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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wrestlemania Countdown: 20

The SmarK Rant for Wrestlemania XX

- Live from Madison Cube Garden.

- Your hosts are JR, Tazz, Cole & King.

- Opening match, US title: Big Show v. John Cena.

Odd choice for an opener, but I guess someone had to go on first. (That’s right, John Cena jerking the curtain at Wrestlemania.  The first time and last time that would ever happen.)  Cena’s opening rap is a lot more nervous than usual for him. Show overpowers him to start, but Cena fires back, only to get tossed. Back in, Cena necksnaps him coming in and tries a high cross, but Show catches him with a powerslam for two. Show pounds him down and chokes away, and gets a suplex for two. Show headbutts him, which Cole compares to being hit with at typewriter, then a chop that’s like being hit with a frying pan. (He’s still using that one, I believe.)  Is he using “Metaphors For The Insane” or something? Big boot and Show gets the Hog Log for two. Cena comes back with a sleeper out of a slam attempt, but Show brings him into the corner to break. Into a cobra clutch, but Cena fights out, so Show slams him down again and goes back to it. This match is already way too long. Cena slugs out to make the comeback, and blocks a blind charge with a boot, then goes to the knees. F-U gets two. He’s in shock, looking to his gods like Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VII, but he channels the spirit of Eddie, distracting the ref with the chain and then finishing Show with the brass knuckles and another F-U for the pin and the US title at 9:13. (Remember the days when Cena wasn’t the indestructible superman, and he occasionally showed a human side like having to cheat to win a major title match?  Yeah, I liked him back then, too.)  Bad match, but the crowd was into it, so whatever. *

- RAW tag titles: Booker T & RVD v. La Resistance v. The Vanilla Jobber Connection v. The Dudley Boyz.

(Mark Jindrak and Lance Cade were a tag team?  Was that “pick tag teams out of a hat” day in Stamford or something?  And I don’t even REMEMBER Booker & RVD as tag champions.)  This is one fall, which they didn’t bother to explain until just before this match, because generally “Fatal Four Way” implies elimination rules. RVD starts with Dupree and gets a monkey-flip out of the corner, and Booker comes in with a superkick off a catapult. That gets two. Booker gets a clothesline and tosses Conway, so Dupree tags in Bubba Dudley. Bubba clubbas on Booker, and gets a neckbreaker for two. Booker charges and hits elbow in the corner, but comes back with a sidekick to block the Flip Flop and Fly. D-Von sneaks in with the Curtain Call, but RVD hits him with a missile dropkick, all behind the ref’s back, and that leaves Jindrak with a two-count on Booker. The VJC work Booker over in the corner and Cade slugs away, but Dupree tags himself in and gets two. Conway goes to the surfboard, which Booker fights out of, but he goes back to it. Booker escapes with a spinebuster and brings in RVD, and he’s a backdropping fool. Kicks for everyone! It’s a 2-for-1 sale! Spinkick knocks Conway out and RVD goes up, but D-Von shoves him into the railing and slugs it out with Booker. It’s all kinds of BONZO GONZO and Booker is left alone with the Dudleyz, but Cade stupidly breaks up 3D, allowing Conway to DDT D-Von. Booker hits him with the axe kick and the frog splash finishes for the champions at 7:49. This went nowhere and would have been better served on RAW. Never mind that the tag title scene there is so dead that Jindrak & Cade get a Wrestlemania payoff because there’s no one else to put in there. *1/4

- Christian v. Chris Jericho.

They fight over a lockup and Jericho slugs him down and pounds away, then gets a back elbow and a backdrop suplex. Jericho chokes away in the corner, but charges and gets tossed, so he hangs onto the apron and backdrops Christian out in a good bump. Jericho follows with a tope and sends Christian into the railing. Back in, Christian goes for the sunset flip, but Jericho counters into the Walls, forcing Christian to make the ropes. Christian responds with a backdrop suplex to the floor. Back in, he stomps Jericho down and does some choking. Knee to the gut gets two. Christian goes to a neck vice, which Jericho fights out of, but Christian takes him down for two. More choking follows. Christian hits the chinlock, but Jericho takes him down for the Walls again, so Christian goes to the eyes and gets a leg lariat for two. They collide coming out of the corner and slug it out, but Jericho forearms him down and makes the comeback. Enzuigiri gets two. That’s a sweet version of the move, with a running start. Rollup gets two, reversed for two. Northern Lights suplex gets two for Jericho. Christian bridges out into a backslide attempt, but Jericho counters with the bulldog, then misses the Lionsault. Christian goes for the Unprettier, but Jericho elbows out, so Christian gives him an inverted DDT off the middle rope for two. He slugs away, but walks into the Flashback. Christian recovers first, however, and gets the backbreaker, but goes up and gets caught by Jericho. Christian counters the superplex attempt and sends him to the mat, and a high cross is reversed by Jericho for two. Jericho starts throwing chops, but Christian takes him down with a Texas Cloverleaf. Now there’s a good submission move that we need more of. (And yet still no one uses it.)  Jericho counters into the Walls after teasing a cradle, but Christian makes the ropes again. They head outside as Jericho holds the move on the floor. Up to the top and they blow a superplex attempt, and then annoy me by repeating the spot, at least getting it right this time. That gets two for Jericho. Both are out, and now Trish joins us to lend moral support. They slug it out and Christian kills him with an Implant, for two. Trish distracts Christian and gets pulled into the ring, but Jericho heads over to save her, and she “accidentally” knocks him into a Christian rollup for the pin at 14:51. The blown spot didn’t hurt too much, and it really got going good once Christian’s boring heat segment ended. ***1/2 Trish then turns on Jericho in a nonsensical move, but it should at least give Christian some heat and freshen up the Trish character. And hey, Evil Trish is hot.  (True, true, and FUCK YES.  This was actually a spectacularly successful turn for everyone.) 

- Rock & Mick Foley v. Batista, Randy Orton & Ric Flair.

Great, coked-up promo from Rock before the match to really get the crowd going. Big brawl to start and the Rock & Sock clean house, as Evolution bail and regroup. Flair starts proper with Rock, and it’s no contest who the face is in the crowd’s mind. Hint: He’s not tattooed. (Poor Rocky, getting booed at a Wrestlemania AGAIN.)  Rock grabs a headlock and does some strutting, and Flair responds with chopping, so Rock slugs away and backdrops him out of the corner. Flair bails and Rock follows, so Flair goes to the eyes and walks into another backdrop on the floor, which Foley uses as a setup for the Cactus elbow off the apron. Back in, Flair lets Orton have a go, and now Foley wants in. Orton wants no part of that, so Foley follows and sends him into the table. Back in, Foley drops an elbow for two. He hangs Orton in the Tree of Woe and drops an elbow, and then Rock (my boy!) hits Orton in the nuts behind the ref’s back. That’s why I love him. (Someone should hit Orton repeatedly in the nuts in real life.  Might do him some good.)  Rock puts his head down and Orton kicks him in the tattoo, but Rock just gets more annoyed and goes after Flair, before getting pulled out of the ring by Batista and dropped on the railing. Back in, Evolution gets some shots in and Batista hammers him with knees in the corner as Rock is YOUR movie star in peril. Batista gets a back elbow for two. Flair comes in and cuts off a tag (“I don’t think so motherfucker!”) then lays in the chops, possibly leaving bits of tattoo in the front row. One can only hope. (Yeah, I really hated that tat.)  Flair stops to strut, however, and gets hit with a lariat for his troubles. Flair tries to regroup by going up, but, you know. Batista cuts off another tag attempt, however, and pounds Rock with shoulders, but Rock gets another lariat out of the corner and brings in Foley. He hammers on Batista and gets a kneelift, but Batista blocks the double arm DDT. They slug it out in the corner, won by Foley, but he walks into a lariat and gets tossed, apparently making him YOUR best-selling-author-in-peril. It’s a mugging outside as Evolution goes nuts on him, and he gets whipped into the stairs. Orton gets two back in. Back to the heel corner, and Flair comes in with some chops, but gets suckered into a slugfest and loses. He prevents a tag, however, and Orton comes in with a camel clutch to keep Foley down. Foley elbows out, but Orton takes him down and brings Batista back in. Short-arm clotheslines and Batista goes ground and pound, but Foley counters with the Mandible Claw. The lack of footwear prevents it from finishing, however, and Orton is able to save. Flair comes in and lays in the chops, and Batista comes in, but puts his head down and gets hit with a neckbreaker. They clothesline each other and Flair gets a tag first and cuts off another tag from Foley, but Mick knocks him down and makes the hot tag to Rock. Flying forearm for Flair, DDT for Orton, and he’s a house afire! Orton gets dumped, but Batista hits Rock with a spinebuster and Flair has a bright idea – a Nature Boy Elbow. The crowd goes crazy for that, but Rock kips up and slugs him down, along with everyone else. Spinebuster and People’s Elbow for Flair, and that gets two. Flair thumbs the eye again and brings in Orton, but it’s Rock Bottom for him. That gets two. Rock stops to deal with Flair outside, but Batista lays out Rock with a clothesline and a demon bomb. Orton gets two off that. Another tag to Foley, and Orton is fucked. Foley cleans house on Evolution and gets the DDT on Orton, but makes the mistake of going for the Socko, and walks into the RKO as a result, giving Orton the pin at 17:02. Good finish, great match, with all sorts of cool extended tag team formula stuff and crazy exchanges between Rock and Flair. Everyone was feeling it here. ****1/4  (Still love this match.  Flair doing the People’s Elbow to a crazed MSG crowd is a great Wrestlemania Moment for sure.) 

- Hall of Fame ceremony, which I skip over for time reasons because nothing happens anyway. And why is that only dead people can be called by their real names? And shouldn’t someone tell George W that Osama Bin Laden is a hillbilly from the Ozarks pretending to be Jesse Ventura?

- Sable & Torrie Wilson v. Stacy & Jackie.

Torrie & Sable want to get all nekkid for the match, but Jackie, serial stripper, is the prude tonight for some reason. They rip off her dress and everyone is in their underwear. Sable throws some kicks in the corner on Jackie to start and Torrie comes in with a high cross for two. Stacy comes in and gets whipped around by Torrie, but comes back with the Nash Choke in the corner. They do the goofy sunset flip reversal thing for some near-falls. Stacy gets a high kick for two. Jackie comes in and gets speared, and they do the “steamroll the ref” spot off that, and Torrie reverses a rollup for the pin at 2:31. At least it was short. DUD

- Cruiserweight open:

We start with Shannon Moore v. Ultimo Dragon (who nearly pulled a Shockmaster on the way into the ring) (Dude’s lifelong goal is to wrestle at a Wrestlemania in MSG and he nearly trips and falls on the way to the ring.)  and they do a wristlock reversal sequence, as Moore grabs a headlock and overpowers him for two. Dragon reverses for two. Backslide gets two. Moore gets a backdrop suplex for two. He goes up and whiffs on the corkscrew, and Dragon kicks him into the DDT for the pin at 1:17. Noble is in next, clotheslining Dragon for one. Dragon gets the kick combo for two. Backbreaker and Dragon goes up, but misses the moonsault, and Noble gets a neckbreaker and the guillotine choke for the submission at 2:15. Funaki in next with a high cross and Noble reverses for the pin at 2:23. Nunzio is in next and takes Noble down with a single-leg, but Noble goes for a backslide and they fight over that until Nunzio rolls him up for two. Noble charges and hits elbow and Nunzio gets two. They reverse and Nunzio hits the floor, and Noble follows with a somersault tope, resulting in Nunzio getting counted out at 4:15. Kidman next, and he backdrops Noble to the apron, allowing Nunzio to pull him out, and Kidman hits them both a Shooting Star Press that goes awry, nearly killing Kidman. Back in, Kidman gets two on Noble. Noble comes back with the choke off a powerbomb attempt, but Kidman backdrops out and gets an enzuigiri to set up the SSP. Noble pops up and tries a superplex, but Kidman reverses to the BK Bomb off the top for the pin at 6:06. Rey is up next, with an AWESOME Flash costume, and he springs in with the buttdrop, but Kidman dropkicks him for two. Rey dropkicks him right back, to the floor, but Akio distracts him and Kidman gets another BK Bomb for two. They head up and Kidman goes for a superplex, but Rey blocks and gets the sunset bomb off the top for the pin at 7:26. Tajiri is up next, and he kicks away into the Tarantula, but Rey counters the handspring elbow with a double knee, into the 619. West Coast Pop misses and Tajiri goes for the mist, but hits Akio by mistake and Rey gets the pin at 8:36. Akio is apparently eliminated by virtue of getting sprayed, so we’re left with Chavo, who gets two on Rey. Rey takes him into the corner with a drop toehold and gets a rana, but he goes after Chavo Sr and then hits him with a somersault plancha, but Chavo pins him at 10:27 after blocking a sunset flip. Some good spots, but overall the match was a joke with 9 one-minute matches all strung together. However, had Chavo Sr. been on color, it would have been ****. As it is, call it *1/2.

- Brock Lesnar v. Goldberg.

Austin is of course the special referee. The crowd reactions here are immediately fascinating, as the MSG crowd is apparently aware of the imminent departures of both men and has no interest in liking this match, no matter what. Then they focus on Lesnar, chanting “You sold out” at him so loud that JR has to acknowledge his departure. Then they move onto “The Goodbye Song” as both guys seem unsure of how to handle things. Finally, they make contact at 2:46 after endless stalling, and the crowd viciously turns on the match right from the first lockup. And you thought Philly was mean. They do an extended fight over the lockup, which the crowd has no patience for. Another lockup and the carnage from the crowd continues. At this point, I’d have had Austin just stun both guys and move onto the next match. Next chant: “This match sucks”. Who knew they played bingo at MSG? They fight over a shoulderblock and both go down, and the crowd sympathizes with no one. Next up, the old standard “boring” chant. Goldberg finally gets things going with a press slam on Lesnar, but the spear misses and he hits the post. Brock pounds away and gets a suplex for two. Brock goes to a neck vice, which was exactly what the match didn’t need. That goes on for far too long before Goldberg escapes with a hiptoss, but they collide and both are out, and the crowd turns on them again. Brock gets two. Crowd lets us know that this match sucks again. Brock works him over in the corner, but Goldberg comes back with clotheslines and the neckbreaker, as now the crowd is chanting for Hogan. God, they’ve gone nuts. I knew it would happen someday, but I just didn’t think it would be MSG going over the deep end before the rest of the city. Spear gets two. Brock comes back with the F5 for two. Brock goes for his own spear, but misses, and Goldberg finishes with the spear and jackhammer at 13:41, giving the match a sarcastic round of applause for being over before going silent again. Austin thankfully redeems things somewhat by laying out both guys with stunners. As a match, nothing interesting, but as a bizarre sociological experiment, this was tremendous. ½*  (Nothing more to add here.  Still amazing and bizarre to watch today.  Luckily Brock did OK for himself after leaving the protective bosom of pro wrestling.) 

- Smackdown tag titles: Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty v. APA v. The Basham Brothers v. The World’s Greatest Tag Team.

Benjamin slugs it out with Bradshaw to start, and feels the clubbing forearms, and Bradshaw drops an elbow for two. Doug tags himself in and gets an atomic drop, bringing Danny in for a backdrop suplex that gets two. Haas hits him with a knee from outside, however, and they drop Danny’s back on Haas’s knee, which gets two. Danny brings Scotty in, and he grabs a headlock on Haas and gets a backdrop suplex, but gets tossed by Haas. He skins the cat, but gets caught with the Broken Arrow and Haas gets two. Charlie goes to a bearhug, but Scott reverses to a rollup, which Doug breaks up with a clothesline. The Bashams work Scotty over in the corner and get a double-suplex for two. Scotty comes back with an enzuigiri but the Bashams cut off the tag again, so Scotty escapes a suplex and brings in Rikishi. Everyone gets clotheslined and Danny gets DDTd for two. Benjamin tries a german suplex and gets sent to the floor as a result, and Haas eats some ass in the corner. Bradshaw boots Rikishi down and hits Doug with a blockbuster to the floor, then Danny takes the Clothesline from Heck. He goes for another one on Rikishi, but walks into a samoan drop, and Rikishi sits on Danny for the pin at 6:00. God, who even cares? ½*  (Really, two crappy multi-man tag title matches on the same show?  I’m glad they came up with Money In The Bank the next year to get all their fringe payoffs in.  And man, the Bashams were two guys who were chewed up and spit out by creative, destroying any goodwill that their developmental process had accumulated.) 

- Women’s title: Victoria v. Molly Holly.

If Molly loses, she’s bald. They fight over a lockup to start and Molly pounds her down with knees, and follows into the corner with a butt-butt. She takes Victoria down with a wristlock, but she escapes with a cartwheel and gets a rollup for two. Molly bails. Victoria chases and walks into a clothesline, and they head back in, where Molly gets two. Snap suplex gets two. Molly drops some elbows and gets a seated dropkick for two. Into the CRAVAT, but Victoria fights out and dodges an elbowdrop. Rollup gets two for Victoria. She makes the comeback and slugs away, and a powerslam gets two. Molly takes her down again and goes up, but Victoria breaks it up, so Molly brings her down with a powerbomb for two. Molly gets cocky and goes for another powerbomb, but Victoria reverses to a backslide to retain at 4:53. As promised, Molly is shaved bald. That look doesn’t really work on her, but you can probably guess that. *1/2 (The wig gimmick was pretty amusing for a while.  I’m glad Nora got out of the business and found happiness, because the current scene would hold nothing for her.) 

- Smackdown World title: Eddie Guerrero v. Kurt Angle.

If Eddie’s new Scarface shirt doesn’t jump to the top of the sales charts, there’s something seriously wrong with the world. (I’m pretty sure it did.)  Lockup fight to start and Angle grabs a facelock, but Eddie takes him down and rides him. Angle wins that battle, going back to the headlock, and Eddie breaks as we start over again. Angle tries to shoot in, but Eddie fights him off, so Angle goes to the headlock and they work off that, and the crowd is suddenly 50/50 for Angle. Eddie tries the headlock now and Angle reverses and overpowers him. Eddie goes back to the headlock and overpowers Angle a few times, and now Angle bails. Crowd is right with this, showing that the reeducation might be taking. Back in, Angle goes to a facelock, but Eddie takes him down out of that, and it’s more mat wrestling as Angle switches back to the facelock again. Good stuff. Kurt takes him down out of that and gets two. Kurt tries a suplex off that, but Eddie counters and starts throwing armdrags, into an armbar. Angle powers up as they fight over a wristlock, so Angle uses a knee to the gut to break free and goes to an abdominal stretch to immediately work on the ribs. Nice bit of psychology there. Eddie reverses to a suplex, but Angle reverses to his own german suplex, as neither guy is able to get the rolling version. Eddie heads to the apron and Angle teases a german suplex off the apron, but Eddie hangs on tight. Angle falls off , so Eddie dropkicks him off the apron and follows with a dive that misses, and he splats on the railing. Back in, Angle gets two. Angle with a backbreaker for two. He works the ribs in the corner and goes to a bodyscissors on the mat. Crowd is still right with them. Eddie escapes with a jawbreaker, but walks into a hotshot, as Angle drops him on the ribs and gets two. Overhead suplex, times two, gets two. Angle goes to a bearhug on the mat, continuing to work on the ribs, but Eddie pokes him in the eyes to break. He walks into another overhead suplex, however, and Angle gets two. Kurt puts him on top, but Eddie fights off the Pop Up Superplex twice, then misses the frog splash. That can’t be good for the ribs. Angle recovers first and kicks the crap out of him in the corner, then pounds him down, and Eddie is all BRING IT ON. He fires back and gets a back elbow and clothesline, then dodges a blind charge and gets a backdrop suplex for two. Vertical suplex is countered by Angle with the rolling germans, but Eddie reverses to a rollup for two. Angle kills him with a clothesline to end that rally. Angle Slam, but Eddie reverses to an armdrag and makes the comeback with a headscissors. Rolling verticals , but Angle casually takes him down into the anklelock. Eddie powers out and dropkicks Angle, but goes up too slow and gets hit with the Pop Up Superplex, for two. Angle pulls down the straps and goes back to the anklelock, but Eddie counters that with a rollup for two. Back to the german suplex to set up another Angle Slam, but Eddie reverses that one to a DDT and goes up with the frog splash, for two. Eddie’s reversals are crazy. Eddie goes for the kill, but Angle was faking, and it’s another anklelock. Eddie looks like he’s going to tap, but he again manages to reverse, sending Angle to the floor. This time he loosens his boot, apparently to relieve the pressure ala Randy Savage in 1987, but when Angle comes back in and tries another anklelock, the boot slips off and a small package finishes for Eddie at 21:32. You know what was great about this match (besides everything)? It wasn’t just the usual cliché “main event style” with each guy hitting each other’s finisher and getting two-counts and stuff, it was about telling a story and building a flow, then paying off the intelligence of Guerrero to outsmart the overly aggressive Angle. ****1/2 Absolutely tremendous.  (And then they had another quality rematch at Summerslam, which played off this finish.) 

- Undertaker v. Kane.

After months of buildup, the big return of the “dead man” is in fact Undertaker: Texas Ranger, as it’s the same old Undertaker with a new cowboy hat. And Paul Bearer. Apparently Sergio Leone returned from the dead along with Undertaker and he’s designing the costumes now.  (Undertaker pretty much has stayed with this look until present day, in fact.)  Undertaker couldn’t even be bothered to grow his hair back in. Taker slugs away to start, as it’s back to the same old stuff right away. Kane bails and they brawl outside, won by Undertaker. Guillotine legdrop on the apron and Kane gets whipped into the corner for a clothesline, but UT goes for a powerbomb and gets backdropped. Big boot and Kane slugs away on the mat, but Undertaker reverses for his own punches. Kane comes back with a sideslam and goes up with the flying clothesline for two. They slug it out and Kane misses a charge, allowing Taker to get a big boot and legdrop. The ROPEWALK OF DOOM is blocked by Kane with a choke, and they fight over that in a thrilling segment until Kane gets a chokeslam. However, he makes the mistake of stalling, nearly grabbing the microphone to explain his whole evil plan like some sort of B-level Bond villain, but UT does the zombie situp (when the highspot is a guy sitting up, you’re watching a bad match) and no-sells some stuff. Flying clothesline and a sloppy chokeslam set up the tombstone at 7:45. Oh boy, another crappy Kane v. Undertaker match setting up another Undertaker push. ¼*  (And BOY OH BOY what an Undertaker push it was, leading up to the awesome Dudley Boyz match where Paul Bearer got BURIED ALIVE in cement and written out of the promotion.) 

- RAW World title: HHH v. Shawn Michaels v. Chris Benoit.

Despite weeks of crappy booking, Benoit is clearly the crowd favorite here, as MSG’s traditional hatred of Shawn has kicked in again full force. And what’s with the white boots on HHH? Did Steph buy them for Christmas and withhold sex unless he wore them or something? (Just wait until the Conan costume she dresses him in a couple of years after this.)  On the upside, the gay bicycle shorts are gone and HHH is back to regular tights again. Shawn goes after HHH to start, but Benoit pulls him away and they fight over who gets to fight. Benoit takes him down immediately and starts chopping Shawn, to the delight of the crowd, but Benoit whips Shawn into HHH and slugs away. Shawn takes him down with a headlock, and they do the pinfall reversal sequence off that, and Benoit crosses Shawn up with another crossface attempt, which Shawn reverses for two. Northern lights suplex gets two for Benoit, and Shawn clotheslines him down, but HHH returns and lays Shawn out. He tosses Shawn, who skins the cat back in while Benoit pounds HHH, but Benoit gets dumped. Shawn backdrops HHH and throws some chops, but walks into a high knee, which gets two. Benoit fires away with shoulderblocks from the apron, but hits knee and gets sent into the apron by HHH afterwards. Shawn hits both of them with a baseball slide and follows with a moonsault. Guys with torn ACLs probably shouldn’t be doing that. (Doctors told Shawn a lot of stuff, I seem to recall.)  Back in, Shawn gets two. He throws chops on HHH , but puts his head down and eats knee. Pedigree is broken up by Benoit, who goes right for Shawn again with knees, and sends him into the post. Snap suplex and he fires the chops, but HHH sends him into the corner and puts him on top, hanging him in the Tree of Woe to keep him occupied for a bit. HHH whips Shawn into Benoit, and gets two on Shawn. Now why hasn’t anyone thought of that before in a triple-threat match? Another try is reversed, and Shawn rolls up HHH for two. They slug it out and Shawn gets the forearm and kips up, but Benoit promptly clotheslines him over the top to get rid of him. Rolling germans on HHH follow, and he does the SNOT BLOW~! and goes up, only to get crotched by Shawn. Shawn tries to superkick HHH, but it backfires and he gets DDT’d, leaving Benoit hanging on the top. HHH & Benoit slug it out on top, leading to a superplex on Benoit for two. HHH pounds him on the mat, but Benoit fights back, winning a slugfest, but puts his head down and HHH goes for the Pedigree, but Benoit reverses to the crossface, which HHH is able to fight off until Shawn can save. Shawn hits Benoit with an attempt at rolling germans, drawing big boos, so Benoit reverses to his own, which the crowd enjoys more. Back up for Benoit, and the flying headbutt gets two. Shawn knocks him out of the ring with a forearm and comes back on HHH with clotheslines and a slam to set up the flying elbow, and the superkick gets two, as Benoit saves. They all brawl outside and Shawn brings Benoit back in and starts chopping. Benoit reverses him into the corner and takes him down with a catapult into the corner that triggers a gory bladejob, so fast that I couldn’t even see him do it. (Shawn was the MASTER of the rapid-fire razor-blade.)  Benoit takes him down for another crossface, but HHH prevents him from tapping. Benoit and HHH fight outside and head over to the tables, where Benoit gets whipped into the stairs and HHH preps the announce tables. Benoit comes back on HHH, but Shawn recovers and joins them, and Benoit takes a double-suplex through the Smackdown table as a result. With Benoit apparently out of the equation, Shawn calls HHH into the ring while dripping blood everywhere. He’s about 1.0 Muta at this point. He slugs away on HHH and whips him over the top, into a cameraman, and HHH eats post and starts bleeding too, because apparently that’s what all the cool kids are doing at Wrestlemanias these days. (Well, not these days, although I suspect there might be some “accidental” blood in the HHH-Undertaker match and it’ll accidentally be all over both guys’ faces.)  Back in, Shawn slugs away, but HHH hits him with the Pedigree as the crowd starts going nuts for Benoit to recover and make the save. HHH gets two, and as desired by MSG, Benoit makes the save. Benoit starts chopping HHH, but HHH goes for the Pedigree, so Benoit reverses to the Sharpshooter. The pop for that would be massive if it was the finish. (It would be the next month, and I WAS THERE FOR IT!  Very little will top Shawn tapping to the Sharpshooter in Edmonton.)  Sadly, it’s not, as Shawn saves with a superkick. He gets two on Benoit. He goes for the kill, and the crowd chants for Benoit as he sets up for the superkick (ouch, that’s gotta hurt), but Benoit dumps him. He looks like he’s gonna walk into a Pedigree, but he reverses to the Crossface in mid-move. HHH fights it and almost makes the ropes, but Benoit pulls him back. HHH tries one last desperation reversal, but Benoit holds on, and Edmonton goes insane as HHH taps to the crossface to make Chris Benoit the World champion at 24:46. Best three-way match I’ve ever seen, and although that’s not usually saying much, this was truly special, with HHH doing the right thing and everything hitting perfectly on all cylinders. If you can find a fault with this match, you’re nuts. ***** Just to add to the surreal nature of the evening, Eddie Guerrero joins him in the ring for the celebration, and I guess they’re actually trying to elevate someone new for once. What a crazy idea.  (Not as crazy as Benoit turned out to be, sadly.  That moment to end the show, with both guys dead only a few years later, was the most poignant illustration of why the industry needed to start cleaning itself up once and for all.) 

The Bottom Line:

Here’s the deal with this show: I had the benefit of taping it and watching it while fast-forwarding through all the filler, thus cutting it down to a lithe 2.5 hours or so, and watching it that way, it’s an AWESOME show, featuring 3 ****+ matches (which is pretty much insane, X-7 level stuff) and one very good one in Christian-Jericho. However, there’s a LOT of down-time for this show, because 4.5 hours is just too long to make people sit and watch wrestling.

So I’d say get the replay, but be warned – you’ll be extremely bored between the big matches, but if you can deal with that or have the foresight to tape it and watch it later, you won’t be disappointed.

Thumbs up.  (Yeah, this one was pretty memorable, but unfortunately it’s mostly been erased from history for obvious reasons, so it’ll never get the respect from WWE that it truly deserves.  It’s a great DVD, though, the first Wrestlemania package to have the Hall of Fame ceremony and a bazillion other extras on it, including “Wrestlemania The Movie” from the previous year.) 

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