From SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL
April 1, 2012
It’s been purported that each WrestleMania event is generally planned a year in advance, and the booking is written backwards to support what they want to present on the grandest stage. While recent WrestleManias seem a bit more thrown-together at times, owing to an increasingly frenetic Vince McMahon being known to make constant changes, WrestleMania XXVIII was an event where a year-long plot was used, this time as an actual storyline.
One night after WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, John Cena called out The Rock. Rather than thrash the previous night’s guest host for costing him his World Title match against The Miz, a calm and happy-go-lucky Cena simply challenged Rock to a match at next year’s big event, giving both men one year to prepare for the clash of the ages.
The idea was unique for a modern time frame in which that $45 secondary PPV that you’re being offered has but two matches booked sixteen days before the event. It’s a little hard to get up for those shows (and buyrates seem to agree), but a WrestleMania where the main event is entrenched in everyone’s brains for 363 days?
Those “in-the-know” fans who balked at WWE’s most overexposed star, and most overexposed part-timer, getting a full calendar of non-stop billing would be rewarded by the successes of their heroes.
WWE was becoming a different place, as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, who’d each passed through Philadelphia’s Murphy Rec Center on the way to the top, won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2011.
In spite of all of the social media blitzes, irksome moments from Michael Cole, and use of gimmickless FCW/NXT castoffs, it seemed WWE was crafting a WrestleMania unique among the pack. Between a year-long main event build, and two “workrate” champions, the everyday mold was finally being broken.
Cena and Rock crossed paths prior to the WrestleMania main event, as Rock’s movie schedule allowed him to wrestle at Survivor Series 2011. That night at Madison Square Garden, he and Cena formed a super-team that annihilated The Miz and R-Truth. Afterward, Rock dropped Cena with a Rock Bottom as a reminder that, in four months, they’d each engage in a defining match in their careers.
After Cena was sidetracked by a hard-boiled feud with Kane through early 2012, he and Rock criss-crossed on the remaining road to WrestleMania, insulting each other in their typical juvenille fashion. Rock would host one of his trademark “Rock Concerts” laden with entendres and jibes toward the current company flagbearer, while Cena reinstituted his “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona, ripping into Rock with some lines that would make the kid-friendly sponsors cringe.
The match was even given a TV special on USA Network to promote the history of the icons, giving this match, dubbed “Once in a Lifetime”, a super fight feeling like no other in recent memory.
As if the dream match wasn’t enough to churn buyrates, the “end of an era” was also promised. The Undertaker, 19-0 at WrestleMania, wasn’t happy with how he barely eked the win out over Triple H one year earlier, and demanded a rematch with COO of the company.
Hunter initially balked, but The Dead Man persisted, eventually goading the man technically his boss into a fight. The Game agreed on one condition: that it be a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn Michaels, who’d had his career ended by Undertaker, was made guest referee as one last twist of the screw.
Sheamus was the winner of the 2012 Royal Rumble, last ousting a quizzically-acting Chris Jericho. The Celtic Warrior waited three weeks before deciding which championship to challenge for, ultimately deciding on the World Heavyweight title held by an increasingly-self-indulgent Daniel Bryan.
Bryan was an anomaly, winning the title as an underdog hero on December 18 via briefcase cash-in, but slowly took on a portrayal as an egomaniac jerk. Not only did he ignore the affection of girlfriend AJ Lee, but Bryan began to praise himself more and more for minor victories, many of them tainted. He even allowed AJ to be injured by a stampeding Big Show, all just to keep his title.
As for the WWE Championship, anti-hero CM Punk would face the winner of a ten man battle royal that took place on February 20. Jericho would win, and thus be afforded a chance to continue his vague “end of the world” crusade via the company’s top champion.
Jericho first began the mind games with Punk by claiming the “Straight Edge Superstar” had stolen his “Best in the World” moniker, which Punk gladly challenged Jericho to try and take back. With the champ not fazed, Y2J resorted to revealing the ugly family history of Punk, complete with the addictions his family members all once had. Jericho promised to lead Punk down the road of self-destruction en route to taking his title.
Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were the evening’s commentators, joined by a now-goateed Jim Ross for the Hell in a Cell match. For the third time, Lilian Garcia performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 consisted of Edge, The Four Horsemen (dual induction for Ric Flair), Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, and celebrity inductee Mike Tyson.
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the title
(And we stumble out of the gate. Boy the fans at SunLife dumped on them for this decision. I’ve said it in other mediums: it’s not the treatment of Bryan that made this moment suck; it was the belief by the company that Sheamus was going to look stronger as a result. The people who run WWE couldn’t find the pulse of the fans if they had a GPS)
Kane def. Randy Orton in 10:56
(I don’t know who this “Daniel Bryan” fellow is, but he sure got a lot of chants during this match. Decent contest that ended with a flying chokeslam)
WWE Intercontinental: Big Show def. Cody Rhodes in 5:18 to win the title
(The build was entertaining, with Rhodes showing film of Show’s WrestleMania embarrassments to psyche him out, but the match was all too brief. Rhodes actually reigned as champion for eight months)
Maria Menounos/Kelly Kelly def. Eve Torres/Beth Phoenix in 6:49
(All of these women are gone from WWE, which is a commentary on how women would rather do “something else” than work there. But I’d take a stinkface from Miss Menounos, at least)
Hell in a Cell/”End of an Era”: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 30:50
(Opinions of this one are a little divided. Some call this the greatest match in the history of the galaxy. Others think it was stupid to have Triple H assault Undertaker with basic moves, and have Michaels nearly “stop the match” because Taker couldn’t continue. Because Hunter’s so bad ass. Eh, 20-0 is 20-0, even if was slower and more plodding than Heaven’s Gate)
David Otunga/Mark Henry/The Miz/Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre def. Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella/Great Khali/R-Truth/Zack Ryder/Booker T in 10:38
(As a result of this, John Laurinaitis won complete control of Raw and Smackdown from Teddy Long. Oh, and Zack Ryder looked like a useless tool. That’ll learn em)
WWE Championship: CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in 22:21
(A highly physical and intense battle that took some time to find second gear, I still found it to be the best match of the night. The battle at the end over the Anaconda Vise, with Punk refusing to give up on the hold, despite Jericho’s vicious struggle, was a nice touch)
“Once in a Lifetime”: The Rock def. John Cena in 33:34
(Nice throwback to the big-time WrestleMania main events of old, even if it was preceded by a six hour concert featuring Flo Rida and anorexic Shannon Moore. Cena’s undoing came as he tried a People’s Elbow, only to be Rock Bottom’d. Some said it was boring, but I actually liked it. Whether Rock has the endurance for another 30 minute match is another story)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
It’s hard to argue with 1.22 million buys, a WWE record, so some would say that a year-long build is the way to go. Rock would remain a part of WWE in a limited capacity, sticking around to challenge for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, but we’ll get to that next year.
The show began disastrously, and the fans largely didn’t come out of their anger-induced coma until the Hell in a Cell match. As many people who remember that match, and Rock and Cena’s epic showdown, equally remember how the show opened with the misstep of Sheamus and Bryan, possibly the worst WrestleMania booking since Hogan went over a tired Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX.
It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t a home run in any way except financially (undoubtedly important, despite our gripes). For the official “portrait” of the show, my pick will be a split screen. On one side is Shawn Michaels and Undertaker holding up a semi-conscious Triple H on the stage, while The Rock stands tall on the other side. WWE more than ever lives off of the past, as it can’t create an exciting present. Logically, their imagery should make you think you’re in 1998.
-Another day, another running diary. But I keep coming back to entertain all (sixteen) of you that read my work. And, unlike certain hosts of certain PPVs, I will NOT phone it in via satellite!
-I’ll phone it in right here, in person.
-We are looking LIVE (Trademark Brent Musberger) from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where fingerpoking and NFL playoff choking are all the rage. I’m joined at my brother Josh’s domicile by Josh himself, and jaded buddies Dave and Rob for some good action and, hopefully, some unintentional comedy to offset the cost of this shindig. Also, Domino’s Pizza is the order of the day, because if you’re going to pay to see Snooki, you should at least get fat on Cheesy Bread doing it.
-Keri Hilson performs America the Beautiful, and is the latest contestant in the “Are they Black or White?” game with Derek Jeter, Latoya Jackson, Alicia Keys, and Jason Kidd. Black seems likely, for those wondering how I’d score.
-The Rock is out here to waste time, you know, because the biggest show of the year needs talk. Rock assures us, through his self-intro, that he still eats pie, which must confuse twelve-year old kids in the audience who see a muscular athlete that LOVES to indulge in pastries. But you can see why Daniel Bryan and Sheamus would get axed.
-Rock further validates their excising by leading the crowd in a chant along. Here’s one for you: When I yell “RE!”, you yell “FUND!”. Ready?
-I never thought I’d see the day where four longtime wrestling fans shake their heads in exasperation, wondering when Rock is going to stop talking. I thought April Fool’s Day was Friday.
-Wait, wait, wait, wait…..The World Heavyweight Title match….is OPENING? The prize for winning the Royal Rumble is to open WrestleMania? Well, it’s Atlanta, and Vince probably thought “You know….I wonder how I could devalue the World Heavyweight Title more than WCW ever did”.
-So it’s Edge, with Christian, defending against Alberto Del Rio, with Brodus Clay and Psicosis in a tuxedo. Del Rio takes a nasty slip to the floor, indicating that perhaps Del Rio wants to steal the show and make Vince pay for his error in judgment. Or, maybe he just slipped.
-Del Rio hooks the cross-armbreaker, leading to a false finish. Del Rio then ups the ante with a springing enzuigiri. You’re telling me it was necessary to not make room for this guy later in the night? I thought WWE was all about putting over the future? You know, that outmoded concept that TNA seems to not seem to buy into? Did Russo book this?
-Edge’s spear misses, and it leads to a cross-armbreaker, which Edge refuses to give into. If Edge tapped in the opener to lose the title, then it’s proof Russo WASN’T booking. My money would then be on David Lynch.
-Edge gets the Edgucator, and Del Rio won’t give up. The challenger finds his way out, and Edge merely spears him to win. Really? All that “destiny” chatter and this is the payoff? It was a good match, with few flaws (you know, other than being the opener), but why have Del Rio fall short in what was, basically, a throwaway? I’m not mad, just confused. A lot of us are, really.
-Meanwhile, Michael Cole taunts Jerry Lawler from inside the Cole Mine. He shows off his Slammys and calls himself a “broadcast journalist”, which makes him half Owen Hart/half Bobby Heenan. No wonder I like him so much now.
-Cody Rhodes is out next, Vinny Del Negro face shield and all, to take on Rey Mysterio, who is dressed as Captain America. Interesting that WWE took their two top “lucha” stars and put them at the bottom of the card. Know what other company used to do that? Hint: they were based in Atlanta, and aren’t in business anymore.
-Well hey, Cody’s bringing the energy. It’s like he wants to steal the show all for himself, as he’s keeping up with Mysterio all the way. Not only does Rhodes bust out the Alabama Slam (finisher of ex-partner Hardcore Holly), but he even borrow’s CW Anderson’s delayed superplex. There’s even faint “CODY” chants in the Georgia Dome. Good on you, kid.
-Rhodes tries going into Mysterio’s pant leg, which makes me think he’s trying to find evidence of drug muling, but he’s merely going after Mysterio’s knee brace. Rey responds by taking off Cody’s facemask (“WE CAN SEE WHO IT IS! IT WAS CODY THE WHOLE TIME!”), putting it on, and then headbutting Cody with it. Isn’t that a DQ?
-Rhodes goes an eye for an eye by bashing Rey with his own knee brace, and then hitting Cross Rhodes for the win. I enjoyed the match, and Rhodes proved who the real dead weight of “Legacy” was. No wonder Triple H embarrassed Junior Dibiase so handily. Welcome to the food chain.
-To further urinate in Sheamus and Bryan’s faces, here’s a pointless talent contest backstage. Just know that Rowdy Roddy Piper does a pretty good impression of Jeff Hardy at Victory Road.
-I’m going to give the eight man tag as much time and effort as WWE gave it. I don’t think I physically saw Justin Gabriel. I’ll also bet Vince couldn’t pick him out of a police line-up.
-Eve tells The Rock that she’s enjoying the show. She also believes that, as Divas champion, she’d valued more for her brains and ability than looks, so her credibility is somewhat questionable. Mae Young shows up, because Vince loves her, and then we get an Austin/Rock staredown for old times’ sake. Ok, that was enjoyable. Just glad Austin didn’t strike Eve.
-Randy Orton and CM Punk, the match I was looking forward to the most, is next. Just a classic cat and mouse heel vs. face feud, with very few weak spots. Except for the acting of Randy Orton’s “wife”. This should be an annual tradition: find a fitness model with zero personality, and make her Orton’s designated wife. It’s like “Rock of Love” with fewer degrading skits.
-It needs to be said: CM Punk is about as complete a heel as you’ll find in wrestling these days. He was born about twenty years too late. Take away the excessive tattoos and couldn’t you see him in the old NWA, attacking babyfaces in the parking lot? He’s like Tully Blanchard, except you won’t find him repenting tearfully over the days of sniffing lines out of the belly buttons of ring rats.
-Punk is carrying his end swimmingly. I think he and Cody Rhodes are playing “can you top this” in terms of bringing their A-Game to the night. Punk’s arrays of kicks, as well as the kick-to-the-face counter to the RKO, are keeping the viewing party entertained. In other words, we like Punk.
-ANACONDA VICE! ORTON HOLDING ON BY A THREAD! Hold my coat while I forget that this is fake for a little while!
-After Punk avoids a few defeat attempts due to Orton’s injuries, Punk springboards into the ring and eats a vicious RKO. Great match, best of the night so far (edging the Cody-Rey “feelin’ it” fest). For as badly structured as the backstage stuff is, the ring work is carrying the card.
-The Rock talks to Pee Wee Herman. I go for more cheesy bread, to find none left. I’m sad twice.
-Howard Finkel! #27! THE REAL STREAK LIVES!
-Hall of Famers are then introduced: Abdullah the Butcher, Sunny (YOWZA!), Legion of Doom (Man, Hawk got small….oh, that’s Ellering), Bullet Bob Armstrong, Drew Carey, Hacksaw Jim Duggan (complete with tuxed-up 2X4), and Shawn Michaels, whose presence on these shows is definitely missed. Now we have to be more selective with our “FIVE STAR” declarations.
-Booker T is out next to commentate as is, wait for it…..GOOD OL JR! And Jim Ross said on Twitter that he WOULDN’T be commentating! Using Twitter to deceive people? When did JR become Dixie Carter?
-Michael Cole is dressed as a mildly-less retarded Rick Steiner while Jerry Lawler is, well, Jerry Lawler. Steve Austin, the referee, nearly runs over Jack Swagger with his ATV. What if Swagger DID get hit? Could they have tousled Drew McIntyre’s hair and given him a singlet in time?
-Cole’s having the time of his life, performing like a modern Andy Kaufman. Meanwhile, Swagger busts out the ankle lock on Lawler. Question: if Kurt Angle was a real Olympian, is Swagger WWE’s “Special Olympian”? Question two: am I going to Hell for making this joke?
-Cole seems to have no concept of applying holds, which may lead one to think he doesn’t watch ROH. And why would he? Working ROH style leads to you having your US Title match scrapped.
-Match slows down as the crowd chants “DORING” in the hopes that former ECW Tag Team Champion Danny Doring arrives to spice things up. No dice, sadly.
-The match breaks down into a typical Austin showcase (Stunner for Swagger, babyface comeback), with Lawler applying an ankle lock for the submission, with Cole tapping forever, and Austin delaying the bell ringing. Just for fun, Booker T jumps in for a beer and eats a Stunner, because Austin remembers when Booker stole his truck and cost him the Undisputed Title.
-But WAIT! The Anonymous GM, per Josh Mathews, announces that Austin overstepped his bounds and that the virtually dead Michael Cole wins by DQ! So Austin beats up Mathews, just because. Maybe Austin’s just mad because they’re making Expendables II without him.
-Meanwhile, at AXXESS, Sheamus fans flew from Ireland to see him! Just slap em in the face, why don’t ya, WWE….
-No Holds Barred is next, and while I’m fearful of Zeus returning, it’s actually the heavily-hyped Undertaker-Triple H match. Hear that buzzing? That’s me. I’m abuzz.
-Triple H immediately endears himself to me by using “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, my favorite song from my favorite band of all time, Metallica. The booking staff could use “Frayed Ends of Sanity” themselves. He then switches to Motorhead after a redux of his Conan entrance, and then The Undertaker arrives to Johnny Cash. Metallica, Motorhead, and Johnny Cash? Sounds like the contents of Triple H’s iPod. Can we work some Warrant in there somewhere, just for laughs?
-Of note, this is Triple H’s first match in almost a year. In most cases, the man’s gut might sag. Not the case here, but his forehead’s sloping to the point where he could become a GEICO pitchman.
-The brawl goes outside and they end up destroying the Cole Mine, near the Spanish announce table. Rob points out that the last time he saw a mine collapse in the presence of Latinos was in Chile. So Rob takes my coveted title of “most tasteless joke told in a Justin diary”. I couldn’t hold it forever.
-Match is a damn good brawl, and Hunter takes a SICK backdrop off of the announce table, landing right on his hip. Gotta respect the man for taking so much abuse when he can just sit back.
-Jerry Lawler mentions that Undertaker’s never faced someone quite like Triple H, except when he faced…..Triple H. Of course, Lawler missed that WrestleMania when he protested alongside a woman that would later desert him for another man, so I can excuse it.
-HHH lands a Pedigree for 2, and then another which doesn’t finish. Hunter is now screaming “STAY DOWN”, which seems to indicate that Undertaker isn’t following the script that Hunter carefully wrote. Had Hunter yelled “JOB!”, that would have been my undisputed WrestleMania 27 moment. Hands down.
-Hunter decides to violate company policy by bashing Taker in the head with a chair, and then adds a Tombstone, which still isn’t enough. Finally, he gets the sledgehammer, but Undertaker applies Hell’s Gate. Hunter can’t swing the weapon, goes limp, and then lightly taps out. Wow, insanely epic brawl. Perhaps it’s not of the caliber of the Taker/Shawn matches, but best match of the night anyway.
-Note: Hunter tapped three times in big Mania matches. Who says he doesn’t lay down?
-Undertaker, near death, is carted off with the help of several officials, including IRS. Didn’t IRS once repossess headstones just to mess with Taker? Wrestling sure is full of forgiveness.
-Hey, Vickie’s here to shriek! Fan sentiment: “if we keep booing her and giving her insane heel heat, maybe she’ll go away!” Yeah, sure, maybe.
-John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki are facing Dolph Ziggler and LayCool, which seems to be a recipe for disaster, especially when Trish and McCool fall awkwardly to the floor from the top rope. Then McCool accidentally almost takes Layla’s face off with a blown kick meant for Trish. WWE does strong style better than the indies!
-Morrison adds a Starship Pain to the floor. Bad ass.
-Snooki gets booed after a tag, but amazes all with a handspring back splash that puts Great Muta to shame. Flip splash pins McCool to give us a pleasant surprise. Ya know, take away her drunkenness, her annoying personality, her burnt skin, and her overexposed celebrity, and what do you have? A short girl with some shapely thighs and is quite bottom heavy. Give her a normal life where she’s just “Nicole”, and I’d be shamelessly lusting after her like George “The Animal” Steele.
-(The above statement was made without a trace of irony)
-The Tough Enough contestants are in the crowd and, as Dave points out, they got better seats than the WCW roster did ten years ago at X7. Shows you where WWE’s priorities are.
-Miz’s opening video for the main event, with him “taking over production”, while “Hate Me Now” plays, is one of the freshest presentations WWE has yet done. Makes The Miz seem like a big time performer.
-Alex Riley, by managing Miz in the main event, is the Harvey Wippleman to Riley’s Sid Justice. It’s official.
-John Cena‘s entrance of the year: a church choir, singing over a montage of Cena photos and videos of his youth. If you’re going to do a church choir, can’t you get a James Brown impersonator to sing in preacher garb while Cena yells “THE BAND, ELWOOD! THE BAND!”? Is that too much to ask?
-Slow opening to the WWE Title match. Fan with a sign reading “PLEASE GIVE UP” in one of Cena’s fonts makes us laugh. Not a good sign.
-Cena and Miz seem to be rushing through this, due to time constraints. I dunno, maybe giving Rock 4 hours at the start of the show to cheerlead wasn’t such a good idea.
-For a WrestleMania main event, this is resembling a match in Stu Hart’s basement: no heat, and it’s not exactly visually pleasing. Oh, and there’s a ref bump! This just gets better by the second!
-Riley bashes Cena with a briefcase, which IRS seemed to have left at ringside, and Miz still can’t finish. So the two men brawl to the floor and Cena takes Miz over a pair of railings. Mike Chioda counts both men out which means….MIZ RETAINS! The crowd, which booed Cena all match, boos Miz retaining the title. And this is why smart-ass fans can’t have good things.
-But WAIT! Rock is out here to restart the match! The crowd doesn’t know how to feel.
-But it’s okay, because Rock gives Cena Rock Bottom as a receipt, and allows Miz to pin him and retain. Ballsy ending, I’ll give em that. Not a great match, but it’ll be fun to see where they take it from here.
-Oh, and Rock gives Miz a beating as well, because Rock’s the star. The prodigal star.
CYNIC SAYS: I didn’t HATE the show, but the structure was definitely weird. Taker-HHH was a match of the year candidate, Rhodes-Rey and Orton-Punk were both excellent, and the World Title matches were solid enough (yes, even Miz-Cena was “okay). Lawler-Cole was also fun for what it was.
There was nothing outright terrible, but not a whole lot of “blowaway” for the biggest show of the year. Call it a thumbs in the middle, leaning up, pending further review some day.
WrestleManias these days are more like the Super Bowl than ever before. In the NFL’s biggest annual game, while the outcome determines a champion, thus making the game the most relevant part of the weekend, the lure and aura of the halftime show, commercials, and interminable pre-game shows loaded with puff pieces draw in the casual viewer.
With WWE’s ratings and buyrates waning incrementally from the Attitude Era’s ending, Vince McMahon has discovered other ways to appeal to the casual viewer, especially come “WrestleMania season.”
In the last year and a half or so, World Wrestling Entertainment has dove into the deep end of social networking. You can’t sit through more than five minutes of Monday Night Raw anymore without Michael Cole prattling on in his cacophonic shriek about “hashtags” and “trending” and whatnot. Wrestlers tweeting threats to each other on off-days, usually in character, have begun to replace traditional story elements of tag team miscues and title shot demands as a means of fueling feuds and grudges.
With Twitter and Facebook as prime means of communication, it’s no doubt that WWE would exploit any chance to reach potential viewers.
Of course, WWE also continues the time-honored tradition of immersing past stars into the present story world. In recent years, we’ve seen Chris Jericho run afoul of Hall of Famers like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat on the Road to WrestleMania. One year later, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart modified their years of bad blood into a three month story arc that culminated in one of WrestleMania’s most unlikely matches.
With a Georgia Dome to fill, and fans to get talking, WWE brought somebody in off the bench to help ensure the likelihood of both. It had been nearly seven years since he was last seen….
But finally……he came back.
On February 14, 2011, a day devoted to love, wrestling fans jilted by the loss of WWE’s classic spontaneity and assertiveness were greeted to the sports entertainment equivalent of John Cusack standing below their bedroom window with a boombox.
One week after Vince McMahon announced a special guest host for WrestleMania, The Rock showed up in Anaheim, to an ungodly ovation from fans who had missed one of the sport’s greatest heroes. Dwayne Johnson systematically riffed on The Miz and John Cena, the two would-be main eventers, the latter in particular for some scathing public comments. Cena had derided Rock for leaving WWE completely behind in his pursuit of Sunset Boulevard, and now “The People’s Champion” was back to dress down his verbal attacker.
For weeks, Rock and Cena exchanged jibes back and forth so often, you’d think they were facing off at WrestleMania. Instead, Cena (who won #1 contendership at Elimination Chamber) would be challenging The Miz for the WWE Championship. Miz became a secondary figure to Rock and Cena’s trash talk, even while Michael Cole was championing Miz as “the most must-see WWE Champion in history.”
Ahh, Michael Cole’s heel turn. That ties into WrestleMania as well, as Cole, now pro-heel to the hilt, kept getting under the skin of Jerry Lawler, his longtime partner. When Lawler attempted to become WWE Champion in his only-ever shot, and felt short vs. The Miz, Cole rubbed it in to Lawler in antagonistic fashion. Emotions spilled over when Cole let slip that Lawler’s now-dead mother watched her son lose, and “The King” finally put his hands on his partner.
Soon enough, a match would be signed, with Jack Swagger as Cole’s trainer, and Stone Cold Steve Austin (what did I say about classic acts?) as the guest referee.
We haven’t even mentioned the Royal Rumble winner yet. Alberto Del Rio won the only 40-Man Rumble in history, and selected Edge, the World Heavyweight Champion, as the hilltopper he wished to knock off the summit. This feud had the added advantage of involving Christian, whom Del Rio put out of action in the fall of 2010. The reunited brothers (not friends, screw you WWE) banded together against Del Rio, his servant Ricardo Rodriguez, and protégé Brodus Clay.
To add more star power, The Undertaker’s streak of eighteen WrestleMania wins would be put on the line. Rumors swirled about who would try to end the mark. First, former UFC Champion Brock Lesnar was considered, but a deal never occurred. Then Sting was to jump from TNA, but re-signed with the company in the eleventh hour. Finally, Triple H stepped in, and engaged in weeks of tremendous dueling promo monologues with The Dead Man. The one from March 28 involving Shawn Michaels was some of WWE’s best TV to date.
CM Punk would face Randy Orton in a war over some of Orton’s past acts of aggression. And speaking of aggression, Orton would take out each of Punk’s Nexus flunkies on the road to their showdown.
Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Josh Mathews provided commentary, with Jim Ross and Booker T joining in later. Keri Hilson performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Famers included Shawn Michaels, The Road Warriors, Paul Ellering, Sunny, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Abdullah the Butcher, Bob Armstrong, and Drew Carey.
World Heavyweight Championship: Edge def. Alberto Del Rio in 11:10
(Not only did the Royal Rumble winner open the show, but he also lost, looking like quite the “chumpstain” in the process. This would be Edge’s final match before retiring due to spinal injuries, but at least it was a really good opener. But still, why did it have to open?)
Cody Rhodes def. Rey Mysterio in 12:00
(This was quite an important match, as not only was it really good, but it showed that Rhodes can shine in a role outside of being Randy Orton’s lackey, or Ted Dibiase’s co-conspirator. If you wonder why Rhodes is trusted with a serious push, look here)
Kane/Big Show/Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella def. The Corre in 1:35
(As of this match, Santino Marella is 2-0 at WrestleMania, and Big Show is 3-8. Let that sink in)
Randy Orton def. CM Punk in 14:48
(If the crowd wasn’t so restless by this point, and if the night didn’t have a sour tone overall, this would be remembered as something more. Damn good match, but greater things lie ahead for both. Especially Punk about three months later….)
Michael Cole by Jerry Lawler by DQ in 13:42
(Why yes, this got more time than the first two matches. Coupled with The Rock wasting fifteen minutes at the start of the show with a cheerleading session, and you see why Sheamus and Daniel Bryan’s US Title match was bumped. The only good this match provided was getting Jim Ross to do commentary for the rest of the evening. Watching Cole on extended offense is like watching a midget do a caber toss)
No Holds Barred: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 29:26
(Not the five star classic some were hailing it as, but still a match of the year contender, surpassed by Christian/Del Rio a month later, and then Cena/Punk at MITB and Summerslam. Just a wild brawl with an insanely intense last few minutes. Undertaker springing back from the dregs of death to make Triple H tap out was heart-stopping excitement, and it pretty much saved the show. 19-0)
John Morrison/Trish Stratus/Snooki def. Dolph Ziggler/Michelle McCool/Layla in 4:00
(I’ll say it: Snooki + WWE’s make-up team = mildly attractive. She filled out those shorts nicely, even if I find her repulsive otherwise. Morrison snubbed Trish for much of the post-match, out of protest for Melina not getting to be on the show, and would fall out of favor with WWE entirely, leaving by year’s end. Actually, factoring in Layla’s near year-long injury, and Dolph is the only one still there)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: The Miz def. John Cena in 16:10
(If there’s one thing Miz doesn’t know how to do, it’s put on an epic match. Pedestrian, Raw-like, and building to nothing exciting, the match ended in a double countout before Rock restarted it, just so he could screw Cena with a Rock Bottom. Then Miz, after winning, got one too, and Rock celebrated to end the show. Really, that was the ending. The Seinfeld finale was better conceived)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Rock and Cena would immediately begin to hype their one on one match for a year later, but the fans were still coming to grips with the show that they’d just been fed. Bryan/Sheamus bumped? Edge opening? Rock rambling in horrible segments? Cole wrestling for fifteen minutes? Snoop Dogg hosting a sing-off? No title changes? SNOOKI?!?!
Four of the matches (Edge/Alberto, Rey/Cody, Punk/Orton, Taker/HHH) were all WrestleMania worthy, and keep this from being a complete clunker. That said, there were so many head-scratching decisions involved with WrestleMania XXVII, you’d think Vince McMahon was bound and gagged backstage while Vince Russo and Herb Abrams ran amok with the booking sheet.
As for the show’s most enduring image, it has to be The Rock. It was supposed to be, theoretically, a night for Cena and Edge, two longtime heroes, to wage war with two upstart villains, Del Rio and Miz, in championship matches, but they were mere appetizers. Rock leading the fans in a chant exhibition, and then cavorting around with Mae Young and Peewee Herman…..this was somehow necessary, according to WWE.
Rock standing tall to close the show is the official portrait, and that pretty much sums up the show’s downfall.
The Rock was introduced as the Guest Host to open up the show. No need to wait to see the Great One right? The Rock left his suit at the press conference and hit the ring in full workout attire. He didn’t get the insane reaction he has been getting on RAW but that could have been the acoustics of the big arena.
The Rock rallied up the crowd with his promo. Rock chanted “wrestle” and the crowd chanted “mania” (Guess he wasn’t in on the recent meeting.) The Rock cut a brief promo on John Cena who the crowd booed big time. No real mention of The Miz. The gist of the promo though was The Rock being a cheerleader and cutting a very standard “Rock promo” and telling the fans how great WrestleMania was going to be.
This was fine for an opening segment but definitely the weakest promo he cut since his return. Nothing of substance here, just the usual catchphrases to hype the crowd.
Edge defeated Alberto Del Rio to retain the WWE world title. This was the first match to kick off the show (Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan actually opened the show but it wasn’t televised). Wow, that was different. This was the first time a WWE world title match was ever slotted first on a WrestleMania. Most reports had Sheamus vs. Bryan opening so this must have been changed. Also, it should be noted that Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were on commentary which was kind of weird. Cole was in his Cole Mine box.
At one point Michael Cole points out that Edge rarely puts himself in danger. Has he seen those TLC matches?
Edge pins Alberto Del Rio after a spear. This was a great opener with lots of action. There were a lot of near falls in this one, especially for an opening match. I would have liked to see Alberto walk away with the belt here. However, as I pointed in my preview he has been struggling a bit lately. Honestly I think that low rating in a match against John Cena on RAW a few weeks ago sunk him.
There was also no Christian heel turn either as expected. That one surprises me. Why bother have him go over on Del Rio the last few weeks if a) Del Rio list and b) he didn’t turn. At one point after the match Edge and Christian each had lead pipes and destroyed Del Rio’s car. It looked like Christian was going to turn around and nail Edge but nope, business as usual.
Cody Rhodes pinned Rey Mysterio with Crossroads. Rey Mysterio came out in a real cool Captain America outfit at WrestleMania 27. There was a really cool spot in the match where Cody held Rey up from the second turnbuckle in a vertical suplex for what seemed like over a minute. Cody tried to work over the injured knee for most of the match but never seemed to get a great opportunity. Cody did remove the knee brace. Rey hit a real nice moonsault block during the match for a near fall. The finish Rey go for a tope, Cody removed his mask outside the ring and nailed Rey behind the referee’s back which set up the Crossroads and the pinfall. This was another great match and the guys got a lot more time than I expected.
Snoop Dogg did a backstage segment “auditioning WWE superstars” to go on tour. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper made a cameo otherwise his was a real momentum killer. I’d be pretty angry if I paid three figures for a WrestleMania ticket and had to sit through this. I am pretty angry at paying $55 to see this. The finale here was Hornswoggle rapping.
Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston defeated The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, and Heath Slater). The Big Show pinned Heath Slater. Kofi Kingston was a late (and pleasant) replacement after the Corre took out Kozlov in an angle during AXXESS. This one was over quick. I was hoping to see Wade Barrett get the fall but it wasn’t to be.
The Rock was back and had a conversation with Eve Torres. Mae Young was back and The Rock made some old jokes at her expense. Then The Rock turned around and was face to face with Steve Austin. This was a pretty cool yet uneventful moment which saw the two end the segment by shaking hands.
Randy Orton pinned CM Punk with the RKO. CM Punk worked over Randy Oron’s injured leg for most of the mach. An odd spot saw Randy Orton suplerplex Punk after having his leg worked over for 10 minutes. Even stranger is that nobody acknowledged Cowboy Bob during the spot. The wrestling psychology here was just awful as Orton would go from selling the leg to no selling between moves. I guess the apple fell very far from that tree. This was an okay match, nothing great, very deliberate and slow paced at times. There was a cool spot that saw Orton go for the RKO out of nowhere and Punk avoid it. The next one got him and downed him for the pinfall.
The Rock was backstage again and met “John Cena’s number one fan” who turned out to be Pee Wee Herman. This was actually pretty good. Gene Okerlund was back there with both of them in full Cena garb. The segment ended with Pee Wee disowning Cena and joining Team Bring It.
Howard Finkel made it 27-0 and introduced the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame class. Bob Armstrong got a really nice surprising pop. Abdullah the Butcher looks like he dropped about 60 pounds. HBK of course got the best ovation although nothing close to what Stone Cold got at WrestleMania 25.
The anonymous G.M. chimed in after the match and awarded Michael Cole the win via disqualification. Swagger and Lawler wrestled early on as Cole sat in the Cole Mine. Cole in that Cole Mine was actually pretty damn funny. Cole’s selling was also great. Lawler climbed into the Cole Mine and beat on Cole. He finally dragged him out and ran his head into the G.M. post. Swagger finally took Lawler out as Austin had his back turned.
Cole’s first move was a baseball slide as Lawler laid on the ring apron. Swagger applied the ankle lock outside the ring on Lawler which set up Cole’s offense. Cole worked on Lawler’s leg. It got pretty stale midway and the crowd started to boo and turn on the match (reminded me a lot of Bret vs. Vince). Cole even pulled the strap down to mock the King and applied a version of the ankle lock.
Swagger threw the towel in when Lawler pulled the strap down and Austin used the towel to wipe himself down. Swagger got in Austin’s face and got the stunner. Cole got in Austin’s face and Austin pushed him into Lawler’s right hand. Lawler even pulled out the dropkick, which had great height. Lawler dropped the fist, had the three count, but pulled Cole back up. Lawler finished with the ankle lock. Austin called the match and awarded the win to Lawler which would be temporary.
Michael Cole wrestled in amateur wrestling gear which was pretty freaking awesome! Cole actually came out cutting a promo on Lawler and JR with no music which was different. Steve Austin came out on his four wheeler to a huge pop. Austin chased Cole into the Cole Mine. Jerry Lawler got practically no reaction walking out which is really odd following Cole’s great opening promo.
Jim Ross finally made his way back to the WrestleMania broadcast booth for the first time since WrestleMania 25. It couldn’t have come any sooner as the commentary was really awful tonight thanks to the Cole-Lawler dynamic. Booker was a bit rusty but a welcome change indeed.
I was really surprised at how little the crowd seemed into this match. They were way into Stone Cole but nothing else, which surprises me after their highly rated segments. At one point in the middle of the match the crowd started to boo and I even heard a few “boring” chants. I’d be shocked if they brought these two back. This was definitely not a WrestleMania classic and was easily the worst of the night.
Booker T came in after the match and Austin wound up giving him a stunner. Well they did feud back in 2001 and Austin isn’t a forgetful man. Remember that supermarket brawl?
The G.M. chimed in during the celebration and reversed the decision and awarded Cole the win via disqualification citing Austin being a partial referee. Austin wound up giving Josh Matthews a stunner after he made the announcement. The good news here is that this leaves only Lawler and JR to call the rest of WrestleMania. There is a God!
The Undertaker defeated Triple H in a No Holds Barred Match. Triple H came out to Metallica “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a very cool ancient king costume. I know he has a ton of haters but the guy still has one of the best entrances in the business. The Undertaker wasn’t outdone and had a real cool entrance himself. Triple H got the second biggest pop of the night up to this point besides Austin and that includes The Rock. The crowd was really into this one.
The match started off as a brawl, just like their WresleMania 17 match. Less than a minute in and they hit the floor. Triple H tackled Undertaker through the Cole Mine so I guess that angle is officially over. Both guys went back into the ring brawling. For all of their injuries both guys looked really mobile early on.
The Undertaker went “old school” but Triple H took a page out of his mentor Ric Flair’s WrestleMania X8 game plan and reversed it. They went back to the floor which saw Triple H toss the dead man into the barricade. Five minutes in and both announcers’ tables were in play. The Undertaker reversed an attempted pedigree on the table with a big back drop. Hunter flew off the table to the floor in what will probably be the WrestleMania moment of the night. Lots of action for the first five minutes.
The Undertaker hit an awesome suicide dive onto Hunter which will give their previous WrestleMania moment a run for the money. The match slowed down quite a bit at this point. These guys are throwing everything out there. Triple H reversed a charge and gave The Undertaker a cool spine buster onto the table. This is probably the best WrestleMania match Triple H has ever had.
The Undertaker got a close fall back in the ring with a chokeslam. Triple H caught The Undertaker with a second spine buster in the ring for a close fall. Triple H brought a chair into the ring which was countered by Taker. Taker used it and nailed Hunter on the back. Hunter nailed a pedigree out of nowhere that got a count so close I thought the match was over.
These two never slowed down. Undertaker got a real close fall with a Last Ride powerbomb. Fifteen minutes in and The Undertaker slashed the throat calling for the end. Triple H kicked out of a tombstone and the place went crazy. He is really Superman isn’t he? Well JR says it is “amazing will” so we’ll go with that.
Triple H changed the tide with a DDT on the steel chair. Triple H was definitely on the receiving end a lot more than The Undertaker in the match. Hunter nailed a second pedigree which saw Taker barely kick out to another pop. This match has definitely stolen the show.
The announcers started putting over damage to The Undertaker’s neck. Could the streak be ending? Taker kicks out of yet another pedigree. No, HE is Superman! Trips returned the favor and nailed The Undertaker on his back with the chair. JR wants to nominate the chair to the WWE Hall of Fame. No less deserving than Drew Carey so why not?
Both guys finally slow down at around the 25 minute mark. Triple H yelling at The Undertaker to “stay down!” Triple H nails The Undertaker on the head (now that is how to take a protected chair shot) in the center of the ring but doesn’t cover. The Game continues yelling at Taker to stay down and tells him to “just die.” The Undertaker responds by grabbing Hunter’s throat. The Undertaker can barely stand.
Triple H his a tombstone on The Undertaker and yes, Taker kicks out. I admit I thought it was over at that point. Triple H in shock. This is good but at the same time it is getting a bit ridiculous. Out comes the sledgehammer from underneath the ring at about the 28 minute mark. Taker instead catches a hesitant Hunter with the gogoplata out of nowhere. Triple H can’t find the hammer. He finds it and drops it. The Game taps at around 30:00!
This match rivaled both HBK vs. Undertaker WrestleMania matches and was arguably better. Some will argue that the amount of near falls got a bit ridiculous and it did, but it was no different than HBK vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania 25. This was just a tremendous match and I would be absolutely shocked if they don’t come back with a rematch next year with Career vs. Streak. The Undertaker had to be taken to the back with a cart without moving.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Trish Stratus and John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool). Good luck following that one kids. Vickie Guerrero announced her group. Snooki got a very tepid reaction coming out. It looked like half the crowd went to the concession stands. In all fairness to these guys and girls, anyone would have had a hard time grabbing the crowd after the last match.
At one point Stratus and McCool fell off the ropes to the outside and it didn’t look like a planned spot. It ended up well but that is something that could have turned ugly.
Snooki was booed big time when she finally tagged in. She came in doing a hand spring elbow that believe it or not looked pretty good. She pinned McCool with a cartwheel into a splash. Snooki actually won back some of the crowd with the hand spring. This one was over pretty quick.
The Miz defeated John Cena to retain the WWE championship. Cena came out to a gospel choir and had a video longer than the last match about God and praying. The cynic in me thinks that the WWE pulled this thinking fans wouldn’t boo a guy coming out to a gospel choir and a video about praying. Think again WWE! Cena was booed and booed worse than Snooki. It should also be noted that Cena has dropped the purple colors in favor of a more masculine red.
The crowd argued quite a bit early on who sucked more. The Miz does his best Triple H imitation and tells Cena to “stay down” in the early going. Back and forth basic stuff between both guys early. The crowd isn’t into this one at all early on. Cena and Miz turn it up five minutes in as Cena nails a leg drop off the top rope.
The guys missed a horrible spot in the middle of the match with Cena seemingly falling out of nowhere. I can’t recall seeing a botched spot that bad in a WrestleMania main event. Hey, it happens but talk about bad timing. And yes, this match is really disappointing in terms of WrestleMania headliners but let’s face it, the best is yet to come.
Cena escapes an Attitude Adjustment 9 minutes into the match. Cena going for all of his finishers at the 10 minute mark and The Miz has avoided them all. The Miz removed the top turnbuckle. Cena finally gets an STF at the 11 minute mark but The Miz uses the ropes to break the hold.
Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale after Alex Riley throws Cena into the exposed turnbuckle. Cena kicks out. Miz goes for another and Cena reverses and throws him into the referee by accident at about the 12 minute mark. Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment but no referee. Alex Riley nails Cena with the briefcase but Cena kicks out. Crowd starting to come alive. Miz kicks out of a big Attitude Adjustment. The announcers are trying to put over his resilience. Good luck.
Both guys outside the ring. Cena clotheslined The Miz into the crowd. Cena proceeds to tackle him and the two hit the floor, although the WWE cameras missed it. Both guys are counted out and The Miz retains. I smell something cooking!
The Rock finally returns and the crowd is happy to see him. The RAW G.M. chimes in. The Rock reads the email and mocks the G.M. The Rock says WrestleMania is not over. The Rock as Guest Host restarts the match and makes it No DQ. The Rock says it is time to give the people what they want. The match is back on!
The match restarts and The Rock gives John Cena the Rock Bottom! The fans go nuts chanting “Rocky!” The Miz takes advantage and covers John Cena for the win. A predictable, yet exciting finish to the match. It seemed as if the fans were just waiting for The Rock to come out and do something.
The Rock and The Miz had a staredown which saw The Rock hit the ring and lay the smack down on the WWE champion. The Rock dropped a People’s Elbow on The Miz and then hit the turnbuckles to celebrate.
Overall I’d say it was a pretty good WrestleMania. The WWE definitely made a mistake not closing the show with Triple H vs. The Undertaker. Even with The Rock, the main-event still felt flat having to follow Hunter and Taker. The undercard was pretty good with Cody vs. Rey being particularly fun as well as Edge vs. Del Rio. Cole vs. Lawler was terrible and went way too long. John Cena is a lost cause right now and either needs to go full heel or rescue a few babies from burning buildings on RAW to get some fans back.
As great as I think the stuff has been with The Rock and Cena I think they overplayed their hand just a little bit. I think fans expected the finish and Rock Bottom which really killed a lot of the match. In my opinion, Cena and Rock should have been kept separate until WrestleMania. That way the fans wouldn’t know what to expect.
The Rock is scheduled for RAW tomorrow night. This all has to end at some point with The Rock vs. John Cena. I hope they don’t water it down with a 3-Way and throw The Miz in. At this point I don’t think there is any way out of this other than the big match. Maybe Cena can do something drastic tomorrow to buy some time and “injure” The Rock until he comes back. Either way tomorrow night is going to be a very interesting night.
The ending really did kill for the show for a lot of people. I have talked to a few friends that hated it purely on the way the show ended, last match, etc. I get it and I agree that it sucked. I just think that if you look at the entire show it really wasn’t that bad and was probably one of the better ones in recent memory.
Finally I can’t say enough about The Undertaker vs. Triple H. As stated above, I think it may be slightly better than any of the WrestleMania Michaels vs. Undertaker matches. It was easily Triple H’s best Mania match. The finish left the story wide open for a rematch next year. The prospects of a year long build similar to HBK vs. Undertaker WrestleMania 26 are very enticing.
And their WrestleMania 28 rematch can’t come soon enough.
Full WrestleMania 27 results…
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan ended in a no contest (dark match)
Edge retained over Alberto Del Rio in a WWE world title match
Cody Rhodes pinned Rey Mysterio
Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston beat The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, and Heath Slater)
Randy Orton pinned CM Punk
Michael Cole defeated Jerry Lawler via disqualification
The Undertaker defeated Triple H in a No Holds Barred match
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Trish Stratus and John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool)
The Miz pinned John Cena to retain the WWE championship
-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?”.
-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.
A scant fourteen hours before he would have won the World Heavyweight Championship from Batista at a rare Sunday SmackDown taping, Eddie Guerrero was found dead in a Minnesota hotel room at the age of 38.
Despite beating the alcoholism that plagued much of his life four years ago, Guerrero’s weakened circulatory system, a body worn down by the rigors of the ring, and a life numbed by drugs, both prescription and elicit, all came back to haunt him at a time when his diligence and courage were heralded as one of wrestling’s greatest fairy tales.
Guerrero’s death was a blow to not only his family, friends, and fans across the globe, but to WWE itself. Guerrero’s rise to the main event scene in World Wrestling Entertainment wasn’t just a reward for cleaning up his life. Statistics showed that Smackdown’s TV ratings were ballooning, heavily so in Latin markets. With Guerrero, his nephew Chavo, and the dynamic Rey Mysterio, Smackdown was able to cater to the fastest growing ethic demographic in the United States.
It was Guerrero’s natural charisma, however, coupled with his silky-smooth in-ring performances that made him a standout to fans who couldn’t, in any faith, boo his “cheat to win” heel act. Instead, the gimmick was retooled to make him into a cunning and clever hero, outwitting villains left and right to remain on top.
With Guerrero’s death, the company was losing a considerable lifeline to a market that didn’t explode until “Latino Heat” helped WWE tap into it.
However, all was not lost.
Except for WWE’s sense of decency.
For the next six months or so, Guerrero’s name was used by Rey Mysterio in infinite tribute, while Mysterio’s opponents actually defamed Guerrero’s name just to further storylines.
Sadly, the Eddie Guerrero exploitation would grow more disturbing.
With “Eddie Guerrero” becoming a buzz phrase after the man’s demise, coupled with Mysterio’s constant evocation of his name, Mysterio dedicated his performance at the 2006 Royal Rumble to his deceased friend.
Rey Mysterio would enter the match at #2 and set the longevity record, lasting over one hour to surprise #30 Randy Orton with a hurrachanrana elimination to win. Mysterio could now further his tribute to Guerrero by winning the World Heayweight Championship at WrestleMania XXII.
However, Orton goaded Mysterio into putting his contender’s spot on the line at No Way Out, getting Mysterio to agree by declaring that Eddie Guerrero was in Hell. Tasteless as it was, the match was signed, and Orton cheated to win. However, GM Teddy Long made a concession: since Orton had to use nefarious means, the match would now be a triple threat between Mysterio, Orton, and champion Kurt Angle.
Over on Raw, John Cena was WWE Champion, and not a popular one. Fans were either heavily divided on his goofy superhero schtick, or they outright booed him out of the arenas. After winning feuds with heels who were cheered over him (Angle, Chris Jericho, Edge), Cena was locked in to face Triple H, who won a tournament to earn the shot.
The Game, for reasons unclear, was allowed to declare Cena a bad champion due to a lack of wrestling ability, as well the unfavorable crowd reactions.
Oddly enough, none of this did anything to improve Cena’s cracked image.
In one of the more bizarre builds for a marquee match, Shawn Michaels had confronted Vince McMahon late in 2005, after McMahon attempted to publicly embarrass Bret Hart. Michaels, from whom Hart was estranged from after a litany of controversies, came to the ring and told Vince “move on”.
McMahon didn’t take the perceived insult lightly, and became hell-bent on ruining Michaels’ life. This included enlisting Shane McMahon to toss Michaels out of the Royal Rumble match after a distraction, and then later trying to force Michaels’ former partner Marty Jannetty to join his “Kiss My Ass” club in exchange for employment. Michaels intervened, and took a chair to the head from Shane. Then, while Shawn was out cold, Shane lifted Michaels and forced him to perform the kiss unwittingly.
McMahon and Michaels would then sign for a street fight, McMahon’s typical style, in which Michaels promised that it wasn’t going to be one of his five-star classics.
Speaking of brawls, Edge and Mick Foley had fallen into a skirmish. After Edge won the WWE title in January by cashing in his Money in the Bank chance on a wounded John Cena, Edge lost the belt three weeks later back to the man he’d felled. Foley refereed a rematch between the two and Cena won, prompting Edge to cry foul. He agreed to lock horns with Foley in a hardcore rules match to create his own WrestleMania moment.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler called Raw’s action, while Michael Cole and Tazz brought us Smackdown. Joey Styles filled in for Ross during the aforementioned hardcore match. Lillian Garcia sang “America the Beautiful” to kick off the show. As for the Hall of Fame, 2006 saw Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Mean Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri, The Blackjacks, Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas, and William “Refrigerator” Perry inducted.
World Tag Team: Kane/Big Show def. Carlito/Chris Masters in 6:41
(Wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it turned out to be a decent opener, all things considered. Besides, it was Big Show’s first win in WrestleMania history. So there’s that)
Money in the Bank: Rob Van Dam def. Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Ric Flair, and Bobby Lashley in 12:21
(Not up to the level of last year’s, but still featuring some craziness. Lashley and Flair seemed out of place, but everyone else was game. Shelton’s springboard onto one side of the ladder still amazes me to this day)
WWE United States: JBL def. Chris Benoit in 9:44 to win the title
(This would have been a fine enough match with a normal face/heel dynamic, but JBL had to mock Eddie Guerrero with his arm swivel taunt about fifteen times. Just not necessary)
Hardcore Rules: Edge def. Mick Foley in 14:37
(The earliest a “match of the night” has ever occurred at ‘Mania, I believe. Lita taking barbed wire to the mouth was crazy, but Edge spearing Mick Foley through the flaming table was beyond insane. Edge going into the flames makes me think he was telling Vince “Gimme the belt back, or I’ll kill myself on your show.” Looks to have worked)
Handicap Match: The Boogeyman def. Booker T/Sharmell in 3:52
(Much as I like both men for different reasons, the less said about this match, the better)
WWE Women’s Title: Mickie James def. Trish Stratus in 11:48 to win the title
(It’s the best women’s match in WrestleMania history, and perhaps Mickie’s finest hour as a character. Sadly, the DVD release omits Mickie’s finest moment, but it’s burned into my brain forever anyway)
Casket Match: The Undertaker def. Mark Henry at 9:26
(That’s fourteen. That’s also Mark Henry’s second WrestleMania match in ten years with the company. Makes you think forces have conspired against him. Or maybe he’s just that bad?)
Street Fight: Shawn Michaels def. Vince McMahon in 18:28
(One of Vince’s most entertaining matches ever, and it’s fun to watch Shawn beat the hell out of him for about fifteen straight minutes. The highlight was Vince McMahon being stretchered out, giving Shawn the finger while near death and bloodied on the gurney. It’s worth watching for the belly laughs)
World Heavyweight Championship: Rey Mysterio def. Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in 9:18 to win the title
(All of that forced build with Guerrero’s exploitation for a nine minute match? And it didn’t even finish the show? Chavo and Vickie Guerrero coming out to celebrate with Rey just made a decent match muddled by a bad angle worse. I was just glad that the angle was finally over….sort of)
Playboy Pillow Fight: Torrie Wilson def. Candice Michelle in 3:54
(Much like the Booker/Sharmell/Boogeyman fiasco, the less said about this, the better)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Triple H in 22:02
(Forget about the match, which was decent and enhanced by a virulently anti-Cena crowd. The highlight was Triple H making his entrance dressed as a Nordic barbarian, and Cena trying to suck up to Chicago with a fleet of faux gangsters while dressed like Al Capone. One of those gangsters was CM Punk, which begs the question: why would the straight-edge Punk associate with anti-prohibitionists?)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Rey Mysterio, for his contributions to the business in terms of opening doors for smaller athletes to thrive on an international level, deserved very much to win a World Championship at an event the caliber of WrestleMania.
However, the ham-fisted, intelligence-insulting fashion in which WWE paved his road to said title will go down as perhaps the most jaw-droppingly insensitive booking that WWE has ever used to sell an event of WrestleMania’s standing.
I truly believe that, to this day, when WWE mentions Guerrero in reverent terms, or when they showcase him as part of a positive video package, it’s to deflect any negative thoughts one may have about the undignified manner in which Guerrero died, as well as to try and make fans forget about the horrible way in which WWE bungled the aftermath of his passing.
But Mysterio, Chavo, and Vickie to this day have more detractors than they’ve ever had, and much of it is kneejerk. Their direct involvement in a year (a YEAR) of exploitation is something that hasn’t washed off easily.
WrestleMania XXII was a decent show, one that is stained by feeling the need to tie in a real death to a fictional production.
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.
-Thanks to a slickly produced “WrestleMania Goes Hollywood” campaign, which presented itself with faux movie trailers featuring WWE talents, this was a show that was looked forward to by many, myself included. And so on April 3, 2005, WrestleMania XXI came to us from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.
-The commentary teams are the same for the third year in a row, although there are two inter-brand matches, with Michael Cole and Tazz of Smackdown covering one and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler of Raw covering the other. That’s why interbrand stuff annoys me the rest of the year: it feels like it means more come WrestleMania time. And really, how many times can you hear Cole or JR say “Hey wait a minute, he’s not on this show; what is he DOING here?” without ruining the freshness of the invasion? If there’s ever a company that can botch invasions, it’s WWE.
-Lillian Garcia performs America the Beautiful before the action starts, and beautiful it is. The song was pretty fetching as well. The set for the event may be the best WrestleMania set-up ever, with a giant marquee next to the titan tron to advertise the match that’s next, and a red carpet leading to the ring. It’s like a Hollywood premiere, without the Rivers women asking dumb questions. Though Melissa asking Giant Gonzalez “WHO YA WEAR-ING?” would be a highlight to say the least.
-The final movie trailer airs to open the show, with Steve Austin playing Gladiator. They couldn’t get Bischoff to play Commodus?
-Quick shout out to reader Cole Yeager, who I neglected to mention in my WrestleMania XX rant, even though he appeared on camera and I promised him a mention. So Cole, here ya go brother. Thanks for the support.
-Also of note, before the show, Booker T won a 28 man battle royal as consolation for not giving him an actual PPV match. I’m sure whoever explained to him that he’d been bumped for semi-known sumo wrestler had their work cut out for him.
-Up first, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero square off, even though they’re the reigning WWE Tag Team Champions. That’s promising. “We have no teams on the horizon worth facing you, so you’ll just face each other”. That’s only slightly more promising than World Tag Team Champions William Regal and Tajiri being relegated to the pre-show battle royal. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Jim Cornette nuts. That, and things that are trendy.
-The two begin, as one would suspect, with their usual cirque de soilei routine, which the highlight of it is Rey landing a sunset flip out of a mercy lock, and Eddie rolling through to do a slingshot which sends Rey to the outside. This leads to a cat and mouse chase where Rey tries to lure Eddie into a 619, but Guerrero avoids it. About what you’d expect from these two.
-The match keeps progressing swimmingly, but on at least two occasions, the momentum is halted when Rey’s mask, which is slitted apart in the back for style reasons, keeps coming loose, prompting him to re-adjust it and slightly break character. After Guerrero spent their entire Halloween Havoc match trying to rip it off, it’s weird to see him slow down to let Rey fix it. Weird indeed.
-Guerrero slows it down with an STF and a hammerlock, and was probably telling Rey “If you can’t keep your mask on straight, you’ll never be a World Champion like me!” and Rey’s probably all “Don’t worry, I’ll be a World Champion BECAUSE of you”. I’m sure Guerrero didn’t think twice about that, and it’s probably for the best. By the way, the joke was not meant to mock death, but rather exploitation, which deserves mockery. Especially in this case.
-After countering the three amigos with a rana, Rey tries the 619, but Guerrero counters with a tilt a whirl backbreaker. I think that was Eddie’s best move, personally.
-Rey manages to hit the 619 for real, but the Dime Drop goes badly as Eddie lands a powerbomb for 2. Rey finally comes back and gets a twirling rana and double leg hook for the win. Awkward moments aside, this was a tremendous way to open the show, especially in front of a crowd that’s generally known for being quiet. The two shake hands afterward, but they’d eventually feud through the summer. Guerrero, of course, passed away just seven months later, and is definitely missed by all. As it is, it’s a damn good final WrestleMania match for him.
-Meanwhile, HHH and Ric Flair confront JBL and his Cabinet of Orlando Jordan and The Bashams. If Evolution was the Lakers (wrought with egos, despite their star power) then the Cabinet would have to be the 1991 UNLV team that won the National Title, except they’re no pros. Sure, JBL may be Larry Johnson, but OJ and the Bashams are definitely Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, and George Ackles. For the six of you who get that joke, you’re welcome.
-Next up, the first ever Money in the Bank match, which was a Raw affair. As opposed to a raw affair, which is what Edge and Lita were having. Speaking of Edge, it’s him, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Christian, Kane, and IC Champion Shelton Benjamin vying for the Marsellus Wallace briefcase. I always thought it was funny, since in canon, Jericho’s the one who pitched the match concept to GM Eric Bischoff, and Bischoff approved. So that’s the first idea of Jericho’s that Bischoff went with since….well, ever.
-The workrate five try to fight Kane in the aisleway during his entrance, but all get beaten down briskly. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Wade Keller nuts.
-After a plancha parade, Kane is the first one to gain access to a ladder and he bashes on-comers, but Jericho lands a missle dropkick to take him down.
-Benoit’s the first climb attempter, but Kane clasps him for a chokeslam attempt, which is countered into a Crossface. Edge saves for some reason, so he gets a Crossface. Well, that’s Benoit’s MO; as he’s not going to stop until everybody stops moving. Ahem.
-Now for the first, and last, bit of MITB psychology, as Kane smashes Benoit’s arm inside a ladder, an injury that Benoit would sell until the end of the match. It’s those little things that add to the whole.
-Edge and Christian get Kane with a con-ladder-to. FIVE SECOND POSE TIME! Or not. Curses!
-Benjamin entrenches himself as a name value wrestler by hitting the T-Bone onto Edge off of the ladder. And everybody wonders why every three months, Edge suffers an injury that sidelines him through the forthcoming midterms.
-Shelton tops himself by running up a sloped ladder and leaping off to clothesline a climbing Jericho. Truly breathtaking, but you’ll notice Christian holding the ladder steady so that Benjamin didn’t slip. That’s not a criticism, that’s WWE making sure that the spot doesn’t fail by using subtle help techniques. That’s why Botchamania’s littered with complicated moves from TNA and ROH. Sure, WWE has their share, but at least they think outside the box and make things as fail-safe as possible. I like that.
-Tomko tries to aid Christian by doing the electric chair walk up the ladder, but Kane puts a stop to that. With that, Tomko gets more WrestleMania screen time than most. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Lance Storm nuts.
-It comes down to Benoit climbing after taking Kane out with a diving headbutt, but Edge runs in and bashes The Crippler’s arm with a chair, allowing himself to make the unimpeded climb up to claim the briefcase. I should also note that Edge’s heel heat was unlike any he’d had before, due to the Lita affair. Great match, and it proved that you can do a stuntshow without tables and chairs (well, except for the final spot). Edge, of course, would cash in his shot nine months later against John Cena to ingrain himself as a main eventer. Edge may even be the most complete wrestler ever, next to Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and Chris Jericho, in terms of having no flaws as a performer. Of course, that’s subjective.
-To waste a little time, Eugene comes out to just ramble, but is interrupted by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. Apparently, the mentally handicapped are frowned upon by wannabe foreigners, because they attack Eugene, and then lock him in a hold that reminds you to visit camelclutchblog.com for the lastest in sports, wrestling, and even American Idol!
-Then, just to pop the crowd, “Real American” hits to bring out the Hulkster, as the crowd goes NUCLEAR. Bad word choice, given the gimmicks on display, I know. Hogan clears the ring of the faux-reigners, and then poses alone. He’s not gonna help Eugene up and pose with him? Apparently, the mentally handicapped are frowned upon by real Americans, brother.
-Highlight package for Undertaker-Orton. It was only in the weeks before the event did Orton officially turn heel. Up until then, he was a plucky jock babyface who got to kiss Stacy Keibler regularly. In order to effectively turn someone heel, we’d have to want to boo him. Well, mission accomplished.
-Undertaker makes his entrance on a magical skateboard, which I hereby declare to be way cooler than his various motorcycles. Remember, kids: motorcycles are for people who never learned how to pedal.
-Orton tries to outwrestle Taker in the early going, and I’m amazed by Orton’s growth as a performer. He could never make it as a babyface, so they turned him heel. Once heel, the fans hated for reasons other than his character (his real life bad attitude, the fact that he was pushed too hard, etc), but they kept pushing him. Sure enough, he finally got over by….beating faces like John Cena and Triple H, who are also ones who don’t get the crowd reactions needed to match their giant pushes. So thus they turn Orton face by having him destroy Legacy and, thus, he becomes the babyface they wanted all along. See? The fans ARE breakable.
-Taker catches Orton with Old School in the early going. When someone hits one of their big moves early, it means one of two things: either there’s big stuff planned for later and they’re just getting this out of the way, or that the person who hit it doesn’t own a watch. There’s no middle ground.
-Every time Undertaker hits Snake Eyes while wearing a singlet and leather pants, why do I think of Kevin Nash at a doomer’s rave?
-Orton hammers with ten punches in the corner, but stops on nine to pose, and finds himself in a Last Ride attempt, because Orton, you know, had never seen Taker wrestle before. He drops out of the Ride and tries the RKO, but Taker shoves him off into the ref. Ruh-roh!
-The lack of a referee means Cowboy Bob Orton can run in and hit Taker with his old and possibly disgusting cast. Randy makes the cover and only gets two (Bob: “WHAT THE F—”). Taker lays out Bob again and tries a chokeslam on Randy, who counters with the RKO! We all figured that Orton had the streak ended, but Taker managed to kick out.
-Finally Orton tries a Tombstone, but Taker reverses into his own (really spiking Randy’s head) for the win to move to 13-0. Really good match…..when’s the last time WrestleMania opened with three good to great matches? This has to be some sort of record.
-Trish-Christy highlights. And the streak ends at 3.
-Trish Stratus is here to defend the WWE Women’s Title against Christy Hemme, who is seconded by an injured (and Pariahed) Lita. Let’s just say the match is four minutes of Christy doing the most basic of moves, only to have Trish repeatedly mock her, basically carry her, and then easily pin her with the Chick Kick. And to think, Christy carried that pillow fight with Carmella.
-WWE knew by year’s end that Christy was mostly useless and released her. Christy also is going on four years employment in TNA. There’s a lesson in there, and it’s that performers who aren’t ready shouldn’t be out there wrestling. This is the kind of stuff that drives a woman like Lacey Von Erich nuts.
-Highlights of Kurt Angle/Shawn Michaels air. Which was cooler: The Rockers reuniting for one night, complete with old music, or Angle and Sherri doing their version of Michaels’ theme for Kurt? I’m going with Kurt’s, because Shawn wore his HBK attire for the Rocker reunion and ruined the whole effect. Way to ruin the whole effect, Shawn!
-You’d be tempted to just slap a ***** rating on there automatically, but let’s watch it since, you know, it’s excellent. The now standard one-upsmanship wrestling sequence opens it. Anyone else a sucker for t he arm scissors-turned Backlund lift-turned reversal into a pin sequence that Michaels and Angle just executed? Or do you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about?
-After clotheslining Angle to the floor, Shawn begins to clean off a table. Why? I love it when a wrestler is about to use a commentary desk as a weapon and he meticulously removes the monitors because “Gosh, they may hurt someone!”. Of all people, it was Kevin Nash who simply powerbombed Shawn onto one and the monitors landed on Shawn’s torso, and it looked PAINFUL. And awesome too. When Nash is the height of manliness, there’s a problem.
-After Shawn breaks the count, Angle hammers away to come back, and then winds up slamming Michaels into the post with the Angle Slam. Well, if you’re going to injure another man, at least be creative doing it, I guess.
-Angle continues to punish with wear down submissions and belly to bellies inside. But what about the table? Man, you can’t just tease us like that!
-Crap, Angle’s doing the sodomizer suplex on the apron again. I’m done with the Patterson jokes for these rants, just let me be.
-Michaels ends up kicking Angle off and into the Smackdown table, just so Shawn can do a sweet reverse crossbody onto Angle, and the table doesn’t break. Um. Ouch.
-Shawn’s Sweet Chin Music attempt is caught in an ankle lock, but after much squirming, he gets to the ropes. Angle tries for his Slam, but Shawn sunsets his way out of it. Shawn tries the SCM again, but spins free of an ankle lock attempt, only to be hit by an Angle Slam for 2. Angle then gets desperate and tries a moonsault, but there’s no water in the pool. Shawn heads up top himself, but Angle springs to life and gets a running leaping Angle Slam for 2! I’m out of breath now. I need a nap badly.
-During this sequence, Angle pulled his singlet straps back up just so he could pull them down again, which is remarkably awesome for reasons that I cannot humanly describe.
-So, yeah, Angle’s pissed that Shawn won’t stay down, and then he screams in his face while picking him up (“WHERE IS HE?!!?!?!?”, oh wait), but Shawn catches the SCM out of nowhere. Shawn gets the arm across for 2, but Angle gets the shoulder up at the last second. A disoriented Shawn gets up, but Angle takes him down with yet another ankle lock and, this time, as Angle sinks it in, Shawn taps out after a struggle to give Angle the win. Wow. Just an incredible match all around from two of the best pros ever, and it led to bigger things for both. Namely, Shawn playing Beefcake 2.0 to Hulk Hogan’s return, and Angle threatening to engage in barnyard copulation with Sharmell. Well, they can’t ALL be great ideas.
-For the faux trailers, the award for “Best Punch Line” went to Christian’s “I Love You” in the Basic Instinct trailer. Not only was that trailer fun because of Stacy in the Sharon Stone role, but for Chris Jericho as Michael Douglas’ character, looking oddly like him. Which Douglas movie would you like to see Jericho try: Falling Down or Wall Street? I think either would rule.
-To waste some time, we get a Piper’s Pit segment where Rowdy Roddy Piper and Stone Cold Steve Austin have a verbal discourse, but Carlito interrupts and gets beaten up. Then Austin beats up Piper. I guess it was alright, but Piper was less angry and incoherent than usual, so I can’t really go the full gore on it.
-Best Trailer goes to the Taxi Driver takeoff, which included Snitsky. Well, I can see why it won.
-Sumo match. Big Show. Akebono. THONGS. GOOD GOD!
-Akebono wins, due to the little known clause that states in part: “Big Show must always lose at WrestleMania”. Fortunately, Vince was too busy preparing for his match the following year and Show was able to sneak in a victory. Good on you, Paul. Two big men in thongs was still a poor use of WrestleMania time. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Pat Patterson nuts. In an elated way. Yeah yeah, had to get one more in….
-JBL-Cena video package. Once upon a time, we were all rooting for John Cena to win his first world title. I can’t BELIEVE that this was 2005.
-JBL gets a lavish entrance, complete with police motorcade for his limousine, and money depicting his face falling from the ceiling. So in other words, Pacman Jones ripped off JBL. Now we know.
-Quick tangent: I honestly find JBL to be one of the most refreshing and interesting champions in recent memory, despite what the ratings and buyrates say. I was tired of main events where the heels were so cool that you couldn’t help but cheer them. The whole thing felt like a Bond movie, where the hero and the villain are both so innately talented and charismatic that you cheer both. The world needed a heel was cowardly, unlikeable, boisterous, and someone who the marks would loathe. Enter JBL, who did his job to a tee. He never would have become champion if the smarks and CNBC hadn’t freaked out over the Munich incident. If you show any heel wrestler utter disdain, even if it’s real, then he’ll get a push. If you cheer a heel, he’s turned face. If you don’t wanna see the likes of JBL as champion, then ignore him, don’t get mad. Simple as that.
-So Cena gets mostly dominated, and already us fans have figured out the story in our heads. JBL dominates, Cena struggles to come back, finally turns the tide, finishers are exchanged, Cena wards off interference from the Cabinet, lands one final FU, and wins the title to overcome the odds that he’s so known for overcoming.
-JBL lands a couple of swinging neckbreakers without any heat. Pace should be quickening any minute now.
-Cena tries to turn the tide, but eats a spinebuster and another neckbreaker. Yep, any minute now.
-JBL with a sleeper. I guess….this….is the heat segment? Yep, we’re getting closer! I can almost see Orlando Jordan, Doug Basham, and Danny Basham getting cued to run interference when Cena’s in control. Just a matter of waiting. Any minute now.
-JBL lands another neckbreaker on the floor. Ooh, we must be extending things to give Cena a more triumphant and emphatic comeback. Any minute now.
-Big Cena comeback sequence! Fisherman’s suplex! Shoulderblocks! Spin-out powerbomb! Five Knuckle Shuffle! Get ready, here comes the flurry of interference!
-JBL misses the Clothesline from Hell, Cena with the FU! Here comes the kicko—err, Cena wins? Really? Well then, how about that. Match was merely okay, but is that the best way to begin Cena’s first reign as champion? I remember the viewing party was stunned that it was over so fast, given that JBL’s character was a sniveling coward and he got 75% of the offense. But hey, I liked Cena a lot at this point and I was happy to see him as champion. So great.
-Howard Finkel (#21!) introduces Mean Gene, who introduces the 2005 HOF Class. Each inductee is escorted by a diva that befits his personality: Nikolai Volkoff (w/ Michelle McCool, who is just as boring), Iron Sheik (w/ Candice Michelle, who is just as crippled), Paul Orndorff (w/ Miss Jackie, who squints a lot), Bob Orton (w/ Maria, who was also fired from WWE for stupid reasons), Jimmy Hart (w/ the underrated Joy Giovanni, who is the same height), Roddy Piper (w/ Torrie Wilson, who flounded in WCW), and Hulk Hogan (w/ Stacy Keibler, who can’t act either). All things considered, maybe my favorite HOF class.
-HHH-Batista recap. It was a rare time when someone was allowed to outsmart HHH at every turn. No wonder the fans fell in love with Batista.
-Motorhead plays HHH out, and the rendition is better than the WMX7 version, especially when Hunter rises like Gangrel through the stage. Good stuff. This is, of course, for the World Heavyweight Title, and it’s Batista’s chance to win his first major singles belt.
-Good power stuff early on, with each man countering each other at every turn. If I live to be 100, I’ll never get tired of seeing Triple H get press slammed.
-Much like the last match, this one was affected by weird booking. If Batista is your monster babyface of the future, it’d make sense to have him be a little more dominant. Here’s Trips slowing things down with an extended heat segment, which I usually have no problem with, but Batista’s supposed to be this savage monster who cannot be quelled. Granted, HHH was a “mentor” for Big Dave and should be able to outsmart him in some ways, but the booking for the match saw Batista outsmarting HIM. Odd.
-After a good 8-10 minutes of HHH dominating, Batista backdrops himself out of a Pedigree attempt. Thank God. This was turning into the slowest emasculation since the life of Ottis Toole.
-Finally, the match spills to the floor to give it a chance to get exciting. And it does, when Batista slingshots Hunter into the post, busting him open. And it’s a gusher, too.
-Batista pounds away at the open wound in a fashion that would make ECW fans happier than happy. He’s like Axl Rotten, but with six abs instead of one.
-Just because he’s out there, Ric Flair is contractually obligated to get beaten up. So he attacks Batista and gets slammed hard on the concrete. Attaboy Naitch.
-Back inside, after a ref bump, Flair tries again to interfere, but eats a spinebuster. Batista eats the belt (not literally, but that would be awesome), but kicks out on 2. After a spinebuster, Hunter low blows out of the Batista Bomb. He tries the Pedigree, but Big Dave blocks the jump, breaks the hands apart, and then drops Hunter with a modified Emerald Fusion. Great sequence.
-After the thumbs down, Batista slams HHH down with the Batista Bomb for his first career World Title. Weird match that was boring in parts, but felt epic in others. The need for Batista to have to fight from underneath didn’t seem to fit things, especially when he proved to be smarter than Hunter in the weeks and months leading to the event. Maybe the match just felt blasé because of the great action earlier in the night, but it was still a satisfying conclusion.
-Highlight package to end things. Were royalties for “Bigtime” by Soundtrack of Our Lives that high that we get a generic song?
-CYNIC SAYS: It’s a very agreeable show, in that the matches were satisfying and there was a minimum of no names. I like it when you get mostly cream-of-the-crop performers on the biggest show of the year. Can’t really complain about that.
But in the end, the right people won, and the booking was about 90% solid. What more can you ask for?
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.
Since the day that Vince McMahon gained majority interest of the World Wrestling Federation from his aging, ailing father Vincent J., the younger Vince had grandiose dreams for the wrestling enterprise.
But wrestling is, of course, a bad word to McMahon. “Wrestling” conjures up scorn and mockery from the mainstream media, which is the very group that McMahon wants to charm most. While Vince has taken many a potshot at the mainstream, even on his own WWE programs, it’s done with a “sour grapes” bent.
McMahon has wished for years that his televised events would get the same respect that American Idol, Monday Night Football, Survivor, Seinfeld, CSI, and other wildly popular contemporary shows receive. Other than a war with WCW in the latter half of the 1990’s, he’s never seen other wrestling ventures as direct competition, since other wrestling promotions cater almost solely to ‘wrestling’ fans.
Vince McMahon, as we all have come to accept, caters to the median.
So for WrestleMania XXI, set in the same city as Rodeo Drive and Television City, McMahon unveiled one of his most clever advertising schemes, which fits right in line with how he perceives his work of blood, sweat, and tears.
For weeks building to the April 3 gala, professional looking vignettes were aired, featuring WWE superstars parodying popular movies, from Triple H playing William Wallace in Braveheart, to Undertaker recreating Inspector Callahan for his take on Dirty Harry, fans enjoyed WWE’s attempt to prove that they’re just as “Hollywood” as the giant letters that adorn that California mountainside.
As “WrestleMania Goes Hollywood”, WWE would go fresh. It was here that McMahon decided to pay off his “new class” of star by featuring several in-house developmental talents in major roles. For better or worse, these men would lead WWE into its future.
For the first time since becoming a major player in the late 1990’s, Triple H would be thoroughly outsmarted by the opposition.
Beginning in late 2004, Triple H began to show signs of a rift with Evolution’s muscled enforcer, Batista. Though Batista usually did as he was told, clearing paths for his boss to escape with the World Heavyweight Championship, “The Animal” began to speak out in bold, subtle tones against some of Triple H’s demands. Though the group’s veteran adviser, Ric Flair, would often smooth over the trouble spots, it was clear that Batista was tired of taking orders.
Batista and Flair both competed in the 2005 Royal Rumble, with the idea being that, as long as one of them won and Triple H remained champion (he retained over former protégé Randy Orton earlier in the night), the main event of WrestleMania would center around Evolution. Batista would win, tossing out John Cena in a controversial finish.
However, Triple H tried to steer Batista into going to SmackDown to challenge champion JBL, giving him the idea that Evolution could hold two World titles. After weeks of hemming and hawing, Batista appeared to agree with Helmsley’s plan, only to reveal that he saw through the façade, believing that Triple H was simply afraid of him. Batista attacked the champion and Flair, severed his ties with them, and officially signed to face his former jefe at WrestleMania.
Speaking of JBL and John Cena, they would represent the SmackDown main event for the WWE Championship. JBL had become the unlikely champion in June 2004, transforming from beer-swilling, card-playing Texan to something more like his real-life alter ego, a stock market savant who handled his money as well as he did smaller opponents. JBL survived title defense after title defense, mocking the middle class all the while. Among the former Bradshaw’s wins were a bullrope match with Eddie Guerrero to win the belt, a “Last Ride” match with Undertaker, and a barbed wire steel cage match with Big Show.
Cena became #1 contender by winning a tournament final over Kurt Angle at No Way Out. JBL and Cena were a match made in heaven, as JBL’s upper-class snobbery meshed with Cena’s streetwise blue collar attitude.
In other big matches, Kurt Angle would meet Shawn Michaels for the first time ever at WrestleMania XXI. Angle became convinced that he could do anything that Shawn could do, and tried to replicate his entire career in just one month, hoping to culminate the story with a win over Michaels. The saga included winning a classic match with Michaels’ former partner Marty Jannetty on Smackdown.
In addition, Randy Orton, in an attempt to further his “Legend Killer” persona, challenged The Undertaker at WrestleMania, figuring that if he could end the streak, his moniker would be worth its presumed weight.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, along with Michael Cole and Tazz, provided the commentary yet again. The WWE Hall of Fame inductions saw Hulk Hogan as the headlining figure, going in along with six of his classic nemeses: Rowdy Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Cowboy Bob Orton, Jimmy Hart, Iron Sheik, and Nikolai Volkoff. Hogan would save Eugene from an attack by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari, while Piper hosted a raucous Piper’s Pit with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Carlito.
THE RESULTS Rey Mysterio def. Eddie Guerrero in 12:39
(What should have been an excellent match was somewhat marred by Mysterio wearing a mask that was looser than a Louisiana ring rat. Mysterio kept stopping to readjust, ruining much of the timing. It should be noted that these two were WWE Tag Team Champions at the time)
Money in the Bank: Edge def. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Kane, Christian, and Shelton Benjamin in 15:17
(The first, and possibly best, of these types of matches saw Shelton try to steal the show with a hands-free run up a sloped ladder, and Edge royally piss the fans off by winning. This is when he stole Lita from Matt Hardy in real life, and the fans rallied behind Hardy. Sounds funny now, I know. Amazing match)
The Undertaker def. Randy Orton in 14:14
(One of the last times I truly felt Undertaker’s streak was in jeopardy was when Orton landed an RKO out of a Tombstone attempt for two. The other highlight was Bob Orton running in with his old cast and whacking Taker with it. Pretty good match, actually. That’s thirteen)
WWE Women’s: Trish Stratus def. Christy Hemme in 4:11
(If Hemme was any more useless, she’d be WWE stock in 2025. Stratus pretty much openly mocked her during the match, which I’m sure was half-shoot)
Kurt Angle def. Shawn Michaels in 27:25
(Just a great match from perhaps the two best overall wrestlers of the last twenty years. I was as shocked as anyone when Shawn Michaels tapped out cleanly to the ankle lock, and I’m sad that the two more times that these men faced off would be the end of their series. There should have been WAY more)
Sumo Match: Akebono def. Big Show in 1:02
(Two fat guys in thongs, all to get WWE free press in Japan. Don’t inquire further)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. JBL in 11:26 to win the title
(Pretty weird match, as the ending came out of nowhere, and there was none of JBL’s usual chicanery. Fans barely reacted for the new WWE champion, in Cena’s first reign. These two had a MUCH greater match at Judgment Day two months later, so check that out)
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Batista def. Triple H in 21:34 to win the title
(Fans give this match a bad rap, but I quite enjoyed it. Basically, Batista managed to bust Triple H open, and then he began taking out all of his aggression from years of being a lackey out by mauling the champ into oblivion. At least the fans marked out for the finish this time)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
If you exclude Rey Mysterio’s World Title win at WrestleMania XXII one year after this event, then Cena and Batista are the last two men to win their first career World Titles at WrestleMania. Since then, WWE has largely relied on the same people in the same clutch situations, as opposed to taking a risk at the big annual spectacular.
In fact, let’s go one step further. Excepting Mysterio again, every World Title participant at WrestleMania after this (22 through 26) have either been previous-champions, or have already been in World Title matches at WrestleMania previously. That doesn’t show a lot of creativity, nor does it show any iota of faith in rising stars. WrestleMania XXVII will feature Alberto Del Rio, which is definitely a noble risk.
But for this event, WrestleMania XXI, John Cena and Batista were given transplants of faith by the office, and both men would remain as featured players for years; Cena to this day, and Batista up until he left WWE in the spring of 2010.
The enduring image of WrestleMania XXI is the torch passings, to a former Evolution bodyguard and a wannabe freestyle rapper, both of whom became made men on this night.
Once again, I am starting a new series of columns. This time, each column will focus on an event, wrestler or angle that should have been all-around more successful than it was, but for whatever reason, didn’t live up to expectations. For my first installment, I will look at one of my favorite PPVs, an event I happened to be at in the front row, and at the same time, a let down to many, that being the 19th installment of WrestleMania.
Now, after reading that first paragraph, you might be wondering how it could be such a letdown if it’s one of my favorite events? You raise a good question, one that I can and will explain over this column.
WrestleMania XIX, which took place in Seattle, WA on March 30th, 2003, and in all honesty, had the makings of one of the best ‘Mania events in history. The building was a legitimate sell-out and broke the attendance record for Safeco Field as nearly 55,000 fans packed the place to see what was, from top-to-bottom, a very loaded event. There was a little bit of something for everyone: a good (albeit short) Cruiserweight title match, matches featuring legends, a main event between two of the best technical wrestlers in the world, an awesome Women’s title match, the continued streak of the Undertaker, etc. In a rare occasion, an event that looked great on paper turned out to be great when put into practice.
When I say this card was loaded, I don’t mean strictly from an in-ring standpoint, although that was definitely present. The card was loaded in all the ways a wrestling fan could want. It featured plenty of star power and drama, in addition to the aforementioned in-ring product. Not only that, but you got two arguable dream matches. The first, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, was easily a show stealer, and a match that both combatants have cited is one of their all-time favorites. The second, while not as great from an in-ring standpoint, was still a marquee match that many paid to see as Hulk Hogan took on Mr. McMahon in a street fight “20 years in the making”. Despite the combined age of the two men being over 100, they beat each other in a wild, bloody brawl that not only satiated those wanting blood, but was something special for the old school fans as well as those who prefer the legends. We even got a run-in from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a man who had not been with the company in nearly a decade.
We also got an added bonus, as this wound up being the very final match of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin took on the Rock in what was their third ‘Mania match, with the story that Rock had never beaten Austin in ‘Mania matches in the past. Rock finally got the duke in this third encounter. Although it was not nearly as good as their two previous bouts, considering that Austin went into the match after spending the previous day in the ER, it was much more than you could ever ask for from wrestling highest box office draw of all-time.
Overall, the event is considered by many to be one of the very best ‘Mania installments from a pure in-ring standpoint, and that’s a fair assessment. Aside from Undertaker beating Big Show and A-Train in a lame handicap match (his partner, Nathan Jones, was taken out earlier in the night by the FBI. Jones, BTW, I will most definitely get to in an future column) and a sadly lopsided affair between Triple H and Booker that was the culmination of a very racist angle, the show had some of the best wrestling WWE had put on in years.
After all this, you’re probably still wondering how or why the show is considered to be a big disappointment. Well, unfortunately, despite all of the critical acclaim and great action from start-to-finish (save for a couple hiccups, as well as a pillow fight I will never mention again), when the final rating came in, it didn’t bode well for future ‘Mania installments like this. After all was said and done, WrestleMania XIX drew only a 1.40, or roughly 560,000 buys, making it the fifth lowest buyrate in ‘Mania history and the lowest of this century thus far.
Obviously, it’s debatable that WrestleMania XIX was a sign of things to come, but at the same time, it’s telling when can see that the overall match quality at ‘Mania installments has been lessened in favor of celebrity tie-ins, pointless backstage segments or filler matches that are seemingly thrown together and lack fan interest. Obviously, WrestleMania has still produced some great matches since that year, so before you lynch me for trashing every event since then, I’m not saying the event always sucked; this is merely my viewpoint, and a trend I’ve noticed since then.
WrestleMania XIX should have been a huge success. For those fans who understandably complain about match length/quality on today’s PPVs, this event should have been a dream card. Instead, it got a very low buyrate, possibly giving the WWE the idea that maybe we as fans really don’t want good, long matches at the biggest show of the year. Whether that is true or not, WWE seems to feel that way, and for every year that the show gets longer, we seem to get shorter, lesser quality matches simply there to stuff the card.
Fortunately, this year’s installment is shaping up to break that chain with 2 great title matches, the first ‘Mania Hell in a Cell in 13 years and a dream match between John Cena and the Rock. Hopefully, fans respond the right way, and open their wallets for what could be one of the better ‘Manias in recent years.
Time will tell, though. Time will tell.
Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, and you can keep track of all of his work on his Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/DustinNicholsWriter. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out his mom’s official site by clicking the banner below: