WrestleMania XXIV thoughts
I don't know how WrestleMania XXIV came across on television, but it definitely was an entertaining show live at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., last night. Obviously, the most memorable match on the pay-per-view extravaganza was Shawn Michaels defeating Ric Flair to close the curtain on Flair's 35-plus-year career.
There really was no doubt beforehand what the result would be, but it still was an emotional experience to see Flair's final match, although it was time. I am not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes for the first time in my 34 years of attending wrestling matches. I feel very fortunate to have witnessed Flair's induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and his last match.
The match that attracted the most mainstream attention -- boxing champ Floyd Mayweather versus The Big Show -- far exceeded my expectations, and I liked the finish of Mayweather using brass knuckles to knock out Big Show. The way it ended, it seems like a good bet that Mayweather will be back for more appearances in WWE. I think this match will turn out to be a win-win, as Mayweather probably will have some wrestling fans curious about his next pay-per-view fight, and WWE will get coverage from the mainstream sports media.
While The Undertaker's win over Edge for the world heavyweight title was a predictable result, the match was very well done. There also were a couple of surprising finishes, as WWE champion Randy Orton retained his title in the triple-threat match, and CM Punk won the Money in the Bank ladder match.
The announced attendance was 74,635, which was said to be a Citrus Bowl record. I have only been to one other stadium show, and that was The Great American Bash event in 1986 at Washington's RFK Stadium, which was more than half empty from what I remember. I definitely have seen livelier crowds than last night's, but it was still a fun atmosphere and quite a spectacle with all the pyro and fireworks.
Fortunately, the weather wasn't as bad as I feared, as it rained at times but never came down too hard. There were some technical difficulties, as the lights surrounding the ring went out for more than 20 minutes, but it did not affect the show. In fact, some people sitting near me thought less lighting made the action look more dramatic.
Here's a match-by-match look at last night's show:
The Undertaker defeated world heavyweight champion Edge to win the title: The match started a little slowly, but once the pace quickened they took the fans for quite a ride. To me, the match wasn't as dramatic as it could have been because I knew there was no way The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania was ending this year -- or possibly any year. Still, the last half of the 24-minute match was really good and packed with false finishes. Edge looked very strong in defeat, as he kicked out of Undertaker's chokeslam and Tombstone Piledriver. However, he couldn't survive Undertaker's unnamed submission move, and "The Dead Man" moved to 16-0 at WrestleMania.
Floyd Mayweather defeated The Big Show by knockout: I had no idea what to expect going into this match, but I thought it was a home run. The amazing size difference, coupled with the fact that one participant was wearing boxing gloves and trunks and the other was wearing a wrestling singlet, definitely made the match stand out as something unique. Big Show received polite applause but no boos when he was introduced, while Mayweather definitely got more jeers than cheers. They did some big man-little man spots early, with Mayweather using his quickness to evade Big Show and get in a few shots to the body. The crowd started to get restless when Mayweather had Big Show in a sleeperhold about five minutes into the match, but then things picked up when Mayweather's entourage began to get physically involved.
When Mayweather's crew pulled him out of the ring and began to escort him to the back, the crowd heavily booed what it thought was the finish. But Big Show fought off the entourage and brought Mayweather back to the ring. Mayweather later tried to take out Big Show with chair shots before eventually knocking him out with brass knuckles on a punch that actually did connect with Big Show's chin. The way the finish was laid out made Mayweather's win believable and allowed Big Show to save face in defeat. Mayweather looked pretty good for someone who had never been in a wrestling match, and he played the heel role very well.
WWE champion Randy Orton defeated John Cena and Triple H: Cena came out first, with a marching band playing his entrance music. That came off pretty corny and took away from what usually is a dramatic entrance. He received more boos than cheers, but it was nowhere near as negative of a reaction as he got Saturday night at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
The match was fast-paced and well laid out. At one point, Cena caught Orton in the STFU, and Orton was about to tap out. Triple H, however, grabbed Orton's hand and prevented him from doing so. He did that same spot at WrestleMania XX when Chris Benoit had Shawn Michaels in the Crippler Crossface. After Triple H hit a Pedigree on Cena and covered him, Orton broke up the pin attempt by kicking Triple H in the head. He then covered Cena for the win. The crowd -- myself included -- was shocked that Orton won. Since it was Cena who was pinned after Triple H hit his finisher, this likely sets up Orton vs. Triple H at Backlash next month in Baltimore. I think keeping the belt on Orton as a surprise last night was a good call, but I suspect he won't be leaving Baltimore with the belt.
Beth Phoenix and Melina defeated Maria and Ashley in the BunnyMania lumberjill match: The women basically played second fiddle to master of ceremonies Snoop Dogg and Santino Marella. I thought it was strange that the heels came out to Melina's music. Isn't Phoenix the champion? There was a mass exodus by the fans to the bathroom and concession stands during this match. It ended when Phoenix pinned Maria. Marella not only got decked by Jerry Lawler, but he also took a clothesline from "Snoopy The Dog." After the match, Snoop Dogg put a liplock on Maria. Isn't he supposed to be a family man in his reality show?
Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair: This match told a great story. The crowd was definitely pro-Flair, but Michaels wasn't really booed that much, although whenever he chopped Flair the crowd yelled "Boo" and when Flair chopped Michaels they yelled "Wooo!" One early spot of note saw Flair go to the top rope and actually hit a cross bodyblock rather than getting tossed to the mat, which is the usual result. Another interesting moment occurred when Michaels was about to deliver Sweet Chin Music and he couldn't bring himself to do it. In a scary moment, Michaels looked like he really hurt his ribs when he landed hard on the announce table after doing a moonsault from the apron that Flair ducked. Either Michaels was doing the greatest sell job in the history of wrestling or he was hurting bad. We were only five minutes into what figured to be a historic match and I wasn't sure if Michaels was going to be able to finish it. Several minutes later, Michaels attempted another moonsault onto the floor, and Flair seemed a little out of position and didn't really catch him.
Flair later pulled out all of his classic moves that earned him the nickname of "The Dirtiest Player in the Game." He gave Michaels a low blow and a thumb to the eye and tried to pin him by holding his tights. After several near falls and Michaels twice surviving the figure-four leglock, Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music. He then put himself in position to hit another one. Flair made it to his feet and told Michaels to bring it on. Michaels, with a sad look on his face, said, "I'm sorry. I love you," before delivering Sweet Chin Music again for the win at the 20-minute mark. After the match, Michaels cradled Flair's head and whispered something to him. Flair began crying before he got up from the mat. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, which chanted "Thank you, Ric." I had expected he and Michaels to embrace after the match, but Michaels quickly headed back up the ramp so that Flair could have all of the attention, which was the right move. I'm guessing that Flair gives his farewell speech tonight on Raw and has his moment with Michaels.
Kane defeated ECW champion Chavo Guerrero to win the title: Bell rings. Chokeslam. Pin. New champion. Time of the fall: nine seconds.
Batista defeated Umaga: This match went just eight minutes and it was OK, but nothing special. Batista struggled to get Umaga up for the Batista Bomb, but he made it look good enough and that was the finish.
CM Punk wins the Money in the Bank ladder match over Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison and MVP: There were some great spots in this match, most of them executed by Morrison and Benjamin. The two that stood out the most were Morrison doing a moonsault with a ladder in his hands from the top rope onto several wrestlers on the floor, and Benjamin being dumped off a ladder and flipping over the top rope onto another ladder. When MVP was on the verge of winning, Matt Hardy did a run-in, attacked him and left. Punk grabbing the briefcase for the win definitely wasn't something that I saw coming. I might be reading too much into this, but I wonder if WWE was trying to send a message to Jeff Hardy -- who was the heavy favorite to win this match before his recent drug suspension -- by putting over a guy who lives the "straight-edged" lifestyle.
JBL defeated Finlay in a Belfast Brawl: The two veterans engaged in a good, stiff fight. The highlight was Finlay doing a dive through the ropes -- something he doesn't do very often -- and getting hit by a trash can lid. JBL got the win after hitting Finlay with a kendo stick and the Clothesline from Hell. Hornswoggle didn't play a part in the finish, and Finlay didn't get his heat back after the match, which was surprising.
Kane wins a 24-man battle royal to earn the ECW title shot: Before the pay-per-view started, this match was broadcast live on wwe.com. The eliminations came at a furious pace, starting with Deuce and Domino, who were out almost before the match started. The final two were Kane and Mark Henry, with Kane winning by clotheslining Henry over the top rope.The crowd popped big for Kane's win.