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411’s Instant Access 04.01.12: WWE WrestleMania XXVIII
Posted by Scott Slimmer on 04.02.2012

Hey kids, I'm Scott, and this is 411's Instant Access: WWE WrestleMania XXVIII. Instant Access is the companion piece to 411 Live Pay-Per-View Coverage and features immediate reaction to wrestling pay-per-views. The focus in Instant Access is on first thoughts and initial reactions instead of play-by-play with the goal of providing you with instant access to one TWO writers' thoughts on the show. Anyway, here's the team for WrestleMania:

• Scott Slimmer, author of Don't Think Twice.
• Gavin Napier, author emeritus of Handicapping the News and This is the End(ing). Gavin will be texting me comments throughout the night.

For even more coverage, don't forget to follow me on Twitter at @ScottSlimmer.

Okay kids, enough with the explanations. Let's get to the wrestling.

Triple Threat Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship
Primo & Epico (Champions) w/ Rosa Mendes vs. The Usos vs. Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd

Triple Threat Tag Team Match

Match Result: Epico defeats Jimmy Uso with the Backstabber.
Match Length: 5:03
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: These six guys packed as much action as you can into a five minute match, and it really is a shame they were relegated to the pre-show. They could have done some amazing things with fifteen minutes on the main card. However, I suppose being on the pre-show is better than not being on the card at all (or getting your ass handed to you by Flo Rida), so I'll stop complaining. I'm glad that WWE remembers the Usos are on the roster, and I like the combination of Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd. I'd love to see these three teams lock up in various combinations in the year to come.
Napier: N/A
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **
Napier: N/A
Average Match Rating: **

World Heavyweight Championship Match
Daniel Bryan (Champion) vs. Sheamus

Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus

Match Result: Sheamus defeats Daniel Bryan with the Brogue Kick.
Match Length: 0:18
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: I expected this match to open the show much as Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio opened the show last year, and I expected Sheamus to finally give Daniel Bryan what he deserved and take his World Heavyweight Championship, but I certainly didn't expect all of that to happen in eighteen seconds. I definitely understand the notion that because Bryan has retained the championship in bizarre and fluky ways during his entire reign, it seems only fitting that he should lose it in such a bizarre and fluky way as well. However, while that concept might play out fine on Smackdown or a smaller PPV, I'm not sure I can ever get behind the idea of eighteen second title matches at WrestleMania. Moving forward, Bryan will surely claim that he wasn't ready for the match to begin and that he deserves a rematch. Look for his whining to continue until a rematch in four weeks at Extreme Rules.
• This set isn't quite toga-party-bad, but the giant palm trees don't exactly make things feel epic.
• I would have picked Punk vs. Jericho to start this. This doesn't make me optimistic for Jericho leaving with gold.
• Well… that was… did he just beat Diesel's record for fastest title win?!?
• 4 hours to kill, and we couldn't give these guys a few minutes after bumping them last year?
Match Rating:
Slimmer: *
Napier: No Rating
Average Match Rating: ½*

Randy Orton vs. Kane

Randy Orton vs. Kane

Match Result: Kane defeats Randy Orton with a Super Choke Slam from the top rope.
Match Length: 10:58
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: This was a perfectly fine little match, but it really seemed like the same sort of match we see on Smackdown every week. I expect something special from every match at WrestleMania, and this match didn't deliver that. However, the most notable aspect of this match was that fact that Kane picked up the win. I expected Orton to defeat the monster and begin his built to an eventual title match, so having Kane get the pin was definitely a shock. Coming off of high profile feuds with John Cena and Randy Orton, WWE clearly seems to have big plans for Kane. To that end, I expect Sheamus to still be holding the gold when he eventually ends his feud with Daniel Bryan, so he'll need a few heels to fill his time. My guess is that Sheamus will move on from Bryan to Kane before setting up a title match with Orton at SummerSlam.
• Randy Orton already? But I don't need to go to the bathroom yet!
• Did Kane really just basically squash Orton at Mania?
Match Rating:
Slimmer: ***
Napier: **½
Average Match Rating: **¾

Intercontinental Championship Match
Cody Rhodes (Champion) vs. The Big Show

Cody Rhodes vs. The Big Show

Match Result: Big Show defeats Cody Rhodes with the Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Match Length: 5:19
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: This certainly was a technical classic, but it did provide a feel-good moment for Show and provide a logical finale to his feud with Cody Rhodes. Rhodes is definitely a star on the rise, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him holding the World Heavyweight Championship at some point this year. In fact, continuing my speculation from the Orton / Kane match, if Sheamus successfully defends against Bryan and Kane before losing the title to Orton at SummerSlam, then Rhodes could challenge (and possibly even defeat) Orton for the title in a battle of former members of Legacy. As for Big Show, he certainly doesn't need to carry the IC title at this point in his career, but who's going to challenge the giant?
• Cody's logo looks like Chevron gas station signs.
• Terrible booking decision, but a nice moment for a consummate pro.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **
Average Match Rating:

Divas Tag Team Match
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres

Divas Tag Team Match

Match Result: Maria Menounos defeats Beth Phoenix with a roll-up pin.
Match Length: 6:22
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: This action in this match was little more than the standard Divas tag team match fare, but what is definitely remarkable is that Maria Menounos wrestled the match with fractured and / or broken ribs and feet. Many celebrities in her position would have backed out of the match all together, and most of the rest would have stood on the apron for the entire match without taking a single bump. To her credit, Maria wrestled a substantial fraction of the match and allowed Beth and Eve to exploit her injuries. She had to be in pain the entire time, and I give her a ton of credit for every bit of effort she put in tonight. She's not a wrestler. This isn't her career. She didn't need to do this. And yet she did. In my mind, that makes her a true professional, whether or not she ever steps foot in the ring again.
• Chief Wahoo McDaniel is spinning in his grave over that headdress.
• In working the ribs, Menounos is showing more psychology than 90% of the active roster.
Match Rating:
Average Match Rating:

End of an Era Hell in a Cell Match – Special Referee Shawn Michaels
Triple H vs. The Undertaker

Triple H vs. The Undertaker

Match Result: The Undertaker defeats Triple H with the Tombstone.
Match Length: 30:47
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: There will be critics who will say that this match was slow or that it went ten minutes to long, and maybe they're right. This match was not a masterpiece of technical wrestling, but it was never intended to be. This match was all about a story that has been building for decades, and it did an absolutely phenomenal job of providing resolution and closure to that story. Despite all the animosity between these three men, and despite them all having truly legendary egos, the truth that emerged in Hell in a Cell is that none of them truly wanted to be the one to end an era. When Triple H had the Undertaker beaten, he repeatedly begged Shawn Michaels to call the match. Later in the match, the Undertaker hesitated before finishing Triple H, waiting just a moment to give Triple H the chance to surrender. And through it all, Shawn Michaels proved that all he really wanted to do was the right thing. He never counted fast or slow, and he never robbed either man of his dignity by calling the match. I thought that the perfect way for this match to end would be to have Triple H finally end the streak, but now I can see that this scenario was just as good – if not better. The story that was told after the match was truly beautiful, as years of tension and resentment faded way, leaving only respect and camaraderie. Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker helped Triple H to the top of the ramp, and all three men turned to look back on their fans and their careers. They embraced each other and the next phase of their lives before ducking behind the curtain, maybe for the final time.
• JR calling this match is a nice touch for the "era." Is this his retirement, too?
• Balder-taker warrants a thunder effect? Also, why is one of Metallica's worst songs the theme for this?
• Well this has been… something. It has certainly been a thing.
• The question now is whether or not we'll get an overbooked 21-0.
• Sportsmanship can suck it.
• The Ultimate Warrior pinned Triple H in 40 seconds, what the hell took Taker so long?
Match Rating:
Slimmer: ****½
Napier: ***½
Average Match Rating: ****

Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy
Santino Marella (Captain), Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, The Great Khali & Booker T w/ Teddy Long, Aksana, Nikki Bella, Eve Torres, and Hornswoggle vs. David Otunga (Captain), Mark Henry, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre & The Miz w/ John Laurinaitis, Brie Bella and Vickie Guerrero

Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy

Match Result: The Miz defeats Zack Ryder with the Skull Crushing Finale.
Match Length: 10:32
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: Between active wrestlers, general managers, flag bearers, girlfriends, and Bellas, there were TWENTY people involved in this match. It's almost impossible to have that many people all play a memorable role in a match, and in trying to do so the end result was a muddled mess. All that really stands out in the end is that Booker T played face-in-peril quite well, Miz was able to shine at WrestleMania by picking up a key win, and Zack Ryder has now been kicked in the nuts, both physically and metaphorically, in just about every way humanly possible. I would have loved to see Team Teddy get the win so that Teddy Long could take over Raw and Smackdown, fade into the background, and let the in-ring talent shine, but I think we all knew WWE loves evil authority figures too much to pass up the opportunity to let John Laurinaitis run both shows. Look for Johnny to make trouble for our favorite faces on both Raw and Smackdown, and look for Zack Ryder to walk funny for a while.
• Nice of them to let a 47 year old guy carry the match tonight.
• That'll teach you to get over on your own, Zack Ryder!
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **
Napier: **
Average Match Rating: **

WWE Championship Match
CM Punk (Champion) vs. Chris Jericho

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho

Match Result: CM Punk defeats Chris Jericho with the Anaconda Vice.
Match Length: 22:23
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: I loved the idea of CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho when it was first announced, and I was truly excited to see what kind of in-ring magic they could produce together. However, as the alcoholism / substance abuse storyline came into play, I began to wonder if storylines would overshadow wrestling in this match. My fears were only exacerbated when it was announced that Punk could lose the title by disqualification. The match itself was good and probably even great, but I just couldn't get past the opening few minutes that saw Punk repeatedly coming precariously close to getting disqualified. I wanted to see a classic wrestling exhibition, and what I got instead was overreliance on a hackneyed stipulation. The match improved after the first few minutes and definitely had a great closing sequence, but I just wish we could have seen what might have been if Punk and Jericho has simply been allowed to wrestler to the best of their abilities. My gut feeling is that there is still life in this feud, so look for a rematch at Extreme Rules.
• And here comes the one and only match I truly care about tonight.
• Jericho's tights are a nice touch.
• Less is more. Nice work by Jericho, enticing the disqualification.
• I don't know if I've ever actually seen that spot actually pulled off. (re: the suplex to the floor)
• This match has been better than the crowd is treating it. Thus the problem with 5 hour shows.
• Well, shit.
• I don't understand the point of Jericho's return now.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: ****
Napier: ****½
Average Match Rating: ****¼

Once in a Lifetime Match
John Cena vs. The Rock

John Cena vs. The Rock

Match Result: The Rock defeats John Cena with the Rock Bottom.
Match Length: 25:00ish (my stopwatch malfunctioned)
Match Analysis:
Slimmer: This match seemed incredibly underwhelming, but I think that's due more to the incredibly over-hyped build to the match than the quality of the match itself. WWE claimed that this was the biggest WrestleMania match of all time, the fans debated it and analyzed it in alarming detail, but in the end it was just a passable match. WWE tried to capture the magic of Rock / Hogan a second time, but they definitely came up short. Maybe Rock doesn't elicit the kind of nostalgic reaction that Hogan did. Maybe Cena can't subtly work heel the way that Rock did. Maybe you do need the Bizarro crowd in Toronto to make this kind of match work. But whatever the reason, this feud ultimately amounted to a lot of talk and just a little wrestling. However, I am interested to see what John Cena has to say tomorrow night on Raw. He was adamant that he NEEDED to win this match, and now he hasn't. What does that mean for him, his career, and his relationship with the fans? The answers to those questions could be very interesting.
• You're off to a good start when you're booed before the performance starts.
• Rock looks significantly smaller than he did at Survivor Series.
• And Hogan and Rock stare down and look around… no, wait…
• Cena and Rock could call moves quieter with Jimmy Hart's megaphone.
• Well that was disappointing all around.
Match Rating:
Slimmer: **½
Napier: **½
Average Match Rating: **½

Final Thoughts

Match of the Night:
Slimmer: Triple H vs. The Undertaker (****½)
This was the match that I was most looking forward to, and in my mind it was the match that most fulfilled its promise. However, I do think it's interesting that Gavin was most looking forward to Punk / Jericho and then picked that match as his Match of the Night. This is a great example of how expectations can tailor evaluations. There simply is no objective way to judge the quality of a professional wrestling match. In one way or another, the feelings we have as fans impact the judgments we make as critics. And that's okay. Because at the end of the day, I think most of us would rather be fans than critics anyway.
Napier: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (****½)

Trash of the Night:
Slimmer: Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy (**)
This wasn't necessarily a bad match, and in fact it wasn't even my lowest rated match on the card. However, it was a jumbled mess that felt like a waste of a lot of truly talented wrestlers (and a few slightly less talented ones). This was a perfect example of a match being shoehorned into a storyline, and I will always believe that the biggest show of the year should be focused on putting on the absolute best matches possible.
Napier: Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy (**)

Final Analysis:
Slimmer: This show may have felt a bit underwhelming, but I still certainly enjoyed it. Triple H / Undertaker exceeded my expectations in every way and told a truly special story. Punk / Jericho was good-to-great and definitely a fun match to watch. Most of us would have liked to have seen Bryan / Sheamus go longer, but there is a perverse sort of joy in seeing a heel get so utterly dominated and humiliated like that. Of the four main matches on the card, only Cena / Rock really fell flat for me. The bottom line is that this was a fine addition to the WrestleMania cannon. It wasn't an all-time classic like the mythical WresteMania X-Seven, but it was also a long way from the abysmal depths of WrestleMania IX.
Napier: Personally, this show didn't quite live up to expectations for me. Maybe it's because I expect so much from a WrestleMania that it's unrealistic. May it's the grind of a 4 hours show. Maybe it was expecting Brock or another surprise to show up that never materialized. Mostly, I think it was the disappointment of the booking. Big Show needs the IC title as much as Michael Cole needs advice on how to be annoying. Jericho's return seems hollow with no big win. Rock going over seems like a throwaway. I'm sure all these things will play into something bigger, but right now, immediately after the show, everything feels flat.

Slimmer: ***
Napier: **½
Average Verdict: **¾

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