While I did not agree with the endings to two of the matches last night, overall I thought Wrestlemania 29 was a solid, fun, memorable and enjoyable show. For all the complaints I had leading up to, for all the issues I had with the storylines being built around certain matches (or in some cases the matches themselves), I thought the WWE put on a great show in the end. Now, I have read complaints online from a number of fans about the predictability of the matches, about the lack of any real surprises or “Wrestlemania moments,” so I will put forth a disclaimer that I attended the show live and being there in person among 80,000 other fans can make even the worst show (with Wrestlemania 29 was far from being) an incredible experience. However, despite the show getting a slight bump in its approval rating as a result of me being there, and the fact that I do agree the endings to some of the matches were predictable and/or questionable, I am extremely happy with how the show was put forth overall; after all, just because the matches ended predictably does not necessarily mean it was a bad show. And now that Wrestlemania 29 is behind us, I am looking forward to see where things with certain Superstars and titles go from here as the road to Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans in April 2014 unofficially begins.
The highlight of the show for me, by far, was The Undertaker defeating CM Punk to go 21-0 at Wrestlemania, and not just because The Undertaker is my favorite WWE Superstar of all time. The goal of any Undertaker Wrestlemania match is to make the fans in attendance and at home believe that the opponent can win, and last night’s match managed to do just that. I don’t know how it came across on TV but at the stadium every single fan was on his or her feet throughout the entire match and the crowd was easily split 50-50 for the two Superstars. When CM Punk dove off the top rope and hit The Undertaker with an elbow drop all the way on the announce table, the noise in MetLife Stadium was deafening and you really thought The Streak was going to end. When Undertaker took a GTS but just bounced off the ropes and hit Punk with a Tombstone Piledriver and Punk kicked out, you really thought The Streak was going to end. When the referee inadvertently got knocked out and Paul Heyman handed Punk the urn, which Punk used to hit Undertaker with over the head as The Dead Man attempted a Last Ride, and Punk went to pin him, you really thought The Streak was going to end. But when Punk mocked The Undertaker’s cut throat gesture and went for a GTS that was countered into a second Tombstone Piledriver and The Undertaker pinned CM Punk for the three-count, the stadium erupted in cheers. For those of you who have never attended a Wrestlemania live, seeing an Undertaker entrance on the “Grandest Stage of Them All” is one of the coolest experiences ever and despite now seeing it at eight different events I still get goose bumps every time. And when The Undertaker celebrated his victory last night by bowing down before the burn and lightning, pyro and fireworks went off all around the stadium as a giant “21-0” flashed on the video boards, it made the entire trip worth it.
The main event featuring The Rock vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship was an interesting match in that, for a number of reasons, John Cena was all but guaranteed to win. The crowd was dead for all but the last 10 minutes of the match and I think that the predictability of the finish going in, being exhausted from the entire show already (not to mention being emotionally drained from the Undertaker/Punk match) and being upset at how the match between Triple H and Brock Lesnar ended all contributed to that. But the last 10 minutes of the match more than made up for everything else, including the year-long slow build to a match that was supposed to only happen “once in a lifetime” in the first place and, in my opinion, the final image of the night was more than enough of a “Wrestlemania moment” for me. As I said all along, I was begrudgingly hoping that Cena would win the match and the title because The Rock had a paltry title reign and is heading off to film a new movie later this month anyway, so I was not as upset when Cena did win as I would normally be at the sight of him holding up the title. Plus, Cena and Rock countering each other’s finishing moves over and over again, mocking each other and experiencing multiple near-falls, all leading up to Cena countering a Rock Bottom and hitting the Attitude Adjustment for the pin and the win, was very well done. After the match, Cena and Rock exchanged words that those of us in attendance could not hear but the two men then shook hands and hugged as Cena left Rock in the ring to say goodbye to the fans. As Rock made his way back up the ramp, Cena waited at the top where the two saluted each other before The Rock headed backstage and John Cena celebrated with the title above his head as the show went off the air.
The third main event – Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar – was a tough match to get into. First, it went on right after the Undertaker/Punk match, without any match or even a backstage segment in between, so all of us in attendance were too exhausted to even get up and cheer for the entrances. As for the match itself, I heard from a friend that it came across great on TV but in person it really dragged on. There were some cool spots, such as Lesnar hitting Triple H with multiple belly-to-belly suplexes, Lesnar throwing Triple H through the announce table and Shawn Michaels getting hit with an F5 when he tried to interfere, but the end of the match dragged on and I could not have disagreed more with the final result. Although I said that if I were in charge I would have booked Lesnar to win to keep his record at 2-1 since his return and then move on to decimate the entire WWE roster before moving on to his next opponent (who I would book as The Rock or The Undertaker), I predicted that Triple H would put his ego and the ego of the company above what is best for business and win the match. In the end, I predicted the ending correctly as, despite Brock Lesnar countering out of the Kimora Lock arm breaker submission move three times by slamming Triple H into the steel steps each time, in the end Triple H won after Shawn Michaels took out Paul Heyman and Triple H hit Lesnar in the gut and head with a sledgehammer and then hit him with the Pedigree for the win. So now Lesnar is 1-2 since returning to the WWE and is signed on for another two years, which makes it very curious as to where he goes from here. After all, no matter who he faces next, how am I supposed to believe that he is an unstoppable monster and a real fighter among a roster of entertainers when he has a losing record and has been stopped twice?
The only other match where I disagreed with the ending was the World Heavyweight Championship match between Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger. While I expected Del Rio to win because the WWE is trying to push him as their top Latino good guy and Swagger had issues with a DUI arrest after he was already booked for this match, I didn’t expect Del Rio’s win to last very long. I had fantasy booked the match where if Del Rio retained the title, Swagger would attack him after the match which would lead to Dolph Ziggler cashing in the MITB contract and winning the title, and after Ziggler failed to win the Tag Team Championships earlier in the night, I thought for sure that is what would happen. But when the match ended and Del Rio had his hand raised in victory, after Del Rio forced Swagger to tap out to the Cross Arm Breaker after a fairly quick match for a world title match, Swagger just left the ring and headed back up the ramp, followed by the champion. If I were Vince McMahon and had planned for that all along, I would have listened to 80,000 fans chanting for Dolph Ziggler during the match and called an audible, but alas, Ziggler was nowhere to be seen. So now Ziggler still has the contract and until July to cash it in, so it will be interesting to see who challenges for the WHC next and where Ziggler fits into the picture.
A very surprising aspect to the show was that there were no backstage segments and only one in-ring promo, and that was a promo by Zeb Coulter and Jack Swagger, who did not get an entrance. I am all about devoting a WWE show to matches instead of promos and backstage skits, but it seemed like an odd choice at Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania is now Raw, Smackdown or even a regular pay-per-view – it is an entertainment spectacle. If WWE Raw tonight, or any night for that matter, was three hours of matches with maybe the occasional promo, I would be shocked and thrilled. But if any show is going to feature backstage segments or in-ring promos, it should be Wrestlemania. First, there were a ton of celebrities in attendance with whom skits between them and various Superstars and Divas practically write themselves. Second, there were a number of Superstars and Divas (including United States Champion Antonio Cesaro and Divas Champion Kaitlyn) who were left off the card and could have at least been featured backstage. Third, a backstage segment here and there would have been nice to give the fans to catch their breaths after matches like Undertaker/Punk. In the end, because the mixed tag team match was taken off the card entirely, Jack Swagger did not get an entrance and the entrances for The Rock and John Cena seemed rushed, I am going to assume that time constraints throughout the show became an issue. But I am curious as to whether the lack of any backstage segments was because of time constraints or a decision made in advance of the show.
Here are my quick thoughts on the rest of the show:
WWE Wrestlemania 29 kicked off with the six-man tag team match between Randy Orton, Sheamus & Big Show and The Shield. As everyone predicted, The Shield won to help continue their momentum as a team of new wrestlers, whereas their opponents (all former and future world champions) did not need the win to stay relevant. However, whereas I (and lots of other people) thought and hoped it would be Randy Orton who turned heel and cost his team the win (and maybe was even revealed as the leader of The Shield) it was Big Show who “turned heel.” I put “turned heel” in quotation marks because he was never really a face going into this match to begin with, as he was the one who Sheamus and Orton were wary of from the day he suggested joining their team, and in the end he was the one who cost his team the win. Plus, it wasn’t even a real heel turn as he participated fully in the match and even had a huge spot towards the end where he speared Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns all at the same time as they attempted a triple powerbomb on Sheamus. In the end, however, after Orton hit a flying RKO on Rollins as he came off the top rope and then set up for an RKO on Ambrose, Reigns hit Orton with a massive spear and Ambrose pinned him as Big Show just looked on. After the match, Big Show knocked out Orton and Sheamus with KO Punches before leaving the ring.
Mark Henry and Ryback had a typical super heavyweight match that was very quick but allowed both men to showcase their strength. I was very surprised that Henry won the match in the end but not at all disappointed (despite having predicted the match incorrectly) because I think Henry makes a more legitimate contender for a world title going forward than Ryback. I know lots of people are in favor of a bigger push for Ryback, but I am fine with him staying at the mid-card level and doing what he does now. With that being said, I was very surprised to see Henry pull off the clean victory and give Ryback yet another consecutive PPV loss. However, after the match, Ryback did manage to get some heat back and provide us all with a “Wrestlemania moment” when he hit Henry with a Shell Shock.
As I mentioned before, Dolph Zigger and Big E Langston lost their tag team titles match against Kane and Daniel Bryan. The entire night I was hoping that Divas Champion Kaitlyn and AJ Lee would be added to the match with a “winners take all” stipulation, but that did not happen. Plus, for everyone who thought the show was overall predictable, I have to believe most people thought last night would be the beginning of the end of Team Hell No. Instead, after AJ Lee distracted the referee and Ziggler tried to hit Kane with the MITB briefcase but missed, Kane hit Ziggler with a chokeslam and then tagged in Bryan, who landed a flying headbutt off the top rope and pinned Ziggler for the win. While the ending to the match was not how I predicted or what I would have chosen, Team Hell No is still a great tag team and it was just nice overall to see the tag titles defended on the main card of Wrestlemania as part of a storyline that had been given time to develop in the weeks leading up to the show. Going forward, I hope the tag team division is given a chance to really shine because you have enough legitimate teams out there – Team Rhodes Scholars, Ziggler & Langston, Prime Time Players, The Usos, Primo & Epico, Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd – and other potential tag teams (like Rey Mysterio & Sin Cara when both are healthy) to have a really exciting division all fighting for the titles.
Chris Jericho and Fandango had a match where the crowd was heavily against Fandango from the moment he began his completely over-the-top entrance but solidly behind him once the match was over and he had rolled up Jericho with a schoolboy pin for the win. Count me as one of the people who was against the character from the very first teaser video but as someone who has now completely changed his tune; I think the Fandango character is hilarious and very charismatic, and it doesn’t help that Johnny Curtis is a very good technical wrestler, and with a win over Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania under his belt, I could see good things for him in the future.
As I briefly mentioned before, the mixed tag team match featuring Brodus Clay, Tensai, Cameron & Naomi vs. Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Nikki Bella & Brie Bella (which I thought should have always been on the pre-show to begin with) did not take place at all. I assume it was because of time constraints, and while I was always against the idea of the match on the main card when other matches could have take place instead, I do feel bad for all of the participants and it would have been fun to see Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins.
In the pre-show match, The Miz beat Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship in a match that was very quick but very good but one that unfortunately most people never saw because it was on the pre-show and only online.
On a quick side note, I also attended the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday night. It was certainly the most impressive class in the history of the HOF, which included the legendary Bruno Sammartino, Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, Bob Backlund, Booker T and even Donald Trump. The night was fun and the speeches were all very good and touching (with the exception of Backlund, who I think might be legitimately crazy), but what I did not like from the event was the fans in attendance. Many of them were respectful of the speeches and the people both being inducted and doing the inducting, but a small number of fans ruined it for everyone else by their screams and chants during the night. The Hall of Fame ceremony is not a sporting event, it is a formal ceremony honoring the legends without him none of us would have been in New York/New Jersey this weekend for the 29th installment of WWE Wrestlemania. While I thoroughly enjoy going to the ceremony ever year, if the fans continue to act that way in the future, I would not be against the WWE either closing it off to the fans or putting the prices so high (like over $500 a ticket and doing it in a grand ballroom instead of a sporting arena) out of respect for the inductees.