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CALDWELL'S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 28 PPV REPORT 4/1: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of live PPV - Rock-Cena, Taker-Hunter, Punk-Jericho

Apr 1, 2012 - 10:00:49 PM
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WWE WrestleMania 28 PPV Results
April 1, 2012
Live from Miami, Fla. at Sun Life Stadium
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
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It's finally here. After one year of build-up, John Cena vs. The Rock in the expected PPV main event. As announced on the pre-show, the four-hour PPV is set to begin with World Hvt. champion Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus.

Live inside Sun Life Stadium, U.S. military personnel were shown on-stage before Lilian Garcia sang "America the Beautiful" to begin the festivities. Cue up an invisible church choir as background singers mid-way through the song. The camera showed a giant, curved ramp extending from a widescreen-friendly stage, which had giant block letters spelling out WrestleMania extended across. A fly-over concluded the intro. Lilian then led a "U-S-A" chant as WWE continued to focus on the enormity of the stage and set.

This led to a standard WrestleMania intro video, which focused on The Rock and John Cena through the ages. This led to Vince McMahon's standard "Welcome to WrestleMania" voice-over as WWE flashed through footage from past WrestleManias to connect WM28 to past memorable events. The Undertaker vs. Triple H was focused on next.

Back live inside the stadium, various portions of the crowd were shown before Michael Cole introduced the show as "entertainment's greatest live event." The camera swung around the stadium, capturing the giant palm trees surrounding the structure hovering over the ring. Cole introduced Jerry Lawler as his co-announcer before Justin Roberts announced to the crowd the opening match for the World Title.

In-ring: Out first was 2012 Royal Rumble winner Sheamus to challenge for the World Title. Cole and Lawler were shown on-camera to introduce the show, noting fans are still filing into the stadium. Daniel Bryan's music then played to bring out the World champ along with A.J. Bryan was sporting a big, flashy red and blue jacket. Bryan did "Yes! Yes! Yes!" all the way down the long entrance ramp to the ring. In the crowd facing the hard camera, there were tons of "Yes!" signs in the crowd. Amazing atmosphere ringside.

1 -- World Hvt. champion DANIEL BRYAN (w/A.J.) vs. SHEAMUS -- World Title match

Once the bell sounded, A.J. hopped on the ring apron to get a good luck kiss. Bryan then turned around and suddenly ate a Brogue Kick. Sheamus with the cover for the win. Ringside, A.J. was stunned as Sheamus celebrated the World Title victory. They went to a replay that lasted as long as the match, then Lawler claimed it was a "world record" for shortest World Title change.

WINNER: Sheamus at 0:18 to capture the World Title. And, for the second year in a row, Bryan-Sheamus gets the shaft. It does set up the next chapter of the Bryan/A.J. relationship to play out on Smackdown.

Backstage: Various interchangeable parts in red t-shirts were yelling at each other in the locker room. The Miz then calmed them all down and gave a pep talk that no one was buying. Miz, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, the Bella Twins, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre was the group. David Otunga then walked in and introduced John Laurinaitis, who looked like Rick Pitino in an all-white, cream suit with red tie. Laurinaitis then gave a pep talk to his team, reminding them of great WrestleMania moments. Everyone left, except for Otunga, who told Laurinaitis they won't disappoint him.

WrestleMania 29 plug: Cole introduced a video package on WWE giving away 100 trips to MetLife Stadium next year.

Back to the stadium, Kane's music played to bring out the man in the welder's mask. The giant WrestleMania video board lit up red to match Kane's official color. In the ring, Kane removed his outer mask to reveal very slick black hair tucked behind his second mask. Randy Orton then came out to a decent reaction to face Kane.

2 -- KANE vs. RANDY ORTON

No finish after 18 seconds. The crowd, ready to make a point, chanted "Daniel Bryan" as Kane and Orton exchanged basic holds to begin the match. Orton then put Kane on the mat and began stomping away. Kane then took control with a sidewalk slam for a two count. "That there is vintage Kane," Cole said. The two men resumed a back-and-forth exchange as the crowd remained quiet. Orton then built an attack, getting the crowd involved.

Orton followed with a DDT from the second rope as the sun began to set in the background. Orton then went to That Place to stalk Kane for an RKO, but Kane shoved him off and landed a boot to the face for a two count. Kane then went up top for a clothesline, but Orton intercepted with a mid-air dropkick. Orton sold a left knee injury, then teased a Punt, but Kane intercepted with a chokeslam. Kane made a cover for a two count only, popping the crowd.

At 10:00, the fight moved up-top, where Orton landed multiple fist strikes. Orton then wanted a superplex, but Kane blocked and nailed a top-rope chokeslam. Kane made the cover and it was good for the win.

WINNER: Kane at 10:58. Surprising outcome. It looks like WWE wants to re-build Kane coming out of Mania. Overall, Kane and Orton put in a good effort, winning over a let-down crowd following Bryan-Sheamus with a strong second-half to the match. (**1/4)

Backstage: Santino and Mick Foley did a food bit with a random third man plugging Deadliest Catch. Foley did a pirate voice as they surveyed plates full of crab legs. Is this a plug for Joe's Crabshack? Foley and Santino then dug into the crab legs before the random third man started smashing plates. Suddenly, Ron Simmons emerged. "Damn!" summed up the bit.

In-ring: IC champion Cody Rhodes came out for the third match, and all three from the Smackdown brand to begin the show. Rhodes was sporting another great jacket a la Daniel Bryan. As Rhodes completed his ring intro, they showed a highlight package on Big Show's WrestleMania low points. After Rhodes had a good chuckle in the ring, Big Show's music played to bring out Show, who waved his arms in circles to warm up the crowd before making his way to the ring.

3 -- IC champion CODY RHODES vs. BIG SHOW -- Intercontinental Title match

Show quickly cornered Rhodes before tossing him clear across the ring. Show then hushed the crowd and did the frying pan chop to the chest. Lawler offered an odd line about Show's weight fluctuating 15 pounds on any given day depending on what he eats for breakfast. Show continued the assault by smushing Rhodes's face in-between his cheeks in the corner. Show continued to have fun with Rhodes, but lost control with an airball on a corner butt splash. Rhodes then went after the left knee to take Show off his feet and began working over the challenger.

After Rhodes worked over Show's knee for a bit, Show came back with a hip toss, but Rhodes yanked Show arm-first across the top rope. Rhodes followed with the Disaster Kick, then tried again, but Show punched him in mid-air to block. Show dropped the straps, then delivered the KO Punch. Show made the cover for the win. Post-match: Show sold emotion before accepting the IC Title belt, which was about the size of his hand. Cole said Show finally has his WrestleMania moment.

WINNER: Show at 5:20 to capture the IC Title. So, now what for the IC Title? Show made Rhodes look small, but Rhodes had some offense to retain a shred of credibility. (**)

4 -- Divas champion BETH PHOENIX & EVE vs. KELLY KELLY & MARIA MENOUNOS

Before the match, WWE ran a video package on the Divas roster before Eve and Beth came out to the ring. WWE then showed footage from "Extra" when the four participants set up this match. Babyface Divas Kelly and Maria came out next, and the announcers stressed Maria is working hurt with broken ribs from DWTS training. The match built to Kelly getting a hot tag before the action broke down. Maria then took a final tag, Beth teased the Glam Slam, but Kelly made the save, and Maria pinned Beth for the win. Cole called it an "Extra...special" win for Maria tonight as the camera picked up a "Mario Lopez is a tool" sign. The faces celebrated the win.

WINNERS: Maria & Kelly at 6:50. Your basic WrestleMania Divas celebrity tag match.

Backstage: Matt Striker was with Shawn Michaels. Michaels nearly jumped into the camera, which was zoomed in too close on HBK, who was sporting a referee t-shirt. Michaels repeated the "end of an era" lines about The Undertaker and Triple H.

In-ring: Justin Roberts was center-ring. He said Sun Life has hosted numerous big events since opening in August 1987. He said WrestleMania has set a new record of 78,363. That seems like a stretch. Cole called it the all-time attendance record.

After a pause, Jim Ross's music played to begin the second hour after a, quite frankly, disappointing first hour. Ross, still sporting The Goatee, joined Cole and Lawler on commentary to start the main event portion of the PPV.

In-ring: Roberts announced the "End of an Era" match up next. Out first was Shawn Michaels, who danced out on-stage with a referee t-shirt untucked over black pants. Michaels got his shine as Mr. WrestleMania by dancing and prancing in the ring as the referee earpiece hung out from his ear.

After a pause, Triple H's music played and a giant King of Kings skull set was shown on-stage. Hunter emerged through the skull a la an NFL team running through a giant mascot head. Ross talked up Taker-Hunter and the high-stakes match-up as Hunter did his usual ring intro. Of note, Hunter appears to be in WrestleMania shape after looking flabby and slow the last time he wrestled on TV a few months ago. Once Hunter's music stopped, Hunter locked eyes with Michaels, who paced around the ring.

The bell then tolled for The Undertaker. After a pause, Taker emerged with a hood covering his head. His outerwear looked like something Shredder would wear with giant spikes coming from all sides of his jacket. The announcers remained quiet, then Ross spoke first about the stakes for Undertaker, with The Streak on the line. When Taker approached the ring, the lights came up, then Taker approached Hunter center-ring. Taker grabbed the hood, flipped it back, and revealed his shaved head. There was a patch of hair running down the middle, like a mini-mohawk. He looked like a combination of Stone Cold, Batista, Rock, and 2012 Ultimate Warrior. Very clean, sharp look.

After the crowd got in their reaction for Taker's new hair, Hunter and Taker looked up toward the sky and the HIAC structure lowered as Metallica played. Taker and Hunter continued to lock eyes before Michaels stepped near them, gave instructions, and called for the bell.

5 -- THE UNDERTAKER vs. TRIPLE H -- Hell in a Cell match -- Undertaker's 19-0 Mania Streak on the line -- Shawn Michaels special referee

Once the bell sounded, they backed up two steps, then charged each other. A flurry of rights and lefts followed as Lawler discussed Taker's new look. Lawler gave a storyline explanation that Taker began cutting his hair off every day until Hunter accepted this match. The match moved to outside the ring and they threw each other into the Cell walls a few times. "Under-Taker" chant as Taker blasted Hunter into the Cell walls. From inside the ring, Michaels tried to get them back in the ring, but Taker lightly shoved Michaels. Taker continued on, shoving Hunter into the ring steps.

Back in the ring, Hunter reversed a whip and landed a kneebuster, but Taker popped up, no-sold, and delivered a big clothesline that popped the crowd. Taker then went old-school to continue the assault, clearly being the dominant wrestler early on. Hunter tried to roll to the outside for a breather, but Taker followed with a ring step shot to the face. Taker then nailed his trademark leg drop as Hunter was draped across the ring apron.

Back in the ring, Taker slowly approached Hunter to continue the assault, but Hunter suddenly delivered a kick to the gut and DDT to slow down Taker. Hunter followed with multiple shots into the ring steps, which Taker previously brought into the ring. Hunter then wanted the Pedigree on the steps, but Taker countered with a back-drop to center-ring. Taker landed body shots, but then walked into a spinebuster across the ring steps. Big reaction for that spot. Taker then suddenly applied the Hell's Gate submission, but Hunter lifted Taker into the air for a sit-down powerbomb. There was a trickle of blood involved at this point, apparently coming from a cut over Hunter's eye.

Hunter then went to the outside and retrieved a chair, which he cracked over Taker's back. Hunter then threw Taker into the ring steps, which he propped up in the corner. Hunter followed with more chair shots to the back as Michaels winced in the background. Hunter then went rapid-fire, drawing in Michaels to hold back Hunter. Hunter lightly pushed him aside, then landed more chair shots. Michaels had enough and yanked the chair away. Hunter told Michaels to end it, then, but Michaels said Taker will never quit. A little early for this story to come into play when Taker was dominating just a few minutes ago.

Michaels checked on Taker, then Hunter pushed HBK aside and landed more chair shots to the back. "Do not stop it!" Taker told HBK. At 14:00, Taker slowly pulled himself up to his feet and met Hunter, who landed a chair shot to the gut, then another shot to the back. Hunter made a cover, but Taker unemphatically kicked out. Hunter then landed more chair shots to the back before going to the outside. "Don't stop it, Shawn!" Taker told the ref. Hunter retrieved his Sledgehammer, then HBK and Hunter argued. Michaels told Taker he wants to ring the bell, but Taker waved him off. Hunter then blasted Taker with a Sledgehammer shot to the face, but Taker kicked out in time. Big reaction.

Hunter then went for another Sledgehammer shot, but Michaels jumped on Hunter's back and yanked it away. The fans booed. Hunter told Michaels to end the match. HBK teased calling for the bell, but stopped short. HBK continued to milk it, giving Taker a breather without making it obvious. Suddenly, Taker yanked Michaels into the Hell's Gate. Hunter then broke it up with a Sledgehammer shot to Taker's head. Hunter was the only man on his feet, then Hunter tried to nail Taker again, but Taker kicked him in the gut and slapped on Hell's Gate. Hunter fought the hold as Michaels remained KO'ed in the corner. Hunter faded out in the hold, but HBK was still down. Taker eventually released the hold, then ref Charles Robinson stormed the Cell. He struggled to unlock the Cell door, then another ref showed up to help him out.

Back in the ring, Taker delivered a chokeslam mid-ring. Taker covered Hunter, but Hunter kicked out to a big reaction. Taker sold shock, then grabbed ref Robinson and chokeslammed him, giving Charles his WrestleMania Moment. Ross called it the scene of a car accident. The match eventually reset with Taker and Hunter on their feet. Taker wanted the Tombstone, but Hunter escaped and HBK suddenly popped Taker with Sweet Chin Music. Hunter made the sure-bet cover, but Taker kicked out just before three. HBK, shocked, covered his face in the corner as Ross declared, "Undertaker will not die."

They reset at 22:00 with HBK and Hunter on their feet. Hunter then tossed HBK through the ropes to the outside. Suddenly, in the background, Taker sat up and stared down Hunter. Taker was a house of fire with a kick, stomp, and another kick. Taker then clotheslined Hunter before dropping Hunter with Snake Eyes. Taker with a leg drop, but there was no available ref. Taker then delivered the Tombstone Piledriver center ring. Taker made the cover, HBK re-entered the ring with a leap across the ring, and Taker only scored a two count. Taker sold shock with drool coming out of his mouth. HBK returned to the corner, selling emotion, as he contemplated what to do about this.

They reset at 24:20 with both men on their knees. An exchange of right hands led to an exchange on their feet. The crowd cheered along with each right hand before Hunter set up and connected with the Pedigree. Hunter made the cover, but Taker kicked out again, popping the crowd again, as captured by a wide crowd shot. Back in the ring, Hunter and Taker were shown on the mat, breathless, as Michaels simply stood in the corner, helpless.

Taker, working on his seventh out of nine lives, sat up in the ring as Hunter reached for the Sledgehammer. Taker also retrieved a chair. Taker was the first man up and he stood on the Sledge. Taker then jabbed the chair into Hunter's neck region. A chair shot across the back followed. More chair shots by Taker to Hunter. This time, Michaels was freaking out over Taker tearing apart Hunter. More chair shots followed. Michaels then pushed Taker aside, Taker tossed the chair aside, and covered Hunter for a two count. Michaels told them to stop as the camera focused on big welts and bruises on Taker's back.

Just before 30:00, Taker pushed aside a weak Sledgehammer shot as Hunter sold exhaustion. Hunter then stood in the corner, did a crotch chop, and Taker blasted him with a Sledgehammer shot to the head. Michaels turned his back, not able to watch this. Hunter then pulled a Michaels at WM26 slowly climbing up Taker's leg. Taker called for the end, then positioned Hunter for the Tombstone. Taker connected center-ring, Taker folded Hunter's arms, and Michaels made the three count. Taker wins. 20-0.

Post-match: All three men remained in the same position - Michaels standing over both bodies, Hunter flat on his back, and Taker looking up at the lights, as well. The Cell then raised to the sky as Taker rolled onto his stomach, the welts on his back visible. Michaels knelt down next to Hunter, who remained KO'ed in the ring. Taker then recovered in the corner and Michaels came over to him. Ross asked whether Taker or Hunter will ever compete again after this. Michaels extended his hand and helped up Taker, then they two shared a moment with words whispered in each other's ears.

Taker then stood up on his own two feet and stared into the crowd, which applauded the effort. Hunter remained motionless on the mat, then Taker bent down to pose as his music played and the blue lights flashed in Sun Life. The announcers remained silent as WWE focused on giant 20-0 text on the scoreboard. Back in the ring, Hunter was still out cold as Taker leaned across the top rope. Taker approached Hunter and waved his finger as Michaels continued to kneel down next to Hunter. Taker and Michaels then grabbed Hunter and pulled him off the mat, the brothers and old souls helping each other out of the ring to applause. "That, ladies and gentlemen, is respect," Ross said with the perfect tone to capture the moment. Once everyone was assembled outside the ring to exit the ring, WWE replayed high points from the match. Back live, they showed all three men now on the stage, with Hunter struggling to stand. All three men hugged on the stage, then turned to walk to the back. Ross said it's a match they will all remember forever.

WINNER: Taker at 30:52 to retain The Streak. Amazing, amazing storytelling. There were some off spots mid-way through that made it more chaotic than needed, but that is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of a 30-minute classic that played off the previous WrestleMania matches involving Taker, Hunter, and HBK from the previous three Manias. Simply breath-taking involving all three Legends. (****1/2)

Hall of Fame video: Cole reset with a plug for the Hall of Fame. A video package aired highlighting the Hall of Fame inductees, focusing on the Horsemen, Mike Tyson, and Edge.

Announcers: Back to Cole and Lawler, who said he is completely spent after Taker-Hunter. Cole fed to the ring, where Howard Finkel announced the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees, who assembled on-stage. Ric Flair received a big reaction on-stage with the Four Horsemen. Tyson also got a nice reaction. The HOF music then changed to Edge's theme, bringing out Edge to a strong reaction. Edge fought back tears, overwhelmed by the moment. Fink then ran down the line-up one more time.

Backstage: Josh Mathews was backstage to introduce Flo Rida, who will be performing The Rock's music tonight. Heath Slater then barged in and said you don't want to interview "Florida," but the one-man Southern rock band. Slater, getting an unexpected spotlight, was approached by Flo Rida, who ignored Slater's requests for a duet, back-up dancer role, or DJ role. Slater wanted to know what he can do, then, and Flo told him he can hold his mic. Suddenly, Rida shoved down Slater before Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks made the save.

In-ring: The third hour began with Brie Bella introducing Team Johnny team members for the GM vs. GM match. John Laurinaitis and Vickie Guerrero then came out last to back up their team members. Lawler wanted to know why Laurinaitis is dressed like Col. Sanders. Once the red team arrived in the ring, Nikki Bella came out on-stage to introduce Team Teddy members. Hornswoggle, Teddy Long, and Aksana came out last to back up their team to the ring.

6 -- TEAM LAURINAITIS (captain DAVID OTUNGA & MARK HENRY & DOLPH ZIGGLER & JACK SWAGGER & DREW MCINTYRE & THE MIZ w/John Laurinaitis, Vickie Guerrero, and Brie Bella) vs. TEAM LONG (U.S. champion captain SANTINO & KOFI KINGSTON & BOOKER T & GREAT KHALI & R-TRUTH & ZACK RYDER w/Eve, Teddy Long, Hornswoggle, and Nikki Bella) -- 12-man tag match -- winning team's GM takes over both brands

Everyone got their time in the ring to start the match. Booker then cleared the red-shirted heels from the ring apron before walking into a neck snap from Otunga. The heels took turns working over Booker, including Henry offering some trash-talk in-between blows and kicks. The blue-shirted faces eventually tried to start up a "Booker" chant to rally him.

Suddenly, Khali entered the ring to knock down Henry, so Swagger and Mac double-suplexed Khali. The action broke down with men running in and out of the ring at this point. Suddenly, Hornswoggle was in the ring and he tried to splash Henry, but Henry tossed him aside, only to see Truth and Kofi splash the heels ringside. Suddenly, the women involved in the match picked up a cat fight ringside. Miz, with his 0-20 streak on the line, was left in the ring against Santino. Santino then hit the Sailor's Salute top-rope dive before reaching into his trunks for the Cobra. Laurinaitis distracted Santino, but Santino still nailed the Cobra on Miz. Santino made a cover and appeared to score a three count, but Ziggler apparently broke up the pin in time.

They reset with bodies flying in the ring again. Ziggler popped the crowd with an athletic feat before Ryder leaped over Miz onto Ziggler with the Rough Ryder. Suddenly, Eve entered the ring to get her shine with Ryder. The distraction allowed Miz to tackle Ryder from behind and nail the Skullcrushing Finale. Miz made the cover on Ryder and it was good for the win. Miz ends 0-20 TV/PPV losing streak dating back to 2011, Laurinaitis has control of both brands now, and everyone is mad at Eve.

Post-match: The heels celebrated on the outside as Eve tried to console Ryder in the ring while the other team members stood in the background. Was she hired by Team Laurinaitis? Suddenly, Eve kicked Ryder between the legs and stormed out of the ring. On-stage, Eve smiled as she walked away with the spotlight on her. After a replay of the items in the match, they returned with Ryder recovering in the ring and Eve smirking on-stage.

WINNERS: Team Laurinaitis at 10:38. It's a new era for Miz coming out of Mania, Eve is the top heel in the Divas division, and it will be interesting to see how WWE handles Laurinaitis in control of both brands ahead of the upcoming Draft.

Next PPV: Extreme Rules. The video package opened with a scrolling list of standard WWE rules, which do not apply on Extreme Rules.

Ringside: Former WWE Diva Torrie Wilson and Alex Rodriguez were shown sitting ringside. ... WWE rolled the standard WrestleMania Week video package highlighting all of the big events from the week in Miami, including celebrity involvement.

Backstage: C.M. Punk was rolling his wrists before the Team Johnny parade stormed past Punk. Laurinaitis paused to talk to Punk, saying he looks kind of angry tonight. He said it appears Punk wants to beat up Jericho, but he wants a wrestling match, not a brawl. So, he's going to ensure it by noting that if Punk loses his temper and gets DQ'ed, he will lose the WWE Title to Jericho.

On-stage: After the lights turned out in the stadium, Chris Jericho appeared on-stage with a new light-up jacket that looked like a fancy Christmas tree. Jericho then slowly made his way to the ring to challenge for the WWE Title in the semi-main event. Jericho simply stood in the ring to hold the attention of the crowd, then WWE rolled a video package on Punk, documenting his transformation from the ECW Brand Era in the mid-2000s to today's WWE champion. Very nice video flashing back and forth on Punk's facial changes through the years.

Back live, Jericho continued to prance around in the ring before Cult of Personality played to bring out WWE champion C.M. Punk. Pyro shot off in-between opening lyrics, then Punk came out on-stage and posed before making his way down the long entrance ramp to the ring. As Punk posed in the ring, they showed Andy Garcia ringside. No formal ring introductions, and the bell sounded to begin the WWE Title match in that sweet spot near the end of the third hour of a standard PPV.

7 -- WWE champion C.M. PUNK vs. CHRIS JERICHO -- WWE Title match -- If Punk is DQ'ed, Jericho captures WWE Title

Early on, Punk nearly got himself DQ'ed with four stomps in the corner, stopping short just before five. Jericho then egged on Punk by slapping him multiple times, trying to get a DQ. "How's your father?" Jericho shouted at Punk, who tackled Jericho before landing multiple elbow strikes to the neck. The match then moved to the outside, where Jericho continued to taunt Punk by asking, "How's your sister?" with a crazy look in his eyes. Punk then chased Jericho into the ring with a chair as Jericho continued to taunt him. Punk teased a chair shot, but thought better of it and delivered a kick to the gut. Jericho took control moments later, though.

After Jericho inflicted more pain on the outside, Jericho continued to target Punk's lower back inside the ring. Jericho taunted Punk as the crowd tried to get involved by rallying behind Punk. Jericho then paused to wipe blood off his forehead, which came from a cut above his left eye. The match slowed down when Punk kicked Jericho away and Jericho recovered in the corner. Punk and Jericho then entered classic reverse/counter mode, teasing finishers that got the crowd involved. Punk landed a swift kick to the head, but it was only good for a two count.

At 12:00, Punk went up top and set up for the Macho Man elbow drop as a giant palm tree lingered in the background. Jericho countered the elbow drop, though, and landed the Codebreaker. Punk smartly rolled to the outside to avoid a three count, then Jericho rolled him back into the ring. Punk suddenly captured Jericho for the GTS and connected. Punk was slow to make a cover and Jericho put his foot on the bottom rope for a break. Jericho recovered and went up top, but Punk cut him off with slaps and chops. Punk then tried to snap off a huracanrana, but Jericho made an amazing counter into the Walls of Jericho in one fluid motion. Punk fought the hold and reached the bottom rope for a break.

At 17:00, Jericho charged Punk, who back-dropped him clear over the top rope to the outside. Punk followed with a suicide dive before delivering a running knee strike that sent Jericho back-of-the-head-first into the ringpost. Ouch. Punk then rolled Jericho back into the ring and went for a springboard move, but Jericho intercepted with a mid-air Codebreaker. Punk kicked out of a pin attempt, though. Jericho then pulled up Punk and told him he's the Best in the World.

After blocking two GTS attempts, Jericho went up top, but Punk smashed him with a kick to the mid-section. Jericho was draped across the top turnbuckle, so Punk hoisted him up for the GTS. "Best in the world!" Punk declared before Jericho countered the GTS into the Liontamer. Jericho then transitioned to the Walls of Jericho, with Punk gasping for air center-ring. Punk then crawled across the ring toward the bottom rope, but Jericho yanked him back to center-ring. Punk suddenly countered into a small package, which Jericho reversed. Suddenly, Punk floated over Jericho into the Vice. But, Jericho yanked Punk's hair into a roll-up, which Punk countered by re-establishing the Vice. Jericho fought out with knees and kicks to the back of the head, then he floated over Punk into a submission attempt, only to have Punk block. Amazing counter/reversal sequence. Punk then broke the leverage and slapped on the Vice again. More knees from Jericho. Punk pulled his head away, though, and Jericho had no more escape routes. Jericho fought the hold as the crowd roared, sensing the end. Jericho then tapped out, giving Punk the submission win.

WINNER: Punk via submission at 22:21. Up-and-down match until one of the better match finishes you'll see with some great counters, reversals, and physical feats of strength on the mat. The match started off as a case of mis-matched expectations with the crowd expecting a straight-up, one-on-one classic, but it started out as an extended TV match focusing on the pre-match storyline. As a credit to them, Punk and Jericho managed to turn it into a great one-on-one with a very strong final five minutes. (***1/2)

Punk's celebration was brief after the match, then Cole and Lawler slowed things down before Brodus Clay's music hit. Clay stopped the music on-stage and asked the crowd to pull out their phones and call their mommas. They cut to a shot of a guy innocently-enough on the phone mouthing a conservation. Clay then hopped on his phone and called his momma. Clay hung up, then introduced Momma Clay. Out came a woman in a sundress who danced in front of Clay. Suddenly, about 15 women dressed like Clay's momma came out behind Clay and Co. to do a dance number on-stage. Clay signed off for Momma Clay and the Bridge Club as his music played them out.

Announcers: After a plug for Rock's G.I. 2 movie, Cole and Lawler set the stage for the main event they've been waiting one full year for...Rock vs. Cena. Cue up clips from the Rock-Cena documentary to serve as the introductory video package.

Arena: Back live, Justin Roberts introduced Sean "Diddy" Combs for a surprise appearance. Combs shouted out to the fans before introducing Machine Gun Kelly to perform John Cena's theme music. MGK and his band assembled on-stage, then sang the "Invincible" song that's been playing for months on WWE TV promoting Rock-Cena. MGK paused to say this is more than a wrestling match, but about one of the biggest egos getting beat by an underdog, John Cena. The crowd oohed the trash-talk for Cena.

Cue up John Cena's theme music. Cena's new Boston Celtics green color scheme flashed in the arena and on the videoboard before Cena stormed the stage, soaking up the moment, and noting they have people sitting behind the scoreboard. Cena collected himself on-stage, saluted the booing crowd, then ran to the ring, and slid into the ring. Cena leaned on the top rope and mouthed to someone, "They love me here," before smirking. Cena then left the ring to greet Arnold Skaaland's widow, who he accompanied to the Hall of Fame last night. Back in the ring, Cena ran the ropes and posed in the ring. Cena kept bouncing around in the ring as the crowd anticipated Rock.

Out next on-stage was Flo Rida to perform Rock's theme songs for the evening. Flo, sporting a gold microphone stand, performed with his dancers before pyro shot off. Flo's group then transitioned to the "Wild Ones" song. After they completed the two-song set, If You Smell hit to a big reaction and The Rock strutted out on-stage in his trademark Brahma Bull trunks. Rock walked to one side of the giant stage and played to the crowd, then walked across the stage to the other side of the stage. Rock bounced up and down, ready to fight. Rock then returned to the center of the stage, collected himself, and marched down the ramp toward the ring to a strong reaction. Rock reached the ring and posed on the top turnbuckle to applause, soaking up the crowd reaction a la Rock-Hogan at WrestleMania 18. Rock then turned to face Cena, who was receiving instructions from the referee. In the ring, Rock walked past Cena and posed on the opposite turnbuckle.

Once everyone was assembled in the ring, Justin Roberts handled formal ring intros. Cena was loudly booed by the vocal males. Rock was loudly cheered by the vocal males and everyone else. Before the bell sounded, they came face-to-face and surveyed the arena, soaking up the atmosphere and acknowledging the situation. Cena sold being unflustered and prepared. The crowd was hot as the two men backed away for the bell to sound to officially begin the match.

8 -- THE ROCK vs. JOHN CENA

Once the bell sounded, the crowd roared for the big fight of the evening. The two men danced around the ring before locking up center-ring. Cena won the exchange by shoving Rock away to the corner, stunning Rock. The crowd responded with a Cena Sucks chant. They locked up again and Rock shoved Cena to the corner. "Whatcha gonna do?" Rock asked Cena. Rock then won the next exchange before scaring Cena with a two count on a quick small package. Next, they did a drop down, leap frog, duck-the-clothesline sequence, which was won by Cena, who slapped on a headlock to slow down the pace.

Rock suddenly popped Cena with a right hand to the jaw, catching Cena off-guard. Cena charged Rock, who teased a submission, but Cena fought him off and slipped to the outside to recover. Back in the ring, Cena targeted Rock's mid-section with a kick and shoulder tackles. Cena then ran over Rock with a clothesline, and Rock kicked out at one. Cena resumed his focus on Rock's mid-section, targeting the injured area. Cena then pulled down the top rope and Rock went flying to the outside. On the floor, Cena dropped Rock neck-first across the guardrail, sending Rock reeling. Cena followed with a slam onto the announce table, targeting the ribs. Cena slipped into the ring, then returned to the outside and threw Rock back inside the ring for a two count on a pin attempt.

Cena, who is usually on the defensive for his big matches, continued the attack on Rock, who sold the ribs as Cena landed blows and strikes, followed by a belly-to-belly suplex for a two count. Suddenly, Rock fired off a right hand, but Cena cut him off and locked in a bearhug. Rock eventually recovered inside the hold and kicked Cena in the gut to deliver a DDT for a two count. The two men then came to their feet and started trading big right hand bombs, leading to Rock flying off the ropes with a clothesline. Rock with a spinebuster, then he set up Cena for the People's Elbow, but Cena suddenly countered with an STF tease. Rock escaped, then Cena did his Five Knuckle Shuffle set-up. Cena wanted the Shuffle, and he connected, no counter. Cena, with a cut on his cheek, then stalked Rock for the Attitude Adjustment, but Rock slipped out. Double clothesline put both men on the mat.

Rock and Cena reset at 13:00 by coming to their feet and trading right hand bombs again. Cena was more powerful, rocking Rock, who suddenly came back with right hands. He wanted the trademark spit-on-the-hand-and-slap, but Cena was quick to duck, hoist up Rock, hit the AA, and instantly make a cover, but Rock kicked out just in time, popping the crowd. Big spot. The crowd recovered, then started a dueling chant. Suddenly, Rock nailed Rock Bottom center-ring. Rock made a cover, but Cena kicked out. The crowd popped briefly, then simultaneously came down to their seats.

The match resumed in the corner with Rock landing elbows and strikes in the corner. Rock, more confident after the Rock Bottom, wanted a corner move, but Cena countered with a sidewalk slam for a two count. Cena popped up and surveyed his next move before approaching the top turnbuckle. Cena wanted the top-rope guillotine drop, and he connected. Cena quickly made a cover, but Rock kicked out again.

They reset at 18:00 with Rock applying the Sharpshooter center-ring. Cena crawled across the ring toward the ropes, then reached out and grabbed the bottom rope. Rock followed up with rapid-fire right hand strikes to the head. Rock then tried the Sharpshooter again and Cena cried out in agony. Cena made it the bottom rope again, though. They were 15 minutes away from the top of the hour and seemingly not close to a finish as Rock inflicted further punishment on the outside by throwing Cena into the ring steps. The two men then returned to the ring with Cena scoring with a sunset flip into the STF in one swift move. Rock fought the hold as Lawler noted Rock can't make movies with a broken leg. Rock teased reaching the ropes, so Cena dragged him back to the middle of the ring to re-apply the STF. Rock started to fade, and closed his eyes. The ref checked Rock's hand a few times, then raised Rock's arm once. And, twice. Rock's hand nearly hit the mat on the third arm drop, but Rock held it up high, popping the crowd. Rock then got a burst of energy to reach the bottom rope for a break. Nice, dramatic sequence.

They reset at 24:00 with Cena selling his back after keeping the hold applied for so long. Cena was the first man up and he walked right into a Samoan Drop. Rock, exhausted, couldn't make a cover, though, and both men sold on the mat. At 25:00, they reached their feet and started trading bombs again. Cena got fired up and landed consecutive blows. Rock teased Rock Bottom, Cena teased the AA, and Rock delivered a spinebuster. Rock then stood over Cena to set up for and deliver the People's Elbow. Cole noted it's how he beat Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, and perhaps Cena, but Cena kicked out of the elbow. Rock recovered and approached Cena, who countered with a quick small package for a two count.

The two men came to their feet at 27:15 and Cena catapulted Rock into the corner before rolling up Cena for a two count. Both men sold on the mat, then Cena sat up and looked down at Rock before gingerly helping him up to his feet. Cena drove Rock into the corner, then hoisted him up to the top turnbuckle. Suddenly, Rock delivered right hand strikes to the mid-section that decked Cena. Rock, alone on top, climbed up to the top turnbuckle and came flying off the top with a flying body splash, but Cena rolled through and powered Rock into AA position. Cena delivered it center-ring. Cena made the cover, but Rock kicked out just in time. Big pop for the nearfall. Cena laughed and told the ref he knows he got him.

Cena then stood up, contemplated his next movie, smirked to the crowd, and did Rock's People's Elbow hand motion to boos before setting up for the Elbow. As Cena hopped over Rock, Rock popped up in the background and caught Cena with the Rock Bottom. Rock made the cover and it was good for the win. The crowd exploded in unison.

Post-match: Cena rolled out of the ring as Cole covered for Cena, saying he doesn't think there was a loser tonight. Cole said Cena was dominant tonight. In the ring, Rock posed and sold emotion as he celebrated in front of the Miami crowd. The crowd continued to cheer as Rock posed in the ring. Cena was shown sitting on the entrance ramp, a mix of being stunned and disbelieving. Cole wrapped up the show as Rock posed in the corner turnbuckle three minutes before the top of the hour.

WINNER: Rock at 30:34, 18 seconds shorter than Taker-Hunter, with 18 seconds being the length of the opening match. Well worth the year-long hype with an outstanding performance from both men. It's difficult to compare to Taker-Hunter, as they were two different matches, but this matched the effort, story, and finish. Cena not winning was surprising, but WWE, Rock, and Cena played the psychological games ahead of time making it seem like Cena would win. But, now, Cena can take a different route coming out of Mania when his cockiness got the best of him. (****)

Also of note, no Brock Lesnar. If it's going to happen, it looks like a potential return on Raw tomorrow night. Or, Lesnar showed up in Miami to create buzz to get additional PPV buys to possibly see Lesnar.

***

Follow PWTorch Staff & Writers live-tweeting during WrestleMania at Twitter.com/PWTorch/torch-staff .

Join PWTorch assistant editor James Caldwell & PWTorch columnist Greg Parks (@GregMParks) for a post-PPV PWTorch Livecast at 11:30 p.m. EST on BlogTalkRadio.com taking your phone calls on the event.

We welcome your 0-10 score and comments on this show for a "WWE PPV Reax" feature in the Torch Feedback section of PWTorch.com. To contribute your thoughts on the PPV, click here or email us at pwtorch@gmail.com.


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