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Wrestlemania Countdown: 19

(2012 Scott Sez:  I actually sat down and watched the DVD this week, but then noticed that my re-rant almost exactly the same as the original rant, so it seemed like a pointless endeavour to redo it.  So we’ll make do with the 2012 observations instead.  I will say right now, I liked it WAY more on this viewing than I originally did.) 

The SmarK Rant for Wrestlemania XIX

- Live from Seattle, WA.

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

- RAW tag title match: Sean Morley & Lance Storm v. The Unlikely Duo of Kane & Rob Van Dam.

(Random story:  Sean “Val Venis” Morley provided the comp tickets for me at the infamous RAW where Shane McMahon bribed my friend with $100 to shut up.  Or at some guy claiming to be giving tickets away on his behalf did.  Either way, the lesson is to always hang around outside TV tapings, just in case.)  Kane dumps Storm to start and RVD hits Morley with a spinkick, and the champs bail. Kane sends RVD onto the champs, and we take a break. Back again, as Morley whips RVD into the corner for two. We hit the chinlock. The open-air nature of the stadium makes a pretty neat visual, that's for sure. Morley gets the MAIN EVENT SLEEPER, which Rob reverses. Morley counters with a Blue Thunder Bomb and goes up with an elbow so telegraphed that it should have been sent Western Union, which allows Kane to get the hot tag. Sideslam on Storm gets two. Kane goes up with the flying lariat, and that gets two. Kane clotheslines both of them in the corner and Rob monkey-flips Morley, leaving Kane to chokeslam Storm. Frog splash appears in the cards, but Morley sends him down with one of those sick bumps. The Dudleyz sneak in and hit Storm with 3D , but then Bubba changes his mind and drops an elbow on RVD to give Storm the pin at 5:57. The guy gets to job to an elbowdrop? What is this, the Survivor Series? *1/2  (Rating sounds about right, although I didn’t watch this one again on the DVD extras.  The Unlikely Duo Of Kane And RVD would of course win the tag titles right away and hold them for quite a while, thus making them the Likely Duo.) 

- Opening PPV match, Cruiserweight title: Matt Hardy v. Rey Mysterio.

Rey hits Matt with a pescado to start, and gets a headscissors out of the corner. Rey has his Daredevil thing going tonight. (Start of a great tradition for Rey.)  Shannon interjects himself with a cheapshot to give Matt the advantage, and he gets two back in the ring. Side Effect gets two. Shannon adds some choking, but Matt misses a charge. He comes back with a Twist of Fate, which Rey reverses to a rollup for two. Another Side Effect gets two. Matt goes to a surfboard, but Rey fights out and they slug it out. Matt misses a charge and Rey springboards in with a butt splash, and a crossbody gets two. Flying headscissors and tornado DDT get two. Rey does a weak trip to set up the 619, but Shannon trips him up and the Twist of Fate gets two. They head up and Matt tries a Splash Mountain from the top, but Rey reverses to a rana for two. Rey goes for Moore and dropkicks Matt into the 619, but Matt ducks the West Coast Pop and rolls him up for the pin at 5:36. Weak finish, and giving them 5 minutes on a 4-hour PPV? Pretty disappointing match. *  (I respectfully disagree with 2003 Scott here, as I was right into this one watching it again and thought that Matt was doing a hell of a job keeping up with Mysterio.  I’d boost it to ***1/4 in fact, as the length didn’t feel particularly short to me on second viewing.) 

- A-Train & Big Show v. Undertaker.

Apparently they're STILL hedging their bets with Nathan Jones, as they chicken out and shoot an injury angle on Heat to take him out of the match. Why even bother? I mean, seriously, this is becoming a running gag almost. (Oh no, Nathan’s movie career was a running joke.  This was merely amusing.)  A-Train establishes his heeldom by ADJUSTING UNDERTAKER'S MIRROR before the match. That BASTARD. Taker chokeslams him for two to start. Show & Train bail and regroup before Show gives it a try and slugs it out with Taker. Train tries next and overpowers UT, but gets hiptossed. Old School Ropewalk of DOOM, but A-Train hits him with the Mehshugganator and Show sends him into the post. Back in, Train guillotines him for two. Taker starts fighting back on Show, but walks into a chokeslam, which he reverses to a Herb Kunze armbar in a counter-wrestling sequence so laughable that it must have been booked by Jerry Seinfeld. He then fights off Train with a cross-armlock. Funny thing is that Tito Ortiz is sitting at ringside and probably laughing his head off. (It was actually fine.)  Then, to really showcase the submission wrestling, Show goes to the abdominal stretch. A-Train adds his own version as I wonder why this is getting more time than the opener. Then, the fickle hand of irony interjects herself as UT reverses the move. Taker walks into a lariat that gets two. Train uses the WWE Main Event Theory of Volume to add some power to his punches, but Taker fights back with a DDT for two. He makes his own comeback and hits both heels with corner clotheslines, and gets the flying clothesline on Show. Train gets a high kick to put him down again as the match keeps going and going. Show chokeslams him, but Nathan Jones earns his payoff by running down and spinkicking Show on the floor, as Taker hits Train with the tombstone for the pin at 9:44. Bad match, but not so insanely bad that it would have become perversely enjoyable, as it would have been with Jones in there to really bring it down. 1/2*  (Nah, again I’d go higher, about **.  The stuff with the abdominal stretches was pretty dull, but it was a solid big man match otherwise and not embarrassing at all.  Plus it was the start of a change in Undertaker’s offense to the more MMA-based style he uses now.) 

- Women's title: Victoria v. Trish v. Jazz.

Jazz dumps Victoria and dropkicks Trish for two to start. She bridges on a neck submission, but Trish takes her down and pounds away. Victoria pulls Trish out and heads in and tosses Jazz, and they all brawl outside. Back in, Victoria gets a legdrop for two. Jazz pulls her out and legdrops Trish for two. Jazz & Victoria decide to double-team Trish with a sort of double-backbreaker, but Jazz turns on Victoria, only to get powerslammed for two. Victoria works her over in the corner, but Trish gets a rolling reverse for two. Trish's cameltoe is getting pretty evident. Jazz attacks her from behind to set up a Michinoku Driver for two. The heels slug it out in the corner, but it's the old Double Noggin Knocker as Trish makes the comeback. Well, they're up to 70s Memphis standards, at least. Trish rolls up Jazz for two. Victory Roll for two. Kawada Kick gets two. Victoria cuts in and goes after Trish, heading up but getting caught with a handstand rana. Trish chops her out of the ring, but Jazz catches her with a half-crab. She turns it into the STF, but Stevie dumps Jazz. Trish rolls up Victoria (with a handful of tights…woo woo!) for two. Jazz gets the flying hammerlock, but releases it early and gets superkicked by Victoria. Victoria's moonsault misses and Stevie hits himself inadvertently with a chair, but Victoria comes back with a try at the Widow's Peak. Trish escapes and kicks her down for the pin and the title at 7:17. No worse than any other women's match these days. **  (Much, much better than any other one THESE days.  This was actually a hell of a match thanks to three great workers in there, and the pop for Trish winning the belt was tremendous.  Compared to now, we were pretty spoiled in the Trish/Lita/Molly Holly days.) 

- Meanwhile, Rock abuses the Coach and says nothing.

- Smackdown tag titles: Team Angle v. Rhyno & Benoit v. Los Guerreros.

Big brawl to start until Chavo starts with Haas and gets a backdrop and a backdrop suplex. He dropkicks Haas down, who tags in Benoit. The Guerreros work him over in their corner and Eddie slugs away, but Benoit unloads the chops. Rhyno comes in and powerslams Eddie for two. Benjamin gives it a go and slugs him down, and a reverse elbow gets two. They work Rhyno over in the corner and get a double dropkick for two. Rhyno chops Haas and Benoit comes in with more of his own. Snap suplex gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Rhyno gets caught in Angle corner, however, and gets worked over until spearing Benjamin in the corner for two. Eddie tags himself in and dropkicks Rhyno out of a test of strength, then hits Benoit with a backdrop suplex when he comes in. He goes up, but Benoit follows him up with a superplex, for two. Benoit faceplants Eddie into a crossface in a sweet combo, but Haas saves. Eddie comes back with a brainbuster for two. Haas saves again. Chavo comes in and cleans house on Team Angle and Rhyno, but Benoit hits him with the rolling germans. Chavo manages a blind tag to Benjamin, however, and he superkicks Benoit for two. Eddie comes in and collides with Benoit for the double KO. Benjamin legdrops the fallen Benoit for two, but Eddie saves by frog splashing the both of them. Chavo tags himself in, but walks into an overhead suplex. Rhyno comes in and gores Haas and Chavo, but Eddie yanks him out and Shelton steals the pin on Chavo at 8:47. Really short and disappointing, without any heat or buildup to the finish. **1/4  (Boy, I’m just being unnecessarily harsh on this show.  This was fun and hard-hitting, random nature of the Benoit/Rhyno team aside, and I had totally forgotten who even won so I was into the finish, too.  Team Angle was pretty great for their time.  ***1/4) 

- Shawn Michaels v. Chris Jericho.

They've finally fixed the lighting so that the ring is highlighted and the stadium is darkened. Shawn works a headlock to start and gets nowhere. They do a bit of that and Shawn showboats, and they go back to the headlock again. They do a stalemate sequence and back to the headlock, and Shawn gets two off it. Jericho overpowers him and they criss-cross and slug it out. Shawn tosses him and follows with a baseball slide after a highspot tease, and back in we go. Back in, Jericho rolls through a bodypress for two. He hammers away on the mat and starts with the CANADIAN VIOLENCE and choking in the corner. Shawn counters a bulldog by sending him into the corner, and gets a figure-four for no discernible reason (has he even kicked him in the leg yet?), which Jericho reverses. Jericho stays on the leg with a kneecrusher, but Jericho reverses him into the post and tosses him. Shawn pulls himself back in and headscissors Jericho out, and then follows with a pescado. Jericho puts him in the Walls on the floor, however. Back in, Jericho dropkicks him off the apron and gets a backdrop suplex. The psychology is pretty cut and dried here. Delayed suplex gets two. Jericho works on the neck and gets a pretty nasty backbreaker, and the Arrogant Cover~! gets two. We hit the chinlock and Jericho goes to the eyes to keep Shawn down. A backdrop is reversed to a DDT by Shawn, however. Shawn slugs away, but walks into a forearm from Jericho. He kips up and mocks Shawn, but so does Shawn. Another one and Shawn atomic drops Jericho to set up a backdrop. To the top, and the moonsault press gets two. They do a pinfall reversal sequence and Jericho tries the Walls, but Shawn reverses out of it. They fight for a german suplex, but Jericho turns it into a northern lights suplex for two. Shawn bridges out and they fight for a backslide, but Jericho gets a lariat. Bulldog and Lionsault get two. Jericho starts chopping, but puts his head down and gets caught by Shawn. A rana is blocked with the Walls, however. Shawn makes the ropes. Another try is reversed to a cradle for two. Double-arm backbreaker from Jericho and he goes up with a flying reverse elbow and cues up the band. Fozzy? Well, anyway, a superkick (and a nice one, too) gets two for Jericho. Shawn comes out of the corner with a messed up crossbody and hammers away, then catapults Jericho into the post for two after teasing his own Walls of Jericho. Jericho hits him in the back again as Shawn suddenly remembers to sell it again, and they head up for a superplex that Shawn counters to put both guys down. Shawn gets two. Shawn goes back up, but Jericho crotches him and follows him up. Shawn sends him back down and gets the flying elbow for two. Sweet Chin Music is ducked by Jericho and we get another Walls, and that should have been the finish. However, Shawn eventually makes the ropes, prompting a tantrum from Jericho. Shawn superkicks him again for two. Jericho sends Shawn into the corner, but Shawn escapes a suplex and gets the pin off a rollup at 22:34. The finish was a letdown and it's totally counterproductive to put Shawn over ANYONE at this point, but Shawn adjusted his style and put forth a much more solid, non-garbagy effort than he did with HHH. The spotty "Now I'm hurt, now I'm not" selling of the back injury hurt it a lot, though. **** Jericho, class act all the way, kicks Shawn in the balls after the loss.  (Yeah, this was AWESOME.  Obviously Shawn was in the for long haul, and this was the New Version of Shawn, post-recovery, who wrestled a much more solid and safer style than Old Version Shawn.  Watching this today, I’ve got no issues with Shawn going over, and I’m sure Jericho didn’t either.  And the kick to the nuts was great, too, although you’d think this would have escalated the feud further and never really went anywhere after this.   Still, this was a tremendous, classic match.  ****1/2!) 

- Limp Dick performs their shitty new song and wastes 6 minutes of my life, and then the chicks come out and do a silly catfighting bit that ends with Coach getting his pants pulled off in a visual I did not need to see in this lifetime. Thank god for fast forward.  (Yeah, watching this on DVD, I was astonished at how much time the catfight girls got on the show, with tons of backstage skits that meant nothing.  Who even REMEMBERS that commercial today?) 

- RAW World title: HHH v. Booker T.

They fight over a lockup to start and Booker slugs him down and chops away in the corner. He runs into an elbow, but armdrags HHH off the top to send HHH out of the ring. They brawl and HHH hits the post as a result. Back in, HHH overpowers him, but Booker gets a clothesline for two. High kicks follow, but HHH dumps him. Booker hits the post and the steps, and HHH starts stomping. HHH knees him down and gets two. MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER gets two. Corner clothesline gets two. He starts choking and they slug it out, until Booker gets a DDT. They slug it out and Booker gets a spinkick and sideslam, but doesn't cover. Forearm gets two. MAIN EVENT SLEEPER and high knee get two. HHH walks into a spinebuster for two. This match is pretty heatless. Booker walks into an elbow, but dropkicks HHH coming off the top and gets two. Axe kick misses and Booker crotches himself on the top, allowing Flair to get his licks in and send him into the stairs. Back in, HHH goes to an Indian deathlock, which is just so not the right move to be doing to wake up the crowd. Booker makes the ropes, and HHH stays on the leg in the corner. Pedigree is reversed by Booker, and a rollup gets two. HHH kicks out the leg again, but runs into an elbow. Axe kick gets two, but Booker's leg won't let him cover in time for a proper pin. Booker goes up and gets caught by HHH, but fights him off and gets the Harlem Hangover for two. That should have been the finish. Both guys are out, and HHH, manly man, recovers first and Pedigrees him for the pin at 18:47. Remember: You can block the move, but once it hits, it doesn't matter if you lay on the mat for a minute before HHH gets around to pinning you, it's OVER. (Still true today, unless you’re the Undertaker.)  That was just insanely long and slow, especially for that weak-ass finish. And people thought I was just being cynical when I said that HHH putting Booker over on RAW was a bad sign. I guess "Booker's type of people" just aren't meant for the main event after all. **1/2  (Yeah, this one pretty much destroyed Booker as a main event guy for quite a while, until the King Booker run redeemed him again.  He really, REALLY should have gone over here, because HHH could have always got his precious title back in time for Goldberg to destroy him in the summer, but with HHH it was always “I have to keep the title so we can build for the NEXT guy to get it.”  Thankfully by Wrestlemania 21 there were no next guys left and he had to put someone over.  I’d go up ***1/4 for the match removed from the anger at the finish, actually.) 

- Nursing Home Street Fight: Vince McMahon v. Hulk Hogan.

Yes, it's the match we all know is the REAL main event.  (If someone can explain in two sentences or less what this feud was actually about, I will give them $100 in fake money.  Because I didn’t understand in the least why they hated each other at the time, and the video package still doesn’t refresh my memory today.)  Hulk slugs away to start and they do a silly little parody of ground-and-pound before Vince comes out of the corner with a clothesline and kicks him down. He starts working on the arm with a hammerlock and wraps the arm around the pole a few times. They go into a test of strength, as Vince shows his guns off, apparently playing the role of Ultimate Warrior as we warp back to 1990. I mean, seriously, it's two senior citizens holding hands during a fight, what the fuck? They head out and Hogan hits the post, allowing Vince to grab a chair and miss. Hogan sends him into the post, drawing blood, and adds a chairshot. Back in, Hogan uses the power of his punches to send McMahon FLYING out of the ring, and he works him over with a chair. Still a sportsman, I see. Even Hugo Savinovich takes one for the team. I think he's actually the youngest and best worker in the match. Vince goes low to stop the tide of Hulkamania and chairs Hulk down. Okay, we've established the chair's effectiveness as a weapon, let's move on. Vince gets a ladder. I take it back, go back to the chairs. They continue brawling and Vince sets up the ladder between the tables and comes off with a legdrop onto Hogan, through the Spanish table. To be more accurate, it's a buttdrop onto the table with Hogan in the general vicinity. Back in, Vince gets two. He heads out and finds the lead pipe that always seems to be hidden under the ring, and then peaks over the ring with a deranged look that draws howls of laughter from the group watching the show with me. Hogan goes low, however. I'm just disappointed that we haven't seen a backrake yet. However, my disappointment for stupidity is quickly made up by Roddy Piper doing a waddle-in, looking about 300 pounds, and turning on Hogan for no particular reason. (He’s looking so much better these days.  You hate to say things like “Cancer might have been a blessing in disguise” but maybe it motivated him to get back into shape again when he was getting healthy.)  Isn't this the guy who was on TNA busting on the WWE for killing Owen Hart a few weeks ago and basically promising never to so much as speak to Vince ever again? (Yeah, how many times have we heard that song and dance?) I guess money talks and hypocrites walk when offered enough of it. (Piper ended up walking again a couple of months after this, so perhaps it wasn’t enough after all.)  Vince gets two, thus rendering the run-in pointless. The ref won't let Vince use the pipe, so Vince punks him out and the Evil French Ref takes his place. (Oh yeah, evil French ref Sylvain Grenier, how could I have forgotten about him?) Vince pipes Hogan down and drops a leg for two. It's Hulk-up time, however. He apparently just now realizes that he's bleeding. He fights off the Evil French Ref and tosses him, and it's big boot and three legdrops (my god, are you trying to KILL the man?!?) for the pin at 20:45. Way way way way way way too long and so ridiculously overbooked that Vince Russo was probably taking notes, but for comedic value and entertaining the marks it wasn't as terribly offensive as it might have been. **1/2 (Bingo.  Almost the exact same thing I wrote again.)  Besides, if Vince had gone over we would have had to endure the return of the Hulk Machine with Michael Cole baffled as to his identity. (BOW DOWN TO THE MOTHERFUCKING KING!) Vince's middle finger while laying bloodied and beaten almost makes the whole match. Oh, and Shane shows up and does nothing.  (This was no Vince v. Shane, although once again Vince takes a beating for the team when the chips are down.) 

- The Rock v. Steve Austin.

I believe Rock's tattoo is getting bigger. They slug it out to start, won by Austin, and Rock evades the stunner by bailing. Brawl outside and Rock gets dropped on the railing a few times. Into the stairs for good measure. Back in, Austin chokes away and gets a backdrop suplex for two. He comes out of the corner with a lariat and chokes him out on the ropes, but Rock clips the knee to take over. He heads outside, but Rock follows him and hits that shit again. He keeps stomping the knee and they head back in for more of the same. Austin fights back, but puts his head down and gets smacked down. Back to the knee and Rock goes for the Scorpion King Deathlock, but Austin makes the ropes. Rock keeps wrapping the knee around the post, and then decides to try on the Stone Cold vest. Looks good on him, too. Austin fights back with a clothesline and it's a double KO. Thesz Press! Thesz Press! Thesz Press! Austin puts a little extra FU on the FU Elbow and it gets two. Rock recovers with the kip up, but walks into Austin Bottom. That gets two. Stunner is blocked with a middle finger from Rock, and KICK ROCK STUNNER gets two. Rock slugs away, but the spit punch is countered with KICK WHAM STUNNER, and it gets two. Rock goes low, but misses the People's Elbow. Another stunner try is blocked with the spinebuster, and this time the People's Elbow hits. It gets two. Rock Bottom gets two. Another one gets two. A third one gets the pin at 17:53. Rock carried this thing on his back, although as a match it was finisher-rest-finisher-rest-finisher for the last 10 minutes or so with absolutely no transition between the moves. Nowhere near WM X-7 on the Rock-Austin scale, but it was still a great effort by Rock. ***1/2  (I redid this one for one of the Rock’s DVD sets and it’s definitely in the **** range, a hard-hitting heavyweight title fight between two aging stars.) 

- Smackdown World title: Kurt Angle v. Brock Lesnar.

Apparently Kurt has found a doctor willing to cut his rehab time from a year to 6 weeks. (Boy, in retrospect he really should have taken the spinal fusion surgery and sat out for a year for his own good.  Maybe he could have salvaged some of his sanity while he had a chance.)  If you're gonna play dice with your life, might as well go all the way and fly to the Philippines for a faith healing instead. Brock works the arm, and Angle takes him down with a fireman's carry. They work off a headlock and Brock takes him down and they reverse until going to the mat again with a headlock. Good stuff. Brock overpowers him, but Angle shoots for the leg and they reverse off that for a bit until Brock takes him down. Back to the armdrag for Brock. Chain-wrestling at a WM main event, who'd have thunk? Angle pounds on him to escape, but gets elbowed and Brock works him over in the corner. Brock charges and meets elbow, but recovers with a powerslam for two. German suplex from Angle, but Brock no-sells and clotheslines him. Angle takes a powder and catches Brock coming in. You'd think people would stop falling for that after 100 years of it. (Hey, people have been doing “Peekaboo” for thousands of years and my daughter still falls for it.  It’s awesome to have a fresh audience for your material.)  Brock presses him, but runs into a boot, and Angle suplexes him into the turnbuckles in a sick spot. Back in, Angle gets a backdrop suplex for two. Snap suplex gets two. Angle goes to the chinlock and that goes on for a while, but Brock eventually powers out and rams Kurt's back into the turnbuckles to break free. Angle gets an overhead suplex, however, to keep the advantage, and a knee to the back sends Brock flying. Back in, Brock gets a nasty spinebuster and they slug it out until Angle goes to the eyes. Brock makes the comeback with a clothesline and a kick to the face, and he pounds away in the corner. Blind charge hits elbow, but Brock gets his overhead suplex from one side, and then back to the other side. That's really scary to see considering Angle's neck. It gets two. Angle comes back with the rolling germans (and they wonder why the necks are falling to pieces) and the Angle Slam, but Brock escapes and reverses to the F5, which Kurt in turn reverses to the anklelock. Brock makes the ropes, but Angle pulls him back in and forces Brock to fight him off instead. Angle turns it into a half-crab to counter that strategy, but Brock makes the ropes again. Angle keeps laying in the knees, but charges one time too many and gets dumped as a result. Back in, Angle misses a charge and Brock hammers on him, but Angle gives him an absolutely sick german suplex for two. 300 pound guys should not be able to take those bumps. Angle Slam gets two. Another one is countered to a cradle for two. F5 gets two. Angle feigns injury, and grabs the anklelock while crawling to his feet. He turns it into a heel hook to really sink it in, but Brock drags Angle and makes the ropes. Kurt tries it again, but Brock shoves him off. F5 is countered to a cradle by Angle for two. Angle Slam is countered to another F5, but Brock opts to go up instead. Brock tries his legendary Shooting Star Press, but doesn't get enough rotation and lands on his HEAD, knocking himself silly. That was one of the scariest things I've ever seen, and not in a good way. I'm assuming that was supposed to be the finish, but Brock's miscue ruined it. Angle improvises and gets two as the ref freaks out, but Brock gets another F5 to win the title at 21:07. Probably Brock's best match to date, as Angle pulled out all the sick bumps in he thought may have been his last match. ****1/4 The botched finish was a bit of a black eye on things, however, and it just goes to show why you don't bust out dangerous new moves in the biggest match of your career. I just hope Brock didn't break his neck, because he was dazed and confused long after the end of the match.  (Thankfully  he was fine, but that was so close to being an in-ring tragedy.  This another one where I was ooing and aahing along with the crowd because I hadn’t seen it in almost a decade.  ****1/2) 

The Bottom Line:

I can't say as I thought it was the amazing, blowaway show that others seem to, and there was no real show-stealing MOTYC here, but Michaels-Jericho and Brock-Angle are both worth going out of your way to see. (You are CRAZY good sir.  Three ****+ matches, nothing terrible overall, this is absolutely a blow-away show and one of the best Wrestlemanias ever.  It did a shit buyrate because of the confusing Hogan-Vince thing on top, but it’s a tremendous and underappreciated show.) Rock-Austin was good but nothing more than building up a heel for Goldberg next month, and HHH-Booker was irritating for more reasons than I have time to list here. Maybe in the next book.

Moderate thumbs up, but it could have been so much better with better booking and pacing.  (Thumbs WAY up.  Strongly recommended.)