After leaving in 2004 to go into movies full time, it seemed like Rock was never going to be on WWE TV again. His contract ran out in a controversial fashion around 2005 and it shockingly wasn’t renewed. WWE cited a clerical error to explain the expiration. It seemed like there were tensions between the two parties, for whatever reason. As they say, time heals all wounds, and by 2008 he was back in the fold of things, and in 2011 he made his official return to WWE TV programing.
The Rock returned on an episode of Raw to a thunderous reaction. Why’d he return? To host WrestleMania, of course! But the bigger issue here was not over him being at WrestleMania, but being confronted by none other than John Cena, who previously said some not very nice things about him, generally that he’s off making Hollywood movies while he’s here busting his ass in the ring. The Rock didn’t take kindly to that, and when he returned in 2011 he made sure his first target was Cena.
The issue wasn’t over what John Cena had said. Maybe they alluded to it, I don’t really remember, but overall the theme of their feud was The Rock calling John Cena every name in the book while Cena just smiled and shrugged it off. Not the most interesting feud of all time, but hey, it would lead to a match. Just not this year, though. Instead of the Rock vs. John Cena, it was John Cena taking on….The Miz.
In 2015, that’s a hilarious thought. The Miz? The movie geek guy? The Real World reject? The one with the goofy hair that used to say HOO-RAH? Yeah, actually, that guy. To his credit, Miz won the Money in the Bank briefcase the previous year and continued to improve tremendously, both in the ring and as a persona. His promos were spot on and you can tell the guy was brimming with confidence. When he won the WWE title in late 2010, it was astonishing that the guy who almost certainly had zero future in the WWE when he was first called up was now the WWE champion, the top heel of the Raw brand.
The problem was, as great as Miz was coming off across, he still wasn’t John Cena and he most certainly wasn’t the Rock. When The Rock and John Cena badmouthed each other, The Miz was mostly in the background, trying to make sure people remember him by popping up every once in a while. I think the Rock said maybe two sentences about the Miz during the entire build up to WrestleMania. But I guess in the end, after the wonderful finish you’ll see in the main event, this show was not about John Cena winning the WWE title from the Miz. It was a four-hour show designed to get you interested for next year’s WrestleMania, which has the match everyone’s been waiting for. Kinda. Well, for some people at least.
Keri Hilson performs America the Beautiful this year. I don’t know who she is, but she was great.
The Rock came out to start the show and got, of course, a major reaction. He said we’re gonna have some FUN. I’m not here for fun. The fun is me watching a match or a fun promo, not you telling me I want fun. Of course, fun means code word for lame comedy. He ran down John Cena’s fruity pebble t-shirts. He had people chanting yabba dabba. He said his catchphrase and that’s it. Not sure what the point of this was, but people were into it.
World Heavyweight Championship – Alberto Del Rio vs. Edge ©: A world title is opening WrestleMania. It’s the secondary World Title but you don’t have to be so blindingly obvious about it. Lots of entourage around here — Del Rio had Ricardo Rodriguez, as well as Brodus Clay (pre-Funkasaurus). Edge, of course, had Christian in his corner. Edge gets a nearfall on Del Rio and tries for a spear but Del Rio ducks, allowing Brodus to post his arm. Del Rio locks in the armbar but Edge refuses to tap. Edge turns it into a pin then a sharpshooter but when Del Rio grabs the ropes, Christian kicks away Del Rio’s arm and hits a tornado DDT on Clay. They both get up and Edge hits a spear on Del Rio to retain the title. This would be Edge’s last match, ever actually, because shortly afterward announced he would have to retire due to spinal stenosis. Hey, he got to finish his career on top as World Heavyweight champion, so it’s a nice way to go out. ***1/4
Edge, because I guess he’s not really nice, along with Christian, proceed to destroy the really nice car Alberto del Rio came out in. Del Rio was in tears over his destroyed property.
Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio: So after being traded to Smackdown after last year’s WrestleMania Cody Rhodes became DASHING Cody Rhodes, who had a fun entrance and that’s about it. Then Rey Mysterio gave him a 619, “injured” him, and now became disfigured or something, even though he was wearing a clear face mask which revealed it looked like he had zero trauma. Maybe it was mental trauma, like after all those years everyone said how Kane’s face was burnt to hell, as it turned out the burns were MENTAL BURNS or something. No, it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but I digress. Rey came out as Captain (Latin) America and Michael Cole was appalled. He was grating.
They had a fine match, Mysterio was great and Cody was perfectly fine. Even though his knees were completely shot at this point, he’s such a great worker he’s able to to the little things that make a match way more fun than it should be. Cody’s mask fell off, Rey launches him into a 619, but Cody gets the knees up…kinda. It didn’t look good. Mysterio puts on the mask and hits the headbutt but Rhodes kicks out. Mysterio goes for a suicide dive but Cody hits Mysterio with the mask then hits the cross Rhodes for the pinfall. ***
Snoop Dogg and Teddy Long appeared backstage. I guess they’re trying to find a new act that’ll impress Snoop Dogg. A bunch of geeks came out and did stupid things. Oh, and William Regal rapped, that was cool. Hornswoggle came out and Snoop was impressed, but Teddy informed him that he didn’t speak, so they left. Hornswoggle then did a rap. This filled time.
The Corre vs. Kane, Big Show, Kofi Kingston & Santino Marella: Geekamania is running wild. Are Big Show and Kane just going to team off and on forever? Is this WWE’s destiny, to keep pushing these two 40+ year old guys until the end of time? This lasted approximately two minutes. Everyone hit their finishers, then Slater ate a cobra shot and a Big Show punch and got pinned. If there are two people I never need to see on WWE TV EVER AGAIN, let alone winning against guys who are better workers and half their age, it is Kane and Big Show, especially when they tag team. DUD
Rock is talking with Eve backstage. He says that the first person he sees walk through that curtain, he’s gonna make magic with, because that’s what WrestleMania is all about. It’s Mae Young, and from there old age jokes ensue. He sends Mae off with Eve and wonders out loud that anyone else could have been walking through that curtain. He turns around, and sure enough he’s face to face with Steve Austin. They exchange a few tense words before parting way.
CM Punk vs. Randy Orton: I remember this feud, because I found it amazingly absurd that only a few weeks after assembling the New Nexus with CM Punk, they got rid of it by sending all the geeks back to developmental. Well, mostly just Mason Ryan and Husky Harris. Think about that, someone came up with a name for a guy they saw potential in and they gave him THAT NAME. Sometimes I wonder if everyone on that roster is just set up to fail. Regardless, Husky would get a new lease on life later, as we’ll soon find out. As for this match, it was fine. Good, not great. A lot of time was spent on Punk working over Orton’s leg after a clever stair shot. Orton tries for the punt but his leg gives out. Orton fakes out of an RKO, but then Orton comes back with another RKO OUTTA NOWHERE~! as Punk set up for a springboard for the pinfall. ***1/4
The Rock is talking to Mean Gene, and tells him that he hears one of John Cena’s biggest fans is here to confront him. It’s Pee Wee Herman, which is actually funny. What isn’t funny is the actual segment. Eventually the punchline is Pee Wee decides to join Team Bring it and says “If you smell what the Pee is cooking”. I’m sure the only person that needed to laugh did.
The Road Warriors, Bullet Bob Armstrong, Drew Carey, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Abdullah the Butcher, Sunny and Shawn Michaels were all shown, having been inducted into the Hall of Fame the prior night.
Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler: Cole comes out and, since this is WWE in the last decade, threw some shots at JR, who was out to call commentary for the match. Oh, and Jerry Lawler too. Cole has Swagger in his corner as his “trainer”. Since he’s a geek, he was taken out immediately and Lawler proceeded to destroy him. Swagger comes back and jumps him, allowing Cole to get the heat. And when I mean the heat he works on him FOREVER. This was so unbelieveable. And by that I mean unrealistic. Lawler stomps the hell out of Cole and Swagger throws in the towel. The official, Stone Cold Steve Austin, proceeds to no sell this and stun Swagger when he argues. Jerry Lawler then hits the fist drop from the top rope and an ankle lock and Cole submits. This lasted too long, and the heat spot was ridiculous, but it wasn’t terrible. *
Steve Austin, Jerry Lawler and Booker T (who was also calling the action) celebrate in the ring, then Austin stuns Booker T after he does the spinaroonie because DTA, you know? Then all of a sudden, the beep sounds and it’s from the Anonymous General Manager, one of the laziest excuses for a heel GM device on planet Earth. It says that since Steve Austin overstepped his bounds as a referee, the match was a DQ, making Cole the winner. I thought the referee’s decision was final? Why did they need to do this? Why couldn’t they just have a nice resolution to all this? Because it’s convoluted WWE storytelling, that’s why.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H: They hyped this one by not saying a word, just looking at the sign and nodding. Hokey, yes, but it worked. The video package before the match was friggin awesome too, one of the best they’ve done. The match was a total smoke and mirrors affair. They brawled around the ring (this was a no holds barred match) and broke everything in sight, including the Cole Mine. Undertaker did his giant tope that looks scary every year that passes by, but soon gets spinebusters into the Spanish announce table. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were on commentary, but it felt like something was off. In recent years, as everyone knows, Vince McMahon has continually become more controlling over what people say on WWE programing, including the announcers who are being bombarded with things to say. It felt like that at times during this match, with long periods of silence, and that was kinda sad. They traded finisher attempts but they dodged them each time. Undertaker takes out Hunter and pelts him with chair shots. Triple H comes out with a pedigree but Undertaker kicks out. Undertaker comes back with the Last Ride but Triple H kicks out of that too. A Tombstone follows, but still Triple H kicks out at two. Triple H hits a DDT then follows with a pedigree but Undertaker kicks out again. Lots of finisher spamming, but its working here. I don’t like it too often, but if it’s only one bout per event that does it, then I’m cool with it. A third doesn’t do it either. Triple H yells at him to stay down and destroys him with chair shots.
Undertaker slowly gets up, then gets thrashed with one more chairshot to the head (he put his hand up at the last second, don’t worry). Undertaker scrambles to get up to his feet, with Triple H incensed that he won’t stay down. He grabs him and gives him a Tombstone…but still won’t give up. Triple H then takes out the sledgehammer as he looks to finish off Undertaker once and for all. Undertaker suddenly grabs him and puts him in the Hell’s Gate submission. Triple H tries his damnedest to escape the hold. He grabs the sledgehammer, but it falls to the ground, Triple H unable to get the energy needed to attack, and he submits. In terms of story, this was downright incredible. I thought this was a good match back then, but man was this so much better than I remember it being. ****3/4
Pyro display sounds off as 19-0 is shown on the entrance screen, but neither man is moving. Triple H is able to get to his feet and make his exit, but Undertaker isn’t. He eventually has to be carted out, which is weird. I guess being stretchered out is too much or something.
Laycool & Dolph Ziggler vs. John Morrison, Trish Stratus & Snooki: I’m not sure why they decided that doing a match involving Snooki would be big in GEORGIA, but hey, what do I know. I think Jersey Shore was the moment where TV officially jumped the shark, glorifying people who do stupid things to pop ratings, but then again that’s been TV for years. She’s eventually tagged in and hits a handspring elbow that didn’t look terrible, then another handspring splash for the win. Hey, they got their spots in and it wasn’t terrible. *3/4
The cast of Tough Enough was shown. Just to show you WWE’s eye for talent, the only one still on the roster four years later is the first one that got cut on the show.
WWE Championship: The Miz (c) vs. John Cena: Big entrances for both guys. The Miz had an awesome video set to “Hate Me Now” by Nas as they showed him on the Real World to him winning the WWE Title. And now he’s a midcard geek with a stupid gimmick who’s lucky to be wrestling at this point. No, really, there was a time where they were considering moving him to an announcing position. It’s only been four years since this match. WWE sucks at making stars but they sure know how to make someone feel like no one in seconds.
Cena came out to a church choir, with a video playing beforehand with a guy citing a prayer. This was kind of weird on a wrestling show, but it was interesting. They were having a good match, the crowd was into it. Miz hit the Skull Crashing Finale after Cena hit the turnbuckle but Cena kicked out. Ref bump. Cena hit the AA and got a visual pin. Miz kicked out and tried to hit Cena with a briefcase (why did he have a briefcase anyway?) but he hit Riley instead. Cena clotheslines Miz to the floor and into the barricade, then tackles him back down and Miz lands HARD on his head, causing a major concussion. Geez that looked scary. Then the referee counted them out. What a great finish to WRESTLEMANIA~!
The Rock then came out, but before he could speak the Raw GM sounded off. Rock walked over to the laptop, attempted to read what the computer said but couldn’t help but say “IT DOESN’T MATTER” and destroyed the laptop. He then restarted the match. Cena went for the AA immediately but Miz made it to the apron. Rock then laid out Cena with the Rock Bottom because he felt like it, I guess. Then Miz covered him and won. This is without a doubt the worst finish in WrestleMania history. Such a stupid move that did no one any favors. I don’t give a shit if it’s to build the match you really wanted next year, there are ways of doing it better. **1/2
To ensure no one got over with this finish AT WRESTLEMANIA, The Rock made sure to get back in the ring and lay out Miz with the People’s Elbow to end the show.
Final Thoughts: The Undertaker/Triple H match is awesome. Everything else, not so much. Wow was that main event finish bad, though. Like, that’s how you ended your biggest show of the year. Just…no. Though it’s still better than some of the other main event finishes I’ve seen this year on WWE programing, which says a lot.