WWE PPV Flashbacks: Wrestlemania X8 (3/17/02) – Icon vs. Icon

WrestleMania X8
March 17, 2002
Skydome, Toronto, ON

The eighteenth instalment of WrestleMania emanated from the site of WrestleMania VI, the Toronto Skydome, making it the second Mania in history to take place outside the U.S. Coming off one of the greatest shows of all time last year on the big stage, there was one phrase that could sum this show up – “Icon vs Icon”. A heavily hyped dream match would take place as the Rock would take on Hollywood Hulk Hogan of the nWo. Of course, Hogan had returned a month prior and this was his first Mania since 1993. That was the big match everyone wanted to see, and it should have been the main event. However that was the battle for the Undisputed Championship between Chris Jericho and Triple H, who had won back his title shot after losing to Kurt Angle last month. More on all that later. I should note that this is the first Mania I watched live on PPV at my house as a kid, having always watched elsewhere in the past. The show has always had a special place with me due to that. Lets dive right in then shall we. As always, please send your feedback to me on Twitter at @Mpmcc91 and spread the word about these reviews.

We kick the show of with the band Saliva performing “Superstar” which was the theme song of the event. We then went to the typically great opening video package focused on the importance of WrestleMania. Back in the dome, we got the opening pyro and were welcomed by our announce team of Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler.

WWF Intercontinental Championship:
William Regal (c) vs Rob Van Dam
For the second Mania in a row, we kick things off with Regal in an I.C title match, although this time he is the champion. He has moved on from his rivalry with Edge and now faces a new contender. Rob Van Dam won a triple threat match against Lance Storm and Big Show on Raw to earn this shot at the gold. His momentum would continue heading into the biggest event of the year as he would pick up a tag team victory over the champion the week before this show on Raw as well. RVD starts out on fire here and has the crowd clearly behind him. Regal goes for the knucks early on, but RVD ends up kicking them out of his hand. The challenger remained in control from here but the tide shifts when he misses a Five Star Frog Splash attempt. The champion now goes on offence and after some back and forth he starts dishing out some punishment to RVD. Van Dam attempts to fire back with a Rolling Thunder, but Regal avoids it to remain in control. Regal follows with a butterfly suplex and takes a break from there to taunt at the crowd to get some heat. That gives the challenger the chance to recover though, and he takes the cocky champion off his feet. Some more back and forth follows, with Regal dumping Van Dam onto his head at one point, which leaves Van Dam rolling to the outside. Regal goes out to roll him back in and goes for another pair of brass knucks once there. The ref goes to stop him and Van Dam again kicks them away. He delivers a kick to Regal’s face and follows with a succesful Five Star for the win at 6:19. Rob Van Dam is the new WWF Intercontinental Champion. This was a decent quick match to open the show with and the right guy got the win. Regal was nothing more than a transitional holder of the title between two popular guys, and RVD was the right pick for the title as he was still over with the crowd as always. It could have been a better match with more time, but that wasn’t the point of this one. It was there to get the crowd going on the right note. It achieved that.
Grade: **1/2

Backstage, Lillian Garcia gets a word with Christian, who is doing some over the top smiling to mock DDP. After some footage of Christian attacking Page recently, he says that he didn’t need DDP to help him get on track, before ripping on the fans in his hometown and stating that he moved to Florida. Solid promo. His match is up next.

WWF European Championship:
Diamond Dallas Page (c) vs Christian
As I mentioned at No Way Out, DDP defeated Christian on Smackdown back in January to win the European title. Christian had actually been on a bit of a losing streak since, which saw him throwing tantrums after losing matches in hilariously over the top fashion. DDP would act as a mentor to the former champion, fitting in with his motivational gimmick, and would help him defeat Billy on a recent Raw. Immediately after getting the win however, Christian assaulted the man who defeated him for the title a month or so prior, setting up this match and re-establishing his full fledged heel status. He still has his awesome theme music by the way. Its weird to see DDP in such a low profile match after being a top guy in WCW, but he was booked horribly in the Invasion, so at least he’s on the PPV here. In an interesting trivia note, he was also at the last Mania in this building when he drove Rhythm & Blues to the ring at WrestleMania VI. Anyway, Christian attempts to get the early advantage by decking DDP before the bell here, but the champion fights him off and sends the challenger to the floor. Christian gets back in the ring and sends DDP into the turnbuckle before taking him to the floor as well. As the match goes on, Christian takes control before DDP catches him going to the top and slams him down. Christian fires back with an Unprettier attempt whilst DDP goes for the Diamond Cutter, but neither man manages to connect. Christian starts to show signs of frustration following a near fall on his opponent. Moments later, DDP hits the Diamond Cutter out of nowhere, and that gets the win to retain his title at 6:08. After the match, DDP gets on the mic and tells Christian that he’s proud of him for not losing his temper despite he thousands of fans in attendance seeing him lose. That causes Christian to snap and he throws a tantrum in the middle of the ring. A decent enough match for what it was, and this would actually be DDP’s last hurrah with the company. He’d lose the title a few days later on Smackdown to William Regal and would leave the company about a month after this show.
Grade: **

We now go backstage for a hilarious segment with Jonathan Coachman is standing by with the Rock. The Great One runs through his usual stuff before building up the importance of the match between himself and Hogan later in the night. After mentions Hogan’s old demandments of training, prayers and vitamins, he asks Coach if he prays. Coach says he does, so Rock tells him to get on his knees and pray. Coach gets down on his knees and says “What Up G?” Rock’s reaction is awesome as he tears into Coach and shoves him aside before telling Hogan that tonight, he will smell what the Rock is cooking. He then rips off his shirt in Hogan fashion. Great promo that like Rock’s backstage segment with the nWo last month needs to be seen.

WWF Hardcore Championship:
Maven (c) vs Goldust
The 24-7 rule was in full effect here and it showed with a fairly busy Hardcore title scene in recent weeks. It would also play a role over the course of the night. Anyway, as I mentioned at No Way Out, Maven defeated the Undertaker to win the title with the assistance of the Rock on an episode of Smackdown. That upset reign would come to an end a few weeks later when Goldust pinned Maven to become the new champion. On the following Raw, Al Snow would pin Goldust for the gold, but later in the week on Smackdown, Maven defeated his old Tough Enough coach to win back the Hardcore title, entering as champion here. Basically this match was thrown together to fill time and get these guys on the show, as the division was really reaching the end of its run by this point. Anyway, Goldust jumps Maven to start, sending him into the barricade and then going under the ring for a trash can. Maven comes back by dropkicking it into the Bizzare One. Some back and forth weapon shots ensue with Goldust bringing a golden shovel into the mix. Both men end up taking each other out with trash can lids, but the crowd really were not into this. They wake up however when Spike Dudley runs out witb a referee in tow. He covers Maven, taking advantage of the 24/7 rule, and wins the Hardcore Championship at 3:15. Obviously this wasn’t much of a match so I can’t really grade it. Spike runs through the crowd to get out of there, and Maven and Goldust both go after him when they regain themselves.
Grade: N/A

We now get another musical performance, as Drowning Pool take the stage and perform Tear Away, another theme song of the show. There was footage playing on the screens of the Triple H/Jericho feud during this, but you can’t really see it as the camera is focused on the band.

After the performance, we go backstage again where Crash Holly is attempting to take the Hardcore title from Spike. Al Snow comes in riding a golf cart but misses them and goes right into a wall of boxes. Spike then manages to fight Crash off by throwing him into a garage door. Just as it seems he is safe for the moment however, the Hurricane flies in on a rope and takes Spike out, pinning him to become the new Hardcore Champion. We’ll see more later.

Kane vs Kurt Angle
After being involved in the top storylines for quite a while now and losing his newfound number one contender status in a No Way Out rematch with Triple H on Raw, Kurt Angle takes a detour back to the midcard to face off against Kane at this show. This started when Kane defeated Angle on a recent episode of Smackdown. Angle would assault Kane following the loss however, putting him through a table and applying the Ankle Lock on the Big Red Machine. On the next episode of Raw, Kane would get some revenge by costing Kurt an Undisputed title match against Chris Jericho. In the weeks that followed the two would continue to interfere in each other’s affairs, with both men brawling in the parking lot on an episode of Smackdown, where Kurt crushed Kane under a garage door. It was a basic fued to give these guys a reason to go at it really. Nothing wrong with that – there’s bigger stuff to come later. Angle gets on the mic as he makes his entrance to rip on the crowd, with the You Suck chants in full force. Kane interupts him and we get under way. Angle shows his heel smarts by whacking Kane with the ring bell before the match actually begins. That allows him to start out in control, but Kane fights his way back into things and takes over with his power offence. Some more back and forth ensued with Angle going back on offence with a series of suplexes. He hits the German Combo and follows up with a diving clothesline to the Big Red Machine from the top. He attempts another, but Kane intercepts with a shot to the mid section to turn the tide back in his favour. He remains in control, delivering a Chokeslam to Kurt, but Angle manages to grab onto the rope to break the count. He reaches at Kane’s mask moments later to disorient his opponent and follows up with an Angle Slam. Kane kicks out at two though, so Kurt applies the Ankle Lock instead. Kane fights out by getting to the ropes and goes up top shortly after. Angle stops him in his tracks with a belly to belly off the top. Kane recovers and goes for a Chokeslam attempt again, but out of nowhere, Kurt goes for a roll up and uses the ropes for leverage to get the win at 10:45. A pretty solid match here that was better than expected as Kane did his best to keep up with Angle in there. It wasn’t a classic by any means, but it was a solid ten minutes of action to keep the show moving along. As I said, it was a bump down the card for Kurt, but the top faces were busy elsewhere.
Grade: ***

We now go backstage again to see Hurricane sneaking around the corridors hoping to stay out of sight with his newly won Hardcore title. He comes across a bunch of women hanging out so he hides behind a curtain but they eventually see his sillouette. It turns out the women are the Godfather’s Hos and he runs in and chases Hurricane away.

From there we get a video package looking at the Taker/Flair rivalry.

No DQ Match:
Ric Flair vs Undertaker
Here’s our first match that has a big storyline going. This started when Ric Flair cost Taker his match with the Rock at No Way Out, after the American Bad Ass confronted him earlier in the night. This led to Taker challenging Flair to a match at WrestleMania, but Flair refused saying that he was the co-owner of the company, not an active wrestler. Not one to be turned down, the Undertaker took matters into his own hands by attacking those close to Flair in the weeks that followed – including his friend Arn Anderson, and son David. With Taker promising to continue hurting those Flair loved, the Nature Boy accepted the challenge on an episode of Smackdown, and the match was set for Mania. That same night, the two men got into a brawl that went out into the crowd, during which Flair accidentally struck a fan (obviously a plant). Flair was arrested as a result which led to Mr McMahon calling for an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors. Footage was shown of that meeting on Raw, and CEO Linda McMahon declared that Flair would be suspended of his duties as co-owner if he went ahead with his match against the Undertaker. Flair said he was still going through with the match, so the decision was made – Mr McMahon was the sole owner of the company again, but Linda noted the Board would review the decision after Mania. With Vince in total control, he made this match a no DQ match. He also put David Flair in a match against the Undertaker on the previous episode of Smackdown, who was dismantled by Taker until Flair made the save. The fued was highly personal and the stage was set. The announcers mention the streak as Taker makes his entrance here, noting that he is currently 9-0 at Mania. Flair gets a massive pop for his first Mania since 1992. This starts out as a brawl with Flair on offence early on until Taker managed to send him into the ring post. This leads to Big Evil taking over, as he repeatedly sends Flair into the turnbuckles to wear him down. They go to the floor and Flair gets busted open fairly early on. After taking a pounding, Flair comes back with a series of chops but Taker nails him with a clothesline and goes back on offence. After a superplex to Flair, Taker covers him but lifts his shoulder up at two, wanting to continue the assault. More Taker offence from there, with him eventually going for Old School, but Flair pulls him down off the rope. Flair launches a comeback moments later, chopping Taker to the floor and going for the lead pipe that was stored with Taker’s bike. He nails Taker with it which results in both men now bleeding from the skull. He continues his attack with a sign from the barricade before bringing his opponent back into the ring. Taker attempts a chokeslam but Flair goes low and follows up with a Figure Four. Taker fights out of it though, and this time delivers a more succesful chokeslam to the Nature Boy. Flair kicks out of the subsequent cover though, so Taker gets pissed and nails the ref. Taker then picks up his lead pipe and stalks Flair, but all of a sudden Arn Anderson rushes out. He delivers a trademark AA spinebuster to Taker to a huge pop from the crowd! Awesome moment! Flair crawls on top, but Taker kicks out at two, keeping the streak alive. Taker recovers and busts Arn open as well with a few punches, but Flair meanwhile comes up behind and nails his opponent with some chair shots to the back. Taker comes back with a big boot and follows up with the Tombstone, which gets the win for the evil Undertaker at 18:47. The streak is extended to 10-0, and Taker holds ten fingers up to signal this. This was a great match that really lived up to the bitter hatred that had been built up in the feud between these two men. Despite coming up short, Flair showed here that he could still go in a proper match, after looking good in there with Vince at the Rumble. Taker brings the goods at Mania as always, and his bad days in the ring from last year are behind him. It was strange seeing Taker as a heel at Mania with the streak being mentioned, but I loved this run for him. Great stuff that I’ve heard went over time, but they deserved it anyway.
Grade: ***3/4

We now go to the back where Michael Cole is standing by with Booker T. He’s trying to be intelligent and mentions Einstein’s “Theory of Relatives” before Cole corrects him. Booker gets angry with him and he’s in action next.

Edge vs Booker T
This is in the infamous shampoo feud that was really just thrown together to give these guys something to do on the show. Essentially, Booker T was upset that Edge was signed to a Japanese shampoo commercial deal, which Booker was upset with, leading to this match. JR rips on how ridiculous the whole thing is on commentary before the match here, but Edge gets a solid pop being in his hometown and all. Anyway, Edge builds momentum early on as he takes the fight to his opponent until Booker cuts him off by dropping him onto the top rope. He sends Edge to the floor shortly afterwards with a clothesline. Booker continued to control the pace back in the ring, and he cuts off an Edge comeback attempt by slamming the hometown hero. Edge finally turns the tide with a hurranrana from the top and follows up with a spinning heel kick. Some back and forth ensues from there, with Booker eventually going for a Scissor Kick after a Spinarooni but it only gets two. Edge comes back and connects with a Spear but this time Booker gets his shoulder up at the two count. With Booker still down, Edge busts out his own version of the Spinarooni to a top. After a little more action between the two, Edge delivers the Edgecution, and that gets the win at 6:32. It was a decent match between two solid guys designed to give Edge a win in his home town. He didn’t really have much going on coming off his I.C feud with Regal, but he’d bounce back big time soon enough. Booker on the other hand was really getting lost in the shuffle on the heel side.
Grade: **

We now go backstage to Jonathan Coachman who wants to get a word with the Hurricane about his Hardcore title win. He’s with his sidekick Mighty Molly. All of a sudden, Molly decked Hurricane with a frying pan and covers him, with a ref declaring her the new Hardcore Champion!

From there we go to a video package for the upcoming Austin/Hall match.

Steve Austin vs Scott Hall w/Kevin Nash
This match stems from the nWo costing Austin his championship match against Chris Jericho last month at No Way Out. There’s a lot of reports suggesting this was originally supposed to be Austin/Hogan in the ultimate dream match of all time, but the two couldn’t agree on the match, so Rock was put in that spot instead. It wouldn’t surprise me as Austin was becoming notoriously difficult behind the scenes at this point, and we’d only see that escalate over the next few months. Anyway, Austin got some revenge on the nWo on the Smackdown following No Way Out, as he drove out to the ring in his truck and put a beating on Scott Hall. The nWo would attempt to escape, but Austin had slashed their limo’s tires in the parking lot earlier. Later in the night, Austin would reveal that he had kidnapped Hall taunted him with beer backstage. He would ultimately bring Hall back out to the ring to end the show, and spray painted his back with the slogan “3:16”. Hall was humiliated by Austin’s antics and on the following episode of Raw, the nWo member challenged the Rattlesnake to a match at Mania. Austin would accept, but the nWo would get some revenge later in the night, attacking Austin after a match and destroying his knee with a cinder block. The attack continued and the Rattlesnake was left a bloody mess at the hands of the nWo. On the Raw before this show, we got a huge main event as Austin teamed with the Rock to take on Hogan, Hall & Nash in a handicap match, with the nWo being victorious. That brings us to the big stage. Nash accompanies Hall out which worries JR, whilst Austin gets a huge pop. Still over as ever despite dropping down the card a bit here. Austin attacks Hall right from the get go, hitting a Thesz Press and ramming his head into the turnbuckle as the crowd goes nuts with “What” chants. He’s not content with just going after Hall though, as he goes to the floor and gets it on with Nash as well before returning his focus to his opponent. He rams Hall into the steps, but back in the ring the nWo member takes control courtesy of a clothesline. He sends Austun to the floor where Nash gets in some cheap shots behind the referee’s back. Some more back and forth follows, with Hall mostly on offence until Austin regains momentum and hits a Stunner. He covers, but before the ref can count to three, Nash pulls him out of the ring and decks him. The big man then gets into the ring and goes at it with Austin whilst Hall grabs a chair from the outside. Austin lowblows Nash and delivers two consecutive Stunners to Nash and Hall. However there’s no referee in sight. Another ref runs out to make the count, but Nash takes him out as well. Austin clotheslines Nash out, whilst Hall looks to capitalise with the Razor’s Edge. Austin back drops out of it however, sending Hall to the floor. Meanwhile a bunch of refs come out and send Nash to the back to a big pop. Hall comes back and hits a Stunner on Austin, but the Rattlesnake kicks out. From there, Austin hits two stunners in a row sending Hall jumping into the air before pinning him for the three at 9:51. Stone Cold is victorious over the nWo, but he definitely wasn’t happy about being in a lower profile match at Mania, as he would no show the following night’s Raw. This was actually a decent match for what it was, but there were chaotic times ahead for one Stone Cold.
Grade: **3/4

Before our next match we saw highlights from Axxess over the weekend.

WWF Tag Team Championship – Elimination Match:
Billy & Chuck (c) vs APA vs Hardy Boyz vs Dudley Boyz w/Stacy Keibler
Well, we’ve had a few changes in the tag division since last month, as at that point Tazz & Spike Dudley were the WWF Tag Team Champions, whilst the APA won a tag team turmoil to earn a future title shot. Well, Billy & Chuck would defeat Tazz & Spike to become the new tag champions on the Smackdown following No Way Out. With new champions crowned, the APA would recieve their title shot on the following week’s show, but came up short against the new champs. A few weeks later on Raw, this match was made, as the top teams in the division would face off in an elimination match for the gold at the biggest show of the year. The Dudley Boyz get a live performance of their theme by Saliva as they head out here, with Stacy by their side looking wonderful as always. Speaking of entrance theme’s Billy & Chuck’s one is so awesome. Has anyone had more great themes in wrestling than Billy Gunn? The Hardy Boyz are clearly the crowd favourites here as the APA were really stale by this point. Anyway, its two people in the ring at a time here, and we kick things off officially with Bradshaw and Chuck. The champs start out with some double teaming, but the crowd is pretty dead for this. After some back and forth between the teams, D-Von tags himself into the match, and the Dudley Boyz take the time to go at it with the APA. Billy cops a Clothesline from Hell from Bradshaw as the champions get involved but the Dudley Boyz follow up with a 3D through a table to Bradshaw moments later. D-Von covers and the APA are the first team eliminated around three minutes in. That makes their win in the turmoil last month even more puzzling. The Hardy Boyz now come into the match and they go at it with Billy & Chuck whilst the Dudleyz set up more tables on the floor. The Hardy Boyz build some momentum, with Bubba taking the Whisper in the Wind, but this leads to Stacy getting on the apron for the distraction. Jeff spanks her, but that gives Bubba the chance to regain control with a Bubba Bomb. The Dudley Boyz work Jeff over from here, but Matt eventually gets the hot tag. The Dudleyz regain control and attempt the Whazzup, but Billy intervenes and sends D-Von off the top through the table set up earlier outside the ring. Matt follows up with a Twist of Fate to Bubba, and Jeff then comes off the top with the Swanton for Matt to score the pin, eliminating the Dudley Boyz at around the twelve minute mark. That leaves us with the heel champions and popular challengers. From here the Hardy Boyz build some more momentum against their opponents, with Jeff dishing out Poetry in Motion to both champs. Matt comes in with a Twist of Fate to Chuck, and Jeff follows with a Swanton. Billy comes in as the ref is getting Matt out of the ring though, and he hits a Fameasser on Jeff. Chuck covers but Jeff kicks out at two. Chuck complains to the ref about the count, and whilst his attention is distracted, Billy comes in again, this time nailing Jeff with a title belt. Chuck covers Jeff again and this time gets the three to win the match at 13:50. Billy & Chuck are still the tag team champions, which was the right move as they were the fresh team in an otherwise stale division. It would get better later in the year. As far as the match goes, it was decent enough. It gets a lot of shit due to following the TLC matches of the previous Manias, but we weren’t going to get that here. This was a way to get a bunch of teams on the show and the match was fine for that. Not memorable or anything, but nothing offensive.
Grade: **1/2

We now go backstage, where Hall & Nash are upset about the result of the match against Austin. They say they’re going to get revenge on the Rock, but Hogan comes in and says he needs to do this on his own. Nash & Hall agree to stay in the back, but say they’ll still be out there once he walks off.

Elswhere, Molly is making her way through the corridors when all of a sudden a door closes in her face, knocking her out. Christian comes out from behind it, and pinned Molly to become the new Hardcore Champion. JR is disgusted.

We then go to a video package for the Hogan/Rock match. Its up next.

The Rock vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Alright, here’s the match that everyone in the Skydome came to see and therefore should have gone on last – Icon vs Icon. We saw the first interaction between these two in that hilarious skit at No Way Out where the Rock ran into the nWo. Well, the following night on Raw, Hogan made his way to the ring and cut a promo on all the great things he had done in the WWF before saying that the crowd turned on him and drove him away. He said there was no bigger star in the wrestling business than Hollywood Hulk Hogan, and then the Rock’s music hit, and in a moment that still gives me goosebumps, challenged Hogan to a match on the grandest stage of them all. Hogan accepted and the two shook hands before the Rock nailed Hogan with a Rock Bottom. Later that night however, Rock was assaulted by the entire nWo, spray painted with the nWo tag, and taken away in an ambulance. That was only the beginning though, as Scott and Hall blocked off the ambulance, leading to Hogan smashing into the ambulance containing the People’s Champion with a big truck. Rock returned a week or so later on Smackdown and challenged Hogan to a fight. Scott Hall accepted instead, and the two faced off until the nWo beat Rock down once more before Stone Cold made the save. This led to the huge main event on the Raw before this show pitting Rock & Austin against all three nWo members. Hogan would pin Rock following a legdrop in that match, giving the momentum to the black and white heading to Mania. Now, Hogan makes his way out to the nWo theme and all here. Despite being a heel though, he gets a massive pop. Rock gets a big pop as well, but that would change throughout the match. We start things off with an epic staredown between the two and at that moment you knew nobody could follow these guys. They lock up in a test of strength and Hogan shoves Rock down to a huge pop. The two men go back and forth, trading blows as the crowd goes insane for everything. Rock attempts a Rock Bottom early on, but Hogan counters and dishes out some offence. The match goes back and forwards as time goes on, but the real story is the crowd as they side more and more with Hogan as the match continued, with boos for the Rock being heard, despite his use of dirty tactics like attempting to choke Rock with his wrist tape. The action eventually goes to the floor, with Hogan fighting Rock over to the announce table. Rock fought back and the match returned to the ring. Rock attempts to clothesline Hogan in there, but he ends up nailing the ref instead. He follows up with a Spinebuster to Hogan and follows with the Sharpshooter. Hogan gets to the ropes at first, but Rock brings him back to the centre where he actually taps, but there’s no ref to see it of course. Hogan finally low blows Rock to a big pop and follows up with a Rock Bottom to the Great One! The ref recovers and makes the count but Rock kicks out at two. Hogan now resorts to more heel tactics, taking off his belt and whipping Rock with it, but the crowd remain firmly behind him. Rock fights back and takes Hogan down with a DDT before whipping Hogan, this time drawing boos from the crowd. He hits a Rock Bottom moments later, but Hogan kicks out. Then all of a sudden we get a glimpse of the Hogan we all know and love, as the immortal one starts Hulking Up with the crowd going bonkers. He blocks a punch from the Rock and hits the big boot, following up with the legdrop. It looks to all be over, but Rock kicks out! Hogan goes for a second leg drop, but this time Rock gets out of the way and nails Hogan with two consecutive Rock Bottoms. Thats not all though, as moments later he springs up and finishes the Immortal one off with the People’s Elbow. That gets the three at 16:23. Rock is the winner and the crowd is going insane knowing they have witnessed history. Wow, what a match. I could never get sick of this one. It might not be amazing from an in-ring standpoint, but the amosphere of this epic more than makes up for it. This gets the full five stars. There’s no question about it. This is what WrestleMania is all about. If you can’t get lost in the magic of this match I really don’t know what to say. They worked this perfectly taking into account the crowd reactions, and I’ve read that was done on the fly. JR & King were great through all this as well living up to the big match feel.
Grade: *****

After the match, Hogan cements his newly found face status by offering Rock a handshake. Rock hesitates at first but shakes it to a huge pop. Rock leaves the ring out of respect to Hogan. With Hogan alone in the ring soaking up the applause however, he’s confronted by his nWo brothers Hall & Nash. Nash decks Hogan and the two men beat him down to some huge heat. Rock makes the save and the two mega stars fight their attackers off. Rock’s music plays and he tells Hogan to pose for the crowd like old times. Hogan does just that before leaving ringside with the Great One. Massive pop for an amazing moment. The only thing that would have made it even more perfect would have been Real American playing. Hulkamania is back brother!

After all that awesomeness, we cross to WWF New York where the Big Show is hanging out with fans in attendance. Its the clip Cody Rhodes used in 2012 to mock Show with. Wrestlemania baby – woo!

Back in the dome, the Fink announces that WrestleMania has set an all new attendance record for the Skydome of 68,237. I’m not sure if prior to this it still stood, but they had previously set the record at WrestleMania VI.

WWF Women’s Championship:
Jazz (c) vs Trish Stratus vs Lita
After the awesomeness of what we just witnessed we now have a quick match to spill the crowd over before the main event. When we last saw the Women’s Championship on PPV, Trish Stratus had retained the title against Jazz at the Royal Rumble. Jazz would recieve a rematch a few weeks later on Raw however, and on that night was victorious, becoming the new Women’s Champion. Tonight she takes on not only the former champion, but also Lita. Both challengers are faces, but Trish is the crowd favourite due to being the hometown girl. She has a Canadian flag attire as well. Anyway, Jazz gets the early advantage here, using her strength to remain in control. We get a few rotations of the girls going at it after Jazz initially throws Trish to the floor. After some back and forth action, Lita starts building some momentum with a Twist of Fate to Jazz. She goes for a moonsault afterwards, but ends up missing. Trish attempts to go after her from here, and the two challengers end up taking each other down. Trish eventually goes for Stratusfaction, but Lita counters and sends her over the turnbuckle to the floor. Moments later however, Jazz catches Lita in a fisherman’s suplex, and the dominant champion gets the subsequent pinfall to retain her title at 6:16. This was essentially filler as you can tell from its spot on the card. The crowd really weren’t into it, and Trish and Lita weren’t yet at the point that they were up to Jazz’s level in the ring. I probably would have had Trish win here to try to pop the crowd though, especially since she would win the title back soon enough anyway.
Grade: *

We now go to the parking lot where Christian, the new Hardcore Champion, is putting his bags into a limo, getting ready to leave. All of a sudden, Maven sneaks up and rolls him up for the three and gets in the car to escape with the Hardcore Championship once again, just as he entered the night. Christian meanwhile throws another tantrum.

Undisputed WWF Championship:
Chris Jericho (c) w/Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley vs Triple H
Here we go, the culmination of the Game’s long road back to WrestleMania. Of course, back at No Way Out, Kurt Angle had defeated Triple H, causing the Game to lose his title shot. The next night on Raw however, co-owner Ric Flair granted the Game a rematch, this time with Stephanie barred from ringside. Triple H was victorious this time round and was able to set his sights back on thw Undisputed title. Of course, the champion was none other than Chris Jericho, who later that week on Smackdown had a meeting with Stephanie. Despite their past differences, Jericho agreed tomake Stephanie his new business partner, as she was looking for further revenge on her husband. In the weeks that followed, Jericho took credit for the quad injury that had put Triple H out of action almost a year prior, but that was the only good part of this build. Rather than being made to look like the champion that had defeated Rock and Austin in the past few months, Jericho took a back seat and essentially became Stephanie’s bitch in all this. The focus of the storyline turned to Triple H and Stephanie’s pending divorce settlement, during which Stephanie became entitled to Triple H’s pet bulldog. On an episode of Raw, Stephanie would tell Jericho to watch the dog, but he would end up tying it to a limo. The driver would drive off unaware of this and the dog would suffer critical injuries (in storyline of course). Triple H was furious over what happened and attempted to take his frustrations out on Stephanie later that night, only for Jericho to attack his previously injured leg with a sledgehammer. The rivalry would culminate the Smackdown before Mania, where Triple H would finally Pedigree his wife, but Jericho would take the opportunity to lock the Game in the Walls of Jericho to end the show with the advantage heading into the PPV. What makes this whole thing worse is that with the horrid build, they still thought this should go on after Hogan/Rock. Anyway, Triple H comes out to a live performance of his theme by Drowning Pool here, whilst Jericho has his usual entrance, coming out with Stephanie. The bell rings and Triple H starts out on offence, taking the fight to the champ. The action quickly goes to the outside, where the Game sends Jericho into the barricade. As Triple H starts taking apart the announce table afterwards however, Jericho jumps him and targets his leg. It doesn’t take long for Trips to come back though, and he locks in the Figure Four, only for Stephanie to rake his eyes to break it up. This leads to Triple H going after Stephanie, and he sets her up for a Pedigree in the ring, only for Jericho to stop him in his tracks. From there Y2J gets his first real chance to dictate the match, as he starts working over his opponent’s injured leg. After a little more action we get a cool call back to the Raw match in 2001 that saw Trips go down with the injury in the first place, as Jericho locks him in the Walls on top of the announce table. This time Triple H counters and sets up the Pedigree, only for Jericho to backdrop out of it, sending the challenger through the Spanish table next door. He subsequently rolls Trips into the ring and hits the Lionsault, but the Game kicks out at two. Jericho avoids another Pedigree attempt from there and locks in the Walls in the ring this time. Triple H eventually gets to the ropes after a struggle to stay in it, which leads to a frustrated Jericho grabbing a chair from ringside. Stephanie distracts the ref, but Triple H ends up delivering a DDT to Jericho on the chair instead. Jericho manages to kick out though so the match continues. This leads to Stephanie getting into the ring and she knocks out the ref. Triple H gets his hands on her moments later though, and hits his wife with a Pedigree to a big pop. He turns right into a Jericho chair shot afterwards, but the Game still manages to kick out. From here, Jericho attempts to Pedigree the Game, but Trips reverses it and delivers a Pedigree of his own to the champion a few moments later. That gets the three count and Triple H wins the Undisputed Championship at 18:41. Now don’t get me wrong, this was a solid match between the two, so it wasn’t bad by any stretch, it just really had no place being the main event of this show over Rock/Hogan. That said, it was better than its reputation would have you believe and gave us the cool moment of Triple H coming back from injury to win the title on the biggest show of the year. I remember being excited for his win as a kid here, so it worked. The Game’s issues with Stephanie would end by the next PPV thankfully, whilst Jericho would drop down the card unfortunately as a result of the terrible booking prior to his loss here. A fun match to end the show though.
Grade: ***1/2

We end the night with a video package showing highlights from the show.

While it was an obvious step down from the previous year’s effort, WrestleMania X8 was still a solid show with the big matches delivering for what they were. I truly think the show would be remembered in a better light if the positioning of the Rock/Hogan and Triple H/Jericho matches were swapped on the card. There is no way Rock/Hogan should not have went on last, and I think that became clear to the WWF the moment those guys went out there and stared down in an epic moment. The match is one of those matches that you can watch a million times and never get lost in the moment. As I said, the title match wasn’t bad, but Jericho was made to look terrible in the build up. Everyone knew Triple H was winning here, but I think the match would have gone over better if the feud had been purely focused on Jericho targetting Triple H’s surgically repaired quad. We got that, but it was only half of it, with the Stephanie nonsense that should have been resolved at No Way Out making Jericho look pathetic. The Austin/Hall match was decent but really didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things as the nWo would not be a major force for long with Hogan back in the face side going forward. There is a hidden gem on this show in Taker/Flair though, which was excellent. The rest of the show was really just thrown together and nothing spectacular, but it was cool to see RVD win the I.C title in the opener and the Hardcore title story through the night was a fun theme throughout the backstage segments. Overall a decent Mania to cap off the fall out of the Attitude era over the past 12 months. A new era was just over a week away, but more on that next time.

Three Stars of the Night:
1. Hollywood Hulk Hogan – no explanation needed. This was the return of Hulkamania. The reaction he got was amazing after all those years away. This was Hogan’s true homecoming.
2. The Rock – part of the dream match that should have main evented this show. He wasn’t phased by the boos he recieved during the match and put on an excellent showing.
3. Undertaker – the streak makes it to ten victories after a very good and bloody match with the Nature Boy. His dark days as a performer are well and truly behind him and he excelled in this heel role. He requested to work with Flair on this show behind the scenes and from what I’ve read it played a huge role in Flair regaining the confidence in himself that had been crushed in the final years of WCW.

FINAL GRADE: 7.5 out of 10

What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1.

Steve Austin = 111
Bret Hart = 83
Shawn Michaels = 67
The Rock = 64
Triple H = 54
Mick Foley = 38
Kurt Angle = 29
Randy Savage = 28
Chris Jericho = 27
Undertaker = 27
Owen Hart = 21
Hulk Hogan = 21
X-Pac = 18
Chris Benoit = 16
Jeff Hardy = 16
Diesel = 15
Matt Hardy = 14
Ultimate Warrior = 13
Vader = 13
British Bulldog = 12
Christian = 12
Edge = 12
Ted DiBiase = 10
Razor Ramon = 10
Vince McMahon = 10
Ric Flair = 8
Jim Neidhart = 7
Bubba Ray Dudley = 7
D-Von Dudley = 7
Jerry Lawler = 6
Dynamite Kid = 5
Arn Anderson = 5
Roddy Piper = 5
Mr Perfect = 5
Marty Jannetty = 5
Bob Backlund = 5
Shane McMahon = 5
Rob Van Dam = 5
Ricky Steamboat = 4
Ax = 4
Smash = 4
Bobby Heenan = 4
D’Lo Brown = 4
Rikishi = 4
Kane = 4
Greg Valentine = 3
Tully Blanchard = 3
Tanaka = 3
Bam Bam Bigelow = 3
Sato = 3
Jake Roberts = 3
Hakushi = 3
Yokozuna = 3
Savio Vega = 3
Ken Shamrock = 3
Chyna = 3
Brutus Beefcake = 2
Paul Orndorff = 2
Andre the Giant = 2
Rick Rude = 2
Sgt Slaughter = 2
Jeff Jarrett = 2
Jesse Ventura = 1
Texas Tornado = 1
Tito Santana = 1
Virgil = 1
Scott Steiner = 1
Rick Steiner = 1
Lex Luger = 1
The Roadie = 1
Billy Gunn = 1
Bart Gunn = 1
Marc Mero = 1
Flash Funk = 1
Animal = 1
Hawk = 1
Taka Michinoku = 1
Test = 1
Big Show = 1
Dean Malenko = 1
Scotty 2 Hotty = 1
Rhyno = 1

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @Mpmcc91. Thanks for reading!

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