February 22, 2011
This was the first time I ever watched this show, so other than the KO of Bart Gunn this was all brand new to me. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were on commentary and I can not put into words how much I preferred this Michael Cole to the heel Michael Cole of today. Boys to Men sang America the Beautiful and, I kid you not, I always thought this group was a bunch of white teenagers like NKOTB. Turns out they’re all black dudes, I guess that demonstrates how much I pay attention to the music business. I believe this was the first Mania to use the solid black dasher boards around ring side, for whatever that is worth. The building looked packed and the sea of signs in the crowd was incredible; a very hot crowd.
Billy Gunn vs. Hardcore Holly vs. Al Snow (Hardcore Title):
Al was in his J.O.B. Squad attire for this contest and for the most part this was a very good solid match. 3-Ways tend to be just a bunch of spots and fighting (especially when it’s a hardcore match) but they did manager to build this a bit into the finish and make it as good as anyone could expect. They did the standard Champ hits the big move but the other guy slides in and steals the pin. I hate this finish because it is done in almost every 3-Way now but maybe 12 years ago when 3-Ways weren’t so common this finish may have seemed a lot more original. Unprotected chair shots to the head were hard to watch and they will continue through out the show. Only other thing of note, this match reminded me just how much of an incredible athlete Billy Gunn is. The guy is 6’5” at least and just lightning fast and agile; he moves lick a light heavy weight, and is way bigger than people realize.
Double J & Owen Hart vs D-Lo & Test (Tag Team Titles):
Test and D-Lo were not regular partners they won a Battle Royal on Heat before the show to earn this title shot. This was a very poor match, especially when you consider the talent involved, but they were only given 4 minutes so what do you expect. The match was just a series of bumps and moves done to no apparent rhyme or reason leading to the champs retaining and the non-regular partners arguing with each other at the end. This match was completely pointless and no importance was placed on the titles or who won the match. At one point D-Lo grabbed a headlock on the wrong side which looked incredibly amateurish and stupid. There is a chance since he was working with Owen that this was done intentionally as a rib, but God it looked bad, and is WrestleMania really the platform for screwing around playing ribs?
Bart Gunn vs Butter Bean (Brawl for All match):
I’d often heard about this match and I’d seen the KO on YouTube before but I always thought it was a boxing match; turns out it was a “Brawl For All” match and takedowns were allowed. Why Bart didn’t try to get a take down is beyond me. The intros for this match lasted longer than the contest and Bart Gunn got MURDERED by Butterbean. What a disaster this was. They held a “real fight” style contest among the boys, Bart pretty much killed all the wrestler in it, then gets destroyed by an outsider in seconds. Too bad Bart didn’t have the Randy Couture – James Tony fight to learn from back then. This was bad.
“Big Show” Paul White vs. Mankind (Winner refs the Main Event):
It’s a shame WWE creative didn’t watch this match before re-naming Joe Hennig, Michael McGillicuty. If they want to own his name they could have given him a nick name like “Big Show” to go along with Joe Hennig. He could then milk the Hennig name to help get established then just drop the Joe Hennig part a year or so in and focus on the nick name like they did with Big Show. As a stand alone event this match came off weird to me. Seeing these guys beat the hell out of each other for the right to be a ref just seemed dumb. I assume there was an angle in place where Show wanted to ref to help Vince screw Austin, and Foley was trying to stop that from happening in an attempt to balance the playing field for the hero Austin, but without the build I couldn’t get into why anyone would fight this hard to get to be a ref later in the show. Big Show was in great shape here and even wore trucks. Show used a chair on the floor right in front of the ref yet for some reason wasn’t DQ’d until he used the chair inside the ring. Foley won but was killed, and Vince came out after the match to chastise Show for his loss. Vince must have been mic’d for this and I thought that was great. We could hear every thing he said without him having to hold a microphone, which made this seem more real. Show punched Vince in the face,which I assume was the start of a baby face turn for him. Match was okay.
Road Dog vs Val Venis vs Goldust vs. Ken Shamrock (Elimination 4-Way tags in and out for the IC Title):
Like the tag match I thought this match came off more like a bunch of moves. With a match like this I’m not sure why anyone would ever tag in. It’s elimination so if you are on the apron you are safe. Ken and Val did a double count out and then Ken ran back to the ring to lay out the other 2 guys. Much like last year Ken is pushed as this crazy nut job that when he loses his mind he just throws everybody around. They did an accidental trip spot with Goldust and Ryan Shamrock (who was out with Goldust) into the finish so Road Dog retained. Good pop on the finish but in the end this match just felt like a means to tell a silly story rather than a title match of any importance.
Kane vs. HHH:
Kane Tombstoned Pete Rose again, but at least this time Rose was a face so Kane got some heat for it. Teddy Long was also the ref. I think this match was hurt a great deal by not having the angle and story behind it. They showed a video of Chyna getting burned and I guess we were to believe that Chyna was no longer with H and was siding with Kane. They brawled, Kane even did a dive to the floor but in all honesty they didn’t get that much crowd reaction. To be fair a lot of matches didn’t get that much reaction as the crowd mostly just reacted to entrances and catch phrases. Chyna finally came out to assumingly help the heel Kane but it was a swerve (sort of) and she helped HHH and they reunited, which the crowded popped big for.
Sable vs. Tori (Women’s Title):
What a difference a year makes. I don’t know what happened between Mania 14 and Mania 15 but Sable was one of the most over baby faces last year and this year she was a heel and not over at all. If her lack of reaction was just because of the heel turn whoever made that call made a HUGE mistake. This match was horrible and the crowd didn’t react to it either. There was a ref bump, a botched Powerbomb spot, and finally Nicole Bass came out to kill Tori and help Sable win. Very Bad.
Shane O Mac vs. X Pac (European Title):
This match told a good story and seemed to be playing off a pretty hot angle. I didn’t like that they used a weight belt to whip each other in front of the ref, seeing that there was a DQ in the, Show – Foley match earlier, and the main event match was no DQ. HHH and Chyna ran down but turned on X Pac to cost him the match, which sort of felt like a double swerve after the Chyna deal earlier but in all fairness it wasn’t really. Chyna didn’t turn face to reunite with HHH and then both turned heel here, what really happened was HHH turned heel earlier to reunite with Chyna. Outlaws then ran in, as did Kane.
Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man (Hell in a Cell):
This match was a big disappointment for me. Taker’s ring entrances was one of the plainest I’ve ever seen and the match wasn’t that much more exciting. The fought for a while and it was fine but nothing overly exciting. Eventually the ministry (Edge, Christian, and Gangrel) repelled from the ceiling onto the top of the cell. They tore open the cell and dropped a noose down to Taker and tied the rope off up top, then they reattached to their harnesses to be winched back up to the ceiling. Edge’s winch stopped about half way up and the poor guy had to just hang their in mid air for quiet a while. Taker put the noose around Boss Man’s throat and the cage was raised and Boss Man was lifted off of the ground, he flailed for his life before eventually hanging still. I guess we were supposed to think he had just been murdered. This was WAY TOO much for me and just stupid. I’ve even been told Boss Man was on TV the next day. Immediately after we saw Boss Man hung to DEATH they cut to a video hyping the WWE Rage Party, with people singing, dancing, and partying. WTF, nice segue.
Jim Ross was brought out (to a huge pop) to replace Cole and call the Main Event. What an awesome idea this was and would be still today.
Rock vs. Austin (WWE World Title no DQ):
Vince was out to be the ref at the start but HBK came out as Commissioner and told him take a hike, which Vince did, so just a regular ref since Foley was still selling the beating by Show. They started hot, brawling all over the place and damn this match was awesome. Unlike most of the undercard the crowd was into everything these guys did, they were into their shtick, and they were into the match. Much like the Bret – Austin match from 2 years earlier this match built perfectly and was great. The key to this match was that they found a way to brawl all over the building at the start and then still have the match pick up once back in the ring. The way they did this was by keeping the brawl on the floor back and forth but once they got back in the ring Rock hit a Rock Bottom on Austin for a near fall, putting jeopardy to the match for the first time. From here on Rock got some heat on Austin, adding heated drama to replace the excitement from the frantic brawl. This match just got better and better, Vince came down, Foley came down, they teased the stunner then Austin finally hit it, scored the pin, captured the title, and the place went absolutely Nucking Futs. Other than another unprotected chair shot in this match I wouldn’t change a thing, this was awesome. Big news flash Rock and Austin are very talented!
I wasn’t really crazy about this show and it was mainly due to a big change I noticed from last years show to this one. There was a lot less focus on the matches and match quality. The Main Event was the only match to go much longer than 10 minutes (Kane and HHH just broke 10min) so outside of the Main no match felt very significant. In many cases the matches felt like mere backdrops to angles and stories. I think this was one of the main reasons why the crowd while very hot for ring entrances and catch phrases reacted very little to the matches themselves; the Main event being the exception.
Without the Main Event this show would have been a slight thumbs down, but Rock vs Austin was so great it made the show a thumbs up. That’s my two cents anyway.