Counting down the greatest WrestleManias of all-time: WrestleMania 24 (#5) | WWE
Centered on a series of well-constructed storylines, Wrestlemania 24 was a monumental success that delivered from a creative standpoint and also performed well at the box office. Taking place at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, now the Camping World Stadium, the 24th installment of WWE’s marquee showpiece was a night when the company got almost everything right from a booking perspective.
Dominated by two high profile world title matches, Wrestlemania 24 had enough name value in those two matches to draw interest, but it was the attention afforded to performers down the card that ensured that this show remained relevant from the opening match until the finishing sequence. Despite matches pitting Edge against the Undertaker, and a triple threat contest starring John Cena, HHH, and Randy Orton, a vast amount of excitement surrounded the bout between Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. Especially with the latter only one defeat away from being forced to retire. With the two icons occupying a spot in the middle of the card, the veterans went at it like they were the only two wrestlers in Florida who mattered.
Although Michaels’ Mania catalog contains better products than what transpired on this night, the emotion and drama that dominated the finish brought a fitting conclusion to Flair’s time in WWE as an in-ring performer. At the mercy of “The Heartbreak Kid”, Flair pleaded with Michaels to finish the match and with anguish etched all over his face, the Texan veteran stared sadly at his wounded idol before mouthing “I’m sorry. I love you.” A sickening Sweet Chin Music followed before Michaels quickly left the ring to let the finished Flair bask in the adulation afforded to him from the capacity crowd. “Nature Boy” would resurface in other federations in the subsequent years, but as a WWE star, this was his last goodbye.
Also impressing down the order were Big Show and Floyd Mayweather. The boxing legend was enjoying a short-lived retirement after spending 2007 disposing of Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and the opportunity to bolster his bank balance the following year was too good an opportunity to turn down. Guided brilliantly by the experienced giant, Mayweather looked a natural as he desperately avoided countless attacks from his opponent. After nailing Show with multiple chair shots, Mayweather attached a set of brass knuckles to his already deadly fist and finished Big Show with a right hand. With numerous celebrity involvements watering down proceedings in recent times, Mayweather’s outing on WWE television was a job well done.
Elsewhere on the card, John Bradshaw Layfield and Finlay left everything in the ring as they pelted each other with various weapons in a well-received Belfast Brawl that was won by the brash Texan. The birth of CM Punk’s first main event push took place as the former independent darling, and future UFC competitor, won a stunning Money in the Bank ladder match to earn a world title shot whenever he desired one. Enough quality was on display in the evening’s preliminaries so it was vital that the two matches with the ultimate honors on the line at least matched what had occurred before them. Unfortunately, only one of them could.
Cena, Orton, and HHH, three wrestlers who know each other ridiculously well, could not find enough chemistry to grant themselves the Wrestlemania match that all three were more than capable of obtaining. Messy in parts, the three tried diligently to win the crowd over with allegiances being teased and a couple of near pinfalls, but the overall quality on offer throughout the show was absent in this anticipated matchup. Luckily for viewers, Edge and The Undertaker were about to surpass everyone’s efforts.
A long-winding feud dating back to almost a year earlier when Edge had cashed in his MITB briefcase against The Undertaker, “The Rated R Superstar” always seemed to find a way to stay one step ahead of the man from Death Valley and that persuaded some that Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania, then standing at 15-0, was in severe jeopardy. After a slow start to the match, the pair came alive in the second half and what took place was a breathtaking ending that had fans on the edge of their seats. Undertaker, the master of the near fall, gave the impression on several instances that his run at Mania was up, but when it seemed like he had nothing to offer, he locked the shattered Edge into his Hell’s Gate submission to leave Wrestlemania as a champion for the second year running.
Wrestlemania 24 provided enough action and satisfaction to rightfully earn its place as one of the finest Wrestlemania’s ever. A near-perfect main event between Edge and The Undertaker was the ideal finale to a night that had included Mayweather’s breathtaking cameo, the end of Ric Flair, and the final Wrestlemania win for Michaels who would himself hit the exit door two years later at Wrestlemania 26. Not the greatest Wrestlemania of all time, but a damn great effort from all involved.