Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Wrestlemania Story: Part V - Lightning Strikes Twice

We last off with two seasoned veterans standing in a ring, finally achieving their lifelong dreams of victory on the grandest stage of them all. While Wrestlemania XX was about the veterans, Wrestlemania 21 (the company switched to Arabic numerals), from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, would be about the young stars.

Over the course of 2004 three men, all of whom had competed in their first Wrestlemania's that year, rose to prominence in the WWE. John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista had all separated themselves from the pack, and had proven to be capable of some very big things, with Randy Orton even having a brief run as World Champion that year. As 2005 started, Batista shocked the world by winning the Royal Rumble, John Cena won an eight man tournament to earn a title shot at Wrestlemania, and Randy Orton, true to the "Legend Killer" persona he had developed that year, decided to try to do something that nobody had ever done.

The first match of the evening saw one of the heroes from the Wrestlemania XX take on the man that would be a hero at Wrestlemania 22, as Rey Mysterio defeated his good friend Eddie Guerrero. This event marked the first of what has become and annual tradition, as there was a six-man ladder match featuring Edge, Christian, Chris Jericho, Kane, Shelton Benjamin, and Chris Benoit, titled the "Money in the Bank Match", won by Edge, by the pre-match stipulations, he earned the opportunity to wrestle for either top title at any point over the next year. Also, there was a massive dream match as two of the greatest wrestlers of the generation, Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle went one-on-one for the first time. Kurt Angle, proved the better on that day, as he forced Shawn Michaels to submit to his patented Ankle Lock.

Randy Orton had issued the challenge to the man with the most identifiable, and impressive record at Wrestlemania, The Undertaker. Orton fought long and hard, and with the help of his father, Cowboy Bob Orton, was nearly able to achieve victory on multiple occasions. However, in the end, The Undertaker was able to land a Tombstone and claim victory one more time. The Undertaker's Wrestlemania record stood at 13-0.

In the top billed Smackdown match, John Cena challenged the current WWE Champion, John "Bradshaw" Layfield. After eleven-and-a-half minutes, Cena was able to lift up JBL and deliver his patented F-U. While the previous year, Cena was able to win his first title of any sorts, this year he was able to win his first World Championship, as he was ascending to new heights.

In the Main Event of the evening, Batista challenged his former friend, mentor, and stable mate, Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title. For the first time in the history of Wrestlemania, bot the World Heavyweight and the WWE Titles changes hands, as Batista was able to hit a Batista Bomb on Triple H and claim victory.

In the spring following this Wrestlemania, there was a special "draft", where wrestlers were randomly selected to switch rosters. Many big names such as Big Show, Rob Van Dam, and Christian were drafted, however there were no bigger changes than John Cena and Batista, who switched shows. While this was indeed a big move, it was made monumental since both wrestlers were champions at the time, so for the first time ever the WWE Championship became property of the RAW brand, and the World Heavyweight Championship moved to Smackdown.

November 13, 2005, proved to be one of the darkest days in the history of the company. Former WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero was found dead in his hotel room from an apparent heart attack.

Eddie's long time friend, and Wrestlemania opponent the year before, Rey Mysterio, dedicated his performance at the 2006 Royal Rumble to his deceased friend. Rey not only went on to become the smallest wrestler ever to ever win the Rumble Match, but he set the record for longest time he match. He would go on to challenge World Heavyweight Champion, Kurt Angle, who won the title after Batista was forced to vacate the title due to injury. After defeating Mysterio in a match to become the #1 Contender, Randy Orton was added to the title match. Meanwhile, on the RAW side of things, Triple H won an 8 man tournament to challenge the WWE Champion John Cena.

The evening Rob Van Dam became Mr. Money in the Bank, by defeating Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Bobby Lashley, and Ric Flair in the annual ladder match. John Bradshaw Layfield won the United States Championhsip in a battle of former World Champions, by defeating Chris Benoit. Edge faced off with the legendary Mick Foley in a Hardcore Rules Match, that ended when Edge speared Foley through a table that had been set on fire. Also, Shawn Michaels proved to be Mr. Wrestlemania once more by defeating WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon in a No Holds Barred Match.

The Undertaker was yet again met with a challenge at Wrestlemania, this time in one of his signature matches, as Mark Henry faced off with the Dead Man in a Casket Match. During the Match, The Undertaker had a legendary performance by diving over the casket onto his opponent and Tombstoning the 400 pound man, before rolling him into the casket to achieve victory. The Undertaker's Wrestlemania record stood at 14-0.

Rey Mysterio certainly was the underdog heading into his title match against Angle and Orton. However, in a fast and frantic match, Rey was able to score a pinfall victory on Randy Orton to become the most improbable of world champions.

In the last match of the evening, Triple H challenged WWE Champion John Cena. Each man had an elaborate entrance in an attempt to psych the other one out, but neither man seemed phased. The crowd became throughly split during this match, with many people even siding with Triple H, the hated villain. In the end though, for the second time in three years, Triple H tapped out in the Main Event of Wrestlemania, giving the victory to Cena.

That brings us to last year's event, which like two years before was centred on two men, John Cena and Batista. This time though they would enter Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, as champions, only to be challenged by two of the biggest, most established names in the business.

In the first match of the evening, Mr. Kennedy...Kennedy became Mr. Money in the Bank...Bank as well, by defeating Edge, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Booker, Finlay and CM Punk, in a special "Super Sized" version of the match. In his last Wrestlemania Match, Chris Benoit successfully defending his United States title against young upstart Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP). Also, to settle a dispute between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump, Bobby Lashley (representing Trump) defeated Umaga (represented by McMahon), in a match refereed by Steve Austin. As per the match stipulations, this meant that Vince McMahon's head would be shaved.

In the first of two world title matches, Batista was challenged by the 2007 Royal Rumble winner, the legendary Undertaker. The two fought hard all over the arena, with Batista even powerslamming The Undertaker through an announce table. However, just as had happened several times before, The Undertaker lifted his rival up for the Tombstone piledriver and secured victory. The Undertaker's Wrestlemania record stands at 15-0.

In the Main Event of the evening, John Cena was once more challenged by one of the biggest names of the past decade, as Shawn Michaels stepped up to the plate. While Michaels gave Cena his all, it would not be enough that night, as Cena was able to lock in his trademarked STFU and make Shawn Michaels submit to claim victory.

(To read my more detailed thoughts on the entire card, click here)

That concludes this (very long) series. However, the next chapter will be written this Sunday, as Edge tries to end The Undertaker's streak at 15, Cena and Triple H both try to once again reclaim glory from Randy Orton, and the legendary Ric Flair looks to extend his career for one more match against Shawn Michaels. You'll have to tune in to watch the history books get updated again.

Until next time,


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