Hey all – Steve Murray here, he of the (very occasional) Friday Night Smackdown report, and the Sopranos recap over on the TV section. Tonight, I’ll be covering the live coverage of the biggest night of the wrestling calendar: Wrestlemania 22, from Chicago, IL.
I hope you remembered that the show started at 7:00 pm tonight. And that you already set your clocks ahead, or your schedule is really going to be screwed up.
Michelle Williams sings the national anthem, and does a damn fine job of it, too – I very much appreciated the total lack of “over-singing” on her part. She inspires the crowd enough to start a “USA” chant.
A collage of Wrestlemania moments run, covering (from what I can see) just about every major superstar that’s ever appeared.
We get a view of the Chicago skyline, and a zoom through the city to the Allstate Arena. Then, a video recap of what they consider the four major matches:
– Undertaker vs. Mark Henry
– Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon
– Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle
– John Cena vs. HHH
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are manning the Raw desk (Ross: “They put the band back together!”), while Michael Cole and Tazz are covering Smackdown. And we get to the intros for the first match:
Carlito & Chris Masters (w/seperate entrances) vs. The Big Show & Kane (w/mixed entrance music), Tag Team Championship After all of the intros, we finally start the match at 7:17 pm (EST). I immediately see two things I never expected: Masters knocks down Kane with a shoulderblock (!), and Kane hits Masters with a dropkick (!!). TBS pulls two of his “SHH!” chest slaps. (Ross: “This is a massive team.” Gee, thanks Jim – that’s the kind of cutting-edge analysis I never could’ve gotten from Joey Styles. Thank God you’re around.) Masters gets tossed, Carlito gets thrown onto Masters, and Kane hits a clothesline from the top rope to the floor of both of them. TBS takes a header into an exposed turnbuckle, and Masters takes advantage – but only for a couple of minutes. Kane comes off the top rope, but gets caught in the Masterlock, which gets broken up by TBS. End Game: Kane goes for a chokeslam on Carlito, Masters comes off the top rope but ends up taking out Carlito, Kane “hits” a big boot on Masters (seriously, there was about 4 inches of visible air), Kane hits the chokeslam on the second attempt and gets the pinfall at 7:23. (Wow – really? Okay, that was basically a squash – I thought they had more faith in Carlito & Masters then that. Well, maybe we get the title switch tomorrow night on Raw — but after that beating, I’m not expecting it).
Winner: Big Show & Kane
After the match, Carlito and Masters argue, but nothing serious comes out of it.
HBK gives an intense promo, promising to go somewhere inside himself that he hasn’t been in a long time. (Oh, just make up your own joke – I have a 3 1/2 show to cover here.)
Money in the Bank: In order: Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Finlay, RVD, Lashley, and Ric Flair. We’re also getting all 4 announcers on this match. The six entrants circle each other for a while, until everyone goes after Lashley. And then, everyone goes down, until Benjamin catches Lashley with a seriously wicked roundhouse kick to the head. Hardy goes after a ladder, but eats a baseball slide and pescado from RVD before he can get it in the ring. Shelton takes out Finlay with a ladder shot to the head, then hits a ridiculous spot – running up the ladder (which is leaning against the top rope), and taking out 3 guys on the floor. Flair makes the first run up the ladder, but gets caught by Hardy, who superplexes Flair OFF THE LADDER (which literally makes me yell “Get OUT!” — the man is 56 freaking years old; that’s nuts). Flair gets walked backstage by paramedics, favoring his knee (well, that’s one way to save him for later in the match, I guess). RVD misses Rolling Thunder on Shelton, but does hit the ladder (that doesn’t seem to go well for him). Lashley and Benjamin go up the ladder, with Benjamin trying to sunset flip over Lashley and hit a powerbomb – but he can’t budge the big man. Hardy and Finlay help out though, and Lashley takes the big bump. Finlay takes out Hardy, Lashley and RVD with ladder shots, looking like he’s fitting well into the “beat your opponents senseless with metal objects” concept. Flair limps back out, takes out Finlay, and sets up a ladder – but gets caught by Hardy and Benjamin. He fights both of them off, and gets up to the top of the ladder, even getting his hands on the case – but takes a shot from Finlay. Lashley hits a Dominator on Benjamin, and now it’s his turn to climb – until RVD hits him in the knees with a Van Terminator. Hardy hits the yodeling leg drop off the ladder on Lashley, and he climbs – Finlay catches him at the top, and eats a Side Effect for his troubles. (Wow – finishing moves a la carte.) RVD climbs to the very top of a very, very tall ladder and hits a Superfly splash on Finlay (nice overhead view from the cameras too – looks cool). RVD climbs, but Benjamin springboards off the top rope ONTO THE LADDER (damn, that looked sweet), and they slug it out. Hardy pulls up another ladder, Benjamin steps over to that ladder to slug it out with him – and RVD kicks the ladder over, sending both guys down to the floor in a really scaring looking spot (my second out-loud exclamation of the match – I thought one of those guys was going to break something). RVD pulls off the case, and wins his Money in the Bank spot. (Can’t wait for the ECW PPV now.)
Backstage – Mean Gene Okerlund gets interviewed, but interrupted by Orton, who wants to know if he really got inducted into the Hall of Fame “for holding a microphone for 22 years?” Okerlund gives us a “Gimme a break!” and stomps off. Orton seems to be caught off guard, but slips into his heel promo – until Batista interrupts to remind us the whoever holds the World title is just keeping it warm for him. (This didn’t really come off well for Orton – he looked totally intimidated by DAVE).
The 2006 Hall of Fame class is called out — after they point out that “Bret Hart was uncomfortable taking part in tonight’s festivities”, so he won’t be there. (Oh boy. I’m really starting to believe he’ll be showing up for the HBK/Vince match, despite what I wrote in the Roundtable. And this isn’t helping matters either: http://www.wweshop.com/Product_detail.asp?cat=cat-tshirts&productId=01-07729&cid=wwe_rightsplash)
– Mean Gene Okerlund
– Sensational Sherri (w/ Ted Dibiase)
– Tony Atlas
– Verne Gagne
– The Blackjacks
– William “the Refrigerator” Perry
– Eddie Guerrero, accepted by Vicki Guerrero (w/Chavo)
Cole and Tazz talk a bit about Eddie, then segue into the next match:
JBL (w/Jillian Hall) vs Chris Benoit, U.S. Heavyweight Championship They lift up the ramp so JBL’s limo can cruise out to ringside in a pretty cool visual. Benoit goes for the Crossface less than 2 minutes into the match, and sticks down on the mat for some ground and pound. JBL gets in exactly one offensive move in the midst of an offensive onslaught from Benoit, until using Jillian as a distraction and catching Benoit with a cheapshot. Usual punch-and-kick from JBL, until he misses a blind charge, allowing Benoit to hit the Triple Germans. Benoit takes a crotchshot while going for the flying headbutt, allowing JBL to actually mock Eddie with some chest slaps (ooh – bad move, John; did you learn nothing from your Germany incident?). JBL hits a Superplex for a 2 count, and does some more mocking of Eddie, including hitting two of the Three Amigos. (Words cannot describe how distasteful I find this. The IWC is going to go CRAZY on JBL tomorrow.) Time for a resthold: JBL does a chinlock, simultaneously along with some kind of Nerve Pinch – looked somewhat strange, and I doubt the live crowd could figure out what was going on. Benoit fights out, and hits his own Three Amigos – getting all 3 this time. Benoit hits a monstrous flying headbutt, but only gets a 2 count. End Game: JBL misses the Clothesline from Hell, Benoit goes for the Germans, JBL grabs the ref. Another attempt at the Clothesline gets countered into a Crossface, but JBL rolls through, hooks a leg, grabs the ropes — and gets the 1-2-3 to the apparent shock of the crowd (but not me, or most of the IWC – almost the entire Roundtable called that).
We get a recap of the Edge/Foley feud, starting with Edge cashing in his MitB shot, and working up to the challenge for the Hardcore match, the “Muppet” line, and Foley letting lose his inner Cactus Jack.
Hey, look – Joey Styles is at the announcing table. With Lawler and Ross? Well, this should be interesting.
Edge (w/Lita and baseball bat) vs. Mick Foley (w/”Bang bang!”), Hardcore Match Mmm, nice look for Lita. Edge misses 2 shots with the bat, so Foley hangs him in the Tree of Woe and drops an elbow on his head (yup – he deserved it). Lita tosses in a cookie sheet, which Edge takes advantage of – three times. Loudly, too – we’re starting off stiff with this one. Edge hits the Spear – but doesn’t look too good afterwards. And we find out why, after Foley pulls off his flannel shirt, to expose the Cactus Jack shirt – and the barbed wire he has wrapped around his stomach and chest. Okay – that was original (I was thinking maybe the old Bret Hart “metal plate”, but this works even better with the concept of the match.) Foley pulls out wirecutters to take the barbed wire off -and then starts whipping Edge with it. Ouchie. Edge gets tied up in the ropes, so Foley goes outside the ring to pull out the baseball bat wrapped with more barbed wire, hidden in the steps. Lita jumps Foley from behind before he can make contact with the barbed wire bat – so Foley simply clotheslines Edge over the top rope, bringing all 3 to the floor. More beating on the floor, until Foley tries a blind charge, and gets hiptossed by Edge into the steel steps (man, that looked painful). Foley takes his trademarked knee-first crash into the steps, looking at a higher speed than normal. Edge sets up a table outside the ring, but Foley rolls off before anything comes of it. Foley takes a wicked head shot to the ramp (nice loud CLANG) for a two count. Edge then DOUSES FOLEY IN LIGHTER FLUID, but eats a piledriver for his troubles. Foley sets up for the Conchairto, but Lita runs in – and then runs right back after Foley threatens her with the chair. Edge takes advantage with DDT that was supposed to be on the cookie sheet, but missed by a foot or so. Edge goes to town with the barbed wire bat, and Mick is opened up. Bulldog onto the bat, which pulls the first “Oh my God!” from Joey. Edge pulls apart another set of steps, revealing even more weapons (okay, it’s different – I like it). This time, it’s a bag of thumbtacks, which gets spread around the ring. It backfires on Edge, when he gets sideslamed into them – nice shot on the camera, with about 30 tacks stuck in Edge’s back. Ouchie. Foley (who’s well on the way to a crimson mask), pulls out Mr. Socko – and then wraps it in barbed wire (Joey: “Okay, now it’s hardcore!”) Edge takes Mr. Barbed-o, and so does Lita (!!) when she runs in (again, nice job by the camera crew, who catch her outside the ring, wiping blood off her lip). We go back to the barbed-wire bat, which Foley uses to rip up Edge’s forehead. Foley squirts the lighterfluid on the table outside the ring — until he’s interrupted by Lita, who now has the bat. She finishes the lighter fluid, and lights the table on fire. And we get our climax: Edge hits a spear on Foley, who’s standing on the edge of the ring – and they both go through the flaming table. Wow – what a visual. Just awesome. And we get a full-fledged “OH MY GOD!!” from Joey. And that does it – 1-2-3. Edge sits up first, but he’s visibly trembling, and needs Lita’s help just to get up the ramp. Foley follows, exiting to a “Foley” chant.
And that’s the last we see or hear of Joey. Good idea bringing him out for the Hardcore match, though.
Backstage, Sharmel is wondering why all of the freaks seemed attracted to Booker, who responds that he’s “no freak magnet”. So, in turn, he walks by Paul Burchill in full pirate costuming (“Argh, me maties!”); Eugene, who’s trying to win $1000 from the Million Dollar Man by dribbling a basketball 100 times (guess how that works out); Snitsky, who’s licking Mae Young’s foot while Moolah watches (“Wanna join us?”); and finally, Goldust, who says he knows what Booker has to do to beat the Boogeyman – how to release his “inner freak”. Goldust whispers it into Booker’s ear – who does not react well at all to the suggestion, whatever it was. Booker stomps off, leaving us with all of the Freaks looking on. Tazz: “It’s like Land of the Misfit Toys!”
Backlash promo. Cena: “At Backlash, I’ll take.. what’s mine.” Uhhh – am I the only one that thinks that kinda gives away the ending of the WWE Championship match?
Hey – Joe Theisman in the house! And Michelle Williams is ringside too, apparently taking advantage of WWE’s “Sing the anthem, get a front row seat” policy.
Booker T & Sharmel vs. Boogeyman Booker hides behind Sharmel during Boogey’s entrance, and then tells her to start the match. (Uhh, yeah.) As soon as Boogeyman has his back turned, Booker takes advantage and jumps him. Booker counters a clothesline attempt into the Book End, for a two count. Total miscommunication takes over for a bit, as they blow 3 spots in a row. Boogeyman goes for the Greco-Roman worm chew, and catches Sharmel trying to hit him from behind with his own staff. Sharmel gets a worm-covered kiss, which sends her screaming backstage. Boogey hits his finisher for the 1-2-3, pulls out more worms – wash, rinse, repeat. Well, to echo much of the Roundtable – at least it was short.
We get a recap of the best-developed feud in the WWE – Micki James and Trish Stratus. Wow – kudos to the video team at WWE – all of these have been top-notch tonight.
Micki James vs. Trish Stratus, Women’s Championship Lawler actually draws a parallel between these two and Mark Chapman and John Lennon. Eek – no shortage of questionable taste tonight. Wow, Trish is feeling it tonight – they are working especially stiff (and yes, both girls are hot, but no, that’s not what I meant by “stiff”, you pervs). Trish misses a Chick Kick outside the ring, cracking her knee on the ringpost. Micki wraps the knee around it one more time for good measure, and concentrates on it back in the ring. And, in the “Huh – didn’t see that coming” file, a “Let’s go Micki!” chant breaks out. Ross has no choice but to address it, which I personally find damn amusing. Micki is now just decimating Trish’s left leg, pausing to drink in the crowd’s cheers — no, I’m not kidding, she’s really the face here. Trish’s comeback is actually booed. In fact, every single one of Trish’s offensive moves are booed. (Punch. “BOO!” Punch. “BOO!” Kick. “BOO!” It’s surreal. Ross has no idea what to do.) Micki climbs to the top, Trish goes for the handstand rana, but Micki counters — by hanging Trish’s leg over the top rope. The crowd pops HUGE for Micki as she poses outside the ring. Big powerbomb from Trish for a two count, and more boos. Then, we get the psychology I’ve been waiting for – Trish goes for the Stratusfaction, and Micki simply grabs her straight in the crotch. And yes, she then licks her fingers clean — and the crowd LOVES it. Micki goes for the Stratusfaction, but the spot gets blown horribly in the ropes. Or, maybe Trish is still selling the knee injury – not sure. The crowd has made it up it’s mind, though – our first “You f*cked up” chant of the evening. Anyway – Micki simply hits the Chick Kick, and ladies and gentlemen: we have your new Women’s Championship. And, we also get your loudest pop of the night. Wow – I have to admit, that was cool, and even better than I was expecting.
All of the McMahon’s are backstage, with Vince decides to hold a family prayer session. No, I’m not kidding here either. “God… I don’t like you, and you don’t like me.” Well now – the bad taste continues. Vince promises to send Shawn (God’s “favorite wrestler”), straight down to hell. Ooookay then.
The druids walk out with the casket, along with lots of spooky lights. And that, of course, brings us to…
Mark Henry vs. The Undertaker, Casket Match Or, if you prefer, we could call this “The Official Bathroom Break Match”. Henry establishes that yes, he is indeed a large man, by taking down UT with a shoulderblock. Taker eats some stairs on the outside, has a small comeback, and but gets caught going for Old School Henry does the slowest beatdown since the heydays of Yokozuna, and calls for the casket. But, not even Henry is bad enough to warrant a 3 minute Casket match (unfortunately – really I wouldn’t complain). We finally get a completed Old School – which the crowd still pops for (basically, that’s the first pop since the entrances). Henry falls into the casket feet-first, UT follows, and they slug it out… slowly. Back in the ring, Henry gets tossed out onto the casket and down to the floor, and UT follows with a tope suicida, over the casket. (Wait – what? Did that really just happen?) Back into the ring, the Tombstone is simply academic, and Henry gets rolled into the casket. UT wins again. Gee, shocking. Really.
Video recap of the Vince/HBK feud, including highlights from Montreal. Twice. Sigh.
Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, No Holds Barred HBK comes out with his somewhat subdued entrance, and the “I really mean business” look. Vince, of course, comes out oiled up and strutting like he just made a load in his pants, and reveals a poster ringside with his Muscle & Fitness cover. (Oh, that poster is *toast*. It has as much chance of surviving intact as a cake in a rock music video.) Ross wastes no time making his feelings clear about McMahon. We begin outside the ring, and Vince is sent straight over the Raw announcer’s table. HBK chokes him out with the headset wires (Lawler: “Ref, stop him!” Uhh, King – didn’t you hear what kind of match this was?) HBK grabs the poster, and yeah – over Vince’s head it goes. And our first run-in happens – with the Spirit Squad, who overwhelm HBK with sheer numbers. But, a top-rope legdrop is missed, and HBK takes out everybody with headshots from the megaphone (yes, the plastic one). Vince catches HBK with a clothesline from behind, and chokes out HBK in the corner. The belts comes off, and HBK takes a whippin’ and a belt around the neck. Vince seems to enjoy the boos even more than Micki was diggin’ the cheers, and he builds up to… the Superkick? No, not quite – HBK catches it, and comes back with some chops and a flying forearm. Kip up, and HBK repays the belt whippin’ in kind – good hard snaps. Ooh – and a belt across the chest. That looked painful. Body slam and the top-rope elbow hits. HBK tunes up the band – but takes a kendo stick in the back from Shane, who also has a pair of handcuffs. But Vince has a better idea, and we set up for another ass-kissing. (Really, I’ve seen enough of Vince’s to cover the rest of my life – why now again?) HBK turns the tables however, and shoves *Shane’s* face into Vince’s ass, with Vince thinking it’s HBK the whole time. The crowd pops big – but really, that’s just too disturbing when you think about it. HBK hits the big nut shot on Vince, and handcuffs Shane (Ross: “Vince’s demon seed!”) to the middle rope on the outside of the ring. He then mocks Shane with his own dance, and gives Shane 6 shots with the kendo stick in succession. Vince, meanwhile, gets a chair over the head – that leaves a visible dent. Nice. HBK again tunes up the band, moves in for the kill… but pauses mid-kick. Having a better idea, he goes outside the ring, and pulls out… a ladder. Okay, cool with me. Vince takes a ladder shot to the head.. and whoa – that’s some blade job, Vince. It’s literally pouring onto the canvas. One more set up for the Superkick.. and one more pause. HBK goes out again, and tosses in 2 garbage cans, and a table. Vince staggers to his feet, just to take trash can to the head. The table gets set up in the ring, Vince gets put on top of it, HBK climbs the ladder, looks around… and climbs down? WTF? He goes back out, and gets… oh, a bigger ladder. Well, that works. Wow – seriously, this ladder is at least 15 feet tall. HBK pulls the garbage can over Vince’s head, lays him out on the table, climbs up to the top of this ridiculously tall ladder… wow, the crowd is RABID. Shawn does the D-X sign (to an even bigger pop), and drops a MONSTER elbow onto the trash can. Damn – that looked insane. The paramedics come to ringside… but HBK won’t let them in the ring. Nice touch. Shane begs for mercy – but Shawn gives him the D-X sign, and spits on him. (Wow, this psychology is awesome.) HBK stands Vince up and gets in his face: “I am going… to knock your teeth… down your throat!” And, we finally get the Superkick. (However, after the previous spots, the crowd is actually kinda subdued here.) Hook the leg, 1-2-3.
While being rolled up the ramp on a gurney, Vince manages to flip the bird back towards the ring. HBK spends a few more minutes soaking in the cheers, and kisses his wife on the way up the ramp. Please note: not a drop of blood on him. Didn’t expect that. And also note: Bret Hart is nowhere to be found. That one I called.
Wrestlemania 23 will be in Detroit. I won’t be there either.
Rey Mysterio (w/P.O.D. playing live) vs. Randy Orton (w/”Arms wide” pose) vs. Kurt Angle (w/”You suck” chant) Before the bell, Orton attacks and tosses Angle. Rey goes for a cross-body, but Orton catches him with a nice dropkick. Angle runs back in and hits a German on Orton, followed by a double German on both Rey and Orton (very cool – Rey flies about 4 feet farther than Orton). Crowd eats it up. And the goodness keeps coming: Orton gets caught on the top rope; Rey charges Angle but gets launched into Orton, who he pulls a hurricana on from the top. Sweet — we got our working boots on tonight. And in another move that must be driving them crazy backstage, the crowd has decided to back Angle – over Rey. (I applaud their good taste – maybe they’ve gotten as sick of the Eddie exploitation as I have.) Yup – Rey is actually getting actively booed. Did we teleport to Philly when I was looking? Angle counters the 619 into an ankle lock, with a leg vise – but Orton jumps on the ring apron with a chair, distracting the ref (who doesn’t see Rey tap). Angle goes back into the ankle lock, but takes a shot from Orton. Everybody gets to eat a suplex, and Rey gets an Angle Slam over the top rope. Angle gets the ankle lock on Orton – locks in the leg vice, but this time Rey grabs the ref to distract the ref. Another ankle lock – and Rey drops the dime on Angle (to more boos, and now it’s Tazz’s turn to not know how to handle it.) Rey takes a shoulder into the ring post, and the straps come down, to the crowd’s delight. The Angle Slam is countered to the RKO, but Orton is slow to cover and only gets a 2 count. Orton climbs to the top, but Angle gets the pop-up overhead suplex (that never gets old for me). Rey tries for a 619 around the ringpost onto Angle, but slips off the post (crowd lets him know it). Rey does get the springboard senton, but only for a 2 count. Orton kicks Angle out of the ring, and hits a nasty neckbreaker on Rey. He prepares for the RKO – but Angle catches him with an Angle Slam for 2. Angle goes for the Angle Slam on Rey, but it’s countered with an arm drag. Rey his the 619 on Orton, and then a springboard rana, for… the pin??
Winner: Rey Mysterio
Wait – the World Heavyweight Champion is 4 inches and 20 pounds lighter than me? Really? And this is all because a friend of his died? (Okay, seriously – does Rey ever SNIFF the world title if Eddie is still alive?) I can’t believe the crowd’s reactions didn’t convince anyone backstage to re-think this outcome. And just to make sure nobody missed the point – Chavo and Vicki Guerrero join Rey at the top of the ramp in celebration. Ugh. Okay, good for Rey – but I find this unpleasant.
Backstage, we see Cena and HHH warm up. When they put up Cena solo on the screen – the boos start already. Does not bode well for the young man in tonight’s match. HHH gets some cheers, with a smattering of boos later. Should be fun. Ross tries to spin the match as Cena and his rebellious hip-hop attitude vs. HHH and his 10 world titles and his “tradition”. Well, it almost works, I guess. He and King prep the TV audience by talking about how HHH will actually be the fan favorite tonight – while a “Cena sucks” chant gets started in the background. HA!
Candice Michelle vs. Torrie Wilson, Playboy Pillow Fight Oh, but we have to do this first (I had honestly forgotten about this match – that should tell you something.) Ross lets us know that tonight’s gate was over $2 million. And, he lets us know they talked about a “Hugh Hefner rules” match, which would have been “Viagra on a Pole”. Okay – that was pretty good. Finally the match starts.. and Torrie actually pulls out an overhead suplex, and a backdrop onto the bed. Hmm – can’t imagine the second move hurt too much. Candace also gets the thrill of having a small dog’s ass rubbed on her face – wow, being a Playboy cover girl is so glamorous. Candace quickly gets stripped down to her bra and panties – hey, no complaints here. She also attempts something that looks like a Tarantula, and does her “Go Daddy” pose outside the ring. Torrie is, quite literally, cut out of her dress (Candace actually pulls out scissors), and the crowd warms my heart by having *NO* reaction somewhat, and even starting a small “Boring” chant. Thankfully, they bring it home quickly, with Torrie getting the roll-up and 3 count.
Winner: Torrie Wilson
Some creative editting makes it look like HHH got booed and Cena got cheered at the Wrestlemania press conference. C’mon, guys – nobody is buying it, and we’re just about to see and hear the crowd’s reaction anyway. Let it go.
HHH (w/new music and video) vs. John Cena (w/entrance that has to be seen to be believed) Apparently, HHH decided to buy the leftover sets from “Conan the Barbarian” – he appears on a stone throne with a battle axe next to him, wrapped with some kind of fur rope, and wearing a crown, necklace, bracers, and a belt with his symbol on them. That’s an… interesting choice. Cena also gets a new video: one that talks about the Depression, and Chicago gangsters, and how they pulled themselves up from nothing. “To survive, you needed 3 things”, and the words “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” appear. Then… oh my God, is this really happening? A 1930’s Ford rolls out, with two guys on the running boards holding Tommy Guns and dressed in zoot suits. More “gangsters” climb out of the car, and surround the ring, managing to overact without actually speaking a word. Cena’s music hits and the boos rain down. The man himself appears at the top of the ramp, in a fedora and trenchcoat, carrying another Tommy Gun. WOW. The crowd is SO not buying this… who in the FUCK thought this would actually work? This is how Creative reacts when the crowd doesn’t react the way they expect nowadays? WWE has almost sprained their shoulder trying to pat themselves on the back in their various DVD releases for how they “listen to the crowd”, and let them decide who’s supposed to be face and heel. Remember that, guys? Ya know, back in the 90’s, when you were actually popular? And now, you come up with ridiculous, overblown skits that might as well have subtitles saying “We are going to shove this down your throat until you see things our way”? Kudos to the Chicago crowd for telling the Creative team to stick this crap where the sun don’t shine.
Okay… how about we get to the match now? Sure, why not. Mucho delays to start, while they let the crowd get some chants out of their system. The crowd stays with their previous behavior pattern: Cena hits a punch – “BOO!”; HHH slaps Cena in the head “YAY!”. HHH is not helping the situation, of course – he simply toys with Cena in the first few exchanges. Ross keeps up his “It’s new school vs. old school” concept concerning the match. Whatever helps you sleep at night, Jim. The crowd comes up with a couple of different “unflattering” chants for Cena – unfortunately, I can’t make out most of them. HHH does his “over the top rope to the floor” spot, which always scares me. After a thumb to the eye, he sets up Cena for a Pedigree, but Cena manages to backdrop him onto the steel ramp. HHH takes over back in the ring for a short while, and Cena takes a shot into the steel steps. HHH actually plays to the crowd for a bit, enjoying his one-night-only face status (can’t wait to see what he does tomorrow on Raw to get them booing him again). HHH hits a vicious clothesline for a two count (“BOO!” for the lack of a pinfall), and a neckbreaker for 2 (“BOO!”). The other half of the crowd finally wakes up, as we get dueling “Let’s go Cena”/”Cena sucks” chants. Good to know those 15 year old girls will only take so much. The two of them go toe-to-toe, exchanging punches, as the crowd has more fun: Cena punch “BOO”, HHH punch “YAY”, Cena “BOO”, HHH “YAY”, etc. Cena pumps up the Reeboks and comes off the ropes, but HHH catches him with a spinebuster for 2. Cena hits two shoulderblocks, but gets caught in the only sleeper hold of the past 10 years that brings a face pop from the crowd. Cena locks in the STFU in the middle of the ring, but HHH makes the ropes. HHH shoves both Cena and the ref into the corner, and actually hits a low blow – on both of them. To a face pop. HHH goes outside the ring, and finds his sledgehammer. To another face pop. Cena makes his comeback, but gets caught with the sledge coming off the ropes. To another… well, you get the point. HHH makes the cover, and we get the slow count: 1… 2… kick out. Another two count. A pedigree attempt, countered with a backdrop. Cena hits the FU, covers for 1, 2… kick out. Well, give them this: the crowd is into everything now. Cena misses a crossbody off the top rope, HHH goes for the pedigree, Cena rolls through into the STFU. The ref raises HHH’s hand: once, twice, thre– nope. HHH reaches for the ropes, and… TAPS OUT?!?!? Are you f*cking KIDDING me here?!?!
Winner: John Cena
As a wrestling match, that was nothing special. But as a case study in crowd behavior, it was historic. Trust me, this match is going to be referenced for years to come, and John Cena will become famous as the very epitome of the face champ that the crowd just couldn’t stand. He’s now the face version of “X-Pac heat”. Amazing. And the fact that the WWE just refused to listen to their own audience, and will continue to push Cena as a face champion that is hated by the crowd… honestly, that’s pathetic. If something drastic doesn’t happen tomorrow night on Raw, then this company is in serious danger of losing a huge portion of their audience.
Overall, a great show – with the exception of the final match, everything was at least as good as I expected, and a few matches (like the Women’s Championship) totally exceeded my expectations. I don’t understand keeping the Tag Team Titles where they are at all, and the final match really left a bad taste in my mouth (as well as Rey’s Eddie-exploitation title win), and Taker/Henry match was as bad as I expected (with one unexpected great spot). But the wrestling in the World title match was excellent, the Edge/Foley brawl was what I was hoping, HBK, Vince and Shane stepped up, Money in the Bank was very entertaining, and the bad stuff was kept short. Thumbs up from me.