Greatest show ever? That's the buzz on the 'net- well, i'm here to definitively answer that question, one way or the other.
1) Grandmaster Sexay/ Steve Blackman v. X-Pac/ Justin Credible (2:46) - 1
Now, i'm not going to hold this particular match against the show, but I thought it would be cool to review it for posteriety sake. I've never seen this match and the first thing I notice is the look of the show, it's grand in scale and pagentry and was WWE's return to stadium shows for Mania which they hadn't really done since WM6 I believe (Mr. Knowledge, help me out on this one?) Anyways, it looks like the Superbowl of sports entertainment and that goes a long way to making the show feel like it could be the biggest of all time. This turd goes about 3 minutes and is barely worth putting on the tights for. X-pac is working stiff however, just unleashing a fury of kicks to Sexay's head and facial area. Blackman's offense is so limited and so mundane that he could make a 450 splash feel like a side headlock. It's funny seeing Credible here in this arena with nearly 70,000 people in it and now knowing all I have to do to see him now is venture down to Waterbury, Connecticut and peek my head in the kitchen area of the local Olive Garden and that prick would be sorting breadsticks, 5 days a week. Damn, ain't life sweet? Credible takes bumps like a guy with no insurance policy. The double superkick fin was almost botched, but came off looking good. Now, onto the main show!
1) Chris Jericho v. William Regal (IC Title Match 7:08 )- 5
Wow! a huge fireworks display kicks this event off, after a very dramatic video of people around the world watching Mania's from the past and bringing people together. Touching message. The first match is for the IC belt, which has had some real classics at past Mania's, obviously Savage v. Steamboat comes to mind. This one started out fast, as if Jericho had a cribbage game in the back to get to. Jericho overshot a plancha early and had ran through a gamete of moves already 2 min. in. Regal's chest turned bloody red, like the stains the Queen leaves in her bloomers, from Jericho's chops. Regal takes advantage after getting his knees up on the Lionsault and continues like Jericho by hitting big move after big move, with really no ample time to sell it. The psychology of the match is Regal is going to hurt Jericho's shoulder which Jericho makes work with good selling, including having to give up his attempt at a Liontamer because of the pain. They use an exposed turnbuckle in their finish, which wasn't really emphasized so I'm thinking the audience didn't even catch it. The finish kind of just happened and was really flat. While technically this match was perfectly fine, it didn't catch the attention of the audience nor did it accomplish what your opening match should and that's excitement. The pace was kind of dull and the moves weren't strung together in a way that was exciting, but still decent match.
2) Right to Censor (Val Venis/ Bull Buchanan/ Goodfather) v. Tazz/ APA ( 3:53)- 3
Bradshaw gives a rousing speech in APA headquarters about the legacy of Wrestlemania and how it can make careers.....then he is apart of a throwaway 6 man tag. Tazz & Val start out in a weak brawl that looked like a 6th grader's rendition of "Raging Bull." I'm not sure whether he got legitimately rocked or not, but Tazz was clearly out on his feet the whole time he was taking punishment from RTC. Faarooq did nothing and Bradshaw came in at the end and got in a good amount of offense on all members, including "old white socks" Steven Richards, as JR called him. Val took a sick back superplex off the top (surprisingly in this short match) and a fall away slam that he sold like he fell on Uncle Fester's bed of nails. The finish was well timed, but this match was quick and pretty lackluster.
3) Raven v. Kane v. Big Show (Hardcore Title Match 9:18)- 4
This match doesn't hold up to my memory- at the time it happened, it felt fresh and innovative with all the backstage antics, now that I watch it for the work, it's pretty piss poor. Show is noticeably the worst, with slight shoulder shrugs as sells. Kane's selling isn't far above, and Raven's is pretty over the top and messy, like his cokehead girlfriend's apartment. The brawl in the maintenance closet is pretty weak sauce and vaguely reminded me of a Big Japan backstage fight, but without any of the blood or urban wear. Raven busting the glass window was fun, as was Big Show-Kane's reenactment of the T2 scene where they bust through doors and walls but everything was so obviously pre-cut that watching it a 2nd time, it completely exposes the whole layout of the match. The golf cart spots were entertaining, if not unique, but most of the weapons shots were real hackneyed, nearly as much as the ridiculous finish where Big Show and Raven get booted into a giant ? ( I guess tub of plaster would be the only thing you could describe it as?) Why on earth a giant box covered with dry wall and crash pads underneath it would have any place on that stage unless it was used for a match is beyond me- as far as entertainment, this was mildly successful, but from a workrate judgment, it falls pretty short.
4) Test v. Eddie Guerrero (European Title Match 8:30)- 3
This is a poor excuse for a Wrestlemania match, probably one of Eddie's poorest efforts. Neither Test nor Eddie's punches looked realistic in any way, more like an 80's WWF action figure with the looping right hand. Test was fairly green still and ran off about 4 or 5 big power moves in a row at one point where he could have spaced them out into the context of the match. Test's foot inadvertently gets caught in the top rope in a very strange moment. Here's the fucking funny thing (and I was watching this closely): Eddie put more emphasis into his kickouts than any other thing in this match. Every single cover, he shot his shoulder up like he was coming up for air underwater, but nearly everything else he did was routine. He applied a "Princess Bride" sleeper hold and the crowd took a nap with Test. Test hit a big boot and the crowd really only popped during one sequence at the end where they were teasing some finishers. Perry Saturn (complete with Lugz tee & large fuzzy hat) & Dean Malenko (in Hawaiian shirt, looking like a tourist) interfered several times to further diminish the overall quality of this stinker. Huge disappointment.
5) Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit (14:02)- 6
Angle insults the Houston crowd pre-match, insisting "they lose the freakin' cowboy hats- what are you, 7 years old?" JR takes it personally. Anyways, the first 7 minutes or so of this match are so different and unique, the crowd reacts well to it and it's refreshing. They basically try and prove who is the better wrestler with ground work, trying to get top position and so forth, which tells it's own little story in itself. Angle keeps getting the takedowns, but Benoit gets in the best position from the bottom and keeps locking in the Crossface. Benoit doesn't react to some of the slams, like in UFC, because he doesn't want to seem as if it hurt him. Benoit crashes into the steel steps, like he does on all his bumps and it's so Dynamite Kid. There's an Angle control section that silences the crowd for a good few minutes but Benoit's comeback livens them up. They are breaking out some good stuff, but you can also see that they are holding back- could be a # of reasons for that. Benoit hits a suplerplex from the top and I hail him as having one of the best superplexes of all time where he puts his whole body into the move and just obliterates both men. Benoit also hits a pretty swan dive and the rollup into the finish section was just a sampling of the great stuff these two would go on to do later.
6) Ivory v. Chyna (Women's Title 2:39)- 1
You have to love WWE's marketing: When they brought Chyna in, she was marketed as a muscular hermaphrodite, basically, tougher than most men because it was assumed she had a large cock under her stretch pants. At this time, they were marketing her as an athletic woman who should be a role model for young girls saying it's okay to be very man-like, even if you had a cock at one time. and the thing is, it seemed to be working. Sick, sick world. I love Ivory's being scared- she's really overdoing it but it works.....Wow, that's it. This barely went over 2 mins. Chyna's selling is probably some of the worst acting since Bernie the dead guy doing a conga line in Jamaica. Even a basic hiptoss looks complicated with these two in the ring. Ivory can't strike, but Chyna can hit a competent clothesline. Not much to say this was pretty garbage for a Mania match, but at the time the women's division was so far behind where it is today.
7) Vince McMahon v. Shane McMahon (Street Fight 14:12) - 4
This match was basically as close as you can get to a physical soap opera. Let me name the players involved: Vince, Shane, Stephanie, Linda, Trish Stratus, Mick Foley and a cameo by some old WCW guys. The match was pretty laid out by spots so there wasn't a lot of errant brawling like you'd see in a McMahon match today and you have to know at this time the McMahon family feud, as far as in-ring stuff, wasn't so played out as it is today. Shane missing the elbow through the table had to hurt. I loved when they used to oil down Trish's breasts for effect- she and Stephanie's catfight took up some valuable time. The biggest pop of the match and of the night thus far, was Linda standing up out of her drug-induced coma to kick Vince in the nuts. God, that woman just dries up charisma- she's so damn dull I'm not sure why they keep using her. Foley took a couple of chair shots to remind him he used to be a great hardcore wrestler. Shane's punches weren't so bad but Vince selling them was utterly ridiculous. The finish was spectacular, the coast to coast dropkick, very Wrestlemania in it's execution so for these two putting on a spot fest, it worked to that level but as far as workrate- there was nearly none involved.
8) Edge/ Christian v. Dudley Boyz v. Hardy Boys (TLC II- 15:51)- 8
Oh, man this was wild- I'm going to try and call out some of the action here, there's no real psych to speak of, so it's more or less a free for all. I'll go ahead and point my finger at Bubba for selling the least, as far as selling the pain of the bumps and such. I love early on after a double team spot, Matt slaps Jeff on the back on the ground, saying "good job." It' s hardly noticeable but as someone who has competed in some crazy backyard matches, when you get that little sign of approval from someone else in the match, it gives you some confidence. There's a spot where everyone goes up on 3 separate ladders and they all bump off of them except Bubba and Edge, who were in the middle ladder, basically just push each other off and do a big comedy pratfall. Thought that was pretty dumb. In this match, you have the 3rds for the teams: Rhino, Spike, & Lita and they all bring in a diff. excitement to the match, all taking hurty bumps in the meantime. There were some sick chair shots delivered in this match, the Dudleys took a few and Lita, surprisingly, tries to crack Spike's head open with one.
Wait a minute, stop the presses! Why didn't we see it before? You remember watching this that Jeff Hardy was suicidal- No , really I think he was trying to kill himself, maybe he wasn't happy at home, maybe he wanted to be the one to bite Lita's ass at night, who knows, but all the daredevil stunts, wait a minute, did he set fire to his own house in another attempt? Well, maybe that was too far, but he's also tried to commit career suicide- the constant alcohol & drug abuse, the TNA stint. Anyways, He puts Rhino & Spike through a table off a 20 foot ladder (so JR says) and he takes a spear from hanging from the belts. That spot and Bubba & Matt going through the 4 stack outside were both absolutely insane and when those 2 guys hit, you may as well have dropped them from an airplane, it looked that destructive. The match worked well with the last few spots being big and everything was timed well and the match was increasingly exciting as it went on. Great job.
9) Gimmick Battle Royal incl. Iron Sheik, Sgt. Slaughter, The Bushwhackers, Nikolai Volkoff, Tugboat, Gobbeldy Gooker, Brother Love, Michael PS Hayes, Jim Cornette, Duke "the Dumpster" Droese, Earthquake, Doink the Clown, The Goon, Hillbilly Jim, Kamala, Kim Chee, One Man Gang, & Repo Man (3:05)- 2
Nostalgia is the main word that comes to mind; I got a few nice smiles out of seeing some of these names, but for the most part this was supposed to be a big rib on most of these gimmicks when it should have been a rib on Vince for thinking them up. The action itself was pretty deplorable. A few guys were selling punches, but not many, Hayes was one. OMG took the best spill outside because of his mammoth girth, but he propelled himself over. A lot of the eliminations were just a guy grabbing another guy and tossing him, no matter his size or anything. By Battle Royal standards, this was pretty shitty. If you want to see a great battle royal, go back to SNME of April 1991 where Mr. Perfect goes to the end with Greg Valentine, now that's a great battle royal. But, I digress; the most rewarding part of this was the special announcers: "Mean" Gene Okerlund (who cut a very entertaining RF Video shoot) and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (whom I've confessed my man love for many times.) There's not much to cover in a 3 min. battle royal, but Heenan had some great lines that I want to share with the blogspot world.
The Iron Sheik coming down the aisle, slower than a car with one tire - Heenan: "By the time the Sheik gets to the ring, it'll be Wrestlemania 37!
Repo Man's entrance- Heenan: "This guy's so nuts he repo'ed his own car!" Okerlund: "About 5 years ago, he got my Mother-in-Law's!." Heenan: "About 4 years ago, everybody got your Mother-in-Law!"
Gobbeldy Gooker entrance- Heenan to Okerlund: "Didn't you used to date her?"
Sgt. Slaughter big screen video, showing him shooting heavy artillery guns- Heenan: "That was then, now he shoots blanks!"
Aftermatch attack- Sarge puts the Sheik into the Cobra Clutch- Okerlund: "He's trying to put the Sheik out!" Heenan: "You can't put him out- he's not even conscious!"
10) HHH v. Undertaker (18:17)- 6
Trips gets the big entrance treatment after a classic (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Motorhead performance. The lead singer looked like the Cryptkeeper with a wig on. The match itself started out in a brawl where Trips takes a big spill through a folding table in a spot that almost made me shoot my Pepsi out through my nose in it's absurdity. Trips was giving good sells for everything but Taker's punches, he kind of just jerked his head back like he just saw Chyna's former cock for the first time. High back drop on Trips and he lays in the corner selling the cumulative damage well. He runs through most of his move set within the first few minutes. Their chemistry is perfectly fine and they probably are doing themselves a favor by working the slow, measured pace they are using. Jim Ross even makes mention of the slow pacing. Taker is giving himself up for Trips' offense like a good McMahon robot. Trips takes a crazy sideways flip over the ropes and out to the floor. They go out into the crowd where Helmsley takes another back drop, this time onto some spilled soda. They brawl up into this monstrous electrical station where a bunch of monitors and shit is, but strangely no one is there working? There's a cameraman up on a little dais getting some very strange shots and this is being filmed like an action movie with the close ups and panned shots of the physicality. Taker gives Helmsley a big chokeslam off the side of this thing, which is a really cool visual but you don't see the move completed or the bump. In 2001, this was a rare sight and called for marking out- but now we know when the shot is hidden, there's a foam pad underneath. And as sure as Shane-O-Mac is already taking Viagra, there is a giant piece of fucking Memory Foam from the Serta Mattress Factory. Taker drops an elbow onto it and even though the camera is right there, they still miss the shot. Some EMT's show up to help the Game, but Taker gets rough with them and they bump like stuntmen over the gurney. Oh, forgot to mention that the ref took an elbow drop from Taker before this long brawl sequence which was probably near 8 minutes, well they go back to the ring and he's still out! I mean, ref's are supposed to be pansies, it's in their contracts but come on, you're unconscious from an elbow drop, Really? The finish comes off well and they do a punching sequence where both guys are just laying in some heavy leather- the hammer comes into play and Trips uses it on Taker's forehead only a minute before he hits the Last Ride for the win. I like how Taker blades anyways in the last minute due to the weapon shot- it feels more real. I can't believe I'm saying this, but this was well planned and both men gave a lot of effort, besides some of the hokey brawling on the platform in the middle of the audience.
11) The Rock v. Steve Austin (WWF Title Match No DQ 28:06)- 7
Well, I've rewatched this match for a 2nd time in a few weeks- I'm leaving my review largely the same, just adding a few tidbits here and there. This match starts identically as their first Mania encounter into a brawl right as the bell rings, luckily this time they spend only a few seconds outside after Rock takes a huge, manly bump over the top rope. They are really pushing Austin's comeback here and his punches are fast and furious but Rock's offense is high impact and he's not holding back at all against the Rattlesnake. Austin sometimes reminds me of a Rock'em Sock'em Robot because he always has his hand cocked back ready for another strike. Austin is selling the cumulative damage well, in a groggy state like back at home, leaving a bar in Victoria after too many Coors Light, then goes home and watches his old matches against Hacksaw Duggan and decides to call him at 4 in the morning just to say "your beard itched in headlocks."
The crowd is epic- loud and raucous like you want a Mania crowd to be and they love Austin and are anti-Rock. Both men take the blade and neither starts out well (blood wise) but they both end up dripping blood like perspiration and it culminates in a sharpshooter spot where both men's heads squeeze like sponges from straining and the blood pours as Austin fights out of it and Rock struggles to keep the hold. It's a very dramatic moment and the height of the intensity in this match. Then, you have what I like to call the "JR Factor." Jim Ross is at the announce booth and is a God-born Austin mark and can't help it. His emotion comes through in big matches like this and I don't think an announcer and a performer ever had a better relationship as far as getting the message across that they care about the end result of his match and it shows. It really kicks this thing up a notch and keeps it from going down the drain with more McMahon interference.
Vinnie Mac rears his ugly head for the slow, eventual Austin heel turn. Rock and Austin both do a phenomenal job at their roles- Rock as the never say die champion, taking loads and loads of abuse to keep his belt, and Austin, the desperate man looking for career rejuvenation, who will do anything or align with anyone to win the title. The crowd hates the turn and they largely boo McMahon out of the building, not because he's such a great heel but because he was so burned out at this point to the viewing audience but he wouldn't stop interjecting himself in angles. The finish is a lot of chair shots but it's not so offensive because so much of this match works and the story is deep and the selling is all there. I think Austin's audible cue that he needed to go over clean was right on the money, as he says on his 3 disc DVD, but leave it to Vince to think he's the one bringing in the audiences and every major storyline has to revolve around someone in his family. You can literally hear the crowd trying to ignore the turn as the match goes on and Austin holding back on it because the fans were so 99% behind him that was the last thing they wanted. I guess on the bright side, it lead to some funny and awkward hugs between Vince, Austin and Angle.
Overall, workrate wise, this show was decent- it had 4 recommendable matches and one of them was very damn hard hitting and fun. As far as an entertainment viewing, this show did have everything and the way it was planned out made perfect sense and a lot of the stuff, even if it wasn't good, felt like a once a year match, a true Mania match. Most of the undercard was very forgettable but a lot of the top matches delivered. Best show ever? I prefer Wrestle War 1992 or NOAH Destiny 2005.