Sports

The Best and Worst of Wrestlemania XXVII

Being a happy wrestling fan is like being politically moderate. It makes sense on paper, but Jesus, everyone around you has fallen off the deep end. To the right you have Pro Wrestling Republicans, the people who describe themselves as “smart” but can’t stop telling you who got the biggest pops, the people who can’t send in match results without editorializing about burials and “going home” and whatever other lingo they picked up from DVDR this week. To the left you have Pro Wrestling Democrats, apologists who think we should all just sit back and enjoy the wrestling for what it is, people who don’t understand why you’re taking this so seriously because the only thing good about wrestling is colorful characters and finishing moves. Both sides love the Undertaker.

And that brings us to Wrestlemania 27, one of the most talked about shows in recent memory. No, not that happy kind of talking like when the Nexus attacked and something violent and wonderful was happening in wrestling. No, that sad kind of sighing talk like when Nexus existed in any and every other week.

I’m going to go through this in order, and try to keep my wits about me.

[images (mostly) courtesy of MGFanJay @ DVDR]

Worst: Edge is a Jerk

Edge barely makes sense as a character and wrestler. Have you ever stopped to think about it? His original character was a man that you “did not know.” Then he transitioned into a vampire, became a surfer, got into bodybuilding and became a do-gooding babyface monster only to morph into the dough-bodied, hyper-sexual “ultimate opportunist.” So now he’s this ratty-haired guy with a body like Scud the Disposable Assassin and the whitest voice ever, doing the lamest, jerkiest things (calling people “stupid,” feuding with a laptop, kidnapping and murdering Paul Bearer for fun) and somehow he’s a good guy. Maybe his character is still “guy you don’t know,” because man, I don’t think I know who he is.

All that being said, Edge may have topped himself by pinning Albert Del Rio and destroy his Rolls Royce for no reason. Remember Starrcade 85? Tully Blanchard had been a total asshole to Magnum TA, doing all sorts of reprehensible sh;t to him. Magnum finally got Tully in a cage, where he couldn’t get out and nobody else could get in to help him. He beat Tully within an inch of his life and made Tully quit. After the match, Magnum had a chance to finish off Tully for good, but you know what he did? He refused. He didn’t want to stoop to Tully’s level. Magnum walked away the better man, leaving Tully a blubbering, hypocritical mess in the ring. What Edge did here is the exact opposite of that. All he accomplished was making me wish ADR would beat his ass for wrecking up his car.

That’s the generational difference, I guess.

Best: Alberto Del Rio is a Jerk

And man, if you’d told me two years ago that Dos Caras, Jr., would be competing in a World Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestlemania and carrying Edge to his first watchable thing in ages I would’ve laughed in your face, but here we are. Del Rio is the best kind of heel; a smug, satisfied guy who isn’t necessarily a bad guy, he’s just different, and willing to go to extreme lengths to get the job done in the ring. He’s a scaled back version of the “ultimate opportunist” — in direct contrast to Edge, Del Rio seems like he’s sneak attacking the arm and getting help from the outside because he wants to win wrestling matches, because he’s a wrestler. Edge kidnaps people and hits them in the face with food because he’s a horrible person.

Del Rio’s palatial estate entrance was the best, completed by the explanation from Cole about how that’s his actual house, and how he employs a bunch of people to work there and makes his community better. That’s the kind of thing they should be saying more often. It makes local Joes dislike him for his privilege without having to resort to “he hates all of you! Even you!”

A supplementary best goes to Michael Cole for making Jerry Lawler shoot laugh by screaming “HOW’S HE GONNA GET HOME?” when Edge ruined Del Rio’s car. I love the idea of Del Rio solemnly driving home from Georgia to f**king Mexico in this scratched up car with half a windshield.

Worst: The Rock Wants to Do Something Special

I feel badly about the timing of last week’s Best and Worst of Raw. If I’d thought about it, I would’ve saved my Cena and Rock discussion for this column, because now if I say anything bad about Rocky’s performance at Mania it sounds like I’m piling on and beating a dead horse.

I’ll keep it simple, as I don’t want to say anything extreme, but at this point I’d rather be a member of the Westboro Baptist Church than Team Bring It. What exactly is so much fun about hearing the same speech every week? I loved that Rock promo when he first came back and called John Cena Fruity Pebbles too, but man, it’s been a month and Rock is still just saying the same thing over and over. They struggled to fit eight matches into four hours because of stuff like this. Would you be posting declarative tweets if the Road Dogg was guest hosting Wrestlemania and just screaming OH YOU DIDN’T KNOW YO ASS BETTA CALLLL SOME BOD DAYYYY? Let go of the Attitude Era. It wasn’t as good as you remember, you were younger and people liking it made it easier for you to.

Oh, and while we’re on that

Worst Thing Ever: Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the United States Title

Hey guys, so how did that Bryan/Sheamus match go? I was hoping it’d be the show stealer, but I figure it’ll get maybe seven or eight minutes and open up the show.

What? Oh, they bumped it to the dark match? Ugh, I remember when they did that with Miz and Morrison and the Colons, I was excited about seeing that too, but at least Bryan still technically gets to compete for a belt at Wrestlemania. What’s that? They turned it into a lumberjack match? That’s weird, but I guess you have to get everybody on the card somewhere. Wait, what? Teddy Long came out and made the match a battle royal? The United States Championship match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus ended in a battle royal win for The Great Khali? So is Khali the US Champion? No?

What the f**king hell

The Rock delivered his hostly catchphrases for 15 minutes and it took the Undertaker about 27 to sell a bunch of pedigrees and leave. The Corre match lasted 90 seconds and Snooki back-flipped for about three minutes. You couldn’t have devoted 46 1/2 minutes to Sheamus vs. Bryan? Okay, cut half an hour for backstage comedy entertainments. That’s still 17 goddamn minutes. Give us 15 minutes of Bryan/Sheamus and two of Maryse. Budget your time, you are professional entertainmenters.

Best: Cody Rhodes

E’body know Cody Rhodes is a muh-f**kin’ monster. Cody’s transition from beautiful flower to deeply scarred sociopath has been absolutely wonderful. He’s my favorite character in WWE because he doesn’t feel derivative. He feels like he’s having fun, he’s on Smackdown where he gets to wrestle at least a little (even if it’s 90 seconds of killing Chris Masters) and he gives me something to look forward to. I’m not sure if the crowd was dead or if the Georgia Dome was badly miked for today’s lethargic chanting goon, but Rhodes and Mysterio put on a great, basic, compelling match on a show that desperately needed it. Dusty Rhodes produces a wonderful seed for pro wrestling, and I wish he could find a third lady to sleep with him once so we could eventually have another Rhodes.

Rhodes needs to take this one step farther and come out on Friday in a completely metal mask to announce that he’s commandeered his own nation in the WWE Universe and will be operating from its political diplomacy from now on. Then John Morrison could set himself on fire and try to fight him.

Best/Worst: Captain Mysterio

I admit it, I’m enough of a dork to look forward to Rey Mysterio’s Wrestlemania super hero costumes. I liked this year’s, but I came to the sad realization that so much of Mysterio’s career was spent outside of WWE, which inadvertently robbed us of like 14 additional years of super hero costumes. Some ideas I would’ve like to have seen:

1. An actual Mysterio costume, with a green bodysuit, purple cape and fish bowl helmet.
2. An insulated suit he could use to wrestle The Mountie, or even Scott Hall.
3. wrestling completely nude in blue body paint, realizes the efforts of a professional wrestling promotion are philosophically fruitless, disappears to Mars in the middle of a match
4. A Deadpool costume, causing him to repeatedly break kayfabe for lolz
5. A bunch of metal welded to his head, wanders around barking and yelling things like 619 GUD
6. Something Maus-themed

And so on. Worst case scenario we’d get to see him dressed like Ambush Bug, and that would be pretty funny.

Worst: The Corre vs. Big Show, et al.

This match started, and then

Best: Orton Vs. Punk

I haven’t been a fan of Randy Orton’s lately. Everything he does is very Ken Kennedy, from the cartoonish way he moves to the stilted way he talks. At the same time, I’m an unapologetic mark for nearly everything CM Punk does or says, and I haven’t been enjoying the New Nexus storyline or his feud with Orton. So color me TICKLED PINK~ to watch Orton and Punk have the best match at Wrestlemania. Finally, Punk gets a sustainable showcase for what he can do that doesn’t involve being hit in the face with a ladder or falling into Luke Gallows because he’s gotten hit by 47 consecutive 619s.

I have to applaud Orton in this one, because he brought his A-game. He seemed motivated and his selling was on point, even when he was “running on adrenaline” and doing some stuff he shouldn’t. There were a few iffy moments, like after the match when he was standing on the ropes and not remembering the previous ten minutes, but nothing major. Nothing like Edge selling his arm like he’s been shot with a shotgun only to use it to bash in somebody’s car with a crowbar.

I also really loved the finish, even if I saw it coming from a mile away. I liked the callback to Orton not being able to connect with the punt, which validated all of that leg work. I liked Punk being the smarter man and avoiding Orton’s possum play, backing out of the RKO at the last minute and breathing a hilarious sigh of relief. I like the dynamic of WHY Punk would go for the springboard after that (as he actually uses that move, and isn’t doing a Flair-esque jump off the ropes for no reason), but the second he rolled out there I started yelling DON’T SPRINGBOARD, HE’S GOING TO RKO YOU at my TV. DON’T SPRINGBOARD, HE’S GOING TO RKO YOU, DON’T SPRINGBOARD, HE’S GOING TO RKO YOU, DON’T SPRINGBOARD HE’S ohhh he RKO’d you.

Worst: Any and All Comedy

I don’t want to keep using the “you could’ve used this time for x match” argument, but Jesus Lord, they could’ve cut Hornswoggle rapping to add 40 seconds to Snookimania and I would’ve been okay with it. I chuckled at Mean Gene as a member of the Cenation because I’m still relatively easy to please, but I can’t imagine anyone sincerely finding the WWE interpretation of comedy enjoyable enough to think it a necessary part of Wrestlemania. Give me a couple of minutes of Randy Orton saying “I’m going to beat CM Punk,” I don’t care, at least that’s contributing. What’s this doing? Making Beth Phoenix look like an idiot?

Again, I don’t want to get unnecessarily frustrated at something they’ve been doing bad for a decade, but sometimes it gets to me. Nobody is laughing at this, take it home.

Worst: Cole Vs. Lawler

What happened?

I’m sure that a decent amount of people paid $54.95 or bought a ticket to Wrestlemania expecting a very simple payoff to the Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler story: a payoff involving Cole being punched in the face, pinned and humiliated. That’s it. Stone Cold Steve Austin was added as the special guest referee, but that was just to stun Jack Swagger and get him out of the way. Swagger would try to help out early, he’d get dispatched by Austin, Cole would get his comeuppance, maybe we’d get blood, maybe we’d get a piledriver, but if not, we’d still get a lot of punches and some smashed beers.

What exactly was this you gave us?

Lawler made his entrance in that awesome gear to almost no reaction. Michael Cole got booed for running his mouth, but he’d been out there all night, so there wasn’t a lot of “oh all right now we’re gonna see him get his ass kicked.” Things started off pretty well regardless, with the funny stuff inside of the Cole Mine, but from then on it was just a catastrophe. Michael Cole was dressed like Taz and tatted up like a sailor, somehow controlling Jerry f**king Lawler with the world’s worst mat game for like ten minutes. The crowd died, with good reason, and nothing short of a Burning Hammer was going to wake them up. So Lawler throws some punches, Cole escapes relatively unharmed, and Austin stuns a bunch of unrelated people. Then the Raw GM announces a Dusty Finish, with Cole now the winner for absolutely no reason, killing whatever the crowd had picked up from enjoying watching a man badly drink beers.

So Cole doesn’t really get hurt, wins the match, doesn’t get stunned, Josh Mathews takes a beating and Booker T looks like a jerk. What the hell happened? How did you get this wrong? I’m not even asking for a fireball anymore. Just a bunch of punching and a pin. How hard is that?

Best: Jim Ross

I grew up loving Jim Ross in WCW, and like everyone I preferred him to the Back Leg Front Kicking of Eric Bischoff in the 90s. When JR descended into madness and was unable to differentiate Chrises and Hardys I fell off the bandwagon. Last night was a great reminder as to why I was on the wagon in the first place, and if WWE makes no other good decision, they should put Ross back in the booth on Monday and ship Cole off to Smackdown to either shout about himself or manage Jack Swagger. JR complimenting Snooki’s “low center of gravity” alone was worth the price of admission.

And c’mon, Ross yelling GOD ALMIGHTY~ while in the ankle lock should earn him five more years in the booth.

Best? Worst?: Triple H vs. Undertaker

And now we have our divisive section.

I had some pretty strong opinions watching this match go down, and I want to share them with you, but it’s important for me to establish context. Since the event ended, I’ve kept up with the opinions of people online, and there are only two answers: One, you thought this was the most epic, brutal match of the decade and both guys deserve standing ovations for putting on a show that was ten times better than anything Shawn Michaels did at Wrestlemania. Two, the match was a badly acted, unbelievable ego wank that seemed like it was put together by Michael Bay and Davey Richards. Both opinions are valid, because hey, wrestling is fake and you like what you like.

Admittedly, I’m one of the guys who didn’t like it. I’ve got this horrible memory of watching Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a cage just lying around for ages, getting up and hitting each other, then lying back down. I remember watching it in a Hooters. My ass was in pain from the stool. I just wanted them to wrestle or end the match. That’s the feeling this gave me. I honestly loved the first ten minutes of craziness, from Taker’s colossal diving shove into the Cole Mine to that awful/awesome looking ten foot backdrop H took off the announcers table. The spinebuster through the table was choice. Chaos was happening, and these two guys were throwing bombs at each other and getting up.

Then, the just sorta ran out of stuff to do.

They’d lie on the ground. They’d get up, one would hit the other with a finisher. Kick out. Lie on the ground. Get up, hit a finisher, kick out, aw I can’t believe it, lie on the ground. Three pedigrees, a bunch of corner reversals into the Last Ride that Triple H ALWAYS falls for, a Hells Gate without the arm locked in properly. A lot of facial expressions. Triple H hitting a move, then backing up and sitting and staring for upwards of thirty seconds at a time without going for a pin. This isn’t a Last Man Standing match, guy, if Taker has been knocked into a retarded coma you can probably keep him down for three. Kane has beaten him like 20 times. Don’t sit around on your ass waiting for him to hit you with a finisher.

It felt like the worst game of Fire Pro ever. You’re 20 minutes into the match, so you’re just using your strongest grapple over and over. The ending felt like HHH watched Shawn’s Wrestlemania matches and went “sh;t, I wanna do that.” I don’t know, it seems lame to criticize an Undertaker match for seeming fake, but it was just so damn hokey. Undertaker has been put in a coffin and set on fire twice, and has literally died on multiple occasions. Those pedigrees could not have hurt him that badly.

I don’t know. I’m happy for you if you liked it.

Worst: Snookimania

Here are fourteen things that would’ve made the Snooki-themed six-man tag team match more enjoyable.

1. Layla getting into the ring.
2. John Morrison getting into the ring.
3. Dolph Ziggler getting into the ring or doing anything.
4. Trish Stratus taking five minutes to ask someone how she’s supposed to throw a chop at some point in the last ten years.
5. Vickie Guerrero waiting for someone to be rude or interrupt her before screaming “excuse me.”
6. Vickie Guerrero participating in any way, possibly even just wearing that singlet with “excuse me” on the front while she stood around.
7. Michelle McCool going into business for herself and hooking Snooki because she’s going to be here tomorrow.
8. Dolph Ziggler going into business for himself and hitting Snooki with a shoot Zig Zag, if it is physically possible to shoot Zig Zag somebody.
9. Snooki’s cartwheeling serving as some sort of larval stage for her Metapod looking ass and transforming her into a beautiful butterfly (Molly Holly) during the back elbow portion.
10. The Great Muta showing up, misting Snooki, hitting her with a power elbow.
11. Snooki doing the splash straight out of the cartwheel instead of landing, then splashing like she’s Lacey Von Erich.
12. Anyone but Snooki getting the pinfall over anyone else in the match.
13. John Morrison spontaneously combusting.
14. Blood and piledrivers.

That is all. Do not congratulate Snooki for being competent at basic fat girl gymnastics because she took a few classes. I know who invented the cotton gin, you don’t see anybody giving me the Diva’s Championship.

Best: Main Event Video Packages and Entrances

Okay, if you’re going to give me a Miz video package set to “Hate Me Now” and John Cena entering to a choir after footage of him hugging children you can push Bryan and Sheamus into the dark match. Video production and staging is the one thing you can never take away from WWE, and the growing, big match atmosphere for the main event, at least in my brain, was off the charts. These are easily two of the best videos they’ve ever done, and I was absolutely hyped to see the main event.

But then, something stupid happened.

Worst: The End of Wrestlemania

Okay, first thing, you follow the Miz as Ozymandias (Mizymandias?) video package with balloons that say “awesome?” Balloons? Come on. Balloons? That move like they’re on Avenue Q?

Second thing, who boos a choir? I don’t care how much you dislike John Cena, whether it’s for legitimate reasons or because you’re a dumb baby sheep who can’t think for himself and wants to be popular on your local wrestling forum, John Cena’s Wrestlemania entrances are always excessively pimp and you’re a moron for booing it. You can dislike someone and like what’s happening, you know that? I don’t like the Undertaker, but when he’s dragging Hulk Hogan behind his motorcycle I’m going to laugh at it. Seriously, who boos a choir? You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.

Thirdly, uh, did John Cena just start dressing like the Confederate Flag when he got a black choir entrance or am I seeing things

Fourthly, I’m a writer who loves pro wrestling, so I’m not the type to jump to conclusions and blame the writers. But, well, yeah, the writers really wrote themselves into an abysmal hole on this one. Here’s how I see it: They booked a main event feud around a guy who wasn’t going to wrestle, then had him stand around in the back while the match he’d been directly involved in for a month was happening. Cena and Miz are quality wrestlers who have learned the style WWE wants from them, which is “tell the story we tell you to tell.” The crowd hates Cena and loves Miz, so Miz plays heel and Cena plays face, because that’s what they’re supposed to do. I’m sure they both could’ve prospered by playing off of the crowd and listening to them, but that isn’t their job. So you’ve got a disruptive, burned out crowd, a story told by a bunch of blind storytellers, and your marketable firecracker hanging out in the back, having comedy with Mae Young.

Fifthly, what the hell was that? The match started getting good almost in spite of itself and they go for a double count-out. A double count-out in the main event of a Wrestlemania. THEN the Rock comes out, responding to the decisions of a Raw general manager who really shouldn’t have power in this situation, then restarts the match despite not really having the power to.

Sixthly, The Miz retained the WWE Championship in the count-out. So The Rock restarts the match, attacks John Cena and helps The Miz win. Then he beats up The Miz. How does any of this make sense? If Rock wanted to ally with Miz, why would he restart the match? Why would he attack Miz? If he just wanted to beat people up and didn’t care about the match result, why restart the match at all? Why not just come out and beat them up? And if you’ve suddenly got matchmaking abilities and you’re all about BRINGING IT with HONOR for the LOVE OF JESUS OUR LORD why not put yourself in the match, either at the beginning or during the restarted fall, and at least get some kind of glory out of it?

As we ended the show, we had the guest host beating up the two people in the championship main-event while everyone cheered. It was like the wost possible apocalyptic version of Lesnar vs. Goldberg, where Chris Benoit never existed and the Wrestlemania 20 audience had to go home with Austin stunning two guys he barely had anything to do with after they’d been beaten up and couldn’t fight back. Nobody looks good, everybody looks like a wimp or a scumbag, and nobody knows what they’re cheering for or why. Just an absolute mess.

I’m not going to pretend like I know how to right WWE’s ship or pretend like I know what they are trying to accomplish because I like wrestling and watch a lot of it, but WWE’s melodramatic nostalgia for itself thing is not going to work help anybody. You know what the three biggest topics of conversation are after this Wrestlemania? The Rock’s promo, The Rock running into Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock attacking John Cena.

Meanwhile, you’ve got a roster full of legitimately talented whatever-you-want-to-call-thems WAITING to make you money. Pay attention to what you’re doing, I want to keep having Wrestlemanias, and I want to like them more.

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