WrestleMania 28 was the second show in the two year, three ‘Mania show comeback tour by the Rock. This one saw him get back in the ring for his first singles match in almost nine years against John Cena. It was also part of a big comeback for the company after what, perception wise, was a low point of sorts a year earlier.
After ‘Mania 27 did not go over well (even though in hindsight it was a better show than it gets credit for), the months after saw CM Punk ascend to becoming champion and captivating old and new fans during his rise. That someone other than Cena was getting to fight for and hold the most important title was encouraging for a lot of people who were at the height of Cena fatigue.
So here was a chance to reset, and they took it. The brand split that had been in effect for 10 years would be wound down here, and some people on this show wouldn’t be back a year later or in a different role. But the big question was how would the Rock do? Was he still up to the challenge or would this look like a stunt and not a serious commitment to coming back? And would the rest of the show provide anything to remember? Let’s see.
World Title Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus
18 seconds. This had burial written all over it but if that was the intent it sure backfired…..which is why I doubt that was the goal. You don’t put a US Title on someone, then have then win Money in the Bank and cash it in succesfully just to bury them. And you really don’t bury them by booking them in World and WWE title matches for three straight shows after this one, putting a tag team title on them later, then putting then over your number one guy clean the year after. Oh you thought that whole Daniel Bryan thing was organic, that you made it happen by force of will? Suckers.
Randy Orton vs Kane
Good match for the 10 minutes they got, but could have gone longer. In a big surprise, Orton doesn’t land either the RKO or the punt kick. Kane was still considered a boss level threat here, so him getting the win here wasn’t shocking even though I was a bit surprised.
Intercontinental Title Match: Cody Rhodes (c) vs The Big Show
There was a montage of embarassing Wrestlemania moments for the Big Show before the match, which was basically a tell for how this was gonna go. Short match but ok for what it was. Show got the win and the title as expected.
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres
And here’s you reminder of what the Women’s division used to be like. Kelly Kelly was terrible in the ring, but that didn’t stop the company from pushing her really big and trying to make her a crossover star. Beth Phoenix was good and could probably hang with today’s women, and Eve was decent. Maria was not a wrestler at all; she’s the host of Extra. She actually made a decent accounting of herself here. Not enough to quit her day job but she didn’t embarass herself. The match was about as good as you could expect. Not great, not terrible, and thankfully short.
Hell in a Cell: Triple H vs The Undertaker
This is the type of match that you watch Wrestlemania for. 30 minutes of pure, brutal mayhem. Shawn Michaels was the special referee, and it added a dynamic that kept this match from dragging like the match they had the year before. For anything that thinks the chair stuff doesn’t hurt, watch this match.
The chatter back and forth between Hunter and Shawn added great tension and drama to the match. This was ‘Takers last great match where he wasn’t carried by his opponent; it was all downhill from here. The Streak was still live so you know who won, but the sheer brutality and drama overcomes the forgone conclusion factor. And the aftermath, where all three men walked back togther was gold.
You could call this match of the night and get no argument here. Great work from everyone involved.
Team Teddy – Booker T, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Great Khali, Santino Marella, and Zach Ryder vs Team Johnny – Mark Henry, The Miz, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and David Otunga
The last hurrah of the first brand split. This match was to decide which of the two show general managers, Teddy Long from Smackdown or John Lauranitis from RAW, would take over for their opposite show and run both of them. Each team was accompanied on the outside by a Bella twin and a manager/girlfriend of one the team members (Eve Torres came with Zack Ryder and Vicki Guerrero with Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger). Fun 10 minute match that did what it needed – everyone got in a spot, and the people on the outside got into it with each other. Team Johnny won to set up a few months of storylines and afterwards the Zack Ryder burial was in full effect as Eve distracted him to cause the defeat, then kicked him where it counts after the match to spark her own full fledged heel turn. Ryder would become a glorified jobber for damn near four years aftet that. That my friends, is how you bury someone who’d gotten over on their own.
WWE Title Match: CM Punk vs Chris Jericho
This match had the unenviable task of following the Hell in a Cell match and coming right before the Main Event. It also suffered from the forgone conclusion factor as no one in their right mind had Jericho going over for the title. But with all that baggage, it was still very good despite dragging some at first.
Both guys brought their A games as Punk was at his peak and Jericho can still go, but there was a shadow looming over it that was just unshakeable and took away from the experience. The match also dragged early on for me as it seemed like they were figuring each other out a bit. But once they got rolling they did a great job. It’s a shame Punk did not get a Main Event either this year or the one after. It’s obvious he was good enough for it.
Main Event: The Rock vs John Cena
This match was a testament to just how good Cena is at what he does. While I wouldn’t say he carried it by himself, you can tell he definitely called most of it. And the little things from when to do the reversals, when to do your signature spots so there’s some surprise, and the facial expresssions after different twists and turns in the match are all put to great use here. And no one plays off the crowd better, from hitting the spots in response to what they’re saying to again the facial expressions to either blow them off, go along with them, or do a wink wink that some heel move is coming.
The Rock did a good job for someone who’d been gone for the better part of eight years. While he got gassed easy, he didn’t botch anything and ran his whole playbook pretty well. A big difference between this match and the one a year later was for this one he came back looking more like a wrestler and not all jacked up like he dropped by in between movie shoots. Go watch this match and then his run in 2014 and you can tell the difference.
As for the match itself it was very good, one of the more underrated WrestleMania main events out there. Rock has always been more sports entertainer than wrestler but the right opponent and the right atmosphere can always make for a magic moment, and it did here. That they went into overkill a year a later shouldn’t be held against what they did here.
Very good show. From a perception and reality standpoint it was a good rebound from the previous year, even though that show was better than it gets credit for. The big matches got the time they needed while the ones that could have been bad were kept short. Highly recommended.