Wrestlemania 28 is in the books, as…well, everyone writing a wrap-up post is saying. It was a bizarre beast of a show that featured some incredible storytelling, solid wrestling, and some booking decisions to boggle the mind like only the WWE can boggle it.
As for my predictions, I scored a 62.5% success rate. That’s better than half, but should tip you off that the show surprised me in many ways. I’ll run down how I did and what I thought behind the cut.
World Heavyweight Championship
I said: Sheamus
What’s notable here isn’t that I was right, but how terribly right I was. Sheamus didn’t just win, he obliterated Bryan with a single kick to the head, winning the title in 18 seconds. Honestly, my stream buffered and the match was over.
And where does Daniel Bryan go now? It adds to the Bryan/AJ angle, with her essentially costing the match because he paused to give her a kiss for luck, but without the belt, I worry he’s sliding towards the midcard with a velocity that could burn him to a crisp.
Then again, he was the World Heavyweight Champion and jerked the curtain, so that should have been a sign right there.
Randy Orton v. Kane
I said: Randy Orton
Full disclosure: I paused on this match, did some laundry, made some dinner. Hey, I already said I had no emotional investment in this match. Imagine my surprise when The Big Red Machine pulled out a clean win with a top-rope chokeslam. I admit, I’m not exactly sure what the decision-making process was here, I imagine it’s the sort of thing where a loss doesn’t hurt Randy’s character, and if they want to keep Kane as a believable monster, he needed the win after laying down for Cena the first part of the year. Fine for what it was, but no way it should have gone after a title match.
Intercontinental Championship Match
I said: Cody Rhodes
Winner: The Big Show
Again, mind-boggling. Yeah, Cody’s been making a fool out of Show consistently for the last two months, but that’s how you build a guy. I don’t understand why you put a secondary title on a former world champion when his character has no use for it, it makes no sense. The primary function of the business, second only to selling tickets, is to build the future, to make sure you have a deep enough roster to keep selling tickets going forward. Cody needed the win, Cody needed the belt. He loses more getting beat than the Big Show can gain with the win. That’s math, people! You can’t argue with math.
Divas Tag Match
I said: Menounos/Kelly
Not much can really be said about this. It was a good Divas match, but it’s rare that a Divas match can deliver anything better than TV-caliber quality. Not to disrespect the women performing, but the days of hiring a Diva based on in-ring ability are long gone. Hot first; wrestle second. I thought Kelly looked better than I remember her ever being, her reversal on the GlamSlam looked pretty sick. I applaud Maria Menounos for the effort she gave and her ability to play up and sell the legitimate injuries she sustained on Dancing With the Stars.
BUT. Menounos getting the pin is fine, but she shouldn’t have scored it on the Divas champion. Eve could have done the job just fine, there’s no reason Beth had to be left looking at the lights. Not like the company values the Divas belt anyway, but it’d be nice to believe they care.
Hell in a Cell
I said: Undertaker
I mentioned in my predictions post that I didn’t know what story they could tell in this match after last year. That’s why I write blog posts and don’t book matches for the company.
While I don’t know if it was quiiiite as good as last year’s match, I don’t know that it could have done anything better. Not a technical masterpiece, aside from some finisher spots and that sick spinebuster on the steps, but definitely more emotional than any other match on the card, including the main event, and the one I was least sure about that had me on the edge of my seat like I was twelve years old.
This match, like really every Undertaker Mania match of the last four years, should be required viewing for the young guys on the come-up, because they are clinics on how to tell a story in the ring. Last year was all about the Pyrrhic victory, this year was about two guys who would not give in, and the man caught between them.
Can we talk for a minute about Shawn Michaels as referee? Because he was the MVP. Watching his best friend and the guy he respects more than anyone beat each other to a pulp, his growing discomfort with the increasing violence, asking Taker to let him stop the match when it became clear Hunter wouldn’t ease up on the attack, the way he would collapse into the ring corner with his head in his hands after a particularly brutal near fall; he was flawless, and added a layer of emotion to the match that would have been missing without him. Valued emotional assist to Jim Ross [making a special appearance to call the match], Jerry Lawler and to my surprise, even Michael Cole, who had the good sense to turn off his heel persona and give the proceedings the appropriate air of gravitas.
I adored the finish to this match. The moment Taker, steel chair in hand, stepped on the sledgehammer to prevent Hunter from using it, I whooped like a fool. As Hunter slouched in the corner, looking from Shawn to Taker, knowing he was beat, giving that last crotch chop of defiance before getting planted with his…third Tombstone? All you can do is applaud.
I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering what this match really meant. Judging from the hug between HBK and Taker [I could be wrong, but it looked like he kissed his head], and the joint exit/group hug at the stage entrance, it certainly seemed to suggest that both of them might be finished as in-ring performers. While I’ll be saddened if that’s the case, what a moment for both of them to call it a career on.
Twelve-Man Tag Match
I said: Team Johnny
Winner: Team Johnny
Also known as: ‘We Need to Talk About Zack Ryder.’ I’m not going to talk much about the match itself, because frankly I didn’t watch it [though the triple somersault plancha looked damn cool].
But who’s dog did Zack Ryder kick to warrant this treatment? After begging to get on Team Teddy on the first place, he gets distracted by the girl who played him like a sucker last winter, does the job on the finish, then gets kicked in the nuts by the same girl. Way to kill a guy’s momentum for being successful. Ryder’s a guy who won the fans over with nothing but his ingenuity and some savvy use of the Internet. And this is how such initiative is rewarded. A US Title win that now looks like a begrudging concession, followed by utter burial. The boys in the back have all learned a valuable lesson: Never try.
WWE Championship Match
I said: CM Punk
Winner: CM Punk
Much of the pre-show pontificating had this match pegged to be the modern-day equivalent of Steamboat/Savage from WM III: the wrestling classic that could steal the show. While it was without a doubt the best wrestled contest on the card, I don’t know that it could ever reasonably be expected to reach such lofty expectations. I’m a sucker for what they call ‘technical wrestling;’ submission attempts and reversals and such, and this match provided some great moments for that, most notably the top-rope hurracanrana reversal into the Walls of Jericho. I like that Punk won with the submission, but I can’t buy the Anaconda Vise as a legitimate manoeuvre when it leaves one of the opponent’s hands free. I can’t listen to the commentators shout, ‘What’s Jericho going to do to get out of this?!’ when all I can think is, ‘Uhh…punch him?’ Still, the right man won, and I really think/hope Punk hasn’t left creative with any reason to doubt whether he deserves a continued push as a main eventer.
The Rock v. John Cena
I said: John Cena
Winner: The Rock
Shocker of the night. Maybe those who scour the online dirt sheets more than me know more about The Rock’s future plans going forward, but I went into this match assuming it was a one-time appearance. My enjoyment of this match may have suffered from trying to multitask between watching Mad Men at the same time, as I have no idea what the crowd reaction was like, though it seemed to be solidly behind The Rock. I liked the chain wrestling at the beginning, with Cena looking stunned that Rocky still had the moves, and I liked how Cena physically dominated a lot of the match [that top rope legdrop is the new Undertaker plancha, he only does it once a year, but it’s pretty cool when he does].
What’s funny is, aside from the finisher kickouts usually reserved for PPV matches, this played out a lot like a match you would see on TV any given week. Mind you, they didn’t need to blow the doors off, The Rock’s first match in seven years is what sold the buys [and really, he looked in great shape]. But I would have liked to have seen more classic Rock tom foolery, like the self-commentating I mentioned the other day. But I suppose that would have undermined the stakes for a match both men said they had to win.
So ultimately we end up with Cena getting pinned after a fit of arrogance leads him to try for a People’s Elbow and getting caught with a Rock Bottom. In my predictions post I mused that they could run with the feud for the next year, doing a rematch at SummerSlam or Survivor Series, have Cena win there, then have a tiebreaker at WWE29. It would undermine the specialness of this match, but it makes no sense for Cena, the full-time guy, to do the job for the special attraction and never get over. There’s not a lot of things that could diminish Cena’s stock in the eyes of the fans, but a clean loss to The Rock with no retribution would be be one of them.
I got a text from a friend during the match asking me if I thought this would mean Cena turns heel. While I would personally love [LOVE] to see it, I don’t think it will ever happen, and recent comments made during the media blitz leading up to the show would seem to confirm it. He not only sells truckloads of merch to kids, but he’s also the public face of the company, doing everything from Make-A-Wish Foundation appearances to waving flags at NASCAR events. Balancing the public persona with the performer is a lot easier to do with a babyface putting in the work.
Overall, a solid show, if not the top-to-bottom amazeballs blowout we like to expect Mania to be. After the first hour, the show was in danger of shitting the bed, but A-plus performances by the veterans helped to win me back, and provided enough surprises to guarantee I’ll be watching RAW tonight to see where they go from here.