Between February 1st and March 27th I’ll be posting recaps of every WrestleMania event over at thejohnreport.net. I’ll also post some of them here. For recaps of the first 16 WrestleManias, use the links at the bottom of this piece. Enjoy.
WWE WrestleMania XVII (X-Seven)
April 1, 2001
By John Canton (@johnreport)
Best WrestleMania ever. Best Pay-Per-View event ever. Why? Read on.
This writeup is long. Nearly 10,000 words. I’ll make the intro quick. This event was historical for a couple of reasons. It was a dome show at Houston’s Reliant Astrodome and it was also four hours long. From this point on, all the WrestleManias were four hours in length. That means more writing for me! They were mostly better shows, though, so that’s okay. Also six titles on the line here, which is probably a record if I wanted to look it up. I don’t. I was never a fan of the WrestleMania X-Seven title that they use. I’ll call it WrestleMania 17 like a normal person. Ready? Let’s roll.
We got the video package showcasing past WrestleMania events. They sure loved the clip of Liberace dancing huh? Good stuff with Freddie Blassie welcoming us to the “Showcase of the Immortals.” The “My Way” song by Limp Bizkit started playing as they showed the huge crowd.
The announcers for the show were Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, who had replaced Jerry Lawler. Lawler was gone for most of 2001 along with his wife, The Kat. He came back later in the year. Heyman said it was his first time being at a WrestleMania, so he was very excited. I loved the chemistry between Ross and Heyman, who was an old school heel announcer.
The IC Title match was up first. Jericho got a huge face pop. Regal was a heel who was also the commissioner of WWE at this time. They aired a video package of the feud. It was memorable for Jericho pissing in Regal’s tea without William knowing.
Intercontinental Title: Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Jericho used his speed early, hitting a forearm, spinning heel kick and a cross body over the top that almost missed Regal because he went too far. Jericho rolled him back in to hit a back elbow that earned him a two count. Regal fought out of the Walls of Jericho early and threw Jericho left shoulder first into the post. Regal threw him in one more time. The story going into the match was that Jericho had a hurt shoulder. Regal worked over the arm, Jericho came back and missed a Lionsault because Regal got his knees up. Regal took the turnbuckle pad off and then threw Jericho’s left arm into the exposed steel. Jericho hit him with an enziguiri followed by a drop kick. Missile dropkick by Jericho got two. Jericho missed a corner charge and hit the ring post. Regal hit a double underhook suplex off the top for two. Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho. Regal countered it into the Regal Stretch, which focused on Jericho’s left shoulder. Jericho fought out of it and rammed Regal head first into the turnbuckle. Jericho hit a facebuster, then a suplex and a Lionsault finished off Regal at 7:08.
Winner: Chris Jericho
Analysis: **1/2 A solid match that got under ten minutes, yet still had a good amount of psychology and drama. The finish came out of nowhere a little bit. It was rare that Jericho won matches with the Lionsault, but at this show and the previous WrestleMania that’s what happened.
A car pulled up to the arena that ad “WCW 1” on the license plate. It was Shane McMahon walking into the arena.
Backstage, the Acolytes comprised of Bradshaw, Faarooq and Jacqueline were drinking beers and smoking cigars. Bradshaw did a promo to motivate his team by talking about the historical significance of being in Texas. He was from Texas, so it was an inspiring promo.
Bradshaw, Faarooq & Tazz w/Jacqueline vs. Val Venis, Bull Buchanan & The Goodfather w/Steven Richards
Acolytes and Tazz were the faces. RTC was a heel group that drew massive heat by trying to censor things like bad language and violence. It was a takeoff on the Parents Television Council. Bull hit a clothesline on Faarooq, but Faarooq hit a powerslam. RTC worked over Tazz in their corner with each guy getting their shots in. Goodfather hit a leg drop and back elbow. I’m not sure how many gimmicks Goodfather had used in his career, but he probably has the record for most gimmicks in WrestleMania history. He hit the move formerly known as the Ho Train. Tazz escaped an attack to hot tag Bradshaw. He cleaned house, including a fallaway slam on Venis. Double chokeslam on Buchanan by Bradshaw & Faarooq. Bradshaw hit a back suplex off the top on Venis. Buchanan hit a powerbomb on Bradshaw. Goodfather went for another running corner splash, Bradshaw moved out of the way and hit the Clothesline from Hell for the win at 4:15. The crowd popped big for it.
Winners: Bradshaw, Faarooq & Tazz
Analysis: * A basic tag match that was perfect in length. Tazz was a bit sloppy in there, which is probably why he retired soon after this. Nice clean win for the babyfaces. Nothing wrong with it.
Backstage, my fave Trish Stratus was wheeling around Linda McMahon in her wheelchair, which she was in because Vince was drugging her. What a guy. Stephanie McMahon showed up, she didn’t like that Trish was in the picture and told her to crush ice for the party after the show. Then she told her mom that she’d see her out there. I’ll explain the McMahon saga when we get there.
Hardcore Title: Raven vs. Kane vs. Big Show
Raven was a heel, Kane was a face and Big Show didn’t have much of a reaction. Show was in the dog house a bit at this point in his career. Big Show was last to come out, so Kane threw Raven over the top and onto Show. Kane hit a clothesline off the top onto Show on the floor. Raven ran away into the crowd. Hardcore Rules meant falls counted anywhere while weapons were also legal. All three guys walked through the crowd and went back to the staging area. Raven hit Kane in the head with a street sign. Show hit a body slam on Kane on some wooden pallets. Show was more muscular here. The “HHH diet” perhaps? Kane dominated both guys with power moves. Kane choked Raven with a garden hose and then threw Raven through a glass window. Show came back to throw Kane through a door. Then Kane and Show fought eachother so that they broke a wall. It was an area backstage that they used to obviously break for this match. Like a temporary room backstage. They drove golf carts. Kane ran over Raven’s leg. The funniest part was ref Jimmy Korderas on the back of Kane’s golf cart. They ruined a tray of Snapple drinks. JR sounded sad about that. They fought their way back to the staging here as the crowd cheered because that meant they could actually see the action again. Big Show hit a clothesline on Kane. Show wanted to slam Raven off the stage, but Kane hit him with a boot. They went off the stage to some padded area beside the stage. Kane dropped an elbow on Big Show and covered him at 9:18 for the win.
Analysis: ** A solid hardcore match that got around ten minutes. Each guy had their nice moments in control and the fight backstage was fun because it was different than anything else on the card. The title didn’t matter a whole lot at this point in its history. I looked it up and saw that Kane had a reign that lasted two weeks. That was actually considered lengthy for that title. I remember betting my friend that Pete Rose would show up for the fourth year in a row to go after Kane. It didn’t happen. I lost $20. Screw you, Pete!
In the locker room, Kurt Angle was watching tape of Chris Benoit making him tap on the build to the show. Angle was mad about it. Edge & Christian tried to talk to him. I liked their chemistry with Kurt, but in this case it was about Angle being angry due to Benoit forcing him to tap.
They cut to WWF New York, which was their restaurant that wasn’t that successful. Jimmy Snuka was there. After Jonathon Coachman talked to an Australian fan, they showed The Rock arriving in his dressing room. Yes we’re supposed to think that wrestlers showed up to the show after it already started. Crowd popped for that. That’s why they showed it.
European Title: Test vs. Eddie Guerrero w/Perry Saturn
Eddie was the heel while Test was the face with the “test, test, this is a test” theme song. This crowd was so good that even Test got a good pop on his entrance. Test hit a powerbomb early. Eddie kicked out of that and rolled out to the floor. When they went back in the ring, Test hit a snake eyes and then a clothesline for two. Test hit a back elbow off the top rope for two. Test missed a charge, so Eddie took control of the match when Test’s foot was tied up in the top rope. It was tied so well that it took both Eddie and the ref to free it. The crowd sarcastically cheered when Test was free. Eddie worked on the right leg of Test a bit. Eddie slapped on a sleeper to take Test down to his knees. Test came back with a tilt-a-whirl slam. Nice spinning powerbomb by Test for two. Eddie hit a low blow that the ref didn’t see, then he went to the corner and Saturn snuck in to hit a spinning suplex that Heyman reminded us is called the “Moss Covered Three Handed Family Credenza.” Eddie hit a suplex. Test avoided Eddie’s Frog Splash. Test hit a pumphandle powerslam, Saturn was on the apron, so Test knocked him down and Test covered for two. Saturn took a big boot. Then Test hit Eddie with a big boot to the face. Dean Malenko ran down to the ring and pulled Test’s leg out of the ring. Eddie got the Euro Title and hit Test in the head with it for the win at 8:30.
Winner and New European Champion: Eddie Guerrero
Analysis: **1/2 Nice match. They put Eddie in there because he was an elite worker and they wanted to see if he could pull a good match out of a young big guy like Test. I would have liked to see Eddie have a better opponent so he could have had a classic match. He was really on his game here. It would have been nice if they ditched this match and the opener, replacing it with Eddie vs. Jericho for 15 minutes.
Backstage, Michael Cole talked to Mick Foley. Foley was the referee for the Shane vs. Vince match. He said he’d call it right down the middle even though Vince fired as commissioner.
They showed Steve Austin arriving to the building. Crowd went wild at the sight of Austin on the screen.
Kurt Angle made his entrance. He was a heel and was the World Champion from October to February until he lost the title to The Rock at No Way Out. He needed a WrestleMania opponent, so Chris Benoit challenged him and the result was this match. It was time for the show to become great. Pre-match, Angle cut a promo ripping on Texas. Best part was when he said: “Lose the freaking cowboy hats. You’re not seven years old anymore. Please!” Benoit got a good reaction coming out. I was so excited for this match because they were two of my favorites and it was their first PPV singles match.
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
The first few minutes saw some tremendous mat wrestling with each man going for holds and the other countering it. When they broke, the crowd applauded. It happened again. They continued to exchange holds on the mat until Benoit attempted a Crossface and Angle made the ropes. Angle went to the floor out of frustration. Angle decked Benoit with a cheap punch to the head as Heyman said Angle was making this a brawl. Angle whipped Benoit back first into the steel steps. In the ring, Angle hit some suplexes on Benoit. Benoit fought back with chops, but Angle slowed the momentum down with two belly to belly suplexes. Crowd reacted well to everything in the match. Clothesline by Benoit as both guys were down. After a chopfest, Benoit hit a knee to the stomach and then a back elbow for two. Suplex by Benoit. Benoit hit a superplex for two. Rolling German suplexes by Benoit. After the second one, Angle tripped hi up and went for an Ankle Lock. Benoit countered the Ankle Lock into an Ankle Lock of his own. Angle kicked out of it and Benoit put him in the Crippler Crossface, which angle countered into a Crossface of his own. What an amazing technical wrestling sequence this was. Heyman: “I have never in my life seen a greater display of holds and counter holds than I have tonight between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit.” Well said. Angle went for the Ankle Lock again, Benoit kicked him off and Angle hit the ref, which knocked the ref down. Crossface by Benoit. Angle was tapping. Crowd was cheering loudly. No ref. Angle back up and he hit the Angle Slam. Ref recovered to count the pin for a two count. I remember thinking that was it. Angle hit a body slam and then he went up for a Moonsault, but Benoit got his knees up to counter it. Benoit went to the top rope and hit the flying headbutt that earned him a two count. Crowd thought that was it. They were popping for everything. Benoit grabbed a waistlock, Angle hit a low blow that the ref didn’t see because it was a backwards kick. Benoit pinned him after a take over, Angle reversed it, he grabbed the tights and won via pinfall thanks to the tights grab. Match went 14:02.
Winner: Kurt Angle
Analysis: ****1/4 This was like the 2000’s version of Steamboat/Savage at WM3 or Hart/Hart at WM10. It was straight up wrestling save for that little brawl out on the floor. I loved how they told a story from the opening minutes of freestyle wrestling to the point where Angle decked Benoit because he was frustrated. That’s the perfect way to portray a heel. I also enjoyed the parts where Benoit put the Ankle Lock on Angle and Angle put the Crossface on Benoit. The counters were believable and the crowd was reacting positively to everything. The reason this match wasn’t higher rated is because of the ref bump and the finish could have been better executed. The finish was done like that to build to rematches at Backlash and Judgment Day, though, so in hindsight the finish made a bit more sense. If you want to see the best Angle/Benoit match seek out their match at the 2003 Royal Rumble because that was a five star match.
Backstage, Regal was shown walking down the hallway and he made his way to his office where Kamala was standing on his table. Great stuff by Kamala, which was their way of promoting the Gimmick Battle Royal.
They aired clips of WWF superstars supporting the armed forces at Fort Hood, Texas.
Back to the show, Kevin Kelly caught up to Angle. Angle said he didn’t respect Benoit. Chris attacked him from behind and put Kurt in the Crossface, which caused Kurt to tap again. This led to their rematches at the next two PPVs.
We got the video package for the Women’s Title with Ivory of the Right to Censor faction against Chyna. Story is that RTC gave Chyna a piledriver so she had a hurt neck going into the match. The rest of RTC was banned from ringside.
Women’s Title: Ivory vs. Chyna
Ivory attacked her with the title before the match really started and then continued to work on the back of her head. After knocking her down, she mounted her back and punched her in the back of the head. Ivory tried to fight her in the corner, but Chyna caught her foot and attacked Ivory. Clotheslines by Chyna. Back body drop by Chyna. Chyna hit a stiff powerbomb. She covered and then pulled Ivory’s head up at two. Gorilla press by Chyna. She covered for the win at 2:38.
Winner and New Women’s Champion: Chyna
Analysis: DUD Worst match of the night. At least it was kept short, so the fact that it was bad doesn’t really hurt the show. Chyna wrestled her last match in WWE at May’s Judgment Day PPV and then she was out of the company for good. I did not miss her.
Coachman talked to Jeff Bagwell and Moises Alou of the Houston Astros. They cut way back on the celebrities, so that’s all we really got. Fine by me.
Backstage, Vince told Trish to bring Linda down when Shane was immobile. Cole showed up to ask Vince about Shane buying WCW and Vince guaranteed that something shocking would happen later in the night. Foreshadowing much?
We got the video package summarizing the Vince McMahon feud with his son Shane. Long story short was that Vince was treating Linda poorly and cheating on her with Trish, so Shane stood up for his mother. At the same time, WCW was being sold and Vince thought he was the one that was buying it. Then, in one of the most surreal images in wrestling history, Shane McMahon showed up on Nitro. “The name on the contract does say McMahon, however the contract reads Shane McMahon.”
Shane entered first. He had the same “No Chance in Hell” song as Vince. His “Here Comes The Money” song that we would get to know later was one of my favorite wrestling themes ever. Shane wanted to give a shoutout to the stars of WCW that were sitting in a private box up there. Shane introduced Mick Foley as the ref. Vince entered along with Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley.
Street Fight: Vince McMahon w/Stephanie vs. Shane McMahon – Mick Foley as Guest Referee
Vince threw his awful punches early. Shane came back with a clothesline followed by a spear. Stephanie ran in the ring. She slapped Shane in the face. Shane hit a baseball slide on Vince as they fought on the floor. Shane hit him with a street sign and rammed his dad into the steel steps. Shane hit a clothesline off the security wall. Shane hit Vince in the back with a kendo stick repeatedly while Stephanie screamed at ringside and then Shane knocked him down with a punching combo. Shane cleared the Spanish announce table. He hit Vince in the head with the monitor so that Vince was knocked out on the table. Shane went to the top rope for a Flying Elbow, but Vince wasn’t there because Stephanie pulled him off the table. Shane was out apparently. That was the cue for Trish Stratus to wheel out Linda McMahon and bring her out to ringside. Trish tended to Vince and then she slapped Vince in the face to turn on him for humiliating here. Stephanie slapped Trish so Trish attacked her and they went into the ring. Huge reaction from the crowd. This was pre-boob job Stephanie by the way. Those would be a part of her arsenal a few months after this. Foley pulled Stephanie off Trish. Stephanie slapped Foley in the face. Trish chased her up the aisle where their fight continued. They ran to the back so they were out of the picture. That was a fun sequence. At ringside, Foley prevented Vince from approaching Linda. Foley wheeled Linda away, so Vince hit Foley in the back with a chair and then a hard chair shot to the face. Vince wheeled Linda to the side of the ring and put her in the ring while crowd chanted “Asshole” as they liked to do. Vince put a chair in the corner of the ring and he put Linda on it. In the ring, Vince hit Shane in the head with a garbage can. He hit Shane in the back repeatedly with the garbage can. After Vince said “third time’s a charm” Linda got out of her chair. It seemed like everybody in the arena stood up too! What a reaction for a woman getting up out of her chair. That’s how you know a story was being told well. Vince had the garbage can over his head, Linda walked up to him and kicked him in the nuts. JR: “Right into the McMahon family jewels!” Great call. Foley went into the ring and decked Vince with fists followed by the running knee in the corner. The crowd popped huge for that too. Shane put a garbage can in front of Vince’s face and then he climbed the far turnbuckle. Dropkick from one corner to the other also known as the Van Terminator by Rob Van Dam. The Shane-O-Macinator? He covered for the win at 14:12.
Winner: Shane McMahon
After the match, Shane hugged Linda. That drew a big reaction. Vote Linda! She’s such a superstar. Not really. They showed the WCW wrestlers in the private box applauding their new storyline boss. Shane left, happy with his work.
Analysis: ***1/4 Excellent work by everybody involved in this match. It had so much heat and the crowd responded to it perfectly. The booking was beautiful with Shane annihilating his father before the awesome bump off the top rope onto the Spanish announce table that led to Vince controlling the match. Following that came Trish turning on Vince, a catfight between Trish & Stephanie, Vince’s attack on Foley, Vince putting Linda in the ring for the conclusion with Linda getting her revenge, Foley getting his revenge for Vince firing him as commish and Shane finishing it off in memorable fashion. Even though you could see it coming a mile away the kick to the groin that Linda did to Vince was awesome. I never thought Linda McMahon could generate such a pop, but they did it. From a pure wrestling standpoint it wasn’t great. As a story, though, it was the culmination of a big angle that ended with the babyfaces on top. Sure, it was overbooked in some ways, but it was great to see the evil heel get his ass kicked in the end.
They showed an interview with Kevin Kelly talking to Matt & Jeff Hardy at Axxess. They basically said they’d put it all on the line and they’d go into the match as if it was their last match.
We saw Undertaker and Triple H getting ready for their match still to come.
Tag title match time. There wasn’t as much of a storyline for this one as there was in the other two. The first match came as a result of the Hardys and E&C wrestling a ladder match while the Dudleys and Hardys wrestled in a tables match. They put those two together and came up with the triangle ladder match at WM16 that also saw the use of tables. The second big ladder match between these teams was the TLC match at Summerslam 2000. That one was the result of E&C beginning to use chairs as weapons, leaving each team with their own weapons of choice. There was a different element to this one, too. Each team had a sidekick. The Hardys were managed by Lita, Rhyno had become an ally of E&C while the Dudleys had their “brother” Spike at their side.
TLC Match for the Tag Team Titles: The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz
Dudleys took control early, then the Hardys get a turn until E&C come in with the ladders to knock everybody out. Double nut stomp on Matt (seeing Edge do that to Matt now after the Lita thing is really mean, eh?), but Matt gets back up and tries to climb the ladder until he gets clotheslined by Edge. Edge goes up, Jeff dropkicks him down and the Dudleys get taken out by double baseball slide dropkicks. Matt & Jeff isolate Christian and hit a leg drop/splash combo off the ladders. Dudleys hit the Whassup Drop on Edge. “D-VON GET THE TABLES!” Huge pop for that spot. It was very over. Dudleys get the tables, then with Edge set up on the table, Bubba powerbombs Jeff on him and through the table. Wow! Great spot. The Dudleys then go to the floor and stack up four tables on the floor with two on the ground and two on top of them. All six guys were in the ring. They all climbed at the same time with the crowd going wild. They all got knocked down with my boy Christian taking the worst of the falls by going straight to the floor. He’s the only one that went all the way down to the floor. There’s your KO spot as we get near the halfway point.
Edge is the first one to climb, but Spike Dudley runs in and takes him out with the Dudley Dog. Then Spike hits Christian with a Dudley Dog outside of the ring through a table on the floor that was such a cool bump. It was so nice of Christian to set up that table moments before that spot. Now it’s Ryhno’s turn to run-in, so he nails the Dudleys and Hardys with gores with Matt taking the worst of it by taking a GORE GORE GORE through a table stacked in the corner. That allowed Edge to climb once again. Lita stopped Edge and JR actually said “jerking Edge off the ladder” which was funny because of Lita cheating on Matt with Edge years later. Just had to point that out. She gave Rhyno a headscissors that dazed him and then Spike hit Rhyno with a chair shot that sent him into the ladder, knocking Edge off leading to Edge being crotched on the top rope. Bubba & D-Von gave Rhyno the Dudleyville Device (same as Legion of Doom’s clothesline off the top with D-Von hitting a clothesline while opponent was on Bubba’s shoulders). Lita went back in and crushed Spike with a stiff chair shot. Lita ripped off her shirt because that’s how she rolls and then she received a 3D from the Dudleys. The crowd was going wild for everything. Edge and Christian decked Bubba with a chair as Jeff Hardy pulled out that 15 foot ladder (or however tall it is) on the floor. We saw Spike and Rhyno on the tables, so Jeff jumped off of the top of the ladder with the Swanton through both tables! Wow. Impressive once again by Jeff Hardy just like the year before when he did a similar spot to Bubba Ray except he topped it this time by going through two tables. Christian and D-Von climbed up, then they hung onto the belts and fell down. Meanwhile, Jeff got back up to walk across the ladders, but he stumbled on the last one. That would have been tough. Jeff climbed up and hung off the titles, unable to pull them down. Then in the spot of the match, Bubba pulled the ladder out from under Jeff, he swung forward and Edge speared him off a high ladder all the way to the floor! WOW! What an insane bump that was. It hurts just looking at that. That resulted in one of the loudest crowd reactions I’ve ever heard, though. The place just went nuts for it. So did JR: “Oh my God Edge from the 20 foot ladder with a spear on Jeff Hardy! For the love of God Jeff Hardy may be broken smack dab in half!” It wasn’t 20 feet high, it was about 12 feet, but that’s okay. Matt and Bubba fought up on top of the big ladder, but Rhyno came back from the dead to shove the ladder and that sent Matt and Bubba onto those stacked tables (remember when the Dudleys set those up?) all the way in the aisle. Wow. In a match full of sick bumps that could have been the sickest bump of the match. It was a race between E&C and D-Von, but Rhyno assisted Christian by putting him on his shoulders and Christian grabbed the titles giving E&C win the match at 15:44. Edge and Christian won all three of the triangle ladder matches.
Winners and New Tag Team Champions: Edge & Christian
Analysis: ***** You want words to describe that? How about sick, painful, disgusting, amazing, athletic, insane and awesome all at the same time? I don’t care that the concept was done before. It’s not easy to partake in one of these matches. Yeah, this was the third one in the series, but they found ways to make it different. The addition of Rhyno, Spike and Lita added something good to the match that wasn’t there before. The spots in this match were once again awesome as all six guys, plus their three friends, busted their asses to put on a great show. As usual, Jeff Hardy took the most insane bumps with the Swanton onto two people as well as the spear he took from Edge while hanging onto the belts. It was one of the sickest bumps I have ever seen and quite frankly I’m surprised he could walk after that one. I’m always shocked by these guys walking away without major injuries, although Edge did end up having major neck surgery a few years later and as we know it forced him to retire early. Christian was impressive when fell all the way to floor when he was pushed off the ladder. Two minutes after that when Spike came down Christian took the Dudley Dog from inside the ring to the floor through a table. Then of course there was the bump by Matt & Bubba off the giant ladder through the stacked tables on the floor. That was just crazy.
The other thing that sticks out is the chemistry these teams had. They had everything planned out so meticulously and perfectly. It worked in every way possible. I liked the ending of this one better than the other two, which makes it the best of the three. I liked it because it was heels acting like heels, cheating to win a match on the biggest stage of them all. I like that a lot. Also of note is the time of the match. Sixteen minutes is the right amount of time. I’m not docking the quality of the match because of interference. They were part of the mach too. Two of them got taken out and the one that didn’t get fully taken out, Rhyno, played a part in the finish because he was a force. It was part of the story. I’ve probably seen this match 10-12 times in my life. As I was writing I knew what spots were coming, but it didn’t get old for me. It never will. It was an amazing performance by six guys who formed three of the best tag teams in the history of the business. They’d end up having a four team TLC on Smackdown in May that was pretty good if you’ve never seen that, but this was the cherry on top in terms of the triangle tag team feud. Paul Heyman said it best when he said they gave us a match that we will never forget.
Moving on, we saw clips of Axxess once again. All of the big names were there. Howard Finkel announced the record attendance in the Astrodome as 67,925 people.
It was Gimmick Battle Royal time. This was silly, but it was a nice way to have some comedy after such a physical match. Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan did announcing for the match. It was each of their first time at a WrestleMania since #9 in 1993 because they were in WCW. Heenan’s best line: “By the time Iron Sheik gets to the ring it will be WrestleMania 38.” Sheik could barely move. As Gooker made his entrance, they showed the clip of the debut that also involved dancing with Gene. Heenan: “And just think Gene of how many eggs you laid since then.”
Gimmick Battle Royal: Luke & Butch Bushwhacker, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, The Goon, Doink The Clown, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael PS Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbly Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love and Sergeant Slaughter
After all these years, The Goon made his WrestleMania debut. What a legend. Not a lot of them got good reactions on their entrance, but my two favorite bad gimmicks in this match were Kamala and Repo Man. I’m not doing play by play here. I’m marveling at Cornette wrestling in a tie and also the Goon wrestling while wearing hockey gloves. I think Hayes just did a DOUBLE NOGGIN KNCOKER~! to the Goon and Brother Love. Gene said he’s never seen a battle royal where people got eliminated so quickly. The final four saw Slaughter eliminate Love, Jim dumped Slaughter and then Sheik eliminated Jim. Sheik won at 3:04. Post match, Slaughter gave Sheik the Cobra Clutch much to the delight of the crowd. That was all for Okerlund and Heenan.
Winner: Iron Sheik
Analysis: DUD It was a comedy segment. The show needed a joke segment following the TLC match and before the matches that were still to come. I’m guessing Sheik won because he was unable to take a bump over the top to the floor.
We got the video package for the Undertaker/Triple H match. Hunter said he’s beaten everybody. Undertaker showed up on his motorcycle since he was in the Big Evil days. They did a story where Undertaker was trying to attack Triple H in the backstage area with various weapons. Stephanie had a restraining order against Undertaker, so Kane went after her for him. Undertaker wanted the match. Hunter also destroyed an Undertaker motorcycle with a sledgehammer and threw it off the stage. The match was set.
Hunter had a big entrance with Motorhead playing his “The Game” theme song. It took about four minutes for Hunter to finish the entrance. Undertaker got a thunderous ovation as Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin'” hit and he drove around the ring in his motorcycle.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H
Undertaker was the face while Hunter was the heel. The story was that Hunter has beat the best in the business, but he’s never beat The Undertaker. Hunter had the best year of any performer in WWE in 2000 and was at the top of his game here. Hunter hit a knee to the face. Undertaker overpowered him with a barrage of clotheslines in the corner followed by a powerslam. Ross mentioned that Undertaker grew up in Houston. So much for being from Death Valley huh? It’s okay. This was in Undertaker’s American Badass days. Undertaker hit a nice leaping clothesline and then yelled out Old School setting up the top rope clothesline. JR said “this is vintage Undertaker” so if you think Michael Cole was the only one to say vintage there ya go. Hunter countered it with an arm drag and hit a neckbreaker for two. Hunter continued on offense, trying to get a pinfall. He shoved ref Mike Chioda, who shoved him back. Undertaker tried to come back, but Hunter hit the Facebuster to put him down. Hunter grabbed his Sledgehammer that was conveniently behind the timekeeper. The ref took it away from him. Hunter went for the Pedigree, Undertaker countered it and gave Hunter the slingshot into the corner, which led to him squashing Chioda in the corner. Chokeslam for Undertaker. Chioda recovered to count. Hunter kicked out at two. Undertaker kicked the ref in the back of the head and dropped an elbow on his head too. That happened at the 7:23 mark of the match. Undertaker threw Hunter out of the ring. He gave Hunter a back drop over the railing and into the crowd. They fought into the crowd.
They made their way into the area where the all the technical equipment was. The crowd was going wild around them. Undertaker put Hunter onto a platform that was about five feet off the ground. Conveniently there was a steel chair there, so Hunter hit him in the back with it and also a shot in the head with it. He followed that up with chair shots all over Undertaker’s body. JR mentioned that the ref hadn’t moved in the ring yet. Oh right there was a ref here. Undertaker picked him up by the neck and threw Hunter off the staging area. It was about a ten foot drop on what appeared to be some type of padding to soften the blow. Undertaker dropped an elbow onto him. The EMTs were trying to help Hunter, but Undertaker shoved them off. Heyman said who gives a damn about the referee being down. Finally they made their way back to the ring. Hunter was hurting. Undertaker looked on the ref that was still face first. The ref bump was at nearly 8 minutes to this point. Undertaker grabbed the sledgehammer. The crowd loved that. He took forever to attack him, so Hunter kicked him in the balls. Undertaker countered a sledge attack with a boot to the face. They got to their feet and exchanged punches in a slug fest. Hunter ran the ropes and went for a Tombstone. Undertaker countered it into one of his own. He hit the Tombstone. He covered. The ref was still down. It’s been nearly 10 minutes now. Undertaker shoved Chioda, so suddenly he was able to wake up slowly. Undertaker signaled for the Last Ride, but as he tried it Hunter picked up the sledgehammer and hit Undertaker in the head with it. I loved that spot. Very well done. Hunter covered and 11 minutes after he got knocked down, ref Chioda counted to two with Undertaker kicking out at the last second. Undertaker was bleeding. Hunter took him to the corner, he attacked him with punches in the corner while standing on the middle rope and Undertaker came back with the Last Ride Powerbomb out of the corner. Big pop for that. Undertaker used that finish a few times over the years. It was fresh here, though. He covered for the win at 18:17. The Undertaker is 9-0 at WrestleMania, which Ross mentioned immediately after the win.
Winner: The Undertaker
Analysis: ***3/4 A very good brawl. I can’t ignore the longest ref bump in wrestling history, though. He was out for 11 minutes. I guess they didn’t want to make it No DQ because there were a few other matches on the card with that stipulation, but having a ref knocked out for that long while two guys fight in the crowd was too unrealistic even for professional wrestling. Technically speaking the ref should have DQ’d Undertaker for attacking him. They should have done a better job explaining it. As for the actual wrestling aspect, I enjoyed it immensely. There were a lot of awesome power wrestling sequences and I liked the nearfalls at the end. Note that Hunter didn’t even hit the Pedigree. They wanted to protect that move, which was fine by me. It’s a shame that Hunter tore his quad in May because he was on such a roll from the beginning of 2000 to here. I liked Undertaker as the American Badass. It humanized him and the crowd loved him just as much as they did when he was the Dead Man.
Jonathon Coachman interviewed a fan. Next.
Oh yeah it’s Rock vs. Austin time. They were shown preparing for the match with Rock walking backstage while Austin was looking in the mirror. Ross was calling him the “Bionic Redneck” around this time. Then we get the video package. Normally I don’t insert video packages into the reviews, but this was arguably the greatest video in company history. It exemplifies what this match was about. Austin was coming back from being out a full year with a neck injury. He returned in the fall of 2000. They weren’t in a story together. Austin won the Rumble and then he had a feud with Triple H that led to a five star match at No Way Out 2001 that you should watch if you’ve never seen it. Rock won the World Title from Kurt Angle at that same PPV. There actually was a storyline with Austin’s real life wife at the time Debra being appointed the manager of Rock by Vince McMahon, but after they realized it wasn’t working that was simply dumped about a week before the match. Then they did this interview with JR in the locker room where Austin had this crazy look in his eye and said: “I need that title.” This set up Rock vs. Austin for the WWF World Title in a match that saw two babyface wrestlers that were at the top of the business meeting on the grandest stage of them all. Here’s the “My Way” video package.
With the video done, the announcers set up the match. Howard Finkel announced that there’d be a no disqualification stipulation for the match. Jim Ross wondered when that was added. That’s a key point. Stone Cold Steve Austin made his entrance. The pop he got was arguably the loudest ovation I’ve ever heard for any wrestler upon entering an arena. There were a number of factors that caused the big ovation because it was in his home state, he was coming back to WrestleMania after a devastating injury and he was the most popular wrestler in the history of the business at the time. Rock made his entrance with the title. Like I said, they were both babyfaces. His response was favorable although Austin’s pop was louder since he was in the home state.
No Disqualification Match for the WWF World Title: The Rock vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
As soon a Rock turned around after posing on the apron, Austin met him with punches. The brawl began. Rock avoided a belt shot and Austin hit a Thesz Press. The crowd was rabid. Holy crap I forgot how loud they really were. Rock came back with a neckbreaker. Rock countered a Stunner and Austin threw him over the top to the floor. Austin was rocking the two knee braces at this time. I was amazed that he could bump on his neck the way he did upon his return. They brawled into the crowd. I’m having Hart/Austin flashbacks. Rock dumped him back over the railing. Austin hit a clothesline on the floor. This crowd was similar to WM3 Hogan vs. Andre because there was constant noise for every single move. Austin hit a superplex that earned him a two count and then Austin took the turnbuckle pad off. Even though he was a babyface, the story of the match was that he was desperate to win. Rock came back with a clothesline and a belly to belly throw for two. Rock clotheslined Austin over the top to the floor. Rock rammed Austin’s head into the ring bell repeatedly. There was a small botch here. Earl Hebner went to pass Rock the blade as he told him to stop attacking Austin, but Earl tripped over the ring steps and dropped it. Rock nonchalantly bent down to pick it up. Then he turned around, Austin hit him in the head with the ring bell and there was the blood. Seven minutes into the match it was such a wild brawl, which Heyman pointed out. Rock didn’t bleed that often and it wasn’t a big cut at least early on. Rock was just lying on top of the table and just from moving on the table it broke. I guess that tells you how light they make those tables. They went back in the ring and Austin decked Rock with a barrage of punches. Austin even choked him. Austin wasn’t working the babyface style, which again played into the idea that he would do anything to win. Neckbreaker for Austin got two. Rock’s cut opened up a bit more thanks to Austin working it over so much. Austin worked on him in the corner, but Rock came back with a huge clothesline to knock the challenger down. Rock rammed Austin face first into the top turnbuckle that was exposed. Rock went outside the ring, grabbed the ring bell and hit Austin in the head with it. Austin was busted open from the exposed steel bump. Nice nearfall for Rock there as the odds evened up since both guys were bleeding now.
The intensity continued with JR yelling at the top of his lungs while Rock was beating up the bloody challenger with a series of punches and elbows. They fought outside the ring again. Austin dropped Rock throat first on the security railing and then gave Rock a slingshot right into the steel post. Rock did an excellent job of taking that bump. Austin grabbed a TV monitor from one of the broken tables. He hit Rock in the head with it. As I wrote earlier, the crowd was loud for all of this, chanting “Austin” at this point. Austin covered him in the ring for two. Rock countered the Stunner, but grabbing the leg and he put Austin in the Sharpshooter. The camera focused on Austin’s bloody face as I had flashbacks of Hart/Austin once again. Austin fought out of it while the crowd reached a fever pitch, screaming at the top of their lungs. The noise in the building was incredible. Wow. Austin made the ropes to break the hold although technically it was no DQ so there wasn’t anything the ref could do. Austin tripped up Rock and put Rock in the Sharpshooter. JR was calling them both a bloody mess. Rock powered out of it, which Austin sold by having a surprised look on his face. Austin put him in the Sharpshooter again. Rock grabbed the ropes, Hebner was telling him about it and Austin gave Hebner the middle finger. Haha that was fantastic. Austin applied the Million Dollar Dream submission as the announcers noted he used that move when he was the Ringmaster, which put over the idea that Austin would do anything to win. Rock countered by climbing the ropes and pushing back, but Austin let go of the hold to save himself from getting pinned. Awesome nearfall there with the counter wrestling to set it up. The beauty there was that was the finish to Austin/Hart at Survivor Series ’96, but Austin didn’t release the hold there and it led to Hart’s win. They had another exchange of moves, Rock reversed an Irish Whip and Rock hit a Stunner! One…two…no. Amazing nearfall there.
JR: “Hey wait a minute. What the hell is this?” That was his reaction as Vince McMahon walked down to the ring. The crowd, which was already loud for everything in the match, chanted “Asshole” at the sight of the Chairman. The announcers wondered what Vince was doing out there. Both guys in the ring struggled to their feet. Austin hit a spinebuster. He was mad when Rock kicked out at two. Rock hit a spinebuster of his own. Rock hit the People’s Elbow. A massive reaction for that. Rock covered and Vince McMahon pulled Rock off of Austin. Heyman: “What the hell did he do that for?” Was he screwing Rock or helping Austin? We didn’t know yet. Rock chased Vince around the ring. Rock ran right into Austin’s arms for a Rock Bottom. Huge reaction to that too. That got two. I loved that each guy hit the finishing move of the other guy. Austin went for the Stunner, Rock shoved him off and Austin bumped into Hebner, sending him into the floor. I’ve always felt that it wasn’t necessary to have a ref bump in a no DQ match, but that’s really only a minor gripe because it made sense for this match as you’ll see in a few moments. Austin hit a low blow. Austin pointed to the Vince and told him to get a chair. This was surreal because Austin and Vince were feuding for three years before this. Austin held up Rock. Vince hit Rock with the chair. Vince threw the ref back in and Rock kicked out. That’s why the ref got knocked down, so Rock could kick out of that pinfall attempt after a delay. Austin started swearing, yelling “Shit! Shit!” to sell the frustration. That was a great little thing that added to the desperation story. Austin was going to hit him with a chair again. Rock hit a Rock Bottom while Vince distracted Hebner to prevent him from counting the pin. Rock destroyed Vince with punches. Austin hit the Stone Cold Stunner on Rock for the one…two…no! Rock kicked out! The crowd was ready to cheer loudly, but Rock kicked out. I thought that was it. McMahon handed Austin the chair. Austin hit Rock in the head with it although Rock got his hand up like he usually did, which was smart. Austin covered for one…two…no! I thought that was it too. Austin hit Rock in the ribs with the chair five times. Then Austin hit Rock in the back with the chair 11 more times. It was a violent attack although no head shots, so that’s good. He covered for the one…two…three. The crowd exploded into cheers even with the heel turn. Match went 28:07.
Winner and New WWF Champion: Steve Austin
Post match, Austin shook hands with Vince McMahon. JR was freaking out about it. Ross: “I don’t believe this. What the hell!?! Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch I don’t believe this! Stone Cold has sold his soul to Satan himself to win the WWF Title. Why Steve? Why this way?” That’s why JR was the best. He put the angle over so much and had so much emotion when he called the action. Austin enjoyed beers together post match. Heyman said that Austin had sold out his fans to win the title. Ross continued to question it saying he thought he knew Austin and that he was his friend that was there when Austin got out of the hospital from neck surgery. Rock stumbled back to his feet. Austin knocked him down with a title shot to the head.
Analysis: ***** Five stars. Best WrestleMania main event ever. I think what’s most impressive about the match to me was it never slowed down. Neither guy stopped. It was full of action with memorable moments happening all the time. There wasn’t a point in the match where you could say it lagged for three minutes. It didn’t lag ever. It continued to flow from the minute the bell rang until the match was over. I thought each guy was phenomenal, which is no surprise when you’re talking about guys that are the caliber of Austin and Rock. I don’t know if Rock was ever better than his performance here. His chemistry with Austin was always amazing. They had several good matches before this, no doubt. It’s just that this one went up another level. His bumping was phenomenal and the heart he showed in kicking out after all the big moves made him a tougher guy in the eyes of the fans. He took a beating, yet he kept on coming.
The work Austin did here was the real story. He was, simply put, a machine. There was nothing flawed in his performance. The crowd was cheering him, but he wrestled as aggressively and as viciously as the best heels of any generation. The facial expressions he used when he couldn’t pin were great. I loved how he sold the Rock’s late kick out by yelling “Shit!” repeatedly because he was frustrated that he couldn’t put him away. You could look in his eyes to see the emotion. That’s what professional wrestling is at its best. It’s one thing to have a great brawl, but to have that plus each performer doing exactly what you’d hope for during the match shows just how great both of them were on this night.
This is one of those matches that will never get old with me no matter how many times I watch it. I’ve probably watched it a dozen times or so, yet it still feels fresh. When it comes to defining moments of the best era in WWE history, this match was it. I don’t think they could have asked for anything better as an example of what the Attitude Era was. Looking back, was it a great move to have Austin turn heel considering how much the crowd loved him? They did pop when he won, but there were boos when he shook Vince’s hand too. He’s said over the years that maybe they should have adlibbed and not done it, but that was the plan that they stuck with. Because of the WCW angle that dominated the company, the turn didn’t turn out as well as it could have. It doesn’t hurt this match, though. The story was that Austin heeled it up (I like that term) by doing what he had to do to win. That meant aligning himself with his enemy Vince McMahon and using a ridiculous amount of chairshots. The match was a classic. If I had to list my favorite matches ever, this would unquestionably be in the top five. It helps that it was an amazing brawl too.
The show ended with replays of the finish followed by Austin leaving with McMahon while Rock was trying to recover in the ring. Ross sold it tremendously by asking for answers and ended it with: “Things will never be the same.” The Austin heel turn would be something new, so it was very interesting to see where things were headed.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– Best professional wrestling PPV in the history of the business. I’m giving this show a 10. It had everything. The main event was a five star brawl, the TLC match was an amazing spectacle featuring six people (or nine) putting their body on the line, the McMahon match was an emotional rollercoaster with the heel getting his ass kicked, the Angle/Benoit match was a technical wrestling masterpiece and Undertaker/Hunter was a very good fight too. What more could you ask for? Phenomenal show. For the people that may say it was hurt because some of the matches weren’t great I’d argue that it’s unlikely that you’d ever get 8 great matches on one show. None of the early matches were that bad. They served their purpose.
– My initial reaction to Austin winning the title with the help of Vince McMahon was positive. I figured that during Austin’s heel run he could have a long program with Rock, which didn’t happen because Rock left soon after to film a movie. Then I thought Hunter could turn face, so Austin could face him. I think that was the plan, but Hunter tore his quad in May and was out for nearly a year. They ended up having Austin feud with guys like Jericho, Benoit and Angle, who were all great talents that I enjoyed, but they weren’t seen at Austin’s level like the other two. Throw in the WCW angle that dominated the show and things were messed up a bit. I still believe the heel turn was the right call even with the crowd reaction. They had other pieces in place to feud with Austin, but sometimes there are elements you just can’t control. Austin went on to have an amazing year in 2001 with a number of high quality matches. You could argue that it was the best year of any WWE performer ever. It was that good.
– The Ross/Heyman commentary team did such a great job of putting over the stories while also putting over the wrestlers. They had the right reaction to every match. It’s a shame the pairing didn’t last longer than nine months because they could have been the best announce team ever if they had a longer run together.
– The Houston crowd was awesome. It’s always been a good wrestling crowd. Throw in the fact that it was the peak of the Attitude Era and they helped make it a memorable show.
– I’ve seen this show many times. Probably more than any other wrestling show in my life. It will never get old with me. I’m sure others reading this will feel the same. WrestleMania X-Seven, even with the stupid title, was the best wrestling show ever.
Best Match: Steve Austin vs. The Rock – I gave it five stars. I also gave the TLC match five stars.
Worst Match: Chyna vs. Ivory – The crowd didn’t care. Obviously Chyna didn’t care either. At least it was only three minutes.
Most Memorable Moment: Steve Austin shaking Vince McMahon’s hand after winning the WWF World Title – There were a lot of moments you could pick on this show. Not many things can top the Austin/McMahon handshake.
1. Steve Austin
2. The Rock
3. Edge & Christian
4. Matt & Jeff Hardy
5. Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley
I cheated. Picked eight people. Had to. Two five star matches on this show. Everybody deserves to be rewarded for that. I hate that I had to leave off Angle, Benoit, Shane, Vince, Hunter and Undertaker, but that’s what happens. That’s 14 people that I just listed that were star worthy. What a show.
Show rating (out of 10): 10
Best PPV ever. The only 10 out of 10 I may ever give a wrestling show. What a performance by everybody involved. I would love to see a show top WrestleMania X-Seven in terms of its quality, but I honestly don’t know if that can ever happen. This event was Vince McMahon’s greatest masterpiece.
Here’s a video package highlighting key moments from WrestleMania 17.
Previous recaps listed in order with main event(s) and ranking out of 10:
WrestleMania 17 – Steve Austin vs. Rock (10/10)
WrestleMania 10 – Owen vs. Bret, Ramon vs. Michaels & Bret vs. Yokozuna (7.5/10)
WrestleMania 14 – Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (7/10)
WrestleMania 8 – Savage vs. Flair & Hogan vs. Sid (7/10)
WrestleMania 3 – Steamboat vs. Savage & Hogan vs. Andre (7/10)
WrestleMania 7 – Warrior vs. Savage & Hogan vs. Slaughter (6.5)
WrestleMania 6 – Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (6/10)
WrestleMania 12 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (5.5/10)
WrestleMania 16/2000 – Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show (5.5/10)
WrestleMania 15 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (5/10)
WrestleMania 11 – Diesel vs. Michaels, Taylor vs. Bigelow (5/10)
WrestleMania 1 – Hogan/Mr T vs. Piper/Orndorff (4.5/10)
WrestleMania 4 – Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase (4.5/10)
WrestleMania 13 – Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin & Undertaker vs. Sid (4/10)
WrestleMania 5 – Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (4/10)
WrestleMania 2 – Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (4/10)
WrestleMania 9 – Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna & Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan (2/10)
You can check out all of my WrestleMania Reviews here too.
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
3. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
4. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
5. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
6. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
7. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
8. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
9. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
10. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
11. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
12. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****
I put Austin/Rock at two and TLC at three. If people want to argue, that’s fine. I’m not going to argue. All of the five star matches are elite and it’s very difficult for me to rank them.
WrestleMania 18 – Friday evening.
WrestleMania 19 – Saturday. I wrote it live in 2003. I will edit and add thoughts.
WrestleMania 20 – Monday
I’ve been writing about wrestling for over a decade. This is one of my five favorite pieces I’ve ever written. Thanks for reading and re-living these memories with me. Please feel free to comment on the show below or feel free to contact me via one of the methods below.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org