I think the John Cena push turned a lot of people off from WWE programing. I mean, of course there are other factors but I think John Cena was the first pushed guy that got considerable backlash.
Yeah, Hogan got booed during parts of his run, and so did the Rock. But those were towards the ends of runs that helped them turned heel. As he likes to reference every now and again on TV, John Cena has never turned heel. Even though there’s been backlash with Cena on top since 2006, they’ve never even entertained the thought of doing it. Cena is Vince McMahon’s archtype of what he wants. He’s jacked to the gills, has an all-american look, does countless amounts of publicity, sells merch and goes with whatever idea comes across his mind. Why would he throw all that away just because the people boo him?
Of course, one has to understand that the business has changed. Cena appeals to kids. Kids love Cena and cheer the hell out of him whenver he makes his big entrance. Adult men hate him. He wears cartoony clothing, has the comedy acumen of a five year old and never acts sad or angry when he loses a title or a match. He’s not a person, he’s a somewhat cartoonish figure that not many adults can relate to, but kids like because he’s this person who always wins and does the right thing.
What’s funny, however, is that John Cena was being booed years before WWE went the PG route. It can probably be pinpointed to when he was drafted to Raw in mid-2005 and started feuding with the likes of Chris Jericho. He was still super green at the time, and not a good wrestler. Hence, when he started to gain big wins on the Raw brand, people were less forgiving than they were on Smackdown, where aside from Angle there weren’t a ton of great workers during his era anyway. The blinged out belt and the shift of character into a saluting All American guy wrestling in camo pants probably didn’t help matters either. All of these factors made Cena come off as a phony, and the last thing you need your top guy to come across is being phony.
Instead of changing direction, Vince McMahon was vehement on making this work. The plan for WrestleMania 22 was for Triple H, who always found his way back to the title scene, taking on the newcomer champion John Cena. It was established coming into this match that the veteran Triple H was the clear favorite heading into this match against Cena, and now Cena had to face a situation where he had a very good chance of losing , with no one really thinking he could pull one off. As we’ve seen in recent year, Vince loves the underdog story, and this year John Cena had to overcome the odds to beat the game.
Meanwhile, Vince McMahon continued to be crazy and old. His character, that is. Bret Hart had been announced this year as being inducted into the hall of fame, and Vince McMahon cleared a whole segment on Raw just to give his thoughts on the deal. Shawn came out and told him to get over it, he did years ago. An incensed Vince McMahon then focused his attention on Shawn for the next few months, mocking his religion and trying to convince him to go back to the Shawn Michaels of old. HBK never deterred, however, and soon they’d square off at WrestleMania in a no holds barred match.
As for Smackdown, the brand’s main storyline centered around Rey Mysterio and his quest to in the World Heavyweight Championship for Eddie’s memory. Vince McMahon, for whatever reason, decided to relentlessly use Eddie Guerrero’s name for storyline purposes, something that didn’t set right with the majority of the wrestlers, fans, and even writers. Everyone remembers the line that Orton gave to Mysterio saying that Eddie Guerrero was in hell. It was tacky and offensive, but at the end of the day it’s one man’s product, and he thought what he was doing was fine. I’ll never get it, and a lot of people will never get it, but it happened, so what can you do?
Anyway, the story was that Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble and was going to face the champion for the title. But of course, underdog story, so somewhere along the way Orton beat Mysterio to win his WrestleMania title shot. Why, I have no idea. Smackdown GM Teddy Long announced that it would be a triple threat match between Mysterio, Orton, and then champion Kurt Angle. Why? Again, I have no idea. Mysterio should have been hot coming into the match and not lose a single match, but here we are and Mysterio has lost plenty of times coming in to his big match, which was cut to nine minutes due to time constraints. Yes, the championship match of the Smackdown brand was cut for time, so that should tell you how that brand was looked upon back in the day.
Michelle Williams from the group Destiny’s Child (the one not Beyonce and the one that did not get ousted from the group or killed by Freddy Kruger) sang America the Beautiful. It was good!
Chris Masters and Carlito vs. Big Show and Kane (c): In 2006, Big Show and Kane were teaming up. In 2015, Big Show and Kane are teaming up. What is with WWE’s utter fascination with these two? I so hope they aren’t around by 2025. Also, Chris Masters. Man, talk about bringing up a guy way too early. He was called up at 22 because he was gigantic and, well, sucked. Then they fired him because they didn’t have anything for him. They brought him back, suddenly became pretty good, then cut him again because they didn’t have anything for him. Keep in mind he’s only 32 now, right around the same age as Finn Balor and Hideo Itami in NXT. The early part of the match was Big Show and Kane doing power spots. Carlito and Masters get the heat when Carlito undoes a turnbuckle and Big Show kind of just walks right into it. Kane misses a clothesline and walks into the Masterlock ut Big Show snakes eyes Masters, Carlito takes out Kane with a backstabber and together they clip Big Shows leg taking him out. Masters accidently sledges Carlito, which allows Kane to chokeslam Carlito for the win. **
Masters and Carlito argue after the match, signaling maybe a potential breakup. I think Carlito went face after this. In the long run, doesn’t matter. They already had the mentality he didn’t work hard for his spot, then sure enough it started to appear that way on TV, then his push went nowheresville. Funny how that works out.
Shawn Michaels is interviewed. He says don’t expect the classic five star wrestling match. Tonight, it’s gonna get ugly. I never like it when people tell me don’t expect a five star classic. You’re telling me it’s going to be a bad match when it probably won’t be.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Participants this year are Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Finlay (!), Rob Van Dam, Bobby Lashley and Ric Flair. Lashley was put as the focus of the match by overpowering everyone. Everyone had to work together to take him out. Flair got laid out with a huge back body drop off the ladder and to the floor and had to be taken to the back. Flair comes back a few minutes later, and manages to get the ladder, but Finlay gets the shilalie and knocks him to the floor. Lashley comes back but RVD fires off with a Van Terminator into the back of Lashley. Matt climbs, but Finlay grabs him, only for Hardy to reverse and take him out with a side effect. RVD climbs next but Shelton springboards over and jumps on the ladder. He’s super athletic, no doubt. Shelton moves over to the ladder Matt Hardy brings but RVD pushes them both off, sending them to the floor as he grabs the briefcase and wins. Some cool spots, but nowhere near the same realm of the original. ***1/4
Josh Matthews, with a mullet for whatever reason, says that was a five-star Money in the Bank ladder match. Well, judging by my star rating, no. What is with WWE guys and star ratings tonight? He introduces Mean Gene, but gets cut off by Orton who cuts a generic promo about his match when Batista comes in, who has been out for a while due to injury. He likes to remind him that whoever has the belt now is just holding it for him until he gets back. He makes sure to mention that by WrestleMania 23, he’ll be the champion again. Let’s see if that’s true!
Hall of Fame ceremony time. Finkel makes sure to note that Bret Hart, who was also inducted this year, felt uncomfortable and wouldn’t participate in tonight’s ceremony. I never got why he accepted the Hall of Fame induction but did not participate at WrestleMania, but the whole situation here is so weird still I guess it doesn’t matter. Those who came out were Mean Gene, Sensational Sherri, Tony Atlas, Verne Gagne, William “The Refrigerator” Perry (who actually got a big pop, a rare occurrence for a celebrity inductee), The Blackjacks, and Eddie Guerrero, which Vickie comes out on his behalf and receives a major ovation.
WWE United States Championship – Chris Benoit (c) vs. JBL: The story to this match is that if JBL beat Benoit, then he’d be the best technical wrestler in the world. Chris starts off by taking him down and trying to get the crossface in, but JBL cuts him off with some brawling, definitely no technical maneuvers. Chris comes back and tries for a headbutt but JBL cuts im off and mocks Eddie Guerrero while doing it, including hitting the three amigos. It’s not needed, but of course it is because it garners a reaction that Vince likes. That’s a common theme throughout this show. Benoit makes a comeback, hits the three amigos and hits the headbutt (looking at the way he does it, I cringe because…well…) but it’s only a nearfall. JBL hangs on to the ropes, Benoit lets go but JBL catches him with an elbow. He goes for the clothesline from hell but Benoit turns it into the crossface. JBL rolls over and cradles him, grabbing the ropes for the three count and the title. This was a fine match with overtones that made me cringe. ***
The official theme song for WrestleMania 22 is Big Time by Peter Gabriel. WWE, always on the cusp of mainstream relevancy.
Hardcore Match – Edge vs. Mick Foley: Joey Styles, who took over briefly during Raw when Vince was in one of his moods and wanted Jim Ross out, only to bring him back a few months later, came back here to call this match. They went back and forth until Edge LAID WASTE to him with some cookie sheets. I know those bend easily, but the sounds they make aren’t fun. Foley comes back and takes out a barbed wire 2×4, but Lita comes in and grabs him. Edge comes back and sets up a table. Edge takes Foley then slams him in the back of the head on the ramp. That didn’t make a fun sound either. Edge takes out LIGHTER FLUID and puts it all over Foley but he comes back with a piledriver but Edge kicks out. Foley goes to give Edge the conchairto but Lita distracts again, allowing Edge to come back. He grabs the barbed wire at and smacks it across his chest and right between the eyes. Edge introduces thumbtacks, but he’s the one who takes the bump into them. Foley sets up the table, lights it on fire, but Lita low blows him, allowing Edge to spear the almighty out of Foley into the table. Both of them completely out of it, Edge slowly covers Foley and gets the win. An amazing, brutal match that went to the limits most WWE matches don’t go to. Foley got the Mania moment he had been looking for. ****1/4
Booker and Sharmell are in the back, all creeped out that they have to face the Boogeyman in a bit. They come across Paul Burchill, Eugene, Moolah and Mae Young, SNITSKY (who was all over Mae’s feet), and Goldust dressed up as Oprah since they’re in Chicago. Goldust says that Booker needs to unleash his inner freak in order to take on Boogeyman, but Booker T ignores him and walks away.
Booker T and Sharmell vs. The Boogeyman: The latter is billed from “The bottomless pit.” Where is that? Why is the Boogeyman from there? His character was never explained other than he’s weird and pops up in places. Sharmell of all people starts things, but it’s a ruse as Booker attacks him from behind. Booker works him over until Boogeyman cuts him off and gives him the weakest post ever. Sharmell tries to attack him with the staff, but Boogeyman (eatings worms while Sharmell crept up on him) turns around and makes out with Sharmell with worms in his mouth. She freaks out and leaves as Booker walks into a tree slam for the win. The definition of a buffer zone match. DUD
WWE Women’s Championship – Trish Stratus (c) vs. Mickie James: This angle centered around the debut of Mickie James, crazy fan who really, REALLY liked Trish Stratus. Trish was fine with it at first, but Mickie eventually went into the deep end, then ended up attacking her, setting up this match here. James worked over the knee for the first part of the match. James felt so comfortable with this role people were cheering for her and booing Trish. She comes back by grabbing Mickie off the top rope with a powerbomb. Trish goes for the Stratusfaction, but Mickie counters by grabbing Trish’s vaginia. Yes, that happened. They edited out the part where she makes a rather rude gesture involving the female anatomy (I’ll leave that up to reader imagination). I also think there was a spot where they completely missed the stratusfaction bulldog, but that was edited out. She uses this to chick kick Trish and pin her to win the title. Solid while it lasted. **1/4
All the McMahons are backstage, including Vince who I guess is auditioning as a buff oompa loompa after the show is over. As in, he was outrageously fake tan. They have a McMahon Family Prayer. He says you and me have never been close, God, but tonight he’s going to take Shawn to the fiery depths of hell, AMEN!
Casket Match – Mark Henry vs. The Undertaker: I can’t believe this was a WrestleMania match. Look, both guys are fine, but Mark Henry was never a great worker and let’s be real, the best matches Undertaker had were with some great workers. Mark Henry did have cool gold knee pads, though. Back and forth match. Undertaker had the advantage early but Henry cut him off after an old school attempt and eventually hits the world’s strongest slam but there are no pinfalls. Henry takes him to the corner and mounts him with punches but actually counters with the last ride. He then follows with the big suicide dive, then the tombstone, and that’s it. Better than I remember it being. **1/2
Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels: HBK comes out swinging, including beating Vince over the head with his cover of Muscle and Fitness (not the new even more ludicrous 2015 one, by the way) until the Spirit Squad came in. Who are the Spirit Squad? They were all OVW guys with potential who were bought up to be cheerleaders. Seriously. You think people today aren’t over. Shawn amazingly is able to beat all five of them up, including throwing Kenny over the top rope to the outside, wiping out the rest of the Squad. Vince comes back and starts whipping Shawn with his belt. They actually had some back and forth, but Shawn getting the better of it. Shawn goes for the superkick but then Shane comes in and whacks Shawn with a kendo stick. They try and get him to kiss Vince’s ass, literally, but it backfires as HBK comes back and sticks Shane’s face in Vince’s ass. This is the kind of stuff that makes me embarrassed to watch this with other people in the room. HBK handcuffs Shane, takes out a chair and smacks Vince with it, then takes out a ladder and introduces Vince’s face with it. He sets Vince on a table, but then climbs down the ladder and removes it. He grabs a bigger ladder, puts a trash can over Vince, hits the elbow, then pins him. Long and overbooked, but it told a good story, like with most of Vince’s matches. **3/4
Fun fact: Kenny of the Spirit Squad is 28 years old as of this writing. Finn Balor is 33.
Also, I love the fact that all the commentators were putting over how brutal the last match was, all while Edge and Mick Foley bled buckets, used barbed wire and one of them was set on fire.
World Heavyweight Championship – Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle: Because the previous match went long, this one was cut to nine minutes. POD played out Mysterio. So in other words, this was a fast paced match. Huge double German suplex spot with Rey Mysterio flying like he was a rag doll. He comes back to hit the 619 but Angle counters and hits the ankle lock. Orton gets a chair but Angle takes him out, then proceeds to just fly everyone around with Germans. He angle slams Mysterio out of the ring and hits the ankle lock on Orton but Mysterio grabs the ref. Angle takes him out and locks it in again but Mysterio comes back with a springboard legdrop for a nearfall. Angle takes out Orton on the top rope, but Mysterio comes back with a springboard splash. Orton takes out Angle and lays out Mysterio with a neckbreaker, but Mysterio comes back, taking out Orton, then coming back with the 619 then a springboard hurricanrana into a pin for the win and the title. Given the time, this was really, really good stuff. ***3/4
A emotional Mysterio celebrates with Chavo and Vickie. This was good, but knowing how Mysterio would be booked after this (read: horribly) it sort of puts a damper on things.
They proceeded to show Triple H and John Cena prepare for the main event. JR made sure to point out that John Cena had to work for everything that was given to him while Triple H always got the best facilities. He also mentioned that John Cena was “the most controversial champion in WWE history”. Think about it, he’s gotten the same mixed reactions for almost ten years. Does this ring any bells when it comes to a certain other performer with questionable overness coming into this years WrestleMania?
Playboy Pillow Fight – Torrie Wilson vs. Candice Michelle: They really couldn’t cut this to give more time to the previous match? Lilian also said that this was the first-ever Playboy Pillow Fight, but really it’s a combination of the stripper match they did at 19 and 20 combined into one 4 minute match. Torrie was on offense for most of the match, including using her dog to stink face Candice. She then rips off her clothes, but Candice catches her with a boot to the corner and puts her back on the bed that’s in the ring. She strips Torrie of her clothes and smashes her issue of Playboy in her face (?) but Torrie catches her in a rollup and pins her. Terrible and devoid of heat. -1/2*
WWE Championship – John Cena (c) vs. Triple H: The challenger came out wearing a Conan the Barbarian like entrance. John Cena got a big entrance with a mobster like theme. One of the mobsters included a little known wrestler by the name of CM Punk who we’ll be seeing more of later. He came out in a trenchcoat and fired some blanks as he headed to the ring. The crowd was clearly behind Triple H. He starts off early by throwing Cena to the floor, but he fires back and comes forward with some offense, including a fisherman’s suplex. Triple H even takes a huge Flair bump into the turnbuckle and to the outside. He continues with the heat until Cena finally clears him out with a lariat. The crowd’s booing this viciously. Triple H takes him out with a spinebuster, but Cena comes back and locks in the STFU. Triple H grabs the ropes as Cena prepares for an FU but Triple H shoves him into the ref and lows blows both. He crotch chops Cena (Shawn was doing this too, so you knew a DX run was imminent) then goes to the ring and grabs the sledgehammer. Cena tries to fight back but Triple H blasts him with it for the nearfall. Cena fires back with the FU but Triple H kicks out. Cena misses a crossbody as Triple H tries for the pedigree but Cena turns it into the STF, and eventually Triple H has no option but to tap out. ***1/4
John Cena celebrates his title win to an indifferent crowd as even Cena looks depressed that no one cared about him in this arena. The show then quickly goes off the air, no big celebration, no nothing.
A pretty good show, highlighted by the sick hardcore match. Vince and Shawn had a fun, overbooked mess of a match and the Money in the Bank match was still fun. The buffer zone matches were bad, but at least they were short. The main event was what it was. I have a feeling that we’ll see something very reminiscent at WrestleMania 31. Cena had his good crowd and his bad crowds, but he’s never gotten past those mixed reactions. Nearly ten years later he still has them. Roman Reigns is probably going to be more of the same. It’s the WWE Big Brother mentality more than anything that causes it. Instead of letting things happen organically, they have to make things happen and you have to cheer this guy or else. I mean, that’s fine if you want to do that, but good luck in getting the needed reactions for your top guy if you’re gonna go that route.