wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews The Mania Main Events (21-24)

March 30, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka
John Cena Shawn Michaels WrestleMania 23

WELCOME: WELCOME: Welcome back to day SIX of my countdown to WrestleMania series. You can read the first FIVE parts here (part one), here (part two), here (part three), here (part four) and here (part five). The deal here is simple, I will be looking at every WrestleMania main event. I will look at them in small batches, discuss some history, how my opinions may have changed over the years, rate them, and at the end of each column update the overall rankings of Mania main event matches. For the purposes of this column, the main event is the LAST MATCH on the show. I will not get caught up in what some perceive as the main event, or co-main event bullshit; the last match on the show is the focus. I plan to make it a bit more conversational, maybe even for it to have a storyteller’s tone to it. We’ve seen these matches, we’re read blow by blow recaps and other forms of analysis; I hope to do a little something different. Sound good to you? Cool, let’s get to work.


WrestleMania 21 – World Title Match: Champion Triple H vs. Batista [***]: WrestleMania 20 ended with Guerrero and Benoit as the champions, but both did not last long in the top role. Guerrero had issues (which he admitted himself) with the pressure of being on top, and Benoit was just never pushed as the man when he had the title. Guerrero was used to legitimize John Bradshaw Layfield, while Benoit was actually used to catapult the next big star, Randy Orton. Orton won the title from Benoit at Summerslam, with the big plan being for him to be in one of the WrestleMania feature matches; but things didn’t click for Orton then, and the rise of another Evolution member was noted, and that led to big Dave Batista getting the rocket strapped to his ass. The rise of Batista was a fun time to watch, they clearly thought Orton was the guy, but Batista just organically growing a following was a cool thing to witness. Over the years, things like this have gotten few and far between (outside of the fans wanting guys like Punk and Bryan). This just felt cool.

Big Dave wins the Rumble; Bischoff and Long make their cases for him to facer their champion, they do the tease that he will go after the other title so that Evolution can dominate. Triple H comes off as a slimy douche here, telling Big Dave that it is ok to go to Smackdown so that Triple H could stay champion and Batista could also be a champion; but of course Batista knew what he was going to do all along; he gives the old thumbs down and reveals that he will face Triple H. So Batista vs. World Champion (not WWE champion) Triple H was the headliner for WrestleMania 21. When it came to the match, I felt that as a vehicle to get over Big Dave it worked quiet well. It had the feel of a big moment match, you have the newly minted face defeat the big evil and stand tall. The first half, while not bad, just felt so slow. There is a method to laying groundwork to go long and then there is just a boring match. This was leaning towards boring match early, not bad, but just there. But thankfully the pacing and story started to pick up, Batista was able to show that he could overcome the odds and the crowd reacted in kind. In the end, Batista fights out of the pedigree, hits the emerald frosion variation and then the thumbs down and Batista bomb to win the title. As a vehicle to get over Big Dave, this works big time. As a Mania main event, it comes across as a bit disappointing, but is an overall good effort.

WrestleMania 22 – WWE Title Match: Champion John Cena vs. Triple H [***]: We move onto 2006, and John Cena is now the man in the WWE. While Batista was on the rise, winning the World Title at WrestleMania 21 in the main event, Cena scored his first major victory on the big stage, winning the WWE Title from JBL. Cena rolled on as Champion until Edge’s MITB cash in, but then won the title back at the Royal Rumble PPV. Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble that year, and moved onto a triple threat with Orton and Angle; Triple competed and won the Road to WrestleMania Tournament, which was used to crowd Cena’s challenger. Going into the match with two straight WM main event losses, I remember the feel of fear as many expected Triple H to take the win and the title here. While they definitely had the crowd at times during this match, and that is a big deal, the match never really connected with me. They did their best in trying to make this come off as an epic encounter, and they succeeded to a point, but the match has to be there to back up the story. There has to be something more than just a crowd reaction as the main event at a WrestleMania, and as such I believe that it failed in that. This isn’t a knock on Cena, and this isn’t a HHH bashing session. I like both guys, and I think that they could have had a very good match. But here are the facts, Cena isn’t a “great technical worker,” but he can have great matches and has over the years, there is no doubt there. HHH wasn’t the same HHH of 2000-01 when he was carrying the company, but again was far more than capable of putting on a great match. I got the feeling after a few re-watches that this was one of those Triple H matches where is struggling for an epic, big stage match, and by doing that and going so long, he actually does a disservice to himself and Cena. But I will say that they elicited that emotional response from the live crowd you ant and kept it for almost the full match. This is a polarizing matches to many, as I have seen ratings anywhere from ** (those people generally felt bored) to **** (those that loved it). I feel that if they would have trimmed some stuff and gone 15 or so minutes, I feel that things could have been better and the match would have been the better for it. So once again, this was not a “bad match” but all things considered with this being the main event of the marquee show of the year, it fell below what it should have been. Triple H does his third main event job at WrestleMania in a row.

WrestleMania 23 – WWE Title Match: Champion John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels [****]: Shawn Michaels is certainly Mr. WrestleMania, but was a man who most thought would be mostly a supporting player this year and would take time off for his various injuries. Instead, he became a hero once again at WrestleMania. When HHH went down, the man stepped it up and put the company on his back and decided to be the HBK of old. It appears as if this match was either loved or hated due to how they laid things out. I loved the slow beginning to the match. They had to fill almost 30-minutes, and you cannot go balls to the wall right off the bat. It also fits into the whole “HBK playing mind games” deal, as he wanted to control things and make sure they stayed his way. They played that HBK had the avoided Cena early due to speed and cunning and worked the knee. He then would get the Asai Moonsault to the floor, onto Cena who bent the wrong way over the table and in these early minutes HBK was in firm control. Cena started to come back, HBK gigged and looked to be in trouble, until he busted out a PILEDRIVER on the ring steps. And then Cena was busted open. The match then started on it’s rise to the climax, and the last 5-minutes or so were absolutely perfect as they did some tremendous countering to each other’s finishers. I have SOME issues with Cena’s lack of selling down the stretch, but it did fit that “superman” baby face character that he portrays, whether we like it or not. Finally Cena gets the STFU and HBK taps to end a great match. This was a great match and another notch for Cena as he stepped it up in another big match. Also this was a classic HBK match, the slow build and work was classic him. And while I am sure he wanted a classic, he should be happy with what they did out there.

WrestleMania 24 – World Title Match: Champion Edge vs. The Undertaker [****½]: At the time, I was so glad to see that Smackdown got to close the show, I think that Taker deserved it as did Edge. Now the big problem is that everyone expected Taker to win here, especially going on last. That means that they had a lot of hard work ahead of themselves to make people think that Edge had a chance to win the match. It’s the key to all of the great Taker matches at Mania. I felt that they did that and more. They smartly started slow since they were going long and built well from there. Taker did the crazy Undertaker Dive, which was awesome, but at every turn Edge was cutting him off whenever he would try his signature stuff. They played off of other times that Edge screwed Taker, like with the Camera shot and as the match went on, and Edge kept stopping all of the classic Taker spots, the crowd got hotter and people actually believed that Edge had a shot at winning. They did the ref bump spot, which was going to annoy me but the way they did it again made you think that Taker would lose. He got the tombstone, got the cover, Charles Robinson dashed to the ring and counted the near fall and you could hear the crowd being deflated as they thought Taker had the win. Taker would dispose of the Rated Rmy but ate a spear for a near fall. Edge was pissed, speared him again and out of that is where the finish came. And for those of you trying to think you know what you are talking about, Taker was not using a triangle choke, he used a GOGOPLATA, the move he had been working to get over for like 5-months at that time. The finish makes sense because Taker is a huge MMA guy, and was a riff off of the Diaz vs. Gomi finish from PRIDE 33. Taker got the GOGOPLATA, Edge tapped and Taker went 16-0 at Mania to win the title in a great main event.

Conclusion: The main events of these four shows are a strong collection of matches. Three of them are good, but Taker vs. Edge is an upper tier Mania classic. Tomorrow we look at WrestleManias 25 through 28, where taker and Shawn Michaels deliver a classic and the Rock returns…

The Rankings So Far

* WrestleMania 9: Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna [The Dirt Fucking Worst]

* WrestleMania 13: Psycho Sid vs. The Undertaker [½*]

* WrestleMania 8: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice [*]
* WrestleMania 3: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [*]

* WrestleMania 10: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna []

* WrestleMania 2: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy [**]

* WrestleMania 7: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter [**½]
* WrestleMania 4: Ted Dibiase vs. Randy Savage [**½]

* WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [**¾]
* WrestleMania 11: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow [**¾]

* WrestleMania 16: Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show [***]
* WrestleMania 18: Triple H vs. Chris Jericho [***]
* WrestleMania 21: Batista vs. Triple H [***]
* WrestleMania 22: John Cena vs. Triple H [***]

* WrestleMania 14: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin [***½]

* WrestleMania 19: Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar [****]
* WrestleMania 15: The Rock vs. Steve Austin [****]
* WrestleMania 23: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels [****]

* WrestleMania 12: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels [****¼]
* WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior [****¼]
* WrestleMania 17: Steve Austin vs. The Rock [****¼]

* WrestleMania 5: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage [****½]
* WrestleMania 24: Edge vs. The Undertaker [****½]

* WrestleMania 20: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit [*****]