Well, I’m not sure if we’re actually going to have a WrestleMania this year, and even if we do it’s probably going to be later than the planned April date.
However, I’ve got written notes for all of these matches so I reckon I’ll keep uploading them anyway, and I can always re-post them during the build up for Mania should it end up in June like some of the rumours are suggesting
Anyway, let’s all try and distract ourselves from stuff going on in the real world and watch some chuffing wrestling!
Four Corner’s Elimination Match
Champ: Triple H w/ Stephanie McMahon
Big Show w/ Shane McMahon
Mick Foley w/ Linda McMahon
The Rock w/ Vince McMahon
This one is all about the McMahons, as each one has a representative for various reasons. Common sense dictated that Rock would finally win the WWF Title again after months of coming up short, but the WWF had other things in mind. Mania 2000 is not a particularly good show overall, which is surprising as the two shows that come before and after it are all really good. You’d think Mania would be the one they’d nail and get right, but the show has general “thrown together” feel to it, which was mirrored by the fact that the Main Event changed on TV multiple times before we got the version we ended up with.
Foley coming back was rather controversial at the time online due to the fact he’d only recently lost a retirement bout in February and was already back. Personally I was just happy to see him back though, and was hoping he’d win the belt so he could go out on a high. Big Show really is the odd one out here when it comes to star power, as his WWF Title reign a few months prior to this had been a damp squib and he’d turned back to being a heel again, because a couple of months had passed and thus it was time for him to flip alignment as per usual.
As a result they get rid of Big Show pretty quickly. He gets to beat up everyone all by himself briefly, but they all gang up on him, which actually manages to get a pop from the anaemic Anaheim crowd. Foley and Triple H head outside, but Foley hits Show in the back with a chair and that allows Rock to send the big man to the showers with a Rock Bottom. Even in my younger days my reaction to Show’s early elimination was “what was even the point of him being in the match in the first place?”
Stephanie was actually the Women’s Champ at this period in time, which is only fair considering she invented women’s wrestling and all. Rock and Foley work over Triple H for a bit, but he fends them off and eventually manages to convince Foley into forming an alliance with him so that they can eliminate Rock and then go on to settle their own personal score. This leads to Foley doing an ill advised elbow drop off the second rope onto Rock whilst The People’s Champ lies on the Spanish Commentary table. Not only does Foley end up banging his mid-section off the table, but it doesn’t even break either.
Humorously Foley talks about this in his “Foley is Good” book, and reveals that his biggest worry wasn’t whether he’d be capable of finishing the Main Event of WrestleMania but rather whether he’d be physically capable to making it to Disney Land the next day with his kids. Triple H makes sure that the table finally gets broken, but it takes him two elbow drops off the barricades to make it happen. Seriously, all that needed was Fourth Gen video game console music playing over it. Did the table really need to be broken, it looked bad enough after the first Triple H elbow.
With Rock taken out on the outside, Triple H and Foley head back in, where Triple H ends Foley’s night not soon after, getting his third consecutive pay per view pin fall over Mick with a Pedigree on a chair. No one ever helped Triple H get over though, it was all him. Foley lays Triple H out before leaving and walks to the back with chants from the crowd, thus restoring parity between Triple H and Rock in preparation for the closing stretch. Thankfully Foley would go on to a have a few more really good matches (Including a wacky one with Toshiaki Kawada of all people for the HUSTLE promotion in Japan) before finally retiring for real.
So we’re down to Triple H and Rock, which is probably the match they just should have done all along whilst leaving Foley retired and putting Big Show in with someone like Rikishi or Kane. Outside for some brawling we go (With Michael Clarke-Duncan yelling “Finish this sucka!” to Rock when they brawl past him. Triple H gives Rock a piledriver on the ring steps before putting him back inside the ring for two. We go outside again following that, as this match is starting to drag a bit, where Rock gets a spine buster on the floor before giving Triple H a vertical suplex through the English commentary table.
Vince finally decides to get involved by punching Triple H, which leads to Shane McMahon coming down to clock him with both a monitor and a chair to draw blood. The Stooges help Vince to the back, whilst Clarke-Duncan almost comes over the railing to wallop Shane. This match probably peaked about five minutes and they’ve all but lost the crowd (Although short of shooting someone with a bazooka I’m not sure what you could possibly do to keep this awful Anaheim crowd invested in something).
Rock busts out the cool tilt-a-whirl powerslam that he does on WWF No Mercy for the N64, which gets him a two count. Triple H fights back with a shot from a barbed wire wrapped 2X4 that Foley introduced into the match earlier, but Rock is able to fight back by catapulting Triple H into Shane. Rock gets the Rock Bottom on Triple H, but he’s too tired to make a cover. This is Vince’s cue to come down to the ring, but it’s all a SWERVE as he clocks Rock with a chair and that allows Triple H to pick up the win and become the first heel to leave Mania with the Title.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TRIPLE H
The heel winning the Mania Main Event was a body blow to the fan base, especially as Triple H was already winning all the time anyway, but they at least quickly put the belt on Rock by having him beat Triple H the following month in a great moment. Vince’s reason for turning on Rock was that Rock never thanked him, which is the sort of thing a nutcase like the Vince McMahon character would be likely do.
Rock runs wild on the heels after the match to get his heat back and even gets to lay Stephanie out with a Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow. The match itself wasn’t awful or anything, with most of the work being okay, but it dragged in places and the wretched Anaheim crowd were spotty at best when it came to reactions. It’s an issue the majority of the show suffers with in all honesty, which also happened at Mania XII too when they ran it in this venue.
Champ: The Rock Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
This would be both the zenith and the unofficial end of the Attitude Era, as the WWF booked a gigantic arena for a match between its two biggest stars. The Monday Night Wars had ended quite literally the previous week, with Shane McMahon strolling out at the last ever Nitro to confirm that he was the new owner of WCW, thus laying the table for the long awaited WWF Vs WCW feud to actually take place. That of course ended up being a really unsatisfying storyline, but right now people were still kind of hopeful that the WWF wouldn’t screw it up. In essence this was the WWF’s big end zone dance, and for the most part Mania X-Seven delivered hugely. Austin and Rock hadn’t had a straight 1 v 1 pay per view match for two years, so the excitement for this one was palpable and the show did a monster buy rate as a result.
Being that this is in Houston, Austin is of course crazy over, so much so that the fans actually boo Rock. Jim Ross gets spooked immediately by the unadvertised No DQ stipulation, which was probably an early sign that something might be up here. Austin wastes no time starting the brawl, attacking Rock during his entrance. LET THE PUNCHING COMMENCE!!! The fight heads outside, with the crowd loudly getting behind Austin as he sends Rock over the ringside barricades into the crowd. Austin is quite heelish in the way he’s going about working the match here, raking his knee brace across Rock’s face and just generally being really vicious in everything he does, but the crowd seemingly just cheers him even more the more unpleasant he gets.
It’s interesting really as this was kind of the chickens coming home to roost with regards to The Rock’s character, as even as a babyface the character was pretty much a jerk who belittled everyone, so when matched up with a bad ass butt kicker the fans were likely always going to side with the other guy. Case in point, Rock fights his way back into the match following the superplex in a more traditional babyface styled manner, but the crowd rejects it and then cheers when Austin hits him with the ring bell outside to bust him open. Wow, this crowd would probably cheer for the lions in the Roman Coliseum!
Sadly a table spot gets ruined when Rock’s weight just causes the American announce table to crumble, which leads to Paul Heyman declaring that he’s going to have to watch the Titan Tron now in order to keep track of things. Austin tries to open up Rock’s cut back inside, outright choking him at one stage, but the crowd stays with him and even boo’s Rock when he tries to gallantly fight back. This crowd reaction is incredible, it’s just a shame that it is totally going against the whole point of the match, which is to make Rock the sympathetic figure bravely fighting back against a psychotic blood lust fuelled Austin. Then again, this was Austin’s first Mania Main Event since coming back from a career threatening injury in his home state, what exactly were they expecting to happen?
A bloody Rock eventually makes a comeback and heads back inside to give Austin a taste of his own medicine with a bell shot, which is a classic babyface payback spot but gets booed out of the building. This is so much fun to watch just for the crowd reactions alone, it’s utterly wild. Austin is now bleeding following that and Rock pinballs him with a series of punches (Man, the punch counter in this one would be off the charts) showing more of a mean streak. Austin fights back however and then catapults Rock into the ring post (With Rock taking an outstanding bump for it) before dragging Rock over to the remains of the announce table for a monitor shot.
Heyman and Ross both ponder the No DQ ruling again, as Austin gets two back inside. Austin tries to end things with the Stunner, but Rock counters that into a Sharpshooter, complete with Austin mimicking his sell job from Mania 13 in a nice call back. Austin manages to make the ropes and then goes to the eyes before locking in his own Sharpshooter for a MONSTER pop from the crowd (And another first class sell job from Rock) but Rock is able to power out. Both men are exhausted bloody messes here, as Austin locks in the Sharpshooter once again, only for Rock to make the ropes this time. Austin doesn’t break because of the No DQ stip, but it isn’t falls count anywhere so he eventually has to let go.
Austin goes to the Million $ Dream, but Rock kicks off from the turnbuckle ala Bret Hart from Survivor Series 1996, but Austin is able to kick out. What an absolute battle this is! Rock manages to catch Austin with the Stunner, but the resulting pin only gets two, although it took Rock a moment to make the cover due to how beat up he is. That is Vince McMahon’s cue to come down to ringside, thus explaining who came up with the No DQ rule. Fans boo at first thinking that Vince is coming down to help Rock, but they soon get bowled a Yorker when Vince breaks up the pin when Rock delivers the People’s Elbow. At first it looks like Vince might just be here to screw Rock for some reason rather than actually help Austin, but that soon proves not to be the case when Austin starts directing traffic.
Austin holds Rock for a Vince chair shot, but Rock kicks out. Austin tries to finish Rock off with a chair shot of his own, but Rock catches him with a Rock Bottom, only to make the mistake of dragging in Vince so he can beat him up. This allows Austin to catch Rock with a Stunner…for two. An incensed Austin though will not be denied, and he brutalises Rock with a chair (Not unlike how Rock did to him at Mania XV in another call back) which is finally enough to put Rock away after a valiant effort. The fans still cheer wildly though of course, even though Austin has just been the biggest bastard whoever bastarded in that closing section.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
Vince and Austin shake hands following the match to put the full stop on the Attitude Era, as the WWF goes off in a new direction with a heel Austin on top. Austin was actually a very entertaining heel, but even though it was critically well received, his heel act was not a hit at the box office and he would end 2001 as a face again, although by that stage the damage had been done. The match itself is fantastic, with great brawling and equally great soap opera. Normally the crowd being so “off message” would take something away from the match, but if anything it made the match all the better to have a jazzed crowd going nuts for everything.
WWF Undisputed Title
Champ: Chris Jericho w/ Stephanie McMahon Vs Triple H
Triple H tore his quad in May 2001 and the video packages that played for his return in January 2002 made him come across in a sympathetic light due to how hard he was working to return to the ring, so he came back as a babyface to win the Royal Rumble and get the Title shot in the Mania Main Event. Meanwhile, Chris Jericho became the first ever “Undisputed” Champion in December 2001 by defeating both the Rock and Steve Austin in the same night at Vengeance to win the WWF and WCW belts. Sadly Jericho had been booked as a supremely weak Champion in the build-up, needing help from the nWo to defeat Austin at No Way Out and eventually getting reduced to being Stephanie McMahon’s dog walker during the Mania build. Triple H had ditched Stephanie during a renewal of their wedding vows due to her lying about being pregnant, so in typical McMahon soap opera she decided to try and help Jericho win here in order to spoil Triple H’s return.
They finally gave Jericho something a week out from the show, by having him batter Triple H and seemingly re-injure the challenger’s quad, thus meaning that it’s all taped up here so as to give Triple H another obstacle to overcome. Indeed, Jim Ross on commentary states that Triple H’s quad is “hanging on by a thread”, which makes me think Triple H wouldn’t have even been allowed to wrestle here if that were the case. Still, it’s wrestling 101 to give the babyface a weakness for the dastardly heels to exploit, so I’m not going to complain too much about it. I just wish that they’d focused on that being the build with Jericho maybe bringing people in to soften Triple H up, rather than making Stephanie the mastermind, which served only to minimise Jericho further.
Triple H sells the quad in the early going, twinging it when getting a knee strike, but he still manages to shine on Jericho and even flings him from the second rope into the front row at one point before suplexing Jericho back into the ringside area. Triple H readies the Spanish announce table, but Jericho fights back by kicking him in the leg whilst Stephanie screeches at ringside like a banshee. They go so over the top here making Stephanie to be as cartoonishly vile as possible that it verges on making the whole thing feel silly. It’s a shame as the work going on in the ring is really good, with Triple H selling his quad well and Jericho making a good fist of being a devious heel.
Jericho and Stephanie collide at one point, which leads to Triple H going for a Pedigree on her, but that allows Jericho to catch him with a dropkick and go back to working the leg. Stephanie even gets some cheap shots in as well whilst Triple H sells on the floor, as the story of this match is on point. Jericho even busts out the Bret Hart ring post Figure Four, which is always a great heel spot to do when you’re trying to work over someone’s leg. Triple H starts fighting back and gets a spine buster on the second attempt after the first one went a bit skewwhiff. Jericho responds by sending Triple H outside however and it’s over to the American announce table, where Jericho preps things for the Walls of Jericho, which is what he did to Triple H back in May 2001 when he injured his quad in the first place.
Triple H fights back and tries for a Pedigree, but Jericho counters with a back body drop through the Spanish table to seemingly end things. That spot looked great. Jericho bundles the remains of Triple H back into the ring and delivers the Lion Sault, but Triple H manages to kick out at two. Sadly that doesn’t get the big pop from the crowd as they are burnt to a crisp due to the big Rock Vs Hollywood Hogan match that happened earlier in the night. It’s a shame, as this match has been really well constructed and I think they would have been getting some big pops if they’d decided to go on before Rock/Hogan. Jericho tries to finish things with the Walls of Jericho, but Triple H refuses to tap out and eventually makes the ropes following a brave struggle.
A frustrated Jericho heads outside for a chair whilst Stephanie distracts the ref, but Triple H kicks the chair back in Jericho’s face and then DDT’s him on it for a great near fall. Again, with a better crowd that spot would have gotten a big pop because it was executed perfectly. Stephanie tries to use the chair, but Earl Hebner stops her. This allows Triple H to finally get some payback with a Pedigree, only to turn around into a Jericho chair shot for another fantastically timed near fall. That was incredible, this match really deserves more credit. Jericho tries his own Pedigree next, but Triple H catapults him into the corner and gets the genuine article for the three count and finally a pop from the crowd.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TRIPLE H
This a slept on great Mania match, as Jericho and Triple H worked super hard and told a really engrossing story with some truly top notch near falls. Sadly the crowd heat just wasn’t there. I maintain that if this had gone on before Rock/Hogan then people would think upon this match way more fondly than they do, as the work is really good but the crowd heat just isn’t there for it. I’m not going to blame the crowd themselves as they showed during the Rock/Hogan match that they could be great, but more the match placing on the card, which I think Triple H had a hand in so he kind of made his own bed.
Champ: Kurt Angle Vs Brock Lesnar
Angle was coming into this one with a seriously buggered neck, and the injury that was so bad that at one point there was even talk of taking the belt off him and doing Brock Vs Chris Benoit instead. In the end Angle dragged himself off his sick bed to defend the Title and pay off a long storyline between the two men, which saw Paul Heyman drop Brock as a client and join up with Angle instead. Brock had taken Heyman out in a cage match during the build-up, so Angle has to face the music on his lonesome here. Brock does have taped ribs to give him a weakness for Angle to exploit, which is what you kind of have to do when you have a monster babyface. Of course they could just do what they do now and have Brock destroy his opponents whilst the crowd cheers along, but this was back where they were still trying to fit him into the traditional WWF/E babyface mould, which meant selling and making comebacks.
Tazz mentions that Tito Ortiz is in the crowd watching, which makes me think it’s strange that Ortiz never really did something in WWE as a guest celebrity. Even TNA were smart enough to make that one happen. We get some nice mat wrestling to start, with Angle more than holding his own thanks to Brock being slowed down a bit by his ribs. I was actually losing my love for both the WWF and wrestling in general in 2002 due to ECW and WCW being dead and the Invasion being such a DUD, but a combination of discovering ROH and Brock’s rise to dominance in WWE kept me around. It was just cool to see Brock doing things a bit differently on top and not doing arena wide Main Event Style brawls on every pay per view. Eventually we get to some suplexes and slams from both guys, with Brock getting a nice Military Press Slam, whilst Angle gets an insane German Suplex into the top turnbuckle to officially cut Brock off for the heat. That looked incredible.
Angle works a sleeper with a body scissors, which hurts Brocks mid-section as well as depriving him oxygen to the brain, which is understandable as he was physically thrashed at this stage and needed to do something to slow it down a bit whilst also giving Brock a hold to fight out of. The crowd does get behind Brock and he eventually manages to power up and piggybacks Angle into the turnbuckle to break The Champions grip. Angle fires back with another suplex and then knees Brock in the back to send him flying through the ropes to the floor. Angle quickly stuffs Brock back inside, only to run right into a spine buster for a double down. Brock makes the comeback once both men are up, getting his trademark shoulder barges in the corner before flinging Angle over his head with a belly to belly. Wow, it’s amazing watching Angle take these when you know how bad his neck was here. Credit to him on one hand but it’s also an utterly stupid thing to be doing with such a serious ailment.
Angle confounds medical science further by fighting back with a trio of rolling German’s before prepping for the Angle Slam, but Brock slips out and goes for the F-5, only for Angle to counter THAT into the ankle lock. Great little counter sequence there. Brock tries to work his way out of the hold, so Angle jsut transitions into a single leg crab instead, which has the added effect of hurting Brock’s mid-section. They’ve done a cracking job putting this match together actually, with everything existing for a reason. Brock eventually gets out of the hold, only to get flung onto his FACE via a release German Suplex from Angle, which gets The Champ two. That was outstanding! Angle gets the Angle Slam after that, but Brock kicks out once again to put a bee in Angle’s bonnet. Angle stalks Brock, but ends up taking an F-5 from the challenger, which gets two. Brock didn’t get an immediate cover there, thus giving an out for why his finish didn’t work.
Angle isn’t done however and goes to the ankle lock, hooking the legs for good measure, but Brock becomes one of the few people to survive that version of the hold by making the ropes. Angle keeps coming with another Angle Slam attempt, but Brock slips out once again and then delivers another F-5 before heading up for the Shooting Star Press that he used to do in Ohio Valley Wrestling. Sadly though Brock doesn’t make it all the way over and ends up landing on his head in a terrifying moment. Thankfully Brock is no mere mortal and manages to survive that with his life intact, but man, that was scary. Angle is smart enough to cover Brock following that for two and they quickly adlib a new finish where Brock gets one more F-5 to pick up the win.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BROCK LESNAR
Botched Shooting Star Press aside, this was an excellently worked match that made Brock look gutsy and also made Angle look like a deserving Champion who pushed the monster face as far as he could before finally succumbing. This is very much one of those matches you appreciate more when you know that both men survived it. Watching it live I think it might have been a bit of a harder watch. Angle shakes hands with Brock post-match to go babyface and set up further matches between both men later in the year.
Champ: Triple H Vs Shawn Michaels Vs Chris Benoit
This one could be a tad more awkward to review knowing what we know Benoit would go on to do in 2007, especially as years of punishment in the ring probably played a huge role in Benoit doing what he did in the first place. However, this one went on last, so it’s getting reviewed. The build for this was that Chris Benoit became the first person to win the Royal Rumble and switch brands, jumping from Smackdown to Raw, in order to challenge Triple H. However, Triple H rival Shawn Michaels wasn’t happy at this development and ended up fighting his way into the bout as well, thus giving us a Triple Threat match instead.
Triple H actually has a snazzy pair of white boots on here that look quite cool. Should he do another WrestleMania epic long past the point he is physically capable of doing one he should definitely bring those back. It’s funny actually as according to Mick Foley’s “Foley is Good” book, originally they were talking about Rock Vs Austin Vs Mankind as the Main Event for Mania XV but Shawn Michaels spoke up saying it should be a singles match to close out Mania, but here he is five years later closing the show in a Triple Threat. The story here is that Benoit and Shawn both want some of Triple H, but they can’t get out of one another’s way in order to get it done.
Triple H was coming off a pretty lousy couple of years from an in-ring perspective, mostly due to sacrificing his speed and agility in exchange for a bigger physique. Not coincidentally, he would tear his quad again in 2006 and eventually came back a tad leaner, which not only led to him having better matches but it also staved off any similar injuries going forwards. Shawn wastes no time in taking both men out with an Asai moonsault to the floor, but they soon recover and the fight continues back inside. All the work is good from all three men, as Triple H gets to bull both men around due to his superior size, whilst Shawn brings the speed and Benoit brings the wolverine like viciousness.
The crowd picks Benoit as the guy they want to win, with Shawn actually getting some audible boos at certain points despite supposedly being a babyface. There’s pretty much something going on at every stage of the match, although it does sometimes slip into the usual Triple Threat formula of two men fighting in the ring whilst the other sells outside. As a story that does actually make sense, as the whole point really is to take one person out so that you can finish off the other one, but it’s an overused stipulation, so the formula is more obvious because we see it so much. As far as the formula goes though, this is one of the best versions I’ve seen of it.
Shawn tries to give Benoit his own German Suplexes at one stage, but Benoit replies with some of his own before heading up top for the diving head butt, which gets him a two count from the ref. Shawn fights back and catches Triple H with Sweet Chin Music, but Benoit pulls Triple H out of the ring at two, which gets “Benoit” chants from the crowd. Benoit and Shawn head in, where Benoit catapults him into the corner, which leads to Shawn bleeding a gusher. Crossface looks to end things, but Triple H grabs Shawn’s hand so that he can’t tap in a great spot and then breaks the hold.
Triple H and Shawn eventually call a momentary ceasefire in their long running feud to double suplex Benoit through the announce table, seemingly taking him out of the match and leaving it so that they can settle their issue. Shawn is bleeding like crazy here, as he is quite literally wearing a crimson mask due to his face being utterly caked in blood. Shawn flings Triple H face first into the ring post, and that leads to Triple H coming up bleeding as well, as they are pulling out all the stops here to have the most epic pay per view Main Event possible. The crowd continues to chant for Benoit however, whilst the supposed two bigger stars do battle with one another inside the ring. Triple H gets the Pedigree and that looks to be all, but Benoit manages to drag himself back in for the last gasp save.
Triple H looks to Pedigree Benoit, but that gets countered into The Sharpshooter. Triple H sells that big and the crowd is totally into the idea of him tapping out, but Shawn comes back in with Sweet Chin Music at the last moment and we have a triple down. Shawn crawls over and pins Benoit following that, but he manages to kick out at two for a pop from the crowd. Shawn TUNES UP THE BAND to possibly put this one beyond doubt, but Benoit ducks it and sends him outside. Triple H tries to sneak up on him with The Pedigree, but Benoit counters that to Crossface and Triple H uncles to give Benoit the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: CHRIS BENOIT
This was some darn fine professional wrestling, with great drama and some excellent near falls and near misses. Benoit coming back from getting sent through the table to make the big comeback was classic babyface overcoming the odds booking and worked very well. WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero comes down to the ring to hug Benoit following the match, in a moment which now has a far more tragic and sad connotation to it than it did at the time due to both men now being dead, with the wrestling business itself being a big contributing factor in their premature deaths.
Well that’s five more Main Events in the bag and all but one of them were good. I’ll certainly take that!