FearlessRiOT Retro Review: WWE WrestleMania XXIV

You know, I didn’t see WrestleMania XXIV for the first time until years after it took place; it wasn’t so much that I didn’t ave any confidence in it being a good show. It’s just that I waited and waited to buy the DVD, and ultimately never got around to doing it because I waited too late. Like, past WrestleMania 25, which I cannot wait to rip into tomorrow. But luckily, thanks to the launch of the WWE Network, I was finally able to tune into this show in all it’s glory. And I’ve watched it a few times; last year it was for fun, and this year it was to take note for this review. What did I think about it? Well, let’s take a look at the night that saw a legend retire, a dog(g) kiss a bunny, and the unpinnable get pinned. This is WrestleMania XXIV! (Warning: This show is filled with celebrities, so I literally kept count of them for you.)

America The Beautiful, with Celebrity #1: John Legend
Even though I grew up on R&B artists, listening to singers like Musiq Soulchild and Jill Scott back in the early-2000s, I’ve never really been a fan of John Legend for some reason. But I can’t honestly say that the man has no talent. He can sing and he can play; it’s not his fault that his music just doesn’t fascinate me nine times out of ten. And in 2008, the year he released what is now his third biggest pop hit and my favorite song by him, he was picked to perform America The Beautiful at WrestleMania. He didn’t go over the top; he kept it simple and though I can’t say that was not feeling his voice at all here, I don’t want to diminish the importance of it.

Finlay vs. JBL04_03_WM24_03302008dog_1338
This entire storyline is built on a mountain of B.S. Vince McMahon storyline dies, Chris Benoit for real dies, McMahon comes back, is hit with the bombshell that he has a bastard son, finds out the kid is a leprechaun on his roster, tries to ruin the kid’s life, finds out he’s not the father after all, and the real father ends up in a Belfast Brawl against a mean, rich, suddenly un-retired millionaire. Yeah, that’s probably the weirdest run-on sentence you will ever see on this blog. Finlay vs. JBL doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world to me at first until I realize a little something that the two have in common: they’re hard hitting, no-nonsense gladiators who love to fight. And the fact that this is a Belfast Brawl (which is WWE’s fancy Irish-pandering way of saying “Hardcore Match”) means that they should be right at home in this environment. And to the credit of both men, they did deliver a hard-hitting match, complete with the use of things like trashcans, cookie sheets, a table, and even the steel steps. Way to get me hyped for the show by starting with some nice hardcore action, WWE.

Celebrity #2, Kim Kardashian Interviews Mr. Kennedy

The best thing about Kim Kardashian being at WrestleMania XXIV is the fact that she didn’t really do much; there was less Kim Kardashian on WrestleMania XXIV than there is a regular one-hour episode of E! News. She only made all of two appearances on the show; that makes her maybe the least-busy host I’ve ever seen in the history of anything. But when you’re someone who’s as not interested in her as I am, that’s really a good thing. Her first appearance is an interview with the previous Money in the Bank winner Mr. Kennedy. Imagine that: Mr. Kennedy and Kim Kardashian in the same room; if narcissism was an energy source, their combined abundance of it would be able to light up the whole arena.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match10_WM24_03302008MM_539b

After his segment with the future Mrs. Kanye West, Anderson heads into battle against seven (would have been eight if Jeff Hardy just resisted that sticky-icky-icky) other men in the that year’s installment of the Money in the Ban Ladder Match, and even though I loved the previous year’s match, this one as probably the most creative the concept had gotten up till that point. I had trouble remembering most of what happened in this match, but then I turned on the WWE Network and rewatched it. And I was very impressed with all the creative things the competitors came up with and put their bodies on the line to accomplish. Early on, John Morrison did a Moonsault with ladder in hand and landed on most of his opponents on the outside; he would later on take a Walls of Jericho on top of the ladder, believe it or now. Jericho would eventually eat a Backstabber off a ladder from Carlito, which must have hurt the Leader of Cool just as bad. He and CM Punk both leap-frogged onto ladders at one point, Punk took a Codebreaker with a ladder from Jericho later on, and John Morrison attempted to walk up a catapult made of ladders. Shelton Benjamin’s performance in this match wasn’t exactly his best; while he did hit a huge powerbomb off the ladder, he also botched a leapfrog onto a ladder and was sent crashing through one later on that would keep him out of the rest of the match. Also, Matt Hardy made sure his rival at the time, MVP, did not win the match. Who did? Why, CM Punk, of course!

Hall of Fame Segment
First of all, if you haven’t seen The Rock’s appearance at the Hall of Fame that year, where he entertains the crowd before inducting his father and grandfather, please do. It’s right here and here and there’s a strong chance you will definitely enjoy it, especially the John Cena burn. It was The Rock’s first in-person WWE appearance in a while and he really made the most of it. Of course, he was just an inductor and not an inductee; but they did have a solid lineup of inductees that year: Peter Maivia, Rocky Johnson, Mae Young, The Brisco Brothers, Gordon Solie, and of course The Nature Boy himself. Ric Flair didn’t appear in the segment because he was getting ready for his match with HBK, but he was represented by his children, Charlotte included.

An Inteview With Celebrity #3, Snoop Dogg
Todd Grisham
(remember him?) interviews Snoop Dogg, who says that he sees eye-to-eye with future Doc Gallows, Festus. Santino crashes the segment and tries to warn Snoop not to do any funny business in the Divas match. Snoop grabs a bell and rings it, sending Festus into an angry rage, chasing after Santino. Snoop says he got it from a friend, at which point we discover that he’s homies with Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy. That doesn’t mean Foley is fluent in the language of “Izzles”, though; then again, neither was Shawn Michaels, so maybe wrestlers should just stop trying that.

Batista vs. Umaga13_WM24_03302008cm_0981
This is an interpormotional match just for the purpose of having an interpromotional match. And spoilers: Smackdown won. Weird how that happened a lot of the time, yet RAW was still always seen as the superior brand. Teddy Long and William Regal announced their respective Smackdown and RAW representatives, leading to Regal of course saying “Umanga” instead. Fun Fact: “Umaga” translates to “morning” in Filipino and “The Ending” in Samoan (not “shriveled-up monkey penis”, as The Rock once said) while “Umanga” translates to “occupation”. That doesn’t relate to anything; just showing off my mean Google Translate skills. But this match reminds me that Umaga can actually be athletic; he took down Batista with an impressive spinning wheel kick. Sadly, the rest of the match was pretty slow and at times boring. Batista vs. Undertaker from the previous year this ain’t. Umaga had Batista in a nerve hold for about a minute or so; do you feel like watching that? But luckily, fans were actually paying attention to this match; pay attention to the crowd near the ring during this match; so many of them were constantly making noise, usually to boo Batista. Yeah, even before turning on Rey Mysterio, he still garnered some fan jeers. Anyway, Batista won with a very messy Batista Bomb; not one for the highlight reel.

Kane vs. Chavo Guerrero15_WM24_03302008cm_1196
On the pre-show, WWE did their usual pre-show Battle Royal, but attached the stipulation that the winner gets to challenge the ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero (Yes, Chavo Guerrero; freaking really) later in the night. ECW GM Armando Alexandro Estrada (I always loved how this guy says his own name) did the introductions, but even he couldn’t have seen what was coming next….well, unless the creative team shared it with him. Anyway, instead of making a traditional entrance, Kane snuck in from the side of the announce team, chokeslammed Chavo, and just pinned him like that. The entire match lasted all of 11 seconds; call it the original Daniel Bryan, minus the fan support to get the loser over afterward. Oh, and this was the only all-ECW match on the show. Yeah, Vince was just straight up trolling ECW fans at this point.

Carlito vs. A Seagull
This wasn’t a match per se, but it was a commercial they played after the ECW match. Carlito was on a date with Maria and soon found himself in a fight with a seagull; Carlito wins after a flurry of brutal punches, but the commercial ends with another seagull pooping on him. Freaking really; this makes Peter Griffin‘s Chicken Fights seem normal. And this was an ad for WrestleMania, which you are currently watching. I get they needed a filler segment here, but they had to have something better in the truck to play.

Make-A-Wish with Celebrity #4, Raven-Symone
So in addition to being a huge wrestling fan, I’m also quite a Disney nerd, and coincidentally, the day WrestleMania XXIV took place, me and my sister went to go see the movie College Road Trip in theaters. It’s a movie that stars Martin Lawrence as an overprotective father who’s having a hard time letting go of his daughter, played by Raven-Symone, after she insists on attending colleges far away from home. It gets a few laughs, I guess, but as far as live-action Disney movies of the late-00s goes, it’s not as heartwarming as The Game Plan, not as creative as Enchanted, and unless you want to hear Raven cover “Double Dutch Bus” or the Teddybears speaking the language of Kid Rock, it’s soundtrack isn’t as great as High School Musical 3 or Hannah Montana: The Movie. Though if you’re one of those people who despise HSM and HM, that’s not really a bad thing. But yeah, you probably don’t remember this movie and I doubt you remember Raven’s appearance on this show either; she was pretty much just there with Make-A-Wish and got a brief in-ring segment to discuss the charity a bit and spotlight some members of it in the crowd. This was just two years removed from That’s So Raven going off the air and many years before she tried to become a leading contestant on Adults Say The Darndest Things. It’s forgettable, but it’s short, harmless, and for a good cause.

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair19_WM24_03302008cm_1813
The match where Shawn Michaels delivered the one-liner of the year: “I’m sorry, I love you”. When you have the opportunity to retire your idol with a single boot to the face, you’d probably say something that emotional and heartfelt beforehand too. So for some reason, Vince McMahon in late 2007 decided to book Ric Flair in a series of matches that could all potentially be his last. The ruling was that the next time he lost a match, he would be forced to retire. He went months without losing, beating the likes of Carlito, MVP, and even his own good friend Triple H. But when it came time for Shawn Michaels to step up to the plate, he wasn’t gonna make it easy for “Old Yeller” despite the fact that he idolized Naitch just as much as anyone else, except maybe Triple H. So after Awkward Adamle himself does an expectedly awkward yet thankfully short interview with Ric Flair, we get the match where I think everyone knew what would happen, but no one was ready for how hard it’d tug at their heartstrings.

This match was voted Match of the Year in PWI in 2008, and you can understand why: it had everything going for it. The two performers had the talent, story, support, chemistry, connection to make it work. There was a point where Ric actually got to dive off the top rope for once, Shawn tried two moonsaults, hitting one while missing another and landing ribs-first on a table, Flair locks in two figure fours and performs a few dirty maneuvers to live up to his nickname of “The Dirtiest Player in the Game”, and even Shawn tries to break out the weirdest looking Figure-4 I’ve seen this side of The Miz. As the fatigue clearly begins to set in, Michaels ends up hitting THREE Sweet Chin Music’s during the match, the final being delivered after the memorable one-liner and just before the three-count. You could see Flair begin to cry after the three count is delivered and I think JR said it best when he said that he doesn’t know which hurts more, Michaels’ broken heart or his broken ribs. Michaels didn’t even stay to celebrate his win, leaving immediately to allow Flair to soak in the reaction from the crowd. Look, the match will leave you and your emotions a soggy mess, and so will the retirement ceremony the next night. And if you just pretend his TNA run never happened (well, aside from that admittedly hilarious Jay Lethal segment that will never get old), then this was a great end to a legendary career.

Todd Grisham Interviews Edge
Man, Todd Grisham did more interviews than Kim Kardashian, the supposed host. Again, I’m not complaining. Anyway, Edge does an interview where he likens his match with the Undertaker to Hogan vs. Warrior at WrestleMania VI, a match he was in attendance for. He says his innocence was shattered that day, and that he’ll make sure the same thing happens to Undertaker’s young fans.

BunnyMania, featuring Snoop Dogg22_WM24_03302008dog_2336
Welcome to the series finale of “Playboy Covergirl Gets a WrestleMania Match”; yes, this year marked the final time WWE and Playboy collaborated on a yearly photoshoot. It was around this time that WWE decided to go all PG and kid-friendly, so even acknowledging the existence of the world’s leading (now former) nudy mag is a no-no. But what a way for them to go out, having Maria be the final Diva for the honor. Maria is easily one of the sexiest WWE Divas of all time, so her gracing the pages of the magazine would be sure to send men everywhere into an excited sweat. It also guaranteed that she would have a match on WrestleMania; what was originally booked to be her and the returning Candice Michelle vs. Beth Phoenix & Melina was altered when Candice re-injured herself and Ashley took her place. Well, as long as Maria’s partner was a fellow Playboy bunny, I guess worked.24_WM24_03302008cm_2265

Again, this match had an extremely useless Lumberjill stipulation attached; I should grant it mercy here because Queen Eve Torres, months after her Diva Search win, was among the Lumberjills, but my Eve bias will only allow WWE to get away with so much. The Lumberjills came to the ring with “Master of Ceremonies” Snoop Dogg, who’s entrance alone lasted about two minutes. So I’ve already talked about this match and how despite passable or better-than-usual performances from all involved, I seem to be less entertained by it the more I watch it. I do think it was rude of the lights in the arena to just cut out in the middle of the match though; I’m sure somebody was watching this.

Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H26_WM24_03302008dog_2440
If ever there was a main event more late-2000s than this, I don’t know it. Forget the fact that this wasn’t the actual final match on the show despite the fact that it included the Royal Rumble winner; THIS is as late-2000s a main event as you can get. Well, unless you ignore the fact that Batista isn’t in it. But Triple H, John Cena, and Randy Orton? Vince must’ve seen this as a license to print all the money in the world. Cena returned from his injury early for this match, you know. And he bought a marching band with him to the big show; you can always count on Cena for an eye-popping entrance.

For a match containing three wrestlers people usually criticize either for being overrated, having ego problems, or just being flat-out boring, this match actually wasn’t too bad. Wasn’t the best match of the show – HBK v. Flair was easily taking the top honor there – but I’ll be damned if I could actually find too much wrong with it. All three men got a flurry of offense and played their roles in the match well. Perhaps the only uncharacteristic thing about it is the fact that Cena ate the pinfall, something he rarely does. After a Pedigree from Triple H pins Cena, a punt from Orton incapacitates Triple H and allows him to get the pin. Overall, a fine Triple Threat and much better than a certain Triple H-Randy Orton encounter you’ll hear me tackle about 24 hours from now.

Big Show vs. Celebrity #5, Floyd Mayweather30_punk_03302008rf_1575
Hey, fun fact: did you know NXT Season 1 star Michael Tarver was apparently a part of the Money Team on this particular night? I didn’t notice until rewatching this last night. Also, I heard 50 Cent was gonna perform his catchy, braggadocios anthem “I Get Money” for Mayweather as he made his way to the ring, but that never happened. And this was back when 50 Cent was actually relevant despite losing that album war to Kanye West, so it wouldn’t be that surreal. Anyway, this was the second year in a row that a celebrity who’s main gimmick is “I am a rich loud-mouth” participated in a widely-hyped WrestleMania match. And while Donald Trump just stood ringside and cheered on Lashley to save his hair, Mayweather actually got in the ring to compete in a boxing vs. wrestling showdown. After Mayweather broke the Big Show‘s nose upon his return, the build was on and it actually did get WWE some mainstream buzz.

Now boxing and wrestling usually never mix well; the Brawl-For-All bombed and Piper vs. Mr. T at WrestleMania 2 is not remembered very well. Good thing this wasn’t a boxing match, though; Big Show already lost a WrestleMania Sumo Match, so why give him a shot at another contact sport? Well, this was indeed a wrestling match and it was nowhere near as embarrassing as the Sumo Match was. In fact, it’s one of the better celebrity matches in WrestleMania history. Yeah, Big Show lost again by knockout, but I like that Mayweather actually took some damage in this match from the big man. With few exceptions, celebrities who step into the ring usually do so with a giant force-field around them. Mayweather got stepped on and chopped and everything; even his entourage got their asses handed to them. So even though he continues to be so unlikable as a person that Michelle Beadle temporarily threw away her WWE stan card over him, I’m so glad he didn’t turn this match into a total failure.

Kim Kardashian Apperance #2

She just announced the event attendance number; nothing to see here but a shallow reality star doing what she always does by getting paid a ton to do nothing of note.

Edge vs. Undertaker35_WM24_03302008jg_4447

Even thought Cena vs. Orton vs. Triple H should have technically been the main event by Royal Rumble Match Law, I’m kind of glad this match went on last because that ultimately meant that Edge got to close out a WrestleMania. And me being a huge longtime Edge-head, that’s just a great thing to think about. Edge was offiically Smackdown’s top villain; he had the boss in his back pocket (in more ways than one), he had the stable backing him up, and nine times out of ten, he had the title to solidify his dominance. But what about Smackdown’s biggest hero? The man Edge had already screwed out of the World Title several times with his sneaky antics? The man who was undefeated on the show of shows? In a rivalry that was ultimately as good as Edge vs. Undertaker turned out to be, this match was going to be big.

If this was the early-2000s, there would be little chance of Edge being able to stand toe-to-toe with the Phenom in a believable way. But the Rated-R version of Edge did exactly that; I think this is one of my favorite main events that I’ll cover in this series of reviews. The unhinged champion actually had the advantage more times than you’d expect, looking as if he could actually be the one to end the streak. He even kicked out of the Tombstone at one point. Sure, Hawkins and Ryder managed to make Kronk seem like the world’s most competent henceman in comparison, but with Edge doing so well, did he really need them to begin with? OK, maybe; Undertaker made him tap out and took his title, causing Edge to fail his goal of shattering anyone’s innocence. But he has nothing to be ashamed of because the match itself was so damn awesome.

So…WrestleMania XXIV was better than I expected it to be. I could only think of one match on the show I could have done without (Batista vs. Umaga) and I think they could have done better with ECW’s involvement. But the show overall had the emotion, the memorability, and the action worthy of being called WrestleMania; also, it’s one of few times I’ve ever been able to stand Kim Kardashian since she only appeared in two measly, harmless segments. And it makes me so happy to say that I enjoyed this show so much because tomorrow…tomorrow’s review will leave me in pain.

Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania 25.

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