Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kevin's Random Reviews: WWE WrestleMania XXIV

WWE WrestleMania XXIV
March 30th, 2008 | Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida | Attendance: 74,635

This was one of those WrestleMania events that featured a fair amount of celebrity involvement. It came during a fun time for me in wrestling. I was way into what was going on around this time, from Edge and Randy Orton being champions to the Ric Flair retirement angle to CM Punk’s rise on ECW and more. This would be the first WrestleMania filmed in HD and went on be the first show I ever purchased on Blu-Ray. It was obviously the 24th WrestleMania in history, the second outdoor one and the first held in Florida. There was some worry about potential rain with this being the second outdoor Mania, but luckily, there were no weather issues. 

Jon Legend performs “America the Beautiful” to open the show. Following that, they go into a pretty great opening video package.

Belfast Brawl
Finlay w/ Hornswoggle vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield

This rivalry stemmed from Hornswoggle being revealed as Vince McMahon’s son. JBL destroyed the little guy in front of Finlay inside of a Steel Cage before announcing that Hornswoggle is actually Finlay’s dad. Before the bell rings, JBL attacks Finlay and they brawl on the outside. Almost instantly, garbage cans and kendo sticks come into play. Not content with those weapons, JBL also brings in the steel steps but ends up taking a backdrop off of them. JBL tries to use the shillelagh but Hornswoggle steals it from him. That opens the door for Finlay to wail away on him. JBL now has welts on his back. Finlay gets a table and sets it up in the corner. JBL knocks him down and goes after Hornswoggle, which angers Finlay who slams his head on the announce table a ton. Things go back into the ring where JBL lays into Finlay with a trash can. He then launches one outside onto an unsuspecting Hornswoggle. It’s such a tremendous heel move. Finlay sends JBL through the table in the corner, only getting a two count. Finlay attempts to use the stairs but JBL nails him with a kendo stick in the knee. He comes off the ropes with the Clothesline from Hell to defeat Finlay.

Winner: John “Bradshaw” Layfield in 8:36
Better than I expected it to be. Neither guy was really lighting the world on fire with their ring work at the time, so making it a Belfast Brawl was a smart call. They got to have a fun brawl that involved weapons and had the crowd invested. A solid opener. ***

They go backstage to a celebrity correspondent, Kim Kardashian. She looks SO different and SO much better here, before all of the plastic surgery. She says the Money in the Bank match is coming up when Mr. Kennedy interrupts. He says he’s going to win it for the second straight year and yells in her face. I enjoyed it.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Carlito vs. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk vs. John Morrison vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin

Originally, Jeff Hardy was scheduled for this match and was a heavy favorite before getting suspended. With him out, the door was open for almost anyone to win. The bell rings and everyone goes after ladders outside. MVP keeps everyone at bay with a small ladder, so Jericho brings in a big one and takes him down. John Morrison takes the small ladder and does a moonsault off the top while holding it, taking out about four opponents. Inside, they try to slingshot Kennedy into the ladder but he just ends up climbing it. He fights with Morrison until Shelton sets up a ladder next to them. He comes off with a sunset flip on Kennedy, who superplexes Morrison off the top of the ladder. Honestly, that’s one of the cooler Money in the Bank spots I’ve ever seen. We see more of Shelton’s athleticism though the ladder breaks on a spot, causing him to crash. Punk ends up hitting him with the GTS before taking the Green Bay Plunge onto a ladder. Carlito takes out MVP’s leg and gets hit with the dragon whip kick from Benjamin. Shelton climbs but has the ladder tilted forward, sending him somersaulting through a ladder set up across the apron and guardrail. He’s done for the match after that in one of the most insane spots you could imagine. The spots keep coming as Jericho puts Morrison in the Walls of Jericho across the top of a ladder. While he and Kennedy fight on two ladders for the briefcase Carlito and Punk springboard onto the ladder to join them. All four men end up down, highlighted by Carlito hitting a damn Backstabber on Jericho off of the ladder. MVP is alone and has the win in hand when Matt Hardy runs in from the crowd. He’s been in the midst of a near year-long feud with MVP and was out injured. Matt hits Twist of Fate off the ladder, ending MVP’s chances of winning. They try another fancy spot with the ladder, which doesn’t really cooperate. It ends with Morrison falling off and Punk taking the ladder right to the shoulder. Carlito knocks Jericho off the ladder by spitting an apple at him. Kennedy shoves him off and Punk takes him out with a small ladder before taking a Codebreaker into the ladder. Jericho goes up and is in position to win but a desperate Punk tenaciously ascends the ladder. They fight up top and the recently returned Jericho hits him with the swinging briefcase. Just when you think it’s over, Punk wisely pulls Jericho’s leg through the rungs, leaving him hanging upside down and allowing Punk to pull it down.

Winner: CM Punk in 13:54
That was honestly one of the favorite Money in the Bank matches ever. They’ve become a staple of the WWE and almost always deliver a good to great match. This was easily in the upper echelon. Tons of great spots, no downtime, a hot crowd and lots of talent. If the ladders would have cooperated on some of their ideas better, this could have been even better. I probably scored this higher than a lot of people. Oh well, I loved it. ****¼

The inductees to the Hall of Fame for 2008 all come out to the stage. Eddie Graham, Gordon Solie, Peter Maivia and Ric Flair, who is wrestling later, have representatives, while Mae Young, Rocky Johnson, Jack and Jerry Briscoe are there as well. 

This is followed by an odd segment involving Snoop Dogg, Festus, Santino Marella and Mick Foley. Yea, that is certainly a strange combo.

Battle of the Brands
Batista vs. Umaga

Batista is representing Teddy Long and Smackdown, while Umaga is there for Raw and William Regal. Regal calls him “YOUMANGA” of course. Batista went from a classic against the Undertaker for the World Title a year prior to this. When the match starts, they just go at it like two big men would. Batista takes a pretty big bump off the apron following an Umaga kick. Umaga wears down Batista’s back but the problem is, none of it really comes across as interesting. Umaga tries a sweet, long range headbutt but misses. Batista tries to slam him and his back goes out. Batista weathers more offense from Umaga and starts rallying. Somehow, despite the back being worked on, Batista pulls out a spinebuster and Batista Bomb, winning the match for Smackdown. At least the Batista Bomb was somewhat crooked, making it look realistic.

Winner: Batista in 7:06
I wanted to like this so much more. These are two of my favorite bigger guys to watch but they just didn’t seem to have their hearts in this. Especially Batista. It came off like they weren’t too thrilled with their position on the show and it showed in their work. 

ECW Championship
Chavo Guerrero (c) vs. Kane

Kane won a battle royal on the Pre-Show to earn this show. It is the first and only time the ECW Title would be defended at WrestleMania. Chavo comes out first and Kane shows behind him. The bell rings, Chavo runs into a Chokeslam and that’s all she wrote.

Winner and New ECW Champion: Kane in 0:10
They tried to pass this off as eight seconds but I have it at ten. Can’t really rank this. At least they moved the title to someone that was over and a fun addition to the ECW roster at the time. NO RATING

Raven Symone is in the ring to promote the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Nice little celebrity involvement there. Kept it short and sweet.

Career Threatening Match
Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels

For months, Ric Flair had been staving off retirement by beating all comers after Vince McMahon told him he’d be forced to retire if he lost his next match. The pageantry of Flair’s entrance is stunning. A feeling out process starts things off, with each guy trying to gain an early upper hand. Flair gets in control and shouts “OLD YELLER HUH?”, which is what Shawn called him a few weeks prior. Shawn just slaps him in retaliation before they get into an exchange of loud chops. In a great reversal of roles, Flair slams Shawn from the top and then blocks Shawn from doing the same. Flair comes off with a flying cross body that gets a pop. They move outside where Shawn tries an Asai moonsault but misses and crashes stomach first onto the announce table. The sound of it was pretty sickening. Flair is busting it all out tonight, getting two on a stalling vertical suplex. Shawn takes to the air again, this time doing a moonsault off the top and to the outside, connecting this time around. They tease a double countout, which would result in the end of Flair’s career. They go at it inside the ring and Shawn hits the big flying elbow. Shawn tunes up the band but stops himself because he can’t pull the trigger. That frees up Flair to trip him up and lock in the Figure Four as the crowd goes wild. Shawn turns it over and survives but takes his trademark corner bump. Classic Flair as he goes to the chop block. The Figure Four is locked back in but again, Michaels is able to survive. Flair ends up walking right into Sweet Chin Music but Shawn is too hurt to initially cover and Flair kicks out. Shawn calls for Sweet Chin Music again, screaming for Shawn to get up. Flair takes long so Shawn picks him up from behind and Flair delivers a low blow that the referee misses. Classic. Shawn trips up Flair and applies his inverted Figure Four. Flair withstands it and rolls up Shawn for two. They go into a battle of chops that Flair is winning, so Shawn just delivers a huge superkick. Shawn pulls himself up and looks to tune up the band but stops. He mouths “I’m sorry, I love you” to Flair when he gets up and ends his career with Sweet Chin Music.

Winner: Shawn Michaels in 20:23
Pitch perfect storytelling. There aren’t many matches you’ll find with as much emotion as this one. Ric Flair put on his working boots and had the best match of the final few years of his career, doing things he usually wouldn’t. Michaels was as great in a big match as always. As great as it could have possibly been. ****

Shawn Michaels immediately grabs Ric Flair’s head, presumably to say something and leaves. Ric Flair gets emotional as he is given a standing ovation and shows love to his family at ringside.

Todd Grisham interviews Edge, who says that the pathetic fans count on the Undertaker to win at WrestleMania but he’ll slap them in the face with reality.

Playboy Bunnymania Lumberjill Match
Ashley Massaro and Maria Kanellis vs. WWE Women’s Champion Beth Phoenix and Melina w/ Santino Marella

The rest of the poor Divas roster were the Lumberjills, while Snoop Dogg was the host or something. They all walked to the ring while he drove some kind of pimped out golf cart. Among the Lumberjills, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Maryse and Layla may look the best tonight. The story here is that Maria got the Playboy pictorial, which her boyfriend Santino hated. That led Maria to team with former Playboy cover girl Ashley. Ashley and Maria try and double team Beth because she’s so strong. Melina is the first one tossed outside and gets beat up by the ladies outside. Almost everything the babyface team does looks bad from Maria’s bronco buster to Ashley’s cross body and bumping. The double team done by the heels looks bad too. The lights end up going out during the match and a spotlight is used to focus on the match. Maria ends up close to winning but Santino pulls her off of a pin. Jerry Lawler gets up and lays him out. Beth plants Maria with a fisherman buster and wins.

Winners: Beth Phoenix and Melina in 5:56
Beth Phoenix and Melina tried but Maria and Ashley are just not good at all. That all caused this to be horrible and not interesting in the slightest. ¼*

Snoop Dogg is next in line to punch Santino’s lights out. Then he makes out with Maria.

WWE Championship
Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena vs. Triple H

During 2007, both John Cena and Triple H were on the shelf with major injuries and this is kind of their redemption story. Cena gets his theme played to the ring by a marching band. 52% of the fans pick Cena to win, 40% have Triple H and a measly 8% say Orton retains. This starts like a brawl, with everyone going at it in and around the ring. Once things calm down in the ring, they do a tower of doom like spot where Orton hits a cross body on Cena, who was on Triple H’s shoulders. Orton continues to hold serve with a double rope hung DDT for near falls. He continues to use his cunningness to outsmart the babyfaces. He strikes with the RKO, stopping Triple H’s momentum. However, he gets put in Cena’s hideous STFU but Triple H breaks it and tries an Indian deathlock variation only for Cena to stop it. Cena goes back to the submission so Triple H puts him in a crossface to break it. This leads to Cena and HHH going at it and countering each other a bunch. HHH wins out by hitting the Pedigree. He covers but Orton runs in and punts him in the skull to break it up. Orton pins Cena and shocked everyone by retaining.

Winner and Still WWE Champion: Randy Orton in 14:08
A fun Triple Threat match between three solid guys. They would rematch it a little over a year later but this was better. Randy Orton did enough that he looked like a credible champion and the finish made him look really smart. This was before they would run this kind of finish into the ground. ***¼

No Disqualification
Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather

Wisely, Floyd Mayweather bobs and weaves, avoiding contact with his larger opponent before firing off some rapid body shots. Mayweather avoids Show punches and lays in some of his own shots. He gets cockier with each successful blow. He stops to get a drink from a chalice so Big Show pretty much murders the member of his entourage who served him. Show finally catches him but ends up with Mayweather on his back, choking him out. Show gets free and stomps on Mayweather’s hand. It’s time for Show to dominate as he just stands on Mayweather and slams him around. Before Big Show can do more damage, Floyd’s entourage pulls him away and they try to leave. Future Nexus member Michael Tarver is there. Show lays them all out and brings Floyd back. He goes for the Chokeslam but an entourage member hits him with a chair. He gets chokeslammed for his troubles. Now Floyd has the chair and he whacks Show all over with it. Big Show tries another Chokeslam only to get kicked in the nuts. More chair shots to the head that dent the chair but Show won’t fall down. He’s on his knees and Mayweather gets brass knuckles from a fallen member. He lays out Show with one right hand and the referee counts him out.

Winner: Floyd Mayweather in 11:35
A very wisely booked spectacle here. Easily one of the better celebrity matches in WWE history. Whoever laid this out deserved a raise. They made sure that Mayweather stayed “unbeaten” and looked smart, while Big Show kept his credibility due to the interference and the fact that he barely stood up in the end. ***

World Heavyweight Championship
Edge (c) vs. The Undertaker

Edge actually gets to come out last. Neither man has ever been pinned at WrestleMania. Edge is not intimidated, shoving Undertaker right as he does the throat cut signal. They go through some good back and forth to start including Edge countering Old School, only for Undertaker to counter back with an arm drag. Edge seems to be well prepared, having an answer for everything Undertaker does. His game plan is to negate a lot of Undertaker’s key stuff and stay in control. The first really big spot comes when Undertaker does his signature dive over the top rope. Things stay outside as Edge backdrops Undertaker onto the guardrail. Inside, Edge works a modified single leg crab, wearing down his challenger. Undertaker counters and they get into a slugfest, which Undertaker of course wins. He hits Snake Eyes but Edge comes right back with a dropkick. He then counters the Chokeslam into the Edgecution for two. Undertaker hits the Chokeslam this time, but only gets two. Edge goes for the ten corner punches but Undertaker counters for Last Ride. Edge again has a counter ready, slipping free and nailing a neckbreaker. Regardless, he still takes his Last Ride but manages to get a shoulder up. More back and forth leads to shenanigans as Undertaker inadvertently big boots the referee. Edge takes him down and talks smack until Undertaker grabs him by the throat. Edge low blows him to break the grip. In a callback to Survivor Series, Edge lays out Undertaker with a TV camera. Undertaker starts getting back up so Edge mocks his taunt and tries a tombstone. Undertaker counters into his own. Charles Robinson makes the lengthy run from the back to count but Edge kicks out. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder run out only for Undertaker to Chokeslam Ryder onto Hawkins. Edge hits the Spear for a near fall. He follows with a second Spear but before he can cover, Undertaker grabs him into the Hell’s Gates submission. Edge fights valiantly before tapping out.

Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: The Undertaker in 23:49
Outside of his classics with Shawn Michaels the two years after this, I’d say this was easily the best Undertaker WrestleMania match. Edge looked like a million bucks, coming off as a smart villain that had a great game plan. They kept the interference to a minimum and gave us a mostly clean finish that was also original. Tons of counters and callbacks to their rivalry really added to this. One of the best main events in WrestleMania history. ****½

Overall: 9/10; Incredible. A spectacular WrestleMania that ranks among the best ever. Outside of the Playboy and Battle of the Brand matches, everything on this card delivers. There’s something for everyone. Like fun brawls? Catch the opener. Want a great spotfest? Watch Money in the Bank. If you like emotion filled stories, there’s HBK/Flair. You also get great celebrity involvement, a solid triple threat and one absolutely classic main event. Next time on “Kevin's Random Reviews”, I take a long look at WWF Invasion!