WWF Wrestlemania 17
The apex of the Attitude Era, and the first time in 9 years that WM was in a stadium.
Chris Jericho vs William Regal WWF Intercontinental Championship
This is a match mostly based around Jericho pissing in Regal's tea. And the video package is played over Regal's entrance. Seconds after JR says that the two are like oil and water, Jericho nearly misses a dive. The lack of in ring chemistry is palpable. Regal focuses on the shoulder, which he had softened up on Smackdown. The super hot crowd has already died down for the most part. Hard to blame them. These guys just don't mesh. Jericho won with the Lionsault. Weird that he paused before making the pin, but it didn't lead to a kick out from Regal. Title retained.
TO THE BACK. The WCW 1 limo arrives. It's Shane McMahon! BUT WHO WAS LIMO?! Elsewhere, The APA and Jackie talk. This is just an excuse for JBL to throw in as many Astrodome references that he can while getting hyped up for the match.
Right To Censor vs Tazz/APA
Val and Tazz start the match. Jackie almost immediately gets involved, DDTing Stevie Richards right in front of the ref. For some reason, the bell hadn't rang yet (even though dudes were in the ring wrestling) so it was okay. Tazz is a MESS in this, being completely blown up in 90 seconds, literally falling while running the ropes. Twice. Val gets killed with a back superplex. Bradshaw pins Godfather with the clothesline from hell in a very short match. I doubt it was even five minutes long.
TO THE BACK. Stephanie speaks to her comatose mother before giving Trish some very detailed instructions on how to crush ice.
Raven vs Big Show vs Kane WWF Hardcore Championship
This is about a half hour into the show, and this is going to take place mostly backstage. Not off to a hot start for the "greatest" WM. Of course, this quickly heads to the floor, then then into the crowd, and then TO THE BACK. Big Show has a great idea to pad lock a gate shut so he can pin Raven without Kane's interference. Little did he realize that a pad lock on a lifting latch doesn't work. Raven gets tossed through a window, and Kane gets put through a door of a locker room thing that looks like it was built the day of WM. And the walls get smashed. After lots of mindless dumb "hardcore" shit, the match comes back out to the stage. Kane whiffs on a kick that nonetheless sends Show and Raven crashing off the stage onto a dusty crash pad. Kane jumps on them and pins one of them. New champion. That was a match. I guess.
TO THE BACK. Kurt Angle is watching himself tap out to Benoit over and over. Edge and Christian try to make post-show party plans. Kurt isn't hearing any of it. He never officially tapped if there was not a ref, a match, or a bell.
TO WWF NEW YORK. Jimmy Snuka is hanging out watching the show .
TO THE COACH. Coach speaks with Linda Craftsman, who flew 30 hours from Brisbane, Australia. And it's her first WWF event ever.
TO THE BACK. The Rock has arrived. Very noticeably mixed reaction for him.
Eddie Guerrero vs Test WWF European Championship
Test dominates the first few minutes. JR reveals that he has a hat fetish. Gross. Test gets his foot stuck in the ropes, and Eddie has to help him get free. Not even taking cheap shots or anything. In fact, he clearly asks Tests if he's okay. Eddie then focuses on the leg, which does not appear to be what the original plan for the match was, since they're both stalling and looking confused. Test's comeback is stopped with a low blow. JR makes racially based comments, which is weird since he's the face announcer. Paul calls him on it, but JR ignores it. Saturn hits his finisher, which isn't enough to get the pin. Eddie gets laid out with the big boot. However, Dean Malenko came out to cause a distraction, allowing Eddie to hit Test with the belt for the win. New champion. Very awkward match.
TO THE COLE. Michael asks Foley if he can be impartial ref in the McMahon vs McMahon match.
TO THE BACK. Steve Austin has arrived.
Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit
An hour in, the show finally has something that should be more Raw filler. Weirdly, Kurt does his normal comedy promo before the match, after being shown to be ultra serious and even obsessive backstage with E&C. They're on that Jack Brisco shit. Lots of scrambles, lots of amateur stuff. And it's pretty even, despite one being an olympic gold medalist in wrestling. Benoit repeatedly nearly gets the Crossface on, which makes Kurt lose his temper and throw the first strike. The tables and stairs come into play, as Paul points out how great of a tranisition Angle has made from top level amateur to Federation style wrestler. And it's true. Kurt picked it up SO FAST. Just the difference from Survivor Series 1999 to April 2000 is shocking. JR directly compares Angle to Jack Brisco. I definitely see it. If Kurt hadn't had the neck issues and settled into his fairly nonsensical formula match, he could have been one of the GOATs. The suplexes start coming from both directions. Benoit ends up getting Kurt in the ankle lock, breifly. Angle locks on the crossface. Considering what the main event will be, I'm not sure finisher spam and trading in a midcard match is wise. Kurt taps out, although the ref had been bumped, so it didn't count. Kurt almost hits the moonsault. Benoit got his knees up, which seemed to hit Kurt in the throat/sternum/face. Kurt wins with a roll up (and handful of tights) OUTTA NOWHERE. This started good, but really took a hit once they started doing a traditional WWF match instead of the cool ass amateur stuff they started with. The change came as soon as Angle threw the fist strike, and you can see them get more and more finisher trading/spammy/Attitudinal every few moves from that point.
TO THE COLE. William Regal is asked if he's okay, since he's been with the trailer for about an hour. Then he finds Kamala and Kimchee fucking about in his office.
TO THE PEP RALLY. Feel good "we support the troops" video package.
TO THE HERMIE. Kevin Kelly tells Kurt he has to respect Benoit now. Kurt doesn't. He's the best in the WWF! Benoit attacks and puts him in the crossface. Kurt taps. Again.
Chyna vs Ivory WWF Women's Championship
Ivory attacks before the bell, trying to reinjure Chyna's neck. It doesn't work. Chyna squashes Ivory. New champion.
TO THE BACK. Vince makes sure that Linda is medicated and that Trish knows when to bring Linda out. Cole pops in to ask about Shane buying WCW. Vince won't hear anything about it.
Shane McMahon vs Vince McMahon Street Fight Special Guest Referee: Mick Foley
The remaining WCW crew are in one of the sky boxes. I think this was Mike Sanders' only on screen WWF appearance. Look at Johnny Ace's mullet. And look at how pathetic the roster is. No Booker, no DDP, not even Kidman. Lance Storm or Hugh Morris is the biggest star in that group. Vince starts the match by slapping and choking his son. How awkward. Everything about this match and angle is awkward. Everything about the McMahon family, really. Steph wearing a Daddy's Girl cat suit, slapping her brother (who already has a black eye forming because his dad stiffed him). It's certainly ugly. Punches either completely miss or are actual punches. Steph saves Vince from the leap of faith elbow in the first big spot of the match. This must have been the cue for Trish to bring Linda out. Trish slaps Vince. Stephanie slaps Trish. So now you have "Daddy's Girl" fighting with Daddy's mistress as mommy is in a wheel chair, comatose. Steph also slaps Foley. She runs away from him. Trish follows. This is some Russo-tier fuckery. At the same time, Vince calls Linda a bitch and appears to be preparing to attack her. Foley saves the day. As a response, Vince gives Foley his last WWE concussion. Vince is either going to rape or beat Linda. Probably rape. Shane comes back to life only for a bunch of trash cans to come into play. You see, Linda is going to be forced to watch Vince beat Shane. Linda stands up and kicks Vince in the balls. SWERVE! What a massive reaction. Foley beats the shit out of Vince, setting up for Shane to hid the Van Terminator for the win. 70% of the match was Shane taking a nap after the table bump while Steph/Trish/Linda got their fuckery on.
TO THE BACK. HHH prepares. Elsewhere, Taker shadow boxes IN THE SHADOWS.
Hardy Boys vs Dudley Boys vs Edge & Christian WWF Tag Team Championships TLC Match
I'm not sure these matches are fun to watch anymore. Consider that of the six men, two retired with neck and/or brain damage, two are drug addled messes, and the Dudleys are still cunts. Now being able to see the consequences of these matches, it is not the most enjoyable experience. At some point, Rhyno/Spike/Lita get involved, basically making this a 9 person TLC. Christian grabs the titles while on Rhyno's shoulders. Of course there is no story of any kind in the match. It's just setups for dangerous spots. And for what? It's not like they were adding to their craft by doing a stunt show. They destroyed their bodies for a match that, ultimately, was meaningless because it just let to a glut of more and increasingly dangerous matches that ended up shortening careers and starting drug addictions. Not only that, it influenced an entire generation of wrestlers and writers to come up with excuses to do these kind of matches as often as they could, leading to injuries and shortened careers for a lot more people than those directly involved in this specific match.
TO THE AXXESS. More self-congratulatory shit.
Gimmick Battle Royal
Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan return to the WWF to call the action. Participants in the match: The Bushwhackers (FUCK), Duke The Dumpster Drose, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, THE GOON, Doink, Kamala (FUCK), Repo Man, Jim Cornette (FUCK), Nikolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes (FUCK FUCK FUCK), One Man Gang, Gobbledy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim (FUCK), Brother Love (FUCK), Sgt. Slaughter.
I think entrances lasted longer than the match. Sheik won on the basis that there was no way for him to take a bump over the top rope. Sarge puts him in the cobra clutch afterwards. The highlight was definitely Brain and Gene clearly having a blast. I should also note that multiple names were misspelled on the entrance cards. I'm pretty disgusted that Michael Hayes got a WM pay day.
Triple H vs The Undertaker
Shout to Lemmy, who looked like death 15 years before he died. And this was a terrible performance, but not even the worst Motorhead at WM performance. Now, I have to ask you, how are you supposed to think Taker is cooler when he comes out to Limp Bizkit after HHH had Motorhead write a song for him and then perform it for his entrance? The match starts out on the floor, and technically the Spanish announce table is broken before the bell even rings. HHH seems to have Taker's number, having counters for all of Taker's signature moves. HHH gets his sledgehammer out, which leads to a ref bump like...six minutes in. And then Taker bumps the ref again for not counting fast enough. So...the match really should be thrown out. Instead, it becomes a defacto street fight. HHH gets back dropped right beside Rock's mom. Imagine if he landed on her. After brawling through the crowd, things head up to the hard cam area. HHH beats the shit out of Taker with a chair, bending it all up. Taker chokeslams him off the structure onto an obvious crash pad. This is a match where Undertaker gets blasted in the head with a sledgehammer, not even HHH's weird protect shot but just slammed into his head while doing a powerbomb, and he kicked out and still won with the Last Ride. All flash, no substance. Again.
The Rock vs Steve Austin WWF Championship
This is the Warrior/Hogan for the next generation, and I'd argue there really hasn't been a match this big at WM since. What people never want to talk about is how awkwardly inserted Debra was into the story. This match was made no DQ earlier in the day by Commissioner Regal. Austin attacks before the bell. He NEEDS to win this match. More than anything. Finishers are teased early on. Unlike Hogan/Warrior, which was two super muscled, super energetic, super faces, this is the battle of two anti-heroes in black. Which really points out the difference between Golden and Attitude eras. Neither are "good" guys, and both are more than willing to cheat to win a match if need be. Rock is busted open. The crowd is firmly behind Austin. Probably 80/20 in Austin's favor. It's a very strange atmosphere. Austin is now also busted open. Everything that can be used at ringside is used. The WM13 Austin/Bret finish is referenced. Austin gets so desperate that he brings back both the stun gun and Million Dollar Dream, which in turn led to a reference to Piper/Bret from WM8. Rock had Austin pinned, but VINCE MCMAHON broke the pin. Austin nearly wins with the Rock Bottom. Earl takes another bump. Austin tells Vince to blast Rock with a chair. Rock kicks out, and now the audience that was 80/20 in Austin's favor is 60/40 in ROCK's favor. Stunner. Rock kicks out. Vile chair shot. Rock kicks out. Austin pounds on Rock with about 15 chair shots. New champion! Vince and Austin shake hands. The Attitude Era's finale ends with Vince and Austin celebrating together over Rock's corpse.
THIS actually is a classic. As much as I shit on the Attitude Era, this took all the best parts of it, with the two guys who were best at it, and they had a war with more emotion and story than anything on the show by a very large margin. People say Austin's heel turn was a bad idea (including Austin), but I completely disagree. He had done everything there possibly was to do as the top face. The story of the match and build dictated that he was willing to do absolutely ANYTHING to beat Rock, because he needed to beat Rock. This is a story of Austin realizing his spot was in jeopardy, after Rock's superstardom, HHH beating in in 2/3 falls, Taker being back and looking for the title, guys like Jericho/Angle/Benoit quickly rising to the top of the card. He gave Rock everything he could, and it wasn't enough, so he had to go in with Vince. It's great. Great storytelling in and out of the ring. That they were doing call backs to Bret's best WM matches as well as Austin pulling out finishers from past gimmicks just adds so much more to it.
This certainly is not deserving of the GOAT WM. At all. Austin/Rock is a certified classic. Everything else is filler or big flashy matches with no substance. TLC was one of 300 matches exactly like it. Shane/Vince was nothing but shitty punches, Shane napping for ten minutes, then a bunch of action from people not even in the match. Taker/HHH seemed to start out with a story in mind, but they dropped it to turn it into a typical Attitude Era brawl. Benoit/Angle started similarly, then devolved into Attitude Era finisher spam and counters. So, this leaves the show with Austin/Rock being the only thing I'd tell people they really need to see. And it is a classic, no doubt. But not enough to raise this show to the mythological heights it seems to have gone to over the years. Having watched this and WM7 pretty much back to back, I can say without hyperbole that I think 7 is a much better show.