The X-Factor: WrestleMania – Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect?

In a post-Attitude landscape, who really became WWE’s marquee star? It was John Cena, whether the vocal males wanted him to or not.

My opinion: we didn’t need another anti-hero. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a big fan, as a smart fan and a mark. I wasn’t always.

At first I sided with Cena during his feud with Edge because I was pretty damn rankled that he was being rewarded for bad behavior. Edge winning the revenge feud with Matt Hardy didn’t help. Also, I saw half the fans turn on him, and he earned my respect when he refused to turn. Even after the angle was over, I kept on being a fan. 

Nobody would expect Tom Brady to feel bad about the bling on his fingers. Cena made it big, and a ton of good happened along the way.

WrestleMania 22

I want you, to watch this! I’m gonna knock your teeth, DOWN, YOUR, THROAT!

With a ladder, HBK elbows Vinnie Mac through a trash can and a table, throwing in a DX chop. The Sweet Chin Music that followed was probably my favorite. We could’ve done without Michaels taking his damn sweet time setting up the elbow spot.

The other best part was Jim Ross having the time of his life calling the match. The things he said when the Spirit Squad hit the ring? Priceless!

Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus was a damn fine women’s match, even with that horrible botch at the end. If you’ve only watched it on the WWE Network, here’s what else they cut out: right after Mickie grabs Trish crotch, she forms a ‘V’ with her hand and licks it. Probably lives as a clip on YouTube. Yeah, Vinnie Mac gave her a good chewing out later.

The match of the night was Mick Foley vs. Edge. A barbed-wire bat, thumbtacks, a spear through a flaming table, and this all happened AFTER the Attitude Era.

I marked out big time when Rey Mysterio got the World title, but so did Michael Cole. Every time I watch it I still get emotional. 

WrestleMania 23

It achieved the highest ‘Mania buy rate ever. I was in the arena in Phoenix when Stone Cold Steve Austin hit the ring as the guest referee.

The rest of the card was ok. The Money in the Bank match was one of my favorites with its unique spots. Undertaker vs. Batista was a surprise hit and one of the best big-man matches ever.

This was the year he became “Big match John”.

The WWE title match had one of the best vignettes ever. Both Shawn Michaels and John Cena impressed big time.

A piledriver? I didn’t think Cena would’ve kicked out after that, but he did.

I’m not one to wish injury on people, but Triple H blowing out his right quad did Cena a favor. Triple H was gonna get his win back from ‘Mania 22. No one needed it, and putting HBK in his place was the right call.

WrestleMania XXIV

I’m sorry. I love you.

We knew what was gonna happen. Nothing could prepare us for it. When Shawn raised his leg to “tune up the band”, he stopped. That was it. Ric Flair beckoned for it. 

There’s no shortage of emotional moments at WrestleMania: Savage and Elizabeth’s reunion; Hogan and Warrior’s hug; Rey’s World title win; Shawn’s boyhood dream coming true; and Flair’s loss. He went down fighting, living up to his rep as a dirty player to the end.

In that moment, Shawn Michaels really was the Heartbreak Kid.

Another great MITB ladder match, and this time it was CM Punk taking the briefcase. The triple threat with John Cena, Triple H and Randy Orton was also good. Floyd Mayweather’s match with Big Show went a little better than I thought it would.

It marked the Undertaker’s 16th straight ‘Mania win and Edge’s only time headlining WrestleMania, until 37 that is.

WrestleMania 25

I just had an out of body experience!!!

In 2005, the Streak became a focal point for the Showcase of the Immortals, but did anyone ever expect this!? If I ever meet Shawn Michaels or Undertaker, I will shake their hands and thank them for this.

When The Undertaker did his signature dive, I thought he broke his neck. Thankfully he had the presence of mind to tuck and roll, kind of.

Then came the second part: the chokeslam, then Sweet Chin Music, the Last Ride, and then the Tombstone. Michaels kicked out. Priceless look on ‘Taker’s face. Another superkick, and Taker kicks out!! Then comes the moonsault. Taker catches him perfectly, then a Tombstone, and it’s 17-0!! 

So I heard there was a pay per view at the Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker match.

Oh, there were other talking points.

We nearly got a match between Mickey Rourke and Chris Jericho. What we got in its place was more satisfying.

I couldn’t believe Ricky Steamboat still had it.

You know Triple H, you would think that after X8, you would know better. Also, his rivalry with Randy Orton was so intensely personal but the payoff wasn’t anywhere near a representation of it. No Holds Barred was the easy way, and instead Triple H could lose the WWE title by DQ. 

Yeah, he’s so good at politicking but didn’t have the presence of mind to call bullshit on his match.

Final thoughts

If we’re getting technical, I’m a smark. That means I’m a ‘smart’ fan who still marks out. Many of the smart fans deride the marks because they root for the stars they wouldn’t: Cena, Nikki, Roman, Brock, etc. 

Don’t look down on the marks. We all started out that way. We’re all fans in the end.

Don’t mess with the X.