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Pantoja’s RetrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania XXVIII

February 21, 2024 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WrestleMania 28 Undertaker Triple H Image Credit: WWE

WWE WrestleMania XXVIII
April 1st, 2012 | Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida | Attendance: 78,363

One night after WrestleMania XXVII, the main event for this show was set. “Once in a Lifetime,” John Cena vs. The Rock. That wasn’t all though. New names moved to the top of the card like Daniel Bryan and Sheamus, Chris Jericho was back for a clash with CM Punk, and we were getting a rematch of the epic Triple H/Undertaker battle from a year prior. I have memories of this being a strong show, so we’ll see how it holds up. Also, the only bit of the Kickoff Show that I could find is from WWE’s YouTube page but the quality is kind of bad so I won’t be covering pre-show stuff until the Network era in 2014.

As a reminder, I’m reliving these WrestleManias and rating them on a 1-10 scale in these seven categories. They’ll be ranked by their total score.

• Match quality – Self-explanatory. Will always be the longest section.
• Memorability – How memorable is the show?
• Historical significance – The impact the show had on wrestling
• Booking decisions – Did the event have logical booking decisions for the stories they told
• Presentation – Things like stage setup, video packages, commentary, etc.
• Pacing/Flow – How well is the show laid out? Does it drag or move along smoothly?
• Entertainment – The non-wrestling elements like promos, celebrity interaction, concerts, etc.

Match Quality

World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan [c] vs. Sheamus ~ Oh, boy. These two were on the pre-show the year prior for the US Title. Everyone knows what happened here. Daniel Bryan stopped at the bell to get a good luck kiss from AJ Lee (making her Mania debut!) only to turn around into a Brogue Kick, losing the title in 0:18. People were rightfully upset though in hindsight, it accidentally helped create a massive star in Bryan. Thankfully, they got to have a fantastic match at the next PPV. [NR]

Kane vs. Randy Orton ~ This always felt like a random match to me. Granted, 2012 is one of those years where Orton was kind of just hanging around so I didn’t expect much from him. The action here is very standard and basic. It’s like these guys weren’t happy with their Mania spots so they decided to work a house show style match. Nothing about it was actively bad but it also didn’t stand out in any way. Kane had a decent length heat segment and once it was time for Orton to get cooking, you could kind of see him get invested. Even when he wasn’t totally on, he’d still snap off his powerslam and hit some of his signature stuff in impressive fashion. I will say, I was surprised by the result. Orton survived a Chokeslam but then took one off the top to lose in 10:58. A middling match though it had a cool finish that was at least mildly Mania worthy. [**½]

WWE Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes [c] vs. Big Show ~ Damn, I’m writing this one day after Cody gave up his Mania 40 main event spot. The story here was that Cody was dissing Show for a career of Mania goofs like wrestling in a sumo match, losing when it matters, partying at WWF New York, etc. Cody did his best to avoid Show, who dominated with his size. I’m pretty sure the crowd chanted “Let’s Go Cody” though it was rather faint. Cody had a small run but got the Disaster Kick interrupted and Show laid him out with the WMD to finally get a Mania moment. This went 5:19. There really wasn’t much to this other than to give Show something. He’d drop the title back to Cody in a month. [*½]

Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres vs. Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos ~ Maria Menounos is one of the better celebrities in wrestling history. I know she wasn’t great or anything in the ring but she didn’t look out of place with the women’s division of the era and had genuine enthusiasm for getting in the ring. Eve was getting really good before she left the business and she looked solid in there. I expected Kelly to handle most of the in-ring stuff but it was Maria who got isolated and took the heat as the crowd chanted for Daniel Bryan. Kelly got the mild tag and busted out a Molly Go Round. She then saved Maria from a press slam, allowing the celeb to roll Beth up and win in 6:49. I’ll give it more props than a lot of people because it followed simple tag formula and Maria sold well enough. [*¾]

Hell in a Cell: Triple H vs. The Undertaker ~ I loved the intrigue about what Shawn Michaels would do as the guest referee. Would he side with his friend against his old rival? Would he stop his friend from achieving what he couldn’t? Would he call it down the middle? I liked how Undertaker came out with fire, looking to prove that last year was a fluke and that he could still hang with the best. I also liked how they utilized the stipulation well from guys getting thrown into the cell to bringing in chairs and stairs, yet never feeling like it overdid that or relied too heavily on them. The story carried this, including HHH beating Taker with a chair like last year and even Shawn telling him to cover rather than to keep up the assault and Taker demanding that Shawn not call for an end. When Taker put Shawn in Hell’s Gate for trying to stop the match only for HHH to crush him with a sledgehammer, it sent the match into the next gear. Shawn’s revenge set up the Sweet Chin Music into the Pedigree, which is probably the greatest near fall in wrestling history. Seriously, it still gives me chills. I will say, the match peaked there. The stuff after it is good but that’s the high mark. HHH remained defiant but became the 20 in 20-0 after an epic 30:53. Yeah, that’s an all-timer. The HHH/Taker matches aren’t on the level of HBK/Taker but they’re fantastic in their own right and a great end to a four-year story. [****½]

Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy ~ Team Johnny was Miz, Mark Henry, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and David Otunga (with Brie Bella and Vickie Guerrero) while Team Teddy was Kofi Kingston, Great Khali, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, Booker T, and Santino Marella (with Nikki Bella, Aksana, Hornswoggle, and Eve). The winning team’s GM will control both shows. When you have so many people involved, there shouldn’t be any real down time. It should flow nicely, keep things interesting, and give everyone a chance to shine. Instead, this was kind of just there and never did anything to stand out. Combine that with having too much down time and this was a miss. Things broke down late, mostly outside with the managers going at it, before Santino came in as the captain. He had a hot tag before handing it over to Ryder, who was wildly popular. He did his thing until Eve joined him in the ring and the distraction let Miz defeat him in 10:38. Inoffensive but also pretty bland. [**]

WWE Championship: CM Punk [c] vs. Chris Jericho ~ I never really dug this rivalry though it did improve after this match and heading into Extreme Rules. Before the match, John Laurinaitis announced that if Punk got DQed, he’d lose the title. That became the story of the match as Jericho did everything he could to goad him into a DQ from badmouthing him to talking about his family. It’s an interesting idea but the execution was off. Rather than coming within the flow of the match, those moments felt like they were stopping momentum and hurting the match. When they got past that story, it became more of a back and forth affair which worked out for the better. The spot where Jericho countered a rana into the Walls was probably the best moment of the match. I think the finishing stretch was also strong with them jockeying for position on pin attempts only for Punk to apply the Anaconda Vice. I would’ve ended it there but they fought a bit more and then Punk applied it again, moving away from Jericho’s knee strikes to get the win in 22:19. This would’ve cracked four stars without the lackluster early story stuff. Still, a very good WWE Title match. [***¾]

John Cena vs. The Rock ~ One of the biggest matches in history. The crowd was very pro-Rock and anti-Cena. The early stages saw them testing out who was stronger but it wasn’t long before the big blows were coming with spinebusters, Five Knuckle Shuffles, and more. That also meant finishers were busted out for easy kick outs. Finishers really mean nothing in Mania main events, especially when it comes to these two. Some of what they did looked pretty rough, including a bump Rock took on the diving Fameasser. Both guys also used their ugly submissions, the Sharpshooter and STF. I kind of liked Rock going for a diving cross body since that was something he did in his early days. Cena rolled through it for the AA but got too overconfident and went for the People’s Elbow. That kind of let you know what was gonna happen. Rock popped up and delivered the Rock Bottom to win in 30:33. That had the big fight feel it needed and it worked. Two top stars throwing bombs at each other. [***¾]

When this show initially aired, I remember thinking it was really good. Upon some rewatches, I don’t really know where I got that thought from. It’s not bad but it was in a rough spot early on. An 18 second match, a decent at best follow-up, and two matches that couldn’t crack **. The three big matches delivered though, saving things overall and putting it on par with some middle of the road Manias.

SCORE: 5.5


Wrestling fans are sure to remember a handful of things from this show. There’s the 18 second squash of Daniel Bryan, basically everything between Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker, and that main event. I will say, some of the novelty of Rock/Cena wears off when you know that it became “twice in a lifetime” as that one feels like it’s remembered more, even if it’s for negative reasons.

SCORE: 6.0

Historical Significance

At the time, Bryan’s loss left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth but it actually marked the start of his rise. That means this show gets a Historical Significance boost because it began the Yes Movement that ran roughshod over WWE for two or so years. On top of that, you have things like Big Show becoming a Grand Slam winner and Rock beating Cena (giving him wins over Cena, Austin, and Hogan at this event). Again, “End of an Era” lost luster knowing the three shared a ring again years later because, money.

SCORE: 7.0

Booking Decisions

Again, Bryan losing in 18 seconds was bad in the moment though it worked out nicely. I think they mostly did well otherwise. Rock over Cena surprised many at the time, Punk retaining was the right move, and even if it wasn’t the best move, Show getting his moment wasn’t bad. I do liked that they included a really unexpected result in Kane winning. One thing worth criticizing is the multi-man tag finish. Why have Ryder just job and do the Eve turn after? Just have her low blow him behind the referee’s back to set up the finish. Good score here though overall.

SCORE: 7.0


Like a lot of modern Manias, this one looks impressive. The stadium setting and stage were sweet even if it wasn’t over the top. That said, some of the graphics looked a bit cheap and the opening video package was weird. It didn’t focus on either top title match and felt a bit amateurish. The “We Are Young” video package was very well done though. Also, this show was missing some of the big, special entrances known for this kind of show.

SCORE: 7.0


The layout of this show was rather odd. The opener made sense even if it was short because it was a memorable moment. However, it was followed by three matches that didn’t feel big or important. That made it drag early on as one of the big matches (likely Taker/HHH) needed to go in between there to break things up a bit. The same goes for one of the tags going in between the main event and WWE Title matches. You don’t always need to do that but it would’ve helped the flow here.

SCORE: 6.5



The singing to start the show is always mentioned here and while Lilian Garcia does a good job, she doesn’t feel special. She sung the anthem often for WWE so having her do a song here felt less important than when a bigger music star appears. Things like the Deadliest Catch segment and Heath Slater getting pushed by Flo Rida missed the mark in a pretty big way. The same goes for the Brodus Clay dancing with his momma segment, though that was goofy fun. I don’t always like musical performances when they aren’t for entrances but I think Flo Rida and Machine Gun Kelly were pretty good here and added to the big fight feel.

SCORE: 6.0


I feel like people consider this much better than the year prior but they’re really close. Match quality isn’t much different though this had higher highs while a lot of other areas saw mixed results like presentation and entertainment. It’s right around the halfway point for Manias to this point.

TOTAL: 45/70


WrestleMania Rankings
1. WrestleMania XIX – 62/70
2. WrestleMania X-Seven – 61/70
3. WrestleMania XXIV – 59/70
4. WrestleMania III – 55/70
5. WrestleMania 21 – 52.5/70
6. WrestleMania X – 52/70
7. WrestleMania 23 – 51/70
8. WrestleMania VIII – 50.5/70
9. WrestleMania XX – 50/70
10. WrestleMania I – 50/70
11. WrestleMania XII – 48.5/70
12. WrestleMania 22 – 48/70
13. WrestleMania VII – 46/70
14. WrestleMania XIV – 46/70
15. WrestleMania XXVIII – 45/70
16. WrestleMania XXVI – 44/70
17. WrestleMania VI – 44/70
18. WrestleMania XXV – 43.5/70
19. WrestleMania XXVII – 43.5/70
20. WrestleMania X8 – 43.5/70
21. WrestleMania 2000 – 39.5/70
22. WrestleMania V – 39/70
23. WrestleMania 13 – 37/70
24. WrestleMania XV – 35/70
25. WrestleMania IV – 32/70
26. WrestleMania XI – 31.5/70
27. WrestleMania IX – 31.5/70
28. WrestleMania II – 29/70

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Wrestlemania 28, Kevin Pantoja