Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net, starting today. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
Date: April 1, 2001
Location: Astrodome, Houston, Texas
Commentators: Jim Ross, Paul Heyman
Do I even need to explain this one? It’s one of the all time legendary classics if not THE all time legendary classic and maybe the greatest show in wrestling history. I’ve seen this show more times than I can count thanks to a VHS that a buddy of mine made for me of the original broadcast. As for the card, it’s Austin vs. Rock II and that’s all you need to know. Let’s get to it.
Sunday Night Heat: Grandmaster Sexay/Steve Blackman vs. X-Pac/Justin Credible
It’s so strange to hear these theme songs at this show. It feels like something that belongs in a video game only. Believe it or not there’s actually a bit of a setup for this as Sexay recruited Blackman to team with him earlier today because those feet could be great for dancing. X-Pac and Credible are part of X-Factor, and have Albert (A-Train/Prince Albert/whatever else you want to call him) in their corner.
The good guys clean house to start and X-Pac misses a Bronco Buster in the corner. Albert gets in a clothesline from the apron so X-Pac can take over, including stealing the goggles. Some right hands don’t get Grandmaster very far as X-Pac kicks him in the face. A double clothesline works a bit better and the hot (?) tag brings in Blackman. Everything breaks down and Albert pulls Grandmaster to the floor, leaving Blackman to take a double superkick for the pin at 2:45. It’s nothing to see of course but this was a perfectly nice tag match that did its job just fine.
The opening video is still one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, with a bunch of clips of people watching Wrestlemania over the years, including a man in a barn with a trumpet, a farm couple outside their house, a man carrying hay, an Asian man on the streets of what appears to be a city in China, two teenagers watching through a TV store window, a twenty something couple in the backseat of a car and a clown. This is interspersed with what appears to be some kind of nuns dancing in a field. The one thing I always wonder: how do you get pay per view on these portable TVs with no apparent cables coming into them?
The stadium looks incredible with the wide shots showing just how massive the whole thing is. There’s something so cool about those visuals where you can see the tens of thousands of people. It’s the first stadium show since….geez 1992?
Intercontinental Title: Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Jericho, with a bad shoulder, is defending and has been tormenting Commissioner Regal for weeks due to Regal being an insufferable bore. This includes relieving himself in Regal’s teapot and dressing up like Doink for reasons that still aren’t clear (I’m sure Shawn Michaels is still mad about it too.). Regal responded by torturing Jericho with a series of handicap matches, setting up this showdown for revenge and the title. Notice that I can snap off those details without even seeing the highlight video while I could barely tell you how the main events of the last five Wrestlemanias were set up.
Jericho starts fast with a clothesline and spinwheel kick to send Regal outside as Heyman is in full on analysis mode. You can tell how excited he is to be here. Back in and a top rope back elbow gives Jericho two but Regal forearms his way out of the Walls attempt. Jericho’s bad shoulder goes into the post twice in a row and it’s time for some British limb punishment. An elbow to the face gives Jericho a breather but the Lionsault hits knees. The turnbuckle pad comes off and Regal sends the shoulder into the exposed steel so Jericho kicks him in the head.
A middle rope dropkick gets two but Regal goes right back to the shoulder. In something rather un-Regal, he takes Jericho up top for a butterfly superplex and another near fall. The Regal Stretch goes on until Jericho makes a rope. Right handed chops work a bit better for Jericho but a kick to the arm cuts him off again. The bulldog takes Regal down and the Lionsault out of nowhere retains the title at 7:08.
Rating: B-. This would have been a Kickoff match today so it’s a nice relief to have it actually get some attention rather than being background noise while the announcers previewed the more important stuff. These two beat the heck out of each other with Regal doing vile things to the shoulder. The ending came very suddenly but we got good stuff until we got there.
Shane McMahon arrives in the WCW-1 limo.
The APA and Jackie want to know where Tazz is, sending Bradshaw into an awesome speech about how important it is to be in the Astrodome because of all the sports traditions in the building and IT’S WRESTLEMANIA. I’ve always really liked this one.
APA/Tazz vs. Right to Censor
It’s Val Venis/Goodfather/Bull Buchanan for the RTC here and Tazz’s entrance cuts off Steven Richards’ rant. It’s a brawl to start with Jackie DDTing Richards until Tazz and Buchanan get things going. A big boot drops Tazz and it’s Venis coming in for two off a Russian legsweep. Goodfather gets a chance as well and whips Tazz into the ropes so hard that Tazz can’t even turn around in time.
The former Ho Train sets up a slow motion Vader Bomb with Tazz moving without much effort. It’s off to Bradshaw for a backdrop that barely gets Goodfather over and a better fall away slam to Venis. Everything breaks down and it’s the double spinebuster to Buchanan. A top rope belly to back superplex (with the cool looking ceiling making for an awesome visual) drops Venis, leaving Goodfather to miss the Ho Train so the Clothesline From Bradshaw can finish at 3:55.
Rating: D+. And that’s the worst match on the card. This could have been on Raw but it was a quick way to get the Texans on the card, which is hardly a bad idea. There was no reason for this to be any longer or any more evenly matches and for something like this, that’s all it needed to be. Sometimes you need a fun match instead of a long struggle and that’s what they had here.
Trish Stratus (currently Vince’s mistress) wheels in the catatonic Linda McMahon) but gets yelled at by Stephanie (in a much more compassionate way) for being late. Also, Trish needs to crack the ice for the champagne by hand.
Hardcore Title: Raven vs. Big Show vs. Kane
Raven, with a shopping cart full of toys, is defending so Heyman has some advice for him: “Run like h***.” Big Show comes out late so Raven this Kane with a plastic sign to no effect. Show (in his bad looking singlet phase) finally comes out so Kane throws Raven at him and comes off the top to the floor with the clothesline for two. They waste no time in fighting into the crowd and take their sweet time getting up to the stage (mainly because they’re in a freaking stadium) with Raven popping back up, only to be thrown partially through a wooden wall.
Show slams Kane onto a pile of wooden pallets and chases Raven into a caged storage area. The door is locked so Kane breaks it open and hits Show in the back with a broom. Raven chokes Kane with a garden hose but gets driven through the chain link wall. Kane isn’t finished and throws Raven through a glass window for a scary crash.
Not to be outdone, Show throws Kane through a regular door….so Kane shoves him through a wall. Raven pops in and grabs a golf cart, with Show jumping on the back for a crash (which according to Raven nearly knocked out the power to the entire building). Kane steals another golf cart and the referee hitches a ride, with Raven nearly being run over. This was supposed to start off some kind of a chase but for some reason it didn’t happen, probably time. Or Raven making the story up because he’s goofy like that.
They fight down the hallway and Raven goes through the drink table. That’s enough backstage as they head up some steps to the stage, with Kane winning a slugout with Show. A clothesline takes Kane down and Show gorilla presses Raven but they both get kicked off the stage and through part of the set. Kane drops an elbow/leg to pin Show for the title at 9:18.
Rating: C+. Completely different kind of match of course but I had a good time with it because they went with the full on goofy style instead of trying anything serious. The Hardcore Title was WAY past its usefulness at this point but at least they had some fun here. It didn’t need to be on the show, but would you rather watch another battle of the giants?
Kurt Angle obsessively watches footage of Chris Benoit making him tap out. Edge and Christian come in and say it’s going to be a big night for all three of them, though Angle only talks about how he didn’t officially tap.
Jimmy Snuka is at WWF New York. Cool enough.
An Australian fan is here. This was before the international feel really became a thing for Wrestlemania so this was a little different.
Rock arrives, forty minutes into the show. Are we really supposed to believe that people are just getting here after three matches? This has always bugged me for one reason or another.
European Title: Eddie Guerrero vs. Test
Eddie is challenging and has Perry Saturn, in a big fuzzy hat, with him. Test starts with a layout powerbomb for an early two and a gorilla press drop sends Eddie face first onto the top turnbuckle. Eddie catches him on top but a super hurricanrana attempt is easily blocked with a simple grab of the rope. A top rope back elbow to the jaw (must be a Canadian thing) rocks Eddie but Test misses a charge….and gets his boot caught in the rope like a goon.
Thankfully Eddie is smart enough to distract the referee so Saturn can get in some right hands so Test doesn’t look incredibly stupid. The leg gets undone (with Eddie’s help) and Eddie starts in on the knee as he should be doing. With Heyman getting in the still annoying lines of “they’re the same size on the mat”, Eddie grabs a sleeper but gets taken down with a tilt-a-whirl slam. A tilt-a-whirl powerbomb gets two but Eddie kicks him low, allowing Saturn to come in with the Moss Covered Three Handled Family Credenza.
JR: “HEY REF! THERE’S A THIRD MAN IN THE RING!” There has been a third man in the ring for the whole match Jim. Saturn was the fourth. Anyway, Eddie has to roll through the frog splash and gets caught with the pumphandle powerslam. That’s good for two after Test dispatches Saturn, followed by a big boot that so clearly misses Saturn that you can hear the fans’ non-reaction. Another big boot drops Eddie so Dean Malenko can run in for the save (seemed like he missed his spot, possibly because the aisle is so long). Test goes after him and it’s a belt shot to give Eddie the pin and the title at 8:03.
Rating: C-. Another match that could have been on Raw but was perfectly watchable for the most part. Eddie getting the title makes a lot more sense as Test wasn’t exactly a thrilling choice, though they took care of him a bit with all the interference that it took to get the title off of him. Not a good match or anything, but it’s not like it was anything atrocious.
Mick Foley promises to call the Vince vs. Shane street fight right down the line. Right here in Houston, Texas!
Ok so for those of you unfamiliar with this show, it might not have seemed great so far. The real show starts now.
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
This has kind of an infamous build as they’re fighting because neither of them had anything else to do, as mentioned on Raw. In other words, “go out there and do your awesome stuff”. Angle insults the fans on the way to the ring, insisting that he has NEVER tapped out to Benoit. Oh and adults wearing cowboy hats look stupid. Amen brother. Heyman: “This is as excited as a man can get with his clothes on.” Thankfully the match starts so I can get that image out of my head.
Angle takes him down to start but Benoit gets on top before rolling away for a standoff, much to the fans’ appreciation. They go to the mat again with Angle trying to get to the leg but rolling into the ropes instead. The threat of a Crossface sends Angle bailing to the floor as it’s an even match so far. Back in and Angle takes him down again but the Crossface sends him straight back to the rope.
That’s enough for Angle, who forearms Benoit in the face and it’s time for a fight on the floor. Makes sense and that’s a great way to make Benoit look awesome. A very hard whip sends Benoit into the steps and a suplex gets two back inside. Since he’s rather good at analysis, Heyman points out that Angle is now cool with a pin instead of a submission, which is a bit of a concession to Benoit.
Angle snaps off some overhead belly to belly suplexes but eats a clothesline as JR and Heyman argue over the best amateur wrestlers ever. A snap suplex gives Benoit two and a superplex gets a delayed version of the same. You know Benoit can’t just two suplexes so we hit the rolling German suplexes, only to have the third reversed into the ankle lock (BIG reaction for that). Benoit reverses that into an ankle lock of his own so Angle kicks him in the head.
Now the Crossface goes on but Angle rolls into his own Crossface. After a foot on the rope is good for the save, Benoit grabs his own Crossface to make Angle tap but there’s no one to see it. The Angle Slam gets two and Kurt can’t believe it. Angle’s moonsault hits knees so Benoit connects with the Swan Dive for two more. You can feel the energy from the crowd on these near falls. Back up and Angle gets in a low blow, setting up a rollup with tights to pin Benoit at 14:04.
Rating: B+. That would be the first show stealing classic of the night with a sweet story of Angle wanting to prove that he’s the better wrestler but resulting to cheating while still being able to brag about the win. That’s also the kind of ending that can keep a feud going, which I guess I can survive if I absolutely have to. Great match, yet somehow not even close to their best.
William Regal goes into his office and finds Kamala, rubbing a picture of Queen Elizabeth on his stomach. I think this speaks for itself.
Clip of the Wrestlemania pep rally in Fort Hood, with various wrestlers getting plaques (Lita looks completely miserable), though Angle would rather have a medal. There was a parade and the boss got a WWF chair.
Angle insists that he was the better man tonight. Benoit comes in to make him tap again.
We recap Chyna vs. Ivory. The Right to Censor wasn’t happy with Chyna posing for Playboy and tried to censor her, which included a spike piledriver to hurt Chyna’s neck. Chyna came back but got hurt again, only to come back again and come for the title here.
Women’s Title: Chyna vs. Ivory
Chyna is defending and fires off a pyro gun from the stage for a cool entrance. Ivory gets in a belt shot to knock Chyna down and rains down forearms but a kick to the ribs is blocked and that’s about it. The champ gets thrown across the ring like she’s nothing and Chyna unloads in the corner. Some hard clotheslines (JR: “I guess we could call that a Chyna Line. Or maybe not.”) and a powerbomb have Ivory out cold but Chyna pulls her up at two. A gorilla press drop finishes Ivory instead, giving Chyna the title at 2:38. That’s exactly what this should have been and nothing more. Chyna would leave the company before losing the title.
Trish ensures Vince that she has doubled up Linda’s medication and will only bring her down when Shane is at his most vulnerable. Michael Cole, still the annoying interviewer, comes in and asks about the shocking development of Shane buying WCW. Vince: “You want shocking? Tonight, you’ll get shocking.” That’s a guarantee.
We recap Vince vs. Shane and egads there’s a lot to this one. So Vince was having a public affair with Trish and said that he wanted to divorce Linda, who had a nervous breakdown as a result. Vince put her in an institution and had her heavily medicated, basically leaving her as a vegetable (make your own jokes). Shane came back to stand up for his mom but Vince had him beaten down, getting in a great line with “I will never ever forgive your mother for giving birth to you”.
A street fight was set up with former Commissioner Mick Foley (as fired by Vince) pulling out a contract that he signed before being fired saying that he could referee the match. Then Shane bought WCW on Monday, making this the first battle in what should have been a years long promotional war. Got all that?
Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon
Street fight as required with Mick Foley refereeing. Shane comes out first and introduces the WCW stars in the skybox (Lance Storm, Stacy Keibler, Shawn Stasiak and Chavo Guerrero are visual). Apparently they were scheduled to do a run-in during the match but Stasiak spoiled the plans in an interview so this is all you get of them. Stephanie in a Daddy’s Girl jumpsuit, is here with Vince.
A slap to Shane’s face gets us going, even though Foley didn’t call for the bell. Vince chokes in the corner but Shane nails a clothesline and something close to a spear. Some elbows to the back draw Stephanie in for the save, plus a slap to Shane. Shane is smart enough to baseball slide Vince and hammer away instead of going after her, plus nailing a few shots to the back with a KEEP OFF sign. A clothesline from the barricade has Vince in trouble and Stephanie begging him to get up.
Shane hits him in the back with a kendo stick and follows with the punches, which look a lot better when Shane isn’t middle aged. A monitor to Vince’s head knocks him silly and Shane loads up the elbow off the top. One great looking dive and a Stephanie pull later leaves Shane crashing in a good landing. That’s enough for Trish to wheel Linda down, just as Vince instructed. Trish helps Vince up and then slaps him in the face, triggering the catfight with Stephanie (with the fans eating this up with a spoon).
Foley tries to break it up (like a gentleman….I think) so Stephanie slaps him too. Trish chases Stephanie up the aisle, with Stephanie doing the most overblown fall I can remember, with her arms flying into the air before she starts going down. She can’t look natural no matter what she does. The two of them leave and we cut back to Vince getting up and calling Linda a b****. Foley breaks that up so Vince chairs him down and puts Linda in the ring, sitting her in a chair in the corner.
Vince isn’t done and throws Shane inside, followed by a bunch of garbage cans. Some can shots to the head have the still near dead Shane in even more trouble. Vince loads up another shot…..and Linda stands up. The place actually goes nuts and the fans are literally on their feet, which you almost never see in wrestling. Shane points behind Vince, who turns around and gets kicked low. Foley comes back in and unloads on Vince, setting up the debut of Coast to Coast to give Shane the pin at 14:23.
Rating: C+. I’ve seen this show literally 100 or so times and I still smile at Linda kicking Vince. This was about five stories all coming together in the soap opera story of the show. It works really, really well with Linda of all people getting a crazy reaction. When the McMahons are on their game, they’re some of the most entertaining people in wrestling and that was the case here. It’s nothing from a quality standpoint, but from a soap opera car crash perspective, this was a blast and incredibly fun.
Yesterday at Axxess (which is rather dark and looks like nothing you would see today), the Hardys talked about how their feud with the Dudleys and Edge and Christian has to end with TLC II because it’s the most dangerous match in wrestling.
Tag Team Titles: Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian
The Dudleys are defending and it’s TLC II. I would recap the story, but it’s more or less “let them go nuts”. The entrances take some time and it’s a rare instance where you just know this is going to be incredible. Both sets of Boyz waste no time in jumping the Canadians as the fight is on in a hurry. Edge and Christian are sent outside, leaving the Hardys to take over with a double Poetry in Motion.
Not wanting to waste time, Edge and Christian bring in a ladder to drop everyone. Just to make it a little personal, they also stand on Matt’s crotch in the corner. Jeff gets drop toeholded face first into an open chair but it’s way too early for Edge to climb the ladder. A clothesline takes Matt off the ladder (which falls as well), leaving Jeff to dropkick Edge down as well. The Hardys set up a pair of ladders and drop Christian, setting up a legdrop/splash combination off said ladders for the first high spot.
The Dudleys come back in for What’s Up on Edge and let’s get some tables. Bubba powerbombs Jeff through Edge through a table and it’s time to set up four tables (two on top of two) outside. There’s no way that’s going to end well. Back in and Bubba SMACKS Matt in the head with a ladder, drawing a well deserved gasp from the crowd.
Three ladders are set up and all six climb, with Christian and Matt falling to one side (Christian just vanishes over the top and down onto the floor in an underrated bump), Jeff and D-Von falling to the other (and hitting the ropes) and Bubba and Edge knocking each other off to fall backwards. With all six down and one ladder left, here’s Spike Dudley (returning from injury) for a Dudley Dog to Edge off said ladder. Another one off the apron sends Christian through a table at ringside but here’s Rhyno (also taken out recently) to stop Jeff from going up.
Back to back Gores put Bubba and Matt down and Rhyno points Edge up a ladder. Now it’s Lita (Gored by Rhyno last week) coming in and “jerking Edge off” according to JR to bring him down from a ladder. There’s a hurricanrana to Rhyno and Spike chairs him into a ladder to knock Edge off. A Doomsday Device hits Rhyno and Lita cracks Spike in the head with a chair. Lita takes her top off but walks into the 3D, leaving Edge and Christian to chair the Dudleys down.
Edge sends Christian outside to get the big ladder, but you can’t have one of those with Jeff around. Jeff takes out Christian and climbs up the ladder (which is standing on the floor and equally as tall as the ones in the ring) for a huge Swanton onto Spike and Rhyno through a pair of tables. Well actually entirely through Spike as Rhyno was just grazed and his table didn’t even break. Edge brings the big ladder in and sets it up in front of three regular sized ladders.
Christian and D-Von go up the big one but Matt (“HERE WE GO!”) moves it from underneath them, leaving them hanging from the ring. They both fall so Jeff climbs up onto the regular ladders and tries to walk a tightrope to get to the titles but one of the ladders comes down. Instead he climbs a regular ladder and grabs the belt but Bubba takes the ladder away, leaving Edge to climb the big ladder for the highlight reel spear that made him look like even more of a star than he already did.
Two things about that spot: first of all, Jeff’s feet were caught in the ladder that Bubba moved so he swung forward into the spear to make it look even better. Second: a fan asked Edge if he was scared doing that in rehearsal. Edge: “YOU THINK WE DID THAT MORE THAN ONCE???”
As soon as we’re done with the replay, Rhyno shoves Bubba and Matt off the big ladder and through the four tables at ringside for the amazing crash. D-Von and Christian go up this time but Edge grabs D-Von and Rhyno gives Christian a boost to pull down the titles at 15:42. Edge and Christian clutching the titles and looking shell shocked is a great bonus.
Rating: A+. This was magnificent and it really does amaze me how structured they make this feel. They built things up over the course of this match with the fighting to start and then a few big spots, followed by the interference and then the sequence of show stealing spots (Jeff’s Swanton, the spear and the huge crash) to wrap it up. They managed to tell a story with what should just be a car crash match and that’s one of the most impressive things about this whole series. This is incredible and the best team ladder match ever, bar absolutely none.
Video on Axxess. This video was a big reason that I wanted to go to Wrestlemania, though this version looks WAY more fun than what you actually get, mainly due to the crazy long lines.
Heyman applauds TLC II. As he should.
Howard Finkel announces the new attendance record of 67,925.
Gimmick Battle Royal
Luke, Butch, Duke Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, The Goon, Doink the Clown, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, Sgt. Slaughter
Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan are out for commentary, which is suddenly a lot sadder. If nothing else, it’s so satisfying to hear Heenan’s healthy voice before the cancer took away its greatness. This is one of the first nostalgia matches the company did n this kind of a stage and my goodness it still feels amazing. It also comes at the right time on the show as they needed to take a little breather after what we just saw.
Doink gets a nice reaction while Hillbilly Jim (who looks like he hasn’t aged a day) gets a VERY nice reaction, mainly because it’s such a fun gimmick. Hayes gets a big reaction, both from the fans and Heenan. Gang was supposed to be Akeem but couldn’t fit in the costume. Gene sounds like he has a nightmare about the Gooker, and yes we get the video of his debut. Repo Man is thrown out almost immediately and the Gooker is out second. Heenan: “This looks like a riot at Let’s Make A Deal!”
Tugboat is tossed as well and Kamala tosses Earthquake, who Gene almost calls by his real name. Kamala eliminates Kim Chee (what loyalty) and Luke is out next. Cornette is out (he and Love had agreed to stay in the corner and lightly hit each other but kept messing up and wound up injuring each other in mistakes straight out of the Three Stooges) and Droese follows him as you might be able to tell that this isn’t about the actual wrestling.
Goon and Volkoff go out next and Doink eliminates Butch. Kamala tosses Doink (and gets booed out of the building), with Hayes, Gang and Kamala going out as well. We’re down to Love, Sheik, Hillbilly and Slaughter but before I can even write those names, Sheik dumps Hillbilly to win at 3:05, mainly because he was too frail to be tossed out.
Rating: A. Consider the reason for the match and you’ll get why the rating makes sense. The match itself lasted just over three minutes while the entrances took 10:28. The entire point of this was to let these guys have one last entrance on the big stage and give the fans a nostalgia trip, which worked perfectly well. I had a good time here and it’s great way to let things lighten up a bit before we get to the last two matches.
Post match Slaughter comes in and gives Sheik the Cobra Clutch to stand tall one more time.
We recap Undertaker vs. HHH. After beating Austin two straight falls at No Way Out, HHH said he had beaten everyone there was to beat. Undertaker came out and said HHH had never beaten him. HHH jumped Undertaker and choked him with a chair (HHH: “You’re the guy that makes people famous. I’m already famous. I’m famous for crippling people.”) so Undertaker beat up his limo with a pipe.
HHH came back with a restraining order keeping Undertaker from Stephanie, so Undertaker had Kane kidnap Stephanie and threaten to throw her off a balcony until the match was made. Not yet done, HHH even destroyed Undertaker’s motorcycle with a sledgehammer. You can feel the hatred here and that’s the kind of video where WWE excels.
HHH vs. Undertaker
Motorhead plays HHH to the ring in one of the all time great entrances, especially with a wide shot of the entrance and a shadowed HHH stepping out and posing to show just how grand the stage really is. Undertaker rides the motorcycle down the long ramp with more speed than you’ll ever see on a wrestling show for a nowhere near as cool (yet still cool) visual. Oh and as a Network bonus: Rollin is still used as the theme rather than the bizarre times where they dub in the Ministry theme.
The fight is on in a hurry on the floor and HHH is knocked through the makeshift Spanish announcers’ table. They get in for the opening bell, with JR mentioning Undertaker being 8-0 at Wrestlemania. The fact that we weren’t even halfway to the first loss is really incredible and makes the already other worldly Streak all the more impressive. A big backdrop has HHH in trouble and a running clothesline in the corner rocks him again. There’s a running powerslam (which I don’t ever remember Undertaker using otherwise) but an elbow misses.
Old School (Is it Old School all the way back in 2001?) is broken up with a pull off the top, which is fair enough as Undertaker was just standing there. HHH elbows him in the back of the head and gets in another to the chest, setting up a neckbreaker for three straight two’s. The yelling at the referee lets Undertaker fire off the punches to the ribs but walks into the facebuster. The sledgehammer is brought in but the referee takes it away. Undertaker has to counter the Pedigree and the referee gets bumped in the corner.
A chokeslam gives HHH two and he’s not happy with the slow count, meaning it’s a beatdown on the referee. Well a kick and elbow drop to the back but for a referee that’s a heck of a beating. Undertaker throws HHH over the corner and takes it outside with HHH being backdropped over the barricade. They fight up to the technical area with Undertaker hammering away and tossing HHH up to a higher level.
HHH finds a chair though and destroys Undertaker with about nine shots about the head and knee. Too much posing takes too much time though and Undertaker is back up with a chokeslam off the tower for an awesome visual (I miss flashbulbs in wrestling). Undertaker isn’t done though as he climbs onto the barricade and drops a very big elbow onto HHH (revealing that he landed on a crash pad, taking away a lot of the impressiveness).
The medics get beaten up and they head back to the ring, where the referee is still down, about seven minutes after he was kicked and elbowed. Back in the ring and Undertaker grabs the sledgehammer but gets low blowed to save HHH’s life. Undertaker kicks the hammer out of HHH’s hands and the slugout is on. HHH tries a Tombstone but gets reversed into the real thing for no count, because the referee hasn’t moved in TEN MINUTES.
Undertaker finally goes over and shakes him before calling for the Last Ride. It’s not well placed though as HHH grabs the hammer and nails Undertaker in the head to counter….for two, in a great near fall (these two are great at those). Undertaker is busted open so HHH hammers away in the corner and it’s the Last Ride (I believe the debut of that counter so it’s not even a cliché yet) for the pin at 18:19.
Rating: A. Sweet goodness I love this match as they beat the heck out of each other because they wanted revenge. That’s how you do a match like this and there was nothing overly cowardly from HHH for a change. They were testing each other throughout the match and that made for a heck of a fight, which is all you could ask for. Well that and some better medical care for the referee. This one holds up very, very well and I like it better than their second Wrestlemania match at XXVII. Check this one out if you haven’t seen it in a long time, or even if you have because it’s that good.
And in case we haven’t had enough greatness on this show, there’s this left.
We recap Steve Austin vs. the Rock with the legendary My Way video. Austin was out for about a year with neck surgery and Rock became the biggest star in the world in his absence. Austin is back and won the Royal Rumble, with Rock winning the WWF Title the next month to set up the showdown of showdowns.
This turned into a game of oneupsmanship with the two of them using their own moves against each other and beating the heck out of each other over and over. You knew this was going to be special because the energy was right there in front of your eyes. The final exchange is perfect too. Rock: “You are going to get the absolute best of the Rock at Wrestlemania.” Austin: “I need to beat you Rock. I need it more than anything that you can ever imagine. There can be only one World Wrestling Federation Champion, and that will be Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin.” Do you need anything else?
Well you certainly didn’t need the ridiculous Debra involvement (Austin’s wife, who Vince had managing the Rock), which thankfully isn’t brought up or referenced in any significant way outside of the video because it was a bad idea that didn’t help anything. It would have dragged things down, and thankfully it’s just not here.
WWF World Title: Steve Austin vs. The Rock
Austin is challenging and it’s No DQ, announced just before the entrances. Austin’s entrance still gives me chills as it’s one of the best of all time as he’s reached a level of popularity in Texas (or anywhere for that matter) that is unmatched anywhere. Throw in JR’s incredible commentary (as only he could do) and a camera shot of Austin walking up to the second rope for the pose with all the flashbulbs going off and the camera zooming out to show all the people) and it’s hard to ever top. Rock….isn’t that popular here, but you had to know that was coming.
Austin’s “are you kidding me” look up at Rock as he poses is great and the fight is on as soon as Rock comes down. An early belt shot misses Rock so it’s the Thesz press and middle finger elbow as they start fast. Rock grabs a swinging neckbreaker but it’s too early for the Rock Bottom. The Stunner can’t hit for either of them so Austin throws him over the top rope as we’re not even a minute in yet. They head into the crowd with Rock getting the better of it and bringing it back to ringside. A clothesline takes Rock down but Austin has to adjust his knee brace.
The running crotch attack to the back gets two and a superplex keeps Rock in trouble. The turnbuckle pad is taken off but Rock nails a clothesline and they fight outside again. Austin gets sent into the ring bell but comes right back up with a bell shot for a knockdown. The bloody Rock is sent through the announcers’ table (a running theme tonight) and it’s back inside for more right hands. Rock’s comeback is booed so Austin gets in his own swinging neckbreaker to get the fans back, plus a two count as a bonus.
Stomping and choking in the corner has Rock in even more trouble but Austin stops to yell at the referee, allowing Rock to charge out of the corner with the hard clothesline. There’s a middle finger to Austin and he goes face first into the buckle. Instead of covering, Rock brings in the bell and clocks Austin (more booing) to bust him open for two. Right hands knock Austin outside but he drops Rock onto the barricade.
The catapult sends Rock into the post for that always awesome bump where he spins sideways. A monitor to the head gives Austin two but the Stunner is countered into the Sharpshooter for a Wrestlemania XIII callback. The hold is finally broken, though Austin comes up holding his knee. A rake to the eyes gets Austin out of a second attempt and he slaps on a Sharpshooter of his own.
Rock powers out as well so Austin puts it on again (makes sense) but a rope is grabbed. It’s not clear why Austin lets go, or why the referee makes him let go, but that’s been a problem for years. With nothing else working, Austin slaps on the Million Dollar Dream. Rock climbs the rope and flips back into a cradle for two, forcing the break in a callback to Survivor Series 1996. Rock’s Stunner drops Austin for a very delayed near fall…and here’s Vince McMahon.
Austin’s whip spinebuster gives him two more and frustration sets in even deeper. Rock gets a spinebuster of his own and there’s the People’s Elbow but Vince breaks up the cover. Shockingly enough Rock isn’t happy and chases the rather spry Vince, right into a Rock Bottom from Austin for two more. The ref gets bumped (not sure why it’s necessary in a No DQ match) and Austin hits Rock low. Austin tells Vince to bring in a chair and the boss gets in a shot to Rock’s head, with Vince throwing the referee in for the two count.
A quick Rock Bottom gets Rock a breather but he has to drag Vince inside instead of covering. Another Stunner gets another two so Vince hands him a chair for a heck of a shot to the head. That’s another two and the fans are cheering for the kickouts. Austin has had it and DESTROYS Rock with an insane sixteen straight chair shots for the pin and the title at 28:06 to a monster pop.
Post match Vince and Austin shake hands, officially ending the Attitude Era. Of note: Vince told Austin before the match that if he wasn’t feeling it, he could Stun Vince and they would figure it out the next day. That’s some incredible control to give a wrestler but Austin didn’t go with it. He did however say this was a bad idea in retrospect. Austin and Vince share a beer over Rock’s body and it’s one more belt shot to Rock to wrap things up as JR wants answers.
The long highlight package ends the show with My Way playing us out. Oh and one more thing. The song talks about how someone wants one more fight and then he’ll do things someone’s way. So, after three years, Vince could say to Austin that’s finally doing things…..“my way.” If that’s what they were going for, I need to buy a hat and take it off for them because that’s outstanding.
Overall Rating: A+. As Bradshaw said in his speech: “It’s Wrestlemania.” Throw in a XVII and you really don’t need to say much else about this show. There’s a reason it’s so revered, with the incredible combination of TLC II and Austin Rock II, somehow leaving instant classics like Benoit vs. Angle and Undertaker HHH as distant thirds and fourths. It’s pretty easily the best show ever with the energy off the charts, a can’t miss cards and the historic ending. I mean…it’s X7. I think that sums it up as well as anything else I can say so stop reading this and go watch it again.
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. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
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