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What’s All The Hubbub: Wrestlemania 21

March 26, 2010 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard
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What’s All The Hubbub: Wrestlemania 21  

I recently did a column on the top ten Wrestlemanias and said that this is my personal favorite to watch. However, I haven’t popped it in for a while, so I was curious to see how it holds up. Since I was watching it anyway, I decided to grace you all with a review.

My review of Wrestlemania XXV had some interesting comments regarding me and J.D. Dunn. Well guys, I know I’m not J.D. Dunn, and I’m not trying to be Dunn. He has the market cornered on his review style; nobody does it better. It’s like nobody can do a Ric Flair match better than Ric Flair. But hey, longtime readers (or those that browse the archives) will know that Dunn didn’t always review that way: he used to do the Scott Keith style of recaps; play-by-play and snide comments. Now he has his own style. I do things my way. Dunn has pop culture and interesting stories. Lansdell has catchphrases and decimals. Me? I ripped off Mike Campbell’s writing style, ripped off Arnold Furious’ interpretation of the star rating system, and kept my quirky way of analysis that focuses on symbolism and storytelling before work rate. It works for me.

The point is, don’t compare me to Dunn. It’s not a fair comparison.


Best part of this match: Jindrak has a hole in his shirt to show off his abs. Well, not quite. Hurricane gives Heidenreich an extra mask and Reich keeps it on for most of the match before tearing apart a turnbuckle ala George Steele. Spike Dudley has the strategy of staying out on the apron. Hurricane hits ten punches on Akio; 3 COUNT VS. JUNG DRAGONS FOR THE WIN! There’s also a funny spot where all of the cruisers go after Viscera so that Scotty 3 Hotty can hit the Worm; and then most of them get thrown out by Masters. Eventually they get rid of the garbage and Akio takes a sick bump from Viscera. The last three are Booker T, Viscera and Chris Masters, but Booker wins. I think that’s small consolation for a guy who should have been on the main card. Not the greatest battle royal ever but there was enough effort to at least make it amusing.


This match had a pretty simple premise; Eddie and Rey had been in a few matches in the early part of 2005, with Rey winning. Eddie decided to adhere to the old adage of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and they defeated The Basham Brothers at No Way Out for the WWE Tag Team Championships. Then, Chavo got under Eddie’s skin and basically said Eddie couldn’t beat Rey; Eddie took exception to this and Rey agreed to have a match in the spirit of competition. On one level, it’s pretty cool; I didn’t see any cheating of note from Eddie in this match, and they both do a lot of great sequences to reiterate the “competition for competition’s sake” motif. There’s a spot where they both do a bridge at the same time, and a sequence where Rey goes for a 619 when Eddie’s on the floor but Eddie dodges and they stare each other down. But on the other hand, the dynamic works a lot better when Guerrero gets to play the ruthless, no-good SOB against Rey.

That’s not to say that Eddie is any less brilliant in this role; he shows no mercy on Mysterio, hitting him with vicious moves and stretching him out like a pretzel, but never doing anything that you can really boo him for. It’s a fine line to tread but Eddie does it perfectly. Two of the best spots of the match are a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker after Eddie ducks a 619 and a powerbomb to counter the West Coast Pop. Both are sickening AND show Guerrero’s familiarity with Rey as well as get across the fact that he’s really desperate to win this match. Most of Mysterio’s offense comes in the form of roll-ups and counters, which play into the finish, although he does bust out the awesome corkscrew plancha. There’s a great idea where Eddie hits one suplex and Rey counters. Later, Eddie hits two suplexes and Rey counters the third, and the third time Eddie hits all three suplexes. It’s great because it continues the story of Rey’s countering, while also putting over how much more damage Eddie does to him, and the six suplexes are pretty brutal when you think about it. In the end, despite Eddie’s best efforts, Rey wins with a fluke roll-up literally out of nowhere, but that’s what he was doing all match, and it finally worked. This is a great match marred by near impossible expectations and Rey constantly messing with his mask, but this is a great example of how incredible Guerrero was when he was “on”.


Wow, did this match ever come out of nowhere; what was basically a thrown together match to showcase Raw’s deep midcard comes very close to stealing the show. This match is total nonstop action, but it’s all structured very well so that things don’t get to wild and hard to follow. The start of the match is great as Kane just bulldozes over everybody until Benjamin and Benoit hit him with a double suplex; wise to get that in before the ladders come into play so that it has real impact. While they do that, Christian and Tomko try to sneak an early win and pull a ladder into the ring, but Jericho pretty much bulldogs the ladder and it crashes into Christian’s face, at which point the bell officially rings. They quickly set up the series of dives: Jericho’s pescado, Christian’s springboard crossbody, Shelton’s no-hands hilo and Kane’s flying clothesline. The Big Red Machine continues to dominate, hitting Edge and Christian with the ladder, and once again Jericho plays up his ladder match experience by dropkicking the ladder into Kane’s face. Y2J has a great facial after casually dropping a ladder on Edge (with whom he had a mini-feud going in 2004), which sets up an inspired spot where Benoit German Suplexes Jericho, sending the ladder flying out of the ring.

Edge and Christian have the obvious team-up spot, sandwiching Kane with two ladders, but that leaves them open to a springboard flying clothesline from Benjamin. Shelton quickly becomes the star of the match, attempting a superkick on Edge, and then hitting his Dragon Whip Kick into a ladder that Christian happens to be holding when Edge ducks. Unfortunately, Edge gets flapjacked into a ladder, hit with a Stinger Splash on a ladder and a huge T-Bone Suplex from the ladder. Great karma; he avoided one move that wouldn’t have done much and gets hit with three very painful moves. Of course, the most memorable spot in the match is Benjamin’s run up the slanted ladder to clothesline Jericho, which makes Shelton look like a million bucks; fortunately, Christian hits him in the gut with the ladder to make it a little better. Kane comes in and chokeslams Benjamin into the ropes (I think it was supposed to be to the floor) and gets booted by Tomko. There’s a great nod to Wrestlemania X-SEVEN with Tomko helping Christian up the ladder like Rhino did, but this time Kane clotheslines Tomko to the floor and sends Christian flying out onto him.

However, the most important thing in the match is the story with Benoit’s arm. When he first tries to climb the ladder, Kane stops him with a goozle, which he counters to the Crossface. Edge breaks it up, so Benoit puts him the Crossface, and Kane gets revenge by drilling the ladder into Benoit’s face and then crushing his arm under a ladder. Benoit sells the arm brilliantly throughout the match, and it is smartly referenced again; Christian hits a divorce court off a ladder. Benoit ends up getting revenge on Kane via a diving headbutt off of a ladder (busting up a previous wound in the process) and then by fighting him off of the ladder. Unfortunately for Benoit, Edge comes in and hits his injured arm with a steel chair and climbs the match to win the thing. They only really did three spots on the arm, but that’s all they needed: Benoit’s selling and using it to set up the finish made it work. Edge wins the match and a title shot, but everyone comes out smelling like roses, especially Benjamin and Benoit. That’s when you know they did something right. Amazing ladder match that still holds up today, and they didn’t even do anything that dangerous. They just worked hard, had smart work, and were creative.

Eugene comes out to talk about midgits. Muhammad Hassan and Khosrow Daivari come out to talk about rascism. Hassan beats up Eugene to make his own Wrestlemania moment. However, being Arab/Italian/American/Whatever and attacking a retard draws the ire of Hulk Hogan, who comes out to….well, walk wild all over them. No legdrop sadly. Cool moment anyway, and I marked. However, I daresay he took too long posing; the fact that Taker’s druids come out during the video package for the next match lends credence to my theory.


This match is worked at a very fast pace, much quicker than you would expect considering who’s involved. The psychology of the match is set up right from the get go; Orton can’t go head to head with Taker. In fact, he spends the opening seconds trying not to get cornered. Instead, he has to use his superior athleticism and his smarts to stay in the match. Much like Mysterio earlier, almost all of Randy’s offense comes from flash counters and he doesn’t really ever take control. The only time he does get a bit of a heat segment, it’s the forearms to the chest and it just sets up Taker’s zombie sit-up. It’s a great way to put over Taker’s dominance and Randy’s own abilities at the same time, and it keeps the match moving quickly.

Wow, watching this match today after so many years of Orton doing the slow-paced style, I forgot how athletic he is and how quick he can be. Spots like the leapfrog, his great dropkicks, and a spot where he leaps over Taker’s corner avalanche to get a schoolboy are just amazing; normally, that stuff is babyface offense, but in this case it’s Randy avoiding a head-on collision with a man he slapped in the face at the beginning of the match. That’s how you use athleticism without sacrificing your heel characteristics. It’s all about context. Sadly, Orton can be a little sloppy at times, as Old School and a simple clothesline spot both look awkward, although not nearly as bad as when Taker loses his balance on the Last Ride.

While Orton keeps hitting counters and is on the defensive, when Taker gets a counter he’s able to keep the offense. When he counters the RKO by tossing Randy to the floor, he’s able to hit the apron legdrop. When he counters a back body drop, he takes over the match for about a minute before Orton almost accidentally hits a back elbow before Taker can hit the running boot after Snake Eyes. Taker’s offense isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, although he does bust out a side suplex to counter a sleeper hold and the sweet Dragon Sleeper, which Orton beautifully counters into a DDT.

The most convincing near fall of the match comes when Orton counters a chokeslam into the RKO, which was well protected in the match as Taker smoothly countered it twice, so it has the feeling it could end. Thankfully it happened after Bob Orton’s interference (which got a big pop) and immediately after Taker booted the older Orton to the floor to get rid of him. On another night, if Orton had moved just a little faster, it might have put the Deadman away, but this is Wrestlemania, after all. Considering how Orton did almost nothing but counters the whole match, it’s ironic that the match ends with Taker reversing an attempt by Orton to do the Tombstone Piledriver, and hitting his own. They were going for something great, but sloppiness kept it from getting there. It probably would have been better for Taker to use a Chokeslam on Orton instead of the Last Ride, since it’s easier to do and would have made Orton’s RKO counter that much better. Still a good match though.


This is actually the match that made me stand up and take notice of Trish Stratus as a wrestler. She had been having good matches before this, but it’s one thing to have good six-minute matches with Jazz, Molly Holly, Victoria and even Lita and another thing to drag something watchable out of Christy Hemme. The match still isn’t very good, but Trish tries to justify its existence by selling and being bitchy. I was really worried that WWE was going to give the title to Christy based on her Playboy Shoot, but thankfully logic prevailed.

They did give this quite a bit of build-up and storyline, but basically it boils down to “these are two of the greatest workers we have and we pretty much guarantee they will have the best match, ever.” Well, they sure tried to. The first ten minutes or so are almost shockingly basic; after a slap from Michaels leads to Angle schooling him with amateur stuff, it’s all about HBK controlling the match with the most rudimentary of moves: a side headlock. Angle tries his best to get out of it, but Shawn keeps it on until the ref forces him to break it in the ropes. There is a nice touch where HBK hits a shoulder block and Angle hits one of his own to prove a point, but that just ends with him getting caught with a hip block takeover and put in the short-arm scissors. That leads to an impressive Bob Backland-style lift from Angle, which Shawn counters to a sunset flip. He follows it with a backslide and then goes right back to the headlock strategy. The whole point of this is to make Angle frustrated, but it could have been established in much less time so they can get to the meat of the match.

Kurt applying the Ankle Lock makes perfect sense due to the frustration and as a way to make Shawn stop toying with him and get to the next phase of the match, but the club to the back was a horrible set-up for it. HBK spent the last several minutes owning the offense, and one punch from Angle puts him down? Really? They also have the sense to have Michaels counter it immediately so as not to damage the hold (although they will do it later, as you’ll read). HBK takes it to the floor with a Cactus Jack clothesline and clears the table, but that just give Angle time to recuperate and hit the next transition; the Angle Slam into the post. Unfortunately, Michaels ends up hitting it with his leg and not his back, and I mean plainly. This makes all of the selling from Shawn seem rather stupid until Kurt sharks after the back with suplexes and wear down holds. It’s still smart due to HBK’s history and it makes Angle’s offense and the Flair Corner Flip come off better, but it would have worked so much better if the spot was done correctly. It’s kind of meaningless anyway because it doesn’t play into the finish. The sad thing is they could have made the botch work really well by having Angle go after the leg, which sets up the Ankle Lock, but that would require the willingness to call the match on the fly.

After the back work, which ends in a missed elbow by Shawn, HBK counters the Angle Slam with an armdrag and back body drops Angle to the floor. Shawn hits an ugly crossbody where he basically knees Angle in the face, which you can attribute to the selling. The springboard crossbody into the table looks beautiful, but it’s sandwiched by stuff that annoys me. Angle’s tease of the German Suplex through the table would work a lot better if there was any chance in Hell of the move hitting, and the low blow by Shawn just seems out of place and I can’t buy HBK being that desperate. There had to be a better way to set the spot up. After that spot they slowly get into the ring for a stare-down. It’s total melodrama, and if you’ve read my review of Michaels-Cena you know how much I hate melodrama.

After this spot, the wrestlers (and the crowd) forget about the rest of the match and just throw out their signature stuff. Michaels decides not to sell the back work so he can do his knip-up. That leads to the comeback. He doesn’t sell after the elbow drop either, which is mildly excusable because he lands on his side and not his back. After that, we get the best spot of the match where Angle counters Sweet Chin Music into the Ankle Lock. HBK fights out of it, counters the Angle Slam with a sunset flip but Angle counters to the Ankle Lock (actually a smart touch considering HBK did the roll-up earlier), but HBK escapes that one as well. Angle counters the kick again and hits an Angle Slam, which Shawn survives. At this point I would normally complain about how Kurt has continued to kill the credibility of his own finishers, but at this point they are long-dead anyway, and given the circumstances it’s acceptable.

What isn’t acceptable is Shawn kicking out of the Super Angle Slam, which is just preposterous even for Wrestlemania and for Shawn Michaels. The super belly-to-belly would have gotten the same pop, told the same story, and not stretched credibility. Angle does give some thought to the original story of the match, which was HBK attempting to frustrate Kurt; first he does the straps up/straps back down spot to show that he’s still focused, but he follows it up with a moonsault that doesn’t end well. He also gets extremely frustrated when HBK kicks out of the top rope Angle Slam, and that allows HBK to hit the Superkick. The finish is also annoying; the start is great as Angle rises from the dead to apply the Ankle Lock, and after a few attempts to escape from Shawn he applies the Grapevine Ankle Lock, which up to this point was a well-protected, match-ending submission. I say up until this point because Shawn lasts FOREVER in the hold before tapping out. The only possible excuse is that Angle’s one long Ankle Lock was on the other foot, but that’s still weak. Big-match finishes should be big-match finishes. HBK gives Angle a career win, but they’ve ruined the credibility of his best moves.

As a dream match, this lives up to expectations: it’s a great showcase of both men, it’s dramatic and as a one off encounter it would have been great. Unfortunately, they decided to have several matches after this, which really exposed the problems with this match: both men pushed each other beyond any reasonable limits, with little to no build-up. They didn’t have a more epic match in them than this; in fact I shudder at the thought. Compare this to Angle-Benoit from the Royal Rumble 2003. That match had all the crazy spots, but it was after years of matches between them and they never had a major match after it. People were hyping this as the greatest match in Wrestlemania history, and even the greatest match of all time. In reality, it’s not even the match of the year: the Unbreakable Triple Threat was much better and had a longer impact on the business. Angle got his big win, but he would leave for TNA a year and a half later. So what did this match accomplish in the long run?

After this we get a dream confrontation between Roddy Piper and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They don’t do much besides slap each other and throw insults, but it’s still pretty cool to see at Wrestlemania. Carlito comes out to make fun of them. That gives Austin an excuse to stomp a mudhole and walk it dry. Piper gets the eyepoke and Austin gives him the stunner. We get a beer bash and Austin stuns Piper. A perfectly acceptable way to cool down after the epic confrontation between Michaels and Angle.


Um…..well, I don’t really have much to say about this. How do you rate a sumo match? This isn’t even like the boxing match between Roddy Piper and Mr. T where they applied wrestling psychology to the gimmick. They just trade slaps, Show lifts Akebono and then gets slammed to the mat. I actually enjoyed it in a spectacle way, but can’t give it a good rating. But I can’t give it a bad rating either because it’s not really a match and I enjoyed it. So um….cop out?


This match sucks. I’m even a fan of both guys. It still sucks. That said, the build-up was spectacular; John Cena is a thug from the streets, and JBL represents the rich and famous. It’s a classic story. JBL is extremely confidant; he even sends Orlando Jordan to the back. This plays into the history of his him winning the title and his defenses: he’s had to rely on help from Kurt Angle, Heidenreich, Jordan, and the Bashams to help win. Now he thinks he can beat someone by himself; and well, he can’t, because he’s really just a cowboy who got too big for his britches (the character, not the wrestler). It’s booking 101. Notice how I’m talking about the booking? Yeah, that’s because this match is boring.

It’s not it’s outright awful; they don’t botch anything and Bradshaw has a smart strategy of using neckbreakers, headlocks, and clotheslines to set up for the Clothesline from Hell. There’s even a cool spot where JBL gets overconfident and tries a crossbody, only to get him with a powerslam. The problem is that it’s very mundane; JBL is a guy who thrives in matches where the rules are thrown out, and Cena wasn’t much better at this point. However, the biggest problem is that Cena barely gets any offense in the match. Bradshaw is supposed to be a joke, but instead he treats Cena like he’s nothing. It would work if Cena ever got to get any offense in, but he doesn’t get anything except for clotheslines, a back body drop, the flying shoulder tackle, the hip toss, the protobomb, the five knuckle shuffle before the finish. The finish is good if predictable; Cena ducks the Clothesline from Hell and hits the F-U. That happens literally in the last minute of the match. This was Cena’s first title win, and after watching this, I can see why I didn’t take him seriously as a main event star, until the match with Triple H a year later. He still feels like and wrestles like a midcard guy.

The WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2005 struts out for everyone: Paul Orndorff, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Jimmy Hart, Nikolai Volkoff, The Iron Sheik, Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan. Quite the class.


I don’t know who had the brilliant idea to make this go twenty minutes and have it be a mostly even power match. Batista has the edge for certain, but it’s not nearly the sort of dominant performance it should have been. He gets the best of Triple H early…until Hunter just hits him with a flying knee that sends him to the floor. From there, The Game takes over for most of the match. Flair helping him cheat would work if Hunter had to rely on him to keep the advantage, but instead he’s just doing it because he is angry with Dave and wants Flair to beat him up. HHH’s methodical beat down to the back would be good psychology…if he wasn’t dominating a much larger guy whose sole advantage over Helmsley is his power. I’m not saying Hunter shouldn’t have controlled the match; Batista only has about six or seven moves at this point. But he should have chopped the big tree down by going after the legs. That puts over HHH’s ring savvy and intelligence without diminishing Batista’s power.

Things pick up a bit after Batista back body drops out of a Pedigree and emphatically kicks out of the running facebreaker. A stupid spot shows up where Hunter flies off the top rope, not even looking like he’s doing anything before eating a clothesline. How hard is it to form an axehandle? Batista finally gets some big spots when he sends Hunter into the floor Harley Race style, and catapults him into the post, busting him open. He starts taking over by slamming Hunter into the steel steps, forearms to the cuts and a bunch of clotheslines. Batista hits a spinebuster on Flair when he tries to drill him with the title, and when the referee rolls Flair out, Hunter hits Batista with the title. Hunter hits a low blow and the ref doesn’t see it for some reason that isn’t suitably explained. The finish is good as Batista counters the Pedigree with a Schwein of all things and then hits the Batista Bomb. The match picked up towards the end and was never actively bad. It’s just a really average main event.

The 411: Watching this again was a bit weird for me. The match everyone remembers the show for was Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels, but watching it again shows me that it was just a good match and nowhere near the best ever. On the other hand, the Money in the Bank is just as good as it was back then and Eddie vs. Rey and Orton vs. Taker were better than I remember. The years have also given a certain historical significance to Batista and Cena's win. The undercard is excellent and the main events are important. It's also one of the most star-studded. Still one of the best 'Manias ever, but not as good as I remember.
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend

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