Thursday, March 31, 2022

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!


Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....




10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV


Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.




9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21


After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.




8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII


In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 36

WrestleMania in the time of COVID..... 


The one WrestleMania to take place in front of zero fans, in the Performance Center, Number 36 was definitely a mixed results-type show.  The lack of live crowd certainly hurt the overall vibe but everyone worked hard to negate the effects of the room silence; one side effect that was often entertaining was being able to hear the wrestlers trash-talk during each match.  My biggest complaint is that on both nights the final two matches were either underwhelming or just plain stupid.  Why Vince thinks a top championship match going under five minutes is acceptable at WrestleMania, I'm sure I don't know.  

After a pretty entertaining 4-minute pre-show match pitting Cesaro against Drew Gulak, the proper show began with the Women's Tag Titles.  Asuka & Kairi Sane faced Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, in a pretty well-worked match that just went too long.  In front of a crowd this 15-minute match might not have worn out its welcome, but here it ended up dragging a bit by the end.  Asuka came off great in this empty-arena environment though, taunting her opponents for much of the bout.  The Kabuki Warriors dominated much of the bout, but in the end the babyfaces hit a Cross neckbreaker/Twisted Bliss combination on Kairi to regain the belts.  This was a fun opener that just went about three minutes too long.

The match I was least looking forward to was next, as Elias faced everyone's favorite reason to change the channel, Baron Corbin.  After an angle on Smackdown where Corbin knocked Elias off the camera perch to the concrete floor, they teased Elias not being able to wrestle.  But of course Elias came out, not selling anything, bashed Corbin with his guitar, and the match was underway.  This ended up an okay 9-minute TV match but nothing more.  Corbin dominated a lot of the action but after a rope-assisted pin attempt that failed, Corbin got rolled up by Elias (with a handful of tights) for the three.  

The most baffling match placement of either night was next as Becky Lynch defended against Shayna Baszler.  How this went on third and only got eight-and-a-half minutes is beyond me.  This was pretty much all action as they traded strikes and submission attempts back and forth.  Becky at one point hit a uranagi on the apron which looked great.  The match ended when Becky went for Disarm-her but Shayna reversed into the choke.  Becky refused to submit and did the Bret Hart-Steve Austin spot where she rolled backward to pin Shayna and retain.  A year into Becky's title reign this was the wrong move, Shayna should've won here.  What's worse is that Becky announced one month later that she was pregnant and would be relinquishing the title anyway.  So having her go over in this match was pointless.  One of a few booking decisions that didn't make sense to me, but a solid if underwhelming match. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

WWE WrestleMania 38 Preview & Predictions

This weekend is WrestleMania 38, and as usual WWE is doing their best to put on the least exciting lineup they can!


Don't get me wrong, there are a few bouts I'm genuinely looking forward to.  But then there are numerous bouts that belong nowhere near the biggest show of the year, and some GLARING omissions.  

Just take a look at this.

Guys who have a match at WrestleMania 38:

Johnny Knoxville
Logan Paul
Happy Corbin
Rick Boogs
Ridge Holland
Pat McAfee
Austin Theory
Otis
Omos


Guys who do not have a match at WrestleMania 38:

Finn Balor (current US Champion)
Ricochet (current Intercontinental Champion)
Damian Priest (remember how protected he was for like a year?)


Sorry WWE loyalists, there is ZERO excuse for the company's two secondary singles champions to be left off a TWO-NIGHT show while some D-list celebrities and not-ready-for-primetime players get slots.  None.  This is why no one takes those two titles seriously anymore.  What's worse, the WWE and Universal Titles are almost certainly being unified for a little while, so the company could really do with a secondary title that means something to fill that void, no?  I'm pretty sure when Vince puts these shows together he thinks "Hmmm, how can I ruin the night for at least 20% of the audience?"  Whether it's a good SummerSlam marred by that Becky-Bianca squash, a good WrestleMania marred by that Sheamus-Bryan squash (wow, that was TEN YEARS AGO), or an historic women's main event marred by being on after midnight at the end of a seven-hour show, Vince is apparently incapable of presenting a big PPV without including a heaping dose of goodwill-damaging stupidity.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a WWE bitch-fest, so let's predict some matches.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 35

Another WrestleMania with too many matches that ran too long, to the point that even the historic main event everyone wanted to see kinda fell flat thanks to an exhausted crowd being asked to stay until well after midnight.


Sweet Jeezus, why does a wrestling PPV ever need to go five-and-a-half hours, plus a two-hour pre-show?  Like, ever?  Someone in WWE needs to pick Vince up by the face and shake him until he grasps this idea.  WrestleMania 35, like the previous three editions, was a good three-hour show buried inside a pulsating blob of dimpled fat lasting twice as long.  By the end of the show the white-hot women's main event everyone was frothing at the mouth to see was met with subdued indifference.  That's not good.  How does the man with four decades of experience as a promoter not see this?

The four pre-show matches were split down the middle in terms of quality.  Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese had a very good, innovative, exciting cruiserweight match, the women's battle royal was entirely forgettable and Carmella of all people won, The Revival wrenched a quite watchable RAW Tag Title match out of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, who became the new champs despite never winning any matches, and the men's battle royal was equally forgettable except for Braun Strowman predictably eliminating Colin Jost and Michael Che.  I'm still not sure what the point of their involvement was.

Alright, now for the main card.  After an Alexa Bliss/Hulk Hogan introduction, Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins kicked off the show (HUUUUUUUHHH???).  Brock attacked Seth before the bell, tossing him from barrier to barrier, over one of the announce tables multiple times, and generally beating the piss out of him before demanding the match be started.  Finally the bell rang, Brock suplexed Seth numerous times, went for the F5, Seth escaped and pushed Brock into the ref, knocking him out of the ring, low-blowed him, and delivered three Curb Stomps, leading to the pin at 2:30 officially.  Metlife Stadium went nuts for this finish, so this has to be considered a successful segment, but as one of the five matches I was genuinely looking forward to, this was a major letdown for me.  Apparently the decision to put this on first was made after the show started.  When the lineup of your biggest show of the year is being switched around on the fly, you just might be Eric Bischoff....  Anyway this was fine for what it was, but it was barely a proper match.  Seth's run as the conquering hero champion fell right on its face pretty quickly after this, thanks to an interminable feud with Baron Corbin (plus Seth's own social media ineptitude).  He'd lose the title back to Brock and then win it back at SummerSlam in a vastly superior match.


Next up was AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton, which while not being the blowaway most people anticipated, was nonetheless a really good 16-minute bout and for a while the best thing on the show.  They teased several times the idea that Orton could hit the RKO as a counter to one of AJ's big moves, but AJ wisely avoided it every time.  Late in the match Orton did hit a sudden RKO but AJ kicked out of the pin, the action spilled outside, at which time AJ hit the Phenomenal Forearm from the top rope to the floor, rolled Orton back in, and hit it again in the ring to win the match.  I liked this match a lot; AJ added to his streak of delivering one of the best matches on the WrestleMania card.  Sadly this streak would end one year later, ironically at the hands of The Streak guy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 34

WrestleMania has reached its mid-30s and is starting to question its life choices as it hurtles toward midlife crisis territory....

Image result for wrestlemania 34 logo

This here was a straaaaaange WrestleMania.  At times excellent, at times frustrating, this was a show full of contradictions.  The long and short of it is, WrestleMania 34 had a slew of good to very good matches, a refreshingly renewed focus on current full-timers, a variety of bouts that appealed to the different fan segments, and sadly a few issues that prevented it from being an all-time great WrestleMania.

But man, it was really shaping up to be one of the best ever for a while.  The PPV Proper kicked off with a pretty stellar Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Title, with Finn Balor and Seth Rollins challenging The Miz.  These three worked a blistering pace, with high spots and reversals abound, and had the crowd on the edge of their seats the whole time.  Balor appeared to have the match won after a Coup de Grace on The Miz, when Rollins came out of nowhere with a Curb Stomp, knocking Balor into Miz's back, and following up with a second Curb Stomp on Miz himself for the win.  Just an excellent 15-minute-plus opener that got the crowd (who for the first half of the show was one of the better 'Mania audiences in recent memory) super-energized.


Second was the highly anticipated Smackdown Women's Title match pitting Charlotte against the undefeated Women's Rumble winner Asuka.  This was a fantastically worked match; both women looked stupendous and tough as nails.  Asuka at one point suplexed Charlotte off the apron to the floor, after which Charlotte repeated "I can't breathe" several times, and I'm not sure that wasn't legit.  Charlotte later hit a scary-looking Spanish Fly off the top rope, adding to her big move repertoire.  Asuka worked in some MMA-style submissions, countering a Charlotte moonsault into a triangle choke and later tying her up in a vicious-looking Zack Sabre-esque multi-limb hold.  Near the finish, Charlotte leveled Asuka with a spear (which looked better than any Roman's ever done), and after failing to get the three-count began crying in frustration.  She then slapped on the Figure-Eight, which Asuka fought for several moments before tapping out and taking her first-ever loss in WWE.  My initial reaction to this was "Dude. Bullshit."  But it became clear before long that the plan for 'Mania 35 was Charlotte vs. Ronda, which of course later morphed into a Triple Threat including the white-hot Becky Lynch.  So in retrospect this result made sense, even if I was pissed about it at first.  Regardless, I daresay this was the best-ever women's match at a WrestleMania up to this point.


Next up was the US Title 4-way, with Randy Orton defending against Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, and Rusev, who was BY FAR the most over guy in the match.  This was a nine-minute sprint, with more or less nonstop action from the get-go.  Every guy got ample time to showcase his stuff, and the finish came down to Rusev about to tap out Jinder with the Accolade before a Singh Brother jumped on the apron and ate a Rusev kick, allowing Jinder to hit the Khallas for the win.  This result made no sense given how over Rusev was, and Jinder dropped the belt to Jeff Hardy two weeks later in Saudi Arabia.  It's sad how badly they squandered Rusev.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 33

Another year, another interminable WrestleMania with way too many nostalgia acts....

Camping World Stadium - 4/2/17

Amazingly in 2017 WWE put on an even LONGER show than WM32 - the Kickoff started at 5pm Eastern and the main PPV ended at 12:13am.  Jeezus H. Christ guys.  I believe the phrase "too much of a good thing" was invented specifically for modern WWE PPVs.  Anyway, 'Mania 33 had a surprising amount of good stuff, considering how unenthusiastic I was going in.  Where 'Mania 32 was about half-good, 'Mania 33 upped that to about two-thirds, and even the bad stuff was pretty inoffensive.  Sadly most of the weak matches happened in the final third of the show.  Cut an hour out of the main PPV and you'd have something approaching an A- grade.  But let's take the deep dive.

First the pre-show stuff.  The Cruiserweights kicked things off with a quite nice bout that got a shocking 16 minutes.  Neville and Austin Aries worked pretty hard to deliver something memorable and for the most part succeeded.  WWE took a commercial break in the middle, which needs to fucking stop.  There is zero excuse for this.  It's your own network and you have the option to present matches uninterrupted.  Anyway, we got some pretty intense action culminating in Aries hitting a 450 splash, followed by the Last Chancery.  Neville appeared on the verge of tapping out but gouged Aries' injured eye to escape and hit the Red Arrow to retain.  Solid stuff.


The Andre Battle Royal was next, and as usual it was silly at best.  Big Show and Braun Strowman were eliminated mindbogglingly early, at which point I assumed Sami Zayn would probably get a nice little win here.  But when they showed Rob Gronkowski in the front row prior to the bell I should've smelled a rat.  Sure enough, Gronk got into an altercation with Jinder Mahal which led to him getting in the ring and shoulderblocking Mahal, allowing Mojo Rawley to recover from an earlier attack and win the whole thing.  This was purely to get a bit of mainstream media coverage and Mojo Rawley didn't benefit from this win whatsoever.  Once again the Andre Battle Royal serves very little purpose.

The third pre-show match, and the most infuriating, was Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the I-C belt.  Why this particular belt has been so devalued is beyond me.  Ambrose and Corbin did nothing in this match to earn a main PPV slot, but it struck me as a chicken-and-egg scenario.  Did they phone it in because they were on the pre-show, or were they on the pre-show because the company knew they'd phone it in?  This was an entirely forgettable bout which got ten minutes and ended with Ambrose reversing End of Days into Dirty Deeds to retain.

The PPV proper kicked off with AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon in a pretty shockingly good match.  I was torn on this because Shane was booked to be a step ahead of AJ for most of the bout, but I'll be damned if it wasn't entertaining.  Many of the spots were way over-the-top, including Shane countering AJ's 450 splash into a triangle choke, Shane missing a Shooting Star Press, AJ trying the Van Terminator but running into a trash can, and Shane doing his own Van Terminator.  AJ finally took the win after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, capping off what turned out to be the best match of the night.  Nothing even approaching AJ's bouts with Cena, but this was a lot of fun.  AJ turned babyface after this and feuded with Kevin Owens for the US Title for a while before regaining the WWE Title late in the year.


Monday, March 28, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 32

Jeezus, this show just didn't end.  I think it's still going on.....

AT&T Stadium - 4.3.16

Vince McMahon's stubborn refusal to move on from the Roman Reigns pet project continued with 'Mania 32, as Reigns would challenge WWE Champion Triple H (Yes, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was WWE Champion in 2016.  For fuck's sake.) and theoretically send everyone home jubilant.  Except that by 2016 Reigns was as unpopular as ever, and this main event took place in front of a crowd that had already sat through SIX HOURS of wrestling.  But we'll get to that.  Let's take a look at the "biggest" WrestleMania of all time.  And by "biggest" I mean "most reminiscent of being stuck in a well for several days as a senile old man bludgeons you with a loaded colostomy bag."  This show went on FOREVER.

The three pre-show matches all roughly amounted to filler.  Kalisto vs. Ryback was the best of them and really should've been included on the PPV (instead of the stupid battle royal).  Kalisto looked good and had surprisingly okay chemistry with Ryberg.  The 10-Diva match was actually watchable and just about everyone got some time to do stuff.  The Usos-Dudleyz bout was your basic free TV match.  Meh.

The real show kicked off with the 7-man Ladder Match, as I suspected it would.  I wasn't much looking forward to this, but I'll be damned if they didn't knock it outta the park with this one.  Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn carried the majority of the workload, and based on their innate chemistry it understandably gave this spotfest a big boost.  Sin Cara, Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler all got a big spot or two as well.  The crazy moments in this match were much more memorable than in 2015's Ladder Match, and while Ryder winning this just to drop the Title to Miz 24 hours later (They seriously couldn't have given it to Sami and had his feud with Owens be for the belt??), I liked this match a lot; much more than the previous year's Ladder Match.

Zayn is a madman

Next up was AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, part 4.  This got 17 minutes and was easily the best these two produced, but also had a nonsensical ending, as Jericho beat AJ to tie their series 2-2.  The next night AJ would win a great Fatal 4-Way and become the new #1 Contender.  So why'd he lose this match??  Still this was a damn fine undercard bout and a strong Match of the Night contender.

One of the best dropkicks in the biz

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 31

And we're past enumerated WrestleManias, moving on to symbols instead.....

Levi Stadium - 3.29.15

WrestleMania 31 (or Play Button as Vince apparently wants it known) had probably the worst buildup in over a decade.  There was almost no urgency to the product leading into this show, and my expectations were as low as I can remember for a WrestleMania.  As it turned out though, this was a very solid PPV featuring several good-to-very good matches and no real stinkers.  I've read some reviews of 'Mania 31 calling it one of the best WrestleManias of all-time (Dave Meltzer initially called it one of the best shows he's ever seen but dialed back his praise on a second viewing).  Personally I find that assessment waaaaaay overboard.  I mean let's be honest, this show was nowhere near as good as 'Manias 17 or 19.  Come on.  This PPV had several good matches but no great ones, some great results and some not so great, not nearly enough wrestling for a four-hour broadcast (The seven matches totaled about 100 minutes which is downright skimpy), and the longest match was in my opinion the worst by far.

There were two preshow matches (I will never understand why WWE can't fit nine matches on a four-hour PPV when they routinely fit eight on a three-hour one), and one of them was quite entertaining.  The Fatal 4-Way tag match had highspots galore and lots of fun tandem offense that showcased three of the four teams (Sadly Jey Uso sat out the match with a legit shoulder injury).  Cesaro & Kidd won as expected, and I liked Cesaro's douchy heel move of letting Jimmy Uso hit his finisher on Big E, tossing Jimmy out of the ring and covering E himself.  Fun way to open the festivities.

The Battle Royal on the other hand I found rather pointless.  The only participant who gained anything from it was Damien Mizdow (and by proxy The Miz I guess), when he finally turned babyface and nearly eliminated Big Show to win the whole thing.  And of course the company followed up on Mizdow's crowd support with....nothing.  Overall WWE wasted several opportunities to make some underneath guys look good - The New Day all got owned by Show and looked stupid in the process, Hideo Itami from NXT was given about thirty seconds to shine before also being punked out by Show (How pissed d'ya suppose Triple H was by this?), and finally Mizdow failed to get the job done in the end.  The announcers pushed the whole "Big Show has never won a battle royal" thing, but was anyone really clamoring to finally see that happen?  This ended up being another one of those matches that didn't help anyone.

D-Bry becomes a Grand Slam Champion


Moving along to the main card.  The Seven-Man I-C Ladder Match opened the show as I figured it would, and it was a fun watch that didn't really feature anything we haven't seen before.  Once it was over it was forgotten, like a run-of-the-mill Adam Sandler movie (back when he was funny).  Obviously Daniel Bryan winning the one Title he'd never held was a great moment, and had he not suffered another injury shortly thereafter I've no doubt he would've revitalized the I-C Title much as Cena did with the US.  As for the multi-man Ladder Match I think it's time to retire the concept, for a while at least.  There's simply nothing more to do with these matches.  Every conceivable high spot with ladders has been done it would seem, and each of these matches now blurs into the rest.  What's most significant about this match now is that it was Daniel Bryan's final 'Mania match for a while, and he became a Grand Slam Champion.

Next up was one of the two high points of the night - Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins.  At the time I was flabbergasted how early this was placed, but by the end it made sense.  Orton and Rollins nearly tore the house down as expected.  The bout was fast-paced and featured multiple intricately timed spots, including a breathtaking finish.  Unfortunately these two were only given 13 minutes so the match wasn't able to get out of ***3/4 territory.  Had it gone five minutes longer we'd probably be looking at a Match of the Year candidate.

Those five minutes could've easily been taken away from match #3.  Personally I found Triple H vs. Sting a pretty wretched affair.  They started out having an okay match and after ten minutes it disintegrated into a total Seniors Tour clusterfuck involving DX and the nWo attempting to brawl around ringside.  The live crowd went nuts for this, but I spent the next ten minutes groaning.  In the first place this match was never supposed to be about WWF vs. WCW.  Sting even said as much in his promo.  But ol' Vince couldn't help shoehorning that tired, fifteen-year-old concept into the proceeding.  Second, why on Earth would the nWo ever rush to Sting's aid?  They were mortal enemies in WCW (minus the idiotic Wolfpac angle), and two of the three members are Hunter's best friends!  Not to mention all three are obviously working for WWE now.  None of this lunacy made any sense, and when it was over we were once again left with the takeaway "WCW are poopyheads, WWE rules!"  This match felt like it was booked by a child.  I half-expected a reveal that Will Ferrell and the kid from The Lego Movie were behind it all.

This broke the Guinness record for oldest combined age in a wrestling ring

Friday, March 25, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXX

It's time to talk about YES-tleMania!

Superdome - 4/6/14

2014's installment was probably the only time I can remember where the fans wielded so much power that WWE was forced to overhaul the lineup of their biggest show of the year.  The originally planned headliner was Randy Orton vs. Batista for the WWE Title.  I'm not sure how anyone in the company thought that was a fitting main event for WrestleMania, but the fans reacted to this development with unbridled hostility.  Add to that the departure of CM Punk (slated to face Triple H) and the surge of fan support for Daniel Bryan, and Vince eventually changed everything around, making Bryan's journey to the Championship the main story thread of the night.

First up, the pre-show Fatal 4-Way Tag match was a fun, action-packed bout and would've been a welcome hot opener on any card.  It really should've been exactly that on the actual PPV.  Nice to see The Usos retain, and even nicer to see Cesaro turn on Jack Swagger and begin his rise to singles stardom.  More on that later.

The PPV itself opened with the obligatory Hulk Hogan host segment, but Steve Austin and The Rock made surprise appearances, and seeing all three in the ring together was certainly historic.  Unfortunately the segment lasted twenty-five minutes.  Twenty-Five.  Look, I get that this was a really special moment, having these three in the ring at the same time, but this is WrestleMania.  This night should by and large be about the actual wrestling and the promos should be kept to a minimum.  A promo is meant to sell a match or an event.  We've already purchased the event, so what are you selling us at this point?

Anyway getting past that, the opening match (which incidentally didn't begin until 38 minutes in!) was the much-anticipated Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H main event qualifier.  And as expected it was an epic duel.  Both guys played their roles to perfection and told a helluva Face-In-Peril story for 26 minutes.  As predicted, Bryan won the match clean to propel himself into the WWE Title match, but Hunter attacked him after the bell in the hopes of rendering him too injured to compete later on.  Made perfect sense and beautifully enhanced the drama of Bryan's quest.

One of the more symbolic feuds in WWE history...

The Shield vs. Kane & The New Age Outlaws bout was rather a disappointment as I had hoped for a solid eight minutes.  But Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns made the most of their allotted three minutes and emerged once again as a dominant faction about to have much bigger fish to fry.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXIX

Once in a Lifetime!  And by "once," we mean "once plus one"......

MetLife Stadium - 4/7/13

'Mania 29 will go down as one of the least exciting PPVs ever.  It wasn't good enough or bad enough to be very memorable.  It's a completely middle-of-the-road WrestleMania that didn't really advance any storylines or elevate anyone.  The three main event matches featured four part-timers and only two current stars.  Two of the three main events were unnecessary rematches of recent bouts that weren't good enough to warrant a second go-around.  It didn't feel like the company took any risks whatsoever with this event, and the result and quality of nearly every match was terribly predictable.

First the pluses: to be fair a few of the undercard matches were fun.  The opening six-man between The Shield and Randy Orton/Sheamus/Big Show accomplished perfectly what any good opening match should.  It was high energy, showcased some young, exciting talent, and got the crowd hyped.

The Tag Team Title match of Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston was also solid, though too short to be significant.  But at least Daniel Bryan finally got a real match at WrestleMania, and even got the win.

Chris Jericho and Fandango had an unexpectedly good match that seemed to start Fandango's WWE career off with a bang.  Of course the company didn't really follow up on it and so Jericho put him over for nothing.

The Undertaker and CM Punk predictably stole the show with a dramatic and memorable 4-star bout that showed Punk able to hold his own against The Phenom.  For the first time in many years it seemed The Streak might actually be in jeopardy, and in hindsight given what happened the following year they probably should've just let Punk be the guy to end it.  It would've done more for Punk than it did for Brock.  2013 was the year Punk became Jobber to the Part-Timers and it was instrumental in his leaving the company in 2014.  Throw the guy a frickin' bone.

Wow, this wallpaper's BOSS.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

94th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's the 94th Annual Academy Awards, and unlike last year's COVID edition, this one should feel a lot closer to normal.  Thank god for that, last year's show was pretty flat and forgettable, particularly given the order in which the trophies were doled out.  Let's get back on the clock, shall we?


I've only seen half of the Best Picture nominees so far, but I'm hoping to add at least a couple more before the weekend.  We'll see.


Best Picture

Belfast
CODA
Don't Look Up
Drive My Car
Dune
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Justin: Anywho, the field this year is quite varied, particularly in the all-important Best Pic category, where we have drama, mystery, sci-fi, satire and a musical.  I like it when numerous genres are represented, one of the benefits of up to ten nominees being considered.  Of the five films I've seen (Dune, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story), I think my sentimental favorite is Dune, being a huge fan of both Frank Herbert's complex sci-fi universe and Denis Villeneuve's superb first-half adaptation.  As for which film was actually the best of the five, I think I'd go with Guillermo Del Toro's atmospheric, intense noir remake Nightmare Alley.  As for which film is going to win, I'd say it's between the longtime odds-on favorite and Golden Globe winning The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion's oppressive western drama, and the recent PGA winner CODA, a dramedy about growing up with deaf parents.  I could see CODA pull an upset, but I guess I'll go with the safer bet.

Pick: The Power of the Dog


Mike: I've only seen two of the nominees this year (Dune and Don't Look Up) which has been my worst year yet when it comes to movies. I'm not sure how on God's green Earth Don't Look Up nabbed a nomination but whatever. Probably because of the cast. Anyways, this category is a very interesting and close one to watch. The buzz has been tilting in favor of The Power of the Dog but CODA walked away with the SAG and PGA and that's not a bad place to be since only two movies have nabbed both and lost the Best Picture Oscar. The dark horse is Belfast but I don't see that happening. So, let's make our picks just as interesting shall we?

Pick: Coda


The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVIII

Another potentially great WrestleMania ruined by stupidity....

SunLife Stadium - 4/1/12

And here's Part 2 of WWE's slap in the face to Daniel Bryan and Sheamus fans of all ages....

'Mania 28 was a good show.  I daresay it was a very good show.  And it was also one of the more disappointing 'Manias because it could and should have been a truly great show.  It was one match away from achieving greatness.  One match away from four of the eight matches on the card being heralded as classics.  I'll give you three guesses which match I'm referring to.  Go on, think about it, I can wait.....

Imagine my relief when the opening bell rang and the ring announcer declared, "The opening contest is for the World Heavyweight Championship."  Fantastic!  Daniel Bryan and Sheamus got screwed last year, but WWE is making amends by giving them a second chance to fight at WrestleMania, and for the World Title no less!  This is gonna be a great match and I don't even care that it's on first!  My excitement would last eighteen seconds.  One Brogue Kick later, I found myself in the exact same state of unbridled rage as I had a year earlier.  So Sheamus and Daniel Bryan were cheated out of a WrestleMania moment not once, but TWICE.  I just wish I could've been in on the creative meeting where the "18 seconds" decision was made.  I just want to hear the logic that was used to rationalize this booking.  Just a few points for Vince and his creative team:

1. Whether you realize it or not, both Sheamus and Daniel Bryan are very over with a good portion of the audience and those people are really looking forward to this match, especially since they didn't get it last year.  Making this a one-move match will really piss those people off and you'll already have lost them for the rest of the show (which is how I reacted - I seriously didn't care about the rest of the show until Match #7).

2. How do you expect Sheamus to get over as a top-flight babyface when he just won the World Title by essentially sucker-punching his heel opponent?  In what universe is that a good way for a babyface to get over?

3. How much does it cheapen the second most important Title in the company to have it change hands in an 18-second opening contest?

4. Why would you ever charge your audience $70 a pop for an event and then intentionally not deliver on one of the top four advertised matches?  What did you think was going to happen?

Stupidest decision ever made by human beings.

Anyway you all know the rest, the fans were highly pissed and all but ruined the second match, Randy Orton vs. Kane (which was actually a pretty good contest) by chanting "Daniel Bryan" for the next 20 minutes.  Thus began the trend of live crowds hijacking WWE shows in support of Mr. Bryan.  Obviously in hindsight this little 18-second incident helped catapult Bryan to where he is today, but so would an amazing 15-minute war where Sheamus just barely eked out a win (which would've gotten Sheamus over as well).

Bad decision #2 was next, as Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, who was in the middle of a great run and hoped to break the Honky Tonk Man's 15-month record, lost to The Big Show in a five-minute throwaway bout (Rhodes would win the title back four weeks later, making this title change pointless).

Bad decision #3 followed as celebrity guest (God I'm tired of those) Maria Menounos teamed with Kelly Kelly to face Divas Champion Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.  After an okay four-minute women's match, Beth got pinned by Maria.  I'd like to repeat that: the physically gifted and imposing Divas Champion, accomplished pro wrestler Beth Phoenix got pinned by Access Hollywood co-host Maria Menounos.  See what I mean about celebrity guests making the business look stupid?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVII

What a disappointing bag of crap this show turned out to be....

GeorgiaDome - 4/3/11

Oh man, this segment and the next are going to exhume all kinds of buried anger.  Just warning you...

'Mania 27 ranks at #2 on the Most Disappointing WrestleManias list.  Not since 15 was so much potential wasted at the biggest show of the year.  For the first time in several years, three new uppercard heels were featured prominently on the card, the WWE Title match included a first-time champion, and a large contingent of young, rising talent was given some of the 'Mania spotlight.  Then everything went to Hell.

**Note: I did not read any internet wrestling news the day of this show so any last minute card-shuffling was unknown to me when the show started.**

I knew something was wrong right out of the gate when 'Mania host The Rock opened the show with a pointless, meandering monologue that went on for 15 minutes and actually, I sh*t you not, included him leading the fans in a "Wrestle! Mania!" call and answer.  Fif. Teen. Minutes.

Then bafflingly the opening match was the World Title match between Edge and 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio, in what should've been Del Rio's breakout match.  Instead what transpired was a very good eleven-minute hot opener where #1 of WWE's three new top heels failed to close the deal and went home a loser.

Next was a very solid midcard match between Rey Mysterio and Cody Rhodes that oddly got more time than the World Title match.  But it was a fine contest so I didn't complain.

Third was an 8-man tag that could've been a fun, wild brawl.....had it been given more than 90 seconds.  Yup.  Ninety seconds.  The Corre vs. Big Show/Kane/Santino Marella/Kofi Kingston was given less time than it's taken me to write this paragraph.  Their ring entrances lasted longer than the match.  I can't imagine in my wildest daydreams why this match wasn't simply bumped off the main card.

Up next was another very good match - CM Punk vs. Randy Orton.  Finally Punk would be given a real 'Mania match that went into double digits.  These two told a really great story and delivered a near show-stealer.  Unfortunately as with Punk's 'Mania 26 match, WWE decided to give the babyface the win in the first encounter, making the subsequent PPV rematch unnecessary and devoid of any heat.  Score 0 for 2 for the WWE's new top heels.

Match #5.  Sigh.....  Announcer Michael Cole vs. Wrestler-turned-Announcer Jerry Lawler.  WWE had turned Cole heel months earlier and thus the announce table became a massive, non-stop bickering session for every TV taping.  These two could barely concentrate on whatever match was happening in front of them every night because they were constantly cutting into each other.  Just painful to listen to.  Now I gave this program the benefit of the doubt and thought it would lead to a mildly entertaining 5-minute beatdown on Cole which would really get the crowd going.  Instead we were subjected to nearly 14 minutes of Cole beating up Lawler (?!), after which Lawler made his comeback and won the match, after which the Anonymous RAW General Manager (one of the worst ongoing angles ever) disqualified Lawler due to referee Steve Austin's physical involvement in the match (one of the worst-ever uses of Steve Austin).  Fourteen minutes this match got.

Yup, this got more time than the World Heavyweight Championship.

The match of the night was next, as Triple H attempted to end The Undertaker's 'Mania streak, and while full of typical No-Disqualification shortcuts, these two put on a very dramatic, brutal fight with some great nearfalls.  My only complaint about the match itself is that the final ten minutes mostly consisted of big move-two count-rest repeated several times.  Cut five minutes out of this 29-minute bout and you'd have a 4+ star rating.  The match ended with Taker submitting Triple H in the Hell's Gate, followed by Hunter walking out under his own power and the exhausted Taker needing to be stretchered out.  This segment from entrances to exits took about 50 minutes, which was totally excessive.


The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVI

2010 saw one of the better-executed 'Mania builds, culminating in one of the better 'Manias in some time....

University of Phoenix Stadium - 3/28/10

'Mania 26 had one of the best buildups of any 'Mania card in recent memory.  From January to April 2010 WWE was in peak form, presenting exciting new feuds and expertly rekindling old ones.  WrestleMania XXVI was a grand culmination that felt very special.

Both World Championship matches involved fresh rivalries, or at least rivalries that hadn't yet been beaten into the ground.  John Cena vs. Batista had only occurred once before as a face vs. face Summerslam match, and in 2010 Batista was a ruthless, bitter heel; a role I always felt much better suited him.  In hyping this match WWE referenced Batista's clean win over Cena in 2008, and also had Batista physically maul Cena at every turn which truly put the babyface character in jeopardy.  This is how you build a classic hero vs. villain match.  Not only that, but they provided Batista's heel character excellent motivation in the form of professional jealousy over not becoming the WWE's Posterboy.  The match itself while not epic, was a strong WWE-style championship bout where Cena finally got a win over his larger rival.

On the Smackdown side, we were finally treated to a Chris Jericho vs. Edge PPV match (this was scheduled to happen in 2002 before Edge was rerouted into a tag team with Hulk Hogan, and again in 2004 but Edge got hurt), and WWE built their feud around the fallout from their shortlived tag team run.  Edge sustained an injury, forcing Jericho to find a replacement tag partner, and in doing so Jericho publicly threw Edge under the bus.  Edge unexpectedly returned at the 2010 Royal Rumble, targeting Jericho, and winning the title shot.  Nice simple way to build to a Championship match at 'Mania, and the resulting match was very good, if hampered by a rather lethargic crowd.

Finally we got a Jericho-Edge PPV match!

Elsewhere on the card, multiple newer talents got actual matches instead of being crammed into the annual Money in the Bank spotfest (this edition was won, surprisingly, by Jack Swagger).  CM Punk and Rey Mysterio got a pretty good little 6-minute bout (criminally short by my calculations), The Miz and Big Show successfully defended the Tag Team belts against John Morrison and R-Truth (even shorter), and Sheamus's first 'Mania match saw him take on his offscreen mentor Triple H (in Hunter's first non-championship 'Mania match since 2001).

The returning Bret Hart finally got his long-awaited onscreen revenge for Montreal, against Vince McMahon.  Sadly while the buildup to this match was pretty intriguing, the match itself was nigh unwatchable and about twice as long as it should've been.  Bret was severely limited in what he could do in the ring, and WWE blew what could've been a nice late-match twist.  During Vince's ring introduction he appeared with Bret's entire family seemingly in his corner, making it appear as though Bret would be facing a whole entourage.  Unfortunately it was revealed right at the beginning of the match that the Harts duped Vince into thinking they were on his side, thus destroying all suspense and turning the whole affair into a heel vs. 15 babyfaces scenario.  Not much of a match when the heel gets beaten up by 15 people for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 25

Time to talk about the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!



Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done, with masterful storytelling, a couple of insane dives that probably should've killed each of them, and a few of the most shocking false finishes anyone had ever seen.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

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.....

Monday, March 21, 2022

Oscar Film Journal: Atonement (2007)

Welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal here at Enuffa.com!  We're only six days away from this year's ceremony, so let's get back on track and examine some more Best Picture nominees....


Today it's the 2007 period/war/romance/metafiction drama Atonement, starring Keira Knightly, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Juno Temple, and Benedict Cumberbatch, a veritable who's who of future English stars.  Atonement was directed by Joe Wright and based on the acclaimed Ian McEwan novel, the story of how a single malicious lie can cause a ripple effect that destroys lives.  Without giving too much away, the film begins at a 1930s English country house, where the family's youngest child Briony witnesses what she thinks is an inappropriate sexual episode between her older sister Cecelia and her love interest Robbie, their housekeeper's son.  This misunderstanding leads to Briony's conclusion that Robbie is some kind of sexual deviant and she later lies to the authorities about a subsequent rape accusation, with dire consequences.  

I don't want to divulge more than that, which does make it difficult to discuss what a visually and narratively inventive film this is.  We see two events occur both from Briony's uninformed point of view and then from Cecelia and Robbie's, illustrating how easily things can be misconstrued when one doesn't have all the facts.  This allows us to empathize with Briony's naive viewpoint even though she's jumping to conclusions with neither the full information nor an understanding of complex adult relationship dynamics.  At the same time we're able to grasp just how harmful her lie is, because the true version of the events in question shows us the tender innocence of Cecelia and Robbie's budding romance.  Thus the eventual repercussions of Briony's actions are that much more heartbreaking.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 23

Here's a WrestleMania I was not excited about, but damn did it deliver where it counted....

Ford Field - 4/1/07

WWE attempted to recreate some of the magic of WrestleMania III for the 20th anniversary of that event, by returning to the Detroit area and featuring another David vs. Goliath bout on the card.  Sadly the one that took place in 2007 was just a little less important than its predecessor.  Kane vs. The Great Khali was a throwaway match that went on second, and has been all but forgotten.

Fortunately the rest of 'Mania 23 was a fine outing, featuring two excellent World Championship matches and a Money in the Bank match that rivaled the original.  MITB opened the show this time and featured 8 men instead of 6.  The action was all over the map and included a comedy spot (Booker T's mini-ladder), some sick Jeff Hardy bumps, and some broken ladders.  In the end Mr. Kennedy took the briefcase, only to be suspended for a Wellness Policy violation very shortly thereafter, losing it to Edge in the process.  Thus ended Mr. Kennedy's WWE push, more or less.  I'm not sure why Edge and Randy Orton were shoehorned into this match when they could've easily had a singles match.

Holy Christballs.....

Ten years removed from his previous 'Mania championship opportunity, The Undertaker cashed in his Royal Rumble victory and challenged World Champion Batista in a shockingly good match.  Both guys put their working boots on and filled their allotted fifteen minutes with brutal big-man spots, the highlight of which was Batista powerslamming Taker through a ringside table.  This match strangely went on fourth out of eight, but set the bar very high for the second half of the show.  Taker and Batista would feud on and off throughout 2007, providing one of the company's best rivalries that year.

Friday, March 18, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 22

We've fully entered the John Cena Era, as WrestleMania returns to Chicago....

Rosemont Horizon - 4/2/06

'Mania 22 reminds me a little of the old-school WrestleManias, where there was a whole host of different kinds of matches and a little something for everyone.  It ended up being a much more fun show that I expected, particularly since I was less than thrilled about most of the matches going in.
WWE was fully in "I'll do what I want and you'll like it" mode in 2006, making booking decisions that were absurdly perplexing to many of the fans.  John Cena was not getting over in the expected fashion, as about half the crowd started booing him on a regular basis.  His match here against Triple H was possibly the most infamous example of this, as easily half the Chicago crowd were rabidly cheering for Hunter to destroy WWE's new posterboy.  The match itself was very solid, partly thanks to the fans in the arena, and Hunter repeated his 'Mania 20-ending tapout in the center of the ring to help elevate Cena.

This looks awfully familiar....

The Smackdown brand's champion Kurt Angle defended his Title in a Triple Threat against Randy Orton and 2006 Rumble winner Rey Mysterio, in a match that fell horribly short of expectations due to the time constraints.  I'll never understand why this match only got 9 minutes when it was supposed to elevate Mysterio to the main event.  It was an excellent free TV match but just an okay 'Mania bout, and Mysterio would go on to have one of the worst Title reigns of all time as the company seemingly went out of its way to bury him in every non-title match.

Conversely one match that got a stupidly excessive amount of time was Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, in a glorified 18-minute squash.  This match was completely one-sided for almost the entire duration and most of the action was run-of-the-mill garbage stuff until Shawn hit an elbow drop off a 12-foot ladder, smashing Vince through a table.  Eighteen minutes for one memorable spot.  Simply stunning.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

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.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XX

WrestleMania: The Voldemort Edition....

Madison Square Garden - 3/14/04

Speaking of stacked shows, 'Mania 20 boasts probably the most impressive roster of any single WrestleMania card.  The WWE utilized the four-and-a-half hours they were given to cram as many stars on the show as possible.  Once again they returned to the place WrestleMania began - Madison Square Garden, and in front of a no-BS rabid crowd they put on an epic, if uneven showing.

The show started out with an okay US title match that helped establish John Cena as a rising star with a win over The Big Show, continued with the first of two throwaway 4-way Tag Title matches (unfortunately since either or both of them could've been a lot of fun), and then arrived at a pair of 'Mania-worthy bouts.

Chris Jericho and Christian had a mini-classic that ended with a nice Trish Stratus heel turn.  It was good to see both of them get enough time to steal the early part of the show, since neither of them had been used well at all for months.

Next up was a handicap match that was no mat classic but was tremendously entertaining - The Rock & Sock Connection vs. Evolution.  The Rock returned to the WWE for one match only, and with Mick Foley helped elevate Randy Orton and Batista in this wild 5-man brawl.

In the fifth slot was a Playboy Evening Gown match.  Say it with me - WHAT??  First, was a match like this responsible for even a single PPV buy?  Second, Sable and Torrie Wilson had both been in Playboy Magazine, naked.  So why would I want to see a match that's nothing more than an excuse for them to get not quite naked?

The entire Cruiserweight division was shoehorned into one match, which was given way too little time to amount to anything.  There were some decent spots, but this really should've just been a Cruiserweight singles match or maybe a Fatal 4-Way if it was only going ten minutes.

Next was quite possibly the most disappointing match in wrestling history: Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar.  You talk about dream matches, this battle of monsters was very high on the list.  Given fifteen minutes or so, these two could've beaten the absolute crap out of each other and left the crowd exhausted.  Unfortunately it was the last WWE match for both of them (until 2012 anyway), and neither guy seemed to care even slightly about going out with a bang.  Plus the MSG crowd knew they were both leaving and ripped them apart.  The crowd were the real stars here, since their reaction was way more interesting than anything happening in the ring.  Brock and Goldie would reconvene 13 years later to try and redeem themselves with a well-received five-minute sprint, but this sucked out loud.

Seriously, I'm pretty sure this was the first half of the match.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XIX

Despite a pretty bad build, WWE managed to pull off a classic show in 2003, my personal favorite.

Safeco Field - 3/30/03

This is still one of the most stacked cards I've ever seen.  I can't recall any other WWE PPV where the last five matches are good enough and/or big enough to be a main event.  'Mania 19 is really quite something.

The main event was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title, and this marked the first WWE PPV since December 1997 wher the main event did not include Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker.  For someone like me who was burned out on the Attitude Era Big Four, this was a real breath of fresh air.  Angle and Lesnar put on a wrestling clinic that featured suplexes and reversals galore, and culminated in one of the most frightening botched spots in wrestling history. 
Brock Lesnar went for a Shooting Star Press, a move he had performed dozens of times in OVW and planned to debut in a WWE ring.  Unfortunately he positioned Angle two-thirds of the way across the ring and there was no way he could've gotten both the distance needed and the rotation.  Lesnar landed on his head and ended up pushing Angle out of the way.  It's a miracle he squeaked by with only a concussion.  But they finished the match and it was a classic.


How this didn't result in Lesnar's untimely demeez is beyond me.

If Angle-Lesnar was the #1 match of 'Mania 19, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho was #1A.  In a classic student vs. teacher-type bout, Shawn proved himself just as good as before he walked away from the ring in 1998, and Jericho proved himself just as good as Michaels (no small feat by any stretch).  This was a dazzling mix of aerial wrestling, mat technique, and plain ol' drama.  Personally I think Jericho should've won, but his kick to Shawn's junk after the match was a great exclamation point on a fantastic bout.

Say it with me: Right. In. The Dick.

'Mania 19 had a pair of huge marquee matches late in the card, the first of which was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon's violent, bloody brawl that should've been a stinker but ended up pretty damn good, if about five minutes too long.  The match features probably my favorite evil Vince moment, as the camera zoomed in on him peeking menacingly over the ring apron while clutching a lead pipe.
The second match of this one-two combination was the final Rock-Austin encounter; their third WrestleMania match and their fifth PPV match overall.  It ended up being Austin's swan song and allowed him to pass a torch of sorts to The Rock (who also left the company shortly thereafter, but finally got a PPV win over his old rival).  It was arguably better than their 'Mania 15 match but not as good as the 'Mania 17 one.