Regardless of the ups and downs that professional wrestling has endured through the years, the one thing that remains a constant throughout is WrestleMania. The idea behind the event was unique and with the help of a star on his roster (Hulk Hogan) and another from the entertainment field (Mr. T), the first one in 1985 in New York's Madison Square Garden proved to be a sellout and closed-circuit sales were much better than expected. After the second one the following year split over three venues, the third one shot for the moon, attempting to get a respectable box office in Detroit's massive Silverdome.
The head of the World Wrestling Federation Vince McMahon had a nice card to play for such an event, the match between Hogan and the seven-foot tall Andre the Giant. The anticipation built for the match not only gave the event a solid box office showing, it sold out the arena with over 93,000 in attendance, a record in America that stood for more than 20 years (to say nothing for the hundreds of thousands that ordered the card via pay-per-view). There have been occasions where the WWF has put WrestleMania back in arenas from time to time, but in recent years it has moved to the large stadiums and sold them well. With the addition of the WWF Hall of Fame and a Fan Festival that gives its consumers visibility to the athletes now more than ever, the WWF (since renamed World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) has made WrestleMania a mecca of sorts for pro wrestling fans. Many go to make the pilgrimage, and this year's WrestleMania, the 27th by the WWE, was held in front of more than 71,000 at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. The match listing for the event was as follows:
Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio (World Heavyweight Championship Match)
Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Misterio)
Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella & Kofi Kingston vs. The Corre
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler
Undertaker vs. HHH (No Holds Barred Match)
Snooki, Trish Straus and John Morrison vs. Dolph Ziggler & LayCool vs. Big Show
The Miz vs. John Cena (WWE Championship Match)
There were several different components at work for this "Mania," but let's get to the elephant in the room, and that's Snooki. That Snooki, from Jersey Shore. As one who has not been watching the WWE regularly for awhile, I do not know the buildup that landed her in the next to last match of the evening. That said, the time she was in the ring...wasn't horrible? But for anyone who's watched WrestleManias through the years, celebrities getting into the ring is hardly new (along with Mr. T, Muhammad Ali appeared in the first Mania as a referee, and Lawrence Taylor, Butterbean and Floyd Mayweather have all climbed into the squared circle at one point). However, the larger draw for hardcore fans might have been The Undertaker, undefeated in 18 prior WrestleMania matches, putting his streak on the line against HHH. The two fought valiantly for almost 30 minutes, using a sledgehammer, chair and broadcasting table before HHH lost and both performers barely able to stand (The Undertaker couldn't, and had to be taken away on a cart).
However, past the HHH-Undertaker match, the remainder of the card is short, both on time and in quality. It was encouraging to see Edge lead off the night's activities, as he and Del Rio put on a good event (sadly, Edge retired from the ring days after the match due to health reasons). But the final match of the night (Miz-Cena) would prove to be underwhelming, and the HHH-Taker match was engrossing but a little slow for my liking. But with eight matches that total up to approximately an hour and 45 minutes of sports, the other two (yes, two) hours of entertainment is lacking. The Rock, returning to the WWE for this event and taking a break from shooting whatever sequel or remake he was doing at the time, looks overweight and his microphone skills are, well, a little bit stale.
Ultimately, the latest incarnation of WrestleMania rings as a little hollow for me. I can still enjoy the excitement and even the spectacle to the degree, but the entertaining between matches portion of the show had maybe one or two moments that actually made me laugh out loud. While the match between two WWE veterans was fun to watch, there have been much better matches before then and are likely to be others after this. One thing's for sure; it's just not the same either way without Gorilla Monsoon.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, one could never accuse the WWE of using all the tricks in the video production book when they shoot live, and there are pyrotechnics, lots of oversaturated lights that lead to image noise and some pixelation issues. For all of that though, it's a solid picture, with no edge enhancement or post-production work applied to it. It's a solid replication of what I assume how the feature looked on pay-per-view.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for this event is a surprise, albeit a welcome one. The pyrotechnic explosions are gently picked up in the other channels, the card has a few breaks for entertainment, which lead to songs that sound clear and a touch on the immersive side. The announce team during the matches sounds clear and the track lacks mosquito noise or any artifacts when watching. It's straightforward, enjoyable listening.
Nothing, which is a disappointment considering how much time and effort the WWE puts into making this the event that it has become.
WrestleMania XXVII is widely regarded as THE event for pro wrestling fans, but despite the vocal and rambunctious crowd, the action does not live up to the billing or anticipation. Technically it's a nice looking disc, but the action combined with the lack of extras (no Hall of Fame ceremony or alternate commentaries?) make this an easy decision to not buy unless it's part of a package or boxed set.