It’s not often that the main event of WrestleMania gets a whole year of hype behind it. In fact it’s never happened before this year, when the entire wrestling-watching world knew since around this time in 2011 that John Cena and The Rock would go face to face in Miami in a match billed as “Once in a Lifetime.”
Judging by the reactions of a record crowd of 78,363 at Sun Life Stadium for WrestleMania XXVIII on Sunday, that was a wise business decision by the WWE. The fans started hot and stayed that way through the entire 30-minute showdown, bringing an uneven night for pro wrestling’s biggest showcase to a rousing conclusion.
After staring each other down one last time, the two superstars locked up in two tests of strength, with each man winning one. An exchange of holds led to some arm drags and a roll-up for two by The Rock.
Cena jumped over his opponent and took The Rock down to the canvas in a headlock. He quickly escaped and forced Cena out to the floor, but the 12-time WWE champion returned to nail The Rock in the corner and hit a clothesline for two.
The Rock powered out of a waistlock but got low bridged to the floor. He also got dropped face first onto the announce table before Cena tossed him back in for a near fall. Cena measured some right hands and squeezed the breath out of The Rock again, perhaps slowing the pace intentionally for the 39-year old. He finally managed to punch his way out and hit a DDT for two.
More offense followed for The Rock, and he teased a People’s Elbow, but Cena tripped him and unleashed a series of jumping shoulders. The Five Knuckle Shuffle hit, bringing a smile to Cena’s face.
A double clothesline left both men down. They traded shots until The Rock ended up on the wrong end of an Attitude Adjustment, barely managing to kick out at two. Cena returned the favor by beating the count after a successful Rock Bottom. He hit a side slam, but it still wasn’t enough.
Cena jumped a long way to deliver a top rope leg drop, forcing another kick out from The Rock. The People’s Champ grabbed the ropes to escape another Attitude Adjustment before spinning Cena around to put him in the Sharpshooter. Some boos went up from the crowd as Cena strained to reach the bottom rope.
They battled out to the floor so Rocky could send Cena hard into the steps. He shook off the impact to put The Rock in a modified sleeper hold on the mat. This time, it was The Rock’s turn to crawl over to the ropes, which he eventually managed.
After both men were down for a bit, Cena ran into a spinebuster and got nailed with the People’s Elbow. Both men scored near falls before The Rock pushed Cena off the top turnbuckle. Not normally a high flier, Rocky tried a high cross body, but Cena dead lifted him off the mat.
Another Attitude Adjustment connected, but even a second dose of Cena’s finisher couldn’t seal the deal. With a twinkle in his eye, Cena decided to do his own mocking version of the People’s Elbow. That turned out to be a costly mistake: He came off the ropes right into a Rock Bottom, and the ref made the three count.
To say it was a popular victory in front of The Rock’s hometown fans was an understatement. It wasn’t the high point of the card, though, as the CM Punk-Chris Jericho match the preceded it was excellent, and the rematch between The Undertaker and Triple H – contested under Hell in a Cell rules and with Shawn Michaels as the special referee – was one for the ages.
That match was the fifth of the night, bringing the big event atmosphere in a big way after an hour of largely forgettable in-ring and backstage action. The Undertaker removed his hood to reveal a short-cropped, near-mohawk hairdo, and he and Triple H stood face to face as the cell dropped slowly from above the ring. Fittingly for the “End of an Era” affair, Jim Ross joined Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler to call the bout.
The opening minute saw both men go crazy with punches, and the action quickly spilled out to the floor. The Game spent the next few minutes getting violently introduced to the cage and steps, and his brief rally back in the ring was cut short by a clothesline.
The Old School rope walk found its target, and ‘Taker followed with a shot from the steel steps on the outside. Half of the steps also ended up inside the ropes, where both men used them to inflict some damage.
The Dead Man back dropped Trips off the steps and rained down punches. Triple H connected with a painful looking spinebuster on the steps; Undertaker got the Hell’s Gate applied, only to find himself kicking out after The Game slammed him down to escape the hold.
Triple H grabbed a steel chair and used it several times on his enemy’s back. Michaels had words with his old buddy after HHH crashed home about 16 straight chair shots. He used the chair a few more times, but only gets a two count out of all the carnage.
Undertaker implored Michaels not to stop the match. The Game got his trusty sledgehammer out, telling HBK to end it. He wouldn’t, so Triple H nailed a sledgehammer shot and got another near fall. Shawn finally put a stop to the assault when Hunter teased an overhead sledgehammer shot.
Michaels went to check on the Undertaker and ended up locked in the Hell’s Gate himself. Triple H scored with the sledgehammer again, but ‘Taker hit a low blow and locked on Hell’s Gate for a second time. Triple H looked like he might be out cold, yet HBK was still recovering from his own damage.
The Undertaker and Triple H battle in a brutal Hell in a Cell match.
Charles Robinson ran down to officiate, getting delayed by the lock on the cage door. Undertaker hit a choke slam, but Robinson only got to two. That earned him a choke slam, ending his role in the match.
Michaels recovered to hit Sweet Chin Music, Triple H hit a Pedigree, and it appeared to be all over… except that ‘Taker kicked out. The Game threw Michaels out to the floor, only to turn and see his foe sit up, then run wild with a series of offensive moves. A Tombstone finished off the sequence, but Triple H kicked out at two.
They battled back to their feet while slugging away. Helmsley came out on top with a second Pedigree, but it still didn’t prove enough to win the match. Both men went for weapons, but the Phenom got to his first. It was payback time as Undertaker battered Triple H with a series of chair shots, but he still managed to kick out before three.
Defiantly, Triple H gave the crotch chop in the corner before getting clocked with his own sledgehammer. The Dead Man gave the throat slash signal, hit another Tombstone, and finally put his rival away.
A distraught Michaels saw Undertaker struggle to his feet after running his WrestleMania winning streak to 20-0, and he offered a hand to help the Dead Man make it all the way up. The show of respect kept going as HBK and ‘Taker helped HHH back up the ramp, and the three WWE legends shared a group hug and soaked in the applause together on the stage.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Extreme Rules on April 29.
Even for the biggest pay-per-view of the year, Nick’s comments appear in plain type while Dale’s contributions are in italics. It’s a seniority thing.
We’re starting things off right with Lilian Garcia singing “America the Beautiful.” We don’t see enough of Lilian any more, if you catch my drift. Heh, heh.
Daniel Bryan w/ AJ (Champion) vs. Sheamus (challenger) – World Heavyweight Championship Match
After Bryan gets a good luck kiss from AJ, he gets ready to face Sheamus. One Brogue Kick later, Sheamus covers Bryan to win the title.
Winner… and new World Heavyweight Champion… Sheamus at 18 seconds
Match Rating: What match? I hope this wasn’t some sick April Fool’s joke.
You’ve got to love the respect the World Heavyweight belt just got at the biggest show of the year (#sarcasm). It’s almost like it was another middle finger to WCW years after the fact. In the back, The Miz gives Team Johnny a locker room pep talk, but it bombs. David Otunga brings in John Laurinaitis to do a more proper job of inspiring the troops. He does it by comparing what they are about to do to some of the greatest moments in WrestleMania history. Kind of a stretch, if you ask me.
Kane vs. Randy Orton
Orton goes right after Kane, battering him with punches and kicks until the Big Red Machine rallies by hanging Orton off the top rope and hitting him with a big boot. Kane gets a near fall with a low drop kick before switching to a chin lock. The “Boo! Yay!” chants break out as they exchange blows. Orton bots Kane in the face but walks into a side slam. Orton takes some more abuse, finally getting back on track with a swinging neckbreaker. He has to power out of more rest holds to deliver his backbreaker. Randy also connects with a power slam and hurls the monster into the post. Kane takes the DDT spot off the ropes, and Orton signals for the RKO. Kane has none of it, using a boot to the face to get a two count. He tries to follow up by coming off the top rope, but Orton counters with a mid-air drop kick. Randy lines up the punt to the head but runs into a choke slam, forcing him to scramble to kick out. Orton still can’t execute the RKO, so he turns his attention to taking out Kane’s legs instead. Both men go up top, but it’s Orton who takes the ride as Kane drops him down with a flying choke slam. There’s no getting up from that, and Kane gets the pin.
Winner… Kane at 10 minutes and 56 seconds
Match Rating: 5/10
Santino and Mick Foley help WWE pimp Deadliest Catch by eating king crab legs. Foley and Santino use their finishers to crack the crabs. How does Ron Simmons feel about this? I think you know: DAMN!
Cody Rhodes (champion) vs. The Big Show (challenger) – Intercontinental Championship Match
Hopefully this match lasts longer than 18 seconds. Rhodes ducks out of the ring as soon as the bell rings, suckering Show into a sneak attack. Show recovers, tossing Rhodes around the ring. He slams the champ into the corner and shoves his backside into Rhodes’ face. The champ fights back with low drop kicks, knocking Show to the mat. Rhodes locks in a knee submission, but Show powers out. Rhodes connects with the Disaster kick, but the champ tries to go back to the well, and Show blocks it. Big Show connects with a big right. He covers Rhodes to get the win and the Intercontinental Title.
Winner… and new Intercontinental Champion… The Big Show at 5 minutes and 18 seconds
Match Rating: 5.5/10
We get a couple minutes of eye candy thanks to a little feature on the WWE Divas. Speaking of the ladies, they’re up next.
Beth Phoenix and Eve vs. Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos
Eve blocks a back handspring from Kelly but can’t hit the moonsault. Maria tags in, and Eve targets her broken ribs. Phoenix tags in, knocking Kelly off the apron with a cheap shot, and then kicks Maria in the ribs. Eve tags back in, taunting Maria with a booty pop. Maria kicks Eve out of the ring and gets the tag to Kelly. Phoenix also tags in, looking to finish Kelly off with the Glam Slam. Kelly counters into a bulldog, and Maria tags in. She slowly climbs the turnbuckle, allowing Phoenix to grab her. Kelly helps out her partner with some interference, allowing Maria to get the pin with a roll up.
Winners… Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos at 6 minutes and 45 seconds
Match Rating: 2/10
Sadly, given what’s gone down so far and the fact that she worked way longer than anyone expected, with broken ribs to boot, Menounos is the MVP of WrestleMania XXVIII to this point. #realtalk
Matt Striker gets a word with Shawn Michaels, who waxes philosophical about the end of an era that will occur no matter who wins the Undertaker-Triple H match. Apparently tonight’s announced attendance of 78,363 is a new Sun Life Stadium record, somehow managing to out-draw the massive crowds at most Marlins home games. Yeah, yeah, I know they have a new stadium now.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H – Hell in a Cell Match w/ special referee Shawn Michaels
Winner … The Undertaker at 30 minutes and 50 seconds
Match Rating: 10/10
This year’s WWE Hall of Fame inductees get their moment in the spotlight. Or in Flair’s case, his second moment.
Heath Slater crashes Flo Rida’s interview and wants to sing a duet. Rida wants nothing to do with the “One Man Southern Rock Band.” Flo Rida smacks him down, hard.
Team Johnny (The Miz, Mark Henry, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and David Otunga) vs. Team Teddy (The Great Khali, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, Booker T, and Santino Marella)
|WHAT YOU THINK|
What did you think of WrestleMania?
I loved it – 33% It was okay – 28% Disappointing – 15% Didn’t see it – 24%
Well, there are a lot of pay-per-view bonuses being paid out in this match, along with both Bellas, Hornswoggle, Aksana, and Vickie Guerrero. Booker T takes out the entire heel corner before being tripped up. Booker is putting in a lot of ring time, getting worked over by Miz, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, and Ziggler. Booker walks into a World’s Strongest Slam, and all hell breaks loose. Truth and Kofi take out Team Teddy on the outside, and then Aksana takes out Vickie. Back in the ring, Santino climbs the ropes, connecting on a flying head butt to Miz. Santino pulls out the Cobra and strikes down Miz. Ziggler breaks the pin, making the save. Ryder tags in, flipping Ziggler across the ring. Miz dodges the Rough Ryder, but it connects with Ziggler. Ryder sizes up Miz as Eve joins the action. Ryder wants Eve to leave the ring, and the distraction allows Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale. Miz covers Ryder for the win.
Winner… Team Johnny at 10 minutes and 30 seconds
Match Rating: 4/10
After the match, Eve kicks Ryder in the junk.
Dale dislikes Eve so much at this point that he couldn’t being himself to type any more than that one sentence about the post-match shenanigans. Maybe the members of Team Teddy should have known something might be amiss when Eve teamed up with noted heel Beth Phoenix earlier in the show, eh? #wrestlinglogic
CM Punk is getting ready for his match, when John Laurinaitis, who may have raided Rick Pitino’s closet, tells him that if he gets disqualified tonight, he will lose his title.
CM Punk (champion) vs. Chris Jericho (challenger) – WWE Championship Match
CM Punk retained the WWE title.
Punk ends the opening exchange of holds by hammering Jericho in the back of the head and peppering him with knees and boots in the corner. Chris starts in with the mind games, asking the champ about his dad. The floor is no hiding place as Punk comes off the top rope to nail his tormenter on the floor. The champ grabs a steel chair, but he thinks better of using it even though Jericho implores him to do it. Chris hits a drop kick, then clotheslines Punk back into the ring off the apron. Punk takes a suplex from the ring to the floor that looks painful. Jericho gets several near falls, though he’s bleeding a bit over his left eye. He yanks Punk off the turnbuckle by his trunks and covers for another two. Jericho goes for one move too many trying the running bulldog, going hard into the corner. Punk hits a drop kick, a clothesline and a neckbreaker to soften his foe up for a near fall. A series of counters ends with Punk kicking Jericho in the back of the head for a two count. Punk tries to fly with the big elbow, but Jericho gets his knees up and hits a Codebreaker. The champ escapes out to the floor for a second, then returns to land the Go To Sleep. Jericho gets his foot on the ropes, and the match continues. Frustration shows on Punk’s face after a power slam also only gets two. The challenger strings the champ up on the ropes, then lands a Lionsault. It’s still not enough. Punk goes for the top rope Frankensteiner, but Jericho hops down right into the Walls of Jericho. CM strains and makes it to the bottom rope to force the break. Punk’s next move is a suicide dive which takes both men hard into the retaining wall. The champ tries to fly back in and leaps right into a Codebreaker, yet he finds a way to kick out at two. Jericho battles out of a GTS, kicks Punk in the gut and goes up top. The champ takes him down hard and gets Jericho up for the GTS, but he ends up getting flipped around into the Walls of Jericho. The two grapplers trade pinning attempts and submission holds in a slick sequence on the mat. Jericho ends up in the Anaconda Vice, and while he manages to knee his way out of it for a moment, Punk shifts his position around so he is clear of Y2J’s legs. Jericho has to tap out, ending an excellent title bout.
Winner… and still WWE Champion… CM Punk at 22 minutes and 20 seconds
Match Rating: 10/10
The Funkasaurus is in the house, and he’s gonna call his Momma! No really, he just called his mom. And she’s in the house, too, with a whole bunch of Momma Clay dancers.
It’s the world’s funkiest bridge club! As ridiculous as this segment was, I’d rather watch that than the foolishness with Santino, Foley and the crab legs earlier tonight. We’ve got more time to fill before our featured attraction: Diddy makes a brief appearance to introduce MGK, who performs before Cena’s entrance. Flo Rida comes out sporting an incredible iced out belt and mic stand to do two songs before The Rock makes his way out.
John Cena vs. The Rock
Winner… The Rock at 30 minutes and 33 seconds
Match Rating: 7/10
Total Event Time: 3 hours and 57 minutes
Event Rating: 6.5/10