Was WrestleMania 21 a Beautiful Thing?
Short Answer: Almost.
What a Week I’m Having!
First, thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to last week’s column. I’m pretty sure I managed to give everyone a personal response, but I felt it was worth repeating my thanks here, since last week’s crop of mail was among the most thought-provoking and well-written that I’ve ever received, even if it was mostly from people who disagreed with me.
If you don’t give a crap about my personal life, feel free to skip to the next section.
If you are interested, here’s what I’ve been up to in the last two and a half days:
I dropped my girlfriend off at the airport, went to the University Hospital for a consultation, visited my best friend (who is getting over a broken engagement) and my family, prepared for the summer staff interviews, interviewed close to thirty excellent people who are competing for fewer than twenty full-time summer positions, and made some very tough decisions about who to hire, had dinner with another close friend whose wife decided to leave him at Christmas, taken the ferry into “town” and back twice and still made time to catch WrestleMania 21 at a restaurant in “town” with a bunch of local indy wrestlers and my old friend, Canadian wrestling Hall-of-Famer “Vicious” Verne Seibert.
Now I’ve got to prepare my financial statements for the last two months, clean out my car, catch up on two day’s correspondence, and write this column. I’m hoping to get that all finished in time to be able to just sit back and enjoy RAW and The Ultimate Fighter this evening. I just might be able to do so, if my phone ever stops ringing. I’ve got to go back to “town” first thing tomorrow to pick up newsletters, meet with the Treasurer, and attend a hopefully brief general meeting, so it looks like this will be a relatively short column.
ALSO: KWADA AND TAUE NEED YOUR HELP (see below)
Watching WrestleMania 21
As I mentioned above, I saw the show at a pub/restaurant (Kelly’s in Surrey, BC) with a group of local Indy wrestlers. It was a hell of a lot of fun to watch the guys trying to enjoy the show without looking too much like marks. It was quite the balancing act.
My favourite moment came when the cameras panned the crowd and they showed Hulk Hogan’s family at ringside with a former WCW Champion. One of the guys sitting in the near corner of the room recognised him and said, “Hey, isn’t that David Arquette?” The guy sitting across from him swore and said, “That’s when I lost a lot of respect for WCW.” The outrage swept through the room like a brush fire, and soon someone at every table was cursing the day that Arquette was made champion. Then someone mentioned Vince Russo making himself champion, and everyone was cursing him. The whole process took less than three minutes, but it was enough to convince me that the line between worker and fan might be a little fuzzier than most people want to admit.
My Impressions of the Show
Overall, I’d give ‘Mania 21 a thumbs up. There were no overwhelming mark-out moments to compare with Benoit’s win last year, The Mega-Powers exploding, or Steamboat finally getting his revenge on Savage, but there were several significant high points. The show never dragged, the good stuff was fairly well spaced out, and the really bad stuff was at least kept mercifully short.
By far the coolest thing, and something I’m surprised hasn’t received much mention yet is that the matches were well-structured and interference-free, and most of them ended cleanly, with a proper finisher and not a roll-up or some other cop-out ending.
Match by Match and Segment by Segment
Lilian Garcia sings “America the Beautiful” – She did a fine job, and I thought it was a nice touch that WWE let her sing it instead of paying some Hollywood diva.
Stone Cold gets a movie clip – With the exception of the “Undertaker is a bigger badass than Clint Eastwood” embarrassment, all of the WM 21 clips were excellent, and this on was no exception.
Eddy vs. Rey – I was disappointed by this match, probably because my expectations were so high. I was hoping for something as smooth and innovative as their legendary Halloween Havoc encounter. In contrast, this match felt choppy and rushed. I think that Rey’s nifty new mask was giving him trouble, and it even looked like Rey might have hurt himself on that botched back flip. The match still worked okay as an opener, though.
JBL meets HHH backstage – Flair’s “Woo!” in OJ’s face made this work for me.
Ladder Match – This was the closest thing to an over-booked match on the show, and it wasn’t that bad. Shelton’s crazy spots and Benoit’s sick selling more than made up for Edge’s predictable win.
The Hogan Segment – It was nice to see Eugene at WrestleMania, and I felt that this was the right way to use Hassan, Daivari, and Hogan. It heated up an already hot crowd, without burning them out for what was to follow.
‘Taker vs. The Ortons – I was very pleasantly surprised by this match, at least in part because my expectations were pretty low. I enjoyed the old-school run-in, but I was really glad that it didn’t directly affect the ending of the match. I bought into the near-falls, and I thought that the reversal into the Tombstone for the clean finish was exactly the right way to end it.
Trish Stratus vs. An Under-Prepared Skanky Bimbo – Ten out of Ten Vancouver Indy Wrestlers agree that it would have been better to keep Gail Kim and Jazz on the payroll rather than blowing all that money on the Diva Search. At least they cut it short.
Kurt Angle vs. The Heart Break Middle Aged Man – This was a fantastic match. I flat out loved the long old-school chain-wrestling clinic that they put on to start the match, and the multiple reversals at the finish. My hat is off to Kurt Angle for having the class to give Michaels the upper hand in the mat segment, and I have gained huge respect for Shawn Michaels as a result of him doing the clean job. As you might expect, this was the one match on the show that had the Indy guys hanging on every manoeuvre.
Piper’s Pit – This was really good, as well. In contrast to most of the reviews I’ve read so far, I felt that CCC held his own with the two legends. This might be because everyone I was watching with laughed out loud at everything that happened throughout the segment.
Sumo Match – Good Lord was I ever wrong about this one. I thought it was going to be entertaining. I am actually a fan of Sumo Wrestling, dating back to when my college housemate’s mother used to invite us over to watch tapes that her family had sent to Japan. I was at the Vancouver Basho in May 2000, and my girlfriend Chitose and I are considering going to Vegas in October to catch the Sumo show there. I was surprised (and frankly, a little appalled) to see that Big Show had donned a Mawashi for the bout. The costumes, the preparation, the ritual, the ring, and the preliminaries were all set up very well to lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings. The match itself, sadly, was so obviously and poorly worked as to be an embarrassment. Having Akebono on the card will probably help foreign DVD sales of WM21, but I think that this will actually hurt WWE’s image in Japan in the long run.
SmackDown! Title Match – This was a decent big man match but nothing more. Cena is fantastic at working the crowd, but I sincerely hope that he’s going to show more in the ring now that he’s the champion.
Hall of Fame Recap and Inductee Presentation – I’m a total sucker for this kind of nostalgia. Cowboy Bob made my night by continuing to sell his sore neck from the ‘Taker match.
Big Ole’ Gold Belt Title Match – All I wanted out of this match was a clean Batista Bomb finish, and to my surprise it provided that, and more. It’s up to Batista and the booking committee to build on this now.
Video Recap – This fit the show pretty well. It was good, but not as good as last year’s.
WrestleMania 21 was a very solid wrestling show. Time will tell, but everyone’s first impression seems to be that this show will neither be elevated into the Pantheon of Great Wrestlemanias (III, VIII, X, X7, XX) nor relegated to the dung heap of lousy ones (IV, IX, XI XV).
I enjoyed it for what it was, and I hope that you did too.
Thanks for reading!
ESPN dot com’s Page Two’s The Sports Guy’s friend The Birdman wrote a pretty interesting column about Hulk Hogan.
Once you’re done reading this site’s excellent WrestleMania coverage, why not join us on the General Wrestling forum, where there are some lively debates going on right now. In particular, I could use a li’l help from some fellow puro geeks in educating the savages about All Japan’s great 1990s tag scene.