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From the Bowery: WrestleMania XIX

October 1, 2009 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
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From the Bowery: WrestleMania XIX  

From the Bowery: WrestleMania XIX
-March 30, 2003
-Safeco Field, Seattle, WA

-Since X-8 the WWF split into two brands with the initial idea of creating some competition. Just after the brand split the WWF lost their name to the Panda, and opted to get the F out. This led to the WWE, and at the time of the name change, Hulk Hogan was the Undisputed Champion. Funny, how that all works out in the end. The summer of 2002 saw a lot of new faces invade the E, but none had the impact of Brock Lesnar. He was immediately skyrocketed up the card by destroying the Hardys, winning the King of the Ring, and running over Hulk Hogan before getting a WWE Title shot against a returning Rock. The Rock put the next big thing over, and Lesnar looked to be the future of the company. When he became the Undisputed Champion, he shattered the undisputed part by becoming exclusive to SmackDown. RAW needed a champion now, and the Big Gold Belt was brought back and handed to HHH. A returning Shawn Michaels came back for 1 more match against HHH, but since he is Shawn Michaels and fucking awesome he decided to hang around for a while longer to deliver some kick ass matches. With all these new faces plus the return of some old ones, this WrestleMania, on paper, has quite possibly the most stacked card ever.

-Opening video package has each wrestler putting over the awesomeness of WrestleMania. The WrestleMania packages are typically fantastic, and this was no different.

Announce Team: JR and the King (RAW); Michael Cole and Tazz (SmackDown)

WWE Cruiserweight Title: Matt Hardy© (w/ Shannon Moore) vs. Rey Mysterio

-Matt Facts: Matt is appearing in his 4th WrestleMania, and Matt often wonders how they did WrestleMania without him. This would be Rey’s WrestleMania debut, and he cements the occasion by breaking out his Dare Devil suit. Moore distracts Rey before the opening bell, and Hardy tries to take advantage but gets back dropped to the floor. Rey follows with a corkscrew plancha. The action is fast when Rey is in control, but Moore breaks up a sunset flip powerbomb attempt to the floor, and Hardy takes over with his more heavyweight style. Moore interjects himself again by choking Rey on the middle rope. The Twist of Fate is reversed to a roll-up and Mysterio gets a two count. Rey makes a mistake though and gets creamed with the side effect. Hardy ground Mysterio and locks him in a bow and arrow. Rey fights back, but again, Hardy is able to cut him off with some power blows. A blind charge hits boot, and a charge hits nothing but post. This gives Mysterio the opening to start flying all around the ring. A springboard body press gets a two count, and a spinning DDT gets another near fall. Hardy stumbles into a drop toe hold and that sets up the 6-1-9, but Moore grabs the leg of Mysterio. Hardy takes advantage by hitting the Twist of Fate, but Rey is able to roll his shoulder at two. Hardy goes for Splash Mountain, but Rey counters to the hurricanrana. Matt should have watched Mysterio vs. Psychosis from Bash at the Beach 96. Rey finally hits the 6-1-9, but Matt avoids the West Coast Pop. Rey stays a step ahead and tries a victory roll, but Matt sits down and uses the bottom rope for leverage to get the win at 5:37.

Winner and Still WWE Cruiserweight Champion: Matt Hardy via pin at 5:37
-Incredibly short, but the crammed as much as they could into the match. The only real story was Moore being there to save Hardy at every turn. Other than that this was Rey showing off while Hardy does anything he can to escape with the title. Shame they couldn’t give them more time at the Biggest Show of the Year. **

-The Miller Lite Cat Fight Girls arrive, and they tease fighting.

-Limp Bizkit performs “Rollin” as Taker makes his entrance. Mock Limp Bizkit all you want, but for some reason their songs seem to go perfectly with wrestling.

The Undertaker vs. A-Train and The Big Show

-This was supposed to be a tag match with Nathan Jones as Taker’s partner, but the WWE realized the guy sucked and took him out of the match. The story was Nunzio lead Jones to a shower where he was jumped by Show and A-Train. It probably was best to get rid of Jones, and it gave Taker a more credible conquest for his undefeated streak. A-Train, ever the badass, adjusts the mirrors on Taker’s bike before spitting on it. This distraction gives Show the chance to jump Taker from behind, but Taker is ready and Show goes flying over the top rope. Taker hits a quick chokeslam, and tries to get the win, but Show pulls him off the cover. Show manhandles Taker and the plan is to keep Taker in their corner. Cole talks about how Taker has dedicated this match to his nephew in Iraq. That is a nice sentiment and all, but for some reason that just seems weird coming from the Undertaker. At least from a character standpoint it does, even if he wasn’t in zombie mode at this point. A-Train hits the De-Railer to get control, and they start picking apart Taker. Show gets the tag, and goes for the chokeslam, but Taker reverses to an armbar. A-Train makes the save, but he gets taken down with another armbar. Show gets back to his feet, and the numbers game takes over again. Things slow down as Show locks in an abdominal stretch. A-Train plays his part by providing extra leverage to piss the crowd off. That’s always a nice touch. Train gets the tag, and he picks up where Show left off by using the abdominal stretch. Taker is able to reverse to one of his own, and then hits a back-suplex to break. A clothesline from Train cuts off the comeback, and he starts to talk shit on Taker. That can’t be smart. Taker starts fighting off his back, and is able to get to his feet. A jumping DDT gets a two count for Taker as Show breaks things up. Taker starts dominating both men and hits the jumping clothesline on Show. A-Train snaps off the bicycle kick, and a chokeslam from Show looks to end things. Nathan Jones makes his way to ringside, and Show goes after him. Jones drops Show with the spin kick, and lays out A-Train with a big boot. A tombstone from Taker makes him 11-0 at 9:45.

Winner: The Undertaker via pin on A-Train at 9:45
-No reason was given for Taker not being disqualified due to the Jones interference, but that’s a minor point. This match should have been the one given 6 minutes instead of the opener. *1/2

-The Cat Fight Girls meet up with Torrie Wilson and Stacey Keibler. The King drools as one would expect.

WWE Women’s Title: Victoria © (w/ Steven Richards) vs. Trish Stratus vs. Jazz

-Victoria debuted the previous year as a crazy bitch that was obsessed with destroying the other Divas. Jazz lays out both women before the bell, and goes for the quick win on Trish. Trish ties to head up top, but Victoria pulls her to the floor in a nice bump. All 3 ladies brawl on the floor, and once back inside Victoria hits the top rope assisted sunset flip legdrop. The heels double team Trish, and kill her with a double shoulder breaker. They turn on each other in due time, and Victoria takes control in the corner. Trish sneaks back in and tries a bridging pin fall attempt, but Victoria kicks out at two. Jazz comes back with a powerslam, but Victoria breaks up the count. Trish sends the heels into each other, but again, she gets caught from behind by Victoria. A spin kick misses Trish, and ends up meeting Victoria instead. Jazz locks Trish in a rather nasty looking Boston Crab. That gets turned into a sweet STF as Jazz is becoming the star of this match. Well, that was until Victoria’s bottom was nearly ripped off and the males in the crowd got a view of her ass. Jazz impresses the crowd by locking Trish in the double arm chicken wing. Victoria hits quite the superkick, but a moonsault misses Jazz. She charges Victoria, but gets sent to the floor. Richards tries using a chair, but ends up eating it instead. He gets Stratusfaction, but Victoria looks for Widow’s Peak. Trish is able to fight out and the chic kick gets her the title at 7:17.

Winner and New WWF Women’s Champion: Trish Stratus via pin on Victoria at 7:17
-I enjoyed the hell out of this match and the effort these ladies gave. Jazz and Victoria looked great, and Trish came out looking great because overcame the 2 heels to win the title. ***

-The Rock tears into the crowd for booing him at last year’s WrestleMania. He promises to fulfill his destiny and finally pin Austin at WrestleMania. Good serious interview here from The Rock as he keeps the comedy to a minimum so the crowd can’t really cheer him.

WWE Tag Titles: Team Angle © vs. Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit and Rhyno

-Team Angle would be Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, as they made the WWF debut a few months earlier. Though these are the WWE Tag Titles, they don’t have the lineage of the previous WWF Tag Titles. The brand split gave us 2 sets of Tag Titles, and the WWF Tag Title were created in the Fall of 2002 to counter RAW’s World Tag Titles (which carried on the lineage of the WWF Tag Titles). All six men brawl to start with things settling down to Haas and Chavo. Haas gets sent to corner and meets a backdrop on the way back. He’s had enough and makes the tag to Benoit. Chavo makes the tag before dropping Benoit with a back suplex. Eddie comes in with the hilo, and we get Benoit vs. Eddie which is always a plus. It doesn’t last too long as Benoit makes the tag to Rhyno. A powerslam gets a two count for Rhyno, and Eddie decides to get the hell out of there and makes the tag to Benjamin. Shelton has better luck, and Rhyno becomes your man beast in peril. Team Angle hit a double dropkick, but Haas doesn’t have as much success one on one. Benoit gets the tag, and he fires off suplexes. He tags right back to Rhyno as team Neck Fusion doubles Charlie. He cuts off Rhyno though and takes him back to his corner to make the tag to Benjamin. Rhyno reverses a whip and delivers a running shoulder in the corner. Eddie tags Shelton while he’s down and he has a go with Rhyno. Again, that doesn’t last long as Benoit gets the tag. Eddie heads up top, but Benoit meets him up there to deliver a superplex. Benoit locks in the crossface, but Haas makes the save. A sweet brainbuster from Eddie gets pin attempt, but now Benjamin makes the save. Chavo enters the match, and gets quickly manhandled by Benoit. He hits the Triple Germans, and before the fourth one Benjamin tags Chavo. Benjamin hits quickly, but gets tossed to the floor. Benoit and Eddie have another go, but they both get knocked down so Shelton can pick the bones. Everything starts to break loose with Haas and Chavo both eating a Gore. Eddie pulls Rhyno out of the ring, but that gives Shelton the chance to cover Chavo to steal the victory at 8:41.

Winners and Still WWE Tag Champions: Team Angle via Benjamin pin on Chavo at 8:41
-Criminally short, and that made the match disjointed. Again, no story due to the restriction on time leads to just a bunch of moves being snapped off with no real meaning. It was certainly entertaining and featured non-stop action, but they really deserved more than 9 minutes for the talent involved. **1/2

Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho

-Michaels returned at SummerSlam and then got a month long title run with the World Title. The thought was that he would wrestle from time to time, and then this match happened. Remember when I said this card was stacked? Well, this match, featuring 2 of the greatest ever, is 5th from the top. Think about that for a second. The crowd is actually pretty split as we get Y2J and HBK chants. A wrestling sequence to start and that shocks Lawler. Well, this is WrestleMania, Jerry. Ross is even getting on Lawler’s case as he asks him why you wouldn’t start a wresting match with wrestling holds. Shawn controls with a side headlock and Jericho starts elbowing out. He runs Shawn over, and after a criss cross sequence slaps the spit out of his mouth. Awesome! That only serves to piss Shawn off though, and Jericho gets sent to the floor. Shawn feigns coming over the top, but fakes and then drops Jericho with a baseball slide. They head back in the ring, and a crossbody from the top from Shawn gets rolled through and Jericho gets a two count. Jericho fires off some chops, and sends Shawn back first into the opposite corner. He tries a running bulldog, but Shawn shoves off and Jericho goes groin first into the middle turnbuckle. Shawn doesn’t follow up on the balls though and instead goes to the leg with a figure four. Jericho is able to turn it over to break, so Shawn tries again. This time he gets kicked off and goes shoulder first into the post. Jericho sends Shawn over the top, but he skins the cat. Jericho wanders over and gets flipped to the floor. Shawn follows with a slingshot plancha. He tries a dropkick, but Jericho casually catches him and locks in the Walls of Jericho in the aisle. Jericho has to break though so he can sprint back to the ring to break the count. He heads back to the floor and continues to work over the back by sending him into the post twice. Jericho celebrates in the ring to a chorus of boos. Shawn gets to the apron, but gets killed with the springboard dropkick. Once back in the ring Jericho continues the assault on the back with a belly to back suplex. Jericho lets Shawn know he is better than him, and then delivers a nice delayed vertical suplex. A nasty backbreaker follows, and the arrogant cover only gets two. Some in the crowd sure loved it though. Jericho locks in a chinlock, but redeems it by burying a knee in the back as an added touch. Cool! The crowd urges on Shawn and hits fight back, but an eye rake stops that. Jericho sets to early for a backdrop, and ends up taking a DDT. Both men get to their feet, and Jericho hits the Michaels flying forearm before kipping up to mock Michaels. Sweet! Shawn kips up behind him though and starts taking control of the match. Jericho goes flying off a backdrop, and hits a moonsault press for a two count. We get an awesome Flair/Steamboat pinning sequence that ends with Jericho looking for the Walls. Shawn kicks off, but Jericho ends up getting a northern lights suplex. They fight over a backslide, so Jericho says to hell with that and drops Shawn. A modified bulldog sets up the lionsault, but Shawn is out at two. Jericho starts throwing a tantrum as he doesn’t know what else to do. Again, he sets too early and eats a boot from Shawn. He gets too cute and goes for a rana, but Jericho counters to the Walls of Jericho dead center in the middle of the ring. Shawn crawls to the ropes, but Jericho makes sure to hold until the ref counts to four before breaking. Jericho breaks out a double underhook backbreaker in a nasty spot, and heads up top. A beautiful reverse elbow and Jericho starts tuning up the band. Jericho delivers Sweet Chin Music, and it was pretty damn impressive. Sadly, it only gets a two count. Shawn gets sent to the corner, but comes off the middle rope with a crossbody. Now Shawn tries to get fancy and goes for the Walls, but opts to slingshot Jericho into the corner. He falls back into a pin attempt, but it only gets two. Jericho throws a shot to Michael’s back, and that quickly turns the tide. They head up top and Jericho goes for a belly to back, but Shawn turns it into a crossbody for a two count. Now Shawn heads up top, and looks for the elbow, but Jericho simply kicks the ref into the ropes to throw Shawn off balance. Nice! Jericho looks for the superplex, but Shawn sends him down, and finally gets the flying elbow. The band gets tuned, but Jericho ducks and is able to lock in the Walls of Jericho. He crawls for the ropes again, but Jericho pulls him back to the center of the ring to a massive pop. A second attempt finally gets Shawn to the bottom ropes. Jericho pleads with the ref and he ends up walking right into Sweet Chin Music. Shawn crawls for the cover, but Jericho is able to kick-out at two. Jericho fires Michaels into the corner where he takes the Shawn bump. He staggers back into Jericho who looks for a belly to back suplex again, but Shawn flips out and gets a roll-up for the pin at 22:28. Shawn offers a hand, and a tearful Jericho opts to embrace him with a hug instead. Then the awesomeness happens as Jericho kicks Michaels squarely in the balls. Just a total dick move and I loved it (as did a vocal group in the crowd).

Winner: Shawn Michaels via pin at 22:28
-This match made Shawn realize that he was still Shawn Michaels, and he has been back basically full time ever since. The match itself was a total show stealer, and seems to get lost when thinking of all time great WrestleMania matches. Again, I think it was forgotten due to where it was on this card, and the other matches that followed. Still, this was a great performance from both men, and I dare say, Jericho stole the show from Shawn in this match. ****1/2

-A vignette is showed hyping Goldberg as being a part of Backlash. Weird they would give that away here.

-Safeco Field Attendance Record: 54,097

-Limp Bizkit performs the WrestleMania XIX theme song: Crack Addict

-The Coach introduces the Miller Lite Cat Fight Girls. They fight with Torrie and Stacey on a bed next to the stage. Coach gets steamrolled by Torrie and Stacey before getting his pants ripped off. All four women beat on him to end the segment.

World Heavyweight Championship: HHH © (w/ Ric Flair) vs. Booker T

-HHH went slight racist during the build to this match as he claimed people like Booker T don’t make good champions. Booker looked to be the conquering hero as HHH had a stranglehold on the title since its inception. We’ll see how well that goes for him. JR puts over Booker being a 5 time WCW champion and that leads to a hilarious banter with the King. Lawler brings up that HHH called WCW a joke. JR asks Lawler how long he worked for WCW, and he says never. JR mentions that he did, so Lawler asks him if it was a joke. “Damn right,” says JR. Tremendous! Before WCW closed, I always thought these two were made to feud if for no other reason than Booker’s catchphrase of “Don’t Hate the player, Hate the Game.” Booker throws some chops in the corner, but HHH reverses to lay in some chops of his own. HHH gets whipped into the corner, and on the way back out get back dropped. For some reason HHH heads to the top rope, and naturally that goes bad, as Booker calmly pulls him down with an arm drag. They each try to get a hiptoss, but it ends with Booker landing a stiff clothesline. A sidekick is missed though, and HHH sends him head first into the post from the ring apron. That leaves Booker on the floor at the feet of Flair. HHH goes out to meet him, and sends him into the ring steps. They head back in the ring, and HHH snaps off a neckbreaker for a near fall. JR calls Lawler out on the “people like Booker T” remark and Lawler back pedals a bit. Heh! A spinebuster gets a two count for HHH. He goes to a choke though as he is getting frustrated at this point. The two men start exchanging blows and HHH tries a suplex, but Booker flips out and delivers a sweet DDT. JR is getting mighty pissed with Lawler’s constant jokes about Booker T being arrested, and it’s pretty funny listening to JR. Booker gets his bearings, and he now takes control in the match. He gets a near fall, but HHH is able to lock in a sleeper. Thankfully, Booker breaks quickly by sending HHH into the turnbuckle. Booker makes the mistake of setting early and he eats a knee for his trouble. HHH charges and gets caught with a spinebuster from Booker. A blind charge from Booker meets a HHH boot. Hunter makes the mistake of heading to the middle rope, and he eats a kick from Booker in the way down. The axe kick is missed though, as is the sidekick, and Booker gets sent to the floor. Flair gets involved and destroys Booker’s knee. Lawler and JR continue the awesomeness as JR gives Lawler hell for claiming Flair was trying to help Booker back in the ring. Back in the ring HHH breaks out the Indian Deathlock and JR is even amazed to see the hold. Booker crawls to the ropes to a sad pop from the crowd. They are still burnt out from Michaels/Jericho. Booker gets a fluke sunset flip for a two count. HHH looks for the pedigree, but Booker kicks off and the ref gets sandwiched. This is Nick Patrick though so he no sells and is back on his feet. Booker finally hits the axe kick to wake up the crowd, but he can’t follow up with an immediate cover. When he finally does cover it only gets a two count. Booker heads upstairs and Flair tries to stop him, but he eats a right hand. HHH does meet him up top, but he gets knocked right back down. Flair tries again, and he gets dropped one more time. Booker breaks out the Harlem Hangover and nearly destroys HHH’s face in the process. Booker makes the cover, but Flair puts HHH’s foot on the bottom rope. Booker has no leg to stand out following the Harlem Hangover, so HHH just casually hits the Pedigree. Poor Booker has to sell the move for 25 seconds before HHH finally covers him for the three count at 18:46.

Winner and Still World Champion: HHH via pin at 18:46
-Another HHH Mania match with a dead crowd due to having to follow a show stealer. You think HHH would learn from these past 2 Manias, but he let the same thing happen at WM XXV. The match itself told a decent story as HHH worked the leg and it figured in the finish. Being there were two World Titles it’s ok to have a heel go over on the under card, but having Booker go over here seemed like the right thing to do. Sadly, Booker was just a place holder until Nash was ready for his run with HHH. **3/4

-The Hogan/McMahon video package follows, and it’s fantastic.

Street Fight: Vince McMahon vs. Hulk Hogan

-This was a match nobody thought would we ever see, and while neither man is in any capacity to carry a wrestling match, they can cover their weakness with their charisma alone. McMahon never disappoints as Mania as he is willing to do whatever he can to make his match is at least entertaining. We get the entire video package that hypes the match, and it is very well done. Hogan’s career was on the line here which leaves the match in little doubt. Vince signing the contract in Hogan’s blood was a nice touch. Since this was a SmackDown match, Tazz and Cole handle announcing duties. McMahon slaps Hogan, so he tackles Vince to ground and we get brawling. McMahon eats clothesline, and gets his head bounced off the mat. Lots of right hands from Hogan, and he stomps a mud hole in the corner. Instead of walking it dry he chokes with his boot. An elbow cuts of Hogan, and McMahon controls with clotheslines. This is not the most graceful of matches to say the least, but the fans seem to be enjoying it. McMahon works the arm in laughable fashion (a hammerlock in a street fight?). The post works a lot better as far as damaging the arm for McMahon. You had to know a test of strength was going to happen between these two. The crowd gets behind Hogan and he fights back to a standing position, but he gets dropped right back to his knees. This was a lot more exciting when Hogan and Warrior did it 13 years earlier. The fact that Vince dominated the test of strength is interesting. Hogan never got the advantage in that exchange. They brawl on the floor and Hogan’s shoulder eats post. A chair gets involved, but Vince swings and misses. Now Hogan fires back and sends McMahon into the post. Vince takes a sick chair shot (not as good as the one from Shawn 3 years later) and he’s bleeding. Hogan works the cut and takes things back into the ring. More brawling and we head right back to the floor. Vince eats 2 more chair shots, but a third swing takes out Hugo at the announce table. Damn, even Hugo decided to blade. Nice touch! A shot to the balls turns things, and Hogan gets creamed with the chair. Now we have triple juice. A ladder is pulled from under the ring, and that leads to our next spot. Hogan gets placed on the Spanish announce table, and Vince drops a leg from the ladder. Holy shit chant for that one. Things slow down as both men sell the table spot. Finally they head back in the ring where Vince gets a two count. Another cover and another two count. One of the greatest visuals you will ever see in wrestling is next as Vince peers over the apron with a sick smile and blood pouring down his head. That was awesome! He pulls a steel pipe from under the ring and heads back inside. McMahon takes a shot to the grapefruits, and both men are down with the pipe lying in the middle of the ring. Roddy Piper waddles into the ring to a big pop, and he spits on both men. He grabs the pipe and prepares to hit Vince, but opts to blast Hogan instead. Big boos for that one. Hogan kicks out at two, so Vince crawls for the pipe. For some reason the ref stops Vince from getting the pipe. McMahon tosses him to the floor and calls for his ref (Sylvan Grenier). McMahon blasts Hogan with the pipe and drops the leg, but it’s Hulk-up time. He just notices the blood pouring from his head, and runs wild all over McMahon. The usual looks to finish, but this is a special night so we get 3 leg drops and that is more than enough to end things at 20:48. Shane comes out to check on Vince after the match. I thought that may go somewhere, but it didn’t. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Shane vs. Hogan at that point. Vince, ever the showman, gives Hogan the finger while he celebrates with the fans.

Winner: Hulk Hogan via pin from leg drop @ 20:48
-This was way better than it had any right to be. Again, Vince will do all that he can to make sure he doesn’t stink up the joint at WrestleMania. While not as brutal as the Mania match with HBK later or as crazy as the one with Shane 2 years before, this was still entertaining. Your mileage may vary though. ***

The Rock vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

-It wasn’t until later that the significance of this match would be known as this would be the last match in the career of Steve Austin. That’s unless he comes out of retirement and gives us the dream match of all dream matches with Hogan. I don’t care how old, and broken down both men are, I want that match. This would be the end of one of the greatest rivalries in history, and you know both men are going to let it all hang out here. Austin took his ball and went home right before the King of the Ring in 2002. Eventually, he made his return at No Way Out in February, and beat the hell out of Eric Bischoff. It seems the plan here was for Goldberg vs. Rock (if you believe) some, but Goldberg didn’t sign in time. I actually prefer getting Rock/Austin III as it puts a cap on the feud, and provided a better story leading into the match. The Rock returned just before Austin and came back in full on heel mode and was infinitely cooler as a result. The dilemma came though as the fans stopped booing and began cheering because Rock is so awesome. It makes you appreciate the greatness of today’s heels like Edge, Jericho, and now, CM Punk. They straddle the fence enough so that the fans don’t love to hate them so much that they turn face. Okay, rant over; it’s time for Act III of this awesome rivalry. After a brief stare down the brawl is on, and Rock bails to the floor after escaping a stunner attempt. Austin gives chase and they brawl around ringside. Cole and Tazz head for the hills as they fight around and over their announce table. It has been all Austin as he drops Rock on the security wall and fires him into the ring steps. They head back in the ring, and Austin continues the ass whipping. JR mentions Rock playing for Miami and makes sure to get an Oklahoma reference in when he can. Austin snaps off a suplex and continues pounding away. A chop block finally gives the Rock some breathing room. Austin hits the floor to try to walk off the pain, but the Rock gives chase and delivers another chop block. Lawler questions wearing a metal knee brace and Ross asks if it should be made of cotton candy. Ha! The Rock targets the knee, and is doing a damn fine job of it. He pulls Austin to the corner and wraps the knee around the post a few times. I was hoping for a ring post figure four, but no such luck. Austin fires back with some right hands, but sets to early and catches a boot to the chest. Rock immediately goes back to the knee, and locks in the sharpshooter to a good pop. I want to note that Lawler and Ross have been gold on commentary as this may have been one of the last times Lawler tried to piss Ross off instead of being his best friend. The Rock brings the awesome as he puts on Austin’s vets and grabs a bottle of water. Austin is a little pissed at the site of Rock wearing his vest so he unloads with some right hands. Both men get dropped with the double clothesline spot. They each crawl to their feet and start trading blows. Austin gets the Thesz press, and fires away with a shit load of right hands. The FU elbow follows, but it only gets a two count. They head to the corner and Austin stomps away. The Rock comes charging off the ropes with a clothesline, but takes too much time and ends up walking into a Rock Bottom! Nice! Austin sets himself for the Stunner, but Rock catches the boot, flips him off, and delivers a Stunner of his own. Double nice! Now the Rock fires away with right hands, but the spit punch misses, and Austin finally gets the Stunner for a hot near fall. Nobody sells the stunner as well as the Rock does. Austin tosses the ref, but that bites him in the ass as the Rock hits him in the little rattlesnake. That sets up the People’s Elbow, but Austin rolls out of the way. Austin goes for the Stunner again, but Rock kicks off and gets a spinebuster. He finishes the People’s Elbow after spitting on the vest, but Austin is out at two. Rock waits for Austin to get up and he drops him with the Rock Bottom. Austin survives again, so the Rock gets another Rock Bottom. That’s still not enough though as Austin kicks out one more time. The Rock is hell bent on finishing this with the Rock Bottom and the 3rd one is the charm as he gets the pin at 17:53. In a pretty awesome moment Rock shoves the ref away, and pretends to talk trash to Austin, but he said in a later interview that he was thanking Austin and letting him know that he loved him. The Rock celebrates with his family at ringside, leaving Austin alone in the ring. Steve gets a good ovation from the crowd, but not as loud as one would expect. The reason being nobody really knew that this was it for Austin.

Winner: The Rock via pin at 17:53
-The history of this match alone makes it a must see. The crowd was a little out of it to start as they were still coming down from the Hogan/McMahon/Piper show. Unlike Booker and HHH though, these two were able to overcome that and get the crowd hot again. Sure it was basically finisher after finisher for the last 5 minutes or so, but it was entertaining as all hell. ****

WWE Title: Kurt Angle © vs. Brock Lesnar

-People were drooling over the prospects of this match once Lesnar made his WWE debut. Brock won the 2002 Rumble and the match was finally going to happen. Then Angle’s neck problems came up, and rumors swirled that his career may be over or at least he was going to be out for a while. The WWE decided to do the match on SmackDown before Mania, and most figured Angle was dropping the strap to set up Lesnar and someone else. SmackDown was in Pittsburgh that night and I was there for the show thinking I was going to see something historic. I had visions of Benoit named #1 contender or Benoit getting a quick reign somehow before dropping it at Mania. Instead Angle decides he wants to do the match at Mania (because he’s a crazy bastard) and we get a 10 second match where Kurt’s brother switches places with him and they Doinked Lesnar to get the win. I was quite pissed as I realized the WWE didn’t deliver on a suitable Main Event, and I encouraged others around me to show their displeasure. Sadly, they had Taker come down to beat on some heels to send the crowd home happy, and my cries of you’re all sheep being fooled into enjoying a show with no real main event fell on deaf ears. Now back to the match as there was sincere concern for Angle during this match as a lot of people were scared shitless he was going to paralyze himself. History has shown we should have been more worried about Brock. The added stipulation here is that the title can change hands on a count-out or DQ. As one would expect with 2 NCAA National Wrestling Champions, we get some sweet chain wrestling to start. The first 90 seconds are a draw and the crowd appreciates what they’re seeing. The have a second go, and Angle gets a small advantage with a headlock. Brock makes it to his feet, and he drops Angle with a shoulder block. Angle regroups and attacks again by getting a single leg, but Brock counters and gets Angle down with an arm drag. Kurt’s had enough of this amateur shit and goes after Lesnar’s taped ribs. Angle hits a back elbow and charges, but Brock catches him coming in with a powerslam for a two count. Kurt quickly snaps off a belly to back suplex, but Brock casually pops up and Angle shits himself. He bails to the floor and catches Lesnar as he chases him back into the ring. Once back in the ring, Brock gets a sweet gorilla press slam, but Angle rebounds by delivering a sick release belly to back suplex that sends Brock flying into the turnbuckle. Nice! Angle continues the work on the work in the ribs with a body vice, chin lock combo. The crowd is kind of dead as they still weren’t used to seeing this style in the Main Event. Brock fights of his back and gets to a sitting position, but Angle maintains the chin lock. Brock gets to his feet and carries Angle around the ring, and rams him into the buckles to finally break the hold. He can’t get any traction though as Kurt suplexes the shit out of him. Kurt’s full of himself, and the crowd isn’t as impressed. Kurt makes the mistake of charging Lesnar though and ends up eating a spinebuster to leave both men down for the count. The ref gets to a count of 7, but each man gets back to his feet. Brock is a little better off though, and starts getting the pace a little faster. Now he starts dishing out the suplexes as Angle gets tossed all around the ring. A release belly to belly suplex gets him a two count. He looks for another, but Angle counters to the triple Germans, but since this is WrestleMania, Kurt adds a fourth one for good measure. Kurt looks for the Angle Slam, but Brock counters to the F5, but Angle counters that to the ankle lock. Awesome! Brock gets his fingers on the bottom rope, but Angle pulls him back to the middle of the ring, and opts to go back to the ribs as he switches to a single leg Boston Crab. Angle is forced to break though as Brock gets to the ropes. Angle charges and again, that’s a mistake on his part, as he is back dropped over the top the floor. That gives Lesnar a chance to regroup, but Angle casually delivers a release German suplex that Lesnar sells by flipping completely over. That’s insane for a man that size to be able to do shit like that. Brock counters the Angle slam to a roll-up for a two count. He follows that with a F5, but Angle becomes the first man to kick out of the move (so says Cole). Brock looks for the kill, but Angle plays possum and hooks the ankle lock. Lesnar’s a beast though and just drags Angle away from the middle of the ring so he can reach the ropes to force a break. Once again Angle goes for the Angle Slam, and again Brock counters. This time he hits another F5, but instead of going for the pin he heads to the top rope. You kind of knew this may end up bad because Kurt was ¾ across the ring. Sure enough Brock tries his legendary shooting star press, and about kills himself as he lands badly on his head. Angle has to cover and we get a final F5 at 21:07 to give Lesnar the pin and WWE Title. The look on Brock’s face after the match show that he is seriously out of it. Tazz questions how he isn’t dead after watching the replay and I’m wondering the same thing. Lesnar is sporting a bloody nose know as he struggles to his feet. The two men embrace after the match as fireworks go off to usher in the Brock Lesnar era. We’ll see how that works!

Winner and New WWE Champion: Brock Lesnar via pin at 21:07
-Botched ending aside, this was some high quality pro-wrestling with two people suplexing the hell out of each other. I still like Jericho vs. Michaels for match of the night as it was more entertaining, but this was just so different than anything we’d seen close a Mania. ****1/2

Top 5 WrestleMania Matches (To this Point):

1) IC Title: Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat *****
2) Submission Match: Bret Hart vs Steve Austin *****
3) WWF Title: The Rock vs Steve Austin II *****
4) The Rock vs Hulk Hogan *****
5) Career vs Career: Randy Savage vs The Ultimate Warrior *****

The 411: This would have given WM X-7 a run for it's money if the undercard was given more time. With that said, everything from Michaels/Jericho on is pretty awesome with only HHH boring the crowd once again. This Mania always seem to be a forgotten classic for some reason and I'm not sure why. Definitely check this show out, and get your hands on a copy of The Mania Behind the Mania: (included on the extras of the WM XX 3 disc set) as it has a lot of cool behind the scenes stuff about this WrestleMania.
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  8.5   [ Very Good ]  legend

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