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WrestleMania XXVIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII
From SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL
April 1, 2012

BACKGROUND
It’s been purported that each WrestleMania event is generally planned a year in advance, and the booking is written backwards to support what they want to present on the grandest stage. While recent WrestleManias seem a bit more thrown-together at times, owing to an increasingly frenetic Vince McMahon being known to make constant changes, WrestleMania XXVIII was an event where a year-long plot was used, this time as an actual storyline.

One night after WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, John Cena called out The Rock. Rather than thrash the previous night’s guest host for costing him his World Title match against The Miz, a calm and happy-go-lucky Cena simply challenged Rock to a match at next year’s big event, giving both men one year to prepare for the clash of the ages.

The idea was unique for a modern time frame in which that $45 secondary PPV that you’re being offered has but two matches booked sixteen days before the event. It’s a little hard to get up for those shows (and buyrates seem to agree), but a WrestleMania where the main event is entrenched in everyone’s brains for 363 days?

Those “in-the-know” fans who balked at WWE’s most overexposed star, and most overexposed part-timer, getting a full calendar of non-stop billing would be rewarded by the successes of their heroes.

WWE was becoming a different place, as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, who’d each passed through Philadelphia’s Murphy Rec Center on the way to the top, won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2011.

In spite of all of the social media blitzes, irksome moments from Michael Cole, and use of gimmickless FCW/NXT castoffs, it seemed WWE was crafting a WrestleMania unique among the pack. Between a year-long main event build, and two “workrate” champions, the everyday mold was finally being broken.

THE EVENT
Cena and Rock crossed paths prior to the WrestleMania main event, as Rock’s movie schedule allowed him to wrestle at Survivor Series 2011. That night at Madison Square Garden, he and Cena formed a super-team that annihilated The Miz and R-Truth. Afterward, Rock dropped Cena with a Rock Bottom as a reminder that, in four months, they’d each engage in a defining match in their careers.

After Cena was sidetracked by a hard-boiled feud with Kane through early 2012, he and Rock criss-crossed on the remaining road to WrestleMania, insulting each other in their typical juvenille fashion. Rock would host one of his trademark “Rock Concerts” laden with entendres and jibes toward the current company flagbearer, while Cena reinstituted his “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona, ripping into Rock with some lines that would make the kid-friendly sponsors cringe.

The match was even given a TV special on USA Network to promote the history of the icons, giving this match, dubbed “Once in a Lifetime”, a super fight feeling like no other in recent memory.

As if the dream match wasn’t enough to churn buyrates, the “end of an era” was also promised. The Undertaker, 19-0 at WrestleMania, wasn’t happy with how he barely eked the win out over Triple H one year earlier, and demanded a rematch with COO of the company.

Hunter initially balked, but The Dead Man persisted, eventually goading the man technically his boss into a fight. The Game agreed on one condition: that it be a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn Michaels, who’d had his career ended by Undertaker, was made guest referee as one last twist of the screw.

Sheamus was the winner of the 2012 Royal Rumble, last ousting a quizzically-acting Chris Jericho. The Celtic Warrior waited three weeks before deciding which championship to challenge for, ultimately deciding on the World Heavyweight title held by an increasingly-self-indulgent Daniel Bryan.

Bryan was an anomaly, winning the title as an underdog hero on December 18 via briefcase cash-in, but slowly took on a portrayal as an egomaniac jerk. Not only did he ignore the affection of girlfriend AJ Lee, but Bryan began to praise himself more and more for minor victories, many of them tainted. He even allowed AJ to be injured by a stampeding Big Show, all just to keep his title.

As for the WWE Championship, anti-hero CM Punk would face the winner of a ten man battle royal that took place on February 20. Jericho would win, and thus be afforded a chance to continue his vague “end of the world” crusade via the company’s top champion.

Jericho first began the mind games with Punk by claiming the “Straight Edge Superstar” had stolen his “Best in the World” moniker, which Punk gladly challenged Jericho to try and take back. With the champ not fazed, Y2J resorted to revealing the ugly family history of Punk, complete with the addictions his family members all once had. Jericho promised to lead Punk down the road of self-destruction en route to taking his title.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were the evening’s commentators, joined by a now-goateed Jim Ross for the Hell in a Cell match. For the third time, Lilian Garcia performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 consisted of Edge, The Four Horsemen (dual induction for Ric Flair), Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, and celebrity inductee Mike Tyson.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the title
(And we stumble out of the gate. Boy the fans at SunLife dumped on them for this decision. I’ve said it in other mediums: it’s not the treatment of Bryan that made this moment suck; it was the belief by the company that Sheamus was going to look stronger as a result. The people who run WWE couldn’t find the pulse of the fans if they had a GPS)

Kane def. Randy Orton in 10:56
(I don’t know who this “Daniel Bryan” fellow is, but he sure got a lot of chants during this match. Decent contest that ended with a flying chokeslam)

WWE Intercontinental: Big Show def. Cody Rhodes in 5:18 to win the title
(The build was entertaining, with Rhodes showing film of Show’s WrestleMania embarrassments to psyche him out, but the match was all too brief. Rhodes actually reigned as champion for eight months)

Maria Menounos/Kelly Kelly def. Eve Torres/Beth Phoenix in 6:49
(All of these women are gone from WWE, which is a commentary on how women would rather do “something else” than work there. But I’d take a stinkface from Miss Menounos, at least)

Hell in a Cell/”End of an Era”: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 30:50
(Opinions of this one are a little divided. Some call this the greatest match in the history of the galaxy. Others think it was stupid to have Triple H assault Undertaker with basic moves, and have Michaels nearly “stop the match” because Taker couldn’t continue. Because Hunter’s so bad ass. Eh, 20-0 is 20-0, even if was slower and more plodding than Heaven’s Gate)

David Otunga/Mark Henry/The Miz/Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre def. Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella/Great Khali/R-Truth/Zack Ryder/Booker T in 10:38
(As a result of this, John Laurinaitis won complete control of Raw and Smackdown from Teddy Long. Oh, and Zack Ryder looked like a useless tool. That’ll learn em)

WWE Championship: CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in 22:21
(A highly physical and intense battle that took some time to find second gear, I still found it to be the best match of the night. The battle at the end over the Anaconda Vise, with Punk refusing to give up on the hold, despite Jericho’s vicious struggle, was a nice touch)

“Once in a Lifetime”: The Rock def. John Cena in 33:34
(Nice throwback to the big-time WrestleMania main events of old, even if it was preceded by a six hour concert featuring Flo Rida and anorexic Shannon Moore. Cena’s undoing came as he tried a People’s Elbow, only to be Rock Bottom’d. Some said it was boring, but I actually liked it. Whether Rock has the endurance for another 30 minute match is another story)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
It’s hard to argue with 1.22 million buys, a WWE record, so some would say that a year-long build is the way to go. Rock would remain a part of WWE in a limited capacity, sticking around to challenge for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, but we’ll get to that next year.

The show began disastrously, and the fans largely didn’t come out of their anger-induced coma until the Hell in a Cell match. As many people who remember that match, and Rock and Cena’s epic showdown, equally remember how the show opened with the misstep of Sheamus and Bryan, possibly the worst WrestleMania booking since Hogan went over a tired Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX.

It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t a home run in any way except financially (undoubtedly important, despite our gripes). For the official “portrait” of the show, my pick will be a split screen. On one side is Shawn Michaels and Undertaker holding up a semi-conscious Triple H on the stage, while The Rock stands tall on the other side. WWE more than ever lives off of the past, as it can’t create an exciting present. Logically, their imagery should make you think you’re in 1998.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XX: Hey, Who Ripped Out The Ending?

March 27, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-80% done. Abso-sanely incredible. Now I know how my boss Eric Gargiulo felt when he came over to Ellis Island ninety-three years ago with nothing but three dollars in his pocket and the dreams of calling matches involving fluorescent lighting tubes. Like my good friend Eric, I can see the Island. I’m not quite there, but I’m close.

-And it’s apropos that I bring up a New York landmark, as the huddled masses of the WWE roster rolled into Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 14, 2004, which was the earliest WrestleMania to date. With 12 matches stretched over a five hour (yes, you read it right) time slot, there’s little doubt that Vince McMahon wanted this event to be completely and utterly memorable. Would it live up to the high expectations?

-Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are providing commentary for Raw again, with Michael Cole and Tazz doing Smackdown. When there’s an inter-brand match, one team is chosen arbitrarily. In a sport where every match has a number one contendership on the line, they just hand over duties to one side without reason? Sounds fishy, and I have no idea why.

-Harlem Boys Choir kick things off and no worries, I already made my Pat Patterson joke in the last rant. I’m good for a few shows.

-The show kicks off with Big Show defending the US Title against…..John Cena. Yep, Cena opens a PPV, it happened. Cena was still a coarse rhyme-smith at this stage, wearing throwback jerseys to the ring (in this case, Patrick Ewing, though Cena has far more World Titles). Here’s an interesting theorem for you to digest: when a wrestler wears clothing that depicts a real life aspect of pop culture (Headbangers with Marilyn Manson, New Age Outlaws with South Park, John Cena with sports throwbacks), they become a cult favorite. When they eschew the attire in order to wear WWE-licensed shirts with their own logo and pictures and such, then they stop being cool. Reason one why everyone over age 20 turned on Cena.

-Show was bordering on useless at this point. Moreso than usual. Alright, it’s indistinguishable, you got me.

-Show dominates with his hoss-fense, and the crowd chants “Let’s Go Cena”. In New York City? If you played this tape at an ROH convention or at some smark rally in some loser’s basement, they’ll probably claim you doctored the tape.

-Cena manages to land an FU, but Show kicks out. Cena teases the Ultimate Warrior “my hands are telling me that my destiny is to lose” deal, but then realizes that he’s not going to job to frigging BIG SHOW. So he belts the monster with his faux “Word Life” knux and lands a second FU to win his first piece of WWE gold. Not a good match, but it got the crowd going. Nothing wrong with being the rah-rah guy on a five hour show. If this were curling, Cena would have pushed the stone.

-Backstage, we find three men. One of them is the Raw GM, and the other two are his two toadies. Nowadays, respectively, they are TNA’s on-air authority, an ESPNews employee, and an upper carder on Smackdown. So Jonathan Coachman’s better off than Eric Bischoff and John Morrison? I need to go soak my brain in some lemon juice.

-Meanwhile, Randy Orton has a monologue on the staircase where he kicked Mick Foley around on nine months prior, while flanked by Batista and Ric Flair. Man, if you asked me in 2004, I would have said Flair was way cooler than the other two OVW slimes. Now? He’s a distant third.

-Next we have an excuse to give eight men a payday: Rob Van Dam and Booker T will defend Raw’s Tag Team Titles against The Dudley Boyz, La Resistance (consisting of Maritimer Rene Dupree and American Rob Conway), and The Utah Jazz (Lance Cade and Mark Jindrak). If Cade and Jindrak were any whiter, Sheamus could get a gig at the Apollo just by standing next to them. “Vat eez the deal with midcarders getting titles too early? I mean, ree-lee?”.

-When you’re in a match with eight men that’s being rushed, get your moves in now. Bubba with the Dusty Rhodes elbow. Booker with the side kick. RVD with the spin kick. Dudleyz land 3D. Cade gets the….umm….did Cade even have a move? There’s nothing besides the paint-by-numbers heavyweight offense that they taught him in OVW? God, what does WWE see in him?

-To speed things along, Van Dam flattens Conway with the Five Star to keep the titles with RVD and Book. Why did Conway have to job? He actually had a personality and ability. Well, I guess they had to keep Jindrak strong for his career apex of playing Kurt Angle’s personal Stormtrooper. Match was decent.

-Backstage, Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund are found necking with Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah. Jonathan Coachman is horrified. He’s horrified because he forgot to ask Heenan “What am I doing wrong as a heel commentator?”. It’s just as well, since Heenan would have either said “everything” or “who the hell are you, Pez Whatley’s kid?”

-Video package to hype the Chris Jericho-Christian-Trish Stratus love triangle. Sadly, no clip of Christian telling Jericho “This is not the OC!”. If it was, Trish would need to stop eating altogether. Well, someone’s gotta play the Mischa Barton role.

-Finally acting in character for a change, Jericho just tackles Christian and hammers away. I dunno, Jericho sweating over a woman and losing his mind over her just doesn’t feel right. How can you explain this side of Jericho and his current outlook? Did Trish’s rejection turn him into a robot with abject disillusionment with the world? Makes sense to me.

-Jericho alternates between out wrestling Christian and beating the crap out of him, and Christian turns the tide with a thumb to the eye. As dumb as this storyline was in terms of two thirty year old, known-to-be-married men fighting over a starlet co-worker, at least the match is good. Kinda hard to fault these two.

-After spending a good chunk of the match reversing, countering, and answering back with moves, Christian locks Jericho in the Texas cloverleaf. Or is it the Ontario Maple leaf? That’s what RVD’s missing: the San Bernardino Hemp leaf! He can have that one for free.

-A superplex spot is blown when Christian slips, but they make up for it and do it anyway. You know, if Kevin Nash did that, two things: one is he’d be crucified for blowing the spot and, two, we’d be in disbelief that he broke his usual arsenal for one match. Let’s just move on.

-Jericho gets the Walls, but Christian nabs the ropes to escape. Trish comes bouncing out (literally) and Christian brings her in the hard way. An inadvertent elbow knocks Jericho into a Christian roll-up, giving Edge’s little brother the win. Afterward, Trish turns on Jericho with a hard smack, and Christian hits the Unprettier to give birth to “Trishtian”. Cheer up, Jericho. If you had won Trish’s heart, how would you have explained it to Jessica? Damn good match.

-The Rock gives a whacked out promo backstage to set up the greatest handicap match of all time: Rock and Mick Foley against Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista. We used to argue whether Batista or Orton was the most useless guy in the match. We ain’t too bright, is we?

-Rock stealing the Flair strut = awesome.

-Match starts with a flurry, with Rock taking Flair down on the floor with a backdrop and Foley coming off with the big elbow. Crowd is in a frenzy early.

-Foley gets Orton in the ring to continue their issue, and Orton bails like a coward. Foley hammers him into the table and brings him back in for more punishment. Here’s the good thing about Mick: he sells for anyone and will put any kid over, with no politics. Except for burying Test in his book, which I still think is funny.

-Speaking of putting people over, here’s Rock to sell for Batista and Orton. I wish I had known this was his final match. I woulda painted my eyebrow on and worn my elbow pad and….well, not really, you see, I was umm….back to the match at hand here.

-Foley plays face in peril while Batista and Orton water their own learning trees with this opportunity. Within weeks, Batista and Orton would be having great tag team matches with the likes of Benoit, Edge, Benjamin, Michaels, and others. You’re seeing it now in WWE with guys like Rhodes, Dibiase, Ziggler, Kingston, and Miz all getting better through osmosis with the older names. Hey, TNA: if you use the older guys to bring the young kids up, you can weed out the has-beens and live on the kids’ newfound reputations. That’s why Batista and Orton crush Flair and Foley in the ratings. MAKE A NOTE OF THIS!

-Rock gets the hot tag and cleans house on everyone. Batista halts the rush with a spinebuster and Flair tries the Senior’s Elbow, but Rock puts an end to it. After cleaning house again, Rock lands his own People’s Elbow on Flair. Great fun.

-Orton gets tagged in and runs right into Rock Bottom. In all the confusion, Batista drops The Great One with the Batista Bomb. After Rock barely kicks out, he tags in Foley, who cleans house himself. However, after he prepares Mr. Socko, he walks into the RKO to give Orton the biggest pinfall win of his career to that point. Whew, insanely fun match with a murderer’s row of main eventers and champions. Rock consoles Mick afterward, and Mick consoles him for having to have such a crappy goatee in that equally crappy Be Cool flick. Thanks for the aweome career, Rock. Have fun with that Disney money.

-Hall of Fame recap is next, a year that saw Bobby Heenan, Tito Santana, Big John Studd, Harley Race, Pete Rose, Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Junkyard Dog, Superstar Billy Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, and Jesse Ventura all get inducted. Say what you will about Pete Rose, but he took a stinkface from Rikishi. That alone warrants induction, I think.

-Next up, Sable and Torrie Wilson face Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie in an evening gown match. All the participants remove their gowns to start, but Miss Jackie is stand-offish. So she can make out with some loser on Tough Enough in a hot tub, but this is too much? Interesting.

-Cole on commentary says Tazz stabbed him with his pencil, and Tazz assures him that it wasn’t his pencil. Well then.

-Torrie pins Jackie and spanks her during the roll-up. I’d have included more content, but I write enough erotic letters to Hustler each week, and this would only detract from my usual quality. So rent the DVD, pervos.

-Meanwhile, Eddie Guerrero tries to motivate Chris Benoit by using reverse psychology. Show of hands?
Who else thought of a REALLY snappy punchline to that, but felt sick for even thinking it? I did, too.

-For more filler featuring some lesser-seen talents, we move onto the Cruiserweight open, which is a ten man gauntlet with the Cruiserweight Title on the line. The order of elimination goes like so:

-Shannon Moore jobs to Ultimo Dragon, who slipped during his entrance. Being the first one gone in this match must make you feel like Marsellus Wallace when he got picked by Zed during eeny meeny miney mo. Even the odds hate you.

-Jamie Noble comes in and dominates….some midcarders. He makes Dragon tap, and then pins Funaki in negative nanoseconds, then beats his forgotten cousin Nunzio by count out. It’s this spark and sass that made Noble a dominant ROH Champion for about seven hours.

-Then Billy Kidman hits the ring and dispatches Noble. Then Kidman jobs to Rey Mysterio, who’s dressed as The Flash. Kidman’s The Flash also, except his last name is “in the Pan”.

-Akio is unable to participate due to being blinded by Tajiri, and Rey pins Tajiri to bring it down to him and champion Chavo Guerrero. After some chicanery involving Chavo’s dad, Chavo “FREAKING AWESOME” Classic, Chavito retains the gold. Man, I miss Chavo Classic. He did a good job hosting Raw recently with Tommy Chong, however.

-Brock Lesnar-Bill Goldberg video to hype their epic match. Hey kids, when I say “epic”, you say…..yep, that’s right!

-Stone Cold Steve Austin and his over sized four wheeler of fun are the guest enforcers. He gets the biggest cheer of the three people involved in this match. Of course, that’s like saying that Capt. Sully Sullenberger won a popularity contest over Herpes and The Syph. Are you really surprised?

-Now, I could thoroughly recap this match, or I can tell you a joke I made up. You like jokes, right? Of course you do.

-Two muscle heads walk into a bar. They each order a bottle of “Over-With-The-Crowd Lager”. The bartender informs them that he can’t serve them this beverage because they don’t plan to come back to said bar, and it’s only for long-term commitment patrons. So the two muscle heads say “Fine, we’ll just occupy space for 15 minutes and do nothing!”. So the muscle heads proceed to do just that until the 20,000 patrons of the bar scream obscenities at them, which doesn’t faze them. Finally, a bald man runs in and beats up both guys himself. The other patrons roared mightily. Then the bald guy beat up a woman at random and the patrons still cheered. One patron sat stunned and muttered “Why would they cheer a wife beater over two men who don’t wish to be regular patrons anymore?”. And then Justin said “You must not be a wrestling fan!”.

-Bad as the joke was, it was still better than the match. Goldberg wins with a Jackhammer and Austin beats both guys up. I’d add more, but the match already damaged my brain. Let’s not let it hurt my fingers too.

-Vince is here to thank the fans. For sitting through that last match? Yeah, you better thank them.

-I have about 1600 words left before I get to my personal space limit, so rather than waste time with the next pointless match, let’s get it over with: Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty retain the WWE Tag Team Titles over the APA, The Bashams, and The World’s Greatest Tag Team. Real quick, a note to Rikishi: when you’re going to give a man a stinkface and you have to arch your stomach out before doing it, because you’ve gotten so fat that to merely stand in front of him would mean that your ass would already be in his face, then it’s time to lose weight. Nothing match.

-Next up, Jesse Ventura comes out to ask Donald Trump to help him with his 2008 Presidential campaign. Well, Jesse almost got as many votes as Dennis Kucinich, so he’s clearly on the right track.

-Following that spirited jaunt, we come to a Title vs. Hair match, as Victoria defends her WWE Women’s Title against Molly Holly, who’s putting her hair on the line. Do you think George Steele and A-Train could done a back hair vs. back hair match on PPV and drawn? Me either.

-The match is technically fine, but it’s a five hour show and everyone’s just waiting for the main events, because they want to see Guerrero put Angle down, Undertaker come back, and Benoit do what he does best and that’s not disappoint. Wait….

-Victoria wins it with a backslide, and Molly tries to be a truant, but she eventually gets strapped into the chair, and Victoria shaves away with a satisfied and exhausted grin. I found this hot, I don’t know about any of you. Feel free to dislike me for it.

-Guerrero-Angle recap video to hype the WWE Title match. The only thing that could have made Eddie’s celebration at No Way Out better was if his brother Hector was in the crowd dressed as the Gobbeldy Gooker. You know that would have ruled more than anything else.

-Crowd finally comes to life during a chain wrestling sequence, as MSG has always appreciated good technical wrestling. They even do the ROH/TNA chant of “LET’S GO ANGLE/ANGLE SUCKS”, which I find amusing. It’s like an act of rebellion from the smarks: “We cheer the heel AND the face! What are YOU gonna do about it?”. And the booker says “I dunno, get laid after the show?”. The smarks then narrow their eyes and say “….you win this time.”

-After Angle counters the Three Amigos (Two Amigos in current WWE acknowledgment canon) with a German, he gets the uber-creepy German attempt on the apron that looks like something out of day three of Pat Patterson’s fundamen—alright, there’s the requisite Patterson joke. Happy now?

-After Guerrero wipes out on a plancha, Angle brings him back in for a pain session to slow things down. Good, frenetic match so far, as neither man could really have a bad match. Crowd’s warming to Eddie, who really defied the odds to become a main eventer. Hey Vince, when Guerrero does it, it’s defying the odds. When Cena does it, it’s a marketing machine clearly standing behind him. I like Cena, but let’s be realistic here.

-A fast paced sequence ends with Angle trying for the Angle Slam, but Guerrero coming out of it with an armdrag. I’m enjoying myself.

-Another Three Amigos attempt is countered on numero tres into an Ankle Lock. Guerrero fights, not wanting to give up and the fans are really awake now, identifying with the champion’s struggle. Guerrero finally kicks him away.

-After falling victim to Angle’s super belly to belly throw, Angle latches on a second ankle lock, but Guerrero cradles him for two. After countering an Angle Slam into a DDT, Guerrero lands the Frog Splash, but Angle gets the shoulder up for two. Crazy great stuff, and the fans are behind Guerrero 100%.

-As Guerrero is in disbelief, Angle tries for a third ankle lock, but Guerrero kicks him off to the floor. Guerrero unties the boot on the injured ankle, and Angle goes back in for it. With the lock applied again, Guerrero kicks off and Angle’s left holding the boot. A surprised Angle is then cradled to give Guerrero the win to retain. Great, great match. My brother had no idea why Guerrero untied his boot (to slip out of the ankle lock easier) and Michael Cole explained it perfectly. So, yeah, Cole is smarter than my brother. I don’t think Josh ever recovered.

-Undertaker-Kane highlight package. You know how it goes: boy kills brother under a ton of dirt….and that’s about all.

-Kane comes out first with a nice entrance bit where the NYC set behind him “catches fire”. The lights then go out and we hear the voice of Paul Bearer, as he leads the Druids to the ring, which leads to classic Undertaker’s entrance. Undertaker was basically still Bikertaker, except with a new hat and his old mannerisms. But still, the MSG fans are thrilled, as was my viewing party. Nothing like the Dead Man gimmick to speak to your inner child.

-What follows is the typical Taker-Kane match, with Undertaker re-establishing all of his old tricks that made him The Dead Man in the first place. I was happy because I was so tired of that annoying Southern drawl that made Taker look like an out-of-shape hybrid of Mark McGwire and Sam Elliott. He should be a zombie forever, even when he’s 70, and will then be 42-0 at WrestleMania. Fine by me.

-Undertaker sits up from a Kane choke slam, and then reciprocates it. He then follows with the Tombstone for the relatively quick win. Not a good match, but it was a fun moment to enhance the show’s appeal. You just need these moments sometimes.

-And now, the match I’d waited years for. I wasn’t alone. And now, what was once a proud cult who relished this match, it’s become a dwindling minority. Triple H defends the World Heavyweight Title against Shawn Michaels and, yes, Chris Benoit. Let’s see if my feelings change watching it.

-Hey Hunter, nice white boots. Nobody can pull of the “He-Man goes Go-Go Dancing” look like you.

-Benoit and Shawn attack Hunter from the outset, but take time to beat each other down as well. Benoit tries a Crossface, but Shawn blocks. Benoit could have won right there in under a minute, and I would have been fine with it.

-This entire opening sequence is so well choreographed, as they take turns doing one on one bits, and nobody “plays dead” for so long that it seems contrived. A testament to all three men’s abilities.

-Shawn takes down both Benoit and HHH on the floor, and then heads up top to land a moonsault onto both men. Shawn was 38 here and still doing dives like that? Hey, if he’s not going to win the match, he’s going to steal the show for himself. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

-Triple H spends the next portion of the match in control, dominating both men until Benoit comes to life and drills him with a clothesline. He gets the rolling Germans, but tries for the diving headbutt and Shawn crotches him up top. Shawn tries SCM on Hunter, but eats a DDT. I think my stomach lining was like Swiss cheese at this point.

-HHH tries the Pedigree on Benoit, but Chris counters with the Crossface, which Shawn stops. Crowd doesn’t like that. Is it blasphemous to boo Shawn?

-Rolling Germans and diving headbutt for Shawn, but Benoit gets knocked outside. Shawn hits the SCM on Hunter, but Benoit pulls the champ to ringside to keep the match alive. I couldn’t take much more of this.

-Shawn opens up a MASSIVE cut after being sling shotted into the post. If Shawn’s wrists ever bleed simultaneously, he’ll have won me over. No more Jesus jokes then.

-The big turning point comes on the floor when Shawn and Hunter team up to double suplex Benoit through a commentary table. The idea was that this was to have finished Benoit as Shawn and HHH settled their feud.

-Back inside, Shawn does manage to bust Hunter open, but HHH lands the Pedigree out of thin air. My heart was sinking until Benoit slid in and broke the pin up. Whew.

-Benoit manages to counter the Pedigree into the Sharpshooter, and the place comes unglued. Hunter almost taps, but Shawn lands Sweet Chin Music at the last moment. He can only get 2, however. A second attempt sees Benoit backdrop a horribly bloodied Shawn all the way into the aisle. YAY!

-But Hunter lurked behind Benoit, and my heart fully sank. He tried the Pedigree, but Benoit snatched the Crossface to a huge pop. With no one to save HHH, he futily tried to roll Benoit over, but The Crippler held on. Finally, Hunter tapped to finally give Benoit a World Title and cause a smarkgasm the likes of which have never been seen. Guerrero comes out to celebrate and both men tearfully parade in confetti as JR gives a great sendoff. A tremendous match, circumstances aside, and still an all time favorite of mine.

-Drowning Pool’s “Step Up” plays off the show with highlights. Underrated Mania theme.

-CYNIC SAYS: Five hours flies by when you take two days to do the show in parts. I know I glossed over a lot of stuff, but that’s because they stretched things out to get about 50 people involved in matches. Four of them are great (both World Title matches, Rock and Sock vs. Evolution, Christian/Jericho) and there was enough fun moments otherwise (Taker’s return, Cena’s win, lingerie, the Hall of Famers, Lesnar/Goldberg’s crapfest) to make the entire show worthwhile.

If you can get past the controversy behind the main event, then this is a damn fine anthology that defined this era of WWE. I highly recommend watching all five hours, even the slow parts.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XX: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 27, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XX
From Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
March 14, 2004

BACKGROUND
Poor WWE. Despite being the most lucrative, proliferative, and memory-composing wrestling entity to ever be seen, it feels like that they sometimes can’t win.

On the one hand, fans criticize World Wrestling Entertainment for clinging to the past like rats to the hull of a sinking ship. In recent years, the likes of Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin have been “brought off the bench” to star in an occasional segment wherein they usually wind up destroying somebody who could use a victory to solidify himself.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, WWE also takes it in the shorts when things change TOO much. The company’s innovative experiments of the past decade, such as the brand extension, guest hosts on Raw, the Diva Search, having two world titles, and other concepts were met with flat-footed resistance.

So to score this, hardened WWE fans don’t like it when Vince McMahon relies on the same old tricks and characters be the support pillars of his programming, but the same fans also detest it when McMahon tries to reinvent the wheel with his own magnanimous spin.

See what I mean by “poor WWE”?

WrestleMania XX’s tagline was to be “Where it All Begins Again”. The slogan seemed somewhat vague as it wasn’t explained what “it” was. Would WWE begin relying on the past again? Would the company begin to churn out foreign concepts to a rigidly inflexible audience again?

Or would the company rekindle fan interest, both general and ardent, with a show that would set new standards in quality and story-telling?

Going into the event, WrestleMania XX put together a blend of developmental stars on the rise, cherished veterans in prominent roles, and beloved underdogs who were on the verge of greatness.

What would ‘begin’ at MSG on that night?

THE EVENT
In a twist served to reward longtime fans for their dedicated fandom, Chris Benoit was the winner of the 2004 Royal Rumble. In story canon, Benoit believed he couldn’t get a fair break from biased Smackdown general manager Paul Heyman, which caused Benoit to leave the brand, jumping ship to Raw.

Chris Benoit’s title shot remained intact, and thus he would challenge World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at the big dance. Shawn Michaels, then Helmsley’s nemesis, had lobbied for a rematch after he and the champion fought to a double knockout in a last man standing match at the Royal Rumble.

At the would-be contract signing for the World Heavyweight Title match, a frenetically desperate Michaels pleaded with Benoit to give him the match with Triple H, as if his very life depended on settling this score. Benoit flatly turned Michaels down, since he fought for one hour to win the Royal Rumble. Michaels responded by blasting Benoit with Sweet Chin Music, and added his name to the contract before Benoit could sign. GM Eric Bischoff’s solution was to make the match a triple threat between Helmsley, Michaels, and Benoit.

On the Smackdown side, Eddie Guerrero provided wrestling with one of its truest comeback stories when he put behind his alcoholic past in February 2004, felling Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. Guerrero would then be challenged by #1 contender Kurt Angle, whose attitude soured on the bitterness of Guerrero reigning, due to his past troubles with substance abuse.

Angle, with the blessing of GM Paul Heyman, proceeded to rail against Guerrero’s demons, while proclaiming himself to be a better role model, and, thus, better champion. Angle even taped his fists and beat a defensless Guerrero bloody, all while Guerrero was handcuffed (Guerrero was to have faced Heyman, agreeing to handcuff himself as a handicap, making Angle’s attack easier).

While Benoit and Guerrero were being groomed for their unlikely ascents, a squad of Attitude-era heroes and villains would make up the remainder of the upper card.

The Undertaker was taken out at Survivor Series by Kane, buried alive under a mountain of gravel. As Kane cackled loud and often about driving his brother away for good, hints of The Undertaker’s presence between to surface. From Undertaker’s classic “gong” blaring through the arena, to Kane being fronted by a casket and an urn, it was clear that the Undertaker was due back, and no longer as his highway-carousing biker self.

Stone Cold Steve Austin would appear at WrestleMania XX to moderate a match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, while The Rock and Mick Foley ended their exiles to face Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair of Evolution, after Orton and Foley had been a “legend killing” war. Chris Jericho would also settle a score with longtime cohort Christian, who had chastised Y2J for trying to romance Trish Stratus.

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Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the Raw action, while Michael Cole and Tazz covered SmackDown for this five hour event. The WWE brought back its WWE Hall of Fame for the weekend, inducting legends like Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, Big John Studd, Junkyard Dog, Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, Harley Race, Sgt. Slaughter, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Muraco, and celebrity Pete Rose. The Harlem Boys Choir kicked off the show with “America the Beautiful”.

THE RESULTS
WWE United States: John Cena def. Big Show in 9:14 to win the title
(Once upon a time, John Cena was opening shows and warming up the crowd. Highlight was him mimicking Ultimate Warrior’s “questioning God” routine when he couldn’t put Show away)

World Tag Team: Rob Van Dam/Booker T def. The Dudley Boyz, La Resistance, and Garrison Cade/Mark Jindrak in 7:51
(Ahh, the classic “get everybody involved” match. Surprised nobody thought to name Van Dam and Booker “Tokin’ Black Guy”. Too offensive?)

Christian def. Chris Jericho in 14:52
(Christian’s prize for winning was to spend several months paired with a now-heel Trish Stratus, while Jericho’s reward was getting to feud with the both of them. I like all three, and this match was rather excellent, if underappreciated)

Randy Orton/Batista/Ric Flair def. The Rock/Mick Foley in 17:03
(An insanely fun match with Rock, Flair, and Foley running through their body of tricks, including Rock and Flair just going back and forth with humorous antics. The match served its purpose though, with Orton going over strong by RKOing Foley. Just fun)

Evening Gown Match: Sable/Torrie Wilson def. Stacy Keibler/Miss Jackie in 2:33
(Were you aware that Sable is undefeated at WrestleMania? She’s 3-0, which makes her the female Undertaker. Come to think of it, she is bony and corpse-like….)

WWE Cruiserweight: Chavo Guerrero won a Cruiserweight Open over Rey Mysterio, Tajiri, Akio, Billy Kidman, Jamie Noble, Nunzio, Funaki, Ultimo Dragon, and Shannon Moore in 10:28
(Eight falls (Akio was never actually eliminated) in just ten minutes, and the WWE couldn’t figure out why fans didn’t take the cruiserweights seriously. At least it was fast paced)

Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar in 13:42
(And here it is: the greatest “bad match” in WrestleMania history. I can’t even do it justice. Just watch it sometime. Trust me)

WWE Tag Team: Rikishi/Scotty 2 Hotty def. APA, Basham Brothers, and The World’s Greatest Tag Team in 6:01
(See the earlier tag team title match for perspective. Highlight: Rikishi’s ass being so fat that he has to suck his gut out before giving Charlie Haas the stinkface. Time to lay off the butter sticks)

WWE Women’s vs. Hair: Victoria def. Molly Holly in 4:53
(And thus Molly Holly was shaved, giving us her best V for Vendetta tribute. I actually liked shorned Molly. Made me want to take her to a tanz-metal club)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Eddie Guerrero def. Kurt Angle in 21:36
(Great, great back and forth match between two of the finest athletes in wrestling history. Eddie Guerrero was in his element as the clever babyface who finds ways to win that are outside the box. In this case, Guerrero untied his boot so to render Angle’s ankle lock useless, with an easy escape. How can anyone hate this match?)

The Undertaker def. Kane in 7:45
(Undertaker indeed returned to his “Dead Man” roots here, complete with Druids, Paul Bearer, and classic symphonic score for his music. A chill-inducing scene, even if the match wasn’t really any good)

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Benoit def. Triple H and Shawn Michaels in 25:10 to win the title
(And there you have it: the last time a wrestling moment actually made me misty-eyed. Benoit making Triple H tap out to the Crossface was a dream come true, as was Benoit’s tearful celebration with Guerrero, as the ultimate “we made it” moment. Sadly, real life events have diminished this moment some, but I’ll never forget what it meant to have witnessed it live)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
A somewhat morbid joke sees wrestling fans talking about Undertaker and Kane as if it were the main event of WrestleMania XX. This is, of course, because of WWE’s policy of outright ignoring Chris Benoit in the wake of the double murder-suicide that claimed him and his family.

Is it unfair? Well, some fans still can’t bring themselves to like Chris Benoit for his past contributions due to the actions in the last two days of his life. Perhaps it’s best that WWE keep their safe distance from the “Canadian Crippler”.

But for those of us who watched WrestleMania XX, repeat viewings are unnecessary. If you watched Benoit ascend wrestling’s peak on that night, and share his accomplishment with the also-deceased Guerrero, with sweat and tears mixing on their faces, then you don’t need to see it again.

In my mind’s eye, as is the case with many other fans, having seen it live is a privilege. It’s one of the last few times that a moment in WWE required no caption, no more words to be said.

Parts of WrestleMania XX may be long since buried. But what happened that night is so special, our memories will keep it alive.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Wrestling’s Greatest Disappointments: WWE WrestleMania XIX

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

Once again, I am starting a new series of columns. This time, each column will focus on an event, wrestler or angle that should have been all-around more successful than it was, but for whatever reason, didn’t live up to expectations. For my first installment, I will look at one of my favorite PPVs, an event I happened to be at in the front row, and at the same time, a let down to many, that being the 19th installment of WrestleMania.

Now, after reading that first paragraph, you might be wondering how it could be such a letdown if it’s one of my favorite events? You raise a good question, one that I can and will explain over this column.

WrestleMania XIX, which took place in Seattle, WA on March 30th, 2003, and in all honesty, had the makings of one of the best ‘Mania events in history. The building was a legitimate sell-out and broke the attendance record for Safeco Field as nearly 55,000 fans packed the place to see what was, from top-to-bottom, a very loaded event. There was a little bit of something for everyone: a good (albeit short) Cruiserweight title match, matches featuring legends, a main event between two of the best technical wrestlers in the world, an awesome Women’s title match, the continued streak of the Undertaker, etc. In a rare occasion, an event that looked great on paper turned out to be great when put into practice.

When I say this card was loaded, I don’t mean strictly from an in-ring standpoint, although that was definitely present. The card was loaded in all the ways a wrestling fan could want. It featured plenty of star power and drama, in addition to the aforementioned in-ring product. Not only that, but you got two arguable dream matches. The first, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, was easily a show stealer, and a match that both combatants have cited is one of their all-time favorites. The second, while not as great from an in-ring standpoint, was still a marquee match that many paid to see as Hulk Hogan took on Mr. McMahon in a street fight “20 years in the making”. Despite the combined age of the two men being over 100, they beat each other in a wild, bloody brawl that not only satiated those wanting blood, but was something special for the old school fans as well as those who prefer the legends. We even got a run-in from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a man who had not been with the company in nearly a decade.

We also got an added bonus, as this wound up being the very final match of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin took on the Rock in what was their third ‘Mania match, with the story that Rock had never beaten Austin in ‘Mania matches in the past. Rock finally got the duke in this third encounter. Although it was not nearly as good as their two previous bouts, considering that Austin went into the match after spending the previous day in the ER, it was much more than you could ever ask for from wrestling highest box office draw of all-time.

Overall, the event is considered by many to be one of the very best ‘Mania installments from a pure in-ring standpoint, and that’s a fair assessment. Aside from Undertaker beating Big Show and A-Train in a lame handicap match (his partner, Nathan Jones, was taken out earlier in the night by the FBI. Jones, BTW, I will most definitely get to in an future column) and a sadly lopsided affair between Triple H and Booker that was the culmination of a very racist angle, the show had some of the best wrestling WWE had put on in years.

After all this, you’re probably still wondering how or why the show is considered to be a big disappointment. Well, unfortunately, despite all of the critical acclaim and great action from start-to-finish (save for a couple hiccups, as well as a pillow fight I will never mention again), when the final rating came in, it didn’t bode well for future ‘Mania installments like this. After all was said and done, WrestleMania XIX drew only a 1.40, or roughly 560,000 buys, making it the fifth lowest buyrate in ‘Mania history and the lowest of this century thus far.

Obviously, it’s debatable that WrestleMania XIX was a sign of things to come, but at the same time, it’s telling when can see that the overall match quality at ‘Mania installments has been lessened in favor of celebrity tie-ins, pointless backstage segments or filler matches that are seemingly thrown together and lack fan interest. Obviously, WrestleMania has still produced some great matches since that year, so before you lynch me for trashing every event since then, I’m not saying the event always sucked; this is merely my viewpoint, and a trend I’ve noticed since then.

WrestleMania XIX should have been a huge success. For those fans who understandably complain about match length/quality on today’s PPVs, this event should have been a dream card. Instead, it got a very low buyrate, possibly giving the WWE the idea that maybe we as fans really don’t want good, long matches at the biggest show of the year. Whether that is true or not, WWE seems to feel that way, and for every year that the show gets longer, we seem to get shorter, lesser quality matches simply there to stuff the card.

Fortunately, this year’s installment is shaping up to break that chain with 2 great title matches, the first ‘Mania Hell in a Cell in 13 years and a dream match between John Cena and the Rock. Hopefully, fans respond the right way, and open their wallets for what could be one of the better ‘Manias in recent years.

Time will tell, though. Time will tell.

Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, and you can keep track of all of his work on his Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/DustinNicholsWriter. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out his mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:

WrestleMania XIX: End Of The (Bottom) Line

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

-What I wouldn’t give to relive the WWE WrestleMania 19  era. I was 19 years old and making insane money delivering pizza for just 25 hours a week. Seriously, the tips I made were great, given I live in the midst of middle class suburbia. I had few bills, not a care in the world, free from the restraints of school, yada yada. The only thing missing was a quality WWE product. At this point, you had a better chance of getting chlamydia from Paula Deen than getting three straight good weeks of Monday Night Raw.

-Speaking  of the promotion, it was March 30, 2003, and we go way out to the land of Wozniak, Seattle, WA, in the confines of Safeco Field. This is the first time that we have two commentary teams covering WrestleMania, with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handling Raw duties, and Michael Cole and Tazz overseeing the Smackdown side of things. Would you believe that in 2002 and 2003, the voters for the annual RSPW Awards declared Cole to be a better play by play man than JR? I swear this happened. Of course, JR was a bitter shell at this point, taking pot shots at heels he didn’t care about, and was generally miserable after the talent relations job he held was usurpsed by Johnny Ace. If you wanna see how bad JR could get, just wait until later in this show.

-Ashanti performs America the Beautiful, and we never heard from her again. Also, on the pre-show, Rob Van Dam and Kane failed to win the World Tag Team Titles from Chief Morley and some guy whose name escapes me. If he was important, I’m sure I’d remember it.

-Quick note: for this show, my brother Josh invited over some kid he worked with who may or may not have been homeless. It bears no relevance otherwise, but it’s my rant, so there you go.

-By the way, I can stop typing WWF now. This should get the pandas off my lawn.

-To kick things off, Matt Hardy Version 1.0 defends the WWE Cruiserweight Title against Rey Mysterio. Mysterio’s superhero motif du jour: Daredevil. How it reminds me of 2003. How it reminds of Ben Affleck. How it reminds me of Gigli. Damn it, Rey.

-Mysterio lands a nice twisting plancha to take out both Matt and Shannon Moore. Always good to see the Filthy Animals and 3 Count go at it. It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys for the twelve people that watched WCW at the end.

-Moore’s sycophantic interference was hilarious. Hell, Matt’s entire V1 shtick was amazing before he became a deranged self parody and gained 50 pounds after Lita cheated on him. Hey, Matt: you had six or seven years to put a ring on her finger. You didn’t do it.  Besides, given that her sexual history could fill the book of Genesis, consider yourself a survivor.

-It’s funny: at this point, I really liked both performers. Though when one becomes a deluded emo crybaby, and the other endlessly promotes his dead friend for sympathy, that tends to come to a screeching halt.

-Rey hits the 619 and tries to drop the dime, but misses. A victory roll attempt by the challenger leads to a Matt drop down and rope pull for the cheap win. Way too short, but fun while it lasted. The two would have a much better match two months later on Smackdown where Rey finally got the belt. Anyone else miss Smackdown in the era when the great workers got time to work, and the whacky characters got equal time to balance the card? I know I do.

-And now for a handicap match, since those never get old. Undertaker puts his streak on the line against Big Show and A-Train, or as I call them: “Fat Albert”. This was supposed to be a tag team match with Taker teaming with Australian muscleman Nathan Jones, but Jones was unable to wrestle. Actually, that WAS the reason he was pulled: because he couldn’t wrestle. The man had the coordination skills of Stephen Hawking doing a downhill slalom.

-Limp Bizkit performs “Rollin” to bring Taker out. Taker even hugs Fred Durst. When would THAT ever happen if neither man was famous? Can you imagine Johnny Cash posing for a picture with the Icy Hot Stuntaz?

-Here’s food for thought: given all of the start-stop pushes that Show and Train have had over the years, especially in this time period, wouldn’t we be more apt to take them seriously if they dominated Taker? I mean, two big men beating up Undertaker doesn’t hurt anyone, and all three men get some measure of cred from it. So, of course, Taker dominates from the outset. So much for taking their pushes seriously.

-Taker with a fujiwara armbar for Show and another armbar for Train. This is like a production of Hamlet being performed by the special needs class. Show and Train are just stumbling around for Taker, who had lost his mystique by reverting to his biker gimmick. So it’s no fun for anyone.

-After ten minutes of boring tripe, Nathan Jones hits the ring and knocks Show out with a spinning heel kick in the aisle. Then he gets Train with a running foot inside the ring, which sets up the Dead Man’s Tombstone, pushing the streak to 11-0. Bad match, but thankfully the worst we’ll see tonight. You know, if WWE was so serious about getting Show or Train to main event status, why not have one of them pin Taker and wreck the streak? They’d be a heel for life, and always have something to hang their hat on. Alas.

-Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, and the Miller Lite catfight girls have a pow-wow. If you can name both of those latter ladies without consulting Wikipedia, then you’re probably not welcome near school bus stops.

-Up next, the WWE Women’s Title is up for grabs, as Victoria defends the gold against Trish Stratus and Jazz. This match is an upgrade over last year in terms of placement, workmanship (Trish was much improved), and participants. I’ll take Victoria over Lita any day. Man I miss that TATU music and crazy titan tron. Hey Vince, Victoria’s now 39 years old and is still one of the hottest women in wrestling. I don’t care about Kelly Kelly, give me crazy Victoria please. Oh, wait, TNA has her. Well, that’s one area that the Orlandophiles win at.

-I miss Jazz too. She was like Stone Cold. Except black. And female. Ok, so she was the female Bad News Brown. She just wails away on everyone in sight, which is more fun than “faces don’t attack other faces”. I remember when Victoria turned face over a year after this and she saved Stacy from elimination during the Taboo Tuesday battle royal. Disgusting.

-Jazz putting Trish into an STF = hot. I need to stop watching prison movies.

-Trish cradles Victoria and pulls down the back of her tights, exposing her crack to the world. Let’s hear it for DVD freeze frame! Speaking of pervy, I think we can all agree that the only reason Jazz ever did that double chicken wing move to Trish was to make her chest stick out and the fans could pop. Classy.

-With Jazz out on the floor, Trish avoids interference from Steven Richards (Victoria’s henchman/boyfriend/pet) and knocks out Victoria with the Chick Kick to win the title. Good, compressed match that livened things up after the hossfest bored everyone. It takes a lot to cheer people from Seattle up, so good on the ladies. Though if Seattle was rooting for Victoria, we’d have to hear years and years of complaining about the officiating. Damn Seahawks fans.

-Rock is backstage with Coachman, and Mr. Dwayne Johnson is so disillusioned with the fans these days that he can’t even properly abuse Coach like he used to. Way to drain the life from my hero, guys. But he WILL beat Stone Cold tonight. We’re all rooting for ya, Rock! Especially Debra.

-And now WWE will let some of the tag teams get air time, as The World’s Greatest Tag Team defends the WWE Tag Team Titles against Los Guerreros and Murder Horn (Chris Benoit and Rhyno). If TNA sticks six men with talent all in the same match, they get lambasted for squandering good wrestlers. Just saying.

-Benoit blisters Eddie with chops. In 2003, they met in a meaningless undercard showcase. In 2004, they ended the show with a surreal celebration. In 2008, neither of them was there because they were both dead. Sigh.

-The main issue I have with this match is that….there IS no issue. Haas and Benjamin were largely goons for Kurt Angle who became tag champs due to crowd heat osmosis, and they have no real character qualities except for “We do Kurt Angle’s bidding”. The Guerreros are known for being chronic cheaters with a penchant for partying, but you don’t see that. Benoit and Rhyno are intense competitors and it makes sense for them to stick to the wrestling, but what was their beef with TWGTT, other than Benoit hating Haas and Benjamin through Angle? Sometimes, you need to expand the story a bit.

-That’s not to say that the wrestling sucks, because it’s solid, but look who’s involved.

-A fast tag frenzy near the end and Rhyno gores Chavo, but Eddie pulls Rhyno to the floor and Shelton steals the pin on Chavo to retain the gold. Match was good, but largely forgotten in the backdrop of the marquee matches that were ahead. It didn’t give Haas and Benjamin much traction, but at least it was fun to watch.

-The four aforementioned useless hot women argue over who made WrestleMania: Vince McMahon or Hulk Hogan. My answer: Howard Finkel. Did I mention that the Fink is here tonight? #19!

-Video package for the Shawn-Michaels-Chris Jericho feud. You know, the first one. This was Shawn’s in-ring WrestleMania return and, although I was a huge childhood fan, I was pulling for Jericho here. Shawn had a total of 4 or 5 matches since his return seven months before, and I felt that for Jericho to lose would be a BS political move. In other words, I was a smark, but I was also a mark.

-On the way to the ring, Shawn fires off some confetti guns for some reason. A number of them don’t work, and won’t shoot at all. Kevin Nash used to have that problem, but they began making pills for that.

-Extended stalemate sequence opens the match, and after thinking Shawn wouldn’t be able to keep up, I was surprised that he did. Remember, seven years ago, we thought Shawn was only capable of like one match every two months and, even then, it wasn’t always guaranteed to be a classic. This is where Jesus walks in and kicks me in the balls for being Agnostic. Thank you, Jeeze.

-Shawn slaps on a figure four and begins to work Jericho’s leg. I remember once watching Raw with my friend Dave (fan of Bret Hart, hater of Shawn) when Michaels was facing Trevor Murdoch. Shawn grabbed the legs to apply his modified figure four and Dave thought he was attempting the Sharpshooter. Dave began to swear at the TV and then stopped when he realized that he wasn’t mocking Bret. It’s these little things that make us fans.

-The fight spills outside, and Jericho snares Michaels in the Walls of Jericho in the aisleway. Jericho releases after a certain amount of punishment, and then runs back in to break the count. Jericho continues to assault the back, break the count, and repeat. Jericho’s such a tremendous jerk of a heel. He’s like Tully Blanchard, except he doesn’t hide behind religion to cover his past.

-After Jericho hits the Shawn forearm inside, he kips up and does the slant-leg pose to mock HBK, but then Michaels kips up behind him. It’s these little things that keep TNA from becoming a true break-out promotion: you need moments that make the fans smile without resorting to inside jokes or overkill. Shawn’s such an established character, that the fans get it when Jericho rips off part of his shtick, and then they love it when Shawn makes them cheer with the counter-act.

-Jericho continues the acidic ‘tribute’ by landing Shawn’s elbow smash, stomping the foot to tune up Fozzy, and then hits Sweet, eh? Chin Music for 2. Good psychological stuff.

-Shawn mounts the comeback and tries for his SCM, but Jericho ducks the leg and gets the Walls. After Shawn fights it for an eternity, he finally makes the ropes. After Jericho nearly comes to tears in protest, he walks right into Shawn’s Chin Music, but the slow cover can only get 2. Great match.

-Finally, after Jericho jars the spine with a forearm, he tries a back suplex, which Shawn turns into a backroll press for the win. Afterward, Jericho tries to man up and embrace Shawn with a hug, but changes his mind and kicks Shawn low. It’s ok, Chris, you still have your rocker hair until you get with the times and cut it in 2006. Tremendous match with a real big time feel.

-Sylvain Grenier, then an evil referee, goes into Vince’s locker room. He must be mistaken. Pat Patterson’s green room is a few doors—oh, don’t give me that look. I haven’t made a Patterson joke in at LEAST three or four rants!

-Miller Lite Catfight crap. Coach loses his pants. Limp Bizkit performs “Crack Addict”. I’m intoxicated by Turkey Hill iced tea. So all is good.

-Triple H and Booker T for the World Heavyweight Title is next. The storyline here is that Triple H made a few racially charged remarks to the Bookerman, which you’d think would lead to Book shutting him up and winning the title. You’d think that, wouldn’t you, Senor Ignorencia?

-You know, this match kind of annoys me, since it was Hunter slowing things down to a crawl, just to do some make-believe Ric Flair heel champion routine, and it stunted Booker’s momentum as a performer. Let’s just say Hunter works the knee, Booker fails to make enough of a comeback, and Hunter sends him spiraling back to the midcard with the Pedigree. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to two more interesting points.

-First, Jerry Lawler spent the match hamming up Triple H’s rhetoric about Booker being a lifelong criminal. It’s one thing to make a joke or two, as the heel announcer, but it’s another to keep on keeping on, which is what Lawler did. Jim Ross gets so sick and tired of Lawler’s spiel that he openly responds with hostile verbiage, and Lawler actually seems taken aback. It’s way more interesting than the match. What I also love is at Bad Blood a few months later when Lawler tries to bury Booker again with the prison jokes, and JR makes a comment along the lines of “You know, I wonder how different things would be if some OTHER people had been convicted of certain crimes”. And Lawler NEVER made fun of Booker’s criminal record again. Great stuff.

-The other thing: I will defend Hunter winning here. As much as I loved Booker, imagine this: if Hunter never drops the belt to Goldberg in September, then he holds the belt for over a year, right? Sure, it infuriates us, but, as the smarks are huge Benoit fans, what would it mean to us if Chris Benoit took out Triple H to win the title after Hunter spent 15 months as champion? It’d mean a LOT. I can defend Hunter as a heel dominating, because it means just that much more when he loses. Ask Batista.

-Moving on to something else that’s criminal. Criminally fun, that is. Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon will do battle in a street fight that was twenty years in the making. That’s AMAZING. I never knew Vince was clamoring for this fight when Hulk was champion and Vince was skinny, Reagan-esque commentator. And I thought I knew everything.

-Typical geriatric Vince brawling, complete with funny faces and comical selling. I never get enough of watching Vince wrestle. He could have a match with a dead ferret and I’d be entertained.

-Vince realizes his dream of dominating a test of strength. Hulk realizes his dream of bashing Vince with a chair and busting him open. So everyone’s happy.

-Just to show that he’s more hardcore than the useless wusses that he employs, Vince dives off the ladder with a legdrop through Hogan and the Smackdown commentary table. Then to top THAT, after rolling Hogan in, Vince pulls a lead pipe from under the ring and slowly raises his face over the apron with a crazed expression that I still laugh at to this day. Dixie, you’re no Vince. There I said it.

-After both men are down, Rowdy Roddy Piper hits the ring and is apparently doing the Adrian Adonis tribute diet. He spits on both men, but then hits Hogan with a pipe before dropping a couple F-bombs on camera. Just when you think you have all the answers, Roddy forgets the questions and then relapses.

-Long story short: Sylvain Grenier tries to do some shady run-in refereeing, gets taken out, and Hulk drops three legs on Vince for the win. It’s longer than I made it seem, but it’s fun the entire way. Seriously, just watch it. You won’t regret it.

-And now, for something bittersweet. The Rock takes on Stone Cold Steve Austin in….well, if you don’t know, I’ll get to it at the end of the match.

-Rock was full blown Hollywood villain, and Austin is still Stone Cold, albeit with a neck worn down to nothing, and a lack of the same crowd energy that made him Stone Cold in the first place. I’m going to get very sad watching this.

-Tribute is paid to their X7 match as Austin attacks with a flurry and the fight spills outside. Austin is just hammering Rock all over ringside. This is like Rick Fox getting those garbage points in game five of the 2004 NBA finals, in case it was the end for him.

-Rock shifts the tide by working the knee, and the crowd seems reluctant to boo him. Hey, he was such a fun character with this pro-Hollywood slant. My biggest regret is not seeing it last longer. But hey, the movies were calling his name.

-Just for a goof, Rock puts on Austin’s leather vest and continues the fight, and the slugfest continues. Then Austin runs through the classics. There’s the Thesz press. There’s the middle finger elbow. There’s the mudhole stomping. HE’S WALKING IT DRY! That’s it Steve, round the bases one last time. Crap, I think I’m actually getting misty.

-Then we get another staple of their classics: the dueling finishers. Rock gets a stunner. Austin gets Rock Bottom. Neither one finishes the other. Good stuff.

-Then comes the heart-wrenching finish: Rock lands a spinebuster and People’s Elbow for 2. Then Rock lands one Rock Bottom. Austin kicks out on 2. Rock attempts a second one, but Austin desperately tries to elbow his way free. Rock hangs on and spikes him for a second one. Austin writhes on the mat in a fashion that is truly harrowing, but he kicks out on 2. For the third attempt, Austin doesn’t even fight it, and he eats a final Rock Bottom to give The Rock his much-deserved clean win over Stone Cold.

-Afterward, Rock breaks character and sits next to Austin, telling him he loves him as Austin lays hurt on the mat. Only four moments in wrestling get me choked up: Savage and Liz reuniting, Shawn winning his first World Title, Benoit making HHH tap, and this: The Rock throwing his character aside to make sure his real life friend was ok and to express his support. After Rock celebrates with his family at ringside, he leaves so that Austin can do the final walkaway, as his in ring career ended after one hell of a fourteen year journey. There will never be another Stone Cold Steve Austin. Much like Shawn and Taker should have ended XXV, THIS should have ended XIX. Austin and Rock, the two men who carried the Attitude era, in their final chapter. I love it.

-Still one match to go, and it’s going to take a lot to top this. Don’t worry, what’s on tap has a chance.

-If you thought Austin’s neck was bad, Kurt Angle’s was just as horrid, as he prepared to defend the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Angle was in dire need of surgery on his spine, but chose to go through with this match. This wouldn’t be the last time we worried about Angle’s health or sanity.

-The two men begin with a feeling out process, as both men are among the most accomplished amateur wrestlers-turned-pro in the world. At first, I thought that it would just remain at this pace due to Angle’s bad neck, but hey, I was wrong again. Did I mention I was fairly dumb at 19? I’d just met Eric Gargiulo months before this show and I think I was I was still in a mental haze. It’s like a fifteen year old girl meeting Miley Cyrus. Eric’s just that special.

-Angle lands a German suplex and Lesnar soon nails him with a clothesline. If this was Kurt’s last match for a while, he was damn sure going to kill himself doing it.

-Angle then sends Lesnar hard into the buckles with a German suplex. Here Brock, share some of my pain, you musclehead.

-Angle wears Lesnar down further, taking the time to get his bearings, which is the smart thing to do. Then he hits an overhead belly to belly on a 300 pound man, then does four rolling Germans on Lesnar just for fun. When Kurt Angle lives to be 400 years old and is a cyborg, no one better be surprised, you hear me? NO ONE.

-Here’s a good sequence for you: Angle tries for the Angle Slam, Lesnar counters with an F5 attempt, which Angle rolls into the ankle lock. After Lesnar gets free, Angle gets the release throwing German suplex for 2. Jaw. Dropped.

-Through the remainder of the match, Lesnar manages to drop Angle with a pair of F5s and Angle really should be dead by now. I mean, come on, he was facing surgery that was due to keep him out for a YEAR and he’s going full gore with the future UFC Champion. Angle is crazy, ya’ll.

-Speaking of crazy, here comes some Mania lore: Lesnar tries for a shooting star press, but lands on his head and nearly breaks his neck in the process. After improvising a pin for 2, Angle tries for an Angle Slam, but Brock finishes with the F5 for his second WWE Title. They do the respect hug afterward. Tremendous match that made me cringe every time Angle did something the least bit physical. With Austin retiring due to his spinal damage, I certainly didn’t want to see Kurt end up a crippled vegetable. I loved the match, but it’s like a car wreck: hard to watch, but hard to turn away.

-Limp Bizkit plays us out. Speaking of played out, Limp Bizkit, folks!

-CYNIC SAYS: At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think. WWE was in a major rut creatively, and couldn’t please anyone. Yet time has been kind to this show, as everything seemed to set up a future development. Hunter stayed strong to make his losses mean more. Shawn stayed strong to begin his full time comeback. Lesnar went over to become the future (sort of). And Austin went out with a great final performance.

WrestleMania XIX is a blossoming flower in a turd garden that is 2003 WWE. But you won’t regret having sat through all four hours of this tremendous show.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WrestleMania XIX: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

BACKGROUND
The waves of time were eroding WWE’s familiar image away, aggressively eating away the dunes of chic and hip. Beneath the devoured sands were levels of desperation that, now unearthed, would only serve to further deface a once-effulgent company.

After WWE split into two brands, Raw and Smackdown, in the spring of 2002, fans used to edgy television were now being force-fed the notion that Hulk Hogan was still hip in the 21st century, and that the Stamford-approved version of the New World Order was as potent as it was when Kevin Nash and company ran roughshod over Atlanta six years prior.

With WWE fans, having been conditioned to accept a younger, fast-paced centrum from WWE’s brain trust, were suddenly staring down a slower, intelligence-insulting WWE that also featured, among other things, a watered-down, unhappy Steve Austin (soon to walk out, and then be accused of spousal abuse), a slower Triple H, a midcard with little chance of advancement, and the addition of a largely-unasked-for Eric Bischoff.

With ratings declining in the summer months, WWE put its Undisputed World Championship around the waist of new sensation Brock Lesnar, a frightening grappler with amateur credentials and no professional ceiling.

Despite the infusion of other new talents (John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista), WWE sunk to unseen depths, trying to lure in audiences with gay weddings, lesbian decadence, and the act of necrophilia.

By the time WrestleMania season rolled around, WWE was far removed from its trendy nucleus of just two years prior.

The biggest show of the year would feature, in major roles, Kurt Angle (in dire need of neck surgery), Stone Cold Steve Austin (on his last legs as an active wrestler), The Rock (returning to Hollywood), and Brock Lesnar (main eventing at his first ‘Mania).

Could WWE pull this off?

THE EVENT
The actual main event of the show was Kurt Angle defending the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Angle had used Lesnar to help him regain the strap at Armageddon in December from Big Show, and then reneged on giving him a promised shot.

Brock Lesnar would then enter the 2003 Royal Rumble and toss out the Undertaker for the win. For the next two months, Angle’s new lackeys, WWE Tag Team Champions Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, as well as Lesnar’s ex-agent Paul Heyman, would serve as roadblocks and spike strips to try and slow down the monster Lesnar as he fought to regain the title he felt he never lost.

In the other main championship match, Triple H would be defending the World Heavyweight Championship on Raw against Booker T. Booker had won a battle royal one month prior to earn the shot, last ousting The Rock.

However, the angle took a rather controversial turn when Triple H accused Booker of being “too much of an entertainer” to be champion, and that Booker’s “kind” weren’t good enough to hold top honors. As a matter of fact, “The Game” asked Booker to “dance” for him. All of these remarks had faint racial implications, and cast a cloud of unnecessary shock to the storyline.

Triple H also brought to light Booker T’s criminal past, including his arrest and incarceration for robbing a Wendy’s in the 1980′s. Booker was given very little heroic momentum in what was a peculiar build-up.

Speaking of peculiar, Hulk Hogan returned to WWE in January, after a five month hiatus, and immediately entered into a feud with Vince McMahon.

McMahon claimed that bad blood had been brewing between the two men for years (even referencing his own 1994 steroid trial, in which Hogan had testified against him), and the two agreed to face off at WrestleMania XIX, in a match hailed as “twenty years in the making”. The bizarre feud would even net the participants as the lone faces on the event’s DVD packaging, in a somewhat common case of McMahon’s ego superseding the needs of his company.

Stone Cold Steve Austin had returned to WWE in February, and was immediately pitted against old friend/rival The Rock. Rock had fully embraced Hollywood conceit, and was rubbing his new lifestyle into the faces of the fans who built him up, and then began booing him. Austin’s involvement seemed to be minor, as real life neck injuries were hindering one of the greatest stars in WWE history.

In a match designed to capture the imaginations of fans who love being dazzled, Shawn Michaels would compete at his first WrestleMania in five years to face Chris Jericho. Jericho had claimed to have idolized Michaels, and was now ready to surpass a man whose standard Jericho now felt he was above. Y2J would go as far as to admit Michaels’ influence on his career, and indicated that evolution would take place on wrestling’s grandest stage.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the Raw brand matches, while Michael Cole and Tazz covered the ones from Smackdown. Ashanti performed “America the Beautiful”, Limp Bizkit performed a pair of songs (including “Rollin” for the Undertaker’s entrance), and Miller Lite models Kitana Baker and Tanya Ballinger recreated their famed catfight commercial on the entrance set.

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THE RESULTS
WWE Cruiserweight: Matt Hardy Version 1.0 def. Rey Mysterio in 5:39
(Abbreviated for some reason, but still a really good match. Rey Mysterio dressed as Daredevil for this event, but wasn’t so blind that he couldn’t see that Jennifer Garner is a really lousy actress)

Handicap Match: The Undertaker def. Big Show/A-Train in 9:45
(This was to be a tag team match with Australian weirdo Nathan Jones as Taker’s partner, but Jones was scrapped for his poor abilities. Why did this get almost ten minutes? Oh, that’s eleven for Taker)

WWE Women’s: Trish Stratus def. Victoria and Jazz in 7:17 to win the title
(Dignified women’s wrestling at its finest. Dignified, that is, except for Trish pulling Victoria’s tights down on a roll-up to show off some crack. Er, not that I’m complaining)

WWE Tag Team: Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin def. Chris Benoit/Rhino and Los Guerreros in 8:46
(Anytime you have a three way match on pay per view that isn’t a marquee match, what you’re saying is “we can’t think of any storylines for these guys”. This is one of those times, sadly)

Shawn Michaels def. Chris Jericho in 22:33
(One of my personal favorite matches, and it was portrayed just the way I thought it would be: two men of great stature trying to one up each other, ending on an out-of-nowhere pinfall. Jericho’s post match fake embrace into a low kick on Michaels ranks as a forgotten, yet classic, moment)

World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H def. Booker T in 18:50
(Matches like this are the reason Triple H got a bad rap for years: slow and made the hero look weak. The only highlight was Jerry Lawler making crime jokes about Booker, and JR getting legit pissed. Funny stuff)

Street Fight: Hulk Hogan def. Vince McMahon in 20:48
(You know, a typical Vince match: table spot, Rowdy Roddy Piper run-in (waddle-in?), Vince jumping off of a ladder, and the true highlight: McMahon, covered in blood, slowly raising his face over the side of the apron with a sadistic grin. Gets funnier with every viewing)

The Rock def. Stone Cold Steve Austin in 17:53
(Rock finally gets a clean win over Austin, and it comes as the last truly great match either man would have. In fact, it was Austin’s last match ever, and wrestling hasn’t been the same without him. Rock’s pause before the final Rock Bottom, with Austin showing no resistance, seemed appropriate: Austin was no longer willing to fight, after 14 years of kicking ass. I still get chills watching Rock push Earl Hebner away so that he can break character and check on Austin’s condition afterward. I love this match)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar def. Kurt Angle in 21:04 to win the title
(I don’t know what was more amazing: the fact that Angle pretty much had a wrecked spine and still carried this to the subjective “four star” territory, or that Brock Lesnar landed on his head during that shooting star press and somehow lived. I literally have no idea who’s the tougher man. Great match)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

WrestleMania XIX was a mirage in the desert that was WWE in 2003. The drastic changes in Vince McMahon’s cash cow going into 2003 were rather alarming. Once a self-assured, well-booked company was now a mostly depressing product, centered around developmental stars that made no head way (Three Minute Warning, Chris Nowinski, and Batista (yet, anyway), as well as stars that the fans loved, but got no love from WWE (Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Dudley Boyz, etc).

While WrestleMania was one of only two exceptionally good pay per views in 2003 (the other being Vengeance in July), the show simply felt out of place, not quite fitting of the “grandest show of the year” title that is bestowed on it.

The last four matches filled out the marquee. Two of them featured wrestlers who were hospitalized the night before the show (Angle and Austin), one with tasteless racial overtones (HHH-Booker), and one between two men in their middle age, fighting for fictitiously-contrived reasons, trying to sell the show on little-known “real life” drama, as opposed to a compelling angle.

The in-ring action was more than enough to save WrestleMania XIX, dragging the horrid build out of the self-made muck.
To do that, he brought in the original three members of the New World Order: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania X8 – Even The Rock Booed The Rock

March 25, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-So this was a bit like the end of an era for years truly. I was graduating high school in just three months, making this the first WWE WrestleMania of my adult life. The last time WrestleMania resided in Toronto, I was in kindergarten. Now, I was a high school senior, and the big event’s back at the Skydome in Toronto, Ontario, this time on March 17, 2002. Weird how things end up in life.

-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, whose knees are still worn out from the groveling he had to do to reclaim his old job. The event looks like a hybrid of WrestleManias VI and X7, which is my way of saying it’s like X7, but with a darker lighting scheme. The atmosphere’s nice, I’ll give em that.

-The story is that WWE, at the end of the Attitude era, bottomed out with a botched WCW Invasion angle, and is now relying on a new crazy scheme: bringing back the New World Order. This is annoying to 18 year old Justin, because he doesn’t really want to live in the past, and it’s annoying to 26 year old Justin, because every time he types ‘NWO‘ in Microsoft Word, it changes it to ‘now’, and I usually forget to change it back. It’s annoying because there’s nothing ‘now’ about the New World Order.

-Here to sing “Oh Cana—“, er, nevermind, here’s Saliva to sing “Superstar”. Well, I do enjoy me some Saliva, and this was their “free” era. That’s when a band’s first one or two albums phenomenally rock your world, and then they “branch out” and listen to the corporate agents, who streamline their sound to try and make it more mainstream. Blood Stained Love Story says hi. Song goes on a bit long, but I do enjoy Josey Scott yelling “GET YOUR ASS UP OVER YOUR SHOULDERS!”. If I could contort my body like that, I’d be more popular at parties for sure.

-Nice opening video with the main event guys talking about what WrestleMania means to them. Scott Hall has comments too.

-The show kicks off, much like last year, with the Intercontinental Title match with, much like last year, William Regal defending against, much like last year, a long haired IWC idol who is apparently never pushed enough. In this case, it’s Rob Van Dam.

-Funny moment, as Regal goes for his now-trademark brass knux from the onset, and RVD kicks them out of his hand. They flew pretty far, and I wonder how long we as fans would have talked about the “fan getting hit with flying knux” story on the net had it happened.

-I remember bracing myself for the swerve in this match, since I was HYOOOOGE RVD mark and wanted so badly to see him win the IC Title, to become a “legit” contender. Now they just put the IC Title on whoever Vince has a crush on this week and the whole thing is moot. Here, Drew, looks good on ya!

-Just tremendous see-saw stuff, albeit rushed. That’s carny for “we only have, like, seven minutes, so let’s get about 40 moves in and hope that it looks good”. Don’t worry guys, it does.

-RVD tries for the catch-the-foot-throw-a-roundhouse spot, but Regal hits a SICKENING half nelson suplex that spikes RVD on his head, and Van Dam rolls to the floor awkwardly. I think we all thought RVD was dead here. That’s because we all forgot that RVD was a combination of Gumby and Drugs Delaney. He’ll be fine, just roll the man a little something something.

-Regal tries to finish with a second pair of knux, but RVD lands a roundhouse, and then lands the Five Star for his first IC Title. Hope you liked this match, because you won’t see the IC belt defended until WM25. You also won’t be seeing Regal on this tour until….well, ever. Man hasn’t had a Mania match since. What’s up with that? Seriously, great match to kick things off, though.

-Christian mocks DDP’s grin. Hey Christian, if you really wanna hit him low, you should point out how you learned to read thirty years before he did.

-After bashing Toronto to ensure that he doesn’t get cheered, Christian arrives to face Diamond Dallas Page for the WWE European Championship. The gimmicks in play here include Christian portraying a compulsive whiner prone to tantrums, and Page was a smiling motivational speaker whose smile scared children. So if you were a fan of Celebrity Deathmatch, imagine Kanye West taking on an anti-matter Matt Foley.

-Wow, JR plays the “DDP was at WrestleMania VI in this building as a limo driver” card. So when Edge watched Rhythm and Blues come out to sing, I’m sure he thought “One day, my kayfabe brother is going to fight that chauffer while I tangle with a man who sounds like Tone Loc with dreadlocks over a bottle of shampoo! Gonna be SWEET!”

-The whole point of the match is that it’s a six minute backdrop to provide Christian a chance to have a tantrum and thus validate his character. I dunno, that’s more of a Backlash-No Mercy concept, I think. I like my WrestleManias to have a little more substance. It was hard to take Christian seriously at this point anyway, since he resembled a male version of Shannon Moore.

-Christian nearly has a meltdown of Ozzie Guillen proportions after Page kicks out of the falling reverse DDT. He stops himself, but can’t stop himself from eating the Diamond Cutter for the pinfall loss. Christian finally does spaz when Page points out that he lost in front of 68,000 fans, and JR screams for someone to get Christian a diaper. No problem, unless Hulk’s being stingy with his.

-The Rock is backstage, and he abuses Jonathan Coachman into saying his prayers. Isn’t it funny how Coach is universally reviled by the majority of marks and smarks alike, yet he and Rocky among the select few on this show (excepting Trish Stratus as well) that can leave wrestling and never have to look back? Coachman’s with ESPN and likely earning in the six figures to tell us why Danica Patrick and Lebron James will always be important, and we should be proud of The Coach. He made it. So many others haven’t.

-In an odd choice for a match, Maven (of Tough Enough fame) defends the WWE Hardcore Title against Goldust. In essence, Goldust pummels Maven with weapons that have been spray painted gold (trash can, shovel, etc) until Spike Dudley runs in and steals the pin to become champion. Then Crash Holly gives chase, then Maven, then Goldust, yada yada yada.

-To waste some more time, here’s Drowning Pool to perform “Tear Away”, while, as Lillian says they “tell the story of tonight’s main event”. Like the guys who sang “Bodies” could give a damn that Chris Jericho’s limo hit a dog. For those who believe that WWE only began to insult the crowd’s intelligence recently, boy have I got news for you.

-Backstage, the Hardcore shenanigans continue, which sees Al Snow drive a go-cart into a stack of boxes that were there for some reason, and The Hurricane fly in on a rope and thrust kick Spike to win the title. Then Hurricane runs off. Because he hears sirens.

-Next we have Kurt Angle vs. Kane, which is a feud I barely remember. Angle does, however, insult the fans for the Canadian pairs skating team controversy. Angle can take any sign of the times and just roll with it for the easy cheap heat. Here’s the question: given how divided America was during the Vietnam War, if Angle had wrestled in the sixties, which side do you think he would have been more likely to antagonize? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

-Angle attacks with the ring bell! I can see Angle playing Savage, but Kane as Steamboat? A little odd, to say the least. Unless Kane was a “fire breathing dragon”.

-For a monster, Kane’s sure giving Angle a ton of offense. See, I like these matches, because the dark-side loving marks who cheer for Kane will appreciate Angle as a gut-stomping villain who can take the fight to anyone, and the smarks who revere Angle can appreciate Kane for keeping up in a good match with such a talented pro. Everyone wins.

-It’s a shame that Kane’s been reduced to being nothing more than a chubby trial horse for the kiddies on Smackdown to work their craft on. He’s keeping pace with Angle, with a minimum of hoss silliness.

-Kane tries for a chokeslam, but Angle fidgets with Kane’s mask to throw him off his game. So when Jericho did it to Rey, he’d gotten the idea from Angle. Thieves….are….HYP-o-crites…..

-After Kane kicks out of the Angle Slam, Angle tries the Ankle Lock about 400 times to no avail. Jeez, get a clue, Kurt, he’s not up for tapping tonight. Angle ultimately counters a chokeslam into an awkward cradle and pulls the ropes for a poor excuse for a pinning combo, yet he gets the win off of it. Really good match and one of Kane’s best ever, but the ending did no favors. Fun while it lasted, though.

-Instead of trying to leave the building with the Hardcore Title, Hurricane tries to hide amongst the Godfather’s ho’s. You can LEAVE, Gregory, it’s not like Bill Watts is running the show!

-Highlight package for the Undertaker vs. Ric Flair street fight, with two noticeable occurrences: one is La Resistance’s theme playing for part of the video, and the other is a fan that Ric Flair accidentally assaulted played by…..Paul London! That’s not realistic at all. He wouldn’t have been allowed into the building with after a proper cavity search.

-Flair, who has a knack for storytelling, immediately attempts to pound Taker into oblivion for attacking his son, his friend Arn Anderson, and for making him hit Paul London. London was trained by Shawn Michaels, and lord knows Flair would NEVER do anything to upset Shawn.

-It doesn’t last long, as Taker seats Flair at ringside and unleashes a nasty gusher from Ric’s forehead, just pounding the cut until it looks like Flair’s going to be emptied at any moment. Nobody can empty Flair quicker than the Internal Revenue Service, but Taker’s a close second.

-Taker punching. Taker punching. Taker punching.

-After a seesaw slugfest, Flair manages to retrieve a lead pipe from Undertaker’s motorcycle (yes, he was still a biker at this point), and bashes the Dead Man to bust him open. Well, it’s a minor wound, but Lawler still believes that Taker’s papercut is a worse gash than Ric Flair’s forehead, which looks suspiciously like a bowl of tomato soup. Lawler also believes that he could attract the same women he gets now without millions in the bank, so let’s not go and shatter his delusions.

-Ross on Lawler’s prior assessment: “Are you drunk?”. I hope he is. Gives Jake Roberts someone to play cards with.

-Arn Anderson slides in to hit Undertaker with a Spinebuster, which I marked like a mofo for, but it can’t keep Taker down. Because Undertaker is not Firebreaker Chip.

-After Taker disposes of Arn, he takes on a figure four from Flair, but he goozles his way free. Flair won’t take the Last Ride, so Taker’s all “screw it” and lands the Tombstone for the win. A damn good match that’s lost amongst the Rock/Hogan hoopla, and I loved the intensity throughout.

-Afterward, Taker raises ten fingers, one by one, on the apron to mark his milestone. Has anyone else even WON ten matches at WrestleMania, let alone in a row? I think Shawn’s won maybe 6 or 7. Good stuff.

-Booker T cuts a promo to prove his stupidity. I always liked that in WWE that we’ve never been allowed to have a black character that’s displayed a ton of intelligence and intuition, outside of maybe Faarooq in the NOD days. And yet, Vince is there to paste the Martin Luther King montage on Raw every January. Perplexing.

-Edge realizes his dream of wrestling in Skydome at a WrestleMania! YAY EDGE!

-Said dream entails of: a disinterested crowd, Edge nearly breaking his neck on a top rope hurrachanrana, a badly blown Spinarooni attempt, and a win over Booker T in a match that was contested over a bottle of shampoo. But he’ll always have a the dream.

-Here’s an idea: why not have Booker feud with Page over who brought the WCW Invasion down, then do a six man tag: Edge and the Hardyz vs. Christian and the Dudleyz, TLC for the European (if Christian has it) and Tag Team Titles? You can stick Billy and Chuck and the APA on the pre-show or something. Flows better, doesn’t it? I think so.

-Meanwhile, Mighty Molly bashes The Hurricane with a frying pan to become Hardcore Champion. What a team: devoted missionary and violent drunk. It’s like the plot of Hancock, except….somehow better?

-And now for an interesting one: Stone Cold Steve Austin takes on Scott Hall of the New World Order. Austin was none too happy about being shunted down the card to feud with a chronic drunk (oh, the irony), and actually walked out the following day, not returning for a couple weeks.

-Brutal slugfest to begin things, and Kevin Nash earns his money for the year by removing the turnbuckle pad. That was very risky of him to do, since that’s his GOOD triceps that he used.

-Austin is bumped to the outside, and has to bear the brunt of a Nash onslaught. Hit his leg, Steve, that tends to work.

-Back inside, Austin hits Hall with a spinebuster, Then he follows up with a Stunner, but Nash pulls the ref out and clobbers him. Outsiders double team and Hall gets a chair, but Austin manages to Stun both men by himself. Way to keep those nWo t-shirt sales strong, guys.

-Another ref comes in and Nash drops an elbow on him. What’s up with Nash….and doing moves and stuff? Crazy.

-Nash is lulled from ringside by the promise of free Revlon, so Austin finishes Hall off with two Stunners for the win. This did nothing for Hall, who has to be a ruthless invader, and nothing for Austin, who was proving to no longer be the main event star. Decent match, but came at a heavy price.

-This leads to the fatal fourway for the WWE World Tag Team Titles, as Billy & Chuck (pre-Rico) defend the gold against the APA, Dudley Boyz, and Hardy Boyz. As a bonus, Saliva plays the Dudz new music live, and Josey Scott gets to grind with Stacy Keibler. Lucky punk.

-Just your standard multiple team fare, without the fun of broken tables and JR freaking out. In fact, APA eats an early elimination after a 3D. Remember when Bradshaw was just midcard fodder? Shhh, no one’s supposed to know that.

-Jeff Hardy was looking AWFUL here. Imagine if Sheamus was a fifteen year old raver, and you get Jeff in 2002. Even JR has to note how sickly pale he looks. Maybe he’s a Make-a-Wish kid, because he just got to slap Stacy’s butt as she tried distracting him with a wedgie, following up by kissing her. Well, that was MY wish too.

-After D-Von crashes through a table at ringside, Bubba Ray falls victim to the Hardyz finish. The crowd’s scared that Billy & Chuck may survive with the belts. Who says Canada’s not judgmental?

-Sure enough, a Fame-Asser/belt shot combo is enough to keep Jeff down for Billy & Chuck to retain. Bland match, and the crowd wasn’t into it, other than rooting against the champs. Let’s just move on.

-So backstage, Hulk Hogan calls off the Outsiders in regards to his match, and Christian nails Molly with a door to win the Hardcore Title. Just getting these out of the way, because I’m giddy about what’s next.

-And here it is: the match that changed everything.

-WWE’s pro-youth stance was shattered on this night. All of the pandering that Vince McMahon has done from 2002 onward in regards to nostalgia acts and milking out-of-date gimmicks for all they’re worth can be traced back to this match. Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock, in a match between a 48 year old has been who had been absent from WWE for nearly nine years, and a 29 year old man who was becoming world famous, and was a great ambassador for the industry.

-So Toronto booed the kid and cheered the old guy. But hey, didn’t we all?

-JR has the balls to call this a “mixed reaction”. JR also called the Grenada conflict “evenly matched”.

-Hogan shoves Rock down a couple of times and poses, and the crowd reaction is INSANE. My brother and I joined in as Hogan went all eighties-y on us and we marked out like we were kids. And I was 18, thus having no excuse.

-Rock comes back and takes Hogan down, and the crowd boos. No wonder Vince Carter quit on this city.

-AXE BOMBER!!!! He beat Stan Hansen with it! But Rock’s no Stan Hansen. Like Rock would ever drop a midcard title to Lex Luger.

-Hogan’s doing the most elementary of moves (abdominal stretch, backrakes, 10 punches in the corner, forehead bite) and the fans are losing their mind. I think if 70,000 fans cheered Miss Jackie vs. Trish Stratus, I could get into that, too. Not that this match here sucks or anything.

-Rock chops away, and then cups his hand to his ear to mock Hulk. Fans boo lustily. I’m enjoying myself far too much.

-Hogan chokes the #1 babyface in the world with his wristtape, and the fans begin chanting his name. Not Rock’s name, but Hulk’s name. Do you think this annoyed Rock any, or do you think he was busy trying to remember his lines for the Rundown?

-The fight spills to the floor and Hogan clears off one of the tables, but it doesn’t get used. Rock tries to use a chair, but has it taken away. I nominate this for “best alleged hardcore match in wrestling history”, next to any Steve Blackman Hardcore Title defense.

-Ref bump, and Rock takes Hogan down with a spinebuster and sharpshooter. Hogan taps, which doesn’t count. You may be noticing a trend in this era.

-HULK BOTTOM! IT GETS 2! And it’s Yappapi strap time, as both men exchange shots with the weapon. Rock gets the upper hand and hits Rock Bottom….BUT HULK KICKS OUT! HE’S HULKING UP! THIS PLACE IS INSANE! 3 PUNCHES! BIG BOOT! LEGDROP! BUT ROCK KICKS OUT! PANDEMONIUM!

-Hogan misses a second leg drop, and then Rock lands two Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow to win one HELL of a fun match. Afterward, Hulk shakes Rock’s hand, and the Outsiders attack Hulk for being a turncoat. After Rock and Hulk run them off, Rock has Hogan pose for the fans like old times, andwhat a moment that it was. The two men walk off together, with Hogan endorsing Rock as the modern day star. I can’t speak enough about how great this was, and I still got giddy eight years later watching it. If you haven’t seen it, do it.

-What do you mean the show’s not over?

-Crowd for X8: 68,237. Thank you, Howard Finkel (#18!)

-Now for the Women’s title match, which is just dead in the water. Jazz defends the gold against Trish Stratus and Lita. The only thing that’s notable in the early going is that Trish has a maple leaf on the back of her tights. Alright, I’m kinda interested now.

-Crowd is dead, except when Lita wrenches her knee in the turnbuckle. If they were banking on hometown girl Trish to keep the fans alive till the main event, well Jasper, they thought wrong.

-Trish goes off the apron and Jazz spikes Lita with the Jazz Stinger for the win. No offense to any of these three women, since I have no issue with any of them but…..NEXT.

-Christian tries to make his escape with the Hardcore Title, but is pinned by Maven outside, who then absconds with Christian’s ride to the hotel. Well, that was just utterly pointless, wasn’t it?

-And now, the death march commences.

-Chris Jericho defends the Undisputed Championship against Triple H. The storyline here was…..Triple H won the Royal Rumble and uhh….Chris Jericho was champion so uhh…..they have a match. Oh, and Hunter was divorcing Stephanie, and they fought for custody of the dog. So Stephanie sided with Jericho and Jericho’s limo accidentally backed over the dog. Jericho, the most important champion at the time, was also walking the dog because Stephanie told him to.

-I’m going to need a moment to re-cope with the reality of that statement.

-Drowning Pool is here to play their rendition of “The Game”. Dear Drowning Pool, you’re not Lemmy. Sincerely, everyone with taste. Dave Williams, the singer of Drowning Pool, died months later of heart failure on the band’s tour bus. Hey Marc Mero, there’s somebody you forgot to put on your “wrestling deaths” list. It’s ok, you can have this one for free.

-Oh, right, the other story is that HHH is still hurting from his prior quadriceps injury, and Jericho’s looking to exploit that. Wow, look, the first part of the main event that HASN’T annoyed me. The crowd is too dead to be annoyed. Hogan wore em out. Maybe TNA should just move to Toronto?

-Hunter slams Jericho from the top rope to ringside. Well, alright, that was cool.

-Hunter and Jericho take turns working each other’s legs, which is not really the way to go if you’re trying to resuscitate the crowd. Stephanie screeching isn’t really helping matters either.

-Jericho saves Stephanie after Hunter brought her in the ring. What he wouldn’t have gave to break character for just one second. Disappointment as a champion, eh? Poor Jericho.

-Jericho and Hunter try and re-enact the Walls of Jericho on the table spot that helped injure Hunter in the first place, but Hunter ends up going through a table instead. Well, at least the psychology is sound.

-Jericho ultimately locks in the Walls inside the ring, but Hunter avoids passing out. Triple H is a better man than us all.

-After Hunter DDT’s Jericho onto a chair, Stephanie interjects herself one time too many, and Hunter makes her eat a Pedigree in the middle of the ring. Crowd kinda cheers that one. For someone who had needed comeuppance for a long time, they can’t go crazy for that? Man, Hulk must be like roofies or something.

-Jericho tries his own Pedigree, but Hunter sends him to the buckles. Jericho’s rebound dive falls onto a kick, and Hunter spikes him with the Pedigree to win the Undisputed title. Technically, the match was pretty good, but the lack of emotion from the fans, and Hunter’s slow pace selling the injury made this hard to want to invest into. If the rumors about Jericho being buried by the office over his title reign are true, then he probably wishes he didn’t put in the effort. Not that it seemed worth it anyway. Weird end to a generally weird show.

-CYNIC SAYS: Well, forget about topping last year’s effort right off the bat. I wouldn’t say anything on this show was terrible, so let’s look for some middle ground here. Rock-Hogan is a must-see, and Taker-Flair, Angle-Kane, RVD-Regal, and Jericho-HHH I’d rank as good. Everything else is going to go based on your personal tastes. For me, too many short matches featuring good competitors.

So it’s not a bad show, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was fun in a lot of parts. Sort of like an All-Star game that doesn’t quite live up to the hype: it doesn’t suck, but it was fun to see all the stars.

So let’s go with that.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: Simply The Best

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

-For the remaining nine reviews, since they’re all 4 hours (and one is 5), I’ll be chopping out a little bit of quantity to make it my standard 4000+ word format. Which is a shame because for this show, I want to rant forever.

-Who was the April Fool on April 1, 2001 as we come to you from the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, TX for WWE WrestleMania X-Seven? Well, Vince had just bought WCW so they were finished, and ECW was days away from its bankruptcy hearing, so the biggest non-fool was Vince. Wait, why am I wasting time? I only have 4000 words to tell you that this is the greatest wrestling show in the history of time, so let’s just do it!

-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, who had taken over for Jerry Lawler one month prior when Lawler quit the company. He quit in protest because WWE fired his girlfriend, the one who three months later ran off with an indie guy and publically disgraced “The King”. Boy, you can imagine THAT was embarrassing.

-No America the Beautiful or national anthem. Given the events that occurred five months later, do you really think WWE is a patriotic company, or just cashing in on jingoistic trends? You can guess my point of view.

-We start with the IC Title match, as Chris Jericho defends against then-commissioner William Regal. Jericho besmirched Regal by peeing in his tea, so Regal besmirched him back by kicking the snot out of him. That’s exactly how Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard got started.

-I miss the days before Regal discovered tanning, when every babyface opponent he had would light him up with chops just to redden his chest. Hunter can try that now with Sheamus, to see if the chest will match the hair.

-A lot of fan pinfall attempts, which leads one to think that this isn’t going to be a very long match. Everybody get your stuff in now!

-Regal slams Jericho into the exposed turnbuckle a couple of times, but Jericho basically shakes the pain off and hits the run-up enzuigiri. Of the eleven matches on this card, I think this is definitely the best opener choice. You can cut it short, and nobody gets upset about it. It’s also two pros that can bring the massive crowd to life in the early going, so good choices all around.

-Jericho lands a lionsault and remembers that his shoulder’s supposed to be hurt before covering Regal to keep the gold. Good seven minute opener that did what it had to do, and we’re off to a good start.

-Shane McMahon arrives in a limo. Forget Triple H and Stephanie, is Shane the biggest Jericho hater in the McMahon army? He can’t even show up in time for his match on the biggest night of the year, and he owns STOCK in the company!

-Next up, in a moderate “Get everybody on the show” attraction, Tazz and the APA take on Right to Censor members Val Venis, The Goodfather, and Bull Buchanan. Remember when Bradshaw used to have to get heat with his patriotic Texas boy suck-up rants? He has to namedrop Nolan Ryan here to get the crowd behind him, even though he’s fighting three tools in dress clothes who want to get rid of sex and violence. Tough times for JBL.

-Match is basically just an exhibition to keep the crowd noise on life support as we progress into the bigger matches. The only real spot of note is Tazz missing the top rope on a whip because he’s about 4’7”. Tazz can speak in that angry voice all he wants, but I still laughed.

-Bradshaw finishes a quick one with the Clothesline From Hell on Goodfather. At least the faces won, which keeps the fans happy. Can you believe that on the face team, you have a WWE Champion, WCW Champion, and ECW Champion? I couldn’t believe it either.

-Just a quick side note: the greatest character in wrestling history is comatose Linda McMahon. Seriously, she’s so lifeless, how does she DO it? Oh, that’s just how she really is?

-To give the crowd a violence appetizer before TLC later, Raven defends the Hardcore Title against Kane and Big Show. This is notable because Show’s late getting to the ring, and JR goes on a worked-shoot tangent about how Show can’t make a living off of potential, that he has to get it done in the ring. Man, when a guy who’s known for making barbecue references in every third sentence calls you a lazy mook, then maybe you should get ye a treadmill.

-After brawling backstage through the sea of people, Kane and Raven keep the tempo alive while Show sulks behind. Alright, JR, you were right.

-Show tries to lock himself and Raven in an enclosure, but Kane just rips the door off. Hey Show, if Kane can tear off the Hell in a Cell door, this should be a cinch. For a bonus, Kane throws Raven through a window. That’s enough to earn Kane the Mike Mizanin “I Came to Play” award.

-Then comes the golf cart chase, as Raven tries to drive off and he and Show barrel into the chain link fence, then Kane follows with the referee and proves to be a smooth driver, not unlike Mike Myers in the original Halloween. Then he runs over Raven’s leg. Well, ouch.

-Finally, Raven gets put out of his misery when the fight spills back onto the stage, and Kane kicks him and Show off through a side platform. Then Kane leaps off and covers Show for the win and the title. It seemed like it was just going to be filler at first, but it turned into quite the exciting little match. I enjoyed it.

-Kurt Angle’s too busy watching a match with he and Chris Benoit to have seen Raven’s effort in the last match. Well, that’s just selfish. Also, The Rock arrives now, just to spite the undercard. Screw Bull Buchanan, who’d he ever beat?

-Up next is the European Title, as Test defends against Eddie Guerrero. Hoo boy, is this match just plain creepy now. At least Perry Saturn’s hat cheers me up.

-Eddie does what he does best, and he sells for Test and his power display. Question: Why do we refer to Eddie Guerrero as “Eddie” but Chris Benoit as “Benoit”? Is it because “Guerrero” is too complicated to spell for some people? It’s a surname, for chrissakes, let’s just learn it. GUERRERO does what he does best. There, I broke the habit.

-Now to spice things up a bit, Test gets his ankle caught in the ropes, and they have to spend 60 seconds figuring out how to free him, getting a big ovation when they finally do. It’s the biggest pop Test got post-1999, so it’s definitely a banner night for all.

-Dean Malenko runs out to speed things things along, since he wants to see the Benoit/Angle match, so he helps Saturn distract Test, allowing Guerrero to hit Test with the European title for the win and the gold. Decent match, but just was there to get everyone involved. First heel win of the night.

-Mick Foley promises to call tonight’s Vince and Shane match right down the middle. Yeah, like Mick has a reason to be biased against Vince.

-Now for something a little more serious: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit in a straight up one on one match. This is the first time in WWE history that I can recall two men doing the mat-wrestling stalemate sequence to begin a match, and getting a tremendous ovation for it. I like the story here, as Benoit keeps scaring Angle with the Crossface, and Kurt’s nerves lead to him falling into other Benoit moves. The psychology’s always sound with these two.

-Angle takes control, dominating Benoit on the outside and then pummeling him with suplexes inside. They were really beginning to get Angle over as a mat machine, you know, before he and Austin became unlikely best friends. Badges?

-Angle gets his belly to belly suplexes, and Benoit comes back with the rolling Germans. I think we have the first match of the night candidate. Sorry, Raven and Jericho, you’re out of the running.

-Now for a staple of WWE at the time: mind-screw submission holds, as Benoit applies Angle’s own anklelock, and Angle manages to get his own version of the Crossface. Crowd’s enjoying themselves too. Maybe there’s hope for Daniel Bryan yet.

-After a ref bump, Benoit gets Angle in his own Crossface, and Angle of course taps without an official. Story of Benoit’s life. As Benoit goes to maybe blow a snot rocket on the dead ref, Angle gets an Angle Slam for 2. After Benoit gets the diving headbutt, but when Benoit tries for a German, Angle goes low and gets a complicated rollover to win. Great match, and it told the characters’ stories to a tee: one is great, but the other is greater when he cheats. I’m enjoying myself all over again.

-Psuedo intermission segment where the following happens: Kamala destroys Regal’s office, footage is shown at the Fort Hood rally (RIP to those who perished in the recent shooting), and Benoit beats up Angle backstage and makes him tap.

-Ivory defends the Women’s title against Chyna, and since I have disdain for both performers, let’s just say that Chyna dresses like some demented version of a Bratz doll and beats Ivory in three minutes to win the title. Remember when Chyna said that belt was beneath her? So do I. She’d be gone within months to realize her true calling: incomprehensible walking meltdown for the Howard Stern fringe crowd. Always good to see someone realize their potential.

-Vince promises that tonight, we’re going to get “shocking”. I hate it when he promises surprises. He’d be a great evil dad in horror movies, though. “You wanna go for a ride? I’ll take you….for a ride….heh heh heh heh….”

-So it’s Vince and Shane in a street fight, which began when Shane defended Linda’s honor after Vince cheated on her publicly with Trish. Stephanie sided with Vince because of the whole Elektra complex. Shane then bought WCW before his dad could, just to show that he could run something as doomed to fail as the XFL. Foley’s the ref, just because. Linda’s in a wheelchair doing her best acting over. Trish is here too. Got all that?

-Shane gives a shoutout to his WCW homies in the skybox. LANCE STORM! HE FINALLY MADE IT TO WrestleMania! I wonder if he’s writing down notes on how horrible this show is. He’s like Comic Book Guy with a six pack.

-The brawl spills to the floor, where Shane bashes his dead with a metal sign, and then some SICK shots with a kendo stick that was under the ring. Good God, can Vince take a beating or what? Say what you will, but in these matches, he seems to have some sort of endurance level that can’t be obtained by mere mortals. I mean, Shane is just PASTING him, not even holding back. I’m loving it.

-Know who’s needed in the skybox? Ted Turner, just so he can mark out TOO hard when Shane beats his dad with assorted weapons. That would be a hallmark moment.
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-By the way, Heyman’s unabashed devotion to cheering Vince is insanely funny, and it sounds like the ranting of someone who desperately needs money. Funny because it’s true.

-So Shane wipes out through the Spanish commentary table as Stephanie pulls her dad off of it. Shane gets to play dead for the next five minutes or so as Trish brings Linda out in the wheelchair. Now comes the fun stuff.

-Trish slaps Vince to signal a face turn, and then she and Stephanie get into a fun catfight that Foley tries to break up. Scrooge. Trish finally chases Steph to the locker room, and that’s when Vince spots Linda at ringside. His mouthing of a certain obscenity is a great moment.

-Vince smashes Mick with a chair as Foley tries to get Linda to safety. He brings Linda inside and sits her in the corner, so she can watch as he punishes Shane further. After landing a couple trash can shots, Vince gets cocky before doing the third, and is oblivious to Linda standing up (to a CRAZY pop). Vince turns and she kicks him right in the Genetic Jackhammer. Then Foley beats Vince up, and then Shane lands the Shane Terminator (corner to corner dropkick, into a trash can into Vince’s face) for the win. THIS is the template for “overbooked crap” that we need more of. Just insanely fun stuff, and it still holds up even today. Hell, the whole SHOW is holding up.

-Backstage, Undertaker warms up for his eventual match by shadow boxing. That’ll work off the pork rinds if you do enough of them.

-In case that the last match wasn’t enough of an insane spotfest, here’s something to take things up another notch: the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match between Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian. Difference between this and last year is that this year, there’s no crappy show to have to kick into high gear.

-Much like last year, they get the poetry in motion and the Wazzzzzup drops out of the way, just to get to the bigger stuff in a flurry. I wholeheartedly support this idea.

-Here’s a sick one for you: both Hardyz slide into a ladder, knocking the Dudleyz against the guardrail. I have to say, the dark sky peeking in through the dome makes it feel like that this match is taking place at WrestleMania VI. I’d love to see the Rockers, Harts, and Demolition in one of these matches. Crap, I just blew my own mind.

-“D-VON…..GET THE TABLES!” And with that, a two wide, two high stack of four tables is set up in the aisleway. Anyone else think they’ll get used? I do.

-And just like last year, all six men climb a set of three ladders for a race-spot, and all six men tumble off in painful fashion. It was times like this when WWE really knew their audience.

-To add a new wrinkle to this year’s match, all three teams have an ally that makes his or her presence felt. As Edge climbs to get the belts, Spike Dudley runs in and nails him with the Dudley Dog. After Spike gives Christian one as well, Rhyno comes in and accosts Jeff Hardy on behalf of E&C. Then Edge tries going up again, and Lita runs in to pull him down. Jim Ross utters “Lita….jerkin’ Edge off” and then pauses before saying “the ladder!”. I’m immature, I know, but what are you going to do about it?

-Lita creams Spike with a sickening chair shot and then removes her top, just get hit with 3D. Anybody else miss her protruding thong?

-Jeff decides that now is a good time to be insane, as he uses the painter’s ladder to Swanton off and put Rhyno and Spike through at ringside. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.

-Then with Bubba and Matt on another painter’s ladder, Rhyno shoves it, sending both men flying through the table tower in the aisle in what I feel is the greatest table bump EVER. Prove me wrong, readers.

-Finally, Edge prevents D-Von from climbing, and Rhyno lifts Christian in an electric chair lift, pushing him up the ladder so that he can grab the belts for the win. Off the charts insanity that topped last year’s match, and the truncated length definitely helped. Great effort from everyone involved.

-Howard Finkel (#17!) announces the crowd at 67,925 which makes me feel all nostalgic for 1990 and WrestleMania VI. Then Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” plays. Well, that ruined the feeling. Still, it’s Fred Durst’s best song, so huzzah.

-And now for the gimmick battle royal, with Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan returning to do commentary. The participants are The Bushwhackers, Duke Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, Doink, The Goon, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael PS Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbeldy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, and Sgt. Slaughter. Somewhere, RD Reynolds had a tear in his eye. And it wasn’t because he knew he’d one day employ Blade Braxton.

-What follows is three minutes of bad brawling, but who cares? It was FUN. Sheik finally wins it after dumping Hillbilly, and then Slaughter runs in to apply the Cobra Clutch on the winner. Watch out Slaughter, he’ll do a Youtube shoot on you for that one.

-Hooray for the patron saint of camelclutchblog.com. YOU VILL BE HUM-BELLED!

-MOTORHEAD! Sure, Lemmy can’t do the words to Triple H‘s theme right, but it’s ok. Chill-inducing rendition of “The Game”, as we lead into the semi-main event of The Undertaker and Triple H, streak vs. nostrils. The feud featured Hunter’s most bad ass moment ever, when he took Taker down backstage, put a chair over his throat, and then sat on it while taunting him. Good stuff.

-Spanish announce table #2 goes in a hurry, thanks to HHH. Good to see Hunter keep his dad-in-law’s pro American stance alive.

-Back inside, after a SMALL ref bump, Taker is pissed when Mike Chioda counts slow, so Taker simply destroys him and knocks him out. With an elbow drop. For 10 minutes. If you heard two sounds of gunfire at this point, that was tranq darts being fired at Cornette backstage and Storm in the skybox. Just shut up, you two.

-The two men then brawl through the crowd and over to the production tower, which is a unique situation for a wrestling match. The two men fight in there, and Undertaker proceeds to chokeslam him out of it. SICKNESS! Well, until they show the replay, where Hunter landed on about 7 feet of padded foam. Eh well, looked nice at first.

-Back to the ring after the extended crowd brawl, and Chioda is still out. That was some elbow drop.

-After some tomfoolery with the sledgehammer, Taker is unable to connect after a low blow. Then to get all nostalgic, Taker lands a tombstone for 2. CHIODA’S ALIVE! I’m relieved.

-Taker then tries for the Last Ride, but Hunter grabs the sledge and bashed the Dead Man’s scalp on the way up. He busts him open, but it only gets 2. Hunter then tries to punch Taker in the corner, but puts himself in position for his Last Ride to make Taker 9-0. Really great brawl, as you’d expect from these two. Ten matches in, and I haven’t even stopped for a piss break. And I’m watching this at 11 PM at night, with work the next day at 1 PM. Ya rly!

-Austin-Rock highlight package set to “My Way”. Austin said he HAD to win this match. Question is, just what will Austin do to ensure victory?

-Crowd is 80-20 in favor of Steve Austin, who is the home state hero. The Rock was the WWE Champion, and you wondered how they were going to end this. I’ll bet nobody watching guessed it right.

-Finkel did announce that it was no DQ, which is apparently shocking. You mean after a match where Taker flagrantly beats up the referee, they just threw the rulebook out? Absurd!

-Both men slug it out early and they bust out the classic moves, namely Austin with his Thesz press and middle finger elbow. You can sense the desperation from Austin here.

-They brawl into the crowd, like everyone else has done tonight. I think even Finkel and timekeeper Mark Yeaton went over the railing at one point.

-Austin dominates in the early going, which is consistent with the “I need to win” motif that he has, believing that it’s all over for himself if he loses. It’s those subtle character hints that WWE does better than anyone else. Are you listening, Dixie?

-Austin gets a superplex for 2 and then removes the turnbuckle pad, but Rock comes back to shift the momentum. They fight to the outside and Austin busts him open with the ringbell. Austin’s not going down without a fight.

-Austin works the cut as much as he can, and brings Rock back in to try and bash him into the exposed buckle, but Rock blocks and fires with lefts and rights to stop Austin in his tracks. After the two men jostle for control, it’s Austin who, ironically, eats the steel buckle. Then Rock repays him by waffling him with the ring bell. Tremendous, cerebral stuff, with a big time feel.

-With Austin now bleeding and Rocky now firmly in charge, the champ works the open cut and both men are fighting to stay alive. On the outside, Austin shifts the momentum yet again and slingshots Rock into the post, before bashing him with a TV monitor. At this point, the eventual winner was still not evident.

-Austin tries for a Stunner, but Rock takes him down and slaps on the sharpshooter. Reminiscent of four years earlier, Austin is bloodied, but will not give up. Austin uses the ropes for escape, and then wraps Rock up with his own Sharpshooter. The implied one-upsmanship on display here is incredible, and is a testament to both’s men abilities.

-Austin manages to get a Million Dollar Dream, but Rock uses the Bret Hart pushoff counter to get 2. Then Vince McMahon comes to ringside. But….but why?

-Rock takes down Austin with a spinebuster and then lands the People’s Elbow, but it only gets 2 when….Vince breaks up the pin? This was all so fresh and baffling. Why would Vince be helping Austin in the World Title match?

-Then after Austin lands a Rock Bottom on its owner, he gets 2, and then gives Rock an emphatic low blow. Then Austin….requests a chair from Vince? Vince….obliges?

-From here, Austin and Vince proceed to double team Rock in a truly surreal sequence. After Rock manages a kickout, he gives Austin a Rock Bottom, but Vince prevents a count. Rock pulls Vince into the ring, but Austin stuns Rock, getting only 2! AMAZING.

-Now we get the big finish: Austin destroys Rock with chair shot after chair shot while Vince barks out encouragement. In all, Rock takes about two dozen chair shots to the chest, gut, back, and hips as his body just simply gives out and Austin pins him to win the title. Austin and Vince celebrate with a beer, a handshake, and then Austin lays out Rock with the title to pull the trigger on his shocking heel turn. Excellent match to cap off an excellent show and, although the heel turn proved to be ineffective, the concept was interesting, and it added a new dimension to the character’s psyche: Austin felt his end was coming soon, and he had to do everything he could to hold his main event spot to prevent becoming an afterthought. Brilliant idea, but it just didn’t work.

-Limp Bizkit plays us out of here with a beautiful montage to “My Way”. I have to say, that might be my favorite WrestleMania song ever. And I HATE Fred Durst!

-CYNIC SAYS: Ho. Lee. Crap. I don’t think Vince McMahon, even with a perfect roster and a huge wave of momentum, could ever top this show. It was perfect from start to finish, and everything had a purpose. Those purposes were thusly served to perfection. Four matches you could make an argument were four stars are better: the technical masterpiece (Benoit/Angle), the wild soap opera (Vince/Shane), the insane spotfest (TLC), the mano y mano brawl (HHH/Taker), and the battle of the larger than life immortals (Rock/Austin).

This show is regarded as the end of the Attitude era, but what a way for it to go out. WWEE has not seen heights like this since, and although it may again one day, it’ll take a lot to convince me that it’s as good as this card. What’s left to say?

Oh, I know.

POSITIVE. FIVE. STARS!

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

BACKGROUND
After two straight WrestleManias in which the WWF held a sizeable lead over WCW in the Monday Night Wars, the Monday before WrestleMania X7 would see Vince McMahon pull the plug for good.

On Friday, March 23, 2001, McMahon purchased selected assets of World Championship Wrestling from parent company AOL-Time Warner, ending WCW’s 13 year existence. After gutting the corpse of talent contracts and the film library, McMahon left WCW for dead, effectively monopolizing the wrestling industry for himself.

On Monday, March 26, wrestling fans were treated to a surreality of Vince McMahon being the first face seen as Nitro hit the airwaves for the final time. Raw and Nitro would be simulcast , with the WWF overseeing both shows. As Nitro came to a close at the 10 o’clock hour, Shane McMahon revealed, in story terms, that he swooped in and bought the WCW entity from under his dad’s nose. The WCW acquisition by Shane would lead to a faux-interpromotional war between Vince’s WWF and Shane’s WCW, which, while highly anticipated by fans the world over, fizzled to an unsatisfying conclusion.

Meanwhile, McMahon’s ill-fated Xtreme Football League was limping to its demise after one lone season, due to poor play, a lack of name players, and generally polarizing publicity stunts.

However, in the World Wrestling Federation, life remained grand. After taking their programming to Viacom in September 2000 (Raw on TNN, Heat on MTV), the WWF was helped along by Stone Cold Steve Austin’s return that month, after a ten months injured.

The main event scene was clogged with the usual pieces like Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Undertaker, while clearing space for the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.

As WrestleMania X7 was built to perfection, few knew that things would change drastically afterward.

THE EVENT
Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble, becoming the event’s only three time winner, and earning a main event match at WrestleMania. The Rock, one month later, would defeat Kurt Angle to regain the WWF Championship, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated encounter between he and Austin, would both men as faces.

The two men did a sitdown interview weeks before the match, giving legitimate compliments to each other, while throwing in some backhanded remarks to heighten the tension. In a curious tidbit that was overlooked by the majority of fans, Austin repeatedly stated that he “needed” to win this match. Austin didn’t elaborate too much on why victory was of the utmost necessity, but the phrasing seemed to be his central point.

Rock and Austin would spend the waning weeks saving each other from double team assaults featuring the likes of Angle, Rikishi, Haku, and others, while using each other’s vulnerable state to plant each other with their finishing moves, as well as lifting the other man’s move (Rock performing the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin the Rock Bottom) to try and gain a psychological edge on the other man.

Although built up as a match of equals with a mutual respect in spite of their over competitive meddles, Austin’s “needing” to win would lead to an unforgettable decision.

Shadowing the main event was an encounter between The Undertaker and Triple H, ten years before they’d face off at WrestleMania XXVII. At this point, however, Triple H was more of an inconsiderate hatemonger, while Undertaker had put his ghoulish attire away in exchange for his biker duds. The story began when Triple H lamented not being in the WrestleMania main event (after beating Austin one month prior at No Way Out). “The Game” claimed to have beaten everyone in WWE there was to beat, drawing Undertaker’s ire.

The two men would exchange instances of brutality over the next several weeks, with Undertaker being busted open with a sledgehammer shot, and then returning the favor by destroying Helmsley’s limo with a lead pipe. Undertaker even had brother Kane hold Stephanie McMahon hostage, threatening to toss her from a balcony, if William Regal wouldn’t give him Triple H for WrestleMania. The commissioner relented, and the match was on.

As mentioned earlier, Vince and Shane McMahon were in the midst of another spat over WCW’s ownership, and the two would sign to face off in a street fight. Mick Foley, whom Vince canned in December, would return to be the guest referee.

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The underlying saga at hand was Vince’s intent to divorce wife, Linda, during a fit of anger in the same time period. Linda was stricken by grief and shock, and lapsed into a catatonic state, resulting in institutionalization. McMahon then began cavorting around with Trish Stratus, while embarrassing her as well at will, and promised to bring wheelchair-bound Linda to ringside for the street fight.

Jim Ross and Paul Heyman (fresh from the wreckage of ECW) would call the action in WWF’s first domed Wrestlemania in nine years. Members of the WCW roster such as Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Stacy Keibler, and others would appear in a skybox as onlookers. Legendary metal warriors Motorhead would also appear, to play Triple H to the ring with his popular theme “The Game”.

THE RESULTS
WWF Intercontinental: Chris Jericho def. William Regal in 7:08
(Jericho lamented this match in his latest book, thinking it was too short, but it served the purpose of getting the show going. Jericho would be repaid for his hard work later, obviously)

Tazz/APA def. Right to Censor in 3:53
(You know what’s amazing? Everyone on the face team can claim a World Title. And two of them became good color commentators, while the other became known for “DAMN!”)

WWF Hardcore: Kane def. Raven and Big Show in 9:18 to win the title
(Insane fun, especially the golf cart chase, as well as Jim Ross’ cryptic remark at Big Show: “Show has all the potential in the world, but you can’t make a living off potential! You gotta get it done!” That means you’re useless, Show)

WWF European: Eddie Guerrero def. Test in 8:30 to win the belt
(It’s depressing that both men are dead, so I’ll just lighten the mood by complimenting Perry Saturn and his awesome furry hat. I want one)

Kurt Angle def. Chris Benoit in 14:02
(The first true technical classic since Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels faced off five years earlier in the Iron Man match, and this one was merely one quarter the length of that. Good wrestling is always welcome in the eclectic blend that is WrestleMania)

WWF Women’s: Chyna def. Ivory in 2:39 to win the title
(If you hate Chyna, fear not: she won’t appear in these WrestleMania portraits anymore)

Street Fight: Shane McMahon def. Vince McMahon in 14:12
(Geez, where to begin? Well, there was a kendo stick, a cat fight between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon, Shane missing a flying elbow through a table, Linda coming out of her pseudo-coma to kick Vince in the nuts, and Shane hit the Van Terminator to win. Overbooked insanity at its finest)

WWF World Tag Team/Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Edge/Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 15:53 to win the titles
(Rarely would a TLC match have its work cut out for it after any match, but Vince and Shane pulled out all the stops. TLC did as well, adding each team’s respective ally (Rhyno, Lita, and Spike Dudley) to up the ante. Next to Summerslam 2000, this is the greatest TLC match ever. All six men would still have greater career heights ahead of them as well)

Gimmick Battle Royal: The Iron Sheik won, last eliminating Hillbilly Jim in 3:05
(Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan were on commentary, Repo Man showed up, and Iron Sheik humbled his way to victory. My cable could have went out after this match, and it still would have won “Best Show Ever” from me)

The Undertaker def. Triple H in 18:17
(That’s nine. Crazy brawl that featured an improbable ten minute ref bump (after a frigging stomp and elbow drop from Taker), but it was still intense throughout. Undertaker also kicked out of a sledgehammer shot, so there were still traces of his zombie gimmick there)

WWF World Heavyweight: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 28:06 to win the title
(And then it happened: a classic back-and-forth war between two of the greatest ever sees Vince McMahon storm the ring and assist Austin in bloodying and battering Rock, leading to Austin winning the title, shaking hands with McMahon, and turning heel. Mind blowing at the time, head scratching in hindsight, the show ended with Austin and McMahon aligned, ending the Attitude Era)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
At this time, the WWF began to use music from contemporary artists as the themes for their pay per views. For WrestleMania X7, Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” provided a goosebump-inducing soundtrack to one of the most dramatic and exciting events in wrestling history.

“My Way” is appropriate, because that’s what Vince McMahon had to do to get to this point. His way brought WCW to its knees and made wrestling mainstream, after all. But on the other blade of the double edged sword, McMahon’s penchant for not listening to naysayers saw him curiously turn Austin heel, sending a shockwave through the industry.

Austin’s neutering into an non-confident, insecure villain, not to mention The Rock’s hiatus to film The Scorpion King, resulted in a WWF that felt drastically different. When Triple H tore his quadriceps in May, and that was followed by the horrid Invasion angle, the WWF had completely lost the aura of “cool” that Attitude afforded them.

As a show, it’s the greatest single event that the WWF has produced from a quality standpoint. The ending, however, is like a black mark on a white wedding dress. It’s glaring ugliness stands out just as much as the quality event.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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