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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 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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WWE WrestleMania 2000: Look Russo, A Swerve That Works

March 23, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Given that Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Sting, and Rob Van Dam are all big parts of wrestling right now, I just assumed that I was living in the year 2000, and that I was done with my review tour after WWE WrestleMania XV. So I was kicking back, drinking iced tea and mentally congratulating myself, when Eric informs me that I’m only 60% done. Apparently, there was another decade of these things that happened, and I’m obligated to finish them all. He didn’t buy my “card subject to change” excuse, and so I’m back to work.

-So journey with me back to April 2, 2000, as we return to the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. WWE was in high gear at this point, running an all-day WrestleMania commemorative PPV to precede the night’s big card. WCW was on the verge of a relaunch, which was their last gasp at trying to turn things around, and ECW was so far in the debt that the bookies who beat up Chevy Chase in Dirty Work were eyeing Paul E. next. So with a loaded roster, many popular characters, and a rabid fanbase in their pocket, it looked like WWE had a gimme here, right?

-To kick things off, Lillian Garcia takes us through America the Beautiful. Had the song had people’s names in it, how many do you think she would have stumbled over? Ten? More than ten?

-The thing with this show is that the entire roster is involved, except for Austin and Taker (both injured), Mideon, Gangrel (both slated for the Hardcore title match, but both injured), and Essa Rios (According to the Bobby Heenan book of jokes, it was some bad enchiladas. Hey, don’t look at me, it’s what it says). So this makes for a VERY crammed card, especially with everyone crammed into nine matches. If wrestlers collectively made up the lower half of the human body, then WrestleMania 2000 is a pair of Kim Kardashian’s skinny jeans.

-To kick things off, The Godfather and D-Lo Brown will take on Big Bossman and Bull Buchanan. In addition to the bevy of ho’s that Godfather has with him at all times, he’s also accompanied by Ice-T, who performs a rap version of The Godfather’s music on the way to the ring. From performing a rap theme about pimping to playing a hard nosed SVU detective in just six months. Who says Ice T isn’t versatile. I still think during this match, Daryl Gates should have whacked T with a chair. COP KILLLLLLLLAHHHH.

-This match has no story, except for maybe the fact that it’s 2 happy pimps and 2 evil cops. This would set the precedent for evil teetotaler CM Punk and loveable junkie Jeff Hardy about nine years later.

-Am I alone in thinking that Bull’s scissor kick was better than Booker T’s? At least Bull didn’t stop and pose while the opponent had to remain hunched over like he had the trots. Bull lands a beaut on D-Lo, and the crowd is wanting a better opener than this. Ah, the perils of putting everyone on the card.

-Not to be outdone, Bossman applies a bear hug to D-Lo. Well, okay, it doesn’t top a scissors kick, but Bossman DID bust out the best move he had in his arsenal at the time. Sad to say.

-D-Lo manages a top rope hurrachanrana on Bossman. Given that Bossman’s involved, I thought that was impossible, even in video games. The fact that he climbed the buckles at this stage of his career astounds me. I kinda thought it would be like Fire Pro where a big man tries to climb the buckle and falls on his back after merely touching the bottom rope. Alas.

-Godfather with the hot tag, who does about a minute’s worth of work before Brown is tagged back in, and he falls victim to the Bossman Slam and Buchanan legdrop to give the keystone kops the win. Not a bad opener, but not a good one, either. Godfather must have the endurance levels of a dialysis patient to only be able to last that long. Godfather and Bull, however, would go on to combat the evils of free expression in Right to Censor just months later. It’s amazing what brings people together.

-Stephanie and Trips admire their belts. If Santino and Beth were Glamarella, what does this make these two? My money’s on Stepha-Nose.

-Up next, a thirteen man Hardcore Title fracas, featuring champion Crash Holly, Hardcore Holly, Viscera, Tazz, the APA, The Headbangers, The Mean Street Posse, and Kaientai. It’s like the unlockables list on a WWE Playstation 1 game. You know, you win the Royal Rumble from the #1 spot with someone like Mankind and you get to play as the Headbangers. Then you’d be so thrilled that you give up playing for a few days to deal with your excitement.

-So the rules are same as scramble match rules, in that there’s 15 minutes and whoever scores the final pinfall or submission is the champion. The difference is that every “interim reign” counts in the record books. Using this logic, in Super Bowl 39, since the Eagles had a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, then they’re former Super Bowl champions! Thank you, Vince McMahon, for helping me justify my faulty logic!

-So, here’s a quick summary of the chaos: Tazz wins it, followed by Viscera, who 70% of the participants don’t attack even though you have to PIN the champ, Funaki wins it, then Taka goes nuts on him, Pete Gas bleeds, Funaki gets chased by everyone (which needed Yakety Sax), The Posse and Thrasher exchange reigns, Tazz gets it back, then Crash, then Hardcore, who wins it off of a botched count by Tim White. Careful, Timmy, Hardcore’s mean to people who make mistakes. Ken Anderson’s been threatened with murder on youtube, and Spark Plugg’s pretty damned serious. Fun stuff, if unfocused.

-Quick note: so Tazz struggled against 12 undercard guys, and then 11 days later, he goes back to ECW and beats the champion in 3 minutes to win the belt, and said champ (Mike Awesome) goes to WCW where he’s pushed. In summary, your honor, WCW sucks hard and I have overwhelming evidence to support my claim. Besides the booking.

-We get a look at AXXESS and a blond haired Undertaker(!!), who was in the middle of his vigorous cheese fries and Old Milwaukee diet that led to his stellar comeback a few months later. For as much as we love Taker now, would you believe how useless he was until about 2006 when he began to work up to his opponents’ level? How soon we all forget. And I LIKE the guy, but man did injuries and laziness take their toll in this era.

-Al Snow is talking to a bathroom stall. And here I was finished with the Terry Garvin jokes.

-Making their WrestleMania debut: Trish Stratus’ breasts. Yum.

-Next, we have Head Cheese (Al Snow and Steve Blackman) vs. T&A (Test and Albert). With about 17,000 fans on hand, this is the most pairs of eyes that have been on something called “T&A” in wrestling history. Yeah, I crossed the line. The Cheesers have a midget dressed as a block of cheese in their corner (Chester McCheeserton) and T&A has Trish. Jeez, Snow even does the job when it comes to his corner people.

-What follows is one of the most bland tag team matches in Mania history, highlighted by the fact that Snow is the only one of the four to have any personality, and he winds up taking an awkward bump from some crappy powerbomb thingy by the hosses. Even Jim Ross can’t defend this match, and he used to try and sell the Ding Dongs as a threat. When Ross gives up on you, it’s time to pack it in.

-Test lands a diving elbow on Snow for the win. Then afterward, Snow and Blackman beat up the cheese midget, which gets the biggest pop of the match. I think Vince wanted to do something artsy and David Lynch-like, so he had a match with a human block of cheese, a hot blond, a man who carries a mannequin head, a team named for female curves, and 17,000 silent onlookers. I’m certain that was in the original draft for Mulholland Drive. I’m done rationalizing this mess.

-The Kat is naked backstage, and oblivious to the camera. Mae Young is clothed and I’m damn happy. Quick, name the five male wrestlers on this show that Mae has outlived! Depressed? Well, ya should be.

-Alright, let’s kick this crap up a notch. The WWE World Tag Team Titles are on the line in a triple ladder match, with the Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian. This is the in-ring Mania debuts for all six men, and expectations were high given the stipulations. Given the lackluster nature of the show thus far, the fans may have let their guard down here. That would change.

-Before we get to the crazy fun of this match, I’d like to point out that Edge’s hat makes him look like an extremely feminine version of Lemmy Kilmister. Christian won the coin toss, and chose the ridiculous Euro-style sunglasses. Good choice, Captain Charisma.

-Whisper in the Wind and the Bubba Butt Bomb come out early. That’s fine, get the routine spots over with. It’s the un-routine stuff that we’re waiting for. Like Jeff landing Poetry in Motion into a ladder onto Bubba Ray. That’s sick spot number one, and I’m gonna quit counting while I’m ahead.

-YEEE-OUCH. Jeff misses a 450 splash on Bubba and crashes on the ladder. This might be the night Jeff may consider a Percocet or two. Or six. Or a hundred. Whatever he can handle. Then Bubba hits a back splash onto the ladder, crushing Jeff. That’s something these two can reminisce about in TNA as they watch Ric Flair throw half speed chops with his pectorals resembling sting-ray wings.

-Christian launches over the top with a crossbody on Matt and Bubba. Me? I’m just waiting for Edge and Matt to slug it out so that can make the requisite jokes that became en vogue in about five years.

-Matt lands a sitout hammer bomb on Edge off of the ladder. There’s not enough there to make a Lita joke, but don’t worry, I’m not blind to trying. Blind is what Matt was when it took him months to realize that Lita was running around with Adam. OOHHH, still got it!

-What makes this match special is that there was no “overbooking” in the sense that nobody was told to focus on getting one guy over. I miss this about WWE: they used to have matches like this and let everyone get their own stuff in to try and shine. That open door made a push attainable for anyone, so long as they didn’t screw up and kept the fans entertained. Nowadays, the office creams over Drew “Chirp Chirp” McIntyre just because he’s tall and looks like Jayson Werth on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Oh, how it used to be.

-All six men are climbing up, and they all get bumped off in crazy fashion. Then the Dudleyz nail Edge with 3D. Then we get 2 ladders with a reinforced table on top as a special platform. Act II begins.

-On the outside, Bubba powerbombs Matt through the Spanish table. Only four matches in? With Essa getting bumped from the show, was Vince on an anti-Latin kick or something?

-Bubba sets up a ladder in the aisleway that Tazz would estimate is about six miles high. I miss Tazz’s math skills. You can see where this is going: the iconic image of Bubba being put through a table as Jeff swantons off of the leader and through him. Remember this moment, because you won’t see it on WWE programming unless Jethro’s back in Vince’s employ. Ah, bitterness.

-Meanwhile, back inside, Matt drops D-Von with the Twist of Fate and then races Christian up the ladders and onto the platform. Edge is right behind Matt and Matt is oblivious to him (haw haw haw), so Edge shoves him off through a table, the brothers Copeland-Reso win their first tag team titles. Incredible match with no real flaws, except for Bubba ignoring the belts just so he can set up a painter’s ladder in the aisleway. It definitely woke the crowd up after a fairly slow start, so let’s hear it for small miracles.

-Linda McMahon’s advice to Mick Foley: “Mick, go get em”. That’s why they call her “One Take Linda”.

-Next up, the only singles match of the night, and it’s between Terri and The Kat. Seriously. Val Venis is the ref. Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah are working the corners. Oh, let’s just get this one over with….

-The only way to win is to throw your opponent out of the ring. I don’t know what’s sadder: the lame way for somebody to win, or the fact that Dean Malenko once lost one of these matches without realizing it. Ah, WCW, you could make ANYONE look stupid.

-So Mae kisses Val and Terri wins after some chicanery. Good lord, you can’t book a clean finish in THIS match? Terri has her pants torn off as a consolation for us having to sit through it. Poor Val. Before the show, there’s no doubt he was begging Vince “PLEASE, can I be in the hardcore clusterfrig? I don’t need to win the belt, it’s ok! I’ll even let Pete Gas hit me with the oscillating fan, just PLEASE?!?!”. I don’t blame em.

-The Radicalz are annoyed with Eddie Guerrero for his fixation with Chyna. Well, isn’t it obvious that Eddie would go for the bulky, shrill succubus with a grating personality? It’s the story of his life.

-So now we have Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero against Chyna and Too Cool. On the morality depth chart, I guess I go with Scotty first and Deano second, but the bottom four? Wow. That’s like a ward at Matawan all by itself.

-Eddie immediately tags out when Chyna comes in. I would have too. Maybe Eddie’s seen The Crying Game, much like I have. If Chyna came along ten years later, she could have played a Lady GaGa role, wherein she dresses like a skank, does it for attention, and no one knows what gender he/she/it is. Actually, that was kind of her gimmick in the first place, wasn’t it?

-Sexay and Scotty have to sell the abuse while Chyna gets to do the damage. No wonder nobody liked her. I marked so hard when Jericho beat her for the IC Title at Armageddon. I remember yelling so loud that I woke my Dad up and he threatened to strangle me. Sixteen year old Justin couldn’t be deterred, however, even if his dad looks like Richard Gere and Mirko Cro Cop had a kid.

-Malenko and Saturn could not WAIT to leave WCW and the horrible mismanagement and politics. Finally, they make it to the WWE, where they’re hit with a double Worm chop by Scotty. That’s like being an immigrant who makes it to Ellis Island and some kid throws a bucket of piss into your face. Huddled masses, indeed.

-Finally, things come to a head with Eddie and Chyna in there, as she lands a powerbomb, testicle squeeze, and sleeper slam for the win. Eddie would later go on to beat Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. So the food chain looks like Chyna > Eddie Guerrero > Brock Lesnar > Randy Couture. Man, Chyna’s in the wrong line of work. Decent enough match.

-Now for a little something different: three more WrestleMania debuts as Kurt Angle defends his IC and European Titles in a two fall match against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho.

-NOTE: In seven of the next eight WrestleManias, I will be reviewing matches that feature Chris Benoit. Some of you may be uncomfortable reading them, and you are free to skip over them in my rants. But, in my opinion, it’s wrong to ignore a part of history, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. I look at it like this: Steve Austin, in 2002, could have been a couple of hard punches and one freak mishap away from killing Debra, scary as it is to say. Wrestling has been full of abusive men and women, and though they’re not murderers like Benoit, it’s wrong to say that they’re any better as people than he was. Everybody has the capacity to kill. Some come close. Benoit happened to. My reviews will be unflinchingly unbiased and provide an accurate account of history, and it is what it is. So there.

-First fall is for the IC Title, and the crowd is beginning to die down a little bit. Sign in the crowd reads “SAVATAGE IS JERICHO”. I don’t know who should feel more insulted, Savatage or Fozzy.

-Really intricate stuff from all three men, who go into each next move without any hesitation or awkwardness. It also features a lot of moves that I miss, like Jericho’s double underhook backbreaker. Now why doesn’t he use that anymore?

-Jericho goes hard off the top into the announce table from a Benoit shove. Looked nasty. Good stuff so far.

-Jericho slaps a hold on Benoit that reminds you to log onto camelclutchblog.com for the best in sports news and opinions, as well as thoughts on American Idol. Thanks a lot, Brett. You don’t see me writing a Dancing with the Stars blog, do you?

-After Angle goes over the railing, Benoit lands a diving headbutt on Jericho to secure the IC Title. Benoit’s theme plays, even though the match isn’t over. Speaking of Benoit and music, how do you think Our Lady Peace felt when they heard about the tragedy? It’s gotta feel weird, for sure.

-Angle begins to get aggressive, having lost one belt without being pinned. Jericho soon takes control with a roundhouse on Benoit and a double powerbomb for Angle. I think it was clear that Jericho was getting one belt, since you can’t have heels take both. It would bury Jericho. Ummm, not that it’s stopped them before….

-The ref is bumped and Benoit snares Jericho in the Crossface, who taps with no ref. Doncha hate when that happens?

-Indeed, Jericho gets the European title with a lionsault on Benoit. Solid match, but it was a bit rushed and too short. Still, can’t go wrong with these three.

-Vince says that tonight, he’s going to make things right. That’s when it occurs to me that what I think is right and what Vince thinks is right are never the same.

-Lemme just run through the next match in a hurry: Rikishi and Kane vs. X-Pac and Road Dogg. Dogg tosses salad, X-Pac rides Rikishi’s face, Tori of DX tosses salad, X-Pac gets tombstoned and pinned, Too Cool and a chicken dance with Rikishi, Kane is wary of the chicken, Pete Rose runs in, Pete Rose tosses salad. Saved you a total of eight minutes of inanity. Tori at least atoned for her crappy match from last year by taking the Stinkface. She is now absolved.

-Quick note: I’m writing this on the birthday of one of my most cherished readers, a Mr. Ron Cosby, who supports my writing as much as anyone. Ron, here’s a shout out for you. That said, the Braves suck. Happy birthday, my man.

-After Rocky cuts the requisite coked up promo, it’s main event time: Vince vs. Linda vs. Shane vs. Stephanie. Wait, no, my bad, that’s just what it SEEMED like. It’s The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show vs. Triple H for the WWE Title, with elimination rules applying. Conventional wisdom says that Rock goes over to win the title. Conventional wisdom, yes.

-Showman brawl kicks things off, as with larger than life characters, the fast paced punch and kick stuff is a sure bet to open any match. At this point, Rock and Hunter were at their peaks as performers, and Mick could still go. Show’s going to impede things a bit, however.

-Well, scratch that. Show just took a Rock Bottom to become the first casualty, not even five minutes into the match. Man, Vince couldn’t have hammered that point in anymore without giving Paul Wight a shirt that read “USELESS AND UNMOTIVATED” on the front. For all the good Show was, maybe they should have gone with Shane as the fourth participant?

-Down to a respectable three, and Rock n Sock beat down Schlock. Sorry, wanted a rhyme and I think the nickname’s apt.

-Now for a semi famous spot that nearly did Foley in: he tries to leap from the top rope through Hunter on the ringside table, but doesn’t get enough push to the dive and falls short, slamming his sterum into the table. That looked so horribly painful, even moreso than his usual blood-bathy stuff. But don’t worry, Mick still made it to Disney the next day! BANG BANG!

-After Rock and Mick double cross each other and slug it out, Foley is victimized by a pair of Pedigrees to end his career. Again. Until 2004. Foley destroys Hunter with the barbed wire 2X4 before leaving, just to make us happy. Well, Mick didn’t decapitate him, but I guess it’ll have to do.

-Mick leaves with a hearty bang bang to the crowd, and Linda claps. See? She CAN display emotion. Sometimes.

-Rock and Hunter remain and, I’m sorry, but proceed to have maybe the most boring match in their entire 2 or 3 years of feuding, and that includes their thirty minute draw at Fully Loaded 1998. Crowd brawling, slow slugging, etc. It’s like they really felt the need to stretch this one out. Sorry, but it wasn’t topping the earlier title matches, which were all insanely crazy and fun and innovative. This is just dragging.

-Shane returns to ringside and smashes his dad with a chair. Didn’t work Shane, he still wants to start that football league with your inheritance.

-As Vince is taken away and bloody, Rock fends off Shane’s interference and takes control on Hunter, with the title in reach. But here comes Vince again! He’s going to get rid of Shane and….hit Rock with a chair? Crowd’s stunned. Rock kicks out, but a second chair shot inexplicably keeps him down for the pin so that HHH retains. Well, that was certainly ballsy.

-Afterward, Rock beats up Vince and Shane, and then Rock Bottoms Stephanie, just for making that stupid face after Vince bashed Rock with the chair. It’s the same face she makes when one of the ring crew guys informs her that the tanker truck full of tapioca pudding is waiting for her in the parking lot. Always a good day for Stephanie.

-CYNIC SAYS: Well, I’ll say this: I hate the ending, but it makes WrestleMania more dramatic these days. You can never rest assured that the babyface will win in the end, because you can say “Well, Hunter won in 2000….” and the ending is left in doubt. So that’s an advantage.

Honestly? I think Vince wanted the shock ending because WCW was pre-empted the next night during the relaunch phase, and he wanted to see if the fans would tune in in droves to see if Rock would try for his comeuppance on Hunter and the gang.

As a show, it had its ups and downs. The ladder match and Eurocontinental match were both great. The Hardcore Title match was fun. The World Title and six man tag were decent. Everything else could have been excised. It was a weird “middling” show in an era where WWE kicked WCW around with ease, but it didn’t hurt them at all. In fact, it helped set up a hot summer that led to many more great shows.

Especially the next WrestleMania on this tour.

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 2000: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 23, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA 2000
From The Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, CA
April 2, 2000

BACKGROUND
If the WWF could be declared winners of the Monday Night Wars just one year prior to WrestleMania 2000, then the current time period would be akin to smashing WCW’s corpse into powder with a shovel. In August 1999, WCW let one of their best talents slip through the cracks, as Chris Jericho arrived in the World Wrestling Federation to much fanfare, almost immediately rising to a high profile level that he never got to sniff in Eric Bischoff’s dwindling circus.

Five months later, in January 2000, after a booking shake-up and a rash of upper card injuries, chaos reigned in WCW at one of the company’s weakest thresholds. In the turmoil, beleaguered man-in-charge Bill Busch granted releases to four men that helped salvage the horrible booking with their in-ring work: Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero. The four men would appear in the WWF two weeks after their exodus, and would be dubbed “The Radicalz” upon entry.

Life was already grand, however, for Vince McMahon. Although Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker would miss this year’s WrestleMania with serious injuries, and with Mick Foley retiring after having one last match at the big event, the WWF still had enough reserve to move forward. Triple H was hitting his stride as the top villain, heading into Anaheim already in his third WWF Championship reign. By his side was Stephanie McMahon, who underwent a curious heel turn in the winter to become Hunter’s conniving wife.

The two formed a power couple, running roughshod over the WWF. As they and the rest of DX thrived, the fans still had The Rock, Foley, tag team sensations like The Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, Too Cool, and a new star in Rikishi (the returning Fatu).

WWF Attitude yet reigned supreme.

THE EVENT
Triple H narrowly survived two encounters with Cactus Jack (one a street fight, the other in Hell in a Cell where he “retired” Foley) to carry the WWF Championship into WrestleMania 2000. The Rock also won the 2000 Royal Rumble, eliminating the Big Show in controversial fashion in the closing moments.

While logic would dictate that Rock vs. Triple H was the sensible main event for the biggest card of the year, that controversial ending would rear its ugly head. Show protested for weeks, using scores of evidence to convince Triple H (running the show after Vince McMahon “walked out”, distraught over Stephanie’s turn) to give him a match with The Rock to determine the true #1 contender.

At No Way Out 2000, Show defeated Rock, after Shane McMahon interfered on Show’s behalf. Rock would work his way back into the title picture by getting yet another match with Show, this time with the seething Vince McMahon himself prodigally returning. McMahon took his own son out, took over as referee, and counted Rock’s pin.

The following week, Linda McMahon came into the picture, supporting Mick Foley in his bid to finally headline WrestleMania, unretiring him for that one night.

So the final picture was Triple H (with Stephanie) vs. The Rock (with Vince) vs. Big Show (with Shane) vs. Mick Foley (with Linda) for the WWF Championship.

While the main event was somewhat tempered by this development (even dubbed as “A McMahon in Every Corner”), the rest of the card shaped up to accentuate the fresh faces.

Kurt Angle, an Olympic gold medalist, had made his in-ring debut in November 1999, and he hit the ground the running. Taking on the persona of an oblivious goody-goody who brags about his accomplishments while being unable to figure out why the world finds him so obnoxious, Angle ascended the WWF ranks swiftly, capturing the European and Intercontinental Titles with three weeks of each other.

A double champion, Angle was given a double challenge for the new millennium’s first WrestleMania: a two fall match. Angle would defend both belts in concurrent triple threat matches with charismatic rock star Chris Jericho, and machine-like sadist Chris Benoit. The three fine technicians would compete for the Intercontinental belt in fall one, and then the European title right afterward.

Also on the WWF’s “must fly list” were three tag teams that were on the cusp of being made true stars. The WWF World Tag Team titles resided with the Dudley Boyz, fairly fresh from a groundbreaking run in ECW. They would be paired together against Edge and Christian, who ditched their “Lost Boys” visage in favor of being self-deluded bro-ski’s, and the Hardy Boyz, who became teen idols for their youthful flair, as well as their daredevil antics.

The match would attempt to raise the bar set by Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon ten years prior: a triple threat ladder match, with plenty of other weapons handy.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler brought the action from ringside, while junior ring announcer Lillian Garcia kicked the show off with “America the Beautiful”. Rapper Ice T was on hand for a live performance before the opening match, while Pete Rose made his third consecutive appearance. Not only did he eat a chokeslam this year, he also ate a stinkface.

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THE RESULTS
Big Bossman/Bull Buchanan def. The Godfather/D-Lo Brown in 9:05
(This might be the most random opener in the history of WrestleMania. I have nothing nice to say about this match, so I’ll just say that the “ho” that resembled Li’l Kim was quite stacked)

WWF Hardcore: Hardcore Holly won a “duration challenge” over Crash Holly, Bradshaw, Faarooq, Tazz, Viscera, Mosh, Thrasher, Taka Michinoku, Funaki, Pete Gas, Rodney, and Joey Abs in 15:00 to win the title
(This is notable for Tim White screwing up the final count (Crash was initially supposed to win), and for Funaki winning a belt. Everybody move your lips randomly………..IN-DEED!)

T&A def. Head Cheese in 7:05
(Two teams with the worst names for tag teams have one of the worst matches that two teams with those names could possibly have. But hey, twas the PPV debut of Trish Stratus. Woooo!)

WWF World Tag Team/Triple Ladder Match: Edge & Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 22:29 to win the titles
(And thus, a new standard was born. Crazy spotfest that was ahead of its time, although repeat matches of its type would blow this out of the water in terms of pacing. Slow as it was in hindsight, it was still an incredible match that elevated six young talents to a new level. See WCW? See TNA? Elevation! And besides, it spawned Edge and Christian’s “reeking of awesomeness”. So we have that)

Out of the Ring Challenge: Terri def. The Kat in 2:25
(What’s worse: Val Venis getting stuck reffing this, or the fact that this was the ONLY singles match of the show?)

Chyna/Too Cool def. Eddie Guerrero/Dean Malenko/Perry Saturn in 9:38
(Eleven years later, in order: a Howard Stern running gag, a burnt out 40 year old Dolph Ziggler lookalike, a forgotten “worm” guy, a dead legend, a fat and retired legend, and a man who was recently homeless. Yeesh)

Two Fall Euro-Continental Title Match: Chris Benoit won fall won over Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho to win the Intercontinental Title; Jericho won the second fall over Angle and Benoit in 13:35 to win the European Title
(And that was the story: Angle losing both belts without being singularly defeated for either. Good match, although Jericho hated it with a passion, as per his new book. Crowd was dead, but it’s Anaheim. You don’t expect fireworks in Anaheim)

Rikishi/Kane def. X-Pac/Road Dogg in 4:16
(Historical note: Tori became the first woman to ever take Rikishi’s stinkface. It was good payback for her lousy efforts one year earlier)

WWF World Heavyweight: Triple H def. The Rock, Mick Foley, and Big Show in 36:28
(An absolute shocker; Vince turned on Rock with two chair shots and realigned with his daughter and son-in-law. The match was WAY too long, and it dragged to a finish that satisfied no one, even if Rock did take out Hunter and the McMahons at the end)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Clearly, with the bizarre booking, Vince McMahon either decided that a good swerve would shake things up, to defy fan expectations, or he no longer feared WCW and figured that such a non-pleasing set of events wouldn’t hurt his company any. In fact, Nitro was pre-empted the following night for retooling, so it seems Vince didn’t fear losing much of his audience.

While WrestleMania 2000 is often remembered for the changeover of talent (those in the ladder and two fall matches, especially), the main event stands out most as the “portrait” of the show. While the wrestlers did the work, it was the McMahons, namely Vince and Stephanie, that took hold of the spotlight.

In a sense, you can’t blame them. It was a self-congratulating moment when Vince embraced his daughter with a hug at the show’s conclusion, but the picture spoke in a clear tone. It said “We run this company, and we dominate this business. If we want to end the biggest show of the year by making the parting shot ours, then we will.”

Sadly, this would just be the beginning of a McMahon “overdose” that would occasionally worsen well after the death of the Attitude era.

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 XV: Plan Nine From Russo’s Mind

March 22, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-So it’s March 28, 1999, and we’re live from the First Union Center in Philadelphia, PA, where tonight…..you know….I can’t do this.

-I can’t sit here and write a positive rant about a show that I abhorred. It took place forty minutes from my house, though I didn’t attend, but I was still looking forward to the first Philly WWE WrestleMania. And it sucked. Bad. Vince Russo’s fingerprints were smeared all over this show and it reeked of overbooked crap. It festers even more so eleven years later, because the Attitude era is over, and most appeal that this show had is long gone.

-So I won’t be reviewing this crappy show.

-SWERVE! I’ll review it, I’m just pulling your chain. Russo executes his swerves about 35 seconds after the initial presentation, so I figured I’d do the same. Seemed appropriate.

-Your hosts are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. Jim Ross was afflicted with Bell’s palsy three months before this show, and his face was still worse for wear. So instead of visual horror, we get verbal horror. To be fair, I’d actually wager that Cole only sucks when he’s with Lawler. Cole was fun with JBL and Tazz, and is doing alright with Josh Mathews now on NXT. Whereas Lawler dragged down JR for a few years until Ross found his temporary groove doing the Rumble matches with Tazz. Makes ya go “Hmmmm”.

-To kick things off, it’s the first ever Hardcore Title match in WrestleMania history, as Badd Ass Billy Gunn defends against Hardcore Holly and Al Snow. Gunn was actually interspersed in the IC Title arc and partner Road Dogg was supposed to be here, but Russo switched them around. You know, just because. Kinda like how he wanted WCW to get rid of the ring. Just because. He still has a job with TNA as of this writing. Just because. I’m going to beat this joke into the ground, Russo-style. Just because.

-Typical hardcore stuff for the time period, including some miscellaneous weapons and a hockey stick from Snow, prompting a “LET’S GO FLYERS” chant. Yes, let’s go Flyers. Let’s lose to the Devils in a year after having a 3-1 lead and watch as Scott Stevens turns Eric Lindros’ brain to horse feed. Ah, my youth was great. Except for having to watch shows like this.

-Hey, a springboard off of the chair onto Gunn in the corner by Snow. C’mon, Al, what do you think this is, a wrestling show?

-Hey it’s table time! Gunn BLASTS Holly with a chair shot, and then hip tosses Snow through the table. The crowd is alive! Wait for it….

-Gunn gets the Fame Asser, but Heatless Holly hits him with a chair and covers Snow to win the title, killing the crowd. Speaking of killing the crowd, remember when Holly and Gunn formed the most boring tag team of all time in 2004 on Smackdown? Neither does anyone else, since no one watched at that point. Match was ok, but nothing fresh.

-D-Lo Brown and Test won a battle royal on the pre-show to earn a shot at the Tag Team Titles against Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett on this show. D-Lo and Test don’t even have an issue here to exploit. At the very least, Test could have said “I’ll bet I have less charisma than Ivory!” and D-Lo could say “Yeah, probably”. Screw it, I can’t think of anything either.

-This is the final WrestleMania for both Owen and Jarrett. Owen, of course, died 2 months later in a fall before his scheduled match, and Jarrett fell off the face of the Earth in October, not having been heard from since. Rumor has it that if you close your eyes and listen close at night, you can hear Jarrett in the distance saying things like “Another reign for me won’t kill the business!’. I beg to differ.

-So sing it with me: argue argue argue, do a move, do a move, argue some more, it’s a douubbbbbble-teeeeeeeeeam, and Owen and Jarrett winnnnnnnnnnnnn! I’m doing jazz hands, but you can’t see them. D-Lo and Test would go on to….not feud. Not making the most out of an angle that began at WrestleMania? Russo, that’s brilliant!

-Highlights of the boxing prowess of both Butterbean and Bart Gunn, as they head into the Brawl for All, and Bean’s last contractual obligation with Titan land. You know, some people look back on the Attitude era with a much more bitter taste, since their natural maturation into adulthood has rendered the childish and piggish elements of this period moot. However, to watch Bart’s trainers in the video say that Bart’s going to win, while keeping straight faces, might shatter the wrestling hilarity scale. I’m willing to make such a scale if anyone’s willing to help.

-Among the judges: one hit boxing wonder Chuck Wepner, former Mike Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney, and the one and only Gorilla Monsoon, in his last major WWE appearance before his death six months later. Miss ya, Gino.

-Vinnie Pazienza is the ref. All of this is kinda pointless, since Bean puts Gunn down twice in 36 seconds, including a MURDEROUS final shot. Goodbye, Gunn. Have fun in Japan. All that’s left to note is that Cole calls Lawler “The Fight Doctor”, thus making him the only doctor in WWE history to never be investigated in a drug scandal. Other scandals, sure, but not drug.

-Mankind talks about his lifelong dream of refereeing the main event of WrestleMania. Calm down now, Mickles, not all of us can be Mike Chioda. Sometimes reaching for the stars only gets your fingers singed off.

-Speaking of the refereeing gig, it’s up for grabs in a match between Mankind and Big Show next. Show was aligned with the corporation, and horse sense indicated that Show would do anything he could to win and then, later, help Rock retain the gold to keep it in the family. Hey, Keep it In the Family, that’s an Anthrax song! Appropriate, since everytime Show comes to the ring, I get physically ill.

-Show was really beginning to slow down at this point, as his last year in WCW was the time where his body started to bloat and his work ethic gave way. Remember when Rock would do those “Well it’s the Big Slow!!!!” promos? Worked shoots, to say the least.

-Mankind manages to lock on the Socko claw, but Show finds an escape with a piggyback and backward dive, crushing Mick hard into the canvas. If Show did that in 2006, Foley would not only be dead, but the first three rows would be splattered by viscera. Not the wrestler, the material.

-Now, with Show in control, you’d think he’d just simply brutalize him for the win, right?

-Well, Show decides to get a couple chairs, set them up in the ring, and chokeslam Foley onto them. The problem? Show was too lazy to bump the ref, and it’s a DQ win for Mick. Vince comes out and demands to know why Show would do something so stupid. My guess is that if Show won, he’d have to work twice, and ain’t no way that’s going to happen. So Vince slaps Show, and Show decks him. See, Show’s trying to get fired so he can collect unemployment! Lazy giant.

-We move ahead to the IC Title match where Road Dogg defended against Val Venis, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust. The other object of affection here was Ken’s gorgeous sister, Ryan. So who got her? Ken did! Okay, they weren’t REALLY siblings, but it’s still funny to think about. Kind of a Carol and Greg Brady thing there.

-Goldust and Val tangle for a bit, as I remind myself that these two feuded over Terri just six months earlier and it’s a forgotten point here. What was the deal with…oh right, Russo writing, gotcha.

-I should note that Blue Meanie is in Goldust’s corner tonight, and is I believe my only facebook friend to ever appear at a WrestleMania. Unless the rumor about Eric Darsie being one of Undertaker’s druids is true.

-This is kind of a weird match, as it’s technically solid, but nothing interesting is happening. You have a huge love triangle thingie going with Ryan involving some of the players here, and it’s all just structured, textbook wrestling. It’s like Orton vs. HHH from WM25, where you had soap opera opportunities out the wazoo and they made it a slow paced 1 on 1 encounter. It just doesn’t work.

-Shamrock and Val take a double count out for the first set of eliminations. I don’t think the feud ever settled between the two, and that this was the end. Shamrock turned face not long afterward, and Val….well, he kinda lost all character momentum. The number of careers that Vince Russo has effected is leaving me incredulous. He’s like wrestling tuberculosis.

-After a mishap involving Meanie and Ryan, Goldust is susceptible to the Road Dogg pin. Know why I liked Dogg? He rarely won matches clean, even as a face. He’d sell for everyone and win either on a fluke or interference from whoever his opponent had a beef with. The opponent always looked like a million bucks for rattling off that much offense on him. And yet, Dogg still remained over because he had the charisma. Brian James never gets his due, and it’s about time that he did. Starting here.

-Meanwhile, Big Show is arrested, which is dangerous when you consider that his plan to collect unemployment sucks if he’s in jail and can’t get the foods that he wants. I’m certain that prison limits you to under three entire hams a day.

-The Triple H-Kane skirmish is recapped, leading to a couple of questions. One is wouldn’t Hunter be happy to be rid of Chyna? I mean, he CERTAINLY was two years later. I wonder how quickly he changed his phone numbers after WWE informed Chyna that she was out the door in 2001. The other is how Hunter was able to obtain Goldust’s costume for when he used the pyro gun on Kane. Why would those two get along? Didn’t Hunter offend Goldust and Marlena two years ago? My brain is frying.

-The San Diego Chicken does a run in on Kane, and gets revealed to be Pete Rose, and Kane destroys him. Geez, Kane, if you’re going to beat up members of the 1980 World Series team, can you beat up Larry Bowa for giving us crappy pitching rotations during his managerial stint? Thank God for Uncle Charlie.

-During the first few minutes of this one, Hunter and Kane have a contest: knee vs. boot. Who can hit more generic moves with their respective trademark body part? I’m intrigued by this concept, and so is the crowd, who are chanting….well, they’re quiet. Must be silent exhilaration.

-Match is just slowing to a crawl. Kane wasn’t in a position yet to open up his moveset, as he really didn’t have one. Hunter was still in a period where he had to be carried by a better opponent, so this “blood feud” is a lot like the last match, where generic wrestling takes precedent over a narrative and flair spots. My biggest gripe with the Attitude era, other than employment of The Insane Clown Posse.

-Chyna’s here. Suddenly, the ICP doesn’t sound so bad right now.

-Kane continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule C: Every heel must try to use the ringsteps as a weapon in a big match.

-Triple H continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule D: Every babyface must counter the ringsteps by causing the heel to hit his face on them.

-Referee Teddy Long continues the common adage of the Attitude era, that being Article 7, Paragraph 2, Section 17, Rule E: Every referee must ignore use of the ringsteps during any match.

-So Chyna comes in with a chair, and anyone with half a brain can see where this is going. Russo, however, was surprised at the development, even though he wrote it. Chyna hits Kane with the chair for the DQ and reunites with Hunter. Hunter’s reaction: “……..great”. Match was a little too plodding, but possibly enough for the coveted award of “Fourth best match we’ll see tonight”. If Kane wins it, I’m iffy. If Dino Bravo wins it, I’m borderline suicidal. For good reason, too.

-Vince McMahon announces himself as guest referee for the main event as Kevin Kelly does a live report. My question: was Vince just hanging around the vacant area? Why would a man of his stature just loiter around random spots of the building alone? Does he hide in corners and question his manhood? Does he need a quiet place to play pong on his Blackberry? WE NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS!

-For those of you who extol the virtues of women’s wrestling and, hell, women’s lib in general and believe that the genders are equal and thus deserving of equal attention, feel free to pretend this next portion did not happen.

-Sable defends her prestigious (HA) Women’s Title against Tori. Not Torrie. Not Torrie Wilson. Just Tori. Not the smokin’ hot Idaho blond with the amazing curves and winning smile. I’m talking about Tori, the woman who looks like Hilary Swank after set the world record for “Holding Most Lemon Wedges in One’s Mouth”. Also, she’s wearing a gray catsuit to hide her manish muscles, and not look out of place against a Playboy Playmate. This is already a bad omen.

-Tori’s first task is to be repeatedly kicked to the floor by Sable, and she does it well. And by “well”, I mean “At least she didn’t sustain an aneurysm from blinking”.

-Sable’s far less motivated than last year, but how can she really be at her best when she has to carry the uncarryable? Sable was nearing the end anyway, as ego would soon drive her out of WWE. I wonder if the implants had to sign a no compete clause.

-Tori can’t even stick the landing on a Sable Bomb cover. It’s like the universal suck of both Bella Twins comprised into a succubus. I’m in awe.

-Just in case I didn’t know I was among the damned, here comes Nicole Bass to beat up Tori. In Hell, if you can’t do a four minute match on the biggest show of the year, you get beaten up by Tony Little’s evil twin. Sable wins, and I’m just glad that it’s over.

-Kevin Kelly interviews the classic five crew of DX before X-Pac’s match. Hunter does all the talking, which should tell you all that you need to know about X-Pac’s promo skills. Or at least WWE’s faith in handing him a mic. Way to boost his confidence, guys.

-So get this: X-Pac’s facing Shane McMahon for the WWE European Title, and it’s the second best match of the night. Seriously. Shane had about 2-3 matches in his CAREER under his belt at this point, and he outperforms at lot of the stiffs that clouded the roster during this period. I think now would be a good time to acknowledge the fact that X-Pac, while a notorious heat seeker, was a tremendous wrestler who could carry lesser opponents to fun matches, even an inexperienced Shane McMahon. Sean Waltman deserves more credit than he seems to get, even from the spotfest loving smarks.

-Shane has Test with him, and Test is wearing Hulk Hogan’s Yappapi strap. WATCHA GONNA DO WHEN A LACK OF CHARISMA RUNS WILD ON YOU?!? So Test works twice and Show doesn’t? No wonder Vince always seemed to like him more.

-Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco try to attack X-Pac during his entrance, and they go down in flames. I realize that by using “go down” and “flames” in the presence of Pat is just opening a can of worms, but what can I say? I work blue.

-X-Pac and Shane exchange shots with the Yappapi strap, which immediately makes it better than the one Hogan and Ric Flair had one year later. I think TNA would be best served to have Hogan and Flair in the rematch on the ten year anniversary of the match, just for laughs. I mean, greatness. Yeah, greatness.

-X-Pac beats up the extended members of the Mean Street Posse outside the ring, and I’d like to point out that X-Pac has beaten up about 8 guys by himself so far. Who says Waltman is lazy?

-Test tries to interfere with a belt shot to Pac, but Shane can only get 2. Test’s further interference results in a roundhouse and a Bronco Buster. 9! 9! X-Pac has beaten up 9 guys! AH AH AH! Speaking of the Count, here comes Chyna, along with HHH. Whenever she comes out, I always count the number of days until I never have to see her in WWE again.

-MEGA SWERVE! Hunter Pedigrees X-Pac, proving that while X-Pac can beat up nine men, one Hunter is too much. I agree, one Hunter IS too much. Shane gets the cheap win to put more heat on himself. Good match, though Chyna’s double double turn still irks me. Because it’s Chyna. And Chyna herself irks me.

-And now, for something you’ll really enjoy. Well, not really. It’s Undertaker and Big Bossman in a Hell in a Cell match. This is notable for Cole pointing out that the cage is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in it. Cole’s voice is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in your throat trying to induce vomiting. True story.

-Bossman was just useless at this point, a one dimensional brawler who served as mid level fodder for the faces to get through on the way up. No shame in that, but in a Hell in a Cell match? Get out. They were better off having a blindfold match. Where the fans are blindfolded.

-Undertaker’s intro to his song is neat, as he urges us to allow the purity of evil to guide us. That was on a pamphlet I received for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

-I can either recap the match, or I can summarize it in one paragraph. Ready? There’s about 2 ounces of blood, a pair of handcuffs break, they punch a lot, Taker’s slow, Bossman’s slower, the crowd is far gone, and I’m falling asleep just TYPING THIS PARAGRAPH. That’s pretty ambitious for a crap match. Way to reach beyond your grasp, gentlemen.

-Tombstone does Bossman in. Afterward, with the help of Edge, Christian, and Gangrel, Undertaker hangs the Bossman from a noose. Cole is so horrified and shocked that, while Bossman hangs, he immediately plugs the main event. That’s just so Vince-ish. No wonder he keeps his job.

-By the way, if you think about it, The Brood are like the Kardashian sisters: Edge is Kim, because he’s the star. Christian is Kourtney because he’s more than serviceable. That makes Gangrel Khloe, just for the teeth alone. Also, because nobody cares.

-And now, to save us from the crap….

-For the WWE World Heavyweight Title, The Rock defends the strap against Stone Cold Steve Austin. When in doubt, rely on the MVPs. I’m banking on it.

-JR! JIM ROSS IS HERE! HIT THE BRICKS, COLE! Jim Ross still looks bad, with half of his face sagging from the palsy, but you know what? Michael Cole suffering a stroke-like condition may actually IMPROVE his quality. As for Lawler, there’s nothing that can save him.

-First, Vince comes out to try and play referee, but Shawn Michaels (then commissioner) has him kicked out. Shawn accidentally encourages Vince to interfere, foreshadowing the ending. Pain pill addictions are not a pretty thing kids.

-Austin and Rock slug it out immediately, as only these 2 can do with such chemistry. The match is fast paced too, with brawling inside and outside the ring. This is better than the “decent” matches earlier that were just holds and moves without story and emotion. For those that criticize Austin’s more simplistic style, I say screw off.

-Austin and Rock don’t even take time for a breather, brawling behind the railing, and Rock finally clotheslines Austin back to ringside. Any brawl that’s spirited is automatically great. Spirit of any kind in a main event is always welcome. I’m just looking for ANY silver lining now.

-But no, it’s not over as Austin and Rock brawl up the aisle to the entrance way, and include it as a part of the match. Rock takes a hard shot into the giant logo, but Austin gets backdropped with his leg hitting a motion light, and it didn’t look planned or pretty. Good intensity so far.

-Rock takes JR’s water and spits on Austin’s face. Can you get Bell’s palsy from that?

-Austin puts Rocky through the Spanish announce table with 2 elbow smashes, and the fight continues inside, where Rock works the leg. Booo, not during THIS match. Keep the wrestling crap for the undercard! Wait, did I just agree with Russo? GAH!

-Rock Bottom gets 2, so the champ gets himself a chair. Austin gains possession of it after a skirmish and swings, but Rock pulls Mike Chioda in harms way, and Chioda’s dead. Speaking of dead, suicide enthusiast Tim White takes over. The segues don’t just write themselves, for those wondering at home. Rock only manages a two count on Austin after a chair shot, so Rock gives him Rock Bottom. That’s two down. Austin turns and lays out Rock with a Stunner, but no ref! Earl Hebner runs down the aisle like a madman and slides in, but only gets 2. Crowd is REALLY sinking their teeth into this one.

-Rock goes low to turn the tide, and here comes Vince again to lay out Hebner. If you’re Bret Hart, who do you cheer for there? Rock and Vince double team Austin, and here’s Mankind, clutching his ribs, to run in and drive Vince out. Foley takes over officiating, as was stipulated earlier. Wow, WWE’s abiding by their own rules! Banner day for all! Russo, that IS brilliant!

-Rock manages to land another Rock Bottom, but misses the Corporate (People’s) Elbow. Austin tries to stun him, but Rock tries to Bottom him out, but Austin elbows his way into a Stunner for the win and his third WWE Title. Incredible match that at least put a good ending onto a crappy show, giving us something to hold our heads high to.

-Afterward, Austin caps off a year of feuding with Vince by destroying him with a Stunner and celebrating with a few beers alongside Mick. At least the show ended on a good note. Not all WrestleManias did. In fact, there’s one coming up that’s of that ilk….

-CYNIC SAYS: WrestleManias 14 and 15 are a tale of two cities for sure. 14 featured a ton of organization and all of the right winners. 15 was a muddled mess of random swerves for the sake of swerves, boring action, and an indication that some aspects of the Attitude were in need of an overhaul. WWE was still crushing WCW by a wide margin, but had it been close, this show may have given WCW some momentum. You know, if WCW had a clue as to what they were doing.

When Russo left by year’s end, the WWE experienced an upswing in quality and continuity, and it led to one of my favorite periods in wrestling history. If that meant that shows like this would be fewer and farther in between, with an interest in long term booking and more compelling characters, then I was glad to see Russo go. Over ten years later, and this show hasn’t aged any better.

Check out the main event and maybe the European title match, but the rest is for the fearless.

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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