Hello loyal readers and welcome back for yet another WrestleMania countdown article. Yes, spring is in the air, the snow has melted away, birds are singing, and the internet is full of articles counting down every kind of WrestleMania list imaginable. Best matches, worst matches, top moments, etc. Well, never being one to miss getting on the bandwagon, I have compiled my own list.
Every year there are those special matches that you just can’t wait to see at WrestleMania. Maybe it’s the culmination of a feud that has been simmering for months or maybe a long gone star has returned to the spotlight. Of maybe there is even a historic first ever clash between two icons of the sport. Whatever the situation, there is always immense hype surrounding the biggest event of the year. But sometimes the moment doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Sometimes the wrestlers can’t deliver on the expectations of the fans. Here are the top five worst WrestleMania moments that had a lot of potential, but for one reason or another missed the mark, in my opinion.
This was it. The moment wrestling fans had waited over ten years to see. Bret Hart back in a WWE ring. And not only in the ring, but taking on the man that had basically ruined his life. Bret would finally make Vince pay for the “Montreal Screw Job”. Any even though Bret did get the win, it somehow felt empty to me. It just didn’t feel like McMahon suffered enough for all the pain he caused Bret.
And there was also this little devil in my ear wondering if Vince would have the stones to screw Bret again. Even though everyone wanted to see Bret come out on top, a small part of me was hoping for some kind of double cross again. Now that would have been a moment.
I know what you’re thinking, “Who was looking forward to this match”. Well even though these two have fought about 100 times over the years now, this match actually had some decent build up to it. In the months leading up to the match, Orton had attacked both Vince and Shane McMahon, Triple H’s father-in-law and brother-in-law. While that alone wasn’t enough to generate enough heat, when he RKO’d Hunter’s wife Stephanie and then kissed her in the ring, which sent “The Game” over the edge. This was a personal feud along the lines of Savage & Flair at WM VIII. But the crowd had seen this match up too many times before. And following an epic battle between HBK vs. The Undertaker, this match never stood a chance. This just ended up being another routine match for these two, and a lost opportunity for us.
This had so many possibilities to it. The unstoppable champion Yokozuna against Lex Luger, with the winner to face the former champion Bret Hart. Back when there was only one World title, a double main event title match was huge. Throw in the match up of Bret having to face Owen also and this had the chance to be really special. The night started off great with a true classic between the Hart brothers. Then Luger finally gets another chance at the title, against the monster he body slammed ten months before. The set up was there for a stirring win and then a battle between the two men who eliminated each other together at the Royal Rumble. Instead we get a screw job finish by Mr. Perfect that was intended to start a feud that never happened. The match between Yokozuna and Hart was okay, the image of Bret celebrating and Owen fuming is classic. But since this was such a unique scenario, a DQ win for Yokozuna over Luger didn’t ring true for me.
Talk about wasted potential. One year after the epic WM III main event, the WWF needed to up the ante. What better than a tournament to crown a new champion where anything could happen. And it did, just not in a good way. Rick Rude and Jake Roberts boring the fans for 15 minutes and ending in a time limit draw. The long awaited rematch between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant ends in a double DQ. The One Man Gang gets a bye to the semi-finals. What kind of tournament is this? The 1995 King of the Ring bookers must have watched this tape the night before the show (Mabel vs. Savio Vega in the finals…UGH). The end result, with Macho Man winning against Ted Dibiase was a nice touch. But the ends couldn’t justify the means in this case.
1 – WrestleMania XX – Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar
Talk about an all time stinker. Here was a matchup of two monsters that turned out to be a matchup of two kittens. Say what you will about Goldberg, but I found him damn entertaining in WCW. I loved that he would just come to the ring and steamroll people. And even though he looked like Stone Cold I never considered him a rip-off because there styles were so different. And Brock Lesnar could actually wrestle in addition to being a total beast. Unfortunately for both men, word leaked out that this was the last match for both in the WWE. The crowd was against them from the start.
Throw in the fact that neither was all that interested in getting hurt in their final match and this turned into a glorified pillow fight. The two could have done some epic damage to each other but instead wound up getting booed out of the arena. The only saving grace was the presence of Austin as the referee. But not even Stone Cold could save this all time turkey.
So there you have it. Do you have any WrestleMania moments that didn’t quite meet your expectations? Or maybe you feel I missed the mark on one of my selections? Leave me a comment; I would love to know what you think.
Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.
-Thanks to a slickly produced “WrestleMania Goes Hollywood” campaign, which presented itself with faux movie trailers featuring WWE talents, this was a show that was looked forward to by many, myself included. And so on April 3, 2005, WrestleMania XXI came to us from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.
-The commentary teams are the same for the third year in a row, although there are two inter-brand matches, with Michael Cole and Tazz of Smackdown covering one and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler of Raw covering the other. That’s why interbrand stuff annoys me the rest of the year: it feels like it means more come WrestleMania time. And really, how many times can you hear Cole or JR say “Hey wait a minute, he’s not on this show; what is he DOING here?” without ruining the freshness of the invasion? If there’s ever a company that can botch invasions, it’s WWE.
-Lillian Garcia performs America the Beautiful before the action starts, and beautiful it is. The song was pretty fetching as well. The set for the event may be the best WrestleMania set-up ever, with a giant marquee next to the titan tron to advertise the match that’s next, and a red carpet leading to the ring. It’s like a Hollywood premiere, without the Rivers women asking dumb questions. Though Melissa asking Giant Gonzalez “WHO YA WEAR-ING?” would be a highlight to say the least.
-The final movie trailer airs to open the show, with Steve Austin playing Gladiator. They couldn’t get Bischoff to play Commodus?
-Quick shout out to reader Cole Yeager, who I neglected to mention in my WrestleMania XX rant, even though he appeared on camera and I promised him a mention. So Cole, here ya go brother. Thanks for the support.
-Also of note, before the show, Booker T won a 28 man battle royal as consolation for not giving him an actual PPV match. I’m sure whoever explained to him that he’d been bumped for semi-known sumo wrestler had their work cut out for him.
-Up first, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero square off, even though they’re the reigning WWE Tag Team Champions. That’s promising. “We have no teams on the horizon worth facing you, so you’ll just face each other”. That’s only slightly more promising than World Tag Team Champions William Regal and Tajiri being relegated to the pre-show battle royal. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Jim Cornette nuts. That, and things that are trendy.
-The two begin, as one would suspect, with their usual cirque de soilei routine, which the highlight of it is Rey landing a sunset flip out of a mercy lock, and Eddie rolling through to do a slingshot which sends Rey to the outside. This leads to a cat and mouse chase where Rey tries to lure Eddie into a 619, but Guerrero avoids it. About what you’d expect from these two.
-The match keeps progressing swimmingly, but on at least two occasions, the momentum is halted when Rey’s mask, which is slitted apart in the back for style reasons, keeps coming loose, prompting him to re-adjust it and slightly break character. After Guerrero spent their entire Halloween Havoc match trying to rip it off, it’s weird to see him slow down to let Rey fix it. Weird indeed.
-Guerrero slows it down with an STF and a hammerlock, and was probably telling Rey “If you can’t keep your mask on straight, you’ll never be a World Champion like me!” and Rey’s probably all “Don’t worry, I’ll be a World Champion BECAUSE of you”. I’m sure Guerrero didn’t think twice about that, and it’s probably for the best. By the way, the joke was not meant to mock death, but rather exploitation, which deserves mockery. Especially in this case.
-After countering the three amigos with a rana, Rey tries the 619, but Guerrero counters with a tilt a whirl backbreaker. I think that was Eddie’s best move, personally.
-Rey manages to hit the 619 for real, but the Dime Drop goes badly as Eddie lands a powerbomb for 2. Rey finally comes back and gets a twirling rana and double leg hook for the win. Awkward moments aside, this was a tremendous way to open the show, especially in front of a crowd that’s generally known for being quiet. The two shake hands afterward, but they’d eventually feud through the summer. Guerrero, of course, passed away just seven months later, and is definitely missed by all. As it is, it’s a damn good final WrestleMania match for him.
-Meanwhile, HHH and Ric Flair confront JBL and his Cabinet of Orlando Jordan and The Bashams. If Evolution was the Lakers (wrought with egos, despite their star power) then the Cabinet would have to be the 1991 UNLV team that won the National Title, except they’re no pros. Sure, JBL may be Larry Johnson, but OJ and the Bashams are definitely Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, and George Ackles. For the six of you who get that joke, you’re welcome.
-Next up, the first ever Money in the Bank match, which was a Raw affair. As opposed to a raw affair, which is what Edge and Lita were having. Speaking of Edge, it’s him, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Christian, Kane, and IC Champion Shelton Benjamin vying for the Marsellus Wallace briefcase. I always thought it was funny, since in canon, Jericho’s the one who pitched the match concept to GM Eric Bischoff, and Bischoff approved. So that’s the first idea of Jericho’s that Bischoff went with since….well, ever.
-The workrate five try to fight Kane in the aisleway during his entrance, but all get beaten down briskly. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Wade Keller nuts.
-After a plancha parade, Kane is the first one to gain access to a ladder and he bashes on-comers, but Jericho lands a missle dropkick to take him down.
-Benoit’s the first climb attempter, but Kane clasps him for a chokeslam attempt, which is countered into a Crossface. Edge saves for some reason, so he gets a Crossface. Well, that’s Benoit’s MO; as he’s not going to stop until everybody stops moving. Ahem.
-Now for the first, and last, bit of MITB psychology, as Kane smashes Benoit’s arm inside a ladder, an injury that Benoit would sell until the end of the match. It’s those little things that add to the whole.
-Edge and Christian get Kane with a con-ladder-to. FIVE SECOND POSE TIME! Or not. Curses!
-Benjamin entrenches himself as a name value wrestler by hitting the T-Bone onto Edge off of the ladder. And everybody wonders why every three months, Edge suffers an injury that sidelines him through the forthcoming midterms.
-Shelton tops himself by running up a sloped ladder and leaping off to clothesline a climbing Jericho. Truly breathtaking, but you’ll notice Christian holding the ladder steady so that Benjamin didn’t slip. That’s not a criticism, that’s WWE making sure that the spot doesn’t fail by using subtle help techniques. That’s why Botchamania’s littered with complicated moves from TNA and ROH. Sure, WWE has their share, but at least they think outside the box and make things as fail-safe as possible. I like that.
-Tomko tries to aid Christian by doing the electric chair walk up the ladder, but Kane puts a stop to that. With that, Tomko gets more WrestleMania screen time than most. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Lance Storm nuts.
-It comes down to Benoit climbing after taking Kane out with a diving headbutt, but Edge runs in and bashes The Crippler’s arm with a chair, allowing himself to make the unimpeded climb up to claim the briefcase. I should also note that Edge’s heel heat was unlike any he’d had before, due to the Lita affair. Great match, and it proved that you can do a stuntshow without tables and chairs (well, except for the final spot). Edge, of course, would cash in his shot nine months later against John Cena to ingrain himself as a main eventer. Edge may even be the most complete wrestler ever, next to Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and Chris Jericho, in terms of having no flaws as a performer. Of course, that’s subjective.
-To waste a little time, Eugene comes out to just ramble, but is interrupted by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. Apparently, the mentally handicapped are frowned upon by wannabe foreigners, because they attack Eugene, and then lock him in a hold that reminds you to visit camelclutchblog.com for the lastest in sports, wrestling, and even American Idol!
-Then, just to pop the crowd, “Real American” hits to bring out the Hulkster, as the crowd goes NUCLEAR. Bad word choice, given the gimmicks on display, I know. Hogan clears the ring of the faux-reigners, and then poses alone. He’s not gonna help Eugene up and pose with him? Apparently, the mentally handicapped are frowned upon by real Americans, brother.
-Highlight package for Undertaker-Orton. It was only in the weeks before the event did Orton officially turn heel. Up until then, he was a plucky jock babyface who got to kiss Stacy Keibler regularly. In order to effectively turn someone heel, we’d have to want to boo him. Well, mission accomplished.
-Undertaker makes his entrance on a magical skateboard, which I hereby declare to be way cooler than his various motorcycles. Remember, kids: motorcycles are for people who never learned how to pedal.
-Orton tries to outwrestle Taker in the early going, and I’m amazed by Orton’s growth as a performer. He could never make it as a babyface, so they turned him heel. Once heel, the fans hated for reasons other than his character (his real life bad attitude, the fact that he was pushed too hard, etc), but they kept pushing him. Sure enough, he finally got over by….beating faces like John Cena and Triple H, who are also ones who don’t get the crowd reactions needed to match their giant pushes. So thus they turn Orton face by having him destroy Legacy and, thus, he becomes the babyface they wanted all along. See? The fans ARE breakable.
-Taker catches Orton with Old School in the early going. When someone hits one of their big moves early, it means one of two things: either there’s big stuff planned for later and they’re just getting this out of the way, or that the person who hit it doesn’t own a watch. There’s no middle ground.
-Every time Undertaker hits Snake Eyes while wearing a singlet and leather pants, why do I think of Kevin Nash at a doomer’s rave?
-Orton hammers with ten punches in the corner, but stops on nine to pose, and finds himself in a Last Ride attempt, because Orton, you know, had never seen Taker wrestle before. He drops out of the Ride and tries the RKO, but Taker shoves him off into the ref. Ruh-roh!
-The lack of a referee means Cowboy Bob Orton can run in and hit Taker with his old and possibly disgusting cast. Randy makes the cover and only gets two (Bob: “WHAT THE F—”). Taker lays out Bob again and tries a chokeslam on Randy, who counters with the RKO! We all figured that Orton had the streak ended, but Taker managed to kick out.
-Finally Orton tries a Tombstone, but Taker reverses into his own (really spiking Randy’s head) for the win to move to 13-0. Really good match…..when’s the last time WrestleMania opened with three good to great matches? This has to be some sort of record.
-Trish-Christy highlights. And the streak ends at 3.
-Trish Stratus is here to defend the WWE Women’s Title against Christy Hemme, who is seconded by an injured (and Pariahed) Lita. Let’s just say the match is four minutes of Christy doing the most basic of moves, only to have Trish repeatedly mock her, basically carry her, and then easily pin her with the Chick Kick. And to think, Christy carried that pillow fight with Carmella.
-WWE knew by year’s end that Christy was mostly useless and released her. Christy also is going on four years employment in TNA. There’s a lesson in there, and it’s that performers who aren’t ready shouldn’t be out there wrestling. This is the kind of stuff that drives a woman like Lacey Von Erich nuts.
-Highlights of Kurt Angle/Shawn Michaels air. Which was cooler: The Rockers reuniting for one night, complete with old music, or Angle and Sherri doing their version of Michaels’ theme for Kurt? I’m going with Kurt’s, because Shawn wore his HBK attire for the Rocker reunion and ruined the whole effect. Way to ruin the whole effect, Shawn!
-You’d be tempted to just slap a ***** rating on there automatically, but let’s watch it since, you know, it’s excellent. The now standard one-upsmanship wrestling sequence opens it. Anyone else a sucker for t he arm scissors-turned Backlund lift-turned reversal into a pin sequence that Michaels and Angle just executed? Or do you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about?
-After clotheslining Angle to the floor, Shawn begins to clean off a table. Why? I love it when a wrestler is about to use a commentary desk as a weapon and he meticulously removes the monitors because “Gosh, they may hurt someone!”. Of all people, it was Kevin Nash who simply powerbombed Shawn onto one and the monitors landed on Shawn’s torso, and it looked PAINFUL. And awesome too. When Nash is the height of manliness, there’s a problem.
-After Shawn breaks the count, Angle hammers away to come back, and then winds up slamming Michaels into the post with the Angle Slam. Well, if you’re going to injure another man, at least be creative doing it, I guess.
-Angle continues to punish with wear down submissions and belly to bellies inside. But what about the table? Man, you can’t just tease us like that!
-Crap, Angle’s doing the sodomizer suplex on the apron again. I’m done with the Patterson jokes for these rants, just let me be.
-Michaels ends up kicking Angle off and into the Smackdown table, just so Shawn can do a sweet reverse crossbody onto Angle, and the table doesn’t break. Um. Ouch.
-Shawn’s Sweet Chin Music attempt is caught in an ankle lock, but after much squirming, he gets to the ropes. Angle tries for his Slam, but Shawn sunsets his way out of it. Shawn tries the SCM again, but spins free of an ankle lock attempt, only to be hit by an Angle Slam for 2. Angle then gets desperate and tries a moonsault, but there’s no water in the pool. Shawn heads up top himself, but Angle springs to life and gets a running leaping Angle Slam for 2! I’m out of breath now. I need a nap badly.
-During this sequence, Angle pulled his singlet straps back up just so he could pull them down again, which is remarkably awesome for reasons that I cannot humanly describe.
-So, yeah, Angle’s pissed that Shawn won’t stay down, and then he screams in his face while picking him up (“WHERE IS HE?!!?!?!?”, oh wait), but Shawn catches the SCM out of nowhere. Shawn gets the arm across for 2, but Angle gets the shoulder up at the last second. A disoriented Shawn gets up, but Angle takes him down with yet another ankle lock and, this time, as Angle sinks it in, Shawn taps out after a struggle to give Angle the win. Wow. Just an incredible match all around from two of the best pros ever, and it led to bigger things for both. Namely, Shawn playing Beefcake 2.0 to Hulk Hogan’s return, and Angle threatening to engage in barnyard copulation with Sharmell. Well, they can’t ALL be great ideas.
-For the faux trailers, the award for “Best Punch Line” went to Christian’s “I Love You” in the Basic Instinct trailer. Not only was that trailer fun because of Stacy in the Sharon Stone role, but for Chris Jericho as Michael Douglas’ character, looking oddly like him. Which Douglas movie would you like to see Jericho try: Falling Down or Wall Street? I think either would rule.
-To waste some time, we get a Piper’s Pit segment where Rowdy Roddy Piper and Stone Cold Steve Austin have a verbal discourse, but Carlito interrupts and gets beaten up. Then Austin beats up Piper. I guess it was alright, but Piper was less angry and incoherent than usual, so I can’t really go the full gore on it.
-Best Trailer goes to the Taxi Driver takeoff, which included Snitsky. Well, I can see why it won.
-Sumo match. Big Show. Akebono. THONGS. GOOD GOD!
-Akebono wins, due to the little known clause that states in part: “Big Show must always lose at WrestleMania”. Fortunately, Vince was too busy preparing for his match the following year and Show was able to sneak in a victory. Good on you, Paul. Two big men in thongs was still a poor use of WrestleMania time. This is the kind of stuff that drives a man like Pat Patterson nuts. In an elated way. Yeah yeah, had to get one more in….
-JBL-Cena video package. Once upon a time, we were all rooting for John Cena to win his first world title. I can’t BELIEVE that this was 2005.
-JBL gets a lavish entrance, complete with police motorcade for his limousine, and money depicting his face falling from the ceiling. So in other words, Pacman Jones ripped off JBL. Now we know.
-Quick tangent: I honestly find JBL to be one of the most refreshing and interesting champions in recent memory, despite what the ratings and buyrates say. I was tired of main events where the heels were so cool that you couldn’t help but cheer them. The whole thing felt like a Bond movie, where the hero and the villain are both so innately talented and charismatic that you cheer both. The world needed a heel was cowardly, unlikeable, boisterous, and someone who the marks would loathe. Enter JBL, who did his job to a tee. He never would have become champion if the smarks and CNBC hadn’t freaked out over the Munich incident. If you show any heel wrestler utter disdain, even if it’s real, then he’ll get a push. If you cheer a heel, he’s turned face. If you don’t wanna see the likes of JBL as champion, then ignore him, don’t get mad. Simple as that.
-So Cena gets mostly dominated, and already us fans have figured out the story in our heads. JBL dominates, Cena struggles to come back, finally turns the tide, finishers are exchanged, Cena wards off interference from the Cabinet, lands one final FU, and wins the title to overcome the odds that he’s so known for overcoming.
-JBL lands a couple of swinging neckbreakers without any heat. Pace should be quickening any minute now.
-Cena tries to turn the tide, but eats a spinebuster and another neckbreaker. Yep, any minute now.
-JBL with a sleeper. I guess….this….is the heat segment? Yep, we’re getting closer! I can almost see Orlando Jordan, Doug Basham, and Danny Basham getting cued to run interference when Cena’s in control. Just a matter of waiting. Any minute now.
-JBL lands another neckbreaker on the floor. Ooh, we must be extending things to give Cena a more triumphant and emphatic comeback. Any minute now.
-Big Cena comeback sequence! Fisherman’s suplex! Shoulderblocks! Spin-out powerbomb! Five Knuckle Shuffle! Get ready, here comes the flurry of interference!
-JBL misses the Clothesline from Hell, Cena with the FU! Here comes the kicko—err, Cena wins? Really? Well then, how about that. Match was merely okay, but is that the best way to begin Cena’s first reign as champion? I remember the viewing party was stunned that it was over so fast, given that JBL’s character was a sniveling coward and he got 75% of the offense. But hey, I liked Cena a lot at this point and I was happy to see him as champion. So great.
-Howard Finkel (#21!) introduces Mean Gene, who introduces the 2005 HOF Class. Each inductee is escorted by a diva that befits his personality: Nikolai Volkoff (w/ Michelle McCool, who is just as boring), Iron Sheik (w/ Candice Michelle, who is just as crippled), Paul Orndorff (w/ Miss Jackie, who squints a lot), Bob Orton (w/ Maria, who was also fired from WWE for stupid reasons), Jimmy Hart (w/ the underrated Joy Giovanni, who is the same height), Roddy Piper (w/ Torrie Wilson, who flounded in WCW), and Hulk Hogan (w/ Stacy Keibler, who can’t act either). All things considered, maybe my favorite HOF class.
-HHH-Batista recap. It was a rare time when someone was allowed to outsmart HHH at every turn. No wonder the fans fell in love with Batista.
-Motorhead plays HHH out, and the rendition is better than the WMX7 version, especially when Hunter rises like Gangrel through the stage. Good stuff. This is, of course, for the World Heavyweight Title, and it’s Batista’s chance to win his first major singles belt.
-Good power stuff early on, with each man countering each other at every turn. If I live to be 100, I’ll never get tired of seeing Triple H get press slammed.
-Much like the last match, this one was affected by weird booking. If Batista is your monster babyface of the future, it’d make sense to have him be a little more dominant. Here’s Trips slowing things down with an extended heat segment, which I usually have no problem with, but Batista’s supposed to be this savage monster who cannot be quelled. Granted, HHH was a “mentor” for Big Dave and should be able to outsmart him in some ways, but the booking for the match saw Batista outsmarting HIM. Odd.
-After a good 8-10 minutes of HHH dominating, Batista backdrops himself out of a Pedigree attempt. Thank God. This was turning into the slowest emasculation since the life of Ottis Toole.
-Finally, the match spills to the floor to give it a chance to get exciting. And it does, when Batista slingshots Hunter into the post, busting him open. And it’s a gusher, too.
-Batista pounds away at the open wound in a fashion that would make ECW fans happier than happy. He’s like Axl Rotten, but with six abs instead of one.
-Just because he’s out there, Ric Flair is contractually obligated to get beaten up. So he attacks Batista and gets slammed hard on the concrete. Attaboy Naitch.
-Back inside, after a ref bump, Flair tries again to interfere, but eats a spinebuster. Batista eats the belt (not literally, but that would be awesome), but kicks out on 2. After a spinebuster, Hunter low blows out of the Batista Bomb. He tries the Pedigree, but Big Dave blocks the jump, breaks the hands apart, and then drops Hunter with a modified Emerald Fusion. Great sequence.
-After the thumbs down, Batista slams HHH down with the Batista Bomb for his first career World Title. Weird match that was boring in parts, but felt epic in others. The need for Batista to have to fight from underneath didn’t seem to fit things, especially when he proved to be smarter than Hunter in the weeks and months leading to the event. Maybe the match just felt blasé because of the great action earlier in the night, but it was still a satisfying conclusion.
-Highlight package to end things. Were royalties for “Bigtime” by Soundtrack of Our Lives that high that we get a generic song?
-CYNIC SAYS: It’s a very agreeable show, in that the matches were satisfying and there was a minimum of no names. I like it when you get mostly cream-of-the-crop performers on the biggest show of the year. Can’t really complain about that.
But in the end, the right people won, and the booking was about 90% solid. What more can you ask for?
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
Since the day that Vince McMahon gained majority interest of the World Wrestling Federation from his aging, ailing father Vincent J., the younger Vince had grandiose dreams for the wrestling enterprise.
But wrestling is, of course, a bad word to McMahon. “Wrestling” conjures up scorn and mockery from the mainstream media, which is the very group that McMahon wants to charm most. While Vince has taken many a potshot at the mainstream, even on his own WWE programs, it’s done with a “sour grapes” bent.
McMahon has wished for years that his televised events would get the same respect that American Idol, Monday Night Football, Survivor, Seinfeld, CSI, and other wildly popular contemporary shows receive. Other than a war with WCW in the latter half of the 1990’s, he’s never seen other wrestling ventures as direct competition, since other wrestling promotions cater almost solely to ‘wrestling’ fans.
Vince McMahon, as we all have come to accept, caters to the median.
So for WrestleMania XXI, set in the same city as Rodeo Drive and Television City, McMahon unveiled one of his most clever advertising schemes, which fits right in line with how he perceives his work of blood, sweat, and tears.
For weeks building to the April 3 gala, professional looking vignettes were aired, featuring WWE superstars parodying popular movies, from Triple H playing William Wallace in Braveheart, to Undertaker recreating Inspector Callahan for his take on Dirty Harry, fans enjoyed WWE’s attempt to prove that they’re just as “Hollywood” as the giant letters that adorn that California mountainside.
As “WrestleMania Goes Hollywood”, WWE would go fresh. It was here that McMahon decided to pay off his “new class” of star by featuring several in-house developmental talents in major roles. For better or worse, these men would lead WWE into its future.
For the first time since becoming a major player in the late 1990’s, Triple H would be thoroughly outsmarted by the opposition.
Beginning in late 2004, Triple H began to show signs of a rift with Evolution’s muscled enforcer, Batista. Though Batista usually did as he was told, clearing paths for his boss to escape with the World Heavyweight Championship, “The Animal” began to speak out in bold, subtle tones against some of Triple H’s demands. Though the group’s veteran adviser, Ric Flair, would often smooth over the trouble spots, it was clear that Batista was tired of taking orders.
Batista and Flair both competed in the 2005 Royal Rumble, with the idea being that, as long as one of them won and Triple H remained champion (he retained over former protégé Randy Orton earlier in the night), the main event of WrestleMania would center around Evolution. Batista would win, tossing out John Cena in a controversial finish.
However, Triple H tried to steer Batista into going to SmackDown to challenge champion JBL, giving him the idea that Evolution could hold two World titles. After weeks of hemming and hawing, Batista appeared to agree with Helmsley’s plan, only to reveal that he saw through the façade, believing that Triple H was simply afraid of him. Batista attacked the champion and Flair, severed his ties with them, and officially signed to face his former jefe at WrestleMania.
Speaking of JBL and John Cena, they would represent the SmackDown main event for the WWE Championship. JBL had become the unlikely champion in June 2004, transforming from beer-swilling, card-playing Texan to something more like his real-life alter ego, a stock market savant who handled his money as well as he did smaller opponents. JBL survived title defense after title defense, mocking the middle class all the while. Among the former Bradshaw’s wins were a bullrope match with Eddie Guerrero to win the belt, a “Last Ride” match with Undertaker, and a barbed wire steel cage match with Big Show.
Cena became #1 contender by winning a tournament final over Kurt Angle at No Way Out. JBL and Cena were a match made in heaven, as JBL’s upper-class snobbery meshed with Cena’s streetwise blue collar attitude.
In other big matches, Kurt Angle would meet Shawn Michaels for the first time ever at WrestleMania XXI. Angle became convinced that he could do anything that Shawn could do, and tried to replicate his entire career in just one month, hoping to culminate the story with a win over Michaels. The saga included winning a classic match with Michaels’ former partner Marty Jannetty on Smackdown.
In addition, Randy Orton, in an attempt to further his “Legend Killer” persona, challenged The Undertaker at WrestleMania, figuring that if he could end the streak, his moniker would be worth its presumed weight.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, along with Michael Cole and Tazz, provided the commentary yet again. The WWE Hall of Fame inductions saw Hulk Hogan as the headlining figure, going in along with six of his classic nemeses: Rowdy Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Cowboy Bob Orton, Jimmy Hart, Iron Sheik, and Nikolai Volkoff. Hogan would save Eugene from an attack by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari, while Piper hosted a raucous Piper’s Pit with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Carlito.
THE RESULTS Rey Mysterio def. Eddie Guerrero in 12:39
(What should have been an excellent match was somewhat marred by Mysterio wearing a mask that was looser than a Louisiana ring rat. Mysterio kept stopping to readjust, ruining much of the timing. It should be noted that these two were WWE Tag Team Champions at the time)
Money in the Bank: Edge def. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Kane, Christian, and Shelton Benjamin in 15:17
(The first, and possibly best, of these types of matches saw Shelton try to steal the show with a hands-free run up a sloped ladder, and Edge royally piss the fans off by winning. This is when he stole Lita from Matt Hardy in real life, and the fans rallied behind Hardy. Sounds funny now, I know. Amazing match)
The Undertaker def. Randy Orton in 14:14
(One of the last times I truly felt Undertaker’s streak was in jeopardy was when Orton landed an RKO out of a Tombstone attempt for two. The other highlight was Bob Orton running in with his old cast and whacking Taker with it. Pretty good match, actually. That’s thirteen)
WWE Women’s: Trish Stratus def. Christy Hemme in 4:11
(If Hemme was any more useless, she’d be WWE stock in 2025. Stratus pretty much openly mocked her during the match, which I’m sure was half-shoot)
Kurt Angle def. Shawn Michaels in 27:25
(Just a great match from perhaps the two best overall wrestlers of the last twenty years. I was as shocked as anyone when Shawn Michaels tapped out cleanly to the ankle lock, and I’m sad that the two more times that these men faced off would be the end of their series. There should have been WAY more)
Sumo Match: Akebono def. Big Show in 1:02
(Two fat guys in thongs, all to get WWE free press in Japan. Don’t inquire further)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. JBL in 11:26 to win the title
(Pretty weird match, as the ending came out of nowhere, and there was none of JBL’s usual chicanery. Fans barely reacted for the new WWE champion, in Cena’s first reign. These two had a MUCH greater match at Judgment Day two months later, so check that out)
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Batista def. Triple H in 21:34 to win the title
(Fans give this match a bad rap, but I quite enjoyed it. Basically, Batista managed to bust Triple H open, and then he began taking out all of his aggression from years of being a lackey out by mauling the champ into oblivion. At least the fans marked out for the finish this time)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
If you exclude Rey Mysterio’s World Title win at WrestleMania XXII one year after this event, then Cena and Batista are the last two men to win their first career World Titles at WrestleMania. Since then, WWE has largely relied on the same people in the same clutch situations, as opposed to taking a risk at the big annual spectacular.
In fact, let’s go one step further. Excepting Mysterio again, every World Title participant at WrestleMania after this (22 through 26) have either been previous-champions, or have already been in World Title matches at WrestleMania previously. That doesn’t show a lot of creativity, nor does it show any iota of faith in rising stars. WrestleMania XXVII will feature Alberto Del Rio, which is definitely a noble risk.
But for this event, WrestleMania XXI, John Cena and Batista were given transplants of faith by the office, and both men would remain as featured players for years; Cena to this day, and Batista up until he left WWE in the spring of 2010.
The enduring image of WrestleMania XXI is the torch passings, to a former Evolution bodyguard and a wannabe freestyle rapper, both of whom became made men on this night.
Once again, I am starting a new series of columns. This time, each column will focus on an event, wrestler or angle that should have been all-around more successful than it was, but for whatever reason, didn’t live up to expectations. For my first installment, I will look at one of my favorite PPVs, an event I happened to be at in the front row, and at the same time, a let down to many, that being the 19th installment of WrestleMania.
Now, after reading that first paragraph, you might be wondering how it could be such a letdown if it’s one of my favorite events? You raise a good question, one that I can and will explain over this column.
WrestleMania XIX, which took place in Seattle, WA on March 30th, 2003, and in all honesty, had the makings of one of the best ‘Mania events in history. The building was a legitimate sell-out and broke the attendance record for Safeco Field as nearly 55,000 fans packed the place to see what was, from top-to-bottom, a very loaded event. There was a little bit of something for everyone: a good (albeit short) Cruiserweight title match, matches featuring legends, a main event between two of the best technical wrestlers in the world, an awesome Women’s title match, the continued streak of the Undertaker, etc. In a rare occasion, an event that looked great on paper turned out to be great when put into practice.
When I say this card was loaded, I don’t mean strictly from an in-ring standpoint, although that was definitely present. The card was loaded in all the ways a wrestling fan could want. It featured plenty of star power and drama, in addition to the aforementioned in-ring product. Not only that, but you got two arguable dream matches. The first, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, was easily a show stealer, and a match that both combatants have cited is one of their all-time favorites. The second, while not as great from an in-ring standpoint, was still a marquee match that many paid to see as Hulk Hogan took on Mr. McMahon in a street fight “20 years in the making”. Despite the combined age of the two men being over 100, they beat each other in a wild, bloody brawl that not only satiated those wanting blood, but was something special for the old school fans as well as those who prefer the legends. We even got a run-in from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a man who had not been with the company in nearly a decade.
We also got an added bonus, as this wound up being the very final match of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin took on the Rock in what was their third ‘Mania match, with the story that Rock had never beaten Austin in ‘Mania matches in the past. Rock finally got the duke in this third encounter. Although it was not nearly as good as their two previous bouts, considering that Austin went into the match after spending the previous day in the ER, it was much more than you could ever ask for from wrestling highest box office draw of all-time.
Overall, the event is considered by many to be one of the very best ‘Mania installments from a pure in-ring standpoint, and that’s a fair assessment. Aside from Undertaker beating Big Show and A-Train in a lame handicap match (his partner, Nathan Jones, was taken out earlier in the night by the FBI. Jones, BTW, I will most definitely get to in an future column) and a sadly lopsided affair between Triple H and Booker that was the culmination of a very racist angle, the show had some of the best wrestling WWE had put on in years.
After all this, you’re probably still wondering how or why the show is considered to be a big disappointment. Well, unfortunately, despite all of the critical acclaim and great action from start-to-finish (save for a couple hiccups, as well as a pillow fight I will never mention again), when the final rating came in, it didn’t bode well for future ‘Mania installments like this. After all was said and done, WrestleMania XIX drew only a 1.40, or roughly 560,000 buys, making it the fifth lowest buyrate in ‘Mania history and the lowest of this century thus far.
Obviously, it’s debatable that WrestleMania XIX was a sign of things to come, but at the same time, it’s telling when can see that the overall match quality at ‘Mania installments has been lessened in favor of celebrity tie-ins, pointless backstage segments or filler matches that are seemingly thrown together and lack fan interest. Obviously, WrestleMania has still produced some great matches since that year, so before you lynch me for trashing every event since then, I’m not saying the event always sucked; this is merely my viewpoint, and a trend I’ve noticed since then.
WrestleMania XIX should have been a huge success. For those fans who understandably complain about match length/quality on today’s PPVs, this event should have been a dream card. Instead, it got a very low buyrate, possibly giving the WWE the idea that maybe we as fans really don’t want good, long matches at the biggest show of the year. Whether that is true or not, WWE seems to feel that way, and for every year that the show gets longer, we seem to get shorter, lesser quality matches simply there to stuff the card.
Fortunately, this year’s installment is shaping up to break that chain with 2 great title matches, the first ‘Mania Hell in a Cell in 13 years and a dream match between John Cena and the Rock. Hopefully, fans respond the right way, and open their wallets for what could be one of the better ‘Manias in recent years.
Time will tell, though. Time will tell.
Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, and you can keep track of all of his work on his Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/DustinNicholsWriter. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out his mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:
-What I wouldn’t give to relive the WWE WrestleMania 19 era. I was 19 years old and making insane money delivering pizza for just 25 hours a week. Seriously, the tips I made were great, given I live in the midst of middle class suburbia. I had few bills, not a care in the world, free from the restraints of school, yada yada. The only thing missing was a quality WWE product. At this point, you had a better chance of getting chlamydia from Paula Deen than getting three straight good weeks of Monday Night Raw.
-Speaking of the promotion, it was March 30, 2003, and we go way out to the land of Wozniak, Seattle, WA, in the confines of Safeco Field. This is the first time that we have two commentary teams covering WrestleMania, with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handling Raw duties, and Michael Cole and Tazz overseeing the Smackdown side of things. Would you believe that in 2002 and 2003, the voters for the annual RSPW Awards declared Cole to be a better play by play man than JR? I swear this happened. Of course, JR was a bitter shell at this point, taking pot shots at heels he didn’t care about, and was generally miserable after the talent relations job he held was usurpsed by Johnny Ace. If you wanna see how bad JR could get, just wait until later in this show.
-Ashanti performs America the Beautiful, and we never heard from her again. Also, on the pre-show, Rob Van Dam and Kane failed to win the World Tag Team Titles from Chief Morley and some guy whose name escapes me. If he was important, I’m sure I’d remember it.
-Quick note: for this show, my brother Josh invited over some kid he worked with who may or may not have been homeless. It bears no relevance otherwise, but it’s my rant, so there you go.
-By the way, I can stop typing WWF now. This should get the pandas off my lawn.
-To kick things off, Matt Hardy Version 1.0 defends the WWE Cruiserweight Title against Rey Mysterio. Mysterio’s superhero motif du jour: Daredevil. How it reminds me of 2003. How it reminds of Ben Affleck. How it reminds me of Gigli. Damn it, Rey.
-Mysterio lands a nice twisting plancha to take out both Matt and Shannon Moore. Always good to see the Filthy Animals and 3 Count go at it. It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys for the twelve people that watched WCW at the end.
-Moore’s sycophantic interference was hilarious. Hell, Matt’s entire V1 shtick was amazing before he became a deranged self parody and gained 50 pounds after Lita cheated on him. Hey, Matt: you had six or seven years to put a ring on her finger. You didn’t do it. Besides, given that her sexual history could fill the book of Genesis, consider yourself a survivor.
-It’s funny: at this point, I really liked both performers. Though when one becomes a deluded emo crybaby, and the other endlessly promotes his dead friend for sympathy, that tends to come to a screeching halt.
-Rey hits the 619 and tries to drop the dime, but misses. A victory roll attempt by the challenger leads to a Matt drop down and rope pull for the cheap win. Way too short, but fun while it lasted. The two would have a much better match two months later on Smackdown where Rey finally got the belt. Anyone else miss Smackdown in the era when the great workers got time to work, and the whacky characters got equal time to balance the card? I know I do.
-And now for a handicap match, since those never get old. Undertaker puts his streak on the line against Big Show and A-Train, or as I call them: “Fat Albert”. This was supposed to be a tag team match with Taker teaming with Australian muscleman Nathan Jones, but Jones was unable to wrestle. Actually, that WAS the reason he was pulled: because he couldn’t wrestle. The man had the coordination skills of Stephen Hawking doing a downhill slalom.
-Limp Bizkit performs “Rollin” to bring Taker out. Taker even hugs Fred Durst. When would THAT ever happen if neither man was famous? Can you imagine Johnny Cash posing for a picture with the Icy Hot Stuntaz?
-Here’s food for thought: given all of the start-stop pushes that Show and Train have had over the years, especially in this time period, wouldn’t we be more apt to take them seriously if they dominated Taker? I mean, two big men beating up Undertaker doesn’t hurt anyone, and all three men get some measure of cred from it. So, of course, Taker dominates from the outset. So much for taking their pushes seriously.
-Taker with a fujiwara armbar for Show and another armbar for Train. This is like a production of Hamlet being performed by the special needs class. Show and Train are just stumbling around for Taker, who had lost his mystique by reverting to his biker gimmick. So it’s no fun for anyone.
-After ten minutes of boring tripe, Nathan Jones hits the ring and knocks Show out with a spinning heel kick in the aisle. Then he gets Train with a running foot inside the ring, which sets up the Dead Man’s Tombstone, pushing the streak to 11-0. Bad match, but thankfully the worst we’ll see tonight. You know, if WWE was so serious about getting Show or Train to main event status, why not have one of them pin Taker and wreck the streak? They’d be a heel for life, and always have something to hang their hat on. Alas.
-Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, and the Miller Lite catfight girls have a pow-wow. If you can name both of those latter ladies without consulting Wikipedia, then you’re probably not welcome near school bus stops.
-Up next, the WWE Women’s Title is up for grabs, as Victoria defends the gold against Trish Stratus and Jazz. This match is an upgrade over last year in terms of placement, workmanship (Trish was much improved), and participants. I’ll take Victoria over Lita any day. Man I miss that TATU music and crazy titan tron. Hey Vince, Victoria’s now 39 years old and is still one of the hottest women in wrestling. I don’t care about Kelly Kelly, give me crazy Victoria please. Oh, wait, TNA has her. Well, that’s one area that the Orlandophiles win at.
-I miss Jazz too. She was like Stone Cold. Except black. And female. Ok, so she was the female Bad News Brown. She just wails away on everyone in sight, which is more fun than “faces don’t attack other faces”. I remember when Victoria turned face over a year after this and she saved Stacy from elimination during the Taboo Tuesday battle royal. Disgusting.
-Jazz putting Trish into an STF = hot. I need to stop watching prison movies.
-Trish cradles Victoria and pulls down the back of her tights, exposing her crack to the world. Let’s hear it for DVD freeze frame! Speaking of pervy, I think we can all agree that the only reason Jazz ever did that double chicken wing move to Trish was to make her chest stick out and the fans could pop. Classy.
-With Jazz out on the floor, Trish avoids interference from Steven Richards (Victoria’s henchman/boyfriend/pet) and knocks out Victoria with the Chick Kick to win the title. Good, compressed match that livened things up after the hossfest bored everyone. It takes a lot to cheer people from Seattle up, so good on the ladies. Though if Seattle was rooting for Victoria, we’d have to hear years and years of complaining about the officiating. Damn Seahawks fans.
-Rock is backstage with Coachman, and Mr. Dwayne Johnson is so disillusioned with the fans these days that he can’t even properly abuse Coach like he used to. Way to drain the life from my hero, guys. But he WILL beat Stone Cold tonight. We’re all rooting for ya, Rock! Especially Debra.
-And now WWE will let some of the tag teams get air time, as The World’s Greatest Tag Team defends the WWE Tag Team Titles against Los Guerreros and Murder Horn (Chris Benoit and Rhyno). If TNA sticks six men with talent all in the same match, they get lambasted for squandering good wrestlers. Just saying.
-Benoit blisters Eddie with chops. In 2003, they met in a meaningless undercard showcase. In 2004, they ended the show with a surreal celebration. In 2008, neither of them was there because they were both dead. Sigh.
-The main issue I have with this match is that….there IS no issue. Haas and Benjamin were largely goons for Kurt Angle who became tag champs due to crowd heat osmosis, and they have no real character qualities except for “We do Kurt Angle’s bidding”. The Guerreros are known for being chronic cheaters with a penchant for partying, but you don’t see that. Benoit and Rhyno are intense competitors and it makes sense for them to stick to the wrestling, but what was their beef with TWGTT, other than Benoit hating Haas and Benjamin through Angle? Sometimes, you need to expand the story a bit.
-That’s not to say that the wrestling sucks, because it’s solid, but look who’s involved.
-A fast tag frenzy near the end and Rhyno gores Chavo, but Eddie pulls Rhyno to the floor and Shelton steals the pin on Chavo to retain the gold. Match was good, but largely forgotten in the backdrop of the marquee matches that were ahead. It didn’t give Haas and Benjamin much traction, but at least it was fun to watch.
-The four aforementioned useless hot women argue over who made WrestleMania: Vince McMahon or Hulk Hogan. My answer: Howard Finkel. Did I mention that the Fink is here tonight? #19!
-Video package for the Shawn-Michaels-Chris Jericho feud. You know, the first one. This was Shawn’s in-ring WrestleMania return and, although I was a huge childhood fan, I was pulling for Jericho here. Shawn had a total of 4 or 5 matches since his return seven months before, and I felt that for Jericho to lose would be a BS political move. In other words, I was a smark, but I was also a mark.
-On the way to the ring, Shawn fires off some confetti guns for some reason. A number of them don’t work, and won’t shoot at all. Kevin Nash used to have that problem, but they began making pills for that.
-Extended stalemate sequence opens the match, and after thinking Shawn wouldn’t be able to keep up, I was surprised that he did. Remember, seven years ago, we thought Shawn was only capable of like one match every two months and, even then, it wasn’t always guaranteed to be a classic. This is where Jesus walks in and kicks me in the balls for being Agnostic. Thank you, Jeeze.
-Shawn slaps on a figure four and begins to work Jericho’s leg. I remember once watching Raw with my friend Dave (fan of Bret Hart, hater of Shawn) when Michaels was facing Trevor Murdoch. Shawn grabbed the legs to apply his modified figure four and Dave thought he was attempting the Sharpshooter. Dave began to swear at the TV and then stopped when he realized that he wasn’t mocking Bret. It’s these little things that make us fans.
-The fight spills outside, and Jericho snares Michaels in the Walls of Jericho in the aisleway. Jericho releases after a certain amount of punishment, and then runs back in to break the count. Jericho continues to assault the back, break the count, and repeat. Jericho’s such a tremendous jerk of a heel. He’s like Tully Blanchard, except he doesn’t hide behind religion to cover his past.
-After Jericho hits the Shawn forearm inside, he kips up and does the slant-leg pose to mock HBK, but then Michaels kips up behind him. It’s these little things that keep TNA from becoming a true break-out promotion: you need moments that make the fans smile without resorting to inside jokes or overkill. Shawn’s such an established character, that the fans get it when Jericho rips off part of his shtick, and then they love it when Shawn makes them cheer with the counter-act.
-Jericho continues the acidic ‘tribute’ by landing Shawn’s elbow smash, stomping the foot to tune up Fozzy, and then hits Sweet, eh? Chin Music for 2. Good psychological stuff.
-Shawn mounts the comeback and tries for his SCM, but Jericho ducks the leg and gets the Walls. After Shawn fights it for an eternity, he finally makes the ropes. After Jericho nearly comes to tears in protest, he walks right into Shawn’s Chin Music, but the slow cover can only get 2. Great match.
-Finally, after Jericho jars the spine with a forearm, he tries a back suplex, which Shawn turns into a backroll press for the win. Afterward, Jericho tries to man up and embrace Shawn with a hug, but changes his mind and kicks Shawn low. It’s ok, Chris, you still have your rocker hair until you get with the times and cut it in 2006. Tremendous match with a real big time feel.
-Sylvain Grenier, then an evil referee, goes into Vince’s locker room. He must be mistaken. Pat Patterson’s green room is a few doors—oh, don’t give me that look. I haven’t made a Patterson joke in at LEAST three or four rants!
-Miller Lite Catfight crap. Coach loses his pants. Limp Bizkit performs “Crack Addict”. I’m intoxicated by Turkey Hill iced tea. So all is good.
-Triple H and Booker T for the World Heavyweight Title is next. The storyline here is that Triple H made a few racially charged remarks to the Bookerman, which you’d think would lead to Book shutting him up and winning the title. You’d think that, wouldn’t you, Senor Ignorencia?
-You know, this match kind of annoys me, since it was Hunter slowing things down to a crawl, just to do some make-believe Ric Flair heel champion routine, and it stunted Booker’s momentum as a performer. Let’s just say Hunter works the knee, Booker fails to make enough of a comeback, and Hunter sends him spiraling back to the midcard with the Pedigree. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to two more interesting points.
-First, Jerry Lawler spent the match hamming up Triple H’s rhetoric about Booker being a lifelong criminal. It’s one thing to make a joke or two, as the heel announcer, but it’s another to keep on keeping on, which is what Lawler did. Jim Ross gets so sick and tired of Lawler’s spiel that he openly responds with hostile verbiage, and Lawler actually seems taken aback. It’s way more interesting than the match. What I also love is at Bad Blood a few months later when Lawler tries to bury Booker again with the prison jokes, and JR makes a comment along the lines of “You know, I wonder how different things would be if some OTHER people had been convicted of certain crimes”. And Lawler NEVER made fun of Booker’s criminal record again. Great stuff.
-The other thing: I will defend Hunter winning here. As much as I loved Booker, imagine this: if Hunter never drops the belt to Goldberg in September, then he holds the belt for over a year, right? Sure, it infuriates us, but, as the smarks are huge Benoit fans, what would it mean to us if Chris Benoit took out Triple H to win the title after Hunter spent 15 months as champion? It’d mean a LOT. I can defend Hunter as a heel dominating, because it means just that much more when he loses. Ask Batista.
-Moving on to something else that’s criminal. Criminally fun, that is. Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon will do battle in a street fight that was twenty years in the making. That’s AMAZING. I never knew Vince was clamoring for this fight when Hulk was champion and Vince was skinny, Reagan-esque commentator. And I thought I knew everything.
-Typical geriatric Vince brawling, complete with funny faces and comical selling. I never get enough of watching Vince wrestle. He could have a match with a dead ferret and I’d be entertained.
-Vince realizes his dream of dominating a test of strength. Hulk realizes his dream of bashing Vince with a chair and busting him open. So everyone’s happy.
-Just to show that he’s more hardcore than the useless wusses that he employs, Vince dives off the ladder with a legdrop through Hogan and the Smackdown commentary table. Then to top THAT, after rolling Hogan in, Vince pulls a lead pipe from under the ring and slowly raises his face over the apron with a crazed expression that I still laugh at to this day. Dixie, you’re no Vince. There I said it.
-After both men are down, Rowdy Roddy Piper hits the ring and is apparently doing the Adrian Adonis tribute diet. He spits on both men, but then hits Hogan with a pipe before dropping a couple F-bombs on camera. Just when you think you have all the answers, Roddy forgets the questions and then relapses.
-Long story short: Sylvain Grenier tries to do some shady run-in refereeing, gets taken out, and Hulk drops three legs on Vince for the win. It’s longer than I made it seem, but it’s fun the entire way. Seriously, just watch it. You won’t regret it.
-Rock was full blown Hollywood villain, and Austin is still Stone Cold, albeit with a neck worn down to nothing, and a lack of the same crowd energy that made him Stone Cold in the first place. I’m going to get very sad watching this.
-Tribute is paid to their X7 match as Austin attacks with a flurry and the fight spills outside. Austin is just hammering Rock all over ringside. This is like Rick Fox getting those garbage points in game five of the 2004 NBA finals, in case it was the end for him.
-Rock shifts the tide by working the knee, and the crowd seems reluctant to boo him. Hey, he was such a fun character with this pro-Hollywood slant. My biggest regret is not seeing it last longer. But hey, the movies were calling his name.
-Just for a goof, Rock puts on Austin’s leather vest and continues the fight, and the slugfest continues. Then Austin runs through the classics. There’s the Thesz press. There’s the middle finger elbow. There’s the mudhole stomping. HE’S WALKING IT DRY! That’s it Steve, round the bases one last time. Crap, I think I’m actually getting misty.
-Then we get another staple of their classics: the dueling finishers. Rock gets a stunner. Austin gets Rock Bottom. Neither one finishes the other. Good stuff.
-Then comes the heart-wrenching finish: Rock lands a spinebuster and People’s Elbow for 2. Then Rock lands one Rock Bottom. Austin kicks out on 2. Rock attempts a second one, but Austin desperately tries to elbow his way free. Rock hangs on and spikes him for a second one. Austin writhes on the mat in a fashion that is truly harrowing, but he kicks out on 2. For the third attempt, Austin doesn’t even fight it, and he eats a final Rock Bottom to give The Rock his much-deserved clean win over Stone Cold.
-Afterward, Rock breaks character and sits next to Austin, telling him he loves him as Austin lays hurt on the mat. Only four moments in wrestling get me choked up: Savage and Liz reuniting, Shawn winning his first World Title, Benoit making HHH tap, and this: The Rock throwing his character aside to make sure his real life friend was ok and to express his support. After Rock celebrates with his family at ringside, he leaves so that Austin can do the final walkaway, as his in ring career ended after one hell of a fourteen year journey. There will never be another Stone Cold Steve Austin. Much like Shawn and Taker should have ended XXV, THIS should have ended XIX. Austin and Rock, the two men who carried the Attitude era, in their final chapter. I love it.
-Still one match to go, and it’s going to take a lot to top this. Don’t worry, what’s on tap has a chance.
-If you thought Austin’s neck was bad, Kurt Angle’s was just as horrid, as he prepared to defend the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Angle was in dire need of surgery on his spine, but chose to go through with this match. This wouldn’t be the last time we worried about Angle’s health or sanity.
-The two men begin with a feeling out process, as both men are among the most accomplished amateur wrestlers-turned-pro in the world. At first, I thought that it would just remain at this pace due to Angle’s bad neck, but hey, I was wrong again. Did I mention I was fairly dumb at 19? I’d just met Eric Gargiulo months before this show and I think I was I was still in a mental haze. It’s like a fifteen year old girl meeting Miley Cyrus. Eric’s just that special.
-Angle lands a German suplex and Lesnar soon nails him with a clothesline. If this was Kurt’s last match for a while, he was damn sure going to kill himself doing it.
-Angle then sends Lesnar hard into the buckles with a German suplex. Here Brock, share some of my pain, you musclehead.
-Angle wears Lesnar down further, taking the time to get his bearings, which is the smart thing to do. Then he hits an overhead belly to belly on a 300 pound man, then does four rolling Germans on Lesnar just for fun. When Kurt Angle lives to be 400 years old and is a cyborg, no one better be surprised, you hear me? NO ONE.
-Here’s a good sequence for you: Angle tries for the Angle Slam, Lesnar counters with an F5 attempt, which Angle rolls into the ankle lock. After Lesnar gets free, Angle gets the release throwing German suplex for 2. Jaw. Dropped.
-Through the remainder of the match, Lesnar manages to drop Angle with a pair of F5s and Angle really should be dead by now. I mean, come on, he was facing surgery that was due to keep him out for a YEAR and he’s going full gore with the future UFC Champion. Angle is crazy, ya’ll.
-Speaking of crazy, here comes some Mania lore: Lesnar tries for a shooting star press, but lands on his head and nearly breaks his neck in the process. After improvising a pin for 2, Angle tries for an Angle Slam, but Brock finishes with the F5 for his second WWE Title. They do the respect hug afterward. Tremendous match that made me cringe every time Angle did something the least bit physical. With Austin retiring due to his spinal damage, I certainly didn’t want to see Kurt end up a crippled vegetable. I loved the match, but it’s like a car wreck: hard to watch, but hard to turn away.
-Limp Bizkit plays us out. Speaking of played out, Limp Bizkit, folks!
-CYNIC SAYS: At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think. WWE was in a major rut creatively, and couldn’t please anyone. Yet time has been kind to this show, as everything seemed to set up a future development. Hunter stayed strong to make his losses mean more. Shawn stayed strong to begin his full time comeback. Lesnar went over to become the future (sort of). And Austin went out with a great final performance.
WrestleMania XIX is a blossoming flower in a turd garden that is 2003 WWE. But you won’t regret having sat through all four hours of this tremendous show.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
The waves of time were eroding WWE’s familiar image away, aggressively eating away the dunes of chic and hip. Beneath the devoured sands were levels of desperation that, now unearthed, would only serve to further deface a once-effulgent company.
After WWE split into two brands, Raw and Smackdown, in the spring of 2002, fans used to edgy television were now being force-fed the notion that Hulk Hogan was still hip in the 21st century, and that the Stamford-approved version of the New World Order was as potent as it was when Kevin Nash and company ran roughshod over Atlanta six years prior.
With WWE fans, having been conditioned to accept a younger, fast-paced centrum from WWE’s brain trust, were suddenly staring down a slower, intelligence-insulting WWE that also featured, among other things, a watered-down, unhappy Steve Austin (soon to walk out, and then be accused of spousal abuse), a slower Triple H, a midcard with little chance of advancement, and the addition of a largely-unasked-for Eric Bischoff.
With ratings declining in the summer months, WWE put its Undisputed World Championship around the waist of new sensation Brock Lesnar, a frightening grappler with amateur credentials and no professional ceiling.
Despite the infusion of other new talents (John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista), WWE sunk to unseen depths, trying to lure in audiences with gay weddings, lesbian decadence, and the act of necrophilia.
By the time WrestleMania season rolled around, WWE was far removed from its trendy nucleus of just two years prior.
The biggest show of the year would feature, in major roles, Kurt Angle (in dire need of neck surgery), Stone Cold Steve Austin (on his last legs as an active wrestler), The Rock (returning to Hollywood), and Brock Lesnar (main eventing at his first ‘Mania).
Could WWE pull this off?
The actual main event of the show was Kurt Angle defending the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Angle had used Lesnar to help him regain the strap at Armageddon in December from Big Show, and then reneged on giving him a promised shot.
Brock Lesnar would then enter the 2003 Royal Rumble and toss out the Undertaker for the win. For the next two months, Angle’s new lackeys, WWE Tag Team Champions Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, as well as Lesnar’s ex-agent Paul Heyman, would serve as roadblocks and spike strips to try and slow down the monster Lesnar as he fought to regain the title he felt he never lost.
In the other main championship match, Triple H would be defending the World Heavyweight Championship on Raw against Booker T. Booker had won a battle royal one month prior to earn the shot, last ousting The Rock.
However, the angle took a rather controversial turn when Triple H accused Booker of being “too much of an entertainer” to be champion, and that Booker’s “kind” weren’t good enough to hold top honors. As a matter of fact, “The Game” asked Booker to “dance” for him. All of these remarks had faint racial implications, and cast a cloud of unnecessary shock to the storyline.
Triple H also brought to light Booker T’s criminal past, including his arrest and incarceration for robbing a Wendy’s in the 1980′s. Booker was given very little heroic momentum in what was a peculiar build-up.
Speaking of peculiar, Hulk Hogan returned to WWE in January, after a five month hiatus, and immediately entered into a feud with Vince McMahon.
McMahon claimed that bad blood had been brewing between the two men for years (even referencing his own 1994 steroid trial, in which Hogan had testified against him), and the two agreed to face off at WrestleMania XIX, in a match hailed as “twenty years in the making”. The bizarre feud would even net the participants as the lone faces on the event’s DVD packaging, in a somewhat common case of McMahon’s ego superseding the needs of his company.
Stone Cold Steve Austin had returned to WWE in February, and was immediately pitted against old friend/rival The Rock. Rock had fully embraced Hollywood conceit, and was rubbing his new lifestyle into the faces of the fans who built him up, and then began booing him. Austin’s involvement seemed to be minor, as real life neck injuries were hindering one of the greatest stars in WWE history.
In a match designed to capture the imaginations of fans who love being dazzled, Shawn Michaels would compete at his first WrestleMania in five years to face Chris Jericho. Jericho had claimed to have idolized Michaels, and was now ready to surpass a man whose standard Jericho now felt he was above. Y2J would go as far as to admit Michaels’ influence on his career, and indicated that evolution would take place on wrestling’s grandest stage.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the Raw brand matches, while Michael Cole and Tazz covered the ones from Smackdown. Ashanti performed “America the Beautiful”, Limp Bizkit performed a pair of songs (including “Rollin” for the Undertaker’s entrance), and Miller Lite models Kitana Baker and Tanya Ballinger recreated their famed catfight commercial on the entrance set.
WWE Cruiserweight: Matt Hardy Version 1.0 def. Rey Mysterio in 5:39
(Abbreviated for some reason, but still a really good match. Rey Mysterio dressed as Daredevil for this event, but wasn’t so blind that he couldn’t see that Jennifer Garner is a really lousy actress)
Handicap Match: The Undertaker def. Big Show/A-Train in 9:45
(This was to be a tag team match with Australian weirdo Nathan Jones as Taker’s partner, but Jones was scrapped for his poor abilities. Why did this get almost ten minutes? Oh, that’s eleven for Taker)
WWE Women’s: Trish Stratus def. Victoria and Jazz in 7:17 to win the title
(Dignified women’s wrestling at its finest. Dignified, that is, except for Trish pulling Victoria’s tights down on a roll-up to show off some crack. Er, not that I’m complaining)
WWE Tag Team: Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin def. Chris Benoit/Rhino and Los Guerreros in 8:46
(Anytime you have a three way match on pay per view that isn’t a marquee match, what you’re saying is “we can’t think of any storylines for these guys”. This is one of those times, sadly)
Shawn Michaels def. Chris Jericho in 22:33
(One of my personal favorite matches, and it was portrayed just the way I thought it would be: two men of great stature trying to one up each other, ending on an out-of-nowhere pinfall. Jericho’s post match fake embrace into a low kick on Michaels ranks as a forgotten, yet classic, moment)
World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H def. Booker T in 18:50
(Matches like this are the reason Triple H got a bad rap for years: slow and made the hero look weak. The only highlight was Jerry Lawler making crime jokes about Booker, and JR getting legit pissed. Funny stuff)
Street Fight: Hulk Hogan def. Vince McMahon in 20:48
(You know, a typical Vince match: table spot, Rowdy Roddy Piper run-in (waddle-in?), Vince jumping off of a ladder, and the true highlight: McMahon, covered in blood, slowly raising his face over the side of the apron with a sadistic grin. Gets funnier with every viewing)
The Rock def. Stone Cold Steve Austin in 17:53
(Rock finally gets a clean win over Austin, and it comes as the last truly great match either man would have. In fact, it was Austin’s last match ever, and wrestling hasn’t been the same without him. Rock’s pause before the final Rock Bottom, with Austin showing no resistance, seemed appropriate: Austin was no longer willing to fight, after 14 years of kicking ass. I still get chills watching Rock push Earl Hebner away so that he can break character and check on Austin’s condition afterward. I love this match)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar def. Kurt Angle in 21:04 to win the title
(I don’t know what was more amazing: the fact that Angle pretty much had a wrecked spine and still carried this to the subjective “four star” territory, or that Brock Lesnar landed on his head during that shooting star press and somehow lived. I literally have no idea who’s the tougher man. Great match)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
WrestleMania XIX was a mirage in the desert that was WWE in 2003. The drastic changes in Vince McMahon’s cash cow going into 2003 were rather alarming. Once a self-assured, well-booked company was now a mostly depressing product, centered around developmental stars that made no head way (Three Minute Warning, Chris Nowinski, and Batista (yet, anyway), as well as stars that the fans loved, but got no love from WWE (Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Dudley Boyz, etc).
While WrestleMania was one of only two exceptionally good pay per views in 2003 (the other being Vengeance in July), the show simply felt out of place, not quite fitting of the “grandest show of the year” title that is bestowed on it.
The last four matches filled out the marquee. Two of them featured wrestlers who were hospitalized the night before the show (Angle and Austin), one with tasteless racial overtones (HHH-Booker), and one between two men in their middle age, fighting for fictitiously-contrived reasons, trying to sell the show on little-known “real life” drama, as opposed to a compelling angle.
The in-ring action was more than enough to save WrestleMania XIX, dragging the horrid build out of the self-made muck.
To do that, he brought in the original three members of the New World Order: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
-So this was a bit like the end of an era for years truly. I was graduating high school in just three months, making this the first WWE WrestleMania of my adult life. The last time WrestleMania resided in Toronto, I was in kindergarten. Now, I was a high school senior, and the big event’s back at the Skydome in Toronto, Ontario, this time on March 17, 2002. Weird how things end up in life.
-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, whose knees are still worn out from the groveling he had to do to reclaim his old job. The event looks like a hybrid of WrestleManias VI and X7, which is my way of saying it’s like X7, but with a darker lighting scheme. The atmosphere’s nice, I’ll give em that.
-The story is that WWE, at the end of the Attitude era, bottomed out with a botched WCW Invasion angle, and is now relying on a new crazy scheme: bringing back the New World Order. This is annoying to 18 year old Justin, because he doesn’t really want to live in the past, and it’s annoying to 26 year old Justin, because every time he types ‘NWO‘ in Microsoft Word, it changes it to ‘now’, and I usually forget to change it back. It’s annoying because there’s nothing ‘now’ about the New World Order.
-Here to sing “Oh Cana—“, er, nevermind, here’s Saliva to sing “Superstar”. Well, I do enjoy me some Saliva, and this was their “free” era. That’s when a band’s first one or two albums phenomenally rock your world, and then they “branch out” and listen to the corporate agents, who streamline their sound to try and make it more mainstream. Blood Stained Love Story says hi. Song goes on a bit long, but I do enjoy Josey Scott yelling “GET YOUR ASS UP OVER YOUR SHOULDERS!”. If I could contort my body like that, I’d be more popular at parties for sure.
-Nice opening video with the main event guys talking about what WrestleMania means to them. Scott Hall has comments too.
-The show kicks off, much like last year, with the Intercontinental Title match with, much like last year, William Regal defending against, much like last year, a long haired IWC idol who is apparently never pushed enough. In this case, it’s Rob Van Dam.
-Funny moment, as Regal goes for his now-trademark brass knux from the onset, and RVD kicks them out of his hand. They flew pretty far, and I wonder how long we as fans would have talked about the “fan getting hit with flying knux” story on the net had it happened.
-I remember bracing myself for the swerve in this match, since I was HYOOOOGE RVD mark and wanted so badly to see him win the IC Title, to become a “legit” contender. Now they just put the IC Title on whoever Vince has a crush on this week and the whole thing is moot. Here, Drew, looks good on ya!
-Just tremendous see-saw stuff, albeit rushed. That’s carny for “we only have, like, seven minutes, so let’s get about 40 moves in and hope that it looks good”. Don’t worry guys, it does.
-RVD tries for the catch-the-foot-throw-a-roundhouse spot, but Regal hits a SICKENING half nelson suplex that spikes RVD on his head, and Van Dam rolls to the floor awkwardly. I think we all thought RVD was dead here. That’s because we all forgot that RVD was a combination of Gumby and Drugs Delaney. He’ll be fine, just roll the man a little something something.
-Regal tries to finish with a second pair of knux, but RVD lands a roundhouse, and then lands the Five Star for his first IC Title. Hope you liked this match, because you won’t see the IC belt defended until WM25. You also won’t be seeing Regal on this tour until….well, ever. Man hasn’t had a Mania match since. What’s up with that? Seriously, great match to kick things off, though.
-Christian mocks DDP’s grin. Hey Christian, if you really wanna hit him low, you should point out how you learned to read thirty years before he did.
-After bashing Toronto to ensure that he doesn’t get cheered, Christian arrives to face Diamond Dallas Page for the WWE European Championship. The gimmicks in play here include Christian portraying a compulsive whiner prone to tantrums, and Page was a smiling motivational speaker whose smile scared children. So if you were a fan of Celebrity Deathmatch, imagine Kanye West taking on an anti-matter Matt Foley.
-Wow, JR plays the “DDP was at WrestleMania VI in this building as a limo driver” card. So when Edge watched Rhythm and Blues come out to sing, I’m sure he thought “One day, my kayfabe brother is going to fight that chauffer while I tangle with a man who sounds like Tone Loc with dreadlocks over a bottle of shampoo! Gonna be SWEET!”
-The whole point of the match is that it’s a six minute backdrop to provide Christian a chance to have a tantrum and thus validate his character. I dunno, that’s more of a Backlash-No Mercy concept, I think. I like my WrestleManias to have a little more substance. It was hard to take Christian seriously at this point anyway, since he resembled a male version of Shannon Moore.
-Christian nearly has a meltdown of Ozzie Guillen proportions after Page kicks out of the falling reverse DDT. He stops himself, but can’t stop himself from eating the Diamond Cutter for the pinfall loss. Christian finally does spaz when Page points out that he lost in front of 68,000 fans, and JR screams for someone to get Christian a diaper. No problem, unless Hulk’s being stingy with his.
-The Rock is backstage, and he abuses Jonathan Coachman into saying his prayers. Isn’t it funny how Coach is universally reviled by the majority of marks and smarks alike, yet he and Rocky among the select few on this show (excepting Trish Stratus as well) that can leave wrestling and never have to look back? Coachman’s with ESPN and likely earning in the six figures to tell us why Danica Patrick and Lebron James will always be important, and we should be proud of The Coach. He made it. So many others haven’t.
-In an odd choice for a match, Maven (of Tough Enough fame) defends the WWE Hardcore Title against Goldust. In essence, Goldust pummels Maven with weapons that have been spray painted gold (trash can, shovel, etc) until Spike Dudley runs in and steals the pin to become champion. Then Crash Holly gives chase, then Maven, then Goldust, yada yada yada.
-To waste some more time, here’s Drowning Pool to perform “Tear Away”, while, as Lillian says they “tell the story of tonight’s main event”. Like the guys who sang “Bodies” could give a damn that Chris Jericho’s limo hit a dog. For those who believe that WWE only began to insult the crowd’s intelligence recently, boy have I got news for you.
-Backstage, the Hardcore shenanigans continue, which sees Al Snow drive a go-cart into a stack of boxes that were there for some reason, and The Hurricane fly in on a rope and thrust kick Spike to win the title. Then Hurricane runs off. Because he hears sirens.
-Next we have Kurt Angle vs. Kane, which is a feud I barely remember. Angle does, however, insult the fans for the Canadian pairs skating team controversy. Angle can take any sign of the times and just roll with it for the easy cheap heat. Here’s the question: given how divided America was during the Vietnam War, if Angle had wrestled in the sixties, which side do you think he would have been more likely to antagonize? Makes you think, doesn’t it?
-Angle attacks with the ring bell! I can see Angle playing Savage, but Kane as Steamboat? A little odd, to say the least. Unless Kane was a “fire breathing dragon”.
-For a monster, Kane’s sure giving Angle a ton of offense. See, I like these matches, because the dark-side loving marks who cheer for Kane will appreciate Angle as a gut-stomping villain who can take the fight to anyone, and the smarks who revere Angle can appreciate Kane for keeping up in a good match with such a talented pro. Everyone wins.
-It’s a shame that Kane’s been reduced to being nothing more than a chubby trial horse for the kiddies on Smackdown to work their craft on. He’s keeping pace with Angle, with a minimum of hoss silliness.
-Kane tries for a chokeslam, but Angle fidgets with Kane’s mask to throw him off his game. So when Jericho did it to Rey, he’d gotten the idea from Angle. Thieves….are….HYP-o-crites…..
-After Kane kicks out of the Angle Slam, Angle tries the Ankle Lock about 400 times to no avail. Jeez, get a clue, Kurt, he’s not up for tapping tonight. Angle ultimately counters a chokeslam into an awkward cradle and pulls the ropes for a poor excuse for a pinning combo, yet he gets the win off of it. Really good match and one of Kane’s best ever, but the ending did no favors. Fun while it lasted, though.
-Instead of trying to leave the building with the Hardcore Title, Hurricane tries to hide amongst the Godfather’s ho’s. You can LEAVE, Gregory, it’s not like Bill Watts is running the show!
-Highlight package for the Undertaker vs. Ric Flair street fight, with two noticeable occurrences: one is La Resistance’s theme playing for part of the video, and the other is a fan that Ric Flair accidentally assaulted played by…..Paul London! That’s not realistic at all. He wouldn’t have been allowed into the building with after a proper cavity search.
-Flair, who has a knack for storytelling, immediately attempts to pound Taker into oblivion for attacking his son, his friend Arn Anderson, and for making him hit Paul London. London was trained by Shawn Michaels, and lord knows Flair would NEVER do anything to upset Shawn.
-It doesn’t last long, as Taker seats Flair at ringside and unleashes a nasty gusher from Ric’s forehead, just pounding the cut until it looks like Flair’s going to be emptied at any moment. Nobody can empty Flair quicker than the Internal Revenue Service, but Taker’s a close second.
-Taker punching. Taker punching. Taker punching.
-After a seesaw slugfest, Flair manages to retrieve a lead pipe from Undertaker’s motorcycle (yes, he was still a biker at this point), and bashes the Dead Man to bust him open. Well, it’s a minor wound, but Lawler still believes that Taker’s papercut is a worse gash than Ric Flair’s forehead, which looks suspiciously like a bowl of tomato soup. Lawler also believes that he could attract the same women he gets now without millions in the bank, so let’s not go and shatter his delusions.
-Ross on Lawler’s prior assessment: “Are you drunk?”. I hope he is. Gives Jake Roberts someone to play cards with.
-Arn Anderson slides in to hit Undertaker with a Spinebuster, which I marked like a mofo for, but it can’t keep Taker down. Because Undertaker is not Firebreaker Chip.
-After Taker disposes of Arn, he takes on a figure four from Flair, but he goozles his way free. Flair won’t take the Last Ride, so Taker’s all “screw it” and lands the Tombstone for the win. A damn good match that’s lost amongst the Rock/Hogan hoopla, and I loved the intensity throughout.
-Afterward, Taker raises ten fingers, one by one, on the apron to mark his milestone. Has anyone else even WON ten matches at WrestleMania, let alone in a row? I think Shawn’s won maybe 6 or 7. Good stuff.
-Booker T cuts a promo to prove his stupidity. I always liked that in WWE that we’ve never been allowed to have a black character that’s displayed a ton of intelligence and intuition, outside of maybe Faarooq in the NOD days. And yet, Vince is there to paste the Martin Luther King montage on Raw every January. Perplexing.
-Edge realizes his dream of wrestling in Skydome at a WrestleMania! YAY EDGE!
-Said dream entails of: a disinterested crowd, Edge nearly breaking his neck on a top rope hurrachanrana, a badly blown Spinarooni attempt, and a win over Booker T in a match that was contested over a bottle of shampoo. But he’ll always have a the dream.
-Here’s an idea: why not have Booker feud with Page over who brought the WCW Invasion down, then do a six man tag: Edge and the Hardyz vs. Christian and the Dudleyz, TLC for the European (if Christian has it) and Tag Team Titles? You can stick Billy and Chuck and the APA on the pre-show or something. Flows better, doesn’t it? I think so.
-Meanwhile, Mighty Molly bashes The Hurricane with a frying pan to become Hardcore Champion. What a team: devoted missionary and violent drunk. It’s like the plot of Hancock, except….somehow better?
-And now for an interesting one: Stone Cold Steve Austin takes on Scott Hall of the New World Order. Austin was none too happy about being shunted down the card to feud with a chronic drunk (oh, the irony), and actually walked out the following day, not returning for a couple weeks.
-Brutal slugfest to begin things, and Kevin Nash earns his money for the year by removing the turnbuckle pad. That was very risky of him to do, since that’s his GOOD triceps that he used.
-Austin is bumped to the outside, and has to bear the brunt of a Nash onslaught. Hit his leg, Steve, that tends to work.
-Back inside, Austin hits Hall with a spinebuster, Then he follows up with a Stunner, but Nash pulls the ref out and clobbers him. Outsiders double team and Hall gets a chair, but Austin manages to Stun both men by himself. Way to keep those nWo t-shirt sales strong, guys.
-Another ref comes in and Nash drops an elbow on him. What’s up with Nash….and doing moves and stuff? Crazy.
-Nash is lulled from ringside by the promise of free Revlon, so Austin finishes Hall off with two Stunners for the win. This did nothing for Hall, who has to be a ruthless invader, and nothing for Austin, who was proving to no longer be the main event star. Decent match, but came at a heavy price.
-This leads to the fatal fourway for the WWE World Tag Team Titles, as Billy & Chuck (pre-Rico) defend the gold against the APA, Dudley Boyz, and Hardy Boyz. As a bonus, Saliva plays the Dudz new music live, and Josey Scott gets to grind with Stacy Keibler. Lucky punk.
-Just your standard multiple team fare, without the fun of broken tables and JR freaking out. In fact, APA eats an early elimination after a 3D. Remember when Bradshaw was just midcard fodder? Shhh, no one’s supposed to know that.
-Jeff Hardy was looking AWFUL here. Imagine if Sheamus was a fifteen year old raver, and you get Jeff in 2002. Even JR has to note how sickly pale he looks. Maybe he’s a Make-a-Wish kid, because he just got to slap Stacy’s butt as she tried distracting him with a wedgie, following up by kissing her. Well, that was MY wish too.
-After D-Von crashes through a table at ringside, Bubba Ray falls victim to the Hardyz finish. The crowd’s scared that Billy & Chuck may survive with the belts. Who says Canada’s not judgmental?
-Sure enough, a Fame-Asser/belt shot combo is enough to keep Jeff down for Billy & Chuck to retain. Bland match, and the crowd wasn’t into it, other than rooting against the champs. Let’s just move on.
-So backstage, Hulk Hogan calls off the Outsiders in regards to his match, and Christian nails Molly with a door to win the Hardcore Title. Just getting these out of the way, because I’m giddy about what’s next.
-And here it is: the match that changed everything.
-WWE’s pro-youth stance was shattered on this night. All of the pandering that Vince McMahon has done from 2002 onward in regards to nostalgia acts and milking out-of-date gimmicks for all they’re worth can be traced back to this match. Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock, in a match between a 48 year old has been who had been absent from WWE for nearly nine years, and a 29 year old man who was becoming world famous, and was a great ambassador for the industry.
-So Toronto booed the kid and cheered the old guy. But hey, didn’t we all?
-JR has the balls to call this a “mixed reaction”. JR also called the Grenada conflict “evenly matched”.
-Hogan shoves Rock down a couple of times and poses, and the crowd reaction is INSANE. My brother and I joined in as Hogan went all eighties-y on us and we marked out like we were kids. And I was 18, thus having no excuse.
-Rock comes back and takes Hogan down, and the crowd boos. No wonder Vince Carter quit on this city.
-AXE BOMBER!!!! He beat Stan Hansen with it! But Rock’s no Stan Hansen. Like Rock would ever drop a midcard title to Lex Luger.
-Hogan’s doing the most elementary of moves (abdominal stretch, backrakes, 10 punches in the corner, forehead bite) and the fans are losing their mind. I think if 70,000 fans cheered Miss Jackie vs. Trish Stratus, I could get into that, too. Not that this match here sucks or anything.
-Rock chops away, and then cups his hand to his ear to mock Hulk. Fans boo lustily. I’m enjoying myself far too much.
-Hogan chokes the #1 babyface in the world with his wristtape, and the fans begin chanting his name. Not Rock’s name, but Hulk’s name. Do you think this annoyed Rock any, or do you think he was busy trying to remember his lines for the Rundown?
-The fight spills to the floor and Hogan clears off one of the tables, but it doesn’t get used. Rock tries to use a chair, but has it taken away. I nominate this for “best alleged hardcore match in wrestling history”, next to any Steve Blackman Hardcore Title defense.
-Ref bump, and Rock takes Hogan down with a spinebuster and sharpshooter. Hogan taps, which doesn’t count. You may be noticing a trend in this era.
-HULK BOTTOM! IT GETS 2! And it’s Yappapi strap time, as both men exchange shots with the weapon. Rock gets the upper hand and hits Rock Bottom….BUT HULK KICKS OUT! HE’S HULKING UP! THIS PLACE IS INSANE! 3 PUNCHES! BIG BOOT! LEGDROP! BUT ROCK KICKS OUT! PANDEMONIUM!
-Hogan misses a second leg drop, and then Rock lands two Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow to win one HELL of a fun match. Afterward, Hulk shakes Rock’s hand, and the Outsiders attack Hulk for being a turncoat. After Rock and Hulk run them off, Rock has Hogan pose for the fans like old times, andwhat a moment that it was. The two men walk off together, with Hogan endorsing Rock as the modern day star. I can’t speak enough about how great this was, and I still got giddy eight years later watching it. If you haven’t seen it, do it.
-What do you mean the show’s not over?
-Crowd for X8: 68,237. Thank you, Howard Finkel (#18!)
-Now for the Women’s title match, which is just dead in the water. Jazz defends the gold against Trish Stratus and Lita. The only thing that’s notable in the early going is that Trish has a maple leaf on the back of her tights. Alright, I’m kinda interested now.
-Crowd is dead, except when Lita wrenches her knee in the turnbuckle. If they were banking on hometown girl Trish to keep the fans alive till the main event, well Jasper, they thought wrong.
-Trish goes off the apron and Jazz spikes Lita with the Jazz Stinger for the win. No offense to any of these three women, since I have no issue with any of them but…..NEXT.
-Christian tries to make his escape with the Hardcore Title, but is pinned by Maven outside, who then absconds with Christian’s ride to the hotel. Well, that was just utterly pointless, wasn’t it?
-And now, the death march commences.
-Chris Jericho defends the Undisputed Championship against Triple H. The storyline here was…..Triple H won the Royal Rumble and uhh….Chris Jericho was champion so uhh…..they have a match. Oh, and Hunter was divorcing Stephanie, and they fought for custody of the dog. So Stephanie sided with Jericho and Jericho’s limo accidentally backed over the dog. Jericho, the most important champion at the time, was also walking the dog because Stephanie told him to.
-I’m going to need a moment to re-cope with the reality of that statement.
-Drowning Pool is here to play their rendition of “The Game”. Dear Drowning Pool, you’re not Lemmy. Sincerely, everyone with taste. Dave Williams, the singer of Drowning Pool, died months later of heart failure on the band’s tour bus. Hey Marc Mero, there’s somebody you forgot to put on your “wrestling deaths” list. It’s ok, you can have this one for free.
-Oh, right, the other story is that HHH is still hurting from his prior quadriceps injury, and Jericho’s looking to exploit that. Wow, look, the first part of the main event that HASN’T annoyed me. The crowd is too dead to be annoyed. Hogan wore em out. Maybe TNA should just move to Toronto?
-Hunter slams Jericho from the top rope to ringside. Well, alright, that was cool.
-Hunter and Jericho take turns working each other’s legs, which is not really the way to go if you’re trying to resuscitate the crowd. Stephanie screeching isn’t really helping matters either.
-Jericho saves Stephanie after Hunter brought her in the ring. What he wouldn’t have gave to break character for just one second. Disappointment as a champion, eh? Poor Jericho.
-Jericho and Hunter try and re-enact the Walls of Jericho on the table spot that helped injure Hunter in the first place, but Hunter ends up going through a table instead. Well, at least the psychology is sound.
-Jericho ultimately locks in the Walls inside the ring, but Hunter avoids passing out. Triple H is a better man than us all.
-After Hunter DDT’s Jericho onto a chair, Stephanie interjects herself one time too many, and Hunter makes her eat a Pedigree in the middle of the ring. Crowd kinda cheers that one. For someone who had needed comeuppance for a long time, they can’t go crazy for that? Man, Hulk must be like roofies or something.
-Jericho tries his own Pedigree, but Hunter sends him to the buckles. Jericho’s rebound dive falls onto a kick, and Hunter spikes him with the Pedigree to win the Undisputed title. Technically, the match was pretty good, but the lack of emotion from the fans, and Hunter’s slow pace selling the injury made this hard to want to invest into. If the rumors about Jericho being buried by the office over his title reign are true, then he probably wishes he didn’t put in the effort. Not that it seemed worth it anyway. Weird end to a generally weird show.
-CYNIC SAYS: Well, forget about topping last year’s effort right off the bat. I wouldn’t say anything on this show was terrible, so let’s look for some middle ground here. Rock-Hogan is a must-see, and Taker-Flair, Angle-Kane, RVD-Regal, and Jericho-HHH I’d rank as good. Everything else is going to go based on your personal tastes. For me, too many short matches featuring good competitors.
So it’s not a bad show, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was fun in a lot of parts. Sort of like an All-Star game that doesn’t quite live up to the hype: it doesn’t suck, but it was fun to see all the stars.
So let’s go with that.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
One year after rolling the dice on a Stone Cold Steve Austin heel turn, the WWF found themselves in a rather unusual position. It had been a few years since the promotion needed to make any desperate moves or decisions, the last one being to put on a raunchier product. From there, it was smooth sailing for Vince McMahon and company, as there was no force that could trip up the surging juggernaut.
Wrestling’s popularity started to wane after WCW’s dissolution, as part of the fun for a number of fans was watching the entities compete for viewers. Interest picked up at the start of WCW‘s Invasion (spiking when ECW got involved, and The Rock returned from filming The Scorpion King), but the majority of fans were let down by the complete mismanagement of what could have been wrestling’s biggest moneymaker.
After WCW’s final ashes were shoveled away, ratings still remained an issue. Monday Night Raw dipped below 4.0 on October 22, 2001, the night after a PPV. It was the first time Raw had submerged below that level in several years.
Honestly, there was little for the WWF to worry about. Fans seemed to be burnt out on wrestling, as America can tend to get when one trend fades and a new one captures their minds, but that didn’t mean it would stay that way forever. A hot angle, a new talent, anything could jump start wrestling with volts of electricity into the business’ chest.
McMahon, however, seemed impatient. Austin was turned back face, doing increasingly silly things like fighting in churches and supermarkets to try and rekindle his bad ass image. It wasn’t working.
In a desperate move, Vince McMahon went out in January 2002 and rehired three men, one of them would change the course of WWF forever.
In January 2002, after Ric Flair (now part owner of the WWF after buying Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s stock in a consortium) had thoroughly embarrassed Vince McMahon, the WWF Chairman suffered what appeared to be a psychotic breakdown. The result of his newfound disillusionment was a belief that the WWF had “terminal cancer”, and he was going to put it out of its misery before Flair or anyone else could.
To do that, he brought in the original three members of the New World Order: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan found himself face to face with The Rock one night after No Way Out, and Rock laid down a challenge for WrestleMania X8 to determine the greatest wrestler of all time. Hogan, returning to the WWF after nine years away, accepted. Moments later, after Rock laid out Hogan with a Rock Bottom, Hall and Nash jumped the “People’s Champion”, and the nWo took turns beating him down.
After Rock was stretchered out, he was placed into an ambulance, which was then t-boned by Hogan, driving the front end of a tractor trailer.
The New World Order also turned their attention to the WWF’s other hero, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin took Scott Hall hostage on one episode of Raw, resulting in Hall’s humiliation at the hands of a frontline soldier that wasn’t going to back down from a siege. Hall responded by breaking a cinder block on Austin’s leg shortly thereafter.
With Rock vs. Hogan and Hall vs. Austin signed for WrestleMania, it seemed that the New World Order was overshadowing the World Title picture.
Chris Jericho would be that champion, having unified the WWF and World Heavyweight Championships at Vengeance in December, beating Rock and Austin in concurrent matches. However, despite the win, it seemed that Jericho had trouble gaining steam as champion. Other than a great match with Rock at the 2002 Royal Rumble, Jericho was often undercut as champion. He had barely beaten Rikishi and Maven (the winner of WWF’s Tough Enough) in title matches on Raw, and Jericho had only gotten 10% of the offense in a narrow win over Austin at No Way Out.
Facing Jericho on the grandest stage was Triple H, who had returned in January eight months after a brutal quadriceps tear. Two weeks after returning, “The Game” won the 2002 Royal Rumble, last ousting Kurt Angle, and the comeback run was on.
During this time, Hunter and Stephanie McMahon had a marital falling out, including a marriage renewal gone awry days before No Way Out. Stephanie aligned with Jericho, a long time enemy, in order to stick it to her soon to be ex-husband. Jericho, sadly, was reduced to sycophantic duties, including walking the couple’s bulldog, Lucy. Jericho’s limo accidentally backed over the dog, adding an unusual layer of vengeance to an already bizarre feud.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (who returned to the WWF in November) would call the action from ringside. Instead of a national anthem, Saliva opened the show with the song “Superstar”, while later playing the Dudley Boyz to the ring with their new song “Turn the Tables”. Drowning Pool performed “Tear Away”, as well as a newer rendition of Triple H’s song “The Game” for when he made his main event entrance.
WWF Intercontinental: Rob Van Dam def. William Regal in 6:19 to win the title
(Exciting and creative opener, though scary for a moment when Regal dropped Van Dam on his head with a half nelson suplex. Match was a bit more dramatic than Regal’s opener from a year earlier)
WWF European: Diamond Dallas Page def. Christian in 6:08
(The storyline of this match was that Christian was now prone to temper tantrums, complete with theatrics, when things didn’t go his way. Yeah, that’s way better than his “Captain Charisma” spiel)
WWF Hardcore: Maven went to a no contest with Goldust in 3:15
(Spike Dudley ran in and stole the pin. This would lead to Crash Holly, The Hurricane, Godfather, Al Snow, Mighty Molly, and Christian involving themselves in the 24/7 chase, with Maven yet regaining. Yay)
Kurt Angle def. Kane in 10:45
(An underrated match in WrestleMania annals, Angle and Kane worked a smart match based around Angle trying to get a submission. The crappy pinfall ending needs to be seen, however)
Street Fight: The Undertaker def. Ric Flair in 18:47
(Another underrated match. Flair and Taker bled buckets, Arn Anderson ran in to give Taker the spinebuster, and Taker gave Flair an old school Tombstone to win. Oh, and that’s then)
Edge def. Booker T in 6:32
(I think we can all agree that this was Edge’s worst WrestleMania match ever. It’s probably Booker’s also, until 22. You know why? THEY’RE FIGHTING OVER SHAMPOO!)
Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Scott Hall in 9:51
(Austin had no interest in trying here. Hall was dogging it less than he was, and that says something. Austin walked out for the first of two times in 2002 after this match)
WWF World Tag Team: Billy & Chuck def. The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and the APA in 13:50
(It bears noting that neither Dudley Boy or Jeff Hardy have ever won at WrestleMania. That said, this match sucked, except for Stacy Keibler’s self-induced wedgie. Mmmm)
The Rock def. Hollywood Hogan in 16:23
(A truly unforgettable match, and no fan who witnessed it will ever forget it. The Toronto fans turned on Rock, hailing Hogan as a prodigal hero. Hogan ran through his classic Hulkamania offense, and damn near blew the roof off the arena when he “Hulked Up” late in the match. After Rock won, Hall and Nash turned on Hogan, Rock saved, and the two posed together to deafening cheers. Unreal)
WWF Women’s: Jazz def. Lita and Trish Stratus in 6:16
(Talk about dead in the water. This match didn’t stand a chance after Hogan and Rock, which should have been the main event. At least Trish looked good in her white shorts with the red Maple Leaf)
WWF Undisputed World Championship: Triple H def. Chris Jericho in 18:41
(Speaking of dead, Jericho knew going into the match (having seen Hogan/Rock) that there was no way the fans were going to buy into his main event. The largely dead crowd barely reacted when Triple H won with the Pedigree. It was a good match, but just badly positioned)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
WrestleMania X8 will always be remembered for that Hogan vs. Rock classic. It’s a good thing to look back on with fondness and a twinkle in your eye, as fans of all ages were reduced to their pre-pubescent selves watching it. Wrestling became real again for over twenty minutes.
However, this is where the problem lies.
Hogan’s nostalgia act popped the crowd for weeks afterward, but the luster wore off when people realized that Hogan wasn’t Rock or anyone else in terms of being relevant, fresh, hip, or able to work the faster-paced modern WWF style.
But McMahon didn’t care.
By summer, Shawn Michaels was lured out of retirement, although he proved to still be an excellent performer. Over the next several years, WWF (soon to be WWE) juxtaposed nostalgia acts who were guaranteed to pop the audience with time-tested routines, with newcomers fresh from the development territories with no personalities, that had no chance of getting over.
It became a self-defeating system, one that WWE relied on as a lazy fail-safe. As long as Hulk Hogan, and others, kept coming back for a payday in exchange for a time-warp moment, the desire to build new stars took a backseat.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
Sunday, March 17th, 2002 – SkyDome – Toronto, Canada – The last WrestleMania under the “World Wrestling Federation” banner and the second WrestleMania to head outside of the United States! At this Mania card, we see Chris Jericho defending his Undisputed WWF Championship against the returning Triple H, as well as Icon versus Icon when the Rock does battle with “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, and the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair faces the Dead Man, the Undertaker!
The show opened with Saliva doing one of this year’s theme songs, “Superstar.” I miss the WWE going away from bringing in live bands performing a song or two at WrestleMania. I know it’s frustrating for me trying to pay attention to the music video for it and the camera men go back and forth on showing the band with the titan tron and panning the fans.
But besides my short rant, I do feel like “Superstar” by Saliva does fit perfectly for WrestleMania, any WrestleMania for that fact.
After Saliva got done, they showed a video package hearing from guys like Undertaker, Ric Flair, Triple H, and Chris Jericho talking about what WrestleMania means to them.
Jim Ross welcomes us to WrestleMania X8! Thanks JR! Jerry “the King” Lawler joins JR at the English announcer’s booth! The greatest tag team at the annoucer’s table!
WWF Intercontinental Championship match: Rob Van Dam versus William Regal (champ)
Within a couple of minutes, Regal put a pair of brass knuckles on his hand and RVD kicked them off of his hand.
RVD missed with a 5 Star Frog Splash and Regal hit the running knee and only got a near fall.
Out of the three PPV matches that Regal has had so far in 2002, this is his best. Nothing against Edge, but Regal’s wrestling style fits a lot better with RVD. It could also be the WrestleMania feel in the crowd, but I believe Regal hits better wrestling RVD.
At the end, RVD hit the 5 Star and became the Intercontinental Champion for the first time on his WrestleMania debut!
Superstar of the match: William Regal, for putting over RVD.
Lilian interviews Christian about his match against DDP for the WWF European Championship. Christian turned on DDP because he didn’t need him after getting back on his winning way. He also said that he became a better man when he left this town (Toronto) and moved down to Florida.
WWF European Championship match: Christian versus Diamond Dallas Page (champ)
Christian is hailing from Tampa, Florida, just to get more heat from the crowd.
Another thing I just realized, just like RVD, this is DDP’s first WrestleMania where he’s having his first wrestling match. His first Mania was at Mania 6 where he drove Rhythm and Blues (Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine) in a pink Cadillac.
DDP almost countered the Imprettier with the Diamond Cutter, but Christian countered that. So, yes, a double counter.
Shortly after, DDP hit his Diamond Cutter, and retaining his European title, and making his debut at Mania a success. He grabbed a mic and said that it wasn’t a bad thing that he won, that it was a good thing!
Superstar of the match: DDP’s smile, because it’s a good thing! And thinking of it, DDP made Christian feel the BANG!
The Coach interviewed the Rock, saying that tonight’s the biggest night in his career and his biggest match of his career. The Rock stopped the Coach, and you could hear faint “Hogan” chants. The Rock asked the Coach if he took his vitamins, if he said his prayers, and teased him up and down for taking his vitamins but getting too busy for saying his prayers! Rock asked the Hulkster what he’s gonna do when the Rock runs wild on him.
WWF Hardcore Championship match: Goldust versus Maven (champ)
Remember: this was still when the Hardcore title was under the 24/7 rule, so this might not be much of a review of a match.
Another odd fact: this is Maven’s first WrestleMania match. First three matches at Mania we see three men debuting at Mania.
There are two golden trash cans and a golden shovel that Goldust brought in to use against Maven. How golden does it mean to Goldust to win the Hardcore title.
After both men hit each other win a trash can lid, Spike Dudley ran out and pinned Maven and won the title!
Superstar of the match: Spike Dudley for being smart. Yup.
Drowning Pool preformed “Tearing Away” for the Undisputed WWF Championship match. Honestly, this drives me nuts on when they’re doing this music video and band performance. I feel like they should have done this for the main event. Granted Drowning Pool also preformed Triple H’s theme song, but it would be even more hardcore metal if they would have done two back-to-back songs right away at WrestleMania!
Crash Holly is beating on the new Hardcore Champion Spike Dudley in back and only got a two-count. Al Snow drove a golf cart and ran into some boxes. That would be fun to do. The Hurricane flew in and took out Spike and won the Hardcore title.
Kurt Angle versus Kane
Kurt grabbed a mic and said that if he would have won his gold medal like how Canada’s skaters won theirs, he’d want to show himself in the head. He didn’t have to whine to get his medal, he earned it.
Angle nailed Kane in the head with the ring bell before the bell rang. I guess it’s legal because the bell couldn’t have been rung before Kurt did that.
Angle hit an overhead belly-to-belly suplex onto Kane. That was super impressive that Kurt hit that.
Kurt also hit three consecutive rolling German suplexes. It’s weird seeing someone do that to a man the size of Kane.
Kane nailed the Chokeslam onto Angle and would have got the three count if he didn’t pin Angle right by the ropes. Kurt grabbed the bottom rope.
Within a minute, Angle hit the Angle Slam and only got a two. Kurt got angry and slapped on the ankle lock.
Kane was on top rope about to hit Angle with a top rope suplex, Angle ran up and suplexed Kane from the top rope to the mat. Angle tried with another Angle Slam, Kane countered, Angle countered Kane, rolled him up, had his feet on the ropes, and won.
Superstar of the match: Kurt Angle for outsmarting the Big Red Machine.
The Hurricane was walking around backstage and found himself in the women’s locker room. It was the Godfather’s ladies room. He ran the Hurricane out. I guess the Ho’s don’t want the Eye of the Hurricane and the Godfather doesn’t want to get hardcore with the Hardcore title.
The Undertaker versus Ric Flair
The Undertaker had to attack Arn Anderson, Ric Flair’s best friend, and David Flair, one of Flair’s sons, just to get a match with Flair at WrestleMania X8! The song playing for the video package is Renee Dupree’s theme song when he came to the WWE! Due to Ric Flair being the “co-owner” of the WWF, and competing at Mania, he got is “rights” revoked and full power given to Mr. McMahon. Vince made Flair versus Undertaker a no disqualification match.
I really like this “version” of the Undertaker, the “Biker Taker,” because it’s a version of the Dead Man where we could relate to the most. I know most people like the vintage character of the Undertaker, and that’s fine, but me personally, I enjoyed the “Biker Taker” years of the Dead Man’s career.
The fight went all the way to JR and the King within the first 90 seconds of the match, with Flair mounting the Dead Man and punching his face with the “Nature Boy” fists.
Undertaker yelled out: “We’re going to school!” But wait a second, isn’t Flair known as the “Dirtiest Player in the Game”? Wouldn’t that implied he knows what to do to get a passing grade in school, by going behind the teacher’s back?
The Undertaker hit Flair with a top-rope suplex and could have got the victory but pulled Flair up at two, just to dish out more pain to the “co-owner” of the World Wrestling Federation.
The Dead Man tried to hit the Nature Boy with Old School, but Flair pulled him off of the top turnbuckle. There is another move where I find strange for the Undertaker hitting on Flair because of the name. Flair’s been in the business longer than the Undertaker and Taker’s hitting Flair with Old School?
Ric Flair took the lead pipe that was in the Undertaker’s bike (see my WWE No Way Out 2002 review) and nailed the Undertaker with it across the forehead on the outside of the ring.
Flair hit a low blow and slapped on the Figure Four Leg Lock onto the Undertaker. The Dead Man’s screaming in pain, and the King said that it’s strange to hear him yell in pain. The Undertaker got out my chocking Flair and hitting the chokeslam. Only a near fall and the Undertaker’s surprised that Flair isn’t done due to the pain.
Arn Anderson came in and hit the Undertaker with a spinebuster. Flair tried to cover him to get the victory, but only got a two count. The Undertaker found Double A and started to do a number on him. Undertaker slapped on the Dragon Sleeper and Flair grabbed a chair and started to do a number to his back. Taker countered with a boot to the face of Nature Boy.
The Undertaker tried to give Flair a Last Ride but Flair couldn’t help to get up all the way, so the Undertaker hit him with a Tombstone Piledriver to become 10-0 at WrestleMania! That spot wasn’t that bad, because they made it a smooth transition into the Tombstone.
Superstar of the match: Double A’s spinebuster!
Michael Cole interviewed Booker T and said that Edge was questioning Booker T’s intelligence. Booker T said he’s smart for wearing glasses. Booker said that Edge isn’t better than him or smarter than him. Booker said he’ll beat Edge.
Booker’s a former five-time WCW champion and a ten time tag team champion. Edge, at this moment, doesn’t have those kinds of title wins under his belt.
Hey, look! Teddy Long’s the ref for this match! Go Smackdown!
Here is another person, Booker T making his debut at WrestleMania.
To be honest, I’m starting to feel like this match, so far at WrestleMania X8, might be the worst match of the card. As you can tell, there isn’t much in this match where I feel like there’s much to mention. It might be because this match is right after the awesome Ric Flair/Undertaker match, and giving it some thought, I think that might be the reason why.
Edge won with the DDT.
Superstar of the match: Teddy Long, because he’s done it all in the business.
The Hurricane is in the parking garage and the Coach tried to interview him. The Hurricane said he isn’t a perv, and Molly Holly used a skillet to knock out the Hurricane and became the new Hardcore champ! Go Mighty Molly!
Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Scott Hall
It all started the month before at No Way Out 2002 where the nWo cost Stone Cold Steve Austin the Undisputed WWF Championship against Chris Jericho. I remember the nWo trying to offer Steve Austin a 6-pack of beer but he throwing it over his shoulder saying he wasn’t thirsty. There was some great comedy there.
I’m happy that Tim White’s the ref in this match. Tim White’s one of my favorite referee’s during this period in the World Wrestling Federation.
Steve Austin started the match before Scott Hall was able to take off his nWo vest.
Kevin Nash took off the top turnbuckle pad from the outside and Hall countered Stone Cold with a Irish whip into the exposed buckle.
Austin hit the Stone Cold Stunner on Hall and got the two then Kevin Nash pulled the ref out of the ring and took him out. After, Nash came in and took out Austin. Nash put Austin in a full nelson and Hall grabbed a chair. Austin hit Nash with a low blow and gave both Hall and Nash Stunners and this was the second time he should have got the victory. Nash took out the new ref (Jack Doan).
About five refs came out and ejected Nash from ringside.
Hall hit Austin with a Stunner and only got a two. Hall tried again but Austin pushed Hall into the exposed turnbuckle and hit him with two Stunners and picked up another victory at WrestleMania X8!
Superstar of the match: Tim White, with all the bumps he took in the match, he deserves it.
We see a video package of WWF Excess. The backstage interaction for the fans of the WWF who went to WrestleMania X8 is shown. If I ever go, I’d love to meet the Undertaker and Chris Jericho at one of those events. I’d love to get their autograph and get my picture taken with them. I’ve been vocal about being a huge Jericholic but I’m a huge Undertaker fan as well. I know with his character these days he won’t be at one of those events, which is super sad, but if I could, I’d love to shake his hand, get his autograph, and get my picture taken with him. He’s a true legend in the business.
Four Corners Elimination match for the WWF Tag Team Championship: Dudley Boys versus APA versus the Hardy Boys versus Billy and Chuck (champs)
The Dudleys had Saliva sing them down to the ring.
I always enjoyed Billy and Chuck’s theme song. I did because I feel like it was a spoof off of the boy bands that were huge around this time.
Right when JBL hit Billy with the Clothesline from Hell, the Dudleys hit him with the 3D and got eliminated. DAMN!
One thing I can’t figure out is why the Hardy Boys always take their shirts off and why the crowd cheers. Shouldn’t the men boo them because their girlfriends or wives or daughters are lusting over the Hardys? I know if I had any of them when the Hardys were huge, I would totally had them look the other way, or change the channel when the Hardys are on.
Bubba got eliminated when Matt hit him with the Twist of Fate and Jeff hit him with the Swanton Bomb. Poor Dudleys. Pack up your bags and head down to Orlando, you’ll find work there.
Billy grabbed one of the tag title belts and nailed Jeff and Chuck picked up the victory! YES!
Superstar of the match: Billy and Chuck’s theme song!
Scott Hall is venting to Kevin Nash, saying that Stone Cold got lucky. Nash said that the Rock won’t get lucky either. Hogan came up and said that he needs to do this by himself and needs to prove to himself that he’s the better man over the Rock.
Molly is trying to get out and got nailed by the top half of the door, and Christian pinned her and became the new Hardcore champion!
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan versus the Rock
When the nWo theme started to play, the crowd went wild! The crowd went even louder when the Hulkster walked through the certain.
The match started with a tie-up and Hogan out-powered Rock and shoved him down and posed. The crowed popped even louder than when Hogan came out!
With the ref down, Rock slapped on the sharpshooter on Hogan and Hogan got to the ropes, but the Rock pulled him back to the middle of the ring, and then Hogan started to tap out. The Rock let go of the move to check the ref, and came back to Hogan and got low blowed and got nailed by the Rock Bottom and Hogan only got a two-count.
The Rock hit the Rock Bottom on Hogan and got a two-count, then the Hulkster Hulked Up. After a Big Boot and the Leg Drop, the Rock kicked out and Hogan doesn’t know what he needs to do to the Rock to defeat him. Hogan got another Big Boot but Rock moved to miss the Leg Drop and gave Hogan a Rock Bottom. The crowd boos. Suck it fans! Rock picks Hogan back up and hits him with another Rock Bottom. Nip up and the Rock connects with the People’s Elbow and the Rock wins it!
Superstar of the match: the fans!
After Hogan got up to his feet, he extended his hand and shook hands with the Rock.
Hall and Nash came out and attacked Hogan for losing to the Rock and not letting them come out to help Hogan against the Rock. The Rock came back and defended Hogan. Hogan and the Rock cleaned house against Hall and Nash.
The Rock stopped Hogan on leaving and asked him to pose for the crowd.
The Fink announces that they set a record of 68,237 people in the SkyDome! Wooo!
Women’s Championship match: Jazz (champ) versus Lita versus Trish Stratus
Probably the highlight of the match is how dead the crowd is compared to the match we seen before this wit Hogan/Rock. It seems like the crowd burnt themselves out with that match.
Jazz also hit the Fisherman Suplex on Lita off the second rope and got the victory and retained her title.
Superstar of the match: the bathroom, because this was a good bathroom break match.
Christian tried to leave the SkyDome but Maven school boyed him and became the Hardcore champion and took his cab! This is the second time Christian threw a temper tantrum.
Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Championship match: Triple H versus Chris Jericho (champ)
Drowning Pool preformed Triple H’s theme song from the WWF Forceable Entry album that came out not that long before Mania 2002. This is the second back-to-back Mania where Triple H had a band sing him out to the ring. The year before, WrestleMania X7, Motorhead brought out Triple H when he fought the Undertaker down in Houston.
Walking into WrestleMania X8 as the first Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Champion, for me this has to be one of Chris Jericho’s highlights in his wrestling career. Walking into a WrestleMania in Canada in the main event spot as World Champion must be huge.
We’re told that Triple H’s quad is being held by a wire. The announcers are trying to put an ounce of doubt in our mind that Triple H might not last the whole match, giving Jericho a heads in the match. If they wanted to give Jericho a strong push into WrestleMaina, they should have had him go clean over the Rock at the Rumble and Austin at No Way Out.
You know, I always wondered why they made Jericho carry around the WCW and WWF titles when he was the Undisputed Champion, especially when within two weeks of being champion, they made a new title for Triple H, not having him carry around both belts. I find that as a joke.
Jericho put Triple H up on the English Announcers table to slap on the Walls but Triple H got put, then Triple H tried to hit the Pedigree but Jericho backdropped the challenger through the Spanish Announcers table. Jericho put the Game back in the ring and hit the Lionsault and only got a two-count. That really blows.
Shortly thereafter, Triple H was turned to his belly and Jericho clamped on the Walls of Jericho! Earl Hebner checked Triple H’s arm and it only fell twice. Stupid Triple H. He got to the ropes and Hebner was forced to make Chris Jericho let go of the hold.
In the end, Triple H hit the pedigree and won the title. Yeah. JR put Triple H over. My emotions aren’t
Superstar of the match: Chris Jericho for his title reign coming to an end and having to put Triple H over after coming back from an injury.
This was a decent WrestleMania. The Taker/Flair, Hogan/Rock, and HHH/Jericho matches are matches that I would suggest if you never watched this Mania before. But if you have about four hours you’re wanting to waist, check out the whole WrestleMania X8 card. I thought the whole thing was pretty awesome for a WrestleMania, especially coming off of the year before WrestleMania.