WRESTLEMANIA 29: I’m Gonna Get Involved In a Three-Way If I Can

WrestleMania 29
WrestleMania 29 (2013) – MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ) – Main Event: WWE Championship: Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson vs. John Cena.

This was not a good night, and I’m not even talking about all of the nonsense involved with the WWE overselling their servers, resulting in me and apparently everyone else who bought the PPV stream through WWE.com getting totally hosed by a stream that broke down multiple times. At first, I was on a 15-minute delay, and then I ended up on a 2-hour delay after the stream was “fixed,” but started the event over, with no ability to watch the event live. I ended up having to watch the first three matches a second time and knew the result of almost every event afterwards. When you buy the stream it appears you get to watch the event as many times as you want for 24 hours, so why not let us jump ahead to the live matches – you know the main events and stuff where we might actually want to watch it live instead of having to seal ourselves off inside an underground bunker to keep from hearing the results.

I can put aside my anger and frustration at WWE completely failing to delivering on their promise to let me watch WrestleMania live in exchange for $60 to judge the night’s action, though, because knowing that the Undertaker kept his streak alive didn’t ruin my enjoyment of his epic, legendary match with CM Punk, nor did knowing that Cena regained the WWE Championship make me hate that absolute clunker more than I would have had I watched it live.

WRESTLEMANIA 29 will undoubtedly go down as one of the lesser WrestleManias. It was not a completely worthless night, but there were zero surprises and few memorable matches.

The WWE offered a full 60-minute pre-show that was almost a complete waste of time, as it was nothing more than hype packages that were then largely repeated during the actual event! What the hell? Why are we getting so many packages during the event to hype the event when we’ve already bought the event? Look, the WWE does an amazing job with their hype packages, but a little goes a long way. They are much more effective on the Blu-ray release so in 20 years people can understand that Fandango hates Chris Jericho because he once called him Fan Danny DeVito.

The one highlight of the pre-show was the Intercontinental Championship match between Wade Barrett and The Miz. I was a little perplexed why they stuffed this match into the pre-show while the Tons of Funk (Brodus Clay and Tensai)/Funkadactyls and Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow)/the Bella Twins got a spot in the main show, but before the night was over I could see why – the eight-person tag match got cancelled and didn’t appear. The WWE hasn’t said anything, as of yet, about why, but my guess is that it was a time issue.

Heaven forbid we didn’t get that awful Diddy performance.

Rhodes Scholars vs. Tons of Funk

I’m totally in the bag for Team Rhodes Scholars (I don’t know why the WWE doesn’t have them doing their New Age Outlaws parody each week) and while I’m indifferent about Tons of Funk, I feel bad for all eight performers. The cut came very late as the Bellas tweeted out a picture of the four of them getting ready just before they were scheduled to head out for their match. The Funkadactyls have actually showed some real and genuine in-ring ability and if the WWE is at all serious about jumpstarting either the Divas or Tag Team Divisions, this match would have been a great opportunity to build some momentum.

Anyway, the Barrett/Miz match didn’t light New Jersey up or anything, but it was a solid match, with a really inventive application of the Figure 4 by Miz. That’s pretty impressive given that he couldn’t even properly apply the move a month ago. Chemistry is such a huge part of making a match good and Barrett and Miz just don’t work together all that well. I wish the WWE would get serious about building up their ranks around the titles – there should be a set of guys in the mix for all of the titles and then a few free floaters, but knowing that, say, Barrett, Miz, Kofi, Fandango, Dean Ambrose, and Antonio Cesaro (who’s due to be moved up the card despite his ridiculous omission from WRESTLEMANIA 29) form the basis for the Intercontinental Championship pool makes for better storytelling than having Wade Barrett as the Intercontinental Champ jobbing to guys higher up the card.

The Miz gets the win and I’m fine with that. The WWE clearly wants Miz to be one of the company’s primary faces, so giving him a belt and seeing if he can handle it will allow them to find out if he can one day soon be entrusted with one of the big two belts for an extended stay.

The opening match of the PPV portion of the night featured The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins) against the All-Star pairing of Seamus, Randy Orton, and Big Show. It was obvious that the Shield was going to win, and good for them, because these three guys are awesome together. They’re so good together I almost wish the WWE would let the three of them wrestle in the Tag division as a threesome. The match was pretty good, but Seamus, Orton, and Show have zero chemistry together.

I get that this was supposed to be the key to the Shield’s victory, but the result was never in doubt. While JBL yammered on about how the Shield reminded him of the Freebirds (thus confusing anyone under the age of 45), Seamus, Orton, and Show didn’t look like they could have beat the Funkadactyls and Bella Twins. Bradshaw was much better when he said of the Shield, “These guys wrestle like they’re in someone else’s body.” (It was an odd night for JBL – he was much better in quieter moments than louder ones.) While the Shield was effective wrestling as a pack, Seamus had some good individual moments, Orton had some good individual moments, and Show had some good individual moments (including spearing the Shield as they held Seamus aloft) but all three of them must be hoping this alliance vs. Shield stuff is behind them. After the match, Show decided to knock the other two out for not trusting him fully, and he’s right.

It’ll be interesting to see where these six men go after this – one of the biggest problems with WRESTLEMANIA 29 is that it doesn’t feel like many of these matches will have any real carryover effect. And the ones that do aren’t exactly setting up anything interesting. Are we really going to get another Show/Seamus feud? Show vs. Orton? Isn’t it time Orton went heel again? It was painful watching him try to “carry the flag” against the Shield. What’s the plan? It would be awesome if Orton and Seamus formed a Tag Team and Show went and got himself a partner because then you’d have a legit Tag Team Division, that could also break into singles matches to fight for the Tag titles, but I can’t see that happening.

Mark Henry vs. Ryback followed and provided the only result of the night that could be called a surprise as Henry defeated Ryback after falling on top of him. Ryback is basically the most important jobber in the company at the moment as he never seems to beat anyone. I’m pretty sure JBL said at the beginning of the match that this was “something from the Crustacean period,” which is fitting since this was a pretty awkward match. I’m not a huge Ryback fan but the guy is trying to get better and trying to work the crowd and I give him credit for that. I am a Mark Henry fan and so I took some enjoyment out of the way he easily tossed Ryback around for most of their eight minutes in the ring. Few wrestlers look as impressive when standing next to other wrestlers as Mark Henry, and him shouting, “That’s what I do!” is one of the best things going right now. The end of the match is a little funky and I’m not entirely sure the right ending happened. Ryback got Henry up for the Shell Shock, but then Henry grabbed the nearest rope, Ryback lost his balance, and Henry pancaked Ryback and got the pin.

It looked odd. Awesome. But odd.

Henry then came back in the ring, scared the trainers out of the ring (which was also awesome), and Ryback delivered the Shell Shock, which would have been more impressive if it happened during a match. If it was supposed to happen during the match and got botched, it would have been better to wait until the next PPV to properly build up to it. As it happened, though, it just felt odd and ineffective.

The shortest match of the night but also the second best match of the night was next as Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan) put the Tag Titles on the line against Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston, making his WWE main roster debut. That this was the shortest match of the night is another sign that whoever it was that was in charge of time was an idiot. Why give two lumbering plodders like Lesnar and Triple H 24 minutes or the gassed Rock and unimaginative Cena 24 minutes and only give this match seven minutes? Ugh.

The four participants put on a heck of a match, though, taking full advantage of the short time they were given. Kane will always live in Undertaker’s shadow, but he’s had a Hall of Fame career and he put on a magnificent show.

A couple months ago it looked like Team Hell No was heading for a break up. They’d completed their Anger Management training, they were still fighting, and Team Rhodes Scholars were on the rise. Then the WWE temporarily ended Rhodes Scholars and Hell No was left without any actual competition. It was only a few weeks ago that they booked this match but there was no real build-up – which was the case with too many of the night’s matches.

Given proper time, these groups could have had an awesome build-up. As it was, they relied pretty heavily on Big E never competing in the WWE before tonight and AJ’s former connection with Bryan. That last bit is great and I’m all for a Bryan/Ziggler feud with the Heavyweight Championship on the line, and hopefully that will be in the future. Ziggler continues to be an absolute beast for the WWE and the company either doesn’t seem to notice or care. How this guy isn’t main eventing half the PPVs on the calendar is beyond me.

This match had plenty of back and forth. Too many matches on the night fell into the trap of being one-sided for a while in one direction and then one-sided in the other direction. Here, all the participants got in some shots against all other participants. The match started with Ziggler calling AJ up to the ring for a kiss, mocking Bryan, but then Bryan tried to flip last year on its head by kicking Ziggler in the head and trying to get a quick pin. It didn’t happen but it set a fantastic tone for the action. After Ziggler rolled out of the ring, Bryan dove through the ropes to crash into him. All four men had their moments and ultimately Ziggler tried to hit Kane with his Money in the Bank briefcase as AJ distracted the ref. Kane ducked, choke slammed him, and then tagged Bryan to deliver a flying headbutt and finish Ziggler off.

Great match, and I like that it appears Hell No is committed to sticking together for the near future. They’ve had the belts since September and it’s time the WWE builds a legit Tag Team division around them. Bringing Ziggler and Big E in is a good start, and Rhodes Scholars is a legit threat, as well.

The debut of Fandango was next as Chris Jericho was called upon once again to get someone over. Jericho is great at this, but this wasn’t a great match. The WWE has completely botched Fandango’s entrance into the company. The dancing gimmick is bad enough, but the whole “I won’t wrestle until you say my name right” angle was lame and went on far too long and Fandango (the former Johnny Curtis) looked a bit stiff and unsure of himself during the match. Most of this match was spent with Jericho having his way with Fandango, but then ended when Jericho “tweaked” his knee and Fandango rolled him up for a quick pin. If anything, it looked like Fandango was doing his best to get Jericho over. Ugh.

I had high hopes for this match going in, but it wasn’t anything more than decent. It’s always fun watching Y2J perform, but the magic he produced with Ziggler and Punk last year was not repeated on this night despite his best efforts. The fans are pretty hostile towards Fandango and even though he got the win, I don’t think WRESTLEMANIA 29 did anything to win him new fans. It’s too bad because I think he’s pretty hilarious. He makes a good move and then poses in some kind of weird dance position that I’m pretty sure they don’t include on Dances with the Stars. He’s got has real talent, too. His best move of the night was climbing off the floor, onto the apron, and kicking Jericho in mid-air. It was impressive, but that was pretty much it.

The announcers made some hay about how this was one of the greatest upsets in WrestleMania history, but how is that supposed to help a heel get over?

Diddy was next.

Diddy.

He sucked.

The Heavyweight Championship was next and you knew there was no way the WWE was going to let Jack Swagger get the win after his marijuana arrest two months back. Swagger had just won Elimination Chamber setting up this WrestleMania match. It was a bit surprising when the WWE didn’t torpedo Swagger right away, but they let him carry this storyline through to WrestleMania where Swagger and Alberto Del Rio put on a really solid match. It never really felt like a Heavyweight Championship match, though. While the action was good and Del Rio and Swagger are both solid in-ring performers, there was little suspense.

Plus, I hate the ankle lock. It’s dumb. Nobody’s ankle is getting broken.

I like ADR so I’m cool with him staying champ, but like many people I was disappointed that Ziggler didn’t immediately come out and cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

Honestly, what’s the WWE doing with Ziggler? He’s had that darn case forever now and he keeps passing up opportunities to use it. I admit the only reason that I was, in any way, okay with him not coming out and cashing in was because I had the slimmest of hopes that he was going to wait and cash it in after Cena and Rock’s match.

The match probably should have switched places with the Y@J/Fandango match, or after that but before Diddy because with Punk and Taker next on the card, ADR/Swagger was nothing more than a warm-up act to the main event.

As down as I am on WRESTLEMANIA 29, one thing that this event will always have in its favor is CM Punk and Undertaker put on an absolute epic match. Did I want Punk to win? Yup, but I also have the utmost respect for the Streak, and as long as Taker keeps putting on these classic matches, I’m not going to complain about him continuing to keep the streak alive. As I get older, these matches are much less about wins and losses with me and more about the performance, and on that account, this match delivered in spades.

I recently watched all of Taker’s WrestleMania matches and what’s impressive about the Dead Man is that he keeps getting better. Mark Calaway just turned 48 a couple weeks ago but he keeps putting on these breathtaking matches. In part, this speaks to the power of the Streak, of course, as fans know he’s not going to lose, yet can’t help but get caught up in the pin counts.

What’s clear in watching the Taker’s WrestleMania history unfold is that as his years accumulate and his physical skills diminish, his understanding of ring psychology has increased. Punk is the single best in-ring shrink going right now, and despite not having wrestled one another in years, and despite Undertaker basically being a once-a-year wrestler at this point, the two men delivered a match for the ages in MetLife Stadium.

Right from the start this match was rocking, building drama was still entertaining the fans. This was the only match of the night, really, where the fans in MetLife were hanging on every move. Watch the Lesnar/HHH and Rock/Cena matches that follow and the crowd is dead for both matches. Rock/Cena might have delivered the most PPV buys, but everyone in attendance seemed to know there was only one real Main Event on this night and it was the match where the Best in the World faced off against the Best of All-Time.

It almost feels like I’m lessening the match by attempting to describe it in great detail, as this really is a match that needs to be seen to be believed, but suffice to say by the time Punk laid Taker out on the Spanish announce table and then started eyeing the top rope from his position on the floor, you knew this match was going to be something legendary. When he climbed to the top rope and JBL breathlessly said, “This is history,” not once, but twice, you knew he was right. Watch enough wrestling matches and you can tell when the announcers genuinely mean what they’re saying and when they’re just selling used cars. JBL, Michael Cole, and Jerry Lawler were all into this match and all of them delivered their finest performances here, as well.

I’ve never been a huge Cole fan, but ever since the King had his heart attack and Cole dropped the heel announcer bit I’ve been totally impressed with his work, and he’s on the top of his game here. When Punk delivers the Go to Sleep on Taker, and Taker responds by hitting a Tombstone piledriver, doing his awesome fold the arms and stick out the tongue cover move, and Punk manages to kick out, JBL again succinctly puts it in perspective. “That’s not human,” he says, as if he really can’t believe Punk just kicked out.

The end of the match is a clinic in hitting big moves, and when Punk mocks Taker’s arms/tongue cover move and Taker kicks out, Cole yells, “A resurrection at WrestleMania!” and I realize just how invested I am in this match because I’m jumping off the couch, and hating that Punk didn’t get the win and loving that Taker didn’t get the loss all at once.

Just an epic match. So many epic moments from both Undertake and Punk. So many epic moments artfully enhanced by Michael Cole, JBL, the King, and Mike Chioda.

Taker climbing to the top rope to attempt an Old School and Punk yanking him off, then later Punk goes up and hits it on Taker, then later goes up a third time and falls onto the top rope. That’s just fantastic storytelling by two masters of the craft – heck, Punk even came out wearing trunks and boots in Taker’s original purple, black, and grey color scheme plays into the psychology of the match. Think HHH and Brock are gonna do that? Give me a break. Compare the three part “walk the ropes” sequence to the Rock/Cena WWE Championship match later in the night where they ham-fistedly trade finishing moves for 15 minutes with no real attempt to sell the possibility that the other guy might actually win.

Credit has to go to referee Mike Chioda, too, who was right on top of everything. When Punk went flying off the top rope into the Spanish announce table and the darn thing didn’t break, Chioda was right there to check on both wrestlers, and could even be seen discreetly crossing his arms into an “X” by his waist as he looked back to Paul Heyman, giving the sign that one of the wrestlers might actually be hurt.

After Taker gets the win and extends the Streak, the crowd is gassed. The Brock/HHH match is plodding and pointless. Much like the Y2J/Fandango match from earlier, one guy dominates 95% of the match and then loses. There’s some real violence here which helps, and finishing the match by having Hunter hit a pedigree on some steel steps was cool, but given how slow these two guys are, there’s no reason to have given them twenty minutes. It feels like the bulk of the match is them exchanging Kimura locks, which is pretty lame – oh no, is someone going to break an arm? No. No, they’re not. You can tell that almost no one is into the match as they respond only to the heaviest moves, and who can blame them after Punk and Taker just tore the place down.

Of course, that’s pretty much all there is.

I like Triple H, and as we saw with his WrestleMania matches against the Taker in recent years, he can still put on a great match, but being paired with Brock just doesn’t work for me. In general, Brock Lesnar doesn’t work for me. The WWE acts like he’s an indestructible monster, and then he keeps losing. Plus, he’s hardly around and when he is, he hardly wrestles.

The WWE has a real problem with how they use their part-timers; one of the reasons why the hardcore fans love Jericho and dislike the Rock is that even though they’re both part timers, when Y2J comes back, he wrestles constantly. The Rock is only a PPV wrestler, at this point, and the same can be said for Lesnar. I kinda hate how they get main events and the full-timers don’t. Look at the last two matches of WRESTLEMANIA 29, and you’ll see there’s three part-timers. Toss in Punk and Taker and a full 2/3 of the participants in your three biggest matches only wrestle at PPVs. How is that good for the company?

And no, I’m not an idiot. I get that Rock and Triple H and Lesnar and Undertaker get people to buy the PPV, but the WWE is making a huge mistake not using them to get younger stars over. Instead of the Rock losing to an established star like Cena, or Brock and HHH going at each other, why not use them as they use Jericho – to get the younger stars over with the crowd.

The night’s main event was awful. There’s no other way to say it. Rock and Cena put on a pure clunker. Rock doesn’t have much cardio strength at this stage in his career, so why give them almost a half hour to walk around each other in the ring? The best part of the match is looking at the expressions on Cena’s face. Forget what the announcers say – the crowd is not split 50/50 between the two guys. The crowd is as hostile against Cena as I can remember and he looks genuinely bothered by it. At times, he almost looks bored, like even he can’t get excited about the match.

The crowd is dead, too, for the most part. People go to WrestleMania to have a good time, but at this point in the night they’ve been sitting in their seats for four hours or more and sat through a lackluster night, then were witness to one of the greatest WrestleMania matches you’ll ever see, and, then sat through a plodding snoozer, and now had to sit through a match that was ineffectively built.

The whole angle about Cena not being able to win the big one was absurd – the dude had held the best 10 times before tonight – and that embarrassing “press conference” they had a few weeks ago proved as well as anything that this match was DOA.

I’m not a John Cena guy but I have no problem with him being the champ – the belt needs to be worn by a guy who shows up every week. I dislike how deferential he was to the Rock at the end, and it’s nonsense that Cena is the champ but the Rock leaves the ring last, with his own music blaring. Unless it’s a retirement match, or the loser gets some post-match revenge, the winner should leave last. Cena waits for the Rock at the top of the ramp, but instead of feeling genuine, it all feels forced.

WRESTLEMANIA 29 was predictable and unmemorable. Not a good night for the company’s biggest spectacle.

__________

MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Not even close: CM Punk vs. the Undertaker. A definite contender for Match of the Year.

STAR OF THE NIGHT: CM Punk and Undertaker. No sense in trying to pick one over the other. Their performances are the only ones people will be talking about a week from now, let alone in twenty years.

MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Punk jumping off the top rope and the Spanish announce table not collapsing.

RUNNER-UP MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: CM Punk kicking out after the Taker’s first Tombstone piledriver.

RUNNER-UP MOMENT OF THE NIGHT #2: Undertaker kicking out as Punk was attempting to pin him while mocking him. Total credit to Mike Chioda for an epic slow count, too, properly building the drama.

RUNNER-UP MOMENT OF THE NIGHT #3: CM Punk using the urn to prevent Undertaker hitting the Last Ride.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Undertake stays alive! A resurrection at WrestleMania!” – Michael Cole, after Taker kicks out, delivering some of the best work of his career.

RUNNER-UP QUOTE #1: “This is history.” – JBL, when Punk is standing on the top ropes preparing to jump.

RUNNER-UP QUOTE #2: “Do what you have to do. Do what you have to do.” – Paul Heyman to CM Punk after both men crawl back into the ring after the announce table jump.

RUNNER-UP QUOTE #3: “I’m gonna get involved in a three-way if I can.” – Jerry Lawler, while playing with Randy Orton and John Cena Power Slammer toys.

__________

Gunfighter Gothic BOTU3When he’s not reviewing WrestleManias, Mark Bousquet is doing some writing himself. He is the author of multiple novels and collections, including the recently released The Haunting of Kraken MoorGunfighter GothicStuffed Animals for HireDreamer’s SyndromeHarpsichord and the Wormhole Witches, and Adventures of the Five. He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.

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2 thoughts on “WRESTLEMANIA 29: I’m Gonna Get Involved In a Three-Way If I Can

  1. I won’t touch even 1/10th of the write-up you have here. Frankly, I haven’t followed all that much pro wrestling since I started college and discovered the early, no rules, days of the UFC on late-night cable. That’s actually part of what I was going to bring up, regarding Lesnar.

    Maybe, as a pro wrestling fan, you can give me some insight into exactly what this guy really brings to the table other than being a human freak show. Honestly, I was never all that impressed with his MMA performances. He is clearly a skilled freestyle wrestler, but nobody ever taught him how to deliver an even somewhat respectable punch or kick, and while his grappling is amazing (particularly for his freakish physique) he had no submission game on offense or defense that went beyond ‘crush smaller opponents under his bulk and hope something good happens’.

    Was he ever more entertaining/interesting to watch in a wrestling ring? I’m genuinely curious, what is the draw to this guy, because I’ve never understood it.

    As far as The Rock goes, do you think its really a matter of poor conditioning at this point, or more that his heart just isn’t in it anymore, at all, but that he is such a people-pleaser that he can’t bring himself to really walk away from wrestling?

    I mean, how invested can he be in the WWE at this point, really? I went to G.I. Joe with my son this past weekend and he was in that AND half the trailers that ran ahead of it. The man has two films in theaters right now that he’s doing publicity for globally, and according to his IMDB profile he has another 8 projects in some stage of production. That, on top of side projects like hosting the Kid’s Choice awards, and I’m amazed he’s put as much time and effort into his wrestling career as he has.

    Just a couple thoughts… Hope all’s well in Reno.
    -e

    • With Lesnar, it’s definitely the human freak show element. He was always a bit unstable, but he’s got a rep as a guy other wrestlers don’t want to work with because of his attitude. You hear stories that Lesnar delivers all his moves hard and he doesn’t mind hurting people. That’s yet another in Triple H’s cap for being willing to get in there with Lesnar. I’m not a Lesnar guy, at all, but like Rock, he’s popular enough that he can show up part-time and wrestle PPVs only.

      As for Rock, I think he genuinely likes the adulation from the public. He’s rich enough he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t have to, but not so committed to it that he’ll show up every week. Maybe it’s a case of loving the spotlight but not loving the daily grind.

      Rock and Brock are both similar in that the general wrestling fan seems to adore both of them but the more insider fans can’t stand them. The “smarks,” as they are sometimes called (and which I am definitely a member), love somebody like Chris Jericho, who’s also a part time wrestler, but when he shows up he wrestles all the time and he helps get other wrestlers over with the crowd. In the last year, he’s done that for both CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler, two guys who are incredibly important to the WWE’s future.

      But if you put Ziggler vs. Punk in the main event of a PPV, the buys aren’t nearly as high as if you put Brock vs. Rock in the main event. If Rock wants to be a part-timer, I’m cool with that but he doesn’t get anyone over. He’s wrestled 3 times since he’s been back, I believe. He beat Punk twice and lost to Cena. Which means that unlike Jericho, Rock came back to beat the guy who held the Championship belt for over a year (more than anyone in the cable TV era), and then lost to the most established star in the company. He’s not helping the new generation of wrestlers get over with the crowd.

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