Retro Recap – WrestleMania 22

WrestleMania22

This was my first time watching this one, and I didn’t read the results beforehand so everything here is new to me.  WrestleMania 22 was in the midst of the Ruthless Agression Era and the brand extension.  There were 12 matches in all, including five title matches.

World Tag Team Title Match: Big Show and Kane (c) vs Carlito and Chris Masters

Standard tag team match here.  Kane was still good for a leap off the top rope and pulled one off here.  Chris Masters was a guy straight out of Vince McMahon central casting, but at least by what I saw here wasn’t anything to write home about.  Show and Kane are still kicking around of course, over the howls of much of the audience.  Masters and Carlito are long gone from the WWE.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Matt Hardy vs Shelton Benjamin vs Finlay vs Rob Van Dam  vs Bobby Lashley vs Ric Flair

Benjamin was a staple in these matches when they were at WrestleMania.  If there’s a guy it would be good to see come back home, it would be him.  Flair in a ladder match at his age seemed a little dicey, but as always he came to work for the short time he was in there.  He took a suplex off the ladder at 57 years old and was helped to the back by the officials immediately afterward – and, once again proving how convincing he was in the ring (he had me fooled for real), he came back a few minutes later.  Like Masters, Lashley was a guy out of Vince McMahon central casting.  Big and muscular but not much else.  These matches were like the WrestleMania insurance policy – no matter what happened you were guaranteed something entertaining.  Van Dam wins it, which I wasn’t expecting.  The match itself was shorter than usual, only about 14 minutes.  Out of the Money in the Bank matches I’ve watched this is probably the worst one.

U.S. Title Match: Chris Benoit (c) vs JBL

JBL gets the full limo entrance.  He and Benoit had a feud going at this time over the title.  Benoit goes for the crossface early, and JBL was selling a broken left hand sustained on Smackdown a few weeks earlier.  Benoit carries everything in the opening minutes, getting his signature german suplexes among other things.  JBL gets some decent heat for mocking the recently deceased Eddie Guerrero when he gets the advantage.  Good match overall, JBL wins by grabbing the ropes for leverage while rolling through another crossface attempt.

Edge vs Mick Foley

This is a hardcore match.  Edge was in his R-rated superstar phase here.  This was the blowoff match to a pretty hot feud between the two, and as is the case with Foley’s matches, the weaponry was plentiful.  In an absolutely crazy spot Edge hits his spear but hurts himself worse because Foley was wearing…wait for it…barbed wire under his flannel shirt.  The barbed wire got used some more drawing blood, and then Foley’s barbed wire bat was pulled out.  That man is insane, I tell you.  Thumbtacks, more barbed wire, lots of blood, lighter fluid….man, this was real extra.  If you’re into this kind of thing it was great.  For me, this is exactly the kind of match that I would have loved before but not so much now.  Edge was accompanied by Lita, who provided some timely interference.  If you haven’t watched his before the ending has to be seen to be believed.

Boogeyman vs Booker T and Sharmell

I didn’t watch this.  Sorry not sorry.

Women’s Title Match: Trish Stratus vs Mickie James

This was one of the last big matches of Trish’s career, as she would retire later on that year.  I gotta say that it was remarkable how much progress she made as an in ring performer in a short time.  When she first started doing matches she had a limited movset and had to be carried by better workers like Jazz and Jacqueline but by this point she had turned into a legit good worker in the ring.  This is easily one of the better pre-NXT women’s matches I’ve seen.  Both ladies worked hard here.  A very vocal part of the crowd, in typical Chicago style, went contrarian and started cheering Mickie and booing Trish about halfway through the match.  Mickie won it clean with a kick to the head; the finish was kind of abrupt to me but didn’t take away from anything.

Casket Match: Undertaker vs Mark Henry

And here comes your foregone conclusion match of the night.  We were well past the point of the streak becoming a thing for the Undertaker, and I don’t think anyone was expecting Henry to pull the upset.  The only real question was how much Henry was going to contribute to the effort.  Henry did what was needed long enough to make a decent match before he assumed the position and did the honors.

Street Fight: Shawn Michaels vs Vince McMahon

AKA ‘we needed something for Shawn to do’.  The McMahon vs full time wrestler matches are always no-DQ affairs to allow for whatever shenanigans need to take place for Vince or Shane to get the upper hand during the match over whoever their opponent is.  No exception here as the Spirit Squad (featuring a young, short haired Dolph Ziggler) did a run-in early on and distracted Michaels long enough for Vince to get the drop on him.  Vince was always capable enough to do the streetfight stuff and Shawn was great as always, selling all over the place and making Vince look credible.  Shane came in later to help out some more in another you have to see it yourself moment.  Vince went on to take a hellacious beating, one that suggests he was sending a ‘I’m not afraid to do this so don’t come to me with your complaints’ message to his employees.  Obviously this wasn’t a workrate extravaganza but it was an entertaining sports entertainment spectacle.

World Title Match: Kurt Angle (c) vs Randy Orton vs Rey Mysterio, Jr.

This might have been the best straight up technical match of the night.  Lots of cool three man spots throughout and Mysterio was at his get thrown around like a rag doll best for taking bumps.  This would also be Angle’s last WrestleMania, and he made it count.  Everybody got their signature stuff in, and Rey got the victory for the title in what was ultimately a tribute to Eddie Guerrero; I seriously doubt they’d have put the belt on Rey for any other reason.

Pillow Fight Match: Torrie Wilson vs Candice Michele

I feel somewhat ashamed for watching this.  This wasn’t quite as gratuitous as the Bra and Panties matches they used to have during the Attitude Era but it sure wasn’t particularly progressive.  The ladies did do some wrestling stuff and you did have to pin your opponent to win, but it was obvious that if two ladies come to the ring in gowns for a wrestling match that the whole point was for those gowns to get ripped off of them.  It was short, and thank God they don’t do this kind of thing now.

WWE Title Match: John Cena (c) vs Triple H

Even though these two guys are all time greats this almost seemed like a ‘well, can’t think of anything else’ matchup to put together.  We are in the early stages of the Kids and Parents Love but Other Grownups Hate John Cena Era here.  This was a really good back and forth match, and both guys brought their A games.  The match commentary was worth noting in that Jim Ross was trying to explain away the part of the crowd that was supposed to be cheering when they were booing; it’s a huge contrast to the way everyone has learned how to handle that now.  Cena has become a pro at taking it in stride and giving it right back to the part of the audience that doesn’t support him.  There were some Super Cena moments towards the end, but whatever.  If you still find that unbearable I can’t help you.  As good as this match was it did kind of feel like a ‘we need a main event….let’s put these two guys together!’ situation.  I guess you could look at it a certification of Cena as the top dog in the company.  Going over Triple H clean was, and still is, a sign that you’ve arrived.  (We’ll see if that holds up this year when Roman likely wins their encounter).

Overall Grade

This was a good show.  Lots of really good matches from beginning to end.  One noteworthy thing is how much the roster had turned over in such a short time.  Chris Jericho was gone, as were Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, and Kevin Nash.  Steve Austin was three years removed from a WWE ring and The Rock was gone to Hollywood full time.  Eddie Guerrero had passed away, and Benoit would kill himself over a year later.  Within a year Kurt Angle and Trish Stratus would be gone, too.  There were some guys getting a run – Masters, Lashley, Benjamin, and Carlito – who would be gone within a few years.  There were veteran guys who had already given us a lot and had a lot more ahead – Triple H, Undertaker, Edge, Shawn Michaels.  And then there were the newer guys who’d prove to be mainstays namely Cena and Orton.  A lot to chew over and a good show to do it with.

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