No Way Out is the traditional stop between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania and this year’s was no exception. The first No Way Out was in February 1998 and was called In Your House: No Way Out of Texas. headlined by a blistering eight-man tag featuring Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie taking on The New Age Outlaws, Savio Vega (substituting for an injured HBK) & Triple H. That was a fun main-event and really set the tone that No Way Out could be a “must watch event”.
Running Time: 174 mins
- ECW Championship Match – Chavo Guerrero v CM Punk
- Mike Adamle Interviews Rey Mysterio
- Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match – Undertaker v Batista vs. Finlay v Big Daddy V v MVP v Great Khali
- Edge Reacts to the Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match
- Party at the Mansion
- Career Threatening Match – Ric Flair vs. Mr. Kennedy
- Mr. McMahon Visits Finlay in the Training Room
- World Heavyweight Championship Match – Edge vs. Rey Mysterio
- WWE Championship Match – Randy Orton vs. John Cena
- Triple H Talks with Shawn Michaels about the Elimination Chamber Match
- RAW Elimination Chamber Match – Triple H v Shawn Michaels v Jeff Hardy v Chris Jericho v Umaga v JBL
- Shawn Michaels congratulates Ric Flair
Other historic matches/moments from this PPV from years gone by include: Kane v Vader (1998), Triple H v Cactus Jack (2000 – Hell in a Cell), Jericho v Benoit v Eddie Guerrero v X-Pac (2001 – a fantastic four-way that was X-Pac’s best match since his prime), Steve Austin v Triple H (2001 – Three Stages of Hell), The Rock v Kurt Angle (2001 – WWF Championship Match), The Rock v Hulk Hogan (2003 – Rematch from Wrestlemania X8), Eddie Guerrero wins the WWE Championship (2004 – A fantastically emotional thirty minute scrap against Brock Lesnar), JBL v Big Show (2005 – the debut of the Barbed Wire Cage), Randy Orton v Rey Mysterio (2006 – winner gets a shot at the World Title at Wrestlemania), Kurt Angle v Undertaker (2006 – World Championship Match and a near thirty minute masterclass in how a main-event match should be put together) and finally, John Cena & HBK v Batista & Undertaker (2007 – Wrestlemania title match versus Wrestlemania title match).
That was then, and this is now; so would 2008’s edition have any matches or moments to match those listed above? With two Elimination Chamber matches AND two World/WWE title defences, the odds are in its favour.
The show opens with Chavo Guerrero defending his recently won (or handed to him by Edge; whichever you think is most accurate) ECW Championship against the man he took the title from; CM Punk.
It’s a decent match, but nothing spectacular and the two of them can do (and have done) a lot better against each other. Maybe the fact I can’t buy Chavo as a heavyweight champion has something to do with it, but I didn’t like this program from the start and couldn’t really get into it at all. The fans are behind Punk all the way (except when he attempts the Three Amigos – although it does seem that the boos have been sweetened in post-production) and Chavo hits a sweet Tornado DDT, but it’s a decent opener at best.
Rey should stop talking (unless it’s in Spanish) because he is one of the most stilted promos in the company. Even when talking about his (legitimately) torn bicep, there is a real lack of passion until he speaks in his “native” tongue. Floyd Mayweather coming in from the side was a nice surprise though.
The second match on the card is the Smackdown Elimination Chamber, which does sound weird, but makes sense in hindsight. With two matches of this ilk on the card, having them far apart on the card is the most logical thing.
If I’m being honest, neither Finlay nor MVP belong in this match, but to make up the numbers they are more than adequate. Big Daddy V doesn’t really belong in a match to determine the headliner at Wrestlemania, but the novelty factor of someone his size in the structure goes in his favour; ditto for The Great Khali.
Having Undertaker and Batista start the match surprised a lot of people, but it was a great move by the booking team. The match is phenomenal, with everyone getting a chance to shine at some point. The high-spot of the night belongs to MVP, who takes a death-defying chokeslam from the top of an Elimination Chamber pod. The order of entrants made sense (having Big Daddy V be the third man in the match was a great idea as well; he is large enough and had been built as enough of a threat to have a believable chance against both ‘Taker and Batista, and then having Khali follow him added the feeling of danger for the faces), and the eliminations themselves were logical and kept everyone involved strong in defeat.
MVP hitting the Shining Black is always a great thing to watch, and the last few minutes between the last two men is awesome (with the sequence for the finish being inspired), but I do have one main gripe; I know Undertaker is hard to keep down and his gimmick has him kicking out of finishes, but did he have to kick out of the finish of all five opponents?
Edge’s pep-talk with Ryder and Hawkins is pretty worthless until Teddy Long appears to lay down the law, but it does its job. The same can be said for the video covering Maria and Ashley going to the Playboy Mansion; it isn’t that important, but it does have The Hoff on show, and anytime David Hasselhoff is on your TV screen, we should all be thankful. Hiro was there too; the wife said that was important to mention.
If ever the outcome a match was a foregone conclusion, it would be the next match on the disc. The retirement angle for Ric Flair had its ups and downs, although the last six-weeks of it were phenomenal in the lead up to his match against Shawn Michaels (including a fun brawl against Vince McMahon), but we all knew there was no way he would lose to Mr. Kennedy on this night.
The match itself is an improvement on Flair v MVP from the Royal Rumble. Kennedy didn’t get hurt by the loss and the fans in attendance (including Floyd “Money” Mayweather; more about him later) had a ball with all the “WHOOOOO” chants and general good feeling towards “The Man” himself. To be able to share a ring with one of your heroes is a situation few wrestlers get to experience, but everyone who faced Ric Flair on his run to ‘Mania did just that. I can only imagine how awesome it must be to do something like that.
Vince has his maniacal face on when he visits Finlay (with welts) in the trainers room, which isn’t a surprise seeing as he is there to hype the cage match between himself and his son (Finlay hadn’t claimed parental responsibility at this point) inside a steel cage on RAW.
JBL is shown psyching himself up in the back before we get a recap of the feud between Edge and Rey Mysterio. Some people have said that Mysterio was brave to go through with this match… but I don’t; I think he was an idiot. The guy had a torn bicep, he should have stayed on the sidelines instead of “gutting” through the pain. He did more damage to his arm in this match and extended the length of time he would be out once he did actually go ahead with the surgery.
With that in mind, the five-minute match is quite heated, with some nice exchanges between Edge and Rey. Probably the best thing about the whole situation is that no-one will remember the match, only what came afterwards.
“WEEEEEELLLLLL, IT’S THE BIG SHOWWWW!!!!”
The return of Big Show was a great surprise (and one, like Cena at the 2008 Rumble , not leaked beforehand). It was also a masterstroke to have him come out, cut a face promo (because all returning stars get face pops – it’s a wresting law) and then attack Rey and taunt Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather getting in the ring really shook things up and made the word’s media (not in the way Mike Tyson did, but then again, he is Mike Tyson) take notice. The size difference was staggering (made all the more obvious when Show gets on his knees and is still bigger than “Money”) and the crowd are electrified from the off. Add in the fact Floyd really landed some hard shots on Show, Shane McMahon coming out to keep the peace and Mayweather himself running for his life and you had a segment that really caught the imagination of the public. The following angles were, for the most part, exciting and edgy and led to a great pay-off at Wrestlemania.
WRESTLEMANIA IS 42 DAYS AWAY!!!
The WWE Championship Match is up next, with Randy Orton defending the title against a man who never lost it in John Cena. The pre-match hype video for this is awesome, with Cena delivering a fantastic promo, (“… the last second of the final hour…”) that really seemed like it was from the heart (the emotion seems real enough), as a voice-over as his surprise entry into the Royal Rumble is shown. The vignette switches to a stunning recap of Orton at his best in taking out Jericho, HBK, Jeff Hardy and Cena himself. This video really sets the tone for the match and sells it as well as anyone could hope.
The announcement by Lillian gets a great reaction, as does Cena upon his entrance, and Orton is probably the most detestable heel (in the right way) around at this point in time (he needs to go back to this entrance theme ASAP though), so the scene is set as “The Hunter” John Cena tries to get back the belt he never lost.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are pretty much on form during this contest, adding a lot to the overall experience, and the match is pretty damn impressive. The crowd are buzzing from the opening bell until the greatest heel act in a long time to end the contest. The duelling chants are as loud as you’ll ever here and, as such, the atmosphere is phenomenal. It can’t be overstated how important the fans are in making a match seem special.
I’ve always thought of Randy Orton and John Cena as this generation’s Rock and Austin. Now, before you think I’ve lost my mind, I don’t mean that they will become the huge mainstream stars like the Attitude Era stalwarts did (although Cena could come close). When comparing the two, I mean that they both started in the company around the same time and both climbed the ladder to main-event status around the same time. I just see them as having a rivalry that can be dipped into at any point in time, regardless of what they are doing at the time.
The action is well paced and the two guys are on their A-game for this contest. With high-spots making sense and near-falls aplenty. The match lasts just under sixteen minutes, but never drags. Even though Cena still looks uncoordinated, it doesn’t detract from the bout. On a side note, people go on about how poor the FU and STFU are as finishers, but the reaction of the crowd let you know that they are over with the masses… and that, when all is said and done, is all that matters.
The finish was a work of genius and made me a fan of Randy Orton even more than I was before. It is, along with Randy’s facials, the pinnacle of working as a heel champion.
So far, the PPV has been a very good show, but with one Elimination Chamber match having been seen already, it would take something special to make the second EC stand out. With Triple H, Chris Jericho, Umaga, Jeff Hardy, Shawn Michaels and JBL involved, it, at least, had more star power to work with.
HBK and HHH have have a short, serious, segment to give some last-second hype for the main-event before we find out how the fans voted in regards to who they thought would win the match. The result surprised many by giving Jeff Hardy 37% in comparison to Triple H in second place with 31%. It really shows how far the younger Hardy had come and how well his push from Survivor Series had worked. I honestly believe that if he didn’t get suspended in April he would be the WWE or World Champion today.
The match itself starts strong with Y2J and HBK and continues strong until the match is over. I don’t think either EC match on the show was better than the other (both had good and bad points), but the highlights from the RAW match just seem bigger (with HBK getting opened-up hardway and a double-Samoan drop on Jericho and Michaels by Umaga being the standout from the early exchanges).
When it’s two heels and two faces (JBL is the fourth man in), the pace does slow a bit, but everything picks up when Triple H enters the ring. Jericho eliminating JBL, only for the former APA member to come back with a chair and lay out everyone, was a thing of beauty and made sure everyone was down for the final entrant, Jeff Hardy, to join the match.
This contest is stupendous, with Jericho taking the Umaga Arse-rush of Doom as he sat in front of a pod, Umaga being hit with everyone’s finishers and Jeff Hardy kicking out of a Pedigree being highlights of the closing minutes.
In fact, Jeff kicking out of the Pedigree was one of those mark-out moments that get even the most hardy (no pun intended) of smarks popping out of their seats. Every fan in the arena leapt out of their seats also when they realised the bout was going to continue; it really was a perfect example of making the crowd think one thing, then another, before coming to a conclusion.
Jeff Hardy may have lost the match, but he came out stronger than he went in… and that will always be more important that simple wins and losses.
Like a lot of PPV releases, there is only one extra on the disc, and this one is no exception. On this disc, the extra is HBK and Ric Flair in the back after the show. It really starts the hype for the Ric Flair v Shawn Michaels match in a subtle way, but isn’t really all that great when you consider you used to get the hype videos for the important matches, music videos, exclusive interviews and/or bonus matches as extras.
This is the one area that WWE really needs to pick up their game on, as it really is a missed opportunity. Even the Wrestlemania XXIV DVD has no real extras (I don’t count the HoF ceremony as an extra), which is a disgrace.
A good PPV that has a plethora of great matches. The production values are, as always, top-notch, and every match on the card had a purpose of some kind. The fact there is two Elimination Chamber matches doesn’t detract and it also gives the chance to more wrestlers than normal appearing on a PPV.
The Rey v Edge match should have been something else (if only for Mysterio’s health), but it helped make Edge even more of a sneaky heel character for facing an injured man, and without it, we may not have had Floyd Mayweather punching out Big Show.
Jeff Hardy continued his climb to legit main-event status and Randy Orton showed why he was the best heel around at the time. All of the wrestlers acquitted themselves well, with HBK, Y2J, MVP, Undertaker, Batista, Edge, Orton, Cena, Jeff Hardy and Umaga all putting in their all.
Even though I recommend this as a good purchase, and it is better than the 2008 Royal Rumble undercard, I need to drop marks for the lack of extras. It’s been bugging me for the last few reviews I’ve done, and it something that is really annoying and shows a lack of forethought in my opinion.