“Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam talks about his new schedule, offers some perspective on his latest run, why he left, will he come back, his home decor, TweetSecret, traveling, Paul Heyman’s latest WWE run, his new project, and more. Having interviewed Rob myself several times over the last several years I could tell you that he is always a fun interview and is one of the most revealing superstars you’ll get from the WWE (or just fresh off of). Even better, this interview was done over Skype so you can see Rob in all of his glory. Enjoy!
These Top-25 lists are picking up steam, so I’ll take the WWE approach of beating a good thing into the ground. With Money in the Bank coming up, it’s a good idea to look back at two decades-plus of WWE’s greatest ladder matches, and figure out what the best of the bunch truly are. There’s no bad matches to be found here; every entry is rewatchable time and time again. With TLC and Money in the Bank upping the ante of the classic ladder match, this list will cover a lot of ground, and no doubt provide a little argument fodder. Enjoy!
(Note: this list only includes matches which ended with the retrieval of a belt, briefcase, etc. As such, the TLC 2012 match with The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No is excluded. Otherwise, it’d have likely been top ten).
25. Chris Jericho vs. Christian – Vacant Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Unforgiven, September 12, 2004)
Edge was forced to abdicate the gold after one of too many injuries in his career, so brother/’best friend’ Christian was called in for the match to fill the vacancy. Jericho suffered a bizarre injury of his own during the match, in which the ladder slammed into his anal orifice (hey, he makes it sound worse in his second book), but ended up winning a fairly lengthy match. In the end, Jericho was merely used to transition to gold onto a flourishing Shelton Benjamin.
24. Kane vs. Big Show vs. Matt Hardy vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 18, 2010)
Firmly in the ‘let’s shoehorn gimmick matches into the secondary PPVs so that gimmick matches have less meaning’ era, Money in the Bank’s come away unscathed, thanks to the car-wreck spectacles that never get old. In this case, the maiden match of Money in the Bank’s spin-off event hit its mark, with a dose of big man psychology. Show and Kane were natural targets by the smaller competitors, while Show used a custom mecha-ladder for climbing.
23. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (TLC, December 16, 2012)
Ziggler put his previously-earned briefcase on the line (stay tuned for that), and, as is modern custom, lost to Cena in several matches on Raw prior to the PPV contest. Just as naturally, Ziggler took his usual laundry list of wild bumps through the course of the match, before winning as a result of AJ Lee shoving Cena off the ladder. That’d be Ziggler’s lone win of relevance over Cena, but Dolph memorably cashed in four months later on Alberto Del Rio.
22. John Morrison vs. Sheamus – Ladder Match (TLC, December 19, 2010)
Forgotten in the dogpile beneath main event-and-celebrity over-focus, Morrison and Sheamus had themselves a nifty little feud late that year, and a title shot at The Miz was at stake. Akin to the Razor/Michaels matches of yore with the larger adversary throwing around the nimble stud, Morrison gradually overcame the odds and won in dramatic fashion after Sheamus attempted to tip the ladder. Sadly, the Morrison/Miz bout is just as forgotten as this great match.
21. Mr. Kennedy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. King Booker vs. Finlay – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXIII, April 1, 2007)
Before Damien Sandow came along to look unceremoniously weak in failing in his cash-in against John Cena, there was Mr. Kennedy to lose his briefcase to Edge in a Raw quickie, following a Kennedy injury. The WrestleMania opener had plenty of intrigue, with a host of realistic winners. Jeff’s seated dive through Edge and a bridged ladder is cringeworthy, yet hilarious for the sight of brother Matt encouraging him to do it, then reacting as horror as Jeff lay hurt.
20. Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Christian vs. Tensai vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Sin Cara – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 15, 2012)
Another case of a heel being so much fun to watch that the crowd can’t help but cheer for them, the fans in attendance went berserk over Ziggler bumping Christian off a ladder in the end so that “The Show Off” could claim the briefcase. The match also seemed to be a coming-out party for Kidd, whose acrobatics finally had the forum for which to shine. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus sustained early in 2013 would sideline Kidd for almost a year, halting any push.
19. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, Triple Ladder Match (WrestleMania 2000, April 2, 2000)
18. Edge vs. John Cena – WWE Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (Unforgiven, September 17, 2006)
A bit of a shocker when Edge went over Cena in Cena’s Boston backyard at SummerSlam, but that only meant Edge would return the favor in his native Toronto. The visual of Edge being AA’d off of a ladder through a double stack of tables would remain a fixture in WWE’s “don’t try this at home” PSAs for quite some time afterward. Seems as though out of all of Cena’s frequent opponents, only Edge matches CM Punk in creating consistent greatness with Cena.
17. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk – World Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 23, 2009)
Given what a merchandise vessel Hardy had become for a company that loves its multiple revenue streams, it’s hard to believe Hardy would be gone by week’s end, with no return five years later. Punk’s victory transitioned into his tepid feud with The Undertaker, beginning immediately after the match as “The Dead Man” performed a supernatural body switch with a downed Hardy. In 2009, it was astonishing that Punk could win any PPV main event.
16. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio – Vacant World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (Extreme Rules, May 1, 2011)
What a weird time period for WWE. Edge vacates the championship three weeks earlier upon his hasty, very real retirement, and a top contender’s match is made for the PPV. The crowd heavily bought into Christian, and a dramatic finish saw Edge providing timely interference to offset that of Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay. Christian winning the gold was possibly the biggest pop of his career, so naturally he lost the title to Randy Orton two nights later.
15. Paul London/Brian Kendrick vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. MNM vs. William Regal/Dave Taylor – WWE Tag Team Titles, Ladder Match (Armageddon, December 17, 2006)
Teddy Long punched up this one by adding the Hardyz and MNM, as well as the ladder modifier, seconds before the bell rang, I suppose in an effort to get non-buyers to purchase the show at about 8:23 EST. The match is most notable for Joey Mercury damn near getting his face grafted off in a see-saw spot gone awry, forcing him to wear facial contraptions for a time afterward. London and Kendrick retained in the midst of an 11-month reign the company barely promoted.
14. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater vs. Sin Cara vs. Wade Barrett – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 17, 2011)
Takes a back-seat to CM Punk and John Cena’s all-timer to close the show, but it holds weight as the match that boosted Bryan into the main event tier where he’d more or less reside ever since. A wellness policy exodus played out as Sheamus powerbombed Sin Cara through a ladder, leading to a stretcher job into thirty days of oblivion for the luchador. Bryan’s victory was fairly unexpected, and the Chicago fans gave him a pop nearly comparable to Punk’s.
13. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WWE Challenge Taping, July 21, 1992)
The WWE’s first ever ladder match seems very tame compared to the anarchic stunt shows of later years, but two masterful workers in their relative youth put together a dramatic series of ‘near-falls’, with the match more about the drama of the climb instead of insanity. Hart purportedly suggested the match to Vince McMahon, who asked for a demonstration at this TV taping. The match made it onto several video releases, and became a tape-trader’s bounty.
12. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Christian – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 14, 2013)
In a roundabout way, this match made it possible for Daniel Bryan to stand tall at the end of WrestleMania XXX, holding two World Titles aloft (although the Rumble was definitely the fuse). The best ladder match in the spinoff PPV’s history began with a hero’s welcome for the returning RVD, and culminated with Paul Heyman turning on Punk, just prior to Orton’s victory, which was confusing at the time, but became much clearer following SummerSlam.
11. The Rock vs. Triple H – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 30, 1998)
A year later, Rock was a mega-babyface that transcended the business, while Triple H would be the slimy villain he was born to play. Here, however, was the match that virtually shot both men into the main event for good. In front of a nuclear Madison Square Garden crowd, Rock about blew the domed roof off with a People’s Elbow while Helmsley lay prone on the oddly-yellow ladder. HHH’s win only freed up Rock for the World Title run we all saw coming.
10. Chris Jericho/Chris Benoit vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge/Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SmackDown, May 22, 2001)
A worthy sequel to Benoit and Jericho’s heart-stopping title win over Steve Austin and Triple H one night earlier, an irate Vince McMahon booked the new champs against the TLC Six on free television. WWE Network, assuming it survives the long haul, will eventually have this episode up, as the match is otherwise lost to history thanks to Benoit’s involvement. A shade below the original TLC battles in terms of overall quality, it’s still one of the best ladder matches ever.
9. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 17, 1999)
Hanging above the ring was a bank robber’s sack of cash, and the winner would win Terri Runnels’ managerial rights. If it was believed that the winners would be elevated by association with Terri, the four just elevated themselves with a performance for the ages, becoming made men to varying degrees. Interesting note: Edge came dangerously close to missing the match, as he was almost unable to fly to the show due to a hurricane (he lived in the Bahamas at the time).
8. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Monday Night Raw, May 27, 2002)
Easily the best ladder match in Raw’s history, even if Undertaker and Jeff Hardy’s clash a month later received more company hype, despite it being a dramatic finish to an average match. This match was so good, even a moronic fan running interference couldn’t ruin it. RVD regained the gold, leading into the post-match involvement of Steve Austin, who went after Guerrero, only to be thwarted by a returning, suddenly-heel Chris Benoit; an angle that ended up fizzling.
7. Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Kane vs. Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXI, April 3, 2005)
The first of its kind remains the best of its kind. From Benjamin’s hands-free ladder ascension to Benoit German-suplexing Jericho, who was holding a ladder, it’s possibly the most uncluttered Money in the Bank match ever, and one that didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also arguable that Edge’s eventual cash-in on John Cena was the most relevant of its kind, since nobody had ever seen a cash-in until he did it nine months later. Anything since dilutes the fun to a degree.
6. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Royal Rumble, January 21, 2001)
There’s a moment of retroactive horror in the body of the match, wherein Benoit goes for his patented headfirst dive to the floor, only for Jericho to wallop him upside the head with a jarring chair shot. If seeing that moment overrides any possible enjoyment you can derive from the art of the match, it’s understood. For the more unmoved, it was a viable candidate for 2001’s match of the year, rivaled by a litany of classics, one of which is to come.
5. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 1995)
Gorilla Monsoon’s first act as figurehead President was to remove Psycho Sid from SummerSlam, and give Razor the shot at Michaels’ gold, in the match they put on the map. Wise choice; it boosted the show into pretty good territory, rare air in 1995. Ramon played de facto villain, smashing Michaels’ knee to pieces with the ladder, before Michaels superkicked him off a second ladder. The botched ending, and Michaels’ tantrum, somehow adds to the charm.
4. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (WrestleMania X7, April 1, 2001)
From the greatest WrestleMania ever comes the ideal spotfest: accelerated, minimal set-up for the convoluted spots, and the type of chaos that comes from involving a few intruders. Nominee for the best bump visual in ladder match history: Bubba Ray Dudley and Matt Hardy smashing four tables into dust after an interfering Rhyno tipped a painter’s ladder over. Edge and Christian’s win was a bit anti-climactic, but you can’t discount the efforts before then.
3. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 2000)
Gets the slight nod over its WrestleMania kid-brother for the sole reason of a less rushed ending. Conventional wisdom had the Hardyz going over here in their home state of North Carolina. In defeat, Jeff busted out a frightening Swanton Bomb off a ladder on the floor through Bubba Ray Dudley. The match is also known for an unfortunate double-entendre that Jim Ross made about Edge and Lita that gained new perspective about five years later.
Doesn’t stand out, but it should. In fact, a lukewarm crowd is possibly all that kept this from the number one spot. Jericho and Michaels’ hate-filled feud in 2008 came to a head with this match, which was less about cutesy spots, and more heavy on the “I’m gonna kill you” brutality. Indeed, most of the ‘spots’ were Jericho and Michaels trying to make the other suffer, without the need for Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions. An inexplicably undervalued masterpiece.
1. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WrestleMania X, March 20, 1994)
Like Savage and Steamboat, a newer fan may wonder what’s so special about this match, after seeing many a stuntshow since. For 1994, Ramon and Michaels put together a match just unheard of for the time, and wouldn’t become standard for a few years yet. Michaels took at least five or six crazy bumps off of Ramon’s power-based offense, and the dramatic near-finishes had the MSG crowd buying into every second. It’s still the gold standard.
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.
From Ford Field in Detroit, MI
April 1, 2007
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.
And the answer WAS hardcore. Well, rather, Vince’s definition of “hardcore”.
In June 2006, WWE opened a third brand, resurrecting the five-years-dead ECW, complete with Paul Heyman in charge. Joining Heyman were Joey Styles and Tazz on the stick, as well as classic stars of ECW’s past, such as Rob Van Dam and The Sandman. While the new ECW (dubbed WWECW by smart alecks) lacked the unpolished feel of the previous incarnation, ECW would serve as a nice alternative to Raw and SmackDown, creating a number of new stars in the process.
Also in the spring, WWE brought back another uncouth concept: D-Generation X. Triple H turned face for the first time in four years, reuniting with Shawn Michaels to recreate some old mayhem, albeit with less controversy.
With this mix of classic chaos and modern marketing, WWE was on the road to Detroit.
For the first time since WWE allowed for two world titles to exist, the two title matches at WrestleMania would be exclusive to babyfaces only.
The Undertaker, after a decade and a half of raising Hell in WWE, finally could add a Royal Rumble victory to his resume. Being the first #30 entrant to win the January classic, Undertaker brawled with Shawn Michaels for the final eight or nine minutes, ousting his legendary counterpart by avoiding Sweet Chin Music.
Undertaker now had his pick of opponent. Choosing between WWE Champion John Cena, World Heavyweight Champion Batista, and ECW Champion Bobby Lashley, “The Phenom” settled on Batista, who reigned supreme over Undertaker’s home show, SmackDown.
With SmackDown’s main event locked in, Cena’s opponent was determined by a triple threat match between Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton. Michaels managed to beat the former World Tag Team Champions to earn the spot.
Making this match interesting was the fact that, long before Michaels had become Cena’s #1 contender, he and Cena had beaten Orton and Edge to become World Tag Team Champions. This marked the first time in WrestleMania history that tag titlists would fight over a singles belt.
Orton tried to stir the pot between the two men, showing a video of how Michaels had turned on every tag team partner he’d ever had, including Marty Jannetty, Diesel, and Hulk Hogan, among others.
Michaels tried to smooth things with his unlikely partner by saying that “this time is different”, but Michaels would still taunt Cena with a feint attempt at a Sweet Chin Music.
At No Way Out in February, Undertaker actually teamed with Batista to face Cena and Michaels in a non title match. The Raw brand team won, and things looked to still be copacetic between the two men.
Six days before WrestleMania, however, the two teams would have a rematch. This time, Michaels came through on Cena’s paranoia by blasting the WWE Champion with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels left Cena laying, and his partner fell victim to the loss. Michaels’ well-timed double cross fueled the fire for the main event match at WrestleMania XXIII.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to build mainstream interest in his annual money-making machine, Vince McMahon began a feud with real life media mogul Donald Trump. The two had a disagreement after Vince used an actor playing Trump (indy wrestler Ace Steel) to beat an actress playing Rosie O’Donnell on Raw. The match was so ill-received, that Trump himself taunted McMahon by saying that Vince didn’t know what the fans wanted.
The two bickered further, each picking a man to represent him at WrestleMania. Vince chose WWE Intercontinental Champion Umaga, while Trump chose ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the guest referee, and the losing cornerman (Trump or McMahon) would have their head shaved bald after the match.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw, Michael Cole and JBL called Smackdown, and Joey Styles and Tazz covered ECW, with all six men coming together for the opening match of the night. Aretha Franklin performed “America the Beautiful” as she had twenty years earlier at WrestleMania III. The Hall of Fame inductions saw the inclusion of Ross, Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Fuji, The Wild Samoans, The Sheik, and Nick Bockwinkel.
Money in the Bank: Mr. Kennedy def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Edge, Randy Orton, King Booker, CM Punk, and Finlay in 19:05
(Highlights including Kennedy’s annoyed face at Hornswoggle when he tried to interfere, as well as Matt encouraging Jeff to do a crazy dive onto Edge through a ladder. “Do it Jeff! He stole Lita from us! Now no one’s there to make you ramen noodles!” Second best MITB match in WrestleMania history)
The Great Khali def. Kane in 5:31
(I like how Kane slamming Khali was juxtaposed with Hogan’s legendary slam of Andre from twenty years earlier in the show’s closing highlight package. As if they had the same memorable value)
WWE United States: Chris Benoit def. MVP in 9:19
(This, of course, would be the final WrestleMania for Benoit, as three months later he…..well, we all know what he did. It was a good, not great, match to go out on, and I still miss the man)
World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker def. Batista in 15:48 to win the title
(That’s fifteen. This match was a pleasant surprise, as Batista and Undertaker have this weird chemistry that simply cannot be explained. The two men exchange crisp power moves and ramp up the intensity with their above-average brawling. Great match, and the best feud of a dismal 2007)
Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and The Sandman def. Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von, Elijah Burke, and Kevin Thorn in 6:25
(Seven men had their first WrestleMania match here. Those seven also had their last WrestleMania match. Oh, don’t act so surprised)
Battle of the Billionaires/Hair vs. Hair: Bobby Lashley def. Umaga in 13:04
(If Undertaker/Batista was a good surprise, then this was the opposite. Lashley was given a feud with McMahon and an endorsement from Austin and Trump, and still brought none of the energy or personality needed to make it to the next level. Lashley was overpushed, plain and simple)
WWE Women’s/Lumberjill Match: Melina def. Ashley in 3:13
(The bad news: this match was about 3:08 longer than Ashley is capable of working. Good news: Mickie looked great in her tight jeans at ringside. Shame she wasn’t wrestling)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Shawn Michaels in 28:20
(The fact that Cena won turned a lot of fans off, but this is up there with the greatest matches in WM history. Michaels brought a more reserved, but grinding, personality to this, which included the awesome piledriver on the ring steps on Cena. Cena and Michaels worked their asses off here, and both of them deserve for this match to get a lot more credit than it does)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
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.
-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.
-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?”.
-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.
-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.
From The All-State Arena in Chicago, IL
April 2, 2006
A scant fourteen hours before he would have won the World Heavyweight Championship from Batista at a rare Sunday SmackDown taping, Eddie Guerrero was found dead in a Minnesota hotel room at the age of 38.
Despite beating the alcoholism that plagued much of his life four years ago, Guerrero’s weakened circulatory system, a body worn down by the rigors of the ring, and a life numbed by drugs, both prescription and elicit, all came back to haunt him at a time when his diligence and courage were heralded as one of wrestling’s greatest fairy tales.
Guerrero’s death was a blow to not only his family, friends, and fans across the globe, but to WWE itself. Guerrero’s rise to the main event scene in World Wrestling Entertainment wasn’t just a reward for cleaning up his life. Statistics showed that Smackdown’s TV ratings were ballooning, heavily so in Latin markets. With Guerrero, his nephew Chavo, and the dynamic Rey Mysterio, Smackdown was able to cater to the fastest growing ethic demographic in the United States.
It was Guerrero’s natural charisma, however, coupled with his silky-smooth in-ring performances that made him a standout to fans who couldn’t, in any faith, boo his “cheat to win” heel act. Instead, the gimmick was retooled to make him into a cunning and clever hero, outwitting villains left and right to remain on top.
With Guerrero’s death, the company was losing a considerable lifeline to a market that didn’t explode until “Latino Heat” helped WWE tap into it.
However, all was not lost.
Except for WWE’s sense of decency.
For the next six months or so, Guerrero’s name was used by Rey Mysterio in infinite tribute, while Mysterio’s opponents actually defamed Guerrero’s name just to further storylines.
Sadly, the Eddie Guerrero exploitation would grow more disturbing.
With “Eddie Guerrero” becoming a buzz phrase after the man’s demise, coupled with Mysterio’s constant evocation of his name, Mysterio dedicated his performance at the 2006 Royal Rumble to his deceased friend.
However, Orton goaded Mysterio into putting his contender’s spot on the line at No Way Out, getting Mysterio to agree by declaring that Eddie Guerrero was in Hell. Tasteless as it was, the match was signed, and Orton cheated to win. However, GM Teddy Long made a concession: since Orton had to use nefarious means, the match would now be a triple threat between Mysterio, Orton, and champion Kurt Angle.
Over on Raw, John Cena was WWE Champion, and not a popular one. Fans were either heavily divided on his goofy superhero schtick, or they outright booed him out of the arenas. After winning feuds with heels who were cheered over him (Angle, Chris Jericho, Edge), Cena was locked in to face Triple H, who won a tournament to earn the shot.
The Game, for reasons unclear, was allowed to declare Cena a bad champion due to a lack of wrestling ability, as well the unfavorable crowd reactions.
Oddly enough, none of this did anything to improve Cena’s cracked image.
In one of the more bizarre builds for a marquee match, Shawn Michaels had confronted Vince McMahon late in 2005, after McMahon attempted to publicly embarrass Bret Hart. Michaels, from whom Hart was estranged from after a litany of controversies, came to the ring and told Vince “move on”.
McMahon didn’t take the perceived insult lightly, and became hell-bent on ruining Michaels’ life. This included enlisting Shane McMahon to toss Michaels out of the Royal Rumble match after a distraction, and then later trying to force Michaels’ former partner Marty Jannetty to join his “Kiss My Ass” club in exchange for employment. Michaels intervened, and took a chair to the head from Shane. Then, while Shawn was out cold, Shane lifted Michaels and forced him to perform the kiss unwittingly.
McMahon and Michaels would then sign for a street fight, McMahon’s typical style, in which Michaels promised that it wasn’t going to be one of his five-star classics.
Speaking of brawls, Edge and Mick Foley had fallen into a skirmish. After Edge won the WWE title in January by cashing in his Money in the Bank chance on a wounded John Cena, Edge lost the belt three weeks later back to the man he’d felled. Foley refereed a rematch between the two and Cena won, prompting Edge to cry foul. He agreed to lock horns with Foley in a hardcore rules match to create his own WrestleMania moment.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler called Raw’s action, while Michael Cole and Tazz brought us Smackdown. Joey Styles filled in for Ross during the aforementioned hardcore match. Lillian Garcia sang “America the Beautiful” to kick off the show. As for the Hall of Fame, 2006 saw Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Mean Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri, The Blackjacks, Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas, and William “Refrigerator” Perry inducted.
World Tag Team: Kane/Big Show def. Carlito/Chris Masters in 6:41
(Wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it turned out to be a decent opener, all things considered. Besides, it was Big Show’s first win in WrestleMania history. So there’s that)
Money in the Bank: Rob Van Dam def. Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Ric Flair, and Bobby Lashley in 12:21
(Not up to the level of last year’s, but still featuring some craziness. Lashley and Flair seemed out of place, but everyone else was game. Shelton’s springboard onto one side of the ladder still amazes me to this day)
WWE United States: JBL def. Chris Benoit in 9:44 to win the title
(This would have been a fine enough match with a normal face/heel dynamic, but JBL had to mock Eddie Guerrero with his arm swivel taunt about fifteen times. Just not necessary)
Hardcore Rules: Edge def. Mick Foley in 14:37
(The earliest a “match of the night” has ever occurred at ‘Mania, I believe. Lita taking barbed wire to the mouth was crazy, but Edge spearing Mick Foley through the flaming table was beyond insane. Edge going into the flames makes me think he was telling Vince “Gimme the belt back, or I’ll kill myself on your show.” Looks to have worked)
Handicap Match: The Boogeyman def. Booker T/Sharmell in 3:52
(Much as I like both men for different reasons, the less said about this match, the better)
(It’s the best women’s match in WrestleMania history, and perhaps Mickie’s finest hour as a character. Sadly, the DVD release omits Mickie’s finest moment, but it’s burned into my brain forever anyway)
Casket Match: The Undertaker def. Mark Henry at 9:26
(That’s fourteen. That’s also Mark Henry’s second WrestleMania match in ten years with the company. Makes you think forces have conspired against him. Or maybe he’s just that bad?)
Street Fight: Shawn Michaels def. Vince McMahon in 18:28
(One of Vince’s most entertaining matches ever, and it’s fun to watch Shawn beat the hell out of him for about fifteen straight minutes. The highlight was Vince McMahon being stretchered out, giving Shawn the finger while near death and bloodied on the gurney. It’s worth watching for the belly laughs)
World Heavyweight Championship: Rey Mysterio def. Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in 9:18 to win the title
(All of that forced build with Guerrero’s exploitation for a nine minute match? And it didn’t even finish the show? Chavo and Vickie Guerrero coming out to celebrate with Rey just made a decent match muddled by a bad angle worse. I was just glad that the angle was finally over….sort of)
Playboy Pillow Fight: Torrie Wilson def. Candice Michelle in 3:54
(Much like the Booker/Sharmell/Boogeyman fiasco, the less said about this, the better)
WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Triple H in 22:02
(Forget about the match, which was decent and enhanced by a virulently anti-Cena crowd. The highlight was Triple H making his entrance dressed as a Nordic barbarian, and Cena trying to suck up to Chicago with a fleet of faux gangsters while dressed like Al Capone. One of those gangsters was CM Punk, which begs the question: why would the straight-edge Punk associate with anti-prohibitionists?)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Rey Mysterio, for his contributions to the business in terms of opening doors for smaller athletes to thrive on an international level, deserved very much to win a World Championship at an event the caliber of WrestleMania.
However, the ham-fisted, intelligence-insulting fashion in which WWE paved his road to said title will go down as perhaps the most jaw-droppingly insensitive booking that WWE has ever used to sell an event of WrestleMania’s standing.
I truly believe that, to this day, when WWE mentions Guerrero in reverent terms, or when they showcase him as part of a positive video package, it’s to deflect any negative thoughts one may have about the undignified manner in which Guerrero died, as well as to try and make fans forget about the horrible way in which WWE bungled the aftermath of his passing.
But Mysterio, Chavo, and Vickie to this day have more detractors than they’ve ever had, and much of it is kneejerk. Their direct involvement in a year (a YEAR) of exploitation is something that hasn’t washed off easily.
WrestleMania XXII was a decent show, one that is stained by feeling the need to tie in a real death to a fictional production.
From The SkyDome in Toronto, ON
March 17, 2002
One year after rolling the dice on a Stone Cold Steve Austin heel turn, the WWF found themselves in a rather unusual position. It had been a few years since the promotion needed to make any desperate moves or decisions, the last one being to put on a raunchier product. From there, it was smooth sailing for Vince McMahon and company, as there was no force that could trip up the surging juggernaut.
Wrestling’s popularity started to wane after WCW’s dissolution, as part of the fun for a number of fans was watching the entities compete for viewers. Interest picked up at the start of WCW‘s Invasion (spiking when ECW got involved, and The Rock returned from filming The Scorpion King), but the majority of fans were let down by the complete mismanagement of what could have been wrestling’s biggest moneymaker.
After WCW’s final ashes were shoveled away, ratings still remained an issue. Monday Night Raw dipped below 4.0 on October 22, 2001, the night after a PPV. It was the first time Raw had submerged below that level in several years.
Honestly, there was little for the WWF to worry about. Fans seemed to be burnt out on wrestling, as America can tend to get when one trend fades and a new one captures their minds, but that didn’t mean it would stay that way forever. A hot angle, a new talent, anything could jump start wrestling with volts of electricity into the business’ chest.
McMahon, however, seemed impatient. Austin was turned back face, doing increasingly silly things like fighting in churches and supermarkets to try and rekindle his bad ass image. It wasn’t working.
In a desperate move, Vince McMahon went out in January 2002 and rehired three men, one of them would change the course of WWF forever.
In January 2002, after Ric Flair (now part owner of the WWF after buying Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s stock in a consortium) had thoroughly embarrassed Vince McMahon, the WWF Chairman suffered what appeared to be a psychotic breakdown. The result of his newfound disillusionment was a belief that the WWF had “terminal cancer”, and he was going to put it out of its misery before Flair or anyone else could.
To do that, he brought in the original three members of the New World Order: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
After Rock was stretchered out, he was placed into an ambulance, which was then t-boned by Hogan, driving the front end of a tractor trailer.
The New World Order also turned their attention to the WWF’s other hero, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin took Scott Hall hostage on one episode of Raw, resulting in Hall’s humiliation at the hands of a frontline soldier that wasn’t going to back down from a siege. Hall responded by breaking a cinder block on Austin’s leg shortly thereafter.
With Rock vs. Hogan and Hall vs. Austin signed for WrestleMania, it seemed that the New World Order was overshadowing the World Title picture.
Chris Jericho would be that champion, having unified the WWF and World Heavyweight Championships at Vengeance in December, beating Rock and Austin in concurrent matches. However, despite the win, it seemed that Jericho had trouble gaining steam as champion. Other than a great match with Rock at the 2002 Royal Rumble, Jericho was often undercut as champion. He had barely beaten Rikishi and Maven (the winner of WWF’s Tough Enough) in title matches on Raw, and Jericho had only gotten 10% of the offense in a narrow win over Austin at No Way Out.
Facing Jericho on the grandest stage was Triple H, who had returned in January eight months after a brutal quadriceps tear. Two weeks after returning, “The Game” won the 2002 Royal Rumble, last ousting Kurt Angle, and the comeback run was on.
During this time, Hunter and Stephanie McMahon had a marital falling out, including a marriage renewal gone awry days before No Way Out. Stephanie aligned with Jericho, a long time enemy, in order to stick it to her soon to be ex-husband. Jericho, sadly, was reduced to sycophantic duties, including walking the couple’s bulldog, Lucy. Jericho’s limo accidentally backed over the dog, adding an unusual layer of vengeance to an already bizarre feud.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (who returned to the WWF in November) would call the action from ringside. Instead of a national anthem, Saliva opened the show with the song “Superstar”, while later playing the Dudley Boyz to the ring with their new song “Turn the Tables”. Drowning Pool performed “Tear Away”, as well as a newer rendition of Triple H’s song “The Game” for when he made his main event entrance.
WWF Intercontinental: Rob Van Dam def. William Regal in 6:19 to win the title
(Exciting and creative opener, though scary for a moment when Regal dropped Van Dam on his head with a half nelson suplex. Match was a bit more dramatic than Regal’s opener from a year earlier)
WWF European: Diamond Dallas Page def. Christian in 6:08
(The storyline of this match was that Christian was now prone to temper tantrums, complete with theatrics, when things didn’t go his way. Yeah, that’s way better than his “Captain Charisma” spiel)
WWF Hardcore: Maven went to a no contest with Goldust in 3:15
(Spike Dudley ran in and stole the pin. This would lead to Crash Holly, The Hurricane, Godfather, Al Snow, Mighty Molly, and Christian involving themselves in the 24/7 chase, with Maven yet regaining. Yay)
Kurt Angle def. Kane in 10:45
(An underrated match in WrestleMania annals, Angle and Kane worked a smart match based around Angle trying to get a submission. The crappy pinfall ending needs to be seen, however)
Editor’s Note: Reportedly Sting vs. Kurt Angle was the original plan here.
Street Fight: The Undertaker def. Ric Flair in 18:47
(Another underrated match. Flair and Taker bled buckets, Arn Anderson ran in to give Taker the spinebuster, and Taker gave Flair an old school Tombstone to win. Oh, and that’s then)
Edge def. Booker T in 6:32
(I think we can all agree that this was Edge’s worst WrestleMania match ever. It’s probably Booker’s also, until 22. You know why? THEY’RE FIGHTING OVER SHAMPOO!)
Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Scott Hall in 9:51
(Austin had no interest in trying here. Hall was dogging it less than he was, and that says something. Austin walked out for the first of two times in 2002 after this match)
WWF World Tag Team: Billy & Chuck def. The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and the APA in 13:50
(It bears noting that neither Dudley Boy or Jeff Hardy have ever won at WrestleMania. That said, this match sucked, except for Stacy Keibler’s self-induced wedgie. Mmmm)
The Rock def. Hollywood Hogan in 16:23
(A truly unforgettable match, and no fan who witnessed it will ever forget it. The Toronto fans turned on Rock, hailing Hogan as a prodigal hero. Hogan ran through his classic Hulkamania offense, and damn near blew the roof off the arena when he “Hulked Up” late in the match. After Rock won, Hall and Nash turned on Hogan, Rock saved, and the two posed together to deafening cheers. Unreal)
WWF Women’s: Jazz def. Lita and Trish Stratus in 6:16
(Talk about dead in the water. This match didn’t stand a chance after Hogan and Rock, which should have been the main event. At least Trish looked good in her white shorts with the red Maple Leaf)
WWF Undisputed World Championship: Triple H def. Chris Jericho in 18:41
(Speaking of dead, Jericho knew going into the match (having seen Hogan/Rock) that there was no way the fans were going to buy into his main event. The largely dead crowd barely reacted when Triple H won with the Pedigree. It was a good match, but just badly positioned)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
However, this is where the problem lies.
Hogan’s nostalgia act popped the crowd for weeks afterward, but the luster wore off when people realized that Hogan wasn’t Rock or anyone else in terms of being relevant, fresh, hip, or able to work the faster-paced modern WWF style.
But McMahon didn’t care.
By summer, Shawn Michaels was lured out of retirement, although he proved to still be an excellent performer. Over the next several years, WWF (soon to be WWE) juxtaposed nostalgia acts who were guaranteed to pop the audience with time-tested routines, with newcomers fresh from the development territories with no personalities, that had no chance of getting over.
It became a self-defeating system, one that WWE relied on as a lazy fail-safe. As long as Hulk Hogan, and others, kept coming back for a payday in exchange for a time-warp moment, the desire to build new stars took a backseat.
Sunday, March 17th, 2002 – SkyDome – Toronto, Canada – The last WrestleMania under the “World Wrestling Federation” banner and the second WrestleMania to head outside of the United States! At this Mania card, we see Chris Jericho defending his Undisputed WWF Championship against the returning Triple H, as well as Icon versus Icon when the Rock does battle with “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, and the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair faces the Dead Man, the Undertaker!
The show opened with Saliva doing one of this year’s theme songs, “Superstar.” I miss the WWE going away from bringing in live bands performing a song or two at WrestleMania. I know it’s frustrating for me trying to pay attention to the music video for it and the camera men go back and forth on showing the band with the titan tron and panning the fans.
But besides my short rant, I do feel like “Superstar” by Saliva does fit perfectly for WrestleMania, any WrestleMania for that fact.
After Saliva got done, they showed a video package hearing from guys like Undertaker, Ric Flair, Triple H, and Chris Jericho talking about what WrestleMania means to them.
Jim Ross welcomes us to WrestleMania X8! Thanks JR! Jerry “the King” Lawler joins JR at the English announcer’s booth! The greatest tag team at the annoucer’s table!
Within a couple of minutes, Regal put a pair of brass knuckles on his hand and RVD kicked them off of his hand.
RVD missed with a 5 Star Frog Splash and Regal hit the running knee and only got a near fall.
Out of the three PPV matches that Regal has had so far in 2002, this is his best. Nothing against Edge, but Regal’s wrestling style fits a lot better with RVD. It could also be the WrestleMania feel in the crowd, but I believe Regal hits better wrestling RVD.
At the end, RVD hit the 5 Star and became the Intercontinental Champion for the first time on his WrestleMania debut!
Superstar of the match: William Regal, for putting over RVD.
Lilian interviews Christian about his match against DDP for the WWF European Championship. Christian turned on DDP because he didn’t need him after getting back on his winning way. He also said that he became a better man when he left this town (Toronto) and moved down to Florida.
WWF European Championship match: Christian versus Diamond Dallas Page (champ)
Christian is hailing from Tampa, Florida, just to get more heat from the crowd.
Another thing I just realized, just like RVD, this is DDP’s first WrestleMania where he’s having his first wrestling match. His first Mania was at Mania 6 where he drove Rhythm and Blues (Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine) in a pink Cadillac.
DDP almost countered the Imprettier with the Diamond Cutter, but Christian countered that. So, yes, a double counter.
Shortly after, DDP hit his Diamond Cutter, and retaining his European title, and making his debut at Mania a success. He grabbed a mic and said that it wasn’t a bad thing that he won, that it was a good thing!
Superstar of the match: DDP’s smile, because it’s a good thing! And thinking of it, DDP made Christian feel the BANG!
The Coach interviewed the Rock, saying that tonight’s the biggest night in his career and his biggest match of his career. The Rock stopped the Coach, and you could hear faint “Hogan” chants. The Rock asked the Coach if he took his vitamins, if he said his prayers, and teased him up and down for taking his vitamins but getting too busy for saying his prayers! Rock asked the Hulkster what he’s gonna do when the Rock runs wild on him.
WWF Hardcore Championship match: Goldust versus Maven (champ)
Remember: this was still when the Hardcore title was under the 24/7 rule, so this might not be much of a review of a match.
Another odd fact: this is Maven’s first WrestleMania match. First three matches at Mania we see three men debuting at Mania.
There are two golden trash cans and a golden shovel that Goldust brought in to use against Maven. How golden does it mean to Goldust to win the Hardcore title.
After both men hit each other win a trash can lid, Spike Dudley ran out and pinned Maven and won the title!
Superstar of the match: Spike Dudley for being smart. Yup.
Drowning Pool preformed “Tearing Away” for the Undisputed WWF Championship match. Honestly, this drives me nuts on when they’re doing this music video and band performance. I feel like they should have done this for the main event. Granted Drowning Pool also preformed Triple H’s theme song, but it would be even more hardcore metal if they would have done two back-to-back songs right away at WrestleMania!
Crash Holly is beating on the new Hardcore Champion Spike Dudley in back and only got a two-count. Al Snow drove a golf cart and ran into some boxes. That would be fun to do. The Hurricane flew in and took out Spike and won the Hardcore title.
Kurt Angle versus Kane
Kurt grabbed a mic and said that if he would have won his gold medal like how Canada’s skaters won theirs, he’d want to show himself in the head. He didn’t have to whine to get his medal, he earned it.
Angle nailed Kane in the head with the ring bell before the bell rang. I guess it’s legal because the bell couldn’t have been rung before Kurt did that.
Angle hit an overhead belly-to-belly suplex onto Kane. That was super impressive that Kurt hit that.
Kurt also hit three consecutive rolling German suplexes. It’s weird seeing someone do that to a man the size of Kane.
Kane nailed the Chokeslam onto Angle and would have got the three count if he didn’t pin Angle right by the ropes. Kurt grabbed the bottom rope.
Within a minute, Angle hit the Angle Slam and only got a two. Kurt got angry and slapped on the ankle lock.
Kane was on top rope about to hit Angle with a top rope suplex, Angle ran up and suplexed Kane from the top rope to the mat. Angle tried with another Angle Slam, Kane countered, Angle countered Kane, rolled him up, had his feet on the ropes, and won.
Superstar of the match: Kurt Angle for outsmarting the Big Red Machine.
The Hurricane was walking around backstage and found himself in the women’s locker room. It was the Godfather’s ladies room. He ran the Hurricane out. I guess the Ho’s don’t want the Eye of the Hurricane and the Godfather doesn’t want to get hardcore with the Hardcore title.
The Undertaker versus Ric Flair
The Undertaker had to attack Arn Anderson, Ric Flair’s best friend, and David Flair, one of Flair’s sons, just to get a match with Flair at WrestleMania X8! The song playing for the video package is Renee Dupree’s theme song when he came to the WWE! Due to Ric Flair being the “co-owner” of the WWF, and competing at Mania, he got is “rights” revoked and full power given to Mr. McMahon. Vince made Flair versus Undertaker a no disqualification match.
I really like this “version” of the Undertaker, the “Biker Taker,” because it’s a version of the Dead Man where we could relate to the most. I know most people like the vintage character of the Undertaker, and that’s fine, but me personally, I enjoyed the “Biker Taker” years of the Dead Man’s career.
The fight went all the way to JR and the King within the first 90 seconds of the match, with Flair mounting the Dead Man and punching his face with the “Nature Boy” fists.
Undertaker yelled out: “We’re going to school!” But wait a second, isn’t Flair known as the “Dirtiest Player in the Game”? Wouldn’t that implied he knows what to do to get a passing grade in school, by going behind the teacher’s back?
The Undertaker hit Flair with a top-rope suplex and could have got the victory but pulled Flair up at two, just to dish out more pain to the “co-owner” of the World Wrestling Federation.
The Dead Man tried to hit the Nature Boy with Old School, but Flair pulled him off of the top turnbuckle. There is another move where I find strange for the Undertaker hitting on Flair because of the name. Flair’s been in the business longer than the Undertaker and Taker’s hitting Flair with Old School?
Ric Flair took the lead pipe that was in the Undertaker’s bike (see my WWE No Way Out 2002 review) and nailed the Undertaker with it across the forehead on the outside of the ring.
Flair hit a low blow and slapped on the Figure Four Leg Lock onto the Undertaker. The Dead Man’s screaming in pain, and the King said that it’s strange to hear him yell in pain. The Undertaker got out my chocking Flair and hitting the chokeslam. Only a near fall and the Undertaker’s surprised that Flair isn’t done due to the pain.
Arn Anderson came in and hit the Undertaker with a spinebuster. Flair tried to cover him to get the victory, but only got a two count. The Undertaker found Double A and started to do a number on him. Undertaker slapped on the Dragon Sleeper and Flair grabbed a chair and started to do a number to his back. Taker countered with a boot to the face of Nature Boy.
The Undertaker tried to give Flair a Last Ride but Flair couldn’t help to get up all the way, so the Undertaker hit him with a Tombstone Piledriver to become 10-0 at WrestleMania! That spot wasn’t that bad, because they made it a smooth transition into the Tombstone.
Superstar of the match: Double A’s spinebuster!
Michael Cole interviewed Booker T and said that Edge was questioning Booker T’s intelligence. Booker T said he’s smart for wearing glasses. Booker said that Edge isn’t better than him or smarter than him. Booker said he’ll beat Edge.
Booker T versus Edge
Booker’s a former five-time WCW champion and a ten time tag team champion. Edge, at this moment, doesn’t have those kinds of title wins under his belt.
Hey, look! Teddy Long’s the ref for this match! Go Smackdown!
Here is another person, Booker T making his debut at WrestleMania.
To be honest, I’m starting to feel like this match, so far at WrestleMania X8, might be the worst match of the card. As you can tell, there isn’t much in this match where I feel like there’s much to mention. It might be because this match is right after the awesome Ric Flair/Undertaker match, and giving it some thought, I think that might be the reason why.
Edge won with the DDT.
Superstar of the match: Teddy Long, because he’s done it all in the business.
The Hurricane is in the parking garage and the Coach tried to interview him. The Hurricane said he isn’t a perv, and Molly Holly used a skillet to knock out the Hurricane and became the new Hardcore champ! Go Mighty Molly!
Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Scott Hall
It all started the month before at No Way Out 2002 where the nWo cost Stone Cold Steve Austin the Undisputed WWF Championship against Chris Jericho. I remember the nWo trying to offer Steve Austin a 6-pack of beer but he throwing it over his shoulder saying he wasn’t thirsty. There was some great comedy there.
I’m happy that Tim White’s the ref in this match. Tim White’s one of my favorite referee’s during this period in the World Wrestling Federation.
Steve Austin started the match before Scott Hall was able to take off his nWo vest.
Kevin Nash took off the top turnbuckle pad from the outside and Hall countered Stone Cold with a Irish whip into the exposed buckle.
Austin hit the Stone Cold Stunner on Hall and got the two then Kevin Nash pulled the ref out of the ring and took him out. After, Nash came in and took out Austin. Nash put Austin in a full nelson and Hall grabbed a chair. Austin hit Nash with a low blow and gave both Hall and Nash Stunners and this was the second time he should have got the victory. Nash took out the new ref (Jack Doan).
About five refs came out and ejected Nash from ringside.
Hall hit Austin with a Stunner and only got a two. Hall tried again but Austin pushed Hall into the exposed turnbuckle and hit him with two Stunners and picked up another victory at WrestleMania X8!
Superstar of the match: Tim White, with all the bumps he took in the match, he deserves it.
We see a video package of WWF Excess. The backstage interaction for the fans of the WWF who went to WrestleMania X8 is shown. If I ever go, I’d love to meet the Undertaker and Chris Jericho at one of those events. I’d love to get their autograph and get my picture taken with them. I’ve been vocal about being a huge Jericholic but I’m a huge Undertaker fan as well. I know with his character these days he won’t be at one of those events, which is super sad, but if I could, I’d love to shake his hand, get his autograph, and get my picture taken with him. He’s a true legend in the business.
Four Corners Elimination match for the WWF Tag Team Championship: Dudley Boys versus APA versus the Hardy Boys versus Billy and Chuck (champs)
The Dudleys had Saliva sing them down to the ring.
I always enjoyed Billy and Chuck’s theme song. I did because I feel like it was a spoof off of the boy bands that were huge around this time.
Right when JBL hit Billy with the Clothesline from Hell, the Dudleys hit him with the 3D and got eliminated. DAMN!
One thing I can’t figure out is why the Hardy Boys always take their shirts off and why the crowd cheers. Shouldn’t the men boo them because their girlfriends or wives or daughters are lusting over the Hardys? I know if I had any of them when the Hardys were huge, I would totally had them look the other way, or change the channel when the Hardys are on.
Bubba got eliminated when Matt hit him with the Twist of Fate and Jeff hit him with the Swanton Bomb. Poor Dudleys. Pack up your bags and head down to Orlando, you’ll find work there.
Billy grabbed one of the tag title belts and nailed Jeff and Chuck picked up the victory! YES!
Superstar of the match: Billy and Chuck’s theme song!
Scott Hall is venting to Kevin Nash, saying that Stone Cold got lucky. Nash said that the Rock won’t get lucky either. Hogan came up and said that he needs to do this by himself and needs to prove to himself that he’s the better man over the Rock.
Molly is trying to get out and got nailed by the top half of the door, and Christian pinned her and became the new Hardcore champion!
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan versus the Rock
When the nWo theme started to play, the crowd went wild! The crowd went even louder when the Hulkster walked through the certain.
The match started with a tie-up and Hogan out-powered Rock and shoved him down and posed. The crowed popped even louder than when Hogan came out!
With the ref down, Rock slapped on the sharpshooter on Hogan and Hogan got to the ropes, but the Rock pulled him back to the middle of the ring, and then Hogan started to tap out. The Rock let go of the move to check the ref, and came back to Hogan and got low blowed and got nailed by the Rock Bottom and Hogan only got a two-count.
The Rock hit the Rock Bottom on Hogan and got a two-count, then the Hulkster Hulked Up. After a Big Boot and the Leg Drop, the Rock kicked out and Hogan doesn’t know what he needs to do to the Rock to defeat him. Hogan got another Big Boot but Rock moved to miss the Leg Drop and gave Hogan a Rock Bottom. The crowd boos. Suck it fans! Rock picks Hogan back up and hits him with another Rock Bottom. Nip up and the Rock connects with the People’s Elbow and the Rock wins it!
Superstar of the match: the fans!
After Hogan got up to his feet, he extended his hand and shook hands with the Rock.
Hall and Nash came out and attacked Hogan for losing to the Rock and not letting them come out to help Hogan against the Rock. The Rock came back and defended Hogan. Hogan and the Rock cleaned house against Hall and Nash.
The Rock stopped Hogan on leaving and asked him to pose for the crowd.
The Fink announces that they set a record of 68,237 people in the SkyDome! Wooo!
Women’s Championship match: Jazz (champ) versus Lita versus Trish Stratus
Probably the highlight of the match is how dead the crowd is compared to the match we seen before this wit Hogan/Rock. It seems like the crowd burnt themselves out with that match.
Jazz also hit the Fisherman Suplex on Lita off the second rope and got the victory and retained her title.
Superstar of the match: the bathroom, because this was a good bathroom break match.
Christian tried to leave the SkyDome but Maven school boyed him and became the Hardcore champion and took his cab! This is the second time Christian threw a temper tantrum.
Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Championship match: Triple H versus Chris Jericho (champ)
Drowning Pool preformed Triple H’s theme song from the WWF Forceable Entry album that came out not that long before Mania 2002. This is the second back-to-back Mania where Triple H had a band sing him out to the ring. The year before, WrestleMania X7, Motorhead brought out Triple H when he fought the Undertaker down in Houston.
Walking into WrestleMania X8 as the first Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Champion, for me this has to be one of Chris Jericho’s highlights in his wrestling career. Walking into a WrestleMania in Canada in the main event spot as World Champion must be huge.
We’re told that Triple H’s quad is being held by a wire. The announcers are trying to put an ounce of doubt in our mind that Triple H might not last the whole match, giving Jericho a heads in the match. If they wanted to give Jericho a strong push into WrestleMaina, they should have had him go clean over the Rock at the Rumble and Austin at No Way Out.
Jericho put Triple H up on the English Announcers table to slap on the Walls but Triple H got put, then Triple H tried to hit the Pedigree but Jericho backdropped the challenger through the Spanish Announcers table. Jericho put the Game back in the ring and hit the Lionsault and only got a two-count. That really blows.
Shortly thereafter, Triple H was turned to his belly and Jericho clamped on the Walls of Jericho! Earl Hebner checked Triple H’s arm and it only fell twice. Stupid Triple H. He got to the ropes and Hebner was forced to make Chris Jericho let go of the hold.
In the end, Triple H hit the pedigree and won the title. Yeah. JR put Triple H over. My emotions aren’t
Superstar of the match: Chris Jericho for his title reign coming to an end and having to put Triple H over after coming back from an injury.
This was a decent WrestleMania. The Taker/Flair, Hogan/Rock, and HHH/Jericho matches are matches that I would suggest if you never watched this Mania before. But if you have about four hours you’re wanting to waist, check out the whole WrestleMania X8 card. I thought the whole thing was pretty awesome for a WrestleMania, especially coming off of the year before WrestleMania.
Rob Van Dam returned to the WWE with a lot of hype last year only to disappear a few months later. Another run has always been expected but when has been the key question. A recent tweet from the former champ has helped answer that question.
“@THEPIMPHACKER: Are you going to return by #Summerslam ? @TherealRVD ?” Indeed. – @TheRealRVD
So there you have it. Rob Van Dam says he is coming back. RVD says he will be back by SummerSlam. That leaves a pretty wide open window between now and then as to when he could return. All reports seem to indicate that he won’t be at WrestleMania. Maybe they give him the same run as last year and bring him back at Money in the Bank?
Numerous reports indicated that RVD and the WWE didn’t leave on the best of terms. According to several reports, the WWE expected Rob to re-sign and stick around a little longer. Rob on the other hand was ready to walk if his contract demands weren’t met and that is exactly what he did. It would appear that cooler heads have prevailed.
I have to admit that I was proven wrong on his last run. I predicted his run based on what he did in TNA. In TNA he appeared to slow down and didn’t show a whole lot of passion. Well that was TNA. In the WWE he absolutely turned it up a few notches. He wasn’t the RVD of old, but he wasn’t the same apathetic worker he was in TNA. I’d say he fit in quite well.
Unfortunately what I didn’t predict was the inept booking he’d receive from the WWE Creative Team. One would think that they would have had a solid plan for him coming in. Maybe he agreed to it but the run with Alberto Del Rio was terrible. I don’t know who had the idea to pair him with Ricardo Rodriguez but it didn’t work. RVD had a ton of momentum coming in and they quickly killed it.
Regardless it looks Mr. Monday Night is coming back and it will be just in time for Money in the Bank.
It’s War Games, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble all in one – it’s the Elimination Chamber? Devised in kayfabe by Eric Bischoff over a decade ago, the Chamber has been used to decide both championships and championship opportunities. The oft-stated forboding nature of this domed structure is palpable enough to have spun off its own annual PPV each February.
There have been 16 such Elimination Chamber matches to date, and here they are, from worst to best.
The Godawfully Ghastly
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Lashley, Test (2)
Any hopes that ECW diehards had of their resurrected brand fulfilling the lost appeal of the original, died in Augusta, GA on this night. Vince McMahon monkeyed with Paul Heyman’s creation one last time before dismissing Paul E one day later, and the result was, in some ways, the beginning of the end of McMahon’s teflon-coated characterization
Crowd favorites Punk and Van Dam were eliminated early to set the stage for Lashley’s (in theory) Superman finish, where he plowed through Test and Show to win the gold. A mixed reaction met Vince’s next big thing, and Vince would soon enter a feud with him that was lukewarm at best. The addition of weapons to this Chamber couldn’t save it.
15. World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Goldberg vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Kevin Nash vs. Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton (8/24/03, SummerSlam)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Goldberg (3)
Helmsley was saddled with leg injuries, and a noticeable gut, from a lack of his usual workout regimen. He performed exactly 2 minutes of physical work in the match, and scored the victory over Goldberg to retain the gold. Had WWE not been in a rut of dwindling ratings and putrid creative in 2003, Goldberg’s loss would have rivaled his WCW loss to Nash at Starrcade.
Many expected Goldberg to be what they knew him to be from day one: a muscle-bound bulldozer. And he was, mowing through Orton, Michaels, and Jericho to leave himself with the champion. But Ric Flair slid a sledgehammer to his charge, and after one simple knock to the head of “The Man”, a rather dismal SummerSlam ended on such a disappointing note.
14. WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Carlito vs. Chris Masters vs. Kurt Angle vs. Kane (1/8/06, New Year’s Revolution)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Carlito (3)
Journey back with me over 7 years to a time when Cena “overcoming the odds” was a fairly novel concept. Cena became the first man in the Chamber’s history (to be fair, this was the fourth such incarnation) to win the match from one of the two starting spots. The match is known more for its aftermath (Edge cashing in the briefcase) than the actual bout.
Angle was gone quicker than a flash, and Carlito and Masters would take over the match. Cena was busted open, and the midcard duo summarily eliminated Kane before Carlito scoring a surprising pin on Michaels. Then Carlito backstabbed Masters with a roll-up pin before Cena, in his crimson mask, rolled up Carlito seconds later to retain the title.
13. World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Edge vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Mike Knox vs. Kane (2/15/09, No Way Out)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Edge, Mysterio (2)
This was during the annoying period where both World Titles changed a combined 65 times in 3 weeks (give or take a dozen switches), and Cena’s 3 month reign (an eon in this era) ended in one of the rare times where you knew for sure he was cooked. And it all began when Edge attacked original entrant Kofi Kingston, and Vickie Guerrero allowed Edge his entry.
See, Edge was WWE Champion headed into the show, and he lost the Chamber earlier in the night in a matter of minutes (minor spoiler). So he, being the “Ultimate Opportunist” just finagled his way into this match, and you knew Edge would somehow win. Cena didn’t record a single elimination, amazingly, and Edge speared Mysterio to gain the other title.
The Appropriately Audacious
12. WWE Championship: Sheamus (c) vs. John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Ted Dibiase (2/21/10, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Everyone but Orton (1)
This may have leveraged its way up the list a little bit, had Cena not lost the title minutes later to Batista, per Angry Vince’s impromptu booking. As it was, this one was stocked with its share of interesting plot developments, notably in the form of Cody Rhodes interfering for Dibiase to get Orton out first, and a grueling Cena/HHH finish that coulda gone either way.
Sheamus’ first run as champion, before he was a grinning doofus with a latently racist mindset, ended after 2 months, when his real-life mentor Helmsley Pedigreed him. With the Celtic Warrior gone, HHH and Cena had a race to the wire, but Cena proved to be too much, and made Helmsley tap to the STF. And then it was off to put Batista over.
11. World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Big Show vs. Great Khali vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Wade Barrett (2/19/12, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Marella (2)
What began as a very mundane, very bland Chamber match (with the crowd even chanting their displeasure) turned into a rather exciting contest by the end, thanks to some surprising booking. Khali and Show were eliminated early on, leaving Marella as the only babyface if you don’t count the love for Bryan. And that’s when things began to get interesting.
Marella surprised Rhodes with a roll-up to eliminate the Intercontinental Champion, and then cooperated with Bryan to get rid of Barrett. In many cases, Santino Marella is merely the comedic patsy, but here, he won the crowd over as he nearly defeated Bryan on several occasions, building to a fever pitch where he finally tapped to the Yes/No Lock.
10. #1 Contender’s Match: Undertaker vs. Batista vs. Finlay vs. MVP vs. Big Daddy V vs. Great Khali (2/17/08, No Way Out)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Undertaker (3)
For the very first time, a Chamber match had merely the opportunity for a title match at stake, as opposed to actual gold. The idea that Khali and the former Mabel would be in position to have a chance to become champion is frightening enough, but they were fortunately done away with before they could bog down the works. With them gone, the real fun began.
It was Undertaker’s showcase, and not since he battered Mick Foley inside Hell in a Cell had he looked so violently dominant. MVP was killed off via a chokeslam off a pod, and Finlay met his end with a chokeslam on the grating. Taker remained with the man he had the best feud of 2007 with, and after brawling it out with his nemesis, a Tombstone put Batista way.
8. #1 Contender’s Match: John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Randy Orton vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth vs. Sheamus (2/20/11, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Punk (2)
A chance to face The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, and a chance to be overshadowed by The Rock, hung in the balance. Consolation prizes included: teaming with Snookie, having your US Title match bumped from the big event, and being relegated to the pre-show battle royal. But rather than focus on the bass-ackward booking, let’s talk about the fun of this contest.
In a creative moment, Punk was eliminated seconds into his entrance, but was allowed to stay per the anonymous GM (remember that?) who ruled that Punk’s faulty pod door unfairly hindered him. Morrison landed a bizarre dive off the chamber’s concave roof onto Sheamus, which coincided a short push for him. Cena, of course, won in the end after AA’ing Punk.
The Excitingly Extreme
7. World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth (2/21/10, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Everyone but R-Truth (1)
Although Jericho’s victory would lead to a forgettable angle with Edge for the title (“SPEEEEEEEEAR”), and ultimately a title switch to Jack Swagger, this Chamber provided not only some fast-paced, brutal action, but the ending set up WrestleMania even moreso than Jericho’s title win, and it would lead to the exodus of one of wrestling’s greatest stars.
Truth and Punk were early exits, leading to Mysterio and Morrison to carry the body of the match with their typical stuntwork. Once they were gone, Undertaker was fixing to finish off Jericho, but Shawn Michaels popped up through the grating, and superkicked Undertaker, allowing Jericho to win. HBK got his rematch; the focal point of WrestleMania XXVI.
6. WWE Championship: Edge (c) vs. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. The Undertaker vs. Big Show vs. Vladimir Kozlov (2/15/09, No Way Out)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Undertaker, Triple H (2)
As mentioned previously, this is the era where you’d wake up to a new champion seemingly every other day until Randy Orton, of all people, provided some stability over the spring and summer. But at least the matches weren’t always shoddy. Some of them, like this one, featured a number of main eventers at their hard-working peak. Also, Vladimir Kozlov was involved.
Edge was eliminated in under three minutes via fluke pin, so a new champion was guaranteed. Once Kozlov bit the bullet, you had four credible stars that could have each potentially walked out with the gold. The proceedings whittled down to Undertaker and HHH, who did more in 7 minutes than they did with 30 inside Hell in a Cell. A Pedigree gave Hunter his final World Title.
5. World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H (c) vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho vs. Booker T vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Kane (11/17/02, Survivor Series)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Jericho, Michaels (2)
The first incarnation of the Chamber was not without its glaring botches. For one, Triple H had his throat sandwiched by an errant RVD dive, and could barely speak afterward. In another case, the production crew messed up the order of entrants, so Kane entered one spot early, throwing things into disarray. Otherwise, the match was fueled by a hot MSG crowd, and a great story.
It was Michaels’ second match back and, despite his turd-brown tights and Peter Stormare-hairstyle, the crowd was aching for a great comeback story. Michaels eliminated Jericho to bring it down to he and his old DX buddy, who’d brutalized him over the summer. Michaels won his final World Title with Sweet Chin Music, while the Garden, and Jim Ross, rejoiced loudly.
4. WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho vs. The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. R-Truth (2/19/12, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Punk, Jericho (2)
Jericho was unable to fulfill his “end of the world” proclamation at the Royal Rumble, being Brogue Kicked off the apron by Sheamus to send “The Great White” to WrestleMania. But fans felt that Jericho’s consolation prize would be to unseat Punk inside the Chamber, to pay off his highly unusual behavior since his return. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t happen either.
Jericho was a house of fire inside the Chamber, eliminating Ziggler and Kingston (the latter with a retro-fantastic Lion Tamer). But Jericho chose to remove Kofi from the Chamber himself as a grandstanding gesture. During this sequence, Punk roundhouse kicked him out of the door, and a wounded Jericho couldn’t continue. Punk then took Miz out with the GTS to win.
The Hallmark of Hellishness
3. World Heavyweight Championship: Edge (c) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Big Show vs. Kane vs. Wade Barrett vs. Drew McIntyre (2/20/11, Elimination Chamber)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Edge, Kane (2)
It doesn’t necessarily look like the lineup of a classic cage match, given the occasional lethargy of the 2 big men, and how McIntyre’s fallen down the card. While Edge and Mysterio put together the best finishing sequence in the match’s history, the rest of the match was pretty solid in its own right, with McIntyre shining in particular, baring a rarely-seen aggressive side.
The early eliminations were all rapid-fire, concluding with Rey and Edge doubling up to take out Kane. Once alone, the two traded near-falls for close to 10 minutes before Edge speared his former partner-turned-rival to retain. As a bonus, Christian made his return after the match saving his brother (not “friend”) from an assault by number one contender Alberto Del Rio.
2. #1 Contender’s Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho vs. Umaga vs. JBL (2/17/08, No Way Out)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Jericho, Triple H (2)
Proving that the Chamber is every man for himself, Triple H eliminated Michaels, after Hardy had stuck Shawn with the Twist of Fate. After that, Hardy hung in there, surviving one Pedigree, and nearly struck with a Twist on Helmsley, but would fall victim to a second one onto a chair (JBL had brought chairs into the cage after his elimination) to give HHH the shot.
1. For the Vacant World Heavyweight Championship/Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels: Triple H vs. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Edge (1/9/05, New Year’s Revolution)
WINNER: Triple H
MOST ELIMINATIONS: Batista (2)
It was a lousy show before this match, but it’s not hard to see why: the entire main event tier was tied up with this one. Triple H dropped the title after a controversial finish in a triple threat match with Benoit and Edge, and had to go through Hell to get it back. His main henchman Batista, on the verge of a crowd-demanded face turn, was also at odds with him.
After Batista dispatched of Benoit and Jericho with assertive ease, “The Animal” worked with his boss to try and rid their former ally, Orton. But Orton dropped Batista with an RKO to eliminate him. Triple H, cunning as he is, didn’t make the save when he easily could have. Instead, an unknowing Batista took Orton out, and made it easy for Triple H to reign once more.
After a quarter century-plus of WWE Survivor Series matches, wherein teams of 4, 5, or even 10, try to outdo one another in the name of survival bragging rights, certain teams have stood out above the fray as being the most powerful and memorable. Here’s 20 of the all-time greats, with no real critera in place, except the gut feeling of “how awesome were they?”
20. Triple H’s Team (2004)
Members: Triple H, Batista, Edge, Gene Snitsky
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Randy Orton)
Why They Were Great: “The Game” was the reigning World Heavyweight Champion, and as such, he didn’t entirely trust his teammates. That’s because the winning team for this particular match got to each run Raw for one week during Eric Bischoff’s impending vacation.
While Helmsley was an established main eventer, Batista and Edge were each on the cusp of greatness. “The Animal” was still HHH’s enforcer, but would soon break out as WWE’s new babyface sensation. Edge would also seep into the main event scene as the sleazy “Rated R Superstar”, while Snitsky…well, he was having his greatest run as a pre-natal assassin, one damn proud of his vocation.
19. Owen Hart’s Team (1996)
Members: Owen Hart, British Bulldog, The New Rockers
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivors: Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon)
Why They Were Great: For the most part, this was just a hastily thrown together team that had but one purpose: make Furnas and Lafon look like the world-beaters they could be.
18. The Royals (1995)
Members: King Mabel, Jerry Lawler, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and Isaac Yankem DDS
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivors: The Undertaker, Fatu, Savio Vega, Henry Godwinn)
Why They Were Great: Another “patsy” team whose only objective was to get killed by The Undertaker one by one until Mabel, who crushed The Dead Man’s eye socket weeks earlier, ran away in terror after becoming his team’s last hope.
What was most impressive of this team was its lasting power. In the Attitude Era, Helmsley and Yankem would be rechristened Triple H and Kane, and become among the era’s biggest stars. Lawler and Mabel (then Viscera) would stick around as well. Amazingly, all four men would be in WWE in 2008, the year of Big Vis’ final release. Perhaps no other team has had the longevity of the Royals.
17. Team Miz (2009)
Members: The Miz, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger
Result: Won (Survivors: Miz, Sheamus, McIntyre)
Why They Were Great: I admit to being a fan of teams that feature a host of breakout stars before they broke out; the ‘before they were stars’ squads. Miz’s team was comprised of himself (then-United States Champion), and four men who, outside of some developmental false starts, had really all debuted in the past year.
Miz, Sheamus, Swagger, and Ziggler would all be World Champions within the next year and a half (Sheamus the following month), while McIntyre would go on to become Intercontinental Champion for over five months. The team they beat was, appropriately, built from stars that had seen good runs already (John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, and Evan Bourne), so “putting over” the new class made sense.
16. The Heenan Family (1989)
Members: Andre the Giant, Bobby Heenan, Haku, Arn Anderson
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: The Ultimate Warrior)
Why They Were Great: Perhaps no other team would be as deserving as the moniker of Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Team in the World. There isn’t a single boring personality on display here; no wasted space.
If the four men were to collectively write a book about their life’s experiences, what would be the best section: Andre’s drinking stories and Hollywood run-ins, Arn’s days of partying with the Horsemen and other wild characters in Atlanta, Haku’s tales of maiming idiots who dare test his toughness, or Heenan’s take on the sport, laced with his one-of-a-kind spit-take-inducing humor?
15. Hardy Boyz/Dudley Boyz (2000)
Members: Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Jeff Hardy)
Why They Were Great: WWE had two undeniably-great tag team runs: the latter half of the 1980s, and the early 2000s. In the second example, the Hardyz and the Dudleyz represented two-thirds of the division’s most renowned pairings, thanks to their participation in several breakthrough ladder, table, and ladder/table/chair matches.
At this respective ‘peak’ of their tag team careers, the quartet faced off with the other representative of their pantheon, Edge and Christian, as well as Right to Censor members Bull Buchanan and The Goodfather. The current TNA World Champion found himself remaining with Christian and Goodfather, overcoming interference from Val Venis to eliminate the former pimp, and survived.
14. Team Austin (2003)
Members: Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, The Dudley Boyz
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Randy Orton)
Why They Were Great: Had this team existed in 1998, its cultural impact would have been even greater than it is here. Between Attitude pioneer Michaels, crowd-favorite Booker, and ECW cornerstones RVD and the Dudleyz, Stone Cold Steve Austin had five fine representatives for an elimination match with high stakes.
In what would end up being, in this author’s opinion, the greatest elimination match in Survivor Series history, Austin’s group waged war with a fivesome selected by Eric Bischoff. In the end, a hopelessly-bloody Michaels eliminated Christian and Chris Jericho, and then nearly ousted Orton before Batista (not in the match) illegally attacked him. Orton scored the pin, and Austin, as a result, was fired (albeit temporarily).
13. Team SmackDown (2005)
Members: Batista, Rey Mysterio, JBL, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Orton)
Why They Were Great: It was the only elimination match at the underrated 2005 event, but it was one of the most fun ones of its kind. Smackdown’s group faced a team of five representing Raw; one which had a little less star power (Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Kane….then Carlito and Chris Masters). The end result was a wildly fun match, where even the sniping commentary between the two tables helped steal the show.
As for SmackDown’s team, talk about some impressive star power. Raw had the disadvantage of some of its stars taking part in other matches (John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, Triple H vs. Ric Flair), so Smackdown had the quality advantage. Batista was World Champion at the time, JBL and Orton were part of the main event scene, and Mysterio, after Eddie Guerrero’s passing, was on the verge of being a main eventer himself.
12. The Radicalz (2000)
Members: Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn
Result: Won (Survivors: Benoit, Saturn)
Why They Were Great: The foursome represented one particularly rusty nail pounded into the coffin of WCW. Their collective release from the company 10 months earlier not only cost WCW its backbone of hard work and crisp wrestling, but added that backbone of hard work and crisp wrestling to WWE, fortifying perhaps their most impressive roster ever.
Although the fate of the group as a whole has changed the opinions of certain members (only Malenko has made it largely unscathed), in their collective prime, The Radicalz represented wrestling’s in-ring elite. WWE made them even better by shading them in with personality, whether it was Benoit as a ruthless competitor, Guerrero as a comical womanizer, or Malenko as a stoic ladies man. As for Saturn, well…what do you know about Moppy?
11. Team Piper (1991)
Members: Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Virgil
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Ric Flair)
Why They Were Great: Admittedly, the quality of Survivor Series had dipped from previous years, as evidenced by a putrid contest between teams captained by Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Colonel Mustafa, as well as a drag-asstic four-team match notable only for planting the seed of Shawn Michaels’ heel turn. This match, however, saved the show, along with Undertaker’s first World Title win.
The team, Virgil included, largely represented WWE’s babyface upper midcard of the time period, as Bret was Intercontinental Champion, Bulldog was a capable competitor, Virgil had his best run, and Piper always had that star quality. Even their opponents were a damn fine team, making them entry 11b on this list: Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase, The Mountie, and The Warlord. Shame the match ended with a cheap disqualification.
10. The Teamsters (1994)
Members: Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, Jeff Jarrett
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Razor Ramon)
Why They Were Great: Speaking of cheap endings, after Ramon’s four partners were eliminated by Diesel, “The Bad Guy” became the first wrestler to be his team’s sole survivor without eliminating a single opponent. That’s because a miscue between Michaels and Diesel led to all five villains being counted out in the most unique Survivor finish to date.
But what a roster The Teamsters boasted. Michaels and Diesel were then-Tag Team Champions, and just months away from co-headlining WrestleMania against each other. Owen was wrapping up a feud with brother Bret, and Jarrett was on his way to becoming Intercontinental Champion. One has to wonder where the “Teamsters” name came from. It wasn’t as if they were a union threatening to shirk their duties or anything.
9. The Alliance (2001)
Members: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Shane McMahon
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: The Rock)
Why They Were Great: Despite representing a storyline that would infuriate smarks and marks alike with its dullness and lack of drama, given its magnitude, the WCW/ECW hybrid group was reduced to basically Booker and Van Dam in starring roles, with the infusion of established WWE icons that “jumped ship”, thus killing the specialness of the invasion.
But still, on paper, The Alliance was very well represented. Austin was WWE Champion, Angle was his fiercest rival at the time (revealed to be a mole at the match’s conclusion), Booker and RVD saw significant time on Raw and Smackdown as the standouts of the 2001 acquisitions, and even Shane had credibility as a bump machine that freely got his ass whipped against the likes of Angle and Rock that year.
8. Team Powers of Pain (1988)
Members: Powers of Pain, Hart Foundation, Rockers, British Bulldogs, Young Stallions
Result: Won (Survivors: Powers of Pain)
Why They Were Great: Here’s a good argument for the proliferation of tag teams and a solid division: in 1988, there were ten tag teams that competed in this one match, and none of them had names like “(Blank) and (Blank)”. They were all legit duos, many of them over with the crowd, but most importantly, they ended up creating stars.
On this one team, you had Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Davey Boy Smith, who would all help carry the company during its darkest times in the mid-90s. Out of these tandems came the stars of the future, and working tags only made them better rounded performers. Factor in Dynamite Kid and Marty Jannetty, and that’s some pretty impressive technicians on one team.
7. Edge and Christian/The Hardy Boyz (1999)
Members: Edge, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Hardcore Holly)
Why They Were Great: As I said in the previous example, tag teams round out performers and create better wrestlers out of them. You’ll find no better example of this in the Attitude Era and beyond than the men who made the tag team ladder match famous. All four men would go on to hold some form of a World Title, or top brand title, in their careers.
Coming together out of respect, this foursome absolutely made themselves with both their daredevil antics, and their youthful vibrance. Edge and Christian would turn heel shortly thereafter, and complete their personas with their self-deluded “gnarly dude” act, while the Hardyz would ride their life-on-the-edge bend to equal stardom.
6. Team DX (2006)
Members: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, The Hardy Boyz
Result: Won (Entire Team Survived)
Why They Were Great: If I could have the collective sum of all five men’s merchandise sales throughout their five WWE careers, I’d never have to work again. Also, I could buy TNA and make Repo Man champion, just to amuse myself. Talk about your collection of diverse, while altogether similar talent that each won over scores of fans.
Even WWE must’ve known the lure of Punk and the Hardyz; usually Shawn and Hunter would’ve remained standing on their own against Edge and Randy Orton’s team. Yet there’s the Straight Edge Superstar and Cameron, NC’s most famous brothers, helping rid Gregory Helms and Johnny Nitro. Shawn Michaels’ elimination of Mike Knox ranks as the funniest moment in the history of the event.
5: The All-Americans (1993)
Members: Lex Luger, The Undertaker, Steiner Brothers
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Luger)
Why They Were Great: The team reads like the upper midcard of a WCW show in early 1990, but things changed with the former (and future) Turner talents under WWE’s banner. To battle a cliched team of evil foreigners (from horrid places like Japan, Canada, Finland, and Hawaii), Luger amassed a team of two collegiate athletes and a zombie mortician.
But jokes aside, given the limitations of WWE’s roster at the time, this was a pretty impressive team. Undertaker replaced Tatanka, who was injured by Yokozuna and Ludvig Borga, but it was done for the better, in my eyes. Luger/Taker/Steiners was kind of a poor man’s equivalent of Hogan/Andre/US Express 1985, but at least this team was aided by Taker’s super-sweet Colonies jacket. LET FREEDOM RING.
4. Team WWF (2001)
Members: The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Rock)
Why They Were Great: It made sense for Vince McMahon to program the best possible group against The Alliance with the futures of both warring sides on the line. After all, when the opposing team featues Austin, Angle, Van Dam, and Booker for a killer blowoff, you need all the star power you can get as a counter punch.
On this team are five men who will all, most assuredly, be in WWE’s Hall of Fame, provided they don’t do anything irreversible to their loved ones. The match also had the benefit of furthering the budding rivalry between Rock and Jericho, which provided us with a number of awesome matches between two of the era’s most charismatic stars. The benefit of less Survivor matches is more star-studded teams.
3. The Hulkamaniacs (1989)
Members: Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Demolition
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Hogan)
Why They Were Great: For the most part, each team in 1989 had some weak links that would prevent them from making this list. Yeah, Roddy’s Rowdies had Piper and Jimmy Snuka, but the Bushwackers are grounds for disqualifcation. The 4X4’s boasted Jim Duggan and Bret Hart, but Ronnie Garvin and his upside-down toilet brush hairdo (credit: Bobby Heenan) were a dealbreaker.
2. Team Savage (1987)
Members: Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Result: Won (Survivors: Savage, Steamboat, Roberts)
Why They Were Great: If WWE had a midcard this sustained and deep today, you’d hear far less complaints from know-it-all fans. Savage and Steamboat on the same team is always a win, but factor in Roberts, Beefcake, and Duggan in their physical primes (as well as arguable peak of fanhood), and you can understand the high ranking.
Amazingly, Savage would feud with each of his teammates in high-profile fashion at some point. His legendary issue with Steamboat is a given, but he also feuded with Roberts in 1991 in one of WWE’s raciest stories ever. Macho Man would also battle Duggan in 1989 over the “crown”, and Beefcake was was Hogan’s ally in the post-Mega Powers explosion.
1. The Warriors (1990)
Members: The Ultimate Warrior, Kerry Von Erich, Legion of Doom
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Warrior)
Why They Were Great: Here’s a case where the team name befit all of the members: Ultimate Warrior, Modern Day Warrior, and Road Warriors. Had Von Erich not been a worn-down shell of his once Greek God self, this team would have been flawless from head to toe. As it is, it’s still the greatest Survivor Series team of all time.
Just the combination of Warrior, at his peak as WWE Champion, and the LOD, the most popular tag team ever, is enough to warrant a top spot. Fans of all ages appreciated the three face-painted gladiators that ripped opponents to shreds with ease. Factor in Von Erich as Intercontinental Champion, and you get a team that has no lack of prestige.
Survivor Series just ain’t what it used to be.
First, it was Thanksgiving night. Then it was Thanksgiving eve. Then it moved indiscriminately to just any old Sunday in November. When it started, it was all about the elimination matches. Now it’s about the typically-rushed storylines that are often back-burnered in favor of whatever Cena or Orton are doing, with maybe an elimination match or two shoehorned in there somewhere.
Well, forget about senile Vince McMahon and lack-of-fun Kevin Dunn for a minute. Let’s journey back to when the event MEANT SOMETHING, and let’s share some fond memories of some of the greatest elimination matches that have ever taken place at the Thanksgiving night/eve/located in proximity to the holiday tradition!
After all, it sure beats “John Cena and The Rock vs. what’re-their-names.”
25. Tatanka, Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy, and The Heavenly Bodies (Million Dollar Team) def. Lex Luger, Adam Bomb, Mabel, and The Smoking Gunns (Guts n Glory) (11/23/94, San Antonio, TX)
Survivors: Bigelow, Bundy
The main issue was between Tatanka, who sold out his honorable beliefs for Ted Dibiase’s money, and Luger, whom Tatanka had accused of selling out beforehand in a bizarre ruse. After Luger’s team was whittled down to just him against Tatanka and the two behemoths from New Jersey, it seemed that Luger would never get any type of comeuppance over the coalition that had gone after him for months. Near his end, Luger managed to pin Tatanka with a cradle before succumbing to Bundy’s splash. Luger may have lost the war, but he prevented his nemesis from surviving as well.
24. The Holly Cousins and Too Cool def. Edge, Christian, and The Hardy Boyz (11/14/99, Detroit, MI)
Survivor: Hardcore Holly
Gotta admit; that face team would be pretty cool in any era, despite the real life problems of the brothers Hardy. For what it is, it’s a fast paced match between WWE’s “X Division” of 1999; a match in which the second oldest person (Crash) was only 28 years old. When does that EVER happen? Edge being the first one gone was a surprise, as was the heels going over. Then again, since Edge and company were made men after their spectacular ladder match the previous month, why not give some rub to the then-relevant “Big Shot”? Christian’s near-comeback from a three-on-one was fun to watch.
23. Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe & Lioness Asuka def. Alundra Blayze, Sakie Hasegawa, Kyoko Inoue & Chapparita Asari (11/19/95, Landover, MD)
This was probably the first time since 1988 that WWE had more than three women involved in the same match, and boy, what a comeback for women’s wrestling. Of course, the entire division was scrapped a month later, when Blayze rechristened herself as Madusa and threw the WWE Women’s Title in the trash on WCW Nitro. Alas. The match was a ten minute infomercial for Aja Kong to show how scary-dominant she could be, dropping her fellow Joshi performers on their heads and necks before waylaying Blayze with a spinning back fist to become the sole survivor. Now we get Kelly Kelly rubbing her bony ass in Natalya’s face. Alas.
Survivors: Benoit, Cena
Lesnar built a team of brawny monsters to take on GM Paul Heyman’s “most wanted” list. It was notable because, unlike today with Cena and Randy Orton, the two men getting the biggest rub (Angle and Lesnar) were eliminated before the finish, thus making whoever survived look pretty damn special. Indeed, the soon-to-be-megapushed Benoit and the being-molded Cena upended Big Show in the end, after Benoit had made Lesnar tap out. Of course, this is essentially the match that kicked off Cena’s interminable face run, so maybe some of you will want to curse this outing.
21. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, and The Hardy Boyz def. Edge, Randy Orton, Johnny Nitro, Gregory Helms, and Mike Knox (11/26/06, Philadelphia, PA)
Survivors: the entire team
One sided as it was, this match provided some decent crowd-pleasing action, as well as a number of comedy spots. Mike Knox being eliminated by Shawn Michaels in under a minute, and then Shawn asking his team, “Who was he?” is never not funny. “I think he’s on ECW.” “Oh, so we’re doing GOOD then?” Too hilarious. Also of note was Punk outpopping the entire team during the pre-match DX intro, despite having only been in WWE for three months. It’s stuff like that that drives Vince McMahon even more insane.
20. Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Hunico def. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara, and Mason Ryan (11/20/11, New York, NY)
Survivors: Barrett, Rhodes
It was a pretty good way of putting over Intercontinental Champion Rhodes and soon-to-be pushed heel Barrett (before his arm injury in February). Orton dispatched a drained Ziggler early before Barrett’s team rattled off 4 straight eliminations, leaving Orton alone against 4 men. Swagger went quietly, then Hunico was RKOed out before the Viper was outsmarted, losing to Barrett’s Wasteland.
19. The Miz, Sheamus, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre def. John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Evan Bourne, Shelton Benjamin, and Finlay (11/22/09, Washington, DC)
Survivors: Miz, Sheamus, McIntyre
Other than McIntyre’s push stalling in 2010, that heel side is like “Team Groom for Greatness”, as the other four men would all go on to hold a World Title. Whereas the face team features three men no longer in WWE, one suspended for ingesting synthetic ganja, and a captain who is a kitty-whipped laughingstock. Regardless, the match was a tremendous showcase of midcarders soon-to-be big deals, which gives Survivor Series (as well as the Royal Rumble) its ochre of flavor. The highlights were McIntyre nearly breaking Bourne in half at the neck with his Future Shock DDT, and Sheamus definitively crushing Finlay in the “Battle of the Brogue.”
18. Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phil Lafon (Team Canada) def. Vader, Steve Blackman, Marc Mero, and Goldust (Team USA) (11/9/97, Montreal, PQ)
Team Canada, it should be noted, featured only one actual Canadian in Lafon. On the night where Bret Hart would be excommunicated from WWE canon, it seemed appropriate that a hastily-assembled team of America haters would be on display. The match was merely a backdrop to begin a feud with Vader and the increasingly-erratic Goldust, who walked out without ever tagging in, but the match was an exciting wrestling exhibition when Vader, Mero, Smith, Furnas and Lafon were involved. Having a pro-Canuck team in an enthusiastic Canadian setting provided a hot crowd as well, even if the match was overshadowed at night’s end by…..well, you know.
17. Ted Dibiase, Rhythm & Blues, and a Mystery Partner (The Million Dollar Team) def. Dusty Rhodes, Koko B Ware, and The Hart Foundation (The Dream Team) (11/22/90, Hartford, CT)
Assuming that Honky and Neidhart are future Hall of Famers, as well as the mystery partner, you have eight Hall of Famers in one match. Impressive, no? Anyway, you probably know by now that said mystery partner is The Undertaker, making his WWE debut in grand fashion by obliterating Ware and Rhodes before taking a countout loss to save his mystique. Hart lost his brother Dean the day before to kidney failure, and Roddy Piper (on commentary) declared “The Hitman” had dedicated the match to him. Foreshadowing his eventual singles push, Hart came back from three on one to tussle with Dibiase at the end, losing when the Million Dollar Man rolled through his cross body.
16. Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, Ricky Steamboat, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan def. Honky Tonk Man, Ron Bass, Harley Race, Hercules, and Danny Davis (11/26/87, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Savage, Roberts, Steamboat
The first Survivor Series match ever had one of the more intriguing stories ever seen at the event. Honky, Intercontinental Champion for six months running and an unlikely champion at that, was versed by five challengers, all of whom capable of beating him for the gold, if not for Honky’s perpetual luck and knack for cheating. Honky’s teammates weren’t able to go the distance, as Honky found himself stuck with the three men he had feuded with through 1987, and they all still held a grudge. After trying his best to hang with Savage and his cohorts, Honky took a walk for the countout loss. By the way, wouldn’t YOU have loved to see Savage and Steamboat as a semi-regular team? Me too.
15. Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Koko B Ware, Hercules, and Hillbilly Jim def. Big Bossman, Akeem, Ted Dibiase, Haku, and The Red Rooster (11/24/88, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Savage, Hogan
Koko and Rooster main evented a WWE PPV not called “Royal Rumble” or “Irony-Mania”. The Towers were positioned as holdover threats to Savage and Hogan before the “Mega Powers Exploding” months later. Hogan being handcuffed late in the match while Savage had to try and fend off Bossman and Akeem provided some tension to a well-worked, albeit predictable, affair. The sad part was Dibiase, the hottest heel when the year started, reduced to working a nothing angle with former “slave” Hercules, and then floating around with nothing to do for months until he was handed the Jake Roberts feud. Other than such quibbles, it was a fine main event to the Series’ second incarnation.
14. The Ultimate Warrior, Jim Neidhart, and The Rockers (The Ultimate Warriors) def. Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson, and Bobby Heenan (The Heenan Family) (11/23/89, Chicago, IL)
I love when you look back at old matches like this and realize that WWE and Vince McMahon were giving experimental runs to those deemed to have “future prospects.” This particular match was the closer for the 1989 Survivor Series, and Warrior was given a chance to shine as the final act, foreshadowing his World Title run the following year. In addition, Shawn Michaels lasted quite a while in the match for a 24-year-old tag team wrestler, getting to pin Haku before succumbing to Anderson’s spinebuster. Surely with Marty Jannetty eliminated, the match became something of a singles audition for the future Heartbreak Kid. For those wondering why Heenan was in the match, check Tully Blanchard’s drug test results for an explanation.
13. Kofi Kingston, Christian, Mark Henry, MVP, and R-Truth def. Randy Orton, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase, and William Regal (11/22/09, Washington, DC)
Quite the anachronism in 2011, Orton pinned Henry within the first minute, Orton and Punk worked in tandem, eventual main eventer R-Truth bit the dust early, and Orton Punk were both reviled villains to Christian’s virtuous good guy routine. But rather than expose the fallacies of WWE’s breakneck booking change, let’s look at the upside: Kingston was made with this one, withstanding seven minutes of Punk and Orton breaking him down, to score what should have been a career-boosting victory. Instead, he blew the finish weeks later in a triple threat involving Orton, and Orton had an on-camera freakout that got Kofi punished, but not Randino. Weird.
12. Razor Ramon, 123 Kid, Davey Boy Smith, and The Headshrinkers (The Bad Guys) def. Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Jeff Jarrett (The Teamsters) (11/23/94, San Antonio, TX)
You can be made in a loss, and Diesel was a made man after this performance. After lots of early action in which everyone but Michaels got involved, Diesel said “enough of this” and went on a rampage. Fatu bit the dust with a Jackknife, followed by Kid, then Sionne, and then the Bulldog took a count out loss. With Razor remaining, against 5 on 1 odds, a loss seemed inevitable when Michaels FINALLY tagged in and accidentally superkicked Diesel. In a silly finish, all five heels were counted out when Diesel angrily stalked Michaels. Razor became the only sole survivor in history to never eliminate anyone and, three days later, Diesel beat Bob Backlund to become WWE Champion.
11. Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude, One Man Gang, and Butch Reed def. Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco, and Ken Patera (11/26/87, Richfield, OH)
Sorry, Jim Crockett Promotions. When cable providers had to choose between airing Starrcade ’87 and the inaugural Survivor Series, with the lure of Hulk and Andre in the main event, facing off eight months after WrestleMania III, WWE won out in spades. After the sides whittled down to a three on two, Hogan and Andre finally locked horns, but the Hulkster was counted out after Bundy and Gang kept him from re-entering the ring. Bigelow managed to eliminate Bundy and Gang and would have defied the odds Cena-style but, well, it was Andre. The Frenchman flattened Bammer for the final fall, giving himself a just cause to petition a rematch against Hogan for the WWE title. And that’s a fascinating story in itself.
10. Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, and The Godwinns def. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and The New Rockers (11/17/96, New York, NY)
Survivors: Furnas, Lafon
After a cup of coffee in ECW in the fall of 1996, Furnas and Lafon debuted in the opening match of Survivor Series 1996, and what a debut it was. Once Marty Jannetty busted his ankle prior to being eliminated, and then both Godwinns went, WWE was in store for action that they’d never seen before. Leif Cassidy (known better as Al Snow) took a header with modified reverse superplex from Lafon, and the well-traveled veterans were made to hold off Hart and Smith, then WWE Tag Team Champions. Bulldog was cradled for elimination, and Furnas planted Owen with an absolutely vicious release German suplex to give Furnas and Lafon the win with a crazy standing ovation from the Garden crowd.
9. The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, and Big Show vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane McMahon (11/19/01, Greensboro, NC)
It was an abrupt end to what should have been a money-maker for WWE. The WCW/ECW Invasion had sputtered to a poorly-booked finish, but at least we got a great finale out of it. With the future of the company at stake, and the losing side being forced to disband for good, drama built over the forty-five minute coda. Once down to just Rock and Austin, after Jericho attempted to selfishly maim his own partner, the two icons of the Attitude era put on a dramatic finish, ending with Angle proving to be a mole, as he clocked Austin with a title belt. One Rock Bottom later, and the Alliance was dead, leaving Stephanie to scream like a banshee in tears backstage.
8. The Powers of Pain, Hart Foundation, The Rockers, The British Bulldogs, and The Young Stallions def. Demolition, The Brainbusters, Los Conquistadors, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, and The Bolsheviks (11/24/88, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Powers of Pain
When was the last time WWE had ten teams, REAL teams, under lock and key like this? This would be the second time a match with ten teams would take place (I do believe this spoils a later entry), and it was full of great action and well-told stories. The climax was an inexplicable story turn in which Mr. Fuji intentionally caused Demolition, the World Tag Team Champions, mind you, to be counted out, just so he could manage the Powers of Pain for some reason. In other fascinating notes, the Conquistadors, perennial jobbers, lasted over forty minutes, and the Rougeaus were eliminated early due to a very tense real-life feud with Dynamite Kid.
7. Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Maven def. Triple H, Batista, Edge, and Gene Snitsky (11/14/04, Cleveland, OH)
Kicking off one of the greatest five-month story arcs ever seen in WWE history (I’m serious), Orton led his team to victory in a match where the winning side got to run Raw for one month while Eric Bischoff took a long vacation. In the end, it would lead to Batista realizing he could beat Triple H and thus slowly turned on him before brutalizing him for the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 21. Sadly, though, this match didn’t make Orton the top babyface star that Vince McMahon was hoping for, but lord knows they’d try again year after year. Highlight of the match is Maven busting Snitsky open with a stiff right hand, and Gene getting his revenge with a chair shot that just about killed the Shop-At-Home star.
6. Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase, The Warlord, and The Mountie def. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Virgil (11/27/91, Detroit, MI)
What a great beginning, what a lousy finish. Talk about your impressive lists of talent for one match, with the exception of Warlord, who at least provided a musclehead to throw people around and create “ooooh” moments with. Even Virgil in 1991 had hit a nice stride. Smith and Warlord are both eliminated after a Flair cheapshot causes Bulldog to go, and then Hart duplicates the act on Warlord, allowing Piper to pin the big man. The match then ends in a bizarre multi-man count out, with Flair being the only man to beat the count back inside, thus cheaply becoming the sole survivor. It was a shame, because the match was turning into something AWESOME, aided by a white-hot crowd. What a pity.
5. Skip, Rad Radford, Tom Pritchard, and 123 Kid (The Bodydonnas) def. Marty Jannetty, Barry Horowitz, Hakushi, and Bob Holly (The Underdogs) (11/19/95, Landover, MD)
Imagine in 2011 if they put the likes of Daniel Bryan and other barely-seen, improperly-used talents in one twenty minute match and told them “go nuts.” In this opening match to the 1995 show, fast-paced athletes like Hakushi, Jannetty, and Kid wowed the crowd in spectacular fashion with action that Vince McMahon wasn’t exactly used to putting on. Let’s just say Vince bellowed “WHATAMANEUVER” a lot. After Jannetty finished Skip off with a top rope powerbomb (unheard of in WWE at the time), Kid used help from new stablemate Psycho Sid to finish Jannetty, continuing his remolding into one of Ted Dibiase’s corporate players.
4. Batista, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley, and JBL (Team Smackdown) def. Shawn Michaels, Kane, Big Show, Carlito, and Chris Masters (Team Raw) (11/27/05, Detroit, MI)
The in-ring action for this one was superb, as you had wrestlers who didn’t even LIKE each other railing off creative double teams for the greater good of brand supremacy (you know, when the brand extension WASN’T a bastardized concept meant to make people care about a draft from year to year….). But as fun and different as the in-ring action was, the action at the commentary desks was even better, as Michael Cole and Tazz sniped with Joey Styles (remember him?), Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman for the entire match in between calling moves. For once, it seemed like Vince McMahon stepped away from the headset and just let their barbs come naturally, and it was FUN. In the end, Michaels took out Mysterio and JBL, but the RKO got him moments later. Then The Undertaker returned. Great stuff.
3. Razor Ramon, Macho Man Randy Savage, Marty Jannetty, and 123 Kid def. IRS, Diesel, Rick Martel, and Adam Bomb (11/24/93, Boston, MA)
Survivors: Jannetty, Kid
A major substitution took place before the card, as Savage was called in to pinch hit for Mr. Perfect, who either bowed out due to recurring back problems or alcoholic issues, depending on which source you believe. Regardless, the action was raucous for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, with Diesel, Savage, IRS, and Razor, the four bigger players involved, being eliminated. Once down to the monstrous Bomb and wily Martel against two smaller competitors, it seemed that Kid and Jannetty had little chance. This was especially true after Bomb gave Kid a sickening slam on the concrete after a plancha gone bad. However, after a half hour of action, Kid and Jannetty ended the contest with matching sunset flips on both men to become unlikely survivors.
Survivors: Stallions, Bees
The original twenty-man elimination contest features WWE talents at their most innovative. In a match with Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Tito Santana, and others, this should not be a surprise. Hard to say what was better: Haku nearly decapitating Dynamite with the savate kick, or Paul Roma saving Jim Powers with a top rope sunset flip on Valentine to eliminate him. This match has literally everything: crisp finishing sequences, top-notch wrestling, good swerves (Strike Force, the champs, were eliminated not fifteen minutes into the forty minute match), and a nice underdog finish, as Jim Brunzell pinned Bret Hart, allowing the Bees and Stallions to outsmart the brawnier Islanders en route to victory. If you love tag team wrestling, hunt down a copy of this event, because this match will be your Graceland.
1. Chris Jericho, Christian, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, and Scott Steiner (Team Bischoff) def. Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and The Dudley Boyz (Team Austin) (11/16/03, Dallas, TX)
If Austin’s team were to be victorious, he, as co-GM of Raw, would be allowed to use martial law to keep order on the show (i.e. beat people up). However, if Bischoff’s team won, Austin was out as co-GM. The match began innocuously enough, with Henry, Booker, Steiner, and RVD going, and then Michaels hit a gusher outside the ring, with blood spilling everywhere. Seriously, it looked like he was going to die any second. Jericho and Christian finished off the future Team 3D, and Austin’s hopes were now pinned on a crimson-soaked zombie. Oh, the drama! A fluke Sweet Chin Music took Christian out, and a cradled reversal of the Walls doomed Jericho. Michaels heroically hung in there against a fresh Orton, and the ref was soon knocked out. Austin and Bischoff interjected themselves, and Austin chased Bischoff to the entrance set and thrashed him good, but Batista then jumped the rail, pancaked Michaels with the Batista Bomb, and the ref came around to count Orton’s pinfall, leaving a stunned Austin in the aisleway. Had Austin been gone for more than four months after this, and not returned as the “Sheriff”, it’d have meant a lot more. Instead, it was just a great match, one in which the drama and story meant more than any chain-wrestling sequence could ever mean.
According to a new report in the Wrestling Observer newsletter, Rob Van Dam’s contract is set to expire. The report indicates that the WWE are trying to sign the former champion to a new deal. Interestingly enough it is Van Dam who is holding out and according to Dave Meltzer, WWE brass aren’t happy.
“As far as the story behind the burying of RVD on Raw on 9/23, that was the internal reaction to him because he hadn’t signed a new contract yet, or at least hadn’t as of press time because it’s not a Ken Anderson, Mickie James thing where the odds are he’s done.”
Meltzer also points out that Van Dam’s contract expires October 1, yet he has signed an extension to work through Battleground. The quick run for Van Dam would end abruptly at Battleground if he were not to sign a new contract. It would be one of the fastest hype jobs for a new WWE signee that I can remember in a long time.
I first wrote about Van Dam’s return to the WWE back on June 17 right here in the blog. I wasn’t a fan. I pointed to his run in TNA Wrestling and cited how Rob looked old and unmotivated. Was it age or was it TNA? I didn’t know then but what I did know is that I didn’t see him fitting into the current dynamic of the WWE.
I was wrong. Van Dam fit in perfectly well. I never for a second noticed Rob taking a night off or phoning it in as I had several times in TNA. Van Dam worked his butt off and really put a heck of an effort out there in his matches, specifically at Money in the Bank. Van Dam still had it and while he’d noticeably slowed down, it wasn’t anywhere close to what I’d watched on Thursday nights.
That said, his run was pretty underwhelming. I don’t blame him entirely for it nor do I completely blame the WWE. How much can you invest in a guy that only signed a three month contract? Once I saw the reaction he got in the Money in the Bank hype video I suggested they put him over. Ironically RVD was hyped and promoted before he returned to the WWE in vignettes better than he was when he actually returned and got in the ring.
Sign the man!