WWF WrestleMania XVIII 3/17/2002

March 17, 2002
Toronto, Ontario
Attendance: 68,237
Buy Rate: 1.68
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawle

Sunday Night Heat

Rikishi (Solofa Fatu), Scotty Too Hotty (Scott Garland), and Albert (Matt Bloom) defeat Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig), Test (Andrew Martin) & Lance Storm (Lance Evers) when Rikishi pinned Perfect at 3:06

*** Saliva performs their song “Superstar” as we begin the show. The WWF continued the trend of embracing their history and Wrestlemania legacy with the opening video. ***

1) Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) defeats William Regal (Darren Matthews) to win WWF Intercontinental Title after a Five-Star Frog Splash at 6:19

Fun Fact:
On the 2/25 Raw, RVD defeated Big Show and Lance Storm to earn this title shot. On the 3/11 Raw, RVD defeated Regal in a six man tag to gain momentum heading into the show.

Fun Fact II:
This would be the last IC title match to occur at a WrestleMania until WrestleMania 25.

A solid opener to the 18th chapter of the Showcase of Immortals. RVD was groomed from the beginning of the year to get some sort of gold at this show, and when we saw Regal hold onto the IC Title at No Way Out against Edge, we knew that Regal would be the sacrificial lamb for “Mr. Monday Night”. The match was pretty good, as RVD got his moves in and Regal kept trying to get his trusted brass knuckles out of his tights. Once he finally got them out, RVD stopped him and won the Intercontinental Title. A pretty decent match to get the show started. Grade: 2.5

Justin: RVD gets his usual massive pop as he enters the ring to challenge William Regal in this year’s Wrestlemania opener. Regal was still working the brass knucks/Power of the Punch gimmick and he would tease it throughout the match. RVD attacked off the bell and quickly kicked the knucks away as Regal pulled a pair out right off the bat. RVD was hot early but missed a Five Star to turn the tide in Regal’s favor. These two clicked well as Regal used his stiff offense and RVD bumped all around for him. RVD would match the stiff quotient and bust Regal’s lip open with some kicks during one of his nicely timed comebacks. Despite the comeback attempts, Regal would keep regaining control and at one point he busted out a sick full nelson German suplex. Regal would regain his knucks, but RVD swatted them away and quickly nailed the Five Star and picked up the win and the title to a huge pop. The match had a great build but the finish was too quick and didn’t play off everything before it. With the great match they put together, this could have been so much more with a stronger finish. RVD now moves along with some gold as Regal steps back to regroup. Grade: 2.5

2) Diamond Dallas Page (Paige Falkinburg) defeats Christian (Jay Reso) to retain WWF European Title with a Diamond Cutter at 6:08

Fun Fact: On the 1/11 Raw Christian turned on his mentor after DDP helped him defeat Billy in a match. Christian had been down on his luck and in a losing streak since the end of 2001, throwing temper tantrums after losses. DDP took him under his wing as his motivational coach and Christian was getting better before he then turned on him. Page had begun doing the motivational speaker gimmick shortly after the Invasion and his routines became something of an internet favorite.

Fun Fact II:
DDP defeated Christian on the 1/31 Smackdown to win the European Title.

Fun Fact III:
This is Page’s final PPV appearance. His final TV appearance would come on the April 18 Smackdown when he lost to Hardcore Holly. Page would bounce around the Indies and show up in TNA in 2004 and 2005, but other than that he has been out of the wrestling spotlight as he began acting, teaching fitness classes and giving motivational speeches. He would actually pop back up in the news in late 2006 when he sued rapper Jay-Z over the Diamond Cutter signal. They would settle out of court.

A nice showcase for DDP, who spent most of 2001 getting embarrassed by the Undertaker one week after another. Christian had a strong finish to 2001 but was also floating aimlessly so this was a good chance to get him to the big show, and again DDP finally gets a positive moment in the sun after a very embarrassing 2001. The match itself is nothing special, but pretty basic and unassuming. DDP gets the win, and after complementing Christian sarcastically on not throwing a tantrum, Christian…well throws a tantrum. Big win for DDP but Christian gets his heel mojo back later in the night. Grade: 2

Justin: DDP makes his first Wrestlemania appearance since he drove Rhythm & Blues to the ring in the Skydome twelve years earlier. The crowd quiets down quite a bit here but they stay into it enough to pop for the big spots. The battle went back and forth for the most part and they had a nice little battle over the Diamond Cutter during it. The main story of the match was Christian trying to keep his composure throughout. But when Page finally connected with the Cutter and got the win, Christian would lose it and start freaking out once again. Page picks up a win in his last big moment in the spotlight as he would leave the WWF a few weeks after the show. Grade: 2

*** Jonathan Coachman interviews the Rock and the fans start booing him right out of the gate. Rock actually wins them back over by delivering a tremendous promo, during which he makes Coach get on his knees and pray. “What up, G?” ***

3) Maven (Maven Huffman) and Goldust (Dustin Runnels) wrestle to a no contest in a WWF Hardcore Title match when multiple people interfere; Spike Dudley wins the Hardcore Title under 24/7 rules

Fun Fact: The following title changes have occurred since our last show: Maven defeated Undertaker, Goldust defeated Maven, Al Snow defeated Goldust and Maven defeated Al Snow.

This was the final straw for me when it came to the Hardcore Title. Maven, who had no business being near a belt after winning Tough Enough just a few months before is the champion against Goldust, making his Wrestlemania return after missing the past two. The match was really nothing, because Spike Dudley comes out of nowhere to take the title and pin Maven to get it. Why? It is because of the very outdated 24/7 rule. That rule was put in place in 2000 because Crash Holly was champion and it was fun to watch him run around and defend the title in Laundromats and arcades. Now it’s just a cheap way to eat time and make guys look stupid. Unfortunately we see a lot of “time-killing” thanks to this match and the nonsense around it. Grade: 1.5

Justin: Goldust makes his return to Wrestlemania against a man making his debut in Maven. Goldust would break out his golden trash cans and take control early with some stiff shots. He also looked to be in great shape as he was taking this go around very seriously. As the match wore on it got sloppier and became a basic weapons match as both traded random shots, with Goldust dominating most of the way. Spike Dudley would end up sneaking in and stealing the title due to the stale 24/7 rule. Crash Holly would come out as well and chase Spike off with Goldust and Maven in hot pursuit. While this match was technically over, the hardcore war would rage on all night long backstage. Grade: 1.5

*** Drowning Pool does a version of their hit “Tear Away.” Meanwhile Spike is trying to leave the arena but he encounters some trouble. He brawls with Crash and then narrowly avoids major injury when he dodges Al Snow charging at him on a golf cart. As Snow crashed through a pyramid of cardboard boxes, the Hurricane flies in on a rope, dropkicks Spike and wins the Hardcore Title. ***

4) Kurt Angle defeats Kane (Glen Jacobs) with a roll-up at 10:45

Fun Fact:
Kane actually beat Kurt Angle on the 2/21 Smackdown in what many considered to be a great match. On that same night, Angle assaulted Kane with a chair, put him through a table and wrenched in the Anklelock. Kane got some revenge the next week on Raw when he cost Angle a championship match with Chris Jericho. Finally, on the 3/7 Smackdown, Kurt and Kane got into a backstage brawl that ended when Kurt crushed Kane with a chair shot to the head after trapping him under a garage door.

In what many considered to be essentially a filler match, these two guys actually put on a great bout. Kane seems to always be at his best when he is away from the Undertaker. There wasn’t much of back story here, and it was two guys fighting. In any event Angle really dictated the pace here and fought Kane to a solid match. Angle had a great 2001, having a pair of awesome feuds with Chris Benoit and Steve Austin, and being able to go from hated heel, to loved face, back to hated heel all in the span of twelve months. Not much really to say here, as the two had a lukewarm feud going in and a moderately good match to finish. Angle moves on to an entertaining feud, while Kane continues on to gain steam for a big push later in the year. Grade: 2.5

Justin: As always, Kurt Angle entered with tremendous heat and this go around he had on his swank alternate universe black tights. These two were tossed together because they had nothing major going on at this point. They had a great match on Smackdown, but Kurt put a beating on Kane afterwards. Kane would cost Kurt a title match and it was officially on. Kurt would focus on Kane’s head as JR and Lawler harped on the head trauma Kane had sustained in the weeks leading to the show. Kurt would maintain control throughout as he punished Kane’s head, keeping him off balance and weary. The overall pace of the match was good as it was a mix of basic strikes, good counter moves and well timed comebacks. There was one great near fall as the two men fought over Kane’s mask and Kurt took him down with an Angle slam. He would then crank in the Anklelock, but Kane actually lasted in it for a few moments before breaking it with an Enziguri. Kurt followed up with a nasty pop up belly to belly superplex but would end up winning with a quick roll up. The match was a lot of fun and the two men had great chemistry, but I think the match could have used a more decisive finish. Still, that is a minor quibble as this match delivered far more than anyone expected heading in. Grade: 3

5) The Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Ric Flair (Richard Fliehr) in a street fight with a Tombstone at 18:47

Fun Fact: After Flair cost Undertaker his match with the Rock at No Way Out, Taker wanted Flair in a match at Wrestlemania. Flair said no, so Taker tried to find ways to persuade Flair to change his mind. Following a match on the February 25 edition of Raw, Flair’s friend Arn Anderson was ambushed by the Undertaker during his road agent duties. The Undertaker followed up a week later by attacking Flair’s son David at the WWF training facility, threatening that the rest of Flair’s children were next. After this attack, Flair accepted the match on the March 7 edition of Smackdown. Later that night the two ended up brawling into the audience, which resulted in Flair accidentally punching out a fan. As a result, Flair was arrested, much to Undertaker’s delight. On the March 11 episode of Raw, Flair’s rival co-owner Vince McMahon asked for an emergency board meeting with the WWF board of directors citing that Flair’s attack of a fan was unacceptable and that either he or Flair should have absolute authority and power over the company. With Flair still keen on taking on Undertaker at Wrestlemania, CEO Linda McMahon had no choice but to give Vince total control over the company. Despite this, Linda also stated that the ownership situation will also be reviewed after Wrestlemania with a final decision to be made then. To add further insult, Vince McMahon booked David Flair in a match against the Undertaker on the March 14 episode of Smackdown. The Undertaker almost gave David a Last Ride, but was stopped by Ric Flair who saved his son with some steel chair shots to Taker.

Fun Fact II:
Ten years after losing the WWF Title to Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VIII, Flair wrestles in the same red tights in his Wrestlemania return. Undertaker actually requested to face Flair at this show, which played a major part in helping to rebuild Flair’s damaged confidence.

Ric Flair got back into the swing of things after beating Vince McMahon at the Royal Rumble, but now he faces the Deadman at Wrestlemania. The match was great, as the no DQ stipulation allowed for an extra amount of violence. I wonder if there was any thought of Flair going over here, since Taker pretty much dominated the feud by getting the upper hand literally every time. I mean it wouldn’t soil Taker’s legacy by any stretch, and this is the last time to date, and only the second time since Taker’s first Wrestlemania match in 1991, that he’s the heel, so this may have been the time to end the streak. In the end they have Flair wrestle a great match, complemented by the most awesome run-in in Wrestlemania history when Arn Anderson snuck in the ring and delivered his last big-time spinebuster. The crowd was all over this match, but with the matches to follow, this one could have been earlier in the card to give the crowd more time to rejuvenate for the rest of the show. This match is the best on the card in terms of the in ring action itself, as Flair was back to his match-carrying self and Taker runs his Wrestlemania record to 10-0. Taker actually acknowledges the 10-0 record, marking the first time he references the streak. Grade: 4

Justin: After a month long blood feud, these two men finally hook up. Mr. McMahon made sure to add the no DQ stip to help his buddy, Undertaker. Despite his horrific actions leading up the show, Taker still gets his usual entrance pop as he rode to the ring. For the second straight year, the streak seemed to be in some serious jeopardy as it was totally plausible to see Flair get some big time revenge and hand Taker his first Mania loss. Flair was crazed and he attacks Taker outside the ring to start. Taker would turn it around though, and use some super stiff strikes in controlling Flair. Taker would bust Flair open early and he would continually hammer away at it as the match wore on. One of the highlights of the match was Taker’s nasty superplex, but Taker ended up pulling Flair up when he could have had the win. Flair’s cut was pretty nasty by this point and Taker had him beat a few times, but kept pulling him up. It definitely seemed like Flair could win at that point. The tide finally turned when Flair caught Taker up top and slammed him off. Flair would use Taker’s pipe, busting Taker open as well. Taker would survive a figure four and plant Flair with a chokeslam. He then took out referee Charles Robinson, but that only opened the door for Anderson to sneak in and drill Taker with the greatest spinebuster in history. That would lead to a fantastic near fall and perhaps the closest to a Taker Mania loss that we have seen yet. Taker would recover and choke out Arn, shake off a Flair chair shot and then polish Flair off with a Tombstone after he couldn’t get him up for the Last Ride. Despite the loss, Flair proved he could still go and these two legends put on a classic Mania match. The crowd was rocking the whole way and it was nice to see a Taker Mania match with a possible loss hanging in the balance. Taker would continue to hang around the upper card as Flair would be involved in one of the biggest storylines in WWF history just two weeks after this show. Grade: 4

6) Edge (Adam Copeland) defeats Booker T (Booker Huffman) with the Edgecution at 6:32

Scott: This match was nicely placed in the middle of the show, not too crazy exciting, but not too boring. The feud was involving a shampoo ad overseas, but otherwise this was just a way to get two solid workers on the big show. Edge definitely needed to be on the show since Toronto is his backyard, and it was eighteen years before that he was in that very building watching Wrestlemania VI. The match is solid, but not spectacular. Edge wins with his patented finisher, and moves on to a great feud with a former ally. Booker kind of drifts through the year before an accidental comedy maneuver becomes a very successful team. Edge gets back on the winning track after unsuccessfully trying to get his IC Title back from William Regal. Grade: 2

Justin: Booker T. makes his Wrestlemania debut against the homecoming hero Edge, who is actually also making his solo Wrestlemania debut. He gets the big hometown pop, but the crowd is spent after that last war so these two go at it in front of a pretty quiet arena. The match was pretty basic and Booker actually looked pretty good while on offense. Edge’s comeback would get the crowd back into it a bit but the biggest pop would actually come when Booker busted out the Spinarooni. The finishing sequence ended up being really good and they finally won over the crowd as Edge picked up a nice win. This definitely felt like an old school Wrestlemania match where two solid wrestlers were tossed out there to put on a fun showing. Edge is rolling again and he would really start to make his mark in the coming weeks. Grade: 2.5

*** The Hurricane loses the Hardcore Title to his sidekick, Mighty Molly, backstage. ***

7) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats Scott Hall with a Stone Cold Stunner at 9:51

Fun Fact: This feud spawned from the NWO’s attack on Austin at No Way Out. On the 2/21 Smackdown, Austin attacked Hall in the ring, chased him in the aisle, clubbed him in the knee with a crowbar and then almost ran him over with his truck. The NWO tried to escape in their limo, but found that Austin had slashed the tires. Later that night, Austin brought a cameraman with him as he entered a large walk-in cooler. When they entered, they found Hall duct taped to a chair. Austin proceeded to taunt him with beer, which seemed a little harsh for a recovering alcoholic. After Austin dragged Hall around the building and taunted him throughout, Nash and Hogan finally tracked them down but Austin clubbed them from behind and trapped them behind a fence. To close the show, Austin drove Hall out to the ring, mocked him some more and then dropped him with a stunner and spray painted “3:16” on his back. The following Monday on Raw, Hall officially issued the challenge for Wrestlemania. Later that night, the NWO assaulted Austin after his match with Mr. Perfect. They proceeded to bash Austin’s knee with some cinder blocks and left him lying. The next week, the NWO got the last laugh again as they left Austin a bloody mess in the ring. Finally, on the final Raw before this show, Austin and Rock teamed up to battle Hogan, Hall and Nash in a huge handicap match.

Fun Fact II:
When the NWO arrived on the scene, many assumed that we would finally get the huge dream match of Hogan/Austin at Wrestlemania. Rumor has it that the match was penciled in but that Hogan and Austin couldn’t agree on a finish so things got switched around. Well, since things work with Hogan and with Triple H already penciled in for the WWF Championship match; Austin could see the writing on the wall and began fearing for his spot as the top dog in WWF. He ended up getting paired with Scott Hall, which did not make him very happy and he voiced his opinion loud and clear. Angry about being low on the Mania totem pole, Austin briefly walked out and refused to show up on Raw the night after the show. He would eventually return on the April 1 Raw, but this wouldn’t be the last backstage war that Austin would have in 2002.

This was a shocker for a couple of reasons. First off I was stunned that Stone Cold didn’t get the slot against Hulk Hogan at this show. It was the perfect opportunity to have the biggest stars of the last two decades wrestle: the captain of the Federation era versus the captain of the Attitude Era. Instead Rock, a solid superstar but always #2 behind Austin, gets the shot at Hogan and Austin gets Scott Hall. Actually I went into that Rock/Hogan match irritated that Austin wasn’t in it, but more on that later. The second shocker was how good this match was. I was expecting Hall to be a sloppy mess who couldn’t get out of his own way. Austin was going to have to carry him, and Austin’s mindset wasn’t to help others at this point. Hall really brought his game and put on a pretty decent match with the Rattlesnake. Now Justin hinted at No Way Out that Austin was starting to feel a little paranoid about his position in the company. He was the top dog in 2001 as the head heel and WWF Champion. Now we head to 2002 and Triple H is back, along with Rock as a face, and the bourgeoning mid-card of credible and popular stars. Austin’s used to guys like the Godfather and Steve Blackman in the mid-card. Guys he knew would never be around to usurp his spot. Now in 2002, the post-WCW era has handed the WWF a cache of good young talent that eventually will carry the torch of the company. So he was getting disillusioned that his place in the company was getting squeezed out. So Austin and his wife Debra didn’t attend the very popular and traditional post-Wrestlemania party. They went back to the hotel. We’ll continue discussing this growing issue between the WWF and its top headliner the past five years. Austin wins, and ups his Wrestlemania record to 5-1. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Despite all the backstage drama and worries of Hall’s professionalism and sobriety, Hall and Austin deliver a fun, fast paced match here. Austin gets a huge pop for his entrance as his pops were still there and quite healthy. Kevin Nash was hurt with a torn biceps, so he just accompanies Hall to the ring here. They would brawl all around the ring, keeping up the style that suits both men best. Despite his surly mood, Austin would actually give Hall more offense here than he gave Jericho at No Way Out. That may partially be because Austin didn’t really view Hall as a threat at this point and if anything he saw Hall as a step beneath him. Austin would finally hit the stunner, but Nash would get involved and break up the pin. Austin would fight off both men, but Hall would eventually catch him and attempt the Outsider Edge. The move attempt got a huge pop, but Austin was able to fight out of it. Another wild brawl would trigger as all three men just started rumbling around the ring. Nash finally got tossed, but Hall hit a stunner of his own for a great near fall. Austin battled back and won clean with the stunner to cap off a fun match. Austin was great here and it is too bad his mindset wasn’t to help strengthen the upper mid card, because he could have been a tremendous asset. Instead, he gets more paranoid as the weeks go on and it ends up costing him his spot as a top WWF player. I do have more to say on the subject of Austin and Hogan, but I will get to that in the final analysis. I also want to give kudos to Hall for proving everyone wrong and being a team player while busting his ass to put on a good show. Despite all his backstage nonsense, you always knew Hall would bring it once he got out on the stage because he seemed to truly care about the showmanship within the business. Grade: 3

8) Billy (Monte Sop) & Chuck (Chuck Palumbo) defeat the Dudley Boys, the Acolytes, & the Hardy Boys in a Four Corners Elimination match to retain WWF Tag Team Titles

D-Von Dudley (Devon Hughes) pins Bradshaw (John Layfield) after a 3-D through a table at 3:25
Jeff Hardy pins Bubba Ray Dudley (Mark Lomonica) after a Twist of Fate from Matt Hardy and a Swanton Bomb at 11:48
Billy pins Jeff Hardy after a belt shot at 13:50

Fun Fact:
Billy & Chuck defeated Tazz & Spike Dudley to win the titles on the 2/21 Smackdown. This match was made official on the 3/11 Raw. The APA had earned a tag title shot due to their win at No Way Out but lost to Billy & Chuck on the 2/28 Smackdown. They were given another chance to gain the gold here.

Well after the nonsense of the multi-team match at No Way Out, this one makes a little more sense. The Ace & Gary of the WWF are entertaining and very good in the ring. Billy is as great a tag team wrestler as he is a crappy singles wrestler. He fits perfectly into any type of gimmick or character. Cowboy to D-Generate to slick gold tights singles dork to ambiguous gay heel wrestler he can be funny, but always effective. It’s clear that the other three teams are really losing steam. The Dudleys in particular should be broken up, since their gimmick really hasn’t changed in over two years. The Hardys are always over regardless of what you do with them, so it doesn’t matter how or where they are, they always bring the goods. As for the APA, this was truly their last hurrah. Faarooq clearly was getting broken down and couldn’t handle the battles anymore. The brass really wanted to push Bradshaw as a singles wrestler, so the APA was on its last legs. Billy & Chuck keep the straps, and their quite hilarious gimmick continues. Grade: 2

Justin: After some twists and turns in the tag title picture, we end up with a Wrestlemania tag match featuring the usual suspects. Despite big pops for the Hardys and Dudleys, this current group of tag teams is really starting to get stale. Seven of the men here all played a huge rule in the resurgence in tag team wrestling in the WWF, but over exposure and hundreds of matches between them had just worn them thin. They all still worked hard and put on solid matches, but the interest was just waning. Billy & Chuck, however, did add some freshness to the division as they had solid teamwork and a funny shtick. They were the shot of energy the division needed, but they still lacked a fresh face team to war with. Despite the initial pops, the crowd dies again here and this match really was stuck here to spell them between the Austin and Rock matches. APA actually looked pretty strong and dominated early, but they would fall victim to the Dudleys. I kind of wonder why B&C didn’t get the win there to helps finish off their feud. I also wonder if the APA were kept strong to help establish some credibility for Bradshaw. The match as a whole would get pretty disjointed and sloppy at this point. The Dudleys and Hardys worked their usual spots in with the crowd perking up for the Hardys’ high powered offense. D-Von ends up taking a useless table bump that seemed to be there just for the sake of having one. It was really unnecessary to be honest. Hardys would eliminate the Dudleys and then things picked up a bit down the home stretch before B&C picked up the win. The match was solid, but nothing special and it really seemed to be the death knell of the major Attitude Era tag team players as the division would be severely shaken up in a couple of weeks. Grade: 2.5

*** Backstage, Hollywood Hogan tells Hall and Nash to stay backstage because he needs to prove he can do this himself. Nash disagrees as Hogan walks off. Elsewhere, Christian ambushes Molly by slamming a door in her face and he wins the Hardcore title. ***

9) The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) defeats Hollywood Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) in the Icon vs. Icon match with three Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow at 16:23

Fun Fact: This is Hulk Hogan’s first match in the WWE since losing the WWE Title to Yokozuna at the 1993 King of the Ring. It is his first Wrestlemania match since beating Yoko at Wrestlemania IX. His career Wrestlemania record heading into this match was 7-2-1.

Fun Fact II: The Rock’s involvement with the NWO started at No Way Out when they had a confrontation backstage, leading to the Rock hilariously ripping on all three men. The next night on Raw, Rock interrupted Hogan’s promo and challenged him to a battle of mega stars at Wrestlemania. When Hogan accepted and shook hands with Rock, Rock kept hold and hit Hogan with a Rock Bottom. However, before Rock could leave the arena, Hall and Nash ambushed Rock and spray painted on his back. With medics loading Rock into an ambulance, the NWO pounced and chained up all possible exits. Hogan then pulled up in a rig and drive into the ambulance with the Rock trapped inside. On the March 7 Smackdown, Rock made his return and he immediately challenged Hogan to a fight. Nash and Hall held Hogan back, and Hall challenged Rock instead. That match would end in a three-on-one beat down that was eventually stopped by Stone Cold and chair. On the March 11 Raw, Rock and Austin took on the NWO that saw Hogan pinning Rock after a leg drop. Many people questioned having Hogan and Rock actually wrestle prior to this show and wondered if it would affect the intrigue for it.

Well, where do we begin? This was a match that probably should have been the main event since after it the crowd was pretty much gone. Now, there’s two ways to grade this match. If you want to grade it as a stand-alone match, it was ok; nothing great, but not that terrible. However, this is one of those cases where you have to look at the entire package. Many wrestling writers want to dump on this match because it’s not two workrate geniuses going toe to toe. Those people think that a great match needs to be Bret/Owen from X, or Benoit/Jericho from any of the 2000 PPV matches. Well guess what? This match has the complete package of a great Wrestlemania showdown. You have two absolute giants of the wrestling industry. Particularly in Canada, the WWE fans don’t care about the heel NWO Hogan. To them everything is Yellow and Red, even if Hogan’s not wearing it. I didn’t expect it, and being a veteran wrestling fan that I am, and we really all are or you wouldn’t be reading this, I should have thought WWE fans would have been jacked to see the Hulkster again. Sure they did all that jazz with Rock being beat up and crushed in the ambulance. They enjoyed seeing their hero again, the icon of the 80s. As for Rock, well he got his share of heel heat, mostly because they were fiercely behind the Hulkster. Now I wonder if the energy this match ended up having would have been the same if Austin was facing Hogan instead of Rock. Austin would have not gone with the heel heat deal, and wouldn’t have been so nice with Hogan after the match. He hates Hogan from the WCW days and could give a crap about Red and Yellow/80’s nostalgia stuff. So, maybe in hindsight, Rock was the better choice here as he would take the heel heat in stride and have a good time with it instead of ignoring it. I think Hogan being around may be another reason why Austin was starting to get a little leery of his position in the company, as remember 1994 when he was pushed out as the planned top guy when Hogan arrived and brought his talentless flunkies like Duggan and Beefcake. Well with Rock in there the place had an electric feeling, and Hogan was bringing the energy as well. Sure the match was not a workrate gem, but who gives a crap? Why can’t we just enjoy two guys who take what their strengths are and use them in the match? The crowd was crazy, and this is one of those rare matches where you actually get lost in the emotion, and you forget that you already know who won the match. You really think after the leg drop that Hogan was about to win the match. It’s crazy, but that’s how you feel. The aftermath with the Outsiders was probably ad-libbed, as they may not have expected the response Hogan would get. More would come of it the next night on Raw, but for a complete package, this is a top of the line classic. Grade: 5

Justin: When Hogan and the NWO showed up on the scene last month, you figured they would play an important role at Wrestlemania. I don’t think anybody expected a spectacle quite like this. In retrospect, you can see why the fans turned Hogan face. It all makes sense. Hogan had been gone for so long, had always been a big star in Canada and the fans seemed to be tiring of the Rock’s act and, ironically, his Hollywood aspirations. However, at the time, Hogan was coming off a lengthy hated heel run in WCW. Not only was he a big time heel in storylines, he was also heated with a passion by the smart fans. Many knew of his politicking and poor match quality in Atlanta and everyone knew he played a major role in bringing WCW down. So, when you look at it with some perspective, it was a bit jarring to see Hogan turned into the de facto face a few minutes in. As soon as these two icons had their epic staredown at the start, you knew this should have been the main event. This was an epic dream match that really hadn’t been seen since Hogan met the Ultimate Warrior in this very building twelve years earlier. Early on, the crowd was pretty split but they were tending to lean towards Hogan. The Skydome just felt electric and JR and Lawler started to get into a groove as their hyperbole was matched in reality for once. As the crowd started edging more towards Hogan, Rock seemed to be thrown off guard and the two men would stick to their traditional roles despite Hogan gradually out popping Rock. Despite now being cheered as the face, Hogan kept working as a heel but you can feel the roles change mid stride as Rock dug deep into his heel bag of tricks and finally embraced the crowd’s wishes. JR would explain the crowd’s reactions by claiming they were feeling nostalgic, which was pretty true. The actual match itself was just a basic brawl with some big spots mixed in. Hogan actually busted out a cool chokeslam but that was offset by Rock locking in his weak sharpshooter. As the match wore on, Rock’s old heel facials and attitude started seeping through. Hogan would actually drill Rock with a Rock Bottom and that got a mega pop from the fans. Hogan would later admit that he broke a couple of ribs during the match and you can clearly see him holding that area during it. He gave a gutsy performance and really earned the fans back on his side, pushing the reactions past just nostalgia. The crowd was insane the whole time, but the arena nearly split apart when Hogan Hulked Up and the two men followed it up with some crazy near falls. That pop would then be dwarfed by the reaction for Hogan’s big boot and legdrop and subsequent near fall. In a perfect world, that probably ends up being the finish to the match and the show. However, Rock was still the young franchise player and he was to win the match. He dropped Hogan with the three Rock Bottoms, dropped the People’s Elbow and got the win. The crowd booed at first before turning around and cheering the epic encounter they just witnessed. I wish he didn’t win with the lame Elbow, but that is a minor complaint. The clincher to this epic match was the post match hug between the two legends. It brought back instant memories of Hogan embracing Warrior and passing the torch in that very same spot in 1990. Hall and Nash would come out after and start kicking Hogan around, but Rock made the save and solidified Hogan’s face turn. This was a truly epic showdown and no matter how many times you watch it, it is hard not to get swept up by it all over again. I was debating how to grade this one before it started, but when that final bell rang there was really no question which way to go. Grade: 5

10) Jazz (Carlene Begnaud) defeats Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) and Lita (Amy Dumas) to retain WWF Women’s Title when she pins Lita after the Fisherman’s Suplex at 6:16

Fun Fact: Jazz defeated Trish Stratus to win the title on the February 4 Raw.

I felt bad for these three athletes who had to go after that fantastic story told between two legends of the game. Besides that, the booking was retarded beyond belief. Here’s Trish Stratus, the pride of Toronto in her maple leaf tights, going after the evil vicious Jazz and the nice, but exciting Lita. So who should win this? A Trish win would have woken the crowd up and got them ready for the main event. Instead the match was a slow, plodding mess with a couple of decent moves, but a horrible ending as the one person no one wanted to see win, well won. Any other PPV and Jazz can win this match. Not here, not in this atmosphere where the crowd needed another boost after a long, energetic match and one more big time tilt to come. Grade: 1.5

Justin: After the mammoth previous match, the crowd graces Trish with a generous pop before completely falling off and going silent. This was really a tough spot for these poor ladies and they really had no chance of getting the crowd into the match. Jazz dominates both women as all three worked hard but the outing was pretty sloppy, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering Lita was involved. Jazz’ finish was nice as she picked up the upset win as many assumed Trish would win in her hometown. I know Scott talked about Trish winning maybe bringing the crowd back, but I don’t think it would have worked. The crowd was just worn out and while Trish was pretty big in Toronto, she wasn’t big enough to really get them cranked back up. If this match was earlier in the night, I would have more of a complaint. Grade: 1.5

*** Maven sneaks up behind Christian and rolls him up to regain his Hardcore title. Maven hops in Christian’s car and speeds away as Christian stands flabbergasted. ***

11) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) to win WWF Undisputed Title with a Pedigree at 18:41

Fun Fact: So the night after Triple H lost his Wrestlemania title shot at No Way Out, co-owner Ric Flair gave Triple H a chance to get his shot back from Kurt Angle and this time Stephanie was barred from ringside. Triple H won his spot back and focused in on Chris Jericho. On the February 21 episode of Smackdown, Jericho met with Stephanie and put their differences in the past and Stephanie accepting Jericho’s proposal to be his new business partner. To further the feud, Jericho mused that he ended the marriage by causing Triple H’s quadriceps muscle to tear in 2001, which diverted Triple H’s attention from his wife. In the divorce settlement for the two, it was announced that the assets would be split between them were to be split in half, much to Stephanie’s disgust. Among the assets were Triple H’s first wrestling robe, Stephanie’s Corvette, which Triple H later gave to her with half of it cut off, and Triple H’s bulldog Lucy. Stephanie managed to win Lucy in the settlement and later on the March 11 Raw, she sent Jericho to walk the dog. An angry Jericho tied Lucy to a limousine and ordered the unknowing driver to buy some air fresheners. The driver left and ended up running Lucy over into a critical condition by accident. A livid Triple H stormed into the arena and tried to attack Stephanie but was assaulted with some chair shots to his leg by Jericho. On the following Smackdown, Stephanie noted that the chair shots had left Triple H’s quad in a condition that one false move reinjure his quad once again. At the end of the show, Triple H and Jericho had a brawl in the ring that almost ended with a Pedigree on Stephanie. However, Jericho saved her and locked the Walls of Jericho on Triple H.

So after a long night of energizing ups and downs, we come to our main event and Undisputed Title match. Triple H has been back for over two months, and it’s clear that he not quite reached wrestling shape yet. His huge upper body is tight and stiff which means the Triple H from 2000 was not in the ring. In the ring here was a big, bulky Scott Steiner-type wrestler. As for Jericho, he had a really good thing going as Undisputed Champion, until he hit this storyline. Then it became all about Stephanie and Triple H’s crumbling marriage, and the Undisputed Champion is a mere pawn. Jericho had a great storyline with the Rock starting back in October and through January. The feud with Austin leading to No Way Out wasn’t bad, but Austin’s sudden paranoia stunted what could have been a pretty good match. Now he’s picking up Stephanie’s shampoo and walking her dog? Add that to the fact that Triple H’s face run was not going exactly how the bookers expected. After the big return in January and the big win at the Royal Rumble, the minute he started working with Stephanie the pops started to fizzle. Not as bad as some make it out to be, but not great. So here we have Triple H against Jericho in Canada, so when Jericho comes out he’s actually getting some faint face pops. The match isn’t terrible, but one thing ruined watching my favorite wrestler win the big one. The crowd was done, baked after a long night, a classic package of a match with Hogan/Rock, and a disappointing end to the Women’s Title match. So the crowd’s dead, but Jim Ross is screaming at the top of his lungs, telling us that Jericho could end up ending Triple H’s career. It was contrived and very forced. Shame, because Triple H did come back from a serious injury, but unfortunately the crowd had nothing left to give. This was a big moment for Triple H, but a flat ending to Wrestlemania. Grade: 2.5

Justin: And now our long night of action has finally reached the end. Triple H makes his entrance and gets a warm reception, but he was just jacked to the gills and you could tell right away how it would negatively affect his mobility, despite having been back for two months now. After years of hating each other, Jericho and Stephanie formed a team top take out the Game. The basic idea of that team isn’t too bad; it was all in the execution. If they would have had Jericho be the dominating force in the relationship, using Steph to get to Hunter, it could have worked. Instead, they made Jericho into Steph’s bitch and totally ruined all the progress he had made as a legit main event star. The Lucy stuff didn’t even offend me as much as it did some people. The whole execution of the idea is what bothered me. JR would play up Hunter’s healed quad the whole match and Jericho spent the bout targeting the leg. The crowd sat quietly and I can’t blame them as you just can’t get into this match after the show Hogan and Rock had put on. Hunter would turn things around and work Jericho’s leg but Steph would get involved and make it a two-on-one battle. The quad work continued as the slow back and forth pace continued on. Hunter would hang in the Walls as JR screamed about the danger but the whole thing was just so flat it came off horribly. The finish picked up but it was so predictable that the crowd really just never cared until the three count. Poor Jericho had worked so hard, but he would end up being shunted back down the card after this show, shouldering most of the blame for the poor match. Hunter gets his moment in the sun, but it ends up being bittersweet in the end. Grade: 2

Final Analysis

Scott: One year after what many consider the perfect Wrestlemania, we see a show with some really big moments, but a lot of flat ones too. The positives: big wins for Rob Van Dam, Edge, and Diamond Dallas Page. Also we saw the return of Ric Flair to Wrestlemania, although he lost a bloody war to Undertaker. Triple H wins the big match, although the total package was a disappointment. Of course the highlight was the historic Rock/Hulk Hogan match, again maybe not a workrate classic, but in this case that doesn’t matter. Now there were some duds, including a poor women’s match and some flat storylines leading into the show. The Hardcore situation is dated and time-consuming, and what was fun in 2000 is dreadfully boring in 2002. In what is becoming one of the most unusual and unpredictable years in WWF history, this Wrestlemania is good, but after a couple of years that were above average, this one seems plain. Final Grade: C+

Justin: In my eyes, this show was the true end of the Attitude Era. The next year would be one of flux and would bridge the Attitude Era to the Modern Era. Many of the major stars of the Attitude Era would start to fade back or totally overhaul their personas and a plethora of new stars would crop up throughout 2002. This show definitely had a big time feel to it, but many of the matches were rushed together and only a few had a fleshed out backstory. Now, that had worked fine in the past, but for some reason here it made things feel a bit flat. Flair, Undertaker, Rock and Hogan all delivered in epic fashion and put on a pair of memorable classic matches. Triple H and Jericho whiffed in their attempt but the crowd played a small role in that as well. In addition to closing out the Attitude Era, this show also kicked off the WWF’s nostalgia kick. They would openly begin embracing their past and bringing back stars of years gone by to try and reconnect with some of the fans they had lost. Hogan’s reaction here showed that these tricks could work in spots, but problems would end up occurring when Vince tried to book the whole show around them. For the second time in two years, he totally misread his crowd and ended up driving more fans away than he managed to hook back in. Now, I wanted to speak briefly about Hogan/Austin because I see some interesting parallels to the Hogan/Flair scenario at Wrestlemania VIII. There were some fundamental difference in the two situations, but the main point stands: a bankable, killer dream match was right in front of everyone, but was ripped away at the last minute. In this case, it seems like Austin was short sighted and drowning in his own paranoia over the loss of his top spot. Ironically, many feel the same mindset is what split apart the Hogan/Flair dream match in 1992. I just find it interesting that history came back to repeat itself only this time Austin was the man who didn’t see the golden handwriting on the wall. His ego prevented him from having a major money match and tearing down the house. Both times everything worked out because the replacement match ended up being awesome, but just like Hogan lost out in 1992, Austin lost out in 2002. The final issue I wanted to discuss was the placement of matches. Going into the show, they had three major matches lined up: Hogan/Rock, Flair/Taker and Triple H/Jericho. Toss in the always over Austin and these matches needed to be spaced apart. If they were going to run Hunter/Jericho last, then Rock/Hogan needed to be much further away, but how do you put a dream match like that any earlier? The best way to fix things would be to move Flair/Taker even earlier due to the drama, have Hunter/Jericho go two matches later, stick Austin/Hall in the nine hole and then finish with Hogan/Rock, a match you knew would draw no matter what. Overall, this was a solid Wrestlemania, but poor build and match layout definitely end up leading to a blasé feel. That said, the show did feature two epic Mania classics, and that needs to be factored in accordingly. Final Grade: B-

MVP: Rock & Hollywood Hogan
Runner Up: Undertaker &Ric Flair
Non MVP: Triple H, Chris Jericho & Stephanie McMahon
Runner Up: Women’s Title match

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