To get hyped for WrestleMania, I desperately wanted to post a review of every WrestleMania event in history; a new one up every day of the month. The problem with that is the fact that I have not seen every WrestleMania in full and holding a marathon of every one that I haven’t completely seen – roughly half the lineage – is a daunting, challenging, demanding, time-consuming task given how long each event is. So instead, I decided to take it easier on myself and go through with the daily reviews, but with a twist. Instead, I’ll only focus on the last decade and a half; every WrestleMania from 2001 onward. And lucky for everyone, that means that I get to kick off with a bang; the event that has been largely hailed as WWE’s magnum opus event.
WrestleMania X-Seven is seen by many as the greatest WrestleMania of all-time. Even PWI Magazine named it the single greatest wrestling pay-per-view event of the entire decade back in 2009. So I need to be really careful when discussing this event as saying the wrong thing would be equivalent to yelling blasphemy at the wrestling Gods. And having seen this particular event a number of times over the years, I must say that while this is not my personal favorite WrestleMania, I do see where the praise is coming from. This event did have a ton going for it to earn it’s high praises, but again, not everything was particularly to my liking. But most of it is just nitpicking, so keep an eye out for it throughout this review.
Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
This feud is built off the fact that Chris Jericho was kind of a nuisance to Commissioner Regal. At one point, he even took a leak in the Englishman’s tea, and as a tea lover myself, that just kind of breaks the spirit. That’s not a nitpick, I’m just saying. Anyway, you’re obviously bound to get some good action from these two and that’s exactly what we got. Far from Match of the Night, but there are worse ways to start a pay-per-view; in fact, we’ll see examples of that in later WrestleManias.
Tazz & APA (with Jacqueline) vs. Right to Censor
I honestly can’t tell you why this match took place; I choose to imagine it’s because the Right to Censor were a group who preached the virtues of political correctness (making them activist Twitter before Twitter was a thing) while Tazz and the APA simply weren’t that, especially not those wily beer drinkers Farooq & Bradshaw. But whatever the reason, it wasn’t a long match and it seems kind of pointless to my out-of-context mind, but it was fast-paced enough to not be boring to sit through. And that’s amazing seeing as everyone in the match except for Tazz were a bit on the tall side, so you’d expect it to be slower than wi-fi in a secluded area. And the APA & Tazz won, kicking off a very sad night for the Right to Censor.
Kane vs. Big Show vs. Raven
This had to be one of those matches that was fun to watch on TV, but must have been a bitch to sit through if you were actually in attendance. So much of the match took place backstage rather than in the ring. Granted this wasn’t the first or last time hardcore WrestleMania action spilled backstage, but again, what can the people sitting in the arena be doing while it’s happening? Today, I imagine fans would just check their Twitters and Instagrams to see what people are saying about the show. But back to the match, which was chaotic and caused a ton of property damage; there was even a silly part where Kane rode a gold cart like he was trying to get from one part of the Grease Live set to another and eventually ran over Raven en route to winning the Hardcore Title. So yeah, in addition to arson (among other things), add vehicular manslaughter to Kane’s rap sheet.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Test
Once again, we have a match I have no context of story to understand the point for. Eddie Guerrero, a modern great and one of my all-time favorites, takes on Test, a tall guy who seemed to always wander the midcard and play the role of a horny creep…..looking back, he did play that character quite a bit. Sadly, neither men is with us anymore, both passing away before they even reached the age of 40. And for that, I have a couple of heartfelt R.I.P.’s for them. As for the match, I don’t really know what to say; Test dominated most of it, but Eddie won with help from his Radicalz allies, and this was before the whole “I Lie, I Cheat, I Steal” thing. I guess it’s not too bad, but I doubt it’s one of the reasons people look back on this event so fondly and Eddie would go on to have a couple of much better WrestleMania matches in the years to follow; not Test, though; he never had a WrestleMania match again after this.
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
I think that as far as believably evenly-matched contests go, it’s hard to get more on-point than Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit. Years before Angle went on to become one of TNA Wrestling‘s biggest stars and years before Benoit drew the biggest possible black mark on the pro wrestling world with a proverbial Sharpie, they were the technical masters who loved nothing more than to lock in submissions and take you to Suplex City. Yeah, before Brock Lesnar got the key to that city, Angle and Benoit were co-mayors.
The two rivals and occasional tag team partners put on masterpiece match against each other, which was further praised by WWE themselves in a 2004 special on the all-time greatest WrestleMania matches. Angle wins with a dirty pin because he was a naughty, naughty boy and that kind of felt like a cop-out, but you can bet that if WWE still acknowledged Benoit’s existence, this match might be considered an underrated classic by them.
Chyna vs. Ivory
That sense of evenness would not be present in the next match pitting powerhouse Chyna against loudmouth Ivory. Last week, I posted a countdown of my favorite women’s matches at WrestleMania, and I noticeably left this one match from the list. For the personal story the two were working with, the match was pretty darn short. Chyna was coming back from a neck injury, inflicted in storyline by Ivory, and she wanted revenge. She got that revenge rather quickly. I’m glad Ivory got at least a few shots in, but after that brief offense, it was all Chyna, who made quick work of the Right to Censor villain. I have to give them thumbs up for the story told, but really, there’s a reason I didn’t put it in my list of the Top 10 women’s matches at WrestleMania.
Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon
My personal favorite match on the show is the battle between the two men of the McMahon family, Vince and Shane. There’s so many ingredients at play in the match that it could have easily devolved into something sloppy; you had to keep in mind Linda‘s open-eyed vegetative state, Trish‘s questionably degrading dedication to Vince, Trish’s beef with the Billion-Dollar Princess, Mick Foley donning the referee shirt, and the fact that Shane had recently acquired WCW and got some of his new employees some first class seats. Luckily, all of that (minus the WCW thing) would come into play just find in the match itself. Trish not only got revenge on Vince for the demanding acts he forced her into, but she also gave Stephanie what was coming to her for being a spoiled brat. Mick Foley was an entertaining referee as always, mainly laying his hands on Vince after being physically provoked. And Linda simply standing up and kicking Vince in the family jewels is by far the biggest pop she will ever receive in her life. Oh yeah, and Shane’s victory-bringing Coast-to-Coast is iconic (the Coast-to-Coast in that link is from a random RAW); I kinda hope he hits it on ‘Taker this year. All-in-all, the McMahons usually bring it at WrestleMania and this one worked real well.
Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz
But that’s not the end for the Hardcore. From what I hear, WrestleMania XVI (or WrestleMania 2000, because Y2K) wasn’t seen as a quality overall show, despite the fact that everytime I look at the poster or logo for it, I immediately think “Attitude Era”. Despite this, the Triangle Ladder Match is remembered as the highlight; it was even named by WWE as the 2nd greatest match in WrestleMania history during that 2004 special I mentioned earlier. (I just happen to have that special on DVD, by the way.) So they would have to be really innovative and think outside the box for the sequel. What we got was the off-the-wall chaos that was TLC II. This match was a bit more watchable than their previous one in that it was a bit more condensed, a bit more fast, included cameos from Rhyno, Lita, and Spike Dudley, and features one of the most replayable scenes in Ladder Match History. With God as my witness, Edge broke Hardy in half! Edge and Christian won against, aproving there was more to them than just Five-Second Poses and the art of kazoo-playing. Too bad the Hardyz are too busy in the World Title picture in TNA because we are totally missing out on getting these three teams back together in a segment again; are New Day good enough substitutes?
The Gimmick Battle Royal
Next up is the Gimmick Battle Royal, and I feel like if WWE did this match now, then some fans will probably go in thinking this is an absolute waste of time. A Battle Royal featuring over-the-hill legends, many of whom are bordering on immobile, having a slow, incompetent Battle Royal when there is younger talent in the back who could be using that spot? I mean, how out of touch can WWE possibly be? But yeah, I think fans might have been more forgiving back then because while that might be the reaction to a match like this in 2016, since it took place in 2001, it’s actually looked back upon as a bit of harmless fun. The match was short (the entrances were WAY longer) and they sadly didn’t give Iron Sheik a live mic after he won, but it had to be fun to see those legends again and to hear Heenan and Mean Gene on commentary again that it was worth it. Sure, I wondered what the hell the likes of Jim Cornette, Brother Love, and the Gobbeldy Gooker were doing actually wrestling a match, but this match was absurd beyond explanation; let’s not have nitpicking like that ruin the fun.
Undertaker vs. Triple H
Speaking of gimmicks, let’s talk about the Undertaker; more specifically, let’s talk about his fight against Triple H. That’s basically what this match was: a good, ol’ fashioned fight. Come to think of it, that was the case for most of this event; Benoit and Angle was as technical as things got. Aside from that, they could have just named this show Fight-A-Mania. This one started as a fight and stayed there; early on, it looked like it would be an in-ring affair for the most part, but Hunter and ‘Taker had a surprise in store for us when the referee went down (and stayed down literally forever) and they went into the crowd and fought all the way to a structure. From there, Undertaker choke slammed Triple H to the (cushioned) ground and dropped the elbow on him. Trust me, is as exciting as it sounds. Soon, the sledgehammer came into play and busted the Deadman open, but it didn’t prevent him from giving Triple H one Last Ride and extending his WrestleMania streak. I think when I first watched this match, I was kind of blah on it, but upon rewatching, it’s actually better than I remember.
Steve Austin vs. The Rock
Finally, we come to the main event; it’s Round Two to the greatest in-ring rivalry the business has ever seen. Fresh off his return with a surgically repaired spine, Stone Cold Steve Austin looked to stomp several mud holes in The Rock and take his spot back on top of the WWF mountain. Meanwhile, The Rock wanted to let Austin know that he would not relinquish his crown easily and the two biggest stars of their generation would go on to have a classic battle on the super card.
Here’s the thing: even though this is seen as the best of Austin & Rock’s clashes, I can’t really call it my personal favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an amazing battle for the ages, and both men put up a hell of a fight. In a match where both men switched advantage numerous times and ended up in the proverbial crimson mask, it’s definitely one to watch if you haven’t. Even the video package is worth your time. But I still have my nitpicks about it, like how both men put in such badly don’t sharpshooters on one another and both reached the ropes on the submission. But since the match had a no-DQ stipulation, would a ropebreak matter? You can’t DQ a guy for having the hold on too long, so why bother? Plus, the referee got knocked down, which seems kind of pointless to me when it’s happening in a No DQ match. Also, even though McMahon’s interfering was supposed to signal the Austin heel turn, I just think he was in the ring too early and in the match too long and the shock kinda wore down after a bit.
But again, I’m just nitpicking. The match as it was is looked back upon justly as one of the biggest in WWE history and one hell of a way to close out the single most beloved WrestleMania of all-time, even if Austin’s heel turn didn’t work out as expected. At least we got that funny singing segment out of it though.
Again, this is not my personal favorite WrestleMania, but with people still singing it’s praises even today, it’s left an impression and a legacy for sure. But of course, when something is this regarded by fans, you’d think there was nowhere left to go but down. And while there have been WrestleManias FAR worse than this (we will surely take the wood off of the bottom of the barrel in time), the first few WrestleManias after this would range from serviceable to good. The next year, WWE headed to Toronto, and hopefully we get some good stuff out of it…and keep the bad to a minimum.
Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania X8.