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WrestleMania 22: Big Hit or Big Flop?

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WrestleMania 22 Stage

WrestleMania 22 comes to us from the Windy City and features what looks like a very stacked card, including Rey Mysterio vying for the World Heavyweight Championship, a Casket Match, and the Chairman of WWE in a No-Holds Barred Match. Surprisingly, this show gets really great reviews all around, so let’s see if they’re justified!

Opener

Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child) sings ‘America, the Beautiful’. We get a great video about the superstars hanging with our Armed Forces.

There’s a great video about the history of WrestleMania and promos for the big matches on the card.

World Tag Team Championship Match: Big Show and Kane vs Chris Masters and Carlito

Carlito gets a decent pop, Masters does not. Big Show and Kane get a great pop. As Kane and Big Show get to the ring, Carlito and Master bail out, probably the smartest thing they could’ve done.

Winner: Big Show and Kane by pinfall. Afterwards, Carlito and Masters argue over who is at fault. Masters tries to blame Carlito, but Carlito leaves.

Highlights

  1. Kane hitting a dropkick and a leapfrog (yes, seriously)
  2. Show hushing the crowd, so they can hear the ‘smack’ of his hand on Masters’ chest.
  3. Carlito trying to do an armwringer on Big Show.
  4. Big Show hitting a superkick

Comments: This was a good match. Kane and Big Show worked really well together and with Carlito and Masters

We go to Coach who is talking to HBK about his issues with Vince. Shawn says he told Vince the truth and he’s never regretted telling the truth. He reflects on how last year, he and Kurt Angle tore the house down but he doesn’t expect a five star match tonight because his match with Vince is going to get violent, brutal, and ugly. He tells Vince to say his prayers because his ass is getting kicked tonight.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Rob Van Dam vs Bobby Lashley, Finlay, Matt Hardy, Ric Flair, and Shelton Benjamin

Just about everyone gets a decent pop. RVD and Flair get the best ones.

Winner: Rob Van Dam

Highlights:

  1. Ric Flair doing a ladder match at 57 years old and hanging with guys much younger than himself.
  2. RVD winning the briefcase
  3. Matt Hardy suplexing Flair off the ladder.

Comments: This is one of the best Money in the Bank matches, in my opinion.

We go to Josh Matthews who is interviewing Mean Gene Okerlund, the first commentator to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (Monsoon, Ventura, and Heenan don’t count because they were wrestlers and/or before their broadcast careers). Okerlund says he had a great time the night before and ran up quite a bar tab. They are interrupted by Randy Orton, who scoffs at Mean Gene’s induction. Mean Gene isn’t in the mood for this and walks off, saying some not-nice sounding things about Cowboy Bob Orton.

Randy is a little perplexed by Mean Gene’s attitude and says that what he was going to say is that when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s going to be for nights like WrestleMania when he’ll make history by beating ‘paper champion’ Kurt Angle and ‘charity case’ Rey Mysterio and become World Heavyweight Champion. He goes on to brag about being The Legend Killer and dares anyone to disagree. A tap on the shoulder reveals Batista. Batista is all pleasantries but reminds Orton that whoever wins the title is just holding it until he gets back from injury and promises to be back soon. He also vows to be World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 23 (he’s either psychic or spoiling his storyline for the next year).

It’s time for the Hall of Fame reveal, but we’re told that Bret Hart won’t be there because he was ‘uncomfortable’ participating with the evening’s proceedings (Translation: He didn’t want to be around HBK). The audience isn’t happy with Bret chickening out. Our inductees: Mean Gene Okerlund,  Sensational Sherri (who is on the arm of Ted DiBiase), Tony Atlas (part of the first African-American Tag Team Champions, along with Rocky Johnson), Verne Gagne (Owner/Promoter of AWA), William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry (1986 Chicago Bears, participated in WrestleMania II), The Blackjacks, Eddie Guerrero (Vickie and Chavo Guerrero accepted for him), and Bret Hart, who refused to participate. Vickie gets a lot of love from the other inductees and Eddie gets the best pop. Tazz and Cole are clearly emotional.

WWE United States Championship Match: Chris Benoit vs John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield (with Jillian Hall)

JBL comes out first, in his limo to a round of boos. Benoit gets a great pop. This was a really physical match, but it wasn’t a great one for either man. Still, it was a good one, but not as great as it seemed on paper.

Winner: JBL by pinfall, using the ropes for leverage.

Highlights: JBL playing up the heel by mocking Eddie Guerrero and getting his a** kicked for it.

Comments: This was an ‘eh’ for me.

We get a recap of the Foley/Edge feud.

Hardcore Match: Mick Foley vs Edge (with Lita)

Joey Styles joins us for this match. Edge and Lita are out first a round of boos. Foley is out to a great pop

This match was insanely good and starts with Edge trying to Mick with a baseball bat. This would be Lita’s last WrestleMania as a full-time competitor. She would retire in November, but would make occasional appearances, such as being inducted into the WWE HOF, and presenting the newly reinstated Women’s Championship.

Winner: Edge by pinfall

Highlights:

  1. Edge taking the thumbtack bump.
  2. Mick wearing barb wire under his shirt
  3. Spear through the flaming table

Comments: Kudos to both guys for an amazing match.

Booker T and Sharmell are backstage and Sharmell is begging Booker to not make her go through with this match. Neither of them know why the Boogeyman is after them. They make their way to the ring and are waylaid by various people, none of whom are much help.

Handicap Match: Booker T and Sharmell vs The Boogeyman

Booker T and Sharmell come out to a quiet pop. Boogeyman is out next to no pop. Booker T makes Sharmell start the match, which she doesn’t want to do, but it’s a ruse so that Booker can attack Boogeyman from behind. To say this match was filler is being kind. I don’t know who Booker ticked off to get put in this mess, but it couldn’t have been this bad.

Winner: Boogeyman by pinfall.

Comments: I have no idea why this had to be on WrestleMania.

We get a recap of the Trish/Mickie feud.

WWE Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus vs Mickie James

Mickie comes out to a pretty good pop despite being the heel. Trish gets a great pop. This was a really great match. The perfect mix of story, psychology, and match. The crowd turning on Trish and cheering Mickie was unexpected, but very interesting since Trish had been the perennial sweetheart of the fans, whether she was a face or a heel.

Winner: Mickie James by pinfall with the Mick Kick, which was a bit of a letdown. Mickie celebrates happily, to the joy of the crowd.

Highlights: The crowd turning on Trish mid-match and JR/Lawler’s reaction to it. Mickie showing her incredible in-ring skills.

Comments: This is the match that made me a Mickie James fan, so it is near and dear to my heart. This would be Trish’s last WrestleMania as a full-time competitor. She would retire in September after winning her seventh Women’s Championship and still makes occasional appearances.

We got backstage with the McMahons for a segment that I won’t go into because it bothers me immensely, even though I know it’s a work.

The Streak: Undertaker vs Mark Henry – Casket Match

The druids bring out a freight car sized casket. We get a quick recap of the Taker/Henry feud. Henry comes out first to a round of boos. Not very many people seem to think Henry has a prayer of beating Taker.

The lights go out, lightning hits the stage, and flames erupt. The Deadman Cometh.  Mark Henry is talking smack and trying, not very successfully, to act like he’s not scared.

As is usual, for most of Taker’s WrestleMania matches, this was not a technical or scientific masterpiece. This was a brutal, physical, fight. Mark Henry is NOT someone Taker can just toss around, like he has most of his opponents.

Winner: Undertaker by putting Mark Henry in the casket. The Streak is 14-0.

Highlights: Taker tombstoning Mark Henry.

Comments: This was an okay, match. Both guys did a great job, but I just wasn’t into it.

We get a great shot of Chicago and a recap of the feud between Vince and HBK.

No-Holds Barred Match: Shawn Michaels vs Vince McMahon

HBK gets a great pop. Vince gets a good pop too. He shows off his jacked physique and does his BMF walk. This was one of those ‘Vince and _ work out past issues by beating each other to a pulp’ matches. It wasn’t pretty or fancy, but it told a good story.

Winner: Shawn Michaels by pinfall, leaving Vince in a pool of his own blood.

Highlights:

  1. HBK taking out the Spirit Squad.
  2. Vince taking an elbow drop from a 20ft ladder.
  3. Shane trying to save his dad while being handcuffed.
  4. JR and Lawler’s commentary.

Comments: A Vince match works because everyone wants to see the boss get his butt kicked, no matter how much they might like them.

We get recap of the Angle/Mysterio/Orton situation.

Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio vs Randy Orton

Mysterio is sung to the ring, and instead of a superhero costume, he comes out dressed as an Aztec warrior (or, that’s what I THINK that’s what his outfit is supposed to be). Orton gets a good reaction. Angle comes out to a really good pop.

This was a great match, which is no surprise, given the men involved. A great story of perseverance is told, and we get a great WrestleMania moment.

Winner: Rey Mysterio by pinfall. The crowd LOSES it. Angle and Orton are furious. Rey’s in tears and is joined on the top of the ramp by Vickie and Chavo Jr, who congratulate him.

Highlights: Rey FINALLY becoming World Heavyweight Champion!!! Everyone being emotional.

Comments: I have no shame in admitting that I still BAWLED when Rey won. Eddie would’ve been so proud of him.

We see Cena and Triple H prepping for their match.

Playboy Pillowfight: Torrie Wilson vs Candice Michelle

Candice Michelle is out first to a quiet pop, as does Torrie.  For some reason, even though it’s supposed to be a pillow fight, Torrie and Candice are both in evening gowns.

Unbelievably, this actually ended up being a wrestling match, not a very good one, but an actual wrestling match, instead of a sexy pillow fight. I’m almost glad I didn’t skip it.

Winner: Torrie Wilson by pinfall.

Comments: Best that I’ll say is that it was quick and they didn’t use pillows.

Now that that’s over, it’s time for the recap of the Triple H/Cena feud.

WWE Championship: John Cena vs Triple H

Triple H comes out in his first ‘Skull King’ entrance. These would become more and more elaborate. He gets a really good pop, despite the outfit and entrance, that Triple H even said looked stupid.

Cena’s entrance begins with a video about the Chicago gangsters and tying it to ‘Hustle, Loyalty, Respect’. A NICE 1920/30s era car comes out (don’t ask me what kind), protected by ‘gangsters’ with Tommy guns. Our tough guys (most of whom are soon to be familiar faces) surround the ring as Cena’s music hits. Cena gets his usual mixed reaction, dressed in a trenchcoat and fedora, with his own Tommy Gun, that he fires off (blanks were used, obviously).

This was a really good match. The clash of styles really worked for the story and psychology.

Winner: John Cena by submission.

Highlights: The entrances

Comments: I liked this match a lot.

Notes: One of the ‘gangsters’ accompanying Cena was a little-known superstar in development named CM Punk.

Overall Comments

So, was WrestleMania 22 all it was cracked up to be? Yeah, for the most part. There were not outright bad matches and the bad ones were mostly just ‘Why is this on here?’ than ‘WTF?’.

Stinkers: Booker T and Sharmell vs Boogeyman. I have no idea why that was put on the WrestleMania card. Playboy Pillow Fight gets a pass on this one because it actually turned out better than it sounded.

Match of the Night: Edge/Foley and Michaels/McMahon.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this show a lot. The focus was on the wrestling and not on the backstage stuff.


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