Wrestlemania 29: Greatness vs. Redemption
April 7, 2013
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Losing to The Rock at Wrestlemania 28 was a lowpoint of John Cena’s career. And the 12 months that followed were even rougher. He was brutalized by Brock Lesnar, humiliated by a loss to John Laurinaitus at the Over the Limit pay-per-view, failed in numerous attempts to win the WWE Championship, and was defeated by Dolph Ziggler at TLC. And off the screen he suffered through the dissolution of his marriage.
But Wrestlemania 29 saw the stars align to give him a shot at redemption: The Rock returned from Hollywood to defeat CM Punk for the WWE Championship on the same night that Cena won the Royal Rumble. When Cena defeated CM Punk in a classic match on Raw to secure his spot in the main event, it seemed like destiny: John Cena would battle The Rock at Wrestlemania 29 in New York. They would fight not just for the WWE Championship, but also for immortality.
We start with a Hurricane Sandy package narrated by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who appears on stage at the start of the show.
I think we need a “Where Did Their Career Go From Here” right now. At this moment, Christie was incredibly popular, on his way to winning reelection in a landslide, and the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Today he’s a shill for Donald Trump, who seemingly goes out of his way to humiliate him. You make the call.
Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL are our hosts.
The Shield vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show
The Shield are a united unit, whereas Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show are allies of convenience united by a common enemy. When it’s any of Orton, Sheamus, or Big Show against one of the Shield members, the individual wins. But the Shield members keep finding ways to double and triple team to retake control. I think my favorite thing that happened here was Ambrose getting his vest torn off so Big Show and Sheamus could beat his unprotected chest. Scratch that, the best moment was when Sheamus was about to get Triple Powerbombed and Big Show Speared all three Shield members. The finish comes when Orton tags himself in instead of Big Show and gets caught with a Spear by Reigns.
Rating: **. Decent opener, though a little slow and it’s always strange when heels win the opening match.
Big Show knocks out both Sheamus and Orton after the match.
Mark Henry vs. Ryback
I’m actually a huge fan of both these guys. Which is why it makes me sad for this match to suck so badly. It’s slow and meandering. Ryback for some reason gets in almost no offense at all. After five minutes (felt longer) of Henry dominating, Ryback makes a comeback. He hits the Meathook Clothesline, then goes for the Shell Shock. But he can’t hold Henry and falls down with Henry squashing him. And then Henry pins him.
Rating: ¼*. Bad match, wrong guy won. Bizarrely this would lead to Ryback turning heel and getting a main event push. So why didn’t he win here?
WWE Tag Team Championship: Team Hell No (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston
They threw this together at the last minute because Dolph was managed by AJ, Daniel Bryan’s former girlfriend who he had abused. So naturally Bryan has to get revenge on AJ! Best part is Dolph kissing AJ at the start of the match, then getting nailed with a kick by Bryan. Teasing the exact finish from the previous year.
Big E quickly tags into the match and proceeds to dominate. Kane and Dolph go back until Dolph hits a Zig Zag that Kane barely kicks out of. Bryan gets a tag in and pins Ziggler after a Diving Headbutt. Decent match. The response Bryan got after the match was the most interesting, as the “Yes!” chant was deafening. This was the first time I realized that Daniel Bryan could be the WWE Champion.
Rating: **¼. Nothing great, but a decent midcard match.
Fandango vs. Chris Jericho
Looking back, it seems bizarre that WWE wanted to push Fandango. If they wanted Johnny Curtis to be a star, why make him a wrestling ballroom dancer? This match isn’t bad, but there was certainly no sign that Fandango was going to be a star. He hit some basic offense, then hit his great Leg Drop. Fandango won with a Small Package when Jericho tweaked his knee on an attempt Lionsault.
Rating: *½. This match shouldn’t have happened. “Fandangoing” would proceed to be hot for a second in the weeks to come, but nothing came of it. Fandango has gone on to accomplish absolutely nothing.
World Heavyweight Championship: Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger
Del Rio was in the midst of a good run as Smackdown’s babyface champion when they unfortunately decided to pair him with Jack Swagger, who they thought it was a good idea to repackage as a Tea Partier who hated illegal immigrants. After a few minutes of non-descript wrestling, Swagger starts working over Del Rio’s leg to set up the Ankle Lock. The crowd is unimpressed and chants for Dolph Ziggler. They do a nice sequence of reversals from the Ankle Lock to the Cross Armbreaker. Swagger gets control when Del Rio is distracted by Del Rio, but then Del Rio locks in the Cross Armbreaker out of nowhere for the win.
Rating: **. Decent match, nothing special.
P-Diddy performs a few songs. They never did learn that these musical acts don’t work.
Undertaker vs. CM Punk
Punk held the WWE Championship for an astounding 434 days before losing it to Rock at the Royal Rumble. He then lost a rematch to Rock at Elimination Chamber and lost a match to Cena on Raw with a Wrestlemania title shot on the line. It’s impossible for CM Punk to lose three straight matches by chance. So it had to be his destiny instead to come to Wrestlemania and break Undertaker’s undefeated streak. Punk threw down the challenge, and then proceeded to make it personal by repeatedly mocking the recently deceased Paul Bearer.
The entrances here are both all-time classics. Punk is played to the ring by Living Colour, who perform an excellent rendition of “Cult of Personality.” Undertaker comes to the ring appearing to rise out of hell with the arms of zombies reaching for him. That made an already huge match feel even bigger.
Punk spends the first few minutes of the match in full dick heel mode, trying to get Undertaker disqualified or counted out. First time anyone had done that at Wrestlemania. They fight outside the ring for several minutes without the referee bothering to count them out. Punk even rips off Undertaker’s rope walk, which I also can’t remember anyone else ever doing.
Every time Taker gets an advantage, Punk is ready with a counter. Heyman gets involved to stop Taker’s Plancha and gets choked out for it. Taker escapes the GTS and hits a Chokeslam. But Punk is able to counter the Snake Eyes/Big Boot combo to retake control. He sends Taker to the outside, plants him on the announce table, and hits the Flying Elbow. Table doesn’t break, but it’s still a great moment. Seems pretty clear Punk messed up his knee on that one. Taker barely gets back into the ring to beat the count out.
Punk crawls to cover Undertaker and gets locked in Hell’s Gate. Punk is able to roll into a cover, and then transitions into the Anaconda Vise. Taker sits up! Love the facial expressions. Punk escapes a Chokeslam, hits the GTS, but Taker bounces off the ropes right into a Tombstone for a super close two count. Punk hits his signature Running Knee in the corner, but Taker pops up for the Last Ride. Heyman throws the urn to Punk and he knocks Taker out with it. Punk mocks Taker’s cross armed pin and gets the closest two count you’ll ever see. Punk slashes his throat, and a series of counters ends with Taker hitting the Tombstone for the win. The streak lives. Undertaker hits 21-0 at Wrestlemania.
Rating: ****¼. Great match. It only suffers in comparison to the matches that came before it. For almost any wrestlers, that would their best match of the year. For most wrestlers, it would be the best match of their careers. For CM Punk and Undertaker, it was just another day at the office.
No Holds Barred: Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
Brock Lesnar returned to WWE the night after Wrestlemania 28, hitting John Cena with the F5 in emphatic fashion. He beat the shit out of Cena in their match at Extreme Rules, only to lose in fluky fashion. Then he got into it with Triple H, locked The Game in a Kimura, and broke Triple H’s arm. The arm healed and Triple H challenged Lesnar to a match at Summerslam. Lesnar beat the shit out of Triple H and broke his arm again with another Kimura. And to boot he broke Shawn Michaels’s arm. Just for funsies.
Triple H has Shawn Michaels in his corner here to counteract Paul Heyman. Triple H actually starts off taking it to Lesnar. Lesnar takes a Clothesline over the barricade that I believe concussed him. Also, Triple H was apparently burned by the smoke effects during his entrance. The fact that you didn’t really notice either during the match shows just how tough these guys are. Brock turns the match around with a devastating and amazing series of suplexes out on the floor. It’s unbelievable to watch a guy Triple H’s size get tossed around like he’s Rey Mysterio.
Back in the ring, Lesnar continues to dominate with suplex after suplex. Time is running out on Triple H’s career. Every hope spot from HHH is shut down by another Lesnar suplex. Triple H goes for a Pedigree, but Lesar gets him up for the F5. Shawn gets in the ring and goes for Sweet Chin Music, but Lesnar catches him and hits the F5! Brock turns around right into a Pedigree, but kicks out at two. Triple H has to resort to using the sledgehammer, but Brock cuts him off and hits the F5. That only gets two.
They go to the floor and Brock smacks Triple H with the ring steps. He throws them into the ring, which somehow always proves to be his undoing. Brock escapes a Pedigree attempt and locks on the Kimura. Brock ends up on the top rope for extra leverage, but that gives Triple H the opportunity to hit a Spinebuster. Triple H works on Lesnar’s arm and then locks him in a Kimura! Brock is clearly in pain, and you can see a look of panic in his eyes. He has no idea what to do, so he calls for Heyman. Heyman gets into the ring and gets leveled by Sweet Chin Music! Shawn rides to the rescue just in time.
Because Brock is a freak of nature, he’s able to lift Triple from the mat and slam him onto the steps. Triple H keeps locks in the Kimura, and Brock keeps slamming him. The last time, Triple H is able to counter with a DDT onto the steps. Triple H gets the sledge hammer, drills Brock in the face with it, then Pedigrees him on the steps for the win.
Rating: ****. Gather the pitchforks and torches, but I thought it was great. Brock lost, but he looked like such a beast here. He threw Triple H all over ringside. At one point he had destroyed both Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Triple H worked the arm relentlessly, and was only able to win because Brock toyed with him instead of getting the win when he could have. Don’t get me wrong, it was moronic for Triple H to win here. But I don’t think that detracts from the quality of the match.
Hall of Fame is next. The inductees: Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Booker T, Trish Stratus, Mick Foley, and Donald Trump. Exceptional class, and it was special to see Bruno finally go in.
WWE Championship: The Rock (c) vs. John Cena
No frills for the entrances. The crowd is buzzing for this one after being quiet for much of evening. They run through basic stuff for the first few minutes. Neither guy really comes out on top. There are lots of counters, playing up that both guys have done their homework. Rock scores the first big move when he takes Cena down and hooks the Sharpshooter. Cena gets out but misses the Five Knuckle Shuffle, then gets caught with a DDT.
Cena slips out a Rock Bottom attempt and locks on…something. It’s basically a really shitty Crippler Crossface. Rock escapes, gets slammed, and hit with the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena goes for the AA, Rock slips out and hits the Spinebuster. Rock sets up for the People’s Elbow, but Cena picks his ankle and locks on the STF! Rock breaks the hold and hits a Rock Bottom for a two count. Cena comes back with an AA out of nowhere. Seems like they should have built to that more. Cena misses his top rope Leg Drop and gets hit with a Spinebuster and People’s Elbow. A slugfest ends with Cena catching Rock on a Crossbody attempt, throwing him up on his shoulders, and going for the AA…but Rock slips out and hits the Rock Bottom. Somehow, that only gets two.
Rock does the “you can’t see me” taunt and sets up for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but Cena pops up and hits the AA! Just like last year, but this time Rock kicks out. Rock goes for a Rock Bottom, but Cena hits him with a Rock Bottom of his own. So many finishers. None of them finishing the match. Cena teases going for the People’s Elbow (come on, how dumb is he?) Rock pops up, but Cena is ready for it and gets Rock up for the AA…which Rock escapes and hits a Rock Bottom. For a two count. There are about five more Rock Bottom/AA attempts before Rock settles for a DDT.
Rock sets up for a Rock Bottom, Cena counters with the AA and gets the pin. John Cena wins the WWE Championship and with it, redemption.
Rating: **3/4. Not bad, but it would have been better if they had cut out some of the finishers and finisher attempts. On the other hand, that probably made sense as a strategy to compensate for Rock not being in ring shape.
Cena celebrates with the title. Rock shakes his hand, then holds Cena’s arm in the air. This is presented as something of a torch passing despite Cena having been on top for nearly a decade.
Overall: This was a good Wrestlemania. Not special, not classic, but good. Certainly not worthy of the hate it got in the aftermath, which I think was mostly based on people hating that Triple H beat Lesnar and Cena didn’t turn heel. I do think they could have come up with a more interesting ending to the show. First hour and change didn’t offer much, but the last three matches were collectively pretty great.