WWE WrestleMania XXIV
March 30, 2008
By John Canton (@johnreport)
The 24th WrestleMania was held outdoors in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl. It was only the second WrestleMania to be held in an outdoor setting. The 9th WrestleMania was held outdoors in Las Vegas, but this one was in a (American) football stadium. While there were questions about what would happen in the matches, another question simply was what happens if it rains?
Thankfully the rain held off. We'll get to the storylines when the matches happen. There is something else worth mentioning. A few months after this, WWE would go from the TV14 rating that existed for many years to the PG rating that exists to this day. A lot of fans don't like the PG product. Me? I don't think it matters that much. If the stories are good people will watch whether the wrestlers are cutting their heads open or not. The booking and the talent means more than what rating the show has.
For me, my interest in the product was restored. I wrote in the WM23 recap that I was barely watching in the second half of 2007 because of the Benoit murders. Then Jericho came back. Then I ordered the Rumble and realized just how much I missed it. Writing wise, I wasn't fully back. I only wrote a handful of columns that year. I started with the Raw Deal in the spring of 2009 and have been doing it ever since. I've never written about this show or most of the angles surrounding it. Let's see what the 24th WrestleMania brought us.
The first shot was of some fighter jets flying over the stadium. Very cool. John Legend sang America The Beautiful at the top of the stage.
They aired a video package that featured several different wrestlers talking about how big it was to be on the WrestleMania stage. They aired clips of things that happened in the previous year like John Cena's injury, Triple H's return from injury, the returns of Chris Jericho & Big Show, Ric Flair putting his career on the line and Floyd Mayweather appearing on the show. Like always, the video production team did stellar work. Huge crowd. It was also the first WrestleMania in HD, so that's pretty historic.
The announcers for the show were Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler calling the Raw matches, Michael Cole & Jonathon Coachman from Smackdown and Joey Styles & Tazz from ECW.
The first match was a Belfast Brawl between JBL & Finlay. It centered around Hornswoggle, who was revealed to be the son of Finlay even though they originally made it seem that he was Vince McMahon's son. A year earlier JBL was announcing. He decided to return to the ring. JBL was the heel of course and he was out first. Finlay entered along with Hornswoggle.
Belfast Brawl: JBL vs. Finlay
No disqualifications or countouts. You could only win by pinfall or submission in the ring. Early on, Finlay whipped JBL into the ring steps. Finlay threw weapons in the ring like an idiot, so JBL hit him in the head with a garbage can. Crowd was loud for every trash can lid shot to the head. JBL brought the steel steps in the ring. Finlay gave him a back drop to counter a powerbomb. He destroyed JBL with cookie sheet shots to the head. Steel cookie sheet I should add. JBL came back with a boot to the face. JBL had the shillelagh of Finlay. Hornswoggle ran in from behind and hit JBL in the back with a kendo stick. That allowed Finlay to get the shillelagh and he hit JBL in the head with it, sending JBL to the floor. Finlay grabbed a table from under the ring. Huge ovation for that. They fought in the ring with Finlay knocking him down with a left handed clothesline. JBL went to the floor. He decked Hornswoggle with a shot to the head. Is it wrong that I cheered that? No. Finlay saved his "son" and rammed JBL's head into the announce table. JBL went out on the other side of the ring. Finlay charged in, dove between the middle and top rope and JBL crushed him in the head with a trash can lid. Great spot. In the ring, Finlay kicked out at two. JBL threw a trash can at Hornswoggle. Haha that was funny. He nailed Finlay in the head with a trash can. Finlay threw a trash can into JBL's face and then nailed him repeatedly with a trash can lid. Finlay whipped JBL through the table that was set up in the corner. JBL kicked out at two. Nice nearfall. JBL grabbed the kendo stick and hit Finlay in the knee with it. Clothesline from Hell by JBL. He covered for the win at 8:35.
Analysis: **1/2 Good opener. The crowd likes weapons being used, so whenever they hit eachother with weapons the response was generally a favorable one. They are two veteran wrestlers that worked hard and put on a good, physical brawl. I always liked Finlay more as a heel, but he worked well as a babyface in this match.
The lovely Kim Kardashian was the guest hostess. She was famous four years ago? I still don't know why she's famous. I just know she has a ridiculously nice ass, so God bless her for that. She mentioned the Money in the Bank ladder match being up next. Ken Kennedy showed up to say he would win it for the second year in a row. He said "Kennedy" right in her face. She's used to guys doing things in her face. Easy joke. Had to. Now I remember why she's famous. Hmmm.
There were seven men in the Money in the Bank ladder match. First up was one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions, a heel John Morrison. He was a tag champ with Miz and on the ECW brand. The others in the match were heel Carlito (Raw), heel Shelton Benjamin (ECW), babyface CM Punk (ECW), heel Ken Kennedy (Raw), heel MVP (Smackdown) who was the US Champion and babyface Chris Jericho from Raw, who was the IC Champion. In other words, they did not care about the IC, US or tag titles to book them in actual matches. I remember going into it thinking MVP or Jericho was going to win.
Money in the Bank: John Morrison, Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, CM Punk, Ken Kennedy, MVP and Chris Jericho
This was Jericho's WrestleMania return after missing the previous two WMs due to being on hiatus from the company. It was a weird dynamic with seven guys in the match. They all went to the floor early on except for MVP, who had a ladder in the middle of the ring and hit everybody in the face with it. Jericho hit MVP in the face with the ladder. All six announcers called the match, by the way. Morrison grabbed a ladder, climbed the top rope and did a moonsault backwards onto four of the guys. It didn't connect that well, but it was very risky and impressive looking. Crowd popped big for it. Kennedy made a climb, Jericho stopped it and Morrison climbed up on the other side of the ladder to brawl with Kennedy. Benjamin climbed up on a ladder beside them. They did the tower of doom spot with Benjamin doing a sunset flip off the ladder on Kennedy who gave a suplex to Morrison off the other ladder. It was a powerbomb/suplex combo. Amazing. Carlito tried to push Shelton off the ladder, but Shelton landed on the top rope. Eventually he fell down, though. Benjamin climbed up. Punk pulled him down and Punk gave Benjamin the GTS. Kennedy gave Punk a forward roll onto one of the ladders. MVP booted Kennedy out of the ring and then Carlito used a ladder to hit MVP in the back of the knee.
Benjamin hit a spinning kick on Carlito to put him down. JR thought it could be Benjamin's night. That's usually the kiss of death by the commentary team. Benjamin climbed up, but Carlito and Kennedy pushed him off so he did a somersault over the top and landed back first onto a ladder that was set up sideways. Ouch. MVP shoved the ladder when Carlito, Kennedy & Jericho were at the top. Morrison threw a ladder at MVP to prevent him from getting it. Jericho gave Morrison the Walls of Jericho at the top of the ladder. In his book Undisputed Jericho mentioned doing that spot at the 2001 Rumble against Chris Benoit, but said he didn't apply as good the other times he did it. It was still good here, though. Kennedy climbed up, but Jericho was there too. Carlito & Punk also climbed. Kennedy and Punk fell off. Carlito gave Jericho the Back Stabber off the top of the ladder. The only man still standing was MVP. He climbed up. Out of the crowd was Matt Hardy, who was in his ring gear. Hardy gave MVP a Twist of Fate off the top of the ladder. Crowd popped huge for it. Cole reminded us that MVP had taken out Hardy with a knee injury for the previous five months. That was a really cool moment. Hardy left through the crowd. Morrison did this spot where he climbed up the ladder on a bad angle and he got thrown off so he was crotched on the top rope. Crazy bump. Jericho climbed up, but Carlito went up the other side and spit an apple in Jericho's face. Carlito climbed. Kennedy shoved him off. Punk nailed Kennedy off a ladder with a shot to the face. Jericho gave Punk the Codebreaker while Punk had a tiny ladder in his hands. Crazy action. Jericho climbed all alone. Punk recovered. They fought at the top of a ladder. Jericho had it. Punk tripped him up, so Jericho's leg was stuck in between two rungs of the ladder. Punk climbed up and grabbed the briefcase for the win at 13:55.
Winner: CM Punk
Analysis: ***3/4 It lacked some of the dramatic high spots that the first and third MITB matches had. It was still a very good match. They did a nice job of doing finishing moves from the top of the ladder. Some of them were difficult bumps to take, but they pulled it off and impressed me. I wrote at the beginning I thought the winner would be Jericho or MVP, so I was surprised back in 2008 when Punk won. It was a good kind of surprise because I was always a fan of the guy. There were some amazing athletic displays by Benjamin & Morrison especially. Matt Hardy's surprise run-in generated a big reaction too. That was some nice story continuity. It's a shame that only two of the seven guys are still in WWE because all seven of them are very talented and this was only four years ago. They should all still be there in my opinion although I guess it's part of the business to move on. It's just move of them got future endeavored while in their prime or close to it.
Backstage there were shots of John Cena, Randy Orton and Triple H preparing for their match later in the show in their own locker rooms.
There was a video about the Hall of Fame class of 2008, which led to clips of the ceremony from the night before. The class was: Gordon Solie, Eddie Graham, Jack & Gerry Brisco, Mae Young, Peter Maivia and Rocky Johnson. The Rock presented his dad Rocky Johnson and his grandpa Peter Maivia. He also made a comment towards John Cena at this event too, which was pretty memorable. The last inductee was Ric Flair. They went to a live shot in the stadium in Orlando to introduce the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2008, who stood on the stage although in Flair's case it was his family that stood there.
Backstage, Todd "The Nerd" Grisham talked to the Master of Ceremonies of the Playboy Bunnymania Lumberjill Match. Snoop was excited. He brought in Festus for a comedy segment. Santino showed up too. Snoop rang a bell and Festus chased after Santino because if you'll recall Festus was comatose until the bell ring, which then led to him snapping. What a gimmick. Mick Foley showed up. Foley ended it by saying "have a nice dizzle" instead of day at the end. That language is Snoop-ese I think it's called. Bad comedy.
They showed Freddy Prinze Jr. in the crowd. He actually worked for WWE for a few years. Lawler said "the stars had come out" when they showed him. Not really.
There was a Raw vs. Smackdown match next. It was Batista from Smackdown versus Umaga from Raw. Batista was in the World Title match the previous two years, so this was a step back for him. Fireworks went off in the sky for Batista's entrance. He got a really good reaction. I forgot to mention that Teddy Long introduced Batista. William Regal introduced Umaga, which was probably done so we can hear him say UMANGA instead of his actual name. Obviously Umaga was the heel.
Batista vs. Umaga
I like how they tried to convince us that this was an important match for brand supremacy. I don't think any fans really believed that. Batista gave him a shoulderblock to knock Umaga to the floor. In the ring, Umaga hit a nice spinning heel kick. Very athletic for a big guy. A kick to the jaw sent Batista to the floor. Umaga hit in a splash to Batista's back in the center of the ring. Hard whip into the corner sent Batista crashing to the mat. Umaga continued the offense with a nice bodyslam. Umaga went to the middle rope and missed a headbutt as Batista rolled away. Batista couldn't body slam him because his back was hurt. Umaga gave him a vice grip. Batista fought out, but Umaga gave him a Samoan Drop. Batista slowed him down with a boot to the face and he blocked the Samoan Spike. Umaga charged and hit skull first into the steel ring post. Batista gave him the spinebuster. He shook the ropes. Batista hit the Batista Bomb to win at 7:06.
Analysis: *1/4 Boring match. I like both guys, but the chemistry wasn't there. The Batista Bomb was impressive at the end. Otherwise, Batista didn't do much on offense. Batista won for Smackdown, which meant absolutely nothing. Batista was fighting for Smackdown, yet he got drafted to Raw soon after this.
They announced that the Floyd Mayweather/Big Show match had become an "Anything Goes" match with no rules. They showed a clip of Floyd preparing with his crew. There was a tale of the tape for the match with Show weighing 441 pounds and Mayweather weighing 159 pounds.
The Styles/Tazz combo highlighted the pre-show battle royal. Kane won it, last defeating Mark Henry. That meant Kane would get a title shot at the ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero. The GM of ECW Armando Estrada did the intros for Chavo and Kane. Styles said this was the first time the ECW Title would be defended at WrestleMania. It was the last time too.
ECW Title: Chavo Guerrero vs. Kane
Chavo was a heel. He didn't get much of a reaction. Kane was too lazy to walk down the aisle, so he showed up through the crowd and was behind Chavo. Ref rang the bell. Kane gave him a chokeslam. Covered. Kane won in 8 seconds.
Winner and New ECW Champion: Kane
Analysis: NR The ECW brand didn't even last another year. Kane's 8 second win beat the fictional 9 second win of King Kong Bundy that was actually 23 seconds. Weak segment. At least Styles & Tazz had great seats for the rest of the show.
There was a commercial with Carlito talking to Maria. They were having drinks. A seagull flew into Carlito's hair. He battled the seagull, which was biting his nipple at one point. He beat the seagull with punches. That was a WrestleMania 24 commercial. Then a seagull shit on Carlito's shoulder. It was a commercial for an event we were already watching. It was not funny.
Actress Raven Simone was in the ring. "What it is Orlando!" I remember her from the Cosby Show. That makes me feel old. She gave a shoutout to some Make A Wish "Circle of Champions" kids. That was good. Big ovation for that. Lawler: "I'm a huge Raven Simone fan!" That's just creepy.
The video package for the "Career Threatening Match" between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels was next. Michaels was the one that announced that Flair would be an inductee in the 2008 Hall of Fame. Michaels said he idolized Flair and called him the greatest wrestler of all time. The "Leave the Memories Alone" video started up that showed highlights of Ric Flair's career. They skipped ahead to a promo where Vince McMahon told Flair that if he lost one more match then that would be the end of his career. Flair said the best way for him to cap off his career is to wrestle Michaels at WrestleMania. Michaels said he didn't want to be the guy that ended Flair's career. Flair said he needed to know if he could still go with the best and that was Michaels. Michaels said he would do it. The intensity picked up on Raw. Flair slapped him in the face. Michaels said he was going to put Flair out of his misery.
Backstage, Mike Adamle interviewed Ric Flair. He didn't mess up the intro to the interview, so that was good for Adamle. He asked Flair for his game plan. Flair: "My game plan. To be the man. Woo!"
They did the intros for the Career Threatening Match. If Flair lost he retired. If Flair won he got to keep wrestling. Michaels came out first. Huge babyface pop. Flair was next. He got a big ovation as well. In case you were wondering, Flair was 59 years old going into the match while Michaels was 42. Everybody knew who was going to win, but we didn't care. It was a big deal.
Career Threatening Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair
The ref of the match was Charles Robinson, who a lot of people referred to as Lil Nature Boy (or Lil Naitch) over the years. They traded some basic holds early. Flair won an exchange with an arm drag. Lots of "Woo" chants in the crowd. Flair shoved him hard in the chest, so Michaels slapped him in the face and told him he wanted HBK so he got him. Flair's mouth was bleeding. Flair chopped him. Crowd chanted "Woo" with every chop. Flair put him down with a back elbow followed by the patented running knee to the head. Michaels countered a corner charge with an elbow to Flair's mouth. Michaels went up top and Flair threw him off the top rope. That's the typical Flair spot. Then Flair went up, Michaels went to throw him down, but Flair countered that and Flair hit a cross body. He hit a move off the top! Flair went for the Figure Four, but Michaels kicked him out to the floor and then gave him a baseball slide dropkick. Michaels went for a springboard moonsault. Flair moved. Michaels went rib first right into the corner of the announce table, which broke it. Crazy bump. JR: "My God! My God! My God!" The replay showed that Michaels' ribs did hit the corner edge of the table. That had to hurt. Ref Charles Robinson counted him out, but HBK rolled back in at the count of eight. Flair gave him a back suplex for two. Flair gave him a double underhook suplex for two. Nobody believed that was it, but JR was yelling about it as if it was close. Flair gave Michaels a delayed standing vertical suplex for a two count. More chops. Michaels came back with a neckbreaker. He gave Flair a back body drop over the top to the floor. Michaels went to the top rope. He hit a Moonsault onto Flair, who was standing on the floor. Flair really didn't catch him well. You could see Michaels' knee hit the ground pretty hard. They rolled back into the ring at the same time.
Back to their feet, they exchanged more chops. Flair whipped him into the ropes and Michaels came back with a flying forearm to the face of Flair. Michaels hit two atomic drops and then a body slam. Michaels was selling the rib injury. Michaels went to the top rope and hit a Flying Elbow off the top rope. It wasn't one of his better ones, but it did the trick for sure. Michaels "warmed up the band" to set up for the superkick. He stopped at the last second. Flair took advantage of the hesitation to give Michaels the Figure Four Leg Lock to a huge ovation! The crowd was going wild as Michaels tried to fight the move off. It was a sustained loud pop. Michaels turned it around, so Flair got out of it. They did a pinning sequence. They tried to do the spot where Michaels was on the floor and he would bridge up, but Flair couldn't move his body up. You could tell it was a tough move for him to do. Michaels broke it up with a shot to the ribs. Michaels got another nearfall for two off a sunset flip. Flair was really starting to tire at around this point of the match. Flair whipped him in the corner and Michaels took the bump by flipping upside down. Flair gave him a chop block to the back of the knee. Big pop for that vintage Flair spot. Flair went for the Figure Four, Michaels countered with a cradle for two. Great nearfall. Michaels went for an enziguiri, Flair avoided it and put him in the Figure Four Leg Lock one more time. Michaels was in a lot of pain. After about 45 seconds, Michaels got to the ropes. With Michaels in the ropes, Flair stomped away at him. The ref told him to break it up. Flair did his strut. When he turned around…Sweet Chin Music. Wow. That was a perfect one. Both guys were down. Michaels covered. Flair got his shoulder up. Huge reaction for that. Fantastic nearfall right there. Michaels sold the knee injury and he got back to his feet while Flair was still down. Michaels yelled at him to get up. Flair got back to his feet while HBK warmed up the band. Flair hit a low blow without the ref seeing. Big pop for that. Woo! Dirtiest player in the game. Flair covered for a count of two. I love that these two were so good that they could make a low blow into a nearfall. Michaels put Flair into his inverted Figure Four Leg Lock. Flair pulled off a turnbuckle pad. Ref took it away from him. Flair did a thumb to the eye to break the hold. A rollup got two for Flair. They did another chop-fest on their knees. Flair hit him with three chops in a row and then Michaels hit a superkick out of nowhere. Michaels pulled himself to his feet. Flair struggled to get back to his feet. Michaels said the infamous words: "I'm sorry…I love you." Sweet Chin Music to the head of Flair. One…two…three. Michaels wins at 20:23.
Winner: Shawn Michaels
Post match, Michaels said something to Flair while he was on the mat. He kissed Flair on the forehead. Then he walked away.
Moments later, Flair got to his feet. The 70,000+ fans gave him a standing ovation. He was crying. His family at ringside was crying. Flair hugged his family at ringside. He was in tears. The fans continued the standing ovation for several minutes. Flair gave one final wave at the top of the ramp. The crowd was awesome.
Analysis: **** I know people who call this the best match of the show and even the best match of the year. I wouldn't go that far. It was a lot of fun, though. Considering Flair was 59 years old, he needs to be commended for wrestling such a good match against somebody like Michaels, who was considered the very best in the business. How many 59 year old men could wrestle a four start match for 20 minutes? Probably only Ric Flair and maybe Shawn Michaels if he wants to have a match like this in 15 years. It's not easy. The match told a good story with Michaels missing that moonsault that sent him crashing on the table. Flair got the advantage. Michaels came back with his fast paced offense and then Flair focused on the knee. Eventually, though, Michaels came back. The finish was great. They did a lot of classic Flair spots and then Michaels was overcome it all to win with the Sweet Chin Music. A lot of people thought this was really it for Flair. That he was finally retired for good. It ended up being his last match in WWE, but he would move on to TNA where he had some more matches. "I'm sorry…I love you" is one of the more memorable moments in wrestling history, I would say.
Backstage, Todd Grisham talked with the World Heavyweight Champion Edge, who was the heel champion. Edge mentioned watching his hero Hulk Hogan losing at WrestleMania 6 and said that was the day that his innocence was lost. He said people rely on Undertaker to win at WrestleMania. Edge said he was going to crush a kid's spirit that was rooting for Undertaker because he would beat the Deadman. Nice intensity in the promo by Edge.
They fired off a lot of fireworks because the show was at the two hour point, which meant that was the halftime show I guess.
The Playboy Bunny Mania Lumberjill was next up. The Master of Ceremonies was Snoop Dogg. He drove to the ring in a little buggy that had a Mercedes logo in the front because he was probably too high to walk all the way to the ring. The Lumberjill divas slowly walked behind Snoop's car. The Lumberjills were all dressed in evening gown wear. They were Maryse, Michelle McCool, Cherry, Eve Torres, Victoria, Mickie James, Jillian Hall, Katie Lea Burchill, Kelly Kelly and Layla. You have to love Cherry's commitment to the gimmick because she was wearing the roller skates. My favorite of the divas was Mickie James of course. Maryse looked especially hot though. Snoop introduced Maria & Ashley, who were the babyface team even though they were both below average wrestlers. Ashley was in Playboy in 2007 and Maria was in 2008, so that was enough to earn them the match. Why should wrestling matter? If you take off your clothes you get the WM match. I think Linda McMahon should mention that in her political campaigns as her way of saying that women's rights are important. Their opponents were the WWE Women's Champion Beth Phoenix and Melina, accompanied by Santino. He was dating Maria on screen, but he was mad that she went in Playboy so he sided with Beth.
Playboy Bunny Mania Lumberjill Match: Beth Phoenix & Melina vs. Maria & Ashley
If you'll recall, the previous year the match was Ashley vs. Melina, which was awful. Yet here they were in this match. Ashley hit a hurricanrana on Beth early. Crowd didn't care about the match. Maria and Melina were in there so Maria threw her outside the ring. The divas threw her back in. Maria gave Melina a Bronco Buster. Snoop looked very high at ringside. Ashley gave Melina a headscissors. Did I mention the crowd was dead? They did not care. Poor Ashley couldn't even take a shoulderblock right. The heel divas beat up Ashley on the other side of the ring. Beth gave Ashley a bearhug. Melina hit a sloppy moonsault of Beth's shoulders. Maria was slow to break up the count, but Ashley kicked out anyway. Ashley made the hot tag to Maria to no reaction. The lights in the stadium went out. Best part of the match so far. Maria hit a cross body off the middle ropes for two as the lights were still out. Maria hit a sloppy bulldog for two. Lights were still out. Beth accidentally speared Maria. Ashley hit a dive on the floor onto the heel girls, so then the babyface girls ran over to fight with them. Of course they were all dressed up, which meant none of them wanted them to fight too much. Maria hit a sloppy sbulldog off the top. She covered. Santino pulled Maria's foot. The lights were still out as Jerry Lawler walked over to Santino. Finally the crowd makes some noise for Lawler punching Santino in the face. Beth finished off Maria with a Fisherman's Suplex for the win at 5:56. Meanwhile Snoop Dogg at ringside continued to look high.
Winners: Beth Phoenix & Melina
Post match, Santino taunted Maria. Snoop knocked him down with a clothesline, which drew a good pop. Then Snoop kissed Maria on the lips after it was over. I guess he was happy to wake up from his nap.
Analysis: DUD Boring match. It should have been three minutes with these competitors. Beth tried to carry it, but Ashley & Maria were not the right team. The crowd didn't care. Neither did the light crew, since the arena was dark for the finish. At least they used a spotlight to focus on the action in the ring. The clothesline by Snoop after it was over was a good way to get the heat back for the babyfaces.
The video package for the WWE Title was up next. Randy Orton was the heel champ while John Cena and Triple H were the babyface challengers who were coming back from injuries. Hunter missed most of 2007 with his second torn quad injury. In late 2007, John Cena tore his right pectoral muscle. Hunter earned his title shot by winning a #1 Contender's Elimination Chamber match. Cena surprisingly returned at the Royal Rumble and won the match to become the number one contender. He used the title shot at No Way Out instead of WrestleMania, which led to a match he won by DQ meaning he got another title shot. I always thought it was stupid to use the title shot at a PPV like No Way Out when it was always at WrestleMania. It was done to set up this triple threat, though, so I could understand the reasoning. Orton had a good run as the WWE Champion, holding it since October, so it was nearly a six month reign at this point. The other story was that Cena never technically lost the WWE Title since he had to give it up due to injury in October. Going into it I thought Cena would win for sure. He was undefeated at WrestleMania prior to this. I thought they'd build him up with a streak of his own.
John Cena entered as a marching band played his theme song. It was the most unique version of "My Time is Now" that you'll ever hear. He got a lot of cheers. Hunter's entrance took a while. He got a nice ovation too. Orton's song was still the "hey nothing you can say" song that I like more than "I hear voices." Orton was making a lot of angry faces. Cena had more hair here than normal (because of a movie, I think) while Orton had way less tattoos and also more hair. Hunter looks the same.
WWE Title: Randy Orton vs. Triple H vs. John Cena
The rules for the match were that you couldn't get disqualified or counted out. First pinfall or submission inside the ring wins. Orton hit Hunter in the head with the title right before the bell rang. Cena went after Orton. The lights were off in the crowd and the spotlight was on the ring. I guess they felt that was a better lighting situation. Cena worked over Orton, but Hunter recovered and threw Cena out to the floor. Hunter attacked Orton out on the floor. Cena went for a FU on Orton, so Hunter kicked him in the balls. Why prevent him from doing a move? I guess ball shots are fun. Orton knocked down Hunter and did his body stomps on each guy. Orton got two counts on each guy. They did a spot where Cena was on Hunter's shoulders and Orton came off the top with a cross body. Cena rolled through with Orton in his arms. The FU didn't work. Orton ended up hitting a clothesline on Hunter and then one on Cena as well. Some "Let's Go Cena/Cena Sucks" started up. Those are familiar huh? Orton ended up doing his DDT off the ropes on both guys at the same time. It was a bit of a contrived spot with how they set it up, but still cool looking. Cena countered the RKO and hit a blockbuster on Orton followed by the top rope leg drop to the back of the head. Orton ran away from Cena. The chase went out to the floor and Orton tossed Cena into the steel post. Back in the ring, Hunter worked over the knee of Orton. Then he hit a clothesline on Cena. Orton recovered and hit a RKO out of nowhere. Hunter fell out of the ring while Orton was selling the knee injury. Cena put the STFU on Orton. Crowd was cheering loudly. Hunter grabbed Orton's hand and pulled it to the bottom rope. If it's no DQ then a rope break is irrelevant right? Didn't matter. Hunter pulled Cena out of the ring and threw him into the ring steps.
In the ring, Hunter put Orton into an Indian Deathlock submission. The crowd didn't react to it much because Hunter barely used the move. Cena returned to the ring where he hit Hunter to break the hold. Cena threw Hunter into the corner and Hunter took his corner bump where he went flying over the top rope to the floor. Cena put Orton into the STFU again. The crowd was popping louder for Cena's offense than they were for Hunter's offense. While Cena was still applying the hold, Hunter pulled Cena off and put him in the Crossface. Cena made it to the ropes. The ref told him to break it up. Why? I thought it was no DQ? There are no repercussions for keeping the hold on. Hunter and Cena exchanged punches with the crowd popping for every punch thrown. That's fun. Cena came back with the spinning suplex he always does. Cena hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle. The FU didn't work. Pedigree didn't work for Hunter. STFU didn't work for Cena. Hunter hit the facebuster to the knee and then a spinebuster. Orton was on the apron, so Hunter chopped the back of the leg. Cena went for the FU. Hunter fought out of it and hit the Pedigree. Huge pop for that. He covered, but Orton came out of nowhere to punt Hunter in the head. Orton covered Cena for the one…two…three at 14:09.
Winner: Randy Orton
Analysis: ***1/2 Good match. Not great. The story of Orton taking advantage of the situation was really good as a finish. There were some booking issues I had with it, though. I mentioned the rope breaks as something that shouldn't have mattered as much as they did. Also if there was no disqualification, why not utilize weapons more than they did? The match could have been so much more. The effort of all three guys was there. I just think they could have done a better job of putting the match together in order for it to be a greater match. The crowd seemed to care about Cena a lot more than they did Hunter, by the way. A month later they did a four way for the title involving these three and JBL with Hunter walking out the champion. Then a year later we got Hunter vs. Orton again. By the time we got to that one I was sick of Hunter vs. Orton, believe me.
The match between Big Show and Floyd Mayweather was next, so we got the video package for that. Mayweather was an undefeated championship boxer and a big name in the world of sports. They had a confrontation at No Way Out. Show got down to one knee and Floyd punched him in the face. Show went after him, but Floyd and his 57 bodyguards ran away. It's more like 10 guys, but there were still a lot of them. Show's nose was bloody. Show challenged him to a match. They threw out this dollar figure saying that he was getting paid $20 million for it, which was a work. It was probably $2-$3 million, but I don't expect WWE to ever admit that. They showed clips of all the mainstream press they garnered for it. Floyd said he would break Show's jaw. Show picked him up and threw him over the top rope onto a bunch of wrestlers on the floor. Then Floyd's posse made sure he was okay. The whole video package was about five minutes long. The tag line was "The Biggest vs. The Best."
The rules were that you could only win via pinfall, submission or by a knockout. No disqualifications once again. Big Show made his entrance. He was a heel, but I think a lot of fans were rooting for him because Mayweather came off as very arrogant even though he was the babyface. The official weigh in was Big Show at 441 pounds while Mayweather was 159 pounds. Mayweather made his entrance. He had six guys accompanying him and money was flying everywhere since his nickname was "Money." When he made it into the ring, his manager went in as well. Fireworks went off for his entrance. Mayweather was 39-0 and the WBC Welterweight Champion, so he was legitimately one of the best boxers alive. Whether he was liked, that's a different story.
No Disqualification Match: Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather
Floyd was wearing these small red gloves on his hands and baggy shorts. Show tried to grab him, but Floyd used his speed to avoid him. Floyd got some body shots to the ribs of Show followed by some quick shots to the head while Show was unable to hit him. Floyd drank some water out of a cup, Show charged in and knocked down one of Floyd's guys. Show pulled one of them into the ring and gave him a big chop to the chest. Show grabbed Floyd's right hand. He tried to stomp on it. Didn't happen. Floyd managed to get on Show's back and put him in a sleeper, which Show tried to fight out of. Show knocked Floyd down and stomped on his left hand. Floyd sold it as if it was broken. Show chopped Floyd hard in the chest, which drew the biggest pop of the match. Show stepped on his back. Floyd kicked at him, but Show picked him up and gave him a side slam. Show dropped a leg on the arm, stepped on Floyd's ribs and then delivered a headbutt. Elbow drop by Show. The crowd reacted to Show's attack although I think they were cheering him. Floyd's crew grabbed him and walked him up the aisle. Show chased after them, knocking them down. They went back in the ring. One of Floyd's guys ran into the ring, so Show knocked him down with a punch. Show went to chokeslam Floyd. A bodyguard of Floyd ended up hitting Show in the back with a steel chair to prevent that. Show gave him a chokeslam. Floyd got the chair. He hit Show in the stomach and then in the back. Show choked him. Crowd cheered. Mayweather countered a chokeslam with a low blow. Chair to the head by Floyd. Then two more chair shots to the head. Floyd took off his glove. He grabbed the gold chain of one of his bodyguards, putting it around his fist. Show was groggy. He was on his knees. Floyd punched him right in the face with the chain wrapped around his right hand. Ref Scott Armstrong counted Big Show down. He couldn't get up before the count of 10 so Floyd won at 11:36.
Winner: Floyd Mayweather via knockout
Analysis: ** It was okay for a celebrity match. You're not going to pay that much money, however much it was, to have him lose. The problem is a lot of people hated Floyd because he came off as such a cocky guy and didn't do a good job of being a traditional babyface, which he should have been. Show was a great bully in the buildup to the match. The easiest story to tell in wrestling is the big guy versus the little guy. They told that story well. Could have done it better, though. I wonder if Floyd was difficult to work with or if he just didn't understand the best role for him would be that of a traditional babyface. Looking back at it today, I understand why they brought Floyd to WrestleMania in the first place, but the execution of the angle could have been handled a lot better. I'm guessing he wasn't an easy guy to work with. I would blame him rather than the company.
They plugged WrestleMania 25 in Houston for the next year. The last WrestleMania held in a regular hockey/basketball arena was Chicago in 22. Every one from 23 to 29 has been held in a larger NFL sized football stadium. Will WM30 see a return to Madison Square Garden? I doubt it. If you can sell 65,000+ tickets everywhere you might as well keep doing it.
The WrestleMania guest hostess Kim Kardashian was in the ring. Even though I still don't know why she was famous, I can't deny that she was a fine looking woman. Her fake enthusiasm was almost as good as her ass. Almost. That ass is pretty damn special. She announced the attendance as 74,635 people.
We got the video package for the main event, which was Edge defending Smackdown's World Title vs. The Undertaker. There was a video about Undertaker's streak, which was at 15-0. Edge cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase on Undertaker in 2007. They had a long feud that followed that saw Edge win the title at Armageddon 2007 in a three way with Batista, who was the champion at that point. Undertaker earned the WrestleMania title match by winning an Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out. Edge had a promo about being undefeated at WrestleMania even though that wasn't true. He didn't win his Money in the Bank match at WM23, but he did get the briefcase from Ken Kennedy to win the title from Undertaker. Technically speaking Edge was 5-1 going into this match. Edge had a lot going in his favor since he was with the Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero and he also had Edgeheads at his side, who were Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder. The video package didn't even mention Undertaker's win in the Elimination Chamber match.
Undertaker made his entrance first. It took nearly five minutes. The announcers for the match were Michael Cole & Jonathon Coachman, which was a bit of a disappointment. They were the Smackdown announcers, though. Edge made his entrance. My favorite theme song in wrestling history. He made Teddy Long wheel out Edge's fiancée Vickie, who was in a wheelchair because Undertaker gave her a Tombstone. He got a good luck kiss from her. The announcers pointed out that Edge cost Undertaker the title on three separate occasions, so the buildup was very good.
World Heavyweight Title: Edge vs. Undertaker
Do I have to mention Edge was the heel while Undertaker was the face? Guess I just did. Why did the announcers continue to overlook that Edge didn't win at Mania the year before? Odd. Undertaker opened up with power. Undertaker hit a leaping clothesline as Cole busted out a "vintage Undertaker" early. Undertaker went for the Old School clothesline, Edge flung him off the top rope and Undertaker rolled through it. Undertaker hit a running knee into the corner. Then he went over the top to the floor. That was a weird bump that I don't remember Undertaker doing before. Edge gave him a shoulderblock off the apron and Undertaker went crashing into the security wall outside the ring. Edge drove him back first into the side of the ring. Neckbreaker on the ropes. Edge continued the assault in the ring. Undertaker couldn't give him a body slam because his back was too sore. Edge hit a dropkick. He went to the top rope, but Undertaker shoved him. Edge went crashing to the floor. You know what that means? Undertaker ran the ropes and jumped over the top rope onto Edge on the floor. That no hands plancha by Undertaker is one of the most impressive moves in the business. I don't care how many times he does it. It's always a great move to me. Leg drop on the apron leading to another "vintage Undertaker" from Cole. The crowd was pretty quiet early on, but ever signature Undertaker spot generated a good reaction. Undertaker went for the Last Ride. He couldn't lift him because the back was hurting. Edge gave him a boot to the face for the count of two. Edge threw Undertaker over the security wall so Undertaker was in the front row. He took the bump back first too. Edge rolled him back in the ring for a count of two.
The focus on the back continued by Edge. He applied a single leg Boston Crab variation with his knee buried into the back of Undertaker. Undertaker fought out of the hold as well as another leg submission hold. They did the "yay - boo" punch exchange in the middle of the ring as the crowd came alive. Undertaker won the slugfest. He hit two corner splashes, then the Snake Eyes and Edge countered the big boot with a dropkick to the face. That was sweet. The match kicked into another gear at this point. The crowd became louder too. Undertaker went for a chokeslam. Edge countered with the leaping Edgecution DDT for two. Another sweet counter gets two. Undertaker hit a chokeslam for two. Edge prevented the Old School Clothesline again, crotching Undertaker on the top rope. Edge hit a superplex for two. Edge gave Undertaker punches in the corner, then posed in the corner and Edge countered the Last Ride into a neckbreaker for two. The announcers did a good job of pointing out how Edge was doing a fantastic job of countering Undertaker's moves. Undertaker came back with the Last Ride powerbomb for one…two…no. Terrific nearfall right there. Undertaker went for the Tombstone. Edge slipped out of it and hit the Edge-o-matic neckbreaker for two. Undertaker came back. He finally hit the Old School Clothesline. Big boot was avoided by Edge, so Undertaker gave the boot to referee Jimmy Korderas. Reverse DDT for Edge. Undertaker gave him a choke, so Edge kicked him in the nuts. No ref to see the disqualification there. Edge stole a camera. That was a nod to Survivor Series when he hit Undertaker in the head with a camera. He hit Undertaker in the head here. Ref was still out. Undertaker sat up. Edge went for the Tombstone. Undertaker countered it. He hit the Tombstone. Ref Charles Robinson SPRINTED DOWN TO THE RING! RUN FORREST RUN! I MEAN RUN CHARLES RUN! That was an amazing sprint by Little Naitch. He was by far the fastest person to get down to the ring at this event. He counted to two. Edge kicked out. That nearfall was also excellent. Suddenly, Hawkins & Ryder ran out. Undertaker gave Ryder a chokeslam onto Hawkins on the floor. Edge used that attack to hit Undertaker with an unsuspecting Spear for two. Vintage awesome nearfall in a long WrestleMania match. I added that one. Edge hit another Spear. Undertaker put him into the submission move that we would come to know as Hell's Gate over the years. Edge tapped out at 23:50. The Undertaker is 16-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: The Undertaker
Analysis: ****1/2 Great match. The way they told the story of Edge countering all of Undertaker's big moves was very smart because it put over how intelligent Edge was. Things like that give a wrestler a lot of credibility that is otherwise difficult to attain. I think their Hell in a Cell match at Summerslam 2008 that ended this feud was the better match, but this was better as a match without a gimmick involved. It was mostly a match that took place in the ring and it told a very good story while getting the right amount of time. I think the first half of the match was a bit slow although they did it that way to build up the story of Undertaker fighting through the back injury. As was always the case in an Undertaker match, the finishing sequence was phenomenal as each guy hit their big moves and the crowd loved every second of it. I was very proud of Edge in his first WrestleMania main event. I saw him start in the indies here in Ontario 11 years before this as Sexton Hardcastle, so to see him perform so well on the big stage made me quite happy as the local boy had done good. This was Undertaker's second straight awesome match at WrestleMania. His streak would continue for the three that followed and who knows for how many years after that.
To end the show, the Undertaker celebrated with the World Heavyweight Title as the stadium went blue and fireworks went off.
The show ended as always with the video package that highlighted the key moments from the event.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- The booking of the Michaels/Flair match was excellent. I doubt it was easy to plan some of the spots and make them believable nearfalls because everybody knew Flair was losing. I don't think you could have expected much more in terms of quality. Like I wrote, how many guys could wrestle for 20 minutes at the age of 59? Flair's a machine out there. He proved it one more time. Best way for me to sum it up is by saying I liked it a lot. That was Flair's last match in WWE…we think…for now…maybe…unless he comes back…changes his mind…gets divorced again…oh you get the point.
- I think the Floyd Mayweather experiment can be classified as a failure more than a success. It would have been nice if he embraced the underdog role a bit more. I don't think his ego would let him do that. As a result, the match didn't feel like heel vs. face. It feel like Big Show versus a cocky asshole who felt he was entitled to something.
- For as much as Jim Ross tried to make the Orton/Cena/Triple H match into an epic they really didn't give us that. It wasn't that bad. It's just that a lot of people expected more going into it. Of course a year later they did Orton vs. Triple H again and put them on last when they shouldn't have done that.
- I can remember reading discussions online after the show from people that wondered if they ended the show with the right match. They definitely could have ended with the Flair match because it was such a rollercoaster that it was tough for anything to follow it. I liked ending it with Undertaker. A major title match should go on last especially when two guys had a long feud like Edge and Undertaker did. It was a strong win for a babyface to end the show. It worked for me.
- The Charles Robinson sprint in the main event was classic!
Best Match: Undertaker vs. Edge - I think Michaels/Flair is more memorable, but this one was better.
Worst Match: Beth Phoenix & Melina vs. Maria & Ashley - Crowd didn't care. Snoop was high. That was it, really.
Most Memorable Moment: "I'm sorry…I love you." - A little cheesy, but touching too.
1. Ric Flair - His last match ever…in WWE. Have to give him the nod for that effort.
2. Edge - Really worked his ass off in his first true WrestleMania main event.
3. Shawn Michaels - Mr. WrestleMania did it again.
4. The Undertaker - Another great WM match from the Deadman in his 40s.
5. CM Punk - Still shocked they put him over in this match.
Honorable mention to Charles Robinson for the run of course.
Show rating (out of 10): 7.5
An excellent show. The highlights were two four star matches between Undertaker/Edge and Michaels/Flair, plus a very good Money in the Bank match, a solid WWE Title match and Mayweather's match was okay for what it was. I wasn't a fan of the divas match or Batista/Umaga, but Finlay/JBL impressed me in the opener. Then there was Chavo/Kane, which was totally forgettable. Still, for a four hour show they booked it very well. Plus, did I mention Kim Kardashian has a really nice ass? Okay then.
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM21: *****
3. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
4. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
5. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
6. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
7. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
8. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM20: ****3/4
9. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle @ WM19: ****3/4
10. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
11. Money in the Bank won by Edge @ WM21: ****1/2
12. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
13. Undertaker vs. Edge @ WM24: ****1/2
14. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WM19: ****1/2
15. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
16. Edge vs. Mick Foley @ WM22: ****1/4
17. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM23: ****1/4
18. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
19. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WM20: ****1/4
20. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
21. Undertaker vs. Batista @ WM23: ****
22. John Cena vs. Triple H @ WM22: ****
23. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WM19: ****
24. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair @ WM24: ****
25. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WM18: ****
26. Money in the Bank won by Ken Kennedy @WM23: ****
27. Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley @WM20: ****
28. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****
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John Canton firstname.lastname@example.org