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WWE WrestleMania X8 – Even The Rock Booed The Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Taker punching. Taker punching. Taker punching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-And now, the death march commences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s go with that.

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

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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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