Wrestlemania 22 was promoted as “Big Time,” and WWE actually brought the goods. With more wrestling, less interviews, and more pageantry than the last several editions, this year’s ‘Mania had a “Big Time” feel to it.

The biggest pay-per-view of the year usually means title changes, so either Kurt Angle or John Cena were likely to leave Chicago sans title. Randy Orton fired the biggest verbal shot of the night, calling Angle a paper champion and fellow challenger Rey Mysterio a charity case. But it was Mysterio who made the most dramatic entrance for Smackdown’s main event, complete with Aztec headdress and live theme music by POD, and the world champ who got the biggest fan reaction.

Orton jumped the gun with a belt shot before the bell before falling victim to a Mysterio dropkick. A cool spot saw Orton suplex Rey while being suplexed by Angle, who covered Orton for the first of numerous near falls. Mysterio got caught twice by the Ankle Lock but was bailed out by the Legend Killer both times.

The Olympic Hero unleashed a series of suplexes that ended with Orton taking his own turn in the Ankle Lock, forcing Mysterio to distract the ref’s attention away from Randy’s submission. A springboard legdrop freed Orton a second time and allowed Rey to cover Kurt for a two count. Orton sent Mysterio flying shoulder first into a post and hit the RKO on the champ, who managed to kick out at two.

A series of close calls by each competitor led to an Angle Slam on Orton, who just barely beat the count. Mysterio caught fire and sent the champ flying from the ring before catching Orton square with the 619. Rey followed with a springboard hurracanrana into a pin, and this time Randy stayed down for three. Angle could only look on in dismay as Mysterio celebrated with what used to be his world title alongside Chavo Guerrero and Eddie Guerrero’s widow Vickie. The win should be a popular one despite the mixed bag of cheers and boos Rey received from the fans in the Windy City.

With the RAW main event guaranteed to bring a similar combination of cheers and boos, WWE decided not fight it, with Jim Ross spinning the reaction as just old school fans (rooting for HHH) and new school fans (rooting for John Cena).

HHH entered the arena first, sitting atop a thrown fitting of Conan the Barbarian, pushing his new “King of Kings” gimmick. Cena, on the other hand, raided The Untouchables set, as he was proceeded by a group of 1920s-style gangsters riding in before him. Cena entered in a trench coat with a tommy gun.

Both men started off the match by sizing each other up, as the crowd was split down the middle. After an elbow, Cena tried for an F-U that Triple H easily dropped out of. Cena whipped Hunter to the outside and followed. After a poke to the eye, Triple H set up for a powerbomb, but Cena reversed it with a back drop onto the ramp.

Back in the ring, Hunter hit a vertical suplex and followed with facebuster. Trips shot off the ropes, but right into a clothesline. Cena followed up with a back suplex into a powerbomb. Cena did his “you can’t see me,” but HHH was playing possum. The Game jumped up and nailed Cena with a spinebuster. After a near fall, Cena responded with a back suplex and the five-knuckle shuffle. Cena tripped up Hunter with a drop toehold and applied the STFU.

Triple H was able to climb to the ropes and break the hold. Cena set up for the F-U, only to have Hunter drop out of the move and shove the champ into the ref. In the corner, Trips nailed Cena and the ref with a low blow. The sledgehammer finally came into play as Cena was caught with a shot as he bounced off the ropes. The ref slowly made the count, and Hunter only got two. Cena reversed a Pedigree into a backdrop and hit the F-U. Triple H was able to kick out at two. Cena climbed the top rope but missed the flying body press. Hunter went for the Pedigree but was once again tripped up by a drop toe hold. Cena slapped on the STFU once again. Triple H started to fade, but responded on the third check. Hunter continued to struggle and eventually tapped out.

The next WWE pay-per-view is the RAW-only Backlash on April 30.

We asked SLAM! Wrestling readers what they thought of WrestleMania 22:
Thumbs up! – 50%
Thumbs down! – 6%
It was okay… – 15%
Didn’t see it. – 24%
WrestleMania? But baseball started tonight!- 4%

If you’ve been with us for the past few years, you know the drill by now. Nick’s comments will be in plain type with Dale’s remarks in italics.

Michelle Williams, of Destiny’s Child fame, kicks off the event with her rendition of America the Beautiful.

At least Williams is a current artist. I’m still trying to figure out why the WWE went with a Peter Gabriel song to promote this year’s show, especially since he had nothing to plug. Gabriel’s most recent greatest hits disc is even three years old!

Kane and Big Show (Champions) vs. Chris Masters and Carlito (Challengers) – World Tag Team Championship

Show and Kane work over Masters, and Carlito reluctantly tags in against Show. Masters and Carlito are press slammed by Show. Master and Carlito double team Show, but are countered by a double vertical suplex. Kane leaps into the Masterlock, but Show breaks it up with a big boot. Kane blocks Masters with Carlito, taking Carlito down. Kane nails Carlito with a choke slam and gets the pin.

Winner … and still World Tag Team Champions … Kane and Big Show at six minutes and 42 seconds.

Match Rating: 6.5/10

After the match, Masters and Carlito argue, but do not come to blows.

These guys have been teasing a feud for a while, and this might be the spark that finally gets it going. Carlito seems like he’d be way over as a face, but stranger things have happened.

Coach is backstage with Shawn Michaels. Coach asks HBK if he regrets what he said to Vince. Michaels responds that he never regrets telling the truth, and tonight is going to get ugly. Vince you’re going to get a completely different HBK, you’d better pray.

Ric Flair vs. RVD vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Matt Hardy vs. Finlay – Money in the Bank Ladder Match

Cole calls Lashley the dark horse in this match. Um…no, that would be Finlay, who is the newest member of the “I have incriminating photos of Vince McMahon” club.

Plenty of impressive spots in this one. Benjamin strikes first, using a ladder as a ramp and hitting a somersault plancha onto a crowd out on the floor. Hardy suplexes Flair off a ladder, bringing out medical attention for the Nature Boy. He returns later but gets dropped by a shillelagh shot from Finlay. Van Dam produces his first “holy crap” moment when he flies off a turnbuckle to nail someone with a chair-assisted kick. Not to be outdone, Hardy hits a big legdrop and a Side Effect off ladders. Van Dam’s splash off the ladder takes out Finlay and leaves him in a three-way battle with Benjamin and Hardy atop two ladders. RVD finally sends one ladder toppling and both his foes to the floor, giving him a clear path to climb up and snatch the briefcase. Even if no other fan favorites come out on top tonight, this win will be popular.

Winner … RVD at 12 minutes and 14 seconds.

Match Rating: 7/10

Todd Grisham interviews Mean Gene Okerlund when Randy Orton interrupts. Okerlund bolts, and Orton proclaims he will be in the Hall of Fame because of nights like this. Orton continues to run his mouth when he feels a presence behind him. And that presence is… Batista. The former champ tells him it doesn’t matter who wins, because they are just holding the belt until his return.

The WWE Hall of Famers are introduced, though Howard Finkel announces that Bret Hart has declined to take part in tonight’s ceremony. Various divas escort the inductees, and the late Eddie Guerrero is represented by his wife and Chavo Jr. The rest of this year’s class all show their love for the Guerrero clan, much to the delight of the fans.

John Bradshaw Layfield w/ Jillian Hall (Challenger) vs. Chris Benoit (Champion) – United States Title Match

It looks like Jillian Hall is auditioning for Beverly Hillbillies 2:Electric Boogaloo.

I’m a fan of the sign that says “JBL is God… awful.” Bradshaw seems determined to prove he can mat wrestle with the Rabid Wolverine, but he eventually changes tactics and takes the fight outside. Benoit responds with rolling German suplexes in the ring but gets crotched going up top. JBL mocks Latino Heat by doing his own version of the Three Amigos; Benoit later shows him how it’s done. A diving headbutt sets up the Crippler Crossface, but Bradshaw rolls through and grabs the ropes to steal away the U.S. title.

Winner … and new United States Champion … JBL at nine minutes and 48 seconds.

Match Rating: 4.5/10

Mick Foley vs. Edge w/ Lita – Hardcore Match

So Vince throws Joey Styles a bone and lets him call this match. Edge brings his gift bat with him (read the Raw report), immediately takes a swing at Foley and whiffs. Edge connects with the street signs though. All this does is awaken Cactus Jack, who produces barbed wire from around his waist. Lita hands Edge lighter fluid and douses Foley with it. Edge dumps thumbtacks in the ring, only to have Foley back body drop him on them. Foley pulls out Socko and wraps him in barbed wire. He locks in the mandible claw on Edge and quickly switches it to Lita. Edge spears Foley off the ring apron and through a flaming table. Edge covers to pick up the win.

It’s funny how the hardcore match seems so much fresher when we only see them every once in a while. By the way, Styles has the line of the night so far when he finishes saying that Socko is unpleasant but not hardcore, sees Foley wrap him in barbed wire and quickly gushes, “Now that’s hardcore.”

Winner … Edge at 14 minutes and 36 seconds.

Match Rating: 8.5/10

Booker T and Sharmell walk through the freak show. And what a collection it is: pirate Paul Burchill, Eugene and Ted DiBiase, Snitsky exercising his foot fetish on Mae Young and Goldust dressed as… wait for it… Oprahdust. Goldie tells Booker that the only way he can defeat the Boogeyman is to let out his inner freak. He whispers something else to Booker too, but we can’t hear it and in any case, we’re supposed to tell Booker he did not just say that. So it’s probably something pretty unpleasant. Out by the ring, Todd Grisham introduces the two women who have won ringside seats in the Snickers contest, and they reveal that they have consumed 11 Snickers bars between the two of them. Insert your own joke here.

Booker T w/ Sharmell vs. The Boogeyman

Um, no thank you? No ambiguity here, as the Boogeyman is clearly the face in this bout. Booker lands the early offense but Sharmell gets a wormy kiss. The Boogeyman uses a choke lift into a powerslam to wrap things up pretty quickly. The Boogeyman is over, why not push him? Tell me I did not just type that.

Winner … Boogeyman at three minutes and 43 seconds.

Match Rating: 2/10

Trish Stratus (Champion) vs. Mickie James (Challenger) – Women’s Title Match

Trish counters a kick from Mickie by trying to use her as a wishbone. On the outside, Mickie ducks a chick kick, and Trish catches all ringpost. Mickie works over Trish in the corner, focusing on Trish’s knee. In a surprising twist, the crowd (except SLAM! Wrestling editor Greg Oliver) is fully behind Mickie James. Trish nails a running power bomb but can’t get a three count. Mickie counters the Stratusfaction, but walks into a punch. After a botched spot, Trish staggers into a chick kick and Mickie covers for the win.

Winner … and new Women’s Champion…Mickie James at eight minutes and 48 seconds.

Match Rating: 6.5/10

Vince gathers the family for a pre-match prayer. He pretty much blasphemes the Lord. Oh, and he says he will be sending Shawn Michaels to hell.

Mark Henry vs. The Undertaker – Casket Match

The odds on Henry ending ‘Taker’s streak are so low that Vegas wouldn’t be accepting bets even if pro wrestling was an unscripted sport. The World’s Strongest Man gets a few minutes to shine, even dropping the Dead Man with a powerslam and covering him before remembering that there are no pinfalls in this one. Oops. The battle rages between the casket and the ring until Undertaker leaps over the ropes with a splash to the floor, clearing the casket in the process. That’s impressive for a man his size. A Tombstone seals Henry’s fate as he gets a free trip into the casket.

Winner … The Undertaker at nine minutes and 28 seconds.

Match Rating: 7/10

After the match, the druids head to the ring to hopefully bury Mark Henry’s career for good.

Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon – No Holds Barred

Vince brings a blown up magazine cover to ringside, and HBK has seen enough. Michaels tosses Vince into the announce table. HBK then smashes the poster over Vince’s head, when the Spirit Squad (much to Nick’s delight) hits the ring. The boys decimate the Heartbreak Kid. Mitch misses with a megaphone, and Shawn cleans house. HBK walks into a clothesline, and Vince whips him with his belt. Vince attempts a super kick, which Shawn catches. HBK drops the elbow from on high and warms the band, only to be cut down by Shane McMahon with a kendo stick. HBK fights off Shane and makes him kiss his dad’s butt. He then cuffs Shane to the ring and tosses the key to the crowd. He beats Shane with the kendo stick and grabs a chair. After a chair shot, Michaels grabs a ladder and rams Vince with it. HBK sets up a bigger ladder and drops an elbow from 25 feet through a table with Vince in a trashcan. HBK finishes Vince off with Sweet Chin Music and covers for the win.

Shawn Michaels is worth watching at every WrestleMania. Carrying Vince McMahon to a match that exciting is something else.

Winner … Shawn Michaels at 18 minutes and 22 seconds.

Match Rating: 10/10

While being wheeled out on a stretcher, Vince musters the strength to flip HBK the bird.

Kurt Angle (Champion) vs. Randy Orton (Challenger) vs. Rey Mysterio (Challenger) – Heavyweight Title Match

Winner … and new Heavyweight Champion … Rey Mysterio at 9 minutes and 19 seconds

Match Rating: 8/10

Torrie Wilson vs. Candice Michelle – Playboy Centerfold Pillow Fight

You all know how I feel about Candice, so I won’t repeat it (I don’t like her). The match quickly breaks down into a catfight until Torrie snaps off a suplex and then a back drop onto the bed. I will give Candice credit, she has that GoDaddy.com twirl down pat (I hope Greg is hitting the concessions stand right now). Torrie wins on a roll up after dodging a corner charge.

Maybe I’m taking this match too seriously, but I was confused by a pillow fight that featured no actual pillow fighting.

Winner … Torrie Wilson at three minutes and 54 seconds.

Match Rating: 2/10

As mentioned above, Triple H and Cena come to the ring with two of the most, um, unique ring entrances in WrestleMania history. On the positive side, at least the effort gave the last match a “big fight” feel similar to a boxing title fight. Two comments overheard in the house we were watching:

“Arnold Schwarzenegger wants his Conan movie props back.”

“If Cena gets to have all those guys with tommy guns at ringside, there’s no way Triple H can win!”

John Cena (Champion) vs. Triple H (Challenger) – WWE Title Match

Winner … and still WWE Champion … John Cena at 22 minutes and two seconds

Match Rating: 8.5/10

Total Event Time: 2 hours and 47 minutes

Event Rating: 8/10


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    Dale Plummer and Nick Tylwalk are disappointed that Greg Oliver didn’t get any face time on WWE.com during the post event broadcast. Come on Greg, REPRESENT! Dale represents at dplummer627@yahoo.com, Nick takes care of business at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com.

    GREG’S REPLY: Actually, the TV crew from the WWE was right at the exit I left at, looking for people to be on TV. I figured filing a report to the Sun papers and SLAM! Wrestling came first.

    John Cena kept his title
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