WWE Wrestle Mania XX 3/14/2004

March 14, 2004
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
Attendance: 19,689
Buy Rate: 1.59
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole and Tazz

Hall of Fame Class of 2004
Bobby Heenan, Harley Race, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Junkyard Dog, Tito Santana, Big John Studd, Sgt. Slaughter, Pete Rose and Jesse Ventura

*** Scott and Justin were in attendance live for this show, as well as the episode of Raw from the week before. In attendance with them were friends Adam, Marc and Jim. We will add some live thoughts throughout the show. The build and anticipation were through the roof as the hours wore on. The arena was packed and jacked up for the twentieth edition of Wrestlemania. ***

Pay Per View

1) John Cena defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) to win WWE Unites States Championship with the FU at 9:13

Fun Fact: On 2/19, John Cena challenged Big Show for his US title and the match was quickly signed for this show. The two would have some verbal and physical confrontations in the weeks leading to the show. Cena would get the last laugh when he jumped Show and knocked him to the floor on the 3/11 Smackdown.

Even before this match started, the crowd was absolutely electric, which is clearly because both Justin and I were there, har har. Seriously, MSG was off the hook right from the get-go when the Harlem Boys Choir sang “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem. I think this was a good choice for an opener, as Cena was hot right now and it was pretty clear he was going to win here. Cena has made a great transformation since 2002 and this was his real coming out party. I definitely liked his in-ring work more here than now as he seems to have been dummied down in terms of workrate. I had always said that about Hulk Hogan during his 80’s run. If you watched any of Hogan’s matches in Japan he did things we NEVER saw here in the States. In Cena’s early run he added some creative power strikes. Once he really hit the big time, he became punches, kicks and finishers. So I’ll enjoy Cena now against Show, who believe it or not is coming into a Wrestlemania as a champion for the first time. This was put together pretty well, as Show predictably dominated the action early. Show ratchets up a nasty Cobra Clutch at one point, as he was really getting the job done telling a story of dominance and a mismatch. Cena then wins the match the way everyone expected him to do: Just take it. He hits the knucks and the FU and the show gets off to a hot start. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Twenty years after the initial Wrestlemania, we are back in Madison Square Garden for the third time in the show’s history. The crowd was pumped up to start and John Cena gets a big pop for his first Mania match. I was one of those people cheering loudly, decked out in my Cena Old School WWF logo shirt. This was really his coming out party as a major star as he picks up a big title win to open up one of the biggest Wrestlemanias to date. Big Show would control this most of the way, working a simple power match and playing off of Cena’s great selling. Even though he was working hard and moving around fine, Show did not look good here. He was getting quite bloated and just didn’t look healthy out there. Just like at No Way Out, Cena hit an impressive FU on Show, but Show kicked out for a great near fall that had the crowd ready to burst. Not getting flustered, Cena outsmarted the ref and Show and used his brass knucks to drill Show in the face. Cena then hit another FU and picked up his first WWF singles gold. The crowd pop was great here and Cena’s incredulous celebration was a great moment. The match was solid enough and never really slowed down with both men working hard. Wrestlemania is off to a hot start but we have a long way to go. Grade: 2

2) Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) & Booker T. (Booker Huffman) defeat Mark Jindrak & Garrison Cade (Lance Cade), the Dudley Boys and La Resistance to retain World Tag Team Titles in a Fatal Four Way match when Van Dam pinned Rob Conway with a Five Star Frog Splash at 7:55

Fun Fact: Booker T. & Rob Van Dam won the World Tag Team Championships when they defeated Ric Flair & Batista on the 2/16 Raw. On 3/8, Booker and RVD teamed with the Dudley Boys to take on Jindrak, O’Haire and La Resistance. The match would have a surprising finish with Rob Conway picking up the win on Booker.

Fun Fact II:
La Resistance has been comprised of Rob Conway and Rene Dupree since October 2003, which is when Sylvan Grenier went down with a back injury. Grenier would return the next night on Raw.

A pretty decent filler match to get some guys a payday. Booker T was gone for a big chunk of 2003 with an injury and RVD seemed to be forgotten after his Unforgiven 2002 loss to Triple H. Here they come in the champions and leave the champions. The Dudleys were getting very stale; although I feel Justin and I say that with every review. I was never a La Res fan, although Rob Conway was a huge upgrade from Sylvan Grenier. Cade is one of Shawn Michaels’ San Antonio protégés, and his teaming with Jindrak was simply to fill the match out. I thought originally that the Dudleys were going to win the straps, but alas RVD & the Book retain. Grade: 2

Justin: In a throwback to one of the early Wrestlemanias, this is a match held just to get a bunch of guys a nice Mania payday. Booker and RVD surprised Evolution to take the titles back in February and have had a nice run since. They were starting to gel nicely too as they show some good teamwork to start this match. The crowd tapered off a bit here, popping for RVD & Booker but sitting pretty quietly for the rest of the teams, including the stale Dudleys. As the match wore on, it got progressively sloppier and all eight guys just never got in synch. One thing that annoyed me here was that the match slowed way down and had a few long restholds. That should never happen when you have eight guys out there. The match should have had non-stop action and movement but instead it ground to a halt and really took the wind out of the crowd. The finish was good and woke things up a bit as Booker & RVD keep their gold. I will say that Booker worked the hardest here and looked, despite the precipitous drop from last year’s Mania. The match was pretty random and it would have been better if we got a straight up formula tag match. While RVD & Booker hang on to their titles, the most stale team in the match, the Dudleys, were set for a much needed attitude change and they would get one in the coming weeks. With this one in the books, business would quickly pick back up. Grade: 1.5

*** Backstage, Jonathan Coachman was on the hunt for the Undertaker, per orders from his boss Eric Bischoff. As he was hunting backstage, he heard some rumbling behind a giant door. As he opened it, a disheveled Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund emerged to a big pop. After some classic Heenan double takes and stammering, Mae Young and Moolah emerged to reveal that the four had been making out in the room. It was a funny little moment that saw Bobby at his best. ***

3) Christian (Jay Reso) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) with a roll up at 14:56

Fun Fact: On the 1/26 Raw, Chris Jericho confronted Eric Bischoff to finally cash in on his Survivor Series favor. Jericho requested a title match with Triple H. Before granted the wish, Bischoff informed Jericho that he made a match featuring Kane facing Trish Stratus for later that night. Bischoff told Jericho he could use his favor to face Hunter or save his friend and Jericho chose the latter. Later that night, Trish thanked Jericho and told him she hoped they could be good friends. Christian then came in and told Jericho to get his head straight because they had a number one contenders match the following week. The next week came and Bischoff tricked Trish into facing Kane. Jericho made the save, but injured his knee in doing so. Christian berated him because their number one contenders match had been switched to a title match and now he was hurt for it. He also got on Trish’s case about coming in between them. Jericho and Christian would lose the match when Flair took advantage of Jericho’s injured knee. The next week, Christian changed his tune and helped Jericho and Trish win a match before telling Trish that they should be able to have a healthy relationship. On 2/16, Jericho was planning on giving a rose to Trish but ended up in the hospital after further hurting his knee against Kane. Christian would later save Trish from an impending Test attack. He then offered to give Trish a ride to the hospital before giving her the rose and walking off with his arm around her waist. The next week, Christian lobbied for a tag title match at Wrestlemania, but Bischoff gave him a match with Trish that night instead. Christian told Trish he did not want to fight and offered to just lie down in the ring for her. Well, when match time came Christian went back on his word, crushed Trish with a clothesline and then forced her to tap out to the Walls of Jericho. On 3/1, Christian came out to gloat and announce that he would be facing Jericho at Wrestlemania. Jericho made a surprise return and charged to the ring, but Christian kicked his knee and snuck away. Finally, the next week, Christian assaulted Jericho backstage and took off in a waiting car. He would return later, though, and cost Jericho a match with Stevie Richards by coming out to Trish’s music and distracting Chris. Finally, after simmering since November, this feud was set to explode.

I liked the storyline leading into this match, as Jericho really showed a good babyface side we hadn’t seen before. It was very different than his 99-01 goofy WCWish side. Christian was playing his usual smarmy role, and for me this feud really showed that Christian could be an upper mid-card/borderline main event contender. None of the creative people ever thought so, but almost all of the fans did. The match is very good as both guys were ready for the big stage and were on top of their game. The crowd, who really never lost a beat all night really helped carry them also. I know I’ll keep mentioning the crowd because Justin and I were there, but really the crowd on this night made this show even more special. One year after his epic battle with Shawn Michaels, Jericho looked like a much more experienced veteran than he ever had been. As much as the Trish interference was needed to continue the storyline, it sort of ruined the ending and takes the match down a notch, but with the grade as high as it was it doesn’t take away from it. I wouldn’t say the swerve was totally unexpected but after Christian beat the hell out of Trish in a match a few weeks before this show I don’t understand the logic of the turn. Maybe it was to eventually turn Trish heel for herself and this was just an easy way to do it. Then Trish whiffing on the first slap to Jericho was bad, and the redo afterwards. Come on Trish, you know the rules. Regardless it was a great match. Grade: 3.5

Justin: After spending over two years as a heel, Chris Jericho is a beloved face once again and he gets a warm reaction from the NYC fans. This was a very in depth storyline that had a few twists and turns along the way. As we headed into the show, Jericho had seemingly finally won Trish over, but lost his conniving friends along the way. The match had a basic start but kept a nice pace and both men broke out some good, hard hitting bumps. They really did a good job with this angle because you could feel the tension between the two men as the match wore on. The battle over the Walls was a good one and the highlight spot was a sick Impaler by Christian. The match built nicely to the finish, which saw a well-done swerve and heel turn by Trish. It was rumored that she was going heel, but it seemed unlikely because nobody knew if she could pull it off. Well, she proved us wrong immediately because as soon as she smacked Jericho and made out with Christian, she had that heel sneer down beautifully. Jericho had been deceived by his best pal and his girl, and Christian picks up the biggest singles win of his young career. The whole angle was very well done, the match as solid and well booked and the payoff was fitting for the depth of the feud. Grade: 3

4) Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair (Richard Fleihr) defeat Mick Foley & Rock (Dwayne Johnson) when Orton pins Foley with an RKO at 17:09

Fun Fact: On 1/26, Mick Foley returned to Raw to confront Randy Orton. He explained that he buried his motivational hatred when he retired and that is why he walked out back in December. After imploring Orton to spit on him again, Foley snapped, sliced his face open and chased Orton and the rest of Evolution off. The next week, Foley jumped Orton during a match with Shawn Michaels, running him off through the crowd. On 2/9, Foley looked for revenge for Orton’s propaganda videos. He revealed photos of Orton’s brief military stint, mocking his failures and calling him a real coward. He then challenged him to a Wrestlemania match. Orton appeared on the Tron and baited Foley into the catering area for a confrontation. As Foley made his way back, Evolution jumped him and beat him down. Batista put Foley through a table with a powerbomb and Orton kicked him in the face. Later in the night, Orton put a limping Foley down again with an RKO. We got more of the same on 2/16, as Evolution again assaulted Foley and crushed him with a double powerbomb. On 3/1, Orton came down to talk to Foley and accepted the Wrestlemania singles match. Foley countered with a handicap match offer because he knew a singles match would result in him getting assaulted by Evolution again. The crowd began to buzz and Orton addressed the recent rumors of who Foley’s partner would be. And those rumors came true as the Rock came charging down the aisle to back up his fried. Foley would hook Orton in the Mandible Claw and then Rock would put him down with a spinebuster and People’s Elbow. Finally, on 3/8, we got a blast from the past as Rock held a special “This is Your Life” tribute to the Foley. The guests Rock brought out included the old woman whose roof Foley famously leaped off of, Foley’s childhood hero Jimmy Snuka, and Foley’s most harsh book critic. At the end of the segment, Evolution came down and took out Rock and Foley to officially set the stage for the Mania match.

Fun Fact II:
During Snuka’s appearance on 3/8, Foley made him promise to be in attendance for their match and Snuka obliged. This led to some rumors that Snuka would either be in Rock and Sock’s corner or possibly even be the third member of the team. There were also other rumors that they may recreate the Wrestlemania I Main Event and have Snuka in one corner and Cowboy Bob Orton in the corner of his son. Alas, none of the scenarios came to pass.

Fun Fact III:
This is the Rock’s final PPV appearance as of February 2010. After this show, he headed back to Hollywood and over the next six years, he would only make a handful of appearances on WWE TV again, including inducting his father and grandfather into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Rock continues to make successful films and has arguably become the most famous and mainstream accepted wrestler in history. His final PPV record is 34-31-2. He was 3-4 at the Rumble, 4-4 at Wrestlemania, 3-2 at Summerslam, 2-2 at King of the Ring, 7-2 at Survivor Series, and 15-17-2 at other events. Rock is a two time World champion, seven time WWF Champion, two time Intercontinental champion, five time World tag team champion, and has one Royal Rumble victory. He was the also sixth man to capture a WWF Triple Crown, following Pedro Morales, Bret Hart, Diesel, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin.

The crowd really went crazy during this match, mostly because The Great One was back for another run with his old tag team partner. The match was great, as even the relatively inexperienced Batista and Randy Orton were completely settled into this match and the electricity was off the charts. Seeing Rock back over the few weeks leading into this show was great, as he brought the old Attitude Era comedy back into Raw. Justin and I were at the Raw in Bridgeport before this show, when Rock returned the favor with the “This Is Your Life” for Foley. It was also cool to see Evolution gel here and Flair really enjoyed being in the ring with Rock. Flair even does the cool “almost” People’s Elbow which got the crowd going. It’s a shame we never saw Rock/Flair on a big stage, and maybe in the future we’ll see Rock and Orton in some form. Perfect ending as Orton stole an RKO and the win. We see Rock one more time in 2004, then not on live TV again until 2008. He’ll be back, we hope. Grade: 3

Justin: Finally, the Rock has returned to Wrestlemania…and he is welcomed to MSG with a massive pop. As of the time we are writing this, this is Rock’s final WWE match and he delivered another gem on his way to Hollywood. Despite being a heel in his last run, Rock didn’t get any Hollywood backlash this time around, and is warmly received as he backs up his buddy Mick Foley. Foley, on the other hand, is still looking for that elusive classic Wrestlemania moment, something that has eluded him all these years. One of the highlights of this match was the classic face offs between Ric Flair and the Rock. You could feel the charisma exploding from the ring as these two finally matched up on the big stage. Mick Foley was in great shape here, probably the best he had been in since 1996. He had made it his goal to shine at Wrestlemania and to help make Orton a star and he was doing a great job of both. And it was a good thing he was in great shape, because this match was just complete non-stop action from bell to bell. Rock and Foley still had that great chemistry and it played nicely off the solid heel teamwork of Evolution. Foley proved that he could still sell like a champion and it led to a really fun heat segment. The best part of the match came late as Flair had Rock laid out in the center of the ring, got a twinkle in his eye and went for the People’s Elbow but Rock thwarted it. It was a really fun moment that got the crowd going. The finish was well done too as Orton escaped a Mandible Claw attempt and dropped Foley with an RKO to end his Wrestlemania dreams. It was really a big win for Orton and was a star making win for him. He would take another step up next month, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. This was an excellent, fun, well-worked match. You could see Batista and Orton learning on the fly as they worked with three legends. It is sad to see Rock go, but he leaves with a bang, turning in another classic Wrestlemania performance. The Foley/Orton feud rolls on but for now the Legend Killer notches another win on his belt. Grade: 4

*** Gene Okerlund comes out and introduces each of the Hall of Fame inductees. Greg Valentine surprisingly gets one of the biggest pops of the group. ***

5) Torrie Wilson & Sable (Rena Lesnar) defeat Stacy Keibler & Jackie Gayda in a Playboy Evening Gown match when Torrie pinned Jackie with a roll up at 2:41

Fun Fact: After Torrie and Sable were chosen for the yearly Playboy cover, Jackie and Stacy began claiming that they were the hotter Divas and that they should have been the cover girls. On the 2/23 Raw, Jackie and Stacy put on a little dance performance for Vince and he granted them a match with Torrie and Stacy for Wrestlemania so they could prove that Hugh Hefner made the wrong choice.

This was a spell after the HOF ceremony to give the crowd a breather. Four hot chicks strip down to nothing and roll around for a few minutes. Grade: 1

Justin: After a pair of hot matches and heavy storylines, it is time to cleanse the palette with some classic Attitude Era T&A. These four girls were all looking pretty damn good here and Torrie and Sable were riding a good wave of popularity based on their Playboy cover. Torrie, Sable and Stacy all agreed to strip before the match but Jackie demurred. That didn’t last long, as the Smackdown chicks ripped her dress off for her as the bell sounded. The match was a basic time killer but was a good little T&A show, I must say. It was kept short enough to ensure it didn’t drag on and the women were hot and naked enough to keep it interesting. Sable and Torrie get the win but their relationship was on borrowed time as Sable would have another change of heart. Grade: 1

*** Backstage, Eddie Guerrero gives Chris Benoit an impassioned motivational speech to put over the importance of the moment and the bond that the two men shared in their parallel journeys. ***

6) Chavo Guerrero, Jr. wins the Cruiserweight Open to retain WWE Cruiserweight Championship

Ultimo Dragon (Asai Yoshihiro) pinned Shannon Moore with an Asai DDT at 1:17
Jamie Noble (James Gibson) defeated Ultimo Dragon by submission with a guillotine choke at 2:15
Jamie Noble defeats Sho Funaki with an inside cradle at 2:23
Jamie Noble defeats Nunzio (James Maritato) by countout at 4:15
Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner) pinned Jamie Noble with the BK Bomb at 6:06
Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) pinned Billy Kidman with a sunset flip powerbomb at 7:26
Rey Mysterio pinned Tajiri with a roll up at 8:36
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. pinned Rey Mysterio with a roll up at 10:27

Fun Fact:
This is Ultimo Dragon’s first and last PPV appearance. Dragon was a lucha legend that spent his early years perfecting his craft in Mexico. In 1996, he joined WCW and received a good push and run as he won multiple championships and was always the cornerstone of the lower mid-card title divisions. In 1998, he suffered an arm injury and the subsequent surgery left him with nerve damage. Many pundits thought his career would in serious danger. He would return to Japan where he began promoting and training, but in 2002 he had follow up surgery that would allow him to resume his active career. At that time, WWE came calling and Dragon inked a deal in 2003. After a good debut, Dragon’s run quickly sputtered out and he became an afterthought, barely appearing on TV until shortly before this show. Rumors at the time claimed that Stephanie McMahon actually wanted to remove his mask because she thought he was too handsome to wear it. He was released shortly after this show and completing his dreams of wrestling at Wrestlemania and in Madison Square Garden. Since leaving WWE, Dragon continued to compete around the world, mainly working in Japan and Canada.

Fun Fact II:
On the 2/26 Smackdown, Rey Mysterio, Jamie Noble, Nunzio and Billy Kidman faced off to determine who would face Chavo Guerrero at Wrestlemania. During the match, we saw that Tajiri and his henchmen were talking to Paul Heyman. A few minutes later, Heyman came out and stopped the match, claiming that there was no Japanese representation in the bout and that could lead to racial discrimination issues. Heyman then announced that any Cruiserweight that wanted a shot at the title should show up at Wrestlemania and enter the Cruiserweight Open, which was the new match he made for the PPV. All of the Cruiserweights would face off in different tag bouts over the next two weeks, building up that anyone had a chance to take the title.

Scott: Just like the two tag matches, this was essentially to get a bunch of guys on the show for a payday. The layout is not terrible but I think they should have just had some kind of battle royal instead. Having a bunch of two minute nothing matches and then having Chavo/Rey at the end defeats the purpose of the Open. If they wanted to highlight Rey/Chavo, they should have had a No Way Out rematch with some form of stipulation. I also want to comment on the awesome promos that were interspersed in this show, from Randy Orton earlier to the Eddie Guerrero/Chris Benoit promo before this match, everybody at this show just seemed to be on their game. Chavo cheats as expected and retains his title. Grade: 1

Justin: In another effort to get everyone on the card, we get this Cruiserweight Open for Chavo’s belt. It was a fast paced match with a series of quick eliminations. Because of that it was hard to really get a flow going and a feel for the match. Noble looked good during his run as his solid push continues. Kidman, who had been MIA on PPV lately, also looks good, especially when he unleashes a nasty shooting star press off the top to the floor. Kidman would then take the bump of the match when Rey crushes him with a top rope sunset flip powerbomb to eliminate him from the match. Rey looked great and was really over with the fans, but Chavo gets an assist from his dad to retain his gold. The match was decent but was too choppy and would have been better suited as a singles match between Rey and Chavo. If they wanted to get the other guys on the card, it could have even been a lumberjack match. Alas, it is what it is and Chavo defies the odds and lives to see another day as champion. Grade: 2.5

7) Goldberg defeats Brock Lesnar with the Jackhammer at 13:48

Fun Fact: This is Brock Lesnar’s final PPV appearance. A week before the show, Lesnar informed WWE that he was done with the travel and lifestyle and that he wanted to give pro football a chance while he was young enough to do so. Many officials weren’t happy with Brock’s decision, as they felt he was given a push he was undeserving of and that he didn’t respect of appreciate what others had done to get him over. Regardless of others’ feelings, Lesnar was gone. After being cut from the Minnesota Vikings after the preseason, Lesnar turned down an offer to play in NFL Europe. Instead, he got back into wrestling, contesting WWE’s no compete clause, claiming it was illegal to prevent him from making a living as a wrestler. WWE’s clause stated that Brock couldn’t compete in wrestling or MMA until 2010. They temporarily settled in 2005 when WWE offered Brock a contract to come back and work for them. Brock considered it but turned the offer down. The lawsuit was reinitiated and the two sides settled out of court in 2006 and Brock was free to work anywhere he wished. Also in 2006, he married Rena Mero, also known as Sable. After spending time competing in New Japan, Brock decided to give MMA a shot. He competed for K-1 before inking a deal with UFC in 2008. Brock quickly rose through the ranks and became one of the most prolific stars in MMA when he captured the Heavyweight title. In 2009, Lesnar contracted a possible life and career threatening illness, but as of the February 2010, it was announced that was cleared to resume competing in MMA. Lesnar’s final WWE PPV record was 13-7-1. As of the time left the company, he was the youngest WWE Champion in history.

Fun Fact II:
This is also Goldberg’s final WWE PPV appearance. It was known a few weeks before the show that Goldberg’s contract was up after Wrestlemania and that he had decided to leave the company. Since leaving WWE, Goldberg has mainly focused on his acting career. He dabbled briefly in MMA and was rumored to be discussing a contract with TNA in 2007, but nothing came of it. As of early 2010, he was in discussions with TNA once again. His final WWE PPV record is 5-3. He was only pinned on PPV twice, both times coming at the hands of Triple H.

Fun Fact III:
The feud between these two had been simmering for some time. Lesnar had caused Goldberg to be eliminated from the Royal Rumble and Goldberg returned the favor by assisting Eddie Guerrero in defeating Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. On the 2/23 Raw, Mr. McMahon announced that Brock and Goldberg would be wrestling in an inter-promotional match at Wrestlemania. Sheriff Austin then came down and requested to be the special referee. Vince hesitated and then agreed, only if Austin refereed his match with Eric Bischoff that was happening that night. Austin agreed and refereed the brief brawl that ended in a no contest. As Vince and Eric ran backstage, Austin was left alone in the ring. Lesnar then hopped into the ring and dropped Austin with an F5. It was the first major bump Austin had taken since his final match the year before. That week on Smackdown, Lesnar revealed that he begged Vince for the match because he blamed Goldberg for the loss to Guerrero. Also, he took out Austin because he blames him for giving Goldberg the No Way Out ticket. On 3/1 we saw a clip of Austin’s ATV being lifted onto a truck and driven off. That week on Smackdown, Lesnar drove down to the ring on it and mocked Austin by drinking beer after he defeated Hardcore Holly. On 3/8, Austin vowed to show up on Smackdown to get his ATV back, but still vowed to call the Mania match down the middle. It was during this week that Lesnar gave his notice that he was leaving after Mania. It had been clear to this point that the feud had been skewed towards Austin and Lesnar, with Goldberg not even appearing on TV in the final few weeks before the show. On the 3/11 Smackdown, Paul Heyman told the Smackdown locker room to stick together and take care of Austin if he shows up. At the end of the show, Heyman led the majority of the Smackdown locker room out to line the aisle. Lesnar rode to the ring on the ATV and Heyman called out Austin. When Austin emerged, the Smackdown roster parted the Red Sea and let Austin walk right to the ring as an enraged Heyman freaked out. The two would fight around ringside, teasing finishers, but in the end Lesnar bailed and Austin celebrated with some beer.

The “You Sold Out” chants started pretty quickly from the Garden crowd. It was common knowledge that both guys were leaving WWE. The crowd then went to the “Na na na na” chant as they pretty much crapped on this from the get-go. The writers were smart to make Austin the special referee because both guys would have been clearly unnerved by the crowd if they weren’t already. Then they spend the first four minutes either staring at each other or doing long collar-elbow tie-ups. The crowd moves on to the “This match sucks” chant and who could blame us…I mean them? These guys can’t complain about anything since they brought this atrocity of a match upon themselves. Austin for a moment was smiling while the MSG crowd was chanting his name. During this match, in the section next to ours, two guys were dressed as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. They were posturing in the aisle, and became much more entertaining than this match was. We then head to a long armbar-type hold that Lesnar uses that the crowd pretty much exits with. Lesnar must be thinking “It’s been so long since I beat Undertaker in that Hell in the Cell match.” Lesnar was set to leave, not liking the “travel schedule”. Many thought that Lesnar wasn’t ready to give back some jobs he got during his reign of success. As for Goldberg, I always thought he could have stuck around and maybe the crowd wouldn’t have crapped on him quickly here. With a void on Smackdown thanks to Benoit’s defection, I think he could have been very helpful with a roster that needed a boost. Eh, just thinking out loud. Goldberg wins, Austin stuns both of them and we move on. Grade: 1

Justin: And now we enter Bizarro World. When this feud first started simmering in early 2004, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding it. Brock was on a roll as a hot heel and Goldberg was finally starting to get the face pops they had hoped he would elicit. Unfortunately, despite a really good build, once the match rolled around, the shit had hit the fan. Word came out in February that Goldberg was on his way out. So, it seemed likely that Lesnar would go over and grab a big Wrestlemania win. They even started to turn the feud into Lesnar/Austin as Goldberg faded from TV leading into the show. Just as things were settling down, Lesnar dropped a bombshell the week of the show and told Vince he was leaving. Now, Vince had a marquee match on the biggest card in WWE history and the two combatants were leaving right after. Even worse, the show was in the smart wrestling fan capital of the world and most of the fans in the arena knew the deal before the match started, including my group of friends. As soon as the bell rang, this got ugly and it was one of the most surreal experiences I have witnessed at a wrestling show. Steve Austin got the biggest pop of the match and even though the bout did have a big match feel to it, the crowd just wasn’t buying it. The immediately began tormenting Lesnar, singing songs and telling him that he had sold out. Both men were clearly rattled and JR even had to acknowledge the rumors of Lesnar’s departure. All Austin could do was smirk as the match fell apart. They didn’t help things because they clearly decided to sandbag it and had a long stalling and back and forth lockup segment. Goldberg would get a pop here and there for any impressive power moves, mainly because Lesnar was the scourge of the fans. At one point, the crowd actually erupts and starts cheering…but it had nothing to do with the match. In a section near us, two guys dressed like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage starting staging a match in the stands and the fans were chanting for them. The finish was decent enough but the crowd completely died off while Goldberg celebrated. Lesnar would wake up and get in Austin’s face, flipping off the fans that were booing him as well. Austin would take out both men with stunners and be left standing tall. What looked to be an exciting battle between two monsters ended up being a boring mess of a letdown. The only reason this match gets any grade is due to the perverse crowd reactions, the few minutes of solid action and my live experience of the whole mess. Grade: 1.5

*** Vince McMahon makes his only appearance of the night. He gives a brief and well done thank you speech to the fans for making Wrestlemania happen. ***

8) Rikishi (Solofa Fatu) & Scotty 2 Hotty (Scott Garland) defeat the APA, the World’s Greatest Tag Team and the Basham Brothers to retain WWE Tag Team Titles in a Fatal Four Way when Rikishi pins Danny Basham (Daniel Hollie) with a sit down splash at 6:05

Fun Fact: On 2/26, the APA defeated Rikishi & Scotty in a non-title match. The champions’ slump continued a week later when Danny Basham defeated Scotty in a singles match. On 3/11, they would get back on a roll, defeating the Bashams in a non-title match.

Fun Fact II:
This is Ron Simmons’s final PPV match until 2006 when he wrestles at Survivor Series. A few weeks after this show, the APA would have a falling out that we will detail in our Judgment Day review. Faarooq was kicked to the curb by Bradshaw and ended up leaving the promotion. Simmons had decided to retire due to some nagging injuries. He would remain out of the spotlight until he returned in a backstage and sporadic TV role in 2006. His final record, including that Survivor Series 2006 match, is 15-31-2. He went 0-7 at the Royal Rumble, 1-5 at WrestleMania, 1-0 at Summerslam, 2-3-1 at the Survivor Series, and 13-16-1 at other events.

Fun Fact III:
This is Rikishi’s final PPV appearance. He and Scotty would hold the Tag Team titles until April 20 when they would lose them to the odd combination of Rico and Charlie Haas. Rikishi was released on July 16 after WWE had warned him to lose weight that he couldn’t drop. Since leaving, Rikishi has competed on the Independent scene, had a brief stay in TNA and spent some time overseas. His final PPV record, including his time as Fatu and the Sultan, is 12-26-1. He went 0-10 at the Royal Rumble, 2-2 at WrestleMania, 0-3 at SummerSlam, 2-2 at the Survivor Series, and 8-9-1 at other events.

This match is an exact replica of the Raw tag titles match earlier. It was shorter than the Raw match, but there were better teams here. The Bashams were looking solid since they debuted the previous fall. APA’s swan song was here, as was TWGTT. The champs were put together like Raw’s tag champs, and they retain here. The tag team situation was a little flat right now, particularly on Smackdown since two teams here will be no longer in a short time. I was happy for Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty as they haven’t been doing much together since 2000. Decent match, and the champs keep it. Grade: 1.5

Justin: As we inched towards the biggest matches of the show, the crowd was understandably flat for another heatless tag team four-way. I thought the Bashams actually looked the sharpest here and they really grown to gel as a team in the ring since we saw them debut in mid 2003. TWGTT showed their always-fluid teamwork as well and you could tell they were due for bigger things but had stalled out for the most part. This match had a much better flow than the Raw one from earlier, partly in thanks to a good heat segment on Scotty. Bradshaw looked strong too and little did we know at the time what was awaiting him just weeks later. Rikishi and Scotty steal a win here and continue their uninspired tag run. They looked fine here but they were just so stale and played out. I just didn’t get it. The match was decent, but had no heat and was just sort of there. Grade: 2

*** An Edge promo airs, hinting at his impending return from injury. Jesse Ventura then comes out to interview Donald Trump and hint at running for President in 2008. ***

9) Victoria (Lisa Marie Varon) defeats Molly Holly (Nora Greenwald) to retain WWE Women’s Championship in a Hair vs. Title Match with a backslide at 4:56

Fun Fact: On the final Sunday Night Heat of 2003, Victoria defeated Ivory to earn a title match. On 12/29, Victoria attacked Molly after they teamed for a loss in a six Diva tag, essentially turning her face in the process. The next week on Heat, a Test boot drilled Victoria, taking her out of action. Molly gloated the next night and claimed that she had won the title match with Victoria by forfeit because she was not there. On the 1/25 Heat, Victoria returned and pinned Molly in a non-title match and followed that up by pinning the champ in a tag match the next night on Raw. On 2/23, Victoria defeated Molly, Jazz and Lita to win the Championship. A week later, Molly again fell to Victoria in a tag match. After the loss, Molly jumped her and attempted to rip her hair out before they were broken up. It was then announced that the two Divas would square off at Wrestlemania, with Molly getting one final shot at the belt. However, if she lost, Victoria would get to shave Molly’s head.

First thing I have to ask is: Why does Jack Doan always do the Women’s matches? Anyway, with the barber’s chair on the stage it was clear Molly wasn’t winning here. Victoria was gaining a nice following and slowly but surely became a fan favorite. Molly’s hair was dark and flowing, and then it would be on the floor. Justin and I both remember thinking with the barber’s chair there that we’d get an awesome appearance from Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake to do the “cuttin’ and struttin”. Unfortunately we wouldn’t get that, but we do get a decent women’s title match and one of my favorite divas of all time actually loses the locks. Grade: 2

Justin: After taking a nap during the last match, the crowd picks up a bit for this frisky women’s match with some high stakes. I remember when they were setting up the barber chair and pole; we all thought Brutus Beefcake was making a surprise return before remembering the stip on this match. We were a bit disappointed about that. Molly was looking pretty damn hot here and I was hoping that she wasn’t going to shave her head, but it was pretty evident from the start that this was heading that way. JR got a funny line here when discussing women’s matches throughout Wrestlemania history as he asked Lawler if Leilani Kai was his old girlfriend. Despite a bit of renewed interest, you could tell the crowd was tired here and that they were just waiting for the big matches to come. The match was well worked with some nice back and forth, but the finish was weak and anticlimactic. This feud had been raging for a while, so it would have been nice to see Victoria go over strong instead of getting a flash pin. The after-match antics were well done, as Victoria chased Molly around before knocking her out and shaving her gorgeous locks. It was a shame to see them go, but it was a good payoff to the feud. Champion Victoria turning face definitely helped balance out Trish’s heel turn as the Divas division continued to roll on. Grade: 1.5

10) Eddie Guerrero defeats Kurt Angle to retain WWE Championship with an inside cradle at 21:30

Fun Fact: On the 2/19 Smackdown, Kurt Angle was refereeing a match between Chavo and Eddie Guerrero when he snapped on Eddie and beat him down into a bloody mess. The next week, an angry Eddie called out Angle before storming backstage to find him. In his search, Eddie shoved Paul Heyman, who fell into and injured Dawn Marie. Heyman had Edie escorted from the arena. Later in the night, Angle came to the ring to explain himself. He claimed that he attacked Eddie not only for himself, but also for WWE fans and all of America. He told everyone that Eddie was a former drug addict that taught kids that it is cool to lie, cheat and steal. He wanted America to return to its fundamental morals and character and claimed that Eddie would fall off the wagon soon enough and that we don’t need a drug addict representing WWE as a champion. As Angle was wrapping up his speech, Eddie appeared and attacked him. The scuffle was short lived as Heyman had the police arrest Eddie for attacking a woman backstage. Angle said he would be proud to take Eddie’s belt and restore order. On 3/4, Heyman announced that Angle was not in the arena but would be joining us via satellite. Later that night, Eddie and Heyman had a confrontation about Eddie’s recent actions. After Heyman laid into Eddie’s actions and past addictions, Eddie mentioned that he could beat Heyman with his hands tied behind his back and Heyman held him to that statement, making a match for later in the show. A few minutes into the match, Heyman left the ring and bailed to the back. As Eddie, hands tied behind his back, followed him up the ramp, Kurt Angle appeared from the back. With his eyes locked on Eddie, he slowly wrapped up his fists. The facial expressions and selling from both men was tremendous and you could feel the tension pulsing in the arena. Angle slowly got in the ring and proceeded to hammer on Eddie with a series of closed fists. As Angle taunted Eddie with his title, Eddie spit in his face. Angle responded by smashing Eddie in the face with the belt and standing tall over him to end the show. The next week, Eddie defeated Shelton Benjamin and then had a n intense stare down with Angle to add a final bit of heat to this showdown.

We have a fresh, unique matchup for the first of our two big title matches. Eddie was riding high as WWE Champ, but Angle says that this champion is a former drug flunky who doesn’t deserve to hold a title this high. It was safe to say going in that this was going to be a great match. Angle’s Angle, and Eddie has shown against other technical marvels that he can handle the challenge of someone technically sound. The pace was very deliberate, which could have stunted someone like Eddie, but alas Latino Heat can settle into any situation. Angle dictated the action after Eddie missed a plancha and landed on the guardrail. The last seven minutes of this match was one almost pin attempt after another and Eddie’s reversals on Angle’s possible finishers highlighted this stretch. Now what we’re waiting for in this match is when Eddie’s going to “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” at some point. Angle does get the Anklelock on a few times in the last few minutes. Well we get to the end of the match, where Eddie unties his left foot to relieve the pressure of the anklelock’s effects. Angle goes for it again, but Eddie’s loose boot comes off, Angle is stunned, Eddie cradles him and retains his title. It was a fantastic match between two veteran studs in front of a game Garden crowd. Eddie’s crowning Wrestlemania moment and Angle has egg on his face again. Grade: 4

Justin: And now, with the undercard finished, we move on to our three main event matches. This title match had a tremendous build as Angle turned into a cold blooded, focused heel hell bent on taking Eddie’s championship. Angle claimed to be fighting for morality, wanting to take the title back from the former drug addict that prided himself on lying, cheating and stealing his way to wins. Both men showed great focus and intensity and you could tell they were determined to deliver a match worthy of the great build. Eddie was very over here and his story was well documented. Angle was a natural heel and the crowd settled right back into booing him vociferously after cheering him for the last eight months. Those boos actually tapered off as the match went on though, and the crowd seemed split down the middle, overcome with respect for both men as they began to build a potential classic. The match was a good blend of mat based action and a hard-hitting style with a well-worked heat segment on Eddie. Angle would work the midsection of Eddie, eventually hitting a tremendous top rope overhead throw. Eddie would fight his way back into it and nail a Frog Splash…for a really close near fall that shocked the crowd. It was a great false finish and I thought for sure it was over there. The match just told a great story as Angle took Eddie apart with precision, but Eddie kept hanging on and looking for an opening to steal the win. That chance came during a tense battle over Angle’s Anklelock. In a smart and original finish, Eddie unlaced his boot so it would slip off as Angle grabbed his ankle. A shocked Angle walked right into an Eddie roll up and Eddie stole the win, taking advantage of that slight opening he had been waiting for. It was a strong win for Eddie, outlasting and outsmarting the machine-like Angle. The match as a whole was great stuff and just built so well as it went along, telling a great story in the process. Eddie gets the win and continues to reign atop Smackdown, but soon an unexpected challenger would step up to challenge him for the crown. Grade: 4.5

11) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Kane (Glen Jacobs) with a Tombstone at 6:56

Fun Fact: Paul Bearer makes his return here alongside Undertaker. Bearer had been gone from WWE TV since shortly after Wrestlemania XVI. He would serve in a backstage role for a bit and quietly left WWE as he contract ran out in October 2002. After leaving WWE, he returned to his old Percy Pringle moniker and spent some time in TNA. In late 2003, Jim Ross contacted Bearer about returning, but Paul turned him down due to depression and healthy complications he was experiencing regarding his obesity. Ross told Paul that if he signed to return to WWE, the company would pay for his gastric bypass surgery. Paul agreed and signed a three-year deal and the company followed through on Ross’s promise, paying for Bearer’s surgery. He spent the next few months recovering from surgery, ensuring he was ready to return here.

Fun Fact II:
Justin’s good friend and then Ring of Honor star John Walters was one of Undertaker’s druids.

Fun Fact III:
In January, ominous videos began airing in the arena whenever Kane was around. After Kane had buried his brother alive back in November, it seemed as if Undertaker was returning to his original persona to obtain revenge. On 2/2, as Kane was wrestling, the ring filled with smoke and a video played, sending him fleeing to the back. The next week, Kane had to trigger his pyro three separate times as he couldn’t get it to ignite. When it finally did, the ominous video played again, claiming that the dead would rise again in 34 days, and the arena was drenched in a purple light. A week later, refused to admit that Undertaker was behind the recent videos, repeating that he was dead. As he rambled on, the lights dimmed, thunder and lighting rang out and rain started to pour onto Kane. On 2/23, Mr. McMahon announced that Kane would face Undertaker at Wrestlemania. The next week, Kane promised that there would be no return of his dead brother. As he promised a slaughter at Wrestlemania, the gongs sounded, chanting played and flaming symbols rose from the set. The 3/8 Raw opened with a casket in the ring as lightning and mist filled the arena. Kane walked to the ring and knocked the casket over and when it fell, an urn rolled out of it. Kane tossed the casket to the floor and stated that he would defeat Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Thunder than rang out and the ring began to levitate with Kane in it as Undertaker delivered a message to his brother. During all of this build, Kane had told Undertaker that he was forced to bury him alive because Undertaker had turned his back on his supernatural powers and had become too human. The stage was set and the anticipation was high as four and a half years after last appearing as the Deadman, Undertaker was ready to return to his roots.

This is one of the coolest moments of my life as a wrestling fan when it comes to seeing live shows. It was the return of the real Undertaker, the real Phenom, the Deadman. MSG couldn’t go bonkers, because as always with the Undertaker’s entrance, you’re in awe. It’s just the way it is. Unfortunately as expected with Undertaker/Kane matches, this one was not particularly good. It’s Undertaker’s first Wrestlemania rematch ever, and this match is not as dramatic but essentially the same as their encounter six years earlier in Boston. This one had more punches and kicks and Taker didn’t need three Tombstones to win the match. It took only one Tombstone to take it, and it was also gleefully shorter than at Wrestlemania XIV. The Deadman’s back, and except for the Dutch haircut, we’re glad. Grade: 1.5

Justin: After teasing a return to the Deadman persona a year ago but sticking with the American Badass look instead, the Undertaker delivered an epic return this time around. When Kane helped Mr. McMahon bury his brother back at Survivor Series, all signs pointed to a Wrestlemania war and the return of the Deadman. As an added bonus, Paul Bearer was brought back alongside the Undertaker to add that old school flavor to the character. The entrance was tremendous to witness live and it felt like a great moment, just like I had experienced ten years earlier at the 1994 Royal Rumble. The crowd was digging it big time, busting out a deafening “Un-der-taker” chant. Kane did a great job of selling his fear here as well, as he couldn’t believe his brother was still alive. As he disrobed, we saw that Taker had more of a hybrid look, with a mix of Deadman and Badass personas. As the year went along, his hair would grow out and he would change his wardrobe a bit more. Taker was aggressive out of the gate and Kane showed his desperation as he tried to fight off his brother. Taker pretty much dominated this whole thing, but as it wore on it got progressively sloppier. Kane got some brief offense in, but Taker fought him off and dropped him with the Tombstone. The match was quick and to the point, as Taker was back and still undefeated at Wrestlemania. The match was nothing, but the moment was great. Grade: 1.5

12) Chris Benoit defeats Triple H (Paul Levesque) and Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) to win World Heavyweight Championship in a Triple Threat match when he forces Triple H to submit to the Crossface at 24:07

Fun Fact: On the 1/26 Raw, Shawn Michaels and Triple H were discussing their Rumble match from the night before. As Michaels was asking for a rematch, Sheriff Austin came down and said that Michaels didn’t win the Rumble and only the Rumble winner got choose to fight the Champion at Wrestlemania. It was then that Chris Benoit came out and made it clear that he would be choosing whoever was the World Heavyweight Champion for his Wrestlemania Main Event. The next week, Michaels vowed that he would get his rematch. Both Benoit and Triple H looked strong with easy victories and the show ended with a Michaels/Benoit stare down after Benoit saved Shawn from an Evolution beatdown. On 2/9, Benoit and Triple H were having their contract signing when Michaels came down to interrupt. He went through his history and unfinished business with Hunter, but Benoit told him he wouldn’t finish it at Wrestlemania. Before Benoit could sign the contract, Michaels superkicked him and signed it instead before quickly leaving the ring. Later that night, Eric Bischoff apologized to Benoit and said he would have the lawyers review the contract. He then gave Benoit a match with Michaels for the following week. The 2/16 Raw opened with Triple H telling everyone that the lawyers were not sure who the rightful challenger is. Bischoff mulled over some possibilities, but before anything was decided, Benoit jumped Hunter. Michaels would defeat Benoit with the Superkick after Triple H got involved. Hunter then dropped Michaels with a Pedigree, but Austin came down and announced that the Wrestlemania Main Event would be a triple threat match for Triple H’s title. This caused quite a bit of complaining amongst the smart fan community. They felt that Benoit had earned the right for a singles Main Event and that a one-on-one win over Hunter would mean more than a Triple Threat win. Many fans also began to surmise that Hunter did not want to job to Benoit, so Michaels was added to take the fall. Over the next three weeks, all three men would get into skirmishes, but there was no tipping as to who would be standing with the gold at the end of the night in Madison Square Garden.

The “Let’s Go Benoit” chants started almost immediately, as everyone in the Garden clearly wanted Benoit to take this one. Many were a little nervous seeing Michaels in the match, because maybe HBK and Triple H wanted to take him out and continue their blood feud. Benoit did speed the pace up of the match more than if we saw Michaels and Triple H alone, and that’s fine with me. This match went by a perfect moment-by-moment title match pace. Each pairing went at it for a while, especially Benoit and Triple H, which was a great thing to see since they really never worked in the ring as singles wrestlers, but they have wrestled against each other in tags, remember Triple H’s quad tear in 2001? Michaels, whose love/hate relationship with the Garden was on love after his win at the 2002 Survivor Series, went back to hate as he broke up a couple of Benoit winning scenarios. Triple H had a cool moment when he grabbed Michaels’ hand as HBK was about to tap out to the Crossface. Speaking of the Game, what was with the white Lex Luger boots? Quite odd there. I wish he would have come out with a cool color since he was on that red/purple kick in 2003. Speaking of 2003 I’m sure Triple H is also happy to have had a nice opponent like Benoit instead of slugs like Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash. Benoit ends up getting taken out for a while when Triple H and Michaels double suplexed him on a broadcast table. Benoit would end up returning and slap the Sharpshooter on Triple H and the Garden crowd goes nuts. Michaels breaks it up with a Superkick, and the blood from Triple H and Michaels is all over the ring. Benoit takes Michaels out with a backdrop, then with Benoit’s back turned, Triple H gets up. Everyone in our section went “OH SHIT” because with Backlash the next month in Edmonton, some thought Triple H would retain here and Benoit’s big win would wait a month. However Benoit reverses out of the Pedigree and ratchets up the Crossface. Triple H would fight for what seemed like forever, before finally tapping out and Benoit finally won the brass ring. It finishes with WWE Champ Eddie Guerrero getting in the ring and celebrating with his best friend. Two men who were always told they couldn’t get to the top, the glass ceiling was too thick for them. Here on this night in Madison Square Garden, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit proved to everyone that busting your ass and earning your keep gets you what you deserve. Oh and incidentally, the match was freakin awesome. Grade: 5

Justin: Well, here we are. After years of smashing his head on the glass ceiling, being told he was too small and too bland, Chris Benoit has arrived. He entered the Royal Rumble as the first entrant and went wire to wire. He jumped to Raw and took aim at Triple H. As they seemed destined to collide, Shawn Michaels got involved and the match expanded, worrying many fans that Benoit would have to wait another month to reach his pinnacle. Benoit was the overwhelming favorite here and Hunter had the most heat on him, with Michaels falling in between the two. Hunter is in much better shape here than he had been towards the end of 2003. That allowed him to keep up the pace with two true workhorses that never slowed down. The match got off to a hot start and told a good story with Benoit and Michaels begrudgingly teaming up to take out the Game. Benoit was crisp and vicious as always and all of the spots in this one were just well worked. The crowd was begging for Benoit to win and the bookers knew it as they had many teases of Benoit winning and losing. Michaels did his usual five-alarm blade job and Benoit took advantage, locking Shawn in the Crossface. Michaels hung on but was about to tap to give Benoit his crowning moment. Before he could do so, Triple H reached in and grabbed Shawn’s hand, preventing him from giving up. The former friends would briefly reunite to eliminate Benoit with the double suplex on the table and for a few minutes, it seemed like the Wolverine would be left in the cold. Back in the ring, Hunter would drop Michaels with a Pedigree and all hope was lost…until Benoit barely made a desperate save to keep the dream alive. It was around this time that the crowd really started to get antsy, wondering if they would see history or the same old ending. Then came the epic finish. Triple H stalked Benoit, lining up the Pedigree as the crowd groaned. Things turned as Benoit slipped free and hooked the Crossface. The crowd was ready to explode…but that changed quickly when Hunter refused to tap and then rolled out of the hold. The audible gasp from the crowd was just great stuff and two of the all time greats had us eating out of their hands. Benoit quickly rolled back through and Hunter was trapped. He milked it and then finally tapped. And then it was mayhem. The crowd just lost it in a sea of insanity. It had finally happened and Chris Benoit was on top of the WWE world. And even better, it came in a bloody war and an instant classic in the main event of Wrestlemania XX inside Madison Square Garden. It was an unbelievable finish and moment that was made even more special when his long time friend Eddie Guerrero showed up in the ring to celebrate with him. It was just an epic moment and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember screaming “Tap” at Triple H as he wriggled in Benoit’s iron grip and just losing it when he finally did. It was a tremendous match to cap off a great show and a historic night in the Big Apple. Grade: 5

Final Analysis

Scott: Being inside the Garden that night was the most amazing feeling of my life as a wrestling fan. I was able to kill two birds with one stone: My first Wrestlemania and my first show at Madison Square Garden in one incredible night. Sure there were a few duds in here but when you’re in the building you don’t care about grades or match quality, well not entirely anyway. Undertaker’s return and the big wins for Benoit and Guerrero carry the emotions of this show. Overall seeing guys like John Cena and Randy Orton win their matches shows the company is really looking towards the future and building new stars. Not that Benoit and Guerrero are new or anything, but with them at the top, it opened up spots for new stars to be able to cut their teeth and push things to the next level. Riding the train home that night Justin and I couldn’t get Benoit’s theme song out of our heads. Regardless of what would end up happening, I won’t ever get the vision of Benoit and Guerrero hugging in the ring out of my head. Kudos to Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle for helping put over two guys who deserved it. This was another year and another great Wrestlemania. Final Grade: A-

Justin: This was just an epic show and one of my fondest memories as a wrestling fan. The hype for this show was through the roof and I feel like this is when Wrestlemania really became the mega show it is today. It was always the biggest show of the year, but in 2004 it became a spectacle on an even larger scale. The show expanded in length, the Hall of Fame was added, the hype started really early and the history was really showcased. There isn’t much more to say about this that we haven’t said throughout the review. This felt like a rebirth of the promotion and it really felt like change was coming. I always likened it to 1994, when Bret Hart began his ascension to the top and won the Heavyweight title at Wrestlemania X. This felt like a change in guard, but one question remained…would it stay this way, or would Vince bail on his new direction before the year ended. On a whole, the show is a bit bloated and did drag in spots, but it also features three tremendous matches and a ton of memorable moments sprinkled throughout. The memories of this night are burned deep into my brain and I still get Goosebumps watching that epic main event and storybook ending. Final Grade: A-

MVP: Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero
Runner Up: Triple H, Shawn Michaels & Kurt Angle
Non MVP: Goldberg & Brock Lesnar
Runner Up: Cruiserweight Open

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