Recently, I think WWE has had a slight problem with booking odd numbered WrestleManias. After the mostly disappointing WrestleManias 25 and the embarrassingly horrendous WrestleMania XXVII, it seemed like company tried to outdo themselves with WrestleMania 29, or as the logo seemed to suggest, WrestleMania NY/NJ. Because as bad as the bulk of both of those events were, I don’t know if it could compare to just how lazy a card WrestleMania 29 was. Whether it was undercard matches that were unspectacular on and off paper or main event matches that just missed the mark, this event kept the odd-numbered WrestleMania trend going in this writer’s opinion. Again, I think things could get chalked down to laziness over anything else, and I’ll let you know how with each match. We’ve come down to the wire, so let’s jump right into the final three events of this series, beginning with WrestleMania 29.
The Miz vs. Wade Barrett
This was the pre-show match and I’m gonna make this one brief: the match was fine, but Miz winning was kind of pointless because he lost it back the very next night. I saw this match as lazy because I doubt they could even come up with a reason for having Miz win this match and decided to give Barrett the title back the next night.
America The Beautiful
Actually, they didn’t do that this year. This was the first time in years they’d skip out on doing “America The Beautiful” for WrestleMania, opting instead to start the show with a video package featuring the words of Governor Chris Christie uplifting the people of New York and New Jersey after the Hurricane Sandy tragedy of 2012. I thought it was weird at first, but given the tragedy that happened to the region, you can’t fault them for it at all. It was actually pretty thoughtful.
The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton, & Sheamus
When Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns came onto the main roster scene, their dominant unit was beloved by everyone: cynical Indy-loving smarks, casual watchers, horny Tumblr-roaming fangirls. Their demographic and appeal reached very far. And that’s because in addition to having a great aesthetic, they also had an aggressive code. They all had different personalities but we’re able to function together well at the cool table; they were fresh and exciting, and to top it all off, their six-man tag team matches were always exciting events. Even facing three guys as polarizing as their opponents, they could have a good match. Keep in mind, I said “polarizing”, not bad. Big Show, Orton, and Sheamus are all talented in-ring performers, but we sometimes tend to forget that because of how boring most people find them as personalities. Going into this show, I’d say this match was lazy because it just threw three main event guys with nothing to do into this random match, but somebody had to do it and The Wyatts were still swamping it up in NXT, so these three would have to do. And honestly, it was a decent opening. Sure, Big Show turned heel again for some reason, but the dominance of The Shield continued as they beat three former World Champions in a not-so-bad opener.
Mark Henry vs. Ryback
How do you book a match between Mark Henry and Ryback for WrestleMania? In my personal opinion, you don’t. But for WWE, the answer lies in the amount of spotlight they can place on the uncanny physical strength of both men. They’d already been building Ryback up for a year as a powerful, Goldberg-esque freak of nature, and Mark Henry didn’t earn the moniker of the World’s Strongest Man by accident. So when the two got together in the ring, this idea must have been that they cut out in a modern King King vs. Godzilla battle. But if you ask me, the sparks just didn’t fly. I mentioned previously that I don’t always hate hoss battles. But this meeting just didn’t do it for me; Ryback lost from the most out-of-nowhere occurrence and everything before that was just blah for me. It was lazy in booking and execution; I know they could have done better here. This year, Ryback works a smaller opponent, so hopefully we get better results, but I won’t hold my breath.
Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big E
Not since maybe Mike and Sulley has there been an a funnier small-guy-big-guy duo evolution from dysfunctional to dynamic (and still dysfunctional) as Team Hell No. Surprisingly, the pairing of the giant deformed demon and small, increasingly-hairy vegan worked pretty well; their antics got even the most uptight of smarks to laugh and their matches were often pretty good too. Their opponents were the duo of AJ‘s then on-screen boyfriend and AJ’s lowkey entertaining bodyguard and shopping buddy. One of Team Hell No’s funniest promos was cut on these guys specifically, so even though their feud wasn’t THAT fire, at least I remember that a feud happened to begin with.
As for the match, not a lot that I can say. This was the first WrestleMania match for the former Langston and Daniel Bryan‘s first WrestleMania match that actually last over a minute. Six minutes to be precise. Something seems wrong about booking someone as insanely talented as Daniel Bryan on WrestleMania and giving him only about six minutes to work with; and in a tag team match, no less. A match that started with a clever role-reversal callback to Daniel Bryan’s WM28 humiliation ended with Team Hell No winning and goes on to put on bar burners with Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns while Dolph Ziggler becomes World Champion the next night to a standing ovation. Ah, the days where it seemed like Dolph Ziggler’s career was going somewhere. I don’t think this match was lazy, but Ziggler’s booking since certainly has been. Also, AJ’s appearance in this match really sticks out on this overalls card for a reason that I will get into a little later on.
P. Diddy Performs
Like the Kid Rock concert a few WrestleManias earlier, I must ask: what was the point of this? I remember last year, Diddy tore the house down at the BET Awards for the Bad Boy Anniversary, even getting former Bad Boy artists in on the performance, from Lil’ Kim to Mase to 112 to Faith Evans to…OK, I could have done without French Montana, but the classic lineup was fine. And maybe if even half those artists turned up for this thankfully shorter-than-expected WrestleMania performance, I would have personally been more into it for nostalgia purposes. Hell, I’d probably even let Diddy slide if he just pulled out Dave Grohl and his drum kit for the rock version of “All About The Benjamins” and then left; that song is still lit. Instead, Diddy’s medley was joined only by Skylar Grey in her second straight WrestleMania appearance. I guess Danity Kane was too busy fighting and B5 was too busy being irrelevant to turn up for either performance. But just to reiterate, this performance was pointless as pointless as the Miz/Barrett pre-show match it got time over. What do you call it when pointless replaces pointless?
Fandango vs. Chris Jericho
Fandango is a ballroom dancer. If you were a WWE Creative member in 2013 and you heard this suggestion in a creative meeting, you’d probably shoot the idea down as ‘passe’, point out that there’s already a movie ticket website with that name, and realize there’s no way it could possibly work. Or you just go along with it for the sake of your future, which I assume is what actually happened. If this was the late-80s or early-90s, maybe Fandango could have been something, but so far the only highlight of his career was a crowd being so into his (let’s be honest) lame theme song that it charted on iTunes for about a week. And that seems like it should’t be the case since he made his main roster wrestling debut (as this character, anyway) on WrestleMania against Mr. Face-Me-To-Prove-Yourself Chris Jericho. And won, despite being absolutely creamed by Jericho during most of it; I guess that’s not a bad thing though since Fandango did some funny selling early on. But I watching the match, I wasn’t under the impression that Fandango would set WWE on fire anytime soon. This match was lazy by way of the fact that I’m sure even WWE knew Fandango wasn’t gonna go anywhere after this and I doubt they had anything planned. Also, why wasn’t Summer Rae his dance partner here?
Hall of Fame Segment
This is an ALMOST perfect Hall of Fame lineup. Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund were posterboys in separate eras of the World Wrestling Federation and it was only a matter of time until they got in. Booker T, Mick Foley, and Trish Stratus were some of my childhood favorites who definitely left a legacy in wrestling history, so it was nice to see them get in. But then, there’s the one problem at the end of the lineup that most of us cringed over: Donald Trump. Look, I understand it was amusing when him, Lashley, and Austin shaved McMahon bald, but if Hulk Hogan can get kicked out of the Hall of Fame for his transgressions, why is Trump still in after all the stuff he’s been saying in his presidential campaign? Even if it is just the celebrity wing? And even then, fans didn’t want him in the Hall; he got booed at the ceremony. Remember, before he was a despicable, unbearable presidential candidate, he was a despicable, unbearable businessman. So yeah, if you just ignore that guy, this is a mostly nice Hall of Fame class.
Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger
I legitimately almost forgot about this one; I don’t know how I could seeing as this one had such an infamous build-up, and it wasn’t even because of anything WWE Creative did. In fact, it was more in something they didn’t do. Jack Swagger earned the #1 contendership at the World Title and bought Zeb Colter on-board as his xenophobic mouthpiece. But the real trouble came when he got busted on DUI and possession charges. Normally, WWE would suspend somebody for doing that. The harshest punishment Swagger got, however, was not getting a televised WrestleMania entrance. He actually got to keep his title shot and missed no days. It was so weird that they let this slide, especially when you consider the ridiculous reason behind Titus O’Neil‘s recent suspension. I guess their story of hard-working Mexican wanting to excel in the land of opportunity vs. bigoted guys who want him to return where he came from was too good a story for WWE to slip under the table. And honestly, the right man won; though Del Rio’s face turn is remembered as an utter failure for the most part and this match is kind of average, Del Rio winning was the right move storyline-wise, as well as for the convenience of Ziggler’s crowning the following night. Hopefully, this was just a years-early foreshadowing for the fate of Trump’s presidential campaign. Really, he better not win. Oh, and Zeb Colter’s face here; no wonder this became a meme. That’s golden.
CM Punk vs. Undertaker
We love pro wrestling for it’s weirdness, but sometimes, they deliver moments that aren’t so much weird as much as they are kind of stomach-turning. Look no further than anytime they use a person’s real-life death in a storyline. Rather than just leave the wrestler be in their grave (or urn), they need to have one of their wrestlers – usually a villain – do something with it on TV. Eddie-sploitaion is still being talked about to this day and fans rioted at Paige’s mention of Charlotte’s brother last year. So when William “Paul Bearer” Moody died shortly after the CM Punk/Undertaker feud started and Punk used Taker’s former manager for heel heat, even the people who are the biggest marks for the era of wrestling with the biggest lack of morals possible watched this angle and thought “WWE, you’ve gone too far!” There was even a segment where Cookie Monster Punk stole a container from the Undertaker that certainly wasn’t a cookie jar, tormented him for weeks, and then dumped Paul Bearer’s symbolic ashes (played by the role of beach sand if you really watch it back) all over Taker like the despicable villain he was known for being. Would this level of mind games work in the match’s favor or severely hinder it?
It didn’t hinder the match at all; in fact, many people consider it the best match on the show. In this case, that’s like having the funniest show on modern-day Nickelodeon (I’d put a link there, but I haven’t watched a Nickelodeon show since Victorious ended), but yeah, this match was a bright diamond in a show full of toy ones. First of all, it was really cool of CM Punk to get Living Colour to show up and perform his theme song. Again, while concerts at WrestleMania are not necessary, bands performing a wrestler’s theme live for them will always be awesome. And I really loved this one. I know Punk had to at least appreciate that he finally reached a status in the company where he could actually get his theme performed live for him. And the match itself, while a mismatch on paper, was very entertaining. A spot was even tried where CM Punk hit the Shane O’Mac Leap of Faith on the Undertaker; hopefully if Shane tries to hit it on the Deadman this Sunday, though, the table actually breaks this time like Shane demonstrated on RAW yesterday. The match itself wasn’t the lazy part of this one; the unbroken table was.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar
Man, was Brock Lesnar‘s WWE return weird or what? He lost his first match back to John Cena, then defeated Triple H in a match that I don’t think was as bad people claim (not saying it was great or anything), and from there, his feud with The Game continued. Instead of throwing Suplexes, Brock was more concerned with snapping arms at this time, and Triple H needs that arm so he can sign Indy wrestlers and make their dreams come true in Florida. So he decided to strike back at Brock at WrestleMania; he even let Camp Lesnar pick the stipulation for the match. They decided to bypass a ton of cliche’s just to settle on one that lacks meaning anyway: if Triple H loses, he must retire. Despite the fact that he was already semi-retired anyway, so what’s the point? Oh, and also, let’s throw Shawn Michaels in at ringside, because reasons. This match was lazy by way of those underwhelming extracurriculars.
I also don’t think this match is as bad as most people claim. I’ve read on wrestling sites about how awful this match is. I don’t think it was that awful; this was another brawl match and truth be told there are at least a couple of moments that were kind of nice. But at the same time, it’s not really a match I’d miss if it were stricken from history. As far as brawls go, it was kind of fun, but not the most exciting that I’ve seen even in this series. There was also some pointlessness; not just in the stake-less Triple H retirement stipulation that resulted in Brock Lesnar losing again despite supposedly being a fearsome monster, but also in having Shawn Michaels there and the fact that the match was 24 minutes long. That’s probably the biggest negative about it: it was too long, and got monotonous and tiresome after a while. So if you want to see two guys just beat each other with weapons for a really long time, you might like this one; if not, you can just ahead and skip it.
Team Rhode Scholars & The Bella Twins vs. Brodus Clay, Sweet T, & The Funkadactyls
Note that the photo above is from RAW and not WrestleMania; I’ve already mentioned a ton of things wrong with this show, but one thing I couldn’t wait to tear into was the fact that the only Diva to appear on the show did so in a managerial role. When AJ Lee accompanied Zigglypuff and Mr. Five, that was it. No more Divas for us on this night. Oh, a match with Divas was scheduled, but it was cancelled for one of two reasons: either 1) the usual time constraints or 2) just to include a sad, dramatic moment on the Total Divas series premiere. Either way you look at it, the Divas got bumped either because of Puff Daddy or E! Network-sponsored reality television cliches.
Eve Torres had left WWE a couple months earlier and AJ Lee still wasn’t competing with the Divas yet. So the Division was left without any real, over stars and struggled to find footing until AJ joined their table again. So what we ended up with was Divas Champion Kaitlyn having no feud going in and the scheduled Divas (along with the brilliant and underappreciated Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) seeing their time in the spotlight stripped away from them. The match took place the next night on RAW, but the fans were too busy Fandango-ing to care. The first WrestleMania in years to feature no women’s action whatsoever; the lazy part of this match was WWE’s Diva booking in general at the time. This is when they needed a damn revolution.
John Cena vs. The Rock
Maybe WWE wasn’t false advertising with the whole “once in a lifetime” thing. Maybe they meant the Cena vs. The Rock feud was once in a lifetime, not just that first match. But there’s still a huge chance they were lying right to our faces and this rematch was always on the schedule. After The Rock won the WWE Championship and John Cena won the Royal Rumble, our hearts sank and one bedroom got hilariously trashed as we realized the foregone conclusion. Once again, I gotta give WWE props for the promo video they made for this made. Civil Twilight really does make the best soundtrack for video packages like this and even if the storyline feels kind of contrived, I still find myself getting chills from it due entirely to Civil Twilight and some strong editing. Which is more than I can say for the actual match. You know how in Ring of Honor, wrestlers constantly hit dazzling moves that should logically put their opponent away, but they still keep kicking out anyway? That is this match. Cena and Rock keep going for this big moves on each other and it should be exciting, but it’s really not. This match didn’t have the drama of the original; it didn’t have the suspense either because who didn’t know Cena would win? This was lazy by virtue of them doing the bare minimum, resulting in a very basic main event. But the part that most offended people was the handshake at the end. It was as if to say the entire purpose of this angle was to once again remind people that John Cena is the centerpiece of the WWE. I can’t say I hate the handshake as much as most people, but I definitely hated the match just as much. It was really bad; and it somehow won Match of the Year at the Slammys. I don’t trust whoever made that decision with a ballot of any kind. On the bright side, we did get that long-awaited John Cena heel turn the next night. That was actually iconic!
So yeah, WrestleMania XXIX was unbelievably lazy in my opinion. The stage design was breaktaking and Undertaker/Punk was good, but everything else was was so below average. I figured after this, WWE’s odd-numbered WrestleManias were just gonna curse from here on in. We’ll find out when we get to the final event of this series (32) whether of not that streak continued. But tomorrow, we say goodbye to another certain streak that absolutely shook the world to it’s core.
Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania XXX. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)