Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the only reviews that have more attitude than a badger in a washing machine, Cewsh Reviews! We have a special treat for you tonight, as once again we’re going back in time to those almost mythical days that the ancients called 2001. And what sends us tumbling back through the time void this week? Why, we’re here to review what many consider to be the greatest wrestling show ever to take place, Wrestlemania X-Seven! Now, there are a lot of things about Wrestlemania X-Seven that people remember fondly, whether it be Rock vs. Austin, TLC II, or the instant classic of Eddie Guerrero vs. Test. But the real reason we’re here today is to investigate exactly what this show looks like in the cold light of 2013. Will the show hold up as the grand spectacle we all remember so fondly, even as Wrestlemanias after it became more grandiose? Will the show’s style still be so lovable 12 year removed from the Attitude Era? And will the comparisons drawn between Cena/Rock II and Austin/Rock II hold any water? There’s only one way to find out.
So without any further ado, let’s do a motherfucking review!
Cewsh: Ah, Wrestlemania X-Seven. For many of us, this show was the culmination of a lifelong wrestling obsession, as the entire Attitude Era came to an end in stunning fashion in front of one of the biggest crowds in WWE history, and in front of millions of eyes worldwide. Wrestling had never felt bigger, better or more important than it did that day, and you would be hard pressed to find a wrestling fan from that era who doesn’t remember this show fondly. And who could blame them? On paper, this show looks like a million dollars. Austin vs. Rock in perhaps the biggest rematch in wrestling history, Triple H vs. the Undertaker in a very rare matchup that involves two of WWE’s biggest stars but which had not been hugely overdone, and a card full of other wackiness that will take us back to the golden age when men wore the skirts, and women did the bodyslams.
Of course, that’s how we REMEMBER it. But most of us were teenagers back in 2001, and teenage us is notoriously unreliable. After all, do we really want to take the word of a bunch of people who thought Korn was the greatest band of all time? So now it’s time to give Wrestlemania X-Seven the second opinion it deserves. Will it live on as the object of our worship and acclaim, or will it crash and burn outside of the bright lights of nostalgia? I’m dying to find out.
Cewsh: This is a great opening video, and really, everything WWE’s production team did with this show, from the videos to the sets to the logo, are complete home runs. But every time I watch this video, I’m fascinated by the people that they chose to show watching Wrestlemania, and what it is that they were watching that made them so happy. Let’s examine this.
First, we have these three women who, for some reason, are dancing around in the desert while listening to Wrestlemania on the radio. They obviously aren’t watching anything, but I love the idea that random women in India are dancing around a deserted wasteland while listening to Gorilla Monsoon tell them things like “They’re literally hanging off of the rafters!” That must sound dangerous for everyone involved.
Alright, here we have a young man who, based on his excitement level, is obviously seeing his first boob.
Alright, now we clearly have a middle aged man, sitting down to some television after a hard day of moving hay bales around. Whatever he is watching is being received with a look of grim satisfaction. Like you might look at something that you’ve worked strenuously to see and are basking in the moment of. Show me that image!
Uh, well, alright then. That’s one way to unwind. You do whatever you need to do Hay Guy. Nobody is judging you. Especially since, you know, TWERK DAT, WARRIOR.
Okay, we have what appears to be a kindly old Asian man, standing outside of a fish shop. And what is he enjoying so much that his facial muscles have formed the world’s least convincing smile?
Wait, did he just move? Did you guys see him move? This is starting to creep me the hell out. Do we have anyone less scary left to go?
GAH! LESS SCARY! LESS SCARY, YOU ASSHOLES! Whew, okay. Sorry guys, I’m afraid of clowns, and I’ve always had this irrational fear that they’re out to kill us and take over the planet. Whew, sorry about that. But let’s not be ridiculous. So what is it that the clown sees?
Cewsh: It’s interesting to look back on the show from the future, because you can see very clearly that this show is the blueprint that all future Wrestlemanias have stuck to like glue. The huge, fancy set, the stadium atmosphere, the booming music and energy. It’s all very familiar now, but there had never been anything like this before WWE introduced it here in 2001. So with that in mind, try to imagine being told that you have to open what may be the most significant American wrestling show of all time, in an environment you couldn’t possibly be prepared for and against an opponent with an unusual, challenging style.
The other is the incredibly love the crowd has for Jericho, and the utter disdain it has for Regal. This crowd is locked in from the very beginning, and as a result, it may be the hottest stadium that I’ve ever heard. So with the good and the bad balancing out, what do we have in this match between two major internet heroes? Not much, as it turns out.
70 out of 100
Chris Jericho – Steep Incline – The man became the first ever Undisputed Champion, set the record for the most Intercontinental title reigns in WWE history, and is currently juggling being a rock star and a consistent championship threat well into his 40s. Shame that Triple H held him down so hard, right?
William Regal – Push – He never really rose above this midcard level, though he would go on to help to make a number of people look good down the line and inspire a huge and devoted following. His main skill in WWE has always been his promos and acting, and over the years he has gotten the chance to do plenty of both.
Cewsh: Back in the day, John Bradshaw Layfield used to be a member of a team with Ron Simmons that carried out evil tasks for the Undertaker as part of his Ministry of Darkness. Then, when that ended, they changed things up and called themselves the APA (Acolyte Protection Agency). They were wrestlers for hire that other guys hired to beat the shit out of people, a thing which they did extremely well. And at this point they were pseudo comedy characters that murdered people and then played cards in an office consisting of one door and no walls.
Cewsh: …it blows.
55 out of 100
Bradshaw – Steep Incline – One way or another, he would be the voice of Smackdown in and out of the ring from 2004 on.
Cewsh: Watching WWE hardcore matches from this era are like eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. Everything about it is appealing except for the feeling you get when you’re done.
In the case of hardcore matches, the feeling is often an empty one. What you get is a lot of fun spots strung together by dudes wandering around to the next spot, while half heartedly pretending to fight. And boy, it is awfully hard to suspend your disbelief when wrestlers spend more time carefully arranging a spot than they do actually performing it. And that’s what you get here. Now, I don’t know if Raven pissed somebody off or what, but he wound up having to defend WWE’s most volatile championship against the two biggest men in the company. He tries valiantly, but this match is basically one long kicking of Raven’s ass.
Eventually the three make their way to the backstage area and just start throwing each other through shit left and right.
Finally, in an attempt to escape from this blowout sale on ass kickings, Raven hijacks a golf cart and tries to drive away. Big Show hops in the back and they take off on a grand adventure to the magical land of ten feet away. I’ll let Raven tell it.
So with that spoiled, and Kane still chasing after them in his golf cart, blissfully unaware of what has happened, Raven calls an audible and falls down in front of Kane’s golf cart, nearly getting himself run over. This is sold for about -5 seconds, and then everyone starts meandering back towards the stage, half heartedly bumping each other into things. Once they get out there, Big Show decides he’s had enough of Raven and his golf cart crashing ways, and picks him up to chuck him off the stage.
Kane, being the friendly Samaritan he is, swoops in to help, but he accidentally knocks both men off into a a giant pit full of dust and debris that is, for some reason, set up beside the ramp. Seeing that his attempt to help has ended badly for everyone involved, Kane leaps to their aid, only remembering halfway down that he is not something that can fly.
For his trouble, Kane wins the match and the title, and everyone gets to go on watching the show. And really, that’s all that you can say here. It was a match where spots happened, some of them were cool, and none of it was designed to do anything but divert us so we’d be ready to pay attention to more important things. So while McDonald’s is ultimately bad for you if you have too much of it, this turns out to be a Shamrock Shake on a cool Spring Day. Aint nothing wrong with that.
72 out of 100
Raven – Decline – In fairness, his career started failing terminally the second that he stepped foot in WWE, but after this he’d have a lot of health issues that prevented him from really doing a ton. He did have a memorable run in TNA and he managed to be the person with the honor of putting CM Punk’s name in the national spotlight. But he’d never again be the guy he was in ECW.
Big Show – Steep Incline – At this point in his career, the Big Show was looking like one of the great examples of failed potential in wrestling history. He hadn’t lived up to any of the hype around him, and between his growing weight and bad attitude, WWE was having a helluva time finding anything for him to do. It wasn’t until his career resurgence in 2003 against Brock Lesnar that Show began to really seem to get it, and he’s improved every year since then. Today he’s one of the most valuable people on the roster.
Kane – Push – Kane has always been Kane. He is an upper midcard monster who loses more than he should and turns heel whenever the wind blows south. It’s good work if you can get it.
Cewsh: We go backstage and find Kurt Angle sitting in his gear, watching a video of himself tapping out to Chris Benoit’s Crippler Crossface over and over. Angle’s bestest best friend Christian and Edge show up to plan their celebration after the show, but Kurt isn’t having any of it. He demands that they agree with him that his tap out didn’t count because it wasn’t in an official match, and they do before hustling off, casting bemused glances back at Kurt.
This was an interesting time for Kurt Angle. Throughout his first year in the company, he had been a pleasant mixture of goofy and legitimate that made for some great tv and showed off that Kurt Angle is perhaps the most natural professional wrestler that has ever lived. Bear in mind, this show takes place in his 3rd year in the business. HIS 3RD. And by this point the fact that he was amazing in all facets of the wrestling business was old news. That’s completely baffling. Because of this, he actually won the WWF Championship in 2000, and held it as a chickenshit heel for several months.
But when the Rock beat him for the title, Kurt Angle started to change. He began to show signs of DEADLY seriousness when he got angry, and he began to show a serious aggressive streak which, of course, we know as major trademarks of Kurt Angle today. Perhaps no one has ever walked the line between utter goofiness and utter credibility like Angle, and here you can clearly see those seeds being planted. A few months later he’d be playing a ukelele in a tiny cowboy had while competing with Steve Austin for the affection of Vince McMahon, but that serious streak never went away, and it served him, and us, well.
Cewsh: This is what 2001 looked like.
Cewsh: So this is a match with Eddie Guerrero and Test in it. The backstory is that Eddie Guerrero and Test and Eddie Guerrero and Test and had nothing better to do. Marvel at this rich tapestry taking shape!
This is Test’s best ever match. While there aren’t that many matches to compete for that prestigious crown, this is still out in front by quite a bit, (also in the running: vs. Shane McMahon, vs. Kane.) Eddie was pretty low on the WWE totem pole at this point, so his job here is mostly to make Test look like a badass, and he does his job in the way that Eddie Guerrero did everything. Flawlessly.
The only issue in this match came when Test was thrown over the top rope and got his foot caught in between the ropes. It’s debatable as to whether this was intentional or not, but once he got it in there, he was too heavy for the referee to pull the ropes up to help his escape. So Guerrero had to actually help free his opponent from a predicament, which Jim Ross covered by saying “Guerrero knows he can’t win the title unless Test is in the ring!” Because Jim Ross is amazing and you should be ashamed that you aren’t him.
Guerrero immediately started working the leg, because he knows what wrestling is, and Test actually does a great job of selling the injury and making himself seem at a disadvantage, despite having about 13 feet and 900 pounds on Eddie. Test is also very, very good at doing power moves to smaller guys. Like, so good.
But ultimately, interference from the Radicalz was the deciding factor, and Eddie cheated his way into a championship victory. It wouldn’t be the last time, thankfully.
78 out of 100
Eddie Guerrero – Steep Incline – From midcard drug addict to the most mourned and beloved performer of the modern age. Not a bad ride for a guy that everyone thought was too short to ride the main event roller coaster.
Test – Steep Decline – Both of these guys are now dead. One of them is in the Hall of Fame. The other one is Test. Let’s be charitable and leave it at that.
Cewsh: The best thing about the rivalry between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle was how organic it was. These guys had similar styles, were easily the best in the company at mat and chain wrestling, and so WWE just kept having them bump into each other again and again. You can hardly blame them, because the matches that resulted are some of the crowning glories of this era, and played a big part in helping crowds, who were trained to only respond to blood and theatrics, to rediscover a love of great technical wrestling which has endured to this day.
Speaking of technical wrestling, I’ve never really been a huge enthusiast of it. Most mat wrestling loses my interest after a long enough period, and Vice has been trying to hammer Mixed Martial Arts into my head for years now with limited success, because the second people start grappling on the ground, I’m reaching for a book. But when the two people doing it are Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, the same rules just don’t apply. In this moment, these two were such incredible masters of their craft that it’s like a work of art unfolding in the ring, just watching them try to one up each other. It isn’t WHAT they do, it’s that they’re so smooth and entertaining while they do it. It’s a quality I haven’t seen in any other wrestlers of this sort, so to have two of them here facing each other is some kind of ridiculous treat handed down from the gods.
The running theme behind this match is that Kurt Angle is the superior wrestler, but Benoit is the superior professional wrestler. So while Angle uses his Olympic experience to boss Benoit around on the mat, Benoit’s specialty of creating counters to every move he encounters, (hehe, get it?) frustrates Angle time and again. That story plays out over 20 minutes, and over dozens of submissions attempts from both men, locked as they are in a dance that inspires as much slack jawed awe as anything else. In the end, Angle pulls out the win by rolling Benoit up and holding the tights, but it doesn’t even really matter who wins a match like this. Matches like this are why these two names were linked together in the mind of fans for years and years. And who could blame them? This match was dry at times, and things started to deteriorate going into the finish, but any match you feel the compulsive need to applaud when it’s done probably deserves some credit.
Chris Benoit – Incline – Yes, I know, I KNOW. You can stop shouting at your computer screen already. We all know how Chris Benoit’s story ended. BUT, up until that point, Benoit had come a long way. Even winning the Royal Rumble on his way to winning the World Championship at Wrestlemania XX, an event built around him. He made incredible progress and while it can be hard to remember all of that now, let’s just all remember that whatever he did to throw it away, his was a Hall of Fame career without any doubt whatsoever. And in April 2001, the best was yet to come.
Kurt Angle – Incline – The man had already been WWF Champion, so we can’t say STEEP incline, but while he never quite cracked into the realm of the biggest stars in wrestling history, he has left a legacy of incredible matches and emotional storylines that few can compete with. Add that to the fact that he carried TNA on his back into relevance and the man’s place in history is more than secure. Besides, he’s is a better performer in 2013 than anyone else on this show. Even if that isn’t saying a ton.
Cewsh: So put yourself in Regal’s shoes for a moment. You are the commisioner of the most powerful wrestling company on the planet. You are a man of power and influence. But you got goaded into a match at perhaps the biggest show in WWF history, and lost definitively to the person who has been undermining you at work for months. So you’re having a bad day. But you’ve had a hot shower, you ate a bagel, you’ve calmed yourself down, and you know you’re going to be just fine. You head back to your office to catch up on some paperwork and this is the scene that you find.
The man must have a fantastic therapist.
Cewsh: Oh boy, here we go.
Before we talk about the single worst thing on this show, let’ look at the road that led to this match. See, 2000 was, in some ways, the year of Right To Censor. The group, led by Steven Richards, took a strict moral view against all of the smutty stuff that Attitude Era fans had come to know and love. It was the WWF’s way of getting back at the parental groups that seems to be constantly demanding content changes for the most minute details. And while this group was featured heavily on the shows, only Ivory really stood out from the group and took the gimmick to an interesting place. As the female of the group, she had an incredible amount of ire to give for the behavior of the other women on the roster, and eventually she singled out Chyna after she was revealed as having posed nude for Playboy. Ivory said she was horrible, corrupt and a terrible influence on the youth of America. The fact that we now know she was completely right isn’t the point. The point was that Ivory was annoying to the fanbase, and they were looking forward to the eventual match, especially since you rarely ever saw Chyna face other women.
So they had a match, and Ivory and Val Venis gave Chyna a double piledriver, injuring her neck. That made Chyna angry, and when it came time for their big match, Chyna dominated the match, giving Ivory nothing. And then, during a routine handspring backsplash, she suddenly crumpled to the ring, while the announcers made every effort to convince us that Chyna has just suffered a serious neck injury. They go so far as to have Jerry Lawler sprint from the announcer’s desk to check on her. This is a year and a half after Owen Hart’s death. So in other words, this storyline can fuck itself in the face with a brick. In the build up to Mania, Chyna made her dramatic return, with the announcers speculating as to whether or not her neck could stand up to the punishment of a real match and with Ivory taunting her all the while. Leading us to here. Leading us to…this.
This match is an embarrassment I’m just going to be up front about it. I don’t have any great fondness for Chyna or Ivory, but with 6 months of build, this is a match that really could have had something to it. Instead it was the most selfish burial of one wrestler by another that I have ever seen. Ivory was never made to look like she even belonged in a wrestling ring for one second, which makes the title she held look like crap, makes Ivory look like crap, and makes Chyna look like someone wasting her time bothering with this. This is like The Undertaker ending CM Punk’s great title reign by squashing him in 5 seconds. To call this match a failure doesn’t begin to plumb the full depth of it’s worthlessness. This match was the death knell of Ivory’s entire career, and Chyna went on to squash Lita the same way before getting fired not one fucking month later.
This is a division that saw matches in 2000 that had people genuinely excited about women’s wrestling for the first time since the days of Alundra Blayze, and the booking of these few months buried it so deep that Trish Stratus had to drag the concept itself out of the mud with her teeth two years later. That the WWF thought so little of women as to put this match on is a slap in the face. That they thought so little of themselves as to have featured this match on their biggest show of the year is a punch in the stomach. That they charged people money to see it is a knee to the groin. Hard to believe any of us are still standing after all of that.
11 out of 100
Chyna – Like, The Steepest Decline – With the recoveries of Scott Hall and Jake Roberts, Chyna has become wrestling’s most tragic drug story. I am certain that Chyna’s life is one that has been filled with misery and regret and I truly wish her nothing but the best in whatever she does with the time she has left on Earth. But there is no living wrestler as far down as Chyna is today.
Ivory – Steep Decline – Her career never even came close to recovering after this match. She hung up the boots not too long afterwards, and can at least remember those golden days when things were good and the future looked bright.
Cewsh: Trying to put a storyline involving the McMahon family into words is an extremely trying challenge, but I’ll do my best. The relevant bits of the McMahon family drama here started when Linda McMahon went catatonic due to drugs she was being fed by Vince’s new mistress, Trish Stratus. Vince then carried on with Trish, forcing her to perform more and more degrading acts that we won’t go into here so we can all leave feeling like good people inside for watching wrestling in the first place. Having Trish be such a significant portion of Vince’s life caused major issues with Stephanie, and she and Trish began a slow burning feud that is coming to a head here at the same time as the actual match in focus. But the important thing her is that Vince treats Trish like crap, Trish and Stephanie hate each other, and Linda McMahon is comatose.
Got that so far? Okay, I’m going to pile some more on.
There’s no shame in taking a break to silently contemplate the world before continuing. As things began to come to a head, Mick Foley intervened on behalf of Linda McMahon, and was promptly told by Vince to mind his own business. The original plan for this match was actually Mick Foley vs. Vince McMahon, and the entire storyline makes way more sense if you just pretend like that’s the direct it headed anyway. So while all of this is going on, Vince declares that he has bought his rival, WCW. Unfortunately for him, it was SHANE who signed the contract and Shane who was the official new owner of WCW. This sent things twirling down an entirely different track, and led to this match here tonight. Every single McMahon family member has a completely different agenda coming into this match, and the only real question is which one of these volatile people will blow up first. Whew. You know, there’s actually SO MUCH to cover in this match, I’m just going to bullet point the important parts.
– The first thing to comment on in this match is Shane McMahon’s opening promo, where he acknowledges that his WCW roster is up in the upper deck. They are shown to be sitting by themselves, in the dark, looking incredibly unimportant and unexcited. There are also about 8 of them. Great start to that Invasion angle!
– Shane McMahon is not a good wrestler. All of the important things about being a wrestlers besides moves and theatrics are a mystery to him. But hot damn is he ever good at moves and theatrics. If he had never had that Kane feud, we might all remember Shane as being way more awesome than we do.
– Mick Foley is the least effective referee of all time. – When I was watching this at the time, I had a hard time understand why WCW were supposed to be the heels in the Invasion, seeing as Shane was pushed heavily as a face, and it was Shane’s team. Looking back on it now, it still doesn’t make sense, and it explains a lot of the Alliance’s early issue with getting the right crowd reaction. – Shane McMahon does not give a fuck.
– After Trish appears, it takes 5 seconds for she and Stephanie to engage in a catfight for the ages. Trish chases Stephanie all the way back to the backstage area, with Foley in tow, trying to keep order.
– With everyone gone, and Shane still unconscious, Vince decides it’s Linda McMahon humiliation time. He knocks out Foley with a chair when he returns and concocts a plan to embarrass her even more. Like all supervillain plans, it backfires.
– Heh, grapefruits. – And after Vince gets it from all sides, Shane sets him up in the corner with a trash can in front of his face and goes for the opposite corner. Now, when I watched this live as a 17 year old, I had never heard of any Rob Van Dam, so I thought Shane McMahon was the most incredible badass that I have ever seen. Knowing now that he’s just a normal guy ripping off Van Dam hasn’t done much to dull that reaction when I watch the move. Funnily enough, Shane’s method of doing the move, (standing on the top rope and jumping instead of springboarding,) is now the method Van Dam uses too.
The thing that really made Shane McMahon special was that he was entirely fearless, and, since he wasn’t a wrestler, he had to luxury to do crazy moves and kill himself, and then he could take 6 months to recover before the next one. Which is why Shane McMahon matches are basically a walking collection of gifs that no actually wrestler could ever risk their career to create. So with another one of those, Shane wins an overbooked, Attitude Era style set piece. It isn’t something that deserves a crazy great score or anything, but it was fun, the crowd was HEAVILY into it, and this was really the perfect match to culminate the entire perpetual McMahon family feud.
I’m not going to do “Where did their careers go from here?” for the McMahon family because they’re the McMahon family. I think the name sums it up all by itself.
Cewsh: Fucking hell guys.
Before we even get to the match itself, I think that something that gets lost when people remember this match is that this was really the blow off ending to the great three way tag feud between these guys. It was a feud that spanned 3 years, innumerable matches, and a unprecedented popularity spike for tag team wrestling. These teams would meet again here and there, but this was really the big blow off. These guys, after having two of these matches before, (only one of those was called TLC, but the Triangle Ladder Match had the same template,) now had to come in here and top themselves one more time. This match was a major selling point for this show, and this match, and the end of this feud, represents the end of the Attitude Era almost as much as Rock/Austin does. It’s a big deal, is what I’m saying.
If you’ve never seen one of the ladder matches between these three teams before, (which isn’t likely, but still,) the formula goes like this. They all do a little brawling and tag stuff to start out, so that you can pretend like this is a real match. Then the tables, ladders and chairs get brought in, and there on it goes MAJOR UNBELIEVABLE SPOT OH MY GOD, followed by 2 minutes spent setting up the next spot, and then MAJOR UNBELIEVABLE SPOT WHAT THE FUCK WHAT, followed by 2 minutes spent setting up the next spot, etc. These are barely recognizable as wrestling matches really. They are spectacles, crafted and designed to shock and awe everyone watching. It’s a genre unto itself, and it doesn’t reflect normal wrestling matches or even wrestling reality. For example, in the first 4 minutes of the match, this happens:
That’s not the finish to the match. Hell, that’s not even in the top 5 things you’re going to remember about this match after it is over. This is just a completely insane spot that was their checklist of shit to do. And it’s that attitude that makes these matches both exhausting and exhilarating. No matter how much I’d like to turn my nose up at this match for being intensely harmful and dangerous to the people in it, and for having no real structure, I really can’t. These guys have such intense chemistry together, and have such an incredible history that it makes you really care about what they’re doing here, and it becomes a game of mind blowing one upsmanship. So what kind of spot could really top that other one so much? How about the most incredible spot in wrestling history? If you disagree I will cut you. I WILL CUT YOU.
You will never see a combination of high stakes dareviltry meets amazing selling meets great chemistry meets WWE production like that again. So enjoy it. And the same goes for this match. Trying to relate the events here to you would be like trying to explain the ocean to a squirrel. You just need to experience this to see all of the twists and turns. The heinous bumps and thrilling dives. The culmination of what began when Shawn Michaels jumped off of that ladder so many years before. It’s not something to be missed, and for my money it’s the best ladder match of the three. The addition to this match of all of their sidekicks (Lita, Spike Dudley and Rhino) really gave if a fun and different feel, and Edge and Christian win again, giving them the undisputed title of Best Team of the Attitude Era. That closes the book on one era, and opens a new book where 4 of these men become World Champions. Seeing them here, it’s easy to see why.
Bubba Ray Dudley – Incline – For most of his career he was around the same spot on the card, though experience and seniority made both members of The Dudley Boyz upper card guys every they went outside of WWE. But where Bubba has the advantage over his brother is simple. Bubba is a World Champion. A TNA World Champion, but that’s still a pretty big deal for a tag team specialist.
D’Von Dudley – Push – D’Von grew in leaps and bounds as a performer after going singles in TNA, and his work has been some of the best, and most unheralded, of the past few years. But he’s never escaped the sidekick curse, and he’ll always be attached to his more successful partner. See if you can catch the theme here as we go forward.
Jeff Hardy – Steep Incline – The drugs have certainly put a serious damper on his legacy, there’s no doubting that. But aside from that, Jeff Hardy would go on to prove his viability, commercially and creatively, as a top star in both WWE and TNA. The only person who managed to stop Jeff from becoming the biggest babyface star in the world was himself, because WWE had him on a rocket to the top. It’s a sad story, but seeing as he held World Heavyweight gold as recently as last month, I think he’ll be fine.
Matt Hardy – Decline – Sure, there were noteworthy things that Matt Hardy did after this. Some of them were even cool and important at the time. But viewing the trajectory of Matt Hardy’s career from afar paints a clear picture of someone whose value plummeted whenever he wasn’t actively attached to his brother. By 2013, he was seen in most circles as a kind of sad cautionary tale of a man who refused to be the Marty Jannetty of his team so fervently that became the Jim Neidhart instead.
Edge – Steep Incline – One of the 5 biggest stars made in wrestling this past decade. Even back in 2001 you could see it in him. He and Jeff were in a league of their own from the start.
Christian – Incline – It’s actually interesting how closely the career paths of Christian and Rey Mysterio mirrored each other. Both guys were valuable midcarders all through the 00s, who many people thought never got their due until their more famous partner (Edge and Eddie Guerrero) suddenly disappeared, allowing for them to step into the spotlight and become World Champions. Christian always made the most of every opportunity he was given, and he’s kind of the anti-Matt Hardy. While Christian will ultimately be defined by his relationship with his more popular partner, he made that work for him, and as such has built a borderline Hall of Fame career.
Cewsh: This is fan service, pure and simple. We get Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan out to do commentary on a match featuring a cast of the wackiest characters ever assembled in a WWE ring. And while I love the hell out of this incredibly short match, it’s a little strange to consider that this match is here at all, since this era of WWE was not exactly known for the huge value it placed of wrestling tradition and nostalgia. In fact, just for kicks, let’s examine this lineup from the perspective of someone who had never seen a wrestling match before the Attitude Era started, shall we?
Cewsh: Here in the year 2013, we’ve obviously seen Triple H and The Undertaker face each other in two incredible Wrestlemania matches as part of the unforgettable series Taker has had for the past several years. So it’s strange to go back to 2001 and see another match between these two on the same stage that could not be more different. For one thing, Triple H is in full on heel mode here. Hell, the entire feud is based on Triple H saying that he’d beaten every great wrestler alive, only to have The Undertaker object to that. From there, this is a quick, 1 month feud, where vehicles are destroyed and women are kidnapped and in mortal peril. Standard Attitude Era stuff. Interestingly, the Undertaker’s streak isn’t mentioned a single time in the hype video at all, even though he was up to 8-0 by this point.
But before we can get to the match, you know I have to bring up Motorhead’s legendary performance here. Motorhead, the awesome punk/metal band that plays Triple H’s entrance themes, were in the arena live to play him to the ring here. But their lead singer Lemmy has a, um, history. With beverages, let’s say. And whether he was the worse for them here or not, what results is one of the most amusing displays of a singer not remembering the lyrics to his own song that you will ever see.
Now on to the match. The first thing I want to point out here is that all of the mystique and presence that the Undertaker has these days is pretty much totally absent from the American Badass version of the character. Taker is still big and imposing and all, and I loved his run with this, but there’s just something that feels off about this version of Taker being in a big Wrestlemania match. But you know who isn’t lacking for that stuff? Triple fucking H.
It’s hard to remember now, but this was that sweet spot period in between his first big heel run on top where he was really learning how to be a main eventer, and the quad injury that would lead to his disastrous babyface run. And in this sweet spot he had dropped the chickenshit heel act and had started to grow into the badass brawler that would serve him well over the years. His look, persona and skills are all at their peak here, and he doesn’t disappoint.
Eventually they brawl into the crowd where they unleash the big setpiece of this match, Triple H getting chokeslammed off of the elevated producer platform in the crowd to the floor. They protect it well by not showing Triple H’s landing, (which was obviously padded,) and it’s actually a pretty neat spot that it completely lost in the sand of time since two segments earlier fuckers were falling off the ceiling. So they brawl their way back to the ring, and fight back and forth for a bit until Triple H makes the cardinal error of attempting to give 10 corner punches to a man with a powerbomb finisher. One Last Ride later and they go their separate ways for 10 full years.
It sucks that this match had to be on this show, because I think on any other show, it would be raved about and be considered the righteous centerpiece of awesomeness. On this show it just can’t compete with the match that follows it in the eyes of fans due to the shitty build up. But the match itself was one of the best that either man had in that era, and I think it’s the real gem of this show. It’s simple, features great characters and does it’s job to a t. If other matches on this show are heroic farewells to the Attitude Era, this one is a sign on the new main event style that would come to dominate WWE for the next 10 years. The style that brought us some of the best wrestling the world has ever seen.
Triple H – Incline – It seems hard to imagine that that could be the case, having just come off of being one of the 4 biggest stars in the hottest wrestling company during the hottest period in wrestling history. But when Rock and Austin stepped away, Triple H became THE guy in WWE. And while many may not have liked that, he was the stablilizing influence the show needed until John Cena was ready to take that mantle from him. These days he’s a beloved legend, the owner of one of the only two 100/100 match grades ever given out, and he’s directly in line to take over the WWE. That’s some career he’s had.
The Undertaker – Incline – It’s hard to believe, but this period was the closest that the Undertaker ever came to being irrelevant. Sure, he still had upper card matches, but as the American Badass he wasn’t nearly as protected or as featured as he would be later. But even if that weren’t true, he would still get an “Incline” solely due to the legacy he has left with his last 4 Wrestlemania matches. The Undertaker and the Streak have taken on a mythical quality that is the stuff of future bedtime stories to our children for decades to come.
Cewsh: Let’s not fuck about. We’re starting with the hype video for this match that is so good that people still reference it 12 years later.
For those of you who were either fetuses or proud member of the fraternity of cave dwellers in 2001, here’s the backstory to this match. THE ENTIRE ATTITUDE ERA. Seriously, the entire thing was all building to this one moment. The two biggest stars of the era, who were both huuuuuge babyfaces at the time, facing off in one huge match to determine which of them was the greatest. Everything the Rock was and represented, trash talking, flash, theatrics, against everything that Austin was and represented, unpredictability, ass kicking and working class roots, all up for grabs in one last chance to settle their rivalry once and for all. I could go on with these platitudes all day, but you get the idea. This match is the biggest in many of our lifetimes.
Of course that’s the GENERAL story behind this match. The SPECIFIC story is a lot more convoluted. See, WWE changed after Rikishi ran over Steve Austin with a car in 1999. What had once been a company that Steve Austin ruled over like a benevolent redneck crazy person, instead became the Rock’s company. He stepped into the role of top babyface while Austin was out, and that change, along with Vince Russo leaving the company, resulted in a different identity for WWE. More wrestling and entertainment, less brawling and blood feuds. And suddenly, when Austin walked back through the door, it wasn’t his company anymore. Driven by a desperate need to make his way back to the top again, Austin dedicated everything to getting the title, and managed to win the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile The Rock, after some wacky side feuds here and there, finally recaptured the WWE title from Kurt Angle at No Way Out, placing himself directly in the path of his rival’s path to redemption. Sound familiar? Like maybe you’ve something you’ve seen recently? Hint hint?
But while Austin/Rock and Cena/Rock have very similar builds to this point, this is where the Attitude Era rears its head, and in the middle of this promotion defining feud, some nonsense where Austin’s wife Debra is plopped in for no good reason except to kill time. Eventually that leads to both men exploding on the other and throwing down, and that leads us here. The Rock says he’ll bring his best, Austin says there’s nothing in the world as important to him as winning this match. Only one can make history. Here we go.
Actually, you know what? Let’s skip to the end here. I don’t think that any main event in the modern era has been watched, scrutinized, praised and discusses as much as this one, so I’m not going to add a bunch of wordstuffs to the pile. You know what happens. Rock and Austin electrify, the do so many finishers to each other that it puts the match in heavy danger of becoming an outright parody of itself, and then Vinny Mac shows up. Now, I’ll be honest. Up until the ending of this match, it’s a very good match, but it isn’t a GREAT one. It depends heavily upon you coming in mega invested in these two characters, and there is a ton of meaningless punching outside of the ring that could have been cut out altogether.
But it’s the ending that makes this match a classic. Vince comes out, much to the confusion of everyne in attendence, as he has no reason to support either of these guys that we’re aware of. But it quickly becomes clear that Vince is helping Austin win, and the crowd is obviously completely baffled by this. It isn’t that they don’t understand what is happening, it’s that they don’t seem sure whether it makes Austin a heel or Vince a face. They get their answer quickly, as the Rock valiantly tries to win anyway, only to have Austin hammer his spine into jelly with a chair again and again and again and again and again. And finally, after about 6 Stunners, 5 Rock Bottoms, 80 chair shots and having a piano dropped on his head, the Rock finally stays down.
Steve Austin wanted it so bad that he sold his soul to get it. For better, and for worse, the world’s greatest wrestling company would never be the same again. And all it’s narrated by an absolutely infuriated Jim Ross, who screams “I THOUGHT I KNEW THIS MAN” with an intensity that no other announcer could ever match. It gets deep down inside you, regardless of how much you cared coming in. It’s fucking good.
This match gets a lot of hype. Like, A LOT of hype. It is frequently given as the answer to the question, “What is the greatest wrestling match of all time?” If we’re putting it up against the other matches in that category, this one doesn’t measure up. This is a great, great match, but it’s far from perfect, and the near fall spam is the worst of any match that I’ve ever seen. Even knowing that it’s meant to get across the epic nature of this generation ended supermatch, even THEN it’s still preposterous. But that’s just quibbling, which is what you have to do when you get up to that kind of rarefied air at the top of wrestling history. This is a great match. It’s not the greatest match of all time, or even the best Wrestlemania main event of all time. But it was the right match at the right time with the right ending.
Attitude couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff. And this is one of those rare bits of nostalgia that actually bears visiting again.
Where Did Their Careers Go From Here?
The Rock – Steep Incline – Don’t get me wrong, he was gone two years later and only came back a little over 2 years ago. But in between he became one of the most sought after and successful movie stars on the planet. So yeah, he’s doing okay.
Steve Austin – Decline – The last era was his, and his turn here marked an earnest attempt by Austin to stay relevant in the changing WWE landscape. He gave it his all, but fans just weren’t willing to accept a heel Stone Cold, and then the Invasion happened and everything got all weird. 2 years after this match, the Rock would send him off into blissful retirement. And while Austin’s run at the top was brief, by the standards of guys who also made it to that level, on this night, he was the undisputed king of wrestling.
Cewsh: It was the Chyna match. If you’re wondering why this show doesn’t stand tall as one of the greatest in all of our time reviewing wrestling shows, the simply answer is that the Chyna match dragged it down. If you go back and watch this show, you’ll get to see all manner of wonderful things, and I hope I’ve represented those awesome things well here, so that you can go back and watch them as they deserve to be watched. I mean seriously, this may be the best set of 3 show ending matches you will ever see ever. The midcard wasn’tBut from here on, whenever anyone asks me about Wrestlemania X-Seven, I am going to say, “It was a great show, BUT…” and that’s a huge disappointment. The venue delivered, the crowd delivered, the matches delivered. But fucking hell guys, it was the Chyna match. What can I say? Take it up with her.
Note: If they had left of the Chyna match, this show would have gotten an 80.56, putting it in our top 10 best shows ever reviewed. Just some food for thought.
Well that’ll do it for us this time boys and girls. We hope you enjoyed another trip back in time with us. Next week, we’re going to take a little trip round Tokyo way, as we return to New Japan Pro Wrestling for their Invasion Attack show. It’s been 4 months since Hiroshi Tanahashi turned back the challenge of the hottest star in wrestling today, Kazuchika Okada. But Okada is getting one more chance to prove that he is the better man once and for all, and he won’t stop until the belt, the glory, and the money are all in the hands of the Rainmaker. So until then, be sure to keep reading and be good to one another!