Hello, wrestlemaniacs, and welcome to the last thrilling edition of my WWE vs. TNA series, in which every week I review the main output of both promotions and pick the best.
Technical difficulties have set this series behind by a week, so I'll be doing one today and one tomorrow. That means today we'll be looking at back at two weeks ago. You probably still remember it though, as the week in question held the WWE's biggest pay-per-view: WrestleMania 29.
It's the biggest, so it was bound to be brilliant, right? A classic for the ages? Let's find out.
"We have a new Intercontinental champion at WrestleMania!" said Josh Matthews after Wade Barrett tapped out to The Miz on the pre-show. Not that new really, is he?
I love watching The Shield wrestle. The first match, against The Big Show, Sheamus and Randy Orton, was great. What did cross my mind, though, is how low Randy Orton's dropped. Had this match happened two years ago, would you have expected Orton to get pinned over Show or Sheamus? Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not complaining.
Mark Henry vs. Ryback lived up to expectations. Those expectations weren't high, though, at least on my part. My favourite one won and we still got to see the big Shell Shocked, and that's the best we could hope for.
The Tag Team Championships match was short but sweet. The opening was cute. Kane kicked out of a finisher and delivered a huge chokeslam. Daniel Bryan got the pin and was afforded a WrestleMania moment as the whole crowd chanted "Yes! Yes! Yes!" with him. It may all seem harsh on Dolph Ziggler, but (I thought at the time) I wouldn't be surprised if his briefcase gets cashed in very soon, and then he'll be over this straight away.
Fandango vs. Chris Jericho had a botchy-looking finishing sequence, but it was diverting while it lasted.
An awful person who I'm told is called P. Diddy talked along to some sequenced music. I did not enjoy it, because I am a human being with taste and sense.
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio as a storyline will likely be remembered as an attempt to do something different that didn't capture people's imaginations. A noble failure. Swagger vs. Del Rio the match wasn't even as good as that, sadly.
"Now, CM Punk turns his attention to The Undertaker." And so it was that Michael Cole said something stupid on the grandest stage of them all. Where was Punk's attention supposedly in the five minutes of match before that? Jerry Lawler managed a silly one himself with, "I've never seen this not work," regarding CM Punk kicking out of a Tombstone. Even someone who only buys WrestleManias will likely be able to see through that.
The match itself was very good. I was, in fact, surprised as to how good it was and surprised how sprightly The Undertaker was. Both men can be very proud of the show they put on. It wasn't in the league of the Shawn Michaels matches, but at least it means our lasting memory of The Undertaker won't be last year's Hell in a Cell embarrassment.
Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar felt like it went on forever. Painfully slow, and of course Triple H pulled off the win. A particular gripe is that Lesnar left his arm flopping about on Triple H after breaking his arm lock for a second time—and wouldn't you know it, Triple H applied it for a third time. An absolute disgrace that wasted what felt like about nine hours just to service Paul Levesque's vanity.
I hate to make this a collection of silly Cole quotes, but he said that John Cena's loss to The Rock last year triggered a spiral "both in his career and his professional life." That's both true and factual, if you catch my drift. He later managed: "The Rock caught Cena!" when, in fact, Cena had caught The Rock. For his part, Lawler tried to convince us that neither was in better shape than the other. As though all those rest holds were for Cena.
The match itself was rubbish. Nothing demonstrates how ordinary and dismal a finisher the Rock Bottom is better than seeing it a dozen times. The bit where John Cena pulled back on the ropes to avoid a repeat of last year's finish was good, but that's it.
WrestleMania's undercard was terrific, everything you'd expect. It was from the World Heavyweight Championship match onward that things fell horribly short. Only Undertaker vs. Punk was any good, and the final two matches were appalling. This WrestleMania was a failure. And imagine how bad it would have been with an ordinary crowd.
The thing with WrestleMania is that it's so all-encompassing. It's not just bad if the show itself doesn't live up to the hype, but when hours and hours of TV are forced on fans, the "Road to WrestleMania" is wasted, and it's even worse if the Road wasn't any good. You can read my thoughts on that aspect here.
Raw opened with some fantastic news! The WWE belt won't have bulls on it all the time, and the side-plates are indeed changed according to who holds it. Thank goodness for that. I was worried that The Rock's mark might be left on it permanently. John Cena was also very funny as he played off the booing crowd. In fact, this was the best Cena promo I can recall for a long time.
I got a markish shiver as Mark Henry came out. WrestleMania may have been a poor show, but with it over, there's a feeling of the weight being thrown off. Anything could happen.
Wade Barrett won his Intercontinental Championship back from The Miz in a match far, far better than their encounter the previous night. Some great back-and-forth action.
I got some more markish shivers as Dolph Ziggler successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank. It was helped by how into it the crowd was. I've not been as high on Ziggler as I once was, mainly because I don't think his new stable is doing him any favours. I loved the moment, though. It was great.
The Shield coming out to confront The Undertaker felt quite audacious. Undertaker's held in such hallowed esteem that you just don't expect him to be interrupted by anyone other than whoever is involved in his current feud. I always get a kick out of seeing him with Kane, but more importantly, I'm guessing this will be how The Shield goes after the Tag Team titles.
A fantastic show up to that point, then. What could possibly take you out of that? How about Santino Marella knocking someone out with the Cobra, that ought to do it. Risible.
Sheamus vs. Randy Orton was a Match of the Year candidate. Not due to the wrestling or the match itself; that barely registered. The crowd, however, was incredible. RVD, JBL, ECW, Randy Savage—they all got chants.
At different points in the past, I've called both Sheamus and Orton the worst thing in the WWE, but even I started to feel a bit sorry for them. "Thank you Big Show" as he came out to punch them both was particularly great. From then onward, the crowd was the show. A particular highlight was them singing Fandango's theme.
A match expected for 'Mania that didn't turn up then was offered in Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls vs. The Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins. Sadly, it was over within three minutes and Damien Sandow got pinned.
Cena vs. Henry went nowhere, and then Ryback made his presence felt. Some credit to Ryback: He managed to get the crowd to do his chant rather than "Gillberg," or something.
Raw was a little weak in the second half, but overall, it was a fine show, helped to no end by the best wrestling crowd I can recall. I should move to New Jersey.
With all the hype of WrestleMania and the fun of Raw, I'd forgotten that this Impact had quite a lot of hype of its own. The opening recap reminded me that there was a TNA Championship match to come, as well as a Tag Team Championship match.
The tag team match came first. It was a 2-out-of-3 Falls match, which I was unaware of beforehand. The first two falls were out of the way in minutes anyway, effectively leaving a straight tag team match. Austin Aries and Bobby Roode have had great matches in the past with Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez, but the suspense was blunted somewhat by having seen it so many times. Also, with the stipulation that Chavo and Hernandez would have to split up if they lost, the result wasn't in much doubt. There's only three tag teams in TNA at the moment anyway, so they were hardly going to lose one.
Joseph Park stretched my suspension of disbelief by coming to the ring and announcing he was holding the annulment papers for Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan. Why on earth do that? Of course, Devon came and tore them up, punching Park in the gut with a chain for good measure.
Despite winning last week's Gut Check match, Adam Pearce was turned away in favour of Magno. A bit of a shame, but they're both good. Magno didn't pass the Gut Check anyway, though, so it was all for nought.
We were blessed with another "Isn't AJ Styles all deep and troubled" segment. All I can think when I see him with a beard is how much he looks like a "Let It Be"-era Ringo Starr. Keeping up with hyping the next Impact—a wise move with the much-reduced TNA PPV schedule—we'll have Styles vs. James Storm to look forward to next week.
The TNA Championship Full Metal Mayhem match lived up to its promise. Some thrills, some spills and I was especially happy to see it wasn't resolved by Aces and Eights interference. Or, at least, not by them all rushing in. Tazz handing Bully Ray a hammer I can live with. Good work from both Bully and Jeff Hardy.
This was a reasonable Impact elevated a few notches higher by an excellent main event. TNA's been on a good roll since Lockdown.
SmackDown opened with a laugh, as Big E Langston did a Ricardo Rodriguez ring announcement for new World Heavyweight champion Dolph Ziggler.
People love Dolph Ziggler. Which is a problem, because he's a heel. His promo effectively told us to stop loving him, but it's not going to happen. It was quite a fun promo, with poor Ziggler getting interrupted three times by Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho, respectively.
Team Hell No defeated The Prime Time Players in no time at all, and then The Shield made a welcomed break from its old tactics by bothering them with an on-screen promo instead of sauntering down through the audience. It's much, much quicker and actually serves to progress things.
A problem I have with the WWE—and perhaps pro wrestling in general, though it's most prevalent with the current WWE—is the slavish devotion to only the finisher winning matches. It kills off a good deal of suspense when it's practically guaranteed that no other move will get a pin. Wade Barrett vs. Santino Marella illustrated this. If Santino won't stay down after a Winds of Change, who will?
The egotist Paul Levesque milked his entrance for all it was worth while commentary sold him like a million dollars. The rest of the segment went from the surprising almost immediately to the predictable, but at least Triple H didn't talk for long.
As Randy Orton entered, I wondered why he was bandaged. A promo showed The Big Show from Monday's Raw throwing him about and stomping on him. I barely remembered it, and that's what a good crowd can do.
The absolutely pointless match of Randy Orton and Sheamus vs. The Big Show progressed as you'd expect. There was no late surprise change, like it becoming a Triple Threat match, more's the pity. Mark Henry attacking Sheamus from behind in his post-match interview was great, though.
We've seen from The Miz and Wade Barrett that there's so few in the midcard to challenge for the titles. With Kofi Kingston defeating Antonio Cesaro, it looks like the third last Intercontinental champion will be winning the United States Championship. Absolutely useless booking has left these once great titles worthless.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Chris Jericho went off as you might expect. It's good to see singing Fandango's theme is catching on. That'll be following him for the rest of his career now. As for Ziggler and Y2J, I'd love to see them in a PPV main event. But then again, there's a lot of people I'd like to see Ziggler go 25 minutes with.
SmackDown flowed fairly well. No major complaints, but then, nothing major happened either.
Show of the Week: WWE Raw
This exempts the PPV, though, considering how poor it was, that doesn't make a difference. Raw was a show with a great first half and, in theory, a mediocre second half. Only in theory, though, because the crowd made it brilliant. The best wrestling crowd of all time—ever.
Match of the Week: Bully Ray vs. Jeff Hardy
Again, this exempts the PPV, though probably only Undertaker vs. CM Punk was better anyway. Second place goes to Raw's Wade Barrett vs. The Miz match, which was a great surprise.
Wrestler of the Week: Dolph Ziggler
It was a popular idea with readers, and so here's my new weekly pick of the week's best wrestler. I say best, though it can also be about who's had the best week. The reasoning will fluctuate, but I'd say this was undoubtedly Ziggler's week.
Thanks for reading. Whether you agree or disagree, let me know your thoughts in the comments.