Its that time of year again, Wrestlemania is upon us. There’s much to look forward to – icons clashing ‘Once in a Lifetime’, legends battling to ‘end’ an era, world titles and workrate, GMs and girlies, celebrities galore. The only thing to do is to get right to it.
Dont you just love how Wrestlemania looks? The giant ass stadium, the humungous stage and set up, the sun slowly going down, the mass of humanity. Its just an awesome visual and never fails to make things seem spectacular, before you even get to the content of the show.
But get to it we shall. It was even odds the World Title match opened, and here we are. Bryan with the first fancy robe of the evening. BAMBROGUEKICK! HAHAHAHAHA! NOWAY! That was awesome. I laughed forever, that was great fun, and my mother was hoping and praying for Bryan to lose so this ruled. Plus its good comeuppance for the Bryan character, gives him more ammunition for the future, and its fitting as well after he won the title in a similar fluke. That was a super enjoyable moment, and I cant wait for the proper rematch.
Orton vs Kane I actually enjoyed a hell of a lot. In particular I thought it was an incredible Randy Orton performance. He was at his 2011 best here. Just the little things he did, like selling the uppercut, or the way he actually went for a double sledge when he got Sidewalk Slammed instead of just walking into it aimlessly. On a micro level he was doing some serious work. Lots of other stuff to enjoy as well, like Orton countering the second Sidewalk Slam attempt into the Backbreaker, or his clotheslines not knocking Kane down until he used momentum to hit the powerslam. And especially Orton REYING THE F*CK OUT OF KANE coming off the top. I always get a kick out of that spot, and doing it on such a giant dude was cool as hell. The Punt-Chokeslam was great too, as was the final Super Chokeslam, even though Kane winning confused the hell out of me. I think I was even more bewildered after Orton’s performance that this wasnt his chance to look good and get a singles win at WM after the last 12 months he’s had. But its not like it really matters who won since it was thrown together and they’ll probably just rematch next month regardless. Still, enjoyed.
I made a good call with using Ron Simmons in a backstage skit. Have to say, Santino selling “DAMN” by throwing his plate in the air was pretty awesome. Foley, not so much.
And Cody is in with Wrestlemania Robe #2. Show vs Cody was a fun little match, it was kind of short but it did its job. Cody ran for a second before being caught and BEATEN by Show. Show tossing him from the floor over the top rope was awesome. The Stinkface spot was a nice little piece of ‘humiliation’ revenge. Cody got to take him down and work him over a little, and man that was a nifty little finish. Cody hits a BD Kick but Show doesnt go down, so he runs around looking for another one and BAM, SHOW ELIJAH BURKE’S THE F*CK OUT OF HIS COCK. I laughed quite a lot at Cody’s misfortune. And then BAM, Knockout Punch of Doom, and Show gets his babyface redemption and his Mania win. That was exactly the payoff required after the build, and he definitely sold it well. I certainly cant begrudge Show a big win or a title reign after he’s been a Top 3 worker for the last 6 months or so.
Women! I have to say straight up, Maria Menounos is a trooper for working this match with broken ribs. She’s on Dancing with the Stars and she dont need this sh*t, they could have subbed her out for another Diva, but she wanted to work and gutted it out. Full credit. She also did well working that entire heat stretch, and for an untrained veteran of like two matches she does fine. I also laughed FOREVER when Beth got Kelly into the ring and started the gang beatdown stomp on Maria…except Eve missed the cue and didnt come in, so Beth dropped everything and started stomping Maria by herself for no reason. Hilarious fun. Anyway, Eve took a GIANT spill to the floor that I loved here. Shades of Alberto. Hot tag stuff was fun, especially the MOLLY GO ROUND which looked super and I marked the hell out for. And then the Rey Bulldog! KELLY KELLY IS REY MYSTERIO! Kelly coming up with a brand new counter for the Glam Slam just warms my heart. This feud has been going since August. Loved this finish too – Maria tagging back in like a crazy biatch and slowly, painfully trying to climb up top while King pleads with her not to do it, she gets caught in the Military Press, Kelly saves her from certain death and we bonk the heels for the rollup win. I’m glad they got as much time as they did and were able to have a proper match, which is all one can hope for really. They did good.
So, still in complete awe of Hell in a Cell. I feel like I need another warning label like last year: if you hated this match, skip well ahead because I’m going to be gushing for a while. What a monumental piece of pro wrestling. Bringing Jim f*cking Ross out to call it was awesome and I assume quite a triumph for those involved. Hunter enters through the mouth of a crazy dragon thing. Then Taker comes out in Wrestlemania Robe #3 and a BULLY RAY MOHAWK and somehow looks as badass as ever. And the Cell gets its own entrance music. This sh*t is so on.
I think one of the things I liked best about it is how different a match it was from last year. I was sort of expecting it to go like how Shawn/Taker II played off I, with them hitting the same finishers in different combinations and heightening the escalation through using more finishers as big spots. Instead, they went the opposite direction, they largely brawled around and didnt really go for finishers aside from Hell’s Gate. I particularly noticed it when Taker finally hit a Chokeslam well into the match and everyone went nuts. They did a really good job of actually cutting down the finisher use while still building a sense of escalation over last year’s match.
Shawn Michaels was phenomenal. There was always a fear in the back of my mind that he’d get in the way, but man, he added so much to this. From his pre-match promo and coming out dancing around all excited, he’s reveling in the fact that he holds the fate of the match in his hands. But by the time Hunter is murdering Taker and tells Shawn to ring the bell, suddenly, he realises that he doesnt want the fate of the match in his hands after all. He cant stand there and watch Taker die, but he cant pull the trigger on him either. He’s trapped. By the end he doesnt even want to watch. More than anything, I thought it was an incredible sell job of the physical danger and intensity of the match. He was flinching with every blow, he was desperate to stop one guy from killing the other, and by the end he was sitting there, literally in tears watching these guys destroy one another in the ring. Being there, that close to the action, while two men he respects so much do that to each other, it was literally too much to bear. A phenomenal f*cking job.
So much awesome going on in this match. One of my favourite parts was early on, when Taker took that disgusting Spinebuster on the stairs, and then clamped on Hell’s Gate, but because he was on the stairs Hunter was still on his feet and had the leverage to pick him up for the powerbomb. Bam, already Taker’s winning shot from last year has been escaped from. At this point Hunter sort of thinks “F*ck this sh*t”, grabs a chair and, like last year, just beats the absolute SH*T out of Taker until he dies. Except this year you have Shawn there unable to handle it, or do anything about it. His desperate lunge when he turned around and realised that Hunter was about to DECAPITATE him was awesome. Taker ends up putting Shawn in Hell’s Gate and you’re legit not sure if he thought he was Hunter or if he was pissed that Shawn was considering ringing the bell.
And, Holy Mother of F*CK, that Superkick-Pedigree combo KILLED ME TO DEATH. Just killed me. A motherf*cking AMAZING nearfall. And this year it was Shawn’s turn to sell it. He was out of this world fleeing to the corner and just sobbing, hands over his eyes, and you’re legit not sure if its because he was astonished that Taker kicked or angry that their plan didnt work or terrified that he’d just tried to screw a zombie and was already regretting it, or all of the above. Taker is laying there, forever, and you know he HAS TO sit up, we wait and wait, and finally BAM, he sits up and HUNTER TAKES A BUMP. Off the Sit Up. Beautiful.
The second Pedigree also killed me. Shawn sold that one magnificently as well, just standing there in the corner with a look like he’d suddenly accepted the fact that Taker would never, ever die and Hunter’s fate was sealed. Hunter grabbing for the sledgehammer and Taker putting his foot on it was BADASS AS HELL. There’s also an amazing moment after chairshot revenge here where Shawn ponderously stands in the ring at the EXACT distance away from Taker for a Superkick. This was a split second in time at which, if he wanted to, he could have kicked Taker and followed through with a screwjob, but Shawn was already far, far past that point. He already knew what was happening and all he could do was stand there and witness it.
And what was happening was the end. The same end that Shawn gave Flair, the same end that Taker gave Shawn, and the same end that Hunter tried to give Taker. Now its his turn, and everything is eerily familiar. Hunter is making that pathetic crawl to his feet. Taker is telling him to stay down. He tries one last desperate lunge with the hammer. And, knowing its all over, he’s still defiant until the end and forces Taker to finish him off for good. Hunter was boasting in the beginning that Taker was the one asking him to be finished off, and here he is eating his words and fulfilling his fate.
The overarching moral of the story is that Undertaker is (forgive me) a phenom. He’s not a mortal man who has to be put down by his successor, he’s not human like his fellow old timers who are leaving it all out on the field one last time. He’s part of a group with Shawn, Hunter and Flair, an “era” if you will, but he never fell like they did in the end. The power of The Streak is greater than all of them, and it destroys the careers of its challengers and preserves the career of its owner in equal measure. He survives, and he survives through The Streak.
And then the aftermath. Taker makes a gargantuan effort to get to his feet, because his entire reason for being was redemption over the stretcher job. He HAD TO walk out. But in the end, its Shawn Michaels who has to pull him to his feet. And it would seem only fair if Taker got his revenge and had Hunter stretchered out, but Taker has no malice left, its all over. He makes sure Hunter gets to his feet and they all walk out together, acknowledging that they all accomplished something here; the last hurrah of their “era”. This is the conclusion of a story literally five years in the making. I could honestly write pages and pages more on this match, but suffice to say, it was completely incredible, one of the best matches I’ve ever seen.
Glad they put the HOF here where I couldnt care about it. But I’m so glad Arn is in, the old bear. Seeing Edge with short hair is so strange.
So glad the GMs tag is here too since I dont care about that either. Kind of funny all the hangers-on that got paydays here – Hornswoggle, Vickie, Aksana, both Bellas. Eve coming out here as if she was a face was weird before you realise that she must be distracting Zack. The match itself was OK, just kind of there and nothing really happened. Although I popped for Booker hitting a high kick and telling Mark Henry “Das fo’ yo punk ass!” The finish was cool though – the triple tecnico dive ruled, Santino getting the hot tag with nobody left and going nuts was great, Zack came in and was great on his offense too, Dolph did the monkey flip flip, and then THAT DASTARDLY EVE! NO WAY. Loved her going all Trish after the match as well, although it could have had more effect had she not already been a heel for 6 weeks. Anyway, her hand-on-hip thing is so much money and she really needs a push now.
Good on Slater, Hawkins and Reks for getting paydays. Flo Rida gave him quite the shove.
So we dont go five minutes without the heel GM rearing its head. Still, I think it was actually a neat way to add intrigue to the match since I immediately believed that they could switch the title on the back of it, especially since Extreme Rules is in Chicago.
I liked the rolling around they did before they got into the DQ angle. I thought Jericho was pretty great here, he was so utterly shameless and blatant in trying to bait Punk, and Jericho is one of the best at being that kind of ridiculous, transparent heel. Liked Punk switching from the top rope elbow to the diving clothesline on the floor. And then SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR! Its always great the one time a move hits that is never completed the other 99 times out of a hundred. Brutal move. Really dug the backwork from here (including Jericho using the Welcome to Chicago Motherf*cker) and it was kind of smart to go in that direction since the crowd was still stuck at HIAC and hadnt caught up to them yet, so they slow it down and focus on the back instead of trying a million things to try and get a reaction before the crowd was ready to get back in the game.
They actually kept a good thread of logic going in this period too – Punk going for high risks and getting caught with his back. He goes for the apron GTS, ends up suplexed on the floor. He goes for a springboard, he gets slammed down (and JESUS he cracked his head on the mat). He goes for the Knee-Bulldog combo, and gets slammed back down again. That was a cool sequence there, Jericho plants him, goes for a flash Lionsault, Punk gets the knees up, Jericho grabs them for the Walls but Punk counters and hits a KICK. I also loved that their best success came when they hit their moves suddenly before the other guy could think of a counter – Punk with the flash GTS, Jericho draping him over the ropes and immediately hitting the Lionsault. One of the best spots of the night was busting out the Trent/Tyson Frankensteiner-Walls of Jericho counter. NXT representin’. Punk springboarding into the flying Codebreaker was cool as well. And the finish rocked so hard. All of those counters and maneuvers and subs and rollups, it was a great struggle. And Punk shifting his position so Jericho couldnt knee his way out of the Vice again and had to submit was an AWESOME detail. Really turned into a super match by the end, really delivered.
Brodus! Funk! Yes! Hahahaha Momma and the Bridge Club! That was some great fun, a perfect little buffer segment.
The “We Are Young” video is pretty cool. I liked the musical intros in the sense that they made the main event seem bigger, even though the performances themselves were meh. Laughed a lot at MGK heeling it up to the crowd. I’m sure that will help mate. Cena in green! He looks so pumped. I suppose its only the biggest match he’ll ever have in his life, he might as well be. This crowd is God damn awesome. Its like a perfect storm of all the elements: a Cena crowd, a hometown opponent crowd, a giant Mania crowd, and a “Wow this is a huge match” crowd. I cant remember the last time the referee ringing the bell got such a pop. Get in.
The opening lock ups and shove downs were so great. This is the easiest match in the world. Cena was like the most subtle heel who ever worked here. He did nothing suspect of course, but he was cocky when he got the first drop, then shocked when he was knocked down himself, he powdered out when he was taking too much offense, and then took over using the ringside area and got heat on Rock. A superface subtle heel. Loved the running shoulders into that sweet ass LARIAT. I just cannot say it enough: Cena, more lariats please.
A bear hug! Cena is Mark Henry! Actually the way that Cena worked this match was really remarkable. He’s the superhero who usually sells extensively for a comeback, or maybe sometimes works an even back-and-forth sporting contest (say, Punk vs Cena). But here, in this match, Cena was something he’s never really been before: dominant. He was the power guy working over the babyface. In that way it was quite unique, and I think really played out the story of the build in the ring in a cool way: Cena is, in fact, on The Rock’s level, and at the moment actually has the upper hand over him for whatever reason.The other thing about the bear hug I noticed is how it ended. Cena, who had been all business since the excitement of the opening bell, stopped for a second to smirk at whatever the crowd was chanting at that particular moment, leaving him open for Rock to start punching his way out. Cena’s ego (Hubris? Cheekiness? Heel side?) cost him the advantage, which was incredible foreshadowing for later on.
Jesus were they clobbering each other with some of these shots too. Working so stiff was another little addition making it more than the average match. LOVED the sequence of Rock’s comeback, Spinebuster, and People’s Elbow attempt only for Cena to trip him up, hit his comeback and nail the Five Knuckle Shuffle. The Yay/Boo exchange after this ruled (and again they added some real variety with their angles and selling to make it special) and Rock doing his mocking “U Cant See Me” right into BAMFUMOTHERF*CKER was AWESOME. Completely awesome. Then the flash Rock Bottom in response and thats basically the reset button for Act II.
Cena being so deliberate going up top, and just patiently waiting and waiting to NAIL the Leg Drop was great. He was back to Serious Business Cena now and it was paying dividends again. But wait, a spear and Sharpshooter time! The subs here were so strange, I think mainly for the fact that nobody could believe that either guy would tap. Although having said that, I thought they did an excellent job selling the teased stoppage on Rock in the STF. The possibility actually crossed my mind, if only because the Bret/Austin finish was referenced on the show. Cena doing the Sunset Flip into the STF was pretty cool too. And finally Rock hits the Spinebuster, this time its for real, and BAM, PEOPLE’S ELBOW! KICKOUT!
Loved Cena busting out all these rollups trying to get a win, and similarly, as Rock climbed to the top rope people were all standing up in unison because Rock never climbs to the top rope, but he too was searching for something extra. When he did I knew what must have been coming, and sho’ nuff, he jumps and IS CAUGHT, rollthrough, lurch up, FU Mother F*cker. And KICK OUT. Then it all comes down to this moment. Cena sees him there, the new-found Edgy Douchebag Cena kicks into gear, and he kicks the arms. He tosses the armband. He smirks, he points, he runs, he bounces, he GETS ROCK BOTTOMED AND PINNED. Sh*t.
The finish bummed me the hell out live, because you know me, I’m Team Cena, and he’d especially been so great during the build that I really did want him to win. But the more you think about it, the more interesting the finish becomes. Firstly, it was utter genius in that Cena’s one moment of douchebaggery cost him the biggest match of his life. Is it a sign that he was wrong all along to be edgy and douchey instead of the pure white bread superface he’s always been? Will it make him act nicer than ever instead? Or will his failure in this “must win” match haunt him? Will it make him turn to the dark side of the force? Will he seek a rematch? It makes him look like a bit of a fool after being so smug in the build, so hopefully this is all leads to a different direction for him as he suffers such a setback. Plus there’s the question of what Rock does going forward, for Summerslam or WM29. Cant wait for Raw. And all in all, a fascinating and humungously entertaining show.