FROM THE ATTITUDE ERA…#20
(for the climax–or so it seemed–of the McMahon v Austin feud)
Russo’s crash TV style was on display here in all its ridiculous glory. According to reports, Mick Foley was originally to be part of the main event as a triple threat, which would have left Big Show to the Undertaker in the Hell in a Cell match. That might’ve made for a slightly better show, but it still would have been bogged down by the inane booking that plagued the (admitedly very successful) WWF at the time. The show was a big hit, but looking back with a more critical eye shows the flaws; the show doesn’t stand the test of time.
THE GOOD: The crowd was nuts for the main event, which was a pretty good match too.
THE BAD: The Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Big Boss Man. The post-match hanging is what gets most of the press but the match itself was below mediocre. The show overall was overbooked and felt rushed despite having only ten matches (with only one other than the main event going over ten minutes). The crowd really wasn’t crazy for anything other than the bald-headed face of the company.
THE BIZARRE: Everyone talks about Undertaker hanging Big Boss Man after their match, but the real bizarre moment was the entire Brawl-for-All angle that culminated in the match here at WrestleMania. There’s are reasons why shoot fights don’t work on a pro wrestling show. This is reason number one.
FROM THE TITAN ERA…#19
(for the crowd and the good conclusions to two big storylines)
The event gets a bad rap because of the Iraq War angle that brought the wrong kind of publicity to the company. Controversy doesn’t always create cash as WWE was unable to sell out the Los Angelas Memorial Colosseum and was forced to move the show to the much smaller LA Sports Arena. Vince tried to say it was for secruity reasons, but the only bomb he was worried about was the sight of 20,000 people scattered around a 90,000 seat stadium.
THE GOOD: Savage v Warrior, and post-match. I mean really. It’s tear-jerking. Also, for all the grief it got, the Slaughter vs Hogan match is among the better main events of the era. It’s not up to the standard of Hogan vs Warrior or Hogan vs Savage, and it might have lacked the gravitas that Hogan vs Andre had, but it’s just behind those as the fourth best main event of the first eight WrestleMania’s.
THE BAD: The whole event felt tired, like the golden years were clearly in the past. Many performers felt stale, many matches were boring. The gamble to play off the Gulf War is tasteless but not out of the ordinary (except for maybe the extent that Vince went with it). Having the war end just as WWF was setting its WrestleMania stories about it in motion is perhaps the best poetic justice that could be leveled against the show.
THE BIZARRE: Vince’s intro is just ear-splitting. His voice is so gravelly and over the top. Worse than his WMVI intro… which was also very bizarre. Thankfully those voice-over intros would not become the norm.
FROM THE ATTITUDE ERA…#18
(for a hot crowd, and some great action)
A lot of people HATED this show, but I admit to having a soft spot for it, as it was my first WrestleMania to watch as a wrestling fan. Looking back, it certainly feels like a “small” WrestleMania and lacked the kind of splendor the show would have even a year later, but there were moments when it felt like the big show it’s supposed to be.
THE GOOD: The top matches all delivered what they were supposed to. The Tag Title match was a spot fest, the Euro/Continental match was a technical showcase, and the main event was an Attitude Era spectacle.
THE BAD: The undercard was bloated, cluttered and un-memorable (though I’m a sucker for Hardcore 24/7). A roster loaded with talented and popular acts actually made it impossible for them all to be properly featured. The solution? A card lacking in a single 1-on-1 traditional wrestling match. Welcome to the Attitude Era.
THE BIZARRE: Watching Vince and co. beat each other up on the sidelines of the main event only to end up hugging it out at the end. Welcome to the Attitude Era.
FROM THE NEW GENERATION ERA…#17
(for wrestling obviously, and a crowd that stayed engaged throughout)
The roster was so thin on stars the Iron Man match wasn’t just good booking, it was necessary. Whatever talent the company had to showcase they used on this 6-match card, including bringing back Ultimate Warrior for a cup of coffee.
THE GOOD: A solid show throughout, but nothing was incredible. Austin, Undertaker, Piper all had “good” matches but no more. The main event I think is a tad overrated. In fact (sue me) I’d say it’s in the bottom tier of Iron Man matches, certainly below the Rock/HHH, Angle/Lesnar and HHH/Benoit matches. It’s the kind of match you can sit back and mostly enjoy, but likely you’re going to have one eye on the screen and another on your phone. There’s just not too many mark-out moments. Kinda like the show as a whole.
THE BAD: HHH got squashed, instilling in him a desire to one day rise to the top of the roster and bury every single wrestler he could. I kid. Piper and Goldust I don’t think ever had an actual resolution to their match. Like Curtis Axel and the Royal Rumble, it just persists.
THE BIZARRE: Ultimate Warrior, minus (most of) the juice, doesn’t even kick out of the pedigree; he flat-out no-sells it.
FROM THE PG ERA…#16
(for the spectacle, and the storylines)
It had lots of hype as a big anniversary show, but nevertheless this show was a misstep. It has the great HBK/Taker match, and a very WrestleMania-esque moment with Jericho facing off against a trio of legends, but the title matches are really lacking. I get there was a great story in HHH vs Randy Orton (as part of a larger McMahon family storyline), but the match itself didn’t feel worthy of WrestleMania 25. Cena–the face of the company–was off fighting for the World Heavyweight title in a move that had a “give him something to do” feel to it. Other than the Taker/HBK match, the undercard was really lacking.
THE GOOD: All things HBK and Undertaker. One of the most endlessly re-watchable matches of all time. In-ring storytelling at its finest.
THE BAD: None of the wrestling matches delivered really good wrestling, apart from the aforementioned HBK/UT match. Really it was a very underwhelming card despite the hype given to the show as the 25th Anniversary of the Show of Shows.
THE BIZARRE: Santina. Just Santina.
FROM THE RUTHLESS AGGRESSION ERA…#15
(for the spectacle of Ford Field, and some great wrestling)
Batista’s best match? The best hair vs. hair match? The best Cena match to that point? check. check. check. This was a great show that has somehow gotten lost in the cracks of other WrestleManias around the era. Maybe it’s because so many of the stars of the show flamed out soon after. Mr. Kennedy won MITB, there’s the ECW vs. ECW match, and Umaga and Bobby Lashley would both be gone within a couple years. Batista, Benoit & MVP all have prominent roles and programs at this time, but now? At the time it was a very good show, but time has not been kind to it.
THE GOOD: Both title matches were great and exceeded expectations. Ford Field gave WrestleMania the big-event feel it had been lacking since WrestleMania 19.
THE BAD: Kane slamming Khali is no Hogan slamming Andre, but they tried to make me think it was. Weak card after the top three matches.
THE BIZARRE: Donald Trump hitting a clothesline certainly qualifies. On the other hand, hearing JR call the move like it was delivered by Austin circa 1998 was awesome.
FROM THE PG ERA…#14
(for the amazing atmosphere and “some” great wrestling)
The show tried to be a better sequel to WrestleMania 28; it put effort into beefing up the undercard (where the previous year was lacking), it put a stronger emphasis on the “wrestling” over the “mania;” to 18 second matches or Brodus Clay dance-offs here. But overall the show failed to live up to the hype. In fact, other than a splendid CM Punk vs Undertaker match, every single contest–though well hyped–fell short of expectations in one way or another.
THE GOOD: Undertaker continued his streak of show-stealing performances, putting away CM Punk to achieve the final notch on his 21-0 winning streak. The set-design was wonderful, and really put over the city of New York (despite the event occurring in Jersey). The Shield debuted in a nice win, and Jericho put over Fandango like a star. Del Rio and Jack Swagger had an underrated match that unfortunately could not generate much crowd enthusiasm. Undertaker had perhaps his greatest entrance, rising from among the dead (who were pawing at him as he rose) to face his challenger.
THE BAD: The main event was weak. It was a rematch few were really clamoring for, especially since the finish seemed so obvious. In fact all three of the big matches had obvious finishes, giving the whole event a middling feeling despite the great atmosphere of the venue.
THE BIZARRE: Lesnar walked out of WrestleMania 29 with a 1-2 record since returning. He was the second hot property and box office draw Vince had secured (after the Rock). By the end of the show both Rock and Brock were diminished wrestling attractions due to the booking leading up to the event. Both bounced back, of course, but the booking of Lesnar in particular in early 2013 was certainly bizarre, considering the money they spent to secure his services.
FROM THE ATTITUDE ERA…#13
(for the huge spectacle, the insane crowd and some good storylines coming to a head)
Okay, the main event was flat, there were some questionable booking decisions, and some of the undercard failed to deliver, but man Toronto needs to be up there with New York and Chicago as “at least once a decade” type venues for WrestleMania. The crowd started strong, and slowly got louder and louder coming simply unglued for the Rock/Hogan match. I mean I still can’t get over that crowd.
THE GOOD: Everything Rock/Hogan. The Y2J vs HHH match was actually very good, but the crowd was spent after giving Rock and Hogan every ounce of energy they had. The diminished crowd made a very good match seem mediocre (the opposite of Rock/Hogan). Undertaker and Ric Flair had a great little feud going and ended it with a great little match here.
THE BAD: The tag match was a mess; Kurt Angle was wasted on Kane; Steve Austin was wasted on Scott Hall. Also this was the first real WrestleMania after the WCW buyout (Mania 17 happened just days after). This should have been the dream card everyone wanted to see in the late 90’s. Sting vs Undertaker. Austin vs Hogan. Rock vs Flair. DX vs nWo. The InVasion angle claims another victim.
THE BIZARRE: Austin in the midcard? Just a travesty all around. Booking decisions in general on this PPV was a head-scratcher. Other than Rock vs Hogan and to a lesser extent Flair vs Undertaker, there really isn’t a lot to be said for the way the talent was used.
FROM THE PG ERA…#12
(it has the crowd, the spectacle, the storylines reaching their zenith — but there’s not enough great wrestling)
What hurt this show is the undercard. Bryan and Sheamus both got robbed to make room for… what? Somebody call my mama? Literally half the card was done by the end of the 1st hour. The entire last hour was devoted to the main event, featuring video packages and rap concerts. I’m not saying they should have shortened the Hell in a Cell match, or even the Rock vs Cena match (even though Rock was blown up early on, that’s the match people paid to see; let them soak it in). I’m saying cut out the filler and then you can have a wall-to-wall great wrestling show.
THE GOOD: All three top matches really delivered. Triple H and Undertaker had a the last great Hell in a Cell match. CM Punk and Jericho had the first of a few great matches. And Rock and Cena came very close to living up to the hype.
THE BAD: The rest of the card was woefully underutilized. The show only had room for seven matches. I don’t think they should go back to the days of 14-15 matches on a card, but seven matches (not counting the World Title squash match) on a four-hour show is just ridiculous.
THE BIZARRE: The army of dancing mamas was offensive in all the wrong kind of ways. Johnny Ace’s seer-sucker suit was offensive in all the right ones.
FROM THE RUTHLESS AGGRESSION ERA…#11
(for the matches and the storylines climaxing at the show)
This was an eight-match lean, mean, WrestleMania machine. Had Cena vs JBL been given more time befitting a changing of the guard it would likely be better remembered. Hogan had a nice surprise appearance, and the “Goes Hollywood” skits were mostly very well done. This is a good WrestleMania that is a bit under-appreciated.
THE GOOD: HBK vs. Kurt Angle. Both men were basically utility guys and championship feed in the modern WrestleMania era, but here they got to show off, and boy did they. They had a 30-minute iron man-lite match on Raw not long after, and it might have been a hair better, but this was outstanding. HHH vs Batista was better than it should have been at the time. The first Money in the Bank match was arguably the best of the ones held at WrestleMania. Orton and Undertaker had a great match that made many think the streak was done.
THE BAD: Big Show vs. Akebono. Big Show in a diaper. Big Show.
THE BIZARRE: John Cena’s first world title coming off a Rey Mysterio-type match (get squashed, then suddenly win on a fluke). Not exactly a way to kick off a reign with confidence (he overcame it, however).
See page 3 for the cream of the crop!