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Posts by tag: Matt Hardy

4 weeks ago

Top Five WWE Money In The Bank Matches

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The WWE Money in the Bank match has produced some of the most exciting moments of the last ten years. The glorified ladder match features daredevil heroics, extreme punishment, and intense action. Today I look back and celebrate the top five Money in the Bank matches in WWE history.

I don’t think anyone realized in 2005 when the WWE announced the first Money in the Bank match the significance this match would have on wrestling history. Stars were made, history was written, and memories have been cemented forever thanks to this innovative match. With two new matches around the corner I thought today would be a great time to look back and count down the top matches in MITB history. Since we aren’t quite ten years into MITB I went with a top five as opposed to a top ten. Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or want to mention your favorite Money in the Bank match memory.

Edge defeats Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, Christian and Kane – WrestleMania 21

I can’t think of another MITB match that was more exciting than the one at WrestleMania 21. I think the big difference here was that it was the first. The match just had more intensity and crowd emotion than any other due to the fact that nobody knew what to expect. The match was full of crazy spots that fans hadn’t seen before or lumped into one match. It is hard to replicate the element of surprise that the first match had at 21. Spots like the Benoit diving headbutt and Benjamin running up the ladder had fans stunned in amazement at this new kind of match.

Not that this should be part of the criteria but it also had the biggest impact in regards to elevating a star. Edge won and once he cashed in became an established WWE elite superstar for the rest of his career. No other winner has taken as much away from this match as Edge did in 2005.

Mr. Kennedy defeated CM Punk, Edge, Finlay, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Booker and Randy Orton – WrestleMania 23

I liked this match a lot and even though it was one of the longer MITB matches, it kept me interested from bell to bell. Edge and Orton bumped up the star presence here while the Hardys brought a ton of excitement to the match with the anticipation alone of what these guys would do in this environment. In terms of MITB moments, the spots between Jeff and Edge were some of the best in MITB history. Jeff’s jump on Edge is arguably the greatest spot in MITB history. What those guys did alone made this match great, yet it was a great effort from all back at 23, and the surprise winner in Kennedy was a nice touch.

CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 24

I was surprised at how much I liked this match when I went back and watched all of the old MITB matches. On paper it looks pretty average but these guys went far beyond anything I expected going into the match. It did get a little spot-crazy at times but that is to be expected in such a match. Shelton Benjamin really stepped it up here and John Morrison was in his element, delivering a moonsault with a ladder in his hand at one point. Matt Hardy’s spectacular 20-foot Twist of Fate remains the highlight of this match for me.

Alberto Del Rio defeated Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Alex Riley, R-Truth, The Miz, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger – Money in the Bank 2011

I debated a bit about the four spot here but in the end I went with the RAW MITB match from last year’s memorable show in Chicago. This match delivered on a lot of levels with the guys going out of their way to give fans plenty of breathtaking memories. Between Evan Bourne’s shooting star press 20 feet in the air, The Miz falling off the ladder, Mysterio and Kofi’s double leap, and Rey Mysterio getting unmasked, this was one of the more fun Money in the Bank matches. The hot Chicago crowd certainly didn’t hurt this one from entering the top five either.

CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Finlay, Mark Henry, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 25

I struggled quite a bit with the final spot here. I went back and forth between this one, last year’s MITB match, and the SmackDown match from the Chicago 2011 pay per view. In the end, the MITB WrestleMania 25 match was just too good to leave off the list. Shelton Benjamis was the show stealer in this one giving fans some of the best spots of the night in this match. One moment in particular saw Benjamin leap off the ladder placed in the aisle onto his MITB opponents. Watching these MITB matches reminded me how good Benjamin was and had me wondering why he isn’t the WWE today! Kofi also had his moments, one in particular had Kofi deliver a kick through the side of the ladder and climb the ladder while it was closed. Another saw Kofi run up the ladder and fall into a World’s Strongest Slam. Christian also had his moment hitting an Unprettier to Punk off the ladder. This match had a lot of great moments and is often one of the more underrated matches of the MITB series.

WWE: United We Slam – Best of Great American Bash

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4 weeks ago

Matt Hardy Talks Recent WWE Cuts and More

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You never get a dull interview out of Matt Hardy. The returning TNA superstar sat down for a recent Straight Shoot interview on YouTube. Hardy checks in via YouTube and offers some interesting opinions on recent news including WWE cuts.

Matt spent a lot of time talking about the recent WWE cuts. Here are some of the highlights of the 25-minute interview.

Matt was most surprised that Drew McIntyre made the list of recent cuts, as are a lot of people. Matt thinks he got caught up in the 3MB gimmick and wound up on a certain path. He described it as a bad break. He’d like to see McIntyre in Ring of Honor or TNA.

I have to admit that I am somewhat surprised at the overwhelming support for Drew McIntyre. He has received universal praise as an underrated and under-appreciated talent throughout the IWC and his peers. I must have missed it because I never saw it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets called back at some point, especially if he flirts with one of the other major U.S. companies.

Matt wasn’t surprised at any of the other cuts. Matt tells the guys and girls that there is life after WWE. He points to Ring of Honor doing well. Matt refers to TNA as still “walking along” which if you see him give his answer, his body language tells you what he really thinks. He also points to the numerous independents as an option for released talent.

It’s a candid interview with interesting insight on one of the hot topics in the business today. Check out the video for more.

WWE: United We Slam – Best of Great American Bash

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

1 month ago

Top 25 WWE Ladder/TLC/Money in the Bank Matches In History

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These Top-25 lists are picking up steam, so I’ll take the WWE approach of beating a good thing into the ground. With Money in the Bank coming up, it’s a good idea to look back at two decades-plus of WWE’s greatest ladder matches, and figure out what the best of the bunch truly are. There’s no bad matches to be found here; every entry is rewatchable time and time again. With TLC and Money in the Bank upping the ante of the classic ladder match, this list will cover a lot of ground, and no doubt provide a little argument fodder. Enjoy!

(Note: this list only includes matches which ended with the retrieval of a belt, briefcase, etc. As such, the TLC 2012 match with The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No is excluded. Otherwise, it’d have likely been top ten).

25. Chris Jericho vs. Christian – Vacant Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Unforgiven, September 12, 2004)

Edge was forced to abdicate the gold after one of too many injuries in his career, so brother/’best friend’ Christian was called in for the match to fill the vacancy. Jericho suffered a bizarre injury of his own during the match, in which the ladder slammed into his anal orifice (hey, he makes it sound worse in his second book), but ended up winning a fairly lengthy match. In the end, Jericho was merely used to transition to gold onto a flourishing Shelton Benjamin.

24. Kane vs. Big Show vs. Matt Hardy vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 18, 2010)

Firmly in the ‘let’s shoehorn gimmick matches into the secondary PPVs so that gimmick matches have less meaning’ era, Money in the Bank’s come away unscathed, thanks to the car-wreck spectacles that never get old. In this case, the maiden match of Money in the Bank’s spin-off event hit its mark, with a dose of big man psychology. Show and Kane were natural targets by the smaller competitors, while Show used a custom mecha-ladder for climbing.

23. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (TLC, December 16, 2012)

Ziggler put his previously-earned briefcase on the line (stay tuned for that), and, as is modern custom, lost to Cena in several matches on Raw prior to the PPV contest. Just as naturally, Ziggler took his usual laundry list of wild bumps through the course of the match, before winning as a result of AJ Lee shoving Cena off the ladder. That’d be Ziggler’s lone win of relevance over Cena, but Dolph memorably cashed in four months later on Alberto Del Rio.

22. John Morrison vs. Sheamus – Ladder Match (TLC, December 19, 2010)

Forgotten in the dogpile beneath main event-and-celebrity over-focus, Morrison and Sheamus had themselves a nifty little feud late that year, and a title shot at The Miz was at stake. Akin to the Razor/Michaels matches of yore with the larger adversary throwing around the nimble stud, Morrison gradually overcame the odds and won in dramatic fashion after Sheamus attempted to tip the ladder. Sadly, the Morrison/Miz bout is just as forgotten as this great match.

21. Mr. Kennedy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. King Booker vs. Finlay – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXIII, April 1, 2007)

Before Damien Sandow came along to look unceremoniously weak in failing in his cash-in against John Cena, there was Mr. Kennedy to lose his briefcase to Edge in a Raw quickie, following a Kennedy injury. The WrestleMania opener had plenty of intrigue, with a host of realistic winners. Jeff’s seated dive through Edge and a bridged ladder is cringeworthy, yet hilarious for the sight of brother Matt encouraging him to do it, then reacting as horror as Jeff lay hurt.

20. Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Christian vs. Tensai vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Sin Cara – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 15, 2012)

Another case of a heel being so much fun to watch that the crowd can’t help but cheer for them, the fans in attendance went berserk over Ziggler bumping Christian off a ladder in the end so that “The Show Off” could claim the briefcase. The match also seemed to be a coming-out party for Kidd, whose acrobatics finally had the forum for which to shine. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus sustained early in 2013 would sideline Kidd for almost a year, halting any push.

19. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, Triple Ladder Match (WrestleMania 2000, April 2, 2000)

The ‘unofficial’ TLC match (the official moniker for such matches wasn’t coined until SummerSlam that year) was the brightest bulb of a shockingly-dim WrestleMania. A quiet crowd most of the night, the fans memorably buzzed for the Dudleyz setting up the table bridge across two ladders inside the ring. Some of the slower spots haven’t aged well, thanks to innovation and improvement, but there’s still plenty of sick spots to marvel at.

18. Edge vs. John Cena – WWE Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (Unforgiven, September 17, 2006)

A bit of a shocker when Edge went over Cena in Cena’s Boston backyard at SummerSlam, but that only meant Edge would return the favor in his native Toronto. The visual of Edge being AA’d off of a ladder through a double stack of tables would remain a fixture in WWE’s “don’t try this at home” PSAs for quite some time afterward. Seems as though out of all of Cena’s frequent opponents, only Edge matches CM Punk in creating consistent greatness with Cena.

17. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk – World Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 23, 2009)

Given what a merchandise vessel Hardy had become for a company that loves its multiple revenue streams, it’s hard to believe Hardy would be gone by week’s end, with no return five years later. Punk’s victory transitioned into his tepid feud with The Undertaker, beginning immediately after the match as “The Dead Man” performed a supernatural body switch with a downed Hardy. In 2009, it was astonishing that Punk could win any PPV main event.

16. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio – Vacant World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (Extreme Rules, May 1, 2011)

What a weird time period for WWE. Edge vacates the championship three weeks earlier upon his hasty, very real retirement, and a top contender’s match is made for the PPV. The crowd heavily bought into Christian, and a dramatic finish saw Edge providing timely interference to offset that of Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay. Christian winning the gold was possibly the biggest pop of his career, so naturally he lost the title to Randy Orton two nights later.

15. Paul London/Brian Kendrick vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. MNM vs. William Regal/Dave Taylor – WWE Tag Team Titles, Ladder Match (Armageddon, December 17, 2006)

Teddy Long punched up this one by adding the Hardyz and MNM, as well as the ladder modifier, seconds before the bell rang, I suppose in an effort to get non-buyers to purchase the show at about 8:23 EST. The match is most notable for Joey Mercury damn near getting his face grafted off in a see-saw spot gone awry, forcing him to wear facial contraptions for a time afterward. London and Kendrick retained in the midst of an 11-month reign the company barely promoted.

14. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater vs. Sin Cara vs. Wade Barrett – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 17, 2011)

Takes a back-seat to CM Punk and John Cena’s all-timer to close the show, but it holds weight as the match that boosted Bryan into the main event tier where he’d more or less reside ever since. A wellness policy exodus played out as Sheamus powerbombed Sin Cara through a ladder, leading to a stretcher job into thirty days of oblivion for the luchador. Bryan’s victory was fairly unexpected, and the Chicago fans gave him a pop nearly comparable to Punk’s.

13. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WWE Challenge Taping, July 21, 1992)

The WWE’s first ever ladder match seems very tame compared to the anarchic stunt shows of later years, but two masterful workers in their relative youth put together a dramatic series of ‘near-falls’, with the match more about the drama of the climb instead of insanity. Hart purportedly suggested the match to Vince McMahon, who asked for a demonstration at this TV taping. The match made it onto several video releases, and became a tape-trader’s bounty.

12. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Christian – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 14, 2013)

In a roundabout way, this match made it possible for Daniel Bryan to stand tall at the end of WrestleMania XXX, holding two World Titles aloft (although the Rumble was definitely the fuse). The best ladder match in the spinoff PPV’s history began with a hero’s welcome for the returning RVD, and culminated with Paul Heyman turning on Punk, just prior to Orton’s victory, which was confusing at the time, but became much clearer following SummerSlam.

11. The Rock vs. Triple H – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 30, 1998)

A year later, Rock was a mega-babyface that transcended the business, while Triple H would be the slimy villain he was born to play. Here, however, was the match that virtually shot both men into the main event for good. In front of a nuclear Madison Square Garden crowd, Rock about blew the domed roof off with a People’s Elbow while Helmsley lay prone on the oddly-yellow ladder. HHH’s win only freed up Rock for the World Title run we all saw coming.

10. Chris Jericho/Chris Benoit vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge/Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SmackDown, May 22, 2001)

A worthy sequel to Benoit and Jericho’s heart-stopping title win over Steve Austin and Triple H one night earlier, an irate Vince McMahon booked the new champs against the TLC Six on free television. WWE Network, assuming it survives the long haul, will eventually have this episode up, as the match is otherwise lost to history thanks to Benoit’s involvement. A shade below the original TLC battles in terms of overall quality, it’s still one of the best ladder matches ever.

9. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 17, 1999)

Hanging above the ring was a bank robber’s sack of cash, and the winner would win Terri Runnels’ managerial rights. If it was believed that the winners would be elevated by association with Terri, the four just elevated themselves with a performance for the ages, becoming made men to varying degrees. Interesting note: Edge came dangerously close to missing the match, as he was almost unable to fly to the show due to a hurricane (he lived in the Bahamas at the time).

8. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Monday Night Raw, May 27, 2002)

Easily the best ladder match in Raw’s history, even if Undertaker and Jeff Hardy’s clash a month later received more company hype, despite it being a dramatic finish to an average match. This match was so good, even a moronic fan running interference couldn’t ruin it. RVD regained the gold, leading into the post-match involvement of Steve Austin, who went after Guerrero, only to be thwarted by a returning, suddenly-heel Chris Benoit; an angle that ended up fizzling.

7. Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Kane vs. Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXI, April 3, 2005)

The first of its kind remains the best of its kind. From Benjamin’s hands-free ladder ascension to Benoit German-suplexing Jericho, who was holding a ladder, it’s possibly the most uncluttered Money in the Bank match ever, and one that didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also arguable that Edge’s eventual cash-in on John Cena was the most relevant of its kind, since nobody had ever seen a cash-in until he did it nine months later. Anything since dilutes the fun to a degree.

6. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Royal Rumble, January 21, 2001)

There’s a moment of retroactive horror in the body of the match, wherein Benoit goes for his patented headfirst dive to the floor, only for Jericho to wallop him upside the head with a jarring chair shot. If seeing that moment overrides any possible enjoyment you can derive from the art of the match, it’s understood. For the more unmoved, it was a viable candidate for 2001′s match of the year, rivaled by a litany of classics, one of which is to come.

5. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 1995)

Gorilla Monsoon’s first act as figurehead President was to remove Psycho Sid from SummerSlam, and give Razor the shot at Michaels’ gold, in the match they put on the map. Wise choice; it boosted the show into pretty good territory, rare air in 1995. Ramon played de facto villain, smashing Michaels’ knee to pieces with the ladder, before Michaels superkicked him off a second ladder. The botched ending, and Michaels’ tantrum, somehow adds to the charm.

4. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (WrestleMania X7, April 1, 2001)

From the greatest WrestleMania ever comes the ideal spotfest: accelerated, minimal set-up for the convoluted spots, and the type of chaos that comes from involving a few intruders. Nominee for the best bump visual in ladder match history: Bubba Ray Dudley and Matt Hardy smashing four tables into dust after an interfering Rhyno tipped a painter’s ladder over. Edge and Christian’s win was a bit anti-climactic, but you can’t discount the efforts before then.

3. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 2000)

Gets the slight nod over its WrestleMania kid-brother for the sole reason of a less rushed ending. Conventional wisdom had the Hardyz going over here in their home state of North Carolina. In defeat, Jeff busted out a frightening Swanton Bomb off a ladder on the floor through Bubba Ray Dudley. The match is also known for an unfortunate double-entendre that Jim Ross made about Edge and Lita that gained new perspective about five years later.

2. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels – World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 5, 2008)

Doesn’t stand out, but it should. In fact, a lukewarm crowd is possibly all that kept this from the number one spot. Jericho and Michaels’ hate-filled feud in 2008 came to a head with this match, which was less about cutesy spots, and more heavy on the “I’m gonna kill you” brutality. Indeed, most of the ‘spots’ were Jericho and Michaels trying to make the other suffer, without the need for Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions. An inexplicably undervalued masterpiece.

1. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WrestleMania X, March 20, 1994)

Like Savage and Steamboat, a newer fan may wonder what’s so special about this match, after seeing many a stuntshow since. For 1994, Ramon and Michaels put together a match just unheard of for the time, and wouldn’t become standard for a few years yet. Michaels took at least five or six crazy bumps off of Ramon’s power-based offense, and the dramatic near-finishes had the MSG crowd buying into every second. It’s still the gold standard.

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: United We Slam – Best of Great American Bash

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1 month ago

TNA Wrestling Re-Signs Matt Hardy

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It would appear that TNA Wrestling’s frozen checkbook has finally thawed. TNA will be reuniting one of the most famous teams of WWE’s Attitude Era when they bring back Matt Hardy to reform the Hardy Boyz.

News broke earlier this week that TNA has re-signed Matt. As you may recall, Matt had one of the most embarrassing runs of his entire career in TNA. Matt came to TNA in the midst of a downward spiral which ended his long WWE career. Battles with wrestling’s infamous demons eventually drove Matt away from TNA. To say that this is redemption for the former WWE tag team champion would be an understatement.

Hardy lasted a total of eight months in TNA back in 2011. Matt’s outside of the ring troubles followed him inside of the ring as he showed up out of shape and just appeared out of sync throughout his entire run. Hardy’s tenure ended with a suspension that turned permanent. The Matt Hardy coming back to TNA in 2014 is hardly the same guy.

Hardy’s life spun out of control following TNA. He was arrested on a DWI charge yet what seemed to alienate his fans more than anything else was a video he posted in which he teased suicide, yet turned out to be some kind of poor joke. Hardy eventually checked himself into rehab for three months before being kicked out. Hardy would later return to complete rehab at the end of the year. Hardy has stayed relatively out of trouble since leaving rehab in December 2011 sans a domestic violence incident with wife Reby Sky earlier this year.

Hardy has been working regularly over the last few years at Ring of Honor. Hardy has gotten himself back into shape and found his working shoes. Hardy has also hit the independents the last couple of years with a notable feud against Luke Hawx. It’s been a long journey but even skeptics have to concede at this point that Matt appears to have gotten his business in order.

Matt’s tenure with Ring of Honor may have precipitated his return. According to recent reports, TNA Wrestling agents have been making calls to ROH guys in hopes of raiding the roster. ROH’s venture to pay-per-view appears to have TNA on the attack. Matt was a polarizing figure to ROH fans, yet I do think it is a huge blow to see one of their most recognizable face to national fans leave the company. I am surprised that ROH wasn’t forced to lock up Matt by the cable companies in exchange for getting the PPV slot.

TNA is already busy promoting a Hardy Boyz reunion. Matt and Jeff will reunite on June 25th at television tapings in New York. I would presume this kills the Willow character and I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with that.

I will be pulling for Matt Hardy. He has obviously worked rigorously in and out of the ring to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. I have been surprised in recent years that the WWE hasn’t brought him back as a surprise Rumble entrant. I hope this is only a step back into the WWE, even if just for a one-night shot as TNA is not the end-goal of someone like Matt Hardy.

WWE: United We Slam – Best of Great American Bash

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

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4 months ago

WrestleMania XXVI: Somehow, Some Way, I Made It

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-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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4 months ago

WrestleMania XXVI: A Portrait in Wrestling History

by

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.

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

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4 months ago

WrestleMania XXV: A Portrait in Wrestling History

by

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.

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

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4 months ago

WrestleMania XXIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

by

WRESTLEMANIA XXIII From Ford Field in Detroit, MI April 1, 2007

BACKGROUND Being World Wrestling Entertainment has its share of diverse ways in which it can present its product. With an impressive active roster, a tremendous amount of classic legends willing to appear, expansion into wrestling-starved foreign countries, and a stranglehold on social media and merchandise licensing, even when the product falters, WWE still manages to thrive.

In 2006, WWE found itself spinning its wheels. John Cena, while a popular champion to youthful audiences, was getting choruses of boos from the more “time tested” fans who were used to wrestling being more coarse, bloody, raw (pun intended), and risqué than a near-thirty year old man in rainbow-ish t-shirts, trucker caps, and sneakers running his mouth as if he were the Disney Channel’s version of Eminem.

Since WWE was keen on keeping Cena champion long term (a strategy that has paid off if you consider merchandise sales and Cena’s cross-promotions), Vince McMahon needed something to keep the “hardcores” happy.

And the answer WAS hardcore. Well, rather, Vince’s definition of “hardcore”.

In June 2006, WWE opened a third brand, resurrecting the five-years-dead ECW, complete with Paul Heyman in charge. Joining Heyman were Joey Styles and Tazz on the stick, as well as classic stars of ECW’s past, such as Rob Van Dam and The Sandman. While the new ECW (dubbed WWECW by smart alecks) lacked the unpolished feel of the previous incarnation, ECW would serve as a nice alternative to Raw and SmackDown, creating a number of new stars in the process.

Also in the spring, WWE brought back another uncouth concept: D-Generation X. Triple H turned face for the first time in four years, reuniting with Shawn Michaels to recreate some old mayhem, albeit with less controversy.

With this mix of classic chaos and modern marketing, WWE was on the road to Detroit.

THE EVENT For the first time since WWE allowed for two world titles to exist, the two title matches at WrestleMania would be exclusive to babyfaces only.

The Undertaker, after a decade and a half of raising Hell in WWE, finally could add a Royal Rumble victory to his resume. Being the first #30 entrant to win the January classic, Undertaker brawled with Shawn Michaels for the final eight or nine minutes, ousting his legendary counterpart by avoiding Sweet Chin Music.

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Undertaker now had his pick of opponent. Choosing between WWE Champion John Cena, World Heavyweight Champion Batista, and ECW Champion Bobby Lashley, “The Phenom” settled on Batista, who reigned supreme over Undertaker’s home show, SmackDown.

With SmackDown’s main event locked in, Cena’s opponent was determined by a triple threat match between Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton. Michaels managed to beat the former World Tag Team Champions to earn the spot.

Making this match interesting was the fact that, long before Michaels had become Cena’s #1 contender, he and Cena had beaten Orton and Edge to become World Tag Team Champions. This marked the first time in WrestleMania history that tag titlists would fight over a singles belt.

Orton tried to stir the pot between the two men, showing a video of how Michaels had turned on every tag team partner he’d ever had, including Marty Jannetty, Diesel, and Hulk Hogan, among others.

Michaels tried to smooth things with his unlikely partner by saying that “this time is different”, but Michaels would still taunt Cena with a feint attempt at a Sweet Chin Music.

At No Way Out in February, Undertaker actually teamed with Batista to face Cena and Michaels in a non title match. The Raw brand team won, and things looked to still be copacetic between the two men.

Six days before WrestleMania, however, the two teams would have a rematch. This time, Michaels came through on Cena’s paranoia by blasting the WWE Champion with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels left Cena laying, and his partner fell victim to the loss. Michaels’ well-timed double cross fueled the fire for the main event match at WrestleMania XXIII.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to build mainstream interest in his annual money-making machine, Vince McMahon began a feud with real life media mogul Donald Trump. The two had a disagreement after Vince used an actor playing Trump (indy wrestler Ace Steel) to beat an actress playing Rosie O’Donnell on Raw. The match was so ill-received, that Trump himself taunted McMahon by saying that Vince didn’t know what the fans wanted.

The two bickered further, each picking a man to represent him at WrestleMania. Vince chose WWE Intercontinental Champion Umaga, while Trump chose ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the guest referee, and the losing cornerman (Trump or McMahon) would have their head shaved bald after the match.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw, Michael Cole and JBL called Smackdown, and Joey Styles and Tazz covered ECW, with all six men coming together for the opening match of the night. Aretha Franklin performed “America the Beautiful” as she had twenty years earlier at WrestleMania III. The Hall of Fame inductions saw the inclusion of Ross, Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Fuji, The Wild Samoans, The Sheik, and Nick Bockwinkel.

THE RESULTS Money in the Bank: Mr. Kennedy def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Edge, Randy Orton, King Booker, CM Punk, and Finlay in 19:05 (Highlights including Kennedy’s annoyed face at Hornswoggle when he tried to interfere, as well as Matt encouraging Jeff to do a crazy dive onto Edge through a ladder. “Do it Jeff! He stole Lita from us! Now no one’s there to make you ramen noodles!” Second best MITB match in WrestleMania history)

The Great Khali def. Kane in 5:31 (I like how Kane slamming Khali was juxtaposed with Hogan’s legendary slam of Andre from twenty years earlier in the show’s closing highlight package. As if they had the same memorable value)

WWE United States: Chris Benoit def. MVP in 9:19 (This, of course, would be the final WrestleMania for Benoit, as three months later he…..well, we all know what he did. It was a good, not great, match to go out on, and I still miss the man)

World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker def. Batista in 15:48 to win the title (That’s fifteen. This match was a pleasant surprise, as Batista and Undertaker have this weird chemistry that simply cannot be explained. The two men exchange crisp power moves and ramp up the intensity with their above-average brawling. Great match, and the best feud of a dismal 2007)

Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and The Sandman def. Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von, Elijah Burke, and Kevin Thorn in 6:25 (Seven men had their first WrestleMania match here. Those seven also had their last WrestleMania match. Oh, don’t act so surprised)

Battle of the Billionaires/Hair vs. Hair: Bobby Lashley def. Umaga in 13:04 (If Undertaker/Batista was a good surprise, then this was the opposite. Lashley was given a feud with McMahon and an endorsement from Austin and Trump, and still brought none of the energy or personality needed to make it to the next level. Lashley was overpushed, plain and simple)

WWE Women’s/Lumberjill Match: Melina def. Ashley in 3:13 (The bad news: this match was about 3:08 longer than Ashley is capable of working. Good news: Mickie looked great in her tight jeans at ringside. Shame she wasn’t wrestling)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Shawn Michaels in 28:20 (The fact that Cena won turned a lot of fans off, but this is up there with the greatest matches in WM history. Michaels brought a more reserved, but grinding, personality to this, which included the awesome piledriver on the ring steps on Cena. Cena and Michaels worked their asses off here, and both of them deserve for this match to get a lot more credit than it does)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY The two World Title matches, as well as Money in the Bank, featured twelve men who worked their hardest to make WrestleMania as special as it’s meant to be. However, most of the hype going into the show revolved around Donald Trump‘s involvement, as well as his feud with McMahon, who was seriously getting out of control at this point regarding on-camera time.

When you have the three aforementioned matches on your show, you should walk away feeling great. But when you watch that Battle of the Billionaires, and you see how the fans barely reacted to Vince being shaved bald, and how they barely got behind an anemic talker like Lashley, who never looked like he wanted to be there, you feel a bit sour.

It’s like a concert. If you hype up Guns n Roses as the headliner, and you have three popular, but not yet legendary, acts (say Disturbed, Godsmack, and Saliva) performing, what if those three bands (who got less hype) rocked, and then GNR came out and absolutely sucked?

Do you hate the show because GNR sucked, or do you love it because the other bands owned it?

I guess the answer’s up to you.

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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4 months ago

WrestleMania XXII: Oh Cena, You’re So Gangster

by

-Imagine my delight when I discovered that Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” was the primary theme for this show. It’s cheesy, it’s campy, it reeks of the eighties, and thus it conjures up many great memories of my youth watching wrestling. It’s the perfect little ditty to get myself into the wrestling spirit, especially an event as grand as WrestleMania.

-And so it was, the 22nd version of WrestleMania, taking place at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL, on April 2, 2006. For the fourth straight (and final) year, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw and Michael Cole and Tazz did Smackdown, crossing over for one match. In two months, there’d be a third child born in the Brand family, although it’d be dead before age 4. But the kid was an outmoded concept anyway, so no need to shed tears.

-Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child sings the National Anthem. If Destiny’s Child was Legacy, she’s definitely not the Randy Orton of the trio.

-The show kicks off with the Show. Big Show, that is, as he and Kane defend their World Tag Team Titles against Carlito and Chris Masters. Laugh all you want, but three of these men were in the same World Title match just three months before at New Year’s Revolution. No, I don’t need to put the hash pipe down, this actually happened.

-Question: Why does JR always compare Big Show’s hands to skillets whenever he lands a chop? My guess is that he can hold six egg yolks and six sausage links in one of his mitts. He’s probably seen it, too.

-Since the only worker of the four I really like is Carlito, I had low expectations going in, but it’s actually a fun match. Kane lands a nice diving clothesline to the floor on Carved Apples and the crowd seems to be enjoying themselves. Really, that’s all that matters.

-Show lands a nice double suplex on the heels. I think Carlito and Masters would be great bumbling henchmen in some WWE film. They fit the bill, I think.

-Finally, after a miscue, Kane takes out Carlito with a chokeslam to retain the titles. Fun enough opener to set the pace for the card, even though it’s not a match I particularly get excited about seeing over and over. But for what it was, it was a welcome opener.

-Shawn Michaels assures us that tonight will not be a classic match when he faces Vince McMahon. So his match in 1993 with Mr. Perfect was a guaranteed five stars, but his match with Vince tonight isn’t. Using the law of opposites, that means tonight’s match will be the greatest match ever. I’m excited.

-Next is the second annual Money in the Bank ladder match, and this time it’s an interbrand affair, with Shelton Benjamin, Rob Van Dam, and Ric Flair for Raw, and Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, and Finlay for Smackdown. So, in other words, it’ll be 50% spotty.

-As per usual, we get the “dive parade”, which is just two dives this year: An RVD diving cross body, and a Benjamin leap off of the ladder ramp. Must have been a low budget this year for percocets.

-Hardy superplexes Flair off of the ladder and Flair suffers an “injury” to his leg, which actually looked legit this time. Although when the referee does an over exaggerated “X” signal with his arms, it kinda hurts the effect.

-Let’s face it, Lashley just wasn’t ‘ready’ yet. The tentative look on his face every time he climbs the ladder resembles a man who fears that one of the rungs has a land mine full of hydrochloric acid. Though being a burn victim would give him his first layer of character interest ever. Though the three man powerbomb spot off the ladder was nice.

-Speaking of ‘let’s face it’, this match was not in Ric Flair’s wheelhouse. He returns and the most interesting thing he can do is throw chops. A shillelagh from Finlay ends his night. Remember when Flair was an iconic main-eventer? I ask that question now.

-After RVD lands a Five Star on Finlay, he begins to climb, but Benjamin tops his own insane ingenuity by springboarding onto the opposite side of the ladder in a spot that has to be seen to be appreciated. Hardy climbs an additional ladder next to RVD and Shelton’s, but Benjamin steps over to repel him. That’s the final undoing, as RVD kicks it over to send both men crashing to the floor, and RVD snags the briefcase to earn a World Title match. Solid match with some great spots, but not quite up to last year’s standard. I was definitely pleased to see RVD win, though my Spidey sense figured he’d somehow blow it. I was half right.

-Meanwhile, Randy Orton scares Mean Gene off, and an injured Batista talks down on Orton. Remember when Batista getting a long term injury was a new concept? Was this really just four years ago?

-Howard Finkel (#22) introduces the Hall of Famers: Bret Hart (not here), Mean Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri, Tony Atlas, Verne Gagne, William Perry, The Blackjacks, and Eddie Guerrero, who is represented by Chavo and Vickie. Vickie actually looked elegant here, and this was well before her character run, so the fans are happy to see her. I feel worse for nobody in this business than Vickie Guerrero.

-Chris Benoit defends the United States title next against JBL, who makes his entrance until the steel ramp. At this point JBL had Jillian Hall with him, who was his “image consultant”. How far gone must you be as an image consultant that you develop a hopeless need to become a pop singer? Of course, she’s consulting a man who went from cowboy to drunken bodyguard to Wall Street guru, so anything’s possible in WWE lore.

-The most annoying part about this match is that JBL continuously has to resort to using Eddie Guerrero’s mannerisms to draw heat from the crowd. Here’s the thing: we know that it’s fake. We know JBL liked Guerrero. Guerrero’s death is a sore point for a lot of fans. What these acts say is that you can’t find a better way to draw heat for this match. It’s a testament that there wasn’t a bigger uproar about this match, which shows that a lot of people tuned out the antics. I say good.

-Decent enough match, but every time JBL gains control, he’s doing the Guerrero shimmy or trying to rip off the Three Amigos. God, enough already.

-Finally, Benoit latches on with the Crossface, but JBL rolls through and grabs the ropes for the cheap win and the US Title. Well, I guess that means that JBL’s smarter than HHH. Decent match, but enough to leave a sour taste in your match. Sadly, JBL isn’t even the most deplorable man in the match.

-Since Joey Styles did his homework and ate his vegetables, he gets to do commentary on the forthcoming hardcore match between Edge and Mick Foley. We need an arbitrator to determine once and for all the intricate differences between a hardcore match, a street fight, an extreme rules match, and a no holds barred match. You know, just to have it written down somewhere.

-The match begins with a tribute to hardcore matches circa 1999 with cookie sheets and road signs. All we’re missing are run-ins from Test and The Mean Street Posse.

-However, we up the CVQ (Creative Violence Quotient) when Edge tries to spear Foley, only to come away in serious pain, as it’s revealed that Foley has wrapped himself in barbed wire! And to think, Vince could have saved on Foley’s appearance fee and hired some moronic backyarder to do it for free.

-As Foley gets Barbie (his barbed wire bat), Lita jumps on his back, and it leads to all three individuals tumbling over the top rope. That would be a nifty Royal Rumble elimination.

-Ah, there’s a classic: Edge grabbing Foley by the hair and bouncing his skull off the entrance ramp. Oddly enough, I think it was Triple H who brought that to prominence in WWE by doing it to Mick. Yes, I’ll give Satan credit sometimes.

-Edge pours lighter fluid all over Mick Foley. I’m pretty sure that was in day six of Tony Condello’s camp. Then Foley fights back and hits a piledriver, getting two. You know what’s sad? Piledrivers are banned in WWE due to the neck injuries, and Foley does one and I’m stunned….just minutes after the man had LIGHTER FLUID doused on him. I’ve watched wrestling WAY too long.

-Edge does a number on Mick with the baseball bat, and then gets the magical bag of thumbtacks. Meanwhile, Joey Styles acts aghast, like he’s seen none of this before, and he called every Tommy Dreamer match from 1993 to 2001. Was Joey blinded by a particle beam thingie moments after he signed his WWE contract?

-Edge, in a cruel twist of irony, not unlike rain on one’s wedding day, is the one who lands on the tacks. Then Foley wraps Socko in barbed wire, because he’s completely insane, and shoves it into Edge’s mouth. Then Lita tries to interfere, so he shoves it into HER mouth. Great, now Lita’s going to have sores all around her lips. Er, new ones.

-But this just leads to the coup de gras (coup disgrace?) as the table at ringside is set on fire and Edge spears Foley off the apron, through the ropes, with both men landing in the giant fireball. Edge covers Foley for the win, because only two men could kick out of that: No one, and Stu Hart (Ehhhhya fire ain’t got ter uh nuttin on me, ya bum). Oh. My. God. That was absolutely crazy. Edge and Foley can barely move, and Edge is twitching, looking like Beavis after a stunt gone wrong. One helluva match that helped solidify Edge as a player, but that’s some cost. Foley does it again, making a new star.

-Meanwhile, Goldust takes the opportunity to freak Booker T out one last time. I don’t ask for much.

-The best way to describe the next match between The Boogeyman taking on Booker T and Sharmell is this: I would rather have sex on my back on a vibrating bed of nails than to try and comprehend the booking. Sharmell runs off, and Booker eats the Boogeyslam to give the Pit dweller the win. Yep, bed of nails, bring it on.

-And now, the greatest feud of all time, as Mickie James’ obsession with WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus led to a title match at WrestleMania. The feud was wrought with so many lesbianonic overtones that I’d love to show this to Linda McMahon’s male detractors. Because they’d probably end up supporting her. It’s THAT AWESOME.

-The crowd is 90% behind Mickie, who was the heel. Hey, if there’s one thing that’ll make the fans sympathize with you, it’s when Trish spurns your advances. How dare Trish, that hussy! Look, you can see her roots!

-Mickie works the knee and we get a “LET’S GO MICKIE” chant. I wholeheartedly concur.

-After Mickie dominates (and nearly drives all of Chicago to a flood-creating smarkgasm), Trish takes over and manages a headscissors. The crowd boos. How could WWE surprised? When you have a crazed lesbian in a revealing top and loose skirt, she could be fighting a 10 year old with leukemia and that kid is going to be the villain, whether his sickly bloodstream likes it or not.

-Mickie blocks the Stratusphere by dropping Trish’s injured leg across the ropes and then lets out a guttural scream to a huge pop. This is like watching a hybrid of “Carrie” and a women’s prison flick.

-Trish attempts Stratusfaction, and then, we get my favorite part in wrestling history as Mickie grabs—wait, what the Hell? Why did they edit that off the DVD? Hang on.

-(At this point in the story, Justin drove to his brother Josh’s house, since he has the original tape of the event. Justin knocked on his door at 8:45 at night, uninvited, with his foot. Josh answered and Justin, perfectionist that he is, bloodcurdlingly screamed for Josh to put in his copy so that they could watch a mere 15 second clip. Josh was unamused, but did as he was told. Finally, after rewatching the clip 57 times to make sure they understood the relevance, Justin thanked his brother and drove home.)

-So yeah, Mickie grabs Trish’s nether regions to break the hold, and then licks her fingers in a V-shape to indicate something naughty. God, these cushions are sticky….

-After a botched Stratusfaction by Mickie, she finishes off Trish with a weird looking Chick Kick to win the Women’s Title. You know the crowd wants to jump your bones when they ignore the blown spots in the ending just to cheer like crazy. Fun match, although certainly not PG. Not that I care.

-Vince McMahon, with enough spray-on tan to win the George Hamilton lookalike contest, leads the McMahons in a prayer for Shawn Michaels. There’s just something oddly amusing about Linda as a heel.

-Up next, we get a casket match where Undertaker puts his streak on the line again….my cousin, Mark Henry. Asking “Who will win at WrestleMania between Undertaker and Mark Henry?” is a lot like asking “What will happen when it rains, you get wet or a safe falls on your head?”.

-DRUIDS!

-It’s your typical hossfest for Taker, who has to slow down his generally amiable style just so Henry can keep up. A lot of clotheslines and a lot of clubbing down. I never understood Henry’s appeal, other than the fact that he was a former Olympian, and can possibly generate positive press. In WWE, he’s just been a fat and lazy mook who had about 3 combined months in 14 years where he was interesting. I think it’s time to cut the cord on him.

-Usually, when you face Undertaker in a casket match, one of two things is implied: either it’s a major storyline and the casket gimmick is a way for Taker to lose with a ton of interference to keep him strong, or it means that the only way Taker’s opponent can build heat is have the casket lid opened and try to stuff Taker in. Guess which category Henry falls in?

-Punch. Kick. Headbutt. Punch. Splash. Club. Kick. Punch. Good to see Mark Henry is a proficient follower of Dance Dance Revolution: Andre the Giant edition.

-Just to add a little bit of life to the match, Undertaker hits his super dive onto Henry. If this match was a conveyer belt at a pickle factory, you saw about 200 mundane jars of pickles before getting one with a bag of really awesome fireworks in it. That’ll catch your eye everytime.

-Taker manages to get Henry up for a Tombstone, and then rolls him into the casket to end it. Wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t call it good either. If the streak was full of Batman villains, Mark Henry is definitely The Puzzler. I’m puzzled as to why he got a match with The Dead Man in the first place. Let’s just move on.

-Highlights of the Shawn Michaels-Vince McMahon saga. Get ready, kids. Vince is going to bleed and get beaten up for the amusement of all. Frankly, I’m excited.

-Indeed, one of the first moments out of the gate is Shawn smashing Vince with a portrait sized picture of Vince’s Muscle and Fitness cover that was at ringside for some reason. You just don’t get these moments in UFC.

-For a bonus, Shawn beats the crap out of the Spirit Squad, including a young and relatively unknown Dolph Ziggler. Shawn lays them all out, which anoints him for sainthood next to Mickie James for her performance earlier tonight.

-Vince mounts a comeback and chokes Shawn with his belt, and this leads to an attempt at Sweet Vin Music, but Shawn catches the boot and goes back to annihilating the boss. As he gets ready for Sweet Chin Music, son Shane arrives on the scene and whacks HBK with a kendo stick. Just for fun, they go to induct Shawn into the Kiss My Ass Club again, but Shawn shoves Shane’s face into his own father’s sphincter. I’m enjoying myself far too much.

-Shawn cuffs Shane to the ropes and then mocks his Shane-O-Mac dance before beating him senseless with the kendo stick. Shawn Michaels is once again my favorite wrestler ever and, if he retires after WM26, there’s still no topping his legacy. Hell, how can he even top HIMSELF?

-How about bashing Vince’s head in with a chair? Because he just did that.

-So the story is that Shawn keeps teasing a finish with the SCM, but opts not to, instead placing a trash can over Vince’s head, laying him on a table, and then climbing a 12-15 foot ladder (or 35 feet if you’re Tazz), and then dropping the big elbow off of it. At this point, Vince’s head looks like someone poured a bucket of Dutch Boy Red #4 on him. This is awesome.

-Shawn pulls Vince up and yells at him before hitting the Chin Music for the win. In terms of an actual match, it was nothing. As an absolutely comedic AND horrific beating, it was awesome. Just as awesome is Vince giving Shawn the finger from the stretcher as he’s taken away. I hereby dub this “the worst five star match ever”. Just good times.

-World Heavyweight Title recap. Rey Mysterio’s first legit chance to become a World Champion and it was marred by the ridiculous exploitation of Eddie Guerrero’s death. Sigh, let’s just get this over with.

-POD plays Mysterio out, and Rey decides to dress like a tropical hawk. Yep.

-Kurt Angle defends the World Heavyweight Title against Randy Orton and Kurt Angle. Did I mention that Rey, whom all the crowd sympathy was shuffled behind, isn’t even the hero here, as the in-the-know fans have rallied behind Angle, who ISN’T exploiting a dead guy? True stuff.

-Spoiling the ending a bit, this match was only nine minutes long. With three participants, there’s not enough time for Rey to tell his story of his quest to win one for his friend. Why not just have Orton beat Angle for the title, then do Angle-Taker II, have Rey beat Orton here, and have Mark Henry sit home and order Dominos? Who loses?

-Rey tries for a 619 on Angle, but Kurt gets the ankle lock and the crowd cheers. See what I mean?

-Angle gets Rey with the Angle Slam over the top and then locks Orton in the ankle lock. This is all well and good….if they were trying to turn Kurt into a machine again, but the POINT was Rey’s quest. Remember that?

-Orton gets Angle with the RKO, but can only get 2. Then, just to turn this into a bigger train wreck, Rey blows a 619 around the post. Way to rise to the occasion, Rey Rey.

-After Angle is arm dragged to the floor, Rey gets Orton with the 619 and Dime Drop to win his only World Title to date. If that match was any more rushed, it would have collided with Dagwood Bumstead’s mailman on the door step. Rey celebrates with Vickie and Chavo, and my lone consolation is that Mysterio got the big prize for his years of hard work. It’s a shame it was clouded by the garbage. Decent match, but yeah, rushed.

-Cena and HHH are seen warming up, and JR tries to convince us all that Cena’s going to get booed tonight because he’s controversial. Yeah, and Chicago fans cheer the Cubs because they’re convinced they’re going to win it all one day. Oh wait, they really believe that?

-Another waste of time match, as Torrie Wilson wins a Playboy Pillow Fight over Candice Michelle, wherein the loser was doomed to receive 12 catastrophic injuries over the next three years. Then for fun, Torrie rubs her dog’s butt on Candice’s face. I think Torrie has issues.

-Main event time. Hoo boy, get ready for this one.

-Triple H enters first, via through the stage, on a throne, dressed as Conan the Barbarian. Around this time period, a list of WWE wrestler salaries and perks was leaked to the net, and one of Hunter’s perks was that he got 10 free uses of the corporate jet per year. My brother and I theorize that he took ELEVEN trips, thus sending Vince over the edge and making him wear this outfit as punishment. There’s no other possible explanation.

-To top that, a video about Al Capone and various Chicago thugs plays to precede Cena’s entrance. Then out comes a thirties style car, complete with various OVW guys dressed as gangsters on it, including….CM PUNK! Wait….Punk’s fighting AGAINST prohibition? Punk, what the hell! YOU CAN BE SAVED!

-Then Cena comes out dressed in a trenchcoat and fires off a gun to the loudest booing I’ve EVER heard. Seriously, I cackle everytime I see this. Vince is the first aid room, getting stitched up with his fingers in his ears, going LA LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU.

-Remember, Cena’s controversial, and the fans don’t like controversial people. Which is why they cheered Al Capone when he showed up in the video. Good one, JR. WWE Title’s on the line, so let’s enjoy the insanity.

-HHH outwrestles Cena in the early going. Hey look, the crowd’s chanting Cena’s finisher name, only they’re not saying the initials, they’re saying….well, nevermind what they’re saying.

-Cena gets a chinlock, and then out comes the “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE” chant. I’m sure Cena’s crying himself to sleep at night over that one. Unless that big pile of money he has keeps him awake at all hours.

-The fight spills outside and Cena backdrops Hunter onto the ramp, but screw it, the wrestling is not the story here. This is one of the most fascinating crowds I’ve seen in ages. This isn’t like Hogan/Rock where Toronto was caught up in the nostalgia of Hulk’s comeback, but this is just sheep mentality of booing a guy because they don’t like how he’s booked. And yet, the Allstate Arena will still sell out for PPV’s and Raw, even with Cena there today. Funny.

-The match is good, but unspectacular for a main event. The story is that HHH planned to outwrestle the decidedly showy Cena, and that Cena had to prove capable of outwrestling the cerebral assassin. Between the elementary story and the far gone crowd, this was too weird to be the main event. But hey, at least no dead bodies were exploited.

-After a ref bump, HHH manages to introduce a sledgehammer and nails Cena in the gut, which delights the fans. Cena should’ve brought Steve Bartman out as his cornerman.

-After HHH kicks out of the FU, the challenger tries the Pedigree, and is taken down into the STFU for the shocking submission loss. As I mentioned, it was a pretty basic back and forth match, but the crowd made it seem more grand than it really was. It’s a fun atmosphere, and I love how Cena just takes it all in stride.

-Shinedown and Peter Gabriel play us out. Brent Smith couldn’t wax Peter’s jock.

-CYNIC SAYS: There’s a whole lot of good on this show. Both World Titles matches, Money in the Bank, the hardcore match, women’s title match, and Shawn vs. Vince were all quality affairs in their own right. Everything not mentioned was not mentioned for one reason or another, either because it was too bland or it just outright sucked. But hey, every WrestleMania has a blemish or three. No harm, no foul.

It’s a forgotten classic because, other than Edge vs. Foley, it didn’t have the blowaway match of the year candidate. As it stands though, it’s a great show overall. Big Time indeed.

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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