First off, Happy Birthday to my beautiful, awesome daughter.
Onto the show, it was in Orlando, Florida and the setup was one of the greatest I think they'd ever done for Mania. The outdoor stadiums are just awesome for a venue like this and I loved the jets flying overhead. John Legend performed the National Anthem and he did an awesome job. Now, onto what we do best, Never Hand Over
1) JBL v. Finlay (Belfast Brawl)- 4
To kick us off, a match stemming from one of the most atrocious storylines since Booker and Edge fought over shampoo some years before it. Anyways, know this was pimped like crazy on some elitest wrestling boards, but I still don't see the luster of it. Yes the match was stiff, almost like Bradshaw was given carte blanche to hurt whoever he wanted, without reprecussions. Finlay's suicide dive outside into the garbage can lid was brain liquefying, but made no sense; he had JBL on the ropes, so decided to dive outside on him? Pace was off too, but it was stiff, overall feeling much like a TV hardcore bout.
2) Money in the Bank Ladder Match: John Morrison v. Carlito v. Shelton Benjamin v. CM Punk v. Mr. Kennedy v. MVP v. Chris Jericho - 4
Wow, I thought this was a giant mess. Funny to look at the names involved and there's only 2 of them still with the company, the rest disillusioned by the "E." Morrison's moonsault outside with the ladder was crazy, but no one was there to take it, if you're going to do it, make it look good, but it didn't. From Shelton's front flip on the ladder, the erector set diarrhea, this felt more so than any other year like a pre-programmed stunt show. Jericho didn't look good here either, a lot of guys were just there to be a body. Matt Hardy's cameo popped the people huge which was a cool little moment. Punk and Jericho's ill fated finishing sequence was one of the worst ladder finishes since Michaels-Razor 2.
3) Chavo Guerrero v. Kane- 0
Could i have spent 9 seconds better? Yes, I believe i could. 1...2...3...4...5...6...7..8...9, yes I did. I just ate a Nutter Butter cookie.
4) Batista v. Umaga- 3
This is easily one of those matches when you look at the schedule and you think, this is probably the least desirable thing on this show. But, alas, after the opening sequence of kicks, where in Batista takes a huge flat back bump outside to exactly no pop (bet that hurt inside). Batista does actually sell the hell out of his back during Umaga's woefully long beatdown period. He was moving at the pace of Jimmy Valiant, circa 2011. Question: If Batista's so strong, how come Umaga has to jump into his arms like a girlfriend coming back from a long trip for his spinebuster? Did he actuall fall down doing his finisher? Okay, this was as disappointing as I imagined.
Dear god there's a video of Carlito fighting a seagull that has to be amongst the most mind numbing pieces of footage I've seen. Who found that funny?
5) Ric Flair v. Shawn Michaels- 6
Seeing this 3 years later after Flair has come out of retirement, it doesn't quite pack the emotional wallop it did at the time. That being said, this isn't a wasted effort. The opening part does feel like Flair is trying to keep up with a younger version of himself, and he's slower with his reflexes than ever, it's sort of sad. There's a nasty moonsault Shawn misses that he didn't sell; he reacted as a real person nearly breaking their ribs; defying logic he tries it again and I swear who started the trend of not catching guys on moonsaults? It looks terrible. But, watch the 3rd act closely; it makes the match. Flair seems to have found some sparks of his old self, the way he damages the knees, attacking it like a vicious animal, Shawn sells it with every single movement he makes, the suddeness of the superkick, each time he uses, the sour puss face he makes actually is useful here and as corny as the finish is, the setup for it is pitch perfect. See this match not to see Flair's final, as we all knew it wouldn't be, but to see a legend in his final hours and you can still see the flames of passion the greatest wrestler of all time still has.
6) Ashley Massaro & Maria v. Beth Phoenix & Melina (Lumberjack Match)- 3
Most Mania Diva matches are living, breathing train wrecks with plastic surgery; this one had something going for it, Beth & Melina are good hands, they bumped for the two rooks, and pulled out some cool offense, such as the assisted moonsault. There were a few mechanic problems, the lights went out at one point, but there was some humorous cameos by Snoop Doog, Santino and inexplicably Jerry Lawler but not bad.
7) Randy Orton v. John Cena v. HHH- 5
I'd totally forgotten about a huge marching band processional playing John Cena out, kind of a cool idea, much better than some of the past ones they've done. A plea: No more 3 ways at Mania for the belt! All 3 of these guys are amazing performers, in their own ways, but it felt like a race against the clock, the whole first 12 minutes or so is everyone just trying to get their shit off. Plus, Cena and Orton, who would top most people's lists for some of the best emoting sellers, were on autopilot while HHH McMahon was on top of his game. The 3rd act, again, pushed this into a higher score bracket the flash pin by a hurt champion is a nice change of pace but I guess I expected better from these 3.
8) Big Show v. Floyd Mayweather jr- 6
With celebrity matches or celebrity involvement, you can either get two things: complete and utter failure or it goes as planned and you get through it. Well Money Mayweather performed above and beyond his call of duty. I'd have to say this was one of the best celebrity matchups ever done. Big Show was great as the gigantic bully, contending with Money's whole group of guys, whom he dismantles like Godzilla burning down Tokyo. Trivia: One of Mayweather's "people" was Nexus flunkie Michael Tarver. The way this finished, because it could only end one way due to politics, absolutely worked and was a great cap off to this very much scripted but entertaining segment.
9) Edge v. Undertaker- 6
Is Micheal Cole and Coach really calling a Mania main event? Did Taker just do a Hector Garza-like armdrag from the top rope? Man questions raised their ugly heads while watching this, like did any of the fans burned from Taker's pyro get any compensation or were they bribed by the company with free Cena merch and a Layla hug photo? Okay onto the action: Really lame flying clothesline by Taker where basically did a flying hug. Plancha feels added on unnecessarily, Taker limping after wards, was it worth it? Big boot by Edge felt Hogan, nay, Brody-esque. Really funny spot where Taker gets his back dropped on the outside guardrail and falls backwards on his neck into a front row Mania chair and some high priced hussy's lap. Really strange watching Taker and Edge do spots like Edge and Christian would. Edge half crab looks like a grizzly with a full stomach resting over the remains of Timothy Treadwell. Final act is picking up as JR would say, should say because he would be knocking this out of the park instead of the call Coach made where he said "Edge is a great, great champion." Yep, you sold me buddy. Story was Edge knows how to counter all of Taker's classic shit because he's both a fan of Taker's whole WWE run and late 90's ECWA matches. Taker's knee is clearly hurt but him not selling it feels weird. That damn Tombstone reversal, we get it every Mania but this one was infintely better as there was no ref, so Charles Robinson had to burn rubber to make it in time for the near fall. Put his ass in a Hall of Fame, what an awesome ref, the face he makes after Edge kicks out is a Kodak moment. I loved the Hells Gate finish, fuck it go ahead and watch this sumbitch, there's a little bit of everything in it for most fans.