A year removed from one of the most disappointing pay-per-views of the modern era, WWE were sure they had a guaranteed box office draw in The Rock vs. John Cena. This was the most hyped match in recent memory; not only was it announced a year ahead of the actual show, but there was a DVD/TV special dedicated to it and of the FIVE theme songs they used for WrestleMania, this was hyped up using two of them, one for each wrestler. And to toss an extra cherry on the already loaded sundae, they promised this inter-generational dream match was “Once In A Lifetime”; and as we all know, you can always trust WWE to deliver on their promises, I typed with a little snicker in my voice. But is there anything else from the 2012 supercard worth remembering? Let’s find out. This is WrestleMania XXVIII.
Pre-Show Tag Team Title Match
Welcome to the second of five WrestleMania Pre-Show matches for Jimmy and Jey Uso; they’ve never had a match on the main show and they’ve never even won any of their pre-show matches. For being WWE’s most overexposed active tag team, their WrestleMania history is certainly not worth being envious of. In this match, they faced off with the Rosa Mendes-assisted Primo & Epico and a team we can probably call “Just Kidds”, Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd. The soon-to-be Matadors picked up the win, and unless you really need your fix of any of these performers (I know Tyson Kidd has quite the fan club), you’re not missing much by skipping this match. If you do want to watch, the pre-show is on WWE’s YouTube page in full and I linked it above.
America The Beautiful
Instead of dropping the dough on an outside artist to do America The Beautiful that year, they just got Lilian Garcia to do it. Nothing wrong with that; Lilian Garcia is a great singer and actually has some decent songs in her discography. Her greatest moment in WWE involved her pipes, after all. But for some reason, I always feel like whenever they get Lilian to do it, they just didn’t feel like finding an outside artist to do it. That may or may not be the case, but that’s the conclusion I came to. Don’t take that as a complaint though; Lilian did great as usual on what was easily the best musical performance of the night. I am not at all sorry to the two pop-rappers who took the stage later on.
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan
It’s the moment that defined this show; I know I have Eve Torres kicking Zack Ryder‘s gonads up into his intestines as the cover photo here, but what the general wrestling public most remember this show for was easily this opening ‘contest’. If I may call it that. Daniel Bryan and Sheamus were booked to face off the previous year too, but their match was thrown into the pre-show abyss and somehow morphed into a Battle Royal that neither of them won. Fast forward a year, Daniel Bryan is the obnoxious World Heavyweight Champion with an innocent, lovestruck girlfriend who he constantly reminded us only weighed 95 pounds. Sheamus was the big guy who won the Royal Rumble without the Internet’s permission, and since both World Titles were held by Internet darlings at the time, he’d probably get a ton of Hell no matter who he challenged.
But even he couldn’t anticipate the firestorm of controversy this match garnered; after a pre-match kiss from AJ Lee, Daniel Bryan turns his attention to Sheamus, gets his head kicked off, and loses his title in 18 seconds. As you can expect, this didn’t sit well with many people; it was still an embarrassing way to debut on the WrestleMania main show for Bryan and kind of confirmed that nothing will ever go right when Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus is booked for WrestleMania. On the bright side, it was a major turning point in the career of Bryan and AJ; the support garnered from this would help launch them both into the next plateau. I know WWE didn’t anticipate that happening.
Team Johnny Prep Talk
Backstage, The Miz tries to prep up his fellow teammates by comparing their eventual win to his victory the previous year, because appaantly, it could be possible for seven people to lose via countout at the same time. In comes Team Johnny in a crisp white-and-red suit. Say what you want about the guy, but that suit was fly as hell. Imagine him coming down to the ring wearing that with “Suit & Tie” playing over the loudspeaker.
Kane vs. Randy Orton
This is the “Just Put Kane in a Match, Any Match” portion of the show, where Kane, fresh off of losing a widely-hated feud with John Cena, decided to go after the other heartthrob posterboy Randy Orton. Why? I honestly don’t remember. But whatever the beef was, a match was made that gave them both something to do. And that something ended up being a match that was better than expected, but was once again not all that memorable. Admittedly, the way Kane put Orton away made for a nice visual; finishing moves always look cooler coming off the top rope, and the Chokeslam is no exception. That said, I know I’m not the only one shocked that Kane actually won; I guess they didn’t want the face/heel ratio for the night to be so lopsided and I’m all for unpredictability, but I never even considered him winning coming. But it kept the feud going and they even shoved poor Paul Bearer in a meat locker for it, because post-2000, WWE loved treating the Paul Bearer character with the same amount of love as the Quahog generally shows Meg.
“…Catch Ourselves A Little Catfight Dinner…”
OK, the segment actually had a serving of crab legs, but good luck finding the reference in a song. Someone apparently hasn’t told Santino and Mick Foley that you’re not supposed to play with your food; I just hope Mr. Socko and The Cobra had fun in the washing machine trying to get the stench of Mr. Krabs’ relatives off of them. ‘Damn!’ indeed, Ron Simmons.
The Big Show vs. Cody Rhodes
We all know what it’s like to constantly be on the losing end. Squidward has not one Employee of the Month honor because SpongeBob collects them like they have an expiration date. That’s Big Show‘s case at WrestleMania. The guy is always losing; if not literally, the definitely figuratively. Between playing with kids at WrestleMania X8 to losing his U.S. Title at WrestleMania XX to that Sumo Match at 21 to Mayweather knocking him out at XXIV. WrestleMania is just not Big Show’s event and that’s why Cody Rhodes went in confident that him retaining his Intercontinental Championship was only a matter of time.
Of course, when Demi Lovato asked what’s wrong with being confident, Cody Rhodes could have submitted this match as exhibit A because even though he put on yet another decent-for-what-it-was WrestleMania match, his confidence did not pay off with a successful title defense. Big Show got his WrestleMania moment by winning the IC Title with a WMD. He lost it back to Cody at Extreme Rules in the most stupid-funny way possible, but this moment stands as Big Show’s greatest on the grandest stage.
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Eve Torres & Beth Phoenix
Believe it or not, the only person in this match who still appears on WWE television is the TV interviewer who’s not even a wrestler. The year this match took place, Kelly Kelly left WWE and Beth Phoenix retired. Eve Torres would follow suit the following year. But before Kelly got married, Beth had a baby, and Eve did both, they were some of the most talented, recognizable, and popular stars on the roster. Eve in-particular had just turned heel and proved to the world something I already knew long before: she is amazing at what she does. That’s why even though she may not be THE greatest Diva ever, I still refer to her as my personal “Diva Queen”. Meanwhile Maria Menounos is one of the biggest celebrity fans of WWE, and she’d already gotten on Beth Phoenix’s bad side before; instead of defending her title on the big show, Beth joined Eve in trying to vanquish both Maria and Kelly. Would I have preferred an actual Divas Title match instead? Absolutely. Did I think this match was awful? Absolutely not, and I explained why here. Maria Menounos is still undefeated in WWE to this day and still pops up for the Hall of Fame pre-shows, so she’s basically a card-carrying member of the WWE family at this point. If she ends up in Team Paige vs. Team Lana on Sunday, I wouldn’t bat an eye. And despite her loss here, Eve would go on to have her biggest WrestleMania moment later on. Prepare yourselves.
Undertaker vs. Triple H
Yes, this was truly the WrestleMania of B.S. taglines; only I think we can throw an asterisk on this one. This match was marketed with promise of it being the “End of an Era”. This meant either it will be the final time we see these legendary superstars compete in the ring against each other or just compete in general. And this was right around the time Triple H became an on-screen executive and fans started speculating Undertaker‘s retirement at every WrestleMania going forward, further fueled by the fact that Undertaker shaved his head after WrestleMania XXVII. So we were led to assume that this one final war inside Hell in a Cell would be the final bout for Undertaker and maybe even Triple H too. Throw in Shawn Michaels as the guest referee and you have quite the Attitude Era tango on your hands.
In a match that saw the Cell itself gets it’s own theme song, Undertaker and Triple H outdid their previous encounter by way of making it ten times as brutal, give it a super engaging story, and by doing everything they can to make you really believe the streak was in jeopardy. This was not at all a technical classic, but going into Hell in a Cell expecting some catch-as-catch-can mat magic is like sitting down to watch Family Guy expecting melodrama or watching The 100 and expecting gut-busting comedy. This was a fight; they gave it their all and the result was my personal favorite match on the show. The emotional impact of these three icons walking up the ramp together would pack more of a punch in the gut had Undertaker and Triple H actually retired afterward instead of both sticking around so long they’re both in marquee matches at WrestleMania this year. Because in all honesty, this really looked like a grand finale for the two. But I dare you to watch this match without gripping the edge of your seat even once; it is that thrilling.
Hall of Fame Segment
Unlike last year’s Hall of Fame, I don’t really have anything against any of the men who went into the Hall of Fame this year. Along with first-ever black World Champion Ron Simmons, Lucha icon Mil Mascaras, legendary stable the Four Horsemen, former WWE Champion Yokozuna, and Attitude Era celebrity Mike Tyson, the recently retired Edge was also inducted. This was actually a pretty perfect line-up in my opinion.
Flo Rida vs. Heath Slater
This wasn’t a match, but it was a segment that kickstarted a rivalry that is on-going for some reason. A comedy jobber who can never catch a break confronts a pop-rapper who ruins good beats with terrible lyrical execution. Guess who won. That’s right: Bo Rida, bitch!
Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy
Well, if there was one era of WWE that really truly began to wane around this time, it was the era of WWE’s general manager obsession. This on-screen occupation started to become increasingly pointless, with each new GM seeming to spend less time with the position than the last one and constantly decreasing in power. Despite this, long-job title-holder John Laurinaitus and president of the tag team match fan club Teddy Long both still wanted control of both brands, so the former Dynamic Dude and the former referee both assembled their own teams to fight for them in the “Book As Many People as We Can” midcard showcase match of the show. There was a flag-waver and a Bella Twin in both corners, as well as hideous shirts made with the team captain’s face on them, just to up the ante on this silly, music-less version of West Side Story.
The match itself was fun; the members of Team Teddy (R-Truth, Booker T, Zack Ryder, Kofi Kingston, Santino, and The Great Khali) and Team Johnny (The Miz, David Otunga, Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, and Drew McIntyre) did what they could for that big WrestleMania paycheck; throw in little Hornswoggle getting in on the action and Aksana getting into a fight with Vickie Guerrero and you have one match that was just as chaotic and enjoyable as it was thrown together and overcrowded. But the biggest star to come from this match was Eve Torres, who had her own WrestleMania moment in the vein of Trish Stratus eight years earlier. Her 2012 was one to remember, not only for her exceptional performances as a villain and her Divas Title run, but also for the moment she left Zack Ryder‘s career to rot in a ditch while getting Big Johnny the keys to both RAW and Smackdown. Ryder may have lucked into getting on the WrestleMania card this year, but his burial was definitely Eve’s gain and she’d ride that wave right into solidifying herself as one of the most important Divas of the modern era. I have written the evidence that backs up this claim.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Step One of the Chris Jericho handbook: “All Internet darlings must face Chris Jericho to prove their worth as a talented superstar”. Just ask AJ Styles right now. Seeing as Chris Jericho dubbed himself the Best in the World at What He Does (and too be fair, he does wrestles, sings, writes, hosts, and acts among other things, so that’s a broad claim), he was the ideal candidate to face another superstar who claimed himself simply the “Best in the World”, CM Punk. The now-UFC Fighter was enjoying his biggest wave of popularity in success in WWE at the time after THAT promo, so despite the fact that this wasn’t the main event for obvious reasons, a win over a legend like Jericho should be able to put him over the top.
In an angle where Chris Jericho got just a little too personal for some people’s taste, this match certainly wasn’t awful; far from it, actually. Chris Jericho is not CM Punk’s greatest rival surprisingly; his matches and angles against the likes of Jeff Hardy and John Cena were a tad better in my personal opinion. But the match they did put on was still rather good, and was certainly a step up from the previous year’s WWE Championship match, which was just a direct-to-video prequel to the real blockbuster. I enjoyed their match at Extreme Rules more (the Chicago crowd and Street Fight stip helps); but this match, where CM Punk earned his only one-on-one WrestleMania victory, deserves a bit of love too.
Brodus Clay & The Dancing Mommas
I almost forgot about this; had I not rewatched this show on the Network to relive the non-match segments, I would have left this out. Man, did this segment suck. Thank God Naomi is on to bigger and better things.
The Rock vs. John Cena
The entrances for this match was so long, you could have stuffed two matches in its place. Instead of John Cena just having an amazing custom entrance, they had MGK (along with Skyler Grey because Ester Dean must not have been available to perform her own “Invincible” hook) do a mini-performance before Cena hit the stage. Then they had Flo Rida, who need I remind you is one of the Worst in the World at what he does despite how successful he is at it, do the same for The Rock by performing “Good Feeling”, a song I liked better when it was just “Levels”. The most entertaining part was hearing MGK get booed just for co-signing supposed “underdog” John Cena; no wonder fans had no sympathy when he got KO’d by KO.
Keep in mind that this is a match between a guy who hadn’t wrestled a match in eight years and another guy some fans insist is an awful wrestler no matter how many times he’s proven them wrong, Springboard Stunner notwithstanding. This match was guaranteed to break the box office, but the actual quality was a gamble. Like Triple H vs. Undertaker, this was not a technical masterpiece. This match was more in the vein of Rock’s match with Hogan in that it was more about the drama and atmosphere than anything else. And the crowd ate it up; they enhanced the match greatly. And on that front, this match delivered. It also confirmed that Cena can pay for being a cocky braggart sometimes as that mistake is what cost him this sure-to-be classic bout. Too bad this match only happened once; we can only imagine what the sequel would have been l…..oh, right.
This was the best WrestleMania in years; WrestleMania 25 was mostly awful, WrestleMania XXVI was OK, and there’s a hilarious Nostalgia Critic gag that accurately sums up WrestleMania XXVII. But WrestleMania XXVIII was a huge step up. Undertaker vs. Triple H was must-see television, Rock vs. Cena delivered, Eve established herself as a powerful queen with one swift kick, and Daniel Bryan‘s humiliation secretly turned out to be the start of something good. This is apparently one of the most watched shows on the WWE Network and that’s a good thing because this event is worth remembering. Too bad that despite their best attempts, they wouldn’t keep the thunder roaring two years in a row. Consider that a very alarming foreshadowing.
Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania NY/NJ.