Since writing my recent review for NJPW’s Invasion Attack event, I’ve been tasked with the job of sitting down to rewatch and review WWE’s biggest annual event of the year: Wrestlemania. Just like death and taxes, one thing is certain: Wrestlemania.
I’ve been pretty transparent about my love of pro wrestling and the WWE is the constant that I keep coming back to, no matter how badly it treats me sometimes. And given some of the current storylines, it can be a pretty rocky relationship. This is something I used to go into in loving detail when I used to host a wrestling podcast, Blind Tag! Podcast, every week. With that not so much being a thing anymore, it’s awesome to be able to have a relative outlet, thanks to Tobika.
So, with this in mind, it was time for me to rewatch history; to cast my mind back all the way back to April 7th of 2013, when I was but a young(er) man, and everything seemed so much bigger, and brighter.
Once again taking place inside of a Stadium, this time MetLife Stadium does the honors, there was an interesting ‘co-hosting’ of the event courtesy of NY/NJ, unlike last years which was hosted solely by Miami. Did I mention I was at Wrestlemania 28 last year, at the SunLife Stadium? Okay, courtesy brag over, and back to the point: although extremely grand in nature, I can’t help but feel that a lot gets lost by hosting it in such a huge environment. I recently rewatched Wrestlemania 28, and although it is guilty of this as well, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as Wrestlemania 29. ‘This’ being the way in which sound gets lost across the expanse of the arena, and through its translation onto a TV screen. There were portions of this PPV where it sounded like the crowd couldn’t care less about what was happening, despite having people like HHH or The Rock in the ring. I’m not sure if it’s wind carrying the sound, losing it along the way, or if it’s simply the other edge of that sword, but a lot gets lost when you watch it via TV land.
But let’s not condemn this event due to lack of crowd involvement! Surely what matters is what happens in the ring? So let’s, as DX’s music would always emphatically exclaim: break it down.
The disc begins with a video looking at the fallout of Super Storm Sandy, with a message from Governor Chris Christie somberly speaking over it. An effecting piece that, as usual with WWE, perhaps strays a little too far into serious “America, Fuck Yeah!” territory, but I’m usually very forgiving of it, given my love affair for America. So, it’s cool WWE. I’ll take it. The underlying message is a morally just one though; about unity and rebuilding from the wreckage. You can’t really complain about that.
Randy Orton/Sheamus/Big Show vs The Shield
First up is this mash up match up, pitting The Shield against three guys who, in the run up to Wrestlemania, didn’t have much to do. Such a shame to see Randy Orton be put to the way side like this, and it’s funny to think that at WM28, Sheamus was gearing up to win the World Heavyweight Title from Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds. The worst 18 seconds of my life, considering I was robbed of a Wrestlemania match featuring Daniel Bryan.
The match itself wasn’t anything spectacular and was, to be frank, a bit of a disappointing way to begin what should be the most exciting wrestling event of any calendar year. The eponymous ‘they’ always say that if you can’t be in the main event, be the first out there; as it allows you an opportunity to steal the show from the very start. This match did not do that.
A frenetic energy from The Shield aside, highlighted by Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, couldn’t help this opening contest be nothing more than mediocre.
After the match up, both Orton and Sheamus got the KO punch from The Big Show, leading to the most predictable of turns in the WWE’s history, given that Show was heading into this match as a heel/tweener anyway. They could have tried something exciting, by finally turning Orton heel again. But, no. They went with the easy route, something that is an unfortunate common thread throughout this event.
Winner: The Shield
We’re then treated to one of numerous (believe me) video packages looking at the history that exists, and the friction between, The Rock and John Cena since their match last year at WM28. Although well put together, they didn’t have the same effect that their previous years equivalent would have had, if only because they hadn’t had the build up of a year to back it.
Ryback vs Mark Henry
If there was any match that could have been worse to begin an ‘epic’ event with than the previous match, this would have been it. At least the previous contest had the potential for greatness. This one was always going to be bad. And it was. That being said, it also provided the only twist and surprise of the night: a Ryback loss.
Given the build that the WWE had put into Ryback coming into this event, having him lose clean to Mark Henry didn’t really make any sense whatsoever.
The less said about this match, the better.
Winner: Mark Henry
Daniel Bryan/Kane vs Dolph Ziggler/Big E. Langston
WWE Tag Team Championship Match
The first decent match up of the night saw Team Hell No (why couldn’t they have just gone with the far superior name of Team Friendship!?) take on Ziggler and Big E. Some awesome back and forth, combined with great pacing allowed us to witness a pretty exciting match up. Rumors leading into this match had predicted a Ziggelr/Big E. victory, followed by Ziggler cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase, which would have meant their little stable, completed by AJ Lee, would hold the vast majority of WWE gold. WWE didn’t see it playing out that way however, and decided to keep the belts on Team Hell No on this night.
Good showing for everyone involved, including an amazing chokeslam from Kane, perhaps with the exception of Big E. Langston.
Winner: Daniel Bryan/Kane
Chris Jericho vs Fandango
Fandango has had one of the biggest pushes in recent memory, and it wasn’t likely to stop here at Wrestlemania. This was a pretty good match up that did have some unfortunately noticeable botches throughout. I don’t know what it was though, but this match just didn’t click for me. Perhaps it’s Fandango himself. I find him to be vastly overrated, his success stemming more from people enjoying to chant and sing his theme tune than by any real discernible talent in the ring. Hopefully time will prove me wrong, as I’ve heard plenty of great things about the now former-Johnny Curtis, but to my eyes I’ve still yet to be witness to them. A shame still, as this is not exactly Chris Jericho’s finest performance. Thinking back to year before, in that amazing match up with CM Punk, to now: jobbing to Fandango.
A lot can change in a year.
We’re now treated to the musical stylings of Sean “Diddy” Combs, performing a mash up of a few songs, including the Wrestlemania 29 theme: “Coming Home”. I’ve seen worse performances at many WM’s, and more non sensical ones to boot: anyone remember Kid Rock playing out the Divas at Wrestlemania 25? It’s always got this element of time filling though and, as I’m sure any wrestling fan will attest, I usually find myself thinking “They cut time from [insert match up here] for this?!”
Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger
World Heavyweight Championship Match
Oh, Jack. You could be so good, if only you didn’t continuously fuck things up for yourself. To preface: Jack Swagger was on a roll. Surprising everyone by winning the Elimination Chamber and guaranteeing his spot at Wrestlemania, whilst being heavily pushed by the WWE, Jacky boy would then go on to screw it up for himself by being pulled over and arrested for possession of marijuana. Talk about letting your world go to pot. ZING! Prior to this, it seemed like a dead cert that Swagger would be claiming the gold once again at Wrestlemania.
So, way to go, Jack.
The match itself was a standard match up, something that would have felt more at home on a Smackdown main event perhaps rather than Wrestlemania. A shame as I am a fan of both men competing, but together they just didn’t have that spark. And it’s not like they couldn’t have a great match together, they’ve had plenty of good matches on Smackdown, but here, on this night, it just didn’t work. Sloppy finish leads into an armbar victory for Del Rio.
It’s a problem when one of the highlights of this match is the crowd itself finally being vocal in the chant of: “We Want Ziggler!”. A tease that everybody all around the world wanted, but the WWE chose to not deliver on.
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
CM Punk vs The Undertaker
By far the match of the night. And even then, comparatively to these competitors other high light matches, this was pale in comparison. I’ve maintained for a long time that The Undertaker didn’t need to come back. He didn’t need to make it 21-0. 20-0 has a wonderful resonance to it, a real sense of finality. That round 20 is what does it. 21 and 0. Really? Given the astounding match up he had with HHH in the Hell in A Cell, the fact he came back at all still perplexes me. Taker and HHH (HBK in tow as well) had a perfect send off, essentially a good bye from their era, and yet both men continue to perform. People think they want to see The Undertaker wrestle now but at a certain point, just like an aging man in his late 50’s or early 60’s, he’s just not going to be able to perform!
A great match between these two isn’t enough to overlook the fact that this one match up was simply not as good as either of their match ups from last year. Although maintaining a good pace, some great spots (including a stubborn table) and good in ring psychology, this match was, essentially, the very best of a substandard whole.
Winner: The Undertaker
HHH vs Brock Lesnar
No Holds Barred Match - If HHH loses, he must retire
With nothing to buffer The Undertaker/CM Punk match with this one, there was a very noticeable difference to the crowd. Despite these two men beating seven shades out of one another, the crowd just didn’t seem to care. They were spent. Exhausted! And it didn’t help that wrestling was one of the last things that really happened in this brawl of a match up. This match was more keenly focused on throwing each other around a sufficient amount of times, before implementing weapons and then using them over and over again. Or, in video game vernacular: spamming. It kind’ve played out like a bad game of WWE 13, where you just choose to use a weapon and spam it on the AI until it can’t do anything at all. Personal note: if you play like that, shame on you!
Very little to say about this match apart from it’s the weakest match up Brock Lesnar has had since coming back. The only surprise coming from Lesnar being legitimately knocked out by HHH.
We then get a minor break from the headline acts as they wheel out this years Hall of Fame Class for 2013. Nice to see some of the these guys get their dues, all well deserved. Except for Donald Trump, but then by the sounds of it the crowd knows that as well.
The Rock vs John Cena
WWE Championship Match
I always hate to admit this whenever it happens to involve John Cena, but this wasn’t too bad a match up. Granted, this once again did not live up to the calibre of match up or excitement that WM28’s match up had, but it was still a pretty good match that culminated with way too many finisher reversal spots. Literally going from Attitude Adjustment to Rock Bottom and back again. Way too many, almost to the point of ludicrousness.
Some good psychology throughout the match up and some great references to their history together, especially playing up the ending of last years match leads this to being the second best match of the event. Not bad for a limited wrestler like John Cena and a part timer like The Rock. It’s just such a shame that it was all so predictable. The crowd certainly did wake up as the competitors hurtled towards the finish, but it all felt a little too late.
The fact that this Wrestlemania lacked any backstage skits or filler matches has an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand it was very wrestling focused; great for people who usually complain about the imbalance that exists in the WWE between the amount of wrestling and entertainment it produces. On the other hand, it led to three (four, if you want to be kind and include Del Rio/Swagger. Which I don’t.) major matches happening one after the other, not allowing the crowd to rest and have each match really sink in. This in turn had that negative effect of quieting the crowd to the point where they seemed bored. This definitely carried across through the TV and it’s something I noticed on both my initial, and secondary, viewings.
The major pitfall that this Wrestlemania suffered from, that practically killed it, despite all the glamour and spectacle which were, as always; admittedly impressive, is simply how predictable the whole thing was.
From top to bottom, sans the Ryback/Henry match up, every result was easily predicted. Because of this it left a lot of fans, myself included, uninspired by what we had just witnessed. For the more casual fan, those that only dip in and out, it may have had an exciting unpredictability to it, but for those who have been watching the build up over the weeks/months, it was all pretty tedious.
As soon as The Rock beat CM Punk for the belt at the Royal Rumble, and Cena would go on to win the Rumble itself, nothing they could have done would have surprised anybody. It was a foregone conclusion.
A shame then, that what should have been the years biggest event for the WWE is instead mired with substandard match ups and predictability, made worse still when you compare it to last years effort where, even on further viewings, a lot of the matches hold up.
Still, there’s always next year.
Steve "The Other Guy" Russell
Wrestlemania 29 is released on the 17th June 2013 at £24.99 (DVD) and £34.99 (Blu-Ray), courtesy of Fremantle Media Enterprises