This was supposed to be up last night, but the stupid website was down until about an hour ago. Bullshit. I’ll have to post Day Twelve tomorrow instead.
For one last Tales of Wrestlemania, we might as well look at the guy whose name is synonymous with the show. Shawn Michaels, who calls himself “Mr. Wrestlemania” has a ton of Wrestlemania appearances and it makes for a good synopsis of his storied career.
Wrestlemania 5: He and Marty Jannetty lose decisively against the Twin Towers.
Wrestlemania 6: He and Marty lose another match, but at least it’s because of cheating.
Wrestlemania 7: Finally, he and Marty win a match.
Wrestlemania 8: Michaels is on his own as a heel, managed by Sensational Sherri. The commentators can’t stop talking about how Michaels is destined for the Intercontinental Championship.
Wrestlemania 9: Michaels is now the Intercontinental Champion as predicted. He keeps his title despite losing his match. Also, Sherri is now out to get him.
Wrestlemania 10: Michaels starts going down the road of being a dick, which is what ultimately causes the ladder match against Razor Ramon for the undisputed Intercontinental Champion. Michaels loses the match and the title.
Wrestlemania 11: A year after the ladder match, Michaels has moved up the ladder and gets a world title shot. It isn’t the true main event and he does lose, but he’s made it this far.
Wrestlemania 12: Take two! Half of the show is dedicated to Michaels winning the belt off Bret Hart. When he wins, he continues to be a dick towards Bret.
Wrestlemania 13: Speaking of being a dick to Bret, he ducks out of wrestling at the show and dropping the title to Bret because he lost his smile. Still shows up with a big intro anyway and commentates the main event. Puts over the Undertaker huge, even though they haven’t met in the ring yet.
Wrestlemania 14: His back is messed up and he has to retire. He drops the title to Steve Austin, though there are rumors that he was reluctant to do so. He steps away from wrestling for the most part and the Attitude Era begins.
Wrestlemania 15: Just because he can’t wrestle doesn’t mean he can’t make an appearance. He appears prior to the main event to tell off Vince McMahon with threats to take him down physically if need be.
Wrestlemania 16: Michaels is relegated to just showing up for Fan Axxess and signing autographs while one overzealous fan yells at the camera that they should bring him back. He vanishes from the scene for the next two Wrestlemanias.
Wrestlemania 19: Michaels has made a shocking recovery from his back problems and is back in the ring. He’s no longer the young up-and-comer. He’s now the veteran, facing Chris Jericho, who is essentially the younger version of Michaels.
Wrestlemania 20: Swerves his way into the main event title match, but it isn’t meant to be. He loses without being involved in the finale.
Wrestlemania 21: Wrestles Kurt Angle in what is essentially callback to Wrestlemania 12. Angle is angry that Michaels’ 1996 showing trumped him winning a gold medal.
Wrestlemania 22: Michaels faces Vince McMahon and destroys him in an angle that could be portrayed as Michaels destroying a representative of what kind of man he used to be.
Wrestlemania 23: Michaels goes to the main event against the champion, but Michaels doesn’t win. At his level, he no longer truly needs the title.
Wrestlemania 24: Defeats Ric Flair and, as part of the stipulation, Flair has to retire. An important landmark in Michaels’ career.
Wrestlemania 25: Puts his own legendary list of Wrestlemania accomplishments against the Undertaker. He fights hard to get to this match, beating JBL and Kozlov for the right, but falls just short of victory.
Wrestlemania 26: It all comes to a head. He can’t let that loss stand. Defeating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania is all that’s left for him to do. If he can’t succeed, he will do like Flair two years before and walk away from the squared circle.
#5) WRESTLEMANIA 10
Date: March 20, 1994
Era: New Generation
Location: Madison Square Garden in New York, New York
Notable Debuts: Diesel, Jerry Lawler, Raven, Mabel, Billy Gunn
Wrestlemania 10 (or X, if you’re nasty) holds a very special place in my heart. Taking place in Madison Square Garden, it is the only Wrestlemania I have ever been to. And it ruled. The big story going in is that Lex Luger and Bret Hart fell out of the ring at the same time at the Royal Rumble. Since President Jack Tunney couldn’t even conceive the very simple concept of a Triple Threat match, he sets up a mini tournament of sorts. Bret Hart would wrestle his angry little brother Owen and go on to the main event whether he wins or loses. Meanwhile, Lex Luger would wrestle Yokozuna for the title, with the winner facing Bret. Both title matches would have special referees for the hell of it.
For so many years, Wrestlemania has been so masturbatory and can’t start a show without talking about how amazing all the previous years have been. This is the show to start that, although it works since it’s the tenth show and they use plenty of class. Gorilla Monsoon would narrate flashbacks for each show by going over one noteworthy moment, which is occasionally related to the next match (especially Bret vs. Yokozuna at Wrestlemania 9). What did he talk about for the abysmal Wrestlemania 8? Uh… Undertaker was there. Yeah, just that. Undertaker isn’t even at Wrestlemania 10.
The pre-match recaps have a style that makes it seem more sport-like. The backstage promos we get from Owen Hart and Jim Cornette – especially Jim Cornette – are pretty fantastic. Then you get a rather odd assortment of celebrities: Sy Sperling gets Howard Finkel a new head of hair, the obscure Rhonda Sheer is all over Shawn Michaels and then Burt Reynolds cockblocks him by stealing her away. One of the New Kids on the Block and one of the 90210 girls are there too. There are some mostly pointless segments where a Bill Clinton impersonator watches the show with IRS and Ted Dibiase, who seem to get along with him. Well, Vince is republican. Even when they show the WWF Fanfest highlights, it’s quick and to the point.
The only real drawback is that they drop a 10-man tag match that was set to feature the 1-2-3 Kid, Sparky Plugg, Tatanka and the Smoking Gunns (Billy Gunn and Bart Gunn) vs. “The Model” Rick Martel, Jeff Jarrett, Irwin R. Schyster and the Headshrinkers (Samu and Fatu) due to time restraints. This is represented by having the heel team shown unable to decide just which one of them is the team leader. Instead, we get a lengthy music video that highlights Bret Hart and Yokozuna beating people up. Hurray!
Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Owen Hart is more than likely the best opener for any Wrestlemania. This match is tense as hell and the two brothers work their asses off. Owen is a mix between bitter (wearing Hitman glasses to the ring and then tearing them up), goofy (celebrating after minor in-ring victories during the match) and determined, as he should be. An early exchange ends with Bret tossing Owen out of the ring. Owen climbs back in and slaps the taste out of Bret’s mouth. From there it’s top-of-the-line mat work. Word is that Stu Hart had them plan out the entire match to a T.
After Bret runs into the corner post, Owen starts working on his neck. The near falls become rampant, as are the hints of who is going to apply the Sharpshooter first. The stalemate takes a turn when Bret drops to the outside and screws up his knee, which has been hurting for months. Owen drops the neck thing and starts working on that knee instead. Figure Fours and Sharpshooters are applied, but eventually reversed. It is weird in a nostalgic way to see Bret tapping his hand to the Sharpshooter back in the days when you had to vocally submit.
Bret stays in the match and when Owen gets on his shoulders, he turns it into a Victory Roll so he can pin Owen. Owen blocks it and locks Bret’s shoulders down mid-move, allowing him the surprise three-count. What’s great is that Owen needed this win to sustain his spot. Bret looks disappointed in his loss, but more than anything else, his knee is still fucked.
As an aside, I’m pretty sure they had been building up to this as the first time Bret and Owen have faced each other in the ring. Yet when they get to the main event video package later on, they do show brief shots of Bret beating on Owen in a match. Probably a house show, but I like how it completely ruins the illusion that this is their first go.
Doink the Clown and Dink the Clown face Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon in a Mixed Tag Team Match. Listen, if the idea of Luna wrestling a midget clown turns you off, then this just isn’t the match for you. Me, I like whenever Dink wrestles (that Team Doink vs. Team Lawler match at Survivor Series is brilliant), so I dig this match. The brief Doink/Bigelow match-ups are good, especially for seeing Bigelow land a dropkick at that point in his career.
The real fun is seeing Dink slap Luna’s ass, run circles around her and then get kicked in the gut. Then she and Bigelow start diving at him and missing. After several minutes of hijinks, Doink misses a Whoopee Cushion, Dink gets knocked off the apron and Bigelow hits a top-rope headbutt. The heels win and totally botch the post-match. Both Bigelow and Luna try splashing at Dink at the same time with the idea being that he’ll roll away. Problem is, he rolls right under where Luna lands and she has to quickly shove him away after the impact and still act like she really hurt herself by “missing” him.
We have a major grudge match on our hands as Crush takes on Randy “Macho Man” Savage in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. The rules are a little more complicated than simply being able to pin your opponent anywhere to win. Actually, you can’t even pin your opponent in the ring! You have to pin them outside the ring and they have a full minute to make it back into the ring or they lose. See, I’d just lure the other guy outside and hit him with a chair, but I didn’t have a match that night.
Savage, who has been boiling for this match, attacks Crush the moment he walks out from behind the curtain. It doesn’t take long for Crush to fight him off and outright destroy him. He does his trademark backbreaker – which the commentators act like it’s a bigger deal because it’s over the concrete – presses Savage in the air, drops him on the guardrail and gets the pin. Mr. Fuji hits Savage in the back with the Japanese flag during that minute countdown. Savage still gets in with just a couple seconds left. Crush gets a handful of salt to use on Savage, only to get it kicked into his face. Savage spins the match around and decisively annihilates Crush. An axe-handle, top-rope elbow and shove to the outside later, Savage pins Crush. The only reason Crush is able to make it back before the count ends is because Fuji pours a pitcher of water over his face.
They battle into the crowd and end up backstage. Savage slams Crush’s head into the door and then pins him. He ties his legs up in wire and suspends him upside down with the idea being that Crush can’t escape and therefore has to spend the entire minute hanging. Unfortunately, the wire doesn’t hold and Crush falls down. He still struggles, as if that wire around his legs is like a beartrap. Savage beats up Mr. Fuji in the ring and comes out the winner. He celebrates his final Wrestlemania win in the crowd.
Alundra Blaze defends the Women’s Championship against Lelani Kai in a fitting pairing. Kai wrestled for the title nine years earlier in the same building for Wrestlemania 1. Lawler acts completely in love with Kai and continues his disgust for Blaze and her Mortal Kombat ninja outfit. Oh, and she gets pyro too! That’s pretty rare for ’94. The mat work is really good on both sides for as short as the match is. Blaze wins with a German suplex with bridge. A group of old wrestlers like Pat Patterson, Captain Lou, Moolah and Mae Young are shown looking on and cheering. Ah, back in the day when Mae Young could be downplayed when on screen.
The Quebecers (Jacques and Pierre) defend the Tag Team Championship against Men on a Mission (Moe and Mabel). This is better that I figured it would be. The Quebecers attack the challengers before the bell, but Mabel fights back with a double clothesline. Unfortunately, they remind us of how 90’s this team is by having the crowd chant, “WHOOMP! THERE IT IS!” Like many MoM matches, Mabel has to play the cavalry role, waiting on the apron for the face in peril Moe to tag him in. Moe still shows off some impressive skill that of course tends to be overlooked because, you know, people only care about Mabel. Then again, we know which team is really behind making this match look halfway decent. The Quebecers pull off a double suplex on Mable and celebrate like they won the titles all over again. Mabel gets back up and responds with a spinning heel kick. Men on a Mission hit the Stacked Big Splash twice, once on each Quebecer. Johnny Polo pulls the champs out of the fray and they book it for a count-out loss. Bullshit ending for a fun match.
The show’s been pretty great so far, but the first title match is going to bring it down a bit. Yokozuna defends the WWF Championship against Lex Luger. Mr. Perfect gets a big pop as the surprise guest referee. It starts off with a back-and-forth slugfest between the two until Lex runs right into a clothesline. They go to the outside and Lex takes the advantage after smashing Yokozuna’s head into the steps. He takes it to him, including a top-rope crossbody, but screws it up by trying to bodyslam him and falling over. Without Perfect noticing, the corner pad is removed. This match is actually looking pretty good.
Then Yokozuna puts a trapezius hold on Luger for a good while. Then he stops so he can chop Lex a couple times. Then another trapezius hold. Then he throws Lex out of the ring. Once Lex gets back into the ring, it’s another trapezius hold! THEN ANOTHER ONE! Jesus Christ! Yokozuna dominates and reverses just about any comeback Lex tries. That is until Yokozuna accidentally runs into the exposed turnbuckle. This match really doesn’t make Lex look good, considering he’s only been able to get a grasp on the match by slamming Yokozuna into metal stuff.
Lex bodyslams Yokozuna and hits him with the metal-laced forearm. That helps prove my point, doesn’t it? Yokozuna’s managers Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji get on the apron, so Lex pulls them in and beats them up. Mr. Perfect isn’t sure what to make of all this and when Lex shoves him to make the count for the pin, Perfect calls for the bell and disqualifies Lex. The two later argue backstage, but I’m pretty sure nothing comes of this situation.
I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but when I saw this show live, the match I was most excited for was Earthquake vs. Adam Bomb. Earthquake was my favorite at the time and I was also a bit of a fan of the Adam Bomb gimmick. It was certainly a step up from the proposed Earthquake vs. Ludvig Borga match that got scrapped when Borga left the company. Unfortunately, the match doesn’t deliver. Harvey Whippleman berates Howard Finkel and makes sure that he’s the one who gets to announce Adam Bomb to the ring. Fink finally snaps and shoves Whippleman. Adam Bomb runs out and gets ready to tear Fink in half. Earthquake comes to the rescue, attacks Adam Bomb from behind, hits his walking powerslam, does the Earthquake Splash and it’s all over in a half a minute. But… But I brought an Earthquake sign and everything! :(
Also disappointing is the commentary after the match. Vince hypes up Earthquake with the suggestion that this guy will definitely be feuding with Yokozuna down the line. That feud does get built up to by having Earthquake defeat Yokozuna in a sumo match on Raw (Quake did some legit sumo before becoming a pro wrestler), but then he leaves the company a few days later. Aw, I just went and made myself sad.
This should cheer me up! Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship! Michaels had been lazy with his title defenses and didn’t have a match for his title for over a month, so they did a tournament for a new champ and Razor won. In actuality, Michaels was going to leave the company for WCW, but didn’t commit. When Michaels returned, he wasn’t happy with Razor being recognized as champ, so we have this match to settle things.
Diesel accompanies Michaels, but gets kicked out by the ref for hitting Razor. Fittingly, Nash would be in Hall’s corner eight years later at Wrestlemania and get ejected for the same reason. Before the ladder is brought into play, we get some good in-ring stuff to start us off. Razor tears the padding off the concrete outside and prepares to do a Razor’s Edge inside the ring, facing right in front of the ropes. That move never happens ever no matter how many times he teases it, so Michaels backdrops him onto the exposed concrete.
Michaels gets the ladder and beats Razor with it. He sets it up and starts climbing. Razor reaches up and pulls down the back of Michaels’ pants. I mention this because Vince, trying to be squeaky clean, refers to Michaels’ exposed ass as his “you know what”. This is the same man who would years later commission people to create a cartoon called “Mr. McMahon and His Ass”, featuring arms growing out of his bare, sentient buttcheeks.
The back and forth action is great with lots of uses of the ladder that still look great to this day. Michaels does a splash off the top of the ladder. He tips the ladder onto Razor’s prone body. Michaels gets Irish whipped into the ladder and later slingshot into it. Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music and follows up with a piledriver. With Razor seemingly out for good, Michaels sets up the ladder over Razor. As Michaels gets closer to the belt, Razor awakens and pushes the ladder over. Michaels gets crotched by the top rope and then gets tied up. He’s unable to get out in time as Razor both climbs the ladder and steals both belts. Then we get the iconic pose of Razor on the ladder, doing his spread-arm gesture with a belt in each hand. I can’t even be sure in calling it the match of the night, thanks to the fantastic Bret vs. Owen. Earlier.
That leaves our main event, as Yokozuna defends the WWF Championship against Bret “Hitman” Hart. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is the surprise referee. Or, as ring announcer Burt Reynolds calls him, “Rowdy” Rod Piper. Bret is selling his match with Owen and his bum knee, so a lot of this match is Yokozuna beating him down. It doesn’t compare to their match a year earlier.
Bret fights back at times and Cornette makes attempts to stop him. Finally, Piper’s had enough and clocks him one. Yokozuna misses an Avalanche into the corner, which Bret capitalizes on with a Bulldog. He jumps off the second rope and gets caught with a belly-to-belly suplex. The match has been pretty good so far, but I hate the ending. I really, really hate the ending. Yokozuna, having just flattened Bret, drags him over to the corner for the Banzai Drop. Yokozuna climbs to the second rope and… loses his balance. Despite this being his finisher of choice for over a year, Yokozuna slips off the rope and falls on his back. Bret moves out of the way real quick and rolls him up for a weak pin. There you have it. Bret Hart proves to be the best wrestler in the business and avenges his loss the previous year because Yokozuna fell over.
Yokozuna chases Roddy Piper to the back. Maybe Piper was meant to hit the rope but missed his cue. Anyway, Lex comes in and shakes hands with Bret. All the other faces, including those who didn’t have matches, come out to celebrate with Bret. Some of the celebrities join in, including Donnie Wahlberg. The DVD edits it out, but that dude got some huge boos. Owen Hart comes out and Savage holds the ropes open as an invitation to come in and congratulate his brother. Owen refuses and just stands in the middle of the aisle, staring daggers into Bret.
Awful way to end the last match; awesome way to end the PPV.
#4) WRESTLEMANIA 19
Date: March 30, 2003
Era: Crossover Era
Location: Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington
Notable Debuts: Rey Mysterio, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin
Wrestlemania 19 is pretty much the most epic Wrestlemania of all time. Even with the majesty of Wrestlemania 3 or the aura of Wrestlemania 24’s environment, none of them feel as strong as the set-up of this show. Why? It’s the card. It’s packed to the gills with top matches. Whether or not they turned out good is another story, but it’s so huge that even with Michaels, the Rock, Austin and Hogan each wrestling that night, NONE of them are in the two world title matches. They’re all being used elsewhere. It’s so full of earned hype that the Undertaker’s match is shown second! That’s crazy.
The show starts off strongly with a beginning montage of wrestlers discussing, “What Wrestlemania means to me.” Considering all the talent on this show, it’s extra cool. Then the show takes a big nosedive with two horrible Limp Bizkit musical performances and a series of near-unwatchable skits involving the Miller Lite Catfight Girls. I always considered it to be a horrible step down that those were the biggest celebrities Vince could land on his biggest show.
At least to help keep things afloat is possibly the best Rock promo I can ever remember. Going with his character at the time, he goes on a rant about how the fans have turned on him since a year ago at the last Wrestlemania. He’s fought Austin twice at the event and lost both times, but all that matters – as he’s learned in Hollywood – is act 3. He goes into how beating Austin will bring a sense of completeness to his wrestling career. It ends brilliantly, with him saying that soon he’ll have done it all. He does his trademark, “FINALLY!” but instead of finishing the usual catchphrase, he trails off for a moment, gets very somber, sighs and says, “Finally…” I get chills every time.
The hot opener is Matt Hardy defending the Cruiserweight Championship against Rey Mysterio Jr. When I mention how important and epic this Wrestlemania feels, it infects this match as well. Usually, the Cruiserweight title is treated like an afterthought in the WWE and while it’s still the lowest ranking, the angle being played tried to push its importance by having Matt Hardy lose enough weight to compete for the title and later win it. Mysterio as the challenger only helps. The two have enough heat to make it feel almost prestigious! Mysterio – who wrestles in a modified Daredevil outfit – dominates most of the match against Matt, in what’s a crisp, fast-paced way to open the show. Matt ends up winning by reversing Mysterio’s West Coast Pop into a roll-up and grabbing the rope to get the pin. If anything, the match is too short.
Undertaker vs. A-Train and Big Show is an odd footnote in Wrestlemania history. Originally, it was supposed to be Undertaker and his protégé Nathan Jones in a tag match against the other two. Problem was, Nathan Jones was so awful in the ring that they had to write him out of the match out of the risk of embarrassment. Prior to the match, they had an angle where A-Train and Big Show roughed him up backstage to the point of injury, making it a handicap match. This at least helps push Undertaker as an underdog, having to fend for himself. To keep things from dragging too much, there are plenty of tags to keep the opposing team fresh enough. It still isn’t the most exciting exhibition to sit through. The end has Undertaker eat a chokeslam from the Big Show. Nathan Jones comes out from the back and Big Show goes after him. Jones hits a roundhouse kick that lays out Big Show, allowing Undertaker to get up and hit a Tombstone on A-Train. It’s the only sane way they could have had Undertaker win without completely burying Show and A-Train.
Victoria defends the Women’s Championship against Jazz and Trish Stratus in a Triple Threat Match next. It’s an okay women’s match, mainly for the talent that Victoria and Trish bring. Also, it has a nice dynamic. It’s rare to see, but I absolutely love triple threat matches where the main face in the match is noticeably smaller compared to the more dominant opponents. They had this once with Shawn Michaels vs. Kane vs. Big Show and it was really well done. Anyway, this match also has Stevie Richards getting involved on Victoria’s behalf, which is always fun. Trish uses Stevie’s incompetence against him and is able to take him out, followed by Victoria. Trish hits the Stratusfaction and wins back the title.
Next up is Team Angle (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas) defending the Tag Team Championship against Los Guerreros (Eddie and Chavo) and the team of Chris Benoit and Rhyno. I always forget about this one, due to how thrown together it appears. That said, it’s a completely action-packed match from beginning to end. This Wrestlemania doesn’t feature a real spot-fest match like all the Wrestlemanias following, but this match comes close with all the fun and fast-paced mat wrestling going on, especially whenever Benoit and Eddie are in the ring. There’s a great spot near the end where Shelton is going for a pin on Benoit and Eddie breaks it up by hitting a Frog Splash on Shelton’s back. In the end, Rhyno hits the Goar on both Charlie Haas and Chavo Guerrero, but is then pulled out of the ring by Eddie. Shelton takes advantage by pinning the half-dead Chavo and retains.
This match reminds me. To show how much talent they had on tap, Kane and Rob Van Dam were relegated to tagging together for Sunday Heat prior to the show instead of being on the PPV.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels is the match of the night. Anytime those two feud it’s magic and this was the climax to the first time around with a feud that’s been brewing since the previous December. Hilariously, Michaels’ attempt at an extravagant intro goes bust, as half of his confetti guns refuse to work. His reactions make up for it. The two tear the house down in what is thankfully the longest match. There’s some good psychology about halfway in, where Jericho gets Michaels with the Walls of Jericho on the outside. He lets go and runs back into the ring. He COULD win by count out, but he has something to prove, so he makes sure the ref doesn’t make the full count. Later, Jericho actually hits Sweet Chin Music on Michaels, but he can’t get the pin, causing him to grow in desperation. Michaels soon after attempts the same move, but Jericho catches it and counters with the Walls of Jericho. Michaels gets out of the hold and despite all the high-level moves being used, Jericho is taken out by a simple roll-up.
To keep his heat and heel status, Jericho responds to the appreciative cheers from the fans by shaking Michaels’ hand, kicking him in the nuts and hugging him before shoving him to the mat.
UNFORTUNATELY, this is followed by the dud of the night. Stacy Kiebler and Torrie Wilson take on the Miller Lite Catfight Girls (Tanya Ballinger and Kitana Baker) in a Pillow Fight. Ugh. It’s mercifully pretty short, but ends with the scene of Jonathan Coachman being pantsed and then rolled up for a pin. By who? I can’t remember. I don’t think anyone cares. This is the only match on the countdown that I’ve rated zero. Next match.
Triple H defends the World Heavyweight Championship against Booker T. This match always puts a bad taste in my mouth. Booker T was built up in a way that Triple H pretty much had to put him over, else he’d look like a complete chump. With Goldberg signed with the company, they decided that maybe Booker shouldn’t win after all, since Goldberg vs. Triple H is a better money feud. Even then, I could understand the situation, but if only the match itself would come off better. The match has a lot to do with Flair and Triple H attacking Booker’s knee, which is vital to all his main moves. Towards the end of an otherwise okay match, Triple H survives Booker’s offense and is able to take advantage of Booker’s hurting knee by bringing him in for the Pedigree. Triple H collapses afterwards and takes his sweet-ass time getting over to pin Booker T. Any other time in a match like this, someone in Booker’s position would kick out due to that long window between the finisher and the cover. Instead, Booker is pinned and Triple H retains. It takes Booker a long time to recover from that, career-wise.
I need to point out that Jerry Lawler does some fantastic commentating in this match. Not only do he and Jim Ross push the drama of Triple H holding Booker in a leg submission hold, but Lawler doesn’t let up with the jokes about how Booker T was arrested. I believe there’s something in there about how Booker continues to pay for things with cigarettes.
Next is a Street Fight between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon. The angle is mostly the debate over which guy is responsible for Hulkamania and to a lesser extent Wrestlemania. There’s an amazing video package that really gives you a sense of the hate between Vince and Hogan, while even allowing you to believe that in some way, Vince stands a chance. It’s a brutal match and every bit better than expected. Who would have thought that such a match would involve Vince freaking McMahon hitting a legdrop off a ladder on Hogan through a table?! The match then gives us a very awesome Vince McMahon image as he slowly peeks his head over the mat – his face covered in blood – and shows a completely deranged smile while brandishing a lead pipe. The ending gets a bit convoluted with Roddy Piper running in to beat up both guys as well as Vince’s special replacement referee Sylvan Grenier getting involved. Still, it ends nicely with Hogan putting Vince away with three legdrops for the sake of giving his win the exclamation point.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock is the third time the two have met in a Wrestlemania ring. What a match it is. Unfortunately, it’s Steve Austin’s final match, but there could be no more fitting an opponent than the Rock. The two seem to genuinely like each other outside of the ring and put each other through Hell by giving their all. There’s some real drama all over, such as Rock putting Austin in the Sharpshooter and the commentators pointing out Austin’s major loss at the hands of Bret Hart. Austin’s final Lou Thesz Press is a thing of beauty, as he starts off going slow, goes fast, then refuses to stop punching. When the ref yells at him, Austin flips him off and continues the beating. The end has them hitting each other’s finishers without being able to put each other away. Rock hits a surprise Rock Bottom, but Austin kicks out. Rock is able to trick Austin into a second Rock Bottom, but Austin kicks out again! Then Rock waits almost patiently for Austin to stumble to his feet with no energy in him to get himself out of the third and final Rock Bottom. Rock finishes off Austin and the place gives them both a standing ovation. Honestly, there’s no better way for Austin to go out than to humble himself before a deserving rival who still has some life left in his career.
The main event is Kurt Angle defending the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Due to Angle’s injuries, they almost called this one off a week or so in advance, but Angle decided that his health and well-being weren’t important. Once the initial mat wrestling goes on for a couple minutes, Angle puts Lesnar in a never-ending series of modified submission holds that slow the match to a crawl for far too long. Lesnar powers out and it becomes Suplex City between the two. There’s one awesome German release suplex that Angle does to Lesnar that bounces him off the mat like a spring to the point that Lesnar lands right on his feet. Michael Cole begins to lose his voice, which in turn makes the match even better! The end is what hurts this match and it’s really, really unfortunate.
Lesnar is able to pull off the F5, but Angle kicks out. He hits a second one later and rather than go for the pin, he attempts a Shooting Star Press off the top rope. If he’s to hit it, it would be a legendary ending to a great Wrestlemania. Instead, he misses completely and spikes himself into the mat head-first. If he wasn’t all neck, he’d be paralyzed or worse. Angle tries to pin him, but Lesnar decides that he’s going to continue. He picks up Angle for one more F5 and gets the win. It’s messed up to see how puffy and red his face gets from the accident while Angle angrily asks the ref about what the fuck is going on. That certainly could have gone better.
Enjoy the show tonight and join me tomorrow for the top three.
Day One (#25-24)
Day Two (#23-22)
Day Three (#21-20)
Day Four (#19-18)
Day Five (#17-16)
Day Six (#15-14)
Day Seven (#13-12)
Day Eight (#11-10)
Day Nine (#9-8)
Day Ten (#7-6)
Day Eleven (#5-4)
Day Twelve (3-1)