Once in a lifetime. Twice in a lifetime.
The broadcast opens up with a video about Hurricane Sandy relief narrated by Governor Chris Christie. We’re in New Jersey this year, at the MetLife Stadium. Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and John Bradshaw Layfield are our commentary team. A WrestleMania 29 video package to open the show properly focuses on massive moments from past shows and the legacy of WrestleMania for creating moments.
WrestleMania 29: The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns) vs Big Show, Randy Orton & Sheamus
The trio of The Shield had debuted in grand fashion at Survivor Series the previous year and had challenged Sheamus and Orton to this match. That team had originally been set to feature Ryback but The Shield attacked him and forced a replacement by the Big Show, moving Ryback into another match. The Shield are still undefeated in six-man tag team action, making their customary entrance through the crowd.
One team is three former World Champions, the other is three future World Champions. It’s a hell of a stacked opener. Reigns and Sheamus start out before Orton comes in. From a 2023 perspective even Reigns’ short period in danger is strange to see, it’s so rare these days. Rollins comes in and he and Orton work together for a while, they’d have a long relationship over the next few years. The Shield look to be on the defensive early on but they are the more experienced team and are able to keep fighting with double and triple teaming. Sheamus and Orton look to be trying to keep Big Show outside but they’re happy when he does come in and starts bullying Ambrose.
The Shield manage to take over by grounding Big Show and using regular tags to keep him there. Sheamus gets in and evens things up a bit, hitting his ‘Beats of the Bodhran’ to both Ambrose and Rollins. Everyone bar Big Show brawl on the floor, the 2-on-1 advantage of the Shield gives them control for a moment. They go for their signature ‘Triple Powerbomb’ but Big Show spears all three of them at once, with Sheamus up in the air at the time. Sheamus fights to tag Show in but Orton steals the tag and enters the match for a decent run of his own. Rollins tries to dive onto Orton but gets caught by an ‘RKO’, Reigns then spears Orton allowing Ambrose to pin and win.
A really enjoyable action-packed opener. Some prophetic words from JBL who predicts that The Shield could be one of the greatest three man teams in history. Given their individual accolades in the decade since this match, it’s hard to argue that they’re in that conversation. Big Show knocks both Orton and Sheamus out post-match for denying him a proper role in the match.
We get an early video package for the WrestleMania 29 Main Event between John Cena and The Rock. It focuses on Cena’s redemption arc after what has been, according to him, the worst year of his life.
WrestleMania 29: Mark Henry vs Ryback
Ryback had a huge push during his first year under that moniker, his disappointing run as Skip Sheffield in the Nexus being forgotten as soon as he debuted in April 2012. He’d already had multiple world title shots and run afoul of both The Shield and Mark Henry. After the attack from The Shield that took him out of the opening tag team match it was Mark Henry who capitalised, moving him perfectly into this match.
Two big boys whose main issue with each other seems to be who over who is the bigger and beefier. That’s the story of the match as well, two big, if mobile, chaps running into each other a lot. It feels a lot like a throwback, all beef, all power. Mark Henry is in control early on, he has the power advantage seemingly. It’s such a throwback there’s even an extended bear hug from Henry. Or two.
If you’re dying for the days of 80s when this was the main diet of wrestling in WWE, then you’ll love this. If you’re interested in anything more interesting than that, then it’s probably not worth it. There’s some impressive strength on show but that’s about it. Henry falls on Ryback because he is just too heavy for Ryback to lift and pins to win the match. Henry tries to continue the beating post-match but gets hit with a ‘Shellshock’. It would have made more sense for him to win rather than lose but still hit the move afterwards.
We then get a live advert for some action figures from the commentary team. JBL beating up his Rey Mysterio figure is legitimately funny stuff. The segue from that promo to one about the Special Olympics is clunky but two of the Special Olympians get to stand on stage, alongside Chris Christie, which must have been cool for them.
WrestleMania 29: Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan & Kane) vs Big E. Langston & Dolph Ziggler – WWE Tag Team Championship
Daniel Bryan had recovered from his disappointment the previous year to form Team Hell No with Kane through a series of group therapy sessions. It was actually the Tag Team Champions that challenged Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston to this match. Ziggler is the Money in the Bank contract holder at this point, Bryan’s former on-air girlfriend AJ Lee is in his corner now.
Ziggler starts the match by mocking Bryan by recreating the fateful kiss with AJ Lee that cost Bryan the previous year. Bryan almost pins him in seconds for some revenge, then hits a dive to the floor and his signature ‘yes kicks’. Langston comes in and Bryan tags out to Kane. Impressive power on show from Big E as he manhandles Kane with ease. On the strength of his showing here it seems remarkable it took the company 8 years to give him a world championship run. He and Ziggler manage to isolate Kane for a while but allow Kane back to his feet.
AJ Lee hands the Money in the Bank briefcase to Ziggler and distracts the referee but he can’t capitalise. Bryan hits a diving headbutt to Ziggler and pins him to win and retain the tag team titles. Fun match, if a bit on the short side to really reach a higher level. Ziggler would rebound quite well the following night after WrestleMania 29 by using the Money in the Bank contract to become World Champion. A shame his reign wasn’t great but at least he got one.
WrestleMania 29: Chris Jericho vs Fandango
Fandango had been appearing on TV for a while but had yet to compete in a match, Chris Jericho drawing his ire by mocking his name. It’s very rare for a non-celebrity wrestler to make their in-ring debut at WrestleMania but that’s what Fandango is doing here. He gets a spectacular ballroom dance entrance with about a dozen dangers accompanying him on stage. Jericho gets fireworks for his so it’s even in the entrance stakes.
All the effort might have gone into Fandango but it’s Jericho who is getting the cheers from the crowd, especially as he starts out on top. It’s all Jericho early on, he even busts out a dive to the floor and poses with some fans. Fandango does take over once they get back into the ring, Jericho somehow has a cut between his eyes. The newcomer has some solid fundamentals but Jericho is still working rings around him. Fandango hits an impressive ‘diving leg drop; a long way across the ring but Jericho kicks out. An attempt at a second goes wrong for Fandango and Jericho tries to lock him in the ‘Walls of Jericho’. Fandango reverses that hold into a pinfall and wins in a massive upset.
A good match mostly for how good Jericho is at bringing something from the still new Fandango. It could have been the launching point for Fandango but ultimately the company would pigeonhole him as a comedy worker and use him as a lower tier part of the show.
A quick look back at the pre-show Intercontinental Title match between The Miz and Wade Barrett, Miz winning. The Rock gets his own video package for the main event now, focusing on his connection with the fans. Then there’s a Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs WrestleMania 29 concert, for some reason. A chance for a break an hour and a bit into the show at least. He does give a shout out to the victims of Hurricane Sandy which is nice.
WrestleMania 29: Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger – World Heavyweight Championship
Jack Swagger was firmly into his Zeb Colter inspired uber-American phase. And because Del Rio is Mexican, and therefore by extension an illegal immigrant, they’ve targeted him and his World Title. It’s pretty uncomfortable viewing knowing where American Political Discourse would go in the following decade. It’s also difficult to root for Alberto Del Rio as a babyface so it’s hard to get invested when both sides aren’t that likeable.
Some of Colter’s lines during his introduction of Swagger in the ring are close to the bone. The match is suitably physical from the off at least, Del Rio with an attack to the outside very early. Colter distracts to allow Swagger to take over. Swagger goes for some submission holds to try and wear Del Rio down, he has the advantage in the ground game, Del Rio getting his openings when there is more distance between them. A ‘Swagger Bomb’ gets a kick out from Del Rio. Colter tries to intervene again but gets a smack for his troubles. Del Rio has a brief advantage, but Swagger takes back over.
Very heavy TV main event vibes to this one, it’s not monumentally intense after the opening exchanges. They keep going back and forth but it’s staying in first gear for the majority of the time. There’s some trading of submission attempts as commentary discuss the two men’s amateur credentials. Del Rio gets locked in the ‘Patriot Lock’ but turns it into a ‘Cross Armbreaker’. Swagger turns it back around into another ‘Patriot Lock’ but Del Rio reaches the ropes to break it up. Del Rio gets a pinfall but Colter puts Swaggers foot on the ropes to break it up before distracting Del Rio by threatening Ricardo Rodriguez, Del Rio’s personal ring announcer who is at ringside. As they’re getting back into the ring Del Rio puts the ‘Cross Armbreaker’ back on Swagger to force him to tap out. Del Rio wins and retains.
An underwhelming match that didn’t climb out of first or second gear. Del Rio would lose the World Heavyweight Title to Dolph Ziggler the following night on Raw.
A plug for WWE’s relationship with the National Guard is next.
WrestleMania 29: The Undertaker vs CM Punk
Punk lost his World title at the Royal Rumble and immediately went after the Undertaker afterwards, becoming the latest man to aim to end the Streak. Punk has made things deeply personal by mocking the recently deceased Paul Bearer in the build-up. It’s a great example of how to do such a storyline in a clever and nuanced way. Paul Heyman has been a hoot as Punks toadish compatriot during this time as well. Living Colour plays Punk’s theme ‘Cult of Personality’ live to accompany him to the ring. It’s very grandiose for such a dastardly heel but they’re local and it’s a good performance. Undertaker’s entrance sees him appear through a cloud of smoke surrounded by reaching hands, instantly iconic imagery.
Punk is on hilarious form, continuing his mocking of Taker in the early going. He’s even wearing Taker’s classic grey and purple colour scheme. Taker is physically dominant as you’d expect but Punk keeps up his mind games, he’s said in the build that he’d take a count out or disqualification victory happily. They fight on the floor for a while, the referee being very lenient with his counting. A classic ‘guillotine leg drop’ from Undertaker to Punk on the apron as they head back into the ring. An attempt at ‘Old School’ from Taker is reversed by Punk who then hits his own. Fantastic work by Heyman on the outside, holding up Undertaker’s urn right in his eyeline. Punk hits a dive to the outside as he starts to take charge of the match.
More back and forth before Undertaker blocks a second Punk ‘Old School’ attempt. Undertaker goes for a ‘suicide dive’ but Heyman blocks it, Punk hits a diving clothesline though to take advantage. A diving elbow drop only brings Punk a two and a half count. Undertaker takes back over again but Punk knows his offensive patterns and manages to counter. Punk takes the match to the floor, managing to get Undertaker laid out on the Spanish Announce Table. A diving elbow all the way from the top rope, the table doesn’t break. Undertaker only just scrapes back into the ring before a count out.
Undertaker locks in ‘Hells Gate’ but Punk reverses it into an ‘Anaconda Vise’. Taker sits up out of the hold and the two men trade finisher attempts. Undertaker hits the ‘Tombstone Piledriver’ but Punk just kicks out. The two men trade blows as they climb to their feet before the referee gets knocked down. Undertaker catches Punk in position for the ‘Last Ride’ but Punk fights out using the Urn as a weapon. Punk uses Undertaker’s trademark pin, but Undertaker kicks out. Another sequence of trading finisher attempts but only Undertaker can hit. Another ‘Tombstone Piledriver’ and Undertaker wins.
A stellar match. The last great in ring showing for Undertaker at WrestleMania and a fantastic last WrestleMania match for Punk, who’d leave the company before the next year’s show. Undertaker is reunited with the Urn after the match, bringing that story thread full circle.
An advert for a new Mick Foley documentary, with a voiceover from the man himself. There’s another video package for the main event. It treads a lot of the ground his first one did at the start of the night, focusing on his chance for redemption.
WrestleMania 29: Triple H vs Brock Lesnar – No Holds Barred
These two men faced off at SummerSlam the previous year, Lesnar winning in decisive fashion. Triple H challenged Lesnar to a rematch but Lesnar (and Paul Heyman) dictated the terms. Heyman had mocked Triple H relentlessly with the possible stipulations before it was revealed as No Holds Barred. And also, Triple H’s career is on the line. A lot of stakes then, added to which it’s Lesnar’s first WrestleMania since Mania XX.
Shawn Michaels is out first as he’ll be in Triple H’s corner. Brock Lesnar is the first proper entrance, wearing a beanie hat for some reason but otherwise in intimidatingly good shape. Triple H appears through his own mini stage, getting burnt across his stomach by some dry ice in the process. Not a fun prospect before a match like this but he shows a lot of toughness to not any pain because of it.
Right into the physical, brutish action from the bell. It’s a big nasty brawl. Lesnar hasn’t yet reduced his offensive repertoire to two or three matches so he’s still dynamic to watch. As the match ramps up slowly and exponentially, they fight in and out of the ring, Lesnar the first to have a significant period in charge. He doesn’t even clear off the Spanish Announce Table before throwing Triple H through it. The scream Lesnar lets out after this move is unintentionally hilarious in it’s exuberance.
It’s rare at this stage of his career to see Triple H so dominated but Lesnar absolutely has his number, especially on the outside. The crowd takes a while to wake up, it’s hard to tell if it’s hushed awe or just disinterest. Lesnar finally goes for a pinfall, but Triple H kicks out.
The commentary team have engaged their hushed ‘this is real’ voices to add some gravitas but it’s a bit ham fisted. Lesnar starts to stalk Shawn Michaels at ringside which lets Triple H finally get some offence in of his own. Michaels get on the apron at one point and Lesnar knocks him off, allowing HHH to come back once again. Michaels tries again to help his friend but gets hit with an ‘F5’ instead, this opens Lesnar up for a ‘Pedigree’ from HHH but he kicks out.
Back to Lesnar being on top for a bit. He uses the steel ring steps as a battering ram on the floor and in the ring. But Triple H still fights back. Lesnar locks in the ‘Kimura Lock’ (or Double Wristlock) which broke Triple H’s arm the previous year. Triple H manages to hit a spinebuster to fight out and a low blow to turn it around. A succession of attacks to Lesnar leads into Triple H going for his own ‘Kimura Lock’. Heyman tries to break it up, but Michaels blocks him. It looks perilously close to Lesnar tapping out but he fights out three times in succession after Triple H keeps locking it in. on the third attempt Triple H sneaks a DDT in there to further hurt Lesnar. HHH gets his trademark sledgehammer involved and hits a ‘Pedigree’ to pin Lesnar and get the win.
It gets better as it continues but the one-sided beating was too long to stay interesting. It’s difficult to sympathise with Triple H much after so many years of him being the biggest heel in the company, which means watching him get battered doesn’t hit the same way as if he were beloved. In a major theme for Triple H’s Mania matches, it needed editing.
We get a break from the action for the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Class. Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, Bob Backlund, Booker T, Donald Trump, and Bruno Sammartino, who was one of the biggest names in company history to be missing at this point. Donald Trump gets booed during his introduction on the stage, which is pretty funny. We then get an advert for Mania 30 before the attendance for this year is announced as record breaking, as it pretty much always is by whatever metric.
WrestleMania 29: The Rock vs John Cena – WWE Championship
Twice in a lifetime.
The rematch. At the Royal Rumble in January John Cena won the titular match, and The Rock ended CM Punk’s record-breaking World Title reign to set up a rematch of Mania 28’s Main Event. John Cena gets his typically, euphemistically, mixed reaction. It’s mostly boos. The Rock is much more positively received, and he drinks it all in on the way to the ring.
Their match the previous year was all about the spectacle, this one suffers in that regard because it’s no longer got that true novelty factor. The same slow feeling out process as last year. A lot of work from commentary as the match continues to try and big this up, even as it remains a basic back and forth inside the ring. There really isn’t a whole lot it for the first 10/15 minutes. Cena hits a rare for him ‘Fisherman’s suplex’ at once to show they’re at least trying things in this match.
Cena goes for the ‘STF’ but Rock blocks it and locks in his own ‘Sharpshooter’, Cena fighting out. He goes for the ‘Five knuckle shuffle’ but Rock moves out of the way. It’s somewhere around this point that The Rock apparently tore a good number of the muscles and tendons around his pelvis. Cena hits the ‘Five Knuckle Shuffle’ then locks in the ‘STF’.
The Rock powers out but eats an ‘AA’, he kicks out. Cena goes for a top rope leg drop but runs into a ‘Spinebuster’ and the ‘People’s Elbow’. Cena kicks out and rolls to the floor. The Rock brings him back into the ring and both men trade strikes. An ‘AA’ attempt is reversed into a ‘Rock Bottom’, Cena kicks out. The Rock goes for another ‘People’s Elbow’, this time with Cena’s own taunt, but runs straight into another ‘AA’. Rock kicks out again. A ‘Rock Bottom’ from Cena to the man himself, still a kick out. They both go for another of their finishers, Rock hitting another ‘Rock Bottom’ and getting another kick out. It’s a bit finisher and kick out heavy. Yet another ‘Rock Bottom’ attempt is countered into an ‘AA’. Cena pins and wins to become WWE Champion yet again.
A spectacle that devolved into a fairly bland trading of finishing moves back and forth, and the bit before that wasn’t brilliant. Credit to The Rock for fighting through his injury to finish the match off without any visible ill effects. The show of respect between the two men is at least a nice moment and an iconic visual, especially as it marks what is the real final match of The Rock’s career (so far).
Overall – WrestleMania 29
A decent enough show that suffers mostly from the lack of novelty around the main event. The Undertaker vs CM Punk is a brilliant match and almost makes the disappointing end of Punk’s World Title run worthwhile, almost. There’s plenty of history around, The Shield making their first steps onto the Mania stage being a defining moment for the next decade plus of the companies main event scene. An interesting show, decent enough.