The Law Reviews: Wrestlemania 21

Wrestlemania 21: Wrestlemania Goes Hollywood
April 3, 2005
Staples Center
Los Angeles, California

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This is one of the most historic Wrestlemanias, as it features the coming out parties for John Cena and Batista. Also the beginning of Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak being a centerpiece of the show, the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match, and Eddie Guerrero’s final Wrestlemania. All-in-all, a packed show.

This was the year they did all the skits reenacting movie scenes, and they were generally pretty great. The show opened with Steve Austin doing Gladiator, and it was fantastic.

As with the last few years, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler will call the Raw matches while Michael Cole and Tazz call Smackdown’s matches.

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero

Eddie and Rey were the tag champions, but had a budding rivalry. This is a babyface respect match, but Eddie cuts a lot of corners. Rey gets the win in a good match that pales in comparison to some of the stuff they did in WCW. Start of Eddie’s heel turn, which would produce some amazing television. Probably the single best run of his career, and it’s a real shame that it got cut short. He was on his way to doing some next level stuff.

Rating: ***. Very good opening match.

Eugene came out, only to be interrupted by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. They complained about not being booked for the show and beat up Eugene. “Real American” hit and Hogan chased them off. Fun segment, big pop. Hulk laid the smack down on the Arabs harder than he did on Gawker.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Kane vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Christian

These matches all bleed together, but this was one of the best MITB matches. Lots of memorable spots, most notable Shelton Benjamin running up a ladder to hit a Clothesline.

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Unlike many of these matches, they did a good job building drama with Benoit hurting his shoulder, gutting through it, and nearly having the match won before Edge smacked him with a chair. Edge got the win, his first big step towards becoming a world champion.

Rating: ****¼. Absolutely love this match, it might still be the best MITB ever. Great drama with Benoit, and Edge winning by being such a dick heel was perfect. Amazing spots from Shelton, and this was all fresh at the time.

Undertaker vs. Randy Orton

Orton finally turned heel a few weeks before this by hitting Stacy Kiebler with the RKO. This is the Undertaker entrance where he appeared to float to the ring, which I thought was pretty cool. This was a good match. Bob Orton interfered on his son’s behalf, hitting Undertaker with his cast (no, the arm still hasn’t healed).

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The huge highlight was Orton reversing a Chokeslam into the RKO, which everyone in the building thought was the finish when he hit it. Orton got cocky and went for a Tombstone, which Undertaker reversed into his own Tombstone for the pin. This got Undertaker to 12-0 at Wrestlemania.

Rating: ***½. Strong stuff here, first match that really put Taker’s streak on the map as the centerpiece of a rivalry.

Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus (c) vs. Christy Hemme

Christie Hemme won the initial Diva’s Search and then posed for Playboy. Naturally, this warrants a spot on the Wrestlemania card. They actually played up the fact that she wasn’t on Trish’s level, but the story was that Lita was training her and in the challenger’s corner for the match. Trish dominated the match and won with the Chick Kick in less than five minutes.

Rating: *. At least they really didn’t pretend Hemme knew how to wrestle.

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels

I don’t like this match as much as most people. It’s good, but I don’t consider it a classic. Shawn outwrestles Angle on the match to start, which never made a ton of sense to me. Kurt is a former Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler, and outweighs Michaels by at least 20 pounds. Also appears far stronger. But somehow, Shawn can continuously take Kurt down. Into headlocks. Over and over. Did I mention there were headlocks?

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They do insane things to each other and just keep kicking out, including an Angle Slam into the ringpost (was supposed to hit Shawn’s back, but Kurt’s aim was off and he hit his leg instead. And an Angle Slam off the top rope. Kurt pops up after a Sweet Chin Music and locks on the Ankle Lock, totally no-selling everything that’s happened before. He was knocked out from Sweet Chin Music one second, up screaming the next.

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Shawn takes several minutes to tap out. I think this match went way over their allotted time, which explains why JBL vs. Cena ended up being so short.

Rating: ***½. Certainly not a bad match, but one that I think is overrated. Wrestling should make sense, and this match really doesn’t.

Piper’s Pit with Steve Austin was next. Fun exchange between Piper and Austin, only somewhat ruined by the crowd’s “What?” chants. Carlito came out, complained, and got his ass kicked. Not a bad segment at all.

Sumo Match: Akebono vs. Big Show

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I don’t know why this happened. Did this show do business in Japan? Otherwise this was a waste of time.

WWE Championship: JBL (c) vs. John Cena

This ends JBL’s reign of doom. It was a pretty bad match. Not even ten minutes long, and all just one slow JBL heat segment. Cena made his comeback and got the win in an underwhelming match.

Rating: *. That was quite boring. Probably the start of the Cena backlash. Good riddance to JBL’s ridiculously long title reign.

World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Batista

This was supposed to be Triple H vs. Orton, but Randy’s run as a face flopped so badly they called an audible. This was one of the best-told stories in WWE history, as Batista slowly turned into a fan favorite and turned on HHH. It was so subtle, but week by week Batista became more and more dominant it was clear HHH was holding him back. Batista won the Royal Rumble and tried to convince him to challenge JBL for the WWE Championship. Batista responded with the classic “thumbs up/thumbs down” turn and Powerbombed HHH through a table.

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This was a decent match, about as good as Batista was capable of at this point. Getting 20 solid minutes out of a green Batista was one of HHH’s bigger accomplishments in the ring. Triple H bled everywhere, which was par for the course in this era.

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Batista got the clean win with the Batista Bomb. Great program, perfect execution at the right moment. That’s how you build a star.

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Rating: ***. Wasn’t a classic, but a solid and respectable match that served its purpose.

Decent Wrestlemania, nothing too special. I’m not as high on the Angle/Michaels match as most, so I feel like this show lacks the one great match that the top-tier Wrestlemanias have. 

The interesting thing to me is how much this show was built around Batista, moreso than Cena. Batista won the Royal Rumble, Batista got the big storyline building to this show, Batista was in the main event and got the huge Wrestlemania moment. And then just a few months later Cena would be drafted to Raw and take over the throne. Batista would have a good run on Smackdown, but was never quite the top guy in the company. Was that always the plan? We’ll never really know.

Grade: B

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