-Because Warren asked me to. Otherwise, I need no prompting to watch my favorite PPV ever (crap, that spoils the summation).
-Quick sidenote that will look dated one day: check out It Follows if you can, especially if you're tired of horror movies that rely on CGI and the cliched startle-scares, this is in your wheelhouse. The ambiguous time-frame is unsettling enough, and the soundtrack will really resonate with you if you liked 1980s NES games. Trust me, it's a complete film experience.
-Anywho, WrestleMania X-7. My brother is still in possession of the VHS we used to tape X7 that night, and it's now rendered completely unwatchable from repeat viewings. Hell, I'm surprised we didn't wreck it during Easter break that year; we watched upwards of two or three hours of it a day in the days following WrestleMania. That's how you knew you were watching a pantheon event. Today, the VHS tape exists solely as a monument to our viewing zealotry, as it's more ruined that Ashley's Judd's perfect season dream.
-I'm rambling. Let's just get to the good times.
-The WrestleMania X-7 Cynical Review
-Live from Houston, TX, and WWE's return to stadiums. There was a time where us fans had forgotten what the WWF looked like in front of over 60,000 paying customers.
-On the call, Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, four weeks into his WWE run. The marks missed Lawler, but I loved Paul's approach. That had nothing to do with me being an ECW diehard, either; he just brought an unreal level of salesmanship and fandom that "Puppies! Puppies!" Lawler lacked.
-Any dramatic video with Freddie Blassie doing the voiceover automatically screams 'grandest stage'. He even makes the line, "WrestleMania: a celebration of life" sound 400% less pretentious.
-Limp Bizkit may be a relic of unintentional comedy and gleeful maligning, but "My Way" was the best connection between song and PPV in WWE history. See, this show had EVERYTHING!
WWF Intercontinental: Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Yes, the feud that saw Jericho drop the yellow acid into Regal's teapot, which isn't a euphemism. Between this and Tommy Dreamer dumping piss onto Lance Storm's face at Cyberslam 1999, the Thrillseekers loved their watersports, it seemed. You wouldn't think in 2001 that Regal would one day surpass Jericho in subtle awesomeness, but by God, it happened. Jericho lands a forearm smash early, and follows up with a spinning leg lariat. Pescado overshoots Regal, but they recover well enough. Diving back elbow off the top from Jericho gets 2. Forgot about Regal's easily-discolorated chest. Walls is blocked and Jericho is sent shoulder-first twice into the post, and that's followed up with a knuckle-lock throw that you don't see every day. Hearing Ross and Heyman describe the psychology of working the arm makes me hate Cole and JBL even more. Lionsault lands on Regal's knees, and a Regal roll-up gets 2. Flipping back suplex gets another 2, and it isn't the same without RVD taking it full-bore on his neck. Regal exposes the turnbuckle and drives Jericho's bad shoulder into the steel. Well, he did used to have 'villain' written on his trunks. Jericho comes back with some dropkicks, ending with one off the middle rope for 2. Jericho misses a corner charge, and Regal lands a butterfly superplex, getting 2 after a beat, Jericho escapes a back suplex and tries for the Walls, but Regal counters into a modified Stretch. Jericho makes the ropes, and the crowd is hanging on every counter. Pretty good for the Attitude Era, so maybe fans don't need bells and whistles, just give em a story. Regal tries for the Union Jack neckbreaker, but Jericho slams his face into the exposed buckle (IRONY~!), bulldogs him, and finishes with a Lionsault at 7:08. Finish seemed abrupt, but there's a lot to get to tonight. There was a lot of physicality and story packed into 7 minutes, but it's two of the best doing it.
-Shane McMahon just now arrives. He's late for the call-time! That's worse than not shaking every veteran's hand!
-Bradshaw rallies his allies with lots of Houston references. Not one 'Maggle'. We're in a good period here.
APA/Tazz vs. Right to Censor
The face team boasts a WWE Champion, a WCW Champion, and an ECW Champion. Huh. JR calls RTC 'an extremist group'. They should've had them picket funerals for massive heel heat. Wild brawl in the early going, and Jacqueline DDT's Steven Richards, always a trooper. Bull and Faarooq are the official starters. and Buchanan gets a gnarly springboard back elbow. Faarooq comes back with a powerslam for 2. Tazz tags in and gets a T-bone Tazplex, but the heels come back with a corner beatdown. The sense of urgency here indicates a quick outing. Tazz takes a funky fall on an Irish whip, landing into the middle rope. Goodfather tags a tag from Venis and lays a beating on, and lands what was once The Ho Train. Pump splash misses and angry Bradshaw gets the tag. Bradshaw goes ballistic, taking over the match the way he commandeers the announce table: clumsily and without planning. Double front spinebuster crunches Venis. Back superplex on Val, but Goodfather and Bull double powerbomb Bradshaw. Bradshaw avoids the Ho Train, and Clotheslines Goodfather to Hell at 3:53. Fun match for its abbreviated length, with everyone getting some shit in. No issues here.
-Trish and medicated Linda run into Stephanie and have a powwow. Linda's the best actress of the three here.
WWF Hardcore: Raven vs. Kane vs. Big Show
"WHO THE FUCK MADE RAVEN HARDCORE CHAMPION?!" - Vince, probably. I do miss the eerie bass-metal with the squawking that was Raven's theme song. JR says, "You can't make a living off potential; you gotta get it done" in regards to Big Show. Even back THEN, Show was considered a flop. If this match happened today, given the participants, Raven would be the biggest babyface on the roster, solely by default. Kane chucks Raven onto the arriving Show, and then jumps onto both men. Kane really was underrated in this timeframe as a big man worker. Raven gets knocked over the rail with Kane in immediate pursuit. Kane attempts a slam on Raven, but Show kicks him in the face as Heyman and Ross have a delightfully sarcastic exchange of praise. Raven smashes Kane with a street sign, but its mostly ineffective. Raven dents a wall and Show slams Kane on a stack of pallets. Show tries to lock he and Raven in a utility room to prevent a Kane disruption, but that fails. Raven chokes Kane with a garden hose, but Kane reverses the asphyxia, and sends Raven through a plate-glass window. Puts Jannetty's famous bump in perspective. Show puts Kane through a trick door, and then makes a comical face when Kane goozles him. Got a big pop. Then the two go through a wall of what was obviously a specially constructed room for the match.
Raven attempts to flee on a golf cart, but Show hops on and drives him into a wall. Kane follows in hot pursuit (with Jimmy Korderas on the back), and runs over Raven's leg. I feel like Raven's trying to outdo every insane bump from the 1990s. He needs to go off of Hell in a Cell to complete the trifecta. The fight spills into the concession area, and then Raven is thrown into the format board by Gorilla. Onto the stage, where Show attempts to press slam Raven, but Kane kicks both men off into the side staging area. Kane lands a stuntman area onto Show to capture the title at 9:18. Just Attitude Era silliness with moments of inspired brilliance and brutality. It did what it was supposed to do.
-Kurt Angle bitterly watches Benoit rip him apart on Monday, and even the joviality of Edge and Christian can't cheer him up. Angle's transition into a mechanical wrestling warrior was almost derailed by his comedy trio with Vince and Austin that summer, but because of his ring acumen, he got back on track more than well-enough.
-Jimmy Snuka's at WWF New York. Did you know that he's the father of WWE Diva Tamina Snuka?I'll bet you didn't.
-The Rock gets booed out of Houston, and he didn't even have to raise Roman Reigns' hand to do it.
WWF European: Test vs. Eddie Guerrero
Believe this is the most recent singles bout between deceased competitors at WrestleMania. Eddie faced Benoit at XIX, but in a three way tag. Perry Saturn's fuzzy hat is the most notable component of the match. Some midcarder needs to wear that now; it'd get em over in a heartbeat. Actually, that's why WWE *wouldn't* let them wear it. Guerrero tries to back-jump Test, but is beaten down immediately, complete with diving powerbomb for 2. After a brawl outside, Guerrero gets a temporary upper hand, only to get dropped with with a press-slam snake eyes for 2. Test blocks a top-rope rana, and lands a diving back elbow for 2. I much prefered dynamic, athletic Test compared to his roided-to-the-gills 2006 look. The contrast is stunning. In a famous moment, Test gets hung up by his ankle in the ropes and is legitimately stuck. Guerrero has to work with a young Chad Patton to free him, which gets some sarcastic applause. Eddie works the knee for a spell while Heyman puts over the Guerrero family, shouting out Hector, who would be appearing later. Sorta. Leaping sleeper by Eddie but lets go prematurely and runs into a tilt-a-whirl slam. Tilt-a-whirl spinning powerbomb, an impressive one, gets 2. Ross says Guerrero's getting hammered 'like a pinata', which would kick up a Twitter storm today. Deadspin would be in 24-hour coverage with their fake indignation. Saturn runs in and lands the Moss-Covered, Three-Handled, Family Gredunza behind Patton's back, but Guerrero gets only 2. Guerrero brainbuster is the prelude to the frog splash, which Test rolls away from. Pumphandle powerslam gets 2 after Test takes a beat to knock Saturn off the apron. Test drops Eddie with the running boot, but Dean Malenko arrives and breaks the pin. Guerrero nails Test with the belt, and it's a Radical Reunion for the win at 8:30. Underrated match in WrestleMania's annals, and merely middle ground on a great show like this. It does show what Test was capable of before injuries and the like wrecked him.
-Mick Foley promises he'll be impartial when refereeing a Vince McMahon match tonight, wink wink. And we get a cheap pop, just because.
-Austin arrives, and gets cheered wildly for a 9 second spot.
Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
Hard to believe this was made official just six days before the show. Of course, the Network doesn't bullet-point this match on the stream-line for the obvious reasons. Angle berates Texas during his entrance, which I'm sure Canadian-born Benoit will be happy to avenge. Benoit's icy stare pre-match is a bit more unsettling in hindsight. Angle gets a takedown, and the two fight over dominant position for a stretch and get cheered in the stand-off. Angle gets another takedown and Benoit bodyscissors his way out to louder applause. Angle gets the Swagger leg-lift throw and the mat work continues. Angle tries to pick the leg and Benoit goes for the arm, and it's another stalemate. Benoit attempts the Crossface and Angle immediately makes the ropes. Another attempt, another scoot to the ropes. Angle bails, and practically gets caught in a Crossface again, but makes the ropes. Benoit complains and gets clocked, then sent to the floor. Angle smashes Benoit's face into the Spanish table, which has survived the first hour. Benoit flies into the steps as Heyman mentions 'WWF style' rather overtly. Snap suplex gets 2. Angle lands a delayed back suplex for another 2. Heyman notes that Angle would now rather settle for the pin, a subtle bit of storytelling. Benoit comes back with some chops, but is tossed by a throwing belly to belly, followed by another.
Benoit turns the tide with the short clothesline as Ross and Heyman argue about the Briscos. Benoit lands a series of chops and Angle obliges him in return, before Benoit kitchen-sinks him. Snap suplex gets 2 for Benoit. Superplex from Benoit lays both men out, and Benoit gets a delayed cover for 2. Rolling Germans follow after an Irish whip, but Benoit takes the leg out and tries the Ankle Lock, which Benoit counters into his own version. Angle kicks his way out, and Benoit gets the Crossface, which Angle escapes. Then he applies his own Crossface. Hard to believe that in 2001, this sort of wrestling in WWF-E wasn't yet standard. Ref gets bumped when Benoit kicks Angle into him. Crossface follows and, wouldn't ya know it, Angle taps, sight unseen. Benoit is frustrated, and gets Angle Slammed for 2. Crowd is really pro-Benoit, despite turning face just days earlier. Angle slams Benoit, but the follow-up moonsault lands on knees. Benoit heads up himself and drops the diving headbutt, but gets just 2. Angle goes low to break a German, and gets a standing Dandina cradle with the tights pulled to win at 14:02. Helluva match, so drastically different from the madcap insanity of the era. Variety is good though, right?
-Regal is dismayed to find Kamala wrecking his office. Nobody sells indignation like Regal. Not even Jackie Gleason.
-Visit to Foot Hood. This is back when WWF was cool, so the PR wasn't so overdone and in-your-face. It's night and day compared to today.
-Benoit beats up Angle because we need another two years of them feuding. Right? Right.
WWF Women's: Ivory vs. Chyna
Into the nadir we go. Chyna won't sell anything Ivory does, which may be the point. Powerbomb and press slam finish at 2:39. Virtual squash from the time Ivory's 'offense' ended.
-Vince makes Linda's medication dosage has been doubled, which I'm sure violates the wellness policy. He also guarantees we'll get 'shocking' tonight.
Street Fight: Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon
Mick Foley is the special referee. I'd like to think the fight for control of WCW is something that could be looked back on fondly, but now I just miss having legitimate competition for WWE. Shane gives a shoutout to WCW in the skybox, complete with Bill DeMott, who may or may not be taking notes on how to ruthlessly destroy someone. Stephanie's here to see if there's any philanthropic opportunities to exploit. Vince chokes away to start, but Shane comes back with an awkward spear and drops some elbows. This brings Stephanie in to smack her brother, but Shane, undeterred, kicks his ass in the aisleway, complete with the retro-fantastic KEEP OFF sign that hung on the guardrails. Then Shane chokes Vince with a power cord, just to piss off Mattel. Wait, wrong era. Shane gets a clothesline off the rail, and then pummels Dad with a kendo stick. Hearing Heyman stick up for Vince is pretty funny stuff. Shane clears the monitors (the same monitors they have today) and goes for the Leap of Faith on the Spanish table, but Stephanie pulls her father away. Good bump.
Trish wheels comatose Linda out. This was casting on the level of making wooden-voiced Arnold into a mechanical cyborg in Terminator - have Linda essentially play dead. Trish picks this moment to turn on Vince for his prior abuse (that Bob Costas all too gleefully noted) and Trish and Stephanie have a brawl almost on the level of their No Way Out epic. Foley intervenes and Stephanie smacks him, so Mick and Trish chase her off to end their involvement. Vince makes a great sour face at Linda and mouths 'bitch' at her. "That's his prerogative!" claims Heyman. How can anyone miss Lawler? Vince bashes Foley with a chair for trying to protect Linda, and then brings his wife into the ring, making her sit in a chair while he abuses Shane. Wonderfully twisted shit. Vince lands some trash can shots on the apparently-still-conscious Shane. Vnce taunts Linda and turns his back, which draws Linda to her feet, resulting in a NUCLEAR pop. Linda kicks Vince in the grapefruits, Foley piles on with a beating, and Shane finishes the fight with a trash can-assisted Van Terminator at 14:12. Bill Demott approves in the skybox, because somebody got ceremoniously bashed in the head. If you're going to overbook a match, fucking go all out like this match. This was overbooked crap, but it's overbooked crap of the finest quality.
WWF World Tag Team/Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge/Christian
Funny to think that none of the Money in the Bank ladder matches quite reach the greatness that was this match, or its SummerSlam 2000 predecessor. E&C get ganged up on early, with the Dudleyz flapjacking Christian. Hardyz and Dudleyz turn their attention to each other, and Poetry in Motion flattens both Dudz in the corner. Edge and Christian clothesline both teams with a ladder to gain control. Matt gets hung in the tree of woe, and the Canucks stand on his crotch, just to be dicks. Pun not intended. Jeff takes a double-leg takedown face first onto a chair, sick spot. Matt prevents Edge's climb, and Edge gets a chair-assisted clothesline to knock Matt off the ladder in return. Jeff dropkicks Edge off the ladder, and the brothers baseball slide another ladder into the Dudleyz. Kind of a dumb spot as the Hardyz land Falling Fate onto Christian from the ladders. They could've climbed up and won there in theory, but then the match would be no fun, would it? Edge takes the wassup headbutt ("This will adversely affect your sexual drive" - JR; would he know?) and the tables get brought in upon prompting. Bubba powerbombs Jeff through a table that Edge was laid upon. The Dudleyz then build a stack of four tables in the aisleway, and are headed off by Matt and Christian.
Three ladders are set up mid-ring, and all six men end up climbing. Christian and Matt sail over the ropes, D-Von and Jeff are hotshotted on the other side, and Bubba and Edge simply knock each other off backwards. Christian has the wherewithal to set up a table at ringside while Edge attempts another climb, only to be cut off by Spike, who Dudley Dogs Edge using the ladder, and then gives one to Christian off the apron and through the table. Rhyno hits the ring to break up Jeff's climb, then hands out some Gores, including putting Matt through a corner table. Edge tries to capitalize, only to be cut off by Lita, giving us the immortal line from JR, "Jerkin' Edge off.....the ladder!" Spike saves Lita from Rhyno, and Lita ranas Rhyno down. Edge is on his way up, but a Spike chairshot from Rhyno sends him toppling into the ladder, crotching Edge on the top rope. This shit is so hard to keep up with!
Dudley Device drops Rhyno, and Lita absolutely brains Spike with a deadly chair shot. 3D lays out Lita, and Edge and Christian chair the Dudleyz down. No downtime. Heyman: "Everyone is a victim in Tables, Ladders, and Chairs!' No kidding. Jeff, being Jeff, takes time to Swanton Rhyno and Spike through two tables from a painter's ladder. Jeff never was sensible anyway. And we're supposed to be surprised that he showed up 10 years later to a TNA PPV in a clouded capacity. Christian and D-Von head up and Matt pulls the ladder out, leaving both men to dangle from the skyhooks. D-Von drops, and Christian soon follows. Jeff attempts to tightrope the tops of three ladders in a spot-gone-awry, but gets back up and hangs perilously from the skyhook. Bubba pulls the ladder out and Edge leaps from the giant ladder, spearing Jeff off. Jesus. Bubba and Matt are atop the ladder now, and Rhyno tips it over, sending them out of the ring, through the four table stack. I will maintain that that was the greatest table spot ever. Nothing comes close; the tables turned to shrapnel and dust in an instant. D-Von is ahead of Christian on the way up, but is restricted by Edge. Rhyno gets Christian on his shoulders and walks him up the ladder, allowing him to grab the belts at 15:42. I said it before, no downtime here, and plenty of insanity to pay off the promise of such. One of the greatest WrestleMania matches ever, in large part because it's never been rendered obsolete in the years since. Just about every ladder or table match in the past 15 years has fallen short, save for maybe Jericho/Shawn at No Mercy 2008. That's high praise.
-AXXESS footage, as good a breather from TLC as anything. Of note, Jerry F'N Lynn wrestling Essa Rios as an attraction. Finkel announces the attendance at 67,925. Was hoping he'd begin with 'APPLAUD YOURSELVES!"
Gimmick Battle Royal
Mean Gene (w/ Johnny B Badd's WCW theme dubbed in over Tutti Frutti) and Bobby Heenan take over the commentary duties. Entrants include The Bushwhackers, Duke Droese, The Iron Sheik, Earthquake, The Goon, Doink the Clown, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbledy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, and Sgt. Slaughter. I count five WrestleCrap inductees, which is a helluva first anniversary gift for ol' RD Reynolds. The entrants are rifled out in record time, giving Sheik the win at 3:05 when he dumps Hillbilly. Slaughter hits the ring and kicks Sheik's ass for old times' sake. Not a good match (which wasn't anticipated), but the real fun came from the entrances and the yesteryear-wistfulness everyone brought to the table. Well, except Droese maybe.
The Undertaker vs. Triple H
Lemmy's presence boosts any WrestleMania by rule, even if he's forgotten the words. Fight begins out at ringside, and HHH breaks the new Spanish table by simply butt-dropping it. Vince's kids, man. Slugfest develops inside and Taker is laid out by the Harley Race knee (ahem) but gets right up. A real Harley knee is a death sentence. Backdrop on HHH, followed by a corner clothesline, and Nash-esque barrage. Powerslam connects, but the follow-up elbow misses. Taker breaks up Triple H's comeback with the leaping clothesline. Fans want Old School, which Taker gamely milks, but HHH breaks it up with a top rope armdrag. Neckbreaker gets 2 for HHH. Some slowed-down strikes followed by another neckbreaker for 2. HHH shoves Mike Chioda, who shoves back to a bigger pop than what Chyna got on this show. Taker comes back with strikes and an uppercut, but HHH cuts him off with the running facebuster. HHH fetches the sledgehammer, which Chioda staunchly will not allow. Taker avoids a Pedigree and accidentally catapults HHH into Chioda. Chokeslam gets a delayed 2 as Chioda clears the cobwebs. That angers Taker, so he stomps Chioda and drops an elementary elbow on his back. That's enough to render Chioda legally dead. Even Bill Frist would advocate pulling the plug.
The fight spills into the crowd with Taker backdropping HHH over, and the brawl leads back into the production area. If only Kevin Dunn were destroyed in the fray. A kayfabe beating, of course. Taker hammers away on the production tower, giving JR an excuse to say 'soup bones'. HHH gets a chair to the gut and back, then crowns him with one to the skull. Repeated shots follow with Taker laid out. Meanwhile, Chioda is still dead. HHH joins him in the beyond when Undertaker chokeslams him out of the tower. The future COO landed on a fair amount of padding, but the bump looked cool from other angles. Taker drops an elbow, scaring off the EMTs were were afraid Hunter may be paralyzed from the brunt of the fluffy crash mat. The brawl spills back toward the ring, with Chioda still deader than Tout. C'mon, Hunter landed on a crash mat, ref. Suck it up. Back inside, Taker grabs the sledgehammer, but gets kicked low before he can land a shot. Thank God, because there'd be two corpses in the ring. Taker avoids getting struck with the hammer, kicking HHH in the mug. The two hammer back and forth. Triple H tries a Tombstone, and Taker reverses into his rarely-done (at the time) version. Chioda FINALLY begins stirring as Taker sets up for the Last Ride. HHH brings the sledgehammer with him and brains Taker with it. However, he only gets 2. Taker's bleeding, but HHH becomes the first victim of the corner-mount counter into the Last Ride, extending the streak to 9 wins at 18:17. Even with the silliness of Chioda laying dead for approximately the length of a film festival, I still like this Taker-HHH match better than the End of an Era Hell in a Cell match, since there was less self-reverential wanking, and more "I'm gonna kill you" brawling among two hated enemies. Real men, in wrestling folklore, don't worry about building legacies. Instead, they fight.
-Rock makes the long walk while Austin stares conflictedly into the mirror, a subtlety not picked up at the time. We get the "My Way" build video, among the best video packages in company history.
WWF World Heavyweight Championship: The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
I miss Austin's Disturbed music. JR seems surprised that the match is no disqualification; that was EVERY Attitude Era match! Crowd is probably 85-15 Austin, which is saying something because Hogan got a greater slice of the pie a year later in Toronto. Austin strikes first, hammering Rock with rights, and misses a belt shot, but comes back with the Thesz press. Two pointed elbows connect, but Rock comes back with a neckbreaker. Austin avoids Rock Bottom, Rock avoids the Stunner, Austin avoids a Rock Stunner, and Austin sends Rock to the floor. Quite the hot start. Austin slugs Rock at ringside and they battle over the railing as Heyman adds his own surprise regarding the no DQ stips. Paul Heyman, mind you. Austin gets smashed into the announce desk, but comes back, using his knee brace to rake Rock's face. Back inside, Austin gets a straddle drop on the middle rope for 2. Austin then gets a superplex for 2. A desperate Austin undoes the turnbuckle pad, giving the opener and the mainer a nice fugue quality. Rock rallies with a diving clothesline and a rebounding throw for 2. Austin is clotheslined up and over and the wild brawl continues, with Austin getting smashed into Mark Yeaton's area. I look forward to the day Yeaton wins the Warrior Award under the guidelines that Warrior had personally suggested.
Rock is now busted open after a ring bell shot and Austin hammers the cut further. The announce desk falls apart under Rock's weight, a suddenly recurring theme. Austin continues slugging away back inside, and pounds away on the canvas while the crowd swells to a boil. This is what Lesnar's modern style is like an evolutionary version of, where it's just straight-forward punishment without frills. Rock tries a comeback, but Austin gets a neckbreaker for 2, and he goes back to opening up the wound with rights. Mudhole stomps follow, much to the crowd's joy. Rock explodes out of the corner with a clothesline to thunderous boos. This is actually pretty on par with Toronto at X8. Rock strikes with rights, and smashes him into the buckle that Austin exposed. Rock grabs the ring bell to continue the poetic retribution, and smashes him for 2. Austin was busted open after the buckle shot, it should be noted. Rock smashes the cut and takes Austin back down, though Austin stubbornly keeps getting up. Austin gets the upper hand outside the ring, hotshotting (not quite Stun-Gunning) Rock on the barricade. Rock takes a slingshot into the post, with a beautiful leap and sell. Austin bashes Rock with a monitor, and gets 2 back inside. For two heavyweights that are bleeding, they're cutting a great pace.
Austin gets the double bird, but Rock catches the boot and slaps on his version of the Sharpshooter. Still better than some versions he's applied. Austin makes the ropes, so Rock has to break in a no DQ match. Never got that. Heyman mocks JR's fandom for the hell of it. Rock attempts another Sharpshooter, but gets his eyes raked, and Austin applies a somewhat-more conventional version of the hold. Rock manages to power out of the hold, and Austin goes to the knee before stomping the sternum. Austin reapplies the hold, and Rock makes the ropes, which doesn't deter Austin. See, that's what I mean. Austin gets the Million Dollar Dream. Rock manages to escape the Bret Hart way with the turnbuckle push-off for 2. Back to the slugfest, and Rock gets the Stunner to a chorus of boos. Slow cover gets 2. And now Vince makes his way out, which made no sense at the time. In some ways, it still doesn't. Austin gets a front spinebuster for 2. Rock gets his own spinebuster and follows with the People's Elbow, but Vince breaks up the pin, getting some cheers in the process. Rock chases Vince, and ends up getting Rock Bottom'd for 2. Much like the main event of 31 when Rollins entered the match, you had no idea how it was ending.
Austin tries the Stunner and Rock pushes off, taking Hebner out. Austin goes low on Rock and demands that Vince grab a chair. The fans are flabbergasted as Austin holds him up for a chair shot from McMahon. Vince tosses Hebner in for a 2 count, and I'm saddened because all of Austin's utterings of "SHIT!" are muted out. Rock gets a desperation Rock Bottom and Vince ties up Hebner, only for Rock to drag him in. Rock lays the smack down, but walks into a Stunner, only for a count of 2. Vince hands Austin a chair, on the condition that Austin never bring up Chyna's name on any future podcasts. Austin decapitates Rock with a chair shot, getting another close 2. Austin takes the chair and proceeds to drive it into Rock's ribs and back almost 20 times (while Vince hilariously cheers him on) and scores the pin and the gold at 28:06. JR is practically in conniptions, especially when Austin and Vince shake hands afterward. The two share a beer and Austin smashes Rock with the belt for good measure. Even if you hate the ending in hindsight, or even at the time, there's no discounting the awesomeness of this fight, with Rock succeeding so far outside his more sports-entertainy wheelhouse. It's a gold standard for mano-a-mano brawls, even with Vince's involvement. Though the story kinda sucked afterward, degenerating into Austin being a pussy that sang to Vince and vied for his attention with Angle, this was a helluva first chapter into something different. Shame the aftermath didn't live up, because this was AWESOME. Sadly, JR's punctuating 'things will never be the same' moment rings more true than any of us would have guessed or wanted.
14 years later, it's unmatched as the greatest PPV in WWE history. Only SummerSlam 2002, WrestleMania XX, and Money in the Bank 2011 have come close since to matching its quality. Six matches were *** or greater (Jericho/Regal is merely the SEVENTH best match of the night), and three topped ****, with two acing at *****. If you can't recommend this show, you can't recommend any show.
Thumbs WAY up.