If there's one word to best explain my WrestleMania 28 experience in Miami it would simply be a resounding, two hands in the air yelling of the word "Yes." At least for most of it.
See that pic at the top of this column? When we made it to section 138 at Sun Life Stadium that was our view. We were blocked by a palm tree, which became affectionately known as "that fucking palm tree." I think our "move the palm tree" chant was one of my favorite ones of the night. It didn't make me feel better on Monday when I found out that some people were able to move when they complained about the obstructed view. We had no idea you could do that. There were some sporadic empty seats in the stadium, but I'd say the crowd of 78,000 people was near capacity.
Here's my take on my WrestleMania 28 live experience, which involved looking up at giant screens for the majority of the four hour long show. I guess the good thing about having to look at screens all night is that I was especially loud as well, so it was a fun experience. This won't be a play by play recap. It will be analysis more than anything. I have watched the broadcast too. After seeing it twice now, I think I've got a good perspective on what happened.
The pre-show match featuring Epico & Primo going over The Usos and Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel was a lot of fun. The champs Epico & Primo retained their titles. I was hoping Kidd & Gabriel would win, but they are only getting started as a team. Sadly, Gabriel got hurt and will be out for about six weeks. Hopefully when he gets back to good health the team can get a solid push in the tag team division that really needs more quality teams.
They had Lilian Garcia sing America The Beautiful. Good call. Why pay some celebrity money to do it when you have a perfectly good singer already on the roster? She was great. When the two jets flew over it was ridiculously loud. I always wanted to be a part of an outdoor WrestleMania to experience something like that. It's one of those cool moments that you get from being there.
World Title: Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus
The crowd was chanting "yes" for about an hour before the show. I kept saying to my friends I was sitting with that if this match gets time then we would be turning Bryan into a babyface. What an ominous statement that was. We didn't cheer Sheamus very much. It's nothing against him. It's just that the WrestleMania crowd is generally filled with smart fans that come a long way to watch this event live (like myself) and we wanted to cheer for a guy like Bryan that worked his ass off for a decade to get to this point. Bryan kissed AJ, he turned around and Sheamus knocked him out with the Brogue Kick. The match was over within 18 seconds. What da hayell?!?! Most people in the stadium were pissed off. I definitely was. I understand why the match was booked this way. They wanted to put over Sheamus huge. They want to make the Brogue Kick the kind of finishing move that can end a match within seconds. I'm still upset about it. Look at how the rest of the show was booked. There was plenty of time for this match to get more time. Instead, it was rushed and will be the darkest cloud that hung above the 28th WrestleMania.
Winner and New World Champion: Sheamus (NR)
For the next hour we sat there bitching about everything that followed that got more time than Bryan's match. Believe me when I tell you that our section was a cranky bunch immediately following this.
Team Johnny had a meeting backstage. We could hear what they were saying, which wasn't a whole lot aside from the wrestlers telling him that they would win.
Kane vs. Randy Orton
I thought for sure Orton was winning this. I was wrong obviously. I still don’t understand why they're feuding in the first place. Sorry, the whole "I shook Randy's hand because I was humanized" story that Kane told was pretty lame to me. We didn't care for this match although Orton still got a good pop on his entrance. I can't say I remember too much about the match except for the finish, which was a Kane chokeslam off the middle rope. Even though it was supposed to be a big spot, it looked less impactful than a regular chokeslam. The match got about 11 minutes, which was the right amount of time. Orton had a great year in 2011 and deserved a more high profile match at WM28. This wasn't it.
Winner: Kane (**)
There was a backstage comedy bit with Santino, Mick Foley, some dude from Deadliest Catch (don't email me his name - not important) and then Ron Simmons ended it with a "DAMN." I'm glad he did because this segment was dying fast. I guess that's the point. Too bad Foley didn't have a bigger role on the show.
Intercontinental Title: Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show
I was one of those people that picked Big Show to win this. I don't think many did. The reason was because he had won every active title in WWE except the IC Title. Plus, Cody is ready to move up the card. There wasn't much to the match. Cody got some offense in, but Show was able to overpower him. I thought Show's Spear to counter the Disaster Kick was a cool idea on paper. However, it sure looked like Show hit the Spear on Cody's balls rather than in his ribs. That looked very painful. Cody stumbled to his feet and Show KNOCKED HIM THE FUCK OUT~! for the win in about five minutes. Show's tears were probably a bit much. It's not like this was his first WrestleMania win. He even won last year. Still, we were happy for the big guy. Here's to hoping Cody's rise continues even without the IC Title.
Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Big Show (*1/2)
The divas video package was odd. They showed a lot of the girls throughout the years. I guess that's what you do when you can't book a good divas storyline for the biggest show of the year.
Maria Menounos & Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix & Eve
It was exactly as you expected. Is there a single person that works for WWE that thinks that this match was better than doing Beth vs. Natalya in a singles match that would have also got the seven minutes that this match got? It's not like anybody bought the show because Maria Menounos was wrestling. We also didn't care about the match in the stadium as evidenced by the random "YES!" chants we did to keep ourselves entertained. So what's the advantage of having her not only be on the show, but to also beat the Divas Champion? With all of that said, I did like Maria's Greek ring gear because I'm also Greek. Doesn't mean I want to see her wrestle ever again. Poor Beth had to walk out to Eve's music before the match too. This division can be so much more. I wish they'd realize how easily that can be done. Maria pinned Beth with a rollup after about 6 minutes. They built up the finish well and Kelly's top rope flip splash was very impressive. Otherwise, there wasn't a lot to get excited about.
Winners: Maria Menounos & Kelly Kelly (*1/2)
Matt Striker interviewed Shawn Michaels. We popped for HBK. Didn't hear what he said. I watched the broadcast. It wasn't anything noteworthy.
The announced attendance was 78,363 people. I think the number is legit. I read the gate was at over $8 million, which is very impressive. We paid $40 for parking too, so they made a killing that way too.
I'm glad they brought Jim Ross out to call the Hell in a Cell match. He should have stayed the whole show, but at least he was there for this epic match.
Hell in a Cell: Triple H vs. The Undertaker w/Shawn Michaels
It was a good placement for this match because for the previous hour the crowd was getting antsy. We were a rowdy bunch, but we didn't get the chance to really show it. I think the entrances alone took about 15 minutes, which was fine with us. We knew they'd get a lot of time and I was ready to mark out like I was 10 years old again. It was cool seeing Undertaker rocking the short hair look. I'm glad he wasn't totally bald. Keeping some hair was the right call. The crowd was strongly behind Undertaker. It's not like we hated Triple H. We just wanted to mark out for every classic Undertaker spot. Thankfully, the guys in the ring knew exactly what we wanted and delivered the kind of physical brawl that we will remember for the rest of our lives. I didn't love everything that Michaels did. I think he was too emotionally involved and there were too many spots where he interjected himself a little much for my liking. That's really only a minor gripe, though.
The story they told early on with Undertaker dominating showed that even though he was off for a year he was still in great shape. Then Hunter took control. I'm not sure how many chair shots he delivered to Undertaker during the match, but it was probably around 20 or so. It wasn't enough to put Taker away, though. The spot where Undertaker had Triple H in the Hell's Gate while HBK was out was also very well done. It should have been the end of the match, but with no ref in sight it kept going. We were happy with that. When Charles Robinson ran in to count a pinfall and Hunter kicked out at two, Undertaker gave Robinson a Chokeslam. The drunk guy in front of me was yelling: "That's what we came to see! Beat up the ref!" That's also when a "this is awesome" chant started up. Michaels gave Undertaker a Superkick leading to the Triple H Pedigree was one of the better nearfalls you will ever see. When Undertaker kicked out, the place became unglued. I can remember high-fiving strangers sitting around me just because we all wanted Undertaker to win. Sure, we knew what the outcome was going to be, but these guys are so good at their job that they made it feel real. It was real to us god dammit! Undertaker came back with all of that to hit a lot of his patented moves and he delivered a Tombstone to Hunter that only got a two count. Cue the classic shocked Undertaker face. They stumbled back up to their feet for the "yay-boo" punch exchange and then Hunter hit him with a Pedigree for another two count. See the crowd shot that followed? We were all standing. The entire building was on their feet by that point in the match. It was an unreal atmosphere, unlike anything I've ever felt at a wrestling show. The sequence after that involved Undertaker getting the steel chair and beating the hell out of Triple H as payback for what happened earlier. Hunter grabbed the sledgehammer, Undertaker stopped him from using it because Hunter was too hurt, so Hunter gave him the crotch chop and Undertaker decked him with the sledgehammer to the face. It was time for the end, which was similar to the Michaels/Undertaker match at WM26. Hunter was on his knees, Undertaker picked him, hit the Tombstone and that was it after 31 minutes of attrition. The crowd went wild. We appreciated what we saw. A classic wrestling match.
This is the best match I've ever seen live. I'm calling it a five star match. I think it was slightly ahead of last year's match because the story they told was slightly better. The nearfalls were amazing. These two "old" dudes in their 40s gave us a classic wrestling brawl that I will never forget. I watched the broadcast with three friends that used to watch the product all the time during the Attitude Era. They've since outgrown, but I made sure they watched the whole thing. They loved all of it. They marked out for all the big spots. Like I said, it was a story that was perfectly told and a match that was truly unforgettable. The Undertaker is 20-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: The Undertaker (*****)
Post match, Michaels and Undertaker helped Hunter up. They embraced. They walked out together. It was the last time that we'll likely see them involved in the same match at the same time. I'm not sure what the in-ring future is for Undertaker or Hunter and I'm sure the speculation about that will last for many months, but for now I'd rather appreciate this match for the classic it was.
They aired the Hall of Fame video. Then they welcomed all the HOFers on the stage. See the tears in Edge's eyes? He misses being in the ring. And we miss him. I'm glad he had his Hall of Fame moment, though. Big pop for Ric Flair too. I wonder what TNA got out of the deal. I doubt it was very much.
There was a backstage skit with Flo Rida and Heath Slater. We couldn't hear much of it. That's probably for the best.
Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy
There were way too many people at ringside for this match. There weren't just the 12 men involved in the match, but we had another half dozen people outside the ring. It was also a tough spot because they had to follow that Undertaker/Triple H match. I don't remember a whole lot from this except for the amazing way that Dolph Ziggler sold that monkey flip. It made me wish he was in a more high profile match because nobody in this match deserved it more than him. The finishing sequence was pretty cool with everybody hitting their big moves at once. At least Khali wasn't in the ring very much. Of course, Zack Ryder was the reason his team lost because he's booked to be the biggest idiot in the company on a weekly basis. He went for his Broski Boot on Miz, then his "girlfriend" Eve went into the ring for no apparent reason, celebrated with him in anticipation for the move and that delay caused Miz to recover with the Skull Crushing Finale for the win at around 11 minutes. The result was obvious and the right call as well.
Winners: Team Johnny (**1/4)
Post match, Eve kicked Zack in the balls. The next night on Raw, Ryder did nothing to get revenge on her. He acted like a dumbass like usual. His character is over. I heard it. They just don't book him like they should.
Before the next match, John Laurinaitis told CM Punk that if he got himself disqualified he would lose the title. Why wait so long to announce a stipulation like that?
WWE Title: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho's entrance was very cool. When the lights went out, I was cheering. I always cheer for Jericho. He's from Canada (Winnipeg!) you idiot! Punk's entrance was special too. The crowd loved him. The problem with the match was that the first half of it was worked at such a slow pace. Jericho did a great job of riling Punk up to try to get him DQ'd, but it took us a while to really get into it. When they won the crowd over, business picked up as JR might say. How about that Walls of Jericho after Punk was going for a hurricanrana off the top? That was pretty sweet. They did some other really cool spots such as when Punk did the springboard clothesline attempt only for Jericho to counter it with a Codebreaker. I thought that might have been it. I figured Jericho was due for a win at some point since he didn't win the Rumble or Elimination Chamber, but I was proved wrong again. Punk slapped on the Anaconda Vice at the 22 minute mark, Jericho did everything to fight it off like he did multiple times before, but Punk was determined and he won the match after Jericho tapped out. I was expecting great. I wouldn't call it great. It was still very good. Thankfully the feud is continuing, so perhaps they can have the classic match down the road.
Winner: CM Punk (***3/4)
After that match, we knew there would be a breather before the main event. The breather ended up being Brodus Clay calling his momma and dancing with her as well as her bridge club. It wasn't a very good segment, but most in the crowd liked Brodus.
It was Rock/Cena time. There was a brief video package. I thought they'd run a longer one. P. Diddy came out and introduced Machine Gun Kelly, who sang Invincible while John Cena highlights played. It's not a bad song, but I got tired of it. What I found ridiculous was when MGK called Cena an underdog. He's been main eventing for seven years now. He's not an underdog. He deserved to be booed for that statement. John Cena's entrance was full of boos. There was a lot of noise, though, so that let me know the crowd still had plenty of energy to react to everything in the main event.
Flo Rida was next. He sang "Good Feeling" and "Wild Ones" to a lot of cheers from the crowd. It was a fun concert. Lots of energy for him. I'm okay with musical acts if they're good. I think Flo Rida is pretty good, so I had no problems with it.
The Rock's ovation on his entrance was one of the loudest reactions I've ever been a part of. In fact, it's probably at the very top. It was at that moment when I realized that if they had Cena go over as I predicted then there really could have been a riot as the sign in the front row suggested. I've never heard a crowd behind somebody more than they were behind Rock at WrestleMania 28. The fact that it was nearly 80,000 supporting this one man made it that much more impressive.
The Rock vs. John Cena
The best thing I can tell you about being there live was that the entire stadium was loud during the duration of the match. There were chants from beginning to end with "Let's Go Cena/Cena Sucks" being the main one, but also chants for Rocky, Fruity Pebbles and Boots To Asses among others. I doubt I was the only one to notice that The Rock appeared to be winded after about ten minutes. You could tell there were spots in there where he was taking his time to catch his breath. That part where he was working on Cena on the apron with elbows was when you could really tell he was struggling. While I'm sure Rock is in great shape (that's obvious), it's not easy to have a 30 minute match after not having a singles match in seven years. Thankfully, it appeared as though he got his wind back moments after that. I loved the finishing sequence, which isn't a surprise because when it comes to main event matches WWE usually delivers with exciting spots. Rock hit the People's Elbow for two. Cena came back with a rollup for two. I think the most impressive spot of the night happened after that with Rock hitting a crossbody (rare for him), Cena caught him, rolled through and put him on his shoulders for the FU. I really thought that was the end. Remember, I picked Cena to win. It was the kind of spot that people would remember as a finish if they chose to end it there. Rock ended up kicking out at two for one of the best nearfalls you'll ever see. I feel like I've said that a few times in this write-up huh? That reaction for that spot was huge. I can remember looking to my buddy Pete at that point to say how awesome it was to be there live for a moment like that. Cena reacted to it perfectly with a look of shock, wondering what he could do to put this guy. Not sure of himself, Cena went for the People's Elbow. That was his undoing. Rock popped right up, gave him a Rock Bottom and won the match at the 31 minute mark.
They did a lot of things right. I wasn't a huge fan of the bearhug spot because that was too 1990ish (Hogan/Warrior), but they really told a good story with plenty of drama. Cena showed a lot of toughness coming back from everything and Rock showed a lot of heart by holding on while Cena had him in the STF for nearly two minutes as well. The finish was well done. I thought maybe Rock would win after two successive Rock Bottoms. I think it would have been a great spot to have Cena kick out of the Rock Bottom that ultimately was his demise because then Rock would really have to finish him off with another. It was fine how they did it, though. I guess I just wanted the finish to be even more emphatic than it was. Did you hear that pop for the finish? Ridiculously loud. Trust me when I tell you that it was that loud as we emptied out of the stadium that night. It was an amazing feeling to be there live.
Winner: The Rock (***1/2)
Post match, Rock celebrated and we absolutely loved him for it.
The fans were still cheering as the fireworks went off. A great ending to a night where I spent 4.5 hours sitting in my seat, but often times standing as well.
I'll call the show a 7.5 out of 10. To me, the top three matches all delivered the goods. If you have a show where one match is five stars, another is over four stars and a third match is very close to that then it's a very successful show in my opinion. Sure, some of the other matches could have been better and I wish they were, but it's not like the show was hurt that much by any of them, aside from maybe Sheamus/Bryan.
1. Undertaker - He deserved a "you still got it" chant more than anybody.
2. Triple H
3. The Rock
4. John Cena
5. (tie) CM Punk
5. (tie) Chris Jericho
As I wrap this up, big thanks to my man Pete down in Miami for all of his help during the five days I was there. He was very helpful and we had a lot of fun all week. Also a big shoutout to Heather for her assistance as well. There was a crew of eight of us that had a great time in part because of how nice they were to all of us. I also got to meet a lot of TJR readers while down there - I'd guess around 50 or so - and it was very cool to be able to chat with them about a number of wrestling related things. I'm not about to list names because there were so many, but thank you so much for the support through the years. It means a lot.
Thank you Miami. I had a blast.
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM25: *****
2. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
3. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM21: *****
4. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
5. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
6. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM26: *****
7. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
8. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
9. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
10. The Undertaker vs. Triple H @ WM28: *****
11. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM20: ****3/4
12. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle @ WM19: ****3/4
13. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
14. The Undertaker vs. Triple H @ WM27: ****1/2
15. Money in the Bank won by Edge @ WM21: ****1/2
16. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
17. Undertaker vs. Edge @ WM24: ****1/2
18. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WM19: ****1/2
19. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
20. Edge vs. Mick Foley @ WM22: ****1/4
21. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM23: ****1/4
22. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
23. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WM20: ****1/4
24. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
25. Undertaker vs. Batista @ WM23: ****
26. John Cena vs. Triple H @ WM22: ****
27. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WM19: ****
28. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair @ WM24: ****
29. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WM18: ****
30. Money in the Bank won by Ken Kennedy @WM23: ****
31. Chris Jericho vs. Edge @ WM26: ****
32. Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley @WM20: ****
33. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****
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John Canton firstname.lastname@example.org