It’s Tuesday, meaning NXT is on tonight. If you are a wrestling fan and you aren’t watching NXT then you’re doing it wrong. You should fix that immediately. It’s the best show the WWE’s put on in years.
For the remaining days of this countdown, I’m going to do something called Tales of Wrestlemania. The events of consecutive Wrestlemanias have a way of telling an abridged story of some wrestlers’ careers. Their matches act like stepping stones to greatness and links to a higher profile. Or perhaps they show a decline in one’s career. Let’s start it off with Tito Santana‘s profile.
Wrestlemania 1: Not only does Tito Santana open the show, but he wins the very first Wrestlemania match. Later in the night, he helps out Junkyard Dog by convincing the referee to reverse his decision in the JYD/Valentine match. Valentine keeps the Intercontinental Championship, which will allow Tito to eventually win it from him. Things are looking good.
Wrestlemania 2: Tito and his good friend Junkyard Dog are now working together as a tag team against the Funks. Junkyard Dog gets clobbered by a megaphone to the head and gets pinned. Oh well. At least Tito wasn’t the one pinned.
Wrestlemania 3: Tito finds himself in another tag match. He and the British Bulldogs are up against the Hart Foundation and Danny Davis. Davis? He should be easy pickings. Unfortunately, Hart’s megaphone gets used again, this time on Dynamite Kid. Crap, another loss. Still, Tito didn’t take the fall. There’s still that.
Wrestlemania 4: Tito’s found a better partner in Rick Martel. They’re even the champions! They lose those titles to Demolition because YET AGAIN, Tito’s partner gets hit with the heel manager’s weapon. Goddamn it.
Wrestlemania 5: Okay, Strike Force has been on the shelf for a few months, but things are back to normal. They’re going to beat the Brainbusters and… where is Martel going? Well, great. Not only is Tito alone, but he has to be the one who gets pinned. This tag team stuff is for the birds.
Wrestlemania 6: All right! Singles match! Against the Barbarian, who has also broken away from the tag world to do singles matches. Maybe Tito has a chance– nope. Clothesline off the top rope turns him into an accordion.
Wrestlemania 7: Okay, certainly Tito can defeat the Mountie, right? Nope. Taser to the gut after about a minute in.
Wrestlemania 8: Tito’s back with a revitalized gimmick. Maybe that will help him beat this Shawn Michaels guy. Nope. Not only does he lose, but it’s a stinker of a match. Seven losses in a row at this point.
Wrestlemania 9: Yes! Tito Santana finally gets a win again! It’s against Papa Shango! …Unfortunately, nobody sees this, since it’s delegated to a dark match. Sorry, Tito.
#13) WRESTLEMANIA 15
Date: March 28, 1999
Era: Attitude Era
Location: First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Notable Debuts: Big Show, Edge, Christian, Val Venis, Test
As the company continues to rise thanks to the success of the Attitude Era, we’re granted a mixed bag of a Wrestlemania. The talent is there and the names are there, especially with the Austin vs. Rock main event, but it’s also the most Vince Russo Wrestlemania in the show’s history. Face turns and heel turns run rampant. Interference is all over the place. Matches and angles are overbooked. If a match isn’t any of the above, then it’s a gimmick match. He’s reined in enough for it not to completely hurt the show, but when you look at the big picture, it’s obvious that he has a big hand in it.
The show begins with Classy Freddy Blassie doing a whole bit about how this new generation is out there to inspire us in his stead. Honestly, there’s not much to talk about in terms of non-wrestling material. There’s the hilarious Bart Gunn training video where all his friends believe that he’s going to beat Butterbean. Mankind gets a promo, which is always a good thing, but it’s over too soon. The Big Show happily gets arrested. After D-Generation X is fully reunited, Triple H does X-Pac’s promo for him as X-Pac stares into the camera like a deer in the headlights. We get a look at the Rage Party highlights from a night or so before and a video package to hype up Big Boss Man vs. Undertaker that does very, very little to point out that Big Boss Man is in this match. It’s more Undertaker vs. Vince McMahon with several shots of Boss Man slipped in there.
We begin with Bad Ass Billy Gunn defending the Hardcore Championship against Al Snow and Hardcore Holly in a Triple Threat Match. Al Snow is polite enough to attack Billy during his pre-match “same old shit” promo, then goes to town on Holly by whipping him with some wires. Snow pulls out a hockey stick and starts doing the whole martial arts kata shtick, which never really mattered, since everyone used those weapons all the same with or without martial arts training anyway. Later he does the same thing with a broken broom handle. At least they’re showing originality with their weapons. Eventually, Snow realizes that he carries a foreign object to the ring all the time and starts wielding Head to knock out Holly and Gunn. Rather than go for the pin, he sets up a table in the corner and – wouldn’t you know it – he gets tossed through it. Gunn hits the Famouser on Snow into a chair and goes for the pin. Holly nails Gunn with the chair and pins Snow.
Next up is Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett defending the Tag Team Championship against D’Lo Brown and Test. Why are D’Lo and Test together? It’s a funny story. Earlier that night on Sunday Night Heat, they had a battle royal where the final two would be made challengers for the titles. D’Lo and Test were busy pounding on each other while the other two guys left eliminated themselves by accident. D’Lo is a face here with Test as a heel, so there is some definite tension. Like when D’Lo saves Test from Owen’s Sharpshooter, Test repays him by tagging him and yelling, “Get your ass in there!” Some nice offense is shown all-around, including a sick Gutwrench Suplex from Test to Owen and a surprise Sky High Powerbomb from D’Lo to Jarrett. The Pretty Mean Sisters (Jacqueline and Terri Runnels) show up to get in an argument with D’Lo’s valet Ivory and Test has to break it up. As that goes on, Owen saves Jarrett from a powerbomb by hitting a Missile Dropkick on D’Lo. Jarrett flips forward and gets the roll-up pin. Hm, maybe this was more overly Russo than I thought…
What I hate about this match is how utterly pointless it is. The whole tag challenger battle royal concept is brilliant. It’s seriously brilliant. It sets up one of three angles: 1) It creates a new tag team. 2) It makes a face/heel team into reluctant champions. 3) If they fail to gain the titles, they can feud with each other. Brand new feud out of nowhere! And it doesn’t happen! D’Lo and Test get in an argument after the match, but nothing ever comes of it. Again, what is the point?
I have to tell you, when I realized that this is the Wrestlemania with Butterbean vs. Bart Gunn in a Brawl 4 All Match, my face lit up. What an experience. As a refresher, the WWF came up with the idea of building up Dr. Death Steve Williams as a badass and a main eventer by setting up a tournament called Brawl 4 All, which is a legit and non-scripted attempt at a sport that was summed up as boxing with scored takedowns. To the company’s surprise, forgotten midcarder Bart Gunn decimated Williams in the second round of the tournament and went on to win. You’d think that the company would just use that success to push Gunn, but like a drunk in Atlantic City, they put all their money on red 4 on the roulette table. Because if Bart Gunn can knock out famed tough guy boxer Butterbean? Shit, he’ll have it made!
The match gets tons of time to set up, with introductions to special referee Vinny Pazienza and the judges, which includes the final WWF appearance by Gorilla Monsoon. After all that setup, we get 34 seconds of action. Bart races head-on into a flurry. He gets back into the fight and gets knocked on his ass. He waits out eight seconds of the count, stands straight up and goes in one more time. Immediately, Butterbean punches his lights out. WWF career over. Damn.
Oh, and after the match, the San Diego Chicken comes out and fucks with Vinny Panzienza until getting punched in the beak. Believe it or not, this is foreshadowing.
Mankind goes up against “The Big Show” Paul Wight, as they call him here. It’s like Michael Cole isn’t allowed to call him by just Big Show or Wight or anything. He has to say the full name. The winner of this match gets to be the special referee for Austin vs. Rock. Big Show takes control for most of the match, though Mankind gets his hits in. It drags a little, but gets more interesting once Mankind gets his second wind. He puts the Mr. Socko Mandible Claw on Big Show, who keeps powering out of it, only to receive the hand in the mouth again and again. Mankind applies more pressure by climbing onto Big Show’s back, allowing Big Show to fall backwards and crush Mankind flat. He gets Mankind out of the ring and hits him with a chair. The ref warns him. Big Show sets up two chairs in the ring and chokeslams Mankind through them both. The ref disqualifies him, falling on deaf ears, as Big Show continues his assault on the loveable loser.
Mankind is taken out of a stretcher. Vince McMahon storms out, furious at Big Show for ruining his plans. Vince riles Big Show up by smacking him in the face, causing Big Show to snap and punch out Vince. He angrily storms off, claiming he now works for himself.
Russo Turn Tally: 1
After all that drama’s done with, Road Dogg defends the Intercontinental Championship against Ken Shamrock, Goldust and Val Venis in a Four-Way Elimination Match. I find the story surrounding it interesting. It centers around Ken Shamrock’s sister Ryan Shamrock, who is in a love triangle with Val Venis and Goldust and Ken is outraged over it all. Road Dogg has absolutely nothing to do with the feud other than holding onto the title belt that they’re all challenging for. Being that this is the Attitude Era, we can’t start the match off without having both Road Dogg and Val Venis cut promos. With that out of the way, we can get to the action.
It’s moderately decent with most of the action coming from Goldust’s lackey the Blue Meanie acting all wacky on the outside. One of the better moments is when Road Dogg and Shamrock use tag team “face in peril” strategies against their opponents. While Road Dogg tries to get into the ring, thereby distracting the referee, Shamrock is free to come in and beat on his two rivals. Strangely, Val Venis seriously undersells Road Dogg’s rarely-seen finisher, the Pumphandle Slam with Added Rape Taunt. I’m okay with this because I hate that move, but it’s still harsh to undersell one of Road Dogg’s moves when he only has two others. Shamrock gets Val Venis in the ankle lock, but Val gets to the ropes and the action spills to the outside. The ref counts so fast you’d think he’s showing off and both Val and Shamrock are eliminated. Shamrock shows his displeasure by racing into the ring and suplexing both surviving opponents.
The match continues with Road Dogg and Goldust. As Goldust bounces off the ropes, Ryan Shamrock grabs him by the leg, by accident, I guess. Shortly after, Goldust catches Road Dogg with a powerslam and the pin is reversed into some kind of unorthodox roll-up, causing Road Dogg to retain. Goldust sees fit to blame Ryan for this and dump her. He is a heel, so that works. I think.
Kane vs. Triple H shows what a year and a better opponent can do, as it’s leagues better than Kane vs. Undertaker. Kane comes to the ring and gets attacked by the San Diego Chicken. Kane quickly overpowers him and removes the mask to find Pete Rose. One Tombstone later, Kane waits for Triple H to come out. Triple H hits an early nut shot (one of many at this show), which gives him enough of an advantage to weaken Kane and lead the match. Kane eventually gets his bearings and throws Triple H to the outside. He goes for a chokeslam, but Triple H is able to crotch Kane onto the guard rail.
Chyna, who is supposed to be Kane’s handler at the time, comes out and throws the metal steps into the ring. Kane tries to use it on Triple H, but is foiled by getting those steps kicked into his face, followed by getting drop toe hold’d onto them face-first. Kane is still able to land a chokeslam. Chyna comes into the ring and betrays Kane with a chair shot. Triple H uses the same chair on Kane and then hits a Pedigree to finish him off. Kane wins by disqualification as Triple H and Chyna are reunited.
Russo Turn Tally: 2
Sable defends the Women’s Championship against Tori, who is dressed like Cheetarah from Thundercats. This is the end of Sable’s initial WWF run, during the time when she would make a big deal out of doing her dance, the Grind. The workrate here is better than one would expect until the final moments. Sable completely botches a Sablebomb and when Tori has the match won with a knocked out ref unable to count, Nicole Bass storms the ring and tears Tori to pieces for Sable’s benefit. Ugh. Nicole Bass ruins pretty much everything.
Shane McMahon defends the European Championship against X-Pac. Shane has Test accompany him and his buddies, the Mean Street Posse are in the front row. There’s a part in the match where X-Pac attacks them and he hits one guy who may or may not have been a fan. I hope he was. It makes me laugh. Test works to save Shane from the Bronco Buster and attack X-Pac whenever possible… including regularly attacking his junk. What is it with Vince Russo and nutshots? Does the guy hate the human package or something?
X-Pac is able to turn the tables, stealing Shane’s belt and whipping him around with it, then delivering the Bronco Buster on both Shane and Test. X-Pac hits the X-Factor, which should give him the match and the title. What he gets instead is Triple H coming in and surprising X-Pac with the Pedigree. Once Shane gets the pin, Triple H and Chyna celebrate the reveal that they’re really members of the Corporation. The New Age Outlaws run in, but are just as quickly beaten down. After the Corporation has left due to a rampaging Kane, Road Dogg makes sure Michael Cole quotes him correctly by saying that Triple H is a “jackoff”. With that swerve, we get three turns in one match!
Russo Turn Tally: 5
Undertaker takes on Big Boss Man in a Hell in a Cell Match. It’s an unfortunate match because it feels like a waste. Hell in a Cell has a reputation as being such a high-profile thing and here it’s being used as window dressing for the Undertaker to go through cannon fodder. Big Boss Man is an afterthought. It’s like taking Luke Skywalker’s epic final battle with Darth Vader and replacing Vader with a Storm Trooper. It all falls flat.
Undertaker comes out looking like Gene Simmons, wearing black armor and a cape. Boss Man… who cares. Starts with a lot of back-and-forth punching. Boss Man shows some of his understated charisma after beating down Undertaker and goading him into doing his sit-up spot while yelling, “GET THE HELL UP!” Just so he can kick him down again. Outside the ring, Undertaker would shove Big Boss Man into the fencing of then cage and Boss Man would lightly bounce off of it while selling it like crazy. Then he fights back and gets Undertaker handcuffed onto the cage.
Hey! That’s an actual cool idea! There obviously isn’t going to be any crazy falling from the top of the cage here, so they might as well innovate. Boss Man takes out his patented nightstick. This is going to be great! He hits the Undertaker! …and Undertaker falling breaks the chain on the cuffs. That’s it? Crap.
Boss Man is disarmed, though Undertaker is busted open. It gets very boring from here on out, ending with Boss Man missing a clothesline and Undertaker countering by picking him up with a Tombstone. Huh. That seemed easy. Undertaker wins and the Brood (Edge, Christian and Gangrel) are lowered down on harnesses. They drop down a noose, which Undertaker uses to hang Boss Man. Paul Bearer presses a button to make the Hell in the Cell rise up, which causes the noose to rise. Big Boss Man hangs in the center of the ring and Michael Cole could not give less of a shit. A man is being murdered RIGHT THERE and he’d rather discuss the Wrestlemania Rage Party.
That leaves our main event of The Rock defending the WWF Championship against Stone Cold Steve Austin in a No-Disqualification Match. Prior to the match, Vince McMahon comes out as the self-appointed referee, replacing the injured Mankind. Commissioner Shawn Michaels steps out to tell Vince that according to the ill-defined WWF rulebook, only Michaels is allowed to appoint referees. He tells Vince that there will be ZERO interference by the Corporation in this match, or else. He lets it slip that Vince is going to interfere by quickly saying that Vince is excluded from that call. This match will get a regular referee.
Rock gets the first blow in after some mutual trash talk. The early run of the match is in his favor. They start fighting through the crowd for a good, long while. Rock is thrown through a barricade. Austin is backdropped onto a piece of metal equipment and screws his knee. Rock is thrown into the giant V on the bottom of the show’s giant, metal logo. Austin gets suplexed on the ramp. Rock gets laid out over an announce table and it takes two elbow drops before the table gives way. Rock is tossed into the steps and rolled in. Austin strolls over and it’s a surprise Rock Bottom.
Austin recovers and steals a chair out of the Rock’s hands. Rock uses the nearby ref as a shield, saving himself. Near the knocked out ref, Rock steals the chair back and continues to wail on Austin’s body. He works over Austin some more, nails a headshot and goes for the pin as a new ref enters. Austin kicks out, so Rock takes out his frustrations by giving this second ref the Rock Bottom. He turns around and receives a Stone Cold Stunner. Rock sells this like he’s been shot out of a cannon!
Vince McMahon comes out, as promised, and joins the Rock in attacking Austin. He also beats up the half-dead refs for good measure. Mankind comes back, clutching his ribs, and gets McMahon out of there. Rock gets Austin with another Rock Bottom and sets up for the Corporate Elbow. Austin dodges the elbow, blocks another Rock Bottom, and hits a second Stunner. Mankind counts to three and Austin is champ again. He proceeds to celebrate in the ring with referee Earl Hebner (probably for taking that chair shot) and beats up Vince some more for good measure.
It’s an excellent match between the two top guys of the Attitude Era that is ripe with run-ins and nutshots (can’t forget the nutshots!), like everything from this time. And you know what? This is what people talk about when they say that Russo was reined in during his WWF tenure. Yeah, in retrospect it’s really blatantly him behind the book, but it’s still just enough to still be worth watching.
#12) WRESTLEMANIA 21
Date: April 3, 2005
Era: Cena Era
Location: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
Notable Debuts: Carlito
This show is probably the most important when it comes to the WWE Championship match for this Sunday. This is the point where John Cena and Batista both shoot to the top of their respective brands and start the trend of the era. One could argue that it’s all downhill from here, but I’d say only on Batista’s side – and this is ignoring his feud with the Undertaker. Right here, Batista is hot, having won the Royal Rumble and slowly reaching his face turn against his mentors Triple H and Ric Flair. Cena’s storyline lacks the punch of Batista’s and mostly relies on the tried and true method of putting the streetwise underdog up against the rich authority figure.
Wrestlemania Goes Hollywood! The show plays up the LA setting by leading up to the show with a series of skits where wrestlers reenact famous scenes from classic movies. After a montage of these skits, we get a new one of Steve Austin in Gladiator. Later in the show, they take a little time to show the two more popular trailers as voted by the fans: one based on Basic Instinct and the other based on Taxi Driver.
Like with Wrestlemania 25, I object at the low amount of matches over the course of a four hour show, but at least they have in-ring segments to try and make up for that. One of which has Eugene come out to express his love for Wrestlemania until being interrupted by Muhammad Hassan. I personally consider Hassan to be one of the all-time worst and most irresponsible gimmicks in wrestling history, but I don’t want to get started on that. Hassan beats up Eugene until Hall of Fame inductee Hulk Hogan arrives and sends him packing. Then he poses for a while. I swear, if you put all of Hogan’s celebrating from different Wrestlemanias together it would easily shatter the half hour mark. Maybe even closer to 45 minutes.
Roddy Piper does a Piper’s Pit with special guest Steve Austin. Piper is one of my all-time favorites, but once again I have to hate on his Wrestlemania edition of Piper’s Pit. The concept is that he wants to see Austin face-to-face in order to tell him that Piper is the biggest rebel in wrestling history instead of Austin. Huh? You can’t do that. That’s not how that works. Boasting about how much of a rebel you are is like boasting about how you’re so modest. Carlito shows up and makes himself a common foe for the two legends as they beat him down together. Afterwards, Austin hits a Stunner on Piper.
Other things of note include the Hall of Fame call-out segment, which they spend more time on and have Tazz and Cole commentate over the announcements of each inductee. Then there’s a backstage skit where champions JBL and Triple H have a dick-waving contest.
We’re off to a fine start with Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio. During this match, the two are tag champs, but have a friendly rivalry going on and regularly have matches against each other. It just so happens that Rey keeps winning. Lots of awesome fast-paced lucha action to start off with, unfortunately followed up with a lengthy rest hold that almost kills the match. That and Rey’s habit of fixing his mask again and again are the main flaws of this match.
It picks up, though, and goes back to excellence. After enduring a kickass corkscrew plancha to the outside via Rey, Eddie is able to get back on track and goes for the Three Amigos. He hits the first suplex, but Rey rolls him up for a pin. Eddie kicks out and methodically works over Rey for a bit. He tries again and gets two suplexes until Rey reverses it and attempts a 619 that instead gets turned into a backbreaker. Eddie goes for one more try and this time is able to hit the Three Amigos in full. He misses the Frog Splash and gets hit with the 619. When Rey planchas onto him, Eddie reverses it into a powerbomb. Still isn’t good enough. Shortly after, Rey gets Eddie with a surprise hurricanrana pin. Eddie is noticeably steamed.
Who can blame him? Guy goes from holding the title up at the end of the last show to losing the first match at this show. Sadly, this would be Eddie’s final Wrestlemania appearance.
The first ever Money in the Bank contest is next, featuring Chris Jericho, Kane, Edge, Christian, Shelton Benjamin and Chris Benoit. Kane gets a badass entrance where all the ladders set up on the stage are engulfed in flames. The other five gang up on him. This leads to the Money in the Bank tradition of having just about everyone do a suicide dive out of the ring to the gathering crowd of dazed wrestlers. This one ends with Kane leaping onto the other five.
Later on, Kane chokes Benoit and goes for a chokeslam, but Benoit turns it into a Crippler Crossface. Edge breaks it up and gets put into the Crippler Crossface himself. He gets free and gets his revenge by slamming a ladder closed on Benoit’s arm. Other great spots include Jericho being German suplexed while holding a ladder and flinging it across the ring. Shelton Benjamin hits the T-Bone Suplex (better finisher than the Paydirt) onto Edge off a ladder. A ladder is set up with a closed latter leaning against it. As Jericho climbs up to reach the briefcase, Shelton runs up that closed ladder and clotheslines Jericho.
When Kane has everything under control, Christian’s “Problem Solver” Tyson Tomko lays him out. He carries Christian on his shoulder and climbs up the ladder – a possible reference to Rhyno and Christian doing the same thing four years earlier – and gets stopped by a recovered Kane. Benoit and Kane fight it out, making me cringe with all the headbutt-related attacks Benoit uses, including a headbutt from the top of the ladder. Benoit has been selling his busted arm for the entire match so that Edge is able to take him out with a chair to the shoulder, climb up unopposed and steal the briefcase.
It’s Legend vs. Legend Killer as Undertaker takes on Randy Orton. This is right when the Undertaker Wrestlemania Streak started to matter as part of the storyline. For a while it was just a piece of trivia, but starting at this Wrestlemania, most of his opponents existed to threaten his perfect record. The video package leading up to this is really rad part where it counts down from all the Undertaker’s wins until reaching 0, which turns into “0rton”.
Orton slaps Undertaker and proceeds to get destroyed for a good while. He attempts a surprise RKO, but gets tossed out of the ring. Undertaker takes care of him with a guillotine legdrop and a botched version of Old School where he accidentally falls onto Orton. Orton starts reversing Undertaker’s moves out of nowhere. Undertaker tries Snake Eyes and gets an elbow to the face. He tries the Dragon Sleeper and gets it turned into a DDT. Orton is on top and his success goes to his head. While pounding on Undertaker in the corner, he takes a break to pose. Undertaker grabs him by the tights and attempts the Last Ride. Orton slips out, tries another RKO and gets pushed into the referee. Undertaker does a botched Last Ride, but there’s no ref.
Hall of Fame inductee Bob Orton shows up out of nowhere and hits Undertaker with his cast-covered arm. Undertaker recovers and kicks Cowboy Bob off the apron. He goes to finish off Randy Orton once and for all with a chokeslam but HOLY SHIT he reverses it into an RKO while in mid-air. Undertaker kicks out. Orton comes up with the brilliant idea of Tombstoning the Undertaker, but once he sets him up, Undertaker flips him over and does his own Tombstone. The Streak continues.
DAMN IT, NOT THAT STREAK!
Trish Stratus defends the Women’s Championship against Christy Hemme who has Lita in her corner. Lita is unimportant, since she doesn’t do anything. This is around the time when Trish started wearing really weird tights, such as this show where she has a shirt and slacks. That may seem pretty normal, except for the suspenders that segue into a stitched-in thong over the pants.
This is one of the better Wrestlemania women’s matches. The whole angle is about Trish being the stuck up champion who isn’t happy with the popular new Diva Search winner Christy being part of the company. As expected, Trish takes control for most of the match against the novice. A Chick Kick is blocked by Christy, who then kicks Trish right in the lady business when the ref isn’t looking. It gets silly for a second with Christy kicking Trish in the shins over and over again while putting her dukes up. The short match ends with a couple near-fall roll-ups and a kickout. Once they get back up, Trish surprises Christy with a Chick Kick and pins her.
Kurt Angle vs. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels is a match that I really liked, but not as much as everyone else. Honestly, the beginning leaves a lot to be desired. While the early mat wrestling is fine, the match takes a while to get in motion. Also, there’s a part where Angle gives Michaels an Angle Slam into the post on the outside. It isn’t even close, which is fine in itself, but they keep showing replays of it.
The crowd seems split between the two and we get some dueling chants. Once the wheels do get some traction, the match becomes a complete joy to watch. Michaels reverses an Angle Slam into an arm drag and then surprises Angle with a backdrop to the outside. Michaels follows up with a top-rope crossbody to the floor. Angle does one of his cooler – though admittedly not the most heterosexual looking – trademark spots where he tries to German suplex Michaels off the apron and Michaels latches onto the ropes for dear life until he’s able to get Angle off of him with a series of elbows and a low blow. Angle is kicked into a table and Michaels springboards off the middle rope and twists into a splash.
From there, the match becomes an exciting pile of teases and reversals for their trademarks and finishers. Sweet Chin Music is reversed into the ankle lock. A second attempt at an ankle lock is turned into a pinning combination. Angle misses one of his moonsaults. Michaels goes to the top for a second elbow drop, but Angle springs up, jumps to meet Michaels and gives him a top-rope Angle Slam. He yells at the dazed Michaels and shoves him, giving Michaels enough distance to hit Angle with Sweet Chin Music. They both go down. Michaels slowly gets up first, but before he knows it, Angle pounces to life and grabs him by the ankle. They spend a couple minutes with Michaels trying every little trick to escape the hold, but Angle has every single counter scouted. He gets a grapevine and they’re stranded in the middle of the ring. Michaels has no choice but to tap out.
Despite how intense the match is, Angle still finds time to make me laugh my ass off. Like many of his matches, he pulls down his straps to show how serious he is from this part of the match on. Like 10-15 minutes after doing it the first time, Angle pulls his straps back up… so he can pull them back down a second later and act like it means something.
Huh. You know, this show has been pretty awesome so far. Every match has been exceptional. How is it this is only ranked at #13? There must be no mist—oh, never mind.
The Big Show takes on sumo champion Akebono in a Sumo Match. Christ. I’m not sure why this match even exists. Of all the really bad matches in Wrestlemania history, this one continues to confuse me because I don’t get what they wanted out of this. Few people know who Akebono is. He’s no Floyd Mayweather. There’s no celebrity appeal here and whether Big Show wins or loses is trivial. Yet here they are, wearing sumo thongs and tossing around salt while the referee sings.
The match is mercifully short and the only reason I didn’t rate it a flat zero is because part of the match has Big Show bounce Akebono back and then do his choke taunt. It’s so goofy. Like, “Ha! I got you! Wait, time out. Time out! Ahem. RAAAAAAARGH! Okay, time in!”
It’s a minute long and ends with Big Show being thrown out of the ring. Let’s move on.
John “Bradshaw” Layfield defends the WWE Championship against John Cena. This match is very mediocre. I’ve noticed in this whole Wrestlemania experiment that John Cena’s six matches go from terrible to excellent from year to year. For the first two years, Cena plays underdog against a dominant opponent and it sucks. The following two years, Cena goes up against a better worker who can carry Cena to a better match and at the same time make it seem possible that Cena might not win. The latter two years have been about putting him in Triple Threats to obscure his usual, tired match style by adding a third person. This is his second Wrestlemania showing.
JBL is about countering everything Cena throws at him with clubbing strikes. It’s good for the first few minutes, but when he continues to dominate for almost the entire match, it gets very tiresome. “BORING!” chants start up. If people are chanting “BORING!” during one of your main events, then you have problems. He puts Cena in a chinlock and gets it reversed into a back suplex. Finally, something is happening! They hit each other with a double clothesline, but JBL is still able to keep up the control. After a superplex, he goes to the top rope. He leaps at Cena and gets powerslammed. Cena’s suddenly back into the match. Not soon after, he runs right into a boot. JBL tries to capitalize with the Clothesline From Hell, but he misses and gets the Attitude Adjustment. Cena wins this one-sided match and goes into the crowd to celebrate with the fans, as if knowing that he only has months before they start to grow tired of this kind of match.
The whole thing is 11 and a half minutes. It all feels less like a Wrestlemania match and more like something you’d see halfway into an episode of Raw.
Triple H defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Batista. Triple H gets Motorhead to play him to the ring and it’s obvious that Lemmy doesn’t know the lyrics to his own song. Batista’s entrance is surprisingly nonexistent. He has no pyro at all. I’m not used to seeing him without the out-of-sync machine gun dance.
It starts off as it should: a power game. Lock-ups, headlocks and shoulder blocks rule the day. All of the sudden, Triple H tries for a surprise Pedigree, but Batista reverses it and gives him a press slam. When the ref is distracted, Ric Flair attacks Batista and strangles him with his jacket. Instead of being incensed, the fans just happily yell, “WOOO!”
It begins to slow down tremendously. Every time Batista starts to get even slight momentum, he’s shut down by Triple H. On the outside of the ring, Triple H tries another Pedigree, though on the steps. Baitista turns it into a slingshot and drives Triple H into the post. Batista brings the bloodied Triple H into the ring, which leads to an iconic shot of Triple H on his knees, covered in blood, as Batista pounds on him.
The ref accidentally falls out of the ring and Flair makes a run at Batista. Flair gets spinebustered. Triple H smashes Batista’s face with the title belt, but it isn’t enough to get the pin. Batista comes back and tries a Batista Bomb. Triple H gives him a low blow and breaks it. Triple H tries a third Pedigree, but Batista powers out of it. Batista taunts and finally finishes off the champ with a Batista Bomb accompanied by some impressive hang time.
Though low on matches, Wrestlemania 21 is a mostly solid show that is sadly anchored down by a worthless special attraction match and a less than stellar title match that fails to bring excitement to their top draw’s first big championship win.
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)