“Wrestle” takes a backseat to “Mania” at XXVII
It was a return of the Superbowl of professional wrestling last night as Wrestlemania XXVII took place in Atlanta, Georgia featuring the pomp and circumstance you would come to expect from World Wrestling Entertainment. While the show wasn’t a fumble, it certainly spent more time paying tribute to a former era of the game than its current era.
In recent days, the WWE has seemed to do everything possible to distance themselves from being a professional wrestling company. One might understand when their main competition is the pathetic TNA Wrestling, but why they would rather compete with the Harlem Globetrotters and Cirque De Soleil for live entertainment supremacy is anyone’s guess. When TV Week tried to say that Drew Carey was being inducted into the WWE pro wrestling hall of fame, they were quickly corrected by WWE publicist Kellie Baldyga and told that the WWE was no longer a wrestling company, but a global entertainment company. One now must wonder when they plan to drop the word “wrestle” from Wrestlemania. Likely sometime after they start calling wrestling rings an “entertainment platform”. In order to make everyone who ordered Wrestlemania XXVII for potentially good wrestling sedated in disappointment, the WWE pulled a planned Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus US Championship Title match. This was pushed into a dark match, which would have been fine for those willing to buy Wrestlemania on DVD to see it as an extra feature. Unfortunately, it was turned into a lumberjack match. Then that fell apart and was soon turned into a battle royale that meant absolutely nothing and the Great Khali won. Score one for Mania, zero for Wrestle. Wrestle being “What paying wrestling fans come to see”. Mania being, “Vince McMahon and the writers of this show are suffering from full-blown Mania, which Wikipedia describes as including hallucinations, delusion of grandeur, suspiciousness, catatonic behavior, aggression, and a preoccupation with thought and schemes that may lead to self neglect”.
Next, our Wrestlemania host Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson came out to lead the crowd in a rousing chant against the biggest star of the company, John Cena. From the PG effort to the Mattel sponsorship, the company has gone towards catering to a certain audience of children under 15 years old, along with the female demographic and parents who originally never watched wrestling but their wrestling fueled children do. For these people, John Cena is everything. To those who can afford the atrocious price of a Wrestlemania ticket that weekend, Cena represents everything they hated when teenagers in the Attitude era. The hero of the Attitude era? One of them was The Rock, who he himself was booed to the point of having to turn heel when his jokes were getting dry. By the way, those same jokes are fresh again to the people who once booed him. Anyway, fruity pebble jokes echo in the Georgia Dome while I wonder if this was why Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus had to get cut. Score another point for Mania, because I can’t understand the logic. I guess a lot of people really missed those Raw is War episodes in 1999 which opened up with The Rock wasting 20 minutes of our time with nursery rhymes.
However, Rock as the host talking makes sense. Alberto Del Rio being the next person to come out does not. That’s right, for the first time in Wrestlemania history, the curtain jerker of the program is the Royal Rumble winnner. Del Rio’s entrance at least showed off the absolutely gorgeous set with giant HD screens and more than enough space to host a comedy roast complete with comedians sitting and cracking jokes. Del Rio has been promoted as one of the few WWE superstars the WWE hasn’t tried to humble and were willing to give him a strong armed push without trying to make him look weak. The last few weeks included World Heavyweight Champion Edge and his best friend Christian getting the best of Alberto Del Rio after nobody could. Smart booking to ensure people to be even more angry to see Del Rio complete his destiny and win the championship, no? No is correct. Edge beat him clean. Then Edge and Christian destroyed his car with about as much fury as Michael Jackson in an early 90s music video. In other words, we’ve seen better. Hell, we saw better in the WWE. Del Rio cried, likely because in the reflection of his scratched up Rolls Royce he could see the main event pushes of Sheamus and Jack Swagger, neither of which would be wrestling for the rest of the night. Oh, and the match? It was alright. Mania still wins this one.
Following this match was the well worked feud between Rey Mysterio and Cody Rhodes. Why this match got to follow the Royal Rumble winner/World Heavyweight Championship match is anyones guess. Rey Mysterio decided to dress up like Captain America. How cute. For once, the Mania has to step aside for the Wrestle in Cody Rhodes winning and the match being decent. I think the re-matches following this will be much better. 3-1.
Oh yeah, some segment featuring Snoop Dogg, a coconut and Hornswoggle rapping. The less said the better. 4-1 Mania.
In less time than it has taken for me to write 800 words for this article, the next match up, featuring The Corre (Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett, Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, WWE’s best bodyguard Ezekiel Jackson) taking on Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella and suddenly added Kofi Kingston (who also had the best entrance of anyone in this match) lasted less than three minutes before ending with a great punch to the face to Heath Slater from the Big show. Eight guys, 90 seconds per wrestler… that’s… 11.25 seconds per wrestler! Mania up 5-1.
This “match” was followed up by The Rock talking to Eve. You wouldn’t know it watching Wrestlemania, but Eve is the Unified Divas Champion in the company. This lead to a terrible Mae Young joke you can usually expect and then… Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin is a guest referee for the show and also the head trainer of WWE Tough Enough, debuting tonight. This staredown proved there is something about the Attitude era that they did right that the current era has been unable to accomplish. One just has to think back to the Royal Rumble when Randy Orton and John Cena had a staredown from the glow of the Wrestlemania logo and nobody cared. This staredown might not involve wrestling, but it was intense because it reminded you of the great matches Austin and Rock have had at Wrestlemania. Mania still leading 5-2.
A real coin toss of a match is next as Randy Orton takes on CM Punk. Orton has been portrayed as the big bully who all of the cool kids (i.e. WWE fans) like while CM Punk, leader of the Nexus, is just trying to get revenge with his new group of friends. However, Orton has beat up all of CM Punk’s friends so Punk has to go out alone. Good thing too, because CM Punk was in Wrestlemania mode. He also ended up working great chemistry with Orton, who hasn’t had a good match in months. Excellent match and made both men look strong with Orton going over. Wrestle gets a point to make this 5-3 Mania.
Another terrible skit. This time featuring Pee Wee Herman switching allegiance from Cena to Rock. Less said? The better. 6-3 Mania.
With all of this time going to bad skits and nothing being left for matches, nothing was also left for the Hall of Fame announcement. Howard Finkle went through the names as fast as possible (Sunny looked great, Road Warriors got a good pop, Hacksaw’s tie on the 2×4 got an even better pop, Drew Carey got unfairly booed) before bringing out Shawn Michaels for… five seconds. Maybe I should have expected this since that’s how Austin’s HOF induction felt at Mania, but it was still all too short. Had Abdullah the Butcher pulled out a fork and stabbed someone, I might be giving this to Wrestle. No fork? All Mania. 7-3 Mania.
Next out is the longest running storyline of the entire show: Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler. We’ve had to endure Michael Cole’s heel character ruining any flow of commentary which all began because he hated Daniel Bryan on NXT. Cole was also involved in being the only guy to stop Jerry Lawler from beating The Miz in a ladder match. If that explanation didn’t make you say, “Really? Their champion almost lost to a fossil colour commentator in a ladder match and had to be saved by Michael Cole?”, you’ve probably enjoyed the show up to now. Cole enters and berated Jim Ross, in for commentary with Booker T and Josh Matthews. Ross is a welcome addition, but Cole is an even more welcome subtraction. Jack Swagger then comes out, proving that winning Money in the Bank is about as valuable as winning King of the Ring. Ask Billy Gunn. The glass shattered as Austin came screeching out in an ATV (which, funny enough, was Stephen Harper’s most recent publicity photo), ready to run over a push up delivering Swagger. Fantastic. This match is about what you would expect and was perfectly acceptable for a veteran wrestler and an un-trained personality (Austin refusing to immediately end the match when Lawler put Cole in the ankle lock was priceless) until the Anonymous Raw GM, a storyline character which has gone for far, far too long decided to reverse the decision. This leads to Booker T and Josh Matthews eating Stone Cold Stunners instead of Michael Cole and a promise of the Michael Cole character to continue. Everything wrong after everything was right. 8-3 Mania. The only solace being we now have Jim Ross in the booth for the rest of Wrestlemania. To be fair, I’ll give a 1/2 point to Wrestle for this. Make that 8-3½.
And now, the classic Undertaker streak match. This time adding the heir to the McMahon throne in Triple H, with everyone on the internet fearing he’ll break the streak just because he can. His entrance, thankfully, was spectacular. Adding “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica to the beginning was more foreshadowing than anything, but made it great for story. Undertaker came out, like he has been in the last several weeks to Johnny Cash, making this the man in Black versus the Black Album (actually, Ride the Lightning. But it’s a great line, shut up!). Going over 30 minutes, this was a great story told in the ring. My only problem was it felt like these wrestlers from the 90s were allowed to do things nobody else on the roster would be allowed. Tables broke, the Cole Mine broke, Triple H even gave Taker a chairshot to the dome (though Taker put his hands up. Which is what people did for decades until it became popular and hardcore to take it in the skull). Triple H hit Undertaker with three Pedigrees, when only one usually finishes off anyone. He then hit Undertaker with a tombstone, where your feeling of, “Taker ain’t ever losing” suddenly gone for two seconds. Enough for a very close two count. Triple H was in a pure position of domination until Undertaker locked on the Hell’s Gate and kept him tight until Triple H tapped out. Very good match by two artists of the ring. Unfortunately, the ending was mired by the camera spending its time on Undertaker unable to get up and out of the ring. A lot of time wasted. Still goes to Wrestle. 8-4½.
In order to cool the crowd down, the WWE trounced out the six person tag match between Snooki, Trish Stratus and John Morrison (should have been Zack Ryder in his place) against LayCool and Dolph Ziggler with Vickie Guerrero. The crowd was ready to completely shit on the Jersey Shore midget until she pulled out a double handspring elbow that looked better than Kelly Kelly has ever executed it. And Kelly Kelly might have been in this match instead of Trish Stratus. Yikes. Complete wastes of the individuals in this match. Wouldn’t we much rather see John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler (the most exciting offence in the WWE vs. the best bumper in the WWE) while Trish and Snooki get two minutes to face LayCool, enough time to hit the double handspring? This one goes to Mania. 9-4½.
It has been a Wrestlemania tradition now since 2006 to have elaborate entrances for the main event so I’m separating this from the actual match. The first entrance featured Miz staring at several monitors as it played his career from Real World to today. Playing during it was “Hate me now” by Nas featuring Puff Daddy, which should become his new entrance music. Fantastic video. Riley came out wearing a nice leather version of his “Varsity Villain” jacket while Miz wore a burgundy long jacket. It works. Cena then had a huge Georgia choir singing his theme song before shots of his life and career played to us with a soliloquoy from DMX that sounded much like a prayer. I guess this is why the Rock mentioned God last week. That said, it was actually a decent entrance with lead to John Cena coming out in new colours. I was wondering when he’d start wearing Red Sox red. Entrances earn a point for Wrestle, even if these long entrances cut into wrestling. 9-5½.
Then… the match. John Cena looked both uninterested and a second out of step. Miz doesn’t have anywhere near enough ability to make up for it, like Dolph Ziggler displayed when Kaval was off step at Survivor Series. Through genius booking by the WWE, the match ended on a double countout. Yes, the Wrestlemania main event had ended on double countout, finishing in a draw and Miz retaining. At Wrestlemania. 10-5½…
BUT WAIT! Wrestlemania host The Rock comes out to save the show! He first proceeds to smash the Raw Anonymous GM’s laptop (prior to this, he yelled a catchphrase at it. Take that, technology!) and announce the match to continue. RIGHT AFTER ANNOUNCING THIS, Rock interrupts Cena from an Attitude Adjustment to hit Cena with the Rock Bottom, revenge from last week when Cena hit Rock with the AA. Miz covers and ends up beating John Cena. This would have actually been fine, using Wrestlemania as a catalyst to what will be the biggest feud in the WWE for 2011 (John Cena vs. The Rock) but Rock just couldn’t let the events soak in the mind of fans and question Rock’s actions. No, he has to attack The Miz now post-match and hit him with a People’s Elbow, putting a part-time movie star who USED to be a wrestler over the two most important names in the company today under the age of 35. Easily the worst finish to a Wrestlemania since Hulk Hogan inexplicably beat Yokozuna after Bret Hart got salt thrown in his eyes at Wrestlemania IX. Congratulations, Mania. You more than doubled the score. 11-5½.
Much like suffering full blown Mania, you tend to hallucinate. I began hallucinating about Wrestlemania IX and how Rock had stolen the show from the current generation of Miz and Cena just like Hogan stole it from Bret Hart and Yokozuna. Delusion of grandeur is probably me expecting people to read this and agree, as those who attended Wrestlemania parties seem to have enjoyed this show (including friends of mine whose opinion I hold in the highest regard). Suspiciousness? Guess not. Catatonic? Maybe if I decide to now make myself suffer through two hours of Raw. Aggression? Oh you bet. Pre-occupation of thoughts leading to self neglect? Sounds like everyone looking their pay per view bill and wondering why they ever spent over $50 on The Showcase of the Mediocre. This won’t lead me to watching mixed martial arts, which is just like pro wrestling but won’t admit how scripted it is, but it certainly leads me to trying to spend more money on the independent shows. At least then, when they miss out on $50, they might also miss out on paying their rent. They might actually listen.