WWE WrestleMania XX
March 14, 2004
New York, New York
These WrestleMania reviews were originally written in 2012 and are being re-published on our new site.
“WrestleMania 20: Where it all begins….again.”
That was the slogan for this historic event. After three years of being in either football/baseball stadiums, they were back in an arena for the 20th edition of WrestleMania. Not just any arena, though. It was Madison Square Garden. The building that hosted WrestleManias 1 and 10 was back for a third go around.
Times were changing in WWE too. Steve Austin retired a year earlier. The Rock’s run as a full timer was over although he did return to compete in a match at this show. It ended up being his last match for seven years until he returned at Survivor Series. That meant there were new names that had to step to the forefront. Guys like John Cena (he worked out), Randy Orton (also worked out), Batista (him too) and Goldberg (not so much) were making their WrestleMania debuts. Those guys had roles in matches at the midcard level. The main event was different too.
On the Smackdown side, Eddie Guerrero won the WWE Title from Brock Lesnar at the No Way Out PPV a month earlier. It was a memorable match with the babyface Guerrero overcoming the odds as the undercard to win his first WWE Title. On the Raw side, Triple H continued his dominant run as World Champion. For the previous 18 months, he was the guy that the title was built around. Towards the end of 2003, Shawn Michaels stepped up as a challenger to the throne and even though he didn’t win the Royal Rumble he managed to get a World Title shot too. The 2004 Royal Rumble winner Chris Benoit also got a title shot, which meant that for the first time ever the main event of WrestleMania would be a triple threat match. I remember the internet was abuzz at the time. Benoit was the internet darling. A lot of people didn’t like Triple H. There was a lot of anticipation for this one.
I’ve never written about this show before. I remember going to a movie theatre to watch it. We loved it. Great atmosphere. The version I’m using for the write-up is the official WM20 DVD release. I haven’t watched it in a while. I actually re-watched the “Mania of WrestleMania” documentary about WM19 that I mentioned in that write-up because that’s included in the WM20 DVD set. I know there will be some edits as there always are. The last time was probably in 2007 when Chris Benoit was still alive. He was one of my favorites. I was so happy for him going into this show. The feelings aren’t the same today due to the double murder suicide involving his wife and son, but I’ll review it from a wrestling perspective because I’ve been able to separate the two. I know some don’t see a big deal in watching Benoit matches while others may find it difficult. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ll watch it, review it and won’t have the same emotion I did eight years ago. With that out of the way, get the review going for this 4.5 hour PPV. Yes, it was over four hours. Longest PPV ever.
To open the show, Howard Finkel introduces us to the Boys Choir of Harlem to sing America The Beautiful.
“Twenty years ago one man had a vision.” They showed Vince McMahon. They aired memorable WrestleMania clips over the years. They mixed it with comments from guys like Guerrero, Lesnar, Rock, Cena, Benoit, Angle, Foley, Show and plenty of clips as well. Voiceover guy: “Tonight men will hunt down their dreams. Tonight no one holds back. Tonight is where it all begins…again.” Then we get a clip of Vince McMahon standing beside son Shane along with his son, who was Vince’s first grandchild.
We met the announcers. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler called the Raw matches. Michael Cole and Tazz called the Smackdown matches. The Spanish announcers were there to see their table get broken.
John Cena is out first for his WrestleMania debut. Big babyface pop. He’s wearing a Patrick Ewing jersey, which the New York crowd likes. Loud “Cena” chants. He was very over as a midcard babyface act that was doing the rapper gimmick. He did a rap and encouraged the fans to chant Big Show sucks, which they did. The US Champion Big Show came out. It’s very weird seeing him with hair and also hair on his chest as well.
United States Title: Big Show vs. John Cena
Show was the heel here, looking as big as ever. He dominated early, catching a Cena cross body off the top into a powerslam. Loud “Let’s Go Cena” chant leads Cena to make a comeback, but Show knocked him down with a clothesline. Suplex by Show. Cena tried another comeback. This time Show gave him a big boot to the head. Leg drop across the chest by Show got a two. Cena went for a sleeper, so Show backed him into the turnbuckle to break out of it. Show gives him a Cobra Clutch. I guess Sergeant Slaughter was giving him tips huh? Cena came back with punches, he kicked Show in his knees and that sent him into the turnbuckle. Cena put Big Show on his shoulders and gave him the FU. Show kicked out at two. Everybody thought that was it. Cena grabbed his chain. Ref told him to put them down so Cena threw him across the ring causing ref Jimmy Kodera to get them. Cena picked up one of the knucks he had on his hand for the entrance and hit Show in the head with it. A heel move, but the idea was he did what he had to in order to win. That led to another FU. This one looked better. Cena wins at 9:14.
Winner and New United States Champion: John Cena
Analysis: *3/4 Very slow pace with Show on offense. Cena did a good job with the comeback. The crowd was into the match, so it was the right choice for an opener. It would be the last time Cena would be near the opener at a WrestleMania, of course.
Backstage, Eric Bischoff (the Raw GM) wants Jonathon Coachman to find Undertaker.
Backstage, Evolution (Orton, Flair & Batista) talked about all the pain they’ve caused Mick Foley.
World Tag Team Titles: Rob Van Dam & Booker T vs. La Resistance (Rob Conway & Rene Dupree) vs. Garrison Cade & Mark Jindrak vs. Dudley Boyz
Two guys in the ring at once. First team to get a pinfall or submission wins. Booker/RVD and Dudley Boyz were the faces while the other two teams were heels. Booker beats on Dupree early and then Rene tags in Bubba, which led to a tables chant from his hometown NYC crowd. Neckbreaker by Bubba on Booker. Booker hit a side kick. Ref got distracted, D-Von hit a suplex on Booker and then RVD nailed D-Von with a leaping kick off the top. Cade & Jindrak were a young team that they had high hopes for, but it never really worked out. They worked on Booker, so did La Resistance. Conway really slowed things down with a knee to the back submission. Booker came back with a spinebuster. RVD got the hot tag and nailed everybody with a barrage of kicks. Crowd went wild for him. His Frog Splash attempt was blocked by D-Von, who shoved him off the top all the way to the floor. The heels were cleared of the ring and the Dudeys went for the 3D on Booker, but Conway prevented it and hit D-Von wit ha DDT. Booker hit an axe kick on Conway. RVD recovered, went to the top and hit a Five Star Frog Splash for the win at 7:49.
Winners: RVD & Booker T
Analysis: *1/2 Boring match. D-Von didn’t legally tag into the match either, which is pretty weird. In a match with eight guys, the pace should have been a lot better. There would be a four way tag for the WWE tag titles later in the show too.
Backstage, Coachman was looking for Undertaker. There was banging behind a door. Emerging from the door, was a disheveled Mean Gene Okerlund and also Bobby Heenan. Their shirts were undone, their belts were undone and they had lipstick all over their face. Then Fabulous Moolah & Mae Young walked out of the door before pulling them back in. Oh the comedy suggesting that the old people were getting it on.
Chris Jericho: “I can nail Trish before you can nail Lita.” That was a backstage segment that led to the Jericho/Christian match. It was a bet for a Loonie, which is one Canadian dollar. Jericho & Christian were heel buddies. Jericho fell for Trish. Christian wondered why Jericho was falling for her when they had this bet to hook up with her. Bischoff booked Christian in a match with Trish where he said he’d let her pin him, but then he nailed her with a clothesline and then the Walls of Jericho to make him tap. The angle effectively turned Jericho babyface. They brawled. The nearly four minute video package did an awesome job of summing up the feud. I loved the feud. You don’t see midcard matches getting built up this well over the course that often.
Christian vs. Chris Jericho
Why do they say “Toronto, Canada” for Christian and not “Toronto, Ontario” like they should say? Jericho was announced from “Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada” so his province was allowed to be mentioned. Nice face pop for Jericho, who had been a heel for the previous two WrestleManias. They are two guys that I’d put in my list of ten favorite wrestlers ever, so I was looking forward to it. Jericho was on the attack early, hitting a back body drop over the top to the floor followed by the springboard cross body over the top to the floor. Jericho went for the Walls, but Christian countered it by giving Jericho a back body drop over the top to the floor. That looked like a painful bump right on the knees of Jericho. Christian yanked Jericho down by the hair. Jericho went for the Walls again, but Christian raked the eyes and hit a spinning heel kick to cover for two. Jericho came back with a forearm, a splash on the middle rope and an enziguiri for two. Christian countered a rollup with one of his own for two as he held the ropes. Jericho hit a Northern Lights Suplex for two. Bulldog by Jericho. Lionsault missed by Jericho because Christian got his knees up.
Christian went for the Unprettier (Killswitch), but Jericho countered it and Christian hit a spinning reverse DDT off the middle rope for two. Love that move. Jericho hit him with a drop sleeper. Backbreaker by Christian. Jericho fought Christian on the top and Christian countered the attack with a front suplex. Cross body block by Christian led to Jericho rolling through for a two count of his own. Christian put him in the Texas Cloverleaf. I’m a fan of that move. Somebody in WWE today should use it as a finisher. Certainly Dean Malenko could touch them. Jericho fought out of it into the Walls, but Christian got to the ropes right away. Jericho didn’t let go, so he put Christian in the Walls out on the floor. That was a cool spot. Jericho hit a superplex off the top. Trish Stratus ran out to a huge pop. She’s such a fine looking woman. At this point in my career my definite favorite. Christian hit a DDT for two. Trish jumped on the apron. Christian grabbed her by the hair and threw her down. Jericho threw Christian out of the ring. He went over to Trish. She couldn’t see who was grabbing her and she elbowed him in the head. Christian snuck back in, rolled Jericho up, grabbed the tights and covered for the win at 14:44.
Post match, Trish was shocked that she helped Christian win. Jericho said it was okay. Christian jumped on the apron, she held Jericho back and then decked him with a series of punches. Christian ran back in to hit him with the Unprettier (Killswitch). Heel Trish. She walked away. With Christian. Then they kissed at the top of the ramp. Christian, you lucky creepy little bastard.
Analysis: ***1/2 Very good match. I was fine with the ending because Trish was ridiculously hot here and it fit in perfectly with the story. The action leading up to it was very good with each guy getting their chance to shine. The feud continued with Jericho getting his win back. That was probably the biggest win of Christian’s career up to that point. He’d held the IC Title, but beating a guy like Jericho that was a former World Champion was a big thing for him. Trish’s heel run from here lasted a little over a year before she hurt her back and then came back as a face later in 2005. I enjoyed her heel work a lot although she was the definitive babyface in WWE in the 2000s too. It’s a fun match and even better angle surrounding it.
Backstage, Lilian Garcia talked to Mick Foley who was wrestling in his first match in four years. The Rock showed up. They were partners. Rock was really losing his hair and probably should have shaved it off. Rock said finally Rock was back in New York and Foley was back home. He showed Hurricane & Rosey calling them the Hamburglar and Grimace with a burger. He showed us Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco. He said the people knew it was a big moment. Rock opened a door to the arena. The crowd went wild. If you smell what The Rock…and sock…is cooking. Fantastic two minute promo from Rock.
Evolution made their entrance to a good heel reaction. They were comprised of Intercontinental Champion Randy Orton, Batista and Ric Flair. I loved the Evolution theme song, by the way. I’d put it in my list of top five wrestling theme songs of all time. Foley makes his entrance. Good reaction. Rock gets an even bigger pop.
Ric Flair, Randy Orton & Batista vs. Mick Foley & The Rock
Ross mentioned it was Rock’s eight WrestleMania even though he was a part timer. The 3 on 2 setting was different than you usually see. They probably should have had a third man on the face team, but it was okay that it was 3 on 2. Rock locked up with Flair followed by a Flair strut. I would have loved this as a singles match at WrestleMania. Two of the most charismatic wrestlers ever. Rock hit a back body drop on the floor and Foley nailed him with an elbow off the apron. Orton tagged in, so did Foley, who was aggressive on Orton because the feud was built off their rivalry. Foley hit an elbow on Orton in the corner, Rock tagged in, told the ref to look at Flair and then hit a punch to Orton’s balls. Heels cheated, Batista pulled the rope down and Orton threw him in his direction so Rock went flying over the top to the floor. Batista was the legal man. He nailed Rock with a back elbow. Batista was still pretty green. He’d improve a lot once he got the big push in 2005, though. Flair tagged in and destroyed Rock with chops. Flair did the strut to a big pop, so Rock nailed him with a hard clothesline. Flair threw him to the top and Rock threw him off in the typical Flair bump. Batista went in, but he couldn’t do much to Rock and Foley got the tag in, knocking everybody down. Foley attacked in the corner. Batista destroyed him with a stiff clothesline. That looked like it really hurt. Then again Mick was great at selling power moves. Orton whipped Foley into the stairs, which Mick took by having his knees hit the stairs and his body went flying over them.
The action moved back into the ring with Orton working over Foley. This was the second part of the match with the heels working over a babyface. We know Foley had a feud with Orton, but if he had one with Batista too it could have been good for Big Dave. The three heels continued to work on him in the corner. Foley made a comeback on Batista by hitting a neckbreaker. They did a double clothesline spot. Batista brought Flair in, Foley hit him with a punch and tagged in Rock. Rock hit Flair down with a forearm, a DDT on Orton and then he threw Randy out of the ring. Batista hit Rock with a spinebuster. Flair went for a People’s Elbow on Rock, but Rock kipped up and decked him with punches. That was a very funny sequence. Rock hit a DDT on Batista. Spinebuster by Rock on Flair. People’s Elbow on Flair, which included a Flair strut too. That was classic. Rock covered for two. Flair tagged in Orton. Rock hit a Rock Bottom for two because Flair pulled him out of the ring. Flair was going nuts outside the ring. He grabbed a chair, so the ref told him to stop. Batista Bomb on Rock. Orton covered. Ref slid back in to count the pin, which resulted in a two count. Great nearfall. Rock tagged in Foley, who was legal against Orton. He nailed the heels with punches and hit the Double Arm DDT on Orton. He took out Mr. Socko. Orton hit the RKO out of nowhere to win for his team at 17:02.
Winner: Randy Orton, Ric Flair & Batista
Analysis: **** I loved the pacing of the match. It was nearly 20 minutes of fast paced action. There were two hot tag sequences. There were no pointless rest hold spots. The crowd was loud during the majority of it because it was a good mix of legends along with two young guys that were on the rise. I think it’s more valuable to have the legends mix it up with younger guys because then the younger ones get the “rub” from it. A year later Batista was in the main event of WrestleMania and Orton went on to be World Champ five months after this match. The Foley/Orton rivalry continued. I’d recommend you check out the Orton/Foley match from Backlash 2004. It was a wild brawl that did a lot in terms of putting Orton over and elevating his status as a performer. It’s interesting to note that Rock made his 8th WrestleMania appearance at this event and Cena made his first WrestleMania appearance. At WrestleMania 28 on April 1 they will both be making their 9th appearance as wrestlers at WrestleMania.
Post match, the heels left. Rock & Foley regrouped in the ring. The crowd gave them a standing ovation. Cool moment.
They aired clips of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. After ignoring the Hall of Fame for almost a decade, they brought it back. The inductees were Big John Studd, Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Harley Race, Jesse Ventura, Junkyard Dog, Sergeant Slaughter, Billy Graham, Tito Santana, Bobby Heenan and Pete Rose. Eleven guys in one class. That’s what happens when it’s completely forgotten about for the previous eight years. It was emotional when Bobby Heenan spoke about the love he had for his broadcast partner Gorilla Monsoon. Gene introduced them on the stage. Nice ovations. The ones that have passed away were represented by family members. The biggest pops were for Heenan, Slaughter & Ventura.
How do you follow a bunch of old guys? With a Playboy Evening Gown Match. Sable & Torrie were on the cover of Playboy together. The other two were not. We’re supposed to think that they were jealous of them. It was Sable’s return to WrestleMania after leaving the company shortly following her appearance at WM15. Before the match, Sable cut a promo saying she was uncomfortable and restricted in her gown. They wanted to start the match with their gowns off. I remember reading after the show that this was done because Sable had ruptured one of her implants prior to the match (blame future husband Brock Lesnar?) and they wanted to eliminate the risk of an injury. They are all ridiculously hot.
Playboy Evening Gown Match: Sable & Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler & Jackie Gayda
All four women took off their evening gowns off except Jackie, who refused. Sable and Torrie yanked her gown off. Sable gave Jackie a snap mare and then a kick to the back. Torrie hit a crossbody off the top. Torrie did her entrance by bending over slowly through the ropes. She gave a leg scissors to Torrie and then put her foot on Torrie’s jaw. Torrie and Stacy went into a series of contrived pinfall sequences. Stacy hit a kick to the face that barely connected. She’s got legs and she knows how to use ’em. That was her gimmick, which I’m sure is approved by George Clooney. Jackie tagged in and she rolled on top of Doan along with Torrie. Torrie rolled up Jackie to win at 2:33.
Winners: Sable & Torrie Wilson
Post match, Stacy was upset with Jackie. Sable & Torrie celebrated with a kiss on the cheek. The commentary of Cole & Tazz was actually pretty funny for this match. It hurts me to compliment Cole, though, so let’s move on.
Analysis: DUD What can I say? They knew they were hot and they weren’t afraid to show it. At least it was kept short. My favorite of the foursome was Torrie Wilson.
They show a video of some fans talking about how much they love WrestleMania. It’s a four and a half hour show. Lots of filler.
Backstage, WWE Champ Eddie Guerrero was walking with his title belt on his shoulder. He shook hands with people backstage like Paul London, Spike Dudley, Orlando Jordan and Billy Gunn who happened to be in the hallway. Eddie walked into the locker room where Chris Benoit was pacing around looking focused. Eddie said they were like brothers and that no matter what happens he’s proud of him. Benoit said he wasn’t going to lose and Eddie said nobody expected Benoit to him. Benoit said: “I believe in me!” Benoit told him it was night. Eddie was happy because he wanted to see this side of Benoit. Benoit said they’d be walking out of the Garden as champions. Eddie: “I believe, Chris.” A good way to preview their title matches later in the show. In 2004 I absolutely loved that segment. Watching it today makes me quite sad.
Cruiserweight Title Match in a Cruiserweight Open: Chavo Guerrero, Ultimo Dragon, Shannon Moore, Jamie Noble, Funaki, Nunzio, Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, Tajiri & Akio (Jimmy Yang)
Ten guys in the match. Two guys start. If you lose a fall you are out and the next guy enters. They said that they would enter via random drawing based on selections made earlier. Chavo was the heel champ that entered along with his dad Chavo Sr. or “Chavo Classic” as he’d later be known by. Mysterio got the biggest pop of all of them. Dragon started with Moore. Moore hit a back suplex. Moore missed a moonsault and Dragon pinned him with an Asai DDT to eliminate him. Noble was the next one in. Dragon hit a backbreaker and he missed a moonsault. Noble hit a great neckbreaker and then a Dragon Sleeper forced Dragon to top, which eliminated to him. Funaki was next. He hit a crossbody on Noble, but Jamie rolled through and covered for the win at about 8 seconds. The announcers mentioned the Bundy/Jones squash at WM1 going 9 seconds even though it was really over 20 seconds and I’ve done my part to complain about that plenty haha. Nunzio faced off with Noble next, scoring a pinfall attempt for two. Missile dropkick by Nunzio, but Noble got to the ropes. Noble sent Nunzio to the floor and hit a somersault dive off the top rope. That was a good spot. Nunzio tried to go back in, but Noble pulled him off the apron and Nunzio got counted out. He was eliminated. Kidman was next. Nunzio attacked Noble on the floor and then Kidman went for the Shooting Star Press from the top rope to the floor. On the replay, it looked like Kidman hit his head on Nunzio and that Noble hurt his knee bad. They were okay. That looked painful. Kidman countered a Dragon Sleeper with a back drop and an enziguiri. Kidman hit the BK Bomb off the top to eliminate Noble. Mysterio was next, dressed as The Flash. Dropkick sent Kidman to the floor. Akio interfered against Rey. BK Bomb got two on Rey. Mysterio came back to hit a sunset flip into a powerbomb off the top rope onto Kidman, which sent Billy packing. Tajiri was next to face off with Mysterio. He quickly put him in the Tarantula. Mysterio hit him with dropkicks to the back and then hit the 619 to a big pop. Akio tried to cheat. Rey avoided that and Tajiri spit the green mist into Akio’s face. Rey rolled him up to win. After the loss, Tajiri kicked Rey in the head because he’s so mean. Cole said Akio couldn’t compete due to the mist in the eyes. What a stupid way to eliminate a guy. You can’t even try to book a finish? Chavo entered next. He took advantage of Rey being hurt, but Rey came back with a springboard hurricanrana. Mysterio hit an awesome somersault dive over the top rope (and ref Charles Robinson) to take down Chavo Guerrero Sr. Props to Chavo for running up at the last second to get in position where he could safely catch Mysterio. Back in the ring, Chavo covered after a sunset flip, held the hand of his dad, which the ref didn’t see and he won by cheating. Match went 10:27.
Winner: Chavo Guerrero
Analysis: *1/2 Nine pinfalls in ten minutes doesn’t equal a good match to me. If you do all those stops and the result of them are very short “matches” you’re not doing a lot for anybody in the match. There were some nice moves and creative pinfalls, but the concept of the match definitely hurt it. There were many great matches involving Chavo & Rey over this title. This wasn’t a great one. I would have preferred a singles match here rather than doing the title switch in June. I remember Jacqueline was the one to initially beat Chavo for the title. The cruiserweight division could have been booked so much better.
The Brock Lesnar/Bill Goldberg match was next. At the Royal Rumble, Lesnar snuck in and gave an F5 to Goldberg, which led to Kurt Angle eliminating Goldberg. At No Way Out, Steve Austin gave Goldberg a ticket to No Way Out and he attacked Lesnar, who ended up losing the WWE Title to Eddie Guerrero. Lesnar wanted the match with Goldberg. Austin ended u volunteering to be the referee. Lesnar gave Austin a F5. They had a brawl on Smackdown after Lesnar stole Austin’s ATV. The big deal going into this match was that Goldberg’s WWE contract had expired and everybody in the online community knew he wasn’t going to come back. This was his last match. As a result, he wasn’t even on TV that much before his WrestleMania debut match. Meanwhile, the word got out a few weeks before the show that Lesnar wanted out of the company to try to make it in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings. He was tired of being on the road. They didn’t announce it on TV, but online fans also knew that this was his last match.
Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar – Steve Austin as Special Referee
Lesnar was a heel from Smackdown and Goldberg was a face on Raw. Since they cared about the brand extension in 2004 this was a dream match. Loud “You Sold Out” chant early. I guess the fans knew Lesnar was leaving. How did he sell out if he was leaving a high paying job? I understood why they were mad, but not why they chanted that. Crowd started singing “na na na na hey hey goodbye” because they knew both guys were gone and even Ross & Lawler pointed it out. The crowd chanted for Austin. He smiled. The wrestlers stared at eachother for over two minutes. This should have started as a brawl. They did a lockup that nobody won. Very boring match for four minutes so far. Crowd chanted “this match sucks.” Accurate statement. They went nose to nose and did a double shoulderblock. Finally a move. Goldberg hit a Military Press into a modified spear as JR called it. He went for a spear, Lesnar moved and Goldberg went crashing to the floor. Lesnar hit two suplexes followed by a submission move on Goldberg’s crowd. I forgot to mention that “Goldberg Sucks” according to the crowd. I was never a Goldberg fan, so I’d agree. I always liked Lesnar, though. Lesnar hit a sloppy clothesline for two. Another “this match sucks” chant. Goldberg hit some clotheslines followed by a neckbreaker and then he hit the Spear. Lesnar kicked out at two. The crowd didn’t care until Goldberg went nose to nose to Austin. That would have been a big match a few years earlier. Lesnar hit the F5 for two. Lesnar missed a Spear attempt and then Goldberg crushed him wit a huge Spear followed by the Jackhammer for the win at 13:41.
Post match, the fans sang “na na na na hey hey goodbye” to Lesnar. Brock gave them the double middle finger. Then Lesnar did the double middle finger to Austin. Austin gave him the Stone Cold Stunner to a big pop. Goldberg went back in the ring. Austin gave him some beers. They celebrated. Austin kicked him in the gut and gave him a Stone Cold Stunner too. Crowd popped big for Austin. Without his presence, this trainwreck of a match would have been even worse.
Analysis: DUD Awful match. That should have been a five minute match with a double DQ ending after Austin hit both guys with a Stunner. Crowd hated it. It’s not the crowd’s fault that it sucked. The effort just didn’t seem to be there and it appeared as though they just wanted to get through it so they could go home. The way the match was structured was pretty bad too. They ended up putting over the guy that they didn’t want to stick around for another year instead of the guy that was quitting the company despite having a lucrative contract. I can’t blame them for putting Goldberg over. It was the right call. Inserting Austin as the ref was a smart move because the fans weren’t that supportive of either guy.
Vince McMahon thanked the fans for their support over the last 20 years. We love you too, you crazy bastard.
They also announced Los Angeles would get WrestleMania. The Hollywood theme was fun. We’ll get to that in the next review, of course.
WWE Tag Team Titles (Smackdown): Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty vs. Charle Haas & Shelton Benjamin vs. Bradshaw & Faarooq vs. Doug & Danny Basham
Same rules as the first four way. First team to get a pinfall or submission wins the match. The Bashams and Haas/Benjamin were the heels while the other teams were the faces. I’m not sure how many WrestleManias Rikishi appeared in, but he appeared in them with a number of different gimmicks. The crowd weren’t that into this match. Benjamin started with Bradshaw, and then the Bashams worked over Benjamin a bit. Danny hit a jawkbreaker on Haas and then he tagged in Scotty. Back suplex by Scotty on Haas. Benjamin & Haas did their double team tag move to crush Scotty’s throat on the top rope. I always loved that move with Benjamin leaping over Haas’ shoulders to splash their opponent. The Bashams worked over Scotty, who kept trying to tag in Rikishi. Scotty got the hot tag to Rikishi, which drew a small reaction. Rikishi knocked everybody down, hitting a DDT on Danny. Rikishi used his butt to knock Benjamin out of the ring and then he gave the stink face to Haas. That drew the biggest pop of the match by far. Bradshaw knocked Rikishi down. Bradshaw hit the Fallaway Slam on Doug Basham from inside the ring sending him over the top where Basham crashed into Haas & Benjamin on the floor. Bradshaw hit the Clothesline from Hell. Rikishi hit the Samoan Drop on Bradshaw. Rikishi walked over to Danny Basham, sat on him and won the match for his team at 6:01.
Winners: Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty
Post match, Scotty did the Worm. Barely a reaction. Then they danced. The reaction they got here was significantly less than what they got at Royal Rumble 2000 in the same building four years earlier. That’s an example of a gimmick being stale.
Analysis: * Boring match like the other fatal fourway tag. It was smart to keep Rikishi out of the match until the finish. I don’t think Faarooq ever tagged into the match. The most significant thing about this match is that Bradshaw would end up being JBL and have a really long WWE Title reign for most of the next year.
There was a video for Edge coming back. He was out for a year with a neck injury.
They had Jesse Ventura talk to Donald Trump. Skip.
Women’s Title: Victoria vs. Molly Holly
If Molly lost, she would get her head shaved. Victoria was a face. JR called her a popular women’s champion. She didn’t get much of a pop. She was a babyface though, so he had to say that. Molly started out as the aggressor. Victoria was able to roll her up for a count of two. Molly hit a clothesline while they were out on the floor. Back in the ring, Molly hit a suplex and then gave Victoria a neck vice. That killed the crowd even more. It’s a 4.5 hour show. You can’t expect them to be loud all the time. Victoria came back with clotheslines followed by a powerslam for two. Molly dropped low and sent Victoria crashing throat first into the bottom rope. Molly hit a sunset flip powerbomb off the top. It was a little sloppy, but still impressive for a women’s match. Molly went for the Widow’s Peak, which was Victoria’s finisher. Victoria slid out of it and gave her a backslide to win the match.
Analysis: *1/2 Match was fine. Neither character was that over, so the crowd was quiet for most of it. Not a decisive finish at all. I loved Victoria’s finisher. In this case she won with a counter to it and it got no reaction because it was unexpected.
After the match, Molly tried to run away. Victoria chased her. They fought by the entrance where the barber’s chair was seated. Victoria rammed her head first into the table that had the equipment on and then locked her into the chair. Molly was “knocked out” so Victoria cut her hair with the clippers. At least that drew a bit of a reaction. She cut most of her hair even though Molly tried to fight out of it. She ended up shaving it all off. Took a while to get to that point, but they did it.
The WWE Title was up next. Eddie Guerrero was in a feud with his nephew Chavo. Angle pretended to be a peacemaker in that feud, but ultimately he ended up beating the hell out of Eddie on multiple occasions. In between the Chavo/Eddie feud and Eddie/Kurt, Eddie won the WWE title from Brock Lesnar in a match at No Way Out in February. The most memorable occurrence in this feud came on Smackdown before WrestleMania when Eddie proclaimed he could beat then GM Paul Heyman with both hands tied behind his back. On the same show, Angle appeared “via satellite” to cut a promo. During the match, Heyman ducked out of the ring, ran up the aisle and fled while Kurt Angle shockingly came out. He took Eddie in the ring, beat the holy hell out of him while he was in handcuffs and gave us a memorable moment to head into this match with. The idea was that he didn’t respect Eddie as a former drug addict and somebody that should be considered a champion by the fans. Loud reaction to Angle on his entrance with mostly booing, but the fans in NYC had a lot of respect for him as they should. Eddie entered in a low rider. Big ovation for the champ.
WWE Title (Smackdown): Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle
Nice mat wrestling to start, although it might have been too much since the crowd was starting to lose interest. The crowd had already seen three hours of action, so as I said before they had their moments when they were pretty quiet. Eddie knocked him down with a shoulder block and Angle bailed to the floor to regroup. Angle grabbed a front facelock. Guerrero fought out with an arm drag and applied a wrist lock. Angle hit a knee to the ribs and then applied the dreaded abdominal stretch. Eddie countered with a suplex. Then Angle got a German suplex. They fought on the apron where Angle wanted to give him a German suplex off the apron. Eddie gave him a dropkick that sent Kurt to the floor again. Eddie went up, Angle moved and Eddie crashed ribs first into the security wall. When I saw that bump I immediately thought about a bump Randy Savage would always do. Angle spent a lot of time working the midsection with suplexes and holds centering on the ribs including a nice move where he dropped Eddie rib first onto the top rope. Perfect belly to belly suplex by Angle followed by another one for two. Angle’s offense was perfect for the story they were trying to tell.
Angle went for the top rope suplex, but Eddie shoved him off and went for a Frog Splash. Angle moved out of the way, so Eddie hurt his ribs some more. It turned into a bit of a slug fest with Eddie getting some momentum. Eddie hit a back suplex for two. Angle hit a German suplex, but Eddie countered another one by countering into a rollup for two. The crowd wasn’t as loud as they would have liked, I’m sure. It was quiet for much of it. Angle went for an Angle Slam, but Eddie countered with an arm drag and a headscissors takedown. Eddie hit two suplexes, but Angle countered it into an Ankle Lock. Eddie countered it and then hit a dropkick. Eddie went up top. Angle popped up and hit his awesome pop up suplex for two. I loved that move so damn much. Another Ankle Lock attempt, but Eddie turned it into a cradle for two. German suplex by Angle again. Angle Slam countered into a DDT by Eddie was a phenomenal move. It was probably the best counter of the Angle Slam that I had ever seen because of how fluid it was. Frog Splash got only two to the shock of the crowd. Everybody thought that was it. Angle played dead and then jumped on him with another Ankle Lock. Thirty seconds later, Eddie kicked him to the floor. The crowd thought that was it. Eddie started to untie the boot while Angle was on the floor. The beauty of it was that Angle was on the floor, so he never saw Eddie untying the boot. Angle was pissed, Eddie gave an “oh shit” expression on his face and Kurt attacked with an Ankle Lock. This time Eddie kicked at Angle’s arm until he yanked off the boot. Eddie got a tight inside cradle for the win, allowing him to retain the title after 21 minutes.
Winner: Eddie Guerrero
Analysis: ****1/4 The first five minutes of the match were pretty slow, I must say. Things picked up the moment Guerrero went rib first into the railing in a Randy Savage style bump. I liked that. It would have been nice to see Guerrero go on offense a bit more than what he did because it really came off like Guerrero wasn’t doing much. His selling was great, though, so it’s not a big gripe. It also made sense that the Frog Splash only got two since Angle wasn’t hurt that much. The finish was fun and creative. Angle was relentless in going for the Ankle Lock, Eddie sensed that so he ended up using that to his advantage by outsmarting Angle at the end leading to the boot trick and cradle for the win. This wasn’t a match full of highspots or anything like that, but it was full of good straight up wrestling from two of the best. As good as it was, I thought it had the potential to be a five star match if it was worked a different too. Far too many rest holds for that to happen, though. Believe me I’m not complaining that much. I’m just saying I had high hopes for guys the caliber of these two. Maybe those high hopes were unrealistic on my part, but I know what they were capable of.
They replayed the Undertaker/Kane story. At Survivor Series, Undertaker wrestled Vince McMahon. Kane interfered and buried Undertaker alive. He cut a promo about how he did it because Undertaker became one of them, meaning a regular person during his American Badass run, and he didn’t like that. We never saw Undertaker prior to WrestleMania. The big mystery was what would he like look going into the match.
Kane entered first. No more mask for him. For Undertaker’s entrance, it was Paul Bearer that led him out along with a bunch of druids. It was a very long entrance for Undertaker, who walked under the fire that the druids had in their hands. He was back in his classic Undertaker attire, which is what he’s appeared in ever since this day. The crowd popped huge for Undertaker. No surprise there.
The Undertaker vs. Kane
Loud “Un-der-taker” chants by the crowd. Undertaker’s hair was shorter than usual for his Deadman persona. Kane was shocked that Undertaker was back. He closed his eyes as if he was dreaming about it. Undertaker attacked him with fists early. Undertaker hit his legdrop across Kane’s throat while he was on the apron. Undertaker hit a corner splash followed by a clothesline. Undertaker went for a Last Ride. Kane gave him a back drop. I think Undertaker was supposed to have his throat hit the top rope, but he missed it. Kane hit a side suplex and then the top rope clothesline. Kane missed a corner attack. Undertaker hit a running boot to the face followed by a leg drop. If it was Hulkamania that would be it, brother. Undertaker went for the Old School clothesline as Ross busted out a “vintage Undertaker.” Kane avoided it. They choked eachother. Kane hit a chokeslam. Kane celebrated. Undertaker sat up. Leaping clothesline for Undertaker. Chokeslam for Undertaker. The crowd was chanting “Tombstone.” Undertaker hit the Tombstone for the win at 7:45. The Undertaker was 12-0 at WrestleMania with Kane becoming the first opponent that he beat twice.
Analysis: *1/2 Dominant win for Undertaker. Not a very good match. The point was that Undertaker was back to full strength and he got revenge on Kane with a strong performance here. The amount of time was fine with me. If it went any longer it would have been too much.
The video for the main event was up next. This was for HHH’s world title. At the Royal Rumble two months prior, HHH and Michaels wrestled to a draw in a Last Man Standing match when neither man was able to answer the ten count. On that same show, Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble from the number one position. The next night on Raw, Benoit showed up as the number one contender to the title. He had previously been on Smackdown, but there was a rule that allowed allowed him to pick what show he could be on after winning the Rumble. Michaels, meanwhile, didn’t want to let HHH out of his sights so he claimed that he deserved the WM shot. Following a contract signing where Michaels signed the contract after superkicking Benoit, GM Eric Bischoff ruled that it would be a triple threat match for HHH’s world title. The big deal was that the World Title would be decided in the main event in a triple threat match.
We got intros for the main event. Ross pointed out that his was Michaels’ 11th WrestleMania and his 6th WrestleMania main event. Six? He wrestled in the last match at 12 and 14. At 11 he wrestled for the World Title, but it wasn’t the last match. At 10 and 19 he had two amazing matches, but they weren’t considered main events. All the other matches were when he was a midcarder or as part of The Rockers. It was a bit of a reach to say that this was his 6th main event. Sorry JR. He’s still the best announcer ever. Chris Benoit, now residing in Atlanta Georgia, was next. They said the Atlanta thing instead of Edmonton because they thought he’d be more likable if they announced him from an American city. He got a loud pop for his entrance. Triple H was next. Ross said it was his 9th WrestleMania and in the last two he was in main events where he won. The year before he was in a midcard match with Booker T for the World Title. They throw the “main event” word around too much. The top three workers in the company at the time were considered to Michaels, Benoit and Angle in some order while Hunter was very good too. Hunter was the heel while Michaels and Benoit were faces.
World Heavyweight Title (Raw): Triple H vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels
Loud “Let’s Go Benoit” chants before the match. They brawled at the start. Benoit went for a Crossface on Michaels, but couldn’t get it. He threw Shawn into Triple H, which sent Hunter to the floor. Benoit hit a nice Northern Lights suplex for two. Michaels hit Benoit with a clothesline and then Hunter hit one on Michaels. Benoit got dumped to the floor and then Hunter got his running high knee to the face of Michaels. Hunter kneed Benoit out to the floor. Michaels gave Hunter a baseball slide. Michaels went to the top rope and hit a moonsault onto both guys to a nice reaction. Back in the ring, Hunter wanted a Pedigree on Michaels, but Benoit destroyed Hunter with a clothesline and then he rammed Michaels shoulder first into the turnbuckle. Hunter turned Benoit upside down into the corner and then whipped Michaels into the body of Benoit. Nice spot got a two count. Michaels threw Hunter into upside down Benoit, who hit Hunter with a boot to the face. Flying forearm by Michaels to Hunter, then a kip up and then Benoit drilled him with a clothesline that sent Michaels to the floor. Benoit hit the three German Suplexes on Hunter. Michaels blocks a headbutt attempt by crotching Benoit. HHH hits a DDT on Michaels and HBK rolls to the floor. Hunter hit a superplex on Benoit for two. After a struggle, Crossface on HHH by Benoit, but that gets broken up by HBK.
Michaels hits a German Suplex, but Benoit countered for three of his own and then the top rope headbutt got two. The crowd was very supportive of Benoit while not reacting favorably to Michaels. You could tell who they wanted to win. Michaels hit a flying forearm on Benoit that knocked him to the floor. Michaels kipped up again and knocked Hunter down with clotheslines followed by a body slam. Michaels hit the Flying Elbow off the top rope. Now the crowd was getting behind him. Michaels hit the superkick. Benoit pulled Hunter out at the count of two to break the pin. That was a nice spot. Benoit and Michaels fought in the ring. Benoit gave Michaels a slingshot into the ring post. If you look for it, you could see Michaels blading himself while he was on the mat. I remember he did a similar blade job at Badd Blood 1997 in the Hell in a Cell match against Undertaker. I’m a blade job enthusiast, I guess you could say. Benoit put Michaels in the Crossface. Michaels almost tapped, but HHH blocked his hand from hitting the mat in a memorable spot. Benoit brawled with Hunter on the floor. Hunter whipped Benoit into the steel steps. They showed Michaels, who was bleeding profusely from the head. Hunter cleared off the equipment on the Smackdown announce table. Then they cleared the top of the Spanish table off where they had a fight. Michaels showed up. They picked Benoit up together and slammed him through the Smackdown table while the crowd started up a “Holy Shit!” chant. Michaels went back in the ring, pointed at Hunter and said that they had to settle it once and for all. Michaels threw Hunter into the corner so Hunter could do his bump where he flies over the corner and into the floor. Michaels threw Hunter into the ring post. Hunter came up bleeding. Michaels attacked with punches. Hunter came back with a Pedigree. It took him too long to cover and Benoit jumped back into the ring to break up the pin attempt. All three guys were down. Loud “Let’s Go Benoit” chants once again. Benoit counters a Pedigree with a Sharpshooter as the crowd went wild. Hunter almost tapped. Michaels broke it up by hitting a superkick on Benoit. That was a great spot. Michaels made the crawl to cover for a count of two. Loud “Benoit” chants. Michaels goes for another superkick, but he can’t get it due to Benoit dumping him over the top to the floor. That left just Benoit and Triple H. The Pedigree got reversed into the Crippler Crossface. Every time HHH tried to get to the ropes Benoit pulled back on it even more. The crowd was chanting for the tap out. After about two minutes in the hold, Hunter tapped out at 24:40.
Winner and New World Heavyweight Champion: Chris Benoit
Analysis: ****3/4 I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again, I’m not a huge fan of triple threat matches. I understand why they are done in the first place. I just find them to be too repetitive with the constant “hit the finisher, other guy breaks it up” stuff that happens in nearly every triple threat match. With that said, this is my favorite triple threat match ever. There’s so many things to like. They did a tremendous job of getting in believable nearfalls as well as near submissions. The fans were really into Benoit here, booing Michaels a lot of the time and of course booing HHH as well. My favorite spots were the Crossface on Michaels where HHH stopped the tap literally with his own hand. Then the other spot was that double suplex through the table because it was such a hard, emphatic bump for Benoit to take. Of course the ending was very memorable as well with HHH tapping clean to the Crossface. I think going into the match a lot of us had the feeling that Benoit was going to win, but for it to be in a clean match with no ref bumps and HHH tapping clean made it work all that much more. If this ended on a roll up or cradle or something like that then maybe it’s not as good of a match. However, since it was a decisive ending I think it’s worthy of all the praise it receives.
To end the show, Eddie Guerrero walked out with the WWE Title. Confetti fell from the roof. He applauded his friend. They hugged in the ring. The crowd loved it. Ross called it the greatest WrestleMania of all time. I think he said that every year.
As always, the video package showed the highlights of the show.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The main thing I took away from this show was that at 4.5 hours in length it was too damn long. I’m fine with a 3 hour 45 minute WrestleMania, but anything more than that is too much.
– It was the night of the babyfaces as WrestleMania should be. The only heels that won were Evolution and Chavo Guerrero. That’s an impressive 10 for 12 record for the good guys.
– The match that surprised me the most was the 3 on 2 handicap match. I had forgotten how well it was put together with Rock & Foley taking turns being the faces in peril. The win was huge for Orton. I would have liked to see more of Rock vs. Flair, but Rock’s movie career was taking off at this point in his life.
– I was impressed by the performance of Cena, Orton and Batista. All three of them received huge pushes over the next year following this event and obviously in the case of Cena & Orton they’re at the top of the business eight years later too.
– It was hard watching the Benoit/Guerrero embrace at the end. My emotions in 2004 were pure joy. I was genuinely happy for two guys that I loved as performers. Now I’m sad that Eddie passed away and Benoit’s life ended with the biggest tragedy in the history of the business. I’m not here to relive it. I’m just saying what I felt.
Best Match: Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Michaels
Worst Match: Goldberg vs. Lesnar
Most Memorable Moment: The Benoit/Guerrero embrace to end the show.
1. Triple H – Put Benoit over clean right in the middle as he should have.
2. Chris Benoit – Great performance.
3. Shawn Michaels – Played his role well although the crowd clearly didn’t want him to win.
4. Eddie Guerrero – Loved the trick at the end of his match.
5. Kurt Angle – He was the over aggressive heel. It cost him the match. Clever booking.
I feel bad not being able to mention the guys in the 3 on 2 tag or the Christian/Jericho match, but I can only list two so I mentioned the five guys from those matches.
Show rating (out of 10): 8
A fantastic main event, a very good Guerrero/Angle match, the Evolution vs. Rock & Sock tag match and the exciting Christian/Jericho story made this an above average WrestleMania. There were a handful of below average matches too. I question why they even did things like the fatal fourway tags or the Cruiserweight Open, but I guess the reasoning was they wanted to get more people on the show. It made the show too long.
Previous recaps listed in order with main event and ranking out of 10:
WrestleMania 17 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (10/10)
WrestleMania 19 – Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (9.5/10)
WrestleMania 20 – Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (8/10)
WrestleMania 10 – Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (7.5/10)
WrestleMania 8 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sid & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (7/10)
WrestleMania 3 – Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (7/10)
WrestleMania 14 – Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (7/10)
WrestleMania 18 – Triple H v. Chris Jericho (6.5/10)
WrestleMania 7 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter (6.5)
WrestleMania 6 – Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (6/10)
WrestleMania 16 – Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. Big Show (5.5/10)
WrestleMania 12 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (5.5/10)
WrestleMania 15 – Steve Austin vs. The Rock (5/10)
WrestleMania 11 – Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (5/10)
WrestleMania 1 – Hogan/Mr T vs. Piper/Orndorff (4.5/10)
WrestleMania 4 – Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase (4.5/10)
WrestleMania 13 – The Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid (4/10)
WrestleMania 5 – Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage (4/10)
WrestleMania 2 – Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (4/10)
WrestleMania 9 – Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna (2/10)
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale:
1. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WM13: *****
2. Steve Austin vs. The Rock @ WM17: *****
3. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM17: *****
4. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM10: *****
5. Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart @ WM10: *****
6. Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage @ WM3: *****
7. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels @ WM20: ****3/4
8. Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle @ WM19: ****3/4
9. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart @ WM12: ****1/2
10. Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage @ WM7: ****1/2
11. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho @ WM19: ****1/2
12. Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair @ WM8: ****1/2
13. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit @WM17: ****1/4
14. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle @ WM20: ****1/4
15. Edge & Christian vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Hardy Boyz @ WM16: ****1/4
16. The Rock vs. Steve Austin @ WM19: ****
17. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan @ WM18: ****
18. Randy Orton, Batista & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley @WM20: ****
19. Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper @ WM8: ****
You can check out all of my WrestleMania Reviews here.
John Canton [email protected]