Torch Flashbacks WWE WRESTLEMANIA COUNTDOWN - 2006 PPV Report (WM 22): Triple H-Cena, McMahon-HBK, Edge-Foley, Rey's first World Title
Mar 25, 2010 - 12:00:35 PM
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Leading up to WrestleMania 26 on March 28 in Arizona, we will be publishing a daily WrestleMania PPV flashback report going back to 1992 at WrestleMania 8. We'll be publishing one PPV flashback report around 12:00 p.m. CST every afternoon until this year's WrestleMania.
WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 22 (2006)
April 2, 2006
Chicago, Ill. at Rosemont Horizon
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
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KELLER'S MATCH RESULTS & ANALYSIS
-Michelle Williams sang America the Beautiful.
-A WrestleMania video aired.
-Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the show, then threw to Michael Cole and Tazz.
1 -- KANE & BIG SHOW vs. CARLITO & CHRIS MASTERS - WWE Tag Team Title match
Pretty much a squash. Late in the match, Masters tried to break up a chokeslam attempt, but hit Carlito by mistake. The heels bickered afterward.
WINNERS: Big Show & Kane to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles in 6:00.
STAR RATING: *
-Coach interviewed Shawn Michaels backstage. Coach asked if after all that's happened, he regrets what he said to Vince McMahon. Michaels said he never regrets telling the truth. He said tonight you won't get the typical five-star Michaels match. He said you're going to get a new HBK and he's going to put Vince through his own personal hell.
2 -- RIC FLAIR vs. MATT HARDY vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN vs. ROB VAN DAM vs. FIT FINLAY vs. BOBBY LASHLEY -- Money in the Bank match
Ross and Tazz called this interpromotional match. Best fan sign: "Flair needs an escalator." Shelton leaped over the top rope onto three wrestlers at ringside for an early highspot. Hardy suplexed Flair off the ladder. Flair's legs landed awkwardly on the bottom rope. Flair was helped out of the ringside area by two officials, grabbing at his knee and screaming in pain. Looked like worked selling. Shelton moved out of the path of an RVD Rolling Thunder. Shelton went for a sunset flip off the ladder and with the help of Hardy and Finlay, took Lashley to the mat. At 6:00, Flair limped back to the ring to a round of applause. Flair threw a barrage of chops at Shelton and Hardy, then climbed the ladder. He reached for the briefcase, but Finlay knocked him to the mat with his stick thing. Lashley knocked Shelton and Finlay off a ladder by bashing them with another ladder. Lashley then gave Shelton his finisher. Lashley then climbed the ladder, but RVD did a springboard dropkick with a chair into Lashley's back. An "RVD" chant broke out. Deservedly so. Cool spot. RVD hit a Five-Star Frogsplash off the ladder onto Finlay at 11:00. An "ECW" chant broke out. RVD reached for the briefcase. Shelton springboarded onto the ladder from the top rope in a cool spot. They fought on top of the ladder. Harrdy set up another ladder and climbed it. Shelton shifted over to punch him. RVD tipped them over and they both bumped to the floor. RVD then climbed to the very top of the ladder and got the briefcase. On the replay, Hardy's late bump looked pretty harsh.
WINNER: RVD in 12:00.
STAR RATING: ***1/4 -- Good highspot match. Not epic, but a good second match on the card. The right person won. Ric Flair would have been another good choice. This sets up RVD cashing in the title shot at the ECW PPV top give that event a needed marquee main event.
-Josh Matthews interviewed Gene Okerlund about the Hall of Fame. Okerlund said he built up a heck of a bar tab last night. Orton interrupted and gave Okerlund a hard time for being a Hall of Famer for holding a mic for 35 years. Okerlund said "Good grief!" and left. Orton then said he planned to become World Champion tonight. Batista tapped Orton on the shoulder. He reminded Orton that it doesn't matter who wins because the winner is just holding the title until he comes back. He said he's feeling pretty good and will be back pretty soon. He said by WM23 he will be champion again. Not the most ambitious of timelines.
-Howard Finkle introduced the Hall of Famers inducted last night: Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri (w/Ted DiBiase), Tony Atlas, Verne Gagne, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, and the Blackjacks. Vicki Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero walked out on behalf of Eddie Guerrero. Finkle acknowledged at the start that Bret Hart chose not to be there. (Bret, by the way, gave a really classy speech last night at the Hall of Fame ceremony. He said what needed to be said about Survivor Series '97 without dwelling on it, and really did a good job of showing he has moved on in life with his emotional acknowledgment of his new wife in Italy.)
3 -- JBL vs. CHRIS BENOIT - U.S. Hvt. Title match
A fan held up a sign that said "JBL is God!... Awful!" Benoit hit a series of suplexes early on JBL. JBL taunted Benoit with an attempted Three Amigos. Benoit fought out of it after two. The match slowed down as both men struggled to get up. At 8:00 Benoit then sent into Three Amigos as Cole said, "This is how it's done!" JBL grabbed the ref to block another Benoit suplex. JBL went for the Clothesline from Hell, but Benoit ducked and slipped JBL right into a Crippler Crossface at 9:00. The crowd popped and JBL rolled on top of Benoit and grabbed the bottom rope for the three count.
WINNER: JBL in 9:00 to win the U.S. Title
STAR RATING: ** -- Okay, but not a particularly ambitious match.
-Ross introduced Joey Styles, calling him the voice of ECW and an expert at calling Hardcore Matches. He said, "He deserves to be here." Styles said he was about to lose his WrestleMania virginity.
4 -- EDGE (w/Lita) vs. MICK FOLEY
The crowd chanted "Foley, Foley" early in the match. He hung Edge upside down in the corner and ran at him. Edge came back early and hit him with a street sign. He slidekicked the sign into Foley's face. Edge speared Foley, but ended up hurt and his arm had a gash. Foley took off his first flannel shirt and revealed a Cactus Jack t-shirt and red flannet. He also revealed that he was wrapped in barbed wire. He unwound it to use as a weapon. He tied Edge in the ropes, then he pulled out the barbed wire wrapped baseball bat. Lita jumped on Foley from behind. Foley clotheslined Edge and Lita over the top rope at the same time. As Foley charged Edge at ringside, Edge armdragged Foley into the stairs. He followed by whipping Foley into the stairs. Foley went knees-first into them and flipped over to the floor. When Foley returned to the ring, Edge slidekicked him to the floor. Edge took a table out from under the ring. Edge squirted Foley with lighter fluid. Foley punched Edge. Lawler asked if Edge planned to set Foley on fire. Styles said, "You think?" Foley piledrove Edge for a two count. Lita distracted Foley as he was about to hit Edge with a chair. Edge then DDT'd a distracted Foley for a two count at 9:00. Edge hit Foley with a barbed wire baseball bat. Foley may have had a couple layers of clothing to absorb some of the sharp edges, but Edge then went to the face and scraped Foley, who began bleeding. Edge scored a two count. Edge pulled out a bag of thumb tacks and poured them into the corner of the ring. Foley reversed Edge with a back suplex onto the tacks. Edge sat up with tacks sticking out of his back. A bloody Foley pulled out Mr. Socko, wrapped him with fire, and then gave Lita a Mandible Claw. She landed on the floor and bled from her mouth. Foley then bashed Edge with the barbed wire baseball bat at 13:00. Foley sat and smiled with his face covered in blood, a vintage Cactus Jack pose. Foley squirted lighter fluid on a table. Lita hit him in the knees with a barbed wire baseball bat. She squirted more fluid on the table, then set it on fire. Edge speared Foley through the ropes and off the apron through the table on fire. That called for a vintage "Oh my God!" from Styles. Edge rolled off of the fire right away, then draped his arm over Foley for a three count. Foley and Edge were both slow to get up. Edge left first. Then Foley accepted an ovation from the crowd.
WINNER: Edge in 15:00.
STAR RATING: ***3/4 -- Good hardcore style match. WWE doesn't do that much hardcore anymore, so it means something. The match built well and didn't waste any stunts without a semblance of selling.
-Sharmell and Booker stressed out about their upcoming Boogeyman match. Paul Birchill shouted something to startle them. Eugene was dribbling a basketball. When he got to 98, DiBiase kicked. DiBiase pulled away the money he was tempting Eugene with, and Eugene cried. Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young were sitting off to the side. The camera revealed Gene Snitsky sucking one of Mae's feet, playing off of his real-life foot fetish. Goldust then told Booker they are all freaks. He advised Booker to take the worms and put them in his... then he whispered something to Booker. He said that's the only way he can beat him. Booker said, "Tell me you didn't just say that!" He called him a freak. Mae was hanging on Goldust.
-A commercial aired for Backlash.
-Todd Grisham interviewed two women in the crowd who won tickets through a Snickers contest. They also got all the Snickers they could eat. One had eaten five, another six. Good to know.
-They showed Joe Theisman in the front row.
5 -- BOOKER T (w/Sharmell) vs. BOOGEYMAN
Sharmell distracted Boogeyman giving Booker a chance to hit him from behind. She tagged out to Booker immediately and he pounded away at Boogeyman. An early "boring" chant broke out, deservedly so. Boogeyman is good with the ring intro and the post-match stuff, but between the bells, he's about as inept as it gets. Boogey fought back with a double crossarrm strike to the throatt, then threw a sloppy basic kick. He ducked a Booker scissors kick then forearmed Booker. Boogey stuffed his mouth with worms. Sharmell was going to strike Boogey from behind with a staff. He turned around in time and shoved worms from his mouth into her mouth. She screamed and ran away. Boogey then hit Booker with a chokeslam/powerslam move.
WINNER: Boogeyman in 5:00.
STAR RATING: neg. * -- Really sloppy, and not enough gross sideshow stuff to make up for it.
-A recap aired of the Trish Stratus-Mickey James storyline.
6 - TRISH STRATUS vs. MICKEY JAMES -- Women's Title match
Mickey and Trish exchanged some early stiff chops. Mickey then applied a half boston crab. The crowd was popping for Mickey and booing Trish's offense. Ross acknowledged the fans surprising reaction, saying they are being defiant. Mickey knocked Trish off the top rope with a cool move, let out a psycho screech, and then scored a two count. The crowd wanted a three count. Trish reversed Mickey into a pinning move for a two count. Mickey went for a head scissors and smiled at her positioning on Trish's face. Trish turned it into a powerbomb. Trish went for the Matrix duck, but slipped on the mat. Mickey went for a crotch claw on Trish. That got a pop. Mickey smiled. A move into the ropes was messed up. The crowd chanted "You F---ed Up!" Mickey then used the Chick Kick to finish off Trish.
WINNER: James in 9:00 to capture the Women's Title.
STAR RATING: ** -- Solid match. The messed up move at the end hurt a little, but good effort and intensity. Mickey stole the show with her facial expressions.
-The McMahons were backstage. Vince was flexing. He said it was time for the first ever family prayer. He said God doesn't like him and he doesn't like God, but he's managed to be successful without his approval. He said God didn't intend him to have a Herculean body at age 60. Shane and Linda looked up and made funny faces. Steph had a hard time not cracking up at her dad's comical prayer. He ended with an "Amen" and "Hallejullah."
7 -- UNDERTAKER vs. MARK HENRY -- Casket Match
Taker showed early energy in going after Henry. As per the classic formula, the heel then took over for sustained offense for several minutes with a few comeback teases by the babyface along the way. Henry made the first attempt to roll Taker into the casket. How cool would that have been if Henry rolled Taker into the casket at 3:30 and closed the lid. Streak over. Against Mark Henry. Henry dove at Taker, but Taker moved to the side. Henry slid through the ropes feet-first and into the casket. He dragged Taker into it. They both fell into the depths of deep casket and disappeared. They fought out of it and back into the ring. Taker slammed Henry to the mat hard out of the corner when henry was standing on the second rope punching him. Taker then thbrew Henry through the ropes onto the lid of the casket. Taker did a big running dive over the top rope and over the casket onto Henry at ringside. Cool spot. Taker then gave Henry a Tombstone and rolled him into the casket for the win. Cole declared the Taker undefeated streak is still alive. Tazz said it was a physical match, which is code for it being a bad match. It wasn't bad, though, at least not compared to expectations.
WINNER: Taker in 9:00.
STAR RATING: *1/2 -- Not a classic by any means, but thanks to Taker's genuine effort, it was watchable at the least and decent at most.
-A video recap aired of the Vince McMahon-Shawn Michaels feud.
8 -- VINCE MCMAHON vs. SHAWN MICHAELS
After some early chops, Michaels threw Vince onto the announcers table. Vince rolled right into Ross's lap. Ross yelled at Michaels to get 'im. Lawler had to call the action as Ross tried to get his headset back on. There was a blown up Muscle & Fitness mag cover with Vince. Michaels used it as a weapon against Vince, crashing it over his head. It didn't look like it hurt, but the visual was fun. Ross said this might be his last broadcast, and he's going out with a blaze of glory. Spirit Squad ran out and attacked Michaels. One of them looked suspiciously like Bret Hart. Oh, it's Mikey. Kenny went for a top rope legdrop, but Michaels moved. Michaels cleared the ring of, as called them, "the idiots" with their megaphone. Michaels threw a Squader onto the other Squaders at ringside. Vince took the opportunity to recover and go after Michaels. Vince choked Michaels in the corner. Vince threw Michaels to the mat. Ross said McMahon overcame the U.S. Government and media giant Time Warner and Ted Turner. Vince choked Michaels with a belt. McMahon set up Sweet Chin Music. Michaels recovered in time and chopped Vince in the chest a few times. He nipped up, then went to the top rope and hit the flying elbow to Vince's chest. Ross said he landed on Vince's black heart. "If he has a heart, I sweat it's black." Michaels stomped the mat to signal Sweet Chin Music. Shane McMahon bashed Michaels with a kendo stick. Shane did his stupid dance that Spirit Squad inadvertently make fun of. Then Rosss said: "What in the hell is Vince McMahon doing? He's taking his pants off," said Ros. Vince dropped his pants, but as Vince bent over, Michaels shoved Shane's face into Vince's ass. Michaels gave Vince a low blow. Michaels handcuffed Shane to the middle rope. Shane pulled out a key, but Michaels yanked it away and threw it into the crowd. Michaels mocked Shane's stupid dance, then whipped him six times with the cane. At 10:00 Michaels gave Vince a stiff chairshot.. Ross said, "Harry Carray heard that in Heaven." Michaels stomped the mat and set up Sweet Chin Music. Vince dropped to his knees. Michaels stopped in his tracks and retrieved a ladder from under the ring. Ross said Michaels's comments earlier disturbed him because he didn't sound like himself. Michaels rammed Vince in the face with the ladder. Blood poured out of Vince's head. Ross said, "Welcome to Home Depot." At 12:00 Michaels set up the Sweet Chin Music. Vince fell to his knees again. Michaels threw two trash cans into the ring and then a table. Michaels bashed Vince over the head with a trash can. Michaels set Vince on the table, then climbed a ladder. He set up a dive, but then stopped and thought twice. Ross said maybe Michaels is having second thoughts. The crowd booed. Michaels went under the ring and grabbed a huge mega-ladder. When Shane saw it, he had a great facial expression. Michaels then set it up. Ross said it was the biggest ladder he's ever seen. Michaels put Vince's head in a trash can. The ref pretended to protest, but in actuality was stabilizing the ladder. Michaels did the DX sign and then hit a top rope elbow onto the trash can lid. The ref tried to get Vince out, but he couldn't. Vince was stuck in there. The ref called for help from the back. The can finally came off. Michaels tossed the ladder out of the ring. Ross said Michaels had snapped and reverted back to a place he thought he would never be. Michaels then did another DX signal and then blew snot on Shane at ringside. Ross said he never thought he'd see the old Shawn Michaels. Michaels grabbed Vince and told him he was going to knock his teeth down his throat. Michaels superkicked Vince in the chin and scored the pin. As Vince was being carted out, he held up his middle finger. "The devil on earth breaths!" exclaimed Ross.
WINNER: Michaels in 18:00.
STAR RATING: ***1/2 -- They put on a good show. They protected Vince from doing anything too dangerous without it being obvious. Shane was a valuable addition at ringside, playing his part well. The Shane-Vince ass-kissing was a nice touch.
-Rey Mysterio's theme song was played live by POD. A band that actually didn't get booed by a wrestling crowd. A first.
-They announced that WrestleMania 23 would be Apr. 1 in Detroit, Mich. at Ford Field.
9 -- KURT ANGLE vs. RANDY ORTON vs. REY MYSTERIO -- World Hvt. Title match
Rey came to the ring with a huge head piece. Orton stopped an early Mysterio flurry with a dropkick. Angle entered the ring and set up a back suplex. Orton grabbed Rey in the mean time. Angle gave both a german suplex. Rey took a huge bump. Rey threw Ahngle head-first into Orton's crotch. Rey caught a charging Angle with a kick to the head. The crowd booed some of Rey's offense. Rey hit a roundhouse kick to Angle's head. Rey came back a head scissors with a few extra spins. Rey then went for the 619. Angle blocked it and applied the Anklelock. The pro-Angle crowd cheered. Orton stood on the apron with a chair. The ref turned to stop him from bringing it in and didn't notice Rey tapping. Angle knocked Orton to the floor. Angle put Orton in an anklelock. Rey distracted the ref as Orton tapped. Angle went for an Angle Slam, but Orton escaped and nailed the RKO out of nowhere for a near fall. The crowd popped for that sequence. Orton limped around the ring, selling the anklelock. The crowd chanted "Let's Go Angle." Angle ran up the ropes and gave Orton a quick overhead slam. Orton rolled out of the ring. Rey went for a 619, but slipped. He recovered and hit another. In the ring he went for a bridge pin on Angle. They went into a series of near falls. At 8:00 Rey countered an Ankle suplex and then gave Orton a 619. He then hit a springboard huracanrana for the three count. Rey clutched the belt, then held it up in the corner. Chavo and Vickie met Rey on the stage and congratulated. Rey teared up on the stage as held the belt and kissed it.
WINNER: Rey in 9:00 to capture the World Hvt. Title.
STAR RATING: ***1/4 -- A good rapid-fire three-way match, but disappointingly short. It's also too bad that Mysterio won the title without beating the actual champ and without the crowd 100 percent on his side.
-Ross said whether you love Cena or hate him, he is defiant just like his fans. He said he was one of the first in his community to listen to hip hop. He said his goal was to become WWE Champion, and he accomplished it. As Ross talked, they showed Cena preparing backstage. Then they shifted to Triple H getting a massage backstage as he meditated. Ross said he believes that more fans in the arena are fans of tradition because he has more pure wrestling skills. Lawler said Hunter doesn't care if the fans cheer him. Ross agreed.
10 -- CANDICE MICHELLE vs. TORRIE WILSON - Playboy Pillow Fight
Torrie overturned the bed onto Candice in the opening minute. Torrie rubbed her dog's butt in Candice's face. Lawler said it's the new stinkface. "We could have an implosion. A good thing there's a convention of plastic surgeons in town," said Ross. The crowd was quiet. A minute later they broke out into a "boring" chant. Candice yanked Torrie's nightgown off. Out of nowhere, Torrie rolled up Candice and scored a pin.
WINNER: Torrie in 4:00.
STAR RATING: n/a -- It went five minutes too long. It felt a lot longer than four minutes. That should be edited out of the DVD.
-They went to clips of the WM22 press conference. Hunter said this would be the easiest match of his life. Cena said a true champion isn't judged by how they're admired, but how they battle adversity. He said he is an underdog going into the match, despite being champion. He told Hunter that Sunday would not be a walk-through.
11 -- JOHN CENA vs. TRIPLE H - WWE Hvt. Title match
Hunter was introduced on the stage in a Dungeon of Doom/Abdullah the Butcher electric chair flashback throne. It was an old style throne, but he had a plastic bottle of water in one of his hands. After a voiceover said, "They call him the King of Kings," Hunter's regular theme music played. He walked to the ring in a silly gladiator type outfit. Cena's ring entrance was among the most elaborate with a whole throwback to the gangster days of the cities. They had old style mobster looking guys walk to ringside with Thompson machine guns. The match began at 10:33 p.m. They locked up early. The crowd cheered Triple H. Slow opening minute or two, as they circled each other. The anti-Cena chants began, one of which could not be repeated by Ross. Ross said it was New School vs. Old School. Hunter said he has an amazing opportunity to regain the title. There were some cheers for Cena, too. Cena went on an offensive flurry and scored a two count. Mixed reaction from the crowd. Cena went into a sleeper. He whipped Hunter into the corner at 5:00. Hunter bumped over the top rope to the floor. They brawled up the rampway. Cena backdropped Hunter onto the ramp. Back in the ring, Cena went for a quick cover and got just a one count. There was a battle of "Let's Go Cena" and "F--- you Cena" chants. Hunter whipped Cena into the steps at ringside. Back in the ring, Hunter scored a two count. A few boos rang out when Cena kicked out. Lawler acknowledged the crowd being 50/50. Hunter hit a facebuster and running lariat for a two count at 9:00. Hunter followed up with a neckbreaker for a two count. Ross is doing a great job calling this match. The fact that he didn't want to leave his post as host of Raw, and that he's this good compared to all others in his field, makes it even more ridiculous that he isn't doing this every week for years to come on the WWE A-show. There was a "Let's Go Cena/Cena sucks" battle of chants going as Hunter had Cena in a sleeper. The crowd was totally into anything Cena did, either pro or con, but not Hunter. Hunter was almost an afterthought early in the match. Cena showed signs of a comeback at 14:00 with a clothesline and some punches. Hunter fired back for a kneelift. Cena fired back with a powerslam. Cena did the You Can't See Me bit. Hunter recovered during that time and countered Cena's fistdrop with a spinebuster for a two count. Hunter sidestepped Cena and applied a sleeper. Cena escaped quickly and hit Hunter with a fistdrop. he signalled to the crowd and got a mixed reaction. Cena then went to the STFU. Hunter reached the bottom rope after a few seconds. At 17:00 the ref got crushed in the corner. Hunter gave Cena a low blow with a forearm. The ref got the low blow at the same time. Hunter bent over and gave Cena the You Can't See Me signal. The anti-Cena fans popped. Hunter then did a DX chop. Hunter went to ringside and pulled out the sledgehammer. Cena kicked Hunter in the gut before he could use the sledgehammer. he charged at Hunter, but Hunter KO'd him with the hammer. Hunter draped his arm over Cena's chest. The groggy ref crawled into the ring and counted nearly to three. Hunter made another cover, but Cena lifted his shoulder again. Hunter set up a Pedigree. Cena blocked it and backdropped it. Cena then gave Hunter an FU with a smile on his face. hunter kicked out at the last split second. The crowd popped. Hunter set up another Pedigree. Cena escaped and crawled through his legs and applied another STFU. Hunter's arm dropped twice, but not three time. Hunter began to show signs of life. Then he tapped out.
WINNER: Cena in 21:00 to retain the WWE Hvt. Title.
STAR RATING: **** -- Very good, main event worthy match. The finish, which shocked the crowd, helped end the match on a surprising note.
-They then played the traditional post-WrestleMania video created on the fly.
TORCH STAFF ROUNDTABLE REVIEWS
Pat McNeill, columnist (7.0)
Okay, fess up. Who else was waiting for the replica of Stonehenge to drop from the ceiling during Triple H’s ridiculous ring entrance? And speaking of ridiculous entrance, THAT’s how C.M. Punk gets to appear on his first WrestleMania? This promotion is run by lunatics.
WWE still does a fantastic job of making WrestleMania look like a signature wrestling event, even when there’s not enough steak to back up the sizzle. When you take into account all the big names on the previous night’s Hall of Fame show, and factor in the tease of Hogan vs. Austin at WrestleMania 23, this show almost seemed anticlimactic.
This wasn’t one of the all time great WrestleManias. It can’t be when you have Mark Henry in a featured bout, although Undertaker deserves credit for not phoning it in when he had every excuse to do so. It can’t be a great WrestleMania when Torrie and Candice are attempting wrestling moves on each other, or when it’s so damn important to have The Boogeyman do his act that you have him wrestle hurt. Oh, and the tag title match was also very not good.
There was still enough fun to make the show a positive experience. Rob Van Dam may have won Money in the Bank, but Shelton Benjamin stole the show with two amazing athletic moves, one of which didn’t even get picked up on the main cameras. Ric Flair deserves his own profile in courage for sucking it up and hobbling back out with a bad wheel to get in his last couple of a spots in a garbage match.
Chris Benoit and JBL had a good average match. In fact, the theme of the night, other than the Chicago crowd ripping into the main babyfaces, was WWE treating Smackdown as secondhand news. Tell me with a straight face that Smackdown wouldn’t have put on a better title match than Raw if the time given to the main events had been switched around. The Triple Threat match was a nice little match, but isn’t even a third of what the wrestlers involved are capable of.
The Chicago fans were also suffering from Stratus fatigue, as Trish’s fifteen month reign as Women’s Champion came to a close against Mickie James. Outside of the blown finish, this was a good ladies’ match. Mick Foley and Edge tore it up with an excellent example of a WWE-style hardcore match, one which we’re not going to see again for a while. The match was laid out well, with Foley getting to look like a clever face for actually having a plan to defeat Edge. Edge not only took everything Foley dished out, but his facial expressions and selling were top-notch. He did a great "guy going into shock" routine after the finish.
Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels turned in a spectacle that wasn’t a great match, but better than it had any right to be. Forget what I wrote on the website in the preview. It was better to have Shawn Michaels fight off every run-in that Mr. McMahon could throw at the Heartbreak Kid, so that Shawn could have his big WrestleMania win. This is the only show of the year where Vince drops the tough guy act and stooges and shows ass. It still doesn’t make sense to have the commentary teasing a Michaels heel turn while the crowd is loving every shot against the WWE owner.
Cena and Hunter’s grand finale was confusing. The match was laid out well, but WWE should have pulled the trigger on Cena’s heel turn or let Hunter win. This and the Michaels match really underline the point that the fans have gotten away from the McMahons and their booking. Still, the whole four hours is worthy of a pay-per-view order, or maybe even a DVD preorder.
Jason Powell, columnist (7.0)
There were times when the show lived up to the WrestleMania feel, yet there were also some major lulls during the broadcast. The two World Title matches were frustrating. The three-way was short-changed in terms of time and it didn’t help that this was the first time I can remember a vocal portion of the crowd rooting against Rey Mysterio. WWE put too much focus on Mysterio’s friendship with Eddie Guerrero. I don’t think the crowd was rejecting Rey as a direct result, but I do believe they could have avoided that reaction by focusing on Mysterio’s story as an undersized underdog during the weeks that led up to WrestleMania. It felt like WWE was throwing Rey a bone due to the death of his friend. Given the way he tapped out on Smackdown and again just three minutes into this match, it looked like WWE crowned a new transitional champion rather than a long-term champion, which is a shame because there was money in Mysterio’s story.
The Triple H vs. John Cena match started with two of the corniest introductions in WrestleMania history. Triple H looked like a complete idiot in his little Conan the Barbarian costume. Cena’s machine gun entrance was only slightly less corny. The match itself was better than I anticipated, yet it wasn’t a classic WrestleMania main event. One can only hope that the WWE braintrust don’t make the mistake of using the crowd reaction as an excuse to turn Hunter babyface. Cena could have wrestled Mark Henry and the people who cheered Hunter would have rallied behind the World’s Strongest Man. If Hunter turns babyface, the crowd will turn on him quickly.
Notes: Mick Foley and Edge delivered one of the more memorable performances of the evening. Foley got his WrestleMania moment, but he can’t claim that he helped make Edge like he did Randy Orton. The simple truth is that Edge was already a major player before this match... The Women’s Title match was one of the highlights of the evening. The crowd cheering Mickie James wasn’t due to their disliking Trish Stratus, it was the result of Mickie playing her character so well. Trish would have been cheered had she wrestled any other female wrestler in the company... The opening match was nothing special. Why not bring in Pete Rose to liven things up?... The Money in the Bank match was a fun spotfest that did a better job of bringing the crowd to life than the opening match did... JBL vs. Benoit was nothing special. JBL was out of shape due to his hand injury and he appeared to run out of gas early on... Booker T vs. Boogeyman was lame. The crowd’s lack of reaction to Boogeyman is a sign that people are already bored by the worm-eating gimmick... I’ve already forgotten about the predictable Undertaker vs. Mark Henry match... Shawn Michaels made the most of his match against the boss. It also looked like he was putting a little extra zip into those chops. I didn’t read too much into it, though, because I’m sure Vince’s ego spoke up and asked him to bring it... Jim Ross was spectacular and helped this show earn an extra full point. He needs to be reinstated on Raw immediately... The pillow fight match was ridiculous and had no place on this card. There has to be a better way of presenting T&A than this. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m totally numb to watching WWE Divas roll around in their underwear... Replay Factor: It’s WrestleMania! If nothing else, order this show for the historical value.
James Caldwell, columnist (7.0)
The STFU wasn’t pretty either of the two times Cena applied it. However, he made the move work when he tightened his grip on Hunter after Hunter appeared to make a comeback. Cena retaining the belt was a major surprise. Major. It also showed WWE is committed to John Cena as a babyface through thick and thin. WrestleMania will end with the babyface holding the belt nine times out of ten. Conversely, WWE decided against the possible Hunter babyface turn, which meant Hunter wasn’t going to close the show as champion. It doesn’t appear that Cena is turning heel anytime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hunter and HBK get the band back together, though. Those DX chops were out of nowhere, but I don’t believe they were by accident. The night after WrestleMania 14, Hunter re-formed DX with Sean Waltman.
In terms of how the main event played out in the ring, the match exceeded expectations. Of course, both men dramatically lowered any expectations with two of the worst ring entrances in the history of wrestling. Hunter looked ridiculous. The glorification of gangsters fit the Cena counter-culture gimmick, but it was uncalled for even if C.M. Punk received face time. Then, the match happened. The crowd was hot, as they are for nearly every Cena match. Both men put in a great performance. It was certainly better than Cena-JBL and Batista-Hunter last year. The drama unfolded in a well-done main event match.
Rey Mysterio’s title run started on an off-key note. The crowd booed. He slipped on the 619. The match went barely nine minutes. It wasn’t an epic wrestling match by any measure. Nine minutes was a slap in the face to the Smackdown brand. However, that has become the norm when both Raw and Smackdown are on the same show. After all, Smackdown only had four intra-brand matches on the card and only received approximately 32 minutes compared to Raw’s 73 minutes. (Excluding the Money in the Bank match.)
Shawn Michaels stole the show, as he seems to do when facing a very limited opponent in the ring. Vince McMahon and Hogan now have something in common in that they were both carried to great PPV stunt bump matches by Michaels. Whether this means the end of the McMahon 24/7 series on Raw remains to be seen. However, Michaels delivered a fitting conclusion to this era of the McMahon family on TV. The elbowdrop from the giant ladder overshadowed the Money in the Bank match, but it was a great highlight-reel moment to conclude the feud.
Mickie James and Trish Stratus put in a good performance. The fans turning on Trish was not expected. However, it made sense. Jaded wrestling fans enjoy ruthless, aggressive wrestlers with well-developed characters more than wholesome babyfaces. The finish was off, but the rest of the match was well put together.
Mick Foley vs. Edge wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. It was good, but not great... JBL as U.S. Champion is the right call. Chris Benoit does better chasing titles than holding titles. WWE has a tendency to forget about Benoit when he’s wearing gold. I’m highly anticipating JBL’s celebration promo on Smackdown when he plays off the ironies of being U.S. Champ... Somehow, someway, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler made the Playboy match entertaining. J.R. was great all night... Boogeyman was an embarrassment... Eugene being lumped together with the freaks and geeks was another one of those "only from the carnies" moments in wrestling...
Bruce Mitchell, columnist (7.0)
It may not have had the dream match ups or the strong build up, but this year’s Wrestlemania definitely had that atmosphere that makes this still pro wrestling’s only Once A Year Can’t Miss show. Everyone involved, from the wrestlers to the production crew to the announcers to the Chicago fans, put in the extra effort to make the bad stuff good, and the good stuff better. There was a real energy to this night that carried through the entire four hours.
I thought Shawn Michaels’s absolute shellacking of Mr. McMahon was a whole lot of fun and the best match/spectacle of the night. It made me wonder what the creative minds in the company could do if they had the time, inclination, and understanding of all their talent to work out all matches to this depth. McMahon knew exactly what he could and couldn’t do in the ring, as did Shane, and between the two of them and the Spirit Squad they made sure Michaels had plenty of stuff to kick and punch and bash. . Jim Ross was tremendous and took complete opportunity of his once in a lifetime chance to rip his idiot boss and still remain the consummate professional. Vince McMahon will only allow his character to get its just desserts every three years or so, but when he does, he goes all out. It was hilarious to read fans after the show complaining about McMahon, bloodied, Xed out by the ref, and taken out on a stretcher, giving the finger, like he really didn’t put Michaels over after all. That’s what comes from building emotion step by step until fans are begging to see the heel get his ass handed to him. In a year where we saw more of the undisciplined angry Vince McMahon than ever before, this was a reminder of the best he’s capable of as an entertainer.
The second best match of the show was also a well-thought-out spectacle as Edge and Mick Foley worked the best Hardcore match in years. Foley was intense and took some sickening thud type bumps, but he milked them all for everything they were worth. Edge proved on the big stage that he’s simply better at every aspect of performing than Triple H, from the athleticism to the execution to the timing to the charisma to the acting. The flame of fire looked spectacularly dangerous but wasn’t. That’s the art of wrestling. I thought Joey Styles was great; instead of getting his feelings hurt, he decided to go down swinging and called the match with a real passion.
The nominal main event, Triple H vs. John Cena - and that’s what it was, not the other way around - was better than expected, due to the extra ‘Mania effort. The By God, If No One In Hollywood Will Let Me Star In King Conan I’ll Do It Myself King Of Kings didn’t plod as much as usual and John Cena handled an impossible situation about as well as humanly possible. I don’t know about that finish. Triple H tapping out at WrestleMania to a guy more than half the audience doesn’t think deserves the favor may just set the boys off even further. Cena’s character is not a dominating super hero type, so he should lose from time to time anyway. The girls will love him more for it and the guys won’t be quite so pissed off. WWE ought to get the belt off Cena and get him in a well thought, personal feud with Fit Finlay, where he could spend months getting schooled in the ring in front of their biggest crowds.
The three-way Smackdown "We’re second and we know it" title match had some decent performances. Randy Orton has gotten better since he got out from under the Dead Man, but a heel who constantly outsmarts the top babyfaces is counter-productive. So is the Even Steven booking stuff where everyone gets beaten and everyone beats at the same rate. Rey Mysterio winning the World Title at Wrestlemania is still mind boggling in the long view. The reason why is still sad.
Who cares whether fans cheered Mickie James or whether the finish to her and Trish Stratus’s match was botched? She was the breakout new star of the biggest show of the year and really entertaining. Trish was good, too, thanks again to the time they invested in telling the Stalker story. Usually the women get to either wrestle without much real emotional storytelling or fake like they might take their clothes off. Instead we got Stratus digging in and trying to beat up this nutball.
The Ladder Money in The Bank (or is it the Money Ladder in The Bank) match was alright. Shelton Benjamin finally got away from Mama. That spot when he leaped from the top rope and landed smoothly on the ladder was something. Rob Van Dam getting the MIB to use at Two Night Stand was the only way to go.
It wouldn’t be WrestleMania without a bad Undertaker match. Candace Michelle and Torrie Wilson are going to give naked women a bad name. Bring back Jim Ross full-time already.
Wade Keller, editor (7.0)
I don’t know if this has ever happened before, with every score being the same among the Torch staffers. The readers also seem to be on the same page, with 85 percent in our PWTorch.com poll rating it between 6 and 9, and nearly 60 percent rating it either 7.0 or 8.0.
The high-energy of the crowd made the show seem better than it was. Take away that crowd and put in a Trump Plaza crowd, and this event would have barely been a 5.0. A great crowd can make WWE event special. This crowd did.
Their intense reactions during the Hunter-Cena match solidified Cena as a WrestleMana-worthy main eventer. It wasn’t that long ago - such as last year’s WrestleMania against JBL - where he seemed like a second tier star being forced into a top tier slot. Today, although he gets a mixed crowd reaction, he is perceived as a top level star. Where they take Cena from here will be fun to watch the rest of 2006.
Triple H was okay. Usually these days he’s a notch below okay, if only because he was once capable of such better matches and is such a disappointment lately. On this night, he seemed to relish the intense heat and main event slot, which is his - and he knows it - only because Steve Austin had to retire early due to a neck injury and Hollywood found Rock (and, to a degree, because Brock Lesnar left WWE for an NFL dream). The fans see Hunter as the defacto top star of WWE. Which is sad for Kurt Angle.
Angle was marginalized on this event, and one can only speculate as to why. Sure, he put on a great performance during his time to shine in the nine minutes alotted to his match, but overall, he wasn’t treated as the second biggest star of the night. If you ranked the performers on a depth chart of their push and star treatment on this show, Angle would be behind Rey Mysterio, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Edge, Mick Foley, John Cena, and Triple H - and probably tied with Rob Van Dam, Randy Orton, and Shelton Benjamin.
That nine minutes, though, was really, really good.
One of the disappointments of the night for me was the Trish Stratus vs. Mickey James match. The actual match was fine. The lack of any booking twist was a letdown. Mickey’s facial expressions, though, were fantastic. You can’t help but buy into her gimmick. Only Shane McMahon came close to competing with Mickey for best facial reactions.
Shane has come a long way as a performer, and is now better than Stephanie McMahon ever was a performer. Steph was good in certain ways, but so unendearing as to be a bore. Shane is endearing whether he’s reacting to his dad or taking a beating from Shawn Michaels. That dance is still stupid, especially since Spirit Squad might as well be spoofing him. He really added to the Vince-Michaels match.
Michaels did a very good job carrying the match. What seemed like potentiall a final chapter turned out to be just a mid-point in the feud. That’s fine. Backlash has turned into WrestleMania: The Sequel, and from a business perspective, it’s difficult to blame WWE for taking that approach.
The Money in the Bank match becoming an annual tradition helps make WrestleMania special, although if the match gains enough steam, it might be split off onto another PPV to try to capitalize on its appeal to draw an improved buyrate for an off-brand event. The athletes really shined in this one.
Mick Foley vs. Edge wasn’t just a routine garbage match because they made everything count. They sold moves enough to not make fans immune to what they were seeing. When WWE treats hardcore matches as true ways to settle bitter grudges, and if they don’t do them often, they can really work well. It took a while, but the damage done with the flippant treatment of the Hardcore Title might have been repaired. Edge is a star, and WWE is going to have to consider moving him to Smackdown so he can headline one of the brands. Triple H is not going to want Edge casting a shadow on his top spot by outperforming him in every facet at this point.
The other matches were just there. Undertaker vs. Mark Henry was better than it had any right to be. JBL vs. Chris Benoit was unambitious, but presentable. The tag title match could have been a throwaway match on Raw. The Boogeyman vs. Booker & Sharmell match lacked anything special. The Playboy fight didn’t belong.
This had a big-event feel, and the four hours breezed by thanks to the hot crowd, hard work by wrestlers, big doses of athleticism, and surprises.
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