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WWE WrestleMania 2000: Look Russo, A Swerve That Works

-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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Justin Henry

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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