|Guest columnist: Alex Carnevale
I'm writing this after I've heard a lot of opinion on the show, so I'll try to react to that. I've watched it twice so far, and I'm not sure it's the best PPV ever, but you need years to get that kind of perspective. And if it isn't, what is?
My favorite WM is pretty much hands down WM 14, which was solid from top to bottom and featured history in the making as it were.
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Paul Heyman. I should mention the set looks great, and the Dome is a great place for this crowd and this event.
Chris Jericho v. William Regal. Crowd seems more stunned by Jericho's arrival then anything. I think they should have pushed him right into the WWF Title picture on RAW. Scott Christ called this one, as this match is a tremendous style clash. They do the typical indyish beginning sequence. Regal's working his ass off god bless him, but he was never one to carry anybody past pretty good. Top rope elbow from Jericho for two. Reversal sequence lets Jericho try for the walls. Jericho takes the Bret Hart bump to the post. Twice. Armdrag takeover to work the shoulder. Another one. 1, 2, no. I think Regal thinks he's in WCW circa '94 as he works the elbow. Lionsault, but Regal puts his knees up. Roll-up for two. Nasty backplex for two. Crowd isn't that into Jericho, he's more of New England taste. Regal undoes the turnbuckle (*sigh*) and works the shoulder. Jericho makes the comeback with kicks and what have you. What happened to Jericho's workrate? Top rope dropkick for two. To the top, and Regal hits a super butterfly suplex, of which I'm a huge fan. 1, 2, no. Jericho tries the walls, but his shoulder gives out. Regal reverses to the Regal Stretch. Jericho makes the ropes. He chops Regal, but Williams kicks the shoulder and goes for the neckbreaker. Bulldog sets up a snap suplex and Lionsault for three in 7'08". *** I don't know what people were thinking, but this match was more than decent. Maybe because they expected more from the match, or the opener in general. Good, good stuff here, even if I felt like I was watching WCW at times. Regal is so impossibly old-school. This would be the only title not to change hands on the night.
I'm not really against continuing Regal v. Jericho after seeing this.
Now that the APA have Jacqueline, they look like a bunch of pussies. Bradshaw- "Hey Jackie, you know what that cigar in your mouth looks like?" Faarooq- "Oh come on, Justin."
APA/Tazz v. RTC. This match is lively enough, with the APA doing a hometown things. The end comes after Bradshaw hits a super backdrop suplex, a double-team powerbomb, and reverses the Ho Train into the clothesline from hell for the pinfall in an exhausting 3'54" Short, but pretty okay. * I would have had the end come with the Tazzmission, but we're in Texas, so I can take it. Mercifully short match.
A pay-per-view after almost winning the Royal Rumble, and Kane's wrestling in a hardcore title match.
Raven v. The Big Show v. Kane, Hardcore Title. Kane tosses Raven at Show as he walks to the ring, but Kane hits a flying clothesline to the outside. They brawl into the crowd, not the lasttime we'd see that on the night. The crowd erupts with what I can only describe as boredom. Kane throws Raven into the wall, denting it. Show tries to lock himself and Raven in a cage, but that doesn't work. This is dragging. Kane throws Raven through a plate glass window, then Show throws Kane through a door. Color me bored. They go through a few more walls, and as Raven tries to drive off in a golf cart, Kane follows him in another one. Raven is busted open minimally. I get the feeling they're building towards a big spot, and I'm on target as once they come back out the entrance-way, Show and Raven go off the stage through whatever scaffolding below and Kane follows with an ugly-looking leg drop for the pinfall, as the ref counts three on the side of a door in 9'18" Big time DUD here. I don't know what anyone was thinking calling this watchable. Last year's Hardcore thing was pleasant enough, but I hope they retire the title. Insanely stupid booking otherwise. I guess they just didn't want Kane to lose. This one blew in fifty different fucking ways. Can't they have someone book it for them?
Heels are never over at WM because the crowd is just happy to be there - Henry David Thoreau.
Test v. Eddie Guerrero, European Title. Test comes out to a noticeably anemic reaction. They should have put him over for the belt here. Doctorbomb gets two right away. Test goes "boosh" when he punches, it's really annoying. Ugly ring banner colors this year. Yellow, black, blue. Hotshot-cum-clothesline spot for two. Test to the top, and Eddie tries to come off with a rana, no, so Test hits a flying elbow for two. Test gets caught in the ropes, and the ref, Saturn, and Eddie have to work together to free him. That was a mistake, but they made it work in the match. Funny stuff. Eddie starts working over the leg, going borderline heel. Wait, he is a heel. Eddie destroys Test's leg, Deano style. Eddie tries a sleeper, and he brings Test to his knees. Test retaliates with a tilt-a-whirl slam, no cover. A bad-ass tilt-a-whirl ligerbomb for two. Eddy elbows Test out of the corner - Test goes for Uncle Slam, but a mule kick sets up a Saturn runs in for the fisherman's twister or whatever that fucker is called. Two. Guerrero pulls out the brainbuster, and for the frog splash. He turns it into a senton when Test moves out of the way. Test hits the meltdown, but Saturn distracts, and it only gets two. Sweet Test Music, but Dean puts Test out, and Eddie hits Test with the belt. 1, 2, 3. Eddie wins the European Title in 8'30". **3/4 Booking was poor, match started strong, but ended up a crowd killer. This was not one bit better than anyone thought it would be.
Foley is here.
Austin is here, and he appears to be asleep. HE'S TURNING HEEL!
Kurt Angle v. Chris Benoit. New white tights for Kurt. Yay! Kurt cuts a promo. Kurt- "Make sure you boo me during the match, because Benoit's the face." Crowd- "What?" Angle- "Uhhh...STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN." Crowd pops. Big pop for the Crippler. Good to see, since he's only been a face for about a week. New colors for Benoit as well. Too much red, white, and blue for the eyes. They roll around to take us back to the "Golden Age" of wrestling. Crowd is so into this it's not even funny. Overheard suplex, and they do some more reversals. Both men go for the finisher. Benoit goes for the crossface. The style they are working is fresh and the crowd reacts like they just saw something new. I'm glad they tried this, it was a real risk. Angle rolls to the floor for a break. Christ, Benoit looks old. He's aged like a gorilla. Benoit hits the crossface, but argues with the ref. Angle clotheslines Chris and tosses him. Your Standard Brawling sequence. Angle tosses Benoit into the stairs to take control. Chris bumps like a champion. Vertical suplex for two. Belly-to-back suplex for two. Belly-to-belly, and Angle looks kind of sick. Another belly-to-belly. This is like Diesel v. UT, WM 12. Short arm clothesline from Benoit, no cover. Chops in the corner. Knee to the gut. This is getting pretty brutal already. Reverse elbow from Benoit for two. Snap suplex for two. Benoit suplexes Kurt on the top and takes him over with the superplex. He goes for the rolling germans, but Angle tries the anklelock. Benoit reverses and grabs Kurt's ankle. Benoit tries the crossface, and hooks Angle's hands. That's my spot of the night. Angle tries the crossface himself, but Benoit grabs the ropes. Excellent. Angle decks the ref, and Benoit gets Kurt to tap to the crossface. I'll talk about that in a second. Ref is down, and Angle hits the Olympic Slam. 1, 2, no! Angle sets up the moonsault, and takes Benoit's knees to the face. Disgusting. Benoit hits the headbutt. 1, 2, no. Benoit goes to a German, low blow, they wriggle around in a pinning sequence and Angle grabs the tights for three in 14'03". **** Cool match. I can only take off for the ending, length, and buildup, because the rest of the match was better than I could have expected. They could have done a really cool pinfall reversal sequence, etc, instead of repeating the 2/3 Falls Benoit-Jericho finish. Besides that, I can't complain. They didn't go all over here, probably to see if the crowd would buy it or not. And they did, in a big way. That's a good sign.
By the way, if you thought Benoit was going over to end the feud, you should be put in a sanitarium.
When Kurt taps, he should make it seem like he wouldn't tap normally, but is trying to get Benoit to think he's won and release the hold. The announcers could sell this, and it would make perfect sense. Instead, we're left with Never Give Up Austin tapping out in two minutes with no explanation in the cage on RAW.
Dead Man visits Fort Hood. Soldiers- "WE LOVE YOU UNDERTAKER" Taker- "And I you. [sees camera] Whatever. [quietly] This is my yard."
Angle is backstage and Chris puts him out.
Ivory v. Chyna. RTC are banned from ringside. What the fuck is Chyna wearing? This isn't Las Vegas, slut. Big pop for Chyna. Ivory works over the back of the neck. I hope Ivory keeps this character after the RTC goes down. Funny bit as Chyna hits a clothesline. JR- "Clothesline...I guess we could call it a Chynaline...or not" Heyman- "I'd go with not." Jackknife powerdrop, but Chyna pulls her up at too. Press slam for three in 2'39" 1/2* I have no complaints about this - nothing too horrible, and there was no other way to go with the booking. Maybe Chyna can Vader-out and they can go in a serious direction with the belt. The division is as stacked as it's ever been. Heh.
Jeff Bagwell and Moises Alou. Coachman is a dick.
Vince and Michael Cole flirt with each other. We went five seconds without seeing Vince, let's see some more. YOU WANT SHOCKING, YOU'LL GET SHOCKING. Vince then begins to hump Michael. Cole- "All right, all right, I'm gone."
Awesome highlight package precedes the match.
Vince McMahon v. Shane McMahon, streetfight. The chyron paints him as WCW chairman. They check out the WCW wrestlers in the crowd, and the Dome boos. Good luck with WCW, Shane. Did anybody think they were going to let WCW outshine WrestleMania? You don't know Vince, brutha. The last bit of the Russo era shines bright in this match - the No Chance in Hell entrance music. Steph comes to the ringside area. Vince slaps Shane to start. Shane clotheslines Vince, and hits the spear. Steph comes in with the slap. Shane hits a neat looking baseball slide. Shane hits Vince repeatedly with a sign. Summerslam '99 flashback no. 1! Shane chokes Vince out with a cord. Shane knocks off a clothesline off the barrier. JR- "Vince is a little north of five-o, if you know what I mean." Shane beats on Vince with a kendo stick. E-C-DUB! Vince sells like a champ. I miss Lawler calling Shane cat-like and Simba, I admit it. Shane then takes the cover off the damn Spanish table. That's heinous. Shane decks Vince with the monitor, another spot that would become a running theme. Shane redoes the Summerslam '99 bump, but misses Vince. He took it well, all things considered. Trish wheels Linda down the aisle, and consoles Vince. She turns on him, of course, and slaps him. Catfight erupts. JR- "Did you say something Paul?" Heyman- "No." Shane is still down, as Trish chases Steph to the back. Foley is down, and is slapped by Stephanie. Shane is still down. Vince gives Linda an evil look. Foley protects her, to a Foley chant. Vince hits Foley twice with a chair, and wheels Linda around, and rolls her back in the ring. Vince puts Linda in a chair in the ring. McMahon tosses trash cans into the ring. Vince beats on Shane but Linda stands up and kicks Vince McMahon in the penis. Phenomenal. Huge pop for that. Foley now beats on Vince. Running knee to the face. Shane puts a trash can in Vince's hands in the corner. Shane hits a motherfucking amazing version of the Van Shittinator for the pinfall in 14'12". I can't believe he made it. **1/2 Good enough. It all went well - pretty much every part of the storyline. The rating reflects the match, but the angle was better. From a storyline and booking perspective, this was balls-out-excellent.
Well, we're up to TLC II. I'm pretty much in the minority in loving the ladder match at last year's WM over the SS '00 match. Let's see how this one turns out.
Hardyz v. Edge/Christian v. Dudleyz, TLC II. Big brawl to start. Double flapjack from the Dudleyz. Poetry in Motion on both of the Dudleyz, but the Blondes clean house with the ladder. There is mass movement in the crowd for some reason. Matt's in the tree of woe, and E/C step on his penis. Double drop toehold into the steel chair from the Blondes to Jeff. Duds drag Christian out, and Edge tries to climb the ladder. Matt takes him off, but takes a clothesline off the ladder. Jeff dropkicks Edge off the ladder next. Double baseball slide by the Hardyz, and the Hardyz redo the No Mercy Rolling Thunder off the ladders spot for no particular reason. Not really a fan of that one. Duds hit the Whassup Drop. This is a spotfest in the truest sense of the word, with no flow or anything. The Duds get the tables, and D-Von looks underneath the ring for no reason - the tables and ladders are all on the outside.
They set up two tables, and this leads to Bubba Ray powerbombing Jeff through Edge on the table. Kind of passˇ on that one, but I appreciate the effort. Business starts to pick up, though, as the Duds stack the tables so that they can redo the huge table spot from TLC I. Spectacular. Ross does a nice job on commentary here. In fact, he was aces through the whole show. Finally, something happens in the ring, and they build to the trainwreck spot. Heyman sells the winners as legends, which will play in later. Christian takes a SICK SICK SICK SICK bump unprotected to the outside to outshine pretty much everybody on that one. That's the bump of the night, folks. Christian is to Jeff as Jeff is to Matt. Christian, you are one crazy motherfucker. Put a table out there to break his fall, for chrissakes. Edge climbs alone, and Spike Dudley comes out. He gives Edge the Acid Drop, and then gives Christian the Acid Drop through the table to the outside! Wow. Hardyz climb, but Rhyno comes out and takes out the Duds with a ladder and a gore. He gores Matt through the table, and sets up a ladder for Edge to climb it. Fuck, I thought we were going to the see the piledriver through the table on Lita.
Lita comes out and drags Edge off. Rhyno interrupts and attacks Lita, but Little Spike saves. Lita takes Rhyno out with a rana, and he rolls outside. Huge pop for that. Edge takes a huge bump off the ladder courtesy a Spike Dudley chairshot. Dudleyz hits the Doomsday Device, and Lita hits Spike with a nasty looking chairshot to send him out of the ring. She takes off her shirt to boot, and that, of course leads to 3-D from the Dudleyz on her. Phenomenal sequence of events. She's out of the match, but Edge hits D-Von with a chair and Christian hits Bubba Ray. Edge starts setting up various ladders in the ring. Outside the ring, Jeff sets up the huge ladder and calmly Swantons through Spike and Rhyno. Not the same effect from the crowd as in previous times, but just as insane. I think he cheapens the bump by doing it like that. Edge sets up three ladders in the ring, and Christian and D-Von climb. They get stuck on the belts, and Matt Hardy moves the ladder. They do the fighting bit, but both men drop. Jeff is on the top turnbuckle opposite, and in a tremendous visual, he tries to walk from ladder to ladder like a tightrope. Unfortunately, he loses his balance and falls. Still, that would have been truly awesome. What a great spot. He gets back up there and hangs on but loses the ladder. He tries to get back on it, but Bubba pulls it from under him as Edge gives him the MEGA-SPEAR to the ground. Truly a holy shit bump worthy of this WrestleMania. I mean, sweet Jesus, never in my wildest dreams did I think they would pull that off. Rhyno pushes Matt and Bubba through the big stack on the outside. Nice visual, as always. Holy shit chant goes out. Blondes climb the ladder for the anticlimactic win in 15'41". The only tag team ladder match with a good ending was the first three-way and the No Mercy match, for my money. ****1/4 This was definitely better the second time I saw it, but still, the beginning is super-spotty. The interference is borderline excessive, and the way they redid some of the old spots took away from it. I'm referring specifically to the Swanton Bomb and the going through the huge stack thing. Crowd just knew those were coming, so it didn't have the same effect. Besides that, the match was great and the booking was old-school. Let's hope we never see this again, though. And if you liked TLC I and didn't like TLC II, you're deluding yourself. Pick a side.
The booking was good. Scaia called it, and he deserves credit. Edge and Christian are getting their last hurrah as one of the greatest WWF tag teams of all time, and although I would have preferred the babyface blow-off here, it wasn't hyperbole for Heyman - these guys are legends. Jeff and Christian bumped for two, as well. I liked this about as much as TLC I, but not better than the ladder match of last year's WM for sheer holy fuck value.
Heenan and Okerlund come out for commentary, signaling that their wrestling careers in the WWF are beyond over. Okerlund and Jim Ross don't like each other, as I remember. I'm glad Ross and Heyman didn't have to call this. I thought this was a fun idea at the time, and it's still not too bad, but this whole thing just bored me out of my ass.
Gimmick Battle Royal: Iron Sheik wins in 3'04". That's all that really happens. I don't know what else to say. Pritchard pretty much calls the whole thing from inside the ring as Brother Love. They should bring Brother Love back. Sgt. Slaughter punks the Sheik out after the match. Heenan does some lame comedy schtick, and they get those fuckers out of there. Good riddance. I guess it worked to kill time so that the crowd wouldn't be dead for the main, but so would a lot of things.
Motorhead plays HHH out to the ring, sans wife. Both are nice touches.
HHH v. Undertaker. They brawl into the crowd. God, I'm going to deduct for that spot. At least they're going somewhere this time. They start with a brawl outside the ring, with Undertaker punching HHH through the Spanish announce table. UT's brawling abilities were always able to match his deficiences in wrestling. Hunter applies his knee to UT's face, and the big man no sells. HUGE backdrop off the ropes. Clothesline in the corner. Another one. JR cranks the hyperbole up to previously unforeseen levels. Powerslam, but UT misses the elbow. Jumping clothesline. I'm getting Hell in a Cell I flashbacks. UT grabs a wristlock and calls "Old School" as he goes to the top rope. HHH throws him off, however. Neckbreaker from the Game gets 2.999999! Forearm to the apron. Another one. Okay, Austin. It would actually be Rock who whips it out later. Swinging neckbreaker gets two. One more. He barks at the ref. UT comes back but takes the facebuster. We're five minutes in and thus far the match has been superb. Of course HHH messes it up by going for the sledgehammer and turning the whole thing into a brawl before it was called for. He didn't even let UT kick out of the damn pedigree. Chioda takes away the sledgehammer, and HHH goes for the pedigree. Taker reverses to a slingshot into the ref, and then chokeslams the Game. Chioda wakes up. 1, 2, no. Taker beats up the ref. Good stuff. Taker tosses Triple H out of the ring and he takes a man-sized Shawn style bump, totally overselling. I love it. HHH takes another nice bump, getting backdropped into the crowd. Unfortunately, they whip out the through the crowd spot, detracting from its use in the main event. They fight to what I guess you would call the crow's nest of the WWF - a series of interlocking platforms that leads to a big camera setup. They brawl fairly credibly all the way up the superstructure. Ross is in his damn element, calling HHH's nose a "probiscus" and Taker's hands "soupbones." I love that man. Chairshot by HHH, and he just decks UT in the head. He hits his ass, and then his shoulders. Again, I don't know why they let them use the spot in this match and again in the next. Sloppy booking. Taker stops a last chairshot, and Taker chokeslams him over the rail. For awhile, they try not to show what Taker chokeslammed his on, by they finally reveal the padding. Unfortunately, the crowd can't take back the "Holy Shit" chant. Heyman- "This is a brawl that has gone too far." Taker then comes off with an elbow. Good effort, Mark. It takes them a few minutes of walking back to the ring before Taker stands over a dead HHH. The ref is still out. UT put him there - oh, the irony! Taker whips out the sledgehammer, and threatens HHH with it. When Taker strikes, HHH kicks him in the testicles and tries to assault him with the sledg - BIG BOOT! IT'S...IT'S... LEGDROP! No, instead, they have the big slugfest. HHH tries a tombstone but it's reversed and Taker hits it. Nasty looking stuff. No ref for the cover. This is like a Ten Years of Undertaker retrospective. The ref finally comes to, and Taker signals for the Last Ride. As HHH goes up, he picks up the sledgehammer and clocks Taker with it. Awesome spot. Awesome spot. So brilliant. HHH covers. 1, 2, NO! Crowd is batshit at that one. I would have ended it there, it would have been a good ending. Taker starts bleeding like a horse. HHH goes up for ten punches to rip open the cut, but Undertaker takes him off in the Last Ride for three in 18:14. ***1/2 Crowd was really into it. The beginning was flat-out fantastic, the end was great. The whole crowd part was sort of out of place, but besides that I couldn't have expected any more from either man. I bow to HHH for the job and the match. If this is Taker's last match at WM, he went out with a good one. This was like a best of HHH and UT highlight reel, with both men pulling out the stops. Great match.
No one has really talked about this, but at this point in the telecast, Coachman interviews the Limp Bizkit contest winner and he is total net geek except, presumably, he's a mark. I transcribe his words.
Will Borchert- "I'm having the time of my life, I got to go WWF Axxess, I got to go to Wrestlemania, I got to see the Undertaker beat HHH, Undertaker is my favorite wrestler, and I get to go to a concert to see Limp Bizkit, my favorite band." Coach- "Let's take a look at the picture you created. Where did you come up with this?" Borchert- "Well I had to mix Limp Bizkit my favorite band, and WM one of the biggest wrestling pay-per-views of all time. [pause] And I just got this picture." I would have bought the pay-per-view just for that. The transcript just doesn't do justice to this kid.
Where was the Star-Spangled Banner this year?
They play "My Way" again with the highlight package. Stone Cold Steve Austin v. The Rock, WWF Title. We'll count the number of specific spots used in this match that were previously used on the PPV itself. Huge face pop for the hometown guy. Stone Cold is doing his heel schtick even before the match starts. Austin backs Rocky down to start and tries a beltshot. Rock takes the Thesz press. Austin with the Fuck You elbow. Again. Rock blows a swinging neckbreaker, and tries the Rock Bottom. Rock then tries the stunner, but Austin tosses him. Beautiful. Rock takes a crazy bump to the outside, which he does in the big matches. He really made his bumps look good in this match. Austin unhooks his knee brace on the outside. He knocks Rock on the commentary table, and then into the crowd. Repeated spot no. 1 occurs as they brawl into the crowd. Rock turns the tide while they are out there. At least it was short. Rock slams Austin's face on the commentary table twice. Austin hits a short-arm clothesline. These guys haven't worked a match in two years, it's amazing how good they are, even as they work out the kinks. Austin uses the brace, and kicks Rock in the head. Running sit-down on the ropes for two. Austin is the de-facto babyface in the matchup, which is just wild to see. Austin does the superplex. I love it when he does that move, he just kind of sits back and turns on it to cushion himself. It looks great. The superplex gets two. Austin undoes the turnbuckle pad, repeated spot no 2. Rock comes off the ropes and hits a jumping clothesline and then a belly-to-belly for two. He clotheslines Austin out of the ring. Rock smashes Austin's head into the timekeeper's table repeatedly, and knocks over Hebner, dropping his blade in the process. Camera does a nice job of picking it up. Austin decks him with the ring bell, and unleashes some more heel mannerisms. Rock blades a real trickle, in repeated spot no. 3. Looks like he had a hard time there. Austin smashes his face against the table, and when Rock sits on it, he goes right through it. Repeated spot no. 4. Oh man, I hope they didn't have a spot planned for later on that thing. Austin kicks Rock's ass around the outside, then tosses him in to continue the beating. Austin chokes the man out. Crowds boos Rock harder than HHH. Austin goes on the attack. Swinging neckbreaker for two. Rock's cut seems to has opened up a bit as Austin pounds on it. Even if Austin acted like a heel to get over as a face, he never really wrestled as a heel to get over as a face until this match. It's pretty incredible to watch since it's been five or so years since he wrestled like this on a consistent basis. They rest a bit but Austin keeps it interesting, working super-stiff. Rock bursts out of the corner with a clothesline. Huge boos for that. Another one, and a huge heel reaction. Rock tosses Austin into the exposed turnbuckle. Rock grabs the ringbell, and decks Austin, who is already bleeding. Crowd firmly on Austin's side. 1, 2, no. Both men up, and Rock opens up on the cut. Rock knocks Austin around, and Austin sells a la Funk-Flair. Rock repeats the HHH-UT elbow across the apron spot. No. 5. I haven't see that one used in awhile, and twice on one show? They slug it out and talk to each other about the rest of the match on the outside. Stone Cold gives Rock the ULTIMATE slingshot to the post. Best version of that spot ever. Heyman goes into his whole the first man to his feet clearly has the advantage. Okay, whatever. I think they worked out what to do instead of the table spot right there. Austin knocks out Rock with a television monitor. Austin rolls him back in for two. Austin is bleeding pretty extensively. Austin gives Rock the double bird, but Rock fights out of the stunner and puts Austin in the Sharpshooter. Great bit. Austin fights to the ropes, but Rock pulls him away and sinks it in. Austin finally makes the ropes, and Rock releases the hold. Rock tries the Sharpshooter by giving Austin the finger first. Austin locks in a supremely ugly looking Sharpshooter. Christ, it's not that hard Steve. Rock breaks the hold, but the damage is done, and Stone Cold works over the knee. JR- "This is getting ugly!" You said it. Austin locks in the Sharpshooter again, but Rock makes the ropes. Austin gives the ref a finger, and the crowd is still firmly on his side. This is true babyface v. heel here in terms of the style of match. Austin locks in the million dollar dream, but Rock pulls off the Bret-Austin Survivor Series '96 finish, but this time it gets two. Austin whales away on the Rock, but Rock hits the stunner out of nowhere. He can't cover - no, he covers. 1, 2, NO! Austin kicks out nicely. Vince comes out to ringside, presumably to lower the star rating of the match. Both men up, and Rock pounds on Austin. Austin gets a spinebuster. 1, 2, no! Austin is visibly pissed. Too awesome. Rock gets a spinebuster of his own, and sets Austin up for the People's Elbow. Crowd is mixed on this one. They haven't booed this spot in years. 1, 2, but Vince pulls Rock off of Austin. Rock chases Vince around. Rock walks into a Rock Bottom from Austin. 1, 2, NO! Crowd saw that as the finish. Austin goes for the stunner, but bumps the ref when Rocky pushes him off. Austin knocks out a low blow and capitalizes by getting a chair from Vince. They set up the hold-and-hit spot. It connects. I'm having flashbacks to last year. Vince wakes up the ref. The ref counts two but the The Rock kicks out rather strongly. Austin pounds the mat in frustration. He flicks Rock off, and tries a chairshot, but Rock hits Rock Bottom. Vince has the ref distracted. Rock brings Vince into the ring and destroys him. Austin capitalizes with a death-defying stunner. The Rock kicks out there. Another good opportunity for a finish. Austin takes the chair, and KILLS Rock with it. 1, 2, NO! Another false finish, I guess to get Rock more over as face or Austin more over as a heel. Vince is cluttering up this matchup. I wish he'd just get out of the ring. Sixteen separate blows (no. 7) with the chair get the pinfall, as Austin wins his fourth WWF Title in 28'07". ****1/2 Match of the night. This was a fitting end to the evening. Here's why.
Much of the night featured the WWF echoing its past. A lot of the matches featured "Old School" spots and the gimmick battle royal itself was very old school. They tried to mix the old and the new. Psychology with brawling. Mat wrestling with huge bumps. This tried to be the show to appeal to each kind of wrestling fan. Mark or smart. WCW or WWF. From the reaction, I've heard it did that.
Was it the best PPV ever? I've heard a lot of people say it isn't, but I haven't heard a lot of support for any other candidate. WrestleMania XIV is pretty solid, but it didn't have a **** match or anything on the card, so there it goes. Best WM ever? In a year, we'll be saying there's no question, as long as one thing happens:
Austin's heel turn is as big a success from a fan perspective as the beginning of the Austin era was after WM XIV.
Even with the huge expectations that every WM suffers through, it all worked out pretty amazingly.
I think that they should have done a Who Sold Out storyline as the main bit of business to set up Austin's heel turn. It would have set up RAW as well. I understand why they didn't do it: it was a great deal riskier to plan the whole thing out and hope the ending wasn't an anticlimax.
I also wanted to respond to something Scott Keith said in his RAW rant. He maintained that once they had the face v. face matchup, they should have gone with the clean pinfall. I think it would have seriously hurt The Rock to have lost clean to Stone Cold Steve Austin at two WrestleManias. In a Luger way, it would have pegged him as a choker to walk into three straight WrestleMania and job to whoever, not winning or retaining the WWF Title.
Here's the last bit, after watching RAW:
True, the no explanation thing was weak, But if anybody can pull this thing off, it's Stone Cold Steve Austin. Vine is giving him the ball here to carry the company through the summer. Like Eric S., I gotta believe that at some point Austin will turn on HHH, and if they get that guy over as a face against Austin - something they never could have done on RAW the night after Steve turned heel, I assure you - they can do anything.
And with no competition, they probably will.