1500 words about Wrestlemania 29

Last night was Wrestlemania 29. This weekend also sees the 20th year that I’ve been watching professional wrestling, as I began the day after Wrestlemania 9. I thought I’d take a look at last night’s Wrestlemania, and see what worked and what didn’t.

• Pre-Show Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz d. Wade Barrett to win the IC title
Admittedly, I’m not the world’s biggest Miz fan, but even I can see that Miz was at his absolute best when he was the WWE Champion nobody wanted to be champ. I’m not feeling this “Miz is the next protégé of Ric Flair” angle that WWE is running with. Nor am I feeling the “Wade Barrett is such a big deal that he never does anything of importance” angle that they’re running for the man who basically owned the WWE in the summer and fall of 2010.

That said, this was a pretty decent match between the two. Wade Barrett hit the Wasteland for the first time in over a year, though it led to just a two-count. I can’t say that I was surprised The Miz won, but I did like the unique way he locked in the Figure-Four to get Wade to tap. Maybe this will lead to more being done with the Intercontinental Championship, which has been kind of useless ever since Christian won it off Cody Rhodes last year.

• The Shield d Sheamus & Randy Orton & The Big Show
Good for Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns. Those three came out of relative obscurity last summer, and went on to have a decent match against three men who’ve held nearly two dozen world championships between them. Quite honestly, after the four hours of show, there wasn’t too much about this match that stands out the next day, except for Big Show breaking up the triple powerbomb on Sheamus, and Orton tagging himself in towards the end of the match to RKO everything in sight. And, of course, Big Show punching out his teammates. I don’t remember anything about the match being too egregious, though.

• Mark Henry d Ryback
The slow, methodical pace of this match is exactly what I expected, and is probably the best way for these two monsters to work with each other. Overall, the match was about as good as one might expect, although the literal “squash” ending was a pretty unique way to end everything; I felt it kept Ryback looking like he could have won the match, but he needs more experience and more maneuvers before he can move up to the next level of the WWE, while Mark Henry came across like a 17-year veteran of the sport who took advantage of an opening he saw. Pretty decent logic, there.

• Team Hell No d. Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston to retain the WWE Tag Team Championships
Kane is one of my favorites, and I’m pretty sure Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler could put on good matches with anybody — and, in fact, I’d even say the Ziggler/AJ kiss into DBry’s kick as a reference to last year’s DBry/Sheamus match was the best possible way to book this match’s opening. So the only thing to say about this match is that Big E Langston looked pretty good. I can see why he’s the NXT Champion, and I look forward to more of him on the main WWE roster. It was a good outing for his debut match in the big leagues, which is more than I can say for…

• Fandango d. Chris Jericho
…Fandango. He may have been killing it on NXT as Johnny Curtis last year, but I think having his debut match at Wrestlemania was a big mistake. Maybe he just got nervous debuting on such a big stage, or maybe he and Jericho just didn’t mesh as well as I would’ve liked, but I felt like this match was kind of a stinkfest. The ending was confusing and messy, and, frankly, Fandango didn’t impress me. I would’ve liked it if he had continued the “I won’t wrestle until you pronounce my name correctly!” gimmick until tonight’s Raw, when Vickie Guerrero or Vince McMahon threatened to terminate his contract if he didn’t wrestle. Besides, then we might’ve gotten the 8-person mixed tag match that got bumped off the card.

• Alberto Del Rio d. Jack Swagger to retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Well, given Swagger’s DUI & possession of marijuana charges from February, I can hardly say I’m surprised he did NOT win this match. Of course, the overwhelming thought with the group I was with last night was that Swagger might win, only to have Dolph Ziggler cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and steal the World Championship, leading to a feud between Vickie Guerrero’s former stable. But with ADR retaining, Ziggler was nowhere to be seen.

• The Undertaker d. CM Punk
Undertaker winning was predetermined 11 years ago, after WWE noticed that Undertaker had won 10 Wrestlemania matches straight. So no surprise there. Punk performed like the amazing rat bastard that he can be, and Undertaker continued to put on a better show than 90% of the roster. Frankly, the only thing this match had against it was that there was still over an hour of show left after it was over.

• Triple H d. Brock Lesnar
Like the Ryback v Henry match, this was a lot of back-and-forth, raw power. One of my friends commented that since it was a No-DQ match, Shawn Michaels should’ve interfered more on HHH’s behalf, but I argued that HBK probably wanted no part of Lesnar, given that after the last time the two of them got involved with each other, Shawn went home with a broken arm. And when Lesnar caught Shawn’s superkick and delivered an F-5, I felt that played directly into the last several months of buildup for this match.

I liked HHH learning how to apply the Kimura lock, and turning the tables on an unexpecting Lesnar. I also like that Lesnar didn’t tap out, but I would’ve been okay if he had; If so, that would’ve put over the Kimura as one of the best submissions in WWE.

Was this the first time Triple H ever actually hit the Pedigree on the corner steps? I recall him setting up for it numerous time in previous matches, but I’m not sure I remember him actually hitting it.

• John Cena d. The Rock to win the WWE Championship
This match would have been better if it was at the end of a three-hour show, rather than having had three and a half hours of wrestling before it. By the end of the night, both the live audience and the group of nine people in my living room were completely worn out and tired of watching wrestling. The match itself was pretty lackluster, too; Last year’s “Once in a Lifetime” bout was more exciting, although I’ll concede that the references they made to that match were very well-done. Some great moments in a mediocre match. As for Cena being an eleven-time WWE/World Champion? Well, it’s been two and a half years, so maybe he’ll bring something new to the table. But I’m not holding my breath.

Quite frankly, I think the best thing WWE could do is give John Cena a year off. Just keep him off TV for twelve months. He can still do all the Make-A-Wish appearances and appear in WWE Films’ productions, just get him off the weekly show. He hasn’t got the time to develop anything new for his character with his current schedule, and everything he’s done has grown stale, much like Hogan’s schtick had in 1993. Plus, as The Rock has shown us, you can disappear for a while, and come back with the same old routine, and it all feels fresh again. But, that’s all a rant for another day.

Overall, the show was fairly well-worked. It was definitely not the best Wrestlemania, but still significantly better than some of those mid-90s Wrestlemanias. The complete lack of backstage segments, elaborate entrances, celebrity involvement, or comedy skits to break up the monotony of wrestling and video packages definitely hurt the show.

And I get the four-hour program; it’s the biggest show of the year, so WWE wants to devote more time to it. But this year’s was not varied enough. It truly was a WRESTLING supercard, and not a SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT supercard. Historically, that’s something I’ve always argued in favor of. But when the match structure and psychology is as repetitive as WWE has let it get in recent years, even I began to lose interest halfway through the third hour.

Nothing really stands out as the night’s defining “Wrestlemania moment,” except for maybe JBL punching the Rey Mysterio toy. This Wrestlemania was promoted as “Wrestlemania NY/NJ,” to downplay the fact that 29 isn’t 30. And it felt like a filler ‘Mania. Let’s hope WWE was saving the triple-big stuff for next year’s show.

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