Flashback: Wrestlemania X-Seven
On April 1, 2001 in Houston, Texas, the WWF hosted in my esteemed (okay, let's face it, probably worthless) opinion the finest event/card in its amazing history.
Packed to the rafters with 68,000 baying fans (breaking the attendance record for the Reliant in the process), Wrestlemania 17 is widely considered by many, the closing curtain and last hurrah of the so-called Attitude Era.
I've since personally come to see the event as a symbolic ending to the last time I could say wrestling was mainstream enough to be considered 'cool' (or one of the last times I could admit being a fan!); the beginning of a slow and painful decline for the wrestling industry...but I digress.
What made Wrestlemania 17 unlike any other Wrestlemania previously and following Wrestlemanias was not the only the great card, wrestlers involved or even storylines leading up to the event (although WM 17 really ticked all the boxes in these areas)—but quite simply the whole damn package that it was.
Everything came together perfectly, and it just felt so right at the time.
Nu-metal was also about to see the end of its popularity too, but Limp Biskit's My Way was perfect for the occasion. It was a song that really fit the theme for WM 17.
On commentary, Paul Heyman and good ol' J.R enlightened proceedings.
You know I'm genuinely surprised to hear Heyman's voice whenever I watch some of WM17 again on Youtube and the like. I'd always remembered Jerry Lawler being J.R's predominant partner in the attitude era and remembered Heyman as only doing commentary when the Invasion storyline kicked in.
Not that Heyman did a bad job in his time behind the commentary both or anything—there's was hardly a night where Heyman didn't royally p*ss off the usually dignified Jim Ross, and to be fair he did not let up on J.R. at WM 17 either!
Anyway back to the action...
With 11 matches, WM 17 was a blockbuster card. Anyone who ordered it couldn't say they were shortchanged with over four hours of action.
Not only that, but amazingly, every match on the card (Gimmick battle royal aside) made sense considering the previous angles and storylines WWE gave us in the preceding months: There was hardly any filler too.
Likewise, there wasn't any of the blatant 'exhibition' type crap we're now used to seeing at Wrestlemania (Show v Mayweather, Show v Akebono, Show v Godzilla etc).
The matches were a blast.
My favourite wrestler at the time, Kane (yeah, he used to rock!) had one of the wackiest triple threat matches you'll ever see with the Big Show and poor Raven (Even now I remember those golf cart antics vividly).
In what many purists saw as the dream technical match-up of the time, Kurt Angle faced the now passed away Chris Benoit in a gripping encounter (one of many classics they would later have).
What gives this particular one further gravitas is the simple fact that its a matchup we'll never have the pleasure of seeing again on the big stage between these two greats (say what you will about events since then...)
Of course it would be stupid not to point out why WM 17 had major historical significance for wrestling at the time too: Only weeks prior Shane McMahon surreally appeared on WCW Nitro claiming he had bought WCW, kick starting the father vs. son storyline and the later Invasion scenario.
This was the WWF's time to throw a party, having finally driven a stake through Ted Turner's wrasslin' experiment down south.
But whereas the WWE f*cked up big time in the end with the Invasion (a bit like everything else since) the match itself on the night was surprisingly exciting.
I'm not Vince's biggest fan—his dreadful in-ring work would give Mick Foley a run for his money—but to give the devil his due, both he and Shane pulled off a riot with their streetfight.
Unlike nowadays where championships have no relevance, all minor championships were also on the line at the big show.
Jericho and Regal gave a decent opening bout for the IC title, the now legendary Eddie Guerrero also had a decent but not outstanding bout with Test for the European Championship, and Chyna squashed super-feminist (and f'n hilarious) Ivory for the Women's title.
Although the matches weren't amazing, like any good booker knows, it kept the titles relevant in the fans eyes that night—something the WWE has forgotten (or in the case with its B-list Hollywood writing staff, never known).
Without doubt, though, the highlights of the night came in the upper card.
One of them has since been rarely surpassed—I've got three letters for ya—TLC.
'TLC II' as it was dubbed was a classic and usually always gets a nod from fans as one of the standout match-ups of this decade. Of course it helped that the six guys involved were willing to do anything to steal the show.
The Dudleyz, The Hardyz and Edge & Christian will probably go down as three of the best tag teams ever to grace wrestling and with matches like this, how could you seriously argue with that?
Hanging over the ring, the tag titles never seemed so prestigious as bodies and limbs crashed through tables, fell off ladders and got smacked sideways by chairs. Completely breathtaking chaos and I remember loving every bit of it.
Of course, you might say it was a glorified spot-fest, and yeah, it probably was—but it should take nothing away from the enthralling nature of the match and the superhuman efforts of the guys involved.
As I've said before WM 17 was the complete package—alongside your Benoits v Angles providing wrestling clinics, you had absolute mayhem your TLCs and streetfights; there really was something for everyone.
Even a Gimmick Battle Royal was held for the older fans; Doink, someone who I barely remember from my own childhood wrestling fan period, memorably getting a big pop (by the way don't anyone ever tell you clowns aren't scary after watching It).
One thing I was shocked to find out however when researching this article was that Triple H and Undertaker had never met each other on PPV prior to WM 17 (and I imagine, haven't met each other much since). That's astonishing—especially considering the amount of time, even then, both had been in the World Title scene.
Their match was another classic confrontation between two real pros in the ring. Although Triple H may count himself disappointed to have been yet another victim of Taker's unrelentless WM streak, in a way, having defeated Austin just a month previously (and cleanly) at No Way Out, it was a good booking decision to keep things balanced.
After a brief lull, we came to the main event. Texas' own Stone Cold against the arguably his successor as the biggest star in wrestling at the time, The Rock.
For weeks the match had been built subtly—there was nobody chasing someone around a house, there was hardly any name calling, and there was definitely nothing below the belt (which ironically seems to be more a major feature in the PG era more than the later stages of the Attitude era I would argue).
The fact that Austin had earned his shot months previously (after winning a really good Royal Rumble that year too I must say) gave the match a real 'unstoppable force coming up against an immovable object quality' that the storyline team realy did well to build and the booking team did well to build months in advance.
Austin's then real-life wife and manager, Debra, was made to accompany The Rock to the ring by McMahon in the weeks beforehand in a brilliant angle leading up to the match.
The match itself was a humdinger and probably the best match on the night. Hardly anyone saw the finish coming and in an odd way, it completely made sense.
Stone Cold, having lost cleanly to the Rock's previous rival HHH apparently didn't think he could beat the Rock in front of his home crowd without help, or so we later learned, and so he signed a "deal with the devil", as J.R soon began calling it with Vince, and formed the 'two man power trip' with HHH.
It was more plausible than any SWERVE!! Vince Russo could think up in a million years—not to mention, genuinely shocking at the time. With a heel Austin there were endless possibilities, even without an Invasion, right?
Well that about does it for now. Its been a nice nostalgia trip. This will probably be my last article in the wrestling section (barring the return of Bret Hart or something) so in case I don't hear from ya again: Good morning, good day, and good night! All the best.
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