Sunday, April 1, 2007

Wrestlemania Revue thread!

What would a wrestling class be without analysis of the biggest wrestling event out there?

What did it do well? What didn't it do well? Why did things work and not work? Be a fan! Be a smart mark! Be a critic! Be the shirtless guy who ran in during the Cena-Michaels match (which is a textbook example of fan as participant/fan as exhibitionist)! Post!

14 comments:

Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

Figuring of course I'd get to go first.

Money in the Bank match - Why do they put the most amazing match first? I enjoyed the hell out of this one, but when you have 8 demi-cruiserweights in the ring it usually ends up being a good result. I cringed when Jeff squashed Edge, which made me love them all the more. My only beef was with the ending. I enjoy Mr. Kennedy (who else would like to see him as Ted Kennedy) but don't feel that he has the power to draw like CM Punk. Still, it was great and made me miss it for the rest of the night.

Kane v Khali

Why does Khali keep winning when he can't wrestle or sell any move? I don't know, but I respect his rise because of it. Still, what the heck with the match.

MVP v Benoit

Mike W. said enough about this one. I liked MVP's spritzed up entrance

Batista v Undertaker

Two surprises here:
1. THEY'RE DOING THIS ONE ALREADY??????
2. THIS IS A GOOD MATCH!!! People were actually going nuts for the match, and it wasn't because people were marking out for the Undertaker. The pace kept me entertained. Good spots, good back and forth. I'm still curious if Taker will actually surrender his streak to push a main eventer. But let him have the belt for now.

ECW old v new

I had read that they were going to have the originals lose this and then fade away, so I'm glad that didn't happen. Still, this felt like a TNA match, where I couldn't really get behind it. The storyline just didn't feel all that developed. Part of that is due to a one hour show content limit, and part of that is because the only thing they do to further the storyline is have them compete against each other this week. Could have been better, nice to see Sabu.

Trump V. Mcmahon

I was far too focused on Trump's non-acting and McMahon's overacting balancing each other out. The best spots of the night sadly came from Stone Cold and Shane McMahon. If they had gotten Trump to actually lose this match, that would probably have gotten WWE the publicity it was looking for.

Ashley v. Melina

Graciously under 5 minutes. It's sad when I think back to Trish Stratus and Mickie James and how much that story (yes, there was the subtle lesbian angle, but there was also a well thought out story arc overall) drew me in that the women's division came to this. Go back to WM 21 and see how the crowd was really into that match on its merits alone. Top that off with two women wrestlers who are decent in the ring and for me it was one of the highlights of that year's mania. Melina seems to have some potential, and she plays her character very well. I would have liked to see her and MJ go at it and have built up a solid story beforehand, but it seems for now that WWE is sold on Ashley as their future star.

Cena v Michaels

I have a bit of sympathy when Cena tries to do everything in his power to get people to like him and it fails. But it lasts for about 5 minutes. This match felt like a big letdown. There were some great spots early on, and then the last 5-10 minutes were great, but in between the match just died during the Michaels-works-on-the-left-leg portion. Once again, my friends paid 50 bucks to see Cena retain. Still, like Sox fans, we keep believing.

Luis Tenorio said...

OK, so I didn't get to watch it, there is no pay-per-view in the dorms, and paying 50 dollars to watch a lower quality version on my laptop didn't seem worth it. And with Cena winning, I think I was right. I read about the matches and have tried to come to some simple conclusions.
First off, I don't see why they are pushing John Cena so much. JR's talks in the class made me realize that Cena would have half the crowd cheering for him and the other half booing him for a while to come. That was the case last year when he was going against Triple H though Hunter was clearly the Heel, people cheered him because he was a better wrestler. Going into this match, I believe Shawn Michaels was the crowd favorite, especially after kicking Cena in the face and figuratively telling him to suck it. He was also the sentimental favorite. Many, including myself, thought that this would be his last chance at a world title. Why did Shawn Michaels have to lose to the stupidly named, STFU? This same man who had wrestled Bret Hart for an hour and was then put into the Sharpshooter for the longest time tapped out to this? I knew something like this was going to happen when they had Chris Benoit tap out to the STFU. I would have preferred the FU to submission. The same thing happened at last year's Wrestlemania with Triple H and Cena.
I was glad to hear that the Undertaker kept his streak alive. I don't think losing to Batista would have resulted in a great push for Batista. I have to agree with Brian with the fact that this match was not last was surprising. Having won the Royal Rumble, I would think that the Undertaker earned his spot to be in the Main Event, not just a shot at a championship.
Khali. I don't get it. What can the WWE do with Khali besides make him a monster that will go nowhere?
As for the money in the bank match, I really thought Jeff Hardy was going to win this. I consider this match to be a bigger launching pad into main event status for a superstar than the Royal Rumble and so I ruled out past champions like Orton, King Booker and Edge out. Jeff Hardy recently lost the IC title and made little effort to get it back so I assumed this was his chance to get pushed further, though his lack of mic skills were the only thing that worried me. Mr Kennedy is great on the mic but I don't know if he will win a title with this shot.
McMahon lost his hair. Who didn't see this coming? McMahon has been willing to have himself cut open, have his face put into the ass of a 500 pound giant and be thrown off a cage. So what is a little hair? I just hope that they let it grow back instead of keeping him bald as has been the case in past hair matches because he does look weird with no hair.

Joshua Shea said...

Sorry if my comments come from the point of view of an ex-promoter and not a scholar trying to break down an expensive TV show, but I have some theories as to why things were done and placed where they were.

I think Money in the Bank went first because it's the hardest match to finish on time. It's hard for the refs to communicate to the guys and hard for the guys to all communicate with each other. I'm guessing the match was slated for 20 minutes. As it was, it went 19. It's easier to shave or add time to matches further down the card based on how long this actually went. I think they also need lots of guys, lots of visuals and lots of pops to get the show started. Granted, there was a dark match, but nothing would have been worse than to open the show with 80,000 fans sitting on their hands during the ECW match.

I too am interested in the WWE's love of Khali. I don't think he sells tickets the way Andre did. We know he doesn't sell merchandise the way Andre did. My hunch is that they see him as a star of one of their future movies, or they know they can make money renting him out for other movies. Yeah, it's an interesting to see a genetic freak at shows, but it's not why you go. The WWE is about making money, and the movie route is the only way I see it, unless they do a proper build and have him lose to the champion at a PPV, then they can get money out of him that way.

I was glad to see the Batista/Undertaker where it was. Granted, the visual of UT with the belt at the end, like in Wrestlemania 13, would have been nice, but he was wrestling someone who has turned into a wet bag of cement lately and you don't want the last match of the show to suck. Based on matches I've seen each have, I don't know if I'd rate this match as good. I think it was adequate. UT can't carry people the way he used to back in the day.

I have no idea why Benoit v. MVP was on the show. I thought MVP would win and this would be seen as his launching pad, but Benoit retained? The match was decent, but it was also a Friday night Smackdown match. Ric Flair should have had a match in this spot.

The girls match was the girls match. Just because 40% of the audience are women now doesn't mean they want to see this dreck either. And for $50, a stray boob could have come out somewhere, since that's what women's wrestling is about these days. It was placed where it was to give the crowd a breather between "important" matches.

I, too, have heard that the ECW match was about putting the originals out to stud. On TV it sounded like people cared, but arena reports make it sound like this was the bathroom match. If so, perhaps WWE was correct in moving away from the tradtional ECW style. And what better way to say goodbye than a large WM win? On a personal note, as someone who booked Sandman and Sabu on shows in Mass. a few times shortly before I retired, it was cool seeing those guys in front of 80,000 instead of 280.

I'm glad the hype machine for the billionaire battle is over, but I've got to hand it to Vince, he got more publicity than I can remember in a long time. I think the last time this many people picked up to a show outside of fans was Mike Tyson in WM15. Whatever Trump costs (he said millions going to charity for his appearance) and the slight humiliation of having no hair, was more than worth it. This was the match that brought the non-fans in. And the match told a good story and I was surprised at the level of Trump's involvement.

I think anybody with a prestigious media degree from MIT could tell what was going to happen with Cena-Michaels. Shawn Michaels' champion days are over, and have been for a while. With Cena, the WWE is trying to create another Rock. Most will remember how hated Rock was early on, far worse than Cena now. The one thing WWE hasn't done though, is been able to convert the naysayers with Cena, where Rock did eventually get everybody loving him. Of all the matches on the show, this was the one that you could count on both participants having a good match, so it made sense to go on last and leave the audience feeling emotionally drained. The Marine has turned a profit, his merchadise sells and he's got a tremendous upside. Having Cena win was the only logical booking conclusion.

While the show overall was decent, I don't think it touched the stretch of shows WM 17-19 which were all tremendous. When it was done and I thought about everything else I could have had with the $50, it made me wish I just read the results, but I guess with a 19-year streak going of watching it live, it's more about tradition.

Sam Ford said...

To build on the points all of you made, I DIDN'T end up getting the big show since I would rather have it on DVD and couldn't justify dropping $75 on it at this point. That being said, I don't think it was one of the best Wrestlemania's in-ring, but it was probably one of the best promoted in some time, in that they chose a small number of matches, gave plenty of time to tell those stories, and promoted four matches as major deals, with the other four getting prominent build-up as well.

The four "main" events...the two world title matches, the hair vs. hair match, and Money in the Bank, were all kept apart on the card, giving people a chance to take a breather between the big ones. Money in the Bank was the best idea for a starter, since you want to begin with a bang, and the rest of the card featured smaller matches in between the other three "main events." So, while UT/Batista may have seemed early in the card, it was much better than cramming the three big ones at the end and wearing the crowd down.

Congratulations should go to Batista, who everybody rags on, for doing his part and working with Undertaker to craft what some people consider the best one-on-one match of the night. I know Joshua didn't like it, and I am sure it wouldn't have been my favorite match of the night, but WM is not usually about stellar wrestling as much as it is big moments and hype. In Dave's case, many of the viewers were not expecting much from him. I think Steamboat/Savage was a stretch, but it was the best stage possible for Batista to put out a great performance. And for Undertaker, who probably deserves a lot of the credit for the match it was, it's great for him to get a classic Wrestlemania match since most of his win streak was with opponents that he could not possibly have had a good match with.

I do think it would have been good to have had London/Kendrick vs. Regal/Taylor to add some more good wrestling to the show, but the pacing of the show felt awfully natural without trying to cram too much onto one card. The old WMs had 14 matches in 3 hours, and this was 8 matches in 4 hours.

Joshua, I think the key to MVP/Benoit was that the fans likely would have seen it as a slight on Benoit to lose to MVP, and they don't want to lower Benoit that much, but by having MVP go toe-to-toe wrestling-wise with Benoit earned him some respect from fans as deserving his push. I wouldn't be surprised if he is the one who takes the title from Benoit before all is said and done.

Luis, I have to say that I'm particualrly excited to see Kennedy win the Money in the Bank match, since he was my pick as well. Jeff Hardy is never going to be a main eventer because he's a spot-fester, but very good at it. That's why I think he and Matt work so well together. Matt is a good wrestler, and Jeff is impressive with the big moves, so they make a good tandem. Too bad Joey Mercury is gone from WWE, as those MNM/Hardy Boyz matches always gave me home at WWE putting more emphasis on tag team wrestling.

I would think UT's streak will eventually be ended, Brian, but we all agree that this wasn't the year. I would personally have liked to have seen that match go last, with UT winning the title, which would have made a more exciting end to the PPV than Cena retaining. That being said, Luis, I think the fact that Cena gets such a hot reaction from the crowd, no matter who he is wrestling, is precisely why they are keeping the title on him. Cena gets cheered and booed sometimes when he's not even out yet. Audience reaction is the name of the game, and the fact that fans are feuding over whether to cheer or boo him means that he's a major reason people are coming to the arena. There are two types of heat: people that the crowd loves to hate and people who the crowd wants to go home. Cena is one of those people will pay to cheer or boo. So, I don't know if it would be wise to necessarily convert the haters to lovers, since the haters are what give Cena part of his unique atmosphere.

I'm assuming RVD is sticking around, since they chose to give him the big pinfall in the 8-man.

Michael Wehrman said...

I'm in the same camp as Sam - I couldn't spend $50 on this show.

I want to hesitantly disagree with Joshua that non-fans were brought in by Trump/McMahon. We can tell that their typical TV ratings haven't fluctuated much with Trump's involvement, but, of course, PPV being the bread and butter, perhaps he did help boost buys for the show. We won't know that for a few months. A number of things about this match turned me off from ordering it, not the least of which was Donald Trump's "if I could be anywhere but here right now - even if it means the line at the DMV - I'd love to be there instead of promoting this crap on TV" demeanor.

I also disagree with your claim that HBK's title years are behind him - after all, Undertaker did win a title last night.

I don't care for Cena, and I like him less when they brazenly saddle him with desperate gimmicks and entrances (a Ford? in Detroit? That smacks of "c'mon guys, please like me!, even if it was likely assembled in Mexico). There's a lot of work to be done with Cena, and there are some parallels with The Rock - but the "Die Rocky Die" stuff lasted for less than a year, whereas in Cena's case, this is the third WrestleMania in a row he's headlined. I can appreciate the argument that he has the makings of potential greatness, but potentially great shouldn't be in the main event.

Cena's entrance is a "cheap pop," and it reinforces how Cena is a weak character with no substance to him. His superficiality is what harms him - and his merchandise sales what saves him. Both can easily be reconciled, however he will continue to have no credibility when he is booked in ways that make him look like a goody two shoes kissass.

Ultimately, I couldn't order this show because I couldn't care about any of the matches (save MITB), and I don't care for many of the characters involved. It didn't feel like "Wrestlemania" to me. We'll see how many casual viewers bought this show to cover up for the cynical fans, like myself, who didn't pay for it.

Sam Ford said...

I have to disagree with Mike in regard to Cena. I think his position is completely different than pre-Rock Rocky Maivia. The reason he has main evented three WMs in a row is that he has sold tons of merchandise, he has driven live event attendance like hardly anyone else has been able to do in the current era, and he has a natural charisma that represents the company well outside of the wrestling arena, including The Marine greatly exceeding expectations now that it's on DVD.

Cena is an extremely hard worker. He's not the best wrestler in the world, but he's hardly the worst WWE champion in the ring, and his matches last year with Edge were an indication of that. The deal with Cena is that "hardcore" young adult male fans love to hate him, while kids, female fans, and more casual fans are driven to the arena by him. Instead of trying to shove him down the hardcore fans' throats, WWE has created an environment where he can be heel to them while he can simultaneously be face to other fans.

Cena's no Rock or Austin in driving PPV buys, but he's one of the best draws they have right now, and it's not just because of their promotional machine, because I wouldn't consider Batista or Lashley nearly as strong, and they're pushing them just as hard, or perhaps even harder right now, in Lashley's case.

Luis Tenorio said...

I do have to agree that Cena does have his moments, I did love the feud he had with Edge last year and thought it was well done, while putting Triple H into the mix. I do think that John Cena has skills and pushing Edge to the main event is one of those things that he did well. Since then I have started to greatly appreciate Edge's. Using that money in the Bank opportunity at the end of Cena's elimination chamber win was genius on the part of the writers. Back to Cena though, the arguing between fans is something that I do think is good for business. But I don't know how this will fare for years to come. However I do think that putting the belt on Michaels and then starting up a great feud between the two would have been even better than Michaels losing. I do wonder what will happen now since Cena and Michaels are tag team champions, the rivalry will continue but to what extent? I suppose I am hoping that Shawn Michaels will return to his heel roots and take it to John Cena.

Michael Wehrman said...

To be fair, Sam, I think there are some parallels b/w Rocky Maivia and John Cena, but was mostly disagreeing with Joshua's assertion that the WWE is deliberately putting Cena in a spot to make him ultra-hot with a heel turn (the way Maivia became "The Rock" with the NOD so many years ago). Cena still gets a ton of cheers, and still sells a ton of merch; two things Maivia didn't do while under that namesake.

I wholeheartedly agree that Cena has great charisma. There was an A&E program that followed him during his training tenure in UPW (I can't remember the name of it). I was clear that Cena had that oft-mentioned "it" that pro wrestlers need to become big. He was funny, quick-witted, great-looking, and could handle himself in the ring. Regretfully, I don't see that in his WWE persona. I think he still has it, but I can't help but feel that his character is too controlled. Watching Cena, I get the same feeling I got when watching John Kerry in 2004: here is a man who listens to what a dozen close insiders tell him to do, here is a man who follows what he thinks people want to see, a person who does only what he thinks will make him liked. In so doing, he becomes a man whose thinking through of every word and action they take just shines through. The phony and orchestrated nature of it all really shines through. That's my opinion of it, anyway.

I don't mind that he's champ (wrestling titles are rarely given to the all-star wrestlers on a roster), and I don't mind that he beat HBK. I just can't shake the feeling I get watching Cena that there's this clear, clear superficiality to everything he does, and I don't believe him as a character (say, compared to how I imagine Austin or Hogan would be like as people).

It's different from the typical "all WWE champions must have big smiles, shake hands and kiss babies" approach (which always looked awkward on Diesel, Brock Lesnar, and Bobby Lashley, among others), but just like I couldn't believe that Brock Lesnar really wanted to smile while making his way to the ring, I don't picture Cena being the kind of person who would do the things his character does.

BMN said...

A very quick rundown of my thoughts; overall, I thought the show lived up to expectations, with one match exceeding, one below and everything else as I imagined it:

Money in the Bank: The mark in me wanted CM Punk to win, but the smart wanted Edge to win so that they could preserve his undefeated Wrestlemania streak. That could have been a money match in a few years. The WWE seems high on Kennedy and while I think he's serviceable, I don't see "top heel" written all over him.

Khali vs. Kane: it is what it is. Vince has traditionally been preoccupied with big guys, but I think it's safe to say he's not going to spend major time trying to make Khali the next Andre.

Benoit vs. MVP: Happy Benoit won since I don't think MVP is ready yet. But Benoit is a good person to put anyone with; if you're a heel and can't get any rub off of him, I'm not sure who will do it for you.

Batista vs. Undertaker: exceeded my expectations, especially since the crowd was DEAD when Batista came out (not heel heat but just out-and-out apathy). I thought the Taker should have put Orton over a couple of years ago but maybe there will be a chance to do that at a future Mania.

ECW Originals vs. New ECW: Josh pretty much covered my thoughts except for the having booked them in Massachusetts part. Although the only time I saw those guys wrestle in person was in Revere in 1998. Fun show.

Billionaires match: Actually this one from an action perspective was pretty bleh. Every McMahon match at Mania seems to follow the same template. It worked for me when it was Vince vs. Shane at X8 but it's worn thin. But kudos that they followed through with the head shaving.

Women's match: less said, the better. I kept hoping for Victoria to come in and wipe 'em all out but alas....

Cena vs. Michaels: The story for me was "Shawn Michaels still proves he's the big time" and he did that. As long as there's someone as good as him on the roster, you can have Cena in the Mania main event and get a great match. This is what HHH didn't do last year and anyone who thinks they can put HHH in Michaels' league in terms of pure ring work need do no more than compare those two matches to see that HHH still ranks behind.

Good show overall,

BMN

Joshua Shea said...

Another quickish comment on the Battle of the Billionaires.

By no means do I think this existed to get wrestling fans to buy the show, we were doing that already. This was meant to push that group of people who only buy Wrestlemania, or might be considering it, off the fence and onto the couch. Considering the disparity of PPV buyrates between WM and the other PPVs, it's safe to say there are a lot of these people.

Also, it's not just about PPV numbers. How many legit media outlets in both the world of sports and entertainment ran with the story? Sure, most treated it as tongue-in-cheek lowbrow entertainment, but the three letters WWE got in front of a lot of people over the last four or five weeks. Hell, it was one of the lead stories on AOL today and Trump and McMahon were both on The Today Show this morning. It wasn't Michaels and Cena.

The show was good, but not great. For hype though it did very well. Even if Donald Trump (why did he always have to say "my guy Bobby Lashley" in every reference?) no-sold his role since day one. His acting makes K-Fed's look Oscar worthy.

Sam Ford said...

Joshua, it beats when he called him Lindsey on a radio show, and he's never known Umaga's name at all. He always just says, "Vince's guy."

Carolina said...

First off, I unfortunately didn't get to watch this show since I came back to MIT early Sunday afternoon. It sucked not to be able to watch Mania after about 7 years of catching every one, but I'll just share my thoughts on the results and what I heard from the few people who did watch it.

I'm glad that Taker's streak wasn't broken, making him 15-0. Yes, we all know it's predetermined and all that, but this streak should never be broken in my opinion. It's a huge part of what makes him The Undertaker, and it hypes his matches up every year (will so and so be the first to end the streak?) Undertaker deserves another run at the top anyways. He's vintage, old school, and the fans still love him.

Now, the other championship match, I was not really thrilled about. Last year I was pissed that John Cena retained his title. Maybe my emotion was tripled because I was actually there, but I was legitimately upset that he retained. This year, I'm still no more of a fan of his, and I still don't understand their need to ram him down the fans' throats and make him "the man."

John Cena's been champion for the majority of the last two years. It truly bothers me that he's been on top for so long, and for what? They want him to be believable and have people like him more, but they don't see that having him constantly win and constantly defeat the odds make him seem like a wannabe modern-day Hogan. Even The Rock at his prime, when he was the man, he never held the title as long as Cena. They understood it well that he was better suited as the pursuer, and I don't see why they don't understand that making John lose every now and then and be the pursuer would allow the fans to relate to him more. It would make him more real, and give his character more depth.

I don't want this to seem like an anti-Cena post, even though I guess it is, so let me say this. I am a fan of his. When he first debuted, I loved him and thought he'd go far. In fact, I was thrilled to see him there because I saw that TLC show where they showed him training. I just think they're letting him get stale when there's no reason for it. He's a brilliant heel in my opinion and he legitimately got the fans on his side, but then, they just lost it and stopped letting him grow. He's got the talent, and he definitely has the charisma, but losing the title and letting him be the more sympathetic pursuer while simultaneously letting Shawn get a run at the top again and allowing him to be the bastard heel he can be, that sounds like money in the bank to me. But what do I know...

Oh, and Vince with his head shaved bald = priceless.

Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

Adding to some earlier points:

Josh: No doubt the billionaire match was meant to rope in non-wrestling fans, much like Mike Tyson, LT, etc from years past. Not sure about others' comments, but I was remarking about how this attempt could not have been as effective as planned. The angle just seemed forced and not captivating. They were just hoping for Access Hollywood to run just a small bit about it, but instead they had to rely on their own footage interviewing celebs for the promo just before the WM match. A good handful of my fence sitting friends who did know about the feud weren't drawn in. Vince and Trump got themselves booked on Today weeks ago. Each of K-Fed's bits got on TMZ.com and Countdown with Keith Olbermann by their buzz alone.

Mike: My friends and I have made it a part of our fandom to hate Cena, but I graciously admit that when he had appeared on his commercials and MAD TV, he's been very impressive. His web show "5 questions w/ Cena" really did allow his true colors (a friendly, jocular, swearing, sexual deviant) to shine and that almost turned me. The sad part was - as you mentioned - his character remained stoically the same. Bringing that character out more often would likely help, but they've had plenty of chances to do so and they haven't.

Deirdre said...

I haven't actually seen this 'Mania yet, but I will soon. Damn dorm tv and the lack of pay per view!

First: Jeff Hardy leg dropping Edge through the ladder from the top of the ladder in the ring to the outside. *CRUNCH* *collective winch*
Just when I thought I had seen just about everything Jeff had to offer, he goes and nearly kills himself. Again. I should know by now never to underestimate him. And Mr. Kennedy winning the Money in the Bank? Pffft.

Undertaker vs Batista: This is the match I want to watch. Ever since i saw Taker come back to the Dark Side at 'Mania a few years ago, I've been a rabid fan. Dark Side Taker is just so classic, so menacing, so _good_ at what he does. I'm glad his streak is alive, and I can't wait to see how he does with this run as champion.

Cena vs. HBK: I'm getting tired of Cena too, but I'd be willing to wait it out if HHH came back and took the title. Coming back from that injury (again) will make him a great face, as long as they set up Cena as the heel. Audiences seem to be turning that way on the average anyway.

Hair vs. Hair: Vince looks _weird_ bald. Weird! But I will watch it eventually just to see Steve Austin stomp around the ring a bit.

Unfortunately I have no high hopes for the women's title match. Le sigh.