Wrestlemania 27: Return of The Great One
April 3, 2011
By Wrestlemania 27, The Streak had come to dominate Wrestlemania. The WWE Championship match at this Wrestlemania would feature The Miz defending against John Cena, but even with The Rock returning from years of absence from WWE to begin a rivalry with Cena, that played second fiddle to Undertaker defending his streak. After ending the career of Shawn Michaels at the previous Wrestlemania, who would step forward this year to battle Undertaker for a place in history?
It should have been obvious. Whenever Shawn Michaels went down, Triple H would step up. First, when Undertaker injured Shawn Michaels and forced him into retirement, Triple H stepped out of Shawn’s shadow to become the leader of DX. He surpassed Shawn by every measure imaginable: He won more world championships, main evented more Wrestlemanias. But there was a lingering insecurity within him. No matter what he did, who he beat, there was always a feeling that Shawn was better. And it drove Triple H to insanity.
But at Wrestlemania 27, he would get a chance to prove himself at last. He had previously battled Undertaker at Wrestlemania, falling short at Wrestlemania 17. But he had grown immeasurably in the years since, going from simply a world champion to a genuine legend and one of the top wrestlers in the industry. He had been on the sidelines for nearly a year, recovering from injury and transitioning to a role as an executive in WWE. But he was always watching, waiting, biding his time. And when Undertaker returned on the 2/11 episode of Raw, Triple H returned too. And without a word, he laid down the challenge: Undertaker vs. Triple H, Wrestlemania 27.
Michael Cole, Josh Matthews, and Jerry Lawler are our hosts.
The show kicks off with a promo from Rock. He returned a month prior, making his first live appearance since 2005. The promo is fun, but it drags a bit. He wraps up, and we’re ready to get the action going.
World Heavyweight Championship: Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio
Alberto debuted back in November and made a big splash by defeating and injuring Rey Mysterio on his first night. He proceeded to take out several other wrestlers, including Edge’s former partner Christian. Tonight Christian is in Edge’s corner to counterbalance Alberto’s guys, Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay.
It was a shock at the time to see the World Heavyweight Championship defended in the opening match. But this proves to have been a wise choice for the opener, as Edge and Del Rio have the type of solid match that makes a perfect Wrestlemania opener. Edge retaining his title definitely came as a surprise at the time, as many were expecting Christian to turn on Edge to kickstart a rivalry between them. That may have been the long term plan, but that had to be abandoned when Edge was forced to retire due to accumulated neck injuries shortly after this match.
Rating: ***¼. Really, really good match to open the show.
Christian and Edge smash Alberto’s car after the match, which is entertaining and upsetting at the same time (such a beautiful car ruined).
Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio
Cody Rhodes, the man of a million gimmicks. He’s been a scrappy rookie, a punk legacy wrestler, Randy Orton’s lacky, Dashing, and here he was a masked monster after Rey Mysterio broke his nose. He’s had a few more gimmicks since, including being a guy with a mustache, Damien Sandow’s ambiguously gay tag partner, a wronged man fighting for his job, and now a painted freak. Somehow, he made all of those characters work and never really advanced up the card. I have a feeling his day will come.
Here, Cody and Rey have an amazingly fun little match. Cody desperately doesn’t want to get hit in the face, Rey keeps hitting Cody in the face. Cody takes Rey’s knee brace and hits him in the face with it. Rey takes Cody’s mask and headbutts him with it. And that’s our finish, as facemask assisted Diving Heabutt wins it for Mysterio. Good early card match.
Rating: **½. Loved the knee brace vs. mask thing.
There was a terrible comedy segment after this match with singing and dancing. Snoop Dogg was there. It was not entertaining.
The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater, and Justin Gabriel) vs. Big Show, Kofi Kingston, Santino Marella, and Kane
Ninety seconds. That’s how long this match lasts. After the Nexus debut I could have been convinced that Wade Barrett would main event this Wrestlemania. Instead, his team gets beat in a minute and a half. Tough break.
Rating: Dud. Silly. Should have been on the pre-show where they could have had a real match.
Backstage segment with Rock followed. He ran into Mae Young, which was fun. Then he went face-to-face with Steve Austin. And they…said hi and made small talk. That was really the best they could come up with?
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
This should have been Punk’s Wrestlemania. He’s ten times the wrestler Miz is on his best day, and Miz doesn’t have that many best days. Punk had scratched and clawed his way to the main event level, and they even set-up a match with John Cena on a Raw in December when Punk was revealed as the new leader of The Nexus. Then Miz’s title reign picked up steam and WWE decided to roll with him in the main event. Instead, we get Punk vs. Orton.
Punk’s Nexus mysteriously cost Orton his WWE Championship match with Miz at the Royal Rumble. Punk’s motivation was revealed to be that Orton had cost him the World Heavyweight Championship in 2008. That was a shocking display of continuity from WWE, and I’ll credit it to Punk. Orton proceeded to take out Nexus members one-by-one, Punting the likes of Husky Harris, Mason Ryan, Michael McGillicutty, and David Otunga. Yes, The New Nexus might have been the worst stable ever. Punk retaliated by hitting Orton in the knee with a wrench, setting us up for this match.
Punk and Orton are both great wrestlers. More importantly, they’re not dumb wrestlers. So since Orton has a bad leg, that forms the basis of this match. Punk attacks the leg, and Orton tries to protect himself. It’s not the most exciting match and maybe not the match the crowd wanted to see, but it made sense. And I like it when wrestling makes sense. Punk breaks out the ringpost Figure Four, which is always a favorite of mine. Orton wants to Punt Punk, but his leg gives out. Punk sets up for his Springboard Clothesline, but Orton catches him out of the air with the RKO for the win.
Rating: ***½. Quality match. Not the match people wanted, but the match they should have wrestled given the story. Orton’s leg is messed up, so he couldn’t do the stuff he would normally do.
Rock hangs out with Pee Wee Herman backstage.
Hall of Fame is next. The inductees: Shawn Michaels, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, Sunny, Abdullah the Butcher, and The Road Warriors.
Jim Ross and Booker T take over on commentary for the next match.
Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler
It shouldn’t be forgotten that this was a great feud. It showcased that Jerry Lawler, when used properly, could still be an asset to WWE. And it showed that Michael Cole was great as a slimy, vile heel. The idea of Cole insulting Lawler’s dead mother and using his estranged son against him resonates at an absolute core level, and in a way that most wrestling rivalries don’t anymore. The segments leading up to this match were consistently drawing the highest ratings on Raw, even higher than the Cena/Rock stuff.
And with all that praise out of the way, this match is an abomination. After making a huge mistake with the Bret/Vince match last year, WWE did the exact same thing this year. This match goes on for nearly 15 minutes. Cole doesn’t know what he’s doing and Lawler shows a peculiar lack of fire. Austin’s antics as referee are entertaining, but not enough to save this match. Lawler finally wins. Then Austin Stuns Cole. And Swagger. And Josh Mathews and Booker T for some reason. The decision is overturned by the Anonymous Raw General Manager. And 40 minutes after it started, this segment of the show finally ends.
Rating: Dud. Fucking horrendous.
With the departure of Booker, Mathews, and Cole, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler take over on commentary for the rest of the match.
Undertaker vs. Triple H
Triple H had an awesome entrance here, coming out to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica in a suit of armor. Undertaker using “Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash was outstanding too. Unfortunately, they’re both edited out on the Network version. Downside of licensed music.
This is one of those matches I love where the competitors just go to war. Within a minute, they’re on the floor. Within two minutes, Triple H slams Undertaker into Michael Cole’s protective booth (“The Cole Mine”). Within the first five minutes Triple H gets Back Dropped off the announce table and is hit with Undertaker’s signature Plancha. Taker shorted it pretty bad and hit his head on the ground. For good reason, that’s the last time we’ll ever see him attempt that. Not long after, Triple H hits an amazing Spinebuster off the ring steps that sends Undertaker through the Spanish announce table.
They go back to the ring, where Undertaker scores with a Chokeslam. We’re only a few minutes in and both guys seem spent. But they’ve hit each other with such devastating offense that it feels earned. Undertaker counters a Triple H Ten Punch attempt by going for the Last Ride, but Triple H slips out and goes for a Pedigree. Undertaker gets out and goes for a Tombstone, but Triple H escapes and connects with a Spinebuster. Triple H gets a chair but it cut off with a Big Boot. Taker hits HHH with a vile chair shot to the back. Triple H comes back with a Pedigree! Only gets two.
Triple H goes for another Ten Punch and gets hit with the Last Ride. That spot was getting rather played out at this point. Taker hits the Tombstone, but Triple H kicks out. Crowd was sold on that being the finish. Triple H escapes another Tombstone attempt and DDTs Taker onto a chair. They struggle to their feet and HHH hits the Pedigree! Close two count. Taker does some great selling as he tries to get feeling back in his fingers. Or maybe he wasn’t selling.
Another Pedigree! Another kick out. And now the demons come out for Triple H. He didn’t come to come close, he came to win. He came to succeed where Shawn failed. And he’ll do it because he’ll go to places Shawn wouldn’t go. He gets hold of the chair and destroys Taker with it. Just obliterates him with nine straight shots to the back. “Stay down!” he commands. Taker won’t listen and pulls himself to his feet, only to be hit right between the eyes with the chair. That was the first chair shot to the head in WWE in several years. And it felt like a huge deal, an unconscionable act of evil. There’s value to moderation.
The crowd is eerie quiet now. They’re witnessing an unbelievable display of brutality. Triple H circles for the kill. “Stay down! Just die! Stay down! What’s wrong with you?” Undertaker cuts HHH off by grabbing his throat, but there’s no power left in his body. Taker gets to his feet and is punch drunk. HHH apes the signature throat slash, then TOMBSTONES UNDERTAKER!
That was such a beautiful, definitive ending. Undertaker is slayed by his own sword. The Game ends the Undertaker’s vaunted streak.
Except Taker somehow kicks out. I can’t emphasize the shock that was. In that moment, I was 100% convinced the match was over. It was perfect. But it wasn’t be to. HHH is shocked, but he gathers himself quickly. They don’t call him the Cerebral Assassin for nothing. He goes outside and gets his sledgehammer. He comes into the ring, the execution prepared to behead his victim.
But Undertaker is nobody’s victim. He pops up and traps Triple H in the Hell’s Gate submission, his massive legs squeezing the life out of HHH’s body. Triple H gropes for his sledgehammer, reaches desperately. If he can get it, he’ll knock Taker out and win it all. He gets it. He lifts…but the blood is gone from his head. The white light spreads and his vision goes blurry. His hand reflexively falls open as he passes out. Nothing left to do but meekly tap out. The King is defeated, the Streak lives.
Rating: ****½. Awesome. Better than I ever imagined it would be. They couldn’t do the Taker/Shawn style of back and forth fast paced, so they went in a totally different direction and it worked perfectly.
Fireworks explode, the crowd cheers. They wait for Taker to rise. And wait. And wait. He finally pulls himself to his feet after several minutes. He slowly, awkwardly shuffles out of the ring. Triple H is standing and watching. And then the Deadman goes down. Falls to the ground. Eyes roll back in his head. Winning that match literally took every ounce of life he had in him. EMTs rush to ringside to attend to him. He’s the winner, but he doesn’t look like it. Taker is loaded onto the back of a cart and driven to the locker room. For the first time in his career, Undertaker is unable to leave ringside under his own power.
And, unfortunately, the show isn’t over.
John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki vs. Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool, and Layla
This match was probably supposed to be a little bit longer, but the Cole/Lawler and HHH/Undertaker matches definitely ran long. As a result, this one is cut down to three minutes. Morrison hits an awesome Starship Pain to the floor, Snooki pulls off a decent Backspring into an Elbow Drop, and the good guy and good girls get the win. The most notable thing that happened here was that Morrison’s shitty attitude toward Trish probably hastened his WWE departure.
Rating: *. For such a short match there were a few fun things. Snooki actually did well.
WWE Championship: The Miz vs. John Cena
Miz’s entrance is fantastic, as they play an epic video showing his rise intercut with classic wrestling clips set to “Hate Me Now” by Nas. Perfect song for a great video package. Finally, they made him look like a legitimate main eventer. That really should have aired on TV.
Cena’s entrance is decidedly less cool, as a gospel choir sings his song. John Cena’s Wrestlemania entrances are always so shitty.
Miz looks like a star. And then the bell rings, the clock strikes midnight, and Cinderella turns back into a pumpkin. The match they have would be weak for a Raw main event, much less a Wrestlemania main event. They don’t have a ton of chemistry and Miz seems way out of his depth. They fight for awhile, then Miz takes an ugly bump over the barricade and smacks his head on the concrete. Miz and Cena are both counted out. A curious finish to the Wrestlemania main event.
Eventually, Rock comes out. The computer buzzes at ringside, but Rock smashes it. He says he’s in charge of Wrestlemania, and the match is going to restart with no disqualifications or count outs. Alright, but this takes a solid ten minutes. The crowd is totally knackered at this point. Cena and Miz get back into the ring, where Miz is clearly concussed. Rock nails Cena with a Rock Bottom and Miz pins Cena to retain the title.
Rating: *. Yikes. Disaster all around here. Probably derailed Miz’s main event career. Wasn’t really his fault, Cena wasn’t on his game and the booking was ridiculous.
Shortly thereafter, Rock hits Miz with a Rock Bottom and poses. The show ends with a loud fart.
So this show has an amazing Triple H/Undertaker match. And a couple decent matches on the undercard. It also has an abomination in Cole/Lawler, and one of the worst Wrestlemania main events. It’s not a very good show, and the only thing that really needs to be seen is Taker/HHH.