WrestleMania 24: I’m Sorry, I Love You. A return to outdoor venues as The Florida Citrus Bowl (now the Camping World Stadium) hosts. John Legend sings ‘America the Beautiful’. Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler are on commentary for Raw, Michael Cole & Jonathan Coachman for SmackDown, Joey Styles & Tazz for ECW. The opening hype packages focuses on how big WrestleMania is, it’s the ‘be all and end all’.

    WrestleMania 24: John Bradshaw Layfield vs Finlay – Belfast Brawl

    Layfield had picked this fight with Finlay by attacking Hornswoggle, who was for a while Mr. McMahons illegitimate son, but has now been revealed as Finlay’s. As a ‘Belfast Brawl’ it’s no disqualification, no count outs and a big old brawl.

    Trash cans come in early, Finlay being the one to bring them in but taking the brunt of the punishment. Both men are solid brawlers, so the environment suits them. Finlay turns it around and gets his chance to batter JBL for a bit, but the momentum keeps shifting back and forth. Hornswoggle gets involved as well, with a kendo stick shot to JBL. It’s not a ‘hardcore‘ match but there are a lot of the same weapons involved as you’d have seen in Attitude Era hardcore matches. But it’s laid out more in the context of a recognisable match. Finlay dives to the outside and takes and ugly looking trashcan lid to the head.

    With JBL on top he takes time out of beating Finlay to absolutely hurl a trashcan onto Hornswoggle on the floor, this brings the fire out of Finlay, and he takes back over. Finlay throws JBL through a table, but JBL kicks out. JBL then hits the ‘Clothesline from Hell’ and pins to win. It’s nothing pretty but it’s a fun brawl, nonetheless.

    We go backstage to special guest hostess, Kim Kardashian. Her ‘acting’ is wooden at best, and she can’t stop smiling even when Mr. Kennedy is yelling at her.

    WrestleMania 24: Money in the Bank Ladder Match – CM Punk, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, Carlito, Montel Vontavious Porter, Mr. Kennedy & John Morrison

    A very 2008 line up of talents, a snapshot of the upper mid card of the time. Chris Jericho’s involvement is a headline as he wasn’t long into his return run after 2 years away. There seem to be particular issues between Kennedy and Punk, with both men mouthing off at the other when they make it to the ring. There are also two champions involved, MVP is the United States Champion, Morrison is one half of the Tag Team Champions.

    As soon as the bell rings everyone bar MVP leave the ring to grab some ladders. MVP and Jericho joust with some ladders, before Morrison hits a moonsault to the floor whilst holding a ladder. The ladder doesn’t actually add anything to the move beyond the visual but that’s never the point in those moments. Morrison, Kennedy & Benjamin climb a pair of ladders before coming off in a combination of a ‘sunset flip’, a powerbomb and a superplex. Benjamin comes very close to pulling off a very cool looking piece of athleticism but just messes it up.

    There’s a run where the majority of the field get a chance to climb the ladder for a moment. Benjamin once again stands out in a Money in the Bank match, but he gets taken out with a spill through a ladder on the floor. Jericho puts a version of his ‘Walls of Jericho’ hold onto Morrison, upside down on top of a ladder, before getting brought down by Carlito.

    MVP is close to winning but a wild Matt Hardy appears. Hardy had been out for five months with a knee injury suffered at the hands of MVP and takes his off the ladder with a ‘Twist of Fate’ before disappearing back into the crowd. Some clever ladder constructions from John Morrison, who ends up landing crotch first on the top rope for his troubles. It looks like it’s down to Jericho and Punk, they both end up at the top of the ladder and Jericho is centimetres from getting it. Punk manages to get Jericho caught up in the ladder and climbs to retrieve the briefcase. CM Punk wins the contract. He would it until June when he cashed in to claim his first World Heavyweight Championship.

    We get a glimpse of the three men in the WWE Championship before going to the 2008 Hall of Fame class. Mae Young, Gordon Solie, Eddie Graham, the Brisco brothers, High Chief Peter Maivia and Rocky Johnson (Grandfather and Father of the Rock. The headliner is Ric Flair. It’s a heavily posthumous class. During the presentation on the stadium set Flair is represented by his children (including the future Charlotte), as he was due to wrestle later in the show.

    Todd Grisham is backstage with Snoop Dogg. He’s pretty charismatic, and seems to have made friends with Festus. Santino Marella interrupts. Goofy filler, featuring Mick Foley at the end for a bit.

    WrestleMania 24: Batista vs Umaga

    Brand supremacy on the line. Even in 2008 there wasn’t a lot of stakes to that concept. General Manager for Raw, William Regal and Assistant General Manager of SmackDown, Teddy Long are here to oversee. Presumably the actual General Manager of SmackDown, Vickie Guerrero, had something better to do.

    Two big, but athletic men, doing big athletic man things. Batista controls the early exchanges before Umaga takes over. A lot of striking, slams and the like. And even the dreaded trapezius hold, thankfully for only a few seconds instead of the few minutes that it would have been in the early 90s. Umaga goes for a dive when Batista is far too far away across the ring and unsurprisingly misses. It’s still very one sided towards Umaga until Batista hits his titular ‘Batista Bomb’ to pin and win. Not particularly interesting stuff really, the low stakes didn’t help buoy it to anything more than possible.

    We have a look at the tale of the tape for (convicted domestic abuser) Floyd Mayweather vs Big Show later in the night.

    WrestleMania 24: Chavo Guerrero vs Kane – ECW Championship

    Kane won a battle royal on the pre-show to claim this match. Champion Chavo Guerrero enters first. Kane’s music play and he appears from underneath the ring, Guerrero still looking up the ramp. A ‘chokeslam’ from Kane and he pins to win and become the new ECW Champion. It’s officially counted at 11 seconds, but it’s more like 6. If you ever need a pointer to how little WWE cared about their ECW brand, this was the only time the ECW Championship was defended at WrestleMania.

    For some reason we then get a skit where Carlito, who we’ve already seen tonight, has a fight with a pigeon whilst out for dinner with Maria. It’s an advert for WrestleMania over an hour into the show itself. Then it’s actress/singer Raven Symone in the ring, thankfully she’s announcing something for ‘Make-A-Wish’ because other than that she’s very grating. Jerry Lawler saying he’s a big fan of hers might be one of the most unintentional funny bits of shilling ever.

    WrestleMania 24: Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair – Flair’s Career on the Line

    A deeply emotional match up. Ric Flair had been forced into a stipulation by Vince McMahon that the next time he lost he would be forced to retire. Flair had managed to last until Mania by pulling out all the stops as the ‘dirtiest player in the game’ but upped the ante by challenging Michaels to this match. Michaels has seemed conflicted about the responsibility of being the man who puts ‘old yeller’ out of his misery. The conclusion might seem foregone, but the build has been great, high emotional stakes for sure.

    Flair speaks to Mike Adamle backstage very briefly before the entrances. Both are epic and befitting what is somewhat of a main event in the middle of the card. Long time friend of Flair’s, Charles Robinson is the referee for some extra weight.

    It’s not really about the action in this match, it’s about the emotional weight behind everything. Flair shows early on that he’s definitely going for it in the match, and Michaels proves how good an opponent he is opposite him. Flair takes more exception to Michaels referring to him as ‘Old Yeller’ as they start to throw strikes and lose the early respectful air. Michaels goes to the top rope but gets thrown off, Flair actually hitting a crossbody before he ends up on the floor. A baseball slide knocks Flair down before Michaels misses with a springboard moonsault and lands hard on the edge of one of the announce tables. This gives Flair an opening and he gets the first few close pinfalls in the match.

    Flair misses an attack and gets dropped to the floor, Michaels following up with a Moonsault onto him. Some back and forth in the ring, Michaels bringing the dynamism to allow for Flair to pace himself. Michaels hits his diving elbow but can’t immediately capitalise due to his injured ribs. He starts to set up for ‘Sweet Chin Music’ but seemingly thinks twice and hesitates, allowing Flair to lock him in the ‘figure four leg lock’. Michaels manages to reverse it and Flair reaches the ropes.

    Flair gets some more of his classic offense in before a struggle leads into another ‘Figure Four’. Michaels does fight out eventually but Flair clings on just long enough that for a moment his victory looks possible. A surprise ‘Sweet Chin Music’ and a kick out get a huge reaction, Flair’s career flashing before his eyes. Flair can’t get to his feet for a while as Michaels goes for a second, before Flair uses his body to block the view of Robinson as he hits a low blow. Michaels recovers to lock in his own ‘Figure Four’ on Flair, Flair fighting to get out, resorting to a thumb to Michaels’ eye to make it out.

    The fight on their knees for a moment before Michaels prepare for another ‘Sweet Chin Music’. He looks over at Flair, says ‘I’m Sorry, I Love You’, before delivering the superkick to pin Flair and win the match. Both men visibly emotional as Michaels kisses Flair on the forehead and leaves the ring.

    Flair gets a standing ovation from the entire stadium as family look on crying. Flair goes to them. It’s genuinely tear-jerking emotional stuff.

    Flair might have reneged on this being his final match, first in TNA and then in 2022 with his ‘Final Match’ one off. But it doesn’t really impact on the emotion of this match and the moment. It’s a fitting send off for Flair and proof that it’s not the moves that make a match, it’s the story and the stakes.

    It’s going to be hard to follow that so thankfully the company give us a break, and interview with Edge backstage with Todd Grisham. It’s a great little promo. We then get a few fireworks for some down time.

    WrestleMania 24: Beth Phoenix & Melina vs Maria & Ashley – Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjill match

    For the second year in a row all the companies’ women are packed onto the show as Lumberjacks for a match. Only this time with added Snoop Dogg. Snoop intros the match and the lumberjacks, although not by name. Given he’s a renowned rapper, his use of cue cards rather than just memorising the brief stuff he has to say, is interesting. Beth Phoenix is the Women’s Champion but it’s not on the line in this tag team match. Her and Melina are joined by Santino Marella.

    There is actually wrestling in this match, Beth Phoenix the obvious in ring standout. Maria and Ashley get the early run, showing off some occasionally well executed moves. Phoenix pulls out a ‘bear hug’ and actually makes that usually naff move look like it hurts. The stadium lights cut out for a while and some emergency spotlights light up the action.

    Santino Marella intervenes to break up a pinfall and Jerry Lawler has had enough, getting up from ringside to go and punch him. Phoenix and Marella win the match despite this. Snoop Dogg gets physical with Marella in aftermath and then kisses Maria. As you do.
    It’s clear that by this point it’s not a talent issue holding the women’s division back, it’s purely a creative one. There was enough talent in the company that the fact the women were all just thrown out for less than 15 minutes of screen time, the match being 5 of them, shows that creative hadn’t caught up to what they could actually accomplish.

    WrestleMania 24: Randy Orton vs Triple H vs John Cena – WWE Championship

    Two men who had suffered severe injuries in recent times get a shot at the WWE Championship. Triple H had missed the previous year’s Mania with injury and John Cena had managed to return months earlier than expected at the Royal Rumble, which he won. Cena used that title shot at No Way Out instead of Mania, a match he lost after Orton got himself disqualified. Cena then beat Orton on Raw to get added back in for this match. Cena gets a major entrance with a marching band playing something that approximates his entrance music live on the stage. Triple H’s entrance is understated by his standards. Orton’s is his usual.

    As the bell rings Triple H seems to be trying to form an alliance, Orton breaking that up by taking advantage of the no disqualification rules by hitting HHH with the title belt. It quickly settles into ‘2 men fight, one man hides’ formula that a lot of triple threats do. An early moment involving all three does come when Cena tries to ‘FU’ both of the other men, but a HHH low blow stops that.

    Cena gets hit with a crossbody by Orton off Triple H’s shoulders, he rolls through but can’t hit a move. All three men are more regularly active now thankfully. Orton hits both opponents with simultaneously rope hung DDT’s but can’t get a pinfall despite trying one on both. An ‘RKO’ attempt by Orton is countered by Cena, who goes to the ropes and hits a top rope leg drop. Orton looks to be running away but turns it into a move where he throws Cena into one of the ring posts, taking him out for a while and letting Triple H and Orton work one another. Triple H starts to work on Orton’s leg but ends up getting thrown out of the ring by an ‘RKO’, even as Orton is hobbled. Cena gets the ‘STFU’ locked in on Orton, who struggles for a long while. Triple H, in a call back to his previous triple threat world title match, helps Orton reach the ropes to break up the pin.

    An ’Indian Deathlock’ from Triple H to Orton is broken up, Cena getting the ‘STFU’ back in on Orton straight away. Even at this point his application of the hold looks weak, visible distance between his arms and Orton making it look poor. Triple H manages to pull Cena out of that submission and into a ‘Crossface’, Cena managing to make the ropes. Cena and Triple H brawl for a while before Cena gets the upper hand and goes for the ‘five knuckle shuffle’ which he hits. HHH and Cena trade finisher attempts and signature offense. Triple H hits Cena with a ‘Pedigree’ but Orton breaks up the pin by punting HHH in the head and he pins Cena to win.

    Not great, not terrible. It doesn’t feel particularly big time given the three men involved, it’s all well executed but it’s just a bit bland to really stick the landing.

    WrestleMania 24: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Big Show – No Disqualification

    A freak show fight pitting the recently returned Big Show against the far smaller, world champion boxer, Floyd Mayweather. The boxer will have certainly brought some eyes to the show but surely there was a better, less problematic, option? Mayweather comes out with a large entourage of large men, and money raining down on to the crowd, still sounds like he’s being booed.

    It’s speed vs size, Mayweather avoiding Show early on and getting his punches in when he can. Mayweather’s entourage try and get involved and Show batters one of them. Show goes to chokeslam Mayweather, who gets on his back and holds on for a long chokehold. Big Show dominates, stomping on Mayweather’s hand and chopping him across the chest. One of Mayweather’s entourage is very insistent that Show ‘can’t be doing that’, he must not know the rules of a No DQ, anything goes, match. It’s not very interesting, even when Mayweather and his helpers try and leave and Show chases them down. Mayweather’s entourage get involved every now and again but the match finishes when Mayweather hits Show with a brass knuckles assisted right hand for the knock out.

    Not a good match, it’s briefly an interesting spectacle but that’s it. Mayweather would go on to end his boxing career undefeated, get involved with cryptocurrency and add a second conviction for domestic violence to his record.

    Kim Kardashian is back to announce the attendance. Not a natural actress.

    WrestleMania 24: Edge vs The Undertaker – World Heavyweight Championship

    A bitter feud that has been coming for a long time. Edge cashed in Money in the Bank on the Undertaker the previous year to end the title reign he began at WrestleMania 23. Undertaker had won the Elimination Chamber to claim this match. Both men are undefeated at WrestleMania (in singles matches) so not only is the World Heavyweight Championship on the line, but two streaks are. Edge is also undefeated in his previous matches with Undertaker.

    Taker has his now iconic WrestleMania druids with him, flaming torches and all. His attire calls back to the ‘Ministry of Darkness’ era of the late 90s. Edge is accompanied onto the stage by a wheelchair bound Vickie Guerrero, his ‘fiancée’ at the time, Undertaker having put her in the wheelchair in the build.

    Undertaker makes the ‘throat slit’ gesture at Edge as the bell rings, Edge responds by showing he isn’t scared by shoving Taker. It’s Undertaker on top early on, but Edge already shows how well he’s scouted the challenger with some glimpses at clever counter wrestling. Undertaker hits a hip attack in the corner but goes over the turnbuckle and spills to the floor. Edge keeps Taker on the floor well, rolling in and out of the ring to break the count and using the ropes for leverage. Edge takes over for a while, but gets thrown to the floor himself when he gets a bit overconfident and goes for a dive.
    An epic ‘suicide dive’ from Undertaker, a WrestleMania trademark at this stage of his career. Edge evades the ‘Last Ride’ attempt back in the ring and takes it back to the floor on his terms, throwing the Undertaker into the front row of the crowd. Slow paced wearing down from Edge on Undertaker.

    It’s rare to see Undertaker at any point in his career being dominated for such a long period, especially by a relatively smaller opponent. Whenever Undertaker goes for one of his signature pieces of offense, Edge has a counter for it, including a DDT counter from a ‘chokeslam’ attempt. Undertaker evades a ‘spear attempt’ and finally hits a ‘chokeslam’, Edge kicking out. An ‘Old School’ attempt is also countered. Edge’s counter wrestling gives him lots of openings, he even fights out of a ‘Last Ride’ attempt after getting cocky and putting himself in position to get caught with it.

    A second ‘Last Ride’ hits but Edge kicks out. A counter to the ‘Tombstone Piledriver’ now. Great thread running through the match. Undertaker might hit his signature moves every now and again but Edge counters most attempts. A missed big boot takes the referee down. Edge takes advantage with a low blow and then hits Undertaker with a ringside camera. A cocky Edge goes for his own ‘Tombstone Piledriver’ but it gets reversed into one by Undertaker. A new referee sprints the entire way down the ramp and counts a two. The Edgeheads (Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder) show up to briefly distract Undertaker, Edge hits a spear, Undertaker kicks out. Edge delivers a second spear but Undertaker catches him in the still novel ‘Hells Gate’ submission. Edge taps out, Undertaker is the new World Heavyweight Champion and now 16-0 at WrestleMania.

    Brilliant match. A great story of counter wrestling and how to avoid it. Undertaker having to resort to a submission after Edge had fought away from every other option was a great finish. It marks the first time Undertaker won at WrestleMania via submission and showed that even at this stage of his career Undertaker was still able to vary his move set.

    Overall – WrestleMania 24

    A fun if uneven show. The main event is a fantastic showcase of tactical counter wrestling and one of the top matches of The Streak. The undercard though varies wildly, Flair/Michaels is emotional, Money in the Bank is a car crash in a good way, and JBL/Finlay is violent fun. And then there are things like Guerrero/Kane, the women’s tag match and Mayweather/Big Show, which might be fun for long seconds as a freak show but it’s more than five seconds long. The outdoor setting gives the early matches a different look as the sun sets which is always nice.