So here we are, it's WrestleMania XXII
, and boy doesn't that arena look small? Chicago might be a big wrestling town, but the Allstate Arena (nee Rosemont Horizon) is a bit of a shoebox compared to other buildings on the annual schedule. WrestleMania needs a bigger space than this to reflect the larger-than-life nature of the show. But anyway, they've made the most of it. The entrance stage isn't as good as WrestleMania XX's, but much nicer than last year's. Although that curtain looks a bit funny. Anyway, on with the show...0:10
...which kicks off with Carlito and Chris Masters versus Kane and The Big Show. Now I like Carlito, don't get me wrong, but they're really making me work to stay awake for this one.
I don't know whether it's true or not, but I like to believe that Carlito was the victim of booking issues. I'm sure that he was intended to be in the Money In The Bank match from the start, but Creative changed their minds when they realised that Kane and The Big Show didn't have anyone to defend the titles against, other than the thrown-together tandem of Carlito and the Masterpiece.
Seeing as the eventual match just turned out to be a squash, I don't know why they bothered. The only explanation I can see is that somebody in the office doesn't like Carlito.0:25
Anyway, next up is the aforementioned Money In The Bank ladder match ... Flair got knocked out early after a suplex from the ladder by Matt Hardy. It looked like a shoot at first, but then Flair toddled back out to the ring five minutes later. Yay.
However I wasn't about to let his presence mar my enjoyment of the match, which was pretty damn excellent, with fine efforts from everyone else involved, though it seemed far too short. Even so, Hardy and especially Rob Van Dam and Shelton Benjamin outdid themselves, and even Bobby Lashley showed his willingness to take some major bumps. In the end, RVD was the deserving winner.0:45
Taking a break next, to bring out the previous night's inductees from the Hall of Fame. Howard Finkel was roped into making a bit of a show about Bret Hart's non-appearance, but they made up for it with the warm reception for Vicki Guerrero. Hopefully they'll cut it with the exploitative angles from now on; I don't know how she's put up with it till here.0:50
The ramp lifted up for JBL's limo to drive to the ring for the next contest, which unfortunately was the most exciting thing to happen in this match, despite Chris Benoit's efforts. Hyatte was right about this one: Benoit is better holding a title than chasing one, but JBL was due a favour after being out through the ringer the last few months. So JBL got the nod and cheated to win with the US strap, much to my chagrin...
Hmm, three matches in less than an hour, and still three hours to go? Something tells me Cena vs Triple H has been booked to go on far longer than necessary...1:05
Hardcore action next, as Edge took on Mick Foley. It started off kind of slow -- 'let's kick Foley's head in' basically -- but then Edge hit him with the spear and took it unusually badly. As he writhed in the corner, Foley took off his shirt to show his Cactus Jack t-shirt, and more importantly the strand of barbed wire wrapped around his torso! The match just got crazier from there on -- Barbed wire baseball bats! Thumb tacks! Lighter fluid!
Edge eventually got the win after spearing Foley from the apron onto a burning table, and he looked utterly traumatised afterwards. That's entertainment!1:25
After all that bloody excitement, some comedy was in order as Booker T and Sharmell ran a gauntlet of freaks (including the incomperable Goldust) on the way to the ring for their 'match' with the Boogeyman. The joke wore thin pretty quickly, though, as Booker was virtually squashed. Big booking mistake there, methinks.1:45
Back to the wrestling now, with Women's Champion Trish Stratus against psycho-bitch Mickie James. At least it started out with wrestling -- after a while it slipped into something a lot more risque. I'm sure Hyatte
will get the DVD for one moment in particular -- if you saw it, you know what I mean. As for the result? Mickie fucked up the finish but they recovered without missing a beat, with JR's commentary a great help, and Stratus did the job. But she'll be back on top soon -- you know she will.2:00
It's the half-way mark now, and time for the casket match. Great observation from Tazz: "It's like a shed, not a casket!" Typical Undertaker match really, with a few extreme moves thrown in so Taker could prove to the boys that he's still got it. The bookers kept the whole thing mercifully short, Taker kept his record intact, and everybody left happy.
Well, everyone except for Mark Henry, who got wheeled away inside the casket. Oops.2:20
Shawn Michaels against Vince McMahon next. The set-up for this has been pretty weird over the last few weeks, with McMahon making Michaels' life a living hell. The only way that could go tonight that would leave anybody happy would be to get Shawn get his revenge -- and he did, in spades.
It started off slow, and then suddenly erupted when HBK threw Vince over the announce table into JR's lap, which the director must have thought was unscriped as he cut away to the crowd for a few seconds. Even if the 'match' was just a bloody brawl of the like we've seen a million times before from these two, it was worth watching just to hear JR's brilliantly spiteful, bile-laden commentary.2:45
A short respite after that, as it's announced that WrestleMania 23 will be held on April Fool's Day at the spanking-new Ford Field in Detroit. Now that's more like it! Shame I won't be able to go, but I'm aiming for WrestleMania 25. I've been at WrestleMania before, and I'll be there again...2:55
Next up, the first of the big title matches, as Kurt Angle defended the World Championship against Rey Misterio and Randy Orton. Misterio came out to the ring in a headdress he must have borrowed from Tatanka. Weird. The match itself was pretty unusual, too, as the trio abandoned the plodding style I've been used to from SmackDown! every week and had themselves a bit of a spot-fest.
I was expecting a dud, but these guys really pulled off a stunner. All credit to Angle and Misterio, and even Orton pulled more than his weight. Misterio got the nod and the pin after a too short (only nine minutes!) but fast-paced match, yet I fear it's only because of Eddie, and they'll find some way to take the strap off him quickly. Or maybe Creative will prove me wrong and let him run with the ball a while. We shall see.3:10
Whatever the case, SmackDown! pulled out all the stops. They may have been relegated to the undercard tonight, but they've done more than enough to outshine anything else that Raw can do in the last two matches on the card, the penultimate one being the Playboy pillow fight. I need not report on the bout itself, but I will quote JR's commentary: "I suggested this match be held in the frozen food aisle of a local supermarket, but nobody went for it."3:20
And finally, the moment we've all (not) been waiting for -- Triple H versus John Cena for the WWE Championship. Triple H came out dressed as Conan the Barbarian, while Cena was dolled up as a gangster (complete with a blank-firing tommy gun).
After all that pantomime, the snoozefest began. I honestly didn't pay much attention until the end, when Triple H surprisingly did the job. Actually, it's not so surprising -- he's a company boy, and he probably felt it was good for business to put over Cena as a credible champ who's even good enough to defeat The Game. Unfortunately even a casual fan could see through that plot. How much longer can they keep throwing money at this character before they cut their losses? Hell, even the Ultimate Warrior was a better champ!
So that was that. If I can sum it all up in one sentence, WrestleMania this year was a lot like the Oscars: two hours of great entertainment, spread over four hours.