I watch a lot of wrestling. Like, a ridiculous amount really. At times, it can be upwards of two shows a day seven days a week (and more in some cases). That’s a lot to see and it’s even busier when I write up a review for them. I’ve been reviewing shows for almost twelve years now and in that time, there are less than ten shows I have seen that I haven’t reviewed. That can make for a hectic schedule, so it was rather interesting when I changed it up a bit.
A few nights ago, I threw WrestleMania 17 on when while I was on the treadmill and watched it over the course of a few nights. It was kind of fascinating to watch a show without having to review it, even if it is something that I have seen probably a hundred times (thank goodness for a VCR and a buddy who taped the show live). Watching it with a less reviewery eye was interesting in a way, as you pick up a few things you might not notice otherwise. Or maybe it was having a lot of time to think while you’re walking in place for an hour.
Today we’re going to look at the things that I picked up on while watching WrestleMania 17. Some of these are a lot more obvious or more important than others, but they are all things I picked up from the same show in the span of a few hours. There are a few big ideas and a few that are specific to the show, but all of them came from a few nights of watching one of the best shows ever.
These are in no particular order.
1. Different Match Styles
There were eleven matches on the card. Here’s what you got, with a quick description of each match type:
1. Chris Jericho vs. William Regal (hard hitting)
2. Tazz/APA vs. Right To Censor (quick and to the point)
3. Kane vs. Raven vs. Big Show (hardcore insanity around the stadium)
4. Kane vs. Eddie Guerrero (fairly straight match)
5. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (wrestling clinic)
6. Chyna vs. Ivory (squash)
7. Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon (soap opera garbage brawl)
8. Edge and Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz (TLC II insanity)
9. Gimmick Battle Royal (lighthearted comedy)
10. Undertaker vs. HHH (brawl/street fight)
11. The Rock vs. Steve Austin (main event stadium match)
There are a few which are similar in there but you get a very nice mixture in there and it makes the show a lot more interesting. You have a little bit of everything instead of everything being some big, epic match or high flying spectacle or garbage brawl. Mix it up like that and see how much better things feel.
2. We Need More Obvious Gimmicks
This is mostly exclusive to the Gimmick Battle Royal, which had a final three of Hillbilly Jim, Sgt. Slaughter and Iron Sheik. These three might not be the best in the world, but they have one thing in common: you can take a quick look at them and know everything there is to know about them. You don’t need a promo, a match or anything else. How many people is that true of today?
You might get this one:
Now of course I’m not saying we need a GLOW/Rock N Wrestling Connection style, but it would be nice to have a few more characters where you instantly get the idea just by looking at them. What can you tell me about Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, Chad Gable, Apollo Crews and Peyton Royce just by looking at them? The answer is not much, and while they don’t have complex characters that you need a speech to understand, it would be nice to have a few more Gobbledy Gookers and Goons out there every now and then.
3. This Is Now A First Half WrestleMania
I was born just before WrestleMania 4 and remember the days when WrestleMania 10 seemed hard to fathom. Now WrestleMania 17 is in the first half of the history of WrestleMania. When did I get this old?
4. I Miss Flashbulbs
It’s a simple one but dang I miss that visual. There is such a special feeling to having something happen and you’re temporarily blinded by all the cameras going off. Just look at Steve Austin’s entrance in the main event and see how many flashbulbs go off. It’s nice to have a camera with you on every device you have these days, but dang there is something missing without the bright lights exploding all over the stadium.
5. This Show Is Revered For A Reason
You may have noticed that WrestleMania 17 is often pointed to as one of, if not the, greatest wrestling show ever. It’s thrown out there a lot and there’s a reason for it: this show is magnificent and one of the best things that wrestling has ever produced. It has eleven matches, runs less than four hours, features at least four (Austin vs. Rock, Benoit vs. Angle, TLC II, Undertaker vs. Triple H) instant classics and nothing even close to a bad match, all in front of 67,000 people in a massive stadium. That’s absolutely top level stuff and while some things have come close, I really don’t think anything has flat out surpassed it.
6. Paul Heyman And Jim Ross Were A Good Team
This was during the weird period where Jerry Lawler was gone from the commentary team and oddly enough, Heyman was an improvement. He had done commentary for years and certainly knew wrestling, but he also knew how to be serious while Lawler would have been a little too goofy. Heyman can do the serious stuff when necessary while still needling Ross just enough. They worked well all night and for once, commentary enhanced a show rather than making my ears bleed.
7. I Didn’t Miss The Hall Of Fame
The Hall Of Fame is a cool idea and something that I love having around. Granted it needs some adjustments, but it’s great to see these legends again. That is, it’s great to see them on Friday/Saturday night when they have a whole evening to themselves. What isn’t so great is basically stopping an already way too long show for about ten minutes so they can come out and wave to the crowd. They get their moment before WrestleMania, so why do we need to do it again in a shorter form? It’s a nice idea, but cutting it out lets things move a bit faster, which would be really nice for a change.
They had all this instead:
8. That Camera Angle
One of my favorite things to look for at a stadium WrestleMania is the camera shot which shows you just what kind of a spectacle you’re seeing. It takes place more than once during this show and it never failed. Usually the shot starts on a closeup of someone and then the camera swings around to show what the person is looking at: tens of thousands of people in an enormous building. That gets me every time and it makes the show feel like WrestleMania.
9. The Rock Got There Fast
This show took place on April 1, 2001, with Rock as the second biggest wrestling star in the world. That’s very impressive, but when you consider his main roster debut was November 17, 1996, it puts things into an even better perspective. Rock went from debuting as Rocky Maivia and being loathed by the fans just a few months later to headlining WrestleMania in front of 67,000 people against Austin in four and a half years.
It’s almost hard to believe that someone could make that happen but Rock did it here. Yes he had some training in Memphis and with his dad, but this isn’t Kevin Owens or Seth Rollins showing up after a multi-year stint in PWG or ROH. This is someone making their mainstream debut and headlining WrestleMania as one of the biggest stars ever less than five years later. That’s incredible, and it was somehow Rock’s third straight WrestleMania main event. The Great One nickname really does apply.
10. The Show Didn’t Waste Time
One of the biggest criticisms of modern WrestleManias is they go on way, way too long. That’s absolutely true, as many of the recent one night editions have cracked five hours. WrestleMania 17 clocks in at 3:49 with eleven matches (plus a dark match which was only shown on the DVD). By comparison, WrestleMania 33 had ten matches and ran over five hours (not counting the two hour, three match Kickoff Show).
A lot of this is due to the match times. Of the eleven WrestleMania 17 matches, one breaks twenty minutes (the main event), two others break fifteen minutes and more than half are less than ten minutes (three of which are less than four minutes). There were also backstage segments, a live entrance performance, and various segments in the crowd.
By comparison, WrestleMania 33 clocked in at 5:04 and (again ignoring the Kickoff Show) had three matches break twenty minutes, five more matches break ten minutes and only two matches under ten minutes. The show also included the Hall of Fame, a mini concert by Pitbull, and New Day as hosts. You can have a lot of stuff and a great show without bloating its run time half to death. WrestleMania 17 had more matches and ran an hour and fifteen minutes less without feeling nearly as packed. Why is that so hard to grasp?
11. Shane McMahon Was Good
I know McMahon gets a lot of flack for his lackluster wrestling performances, but he was really easy to watch here, with the complete soap opera of the match with his dad. McMahon was flying around, hitting the big elbow through the table, and debuting the Coast To Coast. It was quite the performance and this is the McMahon that we remember rather than the MMA fan who looks like he’s going to need so much oxygen that the first three rows are going to pass out.
12. Those Poor WCW Wrestlers
This show took place about a week after the official death of WCW but they were going to be part of the big story of the summer (or possibly this show depending on who you believe). Instead, they are briefly mentioned before the battle of the McMahons, sitting in a lonely skybox FAR away from the ring, to the point where you can barely see who is even there. This was WWF’s way of saying HAHA WE WON and….well yeah they did and I can’t blame them for being a little braggadocios.
13. The Streak Isn’t As Good As A Personal Feud
The Streak is one of the most important parts of WrestleMania’s history but in 2001, it was more of a trivia note than something important. It had been mentioned before and it’s one of the first things Ross mentions when Undertaker wins, but it wasn’t really a thing yet. And that’s a positive change.
I loved watching the Streak, but there were far too many matches where it was ALL about the Streak. You might have had a story thrown in, but it was much more about the Streak than anything else. It was nice to have a match here where Undertaker was ticked off at Triple H and wanted to hurt him for what Triple H had done rather than staying unbeaten. I liked it a lot more, and while the Streak was nice every now and then, this was better for a change.
14. The Main Event
I know you know how great Austin vs. Rock is, but what mattered is that, as Heyman put it, “this….is the main event.” You didn’t have four matches called the main event or multiple World Titles or anything like that. You had Austin vs. Rock II as the main event of WrestleMania 17 in the Houston Astrodome in front of 67,925 people. That’s how you headline the biggest show of the year and nothing was coming close to it. That match sold those tickets and as Dave Meltzer said, if they had the 100,000 seats at AT&T Stadium, it would have sold that out too. One main event, not a third of the card.
15. Axxess Looked Better
When I first saw it here, Axxess looked like the coolest thing ever. For thirteen years I wanted to go and when I finally made the WrestleMania trip in 2014, it was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. It was cool to see in person and get to experience it, but dang this one looked better.
You had live matches, the top names (Austin and Rock included), more of an intimate atmosphere, a lot of memorabilia, and what seemed to be far shorter lines. Axxess is great, but if you don’t pay for the fast pass, expect your shortest line to be 45 minutes minimum. This just looked cooler, and if they hadn’t invented the VIP ticket yet, it was probably a lot cheaper too.
16. Those Video Packages
This is also under the time thing, but the video packages, while still great, were a lot shorter and faster. Above all else, sometimes they were playing during the entrances instead of having the package and then starting the entrance. Again, it helps with the time, but not every match needs some big video package. I can go for them in the bigger matches, but the European Title match doesn’t need more than a blurb. Also, I really don’t need to watch someone walk to the ring for a minute and a half. I know who they are and if I just watched a video, I know why they’re fighting. Pick up the pace a bit.
17. The Women Were Treated Well
I know it would be a very dark time between the days of Trish Stratus and Lita and the Women’s Revolution, but the women were treated well here. You had a fairly large group of women featured on the show (Jackie, Chyna, Ivory, Stratus, Lita, Stephanie McMahon, Linda McMahon and probably more) and they were all treated like people who mattered.
It worked out well:
Of course you had Stratus in one of her popular outfits and Lita removes some of her clothing, but those were details during the matches they were involved in. They were being treated like characters in a story (and in some parts, rather important characters) instead of eye candy and it was nice to see. Chyna was even the Playboy girl that year and that was just a detail of her match, which was a logical squash of Ivory. It could work and did at times, which makes what the women went through that much more frustrating.
If there is one thing to learn from this, it is that you can always learn something new about a show, even if you watched it once a day for over a year. It’s one of the great things about wrestling and it is true of all kinds of shows. WrestleMania 17 is one of the best shows of all time and it can still teach you things almost twenty years later. Take some time and watch some older stuff so you can learn about a thing or too. Like Kim Chee and Tugboat.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. Thank you for reading!