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WWE presents WrestleMania 22 
April 2, 2006

by The Rick
Undisputed Lord and Master of OnlineOnslaught.com


I want some kind of big time (get it?) cookie from you people, dammit....
Because in the PPV Preview, I pretty much nailed every important thing that wound up happening at WrestleMania 22.

No, I didn't necessarily have my predictions come true across the board, but in the preview-y sections and stuff, I said a lot of things that nobody else had been saying about WM22, and for the most part, I hit it

out of the park. In the big picture, in the analysis, in the getting-a-finger-on-the-pulse kind of way, it was a killer preview.

One of the little things I'm proud of is that I guessed at some of the Fan Mutiny issue, and I had a WAY less-insulting explanation for it than WWE did. "Tradition" vs. "Hip Hop"? Really? You fucktards. How about "people who've been fans of this genre for years vs. teenage girls who don't know any better," instead? Which doesn't even begin to touch on the problems faced by Trish and Rey tonight, but we'll get to all that later on...

I also correctly prophesied that this would be a difficult crowd because the type of wanker who stands in line for days to get WM tickets that sell out in 2 minutes is probably Not My Kind Of Person. You're probably more an Impact Zone Kind Of Person. Which is another reason why tonight's WM22 PPV seemed to be broadcast from Orlando, Illinois. But that's not really anything I care to dwell on. I've made a living for years making fun of Wrestling Dorks and how they all need to just go read the Observer and leave me alone.... at this point, if I antagonize my audience, I'm probably just antagonizing my handful of loyal followers. No need to do that....

But MOSTLY, I'm proud that I nailed it PERFECTLY with my "greasy spoon" analogy. The one where WWE utterly failed to set the table or create any kind of atmosphere, ambiance, or expectations about our WrestleMania Meal. But where the cooks in the back still had a few tasty treats in store if we were willing to show up. Dead on. I am a genius. And I only had to talk to two guys higher up the wrestling foodchain than is normal for me to sort of get that optimistic blood flowing in the last week.... though to be fair, one of them only contacted me so I would sneak in some hints about what he had in store for his WM match, so I was just being a whore, really.

Nevertheless, WrestleMania is exactly what I wound up expecting: a show where I didn't really have any expectations. I didn't, in any visceral way, CARE about any of the matches or outcomes. But it was still a show where I ended up being massively entertained by most of the show. Yes, there were notable exceptions to this, but they WERE in the minority. 

So I don't know what that means for you.... if you skipped WM22 for all the reasons why I was less fired up for this show than any Mania in nearly a decade, I don't really know if I can sell you on the replay or not.

My gut says Foley/Edge might make it worthy your dollar. But then my brain remembers that the price tag on this one was a redonkulous $50, and realizes that every other match/outcome won't really be worth seeing after you see tomorrow's RAW. Foley/Edge really was sweet and unpredictable; everything else? Even if it was fun and entertaining, it pretty much peaked at ***-ish and not exactly historically significant or anything you'll be saving for your video collection.

Hopefully I can do the so some justice by just cutting the prelude and getting to the steak, and based on that, maybe you can make a better decision? For WM, we eschew the lazy-man PPV Recap Format, and we go all the way to 100% Effort RAW Recappening Format. I hope you enjoy. And that you say a prayer for my attention span and my patience, since lord knows I'm not getting any kind of bail out tomorrow night for RAW itself. Here goes.... 

Cold Open, Musical Style: We get "America the Beautiful" by Michelle Williams. Wow, she looks about as pleased and enthusiastic to be here as me at a Randy Orton Fan Convention. And she didn't exactly hit the ball out of the park or anything. I lack the lingo (I gave up when I couldn't stop laughing at what a stupid word "Pitchy" was), but her voice seemed really thin and uninspirational for such a noble tune. Then again, I think anyone whose panties are moistened by idols who are judged by the accuracy of their eyeball-roll-inducingly-pointless "vocal runs" are morons, and will stand by my criteria of only getting fired up by singers who can kick some ass and Own The Room. I again expose my man-vagina by admitting that I've recently seen Kelly Clarkson executing this trick. And I'm in no way ashamed to admit that I think Lillian Garcia would have done it just fine here in this spot, done it with more balls (I mean that as a compliment), and done so without giving off the vibe of "OK, so where's my check?".

Opening Video Stuff: One Official WM Theme Song accompanies past WM Moments. A second one accompanies clips of this year's WM line-up. They both suck balls. Combine these with the fact that "Big Time" is the OTHER WM Theme Song, and you really have to wonder if WWE has any concept of what's cool anymore. Even fucking CBS (motto: "TV For Your Grandpa") has had some pretty kick-ass video/music bumpers for the NCAA Tourney this year to make up for the fact that we all know that -- whether we like it or not -- we're getting "One Shining Moment" tomorrow night. Yet WWE is dead-set on setting their clips to artists that are has-beens or never-wasses. How many years has it been since the "Desire" montages, specifically "Lonely Road of Faith," anyway? Put *that* guy back in charge (unless he's just too old and out of touch and that why these things suck), and you'll get back to producing Hype Videos that are so neat that you're lawyers will be harassing YouTube.com about them for the next week, because fans actually want to watch them, dum dums.....

Opening Pyro/Etc., and we're live in Chicago, IL, where Jim Ross is reunited with Jerry Lawler to welcome us. And while I was kind of against the mechanics of how that played out, I am VERY pleased to report that Jonathan Coachman and his Suckitude are nowhere to be seen! A quick pan reveals that we also have a SD! announce team and a Spanish announce team to go with the RAW announce team [SPOILER: none of their tables get broken!], and then we cannot dawdle, so let's head to the ring....

Big Show/Kane vs. Carlito Cool/Chris F. Masters (Tag Team Title Match) 

Carlito opens the match by suggesting that his dimbulb partner start. The champs open the match by making Chris F. Masters their bitch. No complaints here!

Masters eventually rakes the eyes of Big Show, and makes a tag to Carlito (well, he slapped Carlito, who was in no rush to get into the match, and the ref called it a tag). Carlito registers some annoyance at CFM, and gets a HUGE "Car-lee-to, Car-lee-to" chant (the biggest crowd response of the whole match, actually) as he enters. Carlito opts to put the still-dazed Big Show in a knuckle lock. Show doesn't even register this for 30 seconds, instead, still selling the eye-rake. Then, finally, Show looks up, and sees Carlito REALLY CINCHING the knucklelock, and gives a look that says "Where'd you come from?".... funny shit.

Show, of course, then goes on a tear. Kane gets in on the action. And there's some Pier Four brawling that eventually ends with Kane tossing Carlito out, then Show tossing Masters out of the ring onto Carlito. And then, Kane dived off the top rope onto both men. Nice. [Note: this was the First WM Ever to be viewing using a DVR Time Shift, and my Inner RAW Recapper practically HEARD the announcer shoot us to a commercial break at this point.... I managed to keep my finger off the FF button at the last second. I saved that for bloated video packages and whatnot.]

Though there weren't any


the action did slow down a bit, and eventually picked up again with Show in the ring against Masters. And before too long, Show got sent into a turnbuckle, which had been craftilly de-padded and exposed by Carlito. Show becomes your babyface in peril for a bit. Or what passed for it, anyway. We're not exactly dilly-dallying in this match.

About 60 seconds later: hot tag to Kane, and he goes to town on both heels. Then the 1-on-2 catches up with him for a second, and CFM actually locks in the Shitty Full Nelson briefly. But Big Show boots Masters in the face. That leaves Kane with the legal man, Carlito. There's a bit of back-and-forthy, but not much. Because about 30 seconds into it, Masters gets back in the ring and tries to interfere, but instead he whaps his own partner in the head. Kane then follows up with the chokeslam. Done and done. And I mean done.

Your Winners, and STILL Champions: Big Show and Kane, via pinfall, in about 5-6 minutes. Nothing fancy here, and sadly, they eschewed the "quick, crowd pleasing squash" and "surprise putz upset title win" options in favor of just doing a Monday Night TV Special. The fact that Carlito got the biggest response of this whole match tells you everything you need to know.... and I say that as a Carlito fan. It's just that I think you could have done more than a six minute throw-away here....

After the Match: Kane and Show left, but Carlito and Masters bickered briefly. Then Carlito just left, too. Oy. Again, I like Carlito. I like him enough to not want to see him be asked to make anybody give a shit about Chris Masters in a new one-on-one feud. That could get ugly. And it could set Carlito back a year in his development, for that matter.

Backstage: Coach, relegated to interviewing duties, has Shawn Michaels with him. Heelish Coach tries to get Shawn to act scared or remorseful about tonight's match against Vince, but Shawn is balls-out.... in very Un-Jesus-y Fashion, Shawn says he regrets nothing about what he's said/done to Vince, and he doesn't regret what he'll do to Vince tonight. Which he insinuates will be ultra-violent and not anything we've seen out of HBK in a long, long time. In fact, he promises to send Vince to his own "personal hell."

Money in the Bank 2: RVD vs. Flair vs. Shelton vs. Lashley vs. Finlay vs. Hardy (Ladder Match)

You know what? I can't do this match justice. Spotfests are like that. This is why I'd suck at doing TNA PPVs. Either I'd like it and I'd say "Holy Shit, see this match" or I'd be so jaded that I'd say, "Meh, nothing new here."

For MitB2, I'm somewhere in the middle of that continuum, but leaning towards "see this match." Almost entirely because of Shelton Benjamin. He was incredible tonight. Ladder-ramped Sentons, Spidey-action, the whole nine.

As far as story went, they "wrote Flair out" with a knee injury after about 3 minutes, but then he came back for the heroic return (only to get about one clean shot at the MitB Briefcase, and then be written out again). Beyond that, it was a lot of cycling guys in and out of Ladder Teases, and then throwing them off in variously-impressive fashions. I think the only guy who didn't get a legit "I Might Win This" Tease was Lashley.

Final spot had RVD going up. And then, out of nowhere, Shelton sprang onto the ladder on the opposite side of RVD to start punching him. Holy Shit. I bet that would have looked sweet, if only we weren't subject to Kevin Dunn's ass-hatted direction. Look, plus ten for some of your little tricks (changing camera angles at moments of impact to hide flubbed moves, for instance), but minus several million for not just trusting the TV viewers to SEE WHAT THE LIVE AUDIENCE SEES. Normally, I hate how it's fakey and cheesy and is used solely to create false senses of drama by using close-ups to hide run-ins and stuff. But here, by not just shooting this like a Real Sports Event, we actually missed a few high spots. Including this sweet one by Shelton.

Seriously: Pop Quiz, OO Nation.... what's more dramatic and exciting to you? RVD going up a ladder in close-up and suddenly having Shelton pop in from out of nowhere with no explanation to stop him? Or RVD going up a ladder in a wide-shot, with you getting to see Shelton spot the threat and hit a sweet ass springboard move to make the last second save? If you answered the former, please report to the underside of Kevin Dunn's balls for Tonguing Duty.

Regardless of how it was recorded for posterity, Shelton DID however, make the sweet-ass save, and started punching RVD. Then, crafty Ladder Match Veteran that he is, Matt Hardy saw this and set up a Bonus Ladder adjacent to the one already occupied by RVD/Shelton.... he climbed it.... he nearly got the briefcase.... so Shelton changed gears again.... convinced that RVD was KO'ed, Shelton leapt effortless to that other ladder and started punching Hardy. Neat. 

Problem was that RVD wasn't KO'ed. RVD had his wits about him enough to shove the Adjacent Ladder aside, sending Shelton and Hardy to the floor. Then RVD reached up and got the briefcase. He's already Mr. PPV and Mr. Monday Night. Now he's Mr. Money In The Bank, too.

Your Winner: Rob Van Dam, via ladder ascension, in about 10 minutes. A bit shortish, but they packed a lot in, and I think the pacing helped keep this from being exposed as a loosely-connected series of spots. Instead, it seemed taut and dramatic. Good fun.

Backstage: WWE Diva Josh Matthews is supposed to interview Mean Gene Okerlund.... but the two are interrupted quickly by Randall Orton. Ummm, Randall? I don't know how much of it was "shoot" and how much of it was fellatio, but that part that Hulk Hogan said at the Hall of Fame about Mean Gene being priceless at helping get tongue-tied wrestlers out of tight spots so they could deliver sweet promos? If it's even VAGUELY true, sending Okerlund packing is the dumbest thing you ever did. And trust me, kid, you stink of "moron," so that's saying something. Orton briefly brags to Matthews about winning the World Title later tonight, but he's RE-interrupted.... by Batista (who needs to powerbomb his barber, from the looks of things). Batista assures Orton (and all of us) that it doesn't matter how wins tonight, since the World Champ is just keeping things warm till Batista comes back. Which will be VERY soon. Good. Punctuate with a manly slap on the shoulder from Batista (and an attempt at cowering fear by Orton), aaaaaaaaaaaannnndddd SCENE.

Hall of Fame Recap: They dust off Howard Finkel to announce the Hall of Fame 2006 Inductees for quick cameos. No Bret Hart, instead Vickie Guerrero gets the Main Event spot of the Class of 2006 (which is fine, since from what I saw, Eddie's induction out-awesomed Bret's by a wide margin; I honestly do think, sad to say, that Bret lacks perspective and kinda takes stuff too seriously to make something like this FUN; I would also like to say that the two biggest surprises of Hall of Fame 2006 were Sherri Martel looking better than she did 10 years ago in WCW and being HIGH-LARIOUS in her speech, and John Cena actually doing the funniest/most-me-like thing I've seen him do in ages, likely because the Writer Monekys got the night off and he could be himself).

Chris Benoit vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (US Title Match)

This one had the taint of "House Show" on it. And, like, third-match-on-a-house-show. They started slow, like maybe they were going somewhere, but then they didn't, really. The crowd was out of it (because of the ladder match? Nah, because there was no build up for this, and no reason to care).

After slow, basic, back-and-forth (side headlock count was at 4 or 5 before anything exciting happened), Benoit seemed to gain an edge with the Hat Trick of Germans. But he got falsely optimistic after those, and whiffed on the top rope headbutt, letting JBL get control.

JBL did nothing particularly interesting. The only heat he got was from mimmicking/mocking Eddie Guerrero. Once JBL noticed this, he paused between every freaking move to do a shimmy-shake dance, and started getting diminishing returns. How utterly unshocking.

After making sure to sap whatever latent heat there might have been here with one of his patented 2-minute headlocks, JBL's big finish to his Formula Beatdown was to attempt to hit Eddie's Three Amigo Suplex Trifecta on Benoit.... no dice. Benoit countered out on the third one and started a rally.

There's a shimmy-shake dance by Benoit. The Eddie chest slap. This is looking like the big finish. Benoit hits the Swandive Headbutt this time.... but JBL kicks out. OK, that's a disappointment, but Benoit's demeanor says he's got another ace up his sleeve. Before he can get to it, though, he needs to soften JBl back up again with another German.

But JBL "counters" that by holding on to the referee. Predictably, this pisses off Benoit, who decides to have a confab with the ref about allowing himself to be used as a prop like that..... and while Benoit's distracted, JBL's bounding off the opposite ropes, with the Lariat all warmed up.

But Benoit's got that scouted, and grabs JBL's arm, and takes him down into the Crossface..... but just as Benoit cinches it, JBL uses his weight (and not that JBL ever looked like he was on the roids, but since the new drug policy JBL sure is packing some extra weight; or maybe that's just a spare tire from his injury downtime?) to roll Benoit over onto his back. Even while cinched in the Crossface, JBL has Benoit's shoulders on the mat. Throw in some "illegal leverage" (of the kind that would make Sir Isaac Newton -- or any student of Physics 201 -- cry) from holding the ropes, and you've got a new US Champ.

Your Winner and NEW Champion: JBL, via pinfall, in about 10 minutes. I said in the preview there was nothing here, and I was right. JBL's not the kind of guy who can let Benoit have a "Benoit Match" (the kind that just enraptures the crowd with its realness), and the lack of build-up or storytelling meant we couldn't have a "JBL Match" (the kind predicated on character and personality and drama). Just flat-as-hell. Not bad, but flat. Bland. Boring. And nothing against JBL as US Champ (it's actually a good spot for him), but my preference is to save title changes until you have a match that MEANS SOMETHING. Which clearly, this one did not. Too bad.....

Video Hype: Huh, an hour in, and our first one of these superfluous video packages. Maybe my 30 minute time-shift was too generous? This package, by the way, is for our next match, which is.....

Mick Foley vs. Edge (Hardcore Rules)

First out: Joey Styles, who joins JR and King to call this match. Though to be honest, he mostly just joins King. It seemed like JR powdered out. I'm sure this was Mick going to bat for HIS friend (just like Austin does for JR), and I gotta say: the results were excellent. Some matches really benefit from a style of commentary that is a bit "smarter" and less-insulting than the WWE/Vince McMahon style, and this was one of them. No wonder the Fed trusted Joey with this match, instead of any other.....

Second out: Mick Foley, who is moist again this week. You've been following along. You know what I think that means. And this time, I'm right. Mick is also wearing an ugly, non-flannel over-shirt and looking slightly-chunkier than he really is. Keep all this in mind.

Third out: Edge, who is accompanied by a baseball bat. And who has taken notes from Shawn Michaels and knows that the secret to winning hardcore matches is not wearing tights. So Edge has busted out the bedazzlered cargo pants. [Ladies: I'm led to believe it doesn't work quite the same way on you that it does on me, but just in case Edge is one of your TV boyfriends and thus such things interest you, the ONLY Ass Cleavage at WM22 was Edge's. BOO! says I.] He's also accompanied by Lita. And Lita's boobs. Good gawd. I hate tits that fake. I've met Lita and didn't come close to being smitten by her charms. And yet, week in and week out, I am struck by the biological necessity to do filthy things to her. I think my Discriminating Gentlemen's Club fees must be in arrears or something.... I'll get that cleared up, and I'll be back to my usual good-taste-having self here soon. Promise. I can only hope that when that happens, I can lose this disgusting and distasteful newfound lust for pop-star "Pink," too. She is loathsome. Yet, somehow, completely worthy of the affection (as measured in fluid ounces) that I'd be willing to bestow upon her.

I digress: match on, bitches.

Super-hot start for Mick, who brought the fists o' fury and put a very basic pummeling on Edgeward. Punctuated that with an Elbow Drop of Woe, in memory of Tajiri. Then Lita caused a distraction, and Edge managed to comeback with all manner of vicious Cookie Sheet Shots. On one hand: Foley didn't bother putting a hand up to protect himself. On the other: they're fricking cookie sheets, and if you pay me $10, I'd do the same thing, since two drinks oughta be about enough to fix that ouchie. Still, it's a killer visual, and an even better sound effect. Edge then finishes up with a traffic sign shot to to Mick's head, and that's where I say "You're on your own, dude" to Mick. Cuz I can't imagine doing that for either fun or money.

With Foley a mess, Edge decides to gear up for a Death Blow. He showboats and makes it clear he's setting up for The Spear. And in a VERY nice subtle bit of intra-match storytelling and logic-creation, Mick glances over his shoulder and sees this, and starts unbuttoning his Ugly Over-Shirt. Seems innocuous, right? Until Edge hits the Spear, and then immediately rolls away in pain, instead of following up. He rolls over to Lita, who I'm guessing was in possession of a razor blade. 

Mick slowly gets up his own self, and removes the Ugly Overshirt to reveal a belly wrapped in barbed wire. Hee. Mick clips the barbed wire off his torso, and Edge comes up bleeding from the arm. Mick then uses the barbed wire like a bullwhip on Edge. Rude. Foley was in command for a bit, and then went outside and peaked under the ringsteps, where he found a barbed-wired baseball bat. But before he could use it, Lita interjected herself and leapt on Foley's back. Mick's response? Another cool spot where he did the balls-out over-the-top clothesline on Edge while Lita was still on his back (and she got sent for quite the tumble, too).

Brawling, brawling, brawling, and Edge eventually made a comeback while they were outside the ring. "Highlights" (word used assuming you like watching people you admire be punished) included Mick taking some sick bumps into the ring steps. Around here, Edge, wasted some time getting a table out and setting it up at ringside, allowing Mick to recover a bit.... but trusty Lita was there again to step into harm's way and cause a distraction. And this time, she brought the lighter fluid with her. Once doused with lighter fluid (or, perhaps, re-moistened with some non-flammable liquid for safety?), Mick freaked out, allowing Edge to maintain control.

Chairshot for Mick (no hands). DDT for Mick onto a cookie sheet. And then: the barbed wire bat across Mick's head. Thus, blood is drawn. A lot of it. Edge even goes Cheese-Grater Style on Foley's head with the bat. Even though you can tell that's kind of the less-ouchy Barbed Wire, when you go Cheese-Grater Style, it doesn't matter how sharp it is. Mick's a bloody mess, so Edge goes searching for his next Dastardly Deed....

And he goes looking in Mick's Very Own Weapons Cache (under the ring steps)... Edge comes up with a bag of thumbtacks. Spills it over half of the ring. And then intends to drive Foley's face into them..... but Mick has had time to recover, and instantly reverses (I mean INSTANTLY, and I loved it, since the standard "psychology" is to tease it to high heaven, but here you just got your ultra-violence, post haste, which adds to the drama) by suplexing Edge into the tacks. Lots of "glory shots" of Edge's tack-ridden back, which can be used for later DVD releases, and you KNOW the crowd is red hot and "Holy Shitting" and all that at this point. Deservedly so.

Foley follows up with a few Barbed Wire Bat shots of his own (now Edge is bleeding a bit from the head, too). But he can't get the pinfall.... Edgeward is tenacious that way. So what to do?  Aha: Mr. Socko! But not really! Because as soon as Socko comes out to a big pop, Mick wraps his be-stockinged hand in barbed wire. A mandible claw with BARBED WIRE? Holy shit. And Edge takes it like a champ. And then Lita interferes, and HOLY HOLY SHIT, she takes it, too (and comes up bleeding from the chin for her troubles, making us 3-for-3 on the Victims Quotient).

Edge down. Lita down. Foley kicking ass, 1992-style. All three bleeding. Oh yes, this is WrestleMania, baby..... and Mick decides it's time to head for home. So he grabs his own bottle of lighter fluid, and starts dousing that table that Edge set up at ringside. Oh, Mick. Mick. We're both smart men, Mick. And I think both of us know that between where you're standing and where that table is, this is NOT gonna end well for you.....

But we still wanna see it. Mick keeps spritzing the table (which is at ringside) from his perch (on the ring apron), but takes a bit too long doing it. Lita has had time to recover from what now looks no worse than a paper cut on the chin, and whaps Foley in the balls with the barbed wire baseball bat. That'll hurt. And while Mick's doubled over in pain, Lita drops a Bic on the table, lighting it on fire.

And then: Edge has recovered, and gets a running start, and Spears Foley through the second rope.... both go flying into the Flaming Table, but Mick takes the brunt of it, by landing with his back and head going into the flames (Edge is protected by Mick's body). HO. LEE. SHIT. And not just because it was insane. But because it was insane in a context that meant something.

Edge is not exactly well after that, but Foley's worse. They let the crowd work out its cheers and amazement, and then finally, Edge crawls over and drapes an arm over Mick. You better believe that's the end of it.

Your Winner: Edge, via pinfall, in 16-18 minutes. Hands down Match of the Night, and Mick gets his WrestleMania Memory. Hopefully, Edge will do more with Mick's Selfless Act than Randy Orton did (and will also be handled better by the creative/marketing team), because this is one that could -- if he clicks at the main event level -- becomes a DVD Keeper for Edge, too.

After the Match: Edge and Lita depart, but slowly. Edge is selling his injuries in what I will call Ricardo Montalbon Fashion. Think "Khan" in Star Trek 2.... wide-eyed, slow-moving, bloody-as-hell, apparently-freezing-to-death, and over-actor-y-in-the-good-way. Foley's simply dead, and lets them make their retreat. And then, as well they should, WWE cued up Mick's music and let him make a (not-quite-)victorious round of ringside to soak up his ovation, too.

Backstage: Booker T and Sharmell are walking. Sharmell is all "why do I have to do this, and why are you a magnet for all the freaks around here?"... and Booker's all "I ain't no freak magnet, baby." So of course, he proceeds to be intercepted by Paul Burchill (sword fighting against nobody), Ted DiBiase (robbing Eugene of $100, which isn't really freakish, if you ask me), Snitsky (licking Mae Young's toes, which is wrong for more reasons what I am capable of recounting without breaking my 9-year non-vomit-streak), and finally..... Goldust. Except, it's not Goldust, it's "OprahDust," and he's got lifestyle advice for Booker. To deal with a freak, you have to Release Your Inner Freak. Burchill, DiBiase, Eugene, Snitsky close ranks and agree. Booker is dubious and just gives Sharmell a "let's go baby, let's ditch these freaks." No mention is made of Booker and Goldust's past as a (highly amusing) tag team. Boo. A funny idea for a skit, I guess, but not Actually Funny In Execution.

Booker T/Sharmell vs. Boogeyman (Handicap Match)

This was awful. I mean "Bottom Five Ever at WM" awful. Not just boring, but actually badly executed in spots. "Boring" chants abounded, and there was not one genuine moment of crowd heat or interest that I could identify.

Finish was Sharmell trying to interfere by using Boogey's Voodoo Staff against him, but he caught her, and dribbled Worm Juice into her mouth. Which sounds inappropriately enticing if I envision that with me befouling Pink in the manner that she so clearly craves, but which is just plain stupid if it's Boogeyman and Sharmell. 

Crowd fails to pop for this, although it is the set-up for the Big Finish. Sharmell acts grossed out and leaves, causing Booker T to be alone in the ring with Boogeyman. Booker takes a crappy-looking AlbertBomb (or was that "Derailer"?), and that's that.

Your Winner: the Boogeyman, via pinfall, in about 4-5 minutes. WAY too long and way too sucky to have been a part of WrestleMania. Cole's quote at the end of the match, "Boogeyman is victorious in his WM debut." Rick's quote in response, "If Boogeyman ever gets another match at WrestleMania to improve on that record, there is something cataclysmically wrong with this fucking company." My only highlight of the match: I thought it was pretty cute how Sharmell did all her stuff, and her little tiara never fell off. That's dedication to character, baby.

Video Package #2: the set-up for our next match, complete with Not Deleting the Lesbian Overtones Which Would NEVER Have Unexpected Effects......

Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James (Women's Title Match)

Out of the gates, it's as I feared: the way they set this up and told the story, the crowd is just dead as hell when Trish tries to jumpstart things and get her sweet, sweet revenge. No amount of JR's well-intentioned rambling (which was loaded with "I dunno about you, but I got no room in my life for psycho nutjobs like Mickie James" and mocking Lawler's tastes anytime he lusted for Mickie) was gonna change the fact that WWE just completely and utterly failed to make Mickie into a psycho nutjob. With the possible exception of the past week, they really only made her into a quirky faux lesbian. Which is not exactly a compelling villain. It's not somebody to be scared of or intimidated by. 

So Trish is trying hard -- REAL hard, Ringo -- to make a go of this in the opening 2 minute or so, but the fans are dead on arrival. That's because Trish isn't getting revenge for anything worse that Being Annoyed By the Quirky Floormate Who Lives 2 Doors Down. WWE has effectively put this match on stage with Mickie being Not A Psycho and with Trish coming off as Slightly Over-Reacting. And it shows.

Trish's bad-ass jump-start ends after the match spills outside the ring and she tries to I Refuse To Call It a Chick Kick Kick Mickie.... but Mickie ducks and Trish kicks the ring post. That'll shatter a shinbone. And Mickie's character may be an obnoxious load, but she's no dummy: she goes to work on that leg. 

More silence from the crowd until about 2-3 minutes later when Mickie hits this cool submission move: half a Boston Crab, but then arching back and grabbing Trish's hair and pulling up on that until the ref breaks the hold.  And suddenly, some smart-asses in the audience decide to cheer for Mickie. And then chant "Let's go, Mickie." Wow, I'd be shocked, if only I hadn't predicted this exact thing about 6 weeks ago. Mickie: un-scary, non-violent, quirky lesbian who wears fetchingly-sparse skirts while having a scientifically-proven-to-be-perfect body (well, except I'd vote for her having her old tits back, the less-plastic-y ones from back when she was doing porn). Trish: fully clothed, is a killjoy who refuses to make out with other hot chicks, and who has no real reason to even be wasting her time acknowledging Mickie James much less beating her up. 

Duh. And before you go thinking you're smart by accusing me of being the grown-man version of John Cena's fangirls (which might, in a way, be true; or at least true-ish; except that in lieu of fantasizing about holding hands with Trish and maybe being willing to let her get to second base with me, I honestly am totally satisfied and impressed with getting to sit on my ass and watch her do her job so well on TV every week), let me point out one simple difference.... namely: you put John Cena in the ring in 10 different towns with 5 different opponents, and I bet he gets booed significantly 8 times. But put Trish in the ring with anyone other than Mickie, and she'll be cheered wildly. I think a logical case could be made that Trish -- unlike Cena -- isn't broken... rather, WWE just told a story very badly and encouraged fans to behave like wankers.

The alternative is that there really is a majority of WWE fans who think the Mickie James character is appealing. Plus 3 points for the floor show if she wants to kiss other girls. Minus several million for every single other annoying thing about her. Or maybe it's even worse than I thought, and wrestling fans really ARE as big of pitiable dorks as I fear sometimes (usually after a rare visit to an ROH show or to the part of the OO Forums where they have this fake wrestling federation thingie), and don't realize that being obnoxious and clingy to people higher on the social ladder who want nothing to do with you is a turn-off. Or who possibly haven't actually dealt with the mentally ill and all the super-wacky-fun times that entails. Myself? I've been there, done that, and have always found the Mickie character to be ultra-annoying. Not a comment on the performer or her talents, just on how perfectly-unlikeable I think the character is. [In fact, my high opinion of the performer and my LOW opinion of the character is EXACTLY the reason why I was so vehement over the past 3 months as I watched WWE fuck up what should have been a slam-dunk psycho heel run for Mickie. It should have been so easy to keep fans against her, but WWE couldn't manage it.]

In any case, this is the part of the match where Mickie gets the fans 80% behind her, and everything Trish does gets booed. Wild.

"Heel" beatdown by Mickie continues, focusing on Trish's damaged leg, but fans are increasingly cheering all that Mickie does. Trish's little hope spots? All get booed. In a nice touch, though, the hope spots get increasingly convincing, and this really IS shaping up as a well-worked match, bizzaro-ness aside. Mickie even keeps command by countering the handstand head-scissors, which sure as hell to me felt like the start of Trish's For Real Comeback as I was watching.

Instead, I had to wait another 2 minutes or so until Trish caught Mickie coming off the ropes and turned it into a spinebuster. Thus began a brief, but inspired, rally.... which was booed to high heaven by the fans. Favorite spot -- in conception, but not quite in execution -- had Mickie trying to steal Trish's Thesz Press, and Trish countered it with the Matrix. Timing was just a tinch off, but there'll be rematches, and that's a spot that can be re-worked a ton of different ways. And I'm sure we'll see it nailed to perfection.

And then -- I swear I am not making this up -- we hit the Big Finish. Trish set Mickie up for the Stratusfaction Bulldog. So Mickie did what all good faux lesbians do: she fingered Trish Stratus, causing Trish to break the hold, and then spent 10 seconds licking every last tasty drop off her fingers. The crowd thinks this is the best think they have ever seen. So does Lawler. Because if a girl digitally penetrates a unwilling partner's vagina (through her skin-tight leather pants or not; it doesn't matter), no laws have been broken! Look it up! That one's on the books! I assume!   

While Mickie's making a big show of assuring us that Trish *is*, in fact, finger licking good, Trish is getting angry and tries to attack. BOO~! They try some sort of spot, but it is instantly blown, and both girls go down in a heap. So Mickie just hits an I Refuse to Call it a Chick Kick of her own on Trish, and gets the three count. Huh.

Your Winner and NEW Champion: Mickie James, via pinfall, in about 10 minutes. I'm pretty sure my guestimate is right: this really did get about as much time as Money in the Bank. And I think that Trish and Mickie made the most of it, till the unfortunate ending that got sloppy. Lots good moves and action. It's just that I could also muster all kinds of bitching about the story/entertainment side of this match, from the poor build-up which resulted in the fan mutiny, all the way up to the dumb-ass finish. Go back to the heuristic I mentioned a few weeks ago: if a male wrestler went around giving out handjobs as his finishing move, would you take him seriously? No. So why should it work with the women? Mickie so badly needs to be more scary, convincing, and violent. And less "drunk girl on spring break." 

As good as the work was, the finish was horrifyingly bad: the whole part I liked about last Monday was that Mickie promised to morph into a compellingly scary character and do something horrible to Trish in order to wrest that precious title away. Instead of that: the longest reigning champion in wrestling lost her title -- proudly held for 15 months -- as a result of THIS nonsense. I had images of it taking a Pillmanization or a stretcher-job to get that title away from Trish. Instead, all it took was a little Inappropriate Touching. Awful. Well: good match, awful finish.

Backstage: the entire McMahon Family were assembled. I need to apologize to Steph about the "third trimester" line a few weeks back; I guess maybe that wasn't a fake-belly, and everybody knows there's nothing more beautiful than a woman-with-child. Speaking of which: Shane's here, which means that his wife either already has given birth or has promised to hold off till Monday. But I will not apologize for thinking Vince's orange hue is utterly ridiculous-looking, no matter how ripped the dude is. I feel badly I already shot my wad on "Cellphone pictures of Vince's wang/Tanning Salon" jokes in the last RAW Recap, because another one would sure as hell have gone down smooth here, judging by the looks of things. Basic comedy sketch here: Vince decides that he'll do like Shawn Michaels and pray, and asks his entire family join him.  "Dear lord, I don't like you, and you don't like me"... and you can pretty much fill in the blanks from there. I'm as big a fan of blasphemy as anyone, but I like to make mine funny. This was just.... lame. Not surprisingly: Stephanie was the only one who seemed to be (just barely) stifling her laughter. At least we know where her Writer Monkeys get it from: from an innate desire to keep getting paid by giving the Bosswoman what she wants.

Undertaker vs. Mark Henry (Casket Match)

Henry enters first. No Daivari, so I was right in the PPV Preview: they have quietly removed him so as to spare him the indignity of being crushed in this match. Hopefully, something bigger and better awaits. I'm still holding out hope that somebody grows a set and brings back Muhammad Hassan, but maybe that's just me....

Taker enters second, with some druids and a casket. He takes his damned sweet time, which is fine, since lord knows this'll be more entertaining than the match.

And the match: sorry, kids, but I'm taking the wussy's way out on this one and just comparing it to Taker's PPV match with Heidenreich. You remember: the one nobody cared about, the one nobody thought Taker could lose, the one that sucked balls, and the one that still took almost 15 minutes.

Cuz that's the travesty that happened here. A whole lot of nothing happened, but it KEPT ON HAPPENING REPEATEDLY. We were honestly asked to accept the premise that Henry could win for upwards of 6-7 minutes at a stretch. This was awful.

Then Taker started a comeback, hit the one cool move of the entire match (a crazy-brave no hands, over-the-casket plancha where Henry opted to only barely get in the way to absorb some of the impact), and stuffed Henry into the casket after a Tombstone. Thank god.

Your Winner: Undertaker, via casketization, in about 10-12 minutes. This wasn't just bad, it was 10 minutes too long. Until you find me 17,000 people who think Henry had a snowball's chance in hell of winning, you do not have any right to book this match this way. Just give the fans what they want/expect, give it to them quickly, and don't waste their time by stinking up the joint for 10 unnecessary minutes.

Video Hype: Vince behaved in a completely irrational and uncompelling way, and somehow the result was a feud against Shawn Michaels. Nee haw.

Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon (No Holds Barred)

To believe the announcers, the whole reason JR was brought back was so that he'd be forced to preside over Vince McMahon's Glorious Victory. Sure, whatever. But JR had to sell that notion to the hilt, and made sure to be plenty biased whenever the chance arose.

Which it did almost immediately, as the match was jumpstarted outside the ring. Vince got distracted worshipping a giant image of himself on a blown-up version of a magazine cover, so Shawn -- having no patience for narssisstic man-bimbos with the same mirror habits as his wife -- attacked. There was some brawling on top of the RAW announce table, which JR enjoyed immensely. Then Vince got the magazine cover smashed over his head. Nighty-night, sweet prince.

Which is when the Spirit Squad showed up to provide the first Lengthy Diversion to mask the fact that Vince is a shitty wrestler. The Spirit Squad go to town on Shawn for a few minutes, eventually doing that one move they do (each one takes a limb and tosses Shawn in the air as high as they can).

Vince has had time to recover, so the Spirit Squad leave, and Vince starts strutting and preening and posturing. He peppers in a few stomps and punches. When Shawn finally seems to be making an honest effort at recovery, Vince kicks it up a notch and removes his belt and starts whipping Shawn. Give it up for Vince: he's got the fans pissed at him, and he's done it with a grand total of maybe 2 or 3 offensive moves.

Rally Time: reversing an Irish Whip, Shawn hits the Flying Burrito (JR: "Flying Burrito") and then kips up (JR: "Nip Up," which is why The Broad is invisible around here lately; it's in protest of JR's return and his inappropriate usage). Then, to shake up HBK's Six Moves of Doom, he peppers in a ton of Belt Shots of his own before setting Vince up for the Macho Man Elbow.... warm up the band after that, and....

Here's Shane McMahon, with a kendo stick. Shawn takes a few shots. Apparently, so do both JR and King, who spend the rest of the match physically unable to distinguish between "Shane" and "Shawn" without it being a whole, tongue-tying ordeal. Shane's done his job, and whips out a pair of handcuffs.... Vince has recovered and likes Shane's idea, except first, he'd like to re-induct Michaels into the Kiss My Ass Club.

So Vince pulls down his pants to reveal underwear that no straight male should ever wear, and blithely assumes that everything behind him is going JUST FINE. Which it isn't. At the last second, Michaels turns the tables on Shane, and shoves Shane's face into Vince's ass. JR makes a quip about Shane being however many inches up his own father's crack, and let's just say that even by the standards of "The Aristocrats" (which was, sadly, about 30% amazingly funny, 50% uproariously lame, and 20% "can you believe people who do this for a living are capable of taking themselves so pitiably seriously?"), that line of joking was going absolutely nowhere.

Michaels follows up by using the handcuffs to secure Shane at ringside, and then goes on his tear. First, he beats the hell out of Vince, and tunes up the band again, and seems ready to finish Vince off. But stops.

Gets a ladder, goes up top, seems like he's gonna hit Vince from the top of it. Stops.

Gets a BIGGER ladder (a 20-foot job), and sets that up. Finally, the story of the match kinda clicked, as it became clear that this was Michaels making good on his threat of showing us a side of him we haven't seen in a while. This is not your Jesus' Shawn Michaels. He sets Vince up on a table, puts a trashcan over Vince's face, and goes to the top of the ladder. I gotta say: Shane was a lot of fun to watch as he mixed fervent effort with resignation in his actions at ringside ("CHRIST NO, that's my dad, STOP!" one second, and then "Oh man, this is gonna be ugly" the next).

Shawn up to the top of the 20-footer, hits a DX Crotch Chop for emphasis (because Jesus LOVES crotch chops, as long as they are just part of a story where you're reverting back to your old heathen self) and BAMMO, Ultra Macho Man Elbow into the trashcan and into Vince's face AND through the table. Nice big spot. No immediate pin by Michaels, though, who allows Vince to extricate himself from the carnage, and then yanks him up the rest of the way to talk to him. "I want you to get a good look at this" is the gist of it, as Michaels then backs up one step and blasts Vince with one of the better, stiffer superkicks we've seen in a while. That'll do it.

Your Winner: Shawn Michaels, via pinfall, in 15-16 minutes. A good Sports Entertainment Segment, paced so as to make the most of Michaels' abilities and hide most of Vince's weaknesses. A case of a match almost exactly meeting its expectations.... if you wanted Bret Hart, tough titty. If you wanted a little action, a little more drama, and a few highspots, though: enjoy. And I dunno, but if I'm writing the show, I could definitely have some fun with "retro/jerkface" Michaels. Assuming that wasn't a one-night aberration while Shawn knew that Jesus was out running errands and picking up the ham for Easter, so he could get away with it.

Announcement: WrestleMania 23 will be in Detroit at Ford Field. If they're gonna play up any aspect of this being the 20th Anniversary of the memorable WrestleMania 3, they kept it out of this video package. Which is probably wise. Given the state of WWE, it's best if you don't have your marketing department going around writing checks that your Writer Monkeys can't cash.

Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (World Title Match)

Rey entered first, and had POD playing his theme song live. They did it unobtrusively (i.e., they didn't make a big deal out of it, they just shoved the band off to one side, so I really don't have anything to bitch about), but I still have this long-standing thing with POD that if you're trying to be a band and you carry a full-time bongo player on the road with you, then you probably suck. This has been the case for at least 40 years, and you assclowns aren't the ones who are gonna change the trend.

Rey was dressed normally at first, but when he went and hung out with POD for a second, he donned some crazy-ass headgear thingie. It looked like a bird's head and I'm sure it has some Incan/Mayan/etc. significance, but this being a wrestling show and me being a small-minded, ethnocentric prick, I just had a ton of "Who the fuck let Tatanka into the title match?" jokes occur to me. Which weren't funny. But were rendered retroactively funny when Michael Cole -- after Rey's entrance has concluded -- thanked P.O.D. for the appearance. Except he pronounced it "Pay-oh-dee," which would sure explain why somebody, somewhere, thought that ridiculous headdress was a good idea.

Orton out second; his entrance pyro only serves to make me sad that Christian is gone. Or stands to make me want to make jokes about how it's somehow poetically just if Randy Orton loves standing under a golden shower, since his favorite fetish is pooping in the bags of girls he likes. Randall Orton: Equal Opportunity Scatalogist. If only he knew what the word "Scatalogist" meant.... since there's at least a 40% chance I just made it up. But the smart kids out there smell what I'm cooking. And Orton's not one of them.

Angle out third: and he's the one true babyface in this match, right from the get-go.

Rey, as a result, got the same treatment here that Trish got: he was booed very soundly. Not because there's anything wrong with HIM, but just because the fans decided to latch on to another guy tonight. Rey and Trish, by my read, are in the same boat (fans don't dislike them, they just liked the opponent better); and it's not the same sinking cruiseliner being piloted by John Cena (where they have a strong dislike for the guy). Different things are in play.

The first 3-4 minutes of the match were just rapid-fire and bad-ass, a total showcase for Angle. Following up on his display on SD! (where he got both Orton and Rey to tap out), Angle destroyed them both, and was only kept from scoring a quick win by the interference of the other guy.

Super-mega-awesome-cool spot early on: Rey was trying to do some Flippy Shit on Orton, and Angle saw it and decided "Screw this" and decided to German Suplex Orton. Rey was still affixed to Orton's torso at the time. Rey went flying about 10 feet, and Orton landed hard, and you could just tell that Angle knew he just hit a sweet spot.

With Rey sent into the first row, Angle focused on Orton, and after a minute or so, had him tapping out to the Ankle Lock. But Rey had the ref distracted. Angle released the hold, and got pissy at Rey (fan advantage: Angle).... with Orton's ankle nearly mush, Angle and Rey did a minute or 2 together, ultimately ending up in the same place: with Angle locking in the ankle lock, and with Rey tapping out. But this time, it was Orton's turn to distract the ref.

So: Angle dominated on SD!, and in the opening 5-6 minutes of this match, he gets both guys to tap out again, just without the ref seeing it. You feeling where this is going? Cuz I know I was.

After that, it was time for the challengers to get at least a bit of offense in. Orton went first (since Rey had last been in the ankle lock), and did whatever it is he does. Nothing really sticks out, but I do know that he didn't bust out a chinlock. Baby steps. Orton's rally ended when he tried to go up to the top rope, but Angle cut him off with that kick-ass run-up-the-ropes Overhead Suplex. Nice.

Re-enter Rey Mysterio, who tried to capitalize by going after Kurt in the afterglow of that move.... he actually blew it (it was a fancy, outside-the-ring 619 deal), and the crowd ate him alive. Don't listen to them, Rey. They aren't booing you, they just really like Angle. Which isn't a crime. But Rey saved it with a re-do, and from there, he got a ton of near falls. Very fast-paced, and crisp after the initial flub.

End of that sequence came when Angle triple-reversed something and was gonna try a German Suplex, but Rey still had the quadruple reverse in him, and went behind Angle and dropkicked him out of the ring. He did this just in time for Orton to get back into the mix, and Orton was doing his Rocky-esque Stalker Pose....

But Rey must have had eyes in the back of his mask, because he turned around and was ready to deal with the RKO attempt.... instead, he took Orton down and draped him across the middle rope. 619. West Coast Pop. And it's over.

Wait, it's over? Yep. It's over.

Your Winner and NEW Champion: Rey Mysterio, via pinfall, in about 8-10 minutes. I'm not saying it wasn't good and exciting, but this gets less time than Taker/Henry? Methinks somebody lost track of time, and this match paid for it by getting shaved down. Which is too bad, since it was really action-packed, and could have used the time to make Rey's win seem less anticlimactic and random. It really did come out of left-field, and didn't have the tasty tinge of closure to it.

After the Match: despite booing Rey during the match, most cheered afterwards, especially once Chavo and Vickie Guerrero joined Rey for a mini-celebration. You gotta feel for Rey, who just had the biggest night of his career, and spent most of it getting booed, just because WWE didn't really do a good job in setting the table for the big match.

A Glimpse Into the Future: as the announcers vamp, we get sneak peaks into the dressing rooms of John Cena (BOO~!) and Triple H (yay?). Cena is stripped down and taping his fists up. HHH is getting massaged gingerly by a whole team of Swedish Bodybuilders. Because, according to JR, Cena is From The Streets and he's just doing What He Knows, whereas HHH comes from money and can pay for the finest training. Interspersed with that completely gay little interlude are other notions from the announce team: they outright say that Cena will be booed because WM22 sold out in 2 minutes and these are hardcore WRESTLING fans who might not appreciate John Cena's hip-hop stylings. [Hi, JR, good to know you're still reading OO and cribbing the occasional note! But you massively twisted my intent!] From here, the thesis goes that "Old School" people will cheer for HHH, and hip cool kids will go with Cena. Which is NOT AT ALL what I really meant when I made my (prescient) observation.... I just meant that if you like wrestling for the good parts of wrestling that we've all known and loved for a while but have not really seen for 2 years, you'll go with HHH. But that people who don't give a shit and are just watching wrestling because of their boyfriend or 7th-grade Teen Beat-reading classmate will cheer for Cena.

It's got nothing to do with painting HHH as "old school." It's just that he's the wrestler. Cena, in his on-screen form, is not. He's a wigger first, wrestler second. He's not inherently cool, he's not convincingly "street," and by couching everything this way, you aren't gonna do anything but make the Cena Haters hate the company and the marketing mindset as much as they hate Cena himself. And let me say this about the retardation of how they're trying to paint Cena as some kind of new-wave, next generation babyface who is just too edgy for the old fogeys to handle: (1) the cut-off for getting annoyed by Cena is about 19 years old, it seems, which gives him all the credibility and longevity that N*Sync had. And (2) Cena is "street" and "hip hop" in the same way that I am Mexican for a day after eating at Chipotle; just because you LIKE something doesn't mean that's what you are. It just means it's something you do in your spare time while you're not busy doing the other things that actually help turn you into a fully-formed person. 

The presentation here was just insulting to fans, and insanely defensive on the part of WWE, who clearly knew Cena was gonna get booed, and tried to come up with some way to explain it as being a fluke or the fault of the fans instead of something THEY did wrong with the Cena character.

I'd also like to note at this point that I assumed the title match was next, and that a certain match had been scrapped from the line-up. I was already formulating which variation on "and nary a tear was shed" I was going to use when I found out I was wrong. Because they finally sent it down to the ring for.....

Torrie Wilson vs. Candice Michelle (Playboy Pillow Fight)

Apparently, all that Announcer Vamping and Locker Room Visiting was just so they could set up the ring for the pillow fight. Put down some carpet. dust off Edge's old Futon Of Nobody Who Sleeps On One Of These In Real Life Actually Has Sex from the "Live Sex Celebration" skit, and throw in a few pillows. Nee haw.

Bring out the girls!

Full eveningwear to start. Some sloppy fumbling. Candice is down to bra and panties. Just to annoy me, the girl who's life ambition was to drain her bank account to be made cosmetically-perfect-enough to get nekkid for Playboy acts shy when stripped to her underwear. More fumbling. Torrie is down to underwear next, but at least she's not self-conscious about it. 

The crowd, which has been silent till now, has finally had enough, and begins chanting "Boring." 

*After* the girls are in their underwear. 

Which says more about what was wrong with this match than I ever could.

Somebody gives the cue, and Torrie pins Candice with a roll-up out of nowhere. Jim Ross' quote: "You can put away the bowling shoes, this one is finally over." And that's why we love him. And probably is at least part of the reason why he's perpetually on Vince's shit-list.

Your Winner: Torrie Wilson, via pinfall, in about 4-5 minutes. Not good, not sexy. Just like I said it would be. 

Video Package: Cena and HHH. If you've been watching TV, you've seen this all already. Which means, if you're like me, you can use up the last of your time shift here. FF.

John Cena vs. Triple H (WWE Title Match)

The ring entrances. Oh lord, the ring entrances. Each of HHH and Cena got a mini "pre-entrance" to add to the showiness of it all.

Triple H's was awesome. And by "awesome," I mean "awesomely bad." It was as if somebody went back in time to 1978 and bottled Led Zepplin's all-encompassing pansiness, what with the dragons and the sword play and the king riding in on his Mighty Steed to smite the Trogdor... and then they decided to take that Concentrated Ludicrousness, and instead of handing it off to Tenacious D to make a parody version of those basic concepts, they woke Lemmy up so that Motorhead could do a dead-serious, not even-remotely-self-mocking version, and lose ever shred of credibility they ever had in the process by channeling everything that was deliciously lame about Hair Metal.

In other words, the past 7 years are all water under the bridge, and for at least 3 minutes tonight, Triple H was Chris Jericho's favorite wrestler.

But after Triple H -- I am not making any of this up -- rose up through the stage on a stone-chisled throne, wearing furs and head-jewelry, and wielding a foam sledgehammer, somebody ruined our fun by cutting the new music and starting HHH's regular theme. HHH threw off most of the gay outfit (he kept the head jewelry, and somebody somewhere had 3 full minutes of WrestleCrap-ready screencap opportunities) and hit the ring.

Then Cena: a video played, recounting how gangsters rose to power in 1920's Chicago because they realized if nobody would fight for them, then they had to fight for themselves. The piece ended with a dead-serious attempt to equate John Cena's thug lifestyle with Al Capone's. And that's not "awesomely bad," that's just pitiably ignorant. You can't even bring yourself to boo something that dumb.

Then some speakeasy music plays, and an old-tymey car drives out with a bunch of mobster-types hanging off the sides. They quickly disperse and take up stations around the ring, all mincing around with all the convincing-ness of the extras in a special version of guys and dolls where all the actors are coked-up versions of William Shatner. Talk about chewing the scenery. Was one of the mobsters CM Punk? If so, somebody should think of figuring out a way to permanently align him with Cena, so my annoyance with both their on-screen personas can be coagulated into one grand goulash of "What a pair of douches." To Punk's credit: if that *was* him, he looked 40% less-diseased than usual, and appeared as though he might have taken a shower this week.

With the fake mobsters around the ring, Cena himself entered to his usual theme song. Difference: he came out wearing the Rob Feinstein Special. "Hey, little boy, want to see what under my trenchcoat?" So bad. Then the trenchcoat came off, and Cena had a pyrotechnic Tommy Gunn that he shot off a few times. Again: that was so bad, I think the boos were actually muted because most fans were wondering if they could really be seeing something this awful.

The overall effect: counting these two entrances, Cena's "mothership" entrance from the Rumble, and whoever picked out Rey's headgear, I hope to god there's somebody at Titan Tower who we can punch in the sac just one time. Enough to leave them limp on the ground, but still conscious. So that he can hear us as we mock every single thing about him and his pathetically un-cool work, and slowly convince him that nobody, not even his mom, loves him, until his spirit is broken and he jumps off the roof, and nothing like this is ever allowed on TV again.

Once both guys are in the ring, we get "Boxing-style" ring introductions. Or "ECW-style," if you want. The fans waste no time picking sides: HHH is the lesser of two evils. Also, while I'm remembering the ring intros, this is my last chance to point out that CHRIST has Lillian Garcia ever mastered the art of dressing up in a way that's super-hot but which also doesn't look at all like she's trying too hard. "I'll take the time to pick out a killer dress," said that outfit, "But I'm not gonna waste my time and yours spending an entire afternoon on hair and make-up when I know I look good already." Yeah. You, increasingly, rock, Lillian.

Ring that bell, and we're finally cooking with gas. And although the first 3 minutes of the match contained nothing more complicated than headlocks and go-behinds, every single move got a HUGE response. If HHH did it, "Yay!", if Cena did it, "Boo!". No joke. And also, somewhere around the 2 minute mark, the crowd had minded its manners long enough, and unleashed the first of many mighty "Fuck You, Cena" chants (as they continued, Lawler blithely tried to pretend that his ears were hearing the more TV-14-friendly "Cena Sucks" chants).

Just to underscore my earlier point: Cena could have been in there with almost anyone, and probably gotten that same response. His character is the one who is broken here, this isn't the result of some sort of (intentional or otherwise) babyface-ifcation of HHH. Also, you'd have to take a rocket-ship all the way up Uranus before you found a crowd that'd chant "Fuck you, Trish," no matter how the fan reaction in the women's match seemed. Are we all clear on the distinction I'm making? Good.

And remember there's another part of my distinction that I'm kinda not talking about, because what the hell point is there is pointing out that the live fans (and a lot of the truly fervent wrestling fans I've observed in the wild) are freaking obnoxious dorks? *Part* of what was going on really was what WWE's announcers were saying: these were "defiant" fans, once more interested in being the stars of the show than in enjoying it. ImpactZone North, it was, even if just for one night. Though the more WWE's audience contracts down to its core of loyalists, the more they run the threat of running in front of audiences that contain large percentages of these wankers.... and a mix of wankers and fan girls? Just you *try* to get the Rick out to a house show once we cross that line.

Oh yeah, there's a match going on: but the simple truth is the match is kind of a nothing, action-wise, and what's fun is observing the fans and kind of taking up sides yourself, and enjoying this more for its trainwreck elements. 

So whatever: HHH out-headlocks Cena for a few moments at the start, and gets cheered for it. Then he tosses Cena out of the ring dismissively, but Cena lands on his feet and comes back in the ring to out-mat wrestle HHH for a bit (while he gets booed). Funny commentary note: JR is in the middle of one of the many anvil-like Making Excuses Digressions for the crowd reaction when he said, "I know some people don't like his style, but I don't get this thing about Cena being a bad wrestler. He's the WWE Champion, for chrissakes. That counts for something." Talking in secret code about bowling shows one minute, pretending like wrestling matches are not predetermined the next; so cute! And later on, "He's not a bad wrestler, really. He's just unorthodox." Which is back to secret code. Didn't I catch JR on this a few weeks in a row back last summer? Covering up Cena's sloppiness with the word "unorthodox"?

Nothing fancy is happening, really, it's just that it's happening to huge pops. And that's got a certain charm to it. Admit it, if you were there, you would have picked a side in the "Let's Go, Cena"/"Fuck You, Cena" dueling chants. If you're reading this document, I assume it's probably the latter, but who knows? There's probably at least some of you who'd see the chants and try to drown them out with "TNA Did It First" chants.

And as I conclude yet another digression, nothing is STILL happening actionwise, and it's still somehow amusing to watch. Cena sorta gets an advantage on some outside the ring brawling, but then HHH turns that around inside the ring. Then Cena comes back, and then FINALLY I think HHH got the first sustained offense of the match (starting at at the 10 minute mark) by tossing Cena out over the top rope. 

Punctuate with tons of knee-related offense (and copious cheers), and we're basically back on track of telling a Formulaic Heel/Face story, with Cena as the poor babyface getting his ass beat (and who is also getting booed). They're not bothering with any focus or psychology. Just pepper Cena with some random simple move (stompy-kicky was sufficing), and then pause to get the reaction from the crowd. Then repeat. For several minutes.

Hit a chinlock, and let Cena power-up (to boos) for a False Start. Regroup, and eventually lock Cena into the sleeperhold... for a good 2 minutes, since the crowd seems to be buying it. And this time when Cena fires up, it's for real. Drops HHH with a clothesline. Both men down. Double count. Both men up. Trade fists, Cena starts to get the better of it, and Cena's rally is on for real.

And, after 15 minutes, we enter the portion of the match where Stuff Actually Starts Happening. 

Very quickly, Cena tries the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but HHH counters that with a spinebuster (Lawler: "Looks like the Game COULD see you, Potsie")... too much gloating, though, and after a bit of back and forth, Cena does nail the Five Knuckle Shuffle to the delight of thousands of teenage girls. Following up on that, Cena locked in his variation on the STF. By which I mean: an STF, only not very well executed. Ross' call was funny, as he actually stumbled over the name for it, calling it the "STF [pregnant pause] U".... but a man who doesn't feel self-conscious uttering move names as bad as "The Chick Kick" has got to spit it out, and JR did.

Titanic struggle, but HHH did reach the bottom rope and get the break. Cena pounds away, but HHH struggles to his feet, and backs Cena into a corner. The ref, foolishly, got caught out of position and was behind Cena in the corner. Sandwiched, which is grounds for a Ref KO as it is... HHH made it worse by taking advantage of the Ref's Obstructed View and punched Cena in the balls. In so doing, he caught the ref in the sac, too.

Cena down, ref down, you know who's coming out to play, right? Sweet Lady Sledge. Little back and forthy once HHH gets Sledge into the ring, but he eventually lands a shot on Cena. Problem is, the ref is still groggy, so the count is ultra-slow and dramatic.... and thus, it's only a 2.  A frustrated HHH decided to try for the Pedigree, but Cena escaped that, and reversed it into an F-U. Ref's still a bit slow, and HHH can kick out of the dramatic slow count.

Both men have escaped convincing near falls, and struggle to their feet. A little chain wrestling and a few reversals later, HHH seems set up for ANOTHER Pedigree attempt.... but Cena counters again. This time, into the STF.

HHH stretches for the ropes, so Cena traps an arm along with the standard STF. That leaves HHH only one arm, and it's the one further away from the ropes. HHH survives a "three-arm-lifts" spot by the ref, but a few seconds after that, he makes one last stretch for the ropes and falls short and....

HHH taps out. That's it. All over.

Your Winner and STILL Champion: John Cena, via tap-out, in about 20 minutes. Let's not delude ourselves: if you perform this match in an empty arena, it would -- empirically -- suck. There just wasn't a lot to the action or the psychology of the thing. The wrestlers didn't tell a story, the FANS told a story. But let's not delude ourselves: this match wasn't performed in an empty arena, it was performed on the WM stage in front of 17,000 fans, and it was a pretty fun time. This immediately goes onto a short list with Hogan/Warrior and Hogan/Rock as WM matches that were fairly badly-worked, but which were so fun that if some dunderhead wanted to give them ****, you couldn't really muster up any indignation. Cuz fun is what it's all about.

Not so fun: the finish. On a show that really did a nice job exceeding expectations and creating believable and satisfying finishes, this was just a gigantic letdown. It's every reason why fans are bored with Cena, amplified, and regurgitated. Basic heel/face formula with Cena taking a beatdown, followed by a Superman comeback that defies logic, and a win that just seems unconvincing and undeserved. You spend years making it be a big deal that HHH tapped out once, and you just go willy-nilly having him tap out to a shitty move that hasn't even been established yet, here? Doesn't make sense. Also, the post-match commentary seemed to teeter on the brink of the horrifying.... after spending so much time acknowledging/making excuses for Cena being booed, the announcers were praising Cena for overcoming all kinds of odds and beating the favorite on the biggest state of them all. Pure babyface drivel, enough to make you afraid that once WWE gets rid of those damned obnoxious Real Fans, they'll be wanting to make Cena a babyface again. Oy.

Still: even with my heuristic that emphasizes how a show ends above all else, this was still an entertaining 4-hours of wrestling. Not sure about the historical significance or anything, because of the context within which the show took place, but entertaining as standalone piece. Foley/Edge was the hands-down highlight. MitB, Vince/Shawn, and both title matches were all about at the same level, and were better than anything you'd expect to see on a standard Monday night.  Five good or better matches in one place? I'll take that....

And on that note: if you're expecting further analysis and fallout in a Monday OO column, well..... don't. I just realized it's coming up on 3:30am, and that I've turned this into the Best Damned Recap Ever. It's recap, analysis, and all-around entertaining-son-of-a-bitchery all rolled into one. You can measure that either by sheer size of the recap, or by sheer awesomeness, I don't care. The statement is true either way.

So I'm taking Monday afternoon off to recharge my batteries, since that seems to be helping me to get through recapping RAW without wanting to commit multiple homicides in Stamford, CT. I'll see you with that on Tuesday afternoon.


SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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