Friday, March 22, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 21

2005: WWE banks on two new top babyfaces.....

Staples Center - 4/3/05

'Mania 21 is a show that has grown on me considerably over the years.  At the time it aired I wasn't that excited about it because most of my favorite wrestlers (Benoit, Jericho, Edge, Eddie) were being pushed to the background to make room for the OVW alumni like Randy Orton, Batista and John Cena.  I understood why the company was pushing these guys but I wasn't terribly excited about any of them.  I also knew they could never top the main event of 'Mania 20, so this show seemed anticlimactic.  Curiously 'Mania 21 is notable for not having any tag team matches whatsoever, which is a sad commentary on the state of the tag division at that point.  But in retrospect WrestleMania 21 was a pretty damn solid show, even if it petered out in the final third.

As with 'Mania 8 most of the good matches were placed early on the card.  Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero opened the show and while it failed to live up to their late 90s WCW work (and Rey struggled with mask malfunctions basically the whole match), it was still a strong way to open the show and get the crowd energized.

Next up was the first-ever Money in the Bank ladder match, which began a five-year regular WrestleMania feature, and would later spawn its own PPV event.  Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Edge, Kane, Christian and Shelton Benjamin put on a wild, chaotic spotfest that elevated Edge to semi-main event status and would lead to him becoming one of the company's top stars.

Edge finally climbs into the Title picture.

The Undertaker's streak continued as he faced Randy Orton in the third slot.  This match was a return to form for Taker (who had few, if any memorable bouts in 2004) and a real boon to Orton's career after a recent failed main event run.  These two worked extremely well together and would have a series of strong matches throughout 2005.

Bafflingly WWE chose to have Diva Search winner Christy Hemme challenge Trish Stratus for the Women's Title, and the results were predictably awful.  Lita had unfortunately suffered a legit injury at New Year's Revolution, preventing this show from including a quality Trish-Lita bout.

Far and away the Match of the Night (and WWE's best match of 2005) was the interbrand challenge between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle.  These two put on a breathtaking 25-minute masterpiece that ranks high on the all-time 'Mania list.  In dramatic fashion Angle forced a rare Shawn Michaels tapout with the anklelock.
No match could possibly be expected to follow HBK-Angle, and so WWE didn't put one there.  Instead they slapped in a ten-minute time-waster featuring Big Show vs. Akebono in a sumo contest.  I'm not sure what WWE demographic had any interest in seeing two 500-pound men in loincloths, but whoever they were, they must've been very happy.

The final two matches were for the big championships and both featured rising babyface stars who would carry the company into the next era.  JBL vs. John Cena has to be considered one of the least ceremonious first WWE Championship wins in history, as the match was only given 12 minutes and JBL dominated most of it before Cena's abrupt comeback.

The two new faces of WWE.

Faring much better was the main event of Triple H vs. Batista.  This went about five minutes too long but spotlighted Batista's monster babyface character nicely (albeit with too much selling on his part - it was a Triple H match after all) and gave him a WrestleMania moment worthy of his first big Title win.  The Cena-Batista Era had begun.  HHH and Davey Bats would have a far superior blowoff bout together a few months later at Vengeance, inside Hell and a Cell.

'Mania 21 was almost the opposite of 'Mania 20, in that the seemingly most important matches rather failed to carry the show but the undercard more than made up for them.  Four of the first five matches are either solid or classic, while the final third of the show peaked at about 2.5 stars.

Best Match: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels
Worst Match: Big Show vs. Akebono
What I'd Change: I would've swapped out the pointless sumo match for a Tag Team Title bout, and had Trish face, I dunno, anyone else instead of Christy.  Other than that there isn't much to complain about as the booking made sense.
Most Disappointing Match: JBL vs. John Cena - there really wasn't much going on here and considering how important Cena would become he deserved a better "first 'Mania moment."
Most Pleasant Surprise: Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - Taker had just come off a couple years of pretty lackluster performances so it was nice to see him step it up again.
Overall Rating: 8/10

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