WWE Home Video
Cast: Mick Foley, Edge, Trish Stratus, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Triple H
Extras: 18-Man Battle Royal, Wrestlemania Post Show, Saturday Night's Main Event
Way back in the Paleolithic era, you know, the early to mid-1980's, I grew up watching wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, The Junkyard Dog and a host of other greasy, oiled-up, muscular dudes who always somehow managed to have perfectly manicured mustaches. I even remember Rowdy Roddy Piper before he tried to gain entry into mainstream movie stardom (through John Carpenter's "They Live" and, to a much lesser extent, "Hell Comes To Frogtown") and Captain Lou Albano, who inexplicably aligned himself with Cyndi Lauper, a pairing that still boggles the mind and has me waking up at night in cold sweats. Wrestling vanished from my daily routing a long time ago, so, while it isn't completely foreign to me, the current crop of wrestlers are. With that in mind, let's find out if the self-proclaimed "Super Bowl of Wrestling" has lost any of its luster.
Filmed live in Chicago at the Allstate Arena on April 2nd, 2006, "Wrestlemania 22" arrives in a jam-packed 3 DVD set, filled with all the bombast you can handle.
Here is a breakdown of the matches on disc 1:
The "World Tag Team Championship Match" featuring Big Show and Kane against Carlito and Chris Masters. This is a nice little appetizer before the bigger matches, but on the whole is unremarkable.
We then get the "Money In The Bank Ladder Match" featuring Ric Flair, Rob Van Dam, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Finlay and Bobby Lashley, where they compete with each other for a briefcase that contains a championship contract. The catch is that the briefcase dangles from a chain high above the center of the ring and, in order to reach it and pry it loose, they need to climb up a ladder. As such, we get to see loads of ladder acrobatics and, of course, severe ladder beatings.
Next is the "United States Championship Match" between Chris Benoit and JBL. This match starts off slow, with the two wrestlers lumbering around like well-fed sloths, but picks up steam towards the end. In a limited amount of time, this match sets up JBL as someone to loathe and much of the entertainment arrives from his villainous tactics.
Earning its name in spades is the "Hardcore Match," where Mick Foley battles Edge, with no count-outs, disqualifications or pin-downs. We get lots of blood in this one, with thumbtacks puncturing skin, barbed-wire wrapped around bats and a flaming table that gets quickly doused by flying bodies. By the end of the bout, both wrestlers' are left bloody, battered and shaken.
Then we have a match that involves Boogeyman versus Booker T and his wife Sharmell. Apparently, Booker T and Sharmell are frightened by the Darth Maul-like Boogeyman, who slithers around the ring like a Voodoo practitioner. This match starts off slowly too, but gains momentum once Boogeyman begins chowing down on fistfuls of live worms that he has stuffed in his pants. Yummy!
Next up is the "WWE Women's Championship Match" between Trish Stratus and Mickie James. This match-up is fairly routine, but Mickie plays the role of lesbian, psychotic stalker quite well.
Then we have a "Casket Match" between the undefeated (13-0) Wrestlemania champ Undertaker and "The World's Strongest Man," Mark Henry. The goal for each wrestler is to knock the other man into a casket at the edge of the ring. Once the lid is closed, the man left standing wins. Decently executed, the match begins and ends slowly, with the dramatic pauses of the Undertaker sucking the life out of the proceedings.
Lastly, there is a "No-Holds Barred Match" pitting Shawn Michaels against Vince McMahon. Similar to the "Hardcore Match," this one becomes incredibly bloody. By far the most outrageous match on the disc (and featuring the most entertaining comments by the announcers, which mainly relate to how "Satan-like" Mr. McMahon is); this time we get leather belt beatings, multiple canings, Vince McMahon's exposed ass cheeks, fold-up chairs to the head, ladders to the head, trashcans to the head and gushing wounds from the head.
Sandwiched between these matches are remote interviews with the wrestlers and brief sketches, as well as a "Hall of Fame" introduction and a short plug for Peter Gabriel, who lends his song "Big Time" to the show. Also included is Michelle Williams (from Destiny's Child), who belts out "America the Beautiful" to kick off the matches and a brief promo for Wrestlemania 23, set for April 1st 2007 in Detroit.
Rounding out the disc are a few Extras, which feature an "18-Man Interpromotional Battle Royal," that has the "Superstars of RAW" and the "Superstars of Smackdown" going at it in the ring, where the last man standing becomes the victor. A series of short "Vignettes," with mock theatrical trailers concerning Mick Foley and Edge are also included. We also get to see brief training montages of John Cena and Triple H. Lastly, there is "The Chicago Buzz," a fluff piece that details the promotional aspects of Wrestlemania as it infiltrated the Windy City.
Disc 2 includes:
The "Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship," which features Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton in a battle to be the first man to pin down or put a submission hold (leading to a "tap out") on someone. The protracted introduction of Rey Mysterio commences with a performance by nu-metal band P.O.D. This match isn't as entertaining as some of the others, but Rey's athletic skills are fun to watch.
Next is the "Playboy Pillow Fight" that pits surgically-enhanced Playmates Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle against each other. For the most part, this match is superfluous, but I did get a sick kick out of seeing Torrie rub her dog's rear end all over Candice's face. Classy stuff. By the way, no pillows were utilized in this match.
Finally, we have the Main Event, the "WWE Championship Match" between John Cena and Triple H. Perhaps the best parts are the introductions. Triple H appears on a throne, done up like Conan the Barbarian, with a bottle of water in his hand. I guess Barbarian's need to stay hydrated too. Anyway, a short montage of Chicago's gangster past precedes John Cena's entrance, which also includes a bunch of Tommy-Gun carrying men flanking the outside of the ring. When Cena finally appears, he too has a machine gun and hoists it into the air, shooting off a couple of rounds. After these theatrics, the match comes off as anti-climactic. Compared to the "Hard Core Match" and the "No-Holds Barred Match," this one seems slightly lifeless. With the exception of a sledgehammer coming into play, most of the match is conventional and technical. On the whole, it's a decent fight that displays the different styles of the two, with some dramatic moments thrown in, but the previous matches are far superior.
Extras on this disc include "Mick Foley Getting Stitches," (a backstage scene with Foley getting 6 stitches in his forehead) and "Rey Mysterio Celebration," with Rey posing with his children after his match. Then there is the "Wrestlemania Post Show," that is a recap of the big matches, as well as a funny interview with Shawn Michaels and interviews with Eddie Guerrero's widow and John Cena. We also get some awkward interviews with fans outside the venue. "John Cena Addresses the Chicago Fans RAW 4/3/06" is next, with Cena in the ring praising Chicago to a host of collective jeers. Lastly, there is an episode of "Saturday Night's Main Event 3/18/06" that sets up many of the matches that occur during Wrestlemania.
Disc 3 features the "2006 WWE Hall of Fame" ceremony in its entirety. The inductees include: The BlackJacks, Verne Gagne, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Sensational Sherri, Tony Atlas, "Mean" Gene Okerlund, Eddie Guerrero and Bret "Hit Man" Hart. Nostalgia washed over me when watching this, with old-school wrestlers appearing on the stage and in the audience. People like Ted Dibiase, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Sgt. Slaughter. Surprisingly, the ceremony was touching, especially the tribute to the late Eddie Guerrero, which left many wrestlers misty-eyed. Also, the humble Bret Hart relates funny and bittersweet anecdotes about his late brother Owen and former Tag Team partner Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. Seeing Hart speak ends the night on an emotional high note.
WWE Home Video presents "Wrestlemania 22" in a Full Frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio. On the whole, the transfer is well done, especially considering the massive amounts of colorful costumes and effects that are represented (let's not forget all the blood either). The only problem was some compression artifacts that come through whenever flashing cameras or fireworks go off. Also, I noticed that sometimes, when the camera pans too fast, these same problems occur. Overall though, this Pay-Per-View event looks fairly solid on DVD.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 stereo track brings all the pomp to life. Musical interludes are nicely rendered, with all channels utilized. Similarly, crowd chants and noises are well integrated, making you feel like you're sitting in the packed stadium. For the Wrestlemania event itself (not including the extras), there is the option to watch it simulcast in Spanish. Beyond this, there are no other audio options or subtitle options.
"Wrestlemania 22" reawakened the inner grappler in me. Infinitely crasser and more violent than in its former 1980's heyday, this sports entertainment franchise still continues to thrill. While the matches are a mixed bag, the fact that these athletes will do anything to entertain is infectious and, at times, awe inspiring. With a wealth of supplemental material packed with the main feature, "Wrestlemania 22" comes highly recommended to wrestling novices and pros alike.