Monday, April 6, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Wrestlemania 25 Reviewed

My criteria for WWE's pay per views is a simple one. Upon reflection, would I have spent X dollars on this event? Almost as always, this year's Wrestlemania delivers. And yes, it was worth almost 60 dollars to see it in high definition glory.

Here are some quick thoughts on the event.

1. CM Punk? No comment. The Money in the Bank Match was a great opener. It had a good workrate among all its participants and it featured some great--if not obligatory--high spots. I do wish Christian had won because he has been great since his arrival from TNA and has gone underappreciated. Second thought: Shelton Benjamin is amazing, if only because his physical gifts are outweighed only by the fact that he is crippled verbally. Third thought: imagine Shelton Benjamin in another era, one with great managers so that they could be his mouthpiece and Benjamin could just go out and work...that would have been awesome. Final thought: Kofi Kingston is so sincere and gifted. He reminds me of an early version of the Rock. In keeping with that parallel, Kofi needs to drop this gimmick and just find himself. Once he does so, Kingston will find greatness.

2. The Diva Battle Royal. For a real battle royal read Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man.

3. Jericho versus the Legends. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat can still go. Jericho is this year's MVP. Unfortunately, Mickey Rourke didn't do the "Ram Jam." All in all, a fun match despite its limitations.

4. Rey Misterio versus JBL. Rey looks like the Goppledy Gooker had a baby with Heath Ledger's version of the Joker. Yuck. SD Jones versus Bundy was the quickest to pinfall match in Wrestlemania History. Thank god, this was a close second. Oh, I guess JBL is going to Smackdown to replace Tazz.

5. Matt Hardy versus Jeff Hardy. Damn. After this match one could reasonably expect Jeff to violate the WWE's "third strike you're out" substance abuse policy. In conclusion, Matt went over Jeff as expected. This is a good move because it gets more mileage out of the feud, and it harkens back to the Owen versus Bret Hart match where the former won over the latter in the first match. But, I am of mixed feelings on these unnecessary high spots--what Jeff did was just crazy and risked ending his career. Again, sometimes too much is just too much.

6. Sean Michaels versus the Undertaker. As predicted, this was the highlight of the evening. Moreover, I pity the participants in the final two matches because while their matches were "good" they were diminished by the clinic put on by Sean and Mark. I will confess, that I need to rewatch this watch a few times to rank it in the annals of WWE history, but at present I feel confident that it is one of the best matches in WWE history. And no, this isn't some recency effect where because it is hours old one exaggerates the wonder that was witnessed in this match. I would also suggest that it would not be an exaggeration to state that Michaels versus Taker may be Frasier versus Ali in its greatness. I offer two thoughts that may be a bit different from what one would expect in the logic behind my assessing how wonderful this match was.

First, a mastery of subtlety distinguishes the good from the great. To that point, watch the facial expressions of Michaels and the Undertaker in this match as they convey volumes--professional wrestling is physical storytelling...epics wrought with emotion and physicality. Both of these workers display this reason for being in abundance.

Second, great matches are easy to call. Consequently, they bring out the best in the commentators. Listen to JR, the King, and Michael Cole on this match. As mediocre as the latter is, he sounds competent calling this match. JR, as the heir to Gordon Solie is truly in his element calling this match. Yes, Taker and Michaels gave all of them something special to call, and they stepped up. But, one final thought. I love a match that is predictable in its finish. I know this is counter-intuitive. Consider nevertheless: what is more satisfying than a story that ends the only way it can (i.e. with the Undertaker winning), but you are transfixed by how it happens? Wrestlemania 25 proved the genius of the convention of inevitability as an indispensable storytelling device.

7. The Hall of Fame Inductees: Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!

8. Big Show versus Cena versus Edge. Big show can't work--this isn't a surprise. Cena sells merchandise so he can't lose. Moreover, Cena has the best entrance of the three competitors so doubly so there is no way he can be defeated. Edge should win, so he can't. Guess what? Cena is drafted to Smackdown next week and Edge and Big Show go to Raw. Reset. By the way, please turn Cena heel...pretty, pretty, pretty, please.

9. HHH versus Randy Orton. This feud has been salvaged from the dustbin of WWE history only because of the sincerity of its participants. Hunter undoubtedly played politics backstage to go over. This is a given. But, the match was well planned and the story worked to a point. Here, we had an unnecessary ending because it betrayed one of the central tensions of the Orton-HHH feud: does Hunter care more about the title or about Stephanie. Apparently, the former matters more than the latter. Yes, this is in keeping with the character, but I have an alternate ending: imagine if instead of Trip's winning, we make the no DQ/countout finish mean something? HHH hovers over Orton with the sledgehammer (a gimmick that I absolutely loathe, and the ref tells him, "if you hit Orton you lose the belt!" HHH looks at the referee and hits Orton anyway, delivering the coup de gras. HHH throws the belt at Orton and says, "here, you can have the belt...until tomorrow night."

Your thoughts? How would you have booked Wrestlemania? And what grade would you have given it?

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