Monday, March 30, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXIV

For the second year in a row WWE delivered a shockingly good 'Mania....

Citrus Bowl - 3/30/08

After four years, WrestleMania returned to the roman numeral naming convention.  This was one of those PPVs that completely defied my expectations.  I went into this show not being very excited about anything except Undertaker vs. Edge.  I didn't care at all about the Orton-Cena-Triple H feud, didn't really want to see Ric Flair wrestle anymore at his advanced age, and most certainly didn't care about Floyd Mayweather.  But 'Mania 24 ended up being a pretty great show that really delivered where it counted.

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair was one of the most emotional matches I've ever seen.  Michaels obviously deserves a lot of the credit for making this match great, as he bumped around like crazy, per usual.  But Flair's storytelling was also off the charts and he emoted wonderfully, making the audience really care about his career-ending journey.  The final seconds of the match when Flair tearfully begged Shawn to hit the superkick, followed by the sorrow on Shawn's face, made for one of the most memorable of all 'Mania moments.

The kick that ended Flair's career........it's gettin' a little dusty in here.....

The most unexpectedly good match on this card was Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H - again, I had no interest in seeing this match at the time, but for 15 minutes these three delivered an action-packed Triple Threat.  Orton's lighting-quick punt to Triple H's head to suddenly end the match was a nice surprise finish.

The main event and near-show-stealer was Edge vs. The Undertaker for the World Title, in an epic finisher-fest that truly made Edge look like a superstar.  There was little doubt that Taker would go over here (had Edge gone undefeated at 'Mania until 2008, that would've added some suspense), but even in defeat Edge showed that he was in Taker's league.  This match fell in the midst of an Undertaker workrate renaissance, as 2007-2010 was one of the best periods of his career.

One of the best feuds of 2008

'Mania 24 also featured yet another good Money in the Bank match with the best collection of workers since the original.  CM Punk finally got a chance to shine by nabbing the briefcase (though that spot was originally slated for the just-suspended Jeff Hardy).

Also on the card was yet another case of a non-wrestling celebrity used in a wrestling capacity.  In this case it was Floyd Mayweather (lightweight boxing champion) vs. The Big Show (superheavyweight wrestler).  Now, I'm a guy who almost always sticks up for smaller wrestlers.  I don't think a wrestler has to be over 6'2", 275 pounds to be a main event superstar, and across the board I almost always prefer smaller, more athletic guys over power wrestlers.  But did WWE actually expect us to believe that the 140-lb. non-wrestler Mayweather would stand a snowball's chance in hell in a WRESTLING match against the 450-lb. former WWE/WCW/ECW Heavyweight Champion Big Show?  Really?  REALLY??  This match was arguably the most egregious case of a celebrity guest making the business look horrible by beating a WWE mainstay.  How damaging was that to the aura of The Big Show (not that his career had been without damaging losses in the past)?  Just awful.

The remaining four matches were varying degrees of throwaway, but as they totaled about 21 minutes of ring time, they're forgivable.  Overall WrestleMania XXIV was an  unexpected hit for me, featuring three main events in the 3 to 4-star range.  Not too shabby at all.

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair
Worst Match: Batista vs. Umaga - Yikes this was bad.
What I'd Change: Well for one thing I wouldn't sign Floyd Mayweather to fight The Big Show unless he was willing to take a loss.  Otherwise I'd have mixed up the WWE Title picture a bit with some new blood.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably the Batista-Umaga mess.  I figured this would be at least as good as the previous year's Lashley-Umaga bout.  Nope.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I'd say just the fact that this overall show was strong.  I really wasn't expecting to like this 'Mania at all.
Overall Rating: 8/10


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