April 1, 2001
Buy Rate: 2.4
Announcers: Jim Ross and Paul Heyman
Fun Fact: A little background on our new color commentator. Paul Heyman started as a writer and photographer for magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated and the Wrestler. He started managing in 1985 in Northeast promotions where he took the moniker “Paul E. Dangerously”, looking similar to Michael Keaton’s character in “Johnny Dangerously”. He would manage in the AWA, Memphis, and the CWA. Heyman’s big break was in the newly-named WCW where he would lead the “Dangerous Alliance” faction of Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton and Larry Zbyszko. He also feuded with Jim Cornette over the name “Midnight Express” pertaining to their respective tag teams. He would migrate to Eastern Championship Wrestling, where he shared booking duties with Eddie Gilbert. Gilbert would eventually leave, and Heyman would change the promotion to Extreme Championship Wrestling, breaking off from the NWA. Heyman would begin to create a new identity for the promotion, featuring off the wall characters, insanely dangerous matches and anger-driven promos. It created a new audience for those bored of the same old stuff in WCW and WWF. Paul would reach his zenith in 1997 when they would have their first PPV, “Barely Legal”. Their home base was a dingy, run-down bingo hall in Philadelphia simply called the ECW Arena, similar to the Sportatorium in Dallas where the great World Class promotion ran from. ECW has been credited with resuscitating the career of Terry Funk, expanding the character “Cactus Jack” for Mick Foley, and for breaking Steve Austin out of his shell from flashy “Stunning” Steve to his eventual Stone Cold character. However Heyman’s lack of ability to balance a checkbook on top of not having a network deal led to ECW folding in early 2001. Heyman then debuted on the 3/5 Raw, replacing the departed Jerry Lawler.
Fun Fact II: In February 2001, Jerry Lawler’s then-wife Stacey Carter, also known as the Kat, was released and Lawler quit the company in protest of her release. Lawler claims that there was no clear reasoning as to why she was fired. He was told by Jim Ross that the Creative Team simply said that Stacy had an attitude problem. He was then told by Vince McMahon that he did not know what the attitude problem was. Lawler would state several theories as to why he was allowed to leave. One theory was that Chyna was jealous of his wife’s push and in part because of her offer to pose for Playboy. His second theory was that the WWF wanted him out of the company and by firing Stacey, they knew he would walk out at her side. The true reason was never really made clear, but the end result was that Lawler was out of the WWF and onto the Indy circuit and Paul E. was in the booth beside JR.
Sunday Night Heat
1) X-Pac (Sean Waltman) & Justin Credible (Peter Polaco) defeat Steve Blackman & Grandmaster Sexay (Brian Lawler)
Pay Per View
1) Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) defeats William Regal (Darren Matthews) to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with the Lionsault at 7:08
Fun Fact: Since Regal was named Commissioner, he was having issues with Chris Jericho, who was established as a top shit-stirrer in the promotion. Regal set out to punish Jericho and he entered him in a series of handicapped matches to do just that. To try to get a measure of revenge, Jericho snuck into Regal’s office and peed into his tea, which the Commissioner eventually drank. Jericho also disguised himself as Doink and got a flash pin on the Commish. On the final Smackdown before this show, Regal locked Jericho in the Regal Stretch, hurting his shoulder heading into the title defense here.
Scott: We kick off this historic show with a really solid affair between two mat technicians. Jericho has been scorching hot since the start of 2000. His two PPV matches so far in 2001 have been great. Regal took over as Commissioner after Vince fired Mick Foley, and Y2J really wasn’t a fan of it. So Regal put him in a series of handicap matches to punish him. Regal was very methodical in attacking Jericho’s left shoulder, starting with the Regal Stretch from the previous Smackdown. Jericho battles through it, hits the Lionsault and grabs the win. Jericho is 3-0 this early PPV season. Regal gave it his all, and it’s a solid start to our show. Grade: 2.5
Justin: We kick off the seventeenth Wrestlemania with an Intercontinental Championship match between two men who had been in an intense feud over the past few weeks. The match started off fast and was super stiff, with Jericho chopping Regal’s chest into a beet red mess. Once Regal took over, he just zoned in on Jericho’s injured shoulder and proceeded to tear it apart with some really nice offense. I enjoyed that part of the match quite a bit as Regal’s offense was stiff and believable. Heyman also added a lot on the mic, as he really sold Jericho’s shoulder injury nicely. Another great spot was the double underhook superplex from Regal onto Jericho. After a really intense battle over the Regal Stretch, Jericho was able to regain control and hit a quick Lionsault for the surprising win. I felt as if the match could have used an extra couple of minutes to really build a good ending. They did a lot of nice work on the shoulder but the match just ended out of the blue. With a better finish and a few extra minutes, this match could have been one of the best Wrestlemania openers, but instead it is just a good one. Grade: 3
*** Shane McMahon arrives in his limo with a WCW license plate. We will delve into this huge development later in the show. ***
2) The APA & Tazz (Peter Senerchia) defeat Right to Censor when Bradshaw (John Layfield) pins Goodfather (Charles Wright) with the Clothesline from Hell at 3:53
Fun Fact: On the April 12 Smackdown, the RTC first showed signs of cracking when they all brawled with each other after Val lost a match to Test. Then, on the April 26 Smackdown, Undertaker was set to take on the entire RTC in a handicap match. Richards wanted to go it alone and sent the rest of the RTC to the back. Taker would destroy Richards and the RTC was quietly dissolved after the squash. Each member would slowly return repackaged and on their own over the next year.
Scott: Short, but sweet. Maybe next to Triple H, the biggest heels of 2000 finally get finished off in a pretty effective squash. Vince McMahon invented these guys simply to mock Brent Bozell and the Parents Television Council who was giving the WWF shit over their programming. Bozell would eventually apologize some time later for unfairly targeting the WWF and their advertisers. All that aside, this was a pretty effective squash to finish off the RTC. They will stick around for a few weeks, but they would no longer be major players. Grade: 2
Justin: Prior to the big match here, Bradshaw gave a stirring hometown promo that got the huge Houston crowd behind them even more than they already were. The match got off to a wild start and Jackie, who was running with the APA, would neutralize Steven Richards to keep things even. On the RTC side, Bull Buchanan looked the best, hitting some crisp offense and atoning for his shaky performance a year earlier. The RTC would fall apart from here, ending a pretty successful ten month run of terror. Bradshaw looked dominant in his home state and picks up the win with a stiff CFH. Tazz will slowly start to focus on his announcing duties over the next few months before being involved in a major, and unexpected, storyline. Overall, this was sloppy, yet quite energetic. Grade: 2
*** Trish Stratus is pushing Linda McMahon around in her wheelchair as she runs into Stephanie McMahon, who prepares the post-match celebration after the McMahon men’s match. ***
3) Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeats Raven (Scott Levy) and Big Show (Paul Wight) to win WWF Hardcore Title when he pins Big Show after pushing him off the entrance ramp at 9:18
Fun Fact: Raven regained his Hardcore title from Big Show on the 3/19 Raw.
Scott: A ridiculous brawl that was entertaining from beginning to end. Kane had an up and down 2000, but has had a great 2001, dominating the Royal Rumble till the very end, then was part of the entertaining tag title match at No Way Out. Now he, Big Show and Raven kill each other for nine minutes. Big Show really looks fat here, as he clearly isn’t the Big Show that debuted in 1999. The two memorable spots are Kane throwing Raven through a window, and both Raven and Big Show being pushed off the stage by Kane, who hits a big leg drop for the win. Nice, crazy match to keep the crowd hot. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Our second title match on the night was fast paced and saw consistent action throughout. The three men quickly brawled backstage and all chaos broke out. In a nasty spot, Kane tossed Raven through a window, leaving him bloodied. They also did a funny spot with a golf cart as Raven tried to escape but Kane pursued him and eventually ran him down. Raven has since said that he almost ruined Wrestlemania because he nearly severed a main power cord with his cart. While Show and Kane looked strong, I think Raven looked the best as he bumped like a champ and took some nasty shots from both men. The entire match was pretty innovative and stayed entertaining throughout. The finish was cool too as Kane picks up the win and the belt when he drops an elbow from the stage on Show. Raven loses his title for the second straight PPV, but this time he lost it without taking the pin. Grade: 3
4) Eddie Guerrero defeats Test (Andrew Martin) to win WWF European Title with a belt shot at 8:30
Fun Fact: After splitting from Albert and Trish in late 2000, Test defeated William Regal for the European title on the 1/22 Raw.
Scott: The reunion of the Radicalz helps Latino Heat to win the European Title. Another fun match with two guys who you wouldn’t think would mesh. There was something special about this night so far in that everything seems to be clicking. Here Eddie Guerrero, who also had an up and down 2000, brings the goods against someone with potential that really hasn’t been reached yet. Both Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko get involved here and eventually Perry, fuzzy hat and all, tosses the belt in and Eddie crushes Test with it to take the title. Eddie won’t be around much longer in 2001, as demons are really catching up to him. Test had a good run as European champ, but he also gets lost in the shuffle of the storyline that will really start to take things over. Grade: 2.5
Justin: The run of title bouts continues as Latino Heat steps up to challenge Test for the European strap. Test has had a nice little run with the belt, but the odds were stacked against him in Houston. Early on in the match, he hits a really nice military press snake eyes on Eddie. In a funny spot, Test got his foot tangled in the ropes and couldn’t escape. After a few beats, Eddie came over and helped untangle him to a funny round of sarcastic applause from the crowd. Eddie would gain control and work Test’s leg for a bit before Test came back with a stiff tilt-a-whirl slam. The crowd flattened out a bit in the middle of the match, but would pick up for the frantic finish. As things looked bleak for Eddie, Dean Malenko hit the ring and distracted the ref long enough for Saturn to hand Eddie the belt, which he used to pick up the pin and championship. Eddie was heating up again, but his run will come to a screeching halt very soon. This was a fun little match and the run of solid bouts continues on. Grade: 2.5
5) Kurt Angle defeats Chris Benoit with a roll-up at 14:02
Scott: Well after the three-way match with Chris Jericho at last year’s Wrestlemania, we finally see these two in a straight up match, and boy did they not disappoint. They put on fourteen minutes of pure, unadulterated wrestling. Chain wrestling, grappling, maneuvers and counter-maneuvers. Both men were 100% into the groove, and again it just seems like par for the course tonight that everything is falling into place. From rolling German suplexes, to reversing Crippler Crossfaces, to Anklelocks both men brought everything into their artillery to the table and pummeled each other with it. The only bad thing here is the cheesy ending, as Angle pulls the tights on a roll-up for the win. I know the premise is Kurt felt he couldn’t defeat Benoit and needed to take the easy way out, but I think Benoit could have won clean here, and Angle could have stolen a cheap win at a lesser PPV. Oh well, I’m not going to take away from a fantastic match, and the feud does continue. Grade: 4.5
Justin: With both men mixed in the shuffle and without a feud, Angle and Benoit were paired up to put on a great match and also ignite a feud that would last throughout the spring. Each man had tapped to the other in non-match scenarios heading into the show, but the two proud men would battle to make the other tap clean in the middle of the ring. The first half of the match was mat based, with a lot of chain wrestling and submission attempts. Heyman did another great job in this match as he put over the parity between the men and their desperation to gain a submission victory. Once the match really got cooking, they had some neat reversals as they tried to cinch in their finisher. At one point, the ref went down and Angle tapped to the CCF. A few moments later, Angle got a flash pin by rolling Benoit up and hooking the tights, shocking the Wolverine. I really liked the match a lot, but the finish ruined it a bit for me. The psychology of the finish was fine, but it was so abrupt that it felt tacked on and stunted a match that was building to a really hot ending. These two would get many more opportunities to shine over the years, and get more time to do so. Think of this one as the appetizer for what was to come in later showdowns. Grade: 4
6) Chyna (Joanie Laurer) defeats Ivory to win WWF Women’s Title with a press slam at 2:39
Scott: This was what it was meant to be: Chyna taking out five months of frustration in just a few minutes. Complete and utter domination and Chyna wins her first Women’s Title. This match also pretty much ends the Right to Censor’s relevance. As for Chyna, she begins the final chapter of her WWF career here. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Coming off her major injury angle at the Royal Rumble, Chyna was forced to sign a “hold harmless” form claiming that she wouldn’t hold WWF responsible if she were seriously injured here. Well, Ivory never got the chance to put her out, as Chyna mauled her from the opening bell. Chyna got a nice pop for the squash, but her winning the belt was a bit of a division killer, as she had already proven she could hang and win matches with the men. Her win would actually end up killing the division in a different way as her career and life will take a nasty turn in a couple of months. Here, she is on top of the mountain as she puts an end to her lengthy feud with RTC by burying the faction and ending Ivory’s reign of terror. Grade: 1
7) Shane McMahon defeats Vince McMahon in a Street Fight with a Van Terminator at 14:12
Fun Fact: The original point of this feud was Shane coming to the defense of his mother, who was being doped up by Vince while flaunting his affair with Trish Stratus around her while asking for a divorce from Linda. Vince had humiliated Trish in the weeks following No Way Out. The night after, Vince turned on Trish in a tag match against Stephanie and William Regal. He tossed her in the ring and slopped her with a janitor’s bucket and mop. The next week, Trish confronted him, but instead of smacking the Chairman, she begged for his forgiveness. Vince made her strip and crawl around the ring, barking like a dog before finally forgiving her. Trish looked pathetic and Vince was the biggest asshole in the world. He told Trish that he wanted his wife at ringside, and told Trish to up her medication to ensure she was extra comatose for the show.
Fun Fact II: On the 3/26 Raw, Vince McMahon had a huge surprise that, well wasn’t really a surprise. Over the weekend what many thought impossible actually happened. Three days before, Vince McMahon purchased WCW from Time-Warner for $5 million. The promotion was hemorrhaging money since mid-1999 and the product was suffering badly. WCW’s last official PPV was Greed on March 18, 2001. So after all the backbiting, talent-stealing, results-revealing moves done since WCW’s birth of Monday Nitro in 1995, we have a winner in the Monday Night War. The guy, who at the end of 1997 was on the verge of bankruptcy, is now officially on top of the sports-entertainment world. So on TNT, Monday Nitro went off from Panama City, Florida as usual. There were some memorable matches, such as the final in-ring match between Sting and Ric Flair, and Booker T winning the WCW Title from Scott Steiner. Vince McMahon came on the screen to open the show, and Nitro and Raw were on at the same time on both TNT and TNN. Vince would end up keeping a number of lower card wrestlers who came on the cheap, but he did not buy out any of the contracts of the major players, as Turner was hoping. Because Vince did not buy those out, Turner was forced to pay them over the next year or two. If you were a wrestling fan watching it, it was extremely weird and very surreal. If you were a die-hard WWF loyalist, you felt happy and vindicated. Your side won the War, but in the end, would anyone really win? Or would the consolidation of the wrestling world kill the golden goose?
Fun Fact III: That was the real-life story. In storyline Shane McMahon appeared on camera from Panama City, while Vince was on Raw from Cleveland. Shane said “McMahon is the name on the contract. It’s Shane McMahon.” Vince had said he was going to sign the contract that Sunday at Wrestlemania in front of everyone with Ted Turner there. Shane would have a number of WCW wrestlers in a skybox during Wrestlemania, including Chavo Guerrero, Lance Storm, Sean Stasiak and others.
Fun Fact IV: On the Smackdown before the show, Mick Foley showed up and produced one of his famous “contracts” that he claimed to have signed and had approved while still commissioner. The contract gave him the right to be the special guest referee for this match. Foley was looking for revenge on Vince’s brutal firing of him to close out 2000. Foley was supposed to return on Raw a few days before, but with the WCW merger, they were tight on time and his announcement was pushed to Smackdown.
Scott: The beginning of one of the most influential storylines in professional wrestling history begins here, as father and son beat the crap out of each other for the honor of the matriarch, Linda. After Vince asked for a divorce, he would heavily sedate her, strip her of her power, and ridicule her for months with his “friend” Trish Stratus. Shane came to her honor and challenged Dad to a street fight. On top of the fact that, six days earlier, Shane bought WCW from under Vince’s nose, so there’s even more shit being stirred here. The match was as violent as it could be from two non-wrestlers. This storyline ruined a good match at the Royal Rumble, as Vince’s nonsense with Stephanie and Trish took away from the Hunter/Angle title match. Here the women get involved again, as Trish effectively turns face by smacking Vince across the face. However he eventually takes control and puts Linda in the middle of the ring to watch her husband destroy their son. With his back turned though, Linda gets up, to a ridiculous pop from the already jacked Houston crowd, and she kicks Vince square in the frank & beans. Special ref Mick Foley then gets his licks in, and finally Shane wins the match with the move called the “Van Terminator”, named after a wrestler we’ll be introduced to in WWF lore in a few months. This was just another crazy match that adds to an already crazy, fun, historic night. Grade: 3
Justin: The long running abuse of Linda by Vince has finally come back to bite him in the ass, as his son Shane showed up to defend his mother and ended up stealing WCW in the process. Shane dominates his father early, mercilessly beating on him with various weapons. The tide would turn when Steph got involved and smacked her brother. Vince lays in some super stiff kendo stick shots on his son as he dominated the middle part of the match. Shane would eventually regain control and hit one of the most memorable high spots of the night when he drops an elbow from the top rope on to Vince, who was prone on the announce table. After that, the storyline would take over as Trish finally turns on Vince and smacks him in the face. After Trish and Steph battled to the back, Vince turned his attention to his comatose wife. Mick Foley would try to prevent Vince from abusing Linda, but Vince laid him out with a chair. Vince propped his wife in the ring, but she would rise, no longer medicated, and give Vince a low blow. The pop for Linda rising may have been the biggest of the night and the pop right after it for Foley recovering and beating the piss out of Vince was right behind it. Shane hits his second mega high spot by polishing Vince off with a Van Terminator and the crowd goes wild again. I always liked this match as it was a perfectly booked garbage match that intertwined some good violence with an intense storyline. It also tied up a lot of loose ends and plot points, as it wrapped up the Foley/Vince, Steph/Trish, Vince/Linda and Trish/Vince angles all in one satisfying swoop. Everything clicked and the crowd was rocking. Shane’s WCW friends cheered him on from high above the Astrodome as he had vanquished his evil father. However, we have not seen the last of Mr. McMahon on this night. Grade: 4
8) Edge (Adam Copeland) & Christian (Jay Reso) defeat the Dudley Boys and the Hardy Boys in a Tables, Ladders, & Chairs match to win WWF Tag Team Titles when they grab the title belts at 15:41
Fun Fact: The Hardy Boyz captured their fourth tag team championship by defeating the Dudleys on the March 5 Raw. Just when it seemed like the Hardys would carry the gold in to Wrestlemania, all hell broke loose on the 3/19 Raw from Albany, NY. Early in the show, Matt & Jeff were slated to take on the Dudleys in a rematch. As the Hardys waited in the ring, Edge & Christian entered instead of Bubba & D-Von. E&C claimed that the Dudleys were not in the building and therefore blew their shot, so E&C would challenge instead. The match was rolling along when the reigning ECW Champion Rhyno hit the ring, gored Jeff Hardy and gave his longtime friends their sixth reign with the straps. Later in the show, the Dudleys showed up and told Commissioner Regal that they were ready for their title shot. Regal informed them of what had already gone down, but was eventually pressured into giving the Dudleys a shot at E&C. Late in the match, we saw another shocking debut as ECW stalwart, Spike Dudley hit the ring, dropkicked a chair in Christian’s face and gave him an Acid Drop on the chair. A shocked Edge walked into a 3-D and the Dudleys took their belts back and they would enter this show as champions. Rhyno would make another major impact a week later when he gored and injured Lita.
Fun Fact II: Rhyno, real name Terry Gerin, trained under Scott D’Amore in Windsor, Ontario. After debuting in the Detroit Indies, Gerin adopted the name Rhino Richards and headed back up north into Canada where he joined the Thug Life stable alongside Joe Legend, Bill Skullion, Christian Cage and Sexton Hardcastle, who later be known as Edge. In 1999, Rhino headed to Philadelphia and joined up with ECW, where he was hooked up with Steve Corino and Jack Victory. Rhino would quickly become a major player in the Land of Extreme, winning the TV title from Tajiri at Cyberslam 2000. After a lengthy feud with the Sandman, Rhino captured the ECW World title by defeating the Sandman at Guilty as Charged 2001. Rhino was the reigning TV and World champion when ECW finally folded in 2001 and was the last man to accept its demise. He was quickly inked by Vince McMahon and debuted on the 3/19 Raw.
Fun Fact III: Matt Hyson, a third grade English teacher, made the jump to wrestling when he joined Paul Heyman’s ECW as the runt of the Dudley family, Little Spike Dudley, otherwise known as LSD. Early on, Spike was portrayed as being on a constant acid trip, which spawned the name of his finisher: the Acid Drop, and was also seen as being incompetent. Spike was mainly a fan favorite and often warred with his evil brothers. In his biggest ECW moment, he teamed up with Balls Mahoney to win the tag titles from his brothers. However, his most memorable moment occurred in a match against Bam Bam Bigelow. During the match, Bigelow press slammed Spike into the crowd, and the fans caught him and body surfed him around the ringside area. Spike remained with ECW until the doors finally closed, and was signed by the WWF. The drug related aspects of his character were quickly abandoned, and he instead portrayed the plucky underdog of the Dudley clan upon his debut on the 3/19 Raw.
Scott: What can you say? The three top teams in the company, in the sequel to the match they invented. Continuing to add respect to the Tag Team Titles, these teams just crush each other from bell to bell with all the weapons at their disposal. We also see interference from each of the teams’ sidekicks: Spike Dudley, Rhyno and the returning Lita. Rhyno was the last ECW World and TV Champion, and now he’s with the Canadian Connection. Spike was the kooky little freak in ECW, with the funny look and tie-dye t-shirt. He does a couple of his patented acid drops. Lita returns from injury with one of her huracarranas. After sixteen minutes of more bloody carnage, E&C scale the ladders and win their seventh titles. Seven tag team championships since last April! That is insane for this era. The tag title chase starts to lose its luster once the year’s big storyline kicks in, but for now enjoy another sixteen minute war between the Attitude Era’s premier teams. Grade: 5
Justin: The three top teams over the past twelve months square off again on the biggest stage of the wrestling world. The match was basic to start, as the six men traded off control and slowly built up the crowd. One of the first nasty spots came when Bubba powerbomb Jeff through Edge, who was prone on a table. It was super stiff and garnered a huge pop. Eventually, two more ladders made it into the ring and all six men would climb simultaneously, and all six would then take some sick bumps to either the floor or mat below. Rhyno, Spike and Lita would all eventually hit the ring and play a role in the bout, and I liked that as it added some chaos and excitement to an already great match. Rhyno would end up playing the biggest role of the match, with his first strike coming via a nasty gore on Matt that put him through an upright table. The end of the match saw a flurry of chaos as the Dudleys dropped Lita with the 3-D; Jeff hit a super Swanton off a huge ladder on to Rhyno and Spike, who were lying on tables and Edge came off the top rope and speared Jeff to the mat as Jeff was hanging and dangling from the title belts. Finally, Rhyno would hit the ring and prop Edge on his shoulders and carry him up to the belts, allowing E&C to retain their precious tag titles. The match was an all out war and in a way appropriately capped the glory run that these teams experienced over the last sixteen months. They would continue to see success, but this sort of brings an end to their intense rivalry that has warred on from show to show. Grade: 5
9) The Iron Sheik (Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri) wins the Gimmick Battle Royal.
Bushwhackers, Duke “the Dumpster” Droese (Mike Droese), Earthquake (John Tenta), the Goon (Barney Irwin), Doink the Clown (Ray Liachelli), Kamala (James Harris), Repo Man (Barry Darsow), Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff (Josip Peruzovic), Michael Hayes, One Man Gang (George Gray), Gobbeldy Gooker (Hector Guerrero), Tugboat (Fred Ottman), Kimchee, Hillbilly Jim (Jim Morris), Brother Love (Bruce Pritchard), and Sergeant Slaughter (Robert Remus)
Fun Fact: Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan make their returns to the WWF after being in WCW since 1994. This is Heenan’s first PPV since the 1993 Survivor Series, and Okerlund’s first since the 1993 Summerslam.
Scott: This was done for two reasons: to spell the crowd between the TLC and the last two matches, and to bring back some of our own great guilty pleasures of the past. I know Justin was disappointed that the One Man Gang came out and not the African Dream Akeem. Nice to see Tugboat (Uncle Fred!!) back at Wrestlemania as well as our good friend Earthquake, who makes his final PPV appearance here. John Tenta would sadly lose his battle with cancer in 2006, and he will be sadly missed. Also very emotional is the return of two WWF legends: Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan, who regardless of the fact that they’ve been in WCW since 1994, are WWF through and through. You can both see them so happy to be back; regardless of the fact they’re in a throwaway match. You can’t really grade this, but it was just nice to see some of the oldest members of the WWF family back. Grade: N/A
Justin: I was indeed upset that we did not get the return of Akeem, but rumor has it that the Gang had lost too much weight, so the suit didn’t fit any more. Fred Ottman appearing as Tugboat was also a last minute change, as he had been announced as entering as Typhoon in the weeks leading up. Sheik picks up the win mainly because he was too old and fragile to be dumped over the top rope, but Sarge puts him out with the Cobra Clutch afterwards to pop the crowd. The best part of the match was definitely the entrances and this match really kicked off the ongoing nostalgia trip that fans and Vince McMahon still have going today. I will also give a shout out to John Tenta, who was always one of my favorites out there and a class act by most accounts. It was cool to see him out there having a good time and getting one last shot in the spotlight. Bobby and Gene were funny on commentary and, like Scott said, you could tell they loved every minute of it. All said, this was a fun trip down memory lane and it got a few legends and some forgotten faces a nice payday and one final moment under the bright lights. Grade: N/A
10) The Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Triple H (Paul Levesque) with the Last Ride at 18:18
Fun Fact: The night after No Way Out, Triple H came to the ring on Raw and proclaimed that he should have Austin’s title shot at Wrestlemania. He says he’s beaten everyone there is to take out. Well, not everyone. Taker comes out and tells the H that he hasn’t beaten the Deadman. After Triple H attacked him later in the night, Taker requested this match with Triple H on the 3/19 Raw, when he blackmails Commissioner William Regal into giving him the match or Kane would toss Stephanie off a very high staircase.
Fun Fact II: Many sources, including Shawn Michaels himself, have claimed that Michaels was supposed to be involved in some way, shape or form here. He was set to return on the aforementioned 3/26 Raw, but due to time constraints, he was left off. When he showed up for Smackdown, he was in no shape to perform and was immediately sent home. Michaels thought Hunter had ratted him out and launched into a big tirade against him in front of everybody before leaving the building. Shortly after this, Michaels would find God and clean up his life, setting up one of the most improbable returns in wrestling history. Some sources had Shawn turning heel and joining with Triple H while others had him returning to feud with his old running buddy. Whatever the plan was, it didn’t happen and Shawn would be gone for another year.
Scott: After the comedy and fun of the battle royal, we get back down to business. This is just an old school straight up fight between two guys who hate each other. The build was simple: After beating Austin at No Way Out, the Game says he’s beaten everyone there is to beat. Taker comes out to say “not me sunshine”. We’re off and running. From police action and restraining orders to Kane holding Stephanie over a very tall balcony, this feud had its moments. The match itself was pretty brutal with sledgehammers, chair shots and referee assaults. The high point for me was when the match went to the camera towers, and Trips starts bashing the crap out of Taker with a steel chair over and over. Someone else would use that tactic in our next match. Then, out of the blue, Taker lifts Triple H up and chokeslams him off the tower into the unknown. The “Holy Shit” chants were off the charts, and in the climax you got the feeling for one second that Triple H was going to be the man to hand the American Bad Ass his first Wrestlemania loss. With the ref out, Taker goes for the last ride, but Triple H took the sledge up with him and pastes Taker right in the face with it. Then Hunter goes for the cover, and Taker kicks out at two. That’s when you knew he was going to go 9-0 at Wrestlemania. A minute later he hits the Last Ride and stays undefeated. The loss doesn’t hurt Triple H that much, as he gets his back the next night in a different way. I’m grading this a little higher than most only because Triple H carried Taker to a better match than was expected from an out of shape Deadman. Grade: 3.5
Justin: While the build was solid and the heat was high for this match, I don’t think anybody really expected it to be anything more than acceptable. Well, Triple H was still on top of his game at this point and he works the perfect style for Taker at this point: a wild brawl with a ton of drama. This is the first Wrestlemania where the announcers really talk about the streak and the danger it was in of ending. It was still believable that Taker could lose at this point, as the streak was impressive but not yet legendary. The match started upbeat and got the crowd into it early and you could tell Taker had his working boots on from the get-go. Once Hunter took over, the pace slowed up, but did so in a logical way as Triple H slowly began dissecting the Deadman. Taker would hit a stiff chokeslam for an early false finish before the men battled out of the ring and through the crowd. The chokeslam off the tower was pretty cool too, and even though the reply showed that Hunter clearly hit a landing pad, the initial pop and sight of the move was fantastic. Back in the ring, we get possibly the best false finish in Wrestlemania history as Hunter pops Taker with the sledgehammer on the Last Ride attempt but Taker barely kicks out. The crowd definitely bit on that one as it was a picture perfect near fall. Taker would recover and put Hunter down with the Last Ride for the win and to keep his streak alive. The pin also elicited a major pop, and I think it was around this time that they realized the streak had some cache and should begin being treated as something special. This was an unexpectedly great match between two of the greats and they had the crowd rocking the whole way through. Grade: 4
11) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in a No Disqualification match to win WWF World Title after a barrage of chair shots at 28:07
Fun Fact: A few weeks before this show, Vince McMahon named Austin’s wife Debra as the Rock’s manager. Rock said he wasn’t responsible for her, but Austin warned him that if anything happened to her, he was in trouble. Also, the 3/20 Smackdown featured a lengthy sit down interview between both men in which Austin made it clear to the world how much the championship meant to him and that he would do anything to feed his obsession.
Scott: Well the perfectly laid out show needs a spectacular main event, and here it is. The two top guys in the business, for the richest prize in the industry. The build was much different than the first time around in 1999. There, Rock was the hated heel of the Corporation, Mr. McMahon’s hand-picked champion against everyone’s working class hero, Steve Austin. This time around it’s a little different. Each guy had his share of moments, and it was the fans’ choice who would be the favorite. The pop Stone Cold gets is off the charts from the 67,000-plus in his home state. Now we all know what happens in the end, but if you look closely during the match, you can see Austin doing little things that he hadn’t done during his big babyface run in 1997-99. Knowing the match was no disqualification, Austin went all out here. Using the belt as a weapon, untying one of the turnbuckle pads, extra choking, battling with weapons outside. He even pulled out the Million Dollar Dream, the first time we’ve seen it since Bret Hart pinned him with a reversal of it at the 1996 Survivor Series. Rock actually walks up the turnbuckles just like Bret did, although this time Austin kicked out. When Mr. McMahon came out the crowd was extremely confused. Austin is getting more frustrated as the match progressed, which was also uncharacteristic of his makeup over the past couple of years. Then when Vince pulled Rock off a pin attempt, everyone was really confused. The crowd didn’t lose their heat, because now it was real suspense as to who would win this match. Once it was evident that Austin and Vince were working together, the crowd started to swing to Rock a little. They were still confused but crazily excited. Finally after continuous Rock kick outs, Vince hands Austin the chair and truly beats the living shit out of Rock with it, and finally Rock can’t get up on three. Austin is the new champion, and then he shakes McMahon’s hand, and the crowd…is still cheering. The match would easily be five stars, except the heel switch was probably unnecessary. It’s been the subject of debate to this day whether doing that helped or hurt the product. As we review the rest of 2001 you can make your own decision. Right now we’ll sit on it until our next show. Since the crowd was so pro-Austin, and Austin says on his DVD that in hindsight he would have put the squash on the idea; that has to knock the match grade down a little. Otherwise this ridiculous brawl ranks next to Hogan/Savage, Hogan/Warrior, and Bret/HBK as the best Wrestlemania main event ever. Grade: 4.5
Justin: Who better to battle at the end of the biggest show of the Attitude Era than Stone Cold and the Rock? The whole story heading in here is Austin’s obsession and desperation to become champion. Ever since he was taken out in 1999, Austin has been away from his belt and he was starting to crack. As Scott said, you can see it seep through during the match, as Austin is visibly frustrated throughout. I actually think they could have made his heel turn a bit more effective and subtle, but I will get to that in a moment. From the start, the crowd was clearly behind Austin, but the two men didn’t really alter the match at all, as Austin still dominated and played the heel role, with Rock being booed during his comebacks. The two men would bust out the bloody Sharpshooter spot from Wrestlemania XIII and the crowd just goes nuts for it, but Austin was able to survive. Towards the end, the two men battled back and forth and had some great false finishes. The best one came when Austin gave Rock a great Rock Bottom and Rock kicked out at 2 9/10. I dug Austin’s desperation here as he and the announcers added a lot of importance to the championship by putting over how Austin needed it to live. The confusion of the crowd and announcers is very palpable when Vince struts to the ring and starts getting involved in the action. It also becomes clear then who mysteriously made the match No DQ when it started. I never cared for the finish here with Vince standing in the ring over Austin as he just beat on Rock with a chair. It helped advance Austin’s paranoid personality, but just took away from an epic match and moment. I really think they should have had Vince “accidentally” help Austin win the belt at Wrestlemania, but still had Austin walk out a face with the top championship. His pop would have been stronger and it would have been a better moment to close out the show. Then, they could still do a cage match the next night on Raw, and that is where you have Austin and Vince officially join forces and complete the heel turn. I think that would have been more subtle and effective and not compromised what had been an all time classic. With a stronger ending, this was a perfect match for the time frame, but that ending bugs me enough to knock it down a peg. It is still a fantastic brawl with tremendous heat and commentary, thus putting it at the top of the list of greatest Wrestlemania main events. Grade: 4.5
Scott: This is the apex of the Attitude era. Finally the WWF has the perfect roster of wrestlers; a mix of talented, charismatic main eventers, an expertly technical group of mid-carders, and a talented and death-defying tag team group willing to risk life and limb for titles and the audience. This is the show that as bookers you really couldn’t screw up if you tried. You have a perfect cache of performers, just match them up. The main event was easy, and the TLC was a perfect way put the three best teams in one match. Benoit/Angle was easy since neither of them had anything going on at the moment, plus that feud can go beyond one show. Sure the ending of that was shit, but the match still rocked. I’m happy the whole Vince/Linda story is over, and it also led to a great match between two non-wrestlers, which again pushes the point that Vince would do just as much to himself that he hopes his charges would follow. They do indeed here. Triple H/Taker was a simple enough feud that led to a really great match. Even matches that you would normally balk at like Eddie Guerrero/Test were entertaining. From here things start to dip a bit as storylines start to level out and the main events begin to start repeating themselves a little. Plus with the purchase of WCW, a huge influx of talent starts coming in and it leads to an entire restructuring of the product that many still debate to this day. However on this night, similar to Wrestlemania III in Pontiac, everything fell into place and we have another perfect show, the second in a row. Final Grade: A+
Justin: After three years of incredible success, rabid crowds and an overload of wrestling products, the latest wrestling boom period hits its peak. Never had this profession been so profitable and popular at the same time. Wrestling was cool and everybody and their mother watched it, wrestled or knew someone in the business. Independent federations sprung up left and right and you could watch wrestling on TV every night of the week if you wanted to. However, like Paul Heyman said in the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, the wrestling boom was an over inflated bubble that was doomed to pop at some point due to over saturation. Despite all of that, the main obstacle that Vince McMahon would need to overcome in the aftermath of the boom period and Monday Night Wars was complacency. His two biggest competitors were out of business, he owned his own football league and was king of the most profitable and popular wrestling promotion in history. The key would be to stay ahead of the curve and keep up all of the goodwill earned in the war with WCW. Unfortunately, Vince could not fight off that complacency and this show would signify the high water mark of popularity for his product. In many ways, the heel turn of Steve Austin signified the official end of the rise from the ashes that began with him winning King of the Ring in June of 1996. There is nothing more to discuss as far as this show goes. Top to bottom, it was a fantastic show and epitomized what Wrestlemania is all about. Everybody worked hard and it paid off as the crowd stayed hot all the way through. While the end killed a lot of momentum, it was not bad enough to alter the grade of the show as a whole. In many people’s eyes, this was the greatest Wrestlemania of all time, and it would be hard to argue that point. Grade: A+
Runner Up: Rock & Steve Austin
Non MVP: Right to Censor
Runner Up: X-Pac