Now In Color!
At Wrestlemania 20 Chris Benoit was in the main event wining the world heavyweight championship. At Wrestlemania 21 JBL was the world heavyweight champion dropping the belt to the then arising John Cena. At Wrestlemania 22 the two of them were in a throwaway mid-card match for the ineffective US Title. One thing about this show(and it is was a huge talking point at the time) was the exploitation of Eddie Guerreros’ Death and this match here was no exception. Benoit, known longtime friend of Guerrero, was fighting for Eddie’s honor, while JBL, alos a longtime friend of Eddie(but he’s a heel so he really just hated him) and known controversial man of prejudice(Germany goose steeping incident I’m looking in your direction). There isn’t much to this match, and honestly Jillian Hall’s cleavage was so prominent that it seemed that the entire ring was engulfed within it. I really like how JBL, here towards the end of his career, was noticeably fat and just looks so out of place when compared to the current WWE roster. I also like how he continually makes the Eddie Guerrero shimmy and Benoit who is seemingly incapable of jiving his hips only pounds his chest as a tribute. Both of them do the three amigo suplex spot that would become a staple of Chavo Guerrero’s arsenal for years to come, and the match ends when infamous horrible WCW referee Nick Patrick fails to see JBL is holding the ropes for the flash pin, stealing the US Title from Eddie’s best buddy. At the time it was done for heat, and a lot of people found this to be reprehensible, but when you think about it, that was a fitting tribute to Eddie whom had become famous in the latter part of his career as being the man who cheats to win. Also, while everyone knew Benoit to be one of Eddie’s close friends, the fact is that JBL loved Eddie too, and even to this day he continually brings him up on commentary. The match itself was nothing much, and both of these guys(especially Benoit) are capable of so much more. I don’t know the story behind it, but there have been a lot of grumblings about wrestlers not being happy about the way they were using Eddie’s death, and that might have played into the match being a little less than stellar.
It’s kind of unfair to talk about the Edge Mick Foley hardcore match as a mid-card match because I think when people remember Wrestlemania 22 that this is the match that they think of. However, at the time it was treated as an afterthought(albeit a strong one) thrown in the middle of the show that was more heavily booked around Vince McMahon wrestling Shawn Michaels. Foley was viewing this as his last chance to get a decent Wrestelmania moment and took full advantage of it. Edge was on the rise, having won the championship and exceeded company expectations in doing so and this match was something that kind of cemented his position as a big time player. Watching this now in the PG era of WWE, which is bereft of blood and weapon violence of anywhere near this level, is shocking and refreshing. We’ve got barbwire, blade jobs, baseball bats, unprotected head shots with cookie sheets, thousands of thumb tacks, and a flaming table. Not to mention man on woman violence, as Foley shoved barb wire into Lita’s mouth(but hey come on, she was asking for it). Again the difference in the way the women dressed in this era is gigantic. Lita is hanging all over the place. You can say that they went too far with all the violence, but I’ve seen CZW, so this seems just the right amount of crazy without going too overboard. That being said, I would never allow myself to be back-dropped shirtless onto thumbtacks or go through a flaming table, but hey these guys were making bank and had fully bought into the idea that they were making themselves immortal though the savage act of brutalizing one another. Edge is just great with the crimson mask and shaking as he pulls himself over to cover the downed Mick Foley.
If I were to tell you that WWE believed that fans would believe that Mark Henry could end the Undertaker’s streak you would probably think I was telling you a lie, but the fact is that they did. A lot of people think of Undertaker as this Wrestlemania staple but really prior to Wrestlemania 23(with the exception of 13 where he headlined against Psycho Sid for the title) Undertaker was in throw away mid-card matches of little or no real note. But really, how did they think we the audience would believe that Henry had a chance(despite being nothing more than a comedy act for the beginning of his career, Henry had been transformed into a monster heel to varying levels of success in the second half of his time in WWE)? To put it simply they pushed that this was the first time undertaker could lose at Wrestlemania without being pinned or having to submit because it was a casket match. This in and of itself is comical because the casket match was an Undertaker specialty and a match specifically created for his character years prior. To think of it, I can only really recall Undertaker losing one casket match, and that was after the entire heel roster had come out to interfere. Well anyways, this was the first and most likely last casket match at a Wrestlemania, and perhaps for no other reason than to make me happy, they brought out the giant Yokozuna casket from storage to have Taker stuff Henry into. The best moment of this match is when Henry gets a visionary pin fall on the Undertaker after a World’s strongest slam, because of course the idea was that undertaker could lose because he didn’t need to be pinned and here was Henry pinning him, and secondly because while this spot was supposed to make Henry look strong it really made him look stupid trying to go for a pin in a match where there are no pin falls. Undertaker did his typical match, including trying to kill himself with a dive to the outside over the top rope and over the casket(he would mimic this at Wrestelmania 25 to disastrous results). He also performed a running power bomb on Henry that the announcers tried to push as a Last Ride(with Tazz noting that he probably couldn’t get him up any higher) and then polishing him off with a tombstone. Watching this now it’s pretty funny that they essentially wasted an Undertaker Wrestlemania match when considering how legendary and important the streak would become just a year later and continue on until he finally lost to Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30. But here at Wrestlemania 22, it was just a stupid gimmick match in the middle of the card against perennial mid-carder Mark Henry.