WWE Wrestle Mania XXI 2005 4/3/2005

April 3, 2005
Staples Center
Los Angeles, CA
Attendance: 20,193
Buy Rate: 2.46
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz

Dark Match

1) Booker T. (Booker Huffman) wins an Interpromotional Battle Royal

Paul London, Heidenreich, Spike Dudley, Nunzio, Funaki, Doug Basham, Danny Basham, Orlando Jordan, Mark Jindrak, Luther Reigns, Scotty 2 Hotty, Hardcore Holly, Charlie Haas, Billy Kidman, Akio, Simon Dean, William Regal, Tajiri, Rob Conway, Sylvain Grenier, Snitsky, The Hurricane, Rosey, Viscera, Rhyno, Val Venis, Tyson Tomko, and Maven

Fun Fact: As of April 2005, California (17) has passed New York (16) as the state that has hosted the most all-time PPVs dating back to Wrestlemania I.

Pay Per View

1) Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) defeats Eddie Guerrero with a Hurricanrana at 12:39

Fun Fact: On 3/4, Chavo Guerrero confronted Rey Mysterio backstage and warned him that Eddie was just using Rey and biding his time until he would ambush Rey and finally defeat him. Rey didn’t buy it but Chavo warned him to never trust a Guerrero. Two weeks later, Chavo cornered Eddie backstage and said that Rey was holding Eddie back and that Eddie was a disgrace for losing to Rey and then teaming with him. Chavo left Eddie as he steamed over his nephew’s words. A week later, Eddie suggested to Rey that they have a friendly match at Wrestlemania to steal the show. Rey was caught off guard and didn’t immediately accept the challenge. Later in the night, Rey accepted the offer and the two friends agreed to tear the house down in LA. On 3/31, Rey accidentally cost his partner a match with Danny Basham. Eddie would return the favor later in the night, accidentally costing Rey a bout with Doug Basham. The two would hug it out in the ring, but Eddie seemed deep in thought as the segment ended.

A great choice for an opener in this, the 21st chapter of the greatest night in professional wrestling. Tonight Rey is decked out in Captain America, continuing the tradition of wearing comic book characters at Wrestlemania, including Daredevil at XIX and Flash at XX. The LA crowd is scorching hot and this again was a good choice to get the crowd started. Eddie and Rey continue to be two of the most popular guys in the company, and during a back and forth sequence early in the match the crowd was on their feet already. The question going into this match was would Eddie play by the rules and make this a fair fight, or would the “lying, cheating, stealing” Eddie come out, and maybe turn heel? Eddie essentially wrestled as the heel, taking control of the match and dictating tempo, which makes sense since Rey’s type of worker wouldn’t be one to dictate tempo as he’s better when coming from behind and making face comebacks. The pace of this match was great as there were really no dead spots and Eddie really kept the pressure on. When Rey went for the West Coast Pop and Eddie caught and powerbombed him I thought the match was over. Rey kicked out and I was stunned. Rey wins with a roll-up out of nowhere to win the match and start the night with a fiery hot opener, reminiscent of the Cruiserweight matches that started Nitro in the late 90s. Grade: 3.5

Justin: Ever since their salad days in 1997, matches between these two friends were always highly anticipated and expected to deliver. And this match did not disappoint. The bout was fast and high impact from bell to bell. The only annoying part of the match was Rey’s mask. It seemed that it was not a tight fit, so Rey was constantly fixing it, as he was afraid it was going to slip off. Despite that minor inconvenience, these two had tremendous chemistry and were as fluid as can be and their offense was so in synch it was amazing to watch. The crowd was split evenly here, just appreciating the action and effort. One highlight spot was a great corkscrew plancha by Rey. The near falls started picking up as the match began to peak and the crowd was red hot for them. Just as Eddie looked like he was going to finally beat Rey, Rey rolled him up and stole the win from his partner. This was a great opening match and really set the tempo for the night. Rey defeats Eddie once again but this story was far from over. Grade: 3.5

*** Triple H and JBL meet backstage and have a brief debate over who is the better wrestler and who would walk out of the show with their gold intact. It is punctuated by a great “Woo” by Ric Flair. ***

2) Edge (Adam Copeland) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine), Kane (Glen Jacobs), Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit and Christian (Jay Reso) in a Money in the Bank Ladder Match when he obtains the briefcase at 15:20

Fun Fact: On 2/28, Chris Jericho announced that he had a plan for Wrestlemania involving five other superstars and a ladder. The next week, Jericho, Edge, Benjamin, Benoit and Christian were brought to Eric Bischoff’s office and the GM announced that the five would compete in the first ever Money in the Bank ladder match. The winner would be the first competitor to grab a briefcase suspended over the ring and that wrestler could cash in the briefcase for a World title match at any time over the next year. JR later announced that Kane would round out the group. The six men would battle with each other over the ensuing weeks.

Fun Fact II:
Many observers and fans assumed that Matt Hardy would be involved in this match or a bout with Mark Henry, as had been rumored based on a feud earlier in the year. In mid-March, rumors quickly spread that Lita had cheated on Matt with another wrestler. On March 14, Matt went on his website and posted that he had been betrayed by a longtime friend, Adam Copeland, and called him feces. It was revealed that Edge had been sleeping with Lita while Hardy was rehabbing from a knee injury. While it seemed as if Matt was in the right here, it was Edge that was protected, mainly because he had just turned heel and was in the midst of one of the biggest pushes in the company. On April 11, WWE announced that Hardy had been released. This was coming off WWE telling Hardy to stay home from a live event out of fear of a violent altercation. Hardy soon spilled his guts on the web and this story would get even more bizarre, but we will get to the rest of the story later in the year.

A fresh, new concept debuts this year as six men compete for the ultimate prize: A contract for a title shot sometime in the next year. Just looking at the participants, you knew this was going to be something special the minute it started. The beginning of this match had that same feeling as in 2000, when Edge & Christian, the Hardys, and the Dudleys had that ladder match of legend. Two minutes into this match and we had Shelton Benjamin do a plancha over the top rope onto the others, then Kane goes to the top rope and falls on the others. Then there are the ladders: a means for victory, as well as a means to unleash punishment. The pace was non-stop, as all six men would take turns laying out other guys and never allowing for a dull moment. Edge and Shelton have a solid sequence smacking each other around with the ladder. Another great spot was Shelton dropping a T-Bone on Edge from the top of the ladder. That wouldn’t be Shelton’s only amazing moment in this match. Christian would wedge a closed ladder in between rungs of an open ladder. Jericho climbs the open ladder, when Shelton would come out of nowhere, run up the diagonally wedged closed ladder and clothesline Jericho to the canvas. Tomko almost blows this match by helping Christian up the ladder, but its two feet away from the briefcase, then Kane clotheslines Tomko over the top rope but Tomko also starts rolling over the rope before Kane hits him. Schmuck. This fresh concept got the crowd at the edge of their seats to see who would take this, as all six guys, well maybe not Kane, was a legitimate guess. I thought maybe Benoit would get another shot, considering he was wrestling the match with one arm. Busted nose and all, he does the diving head butt onto Kane from an open ladder, re-opening his stitched up cut above his eye. Benoit and Kane battle on the ladder until Benoit bludgeons Kane’s head with continuous head butts. Benoit looks like he’s got it, until Edge comes out of nowhere and blasts Benoit’s injured arm with a chair. Edge climbs the ladder and finally gets the title shot he feels he deserves. What a crazy, explosive violent match that would be the standard-bearer for future MITB matches. Grade: 5

Justin: The first ever MITB match features a wide variety of strong talent, all looking for that guaranteed World title match. I liked Kane’s entrance, with all of the ladders on fire in the entranceway. The other five combatants would jump Kane in the aisle to kick off the match. Everyone kicked it up a notch for this one, especially Jericho who was active throughout the whole bout. In a great spot, Shelton careened into four guys with a Hilo to the floor, which was followed up by a Kane flying clothesline off the top rope, popping the crowd big time. I liked the flow here, as nothing felt forced and each spot flowed easily into the next. One of the running stories of the match would be the injury to Benoit’s arm, which was established when Kane violently slammed the ladder onto it. While everyone was working hard, it was Shelton that was out to steal the show with his athleticism, and that was evidenced by a great spot when he ran up the rungs of a ladder that was leaning on a second ladder. Edge and Christian would reunite their team for a bit, working over their opponents fiercely. While Benjamin was stealing the show with his athleticism, Benoit as doing so with his selling. The way he sold his arm was tremendous and you could feel the pain seeping through the TV. Tomko would try to help Christian, but that would fail and Christian found himself crashing off a ladder. Benoit again impressed, and frightened everyone, as he dropped an insane headbutt off a ladder onto Kane. After that, it looked like Benoit was going to win the bout as he climbed the ladder with one hand as his other arm hung by his side. Just as he was about to unhook the case, Edge appeared and cracked Benoit’s arm with a chair, knocking him to the mat. Edge ascended, grabbed the briefcase and picked up the biggest win of his career to that point. This match was pure awesome as it was well-crafted, made sense and brought with it a tremendous atmosphere. Everyone busted their ass and they delivered a classic performance. Edge now possessed a future title shot and was really starting to reach heights he had yet to see since his arrival seven years before. Grade: 4.5

*** As the crowd cooled down from the first two matches, Eugene comes out to talk some Wrestlemania history, mainly focusing on King Kong Bundy and his midget squashing from Wrestlemania III. As he rambled on, Muhammad Hassan joined us to complain about being left off of Wrestlemania. They would beat down Eugene as the crowd called for a familiar name. Their calls were answered when Real American fired up and newly minted Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan marched to the ring to a mega pop. Hogan was looking a little bloated as he wiped out Hassan and Daivari, saved Eugene and posed like it was 1989. The crowd was into the Hulkster big time and nostalgia was quickly filling the Staples Center. This was an entertaining little segment to entertain the fans that would also lead to a much bigger storyline as the year rolls along. ***

3) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Randy Orton with a Tombstone at 14:16

Fun Fact: On the 2/28 Raw, Randy Orton was backstage chatting with Superstar Billy Graham. Graham told Orton that he needed to make a name for himself and dig deep down to do something that had never been done before. Orton nodded in agreement and dropped a magazine that he was looking at, and that magazine had a picture of the Undertaker on the cover. The next week, Orton took Graham’s advice and issued a challenge to the Undertaker, claiming that he would end Taker’s undefeated Mania streak to make an impact. That week on Smackdown, Undertaker accepted the challenge. On the 3/14 Raw, Orton was a guest of Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. As a surprise, Jericho brought out Jake Roberts to talk to Orton about facing Undertaker at a Wrestlemania. After a heated segment, Jake attempted to DDT Orton, but Randy reversed it to an RKO. On that week’s Smackdown, the two men signed the official contract in the ring. Orton called himself the Legend Killer and slapped Taker across the face before bolting for higher ground. On 3/21, Orton cemented his heel turn by talking some more smack on Taker and then taking out his on-screen girlfriend Stacy Kiebler with an RKO. That week on Smackdown, an angry Taker crushed Rene Dupree with a Tombstone on the steps, sending him to the hospital. The next week on Smackdown, Cowboy Bob Orton showed up in Teddy Long’s office and asked if he could confront the Undertaker to beg for his son’s mercy. Bob would get his meeting and he pleaded with Taker to take it easy on his son in their match. Taker refused and said Randy sealed his fate with that slap. Bob grabbed Taker’s hand, allowing Randy to hop in the ring and drop Taker with an RKO. Bob and Randy would celebrate in the aisle as Taker sat up and glared a hole through both of them.

This is an interesting matchup. For the first time, Taker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania was emphasized in depth leading up to this match. He was 12-0 to this point, including two wins over Kane. However, you got the feeling that maybe this was the moment that the torch finally would be passed. Of all the guys that Taker has vanquished during “the streak”, really none of them were young lions that had a full career ahead of them. Think about it. Let’s look at the past opponents. Snuka, Jake, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Sid, Kane #1, Big Boss Man, Triple H, Ric Flair, Big Show & Albert, and Kane #2. All the opponents were either already established stars, or guys who you knew had pretty short shelf lives. However here, Taker’s dealing with a young stud whose career would have skyrocketed if he had pulled off the upset and stunned the Deadman on his show. It would have been fitting, as know with Orton back to being a heel the crowd had big time heat on him and wanted the Deadman to take out the cocky young upstart. The match wasn’t bad, as it had a decent pace and Taker did a good job of working the kid over and keeping the pace crisp. That was the key to this show so far. The LA crowd, notorious hand-sitters, really has been hot from the get-go and all three matches so far have been fluid with no dead spots and no chances for the crowd to get flat. I thought the Hogan segment would have blown the crowd up and killed the rest of the show. Almost like what happened with Hogan at Wrestlemania XVIII when he faced the Rock in the middle of the show. The crowd was shot after that and it lowered the grade. Then the awesome old school moment when, after an Orton crowd bump, in came WWE Hall of Famer Cowboy Bob Orton to crack Taker with the arm cast. It was absolutely awesome. Taker kicked out of the cast shot and we move on. Orton goes for his own Tombstone, but reminiscent of vanquished opponents past, Taker reverses it and gets the three count. 13-0, but Orton put on a great effort. Solid match and the crowd is still smoking. Grade: 3

Justin: This was really the first time that Taker’s streak was played up as the crux of a storyline. Randy Orton was looking to make an impact and the quickest way to do so would be defeating Undertaker at Wrestlemania. After his tepid face run finally died off, Orton was back where he belonged as the arrogant heel. Taker got a huge pop from the hot LA crowd but at the time it really seemed as if Orton had a legit chance of ending the streak. Taker would overpower him and use his usual offense to control. Orton briefly turned the tables with a methodical offensive strike, but Taker regained control to the delight of the fans. These two had surprisingly good chemistry and the match had a big time slugfest feel to it as neither man stayed down for long and they kept trading big blows. Add in Orton’s top notch selling and this match was really cooking as it reached its climax. I loved Orton’s desperation offense as well, as he stayed alive by hitting big moves just before he was about to be put away. Then in a great moment, Cowboy Bob would hop in the ring and paste Taker with his trademark cast, leading to a great near fall for Orton. Another great near fall came when Orton reversed a chokeslam into a slick RKO. The crowd was really hot at this point as Orton loaded Taker up for a Tombstone. Taker would reverse position and drop Orton with a Tombstone of his own for the win. Orton really looked great here and this was an unexpectedly tremendous match that had great heat and mystery to it. It was well booked and I loved the Cowboy Bob run in. This grade may be a bit high, but this match really drew me in and rocked the whole way through. Grade: 4

4) Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) defeats Christy Hemme to retain Women’s Championship with a Chick Kick at 4:43

Fun Fact: On 2/21, Trish was backstage bragging about her greatness when she came across Christy and Candace. Trish smacked Candace across the face, leading to Christy slamming Trish into a wall in retaliation. The next week, Christy unveiled her Playboy magazine cover. An angry Trish came to the ring, spray painted the cover, kicked Christy and then sprayed “Slut” on Christy’s back. The next week, Christy challenged Trish to a match at Wrestlemania. Trish accepted the match, knowing Christy wasn’t trained as a wrestler. Christy then shocked her by revealing that Lita had been training her and Christy showed it by dropping Trish with a Twist of Fate. Trish would get some revenge the next week when she tossed Christy into some trash cans. On 3/31, Christy would gain some momentum when she defeated Trish in an arm wrestling match.

Scott: This is more a showcase for how great a heel Trish Stratus is more than the match itself. We all know Christy, as hot as she is, can’t wrestle a lick. That’s why this match is mercifully short. Trish helps Christy work through the motions, get a few moves in, but she hits her finisher and moves on. There’s really not more to say here. Trish looks hot with those sweet suspenders hooked to her wrestling pants. Christy gave it her all and the crowd, although down a notch or two, still was pretty into it. No matter, because it’s time to rock n’ roll, and against Trish is in control. Grade: 1.5

Just seven months after her debut, Christy gets a Wrestlemania title match as a result of her Playboy push. Lita joins her as a trainer to add some drama to what seemed like a foregone conclusion. The underdog story was pretty good here as they really played up that Christy had no chance against Trish. Trish would make that seem like the truth early as she dominated Christy and then mocked her a bit as well. Christy was frustrated as Trish continued to dominate. Despite the match becoming sloppier by the minute, Trish proved that she had become a ring general out there as she was clearly walking Christy through every step of the match. Trish would fight off a brief Christy flurry and would retain her title. The effort was good but the finish and match were weak overall and putting Christy in there was not the best idea. Still, Trish continues to look dominant and she was clearly a step above the other Divas at this point. Grade: 1

5) Kurt Angle defeats Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) by submission with the Anklelock at 27:27

Fun Fact: After their travails at the Royal Rumble, Shawn Michaels issued a Wrestlemania challenge to Kurt Angle. On 2/28, Shawn defeated Edge in a brutal street fight but after the bell, Kurt Angle jumped him and wiped him out and then accepted the Mania challenge. Michaels would return the favor that week on Smackdown when he masqueraded as a cameraman and beat down Angle. The next week on Raw, Angle confronted Michaels via satellite and talked about his experiences in 1996. He had recently won Olympic gold with a broken neck but fans would talk about Shawn Michaels and ask Angle if he would ever turn pro. Angle told Michaels that he was going to accomplish everything Michaels had in sixteen years, but he would do it in four weeks. On the 3/10 Smackdown, Angle defeated a jobber in a ladder match and then announced that he would wrestle Marty Jannetty the following week. Before facing off with Angle, Jannetty stopped by Raw and teamed with his old friend to defeat La Resistance in a fun nostalgia trip. On 3/17, Jannetty took Angle to the limit but Kurt would force him to tap out. A week later, Kurt came to the ring dressed as Shawn and brought along another blast from the past…Sensational Sherri. Kurt and Sherri sang a mock version of Shawn’s song with Kurt’s name mixed in. Shawn then appeared on the Titantron and aired a Shawn Michaels retrospective video. As Sherri got emotional watching it, Angle tossed her to the mat and hooked her in an Anklelock. After a failed attack by Kurt on 3/28, he brutally assaulted Josh Matthews on 3/31 to send a final message to Michaels.

So, do you think this match was booked to clearly steal the show? You look at these two names on the same match line and you’re already thinking five stars. I mean do you think either of these guys wasn’t going to bring his A-game to the Wrestlemania stage? The question going into this match is simply style. In his career Michaels usually wrestles catch-as-catch-can guys like Bret Hart, big dudes like Diesel and Undertaker, or brawlers like Steve Austin. Here, Michaels takes on a decorated mat technician who deals in amateur tactics and grinding grapple holds. Early on Shawn tries to beat Angle to the punch with a long submission stretch working on Angle’s arm. Kurt would try some early Anklelock attempts but then Shawn would go into his style by cleaning off the announce table, but they don’t get to it for a bit. Nice shot when Angle goes for the Olympic Slam on the floor and he smacks Michaels into the steel post. At one point we have the dueling “Michaels…Angle” chants which adds to the aura of the this match if it wasn’t off the charts already. When Shawn came back to WWE in 2002, many were probably thinking when the moment would come when these two would get into the ring on the biggest stage. And you knew that it had to be a Wrestlemania, it just had to be. Once again, just like in the other matches the pace was non-stop. This crowd was totally stoked from the start and not one match, except maybe the women’s match, has slowed things down. There’s an awesome strength sequence where Angle tried to German suplex Shawn onto that announce table but Michaels was holding onto the top rope for dear life. Michaels breaks it with a low blow. Then with Angle on the table, Michaels drops a plancha onto the table and the Olympic Hero but the table didn’t break apart. It actually makes the moment even better as it makes the move look stiffer. The crowd at some points seemed to be actually leaning more towards the heel Angle. At one point Shawn hits his big elbow, but then going for Sweet Chin Music, Angle grabs the leg and ratchets the Anklelock. Shawn gets out of it, but both men’s mouths are bleeding. This final stretch with both men reversing holds, hitting finishers and hooking reversal pin attempts makes this one clearly the match of the night. Angle goes for his moonsault, but misses. Shawn goes for a move on the top rope, but Angle runs up the turnbuckles and hits an Olympic Slam to the floor. Shawn does eventually hits Sweet Chin Music but he’s so spent he can’t go for the pin. He tries to get his bearings but Angle ratchets the Anklelock again. It seems like Shawn’s in it for almost two minutes, until finally he can’t take it anymore and he has to tap out. Angle wins, and Shawn gets a standing ovation. When you saw their names on the marquee, did you expect anything less? Grade: 5

Justin: Just as this edition of Wrestlemania brought focus to Undertaker’s streak it also brought focus to Shawn’s Mr. Wrestlemania status, which was harped on as he entered. The match was clearly positioned as a showstealer and was promoted as such. For as loudly as Michaels was cheered when he entered, Angle was booed, with big time heat echoing through the arena. The bout was mat based at first with a slow, steady build and Michaels showing off his wrestling fundamentals which frustrated Angle. The pace picked up and the stiffness commenced when Angle jacked Michaels into the post with an Angle Slam. As the match wore on, the heat on Angle died down and the crowd was fairly split between the two men. Angle would begin to work the back but Michaels was able to combat that with a crazed dive onto the announce table. Back in the ring, we got a great battle between the two men as Kurt tried to hook the Anklelock. It was at that point that the match kicked into overdrive and the pace got frenetic with a flurry of false finishes and teases. After Angle missed a picture perfect moonsault attempt, he would crush Michaels with an Angle Slam off the top rope for a great near fall. Just as Shawn seemed to be out of gas, he popped up and drilled SCM from out of nowhere but Angle held on. Angle would pop up and hook the Anklelock once more. Shawn fought, but Kurt dropped down and added the heel hook, which was pretty much impossible to escape from. Shawn fought it as long as he could but finally tapped out clean. This was an epic war that built beautifully into a maniacal finishing segment. Angle picks up the victory but both of these men came out winners here for delivering an all time classic. I want to give props to JR and Lawler too as they kept up and sold the importance of this classic bout. Grade: 5

*** Hall of Famer Roddy Piper comes out for a special Piper’s Pit with guest Steve Austin. Stone Cold would be welcomed with a thunderous pop and many were anticipating this showdown of slick talking legends. Piper was masterful as always and did a good job of combating the “What” chants from the fans. After a good back forth debate, Carlito would come out to get himself involved in the fun. Unfortunately, he was kind of a buzzkill and really killed the flow and moment. His mic time would be brief, as Austin quickly dropped him with a Stunner. This was a decent time waster, but a little disappointing considering who was involved. ***

6) Akebono defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) in a Sumo Match at 1:03

Fun Fact: Akebono was a champion Sumo wrestler in Japan that had retired from the sport in 2001. After that he dabbled in some MMA and pro wrestling overseas. A showdown between these two giants was teased during the 2/10 Smackdown, which emanated from Japan. After the Sumo Match was announced, Show carried the build on Smackdown each week with a memorable segment coming on 3/24. Show and Luther Reigns competed in a challenge to tip over a jeep, which Show finally did after some frustrating attempts. Akebono arrived stateside a week later and he and Show participated in a weigh-in. Show was measured at 493 lbs. and Akebono checked in at 503 lbs. The two men expressed their respect for each other and Akebono competed in a quick squash match.

This is a perfect spot for this match coming off the hot Piper’s Pit with Austin. The crowd gets a chance to take a leak, buy a t-shirt or get some nachos. I’m not sure why they went with this whole thing, but I feel bad for Big Show, who always gets stuck with some bizarre thing just because he’s a big dude. I wonder if this was staged or if it was a legit thing. Who knows, and who cares. Akebono tosses Show out of the circle and its over. Grade: N/A

There isn’t much to talk about here as we get a spectacle time killer to slow things down a bit. Akebono was pretty gross in his sumo gear I must say. This was an odd concept but it gets Show on the card and gives us a Wrestlemania moment on the spectacle level. The best thing I can say about this was that it was quick and to the point. Grade: N/A

7) John Cena defeats John Bradshaw Layfield to win WWE Championship with an FU at 11:27

Fun Fact: On the 2/24 Smackdown, John Cena drew first blood when e teamed with Big Show to defeat JBL and Orlando Jordan. A week later, Cena cut a promo telling JBL that he was tired of the champion’s money and the flaunting of his wealth. Cena positioned himself as a man of the people, stemming from his middle class upbringing. JBL fired back later that night, saying that fans paid to see him wrestle and then ripped into those same fans for being low-class and needing his handouts. JBL then left the arena and told Orlando that if he did not defeat Cena for the US title that night, he would be kicked out of the cabinet and sent back to the hood. JBL’s anger was a ruse, as he would interfere in the match and help Jordan steal Cena’s gold. The next week, JBL and his Cabinet torched Cena’s spinner belt and awarded the classic US title to OJ in its stead. Later that night, an angry Cena demanded that Teddy Long bring JBL out for retribution. Teddy refused to do so, saying he didn’t want his Wrestlemania main event ruined. Cena dropped Teddy with an FU and went searching for the champ. At the end of the show, Cena wiped out the Cabinet in the ring, but JBL was able to escape the mayhem. On 3/17, Long decreed that Cena could not touch JBL unless they were in a match together, and then announced that the two men would compete in a six-man tag that night. After the match, Cena threatened JBL with a chair, but knew he could not assault the champ so he destroyed Doug Basham instead. On 3/24, Cena and JBL had a heated debate, landing verbal jab after verbal jab on each other. Cena then began to taunt JBL, daring him to take a shot so Cena could retaliate. Cena dumped water on JBL’s head, spray painted a yellow streak down his back and painted FU on his chest. JBL resisted temptation and after Cena left, JBL destroyed the podiums out of anger. On the final pre-Mania Smackdown, Cena was wrestling Carlito when JBL came to the ring flanked by police officers. JBL told Cena that they had a warrant out after Cena vandalized his limo. The Champ landed one last cheap shot when he kicked Cena in the groin as he was handcuffed to the ropes.

The first of our two big title matches pits Smackdown’s Champion, who like any great 1980’s heel, escaped every match by the skin of his teeth. Last ride matches, multiple wrestler matches, barbed wire steel cage matches. All those opportunities for anyone to take the big hoss off his horse and no one could do it. In steps John Cena, who starting in 2003 was taking the long journey that would lead him to this grand stage. At Wrestlemania XIX in Seattle he did a forgettable rap on Sunday Night Heat. Last year at Madison Square Garden he opened the show with a US Title win over Big Show. Now he’s here going for the biggest prize against the arrogant champion who’s held the title hostage since the previous June. The match is methodical as JBL takes his time punishing the Doctor of Thugonomics. The past two years, the first Manias with two title matches, only one of the big two titles changed hands. It was no secret who would win the last match of the night, so it was probably 50/50 on whether Cena would actually win here or would he win by a DQ or countout schmozz and then win it at Judgment Day, the next SD-only PPV, in a gimmick match. It’s funny because unlike in past matches during his reign JBL would get dismantled early against guys like Undertaker and Big Show and then he would squeak out the win in the end. Here it’s the complete opposite as JBL has essentially dominated the match throughout, and then out of nowhere Cena hits the FU and wins the match and the title. It just came out of nowhere with no build and no drama. A very strange match that was booked so oddly that the crowd isn’t quite sure what to make of it. I’m not sure if this was the right choice, but a new era has begun in WWE and it’s the former Prototype from West Newbury, Massachusetts. Grade: 2.5

Justin: After nine months of ups and downs, JBL’s controversial WWE Championship reign comes crashing to a halt as he is dumped off of John Cena’s shoulders with an FU. Despite many fans disagreeing with his push and reign, JBL really came into his own and grew into the role of big time main event player as his title run wore on. He has a good entrance here, as money falls from the sky and the police escort him to the ring. Cena gets a big pop as he enters to the beat of his new theme song and he was ready to ascend to a level that he would occupy for the remainder of the decade. JBL would pound Cena down repeatedly in the early going, controlling the flow of the match. With the pacing of the action and the way the bout was building, it felt like they were setting up a hot and epic final segment. You could even feel that from the crowd and it felt as if they were preparing to explode from their seats. Unfortunately for the historical standing of the match, before the fans knew what was happening, Cena picked JBL up, dropped him to the mat and pinned him to take his beloved title. The match was technically fine but JBL’s reign deserved a better end. This was a guy that spent nine months cheating and sneaking his way out of big time matches with high-level opponents. He was always beaten to a bloody pulp but would anger the fans by escaping with his gold in tact. In my eyes, there were only two ways to really end a reign like JBL had. Either Cena quickly and dominantly eviscerated him to end the reign of terror and win the title. The second option was a long, bloody, brutal battle that would be dripping of hate and desperation on behalf of the champion. This match should have been filled with weapons and interference from the Cabinet and desperate near falls to really bring an epic finish to the lengthy title reign. Sadly, we got neither as they delivered a paint-by-numbers match that saw JBL dominate his challenger before taking his title with a flash pin. They had built up so much heat throughout JBL’s reign that it just felt wasted in the end. I know they wanted to do the changing of the guard feel here, but with Batista taking home gold as well, I feel that Cena’s win was rushed and wasted. Perhaps they should have done a DQ win for Cena here, leading to that violent desperate brawl at the following SD PPV. Normally I wouldn’t take issue with the outcome here, but I just feel JBL’s title reign deserved so much better. Regardless, Cena has now been elevated and it was clear that the brass saw him as a major player going forward. Grade: 2.5

***Gene Okerlund introduces the 2005 Hall of Fame class, including Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Bob Orton, Jr. and Jimmy Hart. A video package then airs announcing that Wrestlemania XXII will emanate from Chicago. ***

8) Batista defeats Triple H (Paul Levesque) to win World Heavyweight Championship with the Batistabomb at 21:34

Fun Fact: On 2/21, it was announced that Batista would officially decide whom he would face at Wrestlemania. Throughout the show we saw segments of Triple H and Ric Flair trying to reach Batista and hoping he would do the right thing for Evolution and jump to Smackdown. When contract time came, Teddy Long and Eric Bischoff both plead their cases, as did The Game, who did his best to talk Batista into jumping ship. Batista would drop the Raw contract and hold his thumb up to Hunter…but then he quickly turned it to thumbs down. He took out Flair, grabbed Triple H and powerbombed him through a table to a massive pop. An angry Game took out his frustrations on Hurricane the next week, destroying him at ringside and issuing a warning to Batista. Later that night, Batista was again able to outsmart the Game en route to crushing Flair with a Batistabomb. On 3/7, Batista beat Flair in a match and again avoided a Hunter attack by grabbing the sledgehammer from the Game and snapping it over his knee. The mind games would continue over the next two weeks as each man got to pick the other’s opponent for a pair of TV matches. Both competitors would win but neither would touch each other as they began battling through words and aggression on other stars. On 3/28, they had a brief showdown that ended with a wild brawl to add some final heat to the match.

My two favorite guys in the company at that moment. The Game, The World Heavyweight Champion, and the Animal, the Arn Anderson of Evolution battling in the Main Event of what has turned into a pretty impressive Wrestlemania. When will they stop having Motorhead come out to do Triple H’s theme at every Wrestlemania? Lemmy can barely remember the words and it sounds like a broken jukebox. No more Lex Luger white boots for Trips unlike last year at XX. This match, unlike the previous title match, really had nothing to do with the drama of who was going to win, it was more about the match itself. Would these two power guys be able to put a good match together? Over the past year Triple H was working with guys like Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels as well as inexperienced workers like Randy Orton. How would he work with Big Dave? The match starts pretty much the same as the JBL/Cena match started; with the heel champ dictating a slow tempo of strikes and outside interference. Triple H uses Ric Flair extensively here with chokes and punches when the referee wasn’t looking. There wasn’t anything extraordinary with this match, as these two have never met in the ring before so it was pretty much a twenty-minute feeling out process. Triple H is busted open by a slingshot into the steel post. Batista would go through a five to six minute stretch of just pummeling the Game and letting the blood flow. Flair brings in the title belt and Triple H cracks Batista with it but alas no three count. The constant Flair interference really hurts this match in my opinion, and ref bumps in these matches also ruins any kind of psychology because it’s essentially a free-for-all. Finally Batista hits the Demon Bomb, and we have a new World Champion. This match really becomes a watershed moment, as is this whole show. Just like John Cena, Batista’s era has begun and thus a new era in WWE has begun. The match itself isn’t bad, but we’d see better from these two. Grade: 2.5

Justin: With the slow simmering build far behind us, Batista officially steps up as a main event level face, ready to battle his mentor for a chance to taste his first singles gold. Hunter gets his usual long overdone Mania entrance, complete with Motorhead singing him to the ring. The entrance was really drawn out and I thought it kind of killed the crowd for Batista’s entrance, which seemed tame and low rent after Hunter’s rock star arrival. Despite the entrance pop being less than expected, the crowd ramped right back up and were vociferously behind Batista throughout the whole match, and they really carried it during the middle stretch. Batista would show off his power early but Ric Flair helped turn the tide for the Game. As Hunter worked his usual offense, the crowd tried to rally Batista back into the match. Flair was pretty active in this match and I thought it had more of that tension and desperation that the previous match should have had. As usual, Hunter taps his standard blade job that was really quite unnecessary because it wasn’t really a brawl that dictated it. I will say it fit more here than other times he shoehorned it in, but it still felt like blood of blood’s sake. Batista fought back and had a really forceful comeback where he really tossed the Game all around the ring. The closing segment was really hot and very entertaining with a flurry of near falls and Flair getting his ass handed to him. Batista would block the Pedigree, fight off a low blow and drop Hunter with a Batistabomb to win his first World Championship. I thought this match was much better than I remembered it being. I thought the crowd was flat and worn out, but they were red hot and their energy caused me to bump this grade a bit. After a long slow burn and loads of improvement, Batista takes control of Raw and has now become a major star with a big time win on his resume. Grade: 3

Final Analysis

This is the beginning of what became the new era of WWE. Two new main eventers (John Cena, Batista) won the biggest matches of their careers and ushered in their main event careers. As much as John Cena’s win seemed rushed and contrived and also made JBL’s historic, and improbable, run seem like nothing, it was a big win for him. We saw the “new Shawn Michaels”, the guy who doesn’t care whether he wins or loses, but that he can steal the show. He certainly did that with Kurt Angle, as that match could go down as one of the greatest matches of all time. The undercard of this show was exceptional with two five-star matches, the birth of an incredible new concept called Money in the Bank, and some nice nostalgia with the return of Hulk Hogan after two years and the first Piper’s Pit, which was a good one, not like those crap ones in 2003, since late 1980s. The main events weren’t staggeringly good, but those matches were more for the results than the matches themselves. After three shows, it seems that the shows in 2005 may actually get better than the shows in 2004. Sure the early shows in 2004 were great but as the year progressed they got weaker and weaker. I don’t feel that’s the case here. Of course I’ll have to watch them again but in 2004 it was about guys like Guerrero and Benoit that have been in the business for years getting their due. You knew that window was probably going to be short. Here you have two guys who clearly are being groomed for the future. It’s a different, not better, feeling than after Wrestlemania XX. From here the scrutiny gets tighter. I’m looking forward to it. This was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever and we saw a lot of history being made and remembered. Final Grade: A

What a tremendous Wrestlemania this was. I feel that many fans may overlook it because 2005 on a whole in usually looked at as a down year. The show really rocked from start to finish and was tightly wrapped with very little wasted time. The card was well structured and flowed easily from match to match. Even the filler and fluff segments were entertaining and never dragged on. The match quality was also through the roof and the show had numerous historical moments littered throughout it. My only real complaint is the overshadowing of Cena’s title win due to it being buried by Batista’s big moment. Even with that slight complaint, the match was still solid enough and the crowd was into Cena. The only bumps in the road were the Diva and Sumo matches, but those really short and didn’t waste enough time to really ruin the show in any way. The rest of the matches were good at worst and all time classics at best. Mix in the red hot crowd, solid commentary and unique feel to the show thanks to the Hollywood theme and you have yourself a winner. It also officially kicked off the John Cena era, for better or worse. He is now clearly the man and along with Batista, the promotion has a fresh feel thanks to two homegrown stars. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect heading into this one, but Wrestlemania XXI is a winner and one of the best Manias in history in my book. Final Grade: A

MVP: Shawn Michaels & Kurt Angle
Runner Up: John Cena & Batista
Non MVP: Matt Hardy
Runner Up: Christy Hemme

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