The Wrestlemania Challenge series goes to the first WM of the new millennium, a time when the end of the world was thought to be a computer malfunction instead of a pandemic. After the blunders of last year, the franchise looks to rebound in some aspects, with Vince Russo’s departure to WCW nearly six months earlier, and the WWF initiative to try to move new stars up the card in this showcase event, as Stone Cold Steve Austin was still on the sidelines to recover from neck surgery a few months earlier. The show kicked off with Ice-T rapping the tag team of Godfather and D’lo Brown to the ring with a crew of working girls with them. The well-dressed team squared off with the combination of Big Bossman and Bull Buchanan. This was a decent tag match, but the biggest takeaway here was how over The Godfather was at this time. The crowd followed everything he did and he got a noticeable reaction throughout this contest. The finish saw Bull Buchanan hit a stellar top rope leg drop on D’lo for the win.
Next up was a hardcore battle royal, which was more like a gauntlet, as there was a 15-minute time limit and the belt could change hands throughout it. This was a fun brawl, but got repetitive after about five minutes because most of the competitors hit each other with cookie sheets or the same weapons several times. Hardcore Holly hit Crash with a box fan and he suffered a hard way cut. Pete Gas got a hard way cut too and was a mess throughout most of the match. The finish saw the infamous botch of when Tim White thought Crash kicked out, but it was announced that Hardcore Holly was the winner so there was another title switch back to Crash on Raw. There was another tag match with Head Cheese, the combination of Al Snow and Steve Blackman, against Test and Albert. Before the bout started, Al Snow introduced a little person dressed in a cheese costume to be their mascot. The actual match was fine, but it got very little crowd reaction after the bell. The conclusion was a victory for T&A when Test landed a top rope elbow on Blackman. Post-match, Al and Blackman attacked the person in the cheese costume, which was the end of his run as their mascot.
The three team ladder match was an iconic match that truly made all of the participants stars. Some of these bumps will make you absolutely cringe, especially when Jeff Hardy goes for a 450 splash, but crashes awkwardly into a ladder instead. Obviously, this bout was totally high spots and big bumps, but it was done in such a way that elevated those involved. In retrospect, it’s very interesting to see that half of these competitors would eventually win world titles, while The Dudleys went on to cement their legacy as one of the greatest tag team of all time and Matt Hardy is still making waves today with yet another new chapter in his career. This is a prime example of what young, talented stars can do when they are given the opportunity to steal the show, an aspect that wasn’t happening at all in WCW during this era. One of the many highlights of ladder match was Jeff Hardy’s incredible swanton bomb from the ladder through a table, which became one of the most memorable moments in WWF history. Edge and Christian won when they sent Matt Hardy crashing through a table and grabbed the belts.
The cat fight match between Terri and The Kat was the most plastic match on the card, enough said.
The six person tag match of The Radicals vs. Too Cool and Chyna was a fun match with solid work for everyone involved. Chyna pinned Eddie Guerrero for the victory, but I wanted to take this chance to talk more about Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn since they weren’t involved in many WM events. Dean Malenko is such a polished pro and everything he did was solid. He wasn’t known as the most charismatic or a promo guy, but he had his moments, specifically during his feud with Chris Jericho in WCW. From a technical stand point, Malenko could do it all in the ring and worked for every major organization of his era. He’s also extremely underrated, probably because of his statue or lack of mic skills, but make no mistake about it, you simply won’t find a subpar Dean Malenko match. Saturn is another athlete that for whatever reason sometimes seems to be overlooked or forgotten about for his ability in the ring. If I had to guess, I would say that he just wasn’t at the ring place at the ring time to really get major exposure. The majority of his run with Kronus in ECW was prior to the company’s debut on pay-per-view so he didn’t have a national platform until WCW, where most of the roster was always going to be kept at a mid-card level because the main event scene was more or less monopolized by the same group of talent for years. He arrived in the WWF rather suddenly after the Radicals quit WCW so it wasn’t as though there was a specific plan for him when he debuted, and just over a year later, the roster was flooded with talent from the purchase of WCW so he was somewhat lost in the shuffle for most of his WWF run.
The triple threat two out of three falls match for the IC and European titles was a really good match and it was a glimpse into the future of the company as all three athletes shined in this bout. Chris Benoit won the IC belt while Chris Jericho got a win for the European championship. In truth, Kurt Angle dropping both belts on the same night was a way to clear a path to the main event for him, as he won the King of The Ring a few months later to move up the ranks before he won the WWF championship before the end of the year. Angle will have several more stellar WM bouts in this article series to discuss so there will be other articles to explain those details, but it should be noted here that it’s remarkable with less than two years of in-ring experience, he kept up with his veteran opponents.
Kane and Rikishi beat Road Dogg and X-Pac in an average tag bout. The post-match shenanigans were longer than the actual match when Too Cool ran to the ring to dance with Rikishi. The San Diego chicken showed up for the second year in a row, with most assuming it was Pete Rose in disguise again with another plot to get revenge on Kane, who pummeled him the two previous years. When Kane was going to dispose of the chicken, it was revealed that it was just some jabroni in a suit because Pete Rose ran in with a bat to try to sneak attack Kane, but Rikishi intercepted the bat. Pete was choke slammed and then took the Rikishi spot in the corner, proving that Pete Rose would sign autographs in your driveway if you paid him.
The four-way main event was fine, but it dragged on too long and didn’t build much back and fourth drama until the latter stages of the match. A few things to note here. This was a sign that the office wasn’t fully invested in the Big Show, as he was eliminated within the first five minutes of the bout. Big Show, who jumped ship to the WWF just over a year earlier, had weight problems at this point in his career and eventually landed in OVW in 2001 to attempt to get in better ring shape. That being said, it’s great to see that Big Show is in better shape today than he was twenty years ago. Another aspect to this contest was that it was promoted as Mick Foley’s last match just a month after his supposedly last match. The angle was based on a “McMahon in every corner” and as a result, the main event became more about the McMahon family than the competitors in the match. Eventually, Vince hit the Rock with a chair and allowed Triple H to retain the title. Overall, the event was good, but you can tell that a lot of the card used the momentum of the era instead of a selling point based on specific matches.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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