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WrestleMania XXVI: Somehow, Some Way, I Made It

April 02, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-We are LIVE from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2010 for WrestleMania XXVI. Well, not me. I’m inside a one story house with a decently-furnished living room in South Jersey that belongs to my brother Josh, and we’re joined by friends Dave and Rob for this historic evening. Funny that our childhood heroes are all wrestling: Undertaker for Rob, Bret Hart for Dave, Shawn Michaels for me, and Vince McMahon for Josh (don’t ask).

-It should be noted that my feelings on this show may change in six months, as I’m writing this while coming off of the fumes of adrenaline from having just watched the show live. It’s like on IMDb when the users go see a hit movie, and then all run home to vote “10″ on it immediately. So tune in this September when I re-review the show and go back on everything I said.

-Fantasia Barrino does America the Beautiful, although she’s merely billed as “Fantasia” on her title card. Good to see the rules of one-name WWE divas also apply to guest singers. You could apply this logic to any diva from American Idol: Fantasia, Kelly, Katherine, Carrie, Clay….

-Missed the opening video, because our food just arrived. Mmm, buffalo chicken wrap….

-I should note the ominous Aztec-ish tower that makes up the entrance way. Very chilling, in a sense. One year, they should have a giant wicker man at the entrance way. Then they can invite Nicholas Cage and attack him with bees. That’d just be epic.

- Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker helm the desk this year. Presumably, Striker’s there to explain to Lawler what the storylines on Smackdown are. Hey look, the Spanish Announce Table’s back! You know what THIS means.

-The show kicks off with ShowMiz defending the Unified Tag Team Titles against John Morrison and R-Truth. I would assume that if Truth wanted a surefire tag team partner, he would have just gone with Pacman Jones, since Jones was undefeated in TNA. Besides, WWE can overplay the kiddie element and dress Big Show as one of the ghosts from the Pacman game and….alright, I’m rambling.

-They’re really rushing through this, which is the perils of a 10 match show with lots of downtime being squeezed into four hours. On an up note, at least The Miz made it onto the actual show this year. I’d think after a year of stabbing a Kid Rock voodoo doll with pins, he’s earned this showcase.

-After hearing the story that John Morrison went into some online chat and called John Cena a boring champion, I was ready to lay some odds on who was getting pinned. Will Justin be right?

-Big Show pins Morrison with the KO punch. Hey, Justin was right! Match was rushed, not even four minutes long. I think that was the fastest opener in WM history to be honest. Eh well, at least Miz got a chance to shine. He came to play, you know. Good to Show win a match at WrestleMania, since that happens about as often as TNA making through a show without production gaffes.

-AXXESS footage. Seeing Bret Hart at the annual WWE fan fest just seems….wrong.

-Next is the triple threat between the members of Legacy, they being Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Ted Dibiase. You know you’re the jobber of the group when you’re demoted from your normal theme song to a stock theme that you haven’t used in two years. Poor Cody Rhodes. His creamsicle go-go dancer look just isn’t going to cut it.

-This reads like a handicap match, as Rhodes and Dibiase are united against Orton, who, despite playing a borderline psychotic for about two years, gets the big face pop. Then again, the fans pop whenever a female heel gets beaten up, regardless of the who the attacker is. WWE: making antisocial behavior acceptable since 1958.

-Orton does his best to fend off both men, and the crowd’s getting kinda lukewarm to this. I think it’s partially because no one’s ever taken Rhodes and Dibiase seriously as heels, despite their great matches with DX last year.

-Legacy has a miscue on a high-low on Orton. Is it just me, or could Dibiase’s father have afforded to buy him some coordination and timing training? Dibiase’s about as awkward as a Fritz Von Erich Father’s Day card.

-Dibiase and Rhodes have the inevitable rift and have a fight outside the ring that vaguely resembles the slap fight that Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch had in the movie Dick. They were playing Woodward and Bernstein, which means that Orton better make like Ben Bradlee and interject himself before this thing falls apart.

-Orton spikes both of his former flunkies with the double rope hang DDT, which Cole has never seen before. Damn it, Cole, what were you doing at WrestleMania 24 during the Raw matches? Have a VINTAGE FLASHBACK and let me know.

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-Punt for Cody, and an RKO for Dibiase ends it for Orton. Decent match, but it was hard to take Rhodes and Dibiase seriously as threats. Orton’s got the face momentum now, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go with it.

-We get a backstage segment involving Santino Marella where Mean Gene Okerlund winds up in a dress. I knew Mean Gene’s Burgers was a money pit, but how low WILL Okerlund stoop to recoup his lost funds? Call the hotline to find out!

-Next up, the sixth annual Money in the Bank ladder match, with ten, count em, ten participants: Christian, Kane, Matt Hardy (back to regular pants due to his waistline expansion), Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston (who did…..something…..with his hair), MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Drew McIntyre (thankfully without overdone entrance), Jack Swagger (only missing “Living in America” for his song), and Dolph Ziggler.

-Is there a kayfabe reason for Kane’s black eye? Or did he get accused of breaking up Randy Savage’s marriage to Miss Elizabeth?

-Match begins with a mad scramble up the ladders, looking like a TNA X Division match. Except in the X Division rendition of such a match, you’d have to hang the briefcase, pin 3 people, and then recite the alphabet backwards to win. Oh, TNA, you wacky innovators.

-Swagger, it occurs to me, looks like Charlie Haas if Haas was Corky on Life Goes On. I apologize to all mentally challenged people. I didn’t mean to compare you guys to Jack Swagger.

-Dolph messes up a Zig Zag off the ladder, and shortly after Kane powerbombs Kofi onto a leaning ladder. This is a rather ambitious MITB match, as we’re hoping to set a new standard for collective amount of nerve damage.

-In a swank spot, Swagger gets impaled under a ladder by Christian and Hardy wielding ladders, and Christian, Hardy, and Bourne try to climb, but Swagger manages to bring the tower down. Well, innovative, if nothing else.

-Kofi Kingston decides to top everyone by using a ladder that was broken in half, and tries to use it as a pair of stilts to walk toward the briefcase, but sadly it was not meant to be. Man, how high do you have to be to come up with THAT spot? Well, it IS Kofi….

-Kane and Hardy fight on the ladder, as I wonder if the hand of Lita is once again at stake between these two brooding Romeos. Christian helps Hardy take Kane out, and then Matt goes by the wayside, and Christian goes for the goods, but Swagger belts him with the briefcase, before taking forever to unhinge it and….gets the win? If you had Swagger in your pre-show prediction list, congratulations you LIAR. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. My guess is he’s going to try to get his ECW Title back from Ezekiel Jackson in a match that would kick off just about any decent edition of Smackdown. Great spots, but lacking connection. Still, I loved it.

-I’d like to thank Drew McIntyre for his 48 seconds of participation. No wonder the office has faith in him.

-The Hall of Famers get their due: Stu Hart, Wendy Richter, Mad Dog Vachon, Antonio Inoki, Bob Uecker, Gorgeous George, and Ted Dibiase. The viewing party is convinced that Stu’s actually still alive, and just made sure that Smith Hart went to the ceremony just to get him out of the house so he can change the locks. It’s a good theory as any.

-By the way, Howard Finkel…..#26! Go Howard!

-Triple H and Sheamus is next, and Hunter’s entrance is longer than the opening match. Take that Morrison, you entrenched midcarder, you. Lawler mentions that losing at WrestleMania to Triple H has the power to change your life for the worse. Finally, Lawler and Booker T can agree on something.

-Triple H manages to slap on a figure four, and Michael Cole even talks about how Hunter learned that from Ric Flair. He can say Flair’s name?!? I think Vince is too busy warming up, so Jim Ross is on headset feeding these things to Cole and is trying to get him fired.

-Sign in the crowd: “HHH FEARS DIVORCE”. Why, wouldn’t he want custody of Lucy, the chronically crapping dog?

-Just before Triple H hits Sheamus with a face-to-knee buster, a fan screams “FACE BUSTER!”. It’s like that TV show Early Edition, except people under 35 are actually watching this match. Crowd’s really divided too, which is a bit shocking, since they haven’t booked Sheamus right. Maybe it’s all just sympathy cheers? Maybe.

-Sheamus manages to land the pump kick, but it’s not enough, as Hunter rallies with the Pedigree to win. Decent match, even if the Great Satan did win. Maybe Hunter should put his career on the line against Taker’s streak next year. Wait, no, then Taker won’t have a streak left! Think, Justin, think. Don’t make rash suggestions like that!

-I truly think Sheamus’ next step is to form a tag team with Rikishi called Potato Salad. The kids will love it!

-Slim Jim ad, which features the two kids turning into ninjas. Were they the same ninjas who kidnapped Samoa Joe on camera? Tune into Impact and find out!

-CM Punk and Rey Mysterio is next, and Punk preaches on the way to the ring. Always a good listen. Rey’s costume du jour: Avatar. But if he was truly Avatar, wouldn’t he be engaged to Tiffany and display no sense of human emotion whatsoever? I know, I’m mean.

-Rey gets caught in a tree of woe, but Punk slides in and winds up splattering his crotch against the ring post. Punk would regain the upper hand, however, and cover Rey for what should have been a three count, if not for a timing miscue. Crowd’s starting to die off a bit, which is a growing trend for these stadium events. If you’re not a real fan and you’re not into the characters, then maybe you just shouldn’t go. Hey, if I plunk down hundreds of dollars on a ticket, I’m gonna be screaming during Zack Ryder vs. Santino Marella, ok?

-Where was I? Ah yes, Punk nails Rey with a sick roundhouse kick. Always good to hear the sound of boot on vinyl mask.

-Rey manages to springboard off the ropes and land a DDT on Punk, although it was botched as Punk’s head got flattened too much. They show it on replay twice, and Lawler comments on how “beautiful” it was. Hey, if the man thinks that botches are beautiful, then certainly I’m not one to argue.

-Despite the best efforts of the Straight Edge Society, Rey gets the 619 and falling headbutt to finish Punk off. Match was abbreviated, but still really good. At least Rey doesn’t have to pledge to a straight edge lifestyle now. BRING ON THE QUAALUDES!

-Next up, Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon in a no holds barred match. I always loved that the fans who love Bret the most bring signs for him, and then spell his name “BRETT”. Way to show your devotion and appreciation, you miscreants.

-Vince brings out the Hart siblings and the Hart Dynasty as lumberjacks, since he’s paid them all off to help screw Bret over. Legendary loser Bruce even gets to be the referee. Great, expect about 15 low blows in this one. At least Bruce finally found work in WWE after, what 20 years of campaigning?

-In a twist, Bret reveals that the Harts are all on HIS side, and that Vince has been conned. Let the beatdown begin!

-So Bret proceeds to beat the crap out of Vince, and the current generation gets their shots in on the floor. David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd land a modified doomsday device on the outside, and Kid BOUNCES Vince’s head off of the floor. Tyson Kidd, we wish you well in your future endeavors. I look forward to seeing him in TNA with his new name Holyfield Mann.

-The match is slow, but who cares? It’s Bret beating up Vince. The only way to make this more entertaining would be if the Harts pulled a Blue Blazer costume onto Vince and then threw him out of the rafters. Wait, is that wrong? Screw it, I’m enjoying myself. Perhaps too much.

-Bret gives Vince about 58 low blows and then slaps on the Sharpshooter for the win. If the match isn’t going to be any good, then it better cater to my base instincts. In this case: Bret beating Vince up. Five stars, Justin’s happy, onward we go.

-Justin “Softspeak” Roberts announces the crowd at 72,219. Nothing’s going to top the drawing power of WrestleMania III, let’s face it. Hercules and Billy Jack Haynes is just too strong from a historical standpoint, anyway.

-Edge-Jericho highlights. We even get footage of renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews as he works on Edge. Do you think Dr. Andrews watches TLC and Money in the Bank and Hell in a Cell matches with glee, knowing that he’s one botched move away from some wrestler going to Birmingham and financing his next house? I’ll bet he subscribes to Botchamania on Youtube. What a sadist.

-It’s just a weird premise for this feud, basing it around Edge saying “spear” to Jericho to try and get into his head, and then getting the fans to play along. Chanting “spear” would be good right about now, since the crowd’s more reserved than my room in Hell.

-The fight spills outside and Edge slams Jericho into the table. I think our Spanish co-horts are in for a shortened evening, like always.

-Back inside, Jericho manages to apply the Walls to try and weaken Edge’s bad leg. The last time Jericho defended a World Title at WrestleMania against a muscled up blonde babyface with a bad leg with a dead crowd….well, it didn’t end well for Chris.

-After Edge won’t give in, Jericho tries a lionsault, but lands on his feet, only to eat an Edge-o-Matic for 2. Good spot.

-Jericho’s spear fails, and then Edge tries one, but flies right into a Codebreaker. Jericho goes back to the Walls, and applies a single leg version on Edge’s bad wheel. Crowd’s finally coming to life through sheer will of the performers.

-Both men fall to the outside off of an Edge clothesline and, after Edge accidentally hits the ref while on the apron, Jericho waffles him with the belt for 2. A Codebreaker, however, ends it and Jericho shockingly retains. Afterward, an irate Edge sets up Jericho on the American announce table, and then runs off the Spanish one to spear him into the timekeeper’s pit. What a sore loser. Match was really good, best of the night so far.

-You know you’re insane as a fan when you think Jack Swagger’s gonna run in right now and win the belt from Jericho. Sadly, the moment is lost.

-Highlights are shown of the pre show battle royal, which was won by…..Yoshi Tatsu? Man, Linda McMahon’s really aching for that Asian-American vote, isn’t she? The last time a Japanese born wrestler won ANYTHING at WrestleMania, Funaki had a 2 minute reign as Hardcore Champion. Sad, really.

-Time wasting ten diva tag is next, with Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, and Eve facing Michelle McCool, Layla, Alicia Fox, Maryse, and Vickie Guerrero. About time, we’d waited all night for this.

-After a sequence of nothing but finishers (some of which almost hit properly), Vickie lands a frog splash onto Kelly Kelly, who can’t even take a pin properly. Thankfully, Vickie does get the pin and becomes the third Guerrero to win at WrestleMania. Junk match, but who cares? In a moment of blind hysteria, Josh, Dave, and I ran around celebrating Vickie’s big moment. Because that’s what WrestleMania does to us civil, working-class folk.

-Still, thank you, WWE, for Mickie James in jeans. I won’t complain as much this coming year, I promise.

-Cena/Batista video. All it was missing was Batista’s immortal “HUGGING FAT GIRLS” line. Cena should have hugged Vickie Guerrero, just to drive the point home.

-Cena’s super special entrance: an Air Force crew performs an honor guard routine. The fans boo, and I think it’s funny that fans in Arizona boo military personnel in a city where Pat Tillman is such a hero. If you’re going to boo Cena, wait till he comes out. Show some class, please?

-Signs in the crowd: “NORWAY HATES CENA”. Things I know about Norway: it had the Olympics once, and it’s way the hell far away from my house. So there you go.

-Slow start to a match I was really looking forward to. Cena tries to Adjust Batista’s Attitude, but Batista spikes him with a sick DDT for 2.

-We get the boo-yay-boo-yay spot, and of course Cena’s on the losing end of it. Hey, it’s not Cena’s fault that Santino Holmes got both feet in the end zone last year. Deal with it.

-Batista spinebuster = one of the most underrated moves there is, especially when he does his sudden stand up after hitting it. Good stuff.

-Cena lands a Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top, which could be a tribute to Shawn Michaels and his flying fistdrop as a Rocker. I’d like to think so.

-Batista lands the Batista Bomb for 2, and makes the greatest face in the history of faces. Cena then lands the Attitude Adjustment for another 2 count. Another Batista Bomb fails, and Cena hooks the STF to make Big Dave tap and to give Cena his ninth World Title. Really good match, up to the standard of the Summerslam match. Cena cheeses next to a fan in the front row who’s wearing an anti-Cena shirt. Say what you will, but John Cena knows how to roll with the punches. It’s why I like him.

-Shawn-Taker video is next. I’ll bet the crowd’s fully awake now.

-Shawn makes his standard HBK entrance, and the fans are behind him almost 100% The question is, can they have enough guts to have Shawn end the streak? Either way, it’s going to be talked about for a very long time afterward, I can assure you.

-Undertaker rises up through the stage, wearing a hood like some giant, gothic version of AJ Styles. All Undertaker needs is Ric Flair to show him how to cut whacked out promos.

-Taker and Shawn have a staredown. If Taker’s going to win, he’d BETTER say “I’m sorry….I love you” before the final Tombstone. I repeat: he’d BETTER say it.

-Taker manages to land Old School early on, which plays into the usual theory of “get everything out of the way that’s minor, so that the slate is clear for the REALLY heavy stuff”. Brace yourself, folks, history’s about to be made.

-Shawn attempts a Crossface on Taker. I’d make a tasteless joke, but I’ll just say that it’s already been proven effective in the real world, so you know it’s just as deadly in the kayfabe planet as well.

-Taker gets a legdrop on the apron, prompting what I believe is Cole’s first “VINTAGE” of the night. Shawn does get a Figure Four though, paying homage to the man whose retirement apparently isn’t sacred. Just saying.

-Shawn lands the forearm and the kip up, but Taker drops him with a chokeslam for an early near fall. Shawn begins to work Taker’s leg, and even manages to snare him into an ankle lock. What, is Shawn going to do the finishers of everyone in TNA? If Shawn hits the Gringo Killer on The Dead Man, I’m a fan for life.

-Taker kicks off the ankle lock with two boots. The first kick straightened Shawn’s eyes, and the second one distorted them again. Shawn’s eyes are like a demented snow globe.

-To the outside, where Taker manages to spike Shawn with a Tombstone on the concrete. First one since I believe Jake Roberts ate one at WrestleMania 8. Trainers try to tend to Shawn, but Taker’s having none of it. He brings Shawn in for 2. Taker tries the Last Ride, but Shawn counters into an X-Factor for 2. It’s TNA Appreciation Night! Someone come up with some kooky stipulations!

-Taker applies the Hell’s Gate, and Shawn counters it into a pinning predicament for 2. Once up to their feet, Shawn pastes him with Sweet Chin Music for 2. Shawn tries for another one, but Taker turns it into a Last Ride for 2. I’m starting to sweat, and I’m not the only one in the room.

-To the outside for what could be Shawn’s last deadly spot ever. He lays Taker out on the table with Sweet Chin Music and then goes up top, coming off with a moonsault to put Taker through. SICKNESS. If Shawn’s going out, he’s doing it the only way he knows how: stealing the show.

-Back inside, Shawn gets another Sweet Chin Music, and can only get 2. Shawn tries for yet another superkick, but Taker clasps the throat and sends Shawn to Hell with a chokeslam. No pinfall attempt, as Taker scrapes HBK up and drops him with a Tombstone for 2, just like last year. Taker’s livid and frustrated and this place is unglued.

-Taker drops his straps, but stops, as he’s now hesitant to finish Shawn off, due to the respect involved. Taker implores Shawn to stay down, but Shawn mocks him with the throat cut gesture, and then hauls off and smacks Taker across the face. Taker goes into beast mode, lifting Shawn and hitting a deadly leaping Tombstone for the win and the end of Shawn’s career. After a slow getting-up period, Taker embraces Michaels and the crowd, of course, eats up this moment.

-Taker leaves so that Shawn can have his curtain call, and he does so mostly with a smile, as, unlike most, he has no baggage left. He’s the best at what he does (or did), and has a family at home waiting for him, with plenty of money in his savings. If this is the end of Shawn Michaels as an active wrestler, then it’ll be a long time before any single performer comes along that can top him in this line of work. When that happens, my grandkids may be in a nursing home.

-CYNIC SAYS: Again, I’m completing this review just hours after the show ended, so there’s nothing to look back on with stern 20/20 hindsight and definitive judgment. From a live perspective, a good time was had by my friends and I, which is positive. The two World Title matches featured great story telling, Shawn and Taker may have hit ‘five stars’ (ask me again in six months), Money in the Bank was exciting, Rey/Punk and Hunter/Sheamus were both good matches, and Bret beat the crap out of Vince. For the most part, as of the morning after, I feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth.

Again, time will tell on WrestleMania XXVI. But for right now, let’s call it a thumbs up show with a smile.

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.

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WrestleMania XXVI: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 02, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVI
From University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ
March 28, 2010

BACKGROUND
One of the biggest differences between WWE and TNA is that when WWE utilizes older wrestlers, it’s to their maximum.

In the fall of 2009, TNA went ahead with a considerable end-run to bolster their roster, with the target of running a monster three-hour episode of Impact, live on Monday, January 4, up against Raw.

To sweeten the pot and lure in casual fans not familiar with TNA, the company brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to be major players, while negotiating with Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Ric Flair, and Jeff Hardy, as well as other familiar faces.

WWE, knowing that TNA was going to bring their best laid plans to that Monday night, countered with something that would shock fans all over the world.

On January 4, 2010, for the first time in over twelve years, Bret “The Hitman” Hart would return to Monday Night Raw.

WWE Fans didn’t know what to think. Bret Hart, really? The same man who, while he’d done a few side ventures with WWE in recent years, had a rocky relationship with the company that embarrassed him on PPV with the “screwjob”? The same Bret Hart that locked horns with the company when the two sides became embroiled over who was responsible for the death of Bret’s brother, Owen?

Indeed, Hart showed up on January 4 in Dayton, OH, where he’d won the 1993 King of the Ring tournament.

To add to the surreal nature of Hart even standing in a WWE ring, he called out longtime nemesis Shawn Michaels. Hart had Michaels removed from the 2006 Hall of Fame ceremony, not wanting him there to witness his speech.

On this night, Hart and Michaels shook hands, and then embraced with a hug, dropping the jaws of fans around the world.

Only in WWE.

THE EVENT
Edge made a surprise comeback after a near six-month injury layoff, and won the 2010 Royal Rumble from the #29 spot. Edge waited to pick the champion he would face, and it paid off when he selected Chris Jericho, who won the World Heavyweight Championship three weeks later at Elimination Chamber.

Jericho and Edge had won the Unified Tag Team Titles in the summer, and then Edge bowed out with the mentioned injury. Jericho chose Big Show as his replacement, and then would off-handedly slag Edge for his shortcomings. Edge would taunt Jericho with threats of spearing him, getting the fans to yell, in Pavlovian fashion, “SPEEEEEEEEEAR”. Jericho’s improbable title win on February 21 meant he might have to eat his words at WrestleMania.

On the opposite brand, John Cena won the Raw Elimination Chamber match, winning Sheamus’ WWE Championship. Immediately after the grueling contest, Vince McMahon, who was on bad terms with Cena after he’d stood beside Bret Hart (explanation forthcoming), sent Batista to the ring for an immediate title match. Batista mauled Cena to win the belt within seconds.

Cena had a chance for a WrestleMania rematch if he could beat Batista in a non-title rematch the next night on Raw. Batista got himself disqualified intentionally, due to his hatred of Cena, his success, and what he stood for. In fact, Batista made it clear that when the two men had their skyrocketing career paths parallel each other just several years earlier, Cena got more love and Batista admitted that he was jealous.

Batista also made it clear that Cena had never, ever beaten him, and promised that WrestleMania, in front of the world, would be no different.

But back to Hart, Vince McMahon had assaulted him at the end of the January 4 Raw, continuing the bad blood that had existed since 1997. McMahon would spend over two months ripping Hart for hanging onto the past, claiming that he’d made “The Hitman”. Bret, however, would get a chance at revenge as he’d challenged Vince to a street fight.

McMahon accepted, but after Bret attacked him, Vince would renege. After Hart was then injured in a car accident backstage, McMahon would accept, thinking Bret was too hurt. However, after Vince signed the contract, Hart proved that his injuries were merely a ruse to get Vince to agree, and that the accident was all a set-up. Hart would have his chance to get 12 years worth of revenge after all.

Speaking of revenge, Shawn Michaels had some in mind as well.

Michaels lamented not ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak one year earlier, and became obsessed with doing so.

Shawn Michaels had cost The Undertaker the World Heavyweight Title at Elimination Chamber, doing whatever he could to get a rematch at WrestleMania, so that he could end the streak. After weeks of hounding “The Dead Man”, Michaels finally got Undertaker’s attention. However, Undertaker would only accept the match if Michaels agreed to put his career on the line.

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Michaels implied acceptance, saying “If I can’t beat you….I have no career.”

Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker called the action from ringside. Fantasia Barrino performed “America the Beautiful”. Entering the WWE Hall of Fame were Ted Dibiase, Antonio Inoki, Wendi Richter, Mad Dog Vachon, Gorgeous George, Stu Hart, and Bob Uecker.

THE RESULTS
Unified Tag Team Championship: The Miz/Big Show def. John Morrison/R-Truth in 3:24
(Miz and Morrison get a “make up call” from one year earlier, and get to be on the actual show. Of course, it gets 1/3 of the time as their dark match from last year. Life’s just not fair)

Triple Threat Match: Randy Orton def. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in 9:01
(This was decent, and did what it was supposed to do in elevate Orton, but Rhodes and DiBiase’s slap fest was so horribly goofy that it became hard to take either man seriously. Some Mania debut for both)

Money in the Bank: Jack Swagger def. Kane, MVP, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre, and Evan Bourne in 13:44
(Swagger was an interesting choice for a winner. And by “interesting”, I mean “odd”. He’d become World Heavyweight Champion two nights later in one of the most forgettable reigns in recent memory)

Triple H def. Sheamus in 12:09
(Ever feel like Orton and Hunter were punished for their crappy main event from last year by being stuck in the first half of the show? Match was pretty good, actually. Sheamus deserves more love)

Rey Mysterio def. CM Punk in 6:30
(Damn good match, but way short. Mysterio had to go “straight edge” if he lost, as if that were a heelish thing to have to do. “How dare that villain infringe on Rey’s right to take HGH! That cad!”)

Lumberjack Match: Bret Hart def. Vince McMahon in 11:09
(All of the Hart siblings, as well as the Hart Dynasty, surrounded the ring for a match in which Bret slowly and meticulously stomped Vince and beat him with a chair for eleven minutes. Well, it’s fine by me. By the way, look at the match’s time. What date was Montreal again? 11/09! CREEPY!)

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho def. Edge in 15:48
(Like Jericho’s previous WrestleMania World Title match, this had no heat, seemed a bit awkward, and is not often remembered. It’s a shame, because it was a pretty good match, but Edge’s entire face schtick centered around him bellowing “SPEEEEEEEAR!!!” which does nothing for anyone)

Michelle McCool/Layla/Vickie Guerrero/Maryse/Alicia Fox def. Mickie James/Beth Phoenix/Kelly Kelly/Gail Kim/Eve Torres in 3:26
(The last major WWE appearance of Mickie “Lesbian Stalker” James. I’ll always have the memories)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Batista in 13:31
(A bit abbreviated, but still a damn good outing. Cena and Batista have pretty good chemistry when they’re not bogged down by pointless stipulations, as they were in subsequent rematches. Batista’s face when Cena kicked out of the Batista Bomb is a sight to behold)

Career vs. Streak: The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels in 23:59
(Not quite as “epic” as last year’s match, but epic nonetheless. Gah, I’m splitting hairs here. This was a great match, and a great way for Shawn Michaels to go out. I hope, unlike Flair, he stays retired and lets his tremendous legacy tell the story of how amazing a performer he was. I hope when Undertaker retires one day, he has the sense to do the same. Great ending to the show)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
I never would have guessed, in 2010, that we’d see Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels wrestle on the same show ever again. Hart and Michaels were, at one point, both retired simultaneously, until Michaels found the itch to wrestle again in 2002.

Hart’s match wasn’t really a match as it was a slow beating. Michaels’ match was an enthralling epic, considered the best match of 2010.

But for both men, WrestleMania XXVI was about closure.

For Hart, it was about giving the fans “one more match”, the one he’d wished for at his Hall of Fame speech in 2006. Sure, it wasn’t anything great, but it was one more Sharpshooter in front of millions of fans, as a way of putting some of his bitterness into his past.

For Shawn Michaels, it was one last great performance. The most talented wrestler the world has known stole the show once more, from peers young and old. He could now rest his battered body forever.

A photo surfaced one day after WrestleMania with both Hart and Michaels smiling, congratulating each other after the show had ended.

If you can think of a more appropriate portrait for this show, I’d like to see it.

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.

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WrestleMania XXV: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXV
From Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX
April 5, 2009

BACKGROUND
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.

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WrestleMania XXIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 30, 2014 By: Category: Entertainment, WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXIII
From Ford Field in Detroit, MI
April 1, 2007

BACKGROUND
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.

THE EVENT
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.

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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.

THE RESULTS
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.

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WrestleMania XXII: Oh Cena, You’re So Gangster

March 29, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Imagine my delight when I discovered that Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” was the primary theme for this show. It’s cheesy, it’s campy, it reeks of the eighties, and thus it conjures up many great memories of my youth watching wrestling. It’s the perfect little ditty to get myself into the wrestling spirit, especially an event as grand as WrestleMania.

-And so it was, the 22nd version of WrestleMania, taking place at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL, on April 2, 2006. For the fourth straight (and final) year, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw and Michael Cole and Tazz did Smackdown, crossing over for one match. In two months, there’d be a third child born in the Brand family, although it’d be dead before age 4. But the kid was an outmoded concept anyway, so no need to shed tears.

-Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child sings the National Anthem. If Destiny’s Child was Legacy, she’s definitely not the Randy Orton of the trio.

-The show kicks off with the Show. Big Show, that is, as he and Kane defend their World Tag Team Titles against Carlito and Chris Masters. Laugh all you want, but three of these men were in the same World Title match just three months before at New Year’s Revolution. No, I don’t need to put the hash pipe down, this actually happened.

-Question: Why does JR always compare Big Show’s hands to skillets whenever he lands a chop? My guess is that he can hold six egg yolks and six sausage links in one of his mitts. He’s probably seen it, too.

-Since the only worker of the four I really like is Carlito, I had low expectations going in, but it’s actually a fun match. Kane lands a nice diving clothesline to the floor on Carved Apples and the crowd seems to be enjoying themselves. Really, that’s all that matters.

-Show lands a nice double suplex on the heels. I think Carlito and Masters would be great bumbling henchmen in some WWE film. They fit the bill, I think.

-Finally, after a miscue, Kane takes out Carlito with a chokeslam to retain the titles. Fun enough opener to set the pace for the card, even though it’s not a match I particularly get excited about seeing over and over. But for what it was, it was a welcome opener.

-Shawn Michaels assures us that tonight will not be a classic match when he faces Vince McMahon. So his match in 1993 with Mr. Perfect was a guaranteed five stars, but his match with Vince tonight isn’t. Using the law of opposites, that means tonight’s match will be the greatest match ever. I’m excited.

-Next is the second annual Money in the Bank ladder match, and this time it’s an interbrand affair, with Shelton Benjamin, Rob Van Dam, and Ric Flair for Raw, and Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, and Finlay for Smackdown. So, in other words, it’ll be 50% spotty.

-As per usual, we get the “dive parade”, which is just two dives this year: An RVD diving cross body, and a Benjamin leap off of the ladder ramp. Must have been a low budget this year for percocets.

-Hardy superplexes Flair off of the ladder and Flair suffers an “injury” to his leg, which actually looked legit this time. Although when the referee does an over exaggerated “X” signal with his arms, it kinda hurts the effect.

-Let’s face it, Lashley just wasn’t ‘ready’ yet. The tentative look on his face every time he climbs the ladder resembles a man who fears that one of the rungs has a land mine full of hydrochloric acid. Though being a burn victim would give him his first layer of character interest ever. Though the three man powerbomb spot off the ladder was nice.

-Speaking of ‘let’s face it’, this match was not in Ric Flair’s wheelhouse. He returns and the most interesting thing he can do is throw chops. A shillelagh from Finlay ends his night. Remember when Flair was an iconic main-eventer? I ask that question now.

-After RVD lands a Five Star on Finlay, he begins to climb, but Benjamin tops his own insane ingenuity by springboarding onto the opposite side of the ladder in a spot that has to be seen to be appreciated. Hardy climbs an additional ladder next to RVD and Shelton’s, but Benjamin steps over to repel him. That’s the final undoing, as RVD kicks it over to send both men crashing to the floor, and RVD snags the briefcase to earn a World Title match. Solid match with some great spots, but not quite up to last year’s standard. I was definitely pleased to see RVD win, though my Spidey sense figured he’d somehow blow it. I was half right.

-Meanwhile, Randy Orton scares Mean Gene off, and an injured Batista talks down on Orton. Remember when Batista getting a long term injury was a new concept? Was this really just four years ago?

-Howard Finkel (#22) introduces the Hall of Famers: Bret Hart (not here), Mean Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri, Tony Atlas, Verne Gagne, William Perry, The Blackjacks, and Eddie Guerrero, who is represented by Chavo and Vickie. Vickie actually looked elegant here, and this was well before her character run, so the fans are happy to see her. I feel worse for nobody in this business than Vickie Guerrero.

-Chris Benoit defends the United States title next against JBL, who makes his entrance until the steel ramp. At this point JBL had Jillian Hall with him, who was his “image consultant”. How far gone must you be as an image consultant that you develop a hopeless need to become a pop singer? Of course, she’s consulting a man who went from cowboy to drunken bodyguard to Wall Street guru, so anything’s possible in WWE lore.

-The most annoying part about this match is that JBL continuously has to resort to using Eddie Guerrero’s mannerisms to draw heat from the crowd. Here’s the thing: we know that it’s fake. We know JBL liked Guerrero. Guerrero’s death is a sore point for a lot of fans. What these acts say is that you can’t find a better way to draw heat for this match. It’s a testament that there wasn’t a bigger uproar about this match, which shows that a lot of people tuned out the antics. I say good.

-Decent enough match, but every time JBL gains control, he’s doing the Guerrero shimmy or trying to rip off the Three Amigos. God, enough already.

-Finally, Benoit latches on with the Crossface, but JBL rolls through and grabs the ropes for the cheap win and the US Title. Well, I guess that means that JBL’s smarter than HHH. Decent match, but enough to leave a sour taste in your match. Sadly, JBL isn’t even the most deplorable man in the match.

-Since Joey Styles did his homework and ate his vegetables, he gets to do commentary on the forthcoming hardcore match between Edge and Mick Foley. We need an arbitrator to determine once and for all the intricate differences between a hardcore match, a street fight, an extreme rules match, and a no holds barred match. You know, just to have it written down somewhere.

-The match begins with a tribute to hardcore matches circa 1999 with cookie sheets and road signs. All we’re missing are run-ins from Test and The Mean Street Posse.

-However, we up the CVQ (Creative Violence Quotient) when Edge tries to spear Foley, only to come away in serious pain, as it’s revealed that Foley has wrapped himself in barbed wire! And to think, Vince could have saved on Foley’s appearance fee and hired some moronic backyarder to do it for free.

-As Foley gets Barbie (his barbed wire bat), Lita jumps on his back, and it leads to all three individuals tumbling over the top rope. That would be a nifty Royal Rumble elimination.

-Ah, there’s a classic: Edge grabbing Foley by the hair and bouncing his skull off the entrance ramp. Oddly enough, I think it was Triple H who brought that to prominence in WWE by doing it to Mick. Yes, I’ll give Satan credit sometimes.

-Edge pours lighter fluid all over Mick Foley. I’m pretty sure that was in day six of Tony Condello’s camp. Then Foley fights back and hits a piledriver, getting two. You know what’s sad? Piledrivers are banned in WWE due to the neck injuries, and Foley does one and I’m stunned….just minutes after the man had LIGHTER FLUID doused on him. I’ve watched wrestling WAY too long.

-Edge does a number on Mick with the baseball bat, and then gets the magical bag of thumbtacks. Meanwhile, Joey Styles acts aghast, like he’s seen none of this before, and he called every Tommy Dreamer match from 1993 to 2001. Was Joey blinded by a particle beam thingie moments after he signed his WWE contract?

-Edge, in a cruel twist of irony, not unlike rain on one’s wedding day, is the one who lands on the tacks. Then Foley wraps Socko in barbed wire, because he’s completely insane, and shoves it into Edge’s mouth. Then Lita tries to interfere, so he shoves it into HER mouth. Great, now Lita’s going to have sores all around her lips. Er, new ones.

-But this just leads to the coup de gras (coup disgrace?) as the table at ringside is set on fire and Edge spears Foley off the apron, through the ropes, with both men landing in the giant fireball. Edge covers Foley for the win, because only two men could kick out of that: No one, and Stu Hart (Ehhhhya fire ain’t got ter uh nuttin on me, ya bum). Oh. My. God. That was absolutely crazy. Edge and Foley can barely move, and Edge is twitching, looking like Beavis after a stunt gone wrong. One helluva match that helped solidify Edge as a player, but that’s some cost. Foley does it again, making a new star.

-Meanwhile, Goldust takes the opportunity to freak Booker T out one last time. I don’t ask for much.

-The best way to describe the next match between The Boogeyman taking on Booker T and Sharmell is this: I would rather have sex on my back on a vibrating bed of nails than to try and comprehend the booking. Sharmell runs off, and Booker eats the Boogeyslam to give the Pit dweller the win. Yep, bed of nails, bring it on.

-And now, the greatest feud of all time, as Mickie James’ obsession with WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus led to a title match at WrestleMania. The feud was wrought with so many lesbianonic overtones that I’d love to show this to Linda McMahon’s male detractors. Because they’d probably end up supporting her. It’s THAT AWESOME.

-The crowd is 90% behind Mickie, who was the heel. Hey, if there’s one thing that’ll make the fans sympathize with you, it’s when Trish spurns your advances. How dare Trish, that hussy! Look, you can see her roots!

-Mickie works the knee and we get a “LET’S GO MICKIE” chant. I wholeheartedly concur.

-After Mickie dominates (and nearly drives all of Chicago to a flood-creating smarkgasm), Trish takes over and manages a headscissors. The crowd boos. How could WWE surprised? When you have a crazed lesbian in a revealing top and loose skirt, she could be fighting a 10 year old with leukemia and that kid is going to be the villain, whether his sickly bloodstream likes it or not.

-Mickie blocks the Stratusphere by dropping Trish’s injured leg across the ropes and then lets out a guttural scream to a huge pop. This is like watching a hybrid of “Carrie” and a women’s prison flick.

-Trish attempts Stratusfaction, and then, we get my favorite part in wrestling history as Mickie grabs—wait, what the Hell? Why did they edit that off the DVD? Hang on.

-(At this point in the story, Justin drove to his brother Josh’s house, since he has the original tape of the event. Justin knocked on his door at 8:45 at night, uninvited, with his foot. Josh answered and Justin, perfectionist that he is, bloodcurdlingly screamed for Josh to put in his copy so that they could watch a mere 15 second clip. Josh was unamused, but did as he was told. Finally, after rewatching the clip 57 times to make sure they understood the relevance, Justin thanked his brother and drove home.)

-So yeah, Mickie grabs Trish’s nether regions to break the hold, and then licks her fingers in a V-shape to indicate something naughty. God, these cushions are sticky….

-After a botched Stratusfaction by Mickie, she finishes off Trish with a weird looking Chick Kick to win the Women’s Title. You know the crowd wants to jump your bones when they ignore the blown spots in the ending just to cheer like crazy. Fun match, although certainly not PG. Not that I care.

-Vince McMahon, with enough spray-on tan to win the George Hamilton lookalike contest, leads the McMahons in a prayer for Shawn Michaels. There’s just something oddly amusing about Linda as a heel.

-Up next, we get a casket match where Undertaker puts his streak on the line again….my cousin, Mark Henry. Asking “Who will win at WrestleMania between Undertaker and Mark Henry?” is a lot like asking “What will happen when it rains, you get wet or a safe falls on your head?”.

-DRUIDS!

-It’s your typical hossfest for Taker, who has to slow down his generally amiable style just so Henry can keep up. A lot of clotheslines and a lot of clubbing down. I never understood Henry’s appeal, other than the fact that he was a former Olympian, and can possibly generate positive press. In WWE, he’s just been a fat and lazy mook who had about 3 combined months in 14 years where he was interesting. I think it’s time to cut the cord on him.

-Usually, when you face Undertaker in a casket match, one of two things is implied: either it’s a major storyline and the casket gimmick is a way for Taker to lose with a ton of interference to keep him strong, or it means that the only way Taker’s opponent can build heat is have the casket lid opened and try to stuff Taker in. Guess which category Henry falls in?

-Punch. Kick. Headbutt. Punch. Splash. Club. Kick. Punch. Good to see Mark Henry is a proficient follower of Dance Dance Revolution: Andre the Giant edition.

-Just to add a little bit of life to the match, Undertaker hits his super dive onto Henry. If this match was a conveyer belt at a pickle factory, you saw about 200 mundane jars of pickles before getting one with a bag of really awesome fireworks in it. That’ll catch your eye everytime.

-Taker manages to get Henry up for a Tombstone, and then rolls him into the casket to end it. Wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t call it good either. If the streak was full of Batman villains, Mark Henry is definitely The Puzzler. I’m puzzled as to why he got a match with The Dead Man in the first place. Let’s just move on.

-Highlights of the Shawn Michaels-Vince McMahon saga. Get ready, kids. Vince is going to bleed and get beaten up for the amusement of all. Frankly, I’m excited.

-Indeed, one of the first moments out of the gate is Shawn smashing Vince with a portrait sized picture of Vince’s Muscle and Fitness cover that was at ringside for some reason. You just don’t get these moments in UFC.

-For a bonus, Shawn beats the crap out of the Spirit Squad, including a young and relatively unknown Dolph Ziggler. Shawn lays them all out, which anoints him for sainthood next to Mickie James for her performance earlier tonight.

-Vince mounts a comeback and chokes Shawn with his belt, and this leads to an attempt at Sweet Vin Music, but Shawn catches the boot and goes back to annihilating the boss. As he gets ready for Sweet Chin Music, son Shane arrives on the scene and whacks HBK with a kendo stick. Just for fun, they go to induct Shawn into the Kiss My Ass Club again, but Shawn shoves Shane’s face into his own father’s sphincter. I’m enjoying myself far too much.

-Shawn cuffs Shane to the ropes and then mocks his Shane-O-Mac dance before beating him senseless with the kendo stick. Shawn Michaels is once again my favorite wrestler ever and, if he retires after WM26, there’s still no topping his legacy. Hell, how can he even top HIMSELF?

-How about bashing Vince’s head in with a chair? Because he just did that.

-So the story is that Shawn keeps teasing a finish with the SCM, but opts not to, instead placing a trash can over Vince’s head, laying him on a table, and then climbing a 12-15 foot ladder (or 35 feet if you’re Tazz), and then dropping the big elbow off of it. At this point, Vince’s head looks like someone poured a bucket of Dutch Boy Red #4 on him. This is awesome.

-Shawn pulls Vince up and yells at him before hitting the Chin Music for the win. In terms of an actual match, it was nothing. As an absolutely comedic AND horrific beating, it was awesome. Just as awesome is Vince giving Shawn the finger from the stretcher as he’s taken away. I hereby dub this “the worst five star match ever”. Just good times.

-World Heavyweight Title recap. Rey Mysterio’s first legit chance to become a World Champion and it was marred by the ridiculous exploitation of Eddie Guerrero’s death. Sigh, let’s just get this over with.

-POD plays Mysterio out, and Rey decides to dress like a tropical hawk. Yep.

-Kurt Angle defends the World Heavyweight Title against Randy Orton and Kurt Angle. Did I mention that Rey, whom all the crowd sympathy was shuffled behind, isn’t even the hero here, as the in-the-know fans have rallied behind Angle, who ISN’T exploiting a dead guy? True stuff.

-Spoiling the ending a bit, this match was only nine minutes long. With three participants, there’s not enough time for Rey to tell his story of his quest to win one for his friend. Why not just have Orton beat Angle for the title, then do Angle-Taker II, have Rey beat Orton here, and have Mark Henry sit home and order Dominos? Who loses?

-Rey tries for a 619 on Angle, but Kurt gets the ankle lock and the crowd cheers. See what I mean?

-Angle gets Rey with the Angle Slam over the top and then locks Orton in the ankle lock. This is all well and good….if they were trying to turn Kurt into a machine again, but the POINT was Rey’s quest. Remember that?

-Orton gets Angle with the RKO, but can only get 2. Then, just to turn this into a bigger train wreck, Rey blows a 619 around the post. Way to rise to the occasion, Rey Rey.

-After Angle is arm dragged to the floor, Rey gets Orton with the 619 and Dime Drop to win his only World Title to date. If that match was any more rushed, it would have collided with Dagwood Bumstead’s mailman on the door step. Rey celebrates with Vickie and Chavo, and my lone consolation is that Mysterio got the big prize for his years of hard work. It’s a shame it was clouded by the garbage. Decent match, but yeah, rushed.

-Cena and HHH are seen warming up, and JR tries to convince us all that Cena’s going to get booed tonight because he’s controversial. Yeah, and Chicago fans cheer the Cubs because they’re convinced they’re going to win it all one day. Oh wait, they really believe that?

-Another waste of time match, as Torrie Wilson wins a Playboy Pillow Fight over Candice Michelle, wherein the loser was doomed to receive 12 catastrophic injuries over the next three years. Then for fun, Torrie rubs her dog’s butt on Candice’s face. I think Torrie has issues.

-Main event time. Hoo boy, get ready for this one.

-Triple H enters first, via through the stage, on a throne, dressed as Conan the Barbarian. Around this time period, a list of WWE wrestler salaries and perks was leaked to the net, and one of Hunter’s perks was that he got 10 free uses of the corporate jet per year. My brother and I theorize that he took ELEVEN trips, thus sending Vince over the edge and making him wear this outfit as punishment. There’s no other possible explanation.

-To top that, a video about Al Capone and various Chicago thugs plays to precede Cena’s entrance. Then out comes a thirties style car, complete with various OVW guys dressed as gangsters on it, including….CM PUNK! Wait….Punk’s fighting AGAINST prohibition? Punk, what the hell! YOU CAN BE SAVED!

-Then Cena comes out dressed in a trenchcoat and fires off a gun to the loudest booing I’ve EVER heard. Seriously, I cackle everytime I see this. Vince is the first aid room, getting stitched up with his fingers in his ears, going LA LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU.

-Remember, Cena’s controversial, and the fans don’t like controversial people. Which is why they cheered Al Capone when he showed up in the video. Good one, JR. WWE Title’s on the line, so let’s enjoy the insanity.

-HHH outwrestles Cena in the early going. Hey look, the crowd’s chanting Cena’s finisher name, only they’re not saying the initials, they’re saying….well, nevermind what they’re saying.

-Cena gets a chinlock, and then out comes the “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE” chant. I’m sure Cena’s crying himself to sleep at night over that one. Unless that big pile of money he has keeps him awake at all hours.

-The fight spills outside and Cena backdrops Hunter onto the ramp, but screw it, the wrestling is not the story here. This is one of the most fascinating crowds I’ve seen in ages. This isn’t like Hogan/Rock where Toronto was caught up in the nostalgia of Hulk’s comeback, but this is just sheep mentality of booing a guy because they don’t like how he’s booked. And yet, the Allstate Arena will still sell out for PPV’s and Raw, even with Cena there today. Funny.

-The match is good, but unspectacular for a main event. The story is that HHH planned to outwrestle the decidedly showy Cena, and that Cena had to prove capable of outwrestling the cerebral assassin. Between the elementary story and the far gone crowd, this was too weird to be the main event. But hey, at least no dead bodies were exploited.

-After a ref bump, HHH manages to introduce a sledgehammer and nails Cena in the gut, which delights the fans. Cena should’ve brought Steve Bartman out as his cornerman.

-After HHH kicks out of the FU, the challenger tries the Pedigree, and is taken down into the STFU for the shocking submission loss. As I mentioned, it was a pretty basic back and forth match, but the crowd made it seem more grand than it really was. It’s a fun atmosphere, and I love how Cena just takes it all in stride.

-Shinedown and Peter Gabriel play us out. Brent Smith couldn’t wax Peter’s jock.

-CYNIC SAYS: There’s a whole lot of good on this show. Both World Titles matches, Money in the Bank, the hardcore match, women’s title match, and Shawn vs. Vince were all quality affairs in their own right. Everything not mentioned was not mentioned for one reason or another, either because it was too bland or it just outright sucked. But hey, every WrestleMania has a blemish or three. No harm, no foul.

It’s a forgotten classic because, other than Edge vs. Foley, it didn’t have the blowaway match of the year candidate. As it stands though, it’s a great show overall. Big Time indeed.

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.

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Wrestling’s Greatest Disappointments: WWE WrestleMania XIX

March 26, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

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:

WrestleMania XIX: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 26, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XIX
From Safeco Field in Seattle, WA
March 30, 2003

BACKGROUND
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 EVENT
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.

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THE RESULTS
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.

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: Simply The Best

March 24, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-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 WWE WrestleMania 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.

-Know who’s needed in the skybox? Ted Turner, just so he can mark out TOO hard when Shane beats his dad with assorted weapons. That would be a hallmark moment.
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-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.

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 24, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA X7
From The Houston Astrodome in Houston, TX
April 1, 2001

BACKGROUND
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.

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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”.

THE RESULTS
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.

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