Monday, 2 February 2015

WrestleMania 29

Image Source: Amazon
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Running Time: 464 Minutes
Certificate: 12
Number Of Discs: 3
Studio: Fremantle Home Entertainment
Released: June 10 2013

On April 7, 2013, WrestleMania returned to the New York/New Jersey area as WM 29 emanated from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I personally attended this Mania, so my perspective will obviously be a bit biased; however, even if I hadn't, the 2013 WM stands up as an entertaining and worthy addition to the event's legacy, even if the viewing experience is changed when watching some matches on DVD, as I will explain.

At the time, there was controversy due to the lack of a national screen and pyrotechnics to open the show, complaints I felt were minor at best. Even dafter were comments on a lack of backstage segments, an element that had been criticised when it was prevalent at previous Manias.

In the ring, WM starts with a fun six-man tag as The Shield take another big to stardom with their win over Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show (this includes a pretty good finishing sequence and is followed by one of Big Show's many character turns). Ryback vs. Mark Henry is less eventful, and the big Shell Shocked on Henry only follows a frankly bizarre decision to have Ryback lose.

Match three felt thrown-together at the time but is entertaining enough as Team Hell No defeat Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston. The early tease of a quick finish was expertly done, and fans bellow "Yes!" in glorified unison at the end. This is followed by Fandango's upset victory over Chris Jericho, 24 hours before his theme music became the talk of WWE thanks to the fans.

Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger feels like a very long time ago when watching in hindsight. It is a well-worked match although the crowd heat could have been better, largely because the fans were chanting for Dolph Ziggler to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase after the match (I know because I was there). ADR wins, but when Dolph doesn't show for what many (including me) expected to be a WrestleMania moment, boos rang out around the stadium. Dolph did cash in the next night on Raw to a huge reaction, but the moment would have been much bigger 24 hours earlier; why not do it on the grander stage?

Then The Undertaker goes 21-0 against CM Punk. The build-up was controversial to say the least: some called it a tribute to the recently-deceased Paul Bearer, while others felt it was exploitation at its worst. Either way, the match itself is a classic, with memorable entrances beforehand. There is so much back-and-forth action and plenty of big moves. The only downside is that Punk's only GTS barely registered, and I personally didn't feel that the Streak was at risk of ending; however, it is still the highlight of the show and was probably the match of 2013. Post-match, an advert played for WM 30. Who could have foreseen that the Streak would end on that night, and that by then Punk would have left WWE?

The semi-final was a No Holds Barred match between Brock Lesnar and Triple H with The Game's career at stake, and with Paul Heyman and Shawn Michaels at ringside. On paper, this had "mega-brawl" written all over it, and it is a really compelling and brutal bout. The only problem is the fan reaction, or lack of one: being there live, it felt quieter than usual, but on DVD it sounds as if the match is almost playing in front of an empty stadium. The noise does pick up at the end when HHH triumphs, but this is an example of how a great match is less fondly-remembered because of the crowd reaction.

The Rock vs. John Cena for the WWE Title closes the show. The big rematch from WM 28 is less-hyped than it should have been, and the hardcore crowd base means that this bout suffers from a less-than-expected atmosphere. However, the match is better than the previous year's main event, and the action, the story of Cena attempting to get redemption and avoid previous mistakes, and the wealth of close finishes does draw the crowd in, right to the match-winning AA for Cena. Post-match, both men embrace and Rock endorses Cena to officially end their two-year feud. The reaction to this is also less than expected; had it been louder, this could have rivalled similar moments involving Rock and Hulk Hogan, and Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior.

Overall, though, WM 29 definitely stands up as an enjoyable if predictable event which delivers star power and several major bouts, none of which disappoint from an in-ring standpoint (and Taker vs. Punk is incredible). But there's more to the DVD set than Mania; there is the 2013 Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, which was the most anticipated to date (I attended this too).

Held at Madison Square Garden, the ceremony inducts many major names: Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, Booker T, Bob Backlund, Donald Trump (in the celebrity wing) and, in the induction that nobody ever thought would happen, Bruno Sammartino. Each induction is enjoyable and memorable for different reasons, ranging from a touching story of personal redemption for Booker, to the sheer craziness of Backlund (someone didn't tell him that this show wasn't a part of WWE storylines), to negative reactions by the MSG crowd which range from hilarious (the tongue-in-cheek boos directed at Trish's husband) to cringeworthy (the brutal boos aimed at Maria Menonous and, to a lesser extent, Trump and even Backlund) to the entertaining stories told by the inductees and their, erm, inductors, which included Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the historic induction of Sammartino and his previously-unimaginable embrace on the HOF stage with Vince McMahon at the end.

This is a definite must-see HOF, but at over 3 1/2 hours in length, don't watch it in one sitting (I know I did, but I was actually in MSG rather than at home). The extras conclude with the WM post-show (shown on in the pre-WWE Network days) and the pre-show Intercontinental Title bout between Wade Barrett and The Miz (the number of extras would likely have been greater had the HOF not lasted so long).

In conclusion, WrestleMania 29 had some pre-show negativity as the two top bouts were rematches (and HHH vs. Lesnar didn't even conclude their rivalry), the promotion of two other big bouts were controversial, and the other matches on the card felt a bit anticlimactic when announced. If you focus solely on show quality, though, and if you ignore the less-than-stellar crowd reactions towards the end of the card, WM 29 is a pretty enjoyable Mania that delivers what it promises. Add to that the historic HOF 2013 ceremony and a couple of extras, and you actually have a very important, memorable and entertaining WrestleMania DVD set that all die-hard fans should own.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding

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