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WrestleMania 21: Two Thumbs Up or Two Thumbs Down?

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WrestleMania 21 Logo

WrestleMania 21 comes to us from Los Angeles, California and was billed as ‘WrestleMania Goes Hollywood’ and is generally viewed as a changing of the guard, since three future Main Event stars would make their marks at this show: John Cena, Dave Batista, and Randy Orton.

Something that surprised me as I did some research on Wikipedia was that while the show overall was received very well, the two Heavyweight Championship matches were both perceived as ‘boring’ and ‘anti-climactic’. How could that be when three of the biggest stars in the following five years were on the card and two of them were in top title matches, not to mention the first Money in the Bank match? Does WrestleMania 21 deserve that kind of review? Let’s find out!

Opener:

Lilian Garcia starts us off with ‘America, the Beautiful’. As usual, she sounds gorgeous. We get a great video tribute of our Armed Forces.

They really went all out for this, and we get to see the awesomely bad movie…tributes the WWE superstars did. I seriously wish there was a blooper reel to these videos. Undertaker as Dirty Harry is seriously inspired.

Now we’ve got Austin as Gladiator, and his speech is better than Russell Crowe’s.

Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio

Eddie comes out in a low rider to a nice pop. Eddie and Rey were tag champs at this time, but instead of having a tag team championship, they’re going one-on-one. Rey comes out to a nice pop. Instead of his usual superhero outfit, he’s wearing an outfit inspired by the Mexican flag on one side and the American flag on the back.

Unsurprisingly, this is a fantastic match. Eddie and Rey’s styles are very similar, but it really works here. It more than makes up for not having a tag team championship match instead.

Winner: Rey Mysterio by pinfall. Eddie can’t believe that he lost.  He and Mysterio shake hands, but you can sense something is brewing.

Highlights: Rey and Eddie knowing each other so well.

Comment: Sadly, this would be Eddie Guerrero’s last WrestleMania. He would pass away, suddenly, in November 2005, at the age of 38. Descansa en paz, Eddie.

JBL and his Cabinet are walking through the Staples Center, predicting victory over John Cena, when they run into Triple H and Ric Flair. Flair and Trips make fun of JBL’s assertion that he’s a ‘Wrestling God’, which JBL doesn’t appreciate. Triple H then says that if JBL wants to see a wrestling god, all he has to look at is right here, implying Triple H, but could include Flair. JBL says all he has to do is look in the mirror and that he’s the only champion to have never lost. He then tells Trips to watch out for Dave Batista or he’ll lose for the 10th time tonight.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match – Winner gets a contract for a title shot good for the next 12 months: Chris Jericho vs Chris Benoit vs Christian (with Tomko) vs Kane vs Edge vs Shelton Benjamin

Jericho gets a good pop. Benoit gets a pretty good pop. Christian gets little reaction. Benjamin gets a good pop. Edge gets an okay pop. Kane gets a good reaction. This was a chaotic, but very fun match. The Money in the Bank Match is one of my favorite matches of the year.

Winner: Edge after knocking Benoit off the ladder with a chairshot to the shoulder. He gets a mixed reaction and takes off like a bat out of hell.

Highlights

  1. Benoit suplexing Jericho and the ladder
  2. Dueling high risk maneuvers.
  3. The crowd reaction to Christian having Tomko’s help to get to the briefcase.

Comment: This would be Jericho’s last WrestleMania for a few years. He would leave WWE in late 2005 and not return until 2008. It would also be the same for Christian, who would leave in fall 2005 and not return until 2009.

WrestleMania Moment

Eugene comes out to a great pop. Eugene is very excited to be there, and the crowd is happy to see him. Eugene tries to remember his favorite WrestleMania moments when he’s interrupted by Muhammad Hassan, and his manager, Daivari. Hassan isn’t happy about being left off the WrestleMania card and says he wants to create a moment of his own and begins to attack poor Eugene. Thankfully, Eugene is saved by the Real American Hero, Hulk Hogan. Hogan fights off Hassan and Daivari and celebrates with the crowd.

We get a video recap of the Orton/Undertaker feud. This feud marks the first time the Streak was mentioned outside of WrestleMania.

The Streak: Undertaker vs Randy Orton

For some reason, Taker’s entrance is first, which has never happened before. The Druids come out with lit torches and surround the ring. Taker comes out to a great pop and he seems to be floating. Tony Chimel calmly bails out of the ring. I have to say, I don’t like Taker coming out first at WrestleMania, it ruins the mind games. Orton comes out to boos, hardly surprising, but he doesn’t look scared.

Unsurprisingly, this was a really good match. It was a fight on Taker’s end, but these two worked really well together and told a great story.

Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. The Streak is 13-0

Highlights: Orton twisting out of Snake Eyes.

Comment: I enjoyed this match. Watching Randy Orton get beat up is always fun.

We get a video recap of the Trish/Christy feud.

WWE Women’s Championship Match: Trish Stratus vs Christy Hemme (with Lita)

Hemme and Lita are out first to a great pop. Trish, even as a heel, gets a good pop. Unsurprisingly, Trish dominates most of this match. Hemme really seemed to be in way over her head in terms of experience and skill, but Trish took care of her and really played up being the arrogant heel champion. I don’t think the audience really thought Trish would be defeated by Hemme, but it was fun to watch.

Winner: Trish Stratus by pinfall. Trish celebrates while Lita looks on in frustration.

Highlights: JR trying to keep King’s mind on the wrestling. Hemme showing a surprising amount of skill.

Comment: I enjoyed this match. I didn’t think Hemme had a prayer of winning, but this was a good match.

We get a video recap of the Shawn Michaels/Kurt Angle feud that started at the Royal Rumble when HBK eliminated Angle, who wasn’t happy about that face and attacked HBK.

Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels

HBK is out first to a great pop. Angle gets a round of boos. The crowd is firmly on HBK’s side.

This match was amazing, totally lived up to the hype. Angle and Michaels were extremely well-matched and worked well together. This match easily could’ve gone either way and, in my opinion, should’ve ended in a draw, instead of HBK tapping out, but that wasn’t to be.

Winner: Kurt Angle by submission

Highlights: Way too many to pick the top ones. Watch. This. Match.

Comment: I loved this match and would watch it again just for the heck of it. It’s also Greg DeMarco’s favorite match ever.

WrestleMania Moment

Next up is a special edition of Piper’s Pit. Piper comes out to a great pop. He’s here to interview Stone Cold Steve Austin (oh, dear). Austin comes out to a great pop. This is either going to be fantastic or a disaster.

Piper, for reasons best known to him, throws the stools out of the ring, and after welcoming Austin to Piper’s Pit, slaps him in the face. Austin is either laughing or trying to not blow a gasket. He thanks Piper for having him, calls him a ‘little sonofabitch’ and returns the slap. I guess this is how rebels and badasses greet each other in social settings.

Once the ice is broken, Piper and Austin get down to business. Piper says that he has a lot of respect for Austin because of how he dealt with Vince McMahon, except for one thing: Austin isn’t nearly the rebel Piper was. Piper says that he was pissing Vince off when the red on Austin’s neck was diaper rash. Austin insults Piper, his jacket and the kilt.

This looks ready to blow up into a brawl, when Carlito comes out. Carlito says the only thing Piper and Austin have in common is that they aren’t cool and that no one wants to see them anymore (I think the audience would disagree) and that everyone wants to see Carlito. Austin challenges him to get in the ring and Carlito obliges. Piper has no clue who Carlito is and says he looks like Alfalfa. Carlito seems to have no understanding who he’s pissing off.

Piper takes Carlito’s apple and eats it (ew) and spits it back in Carlito’s face. Carlito attacks Piper. Austin finds it amusing for about a minute before attacking Carlito and mudhole-stomping him. The two vets quickly dispatch Carlito before deciding to celebrate with a beer. However, Austin stuns Piper just for the hell of it.

Note: The audience kept chanting ‘What?’ and Piper actually fired back at them, pretending to think that they weren’t understanding him or Austin. Piper also seemed to be having trouble speaking, either because he had new dentures, or he’d been at the bar before coming out. Austin comments on this by calling him a ‘mealy mouthed sonofabitch’.

Sumo Match: Akebono vs Big Show

Chimel gives us the rules for this: To win, you must either push your opponent out of the circle or knock him off his feet. Sounds simple enough.

Akebono is out first to little reaction, though there are Japanese fans and signs in the audience. His stats are impressive: First foreign-born Grand Champion in Japanese Sumo history, 6’8” and 504lbs (Commenter: Holy crap). Akebono bows to the audience before coming to the ring.

Big Show is out next to a better reaction. Show seems to be a good sport and playfully lifts the hem of his robe to show his leg.

The robes come off and both men are in the traditional sumo gear, both enter the circle and the match starts. I don’t know enough about sumo to even begin to call this with any credibility.

Winner: Akebono pushes Big Show out of the ring and wins the match. The men hug, and Show raises Akebono’s hand in victory.

Comments: I have no idea why a sumo match was done at WrestleMania, but it was interesting to watch. Cole and Tazz both explained the rituals to the non-Japanese audience, which was nice, and everything seemed to be done in the traditional way and was very respectful, as far as I can see.

We get a recap of the JBL/Cena feud.

WWE Championship Match: John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield vs John Cena

JBL comes out in his limo, and a police escort, to a round of boos, along with his Cabinet. Cena comes out to a lukewarm pop, or it seems that way compared to the reaction at WrestleMania XX, though there seems to be a lot of pro-Cena signs in the audience. This match had good psychology, but the in-ring wasn’t the best, the styles were too similar and didn’t mesh as well as they could have for this.

This match hasn’t been well-received over the years and I sort of see why. It was a boring match that was mostly dominated by JBL. I think WWE was trying to really sell Cena as the underdog, but it just seemed to flop here. I do think part of the problem was that the audience was getting a little tired and bored after the nearly thirty-minute Michaels/Angle match, Piper’s Pit, and the sumo match. Still, this wasn’t a godawful match, just not an exciting one.

Winner: John Cena by pinfall after a FU. Cena celebrates with the crowd, beginning his first of 16 Heavyweight Championship title reigns.

Highlight: JBL going for a high-risk move and Cena catching him in a scoop slam.

Comment: This was an ‘eh’ for me. There seemed to be no real drama here and it was very formulaic.

We get a recap of the 2005 Hall of Fame. Our inductees are: ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton, Nikolai Volkoff, the Iron Sheik, Paul Orndorff, Jimmy Hart, Roddy Piper, and Hulk Hogan.

We get a video recap about the implosion of Evolution and the Batista/Triple H feud.

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H (with Ric Flair) vs Batista

Motorhead sings Triple H to the ring. Trips gets a pretty good reaction. Batista gets a great reaction. This was a pretty good match. I think Trips bladed a little too deep because the amount of blood for hitting his head against the post was a little ridiculous. Batista is still rather rough around the edges, but it works with his character and meshes well with Triple H’s more polished style.

 Winner: Batista by pinfall.

Highlights: Flair being the Dirtiest Player in the Game.

Comment: I really liked this match. It told a really great story and we got a great moment.

Overall Comments:

So, does WrestleMania 21 deserve the reputation as a great show with lackluster main events? Not totally and the one that was lackluster was not totally the part of the participants. The WWE Championship match was lackluster due partly to coming after a barn burner of a match, and several segments that really seemed to wear the crowd out, so by the time JBL and Cena got ready for their match, the audience was tired and/or bored. That said, the match was lacking in excitement and the in-ring was ‘eh’. Cena’s comeback from certain defeat seems too formulaic.

The World Heavyweight Championship match was amazing. The styles, story, and psychology all worked together wonderfully and gave us a great moment.

Snoozers: WWE Championship match.

Match of the Night: Tough call, but I’m going to give it to Angle/Michaels. That match was amazing.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I liked this show. I can’t say I’d just sit down and watch it again just for fun, but it wasn’t awful.


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