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To read an opinion of the show from someone who could actually see the fine points of each match and who wasn’t tainted by $7 beers, check out Kyle Rancourt’s notes on WrestleMania 27.
And so it has come and gone.
The greatest spectacle in sports entertainment, the Super Bowl of fake sports, the mania of wrestle. As an on-and-off, life-long fan of scripted fighing, attending my first WrestleMania was one hell of an experience.
Before I go into breaking down the actual event, here are a few bullet-point notes that stood out from the weekend as a whole:
- Sunny getting inducted into the Hall of Fame had to be a nerve-racking experience for any 90s-era wrestler who is currently married. Seriously, it’s almost cruel that they put her in the same class as Shawn Michaels. For those of you who don’t know, Sunny is well-known for being a prostitute in the 90s. And by prostitute, I mean she had sex with pretty much everyone on the WWF roster for free. HBK was one of her more notorious
patronsrelationships. That was of course before he became a born-again Christian and she became a cocky, over-the-hill, white trash queen of bloviation.
- Road Dogg’s induction of his father, Bullet Bob Armstrong, into the WWE Hall of Fame was awesome. It was certainly nostalgic, and made me wonder how this guy’s verbal skills don’t have him employed right now. Seriously, a “ladies and gentlemen” promo is enough to make me push for the return of managers.
- I could listen to Dusty Rhodes talk for days. The accent, the rambling stories and the curious explanations. Seriously, the upcoming WrestleMania DVD will be worth the cost simply because of The American Dream’s attempt at explaining the Iditarod.
- Stop what you’re doing and go to the Georgia Aquarium right now. Whale sharks are totally boss.
- Apparently the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony is a formal occasion for all. Little did I know that cheap suits and cheesy evening gowns were par for the course at pro wrestling’s red carpet occasion. I’ll be ready next time. Don’t you worry.
- Don’t ever drink Beverly soda. It’s from Italy, and it tastes like a combination of flat soda water and cheap vodka. Thanks a lot, World of Coca-Cola.
- The Double Coronary Bypass Burger is a half-pound patty topped with six slices of American cheese, eight pieces of bacon, two fried eggs and it’s all between two grilled cheese sandwiches that serve as the bun. The eggs get you.
Now onto the event.
Just walking into the Georgia Dome was an experience in itself. The build-up of the event is unreal, and you don’t really realize what you’re getting into until you arrive inside. The visual of the stage and ramp in the vast space of a 70,000-seat football stadium is incredible. It really is tough to imagine the work that goes into these four hours. Bonus perk: club seats.
Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus
Ah, the part where I get to make fun of you, the lazy, stay-at-home PPV orderer, because you didn’t get to see this match, and I did. Except you didn’t miss anything. Really, you missed nothing. The US title match now infamously became the show’s dark match which infamously became a throwaway, get everybody on the show battle royal. Say it with me: Kick, kick, punch, punch, somebody falls over the top rope. Kick, kick, punch, punch, somebody falls over the top rope. Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.
The move is getting bashed and will surely be compared to the tag team title unification match that took place as the dark match for WrestleMania XXV. However, there are two key differences here:
- The tag match (between Miz/Morrison and the Colons) had a major build and was appealing to the casual WWE fan. This year’s US title match was barely a discussion point outside of Internet fans.
- The tag match didn’t turn into a giant, cluster battle royal between every tag team in WWE. OK, that’s probably because it already featured the only two tag teams in WWE at the time.
Don’t worry, folks. Sheamus will be fine.
The Rock’s introductory promo
Nothing revolutionary here, so I know plenty of people at home complained that Rock did nothing new and seemed to be going through his traditional routine. Well, consider this Exhibit A of how much better EVERYTHING is in person. A live Rock promo is, as The Great One would say, electrifying. It jumped the crowd right into the show, and it’s always fun to sing-a-long with Rocky.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Edge
This match going on first shows the unconventional method that wrestling PPVs now operate under. I say this because it’s a theory that I feel most people didn’t understand when they wrote their respective reviews of Mania. There is no longer a traditional definition of the term “main event.” Matches are positioned to balance out the emotion of the crowd, and that’s exactly what was done in Atlanta to some extent. Sure, you could argue that this match didn’t need to go first because of Rock’s promo, but this was still an excellent start. A lot of fun and creative reversals by both guys, and a surprising result with Edge going over.
Del Rio’s arm bar finisher leaves plenty of sick possibilities for surprising twists, and we saw that for the first time on Sunday. It was shocking to see this come on first, but it sure set one hell of a precedent.
Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio
A match that is getting heavily underrated right now. I really thought this was a solid match, but the fact that the crowd was kinda mum to it did not do it any favors. It simply didn’t feel like a big deal because this is the only feud on the card that wasn’t featured prominently on Raw, which will always be the flagship show of WWE. It really came off as a comic book showdown between Mysterio’s Captain America gear and Rhodes’ over-the-top, self-disgusted villain. The victory was great for Rhodes, and both men got to show off some excellent maneuvers.
It’s too bad most of the crowd was like me and had little exposure to the feud as a whole.
Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Santino Marella vs. The Corre
This match was so bad and irrelevant that it was even more useless than I originally thought it would be. Proof? It didn’t even last long enough to serve as a proper bathroom/beer/merchandise stand break. It was all over before I even made it into the concourse. Dumb.
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
I had previously said that I hoped this match would get somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. According to ProWrestling.net, it got 14:45, but it deserved more. Not complaining, the two did an excellent, old school job with what they were given. Later, two veterans would prove that it was probably impossible to steal the show, but Orton/Punk was still very well done. Word is that Orton was particularly not happy backstage with where this match was placed on the card and how much time it was given. While part of me can’t blame him, the other part thinks the time for these two to absolutely star will soon come, and the placement of this match had a lot to do with the aforementioned unconventional card.
The RKO is an excellent move because it makes it feel like a match can end at any time. That was certainly the vibe in the arena when he caught CM Punk’s flying clothesline attempt. The crowd was a bit heel-heavy all night as WrestleMania tends to draw the intense wrestling fans who are older and bitter and blah, blah, blah. This was the first real evidence of this as Punk received heavy cheers from the crowd.
2011 Hall of Fame class introduced
HBK gets his moment and then has to pose for a picture next to, you guessed it, Sunny. Go away, devil woman.
Michael Cole (w/ Jack Swagger) vs. Jerry Lawler with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee
You knew this match wasn’t going to be good. Hell, you knew it wasn’t even really going to be a wrestling match. But still, people find ways to complain that Cole didn’t come off like a descendant of Ricky Steamboat (or even Alicia Fox) on Sunday. My major complaint is that A – it went on about nine minutes too long and B – it solved nothing. All we needed was a four-minute blow-off where Lawler beat the hell out of Cole and chased him away forever, but that didn’t happen.
I differ from the crowd a little bit in that I supported Cole’s original heel run because as long as the crowd is being vocal, there’s no reason to ignore it. But what happened on Sunday both turned Cole’s heat from hatred to apathy, and then somehow kept this whole disaster going. Cole’s antics saturated the match to a point where Lawler’s offense wasn’t fully embraced. The crowd was the most enthusiastic in serenading Cole with “You can’t wrestle” chants and embracing Austin’s assorted Stunners.
It ended up being fun live, but I can only imagine how bad it dragged on television. Stone Cold’s antics in dealing with Cole’s tap-out was hilarious . But then the reversal left everything open. I thought it may lead to the final reveal of the Raw GM, but I’m now sure more than ever that that person doesn’t really exist.
Undertaker vs. Triple H
Equal parts brutal, believable and epic. The Undertaker continues to set an insane bar for WrestleMania performances in defending the latter years of his streak that now stands at 19-0. Where the matches with HBK were technical and flashy masterpieces, this was a grueling and destructive match that lived up to every bit of its hype and stipulation. As one little kid said walking out of the Georgia Dome: “When they said no holds barred, they really meant no holds barred.”
I’m now completely convinced that Undertaker will wrestle until he can’t walk anymore, which I predict will be WrestleMania XXVIII. I’ve seen devastating hardcore matches, and I’ve seen mind-boggling psychological matches that suspend disbelief. However, I have never seen a match mix the two qualities in such a perfect manner.
This was a spot fest that told a story. A story that made fans cringe and gasp in amazement. It took every young wrestler in the back that might be bitching about veterans owning the card and said, “Well, go do that, and we’ll talk.”
There was a bit of role reversal from the Taker/HBK matches in that it was Triple H frustrated by Taker’s ability to keep getting up. It drove him several Pedigrees, repeated chair shots (including one to the head which we haven’t seen in a very long time) and arguably the most dramatic Tombstone of all time. We’re all supposed to know better, but admit it, you thought the streak was over for a moment when The Game went for the coffin cover. It was the biggest pop of the night in the Georgia Dome.
Being the idiot that I am, I do have a minor tweak for one of the best executed matches of all time. I really would have liked to see Triple H pass out a la Stone Cold at WrestleMania 13. It just seems more in line with the whole “win or die trying” theme that Triple H was trying to get across. The reality now is that he quit. Still a crazy and awesome ending.
I feel like it wasn’t too far from reality to have Taker stretchered out of the arena. The man should probably not be wrestling or doing anything physical at this stage, but he continues to destroy his body for the streak. His squirming and general discomfort left an eerie but appreciative feeling in the dome and encouraged a great, polite standing ovation. Taker may never truly break character, but he became a little bit human Sunday night. Don’t expect to see The Last Outlaw for several months as he really sold the idea that he’ll be feeling like hell for a while because of this one night.
Trish Stratus, John Morrison and Snooki vs. Dolph Ziggler and LayCool
Attention, douchers. This is what is called a buffer match. It is the match that serves as your letdown from a great match so that another big match isn’t expected to top something that it probably can’t. The placement of this match does not somehow mean that Vince McMahon views Snooki as a main-event attraction.
This was simply a gimmick that served as a transition. Calm down, losers.
Attention, douchers No. 2. Booing Snooki doesn’t make you cool or a better wrestling fan or anything more than, well, a doucher. I admitted this last night, and I’ll admit it again. I was kinda proud of Snooki last night. She ran out in front of 71,000 people who all wish they could get paid to party on television, and got her spray-tanned ass completely booed off. She received the second most heel heat on the show, and we’ll get to No. 1 in a moment.
But then she did something crazy. She showed a little bit of athleticism, and everybody either shut up or (gasp) cheered. It was a legitimately cool moment, and you could tell it meant a lot to her.
Ziggler and Morrison will one day get better draws for Mania. But first they both have to prove they have more charisma than they’ve show in their careers. Pushing either one right now would be a rush. They’re simply not polished enough as complete characters.
The Miz vs. John Cena
Let’s talk for a second about the biggest mistake made at WrestleMania 27.
The cool entrances are over and it’s time for the WWE Champion to face a man who is supposed to be the company’s biggest babyface. It should be electric and deafening inside the arena. Except no one cared.
No one cared because they knew not to take the match seriously until they saw The Rock. They knew not to cheer for Miz because he’s an overly pompous heel, but they also knew not to cheer for Cena because Rock has informed the world that it’s not cool to cheer for WWE’s biggest merchandise man.
What we got was an overshadowed heel champion working against a face challenger who received more heel heat than anyone else on the card (even Vickie Guerrero) on Sunday night. It was awkward and went against the grain of pro wrestling 101 in a bad way. I don’t think I’m alone in admitting that I paid little attention to the match until Rock came out and restarted it.
UPDATE: Since I began writing this, it was announced on Raw that Rock will face Cena in a match … In 361 days at WrestleMania 28 in Miami.
So if Rock continues to destroy Cena, what choice does WWE have? Eventually the kids will stop cheering for him because it’s not cool to cheer for Cena at live events. But then again, Cena could gain his face status back by going through some other feuds with intense heels in the mean time.
One last thing with Cena/message to fans: If you boo Cena and tear into him because you truly hate his character, go ahead. But if you’re at an event and doing so simply because he appeals to kids, grow the hell up. Guess who wrestling is made for? Kids, not 45-year-old socially awkward Game Stop managers, you creepy bastard. It only makes you more pathetic and closer to “It’s still real to me, dammit” status to pick on kids at a pro wrestling match. Heels aren’t impressed by the fact that you waited in line for two hours to see them because you read dirt sheets and consider yourself whatever the hell a “smark” is. Cena works his ass off and keeps your favorite company afloat. Tyson Kidd doesn’t.
Do I care for Cena? Not really, but I understand his place in WWE as the company’s most marketable star. However, it is getting very difficult to see the future of that status if Rock continues to blur lines.
For the record, it was very strange hearing Miz get a giant pop for his pinfall.
As I’ve repeatedly said, I loved everything about attending Mania. It was truly a blast and an experience that I’ll remember forever.
If there’s one thing that really stood out Sunday, it was that WrestleMania 27 defined the idea of sports entertainment over wrestling. It might not be for everyone, but to me the spectacle element beats the hell out of watching two computer geeks go crazy for 45 minutes in a high school gym. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. WWE won’t miss you.
WrestleMania 27 was far from technical, but it was certainly a spectacle. The countdown to Miami begins now.