In the build-up to WrestleMania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous installments of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’.
Mr. Kennedy vs. King Booker vs. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. Finlay vs. Matt Hardy vs. Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
The Great Khali vs. Kane
United States Title Match: Chris Benoit vs. MVP
World Heavyweight Title Match: Batista vs. Undertaker
The ECW Originals vs. The New Breed
Bobby Lashley w/Donald Trump vs. Umaga w/Vince McMahon (‘Battle of the Billionaires’ Hair vs. Hair Match)
WWE Women’s Title Match: Melina vs. Ashley
WWE Title Match: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels
Twenty years after WrestleMania III, the WWE’s biggest event return to Detroit, Michigan. Naturally, Vince and company were keen to exploit the nostalgia, making references to the third ‘Mania at every possible opportunity.
Some of these references were great, such as the use of Vince’s original opening promo and the return of Aretha Franklin to sing the national anthem. Unfortunately, some of them were not so good, like the match between The Great Khali and Kane. It’s obvious that the match was purely set up to generate Hogan versus Andre comparisons, but the whole thing came off as a little cheap.
Kane deserves a little credit here, as he did his best to bump his significant frame around the ring against a basically immobile Khali. Vince was hot for the Indian giant at the time, and he was receiving a huge push that would culminate in a main event run and an ill-received World Title victory.
The ‘Mania match was a dud, which was down to a mix of Khali’s lack of ability and the crowd’s lack of interest in the feud. What made matters worse was the way in which the match ended, as Khali managed to defeat ‘The Big Red Demon’ with relative ease. The whole turned into a glorified squash match.
Everyone knows that The Undertaker held the longest undefeated streak in WrestleMania history, but what’s often forgotten is another, equally impressive ‘Mania run: Shawn Michaels’ streak of show-stealing WrestleMania performances.
For those keeping track of these Retrospective pieces, ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ has been involved in the best match on the card at WrestleManias XII, XIV, XIX, XX, 21 and 22. Michaels would add to that incredible streak at this event also, challenging John Cena for the WWE Title. Cena was defending his title against a D-Generation X member for the second consecutive WrestleMania, and this was definitely the better of the two.
The match took a little time to get going, as Cena and HBK exchanged basic wresting manoeuvres and strikes. However, things soon pick up as they battle out to the floor. Shawn hits a nasty-looking Asai Moonsault; his knees bouncing off the top of the announce table. Things get even more intense as HBK is busted open. Cena begins to exploit the wound, drawing some nuclear heat from the Detroit crowd.
In the end, it is ‘Big Match John’ who leaves victorious. This was ultimately the right decision, as Cena was just becoming the face of the company and had a huge future in front of him. Having said that, you can guarantee that there wasn’t a wrestling fan on the planet that wouldn’t have loved to see Michaels get another run with the belt.
This was yet another hit-and-miss WrestleMania, but the Money in the Bank match and the main event just about salvage it.
The comparisons and call-backs to WrestleMania III are done a little heavy-handedly, but add a nice layer of nostalgia to the event. The real issue with a lot of the matches is that the stakes are so low. Remember that, at this point, the WWE was home to no less than eight major titles, but only four are defended on this card. Given that this is supposed to be the most prestigious event in the wrestling calendar, it seems strange that half of the titles are absent.
Not for the first time, Shawn Michaels and a ladder match have made a WrestleMania event worth revisiting, but other than those things, this card is surprisingly mediocre.
Jackson Ball – Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn