The last WrestleMania before Stadium’s became the regular destination started off with a World Tag Team Championship match between The Big Show & Kane and Carlito & Chris Masters.  I’ve subsequently met one of these duos in Preston, England at PCW.  Spoiler alert it wasn’t the Champions who successfully retained their titles in a short but perfectly adequate opener.  This is followed by the random sight of Ric Flair in a Money in the Bank Ladder match, along with Rob Van Dam, Bobby Lashley, Finlay, Matt Hardy and Shelton Benjamin.  It is, to be frank, at the lower end of the scale of MitB matches but is still one hell of an effort from all concerned. 

    In the two years previously, JBL and Chris Benoit were in matches for versions of the World Title; here they clash over the US Title.  The basic story is Benoit wanting to take it to the mat but Layfield wanting to make it a fistfight.  There’s plenty of JBL cheap heat which at least means the fans pop for Benoit putting him in the Crossface.  Alas, JBL rolls over and grabs the rope for leverage to get a cheap pin.  Pure filler.  Edge and Mick Foley in a Hardcore match certainly isn’t filler (and has recently been the subject of a program on the Network) and if this really was Foley’s attempt to make a genuine “Mania moment” otherwise missing in his career résumé then fair play to him for the efforts he was willing to go to. And let’s also be fair, putting Edge over in such a fashion was certainly part of Edge’s Hall of Fame career trajectory. 

    You might as well have The Boogeyman against Booker T & Sharmell following that.  Because I’ve just watched The Kat Vs Terri Runnells, at least this isn’t the worst Mania match ever.  Much, much better is the Women’s Title match between Trish Stratus and Mickie James.  If you haven’t watched this one in the context of the storyline before do check it out.  It’s wacky, but so well done by both women that it became utterly believable.  Perhaps the only downside is that it was so well done James became as popular as Trish. 

    The Casket Match between The Undertaker and Mark Henry seems very much a throwback to Taker’s “beat the giant’s phase” of the decade earlier.  It’s fine if a predictable Casket match fought at a plodding pace is your kind of thing.  Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon do far better in their No Holds Barred match that follows.  Sure it’s overbooked OTT “sports entertainment” but what else could it be.  It’s great fun for what it is.  And hey, if you’re sixty years old and an (almost) billionaire would you take the punishment Vince does here?

    The World Heavyweight Championship match where Kurt Angle defends against Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio has its critics.  Some (many) didn’t like the build-up (focussed partly on the late Eddie Guerrero), others say that a ten-minute title match at Mania between three such talents was a waste and an insult.  Both viewpoints may have their points.  The three-pack a lot into a short match and if it was on any other show it might get a lot more love.  But it’s Mania and a pretty disappointing payoff to Mysterio’s quest for the gold. 

    As bad as a Playboy Pillow Fight between Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle is, it’s still not the worst WrestleMania match ever.  And it was only a breather between the World Title matches as John Cena and Triple H finish things off.  Look out for CM Punk as one of the extras here.  Cena isn’t popular (and almost doesn’t seem to be prepared for it) and the match itself probably goes a little too long.  But it’s a strong enough bout, played out in front of a hot crowd and for better or worse cement Cena as “The Man” for the next decade or so. 

    WrestleMania 22 perhaps lacks the career-defining moment that WrestleMania 14 had and hasn’t got the one super-standout match that WrestleMania2000 had but as a whole, it’s a good, enjoyable event that has enough about it to recommend it as a watch. Your guess is as good as mine as to why there’s a picture of John Cena beating up Booker T on the cover though.  There are extras with this one (it’s a three-disc set) as we get the 2006 Hall of Fame Induction ceremony (inc Bret Hart) and the return of Saturday Night’s Main Event is also included (which includes Shawn Michaels Vs Shane McMahon).


    We’re in to the Stadium era now and we’re outdoors.  There’s 75,000 people on hand, so lets get to it!

    We kick off with a Belfast Brawl between Finlay and JBL.  This began when Hornswoggle was revealed as Mr McMahon’s son (in one of the most dispiriting storyline wrap up’s in WWE history) before JBL revealed that he was in fact Finlay’s son.  Luckily the fact that this is a Belfast Brawl enables it to rise well above what you might expect and allows the two to waffle each other all over the place without really bothering to pull any punches.  JBL wins, but you can’t have everything.  Kim Kardashian is backstage and tells us that Money in the Bank is next.  Mr Kennedy interrupts her to say that he’s going to win for the second straight year.  I don’t think he even believed that.

    The MitB itself features Kennedy, Carlito, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, MVP, John Morrison and Shelton Benjamin.  Rumour has it Jeff Hardy may have won this if he hadn’t been a naughty boy and got suspended.  It’s the usual MitB stunt fest though I would perhaps place it more towards the upper end of the scale in that sense.  Production wise they do a fantastic job of hiding all the people feigning unconsciousness at ringside so on screen it’s a non-stop fast paced hellraiser.  Punk wins. 

    A “Battle of the Brands” between Batista (Smackdown) and Umaga (Raw) follows.  There is nothing finer than William Regal calling him “Yoomanga”.  The brand warfare gimmick is a transparent attempt to make something more of a match that isn’t really all that interesting as a concept and is a definite comedown for Batista from where he was the year previously.  Well for Umaga as well come to think of it.  Some duo’s may have decided to make the most of a relatively unimportant position on the card.  These two didn’t really go that route.  Pedestrian affair.

    Kane had won a pre-show battle royale to get a shot at ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero.  He wins in 10 seconds or so.  But at least the Career Threatening Match between Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair was up next.  For months leading up to the show Flair’s career had been on the line in every single match he’d fought thanks to that evil Vince McMahon.  The fact that it’s only his career on the line maybe added a little bit of doubt to proceedings but in reality there was none.  But this should be required viewing for those people who complain “WWE is too predictable”.  Sometimes it SHOULD be predictable.  Shawn does his usual big event masterpiece but Flair holds his end of the bargain too and it’s certainly the best performance of his post WCW career.  If you don’t cry at the “I’m sorry, I love you” bit you have a very cold heart indeed. 

    By design the Playboy Bunnymania Lumberjill match that can’t possibly follow Ric Flair’s retirement is up next.  God bless Beth Phoenix and Melina for trying but Ashley and Maria are just not very good.  The only thing of note is that the lights temporarily go down during this one (forcing the WWE to use a spotlight to highlight the ring) but as this is the WWE Women’s Division of the time they robotically carry on anyway.  Still, it’s not Kat/Terri so it is not the worst Mania match ever. 

    The WWE Championship Triple Threat Match between Randy Orton, John Cena and Triple H feels like it should, well, feel bigger but given how many times this trio would clash horns over the years to come maybe it’s hindsight lethargy on my part.  It’s fun, it’s entertaining and as he was retaining it made Orton look very credible indeed.  Even at this stage, losses didn’t really do anything to harm Cena or HHH.  By rights the No DQ match between Big Show and Floyd “Money” Mayweather should have been a bust.  The WWE made the mistake of portraying Floyd as the babyface in the early stages of it but wisely twisted it enough.  The size difference is ridiculous but they actually make it worth and whatever you think of Mayweather he treated wrestling with the utmost respect here.

    We end with what I feel is an unfairly forgotten main event between Edge & The Undertaker.  It seems to get lost in the discussion of all time great Mania matches but if it’s not quite at the top of the list it definitely deserves a high spot.  As daft as it may sound to say about a 2008 match, it had an old school feel of the kind of thing the WWE might have given us in the 97/98 era.  Even the run-in’s felt right.  I loved this at the time, and I love it watching it now. 

    WM 24 as a whole tends to get forgotten about outside the Flair “retirement”.  But watching it back it’s definitely up there in terms of the best Mania’s of all-time.  It’s got a little bit of everything and feels like a big even show.  Definitely worth checking out again. The set adds the 2008 Hall of Fame ceremony and the pre-show 24 man battle royal. 

    Photos courtesy of Fetch Publicity and WWE.com

    Thank you to WWE Home Video for our review copies of WrestleMania which are out NOW on DVD (alongside WrestleMania 20). You can buy your copies from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.

    1 2 3