Monday, March 31, 2008

Wrestlemania in Orlando - Ric Flair retires!!

JBL defeated Fit Finlay in a “Belfast Brawl” match. (An interesting choice for hot opener because it’s always tough to follow a weapons melee as the first broadcast match of the night. However, there wasn’t a lot of other choices except perhaps Umaga vs Batista or Bunnymania.) Finlay was accompanied by his returning “son”, Hornswaggle (a.k.a. the Little Bastard), who didn’t really play much of a role in the match. Finlay tried to bring the violence including kicking out the vintage Benoit/Finlay moment of diving to the outside to see the hijo answered with a nasty weapon shot. JBL’s table spot was interesting because he seemed uncertain whether he wanted to take a flip bump or not, so he ended up going shoulder/head first. Ouch. JBL ends up winning with the clothesline from hell.

Money in the Bank with Seven Men: MVP, John Morrison, Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Chris Jericho, CM Punk and Mr Kennedy. There was no strong contender going into this match following the suspension of number eight man Jeff Hardy due to a drug test violation. As with all Money in the Bank matches, Shelton Benjamin worked hard and a spectacle ensued. Some creative spots with interlocking the ladders brought the nice innovation factor. Matt Hardy made a surprise return to knock MVP away from the briefcase which was a pleasant continuation of their feud. In the end, CM Punk won the match. However, his future is very uncertain – a title shot at ECW One Night Stand, perhaps?

Batista versus Umaga had a solid match with the Samoan Bulldozer working over the Fujian grandfather’s back. In the end, Batista narrowly managed to execute a powerbomb on the giant monster and won the “Battle for Brand Supremacy”. This did not have a big-match feeling about it, nor did feel like it was a meaningful encounter between the two brands. Umaga is probably moving off RAW in the coming weeks.

Kane won the ECW Championship (his second “world” title reign) by chokeslamming and pinning Chavo Guerrero in less than ten seconds. Kane has been on every Wrestlemania since 1998. We’ll see if his reign as ECW champion will be a ratings failure like Morrison’s.

Ric Flair lost his career-threatening match against Shawn Michaels and retired. HBK showed a lot of emotional throughout the match and put his body on line with a Asai moonsault into the announcer table that looked like it busted his ribs and a flip from the top rope to the floor that looked brutal. Arena was emotional with Flair’s last match and that sentiment will no doubt grow tonight as RAW is built around his farewell.

Bunnymania Lumberjack Match did not have Torrie Wilson as a nameless Diva on the outside. Beth Phoenix & Melina defeated Maria and her partner Ashely (filling in for a re-injured Candice Michelle). Not much to say about this match except that Snoop Dogg was given a ridiculous giant throne to watch it at ringside and later hit Santino and kissed Maria. What a great ad for his parenting reality show!

Triple H, John Cena and Randy Orton had a very well-laid out title match where the heel championship was able to retain. Crowd was vociferously booing Cena during this match as expected. Triple H was very popular but did not wear his Halloween costume. This fued will continue!

Floyd “Money” Mayweather defeated Big Show by Knock-out after Paul Wight fought an army of handlers, took several chairshots and was punched in the head by a world champ boxer while wearing brass knuckles. This match was laid out very well and the crowd was very excited to see the natural heel get hit. This may have been the best celebrity pro-wrestling match yet executed.

In the main event of the evening, Edge lost the World Heavyweight Title to The Undertaker by submission. The story of this match was the Undertaker’s 16-0 Wrestlemania streak which remains intact. Many observers pegged this match as the best on the card following a quiet beginning. Undertaker has been working hard to get the Gogoplata submission over and on Sunday, the crowd popped huge so it was a success. As usual, the show ended with a face winning a major championship.

Pre-WM IWW show: