The X-Factor: WrestleMania – The rise of Cena

New Years Revolution – January 8, 2006.

Cena went wire-to-wire defending his WWE Championship, and then it happened. Edge cashed-in on the battered champ and stole the title out from under him.

Damn, that rankled me to no end. Never mind that Edge and Lita betrayed Matt Hardy, but the former won a feud he had no business winning and then they book him into the main event. That’s how I became a major fan of John Cena. It started because I couldn’t stand Mr. Rated R, but the man won me over. I was never embarrassed to show my support no matter how strong the hate train was rolling.

Looking back, it’s funny how haters kept on hating. They would refuse to admit the truth. No matter how many amazing matches Cena had, they would’ve rather gone down with the ‘USS Cena can’t wrestle’ than admit he had what it took. Yet, they would grow to appreciate the man more than the character.

Watching in 2006 helped me love the business all over again. 

WrestleMania 22

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

Shawn took his sweet time setting it up that elbow spot. Pick a ladder genius! HBK elbows Vinnie Mac through a trash can and a table, throwing in the DX Chop as foreshadowing.

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 Peacock, 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. Apart from X-Seven, it’s my favorite ‘Mania ever.

WrestleMania 23

I was in the arena in Phoenix on March 5 when Stone Cold Steve Austin hit the ring as the guest referee. That was the first Raw I ever attended.

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.  

A piledriver? Wow!

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 paid off big time.

WrestleMania XXIV

“I’m sorry. I love you.” 

In that moment, Shawn really was the Heartbreak Kid.

No amount of time could prepare us for it. When Shawn raised his leg to “tune up the band”, he stopped. That was all she wrote.

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.

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 people thought it would.

It marked the Undertaker’s 16th straight ‘Mania win and Edge’s first main event until 2021. 

WrestleMania 25

“I just had an out of body experience!!!” 

Did anyone ever expect this!?

The Undertaker damn near broke his neck! I still have trouble believing it.

It’s almost as if we watched two separate bouts back to back. 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!! 

Oh, there were other talking points.

I couldn’t believe Ricky Steamboat still had it. It was magnanimous giving Mickey Rourke a role. 

Don’t mess with the X.