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LOOKING AT AN "END OF AN ERA" EDITION OF WRESTLEMANIA XXIV

By Dave Scherer on 2008-03-31 12:11:29

Going in to last night, most of us knew that we were about to see the end of an era.  Ric Flair had been telling people since last year that he was bringing his legendary career to a close at this year's WrestleMania so it wasn't really a surprise on that end.  But even though it shouldn't have, it still took me kind of by surprise when the finality of the day sunk in.  

Over the last few months, he didn't really get the kind of send off that long time fans like myself would have liked to see him get or frankly, that he deserved.  Plus, to be honest, he has looked his age lately and until his great promo on Raw last week, has been something of an afterthought on WWE programming.  So, I kind of got lulled into overlooking the importance of his match last night until Saturday, when it really started to hit me that this was it for the greatest American pro wrestler of all time.

Once that started to sink in, I began to realize how much I wanted Flair to go out with a bang, his way, last night.  I wanted him to turn back the clock for a night, to live the words of that old saying "I'm not as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was".  By the time he and Shawn Michaels delivered a classic in a match that will live on forever as a true WrestleMania moment, it was crystal clear that he had done just that.  On his last night in the ring as an active full-time performer, he left us with a riveting memory to hold on to forever.  Goodbye Naitch.  Thanks for everything.  There will never be another one like you.

But, there was more.  Flair's retirement was the high point of a very good WrestleMania show.  For weeks I have been saying that I found the build up for the show (read: the promotion by creative) to be underwhelming but my thought was that once the wrestlers hit the ring, there would be a lot of good to great work on the show. That is exactly how it played out.  I still think $55 is too much to charge for a PPV and I don't know that any event can be worth that price but with that said, this was certainly an outstanding show.  The DVD, with the Hall of Fame ceremony as an added bonus, is a must-buy piece of merchandise.

Now, let's get on with the show. 

The opening visual was extremely cool.  The Citrus Bowl is a dump and it came off like a major league venue.  Great job by WWE in making it look so good.

John Legend did a great job with America The Beautiful.

The set looked amazing. The thing was colossal. Say what you want about WWE but when they opened the show and blew off the pyro, it looked like a big time event and if such a thing is possible, a 55 dollar PPV.

Finlay vs. JBL was a good choice to open the show. Plunder always gets the audience fired up and they had it in abundance here. The guys had a real stiff brawl and it got the show off and running on a great note.  I liked the bout a lot. ... I hated the finish but I understand why they did it. If the feud is to continue, JBL had to win and I am thinking that it will continue. ... I was kind of surprised that with all that plunder, we didn't get any blood.  I am not complaining, I was just surprised. ... One last thing, JBL looked even more out of shape than usual in HD. He seriously may need liposuction.  I am not saying that to be mean either.  He has major jiggle issues.

Before moving on, speaking of HD, damn, the picture on this show was just awesome. Anyone who was worried that HD would hurt the business was worrying for nothing. It adds so much and makes the product look so much better.

Wow, I didn't think CM Punk had a chance in hell of winning MITB and boy, did they show me. I was really happy for the guy. I have been saying for a while now that he deserves better and now he gets his chance. Congrats to creative for shocking all of us. As for the match itself, it was freaking amazing, just amazing. Kennedy taking the monkey flip from Jericho into the ladder was ridiculously cool. So was Morrison using his ladder like Tarzan. Then Shelton came and they set up the Sunset Flip-Powerbomb spot. Then we had Shelton's amazing, death defying flip onto the ladder and the realistic way the guys sold it in the ring after for the psychotic moment that it was. I could go on and on talking about the wild spots but you get the point. This was great stuff. When Tazz asked what more these guys could do, he was so right. By the time it was over I knew those guys were going to be sore today.  They sure did bust it for us. ... I also loved the way they used Matt Hardy. MVP had the match won and Hardy cost him, meaning they could continue their great feud from last year while CM Punk gets a chance at the top. It was excellent booking. ... During John Morrison's entrance, they had " Jim Morrison" on the banner screen for their names above the entrance. Is there no quality control in this company or was it a Freudian slip?

The clip from the Hall of Fame were great.  I will just say it now. Go to www.highspots.com and preorder the Mania DVD. It's worth it for the Hall of Fame alone. Just watching that little bit of footage from Saturday night I can't wait to see the whole thing. And damn, how great is Mae Young?

During the Batista-Umaga match my wife said, "I have been watching this business long enough to know that when one guy is dominating the way that Umaga is, he's going to lose". Smart woman, that wife of mine, because that is exactly what happened. I think most of us knew going in that Big Dave was gonna win, since he didn't have a title match, so that wasn't a shocker. At least Umaga got a ton of offense in and they had a solid, albeit too short, match. It could have been better.

Well, I have been saying since they put the strap on him that Chavo Guerrero shouldn't be the ECW champion and apparently creative agrees. Damn, that was stiff for poor Chavo. It was not exactly a WrestleMania moment for him. And really, why couldn't they air the Battle Royal when the match itself only got 10 seconds?  The quick win made Kane look good.  Chavo?  Not so much.

The Make-A-Wish segment was really nice. WWE should be commended for all that they do for that cause. They do great work.

And now, onto Flair for the next few paragraphs.

The visual of Ric Flair walking to the ring, in the most amazing robe he has ever worn, with fireworks blasting off behind him, made it really hit me how this was the end of an amazing era. Whether he won the match or not, his time was pretty much up in the ring and it was sad to see, both for the man himself and for myself as someone who has loved his work for most of my life. Flair is the best of all time and it's a shame that like diamonds, he wasn't forever after all. To quote another older guy named Mick Jagger, "What a drag it is, getting old".

The end of the match was amazing. Flair, vulnerable. Michaels, unsure if he could do what had to be done when he couldn't earlier. But then, he did exactly what Flair demanded. "I'm sorry. I love you." Bam. If it had to end that was the way it should happen, on those terms. And so ended the career of the greatest wrestler I have ever seen. I loved the post match. The announcers didn't talk. Flair took it all in one last time, kissed his family, took it in again as he made his way to the back. Fans were crying.  Flair was crying.  You knew you had witnessed something that you may never see again.  That was true, true emotion folks.

Oh yeah, they had a match too. What can I say? I loved it for the past 30 plus years and I loved it again last night. Sure, I have seen it all before but I loved it every time I did. And, I loved it last night.  Both men totally busted their asses and could walk to the back proud of the work they had done. ... Shawn Michaels is not much younger than I am and let me tell you this, there is no way I would even think about doing that spot on the table. With that said, I think it hurt more to miss the moonsault onto the floor. ... I thought it was great that Charles Robinson, whose admiration of Flair is legendary, got to ref the match. That was a great pick.

Edge's promo was awesome. Talking about how Hulk Hogan let him down when he was a youngster and how he would do that to a kid tonight when he breaks his Undertaker-loving heart was classic stuff. Promos like that is why he is the best heel in the business.

My question is this: Why did Kane and Chavo get mere seconds and yet they gave the Bunny match all that time? It was funny watching all the people walk around during the match, obviously uninterested. The best thing about this bout was that it was the perfect come down match after Flair's emotional retirement, and it gave people a chance to hit the bathroom. I think it was kind of telling that the lights went out during the match.  Someone was trying to tell WWE something.  To be fair, when Maria was in there, it wasn't as hideous as I expected it to be. It could have been a lot worse. And I have to admit, I popped for Snoop laying out Santino. Snoop lives a charmed life, he really does.

As soon at they put the WWE Title match on in the spot it aired in, I immediately said "Orton retains". I fully thought that Cena winning was the wrong move, and creative agreed. I could have seen HHH winning because they wanted to make the crowd happy. Instead, they kept it on Orton as they try and make him a true top guy. I can't blame them for trying and honestly I appreciate that H didn't win the belt because he doesn't need it, even though it's what the fans wanted to see.  So, I found the decision making to be very interesting here. As for the match, it was very good as all the guys worked very hard and delivered excellent work. ... You know, I actually liked that the lights went out after Flair's match. It gave it the old school feel of yesteryear, in HD no less. I liked it while it lasted. ... The Marching Band was freakin' weird. It was bizarrely interesting and it made for a different entrance for John Cena, for sure, but it was still weird. My guess is they did it to keep him from getting booed right off the bat and it worked. Instead, he was booed right after the bat!

The Floyd Mayweather-Big Show match was fine for what it was and was actually pretty enjoyable. Big Show dominated the proceedings, laid out everyone, then only lost because Floyd used the knux. Had it not been no DQ, Floyd would have lost, so everyone was protected.  Mayweather was a great heel and worked really hard to make this successful, which was appreciated. In the end, Big Show comes out strong and Floyd gets his win. It was by the numbers and it worked well. ... With all his money, couldn't Floyd afford better shirts for his security than cheap black tees with MAYWEATHER PROMOTIONS on there.

Kim Kardashian sure does fill out a dress doesn't she? ... Oh yeah, it's nice that WWE set an attendance record at The Citrus Bowl but since thousands of people were sitting where guys usually play football, is that really so surprising?

Edge and Undertaker went a long time so that made for a lot of slowness in the early going. I would have rather seen them cut 10 minutes off of the bout and just tear it up for less time but that is just my personal taste. With that said, the last 12 minutes or so really picked up and it got very, very strong at the end.  Undertaker winning gave the fans the feel good WrestleMania moment that they came to see. ... Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were really missed during the main event. Early on, when it was slow, Ross and Lawler would have made it interesting. Coach and Cole just aren't in their league and that was very clear last night. Then again, very few are or ever were. ... Man, Charles Robinson was motoring to get down to the ring at the end of the match. That guy was flying.

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