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Monday, March 26, 2012

Wrestlemania Countdown: 25

The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania 25

(So now by this point I’m falling into the pattern that would define my viewing habits for the next couple of years:  Watching WWE 24/7 instead of the regular programs, and only ordering Rumble/Chamber/Wrestlemania for PPVs, with the rest getting covered on 24/7 or DVD.  I ordered this show solely based on Shawn v. Undertaker, for those keeping track.) 

- Live from Houston, TX

- Your hosts are JR, Cole and the King

Money in the Bank: CM Punk v. MVP v. Shelton Benjamin v. Mark Henry v. Kane v. Finlay v. Kofi Kingston v. Christian

(They’re really getting to the weak sauce MITB matches now as far as star power goes, no?) Henry and Kane clear the ring to start, but a ladder from Christian & Shelton puts them down. Kofi does a nice acrobatic evasion of the ladder and dropkicks them down, and we get the first climb from Kane and Henry. Everyone gangs up on them to bring them down and then we get a mass-climb, which leads to the big men knocking the ladders over. Finlay manages to get rid of Henry and hits a suicide dive onto Kane outside, and we get a series of highspots from there. This concludes with Shelton diving off the top of a 15-foot ladder with a plancha, which is pretty awesome. Mark Henry actually teases a dive, but Finlay thankfully brings him down and then launches Hornswoggle off Henry's back onto everyone else. Why would 6 guys do down off that? That doesn't even make SENSE! (Midget physics are their own branch of studies in major universities.  It’s hard to get any serious work done, though, because everyone keeps running up to the front of the class and biting the professor on the ass.)  Kofi gets a good monkey-bar style attack on Finlay using the ladder, but dives and runs into a stepladder. Finlay climbs again and Kofi kicks him down, but Henry pushes him off the ladder. He just sucks the fun out of everything he touches. (Again, who would have thought I’d become a Mark Henry fan just 2 years after this?) Another tremendous Kofi spot sees Henry holding the ladder upright, which allows Kofi to climb up for the briefcase before Henry drops him again. Kofi's like the new Shelton Benjamin here. (Yeah, the black guy who gets stuck in big matches to take bumps and then depushed immediately afterwards.)  Speaking of which, we get the mandated contrived ladder spot, as a ladder gets wedged between the rungs of another one, and MVP & Shelton work off that. Punk takes them out and climbs, but Christian follows and they tease a GTS off the ladder, which turns into a blown Unprettier instead. Well the thought was there, but they just couldn't pull it off without breaking a neck. MVP climbs and Shelton does his usual crazy jungle gym climb to save, then they badly fuck up a powerbomb spot. Shelton recovers and powerbombs MVP out of the ring in another scary-looking spot. Shelton slugs it out with Finlay on top of the ladder, but Christian pulls them down. He and Shelton fight there and the ladder goes down, but Christian holds on and pulls himself up again. Punk saves, but gets hung up. Kane finally returns from Purgatory and climbs up to chokeslam Christian off, but Punk boots him down and repeats as MITB winner at 14:23. Kind of a big heel reaction for Punk, as I think the fans wanted someone new to win. As did I, I was hoping for MVP. Pretty fun opener, although Kane and Henry sucked the life out of it every time they were in and there were too many blown spots. ***1/4

- And speaking of sucking the life out of the place, here's Kid Rock to do a medley of his shitty songs. Like, what a horrible place to do a 20-minute concert. (I suppose if you HAVE to do a concert, you might as well get it over with quickly, but man, who really wanted to hear a Kid Rock concert on PPV?)  It leads to the entrances of the 25 women for the battle royale, so it's going from bad to worse here.

Miss Wrestlemania Battle Royale:

We don't even get intros, and thankfully Mae Young is the guest timekeeper and not wrestling. The only one I can pick out is Santino in drag. Like seriously there's a multitude of identical blondes out there with nothing to distinguish them. So after 5 minutes of punching and kicking we're down to Santino, Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Michelle Mccool and Melina. Michelle and Mickie eliminate each other, and Sanitno dumps Beth and Melina to win at 6:00. This gets him over as a giant babyface with the crowd. Sad and stupid, as the "legendary" divas they could bribe to come back didn't even get an introduction. And was that even 25 people?  (Well they couldn’t even get the math right on the “25th anniversary” thing, so I see no reason why they’d get it right here either.) 

Chris Jericho v. Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka & Ricky Steamboat

Mickey Rourke is hanging out with Frank Shamrock at ringside. Piper starts with Jericho and clotheslines him out of the ring for the brawl. Back in, Piper gets a dropkick (allegedly) and runs him into the turnbuckle, and it's over to Snuka. Wait, I thought this was a gauntlet match? So now it's an elimination handicap match? Snuka chops Jericho down quite sadly, and Steamboat comes in to fire things up with a flying chop and the armdrags. But it's back to Snuka and the Walls finish him off at 3:46. (I bet he went home and showed this match to his daughter, Tamina, hoping to pass along some pointers for her.  Did you know that she’s the daughter of WWE legend Jimmy Snuka?) Piper jumps Jericho to break it up and goes to the eyes, which sets up the sleeper. Jericho breaks with the enzuigiri and gets the pin at 4:41. Steamboat comes in with the flying bodypress for two, but Jericho slugs him down and goes to a chinlock. Steamboat fights out and Jericho tosses him for one more skin the cat spot (which the camera MISSES) and Steamboat hits him with a pescado. Back in for the flying chop and a rollup for two. Jericho bulldogs him, but the Lionsault misses and Steamboat gets a powerslam for two. Jericho takes him down for the Walls, but Dragon reverses to a small package for two, which gets a GIANT reaction. Codebreaker finishes at 8:53, however. Holy cow, sign this Ricky Steamboat kid, he's pretty good! This was way better than it had any right to be thanks to Ricky. **1/2 Like wow, ancient Steamboat was out there working his ASS off and got this stupid match over. Ric Flair is so upset that he charges in and beats on Jericho, but gets his ass kicked in short order. So he calls out Mickey Rourke for an apology (yeah, challenge the guy sitting next to FRANK SHAMROCK, real smart). So they do a quick boxing match and Jericho goes down. As we all expected. (The Jericho-Steamboat rematch at Extreme Rules was pretty decent, too.  This whole storyline was balls, however.) 

- The National Guard: TORNADO KILLERS. Well I guess the rest of the tornado-ravaged world is boned.

Extreme Rules: Jeff Hardy v. Matt Hardy

Jeff is so mad he uses the CARDBOARD POSTER OF DEATH on Matt as they brawl on the floor, and Jeff hits a dive into the railing. Into the ring, Jeff tries the Whisper in the Wind, but Matt counters with a chair on the way down to take over. He chokes away on the ropes and hits him with the SHOP VAC OF DOOM for two. Side Effect on the chair gets two. Matt chokes away in the corner and sets up a table on the floor, but Jeff comes back with a clothesline off the apron and sends Matt into the stairs. And then it gets EXTREME as Jeff brings a crutch and another garbage can into it. He puts the can on Matt's head and beats him with the crutch, which is less impressive after Hulk Hogan's show completely exposed it as the wussiest spot in wrestling. (Vince should hire Hogan on again, just to do Celebrity Championship Wrestling season 2 on the WWE Network should it ever launch.)  Jeff misses the swanton and Matt gets the Twist of Fate for two. He goes up to finish, but Jeff blocks and brings him down with a superplex and puts him on the floor with a chairshot. The table gets involved as Jeff puts Matt on it, then stacks a chair and another table on top of him. And to the shock of myself, Matt DOESN'T move and Jeff is able to splash through both tables and onto Matt. Back in, that gets two. And here comes the ladders. Jeff leapfrogs from one over another, but misses a legdrop and splats on the mat. And Matt wedges Jeff's head in a chair and finishes with a Twist of Fate at 13:10. Kind of weird that the Hardyz just don't have huge amounts of chemistry together. This was good, though, with crazy bumps and a good finish, but people just don't want to see them fight. ***1/2  (People don’t want to see them drive, either.  And by people, I mean mostly members of the police.) 

Intercontinental title: JBL v. Rey Mysterio

Rey's superhero motif this year: The Joker. (Weird that he would switch from Marvel to DC, but I guess it was the year of The Dark Knight.) JBL lays Rey out during the instructions, but a 619 and splash finish at 0:21 and give Rey the title. Well, there's your Wrestlemania moment for JBL. DUD As expected, JBL quits after the loss. I'm broken up about that.  (JBL is one of the few guys to retire and stay there thus far.) 

- Three matches left to save the show.

Shawn Michaels v. Undertaker

Shawn descends from the heavens on a chariot, dressed in white and accompanied by an angelic chorus. Now there's an entrance. Shawn sticks and moves with chops to start, but Taker grabs his hand and tosses him into the corner to stop that. Shawn throws a crotch chop and fakes a knee injury to buy time, but UT pounds him in the corner. Shawn comes back with chops, but gets backdropped out of the corner as the crowd is pretty seriously torn here. Taker with a press slam (!) and an elbow for two. He works the arm and we go old school, but a blind charge misses and Taker rams his knee into the corner. Shawn with a kneecrusher and he gets an Indian deathlock (which Michael Cole calls a figure-four), but Taker fights up. Shawn dropkicks the knee, but runs into a bearhug, and Taker runs him into the corner and slugs away on him. He follows with a pair of corner clotheslines and Snake Eyes into the big boot, and the legdrop gets two. He goes for the chokeslam, but Shawn takes him down into a crossface. Taker rolls him over for two, but Shawn hangs on. Taker finally breaks with a sideslam for two. Shawn fires back with chops and gets the flying forearm. He comes back with a pair of atomic drops and a clothesline, but he comes off the top and lands in a chokeslam. Shawn tries the superkick and Taker counters to the GoGoDancer, but Shawn makes the ropes and bails. Taker tries the guillotine legdrop and misses, but then Shawn goes up for the moonsault press and whiffs on that as well. OUCH. Taker tries to hit him with the tope con hilo, but Shawn pulls a cameraman into the way and Taker kills him instead. That was a crazy spot. So Shawn hauls the dead ref back into the ring and DEMANDS that he count Undertaker out. The crowd does not like that. He makes it back in at nine.

And now it's EVIL SHAWN as he cues up the superkick, but Taker kills him dead with the chokeslam...and gets two. Shawn tries another superkick, Taker counters, but Shawn gets it this time and gets two. Taker fights up again for the powerbomb, but Shawn counters to a sunset flip, and Taker hits it on a second try for two. The crowd is just losing their shit now and I can't blame them. Taker goes up and misses an elbow now for the double count. Shawn is up first, but Taker tosses him, and Shawn skins the cat...but Taker catches him with the tombstone...for TWO. Holy fuck! I would have bet a million dollars on that being the finish. Taker PULLS DOWN THE STRAP and goes for the kill, but Shawn was goldbricking and reverses the tombstone attempt into a tornado DDT. Still selling like he's dead and just running on adrenaline, Shawn crawls to the top and drops the flying elbow, and sets up the superkick to a MASSIVE heel reaction. Superkick hits clean and gets two. Finally they just fight up and punch the shit out of each other, but Shawn goes down to a big boot. Awesome. Another tombstone attempt, but Shawn slides out and fires more chops. Taker comes back and hits boot on a blind charge, and Shawn tries to go up again. Moonsault is caught and the tombstone makes Undertaker 17-0 at 30:40. FUCKING AWESOME. This was worth the $55 and then some, as it started good and just kept getting better and better. ***** I thought I was gonna have a heart attack with the gigantic strong style near-falls at the end. I think my screen just went black because the show has been STOLEN.  (Did someone check Cryme Tyme’s trunk?)

RAW (?) World title: Edge v. John Cena v. Big Show

There is no way they're gonna follow that shit, man. HHH should have sucked it up and gone second from the top. John Cena gets quite the entrance, as an army of Cena clones comes out to his original "Word Life" entrance music before the real guy comes out to the current theme. Crowd still boos the shit out of him, of course. Cena bulldogs Edge to start, but bounces off Show. Edge wants a truce with Show, but gets whomped as a result. Cena tries a quick FU, but Show boots them down to break it up. So Edge heads out of the ring and we get Cena v. Show, as Big Show pounds away, but gets dumped by Cena. Cena follows with the guillotine legdrop to the floor, which is a pretty cool spot. Back in, Cena tries the FU, but Edge reverses to a DDT for two. Edge goes up and Cena slugs him down, but Show catches him with a sideslam for two. They slug it out and Chavo suddenly pulls Cena out of the ring, but he eats an FU as a result. Back in, Cena ties Show in the ropes and hits Edge with shoulderblocks to set up the FU, but Vickie gets involved and Edge spears her by mistake. Cena rolls up Edge for two off that. Show frees himself and chops everyone, then goes for a double chokeslam, but Cena escapes and tries another FU. Show puts him down and out with the knockout punch. Out on the floor, Edge hits Show with a DDT and then dives off the stairs at him, sending them both crashing through the barricade and into the crowd. So with Show out, Edge heads back in and spears Cena, but it's reversed into the STFU. Show breaks that up, so Edge and Cena team up and clothesline him out of the ring. Then Edge turns on Cena and gets two. Cena comes back with the Throwback and goes up, but Show shoves Cena down and Edge spears him on the way down. Nice little double-team. Edge goes after Show with a sleeper, but Cena gets the WTF spot by picking both up for the FU. Edge escapes, but Cena hits him with another FU, onto Show,and pins Show to win the title at 14:40. Fine but forgettable, as they never really clicked together and I still don't get why they couldn't just do Edge v. Cena. ***  (Because they were trying to transition to Cena v. Big Show, which turned out to be the worst idea in the history of mankind.) 

- And yet another weirdly-timed segment, as they bring out the Legends before the main event. And then Austin sheds his tux and drives a quad down to the ring for his beer-drinking celebration.

Smackdown (?) World title: HHH v. Randy Orton

HHH tosses his sledgehammer through a giant mirror as part of his entrance, which can't be good luck. Apparently the deck is now even more stacked, as the DQ and countout rules have been waived. As if they'd book a DQ finish in a Wrestlemania main event anyway. (Well, they did book a double countout two years after this.)  HHH stomps away in the corner to start, but Orton strikes like a VIPER with an RKO out of nowhere. Orton sets up for the punt, but it's KICK WHAM PEDIGREE and both guys are out. So they recover and brawl to the floor, where HHH grabs someone's bottle of water to revive himself and heads back in. Back to the floor for another brawl and Orton meets the post. Back in, Orton begs off, but HHH stomps him and catapults him under the bottom rope before going to work on the neck. Kneedrops are followed by a clothesline and a neckbreaker, and Orton bails again. They brawl and HHH gets whipped into the railing as we get some cross-talk from the director on the feed. Crowd is pretty bored with all this thus far. Back in, Orton goes to work on the neck as the crowd gets distracted by a fight of some sort and this thing just dies faster and faster. Orton tries the CHINLOCK OF DEATH, but HHH counters out with a backdrop suplex as we slow it down even FURTHER. Orton gets a powerslam for two and goes to his favourite chinlock. They slug it out and HHH gets the high knee and follows with a corner clothesline, but Orton blocks the Pedigree with a catapult into the corner. HHH bounces out of there with a clothesline for two, however. They head up for a slugfest and Orton drops him on the top rope, but goes up and lands on HHH's foot. HHH tries another Pedigree and Orton counters for two. HHH with a rollup for two. Spinebuster and another Pedigree attempt is reversed into the neckbreaker by Orton, and that gets two. HHH goes up and gets dropkicked on the way down, although that missed by a mile even without seeing the replay. Orton sets up for the punt, but HHH catches the foot and dumps him out of the ring, which is a pretty blah spot off a dramatic counter like that. HHH preps the tables and tries a Pedigree, but Orton backdrops him onto the main table...and it doesn't break. Ouch. Kind of fitting for this trainwreck of a match. Orton follows with the DDT off the table and we do the dramatic countout tease, which unlike the Shawn-Undertaker match draws absolutely no reaction from the crowd. Back in, Orton stomps him down and coils like a VIPER, then changes his mind and slugs away in the corner instead, because that's more boring. And of course the ref gets bumped and it's RKO time. Orton goes for a sledgehammer, but HHH punts him on the way back into the ring. HHH uses the hammer (to a heel reaction) and gets rid of it, but again they've got no follow-through, as HHH just slugs away on the mat with the ref out. The ref pulls him off, and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes clean at 23:32. Man, they really stunk the joint up there. This was Jericho-HHH all over again, as the real main event went two matches before and they couldn't follow it. Boring match, weak, anti-climactic ending. **1/2  (That was exceedingly generous, actually.  I’d go even lower upon further reflection, like *1/2)

The Pulse

I'm kind of torn now, because Shawn-UT was just so awesome and a lot of the other stuff was really good, but the two main events just couldn't sustain the momentum, and in the case of HHH's match, actually killed the show dead. I'd say download Shawn v. Undertaker (or buy it when it inevitably ends up on 18 different DVD compilations) but the rest is definitely not Wrestlemania-caliber.

Thumbs in the middle.  (Agreed.  Two pretty weak Wrestlemanias in a row here.) 

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