The WWE Money in the Bank match has produced some of the most exciting moments of the last ten years. The glorified ladder match features daredevil heroics, extreme punishment, and intense action. Today I look back and celebrate the top five Money in the Bank matches in WWE history.
I don’t think anyone realized in 2005 when the WWE announced the first Money in the Bank match the significance this match would have on wrestling history. Stars were made, history was written, and memories have been cemented forever thanks to this innovative match. With two new matches around the corner I thought today would be a great time to look back and count down the top matches in MITB history. Since we aren’t quite ten years into MITB I went with a top five as opposed to a top ten. Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or want to mention your favorite Money in the Bank match memory.
Edge defeats Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, Christian and Kane – WrestleMania 21
I can’t think of another MITB match that was more exciting than the one at WrestleMania 21. I think the big difference here was that it was the first. The match just had more intensity and crowd emotion than any other due to the fact that nobody knew what to expect. The match was full of crazy spots that fans hadn’t seen before or lumped into one match. It is hard to replicate the element of surprise that the first match had at 21. Spots like the Benoit diving headbutt and Benjamin running up the ladder had fans stunned in amazement at this new kind of match.
Not that this should be part of the criteria but it also had the biggest impact in regards to elevating a star. Edge won and once he cashed in became an established WWE elite superstar for the rest of his career. No other winner has taken as much away from this match as Edge did in 2005.
Mr. Kennedy defeated CM Punk, Edge, Finlay, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Booker and Randy Orton – WrestleMania 23
I liked this match a lot and even though it was one of the longer MITB matches, it kept me interested from bell to bell. Edge and Orton bumped up the star presence here while the Hardys brought a ton of excitement to the match with the anticipation alone of what these guys would do in this environment. In terms of MITB moments, the spots between Jeff and Edge were some of the best in MITB history. Jeff’s jump on Edge is arguably the greatest spot in MITB history. What those guys did alone made this match great, yet it was a great effort from all back at 23, and the surprise winner in Kennedy was a nice touch.
CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 24
I was surprised at how much I liked this match when I went back and watched all of the old MITB matches. On paper it looks pretty average but these guys went far beyond anything I expected going into the match. It did get a little spot-crazy at times but that is to be expected in such a match. Shelton Benjamin really stepped it up here and John Morrison was in his element, delivering a moonsault with a ladder in his hand at one point. Matt Hardy’s spectacular 20-foot Twist of Fate remains the highlight of this match for me.
Alberto Del Rio defeated Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Alex Riley, R-Truth, The Miz, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger – Money in the Bank 2011
I debated a bit about the four spot here but in the end I went with the RAW MITB match from last year’s memorable show in Chicago. This match delivered on a lot of levels with the guys going out of their way to give fans plenty of breathtaking memories. Between Evan Bourne’s shooting star press 20 feet in the air, The Miz falling off the ladder, Mysterio and Kofi’s double leap, and Rey Mysterio getting unmasked, this was one of the more fun Money in the Bank matches. The hot Chicago crowd certainly didn’t hurt this one from entering the top five either.
CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Finlay, Mark Henry, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 25
I struggled quite a bit with the final spot here. I went back and forth between this one, last year’s MITB match, and the SmackDown match from the Chicago 2011 pay per view. In the end, the MITB WrestleMania 25 match was just too good to leave off the list. Shelton Benjamis was the show stealer in this one giving fans some of the best spots of the night in this match. One moment in particular saw Benjamin leap off the ladder placed in the aisle onto his MITB opponents. Watching these MITB matches reminded me how good Benjamin was and had me wondering why he isn’t the WWE today! Kofi also had his moments, one in particular had Kofi deliver a kick through the side of the ladder and climb the ladder while it was closed. Another saw Kofi run up the ladder and fall into a World’s Strongest Slam. Christian also had his moment hitting an Unprettier to Punk off the ladder. This match had a lot of great moments and is often one of the more underrated matches of the MITB series.
These Top-25 lists are picking up steam, so I’ll take the WWE approach of beating a good thing into the ground. With Money in the Bank coming up, it’s a good idea to look back at two decades-plus of WWE’s greatest ladder matches, and figure out what the best of the bunch truly are. There’s no bad matches to be found here; every entry is rewatchable time and time again. With TLC and Money in the Bank upping the ante of the classic ladder match, this list will cover a lot of ground, and no doubt provide a little argument fodder. Enjoy!
(Note: this list only includes matches which ended with the retrieval of a belt, briefcase, etc. As such, the TLC 2012 match with The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No is excluded. Otherwise, it’d have likely been top ten).
25. Chris Jericho vs. Christian – Vacant Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Unforgiven, September 12, 2004)
Edge was forced to abdicate the gold after one of too many injuries in his career, so brother/’best friend’ Christian was called in for the match to fill the vacancy. Jericho suffered a bizarre injury of his own during the match, in which the ladder slammed into his anal orifice (hey, he makes it sound worse in his second book), but ended up winning a fairly lengthy match. In the end, Jericho was merely used to transition to gold onto a flourishing Shelton Benjamin.
24. Kane vs. Big Show vs. Matt Hardy vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 18, 2010)
Firmly in the ‘let’s shoehorn gimmick matches into the secondary PPVs so that gimmick matches have less meaning’ era, Money in the Bank’s come away unscathed, thanks to the car-wreck spectacles that never get old. In this case, the maiden match of Money in the Bank’s spin-off event hit its mark, with a dose of big man psychology. Show and Kane were natural targets by the smaller competitors, while Show used a custom mecha-ladder for climbing.
23. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (TLC, December 16, 2012)
Ziggler put his previously-earned briefcase on the line (stay tuned for that), and, as is modern custom, lost to Cena in several matches on Raw prior to the PPV contest. Just as naturally, Ziggler took his usual laundry list of wild bumps through the course of the match, before winning as a result of AJ Lee shoving Cena off the ladder. That’d be Ziggler’s lone win of relevance over Cena, but Dolph memorably cashed in four months later on Alberto Del Rio.
22. John Morrison vs. Sheamus – Ladder Match (TLC, December 19, 2010)
Forgotten in the dogpile beneath main event-and-celebrity over-focus, Morrison and Sheamus had themselves a nifty little feud late that year, and a title shot at The Miz was at stake. Akin to the Razor/Michaels matches of yore with the larger adversary throwing around the nimble stud, Morrison gradually overcame the odds and won in dramatic fashion after Sheamus attempted to tip the ladder. Sadly, the Morrison/Miz bout is just as forgotten as this great match.
21. Mr. Kennedy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. King Booker vs. Finlay – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXIII, April 1, 2007)
Before Damien Sandow came along to look unceremoniously weak in failing in his cash-in against John Cena, there was Mr. Kennedy to lose his briefcase to Edge in a Raw quickie, following a Kennedy injury. The WrestleMania opener had plenty of intrigue, with a host of realistic winners. Jeff’s seated dive through Edge and a bridged ladder is cringeworthy, yet hilarious for the sight of brother Matt encouraging him to do it, then reacting as horror as Jeff lay hurt.
20. Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Christian vs. Tensai vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Sin Cara – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 15, 2012)
Another case of a heel being so much fun to watch that the crowd can’t help but cheer for them, the fans in attendance went berserk over Ziggler bumping Christian off a ladder in the end so that “The Show Off” could claim the briefcase. The match also seemed to be a coming-out party for Kidd, whose acrobatics finally had the forum for which to shine. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus sustained early in 2013 would sideline Kidd for almost a year, halting any push.
19. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, Triple Ladder Match (WrestleMania 2000, April 2, 2000)
The ‘unofficial’ TLC match (the official moniker for such matches wasn’t coined until SummerSlam that year) was the brightest bulb of a shockingly-dim WrestleMania. A quiet crowd most of the night, the fans memorably buzzed for the Dudleyz setting up the table bridge across two ladders inside the ring. Some of the slower spots haven’t aged well, thanks to innovation and improvement, but there’s still plenty of sick spots to marvel at.
18. Edge vs. John Cena – WWE Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (Unforgiven, September 17, 2006)
A bit of a shocker when Edge went over Cena in Cena’s Boston backyard at SummerSlam, but that only meant Edge would return the favor in his native Toronto. The visual of Edge being AA’d off of a ladder through a double stack of tables would remain a fixture in WWE’s “don’t try this at home” PSAs for quite some time afterward. Seems as though out of all of Cena’s frequent opponents, only Edge matches CM Punk in creating consistent greatness with Cena.
17. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk – World Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 23, 2009)
Given what a merchandise vessel Hardy had become for a company that loves its multiple revenue streams, it’s hard to believe Hardy would be gone by week’s end, with no return five years later. Punk’s victory transitioned into his tepid feud with The Undertaker, beginning immediately after the match as “The Dead Man” performed a supernatural body switch with a downed Hardy. In 2009, it was astonishing that Punk could win any PPV main event.
16. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio – Vacant World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (Extreme Rules, May 1, 2011)
What a weird time period for WWE. Edge vacates the championship three weeks earlier upon his hasty, very real retirement, and a top contender’s match is made for the PPV. The crowd heavily bought into Christian, and a dramatic finish saw Edge providing timely interference to offset that of Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay. Christian winning the gold was possibly the biggest pop of his career, so naturally he lost the title to Randy Orton two nights later.
15. Paul London/Brian Kendrick vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. MNM vs. William Regal/Dave Taylor – WWE Tag Team Titles, Ladder Match (Armageddon, December 17, 2006)
Teddy Long punched up this one by adding the Hardyz and MNM, as well as the ladder modifier, seconds before the bell rang, I suppose in an effort to get non-buyers to purchase the show at about 8:23 EST. The match is most notable for Joey Mercury damn near getting his face grafted off in a see-saw spot gone awry, forcing him to wear facial contraptions for a time afterward. London and Kendrick retained in the midst of an 11-month reign the company barely promoted.
14. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater vs. Sin Cara vs. Wade Barrett – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 17, 2011)
Takes a back-seat to CM Punk and John Cena’s all-timer to close the show, but it holds weight as the match that boosted Bryan into the main event tier where he’d more or less reside ever since. A wellness policy exodus played out as Sheamus powerbombed Sin Cara through a ladder, leading to a stretcher job into thirty days of oblivion for the luchador. Bryan’s victory was fairly unexpected, and the Chicago fans gave him a pop nearly comparable to Punk’s.
13. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WWE Challenge Taping, July 21, 1992)
The WWE’s first ever ladder match seems very tame compared to the anarchic stunt shows of later years, but two masterful workers in their relative youth put together a dramatic series of ‘near-falls’, with the match more about the drama of the climb instead of insanity. Hart purportedly suggested the match to Vince McMahon, who asked for a demonstration at this TV taping. The match made it onto several video releases, and became a tape-trader’s bounty.
12. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Christian – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 14, 2013)
In a roundabout way, this match made it possible for Daniel Bryan to stand tall at the end of WrestleMania XXX, holding two World Titles aloft (although the Rumble was definitely the fuse). The best ladder match in the spinoff PPV’s history began with a hero’s welcome for the returning RVD, and culminated with Paul Heyman turning on Punk, just prior to Orton’s victory, which was confusing at the time, but became much clearer following SummerSlam.
11. The Rock vs. Triple H – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 30, 1998)
A year later, Rock was a mega-babyface that transcended the business, while Triple H would be the slimy villain he was born to play. Here, however, was the match that virtually shot both men into the main event for good. In front of a nuclear Madison Square Garden crowd, Rock about blew the domed roof off with a People’s Elbow while Helmsley lay prone on the oddly-yellow ladder. HHH’s win only freed up Rock for the World Title run we all saw coming.
10. Chris Jericho/Chris Benoit vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge/Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SmackDown, May 22, 2001)
A worthy sequel to Benoit and Jericho’s heart-stopping title win over Steve Austin and Triple H one night earlier, an irate Vince McMahon booked the new champs against the TLC Six on free television. WWE Network, assuming it survives the long haul, will eventually have this episode up, as the match is otherwise lost to history thanks to Benoit’s involvement. A shade below the original TLC battles in terms of overall quality, it’s still one of the best ladder matches ever.
9. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 17, 1999)
Hanging above the ring was a bank robber’s sack of cash, and the winner would win Terri Runnels’ managerial rights. If it was believed that the winners would be elevated by association with Terri, the four just elevated themselves with a performance for the ages, becoming made men to varying degrees. Interesting note: Edge came dangerously close to missing the match, as he was almost unable to fly to the show due to a hurricane (he lived in the Bahamas at the time).
8. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Monday Night Raw, May 27, 2002)
Easily the best ladder match in Raw’s history, even if Undertaker and Jeff Hardy’s clash a month later received more company hype, despite it being a dramatic finish to an average match. This match was so good, even a moronic fan running interference couldn’t ruin it. RVD regained the gold, leading into the post-match involvement of Steve Austin, who went after Guerrero, only to be thwarted by a returning, suddenly-heel Chris Benoit; an angle that ended up fizzling.
7. Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Kane vs. Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXI, April 3, 2005)
The first of its kind remains the best of its kind. From Benjamin’s hands-free ladder ascension to Benoit German-suplexing Jericho, who was holding a ladder, it’s possibly the most uncluttered Money in the Bank match ever, and one that didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also arguable that Edge’s eventual cash-in on John Cena was the most relevant of its kind, since nobody had ever seen a cash-in until he did it nine months later. Anything since dilutes the fun to a degree.
6. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Royal Rumble, January 21, 2001)
There’s a moment of retroactive horror in the body of the match, wherein Benoit goes for his patented headfirst dive to the floor, only for Jericho to wallop him upside the head with a jarring chair shot. If seeing that moment overrides any possible enjoyment you can derive from the art of the match, it’s understood. For the more unmoved, it was a viable candidate for 2001′s match of the year, rivaled by a litany of classics, one of which is to come.
5. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 1995)
Gorilla Monsoon’s first act as figurehead President was to remove Psycho Sid from SummerSlam, and give Razor the shot at Michaels’ gold, in the match they put on the map. Wise choice; it boosted the show into pretty good territory, rare air in 1995. Ramon played de facto villain, smashing Michaels’ knee to pieces with the ladder, before Michaels superkicked him off a second ladder. The botched ending, and Michaels’ tantrum, somehow adds to the charm.
4. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (WrestleMania X7, April 1, 2001)
From the greatest WrestleMania ever comes the ideal spotfest: accelerated, minimal set-up for the convoluted spots, and the type of chaos that comes from involving a few intruders. Nominee for the best bump visual in ladder match history: Bubba Ray Dudley and Matt Hardy smashing four tables into dust after an interfering Rhyno tipped a painter’s ladder over. Edge and Christian’s win was a bit anti-climactic, but you can’t discount the efforts before then.
3. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 2000)
Gets the slight nod over its WrestleMania kid-brother for the sole reason of a less rushed ending. Conventional wisdom had the Hardyz going over here in their home state of North Carolina. In defeat, Jeff busted out a frightening Swanton Bomb off a ladder on the floor through Bubba Ray Dudley. The match is also known for an unfortunate double-entendre that Jim Ross made about Edge and Lita that gained new perspective about five years later.
2. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels – World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 5, 2008)
Doesn’t stand out, but it should. In fact, a lukewarm crowd is possibly all that kept this from the number one spot. Jericho and Michaels’ hate-filled feud in 2008 came to a head with this match, which was less about cutesy spots, and more heavy on the “I’m gonna kill you” brutality. Indeed, most of the ‘spots’ were Jericho and Michaels trying to make the other suffer, without the need for Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions. An inexplicably undervalued masterpiece.
1. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WrestleMania X, March 20, 1994)
Like Savage and Steamboat, a newer fan may wonder what’s so special about this match, after seeing many a stuntshow since. For 1994, Ramon and Michaels put together a match just unheard of for the time, and wouldn’t become standard for a few years yet. Michaels took at least five or six crazy bumps off of Ramon’s power-based offense, and the dramatic near-finishes had the MSG crowd buying into every second. It’s still the gold standard.
It would appear that TNA Wrestling’s frozen checkbook has finally thawed. TNA will be reuniting one of the most famous teams of WWE’s Attitude Era when they bring back Matt Hardy to reform the Hardy Boyz.
News broke earlier this week that TNA has re-signed Matt. As you may recall, Matt had one of the most embarrassing runs of his entire career in TNA. Matt came to TNA in the midst of a downward spiral which ended his long WWE career. Battles with wrestling’s infamous demons eventually drove Matt away from TNA. To say that this is redemption for the former WWE tag team champion would be an understatement.
Hardy lasted a total of eight months in TNA back in 2011. Matt’s outside of the ring troubles followed him inside of the ring as he showed up out of shape and just appeared out of sync throughout his entire run. Hardy’s tenure ended with a suspension that turned permanent. The Matt Hardy coming back to TNA in 2014 is hardly the same guy.
Hardy’s life spun out of control following TNA. He was arrested on a DWI charge yet what seemed to alienate his fans more than anything else was a video he posted in which he teased suicide, yet turned out to be some kind of poor joke. Hardy eventually checked himself into rehab for three months before being kicked out. Hardy would later return to complete rehab at the end of the year. Hardy has stayed relatively out of trouble since leaving rehab in December 2011 sans a domestic violence incident with wife Reby Sky earlier this year.
Hardy has been working regularly over the last few years at Ring of Honor. Hardy has gotten himself back into shape and found his working shoes. Hardy has also hit the independents the last couple of years with a notable feud against Luke Hawx. It’s been a long journey but even skeptics have to concede at this point that Matt appears to have gotten his business in order.
Matt’s tenure with Ring of Honor may have precipitated his return. According to recent reports, TNA Wrestling agents have been making calls to ROH guys in hopes of raiding the roster. ROH’s venture to pay-per-view appears to have TNA on the attack. Matt was a polarizing figure to ROH fans, yet I do think it is a huge blow to see one of their most recognizable face to national fans leave the company. I am surprised that ROH wasn’t forced to lock up Matt by the cable companies in exchange for getting the PPV slot.
TNA is already busy promoting a Hardy Boyz reunion. Matt and Jeff will reunite on June 25th at television tapings in New York. I would presume this kills the Willow character and I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with that.
I will be pulling for Matt Hardy. He has obviously worked rigorously in and out of the ring to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. I have been surprised in recent years that the WWE hasn’t brought him back as a surprise Rumble entrant. I hope this is only a step back into the WWE, even if just for a one-night shot as TNA is not the end-goal of someone like Matt Hardy.
WWE Extreme Rules is now several years old and it has had its share of great matches. With the 2014 edition looming, I thought it would be fun to take another look back and expand my top five to a top ten list of the best matches in WWE Extreme Rules history.
As always these are my favorite matches in Extreme Rules history. Yours may be different, so if you think I missed one leave a comment and let me know. The beauty of this list is that with the WWE Network, you can go back and watch every single one of these and relive the extreme memories. Otherwise grab a chair, lay out a table, and climb the ladder because these are the top ten matches in Extreme Rules history.
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena Extreme Rules Match (Extreme Rules 2012) - I don’t know if it was the hype, the intrigue, or just the excitement of seeing Brock back but this worked on every level. The match played out in the ring exactly as you’d expect a match between a former UFC fighter who knows how to wrestle would against an experienced WWE wrestler. It was one of the most brutal matches of either man’s careers and blew away Brock’s other matches with Triple H since returning. I know Cena won and I know that has tarnished the match for some, but for me it didn’t get better than this in Extreme Rules history.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho Chicago Street Fight (Extreme Rules 2012) - I originally put together a top five list and received a lot of cricticsm for leaving this match off of the list. So when I decided to expand the list this was the first one I went back to watch on the WWE Network and I am glad I did. I still don’t know if it makes a top five but it certainly belongs in a top ten list. The spot of the match was Punk dropping a flying elbow from the top to Jericho on the table. Another highlight of the match was Jericho getting in Punk’s family’s face and getting slapped by Punk’s sister. Having the match in Chicago was just icing on the cake.
CM Punk vs. Randy Orton Last Man Standing Match (Extreme Rules 2011) - I went back on forth between this one, Bryan vs. Sheamus 2/3 Falls, and Orton vs. RVD in a Stretcher Match and after watching all three back to back I came away enjoying this one best. This was a great match, maybe the best out of Orton in a while at this particular point in his career. If ECW fans like kendo stick shots, you’ll love this one. Tommy Dreamer was probably watching somewhere and asking himself, “Thank you may I have another.”
Jeff Hardy vs. Umaga Falls Count Anywhere (Extreme Rules 2008) - This may be one of the best WWE PPV openers in history. It’s unfortunate that most of us forget what a heck of a worker Umaga was for his size. Purists probably didn’t like this match, than again purists probably don’t like any of the matches in this blog. This match featured a ton of action and brawled everywhere including the parking lot. The win here by Hardy was a critical piece in getting Hardy over for his eventual title run. If there is one match on this list that you should track down on the network to watch it may be this one.
CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio Hair vs. Hair Match (Extreme Rules 2010) - I have to admit that I liked this match a lot better watching it for research on the blog than I did the first time. For whatever reason I never gave it the credit it was due. This was a real fun match. This reminded me of the old Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven ECW matches which featured a ton of interference from Raven’s Flock. There was a ton of drama here and a lot of action. Punk should have had more momentum in retrospect coming out of this yet for whatever reason he didn’t.
Jeff Hardy vs. Edge in a Ladder Match for the WWE world heavyweight championship (Extreme Rules 2009) – I sat here and tried to think of a reason not to rank this one at the top of the list and just couldn’t think of any. This match is probably remembered for the aftermath which saw CM Punk cash in. However, before Punk cashed in, Hardy and Edge had one of the great matches of this past era in WWE history.
Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio in a No Holds Barred Match for the WWE Intercontinental championship (Extreme Rules 2009) – I was a big fan of this feud as it featured a great storyline, strong promos, and some fantastic matches. This one may have been the cream of the crop for these two former WCW superstars. The finish of the match is still one of my favorites with Jericho countering the 619, tearing off the mask, and rolling up Mysterio when he tried to cover his face. This was just a fantastic match and a real showcase of their talents.
John Cena vs. Batista in a Last man Standing Match for the WWE championship (Extreme Rules 2010) – I may be a little biased here because this was one of my favorite feuds of the last couple of years. The dynamic between Batista and Cena was awesome and it worked like a charm at Extreme Rules. The big spot was John Cena hitting Batista with an Attitude Adjustment through a table. Batista worked over Cena’s leg throughout the match. The finish was a little goofy with the masking tape, but otherwise I thought they had a heck of a match.
Sheamus vs. Triple H in a Street Fight Match (Extreme Rules 2010) – This is probably a dark horse as opposed to some of the other matches you were expecting but I loved this one. This was one of the hottest matches of the event. I loved the finish here. Sheamus wound up pinning Triple H after a series of bicycle kicks. After the match, Sheamus continued attacking Triple H. As security walked Triple H to the locker room in a neck brace, Sheamus attacked him once last time. In the end, Triple H was stretchered out. Sheamus came off as a ruthless killer here, especially attacking Triple H as he was being helped to the back. I know some Triple H-aters may disagree, but this was a great one.
Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio in a Ladder Match for the WWE world heavyweight championship (Extreme Rules 2011) – In my Extreme Rules 2011 recap I listed this as my favorite match of the night. Looking back I wish that these guys had more time to feud because they had tremendous chemistry on this night. The highlight of the match was Christan getting knocked off the top rope, flying onto a ladder on the outside, readjusting, and hitting a reverse plancha on Del Rio on the outside. This was just an absolutely great match and probably one of the most underrated matches of 2011.
There have been many to criticize WWE for not knowing their history, often distorting facts and erroneously relaying anecdotes with the frequency of a con man on the witness stand. But this time, WWE is going to be taken to task for its poor math skills as well.
WrestleMania XXV was dubbed “The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of WrestleMania”, which implies that WrestleMania began in 1984. While one may argue that the idea for event’s inception may have come from the year of Ronald Reagan’s re-election, the first event, clearly, took place in 1985.
“The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of WrestleMania” was a repeated phrase, used dozens of times per broadcast in the weeks leading to the April 5 bonanza. It seemed almost apropos that a company would get something wrong, and then to their guns, continuing to get it wrong night after night, week after week, in every medium in which WrestleMania was advertised.
WWE can make its audience run a gamut of emotions, from “high satisfied to the point of pledging lifetime loyalty” to “wow, what made them think THAT was a great idea?” A misnomer in advertising would merely be the tip of the iceberg for a show that held high expectations.
Since WWE was demonstrating their ability to make continued miscalculations, it makes sense that they would bungle a number of other roads to their grand spectacle.
In the two world title matches, one would feature a nonsensical home invasion incident that would serve to take the story’s villain and reduce him to being a weakened oaf. The other would see the hero reveal a love triangle that featured the champion, his shrill authoritarian wife, and a seven foot monster.
Thankfully, there was one historically great match that would keep the show out of the landfill of wrestling’s mismanaged atrocities.
THE EVENT Randy Orton would win the 2009 Royal Rumble, adding another brick to his well-built newer persona. Orton had ditched his generic “evil jock” routine, and was now bent on playing an unstable creep, whose deplorable random acts of violence were facilitated by intermittent explosive disorder (IED). The condition came to the forefront six days before the Rumble when Orton, about to be fired by Vince McMahon for insubordination, struck the boss, and then delivered a vicious punt to his head.
Orton would then target the McMahons further, horribly injuring Vince’s son Shane, and then dropping daughter Stephanie with an RKO. The latter act was done as a message to the WWE Champion, Stephanie’s husband Triple H.
After Hunter broke into Orton’s house and attempted to maim him with a sledgehammer, Orton one-upped the champion by DDTing Stephanie a week later, while Hunter was handcuffed to the ropes. Then, to punctuate his misdeed, Orton kissed Stephanie’s lifeless face while Triple H could only scream at him helplessly.
Over on Smackdown, Edge had finagled his way into becoming World Heavyweight Champion the same night he lost the WWE Title. After being eliminated from Smackdown’s Elimination Chamber at No Way Out three minutes into the match, Edge attacked Kofi Kingston and took over in the Raw match, outlasting champion John Cena and others to win the title.
In order to keep Cena out of the title picture, Vickie Guerrero inexplicably announced that Edge would defend the World Heavyweight Title against Big Show at WrestleMania. Cena, however, interrupted the signing by whispering something to Vickie, who then canceled the signing abruptly. Cena then was inserted into the match, as it was revealed that Vickie and Big Show had been having a discreet affair, and Cena had used video proof to extort his way into the match.
Speaking of depravity, Matt Hardy had double crossed his brother Jeff, costing him the WWE Title in January. Hardy had tired of Jeff stealing the spotlight designed for both Hardy Boyz, and would sign to face him in an Extreme Rules match at WrestleMania.
Also on the demented side, Chris Jericho’s obsession with the movie “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke, had brought him to rail against legendary figures who hang on for too long. Jericho would violently assault Ric Flair, Jimmy Snuka, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Ricky Steamboat, leading to him signing for a three-on-one elimination match against the latter three Hall of Famers. Rourke would be in attendance as well.
On February 16, Shawn Michaels def. JBL in a match where the winner would have the right to challenge The Undertaker for WrestleMania, with a chance to end his streak at stake. Michaels would try to outduel Taker with the mind games, pointing out how “The Phenom” never once pinned him, and also tried to get in his head with religious overtones. Michaels was content to break his nice-guy facade, one upping The Undertaker with sneak attacks in the winding weeks as well.
Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole called the entire event as a trio. Nicole Scherzinger performed “America the Beautiful”, while Kid Rock performed a song medley. The Hall of Fame saw inclusion of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ricky Steamboat, Cowboy Bill Watts, The Funk Brothers, The Von Erichs, Koko B. Ware, and Howard Finkel
THE RESULTS Money in the Bank: CM Punk def. Kane, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Finlay, Christian, Kofi Kingston, and Mark Henry in 14:24
(The fans actually booed when Punk, still a face, won. That may have been the catalyst for one of my all time favorite heel runs in wrestling history. Match was solid, but nothing great, thanks to some very awkward spots)
25 Diva Battle Royal: Santino Marella won, last ousting Beth Phoenix and Melina in 9:26
(I refuse to dignify this crap any further. You can’t make me)
3 on 1 Handicap Elimination Match: Chris Jericho def. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat in 8:53
(Jericho’s point about legends needing to go away was vindicated by Piper and Snuka wrestling like, well, Piper and Snuka. Steamboat looked amazing for having a 15 year layoff, and he and Jericho salvaged a crap match with just four minutes of work)
Extreme Rules: Matt Hardy def. Jeff Hardy in 13:13
(An underrated match sees both men have as violent a spotfest as possible. Hilarious moment: Jeff misses a pointless ladder leg drop, Matt hits a chair-wrapped Twist of Fate (which looked SICK), wins, and JR screams of how Matt has ruined the moment for Jeff. Uhh, Jim? Matt’s trying to win too)
WWE Intercontinental: Rey Mysterio def. JBL in 21 seconds to win the title
(The first time the Intercontinental belt is defended in the “WWE” era at WrestleMania, and it goes twenty one seconds. What a way for JBL to go. I did enjoy Rey’s “Joker” tribute though)
The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels in 30:41
(If not for this match, we’d be talking about WrestleMania XXV the same way we talk about WrestleMania IX, or even an orphanage burning down. Just dramatic as could be throughout, and it deserved all the accolades that it received. It’s one of the five or ten greatest WrestleMania matches ever, and it saved the show)
World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Edge and Big Show in 14:42 to win the title
(It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as it did have a number of creative double teams and wild moments. But Cena winning (again), Show jobbing (again), and much of the action just seemed so derivative. It was alright)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: Triple H def. Randy Orton in 23:34
(They decided to blow off one of their hotter angles with a slow, awkward, punch-filled alleged brawl in which the crowd, all 70,000+ of them, was totally dead. Orton losing failed to get any kind of reaction, and you’ve noticed that Triple H hasn’t been involved in a major World Title program since)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
There was a Tag Team Title unification match scheduled for the show, with John Morrison and The Miz taking on Carlito and Primo, but due to time constraints, the match was relegated to the pre-show. Those fans who didn’t check the internet during the show didn’t realize the match had already taken place until near the end of the night.
It seems about right that WWE would take four hard working young talents and excise them from the main card in favor of the Divas Battle Royal, which had a 10 minute concert that no one liked, followed by 10 minutes of insulting “wrestling”.
This is one of those nights where WWE seemed to not know what the fans wanted. Triple H won to no reaction. John Cena won, again, to the misery of his detractors. Piper and Snuka waddled through the motions while the two aforementioned teams got pushed aside.
But at least, with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the fans were treated to a half hour of no pointless swerves, no cutesy self-congratulation, and no overbooking to build to another show. Instead, two of the greatest wrestlers in history wrestled, and they wrestled well.
So at least we had 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.
Being World Wrestling Entertainment has its share of diverse ways in which it can present its product. With an impressive active roster, a tremendous amount of classic legends willing to appear, expansion into wrestling-starved foreign countries, and a stranglehold on social media and merchandise licensing, even when the product falters, WWE still manages to thrive.
In 2006, WWE found itself spinning its wheels. John Cena, while a popular champion to youthful audiences, was getting choruses of boos from the more “time tested” fans who were used to wrestling being more coarse, bloody, raw (pun intended), and risqué than a near-thirty year old man in rainbow-ish t-shirts, trucker caps, and sneakers running his mouth as if he were the Disney Channel’s version of Eminem.
Since WWE was keen on keeping Cena champion long term (a strategy that has paid off if you consider merchandise sales and Cena’s cross-promotions), Vince McMahon needed something to keep the “hardcores” happy.
And the answer WAS hardcore. Well, rather, Vince’s definition of “hardcore”.
In June 2006, WWE opened a third brand, resurrecting the five-years-dead ECW, complete with Paul Heyman in charge. Joining Heyman were Joey Styles and Tazz on the stick, as well as classic stars of ECW’s past, such as Rob Van Dam and The Sandman. While the new ECW (dubbed WWECW by smart alecks) lacked the unpolished feel of the previous incarnation, ECW would serve as a nice alternative to Raw and SmackDown, creating a number of new stars in the process.
Also in the spring, WWE brought back another uncouth concept: D-Generation X. Triple H turned face for the first time in four years, reuniting with Shawn Michaels to recreate some old mayhem, albeit with less controversy.
With this mix of classic chaos and modern marketing, WWE was on the road to Detroit.
For the first time since WWE allowed for two world titles to exist, the two title matches at WrestleMania would be exclusive to babyfaces only.
The Undertaker, after a decade and a half of raising Hell in WWE, finally could add a Royal Rumble victory to his resume. Being the first #30 entrant to win the January classic, Undertaker brawled with Shawn Michaels for the final eight or nine minutes, ousting his legendary counterpart by avoiding Sweet Chin Music.
Undertaker now had his pick of opponent. Choosing between WWE Champion John Cena, World Heavyweight Champion Batista, and ECW Champion Bobby Lashley, “The Phenom” settled on Batista, who reigned supreme over Undertaker’s home show, SmackDown.
With SmackDown’s main event locked in, Cena’s opponent was determined by a triple threat match between Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton. Michaels managed to beat the former World Tag Team Champions to earn the spot.
Making this match interesting was the fact that, long before Michaels had become Cena’s #1 contender, he and Cena had beaten Orton and Edge to become World Tag Team Champions. This marked the first time in WrestleMania history that tag titlists would fight over a singles belt.
Orton tried to stir the pot between the two men, showing a video of how Michaels had turned on every tag team partner he’d ever had, including Marty Jannetty, Diesel, and Hulk Hogan, among others.
Michaels tried to smooth things with his unlikely partner by saying that “this time is different”, but Michaels would still taunt Cena with a feint attempt at a Sweet Chin Music.
At No Way Out in February, Undertaker actually teamed with Batista to face Cena and Michaels in a non title match. The Raw brand team won, and things looked to still be copacetic between the two men.
Six days before WrestleMania, however, the two teams would have a rematch. This time, Michaels came through on Cena’s paranoia by blasting the WWE Champion with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels left Cena laying, and his partner fell victim to the loss. Michaels’ well-timed double cross fueled the fire for the main event match at WrestleMania XXIII.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to build mainstream interest in his annual money-making machine, Vince McMahon began a feud with real life media mogul Donald Trump. The two had a disagreement after Vince used an actor playing Trump (indy wrestler Ace Steel) to beat an actress playing Rosie O’Donnell on Raw. The match was so ill-received, that Trump himself taunted McMahon by saying that Vince didn’t know what the fans wanted.
The two bickered further, each picking a man to represent him at WrestleMania. Vince chose WWE Intercontinental Champion Umaga, while Trump chose ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the guest referee, and the losing cornerman (Trump or McMahon) would have their head shaved bald after the match.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw, Michael Cole and JBL called Smackdown, and Joey Styles and Tazz covered ECW, with all six men coming together for the opening match of the night. Aretha Franklin performed “America the Beautiful” as she had twenty years earlier at WrestleMania III. The Hall of Fame inductions saw the inclusion of Ross, Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Fuji, The Wild Samoans, The Sheik, and Nick Bockwinkel.
Money in the Bank: Mr. Kennedy def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Edge, Randy Orton, King Booker, CM Punk, and Finlay in 19:05
(Highlights including Kennedy’s annoyed face at Hornswoggle when he tried to interfere, as well as Matt encouraging Jeff to do a crazy dive onto Edge through a ladder. “Do it Jeff! He stole Lita from us! Now no one’s there to make you ramen noodles!” Second best MITB match in WrestleMania history)
The Great Khali def. Kane in 5:31
(I like how Kane slamming Khali was juxtaposed with Hogan’s legendary slam of Andre from twenty years earlier in the show’s closing highlight package. As if they had the same memorable value)
WWE United States: Chris Benoit def. MVP in 9:19
(This, of course, would be the final WrestleMania for Benoit, as three months later he…..well, we all know what he did. It was a good, not great, match to go out on, and I still miss the man)
World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker def. Batista in 15:48 to win the title
(That’s fifteen. This match was a pleasant surprise, as Batista and Undertaker have this weird chemistry that simply cannot be explained. The two men exchange crisp power moves and ramp up the intensity with their above-average brawling. Great match, and the best feud of a dismal 2007)
Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and The Sandman def. Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von, Elijah Burke, and Kevin Thorn in 6:25
(Seven men had their first WrestleMania match here. Those seven also had their last WrestleMania match. Oh, don’t act so surprised)
Battle of the Billionaires/Hair vs. Hair: Bobby Lashley def. Umaga in 13:04
(If Undertaker/Batista was a good surprise, then this was the opposite. Lashley was given a feud with McMahon and an endorsement from Austin and Trump, and still brought none of the energy or personality needed to make it to the next level. Lashley was overpushed, plain and simple)
WWE Women’s/Lumberjill Match: Melina def. Ashley in 3:13
(The bad news: this match was about 3:08 longer than Ashley is capable of working. Good news: Mickie looked great in her tight jeans at ringside. Shame she wasn’t wrestling)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Shawn Michaels in 28:20
(The fact that Cena won turned a lot of fans off, but this is up there with the greatest matches in WM history. Michaels brought a more reserved, but grinding, personality to this, which included the awesome piledriver on the ring steps on Cena. Cena and Michaels worked their asses off here, and both of them deserve for this match to get a lot more credit than it does)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
The two World Title matches, as well as Money in the Bank, featured twelve men who worked their hardest to make WrestleMania as special as it’s meant to be. However, most of the hype going into the show revolved around Donald Trump‘s involvement, as well as his feud with McMahon, who was seriously getting out of control at this point regarding on-camera time.
When you have the three aforementioned matches on your show, you should walk away feeling great. But when you watch that Battle of the Billionaires, and you see how the fans barely reacted to Vince being shaved bald, and how they barely got behind an anemic talker like Lashley, who never looked like he wanted to be there, you feel a bit sour.
It’s like a concert. If you hype up Guns n Roses as the headliner, and you have three popular, but not yet legendary, acts (say Disturbed, Godsmack, and Saliva) performing, what if those three bands (who got less hype) rocked, and then GNR came out and absolutely sucked?
Do you hate the show because GNR sucked, or do you love it because the other bands owned it?
I guess the answer’s up to you.
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.
-For the remaining nine reviews, since they’re all 4 hours (and one is 5), I’ll be chopping out a little bit of quantity to make it my standard 4000+ word format. Which is a shame because for this show, I want to rant forever.
-Who was the April Fool on April 1, 2001 as we come to you from the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, TX for WWEWrestleMania X-Seven? Well, Vince had just bought WCW so they were finished, and ECW was days away from its bankruptcy hearing, so the biggest non-fool was Vince. Wait, why am I wasting time? I only have 4000 words to tell you that this is the greatest wrestling show in the history of time, so let’s just do it!
-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, who had taken over for Jerry Lawler one month prior when Lawler quit the company. He quit in protest because WWE fired his girlfriend, the one who three months later ran off with an indie guy and publically disgraced “The King”. Boy, you can imagine THAT was embarrassing.
-No America the Beautiful or national anthem. Given the events that occurred five months later, do you really think WWE is a patriotic company, or just cashing in on jingoistic trends? You can guess my point of view.
-We start with the IC Title match, as Chris Jericho defends against then-commissioner William Regal. Jericho besmirched Regal by peeing in his tea, so Regal besmirched him back by kicking the snot out of him. That’s exactly how Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard got started.
-I miss the days before Regal discovered tanning, when every babyface opponent he had would light him up with chops just to redden his chest. Hunter can try that now with Sheamus, to see if the chest will match the hair.
-A lot of fan pinfall attempts, which leads one to think that this isn’t going to be a very long match. Everybody get your stuff in now!
-Regal slams Jericho into the exposed turnbuckle a couple of times, but Jericho basically shakes the pain off and hits the run-up enzuigiri. Of the eleven matches on this card, I think this is definitely the best opener choice. You can cut it short, and nobody gets upset about it. It’s also two pros that can bring the massive crowd to life in the early going, so good choices all around.
-Jericho lands a lionsault and remembers that his shoulder’s supposed to be hurt before covering Regal to keep the gold. Good seven minute opener that did what it had to do, and we’re off to a good start.
-Shane McMahon arrives in a limo. Forget Triple H and Stephanie, is Shane the biggest Jericho hater in the McMahon army? He can’t even show up in time for his match on the biggest night of the year, and he owns STOCK in the company!
-Next up, in a moderate “Get everybody on the show” attraction, Tazz and the APA take on Right to Censor members Val Venis, The Goodfather, and Bull Buchanan. Remember when Bradshaw used to have to get heat with his patriotic Texas boy suck-up rants? He has to namedrop Nolan Ryan here to get the crowd behind him, even though he’s fighting three tools in dress clothes who want to get rid of sex and violence. Tough times for JBL.
-Match is basically just an exhibition to keep the crowd noise on life support as we progress into the bigger matches. The only real spot of note is Tazz missing the top rope on a whip because he’s about 4’7”. Tazz can speak in that angry voice all he wants, but I still laughed.
-Bradshaw finishes a quick one with the Clothesline From Hell on Goodfather. At least the faces won, which keeps the fans happy. Can you believe that on the face team, you have a WWE Champion, WCW Champion, and ECW Champion? I couldn’t believe it either.
-Just a quick side note: the greatest character in wrestling history is comatose Linda McMahon. Seriously, she’s so lifeless, how does she DO it? Oh, that’s just how she really is?
-To give the crowd a violence appetizer before TLC later, Raven defends the Hardcore Title against Kane and Big Show. This is notable because Show’s late getting to the ring, and JR goes on a worked-shoot tangent about how Show can’t make a living off of potential, that he has to get it done in the ring. Man, when a guy who’s known for making barbecue references in every third sentence calls you a lazy mook, then maybe you should get ye a treadmill.
-After brawling backstage through the sea of people, Kane and Raven keep the tempo alive while Show sulks behind. Alright, JR, you were right.
-Show tries to lock himself and Raven in an enclosure, but Kane just rips the door off. Hey Show, if Kane can tear off the Hell in a Cell door, this should be a cinch. For a bonus, Kane throws Raven through a window. That’s enough to earn Kane the Mike Mizanin “I Came to Play” award.
-Then comes the golf cart chase, as Raven tries to drive off and he and Show barrel into the chain link fence, then Kane follows with the referee and proves to be a smooth driver, not unlike Mike Myers in the original Halloween. Then he runs over Raven’s leg. Well, ouch.
-Finally, Raven gets put out of his misery when the fight spills back onto the stage, and Kane kicks him and Show off through a side platform. Then Kane leaps off and covers Show for the win and the title. It seemed like it was just going to be filler at first, but it turned into quite the exciting little match. I enjoyed it.
-Kurt Angle’s too busy watching a match with he and Chris Benoit to have seen Raven’s effort in the last match. Well, that’s just selfish. Also, The Rock arrives now, just to spite the undercard. Screw Bull Buchanan, who’d he ever beat?
-Up next is the European Title, as Test defends against Eddie Guerrero. Hoo boy, is this match just plain creepy now. At least Perry Saturn’s hat cheers me up.
-Eddie does what he does best, and he sells for Test and his power display. Question: Why do we refer to Eddie Guerrero as “Eddie” but Chris Benoit as “Benoit”? Is it because “Guerrero” is too complicated to spell for some people? It’s a surname, for chrissakes, let’s just learn it. GUERRERO does what he does best. There, I broke the habit.
-Now to spice things up a bit, Test gets his ankle caught in the ropes, and they have to spend 60 seconds figuring out how to free him, getting a big ovation when they finally do. It’s the biggest pop Test got post-1999, so it’s definitely a banner night for all.
-Dean Malenko runs out to speed things things along, since he wants to see the Benoit/Angle match, so he helps Saturn distract Test, allowing Guerrero to hit Test with the European title for the win and the gold. Decent match, but just was there to get everyone involved. First heel win of the night.
-Mick Foley promises to call tonight’s Vince and Shane match right down the middle. Yeah, like Mick has a reason to be biased against Vince.
-Now for something a little more serious: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit in a straight up one on one match. This is the first time in WWE history that I can recall two men doing the mat-wrestling stalemate sequence to begin a match, and getting a tremendous ovation for it. I like the story here, as Benoit keeps scaring Angle with the Crossface, and Kurt’s nerves lead to him falling into other Benoit moves. The psychology’s always sound with these two.
-Angle takes control, dominating Benoit on the outside and then pummeling him with suplexes inside. They were really beginning to get Angle over as a mat machine, you know, before he and Austin became unlikely best friends. Badges?
-Angle gets his belly to belly suplexes, and Benoit comes back with the rolling Germans. I think we have the first match of the night candidate. Sorry, Raven and Jericho, you’re out of the running.
-Now for a staple of WWE at the time: mind-screw submission holds, as Benoit applies Angle’s own anklelock, and Angle manages to get his own version of the Crossface. Crowd’s enjoying themselves too. Maybe there’s hope for Daniel Bryan yet.
-After a ref bump, Benoit gets Angle in his own Crossface, and Angle of course taps without an official. Story of Benoit’s life. As Benoit goes to maybe blow a snot rocket on the dead ref, Angle gets an Angle Slam for 2. After Benoit gets the diving headbutt, but when Benoit tries for a German, Angle goes low and gets a complicated rollover to win. Great match, and it told the characters’ stories to a tee: one is great, but the other is greater when he cheats. I’m enjoying myself all over again.
-Psuedo intermission segment where the following happens: Kamala destroys Regal’s office, footage is shown at the Fort Hood rally (RIP to those who perished in the recent shooting), and Benoit beats up Angle backstage and makes him tap.
-Ivory defends the Women’s title against Chyna, and since I have disdain for both performers, let’s just say that Chyna dresses like some demented version of a Bratz doll and beats Ivory in three minutes to win the title. Remember when Chyna said that belt was beneath her? So do I. She’d be gone within months to realize her true calling: incomprehensible walking meltdown for the Howard Stern fringe crowd. Always good to see someone realize their potential.
-Vince promises that tonight, we’re going to get “shocking”. I hate it when he promises surprises. He’d be a great evil dad in horror movies, though. “You wanna go for a ride? I’ll take you….for a ride….heh heh heh heh….”
-So it’s Vince and Shane in a street fight, which began when Shane defended Linda’s honor after Vince cheated on her publicly with Trish. Stephanie sided with Vince because of the whole Elektra complex. Shane then bought WCW before his dad could, just to show that he could run something as doomed to fail as the XFL. Foley’s the ref, just because. Linda’s in a wheelchair doing her best acting over. Trish is here too. Got all that?
-Shane gives a shoutout to his WCW homies in the skybox. LANCE STORM! HE FINALLY MADE IT TO WrestleMania! I wonder if he’s writing down notes on how horrible this show is. He’s like Comic Book Guy with a six pack.
-The brawl spills to the floor, where Shane bashes his dead with a metal sign, and then some SICK shots with a kendo stick that was under the ring. Good God, can Vince take a beating or what? Say what you will, but in these matches, he seems to have some sort of endurance level that can’t be obtained by mere mortals. I mean, Shane is just PASTING him, not even holding back. I’m loving it.
-By the way, Heyman’s unabashed devotion to cheering Vince is insanely funny, and it sounds like the ranting of someone who desperately needs money. Funny because it’s true.
-So Shane wipes out through the Spanish commentary table as Stephanie pulls her dad off of it. Shane gets to play dead for the next five minutes or so as Trish brings Linda out in the wheelchair. Now comes the fun stuff.
-Trish slaps Vince to signal a face turn, and then she and Stephanie get into a fun catfight that Foley tries to break up. Scrooge. Trish finally chases Steph to the locker room, and that’s when Vince spots Linda at ringside. His mouthing of a certain obscenity is a great moment.
-Vince smashes Mick with a chair as Foley tries to get Linda to safety. He brings Linda inside and sits her in the corner, so she can watch as he punishes Shane further. After landing a couple trash can shots, Vince gets cocky before doing the third, and is oblivious to Linda standing up (to a CRAZY pop). Vince turns and she kicks him right in the Genetic Jackhammer. Then Foley beats Vince up, and then Shane lands the Shane Terminator (corner to corner dropkick, into a trash can into Vince’s face) for the win. THIS is the template for “overbooked crap” that we need more of. Just insanely fun stuff, and it still holds up even today. Hell, the whole SHOW is holding up.
-Backstage, Undertaker warms up for his eventual match by shadow boxing. That’ll work off the pork rinds if you do enough of them.
-In case that the last match wasn’t enough of an insane spotfest, here’s something to take things up another notch: the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match between Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian. Difference between this and last year is that this year, there’s no crappy show to have to kick into high gear.
-Much like last year, they get the poetry in motion and the Wazzzzzup drops out of the way, just to get to the bigger stuff in a flurry. I wholeheartedly support this idea.
-Here’s a sick one for you: both Hardyz slide into a ladder, knocking the Dudleyz against the guardrail. I have to say, the dark sky peeking in through the dome makes it feel like that this match is taking place at WrestleMania VI. I’d love to see the Rockers, Harts, and Demolition in one of these matches. Crap, I just blew my own mind.
-“D-VON…..GET THE TABLES!” And with that, a two wide, two high stack of four tables is set up in the aisleway. Anyone else think they’ll get used? I do.
-And just like last year, all six men climb a set of three ladders for a race-spot, and all six men tumble off in painful fashion. It was times like this when WWE really knew their audience.
-To add a new wrinkle to this year’s match, all three teams have an ally that makes his or her presence felt. As Edge climbs to get the belts, Spike Dudley runs in and nails him with the Dudley Dog. After Spike gives Christian one as well, Rhyno comes in and accosts Jeff Hardy on behalf of E&C. Then Edge tries going up again, and Lita runs in to pull him down. Jim Ross utters “Lita….jerkin’ Edge off” and then pauses before saying “the ladder!”. I’m immature, I know, but what are you going to do about it?
-Lita creams Spike with a sickening chair shot and then removes her top, just get hit with 3D. Anybody else miss her protruding thong?
-Jeff decides that now is a good time to be insane, as he uses the painter’s ladder to Swanton off and put Rhyno and Spike through at ringside. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.
-Then with Bubba and Matt on another painter’s ladder, Rhyno shoves it, sending both men flying through the table tower in the aisle in what I feel is the greatest table bump EVER. Prove me wrong, readers.
-Finally, Edge prevents D-Von from climbing, and Rhyno lifts Christian in an electric chair lift, pushing him up the ladder so that he can grab the belts for the win. Off the charts insanity that topped last year’s match, and the truncated length definitely helped. Great effort from everyone involved.
-Howard Finkel (#17!) announces the crowd at 67,925 which makes me feel all nostalgic for 1990 and WrestleMania VI. Then Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” plays. Well, that ruined the feeling. Still, it’s Fred Durst’s best song, so huzzah.
-And now for the gimmick battle royal, with Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan returning to do commentary. The participants are The Bushwhackers, Duke Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, Doink, The Goon, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael PS Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbeldy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, and Sgt. Slaughter. Somewhere, RD Reynolds had a tear in his eye. And it wasn’t because he knew he’d one day employ Blade Braxton.
-What follows is three minutes of bad brawling, but who cares? It was FUN. Sheik finally wins it after dumping Hillbilly, and then Slaughter runs in to apply the Cobra Clutch on the winner. Watch out Slaughter, he’ll do a Youtube shoot on you for that one.
-Hooray for the patron saint of camelclutchblog.com. YOU VILL BE HUM-BELLED!
-MOTORHEAD! Sure, Lemmy can’t do the words to Triple H‘s theme right, but it’s ok. Chill-inducing rendition of “The Game”, as we lead into the semi-main event of The Undertaker and Triple H, streak vs. nostrils. The feud featured Hunter’s most bad ass moment ever, when he took Taker down backstage, put a chair over his throat, and then sat on it while taunting him. Good stuff.
-Spanish announce table #2 goes in a hurry, thanks to HHH. Good to see Hunter keep his dad-in-law’s pro American stance alive.
-Back inside, after a SMALL ref bump, Taker is pissed when Mike Chioda counts slow, so Taker simply destroys him and knocks him out. With an elbow drop. For 10 minutes. If you heard two sounds of gunfire at this point, that was tranq darts being fired at Cornette backstage and Storm in the skybox. Just shut up, you two.
-The two men then brawl through the crowd and over to the production tower, which is a unique situation for a wrestling match. The two men fight in there, and Undertaker proceeds to chokeslam him out of it. SICKNESS! Well, until they show the replay, where Hunter landed on about 7 feet of padded foam. Eh well, looked nice at first.
-Back to the ring after the extended crowd brawl, and Chioda is still out. That was some elbow drop.
-After some tomfoolery with the sledgehammer, Taker is unable to connect after a low blow. Then to get all nostalgic, Taker lands a tombstone for 2. CHIODA’S ALIVE! I’m relieved.
-Taker then tries for the Last Ride, but Hunter grabs the sledge and bashed the Dead Man’s scalp on the way up. He busts him open, but it only gets 2. Hunter then tries to punch Taker in the corner, but puts himself in position for his Last Ride to make Taker 9-0. Really great brawl, as you’d expect from these two. Ten matches in, and I haven’t even stopped for a piss break. And I’m watching this at 11 PM at night, with work the next day at 1 PM. Ya rly!
-Austin-Rock highlight package set to “My Way”. Austin said he HAD to win this match. Question is, just what will Austin do to ensure victory?
-Crowd is 80-20 in favor of Steve Austin, who is the home state hero. The Rock was the WWE Champion, and you wondered how they were going to end this. I’ll bet nobody watching guessed it right.
-Finkel did announce that it was no DQ, which is apparently shocking. You mean after a match where Taker flagrantly beats up the referee, they just threw the rulebook out? Absurd!
-Both men slug it out early and they bust out the classic moves, namely Austin with his Thesz press and middle finger elbow. You can sense the desperation from Austin here.
-They brawl into the crowd, like everyone else has done tonight. I think even Finkel and timekeeper Mark Yeaton went over the railing at one point.
-Austin dominates in the early going, which is consistent with the “I need to win” motif that he has, believing that it’s all over for himself if he loses. It’s those subtle character hints that WWE does better than anyone else. Are you listening, Dixie?
-Austin gets a superplex for 2 and then removes the turnbuckle pad, but Rock comes back to shift the momentum. They fight to the outside and Austin busts him open with the ringbell. Austin’s not going down without a fight.
-Austin works the cut as much as he can, and brings Rock back in to try and bash him into the exposed buckle, but Rock blocks and fires with lefts and rights to stop Austin in his tracks. After the two men jostle for control, it’s Austin who, ironically, eats the steel buckle. Then Rock repays him by waffling him with the ring bell. Tremendous, cerebral stuff, with a big time feel.
-With Austin now bleeding and Rocky now firmly in charge, the champ works the open cut and both men are fighting to stay alive. On the outside, Austin shifts the momentum yet again and slingshots Rock into the post, before bashing him with a TV monitor. At this point, the eventual winner was still not evident.
-Austin tries for a Stunner, but Rock takes him down and slaps on the sharpshooter. Reminiscent of four years earlier, Austin is bloodied, but will not give up. Austin uses the ropes for escape, and then wraps Rock up with his own Sharpshooter. The implied one-upsmanship on display here is incredible, and is a testament to both’s men abilities.
-Austin manages to get a Million Dollar Dream, but Rock uses the Bret Hart pushoff counter to get 2. Then Vince McMahon comes to ringside. But….but why?
-Rock takes down Austin with a spinebuster and then lands the People’s Elbow, but it only gets 2 when….Vince breaks up the pin? This was all so fresh and baffling. Why would Vince be helping Austin in the World Title match?
-Then after Austin lands a Rock Bottom on its owner, he gets 2, and then gives Rock an emphatic low blow. Then Austin….requests a chair from Vince? Vince….obliges?
-From here, Austin and Vince proceed to double team Rock in a truly surreal sequence. After Rock manages a kickout, he gives Austin a Rock Bottom, but Vince prevents a count. Rock pulls Vince into the ring, but Austin stuns Rock, getting only 2! AMAZING.
-Now we get the big finish: Austin destroys Rock with chair shot after chair shot while Vince barks out encouragement. In all, Rock takes about two dozen chair shots to the chest, gut, back, and hips as his body just simply gives out and Austin pins him to win the title. Austin and Vince celebrate with a beer, a handshake, and then Austin lays out Rock with the title to pull the trigger on his shocking heel turn. Excellent match to cap off an excellent show and, although the heel turn proved to be ineffective, the concept was interesting, and it added a new dimension to the character’s psyche: Austin felt his end was coming soon, and he had to do everything he could to hold his main event spot to prevent becoming an afterthought. Brilliant idea, but it just didn’t work.
-Limp Bizkit plays us out of here with a beautiful montage to “My Way”. I have to say, that might be my favorite WrestleMania song ever. And I HATE Fred Durst!
-CYNIC SAYS: Ho. Lee. Crap. I don’t think Vince McMahon, even with a perfect roster and a huge wave of momentum, could ever top this show. It was perfect from start to finish, and everything had a purpose. Those purposes were thusly served to perfection. Four matches you could make an argument were four stars are better: the technical masterpiece (Benoit/Angle), the wild soap opera (Vince/Shane), the insane spotfest (TLC), the mano y mano brawl (HHH/Taker), and the battle of the larger than life immortals (Rock/Austin).
This show is regarded as the end of the Attitude era, but what a way for it to go out. WWEE has not seen heights like this since, and although it may again one day, it’ll take a lot to convince me that it’s as good as this card. What’s left to say?
Oh, I know.
POSITIVE. FIVE. STARS!
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.
After two straight WrestleManias in which the WWF held a sizeable lead over WCW in the Monday Night Wars, the Monday before WrestleMania X7 would see Vince McMahon pull the plug for good.
On Friday, March 23, 2001, McMahon purchased selected assets of World Championship Wrestling from parent company AOL-Time Warner, ending WCW’s 13 year existence. After gutting the corpse of talent contracts and the film library, McMahon left WCW for dead, effectively monopolizing the wrestling industry for himself.
On Monday, March 26, wrestling fans were treated to a surreality of Vince McMahon being the first face seen as Nitro hit the airwaves for the final time. Raw and Nitro would be simulcast , with the WWF overseeing both shows. As Nitro came to a close at the 10 o’clock hour, Shane McMahon revealed, in story terms, that he swooped in and bought the WCW entity from under his dad’s nose. The WCW acquisition by Shane would lead to a faux-interpromotional war between Vince’s WWF and Shane’s WCW, which, while highly anticipated by fans the world over, fizzled to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Meanwhile, McMahon’s ill-fated Xtreme Football League was limping to its demise after one lone season, due to poor play, a lack of name players, and generally polarizing publicity stunts.
However, in the World Wrestling Federation, life remained grand. After taking their programming to Viacom in September 2000 (Raw on TNN, Heat on MTV), the WWF was helped along by Stone Cold Steve Austin’s return that month, after a ten months injured.
The main event scene was clogged with the usual pieces like Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Undertaker, while clearing space for the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.
As WrestleMania X7 was built to perfection, few knew that things would change drastically afterward.
THE EVENT Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble, becoming the event’s only three time winner, and earning a main event match at WrestleMania. The Rock, one month later, would defeat Kurt Angle to regain the WWF Championship, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated encounter between he and Austin, would both men as faces.
The two men did a sitdown interview weeks before the match, giving legitimate compliments to each other, while throwing in some backhanded remarks to heighten the tension. In a curious tidbit that was overlooked by the majority of fans, Austin repeatedly stated that he “needed” to win this match. Austin didn’t elaborate too much on why victory was of the utmost necessity, but the phrasing seemed to be his central point.
Rock and Austin would spend the waning weeks saving each other from double team assaults featuring the likes of Angle, Rikishi, Haku, and others, while using each other’s vulnerable state to plant each other with their finishing moves, as well as lifting the other man’s move (Rock performing the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin the Rock Bottom) to try and gain a psychological edge on the other man.
Although built up as a match of equals with a mutual respect in spite of their over competitive meddles, Austin’s “needing” to win would lead to an unforgettable decision.
Shadowing the main event was an encounter between The Undertaker and Triple H, ten years before they’d face off at WrestleMania XXVII. At this point, however, Triple H was more of an inconsiderate hatemonger, while Undertaker had put his ghoulish attire away in exchange for his biker duds. The story began when Triple H lamented not being in the WrestleMania main event (after beating Austin one month prior at No Way Out). “The Game” claimed to have beaten everyone in WWE there was to beat, drawing Undertaker’s ire.
The two men would exchange instances of brutality over the next several weeks, with Undertaker being busted open with a sledgehammer shot, and then returning the favor by destroying Helmsley’s limo with a lead pipe. Undertaker even had brother Kane hold Stephanie McMahon hostage, threatening to toss her from a balcony, if William Regal wouldn’t give him Triple H for WrestleMania. The commissioner relented, and the match was on.
As mentioned earlier, Vince and Shane McMahon were in the midst of another spat over WCW’s ownership, and the two would sign to face off in a street fight. Mick Foley, whom Vince canned in December, would return to be the guest referee.
The underlying saga at hand was Vince’s intent to divorce wife, Linda, during a fit of anger in the same time period. Linda was stricken by grief and shock, and lapsed into a catatonic state, resulting in institutionalization. McMahon then began cavorting around with Trish Stratus, while embarrassing her as well at will, and promised to bring wheelchair-bound Linda to ringside for the street fight.
Jim Ross and Paul Heyman (fresh from the wreckage of ECW) would call the action in WWF’s first domed Wrestlemania in nine years. Members of the WCW roster such as Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Stacy Keibler, and others would appear in a skybox as onlookers. Legendary metal warriors Motorhead would also appear, to play Triple H to the ring with his popular theme “The Game”.
WWF Intercontinental: Chris Jericho def. William Regal in 7:08
(Jericho lamented this match in his latest book, thinking it was too short, but it served the purpose of getting the show going. Jericho would be repaid for his hard work later, obviously)
Tazz/APA def. Right to Censor in 3:53
(You know what’s amazing? Everyone on the face team can claim a World Title. And two of them became good color commentators, while the other became known for “DAMN!”)
WWF Hardcore: Kane def. Raven and Big Show in 9:18 to win the title
(Insane fun, especially the golf cart chase, as well as Jim Ross’ cryptic remark at Big Show: “Show has all the potential in the world, but you can’t make a living off potential! You gotta get it done!” That means you’re useless, Show)
WWF European: Eddie Guerrero def. Test in 8:30 to win the belt
(It’s depressing that both men are dead, so I’ll just lighten the mood by complimenting Perry Saturn and his awesome furry hat. I want one)
Kurt Angle def. Chris Benoit in 14:02
(The first true technical classic since Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels faced off five years earlier in the Iron Man match, and this one was merely one quarter the length of that. Good wrestling is always welcome in the eclectic blend that is WrestleMania)
WWF Women’s: Chyna def. Ivory in 2:39 to win the title
(If you hate Chyna, fear not: she won’t appear in these WrestleMania portraits anymore)
Street Fight: Shane McMahon def. Vince McMahon in 14:12
(Geez, where to begin? Well, there was a kendo stick, a cat fight between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon, Shane missing a flying elbow through a table, Linda coming out of her pseudo-coma to kick Vince in the nuts, and Shane hit the Van Terminator to win. Overbooked insanity at its finest)
WWF World Tag Team/Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Edge/Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 15:53 to win the titles
(Rarely would a TLC match have its work cut out for it after any match, but Vince and Shane pulled out all the stops. TLC did as well, adding each team’s respective ally (Rhyno, Lita, and Spike Dudley) to up the ante. Next to Summerslam 2000, this is the greatest TLC match ever. All six men would still have greater career heights ahead of them as well)
Gimmick Battle Royal: The Iron Sheik won, last eliminating Hillbilly Jim in 3:05
(Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan were on commentary, Repo Man showed up, and Iron Sheik humbled his way to victory. My cable could have went out after this match, and it still would have won “Best Show Ever” from me)
The Undertaker def. Triple H in 18:17
(That’s nine. Crazy brawl that featured an improbable ten minute ref bump (after a frigging stomp and elbow drop from Taker), but it was still intense throughout. Undertaker also kicked out of a sledgehammer shot, so there were still traces of his zombie gimmick there)
WWF World Heavyweight: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 28:06 to win the title
(And then it happened: a classic back-and-forth war between two of the greatest ever sees Vince McMahon storm the ring and assist Austin in bloodying and battering Rock, leading to Austin winning the title, shaking hands with McMahon, and turning heel. Mind blowing at the time, head scratching in hindsight, the show ended with Austin and McMahon aligned, ending the Attitude Era)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
At this time, the WWF began to use music from contemporary artists as the themes for their pay per views. For WrestleMania X7, Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” provided a goosebump-inducing soundtrack to one of the most dramatic and exciting events in wrestling history.
“My Way” is appropriate, because that’s what Vince McMahon had to do to get to this point. His way brought WCW to its knees and made wrestling mainstream, after all. But on the other blade of the double edged sword, McMahon’s penchant for not listening to naysayers saw him curiously turn Austin heel, sending a shockwave through the industry.
Austin’s neutering into an non-confident, insecure villain, not to mention The Rock’s hiatus to film The Scorpion King, resulted in a WWF that felt drastically different. When Triple H tore his quadriceps in May, and that was followed by the horrid Invasion angle, the WWF had completely lost the aura of “cool” that Attitude afforded them.
As a show, it’s the greatest single event that the WWF has produced from a quality standpoint. The ending, however, is like a black mark on a white wedding dress. It’s glaring ugliness stands out just as much as the quality event.
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.