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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Wrestlemania Report (P.S. I loved it)
By The Doc
Apr 8, 2013 - 3:29:41 PM

(Doc's 2nd note - I went back and watched the Rock-Cena match online. I definitively see one major reason for the hate - the crowd sounded dead; it did not in that building, however. My rating would have still been 4-stars. DVD version and a couple more viewings will be the key to a proper, complete rating)

(Doc's note - after scrolling through the other reviews once I had completed my own, I think I have reaffirmed my position as the most "glass is half full" guy on the internet. Geez)

As you were all made aware a couple of weeks ago, I was one of the few on the net that seemed to be genuinely excited about Wrestlemania NY/NJ. Many were puzzled and found difficulty in understanding my enthusiasm. I had a conversation this weekend with a jaded fan in New York that reminded me of many of my readers and I explained to him that I could see where he was coming from because I used to be a jaded fan that spent more time in an uproar about failing to get what I wanted and not nearly enough of it appreciating and finding the excitement in what I was actually getting from the WWE. We had a good chat. His stance was that he’d rather watch ROH or DGUSA because that’s what he considered to be real wrestling and he granted my pardon as I told him that, to me, he had basically just told me that he would rather watch European professional basketball instead of the USA’s National Basketball Association. One is the big leagues; the other is, with all due respect to it, simply not. Naturally, we agreed to disagree.

Fascinating, that conversation truly was, because it represents an example of the fanbase, at large. Ten years ago, I would have been right there with most of you cynics. Yet, understand that perspectives change. I learned years ago that my cynicism was not merely having an effect on my life as a wrestling fan, but in every aspect. I was young, thought I knew everything, and adopted the internet mindset – which has subsequently become the general mindset of a huge portion of the world’s population – that it was not OK to enjoy things; instead, this mindset professes, we must ridicule everything and everyone and choose to view the world as if it were a horrible place that we were stuck living in rather than an awesome place that we need to work hard to contribute to. Social commentary, indeed, but I look at wrestling outside the wrestling bubble. I love it, so I compare it to other things that I love. Subsequently, it may not surprise you that I had an amazing time last night at Wrestlemania and have a favorable review to offer. “What a difference ten years makes,” I thought to myself as I walked in a sea of over 80,000 people trying to catch a train back to NYC, listening to them complain about all the bad things as if they stood amongst a record-setting crowd watching through a microscope, ready to dissect and degrade and, all the while, missing history and greatness as it unfolded.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the undercard was solidly unspectacular as it usually is at Wrestlemania. When you watch wrestling for nearly three decades, you learn to observe trends to set expectations. Anyone expecting something epic from the mid-card last night doomed themselves to be naturally disappointed, given that the mid-card is not the focus. The Shield vs. Orton, Sheamus, and Show was a solid opener (** ½), which was followed two matches later by a solid tag team title match (** ½), and a solid Chris Jericho vs. Fandango match (** ½) (the stage for which was well set by their spectacular entrances). All three gave newer stars opportunities to show what they could do and make statements to the extra 800,000 pay-per-viewers and 60,000 extra live fans. Daniel Bryan made an impression as one of the most over stars in the building; it’s good to have someone that over in the mid-card. Dolph Ziggler missed a spot, but was getting consistent chants from a spattering of sections all night. The Shield got a strong victory to add to their list. And as for Fandango, if you don’t understand what he brings to the table than you’re being shortsighted, I’m afraid. He’s already over because he’s different. It’s like with Brodus Clay last year; amidst a sea of the same guys with no character doing nothing entertaining enough to be featured on television in an era where it has never been more important to be entertaining in order to stand out, Clay and Fandango are very unique. That is why I like him, why people had signs touting him, why the WWE created an elaborate entrance for him, and why he started his career (in this character) with a victory over one of the all-time greats.

The only mid-card match that did not add to the card was Ryback vs. Mark Henry (* ½). Aesthetics are not everything, but Ryback – as much as I don’t like him – was owned last night, making a guy in the twilight of his career look far superior to a talent that had, at one point, gained steam as one of the top rising stars in the business last year. It was a plodding, boring, big man match with one impressive spot (the finish – so it was all flash at the end, limited substance leading up to it). Henry, who has shown the capability to have a compelling match when in the ring against someone who can go toe-to-toe with him, looks poised to get back in the main-event. I would dig a Henry vs. Cena feud.

As far as the overall mid-card was concerned, I quite enjoyed the work.

I thought that Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger had a damn good World title match and that it was nice to see the World title back in a position of prominence on the card after a two-year stint as the opener. Their feud had people talking; and that should be the point of every feud. Their storyline was polarizing and it got people invested in the match. The sub-plot of Ziggler’s potential cash-in kept everyone looking out of the corner of their eye, as well. So, I thought that this year provided a check in the “Win” column for the World Heavyweight Championship scene. Swagger and Del Rio played their roles well and delivered a 3-star match with nice counter sequences, especially of their respective submissions. I will be intrigued to see where this feud ultimately ends, but if this was a one shot deal for Swagger as a main-event caliber talent, then I was happy to see him get the chance. Fleet-footed, technically sound, deceptively strong, 6’6” 270 pounders do not come along every day in the WWE.

I’ll skip ahead to Brock vs. Trips II. I want to preface my thoughts by stating what I did to my buddy last night: I think that this match would have come across much better on television with the aid of commentary to help tell the story. Live, everyone was burned out from the previous match (which, going back to the expectations statement, is something to be expected and accounted for). I was wiped, personally, but I did enjoy the story told in the No Holds Barred match. Lesnar looked great. He must have spent the last month in the gym every day. In dominating Trips for much of the match, he came across as every bit the threat that you would expect him to be. What was missing in this match, for me, was that intangible feeling that clashes between titans of the business are supposed to have; that’s part of what makes them memorable. It was missing, to a degree, at Summerslam. Much of it, sadly, is due to the two crowds involved. Unlike Rock and Taker, there’s not the same kind of investment from people for Brock and Trips. Consequently, while their match last night was better than their bout from last summer, it was still lacking in that intangible department. I’d say it was just shy of four-stars. I called the Summerslam match (*** ½); I’ll go (*** ¾) for the rematch, definitively state that it was a very good match bordering on great in those final moments when Lesnar was excellently selling that he might tap out, and come back to this next month when the DVD releases and I can see it with the commentary and six added weeks of perspective.

Onto the two matches that will live on in history (YES, TWO)…

CM Punk vs. Undertaker was exactly why I told everyone two weeks ago that Punk was going to benefit from wrestling the Deadman at Wrestlemania and did not need to be in the title match to exceed what he accomplished against Jericho last year. Despite losing, Punk convinced every viewer that he was going to win with that urn shot. I thought it was over a few minutes prior when Taker bounced off the GTS and connected with the Tombstone. I jumped out of my chair and grabbed my buddy by the jacket. The match was phenomenal. Every year, you have to remember that Taker is on a roll and has been for over half a decade at Wrestlemania. Punk nearly defeating him elevates him right up to the tip top of the business’s history alongside several current and future Hall of Famers. The fact that the entire crowd was so into that match only served to further Punk’s cause. It was crystal clear that Punk-Taker was the match that most people wanted to see in that building. That may be very different from the match that most people ordered to see on PPV, though. For those that buy tickets throughout the usual wrestling calendar, Punk is right there with Cena as the character on TV that people have invested in most. Last night, that translated big time to the in-attendance audience. In the future, it will translate to buyrates. My kneejerk, initial reaction was to rank it ahead of HBK-Taker II, Trips-Taker I, and Edge-Taker, behind only Taker-Trips II and Taker-HBK I on the “Streak within the Streak” list. Punk took himself to the next level last night, though. Where he is in the eyes of the unique Wrestlemania season viewers today is much different than it was yesterday. April 7, 2013 pre-9:30PM, CM Punk was a guy who lost twice to The Rock and who beat Chris Jericho last year and had “that title reign.” As my buddy described, “He just doesn’t look like a star….” April 8, 2013, twelve hours after the match, Punk is the guy that had a record setting crowd in a frenzy, took the Taker to his limits, and came as close as anyone to ending that vaunted Streak. As my buddy concluded, “…..but he is.” (**** 1/2)

As for the main-event…

I met up with a guy named Joe (of Marked Out.com) and we had a chat about last year’s Rock-Cena match. He was like many of my readers and thought it was good but not great. I told him that he ought to watch it again and pay attention to the little things, like the facial expressions and taunts and the atmosphere and such. The storytelling, I told him, was incredible but somehow everyone’s judgment got clouded by something and they didn’t see that. Well, last night, they told another incredible story and I’d be willing to bet that most people missed it again for the same or some other reason as last year. Rock vs. Cena was awesome, just in a different way than Punk vs. Taker. The storytelling was there, driven home by two moments: the first was when Rock looked across the ring at Cena and told him, “You hear that? They don’t like you, you son of a bitch” and the second was when Cena went right into the sequence that led to his loss last year, but stopped it dead in its tracks to show Rock that he’s smarter than that. I have yet to read what everyone else thought of that match, but I can see it now…. “too many finishers; no psychology; no crowd heat.” Quickly debunked, “Rock vs. Austin (every time) was too many finishers, similar psychology.” As for the crowd heat, it sounded like people were definitely into it, but were just tired and cold.

All that being said, it was a classic match; another one for the ages. They hit the ring with peps in their steps, did some nice work early, settled in for the long haul, and proceeded right into a great series of counter after counter after counter, kick out after kick out after kick out, storytelling along the way, and the right finish and the right end to the show. I look forward to watching it back on DVD. (****1/4)

Punk vs. Taker was the Match of the Night and likely will end up being “Match of the Year.” Yet, Cena vs. Rock delivered, as well. I’ll revisit the match ratings once I’ve seen them on DVD. It’s difficult to give a complete rating without the complete story (and commentary completes thing, in my opinion).

Overall, I had a blast and a memorable weekend. I had a better time than I did at Wrestlemania XXIV (which is saying something, as that PPV was awesome, too).

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