Wrestlemania smacks down on Georgia Dome

The greatest spectacle in professional wrestling made its way to Atlanta for the first time as WrestleMania XXVII, the latest rendition of the wildly successful annual event produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), took place at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, April 3. The pay-per-view event did have its slow moments, but by and large it delivered on its promise as an action-packed, star-studded four-hour thrill ride.

WrestleMania XXVII featured nine matches, including traditional singles matches, tag-team bouts and three championship fights for various titles. The interior of the Dome was overhauled to set up for the event, with a ring set up in the middle of the arena, a massive stage in the backdrop for wrestler introductions and several thousand floor seats added to make up for the seats blocked off by the stage. The result was that 71,617 people were in attendance, a record for an event staged at the Georgia Dome.

One of the three formal title contests, the lumberjack match between Shaymus and Daniel Bryan for the United States Championship, was the undercard for the event and took place while fans were still filing in.

The bout did not last long before the 20 lumberjacks (wrestlers outside the ring tasked with making sure the wrestlers in the ring stay there) were invited to join in the action.

The result was a chaotic 22-person battle royal that served its purpose, providing an amusing appetizer before the main event as the Great Khali—who stands at 7-foot-1 and 420-pounds—took home the victory as the last wrestler remaining in the ring.

Despite the star-heavy cast of WrestleMania XXVII, nobody drew a more powerful reaction from the crowd than the man who was guest host for the evening: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the wrestling legend-turned-movie star who was making his first significant appearance at a major WWE event since 2004. The Rock was true to his usual form, frequently speaking in the third person and making constant references to “the people,” and the crowd loved it.

For all the stereotypes that may exist about pro wrestling fans, during that opening sequence they produced a truly awesome moment. Consider, for a moment, the trouble that fans at just about any sporting event often have in coordinating even the simplest of chants.

Now consider that at one point, prompted by the Rock, the entire arena—virtually every one of the 71,617 people in the Georgia Dome—shouted the Rock’s catch phrase in absolutely perfect unison: “Can you smell what the Rock is cookin’?” It was, to say the least, impressive.

The Rock wrapped things up after a few minutes, and WrestleMania XXVII formally got underway with Alberto Del Rio facing Edge in the opening match. Here, the ridiculous, over-the-top entrances that are so emblematic of pro wrestling emerged in full force as Del Rio rode onto the stage in his black Rolls-Royce and Edge strolled in to an introductory video seemingly designed to cause epileptic seizures.

The match itself saw Edge celebrate his easy win by using a crowbar to scratch, smash and otherwise destroy Del Rio’s car. While an exhausted Del Rio cut a pitiful figure as he watched helplessly, the crowd had no sympathy, cheering every time Edge struck the car.

Of the matches that followed, some were excellent in all respects. The match immediately after Edge-Del Rio featured Cody Rhodes, a native of Marietta, Ga., facing Rey Mysterio in a singles match. It was the first contest between the two since Mysterio used his own knee brace to smash Rhodes’ nose during WWE Smackdown in Jan., and the mutual hatred sparked an action-packed match that maintained a fast pace from start to finish, keeping the crowd roaring with every hit until Rhodes finally pinned Mysterio for the victory.

Other matches suffered for various reasons. The match between announcer Michael Cole and newly inducted WWE Hall-of-Famer Jerry Lawler was underwhelming, mostly because Cole proved to have no wrestling abilities whatsoever, and his attempts to rile up the crowd simply proved more annoying than anything else.

However, the presence of the legendary “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the guest referee for Cole-Lawler made up for it. Austin helped Lawler beat up Cole, and the two proceeded to open beer cans and drink in the middle of the ring, to general amusement.

Some moments were simply bizarre, but generally in an amusing sense. In the ring, an eight-person tag-team match midway through the event lasted just over one minute and was little more than a chance for the Big Show, a 7-foot, 485-pound behemoth, to bash a few opponents around.

Various celebrities, including Snoop Dogg and Pee Wee Herman, made brief cameos during video clips shown in between matches. As per WrestleMania tradition, a celebrity also took part in an actual match when Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, of Jersey Shore fame, fought in a three-on-three tag team match.

Snooki was soundly booed when she walked to the ring, but about two minutes into the match, she surprised everyone by performing a double backflip and slamming her opponent Michelle McCool into the turnbuckle. Snooki quickly pinned for the victory amid stunned silence.

Grading the no-holds-barred contest between Triple H and the Undertaker and the WWE Championship match between John Cena and the Miz depends on one’s familiarity with the world of pro wrestling.

The entrances of Triple H and the Undertaker were both excellent—Triple H’s introduction to the tune of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was particularly cool—but the match featured multiple long stretches of inactivity where both wrestlers were lying on the mat, unable to get up and fight due to both exhaustion and injury.

To the diehard fan, it was a tense and exciting contest as two longtime WWE superstars beat each other senseless while the Undertaker’s 18-match WrestleMania win streak hung in the balance. To the casual fan, though, the several-minute periods between failed pin attempts were frustrating and drained the excitement from the match. Ultimately, the Undertaker forced Triple H to tap out, extending his historic WrestleMania win streak to 19.

The WWE Championship match between John Cena and the Miz was the main event, with the polarizing Cena facing the defending WWE champion in the final match of the night. This was, however, the Rock’s moment to shine. The Rock ultimately helped the Miz to defeat Cena and defend his title, and he began to walk away before pausing. A moment later, the Rock dove into the ring, beat up the Miz senselessly for a minute, and then executed his signature finisher—The People’s Elbow—to end the match and conclude WrestleMania XXVII.

Satisfying as it was to see the Rock drop his most famous move at a WWE event for the first time in years, there was a definite sense of letdown; the hope was that Austin, a longtime enemy of the Rock, would make an appearance in the final moments of the event.

WrestleMania XXVII left some things to be desired, but all in all it turned out to be exactly what was advertised. As the Rock himself put it while addressing the crowd early on, an event intended to produce “heart-stopping, elbow-chopping, electrifying action” did just that for the majority of the four hours it lasted.

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