Leave it to the world’s greatest master manipulator to goad one of the biggest stars in wrestling history into one more match. Paul Heyman may have done the unthinkable which is entice Stone Cold Steve Austin to get in a WWE ring for one more time.
The Steve Austin WrestleMania rumors have just started to die down as fans have become resolved with the idea that the Texas Rattlesnake is never coming back. While Austin has never said the word “never”, most assumed after Austin passed up a Mania match with CM Punk that he was indeed done. That was until Austin’s former manager Paul Heyman laid out the perfect scenario.
The former ECW mastermind was a recent guest on Austin’s podcast. The conversation ended with both fawning over Brock Lesnar. Heyman than brought up that he and Lesnar have had an interest going back to Lesnar’s UFC days in a match with Stone Cold. Heyman proceeded to lay out the scenario, billing the match as the Baddest Man on the Planet vs. The World’s Toughest S.O.B. Austin sat silent until Heyman put him on the spot. After dodging the question as to whether he would be interested he finally admitted to Heyman that he is intrigued.
It didn’t take long for word to spread throughout the Internet about Austin’s interest in such a match. It should be noted that all Austin said was that he was interested with Heyman doing most of the talking. That was enough for pro wrestling fans to get excited. But the question is, should you get excited? Is there a real possibility that this match is going to happen?
My gut says no. Austin has remained retired from active competition for over a decade. Austin is still in great shape and as we saw a few years back on Tough Enough, he could get in the ring tomorrow and go. As a matter of a fact the WWE were so convinced that Austin could be tempted to come back that they even penciled in a match with him and Triple H at WrestleMania 30. It never happened and most presumed that by this point he was done. Maybe he isn’t done after all?
How big would the match be? I think the match would be gigantic. In terms of money it is hard to say because more people will have the WWE Network next year and the buyrates are bound to decline. However, a match like this could still do big business. I would imagine there would be a ton of casual fans that would gladly pay $70 to see this match, yet have no interest in subscribing to the entire network for $10 less. I think you would draw in so many crossover fans that haven’t watched in awhile or don’t buy shows that you’d have the biggest match of our lifetime in Brock vs. Austin.
How good would the match be? I think it could be pretty damned good. I think the styles of both guys would mix real well inside the ring. It is tough to say at Austin’s age and ring rust how crisp he’d be in the ring. The only thing I can go on was his workout on Tough Enough and he looked pretty damned solid during that little workout session with Luke Robinson. Brock is Brock and I think a mix of a wrestling/brawl kind of a match, kept under 20 minutes would be the perfect recipe for these two to knock it out of the park.
There is always the additional backstory here of Austin’s walkout. Austin walked out of the company in 2002 after he was asked to put Brock over on RAW in a King of the Ring qualifier. Austin has said many times since then that walking out over this was one of the biggest career mistakes he ever made. Everyone knows the story so using it as part of the hype for the match only seems like a a natural to me.
But could it really happen? Unlike last year when everyone expected Brock vs. Undertaker at Mania, there is no clearly defined path for him to 31. The Rock is reportedly the working idea but I honestly think you’ll never see a Brock vs. Rock match. There is just too much physical risk to Rock. Cesaro is the other rumored opponent but let’s be honest. With all due respect to my old friend Claudio, I don’t think anyone would expect the WWE to pass on Austin in favor of Brock.
I had a busy couple weeks and I truly realized it when I looked at my phone and realized how far behind I was on my wrestling podcasts.
I first heard about podcasting back in 2007, when my college offered a 1-hour podcasting mini-course. I was unsure as to how this would become something relevant and thus I dismissed it. With hindsight having perfect vision, I now realize that I really missed out on an awesome opportunity, especially as I started my own podcast last fall.
I learned of Colt Cabana around the same time I knew of all the “indie stars” of the early aughts. I knew about Bryan Danielson, Low Ki, Spanky, etc in 2001 after hearing about their success in the ECWA Super 8. Then 2003 was when I discovered the next set through Ring of Honor, people like Paul London, CM Punk, and the aforementioned Cabana.
I became aware of Colt Cabana’s podcast sometime probably about four years ago. I read a column in Pro Wrestling Illustrated that took a look at it. At that point, I had already gone through the ups and down of being a Cabana fan. I knew that he was a talented “funny guy” in ROH and that his success there didn’t translate that well to WWE.
And then I found out that Cabana was doing a podcast. I didn’t immediately jump into listening to it, but I caught bits here and there. Then, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin started a relationship with Podcast One and I instantly became a fan. Austin built up his following and Chris Jericho followed suit. Jim Ross jumped on the bandwagon and apparently “Rowdy” Roddy Piper will soon be getting his own show.
There are other wrestling podcasts, hosted by personalities from the business or journalists. I’ve listened to those. Not a huge fan. With that said, here are a few thoughts on the the premier wrestling podcasts, for those on the fence about jumping in and finally listening.
The Art of Wrestling – Colt Cabana started it and continues to help shape the wrestler-podcast genre. Cabana has flirted with the “big time” but for the most part has settled into his role of being the top indie star in the nation. Live from the studio… apartment, Cabana talks about what’s going on in the wrestling world and brings on a guest. Cabana has conversations with his guests, and they go places you wouldn’t expect. The recent Buff Bagwell episode is especially deep, with Bagwell opening up about his past drug abuse. An interview with the Miz was notable for Cabana pointing out that once the interview started he watched Mike transform into the Miz and wanted him to come out of character.
The Steve Austin Show – With two versions of his show, a family-friendly version and one for the adults, Austin tries to grab both audiences. Really, the only difference is one show says things like “son of a buck” and the other doesn’t. Austin has really surprised me with how well he turned into an interviewer. It would have been easy for Austin to coast through this, but he’s not “Stone Cold” here. Austin takes notes and tries to keep a format. Although, he has thrown that format aside and said he and his guest would “call it in the ring.” Austin announced recently that Undertaker agreed to be on his podcast. That was before his injury at WrestleMania XXX, so we’ll see what happens with that.
Talk Is Jericho – Chris Jericho has been one of my favorite wrestlers since I first saw him in WCW and then went back and learned of his globe-trotting prior stints. With that said, though, it took me a while to warm up to his podcast. And, I think that was because Jericho was trying to find his identity. He got more experience and became a better interviewer. Some of his humor is a little sophomoric, but I’m sure some people like hearing Jericho pretend to interview John Oates’ mustache. Y2J stays true to his wrestling roots, but he expands out to the mainstream more than the other podcasts, with recent guests including Howie Mandell, Eli Roth, and Maria Menounos.
The Ross Report – Good Ol’ JR jumped into the podcast ring after his WWE tenure was over. Jim Ross is relatively new to the podcasting game, but he is obviously not new to using his voice to tell stories. JR is still getting the hang of this new world, which he has mentioned several times in the early episodes. The only real turnoff for me is JR’s faux enthusiasm when doing the commercials. I think he’s going for the same vibe as his popular “Skittles” plugs from a decade ago, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Still, JR has had a HOF-worthy lineup of guest so far, with Austin, Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, Lita, DDP, and Jake Roberts all stopping by. I have no doubt that the greatest announcer of all time will only get better and better as a podcast personality.
If you like getting into the heads of brilliant people, check these out. Don’t limit yourselves to just these four. There are so many different options out there for any type of wrestling fan. Get listening. And, also, I appreciate you guys listening to me. As Colt Cabana would say, thanksssssssss.
Daniel Bryan finally ascended to the WWE world championship at WrestleMania 30 in one of the most memorable moments in Mania history. While Bryan may not be a draw on his own, the chemistry he has with the Authority rivals one of the greatest feuds in WWE history.
Triple H is one of the most polarizing pro wrestlers in WWE history. Most fans on the Internet despise Hunter for actions outside of the ring, reported and speculated upon by wrestling media over the last decade. Some of those accusations may be a little exaggerated but one thing that I cannot argue with is that not only is he the best performer on the WWE roster but he has also never been more valuable to a babyface than he is to Daniel Bryan.
The rivalry is so simple that it would be a crime not to do it. The corporate politician, hated by most Internet Wrestling Fans opposing the IWC’s hero and unlikely superstar Daniel Bryan. The feud kind of reminds you of a rivalry that changed the entire business over fifteen years ago and that was when the WWE CEO Vince McMahon did everything he could to prevent Stone Cold Steve Austin from becoming the face of the company.
The dynamic is very similar with a few differences. One, Bryan is a much more humble character than the cocky, arrogant Stone Cold persona was. Two and this is critical to one working and not the other, the WWE have not fully embraced pushing Bryan in his role. Yes he capped off WrestleMania with one of the most memorable moments in our lifetime of Manias. Yet you still had commentators throughout the broadcast referring to him as “goat face”, “mismatched”, “lucky”, etc. Bryan got the big push in NOLA but subliminally the WWE gave it to you with a wink and a nod.
There is so much potential here with Bryan, specifically vs. Triple H that the WWE would be fools to continue this winking and nodding. This program could reach higher levels and drag on to a big rematch at WrestleMania 31. The best could be yet to come if the WWE writers, specifically Vince McMahon embrace Bryan as opposed to subliminally letting you know he isn’t really that good.
The first piece of this puzzle is to give Bryan a strong title reign. Bryan needs to go over on everyone and anyone clean in the ring. If I were booking Bryan as champion I’d look at his next four pay-per-view matches like this.
Bryan vs. Randy Orton in an Extreme Rules Match
Bryan vs. Batista in some kind of gimmick match
Bryan vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank
Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam
By the time Bryan gets past Brock at SummerSlam you’d have a new scenario where Hunter is just incensed that nobody is able to stop Bryan. Somehow or another you need to keep them apart for the remainder of the year. Once the people truly buy in and the WWE let go of their inhibition and give Bryan the run he needs, a matchup with Hunter vs. Bryan could be epic.
I remain skeptical that the WWE will truly embrace what they have. Remember that Bryan was originally booked to wrestle Sheamus at WrestleMania. The events of WrestleMania 30 only fell into place due to CM Punk walking out on the company. It wasn’t as if the company was smart enough to read its own fan base and call an audible. If Punk never walks out we’d be talking about Bryan held down once again the day after WrestleMania.
Will the WWE fully commit to Bryan vs. Triple H/Authority? The economics are different now with pay-per-view on the Network so who knows. The company has lucked into something magical and the more they try and mess it up, the bigger it gets. At some point that is going to give. Before we get to that point the WWE needs to see the enormous story laid out in front of them and embrace Bryan vs. Hunter the same way it embraced McMahon vs. Austin.
Hello loyal readers and welcome back for yet another WrestleMania countdown article. Yes, spring is in the air, the snow has melted away, birds are singing, and the internet is full of articles counting down every kind of WrestleMania list imaginable. Best matches, worst matches, top moments, etc. Well, never being one to miss getting on the bandwagon, I have compiled my own list.
Every year there are those special matches that you just can’t wait to see at WrestleMania. Maybe it’s the culmination of a feud that has been simmering for months or maybe a long gone star has returned to the spotlight. Of maybe there is even a historic first ever clash between two icons of the sport. Whatever the situation, there is always immense hype surrounding the biggest event of the year. But sometimes the moment doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Sometimes the wrestlers can’t deliver on the expectations of the fans. Here are the top five worst WrestleMania moments that had a lot of potential, but for one reason or another missed the mark, in my opinion.
This was it. The moment wrestling fans had waited over ten years to see. Bret Hart back in a WWE ring. And not only in the ring, but taking on the man that had basically ruined his life. Bret would finally make Vince pay for the “Montreal Screw Job”. Any even though Bret did get the win, it somehow felt empty to me. It just didn’t feel like McMahon suffered enough for all the pain he caused Bret.
And there was also this little devil in my ear wondering if Vince would have the stones to screw Bret again. Even though everyone wanted to see Bret come out on top, a small part of me was hoping for some kind of double cross again. Now that would have been a moment.
I know what you’re thinking, “Who was looking forward to this match”. Well even though these two have fought about 100 times over the years now, this match actually had some decent build up to it. In the months leading up to the match, Orton had attacked both Vince and Shane McMahon, Triple H’s father-in-law and brother-in-law. While that alone wasn’t enough to generate enough heat, when he RKO’d Hunter’s wife Stephanie and then kissed her in the ring, which sent “The Game” over the edge. This was a personal feud along the lines of Savage & Flair at WM VIII. But the crowd had seen this match up too many times before. And following an epic battle between HBK vs. The Undertaker, this match never stood a chance. This just ended up being another routine match for these two, and a lost opportunity for us.
This had so many possibilities to it. The unstoppable champion Yokozuna against Lex Luger, with the winner to face the former champion Bret Hart. Back when there was only one World title, a double main event title match was huge. Throw in the match up of Bret having to face Owen also and this had the chance to be really special. The night started off great with a true classic between the Hart brothers. Then Luger finally gets another chance at the title, against the monster he body slammed ten months before. The set up was there for a stirring win and then a battle between the two men who eliminated each other together at the Royal Rumble. Instead we get a screw job finish by Mr. Perfect that was intended to start a feud that never happened. The match between Yokozuna and Hart was okay, the image of Bret celebrating and Owen fuming is classic. But since this was such a unique scenario, a DQ win for Yokozuna over Luger didn’t ring true for me.
Talk about wasted potential. One year after the epic WM III main event, the WWF needed to up the ante. What better than a tournament to crown a new champion where anything could happen. And it did, just not in a good way. Rick Rude and Jake Roberts boring the fans for 15 minutes and ending in a time limit draw. The long awaited rematch between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant ends in a double DQ. The One Man Gang gets a bye to the semi-finals. What kind of tournament is this? The 1995 King of the Ring bookers must have watched this tape the night before the show (Mabel vs. Savio Vega in the finals…UGH). The end result, with Macho Man winning against Ted Dibiase was a nice touch. But the ends couldn’t justify the means in this case.
1 – WrestleMania XX – Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
Talk about an all time stinker. Here was a matchup of two monsters that turned out to be a matchup of two kittens. Say what you will about Goldberg, but I found him damn entertaining in WCW. I loved that he would just come to the ring and steamroll people. And even though he looked like Stone Cold I never considered him a rip-off because there styles were so different. And Brock Lesnar could actually wrestle in addition to being a total beast. Unfortunately for both men, word leaked out that this was the last match for both in the WWE. The crowd was against them from the start.
Throw in the fact that neither was all that interested in getting hurt in their final match and this turned into a glorified pillow fight. The two could have done some epic damage to each other but instead wound up getting booed out of the arena. The only saving grace was the presence of Austin as the referee. But not even Stone Cold could save this all time turkey.
So there you have it. Do you have any WrestleMania moments that didn’t quite meet your expectations? Or maybe you feel I missed the mark on one of my selections? Leave me a comment; I would love to know what you think.
Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.
-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
-You’d think that by now, I’d be out of witty ideas for introductory paragraphs. Turns out that yes, I am. In any event, the 23rd installment of WWE WrestleMania took place on April 1, 2007 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. Funny to note that after this show, there would be many instances where WWE would boast that they drew more fans for this show than have ever seen a football game in this stadium. I dunno, I would think that in a football game, having all those seats on the floor level may interfere with the plays.
-This year, the commentary teams consist of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (Raw), Michael Cole and JBL (Smackdown), and Joey Styles and Tazz (ECW). This was back when ECW kinda sorta felt like the original ECW, except for the part where the employees got paid and Tazz not being 350 lbs.
-Speaking of 350 lbs, Aretha Franklin performs “America the Beautiful” twenty years after doing so at WrestleMania III. One nice touch is they dub over Vince’s 1987 introduction for her. One not so nice touch is her standing up at the end, which lends credence to the “weebles wobble” theory. I don’t wanna sound mean, but they do make 2% milk now.
-On the pre-show, Ric Flair and Carlito teamed up to beat Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms in a lumberjack match. Carlito was a last minute fill-in for Lance Storm, as this was supposed to be a “WCW 2000 Reunion” match. Lance turned it down flat, sadly. C’mon, Lance, you know all about dark matches!
-By the way, the “All Grown Up” videos? I’m SO ignoring them.
-The show begins with the first ever eight man Money in the Bank ladder match, with a rather impressive array of talent on display: Edge, Randy Orton, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy, CM Punk, Finlay, and King Booker. My tarot card reader thinks this will be the TNA roster of 2014.
-I’m a bit torn on this. On the one hand, if you’re going to do MITB, you want to have the right people in there, and I’m fine with all eight of them. On the other hand, cramming so many true talents in one match kinda spreads the rest of the show thin. I mean, you could pull Edge and Orton out of here and have them go one on one to break up the team, while keeping MITB at six guys, and you can bump Kane vs. Khali or the Women’s match. Not that I’m discriminating against hosses or women…..
-LUCHA FINLAY! There’s a guy who never gets his due.
-Edge builds a bridge by placing a ladder on the ring apron and guardrail. His attempt to suplex Punk on it fails. I’ll bet it comes into play later!
-Booker takes control and then gives us a regal Spinarooni (not a REGAL Spinarooni, because that would just be too awesome) and gets a ladder concierto from The Hardyz. Go ahead, Lawler, make your joke about ex-cons celebrating too much, you know you wanna.
-Kennedy tries for the Kenton Bomb, but hits his head on a ladder. Hey, look, the first cringeworthy spot tonight. And we haven’t even gotten to Khali’s match!
-After everyone fulfills their contractual obligation to each get hit by a ladder at least once or twice, Edge brings the giant painter’s ladder out from under the ring. I’ll bet something extreme and/or hardcore is forthcoming.
-Well hey, I was right. Matt lays Edge across the ladder bridge, and Jeff jumps off the top of the ladder, putting Edge THROUGH THE LADDER. Of course, he did so at the encouragement of Matt and at the expense of his chances of winning the ladder match and earning a title shot. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.
-So Edge and Jeff are finished, and Orton gets the RKO on most of the survivors. Someone as character defined as Orton should be more prominent I think, but hey, that’s the problem with such matches having eight high level guys in it.
-Booker takes Orton off the ladder with the Book End and tries to climb, but Matt holds Sharmell hostage, threatening a Twist of Fate if he pulls down the briefcase. Booker, in a truly babyface move, opts to save his woman. JBL is flabbergasted that Booker didn’t ditch his lady for the win. JBL also can’t believe his buyrates when he champion. Man’s in disbelief a lot.
-Hornswoggle tries to climb the ladder on injured Finlay’s behalf, but Kennedy takes him off the ladder with a Green Bay Plunge. I hereby nominate Mr. Kennedy for God.
-In the end, Kennedy knocks Punk off of the ladder with his own ladder, and climbs up uninterrupted for the retrieval and win. Really awesome and really fun way to open the show. Right there you see the advantage of the best of the best in a match all in the same match: you get a great performance just about every time. Great opener.
-Highlights from the premiere of The Condemned, which earned such glowing praise as “When did they remake “Surviving the Game”?” and “A bad choice for leading man Woody Harrelson”.
-Mr. Kennedy opines on his Money in the Bank victory. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Hardcore Holly have more career World Title matches than Kennedy? Wow, that’s quite the weird side note to their personal hatred.
-And now for the polar opposite of that opening match: Great Khali vs. Kane. I can’t even remember what the issue was here. Maybe Kane got beat out for the part of the death row inmate in the Longest Yard remake or something.
-Kane avoids the Skull Chop. Good thing, because that mighta broken the SD Jones record.
-Pretty non-descript hoss fight, until Kane finds his See No Evil hook and uses it as a weapon. With the referee too oblivious to call for the bell. Maybe he’s just a big fan of the movie and is starstruck? I mean, seriously, does WWE need to tie in their movies with the matches? You don’t see Cena having to overcome the odds against a large number of opponents like he did in The Marine, do you? Oh.
-Finally, Khali’s all “I’m winded” and plants Kane with the Punjabi Plunge for the win. Truth told, it wasn’t the worst match that either man would ever have. That’s not a compliment.
-Man, I hate these pointless backstage segments that are alleged comedy. I mean, it’s Cryme Tyme hosting a dance party for Eugene and Extreme Expose is there, Mae and Moolah show up, ha ha, we get it guys, very funn—
-SLICK! SLICK! MOFOING SLICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Slick busts out the funky dance moves and we get a whole host of classic characters: Dusty Rhodes, Howard Finkel (#23!), Mean Gene, Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Hart, IRS, Ricky Steamboat, Gerald Brisco, and Ron Simmons. The ending, of course, isn’t in doubt. But still, SLICK! Nuff said.
-Members of the Detroit Tigers are seen in the crowd, including Gary Sheffield. I wonder if him and Triple H are “workout partners”.
-Next up is the United States Title match, as MVP challenges the champion, Chris Benoit. Yes, this is sadly the end of the road for Benoit, as he would create infamy less than three months later. In brief, lemme just say that while I think he senselessly damaged his body for an unforgiving business and it cost him everything in the end, I will always admire Benoit’s work ethic and dedication to his life’s work. It may not mean much now, but before I go back to making snide jokes about this and other tragedies in wrestling, Chris…..thank you. I was a fan.
-MVP is accompanied by enough cheerleaders to satisfy a JV squad. The quantity requirements, not the actual….oh, never mind.
-Match is a pretty decent technical contest, wherein continued a subtle yet well-carried storyline if MVP always having a counter in mind for the Crippler Crossface. Everytime Benoit and MVP fought, Porter would always have a counter to the move. Benoit had to beat him in other ways, but in that sense, MVP had the move scouted to a fault. I like that.
-MVP superplexes Benoit, but Benoit reverses into a cradle for two. Crowd’s dying off a bit, because the opener was so exciting, and the hoss match was nothing to get excited over. So they have to win the audience back, and a mat wrestling clinic isn’t going to do that, especially when MVP was still getting established.
-I think MVP’s been hit by about 15 German suplexes in this match. I’ll bet there’s days where MVP wishes he was serving the other half of his sentence.
-Benoit finishes with a diving headbutt to retain. Good, if unspectacular, title match. Really sad to look back on now, but hey, that’s life. And it goes on.
-The Boogeyman tries to creep out Donald Trump and Tara Conner. Without resorting to Wikipedia, go ahead and guess why she was famous. I had to STRUGGLE to remember her controversy, and this was three years ago. Why hasn’t she been on Dancing with the Stars yet?
-The crowd is announced at being 80,103. That’s a lot of fans for Bobby Lashley to kill off! Can he do it? They don’t call him The Monotonous Battletoad for nothing!
-The 2007 Hall of Fame class is introduced: Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Mr. Fuji, The Sheik, The Wild Samoans, and Nick Bockwinkle. My favorite WCW PPV of all time was the one from 1998 in which they all competed. It was a great show, except the Ben Gay kept wafting through my TV screen.
-Undertaker-Batista highlight package. I’ll never forget when Taker was choosing between the three champions as to which one he wanted to face at WrestleMania and Bobby Lashley, classically trained actor that he is, was confronted by the Dead Man himself. Instead of getting in his face like any other musclehead monster would, Lashley sold it like he was stand-offish and afraid. Man, no wonder even Vince couldn’t get him over.
-Teddy Long does ring intros for this match. It’s funny how Long’s entire run as GM revolves around Undertaker. How many times has he ordered some ornery heel to face Mr. Callaway anyway? Then again, this may also explain Michelle McCool’s unearned push. Anyway, this is for the World Heavyweight Title
-This would end up having far reaching consequences, as most of assumed the match would be one of two things: 1) A chance to get Batista over by having him be the one to end the streak or 2) A way to extend Taker’s streak with an important title win. It ended up being 2, but with a footnote: this is the match that demonstrated the inexplicable chemistry that these two men had.
-The two exchange power stuff early, and the fight spills to ringside as it would tend to do with these two involved. Once back in, Batista hits a diving shoulderblock. This became a big part of Botchamania lore, as at Survivor Series, Batista did the same move to King Booker, and Cole made a big deal about it. When Batista did it here, Cole exclaimed that he had never seen Batista do that before. Do I even need to comment?
-Tremendous stand up brawl so far. When Batista’s motivated, he’s one of the best big men in the business. Other than being injury prone, there’s very little of the man to complain about.
-Batista swings things his way by powerslamming Taker through the ECW table. See, Tazz? Good World Title matches feature SELLING.
-Back inside, Batista drops Taker with a belly to belly. I’VE NEVER SEEN BATISTA USE THAT BEFORE! Vince, my resume’s on your doorstep.
-Spear and Batista Bomb, but Taker’s up on 2. Yeah, I don’t think the streak’s ending tonight.
-Taker avoids Batista’s version of a Tombstone, but Taker pushes him off and immediately counters with his own Tombstone for the win to go 15-0. This was a tremendous power brawl from two men who would spend the next year improving upon their newfound formula. Think about that: of their many matches, this may have been the WORST. And it was GREAT. I earned a new respect for Batista after this, and Taker was his usual great self. Loved it.
-The same person who installed cameras in the bathroom stalls at King of the Ring 1997 to catch Brian Pillman receiving a swirlie has installed a camera in Aurora Levesque’s stroller, because we’re able to see its POV as Vince McMahon talks his granddaughter about Donald Trump. Odd.
-Next up is ECW’s contribution to the show, as The Originals (Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman) face The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Striker, and Kevin Thorn). The Originals make their entrance through the crowd, because they’re apparently not allowed in the building. That’s still better than Elijah Burke’s ring attire, which I think did more to kill his push than simply falling through the cracks.
-I’m kinda sad watching this, because the ECW guys can’t even do the things that make them unique, or that made ECW unique for that matter, and it could be those spots that took The New Breed and made them stand out. Mick Foley theorized that WWE didn’t want the second One Night Stand to succeed, and I think he has a point.
-RVD finally gets in there and goes crazy with his usual arensal of kicks, which lifts the match from “good but dull” to “good but less dull”.
-After Sabu dives onto Cor Von and Sandman helps clean house, RVD lands the Five Star Frog Splash on Striker for the win. Match was alright, but it just didn’t stand out. No one really cared about the heels, least of all Burke who’d go on to TNA to prove that WWE sometimes can be blind to a good thing. The opposite of a sure thing that gets no push is a bad thing that gets a big push. There’s one forthcoming, so get ready.
-Recap is shown of Vince McMahon and Donald Trump’s challenge. Anyone else disturbed by two rich white guys making a bet and having two hulking minorities do their fighting? Is this really the 21st century? It’s like Trading Places, except Lashley has about 4% of Eddie Murphy’s wit.
-Fun side note: Remember when Donald Trump was so excited about this match that he went on the Howard Stern show, gushing about his representative in this match, a young up and comer by the name of Bobby Lindsey? Geez, forget about the fans not caring about Lashley, what about the man who chose you as his representative? Man, this was doomed from day one.
-So it’s Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga where the losing man’s billionaire endorser (Donald or Vince) has to have his head shaved. You’d think the crowd would be behind Lashley 100% just to see Vince get shaved. You’d also be an idiot.
-Stone Cold Steve Austin is the guest referee, because even for seven seconds, a beam of light pissed all over Vinnie’s noggin and said “Hey, there’s no way the crowd will get behind someone as dull as Bobby Lashley!”.
-Did I mention that the barber’s chair gets its own entrance? Seems like a good thing to mention.
-What follows is unbelievably boring and incredibly dull. Any time Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin are involved in something, let alone something with media implications (the involvement of Donald Trump), they would go to any length to overbook the Hell out of it to make it as exciting as possible. We as fans tend to appreciate this, because what usually ensues with Vince involved is a grandiose and over-the-top production that we’d never forget.
-However, there’s a problem.
-Bobby Lashley, with all of his physical skills, is somehow more dull than a flattened pencil point. He has zero charisma, as well as a voice that makes him sound like a lost child inside a department store. The fans scapegoated him after he became ECW Champion because it came at the expense of Rob Van Dam and CM Punk’s fan following, as well as the death of the ideals of the brand. So with Lashley the fall guy, a pair of PPV matches with Test and Mr. Kennedy are abysmal. However, since Lashley’s apparently a nice guy and he has this impressive body, as well as a good grasp of stand-up technical wrestling, Vince decides to make something of him. After all, if ANYONE can get Lashley over, it would have to be Vince, right?
-Bobby Lashley, as of this show, officially joined Zach Gowen on the short list of “People who feuded with Vince and couldn’t draw heat against him”. Here’s the story.
-Umaga dominates the early going, which is fine. He’s a monster and John Cena proved you can tell a good story by overcoming his dominance gradually.
-During his attempt at a comeback, Lashley knocks Vince off the apron to the floor. Cheers? Anyone? No? Well, maybe next time.
-Austin gets taken out by Umaga, and Shane McMahon runs in. Now would be a good time for Lashley to overcome the odds and destroy the hated McMahons en route to putting Umaga away, leading to Vince getting his head shaved. Right? RIGHT?!
-Shane hits the Shane Terminator, and Umaga lands a top rope splash, but it can’t finish Lashley off. Mostly because Lashley isn’t allowed to make his own heroic comeback, since Austin does it himself. You know, if the goal was to get the unover mook over, they’re kinda doing it wrong.
-Austin stuns Umaga, and Lashley spears the Stunned Samoan for the win, at the cost of Vince’s hair. Now comes the part that tells the story.
-Austin holds Vince in a chair while Lashley and Trump (remember him?) shave Vince’s head. With Vince bald, some corny screwball comedy music from the 1950′s plays, and Lashley shows Vince his face in the mirror. At this point, the crowd should be cheering and laughing at Vince, but no. Nothing. So Vince does a comedic fall out of the barber’s chair and he sulks away. What a waste. Vince spent the Spring trying to turn Lashley into a monster, to no avail. He’d be persona non grata by summer’s end and would wind up in MMA and TNA. Again, what a waste.
-Austin stuns Trump. Hey, crowd liked that.
-Next up, to bring the crowd down off of their adrenaline high, we have a LumberJill match for the Women’s Title. So Mickie James and Jillian Hall and Victoria and others can stand around while WWE Women’s Champion Melina can defend against…..Ashley Massaro. Yeah. Well, if it’s any consolation, Ashley can dedicate the match to her sick daughter or niece or orphan or cockatoo or whatever excuse that was that covered up the real reason WWE threw her to the curb.
-On the bright side, Mickie’s wearing some really tight jeans at ringside, so maybe it’s better that she’s not wrestling.
-Why’s Melina wrestling herself? Where’s Ashley? Oh wait, Ashley’s in there. So wait, why’s Melina wrestling herself?
-Melina wins it by reversing a rolling cradle. Well, that was certainly worthwhile. I mean, if it helped them sell any more Playboys, then, you know, good for them. I can just do without Ashley, though. If Kelly Bundy woke up one day and said “I’m going to be a wannabe Lita and fake smile my way through life”, then you get the cut of her character’s jib. Whoever she knows that was apparently sick, I’ll guess that viewing this match only made her sicker.
-Recap for Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena for the WWE Title. Originally, this was to have been a triple threat match with Triple H inserted, but Hunter’s quad injury from New Year’s Revolution halted that. As it was, Shawn and Cena won the World Tag Team Titles from Rated RKO in February, and Shawn and Cena now had each other on a short leash, with Shawn openly teasing a turn every chance he got before finally pulling the trigger six days before WrestleMania. I dug the build, even if it was kinda hard to rally behind Cena for being so unguarded.
-So Cena’s grand entrance du annum: riding a Ford Mustang into the arena. Did you know one of my exes left me because I hated The Fast and Furious 2? Usually, when I see someone in a Mustang, I assume they have never read Atlas Shrugged. Or showered three days in a row.
-For a bonus, a fan tries to run in during ring intros and take his shirt off, but security’s all over him in a hurry. Shawn’s sarcastic goodbye wave still slays me.
-The story of the match is a contrast between Shawn’s ring generalship and Cena’s overpowering style, with each man jockeying for control with their definitive craft. Sometimes that’s all you need to carry the World Title match. Russo, feel free to write that one down.
-Shawn gets his quebrada to the floor, knocking Cena into the announce table. Business is picking up.
-Back inside, Shawn begins to work the leg of Cena. Weird, usually when Cena fights from underneath, it’s after he’s been unfairly jumped or is against a larger opponent. In this case, it’s just him getting plainly outwrestled. It was one thing last year against a heel (Triple H), but against a babyface who’s getting way more cheers than him? Some of the booking on this show raised a lot of eyebrows.
-Cena keeps fighting off the leg pain as he and Shawn hammer away on each other, until the tide turns when Shawn dives at Cena and ends up smashing into the post, busting himself open. If Shawn retires after Mania 26, I think it’s out of protest for Vince not letting him blade anymore. That’s like David Stern telling Michael Jordan that he can’t hit clutch shots.
-Cena hits his usual shoulderblocks and spin out powerbomb, before dropping the Five Knuckle Shuffle. After Shawn avoids the FU, in the struggle, Shawn takes the official out with Sweet Chin Music. Well, this isn’t very good, now is it?
-This leads to one of my all time favorite spots, as Shawn takes the top half of the ring steps off and then piledrives Cena on the bottom half, busting the back of Cena’s head open. Sick. Ness. A new ref hits the ring, but Cena still kicks out.
-Shawn avoids the FU again and tries for the SCM, but Cena avoids, then struggles with the STFU. Shawn cradles him for 2, but Cena eventually gets the hold. Shawn makes the ropes though. Tense.
-Shawn finally lands the SCM, but can’t cover. He finally does for 2. Cena tries again for the FU, but Shawn comes down and Cena locks on the STFU out of nowhere. Shawn fights it, but ultimately taps out to make Cena retain and continue what would be a one year plus reign as champion. For those who say Cena can’t wrestle, sure, Shawn carried his half, but Cena carried his. People need to really get over themselves and make a better argument, because John Cena is a true main eventer and he proved it here.
-Shawn won’t shake Cena’s hand in the aisle. And he said Bret needed to get over Montreal.
-Bring us home, Saliva! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!
-CYNIC SAYS: It took a little bit of perspective and time to really appreciate this show. After the Lashley debacle, as well as the rabid hatred of Cena by many, this show actually got a bad rap early on. But hey, you have three great matches, as both World Title matches and the Money in the Bank match delivered.
2007 was looking great for WWE before the Chris Benoit tragedy in June. But this show signals what could have been if not for the controversy and fall out. Enjoy it for what it is, though.
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.
Being World Wrestling Entertainment has its share of diverse ways in which it can present its product. With an impressive active roster, a tremendous amount of classic legends willing to appear, expansion into wrestling-starved foreign countries, and a stranglehold on social media and merchandise licensing, even when the product falters, WWE still manages to thrive.
In 2006, WWE found itself spinning its wheels. John Cena, while a popular champion to youthful audiences, was getting choruses of boos from the more “time tested” fans who were used to wrestling being more coarse, bloody, raw (pun intended), and risqué than a near-thirty year old man in rainbow-ish t-shirts, trucker caps, and sneakers running his mouth as if he were the Disney Channel’s version of Eminem.
Since WWE was keen on keeping Cena champion long term (a strategy that has paid off if you consider merchandise sales and Cena’s cross-promotions), Vince McMahon needed something to keep the “hardcores” happy.
And the answer WAS hardcore. Well, rather, Vince’s definition of “hardcore”.
In June 2006, WWE opened a third brand, resurrecting the five-years-dead ECW, complete with Paul Heyman in charge. Joining Heyman were Joey Styles and Tazz on the stick, as well as classic stars of ECW’s past, such as Rob Van Dam and The Sandman. While the new ECW (dubbed WWECW by smart alecks) lacked the unpolished feel of the previous incarnation, ECW would serve as a nice alternative to Raw and SmackDown, creating a number of new stars in the process.
Also in the spring, WWE brought back another uncouth concept: D-Generation X. Triple H turned face for the first time in four years, reuniting with Shawn Michaels to recreate some old mayhem, albeit with less controversy.
With this mix of classic chaos and modern marketing, WWE was on the road to Detroit.
For the first time since WWE allowed for two world titles to exist, the two title matches at WrestleMania would be exclusive to babyfaces only.
The Undertaker, after a decade and a half of raising Hell in WWE, finally could add a Royal Rumble victory to his resume. Being the first #30 entrant to win the January classic, Undertaker brawled with Shawn Michaels for the final eight or nine minutes, ousting his legendary counterpart by avoiding Sweet Chin Music.
Undertaker now had his pick of opponent. Choosing between WWE Champion John Cena, World Heavyweight Champion Batista, and ECW Champion Bobby Lashley, “The Phenom” settled on Batista, who reigned supreme over Undertaker’s home show, SmackDown.
With SmackDown’s main event locked in, Cena’s opponent was determined by a triple threat match between Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton. Michaels managed to beat the former World Tag Team Champions to earn the spot.
Making this match interesting was the fact that, long before Michaels had become Cena’s #1 contender, he and Cena had beaten Orton and Edge to become World Tag Team Champions. This marked the first time in WrestleMania history that tag titlists would fight over a singles belt.
Orton tried to stir the pot between the two men, showing a video of how Michaels had turned on every tag team partner he’d ever had, including Marty Jannetty, Diesel, and Hulk Hogan, among others.
Michaels tried to smooth things with his unlikely partner by saying that “this time is different”, but Michaels would still taunt Cena with a feint attempt at a Sweet Chin Music.
At No Way Out in February, Undertaker actually teamed with Batista to face Cena and Michaels in a non title match. The Raw brand team won, and things looked to still be copacetic between the two men.
Six days before WrestleMania, however, the two teams would have a rematch. This time, Michaels came through on Cena’s paranoia by blasting the WWE Champion with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels left Cena laying, and his partner fell victim to the loss. Michaels’ well-timed double cross fueled the fire for the main event match at WrestleMania XXIII.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to build mainstream interest in his annual money-making machine, Vince McMahon began a feud with real life media mogul Donald Trump. The two had a disagreement after Vince used an actor playing Trump (indy wrestler Ace Steel) to beat an actress playing Rosie O’Donnell on Raw. The match was so ill-received, that Trump himself taunted McMahon by saying that Vince didn’t know what the fans wanted.
The two bickered further, each picking a man to represent him at WrestleMania. Vince chose WWE Intercontinental Champion Umaga, while Trump chose ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the guest referee, and the losing cornerman (Trump or McMahon) would have their head shaved bald after the match.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw, Michael Cole and JBL called Smackdown, and Joey Styles and Tazz covered ECW, with all six men coming together for the opening match of the night. Aretha Franklin performed “America the Beautiful” as she had twenty years earlier at WrestleMania III. The Hall of Fame inductions saw the inclusion of Ross, Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Fuji, The Wild Samoans, The Sheik, and Nick Bockwinkel.
Money in the Bank: Mr. Kennedy def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Edge, Randy Orton, King Booker, CM Punk, and Finlay in 19:05
(Highlights including Kennedy’s annoyed face at Hornswoggle when he tried to interfere, as well as Matt encouraging Jeff to do a crazy dive onto Edge through a ladder. “Do it Jeff! He stole Lita from us! Now no one’s there to make you ramen noodles!” Second best MITB match in WrestleMania history)
The Great Khali def. Kane in 5:31
(I like how Kane slamming Khali was juxtaposed with Hogan’s legendary slam of Andre from twenty years earlier in the show’s closing highlight package. As if they had the same memorable value)
WWE United States: Chris Benoit def. MVP in 9:19
(This, of course, would be the final WrestleMania for Benoit, as three months later he…..well, we all know what he did. It was a good, not great, match to go out on, and I still miss the man)
World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker def. Batista in 15:48 to win the title
(That’s fifteen. This match was a pleasant surprise, as Batista and Undertaker have this weird chemistry that simply cannot be explained. The two men exchange crisp power moves and ramp up the intensity with their above-average brawling. Great match, and the best feud of a dismal 2007)
Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and The Sandman def. Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von, Elijah Burke, and Kevin Thorn in 6:25
(Seven men had their first WrestleMania match here. Those seven also had their last WrestleMania match. Oh, don’t act so surprised)
Battle of the Billionaires/Hair vs. Hair: Bobby Lashley def. Umaga in 13:04
(If Undertaker/Batista was a good surprise, then this was the opposite. Lashley was given a feud with McMahon and an endorsement from Austin and Trump, and still brought none of the energy or personality needed to make it to the next level. Lashley was overpushed, plain and simple)
WWE Women’s/Lumberjill Match: Melina def. Ashley in 3:13
(The bad news: this match was about 3:08 longer than Ashley is capable of working. Good news: Mickie looked great in her tight jeans at ringside. Shame she wasn’t wrestling)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Shawn Michaels in 28:20
(The fact that Cena won turned a lot of fans off, but this is up there with the greatest matches in WM history. Michaels brought a more reserved, but grinding, personality to this, which included the awesome piledriver on the ring steps on Cena. Cena and Michaels worked their asses off here, and both of them deserve for this match to get a lot more credit than it does)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
The two World Title matches, as well as Money in the Bank, featured twelve men who worked their hardest to make WrestleMania as special as it’s meant to be. However, most of the hype going into the show revolved around Donald Trump‘s involvement, as well as his feud with McMahon, who was seriously getting out of control at this point regarding on-camera time.
When you have the three aforementioned matches on your show, you should walk away feeling great. But when you watch that Battle of the Billionaires, and you see how the fans barely reacted to Vince being shaved bald, and how they barely got behind an anemic talker like Lashley, who never looked like he wanted to be there, you feel a bit sour.
It’s like a concert. If you hype up Guns n Roses as the headliner, and you have three popular, but not yet legendary, acts (say Disturbed, Godsmack, and Saliva) performing, what if those three bands (who got less hype) rocked, and then GNR came out and absolutely sucked?
Do you hate the show because GNR sucked, or do you love it because the other bands owned it?
I guess the answer’s up to you.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.