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In the spirit of WrestleMania season, I thought it might be interesting to go back and review an older show. I’ve done this before with some shows, mostly very bad ones such as Uncensored 1996 and figured it might be cool to do a WrestleMania.
WrestleMania X-7 is a show I’ve seen a couple times, although it has probably been close to ten years since I last watched it. It is regarded by a lot of people as the best WrestleMania in history and one of the best wrestling shows, period, in wrestling history. It’s a very interesting show to go back 20 years later and try and review it. I’ll do my best to give a blow-by-blow review and if people like this, I might do some other reviews for older shows in the upcoming weeks.
Paul Heyman is on commentary for this show, along with Jim Ross. Jerry Lawler had walked out of the company earlier that year due to a dispute between Vince and his wife-at the time, Miss Kitty. Heyman is already in a prominent position in WWE, and ECW wasn’t even cold yet. He’s really good on the show as he hasn’t devolved into total The Alliance schtick yet, and he’s a great partner with Jim Ross, who of course is spectacular on the show outside of his attempts to get Austin’s new nickname “The Bionic Redneck” over.
Chris Jericho vs William Regal: ***1/2
This opened the show. Over the years WWE has elected to open WrestleMania with one of their major matches, but I kind prefer the older model where they start with some mid-card matches and then build up as the show goes on. The story for the match is the classic WWE story of the arrogant matchmaker abusing his power to undermine a babyface. The build included Jericho pissing in Regal’s tea, which I’m sure was written to pop Vince.
The match was quite good. It’s well known that Regal wasn’t always appreciated in his time as a worker, and his stuff has aged really well. This is a fun back-and-forth match with neither guy really enjoying an extended control period. The crowd is into Jericho, although Regal doesn’t have a lot heat from the audience. The finish comes a little bit out of nowhere; Jericho just hits the lionsault and pins Regal. It’s a good opener.
- We get a promo of the APA backstage playing cards. Bradshaw is upset that Farooq and Jacqueline are not fired up about being at WrestleMania at the AstroDome, and he cuts a motormouth promo where he mentions Ken Stabler, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan, Tuff Headman and the famous bucking bull, Bodacious, in a span of about 20 seconds.
Right to Censor (Goodfather, Val Venis and Bull Buchanan) vs Tazz and the APA: **
Right to Censor is out with their incredibly awful music. Venis tries to say something but Tazz interrupts him with his badass music. The Right to Censor gimmick is trash and the outfits are bad, but we know it’s all a joke to make fun of the Parents Television Council, who were enemies of the WWF at the time. The match is inoffensive, but not particularly good. Just big guys clobbering each other; but it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
- There is a backstage segment of Stephanie McMahon confronting Trish and Linda McMahon, who is catatonic. Linda’s acting is better than Stephanie’s, who bosses Trish around.
Raven vs Kane vs Big Show: **
This is your typical plunder match for the hardcore title. Kane and Raven just start brawling before Big Show comes out, and Show calmly strolls out to the ring after about a minute. God, his music is so great. WEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLL!!!! WELL IT’S THE BIG SHOOOOWWW!!
They do a walk-and-brawl through the crowd, and the difference in the amount of men in their 20s in the audience compared to today is really evident. They go backstage and brawl around; it’s not all that exciting. Guys hitting each other with garden hoses and push brooms. We do get the famous spot where Kane chucks Raven through the glass window.
They make it back out to the stage eventually, and Kane gives Show a big boot off the stage while he is press-slamming Raven, and it comes off pretty awkwardly. They plunge off the stage into the typical cardboard-frame/crash pad, and Kane pins Show. This was kind of lame; I never like doing a mostly-backstage match when you are in front of 50,000+ fans.
- Edge and Christian are backstage with Kurt Angle. Angle is annoyed with Edge and Christian’s hijinx and he’s mad about his upcoming match with Chris Benoit.
- Jonathan Coachman is with a fan from Australia who says they flew more than 30 hours to get to Texas. She is asked if she could say one thing to the millions watching around the world and she chooses to say “WWF RULEZZZZ!!!!!”
Eddie Guerrero vs Test: ***
Eddie Guerrero is out with Perry Saturn, who is of course, wearing a Jamiroquai hat. This is a match for the European Championship, between a guy Vince McMahon thought could be a major star, and someone he never really wanted to push. Paul Heyman points out on commentary that Texas belongs to the Mexicans and the United States stole it from them.
The crowd is kind of dead at the start, but they get into it. Test is the babyface and Guerrero the heel, which is a tough dynamic to pull off given the size disparity, but Dean Malenko and Saturn help out getting heat by beating up and distracting Test. They get a lot of time for the match, and Guerrero steals the title after Malenko distracted the ref and Eddie smashed him with the title. Eddie bumped a ton for Test, and Test looked fine tossing Eddie around.
- Mick Foley is interviewed by Michael Cole and his frosted tips. Foley is the special referee for the Shane McMahon vs Vince McMahon match coming later. Foley cuts a semi-sarcastic promo on how despite all these terrible things Vince has done to him, he will call it right down the middle.
Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit: ****
Angle cuts a promo before the match where he says he is upset that the Texas flag is missing 49 other stars. There is a TON of cheap heat on this show with the heels knocking Texas and the babyfaces putting Texas over.
This match is such a breath of fresh air following several multi-man brawls. They start out with mat and chain wrestling, and a few minutes in, Angle loses his nerve and punches Benoit. This is always a great spot that works; the wrestler abandoning the gentlemen’s grappling and throwing a punch for heat. Angle is so good for someone only two years into their career. Crowd is hot for the match and they do not like Angle.
The match is not spectacular; but it’s honest and good and such a different match than what normally happened during this era of WWE. Angle is a heel but he isn’t an evil cartoon character, he’s just an arrogant jock who is frustrated by meeting his match as a technician in the ring. The crowd is really into the near falls, especially when Benoit gets the ankle lock on Angle. Angle ends up winning with a quick-roll up while using the tights. The finish comes quickly, but it also helps tell the story of Angle needing to cheat to out wrestle Benoit.
- William Regal is backstage and discovers that Kamala and Kim Chee are in his office, with Kamala wielding Regal’s framed picture of the queen. “Get down you heathen!” Regal shouts. The Kamala gimmick is uh…problematic, but Regal is funny in this bit.
- We get a long video package of WWE wrestlers visiting soldiers at Fort Hood. Bradshaw says he is jealous of the US Army, because they are the only people who kick more ass than the APA. The soldiers make a call yelling “Un-der-taker! Tomb-stone-maker!” while Taker drives by in a hummer.
- Benoit assaults Angle backstage, putting him in the cross-face while Angle taps out.
Ivory vs Chyna: *
Ivory’s entrance treats us to Right to Censor music again. Chyna has the firework bazooka in her entrance which they should absolutely bring back for a WrestleMania in the future. Ivory is good in her role as the gimmicky heel. After a brief bit of opening offense from Ivory, Chyna squashed Ivory in a couple of minutes. This wasn’t any good, but I expect the worst from women’s wrestling in this era and there was nothing really offensive here.
At the time Chyna got a lot some heat for how this match went down. In a previous angle, Chyna had gotten her neck injured which was used as a storyline reason for her having to stop wrestling men and go back to the women’s division, and in the matches she would have this weakness targeting her neck. However shortly before WrestleMania, Chyna announced she was 100% healed and then promptly squashed Ivory in this match.
- Apparently on the original broadcast of this show, Coachman at this point interviewed Jeff Bagwell and Moises Alou of the Houston Astros about the show. Bagwell said that wrestlers “are great actors.” I have never seen this before, but it was in original recaps of the show so I assume it really happened and they have edited off of subsequent broadcasts.
- Vince is backstage with Linda. He makes sure Trish has doubled Lince’s dose of whatever catatonic medicine she is on. Cole interrupts them and Vince says he is going to do something “shocking.”
Vince McMahon vs Shane McMahon: **
This was all part of the storyline where Vince has had an affair with Trish, and he presumably is keeping a sedated Linda around to embarrass her. Shane is out to avenge his mother, which includes him purchasing WCW from under Vince’s nose. Vince tells Shane “I’ll never forgive your mother for giving birth to you!!!” in the video package. Perhaps this really worked in its time, but this is awful watching it 20 years later.
The match itself really isn’t much of a match. Shane crashes through a table early on, which leads to Trish and Linda coming down at ringside. Trish turns on Vince and starts brawling with Stephanie in just an appalling exchange of “strikes”. Foley stops Vince from presumably attacking Linda, but Vince hits him with a frightening chair shot to the head. He then moves the sedated Linda into the ring and sits her in a chair in the corner.
Vince beats Shane up in the ring, but Linda stands up from the chair and kicks Vince in the balls. Foley then comes back and lights up Vince. Shane hits a coast-to-coast and pins Vince.
These matches are what make the Attitude Era hard to evaluate through a modern lens. This match takes forever and is full of terrible melodrama that I think has aged really poorly; especially after witnessing almost 20 years of subsequent McMahon drama. However, there is no denying the crowd was super-into the match and popped huge when Linda stood up and when Foley made his comeback. If this match happened today people would destroy it, but it worked during this time period and that is what matters.
- The Hardys are shown on Heat from the previous day, Kevin Kelly is here doing the interviews. All three of them, Matt, Jeff and Kevin all look incredibly young. Jeff is only 23 in this match.
The Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz vs Edge and Christian: *****
The series of multi-man ladder matches that these teams had are probably the most influential matches this century. On pretty much every major wrestling show, there is at least one match that is paying tribute to these matches. The first match, at WrestleMania 2000, would probably be considered the truly most influential, since the match at SummerSlam 2000 and this match at WrestleMania 17 are just sequels, but this is the best match of the lot.
The biggest spots in the match; particularly the Hardy/Edge spear spot and Bubba Ray and Matt falling through the double-decker table set-up, still stand out when compared to any other crazy spot from ladder matches in wrestling history. That’s incredible when you consider so many different wrestlers have gone out over the past two decades and tried to top them. This is a PERFECT match for what it was trying to do.
- We get a video package from Fan Axxess from that weekend. A lot of promotion for the XFL at the event. Interesting that they show a lot of names, like Triple H, Kane, Ivory, etc. out of character when they talk about how much fun the event was.
- The attendance for the show was announced as 67,925. In real life this was the most successful show in WWF history up until that point in time, grossing a record gate of $3.5 million.
Gimmick Battle Royal: No Rating
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the gimmick battle royal; it’s unnecessary and campy, but it’s humorous to see WWE acknowledge the campiness of an older generation. I’ll say this; it was depressing to see Bobby Heenan come out to minimal crowd reaction; I know he was just off of WCW but he really stands out as a legend watching this 20 years later. What’s notable is really none of these names get much of a reaction from the crowd.
That is interesting to note; perhaps it was because this is coming in 2001 and so many of the fans had only been following wrestling for a few years, and they don’t really know or care about the 1980s. That is what happens when you create a whole generation of new fans, which the Attitude Era did for the WWF. Today, guys from 15-20 years ago are the biggest stars on the show, because the fanbase today has mostly been fans for decades and love all of the older stars.
Your participants are The Bushwackers, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, The Goon, Doink, Kamala, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nickolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang, The Gobbly Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love and Sgt. Slaughter.
Iron Sheik wins, which was according to legend, because he wasn’t cleared to take any bumps and therefore could not have been tossed from the ring. The work in the match is non-existent, but the experience here is just about hearing Gene Okerlund and Heenan making jokes on commentary. Slaughter puts Sheik in the Cobra Clutch after the match, to remind people that America always wins, pal!
The Undertaker vs Triple H: ****
Motorhead plays Triple H down to the ring and it’s awesome. Undertaker comes out to Limp Bizkit and it is less awesome. Early in the match Triple H pushes Mike Chioda, and Chioda pushes him back and gets a huge pop. I always liked that spot.
This is Undertaker’s first very good WrestleMania match. His streak is not really a thing yet from a marketing standpoint, but for the first decade of his WWF career, he mostly has bad or forgettable matches at the event. Even his main event, title victory at WrestleMania 13 is fairly forgettable.
This isn’t a technical classic, but it’s two guys who the fans really buy as big stars having a huge brawl and fans are really unsure who is going to win. They are more over than anyone else on this show up until this point except for Foley; and they go crazy when they are brawling in the stands. Triple H hits Undertaker with a sledge hammer while being lifted up for a powerbomb for a great near fall. Undertaker then hits the Last Ride to a big pop from the crowd.
Steve Austin vs The Rock: ****1/4
We get the famous “My Way” video package that became a legendary video package that people still talk about today. Austin and The Rock were so great in their roles that a montage of their confrontations and snappiest lines is always going to be awesome to watch. Austin came out to just a GIGANTIC pop. Foley, Undertaker and Triple H were really over, but Austin is just on another level as a hero to the people.
The match pretty much has no chance to be anything other than great. The crowd is so invested in both guys and every move gets a big reaction, the guys come out guns blazing with so much fire, rewarding the fans energy with a hardy outpouring of fighting spirit. They basically sustain that energy for 25 minutes. A bloodied Austin crawling to the rope while put in the Sharpshooter is a nice call-back to his WrestleMania 13 match with Bret Hart.
The finish is one of the strangest in WrestleMania history. While Austin turning heel is shocking; the live crowd doesn’t really react that much to Austin turning heel; they pop for him winning the title and almost disregard the fact that he had Vince’s help to do it. When Vince pulls The Rock off of Austin to break-up a near fall, the crowd pops for it at first because Austin didn’t lose.
In a lot of ways, this show is considered the peak of the Attitude Era. It’s WrestleMania and was by far the best WrestleMania show of that era; but really Austin turning heel was the beginning of the end of that era. The move would prove to be disastrous from a business perspective; and that combined with The Invasion angle flopping, would have WWE going into rebuild mode just a year later.
What makes the show stand-out is the main event and the kind of star-power that those two wrestlers had. There are other PPV shows that I think are significantly better top-to-bottom productions, but it’s hard to match the energy and spirit of this Austin vs Rock match. It’s much better to me than the Rock vs Hogan match at WrestleMania X-8, which has a similar level of energy from the crowd, but is not necessarily matched by the performers, who do a lot of staring and standing-still. This was the closest meeting between the two performers at their peaks and it shows.
I think some WrestleMania shows are more balanced, particularly WrestleMania 19 and WrestleMania 21; although this show with the ladder match and the main event definitely peaks at a higher level. It’s not a perfect show, and it probably isn’t my personal favorite WrestleMania, but it certainly is in the upper echelon and if you love the Attitude Era more than any other time in wrestling, this is almost assuredly your favorite.
On the latest episode of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@Jesse Collings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) talk about Cody Rhodes’ shocking departure from AEW. The guys talk about what could have possibly led to him leaving AEW, his potential of becoming a star in WWE, his legacy in AEW and what will happen to him if he returns to AEW in the future.
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