WWE WrestleMania XXI
April 3, 2005
Los Angeles, California

These WrestleMania reviews were originally written in 2012 and are being re-published on our new site.

WrestleMania Goes Hollywood. The 21st WrestleMania was held in Los Angeles. It was a new era for WWE again. No Austin. No Rock. Names like Cena, Batista, Orton and Edge were in bigger matches here. It’s funny how the year before they said that it all begins again yet in many ways this was the show that really shaped WWE for the future.

I wrote this one live in 2005. I think I ordered the webcast. I’m not sure, though. The good thing is I didn’t need to edit that much when I went through it although I’ve added in commentary as I always do. Let’s roll.

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Lillian Garcia sang America the Beautiful. They showed a montage of the WrestleMania 21 clips showing the funniest lines mostly. A new video aired, this one with Stone Cold Steve Austin as Gladiator. “My name is Stone Cold Steve Austin and tonight I unleash hell.” Then it ended. Pretty good, but not that long.

The announcers introduced the show. It was Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler doing the Raw matches while Michael Cole & Tazz did the Smackdown matches. They’re all at ringside, including the Raw guys. The aisle is red, which is a nice nod to Hollywood because it looks like a red carpet.

First up was Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio. I remember going into the match thinking that this could rival Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart as the best opener ever if they gave them 15-20 minutes. They were both babyfaces going into it. Guerrero comes out first to a huge pop. The California crowd is a hot spot for Eddie, that’s for sure. Mysterio comes out next wearing a funky outfit that’s got the US flag on it. Then he takes that off and wears this other outfit that has a top on it. They’re each wearing their tag belts. Bell rings and they go.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio
Side headlock for Eddie. Rey hits a shoulderblock for two, but Eddie comes back with an arm drag. Mysterio with a sunset flip. Eddie counters that, slingshots him over the top, slide to the floor and Mysterio moves. 619 avoided, and the crowd applauds the way they are able to avoid eachother’s tricks. Monkey flip for Mysterio, wrist lock for Guerrero, they do some rope running and Mysterio flips Rey onto his back in another monkey flip type bump. Guerrero over the top with a plancha, rolls Rey in and gets two. Back suplex for Guerrero. Tazz picks Guerrero to win, which probably means a loss. Guerrero sticks him in the surfboard submission hold. STF for Guerrero for about twenty seconds, Rey fights back onto his shoulder and I guess Guerrero was going for a powerslam, but it slipped. He picks him up in a powerbomb spot and Mysterio whips him into an drag, which was probably the previous spot. Mysterio dropkicks Eddie on the floor, then he comes off with a corkscrew plancha over the top to the floor. Back in, seated senton for Rey and Guerrero comes back with a back elbow. Suplex for Eddie, Rey counters the next one with a rollup for two. Sick backbreaker for Eddie gets two. He’s frustrated now. Guerrero’s facial expressions rule.

Now Eddie hits the three vertical suplexes, but no, on the third one Rey counters it into a headscissors. 619 ducked by Guerrero, then he hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two. Guerrero is very frustrated now. Three verticals hit now, that’s six total for Guerrero. Frog splash, but Rey moves at the last second. Rey goes for a rollup and Guerrero counters that for two of his own. Powerbomb attempt for Eddie, Rey ducks out and sets Guerrero up for the 619, which he hits. Rey’s bleeding from the mouth. West Coast Pop countered into a STIFF powerbomb for Eddie. He stacks him up and it only gets two. Guerrero’s stunned. Lots of “Eddie” chants for the crowd. Tilt-a-whirl attempt for Eddie, but Rey counters into a West Coast Pop for the win. Guerrero shakes his hand after the match. Match went 13 minutes.
Winner: Rey Mysterio

Analysis: ***1/2 Great way to start the show although it was not the Hart/Hart match like I thought it could be. The focus of the match was Guerrero working on Mysterio’s back and being frustrated because he couldn’t put him away. Then Mysterio was able to pin him, which set up the feud because Eddie was mad that he couldn’t beat Rey. Eddie turned heel after this and they involved Rey’s son in the feud in an over the top custody storyline. I didn’t love the storyline, but I loved every match these two had with eachother. Their best match ever is WCW Halloween Havoc 1997. I highly recommend that one. Sadly, this was the last WrestleMania that Eddie Guerrero would participate in because he would die later in 2005. Rest in peace, Eddie.

Backstage, JBL and crew meet up with HHH and crew. It was cool to see the two major champions in the same shot. JBL guarantees a win in his match. HHH says we’ll have to wait until the end of the night to see who’s the better man, to see who is still a champion. Flair does a “woo” at Orlando Jordan.

The first ever Money in the Bank match was up next. It was a new concept and one that a lot of people were excited about in part because it was a ladder match, but also the talent involved in the match was very good.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Edge vs. Kane
There are ladders in the entry way. When Kane comes out, they are all on fire. All the guys attack Kane when he comes out. Benjamin and Benoit suplex Kane on the floor. Christian hit a springboard plancha on the guys on the floor. Then Benjamin does a no hands plancha over the top. Now Kane goes up and hits everybody with something off the top that I guess we can call a cross body attack. Tomko’s out there with Christian, so he gets knocked down too. Kane’s the only one standing. He sets up a ladder and drills Edge with it and then Christian. Jericho dropkicks the ladder into Kane’s face. He then drills Benjamin with it in the head and then he hits Edge in the ribs with it. Benoit comes in with a German Suplex, taking out the ladder also. Benoit climbs up, Kane goes to chokeslam him and Benoit counters with a Crossface. Slick counter. Edge gets up, but he is met with a Crossface too. Kane spears him with the ladder while he’s got Edge in the Crossface. Kane puts the arm of Benoit in the ladder and rams it several times. Vicious yet smart. Edge spears Kane. Christian brings in a ladder. They sandwich Kane with a ladder. Benjamin in the ring with a springboard clothesline. Benjamin goes to kick Edge, but he blocks it and Benjamin dragon whips Christian into the ladder. Edge whips Benjamin spine first into a vertical ladder. Spear attempt countered into a flapjack into the propped up ladder. Benjamin gives Edge a Stinger Splash onto the ladder. He climbs but can’t reach, so Jericho gets up and fights him. Christian sets one up. Benoit with one arm climbs. Edge sets up another one. Everybody climbing except Kane. They chop the shit out of eachother. Benoit and Christian go down and then Jericho falls on the back of his head. Edge and Benjamin up top. T-Bone suplex by Benjamin off the top of the ladder! Damn. That has to hurt.

Everybody is out as the match resets. Jericho goes to climb, but Christian stops him. Jericho kicks Christian’s back of the head into the ladder. He does the slow climb and can’t reach it. Benjamin climbs a ladder that was set up diagonally and clotheslines Jericho off the top. Wow, Benjamin’s athleticism is awesome. What an epic spot that was. Kane comes in, goes to chokeslam Benjamin to the floor, but Benjamin’s foot is caught in the ropes. Damn, that can’t be good. Tomko decks Kane. He sets up a ladder and helps Christian climb. Kane takes Tomko out to the floor. Christian’s at the top, Kane shoves him off and he lands on Tomko. Kane climbs, he’s at the top, Jericho gets there quick and he pulls Kane off with Jericho going over the top to the floor while Kane got stuck on the top rope and went back in the ring. Benoit, selling that left arm still, comes in. He doesn’t even use the left arm. He sets up the ladder by the ropes. The crowd goes nuts because they know it’s headbutt time. He climbs, crowd is standing, throat slash and HEADBUTT! Damn. They show a wide shot of it and it’s just amazing. Benoit climbs, Kane goes up with him. Benoit headbutts him off the ladder. Benoit’s all alone up top. He can only use arm. Edge gets up with a chair and drills Benoit on the arm. Edge climbs up and wins it. Match was 16 minutes in length.
Winner: Edge

Analysis: ****1/2 This was awesome. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands from the moment the match started right until the end. The bumps were sick. The spots, especially Benjamin’s, were innovative. Benoit’s selling was awesome throughout the match. This was outstanding. Simply fantastic. Props to all men involved and the booking was perfect. Edge won, but it came off as cheap and opportunistic, so it works. Five of the six guys would hold the WWE or World Title in their career. The only one that didn’t was Shelton Benjamin, who you could argue was the star of the match. Edge would hold onto the briefcase until New Year’s Revolution 2006 when he cashed in famously against John Cena to win the WWE Title. There have been several MITB matches over the years, but I would argue that this is the best of them all.

Eugene came out. He has a knee brace on, but otherwise looked normal. He talks about his Mania memories, saying “midgets are awesome.” It’s the greatest night of his life. Then Muhammad Hassan’s music hits. Hassan does his usual spiel, then Daivari does his usual foreign language speak. Hassan says he was going to do create a WM moment of his own. He decks Eugene. He does the throat slash on Eugene (so much for that drawing heat) and puts him in the camel clutch. “Real American” strikes up and Hulk Hogan comes out in the red and yellow. Crowd is going bonkers. He slides in and the heels double team on Hogan. He rams their heads. He clotheslines Hassan, and then hits the big boot. He chucks Hassan over the top to the floor. Daivari cracks him with the chair. Hogan does the point, the punches, hits a big boot, does the ear cup and chucks Daivari to the floor. The crowd is going crazy. Awesome stuff here. He rips the shirt, does the usual posing and the crowd eats it up with a big spoon. Former WCW champion David Arquette is at ringside too. It’s still funny calling him a former champ.

Analysis: This was fun. Perfect way to use Hogan. If you weren’t watching during this period and don’t know who Hassan or Eugene were…well…you weren’t missing too much.

It was Undertaker/Orton time up next. There was the long video package to start. Orton turned face in summer of 2004, but it didn’t last. The story of this one was that he was a heel on the rise facing the veteran Undertaker. Undertaker comes out first with the druids and the ominous music. For those wondering, Cole & Tazz are announcing this match. Undertaker doesn’t walk to the ring. He glides down the aisle. It’s like he’s from the Jetsons. Cole compares Undertaker’s streak to a team going 12-0 in Super Bowls. What a stupid statement especially considering how bad some of Undertaker’s matches were. Total time of entrance: 3 minutes, 20 seconds. I actually timed Undertaker’s entrance. Orton is out next. Mostly boos.

Undertaker vs. Randy Orton
Orton dodges him to start. He slaps him, and then Taker gets him in a headlock. Into the ropes, leapfrog and dropkick for Orton. Backdrop doesn’t keep him down long. Undertaker knocks him down with one punch. Back elbow in the corner, whip in, splash countered into a school boy. Orton goes for the RKO, but Undertaker dumps him over the top in a cool counter. Undertaker hits his patented legdrop on the apron. He gets an arm wringer and hits the old school top rope clothesline/punch on Orton’s shoulder. He sets Orton up in the corner, goes for a kick but misses and goes over the top on the apron, then Orton knocks him to the ground. He beats on him on the floor, then they go back in and Orton hits a stiff clothesline for two. Into the ropes, Orton ducks and Undertaker hits the running DDT for two. Sidewalk slam gets two for Undertaker. Taker whips him in and hits two body splashes in the corner. Snake eyes in the corner, but Orton is able to cut Undertaker off by hitting him in the ribs with an elbow for two. Undertaker hits him with forearms in the chest a dozen times or so, then gets booed huge as Undertaker sits up. “Randy Sucks” chants as they throw punches. Orton went for a clothesline him and Undertaker ran into him, knocking him down in a weird spot. I think they got their signals crossed there. Undertaker locks in the dragon sleeper. Orton’s arm down twice, then up the third time and he counters into a hard DDT that gets two. Really good counter there. Orton sinks in a sleeper that gets countered into a back suplex for Undertaker. Orton charges in, eats boot, Undertaker charges and Orton hits him with a quick powerslam for two. Orton goes for the punches in the corner, which is the obvious setup for Undertaker’s Last Ride powerbomb. Orton slips out, RKO countered with a shove into the ref. Last Ride by Undertaker, Orton slips out. Bob Orton comes in with the cast on his left hand and drills Undertaker. For those who don’t know, Bob was famous for having the cast on his arm for years. He puts Randy on top. The ref comes to and counts to two for a nice nearfall. Undertaker up, Bob’s on the apron and Undertaker kicks him in the face to the floor. Chokeslam for Undertaker, but Orton turns it into the RKO! Damn! Incredible spot! It’s over, Cole says. Nope, Undertaker up at two. Another great nearfall. Orton goes for the Tombstone, but of course Undertaker counters it into one of his own. He lays the arms across for the pinfall win. Match was 14 minutes. The Undertaker is 13-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: Undertaker

Analysis: ***1/2 Good match similar to Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches at 17 with Hunter and 18 with Flair in terms of how good it was. It had the perfect pace with Undertaker using his power, but Orton being able to counter everything he did. The RKO counter of a chokeslam was an incredible spot. They timed it perfectly and I had totally forgotten about it. The finish was fun with Undertaker kicking out of the RKO. I wasn’t crazy about the Tombstone finisher because you knew it was over once Orton was going for it, but I understand why it was done. Orton was the cocky heel trying to prove he could beat him with his own move. That didn’t happen. Orton showed he could perform well against a veteran and Undertaker proved he still had gas in the tank.

We get the video package for the Trish/Christy match. Trish was the heel Women’s Champion. Christy won the inaugural 2004 Diva Search, so they made her wrestle even though she wasn’t that developed. They used Lita as her trainer to try to give her credibility.

Women’s Title: Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme
Christy is out first with Lita. My girl Trish is next. Trish is spring a lovely new outfit with white on top, suspenders and some nice pants too. Fine looking woman. Trish mocks Christy to start in some fun spots. She boots Christy to the floor and then throws her back in. She whips Christy in to the corner, hitting a few chops. Trish does a Christy mock! Trish goes for a kick, Christy catches it, Lita on the apron and Christy kicks her in the…uh…groin. She covers for two. Trish comes backs with chops and taunts Lita. She charges in, Christy leaps over and hits a sunset flip for two and then Trish tackles her. She kicks Christy to the floor. Trish shoves Lita away from Christy. Then once in the ring Lita distracts her and Christy gets a rollup for two. She kicks Trish in the knee three times, then in the gut and rams her headfirst into the turnbuckle many times. She whips her down hair first. Twist of Fate for Christy gets two. Christy throws punches now. She’s not that bad. Trish rolls her up, but Christy counters that for a nearfall. Trish says enough of this and kicks her in the head with a Chick Kick for the win after 5 minutes.
Winner: Trish Stratus

Analysis: * Quick match as expected. Christy certainly didn’t make a fool of herself, so that’s good. I LOVED heel Trish. Her run from 2004 into 2005 was my favorite part of her career. Christy didn’t improve that much in ring and didn’t have a very long career in WWE.

We get the video package for the Michaels/Angle. The biggest dream match in the business at the time. Michaels was one of the best workers on Raw. Angle was one of the best workers on Smackdown. At the Royal Rumble, Angle attacked Michaels and the feud kicked off from there. Remember the awesome Angle/Jannetty match from Smackdown? It was so good that they nearly brought Jannetty back full time, but he wasn’t ready for that. I think he just looked great because he was with a guy the caliber of Angle. My three favorite wrestlers ever are Michaels, Austin and Angle. I had seen the other combinations of their matches. I was ready for this matchup between my two favorite wrestlers at the time.

Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle
Michaels is out first. Angle is next. Good reactions for both. Ross & Lawler were doing the announcing. Michaels slaps him at the start. Angle waistlocks him all over, so Michaels grabs ropes. Headlock for Michaels on the mat. To their knees now, Angle hits a suplex, but Michaels holds on to it. Michaels has him in the headlock for a good two minutes with Angle trying to fight out. Some small Angle chants start up. To their feet now, Angle breaks it in the corner. Waistlock for Angle, Michaels takes him down with a side headlock again. Back elbow for Angle, shoulder takedown and Michaels gets him with a hip toss, then a short arm scissors on Angle’s left arm. Angle fights out, Michaels with a cradle for two, then a backslide for two and another side headlock to the mat. Five minutes in, they’re going at a slow pace, so you know they’re going to get a lot of time. In the corner, Michaels slugs away, Angle grabs his hair, punches him in the back and goes for the ankle lock. Michaels kicks out of that, then clotheslines Angle over the top to the floor. He starts clearing the Smackdown announce table. He rolls in to break the count, so Angle clubs him with forearms when he comes out. Vertical suplex for Angle countered by Michaels, then Angle sets him up for the Angle Slam and puts Michaels back first into the ringpost. Damn. Never seen that before. Sick spot.

Back in the ring, Angle hits a suplex for two. Time to work on the back. Leg scissors on the body for Angle. Michaels gets up chopping Angle into the corner. He whips him in, Michaels flips over and does his back bump, then walks right into an overhead belly to belly suplex from Angle, then a second one for two. Angle digs his right knee in the back and then pulls up on Michaels’ chin in a familiar hold. Michaels fights back some more with chops, so Angle punches him and after a Michaels slap he gets decked by a hard Angle clothesline. Angle props Michaels up on the top rope, goes for a top rope belly to belly, but Michaels shoves him off. He climbs to the top, elbow drop misses everything. Angle pulls down the straps. Angle Slam countered into an armdrag, which is always a nice spot. Angle charges in and Michaels backdrops him over the top to the floor as Angle lands on his knees, which is a smart way to take that bump. Michaels to the top, he hits a crossbody onto Angle on the floor and his knee ends up hitting Angle right in the mouth. Angle gets up, goes to suplex Michaels German suplex style through the table. Michaels hangs on to the ropes. Low blow from Michaels. The ref couldn’t see it because he was looking at their faces. Little spots like that are so smart. We’re 15 minutes into the match now. Michaels kicks Angle onto the table. With Angle laying on it, Michaels hits a springboard moonsault onto Angle. Impressive. The table did not break. Lawler mentioned that the tables have been reinforced because of all the tables that get broken at shows. Good way to save it. Still a really cool spot. They both crawl into the ring on opposite sides at the nine count, which of course was really slow. They meet in the center on their knees with both guys bleeding from the mouth. Michaels with punches, chops and the flying forearm, then the kip up. Right hands, atomic drop, clothesline and the bodyslam in the center. To the top, the elbow drop hits this time. He stumbles into the corner, warming up for the superkick. The superkick attempt is caught by Angle in the Ankle Lock. Crowd is going nuts. Michaels rolls through, but Angle holds on to it. Thirty seconds in, Michaels reaches ropes. Some of the crowd boos. Even though Angle was the heel he was still very popular because people recognized just how good he was.

Angle wants him up. Angle Slam is countered into a rollup, but now Angle rolls through for an Ankle Lock. Michaels gets a roll up, Angle kicks out, superkick caught into an Angle Slam this time. He delays a second and then covers for two. He puts the straps up, then down again and goes for his moonsault. He gets huge height on it, but Michaels rolls out of it. He nearly hit him with the top of his head. So close. Now Michaels to the top and Angle hits the running Angle Slam off the top! One…two…no! Wow. I thought that was it. So did the crowd. Amazing. He picks him up by the hair, talked a lot of trash and Michaels separates, then hits a sweet superkick, but he’s out too. They’re both out. Michaels crawls over about 20 seconds after the move, drapes an arm across and that gets 2.99999 as Angle got his shoulder up. So damn close. One of the better nearfalls you will ever see. Lawler and Ross question the speed of the Smackdown referee’s count. Michaels is stumbling, Angle is playing possum and slaps in the ankle lock again out of nowhere on Shawn’s left leg. Michaels tries to fight out with kicks not once but twice and Angle holds on. He pulls him to the center. He’s been in the hold for a good minute now. Now Angle goes down in the heel hook position. Michaels is going for ropes, fighting it and yelling at the top of his lungs. He’s close to the ropes, almost taps out. But no. Then he taps after about two minutes. Wow. Angle wins via submission. Match was 27 minutes.
Winner: Kurt Angle

Post match, the crowd gives them a standing ovation and HBK gets one of his own too.

Analysis: ***** OH HELL YEAH! Wow. This was amazing. This did live up to the hype. This did meet all expectations. This did deliver the goods the way we all hoped it would. My God. The amount of counter holds seen in this match were unreal. It was wrestling at its absolute best. Amazing stuff here. I can’t say it enough. The drama in this match was unreal. You didn’t know when it was going to end. There was incredible spot after incredible spot here. Finishers kicked out of, drama at the end, and everything you want in a match. The match time was great, the pacing was really good because it built up to the end and the last ten minutes were as good a finish to a match that you can have. Thank you Shawn. Thank you Kurt. That was an epic.

That was my initial analysis in 2005. The rating stays the same. You could tell how I emotional I was for this just by reading the play by play. This was a dream match for me. I liked the match even more when I watched it this time.

I believe it’s a match you can look at as a reason to point out why you are a fan of this business. It wasn’t a match that relied on high spots or crazy bumps to sink you in. It was a match that told a story. You saw Michaels try to ground Angle early on, slowing the pace down and keeping himself from being caught up in Angle’s arsenal of moves. Then the pace picked up with Angle hitting Michaels with everything he had. They kicked out of finishers, they did some counter wrestling that was flawless and they built to a finish that, especially for the last ten minutes, was as good as any finish I could ever remember. Wrestling doesn’t have to be about guys killing themselves going into tables and whatnot. Yeah, they did that one table spot in this match, but it wasn’t the story. The story was that neither guy would quit and the only reason Michaels quit at the end was because the pain was excruciating. They had other matches that were very good as well. This was their best, though. I’ll never get tired of watching it. It’s one of the best matches ever.

They show the Basic Instinct commercial because Stacy won best female. Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young are in the crowd.

Piper’s Pit with Steve Austin
The bagpipes play and here comes Roddy Piper. He said thanks for the Hall of Fame and then went into talking about why he wanted Austin for this. He calls him a rebel and other such things. He said “bullshit” when it came to Austin being the biggest rebel and that he had to see it for himself. Austin comes down wearing an “Unleash Hell” shirt to a huge pop. He grabs a microphone as the Austin chants begin. “Welcome to Piper’s Pit” and then Austin gets slapped. He’s not happy that Austin gets all this talk about being so tough. “Thanks a lot for having me you little son of a bitch” says Austin and then he slaps him. Piper says he likes him and he respects him. WHAT? “Are you deaf?” He doesn’t like the WHAT? Chant. He talks fast about Vince, and then he tells the crowd to keep up with him on the WHAT? chants. Ha, classic. Piper was talking so fast that the crowd couldn’t keep up with what he was saying. WHAT? “If you shut up and listen I’ll tell ya.” Piper says he was pissing Vince McMahon off when the red on Austin’s neck was a diaper rash He says a rebel like Austin has nothing on him. Austin calls him a melee mouth bastard and says he doesn’t trust anybody, much less Piper. He goes over Piper’s outfit to lead to the WHAT? chants after every item. He’s not scared. Piper says they have a problem communicating.

Carlito Caribbean Cool comes out. He says neither of them is cool. He says nobody wants to see them, everybody wants to see Carlito, so they invite him in. Piper asks him who he is. He says Cool likes Alfalfa. Carlito says he’s taking charge and that’s cool. He would appreciate it if they would just walk to the back. If they got a problem with that, then he bounces the apple and Piper bites his apple and then spits it in his face after many bites. Cool attacks Piper with some fists. Austin is smiling for a second, then he whips Carlito in the turnbuckle, stomping that mudhole of his. Piper with the eye poke, then a Stunner on Carlito. Piper chucks him over the top. Austin gets the beers and shares some with Piper. They share some beers. Piper is stumbling around, looking hammered and predictably takes a Stunner from Austin. Fun segment. Piper was hilarious. Austin did a good job of playing off of him too. Like the Hogan thing, it was nice to see because it has a place at WrestleMania considering all they’ve done in the past.

The favorite trailer as voted by you is Taxi Driver and we see the clip of that. I agree that was the best one.

Sumo Match: Big Show vs. Akebono
Rules are you can win by either pushing the person out of the ring or knocking them off their feet. Akebono is out first. Show is next, sporting a sumo style robe. The crowd isn’t that excited. the ropes have been removed. They wear the traditional sumo garb, do the regular sumo poses and the match is ready to go. They then go to their corners to toss salt in the ring, which is tradition. More stalling as they do a stare down. Crowd doesn’t know how to react. They start shoving early on, then separate, they’re close to the line, grabbing eachother by the waist, shoulder blocks and they both stop. Show does the chokeslam sign, Show lifts him, but Akebono shoves him out of the ring to the floor after about one minute. Show shakes his hand after the match. I thank them both for ending it so quickly and wish the director would focus on something else instead of two men in sumo gear
Winner: Akebono

Analysis: -* At least it was short. I really didn’t need that Big Show visual either.

The WWE Title was next. JBL had a really long reign as champion. John Cena finished second in the Royal Rumble. He was a babyface on the rise, so everybody knew this was going to be the match at WrestleMania. We get the long video package to start, as expected. There wasn’t that much to the story. JBL is first and he gets a police escort. Money comes from the ceiling and it’s got JBL’s face on it. They talk about JBL’s big wins as champion. He had a long reign, but his matches weren’t very good and he wasn’t much of a draw in terms of ratings. I always liked his promos, though. It was the matches that I wasn’t wild about. Cena is out next to a massive pop. You could definitely tell by the crowd reaction that he warranted the spot.

WWE Championship (Smackdown): John Bradshaw Layfield vs. John Cena
Lockup to start. JBL kicks him around a bit, then hits a swinging neckbreaker and another one for two. JBL chokes him in the ropes, then slingshots him neck first into the middle rope. Cena boots him in the face, then charges in and takes a hard Spinebuster in the middle from JBL that gets two. Another neckbreaker for JBL gets two and then he boots Cena in the face. Corner whip followed by a big clothesline in the corner. I guess that clothesline did not come from hell. Short arm clothesline gets two as Cena gets to the ropes. JBL works over his back. Sleeper hold. The crowd is quiet by this point and this hold isn’t helping. Back suplex for Cena leads to a five count double knockout spot and a double clothesline puts them down again. We’re only seven minutes in and they’re already doing double knockout spots. Out on the floor, JBL hits his fourth neckbreaker of the match. That gets two. Cole theorizes that it’s to weaken Cena for the Clothesline from Hell, which makes sense. The problem with that is that JBL already hit him with some clotheslines. JBL sets him on the top, then hits him with punches and nails a nice superplex off the top for two. Crowd either didn’t buy that nearfall, or they’re just not into this match. JBL goes to the top rope, which of course leads to nothing but good things as Cena catches him and powerslams him. Clotheslines from Cena and here comes the crowd with him. Back bodydrop, shoulder tackle, hip toss and spinning sideslam from Cena. Five knuckle shuffle time for Cena. He charges in, JBL gets the boot up. Clothesline from Hell, Cena ducks and hits the FU for the three. Match was eleven minutes. Cena is the new WWE Champion.
Winner and new WWE Champion: John Cena

Post match, Cena celebrates with the fans. He did a really good job of celebrating the win by showing emotion that was very genuine. Shortly after he’d moved to Raw where’s he’s been the face of the company for the past seven years. Has it been that long? Yes.

Analysis: *1/4 Very underwhelming match. There weren’t many nearfalls here. If you’re a fan of clotheslines then this was the title match for you! I was surprised by how short it was, but considering the limitations of the workers it was the right call. It came off like a TV match, though, rather than WrestleMania match for a major title. JBL couldn’t have good matches very often and with a bigger guy like Cena it was going to be even more difficult for him. Cena’s never been a great worker, but as we’d see over the years he had some good matches in big match situations. This wasn’t one of those good matches. This was the first World or WWE title match Cena was in at a WrestleMania. He would go on to wrestle in 7 WWE or World Title matches in a row at WM although that streak will end at WrestleMania 28 when he faces The Rock.

We then see clips of the Hall of Fame ceremony from the previous night. It was the second year where they remembered they had a Hall of Fame after ignoring it in the late 90s and early 00s. The class in 2005 was Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Bob Horton, Jimmy Hart, Paul Orndorff, Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik. Then they bring out the Hall of Famers to stand on the ramp. Some of the WWE Divas that are doing nothing at the show are the ones that accompany them onto the stage. Not surprisingly, Hogan gets the loudest ovation.

They showed a video package for next year’s WrestleMania, which would be in Chicago.

We got the video package for the HHH vs. Batista match, which was the main event. They were members of Evolution. The idea was that Hunter was acting like a jerk, overlooking Batista and we would soon realize that Batista was smarter than he appeared. Batista won the Rumble. There was a question of what title he would go after. He went after Hunter. The crowd really got behind Batista, who was very popular as a babyface. His improvement over the previous year was pretty amazing. At WM20 you would have thought that Orton would have been in the main event of WM21. Instead it was Batista who had a better connection with the crowd.

Motorhead started playing HHH’s song as Hunter came out from under the stage, popping up right beside the lead singer. That was cool. I guess champions coming out last isn’t the trend anymore, huh? Flair was in the ring when the song was done. Batista came out to a really good pop, as expected.

World Heavyweight Title (Raw): Triple H vs. Batista
They did a staredown to start. Big lockup in the middle that lasts a while, so the crowd chants “WOO” because I guess they were tired of it. Another lockup, but this time Batista shoves HHH off. Whip into the ropes, Batista knocks him over with a shoulder block. They do some rope running, but it ends with Batista giving HHH a gorilla press. Batista whips him in, HHH with a back elbow, Batista catches him and pounds the hell out of him in the corner. Into the ropes, back body drop by Batista. Another whip, clothesline is ducked and HHH hits the high knee on him, sending Batista to the floor. Ref counts him out on the floor. Chioda stops Flair from interfering, but then HHH whips him into the steps. Now HHH gets the advantage, Flair chokes him with his jacket and HHH rams him rib first into the barrier at ringside. HHH knees him in the back some more. Suplex gets two. More choking from Flair, then HHH drops him neck first on the top rope. In the corner, Batista comes back with forearms and goes into the ropes, but HHH hits him with a huge Spinebuster that gets a two count three times. Neckbreaker gets two. Batista fights back, HHH goes for a Pedigree, but Batista backdrops him out. Whip in, Batista ducks and HHH hits the facebuster for two as Batista kicks him out all the way to the floor. HHH to the top, goes for something that I guess was a clothesline, but Batista clotheslines him down. Into the ropes, sidewalk slam gets two. With HHH in the corner, Batista charges and eats another boot. Batista counters a whip by holding onto the corner, then whips HHH into the corner and HHH takes his usual bump over the top over the floor.

On the floor, HHH whips Batista into the ring steps shoulder first. He goes in the ring to break the ten count. Pedigree on the steps countered into the slingshot into the ring post, leading to HHH bleeding. Not the first time we’ve seen those series of spots, but it works right? As always with HHH, it’s a nice cut. He was always a good bleeder. Batista whips him face first into the steps several times. Into the ring, Batista hits some clubbing forearms right on HHH’s head and then he boots him hard in the head. In the corner, he hits a couple of clotheslines, then a shoulderblock. Another charge into the corner and a big clothesline sends HHH down this time. Powerslam for Batista gets two, but it was weak because he didn’t hit the move that well. Flair’s on the floor going after Batista, but he takes care of him. HHH goes to chair Batista, but the ref takes it from him. Ref Mike Chioda is down. Flair comes in with the title and eats a Spinebuster from Batista for his troubles. HHH gets the belt and drills Batista in the head as the ref throws Flair out of the ring. That gets two in a good nearfall. I liked that spot. Well done. HHH charges in, but Batista hits a Spinebuster. Batista Bomb time countered by a low blow, but the ref doesn’t see it because he’s still hurting in the corner. Pedigree for Hunter, but he can’t lift him. Batista breaks the hands and reverses it with a version of a sideslam. Batista gives the “thumbs down” sign for a big pop. Batista Bomb hits for the three. Clean finish. Match was 22 minutes. New world champion.
Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Batista

Analysis: *** I liked the booking of this match a lot because it really made Batista strong. It was a dominant win. Hunter had some offense early on, but once Batista started getting the momentum there was very little in the way of comebacks from Hunter. It wasn’t great, but it was above average and that’s always nice to see at the end of the show. It was booked smartly. They would go on have a great Hell in a Cell match a couple of months after this that I remember rating at ****1/4 or so. I really liked the Batista/HHH feud. The intensity of both guys really helped. You could tell Batista really wanted to kick his ass while Hunter was good at being cowardly once in a while since he was the smaller of the two guys. When a feud is so good that it benefits both guys that’s when you know it’s a winner. After the feud with Hunter was over, Batista moved to Smackdown to be the top guy on that show while Cena moved over to Raw.

I remember thinking the show should have ended with John Cena walking out to the ring like Eddie did the previous year. While Cena & Batista weren’t billed as friends, it would have been a cool visual to see these two new champions posing to end the show.

Video package highlighting the night ended the show.

—————-

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The highlight of this event was undoubtedly the Angle/Michaels match. I’ll never forget it. A lot of matches have a lot of hype and don’t live up to it. This one did.

– I loved the Money in the Bank match. There were some crazy spots, but it wasn’t as scary as one of the TLC matches in terms of the really big bumps or shots to the head. They really carved it out well. That’s no surprise when you look at the talent in the match.

– The coronations of Cena & Batista were well done. You knew they’d win. They won decisively. The Cena/JBL match could have been better, but I don’t think it mattered that much. It was the fact that there was a new champion that was the big story.

– I was genuinely sad watching the Eddie Guerrero match again because it was his last WrestleMania. The feud with Rey had its ups and downs, but you could tell Eddie enjoyed it after having a rough 2004 full of stress even though he was the WWE Champion for the first part of that year. He’ll always be one of my favorite wrestlers.

– The WrestleMania 21 commercials were a blast. If you’ve never seen them or want to refresh yourself, just put “WrestleMania 21 commercials” into youtube and a lot of them will pop up. Here’s the Taxi Driver one that was considered the best of the bunch.

OPINIONS
Best Match: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels – One of the best matches ever.

Worst Match: Akebono vs. Big Show – An awful sight in more ways than one.

Most Memorable Moment: Michaels tapping out to the Ankle Lock – The drama towards the end of the match was great.

Five Stars:
1. Kurt Angle – The great thing about Angle was he had the ability to make you care about the win or the loss more than anybody I could ever remember. How many times can I say it? I loved the match.
2. Shawn Michaels – It lived up to the hype. Michaels proved he could hang with the best and that he was one of the best even when he was one of the older wrestlers on the roster.
3. Shelton Benjamin – Phenomenal athleticism through the whole match. Even though he didn’t win the match, he emerged from it looking the like the biggest star.
4. Chris Benoit – He was great at selling the arm injury. It became a big story in the MITB match. The headbutt off the ladder and the chair shot to the arm were memorable spots.
5. Edge – He won the second best match of the night. I had to honor three of the six MITB guys for putting on such an awesome show.

Show rating (out of 10): 8.5

An excellent show that I would rate third overall after the first 21 WrestleManias. It’s not quite as deep as WrestleMania 17 and 19, but it was very close. The highlights were the Angle/Michaels and MITB matches. Those matches were supported strongly by Eddie/Rey, Undertaker/Orton and Hunter/Batista, which were all above average.

 

Previous recaps listed in order with main event and ranking out of 10:

WrestleMania 17 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (10/10)

WrestleMania 19 – Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (9.5/10)

WrestleMania 21 – Batista vs. Triple H (8.5/10)

WrestleMania 20 – Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (8/10)

WrestleMania 10 – Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (7.5/10)

WrestleMania 8 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sid & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (7/10)

WrestleMania 3 – Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (7/10)

WrestleMania 14 – Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (7/10)

WrestleMania 18 – Triple H v. Chris Jericho (6.5/10)

WrestleMania 7 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter (6.5)

WrestleMania 6 – Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (6/10)

WrestleMania 16 – Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show (5.5/10)

WrestleMania 12 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (5.5/10)

WrestleMania 15 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (5/10)

WrestleMania 11 – Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (5/10)

WrestleMania 1 – Hogan/Mr T vs. Piper/Orndorff (4.5/10)

WrestleMania 4 – Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase (4.5/10)

WrestleMania 13 – The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid (4/10)

WrestleMania 5 – Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (4/10)

WrestleMania 2 – Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (4/10)

WrestleMania 9 – Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna (2/10)

The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM21: *****
3. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
4. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
5. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
6. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
7. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
8. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM20: ****3/4
9. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle @ WM19: ****3/4
10. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
11. Money in the Bank won by Edge @ WM21: ****1/2
12. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
13. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WM19: ****1/2
14. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
15. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
16. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WM20: ****1/4
17. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
18. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WM19: ****
19. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WM18: ****
20. Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley @WM20: ****
21. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****

You can check out all of my WrestleMania Reviews here.

John Canton mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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