For today’s Tales of Wrestlemania, we’ll do a double. First, King Kong Bundy.
Wrestlemania 1: Bundy appears in the second match and annihilates Special Delivery Jones in seconds. Obviously, this guy has momentum.
Wrestlemania 2: That momentum has brought him to the main event against Hulk Hogan for the title. Bundy loses the match and has nowhere to go but down.
Wrestlemania 3: He’s fallen so far that he’s now in a comedy mixed tag match featuring four midgets and Hillbilly Jim. That’s like hitting rock bottom.
Wrestlemania 11: He returns and is used as a threat of the week against the Undertaker. He’s handily beaten. But hey, at least your Wrestlemania career still looks better than SD Jones!
Here’s a quick one for Yokozuna.
Wrestlemania 9: Yokozuna’s Wrestlemania debut has him win the main event against Bret Hart through cheating. He gets the title, but foolishly challenges Hulk Hogan and loses the belt. It’s not too bad. He’s still the top heel of the company.
Wrestlemania 10: After Bret loses to Owen in the opening bout, Yokozuna is able to get past his first round match with Lex Luger thanks to a crooked referee. It takes a year, but Bret Hart finally avenges his loss from the previous show. There goes Yokozuna’s belt.
Wrestlemania 11: Yokozuna falls down the card, but who better to team with than Bret’s other opponent from last year, Owen Hart? The two win the tag titles off the Smoking Gunns. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Wrestlemania 12: Got bad news, Yokozuna. First, you and Owen are now enemies. Second, we’re feeding you to Vader, so you’re yesterday’s news. And third, you really, really need to do something about that nasty pube beard of yours. Don’t you own a mirror?
#9) WRESTLEMANIA 22
Date: April 2, 2006
Era: Cena Era
Location: Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois
Notable Debuts: CM Punk, Mickie James, Finlay, Bobby Lashley
Wrestlemania 22 is part of an uneasy segment in WWE’s history. The Royal Rumble before it and this event are major parts of a storyline that bases itself on the memory of the dearly departed Eddie Guerrero. Rey Mysterio wins the Rumble and moves on towards a title reign (probably the most horribly booked title reign, but that’s another story) based solely on the fact that he’s Eddie’s friend. I like Mysterio, but I still see it as kind of wrong. Meanwhile, Triple H feuds with John Cena because… uh… because they’re main eventers and they haven’t feuded yet? Around this time, I recall many being completely shocked that of all the stories going into Wrestlemania, the most compelling is the Women’s Championship match.
You get your run-of-the-mill highlight reel of moments from Wrestlemania past, followed by a really cool montage that hypes up the matches using only the audio of Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and snippets of different wrestlers from their various promos in the weeks leading up to the show. The arena has a bunch of headshots of different wrestlers hanging through the rafters. While most of them represent those who are appearing at the show, they toss in one headshot of Road Warrior Animal, who appears in a dark match battle royal, and one of Hulk Hogan, who has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
The Hall of Fame ceremony is pretty funny for the way it starts. Howard Finkel announces Bret Hart’s name and the crowd goes nuts. Then he finishes his sentence and says that he is uncomfortable being at the show (due to being in the same building as Michaels), so don’t expect to see him. Boos. I’m really glad the guy has been trying to move past Michaels and Montreal because what a baby. Also weird is seeing Chavo and Vickie Guerrero accept Eddie’s induction and be cheered like crazy for being there. Vickie Guerrero, people! I’m just so not used to seeing her get a positive response.
The backstage promos are good stuff. Michaels pulls off an angry promo about the hell he’s going to unleash on Vince. Vince has his family join him in prayer as another way to mock God and Michaels. Orton threatens “Mean” Gene Okerlund until an injured Batista makes him back off. Booker T discovers that he’s a freak magnet after being confronted by Goldust, Eugene, Ted Dibiase, Paul Burchill, Gene Snitsky, Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah in the same hallway. Cena and Triple H are each shown getting ready and Jim Ross completely beats it into the ground that John Cena is “controversial” because people are supposed to like him and don’t.
In other news, Paul Roma is the most controversial Horseman. Being controversial makes you cool, right? There you go. Paul Roma is cool.
To start us off, The Big Show and Kane defend the Tag Team Championship against Carlito and Chris Masters. The Kane/Big Show team should never have ended. Kane shows some agility by nailing Masters with a dropkick and as expected, he and Show have things covered. Masters rakes Big Show’s eyes and tags Carlito in. Carlito looks at the momentarily stunned giant and still looks completely frightened. The fans are surprisingly behind Carlito and he proceeds to outsmart Big Show. Turns out that during the champs’ intro, Carlito removed one of the middle turnbuckle pads as set-up for forcing Big Show into it with a drop toehold. Kane tries to do his top-rope clothesline, but Masters catches it and turns it into a Masterlock. Kane mule-kicks his way out of it and gets set up for a Backstabber by Carlito.
Amidst all the craziness, Big Show is thrown out of the ring and the challengers team up on Kane. Kane is able to hold his own and even the odds by himself. He gets his hands on Carlito. Masters goes to the top and tries an axe-handle, only he hits Carlito instead. One chokeslam later, Kane and Show are still champs. Carlito and Masters only hint their eventual breakup, which I believe happens the next night anyway. Don’t know why they waited to pull the trigger. Fun opener, though.
Then it’s the second annual Money in the Bank Match, featuring Shelton Benjamin, Ric Flair, Finlay, Rob Van Dam, Matt Hardy and Bobby Lashley. Like every Money in the Bank, it’s golden. The main problem is how depleted the list of wrestlers feels. Six is always the minimum, but Flair gets taken out of the match early on, gets taken away on a stretcher and comes back late into the match to finish up. It’s still rad, since Flair’s return is the only thing stopping Finlay from winning the match, leading into an old man showdown that’s actually fun to watch. Also of note is Lashley trying to climb up the ladder until Shelton, Matt and Finlay team up to give him a sunset powerbomb.
Rob Van Dam steals the show. Not only does he baseball slide into Matt when Matt’s getting a ladder, but he does a splash to the outside onto the ladder, just because Matt is underneath it. He misses a Rolling Thunder on Shelton and lands directly on a ladder. When Lashley tries climbing up again, RVD shows up out of nowhere, jumps off from the corner and dropkicks a chair into Lashley’s back. He’s even able to do a Frog Splash off the tallest ladder he can get his hands on. With two ladders set up, RVD climbs one with Matt Hardy climbing another. From off-screen, Shelton bounces off the top rope and lands on the ladder opposite of Matt. In other words, he practically teleports onto that goddamn ladder! The announcers liken him to Spider-Man. He and Matt punch back and forth, but RVD simply shoves their ladder away and takes the briefcase unopposed.
John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. Chris Benoit is one of those matches I forget even exist, but it’s got the quality you would expect from a Benoit match. It works far better as an Eddie Guerrero dedication match, mainly because both guys were very close with Eddie and it isn’t as high profile as what they do with Rey. When JBL copies Eddie’s taunt a couple times in the match, it’s both there to rile up the crowd because he’s making fun of Eddie and it’s him legit showing tribute to his real life friend. Benoit works specifically on the back of JBL’s head and gets the three German suplexes in there.
In another attempt to make fun of Eddie, JBL tries for the 3 Amigos. After the second one, Benoit fights his way out and shortly after delivers his own 3 Amigos. The match ends with a spot that just about anyone would see miles away: Benoit reverses the Clothesline From Hell into a Crippler Crossface. What isn’t predicted is for JBL to roll it over, grab a nearby rope and unfairly pin Benoit.
Mick Foley fights Edge in a Hardcore Match. This one is fantastic. Edge is armed with a bat and once Foley runs into the ring, Edge misses a couple swings. Edge is still able to hit him with a couple metal sheets and signs, but falls into Foley’s trap by Spearing him. Edge is horrified at the pain in his shoulder and Foley reveals that he’s been wearing concealed barbed wire under his shirt. He cuts off the wire and whips it at Edge. Edge gets tied up in the ropes, making him prone to Foley and his barbed wire baseball bat. Lita runs in and attacks Foley, allowing Edge the time necessary to escape. With Lita on his back, Foley runs over and clotheslines Edge out anyway. All three of them tumble out. Edge hiptosses Foley into the steps and sets up a table that ends up not being used at the moment. These matches, always with their “foreshadow tables”.
He gets his hands on some lighter fluid and squirts it onto Foley. He uses the barbed wire bat and gets plenty of use out of it, including a bulldog face-first into the bat. He lays out some thumb tacks, but Foley picks Edge up and suplexes him onto the pile. Foley pulls out Mr. Socko, only with a layer of barbed wire around it. He uses it on Edge and then Lita. Foley pours some of the lighter fluid on the table set up on the outside. Lita swings a bat into Foley’s leg, stunning him. She lights the table, just in time for Edge to SPEAR FOLEY THROUGH THE ROPES AND INTO THE FLAMING TABLE HOLY FUCK!
Edge pins Foley and is declared winner, but his shoulder is lacerated, his girlfriend’s mouth is cut open, he has tacks embedded into his back, he was just on fire and now he’s catatonic. That’s the cost of victory.
Next up is a handicap match of Booker T and Sharmell vs. the Boogeyman. Booker is so on edge that even his own pyro scares him. Boogeyman is one of those names in WWE history that makes me feel sad. I really, really liked that guy. His gimmick and mannerisms are so entertaining, unique and out there that I’d look forward to every appearance he’d make. I’d watch old clips on YouTube in anticipation and play as him in the Smackdown vs. Raw games. Unfortunately, the guy can’t wrestle for shit. It’s a real shame because if only the guy was worth watching in the ring, I really think he could have been a top name. I think they were hoping that he would learn to better himself in the ring over time and fed former world champions to him anyway. At the Royal Rumble, it was JBL. Here, it’s Booker T.
His job in the match is four things. First, he has to just scare Sharmell. Second, he has to occasionally strangle Booker with both hands. Three, he has to get beat on a lot and kick out of Booker’s top moves. Fourth, he has to toss in his double-handed chokeslam out of nowhere and win the match. It’s a sloppy mess and my bias towards that brilliant gimmick can’t save this from a low rating.
Trish Stratus defends the Women’s Championship against Mickie James and I don’t think I’m stepping on too many toes to suggest that this is the best women’s match in Wrestlemania history. The angle surrounding it is that Mickie is an insane stalker who both loves and lusts Trish. She gets cheers over Trish, including a “Yay!”/”Boo!” punch exchange and Jim Ross can’t make sense of it. Seriously? You don’t understand why a predominantly male audience would support the bubbly girl in the skirt who wants to have lesbian sex with Trish Stratus? Does this mean Trish is controversial?
Trish kicks Mickie’s ass for a few minutes until they end up on the outside and she accidentally performs a Chick Kick on the metal post. Mickie puts her in a half crab to capitalize and Trish ends up selling it the entire match. The crowd is absolutely hot for these two and they don’t let them down. Mickie goes for a hurricanrana and gets powerbombed. Trish grabs Mickie in a headlock and readies the Stratusfaction, only Mickie clutches Trish’s bathing suit area and gets her to let go. As a follow-up, Mickie licks her hand… and this is not surprisingly removed from the DVD.
Also removed is Mickie trying her own version of Stratusfaction with Trish botching it by falling over before they can get to the ropes. I guess it makes sense, considering her leg is giving out and she can’t be led into Mickie’s move, but it does look like shit. Mickie does a Chick Kick and makes herself the new champion.
The Undertaker defends the Streak against Mark Henry in a Casket Match. Of all the modern Undertaker Wrestlemania matches, this is the only one that nobody in their right mind could fathom Undertaker losing. Sorry, Mark. I still like you, even if you haven’t hit your stride by this point. Undertaker does try his hardest to make Mark look like a million bucks by Mark being able to withstand two clothesline without falling until countering Undertaker’s third attempt with a stronger clothesline. Even Old School can’t knock Mark down. On top of that, it really feels like Mark has Undertaker’s offense scouted. He’s one step ahead of him and although there’s a part where he briefly slips into the casket and has to brawl his way out, he still stays in control for much of the match. He hits the World’s Strongest Slam, but foolishly goes for the pin. When he does roll Undertaker into the casket, Undertaker’s still too aware to let them close the lid on him.
Mark works on Undertaker in the corner and punches down on him while standing on the second rope. Undertaker reverses this into a powerbomb, although the commentators insist that this is certainly a Last Ride. Riiight. He tosses Mark towards the casket, but the lid is closed, so Mark bounces off the top. Undertaker does a suicide dive onto Mark, pulls off a Tombstone and rolls him into the casket for the win. I think it’s a lot better than what people expected out of it.
”The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels meets with Vince McMahon in a No Holds Barred Match, which is silly to me. What makes this “No Holds Barred Match” different from Edge and Foley’s “Hardcore Match”? Nothing. They just figured that giving it a different name would make it less redundant. There is a difference, anyway. Edge vs. Foley feels like a good match. Michaels vs. Vince feels like a snuff film.
It starts with Michaels beating the everloving crap out of Vince, including strangling him with wires and breaking a framed picture over his head. Then the Spirit Squad arrive and team up on Michaels. They hit their 5-on-1 team-up attack. Kenny misses a top-rope legdrop, giving Michaels the out needed to get up, steal their cone megaphone and smashing it upside all their heads. Somehow, this keeps them out of action for the rest of the match.
Vince surprises Michaels and gets a few hits in. He tries his own variation of Sweet Chin Music and it gets caught. Michaels steals Vince’s belt and whips him around. He hits the top-rope elbow drop and starts tuning up the band, but the match is still young, so here comes Shane with a kendo stick. Vince drops his pants so that Shane can shove Michael’s face into Vince’s ass. Michaels forces Shane’s face in instead (fucking gross!) and clotheslines Shane out of the ring. He handcuffs him to the bottom rope and spends endless minutes fucking up Vince. Over the next several minutes of zero conflict, he plasters Vince with a chair shot, puts a trash can over Vince’s top half, lays him on a table, climbes to the top of a very large ladder and does one hell of an elbow drop. Then he picks him up, taunts him and hits Sweet Chin Music. Vince is wheeled off and has just enough strength left in him to flip off Michaels.
If I can sum up this match in one image, it would be this.
Kurt Angle defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio in a Triple Threat Match. The group POD plays Rey to the ring as he wears an exceptionally silly looking headdress. Still, this is only the third most ridiculous entrance of the night. From the start, Orton grabs the belt and smashes Angle. Orton faces off with Mysterio and sets him up for a German suplex. Angle gets back up, grabs Orton and pulls off a German on both men at the same time! Sweet!
The three have some good chemistry and the biggest shame is that this big championship match is only nine minutes long. There’s a lot of good triple threat psychology, like how Rey is at a huge disadvantage because of his size. It makes him that much easier to throw out of the ring so that Angle can capitalize and pin Orton. Rey tries the 619 on Angle, but Angle catches it and turns it into an ankle lock. The ref is distracted and doesn’t see the tap. Angle angrily Angle Slams Rey to the outside and puts Orton in the ankle lock. Orton taps, but Rey has already pulled the ref out of the ring. He legdrops Angle so he’ll let go.
Angle tries an Angle Slam on Orton, but it gets reversed into a sweet RKO. One botched 619 later, Orton stalks Rey for an RKO. Angle pops in and delivers an Angle Slam on Orton. Another Angle Slam on Rey is reversed into an arm drag that sends Angle out of the ring. Rey quickly hits the 619 on Orton, follows with a hurricanrana, gets the pin and celebrates his big title win with Chavo and Vickie. Again, this match would be really, really good if they just gave it more time.
Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson have a Playboy Pillow Fight. This feud is based on the both of them being in Playboy and this somehow leads to them hating each other’s guts. The gimmick appears to be that they’re wearing evening gowns and there’s a bed in the middle of the ring. The reason I don’t rate this one a minimal zero is because the two do put in some effort. When Torrie flips the bed over on Candice and they perform a couple moves, things look remotely watchable for just a couple seconds. Torrie then goes and makes things worse by bringing her dog Chloe into the ring so she can shove the dog’s ass over Candice’s face. Yes, this is one of Torrie’s moves of the time, the Stinkface II. It’s fucking disgusting and even the fans are sickened by it.
Torrie tears off Candice’s dress and Candice is excessively embarrassed to be seen in her underwear. You know, even though this match is based on her being willing to let the world see her bare lady parts. Maybe she’s afraid of being seen without an airbrush filter. I don’t know, you tell me. Torrie loses her dress, randomly pulls out a Playboy magazine and does absolutely nothing with it. She pins Candice and the match is thankfully over.
Now it’s time for the main event: John Cena defending the WWE Championship against Triple H. The match? The match isn’t important. No, this is all about the completely insane entrances. Triple H has a video play of barbarians fighting skeletons with a new, better Motorhead theme rocking out the speakers. He appears on the ramp, sitting on a throne with a big hammer at his side and decked out in full barbarian gear. I’m still not sure if the anachronistic water bottle in his hand takes away from or adds to the majesty of it all. John Cena counters it by being led to the ring by CM Punk and his gang of Chicago gangsters after a video shows that Al Capone and his gang were also hated on despite doing good for the community. I can make fun of this, but I know if I start, I won’t stop for at least another three paragraphs. Anyway, Cena brings out a tommy gun and fires it into the crowd. No wonder they’re booing him! He just straight-up murdered a dozen of them!
The match does fall into the same trap as many of Cena’s other “beat the odds” matches, but there’s enough to keep it unique. Cena and Triple H work better together than Cena does with JBL or Big Show, that’s for certain. Cena gets in enough offense so it isn’t a total squash until the last minute, but the main thing that makes it enjoyable is the crowd. They are so sick of Cena that they will cheer the holy hell out of Triple H. When Triple H outwrestles Cena, it begins chants of, “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE!” and a slight, “FUCK YOU, CENA!” Cena mostly doesn’t break character, but Triple H can’t help himself. As much of a heel as he is, he has to acknowledge the crowd and smile. I wonder if they banked on the crowd reaction and wanted to use this as a testing ground for a Triple H face turn, especially since he – as well as Michaels earlier – brings out the DX crotch chop.
Triple H does hold control for quite a while, but once Cena gets back into the match, it gets watchable. They do the “Yay!”/”Boo!” punch spot with Cena winning, he sets up the Five Knuckle Shuffle, runs across the ropes and gets caught with a spinebuster. Cena shortly after puts Triple H in the STF, but he gets the rope. He tries for the Attitude Adjustment, but Triple H slips off, shoves Cena into the ref and low blows him. He brings out a sledgehammer and smacks him in the face. Triple H sets up a Pedigree, gets backdropped and is spiked down with the Attitude Adjustment.
Cena misses a crossbody from the top, leading to another Pedigree attempt. Out of nowhere, Cena turns it into the STF. I’m not a big fan of the ending, but here it goes: Triple H is really close to the ropes. The STF causes him to pass out for a second and the ref holds his limp arm up and counts. On the third fall, Triple H’s arm rises to show that he’s still in it, just so he can tap a couple seconds later. I suppose it adds a little more tension, but I’m not sure I get the logic.
The show is pretty solid on its own, but it works better when you remember it as setting up for the amazing ECW: One Night Stand PPV a couple months later.
#8) WRESTLEMANIA 23
Date: April 1, 2007
Era: Cena Era
Location: Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan
Notable Debuts: The Great Khali, MVP, Mr. Kennedy, Umaga, Hornswoggle.
Wrestlemania 23 is a bit of a problematic time for the WWE, creatively. It’s best pointed out by its two main events: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels and Undertaker vs. Batista. Four faces. Where are the top heels? Unfortunately, there are only a few major heels and they aren’t used to their best extent. Randy Orton, Edge and King Booker are curtain-jerking with the Money in the Bank match, Umaga is found somewhere in the big Vince vs. Trump storyline and Khali has a throwaway match with Kane. That’s all the company has to offer in terms of badguys. In reaction, smark backlash gets stronger so that fans start turning on the more forced fan-favorites Batista and John Cena.
They first start using the whole wrestler-specific animated lights backdrop set here, at least I think. That’s cool in itself. Also cool is the use of the song “Ladies and Gentlemen” by Saliva, which fits so well and especially works when they do the highlight package at the end of the show. The video packages setting up the two main title matches are brilliantly put together, especially Cena vs. Michaels. Mr. Kennedy gives one of the best promos of his career after winning Money in the Bank. There’s an awkward, yet highly amusing skit where Donald Trump meets and basically tames the Boogeyman, as well as a fantastic backstage skit where Cryme Tyme and Eugene party down with some Divas and a huge assortment of legends from yesteryear (including a sudden and awesome appearance by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat). There are two intro packages to the show for whatever reason, but they both come off well, especially since one is narrated by Keith David, who has one of the most badass voices of all time. Plus the usual Hall of Fame ceremony filler.
That’s the good. Now the bad. There are a bunch of outright strange promo segments about how Wrestlemania is “All Grown Up” featuring 8-year-old versions of wrestlers acting like their adult selves. It’s… weird. Vince and Stephanie are involved in a truly awful scene where Vince tells Steph’s baby about how he’s going to destroy Donald Trump, all from the baby’s point of view. I hate when they do that. Is the baby a cyborg of some kind? The big pain of the show is that they cut out the match Carlito and Ric Flair vs. Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms and make it a dark match even though they have PLENTY OF TIME! Oh, wait. I’m sorry. They had to spend all that time for a fake Access Hollywood segment to hype up Vince vs. Trump, have everyone talk about how great The Condemned is and spend like a half hour on the Undertaker celebrating. Sorry, 5-minute match. No time for you.
They fire off on all cylinders with the Money in the Bank, featuring Edge, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, Randy Orton, King Booker, Mr. Kennedy, Matt Hardy and Finlay. It’s the most contestants in any one of these matches by this point, but does that hurt it? Not one bit, says I. Right at the ringing of the bell, Kennedy makes a run for a ladder, as if that makes any difference on his chances. When Finlay jumps out of the ring and dives onto most of the wrestlers, Edge doesn’t follow up by trying to out-do him, but instead sets up the ladder and tries to take advantage of the situation. At one point, everyone’s reaching for ladders from under the ring and King Booker pulls out a tiny one that would go up to his knee. He can only mutter, “Tell me I didn’t—“ before getting smacked upside the head. Later on, Booker’s bad fortune is his own doing as instead of going for the briefcase, he pulls off a Spinaroonie. Another awesome spot is CM Punk putting the ladder over his head to swing around as a weapon, then getting Speared by Edge while taking Finlay and Orton down with him.
When Jeff has the match won, he instead gives in when Matt talks him into committing suicide by having him Swanton through a ladder bridged between the guardrail and the ring with Edge on it. That takes Edge and Jeff out of the match. Then it becomes complete mayhem, mostly with ladder-based finishers all over. Randy hits the RKO on Punk off the top of a ladder. Booker gives Randy the Bookend off the ladder. Booker surrenders when Matt threatens to give Queen Sharmell the Twist of Fate, ultimately ending with Matt giving Booker the same move. Finlay gets his mitts on Matt and delivers a Celtic Cross onto a nearby ladder. Afterwards, Finlay acts too hurt to muster up the strength to climb, so Hornswoggle comes out, climbs the ladder and gives it a try. Mr. Kenney climbs up on a ladder next to him and gets in the leprechaun’s face. Hornswoggle repeatedly slaps him in the face, so Kennedy gives the little guy the Green Bay Plunge from on top of the ladder. CRIPES. Punk tries to get to the top of the ladder, but Kennedy hits him in the face with another ladder, climbs up and takes the briefcase unopposed. Absolutely amazing showing. This show is off to a fantastic start.
It’s followed by Kane vs. Great Khali, yet another match that everyone shits on, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as everyone paints it. Truthfully, it’s one of Khali’s better matches, if that means anything. Kane’s entrance isn’t too shabby, where there’s a pentagram slowly lighting on fire and the video wall shows silhouettes of arms flailing around in Hell. Kane sells like a champ for Khali, while Khali proceeds to mostly no-sell Kane’s trademark top-rope clothesline. Kane does get Khali tied up into the ropes, ala Andre, and goes off to pull out a hook and chain from under the ring. He obviously doesn’t get to use the hook part, but he is able to crotch Khali with the chain, allowing him to bodyslam him as a tribute to Hogan vs. Andre from twenty years prior. It doesn’t get the job done and Khali eventually takes Kane down with his two-handed chokeslam. Khali matches are never anything special, but at least Kane did his best to make it watchable. Afterwards, Khali chokes Kane with the chain until losing interest and stomping off to yell unintelligibly about other things.
Chris Benoit defends the US Championship against MVP in what is Chris Benoit’s final Wrestlemania appearance before taking a top-rope dive into Crazytown, USA. MVP – whose entrance has always been high profile to this point – now has the addition of cheerleaders jumping around on each side as he does his slick pose. The match, as you can expect, is lots of great mat wrestling between a true master of the ring and his talented off-air protégé. A lot of the beginning has neat bits where MVP is able to scout and reverse any of Benoit’s trademark moves, such as the German suplex and the Crippler Crossface. Benoit sticks to his game and is even able to reverse the impact of being superplexed from the top-rope into a pinning combination. The match continues, though not nearly long enough, until Benoit is able to hit a headbutt from the top. Afterwards, JBL commentates that Chris Benoit is a definite for going into the Hall of Fame. Er… don’t hold your breath on that one, Bradshaw.
It’s already time for the first main event, as Batista defends the World Championship against the Undertaker. Undertaker gets the usual cool entrance with the druids and torches and all that, but holy hell does it take for-fucking-ever. I’m almost tempted to see how long all of Undertaker’s Wrestlemania entrances would be put together, but even I don’t have that much time on my hands. Right from the ring of the bell, Batista nails the Spear. And the crowd gets pissed. The crowd is very much in Undertaker’s corner throughout this match, leading to loud boos whenever Batista even touches Undertaker. Good times. Also neat: Batista saving himself from a chokeslam by gripping the Undertaker by the wrist and slowly tearing the hand off his throat.
The two play it like they’re each going all-out. Undertaker does a Guillotine Legdrop onto the apron and later hits his impressive suicide dive to the outside. Batista does a shoulder tackle from the top rope and at one point tosses the Undertaker into a pile of chairs. This part becomes really cool, since one of the cameramen is taken out and the match becomes all Blair Witch for a few minutes. Then Batista clears off two of the announce tables and DRIVES Undertaker through one of them with a running powerslam.
The match moves towards the climax when Batista begins to punch down Undertaker while standing on the corner ropes and Undertaker grabs Batista by the tights and hits the Last Ride. It isn’t enough. Batista hits a Spinebuster and taunts to the crowd, allowing Undertaker to get back up. Undertaker hits a chokeslam. It isn’t enough. Batista nails another Spear and follows up with a Batista Bomb. It isn’t enough. Undertaker gets him with a Tombstone. That’s enough for Batista. As Undertaker celebrates for like twenty minutes, the announcers bring up a cool little tidbit: Undertaker won the title ten years earlier at Wrestlemania 13. Anyway, the two really complemented each other here and it’s always refreshing to see a great Batista match pop up here and there.
ECW gets a bone with an 8-man tag match where The New Breed (Matt Striker, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von and Elijah Burke) face the ECW Originals (Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam and Sabu). Sadly, it isn’t Extreme Rules, though they would have an Extreme Rules rematch that I highly recommend. All the Originals come out of the crowd, Sandman-style. In a regular match, Sabu isn’t so great. He spends his time hopping around the ring like a frog and it looks awkward. Tommy Dreamer becomes the face in peril after getting nailed with the Elijah Express, which Elijah follows up on by doing Tommy’s taunt. He doesn’t stay in peril for too long, considering it’s a six-minute match. It becomes fast-paced, with Tommy hitting a neckbreaker and Inverted DDT at the same time to two of his opponents. Striker should get an award for his selling, especially when he gets sent flying with a monkey flip. Sabu gets a dive out of the ring on Cor Von and it becomes absolute chaos. Amidst the madness, RVD Frog Splashes Striker and gets the win. The Originals pose together in triumph and Tommy Dreamer starts crying. Why? Because he’s Tommy Dreamer.
Ever notice that the heart and soul of ECW is a fat guy who cries a lot?
So far this PPV is balls-to-the-wall awesome. Not a bad match yet! But I’m afraid it isn’t to last.
Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga is up next. Before I get into anything else, let’s discuss Lashley vs. Umaga itself. The pairing is worth hyping because it’s a rising, super-strong face clashing with an invincible monster heel. I always mark for these match-ups, like when Raw would hold matches like Ahmed Johnson vs. Vader or Crush vs. Yokozuna. Against each other, they work… well enough, I suppose. Granted, Lashley’s comeback punches to stun Umaga look like crap, but they get the job done and seem capable of a passable match. This includes cool dive spots to the outside that miss their mark (I mean that in the literal sense), but barely stop either’s momentum.
Then you have to remember that this isn’t about Lashley vs. Umaga. This is about Vince McMahon vs. Donald Trump, each representing a different wrestler. If their guy loses, they have to have their heads shaved. Hey, look! A match with absolutely zero suspense because no fucking way is Donald Trump going to have his head shaved! Then you add Steve Austin as the special guest referee and overbook the everloving hell out of the match.
Revisiting the match, it’s amazing how bad it is. For a singles match, we get SIX ENTRANCES! One for Vince, Trump, Austin, Lashley, Umaga and the goddamn barber chair! Sure, Austin adds some personality by getting in Lashley and Umaga’s faces and the part where they’re both knocked out and he refuses to ten-count them. Austin gets Samoan Spiked and Shane McMahon joins in on the clusterfuck by making himself the new ref. Austin beats on Shane and Stunners Umaga. Trump – whose only role so far has been to yell, “SHAKE IT OFF, BOBBY!” every couple minutes – tackles Vince and delivers some of the worst punches I’ve ever seen. Lashley wins, even though he’s in third place when it comes to the spotlight. Austin Stunners Vince and Shane and the three faces strap Vince down and shave his head.
It goes on waaay too long and involves some horrible song being played over the speakers about being bald. Austin gives Trump a Stunner (with a hideous sell-job) and walks off, while Lashley tries to remember if he’s supposed to care about that. To think that this was the big selling point of the show.
At least the show can regain its momentum with… Melina defending the Women’s Championship against Ashley in a Lumberjill Match?! SHIT!
A bunch of Divas circle the ring, even though they’re only used once to toss Melina back into the ring. The match starts with a lot of strangle moves and Melina’s annoying screams. Melina does a Big Swing, so there is that. There is also a really bad monkey flip sell on Melina’s behalf. Ashley misses an elbow drop and Melina goes for a roll-up pin. The ref already counts to three before Melina can go for the bridge. The other Divas rush the ring and start brawling with each other and JBL makes lemonade out of this awful match by excitedly coining the term, “Lumberjill pandemonium!”
That brings us to the last match, where John Cena defends the WWE Championship against Shawn Michaels. At this point, they’re reluctant tag champs. Cena gets a big intro where he drives around in a sports car like something out of the Fast and the Furious and goes through a pane of glass before exiting the car and making his way to the ring. Once the two are set to face off, a fan makes it into the ring and tries to strip before being pounced by security. The commentators make sure to make absolutely no reference to this, even with Michaels waving at the guy.
It starts off great. Michaels offers a handshake and Cena won’t do it, so he gets slapped. Cena swings his fists at Michaels, misses each time and gets another slap. Michaels out-wrestles Cena for several minutes until Cena hits his first clothesline. Huge boos. Michaels dominates most of the match, especially after hitting a springboard moonsault to the outside, crushing Cena into the announce table. The two get bloody at different points in the match. For Michaels, he runs head-first into the post and misses Cena. For Cena, it’s from Michaels giving him a piledriver onto the steps.
It keeps up the tempo. When Cena goes for the Attitude Adjustment, Michaels turns it into a DDT. When Michaels goes for Sweet Chin Music, Cena suddenly dashes forward and hits a jumping clothesline. It isn’t until his third attempt that Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment, which doesn’t end the match. Michaels tries an enziguri and misses, opening him for the always stupid-to-watch STF by that master of submission John Cena. Michaels gets to the rope and the ref has to force Cena off. Cena shakes off his frustration and walks right into Sweet Chin Music. The two both go down, slowly get to their feet and Cena immediately reapplies his STF. Michaels taps and Cena retains. Wait, that’s totally ripping off Michaels/Angle.
Considering the angle is to continue regardless, I don’t see why they had Cena go over. After the previous Wrestlemania’s main event of Cena vs. Triple H, they had to have known what kind of reaction Cena would get winning. Hell, you could barely hear anyone chant, “YOU CAN’T SEE ME!” along with Cena when he does the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Fantastic match by all means, but it’s stupid to end a Wrestlemania with a face winning in an area that will obviously boo the holy hell out of him when it’s just as easy to have the other, more popular face get the gold.
Day One (#25-24)
Day Two (#23-22)
Day Three (#21-20)
Day Four (#19-18)
Day Five (#17-16)
Day Six (#15-14)
Day Seven (#13-12)
Day Eight (#11-10)
Day Nine (#9-8)
Day Ten (#7-6)
Day Eleven (#5-4)
Day Twelve (3-1)