November 13, 2012
If you've missed my previous 20 Mania reviews I've been working my way through all the WrestleMania DVDs in order giving my thoughts, so if you missed them they can all be found here: Mania Commentaries
WrestleMania 21 was from the Staple Center in LA and the show that was built up with all the Hollywood parody movie trailers, which were extremely funny. By today's standards the Staple Center is an absurdly small venue for WrestleMania, which did hurt the atmosphere a bit watching it back now. I had just retired a little bit before this WrestleMania and was working as the trainer in OVW, but the office brought me in for the show anyway so I was at the show live backstage. Backstage is not the best place to watch the show so this was the first time I've seen this show in its entirety.
They had the split RAW/SmackDown announce teams which were Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole & Tazz, which were 2 strong announce teams. Howard Finkle was doing ring announcing so the show was off to a great start before anyone else even stepped into the ring.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio:
This match was the SmackDown Tag Team Champions facing each other in an odd feud where they were both babyfaces and partners but had a rivalry going none the less. I have a hard time watching matches of friends who are no longer with us, which took my enjoyment level down a notch but both these guys were so good in this match I did find I got past my sadness of Eddie's death and did enjoy this match a lot. A real fantastic opener with some top notch wrestling with an awesome finish.
MITB Ladder Match, Jericho, Benjamin, Christian, Benoit, Kane, Edge:
This was the first ever MITB match and man did it set the bar high right out of the gate. This was an incredible match and not just because of the stunts and bumps done in the match. There was a lot of drama and it built well, this was an awesome match with a ton of really talented people. An interesting story: I was in the locker room in the afternoon when they were putting this match together and at one point they couldn't find Shelton and a couple guys joked that if he didn't turn up they would substitute me into the match and let me do all of Shelton's spots figuring I was one of the few people back stage that could probably pull all of his stuff off. Unfortunately Shelton turned up and I didn't get to do the match.
There was a Eugene, Mohammed Hassan promo that was incredible lame but it was just to set up for Hogan to come out and blow a big comeback, which the crowd loved, so in the end this segment was a success.
The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton:
There was an awesome hype video building up this match and I remember how great of a job they built Orton as the Legend Killer back then. I remember this being the last time I truly though The Streak was in real jeopardy. This was yet another great match with great psychology and drama. They hit a great near fall using Bob Orton, who was inducted into the HOF the night before, as well as one out of an RKO which really had me. In the end Undertaker prevailed, The Streak continued, and this was a really great match. One really funny spot in the match, Randy did a school boy roll up on Taker out of the corner and Michael Cole actually said "He may get him here" I laughed out loud. Could you imagine Undertaker losing his first WrestleMania match to a school boy out of the corner?
Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme w/Lita (Women's Title):
This was not good, but that was more a result of Christy being incredibly green than anything else. Christy had won the Diva search that year and did the Playboy layout so she got the big push into the WrestleMania match but unfortunately she wasn't ready for a high profile match like this. This was bad but thankfully fairly short.
Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle:
This match was just freakin fantastic; I was expecting it to be great just based off the guys involved but these guys somehow managed to top my expectations. If there was nothing else on this show outside of this one match it would still be a great WrestleMania and worth the price you paid to see it. Awesome Awesome Awesome.
Up next was Piper's Pit, who was inducted into the HOF the night before. Steve Austin was the quest and they had a brief exchange which was fun, but greatly hurt by that stupid "What" crap that was absurdly over back then. It through Piper a bit at first (I'm not sure he understood it), but Piper, being one of the best talkers to ever step into a ring, managed to turn it around and adapt. Eventually Carlito came out to interrupt, which lead to Piper spitting apple in Carlito's face and Carlito eating a Stunner. Piper and Austin drank a bunch of beer before Austin hit Piper with a Stunner too and the segment ended. Fun for what it was.
Big Show vs. Akibono (Sumo Match):
This match and Piper's Pit where no doubt to give as much of a buffer as possible between the Title matches to follow and that incredible HBK - Kurt Angle match. No way would I want to have had to follow that. I don't recall why WWE thought Akibono would be a draw on this show but the match was booked and to be honest it was as good as it could possibly be. They took it completely seriously, Show going all the way wearing the traditional Sumo attire. Because they did it seriously and kept it relatively short this did not hurt the show at all. I would not say it was a good match, but I didn't think it hurt the show because they didn't make it a joke.
JBL vs. John Cena (WWE Title):
The best thing about this match was the Old WWE Title Belt. That is not a shot at the match just a statement on how much I hate the WWE Spinner Belt Cena debuted shortly after this show. I was real curious to hear what kind of reaction Cena got coming out, because I remember being surprised at the 100% positive reaction he got the previous year at Mania XX; he was so universally over on that show I was anxious to see if that continued here or if the divided response Cena gets now had started yet. After watching the match I'm not sure if the split reaction thing had started yet, but he sure wasn't over like he was the year before. The crowd response when he came out was not particularly strong and the crowd did not seem overly into the match, JBL worked real hard as a heel, but John seemed fairly limited in the ring at this point in his career, and they didn't even hit a near fall in the match; Cena just blew a comeback and hit the FU and won the title. Crowd did pop big for the title win, but even with a solid buffer this match was not following Kurt and Shawn.
HHH w/Flair vs. Dave Batista (World Title):
The build to this match was one of the best things WWE has ever done and the video package they showed before this match was awesome. This is exactly what wrestling is supposed to be; two men fighting for the World Title in a match that was built up over a long period of time in a serious believe able manner. This was great and I believe it is one of the best drawing Mania Main Events in WWE history. This was a great psychology and drama match. Dave still hadn't developed into the worker he would later become but he had great presence and did a great job; Hunter was awesome, and this was a great match. For some reason Dave didn't get his usual pyro for his ring entrance, which was really odd considering HHH got the live performance by Motor Head for his entrance leaving Dave’s entrance looking very lame. HHH also deserves an extra award for the best WrestleMania tan. This was a real solid Main event, technically not as good a match as Kurt and Shawn, but with the drama, and the title worked in a worth main event and a great close to the show.
Over all this was an excellent WrestleMania. The only bad match was the women's match and there were 5 matches I'd say were extremely good to excellent. It was odd that there wasn't a single tag team match on this show. It may be the first WrestleMania to not have a Tag Team or at least a 6 Man Tag Match on the show. Apart from the multi-man MITB match there were only single matches on this card. Lots of celebrities in the crowd including Adam Sandler who for some reason refused to look at the camera when they focused on him. He acknowledged that the camera was there but stared at the floor the whole time, it was very weird.
I'll try to get to Mania 22 as soon as possible, the next few WrestleManias should be fun because I haven't seen them before.
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