WrestleMania 29 is now in the history books. The fireworks have faded, the music is silent, the talking has stopped and the results are in. But was it worth the admission fee? Was it worthy of the name WrestleMania?
Going in this years event maybe wasn’t anticipated with the fervour it normally generates. Thanks to a perceived lack of freshness in the main event matches and a lacklustre build up in the weeks proceeding it. However as the event neared the excitement grew because WrestleMania truly has an extra intagible quality. A life of it’s own. It certainly wasn’t a card without promise and accordingly optimism began to take hold. Of course the ups and downs of wrestling mean I have witnessed hugely promising cards dramatically under-deliver and unexpected ones take us by surprise. So how did this years ‘Grandaddy of Them All’ measure up?
The Miz vs Intercontinental Champion, Wade Barrett
In the night’s pre show offering The Miz faced off with Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship. An altogether simple affair that was about what you’d expect from a warm up match. After a fast paced bout The Miz locked Barrett in his improving version of the Figure 4 Leg Lock and got the win via submission. The Miz is a two time Intercontinental Champion and the holder, an impressive WrestleMania record and a unique WrestleMania journey; from main event to mid card to pre show racking up wins all the way.
The Shield vs Randy Orton, Sheamus and The Big Show
With the show properly under way live and on pay per view Sheamus entered the arena to signal the start of the nights card. The Shield made their WrestleMania debut in a very physical opening match that proved a fun, if unremarkable, way to get the show rolling. The build up was centred around Orton, Sheamus and Big Show’s attempts to form a cohesive unit and for most of the match they seemed to work well. But with Orton stealing a tag that was intended for Big Show the unit began to crumble. The Viper hit a spectacular RKO on the impressive Seth Rollins but was levelled with a crushing spear from The Shield’s powerhouse Roman Reigns. Dean Ambrose made the cover as Big Show declined to help his team mate. The Shield remain undefeated.
Once again the team of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns impressed and continue to look strong and exciting. Where they head from here will be interesting to see.
Mark Henry vs Ryback
Mark Henry and Ryback are two wrestlers that I am a fan of, however I would have preferred to have seen Ryback in the previous encounter finally gaining some retribution over The Shield. Despite that gripe I was interested to see how this match would play out. Matches between power wrestlers can be great fun or plodding bores. This match largely felt like the latter. It was ultra slow and saw Mark Henry dominate. A number of seemingly endless bear hugs slowed the match to a crawl intended to gain the crowds support for the ever ravenous Ryback. The very end saw the action pick up and got the crowd on their feet when Ryback hit his meathook clothesline to set up the finish. Ryback, quite spectacularly, managed to get Mark Henry up ready to hit the Shell Shock but Henry’s size put an end to that idea. Ryback collapsed under his massive opponent and ate a clean 1-2-3. Post match Ryback delivered on that promise with an earth shattering Shell Shock to The World’s Strongest Man.
Tag Team Champions, Team Hell No vs Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston w/ AJ Lee
This tag team championship match had the potential to steal the show in my opinion. The presence of Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler felt like it could have outshone anything on the card. It was certainly a very entertaining match but ultimately fell below it’s promise. The beginning of the match echoed Daniel Bryan’s infamous 18 second loss to Sheamus last year. This time Bryan had the chance to inflict a humbling defeat to Ziggler. Ziggler kicked out and the crowd were on their feet already. AJ seemed set to make her presence known given the history she has built with each member of this match. Add to that the WWE.com diary following the New Jersey native’s return and I was eager to see how she’d do on her homecoming. But she made little impact in the end when Kane hit Ziggler with a chokeslam setting up Daniel Bryan for the top rope headbutt and the pinfall.
All told we got a very fast paced match that seemed to lack any sense of a wow factor. It didn’t steal the show but it certainly got the crowd excited. And Daniel Bryan finally has a WrestleMania victory to his name that will go some way to redeem his hitherto chequered history at Showcase of the Immortals.
Fandango vs Chris Jericho
This is a match I was very excited to see as a big fan of the cult WWE spin off NXT Redemption. A show that featured Fandango before he was Fandango. I was very intrigued to see how Johnny Curtis would adapt to the biggest stage WWE has to offer. Certainly this was no filler match either as the former ‘Dirty Curty’ was in the enviable position of sharing his WrestleMania debut with one of the most consistently great performers in WWE, the six time World Champion, Chris Jericho.
The match began with Chris Jericho using his experience to dominate the emerging talent of Fandango. The crowd taunted Fandango with the “you can’t wrestle” chant usually reserved for chief smark antagonist John Cena. However Fandango began to show he, in fact, could wrestle. An impressive top rope leg drop failed to keep Jericho down and allowed Y2J to go for the lionsault. A fast, and less than perfectly executed, series of counters culminated in Fandango rolling Jericho up for the shock victory.
A victory over a true Hall of Fame-bound legend in Y2J could propel Fandango on to exciting things. Despite the slightly messy ending to the match he showed promise on the big stage. A huge amount of credit here though has to go to Chris Jericho for guiding the up and comer through his daunting début.
World Champion, Alberto Del Rio w/ Ricardo Rodriguez vs Jack Swagger w/ Zeb Colter
The following match was the culmination of a feud that in the beginning promised so much. At one point garnering national TV coverage for the controversial preachings of Zeb Colter. However that angle quickly lost steam and we were left simply with a match between two talented wrestlers that lack somewhat in the charisma stakes.
The pre match video package and a promo from Colter helped whip up a little of what was so fascinating about this rivalry giving the match more chance to deliver than I expected. When the action got under way the two men traded moves back and forth in view of locking in their respective submission holds. Some inventive spots helped keep my interest in this match including Alberto Del Rio’s counter out of Swagger’s ankle lock into his cross arm breaker. Ultimately it was Del Rio’s submission hold that proved decisive forcing Swagger to tap out after a decent 10 minute bout.
I, like many others I am sure, was hoping for one thing from this match. And that was an appearance from Dolph Ziggler and company. Alas his Money in the Bank briefcase remains sealed and this potential WrestleMania moment remains unseized.
Undertaker vs CM Punk w/ Paul Heyman
This match heralded the beginning of the event’s true main event matches, with CM Punk entering to live accompaniment from Living Colour performing his entrance theme ‘Cult of Personality’. Very often live musical performances at WrestleMania are unwelcome and uninspiring. This one however genuinely enhanced the Second City Saint’s arrival. Undertaker once again sent chills through the arena with his legendary entrance. Creepy zombie hands rising from the dead clawed at the Deadman as he methodically stalked his way to the ring. This was the match the crowd were most anticipating as evidenced by the noise level throughout it. Despite his vintage Undertaker still looks as intimidating and awe inspiring as ever with his now annual outings on the Grandest Stage of Them All proving the pinnacle of the WWE calendar. And this chapter in his unparalleled journey at WrestleMania once again brought the house down.
Though I am of the opinion that CM Punk should be a face at this stage of his career he is undeniably most comfortable when portraying the bad guy. Pulling out all the classic heel moves to antagonise his legendary enemy. Abandoning the usual stoic respect that Undertaker inspires in his opponent Punk opted for wide eyed arrogance. Juggling the symbolic Urn that had come to represent the recently departed Paul Bearer – a prop that had become the centrepiece of this story.
Going in to this encounter there was talk that Undertaker may be incapable of delivering the quality we have come to expect. A worry that could not have been further from the truth. The Phenom and The Best In The World went toe to toe in a genuinely great and energetic battle. A number of memorable spots highlighted the match including Punk’s Macho Man tribute elbow drop from the top to the Spanish announce table that resulted in a bone juddering clash when the table refused to budge. Undertaker went on to shrug off an Anaconda Vice and, sitting up in his own inimitable style, stared down the startled Punk. The first true near fall of the encounter saw Undertaker bounce off the ropes from a GTS only to recover and lift up his opponent for the Tombstone Piledriver. The crowd thought we were done… we weren’t! The referee, as is so often the case, found himself incapacitated allowing CM Punk to use the Urn as a counter to the Last Ride powerbomb. The crowd once again rose to their feet willing life into the Deadman… and he responded. The match came to a spectacular close when Undertaker reversed a GTS into a Tombstone and finally managed to keep Punk down for a count of 3.
In truth this was the first match of the night that truly made you realise you were watching WrestleMania. This battle was worthy of the recent lineage of five star classics created by Undertaker with the help of Shawn Michaels and Triple H. CM Punk writes another chapter in his impressive WWE career and Undertaker edges closer to that bleak moment when he hangs up his boots and these moments are no more.
Triple H w/ Shawn Michaels vs Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman
What followed was a match a lot of the ‘WWE Universe’ were less excited for. A match that was far from spectacular at SummerSlam wasn’t necessarily begging for a rematch at WrestleMania. With the, supposedly, limited amount of dates WWE have Brock Lesnar signed to you’d be forgiven for wanting more variation in what encounters we see him in.
However I am ever the optimist and went into this match hoping for the best. After all both superstars are legendary and capable of classic matches. As you’d expect the match was brutal. Announce tables were flattened, chairs were wielded and barricades were battered. For the majority of the match Brock Lesnar dominated The Game similarly to his previous two fights since his return. Toying with his opponent Brock Lesnar once again came across as a beast. Some interference from Paul Heyman and Shawn Michaels gave the battle some variation and saw Brock Lesnar bloody the Heart Break Kid’s nose. Triple H seized an opportunity to use Lesnar’s own devastating Kimura lock which resulted in a curious spot that saw Lesnar come perilously close to tapping out. Said curiosity came when Triple H insisted on applying the lock three more times, each time being slammed on the steel steps by the monstrous Lesnar. In theory a compelling spot but in practice an oddly uninteresting one – perhaps not helped by the crowds seeming apathy towards it. Triple H’s sledgehammer made an appearance and was quickly used to floor the Beast. Triple H took the opportunity and planted Lesnar with a Pedigree on the ring steps. The Cerebral Assassin got the victory and got his payback. And once again steel ring steps prove Brock Lesnar’s kryptonite.
The match was an enthralling one at times but not an incredibly exciting one. The crowd were quiet throughout but not dead. It seemed to have their attention but not their passion.
John Cena vs WWE Champion, The Rock
Following over two years worth of feuding The Rock and John Cena went head to head for a second time. This time it was about redemption. Here is a match where I believe enjoyment relies on one thing; your opinion of John Cena. If you are one of his legion of detractors the promise of his redemption won’t hold much in the way of excitement. However if, like me, you are one of his equally populated legion of admirers you will have been anticipating this encounter since his shoulders were counted to the mat at last years WrestleMania.
The match got off to a slow start, perhaps in service of The Rock’s lack of ring practice. It was punctuated by numerous rest holds, submission holds and spots that involved impact moves followed by lengthy periods of laying on the mat. It wasn’t without excitement though, feeling somewhat like a scripted, semi-naked, version of a Champions League final. Lots of posturing, tension and feeling out but little in the way of action. If you had a horse in this race it would have had you, as it did me, completely absorbed. However if you were completely at odds with the concept of Rock/Cena 2 it would have offered little to win you round until the closing moments.
My moment of the match and perhaps my favourite of the night saw Cena attempt to replicate the spot that saw him defeated last year. Mockingly setting up a People’s Elbow on the floored Rock John Cena looked set to run into the same trap as last year. However this time the leader of the Cenation clung to the ropes, taunted the waiting Great One, and hoisted his opponent up for the Attitude Adjustment. Were it up to me this is where the match would have wrapped up. It was the perfect way to play off last years match and even had the crowd on their feet in appreciation. But The Rock countered and hit the Rock Bottom. Cena kicked out. The match devolved into an almost aimless exchange of finisher attempts that ended with John Cena capturing the victory off of the Attitude Adjustment.
It started slow, got much better and ended in slightly muddled fashion. As a fan of John Cena I can say I was pleased to see the WWE Championship back with him and even welcomed the show of respect between the two at the end. The vague promise of a heel turn from John Cena was quickly and emphatically brushed away. Which paradoxically was perhaps the most heel-ish thing he could have done. John Cena comes out of this match as he walked into it; simultaneously the companies biggest heel and it’s biggest (regularly featured) face.
The event as a whole was entertaining if underwhelming. The matches and their outcomes were all predictable and nothing shocking accentuated the nights proceedings. The show also featured a conspicuous lack of backstage segments and interviews and most alarmingly for me personally a total lack of WWE Divas Champion, Kaitlyn! Perhaps owing to time constraints or maybe in an attempt to present itself as a more traditional sporting event. The Super Bowl style post and pre show point at the latter being true, the absence of an advertised 8-Person tag team match suggest the former.
One thing that deserves unfettered praise was this year’s set. The Statue of Liberty above the ring and the entrance way adorned with a huge rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building comprised the most spectacular set in WrestleMania history. The card itself may not have lived up to the spectacular surroundings but it did none the less have it’s high points. WrestleMania moments were few and far between for some perhaps but equally I am sure there are young kids out there who will remember John Cena reclaiming the WWE Championship for the rest of their lives. So like the main event itself WrestleMania 29 depends on your perspective. To some it is better forgotten and to others it will live on in memory for a long time.
Follow Thom on twitter @PBC13 Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Images are property of wwe.com