FearlessRiOT Retro Review: WWE WrestleMania 22

WrestleMania has taken place in my hometown all of 2 1/3 times. The 1/3 is represented by WWE‘s ridiculous idea to hold WrestleMania 2 in three separate venues across three separate cities. That would be like the Grammys deciding to have a telecast where they gave out the awards in Nashville and have the performances take place in Los Angeles. The second time was WrestleMania 13, and that’s mainly seen as a one-match show. Luckily, that’s not the case with WrestleMania 22, which seemed to finally get it right. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the show. I really wanted to; I got my mother up the day the tickets went on sale. We weren’t able to make it out to the ticket place and I had to miss out. I couldn’t even watch it the night it came on because homework got in way. But I did get the DVD as an 8th grade graduation gift, and when I popped that sucker in, I was ready for the action. And now I’m here to look back on it and let you know what I thought. Was it an event I wish I attended or that I’m glad I missed out on? Well, let’s find out!

First of all, I really love it when WWE books acts I like to perform either America the Beautiful or the Star-Spangled Banner at WrestleMania. Over the years, many artists have been given the responsibility; Ray Charles, Aretha FranklinAshanti, John Legend, Nicole Scherzinger, Little RichardAloe Blacc, Keri Hilson, WWE’s own Lilian Garcia, and this year’s recently confirmed performers, Fifth Harmony. It’s just a WrestleMania tradition to kick off the show with it. Well, for WrestleMania 22, they got a hometown girl to represent in Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child.Michelle Sure, her solo career has never been as hot as Kelly Rowland‘s and Queen Beyoncé‘s has been, but she’s no slouch vocally, and growing up, Destiny’s Child was a favorite in the house, so I was happy to see her get the opportunity. Sadly, Destiny’s Child officially broke up around that time, but the girls still work together from time to time. Look, here’s Beyoncé and Kelly in one of Michelle’s videos! And here they are at the Stellar Awards! It’s just like the Shield, but not really.

Pre-Show Battle Royal
I guess I should also talk about the pre-show Battle Royal, which WWE always tended to do around this time. Sure, the modern Andre The Giant Battle Royal is WWE’s new way to get as many people with nothing going for them in one big match for WrestleMania, but at least the winner of that match gets a huge trophy. The winner of these pre-show Battle Royals just gets the honor of saying they won a match on a DVD Special Feature. This match is available online and was won by Viscera, who dry humped MNM during the match (much to Melina‘s dismay) and lusted on Lilian after it. Also, listen around the 8:03 mark of the video to hear Melina deliver the longest, most ear-piercing scream you’ll hear this week.

WM22_04022006dog0387_vtrixBig Show & Kane vs. Chris Masters & Carlito
So in the last review, I talked about how Guerrero vs. Mysterio was an exciting way to kick off WrestleMania. For WrestleMania 22, WWE kind of took a step backward. It’s nice to see a WrestleMania in the 20’s numbering range have a Tag Team Championship match seeing as that so barely happens anymore because the division kept growing less relevant by the year. But when the two teams competing are so thrown together and painfully temporary, my investment goes down a bit. I don’t want to act like the match was all terrible, but as far as matches go, this is the only one on the show I could see people intentionally skipping past. Oh, and Kane and Big Show won, further driving The Masterpiece and the Apple-Spitting Decider of Cool apart.

WM22_04022006cm315_VTRIXMoney in the Bank Ladder Match
The first Money in the Bank Ladder Match kicked off the legacy of a match type in style, so it is up to the second one to continue to make the match one to watch. In order for this to happen, they needed some real highlight reel wrestlers, and there were plenty. Matt Hardy was one half of a team infamous for their ladder usage, Rob Van Dam is super athletic and cut his teeth in the land of extreme, and Shelton Benjamin was the breakout star of the previous Money in the Bank match. Veteran Finlay and newcomer Lashley would be the wildcards though, as no one knew what to expect from them. Then, there was Ric Flair, who you had to hope could make it through the match without breaking a hip or busting a kidney. The guy was entering this match in his late 50s!

Well, just like the previous year, this match had some marvelous spots, mostly form the likes of Shelton Benjamin and RVD. Visuals like Van Dam drop kicking Lashley off a ladder using a chair and Benjamin leaping into a ladder out of nowhere will stick in the mind. However, the same could be said for the damage taken by Flair. After taking a SuperPlex off the top of a ladder, he left, can back, hit some chops, and still survived a Side Effect off the ladder. Flair was fearless! But this night would belong to Rob Van Dam, who went on to be the first person to cash in one of those babies honorably instead of taking advantage of an already beaten down person and actually wins the title. If he didn’t later get caught driving with the Mary Jane in the trunk, you could call him the perfect role model. Believe it or not, this entire match is on WWE’s YouTube page, so you can watch it here if you want.

Hall of Fame Segment
Before this match, Randy Orton crashed an interview with recent Hall of Fame inducted Mean Gene Okerlund, and that interview was ultimately crashed by Batista, who wouldn’t wrestle on the show due to injury. After that, we head straight to the stage for the Hall of Fame segment, headline the like of Sensational Sherri, Eddie Guerrero, and Bret Ha…..wait, what do you mean Bret Hart didn’t show up?! Yeah, Bret Hart showed up to the ceremony the previous night to get inducted, but refused to show up to the WrestleMania telecast. I guess he and WWE hadn’t completely made up at that point; imagine if Taylor Swift wrote “Bad Blood” exclusively about their beef instead of her own beef with Katy Perry. But we’ll revisit this rivalry when WrestleMania XXVI gets here. Anyway, Hart’s absence meant more time to appreciate Eddie Guerrero, being represented by his widow, future super-heel Vickie.

Chris Benoit vs. JBL
Hey, didn’t Chris Benoit win the World Title in the main event two WrestleManias ago? Man, he sure slid down the corporate ladder fast. At this WrestleMania, he came in as the United States Champion, and was set to face JBL. Bradshaw claimed that after beating Eddie Guerrero, if he beats Chris Benoit, he would become the greatest technical wrestler of all-time. Sure, JBL, that’s totally how it works, I say as I nod with a silly, insincere grin on my face. This match is OK; not a particular favorite of mine from the evening. JBL won by cheating, so that ‘greatest technical wrestler’ crowd was never placed on his head. His finisher is a damn clothesline, for God sake. OK, now that I got that match out of the way, let’s get into a match I’m REALLY looking forward to talking about.

Edge vs. Mick FoleyWM22_040220006rf_1431_vtrix
Oh. My. God! I. Freaking. Love. This. Match! I’ve seen the question asked on social media all the time of what my favorite all-time WrestleMania match is. Truth be told, I still don’t have a definitive #1. But if I was to make a countdown for such a list, this match would be pretty high up there. So in the 2000’s, Mick Foley had no problem helping younger wrestlers earn their Hardcore Badge, and even though Edge was a TLC veteran and a master of the Con-Chair-To, we had yet to see if he can hang with the big boys of the weapons-wielding scene. So after losing a match where he feels Mick Foley cost him the World Title, the now Rated-R Superstar comes after the Hardcore Legend, calling him “overrated” and a “Muppet”, sending Foley to a place he never hoped to return to. A land of barbed wire and thumbtacks where the four major oceans are made of blood and the clouds are made of smoke rings from all the bonfires below!

Entering the match with his then on-screen girlfriend Lita by his side, the Rated-R Superstar had the upper hand in beginning. That is until he went for a spear, only to find out Foley was wearing a belt of barbed wire under his flannel. From there, the two absolutely brutalized each other with the help of Barbie, a bed of thumbtacks, and the steel steps. Even Lita took a barbed wire sock to the mouth. Foley was once again in his zone in this match, but Edge would leave the battleground on the winning end, spearing Foley through a flaming table in one of the most unforgettable WrestleMania images in recent memory. Both men were bloodied (Edge’s right eye was completely red afterward), but they’d put on an unbelievable match that I personally love to revisit…..and that Edge comedically apologized for on The Edge & Christian Show this week. Foley accepted it, but only on the agreement that they get to karaoke “We Didn’t Start The Fire” together. Really, if you’re not watching The Edge & Christian Show (That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness), why do you even still have the Network…well, aside from NXT?

Booker T & Sharmell vs. The BoogeymanWM22_040220006rf_1703_vtrix
If you’ve seen his days as Goldust’s tag team partner, you would know that weirdness doesn’t sit very well with Booker T. It’s the struggle R-Truth – a guy who is weird in his own right – has been going through for months with ol’ Dustin. So when he learned that he and his wife would both have to go into battle with the Boogeyman, I could just imagine the nightmares he was having. And when he came across foot fetishist Snitsky, rich crazy person Ted DiBiase, Mae Young (I don’t think I need to explain that one), and his former tag partner Goldust on his way to the ring, no doubt he must’ve thought WWE was taken over by the crazies. And what about the match itself? Well, it was short, uninteresting, and hard to see under a cloud of red fog for most of it. Pretty much the only things of note that happened were 1) Booker T forgetting he has pyro in his entrance and 2) Boogeyman kissing Sharmell. With a mouthful of worms. Yeah, the Boogeyman is definitely the second nastiest character in WWE history; it’s gonna be hard to dethrone Bastion Booger for that crown.

Mickie James vs. Trish StratusWM22_04022006cm1056_vtrix
When Mickie James debuted on TV, I didn’t know what to think. With the exception of Rob Conway years earlier, I wasn’t too familiar with “Crowd members becoming wrestlers” angles. But oh, this was no normal crowd member; this was no normal fan. This was a woman obsessed, a fangirl of deranged proportions. She loved Trish Stratus. I mean, she DEEPLY loved Trish Stratus. It was on a Helga/Arnold level of obsession, and Trish got so creeped out by it that she nicely requests Mickie back away. Instead, Mickie kicks her idol in the head , steals her friend, kisses her on live TV (again), and creates a shrine in her honor. Needless to say WWE put more effort into this feud than they do most Diva feuds these days.

And it worked; in the long term, it payed off. In the eyes of many, this is still seen as one of the best Divas angles ever and the match is remembered as maybe the best women’s match in WrestleMania history. Yes, a match that features a Stratusfaction attempt so botched and a gesture so vulgar WWE had to edit them from any official future releases or airings, is held so highly in that regard because it was just genius storytelling. Is it a little puzzling that the crowd cheered heel Mickie and booed face Trish? Yeah, but by now, we should already expect Chicago crowds to be unpredictable.

Undertaker vs. Mark HenryWM22_040220006rf_2139_vtrix
I rewatched this event on DVD to take notes for this review, and for real, I felt like skipping this match. Mark Henry is good in his own right and the Undertaker is an undeniable legend, but for some reason, seeing the two fight in a Casket Match on WrestleMania didn’t seem like the most interesting thing in the world to me. Maybe I’m just one of those people that subscribe to the mindset that matches between superheavyweights will be slow and boring 9 times out of 10. But after deciding to actually rewatch it, I can confirm that this match was in fact pretty slow, mainly when Mark Henry was on the offensive. I will admit there were some high points like Undertaker diving over the casket and onto Henry or when the two men were fighting inside  the casket, but I don’t know if that was enough to actually consider this a good or memorable match. I guess it is a big deal in that it’s WrestleMania’s only Casket Match, though, so that’s something.

Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahonWM22_040220006rf_2553R_vtrix
Vince McMahon
is a petty character; just the very suggestion that he might be immature will cause him to try and ruin your life. That was Shawn Michaels‘ mistake in late 2005 when he told Vince that he should grow up and move on from the Montreal Screwjob. Vince took it personally and decided to screw with HBK, even induction him into the Kiss My Ass Club. And strangely, that’s not even the nastiest thing that happened in the build to this match; a cup of urine does not belong on the face, that’s all I’m saying. The point is that this feud got so personal that it led to Vince facing Shawn in a No Holds Barred Match.

Doesn’t seem like the most concrete setup for a feud, but I dare you to say no to a match where two WrestleMania icons try to beat the hell out of each other. And the match was voted the 2006 Match of the Year in the PWI Achievement Awards that year, so obviously the match delivered, right? Actually, though very entertaining in large part to Jim Ross’ passionately biased commentary, the match itself was actually kind of silly. Before the match, McMahon did an arrogant family prayer that drive him deeper into the depths of despicable villainy. A giant copy of McMahon’s Muscle & Fitness cover was used as a weapon, the Spirit Squad arrived and proved to be the worst Minions ever, and Shane McMahon joined the Kiss My Ass Club AND got handcuffed to the ropes for a kendo stick spanking. This was all balanced out by Vince being busted open and receiving a huge elbow drop from Michaels from high atop the tallest ladder you’ll ever see. I don’t think I’m surprising anyone when I say Shawn Michaels won…..and Vince flipped him the bird. This match was brutal, this match was silly, this match was all-around entertaining. Maybe not worthy of it’s Match of the Year distinction, but certainly a highlight of the broadcast.

Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle vs. Randy OrtonWM22_04022006cm1632_VTRIX
I wish I could leave the whole Eddie-sploitation thing out of this. Again, there’s already a video for that. But it’s kind of hard not to mention it in context to this story; Rey Mysterio dedicated his Rumble victory to his fallen friend while Orton tried to get heel heat by outright stating that Eddie Guerrero went way down below, as The Pretty Reckless would put it. Orton steals Rey’s #1 contendership away from him, but Tag Team Teddy awards it back to him and the Triple Threat was on. The third piece of the puzzle, Kurt Angle, went in like a tough, serious champion after his well-received match with Undertaker at No Way Out, so the match could definitively work on some level.

For this match, Rey Mysterio got then-relevant rock band P.O.D. to perform his brand new entrance tune “Booyaka 619” live on the show, and like the Motörhead performance the year before, it was exciting to watch. But as Triple H has proved in the past (and other wrestlers will prove in the future), just because you get a band to perform your song live for you doesn’t mean you’ll win your match. So Rey was doing this at his own risk. Luckily for him, not only would he put on an exciting Triple Threat match with Angle and Orton, chock full of impressive suplexes from the Olympic Gold Medalist, but Rey would also go on to win the World Title. Did his reign suck? Oh, you better believe it. But him winning the title was a largely emotional moment and dedicating it to Eddie added a certain level of heart to it. Or at least it would if that was the last of WWE’s exploiting of Eddie Guerrero’s death. Nope, they kept it going and it got regrettably painful. But I’m not here to critique that; the point is the match was still good.

006Torrie Wilson vs. Candice Michelle
Most matches WWE intends to be sexy don’t come off as sexy as they expect, at least in my opinion. What is so hot about a Gravy Bowl Match or an Evening Gown Match? Answers on a postcard, please! I understand hot women fighting can be hot, but for some reason, hair pulling in elegant gowns and rolling around in unappealing foods just doesn’t do it for me. But for the Playboy Promotion Match of the night, they set up a bed in the middle of the ring and let Torrie and Candice go at it. The thing is that I feel like I should hate this match more than I do. How could I possibly justify despising the Miller Lite Catfight segment from XIX, but not minding this so much? Can’t be my Torrie bias since she was in both segments. Well, if I can explain myself, I think it comes down to the fact that Torrie and Candice didn’t just do some cliche things that have been deemed hot in some focus group; the match had just a shred more creativity. From the use of Torrie’s dog to the use of Candice’s magazine to the wrestling moves they actually did try to pull off. Torrie and Candice both looked legitimately sexy in the match and even though I feel like I should be embarrassed that this match happened, I’m really not. This is definitely something WWE should never ever, ever attempt to do again, but this one time, I can’t find it in myself to hate on it too much. And at least we have the Trish and Mickie wrestling a real competitive match, so things at least balanced out.

John Cena vs. Triple H
WM22_040220006rf_3491R_vtrixThe match that confirmed the John Cena backlash was real. It’s also the match that has added to the legend of Chicago’s hatred of John Cena. Speaking as a Chicagoan, I’ve never really had anything against John Cena; while he may be overrated by WWE management, he’s also underrated by fans. Sure, most of his title reigns and pushes are beyond forced, but there’s no way you can convince me that John Cena is as terrible as his haters claim. And he proved he belonged in the main event pool in his match against Triple H. The Game has been the butt of many jokes over the years for burying talent and not wanting to put anyone over. Obviously, that wasn’t the case for John Cena. The Champ didn’t live up to his promise of taking Triple H’s sledgehammer and sticking it straight up his ass, but he did managed to make him tap out, something Triple H barely ever does. It wasn’t an easy match, especially with Triple H resorting to desperate cheating, but it was a fine main event with an invested Chicago crowd. In a year where Cena’s first movie (not counting his Ready to Rumble cameo) The Marine hit the box office, the WrestleMania win was one of many big steps forward for the soon-to-be Hall of Fame career of John Cena.

So, did WWE completely disgrace Chicago with a terrible WrestleMania? Actually, not they didn’t. WrestleMania 22 certainly wasn’t the greatest WrestleMania, but it was still pretty damn solid. Most of the matches delivered and we witnesses some of the most memorable moments in recent WrestleMania history. I’m still waiting for them to bring the bash back over to Chicago so there can be a chance of me at least attending Axxess, but until then, I’m just fine attending SHIMMER shows whenever I can. As for this event, it was totally servicable. At least they didn’t do anything as reprehensible as putting a complete egomaniac over for some mainstream publicity and a good buyrate, right? …Oh, yeah…

Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania 23.

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