Back in January I was up really late watching YouTube clips of CM Punk winning his first World Heavyweight Championship from the previous June and, having just been to my first wrestling show a few weeks earlier, couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome it would be to actually see something like that live. One thing led to another and in my mind the natural thing to do was kickstart my old scheme to go to WrestleMania XXV. I had planned to go the previous summer, but things fell through with the people I wanted to go with. However, come January, I had a new partner in crime! So we bought WrestleMania tickets the next day and flew to motherfucking Texas in April. It was an awesome fucking trip and I can’t ever thank Anne enough for going with me.
However this is a wrestling blog not a gay bitch blog so I guess I should get around to doing a show review or some shit and keep that sentimental garbage to myself.
We get to Reliant and go inside and holy shit we’re actually going to WrestleMania. There are MOBS around the merch tables so we just decide to go find our seats (we never did buy any merch, which strikes me as a weird choice now). Peaking through the curtain to see out into the arena was fucking breathtaking. Our seats were pretty awesome, millions of times better than the last minute tickets we bought to Toronto in December (beside the pyro, which is great when your partner in crime has a visceral fear of sudden explosions), and we just soaked it in for a few minutes. Then we ran back up to buy some drinks for the show. There were some customed dudes walking around and I took some pictures of Anne with “Shawn Michaels”, “John Morrison”, and, no shit, “The Joker”. Eight bucks for two bottles of Sprite later (God bless America) and we’re sitting down again, I think they showed a video of WrestleMania XXIV or something, and at this point we’re positively giddy. Then it’s time for a dark match… holy shit I’m at fucking WrestleMania!
John Morrison & The Miz vs Primo & Carlito, Unified Tag Team Championship Match
I didn’t bother bringing a computer with me because fuck computers (ironically months later I now barely use one except for writing this) so I had no idea that this match had been moved to the pre-show (actually, did anyone?) so we were all pretty shocked when this happened right away. Hindsight is a funny thing; at the time I didn’t really give a shit because I wasn’t into the Colons at all and remember really liking the match from the stands. Rewatching this (thanks to the wonders of Future Shop and impulse DVD buys) I was really excited to see it because I’ve gotten really into the Colons and the matches these four were having to build to it. And it is totally not nearly as good as it seemed live. It’s just incredibly slow and plodding and doesn’t seem to pick up until Primo gets in on offense. The finish is Goddamn fucking great and everyone did get into the match but looking back now this is pretty disappointing.
After the match there was like ten minutes left and I’m sure we saw another video or something. Then the actual WrestleMania video hit. Everyone literally marked out for the legal warning for pirating the show. One of the really cool things about having been there is that I have the crowd reactions burned into my head for the videos. Like when Christian or Shawn Michaels (Anne laughed when he picked his own WrestleMania moment) turn up in the opening video, I still – to this fucking day – hear the crowd lose their shit. It’s awesome. And the video is really good too, miles better than last year’s disappointing video. Yes, this is important. Pussycat Doll sings America The Beautiful. I hold Anne’s ears for the opening pyro. Somehow I did not notice ladders being set up.
CM Punk vs Kane vs Christian vs Kofi Kingston vs Mark Henry vs MVP vs Finlay vs Shelton Benjamin, Money in the Bank Ladder Match
This is another match that came off a lot better live. I mean it’s a totally fun clusterfuck either way. Some of Kofi’s stuff actually comes off better on tape. But one of the problems with these matches now is that they slow things down and focus on setting up one thing at a time, and with the way cameras work, well, it can be slow-ish on tape. Live this was constantly moving and that made it four times as fun. There are times, like when everyone lines up to do their dives, that it almost feels like a comedy match with how cute it gets, but the difference between cute comedy ladder match and cute comedy ladder match at WrestleMania is pretty astronomical. One doesn’t work, the other does. Benjamin’s dive was fucking insane, I absolutely thought he was dead. The dynamic in this match was pretty cool, with the two giants (and Finlay, naturally) wrecking stuff and tossing the little dudes around and the little dudes running around setting ladders up for different stuff. Some of the stuff looked good, some of it looked retarded, but there were tons of moments here that brought everyone to their feet and man, what more can you ask for? This is never going to be a ‘best match of the year’ type but for what it is it’s pretty fun and pretty good. Plus Punk won, and that was a big shock and a huge mark out for me. Especially given that I literally bought the tickets on the strength of Punk having won the first time.
Apparently they spent this match setting up for Kid Rock on the stage, I once again missed it. Lots of people shit on the mini-concert but everyone there LOVED it. Literally everyone was standing. Anne stayed for Bawitdaba, then ran to the bathroom, then ran down the wrong aisle on the way back because she realized the concert was still going and she wanted to see the rest of it. So she ran back up, ran down the right aisle, and promptly ran too far (this part I actually did see). She still managed to catch the last song and a half and then the Divas came out for their battle royal. First weird announcing thing of the night when the match started even as they were still going over the rules.
25-Diva Battle Royal
This sucked. Everyone sat around and did nothing, chatted amongst ourselves, asking who was who, until we realized Santino was there, at which point we all started laughing and cheering for Santino. But I mean, this was a shitty battle royal, who really gives a fuck?
The Chris Jericho match video was up next and it was fucking epic. I mean ROH is shown on WrestleMania? Hot damn. Plus Jericho just felt like the most evil fucker in the world through the video, and it was such a great build tape. So of course they change it for the DVD release. Lame. Though, honestly, not as lame as the “Ric Flair Murder” song being used for the Goddamn DX-Legacy SummerSlam build tape. Fuck off.
Chris Jericho vs Ricky Steamboat & Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka
Piper looks pretty bad, Snuka looks horrendous, but Steamboat hops in there and made us into fucking BELIEVERS. Jericho just kinda does the stuff you’d expect Jericho to do but Steamboat is fucking amazing. Once the two super old guys are gone and it’s down to Steamboat, the match gets pretty damn good. The two nearfalls out of roll ups got massive pops and the second one seriously felt like it was going to be the end of the match. Really made you want to see more Jericho-Steamboat, or just more Steamboat period. The post-match is kinda lame, only because we were all expecting a really big roundhouse and the actual KO punch came out of nowhere. Everyone was excited for it until that. Sometimes out of nowhere is good. It wasn’t here.
Another awesome video package, this one came suitably outfitted with nu-metal. I liked that all the big Jeff Hardy video packages had some nu-metal in it this year, I mean if anyone is WWF Attitude The Soundtrack it is Jeff Hardy.
Jeff Hardy vs Matt Hardy, Extreme Rules Match
Matt comes out with wrestling gear for the first time and shitty trash talking for the millionth time. Jeff looks like Grimace bukkaked him. I kinda figured these two could have a really good match, because Matt has an awesome punch and Jeff is a hell of an FIP, but instead these two go out and have a spot-spot-spot hateless street fight. Don’t get me wrong, we were excited for this, almost everything looks good individually, and it’s another fun match, but there’s just no emotion at all in it. Felt like a standard street fight as opposed to a supposed heated brotherly blood feud street fight. But then again, the splash through the two tables looks awesome and the twist of fate with the chair was nuts. So, I dunno. Definitely was a match I liked live. Not a match that will make any sort of year-end list.
JBL vs Rey Mysterio, Intercontinental Championship Match
So I wrote elsewhere that it was really cool for me to have gotten to see two of the three JBL/Rey matches live. This was the second of those live matches. I knew going in he was going to retire after so I took a bunch of pictures of his pre-match promo because fuck me I missed JBL by the end of this night. Rey comes out dressed as the Joker, and we made jokes about how that dude who dressed as Joker for whatever reason was probably losing his shit. I think I may have actually missed the pin while making one of these jokes. Obviously at 20 seconds there’s not much to talk about unless you really want me to gush about how fucking awesome JBL was for those 20 seconds, but this was still fucking awesome for me to see. Even though it was 20 seconds, and the day of the show it was the match I looked forward to the most. Oh well.
Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels
Ok fuck me this was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything ever. I wasn’t really looking forward to it! See, Undertaker basically only wrestles Undertaker matches now and all he’d been doing for the first chunk of the year was wrestling Undertaker matches with shitpacks like Shelton Benjamin and post-HHH-rape Vladimir Kozlov, so I was pretty damn sick of shitty Undertaker matches. Plus, the night after the HBK/JBL match from the previous show, Shawn came out and promptly wiped his ass with a year’s worth of awesome character work so that he could refer to himself by thirty nicknames and dance around like Triple H’s little DX butt buddy. So I totally wasn’t anticipating this at all, pretty much ignored most of the build up for it because who gives a fuck, and walked in here expecting for a total vanity match. Remember Bad Blood 2004, with the 50 minutes Hunter-Shawn Hell in a Cell? Definitely thought that was coming.
Incidentally, years and years and years of second hand smoking is slowly giving me an allergy to that shit, and the day before we flew out I woke up and had to go talk to my mom who was smoking in my face, and then I went to bed right after, which always leaves me sick when I wake up. The reason I bring this is up is because I had NO voice for this entire show, certainly not by the time this match came around. This meant I had to bandwagon Shawn for the dueling chants because “HBK!” is easier to try to scream than “UNDERTAKER!”. Another near note about this match is that Shawn rose up on this little chalice thing midway through the video package, and while I hadn’t noticed the earlier two set ups in the show, EVERYONE saw this, and for the most part stopped watching the video so we could watch someone rise into the air. He held the same pose the entire time. Strange.
So the match actually starts and everyone is super excited. The place was so much louder than it appears on tape. The first half of the match is honestly marked by some really shitty execution (Shawn busts out a crossface and I do my best to scream NO SHAWN YOU’LL KILL HIM until I see that it’s the rarely seen Cuddler Crossface, at which point I shrug and say welp, nevermind then) and two big-name wrestlers with often seen signature spots going for those spots to varying degrees of success, which is held together by the crowd’s familiarity in these spots and the heat the crowd generates for the dream match. Then Michaels does a shitty moonsault and kills himself and ‘Taker certainly isn’t going to be outdone on stupid self-maiming dives by Shawn or fucking Shelton Benjamin so he dives directly onto his head and we get a great count out spot because everyone thinks ‘Taker is dead. After that the whole deal goes right into a really long drawn out finisher fest, but it’s a really awesome one. Every kickout was treated like fuckin’ child birth. When Shawn kicked out of the tombstone everybody was jumping up and down and screaming. These two old fucks went out there and put together all the same stuff we’ve seen them do a billion million times, put some creative new twists (moonsault into a tombstone, etc) on them, and rode their facial expressions to create absolute pandemonium. And to think I couldn’t have been less interested in this match going in. One of my favorite matches and odds on favorite to be match of the year, even if just for how insanely fun this was to be there for live. Good game, men. Good fucking game.
Went right into the tape for the world title match. Good tape, made me excited for the triple threat and I am a guy against triple threats on principle, though having watched all of the angles since then, they really did leave a lot out.
Edge vs John Cena vs Big Show, World Heavyweight Championship Match
So I totally, totally marked the fuck out for Basic Thuganomics. As far as triple threats go I didn’t think this was bad at all. Being there live helped keep everything moving, and while they definitely used the typical three-way tropes of having one dude get knocked out, they were fairly creative. Really this match is held together by some quality wrestling personalities in Cena, Big Show, and Vickie Guerrero. Edge isn’t particularly offensive though I couldn’t help but pay attention to other stuff whenever he tried to go on ‘offense’. The best part of the entire match, short of the crazy visual at the finish with everyone on Cena’s shoulders, is when Show is tied up in the ropes. The reason for this is twofold: it lets Show do that awesome thing he does in multi-man matches where his personality takes over the match and brings it up a few levels, and it brings Vickie into the match so Edge can spear her. And of course the spear looks like shit. But it feels wrong to knock Edge too much for this because he, and the match, could have been so, so much worse. And instead it was pretty decent!
Usual classy tape of the Hall of Fame ceremony. Then Stone Cold comes out and drinks a damn beer and it’s pretty cool. Really for a guy who went to his first wrestling show in December 2008, having gotten to see Austin at a wrestling show is pretty cool. I’m content.
Video package for the main event. It was better than the main event.
Triple H vs Randy Orton, WWE Championship Match
Another weird announcing glitch where Lillian is still announcing the match stips while Orton is already heading on down to the ring. Triple H comes out and stands in his lights for a few minutes, which confused me, so I look up at the big televised screen and see some bullshit about Triple H smashing glass up. THIS NEVER HAPPENED. They pre-taped his fucking entrance. Should have known right then and there this match was going to be phoned in bullshit. I mean thank GOD this didn’t start with a fucking lock up, I would have lost it. Orton comes out and me and Anne stood up and did the Orton pose, a bunch of people in our section (from London ironically enough) did the same, and then we all sat until the end of the match. When Triple H hit the pedigree and we all stood to watch Orton kick out. He didn’t. By far the best part of the match was how badly no one gave a SHIT. They try to work a count out spot, similar to a count out spot in the earlier Michaels/Taker match, where the fan theoretically wants Taker to win and thus is pulling for him to beat the count. Here they figure the fan wants Triple H to retain his title. Except that the fan is silent. The biggest crowd reaction was right after that spot when they put the crowd cam on a section across the building from us and that section started cheering. We all looked over there. Everyone. Even in the front row. No one was paying attention to the match. It’d been a long night during which we’d seen just about everything except for a boring Triple H main event. And that was good enough. So of course we’re treated to a boring Triple H main event. This was Orton’s Goddamn match and everyone was expecting him to win and we just wanted to get it over with and go home. And then it didn’t happen. Go fucking figure. The functional equivalent of a full gourmet Italian meal with a dessert of frosted shit.
On our way out we talk with the London dudes some more (really great guys), take another picture of the Joker dude, and everyone in the building was so let down by that match that we figured the show was a let down. It wasn’t, it was a damn great show, and we eventually got over the sucktastic main event. We got back to the hotel and just crashed, exhausted. I am totally going next year.