Wrestlemania Afterthoughts

Bloggified by Jake on Monday, April 8, 2013

When Wrestlemania 29 ended an hour ago, the universal consensus from the people with whom I watched and most of the people I follow on Twitter seems to be: "At least the C.M. Punk/Undertaker match was good." While I certainly was in that camp, the more I thought about the evening, the more frustrated I became by all the squandered potential.

Traditionally, Wrestlemania is the end of the WWE's season (for lack of a better term). Feuds culminate in face-to-face match ups with a clear, indisputable winner and the next night on Raw, things start anew. Granted, not all matches are classics. While WWE would like you to think only the finest talent and the greatest rivalries make it to the granddaddy of all pay per views, never forget that Wrestlemania has brought us the Bodydonnas vs. the Godwins, Big Show in a sumo diaper, Undertaker vs. a giant in a airbrushed bodysuit designed to make him look naked and hairy, and Golddust's slutty ex-wife vs. Jerry Lawler's slutty half-his-age girlfriend.

Tonight's show had some good wrestling performances, but overall nearly every match fell short of what it could have done.

The opening match of Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus versus The Shield deserve a lot of credit for allowing the three upstarts of the Shield to showcase their skills against three former World Heavyweight Champions. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns shined, but Seth Rollins went to a new level. At one point he leaped off the top turnbuckle with such power I wouldn't have been surprised to see him land on the opposite turnbuckle.

Most people pegged this match as being ripe for either Big Show or Randy Orton to turn on his teammates, maybe even joining the Shield in the process. Sure enough, Big Show got fed up with Orton hogging ring time and refused to make a critical save when the Shield had Orton pinned.

This match could have easily had Big Show punch Orton and taint the Shield's victory, but WWE resisted and allowed Orton to be the victim of his own hubris rather than outright betrayal. The win also strengthened the Shield's reputation where Big Show interference would have weakened it. Unfortunately, WWE wasn't as sensible the rest of the night.

Jericho and Fandango's match started at a disadvantage because after five months of buildup, Fandango could have been Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold all rolled into one and still not lived up to the hype. Furthermore, after wrestling in WWE's developmental territories for six years as Johnny Curtis, he's saddled with the silly character of a competitive ballroom dancer who gets upset when people mispronounce his name.
It was hard to tell what went wrong in this match. Fandango's only signature move seemed to be a leg drop from the top turnbuckle that he did twice and I believe might have tried a third time. That repetition would become a theme for much of the night.

But strangest was the ending, where Jericho overshot a Lionsault while Fandango raised his knees in a move that would normally lead to Jericho miming a rib injury. Instead, Jericho jumped up, grabbed Fandango's legs, and attempted his Walls of Jericho finisher. Announcer JBL suggested Jericho might have injured his knee, though there was no reason to suspect that as neither wrestler had done anything to sell the idea of a knee injury. Jericho wiggled his knee a bit while trying and failing to get Fandango into the Walls, then was rolled up for an anticlimactic Fandango victory that prompted me to tweet:
While the tag team title match featured some great wrestling and one of the highlights of the night in Daniel Bryan's near revenge for A.J.'s good luck kiss, the match up itself was questionable. Most will agree it's time to split up Team Hell No and push Bryan to the moon as a singles wrestler. But if they're going to drop the title, why put them in a match with a guy who's already the de facto #1 contender for the World Heavyweight belt and a guy making his in-ring debut? How much better would it have been to watch Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler go one-on-one? How does a guy who's never wrestled in WWE before qualify as a top contender for a belt? There was little story behind this match and what there was was about A.J.'s relationship with Kane and Daniel Bryan, yet she played little role in the match. Ultimately, the Hell No victory felt empty. They hadn't overcome any great obstacle, there was no internal strife, everything was exactly as it appeared on its surface.

Furthermore, it didn't make sense for Ziggler to win one half of the tag team titles considering he is holding the Money in the Bank contract that all-but guarantees he'll be the World Heavyweight Champion soon. Ziggler had implied he'd use the contract at Wrestlemania, which--given an almost certain pending suspension for Jack Swagger after his DUI and drug possession arrest--had many expecting Del Rio to win but to be so hurt and exhausted after battling Swagger that he'd be easy pickings for Ziggler. Instead, the match just ended. Ricardo Rodriguez got no revenge for his broken ankle. Del Rio bounced up after the victory as though he'd been napping rather than being beaten half to death by a psychotic Tea Party racist. And we wound up with our first truly squandered opportunity of the night.

As it stands now, Swagger and Del Rio are either finished or they have to repeat the exact same program but with some special stipulation at Extreme Rules like a submission match. How much better would it be if Swagger and Del Rio beat each other senseless with Del Rio pulling off a victory by breaking Swagger's arm in the Cross Arm Breaker? Then as medics rush to the ring, Ziggler runs in behind them. The huffing and puffing Del Rio, barely able to stand on his severely twisted ankle (thanks to the Patriot Lock), is an easy target for Ziggler who becomes the new champ.
Swagger goes away to "rehab his broken arm" and serves his wellness policy suspension. Ziggler and Del Rio feud for the next two pay-per-views, trading the title back and forth. Both guys have prominent ringside personalities so in addition to Ziggler vs. Del Rio inside the ring, we also have Ricardo Rodriguez competing with A.J. and Big E. Langston outside. Then Swagger returns and wants revenge on Del Rio. Put them in a #1 contender match at Money in the Bank, then roll into a 3-Way Dance between them all at SummerSlam.

C.M. Punk and Undertaker had a much better match than you'd expect a 48-year-old who hasn't wrestled in a year to be capable of having. Within the first five minutes, Undertaker had already been involved in more action than the Rock had in both his C.M. Punk matches put together.
Punk managed to make Undertaker look better than he has in years and whether it deserves it or not, I expect this will get the Slammy for Match of the Year. Also, Living Colour came out and illustrated to Diddy and Machine Gun Kelly that the best way to not get booed when performing live music at Wrestlemania is to not suck.

As the announcers explained that Triple H's career was on the line in his match against Brock Lesnar, a friend who doesn't watch WWE asked, "What happens if Triple H wins?" We could offer only that Vince McMahon's broken pelvis would be avenged. This match would have no real consequences since both wrestlers get in the ring about twice a year as it is. Triple H's retirement would only mean we won't see him at Summerslam.
The match played out very similarly to the John Cena/Brock Lesnar match from a year ago, with Lesnar almost exclusively on offense until then Cena, now Triple H could hit his finisher on the steel steps that had been brought into the ring. The only difference here was the ten minute sequence of Triple H slapping the kimura lock on Lesnar's arm, the two lying there for a few minutes, Brock picking Triple H up and slamming him onto the steps to break the lock... then Triple H slapping on the kimura lock and repeating the whole process twice. So much for the old rule of not repeating a spot.

But by far the biggest lost opportunity was found in Cena's victory over the Rock. It was obvious Cena, who hasn't held the WWE Championship for over a year, was going to win the belt if only because the WWE needs a champ who will actually appear on Monday Night Raw and go to house shows. But audiences have grown increasingly hostile toward Cena in recent months. Where once it seemed a fair 50-50 split between "Let's go, Cena" and "Cena sucks" chants in arenas, the scales have been steadily tipping toward the latter with every show. I would guess the Royal Rumble crowd was about 60% anti-Cena, but the Cena haters in the audience at last Monday's Raw in Washington, DC outnumbered his fans about ten to one and lambasted him with a chant of "BORING! BORING!" during his show-opening promo. Even when Cena promotes the Make-a-Wish Foundation:
The same thing happened when the same video was shown during the previous night's WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony as well as every other time Cena's face was shown on screen.

Cena's promos for the last two weeks steadily built up his obsession with defeating the Rock. He blamed every problem in his life from injuries to losing matches to his wife divorcing him on his loss to the Rock at last year's Wrestlemania. He began to show defiance to the fans rather than pleading for their love. Early in his match with Rock, he responded to a "Cena sucks" chant with "Oh, that's how it's gonna be, huh?" and Rock made a point of asking, "Do you hear that?" All the pieces were in place for Cena to turn heel. Throughout the match, he showed shock at Rock kicking out of a variety of finishing moves and breaking free of Cena's STF.

At this point, Cena should have taken the match outside the ring and brutalized Rock. Put him through the announce table, hit him with chairs, toss him into the steel steps, slam his arm into the ring posts, all while screaming about how the Rock ruined his life. Finally, a bloody, barely conscious Rock gets an Attitude Adjustment in the middle of the ring, but kicks out of the pin defiantly. Cena locks on the STF and screams like a madman into the camera as the Rock is forced to finally give up and tap. Fans boo, but Cena doesn't care anymore. His new attitude is "I hear you saying I suck. Well who's got your belt? You don't like me, but you'll respect me!"
Instead, Cena and Rock chose to repeat their Wrestlemania meeting from last year almost move for move for the first 80% of the match. Then they started hitting their signature moves or setting up for them repeatedly, resembling WWE '13 on easy mode where each wrestler's been given infinite finishing moves. For approximately five minutes, Cena and Rock went back and forth between Cena putting Rock on his shoulders for an Attitude Adjustment to Rock sliding off to set up the Rock Bottom to Cena putting Rock on his shoulders for an Attitude Adjustment, and so on.

When Cena finally won, he walked over to speak to the Rock for about a minute, expressing his gratitude. This lead to a handshake and a hug and a deafening chorus of boos.

It's hard not to feel that while WWE may have more talent than ever on its roster, its shows keep clocking in as mediocre outings. Unfortunately, there are usually enough highlights to keep fans' hope alive that something good is about to happen and we wind up in a perpetual cycle of disappointment and faith.

But at least the C.M. Punk/Undertaker match was good.

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