For Queen and Country #11
April 19, 2008
By: Daniel Browne of
Greetings. After last weeks reminiscences, its time to get back to business with a little “personal review”. I hope you all enjoyed Wrestlemania. As per usual, it was difficult notto appreciate the grandeur and spectacle fundamental to the one true “megashow” in professional wrestling. The WWE always ensures no expenses are spared across all aspects of the wrestlemania experience, and this year was no different.
Everything from the polished-to-the-point-of-incandescence ring attire, through to the a-list musical live acts (sans AC/DC of course), all packed into a sprawling coliseum of fireworks and humanity, served to emphasize the indelible status of Wrestlemania as above and beyod the realm of everyday tedium.
Truth be told, with the exception of the lean years (1994-1998) the WWE has always spent vast quantities of the green stuff on designing, preparing, promoting and executing Wrestlemania. Such investment, whilst invariably guaranteeing overwhelming esthetic value and more than the odd surprise, by no means vouch-saves the in-ring product. To be fair, the last few ‘Manias have been critically strong overall, featuring mostly decent and/or good encounters that touch on “Wrestlemania Standard”, but seldom any legitimate classics to add to that pantheon, e.g. Last year’s Edge/Undertaker contest. 2009s 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania fell very neatly into this pattern.
After Lewis Hamilton’s missus had completed her middling rendition of “America The Beautiful” and the usual slickly produced video package came and went, the card began properly with “Money in the Bank”. As usual, this was an epic and immensely entertaining contest which, sadly, was dragged down a notch by a surprisingly high number of botches and moments of clumsiness, which served to underline both the presence of half-decent workers as a requisite (i.e. Not Mark Henry, for crying out loud) and the inescapable truth that ‘Mania’s annual ladder match is losing it’s lustre with each ear that passes. In the ladder match, timing is paramount. On at least three occasions over the course of the match the suspension of disbelief virtually collapsed as a six-foot athlete scaled a ladder with all the speed of a geriatric glacier, and then fumbled for the hook like he had cannonballs for hands. CM Punk’s victory achieved the paradoxical distinction of being a surprise whilst at the same time being a repeat of last year’s outcome, and served to affirm Vince McMahon’s commitment to Christian, or lack there of.
I personally enjoyed Kid Rock’s lively set, although I was a tad perplexed by the decision to expend twenty minutes of pay-per-view time on what essentially amounted to an extended entrance for twenty-five women who, be it the identical hair, ring attire or bust, I couldn’t really tell apart. The Battle Royal is renowned for its crapulence, and when you stuff a ring full of identikit bimbos, 85% of whom have no business in said ring, you know the result will be cobblers. And so it proved. The whole Santino/a in drag thing made me grin for all of 16 seconds. Then I remembered I was apparently watching Wrestlemania…
I thoroughly enjoyed the Jericho/Legends match-up, for reasons I’ll get to momentarily. It’s always joyous to see the Nature Boy, and Piper’s potty mouth is one bar of soap shy of clean. Alas, the “Superfly” could barely move, and at points made the Iron Sheik look like AAA-era Rey Mysterio. The real star of the show was Rick Steamboat, who rolled back the years and electrified the crowd in the process. It was a bravura performance that enhanced the aura of the show and, for me, was a legitimate Wrestlemania moment.Mickey Rourke deserves credit for the respectful reticence he displayed prior to climbing into the ring with Chris Jericho, although the irony was not lost on me that the star of a film about a wrestler knocked out a wrestler on a wrestling show with a boxer’s jab. I could compare it to the irony of a vainglorious, maniacal promoter panning a production because it didn’t perpetuate his viewpoint/delusion, only to change his tune when the possibility of credibility by association presented itself. Who could I be alluding to…?
The Rey/JBL angle (It doesn’t merit “match” status) served to underline the universal truth that JBL is the complete performer if you don’t include ability to wrestle. The Jeff Hardy/Matt Hardy match was a hard-hitting, well constructed grudge match between two men who have mastered the art of meshing stunt-based spots with a cohesive narrative. Matt’s brooding intensity and calculating attitude complemented Jeff’s eccentric effervescence, resulting in a tidy match with a heated (not to mention correct) outcome. I loved the finish, and I hope this signals the beginning of a proper push for the elder Hardy, who has always been the more complete performer of the two brothers.
If I was beginning to question the wisdom of staying up to watch the show (purely on the merits of the action) those doubts were taken outside and shot upon witnessing the majesty of Undertaker/Shawn Michaels. I knew I was watching a good match after five minutes. I realised I was watching a great match when Shawn became only the second man ever to kick straight out of the Tombstone. It dawned on me I as watching a classic when I realised I wasn’t sure if Undertaker was going to win. Packed full of near falls, intensity, Shakespearean storytelling and a near-death interlude to boot (Don’t ever do that to me again ‘Taker) all before a frenzied audience,it was everything a WWE wrestling match dreams of being, and might very well be the most complete wrestling match I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll let you know after I’ve watched it again on blu-ray.
In much the same way as nothing could follow Rock/Hogan at Wrestlemania 18, nothing could follow Undertaker/Shawn at Wrestlemania 25 as the WWE continued its bizarre penchant for funky Cena entrances at Wrestlemania. The diligent workers in the triple-threat for the WWE title had a crack at the impossible, and the results were pretty damn good. Cena, for all the criticism he receives from the so-called “smart marks”, continues to display an admirable big-time work ethic, and rose to the occasion alongside an enthused Big Show and always marvellous Edge, grabbina logical and reasonably well received victory. Where they go from here is debatable, as Cena (like Batista) is due a heel turn, cash cow or not. It might be time to turn Edge as well. Whenever a heel consistently receives an audible ovation, it’s time to appraise the situation…
They blew it, didn’t they. The decision to give up precious pay-per-view time in an attempt to offset the AC/DC rejection exploded magnificently in Vince McMahon’s face when the main event of his quarter-centenary celebration of his greatest achievement had to be cut short because of insufficient time. It’s a pity, because at the time the match between Triple H and Randy Orton was building momentum and heading into worthy territory, only to have its legs violently ripped from under it by a truncated conclusion that succeeded only in negating Orton’s stellar build-up and the “Victory via DQ” stipulation, leaving the hottest heel in the company looking weak and passionless in the wake of the Triple H colossus. I’m not startin this debate again because some people simply don’t want to listen, but it’s no coincidence that, in the admirable absence of a shift towards a screwy finish in managing the problem, one man fell and another stood erect in a fashion that deflated the crowd and ended Wrestlemania in a highly disappointing fashion. Its like Scott Steiner said: As long as he has the belt, he doesn’t care. Time limit or not, that sentiment rang true for me as Wrestlemania went of air, sat snugly alongside the demoralizing burial of Christian (which was to continue in the Draft Lottery.) Thank God then, for Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. That, ladies and gentleman, is how it should be done. See you soon, boys and girls.
Daniel R. Browne.