This Smark Wrestlemania Rant by Scott Keith is part of a series of reposts counting down to this year’s Wrestlemania. They are re-published “as is” with relative commentary from when they were written. Enjoy!
The SmarK Rant for WWF Wrestlemania X-8
– Live from the Center of the Universe.
– Your hosts are JR & King
– Saliva starts us out by wasting 5 minutes that could have been used for another match. Hey, I like Saliva, but I don’t pay to see bands doing live versions of the “official Wrestlemania theme song”. But then I don’t pay to see endless commercials either, and we seem to get those out the wazoo, too.
– Next up, a nice video package with people reminiscing about what Wrestlemania means to them.
– You know what they needed for this show? Darkness. It would have been boss if they had turned down the lights a bit like Wrestlemania VI to go for that old-school feeling instead of having every seat in the house lit like a Christmas tree for broadcast purposes. And those motorized carts to carry them to the ring. That shit never gets old.
– Opening match, Intercontinental title: William Regal v. Rob Van Dam. Poor Rob – the more over he gets, the farther down the card he ends up. Hogan and HHH generate shitty ratings but get big pops and thus get pushed, while Rob gets big pops but gets depushed. Rob attacks and spinkicks Regal. Standing moonsault and a charge hits elbow. Regal goes for the Power of the Punch early, but Rob wisely kicks it out of his hands and gets a sidekick. The frog splash misses, and Regal knees him down for two. Rob bodypresses him for two. Backslide gets two, but Regal comes back with a suplex for two. Rob comes back again with a head kick, but falls victim to the twisty neckbreaker for two. Regal hits the chinlock, but Rob escapes and gets a superkick, then misses Rolling Thunder. Regal with the butterfly powerbomb for two. RVD cradle gets two. Rob slugs away and gets the rolling monkey flip after an aborted attempt at it, but Regal gets a vicious half-nelson suplex out of nowhere that looks like it nearly killed Rob, but in a good way. Regal recovers his lost knuckles, but the ref takes them, and Rob finishes him off with the frog splash at 6:19 to win the title. Pretty much a RAW match. **1/2
– European title match: DDP v. Christian. I wish they’d just give it up with DDP already. Christian cuts an anti-Toronto promo because I guess it’s vitally important for him to get booed 18 matches down the card or something. Christian attacks to start, but DDP slugs him down and gets a gutbuster. They head out and brawl, and back in Christian goes low to take over. DDP gets sent to the railing, and Christian stomps him down. DDP slugs back and tries to post him, but the cruel hand of irony interjects itself and DDP hits the post instead. Christian gets to an abdominal stretch and gets the backbreaker for two. He goes up, but gets slammed off and clotheslined. Rotation powerbomb gets two for Page. Christian blocks a Diamond Cutter with an inverted DDT, for two. He resists the tantrum, but gets cradled for two and Diamond Cut at 6:10 to finish. Match had no heat and was a tad sloppy, but otherwise it was okay for a Heat main event, I guess. **1/4
– Meanwhile, Rock makes Coach say his prayers. “What up, G?” Too funny.
– Hardcore title match: Maven v. Goldust. Maven doesn’t really mean anything in Canada, just because Tough Enough was REALLY old news by the time we got it. Goldust attacks and dumps him on the railing, then guillotines him there. In the ring, Maven messes up his one move (the dropkick) and cradles for two. Goldust gets a neckbreaker for two. Gourdbuster and he finds a golden shovel under the ring, and does some damage. They KO each other and Spike Dudley runs in to pin Maven and win the title at 3:18. I hate that finish, especially on the “biggest show of the year”. It just makes it look like time filler. Ã‚Â½*
– And now, Drowning Pool. Visually and musically, there’s not much to distinguish them from Saliva. I guess the singer has shorter hair, but that’s about it.
– In the back, Crash & Spike do battle, but Hurricane sneaks in and wins the title. Okay, we got the joke when it was already beaten into the ground 2 years ago, let’s find something else to amuse the writers now.
– Moments ago, for those who just flipped over to some other PPV channel, Hurricane wins the title.
– Kurt Angle v. Kane. Angle is wearing tremendous black-variation tights, which remind me of Superman. You know that episode of SuperFriends that was completely derived from the Mirror Universe episode of Star Trek, where Superman gets blown up and switches places with his evil opposite except that none of the good SuperFriends really notice outside of being all “Whoa, Superman, that’s a totally black costume you’ve got there, dude” while Good Superman clashes with Sneering Batman (complete with Oilcan Harry moustache and implied butt-f*cking of Evil Robin) and gets chained underwater with Kryptonite chains (made special at the local Kryptonite wholesaler, I guess) before using his heat vision to somehow turn the water into acid (explain THAT one, chemistry buffs) and dissolve the chains before a completely contrived coincidence results in the Good SuperFriends figuring out that they have to blow up Evil Superman at precisely the same moment Good Superman gets blown up in the Mirror Universe to reverse the effect? Except of course the waters of SuperFriends Pseudo-Science got even muddier when Wonder Woman encountered the Anti-Matter Universe, which made me, as a budding science geek who spent much of his time watching Saturday morning cartoons and reading comics, wonder exactly how many planes of existance could actually be supported like this before the entire universe blew up due to the overwhelming logic gaps involved in keeping track of who was from what universe. But then you get into a whole thing with the mid-80s DC Universe where you had the Multiverse AND the anti-matter universe as two separate concepts, but was the anti-matter universe also a multiverse or was it just an anti-matter copy of Earth 1? Yeah, well, anyway, Angle’s black costume makes me think he’s the Mirror Angle (how’s THAT for a clever play on words?) except he lacks the evil goatee. So perhaps he’s the Anti-Matter Angle. Amazingly, Kurt Angle, despite being the most supremely gifted guy seen in years in the WWF who can get a **** match out of a tin-can if he’s motivated AND has legitimate sports credibility, is actually in a lower position on the card this year than he was last year. Why is this guy not WWF champion RIGHT NOW? You won’t see cooler tights than the Mirror Universe Angle anywhere else this year, PLUS everyone in the building chants “You suck!” in time with his music. Do I have to draw you a freakin’ diagram? Angle nails him with the ringbell and slugs away, but Kane follows suit. Angle suplexes him and stomps away. Kane slugs back and gets the two-handed choke. Blind charge hits nothing and Angle gets a belly to belly and a clothesline, and then a backdrop suplex for two. Angle hits the chinlock, but Kane escapes with a sideslam. Angle stays on him with the rolling germans (yikes) for two. Man, Kane is sure game tonight. Angle goes for his own version of the flying clothesline (the man expands his moveset EVERY MATCH) but tries it again and gets caught coming down. I’m thinking that the original clothesline was a mistake and he just repeated the spot, but it looked fine. They slug it out and Kane gets the big boot, and a powerslam for two. Chokeslam gets two. Angle gets the Angle Slam, for two. Anklelock, but Kane makes the ropes and then counters with the Kanezuigiri. Kane goes up and Angle does that awesome “pop up and biel him off the top” spot, and then they blow the finish as Kane can’t quite get in position during a reverse-rollup spot that finishes for Angle at 10:51. Well, Kane tried hard again, but forces were aligned against them and it wasn’t much better than their second match on TV. **1/2 Had they gone with the storyline for their ***1/2 classic from Smackdown, with Angle working the leg to build to a submission win, it might have meant something.
– Meanwhile, Hurricane peeps on the escorts, but Godfather chases him off. Hilarity ensues.
– Undertaker v. Ric Flair. Flair attacks to start and they brawl out right away. Flair pounds away on him, and UT bails as soon as they head back in. Flair chases like a moron and gets posted. JR brings up the old “Flair had a broken back in 1976” argument to help sell the move, but I’m thinking that if it hasn’t healed after, oh, 26 years, he’s got bigger problems than just getting rammed into the post. Back in, Flair fights back but gets clobbered. Flair Flip and Taker boots him off the apron. Taker pounds on him and draws blood. Well, you knew that was coming. That goes on for a while. In the ring, more punching. Flair is just gushing, hovering in the 0.5-0.6 Muta range. Flair comes back with chops but Taker won’t give him anything and clotheslines him. They head up top and UT pulls out a superplex for two. Whoa, a wrestling move. Who’d have thunk? Back out again, Taker legdrops him on the apron. It gets two. Elbow misses, and Flair fights back again. Taker goes for the ROPEWALK OF DOOM but Flair pulls him off, only to get sideslammed for two. Taker crotches himself and bails, but Flair grabs the dreaded DILDO OF DEATH before it can fall into the wrong hands, and gives UT some weak shots with it. They fight into the aisle and back in, as Flair opens a cut on Taker and goes low. Figure-four, but UT won’t sell and he chokeslams out of it for two. He then bumps the ref and grabs the pipe, but Arn runs in for a well-timed spinebuster! That only gets two. Taker beats on him, but gets chaired by Flair, which he also shrugs off. He can’t do the Poochiebomb properly, so he opts for the Tombstone instead to finish things off at 18:45. Honestly, I can appreciate it for what it was (two old guys punching each other for 20 minutes), and for what it was within the boundaries of their DOZENS of limitations, it was very very good. But I have to say that I was pretty bored watching it and watching Flair piss away his legacy match by match like this. *** And not that Flair should have gone over here, but the buildup for the match featured Taker beating up his best friend and his son, then getting Flair arrested, then getting Flair thrown off the board of directors, and ended with Taker beating both Flair & Arn to win the match. I just don’t see the point of booking such a one-sided feud.
– Booker T v. Edge. Edge is of course crazy over. Sign of the night: “They’re Fighting Over Shampoo!” They slug it out to start, and Edge dropkicks him and gets a bulldog for two. Booker hotshots him for two. He dumps him, and back in a missile dropkick gets two. Sweet. Booker has the best missile dropkick in the business, especially for someone his size, and he never uses it anymore. Whiplash slam gets two. Edge crotches him and they botch a top-rope rana spot. It’s always scary to see moves like that go wrong. Edge gets a leg lariat and the Edge-o-Matic for two. Have they even called it that recently? For those about to e-mail me, that’s a rhetorical question – I don’t actually care about the answer. Flying leg lariat gets two. Booker’s sunset flip is reversed to a catapult, but Edge’s spear misses and Booker superkicks him. SPINAROONI time. Axe kick gets two. Bookend is blocked, spear gets two. Edge tries his own spinarooni and it sucksarooni. And he was making fun of ANGLE for being too white? Reversal sequence ends with the Impaler (or whatever nickname it has this week) for the pin at 6:31. Another RAW match. **
– Meanwhile, Hurricane hides in the back, but Molly turns on him and wins the title. I’d say that goes against all rules of sidekick behavior. You don’t see Jericho doing that to Stephanie, do you?
– Scott Hall v. Steve Austin. Holy midcarder, Batman, Austin’s been shunted down the card. Big Poochie limps out with Hall. Austin stomps away to start and gets the Thesz Press and FU Elbow. Hall takes a powder, so Austin chases and they brawl. Back in, Hall clothesline gets two. Austin wins a slugfest as Nash pulls a turnbuckle pad off, and of course Austin gets whipped into it. Brawl outside and back in, Hall gets his corner clotheslines and blockbuster. Moveset thus exhausted, Hall reverts to stomping as the crowd starts the “Razor” chants. Personally, I don’t get why they didn’t just go with the Razor Ramon character, which is at least marketable and can be retooled into a bad-boy drug dealer image for the new century, which they couldn’t do back before the “rip everything off from ECW” era. Austin gets a spinebuster, but Hall keeps slugging away. KICK WHAM STUNNER but Nash punks out the ref as we launch the overbooking torpedoes. The Outsiders double-team Austin, so he gives them both stunners, no ref. Another ref gets punked out by Nash. More refs come out to send Nash packing. Another stunner is reversed into the Scott Hall Stunner, which gets two, before the real deal from Austin ends the misery at 9:51. I’ve certainly seen worse matches from Scott Hall in WCW, but Austin would have been better off wrestling himself. * Now that Hall’s one useful PPV matchup has been blown, look for him to start jobbing right away.
– Axxxxxccccessss video. I’m never sure how many extra letters they toss in there to be trendy, so I figure I’ll just play it safe.
– WWF tag title match: Billy & Chuck v. The Dudley Boyz v. The APA v. The Hardy Boyz. Saliva does a live version of the Dudleyz theme, which I still enjoy. Bradshaw starts with Chuck, but gets double-teamed. He slams Billy and pounds Chuck. Faarooq comes in and gets worked by the champions. Billy gets two. Faarooq powerslams him and Bradshaw cleans house like a French maid, but Billy tags out to D-Von. APA cleans up on him, too. Clothesline from Heck on Billy, but Bradshaw walks into 3D at 3:25. What was the point of even having them in there? Hardyz double-team D-Von with the usual and Jeff gets two. Same for Chuck, while the Dudleyz go get wood. Hardyz & Dudleyz brawl outside, until Jeff and Bubba head back in for Jeff’s corkscrew. He stops to spank Stacy, apparently impervious to the sight of her ass. Gee, how about that? Billy & Bubba (sounds like the Hardyz’ long-lost cousins) double-team Jeff and Bubba chokes him out with his own shirt. Jeff’s total lack of skin pigmentation and muscle definition would probably indicate why he leaves his shirt on all the time. Seriously, Jeff, for your own health – do like Mick Foley and gain some weight to absorb the impact of those bumps. Bubba pounds Jeff for two, and hits the chinlock. D-Von discombobulates him with an elbow for two. Suplex gets two. Bubba does the old Tommy Dreamer nut stomp, but Matt breaks it up. Jeff reverses a DDT as JR & King do their “We’re so bored that we’ll talk about ANYTHING to avoid calling this mess” act. Hot tag Matt, and it’s threatening to be BONZO GONZO, but he gets suplexed. Bubba misses the senton as JR gets REALLY desperate and starts making self-referential jokes about how Bubba would probably kill the guy if he ever hit that move. He used to make the same joke about Arn Anderson all the time, too, when he was bored. Matt gets the yodelling legdrop for two. Dudleyz set up the Whazzup, but D-Von gets shoved through the table, and the Twist of Fate/Swanton finishes Bubba at 11:48. Chuck superkicks Matt for two. Billy dumps Jeff, but Matt comes back with Poetry in Motion on both guys. Swanton for Chuck, but the Dumbasser gets two. Billy uses the belt on Jeff to finish at 13:50. What an abomination. They DESPERATELY need to do something with the tag division, because this was just terrible and featured the most boring Hardyz-Dudleyz showdown in a long time. Â½* The acts are so stale now that they’re actively hurting everyone involved. I still contend that the solution is a double-turn for the Z teams. In this case, it would have been easy: APA and Hardyz go quickly, leaving the Dudleyz to get pounded by the champions for the bulk of the match until the fans cheer for them by default, and then when Bubba gets the hot tag they can do all their babyface spots (Whazzup, D-Von Get the Tables) and turn themselves. Hell, it’s not like anyone is gonna mind cheering for Stacy. Then when they go for the 3D, the jealous Hardy Boyz run out and cost them the match, and most importantly prevent them from putting Chuck or Billy through a table, and bingo, double-turn and both teams are instantly fresh and interesting again. It ain’t rocket science, Jethro.
– Meanwhile, the Outsiders plot against the Rock, but Hogan calls them off.
– Meanwhile, Molly runs into a door and Christian wins the title.
“Oooh! Ahhh! That’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming.”
– Ian Malcolm, The Lost World, describing the next match.
– The Rock v. Hulk Hogan. I get the feeling that this is one of those matches that’s gonna earn me hate mail no matter which side of the fence I go with. I also would’ve thought that this would go on last, since it was being promoted as the main event and all. Hogan gets a MONSTER pop, as I once again worry about the future of mankind. Rock gets a big heel pop. Hogan wins a lockup and the crowd ROARS. JR interprets this as a “mixed reaction”. I’d hate to hear what they’d sound like if they were booing Rock, then. Hogan pounds away and gets a clothesline, but Rock back with the forearm and gets roasted by the crowd. This is just vicious. Shoving match and Rock slugs Hogan down and out. Back in, Rock with the lariat, but Rock Bottom is blocked. Hogan gets the elbowdrops. That limp is getting really pronounced on Hogan’s part. Backdrop suplex gets two. Abdominal stretch rollup gets two. Man, that was his rear special in WCW v. nWo World Tour, but that’s the first time I’ve seen him use it in real life in like the past 20 years. Hogan goes to the BACKRAKES OF DOOM (which Rock sells like he’s being clawed by the fingernails of a Sinanju Master) and of course the crowd eats it all up. Rock chops him, but Hogan chokes him out for a while. Rock gets tossed and Hogan beats on him outside. Table is prepped but goes unused. Back in, ref bumped, and Rock gets a spinebuster and Sharpshooter, no ref, but a big heel reaction. Jesus, Toronto, just because the Leafs suck, don’t take it out on someone who CAN win the big one. The crowd just completely turns on Rock, so Hogan goes low and gets a huge face pop and then uses his own Rock Bottom for two. Hogan uses the belt, but Rock DDTs him and fires right back. JR is still insisting that the reaction is mixed. Stuff like that makes him sound like Tony Schiavone. Hulk Up time. It’s so sad to see Hogan out there at 75 years old acting like his act means anything but nostalgia. Big boot and STINKY WART-INFESTED GIANT-KILLING LEGDROP OF DOOM, but Rock kicks out at two. Big boot again, but the legdrop misses. Rock gives him two Rock Bottoms for good measure, and finishes with the People’s Elbow at 16:22. That was one of the best-booked bad matches I’ve seen – I’ve gotta admit, even I was cheering pretty vociferously for Rock (more than usual) by the end and getting into it. The match itself, as a match, was spectacularly horrible, but the booking was good and both guys were jazzed to be out there, so call it **. And before all the Hulkamorons start writing in and whining about how it was a **** match because they were so entertained by it, try going back and watching Hogan-Warrior from 1990, which was a similarly-structured match and not only featured a better storyline, but also had some psychology in it and more credible offense. They did everything they could here to polish the proverbial turd, but Hogan’s backrakes and choking are just not going to provide me with entertainment after months of Angle & Austin suplexing the shit out of each other.
– Afterwards, Hogan and Rock make nice-nice, as presumably Hogan is all “Sorry about the attempted murder, brother” and Rock is all “It’s cool, I didn’t sell the injury anyway” and they shake hands. Rock encourages Hogan to pose (what, no “Real American”?) but the treacherous Outsiders come out and turn on Hogan, allowing Rock to make the save. Well, there’s Backlash. One month may SEEM like a really quick nWo split, but they need to milk every red cent out of Hogan’s aging act before it dies by King of the Ring, so look for 17 turns between now and then.
– Women’s title match: Jazz v. Lita v. Trish. This match is dead on arrival having to follow that Rock-Hogan match. I’m talking deader than David Caruso’s career. Trish is all Maple-Leafed up, but even that doesn’t work. Trish & Lita stomp Jazz to start. Jazz gets the half-crab on Trish, and the flying hammerlock on Lita. Legdrop gets two. Butterfly suplex, but Lita hammers away with the worst punches in wrestling. I don’t get the point of the chicks pulling punches – the phrase “hit like a girl” didn’t exactly come about by accident, you know. Headscissors and backdrop suplex get two for Lita. Jazz hotshots her and they head up, but Trish pulls Jazz down and cradles for two. Lita bodypresses Trish, but she rolls through for two. Bulldog gets two. Jazz splashes Lita for two. Jazz Stinger gets two on Trish. Trish DDTs Jazz for two. Trish & Lita slug it out, but Lita gets a Twist of Fate, then misses the moonsault. Trish cradles for two. Everyone’s out, but Trish backslides Jazz for two. Lita dumps Jazz, but crotches Trish. Lita goes up, but also gets crotched. Jazz finishes her with a Jazz Stinger off the top at 6:15. With the dead crowd, horrible-looking offense, and disorganized structure that made the tag title match look coherant. Almost. Â½*
– Meanwhile, Christian makes it to the cab, but Maven sneak attacks him and regains the title. I have nothing to add to this whole saga that you probably couldn’t guess yourself.
– WWF title match: Chris Jericho v. HHH. Drowning Pool does their horrible version of HHH’s theme to play him out. Amazingly, Stephanie DOESN’T get her own entrance. Jericho gets a pretty nice face pop, despite being dressed like Doink the Clown tonight. Lockup sequence to start and HHH gets a backdrop. Pair of clotheslines and Jericho chops away, but eats knee. That hurts the leg, however, because HHH’s quad is hanging on by a wire and he’s the gutsiest son of a bitch JR has ever seen. Whatever you say, Tony. Jericho dumps him. HHH comes back and drops him onto the railing, and suplexes him on the floor. The table is prepped, but Jericho wisely decides to kick his leg out from under his leg, and works on it back in the ring. HHH spears him and works on Jericho’s leg right back. Figure-four, but Steph breaks it up. HHH grabs her, and Jericho charges and accidentally knocks her off the apron. HHH goes for the elusive Pedigree on her, but Jericho stops it with a missile dropkick. Back to the leg, and Stephanie lends a hand. RINGPOST FIGURE-FOUR~! HHH fights back, but Jericho gets an indian deathlock and a spinning toehold. To quote Sideshow Mel, “He’s kicking it OLD SCHOOL!” HHH posts him to escape and gets a neckbreaker. Jericho stays on the leg. HHH lariat gets two. Facebuster hurts the leg again, but he still dodges Jericho. Spinebuster gets two. Jericho tosses him and preps the table. Walls is blocked, but HHH’s Pedigree is reversed to a backdrop that sends him through the Spanish table. Back in, Lionsault gets two. No one even buys that as a near-fall anymore. Walls of Jericho, blocked again. Pedigree is reversed to the Walls, and inevitably HHH makes the ropes after a suitably dramatic interval. God, this just feels like two guys going through the motions before an apathetic crowd. Jericho grabs a chair, but gets DDT’d on it. Stephanie intervenes again, and this time HHH gets the Pedigree, but the crowd is so burnt out that it doesn’t mean anything. Jericho gets a chairshot for two (why not hit the knee?) but HHH quickly finishes with the Pedigree to win the title at 18:41. Pretty anti-climactic finish. This was about as exciting as one guy kicking the other in the leg for 18 minutes was gonna be. Plus the psychology didn’t figure into the finish. And JR was an annoying shit, screaming every 5 seconds about how Jericho was about to end HHH’s career until it was blatantly obvious that he was going to job. ***1/4 Again, I’ve gotta stress that HHH still hasn’t had a really good match since his surgery, and he’s running out of excuses after three months of ringtime to “get his timing back” or whatever other BS they wanna pump out to cover for him not being able to keep up anymore. I like HHH, but this babyface run is just screaming “disaster” and if I wanted to watch him sell knee injuries while doing nothing but facebusters and high-knees for 15 minutes, I’d build a time machine and go back to 1998.
The Bottom Line: This show is getting some pretty glowing praise from a lot of the usual sites, and while I can see where some of it is coming from, I just can’t justify to myself giving it anything better than “thumbs in the middle”. There was no standout match from a workrate perspective, and a few of them were downright horrible. This was really a show that could have stood to lose an hour, easily. Sometimes less really is more.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the show, because I did. It was enjoyable enough to watch, but then so is Smackdown most weeks and the match quality was about the same for the non-uppercard stuff. For my $45 Can. (yes, that’s what they charged up here), and especially for a Wrestlemania, I’m expecting something a little more special than Kane and Kurt Angle doing a silly rollup finish in a meaningless match, ya know?
Thumbs in the middle.