I started watching wrestling the year WrestleMania X8
took place, more specifically that November. Since I jumped in at the tail-end of the year, I missed out on a number of events that took place that year, from the start of the brand split
to the Panda bear lawsuit
that changed everything. I also happened to miss out on a match-of-the-century candidate, the infamous Rock-Hogan
match that took place at the Toronto Skydome. And back then, I could have easily assumed that was the only match that happened on the show because it was the only one I’d heard anyone talk about from it. But apparently, WrestleMania X8 demanded the creation of a Nintendo GameCube
game bearing it’s name that I played a ton as a youngster, so certainly the event has to have something going for it aside from that history-making encounter, right? Well, let’s see.
Instead of kicking off with “America The Beautiful” or The Star-Spangled Banner because this show took place in Canada, the show kicked off with the first of two performances from Saliva
and they performed one of that year’s official theme songs, “Superstar”
, which I recently placed on the list of my favorite WrestleMania themes
. Personally, I prefer the studio version over the live version. By the way, this show featured three musical performances; we should remember that next time WWE has us sit through a full concert.
Rob Van Dam vs. William Regal
It’s the man with the educated feet vs. the man with the power of the punch. The difference is that Rob Van Dam does not need any extra assurance to give his kicks maximum impact, as compared to Regal, who relies heavily on the use of the highly illegal brass knuckles. So if RVD wanted to take home the IC Title, he would have to avoid the knucks at all costs. And he did; in a pretty good opener, Van Dam is able to put Regal away and score the victory, kicking off what is still to this day an undefeated WrestleMania streak.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Christian
Before this match, Christian does an interview that I suggest you watch mainly to see Christian’s silly DERP face impression of DDP. In fact, here it is right now:
Even though he previously appeared at WrestleMania as a chauffeur for a pink Cadillac, this was former WCW Champion DDP’s only WrestleManian match; I can’t even add “to date” because he is most definitely retired now as he follows his true calling of motivating people to the best state of their lives, friends included. In 2002, he tried to work his motivating magic on Christian to very little avail; before he was Captain Charisma, Christian moreso fit the nickname of Captain Crybaby as he had a habit of throwing embarrassing tantrums whenever he lost a match.
And that’s exactly what he did on this night as he lost to DDP in a match that I honestly enjoyed the ending sequence of moves to; DDP tries to hit the Diamond Cutter three times and finally nails the Canadian in his home-country. DDP’s only WrestleMania match and he’s victorious; good thing Christian grew out of that crybaby phase, though because that totally did not reek of awesomeness.
The Rock does a backstage interview with The Coach and he actually gets booed during it because he’s going up against a man Canada very much still loved despite playing a villain, Hulk Hogan. And as he does when the two are together, The Rock of course made a fool out of The Coach. Just a tip to the kids: do not start your prayers to the big man upstairs by saying “What Up, G?”
Hardcore Mayhem, Part 1
I didn’t name this “Goldust vs. Maven” despite the fact that it’s what this match was booked as, and the reason why is because the 24/7 rule made sure this affair wasn’t just a two-man tango. Also, that tango would go on all night, so I have no choice but to separate all of these into parts. And despite the gold-tinted weapons Goldust introduced, this part wasn’t exactly setting the Toronto crowd on fire. In fact, Spike Dudley dashing in and pinning Maven for the title was the thing that woke the crowd up. And as I said, this gold rush went on all night; we’ll get back to it.
Drowning Pool Performance
The band most famous for their song “Bodies” performs the music for the video package for the main event; too early in the show and not as good as just playing an actual stand—alone video package. Unless you’re a Drowning Pool fan, you can skip this.
Hardcore Mayhem, Part 2
Looks like we’re getting back to the Hardcore Title picture faster than I thought; and here we have the second WrestleMania in a row where someone attempts vehicular manslaughter with a golf car. This time, it’s Al Snow, who missed Crash Holly and Spike Dudley en route to a wall of boxes. Spike is able to fight off Crash, but was no match for the Hurri-Powers of a certain superhero. The alter-ego of Gregory Helms wins the title and makes a dash. However, he’d learn soon enough that there are no friends or allies in the Hardcore Division.
Kurt Angle vs. Kane
For a match featuring two talented athletes, the highlight of this one for me was the commentary. It was kind of a trip hearing King and JR constantly yelling “head trauma” whenever Kane took a move, but it was hilarious as hell hearing King generally kissing Angle’s ass. The funniest parts were whenever he called everything Angle did “Olympic”. “Olympic kicks”, Olympic leaps”; I’m shocked he didn’t say Angle was pulling down the “Olympic straps”. I’m guessing he figured I’d never stop laughing at it. In the end, Kurt Angle hits the Olympic roll-up and puts his Olympic feet on the ropes to pick up the Olympic victory…OK, I’ll stop now.
Hardcore Mayhem, Part 3
OK, no hardcore action here really. It’s just new Hardcore Champion Hurricane hiding out in The Godfather’s dressing room and watching his “fun-time girls” get undressed. Yes, not even the nudity is hardcore; this may be on PPV, but I still doubt the WWF would get away with full nudity, despite The Kat’s best efforts in the past.
Undertaker vs. Ric Flair
The brawl between Booger Red and the Nature Boy wasn’t as great as the Deadman’s brawl with Flair’s future protege Triple H the year prior, but it was still pretty damn brutal, mainly because both men ended up a bloody mess. I know, not exactly breaking news when it comes to Ric Flair. And the blood was totally necessary because of how personal the feud got; no way Ric Flair would let Undertaker get away with what he did to his family in the buildup. So Flair (with help from the legendary Arn Anderson) did everything in his power to make the Undertaker suffer…except for win, or course.
Edge vs. Booker T
Edge & Booker T fought over a shampoo commercial that never saw the light of day, giving them hands-down the silliest stipulation of the night. Now, Booker T and Edge are up there on my list of all-time favorite wrestlers, but this certainly won’t go on either of their best of DVD’s. In fact, Edge has had two “Best of…” DVDs and this made it on neither set. Not to say that the match was technically bad; it just seemed kind of pointless. But at least it got both men on the show, and once again, The King’s commentary was hilarious.
Hardcore Mayhem, Part 4
So after assuring is that he is in-fact NOT a Hurri-Perv, The Hurricane attempts to escape the Toronto Skydome with the Hardcore Title. His sidekick Mighty Molly shows up and ol’ Helms learns that titles can make people do crazy things. One frying pan to the head later, and Molly The Tangled leaves the area as Hardcore Champion.
Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall
So Steve Austin faced Scott Hall in another nothing match, which is something that should never be used to describe anything with Steve Austin in it. With The Rock having his hands tied with Hollywood Hogan, Austin had to fend off the other two members of the nWo, and the end result was a match that people mainly talk about when they wanna throw Scott Hall’s Stunner sell on a list of the all-time best Stunner sells. “The Bad Guy” got some major air on it. But again, aside from that, nothing much do this match. I guess I see why Austin grew disgruntled with creative at this point.
Billy & Chuck vs. The Hardyz vs. The Dudleyz (w/ Stacy Keibler) vs. The APA
Time for the Tag Team Championship match, and after two years of tag team ladder match flashiness, we’re treated to Four Corner Elimination Match, which is not as entertaining despite the word ‘elimination’ being present. Saliva returns to perform music for the Dudley Boyz entrance, and Josey Scott gets to dance with Stacy Keibler, making male fans everywhere instantly jealous. The APA are eliminated fast, and from there, the Hardyz and Dudleyz carry on with their rivalry. Jeff even has a moment with The Duchess of Dudleyville that would certainly not fly in 2016, not after everyone made such a stink over the Ric Flair/Becky Lynch thing this year. The Hardyz survive and are eventually defeated by Billy & Chuck. You might get a few fun moments out of this, but compared to the previous ladder matches, this was kind of tame.
Hardcore Mayhem, Part 5
So Molly Holy tries to escape the Skydome with the Hardcore Title, but she is unable to after Christian gives her a huge knot on her head (I assume because getting hit with a door is seven levels of painful) and pins her for the title. Will Christian leave with the Hardcore Title? Stay tuned for the final chapter of this. uncontrollable saga!
The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan and The Rock are two people who seem to have become bigger than the wrestling business; they’re crossed over into mainstream America and stayed there. Hogan may be going through an embarrassing ordeal these days, but he’s still one of the all-time wrestling icons. And no matter how big a movie star Dwayne Johnson becomes, we will never forget where he made his name. And in hindsight, it makes this battle all the more spectacular. The crowd was hyped for it and the electricity oozed from the screen.
We’ve all heard time and again that this match is not a mat classic by any stretch of the imagination; John Cena says that going back and watching the match on mute would bring about a wave of vomit a level that Muffy Crosswire would faint at. But that’s the magic of the WWE Universe; their response to a Clash of the Titans situation elevated it to the iconic level it’s tag line advertised. Both men played their roles perfectly and his match is always looked at as one of WrestleMania’s best. It’s also the match that turned Hogan face and got him an unnecessary WWE Title run, but I’m not here to critique the aftermath.
Jazz vs. Trish Stratus vs. Lita
The women’s match is a three-way dance between Hall of Famer Trish and Lita and hopefully eventual Hall of Famer Jazz. This was the first official WrestleMania match for all three ladies, it was Lita’s only WrestleMania match as an official competitor, and Trish returned to her home country to compete. Sadly, how are they supposed to follow Hogan vs. Rock? As talented as they all were and as good as this match is (and yes, it actually is pretty good if you go back and watch it), the crowd didn’t really have much left in their system. They did make noise every once in a while, but it was decibel-breaking like it was for Rock vs. Hogan. Jazz retains the title and the Frenemies would have to live to fight another day. But the fact that it was after a legendary match and before the main event was probably kind of damaging.
Hardcore Mayhem, The Finale
OK, let’s check back in with the Hardcore Title one more time. Ah, it’s in the possession of Christian now. Ah, Christian is high-tailing it out of Toronto. Smart decision that man is making. But wait a minute, what is that behind him? Sneaking up, rolling him up…oh, by God, a wild Maven just attacked! Christian is on his shoulders! 1! 2! 3! Maven has won his title back! And what’s crazier, who stole Christian’s ride out of the arena! Maven is your final Hardcore Champion of the night, and if you didn’t find all of that Hardcore Title pandemonium fun and a light-hearted highlight of the show, I need to buy you a gift card to the “Sense of Humor” store immediately! In fact, relive the whole thing (minus Molly getting her lights knocked out) here
Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
Now we get to the main event that I feel is placed WAY too much on “Worst WrestleMania main events” lists. Personally, I don’t think this match was that bad. Part of people’s beef with it is the buildup, where Chris Jericho
, despite being the champion, seemed more like the Edgar to Stephanie‘s Madame Adelaide
. Despite this, he kept insisting we take him seriously as champion. Meanwhile, Triple H was the #1 Contender and Stephanie’s soon-to-be ex-husband, so the angle was more focused on them than on Jericho. He was kind of a third wheel.
Should we really discredit Jericho for that, though? The reason I think this match shouldnt get as much shit as it does is because both wrestlers in the match do good with what they have. Even Stephanie is kind of used effectively and gets her not-at-all PG comeuppance for being such a meddling troulemaker. Another reason this match gets trashed is because it was placed in the main event slot instead of Rock vs. Hogan. Fair enough, but the match wasn’t too bad from my viewpoint; it just suffered from being overshadowed by a match with more heat.
The Game won, by the way, because of course he did. He had the power of U2
on his side.
So after looking back on this show, I think I’d probably slot this in the middle of my favorite WrestleManias. Not the best, and certainly not the worst. Oh, we’re not even close to the worst yet. I actually have more memories of the Wrestlemania X8 video game than of the event itself, but the event has it’s own charm, mainly in Rock vs. Hogan and the Hardcore Title business. But spoilers: tomorrow, I’m probably gonna bea bit more positive and you can bet there’s a damn good reason why.
Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania XIX.
(All photos owned by WWE.)