Saturday, 15 September 2007

WWE Wrestlemania 22 - PPV Review

It’s that time of the year again, as World Wrestling Entertainment pulls out all the stops for their annual Wrestlemania spectacular, this year coming from the windy city, Chicago.

After Michelle Williams opens the show by singing America The Beautiful, and the opening montage of past and current events, we’re introduced to our hosts for the evening - Michael Cole and Tazz for the Smackdown side of things, and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler for Raw.

We begin with the World tag-team title match, as the Big Show and Kane defend their titles against Carlito and Chris Masters. An entertaining way to open the show, although it really wouldn’t have seemed right if any other match had opened the show. Both teams worked really well together, although it does seem that there isn’t any time currently on the roster who have a cat in hell’s chance of dethroning the champs. After Masters accidentally clobbers Carlito with an axe handle off the top rope, Kane got the win for his team after taking Carlito down with a choke slam. As the champions celebrated and left the ring, Carlito and Masters began to argue, again.

Backstage, the Coach interviews Shawn Michaels. Michaels talks about his previous Wrestlemania classics, and says that his match with Vince McMahon is going to be ugly.

Just like last year, the Money in the Bank match is second on the card, this year with Rob Van Dam, Ric Flair and Shelton Benjamin from Raw, and Fit Finlay, Matt Hardy and Bobby Lashley from Smackdown. I must admit I had my doubts about this one, and whether they could live up to last year’s high standard. They did. Every guy in that ring pulled out all the stops, even the oldies. Indeed, things looked like they might have got a little ugly early on after Hardy suplexed Flair off a ladder, and as the Nature Boy cried out in pay, the referees gave the X sign to the back, and Flair was helped away by a couple of medics, only to return a few moments later. The action was fast, furious, and intense, with tons of great spots, and yours truly kind of marked out when Flair and Finlay went at it with each other. After just over twelve minutes of action, RVD climbed to the top of the ladder, and hopefully broke the glass ceiling by grabbing the briefcase and earning himself a title shot.

Backstage, Josh Matthews tries to interview new Hall of Fame entrant Mean Gene Okerlund, but is interrupted by Randy Orton, who begins to talk about his entry into the Hall of Fame, until he’s interrupted by Batista, promising to be back soon, very soon.

Back in the arena it’s time to meet the Hall of Fame class of 2006. Howard Finkel announces that because he felt uncomfortable about the situation, Bret Hart wouldn’t be there. We then get the most emotional moment of the night a few minutes later as Vickie Guerrero is introduced, and just as she looks she’s about to be overcome with emotion, the Blackjacks come over to her and raise her arms in the air. A classy moment here.

Then it’s time for our second title match, as Chris Benoit defends his United States title against JBL. The entrance ramp is actually raised off the ground so JBL’s limo can get into the arena. It’s your classic brawler against technician match here, with Benoit trying to work over JBL’s previously injured hand, before the big Texan comes back strongly. Towards the end, Bradshaw tried to go for the clothesline from hell, but Benoit tried to counter with the crossface. JBL rolled him up, and with a little help from the ropes, pinned Benoit to win the belt.

Next up, the hardcore encounter between Mick Foley and Edge. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcome Styles to the announce table, as Styles is calling the match with Lawler because of his past experience with ECW, so at least our Joey got to do something on the big show. This match was brutal, and it made you realise just how rough and ready hardcore matches can be. Edge tried to score with a spear early on, but Foley had wrapped barb wire around himself under his shirt, which opened up a gash on Edge’s shoulder. There’s the usual sick moments with the barb wire baseball bat, and Edge getting slammed onto the thumbtacks, before they take it up a notch with a final sick moment. After Lita sprays lighter fluid onto a table at ringside, and lighting it moments later, Edge came through the ropes and speared Foley as he stood on the ring apron. Both men went crashing into the flaming table, with Edge getting the winning pinfall moments later. And before you ask, we got the classic “Oh My God!” moment from Styles.

Backstage, Booker and Mrs. T show how nervous they are. It doesn’t help them that they seen a ton of other freaks backstage - Burchill doing his pirate thing, Eugene, Snitsky, and finally, Goldust. The freaky one then whispers something in Booker’s ear, and he looks disgusted.

Back in the arena, it’s time for the handicap match as the T’s take on the Boogeyman. Booker showed some good moves on the freak, before the freak got the pin in a match lasting less than five minutes. The Boogeyman has a great gimmick, but how long is he going to continue to make bonafide stars look like jobbers?

More title action follows, as Trish Stratus defends her women’s title against her number one fan, Mickie James. This feud has been building up perfectly, and it’s a shame that the creative team don’t put this much effort into all women’s feuds. A good match, spoiled a little by the ending which was messed up by Mickie, before she pinned Trish to win the title.

Backstage in the McMahon locker room, Vince calls for a family prayer, and ends up telling the mighty one that Shawn Michaels is going to hell.

Casket match time, as Mark Henry takes on the Undertaker. Sadly, the Undertaker makes one of his ordinary entrances, nothing special here apart from a few druids bringing the casket out. Despite my reservations, Undertaker manages to drag a decent effort out of Henry, and pulls off a great move by flying over the top rope and the casket to catch Henry with a clothesline as the strongman stood on the arena floor. After ten minutes of action, Undertaker stuffed Henry into the casket to keep his Wrestlemania winning streak in tact.

Then it’s time for more crazy weapons action as Vince McMahon takes on Shawn Michaels in a no holds barred match. This is another match I had my doubts about. Vince is 60 years old after all. But this match had tons of great action, including Shane O’Mac getting handcuffed to the ring ropes, and Michaels literally kicking the crap out of the boss, finishing Vince by putting a rubbish bin on his head, putting him on a table, and then coming down on him with an elbow smash from the top of a very tall ladder. A very entertaining brawl here, with Michaels rightfully getting the win, and even giving us the D-Generation X crotch chop for old time’s sake. Vince is wheeled away on a stretcher after the match, but as he’s being carried away, he still has enough strength to flip the bird to Michaels.

Time to move on to the first of our two main events, with Kurt Angle defending his World title against Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio. POD perform Rey’s title song as he came to the ring. How many more great matches can they have on this show? A great effort from all three men here, although it was about five-to-ten minutes too short, with Rey overcoming all the odds to hit the 619 and a springboard on Orton to win the title. A good bout, which still leaves Angle looking strong. After the bout Chavo and Vickie Guerrero come out onto the stage to celebrate with Rey. A five-foot-four World Heavyweight Champion. This certainly wouldn’t have happened ten years ago! Not that I’m complaining!

Eye candy time, As Playboy girls Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle go at it in a pillow fight. Something nice to look at I suppose, but totally in the wrong place on the card. Torrie wins this won after about four minutes.

The second main event follows, with John Cena defending his title against Triple H. The Game comes out first, sitting on a throne and looking like he’s trying to audition for the part of Conan The Barbarian. Cena comes out like an old-style gangster, complete with fake machine gun. Those eagle-eyed among you will have noticed from Ring of Honor champion C.M. Punk playing the part of one the gangsters. The crowd were really into this one, and I think you can tell who got the biggest heat of the night here, even bigger than Vince McMahon. A good way to end the show, with some great action throughout the show, move and counter move, attempted finishers, escapes, and Triple H tapping out as Cena applied the STFU, which probably surprised everyone watching around the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a double turn with these two soon.

In conclusion - why can’t all WWE pay-per-views be like this? After the severe disappointment of the last inter-promotional show in January, Wrestlemania 22 delivered. Some writers described the show has having the weakest line-up beforehand, but this show certainly delivered. A couple of bad points, but these were more than made up for by the good points. Well done WWE. Let’s hope they can keep it up for the next few shows.