Friday, May 19, 2017
This is a pretty historic WrestleMania, but due to one obvious thing that happened in 2007, it won’t held in very high esteem when it comes to remembering it. Chris Benoit, before the double murder/suicide, had won the 2004 Royal Rumble and was now set for a WrestleMania main event. In other big news, John Cena was about to have his first WrestleMania and the “Deadman” was returning. As was tradition until WrestleMania XXX, every ten years, Mania was in Madison Square Garden. This is the longest PPV in WWE history, clocking in at 4.5 hours. It is obviously the 20th WrestleMania in history.
As usual with WrestleMania, this opens with America the Beautiful, performed by the Boys Choir of Harlem. It then moves to the usual WrestleMania opening where they talk about the past before having various Superstars talking about the importance of WrestleMania and such. It ends strangely as it sees Vince and Shane holding a baby. I get the “it all begins again” tagline but it’s still a strange image to close a wrestling video package on.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler do the commentary for the Raw brand matches, while Michael Cole and Tazz handle the Smackdown side of things.
John Cena does a little rap before the bell while sporting a Patrick Ewing jersey. He gets overpowered early as Bi Show throws him out. Cena thinks he finds an opening but makes the mistake of leaping at Show, getting caught in a slam. Has he never watched any match against any big man ever? Commentary does a good job putting over Show’s dominant past few months, including being the runner-up in the Royal Rumble and winning the United States Title. He continues to manhandle Cena with his offense, including two on a vertical suplex. Show’s chops will never not sound vicious. Show hits a big boot and drops a leg on Cena, working a methodical pace. Cena tries a sleeper but Show is again too much for him and ends up applying a cobra clutch. Cena fights out, starting a small rally. He then nails the FU but Show gets a shoulder up. The crowd is pretty hot for this. Cena picks up his chain but the referee stops him. Cena gets his brass knuckles behind the ref’s back and levels Show. A second FU earns Cena his first ever championship.
Not the greatest way to start the show. The crowd was indeed red hot for John Cena, but having Big Show dominate for so long seemed like a weird choice for an opener. At any other place on the card, this match made sense but it wasn’t very exciting. Historic points for Cena’s first WrestleMania match and win. Slight added bonus for the crowd too.
Backstage, Jonathan Coachman shows up and is being arrogant. He sees Eric Bischoff and Johnny Nitro. For some reason, Bischoff wants Coach to find the Undertaker. Cut to Randy Orton, with Batista and Ric Flair at his side, cutting a promo in the staircase of Madison Square Garden. That’s where he kicked Mick Foley down the steps back in June. Orton’s promo talks about how much he’s beaten up Foley over the past few months, as well as the Rock in recent weeks. The visual of them in suits is cool but the promo doesn’t do much.
Cade and Jindrak get absolutely no reaction from the fans. Booker and RVD’s mashed up theme music is terrible. RVD starts hot before tagging in Booker. Both guys get to shine to the crowd’s liking until Bubba Ray comes in. The fans want tables. The Dudleys get Booker down but Cade pulls Bubba out as Jindrak tags in. To think, Jindrak was going to be in Evolution. Booker continues to take the heat, but now it’s La Resistance working him over. RVD gets the hot tag and flies around the ring but ends up sent outside. The Dudleys look for 3D on Booker but La Resistance breaks it up. Conway takes it to Booker, only to get hit with the Scissors Kick. RVD is back with the Five Star to retain.
This was kind of just there. Nothing about it was very interesting even with so many people being involved. The Dudleys didn’t seem at their best, La Resistance didn’t deliver and Cade and Jindrak were super green. I don’t think this really belonged on the card.
Jonathan Coachman is still looking for Kane. He hears strange sounds in a room. Out comes Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan. Coach is weirded out but then Moolah and Mae Young come out, revealing what was really going on. It’s good to see Bobby in better health.
I loved this entire angle. From Chris Jericho and Christian making the bet about Trish and Lita, to Jericho having real feelings for Trish to Trish eventually putting him in the friend zone to Christian showing his real dastardly ways. They lock up but it doesn’t last long as they get physical quickly. Jericho talks some trash when he gets Christian in the corner, still angry at everything that has gone down. He backdrops Christian outside and dives onto him. Lawler claims that only a woman could make you take risks like that. Back inside, Christian avoids the Walls and then back suplexes Jericho to the outside in a cool spot. Now, Christian works the wear down role of a good heel. Jericho gets a few chances to swing the momentum but Christian stops him at every turn. In a funny moment, Jericho calls Christian a CLB before getting in some offense including an enziguri for two. They exchange rollups, with Christian using the ropes for leverage. Jericho hits one of my favorite moves, the Northern lights suplex. Christian comes back with a spinning second rope reverse DDT for two. They fight up top where Christian front suplexes Jericho to the mat and follows with a cross body that Jericho rolls through for two. Christian gets a Texas cloverleaf on but Jericho turns it into the Walls. Christian reaches the ropes, but Jericho holds onto it while falling outside. They move back inside and Trish Stratus runs out. The competitors slug it out when Christian hits a beautiful implant DDT for two. A frustrated Christian pulls Trish into the ring and throws her into the corner. Jericho goes to console her but Trish isn’t looking and throws an elbow, leveling Jericho. Christian rolls him up to steal it.
One of my favorite WrestleMania undercard matches. It started a bit slow but really picked up as it went on. The little things like Jericho being so mad that he held onto the Walls of Jericho was just so great. Trish played her role perfectly and the Christian win was the right way to put a heel over on the big stage.
Trish goes to apologize to Jericho when Christian comes back. Trish grabs Jericho and lets off a few slaps in a row. Christian hits the Unprettier and leaves with the girl. They make out aggressively on the stage.
Backstage, Lillian Garcia goes to interview Mick Foley. The Rock shows up to steal the promo, even showing us where Grimace and the Hamburglar (Hurricane and Rosey). He hypes Mick up for the upcoming match.
Rock n’ Sock hit the ring quickly, taking down their opponents. When things break down, we get Rock and Ric Flair. Rock shoulder blocks him down and struts. Outside, Rock backdrops Flair, who was in the mood to take some bumps during this time. Foley drops an elbow on him for good measure. Orton gets tagged and Foley wants in. They go at it with Foley tying Orton up in the tree of woe. He hits an elbow and tags Rock who gets in a low right hand. The heels turn things around and Flair lights Rock up with chops in the corner. Rock clotheslines Batista, getting a mild tag to Foley. His hot work is cut off by a massive clothesline from Batista. Foley now starts to take the real heat. I figured the real hot tag would go to the Rock and not Foley. Rock does get the hot tag and hits everything moving, even bringing Batista into the ring. That backfires when Batista lays him out with a spinebuster. Flair begs Batista to finish it, choosing to do a People’s Elbow. Rock stops it and goes for his own, complete with a strut, but Flair kicks out. Rock ends up in trouble and has to make another relatively hot tag to Foley, who this Orton with a double arm DDT. Foley brings out Mr. Socko and hits Batista. He goes to use it on Orton but walks right into the RKO.
Pretty solid match here. The crowd was into it considering the names involved. They did better than most probably expected since Foley and Rock weren’t full time, Flair was past his prime and Orton and Batista hadn’t reached theirs yet. It was relatively fun and the right guys went over, giving Evolution the rub. This would be the Rock’s last match for eight years.
They spend some time going over the Hall of Fame inductees. I grabbed some food during this but I heard Bobby Heenan, Tito Santana, Don Muraco, Jimmy Snuka, Greg Valentine and Pete Rose.
Sable and Torrie were on the cover of Playboy together. Stacy and Jackie were jealous, saying they should have been on the cover. Before the bell, Sable decides they should all strip off their gowns and wrestle in their underwear. Torrie looks the best here. Miss Jackie decides against stripping, making her the biggest heel in the arena. Sable brings her in the hard way and they strip her. The girls do nothing that would be considered good wrestling but Stacy entering the ring gets a huge pop. They do typical Divas stuff for this era and it ends when Torrie counters a Jackie rollup for three.
Too short and too hot to be offensive. The wrestling was horrible and it didn’t really belong on a WrestleMania but at least it was somewhat enjoyable.
In the back, Eddie Guerrero says that Chris Benoit is family. He then says that nobody really believes that Benoit will win the World Title tonight. Benoit gets fired up, which is what Eddie wanted.
Ultimo Dragon tripped in his entrance live but it is cut from this version. Rey Mysterio is dressed like the Flash. Two men start and the rest wait outside, joining in when it’s their turn after an elimination. Shannon Moore and Ultimo Dragon start. They go into a fast paced exchange until Dragon hits a Shiranui and eliminates him. Jamie Noble is next, attacking from behind. The fans seem a bit confused by the rules, but seem to be picking up. Dragon unleashes a flurry of kicks but Noble makes him tap out quickly after. Funaki leaps in with a cross body. Noble rolls through and instantly eliminates him. Commentary contemplates if that was the quickest loss in Mania history. I mean, if we’re counting each match individually then most likely it was. Nunzio jumps in quickly, hitting a missile dropkick but Noble gets his foot on the ropes. Nunzio gets sent outside hard and Noble follows with a senton. That wakes the crowd up for the first time in the match outside of Funaki coming in. Nunzio is pulled off the apron and gets counted out. Kidman comes in next and baseball slides Nunzio into Noble. He then does a damn springboard shooting star press. Back inside, Noble tries a guillotine but Kidman breaks it. He hits an enziguri and goes up top. Noble stops him but gets hit with a top rope BK Bomb for three. Mysterio springboards in with a senton but runs into a big dropkick. The exchange between these two is pretty fun. Given their history as opponents and partners, their chemistry is good. They fight up top and Mysterio hits a super sunset flip bomb to advance. Tajiri is in, kicking away. He does the tarantula but his handspring elbow is stopped. 619 connects but Tajiri tries the mist. He catches Akio by mistake and Rey rolls him up for three. Akio can’t participate due to the mist so he came out for no real reason. It’s down to Chavo and Rey. Tajiri got a cheap kick in before leaving, giving Chavo the advantage. Rey fights back but Chavo Classic gets involved. He ends up holding Chavo down on a pin attempt, stealing the win.
While this was an interesting idea, it was way too fast for anything to really matter. The idea to cram everything into ten minutes made for non-stop work, but it all felt incredibly rushed. There were some cool spots but it was all too forgettable. This would have probably worked better as a Rey/Chavo singles match.
Steve Austin is the special guest referee. This match is pretty infamous for the fact that the crowd craps all over everything since both Goldberg and Lesnar were on their way out of the company. Instant “you sold out” chants, followed by the fans singing goodbye. They plod through some early things while the fans give them nothing. They chant “this match sucks”. They bump into each other and it looks cool but the crowd couldn’t care less. They move to wearing each other down which fits the style of the fans right now. It’s at a point where nothing they o would get the crowd interested, so why even bother trying? Goldberg gets the first signature/finishing move with a spear for two. This causes him to get in Austin’s face. Man, imagine if that faceoff would have happened in 1998. Brock hits the F5 but Goldberg gets the shoulder up. Goldberg comes back with a second spear and the Jackhammer for the 1-2-3.
Well that was certainly something. The crowd took a huge dump on this match from the start and then the effort of both men wasn’t there. It was a really boring match outside of the fans. One of the most disappointing matches in history. It is something you should see purely for the reaction though.
Brock flips off the fans and Austin after the match. Austin hits him with the Stunner and starts to drink beer. Goldberg comes in and nearly joins in, but eats a Stunner as well. Both men are sent off for good, or at least until Brock returned eight years later.
Like the earlier tag match, this is first pinfall wins. Shelton Benjamin starts with Bradshaw and slaps him. This causes Bradshaw to kick his ass. It’s crazy to think that Bradshaw was a few months away from a lengthy WWE Title run. There are multiple blind tags, allowing most of the guys to get their stuff in. Some are much more enjoyable than others. Haas and Benjamin hit their double team finisher that never got a name on Scotty for two. The one guy that doesn’t get shine is Rikishi because he is saved for a hot tag. He hits everything moving and gets in a stinkface. Bradshaw gets some good stuff, hitting a fallaway slam that sends his opponent onto Haas and Benjamin outside. He nails Danny Basham with the Clothesline from Hell but fails to take down Rikishi. Rikishi then just sits on Danny to retain.
I appreciate that this was kept short. It allowed for everyone to get their stuff in and it didn’t overstay its welcome. Some of the stuff they did was cool and the six minutes flew by for the most part.
A vignette aired to hype the return of Edge.
If Molly wins, she gets the belt. If she loses, she gets her head shaved. According to “Table for 3” on the WWE Network, Molly offered up the idea for this match to make sure the Women’s Title got on the show. Without it, there were only plans for the evening gown match. Molly takes an early powder outside, lulling Victoria into a clothesline. She tries a few pins inside, with some elbows, a dropkick and a suplex thrown in. She wears down Victoria until she’s caught in a powerslam for two. It’s funny to hear JR say “it caused a little wedgie.” Molly tries a sunset flip bomb from the top, but comes down on her knees first, lessening the impact. It gets two. Molly now looks for the Widow’s Peak but her arrogance costs her when Victoria counters with a backslide, scoring the victory.
Similar to the last match, I came away rather disappointed here. Both women are more than capable of doing more but they didn’t’ get much time to strut their stuff. Still, they told a fine story with what they were given, so kudos there.
Molly runs away, not wanting to get her head shaved. She ends up putting Victoria in the barber’s chair, nearly cutting her hair. She can’t get the machine to work though, allowing Victoria to turn the tide. She straps Molly in and proceeds to shave her bald.
The two greats go through a feeling out process, trying to gain any sort of advantage. Eddie wins out, taking Angle down with a shoulder block, making him regroup outside. Angle comes back in, going back and forth with Eddie. Eddie takes him over and gets some arm drags, further frustrating the challenger. They go back to wrestling but Eddie gets a suplex. He tries for Three Amigos but Angle is ready, blocking and hitting a German. Angle ends up trying a German off the apron but Eddie hangs on for dear life. I don’t think Angle had done that a bunch yet, so it was shocking to see at the time. Eddie makes the crucial first mistake, missing a high risk move to the outside. He hurts his ribs, which Angle has focused on so far. Angle chooses to wear down Eddie, still working the ribs. He hits two big belly to belly suplexes for two. Eddie continually gets his shoulder up, frustrating Angle. Out of desperation and seeing an opening, Eddie tries the Frog Splash but Angle moves out of the way. Angle resorts to straight punches to the face, which commentary sells very well as Angle moving away from wrestling and into a fight. Eddie fires up, screaming for more right hands. This leads to the babyface rally. Angle wants none of that, laying out Eddie with a clothesline. Eddie counters an Angle slam into an arm drag. After a headscissors, he taunts because he’s feeling it. Three Amigos follows but before the third suplex, Angle reverse into the Ankle Lock because he’s a beast. Eddie fights out, only to get belly to belly suplexed off the top for two. THE STRAPS ARE DOWN! Ankle Lock again, but Eddie counters into a rollup for two. The champion is also ready for the Angle Slam, reversing it into a tornado DDT. The Frog Splash hits but only for a near fall. Angle plays possum and is back to the Ankle Lock for a third time. Eddie counters again, sending Angle outside. He unties his boot to lessen the pressure on it. Angle gets back in, applying a fourth Ankle Lock. Eddie’s loose boot comes off, tricking Angle. Eddie pulls him into a small package, with his feet on the ropes for good measure, and scores the pinfall.
Just a brilliantly worked match. They made sure to have Kurt Angle look like the beast that he is, while having the new champion look a bit overmatched at times. However, Eddie used his mantra, outsmarting Angle and then cheating to keep the belt. He realized Angle would keep going after the ankle and figured out a way to overcome that. The chain wrestling, counters, storytelling, false finishes, atmosphere and everything was on point. Maybe I loved it more than some but I don’t care. This is my kind of pro wrestling.
This is the big return of the “Deadman.” His entrance takes forever but the fans eat it up. Kane is in shock because he buried Undertaker at Survivor Series. Undertaker dominates from the start. When Kane does get some offense, he shouts at Undertaker that he shouldn’t have come back. Undertaker turns it around on him quickly though. He goes for Old School but Kane is ready with a counter, grabbing him by the throat. Undertaker shrugs it off and nearly hits a Chokeslam but Kane blocks and hits one of his own. Kane talks trash to Bearer and his brother just sits up. Undertaker goes into some signature stuff before winning with the Tombstone.
The spectacle of the Deadman returning was cool. Other than that, this match was garbage. Undertaker dominated and wasn’t at his best. In fact, the first year or so of his second Deadman run was pretty bad. He’d wait until Mania the following year to start stepping up before reaching new heights around 2007.
At the Royal Rumble, Shawn Michaels and Triple H wrestled to a draw. Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble from the number one spot and was a Smackdown guy. He came out and joined Raw, going after Triple H’s World Title. Michaels wasn’t done with HHH and managed to make it a Triple Threat match.
Judging by the chants, the fans are firmly in the corner of Chris Benoit. Both he and Michaels want Triple H. They take turns beating him up, but hitting each other too. Benoit tries the Cripple Crossface early but HBK rolls out. They fight for a bit before going back to Triple H. Benoit ends up outside and Triple H goes on the offensive out there. Shawn decides to take them both out with a baseball slide and huge moonsault. With everyone inside, Benoit clubs away on Shawn’s back before tossing him into the ring post. HHH starts to pick apart Benoit and throws Michaels into Benoit in the corner. It works on two levels because not only does it hurt Benoit, but he threw Shawn shoulder first. Shawn is incapacitated leaving Benoit to hit the hat trick of Germans on HHH. Benoit gets stopped by a shot from Shawn. Each time someone seems to have the upper hand, someone else is there to get in the way. Michaels tries for Sweet Chin Music but HHH ducks and DDTs him. Benoit and HHH go at it, with the fans all the way in Benoit’s corner. He counters the Pedigree into the Crossface. HHH fights it desperately though Shawn is there to break it up. Benoit takes down Michaels too and does the throat cut signal. He hits the diving headbutt but can’t cover instantly. HHH sends Benoit outside and Shawn nips up. He starts hitting some basic offense before climbing to the top. He scores with the elbow and is hyped up. The crowd is slightly booing. He tunes up the band and hits the kick but Benoit pulls HHH out of the ring in the middle of the pin. Shawn takes his corner bump and Benoit tries the Sharpshooter. Shawn fights it and gets slingshot into the corner. He is busted open instantly. I didn’t see him have time to blade. Crossface gets locked in and, in a great moment, HHH slides in to grab Michaels’ arm in the middle of a possible tap out. The fight spills outside where Benoit and HHH get on the announce table. Benoit looks for a German but HHH fights it off. He blocks a Pedigree before Shawn gets involved. Shawn and HHH have a DX moment, looking each other in the eye and coming to an agreement. They hoist Benoit up and double suplex throw him through the neighboring table. Michaels, with his crimson mask, slides in the ring and points at HHH saying it’s between them now. They do battle and HHH takes a big corner bump, falling outside. HHH is now busted open after some fighting outside. He nails the Pedigree inside but both men are down. Triple H drapes his arm over only for Benoit to return and break it up. HHH tries a Pedigree on Benoit, who counters and applies a Sharpshooter. Could you imagine if he won with that move against HHH and HBK of all people? Shawn breaks it up with Sweet Chin Music but his pin only gets two. A bloody Shawn tunes up the band again. Benoit avoids it, sending him outside. HHH is up behind him and you can hear the fans getting nervous. He attempts a Pedigree but Benoit spins out and locks in the Crippler Crossface. HHH is close to the ropes, but starts to fade. He fights only for Benoit to roll over, moving things to the middle of the ring. Triple H has no choice but to tap out, milking it just enough for the fans to believe he might not give in.
The greatest Triple Threat match that I have ever seen. Just a fantastic effort from all three men. The crowd played a major factor as well, cheering Benoit hard and popping for all the right things. Every little thing about this match is great. The exchanges between all three men, Shawn and HHH renewing their rivalry and Benoit coming from behind and having his triumphant moment. Jim Ross was another added bonus, selling the match and moment like no one else can. Making HHH tap was the perfect ending too.
Chris Benoit is in tears as he is handed the World Title. He celebrates with confetti and Eddie Guerrero shows up. They embrace, closing the show in one of the coolest ways imaginable. Easily one of my favorite moments in history.
Overall: This show is certainly a mixed bag at times. It features two spectacular matches, two good matches and a whole lot of filler. The runtime doesn’t help things as it is a lot of wrestling to consume. Still, when a show has two all-time classics on it, I can’t give it a low score. Add in the historic moments like the Deadman returning and Cena’s first title win and the good ends up outweighing the bad. If they cut a few matches, this would have been one of the absolute best Manias ever. Next up on will be