Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the only reviews that spend more time in the past than a your grandfather, Cewsh Reviews! We have a special treat for you tonight, as we do our final review in the lead up to the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania 30. As usual, our final review before the big one has to be a Wrestlemania from the past, so I put it to you, the Cewsh Reviews faithful, to choose which one you wanted to see. And when the dust settled, the overwhelming winner was Wrestlemania 19, and I assume because this is the only Wrestlemania where someone gets hit with a frying pan. Oh wait, that’s 18? You guys have weird priorities. Anyway, now we’ll tackle the show that gave us the conclusion to one of the greatest feuds in Wrestling history, the match that will forever be held against Triple H’s legacy and quite possibly the worst Wrestlemania match of the Undertaker’s career, (yes, including the Giant Gonzales one.) And let’s not forget about Version 1, a retirement match, a big man going splat, some half naked ladies and so much more.
So without any further ado, let’s do a motherfucking review!
Cewsh: Let’s begin this like we usually do. By going back and providing some context into what the world of WWE was like 11 long years ago. Back in the star date 2003, many of the legends from the Attitude Era still roamed the Earth, but a major change was on the horizon. The Rock had gone Hollywood and was about to leave for good, Steve Austin was in the midst of his last run and guys like the Undertaker were just trying to figure out where they would fit in to the youth movement that had taken over the company. Of those 90s heroes, only Triple H still stood proudly at the top of the heap, as his stable, Evolution, wrecked havoc on Raw on a weekly basis.
Oh, and that’s the other thing. In 2003, the brand split was in fully effect, leading to a Raw show that was all about Evolution, and a Smackdown show that was all about Kurt Angle. And with the emergence of Brock Lesnar as the new potential figurehead of WWE, this year represents perhaps the only time during the brand split that Smackdown got, and deserved, top billing over Raw. Crazy to think about now, seeing as Smackdown is basically Raw 1.5 now, where no storylines are advanced just in case the greater audience misses it entirely.
Anyway, leading into Wrestlemania, the big factors are Brock Lesnars major push as a main event babyface, Steve Austin and the Rock having their final showdown and if you can believe it, a feud between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon that revolved around who is responsible for the success of Wrestlemania to begin with. But we’ll get to all of that in a bit. For now, just remember that in 2003, the brand split was going strong and of all of the people on this show, only 4 of them, (Undertaker, Triple H, Big Show and Rey Mysterio,) will be appearing at Wrestlemania this year. It was a different time.
Cewsh: We kick things off here with a match between Matt Hardy, (back when he was sane,) and Rey Mysterio, (back when he had human knees.) This comes right smack in the middle of what is easily the best run of Matt Hardy’s career, as he ruled the Crusierweight division with an iron fist, and Shannon Moore tagged along to worship his teachings.
In fact, he was so good during this time, that this feud with Mysterio really is the finest thing that WWE’s much condemned crusierweight division ever produced. It was a division with endless potential and even more endless disinterest from the writing team, but this night represents it’s finest hour.
The basic premise of this match is that Matt Hardy is way bigger than Rey Mysterio and has no business being part of the Crusierweight division, and therefore Rey has to use his ridiculous speed to beat him. Let’s ignore for a second the idea that you would need some kind of super power in order to beat Matt fucking Hardy, it was a different time and we were all very confused and trying new things. Matt and Rey actually do a fantastic job of selling this story and Matt especially does some of the best work on his entire career in this match. Rey, for his part, does Rey Mysterio things in a way that sadly reminds me of what he is no longer capable of.
A lot of people point to this as one of the best opening matches in Wrestlemania history. It may come as a surprise to those people that this is actually only about 6 minutes long. These two pack about as much as you possibly can into those 6 minutes, and with 5 more they might have actually stolen the show altogether. But all the same, this is a damn fun match that makes everyone look good. And if nothing else, it is a window back to a time where having an internet based gimmick was a humorous novelty that could get you a short push followed by obscurity.
P.S. “Wine me, dine me, 619 me” is the single worst catchphrase in wrestling history. Let us never forget.
82 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Matt Hardy – Steep Decline – This was really the peak of his career. He was finally taking off as a singles guy and emerging from his brother’s shadow at last. It was common in those days to openly call Matt Hardy your favorite wrestler. And then, well, Fat Hardy happened. Now he’s a midcarder on the much diminished Ring of Honor roster. And he’s lucky to have that.
Rey Mysterio – Steep Incline – While times have been turbulent for Rey, with everything from seeing his best friends die to suffering through countless operations on his knees, the years from 2003 on are the ones that really define his career. From the Royal Rumble victory and Wrestlemania title win, to the countless other titles and feuds that he would win while serving as Smackdown’s figurehead, Rey made himself into a first ballot Hall of Famer. It took some doing for him to grow out of the crusierweight division, but once he did the rest is history.
Cewsh: We go backstage where four large breasts emerge from a limousine and carry on a conversation. This is generally considered to be unusual behavior for free range breasts, but this is Wrestlemania after all. They pull out all the stops.
Cewsh: Wait, wait! Don’t close this tab! I promise I won’t actually make you listen to any more Limp Bizkit! Promise!
If you weren’t watching WWE during this period then it’s important to know that they got a really huge hard on for rock music right around this time. Every PPV theme was a new sloshing rock song from the depths of alternative radio, and the movement comes to its climax here, where WWE goes so far as to call Limp Bizkit WWE’S FAVORITE BAND IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Bear in mind, this is not Limp Bizkit at the height of their popularity. In WWE’s fact, this is pretty much the last time most people ever heard of them again. So that was perhaps, not a wise decision on WWE’s part.
Also not a wise decision was asking Limp Bizkit to play live at this enormous venue because a) they are not good instrument players, b) the sound is awful since they’re in the middle of a gigantic stadium, and c) Fred Durst, you guys.
Of course what they’re actually playing is the Undertaker’s theme song, which leads us to…actually hold on. I have to do this.
Limp Bizkit – Steep Decline – Things are going really well, you guys.
Cewsh: So there was this guy named Nathan Jones, okay? He was an Australian man who debuted around this time, and before he actually physically entered a wrestling ring, he had all the potential to become a top star in wrestling. The reason why is very simple, just look at the guy.
At 7 feet tall, with a body like granite, Nathan Jones is the closest that we as a species have ever come to creating the character Doomsday. And if that wasn’t enough for you, his backstory included doing jail time in Australia, during which he once RIPPED THE BARS OFF OF HIS OWN CELL TO ATTACK SOME GUARDS. The upside of this guy was so obvious that anybody could see it. There was juuuuuuuust one problem. He was not, in any way, qualified to be a professional wrestler. Oh he had taken training, and gone through developmental and all that jazz, but even to this day he cannot be trusted to be part of any match without falling flat on his face and ruining his own push entirely.
Take this match for example. If you had previously been wondering why I’m spending all this time talking about Jones when he’s not in this match, that’s because he WAS in this match. He was removed at the last second because his house show matches coming into Wrestlemania were so unbelievably terrible that they just couldn’t risk putting him on Wrestlemania. So they had to write him out, but WITHOUT depending on his ability to pretend to fight. They accomplished this by showing Big Show and A-Train leaving a room where Natahan Jones was lying on the ground using a chair as a blanket.
So now, instead of being part of the match, Jones was given exactly one (1) move to do for the entire match. Here is that move:
Of course, pulling Jones from this match at the last minute left a host of other problems. Now, instead of Jones and Undertaker beating the odds and taking down the bigger heel team, now the Undertaker was essentially going to have to beat two giants at the same time for no reason. And of course he did, because you all saw what the name of this show was when you came in here. Show and Train beat him up a bunch, Undertaker punches them a bunch, Nathan Jones runs down and makes his mark on history, and the Undertaker wins.
In the end, Big Show and A-Train are buried, Nathan Jones buries himself, and the Undertaker has the only black mark on his Wrestlemania resume in the 2000s. This was obviously a disaster, but the biggest consequence from it is that Nathan Jones killed his own career, and we’ll never know what he could have been. I had dreams of him being the world’s largest fighting kangaroo, dammit. Years of fantasy booking down the drain.
24 out of 100
The Undertaker – Incline – He was already a legend at this point, but changing back to the Deadman undoubtedly revived his career, leading to 5 year reign on top of Smackdown and a run of Wrestlemania matches that are among the finest ever had by anyone. Not bad considering he was 38 when this show took place.
Big Show – Incline – The next few years are not a good time for the Big Show. He sumo wrestles, he feuds with Snitsky, he gets demoted to the midcard, it’s just a messy time altogether. But in 2006 he joins the new ECW and becomes it’s champion, and from there on, he’ll finally get the traction to get to the main event and stay there. At this point, Big Show is a beloved legend who can feud with anyone at any time, and who has immense value to WWE in a myriad of ways. So we will MARGINALLY give him a pass on the Akebono thing.
A-Train – Incline – If you only watch WWE you might be genuinely puzzled about my rating here, since A-Train left abruptly around this time, only to come back years later with the ill fated Tensai gimmick. His place on the card now is similar to where it was back in 2003, if a little lower, but in between A-Train and Tensai, there was Giant Bernard, and Giant Bernard was a MONSTER in Japan. For several years, Bernard tore things up in New Japan as the questioned top gaijin in the company, and was highly regarded for his numerous tag teams. Of course this is not a new phenomena. For examples of other WWE wash outs who became monsters in Japan see Archer, Lance and Smith, Davey Boy.
Nathan Jones – Steep Decline – Remember that movie, Troy? He’s the guy that got killed in the first 5 minutes by Brad Pitt. So things are going well.
Cewsh: The magical breasts from before are now wandering the backstage area, where run into Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler. The two wrestlers and the, assumedly, unemployed breasts make high pitched noises at each other for a bit, and talk about the marketing genius that was Stacy deciding to call all of Test’s many fans testicles.
That’s it, that’s the whole segment. The four of them promptly leave to go discuss testicles privately, and then we immediately get a close up on a baseball player’s crotch.
This isn’t right, WWE. You can’t just taunt a man with the promise of Test and then not deliver. Have a heart.
Cewsh: This is smack dab in the middle of the women’s wrestling renaissance that would go on to dramatically influence everything for WWE’s own women’s division, to TNA’s and on down to Shimmer and just abut everyone else. Obviously the star of the whole thing was Trish Stratus, but even to this day you can find rabid fans of both Jazz and Victoria, and both have done quite a bit for indy women’s wrestling in the past few years.
Now there are two things that I want to focus on here. The first is the fact that all three of these women are surprisingly over, with even Jazz getting audible boos in the sound sucking stadium. That isn’t a surprise where Trish is confirmed, as she’s always had a way with live audiences. But the second, and more important, thing to talk about here is the fact that this match is really, really good. Even now, when women’s wrestling has more talent than ever before, it’s still very difficult to find good women’s wrestling on television, much less at a show like Wrestlemania. So to see these three tearing things up in this match really drives home just how good we had it during this period.
Victoria and Jazz have long been lauded for their skills in the ring, and Trish is a recent Hall of Famer of course, but I still think that people may not remember clearly just how great Trish was in her role as the figurehead of this division. The fans are way into everything she does, she never misses a beat on anything, and she is giving 100% effort on everything she does. You can tell that she’s not as natural as the other two in the ring, but that just further serves to sell her as the underdog babyface that you can’t help but root for. And then every once in awhile she pulls something out of nowhere like this:
Remember how I said that Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio damn near stole the show with 6 minutes? Well this one gets 7 minutes, and IT almost stole the show too. It’s like every match on the roster has decided to try to top the matches before it, and the Undertaker, Big Show and A-Train just never got the memo on that. But while this could easily just be smiled at and seen as another good match on a show full of them, just take a second to step back and realize how out of this world this match would be received today. These three women laid the groundwork for women’s wrestling that will never be able to be appreciated enough. Kudos to them all for forcing that door open for the people who followed after.
80 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Victoria – Decline – Once Trish and Lita left, the entire division declined, and Victoria with it. She would remain a fixture in WWE for a number of years before jumping ship to TNA and finding new life there as the legend they needed to fill Gail Kim’s shoes. Now she runs a wrestling themed restaurant in Chicago calledthe Squared Circle that is an absolute must visit for any wrestling fan passing through the area. It wasn’t the career that it COULD have been, but she’ll go down in history as one of the greatest American female wrestlers.
Jazz – Steep Decline – Within 3 years of this match she will be wrestling in Vince Russo’s Ring of Glory promotion. Please click this link and read our review of their only show. I feel the decline will speak for itself.
Trish Stratus – Push – This was smack dab in the middle of her run on top of women’s wrestling, and she never really slowed down until she decided to hang up the boots for good. By going out on top, she kept her legacy strong and left people wanting more. And that’s really the dream of all of these wrestlers. It just rarely works out that way.
Cewsh: So this match is pretty awkward, huh?
75 out of 100
Team Angle – Push – Both as Team Angle and The World’s Greatest Tag Team, Benjamin and Haas had tremendous success in WWE. Both men fizzled as singled performers (especially Haas,) and eventually left WWE, but Benjamin is currently a high profile gaijin for New Japan and Charlie Haas is still married to Jackie Gayda. Everyone’s a winner.
Los Guerreros – Steep Incline – Obviously this is Eddie completely carrying this “Steep Incline” ratings because the man rose to the top and burned incredibly bright before his tragic death. Chavo has continued playing second fiddle to anyone available to take the spotlight from him. Sidekick is his calling.
Rhyno – Steep Decline – I know we poke fun at Rhyno a lot here at Cewsh Reviews, but I don’t take any joy in seeing how his career fell apart due to alcoholism issues during his TNA run. He never really got the chance that many felt that he deserved, but at least he isn’t…
Chris Benoit – Steep Decline – Really steep. Like, straight down even. Alright, I just made myself sad.
Cewsh: Backstage, the mysterious breasts are looking on as Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson engage in a debate about whether Vince McMahon came up with the idea for Wrestlemania or Hulk Hogan did. And while I could comment on how preposterous these segments are, or the soul draining conclusion that they’re leading to, all I can really do is give a tip of the cap to Vince McMahon, who managed to fins a way to make 2 gorgeous women argue over just how awesome he is. If you ever wanted to know if Vince truly is a genius or not, look no further than this segment. Kings have conquered nations for less.
Cewsh: Chris Jericho was supposed to be the next Shawn Michaels.
Of course, back in the day, it seemed like every exciting new star that came along was tagged with the label, “next Shawn Michaels”. It was a moniker that carried with it the expectation that someone could come along and fill the shoes of the dazzling and mercurial Michaels, complete with the charisma and talent to be the same kind of phenomenal performer. Chris Jericho was well deserving of the moniker, and had all but worshiped Michaels from childhood, seeking to be just like him, and to follow his path to the top. Jericho had the look, he had the talent and he had the charisma it took to make that comparison a reality, but you know how life is. It never works out the way that you expect.
Fast forward to 2002 and Chris Jericho has established himself and is in the middle of a fantastically successful career. But no matter how many titles he won, or barriers he broke down, he could never live down the comparison that had driven him. His career was great, but he was no Shawn Michaels. No Showstopper. No Mr. Wrestlemania. And if that ate at him when he only had memories to compare to, you can only imagine how it galled Jericho when Michaels stunningly returned from what was thought to be a permanent retirement. As Michaels dusted off the ring rust and began stealing shows once again, the jealousy seemed to grow in Jericho, and once things got physical between the two, there was no going back. And so here we are at Wrestlemania. For Chris Jericho, this match is a chance to measure himself against a legacy imposed on him by everyone, and a chance to show the world that he is finally his own man. And for Shawn Michaels, this is a chance to fight against an impossible standard as well. His own. To put on a Wrestlemania match worthy of the career he had thought long left behind. Truly, only one of these two men could be the next Shawn Michaels. Let the battle for the cowl begin.
The story of the match revolves around Jericho trying to show up Michaels at his own game. He had a great deal of success doing it, and the message is clear that Jericho might actually be the better man here, but simply can’t let go of his petty jealousy for long enough to capitalize on it. Over the course of the match, these two go to levels that neither realized they had, and prove to be near equals in every way. Which leads to a truly legendary moment in the annals of Wrestlemania history, when Michaels goes to shake Jericho’s hand and show him respect, and Jericho responds with a foot full of nutsack in one of the greatest betrayals I have ever seen.
This match is fucking ridiculous. While Shawn had been back for a good long while at this point, he had still yet to really turn in a Shawn Michaels-like performance outside of his comeback match with Triple H. Here, in his first Wrestlemania back, he recaptured something in this match that I think he carried all the way to his eventual retirement some 10 years later. A lot of the credit to that has to go to Chris Jericho, who had what is almost certainly the greatest performance of his entire career in this match. Jericho was on fire from the moment the bell rang all the way through the aftermath and probably long after he got back to the locker room and was destroying everyone in the locker room at poker.
If you look up “show stealing match” in some kind of weird dictionary that includes 3 word phrases, you will see a picture of this match right next to it. This may well be the moment that defines Chris Jericho’s entire career, and it was certainly to moment that reinvigorated Michaels’. And the saddest part is that someone had to try to follow it. The poor, poor bastards.
96 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Shawn Michaels – Incline – He didn’t so much recapture the glory of his youth, as find a whole new way to be beloved by fans worldwide. As the sort of goofy dad Shawn Michaels, he still managed to have some truly classic matches, main event a few more Wrestlemanias, and to take part in the two best wrestling retirement matches, (his own and Ric Flair’s,) that I have ever seen.
Chris Jericho – Push – It may be controversial to say, but this really was the climax of Chris Jericho’s career. He had a number of fun runs and World title reigns after this, especially after adopting his Nick Bockwinkel personality, and he is a first ballot Hall of Famer without any question. But he never truly rose above this point.
Cewsh: Wait, what? Come on guys, I seriously wore out all of my great Limp Bizkit material during their first performance. I can’t deal with this right now. Does anybody else have something they’d like to say about this?
AJ Styles: Well heck there Cewsh, I don’t know about much, but Limp Bizkit is one of myfavoritist bands in the whole wide…
Cewsh: GO BACK TO YOUR ROOM AJ.
Cewsh: Sitting here in the year 2014, it’s hard to believe that wrestling shows ever spent this much time on titty related nonsense. We’re talking about an INCREDIBLE show, with great matches and stars galore, that has been derailed about 4 times now to make room for the Miller Catfight Girls, (which is a reference that has aged well.) And this isn’t just an incident that is contained to this show, oh no. We used to spend HOURS devoted to not quite seeing women’s breasts while they played around in costumes. And this went on at the same time that they were trying to build a credible women’s division. It boggles the mind, truly.
Now, don’t get me wrong. These four women are all very attractive, and seeing them all in bed together isn’t exactly making me recoil in horror. But it’s just so perplexing that this is happening at all. But hey, it’s a Wrestlemania match, so let’s cover it.
We start off with the two pairs of titties on a bed on the stage, being watched over carefully by a leering Johnathan Coachman. But before they can begin their pillow fight, Stacy Keibler arrives and books herself into the match, followed by Torrie Wilson, who does the same. Twist! And with all four of them officially entered into the match Torrie Wilson rips her own shirt off, you know, to reduce wind friction, and immediately attempts to pin Stacy Keibler. That’s not an exaggeration. She IMMEDIATELY goes for a roll up.
The titties take this opportunity to helpfully strip themselves, and then Johnathan Coachman earns his paycheck for the day by lying still and allowing the half naked Stacy and Torrie to roll over on top of him.
Sadly for Coach, his enjoyment ends there, as the girls promptly pants him, trip him and then pin him for the victory.
Meaning that, based on their reactions this had been a 4 on 1 handicap pillow fight bra and panties match between the girls and Coach. Which sounds unfair on paper, but I’m sure if you asked Coach he would tell you that it’s good work if you can get it.
Cewsh: Sometimes I think that the Triple H conspiracy theory has been around longer than Triple H has. For a long time it was the central tennant of wrestling fandom, a belief so strong that it colored everything that it touched. And that belief was simply that Triple H was an evil mastermind that controlled events behind the scenes at WWE and personally held down everyone in sight. Every new piece of information that was reported was shaped to fit that mold, from Triple H marrying Stephanie McMahon, (marrying the boss’ daughter to stay on top,) to him winning the World Championship a near record number of times. But while the rumors ran wild, and every interview, match and feud was investigated with a fine toothed comb to find proof of this, it remained hearsay and unprovable for years and years. The believers dearly needed one concrete example to point to that would allow them to say, “See? He buried that guy right there, no debate needed.” A match so flagrantly objectionable and destructive that it could follow the man around like a sad eyed ghost for the rest of his career, so that even 11 years later people would still bring it up in debates about his Hall of Fame worthiness.
Enter Booker T.
Now, Booker T was no stranger to mishandled pushes long before he ever laced up his boots for Wrestlemania 19. In his WCW days, he rose from the bottom of the tag team ranks all the way to the main event, only to find that when he got there all of the other stars had already bailed on the company, leaving him to struggle by himself to carry things while the company disintegrated around him. Then, when he jumped to WWE followed the WCW buyout, he had the chance to be the single shining star of WCW during the invasion. Instead he was treated like a midcard jobber because of a disastrous Raw match with Buff Bagwell that he wasn’t even to blame for.
In the years that followed, Booker showed his worth, having great undercard matches and fantastic comedic moments that routinely stole the show.
It didn’t take long for Booker T to get majorly, majorly over, and that just so happened to coincide with a time where WWE was desperately hard up for new babyface stars to push in the main event. Finally, it seemed like everything was coming around for Booker T, and after a decade of tireless work and improvement, he would at last get the moment which would define his career. He did, of course. Just not the way he had intended.
Now, the crux of this feud was that Booker T was a hoodlum from the streets who had been to jail and that even though the fans loved him, Triple H didn’t deem him worthy of being the World champion. There was a HEAVY racial element to this feud, with the rich white Triple H sneering at the lowly achievements of the proud black Booker T, and while that was plenty controversial, it laid the groundwork for what could have been an even more significant moment for Booker T, as he not only beat the top star in the industry, but also triumphed over the racism in an industry that had it built into the very foundations. Just keep that in mind when we get to the end, here. Also in the feud, they played up the idea that no matter how cocky he seemed on the outside, Triple H was secretly afraid that he couldn’t beat Booker T, and those doubts plagued him as Booker got stronger and stronger coming into this show.
From the start of this match, Triple H has one plan in mind: remove Booker T’s athleticism from the equation. He goes after Booker T’s legs again and again and again, destroying Booker’s knees, and making him wince in pain with every step. The plan is that without Booker’s amazing leaping ability and kicks, pretty much all of his moveset will be down the tubes ad he’ll be easy pickings. But pain or no pain Booker T isn’t about to be held back by something as insignificant as incredible pain. All through the match, Booker just keeps fighting back again and again. Flair tries to interfere to help Triple H, but Booker just keeps knocking him down, and as the match wears on, it’s the champion who seems to get worn out instead of the challenger. And when an opportunity finally FINALLY, presents itself, Booker T doesn’t hesitate, and he sends himself flying through the Seattle sky with a sideways Houston Hangover.
The crowd, who sat on their hands for much of the match, comes alive in that moment certain that they’re about to see a new champion get crowned. But Booker’s leg is even further damaged in the fall and Flair has time to run around and put Triple H’s foot on the ropes. And now Booker is in desperate straits. He can no longer even run the ropes without falling down in agony, and the champion, dazed though he may be, knows easy pickings when he sees them. And that bring us to the moment that defines this match. You may have heard of how Triple H hits the Pedigree and then takes so long to actually cover him that it buries Booker T when he doesn’t kick out afterwards.
Actually, in all seriousness, it doesn’t seem like that long when I look at it now. Triple H hits the Pedigree and immediately starts crawling towards Booker, who is clearly 100% out. This is one of those times where our expectations actually color the events that happened because we become SO SURE that something is going to happen, that we actually hold it against what does happen, because we didn’t get our way. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s completely bonkers that Booker doesn’t win this match. Losing it just means that Triple H was right in his awful comments and that Booker T will never be on his level, and ending a story like this with a finish like that is a pretty huge slap in the face to Booker and anyone who was rooting for him. But the idea that TRIPLE H is the one who buried him by selling his injuries before winning the match is really a weird perspective here. The writers who wanted to save Triple H for Goldberg are the ones who buried Booker T. If anything, Triple H is trying way too hard to sell for him, and in doing so accidentally convinced hopeful fans that Booker was sure to kick out. It’s unfortunate, but it hardly seems malevolent.
This is a good match. It isn’t great, especially in the slower middle parts which are basically all long, drawn out holds performed in front of a bored crowd. But it is quite a bit better than you might expect it to be based on its pariah status within the community. Booker looks really good in fighting against the odds, and Triple H looks cerebral as always. It’s just a shame that the booking, before, during and after this show will turn this into such a controversial thing. The Triple H conspiracy finally had it’s smoking gun. And 11 years later, they still haven’t run out of ammunition for it.
80 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Triple H – Incline – How can you possibly rise further when you’re already at the top of the wrestling industry? Be in CHARGE of the wrestling industry. Now that’s what you call breaking the glass ceiling.
Booker T – Decline – While he would eventually become a World Champion, he was never the same after this show. The reactions died down, his energy level seemed to wane, and he ultimately became a lovable doofus who may be remembered more for his wacky commentary than his matches. He did become a king at one point, though, so at least he has that to fall back on.
Cewsh: WWE would love for you to believe that this match is very serious. The hype video is DEAD serious, and actually pretty moving as it lays out the very real turbulent relationship between Vince McMahon and his star. Hell, Vince signed the contract for this match in Hulk’s own blood after beating him viciously at the contract signing. And while, on paper, a match between these two men, at the show that they built together sounds like something with grandeur and dignity built right into it, the fact remains that this is a silly, silly match.
First of all, you already know that these guys are old. They were old 11 years ago when this match took place. Hogan was on the last legs of what would turn out to be his last real run as a wrestler, and Vince McMahon has never been anything approaching spry in the first place. So in order to cover for this, they pretty quickly turn it into WEAPONSMANIA. Which is great for us, but not so good for poor Hugo, the Spanish announcer. Who after years of having to broadcast without a functional table, now has to deal with a giant dent in his forehead.
But they’re just warming up with that one. If you’ve ever wondered why Vince always lets people jump off of ladders and hurt themselves all the time, well believe me, he’s not asking them to do anything he wouldn’t gladly do himself.
That’s basically how this match goes. Somehow, despite their advanced age, and Vince’s lack of actual wrestling skill, this match becomes a kind of comedic and spot filled masterpiece. And of course, this is all punctuated by the greatest screenshot a blogger like me could ever take. You know the one I’m talking about.
Vince McMahon is so evil in this match that you expect James Bond to show up to foil his dastardly schemes. But no English heroes are going to come to Hogan’s rescue tonight. Nope, just one from a little ways north.
Piper shows up, grabs a steel pipe, wait’s for Vince to rise to his feet…and blasts Hogan directly in the face with it. SWERVE. You’d think that if Hogan remembered anything from the 80s it would be that you shouldn’t trust Roddy Piper. So now Vince has a weakened Hogan at his mercy. And just when he goes to grab the pipe again, Brian Hebner, Earl’s baby boy, steps on the pole to try to prevent Vince from using it. This is a bad move, both for him and for us, because it brings about one of the worst ref bumps in the history of time, space and creation.
You know how this story ends. Hogan Hulks up, drops 3 legs and everyone lives happily ever after. And while this match would probably make Lou Thesz punch whatever was nearest to him until it exploded, this is full on entertainment from start to finish. Vince is an unparalleled villain, and he takes an absolute beating here at the hands of Hogan, and Hogan gets the crowd so into this that it feels special.
Funny as it sounds, this match ALSO damn near stole the show. Somebody seriously needs to put a padlock on this show or something.
90 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Hulk Hogan – Steep Decline – You know the story. He stopped being able to do the leg drop thanks to his hips, came back for a few Summerslam highlight matches, went to TNA all the while dealt with everything from his son becoming a negligent murderer to a sex tape with his best friend’s wife going national. I would say that you couldn’t piss away a legacy worse than this, but, well, Ric Flair is right there proving that wrong. But through it all, Hogan is still beloved by most of the same fans who loved him here.
Vince McMahon – Push – Vince is Vince.
Cewsh: Whenever I ask fans to recommend shows or matches for us to do, I always wonder what motivates them to make the choices they make. Are they suggesting this show because they think it’s terrible and want me to destroy it? Do they revere this show as evidence of a just and loving god? Do they just want to hear what I have to say about a show that a million other people have commented on? I suspect it’s the last one which, while flattering, is a lot of pressure, man. I can’t just mail this review in and tell you a bunch of stuff that you already know about these matches, I have to bring my goddamn A game to stand out in a sea of people who just wrote who won, stuck a star rating next to it and listed all of the moves that happened. And with that in mind, here is my review of the much beloved conclusion to the Wrestlemania trilogy between Steve Austin and The Rock.
It is exactly as good as you want it to be.
This isn’t a match that can be judged solely on what happened between the ropes. It’s simply not possible to separate this match from the incredible history and stature of these two men, and especially from the certain knowledge that this would be the very last match for both of them, (even though the Rock did eventually come back.) The match not only represents the end of one of the biggest and best feuds of all time, it represents the official closing of the book on the Attitude Era. It would be like if Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had clashed one last time at Wrestlemania in 1993 before they both retired together. As a moment, and as a symbol, it writes a check that no in ring performance could possibly cash. This is a match that will go down in history for every reason other than what happened between the bells.
When matches have significance like that, I find that the way you enjoy them depends a lot on what you bring with you into seeing it. If you loved that era, and these guys, then this will be a moment you will never forget crystallized in front of you on the screen, as the stars of the past play their greatest hits one last time. If you aren’t a fan of that era and the atmosphere is lost to you, then this might simply be a very good match between an incredible heel and a broken down babyface trying to keep up with him. The Rock is absolutely peerless here in his Hollywood role, carrying this match much as he did with Hogan the year before, and letting Stone Cold do his thing. And while the Rock isn’t thought of as an incredible performer often, this ends a 3 year run of Wrestlemania performances for him which I would argue were the best by anyone in WWE history. Austin did his part the best that he could as well, though he was clearly diminished and hurting, and in the end he put the Rock over in the middle of the ring in a show of respect that should not be lost on anyone viewing it. It takes a big man to put his greatest rival over in the final match of his career. And if you look closely, you can see the Rock tell Austin that he loves him right before they both walk off into the sunset.
Matches like this are why you can’t separate build, story and atmosphere from a match’s worth. In a vacuum, maybe this is only a good match between two guys who have shown us better in the past. But this match will never be just that. And with all of the emotion and history swirling around this match, the only real question is just how high you rank it.
Pretty high, as it turns out.
93 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
The Rock – Steep Incline – He is in every movie. Every. Single. One. Seriously, go look in the background of Frozen. Dude is the world’s buffest snowman.
Steve Austin – Decline – Injury forced retirement will do that to a guy, but he didn’t get hit with a Steep Decline for two reasons. 1) He has become the questioned king of wrestling podcasts. 2) In recent years he has resisted the urge to come back and spoil his legacy with nonsense. Looking back at this era of performers he doesn’t have much company in that.
Cewsh: Let me put you back in the mid of a wrestling fan in 2003. Back then, Brock Lesnar was a crazy wrecking machine that was billed as the ultimate pro and amateur wrestler, whereas Kurt Angle was perhaps the best pro wrestler on Earth with amateur wrestling credentials that even Lesnar couldn’t touch. The dream match potential here is obvious, and it’s all that people could talk about when Lesnar broke onto the scene. And not even a year after entering WWE, Lesnar had already found his way to that dream match by winning the Royal Rumble. And so here we get this match, in the main event no less, which is meant to crown Lesnar as the king of WWE. Whether or not it worked is a discussion for another time, but they damn sure tried.
Describing a match between these two is an exercise in futility. They have an obvious chemistry born of their similar backgrounds, and neither of these guys has ever been associated with having bad matches. But even as I enjoyed the back and forth mat wrestling and suplex fights between these two, I just can’t shake the idea that this match is missing something. Considering that their future matches are so much better, I think it might just be that it is impossible to make a sympathetic babyface out of a monster like Brock Lesnar, who wouldn’t be an underdog if he fought fucking Galactus. So while this match is certainly good, it just doesn’t live up to the quality of this show, and the potential that this match could have had.
And then there’s the botch. When I watched this match as a starry eyed teenager, I remember being genuinely concerned for Lesnar’s health and asking my EMT friend if he was okay, (that same body suggested that he might have brain damage. I question his credentials.) It would have been so incredible if Lesnar has pulled it off but he didn’t. And it would be a lie to say that it didn’t let the air completely out of the sails of this one.
Ultimately, this is a very good match that will be remembered more for what it wasn’t than for what it was. Both guys are great and did great things together later. But it just goes to show how great the rest of this show was that this main event could somehow be a let down after what came before it.
86 out of 100
Cewsh’s Seal of Approval
Brock Lesnar – Incline – Weirdness happened.
Kurt Angle – Decline – Weirdness happened here too.
Cewsh: I am quickly running out of superlatives to describe this show. Between the two next level great matches, and the host of matches just below it, I think it might be safe to call this the best in ring Wrestlemania of all time. Of course, we still had to contend with the Miller Catfight girls, repeated exposure to Limp Bizkit and that whole Nathan Jones thing, but even those are almost humorous asides next to how great the rest of this show was.
I saw this show live when it came out. I thought it was good, but unmemorable. This is why they say that age brings wisdom. Because this show has aged almost as gracefully as I have. And if this year’s Wrestlemania can be half as good as this one was, then we are all in for one hell of a treat.