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March 31, 2008

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.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 1:12 AM | | Comments (29)
        

Comments

The Undertaker/Edge match was great, but jeez, Coach is a terrible announcer. Constantly starting a thought and then trailing off while Cole had to pick up the slack for him. Really weakened the match for me watching it on tv.

I just want to know who Chavo ticked off in creative to earn himself such a squash. He had to have done something seriously wrong.

Excellent coverage once again.

Flair/Michaels was the most emotional Wrestlemania match ever. Loved MITB and Mayweather/Big Show, the two title matches also delivered.

Huge thumps up for this year's Mania - definitely in the Top 5 of all-time.

I didn't get to see it there, but I paid the money to watch this one. I usually skip pay-per-views. When I was a little girl, it was a Rick Flair match that was the first wrestling match I remember watching. I knew last night was going to be his last. Full circle let me watch it even if from a distance.

Kevin,
Does The Sun pay for your expenses to attend and cover Wrestlemania or does it come out of your pocket?

Orton and Kane winning their matches was a pleasant surprise. I don't have beef with the Undertaker but how is his submission hold not illegal. Its a choke and makes his opponents bleed from the mouth.

I didn't really consider CM Punk's win that surprising, as I saw it predicted in several places. But I do still find it hard to imagine hime being given a world title anytime soon. Hopefully they build him up a few more months and have him cash it in then , rather than do a Mr. Kennedy and have him lose the briefcase to an established star, or even cash it in and fail.
I did like the Mayweather/ Big Show match, but am not sure how it benefits Big Show to lose to a 180-pound boxer, regardless of how it happened.
I am a bit of a Kane mark and was glad to see him win, but to me that match did more to further bury the relevance of the ECW title than anything else. Can you imagine any of the other "world titles" being decided in less than 10 seconds at Wrestlemania?
Lastly, I was ecstatic to see them have Orton retain, as it defintiely gives him tons of credibility as a champion. Even if HHH wins next month, I give him credit for letting Orton have his day at Wrestlemania. In hindsight, the finish of the match might've been hinted by where the match was placed: no way they want to end Mania with a heel victory, and I think if Cena or HHH were to win that match would've ended the card, rather than a Smackdown match (and the most predictable on the card).

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I am in complete agreement with you. The match not going on last was a clue. It also guaranteed Undertaker was winning the title.

Undertaker and Edge tore the house down.

Eck- Did you notice that Undertaker was wearing his old Ministry jacket?

Cena needs to change his character up. Having the entrance band play his song was stupid, nobody knew what was happening.

The Belfast Brawl as the opening match? At least it wasn't the 9 second win by Kane over Chavo. It was nice to see the entertainment without any of the McMahon's stealing the spotlight. The return of Matt Hardy! Can't wait for April 5 in Houston!

wrestlemania needs more competive matches and better marketing techniques.

Seems as if whoever the WWE sends to Playboy automatically loses at Wrestlemania
Undertaker/Edge match was the right call as the undefeated streak continues. I was kinda tired of Edge as the champ anyway.
Batista/Umaga match was ok scripted but otherwise an unimportant match.
Money in the Bank match was a surprise. I thought Jericho or MVP would come away the winner but Cm Punk was the winner now I wonder what title will he go after.
ECW title, I wonder if Chavo was being punished for hanging out with the TNA wrestlers. I am happy they gave Kane the title as he really deserved it.
I was kinda shocked that Orton came out the winner. Thought Triple H would be the winner here. It was the right call to let Orton keep for at least another month. I guess Orton has really gotten his act together and is being rewarded.
Big Show/Mayweather match was something I really didn't care who won. But the brass knucks was something out of the William Regal bag of tricks.
Wanted to save this for last. The Flair/HBK outcome was expected but it was a match I wish Flair could have come out on top. Thanks for the memories Naitch. The tears flowed everywhere afterwards. Shawn did the right thing afterwards by walking away to let Ric have all the glory to himself one last time. One last time Ric.
Woooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Gonna miss the greatest wrestler who ever lived. Good luck in the future Ric and hope to see you again in the immediate future.
Overall I think Wrestlemania was a good show but I don't agree with what the price of the show is but i guess it's inflation.

Undertakers 'unnamed' submission move is called the gogoplata - an MMA move, and Triple H has been working closely with Big Show and Floyd Mayweather the past few days to make sure Floyd was up to scratch with his wrestling.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I know that is what the move is called in MMA, but, unless I missed something, it has never been given a name on WWE television.

I thought Wrestlemania was somewhat good. The big matches like Merryweather, Orton, etc. were great.

The Kane squash match was ridiculous. I also wonder why they didn't have a Lawler vs Santino match on the undercard? Santino is entertaining though not a great wrestler, and Lawler is every bit the legend that Flair is, though the WWE has never used him right.

Personally, I thought the Big Show/Mayweather finish was very lame.
I mean, brass knucks? But then again, how else would Mayweather get over Show.

***

I'm thinking Chavo is in the doghouse for attending a TNA event earlier in the week. I mean, he's too good of a worker to be squashed like that. Interestingly enough, TNA has no problems with their guys seeing WWE events.

***

I think both Orton winning and Punk winning were targeted at 'internet marks',who for weeks, assumed that HHH would win, and Jericho would win (in their respective matches).

I doubt Punk winning was a rib at Jeff.

I would be more than happy for Undertaker to end his career undefeated at Wrestlemania, especially if he does it before the next Wrestlemania. I am so sick of him. His matches go about 10 minutes longer than they should. His entrance already takes forever. When you add the druids holding torches, needless over-the-top pyro and a 50-yard aisle to walk, it actually took Undertaker longer to get to the ring than it took Odysseus to reach Ithaca. The Cabbage Patch Kids think the Undertaker gimmick is played out. You know its gotten bad if he is the only wrestler on the card that is allowed to choke his opponants to get the win.

In re 'Taker's 'unnamed submission move', might it have been the same move he used to take out Mark Henry a few weeks back - the Triangle Choke? In this move, the legs straddle the opponent across both major arteries leading to the brain, and are locked in front with an almost figure 4 move. I don't know if Henry was selling this when he had it done to him, but he spit blood at the time - and I've seen 'Taker use this same move - with similar results - on other big men (notably Big Daddy V a short time later...)

Regards Mike

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: Yes, it's the same move he has been using on TV to get the finisher over. I don't recall them giving it a name, but I might have missed it.

I have to say that the Backlash commercials nearly gave me a heart attack, since it was showing Taker, and the ad was something along the lines of "For every defeat, there's a backlash." which led me to believe Taker was going to lose, which made all those false finished in the match very convincing.

I give this Wrestlemania a thumbs up, and so does my friends who i watched it with, and who are very casual wrestling fans, unlike me.

I think that wrestling is so great for the entertanment, I never miss any of it,,All I can say is keep up the great work,,

On Lance Storm's website, he calls the Undertaker's submission hold the "Gogoplata choke" in his Wrestlemania Recap:

http://www.stormwrestling.com/033108.html

I really think its time the WWE made John Cena a true heel. He is getting booed more and more and that's a clue his fan appeal is starting to deminish.

just two things i wanted to say. the money in the bank match was great but having punk win it was a disappointment. i was pulling for kennedy cause when he won the match last year he lost the breifcase to edge and i thought having him win two in a row would be a good nod to him. i diddent think about cm punk winning being a message to jeff hardy, but thats an interesting thought. i hope they use punks win two have him switch shows. i would hate to see him in an up hill battle against kane. the second thing i had to say is that smackdown really needs to get a new announce team. during a good match i shouldent have been thinking about how bad the announce team was but i couldent help it. i kept thinking i wish at least j.r. was be calling this main event match.

I just realized that The Brothers of Destruction were each victors in their respective matches against their opponents who were both in the "Guerrero Clan."

I am thinking that we might see some tag team matches between the new champions and the old ones in the near future since Smackdown and ECW are tapped together.

Watching stiff matches like JBL vs. Finlay (and pretty much whenever Finlay wrestles) is why I always enjoyed watching wrestling in the first place. The guys in their 40s are more entertaining than a lot of the new breed. I actually didn't care much for the whole Ric Flair retirement match angle. For those with short-term memories, he lost one vs. Mr. Perfect years ago. It just makes the whole match become so artificial and predictable - like finding out who won the Super Bowl before you can watch it. Why doesn't he just wrestle and then announce his retirement afterward like most athletes do. I think it's more respectable. Otherwise, Wrestlemania is still the best pay-per-view of the year.

I think wrestlemania was badly done as i wanted HHH to be the new champion... hope orton loses the belt soon its so boring to see him as champion.. wonder whether CM punk, who suprisingly won money in bank match, would cash in on which champiionship lol

I was mad to see CM Punk win the Money in the Bank ladder Match. He gets way too many title shots. I really wanted WWE to allow Shelton Benjamin to win the match and finally get the title shot he deserves.How can WWE's most athletically gifted superstar go this long in the WWE without a title shot. I tell you why. It is because he's an African American. And I am getting tired of WWE making the African American Superstars take a backseat to the causcasion wrestlers.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I agree as far as Benjamin's athleticism, but I respectfully disagree on the race card. Bobby Lashley got pushed to the moon. Booker got a run as world champion. And many believe that Mark Henry and Big Daddy V are pushed beyond their ability level. Benjamin also got a big push, if you remember when he scored a couple victories over Triple H. The reality is that, as good as he is in the ring, Benjamin just hasn't connected with the crowd the way a main-eventer should.

Does anyone else find it a bit odd that Jeff Hardy was suspended for drugs, yet the theme song for WM was "Light It Up' , and they had Snoop Dog - a self proclaimed druggie- as part of the festivities? Did anyone else hear Kim Kardashian call WM the Superbowl? Can't they find a popular attractive woman to act as "hostess" that understands where she is? When HHH was standing next to John Cena did he appear REALLY orange or was there something wrong with my TV? Hooray for long suffering Kane, although this win most likely foreshadows a retirement in the near future. CM Punk owes Jeff Hardy one heck o' a X-Mas gift this year!!

Fantastic Wrestlemania!
Ric V Shawn was definately the highlight, the most emotional match i've ever seen, i had some serious tears in my eyes.
Pleasantly surprised with the outcome of the WWE Championship Match.
And yeah, Cena's entry was a bit cheesy, they should of changed it into his proper theme music like halfway through. But i still love him, and definately want him to regain the title later on in the year.
I think the WWE fans in the Citrus Bowl were disrespectful to the Divas, they work just as hard and deserve the respect that other superstars get, even though they are obviously nowhere near as good as the likes of Triple HHH. I thought BunnyMania was a stupid idea! I would of loved to see a Championship match between Pheonix and Mickie James, a more gritty match like a No DQ.
Great Night!
Roll on Texas 2008, Wrestlemania 25.

This years WRESTLEMANIA was crap. It was nowhere near as good as it has been in past years. There were no surprise guests like The Rock, Austin or Hogan. Why was Chaaaaaaavo Gurerro in it and why was Coach commentating, it's WRESTLEMANIA not Sunday night Heat. And another thing, what is that Vicky Gurerro doing, her husbands meant to be dead and she and the WWE are taking the mic, it's just sick watching her, I don't understand why she's actualy there. There were only 3 good matches in the event and they were the belfast brawl, career threatening match and The Undertaker vs Edge and even all these matches could have been much better. I didn't think there was any effort put into making the matches into entertaining WRESTLEMANIA matches at all and niether did anyone else that I have talked to about the event. This years main event matches were nearly identical to last years. Vince Mchmahon and the WWE need to learn that we don't want to see the same boring matches all the time, we want the better wrestling back from when it was WWF, when we had good entertaining wrestlers like the rock, austin, kurt angle, rikishi, the dudlys, hardy boys,The APA and so on. Wrestling is getting more boring than ever. There's probably only a handful of wrestlers that are worth watching these days. The only thing that was spectacular was the big stadium and the massive ramp, but what's the point having such a big stadium and a massive ramp when the event is going to be absoloutely awful. WHAT A DISSAPOINTMENT WRESTLEMANIA 24 HAS BEEN, WHAT A DISSAPOINTMENT.

I was at Wrestlemania live, and when Shawn Michaels did the last kick to Ric Flair, I'm pretty sure he said, "I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it'', not "I love you". Also, what was the deal with the pyrotechnics problems? I heard thirty people got burned.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: Watch it again if you get the chance. It definitely was "I'm sorry. I love you." I didn't know about the people getting burned until I read about it on the Internet.

i liked the big show/mayweather match was sweet.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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