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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wrestlemania Countdown: 17 (X-7)

The SK Rant for WWF Wrestlemania X-7

- Quick note for those who read my “All-Time Wrestlemania” column earlier in the week, where I picked one match from each of the previous X-6 Wrestlemanias – yes, I used Taka twice, forgetting that he had recovered from his injury in time to compete in the Hardcore Battle Royale at Wrestlemania 2000. Thanks to the 100 or so people who e-mailed me to let me know of this.

- Live from Houston, TX, and OH MY GOD is that a big crowd.

- Your hosts are Jim Ross & Paul Heyman.

- Thanks to CRZ for match times, as I was ranting live on the show and couldn’t get them myself.

- Heat match: X-Pac & Justin Credible v. Too Cheese.

Nice to see X-Pac’s reported tantrum to HHH got him on the show, even if it was only the pre-game. God knows it can’t be a Wrestlemania without X-Pac. X-Pac gets a quick broncobuster attempt, but Sexay takes him down. Albert nails him and Sexay plays face-in-peril for a bit. Hot tag Blackman, but X-Factor hits a double-superkick for the pin. Just a match. ¼*

- Opening match, Intercontinental title: Chris Jericho v. William Regal.

(I believe this was the epic feud where Jericho literally took a piss in Regal’s tea to set it up.)  Jericho gets a quick forearm and leg lariat, and Regal bails. He follows with a pescado. Back in, Jericho comes off the top with an elbow for two. Counter-wrestling sequence leads to Regal posting Jericho. He works the shoulder, but Jericho gets a quick Lionsault attempt, which misses. Regal cradles for two and a suplex gets two. He undoes a turnbuckle and rams Jericho’s shoulder into it, but takes a pair of enzuigiris. They head upstairs and Regal gets a butterfly superplex for two. Walls of Doink (Jericho had portrayed Doink for an angle recently before this.)  are reversed to the Regal Stretch, but he makes the ropes. Chris with the first CANADIAN VIOLENCE of the night, bulldog, and a surprisingly clean Lionsault victory at 7:08 to retain. I would have pegged Regal going over for sure here. Match was okay, but pretty disappointing overall. **1/2

- Meanwhile, Shane arrives in his WCW limo.  (You know it was the WCW one because guys kept punching out the windows, and then it blew up for no reason.) 

- The Right to Censor v. Tazz & The APA.

Val and Tazz slug it out, but Tazz gets caught in the corner and double-teamed. Goodfather legdrop and backdrop suplex gets two. Hot tag Bradshaw, and he hits a blockbuster suplex on Goodfather. Double chokeslam for Bull. Double superplex for Val, but Bull & Goodfather powerbomb Bradshaw. Ho Train misses, and the Clothesline from Hell finishes. Not as horrible as some RTC matches I’ve seen. ½*

- Meanwhile, Trish & Steph plan the post-match celebration as Linda sits comatose.

- Hardcore title: Raven v. Big Show v. Kane.

Raven attacks as Big Show lumbers out. Kane tosses Raven into Show, then hits both with a tope and out into the crowd. Kane puts Raven into a wall backstage, and he beats a retreat. Big Show locks them into a cage, and Kane rips off the door (as is his specialty). (Has anyone seen Kane actually open a door instead of ripping it off the hinges?)  Back into the hall, Raven goes through a window. Kane & Show do a Shockmaster job on a wall, and Raven tries to flee on a golf cart. Show pursues, and Kane runs them over with another golf cart. The FOAM PEANUTS OF DEATH get involved. So Raven goes into a wall, through a glass window and gets run over by a golf cart, but Kane gets to take a vicious shot from PACKING PEANUTS? Back to the entranceway, where Show tries a press-slam on Raven, but Kane shoves both through a platform beside the ramp, and Kane dives onto Show for the pin and the title at 9:18. Raven’s bumping carried it well enough. **

- Meanwhile, Jimmy Snuka is at WWF New York.  (See, I’m trying to go cold turkey, but they just keep throwing themselves at me.  It’s like those nicotine gum commercials where someone’s trying to quit smoking and the guy’s douchebag friends are casually offering him a cigarette at a party, and you just know he wants to take a puff but instead he has to chew on his repulsive gum and smile about it.  Poor bastard.  TAMINA IS THE DAUGHTER OF JIMMY SUPERFLY SNUKA.  Whew.  Now I feel better again.) 

- European title match: Test v. Eddy Guerrero.

Nice hat, Perry. Slugfest to start, and Test get a quick powerbomb for two. Brawl outside. Into the ring, Test presses him into the corner for two. Eddy comes back and tries a top rope rana, but Test blocks. Then in an embarassing spot, Test gets caught in the top rope and they just can’t seem to figure out how to deal with it. Eddy stands on his crotch to improvise something as Saturn gets his shots in. (Eddie deserved the World title for not letting that become the most embarrassing moment in Test’s life.)  Back in, he works on Test’s knee and goes to a sleeper. Test comes back with a tilt-a-whirl slam and rotation powerbomb for two. Uncle Slam is blocked and Saturn sneaks in with a brainbuster for two. Senton misses and Test hits a Meltdown for two. He takes out both Eddy & Perry with the Big Kick, but now Dean sneaks out to distract Test, and Eddy finishes with the BELTSHOT OF DOOM at 8:30 to win the title. Surprisingly good match. ***

- Meanwhile, Mick promises impartiality.

- Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit.

(This was the very definition of an insta-feud, as neither guy had anything going on and they just kind of threw them together at the last minute.  Odd that it ended up being such a long-term feud.)  Angle takes him down and they do into a mat sequence. Another amateur sequence gets a good response. Angle with another takedown and into a facelock. They fight for a cradle, more applause. Benoit works for the crossface, and Angle makes the ropes. Again, Angle escapes again. Again, and again Angle escapes. He then clobbers Benoit, having been frustrated on the mat, and tosses him. Brawl to the spanish table, and Benoit meets the steps. Back in, suplex gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Angle pounds him into the corner, but Benoit comes back with some CANADIAN VIOLENCE. Angle hits his own, and a belly-to-belly. Another one follows. Benoit comes back with a short-arm clothesline and more Canadian Violence. They slug it out, but Benoit kneelifts him and comes back. Snap suplex gets two. Superplex gets two. Rolling germans are reversed to the Anglelock, reversed again by Benoit to his own! Oh yeah. Crossface, Angle reverses to HIS own! This is SO awesome. Benoit makes the ropes, and the ref is bumped (groan). Crossface for real, no ref. Benoit revives the ref, Olympic Slam…gets two. Moonsault hits knee. Benoit gets the headbutt for two. Angle goes low and rolls him up for the cheap pin at 14:03. ****1/4 Oh man, minus that dumb finish this was AWESOME.  (Not only that, but very prescient of where the main event style would be going in years to come.) 

- Meanwhile, Kamala trashes Regal’s office.

- Women’s title match: Ivory v. Chyna.

(I was waiting for the run-ins from Porcelain and Pewter.)  Powerbomb and gorilla slam finish for Chyna at 2:39. That’s all this warrants. DUD

- Vince McMahon v. Shane McMahon.

Vince clobbers him and chokes him down in the corner. Shane comes back with a spear and a pair of elbowdrops, but Stephanie comes in and runs interference. Shane baseball slides Vince and they brawl in the aisle as Shane goes nuts with a sign and chokes him out with a cable. He comes off the barricade with a clothesline, and finds a kendo stick. We take a trip to the woodshed as Mick laughs. Shane lays in the punches and preps the Spanish table as the crowd gets all giddy. Vince gets laid out on it, and Shane comes off the top with an elbow that misses, destroying the table. Trish wheels Linda out…and slaps Vince. Trish and Steph brawl into the ring, and Mick pulls them apart (to heel heat) and chases them down the aisle. Vince goes after Linda, but Mick stops him. Vince destroys Mick with a chair (oh geez) and goes back to Linda, putting her into the ring, and in a chair in the corner. Ali-Frazier rears its ugly head again with Mick Foley involved. Vince tosses him garbage cans into the ring, and absolutely decimates Shane with them as the drama mounts in impressive fashion. He adds some verbal abuse for Linda, but when he turns around…Linda rises. Nutshot for Vince, and Foley kicks some righteous ass to pop the crowd beyond all sanity. Shane puts a garbage can on Vince, heads to the top, and hits a VAN TERMINATOR for the pin at 14:12. Rob Who? Match was overbooked melodrama, but if you’re gonna do it, do it with style. Drama + Psychology + Crazy bumps = ***1/2

- WWF World tag titles, TLC2: The Dudley Boyz v. Edge & Christian v. The Hardy Boyz.

Big brawl to start. Dudleyz dominate. Hardyz hit Poetry in Motion as Edge & Christian bring a ladder in and destroy everyone. They stomp on Matt’s nuts and drop Jeff on a chair. Matt climbs but gets speared off by Edge. Edge climbs and Jeff dropkicks him off, and they baseball slide the Dudleyz. Two ladders get set up and Hardyz hit Rolling Thunder off them. Dudleyz come on with the Wazzup Drop on Edge, they get the tables. Buh Buh powerbombs Jeff onto Edge, through the table. Dudleyz stack some stables outside and set up some ladders in the ring. All six guys climb, all six guys go flying off in all sorts of crazy bumps, including Christian clearing the top rope by six inches and splatting on the floor. Ye gods. Edge climbs, but Spike runs in and Acid Drops Christian out of the ring, through a table! Rhyno comes in and gores everything in sight, allowing Edge to climb again. Lita stops that, but Rhyno goes after her. Lita ranas him, and Rhyno knocks Edge off the ladder by mistake. Dudleyz give Rhyno the Dudley Device, then 3D for Lita. Edge chairs Buh Buh, but Jeff sets up a supersized ladder outside and puts Spike & Rhyno through a table. In the ring, Edge & Christian set up the big ladder and Christian races D-Von up, and both guys are left hanging. Both fall, and Jeff walks across the tops of four ladders, then falls off the last one and hangs in mid-air, only to get speared 15 feet in the air by Edge to the mat. OH MY GOD. Matt & Buh Buh fight on the ladder, but Rhyno shoves him out, over the top, through the double-stack of tables on the floor. OH MY HOLY GOD. Edge & Christian beat D-Von up to the top (with the help of a boost from Rhyno) and claim the titles for a record seventh time at 15:41. What else? *****

- Gimmick Battle Royale:

Mean Gene and Bobby the Brain do commentary. We’ve got Bushwhackers, Duke the Dumpster, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, The Goon, Doink the Clown, Kamala, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbledygooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love and Sgt. Slaughter. Everyone goes bang-bang-bang and 3:04 later, Iron Sheik (who is physically incapable of going over the top) wins it. Slaughter puts him out with the Cobra Clutch, to get his heat back I guess. I don’t rate battle royales.

- Undertaker v. HHH.

Taker drops HHH on the backup Spanish table, taking that one out, too. Into the ring we go, where HHH USES THE KNEE. Taker gets a clothesline and backdrop. Lariat sets up the ropewalk, but HHH comes back with a neckbreaker for two. He argues with the ref. Taker punches away, but walks into a facebuster. HHH grabs his trusty sledgehammer, but the ref stops him. Ref gets bumped (oy vey) and a chokeslam gets two. Taker assaults the ref in frustration, putting him out for what would end up being nearly 10 minutes. They brawl outside, where HHH gets backdropped out. They fight to the technical area. HHH chairs him down and works over the knee. Taker then chokeslams him off the scaffolding, which looks pretty cool…until they actually show the bump. Ross declares that he’s sent him “to hell or something”. I guess hell is made out of foam rubber, then. Taker follows him down with an elbowdrop as they bounce around like a trampoline. Back to the ring, Taker grabs the hammer, but gets hit in the nads. Slugfest and UT gets the tombstone, no ref. Last Ride, but HHH hits him in mid-air with the sledgehammer…for two. Man, I would have put $100 on that as the finish. Hunter pounds away in the corner, but UT simply walks out and powerbombs him for the pin at 18:18. Nice to see HHH putting those young up-and-comers over. The match’s basic emptiness was nicely disguised by HHH’s brilliance, but I don’t know how much longer Undertaker can hide behind better workers. **1/4  (For at least another 10 years after this and counting, although of course he’d have a pretty stunning turnaround and become a much better worker as he aged.) 

- WWF title match: The Rock v. Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The pop Austin gets is insane. Austin attacks to start, and they slug it out. Thesz Press and FU Elbow. Rock neckbreaker sets up Rock Bottom, which is blocked, Stunner is blocked, Rock’s Stunner is blocked and they head outside. Into the crowd and back to ringside, where Austin gets a short-arm clothesline. Into the ring, Austin hits the rope straddle for two. Superplex gets two. Rock fights back with a flying lariat and belly-to-belly for two. Brawl to ringside, where Austin nails him with the bell…and Rocky drops his blade. Oh geez, very professional, guys. Rock finally does a wussy blade, and back in we go. Austin methodically pounds him. Neckbreaker and mudhole stomping follow. Rock blasts out with a lariat (Crowd: “Boooo!”), then rams him into the STEEL turnbuckle bolt. He nails him with the bell for good measure, as Austin shows him how a REAL man blades. Rock pounds him, and works on the neck. Back outside, Austin drops Rock on the barricade. Catapult drives Rock headfirst into the post. And I mean HEADFIRST. Awesome. Rock staggers back…into a monitor to the head. Back in, it gets two. Stunner is reversed by Rock into the Sharpshooter. Austin makes the ropes after two tries. Back to it, Austin breaks and hooks his own version! Rock powers out and Austin works on the knee. Back to the Sharpshooter, Rock makes the ropes. Million Dollar Dream is tried next, and Rock is fading. He climbs the ropes ala Bret Hart 96, and gets two, but Austin now knows the counter and escapes. This match is just so great on so many levels. Rock’s Roody Poo Stunner…gets two. Vince wanders out. Austin gets a spinebuster on Rock for two. Rock gets his own and follows with the Elbow for two…but Vince saves, getting a huge face pop. Rock chases Vince, but walks into a Rock Bottom from Austin (The Bottom Line?) for two. Stunner is blocked, ref bump. Enough with that already! It’s a friggin’ NO-DQ match. Vince comes in and chairs Rock. It gets two. Rock blocks another chairshot with Rock Bottom and goes after Vince, but turns around and it’s KICK WHAM STUNNER…for two. Austin chairs Rock for two. He gets sick of Rock altogether, beats him like the proverbial red-headed stepchild for about two minutes with that chair until Rock is a quivering mass of Jello, and pins him to win the WWF title at 28:07 to a THUNDEROUS babyface pop. Vince and Austin shake hands as JR declares that Austin has “sold his soul to the devil himself”. Wasn’t that exactly the sort of thing that the WWF was blasting The Media for saying about Vince and the XFL? And I guess all the rhetoric about listening to the fans goes out the window once you’re determined to turn your #1 babyface heel. (Or, as in modern times, determined NOT to turn your #1 babyface heel.  And what is with the Rock doing two WMs in a row where he was supposed to be the huge babyface and then getting booed out of the building?)  Retarded ending aside, the match kicked 900 types of ass and still had a lineup around the corner of asses to be kicked at it’s leisure. ****3/4

The Bottom Line: As much as I love Great American Bash 89 (the best NWA/WCW PPV I’ve ever seen), the main event here was better, the gimmick match was better (TLC’s ***** to Wargames’ ****), the pure wrestling was totally on par, the average match rating was about *** and the matches themselves were longer.

And as much as I love Canadian Stampede (the best WWF PPV I’ve ever seen), this show had way more impact and historical significance.

I’m not gonna go completely out on a limb and call it the Best PPV Ever until I’ve had a few months to get some perspective on it, but damned if it isn’t a contender. Rob your mother’s piggy bank and buy the replay, NOW.

Thumbs way, way, way, WAY up.

And I’m off to bed…

The SmarK Retro Rant for WWF Wrestlemania X-7

- Live from Houston, TX

- Your hosts are Jim Ross & Paul Heyman

- So this is it, the peak of North American wrestling and the point from which you can draw a clear line downwards again, quality-wise. This is the start of the current "Stadium show Wrestlemania" format, as well as the four hour format. After the show myself and many others called it the greatest PPV of all-time, but does it hold up 8 years later? Note for those wondering: This show is coming up on 24/7 next week, but I'd rather watch the unedited DVD version.

For fun, we'll start with the Heat match from the DVD extras…

Grandmaster Sexay & Steve Blackman v. X-Pac & Justin Credible

Brawl to start and Too Lethal (Lethal Cheese?  Lethal Sexy?  It’s a toughie to pin down.)  clears the ring, but Albert clotheslines Sexay, allowing X-Pac to hit a spinkick and take over. Credible yanks him out of the corner with a powerbomb and X-Pac gets another spinkick, but Sexay gets a double-clothesline and makes the somewhat hot tag to Blackman. Blackman faceplants Credible, but goes after Albert, allowing X-Factor to hit him with a double superkick for the pin at 2:44. Well I'm pretty sure this won't affect my evaluation of the show one way or the other. 1/2*

Intercontinental title: Chris Jericho v. Commissioner William Regal

The video package is much appreciated here as I totally forget this whole era. Jericho attacks and hits a leg lariat to put Regal on the floor, then follows with a pescado that overshoots by about a foot. Well, can't fault him for enthusiasm. Back in, Jericho gets a back elbow off the top for two. Regal tries to take him down by the leg, but Jericho counters into the Walls, and Regal kicks out of it. He directs Jericho into the post, twice, and uses a nice wristlock takedown to work the arm. Regal works him over like a mechanic, but Jericho elbows out and tries the Lionsault, which hits knee. Regal rolls him up for two off that miss. Release german gets two. Regal removes the turnbuckle and sends the shoulder into the STEEL, then throws some nasty high kicks to pound on the shoulder. Jericho fights him off with an enzuigiri and they're into the hard-hitting offense tonight, and follows with a missile dropkick for two. He charges and runs himself into the post again, allowing Regal to bring him out of the corner with a rare butterfly superplex, which gets two. Jericho escapes a backdrop suplex and goes for the Walls again, but Regal hits the bad shoulder and counters into the Regal Stretch. Jericho makes the ropes and fights back with HARD chops, but Regal kicks his face off. Jericho sends him into his own exposed turnbuckle, however, and bulldogs him to set up the Lionsault for the pin at 7:07. Well that was kind of out of nowhere, but it was clean and made sense at least. These guys were just beating the hell out of each other here and loving it. ***1/4

Meanwhile, Shane McMahon arrives in his WCW limo.

Right to Censor (Val Venis, Bull Buchanan & The Goodfather) v. The APA & Tazz

(See, recent Scott puts the team members separate from the name in case someone’s reading it a decade later and can’t remember who was in Right To Censor, unlike 2001 Scott who just assumed that only current readers mattered.)  Steven Richards gets his ass kicked in the initial brawl, and Bull gets a springboard clothesline on Faarooq to start. Faarooq powerslams him for two and Tazz comes in with a suplex, but Bull boots him down. Val comes in with a legsweep for two. Goodfather drops the leg and follows with a backdrop suplex for two and the Ho Train (or whatever the heel version was called), but a pump splash misses. Hot tag Bradshaw (who reminds JR of Dick Murdoch & Stan Hansen, although these days it's more like Ted Dibiase minus the talent) and the brawl erupts again. Bradshaw brings Val to the top for a backdrop superplex, but Bull breaks up the pin and powerbombs Bradshaw. Goodfather sets up for another Ho Train, but the Clothesline from Hell finishes at 4:15. Short and energetic enough to hide all the weak points. **

Meanwhile, Trish (in her phase as Vince's mistress) wheels a catatonic Linda into the arena (but how do you tell the difference?) and gets bitched out by a decidedly smaller-boobed Stephanie. So weird to see her looking all normal.  (Even weirder to see her looking all buff these days, as HHH has apparently turned her into a gym freak too.) 

WWF Hardcore title: Raven v. Big Show v. Kane

Raven attacks Kane before Show even enters, but gets nowhere. Kane tosses Raven at Show on the floor and then hits them both with a flying clothesline, and we head into the crowd already. The difference between Big Show here and Big Show today is amazing, by the way, as he's clearly both in shape and sporting muscle definition here, although whether it's muscles or "muscles" is left to the reader to decide. So backstage we go and Show slams Kane onto a pile of pallets and locks Raven into a supply closet of some sort, which Kane quickly breaks into. Raven wisely stands back while Kane takes out Show, and then attempts to choke him out with a rubber hose. Sadly, he doesn't put it up Kane's nose, but Kane does throw Raven through a WINDOW. Kane and Show fight over a chokeslam (Show, clearly not afraid of telegraphing his move, yells out "Chokeslam, right here on the floor!" which I'm hoping isn't calling spots. Although he'd still be quieter than Ken Shamrock). Then things get silly as Raven charges in, driving a golf cart, but Kane steals in and runs him down. So over to the catering table for a couple of spots and we're back to the stage again. Show tries to press Raven off the stage, but Kane boots them both through another stage and pins Show to win the title at 9:23. These matches just don't hold up anymore, although there was enough crazy bumps to make it a fun match. **

Meanwhile, Edge & Christian debate semantics with a zoned-in Kurt Angle.

Meanwhile, the Rock arrives to a decidedly mixed reaction. Who arrives at Wrestlemania 40 minutes into the show?  (I bet people backstage were upset about that, too.) 

European title: Test v. Eddie Guerrero

Well this is a lot sadder all of a sudden. Test fights off the Eddie attack and powerbombs him for two, and they brawl outside. Back in, Eddie slugs away in the corner, but Test presses him into the corner for two. Test with a back elbow and he goes up, but Eddie tries to bring him down with a rana and fails badly. Test comes down with a flying elbow for two. Speaking of failing badly, Test charges and is supposed to bump over the top rope, but trips and gets himself tied up in the ropes, leaving Eddie to stop and free him so they can continue. That's a pretty embarrassing time and place to screw up like that. The look on Eddie's face is pretty funny though, as he gives kind of a "what can you do?" shrug to the crowd. So back in, Eddie makes the best of it and starts working the injured right leg and then gets a sleeper. Test fights out with a tilt a whirl slam, and then another one that turns into a pretty wicked powerbomb for two. Blind charge hits elbow and Eddie goes low, allowing Perry Saturn to run in with the MOSS COVERED THREE HANDLED FAMILY GREDUNZA~! It's kind of stretching credibility to say that the ref wouldn't have seen that. Eddie misses the frog splash, however, and Test comes back with the Niagara driver for two. He boots both Eddie and Saturn down and gets two, but now Dean Malenko breaks it up. Test gets rid of him as well, but Eddie hits him with the belt and pins him to win it at 8:04. Kind of a mess, but not a total disaster or anything thanks to Eddie keeping his cool. **1/4

Meanwhile, Steve Austin arrives now, an hour into the show. Man, those guys are so gonna get fired when Vince finds out.

Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit

This is my first Benoit match since the tribute show, so I figured I might as well make it a good one. (I’ve since re-watched a few others…like the one at Wrestlemania XIX for instance.)  Angle takes him down and they go into a swanky mat wrestling sequence, but it's a stalemate. Angle takes him down again and neither can gain dominance. Angle with a double-leg takedown and they wrap each other up on the mat, but end up in the ropes for the break. Angle takes him down again, but this time Benoit hooks the crossface and Angle has to make the ropes. Angle shoots in again and Benoit hooks the crossface again, forcing Angle to bail and escape. Back in, Benoit shoots in and crossfaces him again, but Angle makes the ropes and then blindsides him with a forearm to take over. To the floor, and he sends Benoit into the stairs, and back in for a snap suplex that gets two. Angle pounds away in the corner, but Benoit fires back with the chops, so Angle fires off the belly to belly suplex. A great little Angle moment as he headfakes Benoit with a whip attempt and then turns it back into another belly to belly. Benoit clotheslines him down again, and they slug it out in the corner, with Benoit winning that exchange. Benoit elbows him down for two. Snap suplex gets two. Superplex gets two. Rolling germans, but Angle rolls into the anklelock, which Benoit reverses into his own. Angle gets flustered and charges in, which allows Benoit to take him down with the crossface, but he's awesome enough to reverse to his own, forcing Benoit to make the ropes. Ref gets bumped and Benoit gets the crossface for the phantom tapout, but reviving the ref allows Angle to hit the Angle Slam for two. He goes up for the Anglesault, but hits the knees and allows Benoit to go up with the diving headbutt, for two. Angle goes low and they do another wrestling sequence, but Angle hooks the tights and gets the pin at 14:01. This was like a stand-up comic telling an epic 15 minute joke and then forgetting the punchline, (Mick Foley seems like he would have that problem these days) as the finish felt like it was attached with a soldering iron. A great example of the "something for everyone" feel of this show, as they did a technical battle, into a brawl, a series of reversals and counters, and if it had a finish it would have been a classic. Still great, though, especially with the trading of finishers and obsession with submission wrestling that would come to define both their careers leading up to the epic 2003 rematch at Royal Rumble. ****1/4

Meanwhile, William Regal has problems with Kamala besmirching his office.

WWF Women's title: Ivory v. Chyna

This is the payoff for the retarded angle with Chyna's "neck injury" at Royal Rumble, although Chyna was basically so far above the star power level of everyone in the division that a broken neck was the only way anyone would buy Ivory as any kind of threat to win. This was also the downfall of Chyna, as her ego was, to say the least, wildly out of proportion to her worth at this point and resulted in her departure from the company. Ivory attacks her with the belt and pounds on the neck, but Chyna basically shrugs her off and backdrops her. Powerbomb gets two, as Chyna picks her up. Gorilla press finishes at 2:38 as Chyna completely squashed her and treated her like a joke. DUD To the shock of many, Trish Stratus would successfully revive the women's division after Chyna buried it completely. I will say, however, that at least this was short and paid off the storyline in logical fashion, because no one was going to buy offense from Ivory anyway.

Street Fight: Shane McMahon v. Vince McMahon

To give you an idea of the awesome stakes here, Shane's newly purchased WCW is banished to a skybox way up in the Astrodome, with a graphic saying "WCW wrestlers" to identify them and nothing else. It didn't get much better for them. Mick Foley is the special ref here. At this point in the bizarre, bizarre era for the promotion, Vince was the heel and invading WCW owner Shane was the babyface, which lasted not very long until they realized how ass-backwards it was and changed it. Vince slugs away in the corner to start, but Shane spears him down and drops elbows, prompting Steph to come in and call off her brother. Shane is having none of that and baseball slides Vince out of the ring, then beats on him with a sign and chokes him out with a power cable. Shane finds the kendo stick and gives Vince a quality beatdown with that, then the dancing punches to put him down. He puts Vince on the dreaded Spanish Announce Table and goes up, but the elbow misses and Shane goes through it himself. And then we really ramp up the soap opera as Trish wheels Linda out and slaps Vince, then gets into a catfight with Stephanie as I'm just totally lost as to who I was supposed to be cheering for at the time. So the girls fight back to the dressing room and Mick tries to get Linda out of there, but Vince attacks with a chair and knocks him out. This leaves Vince free to drag Linda into the ring to witness his final destruction of Shane with a series of garbage cans previously unknown to mankind. NO HUMAN BEING CAN SURVIVE THREE GARBAGE CANS! (Not even Jimmy Snu…oh, wait, already did that joke.  Carry on.)  However, Linda rises up as if from the dead and kicks Vince in the nuts, then Mick beats the hell out of Vince for the previous wrongs done unto him, and Shane wraps things up with a Shane Terminator (which, pre-RVD for the WWF, had no name) at 14:11. I…don't really know what to think of this anymore. A lot of the initial appeal was in the moment of the big angle surrounding it, and taken out of that context 8 years later, it's left as not much of a match. It was big and stupid and generally enjoyable, though, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. ***

WWF World tag team titles: The Dudley Boyz v. The Hardy Boyz v. Edge & Christian

I've gotta say, we're only two hours into this and already we've had what would be show-stealing classics on any other PPV. Big brawl to start and the Dudleyz hit Christian with a flapjack, but the Hardyz double-team the Dudleyz. E&C use a ladder and take out everyone else, then hang Matt in the Tree of Woe and stomp on his nuts. The Dudleyz pound on Christian outside while Edge makes a go for the belts, but Matt hauls him down and climbs. Edge clotheslines him off the ladder and tries again, but now Jeff dropkicks him off and the Hardyz baseball slide the Dudleyz on the outside. Matt hits a yodeling legdrop off the ladder, but the Dudleyz get rid of him and it's Whazzup off the ladders. D-Von gets the tables, and Bubba powerbombs Jeff onto Edge, through a table. Well there's your first highlight spot. The Dudz set up four tables on the floor while Paul E runs through the family history of the Dudleyz for an unimpressed JR, but they stop and head in. Three ladders get set up in the ring and everyone climbs, and you just know this is going to end badly. And indeed everyone bumps off. This allows Spike Dudley to run in and hit E&C with Acid Drops, leaving Jeff Hardy to climb. But now Rhyno comes in on behalf of E&C and it's GOAR GOAR GOAR for the Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz. And of course Lita joins the fun and pulls Edge off the ladder, before hitting Rhyno with a rana. The Dudleyz hit the Dudley Device on Rhyno and Lita's so fired up she starts stripping, but the Dudleyz hit her with 3D to get rid of her. That allows Edge to destroy everyone with chairs as this is just unmitigated craziness, and speaking of which Jeff sets up a ginormous ladder and puts both Spike and Rhyno through a table on the floor with a swanton. The super-ladder gets set up in the ring and D-Von races Christian up to the belts, but Matt pulls the ladder out and they're stuck hanging on the ring. Both hit the mat and Jeff climbs another series of ladders and tries to walk to the belts, but everything falls over and ruins the spot. He tries again and also hangs from the loop, which allows Edge to climb up and SPEAR HIM TO THE MAT. That is fucking epic, man. I'm shocked no one had thought of that kind of spot before this. So next it's Matt and Bubba fighting up there, but Rhyno shoves them over and they go through the four tables outside. So D-Von is left alone against E&C, as Rhyno boosts Christian up and Edge holds onto D-Von, which allows Christian to claim the tag titles back at 15:45. Total insanity and some of the craziest, most creative ladder match bumps I've ever seen, which now looks like a template for Money in the Bank. It set the stage and still delivers! *****

Gimmick Battle Royale

Before the era of WWE 24/7 and their constant navel-gazing for nostalgia fans, this was their first crack at it. Commentary is provided by Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan. So the participants are the Bushwackers, Duke "The Dumpster" Droese (looking like he's still ready for a job), The Iron Sheik, Earthquake, The Goon, Doink the Clown, Kamala (complete with Harvey Wippleman), Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes (with "Badstreet USA") (although probably not on the Anthology set or 24/7 if I had to guess.), One Man Gang (what, no Akeem?), Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, Sgt. Slaughter and the Gobbledygooker. The actual match is immaterial, because the point was just the entrances and giving everyone one last Wrestlemania payoff. And sadly in Quake's case, it was his last one. Everyone just kind of takes gentle bumps out of there in rapid fashion, leaving the awesome final four of Sarge, Love, Hillbily and Sheik, and Sheik throws them all out to win at 3:00 because he's the only one who can't take a bump out of the ring. Slaughter gives him the cobra clutch for old time's sake afterwards.

HHH v. Undertaker

And don't we all miss HHH's stylish "jean jacket over leather jacket" look? This was supposed to involve Shawn Michaels to set up his return, but he showed up in the old "no condition to perform" and lost his spot. I'm actually quite curious to see if removing this match from my HHH and Undertaker hate at that time has improved it or even affected it. This is the first of many appearances of Motorhead, playing HHH down to the ring. HHH is unfortunately not able to time his dramatic water spit properly to the live version, but I'm sure he forgave Lemmy. Undertaker was using the shitty Limp Bizkit entrance at this point, which will not be on the 24/7 version I'm sure. They slug it out on the floor right away and destroy ANOTHER Spanish table. That's gotta be a rib. Into the ring and HHH gets the high knee, but Undertaker pounds on him and backdrops him. Corner clothesline as HHH sells like crazy, and that sets up a powerslam and an elbow that misses. He gets the flying clothesline, however, and we go Old School, but HHH yanks him down to counter. Neckbreaker gets two. He pounds on the neck and gets another neckbreaker for two. Facecrusher and he grabs his trusty sledgehammer, but the ref won't let him use it. Pedigree attempt is reversed into a catapult and the ref is already bumped, as Undertaker gets the chokeslam for two. UT is upset about the cadence of the count, so he beats up the ref and we proceed without him. HHH takes the quite the bump to the floor and then another one into the crowd, and they head deep into the Astrodome for the brawl. In a unique spot, they fight into the actual sound mixing area, where HHH finds a chair and beats the hell out of UT with it. This is a LOT more brutal-looking than the usual "hardcore" sequences you'd see in matches like this, which is a nice touch.

UT revives and chokeslams HHH off the scaffolding, however, and luckily the camera can't see the crash pad. The replay kind of ruins the mystique. Taker follows with an elbow and beats up the well-meaning EMTs and they head back to the ring, as JR is concerned about the well-being of the poor ref who's been unconscious for going on 5 minutes now. He knew the risks when he donned that striped shirt. So now Undertaker has the hammer, but HHH goes low, then runs into a big boot. They slug it out in dramatic fashion and HHH tries a tombstone, but UT counters to his own. And there's still no ref. UT revives him (obviously never having taken first aid before) and sets up for the Last Ride, but HHH grabs the sledgehammer on the way up and knocks Taker out with it. That's an awesome spot, but it only gets two. Taker starts bleeding and HHH makes the all-time bonehead move and pounds away in the corner, which allows Taker to bring him down with the Last Ride to finish at 18:54. Yeah, I completely short-changed this one originally, as I was way more into the drama and hatred this time around. Hard work from both here, back when HHH could still go and was still willing to job clean as a sheet when needed. ****

And how can you follow that? With this…

WWF World title: The Rock v. Steve Austin

Austin gets the superstar pop to end all of them. Austin attacks and they immediately try to hit each other with Stunners, but brawl out to the floor instead. Into the crowd and they trade shots into the table, but Austin puts him down with a clothesline and they head back in. Austin chokes away on the ropes and gets two, then gets a superplex for two. Austin, clearly playing a heel despite the cheers, pulls the turnbuckle off, but Rock slugs back and gets the clothesline and belly to belly for two. He clotheslines Austin to the floor, but gets a ringbell in the face as a result. Austin beats on Rock in the wreckage of the tables, then back in for more punishment as the crowd eats it all up. Rock fights back, but Austin gets a neckbreaker for two. He pounds away on the mat and then stomps a mudhole in the corner, but Rock blasts out of there with a clothesline for HUGE boos. They slug it out and Rock sends Austin into the exposed turnbuckle and retrieves the bell while Austin blades. He puts Austin down with that, for two. Rock pounds him down with huge shots and Austin won't go down, so Rock drags him to the apron and pounds on him to bring him to the floor. They slug it out there and Austin drops Rock on the railing and gives Rock the greatest catapult into the post I've ever seen. I mean, Rock bounced off that sucker head-first and flew three feet. Austin follows with a monitor to the head, and back into the ring for two. Rock is up so Austin tries the Stunner, but stops to flip him off first, which allows Rock to take him down with the Sharpshooter. And now Rock's fanbase gets more vocal as Austin finally makes the ropes. Another try at it, but Rock also makes the mistake of flipping off Austin, and now Austin gets his own Sharpshooter. Rock powers out of that, so Austin goes to work on the leg and does it again. And Rock makes the ropes this time, to big heel heat.

Then we really get old school as Austin hooks the Million Dollar Dream, but Rock uses the Bret Hart counter for two. Austin pounds on the tired Rock, but it's ROCK WHAM STUNNER for two. And now Vince McMahon heads out as they slug it out, and Austin gets a spinebuster for two. Rock gets his own to set up the People's Elbow, but Vince pulls him off at two. Rock chases, and walks into a Rock Bottom from Austin, for two. He tries the stunner, but the ref is bumped, so Austin goes low instead. So Austin calls Vince in there with a chair and they blast Rock with it, but it only gets two, so Rock revives and hits Rock Bottom, then goes to beat up Vince. However, it's KICK WHAM STUNNER and that should have been your finish. It gets two and Vince gives Austin a chair, and he blasts Rock for two. Finally he just destroys Rock with the chair, pounding him into nothingness, and pins him to win the belt at 28:07. Still awesome, still the two biggest stars in the history of the WWF at the peak of their powers. ****3/4 Of course, this was also the moment that officially ended the Attitude Era, with Austin doing an ill-advised heel turn and the company transitioning into the god-awful WCW Invasion instead of, you know, continuing to try to make money.

So is it still the greatest PPV I've ever seen? YES. I love it even more, as I was just as tremendously entertained by this viewing as I was on the first one, and that's a truly magical show to be able to do that. All the finishes were clean, everyone was working hard (except for Chyna) and the crowd was incredibly pumped for a stadium crowd.

Best. PPV. Ever.

Until I watch Bash 89 again, then I'll probably change my mind.

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