The twentieth anniversary of Wrestlemania saw the event return to Madison Square Garden, the legendary venue that hosted countless WWF cards throughout the years, including the first edition of this event two decades previously. The show opened with John Cena vs. The Big Show in a decent match that showcased Cena well, as he picked up Big Show with an incredible amount of strength for the Attitude Adjustment. Big Show, who is in much better shape now, let his weight balloon at the time and it’s clear this contest was designed to feature Cena as a way to move him up the card. The conclusion saw The Dr. of Thuganomics use his knuckle jewelry to KO Big Show to win the match and claim the championship. The four way tag title match was fine, but with that amount of teams and limited time to work with, this was more of a way to shoehorn more wrestlers onto the card than anything else. The combination of Rob Van Dam and Booker T retained the belts, but this was a prime example of two over stars that were randomly thrown together as a team because the writing team didn’t have anything better for them to do.
There was a cool cameo with Bobby Heenan and Mean Gene backstage with Moolah and Mae Young, mostly because it’s just great to see “The Brain” back at WM after he stole the show the night before at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
The Christian vs. Chris Jericho match was solid, and the feud itself actually showed a lot of what Christian could do outside of the tag division when he was given an angle with more substance. Prior to this, most of his post-E&C stint was comedy based so this storyline gave him a chance to portray more of a hated heel persona. The Trish heel turn after the match to join Christian added another layer to the storyline,and I’d say the steps he took to evolve as a performer here are ultimately what led him to leave the company the following year to continue to enhance his image with the chance to work main event matches in TNA. For all of it’s blunders, TNA was a platform that allowed some former WWE stars to go there and prove they could work a main event style if given the time and the opportunity to do so.
The Rock and Sock Connection vs. Evolution handicapped match had its moment, as they played a lot of the greatest hits so to speak with signature spots that got a reaction from the crowd, but after about 15 minutes this match started to drag on, which brought it down by the time Randy Orton hit the RKO on Mick Foley for the win. I understand that they wanted to use The Rock while they had the chance with his Hollywood schedule, but there isn’t exactly an extensive list of stellar handicapped matches so this one probably should’ve been kept short. Perhaps, one of the reasons that The Rock agreed to do another WM match at the time was because it was a tag match, but all things considered, it might’ve been a better quality bout if it was a standard tag bout instead of management trying to pack as much star power as possible into the contest.
Stacy Keibler was in an evening gown match so we’re all winners here.
The Cruiser weight title match was fun and saw Chavo retain the belt. However, since it was Ultimo Dragon’s only WM appearance, I wanted to discuss his WWE run, and more specifically why management could’ve gotten a lot more from it. While he had some injuries at the time, it seems like WWE brass just didn’t know what to do with Ultimo Dragon, even though there was a newly established cruiser weight division that he could’ve flourished for with several different opponents. It’s odd that he made a handful of TV appearances in mid-2003 and then more of less disappeared until a month or so before this WM bout. The following month, he requested his release and returned to Japan.
The infamous Brock Lesnar/Bill Goldberg match never had a chance and was memorable for all the wrong reasons. It’s ironic these two would have such a memorable feud for the WWE title over a decade later, but this was anything but spectacular. To be fair, Goldberg, who was never known for carrying matches during his heyday in WCW, was put in a no-win situation with most of the WWE booking in 2003. For a guy that needed an opponent to work around his limitations as to not expose his weakness, Goldberg was booked in lengthy matches that didn’t do him any favors as far as the perception of his ability in the ring. Keep in mind, at the time, Goldberg only signed a one-year deal with the company so they weren’t going to make any long term investment for him as champion, which is why he only held the title for a few months before he dropped it back to Triple H, who the company booked as the top star on Raw. On the flip side, Brock was given a mega push on Smackdown and was showcased as one of the top guys, but he decided to quit just a year and a half after he debuted on television, and more importantly before he made big money. Since Lesnar wasn’t necessarily a pro wrestling fan, maybe he didn’t realize the level of travel that was required for a main event performer, but he quit the business after probably the best push an aspiring wrestler could hope for in the WWE, especially at the time. Goldberg’s contract was expiring, and Lesnar wanted to play football so neither one of them was going to risk injury in this contest. The New York crowd knew they both didn’t want to be there and let the two athletes in the ring know it. Goldberg pinned Brock and then Stone Cold stunned both of them.
The WWE tag title match was another four way match and was basically a nothing match that only went a few minutes. Too Cool retained, but there’s really nothing to discuss here. Victoria defeated Molly Holly next to retain the Women’s championship for a bout that saw Molly get her head shaved. Credit to Molly for being willing to temporarily sacrifice her hair to get a spot on the WM card and it provided a memorable segment. Victoria is very underrated and it’s disappointing that the prime of her career was at a time when there wasn’t the focus on women’s wrestling that is seen today. Make no mistake, Victoria should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero was the top notch contest you’d expect it to be from these two legends. It was a very entertaining match and everything they did was very crisp in the squared circle. The conclusion was a roll up after Eddie untied his boot, allowed him to escape from the ankle lock before he got the pin. Next up was The Undertaker vs. Kane, and while this is considered a special occasion because it was The Undertaker’s return to his classic persona after almost four years of the biker character, the actual match wasn’t really anything spectacular. This was all sizzle and very little substance, but it was fine, considering the situation.
The triple threat main event was a really good match, which isn’t easy considering that three way matches can be difficult to structure, depending on the participants. As we all know, Chris Benoit made Triple H tap to the crippler cross face to win the championship, putting him among one of the top stars in the organization. It goes without say that Benoit in the time since become one of the most controversial figures in the history of the sport. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fans that want to watch his matches to enjoy them in the context of pro wrestling., I haven’t written about him since the Benoit tragedy because I think his absolutely horrendous actions in real life overshadow what he did in the world of sports entertainment. While it would be nonsensical to act like he never existed, real life is more important than pro wrestling, and I decided not to write about him the past several years because there’s no reason to glorify a killer. There’s obviously a lot more that can be said about Benoit, but as far as the tragedy outside of the ring, I think he knew what he was doing because the murder-suicide took place over the course of three days. The Eddie and Benoit embrace at the conclusion of the show was a very emotional moment and it’s sad that Benoit’s actions caused it to be erased from history.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta