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From the Bowery: WrestleMania 21

November 20, 2009 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
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From the Bowery: WrestleMania 21  

From the Bowery: WrestleMania 21
-April 3, 2005
-Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

-When we left off at WM XX, Chris Benoit was your new World Heavyweight Champion and most feared the title would be right back on HHH in a few months. That didn’t happen as Benoit got a nice reign before finally dropping the strap to Randy Orton at SummerSlam. The WWE saw Orton as the future, and quickly turned him face thanks to the support he was getting from some in the crowd. Immediately after winning the title, he got dropped by Evolution in a famous booting from the group. His face run was a disaster and the title was back around HHH’s waist at the next PPV. Eventually they realized Orton as a face is bad for business and he was turned back heel in time for this show and a match with Taker. The real breakout star from Evolution turned out to be big Dave as he was slowly getting over with his badass monster image, and the WWE didn’t hotshot his face turn. Instead they let it slowly build and after he won the Rumble he finally turned on HHH and thus our RAW portion of the title scene was set. Over on SmackDown, Guerrero dropped the WWE Title to a repackaged Bradshaw, and he held the thing for a long time. The breakout star on the Blue Brand was John Cena and he won a #1 Contenders Match at No Way Out (in Pittsburgh, PA) over Kurt Angle. Heading in this show appeared to be a coming out party for both men and a way to launch them as the new faces of the WWE.

-Lillian gets the honors of singing “America the Beautiful.”

-Opening video package is a compilation of all the Movie Spoofs with the WWE Superstars. Good stuff all around. A Gladiator inspired one with Steve Austin debuts, and it is pretty kick ass as well.

Commentators: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (RAW); Michael Cole and Tazz (SmackDown)

Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio

-Both men are crazy over with the LA crowd, and both men are co-holders of the WWE Tag Titles. This is a match based on the fact that Eddie wants to prove he can beat Rey. There were crazy expectations for this one because of what happened at Halloween Havoc in WCW years earlier. Rey uses his quickness early, but Eddie catches him with a deep arm drag to ground him. Ricky Steamboat would have proud of that arm drag. Eddie launches Rey over the top to the floor with a slingshot, and he tries to meet him on the floor, but Rey heads back into the ring. They do some nice work off a double knuckle lock, and Eddie gets a back heel trip into a key lock. Rey lands on his feet after a suplex attempt and monkey flips Eddie into the ropes. Eddie has had enough of this nice guy shit and calmly decks Rey with a right hand. That sends Rey to the floor and Eddie follows with a plancha. That gets a two count back in the ring. Eddie goes back to the ground game with a surfboard, but Rey fights to his feet, so Eddie drops him with a sweet belly to back suplex. Things stay on the ground as Eddie locks in a STF. Sound strategy so far from Eddie and the crowd appreciates what they are seeing. He releases the STF and opts for a hammerlock as Rey gets to his feet. An arm drag finally breaks and Eddie bails to the floor. He tries to stall, but a baseball slide from Rey stops that. Eddie staggers around and Rey goes airborne with a corkscrew plancha over the top to the floor. Damn! Eddie gets caught with a top rope seated plancha, but Rey can’t follow up and gets caught. The Three Amigos are next, but Rey escapes on the second attempt and gets a roll-up for two. Eddie remains in control however and hits a vicious backbreaker. The Three Amigos are attempted again, but Rey counters on the third one this time and head scissors Eddie into position for the 6-1-9. Eddie moves though and absolutely destroys Rey with one of the most vicious tilt-a-whirl backbreakers you will ever see. Finally, Eddie gets the Three Amigos and they were all done with authority. You have to admire how much Rey trusts Eddie to toss his ass all over the ring like this. Eddie heads up top and looks for the frog splash, but Rey rolls out at the last second. Rey looks for a roll-up but Eddie shifts his weight to get a near fall of his own. Eddie gets a little too cocky and ends up eating a 6-1-9. The West Coast Pop comes next, but Eddie counters into a powerbomb. That was nasty, but Rey was able to kick out in a hot near fall. The crowd was totally buying that one, and an “Eddie” chant erupts. Eddie looks for the kill, but a back elbow leaves him staggered. Rey charges and Eddie goes for another tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but Rey counters to a rana and gets the pin at 12:39. Eddie keeps his cool after the match and shakes hands with Rey.

Winner: Rey Mysterio via pin at 12:39
-Solid opener with a hot crowd. Sure it’s not what they delivered back in 1997, but really, who thought it would be. Watching Eddie punish Rey for nearly 13 minutes made this a pretty fun match. Rey having to keep adjusting his mask was a little off putting though. He should have kept with the superhero look. ***1/2

-JBL and his cabinet run into HHH and Flair backstage. Each man doubts if the other man with walk out with their respective titles tonight.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Chris Jericho vs. Edge vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian (w/ Tomko) vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kane

-This was set-up as Jericho’s idea for a match and what’s crazy is that this only features RAW wrestlers. That’s one hell of a midcard for RAW at the time actually. Of course this is the first ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match and it has become a staple of WrestleMania ever since. Everyone involved in this match has had some experience in a Ladder Match with all those hailing from Canada having the most. The wildcards seemed to be Benjamin and Kane: Benjamin for his freakish athleticism and Kane for being the only big man in the match. A great visual as the ladders on the stage catch fire when Kane makes his entrance. Nice! Everyone in the match immediately gang up on Kane. Benoit and Shelton take care of him with a double suplex on the floor. Christian immediately goes for the ladder, but Jericho catapults it into his face. Benjamin and Jericho have a go in the ring. Jericho gets a bulldog on Benjamin and then slingshots over the top onto Edge. Christian follows with his springboard cross body off the middle ropes. Benjamin clears the top rope with ease with a hilo. Holy Hell! Not to be outdone Kane comes off the top onto every other participant. Kane is the first to get a ladder in the ring and he destroys anyone that comes near him. Jericho comes off the top with a dropkick to stop Kane’s momentum. Now Jericho is wielding the ladder and both Edge and Benjamin eat a shot. Benoit sneaks up from behind and destroys Jericho with a German suplex and that sends the ladder flying as well. Nice spot! Benoit climbs, but Kane stops and tries for a chokeslam, but Benoit counters to the crossface to a huge pop. Edge gets involved and he gets a crossface for his trouble. Kane takes the ladder and casually hits Benoit in the head in a nasty spot. Benoit gets his arm trapped between the ladder and Kane abuses that with a chair. Edge and Christian sandwich Kane between two ladders, but Benjamin takes both of them out with a springboard clothesline. This is just non-stop mayhem, and it’s great. Benjamin gets whipped into a ladder that was propped in the corner, and Edge looks for the spear. Instead he gets flap jacked into the ladder by Benjamin. A “Shelton” chant erupts and he pleases the crowd by hitting Edge with a Stinger Splash against the ladder. Now Shelton begins to climb and touches the case, but Jericho returns to fight with him on top. Christian sets up his own ladder and he starts to climb. Edge and Benoit get on another ladder and now we have 5 men battling on top for the briefcase. Benoit and Christian are the first ones to come crashing down (and it hurts inside) and Jericho soon follows. Benjamin brings Edge down with a T-Bone suplex from the ladder. Insane! The crowd loved that one. Jericho is the best of the bunch and he starts to climb, but Christian stops him and in the chaos a ladder gets wedged between the standing ladder. Jericho starts to climb, but Benjamin runs up the slanted ladder and knocks Chris off with a clothesline. That’s fucking crazy right there. Benjamin starts to climb as he is becoming the star of this match, but Kane returns and tries to chokeslam him to the floor, but Benjamin gets caught in the ropes. Tomko cuts off Kane and tries to give Christian an assist up the ladder, but Kane returns in time, and he knocks him off the ladder. That sends Christian flying out of the ring onto Tomko. Jericho and Kane do battle on the ladder, and it falls over sending Kane onto the top rope and sending Jericho to the floor. Benoit, selling the hell out of the arm injury, sets up the ladder in the corner and the crowd is one step ahead. He comes flying off the ladder with the headbutt to Kane and that opens the sutures in Benoit’s head. That’s a cool visual actually and puts over how much these men want this match. Benoit starts to climb, but Kane does the zombie sit up and he meets Benoit on top of the ladder. Benoit fires off machinegun headbutts to send Kane flying off the ladder, and it seems Benoit is ready to win this thing. Edge comes out of nowhere and blasts Benoit’s arm with a chair. That leaves Edge all alone and he climbs the ladder to claim the briefcase at 15:17

Winner: Edge via briefcase retrieval at 15:17
-This one match here revitalized the ladder match concept, and gave the WWE their freshest match idea since Hell in a Cell. This was nothing but balls to the wall action and told a hell of a story in place of just crazy ass spots. Benjamin came out looking like a million bucks, Benoit looked like a tough bastard, and Edge shows his first signs of becoming the ultimate opportunist. ****1/2

-Eugene comes out to let the crowd know about his favorite WrestleMania moment. He is interrupted by Muhammad Hassan (w/ Daivari), and he is meet with massive boos from the crowd. I still love that theme music for some reason. Hassan smacks around Eugene and places him in the camel clutch. “Real American” kicks in and the crowd goes absolutely bat shit crazy. Hulk Hogan walks in for the save and runs off the evil foreigners. He even no sells a chair shot from Daivari before sending him packing. “Real American” kicks back in and Hogan poses much to the delight of the crowd. Of course this lead to one more match against these two with Michaels as his partner and that lead to Michaels/Hogan at SummerSlam. Hogan’s family is at ringside with former WCW Champion, David Arquette.

The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton

-Orton was going on about his boring babyface way and then he remembered he was the Legend Killer, and what bigger Legend to kill at WrestleMania than the Undertaker. The video package hyping the match does a great job of covering the feud. The record stands at 12-0 coming into this match. This is also a RAW vs. SmackDown match. The Druids don’t even get a proper entrance this time as they are already lining the aisle with torches in hand as we come back from the video package. They also don’t have the full hoods and we can see some faces. Nobody I can really recognize however. Taker soon makes his entrance and glides to the ring in a pretty sweet visual. Of course it loses a little when the smoke fades and you can see what he’s riding. As much as I love “Voices”, part of me misses Orton’s old theme. Taker stalks Orton to start and he does all he can to avoid getting cornered. Then he opts to slap Taker in the face, and I really have to question that strategy. I would guess it’s never a good idea to slap someone who is tough enough to get a tattoo on his throat, but that’s just me. Sure enough Orton eats a straight right hand, and cowers in the corner. That’s a mistake as he’s now cornered and Taker unloads with elbows and right hands. Taker sends him to the other corner, and charges, but Orton flips over to get a schoolboy for two. Orton goes for the RKO, but Taker casually dumps him over the top rope to the floor. Taker follows and sets Orton on the apron for the running legdrop. Back inside Taker goes old school, and it connects in a sloppy way. Taker looks for a running boot in the corner, but Orton moves and Taker gets left hanging. Orton sends him to the floor and starts firing away with right hands before tossing him back in the ring. Orton makes the mistake of trying to brawl though and Taker wins that battle. A clothesline sends Taker to the mat, and Randy looks for a backdrop, but it gets countered to a ddt. Orton gets sent into the corner and as he stumbles back out, Taker drops him with a sidewalk slam. Back into the corner goes Orton and Taker crushes him with two splashes. Snake eyes follow next, but Orton bounces back with a elbow to get a two count. Nice! The crowd gets all over Orton as he pounds Taker down. He admires his work and Taker does his zombie sit-up to scare the piss out of Orton. Another sloppy spot as it appeared it was supposed to be a double clothesline, but only Orton sold the move. Taker gets a two count off that and seems frustrated, which you don’t normally see from Zombie Taker. The crowd goes quiet as Taker locks in a dragon sleeper. Taker tried using that as his submission finisher before settling for Hell’s Gates. Orton is able to escape and gets his patented chinlock to further kill the crowd. Thankfully, Taker punches out rather quickly, but Orton is tenacious and goes to a sleeper. That is quickly countered by Taker with a suplex to leave both men down in the center of the ring. Orton charges into a big boot, but is able to snap off a powerslam to get a two count. Orton makes the same mistake as HHH did at WM X-7 as he mounts Taker in the corner and that leads to Last Ride, but apparently Orton watched that match as he counters. He looks for the RKO, but Taker shoves him off and the ref gets creamed. Taker hits a sloppy Last Ride that really looked like bad. Cowboy Bob runs down to use his cast, but that only gets two as the ref comes too. Cowboy Bob eats a boot and Taker gets the goozle, but in an awesome counter, Orton hits an RKO to a massive pop. That only gets two though. The crowd was ready to buy that as the finisher. Now Orton gets stupid and goes for the Tombstone. Naturally, Taker reverses with ease and drills Orton with his own Tombstone to go 13-0 at 14:14.

Winner: The Undertaker via pin at 14:14
-This was a rather middling match that featured a hot ending that made it more memorable than it should have been. There were some sloppy spots and the middle drug a little, but credit to them for a great ending sequence. Good showing from Orton in his first true test at WrestleMania. ***

WWE Women’s Title: Trish Stratus © vs. Christy Hemme

-Hemme won the initial Diva Search, and got a push to this level because she got naked for Playboy. She had no business getting in the ring with Trish and that was the story coming into the match. To make things a little more even, the story went that Lita (returning from blowing out her knee in a match against Trish in Jan) was training Christy. All three women look fabulous here for those wondering, and more specifically Trish looks ridiculously hot as she is still in her “Evil Trish” phase. Naturally, Trish is taking this match as the joke it is and offers to lay down in the opening moments. She’s just playing mind games however, and immediately pie faces Hemme. Trish takes Hemme to the floor and sends her into the ring steps much to the chagrin of JR. Trish continues to dominate as she chops away, and Lawler even asks if he can have one. In a great moment Trish does Christy’s dance and it gets a pop from the crowd. Christy grabs a leg and gets in her first offensive move: a kick to the vagina. The males groaned on that one out of reflex I think. Trish recovers rather quickly and goes back to dominating the match. She kicks Hemme out of the ring, and shoves Lita away from getting involved. Back inside the ring Hemme is able to get a roll-up for two much to the shock of Trish. Christy only knows how to kick and she does that quit well. Trish gets bounced off the top turnbuckle, and Hemme hits her version of the Twist of Fate (inverted) for a two count. Hemme gets another two count off a roll-up, and that just serves to piss Trish off as she finishes with the Chic Kick at 4:42.

Winner and Still WWE Women’s Champion: Trish Stratus via pin at 4:42
-Trish would get someone better to work with a year later. As for this match it was what most expected. Trish treated Hemme like a joke and got a little too cocky before finishing rather quickly. *

-The awesome video package for Angle/Michaels follows and this match is what I was most excited for at the time. Quick history: Michaels eliminated Angle at the Rumble, so Kurt, ever the sport, came back to kill Shawn later in the show. In the weeks leading up Kurt let everyone know when he won the Gold in 96 all anyone wanted to talk about was Shawn Michaels winning the WWF Title and putting on a wrestling clinic with Bret at WM XII. Kurt wanted to prove he could do everything Shawn did, so he beat up someone in a ladder match, sang Sexy Boy with Sherri (before putting her in an ankle lock) and then tearing down the house with Marty on SmackDown.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle

-This match had so much hype that it would be a ***** classic that most had visions of Michaels/Perfect from SummerSlam and were afraid it would not live up to the lofty expectations. Thankfully these two proved everyone wrong. This is our second RAW vs. SmackDown match of the evening with Shawn representing Team Red and Angle representing the Blue Brand. Shawn starts things off proper by slipping the taste out of Angle’s mouth. Sweet! Pissed off Angle is always a plus, and he immediately goes to the mat game. Shawn gets to the ropes to break as a “You screwed Bret” chant starts. Shawn is able to get a headlock, and Angle tries to break with a suplex, but Shawn maintains the hold. Angle is finally able to break, but he immediately gets taken down again with the hold. A dueling chant starts as Angle continues to struggle with the headlock. He finally gets a break as he backs Michaels into the corner. They start over again, and once again, Angle gets dropped with a side headlock. Now Angle escapes with ease and he runs over Shawn with a shoulder block. Shawn gets a hiptoss and keeps Angle grounded with a short arm scissors. Angle is able to roll Shawn over into a pin, but Shawn rolls back to break the count. Angle then does the Bob Backlund spot as he lifts Shawn off the mat. Shawn has seen that before in his series of matches with the Bulldog, and counters into a victory roll for two. Shawn goes back to the headlock, but Angle has seen that move one too many times and breaks easily in the corner. Now things start to get more aggressive as they start trading blows in the corner. Kurt gets the best of that and rabbit punches Shawn to drop him and then locks in the ankle lock. Shawn kicks off and sends Angle to the floor. Shawn is now good and pissed and he clears the announce table. He heads back in the ring to break the count, but that gives Kurt a chance to regroup. Kurt tries a suplex onto the table, but Shawn lands on his feet and starts chopping. Kurt ducks a third chop and gives Shawn an Angle Slam into the ring post. Sick! Back inside the ring Angle fires off some suplexes for a few near falls and goes to a body scissor to continue the work on the back. Shawn is able to fight to his feet and pushes Kurt into the corner where he eats some chops. Kurt regains the advantage and whips Shawn into the corner where he takes his patented bump. As Shawn bounces back, Kurt tosses him around the ring with an overhead belly to belly suplex. We get a replay off the Angle Slam into the post and it shows that Shawn took most of the blow to his legs and not his back. They start trading blows and Shawn gets cocky once again as he slaps Kurt in the face. Again, that just serves to piss off Angle and he takes off Shawn’s head with a clothesline. Damn! They fight up top and Kurt looks for a superplex, but Shawn is able to push off. He looks for the flying elbow, but Kurt moves. A backdrop sends Kurt over the top and to the floor. Shawn comes flying off the top rope with a crossbody to the floor to leave both men out. They fight to the apron and Kurt tries to kill Shawn with a German Suplex from there through the announce table. Shawn is able to elbow out and a timely low blow sends Angle back to the floor. That actually drew a noticeable boo from the crowd. Angle ends up on the announce table and Shawn hits a springboard splash onto Kurt which doesn’t break the table. JR and Lawler note that the tables were reinforced. Both men crawl back into the ring and Kurt is legit bleeding from the mouth. I believe it happened when Shawn’s knee caught him with the crossbody from the top rope. Shawn starts firing off chops and hits the flying forearm. Shawn gets to his feet and slams Kurt to set up the flying elbow. This time is does hit and the band starts tuning, but Kurt says hell with that and calmly catches the foot to hook in the ankle lock. Now the crowd is losing their collective minds as Shawn starts flopping around like a fish. Shawn tries to break, but Kurt maintains the hold. He is finally able to get to the ropes and Kurt has no choice but to release the hold. Kurt looks for the Angle Slam, but Shawn reverses to a roll-up. However, Kurt rolls through that to get the ankle lock. Shawn counters that with another roll-up, and looks for Sweet Chin Music. Again Kurt catches the boot and hits the Angle Slam for two. The strap comes down and Kurt heads up for the moonsault. The move misses as usual, and Shawn decides he wants to head up top. He takes way too long though and Angle pops up to give Shawn a Super Angle Slam for a hot near fall. Damn! The crowd was ready to buy that as the finish. Kurt is super pissed now and picks up a lifeless Shawn to talk some shit to him. Big mistake there as Shawn calmly pushes him away and delivers Sweet Chin Music. That was so damn awesome! Shawn crawls and gets an arm draped over Kurt, but it only gets two. The dueling chant starts again as Shawn staggers to his feet. Angle rises from the dead and grabs the ankle. Shawn keeps trying to roll through, but Angle won’t release the hold. Shawn makes one last desperate dive for the ropes, but Kurt drops into the hook. Shawn is royally screwed and the fans know it. Shawn teases tapping and holds out for as long as he can before he finally taps at 27:26. The crowd gives Shawn a standing ovation as he leaves the ring.

Winner: Kurt Angle via tap-out at 27:26
-Easily one of my 5 favorite matches of all time as this delivered in every way possible. Some may argue Shawn was in the ankle lock for far too long, but this isn’t MMA and it only added to the drama at the end. JR and Lawler also made sure to mention that the last thing Shawn would want to do is tap-out at WrestleMania. For those counting at home this would be the 3rd straight year Shawn was involved in a match that stole the show at WrestleMania. *****

Piper’s Pit
-Piper was inducted into the Hall of Fame the night before and got to host an edition of the Pit. Good placement for it to because following Angle/Shawn was going to suck for anyone else. Piper asks the crowd who the biggest rebel in the WWE is and the crowd answers Austin. Piper calls bullshit and asks Austin to join him the ring. Austin gets a big pop (not as big as Hogan’s though). This would have been one hell of an entertaining brawl if both these men were in their primes. Piper welcomes Austin to the Pit by slapping him in his face. Austin thanks him by calling him a SOB and slapping him in the face. Piper has fun with the “What” chants and does better with them than most other wrestlers have over the years. Piper claims he was pissing off McMahon and raising hell when the red on Austin’s neck was diaper rash. Nice! Before things can get too interesting Carlito comes out to spoil things. Carlito tells them that everyone wants to see him and it gets a decent pop. Piper doesn’t know who he is and invites him in the ring if he wants to fight. Carlito asks them to leave the ring, and that goes as well as you would expect. Carlito teases spitting the apple, but Piper steals the apple and spits it at him instead. Carlito attacks Piper and Austin just stands back to watch. Eventually Austin gets involved and stops a mud hole in Carlito. Piper gives him an eye poke and Austin stuns him for good measure. Piper and Austin shares some beers before Piper also ends up eating a Stunner. Seeing Piper and Austin got at it verbally was pretty fun even if there was no point other than giving the crowd a chance to cool down after Angle/Michaels.

Sumo Match: Big Show vs. Akebono

-The crowd doesn’t know what to make of Akebono. Cole and Tazz explain everything pretty well for those who have no clue about the traditions and customs of a Sumo Match. To their credit the crowd is actually intrigued by the match, but start to grow tired of the stalling. It’s basically a slap fight to start and it’s a stalemate. They start colliding into each other, but neither man can gain an advantage. Show gets some leverage and uses the sumo belt to lift Akebono, but that leaves him off balance and he gets shoved out of the circle to end things 1:03.

Winner: Akebono via push-out at 1:03
-No rating really as this was mainly spectacle. It certainly wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen at WrestleMania and I really have no problem with it.

-Hype package for JBL/Cena.

WWE Title: JBL © vs. John Cena

-JBL gets his limo entrance with a police escort, and as an added bonus $100 bills with JBL’s picture drop from the ceiling. For the second straight year the WWE Title match plays under the World Title, and in this case it was definitely a good call. JBL gets dropped with a shoulder, but catches Cena coming in a second time and drops him with his own shoulder block. Cena sets too early on a backdrop attempt and catches a forearm to his back. The crowd is absolutely dead as JBL controls with his brawling offense. That offense mainly consists of some punching and choking. Cena starts to fire back and is able to gain some momentum, but JBL kills that noise with a variation of a spinebuster. Not exactly Arn Anderson quality, but the thought was there. JBL fires off a neckbreaker for a two count. He toys with Cena by booting him around the ring, and gets another two count off a nice short arm clothesline. Things screech down even more as JBL works in a sleeper hold. A select few in the crowd try to rally Cena, but it’s kind of sad actually. Cena is able to break the hold with a belly to back suplex. Both men struggle to their feet and they clothesline each other. Warrior/Hogan this isn’t. Again, both men struggle to their feet and JBL stays one step ahead as he sends Cena to the floor by pulling on his shorts. Out on the floor JBL fires off his third neckbreaker of the match and gets another two count when the action returns to the ring. Cena gets placed on the top rope and JBL brings him down with a superplex. I like that JBL keeps working on the neck and back, but this match has been a fucking squash. JBL heads up top, but gets caught in a powerslam as he dives. Cena finally gets moving and hits a backdrop and a sloppy hiptoss. The crowd actually shows some fire as Cena hits the five knuckle shuffle. He looks for the finish, but stalls and walks into a boot. JBL looks for the clothesline from hell, but Cena ducks and gets the FU for the pin and WWE Title at 11:27. Cena looks shocked at being able to hold the Title and goes as far as to bite the title to make sure it’s real. Nice touch.

Winner and New WWE Champion: John Cena via pin at 11:27
-When Cena debuted I heard a lot of people compare him to Sting. Well, this was basically a Sting formula match from the mid 90s. Cena took a shit kicking for damn near 11 minutes before firing off a fury in the final 30 seconds for the win. Thankfully, these two would redeem themselves at Judgment Day with in a violent I Quit Match. As for this match it sucked the life out of the building. It’s quite possibly the most underwhelming WWE Title match in Mania history. *1/2

-A video package covers the Hall of Fame ceremony the night before, and Okerlund introduces the members to the Staples Center crowd. The Class of 2005 went as follows: Nikolai Volkoff, The Iron Sheik, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, “Cowboy” Bob Orton (still selling the beating from Taker), Jimmy Hart, Roddy Piper, and Hulk Hogan. Hearing Tazz put over Hogan is still pretty jarring to me as I think of the bitter, curse filled promos Tazz would give on ECW condemning Hogan and whoever held the WWF Title at the time.

World Heavyweight Title: HHH © (w/ Ric Flair) vs. Batista

-HHH gets played to the ring by Motorhead, and Batista still has his old music. Sure it was your basic generic rock instrumental piece, but it was still pretty bad ass. Batista does the machinegun pose and it looks rather silly with no pyro shooting off behind him. The opening bell gets more of a pop in this match than anything in the Cena/JBL match did. Heh! Tie-up to start and the battle for position with neither man getting a clear advantage. They break to a stalemate and some in the crowd applaud. A second go sees Batista get a slight edge as he pushes HHH back out of the corner. A third go and this time HHH slides Batista into a side headlock. Batista breaks easily and mows down HHH with a shoulder. HHH gets his own shoulder block and looks for the Pedigree, but Batista escapes. He kills a shocked HHH with a modified powerslam. They brawl in the corner with Batista getting the better of the exchange and HHH gets launched with a backdrop. There was some great elevation on that one. HHH regains some momentum with a high knee that sends Batista to the floor. Flair starts to stalk Batista, but he catches Flair, who begs. That gives HHH a chance to come up from behind and send Batista into the steps. HHH heads up to the middle rope and catches Batista with a forearm as he ducks his head to get back into the ring. HHH gets into a shouting match with the ref and that gives Flair a chance to choke Batista with his coat. HHH sends Batista back first into the security wall and has a body part to exploit. The crowd starts a Batista chant, but it does no good as HHH continues to dissect the back. A nice suplex follows, but it only nets HHH a two count. Some nice power displayed by HHH as he lifts Batista with ease into a backbreaker. Flair comes by once again to choke Batista with his jacket. JR makes sure to mention that HHH is dictating a deliberate pace. He can call it what he wants, but it is boring the piss out of me and the crowd. Finally we get some life as Batista fights back, but it’s all for naught as HHH snaps off a spinebuster. He looks for a pin, but Batista is out with two. That only pisses HHH off and he keeps trying for a pin out of frustration, but each time Batista it out at two. So far this has been a replay of Cena/JBL, except that match would have ended about a minute ago. HHH waits on top for Batista to stand, and that costs him as he comes off flush into a clothesline. A sidewalk slam gets a two count for the Animal. He makes the mistake of charging into the corner though and gets caught with a boot. HHH tries for an Irish Whip, but Batista blocks and ends up tossing HHH to the floor with a whip of his own. Things start to pick up a little on the floor as Batista gets sent into the steps. HHH starts rearranging the steps and looks for a pedigree, but Batista counters into a catapult. That sends HHH into the post and we have blood. It’s a good one to as the blood starts flowing over the face and chest of HHH. Once back inside the ring Batista goes crazy with forearms and rights as he looks to open the cut. A sick boot to the head does the trick, and the mat starts to get stained with HHH’s blood. Cool! Batista dominates with his power game and you almost feel sorry for HHH as he gets his ass kicked all over the ring. Almost. A stiff running corner clothesline damn near kills HHH and even the crowd groaned with that one. That gets a two count, and HHH has had enough as he bails to the floor. Flair tries to get involved and he eats a right hand. HHH tries to use a chair to save his title, but the ref stops that. HHH begs off in the ring and Flair looks to use the title, but he runs into a spinebuster. The ref rolls Flair out of the ring and that gives HHH a chance to use the title. The crowd does not approve, but Batista is able to kick out at two. Now HHH doesn’t know what to do and he gets caught with a spinebuster. Batista looks to finish with, but HHH counters a Batista Bomb with a timely shot to the little animals. HHH has the pedigree hooked, but there’s two much power from Batista and he breaks in a rather impressive fashion with a wheelbarrow slam. Batista goes Warrior on everyone by shaking the ropes, gives us a thumbs down, and ends HHH’s reign with a Batista Bomb at 21:32.

Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Batista via pin at 21:32
-This started out just a boring as Cena/JBL, but got a lot better the second half once they just went to a straight out brawl. The end sequence was pretty good and for the second year in a row HHH dropped the title clean at WrestleMania. These two would also have a better match later in the year with their bloody Hell in a Cell war. **3/4

Top 5 WrestleMania Matches (To this Point):

1) IC Title: Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat *****
2) Submission Match: Bret Hart vs Steve Austin *****
3) Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels *****
4) World Title: HHH vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit *****
5) WWF Title: The Rock vs Steve Austin II *****

The 411: If the two Title matches would have delivered this would have gone down as one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever, but they didn't and that left a flat ending to the show. Everything up to Shawn/Angle is fantastic and things kind of close with a whimper. Still, this is a historic show as it cemented the rise of Batista/Cena/Orton as Main Event players. It also has to great matches with Shawn/Angle and Money in the Bank. Definitely a good WrestleMania, but it could have been much more.
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend

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Robert Leighty Jr.

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