Since it's inaugural event in March of 1985, WrestleMania has served as "the" event for WWF/WWE pro-wrestling (some would argue all of pro-wrestling, regardless of promotion), serving as an extra length pay-per-view spectacle where legendary careers are immortalized and new talent often gets their chance to step up to the next level. While a major title defense has been a staple of the main event (or match preceding it, in the case of larger than life bouts), in recent years there have been a few guarantees in store for WWE viewers: the production design of the venue will be phenomenal, the annual Undertaker match is guaranteed to not disappoint in the slightest, and more unfortunately, the chance for underutilized talent to shine for greater lengths of time will be squandered in lieu of gimmick matches and time wasting appearances from celebrities. As much as it pains me to say as an old-school wrestling fan, this year's main event, a rehash of the previous years feels much like the embodiment of that last pitiful promise as fans saw John Cena face The Rock, one more time, this time with the WWE Title on the line. Even to the casual fan the outcome was obvious, but the more sinister truth is "WrestleMania XXIX" culminates a pathetic year of extended promotion for Dwayne Johnson's film career, that was supposed to boost WWE ratings. In short, "WrestleMania XXIX" sums of the mediocrity of the WWE product to the letter.
The show begins with one of the few exciting developments in recent WWE history, The Shield facing a cadre of top midcarders, masquerading as main eventers, Randy Orton, Sheamus, and The Big Show, for another six-man tag match that continues to establish the legitimate talents of The Shield as performers as well as credible threats to the WWE roster. Unlike their pay-per-view debut that nearly went 30-minutes and was a credible match of the year contender, their WrestleMania debut is a scant 11-minute or so offering better suited for a television main event, but at least it's competent, entertaining start to the biggest event of the year. Following this six-man tag, fans get to see quickly cooling Ryback get pinned before the capacity crowd by Mark Henry, but try and save face by brutally attacking one of the most physically imposing forces on the WWE roster. The tag team title match between Team Hell No and the team of Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston is a runner up for most disappointing match, not to mention shortest, with little of note occurring in seven minutes. The final two pre-main event offerings show highlight veteran Chris Jericho giving Fandango a chance to shine in his WWE debut, although the hasty finish does kill some of the newcomers momentum; the less said about Jack Swagger's failed attempt to take Alberto Del Rio's World Heavyweight Championship, the better.
The event's triple main event is an exercise in the law of diminishing returns with the obvious highlight of the night, occurring first, pitting The Undertaker and his 20-0 streak against the bravado and in-ring skills of C.M. Punk (who gets a live entrance performance via Living Colour). Running 10 minutes shorter than Undertaker's most recent WrestleMania outings, it's no less thrilling and for the first time in years, the threat to "the streak" felt very real. The buildup to the match was filled with controversy, borrowing on the real life passing of Undertaker's legendary manager Paul Bearer, to allow C.M. Punk to try and draw heat from WWE fans. In hindsight, I can't think of any possible buildup they could have done instead that would have made this match as anticipated as it was, a testament to the strange, sometimes tasteless nature of pro-wrestling.
The remaining two main event matches risks Triple H's career in a No Holds Barred match against Brock Lesnar. While Lesnar is an entertaining sight on WWE TV, coming back in following an impressive and sadly short UFC Heavyweight career makes anything he does in an already unbelievable sport even more so. Five years ago, the match would have been exciting, now it's just tedious and continues to raise question regarding the ego of Triple H given his real-life role behind the scenes in the company. Lastly, "WrestleMania XXIX" shows how meaningless the phrase "once in a lifetime" is by rehashing its previous main event for the obvious purpose of getting the WWE title back around the waist of an actual WWE wrestler. The Rock may look great physically, but still shows some (but far less against Cena) of the issues he faced in matches with C.M. Punk related to cardio and the ability to work an intense match. It's an acceptable match for what it's intended to be, a sideshow level attraction full of false endings that will never mask the predicable ending.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer sports brilliant, rich color reproduction of the event itself. Detail levels are not as strong as something sourced from a modern HD broadcast should be, possibly due to some minor compression artifacts that seems to be the standard for WWE DVD releases (it's much better than a few years back).
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio is a solid, albeit non-mind-blowing experience. Commentary is front and center, but never mixed to overpower the sounds of the arena, nor do the mics focused on the in-ring action feel off-balance. A few matches in, and the sound isn't as immersive as being live (simply due to the constant commentary), but there's nothing to detract from the experience.
The extras include the pre-show Intercontinental Title match between The Miz and Wade Barrett, the post-show, and the complete 2013 Hall of Fame Ceremony, which honestly compared to years past felt rather weak, despite the long awaited induction of holdout Bruno Sammartino.
If it were any other pay-per-view, "WrestleMania XXIX" would feel like an A-plus effort, but as the crowning jewel of the previous WWE "season," "WrestleMania XXIX" only offers merely adequate matches and one truly great one. With a milestone event coming next year, I really hope the WWE takes what they did this year and finds a way to make it more meaningful, because while still incredibly mediocre, it's a huge improvement over some of the lowlights of the past decade. Casual fans should give it a rent, more devoted fans will probably be more intrigued by the Hall of Fame ceremony. Recommended.