Pruett's Pause: WWE WrestleMania 29 - The status quo is re-established as John Cena defeats The Rock, Triple H out-Lesnars Brock Lesnar, and C.M. Punk and Undertaker steal the show
By Will Pruett
Expectations are a funny thing. I expected change. I expected WWE to attempt to tell a compelling story with WrestleMania to excite me about the next year. I expected WrestleMania to leave me excited about another year of WWE stories. I just expected something to happen instead of nothing. My main frustration with WrestleMania 29 is the way nothing happened.
John Cena is once again the top star in the promotion and WWE Champion. He was the top star for the last year. His redemption story felt forced coming into this show and his desperation was fulfilled by the same means most of his desires are. It wasn't hard enough for Cena. It wasn't a challenge for Cena. It was just another match.
The Rock rode off into the sunset with a display of mutual respect and the raising of his formidable opponent's hand. What did The Rock learn? How did he change? Why did this story need to be told? Was he the last great challenge for John Cena?
Triple H came into this show with his career on the line, playing off of the retirements of Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. He won his match, but nothing changes. Triple H will not suddenly become a more active wrestler because he is not retired. At the most, he will have three or four matches a year. There are so many unnecessary elements to this story. Did it need to be told?
C.M. Punk and The Undertaker managed to steal the show. They didn't just steal it, they also saved it. This match returned us to the status quo of The Streak and also gave us one of the poorest stories leading into WrestleMania, but he story told in the ring was beautiful.
This show, as a general notion, felt non-essential and uneventful. If you missed it, you'll probably see all the details you need on Raw. If you saw it, you probably walked away underwhelmed by unnecessary stories a lack of actual joy. In any storytelling medium, a story should be presented because it needs to be told. WWE did not present us with an essential show. WrestleMania 29 was disappointing at best and skippable at worst.
And now we return you to the regularly scheduled point-by-point review.
- The set for WrestleMania is always spectacular. WWE's production team does amazing work and this was a perfect demonstration of it. On top of the set, the camera work and directing on this show were all top notch. Congratulations to WWE's production team for putting forth a near-flawless effort on the biggest show of the year.
- I was surprised by the lack of "America the Beautiful" to kick off the show. I assume it was sang live in the stadium, but that moment is usually a fun one for WrestleMania. Maybe Diddy could have sang his own special version of Vince McMahon's preferred patriotic tune.
- Kicking off WrestleMania with a Superstorm Sandy video package was classy. WWE really showed a lot of love to the New York area.
- I loved the video of WrestleMania moments. Then again, I love those every year, so it's no surprise.
- The Shield were the perfect act to open WrestleMania with. They provide a ton of high energy excitement in their matches and the crowd was definitely up for seeing them.
- Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Big Show all performed well against The Shield. A six man tag can be hard to put together without devolving into formulaic tropes and this match managed not to do so.
- My one complaint about the opening match would be the apparent decision to return Big Show to the heel side of the roster instead of creating a transition with Orton or Sheamus. Show is going to feel slightly stale no matter where he is, but Sheamus, and definitely Orton, could use a new set of opponents and an evolution of character. Show returns us to right back where we started, which was the theme of this show.
- Ryback vs. Mark Henry was not the entertaining big man match I had hoped for. My hopes were probably too high. This was a decent match with a surprising finish (one of the few surprises on this show).
- Mark Henry pinning Ryback absolutely shocked me. What happens to Ryback after a loss on his sixth pay-per-view in a row? I know wrestlers can be rebuilt, but Ryback has proven incapable of winning on the biggest stages. Will this lead to any change in who he is?
- The attempt to play with the most idiotic action figures ever produced at the announce table produced a fair amount of chuckles at my WrestleMania party. Why would anyone buy those toys that just attach to each other and have seizures?
- Daniel Bryan and Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston was entertaining for a short tag match. I really enjoyed the tease of an 18 second win, this time for Daniel Bryan instead of against him.
- The tag match told a nice story, even if it was too short. All four men looked good and Big E impressed, especially in his debut match. This match was well placed on the card and it gave the fans something to be very excited about.
- Team Friendship (I don't believe in this Team Hell No business) is more compelling when working together and on the same page than when arguing. There is still mileage left in them as an actual team.
- Fandango vs. Chris Jericho was made to feel like a major match by the entrances.
- Fandango did not impress in his debut match and looked especially bad in the closing minutes. He was out of position and just seemed clumsy. I've seen Johnny Curtis perform better in the past, so this surprised me.
- The "I am one of the millions" video was really hokey. I understand what WWE was going for, but kids and old people doing impressions of The Rock into the camera for three minutes was boring.
- Also boring was the Diddy concert. Last year's musical performance brilliance did not carry on to this year.
- Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter had their entrance cut from WrestleMania. That had to hurt. Weren't they supposed to be in a semi-truck, not an oversized golf cart?
- The fans cared more about Zeb Colter and Ricardo Rodriguez than they did about Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio. This was par for the course, given how the build to this match has gone. Swagger and Del Rio had an unimpressive match with a predictable outcome.
- The return to the status quo continued with Del Rio beating Swagger and nothing else happening. I don't even know how to describe this show to people. WWE's over-arching story did not move.
- C.M. Punk and Undertaker had a sub-par story coming into their match, but from the moment the video package recapping their story ended, they were brilliant.
- Punk's entrance with Living Color playing "Cult of Personality" was very well done. The band sounded great and Punk looked like a major star walking into the stadium. Paul Heyman rocking out with the urn made me smile as well.
- Punk's scream the second the gong hit was an amazing touch. He didn't sell campy fear, he seemed ready to go. It raised the level of intensity for the match and was a little touch that went a long, long, way.
- The Undertaker's entrance was the best 'Taker WrestleMania entrance yet. The hands grabbing at him, the lighting, the entire walk was great. This was Undertaker at his best.
- Punk got in the ring and worked like a champ for Undertaker. It seems like we have a little bit of doubt about Undertaker every year and some how, whether it be him or a quality opponent, we are proven wrong. Undertaker put on another WrestleMania classic.
- Punk was allowed to be a legitimate bad ass in this match, if he were allowed to do that when the feud began (and for the entire feud), this match would have felt different beforehand.
- Undertaker did it again. This match wasn't on par with the Triple H and Shawn Michaels matches, but it was better than any of The Streak before it. It is worthy of being in the company of the last four years.
- The rest of the show seemed oddly disconnected from the crowd. Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar and John Cena vs. The Rock didn't just seem non-responsive, but like they were happening in a vacuum. I don't understand why this was, but even at home, I felt a disconnect.
- Ill take pyro around the stadium when Brock jumps onto the apron as enough of a return of Lesnar's corner pyro.
- Triple H and Brock Lesnar had a fun brawl. They outperformed their SummerSlam main event and brought an adequate level of brutality.
- Brock's kryptonite appears to be the ring stairs. When they get involved in a match, Brock somehow loses his ability to think or win.
- The involvement of Shawn Michaels and Paul Heyman really enhanced the match. They were sparingly used, but the Sweet Chin Music spot definitely brought the crowd back into the finish.
- The "almost tap out" spot jumped the shark in this match. Brock held his hand a little too long as Triple H's habit of extending compelling moments until they lose all meaning continued. The crowd bought into the submission attempt then slowly fell asleep as the attempts went on.
- Triple H didn't have to retire from his one match a year. Nothing changes.
- From the very beginning John Cena vs. The Rock seemed like an experiment and not a match. Last year the big fight feel was evident. This year is was missing. Rock and Cena didn't have a dynamic crowd reaction. They didn't earn one. The build was better, but the match was lacking.
- Rock and Cena both playing into the finish of last year's match was entertaining, but it should have been one or the other. Both references to it made it feel heavy-handed. It's hard not to acknowledge and embrace the choreographed nature of wrestling in those moments.
- When John Cena and C.M. Punk met on Raw, the conclusion of the match involved them pulling out new moves and desperate attempts at them. When Cena and Rock met on the grandest stage of them all, they ran into limitations. They spent ten minutes attempting the same two moves back and forth. Instead of building up excitement, it negated the impact of those moves.
- John Cena's clean win was not a compelling choice. What story is there to tell with him now? JBL even mentioned on commentary that Cena and Rock are the only guys at each other's level. Who can't Cena beat? What compelling options are there?
- A hero is only as strong as the villain they stand up against. There are no compelling villains for Cena.
This show was not exciting or dynamic. It was entertaining at times, but dragged at others. It wasn't the worst WrestleMania ever, but it also doesn't belong in the top half of WrestleMania's. What stories can be told now? What do we have to look forward to as this show ends? I am convinced the return to the status quo was the worst possible choice on all accounts.
When I watch a major show, I want to feel like I saw a major chapter of a story. WWE didn't deliver a major chapter. John Cena was the top star for the entire last year. His "down year" was a farce and ow his comeback is a repeat.
Let's do some good old fashioned talking about this show! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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