FearlessRiOT Retro Review: WWE WrestleMania XIX

Warning: What you are about to read may be loaded with nostalgic favoritism. You see, WrestleMania XIX for me represented a very important first in my life: it was the first wrestling pay-per-view I’d ever ordered live…..OK, I was 11 and a Bugs Bunny sandwich bag full of dimes wouldn’t do the trick, so my mom ordered it, but you get what I’m saying. My point is that you do not forget your first pay-per-view and it tends to stick to you as this one has for me. And I feel like I need to cherish it even more because from what I read, not a lot of people ordered this show; the buyrate wasn’t too hot. Well, too bad for the people who didn’t order because they actually missed quite a lot of thrilling action. I don’t know, maybe they just didn’t wanna put up with Limp Bizkit, which they would have to do. Well, let’s dive right into the show!

08_ASHANTI_RP2003_001RHere’s a little tidbit I don’t know if you were aware of: R&B singer Ashanti (famous for “Foolish”, “The Way That I Love You”, “Rock Wit U”, that song where Ja Rule tried to sing, and John Tucker Must Die) sang “America The Beautiful” at WrestleMania XIX. The reason I assume this would be something not many know about is because her performance wasn’t included on either the DVD version or the WWE Network version of the show. I did find it on DailyMotion, though, in case you want to take a listen. And seeing as I grew up on R&B music and Ashanti was one of the hottest R&B acts of the early-2000s, I certainly didn’t mind her being the one to perform the song. I also would have accepted Kelly Rowland or Alicia Keys as substitutes.

MattRey012Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio
So the night starts out with honest-to-God Cruiserweight Rey Mysterio facing off against suspect Cruiserweight Matt Hardy for the championshio to the Cruiserwright Division, and if you want to get the action to WrestleMania started right, this is the right type of match to do it with. No one wants to see WrestleMania kick off with a snoozefest. Due to the athleticism involved, the heart of Rey (dressed as 2003 Daredevil), and the cheating ways of Matt Hardy and his #1 MFer Shannon Moore, this was far from a snoozefest. The action was fast and enjoyable and even though Rey Mysterio ultimately lost, it gave me great hope for the rest of the show to be good.

920x920The Adventures of the Miller Lite Catfight Girls, Part 1
Yup, I’m doing another one of these. I hope you enjoyed following the Hardcore Mayhem saga yesterday, because the AotMLCG will be handled the same way. Remember these girls? Kitana Baker and Tanya Ballinger? They got famous for having a too-hot-for-TV catfight in a commercial, and had their own WrestleMania ads leading up to the event. In their first segment of the night, they just show up in a limo and argue over which match will be better between Rock/Austin and Hogan/McMahon. I do enjoy the occasional catfight; in fact I’m working on a Tuesday Top 10 for ones featured on TV and in movies right now. But did I need these two to pop up on WrestleMania? No, I didn’t. But of course, WWE needed that celebrity involvement, even if the celebrities were basically flash-in-the-pans who would quickly be forgotten. Oh, speaking of…

Limp Bizkit Performance #1:
Yeah, there’s a “#1” in that subheading because they really got Limp Bizkit to perform twice on this show. The current generation listens to awful bands like 5 Seconds of Summer and I bet they’d give us weird glares for letting this band (or more specifically, Fred Durst) get popular. But for real, I didn’t mind their performances on this night, especially not this first one of “Rollin'”. I was a little confused when Undertaker came out during the performance, but of course, I got into wrestling just months after Undertaker stopped using this as entrance music, so I was without context. So yeah, that performance was actually not pointless in the end. The following match, on the other hand…..

TAKE_A2003_002R_0Undertaker vs. Big Show & A-Train
Is this the worst match of Undertaker’s streak? No; when you have his match with Giant Gonzalez to compare it to, this match looks like Sasha Banks vs. Bayley. But it seems like most people have nothing nice to say about this one. Undertaker beat Big Show and A-Train pretty easily; even when Show and Train were on the offensive, it didn’t seem like they were much of a threat to actually beat the Deadman. Also, ‘Taker’s aborted tag team partner Nathan Jones came out late and hit Big Show with a deadly spin kick en route to Undertaker Tombstone-ing his way to victory. One of Undertaker’s weaker streak bouts, but it’s a harmless hoss match really.

The Adventures of the Miller Lite Catfight Girls, Part 2
We check back in with the sexy duo as they wander around backstage and run into two other gorgeous ladies in long=legged goddess Stacy Keibler and my earliest pro wrestling crush, Torrie Wilson. They slip in a mention to Torrie’s then hot-off-the-presses Playboy issue and even remind us that Stacy was Test’s manager by bringing up her marketing campaign for him. This is incredibly obvious foreshadowing and you’ll find out what it leads to a little later on.

Woman-sTitle033Trish Stratus vs. Jazz vs. Victoria
We go from women being involved in a T&A angle to women involved in some actual wrestling. The Women’s Title was a RAW exclusive then, so only the RAW girls could fight for it and in this case, Trish Stratus and Jazz were the lucky co-#1 contenders to the Stevie Richards-assisted Victoria. I already talked about this match in-depth in my Favorite Women’s Matches at WrestleMania post so y’all already know that I like this match. I think it was a finely wrestled Triple Threat match and it was cool to see underdog Trish Stratus come in and actually overcome the odds by defeating a woman who was crazy strong and another woman who was just crazy in general. Even when Stevie the Cheerleader decided to get involved, Trish too care of him. A good match with a happy outcome. By the way, I just happen to be typing this on the 16th anniversary of Trish’s WWE debut, and all I can say is thanks to her for the legacy she’s left behind.

We head backstage to Jonathan Coachman interviewing The Rock, and it’s a highly unconventional segment seeing as The Rock usually always tormented or humiliated Coach during their segments together. Not on this night; Rocky had to air some grievances. On the fans who booed him and called him a sell out and to what he considers the first two irrelevant acts in the rivalry between him and Stone Cold. Only Act III would matter and The Rock guaran-damn-teed he would close the last chapter of this story on top.

TripleTagTeam003Triple Threat Tag Team Title Match
So this event had two Tag Team Title matches on it, but only one took place on the main show. I’ve read Internet article writers claiming the RAW Tag Team Title match got bumped to the Sunday Night Heat pre-show for the Millet Lite Girls, but video evidence does exist that proves that match was never going on the main show to begin with, so they were technically never bumped. Luckily for Smackdown, their freshly minted titles would make the main show and the match we got was pretty decent. Benoit and Rhyno seemed like a random tag team who only seemed to share animal monikers as a common trait, but even the combined ferocity of a rhinoceroses and a wolverine could not fend off two legitimate teams in Team Angle and Los Guerreros. Rookies Haas and Benjamin won after Rhyno Gore’d Chavo to Hell. And from there, Shelton would become a WrestleMania highlight reel while Charlie…..actually I think Charlie only had one other WrestleMania appearance after this. We’ll see in coming editions where I’m right or not.

The Adventures of the Miller Lite Catfight Girls, Part 3
And we’re back with the Catfight Girls, Stacy, and Torrie, who have managed to book themselves into a match…..kinda. Does a pillow fight on the stage constitute a match? Like, when they argued over whether to settle things either in bed or in the ring, I assumed they’d set up a bed in the ring like they did Torrie vs. Candice a few years later. But nope, the ring wouldn’t even be in the equation. Well, we have one final part to these and y’all only have one match and musical performance to prepare for it. Luckily, the match itself is rather long.

Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jerichohbk2
When this match happened, I actually kinda got bored with it halfway through. Keep in mind I had only been a wrestling fan all of three or four months at this point and this was my first pay-per-view, so I was not at all used to matches that long and drawn-out yet. Kind of hard to do it with only two hours of RAW, two hours of Smackdown, and an hour each of Velocity and Heat a week. But the story kind of afforded it; Chris Jericho idolized Shawn Michaels, and now he gets to wrestle him on the biggest show of the year to prove he could hang. Turns out he could; doesn’t necessarily means he could win (not at that time anyway) but when the young, cocky Ayatollah of Rock & Rollah collided with the Heartbreak Kid, they put on a show-stealing match, complete with flattery by imitation.

Michaels won, but Jericho didn’t want to go out a complete loser, so he kicked Shawn Michaels’ right below the belt after the match. Actually, that makes him seem like even more of a loser; a sore loser if you will. Jericho as a character wasn’t exactly the best at making friends during this time, and here, he made perhaps one of the biggest enemies he could possibly come across.

After this match, we see future Tag Team Champion Sylvan Grenier enter Vince McMahon‘s office to discuss their upcoming attempted screwjob the upcoming match with Hulk Hogan. After that, an advert plays for the eventual debut of Bill Goldberg, which we will wrap up tomorrow in the WrestleMania XX review.

Limp Bizkit Performance #2
And after that, Limp Bizkit performs the WrestleMania XIX theme song, “Crack Addict” this song is not a masterpiece as it is another track where Fred Durst artlessly yells obscenities a lot. But is rough and edgy, I guess, and it’s not really bad musically. Therefore, I didn’t mind this performance either just like I’m sure Limp Bizkit doesn’t mind hearing that at least someone still listens to them in 2016.

231The Adventures of the Miller Lite Catfight Girls, The Finale
We’ve finally reached the end of the road for the Miller Lite Catfight Girls; they come to the bed on stage and get into a knockdown, drag-out fist fight of epic proportions…..naw, that’s not what happened. This isn’t Sleeperkid’s World we’re talking about, although the SKW approach would have been way more interesting. No, they have a boring-ass pillow fight. I think even as a horny preteen boy I didn’t get into this…..at least, not the part with the Catfight Girls. Torrie Wilson, on the other hand, I was all for seeing. Again, early childhood crush. She and Stacy joined in and I was slightly more interested. Then they pulled The Coach’s pants down and I wanted the segment to end. Yeah, this is certainly not the best use of celebrity in WrestleMania history. Guess it could have been worse; they could have let them beat an actual wrestler in a real match like they did with Snooki at that WrestleMania I’m not at all looking forward to reviewing. Had the Catfight Girls beat Molly Holly and Ivory in a a tag team match or something. That would’ve been real rotten. But as is, I guess 11-year old me can let it slide…..adult me prefers women actually wrestling and fighting though; at least Trish, Victoria, and Jazz got to.

Triple H vs. Booker THHHBooker049_VTRIX
Now it’s time for me to address the match with the biggest elephant parked in the room: Booker T vs. Triple H. I’m gonna be direct with my opinion on the outcome to this one: I hated it. At the time, I could not deal with Triple H and I was ready to see him drop the title, and if it was to one of my immediate favorites in Booker T, even better. And the story was tailor made for a Booker T victory; when I was little I didn’t get the subtlety (or lack thereof) of the “Somebody like you” line. I was just a little kid who honestly believed we’d gotten past racism as a nation, so I honestly thought Triple H was just mocking Booker’s status as a non-main eventer rather than his racial background. Oh, the things you eventually learn about and become ‘woke’ to when you grow up.

Even if I didn’t get the hint, I was still rooting for Booker T to win, mainly because he was a favorite of mine. Them writing it as a rags to riches story straight out of the Oscar bait catalog was a bonus. So the fact that Booker lost after Triple H took FOREVER pinning him following a Pedigree still frustrates me to this day. Everyone and their mother knew Booker should have won. But making the matter worse is the fact that the match itself actually wasn’t bad at all. The action itself was fine; the two broke out rare moves like the Indian Death Lock and the Houston Hangover and everything. I feel like if Booker had actually won, this might have been looked back upon as a WrestleMania classic. But that ONE result ruined everything; Booker T became just another casualty of what has been described as the Reign of Terror.

Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon0S_VINM_A2003_021R
So next up, we have a match that’s kind of weird for me to reflect on. I’ve cheered on heels a lot over the years, whether it be CM Punk, Edge, Eve Torres, Paige, Ethan Carter III, or Veda Scott; if I like the wrestler, I will feel no shame in supporting them even as a villain. But in 2003, when I was a kid who usually always cheered for the faces, one feud found me on the side of the antagonist: Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon. Never mind the fact that even back then, Vince himself was as old as our grandparent’s spoiled-milk-smelling photo albums; age was the main reason I rooted for Hogan to lose this one. The stipulation of their Street Fight meant that if Hogan lost, he’d have to retire wrestling forever and at his old age, I figured that was a great idea. Plus, if we’re being completely honesty, in an angle asking “Who Creates Hulkamania”, I don’t know how anyone can say it wasn’t Vince. Vince created it, Hogan blew it the hell up; that was my mindset. It’s like how some guy at Disney creates Hannah Montana, but Miley Cyrus turned it into a phenomenon or how Christopher Nolan created his interpretation of The Joker, but Heath Ledger made it timeless.

Usually a fight between two old guys ends up an accidentally funny yet tragic scene, but in the case of Vince vs. Hogan, it was brutal. This was a war. Both men have been known to shed blood, but I think this may have been the most memorable blade job of either of their careers. Chair shots we’re tossed, McMahon dropped the leg on Hogan through a table, and even Roddy Piper got involved and put a lead pipe to action. And as for Sylvan Grenier, he proved to be about as effective as getting Professor Finbarr Calamitous to be your day planner; Hogan disposed of him real quick before dropping three legs on McMahon to save his career. Shane McMahon came out to check on his father, but no angle came from his cameo; he would be seen again until he repeatedly attempted to kill Kane later that year for what he did to his mom. Even though I cheered against Hogan here, I watched this match over and over and it’s one of the reasons WrestleMania XIX till holds up today.

The Rock vs. Steve Austin0S_STEV_A2003_003R_VTRIX
In my WrestleMania X-Seven review, I mention that my favorite match in the Rock/Austin WrestleMania trilogy was not the one that took place in the Houston Astrodome. That honor goes to this match, the one that took place in Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. You could argue that the one from X-Seven was better; it’s certainly a valid argument. But as far as the one I most enjoy watching, it was this encounter between two now fully established icons who were both about to reach the end of their careers for very different reasons. The Rock’s wrestling schedule had slowed down because he was well on his way to being Hollywood’s next big star, something that fans didn’t take too kindly to. This gave us Hollywood Heel Rock, one of the funniest characters I’ve ever had the chance to witness, and someone The Miz clearly takes a ton of inspiration from (in every department except fashion). I mean, who didn’t love his mini-feud with The Hurricane?! Those were some of the funniest segments!

As for Austin, it’s so hard to believe that this is legitimately his final match. Austin feels like one of those stars who will always be around, so to be in 2016 and remember that his final match ever (excluding special guest referee roles) was in 2003 is kind of mind-blowing. But since he as going out and already had two WrestleMania victories over The Rock, it only made sense for him to take the loss in the final encounter. A match that mixed genuine emotion with some comedy here and there (Rock wearing Austin’s vest, Jerry Lawler’s bias commentary for The Rock throughout) and some copyright infringement with finishers, it’s no wonder this match connects so well with me. Both men continued making WWE appearances even throughout the year with Rock facing Goldberg at Backlash and returning for a segment with Mick Foley and La Resistance in December. Meanwhile, Austin played the role of Co-General Manager and Sheriff the following year. But let us never forget the magic of their final match with one another.

Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle4721c4bef5804bc6b46a4c5f32183e88_crop_north
Trusting someone to main event WrestleMania their first time on the show is like expecting someone to win the entire Big 4 at the Grammys their first year of contention: sure, it could happen, but it’s kind of demanding a lot from the performer. Alas, someone did win the Big 4 all in one night at the Grammys before and Brock Lesnar main eventing WrestleMania turned out to not be a bad idea after all…OK, so some bad did come from it. You’ve all seen the botched Shooting Star Press; you’re all seen the moment when Brock Lesnar badly damaged himself trying to a move that he really didn’t need to do. But aside from that, the main event was a great way to close the show. Two amateur wrestling greats step into the ring and put on display or technicality and power that you just don’t see in WWE everyday, especially not in the new millennium. Again, the biggest, most worrying negative was the Shooting Star Press despite its status in WrestleMania highlight reels. You know modern Lesnar will never even think of attempting it. But Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle always delivered and it’s a shame Angle’s career status keeps fluctuating and WWE haven’t gotten him back, because I’m curious to see what modern Brock vs. modern Kurt would be like.

OK, I tried my best to pepper in at least a few negatives in there and I don’t know how I did, but if I was to rank my personal favorite WrestleMania’s, XIX would have a pretty loty spot in the V.I.P. lounge. Great action (with one summer disappointing result), memorable moments, and even a great stage design. Seriously, look at the stage and ramp for this event if you haven’t; it is huge and amazing. Even the Millet Lite Catfight Girls segments, while kind of a waste of time, weren’t the most insulting use of celebrity in WrestleMania history; however, they should definitely never do it again. So yeah, WrestleMania XIX gets my thumbs up and I could see myself watching it a ton of times even ten years from now. But since the next year would be the two-decade anniversary of the show of shows, WWE could only get bigger from here. Let’s hope such an extravaganza does not bring about disappointment!

P.S.: As a bonus, does anyone remember the WrestleMania XIX video game? If not, you have to see this game to freaking believe it.

Coming tomorrow: WrestleMania XX.


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