December 13, 2008
Wrestlemania XX, March 14, 2004, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Announcers: The teams of: Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler and Michael Cole & Tazz
For the twentieth edition of Wrestlemania, subtitled “Where It All Begins Again”, they’ve returned to the place where it all began originally, Madison Square Garden. It’s a pretty long show, but before we get in to it, let’s take a few moments to talk about Chris Benoit. I’ve reviewed shows featuring his matches before without offering any commentary on how my view of Benoit the person affects how I now view Benoit the wrestler, but it seems appropriate to do it here on the biggest show of his career. Even though it’s been a year and a half since That Weekend, there are still a lot of people out there who are affected as fans. (And I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone who was affected personally by it, but let’s face it, none of them are gonna be reading this.) Many don’t look at his matches the same way anymore, and some have even gone as far as to stop watching them altogether. If that’s what someone has decided that’s fine, and it’s understandable. Personally, I still appreciate the art that he performed for us for so many years. While having countless classic matches over the course of his career doesn’t justify or excuse what he did, I also believe that the reverse is true and that what he did in his personal life doesn’t cancel out what he accomplished in the ring. While Chris Benoit the person may have turned out to be a Scum of the Earth Monster who is currently, and justifiably so, rotting wherever people like him go to rot, I can separate him from Chris Benoit the wrestler and still enjoy the shows he put on for us. Obviously that’s not gonna work for everyone, but it works for me and so I am going to sit here now and watch the biggest moment of his career and judge it no differently than I would had nothing happened and he were still with us today. With all that in mind, on we go with Wrestlemania XX.
Opening Match, United States Championship: The Big Show vs. John Cena
By this point they knew they had something with Cena as he was really over as a babyface. Show got the belt and held it basically so that Cena could win it from a guy with upper card credibility. Show dominates to start, throwing Cena back a couple of times and tossing him out. Cena comes back with shoulderblocks from the apron and pulling Show down on the top rope. Cena goes up and comes off with a crossbody, but Show turns it into a powerslam for 2. Show chokes and chops, and then nails a clothesline. Slam followed by a suplex get 2. Cena fires back, but ends up running into a crescent kick. Show then raises his leg on to a bent over Cena’s chest and drops him for 2. Cena slips out of a slam and hooks a sleeper, but Show backs him to the corner to break. Clothesline takes Cena down and Show then hooks a cobra clutch. Cena fights out and staggers Show, but his corner whip is reversed. Cena gets the shoes up anyways and then Show misses another attempt at a charge. Cena hits the FU, but that only gets 2. Cena seems unsure what to do now, so he goes for the chain. The ref stops that, so Cena distracts him by throwing it across the ring, which allows him to grab the brass knux and nail Show with those. Second FU finished and gives Cena the US Title at 9:17. Match wasn’t that great, but it was a big step on Cena’s rise to main event status. *
Raw GM Eric Bischoff meets with lackey Jonathan Coachman. He wants Coach to find the Undertaker, who is making his return tonight in the hopes of luring him to Raw.
Randy Orton, flanked by Ric Flair and Batista cuts a promo regarding his feud with Mick Foley. What strikes me most here is how much charisma and screen presence Batista developed over the next year because he looks totally out of place at this point.
World Tag Team Championship Fatal Four Way Match: Booker T & Rob Van Dam vs. La Resistance vs. Garrison Cade & Mark Jindrak vs. The Dudley Boyz
I’m definitely drawing a blank on the circumstances behind Booker and RVD teaming up to win the belts. The match is one fall with two guys in at once and the rest available for tags. RVD and Rene Dupree start out with RVD reversing a corner whip. He gets a monkey flip out of the corner and tags Booker. RVD slings Dupree into a Booker crescent kick for 2, and Booker follows that with a clothesline. Conway is in, but he takes a hiptoss and gets thrown right back out, but that lets Dupree make the tag to Bubba. Bubba gets a neckbreaker for 2. Booker fights back, but charges right into an elbow. Bubba gets a leg lariat, and then with the ref distracted, the Dudleyz switch with D-Von coming in and hitting an inverted reverse suplex. RVD comes off the top with a dropkick on D-Von and Bubba ends up back in, but Jindrak takes the tag and sneaks a 2 count on Booker. He then sends Booker to his corner and tags Cade. Cade and Booker go at it briefly before Dupree steals the tag from Cade and gets a cover for 2. Tag to Conway, who stretches Booker. Booker makes it to his feet, but gets sent off and hit with an elbow for 2 before Conway goes right back to the hold. Booker again makes it out and this time hits Conway with a spinebuster followed by making the tag to RVD. RVD takes on everyone until he gets shoved off the top rope by D-Von. Everyone brawls in the ring now and in the melee, Conway takes an ax kick from Booker and the Five Star Frog Splash from the recovered RVD for the 3 count at 7:53. The champs retain in an ok match. *1/2
Coachman, while on his quest to find Undertaker, ends up finding Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan in a closet with Moolah and Mae Young. Lame waste of time on an already bloated show.
Christian vs. Chris Jericho
Ok, so Christian and Jericho made a $1.00 (Canadian, of course) bet on whether Jericho could nail Trish Stratus first, or Christian could nail Lita. Along the way, Trish found out and was disgusted by the idea, but Jericho managed to fall in love with her for real. Christian accused him of going soft, but really he was now trying to steal Trish for himself. Eventually it became apparent that Trish was falling in love with Jericho too and Christian became jealous. Somehow Christian and Trish were booked against each other in a match on Raw, and while Christian initially promised to lay down for her, he ended up beating her up instead. Jericho makes the save and now wants revenge on his former buddy here tonight. A couple of breaks off of lockups lead to Jericho nailing him and hitting a clothesline. Irish whip and elbow setup a back suplex and a chop. Irish whip is reversed, but Jericho still gets another clothesline. Jericho then charges at him and gets tossed, but lands on the apron. Christian charges and gets backdropped to the floor. Jericho nails a springboard dive to the floor and throws him to the barrier. In the ring, an Irish whip leads to Christian trying a sunset flip, but Jericho hooks the legs for 2. He tries the Walls, but Christian gets to the ropes and then a thumb to the eye lets him dump Jericho out. Back in, Christian works him over dropping a knee for 1 and hooking a neck vice. Jericho gets out, but Christian drops him back down by the hair and covers for 2. Jericho elbows out of a rear chinlock and tries the Walls again, but Christian goes to the eyes again and hits a spin kick for 2. They hit head to head off a corner whip and when they recover Jericho gets sent off the ropes and comes back with a forearm. Drop toehold puts Christian on the ropes for Jericho to hit a rope straddle and an ensiguiri for 2. He then gets a rollup for 2, countered by Christian for a 2 of his own while holding the ropes. He tries the Unprettier, but Jericho avoids it and hits a northern lights suplex for a couple of 2 counts. He then gets the bulldog, but the Lionsault hits knees. Reverse DDT from the 2nd rope gets 2 for Christian. He comes off the ropes, but Jericho nails him with a clothesline. Now Jericho comes off, but Christian catches him and drops him on his knee. Christian goes up, but Jericho is right there with him. Jericho tries a superplex but gets dropped which allows Christian to hit a crossbody, which Jericho then rolls through for 2. Christian controls and hooks a Texas cloverleaf, but Jericho escapes and counters to the Walls. Christian makes the ropes and they tumble to the floor, where Jericho reapplies the hold, but he breaks so they can beat the count back in. He gets Christian on the top and hits a double underhook suplex from there for 2. Trish Stratus makes her way out as a slugfest breaks out leading to Christian getting an implant DDT for a couple of 2 counts. Trish gets in the ring, but Christian shoves her down. Jericho tosses him and goes to help Trish up, but she (inadvertently?) elbows him which allows Christian to come back and roll him up for 3 at 14:55. Jericho questions Trish about what happened, so she turns on him and reveals that she’s been with Christian all along. They beat Jericho down and then make out on the ramp. I liked Trish as a heel. The match was great, although the ending was a bit goofy even though it did work from a storyline perspective. ***1/2
We get a really fun pre-match promo from the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection. Sadly, it would turn out to be The Rock’s last pre-match promo, but we still have a lot of great memories.
Randy Orton, Dave Batista, & Ric Flair vs. The Rock & Mick Foley
Back in the summer of 2003, Foley returned from an extended absence to appear on a Raw show from MSG. Orton got involved in the segment and ended up kicking Foley down a flight of stairs. The feud developed slowly from there with the idea being to build up a comeback where he would help make Orton a star. He came out as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble, eliminating Orton and that led us to the tag match here with Foley recruiting former partner The Rock to help him take on ¾ of Evolution. Big brawl kicks things off with Rock and Foley clearing the ring. Rock and Flair start the match for real with Rock getting fired off out of a side headlock and nailing a shoulderblock. He then struts to mock Flair. Rock then whips Flair to the corner and hits a backdrop. They go to the floor where Flair rakes the eyes, but he charges and gets backdropped out there. Foley then adds an elbow from the apron. Back in tags are made to Orton and Foley, who have the real issue in this match, but Orton bails. Foley chases and they brawl on the floor with Orton getting rammed to the table and clotheslined. Back in, Foley drops an elbow for 2 and sets Orton in the Tree of Woe. Tag to Rock, who works Orton over there including a shot to the groin. Out of the corner now, Rock hits a clothesline and rams Orton to the buckle. Irish whip is reversed, so Flair gets the shot in from the apron. Rock retaliates by knocking Flair and Batista down before going back to Orton. Another Irish whip is reversed, and this time Batista pulls the rope down to send Rock crashing to the floor. Batista then drops him on the barrier and gets him back in where Orton goes to work. Tag to Batista who rams Rock to the buckle and hits some knees. Rock fights back, but charges into an elbow for 2 followed by Batista tagging Flair. Flair hits some chops and showboats in the corner, but Rock charges out with a clothesline. Flair recovers first and goes up, but Rock slams him off, which Lawler called in advance on commentary. Flair makes the tag though to Batista who cuts off Rock’s tag. He whips Rock to the corner, but Rock comes back out with a clothesline and now makes the tag to Foley who charges in at Batista and works him over. Double arm DDT is set up but countered by Batista backing Foley to the corner. Batista then hits a clothesline and dumps him to the floor where Orton attacks, but falls victim to the Mandible Claw. Flair makes the save there and Foley gets whipped to the stairs. Back in, Orton is legal now and he gets a 2 count. Tag to Flair, who hits some chops, but Foley fires back until Flair trips him up, holds on to the leg and tags Orton. Orton controls with a rear chinlock before making the tag to Batista who comes in and hits a couple of clotheslines. He works Foley over, but Foley hooks the Claw on him now until Orton breaks it and Batista tags Flair in. Flair controls with chops and a corner whip followed by tagging Batista. Batista sends Foley off the ropes, but puts his head down and takes a neckbreaker, and then they both clothesline each other. Tag to Flair, but Foley is then able to duck a shot and make the hot tag to Rock who comes in and cleans house on all of Evolution. Eventually Batista stops the rally with a spinebuster and that sets up Flair’s attempt at a People’s Elbow, but Rock kips up to avoid it and drops Flair with a spinebuster of his own. This leads to the real People’s Elbow, complete with strutting, which hits, but only gets 2. Flair tags Orton, who tries the RKO, but that gets countered to a Rock Bottom for 1 when Flair comes back to make the save. Batista is in now and he hits the Batista Bomb on Rock, but Rock kicks out at 2 when Orton covers. Tag to Foley, who gets the double arm DDT on Orton and pulls out Socko, but Orton counters to the RKO and that gets the 3 count at 17:02. This would lead to the one on one match between Foley and Orton next month at Backlash where Foley would again put him over. I know he doesn’t want to be one of those guys who keep coming back for the sake of glorifying himself, but that’s why each of his successive comebacks meant less. It’s just depressing to get behind him, and then watch him lose every time out. Rock, who just wrestled the last match of his career, although I don’t think we knew it for sure at that point, leads the crowd in an ovation for Foley, but sadly they get cut off for a commercial. Match was awesome by the way. ****
Hall of Fame Roll Call: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Tito Santana, Big John Studd, Harley Race, Pete Rose, Don Muraco, Greg Valentine, Junkyard Dog, Superstar Billy Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. That’s a pretty stacked lineup here. I bet they wish now that they had saved a few of these guys because they really don’t have a lot of credible names left.
Sable & Torrie Wilson vs. Jackie Gayda & Stacy Keibler
The idea here is that Jackie and Stacy were jealous over Sable and Torrie getting the opportunity to be in Playboy so we get a match out of it. It’s supposed to be an evening gown match, if anyone cares about the rules here, but Sable decides they’re all just gonna strip down right off the bat and turn it into a regular one. Except Jackie doesn’t want to take her gown off. How’s she ever gonna get in Playboy with that attitude? Sable and Torrie attack and rip it off anyway. She and Sable start with Sable hitting some kicks in the corner and a snapmare. Torrie comes in with a bodypress off the top for 2 and Jackie is able to tag Stacy. Stacy gets kicked coming in, but Torrie then misses a charge and gets caught. Big boot to the throat by Stacy, but Torrie comes back with a sunset flip for 2, which gets reversed back and forth about four more times. A high kick by Stacy gets another 2 and she tags Jackie. Jackie tackles Torrie and they roll around for a bit, with the ref even getting involved before Torrie gets a rollup for 3 at 2:55. I know things like this aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but still I gotta call it a DUD.
In the locker room, Benoit and Guerrero have an inspirational meeting to get each other hyped up for their respective matches later on.
Cruiserweight Open Match
For lack of anything better to do, we have what is basically a ten man gauntlet match with Champion Chavo Guerrero, Jr., accompanied by Chavo Sr., getting the final slot and the ultimate winner walking out as the champion. Other entrants are Nunzio, Jamie Noble, Tajiri, Akio, Sho Funaki, Shannon Moore, Ultimo Dragon, Billy Kidman, and Rey Mysterio, Jr. Dragon and Moore start out with a hold reversal sequence. Moore then gets a shoulderblock for 1, followed by Dragon getting a backslide, also for 1. Moore hits a back suplex for 2. Moore goes up, but misses a corkscrew moonsault which lets Dragon get a DDT for 3 at 1:20. Noble comes in next and hits a short clothesline for 1. Dragon comes back with some kicks and gets a 2 count. He then hits a backbreaker and goes up, and although a moonsault misses, he lands on his feet. Noble still hits a neckbreaker and then hooks a choke to which Dragon submits at 2:18 (total time). Funaki comes right in with a top rope bodypress, but Noble rolls through and gets 3 at 2:25. Nunzio is next and they go through a series of counters followed by Nunzio rolling him up for 2. 2nd rope dropkick gets 2 as well with Noble getting his foot on the ropes, so Nunzio drags him to the middle for another 2 count. He tries another rollup but gets tossed and Noble follows up with a flip out to the floor. Nunzio stays down off of that and gets counted out at 4:19. Kidman attacks next and goes for an Irish whip which is reversed, but Kidman holds on to the ropes. Noble charges at him, but gets backdropped to the floor. Nunzio is still there and pulls Noble back down as he tries to get back in, so Kidman nails him with a baseball slide, and then comes off the top with a shooting star press onto both guys on the floor. Back in, Kidman gets 2 from that. He tries a powerbomb, but Noble slips out and hooks the choke. Kidman backs him to the corner to escape. He then hits a backdrop and an ensiguiri and goes up top. Noble gets up there with him, but Kidman gets him with the BK Bomb from there to get the 3 at 6:09. Rey is in now with a vertical press but gets dropkicked for 2. Irish whip sees Rey slide through the legs and dropkick Kidman to the floor. Akio interferes and drops Rey on the ropes, which allows Kidman to come back and hit a spinebuster for 2. He puts Rey on the top rope and tries a gutwrench suplex, but Rey counters to a flip powerbomb for 3 at 7:30. Tajiri comes in and they trade some shots leading to Tajiri hooking the Tarantula. Irish whip is reversed and the Tajiri’s springboard is countered by a dropkick. 619 hits, but then Rey misses his springboard move and gets kicked. Akio is on the apron again and holds Rey for the mist, but Rey moves and Akio takes it. Cradle on Tajiri then gets 3 at 8:40. Akio is deemed out of it, so it’s down to Rey and Chavo for the title. But first Tajiri kicks Rey in the head on the way out for good measure. Chavo covers and gets 2. He charges at Rey in the corner, but takes a drop toehold. Rey hits a springboard rana and takes a shot at Chavo Sr. while he’s at it. He then nails a dive on Sr., but when he comes back, his sunset flip is blocked with Chavo hooking him and grabbing on to Sr. for leverage to get the 3 count to retain at 10:31. It was energetic and there were some good spots, but really this is an impossible concept to pull off with that many guys and that short of a time frame. But it definitely didn’t suck, so I’ll give them **1/2 for the effort.
Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg
Ah yes, perhaps the most interesting match on the show. Goldberg made it clear late last year that he would not be renewing his contract when it came up which meant that Wrestlemania would be his final night with the company. It was decided that he would put over Brock Lesnar here with the idea being that it would help establish Lesnar even more as a guy who was the future of the company. They began teasing it as far back as Survivor Series, but it really began at the Royal Rumble with a confrontation during an interview leading to Lesnar doing a run in on the Rumble match and causing Goldberg to be eliminated. To return the favour, Goldberg showed up last month at No Way Out and got involved in Lesnar’s WWE Title defense against Eddie Guerrero, ultimately costing Lesnar the belt. The match was made, and based on a confrontation between Lesnar and Steve Austin; Austin was named the guest referee. But then, less than a week before the show, we got another twist. Lesnar, citing a combination of burnout from the schedule, unhappiness at being removed from the WWE Title picture, and a sudden newfound urge to play in the NFL, declared that he was quitting after Wrestlemania as well. The crowd knows that both guys are done after tonight and they get on them, particularly Lesnar right off the bat. They start with “You Sold Out”, followed by the Goodbye song and the fact that we’re now at the three minute mark without them so much as making contact is not helping things. They do the epic lockup where no one gives an inch, but the crowd is giving them nothing. Following a “Boring” chant, they do that same spot again. Now Lesnar gets a side headlock, gets fired off and hits a shoulderblock, but still no one moves. Ok, they’re evenly matched, we get it. Second try results in a second standoff, but on the third one they both go down to give the crowd a chance to do another “Boring” chant. Lesnar’s corner whip is reversed which leads to Goldberg getting a press slam into a spinebuster. He sets up a spear, but that misses and he goes out to the floor where Lesnar sends him to the post. In the ring, Lesnar works to get a suplex for 2 and goes to a modified headlock. Goldberg escapes, but Lesnar takes him down with a clothesline and goes back to the hold. Goldberg once again escapes, but when Lesnar comes off the ropes they hit head to head and both go down. Lesnar covers for 2 and then keeps working him over, but his corner whip is reversed which leads to Goldberg hitting a couple of clotheslines. Swinging neckbreaker followed by a spear get 2. Goldberg argues the count with Austin, but that allows Lesnar to sneak up and hit the F5, but Goldberg kicks out at 2. Now Lesnar argues with Austin to set up another spear by Goldberg and the Jackhammer finishes Lesnar off at 12:45. The match wasn’t very good, but it was an interesting spectacle to watch, that’s for sure. I’m gonna call it ½*. Post match, Lesnar gives the crowd the finger, so Austin nails the Stunner which gets the biggest reaction of anything in the match. Austin then calls Goldberg back, and they celebrate with a few beers before Austin hits the Stunner on him too to another big reaction. This was basically Goldberg’s retirement match as he hasn’t wrestled since although rumours of a return, usually in TNA or Japan pop up once in awhile. He’s mainly stuck to acting in a few small TV and movie roles. Lesnar’s NFL career was a flop as he failed a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings later that year and then just gave it up. He has since gone into MMA, and, as you may have heard, recently knocked out Randy Couture to win the UFC Heavyweight Title.
Vince McMahon makes a brief appearance on the stage to thank the fans for coming out tonight.
WWE Tag Team Championship Fatal Four Way Match: Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty vs. The World’s Greatest Tag Team vs. The APA vs. The Basham Brothers
Yay, another meaningless four way for the other set of tag belts. Benjamin and Bradshaw start things off with a slugfest. Bradshaw then nails a clothesline and hammers away. Benjamin ducks an Irish whip, but takes another clothesline on the rebound for 1. Doug Basham steals the tag from Bradshaw and hits an atomic drop on Benjamin. Tag to Danny who hits a back suplex for 2, and then comes off the ropes, but gets tripped up by Haas. Benjamin tags his partner and they hit a double backbreaker for 2. Danny then gets a jawjacker and tags Scotty. Scotty with a shoulderblock and a back suplex, but comes off the roes and gets tossed. He tries to skin the cat, but gets hooked on the ropes with Shelton coming in and leaping over Haas onto Scotty’s back, from which Haas gets 2. Haas goes to a bearhug, with Scotty fighting out and getting a rollup, but Haas made the tag to Doug in the process and he comes in to break it up and get a 2 count on Scotty. Tag to Danny with the Bashams nailing a double suplex for 2. Tag back to Doug, who takes an ensiguiri from Scotty. Tag again to Danny, who tries to cut Scotty off from tagging, but can’t and Rikishi gets it. Rikishi is the house afire on everyone as it breaks down in to an all out brawl. He gets the Stinkface on Haas who goes out to the floor. Bradshaw then grabs Doug and throws him to the floor with a fallaway slam to the floor on the WGTT. He then hits the Clothesline From Hell on Danny. Rikishi grabs Bradshaw and takes him out with a Samoan drop, then sits on Danny for 3 at 6:02. The champs retain in a whatever match. * Did anyone predict at the time that this of all matches was the one that featured the next WWE Champion?
The show wasn’t quite long enough yet, so why not have Jesse Ventura come out and interview Donald Trump for the sake of killing more time?
WWE Women’s Championship Match, Title vs. Hair: Victoria vs. Molly Holly
Molly’s hair is on the line here and if she loses they have a nice little barber shop setup on the stage in which to take care of it. Molly knees her off a lockup, then whips her to the corner and hits a charge. She takes Victoria down, but Victoria kips up and rolls her up for 1. Molly goes to the floor where Victoria’s baseball slide misses and Molly hits a clothesline on the floor. Back in the ring, that gets a 1 count and she follows that with a suplex for 2. Snapmare to a seated dropkick gets another 2 count and then she goes to a neck vice. Victoria elbows out, but gets clotheslined. Molly misses an elbow leading to a Victoria roll up for 2. She then gets a couple of clotheslines and a powerslam for another 2. Molly drops her on the ropes and goes up top. Victoria catches her and tries a superplex, but Molly blocks, flips over her and gets a slow motion powerbomb for 2. She tries a backbreaker, but Victoria slips out and gets a backslide for 3 to retain at 4:54. ¼* Molly tries to run, but Victoria catches her, straps her into the barber’s chair and the hair comes off. Good for Molly to be such a trooper like that.
WWE Championship Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle
So as mentioned earlier, Eddie pulled out a really surprising win over Brock Lesnar to take the WWE Title last month at No Way Out and this is first major title defense. For the second year in a row Angle was scheduled to take some time of to heal following Wrestlemania so the result wasn’t really a secret, but it was definitely expected that these guys would try as hard as they could to steal the show. They start out trading holds and counters with neither guy dominating and both getting their fair share of moves in. A lot of quick action in this great display of chain wrestling that you rarely see in this day in age. Eddie tries a suplex, but Angle counters to a German. 2nd German sends Eddie to the apron. Angle then slides through the legs and tries to suplex Eddie off the apron, but Eddie blocks it and dropkicks Angle to the floor. Eddie goes up, but misses his dive and hits the barrier. In the ring, Angle gets a 2 count followed by a backbreaker for another 2. To a bodyscissors, but Eddie makes it to his feet and hits a jawjacker. Eddie charges, but angle catches him with a stungun for 2. Two belly to belly suplexes get 2 as well and now Angle goes to the bear hug as they’ve established an abdominal area injury on Eddie. Eddie rakes the eyes to escape, but ends up taking another belly to belly suplex. Angle puts him on the top rope, but Eddie headbutts him off and tries the frog splash, but Angle moves. Angle works him over, but Eddie fights back hitting an elbow off an Irish whip and a couple of clotheslines. Angle reverses an Irish whip, but misses the charge so Eddie hits a back suplex for 2. Angle slips out of another suplex and hits a German. Second one is blocked and Eddie cradles him for 2. Angle hits a clothesline and goes for the Angle Slam, but Eddie slips out and hits his own clothesline. He then gets a flying headscissors to set up the Three Amigos, but Angle blocks the third one and counters to the ankle lock. Eddie kicks him off and hits a dropkick. He goes up, but Angle gets up there too and takes him down with a double underhook suplex for 2. Back to the ankle lock, but this time Eddie pulls him over and rolls him up for 2. Angle still controls with a German suplex, but another try at the Angle Slam is countered to a DDT. Eddie goes up and this time nails the frog splash, but it only gets 2. This has Eddie frustrated and he falls victim to the ankle lock for the third time, but he has one more counter left and kicks Angle to the floor. Eddie takes the opportunity to loosen his boot so that when Angle returns and hooks the hold again, the boot comes off and Eddie slips out. He then gets a quick small package for 3 to retain the Title at 21:35. Just a great back and forth match and there’s really nothing not to love about it. ****3/4
Kane vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)
Back at Survivor Series, Kane helped Mr. McMahon defeat Taker in a Buried Alive match which symbolically killed off the “biker” character Taker had been using for the past three and a half years. He took some time off and they built up his big return here going back to the “deadman” character that he continues to use to this day. Paul Bearer also returns here, but he wouldn’t last long at all before being killed off for good. Kane is in disbelief that Taker is actually here so Taker attacks. Irish whip sees Kane hold on and slid out to the floor, but Taker chases. Kane nails him, but his whip is reversed and Kane hits the apron. Taker then gets an elbow and a legdrop on there. Two clothesline set up the Last Ride, but backdrops out. He chokes Taker, but Taker soon comes back. The ref tries to get in between them, so Taker chases him away, but that lets Kane hit a side slam. Kane then goes up and comes off with a flying clothesline for 2. They trade shots with Kane then missing a charge and Taker hitting a clothesline and a legdrop. He goes for Old School, but Kane catches him by the throat and hits the chokeslam. Taker sits right up and comes back with punches. He gets the flying clothesline, a chokeslam, and the Tombstone to finish at 7:47. Kane becomes, thus far, the only two time victim in The Streak. Match was built around the return more than anything because the result was a foregone conclusion. ½*
Main Event, World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit
Benoit won the Royal Rumble to earn a shot here and then jumped from Smackdown to Raw to challenge HHH for his title. Problem was that HHH and Shawn Michaels were already having a pretty good feud over the WHC and were hoping to cap it off here tonight. Shawn interfered in the contract signing and signed it himself, so the result is that we have a three way to decide things. Benoit and Shawn both want HHH for themselves, and they ends up going at it over it. Benoit almost gets the Crossface right away, but not quite so he whips Shawn into HHH to send HHH to the floor. Shawn gets a side headlock take down and gets on top for 2. Benoit bridges out, so Shawn cradles him for 2. Benoit hits a northern lights suplex for 2, but then takes a clothesline. HHH is back and clotheslines Shawn, and then works both guys over. Benoit ends up on the floor this time, and Shawn then hits a backdrop on HHH. His Irish whip is reversed with HHH getting a high knee for 2. Benoit gets to the apron and shoulderblocks HHH, so HHH knocks him back down and runs him to the apron. Shawn hits a baseball slide on both, and then comes off the top with a moonsault on both. He gets HHH back in the ring and covers for 2. Irish whip sees Shawn put the head down and take a facebuster, but Benoit breaks up a Pedigree attempt. He then sends Shawn shoulder first to the post and hits a snap suplex on HHH. Corner whip is reversed with Benoit hitting chest first, and HHH the drops him on the top rope. He hangs Benoit in the Tree of Woe and whips Shawn into him, and then covers Shawn for 2. He tries the same thing again, but Shawn reverse and HHH runs into the boot that Benoit has gotten free. Shawn rolls him up for 2 and then a slugfest breaks out. Shawn gets sent off and comes back with the flying forearm. He kips up, but Benoit is right there to clothesline him to the floor. He then gets a German suplex on HHH, but a second is blocked. Benoit hammers him, and now gets the second one, followed by a third. He goes up, but Shawn crotches him. He then tries Sweet Chin Music on HHH, but it gets ducked and HHH nails a DDT and sends him to the floor. Super plex on Benoit gets a 2 count followed by another 2 and a third 2. Benoit fights back, but puts his head down on an Irish whip to set up a Pedigree, but he then counters to the Crossface. Shawn is back to break that up and he hits Benoit with a German suplex. Benoit reverses an attempt at a second one and hits his own times three. He goes up top and hits the headbutt for 2, and then a second try at the cover also gets 2. Irish whip leads to Shawn hitting the forearm, which knocks Benoit to the floor. Shawn then gets an atomic drop on HHH, followed by a couple of clotheslines and a slam. He goes up and hits the elbow and then nails Sweet Chin Music, but Benoit makes the save at 2. Shawn and Benoit go at it now, with Shawn’s corner whip getting reversed so he can do his flipjob. Benoit then catapults Shawn to the post which busts him open pretty good. Crossface is hooked, but HHH makes the save on it. He drags Benoit to the floor, where HHH himself ends up getting rammed to the stairs. A whip to the stairs however, is reversed and Benoit hits. HHH preps the announce table for use, but Benoit fights back. They both end up on the Spanish table where they both attempt moves that are blocked. Shawn gets up there now and he and HHH double suplex Benoit through the table. Benoit appears to be done, so Shawn and HHH head in to finish things. Corner whip by Shawn sends HHH right back out to the floor where Shawn sends him to the post. HHH is also busted open now as they get back in. Shawn hits comes punches, but HHH comes right back and hits the Pedigree. A delayed cover gives Benoit just enough time to make it back for the save. HHH tries the Pedigree on him now, but Benoit counters and hooks the Sharpshooter. HHH struggles to make the ropes, but Benoit drags him back. Shawn comes in and nails Sweet Chin Music on Benoit to break the hold, but his cover only gets 2. Benoit ducks another attempt and dumps Shawn to the floor. HHH tries the Pedigree again, but this time Benoit counters to the Crossface. HHH fights it and even tries to roll through it, but Benoit holds on and eventually HHH has nothing left he can do but tap out at 24:50. Benoit is the new World Heavyweight Champion and the celebration is on. Even though, as I’ve said many times, I hate the Triple Threat concept, the work done in this match was spectacular and it’s probably the best example of the genre I’ve ever seen. Guerrero joins him in a scene that is admittedly eerie today, but at the time no one thought it was anything less than a great moment. ****1/2
Well, with three matches cracking the **** barrier, and another in at ***1/2, there’s no doubt that this Wrestlemania belongs right up there in the greatest Mania of all time discussion. My biggest complain about the show? Definitely the length as it clocks in around four and a half hours. Unlike, say, Wrestlemania IV, they do hold your interest well and the two best matches of the night are at the end, but this show could have gotten even better by cutting 45 minutes or so of filler. But that issue aside, it’s an easy thumbs up, and I still consider it highly recommended as a rewatch even if you understandably want to turn it off after the Taker/Kane match.