With the words, “Welcome to the greatest entertainment event in the history of the world!” New Jersey governor Chris Christie ushered in the 29th installment of Wrestlemania on April 7. Before a Met Life Stadium record crowd of over 80,000, including the entire Jersey Shore cast and Lorenzo LaValle (Snooki’s baby), the Republican governor began a night that will go down as one of the greatest in the legacy of the “showcase of the immortals.”
Highlighted by three marathon matches between some of the company’s strongest and most passionate superstars, the three hour endeavor should be remembered with one word: redemption. Wrestlemania XXIX was a night marked by atonement. Mark Henry regained his trademark “World’s Strongest Man” moniker, The Undertaker avenged the death of his long time manager and friend Paul Bearer, and John Cena retook his throne atop wrestling by capturing his 11th WWE championship.
Henry set the tone for the night in his undercard bout with Ryback. After months of training and talking, the two finally settled their year old feud, as Mark reestablished himself as the strongest man in the WWE. The magnificent former strongman competitor showed young upstart Ryback that although the challenger may bench more pounds, there is no substitute for heart and will in a company predicated on individual determination. Ryback withstood Mark Henry’s first two signature body slams but succumbed to Henry’s raw physicality in the 11th minute of the fight, when he was unable to answer the bell after a third brutal slam.
An hour later, the night’s first headlining fight proved to be even more thrilling. CM Punk finally met The Undertaker in the ring after a very public disagreement during media week. Always disrespectful and ever immature, Punk antagonized The Dead Man in the days before the event, even stooping so low as to mock the death of ‘Taker’s long time friend and manager, Paul Bearer. In one of the worst debacles of his esteemed and despised career, Punk actually stole the urn containing Bearer’s ashes and proceeded to dump the remains on ‘Taker’s head during a press conference. Not surprisingly, their fight was contentious, and it was immediately evident that The Dead Man was out for blood from the opening bell. Having promised that Punk would leave the ring on a stretcher, The Undertaker wasted no time, as he hit the challenger with signature move after move, twice attacking Punk on top of the ringside ropes while delivering a multitude of chops, slams and gouges. In the end, The Undertaker responded to the arrogant Punk’s disrespect with a classic tombstone piledriver, and left the ring with his opponent unconscious on the mat and his manager’s death avenged.
As soon as CM Punk could be carted out of the stadium, the night resumed with a match a year in the making. John Cena finally got his rematch against The Rock, as two immortals of the game met center-stage in a spectacle that WWE fans had craved for the last 365 days. Cena entered the ring first, accompanied by a musical montage of his press conference following last spring’s defeat at the hands of The Rock. The Massachusetts native had been forthcoming all year about his public fight with depression amidst the tailspin following his previous loss. Sunday night, he spoke ringside about his chance at redemption.
Following the Rock’s entrance, the two engaged in an epic 90-second staring match after the starting bell, a gesture initiated by intense mutual respect. The Rock dictated the early stages of the bout, landing two people’s elbows and even asking Cena, “if he could smell what The Rock was cooking?” However, in a move some critics have since called a gamble, The Rock allowed Cena to stand after his second knockdown of the fight as he attempted a human spear. But before the Rock connected with what could have been a fight-ending move, Cena side-stepped the legend, forcing The Rock off the ropes, and trapping him in a STFU submission hold. Although the Rock got to the ropes and broke the hold, the fight’s course had been irreparably shifted and Cena dominated the last five minutes. Two attitude adjustments and one devastating five knuckle shuffle later, the man in jean shorts stood above his pinned opponent with tears in his eyes, and a redeemed championship belt around his waist. Moments later the two embraced, as respect prevailed between two of the greatest of all time, leaving WWE fans with an awe-inspiring moment to end a great night.