$69.95. That was the cost of WrestleMania XXIX’s HD broadcast through DirecTV. Remember when PPV events were $29.99? This is why I only order 1 event per year, 2 if SummerSlam is a strong card (Unless someone wants to pay me to review them!). Of course, older WrestleMania events didn’t have multi-million dollar stages and massive fireworks displays, either. The spectacle that is WrestleMania nowadays seems far removed from the product that’s presented the other 51 weeks of the year. I attended WrestleMania XXVII at the Georgia Dome, which has the distinction of having possibly the worst main event in history and the worst crowd. Anyways… let me move on to my review of the show along with my commentary about the state of the product.
I’ll start with the pre-show. I watched it on the WWE App on my phone. I was going to watch it on YouTube via the PS3, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t have any buffering or streaming issues. My one complaint is that when you stream a show on a phone and they want you to text, tweet, or tout, you have to shut the feed down and do that. That’s annoying. I did really enjoy the way the pre-show was presented, though. It was an NFL-style panel discussing the card. It was well done and really made the event seem that much more important. Dusty Rhodes is so good at selling matches and it’s always a plus to hear Jim Ross.
Match #1: Wade Barrett (Champion) vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship.
This was a short match. One thing I noticed is that Barrett has been given so little build-up in the ring on RAW (I only watch RAW, then read Smackdown spoilers) that I didn’t know that he was hitting his finisher on Miz. Miz picks up the win and the IC title with his second attempt at submitting Barrett with the Figure-Four. It was a pretty decent match. It probably got less time than it would have on RAW.
I guess this is fine. WWE seems to have little regard for these mid-card titles, which is too bad. Winning the US or IC title seems to make you a prime candidate to job to the main event guys week in and week out. This is well documented by the IWC, which is a minority. The overall money-paying audience doesn’t seem to care, so the trend will continue. If it were up to me, I would unify the titles (maybe at WrestleMania XXX?) and do away with the US title.
Final Pre-Show thoughts: It was well executed. In the future, I’d like to see it on my TV. I just paid $70 for the event; I don’t want to watch the pre-show on my computer or phone. I understand that they want people to use their social media services, but come on – put this on TV. Hell, it might even sell a few more PPVs if someone is flipping through the channels and sees the arena and presentation. I can’t express how much I liked the NFL-style panel set-up and I hope they use that from here on out – maybe even on every PPV or at least the big 4.
There was an opening video from Chris Christie (who never lets a good tragedy go to waste) about Hurricane Sandy and WrestleMania. Top notch video editing by WWE, like always. In between, there were some National Guard folks waving flags that weren’t even close to being in sync. The show then opened right into Sheamus making his entrance after the opening WrestleMania video. No National Anthem/America the Beautiful? No massive fireworks introduction? No fighter jets doing a fly-over? I was surprised by this.
Match #2: Sheamus, Randy Orton, and Big Show vs. The Shield.
This was a good pick to open the show. The Shield seemed more over with the crowd than the babyfaces. Or at least it came across that way on TV. I was surprised that Big Show was the guy who got stuck in the ring with a prolonged beat down during the match. Once the match broke down, Big Show hit a triple spear on The Shield as they had Sheamus up for the triple power bomb. That was a pretty awesome spot. In the end, Orton tagged himself in when Big Show was reaching for a hot tag from Sheamus. Orton caught Rollins off the top rope for a nice RKO, but then ate a spear from Reigns and Ambrose picked up the win as Show watched from the ring apron all pissed off. Big Show ended up knocking out Sheamus and Orton after the match. I’m really surprised Big Show ended up staying a heel. I thought that was just too obvious and that Orton might turn heel. Especially when Orton hot tagged himself.
Regardless, this was a good opener. The Shield needs to start evolving, though. They’ve beaten the absolute best that the WWE has to offer (Cena, Ryback, Sheamus, Orton, and Big Show) and there really isn’t much more that they can do in 6-man tag matches.
Off topic, I really thought that Ambrose and Rollins should have been the ones challenging Team Hell No for the titles and winning, which would have led to Kane and Bryan breaking up post-match. Reigns should have been one-on-one against Sheamus. Ziggler should have been on the card cashing in the MITB. Ok, back to the show.
Match #3: Ryback vs. Mark Henry.
This was a typical big man match – which is funny because Ryback isn’t an especially ‘big man’ at 281 lbs (by WWE standards). After a slow, plodding match, Ryback lifted Henry for the Shellshock (Don’t lie – you thought ‘Holy Shit’ when he picked him up). Henry used the ropes and kind of fell on Ryback. I guess – it looked sloppy on TV. Even more shocking that it was good for the pin. I was blown away by this result. Ryback hit the Shellshock post-match on Henry for his big moment, but it’s another big loss for Ryback.
Since his undefeated streak ended against Punk last year, I’m pretty sure Ryback has lost every single PPV match since then. Maybe the people making decisions think the character just has a low ceiling and know what they’re doing. I’m inclined to agree. Then again, Goldberg wasn’t much different than this character. Both had almost no mic skills and depended solely on power moves. Goldberg’s momentum died with his streak and so did Ryback’s. Remember that pop that Ryback got when he finally got his hands on CM Punk in 2012? I think WWE dropped the ball and lost out on a lot of mileage with Ryback.
Match #4: Team Hell No (Champions) vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston for the Tag Team Championship.
I thought this was a great match. I really thought Ziggler and Langston would get the belts here. There was a great spot at the beginning where they teased an 18-second loss like what happened to Bryan last year. I don’t have much else to say about this match. I was kind of expecting Kane and Bryan to break up, but that didn’t happen. Then I thought that maybe Langston would attack them post-match and Ziggler would use his briefcase to cash in for an immediate rematch and win the belts that way. None of that happened.
Match#5: Chris Jericho vs. Fandango.
Jericho had the first really awesome entrance of the night. This was a solid match, but when’s the last time Jericho had a bad match? I’m surprised someone kicked out of Fandango’s finisher in his first match (More on that later). I couldn’t tell if the ending was botched or not, so props to Jericho for not making it obvious if it was. I actually thought Jericho might get the win here since the other relative n00bs (Langston, Ryback, Barrett) all lost. I was a little underwhelmed by the match overall, but it was solid and enjoyable.
Match#6: Alberto Del Rio (Champion) vs. Jack Swagger for the World Heavyweight Championship.
This is where I first had a hint that there might be a time problem. When WWE returned from the promo video, Swagger was already in the ring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a WrestleMania where a wrestler entrance was not televised (and I’ve seen them all). I was already pissed off for having to listen to Diddy (more on that later, too). Then the challenger for the WHC gets the jobber treatment?
This was another solid match. Notice I’m saying these were solid matches. There was nothing really great to me at this point. Del Rio picked up the win by submitting Swagger with the arm bar. At this point, I was 100% sure that Swagger would give Del Rio a beat down and Ziggler would cash in. In the end, nothing.
Match #7: CM Punk vs. Undertaker.
This was the best match on the card for me. Even still, I thought it was underwhelming. I enjoyed Living Colour playing CM Punk to the ring. Undertaker’s entrance was pretty awesome as well. That said, these guys still delivered a strong match. It didn’t have the drama that HBK and Triple H had over the last 4 years, but it wasn’t fair to expect that. I expected Punk to focus on trying to get Undertaker counted out or DQ’d, but that was relatively minor as well. Some other spots I liked included CM Punk hitting Old School on Undertaker and Undertaker sitting up while in the Anaconda Vice. That’s what makes these guys main event stars. Psychology, facial expressions, and telling a story in the ring are grossly underrated. I’ll take that kind of match over a ‘5-star’ wrestling match any day of the week. And Paul Heyman? Brilliant.
On a side note, can we please go back to using old fashioned tables or at least make sure the announcer’s table is gimmicked properly so that it actually breaks? After watching Shawn Michaels almost kill himself against Ric Flair and now CM Punk somehow not breaking his leg last night, they have got to stop using those tables.
Undertaker had to win this match for Paul Bearer. I’m not upset about the result, but I never once thought the Streak was in danger. There was never that moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, Punk might pull this off.” For those who say they never have those thoughts, bullshit. When Triple H hit Pedigree #3, then 10 chair shots, then hit a Tombstone at WM27, there was no chill up your spine? Or at WM28 when HBK hit Taker with Sweet Chin Music right into a Pedigree, you didn’t gasp and think that was it? No matter how obvious the result, they always created doubt during the match. I never thought Punk was going to pull it off at any point in this match and, in that aspect, they failed. Like I’ll mention later, WrestleMania 28’s Hell in a Cell will never be topped.
Match #8: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar.
This match was No Holds Barred. Why wasn’t HBK just in the ring with Triple H and the two of them could have just beat Lesnar down? We can assume it was a pride thing, like Triple H wanted to do it himself, but it wasn’t ever made vocal. Anyways, I had bloated expectations for this as well. As a fan back when wrestlers bled a lot, I expected this to be a bloodbath. Yes, I know Lesnar smacking his head on the post wasn’t an intentional blade job, but did the blood not make that exchange on RAW seem awesome? If you want to sell brutality, you almost need to have some blood. The exception was last year at WrestleMania when the Undertaker and Triple H devastated each other with chairs.
Regardless, Lesnar came off as a monster for most of the match. Screaming and bleeding from his mouth – I don’t care if the man is 1-2 since his return, he’s a monster. He was absolutely ripped aside from maybe the skinniest legs in the world. It was a brutal match and I enjoyed it more than the SummerSlam match. It was just really physical and stiff. If there are any doubts, watch the elbow that HBK took in the nose from Lesnar. Again, Triple H had to win. He’d been completely humiliated and dominated twice. HBK had been beaten down. His wife was repeatedly insulted. To have the heel beat him and retire him would be kind of sadistic. Once again – Paul Heyman was brilliant in his role.
Just on a side note here, I personally think that Triple H and Undertaker should have retired at WrestleMania 28. It was billed as ‘End of an Era’. Undertaker should have said he was finished and was ready to Rest in Peace or whatever – they could have come up with something. Triple H should have put his career on the line for one more shot. The show should have ended with 3 of the greatest wrestlers in the last 2 decades embracing on stage. Think about it. Neither Triple H nor Undertaker will ever have a moment or a match like that again.
Match #9: The Rock (Champion) vs. John Cena.
This one was tough. I’m going to try to articulate my opinion on this. I’ll start by saying Cena had to win. That’s just business. The Rock only won the belt to put Cena over and to draw attention to the WWE. The Rock is not a full-time wrestler. He’s a movie star and he’s worth God knows how much. No matter how much the IWC hates John Cena, this had to happen. Let me also say that John Cena is a fine wrestler. He’s had matches with HBK, CM Punk, Lesnar, and others and they’ve been outstanding. Sure, you can say so-and-so carried him, but it takes two. That being said, John Cena and The Rock do not have good chemistry in the ring. It’s a simple as that.
Back to this match, didn’t the entrances seem rushed? Nothing special happened. Nothing elaborate happened. This was despite the fact that there were over 50 minutes left in the show. This match, above all, needed some glitz to save what would likely be a mediocre match.
The Rock of 2013 is also very out of place. It’s not his fault. The Rock is a product of the Attitude Era. The matches were more or less just brawls, fighting through the crowd, run-ins, and other chaos. Promos were laced with profanity and sexual innuendo. The Rock was cocky and arrogant and would go do commentary while his opponent was down. The audience was different. 2013 Rock is relying solely on one-on-one in-ring wrestling, which was never his strong point. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. The Rock sells. Sure, most of the fans don’t even know who the Rock is outside of movies and that he used to wrestle. It doesn’t matter because he draws money.
Back to my point – this match wasn’t good. It started off slow and then the false finishes started. I will admit, when Rock caught Cena with the 3rd Rock Bottom, I thought that might be the finish. So, props to them there. Cena won clean, of course. The crowd seemed to shit all over it so Cena wisely left the ring to allow the Rock to get a proper send-off. I guess that means Rock isn’t coming back for WrestleMania 30? Rock joined Cena at the top of the ramp to pose and the crowd didn’t seem that entirely happy still.
I’ll start with the obvious: Who completely screwed up the planning of the show? The introduction was cut short. An advertised match just casually never happened and was never mentioned. The challenger to the World Heavyweight Championship has an untelevised entrance. There were exactly ZERO backstage vignettes or interviews. The main event entrances were tossed out in favor of quickly getting them to the ring – even though the show went off the air with 10 minutes still left!
I will quickly explain why this happened in 4 words: Commercials, Promo Videos, Diddy. Let me be clear with this: I don’t pay DirecTV for WWE RAW specifically. If they want to air movie previews and commercials for toys and events, go right ahead. If I just paid $70 for an event, do not waste my money showing me advertisements. You want to show a preview for WrestleMania 30 and the next PPV, fine. There’s precedent for that and it’s a whopping 45 seconds total.
Second, the promo videos are overwhelming. For the last 7 weeks, RAW bombarded us with promo videos and recaps. We are now watching the event and have spent the money; we don’t need you to sell the event to us! If you combine all of the Rock/Cena videos and all the feud recap videos, I bet you find another 25-30 minutes. What do you think the pre-show was for? What are the announcers for?
Lastly, the Diddy debacle. My God, why? Every single time they hire a performer to perform a little show, the crowd and the fans absolutely shit on it. You know what works? Bands playing a wrestler to the ring. I bet you could count on two hands the amount of people that were excited that Diddy was going to perform.
Add all that junk together and I bet there is a minimum of 45 extra minutes on the show. Including the 10 minutes early the show ended. That’s 55 minutes to get the 8-person mixed tag match on the show, get some backstage promos and action, to have big time ring entrances for Rock and Cena.
What about the predictability? I don’t think it really was predictable. The Big 3 matches had to end the way they did. But the undercard wasn’t exactly predictable as you’ll notice by reading my thoughts through the first half of the event.
I do think a big opportunity was missed by WWE with Ziggler, though. He had a chance to wrestle for the WHC at WrestleMania and didn’t do it. I’m sure he can explain it away, but he’ll still look dumb. Maybe it was actually supposed to happen, but the time mismanagement caused them to throw it away?
My last issue is with false finishes or whatever you want to call it. Basically, when a wrestler kicks out of a finishing move or escapes their submission move when there usually isn’t precedent for it. The first WrestleMania false finish I can think of was when Warrior kicked out of 5 Savage elbow drops at WM7. Warrior/Hogan doesn’t count since their gimmicks involved kicking out of finishers.
It happens a lot now, maybe too much. These kinds of finishes are common for the Streak match, so I let them slide. It’s part of the gimmick that the Undertaker is unbeatable at WrestleMania. I mean, my God, Triple H hit him with 3 pedigrees, 10 chair shots, and a Tombstone at WM27 and couldn’t get the job done. Last night, though, it started getting absurd.
Not including the Streak match: First, Miz kicked out of Barrett’s finisher. Then Jericho kicked out of Fandango’s finisher. Triple H kicked out of the F5 and escaped 3 of Lesnar’s arm locks. Lesnar kicked out of a pedigree and escaped 3 arm locks. Then Cena kicked out of something like 3 Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow. Rock kicked out of at least 1 AA that I can recall. Even going back to RAW, Cena and Punk were kicking out of finishers. It gets to the point where you’re almost sure the first 2 times aren’t going to work. Only once the finisher is hit for a 3rd or 4th time will there finally be a winner. I just feel like it’s getting to be overkill.
My overall opinion is that it was a good, solid show that was marred by gross time management issues that are not common to WWE productions.