Alberto Del Rio (with Ricardo Rodriguez) (c) vs. Jack Swagger (with Zeb Colter)

For the weeks leading up Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter had targeted the World Heavyweight Champion with their rhetoric of immigrants stealing the American Dream from ‘decent American’s’ like the two of them (read: descended from white, Northern Europeans) and Del Rio wanted to prove a point. So, we’ve got an intense personal storyline, two great wrestlers and the grandest stage possible, in the cities that perhaps best typify America’s great immigrant history.

Swagger and Del Rio are both superb technicians and the match featured some great wrestling with some truly awesome reversals and transitions. Zeb Colter and Ricardo Rodriguez both played their parts well too. These parts you can’t really fault. It was very slick and all said it was a really good match and the crowd was buzzing for it. However I think (like a few other matches on the card…) it suffered from a lack of time, they tried to cram as much in as possible to make up for it and it felt a little disjointed.

6/10

Winner: Alberto Del Rio retains the World Heavyweight Championship via submission (Swagger tapped out to the cross-armbreaker)

The Undertaker vs. CM Punk (with Paul Heyman)

This is the match I was most looking forward to and in my opinion the only main event that fully delivered on it’s promise. It was an incredible match and definitely the best match on the card.

CM Punk again showed why he’s the master tactician in WWE. Everything the man did in this match followed the plan, the entire build to this match was based on Punk trying to get into ‘Taker’s head and the match built brilliantly off of this. Before the match even started Punk was working his way in, from the arrogant smirk, to the way he sat in the ring until The Undertaker entered through the ropes, his antics with the urn with Paul Heyman and starting the match by slapping the Undertaker in the face!

Every single year since WrestleMania 25 I’d think “He’s too old now, he’s out of shape, his body wont let him go the extra mile anymore” and every year The Undertaker proves me absolutely wrong. He was simply phenomenal in this match and looked as good as he ever has. Simply put he is the best big time performer the WWE has ever seen. Shawn Michaels may be called Mr WrestleMania but that title truly does belong to the Deadman, for the last 10 years and more he and his opponent have stolen the show (though the handicap match with Big Show and A-Train is the exception that proves the rule) on the Grand Stage and this year he and Punk were undeniably the best match on the card.

Punk slapping The Undertaker not once but twice, Punk doing the Old School to Undertaker,  ‘Taker and Punk throwing a little nod to MMA with the Hell’s Gate transition, Undertaker doing ‘the sit up’ during the Anaconda Vice, Undertaker even going for the classic suicide dive was a shock, CM Punk kicking out of a vicious Tombstone Piledriver, teasing the Last Ride through the table, the Macho Man diving elbow to the Spanish announce table (damn those evil tables…), the urn hit during the Last Ride and many, many more little moments that will be remembered. This match showcased everything that is great about professional wrestling and personally is in my top three of all time Undertaker WrestleMania matches (#1 Michaels WM25, #2 Punk WM29, #3 Triple H WM17). The match ended with the Tombstone Piledriver to CM Punk, extending the Streak to 21 victories.

After the finish The Undertaker made a very touching tribute to the legendary Paul Bearer. Laying the urn down in the middle of the ring and doing the trademark pose. A fitting tribute to the man whose legacy will be remembered in the form of The Undertaker.

10/10

Winner: The Undertaker via pinfall.

Triple H (with Shawn Michaels) vs Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)

This was a very hit and miss match in my opinion. While it was a very hard hitting No Holds Barred match with huge consequences should HHH lose, the crowd were not interested for the vast majority and this detracted from the overall quality.

Brock Lesnar dominated the match. He really is a beast and he looked more dangerous than ever. This was a very classic hard hitting match that honestly wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Attitude Era. There were many brutal bumps and featured the return of a few suplexes that we just don’t see in WWE anymore (you could probably count on one hand the number of times you’ve seen the German and Belly-to-Belly Suplex in a WWE ring since 2008. Another legacy of Chris Benoit) and it was nice to see them again. Triple H was largely manhandled for the entirety of the match. In this regard it was similar to the John Cena vs Lesnar match from Extreme Rules, the match even ended with a finisher on the steel steps.

It was only until the last five or so minutes of the match that the crowd really got into it. As Brock Lesnar attempted to break HHH’s arm with the Kimura Lock, Triple H turned the tables on Lesnar and tried the same thing, seeking revenge from SummerSlam. With Lesnar in dire straits Paul Heyman attempted to intervene only to receive a Sweet Chin Music from Shawn Michaels for his trouble. F5’s to both Michaels and HHH followed before a kickout from HHH. A sledgehammer hit and a spectacular Pedigree on the steel steps saw the end of Brock Lesnar and HHH’s career carries on.

The match suffered from it’s placement on the card. No match could have followed the incredible CM Punk vs. The Undertaker bout, it was so good that it wore the crowd out. It’s not that this match was bad because it wasn’t. It was really, really good and if it were headlining a Pay Per View on it’s own it would probably be the match of the night.

But it wasn’t headlining it’s own PPV, it had to follow one of the most dramatic matches we’ve seen in a WWE ring. It was too slow paced to follow The Streak match without a break and it really suffered from it. Recall last years Hell in a Cell match, it was followed first by a 12 man tag match and then by Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk. The crowd was given a chance to catch it’s breath from The Streak match before another equally important, but very different, match.

6/10

Winner: Triple H via pinfall

The Rock (c) Vs. John Cena

So we get to the big one. The rematch of all rematches. On paper it should be perfect. John Cena wants to avenge his loss to The Rock last year and attain redemption by becoming WWE Champion for the 123rd time (warning: numbers may not be accurate).

Honestly, going in I wasn’t looking forward to this match. I’d already seen (and paid for) this match last year, adding the title to it didn’t make me want to see it again a year later in the way the Hell in a Cell and Shawn Michaels did for ‘Taker/HHH. Especially not with a Champion who never seemed to be around. After the 434 day reign of CM Punk it was extremely jarring to not see the WWE Champion on Raw every week. I’m a Cena fan, I don’t blindly hate on him because I think he can’t wrestle, he can wrestle, he’s awesome at telling stories in the ring but I really had  no desire to see him as WWE Champion again, I’ve seen him win it 10 times now and I’m tired of it. I didn’t buy WrestleMania for this match. Luckily the Raw afterwards proved me wrong on this, as Cena was back to his entertaining best. But that Raw was far in the future.

However two elements I was looking forward to: the crowd and the possibility of a Cena heel turn. New Jersey and New York are big time ‘smark’ crowds and if there’s one thing you can count on them for it’s that they will boo and antagonise John Cena. They did not disappoint. The other element ultimately did, a heel turn was teased multiple times during the match with Cena looking very aggrieved at the crowd, playing the heel role by default. But in the end it was the same old story we’ve seen Cena tell for the last ten years. The ‘underdog’ rises above the hate and the odds.

Initially it was a very slow paced match, typified by the sleeper hold a few minutes in. The Rock looked very tired throughout, no doubt a result of not being on the road constantly. He’s hugely successful as a movie star but clearly  he’s no longer the dependable work horse he was in the Attitude Era. Which is very strange to me as I felt last years match with Cena was one of the best I’d ever seen and the two matches with Punk were awesome too.

The match later exploded into what seemed like one finisher after another, each followed by a kickout. The crowd was reacting to it so I can’t say it wasn’t working live but it honestly felt very disjointed to me. Unlike with the finisher-kickout’s in other matches (particularly the Rock/Cena match last year) it just didn’t feel right to me, it wasn’t dramatic and it wasn’t shocking. It felt like they were kicking out because that’s what’s gotta happen now. I wasn’t drawn in, they didn’t make me believe. Sometimes predictability works in favour of matches, this was not one of those matches. The winner was obvious the moment John Cena won the Royal Rumble and The Rock beat CM Punk at the same show.

However it’s not all negative. Cena delivered a vicious Rock Bottom to The Rock and he played the heel role throughout to perfection, toying with the crowd at points. He had them in the palm of his hand. But in the end this just goes to show how turning him heel would be a great creative decision, if not a great decision for the Make-A-Wish Foundation or WWE’s coffer’s in the long run. As I’m not a WWE employee or shareholder the logic doesn’t hold up for me and I think I’ll just leave it as that. Cena’s never fully turning heel and that’s fine. The Champ is back.

Following Cena’s victory there was a celebration between the two, obviously paralleling the passing of the torch at the end of the Hogan/Rock match from WrestleMania 18. Unfortunately for me it didn’t feel genuine at all, after two years of promo’s between the two about how much they dislike each other it just felt horribly saccharine, particularly the salutes on the ramp. The crowd wasn’t buying it either, which is probably why The Rock’s music started playing while he left the ring.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being overly negative. Maybe I was expecting too much. Or perhaps I’d made my mind up before I’d even seen the match but this is still how I felt/feel. It was a very uncomfortable main event and I can’t help but feel that The Streak match should have closed the show. In the end it also makes me feel that the feud between the two of them was never really about the WWE Championship, it was a popularity contest. If that’s the case then no matter who won in New Jersey, The Rock has won.

6/10

Winner: John Cena wins the WWE Championship (Cena pinned Rock after the Attitude Adjustment)

I enjoyed this years WrestleMania. I thought all the midcard matches were brilliant, with a particular favourite being The Shield vs Randy Orton, The Big Show and Sheamus, and The Undertaker vs. CM Punk was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I don’t think the other three main events lived up to their promise and some of the other elements of WrestleMania (particularly Puff Daddy’s impromptu concert, starting with the opening to Victory no less, for a second there I was expecting to see a hologram of Biggie) detracted from the event.

Overall rating: 8/10

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Comments
  1. Fully love the post man! Keep them coming! I totally agree with you on Punk and Taker. How people can say the Triple H match from last year was better is beyond me. Classic ring psychology, excellent execution. Perfect match! 10/10 – I really hope Lesnar gets used a bit more often. I honestly think he is one of the most exciting sights you can see in the whole company. The guy looks… ridiculous! And in the ring he is a destroyer. I can genuinely invest myself in a match when I see a don like this heading to the ring. Fandango v Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WM30!

    • I don’t even see how they could be compared to be honest. Ones a hell in a cell match between two big guys, the other is a singles match with one big guy and one smaller guy. The only things they’ve got in common is The Undertaker and the event. They’re both awesome, but different matches. A long time ago I discovered this weird concept of being able to enjoy two (or more!) things at the same time without needing to obsess over which is better.

    • Agree about Lesnar too. I loved the match with HHH, only reason I didn’t give it 9/10 or 10/10 is because of the crowd. If that had been the main event or even if Punk/Taker weren’t on the card it would have been the best match without a doubt. ust had the misfortune of having to follow that masterpiece.

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