WrestleMania: Through The Years (Part 4)
by Scrooge McSuck
Last time on WrestleMania: Through The Years… The Austin Era begins, with a classic encounter with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, and his first World Championship won at WrestleMania XIV. Vince Russo manages to ruin WrestleMania XV by turning it into another episode of Monday Night Raw. WrestleMania 2000 suffers from being too bloated, but did have a great 8-hour pre-show called WrestleMania: All Day Long. WrestleMania X-Seven is the unofficial end of the Attitude Era, and probably the greatest WrestleMania on all time, and it’s Icon vs. Icon at WrestleMania X-8, with the returning Hulk Hogan facing the Rock in Toronto’s Skydome, the home of WrestleMania VI.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA XIX – March 30th, 2003
Highs: With such a loaded card, there’s so much that can be talked about, but at the same time, there’s negative that goes with it. Brock vs. Kurt was an outstanding Main Event, moreso because of the health concerns of Angle going into the show. Ditto Rock vs. Austin, which miraculously took place despite Austin being rushed to the ER the day before in what could’ve been a life-threatening situation. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho had the best undercard match, and probably Shawn’s first great match back that didn’t rely heavily on gimmicks. Hogan vs. McMahon was the garbage brawl we expected, and gave us one of the most ridiculous images of Vince, face covered in blood, peeking over the ring apron for the camera. Looking over the entire lineup, only one match could be considered “not very good”, and even that was alright.
- (Cruiserweight Champion) Matt Hardy def. Rey Mysterio [**]
- The Undertaker def. The Big Show & A-Train [*1/2]
- Trish Stratus def. Jazz and Victoria for the Women’s Title [**1/2]
- (SD Tag Champs) Team Angle def. Rhyno & Benoit and Los Guerreros [***]
- Shawn Michaels def. Chris Jericho [****1/4]
- (World Champion) Triple H def. Booker T [***]
- Hulk Hogan def. Vince McMahon [**1/2]
- The Rock def. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin [***1/2]
- Brock Lesnar def. Kurt Angle for the WWE Title [****]
Lows: Limp Bizkit’s live performance… seriously, though, everything has a taint, but we’ll start with the worst example: Triple H going over Booker T in an angle that heavily implied racial undertones, and not only did Triple H go over, but in one of the most anti-climatic ways possible. Angle vs. Lesnar ends on a sour note when Lesnar almost snaps his neck botching an SSP. Austin vs. Rock was great, but you can see a broken man in Austin just pushing his way through one last match. Hogan vs. McMahon went 20-minutes and was pushed as the true Main Event. Jericho and Shawn tease a happy moment and ends with Jericho punting him in the nuts. The opening match for the Cruiserweight Title is given a whopping 5-minutes on a 4-hour PPV. The Miller Light Catfight Girls, which I’ll go into detail in the next paragraph.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Kane and Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm and Chief Morley (subbing for a seriously ill William Regal) for the (Raw) Tag Team Titles is pushed to Heat to make room on the PPV for the Miller Lite Cat Fight Girls, a “guest spot” that spanned 4 segments and about 15-minutes of valuable PPV time. The Undertaker was originally scheduled to team with Nathan Jones, but he was removed from the card for fear of a poor performance. John Cena was originally scheduled to have a “rap battle” with Jay-Z and/or Fabolous, but plans fell through on both of them, so he just did a rap on cardboard cut-outs. This is the first WrestleMania under the newly branded “World Wrestling Entertainment.”
Overall Rating: A-
When you think of great WrestleManias, I think WrestleMania XIX gets the least amount of love, possible because it’s from an era where everyone was down on the product. Maybe because when you think of Mania XIX, you think of Hogan vs. Vince, or Triple H destroying Booker T’s credibility. Some of the best wrestling takes place on WrestleMania XIX, but there’s just something that can’t make me say it’s THE best one. Too many unhappy moments to most of the matches. I don’t want to sound like I’m being too negative, because I do recognize it for being a Top 5 choice, but as someone who sat through the product on weekly basis, I have very little fondness of what lead into and what came after the show. No, it’s not because I’m still mad at Kane being shunted into the Heat match in favor of stupid segments nobody could find entertaining.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA XX – March 14th, 2004
Highs: The Main Event, featuring Chris Benoit’s World Championship victory over Shawn Michaels and Triple H is probably the smart-fan’s most favorite wet dream coming to life, in a spectacular performance, and with a clean finish. Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle had a nearly-as-good performance over the other Championship. The Handicap Tag Match between Evolution and the Rock n’ Sock Connection was the highlight of the undercard, featuring one of the greatest over-exaggerated spots with Ric Flair attempting a People’s Elbow. This probably would make the “low” section of other people, but the trainwreck that is Brock vs. Goldberg might be the first time at a WWE PPV where the entire place turned on both workers from bell-to-bell.
- John Cena def. The Big Show for the US Title [**]
- (Raw Tag Champions) Booker T & RVD def. Garrison Cade & Mark Jindrak, La Resistance and Dudley Boyz [3/4*]
- Christian def. Chris Jericho [***]
- Randy Orton, Batista, Ric Flair def. The Rock N’ Sock Connection [***1/2]
- Torrie Wilson & Sable def. Stacy Keibler & Jackie Gayda [-*]
- (Cruiserweight Champion) Chavo Guerrero def. Ultimo Dragon, Shannon Moore, Nunzio, Tajiri, Akio, Billy Kidman, Jamie Noble, and Rey Mysterio [*1/2]
- Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar [DUD]
- (SD Tag Champions) Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty def. The APA, Basham Brothers, World’s Great Tag Team [1/2*]
- (Women’s Champion) Victoria def. Molly Holly [*1/2]
- (WWE Champion) Eddie Guerrero def. Kurt Angle [****]
- The Undertaker def. Kane [1/2*]
- Chris Benoit def. Triple H and Shawn Michaels for the World Heavyweight Title [****1/2]
Lows: There’s just too much filler. There’s two Tag Team Titles defended, both in a 4-Corners Match, and I don’t think more than 5-minutes of build up went into either of them. After months of hype and anticipation, the Undertaker returns to his deadman persona… looking exactly like his “Biker-Taker” character, except with a new hat. Even the surprise-return of Paul Bearer couldn’t make up for that. The Cruiserweight Open, featuring 10 men, is limited to a 10-minute match on a 5 HOUR SHOW. Ultimo Dragon slipping during his entrance and almost falling off the ropes is probably not part of his “Dream” to work at WrestleMania and MSG. The unfortunate events in the years that followed render the Main Event and concluding moment erased from history. Did you know, according to WWE Magazine, the show ended with Eddie vs. Angle?
Anything You Might’ve Missed: This is, to date, the longest WrestleMania, not including a pre-show, with a 5-hour run-time, and the most bloated card since the 14-matches presented at WrestleMania VII. For the 5th year in a row, the Tag Team Titles (in this case, both) are defended with at least two challenging teams. WrestleMania XX marked the return of the WWE’s Hall of Fame, with inductees including Greg Valentine, Superstar Billy Graham, Tito Santana, Junkyard Dog, Jesse Ventura, Don Muraco, Sgt. Slaughter, Harley Race, Bobby Heenan, Big John Studd, and Pete Rose, the inaugural “celebrity” inductee.
Overall Rating: B+
If not for needless fluff to push this into a 5-hour program, this could’ve been one of the best WrestleMania’s of all time. Two World Championship matches hitting 4-stars are more and two really good undercard matches given plenty of time would, on a smaller card, be a must-watch show. Unfortunately, in between all that is a handful of crappy Tag Title Matches, an AWFUL “Diva’s Evening Gown Match”, and Undertaker vs Kane Part 36 where the result was never going to be in doubt.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA 21 – April 3rd, 2005
Highs: One of the best undercards in WrestleMania History. The inaugural Money in the Bank Ladder Match takes some of the best workers in the company with little going on at the time (and Kane), put them in a Ladder Match with a guaranteed Championship Match at any given time, and what you get is a phenomenal spot-fest, with Shelton Benjamin coming off as the match MVP despite Edge walking away victorious. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero gets a little too much flack for not being a 5-star classic like they delivered at Halloween Havoc, but it’s still a REALLY good match, and a great match to kick off a PPV. Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle put on an absolute classic, despite what the 2005 version of me would say because he was a bitter prick. Even the Undertaker vs. Randy Orton, a match on paper that should’ve been a yawner, was a damn fine match with plenty of thrills. You could say the first 2 hours plus of this WrestleMania were some of the best, ever. [Yes, I’m aware I mentioned in a previous Mania, X-Seven, that I would never give 5-stars to two matches on the same Mania again… I lied.]
- Rey Mysterio def. Eddie Guerrero [***1/2]
- Edge def. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Christian and Kane in the 1st Money in the Bank Ladder Match [*****]
- The Undertaker def. Randy Orton [***1/2]
- (Women’s Champion) Trish Stratus def. Christy Hemme [-*]
- Kurt Angle def. Shawn Michaels [*****]
- Akebono def. Big Show in a Sumo Match [-*]
- John Cena def. JBL for the WWE Championship [*1/2]
- Batista def. Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship [**]
Lows: Unfortunately, the Main Event(s) are what you remember most when looking at shows like this, and while we did get the launch of John Cena and Batista into the next level, both matches came across as flat compared to what we got to witness underneath. Someone must’ve thought seeing Big Show in a Sumo thong was a great visual, otherwise his “Sumo Match” with Akebono was just a colossal waste of time. Speaking of a colossal waste of time, the inaugural winner of the WWE Diva Search, Christy Hemme, puts on a candidate for Worst WrestleMania Match, stinking up the joint with Trish Stratus.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Muhammad Hassan’s only WrestleMania appearance, putting a beat down on Eugene, until the PRIDE OF AMERICA Hulk Hogan makes a surprise return and cleans house. The segment must’ve been loved so much, they did it again second-by-second the night after on Monday Night Raw. Roddy Piper and Steve Austin do an in-ring segment with midcard geek Carlito (no longer Caribbean Cool). While Undertaker’s record has been addressed before, this is the first WrestleMania where his opponent’s goal was to end his winning streak (12-0 coming into the show), and would become the standard build to Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches for every year going forward. A 30-Man Battle Royal is held as a Dark Match, filmed to be a bonus feature on the DVD. Booker T won, last eliminating the wonderfully sucky tandem of Viscera and Chris Masters.
Overall Rating: B
If either of those two Main Events delivers a 4-star performance, we’re talking one of the best WrestleMania’s of all time. Unfortuntely, both were flat, and I think my original opinion is still influencing my feelings, because at the time, it was REALLY obvious Cena and Batista were winning, so it was definitely a “shrug your shoulders” situation where you can’t suspend disbelief, especially when everything seemed so paint-by-numbers. The MITB Ladder Match is worth a look, especially if you’ve never seen it before. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle sounds like a dream match on paper and more than delivers. Eddie vs. Rey, even on an off-night, is still a really good match (I just wish Rey would leave the goofy masks at home when they’re going to be a pain in the ass). On a card with only 8 matches, it feels a bit like a jip that two of the matches are a throw-away gimmick match featuring an outsider nobody cares about, and a Women’s Match where one of them has only been in professional wrestling for less than 8 months.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA 22 – April 2nd, 2006
Highs: Mick Foley returns from retirement, again, and puts over Edge in an outstanding "Extreme Rules" Match. Trish Stratus and Mickie James have one of the best matches in WWE History (until a little thing called NXT arrived), the culmination of an angle that was simmering for half-a-year. In the years before and after, it seemed like every angle over the Women's Title was insta-feud and rushed at the last minute, just to get them on the card. RVD is the unlikely winner of the MITB briefcase, and used later to re-establish the ECW brand.
- (Raw Tag Champions) Kane & Big Show def. Carlito & Chris Masters [**]
- Rob Van Dam def. Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Lashley, Finlaey, and Ric Flair in the 2nd Money in the Bank Ladder Match [***1/2]
- JBL def. Chris Benoit for the US Title [**1/2]
- Edge def. Mick Foley [****]
- The Boogeyman def. Booker T & Sharmell [DUD]
- Mickie James def. Trish Stratus for the Women’s Title [***]
- The Undertaker def. Mark Henry in a Casket Match [*1/2]
- Shawn Michaels def. Mr. McMahon [**1/2]
- Rey Mysterio def. Kurt Angle and Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Title [**]
- Torrie Wilson def. Candice Michelle [-*]
- (WWE Champion) John Cena def. Triple H [***1/2]
Lows: This was during that period of “Eddie Exploitation”, where Rey Mysterio’s desires of becoming the WWE Champion were centered more around “winning it for Eddie” than for himself. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the crowd was actually boo’ing the match because of the tasteless angle leading into the show. Booker T is squashed by the Boogeyman. I don’t have to go into more detail for that, do I? For reasons unknown, we get two Diva’s Matches, again. One is a good match for the Women’s Title, the other is a filler “Playboy Pillow Fight” that is only intended for 12-year olds who don’t know how to find porno and Kevin Dunn because he can’t get enough of jamming a camera up Torrie Wilson’s ass.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: CM Punk (among others) is an extra during John Cena’s entrance for the WWE Championship Match. Pretty much any of the sexually suggestive taunts and antics during the Mickie James/Trish Stratus match. With the exception of the live PPV, everything was edited out of all future releases. In the Dark Match Battle Royal, Viscera won, having to survive a final four that featured Tyson Tomko, Snitsky, and THE ROAD WARRIOR. The 2006 Hall of Fame marked Bret Hart’s first live appearance on WWE programming since the Montreal Screwjob. It would be another 4 years before making his first appearance on Monday Night Raw. Goldust is back, for how long nobody knows, offering his former friend Booker T advice on how to handle freaks. The same segment featured Snitsky playing with Mae Young’s feet.
Overall Rating: C
A lackluster card, from start to finish. When the show originally was broadcast on PPV, I was really down on the product, and going years before seeing it again, the quality of the show hasn’t improved. Vince McMahon is back for another long WrestleMania match, and it’s good, just how many times can you see the same thing and still feel satisfied? Rey Mysterio’s Championship victory came across as cheap, and cutting the match in half for time issues just shows how much respect they had for the match, instead of cutting other more meaningless filler before and after it. The Ladder Match is a big drop in quality from the previous year, and the opener is just so-so. The Main Event is a bit better than the year before, and Edge vs. Foley kicks a lot of ass, but other than that, a paint-by-numbers show with a completely forgettable lineup.
WWE WRESTLEMANIA 23 – April 1st, 2007
Highs: The Undertaker and Batista do their best to steal the show, delivering one of the most unlikely great matches in ‘Mania History. Rumor has it both were upset they weren’t closing the show, due to Cena/Michaels being a bit more thrown together with the original plan being Triple H’s involvement before an injury sidelined him, and wanted to show everyone else up. It was close, but Cena vs. Michaels still delivered an even better match. To think, as good as Cena vs. Michaels was, they had an equally great match a few weeks later on Monday Night Raw! The Battle of the Billionaires gave us the shaving of Vince McMahon’s head. The MITB Ladder Match was another great spotfest, including a vicious spot involving a breaking ladder, taking Jeff Hardy and Edge out mid-match (and thus, unofficially, ending Edge’s winning streak at Mania).
- Mr. Kennedy def. Jeff Hardy, King Booker, Finlay, CM Punk, Matt Hardy, Randy Orton, and Edge in the 3rd Annual Money in the Bank Ladder Match [****]
- The Great Khali def. Kane [*]
- (US Champion) Chris Benoit def. MVP [**1/2]
- The Undertaker def. Batista for the World Title [****]
- RVD, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, Sabu def. Elijah Burke, Matt Striker, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von [*1/2]
- Lashey def. Umaga [**]
- (Women’s Champion) Melina def. Ashley [-*]
- (WWE Champion) John Cena def. Shawn Michaels [****1/2]
Lows: The Battle of the Billionaires was a financial success, but as for the actual entertainment, it was OK at best. Umaga and Lashley tried, but they weren’t very good. The stuff with McMahon and Donald Trump ranged from campy (the trash talking) to downright awful (any time Trump got physically involved), complete with the absolute WORST Stunner you will ever see. Again, even though this is an 8-match card on a 4-hour PPV, the Eight-Man Tag is trimmed way down, and was given away a few weeks later on TV, and turned out to be a ***+ match instead of a throw-away 6-match rush-job. For the second year out of three, a Diva Search contestant delivers a candidate for Worst WrestleMania Match. This year’s victim: Ashley. Melina is definitely not near Trish’s level of in-ring competence, so I guess it was slightly better than what Christy did?
Anything You Might’ve Missed: There were heavy tie-ins with WrestleMania III, with this being the second WrestleMania held in the Detroit area. Aretha Franklin was brought in to once again sing America, the Beautiful. Original plans were for Hulk Hogan to recreate his slam of Andre at WrestleMania III on the Great Khali, but for whatever reasons, they couldn’t come to terms, so Kane pointlessly slams Khali before doing the job. This is the first WrestleMania to feature WWE’s 3rd brand: the WWE version of “ECW”, featured Tuesday night’s at 10 pm E.T. on the Sci-Fi Network. The only match featuring nothing but “ECW” talent barely gets 10-minutes, including ring introductions. Ric Flair and Carlito defeated Gregory Helms and Chavo Guerrero in a Dark Match, with Lumberjack Rules.
Overall Rating: B+
Three of the eight matches, and all three very prominently featured, delivered 4-star (or higher) performances, which automatically puts it at the top of the list. It also helps that the placement of the three matches is spaced out properly, with one opening the show, one closing the show, and one solidly in the middle. That makes the filler around it much easier to sit through, even if in some cases, certain matches deserved a little more time. There’s some bad, but it’s not bad enough to take the show down. I felt like the Battle of the Billionaires stuff just seemed like it went on forever, and it was just OK. The Women’s Match sucked, but everyone knew that without having to spend much time thinking about it. Still, a great show is a great show. Does anyone honestly expect a thumbs down based solely on how bad the Women’s Match was?
WWE WRESTLEMANIA XXIV – March 30th, 2008
Highs: WrestleMania XXIV marks the first time I completely stopped following the product, so all my opinions are from watching the shows years later, instead of live on PPV. The big match of the card, at least the one that stands out the most, is the match between Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, with Flair being forced to retire if he loses. It’s not a classic, but it’s probably the best match you could expect from the two, and it tells a great story. It’s yet another notch in Shawn Michaels’ belt that gives him the nickname “Mr. WrestleMania.” The Undertaker continues to prove he’s top dog at WrestleMania, with another outstanding performance to win a Championship. CM Punk fanboys can rejoice in seeing him walk away with the Money in the Bank briefcase. For an overly gimmicked scenario, the Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather was fine.
- JBL def. Finlay in a Belfast Brawl [**1/2]
- CM Punk def. Mr. Kennedy, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, MVP, Chris Jericho, and Carlito in the 4th Annual Money in the Bank Ladder Match [***1/2]
- Batista def. Umaga [1/2*]
- Kane def. Chavo Guerrero for the ECW Title [DUD]
- Shawn Michaels def. Ric Flair [***1/2]
- Beth Phoenix & Melina def. Ashley & Maria [-*]
- (WWE Champion) Randy Orton def. John Cena and Triple H [***]
- Floyd Mayweather def. The Big Show [**]
- The Undertaker def. Edge for the World Title [****]
Lows: The Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather circus. Going into the show, the build-up made Big Show look like a jerk and Mayweather as the under-sized hero. I guess someone in WWE realized how much of a douche Mayweather was, and did a complete 180, suddenly making Big Show face (what? BIG SHOW TURNED? NO WAY!), and Mayweather an arrogant jerk… and then I think they turned again, mid-match. I don’t know, it was so confusing. The Diva’s Match is once again a joke, so what the hell is the point of putting them out there? At this point, I’m automatically assigning a negative one star rating to all of them, unless something OK is featured. Batista vs. Umaga is a featured “Smackdown vs. Raw” match, and it stinks the place up.
Anything You Might’ve Missed: Kane won a 24-Man Battle Royal to earn a shot at the ECW Championship later in the show, last eliminating Mark Henry. Even though WWE can re-write its own history, they are obsessed with “legit” breaking the 9-second “record” from WrestleMania 1. They tried and failed, with Kane squashing Chavo in about 12 seconds. At least it was a match that wasn’t built for weeks and was only added to the show at the last minute. Big Show continues his awful WrestleMania luck, a losing effort to Floyd Mayweather, professional boxer who is roughly 1/3rd Big Show’s size. That brings Show’s WrestleMania record to 1-6, including “WWF New York” duties for WrestleMania X-8. Whoever scripts WWE programming, or feeds lines to their broadcast teams, apparently doesn’t know the story of Old Yeller. Let’s just say they didn’t put the dog down because he was old, it was because he had rabies. I knew the story of Old Yeller since I was 6. It’s not a complicated story to remember.
Overall Rating: B-
There’s some really good stuff featured, and some crap in the undercard. It’s becoming quite a consistent formula, isn’t it? How many more times can I say “the main events were really good, everything else was so-so and rushed because of time issues? Well, if you’re a smart-ass, only 6 more times. Thank GOD. I’m not a fan of Triple Threats, so the WWE Championship Match doesn’t do much for me. Undertaker vs. Edge is great, and probably the last time I expected the Undertaker to lose at WrestleMania. Flair has a grand farewell match, unfortunately his career would continue away from WWE because of poor financial management. Once again, everything is paced out well, but some of the bad is REALLY bad.
Coming up next time, it’s the conclusion of WrestleMania: Through The Years. We celebrate the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania 25 (that’s what the logo says!), Hell freezes over with the WrestleMania Return of the Hitman (a return, in hindsight, everyone wishes never happened), The Miz Main Events, Once in a Lifetime becomes Twice in a Lifetime, and the Yes Movement makes magic happen in the Big Easy.
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