Better late than never, I guess. For those of you who haven’t read up on the site in the past few days, I hit a snag on writing this entry thanks to a mixture of fatigue and sickness. The lack of sleep even led to some actual paranoia where the slightest sensation in one of my legs or arms would lead to my frantic belief that I was suffering a heart attack or diabetes or whatever. Anyway, I got over all that, but it completely killed my writing momentum. Now it’s time to right that wrong.
People have been wondering about Wrestlemania 26 and how it ranks on the list. I have a lot on my plate as it is, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. A lot of the matches were simply good or pretty good, but not great. The main event is phenomenal and I’d consider it better than Wrestlemania 25’s Michaels/Undertaker match. Batista/Cena is pretty good, outside of the completely cookie cutter ending. Vince McMahon vs. Bret Hart is not only horrible, but I can definitely say it’s the worst male match at any Wrestlemania. I’d even rather watch Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales.
Using my rating system based on how I remember liking each match, it ends up ranking at #11 1/2. It’s worse than Wrestlemania 14, but better than Wrestlemania 21. Though to the show’s credit, it did help lead into this.
And the world has been a better place since. Thank you, Jack.
#3) WRESTLEMANIA 3
Date: March 29, 1987
Era: Hogan Era
Location: Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan
Notable Debuts: Jim Duggan, Honky Tonk Man, Rick Martel
Wrestlemania 1 was Vince trying to make a big wrestling showcase with celebrities involved to add to the hype. It was a good start. Wrestlemania 2 was about a big gimmick that just didn’t take off like Vince hoped. But Wrestlemania 3? That was the first truly great Wrestlemania. The one that all the other ones are measured against. Even if it wasn’t for the solid undercard, the show would still be deemed a classic for giving what many would argue is the biggest match of all time: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.
The non-wrestling stuff is tops. Why? Motherfucking RING CARTS! I still can’t believe they haven’t brought these back outside of Wrestlemania 6. One of the all-time greatest images in Wrestlemania is Andre being driven away from the ring with Bobby Heenan burying his head into his hands. So great.
We’re treated to two wonderful Randy Savage promos, though one of them is him interrupting Mary Hart as she tries to bond with Elizabeth. Hogan does one of his usual nutty promos, only he has Vince McMahon there to look completely bewildered by all of it. Adrian Adonis pulls off a weird promo too, readying himself for his match with Piper by brandishing some giant scissors and insisting that his name is Clipper Claude. Steamboat, Hillbilly Jim, Jake Roberts, etc. They all have good verbal showings. The best one? Bobby Heenan doing a completely kickass promo that is enhanced by Andre the Giant in his black Tarzan tights, standing there completely silent and giving off the creepiest of stares.
The show also has Bob Uecker and that’s really all you need. If Wrestlemania 8 had Uecker, it probably wouldn’t have ended up in dead last.
Our hot opener is The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel and Tom Zenk) vs. “Cowboy” Bob Orton and the Magnificent Muraco. Good way to start the event, albeit a very one-sided showing. The faces run most of the show. It’s a lot of strength vs. speed, but the Can-Am guys – especially Martel – run circles around Muraco. Lots of double teaming, ending with Zenk crouching behind Muraco and Martel landing a top-rope crossbody with a successful pin.
Billy Jack Haynes takes on Hercules in what is an underrated match, even with the double-count-out ending. A lot of it is based on a turf war over the full nelson and who does it better. The story of the match is basically that each guy wants to soften up the other to the point that he can land the hold and finish him off. Really nice press slam from Billy Jack early on. The impact and selling are fantastic. Billy Jack tries for a suplex, but can’t do it due to Hercules working on his back earlier. This leaves him open for a full nelson from Hercules where the fingers aren’t quite locked. Billy Jack escapes and gets Hercules in his own full nelson. Hercules is able to muster up enough strength to fall out of the ring. Billy Jack keeps the hold on and the two are counted out.
After the match, Hercules punches Billy Jack with his chain wrapped over his fist and slaps on the full nelson for good measure.
The team of Hillbilly Jim, the Haiti Kid and Little Beaver take on the team of King Kong Bundy, Little Toyko and Lord Littlebrook in a Mixed Tag Team Match. Holy shit, Lord Littlebrook is a brilliant name for a vertically challenged heel wrestler. Yes, this match is Hillbilly Jim, King Kong Bundy and four midget wrestlers. In a later show, Eugene would go on to talk about how great this match is. Well, the match isn’t so fantastic, but it does have the best commentating team in wrestling history as Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are joined by Bob Uecker. When seeing Little Beaver’s Mohawk haircut, he talks about how he once dated a girl with hair like that. Ventura asks, “Was she into punk?” Uecker recalls that she was constantly calling him a punk. It’s one of those lines that gets a laugh out of both the commentators and myself.
It’s a pretty short match… no pun intended. The midgets work together for a minute or so, leading into some fun spots. When Hillbilly Jim and Bundy are tagged in, they do very little in terms of duking it out. Bundy becomes a target for the face midget wrestlers, who deliver sneak attack dropkicks and elbows. After not too long, Bundy loses his temper, bodyslams Little Beaver, gives him an elbow drop and gets disqualified. Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid and even Toyko and Littlebrook join together to teach Bundy a lesson.
King Harley Race faces Junkyard Dog in a match where the loser must bow to the winner. Another quick match. Despite Heenan’s attempts to mess up JYD’s concentration by grabbing his leg, he’s still able to charismatically beat up the King. Race bumps for JYD like crazy and even when he gets the advantage and tries for a falling headbutt, it backfires because Junkyard Dog’s skull is rock-hard. He keeps throwing Race out of the ring again and again and gets distracted very briefly, which allows for a surprise belly-to-belly suplex. Race barely gets the pin in what is a stupid ending. Junkyard Dog does both bow and curtsy, but then takes a chair and smacks Race with it before stealing his cape and riding off on a ring cart.
The Rougeau Brothers (Jacques and Raymond Rougeau) take on the Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine). The Dream Team has Dino Bravo and Johnny Valiant in their corner. Too short to be great, but it’s pretty damn good for what we get. Good work from all four guys, but after only a couple minutes, Brutus accidentally hits Valentine off the top with an axe-handle. The Rougeaus deliver the Rougeaus Bomb on Valentine, but Dino gets a sneak attack on Jacques when the ref isn’t looking, puts Valentine over him and the Dream Team wins. Dino, Valentine and Valiant leave together, deciding to keep Beefcake stranded for his earlier mistake. We’ll get back to him in a second…
”Rowdy” Roddy Piper takes on Adrian Adonis in a Hair vs. Hair Match. This is said to be Piper’s farewell match whether he wins or loses. Piper punishes Adonis by whipping him with his belt until Jimmy Hart tries to stop him. Piper’s distracted just enough for Adonis to turn the tables and use the belt on him. Jimmy Hart keeps attempting to interfere and Piper simply uses it to his advantage. He’d smash Jimmy and Adonis’ heads together or throw them into each other. He runs out of tricks soon enough and Jimmy bests Piper by tripping him from outside the ring. Adonis sprays Piper in the face with perfume to momentarily blind him, then puts him in the sleeper. Piper can’t power out and it looks like all is lost.
Fortunately for Piper, Adonis is completely retarded. When the ref drops Piper’s limp arm the second time, Adonis lets go of the hold and celebrates his win. Brutus Beefcake runs out and helps wake up Piper. Adonis grabs the clippers and tries to use them as a weapon, only to hit himself in the face instead. Piper puts him down with the sleeper and lets Beefcake – who had a score to settle with Adonis as is – do the honors. Piper holds down Jimmy Hart with one foot as Beefcake buzzes off pieces of Adonis’ hair, thereby starting his most popular gimmick of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.
Piper shows Adonis a mirror and Adonis punches it in a fit of anger. Once he’s gone, Piper celebrates his “final” victory. A drunk fan comes into the ring, hugs Piper and is promptly arrested. The commentators make such a huge deal out of how this is the last time we will see Piper in the squared circle and yet there he is at Wrestlemania 25. Anyway, this match basically rules.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) and Danny Davis face the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid) and Tito Santana. I don’t know what it is with Davey Boy Smith and Wrestlemania, but a lot of the time he comes out with some insanely good matches. This is one of them, at least after the dog Mathilda clears the ring and Jesse Ventura leaves while carrying her. But come on, this match involves Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid working together in the ring. It’s good stuff out of principle.
The story of the match is that of Danny Davis. He used to be a referee, but got let go for being too corrupt. Now he’s a wrestler and a lot of the faces have a score to settle with him. This guy is like the prototype for the Vince McMahon/Austin feud. When he does get in the ring for more than a few seconds, he’s annihilated by the face team. Tito lands a Flying Forearm, but they decide against pinning him. Beating him up is just too fun. Davey Boy even lands a Tombstone Piledriver and doesn’t think it’s enough. Bret and Anvil turn the thing into a big melee again and Davis uses Jimmy Hart’s megaphone on Dynamite Kid. He gets the pin and wins thanks to Tito and the Bulldogs’ own hubris.
”The Natural” Butch Reed vs. Koko B. Ware is yet another match that’s too short for its own good. Nothing much to speak of outside of the fact that both men ooze personality. It ends with Koko hitting a top-rope crossbody, Butch Reed rolling with it, pinning Koko and Slick attacking Koko with a cane. Tito Santana runs in, attacks Slick and tears apart the manager’s $5 suit.
Now it’s time for everybody’s favorite, Randy “Macho Man” Savage defending the Intercontinental Championship against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. This is one of those times where the stars are aligned. Randy Savage is at his performance peak and Ricky Steamboat is Ricky Steamboat. How could they not put on one of the best matches? The angle surrounding the match is about Savage horribly injuring Steamboat’s throat. He gets back at Savage early in the match by picking up Savage with a double-handed choke and then tossing him. Steamboat stays completely aggressive until Savage turns it around and starts attacking the throat. The match is full of remarkable speed, reversals and a ton of near falls.
Steamboat is thrown out, but “skins the cat” and comes back in. Savage immediately sends him out with a clothesline. Then he knees him into a guardrail. Steamboat flies over the rail and needs to be helped by his friend George Steele, who is in his corner for the match. Steamboat gets back in the swing of things and hits his top-rope chop. Savage gets his foot on the rope and survives the pin. When Savage gets up, he becomes furious at the ref and even makes a swing at him. Steamboat rolls Savage up and even grabs the tights, but it isn’t enough. Soon after, Steamboat is shoved into the ref. Savage takes advantage by hitting his top-rope elbow drop, but there’s nobody to make the count! He gets his hands on the ring bell to further damage Steamboat’s throat, but Steele stops him. The ref is stirring, so Savage picks up Steamboat for a bodyslam. Steamboat comes to life, rolls up Savage and gets the surprise pin. Afterwards, Savage is shown crying as he’s driven away on his ring cart.
The Honky Tonk Man takes on Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who happens to have Alice Cooper in his corner. The sad thing is, Jake needs Cooper backing him up these days far more than he did 23 years ago. Cooper’s made a name for himself by helping out people with horrible addiction problems. The match itself is pretty entertaining, but we all know it has the horrible task of following Savage/Steamboat. Jake attacks Honky Tonk Man before the bell rings and psyches him out with an early DDT attempt. Honky Tonk gets back at Jake and punishes him for a good several minutes. He attempts the Shake, Rattle ‘n’ Roll Neckbreaker, but Jake reverses it into a back suplex. Jake sets up the DDT and Jimmy Hart grabs him by the leg. Jake reaches at Jimmy, but this gives Honky Tonk the means to recover, roll up Jake and grab the tights for a pin.
After the match, Jake grabs Honky Tonk’s guitar and nearly takes the guy’s head off by swinging it into the outside post and shattering the instrument. Honky Tonk escapes, but Jimmy Hart gets ready to face off with Alice Cooper in the center of the ring. Sadly, this showdown would be cut short when Jake grabs Jimmy and has Cooper throw Damien onto him. Ventura shows his complete disappointment, as he wanted to see that bonus fight go down.
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff go up against the Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell) in a match that makes me shake my head. Okay, so Volkoff does his pre-match singing of the Russian National Anthem. The crowd boos and pelts him with garbage. Then “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan comes out and clears the ring. He’s out to make sure that Volkoff doesn’t sing his country’s anthem. What reason does he have for this? Is it because he simply doesn’t like Volkoff? Is it out of revenge? Is he doing it for the fans? No.
“Because this is America! The land of the free!”
W-W-WHAT?! Hacksaw tells him to fuck his free speech because this is the country that prides itself on free speech! Hacksaw, I know your gimmick is that you’re mentally challenged, but come on!
The match is nothing special. The evil foreigners dominate mostly with double-teaming and we get one of those spots where there’s a hot tag, but the ref didn’t see it so it doesn’t count. The Iron Sheik puts Blair in the Camel Clutch, Duggan runs in and clocks him with the 2×4. To this day, Sheik claims he would have broken Blair’s back legit if Duggan didn’t stop him, but you know, it’s the Sheik. Who knows what’s really going on in that skull.
Now the big main event. Hulk Hogan defends the WWF Championship against Andre the Giant. The infamous “negative four stars” match. Fuck that. This match is awesome. This is the only Hogan match that really, truly feels like he’s the underdog. More than Bundy, more than Sid, more than Undertaker. Seeing him intensely shake his face and go wide-eyed as Andre ominously glares down at him is THE iconic image of Wrestlemania. I’ve even considered getting a tattoo of the Hogan/Andre staredown, but have since been talked down on it.
Hogan punches Andre and tries for an immediate bodyslam. He falls flat on his back and almost gets pinned on the spot. Andre becomes terrifying as he stands over a hurting Hogan, gestures with his hands and bellows, “UP!” Hogan fights back for a bit, but can’t knock Andre off his feet. He runs into a boot and gets silenced. Andre puts Hogan in a bearhug, which admittedly kills the match’s momentum, but still plays into how fucked Hogan is in this situation. Hogan escapes and tries a couple shoulderblocks. He runs into a chop and goes down again. He ends up on the outside with Andre giving chase. He tricks Andre and causes him to headbutt a metal post.
With Andre dazed, Hogan tears the mat off the floor and prepares a piledriver. A lot of people are confused at this moment, but I think it makes plenty of sense. Hogan is so out of his league that he has no choice but to try something as underhanded as piledriving someone on the concrete. It’s his version of Batman realizing, “This time I’m going to kill the Joker!” before something stops him. Hogan gets backdropped – sloppily, I might add – and Andre continues his road to victory. Hogan finally gets his second wind and starts attacking Andre with clotheslines. Finally, Andre falls over. When Andre stands again, he’s bodyslammed, Hogan delivers the legdrop and retains the title. Even Ventura is in awe at Hogan’s accomplishment.
Sure, Andre is past his prime and the story leading into the match makes so little sense, but this is the ultimate story between the main hero and a colossal threat. It’s the perfect exclamation point to an incredibly solid day of wrestling. And if you don’t agree with me loving this match, then I’ll make you shut up because this is America! The land of the free!
#2) WRESTLEMANIA 17
Date: April 1, 2001
Era: Attitude Era
Location: Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas
Notable Debuts: William Regal, Lita, Paul Heyman
The Attitude Era is considered to be the New Golden Age of Wrestling and Wrestlemania 17 (or Wrestlemania X-Seven) is the moment when it all comes to an end. Overall, the Attitude Era was the WWF’s desperate reaction to the heated rivalry with World Championship Wrestling. The two companies brought forth some of their best years until WCW started tripping over its feet one too many times. Only days before Wrestlemania 17, Vince McMahon bought WCW. The war was over and the Attitude Era was suddenly needless. Also, one of the biggest rivalries during the era comes to a shocking close, driving the final nail into the Attitude coffin. And no, I’m not talking about Rock vs. Austin.
We get one of the more beautiful introductions, where it shows people all over the world huddling to the TV to watch Wrestlemania as Freddie Blassie narrates. Fitting, since it does come off as “classy”. There are a lot of good backstage segments, like the APA playing poker and Bradshaw getting completely fired up about being in his hometown and going on a huge speech until he and Farooq wreck shit and storm towards the arena to start their match. Edge and Christian act all happy as they go to visit their buddy Kurt Angle and talk about their upcoming matches, but Angle is completely intense over Chris Benoit making him tap during an interview segment. He has Edge and Christian verify that if it isn’t during a match, it doesn’t count before coldly telling them to leave. Commissioner William Regal returns to his office to find Kamala on his desk, rubbing a picture of the Queen on his stomach.
Most of the backstage segments are short and packaged together. Like you’d see an interview with a fan in the crowd who came from all the way out in Australia, followed by a shot at WWF New York, followed by the Rock walking into the locker room, followed by Mick Foley doing a really quick promo, followed by Austin sitting down in his dressing room.
They also show the WWF superstars visiting some army guys, which is pleasant to see, especially since this is before 9/11. Not taking anything away from the Tribute to the Troops shows, but this just feels more genuine.
Originally, the theme of the show is “My Way” by Limp Bizkit, but for some reason, it’s edited out of the DVD set. I think of it was weird compared to the other musical edits, since Wrestlemania 19 from the very same set leaves all the Limp Bizkit stuff intact. On one hand, “My Way” is used to accompany the seriously great Rock/Austin video package. On the other hand, in the original version of the PPV, the song plays between every single match. It’s maddening.
To start it off Chris Jericho defends the Intercontinental Championship against William Regal. Ah, yes. The feud where Jericho tricked Regal into drinking his pee. Both guys are great workers and it translates well, excluding Jericho overshooting a crossbody to the outside of the ring. During this good little match, Regal removes the pad from the corner and uses the exposed turnbuckle by slamming Jericho into it, shoulder-first. He begins to dominate and pulls off a nice double-underhook suplex from the top rope. It still isn’t enough and shortly after, Jericho is able to find a window and make an attempt for the Walls of Jericho. Of course, he can’t pull it off due to the shooting pain in his shoulder. Regal puts Jericho in the Regal Stretch. By the skin of his teeth, Jericho gets to the ropes and the hold is broken. Jericho is able to turn things around by using Regal’s strategy against him. Regal’s head is smashed into the exposed turnbuckle, allowing Jericho to hit the Lionsault and get the pin.
The Right to Censor (the Goodfather, Bull Buchanan and Val Venis) take on the APA (Farooq and Bradshaw) and Tazz. The RTC’s leader Steven Richards starts doing one of his usual promos about indecency, but it’s quickly interrupted by the face team’s music. The match is pretty brief and fast-paced, but there’s nothing too special about it. Just a lot of the wrestlers pulling off their trademarks. Bull Buchanan does his running top-rope clothesline to Farooq, Bradshaw does his Fallaway Slam to Val Venis as Val desperately punches Bradshaw’s back, etc. The end comes from the Goodfather missing the Ho Train (or whatever it had been renamed into) on Bradshaw, leaving him open for the Clothesline from Hell.
Ever notice how worthless the Goodfather was? As the Godfather, his wrestling style basically said, “Hey, everybody! I can’t wrestle for shit, but I do a couple of charismatic moves so cheer for me anyway!” As the Goodfather, he did the same face moves and didn’t evolve at all.
Raven defends the WWF Hardcore Championship against Kane and the Big Show in a Triple Threat Hardcore Match. Before I get to anything else, Raven has a goddamn Deathstroke the Terminator shirt on. Wicked. The match is a ton of fun, using one of my favorite match types: two monsters fighting while a smaller third guy tries to use it to his advantage. Raven attacks Kane before Big Show even makes his entrance. When Show does enter the match, Raven becomes little more than a prop. The brawling goes into the crowd and then the three end up backstage. They brawl into a storage locker and Big Show momentarily tries fencing himself in with Raven and keeping Kane out. It doesn’t work.
Kane and Big Show get into a choke war, causing both of them to go through a wall. Raven drives a security cart with Big Show in the backseat, strangling him. Raven accidentally crashes into a fence protecting some electrical equipment and according to a later interview, he was only inches away from cutting the power to the show. Ha, what a fuckup that would have been. Everything starts to slow down and the guys start giving each other weak offense. They travel back to the ramp, where Show presses Raven over his head. Kane kicks Big Show, knocking both Show and Raven off the top of the ramp and through a platform below. Kane does an elbow drop, pins Big Show and wins the Hardcore Championship. Having Paul Heyman on commentary truly helps enhance the match.
Test defends the European Championship against Eddie Guerrero. It’s a good showing from both guys, marred by a botch where Test misses a running boot and gets his leg tied up in the ropes. He’s so stuck that Eddie has to help get him out. Not only that, but there’s a part where Saturn hits the Moss-Cov—there’s a part where Saturn hits his finisher on Test, directly in the referee’s view. Still, the rest of it is pretty good. Eddie works on Test’s leg until Test mounts a comeback. Every time Test looks to have things taken care of, Saturn shows his face. Once Saturn is taken out of the equation, Dean Malenko runs out to interfere. There’s so much distraction that it leaves him open for Eddie smashing the title belt in Test’s face and pinning him.
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit works because it’s Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit. Angle comes out and does a classic anti-Texas speech with a smile. How I loved those pre-match promos. The two spend the opening of the match in a big mat wrestling stalemate until Benoit tries the Crippler Crossface. A lot of the match has them each attempt their submission finishers with the other quick to escape. Then it reaches the point where Benoit is putting Angle in the ankle lock and Angle is putting Benoit in the Crippler Crossface. When Angle is kicked into the ref, Benoit finally gets the Crippler Crossface locked on and Angle taps. Benoit gets up, checks on the ref and gets grabbed from behind for an Angle Slam.
The match isn’t over, as Angle attempts a moonsault, countered by Benoit lifting his knees. Angle still mixes in a nut shot behind the referee’s back and gets a pin with a handful of tights. It’s an ending that’s disappointing, yet at the same time supposed to be disappointing, so it’s hard to review. The match has been built to not be about Angle vs. Benoit in terms of a regular match, but who can make who tap. Angle winning through a corrupt pin intentionally cheats us out of that. Later in the night, Benoit would attack Angle backstage and make him tap yet again.
Ivory defends the Women’s Championship against Chyna. When people talk about how great Wrestlemania 17 is, they mention this match because it’s easily the worst one on the show. Though it isn’t so much a bad match as it is a mediocre use of our time. After a ton of lead-up based on how bad Chyna’s neck is and how she had to sign a waver to even take part of this match, we finally get to business. Ivory nails Chyna in the neck with the title belt and the moment Chyna recovers, it’s all over. It’s about two minutes of Chyna making Ivory bounce like a rubber ball. After a powerbomb, she refuses the pin, just so she can do a Gorilla Press and follow up with a pin that’s essentially her resting her back on Ivory’s carcass. The match is nothing special, but it is a rather good, final, high profile appearance for Chyna before leaving the company and becoming a gigantic car wreck.
Vince McMahon faces Shane McMahon in a Street Fight where Mick Foley is the special referee. Completely nutty setup here, with the death of WCW as the backdrop. As part of the story, Shane has bought WCW and has some of the roster hanging out in the upper deck to watch the show. On the Vince side of things, he has turned Linda McMahon into a catatonic mess by repeatedly making out with Trish Stratus in front of her. The Stephanie/Trish feud has led to a really uncomfortable segment where Vince made Trish strip to her underwear and bark like a dog… which the crowd thought was the most awesome thing ever and cheered. Damn, people.
Vince initially overpowers Shane, but even with Stephanie’s interference, Shane is able to get the upper hand. He beats on Vince with a kendo stick, clobbers him with television monitors and sets him up on the announce table. He goes for an elbow drop off the top, but Stephanie pulls Vince away at the last second and Shane smashes through solo. Trish comes to the ring with Linda in a wheelchair. Trish slaps the dazed Vince and gets in a catfight with Stephanie. Mick Foley tries to stop this and gets slapped by Stephanie. Trish chases her away from the ring. Mick makes an attempt to get Linda away from ringside, only to get a chair to the back from Vince. Vince puts Linda in the ring and makes her sit in the corner as he throws a few garbage cans into the ring and rolls Shane in there.
Vince dents two cans over Shane’s head. As he prepares the third, Linda stands up, confronts Vince and kicks him square in the grapefruits. Foley gets his revenge by punching Vince and kneeing him in the face. This sets Vince up by having him sitting in the corner. Shane puts the final garbage can in front of Vince’s head, goes to another corner, jumps off the top and dropkicks the can into Vince’s face from across the ring. Stolen from Rob Van Dam? Sure. Excellent way to end the match? Definitely.
One hardcore match is followed by another, as the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley) defend the Tag Team Championship against Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy) in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match. Ah, yes. The “Remember how awesome our match was? Let’s do it again!” match. They just did one of those. There’s more emphasis on the ladders and chairs, but the real difference here is that each party has an extra person waiting in the wings. It starts with some good spots, like Jeff and Matt doing a top-rope splash and legdrop to Christian. Bubba Ray puts Edge on a table and then powerbombs Jeff onto him. Three ladders are set up and all six guys brawl on top until they all fall down.
Cue the second-stringers. Spike Dudley runs in and hits the LSD on Edge and a second LSD on Christian, putting him through a table. Rhyno, representing Edge and Christian, rushes to the ring and Goars Bubba Ray. A second Goar puts Matt through a table in the corner. Lita comes out and teams up with Spike against Rhyno. Bubba Ray and D-Von hit the Deadly Death Driver on Rhyno and hit a second one on Lita! Goddamn!
There’s a really cool spot set up where Jeff has to walk across the top of three ladders to get to the dangling title belts. He botches and still is able to grab onto the belts. He hangs there until Edge climbs a ladder and jumps off to Spear Jeff down. Matt and Bubba fight on top of a ladder, but Rhyno shoves it over, sending both of them to crash through a stack of two tables. D-Von tries to climb the ladder, but Edge holds onto his leg. On the other side, Rhyno has Christian on his shoulders and climbs for him. Christian gets the belts and another great match is in the can.
Next up is a special attraction match, The Gimmick Battle Royal featuring Luke, Butch, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, Doink the Clown, Nikolai Volkoff, Tugboat, The Goon, Earthquake, the Gobbledy Gooker, Brother Love, Michael Hayes, the Iron Sheik, Hillbilly Jim, One Man Gang, Kamala, Kim Chee, Jim Cornette, Repo Man, and Sgt. Slaughter. It’s entirely pointless, but harmless. It’s really a showcase for a bunch of random names from the past to show up and have a brief match. Earthquake is there, so I’m down. By this point you should know that I mark hard for that guy. Who else do I mark for? Why none other than Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who replace Heyman and Ross for commentary here. The best line comes from the Gobbledy Gooker’s entrance.
Heenan asks, “Didn’t you used to date her?”
Ignoring him, Gene muses, “Oh boy, this brings back some very fond memories from me.”
“You DID date her!”
Then it cuts to a shot of the two as Heenan smiles because either he knows he won or he can’t wait for Gene’s response.
It’s really like ten minutes of entrances and a three minute match. Gene almost refers to Earthquake as John Tenta during his elimination. Doink’s elimination gets major heat. There’s really nothing to point out, otherwise. At the end, Slaughter eliminates Brother Love and then gets eliminated by Hillbilly Jim, who himself is eliminated by the Iron Sheik. Why does the Iron Sheik win? Because he’s so broken down that he can’t take a bump. Slaughter returns to the ring and puts Sheik in a Cobra Clutch to make up for it.
Next up is Undertaker vs. Triple H. If it wasn’t for the Benoit/Michaels three-way at Wrestlemania 20, I’d easily call this the best Wrestlemania showing for Triple H. Motorhead plays him to the ring, even though Lemmy doesn’t know the lyrics to his own song. Yes, this happened at two different Wrestlemanias.
It begins with a brawl on the outside. Undertaker has things in hand and gets a jumping clothesline in there. When attempting Old School, he’s tossed away by Triple H. Triple H gets his sledgehammer, causing an argument with he and the ref. He tries to Pedigree the Undertaker, but gets slingshot into the ref. Undertaker lands a chokeslam, the ref is able to make the count, but there’s still a kickout. Undertaker takes out his frustrations by beating up the ref some more. He throws Triple H out of the ring and the two fight into the crowd. It leads to a tech area in the middle of the crowd, where Triple H is able to get Undertaker back by savaging him with a chair. Undertaker catches Triple H with a choke and slams him off a platform. It looks really, really cool until one of the replays shows that he obviously landed on a cushion.
Undertaker drags him back to the ring. He grabs the sledgehammer, only for Triple H to kick him in the crotch. Triple H tries a Tombstone, but it’s reversed and Undertaker hits his own Tombstone. Unfortunately, still no ref. Undertaker tries the Last Ride, but Triple H holds onto the sledgehammer when held up and busts Undertaker open with a shot to the forehead. Undertaker still doesn’t go down completely. Triple H starts pounding on him in the corner until Undertaker grabs him by the tights, hoists him up and hits the Last Ride. Undertaker wins.
That leaves our main event, The Rock defending the WWF Championship against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. It’s announced right before the match that it’s no disqualification. Jesus, nearly half the show is no disqualification! The reasons for it are a mystery to the commentators, who wonder about it aloud several times throughout. That leads to one of the major problems of this otherwise fantastic match, but I’ll get into more detail later.
Austin attacks from the beginning, swinging the belt at the Rock and missing. It soon becomes a series of finishing move reversals. Rock tries the Rock Bottom, Austin tries the Stunner, Rock tries the Stunner, etc. It goes to the outside with more weapons used and holy hell is there a ton of intensity going around. Of course, we begin to see the mistake in the venue. Rock and Austin are both mega-faces and this is supposed to be this generation’s Hogan/Warrior, yet they do the show in a state that is completely on Austin’s side. If Rock even looks in Austin’s direction, he’s showered with boos.
Rock puts Austin in the Sharpshooter, which is pretty brilliant callback to Austin’s only Wrestlemania loss at this point. Austin gets out of it and tries the Million Dollar Dream. Even more callback! Rock reverses it into a pin, which doesn’t work, but is able to deliver a Stunner on Austin. This is around when Vince McMahon shows up. Rock hits the People’s Elbow, but Vince pulls him out of the pin. Rock chases him around until ending up back in the ring and walking right into a Rock Bottom from Austin. He tries a Stunner, but gets shoved into the ref. Austin calls Vince for a chair and Vince surprisingly obliges. The crowd isn’t as confused as they should be.
A chairshot is reversed into a Rock Bottom, but the ref is distracted. This allows for Austin to hit a Stunner. Rock kicks out. He slams Rock in the skull with a chair. Rock kicks out. He beats Rock mercilessly with the chair. Rock finally gets pinned. Austin is the new champion and shakes hands with Vince. With Rock trying to get up, Austin lays him out with a shot from the belt. The show uncharacteristically ends on a major down note.
Again, the problem comes from the venue. You’re trying to turn Steve Austin heel in Texas?! Seriously? I bet those fans figured it wasn’t so much Austin turning heel, but Vince turning face. Either way, by the time Austin and Vince buddy up, it’s time to say goodbye to the Attitude Era.
#1) WRESTLEMANIA 24
Date: March 30, 2008
Era: Cena Era
Location: Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida
Notable Debuts: Beth Phoenix, Santino Marella
It feels weird to put such a recent Wrestlemania at the tippy-top because we all know that old stuff is always better in lists like this, but goddamn is Wrestlemania 24 a beautiful show. The title matches carry themselves, but the real stories are from the other two high profile matches. On one hand, the Big Show returns to face Floyd “Money” Mayweather in a hyped match that delivers. Then there’s the big Ric Flair retirement angle. For months, he’s been competing with the reluctant stipulation that the moment he loses, he’s gone. He’s survived for so long, but what happens when he goes up against his friend and “Mr. Wrestlemania” Shawn Michaels?
The basis of the intro package is that “a lot can happen in a year,” which is a good way of building up the show as the big climax. Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Snow” is the main theme of the show, which is an odd choice, but I like the song anyway, so I’m good. The backstage stuff is pretty basic and fine, like Kim Kardashian interviewing Mr. Kennedy and a comedy skit involving Snoop Dogg, Mick Foley, Santino and Festus. Edge does a kickass promo about how he was at Wrestlemania 6 and watched his hero Hogan lose, much like the kids in the crowd will watch the Undertaker lose. Mike “bring him back” Adamle interviews Ric Flair about strategy, to which Flair says, “My game plan? To be the man! WOOOOO!”
What truly makes the show is the setting. It’s outside with two giant Titantrons and some of the most beautiful fireworks and pyro you’d ever see at a wrestling show. The entire thing is beyond epic, especially when Ric Flair walks out.
John “Bradshaw” Layfield takes on Finlay in a Belfast Brawl, which is really just a fancy way of saying “hardcore match”. Finlay throws a bunch of weapons into the ring, which is pretty stupid, considering JBL is able to brain him with a trash can upon entry. JBL goes for the shillelagh and gets hit in the shin with a kendo stick from Hornswoggle. JBL gives chase, Finlay recovers and JBL runs straight into a shillelagh to the head. It’s two of the older, but legitimately tougher guys on the roster tearing into each other with whatever they can get their hands on and it’s great. Also great? JBL picking up a trash can and throwing it out of the ring, right into Hornswoggle.
It ends very nicely. Finlay blocks the Clothesline from Hell with a trash can and throws JBL through a table set up in the corner. He picks up some ring steps he threw into the ring earlier, but JBL slaps him in the leg with a stick and makes him trip. While Finlay’s stunned, JBL gets him with the Clothesline from Hell and it’s over.
Next is the Money in the Bank featuring Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Shelton Benjamin, Mr. Kennedy, MVP, Carlito and John Morrison. Jeff Hardy was supposed to be in it too, and it was generally believed he was definitely going to win, but he drugged out and was suspended. All in all, it worked out. It would have been pretty fitting if Morrison won, just because it wouldn’t be the first time he’s won a major title because someone else was a real life fuckup. Remember his ECW title win?
Like with every Money in the Bank I’ve reviewed on this countdown, it’s a fantastic match to watch. There are a couple botches here and there, mostly Shelton’s, but Morrison’s moonsault to the outside while holding a ladder doesn’t look too good either. Everyone goes for a ladder at the start of the match except for MVP, who picks off everyone as they try to get in. This is until Jericho jousts him by jamming a ladder to his head. Shelton gives Kennedy a sunset powerbomb off a ladder and at the same time, Kennedy gives Morrison a vertical suplex.
The best moment of the match, and maybe even the best moment in Money in the Bank history, is Shelton being pushed off a ladder and through a ladder laid out across the guardrail and ring mat. The ladder snaps in half and both Carlito and Kennedy give a priceless reaction of, “Holy shit, I think we just killed him and everyone here is a witness!”
We get our ladder finisher spots. Jericho gives Morrison the Walls of Jericho on the ladder. Carlito gives Jericho the Backstabber off the ladder. When MVP is the only one left, Matt Hardy runs out of the crowd, climbs up the ladder and gives him a Twist of Fate. Jericho gives CM Punk a Codebreaker while holding onto a ladder. By the end, it’s CM Punk vs. Jericho and Punk is able to tie Jericho’s leg up in the ladder’s rungs. Unopposed, Punk climbs up and gets the briefcase.
Batista vs. Umaga is definitely the worst match of the night. Remember when I was railing on Umaga vs. Lashley and how all the extra stuff killed what would have been an at least watchable match? This match almost hurts that argument. It’s still a step up, but it still isn’t exactly good. It’s a very slow power match that’s supposed to represent brand supremacy. The two don’t have much in terms of chemistry, but they do have a small section of the crowd chanting, “U-U-UMAGA!” The ending is at least good enough. Batista blocks a Samoan Spike and delivers a headbutt. That backfires and Umaga tries for a top-rope splash. He misses, gets a spinebuster and receives a really awful Batista Bomb.
Following that garbage is Chavo Guerrero defending the ECW Championship against Kane. Kane had won a battle royal earlier in the night to earn the title shot. In only eight seconds, he chokeslams Chavo and pins him. As short as it is and despite how it’s a huge burial of Chavo, I fully support this little match. Chavo as champion was only there for the payoff of CM Punk becoming ECW champ. Punk just won Money in the Bank, so he’s going to be moving on. That makes Chavo a pointless champ, since there are no interesting faces to gun for him. Kane takes the show to a new level. Now the champion is actually someone to be reckoned with and ultimately it works out. Kane’s title reign leads to Mark Henry’s title reign, which causes Mark Henry to revitalize a career that never took off in the first place. I know it’s the popular thing to hate on the WWE incarnation of ECW, but a lot of the show was really good and this was a good choice to help hold up its quality.
Ric Flair puts his career on the line against “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. For Ric Flair, a guy whose final years in the WWE were rather sad and filled with generic matches, he couldn’t have asked for a better way to end his tenure with the company. In an interview, Michaels had made a reference to Old Yeller in terms of why he has to beat Flair, which is brought up when Flair slaps him and screams, “OLD YELLER, HUH?!” Also great is when they start chopping each other back and forth. Instead of “Yay!”/”Boo!” we get “Woo!”/”Boo!”
They get into the usual spot of Flair going to the top and then being tossed, only this time he’s able to knock Michaels back and hit a crossbody. He tries a Figure Four, but gets kicked out of the ring. Michaels does a painful-looking moonsault to the outside, missing Flair and smashing his ribs into the edge of a table. It’s almost a double count-out, but the two get back in. Michaels hits the elbow off the top, but when the time comes to hit Sweet Chin Music, he hesitates. That hesitation leads to being put in the Figure Four. Flair ends up letting go of the move and argues with the ref, leaving him open for Sweet Chin Music. Michaels stomps on him for a bit and demands he get up. He picks up Ric, who shows that he’s been playing possum and low-blows him.
They restart their war of back-and-forth chops until Michaels hits another surprise Sweet Chin Music. Flair still has just enough gas to keep going and Michaels lets him stand up. Flair practically begs Michaels to finish it, prompting the memorable, “I’m sorry. I love you,” followed by another Sweet Chin Music. Michaels gets the pin, kisses Ric on the forehead, leaves ringside and gives Ric time to do his farewell to the crowd. Starting with this match, Michaels would have the best match at Wrestlemania three years straight. Even if the winner isn’t in question, the emotion is off the charts.
Beth Phoenix and Melina take on Ashley and Maria in a Playboy Bunnymania Lumberjack Match. Snoop Dogg comes out in a tiny car to be the Master of Ceremonies. Santino, who has just split from Maria, comes to the ring with Melina and future girlfriend Beth Phoenix. I still miss Glameralla. To my surprise, this really isn’t that bad of a match. Hell, I’ll even consider it good! I don’t know, it just all clicks. There’s some decent offense, the moves look good and there’s enough stuff going on to make it interesting. Beth accidentally Spears Melina and Maria goes for the pin. Santino tugs on her leg, prompting Jerry Lawler to run over and punch him. The distraction is still enough, as Beth gets Maria with a Fisherman’s Suplex. Post-match, Snoop clotheslines the hell out of Santino and makes out with Maria. Two things that can qualify you as my hero.
We get our first major title match with Randy Orton defending the WWE Championship against John Cena and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match. Like with Wrestlemania 25, making this a Triple Threat really plays to John Cena’s strengths… or, to be more truthful, hides his faults. The usual Cena formula is diluted. Like in most of his appearances, Cena gets a big, elaborate entrance. This time, he’s introduced by a marching band. Points for originality.
Orton starts it off with a sudden belt to the head on Triple H. Triple H comes back shortly later and puts Orton in a sleeper. Cena holds them both up for the Attitude Adjustment, but can’t pull it off. Later on, Cena and Triple H brawl on the apron and get set up for a double DDT by Orton. This hilarious image would be used for the cover of the book Slam! Wrestling.
For a while, everyone tries their finishers, only to be foiled. Either their victim is too wily or the third guy will come to the rescue. Cena puts Orton in the STF? Triple H grabs onto Cena and puts him in the crossface. Orton gets taken out of the match and it becomes Cena vs. Triple H. It’s some pretty exciting stuff, eclipsing their efforts at Wrestlemania 22. Triple H slides out of an Attitude Adjustment attempt, hits the Pedigree and goes for the pin. Orton comes out of nowhere with a punt to the temple and steals the pin. Perfect way to end the match.
You know, the new comic WWE Heroes recently depicted this match, but with a couple big discrepancies. Not only does Cena win the match, but he never removes his cap, nor gets it knocked off. And don’t worry, I’ll be talking about that comic soon enough.
The big attraction match comes to play with Big Show vs. Floyd “Money” Mayweather in a No Disqualification Match. Which is different from a Belfast Brawl how, exactly? This is a really interesting match to look at, since it’s set up to be your usual celebrity vs. wrestler match. Big Show is the heel and Mayweather is the charismatic outsider. It’s just that by this point, the fans have grown sick of this. We’re tired of the Mr. Ts and Lawrence Taylors and Jay Lenos. Especially the Jay Lenos. Fuck the Jay Lenos. When every heel wrestler loses to whatever excuse for a celebrity they pick up off the streets, it makes our hobby look like shit. These guys are supposed to be the best in the world at what they do, only they routinely get beaten up by the likes of Schneider from One Day at a Time.
…okay, I’m not going to lie. I’d have watched the hell out of Schneider vs. Honky Tonk Man.
So the fans turn on Mayweather and support Big Show. He may be a bully, but he’s the bully we pay to see. To the surprise of just about everyone, this match is every bit as good as it could ever hope to be. It’s fantastic. Mayweather – whose intro involves making it rain money – goes for the stick and move strategy to start. Rapid body shots that don’t register, followed by backing off. He out-boxes Big Show easily, then takes a break and hangs out in his corner with his gigantic entourage, where he drinks from a chalice. Mayweather is smart enough to know his shifted position in this match and heels it up to perfection.
Big Show starts attacking the entourage and gets put in a sleeper by Mayweather. He breaks the hold and stomps down on Maywather’s arm. This leads to an older man in Mayweather’s corner yelling to the ref that Big Show can’t do that! Big Show decimates the tiny boxer and the fans eat it up. Mayweather is dragged out of the ring and taken towards the back. Big Show beats up more of the entourage and drags him back in. He sets up the chokeslam and gets a chair to the back from one of the bodyguards. That bodyguard gets chokeslammed instead. Mayweather uses every resource he can get. Repeated chairshots, a low blow and brass knuckles are all used on Big Show in rapid succession to get him down for the pin. Afterwards, Big Show gets up, obviously disappointed. But hey, at least they give him a title shot at next year’s show as part of his payment.
Our final match is Edge defending the World Heavyweight Championship against the Undertaker. This is Wrestlemania, so Undertaker’s entrance is excessively long. The story of the match is that Undertaker is dominant, but the mentally exceptional Edge knows what to look for and when to take the advantage. Well, he still gets hit with a suicide dive early on, but other than that, he shows good effort. Edge mainly works on Undertaker’s back, which helps him get out of a Last Ride attempt. We get a ton of reversals, including another Last Ride being turned into a neckbreaker. Undertaker finally hits the Last Ride, but it doesn’t earn him the pin.
Edge slides out of a Tombstone attempt and shoves Undertaker into the ref. With the ref unconscious, Edge uses a television camera to pound on Undertaker. He tries to give Undertaker a Tombstone, but Undertaker flips it over and does one of his own. Referee Charles Robinson completely books it down the ramp and by the time he gets there, Edge is able to kick out. The Edgeheads (Curt Hawkins and Zach Ryder) run in, but Undertaker fights them off. Edge takes advantage with a Spear, but it just doesn’t keep Undertaker down long enough for a three-count. One more Spear and Edge gets caught. Undertaker turns it into a Hell’s Gate and makes Edge submit. Undertaker celebrates and some of his pyro accidentally burns some people in the crowd.
Normally I’d say it sucks to be them, but they just got finished watching the best all-around Wrestlemania in person. So good for them. Wrestlemania 17 is definitely a completely solid show and I’ll even say that their worst match (Chyna/Ivory) is better than Wrestlemania 24’s worst match (Batista/Umaga), but the remaining matches at Wrestlemania 24 seemed to be just plain better. That’s where I stand.
I’m hoping you enjoyed this excessive look at the WWE’s big annual money maker. I wish I could have finished it completely on time, but that’ll learn me not to bite off more than I can chew. Perhaps somewhere down the line I’ll try the same series, but with a different show. Summerslam? Survivor Series? Maybe even Starrcade?
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)