Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Stick or Twist: Wrestlemania XX

WWE Wrestlemania XX
March 14th 2004, Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Attendance: 18,000

* The Harlem Boys Choir sing "America The Beautiful" and look great in their uniforms and practically filling the ring. They play clips of the superstars with the troops and finish on the virtual New York skyline that forms the basis of the entrance way.

* The intro starts with Vince looking smug in a dark empty room, then clips of Mania through the years and the superstars talk up the Garden and what tonight will mean. Rock's voice breaks when he says his family will be there. Big Show: "You haven't lived, you haven't BREATHED until you've danced at Wrestlemania." It ends on the evening's catchphrase "where it all begins... again" and Vince with Shane and his baby grandson. Excellent!

* I loved the way the Garden looked here, with the big spotlights giving the place a great atmosphere and making it look much bigger than it is.

Match 1: WWE United States Championship Match - Big Show(C) vs John Cena

Cole calls Cena "Smackdown's fastest rising star". John asks everyone to make some noise which gets a Cena chant. See, smarks liked Cena once upon a time. He raps insults about Show, calling him a "King Kong rip off" and "the hippo float from the Macy's parade". "Everybody knows he can't see me. I'm itchin' to beat him, like a penis with an STD." The US title looks so small on Show.

Show overpowers and weathers Cena's brawling early, but Cena hot shots him on the top as Cole talks up Show's MSG record. Crossbody up top... caught by Show, easily slamming Cena for 2. MSG: "Let's go Cena!" Cena gets clotheslined, slammed, choked with the bottom rope, then hit with a massive suplex for 2. Tazz mentions both men's "pound and ground"(?). Cole: "Big Show is just toying with John Cena here." Cena tries a flurry but Show superkicks him (always cool - so too are Cena's Nintendo themed sweatbands). Final cut legdrop gets 2.

Cena counters a slam with a sleeper but gets squished in the corner. Cobra Clutch by Show ("Oh my God he did a move!") to a smattering of boring chants. Cena finally fights out and avoids being avalanched in the corner twice. The second time Show's head hit the buckle, allowing Cena to hit the FU!!! 1... 2... NO! Cole claims Show's the first person to kick out. Cena threatens to whack Show with his chain, but instead throws it across the ring. While the ref picks it up, he grabs one of his "Word Life" knucks and hits Show with it! FU again! 1... 2... 3!

Winner: John Cena (NEW Champion, first reign)
Verdict: 3.5/10. This would become the Cena formula for years. Show had a couple of nice moves but this was really a very rudimentary way to get Cena over.

* Coach and his tux greet Dr Tom Pritchard, Johnny The Bull and Teddy Long backstage. He meets Bischoff (with Johnny Nitro), who's heard of strange occurrences because The Undertaker is here, and wants Coach to find him. He's not comfortable but concedes Eric's the boss.

* Evolution are in the stair well as Randy recounts the feud with Rock N Sock Connection: kicking Foley down that same stair well, Foley walking away from an IC title match and being spat on, The Rock coming in (Flair's face is a peach when this gets mentioned). Orton says Mick's time has passed... it's just Evolution. Nothing can stop them making history and after it began in June in MSG tonight it all begins... again.

Match 2: Fatal Four Way World Tag Team Championship Match - Rob Van Dam & Booker T(C) vs La Resistance (Renee Dupree & Rob Conway) vs The Dudley Boyz vs Garrison Cade & Mark Jindrak

Sign in the crowd: "Farooq is my daddy". Jesus, Book and RVD have a SHITE remix of "One of a Kind" and Book's WWE Originals song. Rules - two men in at once, you can tag anyone, first pin or submission wins. King OPENLY talks about RVD and Book being a thrown together team.

Van Dam does his shoulder routine and monkey flip on Dupree, then catapults him into Booker's superkick for 2. Book runs wild on La Resistance so they tag Bubba. A tie up goes nowhere so Bubba brawls and gets a neckbreaker for 2. MSG: "We want tables!" Bubba tries a flip flop n fly but Book heel kicks him. Cade and Jindrak distract the ref, so D-Von sneaks in with a reverse hangman DDT. Jindrak tags Bubba and covers Book for 2. Tag to Cade, who punts Booker only for Dupree to tag in for the near fall. 

Conway in with a surfboard RESTHOLD. Conway: "USA my ass!" At the second time of asking Book fights out with a spinebuster as the crowd chant RVD. Dupree and RVD tag in. Windmill kicks for all! THERE'S A CAMPO SIGN IN THE CROWD!!! Van Dam goes for the Five Star but D-Von shoves him into the barricade. A big schmoz ends with the Dudleys trying to 3D Book only for Cade to break it up. Conway DDTs D-Von then eats a scissors kick from Booker. Five Star Frog Splash from Van Dam! 1, 2, 3!

Winners: Rob Van Dam & Booker T (still champion)
Verdict: 4/10. Nothing special here, very unremarkable and only Book and RVD were even vaguely showcased here.

* A crew member shows Coach where the "freakish noises" are coming from. He goes there... to find Mean Gene Okerlund with his shirt hanging out! Bobby The Brain Heenan is then out with his shoes off, shirt undone and lipstick all over him. He says they were just playing poker. Coach isn't convinced... then Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah pop out! The guys try acting surprised but the ladies get right back to it. Mae: "Let me show you my puppies." They get pulled back in against their will. Brain: "I don't wanna go back in, I haven't been well." His arm gets stuck in the door trying to close it. King: "I think I see denture burns on Bobby The Brain Heenan."

* The video package for Christian vs Y2J covers their bet over Lita and Trish, Jericho falling for Trish and Christian flipping out and putting the Walls of Jericho on Trish!

Match 5: Christian vs Chris Jericho

King: "I tried to tell [Jericho] from the get go, women and wrestling don't mix." JR: "...Well there could be something to be said for that, but that's another story for another day." Tim White is the ref, his first match since Jericho injured his shoulder in Hell in the Cell and his last before that dreadful suicide gimmick.

Christian shoves Y2J after a clean break, so Jericho socks him, keeping control with a reverse elbow and back suplex and countering a leapfrog with a clothesline. Christian tries shitcanning Jericho, but he hangs on, lures the CLB back and backdrops him to the outside! Double jump crossbody to the outside by Jericho to Y2J chants. Back in, Y2J counters a sunset flip with the Summerslam 92 finish for 2, then immediately goes for the Walls only for Christian to get the ropes. Thumb to the eye and back suplex over the top by Christian! Sign in the crowd: "Paul London = Ratings".

Christian beats his chest proudly, scoring a near fall with a knee to the gut. Another Walls attempt is countered with a thumb to the eye and a spin wheel kick for 2. Both men knock noggins and are down for a six count. Flying forearm by Jericho. "Come on CLB!" Drop toehold to the ropes, a rough rider and enzughiri gets 2. Both trade near falls with victory roll exchanges (Christian using the ropes), then a Jericho Northern Lights Suplex that Christian bridges out of. Bulldog by Y2J. Lionsault... Cap gets his knees up! Unprettier... countered but he hits a wicked tornado reverse DDT instead! 1, 2... no. 

Sleeping neckbreaker by Jericho. Christian answers with an inverted backbreaker. He heads up top... superplex attempt... Christian slams Jericho off. Crossbody... Jericho rolls through! 1, 2... NO! Y2J hurt his knee coming off the top, so Christian locks in a Texas Cloverleaf to Y2J chants. He escapes and goes for the Walls again! Christian reaches the ropes and crawls out, but Jericho hangs on and locks in the Walls outside!! He breaks the count and takes Christian up top. White: "Bring him in dammit!" Jericho obliges with a butterfly superplex! He eventually covers for a near fall.

Trish is here! King: "I bet she came out here to make jogging a spectator sport." MASSIVE Impaler DDT by Christian! He covers twice but comes up short both times. Trish is on the apron, and the CLB drags her in. Jericho shitcans him and checks on Trish... who elbows him thinking it's Christian! Who sneaks in quick as a whippet to schoolboy Jericho for 3!!!

Winner: Christian

Trish looks shocked, Jericho disappointed. She checks on him. Christian's back but Trish is pulling Y2J back from him... so she can slap Jericho twice! Unprettier!!! Ah, that infamous heel turn that made Trish instantly look twice as hot. King: "C'mon JR, you know everything, what just happened?" Trish and Christian then make out on the ramp! King: "The two tongue tango!"

Verdict: 8/10. Finally a quality encounter. This feud didn't feel like a Wrestlmania feud, more like something that could happen at any time of the year, but they put in a Mania worthy performance and busted out some different spots to make it feel important (Christian's shoutout to Edge with the impaler being the most welcome). Ace.

* Lilian's with Mick Foley backstage. He hopes his hatred for Evolution doesn't get in the way of his and Rock's plans. Woah woah woah MICK FOLEY!!! FINALLY, THE ROCK (and his goatee) HAS COME BACK TO NEW YORK CITY! Rock admonishes Lilian for looking at the People's package. "The buffet is closed!" This is Mick Foley's night and he's going to point out everyone around who knows it. Hurricane and Rosey. DON MURACO AND JIMMY SNUKA (who both promptly "SHAKA BRAH!" when on camera), and the people know it! He gets a camera to sneak through the fire doors to look at the crowd, then promises to slap the lips off Evolution's faces. IF YA SMELLLLLLALAHA WHAT THE ROCK (AND SOCK) IS COOKIN'!!!

Match 4: Handicap Match - Evolution (Ric Flair, Batista and Intercontinental Champion Randy Orton) vs Rock N Sock Connection (The Rock and Mick Foley)

Lots of WOOOs when Flair's name was announced. There's a tiny sign behind Orton as he poses: "The future Mrs Orton". It's Foley's son Huwey's first birthday!

Rock n Sock bum rush the ring and clean house. Rock and Flair start, Rock strutting after shoulderblocking Naitch down. Flair WOOs in retaliation as the fans chant Rocky. Baaack body drop. Flair retreats outside and thumbs Rock in the eye when he gives chase. Backdrop on the outside! Foley come off he apron with the elbow! BANG BANG! Great spot, drawing Foley chants. Flair tags Orton so Rock tags Foley. Orton lures him out only to get battered, and put in the tree of woe back inside. Foley elbows him and tags Rock, who punches him in the nuts when the ref wasn't looking (just). Ouch. Naitch cheapshots Rock and pays for it, but when Orton whips Rock Batista low bridges the rope to send him out and hot shots him on the barricade.

Flair tags in and chops the fuck out of Rock. "How 'bout that huh?" He struts away only to get clotheslined down (to some boos) and goes up top but naturally gets pressed off. Batista tags in only to get clotheslined! Tag to Foley. Million dollar knee lift. He tries a double arm DDT but gets powered into the corner. He flurries out of it - BANG BANG! - but gets clotheslined down trying the knee. Dave sends Mick outside, but when Orton sneak attacks he gets choked. Naitch makes the save then Orton sends Mick into the steps! Tag to Flair. Foley tries to flurry back but Flair hooks a toehold and tags Randy, who fishhooks Mick. JR: "[Foley] was here the night Jimmy Snuka leaped off the cage onto Hall of Famer Don Muraco." King: "And he was wearing the exact same shirt that night."

Batista in with short arm clotheslines and mounted punches, but Foley hooks the Mandible Claw! His team mates save him, but when he lowers his head on a whip Mick gets a neckbreaker. Tags to Flair and Rock! Clothesline to Naitch. DDT to Orton. He brings Dave in the hard way, shitcans Orton but eats a Spinebuster! Flair is begging to do the People's Elbow, but Rock nips up while he strutted and spit punches Naitch after some strutting of his own. DDT to Batista. Spine on the pine to Flair! The most ridiculous move in sports entertainment... People's Elbow! 1, 2... Flair kicked out! Thumb to the eye. Tag to Orton... who runs into a Rock Bottom! Flair pulls Rock off the cover, then gets the ref's attention while Dave hits a massive clothesline and Batista Bomb on Rock! 1, 2... NO! Rock crawls toward Mick. King: "It's hard to miss Mick Foley." He gets the tag! Foley cleans house. Double arm DDT to Randy. Here's Socko!!! He's stalking Orton for thRKO OUTTA NOWHERE!!! 1, 2, 3!

Winners: Evolution
Verdict: 8/10. The show's starting to hit its stride in ring. I loved the interactions between Rock and Flair, but there was great work all round. It's surreal seeing Orton and Batista get a piece of someone like Rock so early in their careers.

* Highlights of the Hall of Fame ceremony the night before are shown. It's weird seeing it at just some hotel after years of it being in theatres and arenas. Seeing Heenan get emotional missing Gorilla Monsoon was touching. Okerlund then comes out to parade the inductees to the crowd. Wow, the cut of Muraco - luminous sneakers, a flower shirt and baseball cap! Pete Rose is in a powder blue suit that's too big for him, and is the only one to get booed. Greg Valentine looks suspiciously like Dusty Rhodes. Sergeant Slaughter has camo under his suit jacket haha. Jesse Ventura looks genuinely chuffed to be there.

Match 5: Playboy Evening Gown Match - Sable & Torrie Wislon (r/ Smackdown) vs Miss Jackie & Stacy Kiebler (r/ Raw)

God I forgot Miss Jackie was ever a thing. Her theme is crap too. Apparently Tazz won a coin toss to get him and Cole to call this match and King is pouting about it haha. Tazz: "Don't worry I'll get his line in - PUPPIES!" Sable says her and Torrie would like to start the match out of their gowns, because fuck the stipulation. Jack Doan unzips her. Oh, Stacy's taking hers off too, she's in pink and black undies. Cole to Tazz: "I always thought pink and black should have been your colours." Jackie is the only one not to, so Sable mares her into the ring and strips her with Torrie.

Crossbody from the top by Torrie gets 2. Stacy tags in, taking her time getting in to the crowd's delight. Her spots are all leg based naturally - cartwheeling out of an Irish whip, headscissors, a standing foot choke and roundhouse kick. They trade titilating sunset flip counters before Jackie tags in. Tazz: "I want the hot blonde to win!" They roll over the ref while cat fighting before finally Torrie reverses a reverse victory roll for 3 and full moon's Jackie.

Winners: Sable & Torrie Wilson
Verdict: 2/10. It was a different time back then. Move along, nothing to see.

* Eddie Guerrero walks backstage, his WWE Championship looks great on him. He shakes hands with Paul London, Spike Dudley, Orlando Jordan and Billy Gunn on the way to Chris Benoit's locker room. He's pacing intently, Eddie warning he might wear a trench in the floor. Eddie tries a ploy to fire up Benoit saying win or lose he'll be there and Benoit's all "woah, easy on the lose there". It seems to work.

Match 6: Cruiserweight Championship Open

This is like a singles version of Tag Team Turmoil: two men start and elimination is by pin, submission, DQ or count out, except all the participants are at ringside from the start. The champion, Chavo Guerrero, will enter last. I love how Nunzio was announced as weighting "201 and one quarter pounds". Rey Mysterio is in an amazing Flash outfit.

ULTIMO DRAGON and SHANNON MOORE start. Nice Owen Hart armwringer escape by Dragon. They trade pin attempts before Dragon dodges a corkscrew moonsault and hits the Asai DDT for 3. JAMIE NOBLE Pearl Harbours Dragon with a short-arm clothesline for 2. Dragon flips out of a backdrop and hits a flurry of kicks. He lands on his feet when Noble ducks a moonsault and goes for the Asai DDT again but Noble hits a nice neckbreaker counter and ironically gets the tap out with the Dragon Sleeper. FUNAKI immediately tries a crossbody from the top but Noble rolls through for 3!

NUNZIO tries buddying up to his kayfabe cousin but doesn't get far. They trade escapes and Nunzio gets near falls from a victory roll and big second rope dropkick. Noble sends him out and hits a heelo to the outside. They both keep jerking each other off... the apron trying to beat the count, until Noble plants Nunz face first on the floor to survive. BILLY KIDMAN tries to backdrop him back out, and when Noble lands on his feet Nunzio jerks him off. Baseball slide by Kidman, who balances on the top, and holy shit SHOOTING STAR PRESSES BOTH MEN TO THE OUTSIDE! Back in, Kidman tries a powerbomb but gets put in the Dragon Sleeper. He backdrops out and hits an enzughiri, goes up for the Shooting Star, and when Noble goes to cut him off he gets the SUPER BK BOMB for 3!

REY MYSTERIO comes in with a seated senton only to eat a MASSIVE dropkick. Rey dropkicks Billy out, but with the ref distracted Akio hangs his throat on the top rope. BK Bomb. 1, 2... no. Kidman puts Rey up top, but he fights back with a sunset flip driver off the top for 3! TAJIRI is next, ducking a moonsault to lock in the TARANTOOLA. Hand spring elbow... countered with a dropkick! 619! West Coast Pop gets dodged and Akio holds Rey on the apron, but he ducks the mist and it blinds Akio! Victory roll... gets the 3! And AKIO can't compete because of the mist, so CHAVO has to enter now.

While he argues with the ref Tajiri cheapshots Rey, and Chavo covers for 2. Rey comes back with the West Coast Pop but doesn't cover, instead dropkicking Chavo Sr. off the apron. The ref stops him diving out though, so while the ref conveniently gets between the top and middle rope to admonish Sr, Rey leaps over him with a heelo! He tries to sunset flip Chavo from the apron but Chavo sits down and Sr holds his hands for extra leverage for the 3!

Winner: Chavo Guerrero (still champion)
Verdict: 6/10. Whew, that was done at a breakneck pace. It was hard to have a proper story with so many quick eliminations but there were some great spots. Noble, Kidman and Rey got some time but still deserved more.

* JR talks up the next interpromotional match but King can't get over the first one: "That was a slobber knocker wasn't it? I provided the slobber and they provided the..." JR: "I got it." The video for Lesnar vs Goldberg covers their Rumble confrontation and Bill costing Brock the title at No Way Out. Mr. McMahon wasn't convinced anyone could maintain order in a match between them, but after Sheriff Stone Cold needles him about it he eventually booked it with Austin as the ref.

Match 7: Brock Lesnar (r/ Smackdown) vs Goldberg (r/ Raw) Special Guest Referee - Stone Cold Steve Austin

Austin drives his ATV he's had since starting his Sheriff gimmick. Lesnar kidnapped it for a while but Austin retrieved it on Smackdown. Lesnar has a terrible goatee. MSG actually partake in some Goldberg's chants initially. It's funny hearing JR give this match the hard sell knowing what's coming... I think we all know the story. Both Lesnar and Goldberg were leaving after this and the crowd couldn't give a flying fuck about either of them, chanting "You sold out" and "Hey Hey Hey Goodbye" at Brock, who's leaving for the NFL.

Fans chant for Austin as they take an eternity to lock up. This is the only match you'll see where the ref is the most over person in the match. When they FINALLY lock up... it's a stalemate. And again. The crowd sounded somewhat interested in getting behind Goldberg until they saw the state of the match, chanting "This match sucks" as we get basic shoulderblock exchanges. The final one knocks both down. JR: "This crowd getting impatient." Finally a real move, as Goldberg hits a gorilla press into a spear! He goes for the spear proper, only to eat turnbuckle. MSG: "Goldberg sucks."

At the third time of asking Brock hits a suplex for 2, then another and an immediate RESTHOLD. Bill hiplocks out, twice, and both men get knocked down again to what sounds like a Hogan cosplayer getting ejected to Hogan chants. JR: "A very pedestrian, mat-oriented contest." That's an outright burial as far as JR goes! Goldberg fights back with clotheslines and a swinging suplex neckbreaker. Spear! 1, 2... no. Bill gets in Austin's face about it. F-5! 1, 2... no. Now it's Brock who's pissed at Austin. LESNAR tries a spear, but hits the post. Another Goldberg spear. Jackhammer! That gets the 3.

Winner: Goldberg

The camera pans over the fans looking displeased. Lesnar flips them off for starting another "Goodbye" chant, then flips Austin off, so he quite rightly eats a Stunner. Austin asks for beer as Goldberg comes back for some. Steve toasts one corner (YAY) and Bill another (BOO). STUNNER TO GOLDBERG!!! If only that had been 5 years ago...

Verdict: 2/10. The absolute drizzling shits. Jesus it took them 15 minutes to work through 4 minutes of wrestling, all because they were heading out of the door and couldn't be arsed. A pathetic disappointing non-event.

* Randomly we get some pyro outside MSG, we're about two and a half hours in... is this half time? Is this a five hour show?!

* Vince comes out, saying without the fans Mania may never have begun in the first place, so he thanks them for putting up with that stinker making WWE and Mania what it is today.

Match 8: Fatal Four Way WWE Tag Team Championship Match - Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty(C) vs the World's Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas) vs APA ( Farooq & Bradshaw) vs The Bashams (Doug & Danny)

Benjamin slaps Bradshaw to start (what a hero) before getting stiffed. Doug tags in when he tries the Clothesline From Hell though, so Shelton's roll up doesn't matter. Atomic drop and tag to Danny, who hits a spinning back suplex for 2. Shelton tags Charlie and slams Danny over his knee for 2. Jawbreaker by Danny and Scotty tags in, eventually hitting a nip up suplex and moonwalking. Scotty starts skinning the cat when he's thrown over the top but gets caught in WGTT's leapfrog double team for a near fall. Scotty escapes a bearhug  with a reverse victory roll but Doug tagged in and kicked him off. Double slingshot suplex by the Bashams who isolate Scotty.

Enzughiri by Scotty, and Kish gets the tepid tag! He beats everyone up, double clotheslining WGTT and DDTs a Basham (while continually slapping him which was weird) for 2. Shelton waistlocks Kish like an idiot and deservedly gets bum tackled out of the ring. Butt bump and stinkface to Haas! Bradshaw in with a boot to Kish, and then he fallaway slams Doug over the top onto WGTT! CLOTHESLINE FROM HELL to Danny. He tries the same on Kish but eats a Samoan Drop, then Kish standing Banzai Drop's Danny for 3.

Winners: Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty (still champions)
Scotty worms and the champs dance to FARTY PYRO and minimal reaction to celebrate.
Verdict: 4/10. Looked like it was going to be a step down from Raw's tag title match until that great closing stretch. There was still very little crowd interest though.

* A vignette airs for a soon to return Edge. Yeeeeeah my Durango number ninety five...

* Jesse Ventura comes back out to interview somebody and YAY it's Mr. Personality, Mr. "I eat my pizza with a fuckin' fork" Donald Trump. Jesse compliments his hair. Trump says Vince is a nice guy and he'd back Ventura if he went back into politics, leading Jesse to conclude "We need a wrestler in the White House in 2008." That obviously didn't happen.

* The barber's chair is ready for the Women's title match. If Molly Holly loses she'll get her hair shaved. As Howard Finkel announces this stip JR quips "Howard's already lost his match, obviously."

Match 9: WWE Women's Championship Match - Victoria(C) vs Molly Holly

Victoria nips up out of an arm wringer and rolls Molly up for 2. Molly takes a time out to lure Victoria outside for a clothesline, then gets a near fall with a snap suplex, snapmare and front dropkick combo. King somehow starts talking about Granny panties and JR rightly shits on him for it. King: "Makes me think JR, do you like Granny panties?" Victoria comes back with a jackknife cover, kicks and a powerslam all getting 2. Molly hot shots her onto the bottom rope and goes for the Molly-go-round but gets cut off, so she fights back with a sunset flip powerbomb from the top for 2. She tries Victoria's own finisher, the Widow's Peak, but Victoria backslides out for the sudden 3!!!

Winner: Victoria (still champion)

Molly realised what's happened and tries to high tail it, but it's a ploy to get Victoria in the barber's chair! The clippers cut out when she tries using them though, and in the commotion Victoria sprays hairspray at her and gets her in the chair. It's got chest and wrist straps! What kind of barber's chair is this!? She starts the shaving as the fans chant baldy. Victoria: "You have such beautiful hair Molly."

Verdict: 4/10. Competently wrestled but not many people cared.

* Eddie vs Kurt is profiled next, including Kurt randomly attacking Eddie and taking issue with a former drug addict being champ (rich coming from a former pain killer addict). Eddie wound up in a match with his hands tied behind his back against Smackdown GM Paul Heyman and Kurt took advantage by beating him up with a taped fist.

* They cut to the still ongoing haircut and it's really drastic. Tazz: "She looks European now".

Match 10: WWE Championship Match - Eddie Guerrero(C) vs Kurt Angle

Cole says Eddie would be only the fifth man in history to successfully defend the title at Mania if he wins. It didn't sound like he got that big a pop but at the bell we get a barrage of EDDIE chants.

Nice chain wrestling to start gets some respectful applause. More standing switches then Eddie escapes a headlock with a headscissors to another standoff. MSG: "Let's go Angle/Angle sucks". Kurt gets the first knockdown after more chain wrestling, and Eddie replies with more fluent wrestling and a shoulderblock causing Kurt to take a breather. He comes back and switches out of Eddie's fireman's carry with a front facelock to a smattering of USA chants. He shoots the half a couple of times for near falls before Eddie backdrops out and armdrags him. This is beautiful so far.

Kurt escapes the Three Amigos trying the triple Germans, then tries backdropping Eddie outside, and when he hangs on Kurt slides out and tries to GERMAN EDDIE OFF THE APRON! YOU CRAZY!? Cole: "Eddie Guerrero hanging on for dear life." He elbows out, goading Kurt back in only to dropkick him off the apron. An impatient Eddie heads up top... his splash eats the barricade! Kurt zones in on the midsection with a front backbreaker and bodyscissors. Eddie jawbreakers out but gets hotshotted on the top rope from a head of steam for 2.

Kurt controls with belly to belly suplexes for near falls. Cole: "Kurt Angle is wrestling a picture perfect game plan tonight." He takes Eddie up top but gets headbutted off. Rope run suplex attempt... Eddie shoves him off again. Froggy splash... MISSES! Excellent exchange. Kurt starts hitting Eddie with straight right hands ala the Smackdown attack, but Eddie just asks for more and fights back with a back suplex for 2. Three Amigos... Angle floats out and starts the Germans. Eddie counters with a victory roll for 2 but gets clotheslined. Angle Slam... Eddie armdrags out. Three Amigos! Uno! Dos! But Tres is countered with the anklelock! Eddie kicks him off, then Angle runs into a dropkick.

Another froggy splash attempt... Kurt runs the ropes to suplex Eddie off! 1, 2... no! MSG chant for Eddie but THE STRAPS ARE DOWN! Anklelock! Eddie rolls through - 1, 2... NO! German by Angle who tries the Angle Slam again... but Eddie PLANTS him with a DDT. He goes up top. FROGGY SPLASH! 1, 2... NO!!! MSG and Eddie are in disbelief. Kurt's deadweight... but suddenly hooks the anklelock! Eddie's in agony, but rolls through again to send Kurt out to big Eddie chants. He undoes his boot a bit to relieve the pressure. Kurt spots it and Eddie has that "oh shit" look on his face. Kurt reapplies the hold, but Eddie kicks at his boot... it goes flying off his foot while in Kurt's hands!!! Small package with his feet on the ropes! 1, 2... 3!!!

Winner: Eddie Guerrero (still champion)
Verdict: 9/10. Thank Christ, the show was calling out for a match like this. This was just something to behold, beautiful wrestling, a great story, back and forth. Stellar work all round.

* A video covering how "the dead will rise again" is next. Kane buried his brother The Undertaker alive out of disgust for how human he became. So naturally he's been haunted by supernatural vignettes, starting with Taker's gong going off at the Rumble. Kane's attempt at Taker's eye roll is shit. He recovered the coffin Taker was buried in but only found the urn... and then the ring rose up with him still stood in it!

Match 11: Kane (r/ Raw) vs The Undertaker (r/ Smackdown)

In a cool spot, the virtual NYC skyline catches fire after Kane's pyro. That's only the start of the awesome though... Kane keeps mouthing "I buried you alive" as the lights go out and we hear the infamous "Ohhh yeeeeeah!!!" as PAUL BEARER comes out holding the urn, flanked by Druids with flaming torches who make a guard of honour. Bearer: "You're no son of mine!" The GONG chimes to a massive pop, and then an even louder one greets ZOMBIE COWBOY TAKER stepping through the curtain. Kane shits himself. Bearer beckons him onwards as MSG chant for Taker and he brings back the lights. Kane is freaking out. "I BURIED YOU ALIVE!" The atmosphere is so incredible that the fans pop for Taker just taking his hat off, thus they'd make it a proper spot for the rest of his career. MASSIVE Undertaker chants echo throughout.

Kane: "You're NOT REEAL!!!" He reaches for Taker... and eats soupbones! Taker scares the ref out of the ring when he tries to keep order. JR: "Referee running for his life, and who can blame him?" Kane U-turns away from a chokeslam attempt to lure the Deadman outside but gets driven HARD into the apron. Apron legdrop! JR: "That is classic Undertaker offense." Two tables away Michael Cole must be despairing! Back in, Taker hits some massive avalanches. Bearer: "How d'you like that boy? How'd you like the pain?"

Kane counters the Last Ride and mounts Taker after a big boot. "I told you not to come back you sunovabitch." Hey, he's slagging his own Ma there! Taker switches out and beats him up, again scaring the ref only to fall victim to a sidewalk slam and flying clothesline from Kane for 2. When Kane's avalanche misses Taker hits a HUGE boot and legdrop (suck on that Hogan). He goes for Old School... but Kane catches him by the throat coming off the top! "I told you not to come back!" They both fight for chokeslams but it's Kane's that comes off. Bearer: "Damn you Kane!"

Kane laughs maniacally instead of covering. "Look at your Undertaker now!" He raises his hands in victory... and Undertaker sits up! Soupbones. He ducks his head on a whip and gets punted but no sells. Flying clothesline! Chokeslam! The crowd call for a Tombstone and Taker slashes his throat... Tombstone Piledriver! Death pin! 1, 2, 3!

Winner: The Undertaker (12-0 at Wrestlemania)
Verdict: 5/10. The match itself was fairly unremarkable but the spectacle of Undertaker returning to the deadman gimmick was truly something to behold. Throughly watchable.

* The video package for the main event covers HBK and HHH drawing in the Last Man Standing Match at the Rumble, while Benoit won the Rumble entering from number one and challenged HHH the next night. Ridiculously, Shawn winds up signing the match contract instead of Benoit, somehow earning him a shot too.

Main Event: Triple Threat World Heavyweight Championship Match - Triple H(C) vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit

MSG don't seem too enthused about Shawn, probably for politicking his way into Benoit's shot. Benoit's Tron is scratched into the cityscape - nice. Much like Eddie, it didn't sound like he got a very big pop only for the crowd to chant for him vehemently at the start of the match. Ah yes, after his bicycle shorts phase, here we have the start of HHH's white boots phase.

Benoit and HBK keep fighting over who batters HHH to start. The final time Shawn has to escape a crossface attempt and starts a chop war with Benoit - are you crazy!? Benoit whips Michaels into Hunter, then tries the crossface again out of a bridging exchange but gets rolled up for 2. Great Northern Lights Suplex gets 2 only for Shawn to clothesline him, cueing Triple H's return. He tries to shitcan Shawn, who skins the cat and unintentionally helps Hunter shitcan Benoit. BAACK body drop by HBK is met with "You screwed Bret" chants. H comes back with knees to both men, but when he sends Benoit to the apron Shawn baseball slides them both. Moonsault to both men on the outside!

He drags H back in (great continuity) for a near fall. Facebreaker by HHH but Benoit interrupts the Pedigree attempt. He knees the fuck out of HBK only to fall prey to the Bret buckle bump and get hooked in a Tree of Woe by H. Hunter whips Shawn into Benoit while he's in the Tree! He tries again but Shawn reverses and Benoit gets a foot up. Flying forearm and nip up by Michaels but Chris shitcans him. Triple Germans to Triple H! He goes for the headbutt but HBK crotches him. Hunter ducks a superkick to DDT Shawn and climb up to Benoit. King: "Both men literally pounding each other." *whit-woo*. Superplex gets 2. MSG: "Let's go Benoit!"

Pedigree... countered to the crossface! Shawn breaks it up and Germans Benoit to big heat. Chris quickly reverses with the triple Germans and flying headbutt! 1, 2... no. King: "Oh man, Triple H didn't even realise how close he became to being an ex-champion." Forearm by Shawn sends Benoit out. Nip up. HBK comeback special to Trips! SWEET CHIN MUSIC. 1, 2... Benoit pulls H out of the ring! Shawn chops Chris (again!?) but gets catapulted to the top of the post, prompting him to blade and wind up in the crossface! Shawn's going to tap... but H stops his hand hitting the mat! Ace. Trips tears up the Smackdown table, but Benoit tries to suplex him on the Spanish one! HBK interrupts, glances wordlessly at Hunter... they DOUBLE SUPLEX BENOIT THROUGH THE SMACKDOWN TABLE FROM THE SPANISH ONE!!!

MSG: "Holy shit!" Shawn, bleeding profusely, implores HHH to get back in the ring. JR: "Michaels is saying I don't give a damn, get in the ring, we're going to do it." *whit-woo*. H bumps over the top into a cameraman from a whip to the corner, then his face eats the post and knees hit the steps all at once, prompting a blade job and Michaels to accidentally elbow a camera. Shawn attacks the wound back inside but eats a Pedigree! It takes a while (ala vs Booker last year) but H covers. 1, 2... BENOIT breaks it up! King: "Did the EMTs throw him in the ring!? How did he get up!?"

H tries to Pedigree Benoit but gets locked in the Sharpshooter! He claws his way to the ropes only to get pulled back. Superkick to Benoit!!! 1, 2... NO! Big Benoit chants. HBK tunes up the band, but Benoit ducks to electric chair Shawn to the outside! Hunter goes for the Pedigree again... Benoit get the crossface!!! H is fading reaching the ropes, trying desperately to roll out, but Benoit holds on and Hunter winds up even further from the ropes. TRIPLE H TAPS OUT!

Winner: Chris Benoit (new champion, first reign)

Thunderous ovation for that finish. Eddie comes out and infamously hugs Benoit with tears in his eyes amid streamers and confetti. It's pretty uncomfortable to think both men would be dead within three years...

Verdict: 9/10. Your tolerance of this match in retrospect will depend on how well you can disassociate it from what became of Benoit and put up with the praise in light of what he did. I personally still got absorbed in the high drama, great workrate and interesting dynamics of the match. You had both HBK and Benoit trying to dethrone HHH as well as Hunter and Shawn wishing Benoit wasn't there so they could settle their personal score. Despite a fair bit of "one man dumped out, the other two have a singles match" booking many of the ways the dumped guy reinserted themselves were great and gave the match a brilliant flow.

Final Thoughts: This is a close one. Again, your opinion may differ depending on your view of the Benoit tragedy, but even without that history hasn't been kind to this show in my view. It gets heralded as one of the all time classic Wrestlemanias but there is so much middle of the road stuff you have to trawl through (Cena vs Show, both Tag Title matches, the Women's title match) as well as some outright stinkers (the Playboy match and Lsenar vs Goldberg). Buried among all this are two great matches (Christian vs Jericho and the handicap tag), two classics (the two World Title matches) and one more big Wrestlemania moment in the form of the return of undead Undertaker (although you could arguably include two more depending on how much historical value Cena's first title win has and whether you find some morbid entertainment in trainwrecks like Lesnar vs Goldberg).

In the end I cheated and stuck with this set not just because of the high points of the actual show, but for the quality of the extras in the DVD set. A I mentioned in a prior post you also got excellent documentary "The Mania of Wrestlemania" with the show as well as a neat little Top Ten Matches of Wrestlemania countdown hosted by Ric Flair that's a neat nostalgia ride. The show itself gets a marginal recommend (just skip to the good stuff) while the DVD set gets a slightly heartier recommendation.

Final Verdict: Stick (only just though)

"I am from Holland. Isn't that weird!?"