Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wrestlemania XXVIII

Finally....the Dale gets to blog about the Wrestlemania he attended in person two years ago, Wrestlemania XXVIII(WM28)! Let us flashback to one year prior on the RAW after Wrestlemania XXVII where they announced Rock would be coming out of his eight year retirement from pro wrestling (let us forget about his forgettable Survivor Series tag team match a few months prior, what a waste!) to face the most polarizing main eventer in WWE history, John Cena. Moments after they made that announcement, I told myself I had to be there for this historic match and over the next several months made all the proper travel plans with my fellow wrestling fanatic, Alex to make the trek down to Miami to witness my first ever Wrestlemania in person! As you can see in enclosed photo below by the looks on both of us doing the trademark pointing Wrestlemania pose, we were ecstatic to be there!

For the last several years I had a tradition of watching the previous year's Wrestlemania within a week or two of the next week one transpiring, but I got lazy last year and never got around to watching the home video release of WM28 last year. I was behind two 'Manias just a few weeks before Wrestlemania XXX, which is unacceptable! Over the last few days I watched both discs of the WM28 BluRay, which featured the three hour Hall of Fame ceremony that took place the day prior and the four hour WM28 card itself, along with about another hour of extra features. That is about eight hours in three days I crammed in! I would like to try and cram in even more and get to WM29 before WM30 happens in a couple weeks, so I may do two wrestling blogs in a row to get my tradition back on track. Enough prefacing, let us begin covering the home video release of WM28!

The first disc is the Hall of Fame ceremony. I am a sucker for the WWE Hall of Fame each year. For the past decade it has been about a three hour ceremony the day before Wrestlemania. They only air an abbreviated one hour version on television a couple days afterwards, so I usually hold out to watch it until they release the full version that is included with the home video release of Wrestlemania. Since I was there in person for the 2012 edition, it was not my first time seeing it as a whole, but that did not making it any less awesome to relive. There are a lot of good to great induction and acceptance speeches this year than before. JBL steals the show with a nonstop, charismatic induction of his longtime APA tag team partner Ron Simmons. Ron follows it up with quite the acceptance speech, damning us into astonishment...sorry.

DX does their routine comedy act to induct Mike Tyson into the....a....celebrity wing, of the hall of fame, who goes on rambling all types of crazy for several minutes before he abruptly cuts himself off and dashes away to the amusement of the crowd! The current tag team champs the Usos, gave a fitting induction to their uncle, the late Yokozuna ("he's Japanese!"), who Rikishi accepted on his behalf. Christian and Edge were the main event inductee/acceptance speech combo of the night, and both did a hell of a job celebrating the career of the Rated R Superstar. Only disappointing speeches were Mil Miscares who did not have a whole lot to say, and I was a little disappointed seeing Barry Windham be so soft spoken in his acceptance speech when the rest of the Four Horsemen were quite the opposite.

There were a few highlight reel clips and RAW moments as extra features on the Hall of Fame and WM28 discs. A few of them are worth watching again to get familiar with the feuds, but absolutely not necessary as they show enough mini-montages of past moments during WM28 itself to catch you up on most of the storylines. They do include the WM28 preshow match as an extra feature, where Primo & Epico successfully defended their tag titles in a triple threat match against Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd and The Usos. Unfortunately as with most triple threat matches this one was kind of a mess, though there were a few entertaining spots throughout it.

Onto the main WM28 card itself. It opened with Daniel Bryan losing his World Title in 19 seconds to Sheamus. I remember taking a couple photos when the bell rang and as I sat down Sheamus dropped Bryan, perennial crowd favorite to this day, with a big boot for the sudden three count! This pissed me off for about a good hour and the crowd proceeded with the first ever "Yes" chants that really caught on in WWE television for about a good half hour afterwards in rebellion. I still remember being livid at this, and remember walking back to the hotel and passing by a fan in a Bryan shirt just despondently shaking his head. Booo on WWE screwing Daniel Bryan at Mania two years in a row. At WM27 his match, also against Sheamus, got bumped to the preshow and turned into a battle royal halfway through, and then this the next year! I sure hope he gets the Wrestlemania moment he deserves in a few weeks and walks out of WM30 WWE champion!

I am going to try and blitz through the undercard before I ramble on forever on the feature matches. In a surprise outcome of the night, Kane got a rare Wrestlemania win against present day WWE champion, Randy Orton in a decent match that actually had the crowd into it by the end. Big Show won the Intercontinental Title from Cody Rhodes in a decent, but not great outing, but as the announcers hyped up, it was great to finally see Big Show have a mania moment of his own. Kelly Kelly & special guest from E network, Maria Menounos defeated Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres in a tag match that was far better than I remember last time....I miss Kelly Kelly, wait a second, none of these three then full time WWE Divas are no longer on the roster!

Another match that was better on the second viewing was the obligatory fit 10-15 guys in a match so everyone can get a Wrestlemania payday match. This was the battle for one GM of RAW and Smackdown with Booker T, Great Khali, R-Truth, Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston & Zach Ryder representing Teddy Long (I miss you making awesome tag team matches Teddy!), and Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre, David Otunga, Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler & The Miz representing John Lauranitis where team Johnny emerged victorious. This resulted in a sinister half year or so reign of "People Power" on RAW and Smackdown...yeah, I do not miss Johnny one bit.

That GM supremacy match was a nice way to catch my breath as it took place after the Hell in a Cell, "End of an Era" match between Triple H and Undertaker, with special guest ref Shawn Michaels. If you know your Wrestlemania history, you then know the significance of "The Streak," THE most important streak in all of sports where Undertaker is undefeated in Wrestlemania matches, currently at a jaw dropping 21-0! At WM27, Undertaker defeated Triple H....just barely though as he had to give it his all and be carted off to the back afterwards. The two 'Manias before that, he bested Shawn Michaels in two legendary matches, forcing him into retirement on beating him a second time. This time, all three bonafide stars played key roles in this match that stole the show in easily one of the best matches I have ever seen. The three played off the history between each other well, and this is one of the few times where a guest ref actually played a relevant and key role in the match. There are too many near falls that had the crowd electric and on its feet for nearly the entire bout. I only remember too well one fan freaking out behind me, "I can't feel my neck, I can't feel my legs!" after yet another close finish in the match. I was standing up throughout the whole thing as I took it in again. 'Taker and Hunter laid it all on the line, and delivered an instant classic for the ages!

CM Punk was in the midst of his 400+ day WWE Title reign at this time as he successfully defended against Chris Jericho. It is too bad this had to follow Hell in a Cell, as while this was a pretty good title match all together, it started off stuck in first gear for a little too long. It also did not help that the new GM threw in this stupid last minute stipulation where if CM Punk got himself DQ'd he would lose the title, so for the first half of the match we saw Jericho egging Punk on to get disqualified. Once they got past that stupid gimmick, the two got on with a good Mania-calibur title match, it is just too bad it had a lackluster first half.

Machine Gun Kelly and Flo Rida did special performances and sang their hit songs at the time to introduce The Rock and Cena for their main event. This did not go over well with the crowd. I am not a fan usually of them bringing in guest musical acts at Wrestlemania because fans come in from the world over for that show, and they have quite a diverse taste in music, which results in a crowd not really being into the current hip hop scene of music. I recall the crowd being respectfully....tolerant of Machine Gun Kelly with mild applause throughout his act until afterwards he gave a little speech about Cena saying how he is the best underdog in the business, when he is actually the exact opposite, which resulted in the crowd instantly shitting on Kelly and not giving anything to Flo Rida afterwards. I got a little kick reliving that moment on video.

Now onto the main event, the billed, "Once in a Lifetime" (only to happen again the very next year!) bout between John Cena and The Rock. Watching it again I remember the crowd being jacked at the match that was finally about to take place, and we were really into it for the first couple of minutes until we realized The Rock laid the smacketh down on his lungs and did not show up in any sort of cardio shape at all as he was breathing hard the entire match. Every few minutes Cena would grab a hold, or there would be some type of double KO spot to allow The Great One to catch his breath. I would say the match started off about 70/30 for The Rock but towards the end I want to say Cena won the crowd over by simply showing up ready to go and had about 40 to 45% of the crowd on his side until things picked up in the final minutes. It was getting pretty sad to see, and I give props to the announcers who usually tout the company line for actually recognizing The Rock showing up not in ring shape. The crowd was surprisingly tolerant of The Rock and did not boo him for his subpar performance, most likely because we all wanted to see Cena lose so badly and avenge the crapshoot that happened to Daniel Bryan. Thankfully, the two brought their A game for the final minutes as the action and near falls picked up in intensity, and the crowd absolutely lost it when Rock slammed Cena down with a Rock Bottom to walk out of WM28 victorious!

Even with The Rock's shortcomings in this match, this was still a thrill to watch again with all the hype surrounding it and to finally see Cena lose in a Wrestlemania main event. Another nice touch to the show overall was day progressing into night by halfway into the show, and once it was nightfall it provided a fantastic backdrop to the action; and it was only too fitting to have Hell in a Cell transpire in darkness! Hell in a Cell is easily the match of the show, and Rock/Cena is still well worth seeing for the sheer spectacle of it all. This was also probably one of the stronger Hall of Fame ceremonies from start to finish. Easy recommendation to add Wrestlemania XXVIII to your collection, or now instantly stream on the WWE Network! Speaking of the WWE Network, I may try and do monthly recaps of what I have been checking out on there as there is just so much content to consume so be on the lookout! Ok, my near 2200 words of doom are over, peace out!

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