*Spoiler Warning - for all those who care and haven’t seen/heard news about WM 28*
Wrestlemania XXVIII happened last night. Yesterday was also April 1st, aka April Fools Day… keep that in mind.
For the most part, I’m focusing only on the matches, as this is Wrestlemania, not (and shouldn’t be) SoapOperaMania; however, where necessary, I will bring up a few of the non-match moments. That being said…
There seemed to be a lot of commercials in Wrestlemania. The corporate partner commercials are understandable, but why the hell is WWE pimping Deadliest Catch out of the damned blue (“Damn” being the operative word)? I did not spend $65 on an HD feed… wait, what, oh right, I mean I did not have a friend of mine spend $65 of his own money so I could go over to his mom’s house and eat all their food and watch Wrestlemania for free to have to sit through commercials! (Don’t worry, I caught dinner for us later that evening… at Denny’s. Even when I’m trying to pay back, I’m a bastard.)
1st Match - World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan with AJ vs. Sheamus for the title
Brogue Kick to Bryan 18 seconds after the bell, winner and champ, Sheamus, and because I never learned how to touch type on a keyboard, it took me longer to type this sentence than it took the match.
I really, really, REALLY want to love this match. I want to take this match to prom, and on the ride home, find out she’s really into making her daddy mad tonight. I say this because this match was one giant trollfaced snicker at the entire Internet Wrestling Community because it contained multiple sources of hate (WHC being the curtain jerker, Daniel Bryan beaten in under 20 seconds). I sickly admire that the WWE had the gall balls to do this. Also, it was April Fools Day; I imagine some writer pitched the day and the match idea to Vince, and he loved the synchronicity of the whole thing.
And, then, I realized I, as a wrestling fan, was denied watching one the best technical wrestlers alive plying his trade at Wrestlemania. I take up my placard with the rest of the IWC and totally call for #OccupyWWECreative.
Match Rating - 2 (out of a possible 5) - for liking the destination (I like Sheamus), but being disappointed by how short the journey was.
2nd Match - Randy Orton vs. Kane
A decent outing for what felt like a “well, we need to do something to get Orton and Kane on the card” match. I like that Kane looked strong in the match, blocking several RKO attempts and getting in some decent offense. He needed a strong outing after his ambulance match loss to Cena at the last PPV, and I felt he got one here. While I like the inter-match-logic of the “off the ropes chokeslam” as the finisher (seeing as how Orton kicked out of the regular chokeslam previously in the match), the move didn’t look as devastating as it could have which I think came from a problem with the release of the hold. The pace also felt a bit sluggish at times for one of the shorter matches on the card. Still, it was a good outing from both, not their best, but it probably sets up a future match at the next pay-per-view.
Rating - 3 - for some good, some meh, overall a solid average.
3rd Match - Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show for the title
I have loved the build up for this match and was pleased with the outcome. Rhodes has been a fantastic heel, and his delivery of the mocking vignettes of the Big Show’s past WM mishaps have been executed magnificently. Face Goliath vs. Heel David has been well prepped, and I love a lot of the psychology in the match itself (particularly the opening where Cody ran in and out of the ring to avoid Big Show). Show was dominant where he needed to be; Rhodes was high-flying and athletic where he needed to be. My issues with the match come from the length (too short, could have used at least another 3 good minutes) and the finish (the knockout punch/WMD is a cool finisher, but I was really hoping for a “take this you son-of-a-bitch” chokeslam to cap the match). Still, good for the Big Show joining the triple crown club by capturing the IC title.
Rating - 4 - for entertainingly paying off the build up but with a few stutter steps along the way
Folks, #OccupyWWECreative is now the #1 trending topic worldwide on Twitter. Okay, not really, I just wanted to annoy you as much as I am annoyed by the constant on-screen twitter graphics all over WWE TV and its pay-per-views. Hey, WWE, I don’t give three good shits what’s on twitter right now; I’m not looking at twitter; I paid money to look at your stuff. I mean, my friend paid money, and his whole bag of cheddar and bacon potato skins were delicious.
4th Match - Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix and Eve
I don’t watch Extra; apparently, I didn’t know Extra could function as part-time, de facto WWE programming. If it weren’t for the vignette they played prior to the match, I would have never seen the reason this match was made, so we’re off to a somewhat questionable start. Shades of DDP and Jay Leno from more than a decade ago started twirling around in my mind. Also, this was a Divas match, and the ideas are co-mingling, so now shades of a female DDP and Jay Leno are in my head. Gah, must power through this.
Like many of the Divas matches of the last few years, you can tell the women were trying hard but the match was plagued with a lot of timing issues. One that is still kinda floating in my mind is a spot where Kelly Kelly ends up on Beth’s shoulders as part of a reversal into a bulldog. Kelly held (or was held) there for longer than she should have; what should have been a crisp slam down turned into an awkwardly staged move. There were some other similar moments, but that one set stood out the most to me. As usual for celebrity matches at WM, Menounos got the win on Beth with a school boy roll-up. I think pinning Eve would have been the better choice (how dare they sully the Butterfly belt), but I get the suspicion no one at WWE Creative cares who gets pinned in the “refreshments” match?
Also, for those keeping score at home, yes, this match lasted longer than Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus.
Rating - 2 - for a standard Divas match and for Maria Menounos doing anything with two broken ribs
(Quick Aside: If Finlay is coming back, I hope against hope that it means good things for the booking of the Divas division. Bear in mind, I also still believe in Santa Claus.)
5th Match - HHH vs. Undertaker (with special referee Shawn Michaels)
I liken this match to the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We didn’t need this match; we’ve had this match, twice in fact, at X-7 and XXVII. We’ve trodden this ground black; we did not need it.
And, yet, that did not prevent this match from being, arguably, the best on the card all night. Taker has been gone for a year and showed very little rust. HHH hasn’t wrestled much this year, and he slipped into the role he needed to play like a glove. Shawn Michaels has been happily retired and was still able to contribute positively to the match. Bringing Hell in the Cell into play heightened the possibilities for creative violence. It was a gathering of history, ability, and happenstance that we’ve marveled at before and may very well have seen for the last time.
Even though I’ve given a spoiler warning, I don’t want to spoil too much of this match; it needs to be seen fresh. I will say that some referee violence eventually leads to the first moment I came off my seat for this Wrestlemania. The high spots of this match were amazing, and this one in particular made up for the $65 of your friend’s money paid to watch. It’s not a perfect match, but it is an excellent match. In a strange way, the imperfections make it better. Had it been perfect, it would have been too perfect. I know, that doesn’t make much sense, but the match has to be seen to understand.
Rating - 5 - for my match of the night, Match of the Year candidate #1 from this Wrestlemania.
6th Match - Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy, winner is the GM of RAW and Smackdown
Ring of Honor, a rather fantastic wrestling promotion that helped produce C.M. Punk and the American Dragon (Daniel Bryan), promotes a match type called a “Scramble” match. Basically, it’s a tag match without tags. It might be better to call it a run-in match, as most of the competitors simply run in and out as necessary. Many times, there are multiple flips to the outside onto multiple opponents and high spots aplenty. Basically, take the last two minutes of a regular tag match, combined with lucha libre, boom scramble match.
Scramble matches get chaotic very quickly, many times to the point of silliness. They can be fun to watch, however, provided that they follow two rules. 1) They’re short on time, and 2) The guys have a chance to hit their spots and hit them right. If it goes too long, the amount of moves hit or missed becomes ridiculous, and if they guys can’t hit their moves, you start wondering why they were there in the first place.
I look at the Johnny/Teddy match as a WWE attempt at a Scramble Match. For me it didn’t work. It took too long to get going, and once it got going, half the people on each team were not needed except as body catchers. Seriously, why were Great Khali and Mark Henry there, other than one’s a large babyface and the other’s a large heel? Most of the guys didn’t get their spots in, and then, there’s Eve.
For some reason, as Zack Ryder was calling for one of his signature moves (I think the Broski Boot), Eve jumps into the ring next to him and next to (and in full sight of) the referee and mimicks Zach’s fist pump. This distracts Zach allowing Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale and to pick up the pin.
I don’t mind Team Johnny winning. I don’t mind dirty finishes, but I do mind them when they’re eye-straining stupid. Why is the ref not throwing Eve out himself? She wasn’t in harm’s way, why even move her aside, Zack? Why does Ryder have to do it? Why aren’t Teddy Long, Nicki Bella, Aksana or Hornswaggle not stopping Eve from jumping in the ring in the first place? Why did Teddy even allow her at ringside in the first place? Have we not established that Eve is evil? Hell, her name sounds like evil, that should be enough for WWE Creative to create a whole line of “Eve-il” coffee mugs, baby doll T’s, and feminine hygiene products. This match had little direction, went too long, and ended like a shart in Baptist Kindergarten. Bah, fucking ay, bah.
Rating - 1 - for stupid chaos, though not a zero because of Johnny Ace’s awesome Brother Love inspired suit and tie combo and Santino’s magnificently ludicrous offense (COBRA!). Otherwise, unfocused, overtime and unnecessary.
Also, Eve now played a part in two matches tonight, and Daniel Bryan and Sheamus barely took part in one.
7th Match - WWE Champion C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho for the title
Before the match, we’re given a live vignette where the now triumphant Johnny Ace tells C.M. Punk that he’s putting a stipulation into the title match where Punk can lose the title if he’s disqualified. Punk, who’s had his entire family insulted by Jericho for being alcoholics, drug addicts and overall degenerates, is none too happy about it.
I didn’t like this surprise stipulation, and I didn’t like the effect it had on the match early on. If this was going to be a stipulation, why not introduce it at RAW or Smackdown instead of 10 minutes before the match? That way the audience has a chance to digest it and appreciate what’s at stake. Plus, instead of putting on a wrestling clinic, we had to deal with Jericho attempting to get Punk disqualified for the better part of the first 5 minutes of the match. I want the two “Best in the World” to fight like it, not have one of them try to sneak it out. This part of it was a drag on the match, and this match started boring and frustrating.
Then, they started to wrestle, and I forgot the first five minutes happened. That may have been the plan all along, or they may have just said, “Hell with it,” and started tearing the house down the way they know how. After the slow open, Punk was equal parts face-in-peril of old and worthy champion of new wrestling. Jericho was every bit the wily veteran and vicious submission specialist.
There were great moments in this match. Jericho had Punk in the Walls of Jericho twice, and every twist and stretch on Punk’s spine could be seen and felt. Punk screaming, “Tap! Tap you son of a bitch!” had me off my seat for the second time all night. Jericho, eventually, obliged. This match started rough but produced diamonds by the end. Jericho adds to a Hall-of-Fame legacy of great matches, and Punk, as champion, gets a big 1 on 1 win at Wrestlemania.
Rating - 5(-1) - for the other Match of the Year candidate from the show, I give it the excellent, but have to mark something down for what I thought caused boring opening minutes.
Brodus Clay came out. The Funkasuarus asked us to call our Momma’s. I did. She seemed nonplussed about the whole thing. A bunch of big butt “old” ladies came out and funky danced. Not gonna lie, I kinda liked the silliness of it. As bathroom breaks go, they can be worse.
8th Match - The Rock vs. John Cena
The opening of this match was overproduced. For some reason the guys’ opening theme songs needed their own separate opening theme songs. I don’t care if you’ve got Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen to do that shit, it’s not necessary. Also, I’d have to go back and check the tape, but I think Machine Gun Kelly’s female co-singer’s nipple was out longer at Wrestlemania than Daniel Bryan was. Flo Rida’s female co-singer’s hair definitely was out longer than the American Dragon.
The match itself was very good, but it suffers from Chinese Democracy Syndrome. Guns and Roses (though, really, just Axl Rose) took 15+ years to produce a new studio album. While the album’s good, it wasn’t necessarily worth all the wait, and a ton of different bands gave us as good or better in the same time frame. The same thing happened here; Rock and Cena put on a good match, but after a year of waiting and then seeing HHH/Taker and Punk/Jericho that same night, the match didn’t live up to the hype for me.
Rock looked and worked great, particularly when putting together a nice chain wrestling spot at the start of the match, showing ring rust wouldn’t be a fear. Cena was great both in the ring and with the crowd, playing to every cheer and boo he got. The high spots and near falls were well executed, and the ending was surprising yet appropriate. Rock winning makes sense from a hometown standpoint, and if he is geared to do more with the WWE in the future (possibly at this year’s Summerslam), it makes sense to have him go over here. This was a very good match. It just wasn’t transcendent, and the promise of transcendence, that “once in a lifetime” moment, dragged on the match. It didn’t reach Hogan/Andre level, or Austin/Hart level, or Austin/Rock level.
It was an All-Star game for a professional wrestling match. That’s good enough. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait through a year of hype for another match like it.
Rating - 4 - for two of the all-time best putting on a better than solid outing that was sold to be something more
Overally, it was a great Wrestlemania. Punk solidified his status as champion. HHH, Undertaker and HBK created another great moment. Jericho showed he still has it. Rock showed he still has it (and should show it off more often). Cena now has a mountain he’s failed to climb. Show gets redemption. Kane got to look strong. Sheamus and Bryan didn’t need anyone to add more change to their parking meters. Johnny’s got the puppet strings of both shows. Storylines ended, storylines continued, storylines were born.
It was the annual renewal, the real springtime of wrestling, and I am glad I got to see it.
Be good, stay well.