Welcome back to my new series of columns reviewing past WWE shows, and as its WrestleMania week, it seems only appropriate for this column to be based around WrestleMania X8.
Just a quick note for any newbies, the format of the reviews will be quite simplistic, I had envisioned a full play-by-play transcript of every punch, kick and move, but there’s only so much I believe you good people are willing to read, so I’ll try to condense it into manageable sizes for you to enjoy. For a quicker assessment you can always see the standardised “star rating” and verdict that will be after every match.
Every match will have the events that brought us to the point of the contest, backstage attacks, scything promos, or any previous matches between the opponents. There will also be descriptions and judgments of any promos or segments shown during the event.
So, here we go with the eighteenth instalment of WrestleMania, and the WrestleMania return of the biggest star in history…
Date: March 17th, 2002
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Before we get any videos we get Saliva singing the national anthem. Except they’ve changed the lyrics and melody to their song “Superstar”, the official theme song of WrestleMania X8. Josey Scott actually looks a lot like Kizarny. Whilst I actually like this song, I’m not a big fan of bands playing live at WrestleMania, unless it’s a wrestlers’ entrance or some kind of American anthem. The performance is given some kind of use by having the standard show hype video shown on the screens behind them to remind us what we will be seeing tonight.
But we get another hype video anyway, showcasing the history of WrestleMania with wrestlers sharing their thoughts on why it is so important. Eventually Triple H speaks about his injury, Hogan speaks about his comeback, and The Rock and Chris Jericho speak about the importance of tonight’s WrestleMania.
We then head into the BANG, BANG, BANG PYRO TIME! And then some more BANG BANG BANG PYRO. That’s a lot of fireworks. We are on a six year tape delay in the Skydome in Toronto, Canada. Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, the crowd are up for it, WWF New York is up for it, and here comes our first match…
WWF Intercontinental Title Match
William Regal (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
How It Came To This
William Regal’s never-ending feud with Edge finally ended when Regal defended his Intercontinental Title successfully against Edge at No Way Out. RVD won a shot at the Intercontinental Title by defeating Lance Storm and Big Show in a triple threat match. RVD took on Goldust for the Hardcore Title, but a well placed brass knuckles punch from Regal cost him the match. RVD promised revenge at WrestleMania, and pinned Regal in a six man tag match. Regal had the last laugh before the show however, costing RVD a match against Kurt Angle, before beating RVD down until Kane made the save.
RVD gets a huge ovation; Regal does not get the same positive response but gets a lot of boos for turning up. RVD ducks a left hand first up and connects with back kick, a clothesline and a standing moonsault. Mounted punches from RVD, before some kicks to the mid-section, but Regal stops his momentum with a back elbow. Regal spends an age fumbling in his tights, before eventually finding some brass knucks, but RVD kicks them out of his hand to the ringside area. Regal begs off, but gets a low dropkick. RVD sends Regal to the corner, and comes off the second rope with a spinning kick, then goes for it all with a Five Star Frog Splash. Regal moves out of the way, and then connects with a knee to the side of RVD’s head for a series of two counts. RVD is whipped off the ropes, but he ducks a clothesline and hits a crossbody for a two count. Regal trips RVD and punches the back of RVD’s head, then connects with a suplex for a two count. RVD reverses a whip and sends Regal into the air with a back body drop, but Regal fights back and connects with the move formerly known as the Union Jack, and delivers the neckbreaker viciously for a 2 count.
Regal then locks in a double arm lock to give us our first resthold of the night; RVD spends 18 seconds in the hold before flipping Regal over his head. Thrust kick to the head connects from RVD, but a Rolling Thunder attempt meets the knees of Regal, who follows that up with a butterfly powerbomb for a two count. Regal goes to lock in a Regal Stretch, but RVD reverses it to a small package for a two count. Regal slugs RVD down and goes for another butterfly powerbomb, but RVD drives him into the corner and does his shoulder thrust combination. RVD sends Regal to the opposite corner and hits a monkey flip. RVD catches a Regal kick and goes for the windmill kick, but Regal reverses and hits a SICK half nelson suplex, folding RVD up like an accordion. RVD rolls out of the ring and we get a double count, but Regal heads out to get RVD, sending him back into the ring before going to get his brass knuckles. Back inside and the referee gets hold of them, but Regal gets another pair out of his trunks. RVD kicks them into his face (allegedly), and leaps up on to the top rope. A Five Star Frog Splash connects this time, and RVD covers for the win, and the Intercontinental Title!
Winner: Rob Van Dam
Verdict: The “first match title switch” is nearly as much a WrestleMania tradition as The Undertaker winning, and this show was no different. The match itself was fairly by-the-numbers stuff, with nothing outside of the ordinary apart from that Half Nelson Suplex. The crowd’s interest kept the match fairly enjoyable, but they needed a bit more of a story to the match to make it any better.
Lillian Garcia is with a happy, smiling Christian. He’s fighting DDP for the European Title tonight in his hometown of Toronto. We get a recap of DDP helping Christian beat Billy Gunn, and Christian turning on DDP afterwards. Surely the stuff of legend. He turned on DDP because he didn’t need him any more. Christian says he’s moved to Florida to get away from the “second-rate” Toronto, and he’s ready to become the champion of Europe.
WWF European Title Match
DDP (c) vs. Christian
How It Came To This
A losing streak of epic proportions caused Christian to start throwing tantrums after his defeats, before eventually running out of patience and deciding to quit. But before he could sign his resignation papers, DDP showed up and offered to help restore his smile and lose his negativity. Christian developed a toothy grin shortly afterwards, and the skits continued with Christian trying to be positive with children, and his grandmother’s illness, but rarely getting the point. Christian ended his losing streak with a victory over Billy Gunn, with DDP’s help, only for Christian to attack DDP afterwards and declare himself “a winner”. This match was then rushed on the WrestleMania card on the SmackDown! before the show.
Christian is announced as being from Tampa, Florida instead of Toronto just in case he was going to get any hometown cheers. DDP and his insanely white teeth make their second WrestleMania appearance, the first being driving the Honky Tonk Man to the ring at WrestleMania 6 (also in Toronto). Christian attacks before the bell and poses with the European Title, and they then screw up an Irish whip reverse, so they do it again, allowing DDP to hit a gutwrench gutbuster, before clotheslining Christian out of the ring. DDP introduces Christian to the barricade and the ring apron, before heading back in and starting up a 10 punch. He gets to five before Christian gets an undetected low blow and dropping DDP on the top turnbuckle. Christian knocks DDP out on to the apron, and then sends him flying into the barricade. Back inside, Christian stomps DDP down in the corner, then picks him up and punches him back down again. DDP finally reverses and unleashes some punches of his own. DDP sends Christian into the corner and ducks a high boot by sliding out of the ring, but ends up getting pulled face-first into the ringpost.
DDP back in, after a knee to the gut Christian applies an abdominal stretch. That lasts 17 seconds, but Christian ducks a DDP punch, and delivers a snap backbreaker for a two count. Christian chokes DDP in the corner, before whipping him, being reversed, but catching him with a high elbow. Christian heads to the top rope but wastes too much time, allowing DDP to catch him and powerslam him off the top rope. Both men are down, and when they get back up DDP hits a discus clothesline. DDP gets Christian up above his head and delivers a helicopter powerbomb for a two count. Christian reverses a back suplex and goes for an Impaler, DDP reverses to go for a Diamond Cutter, but Christian reverses and manages to hit a diving reverse DDT for a very close two count. Christian avoids a temper tantrum, but DDP rolls him up in a small package for a two count. Christian swings a right hand, but DDP easily ducks, and after a slight hesitation, delivers a Diamond Cutter and gets the three count! DDP grabs a microphone as well, congratulating Christian on not having a tantrum, despite losing in front of millions of people. He breaks out his “that’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing” catchphrase, and Christian duly has a temper tantrum. DDP enters through the crowd, and that might take a while.
Verdict: Our second match in a row with very little in the way of psychology, and this time without the hot crowd to keep it going. There were also quite a few timing issues, normally the result of a pre-planned match and someone forgetting the next move. Definitely could have been better, but it was probably overlooked in the grand scheme of things.
The Coach is with THE ROCK, who cuts Coach off before he’s even close to finishing his question. Finally, he’s come back to Toronto you know. Rock has some words for Hollywood Hogan; he wants Hulkamania and all of its glory tonight so he can beat the best. He asks Coach if he’s taken his vitamins, and he has. But Coach was too busy to say his prayers, so he has to say his prayers now. “What up, G?” – Coach. The Rock seems unhappy with this and literally kicks Coach out of the interview. He then goes back to the topic, and asks Hogan what he’s gonna do when The Rock runs wild on him? Rock keeps going, telling Hogan he will smell what The Rock is cooking, complete with a shirt tear.
WWF Hardcore Title Match
Maven (c) vs. Goldust
How It Came To This
Maven had won the title before No Way Out by defeating The Undertaker, with a lot of help from The Rock. Maven beat Goldust in his first title defence, but was attacked by The Undertaker afterwards. In the medical room afterwards, Goldust reminded us of the 24/7 rule by taking Maven out and pinning him to win the title. Goldust explained that the 24/7 rule had been ignored when The Undertaker was champion as everyone was too afraid, in possibly the most logical explanation the WWF had done to that point. Al Snow then defeated Goldust to win the title, but on the SmackDown! before WrestleMania, Maven ran out during an Al Snow/Big Show match to pin Snow and win the title back.
Goldust comes out first and starts unloading gold weaponry from under the ring. Maven comes out at WrestleMania as a champion, less than a year after leaving his job as a school teacher which is pretty incredible. Goldust knees Maven in the head as Maven goes to enter the ring, and follows him outside, throwing him into the barricade head first. Goldust then sets Maven up on the barricade, and delivers an elbow from the apron. Back inside, but Maven dropkicks a trash can into Goldust’s face. Goldust goes for a suplex, but Maven gets a small package for two. Goldust ducks a clothesline, but Goldust hits a neckbreaker for two, and then hits a reverse suplex for another two. Goldust gets a gold shovel from under the ring, and catapults its handle into Maven’s chest. Gold trash can set up in the corner, Goldust beats Maven down in the opposite one, before sending him back-first into the can for a two count. Goldust and Maven both get a trash can lid, and simultaneously knock each other out. This allows Spike Dudley to run in with his own referee, and pin Maven to win the title! Crash Holly comes out to go after Spike, Goldust and Maven follow… and I guess this match is over?
Winner: Spike Dudley?
Verdict: I don’t use the term “waste of time” very often, but if the match is just a set up for hardcore shenanigans, why have the match in the first place? What Maven and Goldust did was alright for the time they had, but a WrestleMania match is supposed to have some kind of special aura around it, and this missed the boat by a long way.
We get more live music, this time Drowning Pool sing us a lovely song to “tell us the story” of Triple H vs. Chris Jericho. In fact, the song doesn’t even mention either Jericho or HHH, but I suppose the lyric “I don’t care about anyone but me” could relate to Stephanie McMahon, who of course if the focal point of the entire feud. More on that later
Hey, the Hardcore title match is still going! Crash throws Spike into a wall, and gets a two count. Here comes Al Snow and Teddy Long on a golf cart! They crash through a load of boxes. Spike survives the Crash attack, but The Hurricane swings in on a rope, kicks Spike in the face, and covers him to win the title! Al Snow re-emerges, but he’s too late. Let the hilarity continue!
Kurt Angle vs. Kane
How It Came To This
Guess I have to work this one out myself as there’s no hype video. Angle put Kane through a table with an Angle Slam, before applying his Ankle Lock for an extended period of time. Kane shook the effects of the attack off and return on the next show, costing Angle a chance to win the Undisputed Title against Chris Jericho. Kane teamed with HHH to defeat Jericho and Angle, before Angle interfered in Kane’s match against Jericho to cost him the victory. That same night Kane went looking for Angle in the parking lot, but Angle jumped him, slammed a rolling garage door on his chest, and hit him over the head with a chair. Kane then returned to save RVD from an attack by Angle and William Regal.
Angle enters first, as we see a huge “YOU SUK” banner. Oh dear. Angle has a microphone, and he tells us that if he’d won his gold medal in the same way as some Canadian figure skaters, he would shoot himself in the head. Apparently there was some kind of controversy in the 2002 Winter Olympics. I can’t remember what he’s talking about. He earned his medal, and he’s the Big Red, White and Blue machine. Here comes Kane to interrupt Angle. Kane does his pyro before the match, often a sign of things to come. Angle then attacks Kane with the ring bell before the match is started, and unleashes the right hands. Kane fires back with some of his own, but Angle ducks and delivers a German Suplex. Angle stomps Kane down in the corner, but stops to taunt the fans, and gets some punches and a back elbow from Kane as a result. Kane sends Angle into the corner, and then gets him in a lifting chokehold. Kane goes for a Chokeslam, but Angle grabs the ropes, but walks into an uppercut. Another Kane uppercut in the corner, but when he whips Angle into the corner, he follows in and Angle moves. Kane comes out swinging but Angle ducks a clothesline and delivers a belly to belly suplex. Angle follows up with a clothesline, then a second, before kicking Kane in the ribs.
He chokes Kane on the middle rope, then whips him face first into the turnbuckle and delivers a back suplex for a two count. Angle goes for a front facelock to give me a resthold to complain about; Kane manages to power his way out of it after 35 seconds, dropping Angle face-first on the mat in the process. Angle fires away with some more punches, but runs off the ropes straight into a sidewalk slam. Kane goes for a suplex, but Angle reverses for a German Suplex, holding on for a second one, and then hitting the third as well. Angle covers for two, before uncharacteristically heading to the top rope. But he delivers a flying clothesline, and celebrates to the dismay of the crowd. Angle goes back up top, but this time Kane catches him with a clothesline, and both men are down. There’s a slugfest as they get back to their feet, which Kane wins before Angle knees him in the gut. Kane reverses a whip and catches Angle with a big boot, before sending him off the ropes again and hitting a back body drop. Kane sends Angle to the corner, and delivers an overhead powerslam for a two count.
Angle into the corner once again, but he catches Kane with a back elbow, only to run straight into a Chokeslam! Kane covers, but Angle gets his hand on the bottom rope before the three count. Kane signals that this is the end, but as he goes to Tombstone Angle, Angle reverses by pulling his mask and delivers an Angle Slam! Angle covers, but Kane kicks out! But the STRAPS ARE DOWN! Angle locks in the Ankle Lock! Kane stays in the hold for thirty seconds before kicking Angle off, but Angle locks it straight back in again, before Kane gets to the ropes after another 20 seconds, then delivers an enziguri to the head of Angle. Kane heads to the top rope, very slowly of course, but Angle takes advantage of that by running up to the top rope and sending Kane flying off to the mat! Angle goes for another Angle Slam, but Kane reverses it into a Chokeslam, only for Angle to reverse that into a roll-up! Unfortunately they screw it up beyond all belief, and Kane’s shoulders aren’t even down, Angle is too far away from the ropes to put his feet on them, and it all looks like a big mess. Angle celebrates on his way back up the ramp, whilst Kane looks on angrily.
Winner: Kurt Angle
Verdict: Wow, that ending was the worst pinfall attempt I’ve ever seen, surprising considering the two people involved in it. The match itself was rarely interesting, Angle’s german suplexes on the much larger Kane were fairly decent, but so much of it was basic wrestling moves or just punching and kicking. Again, it’s WrestleMania, and I expect a little bit more.
Our new Hardcore champion The Hurricane is wandering the halls, grabbing a broom to defend himself, but he accidentally walks into The Godfather’s locker room where his escorts are getting changed. Hurricane peeks over a folding screen, fortunately with a light to show his shadow, and the broom makes it look like he’s really enjoying himself. The Godfather himself comes to chase him off, and comforts his girls. LET THE HILARITY CONTINUE!
No Disqualification Match
The Undertaker vs. Ric Flair
How It Came To This
The Undertaker and Ric Flair had a war of words, before at No Way Out Flair stopped Taker using a lead pipe in a match against The Rock, and then ended up hitting him with it. Taker challenged Flair to a match at WrestleMania in response, but Flair refused. Taker then decided to give Flair no option but to accept the match, viciously assaulting Flair’s long time friend Arn Anderson, and then heading to the WWF’s developmental territory to brutally destroy Flair’s eldest son David. Flair accepted the match, but lost his mind in the process. He attacked Taker in a fit of rage, but in his rage, he punched a “fan” in the face. This led to a meeting of the board of directors, where Flair lost his authority in the WWE until after WrestleMania (don’t get me started on how this is not actually allowed in business terms). For a fun fact, the theme used for the hype video for this match would go on to be La Resistance’s.
Taker rides out to Rollin’ looking mean and moody, Flair comes out in full robe regalia and a lot of WHOO!s. Flair runs to the ring and goes straight after Taker, and they head out the ring, and end up going over the announce table, brawling all the way. More punches thrown, but Taker gets control with a back elbow. Back inside the ring and Flair punches away at Taker again, knocking him out of the ring, but his attempt to dive on Taker from the apron sees him caught and sent back first into the ring post. Back into the ring again, and it’s Flair back in hold with some left and right hands. Taker throws Flair into the corner, and he unloads some punches and a headbutt. Taker sends Flair into the corner and he turns upside down. Back to the opposite corner for some more punches, and back into the other corner where Flair flips to the apron, and Taker hits a big boot to knock him to the floor. More right hands, Flair being sat in the time-keeper’s chair as Taker unloads his punches. Flair is busted open, but Taker doesn’t let up on his assault, each punch deliberately placed on Flair’s cut. Back into the ring once more, where Taker kicks Flair straight in the head, before Taker sends Flair into the corner to punch him again. FLAIR FLOP! Flair fights back with some of knife edge chops, but Taker reverses a whip and clotheslines him in the corner. More right hands. Another whip to the corner, another corner clothesline.
Taker sets Flair up on the top rope, and hits some more right hands, before coming off the top with a superplex. Taker covers, but only gets two before he picks Flair up to stop the three. Taker grinds his forearm into Flair’s face; Flair tries to fight back with a chop, but gets another kick to the head. Taker elbows Flair in the head with Flair lying on the apron, and then delivers a leg drop to the back of the head. Another two count, again Taker picks Flair up. Another hard right hand, before Taker comes off the ropes, but misses an elbow drop. Flair chops back, but Taker drops him with another punch. Time for some old school, Taker heads to the top rope, but Flair drags him off the top to the mat. More chops from Flair, but he runs into a sidewalk slam, but only gets two. Taker charges but gets his leg caught on the top rope, allowing Flair to punch him out of the ring. Flair rakes Taker’s eyes, then gets the lead pipe from Taker’s bike, and smashes Taker over the head with it. Two more shots to Taker, then one more to the mid-section and Taker is busted open as well. Taker drives Flair into the security wall, but Flair fires back with two shots from a sign. Taker back into the ring and Flair follows, punching away at the jaw of Taker, but Taker reaches up and grabs Flair by the throat, only for Flair to kick Taker right in the family jewels.
Flair trips Taker, and locks in the Figure Four! Taker lasts 30 seconds in the hold, before grabbing Flair by the throat again. Flair releases the hold, and Taker delivers a Chokeslam! Taker covers, but only gets two! Taker’s rage means that he assaults the referee, and we get a ref bump (WHY? IT’S NO DQ!!) Flair chops Taker and whips him off the ropes, wait a second, ARN ANDERSON is in the ring! DOUBLE A SPINEBUSTER ON TAKER! Arn rolls out of the ring, that one move seemingly causing him a load of pain (so kudos to him for doing it), Flair covers, but only gets two. Taker sends Flair out of the ring, and turns his attention to Anderson, slugging him down and busting him open, before kicking him in the head. Taker applies the Dragon Sleeper, but Flair comes up behind him and levels him with a steel chair five times, but Taker bounces off the ropes and catches Flair with a big boot. Taker sets up for the Last Ride, but Flair is too tired to go up for it. So Taker goes to Plan B, and nails a TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER! That was more of a shock back in 2002, as it was a banned move. The referee raises his hand, and Taker slugs the referee down as well. That’ll teach him. The Undertaker raises both his hands, as he’s now 10-0 at WrestleMania.
Winner: The Undertaker
Verdict: Brawling, brawling and more brawling. Whilst sometimes that’s not great to watch, the storyline leading into this match makes it far more appropriate. Why would two people who just want to beat each other senseless have a technical war? A bit slow in places, but Arn Anderson’s appearance gives it an extra half a star.
Michael Cole is talking to Booker T backstage, who is making his WrestleMania debut. Tonight he’s fighting Edge, who apparently has been insulting Booker’s intelligence. Booker is wearing glasses to prove otherwise, but his lack of knowledge of Einstein’s theories lets him down. Let us all not forget that they are also fighting over a shampoo commercial that Edge got instead of Booker.
Booker T vs. Edge
How It Came To This
Oh, this’ll be fun. It all started when Booker T was aiming to conquer Japan by appearing in a Japanese shampoo commercial. Booker wrote himself a script for the commercial that apparently offended Tajiri. Booker was not best pleased when after defeating Scotty 2 Hotty, the president of the shampoo company gave the advertising job to the long haired Edge. Booker was not pleased, and even less so when Edge insulted his lack of intelligence, based on his performance on The Weakest Link, thus the match was made.
Booker enters first with his elaborate pyrotechnics. It’s the first time I’ve noticed that the stage is made out of scaffolding. Lots and lots of scaffolding. Edge enters to a loud pop; it’s his hometown you know. JR brings up the “Edge was in the crowd at WrestleMania 6” story before Edge even gets in the ring. “They are fighting over shampoo” sign in the crowd makes me chuckle. They lock-up and end up in the ropes, before slugging it out, which Edge wins. Edge leapfrogs a Booker charge, and barely connects with a dropkick, before hitting a half nelson facebuster for a 2 count. Booker reverses a whip and hangs Edge up on the top rope, before a spin kick gets a two count. Booker clotheslines Edge over the top rope, and delivers a forearm shot from the apron. Back inside, Booker heads to the top rope to connect with a missile dropkick that earns another two count. Some chops in the corner from Booker, then some stomps. Booker argues with referee Teddy Long, allowing Edge to regain control, but not for long as Booker reverses a whip and hits a spinebuster for two. Back to the top rope, but Edge stumbles on to the ropes to cause him to fall groin first. Edge joins Booker on the ropes, and attempts a hurracanrana that goes horribly wrong, Booker getting no distance on it and ending up falling on Edge.
Both men get up, and Edge gets a spinning heel kick to the face of Booker, followed by two clotheslines, but Booker knees him in the gut. Booker goes for the Scissors Kick, but Edge moves and connects with the Edge-O-Matic for a two count. Edge now to the top rope, and hits a spinning wheel kick again, and he gets two. Booker gets a rolling clutch pin out of the corner, but Edge reverses that into a toss to the corner. Edge goes for the Spear, but Booker moves and Edge runs into the turnbuckle. Booker connects with a sidekick and… it’s time. The Spin-a-Rooni!! It gets a huge pop, explaining why he turned face not long after. Booker then nails the Scissors Kick, but Edge kicks out! Booker goes for the Book End, but Edge arm drags him down. Edge off the ropes, SPEAR! 1, 2, No! Edge decides he’ll do an “Edge-a-Rooni”, which isn’t the worst attempt I’ve seen, and then goes for the Edge-u-cution on Booker, who reverses, Edge ducks a back kick, goes for the Edge-u-cution again, and this time it connects! Cover is made, and there’s the three count!
Verdict: Despite the lack of time given to it, this match wasn’t too bad at all. The ending sequence in particular was really exciting; even though I was watching it for the second time I still bought the near-falls and the finisher counters that ended things. Problem is, it can’t be forgotten that they were fighting over shampoo.
More Hardcore title fun and games, as Coach catches up with our current champion The Hurricane. He claims not to be a “Hurri-perve” after the Godfather incident, but he is the Hardcore champion. Mighty Molly joins us to suggest they go to the Hurri-Cycle, but then knocks him out with a frying pan, covers, and wins the Hardcore title! That was the end of the Hurricane and Molly’s partnership. LET THE HILARITY CONTINUE!
Scott Hall vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
How It Came To This
It all started at No Way Out when the nWo debuted by costing Stone Cold his chance to become Undisputed Champion, and spray painted the nWo logo on to his back. Austin was not a happy rattlesnake, and went after the nWo as often as he could, only for the nWo to strike back by dropping a cinder block over Austin’s knee. The nWo went after Austin again, but Austin fired a net at them, catching Nash, but the nWo escaped without any damage. Hall attacked Austin during a match against Booker T, with all three members of the nWo beating Austin down once more. Austin teamed up with The Rock in a losing effort to all three of the nWo, but on the SmackDown! before WrestleMania Austin managed to outsmart a planned ambush by Nash and Hall, and gave Hall a Stone Cold Stunner.
Wow, this match is low on the card. And Austin is coming out first. Bizarre. Black and white screen time as Hall comes out, accompanied by Kevin Nash who seems to miss his cue. Austin attacks before the bell, slugging Hall down and stomping a WHAThole in Hall, before knocking him down with a back elbow. Hall to the corner and Austin unleashes the chops, but Hall fires back with some rights. Hall ducks a back elbow and comes off the ropes, but Austin hits a Lou Thesz press and the right hands, before hitting an elbow drop for two. Austin smashes Hall’s head against the turnbuckle to draw some more WHAT?s, and Hall takes a rest. Austin heads outside and sends Hall into the steps, before heading back inside, but Hall clotheslines Austin for a two count. Hall stomps away, and with Hall chopping Austin in the corner, Nash takes a top turnbuckle pad off (apparently, we don’t see him do it), and Hall sends Austin spine-first into the exposed turnbuckle. Hall forces Austin out, and Nash knocks him down with some right hands. Hall comes out and brings Austin back in the ring, whips him into the corner and follows with a clothesline on two occasions, and then hits his trademark fallaway slam for a two count.
Hall chokes Austin on the middle rope, and Nash comes over to punctuate it with a right hand. “Razor” chants from the crowd as Hall stomps away at the ribs of Austin, and another right hand from Nash. Austin reverses a whip and hits a spinebuster, but both men are down. Hall up first and he unloads some more right hands, and some more right hands… but eventually Austin is able to duck one and nail a Stunner! 1… 2.. But Nash pulls the referee out! Nash now into the ring, and it’s 2 on 1 as Nash tells Hall to get a chair. Hall swings, Austin kicks Hall away, low blow to Nash, Stunner to Hall! Stunner to Nash! Austin covers Hall, wait a while for referee Jack Doan to hit the ring, 1, 2, but Nash elbow drops Doan, and we’re refereeless again. Hall goes for a Razor’s Edge, but Austin back drops him out of the ring. Here come some more referees to get Nash away from the ringside area, whilst Austin comes over to unleash more right hands on Hall. Austin sets Hall up for another Stunner, but Hall sends Austin into the exposed turnbuckle, and hits a Stunner! The crowd seem 60/40 in favour of Hall now. Tim White back in for the slow count… 1….2… Austin kicks out! Hall goes for another Stunner, but Austin reverses by pushing HALL into the exposed turnbuckle, Stunner to Hall! Hall doesn’t go down, so a SECOND Stunner to Hall! Austin covers, 1, 2, 3! And all of a sudden the crowd are 95/5 in favour of Austin again. Beers thrown to Austin, toasting the crowd. More beers. More toasting. More beers. More toasting. And so on.
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Verdict: Wow. That was just… dull. Lots of punches, lots of stomps, lots of Stunners (6 by my count), and some overbooked ref bumps. I can understand the limitations they had, after all, this isn’t the Scott Hall of WrestleMania X, but it seemed that once Hall had gone through his moveset there was nothing left to go to. This match may even have sent out the first alarm bells about Austin’s career, and how much he had left to give.
Let’s have a look at WWF Axxess. Do we have to? Lots of people arrived. Lots of things to do. RVD is signing autographs. Trish is signing pictures. Austin is there. Jericho signs a belt. Tazz and Michael Cole do commentary with some fans. HHH spits some water. Undertaker looks moody. Booker T isn’t happy he’s not on SmackDown!: Just Bring It. The Hardys sign autographs. Debra signs autographs. Some female fan cries in happiness at meeting The Undertaker. There’s a metal sculpture of Stacy Keibler’s butt which guys are touching. Hogan gets a huge ovation. Angle’s happy to be there. Why am I recapping this?
WWF Tag Team Championship Match
4 Team Elimination Match
Billy & Chuck (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The APA vs. The Hardy Boyz
How It Came To This
You may remember at No Way Out that the APA won a right to face the Tag Team Champions at WrestleMania. Well that plan changed pretty quickly, as Billy & Chuck got the next title shot, and won the belts. Billy and Chuck then lured Bradshaw and Faarooq to “Men’s Night” at the Friendly Tap, and beat them down. This meant that the APA decided to cash in their WrestleMania shot, but lost inside three minutes. The Hardys also recently lost a Tag Team Title match to Billy and Chuck. So this match is basically Billy and Chuck vs. Teams They Have Beaten, plus the Dudleys who are another tag team with nothing to do.
Saliva are back to play the Dudleys and Stacy to the ring. Josey Scott dances with Stacy Keibler. The drummer head bangs with Bubba. Only one winner there. APA next out, then the Hardys, then Billy & Chuck to “You Look So Good To Me”, which is not performed by Saliva. APA attack Billy & Chuck before the bell, Bradshaw squaring off against Chuck, who tries to crossbody Bradshaw. Silly Chuck, you can’t crossbody Bradshaw. But Billy comes in to help Chuck take Bradshaw down, only to get hit by a big boot. Billy now tries the crossbody, but you CAN’T CROSSBODY BRADSHAW. Fallaway slam connects. Back to Chuck and Bradshaw chops away, before hitting a back suplex. Faarooq tagged in, whipping Chuck into the corner, but meeting a clothesline. Billy and Chuck double team Faarooq… with stomps, and Billy comes in. Hard right hands knocks Faarooq down for a two count. Billy goes for the Fameasser, but meets a powerslam from Faarooq. Bradshaw tagged back in and knocks down both Billy and Chuck with shoulder blocks, and DDTs Billy for a two count. Billy tags D-Von, but he doesn’t fair much better. D-Von reverses a Bradshaw whip and the Dudleys go for the 3D, but Bradshaw kicks D-Von in the face and Faarooq hits a spinebuster on Bubba. Billy back in and he whips Bradshaw into the corner, follows up but misses, and stumbles right into a Clothesline From Hell! Another awesome 360 spin sell of that by Billy, but the Dudleys are waiting for Bradshaw, and they connect with a 3D! Cover made, three count! The APA are eliminated!
The Hardys now storm the ring and double team both D-Von and Bubba, then hit a Double DDT on Billy. The Dudleys get a table, but stereo baseball slides from the Hardys knock them down. Back in the ring and Jeff connects with a Whisper in the Wind, but Stacy is up on the apron to distract him by wiggling her butt. Well I’m distracted. Jeff gives her a spank and a kiss before sending her on her way, but Bubba and Billy combine to hit a Doomsday Device, only for Bubba to hit Billy with a Bubba bomb. Bubba forces Jeff into the corner and open hand slaps his chest, Jeff tries to get out but D-Von whips him off the ropes into a back body drop from Bubba. Headlock from Bubba to waste some of my time, but Jeff fires back, only for D-Von to make a blind tag and level him with a clothesline. D-Von punishes Jeff with some right hands in the corner, and then hits a snap suplex for a two count. Tag back to Bubba, who whips Jeff into the corner and puts his foot in Jeff’s family jewels. D-Von in with a blatant choke, then a cyclone elbow to Jeff. D-Von goes for the Saving Grace, but Jeff reverses into a diving reverse DDT. Both men down, and there’s a tag to Bubba, and a tag to Matt! Clotheslines to some! Back body drops to others! But Bubba hits a back body drop, only to miss the senton from the second rope as usual, allowing Mat to hit the YARGH Leg Drop for a two count. Bubba gets a scoop slam and they look for the Wazzup headbutt, but Billy shoves D-Von off and puts him through the table! Matt with the Twist of Fate! Jeff illegally hits the Swanton Bomb! Cover made, and there’s the three count that eliminates the Dudleys!
Chuck hits the ring straight away and clotheslines Jeff, before hitting a Jungle Kick on Matt for a two count. Jeff ducks a clothesline and hits the compactor, but Billy comes in to throw him out of the ring. One and Only attempt by Billy gets reversed into a Side Effect and the Hardys hits some Poetry in Motion on both Billy and Chuck. Matt goes for the Twist of Fate and connects on Chuck, Jeff hits the Swanton! But Billy comes across to his the Fameasser on Jeff! Matt clotheslines Billy out, Chuck covers Jeff… 1….2….. No! Chuck isn’t happy, but Billy takes the opportunity to run in and nail Jeff with a tag team title belt! Chuck covers again, and there’s the three count. Billy and Chuck taunt the still not moving D-Von as they leave.
Winners: Billy and Chuck
Verdict: Not bad for what it was trying to accomplish, i.e. throw all the tag teams together for a match. Elimination formats tend to work well, but I think it’s a shame there was no real storyline that could have meant just a standard 2 vs. 2 match at WrestleMania. Not even sure why the APA were in it considering their quick exit. The crowd were pretty much dead throughout though, causing the match to lose a few marks.
Scott Hall is complaining to Kevin Nash about how Austin got lucky earlier on tonight. I suppose he was quite lucky, as he didn’t have to watch the match he was in. The Outsiders plan to take out The Rock as revenge, but here comes Hollywood Hogan, who tells them he wants to do it on his own so he can prove he is the man. He even references Thunderlips in his request. Nash says they’re going to interfere anyway.
Mighty Molly continues the Hardcore Title shenanigans by running down a hall, but a door gets swung right into her face. And the perpetrator is Christian, who covers her to become the new champion. Christian runs off in fear. Let the hilarity continue. Or don’t, whatever.
The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
How It Came To This
Hogan returned to the WWF at No Way Out 2002, and was cheered despite being a member of the nWo. To try and counter this, Hogan launched a tirade on the fans where he arrogantly calls himself the greatest. The Rock takes umbrage at that, and challenges Hogan to a match at WrestleMania, “Icon vs. Icon”. Lots of staredowns ensue. The Rock gives Hogan the Rock Bottom, so Hogan whips Rock with a belt. And then, when The Rock is being taken to a medical facility, Hogan gets into a semi truck and drives full speed into the ambulance. The Rock manages to survive this without a scratch. More staredowns. Unfortunately it’s billed as being “Wrestling’s Past vs. Wrestling’s Future”. The Rock didn’t seem to catch that part.
Black and white screen time, and Hogan comes out to LOUD cheers, so loud JR wastes little time in mentioning how many people in Canada love him. Hogan plays the air guitar, which is strange because the nWo theme contains very little of any kind of guitar. Shirt ripped off to a HUGE ovation, and the Hogan chants are deafening. Here comes The Rock to mainly BOOS, and you can almost hear Vince McMahon’s gulp from backstage. Rock’s music ends to another chorus of Hogan chants, as Rock surveys the crowd who aren’t chanting his name. More staredowns. The crowd are so electric they’re not even thinking of starting. Finally we get going, and Hogan wins a lock-up, getting a huge cheer, amplified by some posing. Hogan tells Rock to “just bring it” and they lock up again, and here are some “Rocky Sucks” chants. Rock sends Hogan off the ropes but gets knocked down; Hogan poses again, more huge cheers. JR and the King keep calling it a mixed reaction, which it’s not. Hogan clubs Rock down, then whips him and clotheslines him out of his boots. More right hands, but Rock ducks a clothesline and hits a lariat to huge boos. And as Rock stands up, he flicks a switch and becomes heel Rock.
Rock with some right hands and a spit punch to knock him out of the ring, before following Hogan and attacking him from behind. Back in the ring for some more right hands, then knocks Hogan down with a clothesline. Rock gets ready for a Rock Bottom, but Hogan elbows out and knocks Rock down. Elbow to the face of Rock followed by an elbow drop, a second elbow drop and a boot rake. Hogan whips Rock to the corner and follows with a clothesline, then tries it again but messes the timing up. Rock spears Hogan and punches away, before taunting the crowd! Rock swings and misses, and Hogan hits a back suplex. Abdominal stretch from Hogan, which he turns into a roll-up for a two count. Back rake! Another back rake! And a third! Angle has his three suplexes; Hogan has his three back rakes. Ten punch started in the corner, but he bites Rock after three punches. Rock turns the tables and chops away, taunting the crowd as he does it. JR finally concedes the crowd are on Hogan’s side, as Rock charges and gets caught in a chokeslam (sort of) by Hogan. Hogan chokes Rock with his bandana, but Rock fires back with some right hands, but Hogan sends him over the top rope. Hogan sends Rock into the ring steps, then drops him on the security rail, before he begins dismantling the American announce table.
Rock fires back and slams Hogan’s head into the table, before grabbing a chair and going to hit Hogan, only for the referee to catch it and allow Hogan to hit a clothesline. Back into the ring they go, and Hogan accidentally sends Rock into the referee, and Rock delivers a spinebuster to Hogan. And here comes the Sharpshooter in Canada, to huge boos. Not something I say often. Hogan reaches the ropes but Rock doesn’t break the hold, drags him back to the centre, and Hogan taps out. But there’s no referee. Rock breaks the hold to revive the referee, and Hogan hits a low blow. ROCK BOTTOM BY HOGAN! 1….2…… NO! Rock just got his shoulder up, and Hogan takes off his belt to start whipping Rock with it. Hogan charges at Rock with the belt, but Rock delivers a DDT. Now Rock whips Hogan with the belt, much to the dismay of the crowd, spitting on the belt before delivering one last shot. ROCK BOTTOM BY THE ROCK! Rock covers, 1… 2… NO! HOGAN IS HULKING UP! Right hand has no affect! HOGAN POINTS! Right hand from Hogan, Rock off the ropes, BIG BOOT! Here it comes.. LEG DROP! 1, 2, ROCK KICKS OUT! The crowd are NOT happy! Huge Hogan chants, and Hogan hits another Big Boot, but Rock avoids the Leg Drop. Rock goes for, and hits another Rock Bottom! Rock doesn’t cover, but hits another Rock Bottom! Rock nips up, and it’s People’s Elbow time! AND THE CROWD ARE CHEERING! People’s Elbow connects! 1, 2, 3! The Rock wins!
The crowd are pretty much 50/50 now as The Rock poses on the ropes, and Hogan is back up. Hogan offers his hand, and they shake. Hogan in the ring alone for some more cheers, but here comes the nWo to complain about the handshake, and they start beating Hogan down! But here comes The Rock for the save! Rock clotheslines Nash out! Hogan sends out Hall! The nWo head for the hills, and Hogan goes to leave to, but The Rock brings him back in. and demands some classic Hogan poses! The Hogan chants start up again, and Hogan brings out the poses to some huge cheers, before Rock and Hogan leave together.
Winners: The Rock
Verdict: I really struggled to decide what to rate this match. On one hand you’ve got possibly the most electric crowd ever heard at a WrestleMania show. But on the other hand, the match itself was very little to write home about. So to try and meet in the middle, I’ve given the match *1/2, plus an extra **s for the atmosphere. I know there were a lot of people at the time who considered this one of the greatest matches of all time, but the crowd couldn’t hide all the lack of actual wrestling action. I may have been a higher marking if it had been the Main Event, which it should have been.
Let’s take some time out from that excitement to see the Big Show at WWF New York earning his WrestleMania bonus. And then we hear WrestleMania X8 has set a new attendance record of 68,237. That’s kinda big.
WWF Women’s Title Match
Jazz (c) vs. Lita vs. Trish Stratus
How It Came To This
Jazz is the Women’s champion. Trish is the former champion. Lita is a popular female wrestler.
Aside from that, there’s very little. Jazz beat Lita in an intergender 6 person match, and beat Trish by DQ when Trish refused to relinquish a five count. Trish and Lita lost a tag team match to Jazz and Stacy with some WHACKY PARTNER MISCOMMUNICATION, then had a catfight backstage on the SmackDown! beforehand.
The champion, Jazz, enters first to annoy me. Lita enters to her then new theme. And Trish enters last in her hometown. I feel sorry for these girls having to follow Rock/Hogan. Lita attacks Jazz to start, and as Trish gets in the ring they begin double teaming Jazz. But Jazz manages to fight back and get Trish in a single leg crab, then a double arm chicken wing on Lita. Legdrop to Lita gets two, and Jazz hits a double arm suplex on Lita before kicking Trish out of the ring. Lita gets a monkey flip on Jazz, and then one of her sloppy hurracanranas is followed by a spinning back drop for a two count. Jazz rakes the eyes and hangs Lita on the top rope, before setting Lita up on the top rope. Trish comes over to help Lita but they seem to have no idea what to do. Trish rolls up Jazz for two, then rolls through a Lita crossbody for another two count. Trish hits a running bulldog on Lita for a two count, then Jazz comes over and hits a Big Splash for another two count.
Jazz nails Trish with a suplex for yet another two count, but Trish reverses a powerslam to a diving reverse DDT for a Lita-interrupted two count. Slugfest ensues between Lita and Trish, and Lita screws up a back body drop and sends Trish up at completely the wrong angle. Lita hits the Twist of Fate on Jazz, and tries to remove her shirt to go to the top rope, but manages to botch THAT. Lita with a Litasault on Trish, but Trish gets her knees up and rolls Lita up for a two count. Lita reverses a whip causing her and Trish to crack heads, but they get up quickly and Trish gets a backslide for a two count. Lita sends Jazz over the top rope. Trish goes for the Stratusfaction on Lita but Lita sends her into the turnbuckle, Trish looking like she nearly broke her leg in the process. Lita goes up top, but Trish distracts her from the apron. Jazz knocks her off, and then nails a Fisherman’s Buster from the top rope, which gets her a three count. JR says the match was a car wreck, and he’s not far wrong.
Verdict: Well that was pretty awful. It’s not often I advocate not giving much time for a match to develop, but it’s probably for the best in this instance. I know I’m not much of a Lita fan, but everything she did in this match was wrong in some way, including nearly breaking Trish’s neck with that screwed up back body drop. HOW DO YOU SCREW UP A BACK BODY DROP? The 1/4* is for Trish’s outfit, and very little else.
Hey it’s Christian, our current Hardcore champion. He’s celebrating because he’s made it out of the building. But here comes Maven to roll him up for the pin and the title, and then takes Christian’s taxi. And so we’re back to where we started, and there’s no more hilarity.
WWF Undisputed Title Match
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Triple H
How It Came To This
Triple H won the 2002 Royal Rumble, which is handy to get yourself a shot at the WWF Champion at WrestleMania. He then lost this title shot to Kurt Angle at No Way Out, but won it back again the night afterwards. He was also going through a divorce from Stephanie McMahon, who aligned herself with her former enemy Chris Jericho to get back at HHH. HHH got back at Stephanie by putting fake lotion in a bottle, causing her to get a rash. They argued about the divorce settlement, Triple H gave Stephanie a car back, but wanted a dog in return. By this point the Undisputed Champion is only on screen to GIVE STEPHANIE WATER. Jericho finally gets involved by getting one of HHH’s first robes (what?), but HHH gets it back. Then there’s the dog, which Jericho is told to look after, but it poops and hilarity ensues. The dog gets run over, Triple H is even more unhappy, THIS IS ALL A LOAD OF CRAP.
Jericho FINALLY gets the upper hand when he attacks HHH and applies the Walls of Jericho to go after his injured quadricep, which we are told is “hanging by a thread”. No athletic commission would let him compete if it was. This is simply the worst feud leading up to a WrestleMania main event ever, and it’s been built around someone not even competing.
Drowning Pool play Triple H to the ring with their bizarre take on HHH’s Motorhead theme. HHH has his quad taped to remind him to sell his injury. He’s also a scary shade of orange. Jericho enters, but Stephanie is with him and walks closest to the camera to remind us who the feud is between. I’m surprised they’re not entering to her music. Jericho actually gets some cheers, being Canadian and all. A lock-up goes to the corner as Jericho goes after the leg, but HHH gets a back body drop. Arm wringer into a clothesline connects from HHH twice, but Jericho chops away, only to run into a high knee from HHH. HHH charges Jericho, who sends him over the top rope to the floor. Jericho heads up top, but HHH catches him and sends Jericho into the crowd, before suplexing him back over the security barricade.
HHH starts re-assembling the Spanish announce table, but Jericho recovers and kicks away at HHH’s injured thigh. HHH comes back with a spear and some right hands, before dropping an elbow on Jericho’s knee a few times. HHH starts working on Jericho’s left leg, hitting a shin breaker, and finally applying the Figure Four Leg Lock! But Stephanie gets on the apron and digs her nails into HHH’s eyes. HHH grabs Stephanie as she celebrates, and Jericho accidentally spears Stephanie off the apron. HHH rolls her into the ring, and goes to Pedigree her, but Jericho connects with a missile dropkick to break it up. Jericho wraps HHH’s leg around the ring post, and all of a sudden some “You Screwed Bret” chants are aimed at referee Earl Hebner. Jericho takes HHH back in and continues working on the leg, before heading over to the other corner to lock in the ring post figure four. Stephanie adds a slap for good measure. Back in the ring and HHH is fighting back, but Jericho stops his momentum with a drop toe hold, and applies a leg grapevine, and follows that with a spinning toe hold. HHH gets the ropes, and gets a neckbreaker out of nowhere, before knocking Jericho down for a two count. Facebuster using the bad leg, but HHH is able to recover to hit a spinebuster for a two count.
Jericho sends HHH flying out of the ring, and Jericho heads outside to put HHH on the announce table, and try to lock in the Walls of Jericho. But HHH fights out of it, and looks to hit the Pedigree, but Jericho back body drops HHH through the Spanish announce table! Jericho rolls HHH back in, and hits the Lionsault, but HHH kicks out! Jericho goes for the Walls again, but again HHH fights it off, sends Jericho into the corner and looks for the Pedigree, but Jericho reverses that and finally locks in the Walls of Jericho! HHH manages to last one minute and twenty seconds in the hold without tapping out, and reaches the ropes. An angered Jericho grabs a steel chair, but HHH kicks it back into his face and DDTs Jericho on to the chair! HHH covers, but Jericho kicks out at two. Stephanie gets in the ring, grabs the chair, but Earl Hebner takes it away. Stephanie walks into HHH, and he gives her the Pedigree. But Jericho’s back up and he nails HHH in the skull with a chair! Cover made, but HHH kicks out again. Jericho goes for the Pedigree, but HHH counters and slingshots him on to the middle rope. Jericho leaps off, but HHH kicks him in the gut, PEDIGREE! Cover made, 1, 2, 3! We have a new Undisputed Champion! HHH celebrates as JR goes into hyperbole overdrive as only he can.
Winner: Triple H
Verdict: To kick things off I have to praise the psychology shown throughout, both by Jericho working on the leg, and Triple H selling it. The finishing sequence was a bit different, but it lacked the near falls and drama you would expect. Instead, it concentrated on HHH Pedigreeing Stephanie. Which sums up the whole feud in one simple move. For a WrestleMania main event it lacked a bit of atmosphere, and I would put 99% of my money on that being because of the Hogan/Rock match. This shouldn’t have been the main event, but it was, and it almost delivered.
OVERALL SHOW VERDICT
I looked back at what I’d just written there and became slightly confused. Was this a WrestleMania I had just watched? The logo said it, the DVD cover said it, and I’m fairly sure a few people mentioned it once or twice, but most of the matches didn’t seem like they were of a WrestleMania standard. Obviously I’ll take Rock vs. Hogan out of the equation, but everything else was either mediocre, such as RVD vs. Regal or Kane vs. Angle, not as good as it could have been, such as the Main Event or Austin vs. Hall, or just plain terrible, like the Women’s Title Match.
WrestleMania is supposed to have a certain element of prestige about it, but some of the matches were made the week beforehand, with some having very little in the way of build-up or a decent feud behind them. WrestleMania X8 also had the disadvantage of following on from WrestleMania X7, an event that is widely considered one of the best of all time. This didn’t even come close to matching it, and it really is only remembered for that one match between Rock and Hogan. Everything else is easily forgettable, and in some cases, best permanently forgotten.
Join me soon for my look back at Backlash 2002; I know I can’t wait to review that HHH/Hogan match. Yikes.
If you have anything to say regarding the review or the show, feel free to contact me at [email protected]
Until next time, have a great WrestleMania XXV weekend.