WWE ran its biggest show of the year last night (Sun., April 7, 2013) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with the WrestleMania 29 pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza that featured an interesting night of odd booking decision, predictable outcomes, and a good match or two sprinkled in the middle.
To get complete blow-by-blow coverage of the entire event click here.
With this being WrestleMania, a regular reactions theme simply won't cut it, so we'll go through the card match-by-match and respond accordingly. Let's get to it:
Wade Barrett vs. The Miz
- What's to say?
- Okay, how about, "good effort, guys."
- Also, I never thought I would actually be okay with The Miz taking a title off someone but for the life of me I still can't figure out what appeal there is to Wade Barrett. I just don't get it. Not even a little bit. Not even a half cup.
The Shield vs. Big Show & Randy Orton & Sheamus
- This wasn't anything close to as good as the previous matches The Shield have put together, like their first PPV match at TLC against Ryback and Team Hell No, or even the match they had at Elimination Chamber, but this was really good for a number of reasons.
- Big Show, for all his faults, is a hard worker. The guy will lay it out there to get the match over and at his age and with his physical limitations, it's insane to think he's every bit as able as Sheamus to do any physical spot they called for. He deserves respect for helping get to end and putting over The Shield's offense.
- That said, I'm pretty sure WWE turned Show heel just as fans were starting to buy him as a babyface again, though I suppose that's more a testament to the storyline. Right?
- Dean Ambrose does not give a shit about your slaps to the chest and he'll gladly take another, please.
- Hey Randy Orton, next time someone comes suicide diving at you on the outside, try helping cushion their fall instead of allowing them to drive their dome piece head first into the unforgiving barricade. Had the roles been reversed, we would be reading about how Seth Rollins has heat backstage because a top performer nearly got injured. Your standing in the company should not make you exempt from criticism for mistakes like this, not when guys could get seriously injured.
- It was nice to see The Shield go over and it speaks to a larger point our friend Scott Christ made on Twitter: "One thing they've done super well with Shield is keep them strong, but not overpush them. Shield isn't some Nexus garbage, where they shove them down your throat for two months and then, well, that's enough of them, basically." Well said.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry
- We love a good HOSS FIGHT here at Cageside Seats. That being said, this was not a good HOSS FIGHT and worse yet, it was an actively bad HOSS FIGHT.
- Heading into the event, we all knew 12 minutes was simply too much time to give these two. Knowing what we know now, after the event has finished and we've digested the fallout, it's an absolute crime that someone actually booked this the way they did.
- Whomever it is in WWE Creative who believes Ryback can be kept strong by smoz finishes or something slick after the bell should be fired immediately. He's lost on every PPV dating back to his WWE title match at Hell in a Cell when he was at his hottest and legitimately helped move the needle. Whatever drawing power he had before is now dead and he doesn't have the skills in other areas to make up for it.
- Definitely impressed with the Shell Shock spot after the match. We wondered if "Big Hungry" could get Henry up for it and he did it not once, but twice. Modified version or not, it was solid.
- Henry should feud with John Cena over the WWE championship now if only because there isn't anyone left and at least then we can be sure Cena doesn't go back to feuding with Big Show or some shit. Although, feuding with Cena usually means death for anyone who isn't a living legend.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E. Langston
- To piggyback on the point on Ryback and Henry running too long, this match ran too short. If given more time to work with, there's no doubting this could have been a contender for the second best match of the evening and it might be anyway.
- Whomever's idea it was to recreate the spot with AJ Lee kissing her man and nearly costing him the match, with Ziggler playing the role of Daniel Bryan last year and Bryan playing the role of Sheamus, should be given a raise. Continuity in pro wrestling is so damn fulfilling.
- Ziggler's sell job on the Kane choke slam is worth noting.
- Big E. Langston was strong in his debut, hitting his spots and generally looking like a talented worker with the right amount of charisma who, with a few character tweaks, can be a big star down the line.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango
- There was an oddly large amount of hype for this match thanks to how predictable the main event level matches looked going in and the Fandango character has generated a reaction unlike any other on the mid-card. With Vince McMahon having pegged him as one of his projects, Jericho was asked to help get him over and this was their showcase where they could -- or maybe couldn't -- make the most of it. Well, they did about as good as anyone could have expected.
- By virtue of not buckling under the pressure, Fandango scored points. But he did a lot of small things that will help him, like dancing in between moves and gliding around the ring, even when he's selling. Some of that can probably be attributed to Jericho being in his ear informing him of the best way to go about things.
- One downgrade for the match is that there were too many spots where it was obvious they were talking to set things up. I watched with a few friends and they noticed almost every time it happened. That shouldn't happen, especially on a stage like this.
- Fandango's finisher is gorgeous.
- I almost wish he had won with it but a roll up was likely the right call here. Jericho puts the young guy over but only does so after tweaking his knee on a missed spot -- which, if that was an audible, was brilliant -- and getting rolled up.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
- Here's how you know this feud has been dying a slow death: Swagger got a jobber entrance for this match.
- The thing about this match is that it was actually just fine. The two work well enough together and were psychologically sound. Del Rio works the arm, Swagger works the ankle, and they build to the inevitable finish where one gets their submission over on the other.
- The problem is the two are both just unbelievably difficult to care about. Del Rio has a certain charm to him that might work in a one-on-one setting but it doesn't translate to a larger audience and Swagger fails even when his objective is to make you hate him. My theory on Swagger is that you dislike him but in that way you dislike someone who is just dumb. He's like a big dumb oaf that you're not a fan of but just can't hate because it means hating someone who just doesn't know better.
- Zeb Colter angry face.
Undertaker vs. CM Punk
- You can't steal the show when everyone expects you to have a great match or at least something as close to it as possible. That said, this was easily the best match on the card and it's not even close. With the benefit of hindsight, this should have been the last match on the card.
- I'm a sucker for psychology -- a big part of my Stone Cold fandom -- and these two are the best at it. Punk throwing the urn around while Undertaker was doing his entrance was genius. Punk baiting him into running after him after slapping him then taunting him just to run some more before stopping long enough to slap him again was even better. Using all of "The Deadman's" spots after countering out of them was great and continued to play into the idea that he was in 'Taker's head.
- I loved how they teased many of Undertaker's usual big spots but never actually went through with them, like Old School and the suicide dive over the top rope. Even the Last Ride was teased multiple times but they never actually had him go through with hitting it, instead using it for the biggest tease of the match.
- Admit it: That urn shot after the ref bump had you thinking Punk was going to end the streak, didn't it?
- That's the amazing thing about this, really. Despite the fact that we know with 100-percent certainty that Undertaker is going to win, they managed to create a moment where we actually felt like the streak might end. The entire crowd bought into it, too, as you could see everyone in the stands rise as Punk went for the pin, all in anticipation that it was over, only for Undertaker to kick out and stay alive. Moments like that are what make watching pro wrestling so damn great.
- The streak is now undoubtedly the greatest ongoing storyline in all of pro wrestling. Every year, some big star steps up to try to end it and every year, they fail. It's something I wish could live forever but I have a great idea for how to bring it to a close: Have Undertaker announce, preferably sooner rather than later, that he will wrestle at WrestleMania 30 on April 6, 2014, in New Orleans, but it will be his final match. That means one man will get one final opportunity to end the streak before 'Taker retires with it still intact. I'm of the opinion that John Cena should be the man to wrestle in that match but am open to arguments for others.
Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
- This was actually a decent match that suffered greatly by the crowd being dead all throughout it, or at least that's how it came across on TV. There was no cool down match in between this and the Undertaker-Punk match, and it was obvious for the first 20 minutes or so.
- Triple H deserves a lot of credit for his work here, if only because he was really killing himself while Lesnar was beating on him, and that was for most of the match. That Spanish announce table didn't want to do business for Punk and Undertaker in their match, so Trips did business for it.
- I'm not sure how I feel about the way Shawn Michaels was used. He literally ran away from Lesnar in the early going and took an F-5 from him later on, clearly there to put over how much of a monster Brock is. But he was also there to take out Paul Heyman with a perfectly timed Sweet Chin Music to ensure Lesnar did the job.
- Maybe that's what I don't like about it. That Lesnar is now 1-2 in three matches since he came back and WWE has done to him what they have been doing to Ryback: booking him to lose while trying to make him look as strong as possible in the process. He beat the shit out of Triple H and it took three separate kimura locks, a sledgehammer shot, and two pedigrees, one on steel steps, to finally put him down for the count. But with what he's there for, who he's jobbing to, and how much he's being paid, he shouldn't be losing, no matter how they book it.
- Heyman, for his part, was amazing all throughout the evening, both for Punk during his match with Undertaker and Lesnar here. At one point he shouted to Lesnar "he's just a man, you're a beast." Lines like that in matches like this are why he's so great to have around.
The Rock vs. John Cena
- Oh boy.
- This felt far too much like they tried to completely recreate Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania 6 and failed miserably in doing so. They tried to do this both in the psychology of the match itself and the actual layout for the match. They opened incredibly slow with neither getting the advantage and both treating the other like a true titan of the ring. That led to a lot of rest holds both for pacing and to make the match feel like an epic encounter. The problem with that is pro wrestling crowds of today just aren't tolerant of matches like that anymore, and especially not with these two.
- They also tried to do the Hogan vs. Warrior, babyface vs. babyface match where one babyface goes over and the other gives his endorsement on the way out so the winner becomes an even bigger babyface in the process. But, again, this didn't work because Cena was booed heavily both early and later on just before they got to the back.
- I originally though they masterfully booked the closing sequence, with Cena paying respect to Rock by leaving the ring with the title and giving Rock his moment in front of the fans. That would have accomplished Rock giving his endorsement with the handshake before Cena left, and the show not ending with the lasting memory of fans booing Cena holding the title up. But the show didn't end there. No, Rock went up the entrance ramp, where Cena was waiting for him, and they saluted each other before raising one another's hands with "The Great One" leaving Cena to his stage to hold the belt up for fans to boo him as the show faded to black.
- Back to the match itself: Way, way, way too many finishers. I understand that the word "finisher" is almost meaningless in WWE anymore with the main event style that became so popular with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the late 90s, but my unofficial count had the two hitting a combined 678 finishers before one of them finally got a pin. Yeah, I get it, you're both Supermen, but this was beyond ridiculous. It was also lazy. Tie up, break, tie up, break, hold, suplex, tie up, hold, sleeper, finisher, finisher, finisher, finisher, finisher, finisher, finisher, finisher, finish. That was the match.
- This was three years in the making and I think that's partially why it came up short. It was good by the end, but it wasn't special and was blown out of the water by Undertaker vs. Punk.
The lasting memory of this WrestleMania, sadly, is that the stage set up was amazing and the production values were great but there wasn't really anything that stood out on the show other than Undertaker and he stands out every year anymore. If there was ever a time for Punk to get his WrestleMania main event, this was it.
You have to do better when it's Wrestle-Fucking-Mania.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on WrestleMania 29 last night.