The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania XIX – 03.30.03

The SmarK Rant for WWE Wrestlemania XIX – 03.30.03

Well it’s been 20 years so this is due for a redo, and also one of my most requested Wrestlemanias.  Plus there’s a TON to discuss with this one, starting with…

Live from Seattle, WA, drawing 54,000 and a 1.08 buyrate.  That was such a huge disappointment on PPV that Vince actually blamed the CITY and never returned there for another Wrestlemania or even a major show as far as I can remember, despite the cool looking baseball stadium setup and hot crowd.

Your hosts are Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler for RAW and Michael Cole & Tazz for Smackdown.

Cruiserweight title:  Matt Hardy v1 v. Rey Mysterio

Rey is doing a Daredevil cosplay for his first Wrestlemania, back when that was still a deep cut.  Also hilarious of the moment is the Matt Hardy video graphic, which simulates a grainy streaming video as it would have looked in 2003.  Rey hits both Matt and Shannon Moore with a dive to start and gets two on Matt, then takes him down with a “legscissors” and chases him to the apron.  Shannon saves Matt from getting powerbombed onto the floor and they team up to drop Rey on the railing, and back in for two.  Matt with a sideslam for two.  Meanwhile, Tazz lets us know that Matt has switched from banana juice to tea in an effort to lose weight, so there’s no more BJ and only teabagging from now on.  Huge if true.  Matt with the Side Effect for two as they’re going a million miles an hour out there, until Matt slows it down a bit with a surfboard.  Rey fights back and Matt hits him with chops in the corner, but Matt misses a charge while Cole misses the joke with “teabagging”.  Rey springboards into a bodypress for two and takes him down with a flying headscissors and a tornado DDT for two.  Rey takes him down for the 619, but Shannon trips him up and Matt hits the Twist of Fate for two.  They fight to the top rope and Matt tries a powerbomb, but Rey reverses into a rana for two.  Matt collides with his MFer and Rey hits the 619, but he misses the West Coast Pop and Matt cradles and uses the ropes for the pin at 5:39 to retain.  And then it’s TO THE BACK immediately afterwards.  Incredibly fast paced for the time but way too short.  ***1/2

Meanwhile, a limo pulls up with “the Catfight Girls”, who argue about Vince and Hulk Hogan.  I’m assuming that some kind of timely pop culture reference that means nothing here in 2022.

Meanwhile, Big Show and A-Train lay out Nathan Jones in the shower, leaving him in a pool of his own boob milk.  Well at least there’s a shower drain right there.

Undertaker v. A-Train & Big Show

So of course this was supposed to be a tag match with Undertaker teaming with Jones, but he was so bad that Vince pulled him at the last minute, as Taker would rather do a handicap match so as not to have a terrible Wrestlemania match.  Speaking of terrible, Limp Bizkit grace us with a live performance of “Rollin’” for Taker’s entrance, which is sadly not edited out for music rights reasons.  Sure, they’ll cut out every good Jim Johnston jam but leave this crap in there.  Could have been worse, Fred Durst probably could have ended up teaming with Undertaker.  Taker quickly chokeslams Albert for two.  Over to Show, but Taker fights them both off and then leapfrogs Albert before going old school with the ropewalk.  Albert cuts him off with the Baldo Bomb and Show runs Taker into the post on the floor.  Back in, Albert with a catapult under the ropes for two, which is apparently called “The Decapitator” according to Michael Cole.  Should have saved that one for Crown Jewel.  Show tries a chokeslam on Taker, but he reverses to a Fujiwara armbar and then puts Albert in a cross armbreaker.  But then the heels decide to actually double-team him here in this match where they have a 2-on-1 advantage and Show uses the clubbing forearms to take over again.  Show with the abdominal stretch, which is no doubt like being abdominal stretched by FRYING PANS, but he lets it go and it’s back to Albert for another abdominal stretch.  But then Taker reverses to his own and puts him down with a suplex for a double down.  Show and Albert are being very polite about adhering to the tag rules in this handicap match.  Taker and Albert slug it out as I think the crowd was kind of waiting for someone like Kane to come out and be a surprise partner, and nothing ever comes.  Taker with a DDT for two, but Show saves, so Taker makes his own comeback with corner clotheslines and puts Show down with the flying clothesline.  But then Albert puts him down with the pump kick and Show chokeslams him.  This finally brings Nathan Jones out of the dressing room and Show goes to chase him and gets kicked out.  And then Jones comes into the ring, distracts Train, and Taker finishes with the tombstone at 9:44.  Well that was about the best use of Jones they were going to get, I suppose.  I would classify this as “Not bad, actually” and pretty energetic considering the people, but nothing I’d call a hidden gem for Undertaker or anything.  It was a passable match, which was at least not the disaster we were anticipating if Jones had been in there.  **1/4

Meanwhile, the Catfight Girls find Torrie and Stacy Keibler backstage and go discuss girl stuff.

WWE Women’s title:  Victoria v. Jazz v. Trish Stratus

Sadly, “All The Things You Said” is overdubbed out here on the Network.  Jazz is a serious memory hole for me, as I barely remember her.  Apparently she’s still around with Impact and active, so good for her.  Jazz quickly takes out Victoria and gets a submission on Trish, but Trish fights out and goes up.  Victoria pulls Trish down and they all fight on the floor while Jerry ponders a three-way lesbian encounter with them.  Back in, Victoria beats on Jazz in the corner, but Trish gets a bridging rollup for two.  Trish puts Victoria down with a clothesline and slugs away, but Jazz breaks it up and powerslams Trish for two.  Not only that but a SITOUT powerslam, the most dangerous variation of the 2000s.  They all slug it out and Jazz kicks Victoria down by mistake, and Trish rolls up Jazz for two.  Chick Kick gets two.  Victoria goes up and Trish takes her down with the headscissors and continues making the comeback, but Jazz takes her down with a half-crab and then turns it into an STF.  So Steven Richards saves on behalf of Victoria while the ref is distracted, and Victoria gets a rollup on Trish for two.  Jazz with the Glam Slam on Trish, but Victoria kicks Jazz down and goes up for a moonsault, which misses.  So Richards gets involved again and Trish gets rid of him, and then escapes the Widow’s Peak and kicks Victoria down to win the title at 7:25.  This was pretty rough, like one of those AEW women’s matches where everyone is trying hard but just couldn’t put anything together.  *1/2  Victoria at least came in fully formed, but Trish was still figuring it all out.

Meanwhile, the Rock admits to being a sellout, as in he sold out every Wrestlemania he’s ever been in.  And tonight he’s beating Steve Austin to fulfil his destiny because he’s had two chances and has never done it before.  Hollywood has taught him that the only thing anyone remembers is Act 3.  Well not if it’s a Marvel movie and Act 3 is just another CGI fight with a boss villain, but that was still 15 years away.

WWE tag team titles:  Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin v. Chris Benoit & Rhyno v. Los Guerreros

Rhyno is basically subbing for Edge, who was out with one of his various neck surgeries at this point.  Chavo hits Haas with a backdrop suplex, so it’s over to Benoit and the Guerreros double-team him.  So Benoit just SMASHES Eddie with chops in the corner and Rhyno comes in.  Powerslam on Eddie gets two, but Team Angle catches him in their corner and double-teams him for two.  Benoit comes in again and hits Haas with a snap suplex for two and a backdrop suplex for two.  Benoit and Rhyno double-team Haas with chops.  Eddie comes in  and dropkicks Rhyno to take over before putting the boots to him.  But then he goes up and Benoit brings him down with a superplex and gets the crossface.  Haas makes the save there and Eddie hits Benoit with a brainbuster for two.  His brain didn’t need to be any more busted, sadly.  Chavo gets a hot tag and runs wild, but Benoit cuts him off with the rolling germans. But Chavo makes a blind tag to Benjamin while taking the move and Shelton kicks Benoit down for two.  Eddie comes in and collides with Benoit for a double down, but Shelton drops a leg on Benoit and Eddie saves with a frog splash. Back to Chavo, but Rhyno hits Haas with the GOAR and then follows with one for Chavo.  And then Benjamin steals the pin at 8:52 to retain.  All action, but the finish was the usual lazy WWE booking.  ***1/4  And then a year later Benoit and Eddie would be headlining Wrestlemania.

Meanwhile, more wackiness with the Catfight Girls, who have now gotten more time than Mysterio and Matt did in the opener.

Shawn Michaels v. Chris Jericho

So this was the official transition of Shawn Michaels from “special guest star” doing a couple of matches per year in 2002, to full time guy again.  To say there was some uncertainty about whether he could pull off a Wrestlemania classic again would be an understatement, given that the feeling was that Shawn would just do his comeback matches and then call it quits again.  The lesson of course being “DON’T DOUBT SHAWN MICHAELS”, as it turned out.  Although Shawn firing off confetti guns into the crowd didn’t exactly enhance his entrance any. They trade takedowns to start and Jericho tries for a hammerlock, but Shawn reverses to a hiptoss and they have a stalemate.  Shawn takes him down with a headlock and they slug it out, but Shawn tosses him out and into the announce table.  Jericho dodges a dive attempt, but then makes the mistake of pointing to his head to indicate intelligence and Shawn hits a baseball slide instead.  Back in, Shawn with a crossbody, but Jericho rolls through for two and gets a leg lariat.  Jericho chokes him out in the corner, but Shawn reverses him into the turnbuckles to block a bulldog and follows with a figure-four, which Jericho quickly reverses.  Shawn goes right back again, but Jericho sends him into the corner and then tosses him.  But of course he points to his head AGAIN, and this time Shawn skins the cat and takes him to the floor with a headscissors before following with a dive.  But then Jericho takes him down with a Walls of Jericho on the floor, where it hurts more, and runs the back into the post for good measure.  Shawn gets back to the apron and Jericho dropkicks him off while JR notes that the crowd is displeased with Jericho’s actions.  Yeah all the nerds giving him a standing ovation in the front row would seem to contradict your point there, Jimbo.  Back in the ring, Jericho with a delayed suplex for two, and he follows with a backbreaker for two via ARROGANT COVER.  Jericho with a chinlock, but Shawn fights out with a suplex and they slug it out.  Jericho puts him down with the flying forearm and gives us a Shawn tribute, but Shawn does his own kip up and comes back with the atomic drop and backdrop.  Shawn goes up with a moonsault for two and a sunset flip for two, but Jericho reverses for two and rolls him into the Walls.  Shawn powers out of that attempt and Jericho gets a northern lights suplex for two, but Shawn powers up into a backslide, which Jericho escapes with a clothesline.  I like that Jericho is trying to blow him up and not even giving him a minute to take a breath with smoke and mirrors, and Shawn is game anyway.  Obviously we all respect the hell of Michaels and everything he did following this, but this was a major statement on his part at the time.

Jericho with a Lionsault for two.  Shawn tries a rana, but Jericho takes him down into the Walls and Shawn makes the ropes.  Jericho tries it again and Shawn cradles for two.  Jericho with a double arm backbreaker and he hits Shawn with his own superkick, which gets two.   Shawn comes back with a crossbody out of the corner and slugs away on Jericho, then takes him down and catapults him into the corner for two.  They fight to the top and Jericho tries a superplex, but Michaels reverses to a crossbody and they’re both down, although Shawn ends up on top for two.  Shawn goes up again and Jericho crotches him and then follows him up for a superplex, but Shawn blocks that and puts him down for the flying elbow.  Shawn makes the comeback, but the superkick misses and Jericho takes him down with another Walls, but Shawn fights out and superkicks him for another double down.  Shawn gets two off that.  Jericho runs him into the corner and tries a suplex, but Shawn rolls him up for the pin at 22:32 and he was off and running again with the comeback.  And then Jericho offers a hug of respect, before hitting him in the nuts to remain heel.  This was really fascinating as a Shawn match, because it was actually the first time Shawn did what we’d consider a classic Shawn babyface match at Wrestlemania, a formula that he’d perfect over the next decade.  And yeah, it was pretty awesome.  ****1/4

Meanwhile, Sylvain Grenier stops by Vince’s office.

Meanwhile, Limp Bizkit gets another song.

The Catfight Girls join us, AGAIN, for a segment at the stage where they’re going to have a catfight on a bed.  But then Stacy interrupts, using Kid Rock’s abomination of a ZZ Top cover.  And Torrie also wants to be involved for no adequately explored reason.  So they all hit each other with pillows and roll around and it’s pretty idiotic, leading to Coach getting pinned.  Apparently the Catight Girls were from a timely Miller Lite ad campaign that was supposed to spark a debate between “Tastes Great” and “Less Filling”, as though any human being ever talked about a beer that way.  Really, trying to troll wrestling fans with cheap tribalistic nonsense is about as worthwhile as trying to say NXT is somehow comparable to AEW.

RAW World title:  HHH v. Booker T

Hold on, I need to refresh my drink.

OK, let’s do this.

So yeah, the storyline was that HHH was in the midst of the Reign of Terror and Ric Flair was managing him and they didn’t like people of Booker’s particular skin color.  So the buildup was all “Sorry, you’re black, and everything from WCW sucked, so you’re probably not good enough to ever be World champion” and surely Booker would get his revenge here and prove him wrong.  Lawler talks about how HHH was an extremely rich white kid from Connecticut and Booker is from the ghetto, further building up the underdog storyline.  Booker slugs away in the corner and backdrops HHH, but runs into an elbow.  HHH goes up and Booker takes him down with an armdrag and HHH bails.  Back in the ring, Booker gets a short clothesline for two, but HHH backdrops him to the floor and runs him into the post.  Meanwhile, JR and King go on this whole deal about Booker being “born on a pool table” and Howard Finkel being drunk while reporting it.  Back in the ring, HHH goes to work while Lawler notes that Booker’s family portrait is a courtroom sketch and so he can’t be World champion.  And they continue this weird storyline where they’re saying Booker is “from WCW” instead of saying that he’s black, so no one can be accused of actually dragging racism into the story.  Hunter gets the Main Event Spinebuster and chokes out Booker, but Booker comes back with a DDT and even JR is sick of Lawler going to the well too many times with the “Booker is a criminal” jokes, almost telling him to “get off the goddamn subject” before cutting himself off.   I bet Vince was in the headset telling Lawler to go even harder on it.   Meanwhile Booker tries to come back and HHH cuts him off with a high knee for two.  Booker comes back with his own spinebuster for two and beats on HHH with chops in the corner, and then dropkicks him for two.  Booker misses the axe kick and lands on the floor, where Flair drops him on the stairs knee-first.  Back in, HHH with the Guardian deathlock to really get the crowd going.  Nothing like a 100 year old leglock to really electrify a stadium of people!  Booker makes the ropes, so HHH goes back to work on the knee to really put the sledgehammer to the already bored crowd.  HHH tries the Pedigree, but Booker catapults out and rolls him up for two.  Booker fights back with the axe kick but they’re both out and Booker can’t even spinarooni on his bad knee.  Booker goes up and HHH cuts him off, but Booker sends him down and fights off Flair as well.  Booker with the Harlem Hangover, but that misses by a foot and Flair puts HHH’s foot on the rope anyway.  Booker’s knee gives out and HHH hits the Pedigree and both guys are out again, but HHH rolls over and pins him at 18:44.  Booker literally had to lay there for THIRTY SECONDS selling the single Pedigree before getting pinned.  And yet to this day he still defends the match and doesn’t understand why people had a problem with it.  This was a boring mess and did nothing for Booker whatsoever, making him look like another geek of the month and ending him as a serious challenger for years.  **

Street Fight: Hulk Hogan v. Vince McMahon

This storyline still makes no sense and was a major reason why the show flopped, filled with insider nonsense that required fans to somehow reconcile both the kayfabe characters and real people to get anything out of it.  Also, Hogan was already using “Hulkamania” when he was in the AWA, so clearly the answer to the question of who created it was “Verne Gagne” and thus I can settle the issue right now.  Sadly, that spicy Voodoo Chili is replaced with a soundalike for Hogan’s entrance.  Or maybe they were using a knockoff for real at that point, I don’t remember.   They slug it out to start while poor Cole tries to recap the nonsensical storyline and Hulk chokes Vince out.  Vince clotheslines him out of the corner, looking like he took every bit of evidence that they had on Hogan at the Zahorian trials, and he too chokes Hogan out in the corner and clubs him down.  This is gonna need smoke, mirrors AND David Copperfield booking the match to save it.  Vince works the arm and tries a test of strength, but Hulk fights up, so Vince tosses him.  Vince sends him into the post to keep working on the arm here in this street fight, but he misses a chairshot and Hulk sends him into the post and chairshots him.  And Vince just gigs right on camera, not even being subtle about it.  Back in the ring, Hulk quickly chases Vince to the floor again and grabs a different chair for more shots on Vince as we’re nearly 10:00 into this thing and it’s going nowhere slowly.  Poor Hugo Savinovich even takes a chairshot from Hogan by accident and blades, and then Vince puts Hulk down with another chairshot and finds a ladder, as they unsurprisingly get the luxury of EVERY bit of self-indulgent smoke and mirrors for Vince’s match.  So Vince puts Hulk on the Spanish table and comes off the ladder with a legdrop through the table, although he’s barely able to get his leg in the air properly.   Back in, that gets two for Vince.  So Vince grabs a pipe from the floor, giving us the famous ring-level shot of his bloody face, but Hogan goes low on him.  Both guys are out, so Rowdy Roddy Piper comes in for a cameo, looking like he ate the Kraken, and then grabs the pipe and turns on Hogan before departing.  That gets two for Vince.  He goes for the pipe and the ref tries to stop him, so Vince beats him up as they cram every shortcut and gaga into the match.  So this brings out fake referee Sylvan Grenier and another real referee, as Vince drops the leg for two.  Hulk finally makes his comeback TWENTY MINUTES into this nonsense, and then he beats up Grenier and legdrops Vince not once, not twice, but THRICE, and gets the pin via one of the 17 referees at 20:50.  This was completely misguided garbage that went 15 minutes too long.  And then they continued to base all the advertising of the show around it after it already sunk the buyrate, using it on the home video cover and everything!   *1/2  Once they went more camp with the feud later in the year it got a little bit better, thankfully, but the blood feud silliness here just didn’t click.

The Rock v. Steve Austin

The Rock’s Hollywood entrance is still epic.  They quickly fight on the floor and slug it out, with Austin dropping him on the railing and then running him into the stairs.  Back in, Austin decides to choke Rock out on the ropes and hits him with a suplex for two.  Austin chokes him out some more, so Rock clips the knee to put him on the floor, and then takes out the knee again before ramming it into the announce table.  Back in the ring, Rock keeps working on the knee, but Austin slugs back until Rock catches him with his head down and takes him out.  Rock even gets to point at his head to indicate intelligence and doesn’t even get hit!  Rock with the Scorpion King Deathlock, but Austin makes the ropes, so Rock wraps the knee around the post and then steals Austin’s vest!  And it TOTALLY WORKS ON HIM!  Back in the ring, they clothesline each other for the double down, but Austin comes back and they trade shots.  Thesz Press and Austin slugs away and then drops a dramatic elbow for two.  Austin stomps the mudhole in the corner, but Rock hits him with the flying clothesline and pops up, just effortlessly cool and at the top of his game while Austin is the battered old gunfighter pulling out the stops one last time.  Austin hits his own Rock Bottom, however, and that gets two.  Rock gets up and straightens the vest, before catching Austin’s foot on the stunner and hitting his own Hollywood Stunner for two.  Rock slugs away on him, but misses a swing and it’s KICK WHAM STUNNER as Rock takes that one last time, and it gets two.  Austin inadvertently distracts the ref and Rock goes low to set up the People’s Elbow, which misses.  Stunner misses and Rock hits the spinebuster and finally loses the vest, and this time the People’s Elbow gets two.  Rock talks some trash and follows with a Rock Bottom, but that gets two.  So Rock talks some MORE trash and now he’s done messing around, going to another gear because he’s AWESOME, and hits another one to counter a stunner attempt, and that gets two again.  So now Rock has had enough of Steve Austin and uses the pent up aggression of 5 years of Austin’s crap, and hits a third and final Rock Bottom, not even giving Austin the chance to regroup while moving around the ring like a serpent to cut off every angle, and that ends Austin’s career at 17:35 and settles the score once and for all.  Rock is just the best and you can’t even argue the point.  What a masterpiece, made all the greater because it turned out to be Austin’s last match, while he was in excruciating pain, and he still put Rock over HUGE.  This was the definition of a stadium classic, as it was all big moves and high drama and just gets better in retrospect.  ****1/2

WWE title:  Kurt Angle v. Brock Lesnar

This was another fascinating one in retrospect, as there was real fear during the buildup that Angle’s neck was wrecked and he wouldn’t be able to make the match, leading to rumors of Chris Benoit taking his place among other ideas.  But then he had what was seemingly miracle surgery with Dr. Jho to remove bone spurs in a non-invasive procedure that seemed to save his career.  And then after a few months it turned out that, yup, his neck really was wrecked and all he did was buy himself more time before real intervention was needed.  Poor Michael Cole’s voice is SHOT by this point in the show.  Hopefully they won’t make him do another Wrestlemania that goes four hours!  Angle and Lesnar do some mat wrestling to start and fight to a stalemate.  Angle trips the leg and Brock reverses to a takedown of his own and then gets an armbar before beating on Angle in the corner.  Brock with a powerslam for two.  Angle hits him with a release german, but Brock pops up and clotheslines him, sending Angle to the floor.  Back in, Kurt beats on him, but Brock pulls out a press slam, something he didn’t really do again after that.  Angle with a backdrop suplex for two and he wraps up Brock with what Tazz describes as a “freestyle bow and arrow”, basically Angle hooking a rear naked choke while hooking an ankle.  Maybe Brock should work on some MMA skills and learn to counter that kind of stuff.  He’d probably do pretty good at it.  Angle switches to a straight crossface, so Brock powers up and runs him into the corners to break before beating on Kurt again.  Angle hits him with an overhead suplex and beats on the back with knees, sending Brock to the floor, but Brock explodes back in with a spinebuster and they’re both down.  Angle slugs on him first, but Brock comes back with a clothesline and puts the shoulders to him in the corner before hitting him with an overhead suplex of his own.  A second one gets two, but Angle reverses to the rolling germans on a third attempt.  Man, Seattle is like some kind of, I dunno, SUPLEX CITY tonight.  Brock with the F5, but Angle switches him into the anklelock and pulls him into the middle of the ring.  Brock powers up, so Angle switches to a half-crab and puts him down again.  Brock makes the ropes, so Angle hits him with a knee to the back, but charges one time too many and Brock throws him to the floor.  Back in, Brock works on the back, but Angle just HURLS him with a german suplex as Brock takes a flipping bump and lands on his face.  That gets two.  Angle Slam follows and that gets two. Angle tries again, but Brock cradles for two and then hits the F5 for two.  Kurt suckers him into another anklelock and uses the GRAPEVINE OF DEATH to signal the end, but Brock drags him to the ropes to break.  Angle tries it again and Brock fights him off, but he goes for another F5 and Angle cradles for two.  Angle Slam, but Brock reverses to another F5.  Geez, is he just gonna spend his career doing suplexes and F5s for the entire match?  Like anyone would pay to see that, LOL.  Brock decides not to cover and instead goes to the top rope, with Angle halfway across the ring, and the infamous Shooting Brock Press misses, with Brock landing on his damn head and nearly dying.  But it only gets two. Thankfully Angle keeps it together and they go to the backup plan, with Brock hitting another F5 to win the title at 21:00.  If Brock hits that shooting star it’s an all-time classic, but it couldn’t quite get there due to the colossal botch.  And Brock is OUT on the closeup, looking like he got knocked out by Cain Velasquez.  Whoever that is.  ****

Definitely an underappreciated Wrestlemania that has been unjustly wiped from the books by WWE due to Vince’s weirdness.  With three **** matches and whatever Vince and Hogan were trying to do, it’s got something for everyone, especially if you like old white guys bleeding on each other and arguing about who’s richer and yet still more of a victim.

Thumbs up.