wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews The Mania Main Events (25-28)

March 31, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka
WrestleMania 28

WELCOME: Welcome back to day SEVEN of my countdown to WrestleMania series. You can read the first SIX parts here (part one), here (part two), here (part three), here (part four), here (part five) and here (part six). 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 25 -28

WrestleMania 25 – Champion Triple H vs. Randy Orton [**½]: While the build had been hot and cold for the title match, the history between HHH and Randy Orton has provided some good matches, and with the match happening on the on the biggest stage of the year, I think most expected some greatness. I don’t think that’s a stretch, when guys have a history of good matches and get the big stage with the benefit of smoke and mirrors, it wasn’t out of line to expect a quality match; I know I did going in to it. One thing I will say is this; it would be nearly impossible to follow HBK vs. Taker, that was an all time great Mania match and an emotional ride that the crowd went on. The company had to know that there would, at the very least, be a tremendous emotional investment and would then book this match to smartly get the fans into it as much as possible. Unfortunately I was wrong. In the end, this was a disappointing, long and mundane match that ended the event on a sour note, mainly because it didn’t feel like a WrestleMania main event; it felt like a match, a regular match. Actually a better description of this would be a bad Triple H match. For as much as we praise him today for the work he does with NXT, the bridges he mends and the talent he signs, as a performer he often lacked while trying too hard to tell an epic story. Now this wasn’t a complete shit match like the Steiner at the Rumble debacle, but this failed to deliver on the big stage in every way. It lacked real heat between them because of the poor build, and the H’s had this epic in mind; they went long, way too long, and it died a death in the top spot on the card. It’s not a good match in any way; it’s a match that existed. They put so much time into the building of the match and it literally failed on every level. The real issue comes from the fact that Triple H did a B&E on Orton’s house and Orton attacked Stephanie, so they did this stupid stipulation where if Triple H got DQ’d he lost the title. So they essentially booked backwards, did all of the big heat to build to what was basically a regular match, and there was no way they could compete with HBK and Taker in that element. My hopes were crushed here, because I foolishly thought that two professionals and a company filled with years of experience in terms of the agents could have come together and had contingencies in place to change directions. They didn’t. They worked every Triple H vs. Orton match ever, with the same lazy sequences and counters as they always do. There are times where the title match doesn’t have to be the closer, and this is a strong case for that, especially with the event being in Texas. This fell flat in every way possible to me, earning a place (as of this writing) in the bottom 10 Mania main events.

WrestleMania 26 – The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels [*****]: The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stole the show at WrestleMania 25, and the decision was made to do it again. Now, you had me at Taker vs. HBK II (as far as Mania matches goes), but the build to the match was such a well-crafted story. Shawn Michaels, Mr. WrestleMania, was haunted by the loss, something that came to light when he accepted the 2009 Slammy Award for Match of the Year. He challenged Taker (the World Champion) to a rematch, which was refused. Michaels became obsessed with the rematch, and turned to the Rumble to earn his title shot. The run for him in the match was well done, and the elimination worked so well as it came off like he had actually been accidentally eliminated. Shawn was devastated, and with Taker still refusing his rematch and Michaels looking as if he was closer to lunacy, he then snuck into Undertaker’s Elimination Chamber match (which was awesome) and cost Taker the world title. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the rematch was set, Taker’s streak vs. the career of Michaels. The WrestleMania 25 match was an all time Mania classic, and considering how it effected that show’s main event (which wasn’t good anyway) the call was made to have this match main event the show. For some this seemed like an issue, but the career of Michaels vs. Taker’s streak? Those are the highest stakes ever due to their perceived worth, and I had no issue with it going on last because I expected greatness. Unlike the Mania 25 main event, my optimism was rewarded this time around, because these warriors hit the ring again and delivered yet another Mania classic. The match came off even better than the year prior, which is a credit to both men; it succeeds because they not only have the year prior to play off of, but they have the extra added emotion of the stipulation. You’re either going to see the streak end, or Shawn Michaels will retire. I remember discussing the match with long time 411 reviewer JD Dunn (HI JD!), and the feeling we shared when discussing this match was that it had the build, the pacing and even the psychology of a 90s AJPW match (Misawa vs. Kawada-esque) with the character work of a great WWE match all mixed together; and it is that combination that simply worked together flawlessly between two great performers. This is an all time Mania classic, and arguably the best main event in the history of the event. Retirements in wrestling often mean jack and shit, but Shawn has stayed out of the ring and only made cameo appearances since, making it mean even more as the years have gone on.

WrestleMania 27 – Champion The Miz vs. John Cena [**]: The road to WrestleMania 27 saw the rise of The Miz, who has become the most successful WWE Tough Enough competitor. His mix of charisma and real world appeal (pun intended) made for a great combination in the eyes of the WWE. He won the MITB match in July, and four months later he cashed in on Randy Orton to win the WWE Title…

The build to Miz defending against John Cena wasn’t the best of times, he beat Jerry Lawler in a TLC match with help from Michael Cole, defeated Orton again with help from Punk, and then defeated Lawler again at the Elimination Chamber PPV. It all felt very half assed, and on the road to the big event I honestly expected him to drop the title to someone else. Miz would be able to hang onto the title until Extreme Rules, but the Mania match completely lacked. I felt the booking of Miz let him down a bit heading into the event, he felt hot at times and I think as a performer he did a ton of great things during the time, but he felt like “another Cena victim” to me, an indictment against the company’s booking, and not the performance of the Miz.

It didn’t help that Miz suffered a concussion late, but some try to sell that as a main issue with the match, but it wasn’t. The reason that the match failed is three-fold. First of all people had issues buying the Miz as a viable top tier opponent for Cena. No matter the good work he did, he was never booked to feel like a top guy. Secondly the match had all of the enthusiasm of an average Raw top of the hour match in front of a big crowd, it never got going and it never felt as if it was a big time match. And finally, the match itself wasn’t the focus of the event, the focus of the event was the Rock, and more importantly setting the stage for Rock vs. Cena. Now there is nothing wrong with setting the stage for Rock vs. Cena, it did some big business, but I felt that it did this particular main event a disservice. You can do things to hint to the next year, to plant the seeds for the next year (HBK vs. Flair to HBK vs. Taker I & II to HHH vs. Taker I & II is an example) but this felt like being hit over the head with the angle instead of planting seeds. For me, the bullshit ending fell completely flat and Miz gained nothing from the win. He’s a footnote as a heel that left Mania with the title, but he only did so because of Rock. He was the third man out there, which is a shame.

WrestleMania 28 – The Rock vs. John Cena [***¾]: Coming out of WrestleMania 27, we knew what the main event for WrestleMania 28 would be. While that was a nice change, it was problematic. Rock was an absentee opponent, leaving Cena to carry the feud when he wasn’t around, and making sure that we got our fill of “live via satellite” jokes. Rock would appear at the Survivor Series, teaming with Cena to defeat Awesome Truth. WWE though this would be a great way to add to the build of the match, Cena and Rock won, Rock hit Cena with a Rock bottom and Truth and Miz got blamed for the poor buyrate. I mean, how could people not want to buy a PPV where two guys booked as complete bucking jokes wrestle John Cena and the Rock? Anyway, it had the makings of a big match, and they tried to make it feel like the most important match in years; to some it was, to others it was another Mania main event.

The first thing that I want to say about this match is that I will give the Rock a lot of credit (and I am not taking anything away from John Cena) for performing at the level that he did in a 30-minute WrestleMania main event after tearing up his hammy was impressive. When you consider the time off he had, I feel that it is a great accomplishment. The opening portion of the match was a little clunky at times I will admit, but both guys worked hard, they used just about everything we thought they would use, and the crowd was electric for the whole thing. The final 10-minutes or so of the match really made it for me, and made it feel like a “WrestleMania” main event. I know that some were so happy to see Rock back, but he did get a bit tired, and there were a few small instances of timing problems, like when he let Cena stand up top for what felt like 45 seconds or so. Also, the blatant calling of spots really got annoying throughout the match. And don’t get me wrong, spots are always called, but damn guys, could you at least TRY to be a bit quieter and or be a little covert about it? While they were generally small things, it did take away from my enjoyment. I may have ended up not liking it as much as some, I do feel that they delivered a good main event, with the feel good moment of Rock winning, which is exactly what the crowd wanted. At the time I remember feeling that the decision was very questionable, since Cena was the one staying full time, but some times the simplest finish is the best, and in this case, that is what happened. Plus, the Rock isn’t any part time guy, he’s the Rock. The finish in particular really worked, as Cena, for lack of a better term, “heeled” it up as he mocked the Rock and went for his own people’s elbow, but as Lawler stated, “one mistake cost John Cena the match.” While I do not feel that it reached “epic” levels, I felt that it was very good and the atmosphere was really amazing, and at the heart of it, that is what WrestleMania main event is all about. Once in a Lifetime was a cool slogan and hook for the match, unfortunately that’s all it was as they rematched the next year.

Conclusion: This set of main event features two completely forgettable matches, a good return for the Rock and an absolute classic in HBK vs. Taker. Join me tomorrow as we look at the final three Mania main events, and look at my final rankings.

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 27: John Cena vs. The Miz [**]

* WrestleMania 7: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter [**½]
* WrestleMania 25: Triple H vs. Randy Orton [**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 28: The Rock vs. John Cena [***¾]

* 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 [*****]
* WrestleMania 26: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels [*****]