WM PPV Countdown: #6 – WrestleMania XIX

WrestleMania XIX was an interesting time for World Wrestling Entertainment.

During the year 2002 many big things happened in the company, for the better and for the worst. In 2001, the World Wrestling Federation bought its major competition in World Championship Wrestling and scooped up the remains of the dying Extreme Championship Wrestling. Immediately after WrestleMania X8, WWF decided to expand their touring schedule into separate “brands,” where wrestlers would be “drafted” to either the RAW show or the SmackDown show and would wrestle primarily for that brand. Then about a month later, the World Wrestling Federation (which it was called at the time) went under a name change to World Wrestling Entertainment, thanks to losing a legal battle to the World Wildlife Fund for the initials “WWF.”

By early 2003 the company started to find its groove and established the two brands into clearly distinguished shows with different talent, styles and booking philosophies.

So by the time that WrestleMania XIX came around in late March 2003 there was a lot more main event available for top spots as both brands had their own separate World Championship that could deserve the final match of the night. Plus other major matches were scheduled for the show, including WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon battling his own creation Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho challenging Shawn Michaels and The Rock battling Stone Cold Steve Austin in what ultimately ended up being Austin’s final match and one of Rock’s last matches as well. To say WrestleMania XIX was stacked would be an understatement.

Shawn Michaels versus Chris Jericho was a rivalry built on Jericho being a fan of Michaels as a young man growing up. In Jericho’s eyes he had become the “new Shawn Michaels” while Michaels, fresh off returning from a four year back injury, wanted to battle Jericho in order to prove he still had it. It ended up being a beautiful battle of “past versus present” and “young versus old.” It turned to be an absolutely fantastic match. Michaels came out victorious, proving he still had it and set him on the road to his amazing career resurgence built on the backs of stealing the show every year at WrestleMania.

The two creators of WrestleMania, Mr. McMahon and Hulk Hogan, also battled in a clash of titans at WrestleMania XIX. The match and the entire event was subtitled “Twenty Years in the Making,” based on the relationship that Hogan and McMahon had built up over the twenty past years, starting back with Hogan’s first WWF Championship reign in 1984. Despite both men being far over the hill and no longer active, full-time wrestlers the match the two know how to put together a match and keep the crowd in the palms of their hands. They didn’t disappoint here and built a wild street fight based on twenty years of history.

The other major rivalry going into the show saw The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin revisit their rivalry one more time at WrestleMania XIX. The superstars of the “Attitude” era had been rivals off/on since 1997 and this would be their third one-on-one match at WrestleMania in five years. The Rock would finally win in this third and final outing in what would be end up being Stone Cold’s final match and one of The Rock’s final matches as well. It is not only the greatest rivalry in WrestleMania history, but one of the greatest rivalries in all of pro wrestling history.

But ultimately the final spot of the evening ended up going to former NCAA wrestling powerhouse Brock Lesnar against Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship, the company’s biggest prize. Lesnar had only been in WWE for a little under a year at this point and won his second WWE Championship in the match, while Angle had only been with the company for little over three years at that point was already a three-time World Champion.

The two legit athletes put on a fantastic match that combined the two men’s athletic skills, their ability to tell a WWE-style main event and some crazy highlights, most notably an insane Shooting Star Press from the 300 lbs. Lesnar that could have easily broken his neck. Lesnar ended up winning the match and the Championship in what looked like would be a new start for the company.

As at the time it felt like WWE was really going through a new phase in their history, what with their new name, their initial “brand expansion” and new main event stars on top of the card it was an interesting time to be a WWE fan. Since then the roster expansion has continually been tweaked, Lesnar is out of the industry and Angle is working for TNA Wrestling, WWE’s main competition, but it was a sign that WWE was willing to try something new. The company put a lot of faith in Lesnar and Angle to close out their biggest event and frankly they didn’t disappoint. It’s always been said that Vince McMahon works his best when his back is against the wall, and with him still trying to “get over” his the company’s new name, new touring concept and new talent he didn’t disappoint with this event.

Match Results:
– Lance Storm & Sean Morley (c) beat Rob Van Dam & Kane to retain the World Tag Team Championships live on Sunday Night Heat before the pay per view went on air.
– Matt Hardy (c) beat Rey Mysterio to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
– The Undertaker beat A-Train & The Big Show in a handicap match.
– Trish Stratus beat Victoria (c) & Jazz in a triple threat match to win the WWE Women’s Championship.
– Team Angle (Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas) beat Eddie & Chavo Guerrero and Rhyno & Chris Benoit in a triple threat match to retain the WWE Tag Team Championships.
– Triple H (c) pinned Booker T to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
– Hulk Hogan beat Vince McMahon in a Street Fight.
– The Rock pinned Stone Cold Steve Austin.
– Brock Lesnar pinned Kurt Angle (c) to win the WWE Championship.

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