The Wrestlemania Challenge series continues as “The Showcase of The Immortals” returns to the west coast with the Staples Center as the venue for the event. With the Hollywood theme, the advertisements for the show included WWE stars in parodies of iconic movie scenes. The Undertaker channeled Clint Eastwood, Booker T did a takeoff on Samuel L. Jackson, and Ric Flair reenacted a spot from Brave Heart where he rode on a donkey that was a hilarious segment. Wooo! The broadcast started with a face off of the tag team champions with Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio. This was a really solid match with a lot of good action, but they actually had better bouts before and after this one. That’s not a jab at this performance either, it was more that their series of matches set a really high standard. Rey got the win, but as we know, Eddie eventually turned heel and the two had another series of matches a few months later. It’s also very sad to consider that Eddie passed away before the end of the year.
Edge won the Money in The Bank ladder match and went on to cash-in on John Cena the following January to win the WWE championship. There’s too many highlights to discuss each of them specifically, but this was a wild spot fest that really had some memorable moments. Chris Benoit German suplexed Jericho while Y2J was holding onto a ladder, sending it flying out of the ring. Shelton Benjamin had the chance to shine here, as he did an incredible dive over the ropes, ran up the ladder to deliver a clothesline, and suplexed Edge off the ladder throughout the contest. I know Shelton didn’t have the best promo skills, but he had so much athleticism in his prime that watching these performances again makes you wonder if he could’ve had a main event run at some point if he would’ve been paired with a manager to do the mic work for him. It’s somewhat disappointing that in the years that followed that Shelton almost got typecast as the high spot guy for these types of matches. Another note was that this type of bout with a variety of spots makes it very obvious how formulaic current ladder matches are in the WWE. How many times have we seen the broken ladder spot in recent years? Either way, this was the start of a concept that has become a staple of the modern WWE era with the possible cash-in scenarios.
The Undertaker vs. Randy was fine with some fast-paced action to kick it off and then it picked up toward the conclusion, but the middle of the match dragged on at certain points. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible, but it might’ve worked better if they trimmed a few minutes from it. That being said, I have to be honest, I thought there was going to be more from this contest because it was a spotlight for Orton, who wasn’t a solidified main event star yet. Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from Orton’s work from this era is that he was capable of going to another gear when he wanted to, but it appears that he chose to coast to mail-in performances for a considerable portion of his career. Hey, if he can get top level money for mediocre matches, good for him, that’s capitalism, but it always seemed like he had more to offer rather than just rely on his name value to keep his spot.
Trish vs. Christy Hemme was a subpar contest, but you can’t blame either one of them because Hemme had no wrestling experience. They were put in a tough spot since the feud was only booked as a way to market Hemme’s playboy issue and she didn’t seem to have the time to prepare for this stage. The in-ring action was clumsy and Hemme’s selling was terrible. Trish retained the title.
On the flip side, Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels was an absolute classic and these two legends stole the show here. The back and fourth in-ring action created tremendous drama that had the audience following everything as the advantage shifted between both athletes toward the conclusion. The psychology of this contest was very well done because when there was an amateur exchange, Angle got the better of Michaels, but then HBK had the advantage during traditional wrestling spots. As I wrote a few days ago, the argument could be made that Shawn actually had a better return, as far as a consistent run of memorable matches after the comeback in 2002 than he did before the injury put him on the sidelines for four years. This feud also featured Kurt’s version of Shawn’s theme song. Angle won with the ankle lock to make Michaels tap for the victory. Rumors suggest that Marty still can’t walk.
As great as Angle/HBK was, the Akebono/Big Show sumo exhibition was at the other end of the spectrum. This was just an awful segment and while competitive sumo involves an incredible amount of skill, worked sumo looks ridiculous. I don’t know if this was a way to potentially introduce Akebono to the WWE audience and then sign him to a contract or if it was a one-off just to add some type of spectacle to the show, but it fell completely flat. Akebono is well-known in Japan, but the crowd in LA didn’t know who the random sumo wrestler was that squared off with the Big Show. Either way, this wasn’t the way to bring Akebono to the WWE and considering that it was a one-of appearance, the entire segment was rather pointless.
John Cena won the WWE championship when he beat JBL. The actual match wasn’t anything special, but that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. As I’ve written about previously in this Wrestlemania series, most of the time, sports entertainment is more about the moments than it is the matches and this is a prime example of it. Cena celebrating with the championship was the moment that solidified him as a new top star so it was mission accomplished. Much of the same can be said for the Batista vs. Triple H match, it wasn’t really anything spectacular, but the moment of Batista celebrating with the belt is the goal to push him as one of the next top stars for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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