Wrestlemania 21: Instant Thoughts.
It’s 11:46 on the East Coast, and I just got back from watching Wrestlemania 21 at a local sports bar here in Jacksonville, Florida. I haven’t read a single online recap or review of the card thus far, and I don’t plan on doing so until I’ve got this finished and shipped out to Widro. I don’t want to be influenced by anything I might read about the show, either positive or negative. I just want to give my unbiased, unaffected reaction to the biggest wrestling show of the last calendar year:
Before we start, I want to go ahead and mention a little fact that many on the net seem to have forgotten long ago: Wrestlemania is supposed to be fun. It’s not always about who has the best workrate, or who has the most backstage clout, or who has the best highspot to resthold ratio. I’m not one of those dopey cynics who bashes Hogan/Andre, Hogan/Warrior, or Hogan/Rock because of the abscence of dangerous planchas.
When Wrestlemania rolls around, I like to just sit back, smile, and be a wrestling fan.
In the next few minutes, I’m going to give my segment-by-segnment thoughts on Wrestlemania 21. I won’t be recapping the matches, analyzing psychology, or providing much groundbreaking information. I’m much too tired for that. Instead, I’m just going to give my honest, brief reaction to each match.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero.
In all honesty, I didn’t really get a chance to pay as much attention to this match as I would have liked. People were still running madly around in search of seats, and my brother was outside talking to his girlfriend on the phone. Instead of watching the match carefully, I instead spent most of the first five minutes of Mania trying to protect his chair with my life.
When he finally came back in, I was able to focus my attention back on the big screens. Overall, it looked to be a really solid opener, but unfortunately, it’s hard not to go into any Rey-Eddie match expecting a Halloween Havoc ’97 type performance. In all fairness, that was truly a once in a lifetime match, but I think most people were certainly expecting something on that level.
As far as the actual match went, regardless of who he’s facing, you can always count on Rey to bring the insane ring gear to his big matches, and tonight did not disappoint. He could have wrestled Uncle Elmer to a 60 minute time limit draw, and I would stilll be in awe of those bad ass white tights. They were certainly on par with his Halloween Havoc tights, and in my eyes, were even better than his WMXIX leotards.
The match reminded me alot of Rey’s opening match with Matt Hardy at WMXIX. You really got the sense that it could have gone somewhere great with about 10 more minutes, but as it stood, it was just an average match for both guys. They fit as much as they could into the 10 minutes or so that they were given, and both should be proud of their effort.
As a Wrestlemania opener, all time complaints aside, it did an absolutely wonderful job of getting the crowd warmed up and getting the PPV off to a good start.
Even though both men, and Eddie in particular, looked pretty nervous out there tonight, you certainly can’t fault them for the match not living up to expectations. They weren’t given much time to work with, and if anything, management probably kept the match short because they knew Eddie and Rey would blow the roof off the place and risk overshadowing the later matches if they were given 18-20 minutes to work with.
I’ll throw in the obligatory star ratings, but keep in mind, I’m factoring in fun along with match quality. I’m not one of those dopes who’s going to give Hogan/Rock from Mania X8 a DUD because Hogan didn’t utilize any twisting topes or leg-based psychology. That’s stupid. This is Wrestlemania, so my ratings will instead reflect the enjoyment the average fan got from each match.
Eddie-Rey was a solid *** opener, which roughly translates to “both men did the most they could with what they were given.”
Six-Way Ladder Match:
I know a lot of people on the internet were just fuming about this match. While I agree that guys like Jericho and Benoit would probably be better served in big one-on-one matches, I was really, really excited that they decided to pull the trigger on this one.
For the last 11 years, ladder matches have been an absolutely huge part of Wrestlemania. No, there haven’t been a ton of them, but each and every one has been a show-stealing match. I’ll take one unforgettable match over three, 12 minute midcard matches any day of the week. While history was on the side of the Six-Way match, it could have just as easily worked against it.
While the three major TLC matches that the WWE put on were absolutely incredible, they also served to almost single-handedly kill off the basic ladder match. They were just so crazy and so dangerous that it’s hard to go back to a normal ladder match without it feeling like a letdown.
Luckily, Edge, Christian, Kane, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho all helped to make this one of the most memorable ladder matches of all time. I knew it would be good, but I never imagined it would be this good. It was really one of those rare cases where absolutely everyone came out looking great.
Even though all six men rose to the occasion, one man in particular came out of this matching looking like absolute gold: Shelton Benjamin.
Shelton Benjamin has always been one of my absolute favorite guys in the company, and tonight did nothing but further prove the point that Benjamin has big, big things ahead of him in the future. He’s got everything. He’s got the charisma. He’s got the looks. And he’s got incredible in-ring ability.
I know alot of people went crazy over Elix Skipper’s cage-walk, but I’ll take Shelton Benjamin’s Ladder Run any day of the week as Spot of the Year. It was just incredible to watch, as was the rest of the match.
Hats off to all six guys.
Hulk Hogan, Eugene, and Hassan:
I’m no Nostradamus, but this is definitely one that I can see the net folk bitching up a storm about. You know, acting as if getting punked out by Hulk Hogan is going to absolutely destroy Hassan’s career. Like it’s 1965, and people actually keep track of wins and losses anymore. It’s a pretty weak argument when Deacon Batista is headlining Wrestlemania.
Anyway, I watched Mania at a packed Sports Bar with about 1,200 other people, and the pop Hulk Hogan got when his music hit and he came out was just absolutely deafening. I doubt I’ve ever heard anything that loud in my life. I’ve got to admit, I was cheering as loud as anyone in there. Take away my IWC Credentials if you must, but I enjoyed the moment, and thought it added a ton to Wrestlemania.
I’m thrilled they went with “Real American” too.
I was pretty critical of Hassan when the WWE was first getting ready to bring him in, but I’ve since become a pretty big supporter of the guy. Aside from a few slip-ups, I think the character has been respectfully done, and I look forward to seeing him each week on RAW.
I really think they need to strike while the iron is hot with this guy. He’s over, he’s huge, and he’s got a great look. Hassan could easily work a main-event heel program in the WWE, and I really think he’s one of those rare workers that people will still pay money to see lose these days.
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Hogan’s run-in was one of the three or four moments that absolutely made WM21, and while the net is sure to be in an uproar, you can’t deny the 20,000+ genuine smiles at the Staples Center last night when Hogan cleared house.
I’m not saying to give the guy the title or anything, but if Hogan can stay out of the ring, I really think he could do great things for the WWE in a General Manager type roll.
Undertaker vs. Randy Orton:
Even though I still consider myself to be a wrestling fan, this was one match that I just had absolutely no interest in whatosever. Like a lot of other people, the Undertaker just does absolutely nothing for me. Judging by the reaction he got tonight though, I’m in the minority with my opinion, but that’s all fine and well.
With Orton getting ready to go under the knife, I had a feeling the Undertaker was going to be winning this one. Orton really had nothing to gain by pinning the Taker and then going AWOL, and Taker is probably pretty goofy about his silly win streak.
The match definitely exceeded my expectations, but to be fair, those expectations were roughly around zero. The Taker pinned Orton, the place went bananas, and I used the restroom.
I wish I had more to say about the match, but for the most part, I just don’t really care about either guy right now.
I’ll give it **1/2.
Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme.
A few things to mention right off the bat:
– Trish Stratus might very well be one of the best two or three pure heels in the WWE right now. I don’t know what the general consensus is on her, but to me, she is just an absolute joy to watch in her current roll. I never really thought much of her either way when she was a babyface, but now, she just blows me away.
– Trish Stratus is also much hotter as a heel. I’ve been watching the WWE since 1985, and Trish is easily the hottest (and prettiest) girl I’ve ever seen in the company. She puts Elizabeth (RIP), Sunny, Sable, and Stacey all to shame.
Anyway, people were apparantly pretty nervous about this match, seeing as how Hemme isn’t exactly, you know, trained to wrestle. Honestly, I wouldn’t have even known by watching the match. Sure, she wasn’t amazing, but I don’t think anyone really goes into these women’s matches expecting to see Ricky Steamboat and Dory Funk Jr.
The match was good for what it was, and I’m thrilled Trish won.
Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle:
In the months leading up to Wrestlemania, this was definitely the match for me. Two of my absolute all-time favorites on the biggest stage of them all. I was hyped. I didn’t want to set my expectations too high, seeing as though Angle and Michaels are both one awkard bump away from paralysis, but I had a funny feeling they’d find a way to deliver.
And they did.
I’ve been watching wrestling for almost 20 years, and I can say, with zero hesitation, that Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle put on one of the absolute best matches that I’ve ever seen tonight.
I don’t know how the rest of the internet is going to react to this match, but to me, it was the very definition of a ***** match. It had absolutely everything. The drama. The suspense. The slow build. The near falls. And a truly incredible ending.
A true show-stealer, and the match of the night. If you didn’t order the PPV, this alone is worth the price of the replay or DVD. At the very least, you’ll be treated to this generation’s Wrestlemania equivalent of Steamboat-Savage, and also one of the best matches you’ll ever see.
Thank you Shawn Michaels.
Thank you Kurt Angle.
I’ll never forget this one.
Piper’s Pit w/ Steve Austin:
Piper’s brief standoff with Steve Austin was yet another great “Wrestlemania Moment” for the archives. It was also a perfect example of one of the major problems in wrestling these days: the scripted promo.
Piper’s (ad-libbed) interaction was nothing short of brilliant. In fact, the crowd actually went from booing him to giving him a standing ovation, just because he trashed them.
The “What!” chant is so ridiculously irritating and counterproductive. Crowds have chanted it during the national anthem, serious heel and face promos, and wedding angles. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think anyone has really ever acknowledged it.
Piper made an absolute mockery out of the chant, seemingly on the spot.
When you watch guys like Piper, Austin, and Ric Flair (in his prime), you forget you’re watching wrestling. They just make you believe so deeply, and they do this by being themselves. The WWE needs to have more faith in its talent, and it needs to loosen up on the scripting a little bit. It’s the only way for people to truly get over these days.
It was really cool to see Carlito mixing it up with Piper and Austin as well. I really enjoy Carlito, and personally, he’s the only guy on Smackdown who makes me interested in seeing John Cena. I’m glad he got to get in there and temporarily hold his own with two all-time greats.
It’s great to see guys like Piper and Austin back from time to time, and hopefully the WWE can continue finiding ways to use them periodically.
AKEBONO vs. Big Show
I’ve got to admit, this one did have me scratching my head a little bit. No one in the United States knows a thing about Sumo wrestling, let alone Akebono. I was a little surprised they decided to go with this match, just because, again, the majority of wrestling fans are too clueless on sumo to really even understand what’s going on.
I didn’t really know what to make of this match. At first, after seeing Big Show’s attire, I thought for sure that it would be a comedy match. It wasn’t though. This left me further perplexed.
Then, I thought for a second that the match might be an actual, non-worked sumo match. It quickly became apparent that this wasn’t the case either.
When it ended, I was sitting there, all, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
Not sure I get the logic in bringing in some obscure sumo wrestler to overpower the Big Show.
At least it was quick and painless though.
John Cena vs. JBL
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big John Cena fan. I think he’s got a lot of potential, but overall, people are dead wrong if they think a goofy white guy with cartoonish “Word Life” knuckle covers is going to bring the mainstream flocking back to the WWE. It won’t. In fact, the hip-hop community would probably make fun of Cena, not rally behind him.
Above all else though, I just think John Cena’s matches are incredibly boring to watch. I don’t know what happened. When he first came in, and he was wrestling guys like Kurt Angle and Shelton Benjamin, I really enjoyed watching him.
I do not enjoy watching him pump up his shoes though, or do some generic knock-off of the people’s elbow though. And it’s quite clear to all watching at home that we can, in fact, see him.
Again, John Cena has a ton of potential, but I think the WWE has been ruining the poor guy by sticking him in a squeaky clean babyface roll.
I’m not a huge Smackdown fan overall, but I do enjoy JBL’s character. He might not set my world on fire, but he’s been a solid, entertaining, steady heel champion for something like 8 months straight now.
With all the build they’ve given JBL, I really think they wasted it all by having him lose cleanly in a throwaway, 10 minute match that we all know was pretty much of an afterthought to HHH-Batista. I think most casual WWE fans felt the same way. It should have been saved for a Smackdown PPV.
I did enjoy seeing Cena celebrate in the crowd. I do hope that pretty Japanese women he pancaked is alright though.
I really don’t have much more to say about this match. I know Wrestlemania’s the time to pull the trigger, but with Batista already slated to win the title, I just honestly believe the Smackdown Title match was considered by many to be the “throwaway” title match for the evening. The switch and match might have been better served (and recieved) if took place at a PPV where the entire card could be built around Cena/JBL.
Finally, although I’m not crazy about Cena’s current character, I think it would work worlds better on RAW than it would on Smackdown.
Batista vs. Triple H:
I was really looking forward to this match, and although it did start out rather slow, the ending more than made up for it. The finish was absolutely perfect, as was Triple H’s bladejob, and the crowd went home on top of the world. It was a true Wrestlemania ending, and I’m glad we got it.
Allthough we all know how well babyface champs fare after their first title win, even if Batista can’t keep his heat as World Champ, at least we got one truly great moment out of him. I have a feeling he’ll be a lot more successful than people give him credit for though.
I’m starting to get too tired to think clearly, but I don’t think many people walked away disappointed by this match. Again, you can only expect so much out of these two guys, and I think they both did an incredible job. Considering all the criticism Triple H gets, I think he really went above and beyond the call of duty to make Batista shine tonight.
Awesome match to all those involved, and a great way to cap off a great night of wrestling.
I’m absolutely exhausted, but I want to close out this column by restating the obvious:
Wrestlemania 21 was one hell of a PPV.
Last year’s main event was absolutely incredible, but overall, I think WM21 was a much better show than WM20. The actual matches themselves were on par with last year’s, if not slightly better, and the addition of guys like Hogan, Austin, and Piper really served to give the show an extra boost of that Wrestlemania feel.
I know people around the internet world will be complaining about something tomorrow morning, but overall, I couldn’t be happier that I got the opportunity to catch Mania this year. It was definitely one of the top four or five of all time.
I hope everyone enjoyed Wrestlemania, and I hope everyone enjoyed the quick, poorly written thoughts on the card 🙂
Goodnight from me.