Hey there welcome to the third installment of Shades of Wrestlemania. Today we are going to have a discussion about the Two Greatest Wrestlemania Main Events of all time, and guess what? Neither of them involve Hulk Hogan or Bret Hart. You intrigued? Well you damn well should be.
But before we get going, I feel that I should explain where the title of this feature came from. Long time RAW commentator, Jim Ross, often says "Shades of [insert wrestler/event here]" whenever any wrestler mimics the actions of wrestlers past. Now the group of us Tower wrasslin' fans find this absolutely hilarious and try to mimic it whenever possible. The most hilarious example was when Travis first said "Shades of Great White" when fireworks came on (Out-dated Cultural Reference: A few years ago Great White, the band, had a terrible accident in a bar involving fireworks and some people got killed), we found this to be so offensive it was hilarious. As a result we have said "Shades of Great White" at any given moment and it will make all of us laugh.
Before we look at the best Main Events ever, I would be remiss to not mention some of the great ones of the past that we are not going to be talking about today...
When Glen and Travis meet up you know it's going to be something, especially in an Iron Man Match!!!
And who can forget the time that Hulk Korgan and King Kong McNundy met inside a steel cage?
I don't know what's more impressive, the amount of weight that Ryan has lost or the fact that Kory can wrestle with glasses on.
And now, allow me to introduce the participants for the Main Event.
Come from The Edge of Sanity we have Ryan McNutt.
And in the Blue corner, hailing from Every Girls Dream the host of this blog, G F'n R.
Last time I talked about the beginning of the Attitude Era, this time I am going to talk about the end of it. This was the Main Event from what is widely considered to be the greatest Wrestlemania of all time...
April 1, 2001
No Disqualification WWF Title Match – The Rock vs. Steve Austin
This match has so much history leading to it I don’t even know where to start. This is a match that has five years of build up. So here are the key points of the build from 1996-2000 to get things started.
- In 1996 rival company, WCW surpassed the WWF in terms of popularity for the first time in the modern wrestling era.
- In order to compete with WCW’s bigger stars the WWF started to market its Attitude, with emerging star Steve Austin as the front man
- After the Montreal Screwjob, owner Vince McMahon began to appear as an on-air character and had many confrontations with Steve Austin
- Steve Austin won the WWF Title from Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV
- After many failed attempts to take the title away from Steve Austin, McMahon finally succeeded in removing the title from him in September 1998
- The Rock won the vacant title and joined McMahon’s Corporation
- Steve Austin defeated The Rock (backed by McMahon) for the WWF Title at Wrestlemania XV
- The Rock turned face and rivaled Austin in terms of popularity
- In November 1999, Steve Austin’s neck injuries got so bad that he took a year off to have surgery
- With the departure of Austin, The Rock took over as the top face of the company
So now here we are in 2001, Steve Austin makes history by being the first man to win the Royal Rumble three times, and the Rock defeats WWF Champion Kurt Angle for the Title at No Way Out in February.
Our main event is set as the first Face vs. Face Wrestlemania Title match in 5 years. In the weeks leading up to the event the two wrestlers come face to face on many occasions, they save each other from beat-downs but end up attacking each other on a routine basis. The two men cut some amazing promos about the sheer importance of this match to one another and we get some excellent video work that somehow made Limp Bizkit less annoying. Perhaps the most important of these vignettes was a sit down interview where Austin said “I want to beat you Rock, I want to beat you more than anything you could ever imagine.”
Then a week before the big event something major went down. WCW was sold to WWF. That’s right; Vince McMahon went out and bought the competition ending the “Monday Night Wars” that existed between the two companies. With the closure of ECW (the original, not this current bastardization) a few months before, the WWF was now the only national wrestling company in the United States. For the first time ever there was a monopoly in the world of wrestling.
Then came Wrestlemania X-Seven which, despite the stupid name, proved to be an amazing card. It is considered by many to not only be the greatest Wrestlemania of all time, but perhaps the greatest wrestling Pay-Per-View of all time. It featured the first one-on-one meeting of Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, a surreal TLC Match between Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz, an incredibly entertaining Street Fight between Vince McMahon and his son Shane, a great match between The Undertaker and Triple H, and of course, the main event of Steve Austin challenging The Rock.
Moments before the main event begins it was suddenly announced that it would be a No Disqualification Match (making it only the fourth gimmicked Wrestlemania Main Event), something that had never been brought up. Something fishy was going on. Despite the fact that it was booked as a Face vs. Face match, it was taking place in Austin’s home state of Texas, so he was clearly the fan favourite.
The match itself took their amazing encounter at Wrestlemania XV and took it up a notch. There has never been another WWF/E match that has played off of history as much as this one. There was a point where Steve Austin went to get the ring bell (something that he did to defeat Savio Vega at Wrestlemania XII). Later on he locked The Rock in the Million Dollar Dream only for The Rock to run up the ropes and fall back on him for a pin (which is what Bret Hart did to beat Piper at Wrestlemania VIII and then to defeat Austin at Survivor Series ‘96). Also The Rock locked a bloodied Steve Austin in a Sharpshooter and Austin looked like he was going to pass out (Shades of Wrestlemania 13, and The Rock used a Sharpshooter to win his first WWF Title in 1998). There was also a lot more references to the past that these two men both had at this point but I can’t seem to remember them all. Why did they do this you ask? Well it really made the match feel all the more epic and era-altering, something that you really can't argue with.
At some point in the match, Vince McMahon, owner and long time enemy of both men comes down and takes a sit at ringside. After a few minutes of intrigue, McMahon’s motivations became clear. He soon interfered in the match on behalf of Steve Austin, giving him a chair to use against The Rock. Austin and McMahon threw everything that they had at The Rock but The Great One just wouldn’t stay down. Finally after what seemed like 20 chair shots, The Rock stayed down and Austin won the match. The final shot of Wrestlemania was Austin sharing a beer with Vince McMahon, truly a surreal moment.
In my last post I talked about Austin’s match with Bret Hart and how that spawned the Attitude Era, well this match marked the end of it. The important story of that entire era of the WWF was Steve Austin in his great fight against the evil boss. This match marked the last chapter of this story. In the end, Austin, the rebel, gave into the boss. He tried to stick it to The Man, but The Man stuck it to him in the end. He loved Big Brother.
After this the WWF went sharply downhill. They blew the biggest story in the history of wrestling, the WCW Invasion, Steve Austin would walk out of the company a few times, The Rock would leave for Hollywood, and the next big star that they were trying to make, Brock Lesnar, quit to get cut from the Minnesota Vikings. The glory days of wrestling that started with the nWo and got carried by Austin-McMahon were over.
Through the magic of YouTube I have been able to find the entire match for viewing. If you are (or used to be) a wrestling fan that you have probably seen this match before, but it is so good that it holds up to repeated viewing. If a non-wrestling fan told me to show them ten matches so I could try to convince them to be a fan this would be on that list. So if you aren't a fan and have 28 minutes or so to kill then watch this match.
Part 3 (it skips around a bit at the beginning, but it is still awesome!!!)
Next up we have Ryan McNutt talk about one Canadian realizing his dream as he does battle with two of the greatest of all time...
March 14, 2004
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
Triple Threat World Title Match - Triple H vs. Shawn Micheals vs. Chris Benoit
I outgrew wrestling a long time ago – probably back sometime in high school. But I had one heck of a relapse while I was in university. I found myself part of a crew in Crowell Tower who, week after week, would claim the main lounge television (ending Monday Night Football’s reign of terror) and watch Monday Night Raw. Out of everyone in the group, I was probably the one who followed wrestling the least, but you couldn’t help but be caught up in it. Maybe it was because we needed a low-culture break from theories and textbooks, or maybe it was little more than nostalgia. Whatever the case, it made sense to spend our Mondays watching wrestling.
And on special occasions, our Sundays. Often we would all pile into Glen’s ridiculously-unreliable vehicle (umm…where’s the floor?) and drive to a sketchy pool hall in Windsor to watch the show with townies on an illegal feed that would regularly cut out, so the owners would have to walk up to the box and hit it with a broom. While these nights certainly had some comedy value, we smartly decided upon an alternate approach for the 20th Wrestlemania, going to watch it at Kory’s brother’s place in the valley.
While it was a sizeable card with some good matches, the reason we were all sitting around the living room hogging every inch of couch space was the main event – the first ever Wrestlemania triple-threat main event. In one corner, the World Heavyweight Champion Triple H, leader of the Evolution stable and one of the best wrestlers in the game (if he chooses to bring it). In another, Chris Benoit, one of the best technical wrestlers of the modern era who earned his chance at the big time by winning the Royal Rumble.
And then you had Shawn Michaels, the cog in the machine. See, the RIGHT way to end this match would be to give Benoit the title, a well-deserved victory for a brilliant talent who had paid his dues. And had the match been Triple H/Benoit, as most thought it would be, that would have been easy to do. I don’t know what it was that changed things – maybe thinking that Benoit wasn’t a big enough draw to get the buys they wanted – but the bosses-that-be threw then-face HBK into the mix. This worried me on two fronts: the first, that they wouldn’t give Benoit the title; and the second, that it would make the match suck, because triple-threat matches tend to be crapshoots.
But thankfully, Triple H and HBK decided to bring their A-game, and along with Benoit gave us a clinic on how to do a triple-threat match right. They knew just when to allow one guy to take a break and trade off into a new feud, and when the match needed all three wrestlers in the action to make it work. The blood didn’t hurt matters either – Shawn Michaels has bled in the ring many times, but I’ve never seen him gush as much as he did at WMXX. The match was extreme from start to finish, never letting up in the action department.
But the reason this match is remembered is the ending, which was maybe one of the most intense moments I’ve ever seen in wrestling. Benoit had Triple H in his crippler crossface finisher and was clinging on for dear life. Time and time again Triple H tried to reach the ropes and got pulled back. Everyone in the room was standing up and screaming at the TV set at the top of their lungs for Triple H to tap out. And just when we thought he wouldn’t do it…he tapped.
Benoit’s good friend Eddie Guerrero, who held the other championship title at the time, came down to the ring to celebrate amidst a rainfall of confetti. These were two of the guys who came over from WCW when they weren’t getting the respect they deserved, and once in the WWE they had to work their way back up the ladder again. To see them at the top again reminded me of the very moment where Bret Hart regained the belt ten years earlier – the right man had won. Thank goodness for that.
It's not often I say it, but McNutt is right. That was an amazing moment and I think that I will always remember standing up and screaming "TAP!!!" at the TV that year, damn that was awesome!!! Also, because of YouTube, I have found a fan made highlight video of this match. Sorry I couldn't find the full version!
Well that concludes this one, there should be a few more posts coming this week as we get ready for Sunday.
Until next time,