Mania a show of hits and (more) misses
Wrestlemania 25 is in the books, and it's time for a few thoughts and observations.
Without a doubt, and not surprisingly, The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels was the highlight of the show. Their 30-minute classic exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. It was nice to see a pair of over-40 performers (both 43) carry another Wrestlemania. Such was the case at last year's event when the Mania moment was Michaels vs. Ric Flair (then 59) in what turned out to be the Nature Boy's retirement match.
HBK and Taker took it to another level Sunday night on the grandest stage of them all where they demonstrated that professional wrestling, in its purest form, can be a true work of art.
Speaking of age, 56-year-old Ricky Steamboat made time stand still when he stepped into the ring for his first match in nearly 15 years, teaming with fellow legends Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper against Chris Jericho. As expected, Snuka and Piper were mercifully eliminated in short order, leaving Steamboat in for the duration and allowing him to dazzle the fans with a top rope crossbody, plancha and other aerial moves that defied his age.
Steamboat looked even better the following night on Raw, teaming with John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy and C.M. Punk in a winning effort against Kane, Edge, Big Show, Matt Hardy and Chris Jericho in a 10-man match.
History was well served, and perhaps the fans said it best when they chanted: "You've still got it!"
Praise for Steamboat came from all corners, but no one was happier than his greatest ring rival, Ric Flair, who inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before Wrestlemania.
"I was just so happy for him," Flair said last week. "He finally got his due."
Flair also paid homage to Steamboat during the Hall of Fame ceremony.
"Over a 36-year period, I had the opportunity to step inside the ring with the greatest stars in wrestling. But when I'm asked who my greatest opponent was over those years, my answer is always the same. Ricky Steamboat," Flair said from the podium.
While Steamboat, Michaels and Taker were the standout stars of Wrestlemania, pro wrestling's equivalent of the Super Bowl, there were some disappointments and downright flops on the show as well.
Let us count the ways:
* While the Jericho-Mickey Rourke angle started out with plenty of promise, it gradually lost momentum as the focus shifted away from Rourke, who had been expected to play a big role at Wrestlemania and actually compete in either a boxing or wrestling match against Jericho. The deal fell through when Rourke prematurely made the announcement weeks prior to the Oscars, resulting in his agents and handlers putting the kibosh on Rourke getting into the ring.
"If I took time off at this point in my career and did the wrestling, I wouldn't be taken seriously in the acting world again," Rourke told the Baltimore Sun last week. "I've always enjoyed sports a lot more than I have acting, but they just advised me not to do it. I was kind of disappointed."
Even more disappointing was the lame jab Rourke - a former boxer who had six months of wrestling training last year - threw during the post-match scuffle with Jericho. Not exactly the Sports Center moment that WWE brass had hoped for.
* One can only wonder why the company didn't pull the trigger in the main-event match between Triple H and Randy Orton. It was the right place and the right time for Orton to win the crown. Even the match didn't live up to promise.
The entire Orton-Triple H angle had centered on violence and retribution, but the Mania payoff provided little of either. The match was poorly laid out, with both men using their finishers early in the contest, and lacked a brutal intensity level commensurate with the gravity of the storyline.
It made little sense to go from violence back to wrestling and back to holds. And while WWE has boasted a PG rating for its TV broadcasts, the use of blood in a grudge battle such as this one could only have helped the match. Ultimately the bout was a reflection of a creative process that has had its ups and downs throughout the duration of the storyline.
To make matters worse, the world title will be on the line in a six-man tag-team match at the company's next PPV (Backlash), with the stipulation that whoever wins the fall wins the title. With Triple H teaming with Shane McMahon and the returning Batista against Orton, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, it could be a way to have Orton win the crown without Triple H actually losing, thereby diminishing the significance and quality of victory for Orton.
* The Money in the Bank match at Mania provided its usual share of high-risk spots, but once again with a result that generated a mixed reaction from the fans.
A victory for Christian would have been a major boost for the former TNA star and pushed him one step closer to a reunion with longtime friend and teammate Edge. WWE brass, however, opted to give the nod to C.M. Punk, who won a similar match just a year ago at Mania.
* JBL's much-anticipated "historic" announcement at Wrestlemania also was a dud. History might have been made had JBL removed that ridiculous-looking mask Rey Mysterio was wearing. Although the mask was designed to resemble that of The Joker, it looked more like the return of Doink The Clown, and seemed to legitimately scare some younger Mysterio fans at ringside.
John Bradshaw Layfield, however, merely confirmed following his 26-second Intercontinental title loss to Mysterio that he would be leaving WWE for good.
"I had wanted to make it to WM25 for years, and when injuries cut my career short the one regret I had was that I wouldn't make the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania - well, I made it," JBL later said on his WWE Universe blog.
He added that he has no plans to do anything on a professional level with WWE in the future and he's not going back to commentary.
"Months ago, I picked out this match. If Eddie Guerrero couldn't be here for it, then my dear friend Rey was the obvious choice, and I'm proud he was," he said. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you for allowing me to be a part of the great theater we call sports entertainment."
Word, however, has surfaced that JBL didn't leave the company on the best of terms. His wife, financial guru Meredith Whitney, also didn't attend what appears to have been Layfield's last match.
* The 25-diva battle royal was on the show for three reasons: eye candy, comedy and a Mania payoff for the participants. It would have been much better, however, had some of the former divas - such as Sunny and Molly Holly - been allowed to log in more ring time.
- Andrew "Test" Martin died from an accidental overdose of oxycodone, according to Hillsborough County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Vernard Adams. Oxycodone is found in the painkiller OxyContin.
It had been reported earlier that police found prescription pills and steroids in Martin's home.
Martin, four days shy of his 34th birthday, was found dead in his Tampa apartment on March 14.
- WWE will air its 2009 draft from Philips Arena in Atlanta Monday night on Raw from 8-11 p.m.
- WWE and WGN America will team up for WWE Superstars beginning Thursday from 8-9 p.m. and 11 p.m.-midnight. Additional airings will be at noon Sundays. The hour-long weekly program will feature first-run, original programming from the three brands.
- Hulk Hogan, who split in 2007 from his wife of 24 years, reportedly has turned down a reality show pitch from VH-1 focused on Hogan finding a new love interest. Network execs wanted to create a "love interest" angle similar to other VH-1 shows such as Bret Michaels's "Rock of Love" and Flavor Flav's "Flavour of Love." Both shows attracted big ratings for the network.
Hogan was back in court last week in Clearwater, Fla., asking a judge to stop estranged wife Linda's 20-year-old boyfriend, Charlie Hill, from driving his boats and cars.
"We're worried everyday that Charlie Hill is driving those vehicles ... It's just crazy. It's like dumping gas on a house, lighting a match and hoping it won't go up," Hogan's attorney, David Houston, was quoted as saying.
Hogan, who is paying the insurance policies on the vehicles, claims his insurance company will not cover anyone who is not on the policy that has driven the vehicle more than a dozen times.
Hogan also is the subject of a recent piece in The National Enquirer in which he claims he saved son Nick from having his legs sawed off at the scene of Nick's 2007 car crash which left passenger John Graziano in a vegetative state.
Hogan, who is pushing his new book, says the crew was going to use a power saw to cut him Nick out of the vehicle after the accident.
- Sixteen-time world champ Ric Flair attended Ring of Honor TV tapings in Philadelphia last week for an upcoming ROH show on HDNet.
HDNet president and co-founder Mark Cuban called Flair a welcome addition to the lineup.
"We're very excited to have Ric Flair involved with Ring of Honor on HDNet," Cuban said in the press release. "Ric is a true legend in the sport of professional wrestling and his involvement will shine a light on the accomplished athletes of ROH."
ROH owner Cory Silken told Alex Marvez last week that Flair lends enormous credibility to the company.
"Ric Flair is one of the Babe Ruths of pro wrestling," said Silkin. "He has a lot of relevance. I love Bruno Sammartino and we were very successful when he came to visit the company once in New York. But a 19-year-old wouldn't know who he was unless he was a wrestling historian. A 19-year-old or 69-year-old would know Ric Flair."
Flair has been equally impressed with the ROH roster and product.
"They're great. They did real well with their shows in Houston - 1,500 one night and 2,000 the other night ... It's a good deal. They made me a five-week deal. I'll do five TVs for them."
Flair's appearance will air on multiple episodes of ROH TV in May. The first broadcast featuring Flair will be May 2.
- Actress Rosanna Arquette, whose brother David once had a cup of coffee as WCW world champ, told Mike Lano in a recent interview that she never wants to see David in the ring again.
"David was thrilled when the Mickey Rourke 'Wrestler' movie came out, because we adore Mickey," she said. "We all loved it and I had to look away a lot of the time, but afterwards we told David there was no way we're ever letting him do that kind of thing anymore. The risk of injury is too great."
Arquette noted that her brother is still a big fan of pro wrestling.
"David just loves that crazy world of wrestling. I personally don't get it, but it is outrageous and colorful and he and (wife) Courtney (Cox) still follow it. But now with the Natasha Richardson thing, the family isn't going to allow him to get into the ring and do that any more, if we have any say."
She also addressed the recent passing of Andrew Martin.
"That's disgusting too. Well, pro wrestling isn't my cup of tea. It's ridiculous, but he lives it. David said almost every other month another young one dies from steroids and drugs. Why isn't someone doing something about it? Where is the outcry?"
- E:60, ESPN's enterprise journalism program, will feature "Lord of the Ring," a revealing profile of WWE owner Vince McMahon, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Among those interviewed for the piece by E:60 correspondent Jeremy Schaap were McMahon, daughter Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, Hulk Hogan and myself.
- Old School Championship Wrestling will hold one of its biggest shows to date on April 26. "Military Appreciation Night" will include a special appearance by WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter. Bell time is 6 p.m. at Weekend's Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek.
Admission is $10 adults; $5 kids 12 and under; $5 military (with military ID). A local band will perform 5-6 p.m. For more information, visit www.oscwonline.com or call 743-4800.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at (843) 937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For wrestling updates during the week, call The Post and Courier Info Line at (843) 937-6000, ext. 3090.