It's never too early to start looking forward to the biggest WWE event of the year, and with Survivor Series less than a week away and The Undertaker making a return, it won't be long before WWE begins shaping the card for the 33rd edition of WrestleMania.
We're now in Week 2 of 20 Weeks of WrestleMania. Fox Sports will rewatch and recap a different WrestleMania each Monday in the buildup to the Showcase of the Immortals - starting with WrestleMania X8 last week.
Each week's selection will come from a different era WWE history. Up next: Once in a lifetime at WrestleMania XXVIII
The venue: Miami's Sun Life Stadium
WrestleMania XXVIII was just the fourth to be held outdoors, and the stage looked spectacular. The announced attendance was 78,363, and there were even fans sitting behind the giant WrestleMania logo in the upper deck.
Lilian Garcia performs America The Beautiful
Longtime ring announcer Lilian Garcia is also an incredible singer who regularly performed the national anthem at events. For WrestleMania XXVIII, she delivered a stunning (and extended) rendition of America The Beautiful. While Garcia has since left the WWE to take care of her ailing father, it'd be a great to see WWE bring her back to sing once again at a major pay-per-view.
Opening match: Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship
Daniel Bryan was accompanied to the ring by AJ Lee, who was his “girlfriend” at the time. After referee Charles Robinson signaled for the match to begin, Bryan motioned for Sheamus to wait, and then received a good luck kiss from AJ Lee on the apron.
Sheamus wins in 18 seconds
Sheamus took advantage by hitting Bryan with a Brogue Kick, and won the match in just 18 seconds. A few weeks later, Bryan blew up on AJ Lee during an episode of SmackDown, telling her he wished she was never born.
As a match, though, Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan was a huge wasted opportunity on the card, but Bryan’s embarrassing outing made his eventual triumph in New Orleans two years later even sweeter. Fans, obviously disappointed with the outcome, chanted Daniel Bryan’s name at the beginning of the next match of the night.
Match 2: Kane vs. Randy Orton
Look at Kane's mask!
The two veterans had on a slow and deliberate fight that led some fans in the crowd - who were obviously still disappointed over the opener - to chant "boring." There was nothing wrong with Kane vs. Orton - but it wasn't a performance that would have been out of the ordinary on an average episode of SmackDown.
If you're going to give two guys ten minutes of ring time, it should probably be the ones competing for the World Heavyweight title. Kane eventually won with a chokeslam from off the second rope.
Mick Foley and Santino star in a Deadliest Catch promo
This ended with a grown man elbow dropping crab legs.
Match 3: Cody Rhodes vs. The Big Show for the Intercontinental Championship
Cody Rhodes put his Intercontinental title on the line against The Big Show, who he had harrassed as a "choker" on the WrestleMania stage leading into the match.
The Big Show gets his WrestleMania moment
Surprisingly, The Big Show had never won a singles match at WrestleMania before defeating Rhodes, and was just 3-8 overall at the WWE's... biggest show. He broke down in the ring after being presented with the Intercontinental title, and he shared an emotional embrace with his wife at ringside before walking back up the ramp. It was an incredible moment to watch, especially since The Big Show has since become more of a role player in the grand scheme of WWE.
Match 4: Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres vs. Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos
This match was preceded by a promo that is the antithesis of the WWE's recent Women's Revolution, which focused on how glamorous the women of the division were rather than on their ability in the ring. To be fair, Beth Phoenix and Kelly Kelly kept this match from being a total waste, and Maria Menounos did more actual wrestling than most celebrity participants.
Match 5: End of an Era
Triple H and The Undertaker put on a classic match at WrestleMania the year before, and The Undertaker was unable to leave the ring under his own power after taking an astonishing amount of punishment from The Game. Their rematch was arguably the best Hell In a Cell match of all time, and WWE brought back Jim Ross to call the action.
Triple H's entrance through a giant spiked skull
The Undertaker took a full three minutes to enter the ring after walking onto the stage
The atmosphere inside Sun Life Stadium was electric, and it's clear that many in attendance considered this to be the real main event of the evening (as any Undertaker match should, really). Shawn Michaels served as the special official, and the trio of WWE stars told an emotional story inside the cage that stretched a full half-hour (on a card that featured two 30-minute matches, along with Rock-Cena).
The Undertaker controlled the opening minutes of the match, slowly tossing Triple H into every corner of the cage outside the ring, but The Game turned the tide with the aid of multiple steel chairs and his signature sledgehammer.
Triple H unloaded a flurry of chair shots to the back of The Undertaker that left him badly bruised, while Shawn Michaels simply watched with the same expression with most of the fans in attendance. Michaels pleaded with Triple H to end his punishment and simply pin The Undertaker, but the Deadman refused to give up.
Apparently annoyed with Michaels telling him to give up and save himself from Triple H's onslaught, The Undertaker locked in Hells Gate on the referee, then did the same on Triple H, temporarily knocking him out. Referee Charles Robinson ran down the ramp and let himself into the Cell with Michaels incapacitated, but after Triple H kicked out following a chokeslam, The Undertaker chokeslammed Robinson in response.
A revived Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on The Undertaker, who turned directly into a Pedigree from Triple H, but he miraculously kicked out of the two finishers and proceeded to decimate Triple H with a brutal series of chair shots.
Triple H survived his first Tombstone Piledriver, but The Undertaker eventually improved his WrestleMania record to an even 20-0, and together with Michaels helped drag a lifeless Helmsley out of the ring in a showing of respect. Go rewatch this match right now.
Match 6: Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy for control of both SmackDown and Raw
The Raw team of Mark Henry, David Otunga, The Miz, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler faced the SmackDown team of Booker T, Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder and The Great Khali, with the respective general manager of the winning team gaining control of both Raw and SmackDown. John Laurinaitis' squad prevailed in what was a glorified weekly TV-caliber match, that served as a “give as many people a WrestleMania moment as possible” bout. Any match that followed Taker-HHH was going to flop here, though.
Match 7: Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk for the WWE Championship
CM Punk revealed after his WWE exit that he was highly disappointed he never got to main event a WrestleMania in his career, and while it makes sense that the "Once in a Lifetime" match between two generational stars would go on last in Miami, Punk and Jericho delivered a far better wrestling match.
The crowd seemed out of it for the opening 10 minutes or so of what was a slow-moving match, but Jericho and Punk lured in the audience over time. In a crazy spot you might end up seeing AJ Styles use to hit the Styles Clash, Chris Jericho reversed a Punk hurricanrana off the top rope into the Walls of Jericho, but Punk refused to tap. Punk eventually retained his title by forcing Jericho to tap with the Anaconda Vise.
This was near the midpoint of CM Punk's modern-record 434-day reign as the WWE World Champion, which ended the following year at Royal Rumble at the hands of The Rock.
Pre-main event break: Brodus Clay and the Funkadactyls
In another time-filler between mega-matches, Brodus Clay (along with former WWE star Cameron and current SmackDown star Naomi) whipped out his cell phone and called his momma, encouraging everyone in the crowd to do the same.
Brodus Clay's mom shows off her dance moves
The Bridge Club. Now, then, forever.
Match 8: Once in a Lifetime (Part 1)
Looking back years later, "Once In a Lifetime" has lost the weight it carried at the time given that John Cena and The Rock had a rematch the following year at WrestleMania 29, but this is still the type of WrestleMania main event Vince McMahon must dream of: Two defining stars of their respective generations facing off in their prime physical condition. The Rock was involved in the same type of match a decade earlier against Hulk Hogan (and amazingly enough, he could still fit the bill as one of the few remaining Attitude Era stars that could main event WrestleMania against the current roster's best).
Each star received their own personal live music performance prior to their entrance, which was a nice touch. MGK performed Invincible before Cena arrived in the ring, while Flo Rida (who shoved Heath Slater into a wall earlier into the show) performed Good Feeling and Wild Ones. The pop once The Rock's music hit in his hometown was likely the loudest of the night.
Look at how big The Rock is
The crowd was incredibly loud throughout and carried this match, but it wasn't exactly one to remember. John Cena quickly took control and began physically punishing The Rock, who did his best to look depleted and favored his ribs. This would be fine if John Cena were facing CM Punk, but the 2012 version of The Rock was an absolute monster. The roles should have been reversed, if anything.
The Rock passes out to Cena's STF
John Cena's STF is a polarizing submission. It can potentially look great, but Cena never really applied pressure to The Rock's neck and the cameras never showed The Rock's contorted legs, so seeing a WWE legend literally pass out on the mat was a tad bit unbelievable.
Cena had The Rock flat on his back in the middle of the ring, but when he attempted to hit The People's Elbow on The People's Champ, The Rock popped up and countered with a Rock Bottom to end the match. It was only shown for a second, but a WWE cameraperson captured this incredible shot of a defeated Cena sitting on the ramp.
As a spectacle, Rock vs. Cena delivered... but this was a 30-minute match that was outclassed by two other on the card, and both Rock and Cena have had better performances in other years. It wasn't a bad main event, but it likely won't be remembered among the best WrestleMania moments of all time in 20 years.