agree that it sucked. I just think that if you look at the entire show it really wasn’t that bad and was probably one of the better ones in recent memory.

Finally I can’t say enough about The Undertaker vs. Triple H. As stated above, I think it may be slightly better than any of the WrestleMania Michaels vs. Undertaker matches. It was easily Triple H’s best Mania match. The finish left the story wide open for a rematch next year. The prospects of a year long build similar to HBK vs. Undertaker WrestleMania 26 are very enticing.

And their WrestleMania 28 rematch can’t come soon enough.

Full WrestleMania 27 results
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan ended in a no contest (dark match)
Edge retained over Alberto Del Rio in a WWE world title match
Cody Rhodes pinned Rey Mysterio
Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston beat The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, and Heath Slater)
Randy Orton pinned CM Punk
Michael Cole defeated Jerry Lawler via disqualification
The Undertaker defeated Triple H in a No Holds Barred match
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Trish Stratus and John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool)
The Miz pinned John Cena to retain the WWE championship

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WrestleMania XXVI: Somehow, Some Way, I Made It

April 02, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-We are LIVE from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2010 for WrestleMania XXVI. Well, not me. I’m inside a one story house with a decently-furnished living room in South Jersey that belongs to my brother Josh, and we’re joined by friends Dave and Rob for this historic evening. Funny that our childhood heroes are all wrestling: Undertaker for Rob, Bret Hart for Dave, Shawn Michaels for me, and Vince McMahon for Josh (don’t ask).

-It should be noted that my feelings on this show may change in six months, as I’m writing this while coming off of the fumes of adrenaline from having just watched the show live. It’s like on IMDb when the users go see a hit movie, and then all run home to vote “10″ on it immediately. So tune in this September when I re-review the show and go back on everything I said.

-Fantasia Barrino does America the Beautiful, although she’s merely billed as “Fantasia” on her title card. Good to see the rules of one-name WWE divas also apply to guest singers. You could apply this logic to any diva from American Idol: Fantasia, Kelly, Katherine, Carrie, Clay….

-Missed the opening video, because our food just arrived. Mmm, buffalo chicken wrap….

-I should note the ominous Aztec-ish tower that makes up the entrance way. Very chilling, in a sense. One year, they should have a giant wicker man at the entrance way. Then they can invite Nicholas Cage and attack him with bees. That’d just be epic.

- Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker helm the desk this year. Presumably, Striker’s there to explain to Lawler what the storylines on Smackdown are. Hey look, the Spanish Announce Table’s back! You know what THIS means.

-The show kicks off with ShowMiz defending the Unified Tag Team Titles against John Morrison and R-Truth. I would assume that if Truth wanted a surefire tag team partner, he would have just gone with Pacman Jones, since Jones was undefeated in TNA. Besides, WWE can overplay the kiddie element and dress Big Show as one of the ghosts from the Pacman game and….alright, I’m rambling.

-They’re really rushing through this, which is the perils of a 10 match show with lots of downtime being squeezed into four hours. On an up note, at least The Miz made it onto the actual show this year. I’d think after a year of stabbing a Kid Rock voodoo doll with pins, he’s earned this showcase.

-After hearing the story that John Morrison went into some online chat and called John Cena a boring champion, I was ready to lay some odds on who was getting pinned. Will Justin be right?

-Big Show pins Morrison with the KO punch. Hey, Justin was right! Match was rushed, not even four minutes long. I think that was the fastest opener in WM history to be honest. Eh well, at least Miz got a chance to shine. He came to play, you know. Good to Show win a match at WrestleMania, since that happens about as often as TNA making through a show without production gaffes.

-AXXESS footage. Seeing Bret Hart at the annual WWE fan fest just seems….wrong.

-Next is the triple threat between the members of Legacy, they being Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Ted Dibiase. You know you’re the jobber of the group when you’re demoted from your normal theme song to a stock theme that you haven’t used in two years. Poor Cody Rhodes. His creamsicle go-go dancer look just isn’t going to cut it.

-This reads like a handicap match, as Rhodes and Dibiase are united against Orton, who, despite playing a borderline psychotic for about two years, gets the big face pop. Then again, the fans pop whenever a female heel gets beaten up, regardless of the who the attacker is. WWE: making antisocial behavior acceptable since 1958.

-Orton does his best to fend off both men, and the crowd’s getting kinda lukewarm to this. I think it’s partially because no one’s ever taken Rhodes and Dibiase seriously as heels, despite their great matches with DX last year.

-Legacy has a miscue on a high-low on Orton. Is it just me, or could Dibiase’s father have afforded to buy him some coordination and timing training? Dibiase’s about as awkward as a Fritz Von Erich Father’s Day card.

-Dibiase and Rhodes have the inevitable rift and have a fight outside the ring that vaguely resembles the slap fight that Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch had in the movie Dick. They were playing Woodward and Bernstein, which means that Orton better make like Ben Bradlee and interject himself before this thing falls apart.

-Orton spikes both of his former flunkies with the double rope hang DDT, which Cole has never seen before. Damn it, Cole, what were you doing at WrestleMania 24 during the Raw matches? Have a VINTAGE FLASHBACK and let me know.

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-Punt for Cody, and an RKO for Dibiase ends it for Orton. Decent match, but it was hard to take Rhodes and Dibiase seriously as threats. Orton’s got the face momentum now, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go with it.

-We get a backstage segment involving Santino Marella where Mean Gene Okerlund winds up in a dress. I knew Mean Gene’s Burgers was a money pit, but how low WILL Okerlund stoop to recoup his lost funds? Call the hotline to find out!

-Next up, the sixth annual Money in the Bank ladder match, with ten, count em, ten participants: Christian, Kane, Matt Hardy (back to regular pants due to his waistline expansion), Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston (who did…..something…..with his hair), MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Drew McIntyre (thankfully without overdone entrance), Jack Swagger (only missing “Living in America” for his song), and Dolph Ziggler.

-Is there a kayfabe reason for Kane’s black eye? Or did he get accused of breaking up Randy Savage’s marriage to Miss Elizabeth?

-Match begins with a mad scramble up the ladders, looking like a TNA X Division match. Except in the X Division rendition of such a match, you’d have to hang the briefcase, pin 3 people, and then recite the alphabet backwards to win. Oh, TNA, you wacky innovators.

-Swagger, it occurs to me, looks like Charlie Haas if Haas was Corky on Life Goes On. I apologize to all mentally challenged people. I didn’t mean to compare you guys to Jack Swagger.

-Dolph messes up a Zig Zag off the ladder, and shortly after Kane powerbombs Kofi onto a leaning ladder. This is a rather ambitious MITB match, as we’re hoping to set a new standard for collective amount of nerve damage.

-In a swank spot, Swagger gets impaled under a ladder by Christian and Hardy wielding ladders, and Christian, Hardy, and Bourne try to climb, but Swagger manages to bring the tower down. Well, innovative, if nothing else.

-Kofi Kingston decides to top everyone by using a ladder that was broken in half, and tries to use it as a pair of stilts to walk toward the briefcase, but sadly it was not meant to be. Man, how high do you have to be to come up with THAT spot? Well, it IS Kofi….

-Kane and Hardy fight on the ladder, as I wonder if the hand of Lita is once again at stake between these two brooding Romeos. Christian helps Hardy take Kane out, and then Matt goes by the wayside, and Christian goes for the goods, but Swagger belts him with the briefcase, before taking forever to unhinge it and….gets the win? If you had Swagger in your pre-show prediction list, congratulations you LIAR. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. My guess is he’s going to try to get his ECW Title back from Ezekiel Jackson in a match that would kick off just about any decent edition of Smackdown. Great spots, but lacking connection. Still, I loved it.

-I’d like to thank Drew McIntyre for his 48 seconds of participation. No wonder the office has faith in him.

-The Hall of Famers get their due: Stu Hart, Wendy Richter, Mad Dog Vachon, Antonio Inoki, Bob Uecker, Gorgeous George, and Ted Dibiase. The viewing party is convinced that Stu’s actually still alive, and just made sure that Smith Hart went to the ceremony just to get him out of the house so he can change the locks. It’s a good theory as any.

-By the way, Howard Finkel…..#26! Go Howard!

-Triple H and Sheamus is next, and Hunter’s entrance is longer than the opening match. Take that Morrison, you entrenched midcarder, you. Lawler mentions that losing at WrestleMania to Triple H has the power to change your life for the worse. Finally, Lawler and Booker T can agree on something.

-Triple H manages to slap on a figure four, and Michael Cole even talks about how Hunter learned that from Ric Flair. He can say Flair’s name?!? I think Vince is too busy warming up, so Jim Ross is on headset feeding these things to Cole and is trying to get him fired.

-Sign in the crowd: “HHH FEARS DIVORCE”. Why, wouldn’t he want custody of Lucy, the chronically crapping dog?

-Just before Triple H hits Sheamus with a face-to-knee buster, a fan screams “FACE BUSTER!”. It’s like that TV show Early Edition, except people under 35 are actually watching this match. Crowd’s really divided too, which is a bit shocking, since they haven’t booked Sheamus right. Maybe it’s all just sympathy cheers? Maybe.

-Sheamus manages to land the pump kick, but it’s not enough, as Hunter rallies with the Pedigree to win. Decent match, even if the Great Satan did win. Maybe Hunter should put his career on the line against Taker’s streak next year. Wait, no, then Taker won’t have a streak left! Think, Justin, think. Don’t make rash suggestions like that!

-I truly think Sheamus’ next step is to form a tag team with Rikishi called Potato Salad. The kids will love it!

-Slim Jim ad, which features the two kids turning into ninjas. Were they the same ninjas who kidnapped Samoa Joe on camera? Tune into Impact and find out!

-CM Punk and Rey Mysterio is next, and Punk preaches on the way to the ring. Always a good listen. Rey’s costume du jour: Avatar. But if he was truly Avatar, wouldn’t he be engaged to Tiffany and display no sense of human emotion whatsoever? I know, I’m mean.

-Rey gets caught in a tree of woe, but Punk slides in and winds up splattering his crotch against the ring post. Punk would regain the upper hand, however, and cover Rey for what should have been a three count, if not for a timing miscue. Crowd’s starting to die off a bit, which is a growing trend for these stadium events. If you’re not a real fan and you’re not into the characters, then maybe you just shouldn’t go. Hey, if I plunk down hundreds of dollars on a ticket, I’m gonna be screaming during Zack Ryder vs. Santino Marella, ok?

-Where was I? Ah yes, Punk nails Rey with a sick roundhouse kick. Always good to hear the sound of boot on vinyl mask.

-Rey manages to springboard off the ropes and land a DDT on Punk, although it was botched as Punk’s head got flattened too much. They show it on replay twice, and Lawler comments on how “beautiful” it was. Hey, if the man thinks that botches are beautiful, then certainly I’m not one to argue.

-Despite the best efforts of the Straight Edge Society, Rey gets the 619 and falling headbutt to finish Punk off. Match was abbreviated, but still really good. At least Rey doesn’t have to pledge to a straight edge lifestyle now. BRING ON THE QUAALUDES!

-Next up, Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon in a no holds barred match. I always loved that the fans who love Bret the most bring signs for him, and then spell his name “BRETT”. Way to show your devotion and appreciation, you miscreants.

-Vince brings out the Hart siblings and the Hart Dynasty as lumberjacks, since he’s paid them all off to help screw Bret over. Legendary loser Bruce even gets to be the referee. Great, expect about 15 low blows in this one. At least Bruce finally found work in WWE after, what 20 years of campaigning?

-In a twist, Bret reveals that the Harts are all on HIS side, and that Vince has been conned. Let the beatdown begin!

-So Bret proceeds to beat the crap out of Vince, and the current generation gets their shots in on the floor. David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd land a modified doomsday device on the outside, and Kid BOUNCES Vince’s head off of the floor. Tyson Kidd, we wish you well in your future endeavors. I look forward to seeing him in TNA with his new name Holyfield Mann.

-The match is slow, but who cares? It’s Bret beating up Vince. The only way to make this more entertaining would be if the Harts pulled a Blue Blazer costume onto Vince and then threw him out of the rafters. Wait, is that wrong? Screw it, I’m enjoying myself. Perhaps too much.

-Bret gives Vince about 58 low blows and then slaps on the Sharpshooter for the win. If the match isn’t going to be any good, then it better cater to my base instincts. In this case: Bret beating Vince up. Five stars, Justin’s happy, onward we go.

-Justin “Softspeak” Roberts announces the crowd at 72,219. Nothing’s going to top the drawing power of WrestleMania III, let’s face it. Hercules and Billy Jack Haynes is just too strong from a historical standpoint, anyway.

-Edge-Jericho highlights. We even get footage of renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews as he works on Edge. Do you think Dr. Andrews watches TLC and Money in the Bank and Hell in a Cell matches with glee, knowing that he’s one botched move away from some wrestler going to Birmingham and financing his next house? I’ll bet he subscribes to Botchamania on Youtube. What a sadist.

-It’s just a weird premise for this feud, basing it around Edge saying “spear” to Jericho to try and get into his head, and then getting the fans to play along. Chanting “spear” would be good right about now, since the crowd’s more reserved than my room in Hell.

-The fight spills outside and Edge slams Jericho into the table. I think our Spanish co-horts are in for a shortened evening, like always.

-Back inside, Jericho manages to apply the Walls to try and weaken Edge’s bad leg. The last time Jericho defended a World Title at WrestleMania against a muscled up blonde babyface with a bad leg with a dead crowd….well, it didn’t end well for Chris.

-After Edge won’t give in, Jericho tries a lionsault, but lands on his feet, only to eat an Edge-o-Matic for 2. Good spot.

-Jericho’s spear fails, and then Edge tries one, but flies right into a Codebreaker. Jericho goes back to the Walls, and applies a single leg version on Edge’s bad wheel. Crowd’s finally coming to life through sheer will of the performers.

-Both men fall to the outside off of an Edge clothesline and, after Edge accidentally hits the ref while on the apron, Jericho waffles him with the belt for 2. A Codebreaker, however, ends it and Jericho shockingly retains. Afterward, an irate Edge sets up Jericho on the American announce table, and then runs off the Spanish one to spear him into the timekeeper’s pit. What a sore loser. Match was really good, best of the night so far.

-You know you’re insane as a fan when you think Jack Swagger’s gonna run in right now and win the belt from Jericho. Sadly, the moment is lost.

-Highlights are shown of the pre show battle royal, which was won by…..Yoshi Tatsu? Man, Linda McMahon’s really aching for that Asian-American vote, isn’t she? The last time a Japanese born wrestler won ANYTHING at WrestleMania, Funaki had a 2 minute reign as Hardcore Champion. Sad, really.

-Time wasting ten diva tag is next, with Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, and Eve facing Michelle McCool, Layla, Alicia Fox, Maryse, and Vickie Guerrero. About time, we’d waited all night for this.

-After a sequence of nothing but finishers (some of which almost hit properly), Vickie lands a frog splash onto Kelly Kelly, who can’t even take a pin properly. Thankfully, Vickie does get the pin and becomes the third Guerrero to win at WrestleMania. Junk match, but who cares? In a moment of blind hysteria, Josh, Dave, and I ran around celebrating Vickie’s big moment. Because that’s what WrestleMania does to us civil, working-class folk.

-Still, thank you, WWE, for Mickie James in jeans. I won’t complain as much this coming year, I promise.

-Cena/Batista video. All it was missing was Batista’s immortal “HUGGING FAT GIRLS” line. Cena should have hugged Vickie Guerrero, just to drive the point home.

-Cena’s super special entrance: an Air Force crew performs an honor guard routine. The fans boo, and I think it’s funny that fans in Arizona boo military personnel in a city where Pat Tillman is such a hero. If you’re going to boo Cena, wait till he comes out. Show some class, please?

-Signs in the crowd: “NORWAY HATES CENA”. Things I know about Norway: it had the Olympics once, and it’s way the hell far away from my house. So there you go.

-Slow start to a match I was really looking forward to. Cena tries to Adjust Batista’s Attitude, but Batista spikes him with a sick DDT for 2.

-We get the boo-yay-boo-yay spot, and of course Cena’s on the losing end of it. Hey, it’s not Cena’s fault that Santino Holmes got both feet in the end zone last year. Deal with it.

-Batista spinebuster = one of the most underrated moves there is, especially when he does his sudden stand up after hitting it. Good stuff.

-Cena lands a Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top, which could be a tribute to Shawn Michaels and his flying fistdrop as a Rocker. I’d like to think so.

-Batista lands the Batista Bomb for 2, and makes the greatest face in the history of faces. Cena then lands the Attitude Adjustment for another 2 count. Another Batista Bomb fails, and Cena hooks the STF to make Big Dave tap and to give Cena his ninth World Title. Really good match, up to the standard of the Summerslam match. Cena cheeses next to a fan in the front row who’s wearing an anti-Cena shirt. Say what you will, but John Cena knows how to roll with the punches. It’s why I like him.

-Shawn-Taker video is next. I’ll bet the crowd’s fully awake now.

-Shawn makes his standard HBK entrance, and the fans are behind him almost 100% The question is, can they have enough guts to have Shawn end the streak? Either way, it’s going to be talked about for a very long time afterward, I can assure you.

-Undertaker rises up through the stage, wearing a hood like some giant, gothic version of AJ Styles. All Undertaker needs is Ric Flair to show him how to cut whacked out promos.

-Taker and Shawn have a staredown. If Taker’s going to win, he’d BETTER say “I’m sorry….I love you” before the final Tombstone. I repeat: he’d BETTER say it.

-Taker manages to land Old School early on, which plays into the usual theory of “get everything out of the way that’s minor, so that the slate is clear for the REALLY heavy stuff”. Brace yourself, folks, history’s about to be made.

-Shawn attempts a Crossface on Taker. I’d make a tasteless joke, but I’ll just say that it’s already been proven effective in the real world, so you know it’s just as deadly in the kayfabe planet as well.

-Taker gets a legdrop on the apron, prompting what I believe is Cole’s first “VINTAGE” of the night. Shawn does get a Figure Four though, paying homage to the man whose retirement apparently isn’t sacred. Just saying.

-Shawn lands the forearm and the kip up, but Taker drops him with a chokeslam for an early near fall. Shawn begins to work Taker’s leg, and even manages to snare him into an ankle lock. What, is Shawn going to do the finishers of everyone in TNA? If Shawn hits the Gringo Killer on The Dead Man, I’m a fan for life.

-Taker kicks off the ankle lock with two boots. The first kick straightened Shawn’s eyes, and the second one distorted them again. Shawn’s eyes are like a demented snow globe.

-To the outside, where Taker manages to spike Shawn with a Tombstone on the concrete. First one since I believe Jake Roberts ate one at WrestleMania 8. Trainers try to tend to Shawn, but Taker’s having none of it. He brings Shawn in for 2. Taker tries the Last Ride, but Shawn counters into an X-Factor for 2. It’s TNA Appreciation Night! Someone come up with some kooky stipulations!

-Taker applies the Hell’s Gate, and Shawn counters it into a pinning predicament for 2. Once up to their feet, Shawn pastes him with Sweet Chin Music for 2. Shawn tries for another one, but Taker turns it into a Last Ride for 2. I’m starting to sweat, and I’m not the only one in the room.

-To the outside for what could be Shawn’s last deadly spot ever. He lays Taker out on the table with Sweet Chin Music and then goes up top, coming off with a moonsault to put Taker through. SICKNESS. If Shawn’s going out, he’s doing it the only way he knows how: stealing the show.

-Back inside, Shawn gets another Sweet Chin Music, and can only get 2. Shawn tries for yet another superkick, but Taker clasps the throat and sends Shawn to Hell with a chokeslam. No pinfall attempt, as Taker scrapes HBK up and drops him with a Tombstone for 2, just like last year. Taker’s livid and frustrated and this place is unglued.

-Taker drops his straps, but stops, as he’s now hesitant to finish Shawn off, due to the respect involved. Taker implores Shawn to stay down, but Shawn mocks him with the throat cut gesture, and then hauls off and smacks Taker across the face. Taker goes into beast mode, lifting Shawn and hitting a deadly leaping Tombstone for the win and the end of Shawn’s career. After a slow getting-up period, Taker embraces Michaels and the crowd, of course, eats up this moment.

-Taker leaves so that Shawn can have his curtain call, and he does so mostly with a smile, as, unlike most, he has no baggage left. He’s the best at what he does (or did), and has a family at home waiting for him, with plenty of money in his savings. If this is the end of Shawn Michaels as an active wrestler, then it’ll be a long time before any single performer comes along that can top him in this line of work. When that happens, my grandkids may be in a nursing home.

-CYNIC SAYS: Again, I’m completing this review just hours after the show ended, so there’s nothing to look back on with stern 20/20 hindsight and definitive judgment. From a live perspective, a good time was had by my friends and I, which is positive. The two World Title matches featured great story telling, Shawn and Taker may have hit ‘five stars’ (ask me again in six months), Money in the Bank was exciting, Rey/Punk and Hunter/Sheamus were both good matches, and Bret beat the crap out of Vince. For the most part, as of the morning after, I feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth.

Again, time will tell on WrestleMania XXVI. But for right now, let’s call it a thumbs up show with a smile.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XXVI: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 02, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVI
From University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ
March 28, 2010

BACKGROUND
One of the biggest differences between WWE and TNA is that when WWE utilizes older wrestlers, it’s to their maximum.

In the fall of 2009, TNA went ahead with a considerable end-run to bolster their roster, with the target of running a monster three-hour episode of Impact, live on Monday, January 4, up against Raw.

To sweeten the pot and lure in casual fans not familiar with TNA, the company brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to be major players, while negotiating with Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Ric Flair, and Jeff Hardy, as well as other familiar faces.

WWE, knowing that TNA was going to bring their best laid plans to that Monday night, countered with something that would shock fans all over the world.

On January 4, 2010, for the first time in over twelve years, Bret “The Hitman” Hart would return to Monday Night Raw.

WWE Fans didn’t know what to think. Bret Hart, really? The same man who, while he’d done a few side ventures with WWE in recent years, had a rocky relationship with the company that embarrassed him on PPV with the “screwjob”? The same Bret Hart that locked horns with the company when the two sides became embroiled over who was responsible for the death of Bret’s brother, Owen?

Indeed, Hart showed up on January 4 in Dayton, OH, where he’d won the 1993 King of the Ring tournament.

To add to the surreal nature of Hart even standing in a WWE ring, he called out longtime nemesis Shawn Michaels. Hart had Michaels removed from the 2006 Hall of Fame ceremony, not wanting him there to witness his speech.

On this night, Hart and Michaels shook hands, and then embraced with a hug, dropping the jaws of fans around the world.

Only in WWE.

THE EVENT
Edge made a surprise comeback after a near six-month injury layoff, and won the 2010 Royal Rumble from the #29 spot. Edge waited to pick the champion he would face, and it paid off when he selected Chris Jericho, who won the World Heavyweight Championship three weeks later at Elimination Chamber.

Jericho and Edge had won the Unified Tag Team Titles in the summer, and then Edge bowed out with the mentioned injury. Jericho chose Big Show as his replacement, and then would off-handedly slag Edge for his shortcomings. Edge would taunt Jericho with threats of spearing him, getting the fans to yell, in Pavlovian fashion, “SPEEEEEEEEEAR”. Jericho’s improbable title win on February 21 meant he might have to eat his words at WrestleMania.

On the opposite brand, John Cena won the Raw Elimination Chamber match, winning Sheamus’ WWE Championship. Immediately after the grueling contest, Vince McMahon, who was on bad terms with Cena after he’d stood beside Bret Hart (explanation forthcoming), sent Batista to the ring for an immediate title match. Batista mauled Cena to win the belt within seconds.

Cena had a chance for a WrestleMania rematch if he could beat Batista in a non-title rematch the next night on Raw. Batista got himself disqualified intentionally, due to his hatred of Cena, his success, and what he stood for. In fact, Batista made it clear that when the two men had their skyrocketing career paths parallel each other just several years earlier, Cena got more love and Batista admitted that he was jealous.

Batista also made it clear that Cena had never, ever beaten him, and promised that WrestleMania, in front of the world, would be no different.

But back to Hart, Vince McMahon had assaulted him at the end of the January 4 Raw, continuing the bad blood that had existed since 1997. McMahon would spend over two months ripping Hart for hanging onto the past, claiming that he’d made “The Hitman”. Bret, however, would get a chance at revenge as he’d challenged Vince to a street fight.

McMahon accepted, but after Bret attacked him, Vince would renege. After Hart was then injured in a car accident backstage, McMahon would accept, thinking Bret was too hurt. However, after Vince signed the contract, Hart proved that his injuries were merely a ruse to get Vince to agree, and that the accident was all a set-up. Hart would have his chance to get 12 years worth of revenge after all.

Speaking of revenge, Shawn Michaels had some in mind as well.

Michaels lamented not ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak one year earlier, and became obsessed with doing so.

Shawn Michaels had cost The Undertaker the World Heavyweight Title at Elimination Chamber, doing whatever he could to get a rematch at WrestleMania, so that he could end the streak. After weeks of hounding “The Dead Man”, Michaels finally got Undertaker’s attention. However, Undertaker would only accept the match if Michaels agreed to put his career on the line.

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Michaels implied acceptance, saying “If I can’t beat you….I have no career.”

Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker called the action from ringside. Fantasia Barrino performed “America the Beautiful”. Entering the WWE Hall of Fame were Ted Dibiase, Antonio Inoki, Wendi Richter, Mad Dog Vachon, Gorgeous George, Stu Hart, and Bob Uecker.

THE RESULTS
Unified Tag Team Championship: The Miz/Big Show def. John Morrison/R-Truth in 3:24
(Miz and Morrison get a “make up call” from one year earlier, and get to be on the actual show. Of course, it gets 1/3 of the time as their dark match from last year. Life’s just not fair)

Triple Threat Match: Randy Orton def. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in 9:01
(This was decent, and did what it was supposed to do in elevate Orton, but Rhodes and DiBiase’s slap fest was so horribly goofy that it became hard to take either man seriously. Some Mania debut for both)

Money in the Bank: Jack Swagger def. Kane, MVP, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre, and Evan Bourne in 13:44
(Swagger was an interesting choice for a winner. And by “interesting”, I mean “odd”. He’d become World Heavyweight Champion two nights later in one of the most forgettable reigns in recent memory)

Triple H def. Sheamus in 12:09
(Ever feel like Orton and Hunter were punished for their crappy main event from last year by being stuck in the first half of the show? Match was pretty good, actually. Sheamus deserves more love)

Rey Mysterio def. CM Punk in 6:30
(Damn good match, but way short. Mysterio had to go “straight edge” if he lost, as if that were a heelish thing to have to do. “How dare that villain infringe on Rey’s right to take HGH! That cad!”)

Lumberjack Match: Bret Hart def. Vince McMahon in 11:09
(All of the Hart siblings, as well as the Hart Dynasty, surrounded the ring for a match in which Bret slowly and meticulously stomped Vince and beat him with a chair for eleven minutes. Well, it’s fine by me. By the way, look at the match’s time. What date was Montreal again? 11/09! CREEPY!)

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho def. Edge in 15:48
(Like Jericho’s previous WrestleMania World Title match, this had no heat, seemed a bit awkward, and is not often remembered. It’s a shame, because it was a pretty good match, but Edge’s entire face schtick centered around him bellowing “SPEEEEEEEAR!!!” which does nothing for anyone)

Michelle McCool/Layla/Vickie Guerrero/Maryse/Alicia Fox def. Mickie James/Beth Phoenix/Kelly Kelly/Gail Kim/Eve Torres in 3:26
(The last major WWE appearance of Mickie “Lesbian Stalker” James. I’ll always have the memories)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Batista in 13:31
(A bit abbreviated, but still a damn good outing. Cena and Batista have pretty good chemistry when they’re not bogged down by pointless stipulations, as they were in subsequent rematches. Batista’s face when Cena kicked out of the Batista Bomb is a sight to behold)

Career vs. Streak: The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels in 23:59
(Not quite as “epic” as last year’s match, but epic nonetheless. Gah, I’m splitting hairs here. This was a great match, and a great way for Shawn Michaels to go out. I hope, unlike Flair, he stays retired and lets his tremendous legacy tell the story of how amazing a performer he was. I hope when Undertaker retires one day, he has the sense to do the same. Great ending to the show)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
I never would have guessed, in 2010, that we’d see Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels wrestle on the same show ever again. Hart and Michaels were, at one point, both retired simultaneously, until Michaels found the itch to wrestle again in 2002.

Hart’s match wasn’t really a match as it was a slow beating. Michaels’ match was an enthralling epic, considered the best match of 2010.

But for both men, WrestleMania XXVI was about closure.

For Hart, it was about giving the fans “one more match”, the one he’d wished for at his Hall of Fame speech in 2006. Sure, it wasn’t anything great, but it was one more Sharpshooter in front of millions of fans, as a way of putting some of his bitterness into his past.

For Shawn Michaels, it was one last great performance. The most talented wrestler the world has known stole the show once more, from peers young and old. He could now rest his battered body forever.

A photo surfaced one day after WrestleMania with both Hart and Michaels smiling, congratulating each other after the show had ended.

If you can think of a more appropriate portrait for this show, I’d like to see it.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XXV: Miz Gets Bumped? Not Awesome!

April 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-And so, I come to the end of this journey. Twenty four in the bag, and the most recent example sits before me, waiting for either my venom or my coddling. I think back to one year ago when I watched this show with my usual crew of my brother Josh, our childhood friend Dave, and my schoolyard chum Rob, so this rant will try and conjure up some memories from last year’s party. After all, since we all disliked this show so much a year ago, maybe one year will give us more time to be appreciative?

-Probably not.

-Anywho, let’s go back a year to April 5, 2009, as WrestleMania XXV takes us to Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. This year, the show reverts to a simple three man team of Jim Ross, Michael Cole, and Jerry Lawler covering the event. If there’s something in this world that isn’t “reliant”, it’s the idea of Michael Cole working an entire four hour show.

-Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls sings America the Beautiful. I think the remaining members of the Dolls, as well as the Black Eyed Peas and Destiny’s Child members not named Fergie and Beyonce should form a support group. I think they’re all headed that way.

-On the pre-show, Carlito and Primo defeated The Dirt Sheet Duo of John Morrison and The Miz to unify both sets of Tag Team Titles. I like all four men, and I was primed to see it happen on the actual card since, after all, it was booked for it. However, because of time constraints, this got bumped, and none of us figured it out until we saw the promo for the main event. Well, if we couldn’t get a tag team match featuring four wrestlers I like, and I’m footing a serious chunk of the cable bill, let’s see what was deemed more worthy of PPV time, shall we?

-We open with Money in the Bank, as we’ve returned to eight men this year, since nobody pissed purple into the cup. We have Christian, Kane, CM Punk, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Kofi Kingston, and Mark Henry as the crew this time around. I won’t lie, when I try to recall each participant in this match off the top of my head, I remember that there were four white guys and four black guys and that makes it easier. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not.

-After Henry and Kane take everyone down due to their hossiness, Christian and Benjamin use a ladder to clothesline them down, and Kingston high jumps over it, and then dropkicks the ladder into both men. Could be a coming out party for Kofi.

-The little guys climb and Kane and Henry knock the ladders over. This is called “establishing the pecking order”.

-Onto the traditional ‘dive parade’, where even Mark Henry teases one, but Finlay stops him. Oh come on, Finlay just didn’t want Henry to overshadow everyone with his Shooting Star Press. I’ve seen it, it’s epic, really. Shelton tops them all with a senton flip off of a painter’s ladder in the aisle. Crazy stuff.

-Oh look, Hornswoggle’s here to fill my veins with coursing rage. He dives onto the pile and knocks everyone over, despite weighing maybe 120 lbs tops. Again, if you ever laugh at midget antics, I will eviscerate you on sight.

-Kofi’s mission: steal the show. First he uses a ladder for a jungle gym kick on Finlay, and later he climbs a ladder that Henry holds while closed. If ever somebody was obviously doing everything in their power to become a main eventer, it was Kofi Kingston. I’m pulling for em too.

-Punk and Christian both get involved again, and Christian takes Punk off of the ladder with the Unprettier, although they mess the landing up. When two of your four or five favorite wrestlers blow a spot at the biggest event of the year, prepare for the worst.

-Then Benjamin climbs a ton of interlocked ladders and tries to sunset powerbomb MVP off, and they blow that as well. Not a good sign.

-Finally, Kane chokeslams Christian off, and Punk kicks Kane off to claim his second briefcase in a row, although the crowd is less than enthused. I love that they boo an ending because they all assumed somebody else would win (Christian?), but then over the next year, Punk reinvents himself as a hell of a heel, and is more entertaining as a result. Of course, the catalyst to all that was winning this match. Eat it, know-it-alls. Match was good, but probably the worst MITB to date.

-At this point, my DVD edits out Kid Rock’s concert, which was around ten minutes long and, well, sucked. Much like the instance of Mickie James playing grab-the-trout with Trish Stratus being edited off of WM22′s DVD, I was going to go to Josh’s and demand the original tape so I could watch it and provide an accurate look back but….ummm…no.

-As Kid Rock finishes “So Hott”, the divas for the 25-diva battle royal make their collective entrance. They don’t even get formal introductions, which I think is a little sexist and insulting, and are just herded out there. Well, ladies, here’s your moment of recognition: Beth Phoenix, Melina, Maryse, Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, The Bella Twins, Eve, Gail Kim, Jillian Hall, Katie Lea Burchill, Layla, Maria, Natalya, Rosa Mendes, Tiffany, as well as past divas Jackie Gayda, Molly Holly, Sunny, Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Joy Giovanni, not to mention one other participant that I’ll reveal. Soon. In this next paragraph.

-A weirdo in drag dumps out Beth and Melina to become the winner, which is….Santina Marella, the “sister” of Santino. From the fall of 2007 until this moment, Santino Marella became the funniest, and most original, performer in the entire business, making me laugh at least once a week when he’d appear. But now, being shoehorned into this lame attempt at comedy, this was the end of Santino as far as an unbreakable entity was concerned. Unfunny, lame, and contrived. A dark cloud was definitely hanging over this show.

-At this point, the viewing party and I agreed: at least there’s still the Tag Team Title match to look forward to. Oy.

-Jericho-Legends recap is next, with spliced footage of “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke. I’m shocked that WWE Films didn’t create their own version called “The Sports Entertainer”, where the performer never gets hurt, lives a clean life, and lives happily ever after. You know it’s not beneath Vince, right?

-Mickey Rourke is spotted at ringside with fighters Frank Shamrock and Josh Barnett. Shame Barnett never transitioned into wrestling, because he has the look. Sadly, history showed that the look may conflict with a wellness test.

-So Chris Jericho is in a three on one handicap match against Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, and Jimmy Snuka, and he has to pin all three of them to win. The legends are backed by Ric Flair, which would be an impressive array of talent if this were 1986.

-Piper insists on starting, and swears so loudly and brazenly that the censors are really earning their pay here. Has anyone in wrestling history ever been so insanely, car-wreck-esquely entertaining as Roddy Piper? Methinks not.

-Jericho gets tired of having to work with Snuka and Piper, who are just awful. He makes Snuka tap out with the Walls, which Snuka sells by tapping his hand as if he were patting a child on the head. Piper goes about a minute later after Jericho’s running enzuigiri. But that wasn’t before Piper threw one of the worst dropkicks in recent memory. Even Droz can do a better one these days.

-Steamboat gets in there and, at age 55, he’s so incredibly fluid. Steamboat lands a crossbody, his trademark lightning fast chops, a skin-the-cat, and even a pescado to the floor. The horridness that took place when Piper and Snuka were in there has been washed away.

-Steamboat counters the Walls, but Jericho lands the Codebreaker for the win. Bad first half, fun second half. After Jericho beats up Flair in a post-match skirmish, he gets punched out by Mickey Rourke to give the world its Entertainment Tonight/Access Hollywood video byte. Hooray for that, I guess.

-Hardyz video recap to hype their feud, which was basically “Hey Jeff, I burned down your house and killed your dog, so there’s no way we’ll ever like each other again, unless business lags and there’s still a market for Hardyz merchandise a few months from now, in which case we can forget all of this ever happened”. So yeah.

-Matt Hardy makes his entrance first, with Tommy Dreamer’s body and Edge’s tights. Wow, did Matt ever put on the pounds or what? Well, I guess when you have a lot of hate mail from past co-workers to respond to and post blogs about, there’s a lot of downtime and a lot of Taco Bell to eat. Anyway, this match is under “Extreme Rules”, which reader Hanzo helped explain the intricacies of. Thank you, Hanzo.

-Jeff gets an early stair assisted dive on the floor, but tries a similar version in the ring to no avail. He then tries Whisper in the Wind, but Matt nails with a chair on the descent. NICE. I mean, ouch.

-Matt pulls a Shop Vac out from under the ring, which I’m sure Jeff could find a creative use for. Alas, it makes a handy weapon. Matt also stretches Jeff against the post, because Matt is a repressed 35 year old emo with love handles. All he needs are the teardrops painted on his cheek.

-Jeff soon after makes his comeback, placing a trash can over Matt’s head, and then smashing it with a crutch. I thought Matt WAS his crutch?

-Swanton misses, and Matt lands the Twist of Fate for two. Matt goes up top, but Jeff suplexes him off. In terms of their WWE history, this is by far the best match these two have had with each other. Really, it was either this or that pungent crap at Vengeance 2001.

-On the outside, Jeff lays Matt out on a table, places another table over top of him, and then dives off the top rope, sandwiching his brother between the two tables. I wonder if there were any repressed childhood memories fueling the rage of each man, like Matt flushing Jeff’s body paint down the toilet, or Jeff calling Matt pretending to be Lita and asking him if he was free Saturday night. You know, stuff like that.

-Jeff brings in his typical gi-normous ladder to do a crazy dive onto Matt instead of, you know, just going for the pin. Of course, Jeff wipes out and misses the leg drop. Then Matt gets ingenious and wedges Jeff’s head through a chair to hit the Twist of Fate for the win. Sick ending, and a damn good brawl. I liked it better than MITB personally.

-JR on the ending: “Matt has ruined another moment at WrestleMania for his brother!”. I dunno, Jim, when Jeff eschews the pin so that he can do a crazy dive in order to wow the fans, I think he ruined his own moment. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.

-Meanwhile, Randy Orton is backstage engaging in mental preparation, while Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase stand there to earn their paychecks. “And…..cut! Good work, checks are in the room”.

-Next up, the first Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania in seven years, as JBL defends against Rey Mysterio. Mysterio comes out dressed as The Joker, which prompts Jim Ross to make the inexplicable line “I think Rey’s career is alive and well” in regards to Heath Ledger. Ross would apologize later, but MAN was that quote weird.

-For those of you excited to see the IC Title return to the big dance, you had 21 seconds to enjoy it as Rey lands the 619 and diving splash in about 20 seconds to win the title. Why so short?

-JBL retires after the match, and has so far kept his word. I have to admit, I miss the big lug. He was a perfect heel, and I respect a lot of his politics as well. But, then again, he’s too smart to have to spend another day in the industry, so good on him.

-So let’s recap: worst MITB to date, bad Kid Rock concert, worse divas battle royal, ancients looking ancient, and a short IC Title match. So tell me why Carlito, Primo, Miz, and Morrison were relegated to being there before the curtain was jerked?

-Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker highlight package. With my crew getting a little restless, we knew that this match was to be counted out to save the show. We just didn’t understand the far reaching circumstances that it would create.

-For their special entrances, Shawn Michaels descends from Heaven with angelic music blaring. Once grounded, “Sexy Boy” kicks up and Michaels makes his way to the ring. If you’re watching a Shawn match, and you keep telling yourself that it’s the greatest match you’ve ever seen, then, nine times out of ten, he’s losing. Shawn has to steal the show in a losing effort always, in order to justify his next push. And you know what? I have no problem with that.

-Undertaker makes his entrance by rising from the depths of Hell, which is carny for “under the ramp”. I wonder if he found one of Gangrel’s discarded chalices under there.

-Shawn’s attempt to beat the streak begins as you’d expect with him playing David to Taker’s Goliath, getting in his shots and then moving quickly. Taker soon powers him into the corner and begins to maul, even as Shawn tries to feign a leg injury to bide some time. Taker plants him with a gorilla press to shut him up, however.

-I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you know you’re in for an epic match when they get all of their classic spots out of the way early. For instance, Taker just drilled Michaels with Old School. Not messing around tonight, I see.

-Taker misses a corner charge, and tweaks the knee, so Shawn goes to work on it, getting his figure four. Taker manages to break free, however. I’d probably laugh if Taker tapped out not five minute into the match to end the streak. What the IWC do? Probably catch fire.

-Taker mounts a comeback, dropping Michaels with snake eyes and a charging boot. A chokeslam, however, is countered into a Crossface by Michaels. If Shawn represents Heaven and Taker represents Hell, which one do you think Benoit sides with? Sorry, sorry, I should know better. Sidewalk slam finally breaks it.

-Shawn goes into his routine, hitting his flying forearm, kip up, and Manhattan drop. Shawn tries for the big elbow, but Taker sits up and catches the throat. VERY nice. Shawn breaks free and tries for the SCM, but Taker drops down to avoid. So Shawn goes for another figure four, but Taker pulls him down into Hell’s Gate. Well played, zombie man. Shawn makes the ropes, however.

-To the outside where the cat and mouse game continues, and Taker ends up eating the guardrail off of a baseball slide. Shawn’s attempt at a moonsault to the floor misses as Taker side steps. Then comes one of the most infamous moments in a famous match in wrestling history.

-Taker goes back inside and tries for the super zombie dive, but Shawn pulls a cameraman (actually Sim Snuka aka Deuce in disguise) into the path of Taker. However, they miss the mark and whereas Deuce was supposed to break Taker’s fall, the Dead Man ends up head-planting like a javelin. All of us in Josh’s living room went deathly quiet, because I’m sure we all thought Taker broke his neck, at the very least. Scary, scary moment. Deuce would never appear on TV again, and was actually future endeavored in June, but I really don’t see how that spot was his fault.

-Shawn implores the ref to begin counting Taker out, which is a good heel move, but Taker rolls in on 9. The match continues.

-Taker avoids the SCM and gets a chokeslam for 2. Shawn avoids another chokeslam, but then gets the intended Sweet Chin Music for 2. Shawn then counters one Last Ride, but not a second one, as Taker just SPIKES him. However, Shawn gets out of it on 2. I’m in amazement, even a year later.

-Taker misses a diving elbow, but manages to chuck Shawn over the top. Michaels skins the cat, but Taker clasps onto his body and gets the Tombstone, but Shawn gets the shoulder up on 2! The place comes unglued, and Taker’s look of abject shock is an iconic moment, almost on the level of Austin’s bloodied face from WM13. I’ll go that far, yes.

-Shawn counters another Tombstone into a DDT. Shawn lands the big elbow and then a Sweet Chin Music, but Taker kicks out now. Shawn can’t believe it and begins exchanging the soup bones with Taker. Taker knocks him into the corner, but Shawn counters the charge. Shawn tries a desperation moonsault, but Taker catches him and drops him with one last Tombstone for the win, and to extend his record to 17-0. Just an incredible match from start to finish, and one that won’t be soon forgotten, thanks to the efforts of both men. Having seen this again, I hope they learn their lesson for this year and put the two men on last. It’s only appropriate, given the hype and the implications.

-What do you mean the show’s not over?

-Hey look, Evander Holyfield’s in the crowd. Anyone think the day would come where Mike Tyson would be more coherent than him?

-World Title match hype, with Edge defending against John Cena and Big Show. The crux of the angle is that Vickie Guerrero was two timing famed two timer Edge in favor of Big Show, and thus the alliance to bring down Cena was looking weak. In other words, this was the ‘Shampoo Commercial’ of World Title match builds.

-Cena’s special entrance: hundreds of Cena clones come out to “Basic Thuganomics” and line the aisle in a nod to Eminem’s performance at the MTV Awards in 2000. Hey, Vince is up to 2000 in terms of comprehending pop culture! I look forward to this year’s show when Cena does something involving Confessions by Usher, just to show that 2004 isn’t TOO far out of Vince’s grasp.

-Standard triple threat stuff ensues, but it’s hard to get into when the angle is so bad. I mean, after Show gets tied in the ropes, Cena and Edge should just do the rest of the match themselves. Without an atrocious angle, it’s a license to make the fans content, right?

-Edge spears Vickie by mistake. Ugh.

-Show knocks Cena out with the Skillet Hand, and then tries to chokeslam Edge through the announce table, but Edge DDTs him on the floor. Finally, something of substance. Then Edge leaps off the steps and spears Show through the retaining barrier. NOW we’re talking.

-Cena manages to get Edge into the STF, but Show helps Edge make the ropes. Cena manages a Throwback on Edge, and then goes up top, but Show shoves him off into the path of Edge’s spear. Edge is singlehandedly making this match watchable.

-Edge tries a sleeper on Show for some inexplicable reason, and this allows Cena to get all 700 pounds onto his shoulders. Edge falls off and Cena drops Show with the Attitude Adjustment. Then Edge gets one onto the prone Show, and Cena covers Show for the win and the title. It just felt so anticlimactic after Shawn and Taker’s match, which is the danger of having such a great match go on early like that. However, it was more than solid, and Edge held it together well enough. Call it ‘decent’.

-Hall of Famers get their spotlight, with the Funk Brothers, Bill Watts, Koko B Ware, Howard Finkel (#25!), the Von Erichs, Ricky Steamboat, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin then rides his four wheeler to the ring and toasts JR to basically signal the end of his days in wrestling, as he has it in him to go into action movies. I love Austin, so more power to him.

-Crowd is announced at 72,744. Ever seen 72,744 people silent before? Get ready.

-Hype for HHH-Orton. I’m going to get very annoyed reviewing this, so I figure I’ll just warn you in advance. Such a brilliant storyline that got Orton over as a slimy punk who assaulted everyone in Hunter’s extended family, including his father-in-law (with the best Punt EVER), his brother-in-law, and his wife and mother of his children. You’d think a match like this would be overbooked to the gills to include the two months of drama that took place, but hey, we all make dumb assumptions, right?

-HHH had a solemn moment with Vince and Shane backstage before the match, and then makes his entrance by throwing his sledgehammer through a mirror. Oh, Hunter, you bad ass, you.

-Early on, the ref tries to prevent Hunter from going too far, and Orton lands an RKO. He doesn’t cover, however, because he wants to look cool and nail him with the Punt. The number of wrestlers badly influenced by Jeff Hardy is staggering.

-Hunter hits a Pedigree and both men are out. Well, there goes the exciting portion of the match. It’s been real, yo.

-Hunter aggressively takes over and the fans just die off. It’s like they’re waiting for something drastic and tense to happen, given the nature of the angle, but for now, Hunter and Orton are just going through the motions of a normal wrestling match. Weird strategy.

-Orton takes over, but not from a heightened, dramatic moment. He just methodically takes control and the crowd continues to die off. What am I watching here?

-Orton hits a powerslam to give the match some life. Then he applies a chinlock. In math equations, 2 + 2 = 4, but 4 – 157 = a freaking negative. Good one, Randy.

-The two exchange counters and try for their finishers, which is fine, except it’s not enough to revive the fans. The only thing the crowd seemed to like was Orton hitting HHH with a dropkick as he came off the top.

-On the floor, Orton counters a Pedigree by backdropping Triple H onto a table. At the very least, I had Orton winning to look forward to. I was hoping, anyway.

-The ref is bumped inside and Orton hits the RKO but, hey, no ref. Orton gets Hunter’s Sledge and tries to bring it in, but Hunter manages to hit his own Punt. After cracking Orton with the weapon and discarding it, Hunter pounds Orton into oblivion and then lands the Pedigree for the win. Wow, really? The most anticlimactic 20 minute match that I’ve ever seen at a WrestleMania, and not a sense of any soap opera fun with the McMahons or Legacy possibly wreaking havoc. The crowd doesn’t even care that Triple H won, either, and he’s supposed to be the big babyface star. What a mess.

-AC/DC, get us the hell outta here.

-CYNIC SAYS: So the tour of twenty five ends not with a bang, but a whimper. There was quite a bang NEAR the end, with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stealing the show, and there were some redeeming qualities in the early going with Money in the Bank and the Hardy Party, but for the most part, WrestleMania 25 felt like an exercise in Murphy’s Law.

The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania was actually the 24th anniversary, so the show’s miscues and errors begin with the promotion of the name. There was enough to salvage it as a memorable event, but not enough to make it live up to it’s usual standard of excellence. Still, it’s an enjoyable event.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Repost – HBK and Undertaker Steal the Show at WWE WrestleMania 25

April 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Whether WWE WrestleMania XXV lived up to the standards set of past WrestleMania shows is debatable. There were the usual WrestleMania celebrities. There were the usual grand entrances by WWE superstars. But overall, the show itself was a toss up among most fans. However there was no debate as to who had the best match on the show. Once again, Shawn Michaels lived up the moniker of “Mr. WrestleMania.”

Shawn Michaels and Undertaker had what will go down as a 31 minute WrestleMania classic. These two hadn’t missed a beat since their exciting series of matches over ten years ago. The match was just simply great and had 70,000 plus going nuts from entrance to finish. The old dogs showed the current class of wrestlers what stealing the show at WrestleMania is all about.

The match had a pretty quick pace throughout most of the bout. There were some throwback spots in there that old-school fans could appreciate. For one, Shawn Michaels took a WrestleMania XI-like backdrop from Undertaker. Second, the two used a spot right out of their Hell in a Cell match by getting a gimmicked cameraman involved. The spot will probably be most remembered for Undertaker landing right on his head.

That wasn’t the only glitch of the match. After kicking out of a Tombstone, Michaels reversed another attempt into a DDT. The move didn’t seem to be noticed by the live crowd. Thanks to a genius in the production truck, a replay was shown immediately thereafter of the botch. The director who called for that shot should probably be getting his resume ready today.

Both men traded and hit all of their signature spots. Michaels even pulled out some new tricks which was nice to see. In the end, Undertaker caught Michaels in the midst of a Moonsault Block. Undertaker reversed it into another Tombstone. Unlike the previous Tombstone, Michaels never kicked out of the subsequent pin. Undertaker now goes to 17-0 and the WrestleMania streak continues.

My second favorite match of the night was actually the Elimination Match between Chris Jericho vs. Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, and Ricky Steamboat. Well not the match itself, but the moments between Jericho and Steamboat. Snuka and Piper really need to stay away from the ring. I loved these two guys growing up, but it is really painful to watch them in 2009. Ricky Steamboat was another story altogether.

Steamboat had not had a wrestling match in about fifteen years. As one of the greatest of all-time, I really worried that he’d embarrass himself. Steamboat did not embarrass anyone but the guys that had to follow him. Steamboat looked fantastic and held his own with Jericho. I am almost tempted to see a singles match between Steamboat and Jericho at Backlash. Jericho beat Steamboat, but Steamboat looked absolutely fantastic in my opinion.

The second most remembered WrestleMania moment will probably be the return of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin drove an ATV to the ring and drank a ton of beers to the crowd’s delight. I can’t imagine another WWE superstar in our lifetime reaching the kind of popularity he has. Triple H and Randy Orton followed this, which was quite a task for the main-event.

The celebrities were in attendance as usual at WrestleMania. Kid Rock performed a near 15 minute set. This brings up a story of my own from a few months back. I remember seeing a sign for Kid Rock performing in A.C. on the highway. I said to my girlfriend, “Who in their right mind is going to see Kid Rock in 2009?” To me, this just goes to show how completely out of touch with music that the WWE is. Paul Heyman has written about this in his column and this was a perfect example of this. Maybe they can book Limp Bizkit for next year at this rate?

Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler was the show-stealing celebrity. Rourke sat ringside with a few MMA fighters. Jericho challenged Rourke to get in the ring. Rourke did, and cold cocked Jericho with a punch. I wouldn’t call this pathetic, but I wouldn’t call it a great moment either. Ric Flair quickly ended this by pulling Rourke off of him. Thank God they didn’t go with the planned match.

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The rest of the show was a mixed bag. I thought the Hardy vs. Hardy match was a bit disappointing. The Extreme Rules really hampered these guys from doing what they do best. The match almost looked like a bad independent hardcore match. The storyline about Matt killing Jeff’s dog is just way too ridiculous at this point. It’s time to move on to another chapter. I also thought it was rather insulting of the announcers (I’m sure at Vince’s request) to categorize this as a more heated brother-rivalry than the Harts.

I didn’t particularly care for either of the two main-events. John Cena pinned Big Show to win the WWE world title. Triple H retained the WWE championship pinning Randy Orton. There will probably be some controversy coming out of it since he used a sledgehammer. CM Punk won Money in the Bank for the second year in a row. I could try and explain that one for the next year and probably couldn’t come up with anything. I would expect something with him and either Edge or Randy Orton in the near future.

Full Results:
WWE Champion Triple H def. Randy Orton
John Cena def. Edge & Big Show (New World Heavyweight Champion)
CM Punk wins Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Chris Jericho def. WWE Legends
Matt Hardy def. Jeff Hardy (Extreme Rules Match)
Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels
Rey Mysterio def. JBL (New Intercontinental Champion)
“Santina” Marella wins 25-Diva Battle Royal for title of “Miss WrestleMania”
WWE Tag Team Champions def. World Tag Team Champions (New Unified Tag Team Champions)

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WrestleMania XXV: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXV
From Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX
April 5, 2009

BACKGROUND
There have been many to criticize WWE for not knowing their history, often distorting facts and erroneously relaying anecdotes with the frequency of a con man on the witness stand. But this time, WWE is going to be taken to task for its poor math skills as well.

WrestleMania XXV was dubbed “The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of WrestleMania”, which implies that WrestleMania began in 1984. While one may argue that the idea for event’s inception may have come from the year of Ronald Reagan’s re-election, the first event, clearly, took place in 1985.

“The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of WrestleMania” was a repeated phrase, used dozens of times per broadcast in the weeks leading to the April 5 bonanza. It seemed almost apropos that a company would get something wrong, and then to their guns, continuing to get it wrong night after night, week after week, in every medium in which WrestleMania was advertised.

WWE can make its audience run a gamut of emotions, from “high satisfied to the point of pledging lifetime loyalty” to “wow, what made them think THAT was a great idea?” A misnomer in advertising would merely be the tip of the iceberg for a show that held high expectations.

Since WWE was demonstrating their ability to make continued miscalculations, it makes sense that they would bungle a number of other roads to their grand spectacle.

In the two world title matches, one would feature a nonsensical home invasion incident that would serve to take the story’s villain and reduce him to being a weakened oaf. The other would see the hero reveal a love triangle that featured the champion, his shrill authoritarian wife, and a seven foot monster.

Thankfully, there was one historically great match that would keep the show out of the landfill of wrestling’s mismanaged atrocities.

THE EVENT
Randy Orton would win the 2009 Royal Rumble, adding another brick to his well-built newer persona. Orton had ditched his generic “evil jock” routine, and was now bent on playing an unstable creep, whose deplorable random acts of violence were facilitated by intermittent explosive disorder (IED). The condition came to the forefront six days before the Rumble when Orton, about to be fired by Vince McMahon for insubordination, struck the boss, and then delivered a vicious punt to his head.

Orton would then target the McMahons further, horribly injuring Vince’s son Shane, and then dropping daughter Stephanie with an RKO. The latter act was done as a message to the WWE Champion, Stephanie’s husband Triple H.

After Hunter broke into Orton’s house and attempted to maim him with a sledgehammer, Orton one-upped the champion by DDTing Stephanie a week later, while Hunter was handcuffed to the ropes. Then, to punctuate his misdeed, Orton kissed Stephanie’s lifeless face while Triple H could only scream at him helplessly.

Over on Smackdown, Edge had finagled his way into becoming World Heavyweight Champion the same night he lost the WWE Title. After being eliminated from Smackdown’s Elimination Chamber at No Way Out three minutes into the match, Edge attacked Kofi Kingston and took over in the Raw match, outlasting champion John Cena and others to win the title.

In order to keep Cena out of the title picture, Vickie Guerrero inexplicably announced that Edge would defend the World Heavyweight Title against Big Show at WrestleMania. Cena, however, interrupted the signing by whispering something to Vickie, who then canceled the signing abruptly. Cena then was inserted into the match, as it was revealed that Vickie and Big Show had been having a discreet affair, and Cena had used video proof to extort his way into the match.

Speaking of depravity, Matt Hardy had double crossed his brother Jeff, costing him the WWE Title in January. Hardy had tired of Jeff stealing the spotlight designed for both Hardy Boyz, and would sign to face him in an Extreme Rules match at WrestleMania.

Also on the demented side, Chris Jericho’s obsession with the movie “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke, had brought him to rail against legendary figures who hang on for too long. Jericho would violently assault Ric Flair, Jimmy Snuka, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Ricky Steamboat, leading to him signing for a three-on-one elimination match against the latter three Hall of Famers. Rourke would be in attendance as well.

On February 16, Shawn Michaels def. JBL in a match where the winner would have the right to challenge The Undertaker for WrestleMania, with a chance to end his streak at stake. Michaels would try to outduel Taker with the mind games, pointing out how “The Phenom” never once pinned him, and also tried to get in his head with religious overtones. Michaels was content to break his nice-guy facade, one upping The Undertaker with sneak attacks in the winding weeks as well.

Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole called the entire event as a trio. Nicole Scherzinger performed “America the Beautiful”, while Kid Rock performed a song medley. The Hall of Fame saw inclusion of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ricky Steamboat, Cowboy Bill Watts, The Funk Brothers, The Von Erichs, Koko B. Ware, and Howard Finkel

THE RESULTS
Money in the Bank: CM Punk def. Kane, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Finlay, Christian, Kofi Kingston, and Mark Henry in 14:24
(The fans actually booed when Punk, still a face, won. That may have been the catalyst for one of my all time favorite heel runs in wrestling history. Match was solid, but nothing great, thanks to some very awkward spots)

25 Diva Battle Royal: Santino Marella won, last ousting Beth Phoenix and Melina in 9:26
(I refuse to dignify this crap any further. You can’t make me)

3 on 1 Handicap Elimination Match: Chris Jericho def. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat in 8:53
(Jericho’s point about legends needing to go away was vindicated by Piper and Snuka wrestling like, well, Piper and Snuka. Steamboat looked amazing for having a 15 year layoff, and he and Jericho salvaged a crap match with just four minutes of work)

Extreme Rules: Matt Hardy def. Jeff Hardy in 13:13
(An underrated match sees both men have as violent a spotfest as possible. Hilarious moment: Jeff misses a pointless ladder leg drop, Matt hits a chair-wrapped Twist of Fate (which looked SICK), wins, and JR screams of how Matt has ruined the moment for Jeff. Uhh, Jim? Matt’s trying to win too)

WWE Intercontinental: Rey Mysterio def. JBL in 21 seconds to win the title
(The first time the Intercontinental belt is defended in the “WWE” era at WrestleMania, and it goes twenty one seconds. What a way for JBL to go. I did enjoy Rey’s “Joker” tribute though)

The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels in 30:41
(If not for this match, we’d be talking about WrestleMania XXV the same way we talk about WrestleMania IX, or even an orphanage burning down. Just dramatic as could be throughout, and it deserved all the accolades that it received. It’s one of the five or ten greatest WrestleMania matches ever, and it saved the show)

World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Edge and Big Show in 14:42 to win the title
(It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as it did have a number of creative double teams and wild moments. But Cena winning (again), Show jobbing (again), and much of the action just seemed so derivative. It was alright)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Triple H def. Randy Orton in 23:34
(They decided to blow off one of their hotter angles with a slow, awkward, punch-filled alleged brawl in which the crowd, all 70,000+ of them, was totally dead. Orton losing failed to get any kind of reaction, and you’ve noticed that Triple H hasn’t been involved in a major World Title program since)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
There was a Tag Team Title unification match scheduled for the show, with John Morrison and The Miz taking on Carlito and Primo, but due to time constraints, the match was relegated to the pre-show. Those fans who didn’t check the internet during the show didn’t realize the match had already taken place until near the end of the night.

It seems about right that WWE would take four hard working young talents and excise them from the main card in favor of the Divas Battle Royal, which had a 10 minute concert that no one liked, followed by 10 minutes of insulting “wrestling”.

This is one of those nights where WWE seemed to not know what the fans wanted. Triple H won to no reaction. John Cena won, again, to the misery of his detractors. Piper and Snuka waddled through the motions while the two aforementioned teams got pushed aside.

But at least, with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the fans were treated to a half hour of no pointless swerves, no cutesy self-congratulation, and no overbooking to build to another show. Instead, two of the greatest wrestlers in history wrestled, and they wrestled well.

So at least we had that.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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