April 4, 2005
Mania still magical despite lackluster mains
By JASON CLEVETT -- SLAM! Wrestling
LOS ANGELES -- This year's edition of Wrestlemania, live from the beautiful Staples Center in Los Angeles, California seemed to be lacking something. It became evident what the issue was when the crowd that started out red hot slowly came to a grinding halt at the final two matches. While lacking the filler that dragged an otherwise stellar Wrestlemania XX down, this year's event lacked emotion.
Part of this had to do with the stunningly short and bad match that saw John Cena lift the Smackdown title off of JBL. While Cena has been the hottest thing going on Smackdown as of late, the crowd seemed to have little interest in the match. The lack of reaction to Cena grabbing the belt likely had less to do with not caring and more to do with the fact that it came out of nowhere after a short match, and Cena fled with the belt so quickly the crowd seemed to sit there going "What just happened?"
While Batista vs. HHH won't go down as a great Mania main event, the fans were entertained by the contest and cheered loudly when Batista scored the win. After the cameras went off the air, Batista applauded and bowed to the crowd. Compared to seeing an emotional Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit embracing in the ring last year, it was an anticlimactic finale.
Speaking of Benoit and Guerrero, it is a shame that the two headliners from last year were delegated to opening the show. The live crowd were heavily into the fast paced, excellent bout between Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero and were torn on who to cheer for. The ladder match was absolutely awesome live, featuring some very creative spots that made sense. For many it was the highlight of the night.
Retro continues to be in, as the ovations for Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin were absolutely off the charts. Piper was in rare form and his interaction with the crowd had many laughing. While it may have been entertaining, letting legends who can barely walk take out two guys who have been treated like top heels on their respective shows makes little sense.
While many rushed to the bathroom during the Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme and Big Show vs. Akebono matches (and it may have been to throw up after seeing the outfits in the sumo match) everyone was glued to their seat for Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels. The match lived up to expectations and the crowd ate up every intense moment leading up to Michaels' dramatic battle to keep from tapping out. While Wrestlemania 21 may not be among the greatest shows of all time, this match easily stands out as one of the best.
Despite some of the lustre having been lost on "Wrestling's Superbowl," the fans that spoke to SLAM! Wrestling after the show all had smiles on their faces. Wrestlemania may not be what it used to, but being there live is still a magical experience that sends those in attendance home saying "I was there. I was at Wrestlemania."
Jason Clevett is in Los Angeles all week. Check out the his comments on the event minutes after the show at ringside manner (http://ringsidemanner.tripod.com).