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Published: April 4, 2012
By Jared Silberkleit - Wrestlemania XXVIII was hyped as arguably the biggest Wrestlemania of all time. The main event, John Cena vs. The Rock, was announced a whole year in advance, and WWE had essentially thrown last year’s Mania under the bus in favor of building to this year. I had the privilege of attending the event live at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, FL, as I was in the area for all of the Wrestlemania Weekend festivities. Was this the greatest Mania of all time? No, definitely not. But the 3 main event matches that the show was marketed around absolutely delivered, and they consumed so much of the PPV that it’s hard to say the show overall underachieved. The first hour of the show was bad, mainly due to the World Heavyweight Championship match being a complete joke and thus making the weak filler matches much harder to sit through. But once Undertaker/Triple H hit, the show got rolling and you had 3 genuinely special, lengthy matches. The show was definitely better live than on PPV, but nonetheless this was a memorable Wrestlemania.
*Pre-Show Match: Triple Threat Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: Primo and Epico(c) vs. The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel
This match was streamed on WWE.com as part of a live Pre-Show. Frenetic tag matches are always fun live but the camera crew was great at capturing all the spots for those watching at home. A highlight early on was Kidd doing a springboard off the middle rope into a tower of doom spot. Everyone hit a bunch of crazy moves to the outside before Gabriel hit an asai moonsault, though he slipped on the top rope at first and had to attempt it twice. One of the Usos got a near fall with a diving splash but Primo pinned him with the back stabber. Good, fast-paced sprint to kick off the show. Match Time: 5:03 Star Rating: **3/4
Bryan kissed AJ for good luck and then Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick for the instant victory. Unbelievably stupid. These guys got bumped from the card last year and are now in the World Heavyweight Championship match at the biggest show of the year and this is what they get? This made Bryan and the world title look worthless, and Sheamus’ win didn’t even feel meaningful because the match was such a joke. Sheamus got a pop when he won, but it was more out of shock than anything. Everyone knew Bryan got screwed over and there were more fans upset about his loss than those who were happy that Sheamus won. Sheamus winning the title was the right call here, but for Christ’s sake couldn’t he have won it in a legitimate match? Such typical WWE booking; you have a guy who has connected with the fans and established himself but yet the WWE decides to bury him and/or not pull the trigger based on politics and egos. I was thrilled Bryan got chants later in the show and on Raw the next night, because he’s going to need all the support in the world to rebound from this disaster. Match Time: 0:18 Star Rating: DUD
Loud Daniel Bryan chants in the first few minutes. Very slow pace early on with Kane mainly wearing Orton down with chin locks. Orton came back with his signature backbreaker, the snap powerslam, and the spike DDT. Kane jumped out of the corner but Orton caught him with a mid-air dropkick. Orton readied for the punt but Kane caught him with a chokeslam for a near fall. Orton hit a terrible drop toehold into the corner and they fought up top. Orton teased a super RKO but Kane hit a chokeslam off the second rope for the win. On the PPV it was clear Orton didn’t jump for it at all so it basically had the same impact as a normal chokeslam. Kane getting the win was surprising but this was nothing special. It picked up in the final minutes but it was pretty average overall. Orton looked uninspired, probably because ever since he dropped the title last year he’s been completely directionless and thus he doesn’t care. Match Time: 10:58 Star Rating: **1/4
If WWE was pushing for a super-short championship match, why couldn’t it have been this instead of Bryan/Sheamus? This being a squash would have actually fit the storyline, and you’d be wasting a midcard title match instead of a world title match. Show actually did a stinkface early on. Cody got on the offense and targeted Show’s knee. Show shoved Cody off the top to the floor but Cody came back with the Beautiful Disaster kick. He tried for a second one but Show speared him in midair. Actually, he speared him in the groin. Show hit the WMD punch for the win. Show sold this big time and was crying. It might be his last Mania so maybe that’s why. Short match but it was for the best. Fine while it lasted and Cody got enough offense to retain some credibility. Match Time: 5:15 Star Rating: **
Interesting to see this not being used as a buffer match between the main events. Faces did a double stinkface to Eve, which looked more like foreplay than a wrestling maneuver. Eve was horrible on offense and the heels then GOT THE HEAT ON MARIA. Maria was still very injured so the heels had to take it super-light with her and their offense looked phony. Kelly got a hot tag and hit a nice front flip Thesz press off the top for a near fall. Maria couldn’t even stand up on the apron and was clutching her ribs in pain. Kelly countered the Glam Slam with a bulldog and tagged Maria, who then took an eternity to climb to the top rope. Beth teased a press slam but Kelly pulled her off EVER SO GENTLY. Faces then sloppily shoved Beth into Eve on the apron and Maria rolled up Beth for the win. Maria never should have competed as she was clearly badly injured. I have seen some bad Divas matches but this was AWFUL. Kelly’s 2 cool moves saved this from the negative star range. Match Time: 6:49 Star Rating: 1/2*
Justin Roberts then announced the official attendance as 78,363, which is a new record for Sun Life Stadium. Certainly looked that way live, seeing as the only empty seats were the top rows of the upper deck. Jim Ross was then introduced as he made his way to commentary. Well that’s one way to start repairing the damage caused by the show’s first hour.
For Triple H’s entrance they had him walk through a giant skull set piece that looked like the King of Kings figure. After Undertaker came to the ring, he removed his hood to reveal a SHAVED HEAD with a thin Mohawk. This actually made him look even more menacing than he was with the long hair. Taker and Triple H stared each other down as smoke filled the ring and the Cell lowered. Lots of brawling outside the ring at the start, with both men tossing each other into the cage and the steel steps. Taker countered a Pedigree on the lower half of the steel steps with a towering back body drop off the steps. Triple H then hit a brutal spinebuster on the steel steps. Taker came back with Hell’s Gate, but Triple H broke the hold with a powerbomb. Triple H decimated Taker with chair shots to the back. He tried to get Shawn to stop the match but Taker told Shawn not to. Triple H hit a sledgehammer shot to the face for a near fall. Shawn contemplated calling for the bell, but Taker suddenly put him in Hell’s Gate. Triple H broke that up with a sledgehammer shot to Taker. Taker kicked Triple H low and applied Hell’s Gate. Triple H went for the sledgehammer but dropped it just like at the end of the match last year. All 3 men were down as referee Charles Robinson ran down and got into the Cell. Taker hit a chokeslam for a near fall and then chokeslammed Robinson in frustration.
Taker went for the Tombstone, but Triple H countered, Shawn superkicked Taker, and Triple H hit the Pedigree immediately after, but Taker kicked out in an incredible near fall. The place literally exploded for that. Shawn tried to reason with Triple H but got shoved to the floor. Taker did the zombie sit up which freaked out Triple H. Taker made a comeback and hit the Tombstone for 2. Shawn sat in the corner in tears after making the 2 count. Triple H hit another Pedigree but Taker again kicked out. Triple H went for the sledgehammer but Taker put his foot on it and brutalized Triple H with chair shots. Taker covered for a near fall and took the sledgehammer away from Triple H. Triple H did a crotch chop, so Taker hit him in the face with the sledgehammer, did the throat slash, and Tombstoned him for the win. After the match Taker and Shawn helped Triple H to his feet and they all walked to the back together. Wow, that was absolutely phenomenal. Just excellent, amazing storytelling. Though it came off incredible on PPV, live this was even better. The crowd was hanging on every single move and the drama was just at an all time high. Just a notch below the Taker/Shawn Mania matches, but still a classic and one of the best matches in Wrestlemania history. Match Time: 30:54 Star Rating: ****3/4
They then replayed clips of the Hall of Fame ceremony, which took place the previous night, before introducing the Class of 2012 inductees on the stage. This year’s inductees included Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, Ron Simmons, The Four Horsemen, and Edge.
This certainly felt like a cool-down match after Hell in a Cell, as the crowd was totally flat. Faces ran wild early before the heels worked over Booker for several minutes. Does this match really need a heat segment? Booker eventually got the hot tag and the match broke down. Henry hit a World’s Strongest Slam, Khali hit the big chop, and the faces did stereo dives to the floor. Santino hit the Cobra on Miz, but Ziggler did the best break-up ever to stop it. Ryder then catapulted Ziggler, who took the BEST BUMP EVER. Ryder tried for the Rough Ryder on Miz, but Miz launched him and he hit Ziggler. Ryder did the fist pump and Eve got in the ring to do it with him, but Ryder told her to get out. Miz used the distraction to hit the Skull-Crushing Finale for the win. Turned into a fun match by the finish but that middle was so unnecessary. After the match Eve kicked Ryder in the nuts. As far as filler matches go this was fine. Match Time: 10:37 Star Rating: **1/2
This picked up the show’s momentum again after the 12-man tag. Just before the match backstage, John Laurinaitis added the stipulation that if Punk got disqualified he would lose the title. They played into this early on with Punk beating on Jericho in the corner and contemplating using a chair. Punk hit a big clothesline off the top to the floor. Jericho worked over Punk’s back for a little to set him up for the Walls. Both guys scored near falls with their finishers, including Jericho hitting a Codebreaker in midair as Punk tried a springboard. In an awesome counter, Punk tried for a top rope Frankensteiner only for Jericho to hold onto the legs and bring him back down into the Walls of Jericho. The finishing sequence was excellent, as Punk was stuck in the Walls for a lengthy period of time before countering out, and both guys went back and forth countering out of the Walls and the Anaconda Vise respectively. Eventually Punk caught Jericho in the Anaconda Vise and Jericho tapped after struggling for a while. Great technical match with very solid in-ring storytelling. They got plenty of time and that finish put Punk over like a million bucks. Definitely a Wrestlemania-quality WWE title match, one of the best in several years actually. Match Time: 22:21 Star Rating: ****1/4
Brodus Clay then came out with his girls to introduce “Mama Clay” who came out dancing. Then several other “Mama” lookalikes filed onto the stage and they all danced to Brodus’ music for a couple minutes. They had time for this crap but only 20 seconds for the World Heavyweight Title match?
Before the main event, MGK performed a short version of “Invincible” before John Cena’s music hit, and Flo Rida performed “Good Feeling” and “Wild Ones” before The Rock’s entrance. MGK was at least only out there for 2 minutes but Flo Rida went too long. I have no issue with wrestlers’ entrance music being performed live, but this felt pointless because both guys just came out to their usual themes after the rappers were done. Plus they were just playing recorded versions of the songs over the live performances, which was a bit annoying because the singers were half singing and half lip-syncing.
Well, this was the big main event dream match. One year in the making. Certainly has a lot to live up to. They started with a bit of chain wrestling which wasn’t the best. Things got going in the middle when both guys scored near falls with the Attitude Adjustment and Rock Bottom respectively. Cena hit a tope rope Famouser that spiked Rock right on his head. Rock wore out Cena with the Sharpshooter for a bit but Cena got the ropes. Cena had Rock in the STF for a lengthy period of time (though it didn’t look like he was applying that much pressure) but Rock eventually got the ropes. Rock hit the People’s Elbow for a near fall. Rock went up top for a cross body but Cena caught him, rolled through, and hit the AA for a great near fall. The finish here, like the previous match, was excellent. Cena teased the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but then decided to go for the People’s Elbow. After he hopped over Rock, Rock nailed him with the Rock Bottom for the win. People are going to have mixed opinions on this match. Wrestling-wise this wasn’t all that great, seeing as Cena and Rock didn’t have very good chemistry together and Rock got gassed because he’s nearly 40 years old, hasn’t worked a full length singles match in 9 years, and this went a half hour. However, the crowd was electric for this match and at the end of the day it delivered what was promised. Two of the biggest stars in WWE history throwing their big moves at one another on the biggest stage possible. This came off much better live, but on PPV it was still a quality main event. Match Time: 30:34 Star Rating: ****
Overall PPV Rating: 8/10
Tagged with: Back Stabber, Bryan C, Camera Crew, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Main Event, Moonsault, Pre Show, Springboard, Star Rating, Sun Life, Tag Team Championship, Top Rope, Tower Of Doom, Triple Threat, Undertaker, Weekend Festivities, World Heavyweight Championship, World Heavyweight Championship Match, Wrestlemania