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A2Z Analysis: WWE WrestleMania XXIV (Edge, Undertaker)

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The Citrus Bowl – Orlando, FL – Sunday, March 30, 2008

MATCH #1: Belfast Brawl – Finlay vs. JBL

I actually arrived to my WrestleMania party a bit late, so this will be my first time seeing this match in full. Finlay brings Hornswoggle out with him. JBL attacks Finlay at ringside and we’re off and running. He tries to throw Finlay into the steps but it gets reversed and they head into the ring and we hear the opening bell. Finlay grabs some weapons from under the ring and JBL uses them to his advantage. JBL even brings the ring steps into the match. Finlay avoids a piledriver on the steps with a back body drop and now he goes to work on his larger opponent. This is an inter-promotional match, but JR and King get to call it and they don’t even mention that fact. Finlay is making his third WrestleMania appearance, while JBL is making his seventh. Hornswoggle introduces the shillelagh to the match and Finlay uses is to his advantage. Finlay brings tables into the match. JBL attacks Hornswoggle and pays for it by Finlay’s hand. Finlay tries a dive to the floor but takes a Chris Benoit bump off a trash can lid. Back in the ring Finlay actually resumes control and throws JBL through a table but gets a two count. JBL comes back with a kendo stick to the knee and a Clothesline from Hell that ends the match at 8:35. That was a fun brawl but probably would not be the match I chose to open the biggest show of the year.
Rating: **¾

MATCH #2: Money in the Bank Ladder Match – Chris Jericho vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison vs. Carlito vs. CM Punk vs. MVP vs. Mr. Kennedy

This is Jericho’s seventh ‘Mania match, Benjamin’s fifth, Morrison’s first, Carlito’s second, Punk’s second, MVP’s second, and Kennedy’s second. Benjamin has been in two other Money in the Bank matches, Jericho, Punk and Kennedy have been in one other, and this is Morrison, Carlito, and MVP’s first time. Morrison is one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions, MVP is the United States Champion, and Chris Jericho is the Intercontinental Champion. There’s a lot of gold in the lineup here. Jeff Hardy was supposed to be in this match, but he had Wellness problems and got himself suspended. This one is going to be hard to call. The entire commentary crew is on board for this one.

Morrison delivers the first high spot with a ladder-assisted Moonsault to the floor. He didn’t really hit anyone though. Kennedy, Morrison, and Benjamin fight on top of two ladders, and Benjamin almost grabs the case. Instead he hits a sunset bomb on Kennedy, who suplexes Morrison at the same time. That was neat. Punk gets back in the ring and goes for the briefcase, and hits the Go to Sleep on Benjamin. Kennedy then hits Punk with a Finlay roll on a ladder. Carlito takes out MVP and goes up, but Benjamin pulls him down. He goes up for the case, but Carlito and Kennedy tip the ladder over and Benjamin takes a SICK bump onto a ladder at ringside. Carlito, Kennedy, and Jericho are all on the ladder now and MVP pushes them over. Morrison then takes out MVP. Morrison climbs but Jericho puts the Wall of Jericho on him on top of the ladder. That move doesn’t make a lot of sense in this context. Kennedy sets up a ladder next to them, and King calls the Walls the Lion Tamer, which I like. Punk gets back in but knocked down pretty quickly. Jericho almost gets the case but Carlito hits him with the Backstabber. Everyone is down now except for MVP. He almost gets the case, but MATT HARDY runs in from out of nowhere and delivers the Twist of Fate off the ladder, and MVP is down. Morrison almost grabs the case but ends up falling on the ropes instead. Jericho almost gets it but Carlito spits apple in his face. Carlito almost grabs the case but Kennedy knocks him down. Punk then knocks Kennedy down, and then Jericho delivers the Codebreaker to Punk with a ladder. Jericho climbs up and Punk goes up after him. They fight over the case and Punk is able to tie one of Jericho’s legs in a rung of the ladder and that gives him the opening he needs to grab the case and earn a title shot at 13:55. It’s pretty great to see a former ROH star get this kind of win at the biggest WWE show of the year. This was a hell of a spot-fest and the right guy went over. I like this yearly tradition.
Rating: ****

MATCH #3: Battle for Brand Supremacy – Batista vs. Umaga

Raw GM William Regal and Smackdown Assistant GM Theodore Long are present to represent their brands. It’s a brawl to start, with both guys trying to assert their dominant power over the other guy. Batista knocks Umaga to the floor first and Umaga gets back in the ring and slugs on Batista. He knocks Batista to the apron and delivers a big kick to the face and Batista takes a hard bump to the floor. Back in the ring Umaga stays on offense. He misses a headbutt from the second rope, but when Batista tries to lift him up for a slam Umaga falls back on him for two. He then goes to the dreaded nerve pinch hold. Batista powers out of the hold but Umaga then nails a Samoan Drop for a near fall. Umaga drags Batista over to the corner but Batista gets up and hammers away. The crowd starts to boo for some reason. Umaga recovers and whips Batista to the corner and he gets a boot up to more boos. He motions for the Samoan Spike and the crowd cheers, but again boos when Batista blocks it. Umaga charges into the corner and Batista moves out of the way and cracks his head on the ring post. Batista then hits the spinebuster and an ugly Batista Bomb and that’s all at 7:06. I was excited for this match but it was pretty disappointing. They did too many rest holds for a seven minute match, and nothing ever seemed to go anywhere. The crowd turning on Batista was a little puzzling and I don’t remember that from watching it live.
Rating: *¾

MATCH #4: ECW Championship Match – Chavo Guerrero vs. Kane

Chavo has been the champion since 1.22.08 and this is his third defense. They show clips of the battle royal that occurred before the pay-per-view broadcast, which I’ll be reviewing later in this DVD. Kane won, last eliminating Mark Henry, to earn this title shot. ECW GM Armando Estrada is on hand to do the ring introductions. This is the first time the ECW Title has been defended at WrestleMania. Kane appears in the ring behind Chavo, the bell rings, Kane hits a chokeslam, and it’s over at 0:09. That would be the real shortest match in WrestleMania history.
Rating: DUD

MATCH #5: Career Threatening Match – Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels

They start off slowly, with Michaels asserting his quickness, and Flair doing his best to keep up. Michaels slaps Flair in the face and Flair’s mouth is bleeding. Flair unleashes the chops early on. The crowd is definitely behind Flair in this one. Flair actually hits the cross body off the top, and then starts going to work on the leg, even trying the figure-four, but Shawn kicks him to the floor. Shawn tries an Asai Moonsault but Flair moves and Shawn takes a nasty bump on the table that legitimately could have broken his ribs. Back in the ring Flair gets a near fall and goes to work on Shawn’s certainly injured ribs. A vertical suplex gets two. Michaels comes back and back body drops Flair to the floor, and then this time connects with a Moonsault off the ropes. Back in the ring at nine, they trade chops for a bit, and then Michaels hits the flying forearm. He follows up with the Savage Elbow and motions for Sweet Chin Music. The crowd reaction here is great. Michaels doesn’t pull the trigger and Flair grabs the legs and puts on the Figure-Four Leglock. Michaels turns it over but Flair quickly gets the ropes. They trade some near falls but neither man can hold the other down. Flair goes back to the leg with a chop block. Flair tries the Figure-Four again but Michaels gets a small package for two. Michaels tries an enziguiri but Flair ducks and this time gets the Figure-Four. Michaels reaches the ropes and the crowd disapproves. Flair styles and profiles, and that gives Michaels the chance to hit Sweet Chin Music but he’s slow to follow up. He finally covers and Flair is able to kick out at two. Michaels tries a go-behind but Flair hits a classic low blow. Michaels kicks out at two. He gets up and puts on his weirdo version of the figure-four. Flair reaches the ropes and delivers a thumb to the eye for good measure. A schoolboy rollup gets two. They get up and trade chops again, and Michaels hits another Superkick out of nowhere. Michaels gets up and goes to the corner for Sweet Chin Music, but he looks hesitant. Flair knows what’s coming. Michaels clearly says “I’m sorry, I love you.” He then delivers Sweet Chin Music and ends Ric Flair’s career at 20:23. Sure, Flair is a bit slower than he used to be, but this match is what wrestling is all about. It is brilliant storytelling, and a beautiful match between the two greatest wrestlers that ever wrestled. I know many disagree with the rating, but I love this match.
Rating: *****

MATCH #6: Playboy Bunny Mania Lumberjack Match – Maria & Ashley vs. Beth Phoenix & Melina

Ashley and Maria have both been on the cover of Playboy. This would be a real Bunny Mania match if they were fighting Chyna & Sable with Torrie Wilson as the referee. Snoop Dogg is the Master of Ceremonies here. Santino Marella is accompanying Phoenix and Melina to the ring. Ashley and Beth start the match and it’s the usual awkward women’s wrestling from the get-go. Maria and Melina get in the match and it’s more of the same. Ashley tags in and hits some weak looking offense, including a headscissors and a Facebuster. Melina comes back and the crowd couldn’t care less about any of it. Beth and Melina double-team Ashley for a while. For some reason, the lights go out and they quickly get a spotlight on the ring. Guess what? The crowd still doesn’t care. Maria hits a top rope bulldog on Beth, but Santino pulls her off the pin. Lawler has had enough and he leaves his post to go knock Santino out. Maria is distracted long enough for Beth to hit the Fisherman Buster to get the pin at 5:56. That was the usual brutal WWE women’s match with no heat. After the match Snoop knocks Santino down with a clothesline and then makes out with Maria.
Rating: ¼*

MATCH #7: Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship – Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H

Orton has been the champion since 10.7.07, and this is his sixth defense. The viewers’ poll shows that 52% are picking John Cena, 40% Triple H, and only 8% are going for Orton. It starts as an intense brawl right away and soon spills to the floor. Back in the ring HHH puts Orton in the sleeper but he escapes when Cena tries to FU both of them. Orton takes them both down and goes to work. Cena and HHH both get up soon and the action in this one is fast and furious. Cena tries the FU on Orton but it gets reversed to a sunset flip for two. Orton nails both Cena and HHH with the rope-assisted DDT but can’t pin either of them. He tries the RKO on Cena but gets shoved off into HHH. Cena hits the Throwback and goes up top to hit the legdrop on the back of the neck. He goes for the STFU but Orton bails. Orton throws Cena into the ring post, but when he gets back in the ring HHH goes to work on the leg. Cena gets back in and HHH knocks him down too. Orton hits an RKO out of nowhere on HHH, who then rolls to the floor. JR makes a few statements of varying degrees of truth, saying Orton was awarded the title back in October (true), lost it to Triple H (true), Triple H defended it three times that night (false, twice), and that Orton won it back in a falls-count-anywhere street fight (false, it was a Last Man Standing match). Orton and Cena get up and Cena locks on the STFU. HHH helps Orton escape, but Cena gets it back on a few moments later. Once again HHH breaks it up and locks Cena in the crossface. Cena escapes and he and HHH go at each other while Orton gets a breather. Orton almost gets back in but HHH hits his leg again. Moments later HHH hits the Pedigree on Cena. Before he can pin him, Orton punts HHH in the head and pins Cena himself to retain at 14:09. That was shorter than I expected but a great deal of fun and a huge shock to see Orton go over.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #8: The Biggest vs. The Best – Big Show vs. Floyd “Money” Mayweather

This feud started off very cool, but there was a lot of awkward booking that kind of diluted the effectiveness of it. Still this is a WrestleMania spectacle match if there ever was one, and much more interesting than Show’s match at WrestleMania 21 against Akebono. Mayweather has his whole entourage with him, but Big Show comes alone.

Show comes out swinging, and Mayweather uses his quickness to avoid him in the early going. One of Mayweather’s boys gives him water from a chalice, which is great, and then Show destroys that guy out of annoyance. Mayweather comes back with some right hands and climbs on Big Show’s back with a sleeper, just like “The Princess Bride.” Show gets out of it and stomps on one of his hands, which is a great idea. The wrestler is in firm control now. He chops Mayweather and stands on his back. Mayweather tries to fight back, but Show grabs him and hits a side suplex a la Dino Bravo. Show continues to dominate. Mayweather decides to bail, but Show will have no part of that and chases him down the aisle and brings him back to the ring. Show goes for the chokeslam but another member of the entourage hits him with a chair. That doesn’t do much, so Show chokeslams him instead. Mayweather picks up the chair now and hits Show in the stomach, then the back. Show grabs him by the throat, and Mayweather counters with a low blow and cranks Show in the head with the chair three straight times. Mayweather grabs a pair of brass knuckles and levels Show in the face with them. That keeps Show down for the 10-count and Mayweather wins the match at 11:36. I think that was way better than anyone expected it to be, and Show proved his worth to the company and that he’s a much better worker than anyone gives him credit for. Mayweather did a great job too, being cocky at first and then getting desperate when he realized that Show could squash him at any time. He should have sold the beating he received on his way to the back, but for a first match he did a better job than a lot of wrestlers I’ve seen.
Rating: ***¼

MATCH #9: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Edge vs. Undertaker

Edge has been the champion since 12.16.07, and this is his fourth defense. I love Undertaker’s WrestleMania feuds, because all they have to do is bring up the streak and presto! Just for fun, Undertaker has defeated, in order – Jimmy Snuka, Jake Roberts, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Sycho Sid, Kane, Big Boss Man, Triple H, Ric Flair, Big Show & A-Train, Kane again, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, and Batista. They keep trying to sell Edge as undefeated at WrestleMania, but he did not win the Money in the Bank match that he was in last year and to me that counts as a loss. They should have never booked him in that match; people were even saying that last year.

Edge refuses to be intimidated by Undertaker and goes right after him. Undertaker hits a “physical clothesline,” which I guess is harder than a regular one. They go outside for a brief moment and then back in Undertaker slugs away at the champion. Undertaker hits the flying clothesline, or “vintage Undertaker,” and I realize that it’s the commentary that makes Undertaker matches so hard to enjoy sometimes. Edge is able to toss Undertaker over the ropes and he tries to recover in the ring. Undertaker gets on the apron and Edge spears him down, and when he tries once again and Edge hits a baseball slide. I guess that makes him the “master manipulator.” Edge keeps Undertaker on the floor, which is pretty good strategy by the champion. Back in the ring finally, Edge maintains control and works over the back. Edge goes to the top rope and Undertaker shoves him down to the floor and soars over the top rope with a nice tope. Back in the ring Undertaker gets a near fall. He goes for the Last Ride but Edge blocks it and hits a big boot to the face for a two count. They go back outside the ring and Edge back suplexes the challenger on the guardrail and into the crowd. Undertaker makes it back to the ring and Edge puts on a half Boston Crab. Undertaker rolls through it to a cradle for two, but Edge goes right back to the hold. They get back to their feet and exchange blows, but you know the Undertaker is the “best pure striker in sports-entertainment history.” Edge comes back and tries a flying axe handle but Undertaker grabs him by the throat. Edge avoids it once, and counters it a second time into a DDT, but Undertaker kicks out at two. Edge goes for the spear but Undertaker kicks him in the face and this time hits the Chokeslam for two. Undertaker goes for the rope walk, but Edge counters it and hits a superplex for a near-fall. Now Edge stupidly goes for the punches in the corner and Undertaker tries the Last Ride but Edge slips out and hits a neckbreaker. Undertaker comes back and this time hits the Last Ride but Edge actually kicks out at two! Now Undertaker goes for the Tombstone but Edge again counters and hits the Edge-o-Matic for two. Why don’t they call it that anymore? Undertaker comes back and tries a big boot but Edge moves and the referee takes it instead. Edge hits a falling DDT like Christian used to do, and decides to talk trash, so Undertaker grabs him by the throat. The champ wisely counters that with a kick to the junk. Edge goes out and grabs one of the cameras and levels Undertaker with it. He tries to revive the referee and Undertaker sits up. Edge goes for the Tombstone and Undertaker reverses it and hits one of his own but there’s no referee. Charles Robinson sprints down to the ring, and that’s a long run, but by the time he gets there Edge is able to kick out. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder come down to try and interfere but Undertaker dispatches them in short order. That gives Edge the chance to hit a Spear but Undertaker kicks out at two! Edge hits another Spear, but Undertaker grabs onto him with a Gogoplata, and Edge taps out at 23:50 and Undertaker goes to 16-0. Annoying commentary aside this was a terrific match and showed that Edge belonged in the main event of WrestleMania. He wrestled a smart match did a lot of cool reversals, and Undertaker was his usual reliable self.
Rating: ****

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