NFB Watches Wrestling #56: Wrestlemania 18

Starting here, I am starting over.

The first time I got into wrestling, when I was 14, I was passionately into it for a period of just over one year, from around February 2001 to April 2002. The latter part of that coincided with this show, which was the last PPV I watched for a while. There were a few reasons for my flagging interest in the WWF, soon to be WWE, like general fatigue with the product, disliking the sudden emphasis on one Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair and, being honest, increasing difficulties in getting access to bootleg PPV tapes. Hogan winning the strap at Backlash 2002, a show I only experienced through written recaps, was sort of the last straw for me, because I never liked him, and have only gone on to dislike him more as time went on. I came back to wrestling a few years later, but that period post-Wrestlemania 18, is one that I never experienced first hand.

Well, I’m aiming to change that with a new focus for my wrestling series. Beginning with Wrestlemania 18 as a way of re-introducing myself to the era, I plan to offer a recap of every Raw, Smackdown and PPV from then all the way up to Wrestlemania 19, with the vast majority of it being shows I have never seen. I hope having the chance to follow along with evolving storylines properly will give me a chance to change the focus of this series in a way that it makes it more enjoyable to write and to read, but if that turns out to not be the case, then I may forgo it. But until then, well, welcome to the start of Ruthless Aggression.

It’s the 17th March 2002 and we’re in the Skydome of Toronto, Canada, for Wrestlemania 18 (or X8 if you want to be fancy smancy)! Your main event tonight: for some reason it isn’t The Rock vs Hulk Hogan, but instead Chris Jericho, with Stephanie McMahon of all people in his corner, defending his WWF Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship against Triple H! Will there ever again be a Wrestlemania main event where the McMahon family isn’t involved? Not for one more year anyway.

Cold open to the packed Skydome, where Lilian Garcia introduces theme tune providers Saliva. They give us “Superstar”, and they get the lyrics right so they are automatically better than Motorhead anyway. Helps that they have a cool stage to play on. We get some footage of the video packages that will play later behind them, with an emphasis on the Taker/Flair, Jericho/HHH, Hogan/Rock and Austin/Hall feuds, in that order. Even the video package guys can’t get it right. Saliva’s frontman asks us to “Get your ass up off your shoulders” as we get the band’s denouement, and I am not comprehending that. Skydome is appreciative though.

Opening video package. Undertaker puts Wrestlemania on a pedestal with the Superbowl, then Flair says it’s actually bigger than the Superbowl. Way to keep the feud going. The usual highlights of Mania’s past, and I suppose it’s a good thing we’re beyond X7’s “A Celebration of Life” shtick. We play up some of the main feuds, especially Hogan/Rock, and finish on a lingering shot of Rock backstage.

Opening titles which have a sort of a rollercoaster feel, lots of pyro and good ‘ol JR is here with, sigh, Jerry Lawler to welcome us. Toronto came to play tonight, the crowd is nuclear. Onto the first match.

William Regal (c) vs Rob Van Dam (WWF Intercontinental Championship)

Regal opening the show in an IC match for the second year in a row, but this is all about RVD, one of the few new Fed guys who came out of the Invasion storyline with his stock increased. You could set your watch to Regal’s haircut. JR plays up Regal’s “unique style” saying those two words twice in three sentences. RVD teases a springboard crossbody to start, but Regal rolls in as he goes for it so RVD just climbs out, then back in. Very awkward start, what was that about?

Van Dam back on track with a spinning heel kick, successfully not knocking Regal out with it. Big clobbering clothesline, standing moonsault, mounted punches, Van Dam like a house of fire. Regal back with a forearm, looking for his signature brass knucks and he’s looking so long it really is an odd image, Eventually finds them, but they get kicked out of his hands. Regal begs off, gets thrown around, then takes a second rope roundhouse, looks great. RVD looking for the Five Star early, but nobody home. Regal with a running knee for two, then goes for a few more pins, just looking to tire Van Dam out. Ring psychology!

Van Dam back with a crossbody for two, backslide for two, but Regal back with a drop toe-hold and vicious shots to the back of the head, only slightly ruined by the fact that we cut to a replay during. Suplex, two. The pace of this one is amazing so far. Shots in the corner, whip reversed, and RVD hits a back body-drop. Kick to the head, strikes, but Regal hits the Regal Cutter OUTTANOWHERE, and RVD hits the mat hard. Not a finisher anymore, so only two. A well deserved rest-hold follows, even I need a break.

Regal’s been busted open on the lip, so RVD’s swung wild at least once with that foot. Now hits a super-kick, but Regal gets the knees up on Rolling Thunder. Double Underhook Powerbomb gets two, then Regal looks for the Regal Stretch, but countered into an inside cradle for two. Clothesline takes Van Dam down, and Regal waves to the crowd. RVD coming back, drop-kick in the corner, then a corner flip. Looking for another spinning heel kick, but countered into a Full Nelson Suplex, a thing of beauty. Regal really was one of the best ever wasn’t he? Regal retrieves his knucks from the outside, as Lawler says “This guy is one of the greatest, look at him, picking up trash from the outside”. He’s not annoying me yet.

Hebner Jr isn’t having any of that and takes the knucks away, but Regal retrieves another pair while he is distracted, only to get a kick to the face as he had them raised. Five Star Frog Splash, and that will be all in under six-and-a-half.

Winner (and new WWF Intercontinental Champion): ONEOFAKIND

Verdict: Really fun opener, fast and frantic, and I could watch Regal pull off moves all night.

You’d think this meant bigger things for Van Dam, but I’m not so sure.

Backstage, Christian is interviewed by Garcia. He’s been on an epic losing streak that is provoking temper tantrums, one of the best comedy gimmicks of the era, and not even DDP’s smile therapy seems to be helping. The previous Monday DDP helped Christian to a win over Billy Gunn, and Christian rewarded him by hitting an Unprettier. Why Christian, why? He says he doesn’t need DDP anymore, just like he doesn’t need this second rate city anymore. Cheap pop. He’s in touch with his emotions now, and is ready to reclaim his title as “the Champion of Europe”. Yes, that’s what I associate with Christian.

Toronto gets plugged by commentary, and onto the best theme music ever.

Diamond Dallas Page (c) vs Christian (WWF European Championship)

“CHRISTIAAAAAN! CHRISTIAAAAN! At Last! You’re On Your Owwwwwwwwn!” Amazing, always. Christian billed as being from “his new hometown of Tampa Bay, Florida”. Crowd not biting as much as you might expect. Interested in seeing how much more time DDP has with the Fed, given how much of it was wasted the previous year stalking Sara Callaway. Anyway.

Christian attacks before the bell, because of course. Stomps, posing with the belt, and then lets Page come back with forearms. Gutwrench into a gutbuster, and then Cactus Clothesline sends both men out. Christian sent into the barricade a few times, then back in. Mounted punches in the corner, but Christian able to hit a low-blow without the ref’s notice (called a “high blow” by Jerry on account of the position: what is this, Night of Clever King Commentary”?). Deep, throbbing “Ohhhhh” from the crowd, sounds cool. DDP dropped on the turnbuckle, hung on the ropes, then knocked into the barricade off a charge. OK so far.

Smiles for the audience and back in. Foot choke, shots in the corner, but DDP able to come back when Christian takes the time to mock Page’s taunts. Looking to drag Christian balls first into the ringpost, but pulled in himself. Abdominal stretch, two when DDP drops. Choke in the corner, shoulder-block on a charge sends Page down. Christian to the top, intercepted by Page, and DDP hits a sort of modified powerslam off the top, surprisingly high-notice move for this one. Discus clothesline, sit-out powerbomb, and a very near-fall, I think some members of the crowd thought it was it.

Christian out of a reverse suplex attempt, looking for the Unprettier, DDP counters into an attempted Diamond Cutter, but Christian counters that into his own Reverse DDT, but only two, nice sequence. Christian on the verge of a tantrum, but utilises his breathing exercises, very nice. Page with an inside cradle gets two, Christian misses a clothesline, walks into a Diamond Cutter, and that will be all in just over six.

Winner (and still WWF European Champion): It’s him, it’s him.

Verdict: Fairly by-the-numbers. Both men are solid workers, and that’s exactly what this match was.

DDP on the mike, and praises Christian for not losing his temper after losing in front of 67’000 fans and millions watching at home. You gotta love the guy who doesn’t know he’s being an asshole. Christian is horrified, and here comes the tantrum. DDP heads off through the adoring crowd, and if his WWF career was a bust, at least he got that moment.

The Rock is backstage with the Coach. Says his contest with Hogan is “biggest match of all time”, that will determine “the greatest ever”. It’s the third last match tonight folks. He wants Hulkamania in all its glory, but then turns on the Coach. He wants to know if he has said his prayers, and is horrified when Coach says he got busy. The fans in Toronto want to see Coach say his prayers, but of course. At Rock’s behest Coach puts his hands together, gets down on his knees and delivers that iconic line: “What up G?”. The Rock is even more horrified, and gives Coach the literal boot. His attention back on Hogan, Rock gives one of his most impassioned promos ever I think, asking “Whatcha gonna do, when The Rock runs wild on you?” It’s going to be like never before, Hogan is going to see the People’s Elbow come crashing down on his chest and “you will, you will, you will, you will, you will, Good God Almighty you will, smell what The Rock is cooking!” as he tears the shirt. Goosebumps, then and now. One of The Rock’s more pleasant interactions with Coach really, and the man can sell a match like nobody’s business.

Maven (c) vs Goldust (WWF Hardcore Championship)

Rhodes back a few months at this stage, and starts flinging stuff into the ring as he walks down. Out comes Maven, a few months into his career and I think still with “roll-up” as his finisher. The Network has changed his theme music from the awesome Tough Enough theme (“Tatoo” by Mercy Drive) to something more generic and substantially less awesome. I had a lot of time for Maven back then, I thought the idea of this random guy suddenly being a WWF Champ and competing at Wrestlemania was genuinely inspiring, but I have a feeling I might think a tad differently as we go forward here. After the amazing Hardcore Title match at X7 this one has a lot to live up to, but WWF wisely decided to go a different direction, as we’ll see.

It’s a Hardcore match, so Goldust blindsides Maven as he enters the ring and knocks him to the outside. Strikes on the outside, and Maven flung hard into the barricade. Forearm smash from the apron after Maven was set-up. Out comes the cookie sheet for a shot, then back into the ring. Goldust sets up a golden trash can, takedown on Maven, looking for a catapult into the can but Maven awkwardly moves it at the last second. Can thrown at Goldust, he catches it and Maven hits his other patented move, the drop-kick, the impact of which Goldust basically no-sells. Roll-up for two, then Goldust back with a neckbreaker for two. Facebuster, and Goldust grabs, and I had completely forgotten about this, a literal golden shovel, amazing! Maven takes a shot to the throat, then Goldust sets one of the cans up in the corner. Maven whipped hard into it, but only two.

A gold trash can lid is next, but Maven able to use one of his own and there is a dueling shot that sends both men down. Out comes Spike Dudley, with a ref for some reason (there’s already one in the ring!) to get the 1, 2, 3 in just over three.

Winner (and new WWF Hardcore Champion): The littlest Dudley. I don’t know if you can really call him the “winner” but the match ended when he got the pin so…

Verdict: Short and what you would expect from a Hardcore match at this time. The real Hardcore stuff is coming later.

Dudley flees into the crowd as Crash Holly comes out to confront him. Holly pursues, followed by Goldust, and then Maven. The crowd loud for this last part.

Lilian Garcia introduces Drowning Pool to “tell us the story” of the Undisputed Title Match with their song “Tear Away”. Basically they play the song at the top of the ramp while audio-less video highlights of the Triple H/Jericho feud play in the background. Bit of a miserable song it has to be said, doesn’t have a patch on “Sinner”. Think there’s an imbalance between vocal volume and the instruments, “Let me hear you scream” says the lead vocalist, and Toronto couldn’t have less enthusiasm. His last word is “I can’t hear you!” and Toronto just seems to nod in agreement. Weird that they felt the need to do this, but maybe it was part of the deal with Drowning Pool?

Backstage, Spike brawls with Crash next to a big pile of boxes, but can’t get the pin. Suddenly in comes Al Snow on a golf cart, Teddy Long beside him, and they crash into the boxes at speed for an admittedly awesomely stupid spot that had me having flashbacks to “Speed 3”: “Look Ted, a big bunch of boxes in the middle of the road!”. Spike chucks Crash into a loading bay entrance barrier and makes to flee, only for the Hurricane to swoop in on a line, nail Spike with a kick, and get the pin.

New WWF Hardcore Champion: The Hurricane!

Hurricane “flies” away as Snow emerges from the pile of boxes asking “Where’d he go?”. We get an immediate replay of what happened for some reason. I do loves me some ridiculous backstage Hardcore antics.

Kurt Angle vs Kane

This match the very definition of thrown together: both guys are too big to not be on the card, but lack any kind of substantial feud, so they cobbled together a match between the two of them. Kurt on the mike beforehand. He has one thing to say: “If I had won my Olympic gold medal the way this country’s figure skaters won their gold medal, I’d want to shoot myself in the freaking head” (Look up “figure skating scandal 2002” for the needed context). Angle says they whined and complained to win their medals, unlike him, “the big red, white and blue machine”. An eruption of fire interrupts him. I love heel Angle before his matches, he’s so delightfully mean. He’s also physically mean, as he bashes Kane with the ringbell here to start us off.

Angle laying in shots, but eventually Kane comes back with some of his own. Angle dodges a clothesline and hits a German, and now I am reminded that Angle actually made Kane tap out during the Invasion storyline a few months previously to this, which I think is the only time Kane ever submitted. Not brought up tonight though, and you think it would be part of the feud in a “I’m the only person you’re scared of Kane because I made you tap out” kind of way. Kane shrugs off Angle’s attacks and hits a back body-drop. Hard Irish Whip to the corner, then an elevated choke followed by a hard drop. Looking for the Chokeslam, but Angle grabs the ropes. Goes for a charge, but floored with an uppercut. Kane looks so impressive at this time, his offence just pops.

Angle eventually able to get some room and hits an overhead belly-to-belly, then a clothesline, then another. Stomps, a rope choke, and a hard right. Kane rallying back, but cut off with a whip into the corner then a reverse suplex for two. Front headlock gives the two men a breather, Kane eventually out of it, and hits a press slam facebuster. Angle back with rights, then walks into a Sidewalk Slam. Kick to the midsection, looking for a suplex, but Kurt lands on his feet and hits another German, then adds two more, but only gets two to his chagrin. Angle to the top for some reason, and for once it isn’t a moonsault, but a flying clothesline that floors Kane. A “woo” gets an otherwise apathetic crowd going, and Angle heads back to the top to try again, only this time Kane hits a clothesline of his own. Both men down in what has been a bog-standard encounter so far.

Both up at a count of six, dueling strikes, Kane hits a big boot, clothesline, another back body-drop and a corner clothesline. Powerslam off a hard corner whip, but Angle just gets the shoulder up for two. Angle able to hit an elbow, then walks into a big Chokeslam. 1, 2, and Angle gets a hand on the bottom rope. Kane is nonplussed, rakes the thumb across his throat and looks for a Tombstone. Angle out the back, tries to get Kane’s mask off, and this distraction lets him hit the Angle Slam, but only two. The shoulder spandex comes off, and the Ankle Lock gets locked on. In fairness JR does bring up Angle making Kane tap out here. Kane powers out briefly, but Angle just locks it in again. Slowly to the rope, Angle refusing to let go, and Kane able to get to his feet and hit an enziguri, always cool when he did that.

Kane heading up top, but slow because of the hurt ankle, and that delay allows Angle to intercept and hit an avalanche overhead slam, a thing of beauty. Looking for another Angle Slam, that commentary decides to call an Olympic Slam this time, Kane out of it, but Kurt then rolls him up, awkward shuffling as Angle eventually gets his feet on the ropes and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in just under 11.

Winner: Your Olympic hero, onto bigger and better feuds, I hope.

Verdict: It was alright, it had its hot moments. Clunky finish didn’t do it any favours, that’s for sure. Both men are capable of better, and may have pulled out all the stops for a better feud.

Backstage, the Hurricane sneaks around, and hides behind a divider when he hears approaching voices. Said voices appear to be a bunch of random women, and they start taking their clothes off and discussing how big their boobs are, because this is written by the same 13-year-old who wrote the infamous Kiebler/Wilson “my voluptuous breasts” dialogue. Hurricane, holding a broom at a suggestive angle, gets spotted, which leads the Godfather to intervene and send him packing. So these are the Godfather’s ho’s I guess? But he’s not on the card tonight…do they just show up and undress in the arena anyway?

Up next, Taker/Flair, the first match to get a video package. “Big Evil” Undertaker was about to beat up the Rock with a pipe until Flair, co-owner of the company, intervened. Taker wanted a match, Flair said no and Taker took to beating up Flair’s friends and family, in the form of Arn Anderson and David Flair, who at the time was working developmental for the Fed, presumably part of the deal for his father’s return. God bless him, David sold the assault like a pro. That was enough to get his Dad to accept the challenge, some brawling happened, Flair got arrested and that got the Board of Directors involved. Boardroom drama, what every wrestling fan wants to see. This means McMahon is in temporary sole charge of the company, and that matters because Vince makes the match No DQ because, you see, he is evil. Alright build to the feud, but heel Taker was never able to do it for me.

The Undertaker vs Ric Flair (No Disqualification)

Taker out with the bike still, and still using “Rollin” to boot, I’m surprised the Network shelled out for it. JR notes that he’s 9-0 at Wrestlemania, and I think this is the first time that what will become “the Streak” is mentioned? Out comes Flair. I never liked Flair in the Fed at this time as a wrestler, he just wasn’t in the condition, at age 53, to go the degree required of the matches he was put in. Case in point, he rushes the ring like a man on fire here, but he can’t get to his feet quickly so ends up grappling with Undertaker’s legs as the bell rings.

Flair with strikes, and both men head out. Flair flings himself at Taker, and they both go for a ride over the English announce desk, where the Nature Boy lays in plenty of shots. Taker out of it looking dazed, and the two exchange more shots before heading back in. A few more shots and Taker falls out of the ring. Not much to this one so far. The Deadman catches Flair on a splash from the apron, and drives him into the ringpost. Flair’s head driven into the ringsteps, and back in. Briefly jawing with fans at ringside, Taker gets blindsided when he follows, but soon is giving it back plenty. Just punches back-and-forth so far.

Irish Whip into the corner, and Flair tries for his 360 spin onto the apron spot but he just ends up hitting the second turnbuckle. Shocking for this level. You know it’s a botch because they re-do the spot straight away and this time Flair is able to pull it off, only to get booted to the floor. Taker sets him up on a chair and lays in more shots. A replay gives Flair the cover to blade, before Taker lays on a few more punches. “Flair’s not in his prime and you know it” says JR. Oh I know, believe me. We go back in, a kick to the head, corner smashes, strikes and Flair collapses. Taker jaws with the ref, and Flair comes back at him with chops, and the crowd is into it. Taker hits back with a hard corner clothesline, and Flair collapses again. Rather dull so far.

There’s a droplet of blood on a ringside camera as Taker continues the offence. Sets Flair up on top, shots, looking for a superplex, and nails it, and man it looked hard. Flair sells it like crazy, but only two on the cover when Taker pulls Flair up. Beatdown continues, to the outside again, elbows on the apron, leg-drop. More entertaining than this basic offence is JR and King, who argue about whether McMahon holds grudges. “Are you looking for a raise?” “Well, now that you mention it…”. The beatdown continues in the ring now and at some point Taker has also got a cut from somewhere. We got an honest-to-God “Booger Red” from JR, I thought that was just a myth. King wants to know what that means, JR says he’ll tell him tomorrow.

More strikes, Taker heads up top looking for Old School, but gets “jerked off” the top rope. Phrasing! Flair back with chops as King asks if he’s “Booger Red” on account of the crimson. Flair is bleeding copiously, but kicks out of a Sidewalk Slam. Dodges a running boot and Taker crotches himself. More chops, we go outside again, Flair with a rake to the eyes, grabs a lead pipe from the motorcycle, and nails Undertaker with it. A few more to the back and gut, Taker back by driving Flair into the apron, and now we start brawling up the ramp. Flair with a headshot with a ringside sign, a few to the back, and we end up in the ring again. Hard to believe this is the second best Hardcore match tonight.

Some “Woos” and Flair lays in a few chops, Taker grabs the throat but Flair just kicks him in the balls. Takedown, and the Figure 4 locked in. It would mean more if there was any chance Mark Callaway would tap-out to Ric Flair. Taker sits up on a near-fall in the move, and grabs Flair’s throat to escape. Dragging him up, and he hits what they call a chokeslam, but is more of an uranage. King even has to cover, saying “Taker’s leg gave way on that chokeslam” and I’d say it was more he had to lesson the impact for Flair. Cover, but only two. Shots to the head, two. Taker is annoyed, and Little Naitch gets taken out. The Deadman grabs the lead pipe, but intercepted with strikes before he can use it. Suddenly Arn Anderson is in the ring, and hits a spinebuster OUTTANOWHERE.

Taker beats Anderson at ringside, then beats him inside the ring, and locks on that standing Dragon Lock finisher he had for a cup of coffee, only for Flair to give him some chair shots to the back. Before Flair can give him a head shot Taker delivers a big boot. Looking for The Last Ride, Flair battles out, but I think it’s more that Flair can’t get into position, the way he was awkwardly dangling halfway up for a few seconds. That’s pretty sad, and reminds me of Taker not being able to help Roman Reigns reverse a Tombstone a few years ago. Funny how things come round. Taker decides to give Flair a Tombstone instead, and that’s enough in just under 19.

Winner: Booger Red! Booger Red! Booger Red!

Verdict: Too long, too slow, and only one of the men in the match should have been there. Not sure what AA’s involvement really added. Flair’s inability to hang painfully obvious at all parts.

Taker gives Robinson one more shot before departing the ring, before holding up all ten fingers to the crowd. Streak! He rides off as King continues to wonder what a Booger Red is.

Backstage, a bespectacled Booker T is with Michael Cole. Edge has been casting doubts on Booker’s intelligence, but he says he’s a highly intelligent man: “I got glasses don’t I?” He once won an award for his work on Einstein’s “theory of relatives”: “He had two theories!” He’ll kick Edge’s ass, five times, sucka, etc. Booker’s a fun guy in these segments, but perhaps too willing to take the piss out of himself. No other top heels in the company get that treatment, and once you’re a comedy guy in the Fed, you can get stuck that way forever. Anyway.

Booker T vs Edge

This feud apparently emerged when Edge stole a Japanese hair product endorsement deal from T (“They’re fighting over shampoo” is one of the best crowd signs of the night, or ever). There are worse bases for a PPV match, but I admit I had completely forgotten this was even on the card. Edge gets a big reception from the hometown crowd: perhaps its hindsight, but you can see that he’s primed for a proper run at the top, though it won’t come for a while yet. Right now I would say this being his “hometown” is the only reason this match is on the card.

Lock-up, into the ropes, and awkward moment where Teddy Long shuffles between the two guys. Edge down hard off a shoulder block but back with a drop-kick. Modified facebuster/cutter gets two. Whips back-and-forth, Edge caught and hung up on the ropes. Heel kick, two, and Edge clotheslined out. Booker with a strike to the back from the apron, Edge sent back in, T to the top, and his hits a sweet missile drop-kick for two. Good start to this one.

Strikes on Edge in the corner, stomps, but Edge back after Booker gets distracted jawing with Long. Edge on a charge, but walks into a big spinebuster where it was almost a Sunset Flip before Booker pulled the trigger. One of the best spinebusters in wrestling really. Booker to the top but intercepted, Edge clambers up, and hits a rana off the top, but its botched horribly and Booker falls onto Edge after leaving the top too late. Ugh, that was hard to watch.

They move on quick, Edge with a heel kick, clothesline, but Booker back with a knee to the gut, Looking for that Scissors Kick, but Edge counters into that back slam I always found hard to describe. Edge to the top, and hits an awkward spinning heel kick where he just sort of collides with Booker’s chest, gets two. Booker gets two off a corner roll-up, countered into a catapult into another corner, looking for a spear but Booker leapfrogs and Edge ends up in the corner, superkick, and and we get a Wrestlemania-sized Spinarooni. Scissors Kick, Booker slow to get to the cover, and Edge just out of it.

Looking for the Book End, Edge counters out, and now hits the spear, but only two. But who cares, because we get the world famous Edgearooni right after, to wild applause Some kick attempts from both guys, and Edge hits the Edgeacution OUTTANOWHERE, for the win in just over six-and-a-half.

Winner: Edge, who is from Toronto like a guy from Birmingham is from London, just so we’re aware.

Verdict: Had a surprising number of botches, but other than that it was a fine short match. Not really Wrestlemania worthy, but these are two guys I like so I can’t complain much.

Edge celebrates with his “hometown” crowd: six years to main eventing!

The Hurricane is backstage when he gets accosted by Coach, who wants to know if his antics with the ho’s are becoming of a superhero. Hurricane is outraged at such an assertion. Mighty Molly arrives, distracts Hurricane by pointing to the Hurricycle, and then wangs him in the head with a frying pan. Amazing. One three count later…

New WWF Hardcore Champion: Mighty Molly. Whatsupwithdat?

A video package for Austin/Hall follows. Nie recap of crazy Vince taking about the nWo, replete with “A LETHAL DOSE…OF POOIIISON”. One of the all-time McMahon lines. Anyway, the nWo arrived in WWE and beat up Austin, Austin responded by beating up Scott Hall, the nWo hit Austin with a cinderblock and Hall hit him with a Stunner, hence match. The nWo in the WWF, oh boy, this whole idea lost steam so fast, but at this point they are still a big deal I suppose.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Scott Hall w/Kevin Nash

Austin gets a huge reception, but of course. He was super unhappy with the company at the time, refusing to job for Hogan as he felt he couldn’t wrestle to the required level (correct), so got stuck with Hall, who wasn’t much better really. Hall had gone six months of so without a match up to a few weeks before this, and its been a few house show contests with Austin and some throwaway TV encounters in that space, so he was still rusty. They tease out Nash joining Hall for some reason, and JR is outraged to see him. Um, why? It’s the nWo of course they are going to be all about that damn numbers game. Don’t expect too much from Hall though, as he’s dealing with a biceps injury here which has limited him big time for the first part of this run (if it was real). Still love that nWo music.

Austin attacks before the bell, and Hall floored quick enough. “What” chants as Austin hits stomps, an elbow and some corner smashes. Hall hasn’t even gotten his waistcoat off yet. Comes back a bit, then walks into the Lou Thesz press. Falling fist, more head smashes as the crowd is all about the “What!”. Hall takes a powder and finally gets the chance to take that coat off. Austin takes the time to attack Nash from behind, then goes after Hall again. Into the ringsteps, back into the ring, and Hall able to hit a shoulder charge to get two. Weak sounding open hand chops in the corner, that the crowd is silent for. As soon as Austin lays in some strikes it’s a thunderous “What!”

Hall takes over again with a hard corner whip, and Austin is shoved out. Hall distracts the ref so Nash can lay in some shots. Back in, corner clotheslines, Fallaway Slam, two. Hall counters a hip toss with a short-arm clothesline, two. He can do the beatdowns well, that’s something. Rope choke, ref distracted again so Nash can put in another cheap shot. Austin counters a whip and hits a spinebuster, but Hall back with hard shots himself. Comes off the ropes, and walks into a sudden Stunner OUTTANOWHERE. Nash pulls out the ref before he can count three, knocks him down, and takes to the ring to beat up Austin. Crowd surprisingly not super loud about it.

Hall grabs a chair, but Austin able to intercept him and hit another Stunner, then one for Nash too. Austin with the cover, but no ref. Jack Doan races down to the ring and gives us history’s greatest entrance slide to count two, before Nash drops an elbow on him. Hall looking for the Razor’s Edge, but back body-dropped to the outside instead. A group of refs are down to remonstrate with Nash, who is thrown out of ringside. Austin brawling with Hall, back in, looking for a third Stunner, Hall pushes out of it and then hits his own. Tim White in, eventually makes the count, but Austin out at two. Hall going for an other, Austin pushes out this time, hits the Stunner, Hall remains on his feet, and Austin hits a fourth, “Texas-sized” Stunner that Hall sells like he’s been launched out of a cannon. That’s enough in just under ten.

Winner: Amazing how the Stunner can turn the ring to elastic like that.

Verdict: Pretty rubbish encounter really. Hall can’t go, especially with a guy like Austin. No wonder Stone Cold was getting so fed up at the time, stuck with feuds like this.

Austin struggles to catch his beers, takes a few swigs and heads to the back pretty quickly. He don’t look too happy. He would no-show Raw the next night, citing exhaustion and problems with creative. We’ll get to it.

Next, a look at WWF Axcess. The usual looks at fans looking around the temporary wrestling museum/convention they set-up, wrestlers talking about how happy this all makes them, blah, blah, blah. It’s no “Terrible Army cadence” video from X7. I like Booker T trying to play the latest Smackdown game and being outraged that he’s not in it. One women is in tears talking to Taker, who looks dumbstruck, in a good way. That nice moment completely ruined of course when we cut to “an exact replica” of Stacy Keibler’s legs and rear end: the woman herself tries to insist this is all great for her, but she isn’t that good at selling. One step forward, five steps back. Let’s go to the next match.

Billy & Chuck (c) vs the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) w/Stacey Keibler vs The APA (Bradshaw & Farrooq) vs the Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff) (Fatal 4 Way Elimination Match) (WWF Tag Team Championships)

The Dudleys get Saliva performing their theme tune, which is kind of awesome, especially when Bubba headbangs along next to them (taking all of the attention away from Keibler’s dancing: you know that was a deliberate choice of his). Crowd actually gives this a bit more appreciation than the other performances. All down to Bubba. Anyway, this is what is already becoming standard at Wrestlemania, the multi-team tag match where the division is crammed into the ring for spectacle purposes. Thanks TLC! No Lita with the Hardy’s, as she’s getting ready for her match later. You loooook soooooo…good to me. Oh yes please. A year before South Park’s Crab People overtook them, it’s time for the world’s greatest metrosexual send-up, Billy and Chuck! We’ll talk about them more as we get closer to that wedding, but for now it suffices to say it was a good way for two forgotten guys to get the spotlight, even if things got more “gay panic” later.

With eight guys and one manager at ringside, this is going to be hard to call, so bear with me. Bit of schmozz to start, until it works out as Bradshaw and Chuck. This is two legal men at a time, and anyone can tag in, always a delightfully random state of affairs. But why would anyone want to tag in in an elimination match? Bradshaw misses a clothesline, catches Chuck on a crossbody attempt, but taken out with a Billy neckbreaker before he can do anything. Doesn’t slow him down much as he gives out clotheslines and big boots to clear house, then a reverse suplex to Chuck. Tag to Farrooq, shots, but then down hard from a clothesline. Billy in, brief double team stomps, Billy looking for the Famouser but walks into a powerslam, Bradshaw in to take out both of the metrosexuals, DDT to Billy for two. Billy tags in D-Von, the Dudley’s looking for the 3-D on Bradshaw but he kicks D-Von before he can deliver the flapjack part. Billy and Chuck staying in the ring so things are really messy, Bradshaw delivers a thunderous Clothesline From Hell to Chuck but then walks into the 3-D and D-Von gets the pin and eliminates the APA in under three-and-a-half.

The Hardys in, double back body-drop to Bubba, double elbow to D-Von and stereo elbow drops gets two, I guess Jeff and D-Von are the legal men now. Chuck takes a double DDT as the Dudley’s set a table up on the outside. Hardy’s with drop-kicks through the ropes to them, Matt hooking up with D-Von on the outside as Jeff does the same with Bubba on the inside, I guess Bubba is legal? Whisper In The Wind takes Bubba down, the shirt comes off to the crowds delight, now Stacey is on the apron to distract Jeff with her ass. Oh dear. Jeff gives her a slap, a kiss, and she falls to the floor for the ultimate trio of violence, sexual harassment and taking bumps you shouldn’t have to.

Jeff clambering on top of Bubba for some reason, and takes a clothesline from Billy off the top. Bubba hits Billy with the Bubba Bomb to take him out, then chokes Jeff with some towel he had on him, OK. The cameras makes sure we see Keibler rubbing her backside at ringside, yeesh. Bubba works over Jeff with strikes and elbows, back body-drop, two. Resthold, and why should the match need that, just tag out! Jeff rallying back, blind tag to D-Von, and he floors Jeff with a clothesline for two. Big punches in the corner, suplex, two. Bubba in, Billy trying to get in for some reason, why? Jeff set-up upside down in the corner, and takes a ball press for his trouble, until Matt chucks Bubba out of the ring. D-Von takes Matt out to prevent a tag, then in legally himself. Very messy stuff, as you would expect.

Corkscrew elbow, looking for a reverse DDT, but Jeff counters into a sort of knee-based neckbreaker. Hot tag to Matt who floors Bubba a few times, DDT, back body-drop to D-Von, shots to Billy and Chuck, but then hit with a reverse suplex by Bubba. To the top, but nobody home on a senton. Matt to the top for a leg drop, but only two. Bubba hits a Scoop Slam, but D-Von thrown off the top by Billy when he looks for the Whassup and he goes crashing through the table, which we only see from the widest possible angle, but still looks brutal. Matt hits the Twist Of Fate, and Jeff follows with the Swanton for the 1, 2, 3 to eliminate the Dudleys in just under 12.

Chuck in to nail Matt with a superkick, only two. Jeff takes Chuck down and hits that gut heel kick. Billy puts Jeff out, then walks into a Side Effect from Matt. Jeff tagged in, Poetry In Motion to Billy, then the same to Chuck. Matt hits Chuck with the Twist Of Fate, Jeff hits the Swanton, but then Billy in with the Famouser. Cactus Clothesline sends Matt and Billy out, Chuck gets a slow cover but Jeff out at two. As Chuck distracts the ref Billy nails Jeff with a belt shot, and that will be the final fall in just under 14.

Winners (and still WWF Tag Team Champions): They look so good to you.

Verdict: Basically three tag matches in succession, with Chuck & Billy vs the APA, Dudleys vs Hardys, then Hardys vs Billy & Chuck. Frantic back-and-forth action, but it was missing something. Felt like a house show match with a table spot (that was brutal, to reiterate). Ending felt a little blown, like Jeff wasn’t supposed to kick-out of the first pin. At the end of the day three of the teams involved have been stuck in their roles for too long and are begging for some re-invention, though Vince will just go with what he knows and break them up instead.

Billy and Chuck taunt a recovering Dudleys and Keibler with the belts, which doesn’t really match their characters I would have thought, and stomp off.

Backstage, Hall and Nash insist to each other that Austin just got lucky. They say they’ll take out what happened on The Rock, but Hogan appears to tell them he needs to face Rock on his own. He wants Rock to have no excuses “just like when I busted up Rocky Balboa”. That’s Hogan name-dropping a near twenty year movie. Hogan leaves, and Hall and Nash insist to each other they will still be involved.

Elsewhere, Mighty Molly flees with the Hardcore Title, but gets absolutely slammed by a divided door. It’s Christian! “Stand back, there’s a new champion coming through!” A ref appears and Christian gets the pin.

New WWF Hardcore Champion: Christian

JR says “Christian beat a woman” like Christian beat a helpless child. Not that Christian cares, as he runs off.

Time for what should be the main event, and we get a video package. Hogan is back, saying WWF fans drove him out after he made the company what it is, and there will never be anyone bigger than him. The Rock disagrees. He challenges Hogan to “headline” one more Wrestlemania with him, and Hogan agrees. I guess challenging him to go on third last at Wrestlemania doesn’t have the same ring to it. The two have gone back-and-forth with beatdowns over the last few weeks, most notably when the nWo ran a truck into an ambulance the Rock was taking after an assault. To say again, it was meant to be Austin/Hogan, but Austin thought Hogan wasn’t good enough. The Rock was more willing to play ball. Actually not that good of a video promo, given they are hyping this as the biggest match in history. Always going to be an automatic attraction to a match of this type, fully “Icon vs Icon”, but at that time I remember having little interest because Hogan looked incapable of performing to the level required. No one better to get a match out of him than Rock though.

“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan vs The Rock

Hogan 49 at the time and excepting a five minute Curt Hennig bout in the short-lived XWF, a house show against Rikishi and a throwaway match on Raw, this is his first proper match in well over a year. Despite trying to frame him as a heel the Toronto crowd is all over the Hulkamania sentiment, and they start the inevitable turn with Hogan acknowledging the cheers. The Rock cheered heavily too, for now. Crowd the loudest they have been all night, a sustained cacophony, and we take a moment for the two wrestlers to deservedly milk it in.

Circling, lock-up, struggling for a bit, and Rock flung back. The crowd explodes and Hogan poses and gives Rock the “Just Bring It”. Lock-up, side headlock from Hogan, Rock shoves him off but then floored by a shoulder charge. The crowd is eating it all up, and Rock looks perturbed by the very loud “Hogan” chants. Lock-up, Hogan with a knee to the gut, then strikes, whip against the ropes and hits a big clothesline. Another whip, and now Rock hits his flying clothesline, which gets a few boos. Hogan’s turn to look a bit stunned, maybe because his bandana was torn off. Shoving back-and-forth, Rocky with strikes, laying the Smackdown, and I think Hogan was meant to go over the top rope but can’t pull that off, rolling under instead. Whoops.

Ringside brawling for a moment, then back in. Rock with strikes, a clothesline, calling for the Rock Bottom but Hogan elbows out. Rock sent down hard with another elbow, a few falling elbows, a rake to the face. Big “Hogan” chants as he lays in a corner clothesline. Awkward moment where Hogan goes for a boot to the midsection but Rock had already backed off, not so good. Rock comes back hard with a takedown/spear, and the crowd has a very mixed reaction to that. Hogan takes advantage of Rock’s distraction to hit a reverse suplex for two. Abdominal stretch with shots to the gut, transitions into a roll-up for two. Only so much offence Hogan can give in a row before he starts looking less than great.

Chops and back rakes in the corner, shots, elevated punches, and the crowd happy to count along. Crowd proper turning on Rock when he takes some turns with the chops. Hogan hits a chokeslam off a Rock charge, choke on the mat until Mike Chioda breaks it up. Rock blocking shots to lay the Smackdown again, but Hulk dodges a charge and sends the Rock flying over the top rope. Rock sent into the ring steps, onto the barricade, and now Hogan starts setting up the announce desk for something. Rock back with shots, slamming Hogan’s head on the table, grabs a chair, but the ref grabs it before it can be used. Rock, distracted, walks into a clothesline. Back in, crowd fully behind Hogan now, and off another dodge to a Rock charge the referee gets taken out. Shenanigans incoming. A replay shows the Rock clearly changing course to run into Chioda, oops.

Rock able to hit a spinebuster, both men down, and slowly back up. Rock with the takedown, and locks in the Sharpshooter. To my shock then and even more now given Hogan’s reputation, Hogan taps out, but of course no ref. I’ll never understand why they did that. Rock tries to rouse the ref, as the crowd busts out “Rocky sucks”, it’s been a while. Hogan hits a distracted Rock with a low-blow, then nails a Rock Bottom. Ref conscious again, slow count, and Rock out at two. Hogan whips off the belt, the ref is unconscious again, so he’s able to pull the government mule act with Rock. Wraps the belt around his fist, Rock dodges a punch and hits a DDT. Fans not happy.

Rock now grabs the belt and goes to town on Hogan, now that feels good. Hits the Rock Bottom after Hogan takes an age to turn, Hogan out at two, and the hulking up commences. Crowd going apeshit for the finger wagging, and now Hogan lays on his punches, big boot, Atomic Leg Drop, two. Crowd is nuclear. Rock pulled up, another big boot, but now nobody home for another Leg Drop attempt. Stalking Hogan, and hits another Rock Bottom, to boos. Pulls Hogan back up, and hits the Rock Bottom again. Kip up, and the crowd does come alive a bit for Rock to hit the Peoples Elbow. That’s enough in just under sixteen-and-a-half.

Winner: Rocky sucks, Rocky sucks, Rocky sucks.

Verdict: Complicated feelings on this one. The crowd, just in their general energy and the way they turned on the Rock really elevated the whole thing, which otherwise was pretty underwhelming given Hogan’s limitations, the bad tap out spot and the turn to finisher spam at the conclusion. JR acts like this was one of the greatest matches he’s ever seen and I can’t agree with that. It was a hell of a spectacle for sure, but take away the crowd and this is little better than Austin/Hall. Felt longer than it was too.

Rock celebrates, and the two men are left in a staredown. Hogan reaches out a hand, Rock takes it, to cheers. Rare you would see that kind of thing at the time, since face/face was so very infrequent. Rock takes his leave, and suddenly Hall and Nash are here. They remonstrate with Hogan for his buddying up with the Rock, then suddenly attack. On the list of nWo swerves this is pretty far down the list. Rock comes charging back in, and he and Hogan dispatch the now two man nWo pretty quickly. And with that, the nWo experiment in the WWF was fatally undermined: it already looks like another burial/victory lap for Vince McMahon over a former ratings adversary.

Hogan goes to leave, but Rock calls him back to do some posing, to the crowds delight. I’m sure Jericho and Triple H were backstage watching this wondering why in hell it was decided they go on after. Well, at least Jericho was wondering. Hogan and Rock leave together, and there’s a definite moment where Rock quietly checks if Hogan is OK, the man looks completely out of gas. Posing at the top of the ramp, and Hogan raises The Rock’s hand. Rock looks genuinely moved by that.

Meanwhile, in WWF New York, your WWF Superstar in residence for the night is The Big Show. He pals around with some kids, before Finkel gets to announce a new attendance record of 68’237 for the Skydome. Is that the real number or the kayfabe number? Onto the bathroom break (and I say that with sadness).

Jazz (c) vs Lita vs Trish Stratus (Triple Threat) (WWF Women’s Championship)

Think this was pretty much the entire womens division at the time really, bar Molly I guess? Ivory and Jacqueline were still around, but mostly for house show appearances as I recall. Trish gets the hometown cheer as she comes out in Maple Leaf garb. Lita attacks before Stratus gets to the ring. This is presumably going to be quick.

Lita and Jazz brawling, Stratus in, and the two Fed veterans briefly team to beatdown the champ. Jazz back with kicks and slaps, then locks on a half-Boston Crab on Trish before Lita breaks it up. Modified Torture Lock on Lita, then a leg drop gets two. Stratus kicked out of the ring, Lita reverses a mounted position into one of her own, then a slow-ass rana spot sends Jazz down. Whip into the corner, modified Black Hole Slam that looked rather clumsy, two. Jazz no-selling, Lita set-up on the top as guys in the crowd wolf-whistle. Jazz looking for a superplex until Trish takes her down in an Electric Chair position, and Jazz just falls off her in a way that doesn’t look safe for anyone.

Trish with a roll-up for two, then rolls through a Lita crossbody for two. Kick to head from Stratus to Lita, then the Stratusfaction but Jazz breaks up the count. Heading to finishers early. King talking about puppets as Jazz hits a splash on Lita for two, a Fisherman’s Suplex on Trish that Lita breaks up. Stratus back with a reverse DDT, Lita breaks up the pin again. Lita and Trish team up just long enough to floor Jazz, then slug it out with each other. Lita gives a back body-drop where Stratus spins in the air, landing on her front legs first, looked very ugly. Looking for the Twist of Fate, Stratus out of it, and Lita hits it on Jazz instead. Scoop Slam to Trish, Lita appears to get into trouble as she tries to pull her top off, to King’s disappointment, and she heads to the top with it still on, that gets a few boos. The ensuing Moonsault is badly whiffed, but they play it as Trish getting the knees up. Roll-up for two, and this could do with an ending soon.

Trish with chops, one of which is very badly whiffed, Lita coming back but then floored on a shoulder charge. Jazz back up, kicks out of a backslide and sends Trish down with a clothesline before being back body-dropped out of the ring by Lita. Lita shoves Stratus into the corner and out she goes, Jazz back in, Lita to the top, but then given a shot by Trish. Jazz kicks Trish to the floor, follows Lita up and hits an Avalanche Fisherman’s Suplex for the 1, 2, 3 in under six-and-a-half.

Winner (and still WWF Womens Champion): Jazz, the best of a general mess.

Verdict: Sloppy, sometimes dangerously so, and not an ounce of heat in this one. Womens wrestling is heading to a darker place at this time, after getting a brief peek at the sun during the Attitude Era. No one covered themselves in glory here.

Backstage, Christian heads for his cab celebrating with the Hardcore Title, only for Maven to sneak up with a ref and roll him up for the 1, 2, 3.

New WWF Hardcore Champion: Maven

Maven leaps into the cab and drives off, leaving Christian doing his tantrum thing on the pavement. I know the Hardcore Title doesn’t have a great history in the next little while before it is deactivated, but this was all a lot of fun.

Fink intros the main event, which doesn’t get a video package, I guess they were happy enough with the Drowning Pool performance earlier? Shame, because this feud had one my all-time favourite soap opera plots, with Stephanie’s faked pregnancy, Triple H’s freakout at their vow renewal, all the stuff about their dog, it was golden. Of course it did make Jericho a bit of a sideshow to the usual McMahon family drama, but what can you do?

Chris Jericho (c) w/Stephanie McMahon vs Triple H (WWF Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship)

Confession time: I’ve never seen this match. The bootleg tape I had of this show cut out with the womens match, and I’ve never gone back and watched it, so I have certain level of fascination here. Drowning Pool here to play another song for Triple H’s entrance, and it’s as bad as the first performance really, just the lyrics are even more unintelligible (except for repeated “Here comes the Game”. Nothing will ever beat Motorhead’s botch job the previous year. Out comes the man himself, left leg taped up, and would presume along with the rest of the wrestling watching world that going on last was his idea/insistence. Seeing Y2J with Stephanie will always be weird, considering their usual dynamic. Jericho out with the two belts, and I believe this is the last night before they came up with a new single gold belt? This will also be Jericho’s only Mania main event. JR and King spending a lot of time talking about Stephanie, so guess what the story of the match will be?

“Go get him Chris” says Steph as the bell rings. Jericho looking for that leg straight away, and the words “injured leg” haven’t left JR’s mouth when the mikes pick up Stephanie’s screaming “Go for the leg Chris!”. Just so no-one is in any doubt as to what the in-ring story will be I guess. Lock-up, into the corner, and Jericho swiping desperately at the leg. Break, Triple H with a hard clothesline, and again. Hits his high knee, and clutches his leg after. Kind of over-egging it now. Goes after Jericho again, and gets back body-dropped out for his trouble. Jericho to the top, but intercepted and launched off and into the barricade. Into the ring post, and Triple H starts setting up the Spanish announce table for a spot. Crowd is dead by the way.

Jericho back with kicks to the leg and back in. Takedown, more kicks to the leg, but the Game back with a spear takedown and punches. Elbow drop on Y2J’s leg, then a few kicks of his own. Jericho gets some room with a thumb to the eye, but then walks into a knee drop. Triple H locks on a Figure 4, but Steph able to reach in and dig her finger nails into his husband’s eyes as the ref is looking elsewhere. Game lets go of the hold, drags Stephanie onto the apron, then dodges a Jericho charge so Steph takes it instead, and that gets the biggest crowd reaction of this match so far. Tripe H puts Stephanie in the ring, looking for a Pedigree, and Jericho with a missile drop-kick for the save. Whiff of desperation off that spot, like they know they can’t get the crowd going otherwise.

Stephanie kicking Triple H’s leg at ringside while Hebner is distracted, then Jericho back at it. Non-stop targeting of the leg, come on now. Knee smash, then Jericho slaps on a Figure 4 through the ringpost, ala Bret Hart/Austin and if you think that’s going to get the crowd going you are mistaken. Hebner breaks it up, back in, some shockingly mild crowd reaction to “Come on, baby!”. Drop toe-hold, more working over of the leg with elbow drops, jerks, locks and I swear it sounds like the crowd is chanting “Hogan”. Triple H ducks a clothesline and hits a neckbreaker, clothesline, two. Knee smash, awkward counter-throw on a Jericho charge, then a big spinebuster for two. HHH whipped right up and out of the ring, and he can pull that spot off better than Flair anyway.

Jericho setting up the English announce table now, Stephanie distracting Earl for some reason, Jericho and Triple H onto the table, and looking for the Walls. “This is going to do it here if he turns” says King, apparently forgetting there are no falls outside of the ring. Triple H fights out of it, looking for the Pedigree, but then back body-dropped through the Spanish table to a very mild pop. Hebner only starts counting now for some reason. JR suggests the ref should stop the match, and King replys “You can’t stop a classic like this” and wow that is an oversell. Jericho hits a Lionsault, two, and goes for the Walls again, but Triple H fights out of it. Looking for a Pedigree, taken down instead, and now we get the Walls of Jericho. When was the last time anyone tapped out to this? The Game gets to the ropes after surviving a hand drop spot and a pullback, as we see Jericho is bleeding from the mouth.

Jericho is annoyed and grabs a chair. Steph trying to distract, but the Game with a big boot as Jericho goes for a chair shot. DDT on the chair, but Jericho kicks out at the last moment. You’d think that would be the moment for a distraction. Stephanie into the ring to grab the chair, but Hebner pulls it off her. Steph gives him a shove, Triple H has her by the hair, and the crowd comes alive as he nails a Pedigree, and to Stephanie’s credit it’s a full-on one. I wonder if that will come up in the divorce proceedings? As Hebner checks on her Jericho nails a big chair shot that is so loud the ref must have heard it, but it doesn’t matter because of course Triple H kicks out.

Jericho looking for a Pedigree now, but countered into a catapult. Jericho lands on the second rope, second rope nothing, and Triple H hits the Pedigree OUTTANOWHERE for the pin in just over 18-and-a-half.

Winner (and new WWF Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion): “That badass sonofabitch” has JR says. Is this Haitch’s only face title win?

Verdict: Dead crowd, dull in-ring story, only big moments involved Stephanie’s interference, very sudden finish. Very unexceptional given this is meant to be a PPV main event, never mind a Wrestlemania main event.

Triple H celebrates with his belts as JR desperately tries to sell this as a truly epic moment.

Post PPV summation video to “Superstar”, but it’s the live version for some Godforsaken reason.

Best Match: I hate to say it, but the opener, Regal and RVD brought it in a way so many people down the card didn’t.

Best Wrestler: I’ll go for Rock, he carried Hogan to a better than expected match and milked the crowd reaction just right.

Worst Match: A few options, but I will go for Taker/Flair. One sided, a few botches, and Flair simply can’t go.

Worst Wrestler: Scott Hall, but luckily for WWF he won’t be a problem for much longer.

Overall Verdict: Very below average Mania in my opinion. There’s no flat-out classics here at all, with Hogan/Rock a required watch but more for the aura around it and the crowd than what happened in the ring. Main event was a bust, too many humdrum or bad matches in the rest of the card. Given that it comes after X7, this show is actually pretty close to just bad, with only Regal/RVD, Angle/Kane, Edge/Booker and the Hardcore hi-jinks to really save it. Not recommended.

To view more entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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1 Response to NFB Watches Wrestling #56: Wrestlemania 18

  1. Pingback: NFB Watches Wrestling: Index | Never Felt Better

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