By COLIN HUNTER AND MARSHALL WARD
Welcome to WrestleMania 27: The Live Report!
As the Showcase of the Immortals unfolds, SLAM! Wrestling writers (and mere mortals) Colin Hunter and Marshall Ward will provide insights, analysis and wisecracking match-by-match. Refresh your browser often, because we’ll be updating throughout the entire show!
Marshall is a visual artist and newspaper columnist whose wrestling DVD collection could encircle the globe four times.
Colin, a former newspaper reporter who now works at a quantum physics think-tank, is relatively new to the SLAM! Wrestling team but has written for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and the other so-called “Apter Mags” for years.
A team of SLAM! Wrestling contributors already provided their WrestleMania 27 predictions and now it’s finally time to find out if the Undertaker’s streak is over, if Michael Cole is the next Andy Kaufman, and if Snooki put on the greatest technical wrestling match in WWE history.
Marshall Ward: “Oh, it’s written in the stars. A million miles away. A message to the main. Seasons come and go, but I will never change. And I’m on my way.”
Colin Hunter: Yes, Marshall is singing the WrestleMania theme song. When I arrived at his house, he was sitting cross-legged, a few inches from the TV, counting down the seconds to the show. Like a kid on Christmas morn. Stay tuned. We’ll be updating the site all night. And keep in touch on Twitter too: @slamwrestling.
Marshall Ward: “Ohhh, it’s written in the starrrrs, a million miles awayyyy….”
Colin Hunter: “And the grandest tradition in professional wrestling (or professional “entertainment”, as WWE seems intent on being described these days) is under way! The Georgia Dome looks tremendous — shades of the Pontiac Silverdome, but sadly no Aretha Franklin. The quintessential patriotic montage of flapping American flags and zooming fighter jets is accompanying the singing of America the Beautiful by…. some woman who looks not totally unlike Melina. I wonder if she can duplicate Melina’s ring entrance. Then: “If you smelllllllll….what the Rock is cooking.” It’s no secret who’s the real headline star of this Wrestlemania. The domed roof nearly gets blown off by the crowd reaction.
Marshall Ward: I like the Hilarious House of Frightenstein lightning on the backdrop behind The Rock. Thankfully they didn’t put a giant canopy over the ring like they did in Florida a few years ago. I always wondered how many people couldn’t see because of that thing. The stage looks amazing this year.
Colin HunterThe Rock keeps using the w-word: “wrestle.” Doesn’t he know it’s taboo now? I’m sure Vince will fine him. The “Cena Sucks” chants are erupting already. Here’s hoping that he makes a serious heel turn. The cameras will have to scour the crowd young members of the Cenation bawling their eyes out. I’m already tired of The Rock. After weeks of strong lead-up, this call-and-response crowd interaction is lame and annoying. Now The Rock is leading a “yabba-dabba” chant. Go away, Rock.
Marshall Ward: What an egomaniac. He has overstayed his welcome by five minutes already.
: Every year, the same guy is sitting in the front row at WrestleMania. He’s wearing a blue tank top. How does he get those seats every year?!? And finally the Rock is gone and it’s time for some wrestling: a World Heavyweight Title match right off the bat — that’s surprising. Alberto’s ring entrance in the Rolls Royce is tremendous. Jesse Ventura wouldn’t approve of this match — he always says you’ve gotta start slow, but this one kicks off at a fever pitch. By the way, I like how Brodus Clay’s shirt says “Brodus Clay” — that’s for the 60,000 people there who don’t know who he is. Remind me: why is Brodus hanging out with Alberto Del Rio anyway? They seem like a complete mismatch.
Colin Hunter: That’s an interesting big-screen monolith cube they’re lowering into the ring before matches. I could totally go for one of those in my living room. Of course, I’d have to have seven-dimensional vision to enjoy its full potential. Alberto Del Rio just took the first big bump of the night by plummeting out of the ring and back-flopping onto the floor. He’s been doing a great job at the classic heel strategy of targeting after Edge’s injured arm (you can tell it’s injured because it’s wrapped in enough white tape for the people in the nosebleeds to see). The has match evolved into a nice see-saw of submission holds between Edge and Del Rio, but a surprise spear ends it! If Canada and Mexico ever went to war, Canada would win with a spear!
Marshall Ward: A surprise opener, with a surprise result. I was SURE Alberto Del Rio would win. I like when they start shows unpredictably. And I loved the outside interference between Christian and Brodus Clay. Great stuff. Unfortunately, it’s back to the mid-card for Alberto!
Colin Hunter: Time for another great WrestleMania tradition — the unveiling of Rey Mysterio’s new WrestleMania costume. This time he’s Captain Mysterio, looking as if his finishing move might be shooting lightning bolts out of his eyes. Random factiod: one of my cats is named Rey-Rey, inspired by Mysterio. True story.
Marshall Ward: I like how Cody Rhodes is using his protective face mask as a weapon — shades of Iron Mike Sharpe (who was dashing in a hairy, manly sort of way). If only he growled like Iron Mike. Cody pulled an awesome sustained vertical superplex — it’s as if Davey Boy Smith decided to climb the turnbuckles before delivering his long-delayed suplex. There are some “Cody” chants in the crowd — well deserved after that incredible move. And Cody’s mask is staying on a lot better than Rey’s did a few years ago when he was constantly struggling to keep it on.
Colin Hunter: This is one of the strangest mask-vs-mask matches of all time — and that’s already a ridiculous genre. Rey steals Cody’s transparent Hannibal Lecter protective mask and uses it as a weapon. But Cody manages to steal Rey’s knee brace and use it as a weapon of his own. Then Cody gets the win after a fast-paced, fun match that required the use of several prosthetic weapons. I’m amazed Zack Gowan’s fiberglass leg didn’t come into the equation.
Marshall Ward: That backstage skit with Snoop Dogg was a total waste. At WrestleMania, every moment should be precious. That was not precious. It was filler. At least it wasn’t a 10-minute Kid Rock medley, as we had to endure a year or two ago. Time for the eight-man tag match of Big Show, Kane, Santino and Kofi vs. The Corre. Random observation: the tag belts currently held by The Corre are the best-looking tag belts WWE has made in decades.
Colin Hunter: Thankfully, to rescue us from the abysmal Snoop Dogg vignette, we see Santino Marella! Santino speed-walked to the ring like a middle-aged woman huffing around a mall before it opens. He is truly my favourite wrestler in the world today. Perhaps my favourite wrestler of all time. No, my favourite entertainer, regardless of genre. And he just unleashed the Cobra!!! There, I got my $55 worth for the pay-per-view. Big Show nearly beheaded Heath Slater with his knockout punch, and that was that.
Marshall Ward: The 8-man match was short and sweet, just like it should have been. Great show so far! Oh, I jinxed it: now we’re subjected to another moronic sketch — this time with The Rock and an almost incomprehensible Mae Young. She’s old. Apparently that’s “funny.” The Rock the worst thing about WrestleMania 27 so far.
Up next: CM Punk vs. Randall Keith Orton
Marshall Ward: I’ve been to two WrestleManias (WrestleManii?) in person. There’s nothing like it. I had tears in my eyes at times. Unlike at any other event, you feel like you’re feeding off the energy of everyone else there. It’s like a giant room full of friends. But I never saw a giant glowing cube over the ring like this. That’s new.
Colin Hunter: I have never seen a WrestleMania in person, but I once glued a wig onto The Missing Link’s head and rubbed baby oil on his torso backstage at an indie show in an out-of-the-way strip mall (which also featured Grandmaster Sexay Brian Christopher). It was the Least Grand Stage of Them All. Anyway, the introductions are finally over, so CM Punk and Randall Keith Orton are doing battle. As I predicted on SLAM! Wrestling yesterday: I expect the guy with the ridiculously excessive amount of tattoos to win.
Marshall Ward: Whenever I watch CM Punk, I think about the guys toiling in Ring of Honor or the other top-tier indies. It must give them hope to see someone who started in the same place as them rise to such a strong position in the big leagues of WWE. Randy Orton just delivered a superplex — shades of his dad, Bob Orton Jr. For years I’ve been waiting to see Randy emulate his father with a superplex. It was a doozy — worth the wait!
Colin Hunter: That’s two superplexes that we’ve “popped” for already tonight. I wonder if someone backstage is now issuing a moratorium on superplexi. Punk vs. Orton is another tremendous match so far — a pure, stiff wrestling match to culminate a well-conceived, well-performed feud. Matches like this make the whole “suspension of disbelief” thing a little easier to accomplish. Orton is selling the injured leg with the skill of an infomercial pitchman. And of course, he was playing possum in order to deliver the winning RKO. And I was right: the preposterously tattooed guy won!
Marshall Ward: Another super-solid match. That’s what we’ve been getting from WrestleMania so far tonight. Well, solid matches and garbage skits. And here come the Hall of Famers! In recent weeks, I intervied Sunny, Abdullah the Butcher, Road Warrior Animal, Paul Ellering and Hacksaw Jim Duggan for SLAM! Wrestling. Sunny was my favourite of the group — she was the most emotional, and genuinely excited about getting into the Hall of Fame. She seemed so thrilled. Abdullah was fine, but his answers were a bit short (his favourite answer, when asked for his opinion on ANY other wrestler: “He was a professional!”). Road Warrior Animal was friendly too, but none of them was as lovely as Sunny.
Colin Hunter: Yesterday morning I interviewed Jesse Ventura for an upcoming SLAM! Wrestling story. He doesn’t watch wrestling anymore, and doesn’t know what’s happening in the WWE these days (he lives “off the grid” in Mexico, and doesn’t watch TV). But he called his Hall of Fame induction an “absolutely huge honour.” He said it was a true joy to be recognized by his peers for the work he did in the prime of his life. Keep an eye on SLAM! Wrestling — my full story about Jesse will be up soon (shameless plug)
And now it’s time for Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler!
Marshall Ward: As a kid, I was a huge fan of the Jerry Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman matches. I absolutely loved what they did. So I’ve been looking forward to this showdown. Cole is wearing a ridiculous combo of red trunks and sweatshirt, with a protective headgear. It’s the worst WrestleMania outfit since Giant Gonzales. At least they didn’t paint muscles onto Cole.
Colin Hunter: And Good Ol’ JR is on commentary, back where he should be! Booker T is at the announce table too, but I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Steve Austin arrives on a four-wheeler, much to the delight of the fans and the chagrin of Cole, whom he nearly squashed. Now it’s a hot crowd in Hotlanta — people are dying to see Cole get his comeuppance.
Marshall Ward: Cole vs. King has been a perfectly executed feud so far. And how perfect that JR is calling the match for his longtime broadcast partner.
Colin Hunter: What a great start — the match begins with Cole’s face being pounded into the Cole Mine plexiglass, and he gets beaten like a “scolded dog,” according to JR. I would venture to say he’s getting beaten more like a government mule, but let’s not split hairs. As a referee, Steve Austin is even more blind to cheating than the typical WWE referee, and that’s quite a feat. On a side note, Michael Cole’s outfit makes him look like one of those little clementine oranges that are only available around Christmas.
Marshall Ward: So far, this match is, as JR would say, “bowling shoe ugly.” Oddly, Michael Cole has tattoos on his shoulders, back and legs. Not good tattoos either; terrible, randomly placed ones. Uh oh — the crowd is chanting “boring” — that’s never a good thing, particularly at WrestleMania. I really want to see a piledriver — we haven’t seen one of those in WWE for ages. We almost saw an Arnold Skaaland throwing-in-the-towel bit there, but Swagger just got a stunner for his attempted altruism. And King unleashes “his first WrestleMania dropkick,” says JR. Lawler is clearly having a lot of fun in there. Austin also has some fun by refusing to ring the bell after Cole taps out about 300 times. No piledriver, but a fun match (with precisely the expected result).
Colin Hunter: And Booker T delivers a crowd-pleasing spinarooni, only to suffer a Stone Cold Stunner for his efforts. It makes no sense at all, but the crowd is gobbling it up nonetheless. BUT WAIT, there’s more! The anonymous GM announces (via e-mail) that Austin’s biased refereeing has means The King has been disqualified. It’s not a plot twist worthy of Agatha Christie, but it’s an indication that Cole is in cahoots with (or perhaps is himself) the anonymous GM. “Boo,” holler 70,000 people.
Undertaker vs. HHH
Due to an unfortunate technical snafu, which we shall blame on the supernatural powers of the Undertaker, everything we wrote about this match has just vanished irretrievably into cyberspace. Believe us, every word of it was insightful and charmingly humourous. So we shall have to quickly summarize what happened:
The streak is unbroken! But the Undertaker is broken. After an epic battle that included the destruction of tables (and the Cole Mine), multiple pedigrees and tombstones, a revolting chairshot to the Undertaker’s skull (weren’t those banned?!) and a cameo by the sledgehammer, the Undertaker managed to pretzel Triple-H into a tap-out. We all knew the streak would live on, but HHH did an admirable job almost convincing us that the streak was actually in real jeopardy. Not quite as outstanding as either of the Undertaker vs. HBK matches, but still a brutally artistic piece of in-ring storytelling. Bravo! This will surely be remembered as the match of the night, if not match of the year.
Trish Stratus, John Morrison and Snooki vs. Dolph…. ahh, who cares?
Colin Hunter: Good to see Trish at ‘Mania again again, however briefly. But this whole match was really a cheap way to garner mainstream media attention because of Snooki’s involvement. I would like to go on the record right now saying that I have no idea who Snooki is, nor do I see why I should care about her in a wrestling match. But she did do some pretty impressive gymnastics to win the match. I’m just glad it’s over.
Marshall Ward: It was a lot better than it could have been. But I’m still glad it was over quickly. I would have liked to see more of Trish…. but I can’t think of a man on earth who wouldn’t like to see more of Trish. Snooki didn’t totally stink up the place. That’s the best we could have asked for.
The Miz vs. John Cena
Colin Hunter: The Miz has a nice entrance, pushing his way through a bunch of big inflated letters spelling out “AWESOME,” but he’s immediately upstaged by Cena’s entrance, accompanied by an boisterous gospel choir. Judging by the video package preceding Cena’s entrance, he’s a fighting for the glory of God. Not sure what WWE is trying to achieve here. Maybe going after the Bible Belt demographic? It is Atlanta, after all. Oh, and Cena is sporting new colours; time for a boost in merchandise sales!
Marshall Ward: I loved the intro for Cena — I much prefer it to the gangster schtick he did a few years ago. In some ways, this is a more minimalist WrestleMania — not quite as much razzle-dazzle, which I kind of enjoy. Sometimes less is more. Looking at the Miz, I realize how amazing it is that he’s already main-eventing WrestleMania. If you had told me three years ago that he’d be at the top of the wrestling business, I would have replied with a Steve Austin-esque “WHAT?!”
Colin Hunter: As expected, there’s a lot of booing for Cena, and a surprising amount of cheering for Miz. But there are also periodic stretches of relative silence — even moments of pin-drop deadness. The crowd seems a little burned out from the ‘Taker/HHH epic. Frankly, I’m a little distracted by the dunderhead wearing a tank-top in the front row who is desperately trying to be seen on TV. We see you, dumb-dumb. Now sit down.
Marshall Ward: JR is doing a nice job of trying to keep this match compelling, but the crowd is snoring. They’re going to have to do something great to pull this one back together. The main event really should have been HHH vs. Undertaker. God, I hate that guy in the front row! You can practically hear the people behind him screaming “Just sit down!” It’s probably not a good thing that we’re paying more attention to that doofus than the main event at ‘Mania.
Colin Hunter: We know The Rock will be involved somehow — we just want him to hurry up, because this match needs a jump-start. Hold on — Miz accidentally leveled Riley with a briefcase, Cena nailed the Attitude Adjustment, Miz kicked out, the crowd woke up, and Cena delivered a monstrous clothesline that hurled both men over the security railing. Now we’re cooking! And then… a double count-out?! “Booo,” says the crowd. “Boo!” But hold your horses and cue the music: “If you smellllllll!!!” The Rock is on the way to save the day? It’s about time he did something useful tonight.
Marshall Ward: How predictable — here comes The Rock. But wait, the Raw general manager has emailed a message. What’s he doing there anyway? This isn’t Raw! Why does he (or she?) have any jurisdiction over WrestleMania? Just sayin’. Regardless, The Rock decides to read the email. Well, he starts to read it, then tosses the laptop to the floor. “There is no way that WrestleMania is over! The Rock says that this match must restart right now!” The match continues, and Cena falls victim to a Rock Bottom from its namesake. Thanks to that assist from The Rock, The Miz scores a pinfall.
Colin Hunter: Of course, The Rock can’t help but disrupt The Miz’s celebration by laying the smack down on him too, punctuating it with a People’s Elbow. So, the guy who hasn’t wrestled a match in years is the big hero at the end of WrestleMania? It just doesn’t seem right. I never really liked the Rock, and I don’t see the point of his involvement at WrestleMania. I know he drew a lot of fans to the show, but does it really make sense to centre a wrestling event around a guy who hasn’t wrestled in years? WrestleMania should have ended with Undertaker and Triple-H. To me, the Rock was the undisputed lowlight of the entire show. His vignettes were terrible, and his interference at the end was unsatisfying. Funny how the marquee star of the show was also the worst part of it.
Marshall Ward: They shouldn’t have ended the show with The Rock. It sets the wrong tone. The real main event of the night was obviously HHH vs. Undertaker, and that’s what fans will remember years from now. Overall, I’d say this was a strong WrestleMania. Certainly not the best WrestleMania of all time, but four solid hours of entertainment (minus the stupid backstage skits). Now sing it with me: “Oh, it’s written in the stars. A million miles away. A message to the main. Seasons come and go, but I will never change. And I’m on my way.”
As Marshall sings, the pay-per-view fades to black, and the wrestling world hits the “reset” button for another year…