Wrestling Review: WWE WrestleMania 22

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With Kurt Angle’s retirement match taking place this Sunday, April 7 at WrestleMania 35, I have decided to go through some of Kurt Angle’s biggest moments in his career. Last week, I looked at his TNA PPV debut match against Samoa Joe at Genesis 2006 (you can read that review here), and this week I am focusing on his last WrestleMania match from his first stint with the company, WrestleMania 22.

WrestleMania 22 took place in the Allstate Arena on Sunday, April 2 in Chicago, Illinois, with former Destiny’s Child member Shirley Williams singing America The Beautiful to open the show. Prior to the PPV beginning, Viscera triumphed in an inter-brand dark match battle royal.

World Tag Team Championship Match
Kane & Big Show (C) vs. Carlito & Chris Masters

If this match-up of four singles stars does not sum up the state of tag team wrestling in WWE in the mid-to-late 2000s, not much will. This was a solid opener to the show, with Big Show and Kane being very much over with the Chicago crowd. The two monsters dominated the match early on, until the challengers used an unprotected turnbuckle slingshot to swing the match in their favour. The challengers came close more than once, with Big Show having to save Kane by protecting him from the Masterlock (still unbroken at the time), as well as a Backstabber by Carlito. In the end, though, a miscommunication by the challengers would lead to Kane hitting a chokeslam on Carlito for the three-count. Post-match, the challengers argued over the finish of the match, with Carlito storming off.

Backstage, Coach held an interview with Shawn Michaels. Michaels said that the aim for tonight was not to steal the show, but to have ‘violence’ and destroy Vince McMahon.

Money In The Bank Ladder Match
Rob Van Dam vs. Finlay vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Ric Flair vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Matt Hardy

Despite the drop in name value from the 2005 edition, this MITB match is very underrated, as most people only remember the winner and not much else. At the start of the match, Lashley was extremely dominant, which would lead to him being targeted for the most part with a triple powerbomb by Finlay, Benjamin and Matt Hardy, followed by a legdrop off a ladder by Hardy to destabilise the newcomer. This also had some absolutely crazy moments, with Ric Flair taking two ladder falls, one being a vertical suplex directly on his back, which was (and still would be) crazy for a 57-year-old to do. Benjamin delivered as always in these ladder matches; here, he hid a running senton off the ropes after sprinting up a ladder. In the end, fan favourite RVD was able to unhook the case after pushing Matt and Benjamin away.

Backstage, an interview with Mean Gene Okerlund was interrupted by Randy Orton. As Orton talked about making history later tonight, he was interrupted by Batista (injured at the time). Batista claimed that when he returned, the World Heavyweight Title would be his again, and that the champion after tonight would be just a ‘placeholder’.

Before the third match, the 2006 Hall Of Fame inductees came out, including Sensational Sherri, The Blackjacks, Tony Atlas, Mean Gene Okerlund and Eddie Guerrero, who was being represented by his wife Vickie and nephew Chavo. Bret Hart was also inducted, though he didn’t appear on the Mania card here.

United States Championship Match
Chris Benoit (C) vs. John Bradshaw Layfield w/ Jillian Hall

The entrances for this match were brilliant to say the least, with JBL getting a special limo intro under the ramp with Jillian, whilst Benoit had a no-nonsense march straight to the ring. The premise here was that, if JBL beat Benoit, he would see himself as being “the greatest technical wrestler in the world”. This was pretty short, clocking in at around nine minutes, but it was very well done, with a lot of stiff shots and suplexes, and with both attempting the Three Amigos, though only Benoit was actually able to hit all three. On a side note, this must have been a very hard weekend for both Benoit and JBL with how close they both were to Eddie (who passed away the previous November), especially with Chris helping to induct Eddie the night before at the Hall Of Fame. The finish would see Benoit locking in the Crossface, but JBL rolled over into a pinning position and used the ropes for leverage to get the win. NEW US Champ JBL!

Hardcore Match
Edge w/ Lita vs. Mick Foley

There is an argument to be made that this match truly moved Edge into the main event picture on a consistent basis after his flirtations in the past year, which I would agree with. This was a very good Hardcore match full of weapons, but also with good storytelling, with Edge always having a slight advantage due to Lita constantly interfering. The big moments included Foley covering himself in barbed wire to protect himself from a spear, the use of ‘Barbie’, and the amount of blood that both men lose, especially Edge, who was one of the top guys on the flagship show. The finish is famous: Foley poured lighter fluid on a table, but he didn’t see Lita continue to do so and light it on fire, followed by Edge spearing Foley through said table to get the win in what looked like a car crash. I would argue for this being the match of the night.

Backstage, Booker T and Sharmell interacted with a number of “freaks”, from Eugene (who was dribbling a basketball to try and win money from Ted DiBiase) to Goldust. Oh, and Snitsky licked Mae Young’s feet. Moving on …

Handicap Match
The Boogeyman vs. Booker T & Sharmell

This was absolutely horrendous and a waste of time on this show. Boogeyman was a very good character and over, but in the ring he was absolutely terrible. There isn’t much to say about this with it being very basic, but Boogeyman catching Sharmell with the worms did lead to a very happy crowd. After kicking out of the Book End, The Boogeyman hit a double chokebomb to get the win and keep his undefeated streak continuing. It’s rather shocking to believe that only four months after this. Booker T would become World Heavyweight Champion.

Women’s Championship Match
Trish Stratus (C) vs. Mickie James

When this WrestleMania is thought of in hindsight, this is one of the matches most highly thought of, and rightly so. The build to this was arguably the best storyline in the women’s division to date at that time, with the vindictive stalker Mickie James coming for her “idol’s” title. The match was given enough time to really tell a story, with Trish’s anger costing her as a leg injury occurred following an attempted Chick Kick on the ring post. Mickie went on to dominate, hitting a very nice elevated stomp in the corner. The crowd throughout was pro-Mickie, which was a bit of a let-down though it didn’t affect the quality of the match. Trish regained some momentum with a desperation powerbomb, but following an underhanded tactic by Mickie involving the “V”, a Chick Kick earned Mickie the title and ended Trish’s 14-month reign as champion. NEW Champ!!

Casket Match
The Undertaker vs. Mark Henry

Would 13-0 become 13-1 or 14-0? Like many matches for The Undertaker, this bout was seen as doing the impossible, with Henry beating up Taker for a month prior, allowing Michael Cole to claim “we’ve never seen anyone do that to The Undertaker before!” This was a standard Casket match, with Henry dominating thanks to a pre-match attack, and Taker was unable to knock Henry off his feet for a large portion of the bout. Despite this being very ‘punchy-kicky’, there are some moments that got the crowd invested, with Taker hitting a Last Ride on Henry, as well as a suicide dive over the casket. Following a Tombstone Piledriver, Undertaker was able to put Mark in the casket (his second Casket match in less than six months) and shut the lid, moving The Streak along to Detroit for WrestleMania 23.

Backstage, the McMahons had a prayer with God, and Vince vowed to send Shawn to the depths of Hell.

No Holds Barred Match
Vince McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels

Before I go into this, the shape that 60-year-old Vince McMahon was in for this show is absolutely stunning; it is no surprise that he was on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine at the time. This was absolutely one-sided, with Michaels dominating from the get-go, even hitting McMahon with a portrait of his magazine cover. There was constant interference throughout from The Spirit Squad and Shane McMahon, who would join his father’s Kiss My Ass Club, to the joy of Jim Ross. Vince was battered by weapons, with multiple headshots including a ladder shot that busted Vince open on the top of his head. After handcuffing Shane to the bottom rope, Michaels hit an elbow drop off a 20-foot ladder onto Vince through a table (who was covered in a trash can), followed by Sweet Chin Music for the win. Post-match, Vince (while lying on a stretcher) gave the middle finger to Shawn.

World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match
Kurt Angle (C) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton

The set-up here concerned the destiny of Randy Orton against the underdog Rey Mysterio fighting for the memory of Eddie Guerrero against the intensity of the Wrestling Machine in Kurt Angle. Rey’s entrance was very impressive, with a very striking attire and a live performance by P.O.D. This was high-paced throughout. with highlights being a double German suplex by Angle throwing Rey across to the other side of the ring, as well as a beautiful elevated headscissors by Mysterio on Orton. The curse of the triple threat cost Angle twice in this match, with both Rey and Randy tapping out to the Ankle Lock but with the third man of the match distracting the referee. After a couple of false finishes, with both Orton and Angle on the verge of victory, Mysterio appeared to hit a surprise 619 on Orton, followed by a West Coast Pop to win the match. NEW Champion in Rey Mysterio! Post-match, Mysterio celebrated with the Guerrero family in a very nice tribute to Eddie.

Playboy Pillow Fight
Candice Michelle vs. Torrie Wilson

This type of match was typical of the time period, but this will count as my Torrie tribute for her Hall of Fame induction this weekend. It was what it was, with two very attractive women in the GoDaddy Girl Candice against multi-time Playboy cover girl Torrie. The two had a cat-fight and stripped each other to their bra and panties, before Torrie retained her undefeated streak at WrestleMania with a roll-up on Candice.

WWE Championship Match
John Cena (C) vs. Triple H

The main event of WrestleMania 22 was set up as old-school vs. new-school, with Triple H appearing in his third consecutive WrestleMania man event (five in the last seven Manias) against John Cena, the latter in his first WrestleMania main event. This was also the first time that these two went one-on-one against each other. The entrances for both were very impressive: Triple H had a Conan The Barbarian entrance, and Cena got a 1920-30’s Mafia entrance, with a certain future WWE Champion involved in an uncredited role. This was very slow and plodding, and focused on Triple H taking control with sleeper holds and closing down Cena’s momentum as quick as possible. Despite this, the crowd were very loud throughout and being very vocal towards their support for Triple H. A perfect image came via a Five Knuckle Shuffle, at which point the camera focused on the crowd who had a great 50-50 reaction. Cena nearly won with the STFU, but Triple H made it to the ropes. HHH came close with a sledgehammer shot, but in the end, Cena was able to lock in a second STFU for the submission win to carry on his undefeated 3-0 streak at WrestleMania.

Overall, WrestleMania 22 was a very enjoyable show, with a good mixture of everything that a wrestling fan would want to see at WrestleMania. It is a highly recommended show.