It's a good thing the biggest event of the wrestling year isn't just told by the numbers. They all look bad. 101: the number of minutes of in-ring action in a 240 minute event. 3: the number of retired or physically incapable of wrestling performers less than two months after the event. 1: the number of champions who have held the biggest belt of their respective brands since this event...who didn't even compete in it! 4: the number of edits to this release that will really upset wrestling purists. 3: the number of matches I'm nominating for the worst in the entire event.
Recorded live from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, with over 70,000 fans in attendance, and one of the most beautiful stage dressings in WWE history, 'WrestleMania XXVII' may go down as one of the worst in history. Hosted by a WWE legend, future Hall of Famer Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, this four hour event features a rotating series of commentators, numerous embarrassing backstage segments and celebrity cameos, and even a few wrestling matches! Half of the bouts featured on this release had little to no proper build up, creating a feeling that could best be summarized if the audience chanted "who gives a damn?" *clap clap, clap-clap-clap*.
There are a total of eight bouts featured in 'WrestleMania XXVII,' all of which are detailed below. Don't worry, there are no spoilers to be found below, just vague descriptions and comments on the performances found in this event. There also is no commentary about how a celebrity featured mixed tag match gets the second-to-final slot in the event, an anti-climax if ever there were one, while possibly the best matches on the card are at the front of the event.
World Championship match: Alberto Del Rio vs Edge - The Royal Rumble winner faces off against a man who, as we'd find out, would be wrestling one of his last matches ever. This battle is a great opening bout, with some splendid bumps and high risk maneuvers which are pulled off superbly by the two performers. Del Rio's abilities are showcased fantastically in his first WrestleMania match, while Edge's contributions to the match are more emotional, giving us something to root for, against a stacked deck, with Del Rio's cronies on the outside interfering on more than one occasion. This match is a must watch, especially if you're a fan of Edge or Christian, as this is their last big moment in the WWE together. Stick around as a real piece of beauty is desecrated after the match.
Cody Rhodes vs Rey Mysterio - Now this is just embarrassing. A real life accident in the ring, which caused Rhodes to suffer a broken nose at the end of Mysterio's moves, has been trumped up to ridiculous measure. In the past, yes, villain wrestlers (known as heels) will milk injuries and use casts as weapons, but this whole "disfigured" Cody Rhodes angle, playing off his former "Dashing" personality is just...sad. What isn't sad is Mysterio's Captain America themed ring gear, as it's pretty gosh darned awesome! This match doesn't start all that hot, as the maneuvers Mysterio performs require Rhodes to act like a sloth far too often, but Mysterio does get a few unique, fun little oddities off, including a very unique, humorous pin attempt. I'm not a big fan of either of these wrestlers, but they do pull out a solid, borderline superb match, despite the poor story behind it.
Eight man tag match: The Corre vs Kane, The Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston - Nomination number one for the worst match on the card, with eight performers, including some capable of great in ring action and storytelling, wrapping up in less time than it takes to down a dollar cheeseburger. It's almost as if there was all this talent, and not enough matches for them all, so crap like this was made to fill a slot and give them some screen time. The replays literally take more time than the bout itself.
Randy Orton vs CM Punk - Two anti-heroes often portrayed as being master manipulators face off against each other. This bout is one of the vintage "injury" fights, where one 'rassler focuses on one part of his opponent's body, and over time wears the guy down. Will there be a twist ending, in that the injured guy doesn't come back and win, which is stereotypical for this kind of bout? Stay tuned. Punk and Orton give a pretty generic, non-standout match, with the typical ending for one of these two combatants. The push killer strikes again!
Jerry "The King" Lawler vs Michael Cole (with guest referee Stone Cold Steve Austin) - Nomination number two for the worst match on the card, with two announcers going at it. In their first of three consecutive pay-per-view battles (yes, they've wasted that much time on this shit), we see the two bickering yakkers put their money where their mouths are, and stink up the joint with a combination of lack of talent and deteriorated talent. Lawler can do little more than throw a right hook at this point in his career, so this match, ironically, lacks any punch. Heck, this one goes on for so long, unnecessarily, it's just a shame all the talented performers who don't get face time due to this. The only consolation prize for this abomination is that the commentators for the show change, with Booker T and the iconic Jim Ross taking over. No more Michael Cole bullshit the rest of the event! Woo hoo!
No holds barred: Triple H vs The Undertaker - A long time ago, matches at WrestleMania would mark the culmination of a feud, the final battle amongst giants of the industry. This match, well, raises a gigantic middle finger to that notion. Two wrestlers who had been off television for some time return the same night and suddenly, in the words of the late great Harry Caray, "holy cow!" The 'Taker has been slowed down dramatically in these recent years, spending more time on the DL than on the active roster, and this match, shortly after his 46th birthday, shows the Dead Man's career is near dead. Routine moves you can hear labored grunts and squints of agony from ol' Mark, and Triple H spends far too much time "recovering" from blows (including ones he induces!) so as to not make the 'Taker look weak during the bout. Sure, I enjoyed seeing the destruction of the "Cole Mine" and the SAT (Spanish Announce Table, a nod to wrestling events of lore), and these two men put out a performance best suited for men half their ages, but the fact that the winner of the match had to be carted out on a stretcher tells you everything you need to know about "the streak." The highlight of this bout has to be Triple H screaming "stay down," and an audience member screaming back "shut up!"
Mixed tag match: John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki vs Laycool and Dolph Ziggler - Nomination number three for worst match on the card, the essential single Divas match at any PPV event, with a celebrity and a retired wrestler taking up two slots, and when I say celebrity, I mean a 'Jersey Shore' cast member, so that word is spoken somewhat sarcastically. If you've ever seen a mixed tag match, you'll know the men technically aren't allowed to wrestle the ladies, so the entire premise of a tag match doesn't quite make sense or work, and the storytelling ability is as stunted as Snooki's height. It's great to see Stratus back in the ring, and yeah, she still looks absolutely great, but the lack of audience involvement should tell you something here: they don't care. This one is terrible, just terrible, even if Snooki does actually the best we've seen from a celebrity at WrestleMania since Lawrence Taylor.
WWE Championship match: The Miz vs John Cena - Things that don't make sense: of all the censored moments in this event, Nas' Hate Me Now remains on this release, while the rest are excised (yes, the lyrics to the song do feature one obscenity cut out, as well). Perhaps the longest feud featured in this entire event, the former MTV reality show contestant and current champion faces off against his long time foil, the current face of the WWE, John Cena. The audience really isn't in to this main event, the final match on of the event, aside from their disdain for the leader of the "Cenation." The plot, the pacing, the teases which eventually come to fruition, this is a great match, even if the audience would rather watch a Mae Young bra and panties match. The premature climax is part of the story, and seeing the script on paper on top of the laptop is beyond hilarious, so stay with it, folks. This will never be considered a match for the ages, even if it's better than the way the audience reacted to it.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'WrestleMania XXVII' comes to Blu-ray across two Region A marked BD50 discs, housed in a standard two disc case, held under the WWE's first slipcover for a Blu-ray release. There are eight minutes of pre-menu content, for WWE films and wrestling releases, though only one (the requisite warning about not replicating acts found in the event) is not skippable.
This home video release from the WWE is controversial due to the fact that it is the only version available to purchase, yet it is also censored and edited. Segments are removed after matches, cutting into the runtime, a post-event recap montage is added to fill in some of the removed bits, and there are three distinct edits to the content of the show itself. Two tracks of music are removed (Johnny Cash's Ain't No Grave and Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls), due to licensing issues, while actual audience reactions are removed before John Cena is introduced for his match, with the heavy booing being removed almost entirely. Finally, due to the new focus on PG content, a middle finger from Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the shot that contained it, are also axed. Revisionist history, folks. Next thing you know the Montreal Screw Job will have never happened, Owen Hart will have "overdosed," and the nWo will have been a WWE plant to undermine and ruin the WCW, allowing for the takeover. Stay tuned.
Like every WWE release before it, 'WrestleMania' arrives on Blu-ray in 1080i resolution, using a 1.78:1 framed AVC MPEG-4 encode. Results have varied from release to release, with some of the earlier titles being quite poor. This high profile release is not a game changer for the company, as it is still troubled by the same issues that hit other releases. The fact that we have a four hour program plus some special features on the main disc can also play a hand in why this release doesn't score as highly as others, like the 2011 'Royal Rumble,' for example.
The questionable video is present from the start, with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, which has camo jackets worn by soldiers holding a giant flag blurring and aliasing like crazy, and some of the most indistinct, hideously blurry shots of the audience in any WWE disc in memory. Skin tones can be splotchy, sometimes blurry. The fact that Edge's chest hair looks painted on, barely, and tattoos, like Randy Orton's tribals, are less than clear should be the main signs of this issue that is fairly frequent throughout. The appearance of Triple H's face in the moments before Undertaker's music hits are very troubling, as they look on again, off again, like some light level of DNR was applied. Banding is not present in the wrestling, though it is in some of the graphics shots. Ring ropes continue to be a problem, a breeding ground for artifacts and jagged lines.
It's sad, really, as this WrestleMania had potential. The stage is set up so amazingly well, that there are constant shots loaded with a wide range of sharp colors, and black levels are always spot on, and never the home to major artifacting issues. The reflections on the Rolls Royce have to be seen to be believed, as they're beyond fantastic and eye catching. The WWE can put out a good disc, they really can. Maybe next year, if they split the show itself across two discs, like they do for the DVD release, we'll see something in the four star range. Until then, the random nagging issues will keep the company's releases on the lower rungs of the ladder.
There are two audio flavors for 'WrestleMania XXVII' on Blu-ray: a Dolby Digital 5.1 English default track, or a Linear PCM 2.0 mix featuring the Spanish announcing crew (read: not in English...). For a lossy release, it doesn't sound all that bad, but the room for improvement is obvious here.
In the entire four hour event, rear speakers are occupied solely by audience reactions and the entrance music (or other musical effects in the program), so don't to hear the wrestlers from anywhere but the front channels, which is the norm. Bass levels are light, but they can come through with nice accents on heavier thumps, and peak with the Stone Cold Steve Austin entrance music.
High ends are sadly limited, so audience pops, to higher notes in theme songs can be somewhat subdued. Sure, the light volume spikes here and there are nice, but the entire show feels like the same notes and sounds over and over. As for prioritization, a major issue in some of these live sporting releases, it's pretty damned solid throughout. The commentators don't overpower the thumps and bumps, or the rattling of the ring, while fan reactions don't overpower the announcers or the theme music. All in all, this track is somewhat light and soft, but it packs power when it wants.
A side note: the two significant music changes featured on this release stand out, though it's not the fault of this disc, as they were changed in post. The removal of Johnny Cash and Metallica for the more traditional Motorhead and generic Undertaker themes leave us with a sound that doesn't fit the atmosphere or ambience of the Georgia Dome, as the fan reactions take a hit in this change, as well. Revisionist history, copyright issues, it doesn't matter. It's still lame.
Disc Two:2011 Hall of Fame induction ceremony (HD, 163 min) - The one night a year the entertainers are allowed to break character. Foes stand near each other, rivals fondly reminisce.
Every year, the WWE Blu-ray I look forward to the most is that of the annual WrestleMania. The quality of the show itself varies, and so does the disc, but considering the ridiculous pay-per-view prices for the event, it's an easy pill to swallow. This year's event was not the best on history. In fact, it will probably rank in the five to ten worst of all time, and out of four WrestleMania releases on Blu-ray so far, is the lowest I've scored one yet!
It's nice seeing The Rock, really, it is. Dwayne Johnson is fantastic, and is miles ahead of the current crop of "superstars" in the WWE, as the fan reactions will indicate. But his presence does not save this event. It can't. Pointless matches are found at every corner. Ridiculous conclusions are even more prevalent. The best matches on the card are those from the guys with the least expectations from them, like the Cody Rhodes performance, and that's just wrong, on so many levels!
The saving grace of this release is the Hall of Fame ceremony, especially if you skip over Sunny's ridiculous bullshit. There's touching moments throughout, and not one former wrestler who shows the signs of a scrambled brain (Vachon, lookin' at you) from all the bumps over the years. There's even comedy, with a certain 2x4 being adorned with its own little tie. If anything, this release is worth it for the respect paid to the pioneers and trailblazers of the industry, more so than the event itself.