Wrestlemania 22: Can It Be Topped?
I can already feel the rage brewing on the other side. You read the title, didn?t you? ?Wrestlemania 22: Can It Be Topped?
?What exactly are implying here, Doug,? you ask. ?Are you saying that ?Mania 22 was the greatest ?Mania of all time??
Yes I am.
*THUD* don?t worry, your jaw normally drops that low when someone tells you the truth anyway. Before you get on your high-horse trying to tell me that it was WM3 that was the greatest, you need to understand why I believe WM22 was the best. Sure, WM3 was the greatest ?Mania ?historically?, but as far as the sheer entertainment value, for us? the wrestling enthusiasts and purists (notice how I did not say fans)? WM22 topples all of them.
Before I go into the retro/introspective of this great event, first the stage needs to be set. I don?t need to talk about storylines or title challenges; I need to talk about the venue ?Mania emanated f rom. While WWE proclaims they were broadcasting from Chicago, it was actually from Rosemont, a second-city to Chicago. I would consider Rosemont the city that O?Hare created: convention centers, hotels, and a straight subway shot to Chicago make it the tourist’s living quarters. I have been to Rosemont/Chicago and cannot wait for a return visit, especially during the summer instead of the chilly autumn visit I made, but I digress.
The Allstate Arena was filled to capacity at 17,159. Strange, huh? ONLY around 17,000 in attendance as compared to the following two ?Manias which showed over 70,000 attendees surrounding the ring (WM23: Detroit, Ford Field, Record-setting 80,103; WM24: Orlando, Citrus Bowl, 74,635). While it is understood that WWE wants to make a King Kong Bundy-sized ass-load of money from its annual extravaganza, having that many people in that large of an arena takes away from the mystique of professional wrestling and the passion us purists have for the activity.
I hear cries of ECW. The tightness of the arena, the passion of the purists, the exhibitions of athleticism and demonstrative outpouring of emotion shown by the artists in the ring; These three components make for a truly memorable event regardless of the promotion. Yes, it needs to be said that not all matches are achieved flawlessly. You cannot escape mental or physical error in an event of this magnitude. You can only hope to combat that with a performance like no other or rely on your co-workers to help erase the previous image from the crowd’s memory. That was achieved at Wrestlemania 22.
Once again? I?m Peabody, your Sherman? let’s jump into the time machine.
Match #1 ? World Tag Team Title Match ? Kane and Big Show retain over Carlito and ?The Masterpiece? Chris Masters. Not since Wrestlemania 2000 (16) has The Big Show sniffed the main event, hopefully that will be changing for him this year. Show has been one of those performers that I just feel sorry for just because of his massive size and girth. In past ?Mania’s, he has either been in the very first match which always ends up being a squash match, or he competes in a match with a celebrity, whose only purpose is to draw in the people who are not wrestling fans at all. Why Show sumo-wrestled with Akebono in WM21 is beyond me, but they needed the Japanese market I guess. F.Y.I. ? this would be Masters? only WM appearance, which is another sad case.
Match #2 ? Money in the Bank Match ? Rob Van Dam over Shelton Benjamin, Ric Flair, Bobby Lashley, Matt Hardy, and Finlay. Of course everyone knew who was going to win this contest; the bigger question was ?how? he would win it. Ric Flair taking a suplex from the top of the ladder? Shelton spring boarding from the ropes to an upright ladder? two great spots for the highlight reel.
Match #3 ? United States Title Match ? Chris Benoit retains over JBL. Like before, I don?t like lingering on matches involving Benoit. When it comes to JBL though, it will be interesting to see what he has planned for WM25. Will he be competing for a title (ECW, Intercontinental, Divas)? Will he announce that he has his own wrestling promotion and will be competing against WWE (Ohio Valley)? Or will he proclaim himself in the lead role of the upcoming TV-to-movie hashing of ?Dallas??
Match #4 ? Hardcore Match ? Edge w/ Lita defeats Mick Foley. Joey Styles? vivid descriptions during the match (?’slice skin, mutilate muscle, and tear tendon??), Lawler’s truly astonished reactions to the massacre unfolding (??what’s Edge going to do, set him on fire?!?), and the crowd’s unbridled enthusiasm were not the only aspects that made this match the wake-up call to the viewer. The orchestration of the chaos between Edge and Foley was truly memorable. Take away the flaming table ending. Edge spearing Foley only to reveal Foley’s barbed-wire belt. Edge hip-tossing Foley into the steel ringside steps. Mr. Socko’s evil twin brother, Larry, making his WM debut with barbed-wire attire introducing himself to Lita’s gullet. 3rd degree burns and fountains of blood make great family fun for all. Thanks for the return to PG, WWE.
Match #5 ? Handicap Match ? Boogeyman defeats Booker T & Sharmell. Remember what I said earlier about not every match being memorable but others come to make us forget them? Well, that is clearly the case with this match. You know it’s not going to be good when Boogey’s red smoke isn?t being ventilated properly and all the crowd can see is a fog of red. The only reason they?re cheering from the ring of the bell is because the match is over. Also, there was much rejoicing last week? Boogeyman was released. One thing I did learn from his career: I can achieve anything I want in life, even if I lie about my age.
Match #6 ? Women’s Title ? Mickie James defeats Trish Stratus to become the new champion. Before you read on, please eliminate the Stratus-faction botch from your memory. You need to be fair to the performers; can you recall a Women’s Title match that lasted more than ten minutes? In all seriousness, it’s not very often that a women’s match comes so very close in being nominated for ?Match of the Year? honors. The planning and orchestration between James and Stratus was flawless. James? ?low blow? should be enshrined in WWE’s Hall of Fame for her induction. James? kick to Stratus knee causing her to slam her face into James? exposed knee: a purist’s dream. The crowd didn?t know how to respond to it until after the match watching the replay, their combined ?oh!? echoing throughout Rosemont. Speaking of the crowd, being completely behind James rather than the Canuck with boobies made me realize I am not the only wrestling purist out there. They wanted wrestling and athleticism? not a beauty contest.
Match #7 ? Casket Match ? Undertaker defeats Mark Henry. Wonder why Undertaker is undefeated at Wrestlemania? It’s because of matches like this. WWE will never do this again, putting ?Taker in a squash match? blasphemy! Following this, ?Taker would later go to defeat Batista (WM23, viable Match of the Year) and Edge (WM24) for the World Title. Did you know this was the last time Mark Henry appeared during the main card of Wrestlemania? He’s been with the company; he’s been healthy during the time ?Mania comes around, why WWE hasn?t relied on ?the wrap-around pecs? to deliver? Curious.
Match #8 ? No Holds Barred ? Shawn Michaels defeats Vince McMahon. Jim Ross? call of WWE’s existence. The back-story had been brewing since last December. Michaels pulling a ?gym teacher’s handkerchief? on Shane McMahon. 15-foot ladder elbow d rop on McMahon wearing a trashcan through a table. Michaels? final words to McMahon before the encore of ?Sweet Chin Music?. All of these moments made the match but I only have two words for you: Spirit Squad. Chastise me all you want but I loved the Spirit Squad. Five annoying jackasses dancing like obnoxious 7-year-olds tossing Michael’s, like he had just slain a dragon in a medieval village and the villagers celebrated by tossing his body up in the air only to come crashing down. Go Team Go!
Match #9 ? Triple Threat World Heavyweight Championship Match ? Rey Mysterio defeats Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to become the new champion. The crowd’s siding was apparent. The kids loved Rey, the adults didn?t. Maybe it didn?t help to have P.O.D. sing Rey’s theme with portions in Spanish, while Rey came out dressed like a vertically-challenged Aztec priest. Hell, the headdress was taller than Rey! Again, it doesn?t help to isolate the audience with a song in Spanish and an entrance that a white Midwestern city would be confused by. Kurt Angle, Olympian? Randy Orton, Bad Guy? those two were understood. Rey Mysterio, Lilliputian peacock? I?m confused. If you want a good laugh, listen to Cole’s horrid impersonation of Ross as Rey wins the title. You know those V-8 commercials where the people are given an open-palm thump on the forehead for not eating their vegetables? That’s what should be done to Cole whenever he feels Ross-like.
Match #10 ? Playboy Pillow Fight ? Torrie Wilson defeats Candice Michelle. Um? uh? boobies. ?Nuff said. Now onto the REAL reason this ?Mania was the best?
Match #11 ? WWE Title Match ? John Cena defeats Triple-H to retain. The role of Conan the Barbarian played by Triple-H? the role of some guy with a Tommy gun in a black trench coat played by Cena. This is where the eternal battle between Cena and the fans began. Just as it was in the triple threat match, the crowd was truly split between the young and the old. More important than that, it was divided between the fans and the purists. ?Let’s go Cena!? followed by ?Cena sucks!? truly made this a main event for the ages. The action in the ring performed flawlessly with both Triple-H and Cena feeding off of the crowd’s unhinged enthusiasm. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler called a great match, also feeding off the crowd’s energy.
This is what truly makes a great main event, not just the performance in the ring but the enthusiasm that brews outside of it. The compactness of the arena and the passion of the attendants, you could not feel this energy if it were held at Ford Field or the Citrus Bowl. WWE’s production team made this what it was with perfect reaction shots from the crowd with each kick-out from a two-count.
It will be a very long time before we see a ?Mania main event that could top Cena/Triple-H at WM22. WWE would never go back to housing their colossus of an event in an arena that holds less than 20,000. They would never return to a Midwestern city unless it had a football/baseball complex that could resemble the money raked in from WM3. It is completely understood that if the choice were between money and passion, money would win every time. However, in the case of Wrestlemania 22, sometimes less is more.