Previously on WrestleMania: Through The Years... Randy Savage, Warrior, Sensational Sherri, and Elizabeth give us one of the all-time greatest WrestleMania performances at WrestleMania VII. The WWF Universe says goodbye to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VIII, only for him to return unwelcomed at WrestleMania IX and senselessly win the WWF Championship in a match that was between Bret Hart and Yokozuna. WrestleMania X returned to MSG, and features not one, but two of the greatest Mania matches of all time. WrestleMania XI is held in a Mall in Hartford, CT, and the New Generation continues to tun mild at WrestleMania XII, with Shawn Michaels fulfilling the boyhood dream of winning the Title in front of a lukewarm crowd.
Lows: The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid for the WWF Championship is easily, without a doubt, the WORST WWF Championship Match in WrestleMania history, and no, I don’t count the “match” where Hogan won it from Yokozuna. This was 20-minutes of bad wrestling, restholds, and over-booked nonsense. This match would’ve been better off in the mid-card, and with about 10-minutes shaved off. The show opens with yet another awful four-corner Tag Team Match, a trend from 1996-97 that just wouldn’t go away. Rocky Maivia makes his WrestleMania debut in a lame match defending the IC Title against non-contender, The Sultan. Yes, THE SULTAN gets a match on a 7-match WrestleMania (excluding the FFA). Shawn Michaels makes an appearance, covering commentary duties during the WWF Championship Match, instead of putting Bret Hart over for the WWF Title in a rematch from WrestleMania XII. Damn that lost smile. I wonder if he found it in the fridge?
Stuff You Might’ve Missed: Barry Windham makes his first WrestleMania appearance since the 1st, teaming up with future legend and probably Hall of Famer (snicker…) Bradshaw as “The New Blackjacks.” Rocky Maivia’s original opponent was scheduled to be a heel-turned Marc Mero, but a torn ACL sidelined him for most of 1997. Ken Shamrock makes his PPV debut, acting as the special-enforcer for Bret vs. Austin. On paper, the Tag Title Match looks oddly like an all heel match, but the WWF was pushing pretty hard for a Davey Boy Smith face-turn, before completely abandoning the move in favor of building a Hart Foundation stable. After two previous appearances under two different gimmicks (Papa Shango in 1992, Kama, the Supreme Fighting Machine in 1995), Charles Wright FINALLY gets a WrestleMania match, working under the name “Kama Mustafa” in the Nation of Domination.
Overall Rating: D+
Another one-match WrestleMania. Take away that Submission Match, and the only good match is a junky brawl. The opener is garbage, the Intercontinental Title Match is the worst on the show, nobody gives a crap for Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Goldust, and yet they still get 15-minutes to do nothing, the Tag Team Title Match is oddly booked and features a cop-out finish, and the WWF Championship Match is the bottom of the barrel. Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart is the only thing saving this from being the new holder of the “Worst WrestleMania” Title.
Lows: The DX Band performing America The Beautiful. This was so awful on so many levels, I’m AMAZED ANYONE green lit it, even if the sole intention was to give us the worst possible performance. Opening the show with a 15-Team Battle Royal, with the only purpose being to re-introduce the LOD as LOD 2000, with new haircuts and slightly different tight designs. Oh, and Sunny is their manager for… reasons never explored. Sounds impressive, 15 teams, until you realize it features teams like Chainz and Bradshaw, Flash Funk and Steve Blackman, two combinations of Los Boricuas, two combinations of Nation Members, Truth Commission members, and last but not least… THE NEW MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. Oh man, I bet Jim Cornette loved that one. Owen Hart continues to look like a goof since his babyface turn following Survivor Series ’97, jobbing to Triple H for the 67th time. Giving us a fake finish for the Tag Team Titles, and going back on it the next night because of “you didn’t check the small print” explanations.
Stuff You Might’ve Missed: The WWF was intentionally going for “scummy” celebrity appearances, hence the band’s putrid performance of America the Beautiful, Mike Tyson’s involvement with the WWF Championship, Pete Rose doing ring introductions (well, kind of…) for Kane vs. Undertaker, and interviews with Gennifer Flowers… the latter was part of the Bill Clinton sex-scandal, for those like me who didn’t know (or give a shit). The original intention of the Kane gimmick was to kill it off at this WrestleMania, but it got over so well, they kept it around… 17 years, and he’s still kicking.
Overall Rating: B-
There’s nothing here that would fall under the “All-Time Classic” files, but everything, with the exception of one match, clicked. The Austin Era officially begins with a great Title switch, Undertaker vs. Kane feels like a big deal even if it doesn’t blow anyone away with the actual quality of wrestling, the Dumpster Match is a fun garbage brawl, the Mixed Tag Team Match was well booked and featured hard work from unusual suspects, Owen and Helmsley have a pretty good match over a worthless Title, and the Light-Heavyweight Title is defended in another solid effort. I could’ve gone for a clean finish for Rock vs. Shamrock, just for the sake Shamrock was chasing for so long and we get a “reversed decision” to keep the IC Title on Rock without making Shamrock job. Terry Funk makes his first WrestleMania appearance since working the LA portion of WrestleMania 2. At WM 2, one opponent is a Junkyard Dog, and at WM 14, one opponent is a Road Dogg… I don’t know, sounded nice in my head.
Lows: Vince Russo. Yes, I’m one of those people who is directly blaming this disaster of a show on the guy in charge of putting together the angles and character development. WrestleMania 2, 4, 5, 9, 11, 13, and probably one or two others all ranked from boring to bad to awful, but they at least gave it their best shot at making it feel like the show of shows, no matter the success rate. WrestleMania XV was put together not just like any old PPV, but like any old episode of RAW. Multiple face and heel turns, senseless booking choices, senseless gimmick matches used, cop-out endings, cop-out booking… There’s so little to say was positive about what the direction was supposed to be. Booking a match where two serious contenders are fighting to be a REFEREE, and then holding that as a cliff-hanger throughout an entire show, A SHOW PEOPLE SPENT 40 DOLLARS ON? ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TRYING TO TELL ME THAT YOU’RE WORRIED OF CHANNEL SURFERS THAT ARE WATCHING YOUR EXPENSIVE PRODUCT?!?
Oh, um… what else is there… Michael Cole’s commentary. You might complain about Cole today, and he does say some dumb stuff (usually lines fed to him by a certain out-of-touch old-man), but HOLY CRAP was he horrible at WrestleMania XV. From ridiculous claims to horrible facts, he sounds like someone who never called a wrestling show before. A Hell in a Cell Match that steals the award for “Worst WrestleMania Match… so far” pitting two heels and featuring a post-match angle that was completely ignored the next night. The Tag Title Match being thrown on at the last second, and the challengers being decided via whacky Battle Royal, and the two partners are two guys who have to pretend to hate each other, even though neither has any history with the other. Road Dogg is the IC Champion, despite being featured in the Hardcore Division for most of the year and having zero issues with any of the top contenders, and Billy Gunn, who was chasing the IC Title and feuding with all the challengers of that belt, is suddenly the Hardcore Champion and has no issues with either challengers for that belt. Chyna turns face, only to turn heel later in the show. Ryan Shamrock’s never-changing-expression of “I don’t know what I’m watching” throughout the entire IC Title Match.
Stuff You Might’ve Missed: WrestleMania XV is the first to be released on something called “DVD”. Amazingly, VHS cassettes of WWF/E productions were still manufactured until at least 2005. The Women’s Championship is defended at WrestleMania for the first time since WrestleMania X, having been reactivated in the Fall of ’98. The Hardcore Title is defended for the first time in four overall WrestleMania defenses, and the title changes hands at least once at all four shows. I still don’t know why the San Diego Chicken makes an appearance in Philadelphia. I guess the Phillies wouldn’t allow Kane to squash the Philly Fanatic. Ivory is D’Lo Brown’s manager… if anyone can tell me how that storyline relationship began, I owe you $5 and a shout out. For the second year in a row, Pete Rose is assaulted by Kane. I’m amazed Michael Cole correctly identified him as a former Philadelphia Phillies player, but it still doesn’t make sense to have him disguised as the Chicken.
Overall Rating: F
If I could give this a rating worse than “F”, I would. It’s easily, without a doubt, no questions asked, the absolute WORST WRESTLEMANIA EVER. Nothing else can ever touch it. When you have one good match and a whole ton of crap, it handicaps the show, but when you make it “just another episode of Monday Night Raw”, it somehow makes it worse. That one good match isn’t worth the time it takes to hit scene skip on DVD or the WWE Network, and they went on two have much better matches at WrestleMania X-Seven and XIX. The only other bright highlight is watching Bart Gunn getting his head knocked into last week.
Lows: Maybe having so much crammed onto the card hurt things, considering most of the matches featured a lot of guys just mulling around waiting for their spot of the match to come. The WWF Championship is a 4-Way, the IC and European Titles are defended in the same match, with two different falls, in a 3-Way, the Tag Titles are defended in a 3-Way, and the Hardcore Title has double digit challengers. There’s some undercard filler that isn’t needed, like Head Cheese vs. T & A (20 bucks to anyone who can name the members of those teams without looking it up), Godfather & D’Lo vs. Boss Man and Bull Buchanon (formerly Recon of the Truth Commission), and a waste of time “match” between Terri and The Kat. Despite having one of the deepest rosters in years, very little of it is allowed to shine.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: For the first and (thankfully?) only time, WWE did a special pre-show that was an EIGHT HOUR retrospective of all previous WrestleMania’s, called “Wrestlemania: All Day Long.” It was mostly recap videos of the events, with a match or two clipped down per half hour blocks. I SAT THROUGH ALL 12 HOURS. With the exception of the catfight between Terri and Stacy Carter, there is a total of zero traditional one-on-one matches featured. You have a handful of tag team matches and ever Championship Match features multiple challengers. Pete Rose makes his 3rd and final WrestleMania appearance, not only assaulted by Kane, but also gets a stink-face from Rikishi. Triple H is the first heel to leave WrestleMania the WWF Champion. This if the first 4-hour PPV since WrestleMania VII, and with the exception of WM 20, has become the standard run-time going forward. Gangrel and Mideon were rumored for the Hardcore Battle Royal, but were out with injuries. X-Pac and Road Dogg are using new theme music from Run-DMC featured on the “WWF Aggression” CD (a bunch of awful rap-remixes). Run-DMC of course have previous WrestleMania ties, having performed live at WrestleMania V.
Overall Rating: C+
I feel like WrestleMania 2000 gets a bit too much negativity, but at the same time, it has so much promise and fails to deliver. The roster is too deep with top of the card talent, so everything is bloated without resorting to a 14-match card like in the earlier years of WrestleMania. All of the Championship matches (mostly) delivered on their expectations, but only one of them would be considered a “career defining” moment, and that would be topped in grand fashion a year later. This might be the most negative I’ve been on a WrestleMania that I don’t have any problems with, but because of only getting a bunch of 3-star matches instead of a bunch of 4-star matches, it comes across as such.
Lows: As great as the show was, the build-up wasn’t the best, at least not to me. Putting a lot of focus on Debra as part of the Rock/Austin build seemed like such a second-rate time waster. The Undertaker’s natural feud was with Rikishi and Haku, but (thankfully) that was scrapped and he was suddenly pushed into an angle with Triple H. The stuff between Chyna and Ivory was just awful. As for the show itself, there’s so little that missed it comes down to nit-picking. The Women’s Title Match was as bad as the build, but it was short. There could’ve been more respect for the “WCW guys” than being lost in the shadows (say hello to the night!) in the upper-deck. Austin’s heel turn, in hindsight, wasn’t the right move. The ref’ bump in ‘Taker vs. HHH was ridiculously long.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: The gimmick battle royal originally had Cpl. Kirchner listed as a participant, but he didn’t appear. Tugboat was supposed to work as Typhoon, and the original idea was for the One Man Gang to be Akeem. X-Pac and Justin Credible defeated Steve Blackman and Grandmaster Sexay on Heat leading into the PPV. This marked the final PPV appearance of the horrid RTC stable. They would be destroyed by the Brothers of Destruction a week-or-so later, and with the exception of Stevie Richards, all were left off TV for the rest of 2001.
Overall Rating: A+
I think it’s very fair to say that this is the best WrestleMania in Mania History. All the top matches delivered, with two matches hitting the 5-star mark, the first (and last) time since Mania 10 that kind of scorecard took place. Unlike Mania 10, the rest of the card delivered too, with a handful of other matches ranging from 3-4 stars, and a very satisfying undercard, with everything being good enough, but not so much that it would burn everyone out halfway into the show. If you ignore the Diva’s Match, the worst one on the card is the 6-Man Tag, and I’ve seen much worse than that.
Lows: Triple H vs. Chris Jericho was not only hyped in underwhelming style, but delivered an equally dull match to cap it off. Maybe you can blame the latter on the unfortunate luck of having to follow Hogan vs. Rock, but it’s not like either man was going for an all-time classic. The result was never in doubt. When Mania Main Events have such an obvious outcome, it’s hard to get excited, regardless of the quality of booking leading into the show. Steve Austin goes from perennial Mania headliner to working 4th from the top in an awful match with Scott Hall. Most of the undercard is cobbled together. Maven is the defending Hardcore Champion? Edge and Booker T feuding over a SHAMPOO commercial? Building up an angle between DDP and Christian only to try and blow it off two weeks into it?
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Austin vs. Hogan was Plan A, but Austin passed on the offer, refusing to work with Hogan over previous professional behavior issues. Hulk Hogan isn’t the only man returning to Toronto for a 2nd WrestleMania. Mr. Perfect, who lost to Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania VI, works the Heat match before the PPV, teaming with Lance Storm and Test in a losing effort to Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty and “The Hip-Hop Hippo” Albert. Here’s something you’d want to miss: live performances from Saliva and Drowning Pool. This is the first WrestleMania where Undertaker’s record is actually mentioned as part of the hype (coming in, 9-0, and obviously victorious to make it double digits). The Hardcore and European Championships are defended for the last time at WrestleMania.
Overall Rating: D+
Probably the poorest worked WrestleMania of its era. An underwhelming Main Event, a poor, rushed together undercard, and the only lasting highlight is a match that benefits from one of the hottest crowds you’ll ever find. Take that crowd away (and you’ll see it a year later at No Way Out), and this same match is a steaming turd. Steve Austin is wasted, and I guess in WWF’s defense, it’s his own fault. The nonsense with the Hardcore Title lost steam 2 years ago, and yet they were still pushing the whole 24/7 rule. The Tag Team Title Match is a multi-team Elimination Match, and after two years of amazing spotfests, it’s barely Smackdown or Raw levels of quality. Kurt Angle and Kane have a decent match buried in the undercard, but the finish is spectacularly blown.
Coming up in Part Four of WrestleMania: Through The Years… it’s time for some Ruthless Aggression, we return to Madison Square Garden, “Where it all begins, again…”, WrestleMania Goes Hollywood, Billionaire’s Battle, and the WWE Universe says good-bye to the Nature Boy.