Wrestlemania 29: Reflections
(My view in MetLife Stadium)
This won’t be a proper review per se. I don’t normally do that sort of thing. But since I attended the event and received the proper Wrestlemania experience for the first time, I think a column about the experience is warranted. Often the live experience doesn’t translate well to television (and vise versa) so, as I cover some of the matches and moments, I’ll try to highlight what I perceived to be the mood of the crowd and other aspects that might not have been obvious for people who watched at home.
First of all, I want to send out a heartfelt “fuck you” to the asshole wrestling fans that rode New Jersey Transit. It all started in New York City, Penn Station, as a mob of overly excited 35 year old virgins congregated in the train waiting area. I can only imagine the horror normal commuters experienced as the swarm of neckbeards descended upon them, piling into train cars, howling their dueling “Let’s go Cena!…Cena Sucks!” chants. I even witnessed one of these pieces of human excrement threaten to fight a bystander who politely asked him to stop yelling “Ziggler!” in his ear quite so loud. You people are the reason nobody has any respect for wrestling fans in the real world; the reason why millions of closet wrestling fans (people with real jobs) treat their fandom like a dirty little secret lest their professional colleagues lose all respect for them. We don’t want to be associated with you. Again, fuck you.
Ok… I feel better…
Now onto the event itself. From where I was sitting, it seemed like the crowd was hot for most of the event. I’ve read that some people are complaining that the crowd was dead, but I’m convinced that’s a product of the open stadium. I was at TLC in Brooklyn and I can say confidently that, at least in my section, fans were every bit as passionate.
I’m not going to waste too many words on the undercard. I’m glad The Shield won, don’t care the Big Show went heel again. I thought the Jericho/Fandango match was decent and properly booked.
Ryback/Henry ended up being a huge disappointment. People were actually relatively hot for this match and there was a surprising number of vocal Henry fans. Not sure if you guys heard the “Sexual Chocolate” chants, but they were highly amusing. Besides the finish (I’ll get to that in a second), the biggest problem in this match was the pacing. Nothing really happened. I suppose this was to be expected, but I think everyone in the stadium was expecting a bigger spot-fest with these two. The worst part of this match, though, was the horrendous finish, which left people in my section completely confused. I heard more than a few people mutter around me “wait, what just happened”, after the awkward, failed Shell Shock that resulted in a three count for Henry. If the crowd can’t even decipher what the finish was supposed to be, you probably booked a shit finish. Also, I don’t get the logic of booking a Mark Henry victory, but maybe they’re setting up a change of character for Ryback, who can’t seem to get a PPV win to save his life.
The Tag Team Championship match was fun, but too short. The crowd was simmering hot for Daniel Bryan. I’m still wondering when WWE will realize that, when it comes to big PPV events, the people filling the arenas want to see more of this guy. But, then again, I’m beginning to think the WWE doesn’t give two shits about what sends the fans in attendance home happy (more on that later).
The ADR-Swagger match was better than expected. I enjoyed the finish. ADR was well received. But, of course, no Ziggler cash-in, despite the loud “We want Ziggler” chants that broke out in my section and many others.
Punk/Undertaker. Epic. What more needs to be said? Hands down the best match of the night. It was the only match for which my entire section stood from beginning to end. People were fired up, and the crowd seemed 50/50 split between Undertaker and Punk. Both men, however, worked the crowd like nothing I had experienced at a live wrestling event. The pacing of the match was pitch perfect. You never felt like Punk and Taker were just killing time to get to the next spot. Punk threw himself with abandon into the tactic of using Taker’s persona against him. The two “old school” rope walk moments with Punk were genius. Most importantly, though, it had the “holy shit, maybe he’s going to beat the streak” moment: despite the fact I wrote an entire column explaining why Punk would definitely not beat The Streak in 2013, when he bashed Taker over the head with the urn, my disbelief disappeared for about 15 seconds as Punk crawled to make the cover. The kick out was heartbreaking, even though I knew in my heart of hearts it was coming. But that’s ok. That’s why we pay money to feel. The entire crowd gave those two men a well deserved standing ovation afterwards. You could just feel the respect everyone had for what they had just seen.
Punk/Undertaker was so emotionally draining, it definitely affected Brock/HHH, which followed directly after. I think most people in attendance wanted to see this match, but were just completely spent by the time it started. You hardly even heard an ovation for Triple H’s entrance. People didn’t even stand. It was nothing against him either. I was burnt out. Everyone was burnt out. It was nothing against the performers, the booking, or the match, but it is a testament to just how good Punk vs. Undertaker was.
I noticed that about halfway through Brock and Trip’s match, people started getting their second wind. I thought the kimura lock sequence was well executed and made sense with the story-arc. As for the finish — Brock did the honors by putting over a young performer with a bright future. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this Triple H guy can do now that he has the spotlight and all this momentum (</sarcasm>).
The main event. Ohhhh, the main event. Before I get into it, I have to pause here and note that every single time Cena’s image was shown on the big screen, throughout the entire night, MetLife Staidum reigned down a chorus of boos upon it. Cena was definitely not in friendly territory. At best the split was 75% against and 25% for John Cena.
Remember when I told you The Rock is a shell of his former self? Any detractors still out there now? Again, the dude was gassed in one of the worst paced ‘Mania closers I’ve ever seen. No less than three “this is boring” chants broke out in my section during the first ten minutes. I could actually see people getting visibly angry. They had one great sequence with Cena feigning to go for The People’s Elbow and then slyly grabbing the ropes (harkening back to last year’s match and the storyline surrounding that moment). The crowd popped big for that and I actually thought the match might transform into something special. But then it didn’t. It became, what seemed like an eternity, of finisher attempts by both men and actually finished with one of the most predictable, unsatisfying endings of all time. People booed the finish and they booed the handshake. Loudly. Not sure if it translated on television, but the majority of the people in attendance were not pleased.
That leads me to my biggest gripe about ‘Mania this year. Though I had a great time at the event at certain moments, I really don’t understand why WWE didn’t do something to make the event feel special for the fans in attendance. WWE knows their audiences, especially its New York fans. Everyone was waiting for some kind of Wrestlemania shocker and it never came. I’m not even just talking about a Cena heel turn (though that would have certainly made the cut). I just mean that there was nothing that happened that would make one think that WWE had any intention of putting together a show that was a “crowd pleaser”. It’s no secret that NYC has a smarky fan base. Why not do SOMETHING to please us? How about giving Daniel Bryan more time? How about having Ziggler cash in MITB? How about they don’t go with the cheese handshake and just have Rock lay Cena out after the match? This was WWE paint by the numbers and the event suffered for it.
I remember walking out of the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn after TLC and seeing the big smiles one everybody’s faces. As I walked out of MetLife, what I saw were mostly tired, confused faces. Again, looking back, I had a good time. I don’t feel like I wasted my money or anything. That said, ‘Mania could have been better. It SHOULD have been better.