WrestleMania 22 took place on April 2nd, 2006 at The Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Tickets for the event sold out in less than two minutes, grossing 2.5 million dollars, making it the highest selling one-day event in the history of The Allstate Arena. It was attended by more than 17,155 people from 16 different countries and 43 of our United States, while millions more watched at home from more than 90 countries. This particular WrestleMania belonged to the hardcore moments that stole the spotlight. Mick Foley and Edge tore the house down during their match, only to have the boss; Mr. McMahon and The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels come out and steal the show.
The twenty-second showcase of the immortals began with a dark match, an 18-man interpromotional battle royal, which was won by Big Daddy V, Viscera. Pretty sure that’s all that needs to be said about that match. If you don’t understand why: just Google the man. One picture of Big Daddy V will make it clear why this match isn’t particularly worth talking about. Next came a match for The World Tag Team Championship. At the time, the title-holders were Big Show and Kane, and their challengers were Carlito and Chris Masters. Thankfully the two veterans guided the cocky youngsters through a just bearable match, which really didn’t add up to much more than a squash.
After the tag match, it was time for The Money In The Bank Ladder Match. The contestants were RVD, Ric Flair, Finlay, Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, and Shelton Benjamin. They weren’t given much time for the match, but they made an impression. Shelton had a spectacular spot during it where he propped a ladder up against the ropes and then ran up it to deliver a running senton to the men outside of the ring. This match also had the greatest lasting effect for the storylines in the coming months. RVD won the match and the contract that guaranteed you a match with any World Champion you want at any time you want. This, of course, led to the match between John Cena and RVD at the second ECW One Night Stand. I’ll save that for another time, though.
JBL vs. Chris Benoit was next. I’m in a weird position here with Chris Benoit involved in the match. Look, as a wrestling fan, I have a tremendous respect for what The Canadian Crippler did in the ring. How could I not? He was one of the greatest men to lace up a pair of boots. He had the best training possible and then he took it on the road, traveling from country to country, learning more and more. By the time he made it to the WWE, he was definitely a master of his craft. He was also, unfortunately, a murderer. I know there are a ton of possibilities as to why Chris Benoit snapped, but I don’t feel right lauding his work as if he was any regular old wrestler.
One day I will go into all that was and still is Chris Benoit. He has a fascinating legacy to explore, but it doesn’t belong in this format. I’ll have to write about him for WrestleMania 20, as his triple threat with HBK and Triple H was the main event, and a great one at that. The SmackDown Six is also something I’d like to cover. Otherwise, out of respect for those he left in his work, there will be very minimal coverage for the Rabid Wolverine.
Now we come to the previously mentioned Mick Foley vs. Edge hardcore match. Everyone involved in this match deserves applause. What a display of reckless abandon by those two men. They beat the bloody hell out of each other, just for the enjoyment of all those watching. This was built as a highly personal feud after Mick Foley cost Edge his WWE Championship. Everyone knew they were going to put on a show, but nobody expected what they got. WrestleMania has never traditionally been the place to showcase the hardcore. There are a few exceptions to the rule: the triangle tag TLC matches, hardcore battle royal, etc. For the most part though, WrestleMania is a place for classic, storytelling-based wrestling. So to see Edge spear Mick Foley through a flaming table on the grandest stage of them was a great sight. It’s a moment that’s going to live on for a long time.
The next three matches, The Boogeyman vs. Booker T and Sharmell, Mickie James vs. Trish Stratus, and Undertaker vs. Mark Henry were all incredibly forgettable. None of the three lasted more than ten minutes. At the very least, Undertaker vs. Mark Henry was a casket match, so it had something to it. There was a great anticipation for the audience, as they waited to find out how Undertaker would get the massive Mark Henry into the extra wide casket sitting at ringside. Another flashbulb worthy WrestleMania moment came about when Undertaker picked up Mark Henry and delivered his patented Tombstone Pile Driver. Booker and Sharmell versus Boogeyman was less than four minutes long and barely worth talking about.
Trish and Mickie is weird. Trish Stratus had dominated the woman’s division for so long on television that their only hope of having a character credible enough to take her out, was to make that character a “Single White Female” level stalker obsessed with her. It was like watching Trish Stratus go up against a slightly less hot clone. Which sounds like it’d be awesome, but it just wasn’t.
Finally we come to the other hardcore match of the night, Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. McMahon. Technically it wasn’t hardcore, it was no-holds barred. The only difference between a hardcore and no-holds barred match is that falls count anywhere in a hardcore match. So Shawn couldn’t pin him on the outside, but that would serve to make very little difference. The storyline behind the match was easy. The ever-evil Mr. McMahon character wanted the old Heartbreak Kid. He wanted the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” HBK, as he said, not the Born Again Christian HBK was by this point.
Going after religion made it an easily workable affair. All HBK and McMahon had to do was go out and beat the s—t out of each other, and that’s all they did. Mr. McMahon got some hits in at a point, but HBK eventually got control of the match and kept it. Even though The Spirit Squad and Shane McMahon came out to help Vince. It was all HBK, leading into another impressive WrestleMania moment. Atop a gigantic, easily, at least twenty-foot ladder, Michaels had to have taken a second to reflect. Thousands of people were about to watch as HBK dropped an elbow on his boss from off that huge ladder, through a table. It was another moment that’ll live on for years and years.
Next up was Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio. This match is an underrated bout. Orton was still young and hungry, going out there with two of the best in the business. It wasn’t even a ten-minute match, but it was phenomenal. My favorite moment came when Angle delivered a double German suplex to Rey and Randy. The height Rey managed to get made it look spectacular. This wasn’t long after Eddie Guerrero died. There are two schools of thought on it. Some think that Rey only got this match, as well as the win, because Eddie died. Which would mean ignoring the years and years of hard work that Rey Mysterio put in before this point. Wherever you fall on that, you’ll never be able to take it from him. The master of the 619 is one of a select few to win The World Heavyweight Championship on the grandest stage of them all.
It was a great moment that didn’t last very long, as up next was a Playboy Pillow fight between Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle. Are both women hot? Yes. Is that all there is to say? Yes. I’d rather just Google their playboys than watch them hit each other with pillows.
Finally, to close out the show, we got Triple H vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship, the flagship title of the company. Both men came to the ring via a spectacular entrance. From there, the Chicago crowd, an always-boisterous one, kept this match from disintegrating into an absolute snooze fest. I have nothing against the two men, but they both work a traditional mat-based style that doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting matches when you put them together. Cena would of course walk away with the belt, after making Triple H tap out to his STFU submission.
WrestleMania 21, 22, and 23 are all alike in the sense that they never quite feel like WrestleMania. They don’t quite have that same buzz that drove most of the better ones. What these three had were full rosters of Superstars doing their best to keep the shows watchable. If one match wasn’t great, you can bet someone else came out down the card to make up for it.