WM PPV Countdown: #1 – WrestleMania X-Seven

It has been called the best professional wrestling pay per view or supercard in professional wrestling history. For many other long-time fans, it’s right up there with NWA Great American Bash ’89. But in the pantheon of WrestleMania events, WrestleMania X-Seven on April 1, 2001, from the Houston Astrodome stands tall amongst its competitors.

Everything about the card worked. It featured the culminations of many long-term storylines, featured amazing technical wrestling, wild car crashes, insane drama and some light-hearted fun. The show literally had something for everyone.

The showed opened with a fun Intercontinental Championship match between Chris Jericho and William Regal. Jericho was crazy over with the fans and was a great choice to open the show against the hated Regal. The two veterans knew their role and were great in getting the crowd warmed up for the night. The six man tag featuring Tazz and The Acolyte Protection Agency against Right To Censor was the night’s only real filler, but it was an excuse to get company man Bradshaw, also from Texas, on the card and earn a victory while putting an end to The Right To Censor, which was one 2000’s hottest acts. Then Kane beat his long-time rival The Big Show and Hardcore Champion Raven in a wild and fun Hardcore Championship match that allowed Kane and Show to show off their strength while incorporating some fun backstage spots including a golf cart. In the night’s third Championship match, Eddie Guerrerro led Test to a decent European Title match, even after Test got his foot caught in the ring ropes mid-match.

After that the show produced a really great honest-to-goodness wrestling match between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. Arguably two of the greatest professional athletes of the day were matched up simply because neither had a rivalry going into the show and putting the two together would automatically produce a great match, which it did. From there Chyna defeated Ivory in a quick match to retain the Women’s Championship. While the match was short and awful, it did pay off a long-standing rivalry between the two women and got the quite popular Chyna a spot on the card.

From there it was one of the night’s four marquee bouts as Vince McMahon took on his son Shane McMahon in a wild “father versus son” Street Fight. By the early millennium the entire McMahon family had made WWE television their own personal playground as Vince, his wife Linda, son Shane and daughter Stephanie had all become on-air characters. Like any good soap opera the family was constantly turning on each other and reuniting depending on the way the wind blew. But when Vince stepped into the ring against Shane in the Street Fight, it was the culmination of months of story that could only be showcased on such a stage as WrestleMania.

So here’s the story. (deep breathe) Vince was playing the evil megalomaniac “Mr. McMahon,” a man bent on world domination. He had just spent over two years battling his rebellious employee Stone Cold Steve Austin and then put his closest competition in both World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling out of business. He was now king of the wrestling world. In the process he demanded a divorce from his wife Linda, who then went into a nervous breakdown and ended up in an institution. He then started dating young, blonde starlet Trish Stratus to rub it into everyone’s faces. In the process of buying World Championship Wrestling from Ted Turner, his son Shane snuck in and signed the contract from under him. Shane McMahon was now the owner of WCW. Shane wanted to stop his out-of-control father and was trying to defend his mother’s honor. Vince wanted to squash his insubordinate son and bury WCW like he had originally imagined. So the stage was set for something epic.

Both McMahon boys put on the staged show of a lifetime on their family’s grandest platform. To hide the fact that neither was a classically trained wrestler they pulled out all the stops with crazy stunts, weapons, interference and all the hoopla associated with a pro wrestling circus. The match itself was fantastic with a great storyline ending where the comatose Linda rose from her wheelchair and kicked her cheating husband below the belt to the crowd’s roaring approval.

It was a soap opera story that The Young & The Restless couldn’t have come up with any better. And in the end, like always at WrestleMania, the good guy came out on top. The conquering son Shane overtook his overbearing father, protected his mother and stood tall on that night. And top it all off the young blonde Trish dumped him for being the dirty old man that he was.

From there the insane craziness continued as The Hardy Boyz battled Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz in TLC 2, a rematch from the original Tables, Ladders and Chairs match back at SummerSlam 2000 and a rematch from WrestleMania 2000’s three team Ladder Match, both of which were won by Edge & Christian. The three teams had been battling since early 2000 and this would be the ultimate blow off to their year and a half long feud, with The Dudleyz bringing the tables, Edge and Christian bringing the chairs and The Hardy Boyz bringing the ladders.

Knowing that this was the finale of their rivalry the six men really pulled out all the stops in an effort to top their two previous Ladder Match outings. Each team had its own backup with them that interfered in the match. The Hardy Boyz’ had their manager Lita, The Dudley Boyz brought their little “brother” Spike with them and Edge and Christian had their own personal thug named Rhyno. All nine people were involved in a match that saw wrestlers falling off ladders with reckless abandon, getting put through stacks of wooden tables and generally taking ridiculous and dangerous falls for the sake of the fans’ entertainment. It was essential to have nine people a part of the match so that there were always a couple of people available to carry on the match while the rest were able to recover from taking a potentially dangerous stunt.

Without using too many clichés, the match turned into a human car crash and after the match the ringside area looked like the scene of a tornado as remnants of broken tables, bent and twisted ladders and dented folding chairs littered the ring. Edge and Christian won this match as well, and earned their seventh Tag Championship in the process, making them 3-for-3 in these three team ladder matches.

They all gave their bodies to this match for the sake of entertainment. Sure the match was planned ahead of time and the winner was pre-determined, but after watching TLC 2, I dare you to call it “fake.” After all I would just reference you the question Jim Ross asked while broadcasting the event, “How do you learn to fall of a twenty-foot ladder?” You don’t. You just do it and pay the consequences tomorrow.

The only way to come down from such a wild one-two punch like the Street Fight and TLC was to have a fun gimmick battle royal. Being the show was held on April Fools Day it seemed appropriate to hold a battle featuring nineteen former WWE acts in a fun battle royal. The match was inconsequential, as the charade was really all about seeing everyone’s old entrance once again while hearing the sounds of Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan on commentary. Iron Sheik won the match for those keeping score, but in reality that was probably because he physically couldn’t take the bump over the ropes safely. It was great seeing some old faces, giving them one more WrestleMania payday and allowing the fans to cool down before the final two events of the night.

In the semi-main event, The Undertaker battled Triple H in a wild brawl. They were the two biggest stars not in the World Title scene and it seemed logical to pair them up against each other. They had a great match and brawl that proved them to be two of the company’s greatest. Plus The Undertaker’s famed Streak wasn’t as hyped as it is today so the outcome was definitely in question, but in the end Undertaker stood tall as he always does.

But it was the main event that truly put the event over the top. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock ruled the WWF in the ‘90s. They were the leaders of the “Attitude” era that played against each other even better than they played with each other. They are the only two men to have three separate singles matches against each other at different WrestleManias. It is a rivalry that lasted the span of five and a half years, right up until Austin’s very last match in the business. In my humble opinion it was the greatest rivalry in WrestleMania history. Their first meeting on the “grandest stage of them all” was in 1999 at WrestleMania XV, but it was two years later during WrestleMania X-Seven where Rock and Austin had their greatest match, and one of WrestleMania’s greatest matches. Once again The Rock came in as Champion, this time loved dearly by the fans for his in-ring talent, mannerisms, catchphrases and a charisma that may never be matched in the wrestling industry. Austin, once again came in as the challenger and the people’s hero. He was also coming back from serious neck surgery that had put him out of action for over a year previously. He had only been in the ring about six months at this point and earned this Title shot by winning his record-breaking third Royal Rumble match.

It was like Hulk Hogan versus Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania VI all over again with the two superheroes colliding, only this time Austin was clearly the favorite being that the show was in his home state of Texas. The build-up to the match was one of the best in WWE history. It was simply a case of two men and one Title and something had to give. In 2001 Limp Bizkit was the hottest band in the land and their track “My Way” was the soundtrack for the event, and the top-notch production crew put together the finest video package I have ever seen to the tune of the song that encapsulated Rock and Austin’s epic rivalry.

The match that night had just an aura; an epic buzz surrounding it. The match was fought under no disqualifications and Rock and Austin took full advantage of that precedent. They brawled all over the ringside area. Both men bled, and both men escaped each other’s finishing moves a number of times. It was obvious watching that this wasn’t just another match. The match built up like a beautiful story and as the climax was about to hit, Mr. McMahon himself came out to ringside and began to slyly help Austin, despite being a mortal enemy to both Rock and Austin coming into the match. Once the referee was knocked down Stone Cold and McMahon began working together to put down the Rock. Their plan succeeded and after numerous chair shots from Austin, The Rock was down for the pin.

Stone Cold Steve Austin became WWF Champion for the fourth time but in the process he made a “deal with the devil himself” Mr. McMahon. Austin and McMahon had been bitter rivals for over three years at this point and their feud carried the WWF to insurmountable heights through 1998 and 1999. To say the alliance was shocking was an understatement. It went over terribly in the pro-Austin crowd in Texas, but it was truly a surprise wrestling fans weren’t expecting, including yours truly and those at the WrestleMania party I was attending.

When Stone Cold Steve Austin won the WWF World Championship for the first time at WrestleMania XIV it marked the unofficial beginning of the “Attitude” era. When he turned his back on the fans and joined the evil Mr. McMahon that night at WrestleMania X-Seven, it was the end of the “Attitude” era, the most profitable time in the WWF’s history.

Match Results:
– X-Factor (X-Pac & Justin Credible) beat Grandmaster Sexay & Steve Blackman in a match live on Sunday Night Heat before the pay per view aired.
– Chris Jericho (c) beat William Regal to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
– Tazz and The Acolyte Protection Agency (Faarooq & Bradshaw) beat The Right To Censor (Bull Buchanan, The Goodfather & Val Venis) in a six man tag match.
– Kane beat The Big Show & Raven (c) in a triple threat match to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.
Eddie Guerrero beat Test (c) to win the WWF European Championship.
– Kurt Angle pinned Chris Benoit.
– Chyna pinned Ivory (c) to win the WWF Women’s Championship.
Shane McMahon beat Vince McMahon in a Street Fight. Mick Foley was the guest referee.
Edge & Christian beat Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley (c) and Matt & Jeff Hardy to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships in a TLC Match.
– The Iron Sheik won a Gimmick Battle Royal. Other participants included Bushwackers Luke & Butch, Tugboat, Earthquake, Brother Love, Jim Cornette, Michael Hayes, Repo Man, Kamala, Kim Chee, One Man Gang, Doink The Clown, Hillbilly Jim, Gobbledy Gooker, The Goon, Nikolai Volkoff, Sgt. Slaugher and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese.
– The Undertaker pinned Triple H.
Stone Cold Steve Austin pinned The Rock (c) to win the WWF World Championship in a no disqualifications match.

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