It’s mania… WrestleMania!

How one man and a ton of junk food spent a Sunday evening…

WrestleMania recap

Well, hello. So that was WrestleMania 26… After all the hype, all the hoo-hah and all the buzz, was it worth it? For me, yup, it was. I really enjoyed it as a whole. Sure, there were a few down points and some dead spots, but as a whole card – I thought it came across as suitably “WrestleMania” big.

One thing badly missing? Jim Ross. Wasn’t quite the same hearing the big end of card matches without JR calling them, especially as Cole, King & Striker were just flat out awful. At one point, Cole was eminently watchable, mainly when he was paired with either JBL or Taz… but since he’s been bundled with Lawler on Raw, he’s been back to his worst. Matt Striker’s goal to fit in as many smart, smarmy comments and in-jokes and trying to pin new nicknames on people is immensely irritating.

The stage itself looked great – the video pyramid was impressive, and the outdoor ring looked great. With the usual WrestleMania length ramp, Poor DAVE had to walk to the ring or he’d have been gassed before the first bell!

I thought that the crowd, however, were awful. If I could get to a WrestleMania, I wouldn’t be going there to sit on my hands and just watch. There were times when they were just silent and it put a dent into the big match feeling of some of the bouts.

The tag match was first up, and while it got things off to a hot start – it was way too short! Just about 3 and a half minutes? Really? That would be an ongoing feeling of the show, a lot of the matches felt rushed – on a FOUR HOUR show, that was a bit weird. Back to the match, I loved how Miz and Show reacted to their win – nice to see some actual excitement from anyone. Oh, and I didn’t understand a single word of R-Truth’s rap, as per usual. Give it UP!

Kinda shocked to see Orton up next, but I guess when the show is that stacked, someone has to take one for the team. This match, while predictable in it’s outcome was snappy, had some neat spots, and for once, I thought Orton played his role beautifully. He acted like the crafty veteran outfoxing the young guns. The double DDT spot was fun, and his histrionics before punting Young Cody and RKOing Young Ted fitted perfectly this time. The crowd actually bought into this one, several pro-Randy chants going. Played right, this guy is the next Austin type rebel face in waiting. Watch them blow it…

Two WrestleMania staples next, pointless backstage comedy from Santino and Mae Young. Guess everyone has to get on the big card somehow…

Money In The Bank surprised on a few levels – Shelton didn’t have a big spot, and Jack Swagger won! The match was quick, fast paced and very few low points. Innovative spots in a few places – notably how the two ladders were placed horizontally and Kofi’s incredible ladder stilt spot – and some big (but safe) bumps from the usual suspects made this fly by. Not sure how Swagger is going to cash in, and even less sure how he’s going to benefit… but, a nice swerve if a little too out of left field, perhaps.

Trips in the mid card? Makes me think there’s a title push gonna happen soon as a “reward” for his placement. As for the match? Well, even though Trips took the win, Sheamus definitely came across as a legit threat. I though the match was a great example of how you can work a power brawling style without resorting to weapon shots, blood and external shenanigans. Sheamus’ kick looks really good, and a loss in that style does him no harm.

It’s a crime that Punk & Mysterio only got about 6 minutes! They looked really sharp together, and it was looking like it was going to be the epic that I expected, and then it was over! Hopefully, they will get a chance to have a longer match, either on SmackDown or on the next PPV – the two guys looked like they could put on a hell of a match. Gotta love Punk’s gimmick just now, he’s really rocking the Charles Manson cult image. Give them more time!

If it was a crime that Punk & Rey only got 6 minutes, it was even more of a crime that Bret & Vince got over 10. Bret was a great wrestler in his day, but this clearly isn’t his day anymore. His usefulness now HAS to be as a mouthpiece or ambassador, as he has no use in the ring. It was painful watching him stumble around that ring last night. There were brief glimpses of what he was – he still locks on the Sharpshooter better than anyone ever has or will – but I was actually pleading with him to just submit Vince the first time he teased the big finish. The repeated chair shots and weapon shots just came across poorly, and pretty much killed the crowd stone dead in their seats. 13 years in the making, and nobody cared…

Anyone else notice the shot of Bret stood in the ring and Bill Goldberg’s name and retired number in the background?

Loved the Edge/Jericho match, even though (broken record time) it felt really short. Jericho is just such an unlikeable character that they could put anyone in against him and it would work. Edge has the look of a man who is treading water as a face until he turns heel, but at least he looked fit and sharp. Cole’s insistence that EVERY move was directed at Edge’s Achilles tendon verged on moronic at times. Jericho took the win in what felt like a TV length match… Edge’s spear off the table spot looked AWESOME, and was almost THE WrestleMania moment of the night.

The Divas match was as awful as I feared it would be. Everyone got to hit a finisher, yay. Now go away. Thank you.

For all that Cena and DAVE are decried for their ring work, their match was really, really good. Horrible booking choice in having Cena win, but really good match between the two. DAVE as a heel is just about the best thing on Raw, and even in this match, he played it up. Cena’s Marine led entrance was just bizarre, although the shot of him running down the ramp at full speed will doubtless look great in a WrestleMania video recap package.

And you know what? Fair play to Cena, his rolling out of the ring to celebrate with a bunch of folks in “WE HATE CENA” shirts made me chuckle. The guy doesn’t take himself too seriously, an unusual thing in this business. DAVE either gets a rematch somehow, or I get the impression he’ll be butting heads with Randy Orton next.

As for the BIG match, the one the card was sold on – Taker / Michaels, part 2? I thought it delivered. It was by far the best match on the card; it gave us the BIG WrestleMania moment, in Michaels’ moonsault onto the announce table; it tugged at the heartstrings; it was dramatic, it was emotional, it was a brutal, old school type match, and for me, I thought it better than last year’s effort.

Both men knew each other well, and the match dictated that – at one point, Taker teased the big flying Dead Man Outta Control jump over the top rope, but HBK dived back into the ring, knowing it was coming – it was little spots like that, with continuity from the first match, that made this a great match for me. The ending, with Taker attempting to show some mercy on Shawn, and Shawn’s pride demanding that he go down fighting was amazing. The look on both men’s faces, especially ANGRY TAKER, put this over the edge as a classic. Finishing on a jumping tombstone was a nice spot too.

I got the impression through the match that Taker AND HBK were running on pretty much empty near the end. If HBK is to finally and properly retire, then this is as good a way to go out as any; Taker will doubtless take his usual post WrestleMania sabbatical off the back of this. This match was as perfect as it could have been. I absolutely loved it.

That match alone would have made ‘Mania a good show – add in the Batista/Cena match, a decent Jericho/Edge bout, a good HHH/Sheamus tussle as well as the MITB spotfest, and the potential genius of Punk/Rey to come? All adds up to a great WrestleMania for me.

Have fun, go mad.

The Preview of the Immortals

I gaze into the crystal ball and deliver the WrestleMania winners a day early!

Well, hello. As I write (type?) this, we are just over 24 hours from the Showcase Of The Immortals, The Grandest Stage Of Them All, and whatever other buzzwords and catchphrases Vince thinks we should be brainwashed with.

As a single entity, the card is as impressive as any I can remember; sure there’s the one obvious stand out match – but the upper card is stacked – from the annual Money In The Bank spotfest, to the two championship matches, not to mention the long awaited Bret vs. Vince showdown, there’s quality from top to bottom. Oh, and there’s Vickie Guerrero, too. Sill, we all need a toilet break, eh?

With no further ado, here’s my “thoughts” on the show:

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Absolutely HAS to close the show in my opinion. The video packages have built this up into THE match of  the show, and even if it’s only half as good as last year’s bout, we’re in for a treat. This match is for me, all about what kinds of story the two guys tell, rather than spot after spot after spot… and there’s no two people working right now with a better grip of storytelling than these Taker and HBK. Do I even need to say who I think will win?

Bret Hart vs. Mr. McMahon
The grudge match 12 years in the making. Sure, Bret is a shadow of the old Hitman we knew and sometimes loved, but he is such a damn perfectionist, you just know he has to be 100% sure he can deliver in the ring – and out, in this case. Vince’s matches are nothing if not entertaining, and he knows the stakes at WrestleMania better than anyone. This is gonna be a drawn out brawl, with several well planned out spots, and hopefully one last moment in the spotlight for Bret to shine.

WWE Championship
Batista (c) vs. John Cena
Amazingly, the build to this has been great. Cena has been less annoying than usual, perhaps because in BIG DAVE he has a guy who absolutely revels in playing the bad guy. BIG DAVE has been having a ball since the big heel turn, and his character has just been the very definition of smug bad ass. Cena is another one who knows the stakes at WrestleMania, and if BIG DAVE can manage to last more than 15 minutes without needing gas and air, this too could be a good ‘un, as long as the fans buy into it. Tough pick to win, but I’d say there’s more options with a heel champ

World Heavyweight Championship
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Edge
Here be the sleeper match on the show. Nobody seems quite sure how fit Edge actually is. If he’s 100% or close to it, and he’s shrugged off the ring rust, this is gonna be – sorry JR – a slobber knocker. Jericho simply IS the best in the world at what he does, in the ring or on the mic and his very presence guarantees the fans are gonna be all over this one. Edge’s spear has been built up superbly, and Edge has shown just that right balance of intensity and insanity that he does well as a face. I can see Jericho juuust edging the win here.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Christian vs. Kane vs. Ziggler vs. Benjamin vs. MVP vs. Swagger vs. Hardy vs. Bourne vs. McIntyre vs. Kingston
The annual “What will Shelton do this year?” match. Can you believe he’s been around for nearly 10 years now, without ever seemingly moving out of the mid card? Obvious candidates for the show stealing big spot are Shelton, Evan Bourne, Christian, Hardy, or Ziggler. You can pretty much write off Kane’s chances of winning; ditto for MVP, Ziggler, Shelton, Bourne and Swagger. Hardy doesn’t seem to be trusted, and Drew already has the IC belt, which leaves us with Kofi or Christian… Kofi seems to be carrying some heat for whatever *cough*RandyOrton*cough* reason, so for my money? Christian takes the win… possible cash in on the night against the SmackDown title winner?

Unified Tag Team Championship
Big Show & The Miz vs. John Morrison & R-Truth
Much as I love Big Show and Miz as a team, just throwing two guys together at random shows how weak the WWE Tag Division is right now. I totally, and utterly, cannot STAND R-Truth – anything he says, does or raps just irritates me beyond belief. Not sure what’s happened to John Morrison… but surely he’s deserving of better than a Random Partner Of Doom? No way can ShowMiz lose this match… just does not make sense, unless… Daniel Bryan is there? Hmmm…

Triple H vs. Sheamus
Trips has been strangely quiet during this WrestleMania build up, and Sheamus has just turned out to be a dead duck champion. This seems like a pretty dull affair, middle of the show territory… but I have a feeling this match is gonna surprise a few people. Don’t expect a 5 star technical classic, but a power match with some good brawling isn’t beyond them. If Sheamus loses, he’s pretty much done for the meantime as a top liner; Trips can’t really lose if he’s gonna go after the title.
Winner: TRIPLE H

Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase vs. Cody Rhodes
Too little too late. That’s what the dissent between Young Ted and Young Cody on Raw this week was. The trigger should have been pulled on the Legacy meltdown weeks ago; There’s really no point to this being a triple threat; much like there’s really no point to Young Cody if he’s not part of a tag team or a stable. Orton simply has to take the win here, unless there’s some nefarious deeds from an outside influence? Meh.

CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio
I am so looking forward to this match. Jericho aside, Punk is the best talker in the WWE right now, and I love the Straight Edge Society faction. Mysterio might have lost a step, and be somewhat of a formula wrestler these days, but I reckon he and Punk are still gonna tear it up. This is one match where I really feel it’s totally 50/50 as to who takes the win… but I’m gonna say…

10-Diva Tag Team Match
Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Eve, Gail Kim & Beth Phoenix vs. Michelle McCool, Maryse, Layla, Alicia Fox & Vickie Guerrero

I really couldn’t give a damn. Vickie is obviously gonna be the focal point for this match, and that alone scares the bejeebus out of me. I will be in the toilet, or in the kitchen making a sandwich for this one!
Winner: TEAM JAMES (but I don’t care!)

So there we go, folks – enjoy ‘Mania!

Have fun, go mad!

Something for Everybody

WrestleMania has a great levelling effect on those that allow themselves to buy into it. It makes things seem bigger, better, brighter and bolder than they actually are – even Great Khali vs. Vance Archer would look watchable on a WrestleMania card.

Well, hello.

Once in a year, pretty much every WWE fan – I would say wrestling fan here, but there are doubtless some TNA die hards out there that would dispute that – works themselves up into a frenzy, and looks at everything through rose tinted glasses. WrestleMania has a great levelling effect on those that allow themselves to buy into it. It makes things seem bigger, better, brighter and bolder than they actually are – even Great Khali vs. Vance Archer would look watchable on a WrestleMania card. OK, maybe that example took things a little to far, but you get the picture.

The point is that because it’s WrestleMania, things can tend to be given a sheen they wouldn’t necessarily get on a lesser PPV. However, this year’s extravaganza looks to be a bit special, even by WrestleMania standards. With the possible exceptions of the Legacy triple threat match, a hastily thrown together tag match and the Trips/Sheamus affair, this is a stacked card; it’s full of solid matches that have proper issues behind them, matches that on paper look like they will take your breath away, and matches that can justify the “Grandest Stage Of Them All” billing that WrestleMania bestows upon them. While everyone rightfully focuses on the Michaels-Taker match that has the potential to be THE all time WrestleMania classic for the ages, there are other matches on this card that can steal the show too.

John Cena and Batista might not be favourites of mine, but this feud has been epic; If Edge can put on a show anywhere near what he’s capable of at 100% fit, he and Jericho can blow the doors off the arena with their title match; Punk and Mysterio are two of the best in the business, and putting them in the ring together should hopefully deliver greatness; the Money in the Bank spotfest usually gives us two or three moments that hit highlight reels for years afterwards; and Bret vs. Vince? It’s not going to be a five star classic – but Vince always delivers entertainment in the ring at ‘Mania and Bret is such a perfectionist that he won’t have agreed to this match unless he could hold his side up.

And let’s not forget – there’s no women’s match added to the card yet – that will no doubt happen at some point – and that means you also have the ideal time to go and top up your haul of snacks and juice. How thoughtfull of the WWE! WrestleMania… the card with something for everybody…

Have fun, go mad… and enjoy ‘Mania

Deja Vu…

Elimination Chamber has come and gone, and lordy lordy, strike me down with bolts of lightning, SuperCena got the strap and lost it within minutes. Shocker! Or would have been had it not been done before by Edge… and Batista being a hired gun for Vince McMahon? Also a nice angle… had it not been done before by countless others in the not-so-distant past.

Well, hello. It’s one of those weeks for this column, I’m afraid. As in, it’s the week that’s it’s due to be submitted. Folks, I’ll be honest with you, not a lot in wrestling over the past fortnight has inspired me to whip out the old metaphorical pen and paper… or in this modern age, hold down CTRL + SHIFT + `(which is the keyboard shortcut for my word processor, fact fans) and set the old noggin working.

Elimination Chamber has come and gone, and lordy lordy, strike me down with bolts of lightning, SuperCena got the strap and lost it within minutes. Shocker! Or would have been had it not been done before by Edge… and Batista being a hired gun for Vince McMahon? Also a nice angle… had it not been done before by countless others in the not-so-distant past.

Maybe it’s just me getting old, and maybe it’s just the fact that there are only so many storylines to go round, but this current crop of angles and storyline that the WWE – and their illustrious competition – are throwing up just feels recycled and stale.

Over in TNB – Total Nonstop Bischoff – Jeff Jarrett AND Mick Foley are being persecuted by Eric Bischoff… Kurt Angle is being inspired by the armed forces of the US… AJ Styles is a young champion being “shown the way” by Ric Flair… all sound familiar?

Rehashing older stuff isn’t always bad. The HBK/Taker angle is basically about two guys wanting to fight to see who’s better. Taker didn’t want to, so HBK was forced to resort to underhand tactics to force the issue. At its essence, it’s an old-fashioned “respect” feud – but the sheer personality of the two guys involved is carrying it.

Of course, there’s the matter of that simply incredible video package the WWE put together for the feud. Set to Placebo’s amazing cover of the old Kate Bush track “Running Up That Hill”, that video was as perfect a hype machine as you could hope for. It was passionate, it was emotional, and it used the lyrics perfectly.

That is an example of how you CAN go to past glories and revisit them, but still make them relevant, exactly the opposite of how the WWE have coped with the Bret Hart angle. For years, Bret vs. Vince or Bret vs. Shawn was THE big unresolved issue in wrestling and was just money waiting to be printed… if done correctly.

While it’s nice to see Shawn and Bret be professional with each other, admit it – you’d have bought into Bret’s return a little more if HBK had been the cocky little son-of-an-unnamed-goat that he was back in the day, and that there was still a little spark between him and Bret, even if it was just on-screen.

I totally understand that Bret can’t put in an in ring performance to blow off the Montreal cobwebs once and for all. I even understand transferring the perceived anger from Shawn to Vince to allow for an even playing field. I EVEN understand Vince taking Big Dave to fight his corner – he is a big, bad man after all… I just don’t get the involvement from SuperCena.

It should have been DH Smith, or Tyson Kidd – someone actually connected to Bret. Even if that meant “downscaling” Batista, to someone like say… Drew McIntyre – the Vince/Bret animosity if channelled correctly would have been enough that could have slotted in anyone against a Hart family member and peeps would still have bought into it.

Imagine the rub that McIntyre vs. DH Smith would have had with Vince and Bret in their respective corners. A rub that neither Batista nor Cena need – and they could still have been programmed into an inter-brand match somehow, without being tacked on to the Bret issue.

Maybe, just maybe… I expect too much. Maybe we all do. It’s easy to be an armchair booker, sat behind a keyboard, observing from a distance. I always at least try to enjoy the positive, make it mean more than the negative. Food for thought, peeps.

Have fun, go mad.