WM PPV Countdown: #10 – WrestleMania X8

While many WrestleMania pay per views before it produced solid cards, great semi-main event attractions and a guaranteed moneymaking main event, WrestleMania X8 produced a top-to-bottom fantastic twelve match card and boasted no less than six one-on-one matches that featured either one or both opponents that were a current or former World Heavyweight Champion. Not to mention that the five undercard matches that were featured on pay per view were all for Championships, it made for the true definition of a supercard.

Held inside the Toronto SkyDome, the site of WrestleMania VI twelve years earlier, it made for an amazing stadium atmosphere full of rabid Canadian pro wrestling fans. Counting the pre-show bout, the card boasted twelve matches in addition to shenanigans involving the Hardcore Championship that acted as transitions in between matches.

The show flowed from top to bottom, starting with the pre-show bout featuring native Canadians Lance Storm and Test and the always crowd-friendly Rikishi and Scotty. The pay per view then opened with wildly popular Rob Van Dam winning the Intercontinental Championship and Ontario native Christian challenging for the European Championship. From there the Maven-Goldust Hardcore Championship match was interrupted by Spike Dudley and Crash Holly, which played off the Hardcore Title’s 24/7 pinfalls count anywhere and anytime rules that were established at the time. The 24/7 shenanigans would play on throughout the night after various other stars such as Al Snow, The Hurricane, Mighty Molly and Christian would also get involved in the action.

From there it started the series of main event level matches as Kurt Angle beat Kane in a rivalry that was based simply on the fact that the two had surprisingly amazing chemistry with each other and could be relied to put on a great match. Hometown boy Edge beat Booker T in a feud dreamed up over Edge getting the role over Booker in a commercial for a fictional Japanese shampoo. I wish I was making that up. The Undertaker brought a great match out of a recently returned Ric Flair, back when The Streak wasn’t hyped as hard as it is now and thus made the outcome a little more in question. Stone Cold Steve Austin found himself very uncharacteristically in the mid-card as he battled the new World order’s Scott Hall. While definitely a main event level match, it took a backseat to other matches on the card and was an odd spot for mega-star Austin to be in.

The actual show-closing main event was Chris Jericho defending the Undisputed WWF World Heavyweight Championship against Triple H. The two men had been rivals since 2000, which led to a lot of backstory to the match, but the build fell flat when Triple H’s wife Stephanie McMahon was interjected into the feud as Jericho’s manager. Then a sub-plot about Triple H’s dog Lucy added to the ridiculousness of what should have been a WrestleMania main event level build-up.

In truth what everyone came to WrestleMania X8 to see was the past versus present, “Icon versus Icon” match between The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had all returned to the WWF weeks earlier as the nWo. The trio made their return on February 17, 2002, at the No Way Out pay per view. The loyal WWE fans hadn’t seen Hogan in a WWE ring for over eight years and they showered with wild cheers and applause, despite him supposed to be playing a villain. You could see the emotion in Hogan’s face despite being masked behind sunglasses. It was apparent right there that Hogan wouldn’t last as a bad guy.

Going into the match Hogan was positioned as the clear bad guy while The Rock was supposed to be conquering hero. But on that March 17 day in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the fans dictated otherwise. As a side note, this was the first time that Hogan entered the SkyDome as a wrestler since his WrestleMania VI loss to The Ultimate Warrior. It’s safe to say that many of those same fans that watched Hogan versus Warrior in 1990 were now back twelve years later, all grown up with families and lives of their own.

The stare down between Hogan and Rock was as epic as any scene in an action movie. The crowd even “popped” at the opening bell. The fans’ nostalgia for the Hogan they grew up with took over and every move he made was cheered wildly. The more Hogan cheated in the match the more the crowd loved him. No matter what The Rock tried the Canadian crowd booed him mercifully. The two consummate professionals switched up their game plan mid-match and started playing to their reactions. It was one of those matches that isn’t technically sound or considered a “five-star” classic, but it is a classic based on the story told and the crowd’s activeness. Much like how a ball game can be swayed by the fans’ participation (the proverbial sixth man), this match was much the same. With a fully invested crowd the match was turned up to a whole new level. It is kind of like how when you watch a big dumb action movie that’s only really good with the volume turned way up in order to get the whole effect.

In the end The Rock pinned Hogan clean in the middle of the ring to win the match (as he should have), but the story did end there. After the match the two gladiators stood middle ring as the spectators chanted Hogan’s name. The two men shook hands in a show of respect as Rock celebrated his victory. Unfortunately for Hogan his nWo co-horts didn’t appreciate Hogan’s mutual admiration society with Rock and they hit the ring to attack their now-former leader. Rock returned and saved his adversary from a double team attack from Hall and Nash. The two heroes celebrated mid-ring as the past and present came together.

That moment at WrestleMania X8 was a night for fans that grew up watching Hulk Hogan tell them to “train, say your prayers and eat your vitamins” to return to their childhood for one night only. It didn’t matter to them that Hogan was supposed to be the “bad guy,” to those fans overwhelmed with nostalgia and memories that night Hogan was still the hero they always remembered.

Match Results:
– Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty & Albert beat Mr. Perfect, Test & Lance Storm live on Sunday Night Heat before the pay per view aired. Jacqueline was the special guest referee.
– Rob Van Dam beat William Regal (c) to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
– Diamond Dallas Page (c) beat Christian to retain the WWF European Championship.
– Maven (c) fought to a no contest with Goldust in a WWF Hardcore Championship match.
– Kurt Angle beat Kane.
– The Undertaker beat Ric Flair.
– Edge beat Booker T.
– Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Scott Hall.
– Billy & Chuck (c) retained the WWF World Tag Team Championships in a four-way elimination match over Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley, Matt & Jeff Hardy and The APA (Faarooq & Bradshaw).
– The Rock beat Hollywood Hulk Hogan.
– Jazz (c) retained the WWF Women’s Championship in a triple threat match over Lita and Trish Stratus.
– Triple H beat Chris Jericho (c) to win the WWF Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship.

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