March 30, 2003
Buy Rate: 1.08
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz
Sunday Night Heat
1) Lance Storm (Lance Evers) & Chief Morley defeat Kane (Glen Jacobs) & Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) to retain World Tag Team Titles when Storm pinned Van Dam
Fun Fact: After the shenanigans that occurred with the Dudleys being stripped of the titles, Chief Morley officially suspended them from Raw. They would receive various opportunities to earn their jobs back, but each failed. Finally, on the 3/17 Raw, they returned and helped Morley and Storm assault RVD and Kane. They announced that they had turned to the dark side in order to win their jobs back and feed their families. They would essentially become henchmen for the Chief. On the March 24 Raw, Chief Morley came out to announce that William Regal was too ill to continue defending the tag team titles with Lance Storm. The titles were vacated, but Morley named himself as Regal’s opponent and awarded himself and Storm the titles. He then made a number one contenders match with the winning team earning a title shot at Wrestlemania. Later that night, the Dudley Boys would take on and lose to RVD & Kane and the latter team would advance to Wrestlemania. The Dudleys would aid their boss during this match, continuing that storyline.
Fun Fact II: In February, William Regal became gravely ill and was forced to the sidelines. It was first thought that Regal had contracted a parasite during an international tour, but it was eventually determined that he was suffering from a serious heart problem, likely stemming from his years of drug abuse. Regal would be sidelined for the rest of the year.
Fun Fact III: Chief Morley was the man better known as Val Venis. After hitting the sidelines in the late fall, Venis returned under his real name, Sean Morely and was named Chief of Staff by GM Eric Bischoff. Morley would be Bischoff’s right hand man, often abusing his power to help further his own career.
Pay Per View
1) Matt Hardy defeats Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) to retain Cruiserweight Championship with a roll up at 5:39
Fun Fact: Rey Mysterio earned this title shot by defeating Tajiri and Jamie Noble on the 3/6 Smackdown.
Scott: The opener is quick, both in pace and in length. This Wrestlemania card was clearly top heavy with matches and those were going to get the majority of the air time. So these first few matches essentially are time killers. That’s a shame because this could have been a really good match with some time. Matt’s “Mattitude” gimmick is hilarious and was really good for him at a time when his brother Jeff was all over the place and really in bad shape. Rey is Rey, and he begins his Wrestlemania tradition of wearing a comic book superhero for his outfit. This time around it’s Daredevil. The match is really good, but again is treated as nothing more than filler before the big five matches at the top of the card. Matt wins cheap to retain his title, and honestly they could have taken a minute here and a minute there from the other matches because it deserved it. Oh well, it may not have been Owen/Bret from X, but it’s still pretty solid. Grade: 3
Justin: The nineteenth Wrestlemania was officially underway and gets kicked off with some Cruiserweight action. Matt Hardy won the title last month and focused on maintaining his weight so he could rule the division. Rey gets a great pop in his Wrestlemania debut and these two got off to a quick start. Shannon Moore would make his presence known and he would help his sensei ground Rey and wear him down. Rey and Matt showed some nice chemistry here and got the crowd up and running. Matt picked up a good near fall off a Twist of Fate, but Rey would keep battling. Matt would eventually cheat to win and outsmart Rey when he decided he couldn’t out fly him. It was a solid opener but really needed more time to get the crowd hooked into the story. These two will fight again and they will get more time to truly tell a special story. Grade: 2
2) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) and A-Train (Matt Bloom) in a handicap match when he pins A-Train with a Tombstone at 9:45
Fun Fact: Nathan Jones was the newest big man that Vince McMahon signed away off the independent circuit. Jones was from Australia and he spent seven years in a maximum security prison due to committing a series of armed robberies. He was actually one of Australia’s most wanted prior to his arrest. While in prison, Jones was introduced to weightlifting and upon his release he started competing in strongman competitions throughout his homeland. After dabbling in MMA, Jones decided to give wrestling a shot. In 2001, he hooked up with the WWA and made a pretty good impression. He won the WWA Heavyweight Championship on April 7, 2002 but lost the belt to Scott Steiner a week later. Jones hooked up with WWE shortly afterwards and was brought on to Smackdown as a protégé of the Undertaker after a series of intriguing vignettes.. He was scheduled to team with Taker here, but WWE officials got cold feet due to his lack of experience and were afraid that he wasn’t ready for live PPV. Instead, he was pulled from the match via a pre-match beatdown and given a quick run in instead.
Fun Fact II: On the 2/27 Smackdown, A-Train and Big Show attacked Undertaker, but he was saved by his new protégé Nathan Jones. A week later, we saw Taker sparring with Jones, training him for an in ring career. Over the next two weeks, Taker kept guiding Jones and prepping him for their Wrestlemania showdown with Heyman’s crew. Finally, the night of the Wrestlemania, cameras cut backstage to find Jones laid out and it was revealed that Undertaker would be forced to go it alone. There was actually a lot of speculation at the time that Taker’s streak may end here to help put A-Train over. The thinking was that a handicap loss wouldn’t really hurt Taker. Luckily, they did not go that route and kept the streak in tact.
Fun Fact III: Limp Bizkit performed “Rollin” live for Undertaker’s entrance.
Scott: Well it’s been a while since Taker’s been in a situation like this. That situation is a Wrestlemania match that no one gives a crap about. I would think the last one was 1995 and Wrestlemania XI against King Kong Bundy. Since then he’s been in a match where either a title’s been on the line or a storyline that was really captivating. This one was neither. Taker’s job essentially was to play nursemaid to this hulking ex-convict from Australia, Nathan Jones. They obviously realized by game time that he wasn’t ready for the big stage, and who can honestly be ready when your first PPV match is in front of 54,000 people at the biggest show of the year. So they set it up so Jones is taken out by Show and Train earlier in the show and Taker has to go it alone. Now, both Justin and I are big fans of power matches with hulking ham hocks. This one, though, is very slow and in the parts when all three guys are in the ring together it really looks slow. Now unlike in his nacho gut run of 2000-01, I’m not blaming Taker for the match at all. He did what he could with a guy who was slow to begin with in Show, and a guy who’s lucky to even be at this show in Train. So trying to keep the pace going was very difficult, but I was pretty stoked when Jones did emerge, hit a solid (although slowly executed) spin kick to show, and then belts A-Train with a big boot before Taker hits the Tombstone for the pin. They definitely could have shaved a minute or two off of this to put on the opener, but what can you do. Taker’s year continues, which seems to turn into a long endless journey of, well we’re not sure. He seems to float around a bit, a sign that maybe the American Bad Ass gimmick has run its course. Grade: 2
Justin: At 10-0 in his Wrestlemania career, Taker rides down to the ring to a great pop from the Seattle fans. Taker was proudly waving the American flag as the War in Iraq had recently started up. I actually thought Show and Train made for a pretty impressive team. They both had some high impact offense and knew how to piece together an effective power match. Taker worked quite hard as well as did his best to carry the match from his end. Show and Train overpowered Taker and used teamwork to dominate the bout. Taker’s comebacks were well timed and kept the fans into this one. There were a lot of rumors swirling that the streak could end, and I must say that it seemed plausible at the time. Train seemed lined up for a big push and once they yanked Jones from the match you could maybe see them bringing a cheap end to the streak. Despite being taken out of the match, Jones makes his presence known and gives Taker a big assist. After a couple of good near falls, Taker puts Train away with a Tombstone to keep his streak intact. This was a solid power match and Show and Train were both kept strong and looked good despite losing. As I have said in the past, I am a sucker for big man power matches and this has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Grade: 2.5
3) Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) defeats Victoria (Lisa Varon) & Jazz (Carlene Begnaud) to win WWE Women’s Championship in a triple threat match when she pins Victoria with a spin kick at 7:17
Fun Fact: Trish Stratus and Jazz had a match on the 3/10 Raw to determine who would face Victoria at Wrestlemania for the Women’s Title. Victoria came in and clocked both with the title belt, and the match ended in a Double-DQ. The match would then be booked as a triple threat match.
Scott: The women get a chance on the big stage and one year after Trish Stratus lost a title match in her hometown, she takes the gold in front of 54,000 at Safeco. Victoria has been a solid champion since that great match at Survivor Series. This is the year that Trish has turned the corner and really became a solid in-ring presence. No longer do we see the fitness model that looked hot in a cowboy hat and did pretty much nothing else. She learned and trained and now she’s clearly becoming the torch-bearer for the women’s division. This was another match to fill the undercard before we get to the Big Five. Grade: 2.5
Justin: After years of mixing and matching, the women’s division is finally stocked with solid talent and a top level face that could wrestle, was hot and seemingly “got it”. This was a pretty basic three way battle between the three top ladies in the division. Victoria looked good here as her lengthy run comes to end. There were some good near falls with a big flurry of two counts. Victoria unleashed a picture perfect moonsault but ate the mat on the miss. They keep a pretty quick pace up until the finish. Trish gets a good pop for the win and she is back on top of the women’s division. Grade: 2
4) Team Angle defeat Los Guerreros and Chris Benoit & Rhyno (Terry Gerin) to retain WWE Tag Team Titles when Shelton Benjamin pins Chavo Guerrero after a Rhyno gore at 8:46
Fun Fact: Rhyno had been sidelined since November 2001, when he was forced to the DL after neck fusion surgery. Rhyno made his return on the February 27 Smackdown as Chris Benoit’s tag team partner.
Fun Fact II: On the 2/27 Smackdown, Rhyno made a surprise return as Benoit’s tag team partner. They defeated Matt Hardy and Shannon Moore when Rhyno polished off Hardy with the gore. A week later, Rhyno and Benoit defeated Team Angle in a non title match. On the 3/13 Smackdown, Los Guerreros battled Benoit & Rhyno to no contest when Team Angle made their presence known and attacked both teams. The three teams would brawl a week later and this triple threat battle for the titles was added to the card.
Scott: Another continuing example of how Smackdown is the show with more steak, and Raw has the sizzle. Three teams with unlimited talent go all out in roughly nine minutes for tag team gold. Rhyno hadn’t been on camera for a while but combined with Benoit had put together a pretty good tag team. Eddie & Chavo were on their game as well and this would begin a slow-paced but definitive run for Eddie that would culminate in a career-making moment in 2004. As for the champs, Haas & Benjamin really learned under Kurt Angle, not only the heel way to act, but the ways to pace a tag match as heels. Benjamin had a solid run in OVW as Tag Champs with Brock Lesnar and Haas of course tagged with his brother Russ for years before his untimely passing. Not much more to say here, as the champs retain their titles in a solid, but like the other matches to this point, short affair. Grade: 3
Justin: The young tag team champions make their Wrestlemania debut in an intriguing triple threat match. Los Guerreros had dominated the division since November until Team Angle dethroned them in February. With his former partner having moved on to bigger things, Benoit teams up with the returning Rhyno. The six guys got off to a crisp start, especially the Guerreros, as would be expected. Like the last match, this was another basic tripe threat with a nice pace and good offense from everyone. I thought Team Angle showed some nice maturity and poise on the big stage as they would dictate the match for the most part. They looked smooth and confident throughout the bout. One of the highlights of the match was a great superplex on Eddie by Benoit. Rhyno’s gores got the biggest pop of the match, but Rhyno & Benoit couldn’t capitalize on them as Shelton stole the win. Even though Team Angle looked smart in stealing the win, the finish was a bit anticlimactic. They had a really good flow and the work was solid until the end. This match was better than I remembered, but it would have been graded even higher if it had a hotter finish. Team Angle rolls on as they continue to rule the tag team division. Grade: 3
5) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) with a roll up at 22:33
Fun Fact: On the 2/24 Raw, Chris Jericho & Christian teamed up to take on Test and Stacy Keibler in a lopsided mixed tag team match. A couple of minuets in, Jericho handcuffed Test to the ropes and locked Stacy in the Walls of Jericho. Shawn Michaels would eventually make the save. A week later, Jericho and Christian were again about to assault Stacy when Michaels made the save. This time, though, Jericho was able to lay Michaels out with a chair and bust him open in the process. Jericho officially challenged Michaels to a Wrestlemania showdown. The next week, Michaels got some revenge when he pasted Jericho with a superkick. Finally, on the 3/24 Raw, Michaels and Jericho had a heated face to face confrontation that ended without any physical contact.
Scott: We begin our run of the Big Five with a classic matchup of similar styles. This is probably the most stacked Wrestlemania, in terms of roster, in a while and with that the writers were able to put together some real solid matchups. Chris Jericho said many times during this buildup that he wanted to be Shawn Michaels. Then it really kicked it into high gear at the Royal Rumble when Jericho wanted to be #1 so he could duplicate HBK’s 1995 feat of winning from the first slot, so Jericho attacked Michaels from behind and eliminated him, then later in the Rumble HBK came back and tossed him. The match goes down as one of Wrestlemania’s best, even though in the beginning they actually wrestled the match like two big guys, as they spent the first 10-12 minutes brawling around the outside, mostly Jericho dictating the pace. After that Jericho went after Shawn’s back, which led to some logic holes where he sold it sometimes, not so much at others. I took a half point off the grade for that since Michaels and Jericho are pros and they should know better. Other than that, this match shows that Shawn Michaels, on the drop of a dime, can step up on the Wrestlemania stage and Jericho finally got his wish and wrestled his idol. We almost saw a tearful reconciliation, but Jericho kicks him in the nuts to keep his heat. Except for the lack of back selling by Michaels, the match is perfectly done. Grade: 4.5
Justin: For the first time in five years, Shawn Michaels steps onto the grandest stage in the game to compete in a match. This feud had been simmering since December and there was a lot of intrigue surrounding it. Michaels was Jericho’s idol growing up and Chris now had a chance to face him at Wrestlemania. Both men seemed fired up by the crowd and the magnitude of the match. They battled back and forth to start, with Michaels focusing on taking out Jericho’s leg. One great highspot came on a Michaels plancha out to the floor. Once Jericho took over, he started working Michaels’ back, setting up for the Walls. These two showed great chemistry right away as their work together was smooth as silk. I enjoyed when Jericho mocked Michaels with the flying forearm and subsequent kip up as well as Sweet Chin Music. The second half the match was quite good with great near falls and reversals. The crowd was rocking at that point and they got a big time tease on a near fall off SCM on Jericho. Michaels would quickly recover and roll Jericho up to steal the win and bring a close to a fantastic match. I think there are a couple of points that prevent this match from being graded even higher. I thought Michaels was a bit spotty in selling his back. Jericho punished it for almost the whole match, but Michaels would pretty much ignore it for various stretches. Also, there is always the usual debate over whether Michaels really needed the win. At this point, Shawn was still a part time wrestler and Jericho had been floundering a bit. A big win over Shawn could have bumped him back up a level. They tried to get Jericho’s heat back by having him kick Michaels in the nuts after the post match hug but I thought that cheapened the emotion of the story and the match. I am not too upset about Michaels winning, only because shortly after this he decided to return full time and this was no longer a part time guy beating a potential main eventer. Overall, however, the match was great and Michaels announced to the world that he could still deliver an awesome Wrestlemania match. Grade: 4
*** A Goldberg promo airs on the screens in the arena and the crowd pops big time for his impending return. The video informed us that Goldberg would be at Backlash. After the promo aired, the Miller Lite Catfight Girls had a segment where they wrestled on a bed. Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler came out and the four girls playfully tussled, eventually stripping down emcee Jonathan Coachman. The match ended when Stacy pinned the Coach. The whole thing was just a time waster and it would have been better if they were just guest timekeepers or something and gave the extra time to the opener. ***
6) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Booker T (Booker Huffman) to retain World Heavyweight Championship with a Pedigree at 18:47
Fun Fact: The night after No Way Out, Raw had a twenty man battle royal to determine who will face Triple H at Wrestlemania for the World Title. Booker T eliminated the Rock to win it. Triple H would demean Booker in the coming weeks, commenting on his past as a delinquent who went to jail for robbery. Booker T would beat Triple H twice, once on the 2/17 Raw in a tag match and in a one-on-one non title matchup on the 3/24 Raw. There’s a hysterical skit on the 3/17 Raw where Booker’s buddy Goldust confronts Triple H and Ric Flair and hysterically stutters through the word “Wrestlemania.” The buildup was a bit controversial as Triple H inquired if “you people” are meant to be champions. He tried to cover it up by calling Booker an “entertainer” and not a wrestler, but the racial overtones were clear. He also referenced Booker’s “nappy hair” and told him to dance for him. Triple H also downplayed Booker’s WCW title reigns by mocking their less than illustrious list of champions. The way the feud went, it seemed like a lock that Booker should walk out with the title as payback for Hunter’s condescending remarks over the previous weeks, however due to the impeding arrival of Goldberg, the title needed to stay on a heel so Hunter retained.
Fun Fact II: This will be Triple H’s last Wrestlemania win until 2009.
Scott: As much as Booker T deserved this opportunity as he hadn’t had one since losing the then-WCW Title to Rock at Summerslam and then the rematch at Unforgiven in 2001, the match was underwhelming. The crowd was pretty flat, and the action was just good, but not great. This feud had its moments, particularly the previous week’s Raw when Booker beat him in a non-title match. It gave the match a little bit of sizzle but once the bell rang and we had to see the steak, it just wasn’t there. Triple H really starts the year on a sour note with those two hideous matches against Scott Steiner. This match is a little better than that, but not nearly enough to warrant nineteen minutes. I would have added some time to that Hardy/Mysterio opener and maybe to the Smackdown tag match. One thing I will say is that the time Triple H takes between Pedigreeing Booker and pinning him isn’t that long. It’s about 30 seconds; whereas some people said it was three or four minutes. Four minutes? God some people just have to make some kind of Triple H hate comment back then, even if it really makes no sense at all. Of the five major matches at the show, this one clearly didn’t perform like the others. Triple H’s plodding year continues, and Booker’s one chance comes and goes. Grade: 2
Justin: After defeating Scott Steiner in two awful matches at our previous outings, Triple H is actually given an opponent that can keep up with him this time around. Unfortunately, there were still constraints as the feud was seemingly geared towards a Booker win, but due to Goldberg coming into the promotion, Triple H needed to have a strong, lengthy reign to build up to that eventual match. Plus, Hunter had just swapped the belt with Shawn Michaels in the winter, and they really didn’t need more quick title reigns. My beef here isn’t that Hunter retained, but that he demeaned Booker in the buildup and never really let him look strong before putting him away here. He was doing his best to be a classic Ric Flair style heel, but he wasn’t making his opponents look as strong as Flair used to. Another pitfall of this match is the horrific commentary by Jerry Lawler. He spent the whole match harping on Booker’s incarceration and repeating all of Hunter’s ridiculous barbs from Raw. You could tell that JR was even getting fed up with it. The match started slowly as Booker took the fight to the champ. Flair would help swing the match in Hunter’s favor but things slowed down even more with his methodical offense. Booker worked hard and showed good fire in his comebacks, but the crowd was pretty flat for most of the match. Flair played another role later as he took out Booker’s knee on the floor. Hunter would then punish Booker with some old school submission holds, including a sleeper and an Indian Deathlock. The best part of this match was the strong leg work by Hunter and the great selling by Booker, as it really looked like he could barely stand by the end. Booker would miss the Harlem Hangover and it was clear that his knee was shot. Triple H would then unleash the Pedigree on Booker, with Booker landing hard on his injured knee. Now comes the most contentious part of the match as Triple H rolls around for 31 seconds before pinning Booker. Many people think it was too long and that it made Booker look foolish. I disagree and I don’t think it is nearly as bad as the legend claims it to be. It made sense on one hand as Booker’s knee was so battered that the Pedigree really put him out. On the other hand, it was pretty over dramatic. I just think there are so many other things to take umbrage to with this feud, that the finish really wasn’t that bad in comparison. The major problem with the match is that Hunter was again trying to build a long epic at the wrong time. They were in the middle of the card and this feud was hardly lighting the world on fire. This is another time that called for a quick paced, short match in which Booker took it to Hunter and the champ escaped with the title at the end. If Hunter had gone that route the last three months, the heat for his eventual loss would have been much greater. His offense was also so plodding that it took the fans out of the match before the finishes. Instead, we get a slow, sluggish, awkward match that ends up being solid, but not that great. Grade: 2
7) Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) defeats Vince McMahon in a street fight after three leg drops at 20:48
Fun Fact: After Hogan’s loss to Rock at No Way Out, Vince McMahon came out on the 3/6 Smackdown and told Hogan he didn’t want him back in WWE and he hates him for leaving him in 1993 for WCW and then testifying against Vince in the ensuing steroid trial. Vince then challenged Hogan to a match at Wrestlemania where if Hogan lost he would have to retire. Later that night Hogan accepted the challenge. Two weeks later on the 3/20 Smackdown, Mean Gene Okerlund presided over the contract signing between Hogan and McMahon. Vince signed, and then as Hogan was about to sign, Vince cracked him with a steel chair a number of times, busting Hogan open. He would dip the pen in Hogan’s blood and forced Hogan to sign the contract with it. In an episode of Confidential prior to the show, an interesting video package was shown on the history between the two men, including comments from past wrestlers and celebrities, most notably Roddy Piper and Bob Costas. The main crux of this match, and the comments in the Confidential piece, was to finally show which of these men was responsible for the WWF boom period of the 1980s.
Scott: Would this be considered a dream matchup? I guess it depends as from a workrate/wrestling perspective it clearly is not. Two 50-something guys facing each other in a ring, one who never had wrestling ability, and the other lost it about seven years ago. However, what was done to this match is what should have been done to the Triple H/Steiner match at No Way Out. What made them think that if Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan needed a gimmick to make sure their match didn’t stink out the joint they didn’t need a gimmick for Triple H/Steiner after that pile of comedic crap at the Royal Rumble? I won’t belabor that point, but the stipulation made this one of my favorite matches of all time. The build was pretty good, as the question does need some pondering: Did Vince McMahon create Hulkamania or did Hulk Hogan create Hulkamania. Well factually the term “Hulkamania” was invented in the AWA, so Vince really didn’t create it per se. They show the video vignettes of their times together, including their TV interview before Wrestlemania VIII when he was originally going to retire and Vince announcing his matches throughout the Federation era. It really is 20 years in the making. Of course all the negative naysayers have to say that this is a waste of time and two old guys shouldn’t be wrestling and blah blah blah. This may go down as one of my favorite matches of all time simply because they two men took what was offered to them and rolled with it. We weren’t going to get planchas and all these crazy maneuvers. We’re going to get two guys who want to tear each other apart using every weapon possible to get that job done. Two things most memorable: That awesome look Vince gives when he looks over the canvas with that creepy look and blood on his face. The other thing is the return of Rowdy Roddy Piper, in his first PPV appearance since ripping Goldust’s pants off seven years earlier in Anaheim at Wrestlemania XII. He clocks Hogan with a steel pipe but it’s irrelevant. Hogan hits the big leg drop and wins the match. I watched this match a few times to see if this grade is really warranted but these are subjective grades, so if you don’t agree with me that is cool but I have to grade it this way. Grade: 4.5
Justin: For the first time in his career, Hulk Hogan hits Seattle for a PPV match. He gets a massive pop for the bout that was being billed as 20 years in the making. Vince was jacked to the gills and the crowd was buzzing for this impending war. They would brawl to start and Vince tried working the arm, but it was futile as Hogan quickly turned the tables and busted Vince open. Vince hit a serious vein as he was just gushing blood all over the place. In the brawl, we get a funny little spot as Vince ducks a chair shot and Spanish announcer Hugo Savinovich gets drilled by Hogan instead. Vince would somehow regain control and Hogan juiced as well. Determined to get one crazy spot in, Vince put Hogan on a table, ascended a ladder and dropped a big leg through Hulk from it. One of my favorite moments of the match was the awesome camera shot of a bloody Vince peering over the apron with a creepy grin on his face. That was just epic camera and production work. My other favorite moment was the shocking return of Roddy Piper. Even though he had popped up in the promo pieces leading up to the match, there weren’t any substantial rumors out there tipping off his appearance. Piper gets a huge pop and the crowd was rocking as he stood over both his long time rivals. He decided to side with his old boss as he drilled Hogan with a chair. Vince couldn’t get the win off that, so he angrily tossed the ref out of the ring. That lead to Vince’s crooked ref Sylvan Grenier coming out. Before he could do anything, another ref came out and prevented Sylvan from getting involved. Hogan would rock a classic Hulk Up and finish off Vince to end this epic feud. We would get one more enduring image as a bloody Vince lay prone on the mat as he flipped off the departing Hogan. This was really a fun brawl and both men busted their asses to deliver it. It was filled with blood and weapons and wasn’t too overbooked. Plus, the Piper return added a nice touch as well. This was a dream match and, even if it was a touch long, it was a worthy match when you factor in how much history these two had. The crowd was hot throughout and really rocking for the finish. Despite the finality of the finish, this feud was just getting started. Grade: 3.5
8) The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) defeats Steve Austin (Steve Williams) with three Rock Bottoms at 17:53
Fun Fact: After one of the greatest runs a superstar could have in wrestling history, this is Steve Austin’s final match. His win/loss breakdown is as follows: 3-3 at the Royal Rumble, 5-2 at Wrestlemania, including three WWF Title wins, 2-2 at Summerslam, 2-3-1 at Survivor Series, 3-2-1 at King of the Ring, and 17-15-1 at other events. That’s a final record of: 32-27-3. He’s won three Royal Rumbles, the 1996 King of the Ring, four Tag Team Titles with four different partners, two Intercontinental Titles, and six WWF Titles.
Fun Fact II: After Rock defeated Hulk Hogan at No Way Out, he decided to wrestle exclusively on Raw. The Raw after No Way Out had a 20-man battle royal to determine who would face Triple H at Wrestlemania for the World Title. Booker T would win that battle royal by tossing the Rock, but after the match Rock ran the fans down for turning their back on him. Rock said that he couldn’t believe the fans voted Steve Austin the Superstar of the Decade on the Raw X special, even after walking out on the company. After pummeling Eric Bischoff at No Way Out, Austin came back to Raw on 3/3. He thanked the fans for the response knowing that many were probably upset at the way he left the previous June. Rock would come out in the middle of the promo and said it eats him up that he hasn’t beaten Austin at a Wrestlemania. So Rock challenged him to a match at Wrestlemania. Eric Bischoff would throw a wrench in the mix when he said that on the 3/10 Raw Rock would face Booker T in a match and if Rock won he would face Triple H for the World Title at Wrestlemania. Rock decided he didn’t want that chance because beating Austin meant more than winning the title did, so he chose to pick his own opponent for that match instead, so he chose Hurricane, who he had been jawing with in segments over the past couple of weeks. In the segments, Rock was going so far as to hysterically call him Hamburgler as well as arguing over who was the better superhero: Hurricane or Scorpion King. Thanks to Austin’s interference, Hurricane won that match which essentially set the Rock/Austin match up for Wrestlemania. On the 3/24 Raw Austin was banned from the building by Bischoff, allowing Rock to perform his Rock Concert. In one of Raw’s funniest segments ever, Rock would sing songs insulting the Sacramento crowd, including singing a song ripping the hometown Kings for their inability to beat the Lakers in the NBA playoffs the past three seasons. Austin would eventually come in and smash Rock’s guitar that had been signed by Willie Nelson.
Fun Fact III: Steve Austin had been told by his doctors at this point that his neck couldn’t handle the stress and strain of wrestling any longer. So there was no doubt that this would now be his last match. He knew and the Rock seemingly knew, but word of his impending retiring had yet to reach the fans. This made Austin very anxious during Wrestlemania weekend, and for someone who was already a caffeine junkie, he had way too much coffee in Seattle and the night before the event was taken to the hospital with a panic attack. He was fine the next day and wrestled the match, but as is shown on the Mania of Wrestlemania movie, Austin was a nervous wreck heading into this match. While his in ring career was winding down, Austin will still play a vital on air role for the rest of the year. The Mania of Wrestlemania movie is available as part of the Wrestlemania XX DVD set and is well worth watching.
Scott: This may go down as my favorite rivalry of the Attitude Era, and it doesn’t even involve my favorite wrestler. These two guys pretty much carried most of the last five years on their backs. Certainly between 1998 and 2002 Rock and Austin were clearly the most popular superstars in all of wrestling. Their previous two Wrestlemania matches were off the charts for storyline (Wrestlemania XV) and workrate (Wrestlemania XVII). This match was different. There was a feel in finality in the air. Not because this was likely Austin’s last match, not that anyone really knew that, but that with the WWE landscape changing and all these new faces emerging, it almost seemed like Rock and Austin were…I hate to say it…out of place. Gone were the D-Lo Brown, Gangrel, Job Squad mid-cards and DX skits. The WWE was changing to a more mat-based show on Smackdown, and a more serious overtone on Raw. Needless to say the comedy seemed to have gone out of the company for the time being. With that these two complete their Wrestlemania trilogy and its still a well-done match. A little choppy at times, but they definitely knew how to keep the crowd in the palm of their hands for 18 minutes. Hell they wrestled almost 30 minutes two years earlier and the almost 70,000 in Houston couldn’t get enough. Two guys who just know how to tell a story with a crowd that’s off the charts already, and with a show as stacked as this one was with stars, they didn’t get overshadowed. Many matches on this show could have been called the main event. This one could have as well, and then to top it off the strange ending. Rock wins, then he and Austin are talking quietly in the ring. Rock shoos off Earl Hebner to allow for privacy. They continue talking and then Rock leaves. Austin then gets a standing ovation and his music plays. So maybe it was evident that Austin was indeed done in the ring, it sure seemed that way. Regardless, it was another classic match from two of the greatest of all time. Grade: 4
Justin: If there was ever a match to officially bookend the Attitude Era, this may very well be it. The enormous TV ratings, ticket sales and PPV buys were starting to slip and many of the legendary faces of those days were starting to fade away. In my eyes, this show, and this match in particular, really brought a close to that chapter in wrestling history. The Rock heads out first and he had such an awesome superstar presence about him by this point. Not only did he have his wrestling aura, but he also had his newly minted Hollywood star aura as well. As epic as Rock’s entrance was, Austin’s was just flat out ear splitting. The two stars would brawl all around ringside to start and as the match started to unfold, it was clear that the bout was laid out as an homage to their Attitude days. Rock was generating some tremendous heat as he smacked Austin around and taunted him by wearing his vest through most of the match. They would trade finishers and near falls and the crowd was just going crazy. They really built the match nicely and by the end it had a truly epic feel to it. Both men went all out as they knew this was really the end of an era. In fitting fashion, Austin wouldn’t say die and it took three Rock Bottoms to finally give Rock that elusive win. Over the last seven years, we have watched these two men pull the WWF up from its lowest nadir and launch it to the top of the wrestling world. They both went from relative unknowns to worldwide megastars and two of the biggest earners in the history of the sport. Their run officially comes to end here, appropriately in a match against each other. Steve Austin’s body has broken down and he is forced from the ring. The Rock sees the lay of the land and the money awaiting him in Hollywood and decides to walk away at the top of his game. These two great warriors lay down the swords and head into the sunset, but not before delivering one last classic match. Grade: 4
9) Brock Lesnar defeats Kurt Angle to win WWE Championship with an F-5 at 21:04
Fun Fact: On the 3/6 Smackdown, Lesnar won a steel cage match against Paul Heyman to earn a pre-Wrestlemania title shot against Angle. That match occurred the following week. Before the match, Angle switched places with his brother Eric who was hiding under the ring, similar to what Angle did to Undertaker during their title match at the 2000 Survivor Series. Lesnar wrestled Eric, unaware that there was a switch. Lesnar dropped him with an F-5 and went for the pin, but then was taken aback when he realized it wasn’t Kurt he was wrestling. Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas then came down to distract Lesnar. That allowed Eric and Kurt to switch again, allowing the fresher Angle brother to enter the ring. When Lesnar regained his focus, Angle pinned him with a small package. On the 3/20 Smackdown, GM Stephanie McMahon told Angle that if he tried to get himself disqualified or there was any outside interference at Wrestlemania, he’d lose his title.
Fun Fact II: During the weeks leading up to this show, it was revealed that Angle’s neck was seriously deteriorating and would require major surgery. It was unknown if Angle would be able to make the event and drop the title to Brock. Despite the terrible news, Angle was defiant and did not want to miss his opportunity to main event Wrestlemania. Afraid of having one of his top stars seriously injured on the biggest show of the year, rumors were swirling that Vince was looking to switch plans. The most popular rumor was that Angle would drop the belt to Brock in a quick match on Smackdown and Chris Benoit would quickly turn heel and get the Wrestlemania title match. When Lesnar defeated Heyman on the 3/6 Smackdown and earned a title shot for the next week, many people assumed that Vince had won out and Brock was taking the title early. However, when the match went down and Angle retained, it was clear that Angle got his way and would be competing in Seattle. Angle gutted his way through the match and would go for surgery on April 11. He would choose to go with a less conventional surgery that cut his rehab time from one year to three months. He would be off TV until June. For more insight into Angle’s mindset and the severity of his situation, you should check out the aforementioned Mania of Wrestlemania movie.
Fun Fact III: This would be the only time in Kurt Angle’s career that he wrestles the final match at a Wrestlemania.
Scott: Our main event is a unique one as we have a guy who wasn’t even in the big leagues one year earlier. Brock Lesnar debuted the night after Wrestlemania XVIII. Suddenly in one year he’s on top of the wrestling world. Brock Lesnar certainly earned his keep in 2002, defeating Rock and Undertaker to establish himself. Then losing the WWE Title at Survivor Series to Big Show, he needed to change gears and become a fan favorite. He’s been gaining the fans respect with a win at the Royal Rumble and a quest to become champion from the cheating weasel Kurt Angle. The match is great, different from the previous matches here. Not a lot of quick strikes or fast paced action. Angle grounds the early pace and Lesnar sells well as the crowd is trying to stay energized after a long night filled with emotions and action. Angle was due for surgery after this match so he was going to do everything he can to make Lesnar look like a million bucks. Then the moment that will always be remembered at this show. Lesnar hits Angle with the F-5 and should just pin him. Instead he looks at Angle, and then glances at the top rope. Now he used to hit a pretty effective Shooting Star Press in OVW, but he was also a little lighter then and had the flexibility to pull it off. Here he goes to the top rope, and then I think realizes that Angle is too far away. But, when you’re already on the top rope in the main event at Wrestlemania, the fans expect you to do something. So Lesnar’s stuck, and he goes for it anyway. He doesn’t complete the flip and in essence piledrives himself. Angle carries him for another couple minutes, then Lesnar hits the F-5 again and finally wins back his title. Of course he looks like he wanted a teddy bear and his mommy after the match with blood pouring out his nose and a legit concussion. Angle and Lesnar hug and we have a happy ending to Wrestlemania XIX, an absolute gem that wasn’t supposed to be. Grade: 3.5
Justin: As the previous match brought a close to the Attitude Era, this bout officially ushered in the next chapter in WWE history. The main event style would no longer be characterized by a crazy overbooked brawl with dozens of finisher trading and reversals. We were now seeing two legit amateur studs throwing down the gauntlet and putting on a hard hitting, mat based slugfest. We would still get a hint of the old style, courtesy Triple H, but it was clear that there was a shift in philosophy. Kurt Angle proved his toughness, and maybe solidified his stupidity, as he fought through a major neck injury to put on an epic main event with the Next Big Thing. After some basic mat based stuff early on, Angle would take over on offense. Brock had some well timed comeback attempts but Angle would work the back and unleash some nasty suplexes. Those suplexes were surpassed with a crazy flurry of reversals and counters as they battled between the Anklelock and F5. Angle would unleash a great 360 release German that was just awe inspiring. After Angle kicked out of an F5, Brock got desperate and headed to the top rope. As the crowd buzzed, Brock unleashed his legendary shooting star press. Until this point, it had never been seen on WWE TV. Unfortunately, it isn’t always wise to debut a move that big in a match this big, because Brock miscalculated the distance and crashes onto the top of his head in a super scary moment. It was an awesome sight, but it could have been really bad if Brock was seriously injured. As it was, you could tell he was out on his feet. Angle, ever the pro, battles to his feet and improvises a bit until he can get Brock to drop him with another F5 and pick up the win and title. Even in the post match, Brock was starry eyed as he celebrated with the championship. Despite the flub, this was still an incredible match as both men went all out and delivered a classic. It is even more incredible when you factor in how injured Angle was heading in. Brock is back on top of the Smackdown world and would be looked at as the torch bearer and the future of WWE. The book on the Attitude Era has officially been closed and, for better or worse, a new era is now upon us. Grade: 4.5
Scott: Wow. The first two PPVs of 2003 were good, but not great. Of course we’ve been saying that Smackdown has been the wrestling show and Raw has been the character-driven show. Well here in Seattle in front of 54,000, everybody brought their A-game. Every match was wrestled balls to the wall and brought the goods, or attempted to anyway. The undercard was short but entertaining to lead to the quintuple main event. Shawn Michaels returned to the big stage and put on a gem with Chris Jericho. Triple H finally got to be the flagship of a show and he has three boring PPV matches to show for it. Bummer. Austin and Rock close the book on the Attitude Era with a match that will remind fans how great Steve Austin will be remembered on the biggest stage. The other greatest sports entertainer of all time, Hulk Hogan vanquishes his boss in a bloody and extremely entertaining street fight. The next night on Raw a major debut shakes things up on Raw and some other returns over the next couple of weeks adds to the personality of Raw, but it doesn’t do much at all for the workrate. The Brand Split is just under a year old and the lines are drawn in the sand: Raw is the show with older, more entertaining but less talented personalities and Smackdown is the show with not much sizzle but a boatload of steak. However as a stand alone show, Wrestlemania XIX will go down as maybe one of the most underrated PPVs in WWE history. Final Grade: A
Justin: In the pantheon of great Wrestlemanias, this one is often overlooked. I think part of it is that it came at the end of the hot era and in a stretch of mediocre PPVs, so it is often just forgotten by fans and pundits. In reality, it is an excellent show with multiple great matches. Any show that features five three star matches with three of them banging at least four stars has to be considered fantastic. Not to mention that the best match was the main event which is always a plus. Even the lesser rated matches were all solid and there were no real dogs. The biggest disappointment was the Triple H/Booker match, but that was set up to fail anyway and was low enough on the card that it doesn’t really do any damage to the overall show. Not only was it a great show, it was also a pretty important one as it officially transitions the WWE from the Attitude Era to the Modern Era. Steve Austin and the Rock are fading off into the sunset and Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar are established as the new guard. Triple H and Undertaker remain as the links to the glory days gone by, but it was becoming quite clear that the peak days are now gone. While WWE will always be quite profitable from here on out, the creative direction and stocked talent roster will both start to slowly decline. For now, we are given one more spectacular Supershow as a reminder of how great things were during that run. The new goal will be to create a new group of stars to carry the promotion going forward. In my eyes, this is definitely one of the best Wrestlemanias. Final Grade: A
MVP: Brock Lesnar & Kurt Angle
Runner Up: Chris Jericho & Shawn Michaels
Honorary MVP: Steve Austin & Rock
Non MVP: Booker T. & Triple H
Runner Up: Nathan Jones