Friday, April 4, 2014

Wrestlemania 29

With just a few days to spare, I managed to wrap up the two disc BluRay combo of the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony, and Wrestlemania 29 (WM29). Yes, WWE went with an actual number this time, usually they roll with roman numerals, or sometimes even a hybrid of the two in the case of X7 and X8, but every now and again they will give the roman numerals a hell no and give them a proper number like with Wrestlemanias 2, 13, 21-23 and 25.

Random 'Mania factoids now aside, let us kick things off the day before WM29 and cover the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. I really loved the quality of most of the induction and acceptance speeches from last year's ceremony, but WWE pulled out all the stops and easily had the best all around induction class since they brought back the Hall of Fame nearly a decade ago. WWE usually unveils a new Hall of Fame inductee every couple of weeks on RAW at the beginning of the year leading up to WrestleMania, and with each new inductee unveiled I kept thinking there was no way they could top themselves, but with the ceremony taking place in the grandest arena in the country that is Madison Square Garden, I imagine WWE wanted to go all out in their old territorial stomping grounds.

Five of the six inductees are major former world champions. The exception is their celebrity inductee with Donald Trump, who played a major role in three prior 'Manias. The fans booed him righteously, but Trump amusingly embraced the boos and knew how to play off it well. Mick Foley would have headlined any other hall of fame class, but he is the opener here, and the hardcore legend does not disappoint delivering one last awesome promo in the form of his acceptance speech. Trish Stratus has been my all time favorite WWE Diva, and I was thrilled to see her get inducted, and it was just too bad the rowdy hardcore WWE fans had to boo the shit out of her husband when she gave him props. Make sure to pause the screen when Trish unravels a huge scroll at the podium to catch all the names of the people she thanks that she did not have time for in person. Stevie Ray made his first ever WWE television appearance to induct his brother, Booker T into the Hall of Fame. Stevie gave us some classic Bookerman stories, and Booker T made sure to send us home happy with a Hall of Fame calibur spin-a-rooni!

The WWE universe can be unbelievably crass sometimes at these ceremonies, I felt horrible for Bob Backlund's inductor, Maria Menounos from E network who is a real life friend of Bob's and in the midst of her heartfelt speech the fans started to just go wild with cat calls and boos. Maria did not even acknowledge them like a pro, but it is moments like these that make me ashamed to be a wrestling fan. Bob Backlund gave the crowd hell in an acceptance speech that was all over the place! Backland was his trademark spontaneous self randomly going from humble and accepting to belligerent on the flip of dime. He could of went all night to my delight, and it was too bad Vince McMahon had to go out there and give him a wrap up cue. The man, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself came out to induct the longest reigning WWE champion ever, Bruno Sammartino. It was only fitting the man who sold out Madison Square Garden well over 100 times return to it one more time for his induction into the Hall of Fame. For newer fans unaware, Bruno was THE guy and was WWE's champion throughout a majority of the 1960s and 70s. For being nearly 80, the man was in tremendous health and looked great and gave us a main event worthy acceptance speech covering the highs and lows of his life. I did not think they could top the previous year's ceremony, but WWE somehow manage to improve on it exponentially so with easily their best all around class yet.

I went on forever about the hall of fame, so I am going to try and breeze through WM29's undercard to somewhat condense this blog. The WM29 preshow match is included as an extra feature, and it had The Miz winning the Intercontinental title from Wade Barrett in a fairly by the numbers match. It is too bad the preshow was an hour long and they could only give this match about six or seven minutes. Onto the PPV card, which kicked off with The Shield defeating the trio of Randy Orton, Sheamus and The Big Show. This six man tag told a great story back when The Shield were still in their unstoppable phase and had them taking advantage of Orton, Sheamus and Big Show having too much of a combined ego to coexist. I recall being surprised and thrilled to see my man, Mark Henry finally have a Wrestlemania moment and cleanly defeat Ryback. It was sublime to experience it again, even if the match was not all that great.

WM29 took place near the end of a long reign of Kane & Daniel Bryan's (Team Hell No) dominance of the tag division as they successfully defended their tag titles against Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston. I forgot Kane was wearing a mask again at this point, much like I usually lose track of all his face/heel turns over the years. The former Johnny Curtis, made his WWE in ring debut as Fandango with a surprising win against Chris Jericho in a fairly solid match up. Minus the fans loving his theme music for a few weeks after this, it is too bad Fandango never really took off since he has been floundering in the lower mid card within a couple months after this. Remember Alberto Del Rio's godawful run as a good guy last year? WWE was in the middle of it as his painful reign as World Champion when he managed to fend off the returning Jack Swagger in his title defense in a fairly decent match that suffered from a horrible hype program building up to it. I enjoyed Brock Lesnar and Triple H beating the tar out of each other in a No Holds Barred match that featured great diversity among weaponry used and many intense moments throughout.

WWE had another awful program leading up to Undertaker defending his undefeated streak against CM Punk. It started off painfully unoriginal, with four guys all randomly throwing their hats in the ring to face 'Taker at 'Mania, so the RAW GM just threw them in a Fatal 4 Way to determine who faces 'Taker. Yup. Then shortly thereafter, Undertaker's longtime old manager, Paul Bearer passes away, so WWE decides to make this the focus of their rivalry with CM Punk, you guessed it, stealing the urn with Paul Bearer's ashes and dumping them out over a prone Undertaker. Not even CM Punk and his then manager Paul Heyman's trademark killer promos could save this storyline from being a horrible exploit of a real world death. Gut wrenching storyline aside, the two did step up and deliver another Wrestlemania Streak classic that saw all kinds of close near falls and great exchanges that had the crowd completely invested by the end.

For the main event, we discover WWE is full of lies in the billing of last year's main event being "Once in a Lifetime" as WM29 headlined with The Rock vs. John Cena in a rematch from last year. At the Royal Rumble two months prior, The Rock returned and won the WWE title from CM Punk, and later on that night John Cena won the Royal Rumble to earn a title match against The Great One at WM29. For the WM28 blog I harped on The Rock for not showing up in ring shape, and needing too many rest holds to recuperate. We got a repeat performance here, though I am a little more forgiving this time around because The Rock tore an abdominal muscle relatively early on in the match, and the fact he roughed it out for about another 15 minutes of action afterwards for a fraction of the pay of one of his Hollywood blockbusters says a lot about the man's commitment to the WWE. The match itself was about on par with last year's, but the crowd had absolutely no interest in the first half of the match until Rock and Cena started dishing out near falls and kicking out of each other's signature moves for the last half of the bout. There was actually one near fall that got me good and I wish was the real finish in hindsight because it played off last year's match so well with Cena attempting a People's Elbow that failed for him last year and him learning from his mistake this time around and the two absolutely nailed the spot and it provided THE moment of the match for me. If it would have ended there I would give this bout the nod as being the better match, but they relied on their finishers a bit too much here and WM28's contest had a wee better flow from beginning to end. Cena got redemption with victory in the end to close out the show, and it only seemed fitting too. I do not see a rubber match in the long run especially since The Rock suffered a legit injury in this match and Hollywood gave him a ton of flak for it as a result.

The extra features are among the same fare that WM28 has. Aside from the aforementioned preshow match, there are a few bonus segments from RAW featuring key promos from the Punk/Taker, Brock/HHH and Rock/Cena rivalries. There is also a post game show at MetLife stadium featuring Scott Stanford, Kofi Kingston and Dusty Rhodes giving their thoughts on all the matches, and interspersed with brief interviews from some of the wrestlers after the match. I actually enjoyed this and WWE has been making pre and post game shows a regular thing for RAW, Smackdown and PPVs since they launched the WWE Network in February.

Overall, another great Wrestlemania release from WWE. It is worth it for the 2013 Hall of Fame Ceremony alone. Wrestlemania 29 had a great spectacle look with a killer set and production values at MetLife stadium, but the show suffered with about 20-25 minutes of rah rah WWE vignettes featuring the publicly traded company toot their own horn about their charity work throughout the show. They could have easily combined all these segments into one for the same effect, but it was overkill here and it took away from the show. Compared to WM28 which featured a better undercard, slightly better Undertaker match and a superior Rock/Cena encounter, and I can easily recommend that show over this one. However, the 'Mania completionist in me says to buy this anyways for the Hall of Fame, the crazy Brock/Hunter brawl and see the Undertaker defend his streak in another classic match.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Legends of Mid South Wrestling
RoH Supercard of Honor V
WWE Wrestlemania 28

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