April 8, 2008
Wrestlemania XXIV: March 30, 2008, Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, Jonathan Coachman, Joey Styles, & Tazz
Looks like a great atmosphere with a huge crowd, and good looking set. Cool video package on the importance of Mania to the wrestlers starts us off, and then we get down to it.
Opening Match, Belfast Brawl: John “Bradshaw” Layfield vs. Fit Finlay (w/Hornswoggle)
“Belfast Brawl” is, of course, just another way of saying “Hardcore Match”. After months of building up the “Hornswoggle is Vince’s son” angle, Vince just kind of washed his hands of it, transferred the heat to JBL, and went on with his life as though nothing happened, which shows what a waste of time the whole thing was in the first place. And speaking of Hornswoggle, he makes his big return here. JBL catches Finlay coming in to the ring, and starts hammering away outside. Finlay reverses a whip to the stairs and gets the match in the ring to start it officially. Vertical splash by Finlay and he pounds away. Back out now, and Finlay tosses the weapons in: cookie sheets, trash cans, and kendo sticks. JBL gets a can and nails Finlay on his way back in. He follows that up with some shots to the head with a lid and tray. Short clothesline allows JBL the chance to go grab the stairs. He sets up a piledriver on the stairs, but Finlay backdrops out. Some shots with a tray get a 2 count for Finlay. He comes off the ropes, but JBL gets the boot up. JBL stomps the hand and sends him to the buckle headfirst. Punches in the corner, and JBL grabs the shillelagh, but before he can use it, Hornswoggle runs in for a cheap shot. This allows Finlay to grab the shillelagh and knock JBL to the outside with it. The work is nice and stiff so far, but it’s really lacking the intensity I would expect from a “father’s revenge” angle. Finlay gets a table set up in the corner, and tries to whip JBL in to it, but JBL reverses him to the opposite corner. Finlay comes out of there with a clothesline, and grabs the stairs, but JBL rolls out, where he nails Hornswoggle. This finally gets Finlay going as he rams JBL to the table repeatedly. Back in, and JBL rolls out the other side now. Finlay tries a running dive to the outside but gets caught with a lid shot. JBL tosses him back in for 2, and then throws a can at Hornswoggle, knocking the little guy down again. He nails Finlay with another can and sets up the Clothesline From Hell, but Finlay gets his own can up. 4 lid shots, and the Finlay Roll lead to Finlay thorwing JBL headfirst through the table in the corner, but that only gets 2. Finlay picks up the stairs, but JBL nails him in the knee with a kendo stick, and this time nails the Clothesline From Hell for the win at 8:37. Great way to kill a babyface: Put him in a position where he’s looking for revenge, and then have him fail to get that revenge. Also, Finlay’s motivation for having his son infiltrate the McMahon Family and the identity of the source who told JBL that Hornswoggle was actually Finlay’s son were never revealed probably because they’re just looking to drop this whole mess as quietly as possible. Considering the storyline this was too slow paced, and the wrong guy won, but not a terrible little brawl. *
Money In The Bank Ladder Match: John Morrison vs. Carlito vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. CM Punk vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. MVP vs. Chris Jericho
3 guys in this match are already champions, and upon noticing that, I realize that out of nine titles that this company has, only three are being defended here tonight. Why do they bother having all those belts? Jeff Hardy was supposed to be here, but he’s suspended, so only seven guys this year. Bell rings, and everyone’s outside grabbing toys, except MVP. He grabs a ladder and knocks everyone down as they climb back in. Jericho comes in with his own ladder and they joust, which MVP loses. Jericho tosses the ladder at him to hammer the point home. Morrison knocks Jericho down and heads up for our first big spot, moonsaulting to the floor on several guys while holding the ladder. Nuts. Kennedy takes advantage to climb, but is cut off by Jericho. He tries the Walls, but inadvertently catapults Kennedy on to the ladder, and he almost gets the case, but Morrison makes the save and they fight on the ladder. Benjamin in now, and after trying unsuccessfully for the case, he gets a sunset flip on Kennedy off the ladder, who holds on to Morrison taking him way over the top. That gets a “holy shit” chant. Benjamin back on the ladder, which Carlito tries to knock over, but Benjamin lands on the ropes on his feet (NICE!), and is able to knock Carlito back. He falls over too, and I don’t think he was supposed to. Punk makes a climb and Kennedy saves. Couple pairs of brawls around the ring. Benjamin is back up quick from his big fall (telling me I’m right about the blown spot), but Punk catches him off the ladder with the Go 2 Sleep. Kennedy drops Punk on a ladder allowing Carlito to climb, but MVP is back to make the save. MVP tries to clean house, but is caught with a ladder shot from Carlito. Carlito slow climbs, but Benjamin yanks him down. Big spin kick from Benjamin, and he climbs now, but Carlito is back up, and collaborates with Kennedy to tip Benjamin all the way over on to a ladder that’s straddling the apron and barrier. They seem shocked for a moment at what they’ve done, but are soon going for the case. Jericho joins them which leads to MVP tipping everyone over, and then he takes a ladder to the face from Morrison. Jericho recovers to stop Morrison, and Kennedy is back in. He and Jericho fight over the case and are soon joined by Punk and Carlito leaping on to the ladders. Punk takes Kennedy down, and Jericho almost has the win, but Carlito gets the Back Stabber off the ladder to stop him. This leaves MVP as the only one alive, so he carefully sets up the ladder only to be stopped by the returning Matt Hardy who nails a Twist Of Fate off the ladder. A great finish here would have been for Hardy to grab the case. You could get weeks of storylines regarding whether or not he can legally win the match and use the title shot, but no dice. Huge pop for his return too. Everyone (except Benjamin) has recovered now, and Jericho goes to work on them with a ladder. Crazy spot with the ladders intertwined sees Morrison climb and get tipped out over the top. Morrison is really impressing me here. Jericho and Carlito up the ladder now, and a face full of apple nearly gives Carlito the win, but Kennedy stops that. Punk knocks Kennedy down, but walks in to a Codebreaker from Jericho with a ladder in between them. Jericho up the ladder, but Punk comes back after him. After being knocked down, Punk grabs the leg and hooks it through the rungs, which allows Punk to get up there and grab the case for the win at 13:57. Good choice to win, but something tells me that this will be the year the MITB winner fails to cash in just to establish that it’s not a gimmie. Match was slow at times, but had enough crazy spots to justify it, and overall was pretty good. For all the talk about top spots going to guys who go out there and show they deserve it, will Morrison or Benjamin actually see any elevation from their performances here? I hope so, as I like both guys, and they impressed me the most in this match, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. ***1/2
Batista vs. Umaga
This was hyped as interpromotional, but the lines between the brands are so blurred that I don’t understand how that’s special. Besides, the previous two matches were interpromotional as well. Slugfest to start and Batista gets an Irish Whip to the corner, but Umaga reverses. Charge misses and Batista comes off the ropes with a shoulderblock to knock Umaga out. He catches Umaga coming back in, but Umaga gets his own shot. Irish Whip and Batista kicks him when he puts his head down. Batista comes off the ropes, but walks into a spin kick. Big kick to the face knocks Batista off the apron. Back in a big splash gets 2 for Umaga. Corner whip knocks Batista down, as does a second one. Umaga stomps him. Batista fires back, but a throat thrust knocks him down again. Nerve hold is slapped on. Batista fights out, but Umaga slams him. Up to the 2nd rope, but headbutt misses. Batista tries a slam, but can’t hold him up. Kicks to the back, and back to the nerve hold. The bored ringsiders are amusing themselves by cheering for Umaga and booing Batista’s every move. Batista elbows out, but comes off the ropes in to a Samoan drop for 2. Corner whip, but Batista gets the boot up on a charge. Samoan Spike is blocked, and Batista tries a headbutt but knocks himself back. Splash in the corner by Umaga misses and Batista hits a spinebuster and Batista Bomb for the win at 7:07. Dull match, finish came out of nowhere. ½*
ECW Title Match: Chavo Guerrero, Jr. vs. Kane
Kane won the battle royal on Heat to set this up. Chavo appears confident, but Kane surprises him with an entrance through the crowd and chokeslams him for the pin and the title at 0:11. I don’t mind a total squash now and then. DUD
Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair
By far the best built up match of the show, and really the only one I was legitimately excited to see coming in to the show. Lockup and we trade holds moving from headlock to hammerlock, which is reversed several times. Shawn elbows out and comes off the ropes but is caught with a hiptoss. Flair struts, of course. Lockup and Shawn backs Flair to the corner. Shoving match and Flair gets in Shawn’s face about the Old Yeller reference causing Shawn to slap him. Another lockup leads to chops in the corner by Flair. Shawn reverses and gets his own chops. Corner whip is reversed by Flair. Irish whip off the ropes leads to an elbow and kneedrop by Flair. Another corner whip, but Flair eats elbow on a charge. Shawn up top, but Flair slams him off. Flair up top now, and he gets a bodypress (finally, after so many years of trying) for 2. Shawn grabs a headlock, but Flair lifts him and drops him on the leg. Shawn kicks off a figure four attempt and sends Flair outside. Baseball slide hits. Quebrada misses and Shawn lands awkwardly on the announce table. That couldn’t have felt good. Shawn gets back in at 8. I think they should have had Flair break the count here to establish that he could have won by countout, but didn’t want it that way. Flair controls now. Couple of corner whips set up a back suplex for 2. Double underhook suplex gets 2 as well. Delayed suplex gets 2, as does a 2nd try at the cover. Chops in the corner lead to an Irish whip, but Flair puts the head down and Shawn gets a neckbreaker. Flair gets backdropped to the outside for the last big bump of his career. Moonsault off the top by Shawn hits. Both are out on the floor. JR informs us that a double countout would end Flair’s career, but both make it in at 9. They trade chops. Flair sends Shawn off the ropes, but Shawn nails the flying forearm and kips up. 2 inverted atomic drops and a slam set up the top rope elbow which hits. Shawn cues the band, but hesitates on nailing the Superkick which allows Flair to scoop the legs and hook the figure four. In storyline terms, Shawn could have just “submitted” here and allowed Flair’s career to continue, which would have fit with the idea that he was hesitant to get the win, but he chooses not to. Shawn fights it a while before turning it over which leads to a rope break. They try to do the bridge out of the pin spot, but can’t get themselves up. Couple of 2 counts try to cover for it. Flair gets a sunset flip for 2. More trading chops in the corner leads to Flair whipping Shawn to the opposite corner and Shawn does the Flair Flip. Chop block by Flair sets up another figure four try, but Shawn gets a small package for 2. Fans don’t react for that much, even though it was an often used finish in Flair’s career. Now Flair hooks the figure four, and Shawn struggles while Flair works to keep him in the middle. Shawn turns it again, but this time Flair rolls right through. This puts Shawn close enough to grab the ropes and get a break. Both guys are selling the legs hard at this point. Flair keeps on the leg, but stops to strut which allows Shawn to nail the Superkick out of nowhere. This only gets 2 however, and I’m really in to it now. Shawn cues the band again, but Flair isn’t getting up. Shawn helps him up, but falls victim to a low blow. Flair gets 2 from that. Shawn scoops the legs and gets his own version of the figure four. Flair struggles, but finally goes to the eyes to break. Rollup gets 2 for Flair. They trade chops, and Shawn gets another Superkick out of nowhere. No cover, but now he sets up properly. He seems hesitant again, but Flair knows he’s done for now and accepts his fate. Shawn says, “I’m sorry. I love you.” and nails one final Superkick for the win and to end Flair’s career at 20:25. Flair gets the most deserving standing O in history afterwards. I can’t remember the last time I became that emotionally invested in a match. They did just the right balance of making you think there was a chance Flair would win, without being too over the top about it. I watched it twice to be sure about the rating I’m giving it. *** for the match, as it’s very good, but not a classic, and I’m adding a bonus star for the story being pulled off so well, and the legitimate emotion the match generated, making the whole thing ****.
Normally I don’t cover the between match happenings, but Edge cuts a great promo here saying that he got his heart broken watching his hero Hulk Hogan lose at Wrestlemania VI, so now he’s going to break the heart of a kid in this crowd that looks up to Undertaker.
Lumberjack Match: Maria & Ashley vs. Beth Phoenix & Melina (w/Santino Marella)
This is the death slot on the show following the last match, but I think that’s why women’s matches were invented in the first place. And because things like this annoy me I’ll point it out: The CHAMPION should not be forced to play second fiddle and come out to someone else’s music and entrance. I mean, who do they think they are? The Mega Powers? All the women who aren’t wrestling are acting as lumberjacks. Ashley and Beth start out. Slugfest leads to Ashley getting a rana for 1. Beth tosses Ashley to the corner and Maria is tagged. Double hip toss on Beth and Maria kicks her to the other corner where Melina gets the tag. She runs in to a knee and gets tossed where the lumberjacks go to work. Corner whip by Maria sets up a butt splash and broncobuster for a 1 count. Tag to Ashley. Irish whip gets reversed and Ashley gets another rana. Can she do anything else? Corner whip and Ashley mounts her to set up a face slam, but Melina fights back, and a cheap shot from Beth gets a 2 count. Ashley gets tossed and worked over. Tag to Beth and Melina catapults Ashley into a bearhug. She drops Ashley, and then drops an elbow. Tag to Melina leads to a funky flip from Beth’s shoulders for 2. The lights go out in the arena now, and fortunately for them it happened in this match instead of an important one. When I can see again, Maria gets a bodypress on Beth for 2. Beth hooks a double arm chickenwing, but Maria reverses to a bulldog for 2. Heel miscommunication sees Melina knocked down, and allows Maria to hit a top rope bulldog on Beth, but Santino pulls her off at 2. This draws Lawler out to take care of Santino, which gets a good reaction, but doesn’t help Maria as Beth nails a suplex for 3 right after at 5:58. At least the champ got the winning pin, somewhat negating my issues with the entrance. ½*
WWE Title, Triple Threat Match: Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Triple H
Cena and Orton have the real issue here, but Triple H wants in too, so there ya go. Cena wins the pre match fan poll, but Triple H seems to be the crowd favorite. Orton grabs the belt and clocks HHH right off the bat, knocking him out. Cena and Orton go now. Cena gets a corner whip and a faceslam, followed by a suplex. While punching Orton in the corner, HHH comes back in and tosses Cena. He takes Orton outside rams him to the announce table, and works him over. Back in HHH ducks a clothesline and grabs a sleeper. Cena picks Orton up right out of the hold for an FU, but HHH puts a stop to that and trash talks Cena a bit as well. This allows Orton to hit a neckbreaker and then some punches on the ground. He stomps both guys down, and hits a kneedrop on Cena for 2. He then tries the same thing on HHH with the same result. Orton goes up, but Cena catches him, and looks to set up a superplex, but HHH gets there and positions Cena on his shoulders. Orton comes off with a bodypress, but Cena rolls through and lifts him for the FU, but Orton in turn rolls off that into a sunset flip for 2. HHH clotheslines Cena and Orton gets his one of his own on HHH. He works over Cena on the apron, hooks HHH when he comes over, and DDT’s both at once. He gets a 2 on both of them with that. RKO is blocked and Cena gets a blockbuster followed by a top rope leg drop. Orton bails, and Cena chases, but he gets run in to the post. Orton is back in, but caught by HHH who starts attacking the knee. Cena is back, but caught with a clothesline from HHH. This lets Orton hit an RKO on HHH out of nowhere, but no cover as HHH rolls out. Cena locks the STFU now, and Orton inches to the ropes slowly. HHH is there to make sure he gets them for the break. Cena goes out after HHH, but gets sent to the stairs allowing HHH to get back in and hook an Indian deathlock on Orton. Cena makes the save. Corner whip and HHH goes over and out. STFU on Orton again, but HHH saves by hooking Cena in a Crippler Crossface. Never thought I’d see that move again. Cena makes the ropes to big boos. Punches are exchanged, and HHH catches him with a knee. Irish whip, but Cena connects with a shoulderblock followed by a slam. Five Knuckle Shuffle sets up the FU but HHH escapes and sets up the Pedigree. Cena scoops the legs, but HHH kicks off. Irish whip, reversed and HHH nails a facebuster followed by a clothesline. Cena back up right away going for his own clothesline, but HHH ducks and catches him in a spinebuster. He stops to clip the knee of Orton, who is just now recovering, but this allows Cena to pick HHH up for the FU. HHH escapes the move and nails the Pedigree. Orton comes back with the Kick Of Death at 2 to break the cover and covers Cena himself for 3 to retain at 14:11. Surprising result, but since the top four matches were looking to have foregone conclusions, I guess they felt they had had to swerve us somewhere. Match wasn’t bad, but the whole Triple Threat concept makes it difficult work a coherent storyline within the match. All I got out of it was that Orton isn’t as good as the other two guys, but managed to luck out in the end. Would have been a good Raw Main Event, but this is Wrestlemania and I expect a little more. **1/2
Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather (w/Entourage)
Do we have to go through with this? Rules are announced as anything goes and win by pin, submission or knockout. The “best fighter in the world” only has about 900 bodyguards with him. I don’t follow boxing, but I understand Mayweather is 39-0, and he holds a win over (a well past his prime) Oscar De La Hoya, who I’ve at least heard of. Are any of his other wins against actual competition, or just scrubs? At least with UFC you can respect their champs, because first of all there aren’t 400 different ones in every weight class and they don’t give their top guys record padding wins against jobbers. If Ross and Lawler gave the verbal blowjob to their own talent even half as much as they’re doing for Freddie Joe Floyd they could create a new star every week. The match started about 2 minutes ago but not even any contact yet. They’re establishing that Mayweather has the speed advantage. Now we stop for a drink, and Show wakes the crowd by knocking bodyguard #276 off the apron. He then rips the guy’s shirt off and chops him to send a message. Finally Show catches a punch and takes Mayweather down, but Mayweather avoids the stomp to the hand. Ross puts the stomp over as more devastating than 50 Stone Cold Stunners, which again, if applied properly could help their own talent get over. In the corner now, and Mayweather grabs a chokehold/sleeper. This lasts for a while until Show briefly goes to his knee, but soon is back up and escapes the hold only to hit the OH MY FUCKING GOD THAT’S GOING TO KILL THIS MAN’S CAREER, AND RUIN THE LIVLIHOOD OF NOT ONLY HIM BUT HIS ENTIRE FAMILY, INCLUDING HIS CHILDREN, LEGITIMATE OR OTHERWISE EVEN IF THEY HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN BORN YET, ALL OF HIS FRIENDS, BOXING FANS ALL OVER THE WORLD SINCE THEY WOULD INEVETIBLY COMMIT SUICIDE OVER THE THOUGHT OF NEVER BEING ABLE TO SEE THIS AMAZING ATHLETE EVER COMPETE IN THE RING AGAIN, AND EVERY OTHER RANDOM CLOWN WHO HANGS OUT WITH HIM BECAUSE OF ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EVEN THOUGH THEY DON’T ACTUALLY GIVE A FUCK ABOUT HIM AS A PERSON STOMP TO THE HAND. That’s it, I’m done with play by play for this farce. Mayweather uses brass knux to get the KO at 11:36. Do I really need to add a post match opinion, or can you figure out for yourselves what I thought of it? -****
Main Event, World Heavyweight Title: Edge vs. The Undertaker
Now this is more like it. Certainly feels like a big match, and I’m even more pumped thanks to that promo earlier. Let’s hope they deliver. Edge shoves Taker to start out and backs him to the corner with punches. Corner whip is reversed and Taker nails a clothesline. He then clotheslines Edge over the top. Taker chases him out but gets caught coming back in. Taker is able to pull Edge throat first on the ropes though. Back in the ring, Taker rams Edge’s head to the buckle and hits an elbow. Corner whip but Edge gets the boot up on the charge. Irish whip by Edge, Taker ducks and comes back with the flying clothesline for 2. Arm wringer and Taker starts working the shoulder, then moves in to the Old School Rope Walk. Edge pulls him down, but he manages to roll through and send Edge to the corner. Knee in the corner and choke set up a running knee that Taker hits and then goes over to the outside. Taker gets to the apron, but Edge sends him crashing to the barrier. Baseball slide does it again, and this time Edge comes after him. He rams Taker’s back to the apron. Back up on the apron he nails a sort of neckbreaker. Edge is working the back with his shots. Charge in the corner hits followed by an elbowdrop and some stomps. Taker fires back, but can’t get a body slam due to the back hurting. Edge gets 2 from that. Dropkick, and Edge goes up. Taker shoves him to the outside and does a big dive to the outside. It’s still impressive seeing Taker do that. Taker hangs Edge over the apron and nails an elbow followed by a legdrop. 2 count for Taker when they get back in. Boot to the gut sets up the Last Ride, but the back is still too hurt. He comes off the ropes instead and runs in to Edge’s boot for 2. Edge kicks him right out of the ring where he drops Taker back first on the barrier. Back in, that gets a 2 count. Half crab, and he makes me happier by driving the knee to Taker’s back as well. Taker eventually counters to a small package for 2. Another leglock from Edge, but Taker kicks him off. Both guys are up and they trade punches and knees, with the crowd solidly behind Taker. Corner whip and 2 clotheslines lead to Taker hitting Snake Eyes, but when he comes back off the ropes Edge nails a dropkick. Off the 2nd rope, but Taker catches him by the throat. Edge goes low to escape. DDT gets a 2.5 count. Edge goes for the spear, but runs in to a knee. Chokeslam by Taker gets 2, so he tries Old School again only to be crotched by Edge. Superplex for a 2.5 count. He mounts Taker for punches in the corner, but Taker grabs him and nails the Last Ride. That gets 2.5 for Taker. Great match at this point. Taker tries a Tombstone, but Edge escapes and slams Taker down for another nearfall. Irish whip is reversed and they collide. The rope walk finally hits on the third try. Taker comes off the ropes, but misses Edge and KO’s the ref. Edge nails the inverted DDT and starts taunting Taker, but Taker grabs the throat. Edge goes low to get away, and goes out to grab a camera. Taker takes a shot with that, but Edge tries to revive the ref before covering. No dice on that. Edge tries his own Tombstone, but Taker reverses and hits the move. Charles Robinson sprints out down the long, long aisle but Edge kicks out at 2.5. Hawkins and Ryder are out now and they distract Taker long enough for Edge to nail a spear for 2.5. Edge is clearly frustrated now, so he sets up another spear, which hits but Taker wraps him up in the triangle choke anyways for the tap out at 23:52. Well, they were put in the Main Event slot, and they sure enough delivered a Main Event Championship match. Great story, with Edge throwing everything he has at Taker, but not being able to put him away, and then making one little mistake to lose the match. Edge is for sure a bona fide main eventer now, if he wasn’t already there, Taker showed he can still bring it at age 46, and he also got that great Wrestlemania match that his legacy has been lacking. ****1/4
Well, with one glaring exception (and if you paid $60 to see that joke I feel really sorry for you) I enjoyed the hell out of this show. Too early to tell where it fits in on any “greatest of all time list”, but I don’t see myself putting it at the top due to lack of a truly blow away match like we had at III, X, X-Seven, and XX. Don’t get me wrong, 2 **** matches along with a ***1/2 and a **1/2 make this well worth seeing again, and should certainly place it in the top ten. We’ll see in a few years how history treats it before making final judgment though. Certainly gets a Thumbs Up now, no doubt about it.