Monday, April 8, 2013

Wrestlemania 29 Feedback - Match by Match

Before I get into my Wrestlemania 29 feedback, I'd like to share with you my Facebook post, that I put up immediately as the show went off the air. I think it's a genuine feeling that was posted in the moment, and gives the most of my impression without thinking about it too much:

"Wrestlemania 29 was NOT epic - but it was an excellent effort for a year that was full of creative failures... I was very happy to see the event pulled off with great success and execution...

Like Bruno Sammartino, I have been a stubborn old bird who refused to embrace the growth of the business. But you can't argue with the numbers in attendance and profit. Not only for the WWE, but for the NY Metro area. And even more, you can't deny WWE's efforts in their charitable partnerships....

I'm happy to say that you made me a fan again tonight, and I can only hope that creative can take step back and realize the enormous death bullet they dodged. There is absolutely NO REASON why Wrestlemania should have been any good tonight, given the creative direction since the day after last year's mania....

Tomorrow night, WWE creative gets a clean slate to start building for next year- please don't fuck it up!"

Now on to the breakdown:

The Shield vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus, The Big Show

This was an interesting and unexpected choice to kick off the show, but the payoff was golden. It was hard to tell if the fans were rocking stadium because the event was kicking off, or if they were legitimately into the match. I'd like to think it was the latter. The Shield performs with a ruthless aggression that is infectious, and set the pace and tone for the remainder of the event. Overall, it was an excellent match that showed of how well The Shield can perform as a team and as individuals. This wasn't the same type of gang-related beatdowns and attacks that we've seen on TV. Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose really had an opportunity to shine against three elite veterans, and they made the most of it.

The only complaint I had was the finish with Big Show. I don't understand what they're doing with him, and why they would waste an opportunity to make better with the Orton character. WWE keeps flip flopping on their direction with Big Show. I admire their ambition to book him like a giant, but then they pair him up with an opponent who ruins the effort with comedic relief. Show did his best work last year working against Mark Henry, but due to the lack of big men available on the roster, the momentum was quickly lost. They should have been able to continue it with Alberto Del Rio, but rather than mirror Show's realistic intensity, Del Rio was booked as a clown who didn't outsmart Big Show, he just out-fooled him.

As for The Shield, my only concern is - what is their purpose now? Originally, their motives were understandable, as they tried to preserve Punk's title reign for the better of the industry. But now that it's long over, what are their motives now? What is there to preserve? What is their reason to attack? And what is their new mission? I'm afraid that if those questions aren't explained soon, The Shield gimmick may have run it's course.

Ryback vs. Mark Henry

I enjoyed seeing a brute battle of the big men, but realized that there may no longer be a place for it in 2013. I vividly remember the first Wrestlemania. I was 10 years old, and to me, those days were the best. But the business has evolved and the big men aren't a draw anymore. I tried to explain that to my seven year-old son, but he is more impressed with the more colorful and "flippy" guys. The action now is fast-paced, and the big boys force it slow down.

Probably, the biggest shock of the night is how Henry dominated Ryback and score a clean pinfall win over the WWE's next big star. Ryback literally looked like Mark Henry's little jail bitch. While I can appreciate Ryback suffering a loss here and there, rather than force-feeding us an undefeated streak, I'm confused as to why he would be doing a clean job on the biggest show of the year - especially after slumping in his series with CM Punk. I'm not complaining that he lost, because it's been proven that win/loss records don't mean shit anymore in the WWE Universe. Ryback is still over with the fans, and it just raised helped keep Henry a strong threat as monster heel. I'm just saying, this one took me by complete surprise - and I'm curious to see where it goes next.

Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston

Something that Wrestlemania has not had in YEARS, is a decent tag team title match, and when you put the ball in Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan's hands, you can expect them to score! While I wasn't originally convinced with the team of Ziggler and Langston, I felt it made enough sense to consider them a formidable stable. Every participant in this match brought their A-game, and it left me wanting more after the bell had rung.

I'm glad that Kane and Bryan retained the titles, because for what it's worth, they have earned the respect as a real tag team, rather than being stigmatized as two guys thrown together because creative had nothing else for them. Team Hell No has earned their six-month reign, and deserves to continue moving forward as champions. A win at Wrestlemania firmly establishes them as true champions - who are now in desperate need of new contenders. But what are we supposed to make of the continued lack of booking for Dolph Ziggler? It's mind boggling that how he's been mistreated and misused to get everyone else over instead of himself. Mark my words, once creative gets their head out from deep within their ass, Ziggler can easily be the equivalent of CM Punk... Mark my words!

Chris Jericho vs. Fandango

I'm actually disgusted that Fandango was not only given a spot on the card, but that Chris Jericho was asked to put him over. His gimmick fucking SUCKS, and I promise you that this will soon be chalked up as one of creative's biggest failures. But to bring him in and DEBUT at Wrestlemania? We've never seen his work. How many others on the roster have busted their asses and actually have a fan base? How about a New York hometown boy like Zack Ryder? Where was his Wrestlemania spot (and payday)?

And what about Jericho? A guy who comes in to literally help "save" WWE creative, and he's doing jobs for a fucking ballroom dancer? If you can stomach it, watch that match closely - Jericho is working stiff. He was laying it in to that little bitch. I can't wait for his next book to hear about what was going through his mind during this match.

This match could have been a fucking disaster that could have changed the pace of the event and sent it burning in flames to the ground. Luckily, Fandango can actually take a beating like a man, and do a few high spots. But give Jericho a ton of praise for saving the momentum of the show. You can beat he's doing a ton of DDP Yoga right about now, because his back must be killing him from carrying all that shit!

Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger

It's a damn shame that WWE has a secondary heavyweight title, because it automatically labels these guys as the B-Team. This match actually had one of the most legit creative builds over any other match on the card. Swagger and Colter have brought a new type of controversial heat, that was desperately needed. Unfortunately, Del Rio is still being poorly booked, and the constant distractions with Ricardo Rodriguez is skewing their image as gay lovers. Alberto has shed more tears watching his friend get attacked, and risked life and limb to save his pansy ass, than he has done to build an image as a fighting champion.

Luckily, Del Rio and Swagger put on a solid match that focused more on mat skills rather than emotion. The match itself was both competitive and enjoyable, but most of all, it was a pleasant surprise for something I had extremely low expectations for. I didn't think Swagger belonged in this match, nor that he deserved such a strong push or title shot on the Mania card. But he proved to be worthy opponent with a story that made him a legit antagonist. It was a smart move to leave the storyline at the door, and show off their wrestling chops. Hopefully Del Rio can build on the momentum, and Swagger can build more heat by crossing the lines of another ethnic minority.

The Undertaker vs. CM Punk

In my opinion, this was easily the match of the night. But what else would you expect from CM Punk? Like Jericho, I credit Punk for making this match everything it was, and for carrying the brunt of the weight. The Undertaker clearly was not ready for this match, and there were moments where his eyes admitted his regret for committing to it. Disappointment was written all over his face, but he knew that he was in good hands with Punk.

Going into the match, I wondered if Punk was going to use this match to bitch-slap the office, as if saying, "I busted my ass as your champion, and my thanks is doing the job for Taker at Mania! Fuck you very much!" Whether or not Punk was happy with his role at Wrestlemania, he clearly made the most of it, and did something no one else has ever done in Wrestlemania history - carry The Undertaker to glory. THAT alone, is CM Punk's championship gold that no one will ever be able to strip him of.

I can only wonder how this match would have been built had Paul Bearer not passed away. It was a simple build up - Punk is the best in the world, and he'll prove it by snapping Taker's streak. Instead, he has to win a four-way to earn the right to challenge The Dead Man. Are you fucking ribbing me? Earn the right to challenge? He's CM Fucking Punk! And while I may have been critical of him in the past, I can firmly say while eating my words, "In Punk I Trust". And tonight, I'm sure he earned every ounce of respect The Undertaker has to offer.

Other than his pair of matches with Shawn Michaels, no opponent has ever forced The Undertaker to wrestle at Wrestlemania. My only complaint on the match is that I feel that CM Punk strayed from his strategy that he had been pushing in the weeks leading to the match. He designed this match to beat Taker in the ring, rather than steal the streak by countout or forcing Taker to get DQ'd. I would have been interested to see how many creative and cunning ways Punk could have pushed Taker to beat a 10 count or force his emotions to risk the streak by breaking the rules. But who's complaining? Taker is 21-0, and CM Punk is a legit 5-star ring general!

Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

Let me first say, I don't think Brock Lesnar is worth the demands or money WWE is paying him. He's not the "next big thing" he was billed to be a decade ago. He may have been a beast in the octagon, but he can't hang anymore in the predetermined world of pro wrestling. Brock forgot how to fake it, and the first half of this match proved it...again.

Brock looked blown up and lost in the ring, so much that there were moments where you could see the frustration and rage building within. He knew he was shitting the bed and embarrassing himself in the ring. Suplex after suplex, he had nothing else to work with, and it was making him mentally unstable. There is nothing anyone can tell me to make me believe that it was part of the plan. Especially when the story was being built up on how confident he was the he has going to retire his opponent.

I don''t know what Triple H whispered to him during the match, but there was a dramatic change in Brock's participation to close it. Something finally clicked, and Brock went with the flow during Triple H's attempts to get him to tap out. That entire "go-home" sequence of near tap-outs literally saved the match and cleaned up whatever mess was made earlier. It was a great idea and the smartest way to conclude the match... as long as Brock didn't tap. That was the make or break key element. If Brock tapped, it would have made both him and Triple H look like complete fools. A former UFC champion taps to a "fake" wrestler, and Triple H looks like he's a UFC mark. Thank God, they didn't try and sell us that.

Brock teasing to tap was a powerful moment. Brock actually tapping would have been a "Fuuuuuuuuck Yoooooou" moment! I give Triple H a lot of credit for not going over the top in the match, and taking the wheel to steer them both to success. By the way, did anyone else catch Paul Heyman telling Brock it's time to take it home? Brock was lost, and Paul E. knew that the longer he was in there, the more his stock was going to plummet. That was a verbal throwing of the towel.

On a side note, what was the point of having Shawn Michaels there? He served zero purpose and looked like a redneck cheerleader on the outside - or as some valets are described, "The Fifth Ringpost". And what the fuck is with his gear? Dude, it's Wrestlemania! What's with the ratty tank-top, baseball hat, and rubber rain boots. I guess with all the video packages, he thought New Jersey was still underwater. Hurricane Sandy was six months ago, you Cookie Monster-eyed motherfucker!

John Cena vs. The Rock

What can you really say about this match...that wasn't expected? They caught lightening in a bottle last year, and expected to do it twice. Rock/Cena II did not live up to the expectations. The crowd was absolutely DEAD and killed the energy of the main event.

In case you didn't notice, the inter-gender tag match was scrapped from the card because of time constraints. Cena was abruptly sent out to the ring, as was The Rock, in fear that the main event would be shirt on time. This caused the match to feel rushed, and it forced Rock and Cena to run their sequence of finishers and kickouts too early.

The pacing of the match was off from the start. There was too much time spent on pauses looking for crowd reaction (which there was none, but the obvious "Cena Sucks" chants), and out of nowhere they'd start to rush through theirs pots as if they were racing the clock. It didn't make sense, and it went so fast that by the time they started using their finishers, they still had 20 minutes left of air time. Once you've reversed and kicked out of each other's finishers three or four times, what's left to do?

The truth is, this was a watered down version of last year's epic encounter. Their first match had a full year of build up. It was a dream match come true. And it delivered on all levels. This rematch was forced, poorly booked, and served no real purpose but to return the favor.

You really can't blame Rock and Cena for their performance, when nobody really wanted to see it again to begin with. The reaction of the crowd spoke volumes, and there were moments in the match where Rock took the lead and tried to lead the crowd the way he and Hogan did many years ago. But this time, the fans weren't buying it. The match fell flat on it's face, and no one cared. They all knew Rock was there to give the title back to Cena.

Even after the match had ended, the fans reacted awkward to Rock and Cena's show of sportsmanship and endorsements. What made it even worse, was that the new champion left the ring so that the loser could celebrate. HUH? Yeah, exactly! The guys in the truck didn't know who's music to play. It made no sense whatsoever. The fans weren't exactly sure how to react. The only thing that would have sent them home with a strong buzz, was if Dolph Ziggler had cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase and snatched the title from Cena to spoil his night. And I don't see why it didn't happen - they still had more than 10 minutes left on the air. But it didn't happen. All we got was a salute and some hand holding by two guys who were as confused as the crowd.

But I don't blame The Rock, and I don't blame Cena. The blame falls on creative, who dropped the ball on the 2012/2013 Wrestlemania season. This was one of the worst booked pay per views in the history of Wrestlemania, but somehow or another, the talent pulled it together to make it one of the most entertaining shows of the year. And THAT deserves a TON of respect!

You can interact with DieHard Derek by following him on Facebook and Twitter @DieHardDerekG

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